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The Ainur of Shadows

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Hazel Potter hated the stares from everyone that seemed to follow her wherever she went. 

Given, she was covered in blood, carrying an unconscious young girl through the main lobby of the Ministry but that wasn’t an unusual sight. Not when she was sure she’d given notice she was infiltrating the magical underworld’s biggest human trafficking ring to find the Polish Minister’s niece.

“Hazel!” The relieved but tired voice of Hermione rang through the crowd and she got to see the rare sight of three of the most composed people she knew running towards her. Hermione, the youngest Minister of Magic in the last century, came skidding to a halt before her with Ron and Draco at her sides. “You- I thought you might not come back and-”

“Why wouldn’t I.” Voice void of inflection, relying on the others to know it was an actual question, she carefully set the girl in her arms down onto the floor. “I was told to do a job. So I did.”

Draco kneeled down across from her, his medical bag already in hand and he checked over the girl thoroughly, even if his eyes darted up to look over her skeptically. “She’s fine physically, if in shock. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if she has some sort of trauma from this whole mess.” 

He waved a man from the side and Hazel didn’t move as the girl was levitated on a stretcher to be taken away, Draco looking at her with visible concern though Ron spoke up first. “You were gone for quite a while, Hazel. We were worried.”

Standing stiffly from where she’d taken a knee to the floor, she looked to her best friend and Head Auror, trying for a stiff smile and knowing it fell flat by the deepening concern on their faces. “I had to infiltrate the trafficking ring from the inside.” Finally taking a moment to use her magic to clean herself of blood the best she could now that the girl was safe- the other prisoners already in the hands of the medics she’d called in at the scene- Hazel snorted softly in a show of dark humor. “Seems that there were quite a few hidden supporters of Voldemort hiding and they all wanted the opportunity to rough-up the Girl Who Lived… Though I admit the blood is not all mine.”

“Hazel.” Hermione took a stern tone, even if her eyes held concern. “What did you do.”

It wasn’t a question. She’d done something, even a random passerby could guess that.

“They’re all alive.” Hazel transfigured the skimpy dress she was in into a tank top and jeans, instantly feeling much more comfortable. “Even if some wished they were not.”

“You should-” 

Interrupting Draco, knowing he’d only pester her about healing treatments that wouldn’t do anything and mind healers that wouldn’t be able to get past her mental barriers, her voice was still without inflection. “I’m heading out after a shower and change of clothes. I have a list of names to hunt down.”

And no one stopped her, some even scrambling out of her way when she passed.

Because wasn’t it legend?

She’d lost the last of her humanity and emotions when she’d charged into battle against Voldemort with her blood-red hair rippling out behind her like the wake of blood she left in each step she took.

Everyone knew that.

Hazel Potter, the Girl Who Lived To Win, was now nothing more than the glorified assassin that people of power or misfortune came to the Minister of Magic about hiring to do the impossible.

And yet when she stopped at the front desk of her muggle-run apartment building and gave the old lady who ran the desk a chocolate bar, when she helped the old man down the hall carry his groceries, or when she curled up in the bottom of her shower and shook with sobs as she mourned the girls in that horrible place she hadn't been able to save…

Well, she knew better than most that even a monstrous heart patched together with steel and the blood of countless enemies could cry out in pain.

 

As always, her presence was known far before she stepped inside the small house without bothering to knock, the white-haired woman not looking up from where she was reading a familiar magazine upside down. “Tea?”

Hazel gave a soft hum that sometimes, depending on her mood, seemed more like a grunt and then sank into the chair opposite the woman. Picking up the tea, she smelled it and then carefully took a sip.

“It’s not poisoned.” Luna Lovegood’s eyes were smiling at her from where she’d lowered the newspaper.

“Habit.” It wasn’t that Hazel expected Luna to poison her- not in a million years- but it was a hard habit to break after she’d died plenty of times from drinking or eating things she hadn’t seen made or made herself. “Apologies.”

Luna just nodded, not accepting the unneeded apology but not upset either. 

It was easy around the woman.

Hazel never had to see the woman worry and fret over her strange habits and voiceless presence, never had to pretend to be something she so clearly wasn’t anymore.

