Disclaimer: Nothing but the plot is mine.
A/N: I've started the process of editing all my chapters - reposted on October 1st. My 'thank you's to SerpentClara and Asli for the betaing. Enjoy!
The Darkness Within
The ordinary-looking little house at Number Four, Privet Drive, stood peaceful and quiet in the eerie predawn hours of September first. All its inhabitants lay in their beds enjoying the last few moments of sleep before a busy day. All, except a boy in the smallest bedroom. He too was lying on his bed, but he wasn't enjoying a moment of peace. In the darkness of his room, he writhed on his bed, the sheets tangled around his small frame and his ever-messy hair getting even messier as he silently whimpered in the throes of a nightmare.
He stood in the Department of Mysteries, in front of the Veil.
He stood there watching. Doing nothing.
And Sirius kept falling. His eyes were locked on Harry's. He kept falling. Dying. In front of Harry.
He stood there, doing nothing.
And then he saw Bellatrix. Laughing.
He turned to face her. He felt all the anger, all the guilt and hatred, all the frustration well up inside him, and he cast it. He pointed his wand at the laughing witch and said the word.
He watched. The woman was there, lying in front of him on the floor. Her lips were moving; she was screaming.
He said it. Crucio. He felt the word worming its way out of his mouth, out of his heart. He felt it evolving, changing. He opened his mouth.
The screaming was gone, her lips didn't move. Everything was quiet.
The Boy Who Lived sat up awake on his bed, covered with sweat. His heart was beating erratically in his ears and he was trembling uncontrollably as he tried to get the dream out of his mind. After a minute, he stood up, made his way to the bathroom and the real world.
Harry crept quietly downstairs and started on the tea, which was to accompany the health-feast of half a grapefruit and a slice of toast, which they all had to have, so as not to make his overweight cousin Dudley unhappy with the diet he had been on for over a year now. Still no results showing.
Harry secretly suspected Dudley more than made up for the lack of food at home while hanging out with his friends and terrorising the smaller and younger inhabitants of Little Whinging.
"Boy!" came the voice of his uncle Vernon, as he was startled out of his daydreams. "What are you still doing here? Go get your things." And so he did, thankful that the summer was finally over. The only teenager in Britain who was happy to return to school.
An hour later, his uncle's car pulled into King's Cross train station and Harry got out, dragging his large school trunk after him and carrying Hedwig's cage, ignoring the looks of fascination he got from the Muggles going about their business in the busy station. When he got to the barrier that he knew led to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, he took a deep breath and stepped through. And suddenly, the world was filled with light and colour and noise. The summer he had spent in a nightmarish haze was really over. He was really going home, going back to Hogwarts.
He ignored the whispers, the pointing fingers of first years and the chant of "Harry Potter! Harry Potter … look, is that Harry Potter? … died … Potter … He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ... battle … Potter …" that seemed to be emanating from all around him and got on the train.
Harry boarded the train, found an empty compartment and sat down, blissfully alone for the time. Alone to think about what to say to his friends, from whom he had not heard the entire summer. Even though he had had all summer to consider whether to tell anybody about the prophecy, Harry still hadn't made a decision. A big part of him wanted to tell his friends, to seek their advice and their help in the battle to come. But another nagging voice kept ringing in his ears: and either must die at the hand of the other … He was the chosen one, only he. He was the one destined to save the wizarding world by becoming a killer, a murderer like the one he sought to destroy. And Harry knew he could do it. He knew he could kill if he had to.
He didn't want to think about the expressions on his friends' faces when they would realise this. When they would understand that there really was nothing they could do, no way they could help him. It was his burden, his destiny; his and his alone. Harry though of Ron, his best friend, who always seemed to believe that he was not important, not good enough. How Ron always though himself the sidekick, never the hero, and how this would cement the notion. And Harry decided not to tell.
Harry thought of Hermione, of how she always wanted to know and eventually did know everything, how her face lit up with the thrill of the hunt for answers. He knew there were no answers now and as he imagined the disappointment in her face, he decided not to tell. Then he thought of Ginny and of how much she had already suffered at the hands of Tom Riddle. And decided not to tell. So he sat, his decision finally made, and calmly waited for his friends.
