Fandom: Harry Potter, post-Order of the
Spoilers: Though the character who dies is not mentioned by name, there are tiny spoilers and a number of parallels drawn that might ruin OotP for anyone who hasn't already read it. At least reading through book 4 would be helpful. Through book 5 would be even better. And a basic understanding of Lord of the Rings might also be good so if you don't know LotR at all and don't want to be spoiled, don't read this either.
Disclaimer: J.K.R.'s characters and world, and I don't get as much as a cent
Summary: After a friend's death, Harry is rather angst-ridden and sick in bed. He awakens in the middle of the night and contemplates it all.
He had fallen. Fallen out of sight but not out of thought. He had been battling a force of evil to keep them safe. Every move had been calculated and cunning, though it seemed rash at the time. He had used magic, but in the end it came down to strength. He was knocked to his knees and rose again. There was screaming, and the roar of fire filled his ears. And then when it seemed the battle had been won, he was knocked back. And he fell. Fell into the darkness. Fell into nothingness. And then he was no more.
Watching it all had been like a dream in and of itself. He had been restrained as he went to try and pull him back. It was only a fall, wasn't it? But for as much as he tried, as much as he fought to get free and help, he had been pulled back. Held in a strong pair of arms, not trying to console him for the moment but instead keep him safe. He contained the fate of them all, after all.
They had cried, of course they had cried, just not at first. At first all they could feel was shock and confusion. But none of them spoke of it there. No, they had to move on immediately because the evil was coming. There was no time to stop and cry, to stop and question, to stop and talk. And though it was a blow that seemed impossible to recover from, that was indeed what they had to do. The evil had to be stopped, and even the causality of one so dearly loved could not stand in the way of stopping it.
“Gandalf…” Harry murmured, rolling over in bed. He coughed as he finished the word, his throat dry and scratchy. Parched, he opened his eyes. The first step was to get up and walk to the pitcher that sat on the windowsill. The next was to pour a glass. And the third was to drink. Everything seemed to be done in steps. Everything had to be simplified down to its basics or it seemed he could never even remember his way out of bed. But as he opened his eyes, he found he was not alone. “Ron?” he choked, coughing again.
Harry sat up in bed, the worn and battered copy of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' tumbling off his chest where it had rested when Harry fell asleep to it mid-sentence. Seamus had lent the book to him a few months ago, as some sort of symbol that he believed in Harry, that he trusted him again. Seamus had said the book was part of a series which told of great adventures, of nobility, and of sacrifice. And in the end, when it seemed the war would be lost to the powers of evil, it was not the strength of a sole warrior that made good prevail. He would not tell Harry what exactly happened, though Harry seemed most keen to know, saying that it would spoil the books immensely for him. So Harry was left to speculate.
“Harry, mate, are you all right?” Ron looked pale and worried as he guided Harry's glasses onto his face for him. His hand then reached out and swept Harry's hair, dark and messed as always, from his face. Bits stuck to his forehead, soaked in sweat. And as Harry propped himself up in a sitting position to see Ron, he realized he was absolutely covered in sweat. Drenched completely from head to toe. “Who's Gandalf?”
He opened his mouth, but Harry suddenly found he had no voice with which to answer. He breathed out hard as thought it was a word and pointed towards the pitcher on the windowsill.
A flash of understanding registered in Ron's eyes and he was there and back again in a moment with a tall glass of ice water for Harry.
It made all the difference in the world at first sip. His lips seemed alive again, his mouth able to move. The ache at the back of his throat seemed soothed as the water splashed against it. He even tilted his head back with a mouthful, letting the water wind its way down, touching every bit it could. When he had drained the glass, he sighed and felt a bit more like himself.
He reached over and closed the book carefully, straightening a few pages that had bent in the tumble. His breathing, which had been irregular as he drank so quickly, slowed back to normal.
Ron reached up and pushed the rest of Harry's hair from his face, leaving his palm against the forehead briefly to feel its heat. Harry closed his eyes at the sensation. That and the fact that it was a little disconcerting staring into the eyes of someone gauging your illness by touching your face. “I don't really know, but I think your fever finally broke.”
