He shivered, but it had been a long time since he had bothered to identify and rectify the reasons for his discomfort. Somewhere in the distance of his mind he ran through the reasons, but the thoughts were distant and unwanted. The cold…it certainly was cold in here, but he tuned it out. The Dementors…they made him flinch, cringe, and shiver, too. He couldn't tune them out.
Maybe the insanity made him shiver, or maybe it was his disgust that he was insane, and he shivered at what he had become, what he had been reduced to.
He was certain that he was, or had been, or that he sometimes lapsed into it, but there was no doubt that it was there, lingering at the fringes of his mind. He knew there were times when he would wake, his throat burning and his mind blank of the past few minutes…hours…days…had it been months? Time was nonexistent in here.
He heard the screams of the other prisoners and knew that he screamed, too. He could never remember it afterwards, but sometimes the other prisoners would hiss at him, taunt him, mock him, until they were yelling and screaming in a frenzied rage. They knew his name, they all did. They told him how he had screamed like a baby, raving like a lunatic.
His thoughts never stayed on them for long, though; they never stayed on anything for long. His mind was unravelling and he could feel it. He could hardly remember their faces anymore, and as soon as he finished the thought he would wonder who they actually were.
Sirius had said, hadn't he, that if you were innocent, and you remembered that, that you wouldn't go insane. But Harry was. He was losing his mind and now he doubted his guilt. Innocence. Which was which? He shivered again. He could spend eternity here, shivering and wondering why he shivered and shivering some more. Even if he found the answer it wouldn't change anything. He wasn't Harry Potter anymore. He wasn't the one who was going to save everyone.
He was just this putrid, stinking mess dressed in rags and huddled against a stone wall in a cell in Azkaban.
Who had said those things? He couldn't remember now. He lumped them together in the nameless faceless group of people who had hated him. Maybe they were things he had made up about himself? But it was so cold…
The coldness seeped into his bones.
Bone of the father, unwillingly given…you will renew your son.
I was somebody's son once. I remember them, the one with the black hair and glasses, and the one with the green eyes. I think they loved me. They were my blood.
Blood of the enemy…forcibly taken…you will resurrect your foe…
He wasn't sure where those words were from. He heard them when the Dementors came close, though. Just those words, and the cloudy sky, threatening rain.
It was raining now. He couldn't see the sky, hadn't seen it in so long, but the water trickled into his cell. He looked over to the corner where it gathered, cushioned by the mould that blossomed when the rain dried up. An odd croaking sound forced out of his throat of its own volition. He dragged himself over to the small puddle and licked frantically at the water.
The desperation was an escape from the horror, sometimes, because when he became so desperate that he thought he might bite into his own flesh, or drink his own urine, they would finally come and it would be like a ray of sunshine in this dark hell.
He was from hell.
He deserved to be here.
He was someone from the past.
A cracked and mournful melody ripped from his throat, but it was gone before it even had time to echo back to him, turning into a hacking cough. He grinned and rolled his eyes crazily.
He stopped grinning.
He picked mindlessly at a scab, a stab of satisfaction going through him as blood welled up from the hole and spilled over his arm in a single red stream. Blood was good. Blood was familiar.
A spot on the floor caught his eye. He ran his hand over it. It was no different from the rest of the uneven, grimy floor, but in his mind's eye it was special. His chipped and broken nails were nearly the same colour as the stones. A shadow flickered in the corridor outside the bars of his cell.
"Luuunaaaaa," he called out in a sing song voice. It came out as a hoarse whisper, but he didn't hear it that way. Maybe he really was crazy. Who was Luna? He felt mad. Why was he so stupid? Luna was the moon.
"Moony," he grinned. "Where aaaaare yoooouuuuu?"
"Shut your filthy mouth!" screamed a woman.
He pulled himself upright and dragged himself against the wall, leg wide spread in front of him. His head lolled backwards against the stone wall, but that was uncomfortable, and he let it fell forward against his chest. Effort was so wearying. A waste of time. He fell asleep.
"Wake uuuuuuup!" yelled an excited voice that was no more than a guttural moan. It jerked him out of sleep immediately. "They're coooomiiiiiiing!"
He grinned, but he wasn't sure why. Metal clanked somewhere in the distance, but now it was quiet. So quiet…
They were coming. Who for, though? Sometimes they just felt like spreading depression, but sometimes they came for others and took them away and took their souls and killed them and threw their bodies into the ocean and they sank into the sludge and the worms crawled over their flesh and he was rambling.
They were coming for him. He didn't remember if they were supposed to. Sometimes people were vindictive and cruel and they just like to off someone for the fun of it. He smiled. That thought had been clear, but that wasn't wholly unusual. His worse thoughts were often clear. He just couldn't remember the good thoughts so well anymore. Maybe that's why they were unclear.
"Aaaah," he said, as his cell door opened. Green light flashed in his head and he groaned. This happened sometimes, when they decided to actually enter his cell. But wait- what was happening. That one was lowering its hood. He licked his dry lips with his dry tongue, curling away from the blindly reaching hands and the gaping black doorway into torment. His hands pressed in vain against the rotting grey cloak as his head was drawn up, up and up, tilting to feel the putrid breath of the creature.
"No," he croaked. He didn't want to die, couldn't die.
But why not? Even as the filthy creature put it mouth over his, he laughed. Oh, he was so confused. He wanted to die, but he didn't. And where was the reasonableness in that, when he was stuck here in this hell hole? He closed his eyes as the creature sucked, but he struggled now, uselessly, against it. There was an insistent, urging sensation struggling out of him - was it his soul? - and he thought for a second he had remembered something that he had to do, but a moment later it was gone. A moment after that the Dementor was gone (he had always been able to remember the name of them), the cell was gone, Azkaban was gone, and he was sitting in the cool night air, shivering because of pure, blessed cold, and laughing his head off.
It took a minute before the laughs subsided, but it was long enough for his stomach muscles to ache. It had been so, so long since he had felt that; so, so long since he had kept a single thought in his head for so long.
Slowly, he unclenched his arms from their convulsive grasp around his knees, lowered his legs and straightened them, raised his head to look at the stars.
"Beautiful," he whispered. And the wind- so gentle, like a breath across his skin. He tried to stand, fell forward onto his hands and knees and rolled onto his back.
He breathed a contented sigh and gazed off into the distance. The sun was rising, and he thought that it might be the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He sat up, looked around, and remembered his name. How long had it been since he had thought of himself as that? As Harry. Harry Potter.
He looked around slowly in a mixture of uncertainty and incredulity. There was no Azkaban. He could see, in every direction, the flat, desolate dirt with sea beyond. It was as if it had never been. A gurgling laugh erupted from his throat and he launched himself to his feet, swaying slightly. He needed to leave, right now, before people came. People who would lock him up again in a place even worse. How many of the prisoners had died? He had done it, of that he was sure. And the Aurors who had been stationed here…they were gone, too.
He smiled again. Another name. Aurors. The ones who kept the peace, got rid of criminals, like Harry Potter. But wait, that was himself. Was he a criminal? Had he really done what they said he had? He wasn't sure, couldn't really remember. It was all so foggy.
Harry stumbled to the edge of the island, to where it began its descent into the sea. He revelled in the feel of the wind in his hair. He reached up to touch it. It was long, so long that he could see it if he pulled it over his shoulder. It was as black as the man's in the memory. James. Dad. He suddenly knew that his eyes would be green, like Lily's. His mother. He reached up to feel his face, realizing for the first time that he now sported a beard and moustache, both matted and dirty. He remembered that he had been too young to have a proper beard in the times before he was a prisoner of Azkaban. His hair felt oily to the touch. He stumbled down the steep slope, slicing his hands on jagged rocks but not stopping to worry. He flung himself into the sea, and it was good.
He hadn't felt clean, fresh water in so long. If only he could drink it…
It was a second before he realised he was sinking, and his muscles wouldn't respond. He was so weak, and the undertow was pulling him- he was drifting, away, away from the shore.
He breathed in a mouthful of water and coughed it out, and his mind flashed to a lake, cool and green, and a huge castle. He wished for Gillyweed. Hogwarts, he thought, moments before he passed out.
Waves crashed against the sandy beach, and gulls chorused raucously in the near vicinity. Harry opened his eyes, the water stinging them. He rubbed at them. They were crusted with salt.
