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Introduction:

harry potter
Thanks to all the people who reviewed the last chapter. Your various permutations of the general "What the F***!?! Update now!" Were most appreciated. I feel kind of bad for jumping a twist like that on you after 40 chapters. Kind of deceitful. Good to know the majority of people appreciated it.
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“Harry?” Padma said quietly, standing at the end of the hospital bed. Harry seemed to be sleeping, his chest rising and falling weakly. His eyes were red, like he’d been crying. Perhaps the pain was worse than he let on. She felt bad for needing to wake him. “Harry wake up.” She reached out and tapped his leg. He jerked fitfully, but his eyes flickered open. He didn’t speak though, didn’t acknowledge her. He just stared off into space. What had Dumbledore said to him?

“Harry I‘ve been talking to the healers. They‘ve run some more tests.” She licked her lips. “Look, it looks like a few months was actually optimistic. There‘s damage deep down, lots of damage. You need to let them help you now or... or you‘ll die. In a few weeks.”

Harry said nothing, he didn’t even seem to have heard her.

“You won‘t be able to fight Voldemort.” Padma tried a different tack. “I‘m not saying you‘ll have weeks like you‘ve been going all year. You‘ll have weeks in this hospital bed, not able to move, eventually you won‘t even be able to talk. You won‘t be able to kill Voldemort. You won‘t be able to be the chosen one.”

Harry flinched, pain running across his tired face.

“You see Harry, you‘ve got to let them help you.” Padma stepped up to put her hand on Harry’s. “Please?”

“You do what you have to do.” Harry pulled his hand away. He still hadn’t looked at her.

“You‘ll let them help you?” Padma tried not to be put off. “You‘ll take off the evil eye and let them work on you?”

“Yes, why not.” Harry rolled over so he was facing away from her. His breathing stuttered, he sounded like he was holding back tears. Padma backed away, she had got what she came for. The healers would fix Harry’s body. What had happened to his mind? That might take a little longer.

What had Dumbledore said to him...
*


The boy who was once called Harry faded in his mind as the healers entered his room. Bustling around and speaking comforting, empty words. They cleaned him up, washing his arms and chest. They asked him to remove the bracer. He did, letting it fall to the floor with a brassy clatter. The healers shied away from the mark on his arm. Fearful. Why should he care.

They did something that was supposed to numb him. He couldn’t tell the difference. Everything was dulled already. He watched, unable and unwilling to care, as they cut his skin open. His blood seeped out, quickly staunched by a healer. He wished they wouldn’t bother.

A cold gel was swabbed onto his ruined hand. Ruined for what? For the sake of what? All useless. He wished they wouldn’t bother.
*


Draco slapped the sore skin of his arm to try and stay awake. It had been burnt in the battle, but it was fine now. Just enough residual redness and pain to help him stay alert. He swung his weary eyes around the waiting room, all of the marauders were here. Most of them had finally succumbed to sleep, Draco didn’t blame them. It was hard to imagine that the deadly midnight assault on the creature ship had been just last night. They had been worn out, worn down. Draco pinched his arm again. He wondered if there was anywhere he could find some tea. The tea shop was closed but surely the healers had a staff room or something. Maybe he could ask one.

Or maybe he could just fall asleep.

Draco shook his head. Some of them had to be awake when the healers finally stopped working on Harry. He shuddered, they had already been at it for hours. How many... additions.... had Harry made? He glanced around the room again. Everyone seemed to be asleep. Even Ginny, who seemed to have nodded off in the act of pinching herself. They had all been there all night, no one had collected them. He supposed it was only a matter of time before a teacher or an order member came to wrangle them up and drag them back to Hogwarts, where they would no doubt stay. Chained to posts like dogs so they couldn’t run off again.

Draco got wearily to his feet, maybe he could walk some of his tiredness off. He stepped carefully around the prone marauders and stepped up to the door to the ward. Harry’s bed was obscured by curtains but the shadow of the healers were still moving against the surface. As he watched one of them detached and stepped towards the door. Draco stepped away to let him out, hope and dread rising in his stomach.

“Is there any news?” Draco asked.

“Yes, there is.” The healer looked around the room. “Is his family here?”

“Yes.” Draco said definitely, looking over the marauders. “Wait a moment... HEY!” The marauders jerked to life, hands flying to wands before they realized where they were. Draco turned back to the healer. “They‘re up. What is the news?”

“Well we... we removed several items from the body of your friend.” The poor healer swallowed nervously. “We found a drop-gem embedded in his sternum. There was also something in the wall of his stomach. We think it may have been designed to negate poison but it seems to have had the opposite effect. It was the source of his illness. We also found-”

“What about his eye?” Draco broke in. “Have you fixed his eye?”

“His... his eye.” The healer paused. “His eye had been removed too long ago, there is a great deal of scarring. Unfortunately we were unable to restore it. We are currently looking into whether the installation he has is high quality enough to leave there.”

“Installation...” Draco stared at the man coldly. “You‘re talking about his eye.”

“Yes, I know.” The healer shook his head and turned back towards the door. “We‘ll try to keep you informed.” He pushed back through the door and hurried back towards the curtained bed.

Draco looked back over the marauders. Through their sand-filled, droopy eyes he could see their sadness. Harry had fought so hard and got nothing in return but accusations of murder and a permanent disfigurement. And a dark mark, they could not forget that.

“Harry might say it was worth it.” Padma said softly. “For driving Voldemort to ground.”

“Of course he‘d say that. Doesn‘t make it true.” Ron pulled his knees up to his chest. “I mean you heard him in there. He‘d think death was worth it.”

“Is he wrong?” Draco muttered darkly. Perhaps they didn’t hear him. Perhaps it was just as well. They were all startled as another door was pushed open, revealing Professor McGonagall. She didn’t need to say anything, they knew why she was there. They were going back. And they might never leave.
*


“Are you sure?” Natalie asked? Her voice admirably free of shaking. “You could get a bracer like Harry‘s. Or perhaps there are less invasive means of removal.”

“There are not, it was not made to be removed.” Snape tightened the strap around his arm. “And I would prefer to not be dependent on an item of illegal jewelry. Just please do it, it is already beginning to burn.”

Thankfully she did not argue, but instead bent down and touched her wand to the skin on Snape’s arm. The slicing pain was distant, dulled by potions. There were bottles by his arm, some empty, some waiting to grow the skin back after the mark was gone. He was in his apartments at Hogwarts, the only place he could have gained those potions without questions was from his own supplies. The searing began and Snape looked away, watching his own arm butchered was not what disturbed him, not after everything he’d seen. But it reminded him of what Harry was going through. Of the dark lord as well. What would he do next? What would his next move be...

“He may go into hiding.” Natalie answered his unanswered question, still intent on his arm. “Like he did fifteen years ago.”

“He will not.” Snape shook his head. “He was forced to hide then, he had no power. Now he does, it is lessened certainly, but he still has some.”

“Bellatrix, Rookwood and Forneus.” She traced easily around the edge of the skull. “That is who he has left. What would he do with them?”

“It will be savage, I am certain of that.” Snape felt the cutting stop and watched as Natalie picked the little flap of skin up and calmly incinerated it. It was done, he was free. Strange that he should feel so little. Perhaps because he knew he was not truly free until Voldemort was dead. Perhaps because he knew that, without the ability to spy, he was next to useless.

“Don‘t think that.” Natalie’s eyes flickered up to his as she daubed his arm with a potion soaked bandage.

“But I am.” Snape shook his head. “Perhaps not useless but... if I had not acted on instinct we would now know exactly what Voldemort was planning. We would be able to counter him instead of stumbling around in the darkness.”

“You had to.” Was all she said.

“Perhaps.” Snape let his head drop back, perhaps.

“You know them better than anyone.” Natalie continued. “You can work out what he will do next.”

“I have been trying.” Snape replied tetchily. “But I cannot think of anything he would wish to do that he has the manpower to accomplish. Unless he has some plan I am unaware of. Which he almost certainly has. I always got the sense that he had something brewing.”

“The ministry? The department of mysteries? The Prophecy?”

“He covets that no doubt. But I can see no way he could obtain it with three death eaters.”

“Four.” Natalie corrected. “Barty Crouch is still out there somewhere.”

“And if he is not dead then he is doing Merlin knows what.” Snape shook his head. “It could be anything.”

“Severus,” Natalie took his face in her hands and tilted it up to meet her eyes. “Not so low now. We won today. It may not feel like it, but we won a victory. Victories have been few and far between this past year, we need to cherish them, not worry about what will happen next.” Snape was once again amazed by the way she could break through to him, whatever his mood. He smiled,

“I believe I have some wine.”
*


The boy who carried the name Harry felt himself enter the familiar dream. He felt floorboards under his back, scratchy through the thin hospital robe. He knew where he would be when he opened his eyes. And finally, he even knew why.

He pushed himself off the floor, leaning his tired frame against the wall. The wall painted with bears and snitches over a pale blue sky full of fluffy clouds. Harry felt like spitting but he couldn’t muster the energy. He ignored the crib in the center of the room, it’s shiny mobile spinning idly in the dream-wind. He shoved the door open and descended the stairs. The revulsion he always felt was still there, but he could barely bring himself to care. He knew what this place was now.

No one-year-old remembers their house. No one-year-old could remember every photo, or the pattern on the wallpaper. This place was a lie, a parasitic memory that had been burnt into his mind. The creeping sickness in his skin was his mind’s way of telling him that it wasn’t real, that it didn’t belong.

He stepped up to the front door and stepped outside. There were street signs in the memory. No one-year-old would remember street signs, they couldn’t even read them. He should have known, should have realized somehow.

He couldn’t feel the orchard nearby. God knows what that represented. Some metaphor for safety his mind was projecting out maybe. Who knew. The river? Some other part of his mind... it didn’t matter. Harry let himself fall to the ground on the grass, it was all pointless. It wasn’t worth fighting this anymore, it was burnt onto the back of his scull. He could never escape.

His eyes flickered open in the hospital ward. He could feel the sore new growth in his hand. It was pink, new skin, and smaller than the other. Harry dropped it back onto the blankets. Other parts of his body hurt too, little scars and injuries. They had fixed him up. He wished they hadn’t bothered.

The dream was still swirling in his head, biting at him. It was too hard. He saw his things piled neatly against the wall, even his clothes. Suddenly he knew he had to leave. This place... he just had to leave. He quietly pushed out of bed, ignoring the creaking in every muscle and drew his bag over. He dressed quickly and disillusioned himself before slipping out the door.

The marauders were sleeping there, lying across benches or curled up on the floor. He didn’t wake them. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. Couldn’t talk, he had no idea how he would even start. He hurried away and down the stairs. He didn’t stop until he was out of the building and a few streets away. A small street, not busy. Breathing hard he shoved his wand out into the street. He found that he could barely keep his arm up for the few seconds it took for the knight bus to blur out of nowhere and screech to a stop in front of him.

“Ere are you Harry Potter?” The pimpled conductor squinted at him, his voice full of amazement.

“No.” The word was hollow in his chest.

“Right, right, incognito.” The man tapped his nose. “I never believed any of that stuff about ya. Hero that‘s what I say.”

“Right.” Hero... that cut to the core like a knife. “Take me to Godrics Hollow.” He had no idea where the idea had come from, but as soon as he said it he knew he needed to go. It was as strong a need to go to it as there had been to leave in the dream.

“Godrics Hollow?” The pimpled guy swallowed. “Right, I see.”

The bus moved off and the nameless boy sagged down in a chair. Why was he doing this? Did he even have a reason? He didn’t seem to have reason’s anymore. He remembered being full of fire and need, burning passion for the fight. But now he just felt hollow, like he’d been scooped out. He didn’t want anything anymore. Except perhaps to die. Why was he going to Godrics Hollow? Why not. It wasn’t like he had anywhere else to go.

The bus screeched to a halt and he got out without speaking. The bus disappeared with a whoosh, a purple blur in the air. Harry looked up and down the street, it looked like any other village. It was empty this time of day, like a ghost town. Suited his mood perfectly. He looked forward, an derelict house, burnt and with the top floor blown off.

But he knew what had stood there. He had seen it in his dreams. This was where it had happened. It just hadn’t happened to him.

He stepped forward his hand stretched out, then shied away. This house was just more lies. The feelings in his head, grief, loss, fear. They weren’t his, they weren’t his loss. Only strangers had died here, two strangers. People who had nothing to do with him. The grief was another trick, just another level of lie.

He spun away and stalked down the street, not looking back. He had never lived there, it meant nothing to him. Or should mean nothing. His feet brought him to the square and he lent tiredly on the war memorial. He should never have come here, it was not what he needed. He raked his hand through his hair.

Not his hand.

Not his hair.

He spun and punched the stone, hissing out rage through his teeth. The lie poisoned everything. Even his real memories were tainted. He didn’t even look like this for Christ’s sake! His whole body was a mask!

The stone shifted under his fingers. He looked up just as the memorial seemed to melt, morphing into, a statue underneath. Harry stumbled back. No... no no no. Under the memorial there were two figures, a man and a woman. The woman cradled something in her hands. The man... the man looked just like him.

No he doesn’t. I don’t even look like me. The boy trembled with rage as he looked on the happy Potter family. The testament in stone to the life he had never really had. His fingers went to his wand.

“Reducto!” The wand flickered out, even through the rage the spell flew true. It struck the head of the father statue, shattering it into splinters. Some of them cut the boy’s flesh. He didn’t care.

“Reducto!!” Lilly Potter’s head snapped off and crunched onto the tarmac. Rolling to a stop in a storm drain.

“Reducto!!” The last shot was the strongest, striking out in a blinding bolt of light, obliterating the bundled infant. Blowing the little boy-who-lived to smithereens. Flames flickered across the statue before they died out. Flickered across the ruined stumps of heads and died to nothing.

The nameless boy stepped back, breathing like he’d run a marathon. His clothes wet with sweat. He dropped his wand back into his pocket and turned his back on the statue, his breath still coming in furious bursts. He couldn’t think, couldn’t breath. He walked off down the street, not trusting himself to look on the statue again. It made it all too real.

His eyes found a graveyard. Both eyes, real and magical. He shuddered, he’d got used to the shining overlay over his vision, the x-ray view of the world. Now it was just a constant reminder. A reminder of what he’d sacrificed for the lie. He pushed the graveyard gate open and let the eye roam, in a moment it had angled in on the Potter grave. He walked hesitantly to it, his wand safely away in his pocket. He pushed a piece of ivy off the stone and read the inscription.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death


Well that was bollocks. Being dead meant you had at least one other enemy left, namely the one that killed you. His eye whirled in it’s socket, looking straight down. The two coffins, side to side in the ground, stared back at him. But... there was a shadow. Like a vacant area. He drew his wand and muttered a revealing spell. Faint whiffs of illusion drew out of the ground to meet him. He waved his wand again, cutting the misty waifs away. He worked... he didn’t know how long. Probably minutes, maybe hours. At some point the gray sky gave way to rain and the graveyard grass turned slick. Harry ignored it, concentrating on the spells. It was good. It was a puzzle, breaking the illusion. It stopped him from thinking.

Finally he was done. Nothing different showed on the surface, but down underground... Harry stood and stepped back, his heart hammering in his chest. There was a third coffin on top of the other two, arranged like a pyramid. Inside... inside was a smaller body, a child. It’s tiny arms crossed over it’s chest.

The nameless boy fell to his knees. There it was, the final proof. The final incontrovertible check. That poor wasted body in there was Harry Potter. He could even see a tiny scratch on the bone of his scull, above his eye, in the shape of a lightning bolt. The real scar had cut all the way to the bone, his was barely more than makeup. That was all he was in fact... makeup for a puppet. A god-damn doll.

He raised his wand to the stone, but said nothing. The anger in him was gone. He had seen the bodies of the real Potters, lying together. It was hard to feel anger, but he wished he did. The anger at least filled him up, filled the emptiness with flames. But now the fire was gone and he felt even emptier for it. He found himself resting the point of his wand against the rough, wet stone.

