Along the silent field of Asphodel

Caught between life and death at King's Cross, Harry chooses to go back—but Dumbledore never told him where or when. Harry once again faces the Darkest Lord there ever was, with allies both old and new at his side. The magic of Prophecy remains strong even through the vagaries of space and time—only now, Harry's been Marked by more than just Voldemort… DH divergence, time travel.

ONE


"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"

Harry was lying face down and his glasses were nowhere to be found. Every inch of him ached, and the spot where the Killing Curse had struck him felt like a bruise left from an iron-clad punch. He did not stir, but remained exactly where he had fallen, with his left arm bent outwards, his eyes tightly shut—

Screaming.

Someone was screaming—a woman. It was coming from… above?

Harry didn't dare move or draw a breath, unsure yet what to do. He restrained himself from trying to check on the voice—as much as Hermione was right about his "saving-people-thing," he couldn't afford to let Voldemort know that he was alive yet. Harry couldn't exactly save anyone if he was (actually) dead.

He waited a few more seconds for Bellatrix or another Death Eater to turn him over. However, neither Death Eater nor Voldemort came—all he had for company was the soft rising and falling of his chest and the screams that echoed in his ears.

Finally, Harry swallowed and rolled over, opening his eyes. He wasn't sure what was happening—where were Voldemort and the others? For now, it was difficult to make anything out, with his vision blurred and out-of-focus. Harry fumbled around before his hands latched onto something that felt vaguely like his glasses.

He jammed them on, ready to draw the hawthorn wand at a moment's notice, but the world came back into focus and all lingering thoughts of the wand vanished.

What?

He was no longer outside. In fact, it seemed he was no longer within the Forbidden Forest at all, let alone within Hogwarts or its grounds. Instead, Harry was staring up at the ceiling of what seemed to be the sitting room of some quaint cottage. He lay right beside a softly crackling fireplace, with a comfy looking sofa off to the left. Dotted along the walls and above the mantelpiece were an assortment of moving pictures, but Harry wasn't in the best position to make out any details.

What he saw seemed… familiar, in a way he couldn't quite place. He turned around to look over beside him, towards the entrance to the hallway, and—

Harry yelped and scrambled backwards on his hands, an even more shocking sight greeting him. The face of his own corpse gazed back, lying on the floor, an arm stretched out gracelessly. It had the same slim figure, the same unkempt jet-black hair, lifeless, hazel eyes staring—

Wait, Harry thought. Hazel?

Harry blinked and, as if compelled by some force, slowly looked up towards the corpse's forehead, where Voldemort's mark would be.

Nothing.

The lightning bolt was absent: no scar marred the smooth skin. For a few moments, Harry just stared, his mind blank. He'd managed to clear his head of thought, the way Snape had tried to beat into him back in fifth year. He couldn't process the scene before him, couldn't understand what he was seeing.

Then it clicked.

The body looked like… like his father.

Harry propped himself up on his elbows, still struggling to make sense of what he was seeing. He turned his head left and right, taking in more of the sitting room: the small chandelier light hanging from the ceiling's center, the deep brown coffee table next to the sofa, and the discarded toy broomstick lying beside it.

He has seen this place before. He had been in this place before. This wasn't just any old cottage—it was the one his family had owned in Godric's Hollow.

"What the bloody hell?" Harry whispered. If this was the cottage at Godric's Hollow, and the body of his father lay only a few feet away from him, then…

A loud noise from upstairs jerked Harry out of his trance. The woman was screaming again.

"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"

Harry froze. He recognized the voice now. It was the first voice he ever remembered, the same one he always heard whenever Dementors were near: the first and only memory of his mother, begging Voldemort to kill her instead of him.

A different voice, high, cold and all too familiar, sounded from upstairs. "Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside, now."

Harry shook his head, trying to clear out the voice. No. This couldn't be Godric's Hollow and it was impossible that the voice upstairs belonged to his mother. This was likely another illusion by Voldemort, like the one he had manufactured to lure Harry to the Department of Mysteries.

Harry slapped himself hard across the face, trying to will himself out of the cottage and back to the Forest. Nothing happened—except his cheek hurt. He slapped himself even harder, feeling rather silly, but it made no difference. If this was just a dream or illusion, it was a very difficult one to shake.

"Can't be," Harry muttered to himself, "can't be, can't be…"

It was too far-fetched to believe he was here, somehow back in the same place and time as when his parents were killed. Was something like that even possible? Was this what Dumbledore had meant when he said that he could return?

"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead—"

Harry cringed. That couldn't really be his mother, could it? He'd just spoken with her earlier via the Resurrection Stone, and that meant she was dead, not alive.

He couldn't help thinking the thought that immediately came next: and what if she's not?

