Thank you for the reviews on the Intermission!
Fair warning: most of this chapter is, um, kind of strange. But then, most of it is written from Harry’s point-of-view, and Harry is far from sane right now.
Another “Hymn to Proserpine” title: “Ye are fallen, our lords, by what token? we wist that ye should not fall./ Ye were all so fair that are broken; and one more fair than ye all.”
Chapter Eighty: All So Fair That Are Broken
Monika did not step back from her pool until she was quite sure that the interaction between Lord Riddle and his heir had ended—long moments after the pool had gone dark. She had enchanted it to record those kinds of interactions solely, and so it made sense that it would become obscure when one of them died, but Lord Riddle had had so many tricks to cheat death that Monika half expected the water to brighten to silver again.
It did not. This time, the man who called himself Voldemort was truly dead, and his magic had transferred to Harry.
Harry was the most powerful wizard in the world.
And weakened, emotionally insane, terribly vulnerable…
Monika did not hesitate. There was a way around the Pact’s sanctions about going to Britain, and she knew what they were. She had prepared herself against such a day. She would create a sending of herself, a powerful glamour that would gradually fill in with her physical body, and place it on the beach where the pool had showed her the last vision of Harry—more than clear enough for Apparition. She still had a tapeworm of the kind that would steal magic for her. And even a third of that incredible power would be enough to insure that no member of the Pact after that could challenge her and force her to face any consequence of her actions. She would be a consequence. And the Pact mostly lived with what occurred. They would accept Harry’s death—probably with more than one secretly grateful that the slayer of three Lords had gone out of the world—and her new status without fuss.
If they know what is good for them.
Monika smiled, and then began to chant the words and fuel the will that would create the sending for her.
A black wolf with green eyes and a silver lightning bolt scar looked into his face.
A green wolf with silver eyes and a black lightning bolt scar looked into his face.
A silver wolf—
No! No silver wolf. The silver he had seen was the gray color of the beach and the waves transmuted, and what he had thought was the wolf’s howl was the laughter of gulls, springing around him like foam. Harry clenched his fists and screamed back. The laughter fell silent in startlement, and then the sea crept up the sand and licked at his boots like a servant. Harry knew it would do what he asked of it, did he but ask piercingly enough. He stretched out a shaking hand, which firmed when he felt the cold of the spray on his fingers.
The wolf had retreated a short distance away from him, to sit at his left shoulder. It could never stand at the right one. No one could stand at the right one without being terribly hurt and marked more than he should be. There was a prophecy about that. Give Harry a moment, and he would recall the wording.
But what if he didn’t want to recall the wording? What if he wanted to lie here for the rest of his life, and feel the sea on his fingers?
His magic whispered eagerly that it could make it so. He might turn into a statue with nerves only in its hand, and no one would be able to approach that hand, which a sphere of pure white light would guard, but he could feel the sea, again and again, as long as he liked. It might disintegrate him into a mixture of sand and air and magic, but the hand would stay. It could move him from world to world, opening gates whenever he tired of the feel of one particular set of waters, while he need never move his body but could only stare into the sea.
This was the beach where he had come with—
And the sounds of the name formed in his mind, hard stop, soft vowels, loud nasals, and he screamed, the cry of a wild and lonely thing.
Wild and lonely things played in the corners of his mind, creatures that lived in the paths between Dark and Light, and which he would have had to glance away from the sea to acknowledge. The waves whispered their condolences for his loss. A slim dog, a lovely greyhound, came up out of the sea with a collar of salt on her neck and stood there, licking softly at his cheek, and the silver center of one palm, with a cold tongue. Then she turned into a woman, which had never happened before, and sat down beside him. Harry saw her through his magic, since his eyes would not turn away from staring in front of him. One side of her body lived and throve, with healthy skin and a soft brown eye and shining white hair of a snow-like loveliness. The other side of her body was flesh scraped and burned raw, with a seamed half-lip parched raw by thirst, and wisps of hair that cracked as she moved, and an eye-socket filled with smashed jelly. In her living hand she held a dead rose, in the dead hand a live one.
Et in Arcadia ego, Lady Death said softly.
Harry knew the words. Even in Arcadia, I am. In the most perfect, beautiful, idyllic place on earth, Death lingered. He could not escape from it. She was the counterpart to life. He was what came when life ended, and there was no immortality, no turning away from it.
As Voldemort’s death had proved, and Connor’s—
Harry flung the name from him as he would a branding iron. It hurt far, far too much to contemplate.
Go away! he screamed at Lady Death, and she bowed her head, and blew on the roses until they danced around him, bright blooming red flower and withered black husk together, and then went away.
