The Sugar Quill
Author: Grim Lupine  Story: Blood, Dust, and Tears  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

            Disclaimer: Not mine.

           

 

It began in the summer. It began in the summer where the sky was sun-lit for longer than usual, and insects gathered in gardens, and people mourned the greatest wizard they had ever known.

            It began in the summer when Harry and Ron and Hermione went hunting for something, anything that could help them stop a madman’s rampage.

            It began in the summer. The slow descent into darkness and despair, where no one knew who to trust and an enemy could be anyone and it seemed that happy times were once-a-year occasions, like birthdays.

            They traveled slowly, by broom, occasionally by foot, scouring the country. There were times when it was on the tips of their tongues to stop, stop searching and say, “This is madness, we won’t find anything, what hope do three teenagers have?” It lay on the tips of their tongues, but they never said it. They needed hope. They needed the knowledge that they were doing something that could help, something that might possibly make up for the lives that crumbled every day.

            They searched for salvation.

000

            Ron wasn’t a thinker. He didn’t deliberate. He acted.

            Even realizing that he could use his chess skills in strategy, placing flesh-and-blood people in the place of black and white stone (he crushed the metaphor when he started to wonder what happened to the people in comparison to a captured chess piece), he knew that it was only because they helped him do something, accomplish something.

            Justice, revenge, get even, kill the enemy, have to do something.

            He was constantly aware of a fiery tension coursing through his veins, tension that kept him over-alert and fidgety, snappish and at times broody.

            Sometimes it came in handy.

            Sometimes it didn’t.

            It was in the aftermath of a storm when Harry fell in through the door of their heavily warded, cramped, abandoned little shack. The air felt cool and smelled crisp, and the hairs on the back of Ron’s neck stood on end.

            “Stay here,” the dark-haired boy ordered between gasps. “Death Eaters…only a couple of them…have a Muggle and his wife. Stay here. We need someone to watch the other Horcruxes.” And then he was gone.

            Ron wasn’t a thinker. But he wasn’t a fool either. He had seen what was almost relief in Harry’s eyes; relief at knowing what was happening and not having to wait for it to happen.

            Ron snorted.

            “He’s mad if he thinks he’s going without me,” was all that he said before he pulled out his wand and Apparated away, leaving no chance for Hermione to protest.

            It was over before it began. The two Death Eaters were Stunned, the Muggles Obliviated, Harry came away with a gash on his arm, and Ron left with a broken leg and four missing fingers.

            Spitting blood out of his mouth, Harry scrabbled in the dirt for the body parts, hoping that Hermione could find some way to attach them back.

            “Guess they didn’t like me in particular, mate,” Ron joked weakly.

            “Ron,” Harry said, shutting his eyes. “Idiot, idiot, idiot!”

            “You’re not fighting Death Eaters without me, Harry,” Ron said firmly.

            It was only after they had visited the Burrow for their monthly check in and Mrs. Weasley had done what healing she could (healed the leg somewhat and attached the fingers on so they could fully grow together) that Harry realized that they had a problem.

            “Dang,” Harry swore, looking at his redheaded friend. “You had Burrow watch this week, didn’t you?”

            Every week one of them watched over the Burrow, keeping a lookout for Death Eater attacks while the other two went on Horcrux duty.

            “We don’t need a watch.”

            The voice came from behind them. They turned around to see Mrs. Weasley.

            “Ronald needs to recover, and Harry, you need to search some more,” she said. “But what happens if someone attacks where Ronald is?”

Hermione nodded.

            “I’ll watch him,” she told the Weasley mother.

            “Mum…” Ron protested.

            “No,” his mother said sharply. “We’ll be fine.” She nodded firmly and turned away.

            Ron didn’t see her again until eight days later. When he did see her, the firmness and the sharpness and her fierce calm was gone. In its place was a bleeding, heartrending grief for the son she couldn’t save when the Death Eaters attacked.

            Ron wept heavy tears for George and tried to stomach the guilt that ran through his soul.

000

            Hermione was intelligent. That was one thing she could always be sure about, and in the midst of this terrifying, confusing, madness of a war, it was a relief to know something without having to second-guess it.

            She read and studied and tried not to think too hard about when she would have to apply her studied skills to real life and real people (and real blood and real flesh and real people’s real family, her mind nattered on). She left the acting to Ron and Harry and did her best to keep her boys from being killed. She was mother and sister and healer and friend, teacher and researcher, and anything she could be without having to kill.

            She continued plowing on, day by day, until the moment she had her first battle.

            She had her first battle with a mountain of a man, clenching her wand in one slender fist as she desperately tried to keep from freezing up. Think, her brain shrieked, think, think of something, you know spells, use them!

            The Death Eater in front of her smiled viciously, baring white teeth in a predatory smile (my, what big teeth you have, my dear, she found herself thinking, and a hysterical giggle bubbled up in her chest) as he raised his wand high.

            And suddenly, like a sharp slap to the face, Hermione had to confront the idea that, perhaps, being Head Girl and prefect and top of her class all seven years at Hogwarts wouldn’t ensure her walking out of this war alive after all.

