rurounihime: (loki)
Title: The Road (4/?)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] rurounihime
Rating: hard R when all is said and done…
Pairing: H/D eventually
Summary: In the midst of a disintegrating war, Harry awaits the arrival of the Order’s last hope.
Warning: violence, character death, spoilers for all seven books. This fic is now AU because of Deathly Hallows. And at the risk of much silliness, I now discover that there are apparently DH spoilers in this story from the beginning. O.o
Disclaimer: The HP characters and most of the spellwork do not belong to me. Song lyrics from “Kellswater” (traditional).

A/N: This is my giant WIP. I predict somewhere between 20 and 30 chapters, but it’s hard to say at this point. Thank you SO MUCH to April for her fantabulous beta-ing and to Coffee for her constant feedback and encouragement. I will try to post a new chapter every ten days or thereabouts, but hey, we’ll play it by ear. The other major pairing in this is Blaise/Seamus, but there are minor het pairings as well.



No artwork for this chapter.



**ETA: THIS CHAPTER HAS RECEIVED ITS FINAL EDIT**

Previous chapters

Chapter 4: Ruins

The night was absolutely silent. The memory of wind trembled against Blaise’s mind, and he turned his face upward to the crystalline stars breaking through the clouds. The rain had been nothing but a weary drizzle, blanketing the land in oppressive stillness. But this was different. Blaise inhaled and let the air tease his throat and lungs. Clean. Crisp. The sky was so black beyond the pinprick lights.

He stretched out on his back in the grass. To his right, broken stone monoliths rose against the hills like voids, the ghost of a great castle where weeds already grew and magic still trickled. Even the wreck felt familiar. He’d expected it to be painful, treading the paths he’d walked before, when the stones were still whole under his feet and cheerful voices echoed down cavernous hallways.

Somewhere there was a hole in the earth, and a set of mossy steps leading down into dungeons he knew like the back of his hand. If anything had been spared, it would be what lay below ground.

To the south, Hogsmeade was a jumble of buildings and forgotten magic. People still lived there. But the twinkling candle glow through frosted windows was gone, and the inhabitants let the quiet cloak their presence.

Blaise breathed deeply of the ancient air and let the tranquility steal over him. He had days, at least, until he had to drop his childhood away and pick up his orders once more. Days to think about how best to navigate the path to the north. His orders snagged at him with weak fingers. But the air was clean and the night as black as velvet.

* * *

It had not been planned. Not by Seamus Finnigan, a man who never planned for anything in his life. And not by Blaise Zabini, whose self-isolation only fed his insecurities about his new place in the war. It had been a mistake, wrought in the throes of alcoholic nights and lonely days. If Blaise had known what they were tampering with, he never would have messed about with it.

One night, caught in a depressive haze, no certain knowledge of Pansy, or Theodore, or Draco; the eyes of the Order watching Blaise even in his dreams, from shadows too deep to look into… and Finnigan’s blasted presence over by one of Grimmauld’s massive fireplaces. Blaise knew temptation. It was no longer just Finnigan’s golden skin or the flex of muscle beneath threadbare clothing. It was the comfort of solitude, the silence of someone who would give and give, and never tell another about what was resorted to in the glow of fireplace embers, or under torn blankets with clothing half removed, or with rainwater soaking through the thin shells of cloaks. Temptation was regularity, and understanding. Finnigan’s voice brought back the innocence of the past, eyes too blue to stare into unless one was willing to leap in headlong.

Blaise had leapt.

They hadn’t known what they were really doing until the fifth time, when the sting of Finnigan’s mere touch made Blaise bite through his lip to keep quiet, and taste blood until his climax. He still remembered the utter fear in the Finnigan’s eyes afterward, the graze of panting breath over his face. Blaise felt as though he were sizzling away under a flood of acid, more Finnigan’s body than his own. He’d gotten up without a word, walked outside in the rain, and threw up in the bushes until he was empty.

He’d not seen Finnigan for a week. When Seamus returned, with only the dead bodies of his two companions at his side, Blaise couldn’t fight the relief that he was only battered, that there was still warm blood coursing through his veins, and then he couldn’t fight the need to prove it for himself, to feel that heat against him and inside him. Another mistake; his body had torn itself free of oneness that night and had searched for two. It was harsh and glorious, and it hurt inexplicably. Blaise had known then that they were careening toward some edge he still could not see or explain.

It was the oldest of bonds, forgotten in the dust of centuries, and peace. The first tendrils of it had slipped past his notice, riding on the sorrow of lost battles and fear of dying. Primal emotions, desperate ones. Blaise had heard of the ancient bonding spells, but they were myths, and had no place in the present. The core had changed potency under more modern, ‘enlightened’ skies, and the newer manifestations of such bonds required intent, nothing more than a decision to be together.