The roses smelled sweet.
Any rose would smell sweet, Harry thought. Roses were interchangeable. Thoughts were interchangeable. He could lie here amid the smell of roses and the lure of thoughts and never, never think about things he didn’t have to think about.
There was an abyss of Light opening beneath his feet—the path into the paths, the gate to another world. He could fly into that. He could go to see what Calypso McGonagall, and other Light Lords and Ladies who had lived out their lives and faded, had learned so long ago. Harry knew there were beauties there which could soothe his pain, make him forget. If he listened, he could hear the running of a golden Lethe.
Behind him, the wild Dark touched his neck with a cold nose. Harry turned and looked into the darkness between the stars. He could fly there, too. He could become the wind, and take delight for the rest of eternity in inflicting pain like his own on those who dared to have happy lives. The Dark gave a quiet, eager, wolf-like little whine. It had always wanted him. It could have him, if he would agree. Its longing was touched with awe now, the eagerness that came with the idea that it could absorb as much magic as currently hung around him.
Harry lay on the beach beside the sea, his hand in the water, and hung between the Dark and the Light.
And then he felt the pull as someone else Apparated in.
He lifted his head, and his magic snarled. He knew he could make the person who was coming towards him cease to exist with a thought. But he did not. Some cold part of his mind, which he had inherited from Voldemort, bade him wait and see how amusing she could be.
Monika shuddered and put a hand over her eyes. Even in sending form, with part of her still at home in a magically heated clearing, she could feel the cold of the magic ahead of her beating on her face. Ripples of power made her bones sing, and her blood rose and flowed in different directions like the tide called by the moon. It was an annoying sensation, and she had to pause a moment to deal with it before she could walk forward.
Harry lay ahead of her, with one hand in the water, exactly as she had last seen him.
Save that he was looking towards her.
Monika lifted her head. Well, she had known he might look at her before the end. But she did not care if he did. He wanted to die, and she could offer him the death he wanted. She could even offer him a home for the magic he contained, which, being Harry, he would be rather concerned about. He had no reason to fight her when she sent the tapeworm into him.
“Lord Black,” she began. “I am here to—“
And then he reached out, with a faint, feral expression in his eyes that could not be called a smile, could not be called anything but insanity, and yanked.
The rest of her flew away from the clearing near her house and into her sending form. Monika collapsed to her knees, gasping. Suddenly she was really there, on the beach, and magic streaked her vision like melting snow, and filled the world all around her so that she could not sense the coming spring any more.
A grip encircled her throat. It felt like an invisible iron band. It said, more clearly than death did, that he would break her neck if she moved.
“You have been a bane to me since the first day I met you,” Harry’s voice said. He had not moved, but he was there, in front of her, and Monika wondered if he had commanded the beach to tip and spill him down to her. In the bowed position the magic was increasingly forcing her into, she could see only the tops of his shoes. “And I say that you will be a bane no more.” He laughed. “I should have threatened your home and your people before now. What say you, Monika, to the sea rising and covering all of Austria?”
And now Monika really understood what magic and madness of this sort meant.
Sand filled her mouth. She had to spit several times before she could say, “You would drown many innocents to reach my land.”
“I do not care.” Strange light shone from Harry’s face onto hers. Monika was terribly afraid it came from actual sparks burning in his eyes. “The sea is always hungry—immeasurably hungry. She birthed the land, and someday soon she will have all of us again. So Kanerva believed, and I am inclined to believe the same thing. The difference between us is that I can make something like this come true, if I choose to believe it.” He bent down, and she could see the edge of his cheek and jawline now. Monika knew she did not want to see his eyes. “What say you, Monika? Shall the waters rise? Or will you agree to stay away from Britain for the rest of your days? I shall require a vow from you that will kill you if you break it.”
“The Unbreakable Vow?” Monika whispered.
“Hardly,” Harry said. “We have no one here to serve as Bonder, unless Lady Death would agree.” He laughed, and one of Monika’s eyes burst. She held still, because she could do nothing else, and she loved her life more than her sight. “This is a new spell I will create. You cannot break it, in any way. You cannot come to Britain with another Pact member. You cannot send a servant here. You cannot create a glamour of yourself as you did today.”
Monika said nothing.
“And I can do it,” said Harry, with terrible gentleness, “as surely as I just insured that you will never see out of your right eye again, because I am the most powerful wizard in the world. Didn’t you know?”
He lifted his arms, and Monika felt the form of the world change. The structures of magic, which had not included any such vow as Harry talked about, trembled and warped and split apart, and made place for the new spell. And then Harry cast it, in a voice so twisted with sea-wind and the cry of the waves leaping behind him, hungry and angry, that Monika could not make out the incantation.
