Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit.
Summary: For much of his life, Harry's greatest desire was his family. He rethinks that when he meets his older sister. AU oneshot. Canon pairings.
AN: For the purposes of this story, Harry and co. are still attending Hogwarts their seventh year, and Dumbledore is still alive.
My Sister's Keeper
You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.
November 1997. (Harry's seventh year)
His arms and back tired and aching, Ron dragged himself up a flight of stairs, towards the Gryffindor common room. In the distance, he could hear a grandfather clock chime quietly. Only twice. He groaned. Two in the morning. Filch had to have just broken his own record for torturing students, Ron thought. He rubbed his right bicep, cursing at the Special Award for Services to the School of 1492, which seemed to enjoy tarnishing to an extent that no other trophy managed to do in such short periods of time. After all, considering the huge number of Hogwarts students and Filch's tendencies towards sadistic student torture by housework, the trophies probably were cleaned once a day. At the very least. None of the trophies should have dark tarnish spots, ever.
In his tiredness, Ron nearly walked into a suit of armour, and he cursed when it shook its mace at him. At least the obnoxious clanging dragged him out of his sleepy state, and he realized he probably still had homework, too, that he had been procrastinating on. He cursed. He'd be lucky if he could go to bed by four. Remembering the obnoxious essay about sleep-inducing potion ingredients, he cursed again, and a nearby portrait of a young monk in a habit much too big for him gave him a dirty look. Ron rolled his eyes at the portrait. No, he thought, he would be lucky if he could get to sleep at all. He really should stop procrastinating. No, Snape should stop assigning so much homework. And McGonagall, too. Honestly, that woman had no sense of loyalty towards her Gryffindors.
He muttered the password to the Fat Lady, stepped through the portrait hole, and sunk down into one of the red plush armchairs. Allowing himself thirty seconds to relax, Ron closed his eyes and let the warmth from the fire seep to his bones. He felt the warm cocoon of sleep steal over him, so with all the effort he could muster, he forced himself to sit up and open his eyes. Reaching for a quill, he flipped his Transfiguration textbook open to chapter six and then searched for a reasonably unwrinkled piece of parchment. He was just dipping his quill into his inkwell when he heard the portrait door open. "Mornin'" he muttered, somewhat sarcastically.
When he didn't get a reply, Ron looked up, seeing Harry leaning against the wall next to the portrait hole, looking considerably paler than he had that morning. "Prince was that bad? Merlin, what did she make you do?" Ron asked, raising an eyebrow. Prince usually didn't tend towards sadism the way Filch did.
Again no answer. Harry collapsed into the other cushy red armchair and buried his head in his hands.
"Mate, are you okay?" Ron asked, his own problems forgotten for a moment. He had seen Harry mourn, seen Harry angry, seen Harry despondent, but he had never seen Harry look so...betrayed.
"Fine," Harry breathed. "I'm fine." Harry ran his hands through his hair absentmindedly, causing it to stick up randomly.
What the hell did Prince do? Ron wondered. "You're lying, mate," he said, furrowing his brow. "What did Prince have you do?"
"Reorganize the old periodicals," Harry said. His eyes flicked over to the fireplace, and then he pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket. "Madame Prince let me make a copy. I can't believe Dumbledore never told me," he muttered.
Completely confused, Ron took the parchment and looked at it. He paled as he comprehended what the parchment meant. "Oh, Merlin," he muttered. Sibling of the Boy-Who-Lived? the headline asked in giant, spiky font. Below that, an above-the-fold picture of a young baby swaddled in what looked like hospital blankets. "Harry? Rita Skeeter is a nosy shrew with no credibility whatsoever, and I'm assuming this Emerline Skeeter is similar. This is probably just tabloid trash, as usual."
"She has Dad's eyes," Harry pointed out. "And Mum's hair."
"Oh." Ron looked at the picture again and decided that Harry was right. Not only did the baby have pale hazel eyes and a shock of bright red hair, she also the slightest hint of Harry's features. He flipped the parchment over and noticed the birth certificate copied on the back. Charlene Potter, February 10th. 1978. "Okay." He looked into the fireplace and asked, "So what do you plan to do about it?"
"Really?" Ron asked. It's bothering you so much, and you are going to do nothing? Like most Gryffindors, Harry did not tend towards inaction.
Harry shrugged, staring at the fireplace. "It's safer for her if no one knows. They may try something."
Ron knew 'they' referred to 'Voldemort'. "She's three years older than you," he pointed out. "She hardly needs to be protected."
"She's probably a squib," Harry said. "Otherwise I'd known about her existence before now."
True that, Ron thought. "So why are you so bothered about her existence if you don't want to meet her?" he asked.
Harry shot him a withering look. "Because neither of us had to be alone," he explained, as if any of that made any sense at all.
In the following weeks, Ron thought everything had returned to normal. Sure, he kept on finding the increasingly worn article sandwiched between various pages of Harry's textbooks, but Harry never mentioned anything, so Ron did the same. They went to (most) classes, attempted to stay awake through monotonous lectures, tried their hardest to finish the homework in normal human waking hours instead of at four in the morning, and only got detention twice in four weeks.
All in all, a fairly good four weeks.
Except for that one time, about two weeks into that four week stretch, when Hermione dragged Ron into a secret passageway. Ron, naturally, put his hands around his girlfriend's waist and leaned in for a kiss, but was stopped rather abruptly when she asked, "Do you think there's something wrong with Harry?"
With a small groan, he leaned back slightly and said, "No, I don't think so," before leaning forward again, burying his nose into the hair around her ear.
"He seems...somewhat...preoccupied, lately," Hermione said, first pulling away slightly, but then accepting his embrace and tucking her head under his chin. She sighed contently. "You have any clue?"
"Nope," Ron said, looking downward into his girlfriend's beautiful chocolate eyes. He closed his own eyes and leaned further forward, lips first.
"Hum," Hermione hummed, meeting his lips for a chaste kiss but pulling away again. "I'm just worried, that's all," she said, before leaning in for another kiss, dropping the topic.
They were almost late to Transfiguration. McGonagall did not look happy, as Ron tried to get his hair to flatten. He was pretty sure that he wasn't particularly successful at that.
Logically, forgetting about Charlene Potter, born February 14th 1977, was the best possible solution. Harry knew that he had no right to drag someone else into the dangerous world of magic, especially someone who could not defend herself. Thus, he had resolved to forget about her, at least until Voldemort was gone. After that, well...Harry had yet to make any definite plans for his post-Voldemort existence. He supposed he would marry Ginny, after they got back together, of course. After they reversed the pseudo-breakup they had gone through for her protection. He supposed he could make an attempt to find his sister after the war.
