Harry Potter and the Heir of Voldemort

-Wujjawoo-

Standard Disclaimers Apply

A/N: Not canon. Dumbledore is alive, Snape is still at Hogwarts. Harry's seventh year.

oOoOo

If I could live my life for a second time, I would.

oOoOo

Seventh year could not arrive quickly enough for Harry. His heart was light as he said goodbye to the Dursleys for the last time. It didn't matter that they only glared at him in disdain and didn't reply. He felt nothing when he reassured Remus and Tonks that they could wait all day and they wouldn't get another reaction, and that it really didn't matter to him anyway. His trunk had little more in it than it usually did, and Harry had to assure them more than once that there honestly wasn't anything else he wanted to take with him, and then that he had nothing else to take.

He didn't look back.

He celebrated his birthday late amongst friends, and accepted Dumbledore's resistance to him joining the Order. His friends asked why he had accepted this so easily and he said that things would happen if they were going to happen, and repeated what Dumbledore had said. After all, it was too dangerous. Harry learned Occlumency, but the link could not be disconnected. And he was okay with it, he said.

He talked to Dumbledore about the prophecy, but only once. He didn't tell anyone else. He didn't want them to know, and Dumbledore understood. He told Dumbledore he was coping. He was glad he would never have to see the Dursleys again. He was glad he at least knew that one day he would be able to help the Order. He told Dumbledore that he was glad that one day he would be able to kill the bastard who murdered his parents. Dumbledore lost his smile but Harry grinned wide and clapped the old man on the shoulder.

"Don't worry sir. I'm not really into revenge. I'm not killing him because it's personal."

Dumbledore might have said more, but then Snape walked in. Harry thought he'd heard the comment, but he just turned the smile on the sour Potions Master and walked out. Nothing was wrong. He was a happy seventeen year old who had no respect for the rules laid down for his own safety and had no compunction about proving the fact.

He sat with Ron and Hermione late into the evenings, talking and laughing. He was happy they had finally gotten together. He wasn't jealous, he didn't feel left out, and he told them so. He would go to bed after he'd finished his homework, because he was serious about getting good marks, because his future was important. He'd sleep well, for the most part, as well.

He was fine, he was happy. He told them, and they believed him.

Innocent people were so easy to manipulate.

oOoOo

In seventh year, Legilimency was the new order of the day. Of his life, really. Legilimency, with a side-order of vitriol. It wasn't all bad, though. The feelings were mutual, and Harry no longer tried to look for the reasons behind it. After all, if something was going to happen, it was going to happen. Good or bad, it would come, and anxiety put stress where none was due. And even now, when something happened, Harry let it wash over him. It was better, really, than caring about everything. After all, getting angry, or upset, or worrying, wasn't going to take anything back.

So he took Snape's behaviour with a cold shoulder, and occasionally a smile, and in return Snape stayed Snape. It was reassuring sometimes, really. Snape was a constant in his life, something that would never change, regardless of what else happened. And now that he didn't take Snape's words to heart he could almost enjoy the verbal sparring and touchy words. There were no pretences around Snape.

Hatred was so easy to deceive.

oOoOo

There was nothing special about the day the dreams started. Nothing life-changing or momentous. Harry just awoke one night with the knowledge that something had been different. Exactly what it was, he couldn't pinpoint. His scar still stung and his heart still raced; he still felt that indefinable sense of loathing and he still laid awake in the darkness afterwards going over and over it. He couldn't remember exactly what it had been, apart from a confusing mix of light and emotions, and it irked him that he couldn't locate the source of the anomaly. The dream had just seemed…different.

oOoOo

"Come, Merope, you have things to learn."

The response was noncommittal.

"Merope." Sharper, this time.

"I don't want to."

"You shame me, Merope. Do you seek to disappoint me?"

"No, father." Softly.

"Do you dislike what I teach you? Do you disagree with my beliefs?"

"No, father."

A sound of impatience, disgust.

"What do you believe then, Merope? What has your life been dedicated to?"

"To the purity of blood, father. To destroying the Muggles and the Mudbloods." An answer to placate.

A hiss of approval.

"Yes." The stretched the word out. "You were raised well, my daughter. I only wish I could have had the honour myself…"

"I live to serve you, father. I will not disgrace you."

oOoOo

"Pay attention, Potter! You have things to learn! Am I wasting my time?"

Harry closed his eyes briefly. He was so tired.

"Potter!" Snape's voice was sharp as a whip. Dumbledore looked on from his desk.

"I don't want to do this tonight," sighed Harry.

"You do realise the importance of this, don't you, Harry?"

