Title: Meddling of a Mischief Maker

Rating: M

Pairing: HP/TR

Themes: AU, horcruxes, second chances, morally questionable Dumbledore, betrayal, redemption

Description: AU - Harry being a horcrux is a bit reworked here. A mischief maker intervenes in the Ministry during Voldemort and Dumbledore's changing the course history.

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Chapter 1

Harry could barely process the events that were unfolding before him. His mind was numb from the events that had transpired during the last hour - riding to the Ministry on Thestrals to save Sirius, struggling through the Department of Mysteries and finally reaching the hall of Prophecy - being attacked by a group of Death Eaters and then the subsequent struggle to not get killed.

And Sirius' death.

Harry had chased after Bellatrix, fueled by his hatred, anger, and despair, and had even gone so far as to shoot an unforgivable at the wretched witch. But she'd shrugged it off and laughed at his rather pitiful attempt.

And then Voldemort had appeared.

And now Harry stood there in the Ministry Atrium, guarded by two large stone statues whom Dumbledore had transfigured to protect him, watching while Dumbledore and Voldemort engaged in what was undoubtedly the most epic duel Harry was ever likely to witness.

Dumbledore had just vanished a giant snake that Voldemort had transfigured out of a fiery whip that Dumbledore had conjured earlier. Just as the snake vanished, Dumbledore drew water out of the Atrium's fountain and sent it swirling around Voldemort to form what looked like a sphere of molten glass.

Voldemort appeared to struggle to breath as he fought, unsuccessfully, to throw the spell off. A moment of hope filled Harry until Voldemort suddenly vanished with another crack of disapparition, vanishing from the ball of water in an instant.

Sure that it was over — sure that Voldemort had finally decided to flee, Harry made to run out from behind his statue guard, but Dumbledore bellowed, "Stay where you are, Harry!" For the first time, Dumbledore sounded frightened.

And then, with no real warning, a pain swelled up in his head that seemed to make the whole world go white hot and terrible. His entire world seemed to twist and swirl and all he could seem to process was pressure and pain, and the sense that there was some sort of creature where he himself used to be.

And then the creature spoke, and it spoke with Harry's voice. "Kill me now, Dumbledore…"

It was Voldemort, Harry realized with some small shred of his mind that was still able to think straight. He had been possessed, and this creature he felt hallowing him out from the inside, was Voldemort. Anger and glee seemed to swell inside him - inside the creature - as he taunted Dumbledore using Harry's mouth and voice.

Despair began to fill Harry, and thoughts of Sirius began to find their way into his thoughts, but the process was interrupted by a strange jarring sensation in his mind. The pain even seemed to dim for a moment and Harry sensed a sudden wave of bewilderment coming from Voldemort.

Shock, confusion, denial.

"No… it can't be…" Harry felt his jaw moving as the hissing words seemed to spill from between his lips.

And then, Harry felt his whole body convulse and heave as the creature began to violently extract itself from Harry's mind. Harry's back arched and he fell to his knees before collapsing forward and heaving out a ragged, strangled cough. Harry raised his head, panting breathlessly, to find Voldemort standing before him, staring down at him with wide, almost horrified eyes.

And then everything stopped.

It was as if the entire world around them, froze. Water, spewing from the fountain stopped in place. Smoke from surrounding fires, and the fires themselves, suddenly became motionless, paused in a moment in time. And the atrium fell utterly silent.

Voldemort whipped around wildly, apparently just as surprised by the sudden stop as Harry was. Harry turned and saw that Dumbledore was just as frozen as the rest of the room, and it became obvious to Harry, all of a sudden, that he and Voldemort were the only things still moving.

"Wha —" Harry began to say in a hoarse, raspy voice, but he was cut short by the sudden sound of… giggling.

Voldemort twisted and turned in all directions, searching out the source of the sound, but the echoing reverberation of the sound in the otherwise silent atrium, made the sound seem sourceless.

The giggling sounded like that of a young girl, but it had a strange, unpleasant and other-wordly quality about it. A shimmering distortion of light began to manifest in the air above the fountain, slowly lowering towards the ground in front of it, and becoming clearer and visible as it lowered. The figure that appeared was that of girl with wings that resembled a dragon fly's. She probably stood about four feet tall, if she were standing, and she was wearing nothing at all, and making Harry feel the need to avert his eyes.

She was clearly less than human though, giant insect-like wings, not withstanding, as her limbs were all longer and much thinner than could be considered normal for a human, and her face had a thin pointed look to it. Her ears were long and stuck out from the sides of her head at an unusual angle, long wispy whiskers came out from her eyebrows, and her hair almost looked as if it was interwoven with long stringy moss. She had the body of a prepubescent girl, with no body hair, and nothing of much of note on her chest, which honestly only made Harry that much more uncomfortable with her lack of dress.

Her eyes were a vivid purple, her skin pale and slightly bluish, and her hair a reedy yellow and greenish mix. She was smiling a wicked smile, and looking entirely too pleased.

"You've finally noticed!" she announced gleefully, grinning at Voldemort, who was looking at her with an expression of shock and annoyance.

"Who are you? What is this?" Voldemort demanded, waving his arm around, to indicate the motionless surroundings.

"I was so hoping that one of you would notice," she said, seemingly ignoring his questions. "I could only interfere if one of you noticed, and you did!" she exclaimed giddily, hovering about a foot off the ground, and clapping her small hands together excitedly.

"Interfere?" Voldemort asked, sharply.

"I have ever-so wanted to pay the two of you a visit. You caught my interest you see - such an unusual situation! It's just not something you can come across very often! It's nearly unique!"

"What are you babbling about!? Why is the room stopped?" Voldemort demanded angrily.

"The room didn't stop, everything stopped. Everything, except us, that is," she said, finally addressing one of his questions. "I pulled the two of you out of the regular flow of time, so we could have a little chat."