That is, if he survived at all. Which was something he couldn't be sure of, so he hadn't made any plans for the a Voldemort-free world.
It hadn't been easy to let Ginny go. Only the idea that it was for her protection kept him going. Every time he saw her or smelt that beautiful fruity-flowery perfume she used, his heart would ache and he would have to fight himself not to draw her into an embrace. Except every time he imagined her in his embrace, the thought of her in Voldemort's embrace, his wand at her throat, her eyes glassy and lifeless, and he would be rudely reminded of why he proposed the pseudo-breakup in the first place.
It was the same reason he had convinced himself that it was probably best to keep everyone ignorant of Charlene's existence. Ginny, at least, was a witch, and although Harry fervently wished that she would not have to, she could defend herself if necessary. He had seen her extensive magical abilities, especially since he had been on the receiving end of one of her Bat-Bogey Hexes. He had vowed afterward to never make Ginny mad, no matter what. But Charlene had no such defenses. If she had the slightest bit of magical power, she would have been automatically enrolled in Hogwarts or some other magical school, like every other young witch or wizard. And then at least someone should have realized who Charlene was. Pale hazel eyes and bright red hair were not all that common. And then he would have known about her, when he got to Hogwarts himself. Yet he didn't know, so she had to have been a squib hiding out in the Muggle world.
Among the Muggles, even such distinctive features would not be recognized. For various reasons, the wizarding and Muggle worlds were quite separated. Even half-bloods and Muggleborns barely ventured past the surface of the Muggle world, and Muggles were definitely not allowed in the wizarding world. That division, plus the existence of nearly six billion Muggles, meant that even the most famous wizard or witch could hide among the Muggles and theoretically never be found.
Yet, despite the fact that such anonymity could potentially protect Charlene from Voldemort, some part of Harry still wanted to see if he could find her. It was an irrational idea, he knew. All he had was a single picture, probably taken twenty years ago. How the heck was he supposed to find one person among six billion? He knew it would be nearly impossible.
He still wanted to try. After Voldemort was defeated, of course. Everything had to wait for that. Although he knew that even trying to find Charlene was completely irrational, and perhaps even cruel, he still wanted to drop by, just once, to say hello and wonder what could have been. He didn't harbour any delusions that they could integrate into each others lives. She would be about twenty. He didn't know if she was pushing chips on unsuspecting customers in a burger joint or pulling all-nighters in pursuit of a undergrad degree. She didn't need for anyone to wreck her life and her delusion about the world. As a squib, she would be completely unable to defend herself from or even affect the magical world in any way. No, it would be cruel to show someone a world they could never truly be part of, Harry had decided.
Yet he knew that part of him still wanted to pour through the phonebook, looking up and calling every Charlene Potter in existence. He tried to get that part of him to shut up. He tried to just go on with his life, go on with searching for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes, fighting Death Eaters occasionally, learning new spells from Dumbledore, and getting into detention with depressing regularity.
He almost succeeded. No, he did succeed. Well, he would have succeeded in going on with his life, if she hadn't found him first.
Harry continued to meet with Professor Dumbledore on a semiweekly basis, learning new spells, new potions, new magic. He tried to keep his newfound knowledge of his sister private, but eventually, during one of these meetings, Professor Dumbledore divined the truth.
It was about two weeks after Harry first discovered the news article.
"Something's bothering you, Harry," Professor Dumbledore said, unwrapping a lemon drop and popping it into his mouth. The plastic wrapper crinkled as he threw it in the trash can.
Harry fiddled with his thumbs and addressed a potted plant on Dumbledore's desk. "I'm fine," he lied, refusing to meet Dumbledore's seemingly omniscient gaze.
"Harry," Dumbledore said kindly. "It's not a good idea to keep things bottled up inside. Is there anything wrong?"
Harry heard another crinkle and deduced that Dumbledore was unwrapping another lemon drop. He held out his hand and Dumbledore dropped the candy into Harry's palm. Harry rolled the candy around in his palm and, looking up and meeting Dumbledore's piercing blue gaze, he swallowed and pulled the news article out of his Transfiguration textbook. He placed it on Dumbledore's desk, not saying anything.
He almost didn't catch Dumbledore's surprised expression. It wasn't much, just a slight widening of the eyes, a narrowing of the nostrils, and then it was gone, as Dumbledore replaced that expression with the serene mask he usually wore. "Oh," Dumbledore muttered, quietly. "I'm sorry you had to find out in such a way."
"Did you know?" Harry asked. He placed the candy in his mouth and involuntarily winced at its exceptionally sour flavour.
"Your mother told me that she was pregnant, and that she gave up the child to a convent," Dumbledore explained, his eyes twinkling sadly. "She didn't tell me any more."
"Oh," Harry said. He looked down at his hands. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.
Dumbledore hesitated slightly. "Because it wouldn't matter," he responded. "It would be impossible for anyone to find her. Your mother gave your sister away because she felt that it would be safer for her to grow up away from the magical world. There was a war going on, then, and indeed the magical world was highly dangerous. She even went far enough to give your sister a pseudonym. After your mother's death...well, there's no one left who would be able to find her. She hid her too well."
Harry breathed in deeply, trying to understand exactly what he felt. The sour tang of the lemon drop filled his nose and mouth. "So you thought it would be a good idea to lie to me," he said, recoiling slightly from the sound of his own voice. "Sorry," he apologized automatically.
Pushing his glasses back onto his nose, Dumbledore said, "Your mother felt that she had no other choice." He rested his elbows on his desk and placed his fingertips together. "I know you feel like we betrayed you, Harry."
Harry's head jerked up. "I...!" he exclaimed. "No..." Sighing, he admitted, "You're right." He ran his fingers through his hair, then stopped when he realized that his father used to do that. He wondered what mannerisms Charlene would have. Did she have any of Mum's, or Dad's? "I just...wonder what could have been..."
"If you didn't have to be alone?" Dumbledore asked, smiling slightly.
Harry nodded. The lemon drop was gone, now, but he could still taste the faint scent of citric sourness.
"Harry," Dumbledore began, fixing Harry in his penetrating blue gaze. "You are not alone. You have Ron, and Hermione, and many other people in your life. Charlene and you share nothing but blood. You have far closer ties with any of your friends. Never forget them."
Harry nodded again, looking down at his hands. "I understand," he said, although he didn't know if he was lying or not.
"Would you like some tea, Mother Superior?" the young nun asked, with a small bow and a pasted-on smile.
"No, thank you, Marie," Mother Superior replied, with a small smile of her own.
