HP is Not Mine. Got it? Good.
The nurse, chalk white from exhaustion and worry, blinked at being addressed so late at night. Blearily peering at the person invading her realm of sterilized cleanliness, she belatedly recognized the speaker.
"Headmaster! What can I do for you?"
Pomfrey immediately berated herself for the inanity of her question. He was obviously in the infirmary to check on her current patient.
Albus smiled slightly, though his eyes were surprisingly lackluster- no doubt from grief. After all, hadn't the Potters and young Sirius Black just been killed, with Remus Lupin accused as their betrayer and thrown into Azkaban?
Then again, the news certainly wasn't all so terrible.
Voldemort was gone.
"First of all, Poppy, it is three in the morning. Should you not be asleep?"
Poppy almost smiled at the question. The lad already being hailed as 'The Boy Who Lived' was in the next room, and here Dumbledore was, asking about her health. Only Albus….
"Well, yes, but…. The boy is still in shock, Albus. I've tried everything I know to help him along, but not even the Sleeping Potions are working, and they were made by Severus!"
Privately, Pomfrey somewhat doubted the Potions were good- Severus had expressed his disapproval of her methods with Harry Potter, saying the boy needed to come to terms on his own. Then again, the Sleeping Potions, when tested on another nurse, had certainly worked quite well. Mary was still snoring away in the corner of Poppy's office.
Dumbledore merely nodded. "I take it, then, that young Harry is still awake?"
The weary nurse nodded, her eyes suddenly quite grim. "Yes, and frankly Albus, it's beginning to unnerve me. He won't talk, won't react if you approach him, and won't respond to sensations or physical stimuli. Severus is under the impression that Mister Potter is purposefully ignoring us, trying to sort out what has happened. And I must admit that he isn't exhibiting the normal symptoms of shock. No shaking, no fever or chills, no blankness in his eyes or irrationality in his actions- what few he's made. He seems quite well but for the muteness. And, of course, the cut."
She stopped speaking abruptly, her mouth shutting with an audible snap.
Ah yes. The cut- gash was far more like it. It began on his forehead, slicing down jaggedly like lightning, before the tail end reached down over the bridge of the boys nose and onto his left cheek, going straight to the boy's jaw. It was hideous and disfiguring, and Poppy had shuddered to see the boy's angelic features so marred.
Yes, the cut. Even now it was healing- though far more slowly than Poppy would normally have liked. However, his gash was caused not by any normal means, but instead by the Avada Kedavra, the Killing Curse. Which meant that in all likelihood, it would never fade away but would always remain, a visible reminder of Harry Potter's tragedy-ridden victory over Voldemort.
And the child was only seven….
"Might I look in on him?"
Pomfrey almost snorted. The request was politely couched, of course, but the nurse knew quite well that Dumbledore would do whatever he pleased. This was, after all, his school. "Go ahead," she relented with little defiance in her tone. "The boy probably would be glad to see someone familiar."
Obviously that was the wrong thing to say, for a calculating, speculative gleam suddenly lit up Albus' eyes. "Hmm…Madame, if you would fetch Professor Snape for me?"
Poppy frowned, but sighed and nodded without so much as an annoyed remark. At the moment, she was too tired to do anything but comply.
Albus quietly entered the small cubicle currently housing Harry Potter, inwardly a tad nervous about what he might find. He'd only seen a glimpse of the boy when Severus portkeyed into his office the day before, bellowing for Pomfrey. He'd gotten but a rather quick look at the cut, and even that hadn't been very enlightening, as Potter's entire face had been covered in blood and the gash was thus disguised.
Before yesterday, Albus had only met the young Harry a total of four times, all of which occured when Harry and his parents, for a very short time, left their safe home to visit Hogwarts to gain news on the war. Albus remembered a quiet, contemplative, pale yet remarkably handsome boy with a startling measure of insight and a distinctly Gryffindor-like air about him.
Harry was staring into the dark, his brilliant green eyes fixed on the ceiling above. His pallor was even more pronounced against the crisp white sheets of the infirmary bed, and his hands were fisted in the blanket he'd been given earlier by Poppy. His pale lips were pressed into a thin, straight line, and his breathing was deep and measured, as if the boy were forcing himself to take in oxygen.