Harry had never heard of any magic like this. For as amazing and fantastical as magic could be, this went far beyond anything Harry had thought possible. But, if this wasn't an illusion he was in, if all this was actually real

"This is my last warning—"

Harry sprang to his feet in an instant, confusion and panic churning inside him. He plunged his hand inside his robes to draw his wand, but his blood chilled once he got a good look at it.

The hawthorn wand was ruined, nearly snapped in half with only a delicately thin wisp of pale unicorn hair to keep it from falling apart. It was as badly damaged as his phoenix wand had been—and likely every bit as useless. It must have broken either from when the Killing Curse had hit him or when he had fallen. Either way, the wand would serve him no good, let alone against Voldemort.

"Not Harry! Please… have mercy…"

Harry clamped down on his urge to scream in frustration as he threw away the useless wand. Voldemort was upstairs with his mother and he was about to kill her (again) and he didn't even have a working wand.

"Have mercy… not Harry! Not Harry!"

He looked around wildly, frantically, trying to see if there was anything in the room he could use as a weapon. He was about to grab the fireplace poker and go careening up the stairs when he caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye.

There were two of them on the sofa. One was—

ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work.

And right beside it was—

a mahogany wand. Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration—

No time for reminiscing.

He swiped both wands, almost crushing them within his tight grasp.

Harry ran towards the hallway, putting away one of the wands underneath his robes as he did. He bounded over his father's corpse in a single leap, nearly knocking over a vase in his haste before turning sharply towards the staircase.

"Please – I'll do anything—"

His heart thudded against his chest as he stormed up the steps, taking them two at a time. An ajar door peeked out at him as he cleared the top of the stairs, on the other side of the second-floor hallway.

"Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!"

He desperately willed himself to move faster, wishing he could soar down the hallway, knowing there wasn't much time left now. He was just upon the door—

"Avada—"

NO!

He burst through the door with a crash, stumbling as he nearly tripped over the packed boxes he'd knocked to the floor. Voldemort and his mother were there—she in front of a crib and he before her—and both turned towards the door, startled at the sudden interruption.

Voldemort's face met his. It was the same pallid, snakelike visage Harry had seen only minutes before in the Forest, now stuck in an expression of shock and confusion as the deadly green light gathered at the tip of his wand died away.

"Potter?" Voldemort said in disbelief.

Harry didn't need another excuse. The mahogany wand had been raised long before he'd even entered the room, aimed straight at Voldemort. The panic was gone, and now there remained a hot, hot rage deep in his gut—

You need to mean them, Potter!

"CRUCIO!"

Voldemort was blasted into the air by the force of Harry's anger, screaming in a keening shriek that set Harry's hairs upright, before he crashed into the nearby vanity, shattering the mirror. Harry's mother was screaming as well, though Voldemort was much louder. He crumpled to the floor, writhing and clawing at himself as he howled.

A savage satisfaction gripped Harry, as he kept the Cruciatus going, willing Voldemort to feel more pain, hoping he could make the bastard suffer even one-tenth of the agony he deserved—

There was a loud bang! and Harry was suddenly sent flying backwards. All of his breath left him in a rush as he was slammed against the wall, leaving him painfully choking for air. He didn't have a chance to regain his wits before his body seized up, the wand slipping out from his fingers. Harry tried to move his limbs, but it was to no avail—it was as though an enormous, invisible blanket had wrapped itself around him, not allowing him to even move his hands. The most he could do was turn his head and even that was difficult.

Voldemort was back on his feet, breathing rapidly through the thin slits he had for nostrils, his wand pointed in Harry's direction. Despite the pain, he had managed to find the willpower to retaliate, both freeing himself from the Cruciatus and binding Harry with a single spell. Still, as Harry noted with a grim satisfaction, Voldemort was badly shaken up: his shoulders heaved and the yew wand was so unsteady between his fingers that it seemed it might fall out at any moment.

Not even Voldemort was immune to the power of the Cruciatus Curse.

"You dare," Voldemort rasped hoarsely, his wide, scarlet eyes glittering with a manic fury, "to use that spell against me? You dare? Crucio!"

Pain like none other assaulted Harry. He screamed as loud as he ever had, every part of him afire with excruciating agony, as though every nerve had been dipped in boiling acid. Only the binding Voldemort had put on him kept him from thrashing about, and had he been able to move, he surely would have clawed his own face off.

Time held no meaning in the grip of the Cruciatus: it went on and on without end, without rest or reprieve.

How long had he been under? Minutes, hours? Within the all-consuming haze of the agony, it was impossible to tell, and Harry wished more than anything then that he would die rather than suffer a moment longer.

Finally, as abruptly as the pain had struck him, it was gone. He had come back to more screaming.

"—stop it, stop it! James? James!"

He was left wheezing and winded, shuddering despite the binding upon him as his body ached all over. Tears obscured his sight and Harry blinked, trying to clear his vision.