It was a miracle, he thought, that he was not dead and drowned, drifting at the bottom of the sea. He could imagine it- dark and cold, like Azkaban.
He lurched to his feet and straightened, relying on trembling muscles and an emaciated frame. He looked out to sea. The sky was dark with clouds, the sand comfortably coarse under his feet. Azkaban, or what was left of it, could not be seen from where he now stood, but that didn't worry him. He hadn't thought he'd even have a chance to see Azkaban from the outside again. He wasn't going to complain.
He started walking, slowly at first, but gaining in confidence. It had been so long since he had been able to walk properly. How long, though? He had no idea of the date. His memory was patchy, his thoughts confused, but he could feel the remnants of insanity leaving him. He wondered how long the insanity would linger at the fringe of his mind, haunting him.
How had Azkaban been destroyed? He was in no doubt that it had been him who had done it, nor was he in any doubt about the fact that Aurors would be crawling all over the giant rock at that very moment. He hoped they didn't discover that he was alive.
A wind was blowing now, quite strongly. It came from behind, urging him forwards with ease. He needed to find a town, somewhere he could rest out of the wind and rain. Clean himself up.
Hopefully he was on the English coast. If he was, he wouldn't have to travel far. He couldn't remember how far the other countries were, but he thought it likely that he was on his native soil.
It wasn't long before he had to take a break. He sat on a rock, chest heaving from exertion. He closed his eyes for a moment and attempted to banish all of the messed up, half-formed thoughts from his mind.
Clear your mind, Potter. Clear it or we will all die because of your infernal inaptitude.
Who had said that? A name flashed into his head.
Yes, that sounded like something Snape would say. Snape had been mean, he remembered. He took a deep breath a tried not to think.
But then he remembered everything.
He remembered the curses, the stares, the screams, and then there had been a trial. A long, long trial. So many witnesses. So many victims. And then there had been Azkaban. He remembered now, the disbelief he had first felt. It hadn't lasted long and in the end his situation had been all too believable. After that came anger. Oh, he had been in a rage, but only in his mind. The guards at Azkaban had said he just sat there with an expression of numb shock on his face for days.
The anger had never really left him, but it continued on into betrayal, and then the disbelief was in his friends. In the end they had all believed. The evidence had been irrefutable.
Once he had had a moment of horror, when he realised he wouldn't be able to get Voldemort from in there, but then he'd been mad at himself for thinking he even had to now. He had no reason for it now. No motivation. It had only lasted a second. There had been no satisfaction that they would all die without him.
He hadn't felt sad, not that he could remember at least. People had always said that he was too accepting of his fate. Maybe he was.
That ended today.
He remembered, clearly, the sequence of emotions that had fled through him in that dingy cell.
Disbelief, anger, disbelief, betrayal, and finally, had come the insanity. There were no emotions when you were trapped in your own delusions. In the brief flashes of clarity he had felt nothing; no remorse, no guilt, no hatred. In insanity his mind had been numb.
He stood up, banishing the thoughts. Deep inside himself was the urge to curl up in a ball and cry for himself, but he had never entertained self-pity and he didn't intend to start now. He would be strong, like he always had been. Sadness would not defeat him.
He started walking and tried to let the anger consume him, for he thought it the only way he might survive. If he acknowledged the deeper part of himself- the one that craved redemption, acceptance, and love- then he would be led to ruin. He could not be Harry Potter again. But try as he might, he could not banish the resentment that lingered in the pit of his stomach. He wanted it to be how it had been when he was younger. When he had still been innocent.
He climbed a small cliff and left the beach behind; found a road. The road led him to a small village, no more than a pub and a few houses. It was early morning and no one was around. He opened the door to the pub and stepped silently into the dimly lit room. The delectable scent of bacon and eggs assailed his senses and he stepped forward hungrily.
"Off with you, now, or I'll call the coppers," came a sharp voice from behind the counter. He looked over and saw a short, plump woman with red hair.
Mrs Weasley, he thought. He smiled, but it vanished quickly. She emerged from behind the counter with a large saucepan in her hand.
"Go on, now, door's right behind you."
"Please help," he croaked. His voice was hoarse; dry and rough from sea water and dehydration. The woman's face softened almost imperceptibly.
"Well what's wrong with ya, then? If you want, I can call someone to come get ya, but I'm not into charity. These are rough times."
He cleared his throat.
"My name is Tristan Grey."
He wasn't quite sure what made him say it, he hadn't even been thinking about a name. But the name…how fitting it was. For a second he nearly smiled; he liked the sound of it. But then he wondered why he should have to change who he was because of the prejudices of others. He had once been proud to be Harry Potter.
"And what might you want, Mr Grey?" the woman asked.
"I apologise for disturbing you," said Harry (he remembered to think of himself as Harry now. He didn't want to forget), "But I have been lost for some time out at sea…a shipwreck, you see…" he stopped talking, because it hurt his throat. The woman laid down the saucepan and her face lost the look of wariness and determination.
"What is the date?" asked Harry, not moving from his place by the door.
"The 31st of July, 2002, Mr Grey." She hurried forward and pulled out a chair. Harry sank into it gratefully. Three years, three months. He remembered that it had been his sixth year of school when he had last seen Hogwarts, early in the year. Three years and three months. And today was his birthday, he realised suddenly. He would be twenty.
"Are you alright, Mr Grey?" she asked. Her face was worried, and he realised he must have zoned out. Best to keep thinking, he thought. He hated what happened when his mind went blank. He cleared his throat.
"I'm sorry. May I have some water please?"
"Of course. Just wait here for a moment." She bustled away and returned a few minutes later. She placed a steaming plate of food before him, a glass and a pitcher of water.
"Thankyou," Harry gasped, nearly knocking over the glass in his eagerness to drink clean, fresh water. He drank a full glass, poured another one, and sipped at it. He didn't want to get sick.
He set the glass sown and took a first hesitant bite of scrambled eggs. He had never tasted anything so wonderful.
When he was finished the lady returned and Harry stood up to greet her.
"I apologise for the intrusion, ma'am, and for not asking your name."
The woman smiled as she collected his place.
"You just sit down and rest, Mr Grey, and I'll be back in a moment. And you can call me Alice, Alice Oakley."
Alice Oakley, Harry thought. A nice name. Like Alice Longbottom. Dead Alice Longbottom. Dead Alice Oakley, now that he had been here. He shook his head to banish the image and found that she had returned already. Had he blanked out again?
"Now dear," she said, "do you have anyone I can call for you?"
"Well then, you may have a room here for-"
"Mrs Oakley," Harry cut in, "I don't think I could do that. I have no money, and I-"
"Don't you worry about that, Mr Grey," she interrupted forcefully. "I would have a spare room whether you are here or not, and it may as well have someone using it. Now come along, you need to get out of these clothes and into a bath."
Alice Oakley pulled him to his feet and he followed her obediently up a staircase and into a comfortable looking room. She left the room and returned with clothes, her husband's, she explained, and a towel and soap. Harry thanked her and she left, and it was only when he relaxed into the luxurious warm water that he remembered that Alice Longbottom wasn't dead, just insane. Just like he had been. He wondered if they could get better, just like he had done. Maybe all it took was happiness, or at least the absence of unhappiness.
He washed himself all over, the sweet scented soap lathering on his skin. He washed his hair with shampoo from the little bottles beside the bath and then dried himself. He stood in front of them mirror, looking at himself. His hair was long and wavy, his skin sallow and hanging from his bones. And his eyes- he had seen eyes like that before. Sirius' eyes.
Tearing his eyes away from the sight Harry opened a draw and found a razor and scissor. He hacked at the beard and moustache first, then shaved away the shortened hairs. He looked more like him now.
He clipped his hair awkwardly at the back, cutting it short again. He left it long enough to hide his scar, only a little longer than it had been before Azkaban. He stared into the mirror when he was done. With his hair wet like this, it went smooth, and with his pale skin he looked like Tom Riddle.
He looked away and pulled on the clothes that Alice Oakley had left for him. Without looking in the mirror again he left the bathroom and fell into the soft, warm bed. He didn't dream.
When Harry awoke it was dark outside. He wondered what time it was. A soft knock sounded on the door and Alice Oakley entered, bearing a tray of food. She gasped in surprise when she saw him.
"Oh my," she said. "How old are you, young man?"
