'SIRIUS!' Harry Potter yelled, 'SIRIUS!'
In a blind fury, the fifteen-year-old Boy Who Lived stumbled up the dais like a madman. It mattered not that he was currently in the Department of Mysteries' Death Chamber; ergo, the Veil embodied a liminal threshold between the living and the dead. If he could just -
'Harry, no!' screamed Hermione, catching him around the waist as she struggled to hold him back. But years of Quidditch training had hardened Harry's muscles, and he was not to be deterred.
A cold, mirthless laugh tore through the air. Lord Voldemort apparated between the struggling pair and the Veil in a swirl of smoke and black cloak.
'Thought you, Potter, that I would allow you to die by any hands but my own? The boy is mine!' he shrieked in triumph, and he raised his wand as his Death Eaters rumbled with cheers and laughter.
Harry heard none of this. He was already before the Veil.
'Geroff me, 'ermione!' he growled, trying to thrust her from his back.
Voldemort raised his wand, a smirk curling upon his lips. Hermione buried her terrified face into Harry's back and squeezed her eyes shut.
As the green light sped toward them, accompanied by echoes of gleeful laughter, Harry stepped and disappeared.
Voldemort's smirk vanished. His spell was not breaking.
In fact, he felt the familiar pull behind his navel of a Portkey, except it was a thousand times stronger. The green light of the spell was pulling, pulling, pulling…
In terror, the Dark Lord tried to drop his wand, but his spidery fingers could not release the wood, as though they had been attached with a Permanent Sticking Charm.
Voldemort opened his mouth and unleashed a terrible scream of anger and despair.
And as Lord Voldemort, the Darkest Wizard who ever lived, disappeared into the shadowy beyond, the stone archway crumbled into dust with a blinding flash of light. The Last Heir of the House of Black had perished. The Cleverest Witch of the Age was dead. Lord Voldemort was gone.
The Boy Who Lived lived no more.
Or so it would seem.
When Harry opened his eyes, he found himself lying flat on his back, looking up into a dim blue light. His mind still felt foggy, and at first, he fancied himself living with the Dursleys', on a reluctant trip to the London Aquarium.
Then, the memories came flooding back - the Thestrals, Umbridge, the Department of Mysteries, Bellatrix Lestrange… his godfather, dead. And the Veil, naturally.
Harry groaned and rolled over, his glasses crushing into his face uncomfortably as he rested his aching head on the cool stone. He had never considered there might be physical pain in the afterlife. It was at that moment that he heard quiet sobs not far off, and furrowing his eyebrows, he sat up, feeling for his wand. It was with some relief when his fingers curled around the familiar piece of wood and the wave of his magical core flowed through him.
Blinking in the dim light, Harry took note of his surroundings. He was in a massive stone hall, filled with what appeared to be hundreds of nebulous pillars, extending as far as the eye could see. It was serene and placid, and a faint fog swirled all around the hall. And upon the ceiling - for Harry supposed it was enchanted like the Great Hall at Hogwarts - were woven thousands of stories with the shimmering fire of millions of stars. In the distance, he thought he heard the most haunting, beautiful song he had ever heard.
'Hermione?' he whispered, crawling closer to the huddled mass that sat against one of the pillars, hiccuping into her hands.
With a gasp, she tore her hands away from her eyes and looked upon him with relief. Then, her face darkened, and suddenly her hair seemed twice as large.
'Harry Potter,' she ground out, her dark eyes flashing and her teeth gnashing. 'You. Are. An. Utter. Prat.'
With each word she spat out, she punched him - not lightly, either - in the stomach.
Harry flinched, feeling foolish and ashamed.
'How could you?' she hissed, tears trickling from her eyes in little streams down her flushed cheeks. Harry's heart twisted and thumped in his throat and he looked down, guilt crashing upon his shoulders.
'I guess I deserved that,' he muttered.
But Hermione Granger was not finished. 'You never listen to me! I told you it was a trap! I told you it was Voldemort trying to lure you in! But nooo, high and mighty Harry Potter, the great Boy Who Lived, knows better than anyone else! And now, Sirius, who was minding his own business at home, is dead! And even worse, YOU are dead!'
