A/N: I don't even know how to apologize for this delay. I really, really don't.
Adrift in a World: Hatred
Harry knew it wouldn't work before the knife had even appeared in his hand. It was too simple, too desperate, and too Muggle to work. Maybe nuclear weapons, of any Muggle method of excessive violence, would have sufficed, but a small blade would do less than nothing.
Well, maybe not nothing, Harry thought. It might make him feel a bit better about how overwhelmingly superior these Death Eaters were.
"Stupid Mudblood," Voldemort said, without even glancing at the weapon. Harry's knife shimmered out of space for an instant and reappeared, flipped, before Harry could even register the first change. His body slammed into Voldemort's, and he gasped as the point burrowed into his shoulder. Voldemort had reversed the blade, and the suddenly halted force of Harry's dash towards the other wizard pushed the blade past muscle and into bone, the knife driven in even deeper as Voldemort shoved him off and down.
"I would have expected better from – no," Voldemort interrupted himself to kick Harry's hand away from the handle. "Let that stay with you as a reminder for the time being," he said, and moved his hand minutely.
The knife turned into bone, and Harry twitched as it melded to the bone it had pierced – he had no way of removing it without risking an even greater injury. He sagged back onto the ground, panting. Voldemort stepped over him towards the others, and Harry started shifting slowly into a position from which he could jump up and run without using his left arm.
"As I was saying," Voldemort continued, looking around at his Death Eaters instead of Harry, who took this opportunity to shake out from his sleeves a few devices he had hastily recreated from his memories of the more dangerous Wheezes, "Dumbledore rarely overextends himself, even when sending his foot soldiers to do some meaningless task."
He turned to Parkinson. "Maybe my opinion is unfair. Tell me he at least managed some moderate damage to your home, Polonius. Even if he is not much of an assassin, he might be a worthy vandal."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, My Lord," Polonibus responded. "My elves might spend the next day replanting along the edge of the grounds, but my daughter's friends cause greater damage when they visit for a night."
"I'm a bit disappointed, too," Harry interjected. "All of this chatter and not one thing gets accomplished. You'd think a bunch of semi-successful terrorists would be a bit less full of themselves."
"Full of ourselves, Mr. Collins?" Voldemort asked with amusement. Harry tensed as Voldemort knelt down beside him and placed a hand around his throat. He swallowed convulsively as Voldemort quirked an eyebrow at him and the other wizards laughed. "There is nothing you can do. You might not die today – I haven't yet decided – but the rest of your life is beyond your ability to influence. So just lay here and be quiet, or I'll drag that worthless woman you came to rescue up here and kill her in front of you."
Harry stilled, his eyes wide. Voldemort had not attempted any sort of Legilimency, and too many people had known about this mission already. Pettigrew! His mind burned with hatred for an endless and furious instant. The man had been too involved in every step of this rescue, had even enchanted most of what Harry had with him… Trusting Pettigrew, even on this relatively small scale had been a mistake, and he raged internally at the thought of having let him live beyond their first meeting.
But then his conscious mind tamped down the reflexive hate. Voldemort may have had some sort of source of information within the Order – the meeting had been full of strangers and acquaintances Harry couldn't even begin to name or categorize on the basis of trust. Either way, he could do nothing but live through the moment, and hope to eviscerate whoever deserved it later.
And just as important as him living through the night was him taking one of Voldemort's prisoners with him.
"Threats always work against the weak," the wizard told Harry. "You are paralyzed by the thought of me killing someone, someone not even important to you or your side of this war. Disappoint is in fact the word of the day."
"Stupid Mudblood," Harry taunted back quietly, his voice so low the Death Eaters couldn't overhear. "If you had stayed the slightest bit true to your heritage, you'd have learned that the villains should never monologue." Voldemort's grip on his throat tightened dangerously as the older wizard's face twisted with fury.
Harry just laughed.
And the room exploded.
Shrill alarms blared near the ears of each Death Eater, downing some as their eardrums exploded. Tiny marbles that had scattered across the floor unnoticed swelled in size until they burst open and oozing pink glue sprayed across the room, sticking the unprepared wizards to each other and the floor. Many of the others still standing cursed shrilly as thousands of angry wasps exploded out from other tiny Wheeze replicas, stinging the wizards in droves and buzzing loudly enough to compete with the alarms.
Voldemort glanced away from Harry briefly at the sudden cacophony, who drew his leg back and kicked the older wizard solidly in the stomach. Voldemort rolled away, suddenly too far from the protective spells Harry had put on himself to protect from the insects and others effects, and was immediately surrounded by wasps and pinks marbles rolling ominously towards him. Harry staggered up into a standing position and ran towards the door.
The corridor was one he remembered from Moody's continuous staging of the attempt, and he darted towards the left, wincing as each step wrenched his muscles against the intrusive bone knife. His awkward gait was by no means quiet, and he knew that as soon – and it would be soon – as Voldemort cleared out the room behind him he would be chased and quickly recaptured. There was no use even hiding his path, so Harry mentally crossed out all potential plans that called for subtlety, and began shaking even more of his homemade Wheezes from his sleeves as he went; if he couldn't hide where he was going, he would make it difficult for anyone to follow.