His breath caught when he got a good look at her: the long mane of deep, red hair hanging about her shoulders, the soft, sloping contours of her face, the tear-tracks running down her fair cheeks, and her most distinctive feature of all: the bright emerald of her almond-shaped eyes, the same color and shape as his own.

The lump that had lodged itself in his throat prevented him from speaking, his heart aching with so much force that he thought it would burst, a long-held hurt coming back to the surface. He greedily drank in the sight of her and at that moment, he would have been content to look upon her forever. Tears began to flow freely from his eyes again and this time, he made no attempt to restrain himself.

This was no illusion from the Mirror of Erised. This was no shade from the Resurrection Stone. She was here. She was alive.

"—how did you survive, Potter?"

Harry reluctantly tore his gaze away from his mother and back towards Voldemort, who unruffled his long, black robes with a flick of his wand. Voldemort's rage seemed to have abated, his head cocked as he intently examined Harry as if he were a specimen on display. Still, a trace of unease and bewilderment lingered on his serpentine face, not wholly concealed by his curiosity.

"You were struck by the Killing Curse. My Killing Curse," Voldemort murmured to himself, slowly pacing back and forth like a slithering snake. He seemed perfectly at ease, the wand only loosely held in Harry's direction though the binding spell was no less taut than before. "No one could have survived that…"

What's he on about? thought Harry. Voldemort hadn't used the Killing Curse on him—at least, not this Voldemort. So, why would he think—

you look very like your father. Except for your eyes. You've got—

Oh.

Obviously, Voldemort wouldn't have guessed at anything as bizarre—even by the standards of magic—as time travel to make sense of Harry's sudden appearance. Instead… he thought Harry was James Potter?

That was the only possibility Harry could make sense of. Everyone did always go on and on about how similar he looked like his father—Harry had just never expected there would be an opportunity for it to make a difference.

But, would he even be able to do anything here, bound as he was? Harry tried moving his hands again.

His fingers twitched a little.

Maybe.

Whatever magic held him here, he didn't have a chance of countering it without a wand. Yet, at the same time, he'd have to break the spell in order to get the wand in the first place.

A regular catch-22.

Without warning, Voldemort glided over towards Harry with startling swiftness, and Harry scarcely stopped himself from shouting in surprise. The snakelike face was uncomfortably close to his own, only inches away as Voldemort studied him more carefully.

"How?" Voldemort whispered again. "How are you alive?"

Things were quickly spiraling out of control. Harry was within the clutches of Voldemort's power, trussed up like a Christmas turkey ready to eat, and with about as much ability to fight back. If Voldemort decided to turn his attention back to his mother and his younger self, there wasn't a thing Harry could do to stop Voldemort from harming them.

He'd have to keep Voldemort's focus on him and him alone—no matter how badly it hurt.

"Answer me, Potter!" Voldemort said. "It's not possible that you could have survived!"

Harry inhaled deeply before he gave off a barking laugh. "Seems I've got a habit of doing the impossible, Tom. Maybe you're just losing your touch."

Voldemort's eyes narrowed. "What did you say?"

"You heard me. Tell me, do those Death Eaters of yours know you're a half-blood, Tom Marvolo Riddle?"

For the second time tonight, Voldemort was caught by surprise, his eyes widening as the retort died on his lips.

Harry pressed on. "I mean, it'd be one thing at least if both of your parents were magical, but a Muggle for a dad? You even had his name and face! That must have been right embarrassing, to learn that you'd more mud than magic in your blood—"

The pain struck him again as fast as a snake's strike. Liquid fire flowed through his veins, spreading like poison. Shocks of agony mercilessly coursed up and down like tendrils of lightning and his whole body shook violently. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, wishing more than anything that the awful pain would stop

Harry gasped and wheezed, the sudden absence of pain almost as jarring as when the curse first struck.

O-okay, Harry thought, panting as he tried to recover. It's okay. I – I expected that.

Not that it had made the Cruciatus hurt any less.

Voldemort was still before him, scarlet eyes boring into his own, the wand aimed at Harry's chest.

"Where did you learn this?" he all but snarled. "Who told you?"

You did, Harry almost said. Instead, he schooled his face into what he hoped was his best impression of Snape's sneer. He couldn't let Voldemort think that he was getting to him.

"Why would anyone need to tell me, Tom? Tom Marvolo Riddle… I am Lord Voldemort—a word puzzle waiting to be unscrambled. After that, well—" Harry shot Voldemort a smile "—it wasn't hard figuring out the rest of it. I'll admit it was a shock to learn that the Chief Death Eater was half-Muggle, what with all that tosh about blood purity you go on about. You know… I wonder what Bellatrix or Lucius would think if they knew their 'Dark Lord' grew up in an orphanage like a common Muggle. Maybe the two of them can interview Mrs. Cole—"

Harry screamed, the excruciating pain ripping through him again. Every nerve had turned into fire, his skin was being shredded, his muscles were being torn apart, and his bones were crumbling to dust. Searing lances of pain raked up and down his body, burning him from the inside out. His heart was racing so fast that he thought it might explode from the agony alone.

