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Chapter One: Of All the Bad Things That Have Ever Happened To Me, This Is By Far the Most Recent
By Big D
Entry from the diary of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
3 November, 1996
Harry's escape from Voldemort's dungeons has raised more questions than it has answered.
Physically, it appears that he will make a full recovery, although many of his wounds have already scarred over, and he still has a great deal of weight to regain. I once again must express my admiration for Harry's sheer toughness. I've seen what Death Eater torturers are capable of, and the fact Harry is still in relatively good health after four months of their treatment is a incredible testament to his resilience.
As to what that treatment entailed, I still have no idea, as Harry has not chosen to reveal those details at this time. Any inquiries into what took place after he disappeared from the hedge maze during the Third Task have been gently, but firmly rebuked. Attempts to scan his surface thoughts have been equally ineffective, though, with Alastor as his teacher, it's unsurprising that his occlumency would be so effective.
However, I believe that I may venture a few assumptions, based on my own observations, as well as the few details that Harry has let slip. From the nature of the scarring on his chest and torso, I would guess that not all of Harry's wounds are the result of torture, as it appears that some of the tissue may have been removed, perhaps for use in potions, or for various magical experiments. Poppy also tells me that the bottom true rib on the right side of his body has been removed. There are a number of dark rituals in which such an artifact could be used, but without knowing more I am hesitant to venture a guess as to what use it is being put. Taking the pattern of healing into account, I would say that Harry was first experimented on, then after Tom's researchers had finished their work, the torturers took over and attempted to break him. As to what those researchers discovered, or indeed what they were looking for, I may never know, but I feel safe in thinking that it had something to do with understanding exactly how Harry survived the killing curse as a child. Most likely, they subjected him to a series of different traumas, and monitored his reactions in hopes of discovering a pattern. To my shame, I find that I have an almost unbearable curiosity as to what they discovered while performing these vile and painful experiments.
I also find myself a great deal more concerned about Harry's mental state than his physical one. Although he seems to be holding up remarkably well after his ordeal, he has exhibited a quick and sometimes violent temper, and seems to be distancing himself from his friends, as well. This would suggest that he may be experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, as some sufferers often have difficulty relating to others after their experiences. Normally, the best treatment for such an affliction would be rapid reintegration back into the person's normal life, as well as strong support from the individual's family. But for Harry, normal life is anything but normal, and I have a feeling that returning to Privet Drive may only make the problem worse. Gaining an accurate assessment of Harry's mental health would be easier if I could convince him to open up to me, but that seems highly unlikely for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that Harry almost certainly suspects that I played a role in his abduction. The fact that he has not confronted me on the subject brings me no comfort, as I am sure that he intends to do so once the current crisis is over, and Tom has been defeated, once and for all.
I can safely say that I have made no greater mistake in my long life than the one I made when I agreed to turn over Harry to Voldemort in exchange for his agreement to leave Hogwarts out of the war. However advantageous the final result has turned out to be, my betrayal of Harry has turned me into the worst kind of hypocrite, and I must live the rest of my life knowing that I have abandoned the principles which I have always held closest to my heart.
Even so, it could be that my mistake may end up turning the war in our favor. Despite the fact that Harry has returned to us, the magical contract between Tom and myself is still in full effect, which means that he cannot act against the school in any way. And since I have already fulfilled my side of the bargain, there are no loopholes for him to wiggle through. This means that we now have an impenetrable fortress from which to conduct our side of the war.
But the most unforseen, and perhaps the most important benefit of Harry's incarceration has to do with Harry himself, and the amazing powers he has demonstrated since his return.
In all the time that I have known him, and despite the assurances of the prophecy, Harry had never shown any extraordinary magical abilities. A gifted intellect and an iron will, certainly, but never anything to make me truly believe that he stood a chance against the Dark Lord of Magic. Indeed, it was this gnawing doubt that led me down the road to making a deal with Tom. But now I begin to understand what "the power the Dark Lord knows not" is.