"Of course, sir."

"Then why are you not concentrating?" snapped Snape. "Do you wish the Dark Lord to win?"

"No, Professor, of course I don't."

A sound of impatience, disgust.

"Then what do you want, Potter? What are you trying to accomplish?"

"I wish to see the end of Voldemort," said Harry. "And peace." An answer to please.

A murmur of approval from Dumbledore.

"You have done well, Harry, for such a short time. I only wish I could teach you myself."

"I know how important this is, sir. I won't disappoint you."

oOoOo

That night, Harry dreamed. He felt it coming on, but it seemed not to hold the characteristic malevolence that he was used to. It was filled with fear and pain and a hundred other unidentifiable emotions, but they seemed not to belong toVoldemort as they usually did. The dream was over before Harry could gather his wits to try and memorize it, but it had shaken him nonetheless. Long after the scenes of the dream had deserted him, a deep sense of sadness remained with him. It was familiar, but it wasn't Harry's.

oOoOo

Harry went to breakfast in the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione early the next morning. His heart was heavy with the news that they were bound to hear. He knew something had happened; knew it all too well from the savage stab of triumph he had felt in the early hours of the morning. He listened half-heartedly as Ron and Hermione chattered, his mind more on the teachers at the Head table. They were tense, hardly talking. No one else seemed aware.

Harry didn't raise his eyes to watch that owls fly into the Great Hall as everyone else did. He heard them, the swoosh of feathers and air the innocent herald of bad news. Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw the Daily Prophet fall into her lap, heard her gasp of dismay as she unfolded it to see the front page. He kept his eyes fixedly on his plate.

"Oh, Ron, Harry," she whispered in shock.

"What is it?" asked Ron. Hermione shuffled he paper over so he could read it.

"Bloody hell," cursed Ron after a few seconds. "Harry-"

"I know, Ron," Harry cut in stiffly, his hands clenched. "I already know."

There was a moment of silence. Someone, a Ravenclaw, raced out of the Hall with a muffled sob. She wouldn't be the last.

"Oh," said Ron softly.

Harry stood up and left them, his back straight and his head held high.

It had been a common occurrence over the past year, and they all looked at him when it happened. It wasn't all of them, but some of them looked like they hated them. He knew what they were thinking. They were thinking…Why did you survive? What's so special about you that you deserved another chance and my family didn't?

He didn't like them sitting there, judging him. And every week there were more and more deaths, more and more judging eyes. And he couldn't stop it.

oOoOo

The emotions flowed freely from the person's mind, distance and free will no hindrance with the connection they shared. Memories came too, and though they were not theirs, there was a similarity that could not be ignored. And suddenly the person at the other end of the connection came awake, and they could see each other, feel each other, and there was pain and anger and hate. But most of all there was confusion.

There was wonder at what was happening, and about why it was happening, and hidden beneath it all was the beginnings of understanding. There was a feeling that could have been calm, that they were both sure could have been called forward and banished the anger, but the confusion prevented it and they rebelled. They pushed away their minds from the connection, closing it down and seeking the darkness, but the last thing that lingered on their minds as they parted was like a bolt of clarity in the perplexity of the moment.

I know the reasons I am supposed to hate you, but I don't think I do.

And I don't know you, but you have seen what I have seen, and for that I can't hate you…

oOoOo

Harry jerked awake, his scar prickling hotly, and lay staring at the canopy of his bed for hours. He had seen…and now he knew. Not everything, that was certain, but what he did know was that there was someone else out there like him. Someone who had been born into a role and had suffered their whole life for it. He couldn't say who they were or why he shared a connection with them, but the person knew him. And they shared his sorrow.

oOoOo

Harry stood in front of Snape, his face calm.

"Again," came Snape's curt command. "Speak the incantation if you must; if not, focus entirely on entering my mind."

Harry didn't answer Snape, just gave a sharp nod of his head and stared into Snape's eyes. It was hard, penetrating another's mind, but he knew he could do it. He was confident. He'd done it on many occasions, even though it had not been intentional.

Focus, his mind whispered to him, but he forced even that thought away. He willed his brain to coalesce with Snape's, to find a common brainwave. It was similar to Occlumency, thought Harry felt like he was working in reverse. He cleared his own mind and tried to call on Snape's, and suddenly he had it. He slipped into Snape's thoughts, digging deeper and deeper into the barriers that Snape erected before him. They got progressively harder, and Harry found he could go no further. Random, useless thoughts appeared to him, but he pushed them aside, focussing on the barrier before him. He searched for an edge, a crack, a crevice, but there was none. He tried to envision the barrier in a different way, not as something that could be passed around, but as something that could be pushed through. He felt his determination begin to waver, and suddenly he found Snape forcing him from his mind.

