Title: A Friend's Sacrifice

Rating: T

Pairings: None

Warning: Mention of depression, Mention of Major Character Death

Summary: "I can't... I won't accept it." The boy momentarily buried his face in his hands. "He has to come back and make me laugh like he used to. He just can't really be gone. He can't be..."

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"No! Why did you do it?"

Night had fallen and the darkness outside echoed the grim feeling inside the house. In the kitchen, they could all hear a boy scream and wake from his troubled sleep. The boy couldn't sleep during normal hours and barely ate. He would sleep during the day, the sunlight seeming to help keep the nightmares at bay. Come sunset, however, as if on cue, the nightmares would return and the other occupants of the house had to listen to the boy scream until he woke himself up. It was a terrible cycle they had endured for months now, with no way to stop it and no end in sight.

"Sit down Miss Granger," The oldest man of the group at the kitchen table said quietly, his voice etched with sadness. "He'll come down when he thinks he is ready."

"No he won't." said Hermione. "We keep hoping he will. I should go up there or he'll be sobbing himself to sleep once again. I should try and make him eat something too. He hasn't eaten anything substantial for a few days now."

"I'll go." The old man stood slowly, ancient-looking and wise. He gently patted Hermione's shoulder on his way out of the kitchen in a reassuring manner.

When the old man entered the boy's room, he found the boy sitting upright in his bed, his face wet with tears and sweat caused by his nightmare. The old man went to sit on the edge of the bed and waited patiently for the boy to speak.

"Professor Dumbledore…" The boy finally began in a voice so small that the old man almost didn't hear. "Why did he have to protect me? Why did he have to give his life for me?"

"He was your best friend; he loved you as a brother." Dumbledore spoke just as softly and though he sounded eternally patient and sympathetic, it was clear he'd had this very same conversation with the boy many times over. "I'm sure he gave his life so you could do something magnificent with it."

"But why'd he give his life so willingly? Why didn't he let that monster kill me so he could live?" The boy questioned, his eyes filled with fresh tears.

"There was a good reason behind it, I'm sure. He did not give up as easily at it may have seemed." Dumbledore sighed and added, "Believe me, no one expected him to be dead. It was… it still is a great shock."

"I can't… I won't accept it." The boy momentarily buried his face in his hands. "He has to come back and make me laugh like he used to. He just can't really be gone. He can't be…"

Dumbledore regarded the boy with great sadness. "But you know he is. He is never going to come back."

The boy lifted his head. "But why did he have to give his life for me? Why didn't he save himself?" The boy trembled with despair and frustration. "I can't stop asking myself, I can't stop thinking about it. I don't understand why he took my place like that."

"How can you be so stupid," Hermione's voice came from the doorway gently but with a definite edge to it. She too felt the pain of the boy's loss, but was very tired of going through the same comforting conversation, day in and day out. "He gave his life for you, so you could keep living and all you do is question his sacrifice. Why don't you stand up and show him that he didn't die in vain?"

"Hermione, you didn't see him suffer!" The boy turned towards Hermione, the images of what happened, the images that replayed in his nightmares, dancing morbidly just behind his eyes. "You weren't there."

"No, I wasn't. But I knew him as well as you did, and I'm hurting because he's gone too." Hermione sighed and said firmly, "This world is in danger still, he would have wanted you to fight. He stepped in front of you like that so you could finish what he couldn't. He never would have wanted you to give up."

"Perhaps, Miss Granger, you might leave us for a moment?" Dumbledore asked when the boy winced guiltily at her words.

"I'm sorry Professor, but he has to know that he's not the only one suffering. We're all down there trying our best, and trying to somehow pick up the pieces and move on, because that's what he would have wanted." Hermione paused and moved closer to the boy on the bed.

He looked up at her slowly.

"You wonder why that monster kept his word? Why he let you go?" Hermione continued. "It's because he wanted you to come back and show us your memories. He wanted us to see how he had tortured someone we all cared immensely about. So we could see the way he suffered. That's the reason he let you free after killing…" Hermione swallowed as several tears slid down her face. "After he killed our best friend."

"I think Miss Granger has answered your question." said Dumbledore. "Your best friend described you as a strong, loyal, courageous person. He died so that you may live, so that you may continue where he left off and win this fight once and for all." He stood to leave and before he exited the room, he added, "That's what Harry would have wanted."