Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
A/N: Set the day after Harry destroys Dumbledore's office.
Temptations of a Dark Soul
---For the first time, Dumbledore sounded frightened. Harry could not see why: the hall was quite empty but for themselves, the sobbing Bellatrix still trapped under the witch statue, and the baby phoenix Fawkes croaking feebly on the floor.
Then Harry's scar burst open and he knew he was dead: it was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance.
He was gone from the hall, he was locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes, so tightly bound that Harry did not know where his body ended and the creature's began: they were fused together, bound by pain, and there was no escape…
"THEN - I - DON'T - WANT - TO - BE - HUMAN!' Harry roared, and he seized the delicate silver instrument from the spindle legged table beside him and flung it across the room; it shattered into a hundred tiny pieces against the wall. Several of the pictures let out yells of
anger and fright, and the portrait of Armando Dippet said, "Really!"
"I DON'T CARE!" Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH, I'VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON'T CARE ANY MORE!"
He seized the table on which the silver instrument had stood and threw that, too. It broke apart on the floor and the legs rolled in different directions.
"You do care,' said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. "You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it."
"I - DON'T!" Harry screamed, so loudly that he felt his throat might tear, and for a second he wanted to rush at Dumbledore and break him, too; shatter that calm old face, shake him, hurt him, make him feel some tiny part of the horror inside himself.
---The wheezing fire in the mantle gave a pitiful last crackle of protest before dying as Harry passed it, a small victorious gust of unusually cold wind flooding the common room. Harry walked stiffly out of the portrait hole into the corridor, nodding politely but giving little attention to the chatty Fat Lady behind him.
Most of the school was at breakfast, leaving the corridors empty save a few students still scurrying about the castle. The weather outside was bleak and subdued, which suited Harry fine. Dim, grey light trickled weakly through the long glass panes that lined the walkways, casting the same stuffy feeling all throughout Hogwarts. It was gratifying to see his misery shared by everyone, however minutely.
Walking into the Great Hall, Harry noticed that the normally rowdy students were unusually quiet, most of them whispering and pointing to the newspapers that littered the four house tables. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, he ducked his head and quickly grabbed a piece of toast from the Gryffindor table. His tired, horror-stricken face looked back at him as he looked at the copies of the Daily Prophet that had assaulted the school. Slightly sick, he made his way to the hospital wing without being gawked at.
As he walked, Harry could hear the voices of his friends, Ron and Hermione speaking together with Luna, Ginny, and Neville. They were speaking in hushed tones of their experiences last night. Hermione evidently made a startling discovery and began reading something.
The thought of last night brought a fresh stab of guilt – everyone in the group had been hurt in some way due to his reckless actions. Despite the gleeful inner voice that blamed Dumbledore (the Headmaster had, after all, confessed), he still felt miserable about the entire affair.
Opening the heavy doors, he saw a healthy but slightly pale looking Hermione hunched over the Daily Prophet, nose scrunched up in disbelief. Ron, Luna, and the others listened intently, chattering in protest.
"'…a lone voice of truth…perceived as unbalanced, yet never wavered in his story…forced to bear ridicule and slander…' Hmmm," Hermione said, frowning, "I notice they seem to leave out the fact that they were doing all the ridicule and slandering, though…"
She looked up at Harry, who was leaning on the inside of the door, expression unreadable.
"At least Fudge came clean about You-Know-Who," she said, throwing the newspaper at Harry. Hermione winced at the motion, bringing her hand to her chest. Madam Pomfrey had let on quietly to them that Dolohov's curse would have most likely killed her had it been verbal.
Catching the paper, Harry sat down at the edge of Ron's bed and opened it up, relenting to his growing curiosity.
In a brief statement Friday night, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned to this country and is active once more.
"It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord – well, you know who I mean – is alive and among us again," said Fudge, looking tired and flustered as he addressed reporters. "It is with almost equal regret that we report the mass revolt of the dementors of Azkaban, who have shown themselves averse to continuing in the Ministry's employ. We believe that the dementors are currently taking direction from Lord –Thingy.
"We urge the magical population to remain vigilant. The Ministry is currently publishing guides to elementary home and personal defense that will be delivered free to all Wizarding homes within the coming month."
The Minister's statement was met with dismay and alarm from the wizarding community, which as recently as last Wednesday was receiving Ministry assurances that there was "no truth whatsoever in these persistent rumors that You-Know-Who is operating amongst us once more".
Details of the events that led to the Ministry turnaround are still hazy, though it is believed that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and a select band of followers (known as Death Eaters) gained entry to the Ministry of Magic itself on Thursday evening.
Albus Dumbledore, newly reinstated Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, reinstated member of the International Confederation of Wizards and reinstated Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, has so far been unavailable for comment. He has insisted over the past year that You-Know-Who is not dead, as was widely hoped and believed, but is recruiting followers once more for a fresh attempt to seize power. Meanwhile the Boy-Who-Lived –
Harry scowled and crumbled the paper, throwing it into the nearby rubbish bin. He didn't need to read about his innocence and a rehash of his heroic exploits. Now they knew his value, understood all his hard work and sacrifice. He knew he should have felt relief and even glad that his era of notoriety had ended, but he couldn't help but hate the public. They were fickle fools. He didn't know who he hated more – the ringleaders of it all, whoever they were, or the people, for so willingly and easily embracing the ideas without second thought.
Kicking the bin savagely in one last outburst of anger, he looked up to concerned stares of all his friends. In the background, the still form of Madam Umbridge bolted upright, looking around wildly. Embarrassed at his uncharacteristic behavior, Harry ignored their unease and inquired after Umbridge with a quick laugh, trying to shift the attention away.