So by the time she’d finished the peppermint tea, her muscles had untensed for the first time in weeks and she was practically melted into the comfortable chair. When she spoke, her voice was soft in a way that it normally wasn’t. “Where're the midgets?”

“Rolf and the kids are out shopping for the upcoming school year.” Luna put aside the copy of The Quibbler that she was surely looking at to make sure the final product was up to standard, picking up a letter and holding it out. 

Hazel didn’t move to take it. Not when it could only be one of two things and either meant unpleasant news that would ruin her relaxed state.

Slowly, Luna set it down again. “Neville caught a rare magical infection while you were hunting down the rest of Voldemort’s followers. I understand if you don’t show up... but Hannah asked me to invite you.”

Her eyes slipped closed, tears on her cheeks.

So that was why the kids were out shopping when it was more than a month from school.

“When?”

“Two days ago. Hermione and I were both sent your invitation, even as we both knew you’d come here when you got back.” 

That was another thing about Luna- she told it like it was and there was no hesitation or fear at igniting Hazel’s legendary temper.

Breathing through the hurt deep in her chest, she nodded slowly. “I’ll go.”

She had gone to every funeral from the war, even if others had only invited her for the sake of spitting and cussing her out as they lowered the family she’d killed into the ground. And though there had been only a few of those with family that were alive and innocent, Hazel had still gone to each one and bore the hate. 

They balanced out the funerals she’d been to where people did nothing but thank her, not to mention it was probably more truthful to her character.

And she was sure that this one would be a new mix of emotions directed towards her.

“Not many will like that you were gone while one of the few brave men that you charged into battle with died.” 

Some days she swore Luna could read minds, if not the future. But then again, it wasn’t her business if the woman could. Instead, she reached up and covered her eyes with her hand in an unusual show of weariness. “It will not be as bad as telling Pansy I killed her father.”

Nor hearing the news she'd killed herself the next day.

Nothing would be that bad.

Luna nodded, not pushing on the subject, and instead poured her another cup of tea. “You’re wearing the cloak again.”

Hand lowering so she could stare at the shimmery fabric (that had turned a deep black after the war), Hazel scowled deeply, voice near a growl. “ Fuck .”

This earned her a light feathery laugh from Luna.

“Shut up.” She turned her glare onto Luna while pulling the cloak off and throwing it across the room.

The woman waved her hand in what she supposed was supposed to be an apology, still smiling widely. “You know it won’t stay there, right? It’s not going to leave you, not when you’ve claimed it.”

“Yes, well, either way, I’m going to ignore that it’s there right now for the sake of my sanity.” She knew it wouldn’t go away, none of the Deathly Hallows had since she’d woken up in Hagrid’s arms, not to mention the fact that she couldn’t seem to die- but as not even burning the damn things with fiendfyre seemed to work to keep them destroyed, she had no choice other than to ignore it for the moment. She heaved a sigh. “Elaine’s not going to be happy to see me.”

“Is anyone nowadays?” 

It wasn’t meant to be hurtful, Luna’s gaze curious, but she felt herself flinch back anyways. “I’m…” A muscle in her hand gave a tremor. “...no, I suppose they’re not.”

Luna smiled sadly and then stood, teacup in hand. “Take your time, dear. We have a few more hours yet before the kids get home.”

And when the woman stepped from the room, Hazel broke down into small silent sobs.

 

Hazel owned only one dress, which even though Ginny and Daphne called that an affront to woman-kind, there was only one place she wore dresses and thus she only needed one.

A long simple black dress.

A funeral dress.

The speeches had already started, with Hermione at the front of the elegant chappel when she slowly walked in, her steps silent against the ugly faded green carpet. Ignoring the small hint of an irritated glance Hermione sent her in the middle of the woman’s speech about Nevile’s love for plants, Hazel moved to stand stiffly to the side of the doors at the back of the room.

The speeches were nice, the pictures around the room of Neville with his wife and daughter enough to make her chest ache with emotion, but still, she found her cheeks were dry. 

Perhaps she had lost the last of her humanity and emotions.

