Written for the HPFF Writers Duel: The Death Of The Greatest Wizard Who Ever Lived.
The Greatest Wizard
There is nothing more dangerous than misplaced trust; it is a lesson we must all learn be it taught in the smallest lie or the harshest of failings. And to blindly follow someone, to follow his name when it is all of him that you know is the ultimate trust, yet the one most likely to turn on you and destroy you. For a name does not define you and a title does not own you, it is owned by you to make of it what you will.
There are those whose life makes an imprint on the world, whose presence within it visibly changes it and moulds it. Children hear their names spoken in awe by parents; read about their lives in heavy bound books so they can whisper and point at the smallest glance. Harry Potter was one of those people, whose light shines so brightly it cannot be ignored. And some of us are lucky enough to bathe in that light, to see themselves reflected from it in a thousand facets that in turn overwhelm and amaze. For in that moment we seem almost as brilliant as him, as the world tricks us and deceives us into believing that we are almost as important when we are only caught in his wake, stepping carefully in his footprints. Yet there are still those who constantly challenge it, who step out occasionally to make footprints of their own. Who mock and belittle him as they push themselves forward, not realizing that they never managed to force themselves away from him as their own course continues to run parallel to his own, continues to be shaped by it and influenced by the smallest action.
And he did shine, in everything he did; his name on the lips of thousands before it had even passed his own. A hero before he even knew what he had lost, when what he had lost was everything. But no one saw that, they only saw the light, so pure and blinding. We followed him because in doing so he made us better people, because we wanted no more than to be a part of something we could not have, but wanted with the very essence of our souls. We were envious of all he had, that a single life could have such meaning and bring immortality of a sort. His name would linger for an eternity; he would be remembered forever and above all others. It was a light we could never possess.
But there are those who have been dying from the second they took their first breath, for death can come in more ways then one. It can sometimes even pass by unnoticed, when the potential of that life is ignored or handed to another so that we continue unaware of everything we could have been, everything we could have achieved.
I died quite some time ago.
My light was extinguished, or it was drawn into that of the Boy Who Lived until it belonged more to him than it ever had to me; the boy who was barely more than a squib from birth. Whose mastery of magic had always been laughable at best, who cowered in fear from the snide comments and sneering sarcasm of the one man who had never sugarcoated the truth. And whilst it may have occasionally flickered in my hands I have since handed it over, sealing my fate.
Still I can remember in the Ministry my torch had flared for me, be it all so briefly. But with every curse I fired it became stronger as it sought to reclaim a part of me I never knew had existed. And it filled me with a purpose more intense than I have since experienced, more real than the simple passing of days. It led me and guided me until I held in my hands something so small and fragile, something that did not belong to me yet I knew could have been mine in a way I could not describe and sometimes doubt was even real.
And from the ashes rose the ghostly figure; light and perfect I watched its lips move, heard the words echoing on the edge of my hearing even over the noise that filled the room. And I felt the weight of what could have been crush me, an entire lifetime in a single second, a single breath more painful than any other I have taken. A breath in which it was my light that flared above all others, in which it was my life that changed the world with its presence.
I could feel the pain as it marked itself in an ugly slash across my forehead, as it stole my future and my dreams.
*I am Lord Voldemort*
As it lashed out, blind and almost paralysed to meet my blow with one of its own, as its fang pierced my arm, its poison seared through me. As I faced death with the knowledge that my luck could not hold out forever.
*I shall not lie*
As it scarred me with its unfairness, with its silent injustice. As it hated me for something I had never chosen and was only beginning to fully understand.
*Kill the spare*
As it blackened around me and faded to a cold, dark cemetery, as the first person died at my hands, died because of me. And the cold laughter that rose from my blood, that rose from my existence and my stupidity to stand tall and proud and always better than me, always laughing at me. I was never his equal and it was here, surrounded by the deaths of so many that I knew what the light entailed, what it held for me.