Harry sighed and nodded. Somehow he had already known this. He opened his eyes, seeing that Ron still looked worried. “No, I'm not going to go see Madam Pomfrey,” he said.
Ron shrugged. He had suggested it too many times already and had the idea rejected every single time without excuse but with vigor. “Then how about more water?”
Harry nodded quite enthusiastically and practically shoved the glass into Ron's chest. Ron, who had reached out for it, found himself fumbling for it. Luckily he caught it and pushed it against the bed before it fell onto the floor. But Harry stared at it as though it were something much more important than a glass. He froze, his green eyes fixed upon it like a matter of life or death. And he jumped when Ron touched him on the forearm to comfort him. “Sorry,” he breathed. “I mean, thanks. I mean—”
“I'll go get you some water,” Ron interrupted. He walked across the dorm room, past his empty bed, past Dean's bead, and Seamus' and Neville's. They were all still fast asleep. Neville usually gave soft, congested snuffley sorts of snores as he slept, and tonight was no exception at all, especially after his recent nosebleed. They had all grown used to the sound as though it were a friendly lullaby. Harry, however, only snored on nights like this one. Nights when he had a cold.
Ron nearly dropped both glass and pitcher as the sudden sound startled him. As it was, he spilled quite a bit on the stone windowsill and down the front of his striped pajamas. He walked back to Harry, past the beds, instinctively checking on the others. Neville's snores still sounded, and the hangings on Dean's and Seamus' beds were still drawn. Perhaps they had awoken and perhaps not, but either way they did not want to see if Harry was all right this time. Ron couldn't exactly blame them. It was the middle of the night after all. And Harry had been sneezing badly all day and night. Ron handed over the glass of water as Harry dropped a balled-up tissue into his lap. He eagerly took the glass and began drinking. “Bless you.” Ron reached over and took the tissue, dropping it into the wastebasket beside the bed, just an arm's length away.
Harry lowered the glass, half empty, to his lap. Or half full. No, definitely half empty. “You don't have to stay up just for me,” Harry said, crossing his legs in front of him where he sat, tugging the blankets to his waist, and scooting the tissue box closer to him on the bed.
“Who said I was staying up for you?” said Ron with a smile.
“Because when you fall asleep there's practically no waking… you… oh no… not-again-ihh-ihh-CHIHshhhhh! Heh-Ihtchhh!” Harry reached across to the tissues and pulled out a new one, rubbing it against his nose with one hand, and dropping his hand back into his lap with a strong sniff. He looked pathetically worn out, eyes red and tired, nose pinkened and runny, face pale as… as death actually…
Ron reached out to pat Harry's arm in comfort, but pulled back before his hand made contact. Harry didn't seem to like to be touched lately. Not that he could blame him. So Ron changed approaches. “Did you know you always sneeze in doubles when you have a cold?”
Harry had seen the retreating hand, but played along. “Do I?” He took a deep breath and put his hand on Ron's arm, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “You really can go back to sleep.”
He put his hand on Harry's outstretched arm, squeezing back. “Or I can stay up and make sure you fall back to sleep all right.” Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ron shook his head. “I'm not going anywhere, Harry.” Harry blinked, considering his next move carefully. Then he nodded and patted the bed beside him.
Ron smiled and climbed on up, leaving the hangings up behind him. “How have the nightmares been?” Immediately Ron knew it was the wrong thing to say as Harry drew a sharp breath and looked away from him. “Hey, um, never mind, you know?”
Harry shrugged and shook his head. “It's okay.” He ran a hand through his hair, which was limp and damp but messy. His hand paused there, in the middle of a ruffle, then he lowered it. He had seen his father do just that only a few months ago. He had seen his father, even though his father was dead. And he had spoken with his father, even though his father was dead. What was it that Dumbledore had said back in their first year? About how the dead never truly leave us if we love them? He bit his lip and swallowed so hard that he was sure Ron must have heard it. “They're better,” Harry half-lied. No longer did he dream of dreams that were not dreams at all. And no longer did he dream of the graveyard and of Cedric. Now his dreams were filled with falling, and darkness, and that voice saying the same things over and over in his mind without his control. These dreams were just as disturbing, but different somehow. They seemed to be echoes of reality, rather than vivid retellings.