It wasn’t even his wand. He stared at it, thoughts skittering over the numb center of his mind. It was a wand gained from killing, killing and fighting in a war he was never supposed to be part of. This wand was his killing wand. He had done horrible things for the sake of this war... to others... to himself. He found himself pressing down harder on the wood. He had pickled his soul in blood and what had it got him? He added his other arm and pushed harder. He had fought, and he’d been broken. The wand splintered with a loud crack, the springy wood bending almost double before it twisted into ribbons. A little red fluff was visible through the break. It had had a phoenix feather core, he never knew.

“Well that makes thinks easier.”

The voice had come from behind him. He turned slowly but his magic eye had already whizzed around to find the intruder. The black robes told him everything he needed to know. Harry knew he should feel panic, or dread, fear perhaps, at least surprise. But he was damned if he felt anything.

“You would be Rookwood.” His voice sounded dead in his ears.

“Yes I am August Rookwood.” The man sketched a sarcastic bow, his wand in his hand. “Thank Merlin I still have a watch on the underage magic detectors. You‘ve come a long way just to slip now. A long long way...”

“Felt like further.” The empty boy dropped the remains of his wand onto the Potter grave. Perhaps some fool wizard would find it and make up some story about it. He turned back to the death eater and asked, “Are you going to kill me?” He was surprised that his voice did not sound eager.

“Eventually Mr Potter, no doubt.” Rookwood held out his wand. “But first you‘re going to secure something for me.”

“What?”

“The dark lord‘s undying favor.” Rookwood tilted his head up arrogantly. “I will be raised above the others, above even that bastard Crouch.” Rookwood paused, obviously expecting the weary figure before him to say something. "Well? Nothing to add? No witticisms?"

“No.” The boy who had been Harry stepped forward. “Do whatever you like to me. I don‘t care anymore.”

“Is this some kind of trick?” Rookwood raised his wand threateningly. “You are alone here I know that... well, to be sure. Stubefy!”

He closed his eyes before the spell hit. The darkness was welcome.
*


A crashing noise woke him. Flashing light burned through his eyelids as he groaned. The noise went on and on, familiar... very familiar. His memories twinged, his real ones.

“I‘m in the underground.” His eyes flickered open just as the tube train flashed out of sight, leaving the tunnel in darkness. He felt the cords binding his hands together, his fingers danced along them trying to find a knot. There was none. They were tight though, biting into his skin, magical no doubt. He didn’t have to feel to know that his legs were similarly bound. He didn’t bother to try to stand.

“You are indeed Mr Potter.” Rookwood stood over him, his wand outstretched. “The London Underground.”

The nameless boy twisted and looked around him, one of the walls was been broken through and a dark, earthy tunnel stretched away. Now that the train was gone he could hear something in the darkness all around, a scratching slinking sound.

“We‘re not alone.” Harry breathed.

“Oh, so you noticed.” Rookwood held up his wand and lit it, smiling. The darkness rolled back, but not far. A grey wall stopped the light, a writhing mass of cloth and rot.

“What... what are they?” He looked on the dark hooded figures. As he watched one of them turned its shrouded head towards him. It let out a death rattle.

“Those are Dementors.” Rookwood smiled. “Had you forgotten that they too served the dark lord? Slipped your mind?”

“Dementors...” The boy looked into the swirling mass. Wasn’t he supposed to be feeling some sort of coldness, despair? Wasn’t that what Dementors were supposed to do when you were close to them? He shook his head, they couldn’t touch him, a person could only feel so much despair and he was already at his limit. And as for making him relive his worst memories? Ha! His darkest moment was still fresh in his mind.

“The dementors like it down here.” Rookwood continued. “They‘ve been breeding down here like flies. There are hundreds of them.”

“Dementors don‘t dig.” Harry glanced back at the tunnel. “What else do you have down there? I thought I killed everyone you had.”

“You did.” Rookwood sneered. “But that doesn‘t matter. In fact, none of that matters. Now be quiet.” Rookwood flicked his wand, making a silencing charm. A second flick levitated him off the floor. Rookwood reached into his pocket and pulled out a long silvery length of cloth, easily recognizable. An invisibility cloak. He just hung there in the air as the cloak was thrown over him. He really couldn’t have done anything else. Rookwood turned and walked up the tunnel, his black shoes slipping on the wet dirt.

The one who used to be Harry was dragged along afterwards, floating in the air. He couldn’t move... speak... he was a ghost. Right now his situation fit him like a glove. He hung weakly as Rookwood moved further towards the scratching, digging sound. The dementors followed after, filling the tunnel with cold. Up ahead there was a turning. As Rookwood walked calmly around the bend figures came into view. One dark cloaked figure standing tall, the rest ragged and torn and scrabbling at the dirt mindlessly. No, it wasn’t just their clothes that were ragged. It was their flesh.

Inferi, or zombies. Who could tell the difference? The figure in front of them turned as Rookwood approached. Dark long hair spun out as Bellatrix stepped towards Rookwood.

“You are late Augustus.” The female death eater was not as pretty as she had been. It seemed like a steel toed boot with the force of a falling teenager behind it did more damage than expected. The left side of her face was crushed in, a mass of scars and bulging skin. When she spoke she slurred, only the right side of her mouth moving. Her eye was a raw socket, nothing left.

She had lost her eye. How wonderful. How very poignant. Under the cloak the invisible prisoner felt his emptiness filled with a tiny spark of satisfaction.

“Hello Bella.” Rookwood stopped, his hand flickering to his wand. “Shouldn‘t you be in your own tunnel? That was the plan was it not? Forneus in one, myself-”

“I know the plan.” Bellatrix snapped. “Do you Augustus? It seems to me that you are the one who doesn’t know the plan. I came here to see why you were late. Why were you late?”

“I was delayed momentarily, nothing to concern you.” Rookwood waved his hand away. “You should go to your own tunnel. Without someone there the wrangle them the dementors may be getting restless.”

“I want the truth of this.” Bellatrix held out an accusing finger.

“You will not get it.” Rookwood dropped his laconic demeanor and snapped at her. “Get to your own tunnel. We take down the ministry tonight, there can be no mistakes because one of us is trying to separate themselves out from the crowd.”

“There is no crowd anymore.” Bellatrix sneered through her ruined face. “There are three of us. There will be more than enough glory to go around.” Bellatrix turned and dissaperated into thin air.

“Lying bitch.” Rookwood grated. “We all want to be the dark lord‘s right hand. Stop digging you freaks!” He directed the last one to the creatures burrowing in the dirt. They stopped moving and stood, their vacant eyes rotting in their skulls. Rookwood raised his wand and the dirt began flying away faster. In a short moment the dirt became a brick wall, old and faded. The wall of the ministry.

“Are you ready Mr Potter?” Rookwood grinned up at the invisible prisoner hanging above him. “Here we go.” He turned to the wall and raised his wand. There was a shattering blast and the wall caved in. Behind it a man at a desk jumped to his feet his hand tangling in his robes. A green flash of light struck him in the head, he dropped onto the desk, scattering papers.

“Go.” Rookwood pointed. The dememtors flew past him, the inferi lumbering along between them. There were a few moments of silence, then the screams started.
*


“Dumbledore!” Moody yelled as he thumped down the corridor at Hogwarts, moving his old bones as fast as they could. “Dumbledore get your senile arse down here!”

“Moody?” Albus appeared around the corner, his face a mask of concern. “You were on guard duty. What are you doing here?”

“Didn‘t you listen to me?” Moody threw his hand back the way he’d come. “The ministry‘s falling! Enough dementors to paint the sky black!”

“Why didn‘t you send a patronus?”

“Didn‘t you hear what I just said! Every inch of that place is full of the soul sucking demons! No patronus could cut through that!”

“My god, we must help them!”

“Oh really? You think so?” Moody saw his spit fly.

“We must go now.” Dumbledore pushed past him, dashing to the door. “We can take back the ministry, all of us can.”

“But there could be a trap!” Moody tried to keep up, his breath catching in his chest. “You can‘t go in there blind you can‘t just... we don‘t even know where Voldemort is!” Dumbledore was speeding away. “We need a plan! Do you have a plan you old bast-” But Dumbledore was gone, already around the corner. Moody doubled over, he was old, too old. But gods he wasn’t done yet, he wasn’t... done. What the hell was Dumbledore thinking? He could get them all killed! The entire order. The entire bloody order in one fell swoop, and what the hell could he do to stop it? He felt so old...

But not yet done.

He straightened and staggered down the hall. Faster. Faster. He found the door he wanted and threw it open.

“Severus!” Moody shouted towards the startled Professor. “The order needs your help!”

“The order?” Snape stood, his hands flat on the table. Zhao was beside him in a moment. “I am not a member of the order any-”

“The ministry is compromised!” Moody saw his words cut Snape. “Dementors in more numbers than ever before.”

“And you want all the help you can get?” Snape sneered. “The order had done me no favors lately.”

“Severus,” Natalie Zhao spoke calmly, despite the situation. “Look at him, something else is going on.”

“Smart girl.” Moody shook his head. “Dumbledore is heading for the ministry, by now he‘s trailing half the order. He‘s going in without any eyes, without anything. It is a trap, or could be. Even if it‘s not he‘s still going to lose half the order. He‘s... he‘s reckless. He‘s stuck in the old war. He‘s everything you said he was. But if we let this happen...”

“I know.” Snape’s eyes flickered with panic. “We need to help them. We need to help the order.”

“That‘s why I‘m here Snape.” Moody was gritting his teeth. Every moment was wasted. “But I don‘t know what... there are only three of us.”

“Four.” Snape muttered under his breath. “There are four of us. Natalie, would you get Michelson. Meet us at the ministry back entrance.”

“Even four can‘t cover this.” Moody growled as the unspeakable dashed from the room. “You know that.”

“I know. I know well...” Snape pulled a robe off the back of a chair. “We need an army.”

“Do you know where to find one?”

“I do.” Snape closed his eyes, “I do.”
*


Rookwood stepped over a body. It’s eyes were still open, it’s mouth moving vacantly. The dementor’s kiss, it left them living, but they were bodies nonetheless. Rookwood paid them no mind.

“Welcome Mr Potter, to the Department of Mysteries.” Rookwood pulled the cloak off his floating prisoner. Harry Potter. His prisoner was just hanging there dumbly. Well... he couldn’t really do any different. Rookwood let Harry down to the floor and canceled the silencing charm. “Well Mr Potter? You have anything to say?”

“What are you doing with me?” Potter’s voice was a little horse from the long silence. “You‘re trying to earn points with your lord, isn‘t capturing me enough?”

“More than enough Harry. More than enough.” Rookwood tweaked his wand and the bonds on Harry’s legs snapped off. Another click and Harry stumbled forward. “But I am after the icing on the cake. If I am to surpass Crouch in terms of merit to the lord... I must seek the icing.”

“That‘s the stupidest thing I‘ve ever heard.” Harry said dully.

“Well I didn‘t ask you.” Rookwood hurried forward through the ministry, he had to slow down a moment later though as Harry shuffled along behind him. “Hurry up!”

“My feet are asleep. Your ropes were too tight.”

“Just move.” Rookwood walked back and grabbed Harry by the front of his shirt. The dementors were still swirling by the ceiling, looking for victims. There were still a few left. Not enough to trouble over though. He stepped into out into the memory office, pulling his strangely compliant charge past the tank of brains. He stopped by the door to the death chamber, there was the sound of spells from within, someone holding out perhaps. He pushed the door open in time to see a wizard scrambling away from an inferi trip and fall. The corpse-warrior grabbed the blubbering unspeakable in it’s unshakable grip and threw him away with inhuman strength. Screaming as he flew across the room, his scream was cut off as he fell through the archway in the center. The curtains ruffled for a moment, then went still again.

Rookwood hid a shudder, he was never entirely comfortable with the execution portal. Harry watched from his side with dull eyes. What was wrong with the boy? Never mind. Rookwood picked his way around the edge of the room, giving the inferi a wide birth, and pushed open the door at the other side.

“Well Potter here we are.” Rookwood gestured impressively at the banks of shelves in front of them, each one with rows upon rows of tiny spheres. “This is the hall of prophecy.”

“These are prophecies?” Harry sniffed disbelievingly as Rookwood dragged him along the line of shelves. “They look like snow-globes.”

“They are records of prophecies, and they are the reason we are here.” Rookwood glanced down at the boy he was dragging along. “Did you know there was a prophecy made about you?”

Harry didn’t answer, but he sniffed again, his mouth twisting into a sneer.

“I assume that was a yes.” Rookwood glanced up at the number on the shelf, yes this was it. “The prophecy concerned you and the dark lord, you know that too?”

Once again the boy stayed silent. Rookwood poked him in the back to set him walking up to where the prophecy was held.

“The dark lord is very eager to get his hands on the prophecy. That prophecy.” Rookwood pointed at the particular orb. “And I will be the one to give it to him. My icing, you could say.”

“What do you need me for?” Potter was staring at the orb with barely contained hatred. What was going on?... Never mind, it wasn’t important.

“Shall I tell you something about the prophecies of the department of mysteries? They are keyed, protected. Only certain people can lift them from where they lie. Namely the people they have been made about. So the only people who can take this prophecy are the dark lord, and you."

Potter stared at the orb for a moment longer, the words sinking into him. Then he threw his head back and laughed, laughed so hard his eyes ran with tears. It was a reaction Rookwood had not expected. Laughter, but not in jest, not in joy. This was a bitter laugh, full of darkness. What was going on?

"So that's it is it?" Harry choked out, his dead eyes still glistening. “What a bitter joke”

“What?” Rookwood shook his head.

“And if someone else grabs one?” Harry reached out his hand. “What happens then?”

“If they are very lucky they might escape with only major injuries.” Rookwood answered confusedly. “But in all likelihood? They would die. Screaming.”

“Really?” The Potter boy’s hand hovered over the swirling glass. “To hell with it.” His fingers closed around the orb.
*


Minerva screamed as she threw her patronus against the grew wall before her, knowing it was too late. The dementors scattered but a lifeless body fell from their clutches. An auror. Subjected to the kiss.

Minerva shuddered, she only hoped it had been quick. She spun as cold hands grabbed her from behind, crushing her with inhuman strength. The breath fled from her lungs and she felt ribs crack. In desperation she transformed and dashed away on four feet, spinning and changing back to plant a fireball in the chest of the inferi that had held her. As soon as it was gone another took it’s place.

They were overrun, there were too many!

“Help me! Oh god help me!” A figure ran from out of the madness, his green bowler still clutched in his hands. “Please!”

“Get out of here you fool!” McGonagall shoved Fudge away. She could not deal with him. Her eyes searched through the scrambling masses for the head of the order. “Dumbledore! Dumbledore we must pull back!”

She could not see him, she could not see anything. Despair was her only warning and she spun, a shining light throwing a dementor away that had been practically on her back. She didn’t even know where they were anymore, near the courts possibly. Down in the deeps, no escape.

She heard a scream from her left and sent a patronus wildly into the surging crowds. The scream cut off sharply. Whether she had had any effect she did not know, she had to transform again to dance out of the way of a swooping dementor and snapped back to send another shining light to hold them back again. But her body was tired, her wand arm tired.

Rotting flesh filled her nostrils and she tried to bring her wand around. Too slowly. The dead fist crunched into the side of her head and she fell. She brought her wand up and blew the dead figure to shards, blood already dripping into her eyes. They needed help, and there was no one to give it.

No one.
*


The orb came free in Potter’s hand, it’s faint radiance shining through his fingertips. Rookwood felt his heart leap, but the Potter boy was staring at the prophecy like it was a live snake.

“Good, good. Now give it to me!” Rookwood demanded, but the boy didn’t move.

“Not possible.” Harry shook his head. “Saw the body...” The body? He wasn’t making any sense.

“Just give me the bloody orb!” Rookwood made to grab it but Potter slipped away.

“It‘s not... It‘s not... Can‘t.” Suddenly the white light faltered. A tinny whine filled the air, like grinding gears. Harry held up his hand, slowly uncurling his fingers. In the middle of the white a tiny spike of darkness was growing, like ink in milk. The blackness grew until it covered the whole inside of the orb, it was no longer shining glass but a polished orb of obsidian. The whine grew in the air, biting into his ears. Suddenly there was a fizzing crackle and Potter yelped in pain, spilling the prophecy onto the floor. Rookwood cried out, it would break for sure! But when the orb struck the ground it squelched, spreading out like clay. Smoke rose from the blackened glass.