And then there were the thousands that were to follow, each one begging to me, praying to me to save them before they too died for fighting a war, for fighting my war. A torrent of voices always asking, always questioning and forever demanding to know why, to know the answer I did not have. And slowly the sky appeared to turn green as each mark seemed to imprint itself, the shape slowly dissipating but still tainting the air around it as the fear grew. As slowly people became more and more scared to leave their houses, as strangers became unwelcome in unfamiliar places. And every cloaked figure was hunted as the bigotries returned and I found old teachers once again persecuted for their mistakes, for their past, for simply being different. They were herded to Azkaban as a potential threat, thus reducing our potential allies and friends. My voice was not strong enough to change that, my conviction not enough to sway those whose control rivaled that of the Dark Lord, whose methods were all but inspired by him.
And then there was the Darkness that was to follow, and even as the Dementors retreated the chill never left, clinging to the halls of the castle as they grew dim and lifeless, the last refuge for those who still had the will to continue. Abandoned even by its ghosts, who had lost their only chance for peace just to watch the destruction of everything they had been so afraid to leave in the first place. Shrouded in black as a mark of respect, as a constant reminder.
‘There was nothing you could have done for them.’
The same words from so many people seeking to offer comfort where there could be none. But the lie behind it was too clear, too obvious as I screamed at myself over and over the very words I knew they should be screaming themselves.
‘I could have done better.’
The guilt as the Headmaster fell to protect me, the twinkle leaving his eyes as he looked at me with the knowledge of someone who knows how to trust, yet misplaces it so often. Who sees only the best in people, sees only their potential. It was a potential I never had; for it is not his ability that defines a wizard, rather it is who he will always be. And I was still the same, still just as useless, still wondering exactly what it was the hat had seen to make it shout Gryffindor.
I had failed him.
And one by one my friends followed, each taking with them a part of the light that had separated me from them, stood me apart. They fell because they had the strength to do what I did not, to defend everything they believed in so furiously and to defend each other. Beliefs I shared, beliefs for which I too fought but without the determination that sent them to their deaths. And they never wavered in the trust they placed in me, never doubted me when it was all I could do not to doubt myself. They stood with me to the end I was supposed to prevent, but in the end there was only me; and all that remained was the tiniest flicker, no more than it was now that was extinguished all to easily.
I had failed them all.
But then it was gone just as quickly, the memory fading as I blinked desperately at the curses that flew around me. Still it itched at my mind though, as my fingers rose to touch the smooth, untainted skin I had not expected, as a hand closed on my shoulder and I swung round with shock and fear to look up into his light. For the scar was his, amongst the many others, and his light had yet to be quenched.
I prayed it never would be.
But even as I prayed his light lessened and faded before me, a part of it falling with the man who tumbled through the veil. As I saw the same pain behind his eyes that I knew so well, silent and helpless as he lunged for a vengeance I knew he could never exact, as he would come to blame himself. He fought for the loss of someone he loved not knowing how often he would be fighting for the exact same thing, that the act of fighting for it so often would ultimately drain him until he could fight for it no longer.
And now the lights of so many shine with him, for he holds their torches high and gives them more meaning than they could have otherwise dreamed of, than we could have hoped to achieve for ourselves. We hand them over willingly, watching as we give our lives to him, as we stand in the shadows. And I am no longer envious of that light, for somehow I know what it means, what it hides and what it requires to shine brightest. I gave what little I possessed in the hope it will keep his lit for longer than I could keep mine, for long enough for his fate, for the fate of us all to be different. For it is not enough to have others believe in you when you do not believe in yourself. But for now he gives us meaning and makes us great, which is why I am, why each of us remains one of the greatest wizards who ever lived, who ever died.
It can desert you when you need it the most, as you realise that the trust placed in you means nothing when you cannot place it in yourself. And there comes a time when you must accept death as unavoidable, must realise perfection is an unobtainable ideal. For people are always looking for someone else to bear their burdens, are always hoping that someone else will make the difficult decisions. It can drag you down, give you cause to doubt yourself and make you forget that it is only the world that needs to be saved, the people within it must be held responsible for saving themselves.
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