"What are you?" Voldemort hissed out in a cold, dangerous voice.

"A Sidhe of a sort. I am of the Old People. I am Dadguddiwr."

Voldemort's eyes widened and Harry was surprised to see a look of shock and interest grace the madman's features.

"Why are you here?" Voldemort asked again, but in a softer, curious tone, this time.

"I already told you! The two of you - or the one of you, I suppose —" she paused and giggled, her eyes twinkling with mischief, "—were just too rare a phenomenon to ignore! I've been just dying for a chance to talk to the two of you, but until one of you noticed something, I couldn't!" she ended in the pouting tone of a child, but her lips curled into a smirk.

"Noticed?" Voldemort said in a hushed whisper of a voice, and Harry looked over at him with mild confusion. Voldemort's expression was not one that Harry could have imagined gracing the man's face before this point. Denial, fear… Harry wasn't sure how else to describe it, but it was definitely strange.

"Why, your connection, of course! Your soul!" she exclaimed.

"It's not possible," Voldemort whispered, shaking his head in very small movements, from side to side.

"But you saw it - you felt it," she said, grinning wickedly and hovering closer, so it was as if she were bent over, her legs folded up at the knees with her feet pointing upwards, several feet off the ground and chest and arms down low. She came to a stop several feet away but eye-level with Voldemort and smirked mischievously.

Harry just watched the two, feeling utterly lost and confused. His head still throbbed, but it had numbed a lot since everything had stopped. A clearer mind, however, did not help in making the events unfolding before him, make any more sense.

"But it's impossible!" Voldemort hissed almost desperately. "It doesn't make sense!"

"What is going on!?" Harry bellowed, finally at the limit of his patience.

The sidhe fairy girl turned and grinned at him. "Why, Voldemort here has just discovered, by attempting to possess your body, that he and you share a soul, but he can't quite grasp how that's possible," she said in a tone far too casual for the enormity of the words she'd just spoken.

"He - wait, what?" Harry stuttered.

"Do you know what I am?" she asked, smirking.

"What? No. I think that was already made pretty obvious before," Harry replied incredulously.

"But you do, don't you?" she said, turning and looking at Voldemort.

"You're a mischief maker," Voldemort said, glowering at her. "The Betrayers of Secrets."

"I tell truths," she said, pointedly.

"You reveal people's secrets, in an attempt to cause chaos - at least, that's what the stories say."

She grinned again. "And the stories would be right. But more importantly, I can only tell truths. I cannot lie."

"But you can mislead," Voldemort replied accusingly.

"I would hardly have any need here! The truth is so gloriously delicious! So horribly destructive!" she said excitedly, floating into the air a bit and spinning around almost gleefully.

Harry looked back and forth between the two of them, both afraid and confused. "What truth?" he asked.

"The truth that Albus Dumbledore has been keeping secret from the two of you for years!" she said in an excited hush as she flew down towards Harry, faster than he would have thought she could.

He jerked and took a startled step backwards. "What truth?" Harry whispered again, a feeling of foreboding welling up deep in his chest.

"It's a long story. So many delicious details to cover. I insist upon your full attention!" she said in a childishly firm tone.

"Just get on with it!" Voldemort demanded impatiently.

"Oh, where to start? So many secrets to choose from! Albus Dumbledore has surrounded himself with so many lies, it's almost difficult to find my way through the web, it's so dense!" she said gleefully, doing a little pirouette in the air before coming to a stop and tilting her head and pressing one finger to her lip, thoughtfully.

Harry felt the sense of dread growing in his gut, even while he told himself that this was all probably some elaborate trick.

"I suppose the best place to start…" she began, drawing the word out a bit, "would be with the prophecy! After all, that is why we're here, isn't it? The reason that the two of you have managed to meet in this place, on this day…"

Harry's lips parted, and he was suddenly terrified that his destruction of the prophecy to keep it away from Malfoy might suddenly prove pointless. Could this fae know what it said? Was she about to reveal it to Voldemort anyway?!

"Well!? What about it!" Voldemort demanded.

She grinned wickedly, obviously enjoying the suspense. "The prophecy… is… fake!" She said and then let out a small cackle.

Voldemort's lips parted and his face slackened. "What?" he whispered.

"It's fake! The whole thing was an elaborate trap! There never was a real prophecy!"

Fake? Harry's mind whirled, trying to incorporate this new detail and not knowing quite how to do it.

"I mean, it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise," the girl said in a musing tone. "After all, does it really make any sense for Dumbledore to hold new employee interviews in a pub? And not even a good pub! You'd think that if Dumbledore, for some reason, felt the need to keep the applicants for the divination post, out of the school, that he would at least reserve a room at Madam Rosmerta's. But the Hog's Head? Ew!" She twisted her face up into a mock expression of disgust. "Even more damning is the fact that the bar keep at the Hog's Head is Dumbledore's brother, so it was even easier for him to arrange the entire thing when Aberforth was sure at least one or two of your new recruits tended to hang about."

"Fake…" Voldemort whispered in an almost dumbstruck horror.

"The reality is that Dumbledore had met with Trelawney months before the so-called prophecy was made," she said.

"Wait, Trelawney?!" Harry exclaimed, only just catching on a bit.

"She was desperate for a job, and Dumbledore was desperate for some way to bait the Dark Lord into falling into a trap! So they struck a deal. Dumbledore wrote the prophecy, and Trelawney performed it, when the time was called for."

"What… what was this trap exactly?" Voldemort asked in a cold, hissing tone.

"Dumbledore believed that he had finally determined what magic you had used to gain immortality. He discovered several years earlier that you'd managed to obtain a copy of the Ars Goetia, and with a few other coincidental clues, determined that you'd struck a deal with the demon, Asmoday, to protect your mortality and keep you alive, no matter what attack you may suffer."

Voldemort made a scoffing sound and rolled his eyes. "The demons from the Goetia do not strike deals with mortals, and only a fool would try."