Rookwood leant forwards and held his hand out over it. The heat was unbearable this close and he had to shy back. The prophecy had melted. Melted into a steaming puddle on the floor.

The Potter boy... he did this!

“What did you do?” Rookwood snarled. Potter backed away, his hands held up.

“Not me, Dumbledore. He must have switched them.”

“Dumbledore could not have touched the prophecy!”

“He could if it was already played out.” Potter glanced at the muck on the floor. “A trap, or else his illusions on me interfered somehow.”

“You speak madness.” Rookwood reached out to grab the boy but just as he did so the ground shook, throwing them both off their feet. “What the hell is that?”

“He‘s come.” The Potter boy was staring through the ceiling like a madman, his face again an empty mask of horror. “He‘s come.”
*


Suddenly the dementors went still, floating off their enemies to hover by the ceiling. The silence broken only be the groaning of the wounded. Minerva's eyes found the entrance to the lift, it's mesh opening in a grating crash. Stepping out into the corridor, black robes floating behind him and a hand curled in a wave to the creatures swirling above, was the dark lord himself. Minerva felt her heart jump to her throat. She glanced around, the order was in tatters. Only Dumbledore stood tall, the rest of them were covered in blood and shaking from the exertion of the battle. There was no force here to stop a dark lord, no force at all.

Voldermort’s eyes found a quivering lump on the floor and he smiled. Ignoring Dumbledore the dark lord crooked a finger, pulling the figure to his feet. The green bowler was gone, but the pale flesh remained.

“Ah, Cornelius.” Voldemort chuckled. “Remember back when you used to invite me up to your office for tea? Back when you were just a department head and I, just a innocent boy. Oh how far we‘ve come.”

“Please...” Fudge whimpered. “Please don‘t hurt me.”

“Hurt you Cornelius? But why would I need to?” Voldemort gestured to the ceiling. “Even as I speak the rest of your ministry has already been overrun. The ministry you so love is a nest of soul sucking wraiths. Why would I need to hurt you? I already have everything I wanted from you.”

“Tom,” Dumbledore’s voice spoke out soft in the darkness. “You can not possibly think I will let this stand?”

“No old man, I do not.” Voldemort flicked his wand towards the Headmaster. Fudge dropped to the floor and scampered away down the corridor. “I think you will do as you have always done. Stand bravely in the face of the tide, and be swept under.”

“Tom I shall-”

“No!” Voldemort cut the Headmaster off with a sharp word. “I have grown tired of you.” Voldemort raised his hand and the Dementors fell like hunting hawks. Minerva was forced to fight for her life against the grey hoard, spinning around her like a vortex of death. And in flashes of light beyond that vortex she could see Dumbledore rushing towards his foe, his wand out like a sword.

Minerva tried to cut her way forward. Tried to get to them, to help. But the crush was too great. An inferi had her arm in it’s vice like grip and she blew it off with flames. Another took it’s place too quickly. Far too quickly. There was a gout of purple light that cut through the air, momentarily beating back the dementors. Through the gap she could see the dueling wizards in the center of all this, Dumbledore raising the very stones of the floor in a wall against the dark lord, but it was blasted to shreds just as quickly. Dumbledore was driven to his knees.

Minerva dashed towards him but the grey masses closed between them. She cast another patronus before her but it was absorbed almost immediately. She felt an arm clutch hers and spun to burn it off before she recognized the face.

“Remus!” She moved back to back with the werewolf, spinning her patronus into a circle around them. “We need to get to them!”

“It is too late for that!” He shouted back.

“Then what do you propose!”

“We die.” Lupin delivered that last in a flat growl. “We are finished.”

“We are not!” Minerva tried to throw another patronus but the despair was sinking in and it faltered as white mist, easily brushed aside by the wraiths. Suddenly there was a burst of tearing noise, breaking the flagstones and making the chamber shake with it’s force. As it died there a flash of red light and a high cruel laugh.

“That is the best you could do?” The voice of Voldemort was unmistakable. “I win old man.”

The dementors parted for a moment, like clouds in wind. The dark lord stood over the sprawled form of the Headmaster, his boot on Dumbeldore’s neck. Minerva felt despair that had nothing to do with the dementors. She let her wand hand drop to her side. They had lost. It was all over.

“Expecto Patronum!” A chorus of strong voices cried the spell and the room was filled with a wall of light. Minerva watched as a charging white lion crashed into the massed forms before her, a snarling wolf running at it’s heels.

“You! Traitor!” Voldemort had his wand drawn and had spun to face the lift. Minerva turned to look but saw just one figure standing there, his arms crossed in arrogant casualness.

“Step away from the Headmaster.” Snape had his wand drawn and flicked it down towards the dark lord. “I have not seen eye to eye with him of late but it would be a pity if he died.”

“I will kill you!” Voldemort surged forward and Snape’s wand stabbed forward. There was a flash of light and Snape was thrown backwards. He stumbled and pushed himself up, driving a savage blast of frozen wind at the dark lord.

Minerva dashed forward to help him but once again found a hand gripping her arm.

“Minerva!” A head appeared out of nowhere as a cloak was thrown back. Natalie Zhao? What in Merlin’s name? “Minerva the students can‘t keep them back forever and sooner or later Voldemort‘s going to wonder where those other patronus came from.”

“The students?”

“The marauders.” Natalie snapped. “Now come on!”

“But Snape-”

“Is holding him back!” The unspeakable grabbed a prone figure on the floor. “Now tell your people to fall back before everyone else is dead!”
*


The boy who had been Harry didn’t know where he was. There had been a mad dash away from Rookwood, screaming and dashing through the confusion of battle, then there had been some stairs, then a corridor... The sounds of battle were everywhere, coming out of the walls. He had just kept running., unable to do anything else. His heart raced beyond what any human exertion should have forced it to. His mind was blank, a dead weight. Today had been a lifetime.

The shattering noise of a spell exploded from the left and he dashed away like a rat. He had to get out.

“Come on dance with me you mangled bitch!” Michelson came into view down a long hallway, throwing bolts of lightning at Bellatrix and laughing like a madman.

He had to get out. He dashed into a stairway and almost tripped over a body on the floor. Pink hair, auror‘s robes. Oh no...

He crouched down on the floor, his fingers going to Tonk’s neck on instinct. He did not really expect to find anything, her skin was pale and...

She had a pulse.

The nameless boy had to shield her body as a shining laser of something cut through the wall above them. The duel was raging just on the other side of the wall. She wouldn’t have a pulse for long if he left her here.

So long... His brain was grey sludge, he just wanted to shut down. He had no wand and his muscles were water. They would never reach safety anyway, this place was a warzone. But on the other hand... Tonks.

Putting a tired shoulder under her arm, he lifted her up.
________________________________________


Review and you will grow fairy wings that will let you fly.

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Due to other commitments my postings may get a little further apart for a while. Sorry everybody.
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Snape let himself down tiredly on the edge of the fountain of magical brethren. Every bone ached and his arm was tied up to his body in a sling. There was no time for healing yet though, no time at all.

“Stay back.!” Natalie was shouting calmly (a tough combination to master), raising her hands to the crowd of ministry survivors. “Just stay there and the healers will get to you! And you get out of here!” The last was directed to a daily prophet reporter furiously scratching away at a notebook.

The other side of the hall, back behind the fireplaces, a line of beds were set up for triage. From where he sat Snape could see Elizabeth Heathland lying sedated, her hand clutched by her constant companion Vanessa. She would be alright though, a little cold and quiet for weeks to come and likely not ever wanting to encounter a dementor again but she would live. Oh to have just one of them back in his house, or any of the marauders. They had fought like tigers, like attack dogs with wands.

One of the doors slammed open and Markus stepped out angrily. His robes were mostly burnt off and he had blood running down the side of his chest but he seemed unaware of these little details.

“She got away.” The massive wizard reached the edge of the fountain and plunged his head under the surface. A moment later he lifted it up and pushed his wet hair out of his eyes. “Bellatrix.”

“The marauders told me you had gone after her.”

“She reached one of their bloody tunnels.” Markus grated. “Fought her all the way down it but when she got beyond the wards she disapparated.”

“Then she is out of the fight at least.” Snape nodded, he would take any victory he could get. “Forneus is in custody and Rookwood is numbered among the dead.”

“So I’m the only one who missed his mark.” Markus shook sprays of water out of his hair. “Sorry mate.”

“Bella has more lives than a cat, do not think any more of it.”

“You say that but... I'm not used to failing, never done it before." Marcus shed his ruined robe and dumped it carelessly on the floor before glancing around at the confusion. "What‘s happening here? Did we get everybody out?”

“We have taken back most of the ministry. I believe all of the marauders deserve Os”

"They deserve bloody medals!"

"Yes but I cannot give them medals. You however can give them Os." Snape smiled a fain smile and saw it returned broader. He gestured towards the lift with his good arm. “Voldemort holds the department of Mysteries. Or to put it another way he is trapped there. He has placed a ward on the lift and on all staircases.”

“I can break through.” Michelson nodded arrogantly. "Give me five minutes."

“I doubt that you could do it in five or five hundred.” Snape shook his head. “I know that ward. There is only one way to get through it, and that is with a dark mark on your arm.”

“Well then you can-” Michelson cut off as Snape pulled up his sleeve to reveal the newly cut skin. “Oh.”

“Yes, and it‘s worse than that.” Snape bowed his head. “He has hostages down there, order members and unspeakables who survived.”

“How many?”

“Ten, we think.” Snape glanced up to meet Markus’ eyes. “Including Lupin... and Dumbledore.”

“Mother of god.” Michelson slammed his fist into his palm. “So it‘s a stalemate?”

“For now, until he makes his move. He can not wait forever.” Snape felt a little shudder run through him. Whatever the dark lord’s move would be it would be the death of at least some of those hostages. Probably all.

"What the..." Suddenly Michelson was on his feet, an expression of shock on his face. "Merlin's... Harry?"

A moment later Snape saw what he had seen. Out of a passageway Harry was stumbling, a prone body weighing him down and his face a grey mask. He didn't look up, didn't acknowledge anything, just stepped directly to the nearest bed and lay his burden down bedside a shocked healer. Snape rushed forward and saw marauders stand in every corner of the room, running towards the unexpected sight of their leader.

"Harry." Draco came to a stop just in front Harry. "Harry what are you doing he-"

"Tonks is hurt." Harry broke in. "You should try to look after her, she's your cousin."

"Harry are you alright?" Hermione reached out to touch him but he flinched away. "What is it Harry?"

"I'm fine." Harry was almost curling up under their stares, hugging his arms close to his chest.

"Are you hurt?" Padma asked. "The healers could loo-"

"I said I'm fine. Just... go away."

"How did you get out of the hospital?"

"Where's your wand?"

"Shut up."

"How did you get to the ministry?"

"I SAID SHUT UP!" Harry yelled angrily. As the marauders shied back there was a blast of heat from behind them. Snape spun around in time to see the fountain of magical brethren go red hot and begin melting, dissolving into the water with a hiss. But the gold was not disappearing, it was staying there in the water, mixing with the water. Harry forgotten, Snape stepped forward as the surviving order members, ministry workers and marauders surrounded the pool of gold.

It was like a mirror, shining with yellow light up to the ceiling. As they watched it faded to silver, then to grey, then finally to pure white. The white resolved into shapes, colours bloomed out of the pure light. As the shapes coalesced Snape heard a shriek from someone on the other side of the pool and almost felt like following suit.

In the pool, rippling on the surface of the liquid, was an image of lord Voldemort. He was standing in what was clearly the department of mysteries. The wand in his hand was long and pale, it was not the one Snape was used to seeing him use. It was unmistakably Dumbledore's wand. Behind the dark lord, lined up and chained together, were ten wizards. Though the picture was faded and the colours ran together Snape could easily recognize the two on the end. Cornelius Fudge and Albus Dumbledore.

The Voldemort image turned towards them and spoke, his voice sounding deep and echoic like it was coming from the bottom of a well.

"Good wizards of the ministry," The dark lord greeted amicably. "Members of the order of the phoenix and the good children. What you are seeing is the inside of the department of mysteries, where all the greatest secrets are hidden. All the deepest magic of the ministry is within these walls, all controlled by me."

"He's lying." Natalie assured the panicking wizards around her. "There's nothing down there he could use."

"And look at my friends here," Voldemort gestured out over his prisoners. "They all fought. They all failed, such is the price of defying lord Voldemort." He took a bundle of wands out of his pocket and hovered it into the air. With a gout of flame they burnt into ash. "Such is the price... And look who we have here..." Voldemort crooked a finger and Fudge was dragged forward, his bonds separating from the others. He came to a stop by the dark lord's feet and looked up with pained eyes.

"Are you going to... to kill me?" Fudge stuttered out.

"Yes." Voldemort answered simply.

"But but... I."

"I am going to kill you you miserable petty man, whatever you say."

"Then... then." Fudge seemed to breath a little easier. "Do you remember when I used to invite you up for tea? Back when I was... I was a department hear and you were... you were younger."

"Yes?"

"Well I spat in your tea." Fudge shuddered out through gritted teeth. "Every time. Even back then you were a creepy little freak."

"You..." Voldemort seemed to grow in menace, his eyes blazing. "Why do you tell me this? Surely you know it is pointless!"

"My... my dear boy." Fudge stuttered, his eyes still to the floor. "Defiance... is never p... p... pointless."

"Avada Kedavra!"

Green light filled the pool of water and for a moment none of them could see anything. Snape felt his heart beating rapidly in his chest. The light cleared in time for them too see the dark lord savagely kicking the minister's body to the side and stabbing his wand towards Dumbledore. The headmaster was thrown forward roughly.

Snape swallowed worriedly. The dark lord was showing them this to demonstrate his power but Fudge had openly defied him. Voldemort would be enraged.

"Well old man!" Voldemort stabbed his wand down at Dumbledore, a bolt of electricity charring a hole in the Headmaster's robes. "Do you not have something to say? Some last word before I take your life."

Dumbledore just stayed silent. It was only from the light rise and fall of his chest that Snape could tell he was still alive.

"Speak Albus!... Crucio!" Voldemort held the headmaster in the throws of the torture curse for a few moments before releasing him. "You will speak! There has been too much between us, you have been my enemy for too long for me to let you end it this way. You will acknowledge that I have won, you will say it! You will acknowledge this victory in some way before I kill you with your own wand!"

Dumbledore didn't even look at the dark lord. In a rage Voldemort slashed his wand through the air, dragging Dumbledore to his feet.

"You will speak!" The snake like face was set with cruel anger. "You will speak before you die!"

"I..." Dumbledore wet his lips and tried again. "I am ready to die."

"What?"

"I am ready..." Dumbledore closed his eyes. "I am ready to die for everything I have done. Those are my last words, the only ones you will get. Kill me."

"You... Cruci..." Voldemort raised his wand to form the curse but let it die on his lips. Snape could almost see him dragging his emotions back under control. "But of course, how could I deny a last request. Avada Kedavra!"

It was as if time froze. The pool exploded with green light again and Snape’s throat closed, every muscle tensing. The other watchers around the pool held their hands to their faces, or shook there head... they would not believe it. The green light faded and the body of Albus Dumbledore dropped to the ground. It crumpled like a paper napkin, his beard trailing onto the floor like a rag.

So fell Albus Dumbledore. Snape felt a small hand worm into his. Natalie's hand. He didn't know whether she was offering comfort or asking for it. Perhaps both.

"Here dies Albus Dumbledore." Voldemort laughed. "A fool to the end, and in the end a disappointment. So there you are, two hostages dead. I have eight left and all will die if you do not give me what I want. I want Harry Potter. Bring him to me in one half-hour or I will kill another, perhaps the werewolf. I am sure no one will miss him. But if any of you wish to see these wizards alive, then you know what you must do. Bring. Me. Harry. Potter!"

The pool went black and Snape stepped back. All around him people seemed to be going mad, crying and shouting to one another in confusion. His eyes were only trying to find one figure. Harry Potter. He swept the crowd. Nothing.