No pain Harry had ever experienced could compare to this: this was an agony that seeped into every nerve and pore, an excruciating pain as though his bones had turned to ash and his blood to acid. There was no withstanding this pain, no amount of determination or grit that could turn it aside. It simply was, and Harry would have to accept it.

His eyes were rolling back into his head—he would surely die now, the agony could not possibly be endured—

When he came to this time, he saw Voldemort's face swimming in his teary vision, contorted into an expression of inhuman rage, his brow furrowed and his scarlet eyes blazing.

I could really use Hermione right about now, Harry thought dazedly, still shaking in the wake of the curse while the aches across his body had gotten even worse. I need a better plan than getting Cruciated over and over.

Even calling what he was doing right now a "plan" was dignifying it too much—he was making this up as he went. But what else could he do, wandless and bound as he was? He'd have to keep stalling for time and hope that some brilliant escape plan would eventually present itself to him.

For his sanity's sake, he hoped he'd come up with that "brilliant" idea sooner rather than later.

"I grow tired of the diversions," said Voldemort with a sibilant hiss. "Where did you come across this information? Speak… while you are still able."

Harry opened his mouth to reply and then closed it again, almost cringing. He knew what he had to do, what his "plan" asked of him. But, the aftermath of three Cruciatus Curses in a row was already leaving its toll on him—the spell was an Unforgivable for a reason. He licked his lips, trying to form the words again even as much as he dreaded Voldemort's inevitable response. The throbbing aches across Harry's body were a constant reminder of the damage he had already suffered—as well as a warning of what was to come.

He looked past Voldemort, back towards his mother. She'd been silent for some time.

She was on the verge of breaking down—her lips and shoulders trembled, tears fell down her face, and her hand was outstretched towards him, as if she was torn between rushing to his side and staying put. She bit her lip, her eyes flitting back and forth between the crib and the fallen wand on the floor, just outside of Voldemort's line of sight.

Then, she took a deep breath, her entire body tensing.

Harry felt the panic rise in him and gave a sharp jerk of his head, the movement enough for her to look up at him. Harry looked into her eyes, the ones just like his own, and he could see the confusion, the fear, the anger, and the desperation reflected in them, each emotion warring for dominance.

And in that moment, the two of them took in the measure of each other and an understanding passed between them. She swallowed and gave a tiny, fractional nod, the frustration evident on her face: Harry's words were the only thing distracting Voldemort from his mission and for now, she'd have to let Harry carry out his "plan."

She began mouthing something, over and over like a mantra, and it took him a second to decipher it.

I love you.

For a moment, Harry wasn't sure what to think. Voldemort kept speaking but his words faded into white noise: all he could focus on was the words his mother kept silently repeating.

It was silly of him perhaps: it wasn't as if she was really telling him that she loved him. After all, she thought he was James Potter, not her future son.

But, right there and then, Harry couldn't care less.

For the first few years at number four, Privet Drive, he'd hoped his parents were still alive, that they'd come and whisk him out of there. He'd given up that idea quickly enough—the Dursleys made sure of that. But, even as the reality of things set in, it hadn't stopped Harry from pretending.

Sometimes when he went to sleep in that cramped cupboard, with only the spiders keeping him company, he'd imagine that his parents were there to tuck him in. His father would be there to help him into bed, and his mother would pull the covers up over him. She'd sing him to sleep, some nonsense lullaby or another, and before she left, she'd say that she loved him.

A lie, a fantasy, an impossible wish—just a silly orphan's dream.

But this was no fantasy. She was here, real and whole, telling him exactly what he'd always dreamed she would. His heart swelled again with that aching mixture of joy and bone-deep longing, and had he been able to, he knew that he would cast his best Patronus yet.

He opened his mouth to say something to her—

Pain.

This was not the sort of pain that could be negotiated with, the kind of pain could be ignored. No individual sensation lingered for too long—it was a multifaceted agony, shifting and changing as each moment passed, never allowing him to drift away from the pain, allowing him no possibility of acclimating to it.

The agony twisted and writhed within him, as though someone was dragging heated knives through his flesh, ripping him apart one piece at a time. His bones were cracking, his skin was being split apart, sinew and flesh were coming undone—

Sights and sounds came back in a confused rush. Harry struggled to make sense of things—just a moment ago, it was as though the only thing he had ever known was pain, and the real world had been a cloudy dream at best. The sudden shift in perception and sensation left him disoriented and off-balanced.