The old spells, however, did not emerge through wand usage, and they exacted a much higher toll. With age came strength; Blaise could feel it rising through him, stealing his senses. And it wasn’t his strength; it was Finnigan’s, flooding Blaise’s body, Blaise’s mind. There was no real way to research what was happening to them—the Order’s libraries were woefully inadequate and under siege—but Blaise had simply known. Perhaps that was part of the magic. He felt it in his marrow: his body changing when Finnigan touched it, pleasure he’d never in his life imagined, but poisoned by the shards of confirmation. Terrifying; he didn’t love Seamus, and this bond was bigger than what they had. What they did when loneliness finally caught up with them.

It invaded. It soldered iron links around them. Blaise cursed it in a shaking voice and denied it in the same.

The next weeks had been a glaze of pain around the edges of his mind. Finnigan was there, but not within his grasp. Blaise locked himself away and refused to search Finnigan out, until his nights were nothing but a mass of fever dreams and aching sorrow that was not his.

But magic was a delicate thing. A patient thing.

It waited for a botched raid on a Death Eater compound; it waited until Dean Thomas was dead by Avery’s hand and the rest of their group had barely escaped with their lives. It waited until those who had gone on the raid were scattered across the countryside, until there was only a tall cathedral with disintegrating walls. Until there was only alone, and time to reflect on how razor-thin the line between luck and strategy was. Blaise’s hands were climbing over Seamus’ face before he could stop them, striking out of fear and anger, caressing out of sheer need. He bit at Seamus’ lips, caught a moan in his mouth, and then suddenly he was shoved away so hard he staggered.

“Don’t,” Seamus hissed. When he had ceased to be Finnigan and become Seamus, Blaise had no idea. The distance between them burned him like torn tendons, stretching for wholeness again. Seamus sagged against the wall, hands white from gripping the bricks. He jammed his palm against his forehead, and Blaise understood the pain pounding through Seamus’ body. It was in him as well, a fierce ache telling him day in and day out that he was already caught, that he’d walked into some sort of snare and was only winding himself tighter in its tendrils.

“Seamus,” he whispered. He didn’t know whose sorrow he was feeling. The emotional tide rolled. “It’s a bond. I don’t know how—”

“Fucking shit.”

Unable to stop himself, Blaise reached out and touched Seamus’ bare forearm, and the force that danced through his fingertips was shocking and white and horrifically strong. Seamus gave a low moan and curled away from him.

“Why,” he whispered raggedly into the bricks. “Why, why, why, why…”

Blaise’s chest felt wrenched. As though he were bleeding out. Seamus’ words, the space between their bodies, all of it throbbed in places where he had no muscle, no sinew, nothing that could ache, dammit, but it was aching.

“It’s old,” he managed. Seamus paid him no attention. His frame was heaving, deep, indrawn breaths. Blaise’s mouth moved again and words flowed out. “It’s not complete.”

“I can bloody well feel that,” Seamus hissed. Blaise moved as if pushed. The thought wasn’t even coherent before he was up against Seamus, and suddenly his whole body was reaching for it. Seamus inhaled sharply, arcing into him with a force that smacked of magic. Blaise reached up, struggling to breathe, and Seamus caught his wrist in a vise grip.

“I don’t want it finished, Zabini, do you hear me?” Seamus’ mouth was a sharp curve, honing the broken words. Even as his body sought closeness, he pushed Blaise away. Blaise’s head whirled at the motion and another shard lanced home in the ever growing hole inside him.

Seamus rubbed his face, turned his back. Blaise felt him collapsing just as surely as if he were the one falling. “Fuck you, Finnigan,” he ground out. “You think I wanted this? You think I bloody well wanted to feel it every time you got hurt, to have your damned nightmares every night? What if you die before this thing finishes? What happens to me?”

Seamus’ shoulders shuddered and Blaise felt it happen. Something raw and helpless clotted up inside him. His mind threatened to topple. “I can’t… This isn’t me anymore. It’s you.” He fought against the flood. “Why can’t you fucking finish it?” he said weakly.

Seamus spun. Tears ran tracks down his cheeks.

“Because I know I’ll lose you to this war if we—”

Blaise dragged Seamus to him. Their kissing was so feverish it scared him. His knees gave out under the onslaught, and that evening by the dying fire, their bond, once a vague, physical flicker, became an absolute certainty. It was a mistake to do it, he was sure, because nothing in this torn and tattered world could possibly be guaranteed. Not Seamus’ hands on his body, not the dryness of his lips on his mouth, not the words whispered between them on breathless sighs. Words he would never tell another living soul. It was a mistake to try to cement something that couldn’t be cemented. But Blaise didn’t care. Seamus was inside him now, his muscles, his blood.

The next day they were sent their separate ways, and Blaise first realised just how costly a blunder their accidental bonding would be. The chills at night shook him; every sound was a thunderous drum in his ears. He felt as though he’d swallowed something too large and it stuck there deep in his chest, sharp-edged. It was nothing but a stroke of luck that he did not run into any Death Eaters.