Snape turned to the entrance in time to see the doors snap shut.
*


The nameless boy crashed out of the phone box and dashed away, his feet slipping on the wet sidewalk. Rain splattered against his face as he ran out into the streets. He didn't even know why he was running, just that he had to get away. All of them would look to him, would look at him and expect to see Harry Potter. Expect to see their savior, when all there was was a fraud. He dashed past the people in the street, some of them turning to look at his odd clothing and panicked expression, but he was running too fast and they were left behind.

He heedlessly ran into the road and heard the screech of breaks. He prayed that one of the cars would hit him. His feet would not stop moving and the sound of horns was left behind. His magic eye painted the world in shimmering curtains of shadow, distorted by the raindrops settling on it's surface. He pushed past a man in a suit and heard the man yell. He couldn't stop running. Had to get away. But what he was running from could not be escaped. He was running from reality. The rain ran like a river. Roaring like the river.

Finally, with his heart beating like a jack-hammer, he collapsed on the cold, wet pavement. He lay there, his feet still twitching, and breathed. He had collapsed in an alleyway, dark and dirty. Wait...

He turned to lie on his back as his magic eye swivelled around, taking in every detail. He had been here before... This was the alley where it all started, where Hagrid had caught him so many years ago. There was the drainpipe he had climbed... the roof he had hid... He had come a full circle, entirely.

Heedless of the driving rain he opened his mouth and laughed. Laughed in pure bitterness. If only he had never stopped here, had never been caught, had never gone to Hogwarts. Then he would never have known, would never have known any of this. He would have been able to keep on being Harry Potter. He felt tears running down his cheeks and mingling with the rain, freezing him to the bone.

But there was warmth. A little point of heat at his chest. He dug his hand into his shirt and slowly drew it out.

His pendent. Pythea’s pendent. Worn so long he had almost forgotten it was there. But now it was glowing like a star, so bright beneath the gray sky. He knelt and held it cupped in both hands, staring at it in wonder as a silver mist swirled out from the point. It pooled in his hands, swirling and sifting. Slowly the sparkling liquid rose, shaped and colored and separated until two orbs hung in the air by his hands. One of burnished gold, the other pure white.

"Harry..."

The white orb shifted, moved and expanded. It shaped into a figure, every curve glowing with light, every flowing line of her pure white dress and her porcelain skin.

"Thea..." He breathed.

"Harry I wish I could have come sooner." Thea stepped forward and encased his hands in hers.

"Another illusion-"

"No." Pythea shook her head. "This is no illusion. This is really me talking, from Greece. I thought you might need my help."

"Your... help?"

"You're lost. Lost in the woods." Thea smiled faintly. The golden orb was still circling her, pulsing faintly. "And I am the oracle. I thought you might need a guide out. That was why I gave you this all those years ago, to help you find your way. In your darkest hour. You need to find your way again Harry, or else were all doomed."

"Thea," The boy ducked his head, his eyes squeezing shut. "I'm not who you think I am. I'm not the one you were trying to help, not the chosen one. I'm not-"

"I know who you are." Pythea said simply.

"You... you do? But then why?"

"Harry did you think I was helping you all these years because you were the chosen one?" Thea laughed lightly, her crystal voice filling the void between the buildings with joy. "I wasn't helping you because you were Harry Potter I was helping you because you were you."

"Don't call me that. Don't call me Harry."

"It's your name if you want it to be. Or chose another name." Pythea smiled. "When I first met you you were calling yourself Jack."

"Stop." Too painful. Memories of pleasant times,

"I will not stop. I will never stop trying to help you. I knew the moment I met you that you weren't the chosen one. I mean please Harry, I'm the mistress of prophecy. Did you honestly think for a moment that I would miss a thing like that? I saw who you were. I also saw that, in a world without hope, you were the only shining chance."

"You... you saw something about me? My future?"

"I saw nothing about your future. I saw everything about you." Pythea knelt to meet him eye to eye. "I saw you a brave and true soul who would fight for this world even if the entire world was against him. I saw someone who could get struck down a thousand times and would still pick himself up. I saw that the dark lord would rise and I hoped... I didn't know but I hoped that you would never buckle before him. With the world in peril and the future uncertain I took the best chance the world had. I took a chance on you. In a time of complete despair, I trusted you."

"But, I can't fight anymore." The boy dropped his eyes. "I just... I just feel empty. You don't know what it's like to have someone walk up to you and snatch your entire life, everything you believe, right out from under you."

"I do." Pythea replied simply.

“Really?” Harry swallowed. “Wh... what did you do?”

“I gave him a necklace.” Pythea smiled. "But I don't expect you to accept what you have to do from me, which is why I brought him." Pythea gestured up to the golden sphere. "You’ve carried this necklace close to your heart for almost four years now. I think it’s time you saw what’s inside. Don't die Harry, please don't die. I'll see you soon." She faded into nothing, leaving just the golden orb left. As soon as she was gone it began stretching and shaping.

"Um what do I do?" An uncertain voice came from the growing cloud of mist. "I just speak into it?"

The shape resolved into a figure. His long robes were buttoned tightly and long arms, rolled up now to show his arms. Those robes were familiar. Tonks had worn them last year, auror trainee robes. The face remained foggy for a moment more then coalesced, becoming a firm model in golden light, right down to the last tousled hair.

The boy who had been Harry's mouth fell open in shock. He was looking up into his own face. No... no there were differences. The jaw was more pointed, sharper, the eyes closer together. He didn't have a scar on his neck, nor a dark mark on his arm. He looked older too, at least two years if he was an aurors apprentice. God... was it possible? Was this... Harry Potter?

"I don't quite understand this." The ghostly golden figure said. "Your friend, Pythea, she says that you're in a different world or... or dimension or something. A different time too. I don't quiet understand it, need Hermione for that sort of thing."

"So do I..." A murmured whisper. Disbelief.

"Your friend says I won't remember recording this, won't remember any of it." The figure was just staring into space as it spoke. Apparently this one was a true recording. "But if... if I understand what she's explained to me then your world is very different from mine. For one thing... I'm not in it. I died."

The golden Harry glanced to the floor, shaking his head.

"I wish I knew why but... your friend won't tell me. Something about lessening the interference as much as possible. There are other things I wish I could tell you, things you really should know about-" The recording skewed like static for a moment then continued. "But apparently I'm not allowed to say them either. All she's told me is that you, you were told you were me. Until very recently you thought you were me... or will. The time thing is really confusing me. I'm recording this in my future, to be given to you in your past, to play in your present. Apparently Pythea thinks that maybe I can say something to you.... maybe explain... I don't know. I don't know what I'm saying. I can't imagine what you're going through. It's like... It's like you're an orphan all over again. Except this time it's worse because you know you had a past it's just been taken. I know you must feel like crawling into a hole and dying, I've felt like that. When my godfather died I... but that's not the same really. I don't know what I'm saying."

The ghostly figure began pacing up and down.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to say to you." The Harry stopped pacing and spread his hands. "Except that, that it gets better. I've been through things as bad as you, and I'm probably the only person you'll ever meet that can say that. Your friend says that, since I'm dead in your world, the job of fighting Voldemort falls to you. I can't say it' going to be easy, but you know that. In fact I can't think of anything that I could say to persuade you to take the job. Except that you have to. The world depends on it. And I know that the world hasn't done you any favors. Maybe right now you feel like you'd rather let the world be destroyed for everything it's done to you. I don't know what I can say to convince you that's not true except for two things. One, it gets better. It really, really does. Eventually. And two..."

The shadow figures licked it's lips.

"Do you know how many regulations are broken by this kind of inter-dimensional transit? Certain countries still have the death penalty for messing around in parallel worlds. Just getting here, the effort it must have taken. The risks your friend has taken just to get this message to you.... I guess what I'm saying is that even if the entire rest of the world is hell right now you've got one person who's willing to risk everything for you. Risk her life. So if nothing else... fight for her."

The figure faded. It's eyes lasted the longest, staring out into the rain, then they too were gone and the alley was dark again. The boy on the ground stood, slowly and with care, but he stood.

"Wow..." He said softly. "What a dork."

He chuckled to himself, the laughter building. His hands went to his stomach as he threw his head back and laughed, the rain trickling down his face. That was Harry Potter was it? Git. I mean who talks like that? Screw him. Screw the overly dramatic, hesitant bastard. If that childish gimboid can save the world I sure as hell can.

He pushed his rain soaked hair out of his eyes. It was like the emptiness was, somehow separate. It was still there, the gaping void, it was just that all the important parts of him, the things that made him who he was, were outside it. He settled the little shell necklace back around his neck. Just a shell now, it’s magic gone. But not wearing it was unthinkable. It was part of him, the real him, and he needed it back. Especially since he intended to pick the biggest fight of his life.

He needed a plan though.... and if he was going to survive a fight with the greatest dark wizard in the world it would need to be a bloody good plan. Or a bloody insane one. Let’s see, he had no advantages. Voldemort held all the cards. Voldemort could kill him without thinking. And Voldemort had hostages. On the other hand Voldemort was alone, he had no death eaters, no dark creatures, no servants.

Whatever plan he came up with it would come down to just the two of them. A fair fight. Which he would lose.

So make it an unfair fight.

His lips curled into a smile. There it was, there was the idea. A Harry Potter plan.

Smiling, he walked out of the alley. He picked up his pace and he reached the street, how much of his half hour was gone? He had lost all track of time. He broke into a run. He knew he should go faster but he would help no one if he was to tired to fight. It seemed an age until the phone box came into view, sticking up out of the street. Harry got in, then pressed the code on the receiver.

“Welcome to the ministry of magic. Please state your name and business.” The phone said flatly.

“Harry Potter.” Said Harry smiling. “I‘m here to save the world.”

The machine apparently took him a little too literally as...
Harry Potter
Messiah


... Clattered into the hopper. Harry didn’t bother to pick it up. If he didn’t know who he was now no badge was gonna tell him. He dissilusioned himself before the doors slid open again and stepped out into the ministry foyer. There was a level of organized chaos and another bigger level of disorganized chaos. Harry ignored it and his magic eye picked out the marauders. The were all clustered in one place. Harry wandered over to them and quietly said,

“Don‘t move. Don‘t give them and sign you‘re hearing me. Just come over here behind that chimney where we can‘t be seen.”

The marauder’s stiffened, but to their credit none of them gave the game away. Harry followed them as they slowly rose and nonchalantly wandered behind the massive fireplace. Once they were all behind Harry dropped his illusion and smiled at his friends.

“Hi guys. I‘m back.”

“Harry are you...” Hermione began, then paused. “Are you... feeling better?”

“I‘m sorry for yelling at you, at all of you. And yes I‘m... I‘m better.” The empty place in his chest begged to differ but he ignored it. “I‘m feeling.... I‘m better.”

“Harry what did Dumbledore say to-” Padma began but Harry cut her off.

“There‘s no time, how much time we got until the first hostage goes?”

“Five minutes.” Draco pointed at the clock.

“Good that... that might be enough.”

“You‘re going to fight him aren‘t you?” Neville asked in a small voice. “You‘re going down to fight him.”

“Yes.” Harry nodded, and there was a sudden intake of breath from the marauders. “But I have a plan! Seriously guys, it‘s ok. I have a plan.”

“Do you recall how badly some of your other plans have gone?” Padma asked dryly.

“Oh please, you know I blank those from my memory.” Harry grinned. “Anyway I need three things. Things I need your help with.”

“You got it Harry.” Ginny went into serious mode. “Whatever you need.”

“Well firstly I‘ll need a wand.” Harry bit his lip. “And I can‘t guarantee you‘ll get it back.”

A forest of hands were stretched out towards him. Every single wand. Harry picked one at random and tried a simple charm. It was stuttery and faint. No good. He picked another and almost set his hair on fire. The third the spell came out right but the wand felt weird. The fourth... Harry did first one spell then another... then another... they all came out perfect. His eyes came up to meet Malfoy’s grey ones.

“Keep it.” The Slytherin boy nodded. “I can afford a new one.”

“Thank you.” Harry pocketed the wand. “The second thing I need is healing. Just a quick refresher. I‘m to tired and banged up to fight like this.”

“Here.” Ginny drew a bottle out of her robes. “I swiped it from the triage center. I thought you might need it if you came back.”

Harry took the bottle with a grin and tipped it back into his mouth. The warm chocolaty liquid seemed to drain into every aching muscle and bone, making him feel like he was well rested and healthy rather than at the edge of weariness.

“And thirdly we need to make something.” Harry handed the bottle back. “It‘ll be tricky but if I handle the charms and someone else does the transfig we should be able to manage it. Oh! And I‘ve thought of a fourth thing. I‘ll need a distraction.”
*


“Here! Look!” Snape was shocked out of his thoughts by the yell. His eyes found the source in the young Weasley child, crouched down by the fountain. Ginny was furiously jabbing at the pool, waving him over. "It's going clear again. I can see something!" Snape dashed over, staring down into the inky darkness. He could see nothing.

"Where?" Snape asked hurriedly.

"There, there by the corner."

"I see nothing."

"Look."

"Miss Weasley there is nothing there."

"There was!"

"There is not now-" Snape's eyes flickered up to meet those of his student. A flicker of memory twitched behind those eyes. He pushed... No! Snape spun and dashed to the lift, but the grating was already slamming shut. Snape came crashing up against the ward. The magical barrier sparking against his skin like static. He couldn't get through. Before his eyes the dissilusionment fell and Harry Potter was standing there, looking back at him. Snape felt people crowding all around, murmuring, speaking, crying. All pressed up to one side of the barrier, and on the other... just Harry.

"Harry, please." Snape held his hand out to the wall of the ward. "Don't do this."

"Eight people." The kid shrugged. "Eight people or me. Choice is pretty obvious."

"Foolish boy. You don't have to do this."

"I know I don't." Harry nodded, a faint smile on his face. "I'm doing it anyway. Wish me luck."

The lift started down. Snape held Harry's eyes all the way till he was out of sight. Right at the end, just before he disappeared, Snape could have sworn he saw a wink.
*


The lift grate slid open and Harry stepped warily out into the corridor. The wreckage of battle was everywhere, great gouges gone from the walls and doors blown off their hinges. This wasn't the department of mysteries yet though. Just the courtrooms. Harry's eye whirled wildly as he picked his way around the wreckage. The door to the department came into view, a blank rectangle at the end of a long corridor. Harry could see nothing beyond the door, not even with his magic eye. Some sort of protection must extend around the department of mysteries. For the sake of his plan he hoped it didn't extend inside the department too. Harry raised his wand to his neck and spoke the sonerous charm.

"Tom Riddle!" Harry's amplified voice shook the bricks in the walls. "I'm here." There was a moment's wait, then.

"Welcome Mr Potter." A similarly booming voice sounded down the hallway. "I was not sure you would come."

"Why would I stay away Tommy boy. We're like old friends." Harry was poised to run at any moment if this went wrong. "You've got eight people in there. Those people deserve to get out, so lets make a deal, gentleman's agreement between friends. I go in. All of them go out."

“Those are the terms I gave.” Voldemort sounded amused.

Harry waited in silence for a moment... then the door at the end of the corridor swung open. Grinning quietly to himself, Harry walked in. The scene was just as it had been reflected in the pool, the line of captives, the wreckage, and Voldemort standing in the center. The bodies of Fudge and Dumbledore were lying where they fell. The room was the circle room, the spinning room. Rookwood had taken him through it earlier. But it wasn't spinning now, some of the doors had been knocked off their hinges and he could see into the rooms beyond.

"Seen everything you need to Mr Potter?" Voldemort asked icily. "Taken in all the information?"

"Yep," Harry replied chirpily. "So... the prisoners."

"Of course." Voldemort gestured mildly. The chains on the prisoners crashed to the ground.

"Go on guys." Harry stood out of the way so they could get to the doors. "Get out of here." Slowly, the prisoners began to shuffle towards the door.

“They‘ll be able to get out?” Harry asked. “Past the ward?”

“In only stops people from entering, not from leaving.”

"Ok, fine. Wait!" Harry held up a hand, then pointed to Lupin and a muscular looking auror. "Fudge and Dumbledore, take them up with you."

Lupin bent to cradle the body of his teacher and lifted him up. As he passed Harry on the way out their eyes met. Lupin leant down to Harry's ear and whispered,

"I hope he kills you." Harry had to laugh. Some things didn't change.