The young lad had always been an odd one. After all, for nearly his entire life he had been locked away in his house, forbidden to leave lest Death Eaters spot him. And no one besides his Godfather ever visited, as Sirius Black had faithfully kept the secret of the Potters' location from everyone, friend and foe alike. Only Lily and James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black himself had seen Harry with any regularity. Even then, Lupin and Pettigrew had never been able to visit the Potter home, both suspected of being traitors. Harry had had to meet them at their own homes, after the places were thoroughly checked out by Sirius, Lily, James, and Dumbledore himself.
And now Lily, James, and Sirius were dead- and Harry had watched them die.
Harry knew quite well that Headmaster Dumbledore stood at the foot of his bed, waiting to be welcomed or acknowledged. Unfortunately for him, Harry didn't particularly want to welcome or acknowledge the old man. Dumbledore hadn't been there. He didn't know….
*Why can't I cry? Why is there this strange emptiness in me, where tears and agony ought be?*
*Or is it just that murderers don't deserve to cry?*
"So, Harry," Dumbledore finally said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "How are you holding up?"
*How do you THINK I'm holding up, you idiot?*
"Harry…you'll need to speak to me sometime."
*Maybe…right now I'd much rather not say a thing, thank you. Now leave me alone, you miserable old coot.*
There was a soft sigh from Dumbledore, before Harry felt the man sit lightly on the side of his bed. He restrained the urge to scream at the Headmaster to leave him the hell alone, instead focusing all of his attention on the shadowed ceiling above.
"Look at me, Harry."
It was an order, there was no doubt about that. Harry nevertheless ignored it, keeping his face somewhat slack. *Wouldn't want Dumbledore to think I'm aware he is here.*
Silence reigned supreme in the small room. Harry didn't blink, half-hoping that his eyes would tear up if he kept them dry long enough. It wasn't working.
Why couldn't he just cry?
"Harry, I need to know what happened," Dumbledore said gently.
"I killed them." *Now bugger off.*
"Killed who?" Dumbledore pushed. Harry, still refusing to look at the man, felt his jaw tighten in annoyance and anger.
"Mum. Dad. Sirius. Voldemort."
The last name he spat out, allowing emotion to briefly blaze in his eyes. Voldemort…Mum had never let Harry call him 'You-Know-Who' as Peter was wont to do.
"How did you kill your parents and Sirius?" Still Dumbledore's voice was so very calm. Harry longed to do something to startle the man out of his complacency, to shock him to the core. Unfortunately, very little could shock the old man, and Harry knew lying, in this instance, was out of the question.
But neither did he wish to tell the truth. "By living," he snarled, before shutting his mouth and closing his eyes, obviously ending the entire conversation. Dumbledore hesitated, before heaving a weary sigh and leaving.
"He won't tell me what happened," Albus said quietly to Severus. They were sitting alone in Dumbledore's office, only Fawkes there to witness the coming conversation.
Snape almost rolled his eyes. Dumbledore was a great man and an excellent wizard and was rather good with adolescents, but he was clueless when it came to traumatized young children. "Yes, I'm sure he was eager to dredge up the raw memories of his family's death," Snape said dryly, his upper lip curling. "As children always are such masochists."
The Headmaster of Hogwarts glared. "This is no laughing matter, Severus."
"And I'm not laughing, Albus."
"I need to know what happened." Albus' tone was firm, and the glitter in his blue eyes let Snape have no hope of escape. Glaring right back at Dumbledore, Snape gracelessly gave in.
Severus stood before Voldemort, giving his report, one formulated ahead of time with Albus' help. "Dumbledore is searching for Black. He has alerted the Ministry as well as the Potters, though I've no idea how he was able to find them." Not even Dumbledore had been told by Black where the Potters lived.
"Interesting," Voldemort murmured, his crimson eyes distant. "So the Potters will be leaving their current place and hiding anew, now that they know their Secret-Keeper has been captured."
Severus sneered. "Perhaps, but Potter was a Gryffindor, and Evans all but one. It would be…in character…for them to attempt a rescue."
Voldemort waved away Snape's conjectures with a thin, veined hand. "Ah, but they've the boy to look over. Not even Dumbledore would be foolhardy enough to risk the youngest Potter."
Snape's reply was forestalled by an odd vibrating in the very air of Voldemort's throne room. The Death Eaters surrounding the talking duo shifted uneasily at the magic bunching around them- someone was trying to Apparate into the area when no one was due to arrive.