He didn’t remember much of that week, only that somehow he’d completed whatever mission he was on. At night he heard Seamus’ heartbeat in his head, tugging his pulse into an ill-fitting tandem. Shouldn’t be here, his dreams hissed, shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be here, should be there, there, not here, there, where HE is, should be there, should be there—

He might have spoken it aloud.

The days lengthened into hellish years, the nights into dry eternities. His body hurt as though he had lost a loved one; a craving unsatisfied, insatiable, and left to fester.

The day he finally turned back toward Grimmauld Place, he could feel Seamus in his fingertips. Every step was experienced fully. His body hurt more, and yet grew stronger at the same time, until he opened the door ready to leap out of his skin, hands shaking so hard the knob rattled. He needed—needed to get somewhere, something, someone, and it wasn’t until he saw Seamus’ bloodshot eyes that he really thought of Seamus at all. It had only been himself those nights alone, what he needed. It had never occurred to him to ponder what Seamus had gone through.

The instant he touched him, though, he knew. Oh gods, he knew.

“Don’t—Seamus—never, never again—”

“Never,” was all he heard. The rest sounded inside him where words didn’t matter.

Later, he counted it as a week of formation, when the bond was still fragile, for it never happened again quite like that.

* * *

Blaise shut one eye until Orion strode full into his vision. The silence pressed, but restfully. He knew Seamus was sleeping, somewhere.

Well. Let him sleep. Blaise could not gain that peace himself for the thoughts caroming through his head.

He had a week and a bit to finish, and the information of dead spies to launch from. It would get him north, and then it would get him to them. Death Eaters. He frowned at the stars. It was colder up north. Snow and ice, frozen lands with an even icier heart, because somewhere beneath the earth, they were there.

Why Voldemort should choose Scotland was not Blaise’s concern, and it didn’t trouble him. Scotland was ancient, full of magic that even the Dark Lord’s followers had never mastered. The very land vibrated with the power Druids had worshipped, so much so that the stir of a single man slipping under their watchful eyes might go undetected.

Many had gotten in. Pansy had, before. But Blaise could count on a single hand those who had gotten back out.

He tried out a word in the stillness. Sound slithered from between his lips like scales over dry earth. Another word, and another. He would get no response tonight; it was much too cold. The language tasted sinewy in his mouth, and he spoke the words again, grateful for the perfection of intonation.

He’d worked hard for it, months ago. It was the only time he’d really gotten to know Potter, listening to the strange sentences flowing from his throat, copying the timbre and stress to memory. He still had no idea what he was saying, but Potter had taught him two sentences. Only two.

Blaise felt Seamus’ mind drift. He rubbed his hand over his eyes, then stared back up at the stars. Potter had vanished sometime after that, taking Lovegood and Moody with him, and it was then that Blaise knew the end, and his mission, was coming. Besides himself, only Moody and Potter knew where he was headed, and they were sequestered somewhere out of reach until he had accomplished his task.

The last night with Seamus in the cathedral had been a quiet affair, full of whispers. No promises. Blaise couldn’t bring himself to say things that might not come true, and the gleam in Seamus’ eyes had told him that he understood.

Seamus had paused in the middle of it all, body warm and damp against his, with Blaise still trying to catch his breath, to relish the turmoil building inside of him. Seamus brushed a thumb over Blaise’s forehead.

“It’s bad this time,” he said. “Isn’t it?”

Something lodged in Blaise’s throat. He might have spoken then, reassurances, a simple acknowledgement that Seamus’ mission was secret as well, and that he knew it. But Seamus moved again, pressing up, gripping his thigh with one hand, and Blaise’s words got lost in the rush of near-painful pleasure.

He had no idea where Seamus was tonight, only that he was safe and restful like the sky above. And Seamus had no idea where he was. They’d learned long ago that it was better that way. But even if they were in the habit of telling each other, Blaise wouldn’t have said anything this time. His mission was too important. Holding Seamus in his arms that last night, struggling to keep his moans soft and trying to tangle his hands further and further into sandy blond hair, he’d known how important it was, and how silent he had to be.

But this? Heading ever northward alongside the freezing winds… this was a silence even he could not untangle. He had a very specific task, with specific information and specific training to fulfill it. He understood that, just as he understood the danger he was heading into. There was no other way to accomplish what he must. Blaise let the strange words glide over his tongue again and disappear into the night. But these words, this mission, was only a fragment of what was really going on, a piece to a larger puzzle.

He’d never been informed what the entire purpose of his task would be. That would have been grotesque foolishness on the part of Moody: should he be caught and tortured, everything would burn down around the ears of the Order, just as it had when Hogwarts had crumbled. But his piece of the puzzle seemed odd, even to him. Blaise chewed his lip, resting his head back in his hands. The grass crackled under him, sounding like more of Potter’s sibilant language.

In the entire scheme of things, what was the purpose behind killing a snake?