Ron, after staring at him oddly, answered in an amused voice. "She does that when we make certain noises. Madam Pomfrey says she's in shock."
Ginny giggled, adding: "Sulking, more like." The rest of them snorted at this, with Luna causing a round of snickers when she conjectured innocently that the former High Inquisitor was now unwillingly carrying the spawn of some strange Wizard/Centaur hybrid.
As the humor died down into more serious conversation, Harry felt a dull throb grip the center of his head. He leaned against the footboard and propped his elbow against it, supporting his head. He watched his friends interact, leaving them to chatter as he grew distracted.
Harry looked back down to rubbish bin, which had fallen over, revealing a crumbled lone page of the Daily Prophet that had survived his rage. A tiny article facing him had a title that caught his eye.
Infamous Black Gone for Good!
The escaped convict Sirius Black was confirmed dead yesterday, according to Ministry sources close to Albus Dumbledore. The news comes amidst the recent return of You-Know-Who, Black's leader. While some breathed a sigh of relief in the death of the thirty-six year old Azkaban escapee, some groups still claim his innocence.
Allegations of his guilt, however, far outnumber those in his defense, and the author of this article is forced to agree. Where, for example, is Peter Pettigrew if Mr. Black did not, in fact, murder him viciously?
Regardless of these few voices of protest, we here at the Daily Prophet hope the Boy-Who-Lived sleeps easier knowing one of the chief Death Eaters responsible for the death of his parents is now dead.
The pitifully notice was a stark contrast to the vast media coverage his Godfather had received during Harry's third year, but its content still managed to make Harry bear his teeth. Tearing his eyes away from the reporter's name, he cleared from his head all thoughts of cursing the man and stood.
The circle of friends stopped talking abruptly, and looked towards Harry inquiringly.
"Where to, Harry? You just came!" asked Ron with surprise. "We've no more tests, you know!" Hermione muttered something under her breath, but soon joined Ron's protest.
Harry felt like snapping at them, but knew it was unreasonable. Instead he thought up a viable excuse. "Er – Hagrid's," he said unconvincingly. "You know, he just got back and I promised to let him know how you two are."
The group looked mildly unbelieving, but he promised to make it up to them later. All he wanted to do was get away and be alone. He quickly left the Hospital Wing before they could plead for him to stay further.
Students walking about the hallways talking, munching on leftover toast, or reading the Sunday Prophet looked up at him as he passed; some called out to him, or else waved, clearly eager to show that they, like the Prophet, had decided he was something of a hero again. Harry kept quiet, setting aside the urge to curse every single of them for their hypocrisy. They were so stupidly naive it infuriated him.
After avoiding a particularly large group of young Hufflepuffs, Harry took decided to leave the castle, to find somewhere to sit outside. There were far too many students around for him to get any moment of peace. He left for the Entrance Hall, slipping through some of the more unused corridors in the castle. Along with some judicious use of disillusionment and notice-me-not charms, he made his way to the massive wooden doors without bumping into anyone.
The door creaked open at his pull, revealing the strangely cool weather outside. Pulling his robes around him, he walked across the grounds and mulled over recent events.
Lord Voldemort's public return meant more than silent attacks and shady dealings in the dark alleyways of Britain. It meant real war, the slaughtering of normal everyday wizards. The families of his classmates would most likely start disappearing or end up dead like the last war. Sirius had described the horror each day brought for Hogwarts students, dreading the day their Head of House would drag them to the side.
A small part of him couldn't imagine him caring. He idly thought of the satisfaction crowing to everyone that he was right all along, that they were wrong and it was costing them dearly. Disgust quickly seeped in, however, and he immediately regretted even thinking of it.
His headache hadn't gotten any better, and the back of his head seemed to want to split into two. Stopping by the lake, he sat down under a nearby tree, leaning back against the aging willow.
He took out his wand on an impulse and looked at it, passing it through his fingers and twirling it around. The wand, he reflected, had done great things. It had brought into a being a Patronus capable of repelling a hundred Dementors. It had dueled with the most powerful Dark Wizard in centuries. It had protected him in numerous occasions, defending the lives of his and those of his friends. Great things, much like its brother.
It had also done terrible things.
"Prioriem Incantato," he whispered, the spell floating to the front of his mind.
His wand did nothing for a few moments before a faint red mist seeped out of the tip of his wand. The mist crudely depicted the similarly colored spell leaving a wand, exploding into white. The word 'STUPEFY' could be seen in the background, sharpening.
He kept his grip on the wand and flicked it some more, knowing what would come next.
This time, his wand shuddered as if in protest before spitting out a sickly grey cloud. It grew in thickness before him, showing a dark force hit a vaguely defined creature. It screamed silently in protest, and in his mind, Harry thought he could hear the wretchedness of the curse.
Behind it, in an almost comical looking spidery script was 'CRUCIO'. It hovered in the air for a moment before dissipating away, leaving behind a sombre feeling.
Harry took a sharp breath, feeling more paranoid than ever before. He looked around him, hoping no one had caught what could be considered in current times enough proof to lock him away in Azkaban.
He had hated like he had never before when he had attempted to cast it on Bellatrix. Apparently it was not enough. Now though, he had a feeling he could cast it successfully, to make the vile woman writhe like the being from the charm, twisting and turning on the ground willing to do anything to make it stop.
The unbidden thought scared him slightly, but he knew that it was true. The Death Eaters hated and killed, tortured and committed the most deprived of acts. He felt his own personal vendetta was justified.
Shaking his head to clear the odd fantasy, he pushed himself of the ground and stood, pocketing his strangely warm, almost eager wand.
A/N:Rewritten 11/11/07 to improve flow, readability, and canon-adhesiveness to fifth book.
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