Marie bowed again and retreated, nodding slightly. Although the tea set was not expensive, she held it as delicately as she would hold the finest china. Although serving tea to the Mother Superior was not a particularly prestigious task, it was the first thing the convent had ever trusted her with. On her way back to the kitchen, Marie exited the main building, concentrating on her footsteps in order to seem graceful, elegant, and at peace. Like how a nun should be.
She nearly tripped over the bundle before she saw it. Dropping the tea set, she swallowed a curse. No, she would not go back to her old ways, no, never, not ever. The hot tea ran over the ground, and Marie only realized what the bundle was when a child's pained cry ripped through the air.
An abandoned child...
"Oh my God," Marie exclaimed, picking the child up. "I'm so sorry, oh, I'm so so sorry!" she muttered, over and over again, rocking the baby as best as she could, the broken tea set forgotten on the slate tiles. The child whimpered lightly and blinked, twice. Marie noticed that the child had beautiful, pale hazel eyes that, despite their normal pupil structure, carried a tint of something almost feline. She shuddered, involuntarily, and for a second considered ditching the child in the nearest orphanage.
In the next second, however, she had pulled her wits back around her and rebuked herself for the unChristian thought. She would not let bad memories keep her from doing the right thing, she decided, abandoning the tea set to bring the child to Mother Superior. After all, they were a convent, and sometime in the last two hundred years the general public had decided that convents were a convenient place to dump unwanted children. Like this one. They should have plenty of experience caring for these unfortunate unwanted children.
Yes, Mother Superior would know what to do.
Late December, 1997
Harry did not search for Charlene. In fact, after four weeks, he had almost managed to forget about her. Not completely, of course, since he still had the news article. But frankly there were much more important things in his life. He kept a watch on Ginny from a distance, cursing the fact that he had to seem emotionally detached from her, so the Death Eaters and Voldemort wouldn't try to use her against him. He finished up the fall term at Hogwarts and followed Ron and Hermione to the Burrow for the holidays. It was more difficult to seem detached from Ginny there, but at least he wouldn't be alone in the castle.
In reality, nothing would have happened if Mrs. Weasley hadn't dragged him holiday shopping. He hadn't felt like going, but she had thought it would help his spirits to be out of the Burrow for a while. The trip, unfortunately, did the exact opposite.
Although it wasn't fair to completely blame Mrs. Weasley. Harry supposed that the Death Eaters deserved to be blamed as well. And Charlene, too, deserved to be blamed.
Perhaps she deserved the most blame.
Harry had never liked holiday shopping. Perhaps it was because it had been his duty to be Aunt Petunia's bag-carrier. Perhaps it was because he had always had an innate dislike for crowds. Or perhaps it was because holiday shopping was considered a torture form by the majority of males in Western society.
Still, when Mrs. Weasley had asked, kindly, if he would help her, he could not turn her down. She had always been so nice to him, and he felt obligated to return the favour. Thus, he found himself on Diagon Alley when he really didn't want to be there, trailing behind Mrs. Weasley, who managed to walk excessively quickly, especially considering her short statue. Somehow, she managed to part the crowd in front of her, like Moses with the Red Sea, and he found himself desperately shoving people out of his way so he could catch up with her. He supposed some of those people simply got in his way to ask for an autograph, but he hated giving autographs. It was too much of a reminder of what he had lost.
It sucked to be famous because he was the only survivor of a catastrophic incident, he had long ago concluded. He would have gladly traded this obnoxious fame for his parents.
Thankfully, despite the rather dense crowd, Harry managed to keep up with Mrs. Weasley. He didn't quite know how he managed to achieve that feat, though, although he attributed some of his success to his recently realized height. They entered some sort of clothing store for men together.
"Oh, Merlin," Mrs. Weasley muttered. "Why everyone decide to shop today? It's Wednesday, for goodness sakes!"
It's also two days till Christmas, Harry thought. That probably explains the crowds. People milled about absolutely everywhere, and at least one out of every four persons was wishing everyone in sight a "Merry Christmas!" with forced cheer.
Mrs. Weasley handed Harry a bag with a, "Would you be a dear, Harry, and carry this?" She shuffled the other bags in her arms, somewhat awkwardly.
Harry accepted the bag, somewhat awkwardly. At least she asked, he thought. Aunt Petunia had just shoved the bags into Harry's arms without caring whether Harry could actually carry that much stuff. He had to be careful not to drop anything, since Uncle Vernon would punish him severely if he did drop something. After they returned, of course, as Uncle Vernon never did any holiday shopping. And Aunt Petunia had never carried anything herself.
Harry roughly dragged himself out of his memories. No, he did not want to think of the people who had made his life hell for much of his first eleven years. And then, simply because Harry felt that he should say something, he said, "I'm sorry Ron and Hermione couldn't come."
Mrs. Weasley tsked and continued to compare two different ties. "I guess they have their reasons," she finally said, her tone expressing a clear disapproval. "Although I think they are a bit too young."
Harry shrugged and remained silent. He personally thought the tie with the maroon and blue stripes looked better, but he wasn't going to offer his unsolicited opinion.
Mrs. Weasley compared the two ties for another moment, and then took the maroon-and-blue striped tie and paid for it. She pulled out a list and studied it intently for a moment, handing Harry the bag with the tie in it.
He accepted the bag gingerly, asking, "Where are we going next?"
"Bookstore, of course!" Mrs. Weasley declared, clearing herself a path towards the aforementioned store. "For Hermione." Harry hurried to catch up. He only had the two bags, and Mrs. Weasley was carrying four. He should be able to keep up with her easily.
They hadn't gotten far when the Death Eaters appeared.
This was a young group, Harry knew. All bluster and no real magical power or training, probably late teens to early twenties. A half-dozen young men and women who wanted to prove their value to Lord Voldemort by doing something exquisitely stupid, like attack Diagon Alley in full daylight, on the day everyone in the wizarding world would be there. Letting the bags drop, Harry pulled his wand out of his sleeve and began shooting Stunning spells as fast as he could. He knew Mrs. Weasley would understand when she found her husband's present in the mud. In a similar situation, Aunt Petunia wouldn't have understood.
Instead of logically thinking about the situation and realizing six Death Eaters were no match for over two hundred shoppers, much of the crowd panicked and ran, turning themselves into defenseless targets for the Death Eaters. The Death Eaters took advantage of the situation, of course, showering the street with the green rays of Avada Kevadra.
Harry dodged a fleeing blonde witch and attempted to Stun as many of the Death Eaters as possible. He knew the Aurors would be here soon; he wondered if they would be too late. He could see a glimpse of Mrs. Weasley's red hair, and he relaxed slightly. She was okay. That was good.