Harry has come into possession of a power that I would have believed to be impossible, had I not seen it with my own eyes. Lacking an established term to describe this phenomenon, I have taken to referring to it as metamagic. From what I have been able to discern, this metamagic allows him to not only sense, but to control magic in a way that no other wizard ever has before. Through the use of metamagic, Harry is able to transform one spell into another, or to change the parameters of an existing spell with only a thought. This talent seems to be limited to his immediate vicinity, roughly twenty feet in any direction from him. He also now has the ability to cast his own spells by simply releasing his own raw magic and using metamagic, to transform it into a more useable form, bypassing the need for a wand or incantation. Which is fortunate in light of the fact that his former wand was destroyed by Tom, and all attempts to fit him with a new one have been unsuccessful. In terms of sheer magical power, Harry still seems to be rather average, but with proper training, I now believe that he can be a match for even the most powerful wizards.
Exactly how he obtained such a subtly powerful gift is a question that I may never be able to answer, and at this point, even venturing a guess would be foolhardy. But it is my sincerest hope that this new power will prove to be the downfall of my former pupil, Tom Marvolo Riddle... even if it may one day be my downfall, as well. My actions will have earned me nothing less.
(Two years later.)
The castle looked like something from a Boris Karloff movie, stone constructed, with tall towers and crumbling facades.
"What a fucking dump." Harry muttered.
"That's true enough," said Fred Weasley from his right.
"But since when have Death Eaters had taste?" chimed in George from his left.
Harry grinned at them before turning to Tonks, "How much time?" he asked.
"About fifteen minutes."
Harry nodded and leaned back against the tree he was sitting by, closing his eyes. His choices for this mission had raised a few eyebrows. At first, he had been offered thirty fighters, a mixture of experienced Aurors and Order of the Phoenix members, but he had quickly shot that idea down. Thirty would have been too few to fight their way out if things went south, and too many to sneak in without being noticed. He had decided on a ten person team, but had only brought one auror, Tonks. The rest of the team was comprised of the most junior members of the Order, none of whom were more than a few years out of Hogwarts. For most of them, this would be their first true mission for the Order, other than providing support on a few small raids. Harry, however, knew the measure of each and everyone of them.
In Harry's first three years at Hogwarts, the school had come under full attack twice. Both times, the people he had chosen had stood their ground while others fled. Each time, they had continued fighting long after all hope of victory had seemed lost. Every one of them had lost family members in the war, and he counted each of them as people that he could trust with his back turned. If it came to fighting, he would regret not bringing more-experienced soldiers. Then again, if it came to fighting, they would have already failed.
Under any other circumstance, Harry would never consider what he was about to attempt. Snape had only been able to give them the most basic floor plans for the castle. He hadn't been able to tell them how many Death Eaters might be there, or how they were arranged. Taking a small, inexperienced team into an unknown situation, against unknown enemies, was only slightly better than suicide, but Harry didn't feel that he had a choice.
Ten hours earlier, Death Eaters had attacked the school at Hogsmeade. They had slaughtered the teachers, as well as the light guard, before abducting all forty children, who had ranged in age from six to ten. This had shocked even Harry. Of the forty children, thirty-six of them were pureblooded, and more than half of those belonged to families who had stayed neutral in the war, but were sympathetic to Voldemort. If Voldemort was prepared to turn those families against him, then he must think that whatever he had planed was enough to turn the tide of the war in his favor. And, as much as Harry hated to admit it, preventing that was just as important as returning those children safely to their parents.
The Order and the Ministry had both begun searching for the children at once. Two hours ago, Snape had brought word that they were being held here, and that they were to be sacrificed in some type of dark ritual at midnight tonight, about two hours from now. Using a young, virginal magical child as a blood sacrifice was not unheard of, but no one, not even Snape, could figure out what kind of ritual would require forty of them. The type of power that that would unleash would be all but impossible to control, even for Voldemort.
"How much time?" Harry asked again.
"Five minutes." came the reply from Tonks.
The plan that they had come up with was simple, but risky. Albus would lead the combined forces of the Order and the Ministry in an attack on Azkaban, which the Death Eaters had been using as a stronghold for several years now. In theory, this would draw the available Death Eater reenforcements to the north, which, in theory, would leave the children lightly defended. Harry wasn't a big fan of theories, he preferred facts.