"A better attempt, though still completely futile and lacking in skill or finesse. I feel as though a Hippogriff is rampaging through my mind, but you are easier than a fly to brush away."

Harry felt a stab of pain shoot through his scar. He tried to focus on Snape, and cleared his mind even though the vision would come if it was going to come.

"You believe that magic is words and wand movements, Potter, but that assumption is wrong. Magic is innate, an entity in itself that can be called upon as you will it. You must understand that, and use it by itself, without motion or vocalisation. Will it to work as you want, and you can do anything."

It couldn't be that easy, or everyone would be a Merlin, thought Harry. His scar gave a second, painful throb and he twitched slightly, his eyes dropping to the floor and back up again.

"Again, Potter," said Snape imperiously, drawing himself up. But Harry couldn't focus anymore. His scar pulsed agonisingly beneath his skin and he clapped a hand to his forehead. A bolt of pain through his head drove him to his knees with a groan, and he dimly heard what sounded like a plea. Who would be calling for me? He thought. Suddenly his vision was no longer black, but filled with the figure of Voldemort in someone else's eyes.

"Daughter," he hissed. "You did well today. Your progress pleases me."

"Thankyou father," Harry heard her whisper. A piece of the puzzle fell into place. "I do my best to please you."

A wave of despair passed through him and suddenly, as Harry stared into Voldemort's eyes, the vision seemed to twist backwards, and Harry found himself in Voldemort's mind as a feeling of vicious…pride… and triumph ripped through him. It was an emotion so foreign to what Harry had ever associated with Voldemort that he was startled, but he was far more startled at who henow saw, and suddenly he understood everything. He looked into the dark eyes of the girl, a liquid black, and saw the long black hair and the face that had once belonged to Tom Riddle. He recoiled in horror, forcing the vision from his mind.

Snape's office appeared swaying before him as he gasped in pain, his head resting on the cool stone floor.

"Potter," snapped Snape, but although his voice was impatient it was not vindictive. "What is it?" Harry breathed deeply and rose his head slowly to look Snape in the eyes. When he spoke his voice was hoarse and scratchy.

"Voldemort has an heir."

oOoOo

oOoOo

oOoOo

"This is grave news indeed," said Dumbledore, surveying Harry over the top of his half-moon glasses. "Can you be sure of this Harry? Voldemort truly has an heir?"

For Goodness sake! Of course I'm sure. I've just told you how many times?

"Yes sir, I'm sure."

"And is he…Voldemort's child, or another's?"

"She," said Harry. Snape made an odd choking noise and Dumbledore laid his hands on the desk in amazement. "She, is Voldemort's heir, and she is most definitely his child."

"How can you be sure?" prompted Dumbledore.

"I have seen what the young Tom Riddle looked, sir. She looks exactly the same." And she is as beautiful as Tom Riddle was handsome.

Snape snorted in disbelief.

"Are you entirely stupid, Potter? There are ways to mutate a person's appearance. The Dark Lord could have done anything to his heir."

Harry shook his head. He was sure.

"I am sure, Snape, because I share a connection with her. That would not be possible if she were not Voldemort's true daughter." Dumbledore frowned.

"The same connection you share with Voldemort, Harry?"

"I- think so, yes," he said, hesitating slightly. "At first I didn't know what it was, but I could tell there was a different person at the other end of the connection. Their thoughts and emotions were so similar that I didn't realise it wasn't Voldemort."

"But you did today," replied Dumbledore softly.

"Because I saw Voldemort through her eyes, and then I saw her through Voldemort's. He intends for her to rule in his stead."

"Hmm," Dumbledore murmured, leaning forward on his arms. He looked sharply at Snape. "And you knew nothing of his, Severus?"

"No, Albus. I don't think any of us had any idea he would do such a thing…"

"The thing that I wish to know, is where he has kept her all these years. Someone must have known about her." Harry shrugged.

"They were almost certainly supporters of Voldemort. She hates Muggles." Harry felt a twinge of guilt at saying that.

"I would be more interested in knowing the identity of the mother," said Snape slowly. "Though she is probably dead by now; she would have been nothing more than a means to an end."

A memory flickered into Harry's mind of its own volition. It was her, he knew, and he struggled to recall the details.

"She never knew her mother…" Harry said slowly, "she was raised by someone else when Voldemort died the first time. But she asked about her mother, because she could remember her, and she was confused because her mother had not called her by the name that her new family did. They called her Merope-"

"After Voldemort's mother," Dumbledore interjected sharply.