Ron seemed to understand the lie and did not press him further, regretting that he'd brought it up in the first place. “So…” he searched for something, anything to say and his eyes fell upon the book. Ron sprawled across one side of Harry's four poster and pulled the book close to him. In the darkness of their dormitory he couldn't read any of the words, but he flipped through as though he wanted to glance at the pages anyway. “What's this about anyway?”
Harry was slow to answer, and Ron looked up to see him fighting off another sneeze. This time he had pulled out a tissue and held it ready. Ron waited patiently, looking back down at the book. He squinted, trying to make out words. But all he could see were chapter numbers and the occasional word in a chapter title. There was nothing he could make much sense of.
“heh-EHshhhh! hektchhh!” He looked like he needed to sneeze again, despite his current two-at-a-time pattern. He sniffled into the tissue, shaking his head back and forth against the tissue rather than moving the tissue against his nose. He sniffled and started to reply, then held the tissue against his nose again. “heh-Ihshhhh! Ehtchhhhh!” He timidly blew his nose. “Guess you're right. Always in twos,” he said with a faint smile. “Anyway, what were you saying?”
“The book,” Ron said, closing it and patting the cover lightly. “What's it about?”
Harry shrugged. He thought it might sound a bit too depressing to say 'life and death, good and evil' so instead he chose, “well, there are some wizards and some elves—”
“—what, like a house elf?” Ron asked with a laugh, squinting at the front cover as though he expected to see Dobby in a teacozy and twelve hats proudly dusting the words of the title.
“*Not at all* like house elves, actually. And there's a ring. Oh, and hobbits—”
“—whatsits?” Ron narrowed his eyes, this time in confusion.
Harry shook his head. “Doesn't matter. It's a good story.”
“Oh yeah?” He shrugged and ran his hand down the front, as though stroking it. “Maybe I should read it when you're done?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Harry replied, reaching over for it. He set it gently on the bedside table. “But Seamus says there's a giant spider in one of the books.”
Ron froze. He looked from Harry over to the book with wide eyes. “I'm not *touching* that thing again.”
Harry smiled and nodded. “He might have been joking. I haven't gotten to that part yet.” There was a part he had gotten to, however, which had not left his mind since he read it.
Ron waved a hand dismissively between himself and the book. “I'm not about to take the risk…” Ron trailed off with a strong, body-shaking yawn.
With a nod of his head in the direction of Ron's bed, “Maybe you should forget about me and go back to bed?”
“Not a chance.” He did, however, change positions in bed. He was still lying down, but this time with his head on one of the pillows. “I'm not even going to think about sleeping until you're good and asleep.”
Somehow, Harry thought, he might have a long time to wait, especially for someone who looked so tired already. He pulled another tissue out of the box and held it to his nose as he drew a few breaths of build-up. “heh…eeh-heh… hih-Uhshhhh! Ihh-CHUH-shhhh!”
“Bless you,” Ron called, though his voice sounded slightly slower and maybe just a bit deeper.
“Thags,” Harry replied, though coughing just after from congestion. He blew his nose, took another new tissue, and blew his nose again. Then he tossed the balled-up tissues over the side of his bed, hoping they had fallen somewhat close to the trashcan. Still sitting up, he hugged the tissue box to his chest, pulled the covers up to his shoulders, then lay down beneath them.
It felt good to be lying down again. It made the ache in his head throb less, for one thing. For another, the blankets and pillow were warm and comforting in ways that they had not seemed to be while he had been fighting the fever. He swallowed, but his throat pained him so much that he winced.
“What's the matter?” asked Ron, that worried look returning on his face. He lifted his head off the pillow to get a better look.
He thought for a moment about asking Ron to get him yet another glass of water, but then decided against it. “Nothing,” he replied quickly. Then, realizing Ron would never let that go, “Just another tickle in my nose.”
