Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have always wanted to watch a movie where, at the end of the great war, the hero/ine and companions stand in the dawn of
a new day amidst the bloody losses of the night, and the Enigma Variations soar
through the surround sound system with bone-shaking intensity. Long, long ago,
Mugglenet.com had a contest for people to write the final chapter of the Harry
Potter series. I never heard about it until after the competition was over, but
if I’d entered, this would have been my take on the finale.
~ Dawn of a New World ~
The sun rose gently over the blackened husk
of Hogwarts, shedding the light of a new day over a bedraggled, weary army.
On his knees in the cold grass, Harry felt
the burden of their victory like a leaden weight on his back. His body was too
weary to move, his heart too heavy for him to even raise his head to look
around him on the dawn-touched battlefield. Had a spell been required of him at
this moment, he would not have been able to perform even the most basic Protego.
Victory shouldn’t feel like this.
It was the only thought he could summon,
staring out over the battlefield at the living and the dead. The bodies lay
haphazard, scattered over the ground where they’d fallen, friend and foe alike,
a terrible carnage, a terrible price.
They’d won, hadn’t they? They’d won the
war. Defeated Voldemort, conquered the Death Eaters,
and the dark army of witches and wizards who’d followed the Dark Lord; they’d won.
Why, then, did Harry feel more like he’d
lost? Shouldn’t there have been some kind of triumph? Some
kind of relief? Something more than this hollow emptiness that suddenly
ached inside him?
Above him, Hermione swayed, as if it was
too much effort to keep still. He climbed to his feet, wedging his shoulder
under her arm to try to hold her up. “You okay?”
“I’m fine, Harry.” She didn’t look fine.
“No, really, I am. I’m just--” Her head turned to look at the broad expanse of
grass. “We won.” Her words were barely audible, the merest breath of air past
her lips. She turned her head into his shoulder and her fingers dug into his
upper arm as she sobbed those two words again. “We won.”
And suddenly the full price of their
victory came crashing down around Harry; the real cost of the war.
There was no joy for either of them in
They’d won the war; Voldemort was gone -
but so, too, were too many of their friends and allies.
Somewhere, out in the midst of the dead and
dying, Ron Weasley lay, his face raised to a sky he could no longer see, the
world around him free of the Dark Lord because of his actions.
In the midst of the field, Harry held his
friend as she sobbed, and wished he could do the same. He wished there was
something that could snap within, release the tension wound so tightly around
his soul. But he couldn’t. His eyes were dry and his soul felt barren.
Ron was dead.
“Harry.” The voice was vaguely familiar,
and he managed to turn enough to look at Neville Longbottom, coming up towards
him, trailing people.
The other boy - the other possibility for
the prophecy - looked as different from the boy he’d been that first night at
Hogwarts as the night looked from the day. Neville had grown up, too fast, too
harsh - as had all those who’d sided with Harry in the war against Voldemort.
They’d seen Voldemort die. Seen the Dark
Lord swallowed up in the spell Harry had cast the instant before the twisted,
hollowed nightmare of a wizard pointed his wand at the boy who’d been his
chosen downfall, and spat two words that had killed countless others through
Once, long ago, that same spell had been
cast on Harry, and his mother’s love had shielded him. Back then, all those
years ago, a life had gone in sacrifice to protect Harry. And once again, a life
had been required in sacrifice to defeat Voldemort.
It should have been his life.
The understanding slammed into him, even as
Neville spoke, “Harry? Where’s Voldemort?”
He couldn’t bring his mouth to work. He
could no more speak than he could fly.
It should have been his life for the
The knowledge dragged at him, sucked him
down into painful darkness and he couldn’t answer.
“He’s gone,” Ginny spoke, coming up at his
elbow. Her usually smooth voice was cracked and harsh from screaming spells all
night. And she looked into Harry’s eyes, and he was forced to meet the
hollowing pain in her gaze - so similar to Ron’s. And yet her expression was
empty of blame, empty of the hatred she should have felt looking into the eyes
of the boy who’d effectively led her brother to his death. “Voldemort is dead.”
Neville didn’t ask how she knew, he just
nodded. His gaze flickered over Hermione, still crying, but who had turned her
head to see the people who were now drawing near.
“Harry,” she said quietly, raising her face
to look him in the eye.
“I know,” he replied. And he did.