Harry's team had the job of slipping into the castle while the Death Eaters were busy and freeing the children. Each of them carried several portkeys, which meant that only one of them needed to get through. If the Death Eaters took the bait, then things should go very smoothly. If they didn't, things would become very bloody, very very quickly. Over the last six and a half years, Harry had lost a number of friends. Tonight, Harry suspected that he would lose a few more.
"Harry." Tonks whispered, "It's time."
Harry opened his eyes and stood up.
Swift and silently as shadows, the group moved towards the tree line. Each of them kept an eye on Harry, and stopped when he raised his hand. He motioned them behind him, and turned back to the seemingly empty air in front of him.
He didn't even consider trying to bring down the perimeter wards. Aside from the fact that he wasn't powerful enough, bringing down the wards would let every witch and wizard in a half-mile radius know they were coming. Instead, he simply altered what the wards were looking for. He couldn't affect the whole area of the ward, only the part that came within his area of influence, but it was enough to make a hole for his team to safely move through. As the others passed by him, Harry could hear the twins singing softy.
"A-sneaking we will go... a-sneaking we will go... high-ho the merry-go... a-sneaking we will go."
"I'll high-ho your merry-go's if you two don't shut up!" Tonks snapped quietly.
"Promise?" Fred whispered eagerly. "We've never been high-hoed by a metamorph." George added.
Tonks was about to light into them again, but Harry beat her to it. "That's enough, boys." he said, "We're here to do a job, and it's not going to get done out here."
"We are doing our jobs." Fred replied defensively. "Comic relief." his twin explained. Nonetheless, they remained quiet.
"Disillusion yourselves and find an entrance." Harry ordered, "First one to the kiddies wins the prize... now go." The others cast their spells. "And no heroes. If you get into a fight you can't handle, use your portkey and get out of there."
His admonishment was falling on deaf ears, and he knew it. No one here was prepared to leave those kids to their fates. They would all fight to the last.
Harry moved towards a corner of the castle where Snape claimed there was a small service entrance. The shadows made his team all but invisible, but he could still sense the magic from their disillusionment. Some of them were using brooms to get to the upper parts of the building, while the others spread out over the grounds. In his heart, he expected a fierce fight, so he was caught by surprise when he found the door to be open.
He passed through the unguarded door, into the unguarded storage room, down the unguarded hall, and quickly found himself standing before the unguarded dungeon stairs. Too much of a good thing was always bad, but turning back wasn't an option. By the time he reached the unguarded dungeon antechamber, Harry was prepared to pay good galleons for someone to jump out and try to kill him. Even if the Death Eaters had fallen for the diversionary attack, there should still be at least a few sentries here. The fact that there weren't meant that, either the children weren't being kept here, or he was walking straight into a trap. He could feel something up ahead, a kind of magic he had never felt before in his life and, ignoring every instinct in his body, moved towards it.
Harry had been through a number of terrible experiences in his short life, and could safely say it had been a long time since he was truly scared, but at that moment, the hair on the back of his neck was standing straight up. The very air was thick with anticipation, like the world was holding its breath, waiting for something momentous to happen. As he opened the door to the dungeon proper, he caught sight of the person he least wanted, but most expected, to see.
The Dark Lord of Magic was waiting, quite patiently and very much alone, in the middle of a large, seemingly empty, room. The only light was a blood-red luminance that seemed to be coming from the man himself. It lit up the area around him, but failed to reach the surrounding walls, leaving him bathed in a kind of hellish halo. Surrounding him at his feet was a runic circle that Harry didn't recognize, but thought might be some sort of protective magic. The strange magic that Harry had felt before was thick in the air, but he still couldn't identify it. His first instinct was to flee, with his abilities, he could apperate out of anywhere, even Hogwarts, but he was once again stayed by the thought that the kidnaped children might still be alive. All of this flew through his mind in the split second before the former Tom Marvolo Riddle spoke.
"Please Harry, come in." his voice was like a snake sliding across dry grass, "I went to a great deal of trouble to bring you here, and I promise that I have no intention of harming you."
