Title: In Memory I
Pairing: DM/HP, SS/HP
Warnings: Angst. AU. Child-abuse. Dark. Language. NCS (non-graphic). Slash. Violence.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.
It was late in the night that Hagrid arrived at Privet Drive, carrying a tiny, sleeping bundle. Blue eyes watched cautiously from the shadows.
They watched as the Headmaster of Hogwarts spoke softly to the half-giant and an older woman. It was impossible to hear what was being said, but as the bundle was left on a Muggle doorstep, it became clear what was going on.
It seemed impossible that the Dark Lord had been banished. Impossible that the child had survived the Killing Curse. Impossible that the child had _lived_.
Blue eyes narrowed.
Impossible, but nonetheless true. The boy would be watched.
When Harry was a baby, he liked to play like any normal child. Dudley Dursley liked to play too, but he did not like to share. He pushed the other boy away whenever Harry took an interest in any of his shiny toys. Harry never had any toys, not even when Dudley's toys broke; they were stashed away in the second bedroom on the top floor.
When Harry was a baby, he smiled and gurgled laughter like a normal child. Petunia Dursley hated him. In the beginning, Petunia feared her sister's _unnatural_ friends would show up to check on him, and so she grudgingly took care of him along with her little Duddykins. She changed his rags distastefully and fed him quickly, preferring to spend her time with her own little angel.
When Harry Potter was a baby, he was naturally curious like any normal child. Vernon Dursley hated him. In the beginning, Vernon feared the boy's _unnatural_ protectors would show up to check on him, and that was all that kept him at bay. The temptation to beat the brat was there, but he did not act.
As Harry grew older, from a toddler to a young child of three, so did Dudley. And Dudley still liked to play, though Harry no longer had time to think of anything so childish as he was busy folding clothing or scrubbing floors. Dudley liked to play with his cousin, pushing him around and beating on him as he'd seen his father do. "Harry Hunting" was born.
As Harry grew older, from a baby to a three-year old, he slowly stopped smiling. He seldom laughed, and usually did so only when his relatives were out of earshot. Petunia, still wary that her sister's disgusting friends might show up, began to test her limits. She started the boy doing chores, and unless he did the simple tasks well, she forgot to feed him.
As Harry grew older, he was still curious. Vernon, still wary that the freaks might pop in for a visit, began to test his luck. He would occasionally cuff the boy for being too curious. Occasionally slap his naughty, wandering hands. Occasionally snap one of his ruddy little fingers.
When Harry turned six, Dudley came to the conclusion that of all the toys he had, he liked to play with Harry best. More than any television show or video game, he loved "Harry Hunting." And when Harry grew too fast for Dudley to catch alone, he found other, quicker boys in the neighborhood to do it for him.
When Harry turned six, Petunia was relieved to find that her sister's bizarre friends wouldn't be making any appearances. The list of chores grew, and sometimes she forgot to feed him, even when he did manage to get them right. Harry never complained, but then, he never really spoke much anyway.
When Harry turned six, Vernon came to the conclusion that the freaks were not showing up anytime soon, and he found every excuse to beat his wayward nephew. Curiosity was top on Vernon's list, and he took a sort of sick pleasure in beating the unnaturalness out of Harry. He didn't need a reason to kick the boy in the side, burn him with the stove, or break whatever bit of Harry happened to be in his way. Sometimes, in the dead of night, he made his way to Harry's cupboard and had the boy suck him off, nice and slow.
Harry, for his part, was an unusually somber child. He didn't cry or fuss, and he rarely spoke, even when spoken to. He was very tiny, his growth stunted by malnutrition, but because of the work his Aunt made him do, he'd begun to develop wiry muscles. He was extremely intelligent, and he taught himself to read with books that he found stashed at the back of his cupboard; Dante's Inferno was his favorite.
Harry almost never smiled, and he didn't laugh. In the same regard, he didn't cry because he'd learned that tears served little purpose. His eyes were bright green, which contrasted vividly with his pale, almost lucid skin. He looked like some sort of fey creature, unearthly, inhuman, which gave his Uncle Vernon a perfectly good excuse to beat him on the days he'd done nothing wrong.