Two of the Death Eaters were stunned; another was laughing, coldly and cruelly. Harry aimed a stunner at that one. Anything to stop that maniacal laughing. A fourth Death Eater had turned to run, but one of his allies had turned and sent an Avada Kevadra towards the unfortunate Death Eater. He knew the Death Eaters did not tolerate traitors and cowards.
Two left. A tall, slender man, whose deep-set eyes betrayed a maniacal hatred; it was he who had been laughing, earlier. The other was shorter but thinner and seemed frailer. Her hood and robes enveloped her more like a suit of armour than mere cotton fabric. She stood back to back with the other Death Eater, and Harry thought she must have been the ringleader of the group. Something about the way she held her head up, the way she always stepped first.
He ducked under another Avada Kevadra, which hit a tree behind him. The tree promptly withered, and Harry rolled away from its rapidly collapsing branches. Getting to his feet, Harry glanced around for Mrs. Weasley, and his heart jumped when he could not spot her immediately.
Another Avada Kevadra flew by him, and he realized that he probably should concentrate on the more immediate danger. He Stunned the taller Death Eater first, as he was the closer of the two. The other Death Eater spun around, pointing her wand straight at him. Harry bent his knees slightly, ready to jump out of the way if necessary. He looked up into her pale hazel eyes. Dad's eyes, he thought, but he pushed the thought away. He had more important things to concentrate on.
Timing was crucial, he knew. She likely had a Shield Charm going, but she would have to relax the Charm to use the Killing Curse. He only had that split second to Stun her and avoid her Killing Curse. He got momentarily distracted by a glimpse of Mrs. Weasley's red hair—thank God, she was still alive—and barely avoided an Avada Kevadra. He missed his first opportunity.
She narrowed her eyes and locked him in her gaze, bending her knees slightly to fall into a ready stance. Lifting the Shield Charm, she fired another Killing Curse at him. Ducking and rolling, he aimed a Stunning spell at her, but she had thrown herself to the side and avoided it.
They both got to their feet again and circled each other, watching each other carefully, wands raised. Even Harry, who was used to such evasionary techniques, was breathing hard. The crowd had dispersed already; with the exceptions of Harry, the Death Eater, and Mrs. Weasley, Diagon Alley was deserted.
The Death Eater stepped over a dead body and narrowed her eyes again, studying Harry with a penetrating gaze. She cast another Killing Curse in his direction and lunged to the left. He fired off a Stunning spell, and this time he didn't miss.
Sighing in relief, Harry picked up the two bags of Christmas presents he had been responsible for, and he rejoined Mrs. Weasley. Together, they waited for the Aurors to arrive.
The Aurors finally showed up, about fifteen minutes later, and they began handcuffing and demasking the Death Eaters.
Harry gestured towards the woman, saying, "She was the leader."An Auror nodded, pulling the Stunned Death Eater into a sitting position and removing her mask and hood, allowing her flame-red hair to spill around her shoulders. Harry felt as if someone had punched him in the gut.
Pale hazel eyes. Flame-red hair. Charlene Potter. His sister.
If he had felt betrayed before, this felt a million times worse.
As soon as Christmas was over, they returned to Hogwarts. Harry felt unexpectedly relieved when he got off the Hogwarts Express. Indeed, he felt home at last. Hogwarts was his only home, he realized.
The child was, as Marie predicted, a difficult one. A passing deacon had nicknamed her the demon child, and Marie had to admit that the nickname fit, as, unfortunately, the child was always getting in trouble. She was mischievous, deceptive, dangerous. Disregarded all rules. Never attended mass, hated wearing a dress. Everyone complained about the child.
Yet all the child had to do was simply smile, and Marie would forgive her. She supposed that putting her as the guardian of this reckless child was the worst mistake the Mother Superior had ever made. She could never control the child, she knew. She would never be able to discipline the child as she was supposed to. As she should.
She had even named her. Whoever dropped the child on the convent's doorstep had forgotten to include a name, and Marie had filled the gap by calling the child Rachel. She was now nearly eleven, tall for her age and surprisingly slender. Marie often wondered what the child's parents had looked like. Did the red hair and the hazel eyes come from her mother, or her father? What about the ambitious, mischievous streak? The misplaced, almost reckless courage? The quiet loyalty that only showed up once every blue moon? She didn't know.
What she did know, however, was that when she found a VHS in Rachel's room, she confiscated it, not just because they weren't allowed to have movies, but also because one of the characters had eyes exceptionally similar to Rachel's. Against the rules, Marie watched the video, and shuddered when the blue-eyed protagonist became a yellow-eyed demon. When she went to sleep that night, she envisioned Rachel standing in that actor's spot, backlit by ruddy lava, her face half-covered by a black hood. For the first time, Marie wondered if the child was a demon in disguise.
"You lied!" Harry accused, pacing back and forth in Dumbledore's office. "You. Lied," he repeated. He wanted to grab something and throw it, but he suppressed that desire.
Dumbledore refused to meet Harry's gaze. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I thought it was for the best."
"If I didn't know that my only surviving family member was a Death Eater!"
Dumbledore studied his fingers. "This is why I didn't want you to know," he said quietly. "The Dark Arts are capable of destroying all kinds of human bonds, Harry. She doesn't care that she is your sister."
"But I do," Harry admitted. He sat down, burying his face in his hands. "Why?" he asked, but even he didn't know what he meant with the question.
"Love is the most powerful of magics," Dumbledore said kindly. "Yet, in a way, it is also the most dangerous. In part, it is capable of influencing the minds of many in ways practitioners of the Dark Arts have long learned to manipulate."
Harry studied his fingers intently. "You think she is manipulating me?"
"Subconsciously, yes." Dumbledore ran his hands down his beard. "Hogwarts never sent her a letter. That means that her magical presence was warded from the castle before she was eleven."
"You think she is evil."
"No," Dumbledore said firmly. "No one is innately or purely evil, Harry. But I am saying that your sister probably cast her lot with the Death Eaters before her eleventh birthday. Whether she had cause to do so, we will never know."
Harry breathed deeply, trying to untangle his thoughts. It was one thing to have a squib for a sister; it was a completely different thing to have a Death Eater for a sister. "Why?" he asked again, but he knew that Dumbledore had already answered that question: we will never know.
"I'm sorry," Harry apologized again.
When Harry retreated to the Gryffindor common room and slammed his Transfiguration book open, even Ron realized that something was wrong. This time, however, Hermione was present and he could take his cues from her. As she did not acknowledge Harry's obvious turmoil, Ron did not either, and he continued to write his DADA essay.
