A/N: As it has been pointed out to me by a guest, Great Britain has no death penalty. However, since this is my universe, and I believe the punishment should always fit the crime, I've cheated a little. In my world, the death penalty is punishment in all countries. Just my way of playing king (or queen) of the universe.
JULY 15, 1991
Tom Riddle twitched in his seat. Despite what the old man had spread, Riddle was in no way incapacitated by the rebounded curse. He had gone to the Potters' that Halloween night to kill them, and to kill the baby. When he got there, he'd been able to complete most of his mission, murdering both James and Lily before turning to the child. When he met verdant eyes, watching him intently, he hesitated for a moment, spellbound by the look of acceptance in the baby's eyes. He knew what he looked like; he'd performed specific rituals at key points in his life, when he'd turned fifteen, and again at twenty-one, to rid himself of all traces of his father's muggle blood, making him pure in the Slytherin line. The rituals, however, had the unfortunate side effect of changing his face, making it more serpent-like in appearance. He knew he was frightening, and used it shamelessly to cow his followers. The child, however, looked at him in open friendliness, making the Dark Lord hesitate fractionally in his quest to kill the prophecy child.
That hesitation nearly cost him everything as Dumbledore appeared in the home, almost as if called there, and a brief, but violent fight ensued. As Riddle cast the killing curse at the old man, he ducked out of the way at the last moment, allowing the Avada Kedavra to touch little Harry. The curse was deflected into the ceiling, leaving behind a deep lightning-bolt shaped scar and a bit of Tom's soul. Fleeing the destroyed house before any of the headmaster's sycophants could get there, Riddle made his home in his muggle father's manor, where he built up his magical strength and made plans. Those eyes haunted him, though, making him reconsider his plans for Harry Potter.
Riddle twitched again, feeling the distress of one of his horcruxes. He knew they were all safe; however, the persistent itch brought back a brief memory of after the battle in Godric's Hollow. He remembered incanting the spell that would split a piece of his soul after he'd murdered the Potters. He remembered wanting to put it into Nagini, but when he'd got home, the ritual had failed. He had chalked it up to the heat of battle, and had assumed that the spell he'd incanted beforehand had dissipated. His eyes widened as he thought of the one being in that room that had been touched by his magic. And the horcrux within him was in danger.
"Wormtail!" Riddle bellowed in anger and fear. The sniveling rat appeared at his side, prostrating himself on the floor in abject terror. "You must find Harry Potter!" the Dark Lord hissed menacingly. "He is in danger, and must be recovered and brought here. Go!" Nodding frantically, the animagus transformed into his rat form as he ran, scurrying through the drain pipes of the manor and out into the world. Riddle grimaced as he twitched again, knowing that time was quickly slipping away.
Harry sat on a bench in the park down the street from the Dursleys, looking around with interest. The area was almost completely unpopulated. The only other being within shouting distance was a small, dark-haired angry child, just a short distance away from the bench. Harry tried to beckon the boy over, but he just stood where he was, glaring at the other boy with thinly disguised hatred. Shrugging, Harry heaved a quiet sigh, waiting for the moment when his foul and disgusting relatives would realize he was gone and come fetch him, most likely with harsh slaps to his head. He hung his head, tears of misery and desolation slipping from closed eyelids, and didn't notice when the boy's eyes narrowed, the hatred fading as he felt and heard the despair in the emerald-eyed boy. Before he could make a move over to Harry, the area surrounding the bench shimmered, and forms started to appear. The dark, angry boy faded back into the surrounding trees, watching from a safe vantage point.
Harry felt the air pressure around him change, and his head came up in surprise. Eyes widened as he saw figures shimmering into existence near him, and he nearly ran as the figures solidified into a man and a woman. The man had glasses and messy black hair, like his own, and the woman had long red hair and brilliant green eyes. Before he could get off the bench and bolt, the woman reached out and grabbed his wrist, holding him in place.