Harry often sported black eyes, as well as a motley patchwork of bruises - black, purple, and yellow - on his arms and chest. His back was horribly scarred from the occasions Uncle Vernon used a belt, and his legs were usually blotchy red from when Aunt Petunia grew impatient with him during meals and spilled hot water on him.
Harry could skillfully cook and clean, and he could fix just about anything. He usually did the shopping, and his arms no longer trembled under the heavy weight of the bags that he carried home. He knew how to sew, which insured that while his clothes might not fit, there were never any holes in them. His fingertips were scarred from when he was still learning how to use a needle, and his tiny hands were callused and rough from gardening and working on the shed.
Harry had had more broken bones then there were bones in his body, but for some reason he could never puzzle out, they healed both straight and fast after they were set. Uncle Vernon called it unnatural, and would often break them again just to make that point. Harry's throat was usually sore, but the water he drank from the hose in the garden helped a little. Twice his Uncle Vernon had done more than fuck his mouth, but thankfully he healed up quickly from that as well.
Over all, no one noticed Harry much, unless they wanted him to do something. He wasn't happy, but then he couldn't ever remember a time when things were different so he tried not to let it bother him too much.
For six years, the Death Eaters watched. They watched as the Boy-Who-Lived grew from a toddler to a young child. They watched, hidden in the shadows, of his treatment at the hands of filthy Muggles. They watched him clean the house and cook the meals of the very people who abused him. They watched him carefully, noting the bloody cuts and stained bruises on his arms and face, the only skin not hidden away by oversized castoffs.
They watched and reported what they'd seen, always wondering if any of their information would bring them the answer they sought: how had the child defeated their Dark Lord?
Harry's tiny hands moved deftly as he weeded the garden. It was late, almost ten o'clock, and the Dursleys had already gone to bed. He'd been ordered to finish his work in the garden, no matter how long it took.
He sensed, rather than saw, the two men who stood in the shadows, and he glanced up. His eyes were tired, haunted, and not those of a normal six year old.
He stared at the men for a moment, barely able to distinguish them from the darkness. He didn't know who they were, but they'd watched him from the time he could remember. Men, women, dressed in black robes with masks that covered their faces – he couldn't recall a time when they hadn't stood in the shadows.
It wasn't as though he was afraid of them. They'd been with him his entire life, after all. But sometimes he felt a tiny spark of curiosity. He didn't act upon it, because curiosity was one of the things his Uncle Vernon had been trying to beat out of him.
The men shifted a little. Uncomfortably, or so Harry thought. Perhaps he wasn't supposed to look at them?
With an imperceptible shrug, he turned his eyes back to the garden and continued to work.
A few days passed. Harry was once more in the garden, squinting at the weeds. Uncle Vernon had cuffed him soundly that morning, and he'd been having trouble focusing his attention ever since. As a result, he'd accidentally broken one of the plates he'd been cleaning, and he'd been beaten.
The men in the shadows shifted.
Harry wondered if they were curious about the bruises on his arms, or his black eye. He wondered if they were like the demons he'd read about in one of the books he'd found in his cupboard. Even if they were, he didn't think they were like his Uncle Vernon, and Uncle Vernon was the only person who frightened him.
He glanced up from the weeds, and the men stopped shifting. As he stared at them, he found himself smiling. Perhaps they shifted because they were bored; it wasn't as though watching him tend the garden was very exciting.
/ Ssstupid men, / a tiny voice whispered.
Harry glanced down. A garden snake had slithered by his hands and was staring at the men in the shadows. Hesitantly, he asked, / Why are they stupid? /
The snake turned its angular head toward him abruptly, and Harry heard one of the men inhale sharply. He ignored it, focusing his attention on the tiny, green snake.
/ You ssspeak my wordsss, young one! / the snake said, clearly puzzled.
/ Is that strange? / Harry asked softly.
/ Perhapsss. There hasss not been a ssskin-brother for many yearsss. /
Harry offered his hand to the creature, and the snake's tongue flickered, tasting his skin. Slowly, the snake slithered up his wrist, coiling there.
In the shadows, Harry heard the men shift again.
/ Why are the men stupid? / he asked again, raising his arm so that he and the snake were eye-to-eye.
