by Te
December 22, 2003

Disclaimers: Not mine, I'm just playing.

Spoilers: Up through OotP.

Summary: Harry has enough.

Ratings Note: PG.

Author's Note: Written for yuletide. Happy merry,

Acknowledgments: To Branwyn for audiencing and
deeply helpful suggestions.

Feedback: Yes, please.


Harry isn't suicidal.

There'd been a long stretch of time when he was
sixteen, months spent trying and failing to deal with
everything Dumbledore had said (and hadn't) after
Sirius died when it would've been possible, but...

It's a matter of abstraction and hindsight.

Back then, he was too busy repressing incoherent rage
to wish for his *own* death.

And now...


He knows what they say about his latest acquisition. He's
fully aware of *just* how morbid it is when considered by
the average person, and yet... there's something to be
said about completion.

Narcissa Malfoy had, with the help of several of her
compatriots and minions -- the distinction had often been
difficult to make -- denuded the Ministry of most of its
artifacts over the course of a year when they'd all been
too busy to pay attention to matters of theft and
*property* destruction.

It's been nearly twenty years and they still haven't
recovered everything.

And it's not as though Harry thinks they *will*, even
with his money and not-new-at-all-anymore leisure, it's

The archway has a room of its own within the manor.

He has long since removed all of the other furnishings,
and hexed the walls and floor into plain stone.

It still doesn't go with anything. It still doesn't fit.

"It isn't supposed to, Harry," says the voice in his mind
that he calls 'Dumbledore' more for the sake of ease
than anything else.

The man has been dead for a long, long time, and his
portraits never say anything at all to him, anymore.

And the archway...

Completion isn't the whole of his reasoning.

Everyone -- *everyone* knows that -- hence the looks,
the talk he isn't supposed to know about, and the
careful questions about seemingly everything *but* the
artifact itself.

Sometimes Harry wishes that he hadn't been quite so
*thorough* about involving himself in the magical

It had, of course, seemed like a good idea at the time.

There he'd been, free of everything and everyone trying
to kill him, and thus free of his *blood*...

Why *not* claim the less troubling parts of his

But being Harry Potter means being a host, being a
friend, and being *Harry Potter*.

It had taken *years* to retire himself from the Ministry,
and the social obligations remain.

Which is, for the most part, well enough.

He's never been averse to spending time with people who
*aren't* actively trying to torture or kill him, and there
are many fascinating witches and wizards out there.

Friends, even.

But they see him here, and they *feel* the archway no
matter how many doors it's locked behind, no matter
how many enchantments keep careless feet away from
the hall, and...

They feel it.


When he's honest with himself; he can feel it, too.

It's just not especially *different* from the general run of
things. Death has been, and will always be, everywhere.
The flowers the house-elves pick and enchant to within an
inch of their lives, the grey in his hair.


Having a focal point for it, a solid representation of the
*possibility* of it, is almost soothing.

As though the rest of the world is somehow made safer
by the archway's existence.

Which is, of course, absurd, but Harry has found that
emotions don't *have* to make sense.

And they're often easier to deal with when they don't,

"You've lost yourself," Dumbledore had said from
behind a wall of enchanted oil paint. "And I am

They think... Creevey, Ron, Hermione, the others. They
think this is about Sirius.

They are, of course, correct.

Just not correct *enough*.

Harry is done with his grief, long since done, and has
moved on, and all of those other healthy, useful things.

He'd given up on having something like a father when
Sirius had still been *alive* -- it hadn't been in the

It just took time to understand that.

He has had... so very much time. Dreams and vague
desires and questions and the memory of the man's
arms around him, of the way his skin had never been
so feverish as the light behind his eyes.

The *hunger* there, for everything and anything he'd
been able to touch.

It's been a quarter of a century, and Harry has yet to
finish a meal without remembering, at least once, the
way Sirius had eaten.

"I've been starving for twelve years," he'd said, once,
staring at Harry over the rim of a glass of pumpkin
juice. Swallowing and swallowing.

He would like to see that again. He thinks it would be...
Pleasant is not the word, but it's close enough.

Azkaban had broken Sirius, twisted him in ways that
even the war never managed for the people who

Harry had never seen the man's like, before or since.

Everything and everyone else...

Bland. Predictable.


The veil shifts and moves with a wind that comes from
nowhere at all, not even from *behind* the thing --
and Harry had checked, carefully.

This is, and will always be, the true meaning of magic to
him: the willful surrender of sense for the simple tidal
rushes of power, emotion, and will.

The endless, inescapable presence of death.

The stone pressing cold into his back and legs as he sits,
and watches, and waits.

He isn't suicidal.

In Harry's experience, the fatal -- he forgives himself
the pun -- flaw of most depressives is their lack of faith.
They can only ever see *themselves*, and so fall into
endless, boring loops of self-examination and
recrimination until they finally put themselves out of
their own misery.

Harry believes.

So much so that he thinks...

He understands Dumbledore's point. He always has.

He is not the boy he used to be, in more ways than he
can count. It has nothing to do his premature grey, and
everything to do with being... tired. He thinks that's the
right word for it.

There were ways of being, of *living* in this world that
meant you were raw, that meant you were open to
every hurt, every slight, and every betrayal. That meant
you were *vulnerable*.

Harry hadn't been able to afford vulnerability as a
sixteen year old.

He can, conceivably, afford it now. The world has
become nearly as safe as the archway makes it feel,
after all.

He knows what it means that he's pinned his hopes
and his *self* to a man who was dead before he'd even
reached his full height. To a phantom lost beyond
a curiosity.

He knows that it is, perhaps, not the *best* way to go
about the day-to-day process of living.

He smiles to himself, and perhaps a little to the veil
and whatever may or may not be beyond it.

It's *his* way.

And Harry is content.

He gets to his feet, stretching the chill out of muscle and

Caresses the edge of the archway, and cups it in his

He'll figure it out, eventually.

And if he doesn't...

That's all right, too.