As the last man trouped out Harry pushed the door shut and locked it. The heavy bolts sliding into place sounded like a hammer.

"Well Mr Potter." Voldemort smiled like a snake. "It is down to just you and me. The kings in our little chess game. The pawns are gone, the rooks are taken. Now it is just down to you and me."

“Have you never even played chess?” Harry quirked an eyebrow. “If all you have is the two kings that's a stalemate snake face. You can't checkmate with one king.”

“I was being metaphorical.”

Harry rolled his eyes and picked a clear space of floor. He pointed his wand down.

"Calx." A chalk line appeared on the floor. Harry drew his wand around in a rough rectangle then stepped back and measured his handiwork by eye. "Tommy boy give me your opinion. Does that look like fourteen feet to you?"

"What in Merlin's name are you doing?"

"Well we have to have a duel." Harry shrugged. "Might as well do it by the book."

"A regulation wizard's duel?" Voldemort seemed almost ready to chuckle. "My my Mr Potter I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to fight against you and not Dumbledore. It is... so gratifying to be surprised."

"I am unpredictable." Harry shrugged and stepped up to the middle of the rectangle. He put his wand into his pocket and held his hand away from it to show he wasn't touching it. "But I believe that the next step is to bow to one another. Like gentlemens."

"This will be interesting." Voldemort smiled and stepped up to the dueling platform, similarly holstering his wand. "I hope your friends are enjoying this."

"What are you..." Harry paused. "Are they watching?"

"Of course."

"Hmm..." Harry grinned up at the ceiling. "Hope you like this guys. It's going to be one hell of a show."

"Shall we get started?" Voldemort stepped up to the center of the rectangle and bowed. Harry bowed in turn, then stuck out his hand.

"We part as friends." Harry smiled. Voldemort chuckled wryly and encircled Harry's hand in his own. Harry pulled forward and hugged the shocked dark lord. He released him quickly and laughed. "Tom Riddle it's been a pleasure, and an honor."

"Surprising to the end." Voldemort murmured.

"I believe it's seven paces?" Harry turned and heard Voldemort do the same. "One..."

"Two..."

"Three..."

"Stupefy!" Harry whirled and jabbed his wand. The spell flared across the room. Just before it hit the dark lord seemed to waver and fade into mist. The spell passed right through his back and exploded in sparks against the wall. Voldemort turned and rematerialized, a mocking sneer on his face,

"Jumping the count Mr Potter? That was your masterful plan?"

"Worth a shot."

"No, Mr Potter. It was not."

"Call me Harry."

"I will not." Voldemort raised his wand. "Goodbye Mr Potter. I wish you all the best in the next world. Avada Kedavra!"

Harry closed his eyes and smiled as a flash of light filled the room.
________________________________________


Review or the evil chicken with the DEAD EYES that only I can see will kill me.

________________________________________
A lot of people seem unhappy about my frequent cliffhangers. Well it got you to review didn't it?
________________________________________




The light snapped off and Harry opened his eyes. Voldemort was staring down at the thing in his hand.

"Hmm..." Harry frowned in mock confusion. "Your wand appears to have turned into a chicken."

The chicken managed to free itself and dropped to the floor. It took a look at the two wizards on either side of it and wisely decided to be elsewhere. Squawking and flapping it scampered through an open door.

“Was it, meant to turn into a chicken?” Harry tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Is this some poultry variant of the killing curse I was not previously aware of? Is that a chicken of death? Or perhaps...” Harry’s hand dipped into his pocket. “Were you looking for... this wand.”

Voldemort’s eyes went wide.

“I mean for god‘s sake mate. Never let a pickpocket hug you.” Harry chuckled. “I mean that‘s just stupid.”

The dark lord’s hand twitched to his pocket.

“Oh look!” Harry drew something else from his robes. “And here‘s your other wand. How did that get in there? Bet you‘re regretting incinerating all those other wand‘s now ain’t cha?”

“Potter you...” Voldemort boiled with anger. “You... you... you...”

“Me. Me. Me.” Harry grinned like a tiger. “The moral of the story Tommy boy is this: Don‘t you EVER mess with a marauder because we can bury you. And we never lose.”

“Potter I will-”

“Shut up.” Harry stabbed his wand forward, keeping the other two safe in his left hand. “Shut your ugly murdering face. Happy, civil, ‘lets all be B.F.F.s‘ time is officially over. Now is the time for the other thing. The bloody hate filled battle that culminates with the killing of you.”

“You think you can win?” Voldemort hissed out through clenched teeth. “Even without a wand I am still the dark lord. I am still more than a match for you.”

“Evens the playing field a bit though doesn‘t it.” Harry cracked his neck first to one side, then another. “So come on snake face. Hit me. Hit me with your best shot.”

The dark lord hissed, his fingers clenching into claws. Then a moment later he exploded into smoke, whisking away through an open door. What the? Harry's magic eye focused through the wall, onto the floor in the next room. On the floor next to a prone body was-

WAND!

Harry's feet moved of their own accord and skidded across the floor to the door. His own wand lashed out.

"Difindo!" The wand on the floor snapped just as the cloud coalesced around it and but Harry was already moving again. His eye making walls and doors meaningless. Another body, another wand! He felt the smoke behind him, catching up.

He rolled as it passed overhead and snarled, "Tempesto!" The cloud convulsed as wind lashed through it but it stayed together, swirling and reforming like ink. Harry dashed along the floor and snapped the wand up from beside the bundle of robes that was all that was left of the victim of an inferi. He skidded to a halt, his eye dancing madly to find any remaining wands... nothing in the prophecy room...

The cloud circled, reeking of malevolence. Harry could almost feel Voldemort doing the same check that he was, using dark magic to find any remaining weapon. The cloud contracted then shot away like a squid. Harry was off and after it in a second, a second more and his eye had found it’s target. The death chamber, a wand rolled into a crack in the floor. Harry pelted through the corridor, the black smoke ahead of him. Too far! Too quick!

Harry threw another tornado ahead of him, kicking up shards of debris but the moment it reached the cloud it was squashed like a frog. The wind going flat in mid air. The smoke disappeared under a door and Harry crashed through it a moment later. The wand! Right there! Voldemort reappeared with a thunderclap and jabbed his hand forward. The wand leapt from the floor and spun towards the dark lord. Harry aimed desperately,

“Ferio!”

There was a crack from the air and splinters clattered on the floor. The dark lord’s hand snapped back like he’d been stung.

“That‘s the last of them snake-face.” Harry panted. Keeping his wand trained on the dark lord he stepped down the steps till he was next to the fluttering arch. He picked the three wands he’d acquired out of his pocket and chucked them through the veil. The dark cloth fluttered for a moment, then went still. “All wand‘s out of play, except for my one. And the only way you‘re getting that is to pry it from my cold dead hands.”

“What an excellent suggestion Mr Potter.”

Harry had just a moments warning before the orb of darkness flew from the dark lord’s hand. Harry spun behind the arch and ducked down.

“Accio!” The bench behind Voldemort shot forward towards his head. The dark lord spun and shattered it with a hissed curse. “Jupitall!” The ball-lightning hissed from Harry’s wand and forced the dark lord to dodge to the side. The orb exploded against the wall, filling the room with sparks. Voldemort spun and cried,

“Garta!”

Harry felt the flagstones beneath his feet disappear and he plummeted into darkness. He jabbed his wand straight up.

“Hammus Missus!” Chain shot up and slammed into the ceiling far above. “Rapellet!” The chain felt like it jerked his arm out of its socket as it pulled him up into the light. As he shot from the ground like a bullet a ball of darkness flew towards him.

Someone not expecting it would have been hit. Someone without a magic eye.

Harry kicked off the edge of the archway and swung out of the way. He let go of the chain and aimed at the dark figure below him.

“Avada Kedavra!” The green light left him stunned but he landed like a cat on the side of the stepped arena. The killing curse blew a hole in the wall but Voldemort was dashing away, disappearing through a doorway. “Come back you slimy coward!” Harry was laughing with bloodlust and raced after him, his eye tracking him through the maze of halls. Harry dashed back through the entrance hall and shot into a long room of desks. Voldemort’s fleeing shadow was just visible at the other end.

“Avada Kedavra!” The nightmare curse sped through the wreckage but Voldemort spun and summoned a desk into it’s path. The explosion filled the air with emerald sparks. Three bolts of lightning thundered through the explosion and Harry threw himself to the side. One of them grazed past his leg and he bit back a cry of pain. A freezing charm numbed the burnt flesh as Harry furiously dashed after the dark lord. As he skidded to a halt in the hall of prophecies the dark lord disappeared. Harry furiously glanced one way then the other, but neither eye could pick up a trace. A wisp of spoke curled around one of the shelves, only to disappear a moment later. Harry cursed, the eye wasn’t so good for incorporeal things. He slowly turned, letting his eyes sweep through the gaps between the shelves. Voldemort was in here somewhere. Harry closed the door and whispered a vicious trap on anyone who tried to get through it. Voldemort wouldn’t be able to break it, some things required a wand.

Harry walked slowly out into the prophecy hall. The glass spheres had not escaped the carnage of the battle, many were left in glittering shards on the marble floor. The little snaps of glass cracked under his boots. Was that smoke? Harry's heart hammered in his chest. Was that a-

FIREBALL! Harry spun and yelled,

"Ferio!" The hex blasted into a spinning orb of flames, exploding it in the air and throwing Harry backwards into a shelf. The wood buckled and Harry fell through backwards in a pile of burning splinters. There was an ominous creaking sound and Harry had to scramble to get out of the way of the collapsing shelves. Orbs of shining smoke bounced off his shoulders and shattered on the floor, their white smoke spilling out and going inky black like swirls of midnight.

Harry's eye swirled and he just caught a glimpse of the dark robed figure before he dissolved again. Harry picked himself up and held himself at readiness. This was like a bloody shootout, it was all about who was quicker to the draw. Unfortunately Voldemort didn't actually have to draw... The air moved, Harry moved faster.

"Symplegades!" Voldemort appeared out of nowhere but Harry had already cast his spell. The shelves crashed together as if drawn by magnets. The dark lord's shadowy form was trapped between them. Before Harry could cast another spell the shelves exploded outwards, Voldemort stepping out wreathed in flames. He raised his hands, about to become smoke again. Harry stabbed his wand out again.

"Tartrate!" It was a wild stab in the dark. The charm was used to make liquids into jelly. Voldemort stumbled, his form blurring a moment but not turning to smoke. "Avada Kedavra!"

The dark lord threw his hand forward and a slab of the marble floor was thrown into the air to catch the curse. Voldemort hissed and the fire behind him leapt up into a column of flame, curling and splitting into a glowing red snaked head. The serpent roared and bit forward, it's teeth dripping with molten venom.

"Excalabus!" Harry slashed through the burning apparition but his shining sword slipped through it like water, leaving not a scratch. The snake struck forward like a viper and Harry dropped to the floor, his eyebrows charring off his face. "Ardor-Algidus!" Harry yelled the flame freezing charm and leapt up into the hellfire monster. He stabbed his wand at the shadow beyond the inferno and yelled the killing curse again. The redness flashed to green and Harry could see the dark lord's shocked expression as he had to dodge a spell from within his own creation.

Harry didn't give him an inch, he threw himself forward, shot another curse at his off balance enemy and found a cloud of black knives flying in his face. He dropped to the floor and heard them clatter behind him. He threw himself to the side but the knives jerked to follow him. He grabbed a plank of shelf from the floor and spun it in front of him, hearing the heavy thunk of the blades impacting the wood. Harry spun to face the dark lord and banished the knives towards him. Voldemort waved his hand distastefully and the knives melted into smoke.

The dark lord was panting, breath hissing in and out through his lipless mouth.

"You cannot win." He hissed, anger and arrogance battling for prominence in his voice. "You must realize that YOU CANNOT WIN!"

"Shut. Up. Wanker." Harry gasped through heavy breaths.

"You are just extending your suffering!"

"Isn't that what life is all about?" Harry drew himself up, grinning. "And besides- Ferio!" The spell caught the dark lord by surprise, smacking into his shoulder with a bone splintering crack. Voldemort roared and Harry felt the floor under his feet buckle and rumble. He flipped backwards as the ground where he had been standing became a swirling quicksand pit, ready to draw him down into it's depths. Harry danced backwards as stone upon stone became sucking death. His feet hit a shelf and he clambered up like a spider. The shelf lurched as it began to sink into the stone. Harry spun, holding on with one hand and leapt to another towering shelf just before the one he had been standing on was obliterated in a cloud of dark lightning.

It wasn't safe up here. Harry clambered to the top and dashed along the slanting wood. Being up here made him too much of a target. Harry's eye spun to find the dark lord and he almost fell off in shock as he found Voldemort hovering up from the ground with murder in his eyes. The bastard could fly!

"Tempesto!" Harry's tornado sprung out of nowhere, drawing sand from the floor and filling the air with yellow-white grains. Harry called another twister, and another. The dark lord disappeared in the sandstorm. Disappeared to normal eyes that is. "Avada Kedavra!" Harry shot through the murk at the shadow in the air and dashed away along the top of his shelf, he leapt across to the next one just before a lightning bolt flashed through the air behind him. The dark lord could not see him in all this but he could see where his spells were coming from. Only a fool attacked and stayed in the same place... unless...

"Acerbus cuspis!" Harry called the pain spears, flashing out in their slow fan. He twisted them in the air like a snake to strike the dark lord from both sides. He was rewarded with a howl of pain as one of the shining bolts struck home. Harry cast again but the dark lord summoned a silver shield. "Motus!" Harry didn't even have to think. He just struck out and made the dread orb vibrate with unbearable noise. He twisted to find the resonance but Voldemort was slyer than Michelson and cancelled the orb. Harry turned to run but the dark lord was quicker and lightning caught his arm, burning like hell. Harry lost his footing and dropped off the side of the teetering shelf.

Harry spun his tornado and blew himself up into the air again, shooting like a rag-doll through the sandstorm until his fingers caught the edge of a shelf and he held on for dear life. He pulled himself up and tried to stand, his eye spinning to find the dark lord. There he was, but what-

"Ulkaa Avaskanda!" The shrill cold voice of the dark lord shouted out of the storm, then. "Finite Syrtis!"

The sand vanished like mist but Harry had bigger problems. He leapt into the air as rocks the size of cars obliterated the shelves behind him. His feet hit another shelf but it was already shattering and falling. Harry's wand whipped out and a hook impacted into the ceiling. Harry swung out over the expanse of nothingness. A boulder came hurtling out of nowhere but Harry still had his storm.

The wind pulled him out of the path of the meteor with a whisk of his wand and he let go of the chain, catapulting himself onto a standing shelf. He leapt again and saw two boulders hurtling towards him. His wand flashed out again and one rock veered into the path of the other, shattering them both to fragments. Harry felt the wood beneath him shift again and this time let it carry him down a moment before leaping off and dropping to another collapsing shelf, his eye found firm footing and he jumped again as the last shelf collapsed into splinters.

Harry dropped to the top of a pile of wreckage. A pile three times as tall as he was and full of broken wood, shattered glass and the smouldering remains of spent boulders. Harry waited while the last of the crashing and clattering stopped, then folded his arms.

Voldemort was hovering in the air level with Harry. The dark lord slowly floated down to the floor (which Harry idly noted was back to being marble) and settled back down onto his feet. Harry watched with a crooked eyebrow. Voldemort's teeth clenched in rage as he stared up at Harry standing on his pedestal of ruin.

"What are you?" Voldemort sneered through his teeth. "You should not be alive! No human should be alive!"

"What makes you think I'm human snake face?" Harry smiled evilly. "Aren't you the one who's always saying we're better than mere mortals?"

"DO NOT MOCK ME!"

"But you make it so easy!" Harry put his hands on his hips. "Anyway, it's hard not to mock you when I'm winning!"

"YOU ARE NOT WINNING!"

"I'm not loosing." Harry grinned. The dark lord's fists clenched but he said nothing. Harry smiled. "Of course, you could surrender."

"Surrender?" Voldemort spat the word. "Surrender to you!?"