* * *

The sound of Luna’s lute kaleidoscoped off the window panes and echoed along the hallway. Harry rested a hand on the door before him and indulged himself in the tune for a moment, then entered the tiny room.

A fire already crackled in the fireplace in the west wall. The chamber had the cluttered feel of an rarely visited playroom. Harry slid a palm over the back of a lumpy chair before settling into it. The scent of lilacs burst from the cushions as he sat down. He cocked his head at the large portrait hanging on the wall in front of him.

“Good morning, sir.”

Albus Dumbledore shook himself awake and smiled brightly at Harry from the frame. He looked so odd, flattened and compartmentalised on the canvas. In two years, Harry had never been able to shake the sensation.

“Good morning, Harry.” The wizard’s eyes twinkled. “I see you have not thought to take advantage of the early hours, and have instead come to likewise roust me from my morning doze.”

“My apologies, sir. I don’t sleep late anymore, I’m afraid.”

Dumbledore nodded sagely. “Ah, yes. The taxation of thought does indeed make early risers of us all.”

Harry nodded. He drew a dingy caftan from the arm of the chair and spread it over his legs. “Do you… Do you ever get cold?”

Dumbledore looked at him peculiarly. “I am not entirely certain, Harry. One’s attention is taken up by so many other things.”

Harry shook his head, already regretting the question. He breathed in deeply, and the fire snapped at damp wood. Dumbledore’s beard was a tuft of snowy cotton, almost real enough. If he leaned forward, Harry thought he might be able to feel its texture.

So much did not change, even when so much else did.

“I hear you’ve been to see Luna.”

“Is that what I have been doing?” The old man looked thoughtful. “It would hardly be a waste of my time, now would it?”

Harry smiled. “She enjoys the company.”

Dumbledore lowered his head to peer over the tops of his spectacles. “Not nearly as much as she enjoys your company, I expect.”

The hollowness was rising already. Harry wondered if it had been wise to come to this room at all. “It’s… hard to tell with Luna.”

“My dear boy. Sometimes we must sit back and allow others to remind us of our worth. Especially when we ourselves have forgotten it.”

His mentor was smiling kindly—and knowingly—from the picture frame. Harry dropped his eyes, unable to keep the warmth from spreading to his expression. His lips curved upward on their own. “I’m sorry, sir. The castle’s very empty.”

“Indeed.” Dumbledore settled back and stroked his beard with one gnarled hand. He looked around, a quizzical expression suddenly on his face. “I’m sorry, Harry, I may have asked you this before, but… This is not my office, is it?”

And there was the old chill, creeping back in. Perhaps there was no longer a way to separate the two. “No, I’m afraid not.”

“Sad business, Harry. Sad business.”

There was silence for a long while.

“Ms Lovegood tells me that events are moving forward at last.”

Harry straightened and pulled the caftan closer around his shoulders. “She thinks…” He sighed. “She thinks they’ll arrive within the week. Provided nothing happens.”

Dumbledore studied him. “It is the waiting that burdens.”

Harry shifted fitfully. “I just want to know they’re safe.”

“If I remember correctly, Ms Weasley was always quite skilled at getting herself out of trouble. Very like the rest of her family in that respect.”

“And Malfoy?”

Dumbledore folded his hands. Harry could still feel the familiar, impenetrable gaze of his former instructor, as if the man were flesh and blood sitting in the room next to him. “Ah, yes. Mr Malfoy.” He leaned forward slightly. “You regret his part in all of this?”

Harry looked away. “He was your choice.”

“I merely suggested him, Harry, if you’ll remember.”

For a moment it did feel like the Headmaster’s office in Hogwarts, cramped with comfort, cluttered with the odds and knobs of indeterminate age and wisdom. It had been Dumbledore’s office, more so than McGonagall’s, and more than any of the headmasters and mistresses before him, Harry was willing to wager. Something in the stones of Hogwarts itself, something not present here, spoke of Dumbledore’s name, of his essence breathed into the life force of the school. Hogwarts had been Dumbledore. Now, what was left?

Harry shook himself. Bother the school. He should be grateful they’d managed to save this portrait, at least, and stop wishing for what could not be.

“Harry.” Dumbledore’s voice broke into his thoughts and Harry looked up. “I do not recall you expressing concern over Mr Malfoy’s abilities. And I do not believe you are truly doing so now.”

“This isn’t his fight.”

“Draco Malfoy has fought many battles in his time, some not as wise or as crucial as others. But he has chosen all of them, as he has chosen this one.”

Harry knew Dumbledore was not speaking of merely bringing Ginny through the Death Eaters safely. The enormity of the larger choice, the entire war—hell, he himself had made it years ago—threatened to engulf him once again. He could only shake his head. Arguing with Dumbledore, especially over the intricacies, had never been an easy thing to do.

“She’s not going to be his wife,” Harry whispered, mostly to himself.