The danger had increased far beyond what he had wanted for his first real encounter with this world's Death Eaters. He had hoped to not even cross paths with Voldemort for now. He certainly hadn't planned on not only meeting Voldemort but aggravating him so quickly, and the realization that this Order, too, had some fatal leak was more than he could think about right now. As he clattered downstairs, Harry remembered Snape's warning that the spy had not been to Voldemort's dungeon in some time and so could not accurately predict that part of his journey beyond a basic layout. With the way his luck was running today, Harry thought grimly, his world's Voldemort would be waiting for him, with two Umbridges and her pet Dementors for good measure.
This last corridor was shadowed, and Harry squinted through the gloom to find the door he was looking for. He passed door after door, and finally found the one he was looking for. Rather than risk using the door itself – both Pettigrew and Hestia Jones had been adamant that he leave the doors alone, as they knew very little about what the Death Eaters used as internal protection – Harry tapped his head with his wand and watched as his body slowly turned pearly and translucent. Jones had made a breakthrough on a new spell that made its user like a ghost: unable to use spells or grab objects, but able to penetrate any physical and magical barrier. Harry had volunteered to be a test subject, but he still shivered uneasily as he began to float unsteadily.
He stretched his hand through the wall near the door, avoiding the strongly warded section even with his new advantages as a ghost. His hand drifted through it but not without a chill running up his fingers as if his hand had suddenly been filled with blood after having fallen asleep for hours. Steeling himself, he stepped through the wall and into the dungeons behind it. Making sure he wasn't in a cell himself, Harry hastily deactivated the spell. It may have been useful, but Jones had warned about leaving it on too long, and Moody, with Harry's agreement, had also said that keeping such a spell from Voldemort was even more important than stopping Harry from getting permanently stuck in a ghostly state.
He glanced around, lighting up his wand as he did so. Sirius had shown him a picture of Pat earlier, so he had a rough idea of what she looked like. But that was sure to be virtually useless after a couple months of imprisonment and with Harry's haste to get out of the dungeons. He ran past a few empty cells. They were much different from the ones he remembered, these being more along the lines of jail cells than anything too horrific. They were dimly lit and cramped, certainly, but the condition of the cells, and the first few people he saw in them, made him hopeful that Pat would be able to assist in her own rescue rather than be carried out.
A few men he didn't recognize looked blearily out at him as he ran past them with his wand lit, and Harry hesitated. He had no time to rescue anyone he didn't come for – it was increasingly likely he didn't even have time to rescue the one he had come for. But his mind flashed back to his own imprisonment and the hope that someone, anyone at all, would rescue him. If that helplessness had been coupled with someone coming after all and not rescuing him… Harry didn't like to imagine what that would have done to him.
And, quite frankly, he had enough trouble meeting his own eyes in the mirror without leaving people in Voldemort's grasp simply because they didn't have someone who could come rescue them personally.
He scanned the first rooms he had passed quickly, and, choosing one prisoner who looked the most fit and aware, ran towards their wall. "Lesio," he hissed, and a bright laser emitted from his wand. He hastily cut a door out of the cell wall and kicked it in. The prisoner was already standing by the time the wall fell, and quickly clambered out to stand by Harry.
Harry cut him off by thrusting five spare wands into his hand. "Get out everyone you can, and give the other spares to those who can help. Voldemort's on his way, and I'm only here for one person."
The man nodded, and Harry left him to it. He checked cell after cell for Pat, but found no one who even looked like her. He began to imagine the worst: Voldemort clearly knew who he was after and might have killed her just to stop him. But he had threatened Harry with killing her in front of him – surely he would have kept her alive for the possibility of doing just that.
Harry reached the end of the last row of rooms, and kicked the wall, snarling angrily. She was in none of them. As good as it would be to free all of Voldemort's other prisoners, he did not want to return to Sirius with news that Pat was dead – or, even worse, news that she was potentially alive but that he couldn't find her, and that she would surely be the target of Voldemort's anger at the others' escape.
He whipped around to see how the other prisoners were doing. He had scarcely been in the dungeons for two minutes, but that was already too long. His window was shrinking, and, as much as it burned to do it, he would have to leave or risk everyone in the room – himself included – dying.
Most of the others were grouped together towards the entrance through which Harry had come. Many were struggling to stand, and only a few were holding wands. The first man was still holding onto two others besides the one he was using, and Harry took this as a fairly ill omen of their chances at making any headway.
"Only two of them?" He hissed with panic as he rushed back to that side of the room. "We'll have to try charming some of them; four people isn't nearly enough-"
"It'll have to do," the other snapped back angrily. "I already charmed a few chockfull of magic, and that's the only reason so many are even standing. We should transfigure them instead – they can't help us, and this way they at least won't slow us down as we run."
Harry sighed, but without a word turned and starting changing the worst off into glass marbles. He Summoned them and dropped them into one of his pockets, ignoring the way their distorted faces blinked confusedly within the glass spheres. He started up again with those who, while alert and staring with terror at the door behind Harry, would still be no use in a fight. One by one, they also shrank and rounded out into marble forms. One of the men waved Harry's wand away from him.