"Hey mate, you're the one that wants to live forever." Harry cracked his knuckles. "You won't live forever if you surrender but I can guarantee you'll live longer than if you keep fighting. Not much longer but still..."

"I ask again Mr Potter!" Voldemort raised an accusing finger. "What are you?"

"Me? I'm the runner of the roofs at night." Harry laughed. "The hero of the blood war. The only survivor of the torrent of ages and the Hogwarts triwizard champion."

"But-"

"I'm the mirror-blade," Harry spread his arms wide. "Serpent's bane and wolf-slayer. I'm the buccaneer of the Spirit of Njordr.”

“You-”

“And, to my distress, I am Dumbledore's little changeling child.”

“What-”

“But that doesn't matter because I'm also a marauder! Invincible cutthroat bastard and badass extraordinaire! I. Am. Harry. Potter! The choosing one!" Harry trained his wand on the dark lord, his face set in unshakable resolve. "That is why you should surrender. Right now. Or I swear on this pile of prophecy that I will burn you from this world."

Voldemort took an involuntary step backwards, faltering before Harry's stare.

"Last chance." Harry snarled. Voldemort straightened up, his eyes burning red.

"Never." The dark lords hands clenched to fists. "I will never surrender to a half blood boy like you."

"Whatever," Harry grinned. "In that case... suck it bitch! Depulso!" Harry jammed his wand straight down and the pile of wreckage exploded out in all directions, the wood becoming deadly splinters and the rock singing out in razor sharp shards. The dark lord threw up a silver shield but Harry was already on the ground. With a flick of his wand the shield screeched and Voldemort threw it away from him as if it was red hot. Harry rolled to the side to dodge a spray of black orbs and threw his wand up. "Avada Kedavra!"

The dark lord fled through a door and Harry rushed to follow, casting death curses before him. Harry vaulted a desk and skidded through a door only to find his body rising into the air. A lightning bolt grazed his shoulder and Harry was spun around like a top. Planets were floating in this room! There must be some spell screwing with gravity!

Harry shot a hook at Saturn and pulled himself out of the way just before another lightning bolt flashed through the air. Harry jabbed his wand at the sun and yelled,

"Confringo!" The ball of plasma exploded but Harry cast another flame-freezing charm and pushed off Saturn directly into the inferno. From behind the cover of flame Harry shot a killing curse at the dark lord but had to twist in the air to stop his head being taken off by a dark blade flickering through the air. He had used the flame-cover trick one too many times. Well lets try another.

"Esurio Esurio!" Harry aimed at the spinning red planet next to Voldemort. It grew a gaping mouth and snapped angrily at the dark lord, who blew it into fragments but Harry had already trained his wand back on the dark lord. "Avada Kedavra!"

Voldemort swung a chunk of planet into the path of the spell and fled, pushing open a door Harry hadn't even seen. He pushed off the wall and floated weightlessly after him. As soon as he reached the door he dropped to the floor again and raced through, skidding to a stop when he saw where he was.

In total contrast to the rest of the department this room was a sort of zoo. Cages full of creatures filled the room up to the ceiling and were stacked in a pile in the middle. Some looked normal, some... not so much. Harry shuddered as his eye flickered over a mutated blob of flesh with what he sincerely hoped was not a human arm coming out of it. His magic eye swirled in it's socket, trying to get a fix on Voldemort but all the life and movement in the way made it tricky.

Harry tried to trace out the room. Long, not so wide... The door at the other end was closed. That meant that Voldemort was either at the wall behind one of the cages at the side or crouched down behind one of the ones in the middle. Harry grinned,

"Alohomora!" He pointed his wand at the pile of cages in the center and all their bars sprung open. Creatures scattered in every direction. Something that looked like a mutant wolf made a starved leap at the cages to the left and was thrown back by a spell. There! Harry's wand was trained there in a moment. "Confringo!" The hex blasted the cage out of the way, revealing Voldemort's grey skin. "Avada K-" Harry had to break off the curse to duck behind a desk as more orbs of darkness rained through the air. Harry heard a door slam open and leapt up from where he was crouched. He dashed to the door and swung through, his wand out.

The death chamber! Back here! Harry saw Voldemort just reaching the door at the other side of the dimly lit room and aimed his wand.

"Colloportus!" The door squelched and glowed red. Harry spun and locked the other doors too. In a moment he had his wand trained back on the dark lord. Voldemort was just staring at him from the other side of the vast room, his lips contoured into a sneer. He clearly knew he could break the poxy locking spell, but doing so would give Harry the moment he needed to kill him. Harry tried to keep his breath even as he spoke, "Got you. No more running."

"Then you have signed your own death warrant." Voldemort slowly stepped down the side of the chamber.

"I doubt that." Harry mirrored the dark lord and slowly walked down the steps. "I rarely sign things."

"I will cast you through the veil myself."

"What...ever." Harry shrugged. "I've had enough of your self important threats. Time for the showdown. Let's end this."

"Nothing would please me more Mr Potter!" Voldemort reached the bottom of the room. Harry was just a step behind him. They stared at each other from opposite sides of the pedestal that held the arch of the veil. Voldemort's lip curled up in a sneer. "If I had my wand you would have died long ago."

"That would be why I nicked it." Harry chuckled. "And anyway... Lumos!" Harry jammed his wand towards Voldemort and the ray cut through the dimness like a spotlight. Voldemort threw his hands up to protect his eyes. “Avada Kedavra!"

The dark lord dropped to the floor, letting the spell pass over his head and jabbed his arm up at the ceiling. The shadows above them became alive, a writhing cauldron of darkness. Harry dodged wildly as a tentacle of night shot down and tried to wrap itself around him. Harry felt another grab his leg.

"Excalabus!" The tentacle was sheered off but Harry had been thrown to the floor and had to roll as bolts of thunder slammed into the flagstones where he had been lying. A ball of blackness caught the side of his leg, simply obliterating flesh and skin. Harry screamed and pulled himself to his feet, jumping out of the way of another tentacle. He had to get rid of that thing! He couldn't fight it and the dark lord at the same time! But how to kill something like that... How else? Harry jabbed his wand at the ceiling. "Avada Kedavra!" The green spell impacted the dark creature and it wailed in pain, it's tentacles going limp.

Harry spun back to face Voldemort just in time for an black orb to take a chunk out of his shoulder. He was bleeding too much. Had to end this! The dark lord raised his hand for another bolt of lightning. Harry tore two flagstones from the ground and hurled them in the path of the spell, one after the other. The first was blown to splinters but the second, hidden by the cloud of rubble, shot through like a marble discus and crashed with a hideous crunch into Voldemort's ribcage.

The dark lord was thrown back, his arm coming up to cradle his injured chest. Harry pressed his advantage and Voldemort was driven back by spell after spell. The dark lord was pushed onto to the steps and stumbled back, lying prone against the stone. He seemed exhausted.

"Avada Ke-"

“Fulgar Fletch!” The dark lord's hand swung up! It had been a trick! Harry saw a cloud of black blades erupt out of nothing and sail towards him. He had no protection! He could not dodge! There was just one chance...

"Protego!" Harry called out desperately and was driven back as the knives clattered against his weak shield. Harry let it go and stepped forward, only to have his knees buckle and drop him on the floor. What the? Harry tried to stand but his legs wouldn't move. Was this some sort of curse? Harry looked down and saw the reason.

There was a knife embedded to the hilt in his stomach. Two more in his leg. Draining blood down his thigh and pooling on the floor.

"Bloody shield...." Harry's arms dropped down, suddenly too weak. His wand rolled away on the dark stone. He hadn't felt the knifes go in, adrenalin perhaps, but he felt it now. Pain and fire raging out from the hole in his abdomen. "Bloody... Shield.... And I was doing so well..."

"Yes Mr Potter you were." The dark lord picked himself up from the steps and dusted his robes off. Now that he had won the friendly, almost fatherly, tone was back. "I applaud you."

"I could have beaten you ya know." Harry coughed weakly and saw droplets of blood spray from his mouth. "The very first spell I threw. Back when I jumped the count. Back when you had the fake wand. If you'd have just tried to shield like any normal wizard... I could have won on the first spell. That was... that was the plan."

"It was a good plan." Voldemort must have seen no reason to be angry now that he had won. "Against a normal wizard it would have no doubt worked."

"Damn it." Harry raised his hand to spread his fingers around the knife blade in his stomach, but he couldn't stop the blood. His life was draining out onto the floor. The ones in his leg would maim him. The one in his stomach meant he was dead.

"Do you have any last words my beloved enemy?" Voldemort asked calmly. "I did not hear any satisfactory ones from Dumbledore. Anything?"

"Can't think of anything..." Dark dots swam before Harry's eyes. He had failed. "Are my friends still watching?"

"Oh yes." Voldemort nodded. "I would not have the wizarding public miss this event."

"Then my last words are... keep fighting." Harry raised his eyes to meet Voldemort's. "Keep fighting him."

"Not very original." The dark lord shrugged. "But better than Dumbledore's."

"And..." Blood was pooling beneath Harry's legs. "And tell Thea I tried."

"An admirable sentiment."

"That's..." Darkness was closing in on Harry. "That's all I got."

"Very well." Voldemort raised his hand. "I shall miss you. My... interesting opponent." Voldemort opened his mouth to speak the last words Harry would ever hear.

"Wait." Harry whispered, he had no strength to speak normally. "I've thought of some better last words."

"Really?" Voldemort asked, amused. "And?"

"The one with the power to vanquish the dark lord will be born as the seventh month dies." Harry's whispered words rang out in the quiet room. "Born to those who... those who..."

"Have thrice defied him." Voldemort prompted, his eyes suddenly desperate. "Yes? Yes?"

"Thrice defied him." Harry licked his lips, his voice was barely coming out now. "And the dark lord will mark... will mark him..."

"Yes? What then?" Voldemort leant close in to listen.

"Mark him as his equal..." Harry's lips were barely moving, his words just disturbances in the air. "But the dark... the dark..."

"Yes..." Voldemort put his hands on Harry's shoulders, steadying him. "Please finish it!"

"The dark lord, shall never..." Harry's eyes were closed. "Shall never learn."

"What?" Voldemort's eyes narrowed to slits.

"The dark lord... shall never learn."

"What did you say?"

"I said you never bloody learn!" Harry's eyes flicked open. "Do you?"

Powered by the last gasp of dying rage Harry pulled the knife from his flesh and drove it into Voldemort's neck. Harry fell backwards as blood fountained from his stomach and his eyes clouded black. As he slipped away and his heart stopped beating all he could hear was the rustling of the veil.
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Cliff. Hanging. Again. I know. Sorry. Review anyway.

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Sorry this took a while to post. I didn't mean to intentionally leave you hanging at a cliffhanger but first I posted it then realised I had to change something so that sent it to the back of the queue, then it got rejected... anyways it's up now.

Reviews seem to be mixed as to whether people think Harry's really dead or not and whether the series is over or not. It's nice to have created such differing views. :)
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The first thing Harry sensed was the scent of apple blossoms. It was a smell he knew very well. His eyes flickered open and looked up onto the familiar dappled leaves of the orchard in his dreams. It was exactly as it had always been, green and full of life.

Harry was lying on the floor. How had he got there? He lifted his arms up and realized that his blood soaked and battle scared garments were gone, replaced by a simple white robe. That wasn't all that was missing either. Harry's fingers went up to his eye, poking it lightly.

"Ow!" Flesh, not glass. Harry shook his head, realizing what must have happened. Eye's did not grow back, orchards did not spring out of nothing. "I'm dead. I died."

Harry breathed out, a long sigh of sadness. He had done his best, his very, very best. He had tried to survive. He had tried to not leave the world of the living, had tried not to leave his friends.

There are people that will suffer if you die, even if you take Voldemort with you

"I tried Thea." Harry felt a lump in his throat. "Oh god I tried. But he was better than me. He was... he was better. I mean I knew he was, really. I just hoped I could skew the odds enough to let me win. Let me live. I guess I was wrong."

Harry looked up at the trees, bearing blossoms and fruit all at once in an impossible, but beautiful, tableau. He was glad he had ended up here, not back at Godrics Hollow.

"I did take him with me though." Harry spoke the bitter words. "I got him good."

The wind rustled lightly through the trees. He thought he could almost, just almost, hear children laughing. Harry sat down and set his back against a tree and closed his eyes. If this was the afterlife then he knew one thing for sure. Before he met any pearly gatekeepers or had his sins weighed against a feather or whatever he was sitting right here and having a rest. The legions of hell could not move him from that spot.

The wind whistled through the trees and for a moment Harry though he could hear voices.

“Stop her! Don‘t let her get to the body!”

“She‘s got a portkey!”

The voices faded. Harry shrugged, that kind of thing probably happened all the time when you were dead.

Harry's hand wormed it's way along the ground and found an apple. It was nice and hard, fallen recently. He brought it up to his mouth and bit into it, letting the juices run down his face. It tasted a little bitter, just a little.

Harry heard the grass in front of him disturbed by footfalls. Someone was there. He opened his eyes slowly, and arched his eyebrows when he saw who it was.

"Didn't expect to see you here." Harry commented dryly. "Though I suppose I should have."

"May I sit down?" Dumbledore asked, his voice bearing a serenity it had not held in life.

"Why not?" Harry shrugged. "I mean were all dead here aren't we. Maybe Elvis and Merlin will join us next."

"I doubt that Harry, Elvis isn't dead." Dumbledore frowned suddenly. "I apologize, you asked me not to call you-"

"You can call me Harry." Harry smiled. "Don't worry about it."

"But I do worry." Dumbledore shook his head. "I can never apologize to you enough for what I did to you. No words could ever suffice. I... I am only glad that I got this one last chance to tell you how sorry I am. My crime was unforgivable."

"Apparently it wasn't seeing as you're here and not in a big fiery place with lots of pitchforks." Harry chuckled and rested his arms behind his head.

"You seem," Dumbledore was picking his words carefully. "You seem at peace with what I did. More than the last time I saw you at least."

"Mate, I can never forgive you, so don't ask me to." Harry sighed and shook his head. "I don't think I can ever forgive you but at the same time... I get why you did it. You were in a bad place, everything was riding on your shoulders. I mean look at me, today I cast an unforgivable curse ten... maybe twenty times. And before that, over the course of this year I've killed... people. Several people. We all do what we think we have to do. You did what... what you thought you had to do, at the time. I can't forgive you for it. You playing with my head. Making me your Frankenstein's monster. Your changeling child. You... took me and changed me. Changed who I am, put memories in my head. You said you put your memories of James Potter in my head. I can feel them in there now... How much of it is me? Is any of this me? Or am I just a poor copy of Harry... Or worse a poor copy of James Potter. Am I? Answer me truthfully. Please."

"I..." Dumbledore dropped his eyes to the floor. "I do not know how much of your original personality survived. Integrating memories is never fully successful, not from one person to another, but there is no way to tell how much mixing there has been. There is a chance that the memories settled harmlessly into your subconscious, but then again..."

"There's a chance they didn't."

"Yes."

“Why didn't you tell me this earlier?” Harry sighed, “I mean before I went and cut out my eye and everything.”

“I... There were many reasons.” Dumbledore looked away into the distance. “You see it was very easy to... to not remember what I had done. To not think of it. I mean there you were, looking like Harry, acting like James. It was easy to fall into the trap of thinking you were... that you were...”

“Real?”

“That you were not the living proof of my sins.” Dumbledore shook his head. “At least that was the reason at first. I simple did not want to acknowledge what I had done. Then, later on, after you had defeated the basilisk, after you had come back from the torrent of ages, I began to think perhaps I would not have to. You had proved yourself a hero so I though... perhaps no one would ever have to know. Perhaps I could let you fill Harry's place and never tell you. I thought I could let you take the burden. I am not proud of that. I should have known the prophecy could not be so easily avoided.”

“Is it possible I still can take his place?” Harry pointed at his wrist. “I mean, the dark lord did mark me.”

“Harry he did not mark you as his equal he marked you as his servant.” Dumbledore shook his head. “And besides, I can count on my fingers the people who have thrice defied Voldemort. I would have known if one of them had been with child.”

Harry sighed. As he did the wind seemed to murmur, carrying to him distant voices. He strained his ears to hear,

"Help him! For Merlin's sake help him!" Was that... Hermione?