"Yes," said Harry. "When she asked them they told her that her mothers name had been…" he struggled to recall it. "Evelyn, I think. There was no last name."

He heard a sharp intake of breath from Snape and Dumbledore looked at him sharply.

"How old is the girl?" asked Snape, his voice strained. Harry frowned.

"Near my age, I think. Younger though…but she's of age." Snape shuffled at his side.

"Albus-"

"Do not think of it, Severus. It is not possible. A mere coincidence," said Dumbledore. Harry looked between the two of them in confusion. He saw that Snape looked…could Snape actually be upset? It appeared so, Harry thought. The Potions Master looked as though he were fighting with some inner grief. With a choked noise he turned and strode from the room.

"Sir? What was that about?" he asked in befuddlement. Dumbledore scrutinised him closely, though he too looked sad.

"It is no concern of yours, Harry. That is between Professor Snape and myself."

The reply was so reminiscent of one Harry had heard before, and he wondered with interest if they were related. But Dumbledore moved on to other matters, and Harry pushed it from his mind. He had other things to worry about.

oOoOo

Harry drifted slowly from sleep to a kind of semi-wakefulness as his scar flared to life. He sought out the other mind and found that it was not Voldemort.

"Hello, Merope," he said, reaching out over the connection. A wave of revulsion and hatred greeted him, butit wavered as though the purveyor of the emotions was not confident in them. Against his will he felt memories being drawn from his mind, and he realised with a start that it was something that Voldemort had never been able to do. The presence in his mind left no defence for Merope's, and Harry plunged blindly in, fighting the urge to defend his privacy. He sought for what interested him the most, and the memory of a photo passed before him. A woman with long dark hair and black eyes sat in a chair, and her face was cheerless. A feeling of bittersweet sadness filled him.

He fought to keep a hold of the memory, but it was being pulled from him in a swoop of anger. He tried to recall why the woman seemed so familiar, but it may only have been that he saw the hair and eyes on Merope. Something nagged at him, though.

And now as he rifled through Merope's mind, he saw his own memories; of his childhood with the Dursleys and of Hogwarts and of facing Voldemort. He saw Merope's memories; of her childhood with a sour old woman and her husband, and of lessons and more lessons, and of facing Voldemort.

He watched it all dispassionately, his life and hers. This was the girl who would follow in her father's footsteps, who would come to epitomize all that Harry fought against. This was the girl who would kill him if her father did not succeed. This was the Heir of Voldemort, and he would not give in.

oOoOo

"Legilimens," Snape hissed, as Harry entered the office. With a surge of anger, Harry Occluded him as Snape began rifling through his thoughts, and threw him out of his mind. Suddenly he found that emotion helped Legilimency, that it gave him strength, and that he only need close that emotion of from Snape and not from himself. He plunged into Snape's mind without invitation, and did not try to hide his anger.

He felt ruthless; he didn't care anymore about being polite, or courteous to Snape. He summoned the picture of the woman to his mind and showed it to Snape, and he felt a pang of grief run through Snape, and a single thought, before he was thrown violently from Snape's mind. Snape looked at him with mingled horror and anger and sorrow on his face. He looked as though he couldn't talk, and Harry watched him impassively. Snape's chest heaved with some inner struggle.

"Where did you see that woman, Potter?" Snape demanded, his voice colder than Harry had ever heard it before. Harry looked into Snape's glittering eyes, feeling a strange sentiment that he had rarely associated with Snape. Pity.

"Merope," he said softly, "is your sister's daughter."

Snape seemed to sag as though he were under a great weight at the same time as he swelled with anger, and he swept wordlessly past Harry. A bang echoed in the room beyond but after that there was only silence, and Harry left to return to his dormitory. He felt a hideous regret within him for shattering Snape's small hope that it just couldn't have been her, and wondered how it had happened. He wished he could take it back.

oOoOo

On the same day that the Order captured the Heir of Voldemort, the Dark Lord captured the Boy-Who-Lived.

No one could be quite sure how it had happened, it had been so quick. It was a weekend, and the Order had been absent from Hogwarts, determined to snatch the daughter of Tom Riddle from his grasp. No one had even seen Harry disappear; he had simply vanished.

Panic reigned as the Order searched desperately and in vain for Harry Potter, and they only faced the truth of the matter when Merope was heard to say, "He has him," softly and without emotion. It would be three months before any member of the Order would see Harry again, and Snape would be the first. The war had become personal for Severus Snape now, even more so than it had before. People would say he had become obsessed, but they wouldn't have been able to tell you why. They say he spent hours just standing and staring at the Heir of Voldemort, and there were rumours thathe was the only one she ever spoke to during her time as a prisoner of war.