"Oh, yes. I agree wholeheartedly," she said, nodding her head sagely, while also suppressing a grin. "But Dumbledore had happened upon a comical number of circumstantial bits of evidence that mislead him into a false sense of certainty. He found a spell that could be used to break any binding between one of the greater demons and a mortal, and became determined that if he could maneuver you into the right circumstances, he could break your ties to immortality, and destroy you in the process. The one problem, however, was that the spell in question required the sacrifice of an innocent in order to work."

At this she turned and gave Harry a falsely woeful look. "A baby would have to die, to satisfy the demon and break the connection! How awful!"

Harry's heart was racing, and he felt his head turning slowly, side to side, as denial after denial flooded his mind.

"It just so happened that, at this time, two different witches, who had both taken up membership in the Order of the Phoenix, were pregnant, and even more wonderfully convenient, both were due at the same time! He realized that while he was almost certain of his spells, there were certain details that he had a chance of getting wrong. If his first attempt failed, it would be oh so convenient if he could have a backup baby! So when he was constructing his bait - his false prophecy - he made sure that it could easily be pointing to either of the babies. That would leave you with the need to go after both, just to be safe.

"Now, you," she pointed at Voldemort, "already know the first few lines of the prophecy, but Harry here is still in the dark! How unfair! So Harry - for the sake of getting you up to speed, the first few lines go like this. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches! Now this part was supposed to really catch his attention. A threat approaches! One who can destroy the Dark Lord!? Impossible!" she exclaimed mockingly. "Next it goes, Born to those who have thrice defied him! This part was another convenient detail that both candidates shared. Your parents, being members of the Order, had both been involved in battles against Death Eaters, when Voldemort was present. The Longbottoms, met this criteria as well, although not quite as thoroughly. Only Frank Longbottom had faced off against Death Eaters, during battles where Voldemort had been present. But it was still close enough."

"Longbottom?" Harry whispered with a jolt of surprise.

"The next line said, 'Born as the seventh month dies'. And of course, both you and Neville were born at the end of July. Again, you ended up fitting the bill just a tad bit better, as you were born on the 31st, while Neville as born on the 30th. But this helped to improve the chances that Voldemort would go after you first, and then if that didn't work out, Dumbledore could go to the Longbottoms and offer to improve the protective magic around young Neville, and cast the adjusted spells on him then, in preparation for when Voldemort would come after him."

She paused and tilted her head, giving Harry a pitiable look, "You see, Harry - Dumbledore had never been trying to help your parents hide. He had never been helping them keep you protected and safe; he was just setting them up, waiting for the best opportunity to spring his trap once it was ready. You were just bait, and they were just pawns."

"No," Harry denied, hoarsely, shaking his head. "I don't believe you!"

A wicked grin spread across her lips and she let out a gleeful cackle, doing a little dance in the air.

"She can't lie, Potter," Voldemort said with an almost dead tone to his voice. Harry looked at him and realized that his pale snake-like face looked even more sickly than usual, and his expression was slackened. He looked visibly disturbed.

"What?" Harry asked, confused by the statement.

"She can't lie," Voldemort repeated more firmly, and with a sense of annoyance, now. "Her kind is incapable of lying about these sorts of revelations. It's part of the magic that lets her see the things that she sees. She can only speak truths about the secrets she reveals."

Harry looked back and forth, desperately between Voldemort and the strange naked fae in the air, before focusing on Voldemort. "Says you!" Harry accused weakly, desperately wanting to deny what the girl had just said.

"The remainder of the prophecy is hardly of any importance at all," she said then, smiling with satisfaction. "He arranged for his brother to catch any spies at that point, so as that he could make adjustments to the other half of the prophecy at a later date, to make it fit more appropriately with future events, as need be. It actually would have been incredibly convenient for him, that you destroyed the copy here in the Ministry, as it provides him the opportunity to tell you a modified version of his choosing," she said to Harry.

"His plan was going glowingly, and it finally looked like it was all coming together perfectly when he discovered that Peter Pettigrew had gone over to the Death Eaters and was now acting as a spy. Dumbledore knew that James and Lily were growing tired of moving from one safe-house to another, and desperately wanted to settle somewhere more permanent that could also be safe. That was when he finally informed them that he had just uncovered an old charm - the Fidelius charm - that could protect their location in the heart of a secret keeper. Initially they were going to go with Sirius, but Dumbledore suggested to Sirius that, perhaps, he was a bit too obvious. Sirius then suggested to James that he should use Peter instead, as no one would possibly expect them to trust Peter with such an important burden. It was all coming together perfectly.

"He had already cast the so-called 'protective spells' on the baby Harry Potter, and all that was left was to wait for Voldemort to come and cast a killing curse on you, triggering the spells that would destroy his connection to the demon." She paused, and began to giggle almost neurotically for several moments before apparently getting herself back under control.

"But of course…" she turned and cocked her head sideways, grinning mischievously at Voldemort, "you hadn't made any such deal with a demon. You'd relied on an entirely different sort of magic to try and make yourself immortal."

Voldemort glared at her through narrowed eyes, as if silently threatening her if she said anything more. If the look in her eyes was anything to go by, however, Harry figured she wasn't the least bit intimidated.

"No… you made horcruxes!" she declared with an excited hush before turning her gaze back on Harry. "A horcrux is a physical object that you put a piece of your soul into. It's an exotic branch of Necromantic lore that few wizards dare to delve into, and even fewer have bothered to write anything down about it. Voldemort here, created his first horcrux when he was a mere sixteen years old! And with extremely limited information to go on. He improvised a great deal of it. It's almost amazing that it worked at all.

"At the time, he believed that he was breaking off a piece of his soul, and placing it into his boyhood diary. The diary would act as an anchor, tying down his soul, so that, even if his body were destroyed, his soul could not leave this world, providing him time to find a way to restore his body and return to power.