"It's this or you stay behind," Harry said coldly, a cold, antsy feeling in the pit of his stomach. They lingered too long, Voldemort had to know what they were doing, this was a trap.
"I used to be a scout animal for the Ministry," he said. "Just turn me into a snake, and I'll be able to warn you if I smell anyone coming."
Harry hesitated. That might be a useful thing to have, someone who could focus on the senses Harry couldn't use as a human. And Transfiguring a living thing to a living thing took far less energy; Harry feared if he changed any people more into marbles, he might Transfigure them back to find them dead.
"Why a snake?" he asked, as he combed through his memory for the right spell. It had been a long time since he Transfigured humans into anything besides something he could carry away in his pocket.
"So you can talk to me," the man said, rolling his eyes. "I'm Pat, you're Harry, nice to meet you, let's get going."
He blinked in confusion.
"I'm a Metamorphmagus, if that blank look is about the gender confusion. One thing I've learned is that it's easier to live here as a man instead of a woman, though easy is relative." His, or her, Harry supposed, face drew closed in sharp lines. "I also heard some of the Death Eaters talking about Jack earlier, so I figured I might as well hide as best as I could."
"Not bad," Harry said, still surprised. Pushing everything aside to figure out later, he waved his wand in a figure eight and snatched the resulting snake up.
"I'll keep an eye out," she hissed at him, as he started transfiguring the remaining incapacitated prisoners into snakes, stunning them, and stuffing them a bit roughly into his pockets, "and I'll let you know. Don't use Parseltongue yourself – none of the others will stand the shock."
He grunted an affirmative of understanding - as long as he stayed away from actual words when he addressed the snake, any noise would stay human-like - and eyed the four remaining prisoners. They were weak and disheveled, but had wild looks in their eyes like they would do anything to escape or, barring that, drag a few Death Eaters down with them, and Harry took more comfort in those kinds of allies than any number of people fighting for a moral cause.
"We're going through the walls," Harry directed, pushing through them and pulling out a small piece of chalk that had been hidden behind his collar in a small pocket. "A good number of Death Eaters and Voldemort know that we're here and they know where we're going, so we have to make as much noise and confusion as possible," he drew an X the size of a doorway on the wall, "and we certainly can't use any passage. They know this whole place better than we do. Shield!"
Automatically, five shields beamed from the wands and solidified as the wall burst apart.
"Move!" Harry shouted, and led the way past the first wall.
This pattern continued several times, as Harry drew explosion points on the walls and they shielded themselves from the ensuing debris. Once, Pat hissed as a Death Eater shouted in alarmed anger and ran towards them. Slashing his wand in that direction, Harry released a torrent of mustard gas funneled directly towards the wizard's face and continued drawing the X, ignoring the Death Eater even as he fell, scrabbling at his maskless face and gasping horribly.
At last, they reached a staircase. One of the witches ran more quickly towards it, but Harry halted her. "Still too obvious. Use your shields to protect your heads." He didn't watch to make sure they complied, but instead fished a boxing glove out of his pocket and tapped it twice.
Pat hissed in confusion, but Harry ignored her. He tossed the glove straight up towards the ceiling of the stairwell and shouted, "Incendio."
The glove twisted around a small ball of flame the spell created, and spun faster and faster until it was nothing more than a blur. With a hair-raising shriek, the glove shot upwards, punching through the ceiling and the ceilings beyond. A series of three-meter wide circles yawned through the upper stories of the house, and Harry could see the glimmer of stars beyond a few ragged patches of wood in the roof. A faint glowing dot was also visible, different from the stars in how it shone and grew dimmer and dimmer.
Without explanation, he swung his arms around all of the prisoners and Summoned the glove. At once, the glowing dot began to slow, but continued to grow smaller. Harry and the others jerked into the air after the glove instead, and Harry, with his arms clenched tight in the fear that he might drop one of them, watched as they speedily cleared the roof. He canceled the spell and they clumsily fell onto the roof, some twisting and spilling onto all fours while others put their hands on their knees and gasped in deep breaths.
Harry ran to the edge of the roof and stared into the gloom. He didn't see any Death Eaters outside the manor, but neither did he see a faint patch of light from beyond the graveyard that would have marked where the Order was supposed to have left a Portkey to the edge of Hogwarts.
"Get up," Harry barked at the others angrily, letting his panic overrule his understanding of their reactions and exhaustion. "We're not even close to there yet."
He pointed his wand at his shoes and muttered a Lightening Charm before pointing towards the shoes of one of the others to do the same. The first wizard Harry had rescued, his eyes tired but dawning with understanding, did the same to his own and another's as Harry finished the rest of the group.
"We'll have to jump," the wizard coaxed another older wizard, who was trembling with weariness. "It's not far, we're almost out." Gently but quickly, he grabbed the man's arm and pulled him to the side, jumping over the edge of the house with him.
Harry directed the others to the same edge of the roof and they jumped down without comment, the spells on their shoes letting them float towards the dim ground rather than plummet. Harry couldn't see them land, the shadows swallowing their shapes too quickly, but he wasted no time in following after them.