Perhaps that is just as well.
The vow settled around her like a cage that molded itself to every curve of her body, and then the grip on her throat ended. Monika lay, breathing, in the sand. Had she been of the Light, false courage would have required her to say that she was exhausted and could not stand. But it was not that, not at all. She was afraid to look up at him, and she knew, now, that she should never have come here.
“Now, go,” Harry said, and flung her home.
She landed in her clearing, face down in the dirt, as she had left Britain. A confused bleat came from some of her sheep.
Monika took a deep breath and stood, shaking out her hair, her mind thronging with spells that could help compensate for her new blind side.
She was of the Dark. She had gambled, and lost. She would live with the consequences.
Harry bowed his head, and took several deep breaths when the apparition of the woman flickered out as if she had never been, in Apparition.
He could feel the magic pressing down, trying to crush his mind. It was eager to be of service to him, but that very service would be his doom. He was not meant to carry such a burden. Voldemort could have contented himself with this level of magic, Monika could have, maybe even Jing-Xi or Kanerva, but not Con—
Do not think the name
--and not him. Harry knew his choices were two: to die, which would make the magic dissipate and appear again only among the memories of wizards dancing on Walpurgis Night, or to give it away and climb out of the madness it induced.
And now he stood, abyss above him, darkness behind him, sea in front of him, and had to make that choice.
Harry closed his eyes. He wanted to die. He wanted it so badly. He could remember speaking to Joseph about that desire, last year, and the tingle of yearning in his stomach had increased since his brother—
Do not think the name
--had died. What better way to die than to follow him? Harry had been content enough to do that when he went down to be the sacrifice. It all made sense. He had done something great for Draco, delaying going to his twin’s side because Draco had asked him to. He would do something great for his brother, too, giving up his life so that he could live. It balanced.
But what about the rest of the world?
Does anyone else in the world want me, mad as I am, broken as I am? Harry walked in his mind through a garden of tumbled white statues and snap-stemmed silver flowers, and he did not know.
There were people he could help, but that was not the same thing as someone wanting him. There were people who would be glad to see him alive, but that was not the same thing as someone wanting him. There were people who would mourn if he died, but that was not the same thing as someone wanting him.
In that hour of water, as Harry stood with the sea lapping around his feet, what came to him was a memory of sweat and skin and sex, a body beneath his, and a hand gripping his hair and tugging.
Yes. Draco wants me.
So he had that reassurance.
But even that was not enough. Harry stepped over a glinting pool, nearly drained, with a statue lying face down in it, and knew that, if he returned to the world, he would have to return for himself. He would need to want to live. He could not bury himself again in service to other people, not with the Occlumency pools boiled away and not with Con—
Do not think the name
--gone. He had to make this choice for himself.
He stood in the broken garden. Under him was the abyss of Light. Harry stared yearningly into it. The wolf leaned against his back, a cold weight, and the sea spoke to him again and again, ready to rise if he commanded it and drown Austria.
This time, the memory that came to him was one of the vial full of Switching Potion clashing against his ribs. He had been selfish, then. He had known that giving up his life would hurt Draco and Snape and others, but he had not cared.
True to my House.
Do not think the name
--enough in his memory that he did not need to climb out. But he also did not want to give himself to Light or Dark, or to step into the water. The madness would be simple, but it would also be boring. It would be the end of his existence as a conscious being. He would become, more or less, the plaything of any force that wanted him, until, perhaps, the Pact hunted and killed him, or he took over the world with his magic, or everyone drowned.
No. I don’t want that.
The thought of what lay ahead, all the healing and repairing to be done, foisted itself on him as a great weakness. So Harry narrowed his gaze, and refused to think about the healing and the repairing. He thought only of rest and sleep, not in madness or in death, but in Draco’s arms. Everyone else who wanted his help would just have to wait their turns, that was all.
Most of his life, Harry had been at the beck and call of one form of service, one person, one cause or another. The thought of simply laying down his burden for a while and dreaming in silence attracted him even more than death did.
He looked up. A golden rope of his desire dangled above him. Harry reached out and gave it a firm tug. It held. Dark green strands braided it, he saw. Dark and Light, both always and forever intertwined.
Harry grasped the rope and began to climb out of the abyss.
Jing-Xi turned. The window that showed Harry hovered in front of her, and behind her were the windows containing other members of the Pact—save for Monika, who was recovering on her own time. No one had opposed Jing-Xi when she refused to contact the Dark Lady of Austria. Besides, opening a window just as Monika approached Harry would have been too awkward to endure.