Only Snape, Merope, and Harry Potter could verify this fact. It occurred six weeks after Harry's disappearance, as Snape stood by the invisible barrier that separated the evil girl child from those of them who had hearts. He had looked up to see herstaring at him, and then she had spoken to him.

"You look as I remember my mother," she said softly. Snape started, gazing at her expressionlessly. The mask slipped from his face, and Merope saw that he was so sad.

"She was my sister," Snape said. "And you…you are of my blood."

Merope looked at him in equal sadness.

"I know," she said, even more softly. "Harry told me." Snape straightened, frowning.

"Harry?"

"I speak to him sometimes," she verified. She laughed unpleasantly and Snape felt disbelief that this girl could have belonged to his sister. "My father always told him what a pathetic Mudblood he was, but you know what? He's not as weak as my father would like to believe."

"Why do you say that?" asked Snape. He couldn't bring himself to despise this dark young woman. She smiled in a way that suggested she was pleased, but there was uncertainty behind it.

"They've been torturing him for weeks," she said. "He hurts, so badly. I can feel it, when we talk. He hasn't given up though. I wouldn't call him weak at all."

Snape stared at her, conflicting emotions battling in his chest.

"Where is he keeping him?"

Merope laughed again, her face malicious.

"I couldn't tell you that, Severus." It was the first time she had used his name, and it startled him. "If I told you that you'd go and get him, and I wouldn't be able to go back to my father. I have lots to tell him."

"Such as?"

"Like how his loyal Death Eater isn't so loyal as he thought." He knew she was lying. She didn't want to destroy her mother's brother. "Like the things I've found out from Potter. Like the prophecy." Snape tried not to betray his sudden curiosity.

"How did you come to know of the prophecy?" asked Snape.

"My father told me of it, and Harry showed it to me."

"Ah. Foolish boy. Tell me what the prophecy says."

"I can show you, if you like."

Snape submitted, and the prophecy, passed from Trelawney, to Dumbledore, to Potter, and to Merope, was passed on to him. He remembered the first part, remembered how he had run to the Dark Lord to tell him of it. The second part, however, caused him to re-evaluate his opinion of they son of James Potter.

So the boy is destined to become a murderer, the very thing he hates, and he knows it. He knows that he must kill or be killed, and that if he fails the rest of us will die also. He truly does carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He looked at the strange girl before him, and couldn't decide if she truly hated Potter. He asked her.

"I have hated him my whole life," she said emphatically, "And I always will."

He couldn't tell if she told the truth or not.

oOoOo

It occurred to Snape one day that neither the Dark Lord nor Albus Dumbledore wished to give in even the slightest bit to the other. They would leave their hopes to die lest they give that hope to the other. He perceived that Merope understood this, and he thought suddenly that Potter too, had always known this. But now he was stuck, for whilst Dumbledore refused to return Merope to Voldemort, Snape did not want to. He could not sacrifice family for the lives of the rest of the world and he hated himself for it. The girl was entirely dedicated to Voldemort, and that would not change.

Her view was as firmly fixed on destroying the Light as Potter's was on destroying the Dark. He realised that she had been born into the role just as much as Potter had been, and would fulfil it if it cost her her life. Just as Potter would do.

And Snape did not know how he felt about that.

oOoOo

On the day that Snape saw Harry, the rain was pouring down and the sky was dark. When he responded to his Master's call and was told that he would be visiting Potter, it struck a chord of fear and apprehension deep inside him. It was three months to the day of Harry's disappearance, and he was well acquainted with the delights that Death Eaters took in torture. He did not want to see the boy.

Yet he was guided to the small stone cell slowly but surely, and as they approached, his anxiety mounted. Themuted servant who had led him disappeared into the darkness, and Snape entered the cell slowly.

"Hello, Snape."

Snape started and turned to find the owner of the voice. The sight sickened him, even where the smell had not. Potter sat on a raised stone table, a chain binding him to the wall. His eyes were closed and a small smile graced his lips. It disappeared when he opened his eyes and looked at Snape.

"Merope sends her regards," he said.

"You should not encourage the connection, Potter," said Snape, though his heart was not in it. He did not see how Potter had the strength to talk.

"She's not as evil as everyone thinks," Harry murmured softly, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall.

"You are deceived," spat Snape. He looked around the room. There was no water.