His feet touched the ground, and he hardly had the chance to begin searching for where the others had gone before a cold, long-fingered hand grabbed the bone knife sticking out of his shoulder and spun him around.
"I'll give you this, Collins," Voldemort said pleasantly enough, and Harry was surprised to see a bit of consideration in expression rather than solely the expected hatred, "you certainly fared better than expected. Better than you could have, I should think, given what I know of you."
The wizard's face twisted with anger as he yanked his hand upward. The bone knife snapped and Harry staggered sideways, his vision darkened with the pain. Black dots coalesced and subsided in front of his eyes in random bursts. Blinking and feeling blindly around the wound with one hand, Harry was unprepared for Voldemort to drag him closer once more.
The Dark Lord waited until Harry's vision cleared, the frenzied black dots slowly dissipating and leaving a view of the manor's lawn in front of him. He saw the forms the other four, stiff and with locked limbs on the ground, and he felt some comfort in knowing they were not yet dead. Less reassuring was that Voldemort had taken the time to Transfigure Pat back to her human form, as Metamorphed as it was.
"Look at me, Collins," Voldemort said, and Harry turned his head almost unwillingly. The red eyes burned into his, and he felt a muted lick of fire cross his forehead. "You are from an alternate dimension, apparently one not too different from this."
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but a band of cloth appeared and tugged tightly across the bottom of his face without Voldemort even blinking as he willed it into existence. "Don't argue. The evidence is in every action you take, and every hint you give through pointless statements of defiance."
The younger wizard blinked disdainfully in response, and Voldemort's grip on the front of his cloak tightened. No other Death Eaters were outside yet, but still Voldemort lowered his voice. "Don't try to lie to me about it. I can see enough of the truth in your mind even as you try so hard to keep me out."
Harry twitched, trying to back away, and averted his eyes. Voldemort locked a hand around his jaw and forced his face forward again. "Curiously," the wizard continued slowly, even as Harry struggled pointlessly, focused on escaping Voldemort's proximity and the mental fingers scratching through his Occlumency shield, "I cannot see the whole picture, and that's a novel thing. But you can't keep your secrets forever, so let's start with a moderately important one. I said, look at me."
Mouth twisting, Harry closed his eyes tightly. Even as quiet as it was, or perhaps because of it, Voldemort's command made the helplessness of Harry's position abundantly clear. The prisoners were as good as dead, the Order had fallen through on creating an escape route he couldn't even reach, and Harry himself was captured, quite literally caught in the hands of the enemy. His mind flickered back to the last time he had been so trapped just outside of Riddle Manor, frantic and horrified and desperate for anyone to realize that he needed help.
For the first time in a long time, he was scared of Voldemort, and the angry smile that laced Voldemort's voice told Harry that the other wizard knew it, too.
An alien pressure pushed at Harry's eyes, prying his eyelids apart and making his eyes smart.
"I expect obedience from everyone who enters my house, Collins," Voldemort said softly, and he locked eyes with Harry. The younger wizard's forehead burned.
Harry's eyes were frozen, even as he willed them to move or blink. He felt the older wizard burrow deeper inside his mind, clawing aside useless memories Harry dragged to the forefront in the hopes of slowing the other down. The pain is his head sharpened and became overwhelming, but still Voldemort stabbed at his mind, causing damage but apparently unable to access what he was looking for.
Growling with frustration, Voldemort exited his mind and focused on Harry himself. "Clever, but ultimately worthless," he told Harry. "Tell me, did you find your way here from what you know in your old dimension to be true, or did someone here tell you?"
Harry stayed silent. He still couldn't blink or look away, and Voldemort's firm grip on him prevented any other attempt at physical escape, but he hoped his facial expression was clear enough in communicating how unlikely it was that Voldemort would get an answer.
Voldemort hissed in irritation. "You're wasting my time, Collins," the wizard spat and without a word of warning flicked his wand at the old wizard who had needed help jumping off the roof. The man exploded, and Harry jerked backwards in a pointless attempt to avoid the gore.
"Holy shit!" he exclaimed breathlessly, staring at where the wizard had been lying. He shifted his eyes upwards minutely, meeting the sickened and terror-stricken eyes of the wizard he first let out of his cell.
Realizing that he could now move and blink, Harry spun around to face Voldemort, who was watching Harry with a calculated but amused look, and Harry knew that he had been released from the spell only so Voldemort could enjoy his reaction. In the Same instant that Harry realized that, his limbs froze, leaving him standing but stationary. The cloth blocking his mouth had disappeared, but Harry did not talk again.
"Answer me, Collins, or I'll just do it again. Prisoners who cause so much trouble mean very little to me, and I think their lives mean more to you now than to me, anyway."
"I knew it already, I already knew how to get here," Harry breathed quickly, answering Voldemort's question. Voldemort was right: it would cost the dark wizard nothing to kill the others to make Harry talk, but it would cost Harry too much to let him.
Voldemort nodded in satisfaction. "You also seem too familiar with the interior for me to be comfortable. Was this also information you garnered from your other dimension?"
Harry paused, but Voldemort raised his wand threateningly and Harry nodded immediately.