000

            It occurred to the wizarding world, after Voldemort was killed, that perhaps they should have learned more about Death Eater hierarchy.

            It had never crossed their minds that when the Dark Lord fell there would be plenty more to take his place.

            They desperately wished they had thought about it when Lucius Malfoy took over.

            The following year was one of death and tears and little light. The towns had a haunted look about them, shopkeepers having long boarded up their windows and fled in fear for their lives, and long before night fell people went home and warded the doors and tried not to imagine it was their last night with their families.

            Harry and Ron and Hermione fought every day, knowing the little they did was never enough, yet taking comfort in the fact that every Death Eater put behind bars meant lives saved.

            He knew this, but sometimes Harry crawled into his bed, bone-weary with the sight of blood, and he wondered if it was worth fighting anymore.

            Lucius Malfoy had all the sadism and cruelty of the late Dark Lord, without the loss of his sanity.

            A dangerous, dangerous man.

            It was Severus Snape that killed the blond-haired man, in the end, though only the Order knew it. He cut him down from the inside and covered his tracks as methodically as he would go about preparing one of his potions.

            Harry looked him in the eyes and saw his mentor pleading for his life as green light took over, and he swallowed hard and stayed away from Snape after that.

            And then they got the news that attempting to take over the world seemed to run in the Malfoy family, and they prepared to take down Draco Malfoy and hope he was the last they would have to kill.

000

            Harry brushed blood off his robes and straightened up. His nerves hummed with controlled tension and excitement. It all came down to this. The work of years and years came down to a final boil in this meeting.

            The last two years with Malfoy in charge had been interspersed with Death Eater raids, far in number and poorly planned in strategy. Every attack had been met by the Light side, and the Order walked away with few members down.

            The Death Eaters hadn’t been so lucky.

            It was down to this.

            All the Death Eaters—all of them—were either dead or imprisoned, and Draco Malfoy had asked to meet with the Order to negotiate.

            Wands flew up and curses sprang to lips as Malfoy walked into the clearing. He stopped in front of the line of emotionless faces, and he searched for something.

            A hard, burning look in his eyes, Harry stepped forward, and kept on walking.

            Oddly enough, there were no protests as the Boy-Who-Lived came to a standstill in front of the Dark Lord, and gently placed his arms around the blond man’s waist. The world seemed to stop for a moment, or at least slow down, as Draco lowered his head onto Harry’s shoulder, letting go of the remains of his tattered mask and whispering brokenly, “Harry, Harry, I’m so tired. So tired…I want it to end.”

            And Harry tightened his arms and replied, “It’s over, Draco. You did good. It’s over.” 

000

            Harry sat with Draco’s head in his lap, gently stroking away the hair from his forehead. He looked up to meet Ron and Hermione’s eyes, surprised to see no sign of accusation

            “We couldn’t tell anyone,” he offered. “It…it could have been read from your minds, or…” he trailed off.

            Ron brought his knees up to his chest in a gesture reminiscent of the lanky boy he had once been.

            “It’s all right Harry,” he replied tiredly. “I won’t yell, or curse him, or something. I trust you with my life, and you trust him. That’s enough.” Hermione nodded her agreement, and the redhead turned his head to the side, looking off into the distance.

            His lips quirked in a bitter almost-smile that spoke of pain and grief. “Anyway, I think I’ve learned something about thinking before acting.”

000

            There were very few people who raised a fuss about Draco when the story came out. Many people had enough to worry about, rebuilding their lives and homes. A good number of them trusted the Savior to protect them all, and if he trusted the Dark Lord and said he was on their side, it was good enough for them.

            Most of the people who were worried came to visit Harry and Draco personally, and walked away without much concern.

            After all, what trouble could come from such a broken man?

000

            And the wizarding world slowly but surely recovered from years of death and strife. It rebuilt itself and people began to remember what laughter and joy had once tasted like.

            Two men sat in front of a window, heads bowed together, silence ringing and tangible between them as they watched the rain fall and cleanse the earth of blood, dust, and tears.

 

 

A/N: Things that may or may not have been clear, and need to be explained:

 

1)      Draco was on the Light side. He and Harry met a while back and decided that Draco would pretend to be Dark, because they knew that when Voldemort died, Lucius would be his second in command, and when they killed Lucius, Draco would fight to be the next Dark Lord. Over the next two years, Draco fed information to Harry so that every Death Eater attack could be met. In this way, all the Death Eaters were killed and imprisoned, and Draco could step down. Harry and Draco didn’t tell anyone because the idea was the fewer people knew, the fewer people could tell.

2)      Ron feels guilty because his logic tells him that had he not followed Harry when Harry told him to stay back, then he wouldn’t have gotten hurt, and the Burrow would have had a guard, and George wouldn’t have been killed. That’s why he says he knows something about thinking before acting now.

3)      Snape revealed he was on the Light side to only the Order (Harry and Ron and Hermione joined later on). He assassinated Lucius, and no one knew who did it.

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