"How long since you have eaten?" he asked.

"How long have I been here?" Harry returned.

"Three months," supplied Snape. Harry shrugged.

"Food doesn't really seem the most important thing to be worrying about."

Snape stared at the mutilated body, the silence stretching between them. He looked at the swollen red hand that Potter held cradled against his chest. It was covered in blood and pus. Harry saw where he was looking.

"Oh, yeah. There's this one that likes sticking things through my hand." He held the hand in front of him gingerly, but there was no expression on his face. "I can't feel it much anymore, though."

Snape didn't reply.

"What are you doing here?" Harry asked.

"The Dark Lord has asked forme to test a potion on you."

"Hm. Well, as long as it doesn't kill me…"

Snape did not wish to think of this person before him as Harry Potter, did not want time to reconsider, and so he uncapped the potion and Harry swallowed it without hesitation. It took a second, but then Harry lurched forward as a sharp pang hit his stomach, and it didn't stop. He moaned in pain and a drop of blood trickled down his chin. He coughed violently and blood spattered the floor in front of him. Snape left him then, unwilling to remain any longer. He made his report and left, and went straight to Albus Dumbledore.

"You must cease this foolishness, Albus. Exchange the girl if you must, but get him out of there. He is dying."

oOoOo

"You weren't very nice to him you know," Merope said when Snape entered the room. Snape placed her meal before her but did not reply. He had done what was necessary, for Merlin's sake, and nothing more. He had taken no delight in it, that was for sure, and as much as he detested the boy he had no wish to see him suffer so, nor did he wish to be the cause of such suffering.

Three days later came the day upon which Harry would be returned to the Order. It had been Snape who arranged it, taking Dumbledore's deal to the Dark Lord, and it had been he who would lose the most.

The moment approached,as Voldemort stood with his Death Eaters, and Dumbledore with the Order. It should have been just the two of them, but neither trusted the other enough to risk it if anything went awry.

"Show me my heir," commanded Voldemort, and his voice was deep and insistent. With a nod from Dumbledore, Merope was shown to her father. Voldemort's eyes gleamed red in satisfaction, and Dumbledore gestured that he should reveal Harry.

oOoOo

Harry didn't know what was going, only that they were moving him somewhere and that it hurt a lot. The Death Eaters were rough, paying no heed to his injuries, and when they threw Harry to the ground his mangled hand was the one that broke his fall. He shook his head to clear it and looked up, and in the distance he saw Dumbledore. He seemed so far away. A foot connected with his ribs.

"Get up, Potter. Go on, they're waiting for you."

Harry didn't wait to see if it was a trick. He struggled to his feet, his body protesting with every movement, and put one foot in front of the other. His right knee buckled beneath him but he kept going, expecting with every step to hear the high shrill of Voldemort's voice as he uttered the fatal words of the Killing Curse, but it never came. He was a quarter of the way there when he realised that they couldn't simply be letting him go, and sure enough he saw someone walking towards him.

Their eyesmet and he realised that it was Merope, her unwavering gaze fixed upon him.

As Harry reached the half-way point he felt his feet slowing, almost dragging, and he stopped when he stood before Merope. He stared into the face of the girl whom he had never met but knew so much about, and then looked over her shoulder to what awaited him on the other side. He saw their questioning faces, their fear and their curiosity, and he looked back at Merope.

Her gaze, too, was off in the distance, and when it returned to his they reached out as one and clasped each other about the arms. Harry drew Merope close, remembering Snape's words, and he willed the magic to work as he wanted it. For some reason he could not define, he trusted Merope, and she him. They had seen each other at their highest and their lowest, perceived each others most desperate wishes and hidden thoughts, and it was enough. They had seen what awaited them if they returned, and found it sadly lacking, and so Harry focussed on the magic, and together he and Merope disappeared.

Where they were going, even Harry didn't know, he just let the magic carry them until it felt right to stop. They left behind the responsibility and the fear that they had secretly hidden, fear that they would never be able to live their own lives. Maybe they knew they would have to face it eventually, but for a few precious moments they could almost imagine that there was no Voldemort, no Dumbledore, no war, and no responsibility. They united in their disappointment at life and ignored the pull of the light and the tug of the Dark and disappeared into their own world where everything was grey.

Voldemort had been right in a way; there was no good and evil, only power and those too weak to see it. But Harry saw it now, and he acknowledged it. If Voldemort died today, there would be someone else ready and waiting to take his place. If Harry destroyed Voldemort, and someone else rose, the Wizarding world would expect Harry to save them again. If Harry didn't destroy Voldemort, he himself would be killed and the Wizarding community would be in peril. It was a Catch 22.

