The Sugar Quill
Author: Starbuckx  Story: Muileach  Chapter: Prologue
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Yet if Hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream

                                 ~ Edgar Allan Poe


The last rays of sunlight fell over the lake, illuminating the surface with an almost orange glow, the last remains of the day that was slowly coming to an end. The worst day of his life. A pair of green eyes focused on the sky, now turning gray, matching Harry’s mood. Soon, the little bit of sunlight that was left would be gone, and even the beautiful picture of the sunset couldn’t make him feel better about what he was about to do.

The chilly autumn wind made him shiver and wrap his cloak more tightly against his body, but the cold did not disappear. It seemed like his insides were frozen, almost as if someone had thrown a freezing spell at him. But he was doing this to himself.

He opened his mouth, feeling the need to cry, but he closed it before any sound could come out of it. What was the point in crying out, when he knew this had to be done?

The silence hung heavy around him, and for the first time in two years he wished for the silence around him to be broken, for someone to reach out and make him feel.

Nothing happened. The wind continued to blow, making him shiver, but he did not move, nor did he try to cover himself again. This time, he opened himself to being cold.

The tears began to fall slowly, one by one, brought on by the memories, good and bad ones.  Playing Quidditch. Detention in the Forbidden Forest with Ron. A Saturday in the library with Hermione. Saving Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets. Finding Sirius again. The best moments of his life had been spent at Hogwarts, and going off to take part in the on-going war seemed almost a bad dream.

But it wasn’t. He had always known there would come the time when he had to leave. Not because he was the only one who could defeat Voldemort, not to get revenge and not because he wanted to be the hero, but because he could no longer bear another second hiding at Hogwarts, going to classes, pretending that everything was all right while a war was going on. A war he should be taking part in.

Maybe there wasn’t anything he could do to help. Maybe he wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. He probably wasn’t. His scar pains would probably only hinder him in battle, not help him. But he could feel them getting worse by the day, and the knowledge that Voldemort was getting closer to everything and everyone he loved was all he needed to make up his mind.

The silence was getting unbearable, and for a whole second he considered going back inside, to his friends, to Ginny. But he quickly erased that thought from his mind. Staying here at Hogwarts would only end up hurting them. He had to smile at his own conclusion. There was nothing he could do about Ron and Hermione. They were old enough to leave if they wanted to, but Ginny least he could keep her safe for a few more months. And maybe, a few months would be all he needed to get her out of his mind, his skin, his heart.

He sank to the floor and rested his head against a tree. Somehow he doubted that he could ever get Ginny out of his heart. She had taken up residence, filling the emptiness inside him with light, and hope and love. The tears froze on his cheeks and he quickly wiped them off and got to his feet.  The last thing he wanted was for her to find him like this.

Love wasn’t one of his strong points, that he could admit. He had very little experience with it, not only in the romantic sense, but in the family sense as well.  The first time he had taken a look at the Weasley family he had been reminded of all he had been missing, and it had made him jealous.

His parents had loved him, he was sure of that. But when he closed his eyes, he could not make out his mother’s face, and he could not remember the loving embrace of his father, so the knowledge of their love seemed somehow incomplete.

That led him to the Dursleys, who hadn’t exactly been a loving family. The years spent with them had been filled with many things: loneliness, bitterness, despair, but never love. Not even hope.

That had been provided by Ron and Hermione, the first to ever make him feel loved. It had always been easy with them, maybe because they had formed a bond from the beginning, or maybe because they had survived so many dangers together. Words had never been necessary with them. They were glances, unspoken messages, intuition. In the end, they just knew.

With Sirius things had been completely different. You never knew where you stood with Sirius, he had decided last year after one of their fights. One moment he was happy, a second later he was being overprotective, and then minutes later, he was back to normal again. Harry had often joked that Sirius and he could never have a civil conversation if Remus wasn’t present, and that was usually true. Harry’s old teacher often seemed to be the only one who could truly reach Sirius, and Harry appreciated that. They were the only links he had to his parents, and Harry knew without a doubt that both would give their lives to protect him. He had, in turn, often showed that he would be willing to make the same sacrifice for both of them, and he was sure they were aware of that.

Which left him with Ginny.

“It’s amazing how complicated things get once you get mixed up with a girl¨,” Sirius had told him once with a boyish twinkle in his eyes, and now more than ever Harry understood exactly what Sirius meant. Ginny was ...words failed him when describing Ginny. Words often failed him when he was around her, but there was no mistaking his feelings.  He had danced around her long enough, pretending not to know while being perfectly aware that the feeling would not go away with time. And when he had finally admitted to her what they had both known for a while, he had discovered how truly magical the world could be when someone loved you as much as she loved him.

