Harry Potter had made his decision. He would go into the forest. Hogwarts life was very different from all he had known. He longed for independence, wildness, trials. He'd read of an intriguing type of magic- the animagus transformation- and the forest would help him with that. Time to practice new magic, and a place to test his survival skills… He collected a bag of blankets, some food from the kitchens, and several bottles of water, and then snuck out of Hogwarts, invisible.

"The plan has changed."

"My Lord?" Bellatrix inquired.

"We will go through with the preliminary ritual first. It will make it easier to deal with the boy."

"Then we are to travel soon."

"Yes. The present situation suits our purposes."

The forest was beautiful, in a dangerous sort of way. Huge trees looming, ground carpeted in moss and fallen leaves, the air full of the smell of plants and the tingle of magic, and never entirely silent, the whole forest rich with vales of shadow, mingled intermittently with dappled patches of light that sifted through the deep green canopy above.

After a long day of wandering Harry found a small space sheltered by a large tree and a cropping of rock. He crawled inside. It would have to do. He would have to practice basic protective spells on his shelter before anything else.

It was several days before Harry ventured far from his little shelter. It now had some basic magical defenses around it. He couldn't be seen, and his aura couldn't be sensed, but that wouldn't keep him from detection, not here. Harry had also managed to cast most of the spells he'd learned at Hogwarts wandlessly. It was time for other things now.

The forest was dangerous, of course, but for the moment that was the point. There were more dangerous things in the world than anything that could be found here, and a trial here might help him survive later. So he journeyed deeper, running through the forest. Soon after, he realized he was being followed.

Spiders. Lots of spiders. Acromantulas, to be precise. He'd entered their territory.

He continued to run, allowing himself to float slightly above the ground, flapping his arms up and down behind him. He'd have felt ridiculous if not for the feeling of urgency. He focused on the need to escape. Survival was, after all, the rule he'd always lived by. Then he was rising higher, the flapping of his arms- no- wings lifting him rapidly above the spiders. It was done. He flew back to camp to rest, not knowing the surprise that awaited him.

The boy stood in a graveyard, clutching a phoenix feather wand. He met the red eyes of the man before him, trying with difficulty to hide his surprise and fear.

For a moment there was silence apart from the wind whistling through gravestones, ruffling the boy's already messy raven hair.

"Silly little fool," the man hissed, "not even your allies will help you now."

In one movement, the man swept an arm forward. He sliced into the boy's arm with a knife he had concealed beneath his sleeve, and then proceeded to spell the blood that spilled forth into a conjured goblet and drank deeply. The boy stumbled backwards.

A lightning shaped scar was burning.

"Your blood adds to my strength, boy, but you have outlived your usefulness."

You won't kill me," the boy replied with almost-convincing bravado.

The man laughed high and cold. The boy spun around and began to run.

"Avada Kedevera!"

There was a flash of green light, and the boy fell to the ground. None of those in the circle around them had made any move to interfere. Now… :

"My Lord?"

"Riddle has served his purpose."

"Yes, milord."

Many miles away, Harry Potter awoke and got to his feet, scar burning, and prepared to return to the school called Hogwarts. It was time.

A/N: This is, to be honest, the end of this fic. I've been dividing them more by events then by school years. There might or might not be an epilogue, I haven't decided. There will be a sequel, but I plan to wait until I have a chunk of it written before starting to post it. If you just have me on author alert, you can request and I'll email you when it's up, or you can join the yahoo group from the link on my profile to be alerted when the sequel is posted.