He grunted as his head was painfully jerked to the side, forcing him to look upon Voldemort's face.

"Enough. You will tell me how you learned what you know and you will tell me how you survived the Killing Curse. If not…" Voldemort trailed off, letting the silence do the explaining for him. "I can be… patient. After all, you've no friends to help you here."

Harry closed his eyes, shutting Voldemort out as he tried to regain his bearings.

It hurt to breathe: his throat was sore, worn out from how long and loud he had screamed. He ached all over, worse than ever before, and there was a constant, trembling buzz along his whole body, as though he was charged with static electricity.

Liquid tasting of copper-and-salt dripped out of the corner of his mouth: he'd bitten his tongue. He had never been subjected to the curse as many times in quick succession before and he wasn't sure how much more he could take before he ended up like Neville's parents.

"Well, Potter?"

Harry opened his eyes. Voldemort leered at him: the corners of his eyes were so crinkled that only twin slits of blood-red light peered back at Harry, alight with a terrible promise. His lips were peeled back, flashing white teeth against his already chalk-white face, leaving him with a hideous grin fit for an Inferius.

Voldemort wasn't angry anymore; instead, he was enjoying himself. The gleeful anticipation was plain on his face: he held the power of life and death over Harry and was savoring every moment of it.

I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to.

That was the kind of person that Voldemort was; this was the kind of thing he did. And yet, despite that realization, Harry felt no fear. The trepidation from earlier was gone: he kept his mother's words at the forefront of his mind, letting him know he wasn't alone. He met Voldemort's gaze calmly, ready to confront whatever Voldemort had in store for him.

It must have shown on his face, because Voldemort stopped smiling. He scowled, raising the yew wand.

"Cru—"

Voldemort paused, allowing the curse to fade out. He considered Harry carefully, betraying no emotion on his pale face, before that awful smile bloomed again.

"Oh, Potter," Voldemort said, chuckling. "I could curse you into a drooling heap and you wouldn't answer me once. Yes… yes, I see that now. No, I suppose I shall have to try a different approach… Crucio!"

The Cruciatus struck—but Harry wasn't the target this time.

His mother was.

Voldemort lifted the curse after an instant, but the damage was done: his mother had collapsed to the floor, curled up on herself as her screams died away.

By now, Harry had recovered enough from the shock to react.

"No! Don't you touch her, you—"

"Crucio!"

She shrieked, the sound sending a chill down Harry's spine. Her body bucked up and down on the floor, thrashing about so violently that Harry was afraid she'd snap her own back. One moment, her hands would claw horribly at the air, as if trying to grasp something just outside of her reach, and in the next, she'd pound her fists and feet against the floor.

Harry gritted his teeth, straining himself against his invisible bonds, as if he could break the binding with brute force. It was no use: he couldn't even move a muscle. Voldemort's magic was just too strong.

She stopped screaming when Voldemort let go of the curse again, though her body continued to tremble with the aftermath of the Cruciatus. After a moment, she unsteadily propped herself up with her hands—and Harry was heartened to see that there was more anger than fear on her face as she stared up at Voldemort. Her eyes flicked away from Voldemort and back to him and Harry sent a shaky smile her way—

"Crucio!"

In the enclosed space of the room, her screams seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. Harry was screaming himself, cursing and shouting at Voldemort to stop, and by now, his younger self had begun crying as well. And yet, Voldemort was the loudest of all, his high, shrill laughter cutting through the cacophony.

This was worse than losing Sirius, worse than watching Dumbledore die. He'd rather take a hundred more Cruciatus Curses at Voldemort's hand than witness an instant more of this. His mother was being tortured to an inch of her life only a few feet away from him—and he couldn't do a thing.

The ache he'd felt inside earlier was back, more intense than before now. His heart was being torn in two and the agony he felt was worse than anything Voldemort had inflicted on him.

The fact that can you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength.

Some strength that is, Harry thought bitterly, his anger giving way to despair. He kept futilely trying to will himself out of the binding. Like I could do anything hurt him—

Hang on a minute…

Voldemort was still torturing his mother, he was still wandless and bound, and the whole situation was still grim, but…

Harry had an idea.

Maybe it wasn't the best of plans—in a long night of long shots, this was probably just another one. There was no guarantee Harry could pull it off, no telling if it'd just blow up in his face.

But, for that moment, Harry allowed himself a little bit of hope.

After what seemed like an eternity, Voldemort finally raised his wand, releasing her from the curse and letting her slump to the floor. He turned back to Harry, a look of supreme satisfaction on his pale face.

"Perhaps you'll talk now?" he said. Voldemort drew slow, lazy circles in the air with his wand, still smiling cruelly. He looked back at Harry's mother, who had gotten back to her feet and stood before the crib, her arms outstretched protectively even as her body shook.