And because he knew how she felt, he had to do this. She would never do it herself. She would never leave him.

He shut his eyes tightly to block out the mental image of her face. He couldn’t think of her. Not now. If he did, he would never be able to go through with it. And he had to. Facing Voldemort was his duty, not hers and he would not allow her to sacrifice herself for him.

You’ll hurt her, a voice was telling him, an ethereal voice that seemed to come out from the lake. A gentle whisper brought to him by the wind.

He knew it would hurt her. But in the end, it might also save her, and for that he was willing to risk it.

You’ll hurt her, the voice said again, and he did his best to block it out. She should have never got close to him. He shouldn’t have allowed it. But she had, and now she was suffering. He could take her suffering for him, but not dying for him. Not that.

He turned around sharply at the sound of her voice calling for him, and he stared at her, drinking in her appearance, memorizing every curve, every line, every shadow and saving them for later. For when he was alone and tired, and about to give up. Because he knew that in that moment, all he would have to do would be close his eyes, and she would be there with him. And with his eyes closed he would remember her beautiful brown eyes, the play of the light on her face, the shade of her flushed cheeks. And she would be his, and only his.

She was smiling at him when he finally focused on her face, her head tilted to the right and she stepped into his arms easily and quickly. He closed his eyes and held her tight, once more marveling at how perfectly they fit together, as if they were made for each other. Her small arms surrounded his neck, and he circled her waist and hugged her even more tightly, enjoying the feel of her body against him.

“I love you,” he told her, and his voice quavered as he said the words.

She looked into his eyes, concern evident on her face. “What’s wrong Harry?” she asked. He could see her struggling to come up with a reason for his strange behaviour, but he didn’t mind. He just wanted to have her in his arms one more time, so he held her close and memorized the feel of her arms and the wonderful way in which she rested her head against his shoulder.

Then, he let go of her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her eyes filled with pain, and this time her voice shook almost as much as his.

“I’m leaving,” he answered, his eyes focused on the floor, unable to look at her in the face. “And I have to go alone.”

She gasped and stared at him for what seemed like and eternity. Then her mouth opened, but no words came out of it. She took a deep breath to regain her voice and asked him, “The war? Is that it?” her voice filled with so much pain that he almost took it back. But he couldn’t. He had to go. For her.

“I have to,” he told her hollowly, as he stared into the lake once again, still unable to meet her eyes.

He heard a muffled cry and seconds later she was in his arms again, holding him tight, whispering terms of endearment, begging him not to go.

“Don’t hug me,” he whispered brokenly. “It only makes me want to never let go.”

“Then don’t go,” she pleaded with him, holding him tight and placing soft kisses on his face.

He hugged her tightly once more, then with a tremendous effort, pushed her aside. He looked at her face for the first time since he delivered his words and his eyes seemed to linger on her face for a very long time. He could see how much he was hurting her. Tears trickled down her cheeks, tracing the swirls of her freckles before freezing on the tip of her nose, but she never even bothered to wipe them away.

She looked into his eyes just before he turned around, and the “I love you” she was planning to say wouldn’t come out. She stood still and silent while he walked away from her, and the moment he vanished from he sight her control seemed to abandon her and she collapsed onto the ground. Her shoulders heaved and she gasped while the tears continued to fall without control.

“I hate you, Harry Potter” she whispered bitterly. “I hate you for thinking that I’ll wait for you. I hate you for thinking that I’ll always love you.”

“And ...” she murmured softly to herself. “I hate you for being right.”

The chilly autumn wind cut into her face and she hugged her knees, trying to block out the cold from the wind that sliced into her neck, making her feel frozen inside as she stared for what seemed a very long time at the path were Harry had disappeared, feeling more alone and hollow than ever.

To be continued ...

 A/N: Not only has this taken way longer than anything I’ve  ever written, it has also been revised several times, planned more carefully than I’ve ever planned anything,and it’s a much more sirius fic than anything I’ve ever attempted before, not to mention longer, so I hope it doesn’t suck and you all enjoy.  The title needs some explaining, I guess.. Muileach means Beloved in gaelic. My boyfriend is Irish, and that’s one of his favorite words, so I borrowed it. I think it fits with the story. This story is for my cyber-sisters, as always, and for Paula and Anne, for all their help. 

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