Now that he had finally realized his friend's inner disquiet, Ron could see the that the roots of this disquiet stretched fairly far back. Past Christmas, definitely: Harry had seemed a bit distracted during the annual Weasley Family Christmas Feast. At the time, Ron had been too distracted with his mother's excellent cooking to notice. (Who said the house-elves were excellent cooks? His mother was so much better.) Now, however, looking back, he could easily see what he had missed earlier. The small mannerisms that Harry could never truly hide. The distracted the look in his eyes, the way he kept on fiddling with everything.
It took about half an hour for Harry to crack. Suddenly, he slammed the textbook shut and stared into the fire.
Hermione shut her textbook as well. "What's wrong, Harry?" she asked.
"Absolutely nothing," Harry muttered, addressing the fireplace.
"There's something wrong," Hermione persisted, setting down her quill.
"It's just...argh!" Harry buried his head back into his hands. "I don't know."
Hermione drew Harry into her embrace, and for a moment Ron felt something akin to jealousy. He tamped that emotion down as soon as it surfaced; Hermione was Harry's friend, and nothing more. It can never be anything more, he repeated to himself. At least Harry was already recoiling from Hermione's hug, and now she was pulling away as well, returning to sit on the armchair she had formerly occupied.
"You're entire worldview is falling apart?" Ron joked. Hermione shot him a glare, and he quickly shut up. He did have a penchant for saying exactly the wrong thing.
"Charlene's a Death Eater," Harry muttered, his words coming out in a rush.
"Who?" Ron asked, earning himself another glare from Hermione. "Oh." He remembered the news article and mentally kicked himself. He knew that Harry had always had some strange hangups when it came to family—in the first year, he had snuck down to the Mirror of Erised for three nights, simply to stare at a representation of his family. Ron could understand that feeling. It probably was something close to what he had felt when the Quidditch Captain badge landed in Harry's hands and not his own, or when the Goblet somehow managed to spit out Harry's name. The sudden realization that your dreams would not come true, that they would never come true, and the mental image of the Mirror of Erised shattering forever...well, Ron knew that pain. Being Harry's friend, he knew the pain all too well.
"Oh God, Harry," Hermione muttered, and it was obvious to Ron that Hermione had no clue what to say. Which surprised him, to say the least. He hadn't seen Hermione awkward in a social for some time now.
Harry stared into the fire. "I thought she was a squib because Hogwarts didn't pick her up," he explained. "But..."
Ron inhaled sharply. "The Death Eaters got to her first?" he asked, closing his eyes. He remembered Percy leaving, his older brother yelling at their mother, betraying her and her cause. Ron winced.
"I wonder...what they could have done...to make the Death Eaters the better choice...or if.." Harry closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the fingers of his right hand gripping the armrest tightly. "Or if...she didn't have a good reason."
Ron shrugged lightly. "Ask her," he suggested, cringing slightly when Hermione muttered "Ron..." in a somewhat threatening manner.
"Harry..." Hermione continued, but she felt silent. "That's probably not a good idea," she muttered quietly. "No, it's definitely not a good idea."
"I'm going to ask," Harry decided, standing up and striding towards the portrait hole. When he reached the hole, he turned around and asked, "Where is she?"
Ron and Hermione could only shrug.
Harry had asked for Dumbledore's permission and Portkeyed to Azkaban, but he wasn't sure that this was a brilliant idea any more. His heart had jumped into his throat and his stomach slowly turned cartwheels, although he did not know if his unease came from his proximity to Dementors or to his sister.
Clutching the extra-large bag of M&Ms closely, he paced around the visiting cell. They would bring her into the neighboring cell, which was separated from him by large iron rods and an inch-thick panel of glass. No one wanted to risk any Death Eater escaping, obviously, although they were devoid of their wands and half-out of their minds, due to the aforementioned Dementors.
Shuddering slightly, Harry ate an M&M in an attempt to push the chill away. Chocolate was a potent antidote to the Dementors, but the cell still felt unnaturally chilly.
Charlene Potter, Death Eater. Even after nearly two weeks, it was still odd to put those four words together. Charlene wasn't even technically her name. His mother had picked the name, but the Death Eater had told the Dementors her name was Rachel, and had refused to provide a last name.
The door to the other cell opened, and a pair of Dementors all but carried Charlene in. Although the inch-thick glass wall separated Harry from the Dementors, he still felt nauseous. He ate another M&M.
Charlene fixed him in her hazel gaze and whispered, "You wanted to speak to me?"
She dragged the thin Azkaban robes closer over her shoulders. "I do not wish to speak to you," she whispered.
The question slipped out before Harry could stop himself. "Why?"
"There was no reason," she replied, coldly. "There was never a reason." She looked away, sharply, staring at a patch of air to his right.
"Come on, give me a reason, any reason!" he pleaded. Give me a reason to acquit you.
"The reality is there's sometimes no reason," she muttered quietly, coldly, darkly. "Sometimes, I must shoulder the blame."
The reality is the world is not perfect, Potter, Harry thought to himself. Sometimes the guilty is actually guilty. He closed his eyes and absent-mindedly ate another M&M. He knew that reality never conformed to what he wanted. His entire life was an example of that. On what grounds should he expect any different?
When he opened his eyes, she was gone.
His Mirror of Erised in fragments, Harry vowed to forget about Charlene. Family she might be, but the Malfoys were family, too, and he tried to place her in the same category. He succeeded, for a while.
In some alternate universe, perhaps, Harry left Charlene behind in Azkaban. He would continue to fight against Voldemort with the Order, and perhaps he would have finally given up on the save-Ginny-by-hiding-their-relationship idea and begun to date her again. They may have even married, had a child, and purchased a well-warded home somewhere, if both of them would have survived for that long.
Yet, despite his best efforts, that Harry in that alternate universe would never be able to defeat Lord Voldemort. Because that Harry would have missed an important piece of information, vital towards Voldemort's defeat.
That information concerned Charlene, and this Harry would find out.
Perhaps it was for the best.
Years of practice had made climbing over the wall ridiculously easy for Rachel. To be fair, the wall was made of roughly-hewn stones and thus fairly easy to climb, especially for an active and athletic ten-year-old with an almost claustrophobic fear of being locked in. It only took her roughly thirty minutes to vault the twenty-foot wall. There was really no danger, as all the nuns were at evening prayer. Ne one would even notice that she was missing for another hour, at least. Plenty of time to go and return.
