Prologue – By My Soul
October 31st, 1981
The tone of a bell sounded through Godric's Hollow, reverberating through the still air. Silently, James Potter strode up the stairs to the nursery, his face set in a stern mask. He placed a hand lightly on the door and pushed it open, stepping through into the small, bright room.
Lily Evans Potter looked up from the rocking chair in the corner, tears sparkling in her eyes. "It'll be tonight, won't it?" she asked quietly, gazing down at the bundle of blankets wrapped in her arms.
James nodded shortly and lifted her up, sitting down in the rocking chair before settling her in his lap. Lily sighed happily and leaned back in his arms as James placed his hands over hers, stroking lightly at little Harry's bangs. "We'll be ready for him, Lily," he promised.
"I know," she whispered, tears still swimming in her eyes. "But I'm so scared…. James, what if something goes wrong? What if we die? We can't leave him!"
"We won't," James said resolutely. "We won't, Lily." Taking a deep breath, he nudged Lily to her feet and slid the ceremonial dagger from his robes. "Are you ready?"
Lily gulped as she looked at the dagger. She sobbed once and cradled her son to her chest, pressing her lips gently to his forehead. Silently, she gazed at him, brushing the hair from his face.
She looked up with a hard, determined gaze. "I'm ready," she replied evenly, and James nodded.
He turned and walked down the stairs, and Lily followed, their baby held in her arms.
They placed him on a small pile of blankets at the base of the altar they had built in the woods. Silently, the couple stared at the rising sun, their eyes cool and flat. In his left hand, James Harold Potter still held the ceremonial dagger, and when he looked down at his son, his fingers clenched around the handle.
"By my blood, by my magic, by my soul, I swear to protect you," he intoned, lifting the dagger and slicing his palm diagonally, flinching slightly as blood welled up on his skin. Wincing, he passed the knife to his wife, who smiled at him grimly as she placed the knife against her own skin.
"By my blood, by my magic, by my soul, I swear to protect you," she murmured, and with a quick jerk of the knife, she slit her own palm, lifting it to link hands with her husband. Their blood mingled and a soft glow appeared, a nimbus of light ringing their joined hands. Slowly, James stepped forward to stand at Lily's shoulder, and the two wrapped their hands around the dagger, James's hand resting over Lily's on the hilt.
They made a shallow cut on little Harry's forehead, the jagged shape of a lightning bolt, right above and between his beautiful emerald eyes. Too startled to cry, the infant stared up at his parents, shock glittering in his eyes.
"We bind ourselves to you until your task is complete," they said together, "until your mission and your life are fulfilled. So mote it be."
The nimbus of light grew to engulf their son, and Lily trembled as her baby began to cry. The light brightened, then shrank to a thin, faint line before shooting down and into the cut on Harry's forehead. The lightning bolt cut glowed green for a moment, then disappeared.
Lily picked up her baby with a cry of relief, cradling him in her arms. James wrapped his arms around them both, clinging to them desperately.
They went back into the house together, neither noticing the man who stood at the edge of the forest, his eyes dark and turbulent as the couple disappeared into the small cottage.
The man sighed, his hand stroking his long beard, and turned on his heel, vanishing into thin air.
This, he mused, will take some thought.
He wasn't going to win.
James Potter knew that, and yet he fought. Listening carefully for the sound of Apparition, he waited desperately for his wife to escape with their son. But no such sound came. He swore quietly under his breath as he dodged another spell. Voldemort must have set Anti-Disapparation Wards.
"You don't seek to kill me, Voldemort?" he questioned, arching a curious brow as he dodged yet another bolt of red light.
The Dark Lord's lips curled at the audacity of the man standing before him. "I wish to torment you with the knowledge that you failed your son, Potter. That will be much more entertaining for me. And your Mudblood wife… why… the entertainment that can be taken from her alone…"
James saw red and raised his wand, casting a rather severe burning hex Voldemort's way. The powerful dark wizard just waved it aside, smiling in amusement.