"Shut up and let me by." Snape's voice cut across her.

"His heart's not beating!"

"Of course It's not beating he doesn't have any blood left you hysterical idiot. Each of you, give me your hands. It’s a good thing Harry acquired so many hangers-on, one of you has to be his blood type."

The voices faded into the breeze. Harry’s brow furrowed.

“Did you hear that?” He asked Dumbledore.

“No, but then I‘m a little more dead than you are.” Dumbledore smiled.

“So I‘m... I‘m not dead?” Harry felt hope rise in his heart.

“You are dead, technically. Your heart is not beating.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “But I believe that, with time and a generous donation of good red blood, you may be pulled back into the world of the living.”

“So... Is this actually you then?” Harry scratched his head. “Is this actually the afterlife or just another dream?”

“This is the afterlife.” Dumbledore nodded. “And I am, more or less, who I appear to be.”

“How?”

“The fact that you are near death coupled with the fact that you died mere meters from the veil.” Dumbledore shrugged. “I am just glad I got a last chance to speak to you.”

“Well I assume we‘ll meet again... eventually.” Harry cracked a smile. “When I‘m old and gray and die in a bed surrounded by beautiful women.”

The old wizard and the young laughed. A thought struck Harry and the mirth dimmed.

“So, while I have you here, can I ask you something?”

“Of course Harry, anything.”

“What is my name?”

“I... I do not know.” Dumbledore hung his head. “I am sorry Harry. I erased the memory from my own mind so I would never call you it. Never slip up... But I can tell you the orphanage where I found you. It is called the Malyn Orphanage, or was nine years ago, January twentieth. It stands about ten miles south of Belfast. If records exist then, well then you might be able to find them there.”

“Malyn Orphanage. January twentieth...” Harry whispered. Then, “So I‘m Irish?”

“Yes Harry. You‘re Irish.” Dumbledore cracked a whimsical smile.

“Interesting.” Harry, who had lived his life with a London accent thick enough to float bricks on, chuckled. “So, do you think there might even be records of my parents?”

“I do not think so.” Dumbledore looked away, not meeting Harry’s eyes. He seemed to be picking his words carefully. “I do not think that you will find records of them there.”

“What aren‘t you telling me?” Harry felt the emptiness grow. “Were they wizards? Were they death eaters?”

“No Harry nothing like that.” Dumbledore shook his head. “In fact I believe we can safely assume both your parents were muggles. Let me explain, when I took you from the orphanage they told me a little about you. About how you had come to be there. Apparently you were not given to them in the normal fashion, you were... found. Found by an elderly couple walking along the Lagan river. The river was bursting it‘s banks a little after a storm and they saw a little bundle washed up in the mud. When they unwrapped you they thought you were dead, I was told that you were blue all over from the cold and damp, but so weak you weren‘t even shivering. You had been in the water for a long time.”

Crashing rocks. Raging white water. Harry’s mind shied away from the flashes of terror in his mind and he felt his breath quicken. The raging torrent in his mind banishing all though was real, a memory so scaring even Dumbledore had been unable to erase. His only real memory was a phobia. Another bitter joke. He licked his lips, had to say something, anything to take his mind off it.

“How old was I?”

“About six months old, give or take.” Dumbledore answered. “The couple gave you to the authorities and of course an investigation was made. Unfortunately nothing was ever found. And, inevitably, you ended up in the hands of the child services. The story after that is, well, rather as you might guess it.”

“It could have been an accident.” Harry spoke, not daring to hope. “You make it sound like my parents tried to kill me but it didn’t have to happen that way. Maybe I was swept away from my family. You said there were floods.”

“I... I do not think that was the case Harry.” A tear rolled down Dumbledore’s cheek. “You see, I have something the muggle authorities did not. I have my map. That was the reason Lupin knew. I needed him to find it and show me how to use it, or it could have revealed the truth.”

“The map- Or course!” Harry smiled, his eyes lighting up. “It should show my real name! That‘s why you kept it hidden and everything! What does it say?”

“Harry the map does not show your name.” Dumbledore brushed the tear away. “Do you know how the map works?”

“No.”

“It works by making use of an ancient type of magic, the magic of names.” Dumbledore’s voice took on a lecturing tone, but Harry could still hear the lump in his throat. “There is an old wizard superstition. An old wives tale, if you will, that a wizard’s name is tied to their destiny. That the name first given to a wizard somehow sets his path. There was once a great fad for concealing one‘s true name so that enemies could not gain power over you. Foolishness really, in those days someone‘s true name was easy enough to divine. That is what the map does in any case. It works by the magic of names.”

“Yeah,” Harry motioned the late Headmaster to continue. “And?”

“And for you it displays nothing Harry.” Dumbledore closed his eyes sadly. “On the map your name is blank. Just a set of footprints and an empty scroll.”

“Oh...” Harry let the silence grow between them. He couldn’t really think of anything to fill it.

“Do you understand what that means Harry? It means-”

“I know what it means.” Harry said quietly. “It means my parents never named me before they threw me away.”

“Harry...”

“I was six months old. Six months they had me and didn‘t even care enough to...” Harry slammed his fist into the ground. “I guess I‘m better off without them.”

“Is his heart beating? I can barely-”

“Is that a pulse... it was there I swear it was there.”

Harry let the voices on the wind die away. He sighed, looking up into the calming dappled sunlight.

“Harry are you alright?” Dumbledore asked. “I realize that this is a great deal to take in on top of-”

“I‘m alright.” Harry swallowed painfully. “I mean I‘m not alright, really. But I‘ll be alright. I can already tell. I‘ll be aright. I mean after all the other bombshells this doesn‘t really tip the scales that much does it. Like a molehill beside a smoking volcano.”

“I‘m just sorry that I was once again the bearer of bad news.” Dumbledore squinted at Harry, his eyes narrowing. “You are fading. Not long before you can no longer touch this place. Is there anyone else here you would like to speak to?”

“I... I don‘t know.” Harry scratched his head. “Most of my friends are still alive.”

“A blessing.”

“So I can call anyone then?” Harry asked slyly. “Anyone dead and they have to come?”

“Yes, anyone dead.”

“Tom Marvolo Riddle.” Harry said the dread name loudly into the wood, only faint echoes came back. “He‘s not dead then.” Harry’s hands clenched into fists.

“No,” Dumbledore shook his head. “I believe you have Bella to thank for that again. She snuck in when the wards came down and spirited his body away right under your friends’ noses using an emergency portkey. Rather careless of them. Alastor is probably beating himself up right now.”

“I though I got him.” Harry gritted his teeth. “I thought I got-”

“He will be severely weakened.” Dumbledore stepped forward and laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Perhaps as badly as he was fifteen years ago. This is a victory Harry, it will be years, possibly decades before he can rise again. And if we can catch him while he is weak and finish him off, so much the better.”

“I guess.” Harry tried to see the good side. It wasn’t easy. “Well let‘s try... Barty Crouch Jr.” Again the forest remained empty but for the two of them. Harry grimaced, he hadn’t really hoped that the slimy bastard was dead. But it would have been a welcome surprise.

“Is there not anyone you actually wish to speak to Harry?” Dumbledore asked, fading a little as he did so. “No one in this world? Perhaps the real Harry Potter?”

“I‘ve already met him. Twice actually now that I think about it.”

“How could you possibly...”

“Well once was years ago when I traveled through time and met him before he died.” Harry checked that off on his fingers. “And the second time me sent a message here from another dimension.” At Dumbledore’s shocked expression Harry grinned. “I lead a very weird life.”

“But interesting.”

“Oh yes, very interesting.” Harry smiled. “All in all I think I‘ll let him and his parents rest in peace. After what I did to their statue I don‘t think I could face them. Anyways, goodbye old man. I’ll see you again in a long long while.”

“I hope so Harry.”

“This is weird.” Harry chuckled and looked around. “Why does it feel like we're having this whole conversation two books early?”

“Simple Harry,” Dumbledore smiled. “Until now you have been walking someone else's path. From this point on, you'll have to make your own.”

“Good.” Harry nodded. “I'm ready.”

“I know you are Harry.” Dumbledore continued to fade. “I know you are. Oh wait, may I ask you something before I go?”

“Shoot.”

“What became of my wand?”

“Your wand...” Harry thought back. “Oh... I threw it through the veil along with Voldemort‘s. Sorry did you want to be buried with it or something?”

“No no Harry.” Dumbledore smiled broadly, a mysterious twinkle in his fading eye. “Just curious.” And with that the old wizard faded into nothing, and was gone. Harry chuckled.

“You had to have the last word didn‘t you. Git.”

The air seemed to change texture. Harry breathed out softly, he was alive again. He could feel his heartbeat in his chest. Weak, but there. Harry glanced around at the orchard. It was exactly the same as before but it felt different. He was dreaming now, just a regular dream. Harry let his eyes close slowly. He would wake up in good time, but until then? He was fine here. For now.
*


Snape reached his apartments in Hogwarts and barely got the door shut before falling into a chair. There was a bed in the next room, but it suddenly seemed very far away. Truth be told he could have fallen asleep in the middle of the great hall, on the floor. He would have been the laughing stock of every student though. Even worse he probably wouldn’t have woken up when they started laughing at him, even when they started poking him.

Snape raised his wand shakily and levitated the forgotten bottle of wine off his table. It had been left open, no matter. He poured himself a glass.

He had stood in the waiting room in St Mungos for longer than he could remember while incompetent healers told him they had no information. When they had finally told him that Harry was out of the woods all his nervous energy had leeched out and it had taken all of his mental strength to stop himself sagging to the floor right there. He had managed to fool most of them. He had not fooled Natalie.

She had apparated him back to Hogwarts and made him swear to sleep as soon as he got to his room. Who was she to order him around like that? Why could she? Snape’s lips curled into a smile. Because she was interesting enough to get away with it and was the only one who could pull it off. Which just added to the interest of course. Snape smiled as the wine curled down the back of his throat. He was very lucky in many respects. Luckier than he deserved.

“Severus are you in there?” There was a knock on the door. Not Natalie. Snape flicked his wand and the door creaked open. Minerva stood on the other side, looking as tired as he felt.

“Minerva.” Snape tried to sit a little less like he was falling asleep. “It is good to see you safe, in all the confusion in the ministry I lost track. Come in. Would you like some wine?”

“No thank you.” Minerva stepped inside. Now that she was closer he could see that the edges of her eyes held telltale signs of tears. She had tried to hide it, but to the trained eye it was quite obvious. “I heard you were back in the castle and came down to see you.”

“Anything in particular bothering you?” Snape asked, perhaps more caustically than was necessary. “I am rather tired you see.”

“Yes, there is something.” Minerva pulled a hard backed chair over and sat down stiffly. “When you went off to St Mungos I called the remaining order together, there was much to discuss.”

“I can imagine that there would be.” Snape yawned theatrically. He did not have to fake it. “I cannot imagine how that would concern me however, I am no longer a member.”

“That is partially what we were discussing.” Minerva cocked her head to one side. “Voldemort is weakened but not dead. The order’s task is far from done and we could more than use your expertise. Your primary reason for leaving was Albus. I will not presume to ask the details of that disagreement, it was between the two of you. But do you not think that now he is... gone, that you might be persuaded to come back to us?”

“That would depend on who replaced him.” Snape said levelly. “For example if it were yourself leading the order, I would have no objection.”

“I will not be leading the order.” McGonagall shook her head. “I will have quite enough to do here at Hogwarts. The job of headmistress is enough for me. It has been hard enough to persuade parents to send their children to Hogwarts this year. I imagine next year may be a little easier but I am sure I will still have my hands full. And besides, I will need to find a new transfiguration teacher.”

“Shacklebolt then.” Snape waved a hand vaguely. “He has always been very capable.”

“Kingsley Shacklebolt may very well be the only thing currently keeping the ministry from falling apart.” Minerva smiled faintly. “He was the most senior auror to survive this debacle so I believe he will be ever more busy than I myself will be.”

“There are other candidates.” Snape was fully alert now. He could feel where this was going. “Alastor Moody.”

“Too paranoid.”

“Arthur Weasley.”

“Has no combat or strategic experience.”

“Natalie. Natalie Zhao. She is-”

“Very new to the order.”

“Remus Lupin then, he has been with the order since-”

“Remus has grown unpredictable recently. Especially where Harry is concerned.” Minerva fixed Snape with a level stare. “I believe we can agree that whoever should head the order should be someone Harry trusts. Someone like you.”

“No.”

“Someone who knows how the dark lord thinks.”

“No.”

“Severus listen to me.” Minerva leant closer to him. “Do you not think we discussed all these things in amongst ourselves in the order?”

“If I had been there I would have had a few things to say!”

“Severus please.” Minerva’s eyes dropped to the floor. “This past year Albus... well you yourself saw. I do not speak ill of the dead but he had become... tired. He was not the Dumbledore we all knew. He was not acting at his best.”

Snape stayed silent. Not at his best was a horrific understatement if ever he heard one but there was no need to say so.

“In any case he was faltering. We all saw it, everyone in the order. But no one did anything about it. Except you.” Minerva shook her head. “Perhaps we were all, how did you put it? ‘Trapped in the past.’ Except you.”

“I... I cannot lead the order.” Snape tried to make his voice not sound like that of a rat at bay. “I was a death eater, I fell into dark magic. A long time ago yes but some marks do not come out.”

“Yours has.”

“That is not what I meant!” Snape took a deep gulp of wine. “I am... tainted. Undeserving.”

“Albus always said he did not deserve the prominence he was given.”

“Do not compare me to-” Snape bit back the end of that angry sentence. There was no to take out his anger on the messenger. “I merely meant that I do not think it is safe to give me this kind of power.”

“Albus also said that those who seek power are those least suited to wield it.” Minerva held his eyes. “The corollary of that is that those who are suited to wield power are those who reject it.”

“Do not quote at me.”

“Severus, there is no one else who can do the job as well as you. No one else.”

“No one else.” Snape felt like chuckling. “That is what it always comes down to doesn‘t it? We all do what we must.”

“I always have.” Minerva stood. “So you will take the task?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“You do, but I already know how you will choose.”

“You knew before you stepped through that door.” Snape sneered. “I am trapped like a rabbit.”

“Only by your own traps Severus.” Minerva smiled and turned to the door.

“You know that I will do things differently than Dumbledore.” Snape said suddenly. “There will be changes.”

“I know, I look forward to them.” McGonagall nodded, and left the room.

Snape rubbed his forehead. He should begin planning, there was much to do. No, he should not. Right now he had a promise to keep. Shedding his robe tiredly, he walked towards his bed.
*


"Harry... Harry open your eyes."

Harry woke from deep dreaming, the sparkling silver voice in his ears.

"I'm awake," Harry murmured, his eyes closed. "But I'm still in my orchard. I can smell the blossoms."

"You are still asleep, in St Mungos." Water rippling over shining stones. "I wanted to talk to you but you're on a great deal of medication. It was simpler for me to just come to you."

"And where are you?" Harry's lips twitched up into a smile.

"Sitting beside your bed."

Harry chuckled, and opened his eyes.

"Hello Thea."

"Hello Harry." The young seer was sitting cross legged under a tree in front of him, looking like the human image of serenity. Instead of her usual white robe she was wearing a simple brown dress, she seemed almost part of the forest. She looked... different, somehow different. It was not her face, she was still the same beautiful girl he had always known, or her eyes, mismatched as they were. Her silver hair was caught up into a long tail down her back, tied with blue ribbon. She looked exactly the same but there was something missing. Gone was the sense of ancientness, the feeling that the little soul in front of him had outlasted empires. She seemed... young, the same age as him give or take a year. Harry supposed she always had been. It did not take much to guess the reason for the change.

"You're not the oracle anymore." Harry guessed, guiltily.

"No, I'm not." Pythea smiled. "I was sacked."

"I'm sorry." Harry hung his head. "It was because you were helping me, wasn't it?"

"Yes, they finally caught on." Pythea reached forward and tilted Harry's chin up. "Don't feel guilty, not even for a moment. I was miserable there, almost a prisoner. I'm happy to be gone."

"You don't have to tell me that just to-"

"It is the truth."

