as alcestis [harry potter]

[Written in response to a truly hideous song-fic found in the pit of voles. This is, I hope, rather less sacchrine and rather more in character than what prompted it; written pre-Deathly Hallows]


SECOND SEMI-CHORUS: She is but a dead body!
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS: Yet she has not departed the house.

Euripedes, Alcestis

Her eyes meet Snape’s (a free man now, neither spy nor teacher), baring her thoughts to him, but slide past Lupin’s (he says to call him Remus, but not Moony; Moony died when Harry did), avoiding them as an accusing mirror. She has not been betrayed as he has, except by friends’ mortality.

No one has ever betrayed Snape, save perhaps Dumbledore (and oh, how that hurts still).

There are others present (many others; perhaps too many), but her eyes skip over them as if they aren’t there, seeing only a few former friends and allies (so few left, so many lost). Despite the monochrome black, they stand out to her as if marked by halos or wings, vastly outnumbered by the restless, anonymous throng.

In her silence, the crowd’s unease is loud, a cough ringing out like the tolling of a bell. Two coughs; it is her time to speak. And she does, in a voice which is no longer hers. The war (not a war; wars are not fought by children being killed by their schoolmates’ parents) has stolen it, leeching it of all childish confidence. All that remains is a quiet desperation. This is a voice that has spoken too many untested spells, knowing they will bring either death or salvation and driven past caring.

“I’m here to speak about Harry. About the boy” (man) “who was my friend, despite not knowing what that meant.” The words feel wrong as she speaks them, like puzzle pieces that should fit together and don’t. “Who, never having seen anything but selfishness,” (this is like a knife’s edge, which cuts so deeply that it is hardly felt, deep enough to kill) “was willing to offer up himself when needed, even when that sacrifice was scorned and derided.”

The crowd does not like this. They came to hear platitudes, not to be reminded of their own failings. She can almost smell the irritation and angry shame rolling off them, pungent incense of guilt. It mixes with her own, and for a brief moment she and the crowd are united in reluctant self-loathing.

“Harry was a hero, one fully seen only in death.” Bitter is the taste of that, like wormwood and gall. “In Greece, long ago, they” (wizards, not heroes: the two rarely coincide, it seems) “used to sing a paean over the funeral pyres of their dead heroes.” (Heroes belong to everyone but themselves.) “It seems only fitting for us to do the same.” This is truth and lie and shoddy research, but no one will even think to question her.

The still form behind her almost seems to be waiting, but she knows that it is only her imagination.

Once she would have felt the weight of anticipation weighing on her, but war has stripped her of many things. She sings now in a tongue long dead and dust, and spares no thought for those listening. O Death, her mouth says, although the words are not hers. The Greek is flavorless in her mouth, and she is dimly surprised, having expected it to taste of ashes and the grave.

O Death, she sings, with all the force of her shattered will behind it, so that it is a summons rather than a song. No wand is needed for this–the magic surges out of her, covers her more completely than her stiff black robes, more inescapably than her own skin. In words no longer spoken by anyone still living, she makes a bargain. And as her eyes close, other eyes open.

The last thing she hears is Harry’s voice, cursing her. His damnations are the sweetest lullaby she will ever fall asleep to.

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