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| Shadow Walks
by -> lorien829
Reviews (1092) | Updated : 10/03/07 | Published : 19/08/06 | Angst/Action/Adventure | Rating: PG13
This chapter was posted on: 19/08/06
Disclaimer: Not mine; more's the pity.
My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
--Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Reality is crashing to the floor.
-- Lifehouse, “Blind”
“Hi, Luna,” Harry said tiredly, as he entered the flat, missing the hook for his cloak once, and having to stoop down and try it again. The sun had vanished behind the curve of the horizon hours ago, and clouds were scudding across the indigo sky, as stars intermittently winked out behind them.
“Hi, Harry,” Luna observed mildly, peering at him over the counter from the open kitchen, as she stirred something in a steaming cauldron. “How did the crime fighting go today?”
“Boring,” he said, ducking beneath the strap of his satchel as he removed it from across his shoulders. He let it fall on the rickety coffee table with a flat-sounding thwack and stifled a yawn. “Except for when Kingsley chewed my arse about the lack of progress with the Dolohov case. If only we'd gotten to that informant sooner…” He shook his head, one hand going to bracket his forehead, as he leaned on the counter opposite her with one elbow.
“It'll work out,” Luna said in a dreamy voice, looking at a Muggle stopwatch as she stirred her concoction. “The universe is out of balance, you know, but it will eventually right itself.” Harry peered through his fingers at her warily. He had heard this before.
“Equilibrium,” he supplied for her. “Right.” She did not miss the slightly harsh tone that crept into his voice with his last word. “Where's Ron?”
A glint came into Luna's pale blue eyes that Harry did not miss. Lines around her mouth that he had seen appear and deepen over the last five years became more defined as she pressed her lips together tightly.
“He's gone. He came home after practice, but left at half three.”
“Where?” Harry said, and Luna looked unhappily at him, putting down her spoon and her stopwatch.
“You know where he went.” Harry scrubbed both hands over his face and swore under his breath.
“Damn him,” he said. “When is this going to stop?”
“He's just had - ” Luna tried to say, her voice cracking as she did so. The mixture in the cauldron began to bubble more enthusiastically, forgotten.
“Why are you defending him? You don't deserve this, Luna!” Harry cut her off, leaning towards her on the counter with entreating eyes. Her returned gaze rebuked him.
“I would think that you of all people would understand what he's going through.” Harry smiled at her mirthlessly, clearly indicating that he could not believe that she had said that.
“I do understand what he's going through. But I also know that this is not the way to handle it. Drinking himself into a stupor most nights is not going to bring her back.” He inhaled raggedly at the end of his speech, trying to diffuse the pain that had come with it.
“Neither will working oneself to death and pretending like it didn't even happen,” Luna said evenly, spearing him with an all-seeing glance. Harry took in another harsh breath at her words. Rather than denying any truth in what she said, he dropped his gaze, appearing to study with great interest a circular coffee stain on the ivory countertop.
“It's the only way I can survive,” he admitted slowly, “without her.” They regarded each other blandly for a moment, neither gaze holding recrimination, but rather sympathy. A hissing noise diverted Luna's attention from him, and she grabbed her wand to turn down the heat, as the concoction bubbled over and hit the stovetop, frothing.
When she looked up again, he was gone.
“Harry?” she called out.
“I'm going to take a shower,” she heard his voice echo back from down the short corridor that led to the bedrooms.
“Dinner will be ready when you're done,” she hollered back, and heard him call out in acquiescence before the rushing sound of water running drowned it out. Alone in the kitchen, Luna cleaned up the mess, and continued to stir, shaking her head sadly, as she tucked one lock of dirty blond hair behind her ear, wondering how the three of them had gotten caught in this hollow, empty thing that passed for a life.
Harry opened the bathroom door, as a billowing cloud of steam heralded his emergence by puffing out ahead of him. The shower, as hot as he could stand, had done nothing to erase Luna's words from his mind, and he knew that he was hopeless to stop his journey down this well-worn path. With one towel around his waist and one over his shoulders catching the excess water from his sodden hair, he strode across the hall and into the bedroom that was his. Further down the hall, tucked into the corner was the bedroom that had once been Ron and Luna's, though she had recently taken to sleeping more often in the sparsely decorated guest room.
Her room, he thought glumly, perversely almost enjoying the stab of pain that accompanied the thought. Her room. It would have been her room, if … if… He sat down on the edge of his bed with a sigh. His conversation with Luna was piercing him, needling him, resounding inside his head, and causing him unbearable pain.