Her voice rose higher and higher until she was all but screaming, and she poked her index finger into his chest repeatedly throughout her tirade, backing him into the pillar behind him. Harry raised his hands in surrender, and he could not find it in himself to snap back at Hermione.
Hermione tilted her head at him, her usually warm brown eyes filled with tears of hurt and, worst of all, disappointment. She suddenly turned away, her bush of brown hair hitting him in the face.
She strode off with determination in her step, her arms swinging by her sides, her hands clenched into fists.
'Hermione, wait!' exclaimed Harry as he jogged to keep up with her swift pace. He grabbed her arm, which she pulled away. 'Where are you going?'
'If you don't mind, I'm going to find a way out of here, since there's only one of us with any brains! Feel free to tag along, but you'll be doing as I say this time around,' she said angrily.
'What do you mean, find a way out of here? We're dead.'
'Oh, really? I hadn't noticed!' she responded hysterically, rolling her eyes. 'What I mean is, where is everyone else? Where is Sirius? He ought to be around here somewhere.'
They continued to walk onward, passing pillar after faint pillar, bathed in an unearthly pale glimmer.
'D'you hear that voice?' asked Harry suddenly, hearing the haunting melody once more.
Hermione suddenly froze. 'Not again, Harry. Hearing voices isn't a good sign, not even in the afterlife, I'd imagine.'
Harry frowned. He was certain it wasn't Parseltongue, and after all, it had only been he and Luna who had heard the whispering voices behind the Veil.
But surely, the singing grew louder and louder, until Harry could hear the words:
O! Wanderers in the hallowed land
despair not! For though dark they stand,
all dread columns must end at last,
to see the Doomsman's throne so vast:
the sparkling stars, the dark'ning path,
t'ward mercy great or dreaded wrath.
The words were not comforting, and Harry could feel the hair on the nape of his neck stand on end. Despair not, indeed! Even worse, he could have sworn he sometimes heard whispers and giggles around him, like invisible phantoms were observing them.
'Harry,' hissed Hermione suddenly, her voice full of astonishment. 'Look.'
He turned his head, and was initially filled with joy to see his godfather, Sirius Black, stargazing listlessly upon the stone floor not ten metres away. He looked terribly uncomfortable. Harry started forward, dragging Hermione behind him. When the older wizard saw the pair, he stood up and enveloped them into a bone-crushing embrace, as though he was afraid to ever let them go. When he finally drew back, there were tears in his eyes, for he knew that their presence entailed their deaths.
'Harry, you should never have left Hogwarts,' he scolded softly.
Harry bristled. He knew he'd made a massive mistake - he didn't need everyone reminding him. 'I've already had an earful from Hermione, Sirius,' he snapped, fuming in spite of himself.
Sirius exhaled and nodded, squeezing Harry's shoulder in a comforting gesture. 'I blame myself. I just hate to think what James will have to say -'
But at that moment, Harry noticed the figure beside him and all blood drained from his face. Tall and devastatingly handsome, with dark hair and a set jaw, Tom Marvolo Riddle innocently stood in his dark robes, swirling his long wand between his tapered fingers.
'I've been meaning to ask, who's he?' said Sirius, noting Harry's expression.
'You!' he snarled. He leapt with beastly savagery at Riddle and they two boys fell to the ground in a pile of limbs. Hermione was screaming, Sirius was shouting, and Harry's hands wrapped around Riddle's neck, but Voldemort was quicker. In a moment, a long, yew wand poked into Harry's neck, and Riddle had pinned Harry beneath him.
'Well, well, Potter,' spat Riddle with venom. 'It seems we really can never rid our lives of the other. Now, since I can't kill you again, perhaps another nasty little curse will do. Crucio!'
Terrible, excruciating pain flowed through him, and Harry was yelling in unbearable agony as a thousand white-hot knives stabbed him - but it was suddenly cut short as Riddle was blasted off of him and was thrown into a pillar behind them. He fell, unconscious, to the ground. Breathing heavily, Harry sat up in astonishment. He turned to the others, who looked as amazed as he did.
'Did either of you - ?'
'No idea,' Hermione said, shaking her head, her mouth agape. But Harry thought he could hear merry laughter ringing in his ears.