Though she knew she hadn’t, sometimes she almost wished she had, especially as the room of people broke to talk and get some of the small foods- and her presence was finally noticed.

As she’d thought, for the past week since the news had been plastered over the newspapers that Neville had died the media had also been busy with digging their slimy claws into the family’s life and thus knew Hazel hadn’t been in touch with them even as she’d been back for most of that time.

So it was of little surprise to her when her name was spoken in hissed tones and people only moved around her to get further away. 

“Hazel.” Hannah’s face was lined with sadness, but she still held out her hand in some sort of way of telling her she wasn’t upset. “I’m glad to see you here.”

Her smile was stiff, her face unused to the gesture anymore, but at least she knew it was less unsettling than trying to add in teeth and having it coming across as a threatening grin. She took the hand. “My apologies. If I had been in contact I would have come as soon as I could, but I was unfortunately out of reach.”

If not even Death could find her when she was wearing her cloak, then no letter would have been able to.

Hannah nodded as if she understood and Hazel politely didn’t mention the woman had no clue about any part of her life. 

“Neville will find peace in watching over you.” Setting the hand not clasped in the woman's own her shoulder gently, Hazel spoke with the certainty of one that heard the voices of those that had crossed over in her dreams. “You’re not alone.”

The woman broke into tears, quiet and heartbreaking, and quickly Hermione moved forward to take Hannah in her arms. 

Which was fine with her.

Hazel was admittedly not the greatest person to come to when crying.

But as soon as the woman had been shepherded away, a figure stomped towards her, a hand moving like a blur and her head snapped to the side with the pure rage behind the slap. “How DARE you! ‘You’re not alone’? You have no right to say that, not when you just- just up and leave without saying goodbye and- and you’re never around anyways! And now you’re here out of the blue? What kind of fucking joke are you! You’re no godmother of mine!”

Elaine, her godchild, and Nevile’s only daughter was practically hysterical and hitting Hazel’s chest with every word. 

Her cheek stung slightly, even as she only stared down at the girl hitting her with a small frown. No one else would have dared hit her, but the girl didn’t reek of fear like them, especially not when she was so obviously consumed by grief. “Elaine…” 

“NO! No, you don’t get to be here! How could you- you leave and- and you’re not even upset !”

“Oh Elaine, dear…” Hannah was starting over with sadness in her eyes, but there was also fear when they glanced at Hazel.

Hazel shook her head slightly at the woman. “It’s alright, Hannah. It’s surely more convenient to take one’s anger and grief out on the only person here not able to cry than to further upset anyone else.” Holding in a grimace, she slowly moved forward to pull Elaine to her in a gentle hug, running a hand over her hair as the girl proceeded to break down into sobs. “Anger is easier than sadness, that I know, but it never lasts as long as we wish… everyone has to feel the grief eventually, as that is the only way to honor your father’s memory.”

“Except you.” The girl’s sobbed words were soft but audible. “Everyone except you.”

Her eyes closed briefly, wondering briefly how many of those around her that she counted as her family thought she was nothing but a machine without emotions, and when she opened her eyes they were emotionless and her tone flat. “Everyone but me.” Pulling back from the girl softly, she offered up a sharp and slightly mean grin. “But do not think this means that you have a free pass to attack me whenever you please, because most monsters do not take kindly to little girls who push their buttons.”

And like she knew would happen, the crowd around them stunk of fear as Ron moved forward with watery eyes, shepherding the girl away from her as if worried she would lash out against her own goddaughter.

She wondered if Sirius had felt this way after Azkaban, a sick feeling rising in her stomach.

“Hazel.” Luna, free of anything but the soft smell of lavender, moved to her side silently and laced her soft hand into Hazel’s rougher ones. “If you don’t mind coming over, I have a rather curious but rabid beast in the woods near the house that I finally got Rolf to agree to have you help put down.”

Nodding slightly as she felt her heart softly splintering more in her chest, she let the woman lead her away from the family that she found treated her more like a wild wolf they sometimes left scraps out for and counted as a famous charity case rather than a human.

Some days... she wished she couldn’t feel a damn thing.

Some days... she wished that she hadn’t come out of the Forbidden Forest.