/ They ssstand in the shadowsss, alwaysss watching but never acting. They wish to know your ssssecretsss, but they do not asssk, / the snake replied.
/ I don't have any secrets, / Harry said simply. / What's your name? /
/ Ssso polite for a hatchling. / The snake sounded pleased. / My name isss Sssamssson. /
/ Strength in the darkness, Samson. / The words came to Harry unbidden, and he didn't know why he spoke them save that they sounded right. He glanced at the restless shadows. / Perhaps the men are shy. Shall we talk to them? /
Samson hissed softly, / Asss you wish, ssskin-brother. /
Harry stood, mindful of the tiny snake, and brushed the dirt from his knees. He walked to the shadows, to the men, and said politely, "Samson said you wanted to ask me something."
The two men glanced at each other, but their white masks revealed nothing of their expressions. The taller of the two stepped forward, kneeling so that Harry could see two brilliantly blue eyes. The voice that spoke was like silk, refined and beautiful – a far cry from Uncle Vernon's harsh grunting.
"What is your name, child?" the man said softly.
"Harry," he responded in the same tone. "But I'm not a child."
The man spoke again, a hint of amusement in his voice. "If you're not a child, what are you?"
"An unnatural freak, a waste of space, and a good fuck." Harry listed the things his relatives called him without malice.
Both men let out a hiss of surprise, and Samson whispered, / Ssskin-brother, what did you sssay to them? /
/ The truth, / Harry replied, puzzled.
/ Ah, / the snake said wisely. / Men do not want truth, ssskin-brother, and mossst fear it. /
Harry tilted his head to the side and asked the man in front of him, "Is that right?"
"Is what right?"
"What Samson said," Harry responded.
The man's eyes flickered to the snake, then back to Harry. His voice seemed strained. "What did he say?"
"He said that men don't want the truth, and that most fear it. You can't understand him?" Harry's free hand moved to gently stroke Samson's head, and the snake made a pleased sound.
"There are very few Parselmouths in the world. It's a rare gift," the man said, but Harry noticed that he did not answer the question. He let it go, simply because the man obviously didn't want to talk about it, and if his shadows did not want to speak, it wasn't his place to press them.
"What's a Parselmouth?"
"One who can speak to snakes." The man's eyes seemed to search his own for something, and the silence stretched. Finally he asked, "Do you believe in magic, Harry?"
Harry considered the question, then shook his head. "I don't believe in anything, sir."
The other man, the one who still stood in the shadows, blurted, "How did you know we were here?" From his squeaky voice, and the narrowing of blue eyes in front of him, Harry got the impression he wasn't supposed to have asked that.
"You've been here all my life," Harry answered quietly. "You've always been watching, but I didn't know what you wanted. Samson said you wanted to ask me about my secrets, but I don't have any and I thought I should tell you that."
Again, silence stretched as the men seemed to think about what he'd said.
"Have you told anyone about us?" Blue eyes searched his own, and the man's shoulders relaxed when Harry shook his head.
"Why would I tell anyone about my shadows?" Harry asked.
The man in front of him laughed softly. It was a beautiful sound, not at all like the braying of his relatives.
There was a soft rustle from the shadows, and before Harry knew what was happening, the man in front of him stood and twirled, pulling out a thin stick from the folds of his robe. "Stupefy!" he said, pointing the stick towards the source of the sound, and there was a strangled noise as another man in black robes fell forward into the light.
"Merlin," the man muttered.
"Crabbe." Blue eyes glanced towards Harry, then the man knelt, pointing his stick at the body and murmuring something. Crabbe groaned, and sat up.
"What were you thinking?"
"Sorry, Lucius," Crabbe replied softly. "You and Peter were due back fifteen minutes ago. I was sent to make sure everything was all right."
Samson tightened around his wrist and hissed, / More ssstupid men with their ssstupid sssticksss. /
/ So it seems. Do you know how many shadows I have? / Harry asked.
Before Samson could answer, Crabbe exclaimed, "Merlin! He's a Parselmouth?"
Lucius turned his blue eyes towards Harry. "Indeed. It seems there is much we don't know about young Harry. But first..."