"Interesting," Voldemort commented. "How?"
The wizard narrowed his eyes as Harry's jaw clenched. "You know where my dungeons are, you navigate through my house, and you know far too much information for me, even another, different me, to not kill you. You even managed to get through a considerable array of protective spells without alerting me. Had I not known you were here…"
He paused consideringly, eyes on the ground in contemplation, and Harry chanced to look once more beyond the graveyard. He wasn't sure what hope there would be even if someone from the Order had come to place a Portkey, but there was a small chance that someone bringing it would see the trap Harry was caught in. No one could save him and the other prisoners, but at least they would know what had happened.
His eyes flicked up and he saw a small, dim light like moonlight reflected off water, and his knees nearly buckled with relief. The light wasn't much, but it was a chance at some unclear hope.
Unfortunately, the movement didn't go unnoticed. Voldemort's eyes snapped back toward Harry at his small movement, and the wizard marched up to Harry and spun sharply around, leaning down until his eyes were level with Harry's and facing outwards.
"The cavalry," Voldemort breathed mockingly, also spotting the light. Blood pounded in Harry's ears as he was swept up in a sudden rush of hatred and renewed helplessness. "It is interesting that they help you, though. There are very few ways to traipse along these grounds. One of these, as your pitiful comrades could have told you, is to be accompanied by a Death Eater. The only other," Voldemort said slowly, as if putting his thoughts in order before stating them, "is to be a Death Eater yourself."
Voldemort's icy hand clasped above Harry's left wrist, directly on top of the scar the other Voldemort had given him with a cursed knife. Harry gritted his teeth as he tried to wrench his arm away, but the spell holding his body still was immutable.
Harry's mouth twisted as his arm and forehead jolted painfully at the contact. He looked down at Voldemort's grip on his arm before looking up at Voldemort's face, which, Harry was bitterly satisfied to note, did not look terribly happy at this revelation. However Dark Marks were supposed to feel to the Dark Lord, Harry supposed, his arm must feel the same way – for better or for worse, Voldemort seemed to think Harry was a Death Eater.
"A Mudblood among my Death Eaters," Voldemort commented in disgust. "It defies imagination."
"Does it?" Harry taunted. "A—"
Barely even a word into what may have been one of the worst timed comment to date, a thick pressure wrapped around his head and shuddered ominously. He felt his jaw creak and the bridge of his nose threaten to snap. Harry gasped, unable to speak or even breathe.
"Every time you speak," Voldemort growled, anger apparent on his face, "I question more and more how you lived to get to this dimension. I do not let idiots live for long, especially if they know too much and use what they know at the slightest provocation."
The older wizard tsked, and looked down at Harry's arm once more. "It seems impossible for you to have this, to be so knowledgeable about me, and to be against me here." His face darkened. "The only possibility is treachery, and I undoubtedly have the same response to traitors regardless of the dimension."
Harry swallowed convulsively. That conclusion was entirely unexpected, but, trying to picture things from Voldemort's perspective, Harry realized that the pieces fit relatively well. Chris Collins: a knowledgeable Death Eater who turned traitor, using his experience and knowledge to work with the Dark Lord's greatest enemy and knowing dangerous information that would pit even Voldemort's truest allies against him. The only viable action was for Voldemort to kill him, and that did not even take into account the trouble Harry had caused tonight. And Voldemort was right: it was very likely this Voldemort treated traitors exactly the same as he did in Harry's dimension and he, Harry, had no wish to experience it.
"But there are too many questions to just kill you," Voldemort said. "None of your memories match this conclusion." Harry felt a long invasive scrape across his mind as Voldemort confirmed this thought. "Not a Death Eater, but with a Dark Mark I applied myself…"
"Can't see anything else?" Harry asked stridently. "You must not be trying hard enough."
"Correct, Collins," Voldemort said, "but any harder and I snap your mind. While you might find that preferable to your inevitable death, I don't think I'm through with you yet. But it's time for you to return to Hogwarts and hide behind Dumbledore. I am done with you for now." He waved his hand dismissively, and Harry and the prisoners unfroze.
Harry kept his face blank, but his thoughts must have been apparent.
"Yes," Voldemort confirmed, dark amusement on his face. "You will survive tonight. You will even take the other prisoners with you. A small price to pay for Lucius's return, even as useless as he has made himself recently." He pulled Harry towards him once more and glared into his eyes, making his words echo through both Harry's ears and his mind. Harry twitched before he could stop the reaction. "But I will watch you and learn about you, and I will know everything you know before I destroy everything you find valuable in this dimension. Whether they're the new versions of people you knew before or new people you ally with, they will all suffer and die. I might, if you continue to be as difficult as you were tonight, even make them believe it was you."
The blood drained from Harry's face and Voldemort, sensing Harry's terror, smiled. "I will destroy you, Chris Collins, and everything in your new world. The only power you have left is to decide how much suffering there will be before it's destroyed."
He stepped back, but Harry stepped forward.
"There's nothing here for you to destroy," Harry said defiantly. "You can kill whoever you please if you can. And I'll do the same. I'm good at it, especially when it's the only thing I have left. You can spare us all a lot of trouble if you just get rid of me now. But if you let me live, I will kill you in the end."
