Did I disappoint you? Did I let you down? Did I stand on the shore And watch you as you drowned? Can you forgive me? I never knew The pain you carried deep inside of you (Assemblage 23)
A/N: Yeah, I know, I wrote this already, lol. I'm going back through and adding the revisions I made months ago to the older version that's here at PS. Don't expect any big changes, I just fixed some wording, improved characterizations here and there, and threw in song lyrics to go with each chapter (I sporadically started doing that with Chapter 11 when I was actually writing the story, so I figured it would be more rounded if I had them for all the chapters. Anyway, enjoy!
Harry Potter sat on the front steps of number 4 Privet Drive, looking up at the cloudless summer sky. Had he been thinking coherently, he probably would have been angry that nature could produce so fine a day when the turmoil of emotions threatened to overflow and erupt at any moment. He had been home for three days now, but flatly refused to cry in front of the Dursleys.
On the up side, Dudley was avoiding him like the plague now. Yesterday he had taunted Harry about having heard Harry mutter about Sirius in his sleep, just like last summer's nightmares about Cedric. An instant after having done so, he had found himself facing the 'business end' of Harry's wand. Harry'd threatened to kill Dudley then and there if he ever soiled Sirius' name with his lips again, and Dudley had run off, terrified.
His Uncle Vernon was still too frightened of Mad-Eye Moody to raise a finger against Harry, so the event had gone unpunished, and he was now left completely alone by all three Dursleys, which suited him just fine. He'd spent the past three days in a black mood the likes of which he had never felt before.
In fact, in comparison to the previous days, Harry was acting positively joyful this afternoon – he had actually eaten, and had mustered the energy to get up and move, shortly after noontime. Sitting on the steps, however, had caused some of the lethargy to come back, and he was at the point where there was nothing he could do but stare up at the sky and let his guilt tear him to pieces from within.
His thoughts were interrupted by a muffled pop somewhere to his left. Harry's wand was out in a flash, all trace of lethargy gone, as he looked for the source of the noise. He looked up and down Privet Drive, but there was no one in sight, a common enough scenario at 3 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon.
"Potter, it's Mad-Eye, I need a word," growled a familiar voice. Harry backed up and pointed his wand at the source of the noise.
"How do I know you're really Mad-Eye?"
The voice chuckled slightly.
"Good lad, Potter. Constant vigilance. Last year I came with the Advance Guard in the middle of the night to take you to a more secure location. You gave me a glass of water to set my eye straight. Will that do?"
Harry nodded, and lowered his wand a little. "Are you under your invisibility cloak?"
"Yep. Let's go around back; I can take this thing off and we can talk."
Harry shook his head. "Why don't you come inside?"
"Alright, I will." Moody said.
Harry walked over and opened the front door, then held it open for Moody to pass. He heard the clunk of Moody's wooden leg moving up the stairs and into the house. Harry stepped in and closed the door just as there was a slight shimmer as Mad-Eye pulled off the invisibility cloak and draped it over his arm.
At that moment Uncle Vernon walked into the room. "Potter, who-" he started angrily, forgetting his earlier fear, but stopped dead in his tracks when he saw who the visitor was.
Moody's heavily scarred face twisted into a smile. "Hello, Dursley," he said.
"Ab-dah-I..er..we…" stammered Uncle Vernon, turning white and backing up frantically.
Moody laughed. "Oh, I'm fine, Dursley, good to see you too. Don't mind if we use your living room for a moment, do you? Didn't think so."
Uncle Vernon backed frantically out of the room without another word. Mad-Eye turned to Harry. "You might want to sit down for this."
Harry's heart almost stopped right there. "What?! Who's hurt? Nobody told-?"
Moody held up a hand. "Nobody's hurt, but I've a rather shocking proposal for you from Professor Dumbledore. He's going to drop by himself tomorrow afternoon, but I thought I'd give you a bit of a head's up so you've extra time to think on it."
Harry, who had been about to scream at Mad-Eye for scaring the living daylights out of him, stopped and sank onto the sofa, intrigued.