“He would have-- He wanted--”
Hermione’s hand on his arm tightened
briefly, and he saw her lift her chin and straighten her shoulders. In that
moment, Harry felt like a git. Because it was his fault.
He turned his face away from her
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said, as if
she’d read his mind. She turned on him, blinking her tears away, her expression
fiercely earnest, “It wasn’t your fault, Harry. He chose it. He knew
what he was doing and he chose it. I’d have done the same if I’d been-- If I’d
“I should have--”
Her fingers dug even harder into his arms
as she stared up at him, her expression willing him to believe. “You did what
you did. I don’t blame you. And Ron wouldn’t either.”
“How can you?” He almost couldn’t get the
words out. “You can’t know--”
“I do,” she said, through her tears.
“Harry, believe me, I do--”
“You can’t!” Harry denied hotly, shaking
her off, stepping back. “You can’t know--” He got no further, choking on his
words, and turned away.
What he wouldn’t have given this moment for
a clap on the back and a triumphant laugh from Ron? “We did it, mate! We did
Movement on the periphery of his vision
made him look up. There was a slowly approaching circle of people, moving in
around them, enclosing them. Their faces were young and old, relief-filled and
grief-stricken, all houses, all people... All looking to Harry for the
leadership they craved. Even the older folk seemed to require something of him
in this moment: a look, a word, an acknowledgement, something.
Harry felt suffocated, buried under the
weight of their expectations, their needs.
He couldn’t face her. He couldn’t face any
They needed him, but he needed his own
space now, before they enfolded him and made him into someone he didn’t want to
be. Now, more than ever, he needed to be himself, Harry Potter, not the Boy Who
Lived, or the Boy Who Defeated Voldemort. And if he didn’t take that time
As he turned away, he heard what sounded
like a sob from Ginny, and an answering sob from Hermione. Even as they
comforted each other, he knew that he needed to get away from them both for a
little while. Just as he knew he’d need them later. Now, he couldn’t bear their
grief - not on top of his own.
So he walked away, deliberately and
purposefully, and the people who came towards him parted before his expression
like butter before a white-hot poker.
He didn’t know where he went, only that he
walked into the midst of the carnage, away from where the others congregated.
They could lick their wounds, count their losses and grieve together. Harry
could not. In grief, as in everything, he was alone.
The grass beneath his shoes was slippery
with dew - and a little blood. He stumbled, going down on his hands and knees,
and his fingers closed around a length of wood he knew with aching familiarity.
Unicorn tail, willow, fourteen inches - Ron’s wand.
Ron, oh god, Ron...
He sat back on his haunches in the bloody
grass, and felt the tears sting his eyes.
He wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t.
Overhead, the sun strengthened its hold on
the living world around Harry, and the excess of his feelings ripped through
him like a knife through flesh. It had been years since he’d allowed himself to
feel like this.
Sirius’ death had scarred him, drawn him
back from caring about anyone or anything - because everything he cared about
could be used against him by Voldemort.
He sobbed until his eyes were raw, grieving
for so many things, for the loss of his childhood, spent in war; for the burden
of killing, even a creature as vile as Voldemort; for the blood of the people
who’d rallied behind him and died in the war, old and young.
Time passed. Harry didn’t know how much,
but he was left alone, and nobody bothered him. When his tears subsided, he was
still alone, his fingers clenched around Ron’s wand, with the bright sun
spearing harshly into his eyes.
No, not alone. Not entirely.
A shadow fell across him, blocking the sun
from his eyes.
She stood on the grass, mere metres away,
not looking at him, but shading her eyes as she looked full in the face of the
rising sun. Harry blinked a few moments, tearing at the brightness of the sun.
But he stumbled to his feet, his legs shaking so bad he could barely stand.
Ron’s wand was pocketed, but Harry didn’t
look around for his friend’s body. He didn’t want to see the glassy blue eyes
reflecting the morning sky, an empty heaven. Not yet. Maybe...maybe when the
sun had risen further in the sky and the world had lost the dew-brightness of
He walked over to stand beside the girl who
faced the sun, her lids drawn down, the faintest
flutter showing that she hadn’t shut her eyes completely.
Everyone else seemed wearied, exhausted by
the night. She, alone of them all, seemed untouched by it, as though the horror
of the war had passed her over, without toll. If not for the mud smudges on her
robes and face, the dirt beneath her nails and the untidy tangles of her hair,
Harry might have questioned if she’d been in the battle at all.