Dumbledore did not speak for some time, and Harry wondered if there really was a need to speak at all. It had never hindered the old wizard’s ability to see straight into the heart of the matter. But how did that work when Harry couldn’t even extricate what the ‘heart of the matter’ was? He rubbed at his temples. It wasn’t Malfoy’s fight, and it wasn’t his journey, and yet Harry had been somehow unable to see that when the time came to select Ginny’s guide.

It occurred to Harry that in a few days’ time, he and Draco Malfoy would once again be under the same roof. It felt monumental.

At Hogwarts, during school—that had been years ago. Six years of classes, cloaked in the rancor of what being under the same roof meant for both of them. But sixth year was not the last time they had dwelt in such close quarters, and he couldn’t compare their school years to this.

He had nothing tangible to insure it, but he knew that the night Malfoy finally stepped in out of the rain with Ginny at his side, it would be nothing like those years in the other castle. “I shouldn’t have asked this of him. Of them.”

“She will be a fine companion, Harry.”

“Yes, she will.” Before he knew it, he was sneering and he couldn’t stop. “For the week or so that I’m still alive afterward.”

Dumbledore said nothing. The fire crackled merrily and Harry glared at it. Two faces floated in front of his eyes. Hair the colour of flame. Eyes as grey as ash. Days from now, they would no longer be visions, but tangible beings in this very castle. Staring at him. Expecting something he wasn’t sure he could give.

Giving him what he certainly should not expect.

“Do you realise what this means? What will happen?” The words gritted from Harry’s throat atop the roiling in his gut. He could feel Dumbledore’s flat portrait eyes on him.

“I am asking her to marry me. But not only that. I’m asking her to… to—” Harry struggled, unable to find the right phrase. “To trust me.” The description fell woefully short of the mess in his mind.

“She already does.”

“And what of the times she trusted me before? What did it get her? What did it get him?” He tried to focus. “Ginny’s family… They’ve been carved away from her one way or another, one by one, because of me. Somehow, every time, because of me. First Percy… Then Molly left—and—and then—” He broke off; couldn’t say the name. “Now she’ll just come to me and give even more. She might not even be herself after this! And Malfoy—”

But there, he simply could not go. Malfoy’s losses still sang eerily in his dreams at night. He shook his head and stopped talking. Words were the poorest of threads for such a tapestry, and yet, he’d been weaving this one all his life.

“Harry.”

A shiver passed through him at the hush of Dumbledore’s voice.

“You cannot remain there forever. You cannot remain at Hogwarts, and you cannot lose yourself in either Ms Weasley’s or Mr Malfoy’s troubles. They were not your fault, as much as you may view them as such. The violence of this storm sucks many down, and we must all do our best to hold tight to those it seeks. But sometimes the storm will have its way. The first drop of rain is no more responsible for the flood than the last. It has been years coming and not everyone will weather it.”

“Maybe I’m the dam that broke,” Harry said.

“My boy, you are the ancient tree rising above the torrent.”

He stared past the fire into nothingness. “With everyone clinging to my branches?”

Dumbledore’s nod was more resounding than anything he could have said aloud. A peculiar heaviness settled in Harry’s chest. Ginny was already on her way, toward a future she would probably leap into with nothing except his presence to guide her. And Malfoy had long been tangled in the webbing of this mess already, through no fault of his own.

For one crystal clear instant, Harry was certain that all the ghosts clung to his branches as well.

“I can’t ask this of them.”

“You already have,” Dumbledore said sternly.

“I shouldn’t be able to do that! I shouldn’t have that kind of power.”

“Should, shouldn’t.” The old wizard considered him somberly. “It is all relative, Harry. What should be has always been in a sense irrelevant, a mere consequence of one’s desires.” He leaned closer. “Power has many facets, Harry. It takes every form. You have seen the power of fear and of deceit. Of loss. They are indeed substantial, and treacherous. But it is when that power is given over freely by others, and not taken from them, that it becomes the strongest.”

Harry felt the heaviness as if the words thudded over his own tongue. “And what about what they’ve lost already?”

“They have indeed sacrificed. They will continue to sacrifice, as will you. Perhaps you should not have this power, as you say, to make them sacrifice what they love for you and for this. But you do have this power, Harry. Should or should not… You have it. They have given it to you.”

“What if I don’t want it?” A whisper. Dumbledore’s silence felt like judgment sitting upon his head, and Harry could not bear the thought of such an ultimatum from one he had esteemed—loved—so intensely. He drew in a quick breath, his lip curling. “I suppose now it’s time for me to gracefully accept. A speech about using my power for good?”

“Why would I repeat something so obvious?” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.

“I do wish you wouldn’t keep doing that,” Harry breathed out, a faint smile on his lips.

“Why, whatever do you mean, my boy?”

They chatted for a while afterward, and the morning stretched on. The fire had burnt down to the coals and the room was enfolded in a lazy heat when Luna voice at last gave way to the harp alone. Dumbledore dozed comfortably in his painted armchair. Harry’s thoughts began to sway, blown about by a wayward breeze.