Their Master stood easily, with that haunting grace that so often struck terror into his own minions' hearts- what little heart they retained after service with the Dark Lord. "Nott and Avery are coming," the man mused, tasting the magic around them. "And they bring someone with them…an innocent." He sniggered. "Perhaps Dumbledore wishes to trade himself for that miserable, mangy mutt," he suggested, sneering into the dark corner where a bloodied, beaten Sirius Black hung in chains, barely aware of his surroundings.
Reluctantly, Severus felt a tad of respect for the man appear in him. Black was nearly dead of pain and blood loss, his mind in shambles from the tortures visited upon him, but he hadn't betrayed his friends.
Severus also found himself wanting to congratulate Voldemort for his masterful alliteration- miserable mangy mutt, indeed.
With an audible crash of pure chaotic noise, Nott and Avery arrived. And between them stood a child, one shaking in terror but with defiance in his gaze.
With a sinking heart, Snape recognized the boy. He'd never before seen the lad, but he was the spitting image of his father.
Except for his eyes. Those belonged solely to his mother.
"If it isn't Harry Potter," Voldemort cackled gleefully. "Nott, Avery- however did you manage to find the little brat?"
Nott swallowed nervously, but Avery, as always, was too dull to recognize the odd madness that occasionally overtook their Master, leading him to punish and kill his most faithful followers as well as his foes.
"He found us," Avery said in his oily, naturally high-pitched tone, not noticing Nott slowly back away from him. "Came up to us in Godric's Hollow neat as you please, saying to take us to you."
Every eye went to the trembling boy, some in awe and some simply confounded.
"You have me now. You can let my godfather go," the boy said, his voice quaking but brave. Severus fought the urge to smash his head against the wall- how utterly Gryffindor of the boy! Good God, how stupid could one get?
Then again, this was Potter's boy in question….
"Do you even know who I am?" Voldemort asked in the stunned silence, leaning towards the lad, his blood-red eyes blazing with madness and power.
Harry Potter, all of seven years old, swallowed and met the Dark Lord's gaze. "I may be stupid, but I'm not ignorant," the lad ground out, though his shaking had grown more pronounced. "Voldemort."
Snape flinched in spite of himself at the name.
"Ah, so you know who I am. Do you know what I am, though?" Voldemort sounded eerily amused, a twisted affection for the lad in his voice. Even Avery got up the wits to take a hurried step away, bumping into the retreating Nott as he did so.
Harry didn't move. Staring into Voldemort's eyes as if hypnotized, he replied clearly, "Voldemort: meaning Flight from Death in Latin. The name belongs to a madman, a murderer, and a kidnapper."
Snape sucked in a shocked breath. Was the boy determined to get himself killed?
"A madman? Perhaps. A kidnapper, certainly. A murderer…hardly. I…cleanse. I kill only those who blemish this earth with their presence."
"Well, I don't see you committing suicide, so you really aren't that effective," the boy replied, though his defiance was made laughable by his shaking.
He knows he'd going to die, Severus realized with a start. And he's trying to goad the Dark Lord into anger to get it over with. Then he thought, almost idly: Since when has a Potter been able to actually plan? Must be Lily's influence.
Harry's head snapped as he heard his godfather's voice calling to him from a dark corner of the room. Green eyes widened at the sight Sirius Black made, hanging from the wall in chains, blood running in thick rivulets down his body. The Potter boy looked sickened.
"Let him go," Harry demanded, his small hands twitching. "Please…let him go and I'll let you kill me."
Voldemort laughed out loud at that, as did many of the Death Eaters. "Let me? Boy, you couldn't stop me."
Severus was the only one who noted how the lad was surreptitiously reaching into his jacket pocket. Searching for a wand, perhaps? Fool boy…no wand was powerful enough to hold off the Dark Lord. Perhaps Lily hadn't influenced the Potter bloodline as much as Severus had hoped.
"Let him go," Harry repeated, his voice stronger. "And I'll do whatever you want. Let him go."
Dumbledore shook his head as Snape paused in the middle of his tale. "Too brave for his own good. Foolhardy as all Potters are…he'll be a Gryffindor, no doubt."
Snape snorted. "Oh, you haven't heard it all, sir. The boy may look exactly like his father, but he has his mother's cunning…and a good sense of dramatic irony as well."
"I rather think not," Voldemort replied calmly. "Now be a good boy and die." The Dark Lord raised his wand, smirking in triumph. The Death Eaters sniggered at their master's 'wit', and Severus gritted his teeth at his inability to do anything. Sirius moaned in the corner.