"Twenty, ma'am," replied Harry, and was surprised at the sound of his voice. After a decent feed, and with water, and probably with the lack of screaming, his voice was smoother, deeper than he remembered.
Alice Oakley bustled over and set the tray before him.
"I was under the impression that you were older, my dear," she said, dropping the 'Mr Grey'. Harry felt bad about lying to her now.
Harry laughed, and it felt good.
"Lots of people do," he said.
"Well, you do scrub up nicely," she said, placing her hands on her hips and stepping back to eye him critically.
"I'm extremely grateful for your hospitality, Mrs Oakley. I'll pay you back as soon as I can get some money."
"No, that's fine, dear. It's not often I get a nice young man such as yourself to look after."
"Thankyou, Mrs Oakley." He looked down in embarrassment. "Is it alright if I keep these clothes as well?"
Alice Oakley laughed.
"That's fine, my dear. My husband doesn't fit them anymore."
Harry left the next morning, unwilling to stay anywhere for too long. He hadn't really thought about where he would go afterwards, but subconsciously he was sure he had assumed he was going to go back to Hogwarts. It was the only place he could consider going. The only place he had ever loved.
He stood in the bathroom before he left, staring at his reflection. His face was still pale and gaunt, but he was unmistakably Harry Potter. He needed a disguise. Blonde hair, maybe.
The moment he thought it, he felt something change. He blinked and stared at his reflection. Blonde, he thought. Impossible. He wished it were black again, and as he watched his hair darkened to the familiar inky black.
"Woah," he murmured. Was that how he had flattened Azkaban? He had always been able to escape dangerous situations through accidental magic, but was it possible that he was able finally learning to harness that power?
He stepped back from the mirror and left the room. He bid Alice Oakley goodbye and began the trek to London. Once he was out of sight of the village he changed his hair back to blonde and flattened it over his scar. No one would recognise him now.
Precisely one week and two days later, Tristan Grey entered Ollivander's Wands. Diagon Alley was quiet, now, no longer the bustling, lively place it had been. Witched and wizards hurried along, whispering in hushed voices with their heads down. Everything had changed, but Ollivander's had not. Harry doubted whether it had changed one bit from when he had visited it eleven years ago. It was dark, dusty, and silent, and he didn't know that Ollivander had crept up to him until he spoke.
"Can I help you, young man?" he asked, and Harry turned to him and smiled. He had stolen some money, guiltily and shamefully, but it was only a little. Enough to get him to Hogwarts. He hated feeling that way. They had no right to make him feel that way. He shouldn't have had to- He turned his thoughts back to Ollivander before he blanked out again.
"I need a wand, please," he said. Obviously.
"Very well. Wand arm?"
"Right," he said smoothly. In all truth he wasn't sure he needed a wand anymore. The tape measure was flitting around his arm, his face, his legs, taking measurements, and Ollivander was already dashing around and retrieving wands.
"Ash, ten inches, unicorn hair."
He snatched it away straight away.
"Tricky customer…" murmured Ollivander. He disappeared out the back and returned with a box.
"Holly, eleven inches, phoenix feather."
He grabbed it.
Not me. Not me.
He blinked. Ollivander was staring at him curiously.
"How much?" asked Harry, retrieving his money.
"Seven Galleons, my boy."
Harry shook his head in a daze and handed over the money. His mind was still throwing around disconnected thoughts, the remnants of insanity trying to draw him back in.
"A good wand," said Ollivander as he took the gold coins. "Only one other like it in the world. I think we can expect great things from you, Mr…"
"Thankyou," said Harry. He did not give a name.
Curiosity killed the cat.
He left the shop. What had he expected? A different wand, that was for sure. Had he really not changed? How could he not have? His mind had been torn apart in that cell. He was filled with hate and rage and a myriad of other negativities. He didn't want to be the same. He wanted them to pay for what they had done to him. He would make sure they did.
He had never tried apparition before, but it worked the first time. They had had lessons, a few, before he had been sentenced. He felt powerful now, and he understood what he was doing. Something had been unleashed in him that day, and he felt it. Power really was intoxicating.
He apparated to Hogsmeade and trekked up to the school gates. There were two Aurors there. One he recognised, the other he didn't. He almost turned around and left when he saw Ron.
Sneaky, underhanded weasel.
he lied about me
Harry blinked. He had to stop this. He couldn't blank out every time something unexpected happened. He was surprised that Ron was an Auror. He was sure that Ron had never taken Potions in their sixth year.
"Stop there, please, sir," the second Auror said, advancing towards him with his wand drawn. "State your name and business."
"Tristan Grey, to see Albus Dumbledore about a job."
The Auror raised his eyebrows.
"Job, eh? Very well. Show me your left arm, please."
Harry showed the man his bare forearm, and the Auror cast a spell over him. He hadn't heard it before.
"Alright, up you go, then. No funny business, mind you."
Harry nodded and passed through the gates, glancing at Ron. He looked good. Fit and healthy. He wondered about Hermione, and Ginny, and the rest of the Weasleys. He banished them from his mind. He didn't want to think of them.
He strolled casually past the lake, watching the squid for a few minutes. He wasn't eager to go inside the dark castle, out of the warm sun. He climbed the castle steps and raised a pale hand to caress the castle doors. He pushed them open.
He tried to dispel the notion. He hadn't been here in years. He had been expelled, cast out from his home. He felt comfortable here. He stepped into the call entrance hall, remembering the first time he had seen this place.
Potter the loony.
Well, that was true. Had been true. Maybe it was still true.
He advanced to the Great Hall and stared in remembrance up at the ceiling. The tables were missing at the moment. It was only a few weeks until the start of school.
He left the Great Hall and headed up to Dumbledore's office, coming to a stop in front of the Gargoyle. He realised with a start that he didn't even know if Dumbledore was still alive. He hoped so.
No, I don't.
The old man deserves to die. Him most of all.
"Excuse me, do you need help?"
Harry turned to find the source of the voice.
Oh. Padma Patil, if he remembered correctly. The one whose sister's life they said he took. Did she teach here?
"Yes, please. I'm here to see the Headmaster."
Padma narrowed her eyes slightly, her hand gravitating towards her pocket.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"I was in the area. I assure you I am not a threat. I'm here to see about a teaching position."
Her expression lightened.
"Oh, well in that case…I'm sorry, but it pays to be careful nowadays." She held out her hand. "Padma Patil. I teach Ancient Runes."
Ah. She always had been a smart one, he remembered. She had cried so hard at the trial. She hated him.
She smiled slightly and turned to the gargoyle.
"Puking pastilles," she said. Harry quirked an eyebrow and she flushed.
"The headmaster has an odd taste in- well, in a lot of things."
The gargoyle jumped aside and he followed her up the sliding golden staircase.
"There's a staff meeting at the moment," she said. "Just wait here a moment."
Harry stood patiently against the wall as Padma opened the door to the office. Voice drifted from within. Padma said something and then poked her head back out.
"He'll see you now," she said, and stepped aside to admit him. Harry stepped passed her and scanned the faces within the room. McGonagall, stern and thin-lipped as ever; Flitwick, standing on a chair; Madam Hooch, hair all wind-blown (Merlin, he missed his Firebolt); Firenze, who must have permanently replaced Trelawney after her death; Neville Lonbottom, no Sprout (he wondered what had happened to her); Sinistra, and a few others that Harry hadn't really known well; Snape, back in the corner, trying to hide in shadows that weren't there; and Dumbledore, eyes twinkling as he looked at Harry.
Harry stepped forward but did not shake Dumbledore's hand.
"My name is Tristan Grey. I am here to enquire about the teaching position for Defence Against the Dark Arts." He looked around at the surrounding teachers. "I can come back later, if you wish."
"No, no, my boy, now is fine. May I enquire as to why you wish to teach here?"
Dumbledore's tone was pleasant, but Harry felt his gaze lock onto his own, something probing at his mind.
"I heard a position was available. The Dark Arts and defence is my specialty, so I thought to apply."
"Where are from, if you do not mind my asking? You certainly did not attend Hogwarts."
"I was home schooled," he replied shortly.
Dumbledore surveyed him sternly.
"I will admit, I was close to giving up hope on finding a teacher in time for the coming year."
"Rumours that the post is cursed are quite common," Harry replied quickly.