In response, Voldemort minutely shifted his right palm, and Harry spun around when he heard a sharp gasp. The first man Harry had rescued twisted violently, his hands clenching. For an instant, his eyes met Harry's. Then both eyes split open and the wizard exploded. Harry yelled in wordless rage and Voldemort laughed.
"Don't ever imagine," he said slowly as Harry stared at the bloody remains of the wizard, "that you have nothing to lose. You will always have a weakness, and I will find every single one of them before I kill you."
He placed a cold fingertip against Harry's left arm, and Harry hissed as heat flared on his arm and forehead.
"Yes, My Lord?" Parkinson smoothly stepped around the corner of the nearest doorframe.
"It's time for us to trade prisoners. Gather up the others and, in the interests of being courteous, take along whatever marbles didn't explode along with Potter."
Harry shifted in confusion at hearing his name, but Parkinson stepped over to the remaining body parts of the second dead wizard and Summoned the transfigured prisoners. Voldemort looked down at him consideringly, sifting through the reasons for Harry's response before turning back to Parkinson. "Take that hand along as well - Auror Potter will want something to remember him by - and we'll be on our way."
Harry processed the next seconds slowly, the scene blurring as he thought furiously. Not all the Potters had been dead here, then, as they had been in Harry's world. He could only hope, he thought as he stumbled forward blindly, propelled by Voldemort, that the man Voldemort just killed wasn't the only one besides those at the castle who had been left.
The small group traveled in silence through the small graveyard, Voldemort leading the way and with Parkinson leading the prisoners along through the air behind Harry.
Exhausted with pain and fear, as well as the draining hopelessness of having gambled and lost, Harry stumbled along behind the dark wizard. Almost as an afterthought, he shook his sleeves out one last time. Time-delayed fireworks and explosives fell unnoticed on the ground, but complete failure sat too heavily on Harry's shoulders for him to feel even grim amusement.
They neared the light at last, and Voldemort hovered the Portkey in the air. "A phoenix feather," he said disgustedly. "How…" he glanced over at Harry to include him in his judgment, "obvious."
Harry's mouth twisted angrily, but he had no chance to respond before Voldemort muttered a spell and streams of light burst out to touch each person.
The world spun and spun. Then it plummeted and dropped the wizards down in front of the Hogwarts gate.
Harry immediately glanced at the wrought-iron door making sure it was shut. Some of the others had said it made sense to leave it open but watched so Harry could immediate enter the grounds, but Moody had firmly put his foot down and Harry - certainly now -$ agreed with him.
His only concern was that they had still left it where he could open it, which would usher Voldemort right into Hogwarts with little to no warning. This thought seemed to occur to Voldemort at the same time, who glanced between the gate and Harry with a gleam in his eyes.
"The Order has been far too convinced of its own protection recently," the wizard mused, reaching for Harry. "Let's see if they have extended the same gross overconfidence to you, Collins."
Harry ducked out of the way of the hand and twisted towards the wall. While the gate under Dumbledore's control might be improperly safeguarded, the wall around the school surely had the same enchantments that the castle in his dimension had: once someone touched the walls, the gate would fuse shut and all entry or exit was halted.
Turning his head to shoot a malicious look at Voldemort – finally, something Voldemort wanted was not going to happen - Harry slammed his hands down on the stone and heard the gate clang angrily, drawing an enchanted chain around itself and sealing shut. The stones warmed quickly under Harry's hands, burning them before a wave of solidified heat pushed him, stumbling, back.
"Impudent Mudblood," Parkinson hissed, and drew his wand. "Crucio!"
Harry buckled and went down to his knees, spine curving backwards as he writhed under the spell. Each Cruciatus was different, Harry had discovered over time, each witch and wizard putting a distinctive tone in the spell regardless of their intent or level of anger. This spell, lesser than Voldemort's in some vague, unquantifiable way, scraped at his bones and sliced along his joints. The worst centered on his jaw, his teeth slashing through his gums and along his nerves until he almost wanted to pull them out himself. It was only then that he realized he was screaming.
Then the curse was gone, and Harry was left panting on the ground. He lifted his head up and looked wearily at Parkinson, who eyed him with amusement, then at Voldemort, who stood close to the gate, peering at it in fascination.
"Do continue," Voldemort said idly as he levitated a pebble and steered it toward the gate. It sparked and bounced off. "I would have thought Collins' setting off the alarm would have sufficed; if not that, then certainly all the yelling. Try again - maybe they'll come faster."
Harry, crouching now and about to stand, snarled when Parkinson turned towards him again.
"Maybe you'll do better than a rock," Parkinson suggested mockingly, and sent a banishing curse at Harry, propelling him into the gate Voldemort was examining.
Harry clenched his teeth as the sparks danced painfully across his skin before pushing him back towards the other wizards. Parkinson frowned and sent another banishing spell at him, this one continuously keeping him pushed up against the gate.
He gasped and jerked against it as the sparks grew in intensity, trying to escape both the spells and the wall's force. At last, the two stopped and Harry fell onto the ground, groaning. He noticed and then tried to ignore the steam rising from his quivering arms.
