21st June 1994

Harry had an odd dream. He dreamt he was in a box, and then it opened and someone lifted him out and held him with one giant hand. They felt warm and safe, like a long-lost friend. It was hard to make out fine details as it was dark where he was, with only flaming torch light providing soft, flickering orange glow, but he was pretty sure it wasn't anyone he recognised. It was a tremendously tall giant of a man – white, middle-aged, with long brown hair streaked with grey. He was pretty sure the stranger was a wizard, judging by the flowing black robes and matching pointed hat. Harry soon realised the man wasn't in fact a giant at all, it was just that Harry was miniscule in size in comparison, as the long-haired wizard could hold him comfortably in the palm of one of his hands, blue eyes gazing serenely down at him from a smiling face.

Out of sight, he heard a woman's voice ask, "Are you truly sure, my Lord?"

"Yes, I believe it is past time," the man said thoughtfully, gazing off into the distance through gaps in the trees to the starry night sky. "I no longer need some of my old contingency plans, and this potential gift could harm him with its current enchantments. While he is not truly an ally, from what I've learned through our correspondence, and additionally from the reports that my loyal followers have brought me, the boy shows a great deal of promise. It would be blood treason to cut that life short – his magic is exemplary, his faith strong, his mind cunning, and his philosophical beliefs are developing slowly in a most appropriate direction. In addition to which his being a Parselmouth and his recognised claim to my title demonstrates a possible family connection, however distant and tainted by the ignoble blood of generations of Muggles. As I can no longer sire a child of my own blood, I could not ask for a better Heir, even had he been raised by one of my own followers. I shall even adopt him in due course if he is willing, in the finest traditions of the Emperors."

He turned around the face the woman, and her wild dark hair and sunken cheeks were unmistakable even in the flickering light – Harry recognised her from the articles in the Daily Prophet. It was Bellatrix Lestrange. And if this was her lord… that made this stranger Lord Voldemort?! And they were talking about him! He tried to get away, to yell – do something – but was unable to move an inch or make even the slightest noise. He couldn't even feel his body… wasn't even completely sure he had a real body right now. He couldn't see any hands, or feel his legs, or anything at all, really.

"But my Lord, the prophecy…" she said hesitantly, looking worried.

"I know," he said, reassuringly. "We worried about it greatly once, did we not? Yet it speaks only of the potential to defeat me. It speaks of the 'power to vanquish', but power need not be used, Bella. And after all, there is also the distinct possibly that it was fulfilled years ago. It is perhaps a more likely interpretation than the woman having enough power to predict events more than a decade away in the future. Prophecies are notoriously difficult to interpret, and the accuracy of those foretelling the far future even more unreliable."

She curtseyed apologetically to him. "Forgive my weakness, I merely fear for you, my Lord-"

He walked over to her, and Harry's view was obscured as the hand closed completely around him leaving him enclosed in warm darkness. However, he could still hear the two talking together.

"-Shh. Fear not, I understand your concerns. I have oft warred within myself about what should be his fate. He is angry now he knows the truth. And how could he forgive the harm I have done his House? He knows little of the harm his parents and their Order wreaked upon our Circle, and cannot truly understand how the prophecy and my madness drove me to desperate measures. Yet I shall err on the side of hope this time, rather than fear. We will obtain that prophecy in full, by fair means or foul, and I will make no final decision until I hear it. But until that time, and unless Harold Potter openly and honestly declares himself my enemy, the boy shall be considered under my patronage and I shall brook no moves to harm him, even though he is not yet one of our Circle."

"And now, if you will excuse me, I have various curses and enchantments to remove from this ring. For alas what once seemed a powerful choice now strikes me only as a point of weakness. A secret contingency known about by many, many others is stripped of all its cunning. When you think of both that horrendous excuse for a book that the idiot in the dungeons wrote, combined with the gift Pettigrew brought me, you can clearly see this plan is much more widely known of than I would like, or it easily may be as soon as that old fool cares to discuss the matter with his Order.

"Return to the manor, Bella. Ensure our Healer is ready to tend to me, for part of this ritual may be injurious to my current body."

As the man's hand opened again Harry glimpsed Lestrange looking a little confused, but she curtseyed obediently before walking from the clearing off into the trees. The world span about him as the wizard laid Harry down on a large rough slab of stone, and drew out a shining gold knife which glinted with the reflection of flames. A briefly terrifying moment of anticipation brought no harm to Harry, for there was merely a pained hiss and a muttering of an incantation in an unknown guttural language from the wizard as he cut his own left wrist. Then the world turned red as if Harry was suddenly viewing the world from the bottom of a pool of raspberry cordial. As the wizard waved his wand at Harry and a blast of orange sparks hit his field of vision, the world went black around him.


When he awoke, Harry's mind retained little of the dream – just fragments that faded fast. Something about the Dark Lord possessing someone new, and wanting to be friends with Harry. And Lestrange was in his dream too… had she been wanting to adopt him? But he was very tiny? Then there was a spell cast at him, with pain like a knife cutting at the scar on his forehead?

It was a disturbing dream, and he pushed it from his mind as best he could, finding most of the details were fading fast. Still feeling groggy, he took a Nurofen tablet and a glass of water for his pounding headache, and made a mental note to buy more books about healing magic and research good potion alternatives to painkillers. He didn't want to worry over a nightmare, for he had bigger problems to deal with like needing to placate the Dursleys, and his upcoming IGCSE exams. Perhaps once he'd escaped Privet Drive for a friendlier locale he'd finally be able to really enjoy his holiday.

A/N: That's all for now! There will be two more fics in this series, but alas there's going to be a significant delay for writing while I work on it as well as some new stories – you won't see the next fic in this series until 2018. Please subscribe/follow me as an author (on FFN or AO3), or follow the series (on AO3) if you want to be sure you don't miss out on alerts about the next fic. In the meantime I will be posting other shorter fics on an irregular basis as inspiration strikes and work is completed

Thanks again to my regular helpers who assist me in polishing up my story: my Britpicker Jennybeth98 who reads over every chapter and is on call to answer my questions about all things British, Ainulinde who's my cultural sensitivity reader for scenes with Anthony Goldstein, Stefan Bathory who betas my scenes that have to do with France and history, My blue rose who corrects my dodgy Latin, and my reader Kitty who stops by every chapter to alert me to any typos she spots that I somehow missed.

Thank you also to all my wonderful readers who leave me reviews, both short and long, praise-filled and constructively critical. Your support has been both greatly appreciated and inspiring. I thank you for helping motivate me to write, and for your suggestions that prompt me to tweak my story with little improvements along the way.

Now is a great time to post a review with comments about what you particularly loved in the series, or suggestions about things you'd love to see happen in Harry's 4th year as the Triwizard Tournament comes to Hogwarts! I've got a lot of events already plotted out, but there's certainly plenty of room for incorporating new ideas that fit into the planned storyline. Please understand that of course I won't be able to use all your ideas, and in many cases I won't respond in detail so that I don't give away key plot elements that are planned for the next fic. Spoilers, sweeties!

If during your long wait for the next fic in the series you wonder how my writing on it is progressing, you can peek at my profile page on fanfiction dot net where I occasionally post updates about what I'm working on.