Rachel dropped the last ten feet to the ground, rolling to her knees and elbows. She had never been afraid of heights. In many ways, she felt as if the sky was her true home, in a way that the convent could never be. Wing space, she had nicknamed the feeling. The feeling of freedom, of being able to fly away, of being able to do whatever, damn the consequences.
She savoured the swear world, dragging it out in her mind for as long as possible, revelling in the pure unGodliness of that word. Damn them. Damn all of them, to hell, no less. Undoing her hair tie and allowing it to stream out behind her, Rachel tore through the tall grass recklessly. She did not see the snake.
She didn't see the man, either. She also didn't see the woman, until it was far too late.
The first thing that caught her attention was the gentle soft hiss of a voice, more reptilian than human, really. She instinctively froze, ducking her head down, praying for the darkness of night to hide her. It was a new moon tonight; that should be dark enough, right? Oh, dear Virgin, save me from myself, she prayed, before she could stop herself. Damn, she swore, just to balance things out.
A long, guttural moan from the reptilian voice. Rachel nearly leapt forward. God, was someone hurt? She closed her eyes and counted to ten. Loath as she was to leave someone severely injured, she had to think of herself, right now.
"Oh, Tom," a woman muttered, and Rachel relaxed slightly. Good. So she wasn't abandoning an injured person after all. She tensed up again when a man asked, "What's that?" in that horribly reptilian voice. And then some snake-like hissing, but ridiculously loud. She hadn't heard a snake nearby...oh.
Some slithering, a glimpse of a beady eye, and Rachel felt her heart rise in her chest. Oh God, oh God. She hoped it wasn't venomous. Screaming was definitely out of the question, and she didn't think she could run for it. She remembered that snakes had infrared sensors and crossed herself. It could see her. God. That's it. She knew she was doomed.
Yet...wait...was the snake slithering away? Involuntarily sighing, Rachel ran a hand through her hair. What in the world is going on?
"Nagini reports that there is a Muggle hidden in the grasses over there," the reptilian voice said.
Muggle? What the hell is that? Rachel thought, although she had the sinking feeling that the voice—Tom?—was referring to her.
The woman muttered something incomprehensible, and Rachel strained to hear.
Then the man spoke again, "But it's not a Muggle, is it not?"
"Does it matter?" the woman groaned. "Can you please hurry up?" Then she gasped slightly as a slap rang out through the chilly night air. "That hurt," she complained.
"Never forget, my dear," the man sneered. "I own you. I decide."
The woman sighed, lightly. "I will never forget, my lord." Rachel heard the grass rustle; she hoped the snake wasn't returning.
The man muttered something and then said, "It's not a Muggle...quite interesting. It appears as if our dear Lily was lying to us."
"What do you mean?" the woman asked.
"She had another child...a girl?"
The woman gasped. "Powerful?" she asked, but her voice sounded like it was fading, as if she was getting further away, or as if she was weakening. Charlene furrowed her brow. What in the world is going on?
"Not as powerful as the boy," the man replied. "Hum. Interesting."
"What is it, my lord?"
The woman gasped. "Please, my lord, I cannot sustain this for much longer." Her voice was very faint and weak now; Charlene wondered what the woman could be doing. Then she wondered if the woman was dying.
"Very well, my dear Bellatrix," the reptilian voice replied, almost soothing.
A small silence, and then a "My lord?" from the woman, her voice still extraordinarily weak.
"My lord!" the woman cried, almost pained.
The reptilian voice chanted something, and suddenly Rachel felt as if her head exploded. An aura of light danced in her vision, and a pair of badly trained orchestras duelled in her ears. Oh, God. For a second, she could not register anything but the pain, but slowly she realized that she could feel her fingers shake, barely hear the woman whisper, "Thank you, my lord." A coppery taste filled her mouth, and she realized she had bit her tongue.
What is going on? she asked, trying to drag her thoughts together. She registered the smell of vomit and realized that she was nauseous...it had been her who had thrown up. She retched again at the smell alone. Oh God. Rachel wiped her mouth off with her sleeve and attempted to ignore the sour taste in her mouth.
The grass rustled. Hoping that the pair had left, Rachel ran towards the convent as fast as she could, no longer bothering to remain silent. She clambered over the walls and collapsed on the slate tile within them. Marie found her the next morning, lying there. The nun wasn't all too happy.
Rachel didn't care. She was safe. She thought she would never hear the reptilian voice again, and she was glad.
A year passed, and Rachel managed to forget about the woman and the man with the reptilian voice.
This time, climbing over the wall wasn't easy. She hadn't done it for over a year, now, so her movements were awkward and jerky. Rachel didn't quite know how she managed to get over the wall safely. She jumped down awkwardly, wincing as the impact slammed her toes into the front of her boot and her tibias into her femurs.
She didn't know why she was sneaking out.
She was taller than the grasses, now, so she ducked slightly to hide among them. She could feel the gentle moonlight on her hair, and she envisioned it reflecting off of her flame-coloured locks—Rachel was rather proud of her hair—and she imagined it shining like a beacon. She ducked further down.
Come to me, my child, a reptilian voice whispered, and Rachel shuddered. It was that voice, the voice of the man she had struggled to forget. She considered returning to the convent, but the thought dropped from her head quickly. She had to continue going.
She heard a indistinct hissing. It sounded like a snake, but suddenly she could make out words. She is approaching, my master.
Thank you, Nagini, the reptilian voice hissed.
Rachel found herself in a clearing. There was a single figure there; strange, she had thought she had heard two separate voices. She squinted and could barely make out the figure of a snake among the grasses. It seemed familiar.
Charlene Potter, the reptilian voice hissed, and the voice seemed to originate from Rachel's own mind. What the hell? she thought. Who is Charlene Potter?
You are, the reptilian voice replied.
I'm Rachel, Rachel protested.
A cold, ghost-like laugh. Are you sure? the voice asked.
Yes...no, Rachel admitted. She blinked, slowly, once, twice. "Who am I?" she asked, aloud, although she felt that her words were unnecessary.
Become mine, and you will know, the voice whispered.
Rachel remembered the woman's pained pleading, and she hesitated. But again the thought fled from her mind, and she nodded, twice.
Marie would never forget about the girl she considered her own daughter, although she could never think the name Rachel without instinctively crossing herself.
Dumbledore looked grim, Harry thought.
It was during another one of their weekly meetings. Harry remembered that it was late January, almost February. He could see the snow on the windowsills of Dumbledore's office. The fire crackled delightfully, mockingly in the fireplace.
