harry potter

Sirius fell away and Harry reached out, tried to pull him back, but his hand passed through Sirius' and he couldn't stop it. He couldn't stop it, couldn't follow, couldn't do anything except be there, be useless. And it was his fault, all his fault, and Sirius became Cedric, became his parents, became the witches and wizards who had died -- would die -- because of him, became Voldemort, and throughout the whole, horrid sequence he could hear them screaming "You're responsible, Harry. It's your fault."

Harry woke with a twitch and a strangled gasp, and he stared up into the blurred, blue, spring sky in utter bemusement. The sun was bright, even through the thick canopy of the oak tree's branches and, after a moment, Harry threw his arm across his eyes. In the imposed darkness, the after images of the dream rose up like zombies. He rolled onto his side and curled up around the hurt.

"Your fault, Harry," Sirius whispered in his ear. "You're the reason that I'm gone. Nobody else to blame."

"I know," Harry whispered into the damp earth, the bitter salt of his tears collecting in his mouth. "It's all my fault."

"Talking to yourself, Potter? I always knew that you were mental."

Harry turned over, and he stared up into that hated face, that hated sneer and he could barely find enough anger to growl out, "Go away Malfoy."

"Why? So you can go crazy on your own? Not hardly likely." Draco sat down, fastidiously, and the sneer became a smirk when Harry didn't try to stop him. "I wonder what your little fanclub would say if they saw you now. The great big hero crying like a little baby. Makes me wish I had a camera. I want to capture this moment forever."

"Go away," Harry said again, softer, and he rolled back over, away from Draco. He closed his eyes and Sirius rose up before him, touched his face with his intangible hands.

"You killed me, Harry," he whispered, and Harry shuddered, pulled himself a little tighter around the pain. "You killed me, and I can't be laid to rest. You erased me, Harry."

"I'm sorry." The tears came faster now, and he knew that if he just opened his eyes, the images would go away. But then Sirius would really be gone and.

He didn't want that.

"I'm sorry," he said again, and he held onto Sirius' spirit tighter than he ever held onto his broomstick in a Quidditch match. "I'm sorry."

"Oi. Potter." Something poked him in the side, and Harry's eyes flew open. Sirius disappeared, again, and the blurry images of earth and grass and tree took his place. "If you're going to go crazy, at least do it a bit louder. I can't hear what you're saying."

Harry rolled over, and this time he was angry -- angry enough to pull on his glasses and bring the world into focus, angry enough to pick up his wand and think of a curse he could cast. He glared at Draco, who was still smirking, still so damn smug and --

"Stupefy!" he cried out, flicking his wand just so.

But even as began to cast, Draco was already moving, crying "Expelliarmus!"

Harry's wand flew out of his hands, landed in the new spring grass. But Harry didn't care any more. This would take more than a simple charm; it needed something deeper, something primal.

He lunged forward, and that surprised Draco, right enough. The smirk vanished, and a brief -- a delicious -- flash of fear crossed Draco's face, right before impact. Harry slammed his fist into Draco's face, felt a sharp sting as he scraped his knuckles on Draco's teeth. He pulled his fist back, ready to punch Draco again and was thrown off, pushed away as Draco bucked. He scrambled to his feet, glasses askew, and watched Draco.

"Bastard!" Draco spat, and there was blood. His perfect hair was mussed and his uniform was torn at the collar.

"What's the matter, Malfoy? Can't stand a little blood?" Harry tried on Draco's sneer and it must have been as grating for Draco to see as it felt for Harry to wear, because this time it was Draco who attacked, who jumped at Harry. The impact knocked Harry down, and for a while the world was made up of grunting and pain and the urge to hurt.

They rolled together in the grass, aiming for the soft, vulnerable parts. Years of being bullied by Dudley and his gang gave Harry the edge when it came to fighting dirty, and he used every trick they'd done to him. He used every part of his body, aimed at every part of Draco's, and he knew -- he knew -- that he was going to win, that he was going to beat Draco into a bloody pulp. Because although Draco hit him with all of his strength, and although after the first few minutes he, too, began to fight dirty, he didn't fight dirty enough. He didn't aim for the face, aim for where a bruise could show up and questions could be asked and punishment could be assigned.

Probably, Harry thought, because he knew they would be forced to serve out their punishment together.

Which was just stupidity on Draco's part; after all, who would believe him -- the blighter -- if he claimed that Harry was the one who beat him black and blue and bloody. This wasn't like the time with Buckbeak, when Draco had his goons around to support his wild lies. It was just the two of them, now.

Just the two of them, and this time, this time, Harry would finally be able to pay Draco back for everything. For that trick with the Dementors; for all the insults to Ron and Hermione; for being a smug, selfish little brat who Wouldn't. Go. Away.

Harry slammed his forehead into Draco's and fell back, dazed. That hurt quite a bit more than he'd expected. But either it hadn't hurt Draco quite so badly, or he was used to blows to the head, because before Harry could blink away the stars that danced before him, Draco was sitting on his back and pinning his arms down and pushing his face into the dirt.