Moody walked straight over to Uncle Vernon's favorite chair and sat down.
"Dumbledore and Kingsley told Fudge the real story about Sirius, and made it clear in no uncertain terms that he is to be cleared of all charges, posthumously."
Posthumously. The way Mad-Eye said that word, in a casual, though respectful tone, amazed Harry. He could not think of anything to do with Sirius without wrestling massive feelings of pain and guilt.
"All right, Potter?" Moody asked, his characteristic growl unusually soft.
Harry said nothing.
Moody's magic eye scanned the room about Harry for a moment, his other eye still looking at Harry intently. "I thought you'd be happy to hear that," he said.
Harry looked up.
"I am – I mean, I'm not unhappy, but I'm not…it's just…how…" He stopped stammering and looked accusingly at Moody, manners be damned. "You talk about his death as if it's just some other event in your life. How could you? You worked with him, you fought by his side…"
Realization dawned in Moody's normal eye. "Sorry about that, Potter. I've lost a lot of friends – more then I care to count. Comes with the territory, I guess. It's not that I didn't care about your godfather – he was a good man, and it was an honor to fight by his side. Old Mad-Eye's just seen too much death over the years. I've come to expect it in everyone I meet."
Harry was taken aback by this; he sat staring at Mad-Eye, not sure what to say. One came to expect blunt statements when dealing with Alastor Moody, but for him to say something like that about himself…
Mad-Eye shook his head. "Anyway, I didn't come here to talk about me. I came here to tell you that there's to be a memorial service for Sirius Black. For the most part it won't be Ministry – just people who were close to him or worked with him as a part of the Order. We're pretty sure that's what Sirius would have wanted."
Harry took a deep breath. "I'd like to be there," he said.
Moody nodded. "I expect you would – and we're going to get you there. But as one of the people closest to Sirius, you've a right to be asked, and asked first – would you like to speak at the memorial?"
"You mean officially, publicly? What about Lupin or Tonks? I've no right to speak. I…I got him killed in the fist place."
Moody looked at Harry hard, staring at him with both eyes. "Now you listen here, Potter, 'cause I'm only going to say it once: Bellatrix Lestrange killed Sirius Black. Nobody else is responsible for his death."
Harry was on his feet and shouting before he knew what he was doing. "WHAT WOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY? WHO HAVE YOU EVER GOT KILLED?!"
Moody didn't respond verbally at first, but pointed to his horrible scarred visage, and then to his wooden leg. "Do I look to you like I've lead a happy life, Potter?" he said.
"Yeah, you're ugly; trust me, I don't need reminding!" said Harry darkly.
Moody didn't seem shaken by this at all. "And how do you think I got like this?"
"Let me guess, hunting Dark wizards?" Harry spat sarcastically.
"Avenging deaths, Harry. Avenging deaths. Trying to ease the guilt a little by putting things right. Took me a long time to realize it doesn't work that way."
Harry stared at Moody in silence for a minute, unsure of what to say.
Moody broke the silence. "Look, I didn't come here to tell you how to live your life, but I thought I'd let you know what happens when you take certain paths. I'm a prime example of letting guilt eat you up for too long. Just be careful."
Harry nodded. "Thanks, Mad-Eye. I didn't mean to…"
Moody nodded. "I know what you're going through, Potter; just took me a moment to look back on how I was when I was first in your shoes." Moody stood up. "Well, my time's about up. You should really consider speaking at Sirius' memorial. I reckon it'll help. Just thought I'd give you the heads up in either case."
Harry got up as well, and shook hands with Mad-Eye. "Thanks. I appreciate it; I didn't mean to appear ungrateful."
Mad-Eye waved him off. "You're allowed to be angry, Harry. Just be careful what you do with that anger." He nodded at Harry in farewell.
Harry nodded back and there was another muffled pop – Harry reckoned Mad-Eye had some way of silencing the sound – as Mad-Eye Disapparated.
Author's Note: Many thanks to my original beta, Sherylyn, of the late GryffindorTower.net. She formally initiated me into proper creative writing grammar…the stuff they didn't cover in high school ;-) Please read and review!