In spite of the dreary circumstances, Harry suddenly found himself grinning. 'You know what this means though? Ding dong, the Dark Lord's dead!'
But Hermione and Sirius did not look so sure. Hermione looked away and raised an eyebrow. 'I'm beginning to wonder about that.'
Harry and Sirius wanted to leave Riddle unconscious on the floor, but Hermione reasoned it was safer to have him with them so they could keep him that way. She used a simple Levitation charm to transport him with them as they continued.
'It doesn't make sense. Why has Voldemort returned to his diary form?' Hermione wondered as they journeyed onward through the never-changing landscape.
Sirius shrugged. 'Maybe all the Glamour spells wore off? Can't wait to disfigure him again when he wakes up though.'
Meanwhile, the mysterious singing grew louder, and Harry began to look around for any sign of the source. After what could have been minutes or hours, a great throne began to take shape through the fog, and it loomed before them like a mountain, never seeming to come any nearer. Harry found himself squeezing Hermione's hand, despite their earlier quarrel. And as they drew closer and closer, the shape of a man - a terrible, stern man - materialised before their eyes. Harry felt Hermione tremble beside him as they looked up at the anthropomorphic being who gazed upon them with dispassionate examination.
For this was not a man. He towered above them, at least twice the size of a giant. His dark hair flowed in silky curtains, and upon his head sat a gleaming white-silver - or at least, Harry assumed it was silver - circlet embossed with emeralds. His eyes glowed green, and upon his brow was justice, and in his arm authority. In his hand he held a glowing sceptre, and when he spoke, his voice was solemn and terrible as a god's.
'I am Námo, Keeper of the Houses of the Dead,' he began, and Harry's heart plummeted. Whatever irrational hope he had that he was not, in fact, dead, was dashed away.
He could practically hear the wheels whirring in Hermione's head. For indeed, Hermione had studied many ancient scriptures and myths, and never had she read any mythology that mentioned the name of Námo. She had hoped at least one of them was right - if there were an afterlife at all, which she did not believe, thank-you-very-much.
But Námo continued, making a sweeping gesture with his arm. 'And these… these are my Halls.'
'They're a bit bleak,' said Hermione weakly, biting her lip as she envisioned the rest of her days here. She wondered, not without some embarrassment, whether there was a library somewhere beyond the endless corridors of stone, or whether she was doomed to wander through never-ending halls forever.
'Ah, but you see not what I see,' said Námo, peering shrewdly at the bushy-haired witch. 'For you and your companions do not belong here. It may be that you are the children of Eru, but you are not of this Middle-earth. Come. Let us join the others and decide what to do with you…'
And in what was perhaps the most comfortable Apparition or Portkey travel they had ever experienced, Harry, Sirius, and Hermione were swept away. They suddenly found themselves atop a very tall mountain, and around them was the most gorgeous home they had ever seen. It wrapped around the mountainside, which rolled with little valleys and hills. A waterfall glinted in the warm sunlight and fell into the frothy banks below, and a permanent rainbow was splattered across the falls. But they did not have the chance to drink in their surroundings before their attentions were diverted to the massive stone chairs, set in a circle around them, at which sat six more of the huge godly beings.
'You called us, Mandos?' asked one with a stentorian voice, tinged with jovial confusion. Harry was immediately reminded of Michael the Archangel, who had graced the glass windows of the church he had attended with the Dursleys back in London. Hermione was squeezing his hand so tightly he could no longer feel it.
Námo - Mandos - nodded, and took a seat. One throne remained empty. Mandos beckoned the witch and wizards to come closer. The gods stared at them in awe and incredulity. Harry rubbed his scar, feeling very much like he had on Earth whenever he was recognised by strangers.
Mandos began, his stern yet melodious voice echoing around the mountaintop. 'My King Manwë, these… four… appeared in my halls. But they are not of this world -'
Hermione interrupted here, and Harry had to admire her nerve.
'Sorry, Sir -' started Hermione hesitantly, entirely out of her depth. She usually knew everything. 'I don't quite understand. Where are we? Is this not the afterlife? Are - aren't we dead?' She ended with a whisper.