"Unfortunately," she said with mock sadness, turning her gaze back on Voldemort, "he failed to understand something about how the magic that broke up the soul, worked. You see, it didn't just break off a small piece - it broke the soul in half. An even split - half in the horcrux, half left behind. And it wreaks such havoc on the soul, as well. Such damage! It's quite awful! A soul can heal, though, and given the proper circumstances, a person can recover from breaking off half their soul and shoving it into an inanimate object. A soul can heal and grow, so long as you let it. But you didn't do that, did you?"

Voldemort looked like he was torn between utter fury and the urge to violently shut her up, and the need to hear what she had to say.

"You made more horcruxes. One safety anchor wasn't enough for you, and every time you made another horcrux, you made the piece of soul that actually ran your body, smaller and smaller. Your soul is a nothing more than a tiny, festering lump of rot at this point. You've damaged it so wholly, it's a wonder you have any control over your magic anymore. If it degrades much further, your control is going to start slipping a lot more often. You're already falling apart."

"You dare!?" Voldemort hissed furiously, aiming his wand and firing off a rather nasty looking purple spell towards her. She swiftly dodged it, cackling with delight.

"I am the most powerful wizard alive!" Voldemort bellowed angrily.

"Not as powerful as you were when you were younger, though - are you?" she asked, teasingly. "I know you've felt it. I know you've noticed. Your mind isn't as sharp as it once was. You can't stay focused properly, and you find yourself obsessing uncontrollably on inconsequential matters. You can't move your magic around like you used to. You can't control it wandlessly like you did as a child. That excruciating itch deep in your mind, won't let your thoughts settle long enough to properly work out problems. It takes you so much longer to craft new spells or organize your plans. I know you've felt it. You cannot deny it to me."

Voldemort's hand shook with anger, but also something more, Harry realized. It was fear that he saw behind the man's slitted eyes.

Silence hung for a moment before she began again, the gleeful determination glowing in her eyes.

"The night you went to the Potters, and shot the killing curse at Harry Potter, it activated the ancient magic that Dumbledore had placed upon the baby, but it was the wrong sort of magic to combat against the protections you had actually used. Wrong or not, it was an incredibly powerful piece of magic, and the sacrifice of an innocent life, was still enough to bring about a great deal of destruction."

"But I didn't die," Harry said, shaking his head in confusion.

She paused and looked at him for a moment, smiling softly. "Do you know how the killing curse works?" she asked him.

Harry's jaw floundered for a moment before he shook his head. "No, of course not."

"The killing curse works by severing the soul from the body. It's like a pair of scissors, snipping the string tying down a balloon filled with helium. One clean snip, and the balloon flies away. The soul escapes the body and moves on. The fact that the killing curse does this so fast and so violently, is enough of a shock to cause the body to die as well. This is a contrast to what happens with a dementor's kiss, as the kiss is a gradual extraction of the soul - happening slowly enough that the body can often survive the experience, leaving behind a technically-living, but empty, shell.

"The complication here was that the magic cast upon baby Harry Potter, tied the two of you together for a time. It was supposed to be eating away at the demon's protections, but, as there were no demonic protections, it wasn't sure what to do. And while very powerful, it wasn't powerful enough to sever the many chains tying Voldemort's soul to his various horcruxes.

"But…" she said, pausing for obvious dramatic effect, "baby Harry Potter's soul did leave. It was severed from the body, and the sacrifice did take place. The magical connection between the baby's body and Voldemort held for several moments, however, and this drew the process out long enough that the body wasn't killed from shock, as is traditional of the killing curse. Instead, an empty body was left in that cot, still locked in magical connection with Voldemort, as the spell tried to figure out how to destroy the dark wizard. In the end, it seemed to settle on blasting his body to bits, which, while seemingly effective, we know wasn't actually effective at all.

"What's more, this destruction was jarring enough that it managed to put another break down the center of Voldemort's already terribly mangled soul. Half the soul was blasted away," she turned and slowly looked at Voldemort, smirking widely. "The other half…" she turned and grinned wickedly at Harry, "was sucked into the soulless child in the cot."

Harry felt his knees give out and found himself kneeling on the ground. Part of him was aware that he was shaking uncontrollably. His mind seemed to be both blank and screaming in denial at the same time. "No…" he rasped out, over and over, weakly shaking his head. "No!"

"Oh, yes," she whispered with a twisted sort of delight before turning her attention back on Voldemort. "You hardly remember anything from the first few years after that, do you?"

Voldemort's eyes narrowed, but he didn't say anything.

"Your soul was so small, and so badly mangled, that you couldn't even attain awareness. It took years for the bit of soul to grow enough for you to regain any level of consciousness. The same is true of the piece inside Harry Potter. But the piece in him recovered more quickly. He was, after all, inside the body of a child. An environment prime for healthy growth and development of a fresh, under developed soul. And while it was hardly a nurturing or loving environment that he grew up in, it was still stable enough that he grew tremendously those first few years. The piece of soul in you, Harry, has grown to the traditional size and strength of a human soul, all on your own. It's absolutely fascinating just how far a soul can bounce back from the brink of annihilation." She said in a mockingly musing tone.

"I don't believe you," Harry whimpered out, his head hanging, and his hands shaking as they pressed into the cold hard ground and propped him up enough to keep him from falling over completely. "I… I remember stuff from before that. Not clearly, but I do remember my mum begging him to spare me."

"Memories are not only stored in the soul," she explained easily. "No - memories are a physical manifestation, which is why you retained any vague bits of the most recent memories baby Harry had from before his departure and your arrival. The memories were stored in the body, and the body wasn't soulless long enough for them to deteriorate at all."

"Oh god," Harry whispered, overcome with desperation and horror. His whole body shook and his back heaved with ragged breaths.

"Of course, Dumbledore realized what had happened when he examined your body, after you were rescued from the wreckage," she went on conversationally.

Harry felt himself flinch, violently.