"Dumbledore," Voldemort said, raising one eyebrow. "Your timing leaves a lot to be desired."
"This has increasingly come to my attention," Dumbledore said solemnly, stepping up close to the gate behind Harry. "Perhaps if I had been faster in keeping tabs on all of my students before they come to Hogwarts, especially those not in Wizarding homes, this could have been avoided."
Voldemort dropped all hints of levity from his face as he looked down at Harry. "So quick to share information with the blood traitors and vermin," he said quietly, and Harry knew by the others' looks of confusion they couldn't hear Voldemort. "You really do want to die."
Harry shrugged, suddenly very tired and feeling a bit less hopeless now that Dumbledore was there. "I told you it was an option."
"There's too much to learn," the other wizard said. "You represent countless dimensions and all sorts of knowledge – as useless as you yourself seem to be."
"I assume this is to be some sort of prisoner exchange?" Dumbledore interrupted, still not reaching for the gate. Harry shifted minutely, trying to see both sides at once. While any sort of battle was unlikely to break out, Harry wanted to have some idea of who he would be dealing with from the Order.
Unsurprisingly, Snape wasn't present - an easy way out of any complications due to his being a spy. Neither were the Marauders, though Lily stood with a frozen and irritated-looking - and Harry was a bit gleeful to see - unkempt Lucius Malfoy floating at her side. Less happily, Harry saw Sirius standing beside her, looking at Harry worriedly and then at Voldemort wrathfully.
"That was his plan," Harry muttered so Dumbledore could hear, and Harry hoped he got the message. Voldemort was either improvising tremendously well, or he had planned this upon learning about Malfoy's capture. Based on the apparent leak in the Order and Voldemort's actions, he was willing to bet on the latter and knew Dumbledore should be warned of that.
Dumbledore's eyes flickered to look at down at him with some concern, but Harry looked away after making brief eye contact. Two people had already died because Harry hadn't been good enough, and he was sure the Dark Lord had something planned for them still; he didn't want someone to be concerned about him.
"Indeed, that is my plan," Voldemort agreed. "I don't like having my servants taken away, and I like even less when you insult me by sending useless foot soldiers to mount a rescue. As entertaining as he is."
Voldemort waved his hand and all the marbles burst back into human forms. "And what present do you have for me?" he asked Albus, who in turned looked back and nodded at Lily, who hesitantly started levitating Malfoy forward. Sirius muttered something to her and then took her place, moving Malfoy along with him until he stood by Dumbledore. His eyes raked along the assembled prisoners until they reached Pat, and then he looked at the Headmaster, waiting for instructions.
"Go on, then" Voldemort called. "Open your gate and let them crawl back to safety. Sadly, there's a few who didn't make it tonight but I'm sure you'll eagerly welcome all the ones who did."
"You won't mind, of course, if I do things a little differently than you had hoped," Dumbledore said gravely. He waved his wand and a glimmery mist came out, increasing in size as it reached Voldemort's prisoners before wrapping around like a veil and making them fade out of sight. At once, the same faint glow appeared deeper in the Hogwarts grounds, glowing brighter and brighter until it glinted brightly and then dissipated. Harry saw a brief flicker of their silhouettes, and some of the crowd behind Dumbledore stepped away towards them.
"Of course not, Albus," Voldemort said, eyes glinting angrily even as he agreed. "But now it's your turn to share."
Then his hand shot out and pulled Harry towards him. Harry pressed his lips tightly together in anger, but crossed his arms nonchalantly when Voldemort looked at him expectantly.
"Soothing your pride in a sad show of force? How tiring - you're exactly like the Voldemort in my dimension, afraid of Dumbledore and doing cheap magic tricks to get even-"
A flare of hate burst in Harry's mind, one not his own, and he clapped a hand to his head involuntarily. Voldemort peeled his hand back. "You fool, you really do give too much away."
Voldemort slowly reached up to trace the scar on Harry's forehead, a look of almost academic curiosity on his face. Without thinking, Harry automatically reached up and grabbed the other wizard's index finger, bending it quickly backwards and breaking it with an abrupt snap.
At once, Harry was engulfed in flames. He didn't know if his eyes were open or shut, and he could see only white. Maybe this meant the flames were all in his head, some spell that Voldemort used when he wanted something a bit more creative than the Cruciatus Curse, or maybe Voldemort had gotten tired of him already and had decided to actually burn him alive.
The heat intensified with each moment, his flesh crisping and his arms and legs crumbling away. Harry thought he might be screaming, but couldn't feel a functioning mouth with which to scream. He wondered if this was what Quirrel had felt in his final seconds alive. Strangely, he had never considered that before, what the first person he had killed felt right before they died, like he was dying now…
And then it was gone.
Harry looked up to see Sirius standing at the open gate with a knife at Malfoy's throat.
"Now I know you can still get at Malfoy's money when his worthless son inherits it, but you'll lose a lot of political connections nonetheless," Sirius said loudly. "And you're not going to kill Chris - you would have already if you wanted to."