As they had done often enough during the past weeks, they once again alighted on Draco Malfoy.

It had been months since Harry had seen his former schoolmate. He could picture every tiny worry-line marring that pale skin, every downward twitch of Malfoy’s lips as if the man were cast in a portrait alongside Dumbledore. Harry couldn’t remember the last time he’d ever seen that face without the lines, or that mouth shaped into anything but a twist. Merlin knew there had been little enough to warrant any other expression. Years ago, perhaps, Malfoy had smirked, even smiled. But it seemed a dream. Everything, from the moment Draco Malfoy had stepped back into Harry’s life, dragging his loss into the light behind him, seemed like a dream.

But Malfoy’s most recent loss was especially hard to stomach.

Harry sighed and rubbed at his knuckles. It was not his business; doubtless Malfoy would take offense should he even approach the subject. Harry had wondered at his own sanity when he first realised that he longed for that inevitable fight, the jarring punches, the splintering pain, the rage that left perfect numbness in its wake. Was that release for him, or for Malfoy? And what right had he to speak to Draco Malfoy about this, of all things? He had no right. Theodore Nott had been Malfoy’s friend long before there was more to it, years before the possibility of pain became the loss of a lover. Even had Malfoy and Nott parted as friends, Harry would not have had the right to ask. As lovers… well, it was a warm, tight, private place that Harry had no business being near. But he couldn’t escape it. It felt very important that he acknowledge Theodore Nott’s death to Malfoy.

He wanted to be able to quantify the loss, and yet it felt blasphemous to try. Draco was not the only person to have lost someone. But it was the breaking caused by that sort of loss that made Harry want to howl inside. He had seen Malfoy stretched to breaking, more than once. And then he had seen him… break.

Harry had seen Malfoy snap apart a total of three times in the years they’d known each other, and witnessed what resulted from each. As cowardly as it was, he was terribly glad he had not been in the forest that day to witness Nott’s death in Malfoy’s arms. Malfoy must have broken yet again, there in the rain. Harry had watched him at the funeral for long enough to see the ragged threads behind his eyes.

Draco Malfoy did not break, it simply didn’t happen. Harry didn’t think he could watch it again. It would be like seeing Dumbledore die a second time. All that potential with a limit suddenly slapped onto it, boundaries erected where there should be none.

Harry was beginning to see that magical bonds were surprisingly easy to forge, and that they didn’t always break when the magic that had fashioned them did.

To lose someone like that was unimaginable. It was what Hermione had lost, what Harry had thus far been lucky enough to avoid. The agony that had wrenched itself from Hermione’s lungs last Christmas, the weeks it had taken her to come out of her room at Grimmauld, to stop shaking… Draco Malfoy had suffered that same loss in silence.

Was Harry courting such a loss? Ginny was on her way, with every intention, as far as he knew, of going through with the spell. Their bond would not only be spiritual, it would be tempered by the oldest linking spell he had ever heard of, set to aid in the defeat of the most powerful enemy anyone had faced in centuries. It would bring Ginny and him together in such a way that the idea woke Harry in the middle of the night with his knuckles white from clutching at his sheets. He had read through the spells over and over, committed them to memory and then shoved them from the dreams they invaded. Should the two of them be ripped apart after undertaking such a fearsome binding… Harry’s body physically hurt from the implications.

“Can’t even just be with someone anymore,” he muttered into the quiet room. The war had decimated that fiction long ago.

The absolute necessity of the thing gripped him. He’d never thought they would all reach the end of their long, long rope, but this was it. This was the only solution left. A spell of such magnitude that the people involved were all secondary. Their last hope lay, of all things, in a marriage. A loneliness scratched at his heart. He and Ginny would give everyone hope, or so it went. Something to sustain them all. But the thing that really kept everyone going was so fragile, so easily shattered. A few souls already taxed to their limits.

Perhaps it was a need to know that Malfoy was not alone and to see that Malfoy knew it. Maybe that was why he wanted to talk to him about Nott.

Or maybe it was to know that he, Harry, was not alone.

Abruptly, it was too hard to think of Draco Malfoy. He felt as though Nott were standing over his shoulder, clinging to his branches. He’d hardly even known the man. Harry sought for Ginny’s face in his mind instead. He spun her out like silk: fiery strands of hair, the smatter of freckles, and the smile he remembered, the one that flickered like light and shone like gold. His heartbeat slowed. The room filled with stillness and the strains of Luna’s voice rising in another song, and if he thought about it hard enough, he could almost smell Ginny’s rose perfume.

She would do this willingly. She was at the heart of his fondest memories. The thought of her tugged him back to a jumbled kitchen full of delicious smells, a ramshackle home that held laughter, red hair, and the shelter of motherly arms. Ginny was life; she was like all the Weasleys. Her vibrancy stood out to him in the small room, and the sharp cut of the notes Luna sang echoed the fierceness Ginny’s memory evoked. For a moment Harry pictured, and listened.