”Need we argue about this again?” Jing-Xi asked coolly. Of course, it felt as though all she had been doing for the past few months, whenever she was in communication with her peers at all, was argue about Harry, so she thought she had the right to sound exasperated. There were problems with the emergence of a new Lord-level child in the Pacific, and a wizarding disease on the verge of breaking out in Mexico, which looked like it could be a variant of the Serpent’s Tongue Plague. They should be ready to think about other things by now, Jing-Xi believed. “He didn’t hurt Monika, even though he was insane at the time. He fought back against Lord Riddle alone, and he didn’t immediately take over the world or come hunting us. And he’s coming back from madness on his own. Need we really appoint someone to watch over him?” That was the Pact’s latest suggestion, put forth by Lord Brewer. Jing-Xi thought it sounded like the monitoring board that Aurora Whitestag had led, and had opposed it from the start.
“There is still the matter of the insult he offered us,” Elena said in her dead voice.
“And if you come to blows with him over insults, it is a private matter, and no need to involve the Pact,” Jing-Xi snapped. Yes, the Dark Lady of Peru was a formidable enemy, but Jing-Xi was not afraid of her, especially not when she could see similarly disgusted looks growing on the faces around her. The demonstration of Harry’s stability in the midst of madness, with Monika going away half-blind but not dead and not even drained of her power, had impressed most of them, she knew. “He has never been allowed to fit in as he should have. We distrusted him for not being Declared, and then we said he must fight a war on his own, and then we tried to distract him while Lord Riddle still threatened his land and his people. He has grown up much better than can be expected, and with much less help. We should accord him as much courtesy as any other Lord now. Preventing you from attacking his partner, my Lady Elena, and turning his back while he spoke to us, could hardly be said to be an insult by any of the standards we use.”
“I agree,” said Alexandre. His face was as nearly content as Jing-Xi had ever seen it. She thought he was satisfied to have seen so many prophecies come true at once. “Leave the boy alone. We may watch him until the end of his return to sanity if we wish, but he has done more than we could expect of anyone.”
“I agree,” Pamela said at once.
“And I,” said Brewer.
“And I,” Coatlicue added. Her voice had a ring of pride, as if she had been the one to mentor Harry to his current level. Jing-Xi could forgive that, really. She had held out for being as neutral in Harry’s situation as possible, and so had ended up being the one who treated him most like part of the Pact already. “Besides, I would like to turn our attention to the Serpent’s Tongue crisis.”
One by one, other voices murmured their assurances. Elena was the only holdout, and from the way Alexandre eyed her, Jing-Xi rather thought she would have a problem if she tried to go after Harry, even undetected.
Jing-Xi concealed a smile. She had never seen the Dark Lady of Austria so thoroughly spanked.
“Yes, let us look to Mexico,” said Pamela. “When this is ended.”
Jing-Xi nodded, and turned to face the window again.
Harry climbed, and, as he climbed, he gave his power away.
Oh, not all of it. But he could not live with so much magic squatting in the back of his mind, or racing about his head like a crown of song, asking to do things for him. And there was always the possibility that Voldemort’s power would gain a will of its own if he confined it for long enough and try to break free of the prison or make him do things he would rather not do. Harry would not risk that.
He was Slytherin in his selfishness, perhaps, but not his ambition. Or perhaps he was more ambitious than others, to want to accomplish something without the magic that would intimidate many of his potential opponents before they even lifted their voices.
So he cut Voldemort’s power from his. Had he not lived so long with the magic released from the phoenix web at the end of his second year, it would have been impossible, but he had, and he knew what his magic should feel like. Everything else, he cut away, and sent elsewhere.
One third went to the wild Dark, which immediately stopped floating beside him in the form of a black wolf and went away to play with it. Harry almost smiled at that, the first smile he had given since—
Do not think the name
--his brother had died. The wild Dark was a child in so many ways that he couldn’t regret his decision not to join it, powerful and beautiful though it could also be. It was not in him to Declare for Dark. It had probably been too late for that the moment he fully understood his vows.
One third went to the Light. The golden abyss beneath him had opened and contracted like a beating heart, but when he dropped his magic into it, the contractions increased, until only a small slit of gold remained, rather like the gold that had split the surviving Death Eaters’ Dark Marks as they burned away. It would open for him if he wished to drop, but not otherwise.
How did I know that, about their Dark Marks?
When he stopped to think about the question, he hung motionless from the rope, and the magic made a determined effort to come back. Harry shook his head and started climbing again. One thing at a time.
And one more third of extra magic to give away.