“Oh,” and he put his head back down on the pillow. It felt to Ron like it was his turn to find something to say, and his eyes traveled around the area once again. However, all it saw was a box of tissues, a glass, a few books, a Firebolt standing at attention between bed and bedside table, and a sick best friend buried beneath blankets. Harry looked cold and miserable now, making Ron feel as though he should press the hospital wing subject maybe just once more. But before he could say anything, Harry gave a sniffle and blinked his eyes as though to hold back tears. Ron froze, not sure he believed his vision in the dark room. The moon was close to being new once again, now only a waning crescent which allowed very little light through the window to make its way to Harry's bed at the far end of the room. If it had been what Ron thought it was, however. Ron gritted his teeth a moment in debate. Then, before he could back out of it, “Harry… are you all right, mate?”
Harry sniffled again, and rubbed a fist roughly at one eye, then his runny nose. “No, not really,” he whispered back. His embarrassed, pained expression could be seen clearly in the dark, and Ron instantly wished he had not asked that either.
“I, uh, I mean your cold,” Ron said to cover himself.
Harry looked startled, and quickly rubbed two fingers against both eyes. “Right, er, I mean I—” he searched desperately inside himself for something else to say. But before anything sprang to mind, the perfect one struck him. “I… I have to sneh… to sneh-sneeze,” he finished just in time. “eh-IHHHchhhh! CHIHshhh!” This time, he blew his nose thoroughly at least five times, hoping that maybe the sneezes would back away for a little while if he cleared his nose out now.
Ron remained silent afterwards, with no 'bless you' nor another forced conversation topic. Had he fallen asleep already? Harry waited a few moments, then, “Ron?” There was no reply. Harry reached beneath his pillow and pulled out his wand. With a soft “Lumos!” the wand tip lit, illuminating the whole bed and a bit beyond it. He squinted at the sudden brightness, then looked over at Ron. The freckled-face boy was as asleep as Harry had supposed. His mouth was slightly open, eyes closed, breathing slow and steady. Harry smirked and turned. The problem was that Ron had fallen asleep on top of the blankets, rather than beneath as Harry was. “Assio blanket!” he called, pointing his wand at Ron's bed. The top blanket pushed through the gap between the drawn curtains and sailed over to him, smothering him as it dropped over him. Harry pulled it off and draped it over the bed, its current blankets, and Ron.
Ron stirred at the touch, smacked his lips, but did not wake.
“Nox!” he whispered, and his wand light went out. Almost immediately, as though not to give him time to think of anything, his nose began to tickle again. His eyes were slowly readjusting to the darkness, so he had to feel around for the tissue box. He finally found it, found the side where the tissues popped out and snatched two just in time. “hehEHshhhhh! hehIhkshhh!” He paused, nose buried in the tissues. There were more on the way, he was sure of it. “heh…ehhh-KISHhhhhh! hehIhshhh!”
“Mmmph…” Ron pulled his eyes open in reaction and mumbled a very slow, “Bless you” to Harry. Harry saw him pinch himself, presumably to keep himself awake. He succeeded at first, but it didn't last long.
“heh-Ihshhh! Ihkshhoo!” Harry blew his nose again, wincing this time at the pain in his nostrils as he rubbed them with the harsh tissue. He had a few handkerchiefs packed, but with such little time left in the school year it seemed pointless to unpack them just to pack them back up again. So he made do with the tissues. “ehh…ehhIHshhh! ihhChooo!” Harry rubbed his nose and brushed his bangs out of his eyes. The tickle in his nose was still there, but too faint for anything to come of it. Harry yawned and stretched and let himself sink deeper into his warm bed, warmer still with Ron in it. He raised a fist to his mouth and tried to cough as softly as possible. They weren't as quiet as he might have liked, but they shook the bed just the same.
“Bless… you…” mumbled Ron, not at all aware of what was going on. Then he pulled the blanket tighter around himself and fell back to sleep.
Sniffling behind the tissues, Harry smiled. Ron was safe. Hermione was safe. Neville was safe. And he was still snoring by the sound of it. Everyone was safe except the one he most wanted to talk to right now, and be comforted by. He coughed and rolled over onto his side, back to Ron, to look out the window. While there was a bit of a glow from the moonlight, he could see nothing at all out the window except blackness. He remembered the moon on the night when he had met… It had been full then, bright and full, peaking out from behind clouds to shine down on them all with such spectacular and terrifying brilliance. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to block out those thoughts that he wanted shattered into a thousand pieces like the mirror. Harry knew he should be crying. That was what you did when a friend died, wasn't it? But even when he managed to cry, he didn't feel better.