"Or perhaps…" Voldemort said silkily, "we'll test out the Killing Curse on your precious wife, to see if she's as protected as you are… and your son after, of course…"

"I wouldn't—" Harry's voice was rough and scratchy from shouting as long as he had. He cleared his throat before he continued, "I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Voldemort's head snapped back around to fix his gaze back onto Harry. "And why not?"

The obvious threat was left unstated.

"I know why you came here tonight, Tom," Harry said, taking a deep breath. Voldemort's eyes narrowed at the proclamation. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… Sound familiar?"

"What of it?" Voldemort said coolly. "Soon, I shall be rid of your child… and whatever power borne of Prophecy he possessed will die with him. None shall oppose me again."

"You sure about that?"

Voldemort's wand rose a fraction of an inch. "Explain."

"It's simple, really," Harry said. "You did get the Prophecy… just not the whole thing. You're missing a whole other half of it." Harry nodded over towards the crib. "And as far as that bit of it goes… well, let's just say trying to knock off the Chosen One isn't going to be good for your health."

Voldemort sneered. "An obvious ploy. Surely, you can come up with a more believable lie than that?"

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Are you really willing to risk everything on the off chance I might be lying? After all, I lived through your Killing Curse… I figured out your origins… who's to say there isn't something to what I'm saying here too?"

Something hot and ugly briefly flashed on Voldemort's face before his mask re-settled. He raised the wand, aiming it back at Harry's mother. "And if that is the case, you will tell me."

"No."

"No?" Voldemort said, his wand slightly wavering, clearly not expecting that response.

"No," Harry repeated. "I'm not stupid. I tell you and you've got no reason to let us live. Let us go, and maybe we can talk."

Voldemort's nostrils flared and his thin lips pulled into a solid line. "You think you're in a position to dictate terms, to me—"

"Yeah," Harry interrupted. "Because the way I see it, you need us. Yeah, you could torture us, but I think you already know you can't make us talk. And if you kill us or Cruciate us into uselessness, it's not like Lily and I'd be around to tell you the other half of the Prophecy anyway. So, yeah, I think I am in a position to 'dictate terms,' Tom."

Harry smirked, hoping it would sell the impression better. This could all go south very, very fast.

There was a long, pregnant pause, neither of them saying anything. The silence was oppressive, Harry and Voldemort simply staring at each other.

Voldemort broke it first, chuckling with what seemed like genuine mirth. "Potter, it's amusing that you still believe you can find a way out. I hardly need you to talk," he said, his voice dripping with contempt, "when I can just take what I desire right from you."

Voldemort pointed his wand right between Harry's eyes. "Legilimens!"

It was just like every other time Snape had Legilimized him: the room shimmered, fading from view and seeming more like a hazy mirage and less solid with each passing moment. Soon, Voldemort would be rifling through his memories, he was—

Right where I want you.

Voldemort wanted a peek inside Harry's head?

Harry would give him that and more.

The room was now gone from sight, the images beginning to rush by like a video tape stuck on fast forward, and Harry's heart swelled with emotion—

"—we'll go with you wherever you're going," said Ron.

"No," he tried to protest, but Hermione cut him off.

"You said to us once before that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We've had time, haven't we?"

He felt a surge of gratitude despite himself, that his friends would be with him until the very end—

Ginny was running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking it, without planning it, without worrying about the watching crowd, he kissed her. He could feel her soft hair in his hands, her warm lips on his—

it seemed to take an age for Sirius to fall. His body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backward through the ragged veil hanging from the archway… He could see the look of mingled fear and surprise on Sirius's face as he fell through the doorway and disappeared behind it, only a fluttering of the veil as if caught in a high wind to mark his departure—

Dimly, Harry could hear screaming—a high, shrill tone, though it sounded distorted and distant. It was growing louder and stronger: Voldemort was trying to break the connection.

If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love.

Their minds were like oil and water, neither of them wanting much to do with the other. For someone like Voldemort, who'd never known friendship or love, to be caught in the thrall of Harry's feelings and memories… Harry's Cruciatus earlier might have hurt more, but only just.

Reality was fighting to come back to the surface—he could make out a pair of dark humanoid shapes forming in his sight—but Harry kept his focus. It'd taken Dobby's death, but Harry had learned to control his thoughts. He had to keep going; he wasn't about to let Voldemort off the hook just yet, he'd give it one last shot—

there was no preparation for seeing him here, spread-eagled, broken: the greatest wizard he had ever or would ever meet. Dumbledore's eyes were closed; but for the strange angle of his arms and legs, he might be sleeping. He reached out, straightened the half-moon spectacles on the crooked nose, and wiped a trickle of blood from the mouth with his own sleeve. Then he gazed down at the wise old face and tried to absorb the enormous and incomprehensible truth: that never again would Dumbledore speak to him, never again could he help—

Remus strode around the table and hugged him, still dazed with his own happiness; their previous argument might as well have never happened.