Dumbledore smiled serenely.
"I assure you that those rumours are unsubstantiated."
"But I would be glad to have you here, Mr Grey."
Harry blinked in surprise.
"You're hiring me?"
Harry smiled. Maybe he really had been desperate.
"I just have one condition," Harry said. Dumbledore looked mildly curious.
"I will set my own curriculum, if that is not a problem."
Dumbledore inclined his head slightly.
"That is fine. I myself have one condition,"
"I must insist that nobody on my staff is a supporter of Voldemort. Obviously you are not a Death Eater or you would not have been able to enter the school, but I will need your word that you do not have the intentions of one."
Harry inclined his head in a similar gesture to Dumbledore.
"I give you my word, then, that I mean no harm to this school or its occupants, nor I do not intend to support Voldemort in any way."
Someone gasped and Dumbledore's eyes lit up.
Crap. Must be more careful, he chided himself.
"I think we are going to get along very nicely, Tristan. School term starts on the first of September. Would you like to join our meeting?"
"I would be delighted," replied Harry.
Harry was set up in his office by the following day. He had nothing to put in his personal quarters. He would have to try and find some of his belongings. He went to dinner early that night and seated himself away from the other teachers, but the spaces soon filled up. He found himself next to Neville, Snape seated across from him.
"Hi, I'm Neville Longbottom. I teach Herbology."
Harry gave him a tight smile and said, "Tristan Grey," and turned back to his food.
"What a depressing name," sneered Snape. Harry looked up in surprise. He had never considered the fact that Snape probably had completely civil conversations with his colleagues.
"And who might you be?" asked Harry, raising an eyebrow.
"The Potions Master."
Snape was looking at Harry now, seeming as though he might be intrigued, and Harry felt him probing in his mind. Harry forced him out and looked down at his food. From the corner of his eye he saw Snape sneer and begin eating again.
You are not trying
I always tried…
The woman screamed in Snape's head, the man standing over her
Sirius come back
you can't be gone
Sirius, falling through the curtain
Sirius, falling through the curtain
Harry laid down his knife and fork, his hands shaking.
He stood up.
They all watched him as he left.
He went to see Dumbledore.
"Tristan, what can I do for you?" he asked, his eyes twinkling over his half-moon glasses. "Would you like a lemon drop?"
Harry raised his hand against the proffered lolly.
"Call me Albus, please, Tristan."
"Albus. I wanted to ask you about an organisation that you run. The Order of the Phoenix. I wish to join it."
Dumbledore put down his quill and clasped his hands in front of him.
"You seem quite knowledgeable, Tristan. May I ask how you know so much?"
"You just heard everything I know about the Order of the Phoenix, except for the fact that it is an alliance against the Dark Lord."
My Lord, it is done. It was a success.
He is in custody.
I trust you will see him straight to-
I have given him over to the custody of his only remaining family, the Dursleys. They will take care of him
Dursley, ya fat Muggle, or I'll turn that lump of lard ya call a son into a pig
you'll get it for this, boy
teach you to bring you-know-what into this house
turned your cousin into a pig
my precious dudders
my sister was a freak!
and she married a freak-
"Thankyou, Albus. I'm looking forward to this next year."
Harry departed the office.
He hurried down the stairs, down the maze of corridors and locked himself in his office, stilling himself against the wall. It had been bad that time.
Severus Snape stalked down to the dungeons.
That infernal child!
He had been a good Occlumens, to acknowledge him straight away.
Albus was a fool to let him into the school without finding out about him first.
There was a lot more to Tristan Grey than met the eye.
Tristan Grey was made in his own mould, thought Severus. Well, nearly. He kept to himself.
He spoke when spoken to but not before, always polite. That was their difference. The boy had manners.
He had joined the Order, another mistake on Dumbledore's part. He always stood at the back of the room in the shadows. Hardly any noticed his presence and he did nothing to change that. He had no friends.
September the first was cold and wet. The first years shivered at the end of the stage as they awaited their turn to try on the Sorting Hat. There were more students that Harry could ever remember. He watched as a young girl with blonde pigtails placed the hat on her head.
You'd do well in Slytherin, you know. It could lead you on your way to greatness
He did great things. Terrible, yes, but great
You're a terrible liar, Harry.
I know, Hermione.
"And may I introduce your new Defence Against The Dark Arts Teacher, Professor Tristan Grey."
Harry was too stunned to paste a smile on his face, and there was only a smattering of half-hearted applause. Hermione, he remembered. He'd seen her a few days ago, at an Order meeting. She worked for the Ministry, in the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. She'd done well, apparently, was making great progress in revoking the laws concerning half-blood humans and other magical creatures. Not so many were going over to Voldemort now. He applauded her efforts. She'd always been smart.
Always been nice, in fact. He'd never had a reason to attack her like they said he had.
"Good morning," Harry said to the noisy class, silencing them. Sixth year Slytherin and Gryffindor. He could almost see himself sitting there with them. "I am Professor Grey. Please answer when I call your name."
Aah, Harry Potter. Our new…celebrity.
"Professor, are you okay? Professor?"
Harry's eyes focussed on the girl who had spoken.
"Ms Moss, I'm fine. I would like everyone to put their books away, please, and stand up." There was a murmur of excitement.
Wands away, you won't be needing them.
Oh, thanks, I'll have that.
I'm afraid not.
Merlin, he had been so stupid back then.
He took his own wand from the pocket of his robes and banished the desks to the side of the room.
"This term, and for most of this year, our lessons will consist of practical exercises- duelling, defensive spells, some offensive spells. Your homework will be your theoretical work. The only theoretical work we do in class will be checking homework and assignments."
There were grins around the room.
"I can assure you," he said, raising his voice, "that this will not be an easy class. Anyone who does not perform will be asked to leave, and anyone who does not pay serious attention will be asked to do the same. Is that clear?"
A few people nodded. He smiled.
"Excellent. Who can tell me where you are up to? What did you do last year?"
The same girl that had asked him if he was okay raised her hand. Another Hermione, he thought.
"Sir, last year we did dark creatures and basic defensive spells."
The girl went wide eyed.
"That's all, sir."
Wow. Really gone backwards since I was here.
"Very well. You will have extra homework, then, until you are up to the standard that I desire." A few groans. "Everyone pair up."
There was a scramble to do as he asked and he was pleased to see and even number of students. He eyed them critically.
"A partner from a different house to your own, if you please. To motivate you." More groans.
They moved slower this time.
"Now, have you learnt the disarming curse? And the protego shield?"
Murmurs of assent.
Ah, yes, well, that can happen sometimes.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you down here, boys.
Why didn't you tell us you were a Parseltongue?
I didn't tell it to attack him
He told it to kill me
"On the count of three, one will cast the disarming spell, the other the shield. One, two, three!"
Streaks of light shot across the room.
"Retrieve your wands," Harry snapped to the few people whose partners had been successful. "You can all cast the charms, but they are weak at best and your aim is shocking. Everyone line up in a straight line."
They hustled to obey his commands. He waved his wand and a target appeared at the opposite side of the room.
"Aim for the centre. One at a time, starting from this end. Go."
Harry watched each of them perform the spell. The Slytherins skills surpassed those of the Gryffindors, and he told them so. Disgruntled mutterings.
"The disarming spell requires concentration. You cannot just utter the incantation and wave your wand and expect it to happen. You must will the wand out of your opponent's hand or the best you will get is an enemy who is fumbling his grip. You must understand why the magic works as it does and urge it to work in the way you want. You all have magic in you. It is yours to control. Learn to do it."
He looked around.
"Once you have achieved a proper standard of spell casting, we will begin work on non-verbal spells. For homework I will require research on non-verbal incantation, specifically how they work, and the two spells we have covered today. In addition I will ask you to write an essay on the Patronus. A foot for the first three, due next lesson, two feet for the Patronus, due this time next week. Practice your shielding and disarming, and focus on aim and strength."
He glanced at the clock and saw that they still had half an hour left.
"Alright, back into your pairs and practice. You may use any harmless spells you have learnt. Attempt to increase the power behind your spells by concentrating. If you can, try and shatter your opponents shield."
He found he enjoyed teaching.
Snape admitted his seventh year class to his class room and snapped at them to prepare their ingredients for the lesson. He was in a very irritable mood. He went to his desk and began writing upon the board, trying to ignore the excited whispers coming from behind him. He frowned. They were well aware of the fact that he requested silence in his class, yet they persisted in giggling and whispering to their partners like first years.