Harry chuckled a bit. "What, running out of ideas?" he said, entering the room and allowing the door to close behind him. "Can't say I'm surprised, you've done so much to me, you must be getting tired of thinking up new ways to hurt me by now." Despite his banter, Harry was worried. Allowing Voldemort to set him up like this could only end badly.
"Something like that." the older wizard replied dryly, still with that knowing smile on his face. "I can say this, one way or another, our rivalry will end tonight." The Dark Lord tilted his head slightly and smirked. "But either way, I will not harm you."
"So it's the kinder, gentler Voldemort tonight, is it?"
The knowing smile turned into an annoyed look. "It is not in my nature to be kind or gentle. But it has become obvious to me that hurting you is an exercise in futility." His face became contemplative as he continued. "Tell me Harry, do you remember when I offered you a place at my side during your first year?" Harry didn't answer, so Voldemort continued. "I have never rescinded that offer. It is still open to you to take, but I must insist that you decide now."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "And if I say no?"
Voldemort smiled, two bright white fangs glinting in the unnatural light. "Do not be so hasty to deny me. Whatever our differences, I have always admired your strength, as well as your unique gifts. When I say that there is a place for you at my side, I do not mean as a servant. It is as an equal... a partner if you will."
"Well, gee... I don't know... this is all so sudden." Harry mocked, placing a hand over his heart and pretending to go faint. "What will the papers say? And my parents?" He dropped the blushing bride routine and adopted an put-upon look. "Oh, yeah... you killed my parents." he said dryly. "The only partnership I have any interest of entering into with you has to do with the joining of my foot and your ass."
Voldemort's face became grim. "Nevertheless, there is only one way out of this room, and that is at my side."
There was a loud explosion, and the muffled sound of fighting from upstairs. "It would seem that your friends have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar." Voldemort said in an amused tone. "But they can be saved as well. All you have to do is say yes."
Harry had heard enough. It was time to get out of here. He gathered his magic, intending to apperate, but when he tried, nothing happened. It wasn't that he was being blocked, the spell simply didn't work. He raised a hand to let loose with a blast of lighting directed at Voldemort, but again, nothing happened. It was like magic itself didn't work in this room, but that was impossible because he could feel it all around him.
Voldemort threw back his head and laughed. "You look so confused, my boy. It's not quite fair when someone changes the rules on you, is it?" he sneered. The light around the dark wizard grew more intense and for the first time, Harry could see the entire chamber.
Bathed in red light, he could see the nude bodies of the missing children stuck spreadeagle fashion along the walls. Their hands and feet had been nailed to the stone, and their flesh had been inscribed with runes that bled dark red blood. It took him a moment to realize that they were screaming, and therefore still alive.
Desperate now, Harry tried to attack Voldemort physically, but as he moved toward the Dark Lord, the air around him thickened to hold him in place. Voldemort spread his arms out, and the red light turned into an inferno, blinding Harry. Over the din of anguished children and dark magic, he could hear Voldemort's voice.
"TO BE TRUTHFUL, I'M PLEASED YOU REFUSED ME." he bellowed triumphantly, "I'D HATE TO THINK THAT I WENT TO ALL THIS TROUBLE AND DIDN'T GET TO BANISH YOU INTO LIMBO LIKE I PLANNED!
His eyes took on a look of pure hate. THINK OF ME, HARRY POTTER, WHILE YOU SPEND AN UNDYING ETERNITY LOST BEYOND TIME... THINK OF ME AS THE EONS PASS YOU BY, AND YOU GO INSANE BY INCHES... KNOW THAT MY FACE IS THE LAST THING YOU WILL EVER SEE, AS YOU SPEND THE REST OF YOUR UNENDING LIFE IN THE NOTHINGNESS OF INFINITY... AND KNOW THAT YOU COULD HAVE PREVENTED IT BY SIMPLY TAKING MY HAND!
Desperately, Harry clawed at the awesomely powerful magic swirling around him. The force of the magic that Voldemort was channeling was almost beyond comprehension, the scope of it was tearing at his mind and blinding his senses. But it was too powerful. He could feel cold seeping into his limbs, the intense cold of the empty dark. And, true to his word, Voldemort's face was the last thing he saw before he was ripped away from his own world.