Suddenly, the doors banged open and there they were. First was Hermione, levitating her trunk before her and a large book under her arm, with her finger stuck between the pages.
"Hey, Harry," she greeted, sitting down next to him and throwing her arms around him. The book lay discarded on the bench as she stared searchingly into his eyes.
"How are you doing, Harry?"
"Fine, Hermione … I'm fine," came Harry's muffled reply from the region of her shoulder. Ron's face swam into view as the redhead clapped his friend on the back and smiled. "Good to see you, mate."
"Yeah, you too. So, where's Ginny?"
"She decided to check in on some girls from her year … to give us some alone time, she said."
Harry smiled for the first time in what felt like months. "That was nice of her."
Then his attention returned to Hermione, who still hadn't let go of him.
"Are you sure you're all right? We haven't heard anything from you all summer. Nothing, not a letter, not a phone call. Nothing!" Her concerned tone turned somewhat angry as she let go of him.
Harry stared at her. "Well, I haven't heard from you either," he said, feeling a little confused.
"But Harry, you know we couldn't contact you ... it wasn't safe. Professor Dumbledore told you about the security restrictions last year; the mail could be intercepted by the Death Eaters and this year, with the Ministry of Magic acknowledging You-Know-Who's –"
"Voldemort's," interrupted Harry.
"Alright, Voldemort's return, the security is tighter than ever, and when we tried sending letters to you, they just kept coming back! When we asked Professor Dumbledore about it, he said he had made you Unplottable, so that nobody could send you mail. Just in case Death Eaters sent you some cursed letter or maybe even a Portkey," she paused for a breath and then continued, "But that doesn't mean you couldn't have written to us, Harry."
"Hermione, remember how little I'm always told," said Harry. "Did it by chance cross your mind that I didn't know? Nobody wrote to me and I figured that I was isolated from the wizarding world for security reasons, as you said …"
At that point, Ron butted in, "At least you could have tried writing, you know? Or that phellytone thingy Hermione has."
"I don't think my Aunt and Uncle would have let me try phoning, Ron," Harry said sarcastically. "They had a rather happy summer, with no interruptions from the freaks as they call wizards, so me voluntarily bringing it back into their lives … well, let's just they wouldn't have been very happy about it."
Harry and his friends sat in contemplative silence for a while. Then Ron asked what Harry had done during the summer. After an answer of "Nothing, really", Hermione started telling Harry about her summer, spent travelling in continental Europe with her parents and visiting Viktor Krum in Bulgaria.
By the time she had finished entertaining them with her tales of adventures in the magnificent museums and libraries of the continent, Ginny had come in on the heels of the trolley lady and Ron was busy trying to choose between Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and Cauldron Cakes.
Ginny greeted Harry shyly, and sat down next to her brother.
Hermione opened her book again and settled in for some before-the-term studying while Ron challenged Ginny to a game of Wizard's Chess as Harry sat there contently. All the evil of Voldemort and his grim destiny was forgotten for the moments of peace and normalcy with his friends as the Hogwarts Express travelled north.
After some time, Hermione sat up and instructed her friends to change into their school robes as Hogsmeade station was only fifteen minutes away. The teenagers pulled the black robes over their Muggle outfits; Hermione and Ron pinned the prefects' badges on.
"Oooh, Ginny, congratulations! Why didn't you tell us?" came Hermione's excited cry, just as Harry noticed that he was the only one in the compartment without the small golden addition to the robes. He went over to Ginny and hugged her saying "congratulations" quietly into her ear. With sudden alarm, he noticed the deep blush that had started spreading over the younger girl's face at his touch and let go so quickly he didn't see the hurt look Ginny got in her eyes at his brusque retreat.
Hermione swatted Ron on the shoulder and exclaimed, "At least you could have told me, Ron!"