He spun around.
"What, may I ask, is so important that it requires you to talk incessantly when I have asked you to prepare ingredients?" He glared at the students who had now fallen silent. "Mr Creevy, perhaps you could answer me. What is this nonsense?"
"Sorry, Professor," he said innocently, "but we just had DADA. The new teacher is really good."
Snape frowned as two girls giggled and whispered behind their hands.
"You have something to add?" he snapped at them. They blushed and looked down, smiling slyly at each other.
Snape sneered. Grey was probably letting them do whatever they wanted.
"What is he teaching you," he asked, "that is so interesting that you cannot talk about it at lunch?"
It was that annoying Creevy boy that spoke up again.
"Well, he said we were really behind, but because it's our last year he's going to start us off higher, 'cos he said we needed to know stuff if we were going to be 'out there' next year. So first he showed us how to do that Patronus, but hardly any of us can do it yet, only the ones that got taught by Harry Po-"
"Mr Creevy, that is enough. We do not talk about that here," he said. Maybe Grey was an adequate teacher after all. He had a sudden thought. "What shape does his Patronus take?"
One of his Slytherin students spoke up.
"Don't know, he didn't let it form completely. Something big, though."
"Hmm, well if it is quite alright, you no longer have time to waste gossiping about some new teacher. The instructions are on the board."
So he couldn't create a corporeal Patronus. Maybe not such a good teacher after all. Or maybe he had simply not been able to find a happy enough memory- the man did seem awfully depressed sometimes, when he thought no one was looking. He himself had found it hard in his early years to produce a Patronus.
He made a note to keep an eye on Grey. He seemed quite popular with the young ladies. How old was he, anyway? It was hard to tell; he had gained weight since he had been here, enough to make him fill out a bit, and although he was tall, he was still slightly built. He was quite pale, but that too seemed to be changing as of late. Snape wondered idly where he had been that had wasted him away so much.
Snape was an adept problem solver, and Grey certainly was an enigma.
The first two weeks of teaching had been entirely successful, and Harry dug into his breakfast with relish. The food was as good as it had always been.
Dobby is here, Harry Potter, sir. How can Dobby be helping sirs and madam?
We need you to do something for us, Dobby. Here, you can have these hats. We need you to-
Hermione, the house elves aren't even coming in here anymore they're so scared of you. Can't you just give it up?
Mr Potter, Mr Weasley, I'm afraid your friend Ms Granger has been Petrified…
Harry blinked and looked out over the students, brushing of Professor Sinistra's attempts at conversation. He still had blank moments, some where he would think completely random and silly things. He shook his head slightly as someone took the last empty seat next to him, and Harry knew exactly who it was. The sneering bastard was suspicious of him, was even making attempts to talk to him sometimes.
Everything is in place, my Lord; we are ready to lead the attack.
Alert the others. Have them wait for my orders.
Yes, my Lord. We have men at either end of the village, and Dementors with them.
Harry blinked and found himself chuckling, deeply under his breath. He stopped immediately. His hands were gripping his cutlery so hard his knuckles were white. His scar burned in his forehead. It only took him a second to realise that it had been no Blank, no moment of temporary insanity. It had been so long since he had felt that scar burning. He hadn't missed it.
"You know," hissed a hostile voice in his ear, "you are going to make a scene if you do not put them down before you break them."
Harry took a deep breath and jerked his trembling hands open, laying the fork and knife down on the table. He laid his hands over them as though to prevent them from jumping up again. He pushed his chair back from the table, stood up, and left the Great Hall.
He had volunteered to supervise the Hogsmeade excursion today. It had been nearly six years since he had been there. He'd had friends, then. He couldn't tell anyone. He'd have to explain how he knew. An anonymous note, maybe. But he was positive that it was Hogsmeade. Quite a coincidence, though. Dementors…how many students could perform a Patronus? Most of the students that had been a part of the DA could, and there would be a few Aurors there.
He would just have to be on alert. Maybe they already knew about it, and hadn't told him. Maybe they couldn't trust him yet. But, no, they wouldn't put the students in danger.
How he hated Voldemort.
A scream pierced the air, but Harry didn't need to hear it to know the cause. Another scream followed, and then others in rapid succession, and Harry dashed down the hill from the Shrieking Shack.
Catch them from behind, he thought. He was nearly there already, drawing his wand and aiming it. A Death Eater fell, and another. He felled three more before they even realised what had happened. Students were fleeing back up the road to the school, but some were going into shops, hiding. A Death Eater finally turned and saw him, shot a curse at him. He blocked it and stunned another two, and then a third. More were turning on him now, though, leaving the fleeing children.
"Crucio," hissed one. It hit him, that time, and he stumbled and fell to his knees.
"Stupefy!" he hissed, wondering why he was using virtually harmless curses. These were the ones who had framed him, locked him away. He hated them.
"Crucio!" he hissed. "Crucio!"
Nothing happened, and he felt his anger building. He remembered what had happened at Azkaban, and focussed on his magic. He pictured the Death Eaters in his mind and flung his power out at them.
You are a fool if you believe that boy can defeat the Dark Lord.
Harry hurried past the bodies of the fallen Death Eaters, blinking furiously as images flashed through his mind. Where were the Dementors? He couldn't feel them, so either there weren't many of them or they were at the other end of the village. He shivered, sweat beading on his forehead. He didn't want to see them, didn't know if he could stand being anywhere near them.
An unfelt breeze, the fluttering-
i'll save you
He had to save them.
No, I don't.
He had to help them.
I hereby sentence you to life imprisonme-
He did it, I saw him.
Another scream, more of a wail.
It wasn't them, not these children-
I was just a child
He has never been a child
"Stupefy!" he roared, and a Death Eater fell to the ground. A curse crashed into his chest, but he kept running, his feet pounding down the main street of Hogsmeade. There were Aurors around, but not enough. Bodies lay in the street, one of them a student. He hoped they weren't dead.
Take my body back to my parents, Harry.
"Professor Grey!" yelled someone. Harry turned to see two Death Eaters advancing towards a group of terrified girls.
Harry advanced into the fray, another curse hitting him. Grey ropes flew out to bind the Death Eaters and they fell, struggling, to the ground. He swayed in dizziness as another spell hit him, and he turned and stunned the Death Eater.
Amateurs. Where were the real Death Eaters?
Snape saw three Death Eaters disappear into the Three Broomsticks, and a scream erupted from inside. There were children in there. He dashed towards it and opened the door, just as someone screamed in pain, thankfully masking his arrival. He masked his appearance and stunned a Death Eater. A second one was disarmed by a student- how stupid were they? – and Snape rendered him unconscious with a rather strong blasting curse to the head.
The third Death Eater turned and started firing curses, but the fool really should have stayed out in the open. He was down in seconds, the victims of the combined efforts of Snape and a number of students.
Snape rushed to where the students cowered behind the bar and pushed his way through to the injured student and knelt beside them, pulling back their robe. A cutting hex, quite strong. The boy, a Ravenclaw, was bleeding profusely, his face white. He raised his wand over the wound and muttered a healing charm, but before it could take effect a fourth Death Eater burst into the room and disarmed him. Snape scrambled for his wand, but it was too far away, and a second curse from the Death Eater saw to it that he would never be able to use that wand again.
The Death Eater was blown forwards and Grey stepped through the doorway, banishing the Death Eater out the door with a wave of his wand. There was a streak of blood on his chest, cuts on his face.
"Is everyone okay?" he asked, his voice hoarse. His gaze travelled to Snape, and the injured student on the floor. He knelt opposite Snape, and Snape remembered then that he still wore a glamour.
Snape pressed his robes hard over the wound, but it was still bleeding, and he looked at Grey.
Grey held his wand out over the body of the Ravenclaw boy and began muttering charms under his breath, and it was then that they felt the approaching chill of the Dementors. Grey began muttering faster, but he stood up suddenly and swung to face the door as it opened. He turned back to Snape for a second.
"Keep pressure on the wound and he'll be fine. Get another student to help."
The door opened then, and a wave of coldness swamped in. Some of the students whimpered. Grey appeared to freeze, and Snape feared that the man really couldn't cast a Patronus. A Death Eater stepped into the room, its sightless gaze sweeping around the room. Grey spoke without turning.