"Goodnight, James," he whispered. "You will live to realize your failure. Stupefy."
Too startled to move in time, James was asleep before he hit the floor.
Lily… he thought desperately as he fell.
And when Lily Evans Potter fell, her last thought was of James.
Albus Dumbledore strode through the halls of Hogwarts, his face set with ruthless determination. Hagrid had already been sent. Sirius Black would soon be taken care of. Harry was to be taken to his aunt and uncle's house, if he was indeed still alive, which Dumbledore very much doubted. But if he had survived, young Harry Potter would need to be strong.
And forged in the fires of adversity, he will be the One to vanquish the Dark Lord…
And as for the others…
He entered his office, schooling his features into those of sorrowful concern, and bent over the two sleeping figures.
"Ennervate," he whispered, and the man and woman jerked awake.
"Albus," the man asked immediately as his wife stared around the room, searching desperately for their son. "What… where is…?"
"I'm sorry," Albus whispered. "We were too late. He's gone."
The woman began to cry, high, keening sounds that tore at his heart. "I think… I think it's for the best if you leave the wizarding world. Without Harry…" Dumbledore's voice trailed off into silence.
Thirty minutes later, Lily and James Potter left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to go into seclusion… never intending to return.
With a blank expression, Remus Lupin stared around the room he had lived in for the previous three years. It was stacked high with boxes – he hadn't realized he'd acquired so many possessions. With a tired sigh, he considered burning some of them, but instead decided to save them. Someday, Harry would want something to remember his parents by – if Remus ever got to see him again…
He pulled the train ticket from his jacket pocket and studied it carefully. His train to Rumania was set to depart in two hours, and he didn't want to be late. With a wave of his wand, he shrunk his boxes and placed them all in one tattered briefcase, held together by pieces of string – the briefcase James had bought him for Christmas in their third year. "For you, Professor Lupin," he had declared with a broad smile. James, for some odd reason, had always been convinced Remus would one day be a teacher. The briefcase had been beautiful then, made of shining mahogany panels, and had gleamed in the firelight. Now, it was a mere shadow of its former glory.
Just like its owner.
Remus Lupin trudged down the steps of his apartment building with every intention of getting a bite to eat before catching his train.
He'd be damned if he returned to England when he couldn't see Harry.
The sun hovered anxiously in the sky as the young boy worked, a sheen of sweat over his skin. He sobbed quietly, his breath coming in labored pants, his little hands raw and red from pulling roots all day. He had been working in the lawn since seven that morning, and it was approaching five o'clock p.m. His uncle would be home soon, and he hadn't mowed the lawn yet… though how he was going to push a machine bigger than he was, he didn't know….
The sound of a car door slamming sent him into a frenzy, and he shot to his feet, praying that he would make it to his cupboard before his uncle noticed the lawn…
"WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH YOURSELF ALL DAY, BOY?" his uncle roared, and the boy quivered. "WE FEED YOU, CLOTHE YOU, HOUSE YOU, AND THIS IS THE THANKS WE GET?" With an angry snarl, the man swung his beefy hand out, knocking his little nephew to the ground. The boy's glasses cut into his skin as the hand impacted his face, and a trail of blood slipped down his cheek as the boy whimpered.
Harry Potter was five years old.
He should have kept his head down.
He ran, eyes staring straight ahead as Dudley's gang raced after him. He didn't know what he'd been thinking – why hadn't he done poorly on the test? Uncle Vernon would never forgive him for doing better than his own son… He ducked as a rock was flung at his head and put on a burst of speed, finally rounding the corner onto Privet Drive. Gasping for breath, he ran up the steps and through the door, planning to slip into his cupboard –
– He froze in his tracks, eyes wide, as Vernon Dursley stepped into his path, his face an interesting shade of puce.