Oh, it’s down where yon waters run muddy.
I’m afraid they will never run clear,
And it’s when I begin for to study,
My mind is on him that’s not here.


“At least I can do one thing right.” Harry glanced away from the fire and found the room to be too cramped. There were ghosts here too, and not just in the forgotten portraits stacked against the walls. He rose from his chair quietly, one eye on the Headmaster’s dozing form, and left the room. Sunlight poured into the corridors through mullioned windows, and he could almost see Ginny there in the pools of light, as carefree as she had been during his sixth year. How could he have known that his attempt to keep her safe—far away from him—would end up in this odd finale? Keeping her close, it seemed, had been the answer all along.

It was for the best. And he’d made a promise to his best friend.

The sorrow in Luna’s song thrummed through him, and Harry stopped dead in the hallway, clenching his fist.

No. No, this wasn’t what he had promised Ron. This was ancient, dangerous magic, this was the strangest of marriages, and no matter how he tried to twist it to quiet his nightmares, he was not protecting Ginny. He was using her. She was coming at his request, into safety, and he was giving her nothing but a place to stand for the final fall: right beside him in front of Voldemort’s wand.

He was betraying Ron.

Harry’s willpower, long stretched on a fraying tether, gave way at last. All the stubbornness in the world could not hold him intact against the unraveling. He dropped to the floor, his head in his hands, and began to cry.

Here’s a health to you, bonny Kellswater,
Where you get all the pleasures of life,
Where you get all the fishing and fowling
And a bonny wee lass for your wife.


...

Chapter 5





This chapter’s music: Luna is singing “Kellswater,” a traditional tune. For a snippet of the song Luna is singing, please visit this link. Lyrics can be found here.

Date: 2007-02-22 04:23 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] chinae.livejournal.com
Quite frankly you leave me speachless.

I am at the edge of my seat, heart breaking, because you have created a universe that while bleak if one were to truly look it is filled with so much light.

I am anxiously awaiting Draco and Harry meeting again, and where you take this story.

Date: 2007-02-23 06:29 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
THAT is a high compliment. *loves*

Thank you so much for reading it, and for leaving me such a poetic and lovely review!

Date: 2007-02-22 06:16 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] spacetweenears.livejournal.com
I love how you are spinning this story out one to two pieces at a time. I'm completely entranced.

Date: 2007-02-23 06:29 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Ahahaha, thank you! That's a relief... Sometimes I worry about whether this story is moving along fast enough. ^_~

Date: 2007-02-22 06:41 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] pocketroxy.livejournal.com
Harry is still so obsessed with Draco, don't you know? heehee. The bonds forged in this story are quite striking; loved the background to Seamus/Blaise. Can't wait for Draco and Ginny to get there :)

Date: 2007-02-23 06:30 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Hahaha, I would definitely call it obsession. Funny how they keep coming back to each other, no? *snicker* Thank you for reading!

Date: 2007-02-22 07:18 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] winstonmom.livejournal.com
This is like magic, I love what you do with words and how those words truly touch my soul. A few times while reading this chapter I felt like crying, all the emotions are so raw you can feel them. My heart aches for Draco, Blaise and Seamus, Harry, Ginny for all of them who have given so much and the way things go they don't have much to ask in exchange.
Anyway, this is just beautiful.
Thanks for sharing.
Ta!

Date: 2007-02-23 06:31 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
This made me smile so much, love. It really humbles me to know that my writing is affecting you like this. Thank you for immersing yourself so deeply into my work. ♥
(deleted comment)

Date: 2007-02-23 06:32 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Ahaha, I don't think it's possible for you to leave a review without being poetic! *HUGS* Thank you so much.

Date: 2007-02-22 03:07 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] justabi.livejournal.com
Gah. Poor Harry. I wish I had something more coherent to say, but I don't, so we'll both just have to live with it.

Date: 2007-02-23 06:33 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! *cuddles* I really appreciate this.

And I love your icon. ^_^

Date: 2007-02-22 04:58 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] owens-mom.livejournal.com
If Blaise had known what they were tampering with, he never would have messed about with it.

Thats basically the crux of this whole chapter, isn't it? Love, during such a horrible war, its asking for the death of your own heart.

Beautiful chapter. The bond between Blaise and Seamus - how they fought it, that made my throat ache.

Date: 2007-02-23 06:34 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
I love that you found the chapter's theme in that line. Now that you mention it, I realize how right you are. It's sort of... a theme for the entire fic, actually. Thank you for sending my mind down that path!

Date: 2007-02-22 05:53 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] lemonsherry.livejournal.com
Reading this just gives me the immense pleasure of reading something satisfying and well-crafted.

This is already one of the best fics I've read simply from its quality, and its just beginning.

Great Job!

