Love Lies Bleeding 5 of 6

I was seventeen years old when I fell in love.

I’d spent the rest of the summer recovering myself. I felt scoured clean, or perhaps Obliviated back to the moment of my birth. Who was I? What was I? I had no sense of self, of familiarity. The rebellious strumpet persona I’d cultivated for two years had melted away like the thin skim of soap when you wash it off. The anger that had been the hallmark of my fifth and sixth years was gone, the fearful lemming I’d been up to that point had been left far in the past. What was left?

Just me, I realized, and decided to stop thinking so much about it all.

I removed all my piercings, had my tattoo removed, and left my clothing unaltered. To the eyes of the world, Susan Bones was a normal young woman, and if I’d still been interested in the shock factor would have been thrilled at the reactions I got when I returned to Hogwarts for my seventh and final year.

They’d all gotten used to me as a semi-mad slut, you see, so having me look like everyone else upset their apple cart. Not that I cared—I found myself increasingly impatient with their small world, their petty concerns. If my experiences of the past two years weren’t enough to lift me above the usual teenaged sturm-und-drang, it became swiftly clear when Voldemort began stepping up his campaign to overthrow the magical world.

Didn’t these silly twats have more important things to worry about? I fumed one evening at dinner when Justin (the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team) was freaking out over Harry Potter obtaining a new Cirrus Mark 8. It was an absolute dream of a broom, and reputed to cost as much as an entire house, although no one knew for sure. To inquiries of price, the vendors would only reply with a mysterious, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

“Oh, feck off,” I told Justin shortly, slamming my goblet of pumpkin juice onto the table. “You’re such a silly girl’s blouse. Potter’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders, and you whinge about his broom?” My voice had risen steadily until I had the attention of the entire hall, but I was on a roll. “The poor bastard might not even survive the year, and you begrudge him a broom?”

I stood and glared down at him. “You need to put your priorities in order, Justin. Call me mad, but when Death Eaters could murder us all in our beds, winning the Quidditch cup just doesn’t seem as important.” I turned to leave, but stopped. “Oh, and find yourself another beater for the team. I quit.”

Upstairs in my dorm, I allowed myself a short sulk for quitting the team—definitely a case of cutting off my nose to spite my face, it was, but I do so love making a grand gesture, and my actions had certainly been that. Ah well…It didn’t surprise me that Hermione would seek me out the next day—she was as much a fan of the grand gesture as I—to compliment me on what I’d said and done.

“How’s Cho?” I asked, changing the subject, and her face lit up.

“Oh, she’s just lovely,” Hermione gushed. “She’s got a job at the Ministry, working with Mr. Weasley in the Muggle Artifacts department.” Her pretty face sobered a little. “Ron still thinks we’re only good friends. I don’t know how, after he walked in that one time…” She sighed. “He’s terrible at facing reality. Can’t cope with the fact that Harry and Ginny have broken up, either.”

“Oh, have they?” I asked. That was interesting—Potter and Weasley la fille had been the school’s golden twosome for over two years, one of those revolting couples who finish each other’s sentences and dress alike and feed each other bits of food at meals. ‘Chunder-worthy’ had been Draco’s term for it, a description with which I heartily agreed. “What happened?”

“We’re not sure,” Hermione said, her brow creased in puzzlement. “It happened over the summer. Ginny said that he just… changed. Suddenly didn’t want to do all the things they’d always done. Stopped being as affectionate as he used to.” It had been a season of epiphanies all round, it would seem… my esteem of Potter lifted a notch, if he’d pulled himself from the treacly miasma of Ginny’s teenaged girly-love.

Potter himself approached me a few days later. “What was that all about?” he asked without preamble, referring to the blow-up at dinner with Finch-Fletchley.

I shrugged. “Justin’s been getting on my last nerve for the past few years, and I lost my temper.” Glancing up at him, I studied him. Up close, he had a sense of resiliency and strength that was absent from a distance. No shock there, he’d lived through seven attempts on his life, after all. His body was tall and slender, but strong—not the wiry slimness of Draco, nor the brawny power of Snape, but somewhere nicely between the two. Just right, I thought, remembering the Muggle fairy story of Goldilocks.

His hair was an untamed torrent of jet-black, and his eyes behind the specs were the exact shade of green a person might find in the grass on an African savannah… staring at him, I knew—just knew, somehow—that my long-forgotten dreams of a gazelle’s freedom were not perhaps as unattainable as I’d thought. Something else I’d squashed into the box in my mind, hope, seeped out while I was otherwise distracted. “Have a seat, Potter,” I told him, and smiled.