But then, Luna had always been like that.
“Did you know,” she said without turning to
look at him, “that when you look into the sun and close your eyes, you can see
sun-sprites dancing against your eyelids?”
In spite of himself, in spite of his grief,
Harry found himself turning to the sun and closing his eyes against the bright
glare of its rays. He didn’t see any sun-sprites, of course but the sunshine on
his face lifted his spirits from the damp cold of the night’s labours.
Sometimes Luna’s craziness had its own payoff.
Having drawn the sunlight into himself, he
opened his eyes to find Luna staring at him.
“You’re going to have another scar, Harry,”
she said as she pointed at his cheek where a deflected spell had sliced across
the cheekbone, opening a wound.
Just what he needed. Another scar. “I’m starting a collection,”
he said, trying to make light of it. “Unusual scars gained from facing
Luna regarded him solemnly, “It might be
difficult to continue collecting them after today,” she observed.
Harry snorted as bitterness drowned him.
“Yeah, well, with Voldemort, you never know,” he muttered. Suddenly, every
muscle screamed, every cut gaped, every welt burned, and the fragile effects of
the sun’s lightening withered away like a flower killed by early frost.
Everything felt so heavy.
“I didn’t fight for this.” The words were
no more than a whisper, barely passing his cracked lips.
“No, you didn’t.”
Harry met Luna’s solemn gaze and she
regarded him in turn, blinking in a way that seemed almost owlish, before she
turned away from him, to look out across the battlefield of the night.
Anger ignited in him, a bitter heat beneath
his breastbone that needed some outlet, something upon which to vent itself.
And Luna was standing right there, a target all her own. She had broken his
solitude - let her suffer the consequences!
“Do you know what I fought for, then? I
never asked to be a hero!” The words were spat from him. “I never asked to lose
my friends - my family! I never asked for this scar,” he pushed back his hair
to show the lightning bolt that had been his curse through the years. “I never
asked for any of it!”
Luna felt his anger but she didn’t flinch.
Instead, one hand reached out to rest on his arm, and her large, blue eyes
fixed him, piercing him with clarity unusual for her. “Heroes never ask to be
Swift as it had risen,
his anger deserted him, blunted against her calm acceptance. “They want me to
be a hero,” he said. “They want me to lead them.”
“Yes.” Her answer was straight and plain.
“Can you blame them?”
“Yes,” he retorted, automatically. “I
didn’t give them anything! I did this--” I did this for myself. There
was a truth in the words; self-preservation required that he destroy Voldemort
before Voldemort destroyed him; but there was also more to it than that. He’d
done this because...because...
“What did you fight for, Harry Potter?” Her
head tilted a little, regarding him as though he were one of her fantastic,
mythical beasts. “What did we all fight for?”
And he thought about it.
He thought of the Dursleys, comfortably
close-minded in their own little Muggle world, not wanting to acknowledge
anything that might upset that. He thought of the Weasleys, opening their ranks
to accept him into their family, for all that he was a lightning rod for
trouble. He thought of Dumbledore and the weight of the world that had rested
on those thin, frail shoulders and the responsibilities required of him as the
only wizard Voldemort feared.
He thought of Lupin and the haunted hunted
grace of the werewolf, of Tonks and her solid, easy-going Muggleborn Dad. He
thought of Mr. and Mrs. Diggory, whose sobs he still remembered after three
years, and Sirius, laughing at Bellatrix, even as she killed him.
He thought of Hermione, gripping his arms;
of Ginny’s one, forgiving look; of Neville’s expectation; of Luna’s fey eyes
watching him even now.
And Harry thought of Ron, sitting freckled
and alone that first morning on the Hogwarts Express, talking about Voldemort
and the fear the Dark wizard had spread across the wizarding world. He thought
of his friend’s attempts to speak the name he’d always been taught never to
say, to find the strength to overcome the fears from his upbringing.
Around them, people were drawing closer,
emboldened by his conversation with Luna. They were dirty, grubby, exhausted,
drained, but a new dawn glimmered in their eyes, powerful as a well-cast
And Harry understood.
“For...hope,” he said quietly. They’d
fought for the hope of a new world – a world without the fear of Voldemort.
And her lips curved in a faint, gentle
benediction. “They have that now.”
* fin *