The older man swished his stick, murmuring a few words too softly to be heard, and a peculiar warmth spread inside of Harry; the blackness that teased the corners of his eyes cleared from his vision. He glanced down and saw that his arms were no longer so badly bruised.
Harry regarded the three men silently. Finally he said, "I have to finish weeding. Goodnight, shadows."
He turned and knelt in the grass once more. An hour passed as he finished his work, and when he glanced into the darkness again, his shadows were gone.
The next day, Harry took a thin branch from a tree when he was gardening and smuggled it into his room. During the night, he used a knife from the kitchen to shave it, carving it into a simple copy of the stick that Lucius had used.
It was curiosity, an ugly habit, which led him to do so. That pressed him to point the stick at one of the spiders that infested his cupboard and murmur "Stupefy."
And, curiously enough, the spider fell from its web, twitching on the ground. He absently fed it to Samson, all the while playing Lucius' words over in his head.
Do you believe in magic?
Do you believe...?
No, Harry thought to himself as he stunned another spider at Samson's request. No, he didn't believe in anything. Not right and wrong, not good and evil, not God nor the Devil himself. He might be young, but he knew that such lines didn't exist.
Dudley was thought to be a considerate, polite young boy by his parents. But considerate young boys did not beat their cousins, even if the cousin in question was an unnatural freak.
Aunt Petunia was thought to be a generous, loving woman by the neighborhood. But generous women didn't starve their charges, even if said charge was a waste of space.
Uncle Vernon was thought to be a good man by the community. But good men did not hold their nephews down and tell them to beg like sluts, even if said nephew was a good fuck.
Whichever way that Harry looked at it, good and bad were just meaningless words. They were applied depending on who spoke them – not who they were spoken about. With that in mind, how could he believe?
"Tend the garden, boy. You can sleep when you're done." Vernon punctuated the remark with the blur of his fist against Harry's face.
The thin stick he'd tucked into his sock pressed against his leg as he stumbled. Harry wondered if "Stupefy" would work on his Uncle. Even if it did, he supposed there was no point in using it. It would only give the man another reason to hurt him.
He trudged out to the garden, nodding politely to his shadows. They hadn't spoken since that night – was it a week ago? A month, perhaps? He didn't keep track of the days.
Harry did take some comfort that the men hadn't left after he'd told them he didn't have any secrets. He didn't know why they stayed, but he'd grown accustomed to having them around.
It was a surprise when one of the men moved to sit beside him as he worked. He glanced into blue eyes, face hidden behind the stark white mask, and recognized Lucius.
"Hello," Harry said as his fingers continued to work, deftly plucking a particularly stubborn weed from the ground.
"Harry." The man greeted him simply.
"Are there other spells besides Stupefy?" Harry asked, curiosity getting the better of him. Absently, he wondered if the man would beat him, recognizing the unnatural trait for what it was.
"What?" There was a hint of surprise in the voice.
"You used Stupefy on that shadow. I was wondering if that's the only spell that works with your stick." If it was, Harry still thought it was a useful spell, and Samson enjoyed having his dinner brought to him. The snake was coiled around his neck now, which was the easiest way for Harry to carry him.
"Wand," the man corrected absently, his eyes studying the young boy. "There are other spells as well, depending on what you want to do."
"Like what?" Harry asked, dividing his attention between his work and the conversation.
"Simple spells like Wingardium Leviosa, to levitate objects. Counter-spells like Enervate, to counteract Stupefy. Unforgivable spells like Crucio, to cause pain." Lucius' words were carefully chosen. Harry nodded, coming to the conclusion that there were spells for everything.
"Will you teach me?" Harry asked softly.
"I cannot." Lucius replied. "You are too young to control the spells, and you don't have a wand."
Puzzled, Harry turned his head to stare at the older man. "But I made a wand, and Stupefy worked when I used it."
The man started. He seemed to mull over what had been said, then requested simply, "Show me."
Harry pulled up his baggy pant-leg, tiny fingers curling around his wand. His eyes scoured the garden until he found a spider spinning its web between two plants. He pointed and murmured, "Stupefy."