"He realized that part of Voldemort's soul had entered the body, but his spells also turned up that it was a tremendously tiny piece of soul, which led him to believe that it couldn't possibly be the whole soul, and certainly not the main soul. He realized that the magic he had thought Voldemort had used was entirely wrong, and he needed to reexamine everything and come up with a new theory. But he also realized that the Potter baby was now, essentially, acting as a living horcrux. He knew that as long as the child lived, the rest of Voldemort would be chained to the living world and would not be able to die."

Another ragged breath worked its way forcefully through Harry and a strangled sob escaped his lips.

"It's how he could be so certain that Voldemort wasn't truly dead," she said in a softer tone that before, causing Harry to raise his head enough to look at her again. "He was faced with a choice - he could kill the child, destroying the horcrux, and the anchor it provided to Voldemort's main soul, or let the child live. There were a couple problems with killing you, of course, Hagrid and Sirius Black had both seen you alive and pulled from the rubble, and word had already started to get out to others that you'd survived a killing curse."

"And, of course, Dumbledore realized that this indicated that there was a very real chance that Voldemort had other pieces of his soul out there, acting as additional anchors. So killing you at that point, would serve very little purpose to him since it wouldn't be enough to make Voldemort mortal."

She floated back higher into the air and glanced back towards Voldemort now. "It took several years, but he did eventually start to work out the idea that he could use Harry as a method for trying to track down other pieces of your soul. It's only just this last year that he's finally made a real breakthrough on that front. The process is a time-consuming and complicated one, but he's confident that he's got it right. And he has. It starts with a very time-intensive potion - it takes half a year to fully set - and once it's ready, he still has to perform another very time-consuming ritual to get the scrying started. He had numerous false starts and outright failures, but he did, finally, get the process worked out, and the initial brewing creates enough of the potion for several uses. And now, he has a way of getting the general location of each of the horcruxes - albeit, it's still a time-consuming process and he can only do one at a time. But he does now know the approximate location of one, and he intends to go searching the area for it more thoroughly as soon as the school term ends."

"What?!" Voldemort bellowed.

She grinned wickedly at him. "The Gaunt house… he intends to go after the ring."

Voldemort's nose slits flared with deep aggravated breaths and his eyes glowed with a furious determination.

"Realizing that he could perform the scrying with Harry's blood alone, he made it a point to collect samples every time Harry found his way into the hospital wing, unconscious. Which has happened plenty of times," she continued, turning back to Harry, who was still huddled on the floor, barely holding himself up on his knees and fists. "Seeing as he had enough blood in stasis to last him the long haul, he began trying to work out the best way to make sure you died without it looking like he'd done it. In fact, he came to the conclusion that the most effective death would be for Voldemort to be the one to kill you. He suspected that such an act might even create a powerful enough feedback loop, that Voldemort would seriously injure himself, if he were to use the killing curse against a part of his own soul.

"So, again and again, he encouraged you to risk your neck. To put yourself in harms way, and especially, to stand up to Voldemort at any and every possible opportunity. He awarded you points and stole the house cup from Slytherin and gave it to Gryffindor, after you were nearly killed by Voldemort in your first year. He rewarded you again in second year when you nearly died facing Voldemort's first horcrux. He insisted you stay in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, going so far as to lead you to believe that you had no choice but to participate. Telling you that your entry was magically binding, when, in reality, it was not binding, and you didn't have to participate at all.

"But he suspected that whatever was going on with the tournament would end with you coming face to face with Voldemort, and it was his hope," she said this with emphatic pointedness, "that you would be killed by him that night. It was his hope that Voldemort, in his newly risen, and still relatively weakened state, would shoot you with a killing curse, causing a feedback loop, destroying his new body, sending himself back into another long delay of recovery, and giving Dumbledore more time to try and find all of the horcruxes and destroy them."

"Bastard," Voldemort hissed angrily through clenched teeth.

"Oh but there's more!" she said in a delighted tone.

A desperate whimper escaped Harry's throat and he clenched his fists against the waves of horror, disbelief, and utter betrayal he felt coursing through him.

"This year he had Snape start teaching you Occlumency… only he didn't. He wasn't even supposed to try. He wasn't helping you build up a mental defense, he was ripping apart what little natural defense you had."

Harry's head raised and he looked at her with stunned disbelief. "Why?!"

"After what happened with Nagini — that's the snake, by the way — Dumbledore saw an opportunity to present you with new and more varied opportunities to find your way in front of Voldemort. After all, when you saw Nagini attack Mr. Weasley, had you been in the position to do so, and had there been no one else to turn to, you undoubtedly would have tried to go there yourself to save him. Putting yourself in harms way again. It's also one of the reason why he allowed himself to be driven from the school by Fudge. If he wasn't there, you couldn't go to him for help if you had another vision of someone you cared about, about to get hurt. All you had was Umbridge and Snape - at best you could have tried to go to McGonnagal, but we both know her response would be to shut you out and tell you to go back to your rooms. You never let it end with that - you always have to meddle."

"Oh god," Harry moaned, feeling waves of sick, threatening to overwhelm him and he let his head fall forward and bent lower so he now rested on his entire forearms, bent at the elbows, and his head rested against the floor.

Harry realized that if all this were true, Dumbledore had basically been hoping for a situation, like with Sirius, to happen. Whether it were real, or just a trap like tonight had been. Dumbledore wouldn't have cared either way, so long as Harry ended up getting himself into a mess like this, and facing up against Voldemort.

As if it weren't bad enough that Harry had fallen for Voldemort's false vision, and Sirius had come to save him and… and…

But Dumbledore had tricked him too? It was just too much.

"But… but then why didn't he just let Voldemort kill me tonight? Why come in and duel him?" Harry asked, weakly raising his head to look at her.