Dumbledore poured a cup of tea and placed it in front of Harry, who took it gingerly. Something about Dumbledore's demeanour made Harry feel as if something was very, very wrong. His heart leapt into his throat. Oh Merlin, not Ginny, not Ginny... He had seen her, less than an hour ago, in the library. What could have happened?
"It's about your sister," Dumbledore said.
Harry suddenly relaxed. Ginny is fine, he thought, and that was all that mattered. "What's the matter?"
Studying his nails intently, Dumbledore said, "She was not under the Imperius."
"And?" Harry furrowed his brow. He had never even considered the possibility, although he knew that being under the Imperius would mean that she could not stand trial for any of her actions under the spell.
"Your sister, Charlene, apparently managed to escape."
"From Azkaban?" Harry asked. "How is that even...possible?"
"We do not know," Dumbledore replied. When Harry opened his mouth to respond, Dumbledore continued with, "We have some suspicions."
"What?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled sadly. "We think she is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. It's the only thing that makes sense."
Early January, 1998.
The reptilian voice was Charlene's only friend now. The Dementors had filled her mind with a soft, soothing buzz, and she could feel her face smiling almost drunkenly. If she concentrated, she could change the expression on her face. But it didn't really matter; in fact, the goofy smile probably helped. It probably made the Dementors think that they had defeated her.
Yet the reptilian voice still managed to cut through the fog, cleanly and clearly as it always did. It was always there. For her.
"There's not many places she could have escaped off to," Shacklebolt was saying. "The waters around Azkaban are notoriously stormy and rough—"
"She's still alive," Dumbledore interrupted. "I'm sure of that." He sighed; his eyes were not twinkling.
Harry twiddled his thumbs and suppressed a yawn. He tried to make himself care, but he could feel his concentration slip away. It didn't really make sense. After all, finding Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes was Very Important, and apparently a stupid prophecy made nearly two decades ago had assigned him the role as the One Who Fights (and Hopefully Defeats) Lord Voldemort.
He supposed that he was being a little whiny at the moment.
"In all due politeness, Dumbledore, it's a two mile swim," Shacklebolt said. "In choppy waters."
Dumbledore shook his head. "We both know that Tom Riddle was one of the most talent wizards to attend Hogwarts. She has a portion of his soul in her."
Perhaps he was still in shock, Harry thought. It had only been about a week since he had learned of the new developments, and it probably hadn't been enough time for everything to fully sink in yet. Yeah, that sounded about right.
He really didn't know what to think of it. On one hand, it was good news, as it was highly likely that Charlene had been completely subdued and possessed by Voldemort. That acquitted her of all her crimes, and the cold, demonic look she had when she and the other Death Eaters had viciously killed twenty-four innocents in Diagon Alley wasn't actually Charlene. Harry knew he felt relieved that at least his immediate family did not have any true black sheep in it.
On the other hand, the study of Horcrux possession was highly dubious at best and probably incredibly inaccurate. No one knew how much Voldemort was in control, or how much agency Charlene still had left. It was perfectly possible that she was still completely in control of her mind and body and had purposefully chosen Voldemort. Which, of course, would mean that she was completely guilty.
To complicate the situation even more, he was highly aware that, unless magic made some incredibly fast advancements, which simply didn't happen, he would have to kill Charlene. Harry shuddered at the thought. He did not feel like he could ever be a murderer. But can you be an executioner? he asked himself. He didn't know.
"Harry?" Shacklebolt asked, obviously concerned.
"I'm fine," Harry replied automatically. "Just lost in thought."
Shacklebolt and Dumbledore exchanged a long look.
"Look, I really am fine," Harry protested. "I'm just tired."
"If you say so," Shacklebolt replied, but he didn't look convinced.
The next day, Harry returned to Hogwarts. Dumbledore and Shacklebolt had agreed that it would be safer for him there, and plus Harry knew Charlene about as well as they did. Which is to say, not at all.
It took nearly a month for the Aurors to track down Charlene.
In that time, Harry hadn't managed to figure anything out. Occasionally, during the first two weeks, he would take the facts out and turn them over and over again in his mind, wondering what he should do. He talked with Hermione, and he talked with Ron. He talked to the two of them together, and then he went up to the Room of Requirement and addressed a coat of armour for nearly an hour, in case it had any better ideas.
It didn't. Ron had just told him to shrug it off, and Hermione had used his dilemma as an excuse to put her nose back into a book for long periods of time. She had finally re-emerged from the library with absolutely nothing, just as Harry had predicted. Prior to Voldemort, no one had ever tried to use a human or an animal as a Horcrux before. There was literally no literature on the subject.
Ron, who had brothers a dime a dozen, thought it would be a good idea to tell Harry that "Siblings aren't that important, mate," in a way that made Harry realize that Ron was thinking about Percy's betrayal. Knowing where the statement came from didn't make it hurt any less.
In the end, Harry came to the same conclusion he had at the beginning of the two weeks: he needed to know exactly how much control Voldemort had over Charlene. Then he could know how much she betrayed him.
After the first two weeks, however, Harry successfully used the NEWTs to push Charlene out of his mind. He spent two weeks immersed in Potions, Transfiguration, and Charms. He continued to learn new spells from Dumbledore. He even managed to stop thinking about Ginny so much. Charlene probably wouldn't have crossed his mind again, until after the NEWTs at least, if she hadn't been captured.
It took a task force of six Aurors to subdue Charlene.
Harry didn't see her again until she was already in custody. They no longer trusted Azkaban to hold the young Death Eater. Instead, Charlene was held in the depths of the Ministry of Magic, right under one of the courtrooms, although she did not know that. Harry knew that Charlene was not allowed a wand and that Dumbledore and Shacklebolt had apparently performed some highly complex and difficult spell that prevented Charlene from using any form of magic, with or without a wand.
In addition, they had chained her to the ground.
The Auror on duty glared at Harry when he said he wanted to visit the prisoner. "She's highly dangerous and is an escape risk," he pointed out, jabbing his wand in the direction of Charlene.
"I know that," Harry replied. "I just wanted to see her."
"You don't usually visit Death Eaters."
"I know," Harry repeated, resisting the urge to massage his temples. "She's my sister."
"Oh." The Auror stared at Harry suspiciously, but he let him past.
Charlene looked up when he entered, and he could tell that Azkaban and being on the run didn't treat her well. Her skin clung to her cheekbones and her skin looked sickly pale. She looked down again, quickly, sending locks of her matted hair cascading down in front of her face.
"Hey," Harry tried. He wasn't quite sure of what he should do.
Charlene shrugged lightly, causing the chains to jangle. "Are you going to let them convict me?" she asked.
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "No, seriously, I really don't know."