Some said thatpower and evilwere essentially the same thing, but Harry wasn't so sure. One led to the other, but that didn't necessarily mean that they couldn't exist alone. After all, if you didn't have power, you couldn't be evil, but Dumbledore was proof enough that strength did not have to be aggressive.

It was how you wielded power that mattered. It had nothing to do with strength.

Harry became aware that his feet were on the floor, but he didn't look around to see where they were. He hurt all over, but instead of moving to examine his injuries, he stepped closer to Merope and bent to press his lips to hers.

He drew back slowly, apprehensive and fearful. These were forbidden feelings, but they felt so right. He kissed her again, with sad desperation, seeking reassurance that she could not give. He saw his own emotion reflected in her eyes, and knew that as long as they felt the same way, then this was right.

Harry wasn't quite sure when he had fallen in love with her, only that it had happened and it was real. She was a person so much like him in her experiences and feelings that it was hard to resist the comfort that she could bring. She was someone with whom he could identify, and whose feelings he was certain were genuine. He could tell they were; he had read her thoughts and she his, and feelings were not something that could be fabricated.

And so as Dumbledore and Voldemort accused each other of foul play, and demanded the return of the ones they hoped would win them the war, Harry and Merope learned that there truly was more to life than what they had always known. In each other they found the confidence to break the rules and take their first true steps into the world by themselves, and it was a bond stronger than any other.

oOoOo

Merope was by no means uneducated, and Harry allowed her to brew the potions and cast the spells that would heal him. It took only a few days to return him to health, and he hid the memory of those weeks in captivity in the darkest depths of his mind. He was used to it by now- adept at forgetting the things that weren't good and focussing on those that were. And so he smiled at Merope and said he was better, and together they set off for Hogwarts where Harry would convince Dumbledore that Merope was not evil, was not like Voldemort, and was not under his influence.

He asked her if she felt guilty for abandoning everything she had been taught to believe, guilty for deserting her father, and she told him no. Harry felt a flitter of doubt. He would have. There was no way he could have turned against everything he knew, and the idea had not even entered conscious thought, because he knew it was simply not an option. Maybe he was a coward, or maybe Merope was simply stronger than he, or maybe it was because no one else had their destiny already laid out before them.

Yes, that was it, he thought. Everyone else had a freedom he did not have, and it was a luxury he would not be able to afford until the war was over.

Harry walked into Hogwarts late at night to avoid the students, hand in hand with Merope. They paused in the Entrance Hall, and he saw a silver Patronus fly past. He recognised it as Snape's, and called out the man's name. Snape stepped from the entrance to the dungeons, his brows drawing together in surprise as he took the two of them in.

"What is this?" he asked softly, and Harry thought he sounded almost confused.

"We were on our way to see Dumbledore," Harry replied, tightening his grip on Merope's slim hand.

"Where have you been?" asked Snape. "It has been three days."

Harry shrugged.

"I needed time."

Snape sneered and stepped towards them.

"Well you seem to be in much better health. May I ask why you brought the girl with you?"

Harry frowned at his tone.

"Her name is Merope, Snape, and she is your family. I suggest you get used to that." Snape refused to glance at Merope.

"She is Voldemort's daughter," he hissed. "My sister would never have spawned such an evil child. And if she ever was my sister's child, she forfeited the right of being a member of my family the moment she became loyal to Voldemort."

Harry stepped back, appalled.

"Are you serious?" he asked quietly. "Of all the conceited, hypocritical things I have ever heard you utter, thisis the worst. Don't forget that you were loyal to Voldemort once, too. And you had a choice; Merope did not."

Snape's face was pale, but he refused to give in.

"How can you know she is no longer loyal, Potter? Just days ago she sat and threatened to divulge the Order's secrets to the Dark Lord."

"If you were in her place, would you think any differently?" asked Harry. "I certainly didn't cooperate with Voldemort when he had me. And I know that she isn't loyal to him for the same reason I know that you are not," Harry said fiercely. "It is called faith, and it is time you had some of it."

Gripping Merope's hand, Harry turned and began heading for the headmaster's office, but Dumbledore had already responded to Snape's message.

"Ah, Harry," he said, his surprised gaze sliding over them. "And Merope."

"Sir," said Harry. "I'm sorry I didn't contact you sooner. I just…" he trailed off.

"I understand, Harry," Dumbledore said, smiling slightly. He looked weary of Merope, though. He looked past the two of them to Snape.