We weren’t really dating—nothing so mundane. Harry seemed keen to distance himself from his old habits as much as possible, so no trips to Hogsmeade or invitations to balls. Little things like holding hands and slipping each other notes were unnecessary to us—there was a nonverbal sort of awareness between us that precluded outward gestures of togetherness. In fact, if Madam Pince hadn’t found us in a clinch in a library alcove a month later, no one would have known we were a ‘we’ at all.

Hermione walked around with a slight air of betrayal—she thought I’d made a play for Harry after she’d told me of his breakup. And, well, I had, but I permitted a little selfishness to escape the box and decided not to care. Weasley le fils was unswerving in his attempts to get Harry back together with his sister. Ginny just kept bursting into tears at the site of Harry, or me, or us together.

Kissing Draco, and Snape, and even Cho had made me want to die. Kissing Harry made me want to live, and so I kissed him a lot. His face wasn’t really handsome, but it was thoughtful and intent and so incredibly, heartbreakingly brave that after a few months I found that my entire view of beauty had shifted—Harry became the touchstone against which all others were measured.

Compared to Harry, Draco’s indisputable splendor seemed insipid, overbred, too much. And Snape, well… his unfortunate looks were definitely in the realm of not enough. Once again, I found myself declaring that Harry was ‘just right’.

This is not to say that we got along flawlessly, or that we never fought. Merlin in Avalon, did we fight. Once I was out of sorts and a bit snappish, and he asked if he’d done something wrong.

“Get over yourself, Potter,” I said rudely. “Not everything is about you, Boy Who Thinks the Sun Shines from His Arse.” He went pale, and it all just went downhill from there. We didn’t speak for almost a week after that one.

On the other hand, there were also moments of pure loveliness. One such was a brightly moonlit night when he took me for a ride on his Cirrus Mark 8. Seated before him, his arms wrapped closely around me and his chin on my shoulder, I told him, “You’re a hero, you know.”

He snorted. “A hero? Hardly.”

“You are!” I insisted.

“How do you reckon? Heroes are fearless, and I’m afraid most of the time.” Harry said it with a bitterness I knew he didn’t allow himself to express to his friends, said it like it was overflowing him and he couldn’t contain it any longer. He aimed the broom at the ground, and we landed next to a large oak, then sat at its base.

 “Being a hero isn’t about fearlessneess, Harry.” The October night was chilly, and I snuggled deeper against him. “Heroes never have to wonder what’s right and what’s wrong. They just know.”

I looked up at him, into the beauty of his face, and said, “You just know, Harry. That’s why you’re a hero.” And Harry stared at me for a very long time, and then he began to cry. I just wrapped my arms around his waist and let him.

And there we have the reason he wanted to be with me, instead of Ginny or anyone else. I let him be whatever the hell he wanted to be. If he wanted to slack off schoolwork, I let him (unlike Hermione, who would rant about his irresponsibility). If he wanted to think a bit more deeply about something, I let him (unlike Ron, who invariably met all of Harry’s efforts at philosophical conversation with, “Harry, are you feeling alright? Do you need to see Pomfrey?”)

If he were in a bad mood, I let him be (unlike Ginny, who always wanted Harry to be happy and joyful). I found that attitude to be especially grating—all proof pointed to life being one grinding chore after another, with moments of happiness few and far between. Expecting a constant steam of joy was unrealistic, and setting yourself up for disappointment.

And I most certainly didn’t make him feel like his sexual desires were odd somehow—how could I, with my history? I got the feeling that Ginny felt anything other than minimal, timid foreplay and the standard position were perversions to be avoided at all costs.

The first time we made love was on one of our nighttime excursions. We’d been together almost a month, and indulged in various episodes of snogging, but hadn’t gotten beyond a bit of petting. Things with Harry were different from the others, and I wanted to emphasize that as well as enjoy the delicious feeling of anticipation—for the first time, the journey was just as important as the destination.

Harry came under cover of invisibility cloak to collect me from Hufflepuff, and we went for a stroll by the lake. He looked like a dark angel, and I couldn’t keep my hands and mouth off him. Groaning, he lowered me to the cool grass, his body lying half on me, and kissed me with such slow tenderness I could have cried.

Harry’s tongue explored my mouth as if it mattered to him how I tasted; his hands roamed my body as if it mattered to him how I felt. As if he were memorizing me. As if this experience were more than just sex, more than just pleasure and orgasm and triumph and conquest.