"Oh." She rolled her shoulders back, earning another jangle from the chains, and Harry winced slightly. Merlin, she looks so frail...
"They have to acquit me," Charlene muttered. "I haven't done anything wrong. It's not me, it's never been me, it's always been him."
Harry furrowed his brow. Something in what Charlene was saying didn't seem quite right. "They will acquit you if you are innocent," he replied, keeping his voice as calm as possible. It wasn't easy.
"They have to acquit me," she repeated. "They have to acquit me. I'm innocent."
Narrowing his eyes slightly, Harry realized, "You wouldn't be able to say that if you were really innocent." He felt as if someone had just hung an anvil from his shoulders. Oh Merlin. "Either you or Voldemort is in control."
She addressed the air over his left shoulder. "I hear his voice. It's always there, in the back of my head. I'm in control, most of the time. I think."
"How can we trust you?" He wanted to trust her—she was family—but he wasn't sure if he should. "How can we be sure you're really you, and not Voldemort?"
"I don't know," she admitted quietly. "I have no clue...of how I can...earn your trust."
"I don't know, either," Harry replied.
Harry couldn't physically kill Charlene. He was not a murderer.
However, about a week after her capture, Harry testified against his sister. She was convicted of multiple accounts of murder and received the Dementor's kiss, ending her life, and the life of Voldemort's Horcrux.
1998. The evening after Charlene's execution.
Harry set his cup of tea down. It was peppermint, and the minty cleanness of the tea would have slightly irritated him, if he didn't feel so ridiculously tired. "I hope I did the right thing," he said, quietly.
Behind Dumbledore, silver instruments clinked and emitted small amounts of smoke. The fireplace crackled. Harry sat in one of the armchairs; Ron and Hermione occupied one of the couches.
Dumbledore sat behind his desk. "You did the right thing," he reassured.
Hermione nodded solemnly. "It was your only choice."
Harry closed his eyes and remembered the trial, remembered his own voice: On December 23rd of the year 1997, I saw my sister, Charlene Potter, fire the Killing Curse on a street full of holiday shoppers. He sighed slightly. "I could have refused to testify."
"She would have been convicted anyway," Ron pointed out. He reached over to Dumbledore's desk and plucked a lemon drop off the small pile on Dumbledore's desk. "There was a street full of witnesses."
Harry sighed again. "That wouldn't have mattered if she was under the control of Voldemort."
Ron shrugged. "You said it yourself. Either she's in control all of the time, which means she's guilty, or Voldemort's in control, which means she's too much of a danger to be allowed free. Death is preferable to a life in prison."
Shuddering as he remembered his earlier words, Harry picked up his teacup and took a small sip. The warm liquid made him feel slightly better. "It should have been her choice."
"Would it have been her choice, or Voldemort's?" Hermione asked. "She was a Horcrux, Harry. There is no way to get it out of her without killing her." She pulled her arm out from behind Ron and sat up straighter. "We really had no other choice." Hermione sighed slightly. "If it helps, think of her as a casualty of the war."
"I know." Harry closed eyes briefly. "I wish there could have been another way. And no, it doesn't help."
"Sometimes, Harry, fate places in a position where we don't want to be in," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. "You acted admirably."
"Thank you, Professor Dumbledore," Harry said. He closed his eyes briefly, again, and hoped that one day he could accept the consequences.
The year after Charlene's death, Harry visited her grave.
He was under the Polyjuice potion—the war was still raging. The limp blonde hair hung in his face, and his new shorter statue made his gait somewhat awkward. They had taken the hair from an unsuspecting Muggle. From the descriptions Ron had given him and the resulting transformation, Harry deduced that the hair had once belonged to a female nun. Well, at least the habit made for an excellent disguise.
He knelt down next to the gravestone and set a bouquet of yellow roses on the grave. "I wish we could have met earlier," he whispered. "Then we could both know what could have been."
"Marie?" an unrecognised voice croaked.
Harry spun around quickly. "Wh—" he gasped, but then he stopped himself.
An old nun hobbled over to him. "Didn't I tell you not to visit her grave?"
Harry bent his head contritely. 'Yes, ma'am."
"Yes, Mother Superior, Marie. You're not that old. Did your memory go with the girl?"
"No, Mother Superior." Harry was completely confused, of course, but he knew that he should keep up the deception. It would not be good if the Muggles found out about the wizarding world.
"Well, come on, then, Marie." The old nun gestured.
Harry ducked his head down, pleading, "Just five more minutes."
The Mother Superior nodded slightly. "Very well. I will meet you back at the convent." With that, she left.
As soon as Harry was sure that the Mother Superior was gone, he fled. As he waited for the Polyjuice potion to wear off, he vowed never to visit Charlene's grave again.
He knew he would never be sure if he had made the right, moral decision, but he knew, at last, that he had made the correct one.
Marie denied that she had visited Rachel's grave. A dozen other nuns backed her word. The Mother Superior was very confused, but she let it go. Perhaps her eyesight and memory were going.
Harry dreamed of her.
In his dreams, she was younger. Ten or eleven, perhaps, with sun-kissed red hair and mischievous hazel eyes, a mixture of Mum and Dad so evident that it made Harry's heart ache. They were in a park, together, and he vaguely recognized the park as the one near Uncle Vernon's house. It was late afternoon in his dream; the sun was nearing the horizon.
"I'm sorry," he apologized.
She smiled slightly. "It's okay. You did exactly what you had to do." She walked towards the setting sun. "It was your only choice." She turned, drawing a black cloak over her hair and glared at him with her hazel eyes. "I understand," she whispered, darkly.
The world behind her caught on fire, surrounding Charlene with a demonic aura. Her black hood covered half of her face, and her eyes held a disturbing degree of darkness.
A Dementor placed its hands on her shoulders, and she laughed. Her eyes were green now, like his own...no, like Riddle's. And then suddenly her eyes were red with cat-like slits.
"They won't acquit you, Lord Voldemort," Harry said, feeling himself sneer. "You are not innocent."
"Neither are you," Charlene/Voldemort replied. "Neither are you."
"I made the right choice," Harry declared.
"If that's what you want to believe."
Harry woke up in a cold sweat. He sat up, shivering. He wanted to Floo Ginny, to hold her in his embrace and steal some of her body heat. Instead, he closed his eyes and laid back on his bed. He would have to be strong if he wanted to defeat Lord Voldemort. He would have to convince himself that he made the right choice.
We are not so different, after all, Charlene's voice whispered in his head.
We are completely different, Harry insisted, although he couldn't be sure if that was the truth.
AN: Please review. Any and all reviews will be greatly appreciated.