"Harry! Harry, love," she said urgently, trying to break through the wall of panic that surrounded the child. The boy tugged futilely at the grip, tears running more quickly down his face. The woman pulled him closer, wrapping her arms around his struggling body and whispering in his ear. "Harry, love, it's Mum. It's Mum." She kept crooning that over and over in his ear until the boy finally calmed down, actually listening to the words. When they sank in, he stopped struggling instantly, pulling back to stare wide-eyed into the woman's eyes. She smiled gently at him, and, with a heaving sob, Harry flung himself at her, wrapping his small arms tightly around her and clutching at the back of her robes. Her own tears falling, she hugged him tightly, whispering gentle words of love and reassurance in his ear as he sobbed out his own pain and anguish. James stood to the side, his own eyes tearing up at the absolute misery radiating from his son.
Eventually the emotional storm passed and, exhausted, Harry slumped down to the bench, his mother beside him. His father sat on the other side, wrapping his son in warm, strong arms, which had the child blubbering again as he burrowed his head into his father's chest. "We have you, son," his father murmured softly in his hair. "We can't stay long, but we'll be able to answer any questions you have." As James stroked his son's back, Harry fought to get himself under control, knowing that if the Dursleys found him this way, he'd get punished. He was finally able to rein in his emotions and pulled away from his father's chest. Not able to meet the man's eyes because of embarrassment, he mumbled his first question at his dad's chest. Chuckling, James' hand rose and carded through Harry's soft, unruly hair. "Could you repeat that, kiddo? I don't speak mumble."
"I said, why are you here? Aren't you dead?" the boy asked a little huffily.
"We're here because you're caught in-between," Lily answered, her own hand stroking Harry's face. The boy turned toward her, leaning into the caress.
"What do you mean, in-between?" he asked softly, eyes closed in pleasure at the loving touches.
"You're caught between the spirit world and the real world," she answered, rage glimmering in her own matching emerald eyes. "Vernon has beaten you to death, but your soul hasn't been released into the ether yet." Harry's brow puckered in confusion at the metaphysical explanation. James huffed at his wife, taking over the explanation.
"You died at that fat bastard's hands, but something is still anchoring you to your body. We're here to explain your choices, and give you some guidance for whichever choice you make."
"Okay," Harry answered hesitantly, still a little confused. "So, I'm dead?"
"Not quite," Lily said, frowning. "You seem to be fighting against dying, and there's something else keeping you here, but we don't know what it is."
"Okay," Harry said with less confusion. "So what are my choices?"
"Well," James replied thoughtfully, "you could let go and come with us. We could find whatever is keeping you here and release it. Or, you could go back to your body and continue living. There's obviously some other purpose for you, or you would've let go instead of us having to come here to talk to you. Whatever it is, we don't know anything about it. What we do know is that there was a prophecy made about you and Voldemort, which is why we were killed. Only Albus Dumbledore knows the full prophecy, and he wasn't sharing before we died. It could be that you're holding on because some part of your magic is telling you that you need to stay."
"Wait," Harry said, holding a hand up, something in what his father had said catching his attention. "I have magic?" Lily scowled as she took up this part of the discussion.
"You're a wizard, baby. I'm a witch and your father is a wizard. We're magical, and it's a wonderful thing, and not the evil that my sister says it is."
"So I'm not a freak?" he whispered hesitantly.
"No you're not!" James snarled harshly, scaring Harry badly. The boy tried to pull away from the angry man, cringing and ducking his head to protect his face from any blows. Seeing his son cower before him cooled the older man's anger immediately. Contritely, he pulled Harry back into his arms, trying to soothe the trembling child. "I'm sorry, baby," he murmured in the child's ear. "I didn't mean to scare you so badly. I forgot how horribly you've been treated. I'm not mad at you; I'm mad at the headmaster and your caregivers," spat with great venom. "I could never be anything but proud of you." The knot of fear in Harry's chest loosened by degrees as he listened to his father talk. "You are the greatest thing Lily and I have ever done. Nothing will ever be better than that. You are going to be one of the most powerful wizards in the wizarding world. Always be proud of who you are and what you are."
"Thanks, Dad," the boy said softly, smiling widely at the things he'd been told. "I think I've made my decision." Harry leaned back to look at both smiling faces and opened his mouth. Before he could say anything, however, he felt a tremendous yank that pulled him from his parents' embrace. As he faded away, James looked sad.