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, BOY?" the man roared. "YOUR TEACHER CALLED TO TELL US YOU'VE ACED THE LAST FIVE TESTS IN YOUR CLASS, WHILE DUDLEY HAS BEEN FAILING! SHE HAD THE NERVE – THE ABSOLUTE NERVE – TO TELL US THAT WE SHOULD TRY TO GET DUDLEY TO FOLLOW YOUR INFLUENCE! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR TEACHER, BOY?"
Shocked, the boy tried to protest, but his uncle ignored him. He struggled when the large man grabbed his arm, but the man jerked the small boy forward and smiled broadly when he heard a bone snap. Chuckling gleefully, he dragged the boy to the cupboard under the stairs and opened the door, flinging the boy in it and closing it with a snap.
"YOU'LL STAY IN THERE, AND THERE'LL BE NO FOOD FOR THREE DAYS, YOU HEAR ME, BOY?" he roared.
The boy curled into a ball on his cot, a spider swinging down to meet him, as he heard the locks slide home. Cradling his arm to his chest, he leaned back and stared at the ceiling.
Harry Potter was eight years old.
It was with a blank face that he sat through the meeting in the principal's office. He stared straight ahead at the desk for the entire half-hour, ignoring the astonished conversation between Vernon and Petunia Dursley and the principal of Stonewall Primary School. No one had any idea how he had gotten into the roof – the boy had claimed the wind caught him mid-jump, but all three adults knew that idea was preposterous. Vernon Dursley was steadily turning purple, and the boy was afraid.
The last time his uncle had been this angry, he had nearly been starved to death. They had thrown him into the cupboard under the stairs with only a jug of water and left him there for ten days. He had had to resort to catching and eating spiders after the sixth day, a thought that saddened him as much as it disgusted him.
The meeting ended, and the boy got nervously to his feet, shoving his hands into his pockets to conceal the fact that they were shaking. He trudged out to the car slowly, speeding to a normal pace only when Uncle Vernon barked at him to stop holding them up.
The drive back to Privet Drive took only ten minutes. The second the door was shut, the man rounded on him and Petunia Dursley, as always, disappeared into the other room.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
It worked for some people.
This time, Uncle Vernon didn't even speak. Eyes glinting madly, he pointed toward the cupboard, where a large pitcher of water already sat. The boy didn't need telling twice. Not daring to believe his luck, he raced to the cupboard and threw himself inside it, pulling the door shut behind him and hugging his knees to his chest, staring around at the darkness.
It was fourteen days before they let him out, and there were no more spiders left in his cupboard.
Harry Potter was ten years old.
He returned to Privet Drive beaten, broken, shattered. His godfather was gone, the only adult he'd ever really been able to turn to. Hermione had been right – Hermione, who he had always trusted, always listened to, had been right again. He'd led his five friends into a trap and nearly gotten all of them killed.
He had gotten Sirius killed.
WORTHLESS FREAK! SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE NOW, BOY? WHO HAVE YOU GOT LEFT? WHO WILL COME FOR YOU?
He sat bolt upright, staring in shock around the small room which was still strewn with Dudley's old, broken toys. He'd never stayed in the room long enough to clean them out – nor had he ever had the time, energy or inclination to do so. But where had that come from? Why had he remembered that?
With a wince, he glanced down at his left arm. He remembered the day it had been broken so clearly, remembering the snap the thin bone had made. It had healed within three days. At the time, he hadn't understood it, but he knew now that it had been his magic which healed him.
He wished it hadn't. His magic had also erased all traces of abuse. Vernon Dursley would be able to start all over with a clean slate every time, because the boy would always heal himself.
That was all he was on Privet Drive. The Boy.
His eyes slid around the room, memories of his early childhood filling his mind. Memories Snape had relished seeing, had gone through with calculating cruelty, had brought the forefront again and again – Snape always went after exactly what he least wanted seen…
He looked at the small digital clock by his bed, eyes gleaming in the darkness.
Harry Potter was sixteen years old.
Chapter 1 - The Man Who Never Learns
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