"You'll be godfather?" Remus said as he released him.

"M-me?"

"You, yes, of course – Dora quite agrees, no one better—"

"I – yeah – blimey—"

He felt overwhelmed, astonished, delighted—

he stared down at the earth, the empty words on the headstone unable to disguise the fact that his parents's moldering remains lay beneath stone and snow, indifferent, unknowing. Tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot and then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off or pretending? He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes their resting place, and he was close to wishing there and then that he slept beneath the snow with them—

Harry gasped as the room surged back into view. He could hear a low moaning beside him, but he paid no attention to it—a heavy, dull ache pulsated along his skull, as though he'd taken a Bludger to the back of his head. His knees stung with fresh pain: he'd fallen to all fours and the floor was staring back at him—

The floor?

The binding spell was broken: he was free.

Using the wall behind him for support, Harry shot to his feet. He didn't have long: he knew it'd been only a few instants at most in the real world while Voldemort had Legilimized him. Voldemort was rising too, but his movements were more sluggish and awkward—one hand grasped his pale face, red eyes peeking out from between his long, spiderlike fingers. The other hand still clasped firmly onto his wand, the tip rising in a slow upward arc, unsteadily coming to point at Harry's chest—

"James!"

Green eyes met green and Harry smoothly snatched the flying wand out of the air with a Seeker's ease. He slashed at the space between him and Voldemort, his heart racing and his blood thundering, the spell already forming on his lips—

for enemies—

Voldemort definitely qualified.

"SECTUMSEMPRA!"

Harry's second spell of the night struck true.

Dark red blood sprayed. Voldemort's lone shriek abruptly died away: the curse had cleaved cleanly through flesh and bone, severing Voldemort's wand-arm at the elbow to cut deeply into his chest and throat. Voldemort collapsed onto himself, twitching and gurgling as blood continued to spill.

For a moment, Harry gaped at Voldemort's fallen form, before looking down in disbelief at the mahogany wand he held in his hand.

I did that?

Harry shook his headself-congratulation and reflection could come later.

He turned to his mother. She was holding his younger self in her arms, now bawling again, though she softly shushed at him. Harry strode over towards the two of them, trying to check them over for injuries, but he stopped when he saw the blood drain from his mother's face, looking at something behind him.

Without warning, sweltering heat washed over Harry's back, the corners of the room now starting to flicker with an ominous orange-red light. Harry turned around, bringing the wand back up to bear—

Voldemort was sprawled out on his legs, limply slouched back against the wall. Blood poured out of the ugly, ragged wound on Voldemort's throat, a long, jagged gash could be seen on his chest through the rent in his robes, and his mangled, dismembered forearm lay beside him. An ordinary person would have been dead by now, with the amount of blood he was losing.

Voldemort wasn't any normal man.

Voldemort stared at Harry, his scarlet eyes burning with hate, and his teeth were bared wide like a serpent readying to bite. Harry had never seen him like this and even as broken as he seemed, unease wound itself inside Harry. The yew wand steadily pointed at Harry, now gripped in Voldemort's remaining good hand.

Fire danced around Voldemort, the flames covering his half of the room, licking at the edges of his robes but leaving him untouched. It pulsed unnaturally with rhythmic contractions and expansions, as if it had a living heartbeat. Harry could see shapes forming as the flames slowly grew: dragons, raptors, serpents, and other nightmarish creatures that escaped Harry's knowledge.

It was cursed fire just like what Crabbe had conjured earlier. Only this time, Voldemort had full control over it, the sheer force of his will keeping it at bay.

Harry backed up a step, not daring to breathe.

Then, the firelight reflected in his half-mad eyes, Voldemort mouthed one word.

"Die."

The heat was already searing his skin, the air was being burned out of his lungs, and the noise threatened to deafen him, even though the fire wasn't upon him yet. Harry whirled around, blindly grabbing his mother and younger self in a crushing embrace.

And just before the flames engulfed them, Harry Apparated the three of them out.


Notes and References:

Major thanks to Avery, Halt, Paladin, and Zeelthor over at the DarkLordPotter forums, for their significant help in both brainstorming and editing this chapter.

The conversation with Dumbledore at the beginning of this chapter is adapted from Chapter 35: King's Cross, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 723.

The paragraph immediately following that conversation is adapted from Chapter 36: The Flaw in the Plan, in ibid., pp. 724.

The italicized portions referring to Lily and James Potter's wands are adapted from Chapter 5: Diagon Alley, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic Press, 1997, pp. 82.