The spider dropped from its web, and Harry reached over and plucked it up. He offered it to Samson, who hissed out a thank you, and smiled a little when the snake's body moved against his neck as he ate the offering.
"Impossible," Lucius murmured, more to himself than to Harry. He turned his masked face to Harry, then extended his hand.
Harry relinquished his wand without protest, and waited as the man examined his simple creation.
"Cast it without the wand," Lucius ordered, and he sat in silence as Harry did. Samson graciously accepted another spider.
The older man made a gesture with his hand, and two more shadows came forward, kneeling in the grass beside them. Lucius began, "Harry has asked to be taught. Every night that he comes to the garden, whoever is here will instruct him-"
One of the men interrupted, "But-" Harry recognized the squeaky voice as Peter.
Lucius held up a hand, and Peter fell silent. "As I was saying, whoever is here will instruct him. Everyone will be informed, and you will work out a schedule to teach him Magical Theory, Magical History, Curses, Hexes, and Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration, Divination, and Potion Theory. Is that clear?"
Again, Peter protested, "But... why?"
Lucius' voice sounded amused, and something passed among the three of them as he answered cryptically, "For the moment, consider him our Lord's prodigy."
The two men murmured their consent, something like dawning wonder in their voices.
And so it was that every night thereafter, Harry learned. He never questioned why he was being taught. He never wondered why his shadows needed wands to show him their spells, when he only needed to raise his hand. And he never spoke of what he'd learned to anyone besides his teachers.
He came to know them by the sound of their voices, by the color of their eyes, connecting the names he overheard to each of them. He never called them by name, though, preferring the simplicity of referring to them as his shadows.
Lucius was one of his strictest teachers, drilling him mercilessly in all things. The man pressed him to his limits, but Harry never complained. It was enough for him that they taught him, because they treated him like he was one of them. He'd never been a part of something before.
Crabbe and Goyle usually worked with him together, instructing him in Curses, Hexes, and Charms. It was through them that Harry unknowingly learned how to combine different types of magic, mixing a hex with a spell and coming up with something else entirely. Their praise was more than enough to keep him experimenting.
Zabini taught him about plants that he'd never seen before. Most days he was brought books with pictures, but sometimes they'd bring an actual sample of certain specimens. Knowing the properties of the plants often helped him when Avery taught him the theories and makings of potions.
Parkinson (though once she'd told him her first name was Genevieve) instructed him in the imprecise art of Divination, and Harry found he was surprisingly open to what she showed him. She was ecstatic, telling Lucius that Harry's inner eye had enough potential to be that of a true seer, whatever that was. Regardless, he enjoyed reading palms and cards, and would practice on his other shadows.
They were his constant teachers, but many other men and women would spend time with him in the night as well. Even a year after he'd begun his learning, shadows he'd never met before would stop in to give him specialized lessons.
Peter was one of the few who didn't specifically teach him. Harry thought it was strange, but on the nights Peter was present, he usually just wanted to talk. He talked about a Dark Lord, a Master, and the ideals that the man had fought for. Some of them Harry agreed with, and some of them he didn't. They often debated about certain issues, and over time, other shadows joined them.
One night, Peter had said that Muggles were inferior to wizards. It seemed like a deep-rooted conviction for the older man, but Harry had argued that Muggles weren't necessarily inferior. He'd argued that they were just a different type of wizard, governed by science instead of magic; different was not inferior, he pointed out, because if it was, were his shadows inferior to him because they needed wands and he did not? Lucius had joined the conversation, seemingly materializing out of nowhere, and pressed him to explain about science, so he had.
After that, Peter's nights became meetings. All of his regular teachers would come by to listen, sometimes joining in the arguments, sometimes bringing up new issues. Harry liked those nights best, because his shadows listened to what he said. They made comments and argued, and sometimes he convinced them of his ideas, and sometimes they convinced him of theirs, but they _listened_.
Uncle Vernon never listened to Harry. Especially not on the rare occasions when Harry said, "Stop," or "Please," or "Don't."
That was another reason he'd grown so close to his shadows. They never pressed him about what the Dursleys did to him. If he came to the garden with bruises, they healed him, and in doing so, taught him to heal himself. They never asked uncomfortable questions; it was as though his life in the house didn't exist in the garden.