Date: 2007-02-23 06:35 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you for such high praise! *snuggles* This made my day, love. I hope it continues to enthrall you. ♥

Date: 2007-02-22 10:28 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] bayb43.livejournal.com
Absolutely breathtaking, as usual. You really have a gift for portraying your characters through the eyes of others. There's a starkness here that makes the glimpses of hope even more startling. All of the characters are so close to breaking and it is here that we truly see their strength and the lengths we go to just to survive. I eagerly await the next chapter.

Date: 2007-02-23 06:38 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for complimenting my character portrayal. It is so difficult sometimes, and I really appreciate you telling me this. ♥

Date: 2007-02-23 03:12 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] bayb43.livejournal.com
My pleasure...I don't know if you listen to much classical music, but there's a piece by Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings, Op. 11, that really brings this story to mind for me. I'd be happy to send you the song if you're interested in hearing it.

Date: 2007-03-01 07:27 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Oh, YES, I know that piece well! It's so sorrowful and beautiful. Haunting. I remember it most clearly from the movie Platoon; it was the theme Oliver Stone used, I believe. Very moving. Thank you so much for associating my fic with it!

Date: 2007-02-22 11:45 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ura-hd.livejournal.com
It is even painful to read about people's feelings. You write so well.

Great chapter!

Date: 2007-02-23 06:39 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Aww, I'm sorry for the pain! *hugs* Thank you for reading. ^_^

Date: 2007-02-23 04:48 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] enablelove.livejournal.com
you're killing me here!!!

wonderfully written hun!

Date: 2007-02-23 06:39 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
*revives* I sawwy!

Thank you so much for reading this, love.

Date: 2007-02-28 05:28 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] lietothedevil.livejournal.com
i'm speechless. i'm in awe.

Date: 2007-03-01 06:03 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! *hugs*

Date: 2007-02-28 05:29 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] thrnbrooke.livejournal.com
Soooo need more! Will Harry marry Ginny?

Date: 2007-03-01 06:02 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
Hahaha! Oh, you must know I'm not going to answer that question! ^_^ Thank you so much for reading my fic!

Date: 2007-03-29 08:56 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] acduetry.livejournal.com
Nooooooooo! Harry don't marry Ginny, it's not reversible! You have to love Draco! *flails*

I am just, gah! No words just -

Oh I just knew Ron was dead but I didn't want to admit it! Kept telling myself he was probably just on some mission or, or something *cries*

On another note I think you have just turned me into a Blaise/Seamus shipper.

*prods ship*

Yep. That's what it looks like from here. Their story was just gut-wrenching!

Got me wondering...maybe there will be a similar inadvertent bond forged between Harry and Draco? hmm

Not sure if I have said this already but I am in love with this Luna. Not entirely sure about everything (like how she actually communicates with Harry) but I adore her and will not ever see her the same way.

Whew! Sorry for these long, rambling comments but there is just so much wonderful-ness (was I just forced to invent a word to describe your writing?) going on in your chapters, so many things I want to adress that I can't NOT mention them.

Please believe that I have never been reduced to this level of cheesiness before but...you had me at hello. ;)

Off to the next chapter!

Date: 2007-03-30 06:08 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
I go back and forth about my choices for Ron and a couple other characters in this story. I'm sorry to make you sad... There will be more about Ron later. He's still a real presence in this story, even though at some points he's already deceased.

Re Blaise/Seamus: SCORE! Oh yeah, baby! See, that's one of my fandom goals-- to turn everyone into a Blaise/Seamus shipper. *cackles* They are one of my three HP OTPs (the other two are H/D, obviously, and Remus/Sirius).

Again, keep an eye on the bonding. ^__^ I love your theories, again.

I love long comments, so don't even worry about it. These are making my day!

Date: 2007-05-02 03:07 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] riansage.livejournal.com
This chapter, in particular, really blew me away. The entire story is so dark and dismal and you do an amazing job of portraying that. This chapter answered a lot of questions I had prior to it. For instance, where exactly did Draco and Harry stand? At first I thought it was something to rekindle. But now I'm anxious to see that it hasn't happened yet. I really like how you showed us the pain of the bond through Blaise and Seamus instead of Draco and Theodore. Your description of it was incredible. Nice to see pieces fall into place, but even better to know there's still more to come.

Date: 2007-05-02 03:46 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rurounihime.livejournal.com
This is such a nice review. Thank you very much! This story promised to be fairly dark almost from the very beginning, at least once my main plot stated taking shape. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised sometimes at how dark it's getting... But it makes me feel great to know it's working for you. ^_^

The Road ch. 4

Date: 2016-08-17 03:25 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] tsuj.livejournal.com
"But there, he simply could not go. Malfoy’s losses still sang eerily in his dreams at night. He shook his head and just stopped talking. Words were the poorest of threads for such a tapestry, and yet, he’d been weaving this one all his life."

And yet your words? The richest of threads!

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