The conversation between Voldemort and Lily Potter as Harry makes his way to the room is adapted from Chapter 17: Bathilda's Secret, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 344.

The italicized sentence just prior to Harry's use of the Cruciatus Curse comes from Chapter 36: The Only One He Feared, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 810.

The effects of Harry's Cruciatus Curse are inspired from Chapter 30: The Sacking of Severus Snape, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 503, where Harry's Cruciatus launches Amycus Carrow into the air.

The spell which binds Harry after he casts the Cruciatus is inspired and adapted from Chapter 34: Priori Incantatem, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic Press, 2000, pp. 660, where Voldemort makes Harry bow.

The description of the Cruciatus Curse that Harry suffers here throughout the chapter is inspired and adapted from Chapter 33: The Death Eaters, in ibid., pp. 657–658 and Chapter 34: Priori Incantatem, in ibid., pp. 661.

The description of Lily Potter's appearance is inspired and adapted from Chapter 28: Snape's Worst Memory in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 647.

The section regarding Harry's feelings when looking upon Lily is inspired by Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic Press, 1997, pp. 208–209, when Harry looks upon the Mirror of Erised, and Chapter 34: The Forest Again, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 699, when Harry and Lily look at each other.

The italicized sentence where Harry's looks are compared to his father is drawn from Chapter 4: Horace Slughorn, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 69.

The reference to "Chief Death Eater" is taken from Chapter 22: The Deathly Hallows, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 442–443, where Lee Jordan refers to Voldemort as the "Chief Death Eater" on the Potterwatch radio broadcast.

The part about Harry initially hoping that his parents were alive and would take him away from Privet Drive is inspired and adapted from Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic Press, 1997, pp. 30, where Harry dreamed that relatives of his would take him away from the Dursleys when he was young.

The description of Voldemort's expression and face after Harry looks upon Lily a second time is inspired by Voldemort's grin during Neville's speech in Yates, David, director. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Warner Brothers Pictures, 2011.

The italicized sentence about Voldemort's being able to hurt people is taken from Chapter 13: The Secret Riddle, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 271.

The portion describing Lily undergoing the Cruciatus Curse is inspired and adapted from Chapter 35: Beyond the Veil, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 801, as well as the scene where the replicant Pris is dying in Scott, Ridley, director. Blade Runner. Warner Brothers Pictures, 1982.

The italicized sentence referring to Harry's ability to feel pain is taken from Chapter 37: The Lost Prophecy, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 823.

The description of Voldemort's Legilimency as it begins to work is taken from Chapter 24: Occlumency, in ibid., pp. 534, where Snape Legilimizes Harry for the first time.

The first italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Harry kissing Ginny is taken and adapted from Chapter 24: Sectumsempra, in Rowling J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 533.

The second italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Ron and Hermione promising to stay by Harry's side is taken and adapted from Chapter 30: The White Tomb, in ibid., pp. 631.

The third italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Sirius's death is taken and adapted from Chapter 35: Beyond the Veil, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 806.

The italicized sentence referring to Voldemort's lack of understanding of love is taken from Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic Press, 1997, pp. 299.

The fourth italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Dumbledore's corpse is taken and adapted from Chapter 28: Flight of the Prince, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 608–609.

The fifth italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Remus asking Harry to be his son's godfather is taken and adapted from Chapter 25: Shell Cottage, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 514.

The sixth italicized part in the Occlumency scene referring to Harry contemplating his parents's graves is taken and adapted from Chapter 16: Godric's Hollow, in ibid., pp. 328–329.

Harry's ability to resist Voldemort's Legilimency and damage him using his memories of love and grief is inspired and adapted from Chapter 36: The Only One He Ever Feared, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic Press, 2003, pp. 816, where Harry wards off Voldemort's possession attempt when thinking about Sirius, as well as from Chapter 23: Horcruxes, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 511, where Dumbledore mentions how Voldemort cannot possess Harry without suffering "mortal agony," and from Chapter 24: The Wandmaker, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 478, where Harry uses his feelings of grief to Occlude against Voldemort.

The sequence where Harry repels and retaliates against Voldemort's mental attack is inspired from the possession scene in the climax of Yates, David, director. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Warner Brothers Pictures, 2007.

The italicized sentence just prior to Harry's use of the Sectumsempra curse is taken from Chapter 24: Sectumsempra, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic Press, 2005, pp. 518.

The description of the effects of the Sectumsempra curse Harry uses against Voldemort is inspired and adapted from Chapter 24: Sectumsempra, in ibid., pp. 522, where Harry curses Malfoy with Sectumsempra.

The description of Voldemort's use of Fiendfyre is inspired and adapted from Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts, in Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic Press, 2007, pp. 631–632, where Vincent Crabbe employs Fiendfyre against Harry, Ron, and Hermione.