Drinking himself into a stupor won't bring her back.
Neither will working oneself to death and pretending that it didn't even happen.
He felt inexplicably angry at Luna. Didn't she know that when he thought about her, there was a pain in his chest so tight that he could barely breathe? Didn't she know that merely whispering her name could bring him to his knees? Didn't she know that he tormented himself everyday with “what-ifs”, placing squarely on his own shoulders the blame for not having done something - he didn't know what - differently?
Pretending was his tenuous link to sanity, to reality, to a world where he lived in a flat with Ron and Luna, and went to work every day at the Ministry, had occasional lunches at the Leaky Cauldron with Seamus or Neville, and visited the Burrow for Sunday brunch. Pretending kept him from curling up into a ball on his bed, with the shades drawn, to curse his fate - the capricious beast that had sealed his victory and his doom, by saving his life and taking hers. On the day when Voldemort had been defeated soundly and for all time, when the Daily Prophet trumpeted the victory in an enormous banner headline, when the entire wizarding world had dispensed into the streets, kissing and crying and cheering….
He and Ron had been kneeling over a swatch of scorched earth on Hogwarts' grounds, glaring with angry disbelief at Remus Lupin.
“What do you mean she's gone?”
Harry hunched over on the edge of his mattress, elbows on knees and face in hands. Luna was right. He found comfort in denial, denial that she was really gone, denial that he had ever felt anything extraordinary for her, and Ron found his comfort at the bottom of a jug of firewhiskey. They really weren't that different, after all.
He straightened back up, arching his back experimentally, and putting one hand over the damp planes of his chest, as if to see if his heart was, in fact, still beating. It was. The pain of her memory stabbed at him like so many well-honed knives. He clenched his hands into fists, his fingernails digging into his palms.
Damn Luna anyway, he thought fiercely, but slumped, softening as he thought that she would be out there in the kitchen, eating dinner alone. She had always been there for them, placidly going about her job as a Ministry Unspeakable, practically taking care of two grown men who would never get over a loss that was almost five years gone. As quickly as it had sprung to life, his anger died, and he began to cast about his room for some mostly clean clothing, finally lighting on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved button-down shirt that had been tossed carelessly over the arm of the chair in the corner.
He moved to pick them up, and as he did so, something on the floor, almost behind the curtains, caught his eye. He had retrieved it before he remembered what it was, and found himself staring numbly at a wizarding photograph of himself, Ron, and Hermione down by the Lake towards the end of their seventh year. It was charmed to no longer move, since the sight of Hermione, laughing, exchanging glances with them, appearing so vibrant and alive was too much for him to handle. The picture was lying where it had been hurled, the last time he had gotten too introspective.
He tossed it into a drawer, and got dressed.
Harry was surprised to see some kind of chicken casserole, on the table, cushioned by trivets, a spatula for serving sticking out of the corner. He had assumed that dinner had been simmering in the cauldron.
“What were you - ?” he mimed stirring a mixture with one hand.
“That was an eczema salve. It's got to be steeped for three days, starting under the new moon, so I had to go ahead and get it ready tonight. Calpurnia Wilcott has had a terrible time with hers,” she mentioned a colleague down in the Department of Mysteries. Harry wrinkled his nose in distaste; he had had lunch with Luna and Calpurnia once, and the entire conversation was beyond the realm of his comprehension. He had noticed her skin problem, though. As she spoke, Luna had set the table, and was filling two stemmed glasses with wine. She responded to his incredulous look with the quiet comment,
“You look like you could use a little.” She floated toward the table as serene as he'd ever seen her, and set the goblets down with a soft chink. He raised his eyes to meet hers, and the mask was gone. Naked pain stood out from his green eyes, beseeching her to do something, anything, to take away this agony.
She was not surprised. It happened once every two or three months, and always made him withdrawn and despondent. For a moment, she was almost sorry that she had driven him to this point with her earlier comment, especially since it was so close to… to the time where he and Ron always struggled the most - the anniversary. It would be worse this year, she knew. She wafted one hand toward him, indicating that he sit, and she did the same, regarding him quietly as he dished up the casserole, first on her plate, then on his.
“Luna, have you - ”
“Harry, don't do this,” she interrupted, looking at him so earnestly that she almost didn't look like the vague Luna he'd come to know and love.
“I was just going to ask if - ” he tried again, not angrily, but mechanically.