My previous partners had been concerned primarily with the sensations they were feelings, but with Harry was this exquisite awareness of the other, almost as if we could feel what the other was sensing. His fingertips brushing lightly as a butterfly’s wings over my nipples made them peak with arousal, but I could almost feel their pebbled hardness on the pads of his fingers at the same time… could feel the smooth skin of my body, the soft give of my belly, the short curls between my legs, against his palms at the same time as their warmth skimmed over me, claiming me.

His name, I chanted like a mantra. Each curve and plane of his body was another undiscovered country—the cap of muscle over his shoulder beckoned me to sink my teeth into it like a peach, the undulating knobs of his spine demanded I traverse it with my fingers from bow to stern. His hair was an ocean of ink, and I dove into it, swam across it until I collapsed breathless on the far shore. His legs, leanly muscled, required protracted explorations of lips and fingernails dragged down the long length of them. My tongue traced the sculptures of the bones of his knees, shoulder blades, ankles, hips, committing his taste and texture to memory.

I didn’t stop making noise the entire time. Whether it was whimpers, moans, or nonsense words I babbled whilst sent soaring out of my head into the starred black velvet above us, I could not keep quiet. The feel of him atop me, his warm skin tight to mine, his hips snugged between my thighs as he slid himself into the glove of my body, made my lips move in a constant litany of desire, of fulfillment, of love.

When we came, we were wrapped so tightly around each other that I thought our skin might meld. He thrust one last time, and I bucked up to meet him, and then we froze together. Neither of us moved, and for the first time, I fell silent. There was nothing but this, just an endless moment of stillness, of perfect tranquility, a moment without breath or pulse or sight or sound. When it was over, Harry began shuddering uncontrollably from the aftershocks.

I held him even tighter, smoothing his hair, kissing his pretty lips, tasting the salt in the hollow of his throat. He finally lifted his head from my shoulder and stared into my eyes, into my head, into my soul. “That was smashing,” he said, and I laughed.

It was like that every time for us—every time. As time passed and Voldemort’s attacks became more frequent and brutal, our lovemaking took on a new sense of urgency, perhaps a tinge of desperation, but the depth of emotion behind it never faltered.

I was included in the dream team’s plans to fight the Dark Lord until Dumbledore unearthed a prophecy stating that Voldemort would remain undefeated until ‘love lies bleeding in your hands’, at which point Harry declared me out of it entirely.

“You can help behind the scenes, Sue,” he told me, “but there’s no way I’m letting you in the thick of it. No way.”

I argued, begged, pleaded, whinged, nagged, and all to no avail. This was another of his unswerving decisions, and nothing would alter him. I felt my place was beside him in that final battle, that if he were to die, I should be there, dying with him.

“Abso-bloody-lutely not.” Harry’s savannah-green eyes blazed at me. “If I die, I want to die knowing you are alive. Please, Sue.” He took my hands and squeezed them, hard. “I can’t do this without being confident you’re safe.”

“You can do anything, Harry,” I assured him, smoothing his hair back from his scar and kissing it. “But all right.” He was missing the entire point of the prophecy—that he would have to fight Voldemort ad infinitem until the prophecy was fulfilled.

“What exactly does ‘love lies bleeding’ mean?” I asked Professor Dumbledore one day whilst Harry was drilling combat skills with the other members of the Order of the Phoenix.

His face, wise and ancient, peered at me patiently. “It means exactly what you think, Miss Bones,” he replied at last. “Harry won’t be deserving of victory until he endures the loss of that which is most dear to him. Only then will he be able to strike the killing blow.”

“And thousands more will die,” I whispered.

“And thousands more will die,” Dumbledore agreed solemnly.

I lifted wide, scared eyes to him. “He’ll never agree to it.”

“No, he won’t.” He watched me carefully.

“I have to get myself into the battle, don’t I?” I stared at my clenched hands. “I have to get seriously wounded, and make my way to him, and die in his arms. Don’t I?

“I am so sorry, child,” Dumbledore sighed. “But yes, you are correct. That is what must happen, or we are doomed to years more—decades more—of Voldemort’s reign of terror.”

A lifetime of battling the Dark Lord, a lifetime of work and worry and blood and death and horror. Thousands of innocents maimed, tortured, killed. Harry turning into an automaton, a killing machine, an instrument of death as he fought and fought and never, ever got to have any peace from it all.

“Will you help me?”

He nodded.

“He’ll hate you for it,” I told Dumbledore.

“I know.” He removed his half-moon spectacles and rubbed his eyes. “He’ll hate you too.”

“I know.”