"Brave words," "Parkinson said loudly, "from someone already so insignificant in the war - it's too late now for you to start having an opinion. Should I kill him, My Lord?"
Harry detected a little bit too much eagerness in his tone. Parkinson, Harry knew, would be all too happy to have Malfoy die in such a way that it left him as the best replacement for money and political power.
"What do you think, Collins?" Voldemort asked with a biting, hateful glance down at Harry. His smile was full of promised malice. "Or do we save him for last? I think that his death will hurt the most, if you were so willing to risk your life just to rescue someone for him. So he will die later, much later. I think I'd rather have him die while hating you. And that starts tonight."
Without waiting for an answer, he struck Harry's face with his wand. For a second, Harry felt like he was disintegrating, pieces of himself being chipped away. Then he blinked, and felt a knife at his throat, and saw Malfoy standing where he had stood before, kneeling deeply.
Hurriedly, Sirius removed the knife from Harry's neck and pulled an arm around him, dragging him backwards as the gate shut with a metallic boom. Harry watched, eyes narrowed, as the three wizards beyond the grounds disappeared, and then he sagged to the ground.
"Chris?" Sirius asked, panicked, and Harry looked up at him.
"That did not go as planned. At all." Harry braced his hands on the grass and then stood up. "Remind me in the future that my stupid ideas should not be implemented."
"What happened?" Moody asked sharply, suddenly coming towards them from the rim of the Forest.
"Something right up your alley, Moody. Apparently there's a leak in the Order – Voldemort knew exactly when, why, and how I was going to be there."
"But he still let you have the prisoners?"
Harry shrugged, then winced. "I can happily say that I don't know how his mind works. But the more concerning thing is that one of you lot decided to side with Voldemort and set me up. As much as I'd like to find whoever it was and kill them, that's probably not the most politic solution."
Sirius tightened his grip on Harry. "A spy in the Order? Pettigrew?"
"I thought that immediately, too, but," Harry answered, before breaking off suddenly. "Jack, why are you still here?"
Sirius looked at him blankly, then scowled in confusion. "Because my idiot godson seems to be having difficulty with basic motor function at the moment."
"Excuse me," Harry said, "your idiot godson can walk just fine. Your idiot self should be going to check on Pat."
Sirius wavered uncertainly. "She'll be fine. We're all going towards the Hospital Wing anyway."
Sure enough, as they got closer to the castle, Harry saw several members of the Order leading the rescued prisoners who could walk towards the doors while others were transfiguring the marbles back into people.
"I know the way, Jack. Moody won't let me get lost."
The old Auror grunted in assent and Sirius, looking uncertainly at Harry one more time, walked quickly towards Pat's far-off metamorphic form. She was sitting on the grass and, from the looks of it, shaking off everyone's offers of help and looking for Sirius.
"A traitor doesn't explain why Voldemort let so many people go," Moody said, and Harry blinked in confusion before remembering the conversation.
"Maybe they were a back-up plan within a plan that he ended up not needing," Harry suggested. "Maybe they were more trouble than they were worth."
"No, the bastard would have just killed them," Moody argued. "I don't like it. Voldemort seems to have a particular hatred of you already. He wouldn't want you to come out of this looking anything like a hero."
Harry frowned in agreement. "He made that abundantly clear – even said he would have everyone hate me before he killed me."
Voldemort had been even more specific than that. As soon as he had seen Sirius, he had known that Harry cared more about him than the others, had decided to somehow make Sirius hate him. Starting immediately.
He doubted Voldemort could possess Harry securely enough to make him do something to hurt Sirius, even if the dark wizard had known possessing Harry was an option, and the only two people Sirius cared about were safely at Hogwarts, so Voldemort couldn't kill any of them now. The only thing that even seemed remotely likely to ruin Sirius's relief at having Pat alive was the death of the Potter who had been a prisoner. And while Harry felt awful about losing two of the prisoners because Voldemort knew how their deaths would make Harry more compliant, he didn't think it was what Voldemort meant. Dead dimensional analogs weren't really wrath-inducing, even if Sirius had known that Potter to begin with.
His eyes caught the splatters of blood across his chest, the deep crimson still soaking in. He could clearly remember Potter's expression before exploding, and Voldemort's laughter as he relished in how much it hurt Harry…
Harry froze. The explosions. Voldemort had warned him to never think he had nothing to lose, had shown he could make people explode with just a thought, a signal. There was a way to make Sirius hate everyone, maybe even him.
He suddenly ran forward, ignoring Moody's exclamation and gasping as he jerked his injured shoulder. He sprinted towards the group of prisoners until Sirius was visible near Pat.
"Sirius," Harry yelled loudly, horrified. "Sirius, don't touch her!"
Sirius paused, his hand out to help Pat stand up, and turned to look back at Harry. Black, near a prisoner he, too, was about to help towards the Hospital Wing, froze and looked at Harry quizzically. But Pat, used to Sirius being called Jack and ignoring the wizard yelling at someone else, kept reaching forward to grab Sirius's hand.
And she exploded into a red mist.
A/N: A plot is tenuously existing in my head. I know what happens next, kind of, if that's any consolation.