"The opportunity to prove to Fudge and the world that Voldemort was back, was too great. You'll remember that the very first thing Dumbledore did was transfigure two of the statues to run off - they were sent to collect Fudge and the Aurors. The rest of the duel has been a delay tactic to keep Voldemort here long enough for witnesses to arrive."

Harry groaned and let his head fall back to the floor.

"Who else knows?" Voldemort asked.

The girl began giggling rather horribly, which only served to make Harry's stomach churn more.

"That's why this is such a delicious secret! No one! He's managed to keep it hidden from everyone!"

"Even the horcruxes?" Voldemort asked, nearly incredulously. "He's told no one?"

"Not a soul. You'd be amazed just how little he tells his own people. They trust him so blindly, but he lies to them constantly!"

A heavy sob escaped Harry's chest. His eyes were stinging terribly and he wondered how long ago he's started crying.

"Oh, great Merlin, Potter. Get over it," Voldemort spat out with annoyance.

An incredulous bark escaped Harry's lungs and he found enough strength to push himself up to look at Voldemort incredulously. "Get over it?!" he exclaimed. "I've just been told that instead of you being the man who killed my parents, I'm you, and I basically killed my parents - or my not-parents — right before kicking out their infant's soul, and then stealing it's body, and - and - and the one man that I thought I could trust above all others - the one person who I relied on to protect me from you, was the one really out to kill me! How the fuck am I supposed to just get over that!?"

Voldemort rolled his eyes and folded his arms across his chest. "Well I just discovered that my most hated enemy had successfully made a complete fool of me and has been manipulating me to try and kill myself for the better part of two decades! Not to mention that you are apparently just an extension of myself, which is still a stunningly unbelievable prospect."

"I still think I win in the shitty discoveries lottery," Harry growled humorlessly, letting his head fall low again.

The fae girl made a pleased sort of humming sound and did a little pirouette in the air. Harry looked up and glared at her darkly.

"Why are you doing this? Why tell us this?" Harry asked.

"Why? How can you even ask that!" she responded incredulously. "This has got to be the single most devastatingly glorious secret I've ever been able to tell! Forget telling a wife her husband has been cheating on her with her sister, or letting it slip that Mr. Smith is embezzling from the company! This! This is just fantastic! This is world altering! One little secret and the entire wizarding community of Great Britain falls into utter chaos!"

"You're sick," Harry whispered incredulously.

"This is what she does, Potter," Voldemort said in an annoyed, impatient tone. "It's how her kind live. Time and consequence are their playground. They exist outside the normal flow of time. Being able to change the flow of time feeds them. Merlin, this should keep her fed for a century."

She grinned widely and made a please humming sound. "You have no idea," she said gleefully.

"So is that it, or is there more?" Voldemort asked.

"Hmmmm… I suppose that's mostly it. I could tell you a few other things, though. But they really only pertain to you."

Voldemort pinned her with suspicious eyes. "Like?"

"Well, it's not really a secret that anyone's kept from you, but it's just barely connected enough to the rest of all this, that I could still tell you about it."

Voldemort made an impatient growling noise. "Get on with it!" he snapped.

She grinned and floated into a position that one would see from a girl laying on a bed, propping herself up on her elbows with one leg bent up at the knee. Except she wasn't laying on anything, and was instead floating mid-air.

"Welll… there's a common misconception about horcruxes. Basically the idea that destroying the horcrux destroys the soul inside it. Not so. Destroying the horcrux - the vessel - just sets the soul loose so that it's no longer anchored to anything. So it basically becomes useless, but it's not destroyed. Just free. The longer a piece of soul remains disconnected from the main body, or the stasis spell of a horcrux, the more that piece of soul will gradually degrade, so it can eventually lead to the souls destruction. It just takes a very long time."

"I fail to see the point of this tangent," Voldemort growled impatiently.

"Your diary was destroyed. The piece of soul contained within that horcrux now sits floating about in the ambient magic of the Chamber of Secrets, serving no purpose but to slowly dissipate. Are you aware of just how much of your soul was contained in that book?" She asked pointedly.

Voldemort blinked at her, thrown off somewhat by the question.

"What do you mean, 'how much'?"

"Well, I said it earlier, didn't I? Split in half! You make a horcrux and you split your soul in half! That diary was your first, so how much does it contain? A whole half of a soul! You can hardly be blamed for the confusion though, the one book you had that detailed anything about horcruxes honestly did make it sound like you were just breaking off a small piece. There are better books now, of course. In fact there's a book written a decade ago by an Indian wizard named Rilind Bandi - you might want to look that up, by the way. But youthful ignorance aside, the mistake was made, and the simple reality is that half of your soul went into that book, and now half of your soul is slowly withering away down in the Chamber of Secrets." She made another pleased sort of giggle and smiled at him gleefully.

Voldemort's face slackened with a sort of horror that Harry doubted the man showed often.

"Wait… so… that's my soul too, right?" Harry said with a sudden, horrible dawning.

"Mmm, yes it is," she confirmed giving him a lazy grin. "But of course, the piece of soul in your body has been growing and thriving all these years, so you've got the equivalent of a whole soul in you right now anyway. The remnant of soul left in Voldemort's current body is so minuscule, he'll likely fall apart in the next ten years, at best. And then… why then, all that would be left is you! Voldemort withers away leaving only Harry…" She turned her gaze back to Voldemort, "Unless, of course, you should choose to reabsorb the bits of soul you've lost or locked in various objects."

"You're suggesting I reabsorb the horcruxes?!" Voldemort exclaimed.

"That is up to you. But I do think that reabsorbing at least the piece that was in the diary, would really be in your best interest. After all, it's not like it's doing any good right now anyway. Reabsorbing it, and any other loose bits and pieces that might have broken off over the years, will at least give you a decent bit of soul to work off of. If you want to go any further than that, it's up to you."

"Why, exactly, would I want to go further than that?" Voldemort asked exasperated.