“I know what you were going to ask.” He always did, when he got in these moods, these dark, despairing moods that made her want to send him out to join Ron at the pub. She had actually done it a couple of times, but while being drunk generally made Ron stupid and surly, it seemed to make Harry's memory's clearer and sharper and more painfully ingrained into his soul. “You know there's no point in asking. Nothing has changed.”
“They haven't found anything?” His voice cracked in its hopeful lilt, and he sounded much younger than almost twenty-three.
“Harry, they - ” she stopped, taking a bite of her food so she wouldn't have to finish her sentence, wouldn't have to say these things that would hurt him.
“They aren't looking anymore, are they?” He asked dully, knowing her answer before she spoke.
“No, Harry,” her voice was so gentle that it was barely audible. “They're not.” He did not reply immediately, but took a sip of the wine, his eyes so vague and faraway that she knew he was seeing a patch of scorched grass that was dim and dark in spite of summer sunshine.
What do you mean she's gone?
“Harry, it's been almost five years,” she said, feeling an overwhelming urge to defend her department. Unspeakables frequently dealt with things that the rest of the Wizarding world considered daft or impossible, and the disappearance had been shunted to them after six months of fruitless searching. Everyone else had accepted her death long ago, except for Harry and Ron, and so by extension, herself. Now, even the most guarded department in the Ministry was considering the case closed.
“I know how long it's been,” Harry said quietly, and Luna felt properly chastised, though there was no real reprimand in his voice. “I could tell you how many days, how many hours, since the last time I saw her…” Which had been only a few hours after the last time he'd touched her, when they'd said a tender, tentative good-bye inside Hogwarts' front hall, when he'd felt her kiss, feather-light on his cheek, when he'd seen the shine of promises lurking in her dark eyes and felt a hope begin to unfurl inside of him…Maybe…when this is all over...
And then the battle had been joined. The hope had died soon after, at the sight of the scorched earth, Remus Lupin hovering helplessly above it, looking at Harry with sad, regretful eyes. He knew that he had just won the greatest victory of his life, he had triumphed over his destiny, he had saved the lives of every man, woman, and child in the wizarding world…and it meant nothing.
What do you mean she's gone?
“It will get easier, Harry.” Luna said sympathetically, reaching out to pat his hand, her eyes shimmering with reflected candlelight. “After all, the universe - ”
“Yes, yes, equilibrium,” Harry said roughly, but not rudely. “I know.”
“You don't believe me,” she said placidly, without accusation.
“No,” he said simply, “I don't.” He took a couple of bites of his meal in a disinterested fashion. Luna was quite a capable cook, when she didn't get caught up in divining the meanings of the movements of dust motes in a beam of sunshine or wonder if the recipe would turn out better if she did the whole thing backwards, but the food was tasteless in his mouth.
They regarded each other quietly for a moment, feeling the air thick with too many silences, regrets, and private agonies. Harry knew how often he lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, willing himself to stop thinking of her, but too weak to actually do it. He wondered if Luna did the same thing, lying on the hard mattress in the spare bedroom - her room - wishing with all her heart that her life was different.
She loved Ron, and Harry loved … someone who wasn't here anymore. Both of their lives were merely shadows of what they could have been.
They looked up, startled out of their mutual, but private reveries, when the front door to the flat opened noisily, flying backwards and hitting the wall. Harry thought he heard a few chunks of plaster rattle softly to the floor.
Ron was home.
AN: Okay, so here we go into a new story. I have basically tossed you into the middle of it. There will be some things that do not make sense and things that you do not yet know - and that is okay. Answers will come.
There are also some fairly broad hints in this chapter as to what is going to happen later, although since the plot is still unknown at this point, they may be hard to identify. The chapters are going to be shorter, and this is not going to be as “meaty” a story as “Resistance”. I am currently in the middle of chapter 6. This may mean that chapters come more quickly. This does not mean I have stopped updating “Resistance”. I have not abandoned a story yet, and I don't intend to start now.
Basically, Ron is a drunk and Harry is a hollow shell of his former self, following the apparent death of Hermione in the final battle. Our two boys may seem OOC at times, I suppose. Personally, I am having a blast writing I-don't-give-a-damn Harry.
Re: the songs. The line from Green Day appears at the beginning of every chapter, simply because it is the song from which the title comes. “Shadow Walks” will also come to have a literal meaning later on in the story. The remaining song lines are simply ones that I felt encapsulated the general theme of the chapter.
I would really like feedback to see what you think of this new venture. I am completely in love with it right now, but that could be just the unreliable blush of new romance.
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