On his seventh birthday, Lucius gave him a ring. It was a simple, silver ring, shaped like a serpent biting its own tail.
It was the first present Harry had ever gotten.
"Thank you," Harry said, staring up into the fathomless blue eyes he'd come to trust.
"It's not much," Lucius offered, his humility at odds with his cool voice, "But it reminded me of your Samson."
"I've never gotten a present before," Harry confided softly, still staring at the ring. He didn't see the flash of surprise in Lucius' eyes, or the hint of sorrow.
The next night, his shadows threw him a belated party. They all brought him small tokens, books about his favorite subjects, like One-hundred and One Horribly Complicated but Extremely Useful Potions, and Advanced Dark Arts through the Ages. Crabbe brought him a trunk to hold all of his gifts, and showed him a spell to shrink it so his relatives wouldn't find it. Goyle gave him a heavy emerald cloak with a silver clasp, and showed Harry how to charm it so that it looked like his own ratty blanket for when winter rolled around. And Peter gave him a broom.
Peter had told him stories about a wonderful sport called Quidditch, and Harry had once said that he wished he could learn to fly.
"How do I use it?" Harry asked, reverently running his hands along the hilt of the broom and over the shining letters that read Nimbus 1996.
"You might not be able to use it yet," Peter said. "Hold your hand over it and say, 'Up.'"
"Up," Harry repeated after he placed the broom on the ground. The handle smacked into his palm and he smiled. Without warning, he swung his leg over and kicked off, ignoring the startled exclamations from his shadows.
It was a brilliant feeling, flying. He soared, thirty, fifty, seventy feet in the air. With the wind against his face, he impulsively spread his arms wide, gripping the handle of the broom with his thighs.
There was freedom there. A freedom he'd never felt before, with his arms spread like wings and the cool air singing in his ears. He used his legs to steer as he made lazy loops and sharp turns, and a bubble of foreign laughter tore from his throat.
When he glanced down, he saw his shadows waving up at him frantically. Belatedly, he remembered they didn't have brooms. He veered down sharply, grabbing the hilt as he flattened his tiny body against the stick.
The ground spiraled up to meet him, and he heard Lucius cry out in alarm, but before the older man could do anything, he pulled up abruptly, inches from the grass.
He hopped off the broom, still smiling, and stared into the wide eyes of his shadows.
"Thank you," he said to Peter. His tone was reverent, enough to convey all of his feelings in those two simple words.
"Merlin," he heard Peter muttering, and there was a hitch in his breath. "Just like James. So much like James."
Before any of the others could do anything, Lucius had swept him up in a warm, velvet embrace. It was the first hug Harry had ever been privileged to, and it surprised him.
He heard Lucius murmur, "No one could have caught you if you fell."
"I know," Harry replied as Lucius gently put him back on the ground.
"Merlin," Goyle exclaimed, "You were brilliant, Harry!"
His other shadows stepped up. They all held him, for a time, telling him that he'd frightened them. Demanding to know if he'd flown before, when they all knew he hadn't.
That night had marked a change in his shadows. Before when they taught him, there was formality and a sort of frigidness. After his birthday, it melted away, and his shadows often hugged him before they left. They sometimes brought sweets to his lessons, and seeing as Harry had developed a fondness for Chocolate Frogs, they used the cards that he collected to aid in teaching him about famous wizards of the past.
During the winter, Harry was ordered outside every night to shovel the sidewalks and the driveway, to sprinkle salt on the ground, and to dig out Uncle Vernon's car. After the tasks were done, his shadows would set up a sort of heated dome for them to work in.
When his birthday came around again and he turned eight, they threw him another party. They gave him more books, parcels of candy, charmed jewelry, and gorgeous black and green robes. Peter, tears in his eyes for some reason, presented him his own golden snitch.
It was then that Harry realized how selfish he must seem. His shadows had been so kind to him, and he'd given them nothing in return.
Right after his birthday, in his precious few hours to himself, he implemented his plan. He took a small piece of parchment and wrote the names of all of the teachers he could remember. He charmed his quill to trace the names and write down the birthdays of each.
