The air filters inside of his nose, smelling like flowers grown too early and a world reborn. His hand grips the wand in his hand and he wonders if this is the point where he runs, but he looks around him and realizes this is not a choice. There are a number of people who arrived for this spectacle—hundreds of people, half-dead, half-struggling, fill the stands of the pitch to watch the last few minutes of the life of a man. Harry looks at each of the bewildered faces in confusion. They seem disappointed. They seem as if they have not gained their show. He swallows hard and stumbles away from the broken man at his feet, permanently dead and no longer haunting him.
No one cheers for him. No one bats an eye as he backs away and backs away and backs away, quickly running backward until he awkwardly turns, stumbles, and falls onto his knees. It’s only a little bit farther, he knows that, until he enters the changing area and can finally run to find freedom. Blindly, he runs toward this imminent moment, hands brushing over the walls as he enters the area and rushes toward the light at the end of the tunnel, only stopping when he sees a man—hook-nosed and scowling toward him.
No. The word echoes in his mind, but Harry can’t allow it to escape. He wants to be himself—he wants to be the victor, to have all the spoils, to be the person who everyone cheers on. Even if no one did that in quidditch, he always had the opportunity to have his own rush, but the burden of a man lying dead at his feet in a quidditch pitch will ruin him forever. And running out to find the man he hates more than Voldemort will ruin him even more, leaving him sunken six-feet under without the opportunity to bang against the cover of his unwilling coffin.
Snape does nothing but blockade him from running to his freedom. Behind Snape, he sees a bloodied Ron and Hermione holding each other. They are close to kissing, but Hermione’s eyes look paranoid as they look toward Snape. They know Harry lies just beyond him. They know Harry does not want to see this. Even beyond them, Ginny stands with a scratched up and freckled face, lips pursed and eyes full of fury. He has destroyed Voldemort, but he is not coming fast enough and she does not approve. Dean Thomas walks behind her and grabs her, kissing her on her neck as he peers toward Harry. She leans into his embrace, albeit reluctantly, and looks at Harry chidingly from the distance. This is his fault.
The world scrambles itself up from this point. He sees his father and Sirius and Remus and Peter—they all look seventeen, but James looks at him and mouths something. I’d be alive if it weren’t for you. His mother looks at James reprovingly, but she feels the same way. They’d be alive if it weren’t for him. People die for him and people move on to the afterlife, but they all come together eventually. More people appear—Hannah Abbott steps forward and glares at him, tilting her head back in a pompous way that only the best friend of Ernie Macmillan could manage. Su Li looks pitiful as she tries to smile and Cedric Diggory looks less friendly, and more broken.
No. It repeats in his head again and Harry looks at the blockade of Severus Snape more. Green eyes shaded by blood-covered spectacles peer toward the wand extended, and just as he musters up the strength to deliver another ‘Avada Kedevra’ into the world, Snape carelessly pulls his wand from Harry’s hand and flings it aside. He does no more. He steps aside, but Harry cannot run—he cannot run toward the friends he has failed and the people he loves. He backs up once more and finds that as he turns, the tunnel no longer leads toward the quidditch pitch, but rather to a desolate moor. In the distance, he sees a goat grazing on the grass, but that’s it—the only life form left is a meaningless four-hoofed animal.
“No.” This time, Harry jerks awake and the only desolate feeling he acquires is from the gray-covered walls of the Room of Requirement.