"Creevy, Zeller, Jones, Franklin, and anyone else who can do it. Patronuses, now."
Some of the students stepped forward, faces determined as they raised there wands. But there were more Dementors now, crowding into the room. Snape watched in dismay and disbelief as Grey dropped to his knees, and a second later his wand flew to the ground. It rolled towards Snape and he picked it up. A familiar wand, though from where he could not recall.
"Grey, get up," he spat, unable to leave the dying student who now had shivers wracking his body in his shock.
Snape looked back to the students who had stepped forward, but they now looked terrified, their gaze riveted to their fallen Professor.
"Damn it, cast your Patronus," spat Snape, but the students were backing away now. One had fainted. There were so many Dementors now, and Snape saw his own memories flashing across his mind. Was this going to be the day he died?
And now a Dementor was bearing down on Grey, taking his face in its grotty grey hands. Grey was going to lose his soul.
Take Harry and go take me instead
take my life
Take my body back to my parents, Harry.
Grey hands, around his neck.
It was real
In his mind and in reality.
But he was going back, his mind unravelling again, he could feel it. He couldn't focus, and the disgusting thing had its mouth over his. What if it happened again, and he killed everyone in Hogsmeade?
He found his power, deep inside himself, and flung his arms out wide. He couldn't speak, not into the Dementor's mouth, but through his closed eyelids he could see a blinding light.
The Dementor jerked away from him, but he stayed, frozen, where he was, on his knees with his arms flung out wide. He heard someone gasp, but whether it was from fear or amazement, or whether it was all in his mind, he couldn't tell. He couldn't think. He felt a shiver wrack his body. He went blank.
Snape sat back in an armchair in his personal quarters and twirled the eleven-inch holly wand between his fingers. It looked new; either that or it was remarkably well cared for.
Home schooled…no one who was home schooled was that powerful. The bloody man had created a Patronus without a wand, had destroyed the Dementors, in fact. It hadn't looked easy, though. Grey had been unconscious afterwards, muttering and twitching and calling out incoherent rubbish. He had to concede, though, that the man had nearly lost his soul. If anyone had a reason for acting like a raving lunatic, it was that. Maybe he just had some particularly bad memories.
Either way, Snape didn't care.
No, damn it, he did! He wanted to know who the hell this Grey was and what he was doing at Hogwarts. If the idiot wasn't still in hospital he might consider confronting him. It had been him who had taken him, unconscious back up to the school, while the other teachers that had been present and the Aurors attended to the students. In the end, no one was really quite sure what the point of the attack had been.
And still he sat there, twirling that infernal wand between his fingers and staring at it. He should return it. And then he had to replace his broken one. He had a spare, of course, he always had one, but now he needed another. This afternoon, then, he would owl Ollivander and request a copy. His had been a good wand, a powerful wand, and it was his understanding that Ollivander often duplicated the better wands.
Ah, well. He could return this one the way to the Owlery. He stalked up to the hospital wing, deducting at least fifty points along the way. He lost count sometimes, but that at least satisfied him that it had been enough. The doors to the hospital wing were open and he went straight to the end, to where the curtains were drawn around the bed. He parted them, and saw straight away that the bed was empty.
"Is there something you needed, Severus?" asked Madam Pomfrey, appearing next to him with a tray laden with potions in her arms.
"Poppy, where is Grey?"
"He refused to stay. I bandaged up his wounds and he returned to his chambers, I believe."
"Thankyou, Poppy," said Snape, leaving her to fume on her own.
It was only when he was descending the stairs that he realised that he had no idea where Grey's quarters were. He swore, than remembered he had seen Grey heading towards the fourth floor on a number of occasions. Sneering, and wondering why he was bothering, and then reminding himself that he had an interest in Grey, he headed for the fourth floor.
In the end, it wasn't hard. The entrance was behind the only tapestry in the whole corridor, and a simple unlocking charm allowed him entry. He really should have knocked, but- well, he really didn't care.
"Grey!" he called out sharply. He looked around the room in interest, and then realised that there was nothing of interest in it. In fact, there was nothing in it at all. A stack of essays sat on a table beside a quill, but that was it. Nothing personal, nothing decorative. Grey appeared in the doorway to the adjoining room, wearing only a pair of Muggle jeans that were a bit too big for him. A heavy bandage was strapped across his chest where Snape had seen it bleeding, and his breathing seemed strained, but the cuts that had adorned his face were gone.
"Snape," he said, flattening his fringe over his forehead. It was a nervous gesture he had seen Grey make on a number of occasions, and it seemed familiar. Dman it, everything about the man seemed familiar, but he couldn't place it. Grey was pulling a Muggle shirt over his head now, hiding the bandages. Snape pulled out Grey's wand once more and examined it, and when he looked up Grey's eyes were fixed on it.
"Where did you get that?" he asked, raising his eyes to meet Snape's.
"You dropped it, I picked it up. I came to return it."
Grey's eyes seemed to glaze over for a few seconds before he blinked and strode forward to grab his wand.
"Thankyou." He stuffed the wand carelessly into the pocket of his jeans.
New wand, then, thought Snape. Not particularly well cared for after all.
Snape smiled smugly.
"Your Patronus was rather impressive. May I ask what form it takes?"
"I couldn't tell you," Grey replied, averting his eyes.
"Ah, yes, you fell unconscious. I remember now."
"You were there?" A second later and understanding seemed to dawn. "The one with the student. You put a glamour on yourself so the Death Eaters wouldn't recognise you."
"Yes. And I must say, I thought we were all done for when our Defence professor dropped his wand and nearly received a Kiss. And then, of course, you performed a wandless Patronus that destroyed the Dementors, and then you fainted."
A faint red tinge appeared in Grey's cheeks.
"Thankyou for returning my wand," he said, in what was clearly a dismissal, flattening his hair over his forehead again.
"Your wand is…quite interesting," said Snape, looking down at it. "What do you have as its core?"
"A unicorn tail hair," replied Grey.
Snape smiled tightly. Grey's eyes seemed to be glazed again; he looked as though he were staring off into the distance. Snape watched in slight amusement as Grey's lips twitched slightly, his hand jerking in what he recognised as wand movements. Then he blinked, and his face flushed slightly again.
"You know, it was I who took you up to the school, after you fell. You were raving about all kinds of ridiculous things."
"Was I?" asked Grey mildly, meeting Snape's eyes again. "What did I say?"
"I don't recall, precisely. You were rather incoherent."
"Hmm. I assume that you were not warned of the attack beforehand?"
But you were.
"Did they take anything?"
"Not that I, or anyone else, is aware of."
"I think it was a decoy. I think there was something else going on somewhere else."
Snape raised an eyebrow.
You do, do you?
"And why is that, Grey?" If truth be told, he had rather gotten that impression as well.
"Those Death Eaters were inexperienced, unskilled. Weak wizards. Had there not been Dementors, the Aurors would have completely demolished their forces."
"Hmm. I think I must agree with you. There were not many of them, either. I saw none that were in the Dark Lord's inner circle."
"Except for you."
Snape started. He had not considered that.
"Is that relevant?"
"Are you sure he trusts you still?"
"I can never be entirely positive, none of us can, but he knows I cannot jeopardise my position within Hogwarts."
"But you fought back, against the Death Eaters. Surely if you were loyal to him he would not have expected you to do that."
"You think it was a test."
Grey considered it, but shook his head.
"No. I believe that it was a decoy. It had nothing to do with you."
Later in the day, Harry was visited by two Aurors. Ron again, but this time with Tonks. Harry's heart skipped a beat and he told himself he didn't care. He had no reason to like them anymore. They were the enemy as much as Voldemort now.
"Professor Grey? I'm Tonks, I think I saw you at an Order meeting, and this is Ron Weasley."
"Pleased to meet you."
Tonks took a seat on the black lounge that sat in the centre of the staff room, and Harry sat across from her. Ron looked around for a moment before sitting next to Tonks. Tonks smiled at him.
"The Ministry is quite impressed about the number of Death Eaters that you managed to dispatch," she said. "We're all quite grateful."
Harry smiled back, feeling silly.
"It was no problem. I don't like them."
Ron reached out to grab a cup off the table in the middle and Harry saw a gold ring flash on his ring finger.