"Severus, may we use your office so that we may talk? I am afraid mine is too far away for this urgent matter…"

"Of course, Albus," said Snape impatiently. The man knew he didn't have to ask.

They moved down the corridor into the dungeons and Snape held the door as they passed through. They took seats around the desk and a fire sprang up in the hearth.

And it was on that evening that Harry Potter returned to Hogwarts and delivered Merope Riddle from the life she might otherwise have led. Harry told their story, and although he saw the scheming gleam in the headmaster's eyes he did not comment on it. He saw the doubt hidden deep in Snape's eyes, and although he tried to hide it they all knew it was there. And Harry understood, he really did. It was a similar doubt to the one he himself harboured, but he had moved past his and taken action.

The world would spurn Merope for who her father was, and scorn Harry Potter for loving her, but Snape was too careful to let them know what part he played in the whole affair. In admitting that Merope was his niece, he would be admitting to the terrible tragedy that had befallen the sister whom he had loved so very much, and he couldn't bear to acknowledge the pain that she must have gone through. For now he would be satisfied with the knowledge that the boy who could defeat his sister's murderer was safe, and while that was true he would always have a chance for revenge. He ignored the niggling guilt that grew in his chest, and wondered if avenging his sister's death and returning Merope or saving his sister's daughter and condemning the wizarding world would have been a bigger sin. He had made the decision; to sacrifice his last remaining link to his sister in return for revenge, but now it appeared that he could have both.

And so Harry returned to school and Merope to live at Grimmauld Place, and after the frenzy of friends and fans, life went back to normal. The days passed slowly and he could feel Voldemort's hate growing.

oOoOo

The attack came without warning and without mercy, half way into the next holidays. Harry had joined Merope at Grimmauld Place, and the moment they received word of the attack Harry knew that it was time. When they arrived at the site, Harry didn't seek Voldemort out to duel him. He could feel him, somewhere out on the battle field, and he knew Voldemort would be aware of his presence. So he stayed out of sight, creeping around the edge of the battle until he caught sight of the Dark Lord.

He left Merope in the shadows and stepped forward, but he didn't alert Voldemort to his whereabouts. His actions were not heroic, or brave, but he no longer cared about that. He just wanted it to be over, and so he cast the Killing Curse. It sped towards Voldemort, and the rush of hate that Harry summoned for that one moment made Voldemort spin around in surprise. His eyes widened in surprise and the look remained on his face as he crumpled to the ground, but Harry didn't see that. Instead, Harry watched as the green curse washed over Voldemort and then, forming once again, rushed back towards him. It happened so quickly that Harry couldn't move, and barely even had time to realise what was happening.

Merope watched from the shadows, and the fighting slowly drew to a halt as the Death Eaters realised that their master was dead, and in just a few seconds thegreatest obstacle of the war had been surmounted.

Of course, Harry didn't know that, because he was dead.

oOoOo

Snape laid a firm hand on Merope's shoulder as she knelt next to Harry, a lone tear hanging on her cheek.

"He won't wake," he said, though he knew that words alone would not stop her attempts. He had no doubt that she knew he was dead, but sometimes love truly was blind. In that moment Snape felt a stab of pity and a pang of protectiveness for the young woman before him. His hand fell back to his side and she stood up, and when she turned around and leaned in to him, Snape folded his arm around her and let her cry into his chest.

When she pulled away her face was calm, and Snape was startled as he realised that it was an expression he had seen Harry wear. He moved forward and she fell into step beside him, and he curled his arm around her shoulders as they walked off the battle field.

And so the tide of the war turned, and eventually it was over,and people could finally live without fear. In years to come people would talk of the brave young boy thathad givenhis life to save them all, and they would celebrate on the anniversary of the Dark Lord's downfall. And Harry Potterwould besomeone to be worshipped, and remembered, and you would seldom meet someone who mourned his passing.

They were there, though; his old friends, and his teachers, and those who had only been acquaintances. The ones who had known him as Harry,as a real person and not just a symbol, and the girl who had loved him.

It could be said that Merope was happy after the war. Snape was, too, to a certain extent. Their relationship was tentative at first, but they were all each other had. No one ever revealed Merope's identity, and it wasn't long before she lived just as everyone else did.

And then after many years, Harry Potter faded from their hearts and minds, and people got on with their lives. His name would remain forever, buteveryone had accepted and moved on. Harry Potter was gone.

oOoOo

A/N: I didn't plan for Harry to die, I really didn't, but all my fics tend to end up that way unfortunately. It just seems too clichéd when good beats evil and Harry lives. Sorry. But review and tell me what you think! Thanks for reading- Wujjawoo