"Ouch! Hermione." Ron backed off. "I didn't know either! That little sister of mine has been very secretive with the information, obviously."
"Sorry, Hermione. It's true, I didn't want to make a big deal about it," Ginny said quietly.
"Why on earth not? This is a great thing, Ginny. It's a recognition of your academic achievements and you should be proud of it," came Hermione's surprised voice.
"Academic achievements?" Ron snorted. "How do explain my badge, then?"
For once, Hermione was silenced by surprise. "Well, there are probably other factors involved as well," she conceded, "but that doesn't mean you're not smart, Ron."
By now, the famous Weasley blush was spreading over both present family members, Harry noticed with some amusement.
The conversation came to a screeching halt along with the train as the Hogwarts Express reached Hogsmeade Station. The students started filing out of the train and trudged towards the waiting coaches. Harry and co waived in passing to Hagrid, who as per usual was bellowing for first years to come to him, and piled into a coach. Harry watched as Hogwarts castle loomed over the lake, magnificent and ancient and always welcoming. He, Ron and Hermione walked in the huge front doors to the Great Hall and sat down to watch the Sorting and enjoy the welcoming feast as Ginny once again went to join her classmates.
All the houses had settled down at their tables and the students sat facing the Sorting Hat, when the Great Doors opened and in came Professor McGonagall at the head of a large group of frightened first years.
The old crumpled hat on the lone stool before the teachers table burst into song.
You may think I am silly
You may think I am mad
But I am the most important hat
You have ever placed on your head.
I am the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
It is my job to tell you where you go
Where you find the friends to know
Whether you are a Gryffindor
Whose bravery is known to all,
Or are you clever as is needed
You may be a Slytherin,
Most cunning and ambitious
Or Hufflepuff, where loyalty
And hard work are heeded;
But no matter where you are sorted
Remember that all houses
Are equal and just as needed.
One by one the first years where sorted into houses and welcomed with clapping hands. After the final eleven year old was sorted, a Ravenclaw, Professor Dumbledore stood up.
"Welcome, students, to Hogwarts. I am glad to see all the old faces returning and so many new ones to join us in this institution of learning. It is a dark time, but you must enjoy the opportunities of refuge and peace that Hogwarts offers you, and the more children we have here, safe, the better. So let us put aside the house rivalries and have fun. Note you, not too much fun." He peered smiling over the half-moon glasses at some students and continued, "Now, I have been informed by Mr Filch that there are twenty three new additions to the list of forbidden items, which you can read on his office door. As most of our older students should know by now, the Forbidden Forest that borders Hogwarts is just that, forbidden. Also, let us welcome our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Saims."
The thin young man on Professor McGonagall's right-hand side stood as the students clapped politely.
"I trust you will make him feel most welcome. That takes care of the serious business. Join me in our school song and then if you please … dig in!"
The interesting cacophony of the school song sang to hundreds of different tunes filled the Great Hall for a few minutes. Then the welcoming feast began in earnest as huge quantities of food appeared on the silver plates.
After everybody had eaten to their heart's content, Ginny Weasley – one of the fifth-year prefects – stood up and called, "Gryffindor first-years! First years, follow me!" and led the small children out of the hall towards the Gryffindor common room.
The older students started trailing behind as Ron remarked to Harry, "I can't believe we were so little once. These kids just keep getting smaller and smaller, don't you think?"
Harry nodded with a smile tugging at his lips as he looked up at his 6 foot 3 friend and followed the crowd to the portrait of the Fat Lady. There, the prefects informed the first year students how to gain access to the common room by telling the password – Skiving Snackboxes – to the portrait and also gave the usual lecture about not forgetting and not writing down the password. When that was mentioned, some people sneaked rather pointed looks at Neville, who seemed totally oblivious.
Once in the common room, the prefects led the first-years up to their dormitories while older students sat on the various couches and armchairs around the fire and talked about the summer, getting reacquainted with their friends.
Harry considered the peaceful picture for a moment and then walked up the boys' staircase, slumped down on his bed and promptly fell asleep.
… to be continued …
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