"But it was your home." Harry sighed. "I'm going to feel guilty whatever you say, you can't stop me."

"Stubborn."

"Brat."

"I am not." Pythea smiled warmly. "Do you have any idea what you will do now? After you are released from hospital I mean."

"I... I have somewhere I want to go."

"The orphanage?"

"Hey, you reading my mind again?" Harry smiled mysteriously. "Don't I get any secrets?"

"I cannot read minds anymore Harry." Thea shook her head. "That came with being the oracle remember. I just know you."

"But you're still a seer, right?" Harry hesitated to ask.

"Oh yes, there are some things they cannot take away." Pythea nodded. "I am still a seer, and a very powerful one."

"Can you... can you tell me my future?" Harry asked suddenly.

"No. I can't." Pythea smiled and stood. "Do you want to go to the orphanage now?"

"Now?" Harry scratched his head. "Aren't I in hospital?"

"A short walk will not inconvenience a mighty hero like you too much." Pythea crooked an eyebrow mockingly.

"A short walk? We have to get to Ireland ya know."

"Then it is lucky that another thing they cannot take away is my international apparition license." Pythea held out her hand. "Just tell me where Harry. And we can go."

Harry reached out and took her hand.
*


"Ow." Harry's hand went to his stomach as pain flared there through the hospital sheets. "That really hurts."

"I told you it would." Pythea was sitting exactly where she said she was, at the side of his bed. "The knife was made with dark magic so the wound can't be magically healed. You'll have to let it knit together the old fashioned way. Is it too much? Do you wish to wait till tomorrow?"

"No no. It just surprised me is all." Harry slowly lowered his feet to the floor and gingerly stood. He had to hunch just a little to stop the skin of his stomach stretching painfully, but he could walk. No he couldn't. His leg was mangled too. Maybe he could hop... "Do you have my clothes somewhere? Oh wait my bag's right here. Can you turn so I can-"

Pythea cut him off with a wave of her hand. His hospital gown changed into a simple white t-shirt and trousers. Muggle enough to be getting on with. With another wave a carved wooden cane appeared in his hand. Obviously she did not think he was as healthy as said he was. Damn her for being right.

"Thank you." Harry smiled and picked up his bag from beside the bed. "Shall we go then?"

Pythea stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around his tender middle. This close Harry could smell her hair, like green grass and the sea. He was breathing faster, probably because of all the potions they had him on.

"Are you ready?" She asked.

"Yes." Harry shut his eyes and waited. And waited... He opened them again and cocked his head to one side. "Is there a problem?"

"You still haven't told me where we're going." Pythea clicked her tongue irritably. "Not being able to read peoples thoughts is going to take some getting used to."

"I'm sorry. I really am." Harry apologized again, earning him a level stare from the little seer, and told her their destination.

For the first time in his life Harry enjoyed an apparition. The walls of the void pressed him into Pythea, forcing them closer together. He could feel her breath on his cheek. He was almost disappointed when they dropped onto a small road in the countryside.

Harry stepped back and glanced around. There was no mistaking the orphanage, it was the only building there. At the center of it was a stately-home type of thing. He couldn't put a date to it, old was the best he could do. That was clearly the center of the complex but at some point the owners had felt a need to expand. The two blocks to either side of the main building took after the put-some-rectangular-concrete-blocks-in-a-vaguely-building-shape style of architecture. Around the whole place there was a high wall with barbed wire looped at the top.

Harry tried not to think that made it look like a prison. All schools had that these days.

With a careful hand on his stomach Harry walked up to the main reception. Pythea stopped there and sat down quietly on a bench.

"You're not coming in?" Harry asked.

"You go on ahead." Thea looked out over the countryside. "You should probably do this yourself."

"I can still do it myself with you there."

"Go inside Harry."

Harry grinned and turned towards the door. He took a deep breath, then winced at what that did to his stomach. He tried to calm the raging butterflies inside but couldn't. The only thing that gave him the will to push open the door was marauder rules. Follow through. No fear.

As he stepped into the dull entrance hall a secretary looked up from her desk, eying him quizzically.

"Is there a records department?" Harry asked uncertainly.

"Up the stairs first door on the left." The secretary looked back down at her papers.

Up the stairs. Of course. Harry labored up the steps, having to rest more than once before he reached the top. Out the window he could see the playground, full of children running about wildly. From inside the wall the place looked a lot nicer. All around the edge of the wall there were a series of children's paintings. Long running murals and swirls of color. It was almost pleasant, it looked like a normal school.

Harry managed to reach the first floor and took a few tired breaths. She wanted to let me to this by myself. Probably just didn't want to carry me up the bloody steps. Harry then realized that hunching over and breathing heavily in a building full of children could possibly be misinterpreted. He stood and walked forward towards the first door, his walking stick clattering against the floor. He knocked, politely.

"Come in."

Harry pushed the door open to see an elderly lady sitting in front of a computer, looking at him questioningly over her glasses.

“Hi, I used to live here. At the orphanage I mean.” Harry stepped inside.

“Oh,” The woman smiled. “Please have a seat.” Harry gratefully sat, hung his stick over the back of the chair and worked out how to continue.

“I was wondering if I could get any records you have of me?”

“Do you have any identification?”

“Eh?”

“Passport? Drivers license, no you‘re too young for that. Your adoption certificate perhaps.”

“Do I need one?” Harry’s hand moved to his pocket and mercifully found that Draco's wand was still there.

“We can‘t give records out to just anyone dear.”

“Confundus.” Harry whispered, then. “Can you make an exception?”

“Of... of course deary.” The woman shook her head like she was trying to dislodge cobwebs then turned to her computer. “What name is it?”

“I don‘t have my name. Long story, but it happened on January twentieth, nine years ago.” Harry wondered whether he would need another Confundus to blow past the ‘no name’ thing, but the woman seemed to take it in her stride.

“Everything‘s on computers now. It‘s very high tech.” The woman pursed her lips as she clacked away at her keyboard. “When I started here we had rooms and rooms of file boxes. Would have taken ages to find a record like yours.”

When would she have started here? Harry wondered. Was it possible she might have been there back when he was?

“Here we are.” The woman squinted at the record for a moment then let out a throaty chuckle. “Oh yes, I remember.”

“You... you do?” Harry felt his breath quicken. “You remember me?”

“How could I forget?” She turned to him with a motherly smile. “Everyone here has a constant reminder of your stay with us.”

“Wh... what?”

“See the wall over there?” She gestured out the window. “See the barbed wire? You may think it‘s to keep folks out, but it was originally put up to keep you in. You kept clambering over the wall.”

“Really.” Harry didn’t dare feel. Didn’t dare hope. A living connection to his stolen past like this had been too much to ask. “I must have caused you all a lot of trouble.”

“Oh you were a scamp you were.” The old woman smiled fondly. “I still remember what you said to me the day the wire went up.”

“What?” Harry swallowed. “What did I say?”

“Well I said to you ‘You know that wire‘s been put up just to keep you in.’ And you turned to me, cheeky as a monkey, and told me ‘That‘s good Miss, ‘cos the wall wasn‘t much of a challenge anymore.’”

Harry’s heart broke and he fell into his hands. He felt tears blooming in his eyes. He hadn’t known what to expect when he’d come here, but he had never expected this. He had never expected proof. Proof that he wasn’t some Frankenstein monster, proof that he wasn’t a bad copy of James Potter. He was, and had always been, him. Arrogant, cocky, unrespectful of authority and filled with wanderlust. He. Was. Him.

“Dear are you alright?” The old woman sounded concerned. “Do you want a tissue?”

“And you tell me...” Harry swallowed and tried again. “Can you tell me my name?”

“Oh, I‘m afraid you came to us without a name.” She looked back at her computer screen. “We gave you the surname Malyn, after the orphanage. Which is a traditional here. And for the first name we had to make that up. So we called you Jack.”

Jack...

Jack Match.

Jack Baltzegaurd.

Jack Shakey.

Jack Caiman.

All those people, all those people he’d disguised himself as... Jack.

His constant alias. The name that had always come to his lips when he knew he couldn’t say ‘Harry’. It had been a memory, a memory of the first real name he had. Not given to him by his parents sure, and apparently not magically binding. But a name. He still felt more like Harry, it was still the name that came first to his lips but... it was like that hollow core inside him was filling. Filling with parts of a life he had though he had no memory of. It felt so good.

“I suppose you‘ll want to go down and see it.” The old woman was handing him a printed copy in a folder. Harry assumed it was his file. She nodded towards the back of the orphanage.

“See it?”

“It was always your favorite place.” The old woman smiled. “It was where we usually found you when you managed to sneak off.”

Suddenly Harry knew, and with the knowledge came the unbearable need to see if it was true. Harry stood suddenly.

“Yes, I do want to see it. Thank you.” Harry smiled thorough teary eyes. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“My pleasure Jack.”

Harry turned and hobbled from the room, it was only his aching wound and walking stick that stopped him from running. He reached the bottom of the stairs and pushed out the door. Pythea was already standing, like she’d known he was coming.

“We need to go that... that way.” Harry was breathing so hard all he could do was point vaguely.

“Lead the way.”

Harry set off, taking them round to the back of the buildings. He could see it now, down the slope a little. He stumbled down and stopped just before he reached it, just before he went beneath the shade of the apple trees. The little round orchard of apple trees.

“My god.” Pythea had her hand to her mouth in shock. “It‘s real.”

“It was a memory.” Harry breathed, reaching out a hand to touch a branch. “It was a memory. I kept having this dream where I was stuck in Godrics Hollow. But that place felt all weird, but if I could break out and reach the orchard I felt safe. Felt real.”

“I though it was a creation of your mind, I never thought...”

“Neither did I.” Harry stepped beneath the branches and walked into the center of the grove. He set his back against the tree and slid down, resting on the ground. Pythea sat down next to him, resting her shoulder against his.

“It‘s very peaceful here.” Was all she said.

Harry didn’t trust himself to speak. Couldn’t speak. There were no words. They sat there for the longest time, the last summer breeze filling running past them and rustling the leaves above their heads. Eventually, after who knew how long, Harry spoke.

“Thea?”

“Hm?” She murmured. Had she almost fallen asleep. Harry looked over into her beautiful mismatched eyes.

“Why did you trust me? Right at the beginning?”

“I told you, because you are good and-”

“But right at the beginning you couldn‘t have known all that.” Harry pointed out. “Back then I was a stranger.”

“You were never a stranger.” Thea smiled sadly. “Do you know how they choose the next oracle Harry? They go around to all the magical households in Greece, looking for children with the inner eye. If they find one with enough power, with power enough to be Pythea, they take them back to the temple.”

“Take them from their parents?” Harry asked, shocked.

“The parents have a choice of course, but who would dare say no.” Pythea huddled up against Harry’s side. “I was three, but I remember it well, another curse my gift gives me. My name wasn‘t Pythea then, but I was told that I could never use my old name, never speak it ever again. One day in art class I signed one of my paintings with the old name, just a little mistake. The fury they had at me that day... they burnt my picture, in front of my eyes. I never used the old name again. After I finished my training I was allowed to go back and visit my parents. I went back to my old house. They were very... polite. They acted exactly the way I would expect someone to act towards The Pythea. When I tried to act like their daughter, they looked at me like I had done something wrong. Even to them I was supposed to be The Pythea... even to them.”

“Thea I never knew.” Harry put an arm around her (What the hell do I do? She’s not crying, do I offer her a tissue anyway? Oh god what do I say?) “It must have been heart-wrenching. I can‘t imagine-”

“You can imagine. Not that you have to.” Pythea smiled up at him. “That‘s why we were never strangers. Because we‘re the same, both orphaned. Both with our true identities taken from us. Both shoved into rolls and names we never wanted.”

“Both forced to accept them.” Harry nodded. “Yeah, we were never strangers. We’re the same, we‘re like... rootless. We have no roots. No past.”

“Did you find out your name?” Pythea asked suddenly.

“I found out a name.” Harry shrugged. “But I think I‘ll keep going with Harry, I‘ve carried it longer than the other now anyway.”

“They took away who we are.” She murmured.

“They took away our names.” Harry corrected, brushing his hand against Pythea’s face. “They can‘t take away who we are. The names don‘t matter so much, you can call me Harry or Jack or Bob it doesn’t matter. I know who I am.”

“I wish I had your certainty.”

“You do have it.” Harry smiled. “Because I know who you are. It‘s got nothing to do with your name. You‘re just you. Any you‘re perfect.”

“Harry...” Pythea lifted up, little glistening tears in the corners of her eyes, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Thank you.”

Harry didn’t really know what to do, other than to blush. A moment later Pythea seemed to realize something.

“Harry, did you just beat me at being profound?”

“Had to happen eventually.” Harry grinned cheekily.

“I‘ll get you next time.”

“You‘re on.”

Pythea smiled, lighting up her face. Harry bit his lip and asked.

“So, you‘re going to be staying in Britain then? For now?”

“I think so. Are you?”

“Yeah, probably.” Harry rested his hands behind his head. “Go back to Hogwarts maybe. I don‘t know if I missed the O.W.L.S.”

“They begin next week if I remember correctly.”

“A week, think that‘s enough time?” Harry scratched his head.

“Since it‘s all the revision you would do anyway, I‘d say, yes. And after that?”

“Dunno... Stay in the country probably. I could do with a nice peaceful holiday.”

“Harry you wouldn‘t know what to do with a peaceful holiday.”

“I‘d know exactly what to do.” Harry winked. “As soon as I got there it would get a lot less peaceful, but a lot more fun.”

Crystal laughter filled the grove, and lit up the leaves with light.
*


Bellatrix Lestrange bowed over her master’s bed and cried, heedless of her tears staining the sheets. She had done all she could, used every facet of her art, but her lord still barely breathed. His skin was dead white and only the dark magic she had woven in his chest kept him alive. He was so weak, not even conscious. It was terrible to see him like this, terrible to see him brought so low. Better if he had truly died, then he could have risen up again in glory. Instead he was trapped in this prison of flesh. Better dead than to lie on this narrow cot in a tiny room, not even fit for a hiding place. But she had to do what she could. She was the last, the last loyal death eater.

“I am all he has.” Bellatrix whimpered.

“That is not the case.”

Bella whirled, her wand snaking out. When she saw who it was she barely relaxed.

“You!” She spat with venom. “Barty Crouch, you dare slink back after abandoning our lord!”

“I did not abandon him.” The unruffled boy stepped from the shadows, carrying a package under his arm. “I was doing our lords good work.”

“For a full year?”

“It did take longer than anticipated... but it has been done. And in the nick of time too.” The pale wizard strode over to the dark lord’s sickbed and knelt beside it. “I am your servant, master, and I have done your bidding. Do not worry lord, I can make you strong again. Stronger than ever. With this... we can rise again, the death eaters can rise again. The earth will tremble master, tremble in fear.”

Barty Crouch reached into his package and pulled something out. Bellatrix felt her jaw drop.

“We can be stronger than ever master.” Barty’s face in the shadows was terrifying. “Stronger than ever.”
________________________________________




Ye gods that was hard to write right. Or... right write. Write write... some combination of those words anyway. It's been a roller coaster I think you'll agree, and the single most massive twist of the entire fic was finally revealed. Hope you liked it. People who were waiting to the end of this book to review... your time has come.

I've already started writing the next book and It ain't going well. I didn't do my usual thing of writing myself into a corner. Instead I plotted the book out in advance and wrote to it. Unfortunately I got a few chapters in and realized that it sucked. The plot made logical sense and all, no plot-holes, there was nothing tripping me up, no writers block, I just realized that the plot I had mapped out was a bit [word I can't add without mature rating] really. I had to go back and rework the thing. Positive upshot: The story is a lot stronger now I think. Negative upshot: I have to throw away a significant part of what I've already written. Ah well, such is life.

Anyway *clears throat* the next story is on it's way. Our Harry has finally found out who he really is and begins walking his own path. Too bad that path is as deadly as the last. A new enemy rises, an old one lingers and a mysterious assassin is out for Harry's blood. With Harry still injured from his confrontation in the department of mysteries he can't face these challenges head on. He may even have to start using his brain...

Mysteries abound in the next book of the series Harry Potter, The Stone and The Scorpion!

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