"You're power, of course! Fix some of the damage to your soul and your power level will rise, considerably. Your focus and control will improve. Restore enough of your soul and you'll even regain the ability to manipulate wandless magic that you had when you were a child!"

Voldemort's eyes flashed with interest now, and Harry gaped at the floating fairy girl with horror. Voldemort, even more powerful? Was she trying to destroy the world!?

One little secret and the entire wizarding community of Great Britain falls into utter chaos!

Merlin… maybe she was.

"So how do I get to this piece of my soul, down in the chamber?" Voldemort asked in a scathing tone.

"That book I mentioned a bit ago? the one written by the Indian wizard? Find it. There's a spell in it for summoning all the bits of your soul that are just floating about aimlessly. You don't even have to break into the school. Just do it from the comfort of whatever place you feel like doing it from."

Voldemort's heavy brow raised with interest. "It sounds too easy."

She scoffed. "Easy, he says," she rolled her eyes. "I suppose to a necromancer of your skill, it just might be. It's hardly a simple spell. But, whatever. At this point, I do believe I've said as much as I care to."

Harry let out a humorless laugh. "What, that's all? Nothing more devastating to drop on me and destroy my entire world with?"

"Well, if you insist —"

"No!" Harry yelled, and she just started laughing at him.

"This is goodnight, gentlemen. Oh, and Harry - one word of advice. Don't tell Dumbledore what you've learned here tonight. He'll kill you within the week, if he realizes you know."

Harry felt his throat close up and his chest tighten with a terrible heat.

"Be seeing you around, boys!" she teased playfully, flying up towards the high atrium ceiling, and slowly vanishing from view as she went.

Harry stared at the empty space where she'd vanished, for a stunned moment, feeling as if his entire world was floating in the air, waiting to crash down upon him the second he breathed. Suddenly he felt a strong jerking and looked to see Voldemort grabbing his arm and pulling him up.

"Hey!" Harry yelled.

"You're coming with me, Potter," Voldemort bit out sharply. Harry noticed at this point that their surroundings seemed to be slowly restarting, as the smoke in the air was moving slightly, and the water in the fountain looked as if it were moving in slow motion but slowly speeding up.

"No way!" Harry shouted, pulling his arm away sharply, and shakily standing up.

"You want to stay here with him!?" Voldemort snapped, jerking his head towards the still near-motionless Dumbledore.

"I'm not in danger as long as he doesn't know that I know!"

"You're always in danger with that damned fool!"

"I'm in danger because he keeps trying to arrange us running into each other and you trying to kill me. Now, you know better - right?"

Voldemort scoffed and shook his head. "It's too risky! I'm not leaving you here with him!"

"Well I'm not going with you!" Harry snapped back.

Voldemort growled in frustration and looked around. The room was slowly moving faster and faster and it wouldn't be but a moment more before time fully resumed.

"Fine," Voldemort growled in frustration. "But don't think this ends here. I will be paying you a visit - and soon."

Sounds were starting to pull back into what had been an eerily echoey silence before. The sound was strangely distorted, but quickly bending into a more normal sound. And then things were moving again, and the sound was normal, and the chaos that had been Dumbledore and Voldemort's duel before, was back in full swing, except now, Harry was no longer being possessed, and Voldemort had stopped fighting back against Dumbledore. Harry glanced over and watched as Voldemort ran to Bellatrix who had been immobilized this entire time, thanks to Dumbledore, and set her free of the spell. He grabbed her arm before looking over at Dumbledore who was looking quite confused by the sudden shift in events.

A flash from the Floos illuminated the room with green flames for a moment, drawing their attention. Harry blinked as he saw Fudge, in his pajamas, followed by a group of aurors, emerge from the giant hearths and then stand and blink in shock as they in-turn saw Harry's group.

Voldemort let out an annoyed growl before turning on the spot and disapparating with Bellatrix in tow.

What followed was a blur to Harry as he mostly zoned out. Dumbledore told Fudge that there were Death Eaters being held down in the Department of Mysteries, and pointed out that Fudge himself had just seen Voldemort with his own eyes, so he could hardly deny it any longer. Dumbledore also demanded that Umbridge be removed from Hogwarts, and then gave Harry a Portkey that took him back to the school, depositing him in the headmaster's office.

Harry sat, motionless and numb, in the chair opposite Dumbledore's desk, as the old wizard took the blame for Sirius' death. Harry felt a raging fire trying to build just beneath the surface, but he was so shocked and numb from the discoveries of the last half hour or so, that he didn't think he could process or even face those feelings.

There was just too much.

Harry's soul? Dumbledore's betrayal of Harry and his parents. The question as to whether or not Harry even had the right to call James and Lily his parents, at all. The revelation that Dumbledore had betrayed Sirius as well - he knew that Sirius hadn't been the secret keeper, all along, and that Wormtail had been the spy. Dumbledore had used Sirius as a pawn, making Harry care about him so that Voldemort could use him as bait.

Harry feared that if he responded to anything Dumbledore said, the horror and anger over everything else - everything that he wasn't supposed to know - would come spilling out. So he kept it bottled in and sat there wishing for the night to end.

And then Dumbledore said the words Harry hadn't been prepared to hear. Not now. Not after all of this…

"It is time," he said, "for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. I am going to tell you everything. I ask only a little patience."

Only he didn't tell him everything. Harry realized now that everything Dumbledore said after that point was just as much a lie as anything else had ever been.

Dumbledore told Harry about a prophecy. About why Voldemort had been after Harry all these years. He pulled out his pensieve and displayed a memory of Trelawney saying the fated words that the fae girl had spoken less than an hour ago. Except this one included an end the fae hadn't bothered to add.

"The end of the prophecy… it was something about… 'neither can live…'"

"'…while the other survives,'" said Dumbledore.

"So," said Harry, dredging up the words from what felt like a deep well of despair inside him, "so does that mean that… that one of us has got to kill the other one… in the end?"