"Sorry kiddo," he yelled as the boy disappeared. "The choice has been made for you…"
Alarms rang through the headmaster's office as the wards at Privet Drive fell. Dumbledore, dozing in his chair, was jolted awake, panic broiling within as he assessed the various trinkets and devices set to monitor the lifespan and well-being of the Boy Who Lived. Noting the darkness of many of the objects, and the frightening stillness of others, he leapt to his feet, rushing to the fireplace. Fumbling at the floo pot on his mantel, and knocking it to the floor in his haste, he flung the powder into the fireplace, dancing impatiently as he waited for the flames to turn green. When they did, he thrust his head into them, shouting out the Head of Magical Law Enforcement's name. When the person appeared, Dumbledore began to bark out orders, expecting them to be obeyed unquestioningly. As he continued obliviously to demand, direct, and micromanage the situation, he failed to notice the small smirk on the other man's face, eyes gleaming with well-hidden malice.
Some of the headmasters and headmistresses fled their frames, to carry the news of the death of the Chosen One, while others went to allies, trumpeting the news of the defeat of the light. Only one former headmaster remained in his frame, watching the chaos unfold. With a smug smirk, Phineas Nigellus Black stared at the darkened orbs, silently rejoicing at the eventual rise of the Dark.
TUESDAY, JULY 17,1991
BODY OF YOUNG BOY FOUND
Child, ten, found in culvert in small neighbourhood
In the early morning hours of Sunday, July fifteenth, the body of a small child was found in a culvert by some joggers. The police were notified immediately, and an investigation into the death has begun. The coroner's office is ruling the death a homicide, based on the condition of the body as it was examined. Bruises covered the young boy's body from head to foot, and numerous fractures, both fresh and old, had been discovered, along with massive internal bleeding. The coroner's office speculates that the child was systematically beaten over a number of years, until something set the abuser off and he or she beat the child to death. Skull fractures, which had sent shards of bone into the child's brain, covered the boy's head, resulting in immediate death. A bolo has been released, with a photograph of the child, and his estimated age based upon his teeth, the only thing that appears to be intact. This newspaper has published the photograph on the following page, and hopes that someone out there knows who this poor child is, and who may have murdered him so brutally. If you have information related to this case, please contact the police as soon as possible.
JULY 15, 1991
Wormtail lay in the center of the runic circle, his eyes blank and dead. In the runic circle next to the man lay Harry Potter, slowly coming awake. The boy frowned fiercely at being interrupted, his eyes still closed. A hissing noise startled the child, and his eyes snapped open, looking around frantically for his uncle Vernon, who would beat him senseless because he loosed the boa on Dudley. Slowly, the panic faded as Harry realized that first, he wasn't at the zoo; second, he was pretty sure he was dead for a bit; and third, the snake seemed to be trying to calm him down. Harry checked things out from his vantage point, admiring the frescoed ceiling before turning his head to look around. His eyes widened as he saw the fat, ugly little dead man next to him. He inhaled sharply, sitting up too quickly and getting briefly dizzy as his mind tried to process all of the recent events. Pulling his gaze away from the apparently dead man, he turned his head and met the ruby gaze of Lord Voldemort.
"I remember you," Harry said softly, his green eyes sparkling happily at seeing someone familiar. "You were in my room when that old man came in. I remember your eyes, and your pretty face." Blushing, the boy dropped his eyes to his lap, his hands twisting together nervously. A soft sigh sounded from the man outside the strange circle the boy was in.
"There is no need to be afraid or embarrassed," Riddle said softly, ruby eyes glinting kindly. "I am very surprised to hear you say that my face is pretty. Most of the others think I'm ugly, and that I'm really scary." Harry looked at the man, snickering softly.
"I think snakes are beautiful, and since you look like one, you're beautiful, too."
AUGUST 20, 1991
Apparating to Privet Drive under a disillusionment charm, Dumbledore took in the scene with growing worry. Muggle police were crawling all over the Dursleys' home, while others were going door to door, questioning the neighbors to see if they could add anything else to the case file. Dumbledore carefully crept closer, trying to eavesdrop to get information. He was incredibly frustrated and terrified. It had taken much precious time to get the Ministry to act on his suspicions that something was terribly wrong with their Savior. Fudge had thrown up as many roadblocks as he could to prevent the headmaster from getting his way too quickly, and it was with a heavy heart that he'd received final permission to investigate the situation.