“heh-IHshhh! heh-Ekshhh!” Harry rubbed again at his nose and opened his eyes, trying to get the images in his head to leave him alone. Hermione said that his cold wasn't going to be helped at all by his persistence to contain emotions. When she had brought him up some soup for dinner, she told him that he needed just to let it all out and he would feel much better. But he couldn't just let it all go with a fit of tears. He was angry at Dumbledore, angry at Sirius, angry at Kreacher, and angry at himself most of all. And he knew the only person he should be angry with was Voldemort.
He felt tears welling up in his eyes again, but as hard as he tired, he could not make himself break down crying. Deep down it felt as though things were not over, that they couldn't possibly be over.
He didn't know what to feel anymore. It was like an entire year had passed and he was right back where he started, back to living with the Dursleys rather than with the person he wanted to live with. Back to scrounging for news of Voldemort's current actions. Back to horrible nightmares about death. And though it seemed like everything was the same, there was now a huge gap in his heart and he did not know whether it meant he was gone forever or would somehow return. All he knew was that trying to cry about it didn't change a thing. It was easier just to grieve in his own way, head cold or not.
With another hard swallow, which pained his throat, he sat back up. “Lumos levo!” he whispered, and the light went back on at the end of his wand, only quite dimly. It was enough to help him see. He sat back up in bed, propping his pillows up against the headboard, setting the tissue box on his lap, and pulling the book back over to him. He nearly opened right up to the section he was looking for, though it wasn't surprising. Sick in bed and done with O.W.L.'s, there wasn't much else to do except read. He had read and reread Gandalf's death scene so many times now, looking for the same sorts of hints he looked for in his own life. There was something about it that just didn't feel over, no matter how many times he read of Gandalf's fall.
Sighing, he flipped forward to where he had left off and fallen asleep. At least the book's adventures would help him take his mind off his own life long enough for him to fall back to sleep. But the current chapter was about some mirror he had not yet encountered. And the snippets of conversation between Frodo and Sam hit a bit too close to home.
*'And I don't reckon that these folk can do much more to help us, magic or no.
It's when we leave this land that we shall miss Gandalf worse, I'm thinking.'
'I am afraid that's only too true, Sam,' said Frodo.*
Harry shut the book again, his head pounding, the scar on his forehead now just a dull, constant pain that mirrored his grief. The dim wandlight reached out just far enough for him to see Ron clearly. He smiled faintly, and made sure the blanket was tucked well around Ron before Harry settled back down against his pillow and extinguished his wand.
“hehh…” He hugged the tissue box to his chest, extracting another tissue. “heh-IHHHshhh ihhhChushh!” He cast a wary look over at Ron as he blew his nose, glad to see that his friend was still lying motionless, mouth half open, eyes closed.
Harry yawned and closed his own eyes. He sniffed wetly and pushed a tissue closer to his nose. “ihh-heh-IHshhhh! Heh-Ehshooo!” His nose was in pain when he tried to blow it, his head swimming. He winced, gave a soft moan, and sneezed another couple of sneezes, “heh-IHHchhh! Heh-Chishoo!”
“Bless you.” Ron had woken again. He pulled a tissue out of the box and handed it to Harry.
Harry looked up, sniffling. “You're never going to get to sleep if you stay here,” Harry informed him, taking the tissue with a nod of gratitude and blowing his nose again.
Ron shook his head. “Think I just did. Besides,” he broke off to yawn again, “I'm not leaving you.” Ron reached over and found Harry's hand. “Not until you get better, and then not after that either. No matter what happens.” He squeezed it reassuringly, then kept hold of it.
Harry hesitated for a moment, then squeezed back. Just because one friend was killed, didn't mean there weren't others there to care for him. And though his family could never be replaced, the order was his family now and would fight for him and die for him every bit as much as his parents had. And maybe some more of his friends would die before it was all over. But that didn't mean they wouldn't still be with him. “Thanks, Ron.” Harry closed his eyes and for the first time in days, didn't think about anything at all. He simply let himself fall to sleep, knowing that for as much as they would fight for him, he would do all he could to protect them, as well. And that included the ones that had already fallen.