Of course that was how Dumbledore would end it. But Harry would have never had a chance of being the victor in a battle against Voldemort. Harry would have felt obligated to try, but it would have been a lost cause from the start. Harry would be the one to die by the hands of the Dark Lord, giving Dumbledore exactly what he wanted.

Harry felt as if he were about to vomit.

The next couple days were a haze to Harry. Sirius was dead and it was as much Harry's fault as anything could be. But it was Dumbledore's fault too. Probably more so. In fact, everything was Dumbledore's fault, and the more Harry's mind went in an endless loop of despair, horror, guilt, and anger, the more he hated Dumbledore.

At one point he tried to convince himself the fae girl could have been working with Voldemort and the whole story was an elaborate hoax to get Harry to end his allegiance to Dumbledore. But when he asked his friends about some sort of Sidhe-fae who reveals people's secrets, they'd all heard of them. Ron had grown up with stories of them, Hermione had, of course, read about them, and Luna had some very strange things to say about them. In the end, Harry felt fairly convinced that it really was possible that what she'd said was entirely true, and in fact, looked to be the most likely one.

They'd wondered as to why he'd asked, but he'd managed to dodge their questions and escape to the outer grounds where he sat at the edge of the lake and just thought and tried to work out his muddled mind.

Term was over now and all that was left was to return home for the summer. Harry dreaded returning to the Dursley's, and spent most of the train ride back to London staring out the window, wishing he could find a hole and crawl inside it forever.

Hermione had a copy of the Daily Prophet and pointed out that their articles were far more favorable to him now.

"A lone voice of truth… perceived as unbalanced, yet never wavered in his story… forced to bear ridicule and slander…'" she had read aloud, obviously hoping to cheer him up to some degree.

It didn't help.

The only positive event of any note was upon their arrival at Kings Cross, Harry was greeted by almost the entirety of the Order, who then proceeded to intimidate the Dursley's into submission.

Upon his arrival back at Privet Drive Harry made his way numbly up to his room where he proceeded to flop himself down onto his bed and stare up at the ceiling in silence.

What now?

He felt as if his entire future had crumbled and he was left with a giant question mark.

It wasn't as if he was suddenly going to join up with Voldemort. The man was still insane; still violent; still a psychopath. It didn't really matter if the man was no longer going to try to kill Harry - Harry still couldn't just stand back and do nothing as the monster ran wild across wizarding Britain, destroying everything in his path in a bid for power.

In fact, Harry was almost more responsible for the wizard now, seeing as how he and Voldemort were apparently… one person. So, in a way, part of Harry was running around killing and torturing people and waging a war against the ministry.

But he couldn't kill Voldemort, because he was… part of Voldemort? Harry wasn't honestly sure if he even understood it all. The fae girl and Voldemort had talked a lot about souls and horcruxes, and Harry had barely been able to follow it at the time. Trying to think back on that hectic, insane, night and remember details was proving to be difficult.

It was the day after Harry's return to Privet Drive and the sun had just set. Harry's aunt had called out earlier that dinner was ready, but Harry had ignored her and stayed in his room. He wanted to just close his eyes and shut his brain off. He felt he was just waiting to fall asleep, so he could stop thinking, at least for a little while, when suddenly he realized he wasn't alone in his room.

Harry jumped and yelped in shock as he realized a face was floating mid-air, inches from his own.

Giggling filled the room as Harry pushed himself up on his bed and against the wall.

"Wha-?" Harry managed to get out as he realized there was a naked fae floating in his room, smiling smugly at him.

"What the hell are you doing here?!" Harry managed to say before diverting his eyes. "And can you please put something on this time? Do you have to be naked?!"

She cackled in response, clearly pleased with his discomfort and earning her an angry glare from Harry a moment later.

"I just wanted to give you a little heads up - surely you'd like to stay in the loop as things progress?" she said innocently.

"What things?" Harry exclaimed.

"Voldemort and his soul, of course," she said as if it should have been the most obvious thing in the world. "Your soul."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I really couldn't care less, honestly."

"Oh, but I think you should," she said, grinning wickedly.

Harry glared at her. "Fine. What?" he spat.

"Voldemort managed to summon all of the disconnected bits of soul, last night. So everything that was left from the Diary horcrux, as well as a few shards that had been lost here and there, over the years as he went about killing so many people, shattering his soul to teeny little festering bits."

Harry gave her nothing but a flat, disinterested glare in return, so she pressed on.

"Tonight, he's going to be performing a ritual to reincorporate it all back into his current body."

"So?" Harry said, internally hating the idea that Voldemort was apparently going to end up even more powerful now, thanks to this meddling little monster.

She smiled wickedly. "So… I might have neglected to mention to him, a few side-effects, that will likely come along with a significantly larger soul than he's been running off of all these years."

Harry's brow furrowed and he sat up a bit straighter, his interest peaked.

"What side-effects?"

"Why, his humanity, of course. He wasn't born a monster, Harry. He's perfectly capable of being a very decent human being - you're proof of that, in fact. The creature he became is a direct result of running a body off of such a minuscule, mutilated bit of human soul. He became a monster as a result of making so many horcruxes and trying to run a living body off of the tiny remnants left over."

"You're saying he'll… stop being a monster?" Harry asked, dubiously.

"I'm saying, that he's going to wake up from this ritual a changed man in a much larger sense than he bargained for."

"And you're telling me this, why?"

"I suspect he'll seek you out, very soon. He'll need you."

Harry felt wary at that statement. "Need me? How so?" Harry asked cautiously.

"You'll see," she said, grinning and floating through the air, further back, giving him more space, but also giving him a broader view of her nakedness. Harry looked down, feeling his face get hot with embarrassment.

"Great, thanks oh-cryptic-one," Harry said sarcastically.

Harry looked up after a moment of silence where he'd expected some annoying remark or obnoxious giggles, but came up short when he suddenly realized he was alone.

She'd vanished.