Aided by a package of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, he used all of his knowledge to come up with gifts that his shadows would enjoy. He transfigured one jelly into a small silver serpent with glowing green eyes that would hiss if anyone but Lucius touched it, anchoring the spell so that it would be impossible to remove. He made a tiny cauldron that bubbled with liquid green as a silver spoon stirred it endlessly for Avery. He made matching silver rings for Goyle and Crabbe, and charmed them to glow a pale green whenever they were within a few feet of each other. And he created a minuscule silver snitch that hovered in place for Peter.
His parchment showed him that Lucius' birthday was only days away, so he waited patiently. On that night he presented his gift to his favorite shadow.
"Happy Birthday," Harry said simply, handing the tiny silver serpent to Lucius.
The older man's eyes grew wide, and he touched the metal creature reverently. There was a question in his eyes as turned to stare at Harry.
"I transfigured it and charmed it so it'll hiss at anyone who touches it except you. I anchored the spell, so it should stay the same no matter what." Harry shrugged self-consciously. "I know it's not much."
"_Anchored_ the spell?" Lucius asked, apparently still stunned.
"Yes." Harry's eyes widened. "It's okay for me to do that, right? I know you didn't teach me how, but I figured you'd get around to it sometime..."
"Harry," Lucius murmured, dropping to his knees and pulling the boy into a welcomed embrace, "It's not possible for regular wizards to anchor spells. It can't be done."
"Oh," Harry said, voice muffled by the velvet robes. "It just seemed... the natural thing to do."
Lucius' laughter conveyed he was both pleased and proud. "My Lord's son is magnificent."
"Son?" Harry's brow furrowed, and he tilted his head to the side. "Did you know my parents?"
The blue eyes were immediately somber. "The truth is... complicated."
"Most men fear truth," Harry replied softly. "Will you tell me?"
Lucius sat on the ground, pulling Harry closer to him as he began to speak. He told Harry of a young man named Tom Riddle. "Riddle," the older man murmured, "changed his name to Voldemort. He was a brilliant man, a powerful man, and his ideals were mostly good. His methods, however, were madness."
Harry nodded. "And my parents? They didn't die in a car crash, did they?"
"Merlin, no!" Lucius' eyes narrowed. "Those Muggle relatives of yours are either very foolish or very afraid."
"Both, I think," Harry said.
"Your parents were James and Lily Potter. Your father was the Heir of Gryffindor-"
"One of the four houses of Hogwarts," Harry supplied, nodding.
"Indeed. Voldemort – my Master, the Dark Lord – knew of this. He destroyed the Heirs of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and went after your father. You'd only just been born, then." Lucius' eyes flickered to the shadows, and Peter stepped forward hesitantly. He sat beside the pair, wringing his hands together nervously.
Lucius continued softly, "Peter was a friend of your father's. He was also a servant of the Dark Lord. He betrayed your parents, and is directly responsible for their deaths."
Harry glanced at Peter and frowned.
Peter whispered softly, "I am sorry about that, Harry. At the time, it seemed like my only option."
"What happened then?" Harry asked, putting thoughts of Peter aside for the moment.
"The Dark Lord found and killed your parents. He tried to kill you. Do you remember what I taught you about the Killing Curse?"
Lucius nodded. "He used that curse on you. But something... went wrong. It backfired, leaving you with that scar-" At this, long, pale fingers gently brushed the locks from Harry's forehead, touching the lightning-shaped scar. "We don't know how it happened. But whatever did happen... it transferred part of our Lord into you. He was a Parselmouth, as well. Now, it seems, you are both the Heir of Gryffindor, and of Slytherin."
"All of you followed Voldemort, then?" Harry asked curiously, wondering about the rest of his shadows.
"We did." Lucius responded. "All of your teachers were his followers, known as the Death Eaters. When our Lord first came to power, he was different. He fought for many of the ideals that we've discussed. But his power was corrupted, and he led us to become something we did not want. I don't have a problem with killing people who deserve to die, but he had us murder children. He had us murder innocent men and women whose only sin was their unwillingness to join him."
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," Harry quoted, remembering one of the Muggle books he'd read. "Why didn't you stop him?"