"Gerroff!" Harry squirmed, but all that accomplished was getting dirt and grass into his mouth.

"If this is how The Boy Who Lived is going to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named, then we all might as well commit suicide and save ourselves from being tortured to death by a Cruciatus curse." Draco's voice was breathy, different from normal. He was panting, and Harry was surprised to find that he was breathing at the same rate.

"I'm not going to lose," Harry growled. He tried to buck, but Draco rode the movement easily, and for a skinny guy he was really quite heavy.

"You can't even beat me." The sneer was clear and for a moment Harry thought about fighting on.

But Draco was right. As much as it hurt to admit, Draco was right and Harry could see what was going to happen as clearly as if he were sitting in the cinema, watching a movie. An army would form, an army of Aurors, an army to fight Voldemort. And Harry would lead them, because he was The Boy Who Lived, he was Harry Potter. And he'd face Voldemort. And he'd lose. He'd be helpless, as helpless as he'd been when Sirius had fallen through the veil, as helpless as he'd been when Cedric died.

As helpless as he was now.

He went limp and the tears began to come again, because he could see, now, that he would only bring more death. He'd end up killing everybody, killing Ron and Hermione and Neville and Ginny and everybody. Because he wasn't special. He wasn't strong.

He'd be responsible for more deaths.

He closed his eyes.

"Oi! Potter!" A sharp rap on the back of his head brought his attention back, but, again, he couldn't bring himself to care. "Potter! Stop that! Merlin's Beard; quit crying, you idiot."

"Why? You're right. I'm going to lose. I can't even beat you." Harry smiled into the dirt. "Something to tell your Dad. The great Harry Potter's going to lose."

"Don't say that." Draco rapped the back of his head again. "Don't say things like that."

"I thought you'd be happy. You can tell your master--"

"He's not my master." Draco's voice was filled with terror and Harry began to listen, for the first time. "I don't. I'm not a servant of You-Know-Who."

"Yeah, right." Harry snorted, and raised of cloud of dirt.

"I'm afraid of You-Know-Who, you twit." Draco pushed Harry's head into the earth. "I'm not. I know what he can do."

"So you know I can't win." Harry's words were muffled by the dirt, and when Draco eased up on the pressure, he spat out grass blades.

"Not right now. Not with you crying like a Weasley" Draco sat back and Harry felt the uncomfortable pressure on his arms lessen. "Look. I don't know what your problem is, but whatever it is just suck it up. Deal with it and move on."

"Deal with it?" Harry jerked his arms suddenly, and he felt Draco fall off, heard the low grunt he made when he hit the ground. Harry rolled over, grabbed Draco by the shirt, pulled him closer until they were standing toe-to-toe and his nose almost bumped Draco's. "Deal with it? Sirius. My godfather. He's dead, and it's my fault because. Because I didn't check the mirror. I didn't check and I believed and. And he's dead, because he tried to save me and. I couldn't do anything." Harry took a shuddering breath, closed his eyes. His grip loosened, but Draco didn't move.

"Yeah," Draco said. "Sounds like it was definitely your fault."

Harry's eyes snapped open and he stared, gaping, at Draco, who wasn't smirking, whose eyes were steady. "What--?"

"Were you expecting me to comfort you? To tell you that you're wrong, that it wasn't your fault that whoever it was died?" And now Draco smirked, a ghost of his normal expression. "Please. I'm not your pet muggle, and I'm not a Weasley. You rushed in and you were stupid and you paid the price. So learn from it. Don't be a complete idiot."

Harry was surprised to find that his mouth was hanging open. He closed it, and the click of his teeth sounded surprisingly loud to him. "What do you know?" he growled. "You've got parents. You've got a father."

"You're right. I've got a father. I've got a father who locked me in a dungeon until I stopped being afraid of the dark." And it wasn't Draco's voice, even if it came from Draco's mouth. It wasn't drawling or insulting or snooty. It was flat and dead and empty and Harry knew that voice, knew that hopelessness, that loneliness. He looked at Draco, and for a brief, naked second, he saw the lonely boy who lived behind all the masks.

He wondered, suddenly, if Draco would taste bitter, like despair.

But then the mask slammed back down and Draco pulled himself free. He moved away, back toward the old oak tree where this had all started.

"You'll get stronger," he called over his shoulder. "You'll get stronger and you'll beat You-Know-Who. I know you will." He stooped, picked up his wand, and even though he had a black eye and a cut lip and his hair was mussed and his uniform torn and stained with earth and grass, he was suddenly back to himself. He was suddenly the same snotty prick he'd always been. "I don't like you, Potter," he said, suddenly.

"I don't like you either, Malfoy." Harry became suddenly aware of the fact that his glasses were smeared with dirt, that bits of grass were stuck inside the hinge of the earpiece. He took his glasses off, searched for a bit of clean cloth to wipe them with.

When they were finally clean again -- or reasonably so -- Harry looked up to the tree. Draco was already gone, but Harry had expected that. He closed his eyes and felt only the warm caress of the sun.

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