'Not quite, child. Indeed, the Halls of Mandos are the resting place of the Eldar, and you are the first of the race of men to set foot upon the shores of Valinor without censure. And yet, you contain a power far greater than mankind, even among the Dúnedain. We were not told of a Third-born race…' the white-haired god called Manwë trailed off, looking perplexed, but not unfriendly.
For he held the highest authority over the realm of the Valar, and was High King of Arda. Indeed, he was Manwë, who once was, who is, and who ever shall be. And beside him sat his wife Varda, the most beautiful of all the Valar, for her face radiated the light of Eru, who is Goodness, and Melkor feared her most for it. Yavanna, Aulë, Nienna, and Oromë sat upon grand, yet slightly less ornate, thrones.
Upon their introduction, Harry and Sirius immediately forgot all their names. But Hermione filed them away in her compartmentalised mind.
'It appears you are not of this world. For although you are not of the Eldar, nor are you quite children of the Second-born. And your tongue, well - it's not anything spoken in Arda,' said Manwë slowly, as though he were puzzling out a complex conundrum.
Hermione's heart was beating like the wings of a hummingbird, and she felt the blood rushing to her face. She had read so many books, and now that she was in another world entirely, it was all for nothing! She wanted to scream in exasperation. So much time, wasted! So much potential, gone!
'We fell through the Veil,' she blurted out, the words tumbling from her mouth.
'The Veil?' repeated the beautiful Varda, her eyes shimmering with the light of stars. Her voice was warm and airy, and Harry suddenly felt very happy, like he had achieved everything he'd ever hoped to in life.
Hermione nodded and launched into a frenzied explanation of the Department of Mysteries, of the Wizarding World, and of Voldemort, to whose unconscious form she wildly gesticulated. Harry had never heard her sound so uneloquent. He and Sirius exchanged glances.
But the Valar listened closely to her tale, the perplexity of their faces steadily expanding, in the furrowing of Manwë's brow, Yavanna's disappearing into her bangs, Nienna studying them with astonishment, her chin propped upon her hand. In short, the Valar were stumped. Only Varda's expression remained clear and understanding, a warm smile gracing her features.
After Hermione stopped speaking, quite breathless, the Valar retired to the veranda of the godly home to discuss what was to be done with them. To the trio's surprise, they conversed only for several minutes, and only Varda returned, her robes of starlight gently trailing behind her like threads of delicate gossamer.
'You have come far, my children, very far indeed,' she spoke, and her voice washed over them like beautiful music. 'We know not the thoughts of the Ilúvatar, who has sent you to us.'
Hermione's mouth opened, as though she were about to object, but Harry stepped on her foot.
'It is not within our authority, therefore, to ordain your role upon Eä, nor can we foresee your purpose here. As for…' she cleared her throat, and nodded to Riddle, 'Tom Riddle, our judgement is the same.'
'No,' said all three at once, and Varda gazed at them expectantly.
'You can't - you can't just release the Dark Lord upon an unsuspecting world!' exclaimed Harry, reeling back.
'Is there no way you can send us all back home?' Hermione said in a very small voice.
Varda looked truly sorry when she spoke, 'The Valar do not have the power to leave this world, nor to send others out of it. As for Tom Riddle, I think you shall find his influence much reduced here, my friends. For I can see that he is but a fragment of a soul, the other pieces of which suffer, imprisoned, elsewhere.'
She continued. 'Now, your lifespans, and your life journeys and tasks, are not for us to decide. It is with great hope that we welcome your arrival to Arda…'
And suddenly, Elbereth Gilthoniel, Queen of the Stars, began to fade, as do the constellations with the rising sun.
A/N: This is just for fun. I am not sure whether I will continue. If I were to do so, other characters would include: Elrond, Celebrian, Galadriel, Celeborn, Arwen, Elrohir, Elladan, Gil-Galad, Amroth, Thranduil, and others. And the Istari, naturally.
If this story has romance in it, it will be organic and not a major plot point. As of yet I am unsure of pairings, but any romance would follow Tolkien Middle-earth philosophy of relationships. It won't be Harry/Hermione, though.
The poem is one of Tolkien's, but I changed the words to fit the circumstances.
I don't own Harry Potter or LOTR.