Lucius let out a shuddering breath, and beside them, Peter echoed the sentiment. "He was too powerful," the older man said simply. "He would torture those who failed. He would kill those who disobeyed. And those who betrayed him? He wiped out entire families for that infraction."
Peter inched forward, leveling his face with Harry's, and behind the white mask, Harry saw a deep self-loathing in the plain, brown eyes. "I'm sorry, Harry. I was too weak to stand against him... Lily and James were two of my best friends, and I betrayed them. My life is yours."
Harry nodded, accepting the declaration in stride. "Why did you teach me? Why tell me this now?"
"At first, we watched you because we wanted to know how you'd done it," Lucius responded. "How had you destroyed our Lord when no one else could? That night, when I heard you speak to Samson, I realized that however you'd done it, there was a part of our Lord in you. We taught you because... because despite what he'd become, the Dark Lord was a great man. And all that's left of him is in you."
Peter spoke up hesitantly. "It seems crazy to say it, but you... you do remind me of him. Before he changed, I mean. And all of us, the Death Eaters, have come to respect you. Love you."
Harry blinked, his world shifting, and all of the pieces seemed to click together inside his head. "You want me to take his place."
Lucius nodded slowly. "When you are ready. We don't want the reign of terror that our Lord brought, but there is no one left who fights for what we believe. The Ministry is riddled with ridiculous rules, and many officials have been so corrupted by their own power that much of what needs to be done will _never_ be done."
A small smile curved Harry's lips as he said, "I don't think they'll take me very seriously."
Lucius' voice was amused. "You are the most extraordinary wizard I've ever met, Harry. You are the Heir of two great houses. You can perform wandless magic, a feat that was only ever theorized. You can use magic in ways never thought possible, and you can do _more_ with your gifts than the entire Ministry combined."
"I'm eight years old," Harry pointed out logically.
"You will have us to train you for three more years. You've already surpassed what is taught in most seventh-year advanced courses. By the time you get your Hogwarts letter, you'll have surpassed many of your teachers, myself included."
"Why bother going to Hogwarts, then?" Harry asked.
"Because Hogwarts' library is renowned." Lucius said softly, in a voice that Harry recognized as his classroom "I've-given-you-what-you-need-so-figure-it-out" voice.
Harry paused thoughtfully, and he spoke slowly. "I'll be able to pass the courses easily, giving me plenty of time to read through Hogwarts' library. With that sort of knowledge, I'd be able to do anything."
"And by your seventh year, you will be seventeen. Old enough to be taken seriously. And with enough supporters - converts by your own hand at Hogwarts, as well as all of the Death Eaters - we can finally remake the Ministry," Lucius concluded.
The three sat in silence for a moment as Harry realized how unbelievably dedicated Lucius was to his cause.
"Take off your masks," Harry said quietly. He understood the importance in them – they were one of the many ties to Voldemort that the Death Eaters still clung to. And if everything that Lucius told him was true, it was time to let go of those ties.
Hesitantly, Lucius and Peter pulled back their cowls, removing the white masks that Harry had become so accustomed to.
Lucius' long blonde hair fell gently around his angular face, cool blue eyes staring at Harry with something akin to trepidation. Peter's somewhat more homely face carried the same expression.
"Your masks are Voldemort's," Harry said, noting with keen interest the way both men winced. "Your name, the Death Eaters, is Voldemort's. What else connects you to him?"
Wordlessly, both men rolled up their sleeves. Harry stared curiously at the skulls that seemed to be burned into the flesh of their forearms.
Something prompted him to reach out and touch his hand to Lucius' mark. He could feel the darkness in it, leeching, spreading, and without really knowing why, he reached out for that power with his mind and pulled it, just as he would pull a weed from his garden.
Lucius gasped, cradling his arms. There was something akin to wonder on his face as he touched his own fingers to the pale, seamless skin where his mark had been. He watched as Harry repeated the process on Peter.
"My Lord," Peter said.
Harry shook his head. "Not yet. I'm not your Master."
Lucius stared at Harry, reaching out to touch the scar on his forehead. "Who are we, then?"
"You're my shadows," Harry said simply. And with his words, Lucius and Peter realized they'd been witness to the true beginning.