He gave it to the sea, that ever-hungry creature that would have obeyed his command to drown Austria, and which had called him to her when Voldemort died. He had dreamed of that. Or had he simply had dreams of the sea, and his mind and magic used the coincidence to pull him here, to a place where he had felt something like peace and safety, and a connection to the Potter line?
He would never know.
His magic vanished into the sea like a diving dolphin. Harry knew the waves would use it better than he would. Perhaps it would go to nourish hippocampi, to split the web on a kraken, or to encourage the flourishing of sirens. He could not know, and he was glad not to.
And then he had the most difficult part of the abyss to climb, through diamond shards that waited to cut into him. Harry hesitated only a moment before he struck forward, watching with clinical detachment as the shards cut into his arms and made them bleed. None sliced across his wrists, though. None would unless he changed his mind and decided he wanted to die.
He did not. He had made the decision to reach the top of the abyss for himself, and he would go on living. For himself.
It had to be so, no matter how much he loved and admired and respected other people. Otherwise, the deep desire to die would reassert itself someday, and he did not know if he could always keep himself from following it.
And when he was back to sanity, he was back to grief.
Do not think the name
So he climbed, and the diamond shards closed in harder and harder, until the golden rope ran like a narrow stream of warm water through pack ice. And still Harry climbed, his mind cleared, concentrated on that single goal.
To live. For himself.
Memories poured in, and Harry fitted and spun them into place. Emotions crashed into his head, and he winced but continued the climb. Sanity slipped nearer and nearer, and sometimes he stopped to take a breath, but on he always went.
He had to. He wanted to. He needed to.
It must be so. Harry understood that now, as though the death of the one person he had tried most to live for—
Do not think the name
--had shown him the folly of doing it for anyone or anything else. He could not be just his causes. He could not be just his sacrifices. He had tried, when he went to Voldemort’s lair, and that had resoundingly failed, just as every project begun in Godric’s Hollow ultimately had.
The old way did not work. So he would try this new way.
He reached a glassy roof. Harry lifted one hand from the rope and ran his palm over it. Pain waited on the other side, pain and the full consciousness of pain.
He took a deep breath, and butted his head and shoulders against the glass, shattering it.
His eyes opened, and saw what was there, the gray sea in front of him and the weak sun rising, and the people walking cautiously towards him across the damp sand of the beach. And then he screamed, because the voice that had protected him relentlessly in the depths of his madness was equally relentless now.
Say the name.
“Connor,” Harry whispered, and there were tears on his face as if he had never wept for his brother. He was in the world he had fled because it contained his twin no longer. Now he would never flee it again.
It hurts, it hurts, he wailed to himself.
But you are not alone, another part of himself answered, and he looked up the beach again.
Snape and Peter had both been reluctant to approach Harry, insisting that a mad wizard with that much power was dangerous in any case, and that they should wait until Harry had some chance to get used to his status as Voldemort’s magical heir and control his power. Draco had not listened. They had Apparated to the beach and come slowly closer and closer to Harry, pausing several times along the way to watch.
And then the sense of his magic had diminished. Draco had looked back in time to catch the look of shock on Peter’s face, the near-sorrow on Snape’s.
Did they really think he’d keep it? Draco snorted and turned away again. He wasn’t thinking of what he could do with it. He was thinking of what it might make him do to other people—or he was thinking that he didn’t want it. Either way is a very good sign.
And then Harry stumbled and gave a low-voiced cry that Draco knew, just as he knew where Harry would be, was his brother’s name, and the time for caution had passed. Draco ran forward.
Harry turned to meet him, and devastated though his face was with the remnants of grief and mourning, his eyes were sane. Words dried in Draco’s throat. He put his arms around Harry instead and held him tight, tight, tight.
He could have died. He wanted to die. But he didn’t stay mad, and he didn’t commit suicide. He came back. He came back.
And Harry whispered—perhaps his magic or his Legilimency had brought Draco’s thoughts to him, but Draco didn’t really care about the method right now—the words Draco had most desired to hear. “I wanted to come back.” His arms encircled Draco’s shoulders in return. “But I don’t want to be alone.”
“You won’t be, ever again,” Draco said, and his arms clamped down tight, tight, tight.
Harry whispered his brother’s name and began to weep, then, and Snape and Peter came forward. Snape tried to take Harry out of Draco’s arms. Draco refused to let him go. He knew what Silver-Mirror looked like, and could Apparate Harry there as well as Snape could.
His hand wandered into Harry’s hair and clenched there, though he could not bring himself to tug.
No, ours, more precisely.
And then he pulled back enough to look Harry in the eye, and remembered Harry’s words, and corrected his own wording.
No. Ours, yes, but his own, too. At last.
Come back from the breaking.