Ron's engaged, he thought numbly. Ron saw where he was looking, and blushed self-consciously.
"Er, yeah, still getting used to that," he laughed. "Hermione Granger, she's part of the Order too."
Harry nodded, feeling a twinge of jealousy or sadness, he couldn't tell which. His friends had moved on.
Ron cleared his throat.
"Y'know, most of the Order's invited. To the wedding, I mean. You could come too, if you wanted."
Yes, I wouldn't miss it for the world.
"I don't want to intrude."
"Trust me, you won't be. My mother and Hermione insisted on a huge wedding, and they're the two most stubborn women I know. I've never even met half the guests that they've invited, so you definitely won't be intruding."
It will bring back memories. I don't want the memories. I hate all of you for what you did. I don't want to see all of you happy when I'm trapped like this.
"I guess I can come then. Thanks."
"You know you look really familiar," Tonks said suddenly.
Harry looked at her, his face expressionless.
"Yeah, but I can't place you."
"I get that a lot," Harry said tightly. "I must have one of those faces."
"Yeah," Tonks agreed. Ron was looking at him closely.
Harry nearly cried at the wedding. He wouldn't have if he'd still been Harry. If he was still Harry he would have been happy. He would have been standing up there beside Ron right now, best man instead of Neville.
He didn't want to be jealous. He didn't want to feel like he had lost a huge part of himself, but the truth was that he had. Ron had been right- the wedding was huge. Hermione looked beautiful. Ron looked like he couldn't believe his good fortune. There were Aurors hanging around the perimeter, just to make sure nothing happened. That was a bit sad. Harry thought vaguely of Ginny, who had, apparently, been the one who found him standing over the bloody bodies of Parvati Patil and Sybill Trelawney. He hadn't killed her, but she'd been hurt badly, they said. He hadn't seen her at the trial.
Harry watched silently as Ron and Hermione exchanged vows. They really did love each other, he thought. Loved each other like no one had ever loved him. Trusted each other, like they had obviously never trusted him.
Harry clapped with everyone else as they kissed, but he felt hollow. Hermione had been a witness at the trial. A victim, they'd said, his last before they stopped him. She had sat in the chair and described how he had attacked her, tried to rape her. She'd been calm and collected, just like she'd always been. She hadn't looked at him the whole time.
She'd cried afterwards, though, when he was sentenced.
She looked so happy now.
Had they really believed that it was him that did all those things? How could they? Had they had no faith in him at all?
But the thing was, he wasn't so sure that he hadn't done it. It had been his body, yes, but his mind… that hadn't been his.
He'd been sixteen.
Happy birthday, Harry!
Come on, Harry, come play with us
Oh, don't be so depressed, Harry
Why did you do it, Harry?
He went insane, Granger
Scarhead got what was coming to him that curse did something to him.
Draco Malfoy dragged himself into Hogwarts a day after the wedding. It was Harry who found him, bleeding and injured in the Entrance hall. He didn't realise who it was until he turned them over and saw the face. Harry did a double take when he saw him, and he was pretty sure Malfoy did as well, but only one of them realised who it was they were looking at.
Malfoy was wearing Death Eater robes, but considering the fact that he was injured and that he had returned to Hogwarts, Harry didn't bind him. And if Malfoy was hostile, he was sure he could deal with him.
You'll get yours, Potter. My father-
Take Malfoy to the hospital wing. Get Dumbledore. Get Snape.
Is Malfoy a spy? For who?
Maybe for the Order. Maybe Snape made him turn.
Malfoy for Potter.
"Poppy," called Harry, hurrying Malfoy onto a bed. Madam Pomfrey emerged from her office with the obligatory gasp.
"What happened? Who is it?"
"Draco Malfoy. He's been hurt. Snape and Dumbledore are on their way, but I don't think he's a threat."
But suddenly, Malfoy reached out and grasped Harry's arm.
"Dark Lord," he gasped out. His voice was hoarse. It was a sound Harry recognised, from when you screamed too much.
"Oh my," murmured Madam Pomfrey.
"I will," Harry said.
"I will," Harry repeated more firmly.
"I am here," said Dumbledore, sweeping into the room with Snape on his heels.
"Draco," muttered Snape, taking a seat on his other side. "What happened?"
"He…knows," he said, breaking into a hacking cough. Blood spattered on his chin. Madam Pomfrey returned with medicines.
"What does he know, Draco?" urged Dumbledore. Harry tried to pull out of Malfoy's grasp, but his grip was almost convulsive.
"Potter," coughed Malfoy, and Harry froze. Snape and Dumbledore both stiffened at the name. "He said that…he knew the prophecy…and he could win now…because Potter was dead."
Snape looked up sharply and Harry turned to see that Dumbledore's face was white.
"What does he mean, Albus?"
"I am afraid that Voldemort is correct in his belief, Severus." Dumbledore glanced at Harry. "You remember, of course, before Mr Potter left us, that there were rumours of his being the Chosen One?"
"You cannot be serious! They were true?"
Dumbledore nodded wearily.
"I myself heard the prophecy, from Sybill Trelawney, nearly twenty-one years ago. It said that Mr Potter was the one who would have the power to defeat Voldemort. There is no other."
Snape swore, and Malfoy looked slightly more alert. His hand slipped from Harry's arm.
"How did he find out, Draco?" asked Dumbledore. Malfoy shook his head.
"I don't know. But he knew that I was a spy. And he knows that you're a spy, too," he said, looking at Snape. Snape swore again.
"It does not matter now, I suppose," he said, "if he is attacking Hogwarts tomorrow."
"I must alert the Order," Dumbledore said. He turned to look at Harry. "I must ask that you do not disclose what you have heard today to anyone. You can image how people would panic…"
"Of course, Albus." Harry gave a humourless smile. "I understand perfectly."
Dumbledore left and Harry turned back to Snape and Malfoy.
"I can't believe it, really," Malfoy gasped out, still in pain. "Bloody Potter. No one could believe that he would do what he did. Bloody hell, it's still hard to believe."
"He maintained his innocence until the end, you know," Harry said suddenly. Snape's head snapped up.
"You were there?" he asked, a bit of a sneer on his face.
"I saw him, yes," Harry said. "He was my age, you know."
He wasn't quite sure why he added it, but Snape was surprised.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"I am twenty years old. Why do you ask?"
Snape looked disbelieving. He grunted and looked back to Malfoy.
"We all saw what he did. No one wanted to believe, but we all saw. He didn't seem to care."
"And you believe he did of his own will?"
"It makes sense, now, why he killed Trelawney. If she was the one that made the prediction…" said Malfoy.
Harry looked away.
The one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord
and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal
And one must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other remains.
"Grey, what is your problem?" snapped Snape, glaring up at him. "Why do you do that?"
"Do what?" asked Harry, looking down on Snape.
"Never mind," tutted Snape.
Harry looked away again.
"I have to go, now," he said. He looked down at Malfoy. "You say that he will be attacking tomorrow?"
Harry nodded and left.
Snape stood beside Malfoy on the front steps of Hogwarts. The entire Order stood with them, Dumbledore at their front. Aurors and ministry employees and anyone who had cared to come stood with them, too. Grey stood towards the front, his face grim and determined. Weasley and Granger stood near him, hands clasped. Snape's lip curled. A lot of past students were here, willing to fight.
And then a gasp went up, and someone yelled.
"There!" a woman screamed.
Snape looked, and there on the horizon was a swath of black robed creatures. Death Eaters, Dementors, and Merlin knew what else. Inferi, maybe. Werewolves.
They advanced quickly, filling the lawn before the castle, forming a front a hundred metres away. The Dark Lord was nowhere to be seen. He saw Grey withdraw his wand from his robes, and did the same. He could already feel the Dementors presence. There were so many of them. And then suddenly, the Dark Lord was there, standing in the middle of the open field, half way between his forces and their's.
"I'll warn you once, Tom," called Dumbledore, his voice strong. Grey's eyes were fixed unyieldingly on the Dark Lord. He flinched slightly, smoothing his hair over his forehead again. Snape felt a niggling suspicion and pushed it away. It wasn't possible. "Leave now, or you will die. I have destroyed all of your Horcruxes."
"Liar," hissed Voldemort. "You have destroyed five. You have no idea where the sixth is."
"Nor do you," insisted Dumbledore.