Listening, his eyes widened and his heart lurched as he finally understood what had occurred. The police were trying to find any information from the neighborhood, to ascertain whether anyone in the area had seen the Dursleys mistreat or assault Harry Potter. Unfortunately, Mrs. Figg, doing it anonymously, was the only resident in the area willing to report what had happened, and she'd waited a very long time before reporting it. The officers were also asking if the residents had seen any strange elderly men in the neighborhood around the end of October to the first of November 1981, dropping off anything suspicious to the Dursleys in the early morning hours. Again they were to be thwarted, to the great relief of the invisible wizard listening in.
Having heard enough, Dumbledore wandered away, head down and tears threatening, and very nearly missed a most vital piece of information. The mention of a missing body caught his attention, and he crept closer, listening intently. His sorrow quickly turned to fear as he understood what he was hearing. According to reports, they still could not locate the child's body, which went missing shortly after it was found. The fact that the story of the 'theft' never made the papers was a miracle of misdirection and obfuscation, much to the relief of the police department.
AUGUST 23, 1991
MURDERER CAUGHT, FACES EXECUTION
Vernon Dursley arrested, wife and son held as accessories
This newspaper has learned that on Thursday, August twentieth, an anonymous call to the precinct identified businessman Vernon Dursley as the murderer of the child whose body was found in July in a culvert just minutes away from the suspect's home. The caller refused to identify herself; however she was able to provide corroboration to the treatment of the young boy at the hands of, reportedly, his uncle. Apparently, the child had been orphaned at fifteen months old, and was dropped at the Dursleys' doorstep by an unknown stranger. The police would like to speak most urgently to this unknown stranger, and perhaps cite him for child abandonment and neglect, as well as to get the full story behind the child and his relationship to the Dursley family.
Sources within the police department report that the uncle had hated the boy almost from the beginning. Dursley spoke with several people, including psychiatrists and psychologists, about the 'freak' that had been left on his doorstep. The grossly overweight man went on to spin what can only be described as a delusional rant, spouting off about the 'abnormal' behaviour of the boy. According to the suspect, who had no problem confessing, the 'freak' had done strange things from the moment he'd entered their home. Supposedly, the child had made his teacher's hair change colours, had made a sweater shrink, had mysteriously ended up on the roof of his primary school, and 'made his hair grow back after Pet had given him a perfectly reasonable haircut'. With the confession, the police are confident of a conviction and execution.
The suspect's wife and son are being held on separate warrants for aiding and abetting a murder, abuse, neglect, and failure to report a crime.
NOVEMBER 14, 1991
MURDERER TO RECEIVE LIFE IMPRISONMENT
Psychiatrists deem Dursley insane and untreatable
In a shocking turn of events, this newspaper has learned that Vernon Dursley, the man who had beaten his young nephew to death, will not be executed. Instead, the psychiatrists on staff at the police station insist that the man is clearly delusional, and is not fit to stand trial, nor is he fit to aid in his own defence. A public defender had been assigned to the man, who insisted on regaling anyone who would listen with the tale of his 'freakish' nephew, to whom he referred as 'boy', or 'freak'. No matter the treatment, the man still insists that what he has reported is nothing but the truth. Unable to shake him from his bizarre ranting, the psychiatric community at large feels that he is not capable of distinguishing fantasy from reality.
Petunia Dursley, on the other hand, staunchly denies any of her husband's stories as truth. When questioned on her involvement in the child's treatment, she could only state that she'd gone along with it to keep her husband from turning his fists to herself or her son. She even went so far as to state that she tried to 'educate' her son on the 'proper treatment of others', to no avail. She was released on three years probation, with the condition that she serve one thousand hours community service in the local child abuse centres. Her son will be remanded to the juvenile detention centre, where he will serve time until he is twenty one, at which time he will be released. He is to undergo anger management classes, as well as treatment for the psychological abuse he had no doubt suffered under his father's hand.