And Harry pulled a gun out from the pocket of his small jacket.
The pistol was overlarge for the boy, but it was cocked and ready…and Voldemort was too near the boy for it to miss.
The next few moments were utter chaos.
"Harry shot Voldemort?" Albus demanded, eyes wide.
Severus nodded, bleak amusement in his obsidian gaze. "Right through his gut, with a muggle weapon. Of course, Harry wasn't strong enough to stand his ground- the kick from the pistol sent him sprawling. The Death Eaters were running about like headless chickens, while…Voldemort…bled. But it wasn't enough to bring him down.
"Then James and Lily Apparated in- they'd found out belatedly what their son had decided on doing. Apparently the gun was Lily's, kept loaded and hidden in case of an attack.
"They were astounded at what Harry had done, it was plain enough, but then James leapt at Voldemort and Lily rushed over to Harry, taking out a good few Death Eaters on the way. Even so wounded, though, Voldemort easily killed James with the Killing Curse. Black put up a bit of a fuss at that, and was being an irritation, so Malfoy took him out- after all, Voldemort no longer needed Black to find Potter.
"Voldemort advanced on Lily and Harry. Lily took out her wand and tried to curse Voldemort- silly girl, did she really think she could cast a Cruciatus that would affect the Dark Lord? Voldemort merely batted the wand out of her hand. She begged him for her son's life, while the remaining Death Eaters laughed even as they incinerated their own dead. Voldemort killed her- snapped her head clean off with a Cutting Curse. And then…."
Harry was staring at his mother's body, at the hoard of laughing Death Eaters. A few were silent, however. Some of the silent ones were under the Imperius…and then there was Snape.
There was Sirius, dead in his chains. His dad, lying sprawled at Voldemort's feet. And his mum…. He couldn't even look at that grotesque sight.
With flat eyes ablaze in fury, Harry stared up at the Dark Lord. Voldemort was glaring furiously at him, his wand before him, soaked in his own blood, red eyes on fire with hatred. Ah yes, angry from being shot.
The Death Eaters stood frozen, shocked at the sight of their Master crying out.
And Voldemort disappeared.
"Those who had been under the Imperius and those with a taste for which way the wind was blowing immediately turned on those still loyal to their fallen lord. I grabbed Potter in the confusion and Apparated to Hogsmeade, and then took the passage from the Shrieking Shack to Hogwarts.
"And before you ask, I don't know who it was- Lupin or Pettigrew- who betrayed Black to the Dark Lord. His trust in me was waning towards the end, so he kept that a well-guarded secret."
Albus sighed. "Pettigrew indicated that it was Lupin to the Ministry, a mere hour after Voldemort disappeared. They believed him without question, due to Remus'…background. Remus has been sentenced to life in Azkaban."
Severus sneered. "How convenient for Pettigrew, to have such a foil. And none found Pettigrew's timing and lack of evidence odd?"
"Apparently not," Albus said darkly. "Myself, I doubt Remus would ever betray his friends. And now Harry has no one at all…. For I'll not trust the boy to Pettigrew, not when in likelihood it was he who betrayed young Sirius and the rest. But didn't Lily have a sister?"
Severus barely managed to keep himself from rolling his eyes. "Yes…Poppy or Pansy or Petunia…something dreadful like that. As fully muggle as a muggle can be, Albus."
"Hmm…. Perhaps in Harry's case, though, this would be best. A normal place, where he can have as normal a childhood as possible."
"Albus, is this another of your inappropriate jokes? Normal childhood? The boy's seen his parents and godfather killed before his very eyes. He himself has banished the Dark Lord at but seven years of age. And I assure you, even without these factors, he would in no way be normal. His vocabulary is far beyond most children's, and his wit is particularly sharp. He is quite extraordinary."
At any other time, Snape would be horrified with himself for so naming a hated Potter. But right now, after the banishment of Voldemort- Severus was too cynical to believe him gone forever- he let down his guard slightly and told the total truth as he saw it.
"So normality is long overdue for him. And they are blood relatives, Severus. He'll be safe there."
If he can ever be safe again, considering who he is, what he's done…. But Severus merely nodded, disapproval clear in his eyes. Dumbledore had made up his mind, and Snape knew nothing he said would change it.
THUS ENDS THE BEGINNING