Snape saw the Dark Lord smirk- saw Grey smirking, as well.
"You know as well as I do, Dumbledore, that I will not do that. You know you cannot defeat me. You lost that chance long ago."
"Leave, Tom," said Dumbledore again.
Voldemort laughed. Grey's eyes were glazed over again.
"Dumbledore, how I pity you. You regret it, don't you? Sending him to Azkaban?"
People were whispering now, wondering what was going on. Snape watched the scene intently. Grey was twitching slightly, his gaze focussed on something that wasn't really there. Snape wondered vaguely what his problem was.
"How did you find out, Tom?" asked Dumbledore, his voice sharp. "Who told you?"
"It doesn't matter, Dumbledore, really. The fact is, Potter is dead, and as he was the only one who could defeat me…"
There were murmurs of surprise and Dumbledore paled ever so slightly. Grey flinched violently and Snape saw that he had rejoined the real world.
"And do you know what makes me especially amused, Dumbledore?" asked Voldemort. "It is that you truly believed that Potter was guilty."
Panic. He felt it, writhing invisibly through the crowd. It was on all their minds now. Had they condemned their saviour? Grey was gripping his wand so tightly his hand was nearly white.
"Yes," hissed Voldemort. "It was so easy. You're nothing but an old fool, Dumbledore. You knew I wanted the prophecy. You knew I could get inside the boy's head. You had seen me possess him once already. And yet you truly believed that he was capable of what he truly was not."
Voldemort laughed. Granger had her hand over her mouth, her eyes filling with tears. Someone behind him was sniffling pathetically. Snape, too, was stunned. Voldemort was basking in the glory, in their pain and shame.
"He was in so much pain, Dumbledore, and yet he fought me so hard. I nearly couldn't do it. It nearly killed him, and yet he never gave up."
Voldemort laughed again.
"In the end, he managed to dispel me from his mind, but by then it was too late. I destroyed his memories of the event and you destroyed his life. And now, I will destroy you."
Dumbledore looked defeated. Voldemort raised his wand.
Dumbledore raised a shield, but then Grey was moving, so fast that Snape almost missed what was happening.
"Expelliarmus!" Grey yelled. Snape almost felt insulted that Grey had used such a curse against the Dark Lord. Almost. He had no time to worry about the reputation of the Order, because what he saw next he had only heard of happening once in his entire life. The two spells connected and suddenly the beams became gold. And then Snape remembered.
A phoenix feather. Dumbledore had told him that he had given another feather from Fawkes, had even mentioned that it had been sold. And recently…
Snape felt things falling, impossibly, into place.
Golden streaks of light were shooting around Voldemort and Grey, drawing them closer together. Dumbledore looked stunned. Grey was gripping his wand so tightly, with both hands now, and Voldemort wore an expression of stunned surprise and…fear?
Snape saw, as Grey's feet left the ground, a small dot of red light, sliding up and down the golden beam of light. Just as he had heard it described, from all those years ago…it touched Voldemort's wand.
Voldemort screeched in pain as smoky apparitions flew from his wand. He stared up at Grey, panting hard.
"Potter…" he mouthed. But Grey's eyes were blank, fixed on the figures coming out of the wand. He blinked. Death Eaters were throwing curses at the golden shield, only to have them rebound again and again.
And suddenly Grey yanked his wand away and the shield evaporated. They fell to the ground, now mere metres from each other. Grey let his wand fall to the ground, and his hands to his side.
"Hello, Tom," he said, so quietly that Snape could barely hear him.
"Who are you?" Voldemort snarled, his wand raised and pointed at Grey's chest.
"Me? I am Tristan Grey, Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Who are you?"
Voldemort wet pale in his anger.
"I am Lord Voldemort, foolish man. How dare you speak to me in such a way?"
"Lord Voldemort you may be," said Grey, "but you are still human. You can still die."
"Did you not hear me before, Grey, or are you such an abysmal teacher that you do not even know what a Horcrux is?"
"Neither, Tom. I have simply realised where your last Horcrux is. The one that you did not realise you had made until it was too late."
Voldemort's eyes widened.
"The first part of your soul is still yours. The seventh, resides in me."
"You jest, surely. I have never met you in my life."
Grey lowered his voice, then, and Snape missed what he said, but Voldemort blanched. He looked scared.
"And now," said Grey loudly, "you have a choice. You can kill me, and become truly mortal, or I will return your soul to you and make you mortal anyway."
"You would die in the process," hissed Voldemort in fury.
"I have nothing to lose," Grey said.
Snape had to agree. The man had nothing.
And then suddenly Grey began chanting, chanting in a language that Snape had heard only two people use.
"Stop!" screeched Voldemort, his voice manic. "Stupefy!"
The red light shot forward, but it had no effect except to send Grey to his knees.
"What are you doing?" screamed Voldemort.
"I am returning your soul," hissed Grey, but in words that only Voldemort could understand. Grey's voice grew higher, louder, his face was screwed up in pain and suddenly a wisp of blackness erupted from his chest, seeming to seep from his skin. It twirled for a moment through the air then turned and plunged into Voldemort's chest. He staggered backward with a gasp, his eyes boring into Grey's and his wand flying from his hand.
"You cannot- this cannot be- you are not him."
"Are you so certain?" murmured Grey.
"He died in Azkaban!" Voldemort screamed as Grey returned, swaying, to his feet.
"Yes," Grey said, somewhat sadly. "Harry Potter died a long time ago." He paused for a moment. "But you are not the only one to blame for that."
Harry raised his hand, palm facing Voldemort with his fingers spread wide, and closed his eyes.
"I cannot kill you," he murmured quietly. "I wish I could, but I can't."
"Then you will die instead," hissed Voldemort, his wand flying back into his hand.
Harry smiled a small smile, feeling his connection to Voldemort opening. He plunged into the pain-filled blackness and found what he was looking for, drawing it back into himself. A hundred images flashed before his eyes and he blinked.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort screamed, his wand pointed at Harry's chest, but there was no answering flash of light, no speeding death.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort screamed again, lunging forward as though to propel the curse forward.
Voldemort stared in dawning realisation at his wand, and then looked to Harry, an ugly snarl marring his features.
"What have you done?" Voldemort hissed.
"I have made you into what you truly are," Harry said softly. "I have made you what you hate. Look at yourself."
Harry conjured a mirror and Voldemort looked into it. He threw it to the ground and it smashed, banishing the image of Tom Riddle.
Voldemort held his hands before his face, turning them as Harry had seen him do when he had been reborn.
"No…" he moaned, sinking to his knees. His black hair fell into his eyes.
"Don't worry," Harry said. He did not smile. "At least now you will know who your truly loyal followers are."
Suddenly there were curses flying around them, and the battle began.
"You are not going to fight?" spat Voldemort.
Harry looked up at the battle raging around them and then stared unfeelingly down at the human remains of Lord Voldemort. He bent to pick up his wand.
"Do what you will," Harry said. "You are nothing."
Harry walked past the fighting witches and wizards and walked up the steps. He turned to survey the battle. The Dementors were gone, unbound by Voldemort's power. The Death Eaters, though plentiful, had lost all motivation. The battle would not last long.
He descended the steps again, skirting around the edge of the battle. He passed the lake, stopping to look at his reflection. If his hair were its natural colour, he really would look like him.
He looked at his wand, so familiar, and flung it away. He started walking to the gates, his feet dragging.
He didn't have to be a freak anymore.
Didn't have to be a mudblood.
Didn't have to put up with anything insufferable.
Didn't have to belong to a community that hated him.
But where did he belong?
He knew enough to realise that he didn't belong in the Muggle world. From birth he had been a part of the magical community, but he wasn't all that sure that he belonged here. Wasn't even sure he wanted to be here.
"Grey!" someone called from behind him. He ignored them and kept walking. He was nearly there, nearly free. It was all over. He had nothing left to give. All thoughts of revenge and anger had left him. He felt empty. This was his life. It was a waste of life.
Snape watched as Grey strode from the grounds and Disapparated.
The thought rang in his head.
Grey had destroyed the Dark Lord.
Grey was Potter.
Potter was alive.
Potter was innocent.
Potter was gone.
A/N: Like it? Hate it? Tell me! It turned out heaps different from how I planned it, so there's definitely a sequel if people want it- Wujjawoo