The Price of Responsibility

---

Before him stood an empty room. It haunted him though no ghosts occupied it, echoing with the voices of his responsibilities. Harry spun around, tracing lines in the dust of the Great Hall. Wearily he sighed, expelling a gust of wind that stirred the stagnant air of the ruined castle.

Hogwarts had fallen eleven years ago, burned to the ground, and now there was no one left to fight Voldemort. Hundreds had died, leaving little of the wizard population left...the Dark Lord dominated Britain, magical and muggle alike. The terror he inflicted upon the world knew no bounds. All because Harry had been unable to retrieve the cup before Voldemort came for it.

Damn Dumbledore and his plans. Even the Hallows hadn't been able to save his friends. With 'Mastery of Death' came only that, death. Harry was alone.

Harry stooped over, the muscles of his back aching in protest. In his twenty-eight years of life, Harry'd accumulated so many wounds and old scars he hardly knew what it was like to live without pain anymore.

The inscription 'I must not tell lies' faded as his memories did. It was of hardly any consequence anymore, except as a way to keep the memory of schooldays spent with his hand stuck in murtlap essence and surrounded by his friends fresh.

Hard gray stone gave way under the pressure of his magical fingers as Harry traced runes in a large circle about himself. When the circuit was complete, he straightened. For many years he'd planned this day. Soon he'd see his friends again, alive and shining like so many beams of light to his eyes.

'This is our last chance Harry...'

'You can do it, mate!'

'Even if he's a child...'

'You have to change this!'

'We're counting on you. Don't let us die again'

'You must...'

Harry paused to take a steadying breath and calm his shaking hands. Finally he moved to stand in the middle of his runic circle, and in quiet voice chanted a soft string of Latin.

There was no dramatic flash of light, nor a sound as Harry Potter disappeared.

---

A small, under-fed five year old boy sobbed in terror as a scary materialized out of the darkness.

For all the horror he'd seen in his short life, the creatures he sawing slipping through the shadows at night still terrified him.

He tried desperately to shift away as it approached where he lay on his depilated cot, but he could not move for the agony of his broken limbs. The peculiar set of his shoulder and elbow gave away his weakness to the scary. Soon it would take advantage of his feebleness and spring upon him.

"Wh-who are you?" he gasped out, voice already raspy from the effects of earlier pain. The menacing figure loomed closer, though he could not make out its face in the gloom. Was this another one of the orphanage bullies? Or was it one of the so-called 'caretakers' come to silence him forever, as sometimes happened with the orphans that ended up too badly beaten.

"I...am no one," the figure answered. "What is your name?"

Unable to hold himself upright any longer, the boy flopped back into the cot. He could see no harm in talking with this stranger. This scary was going to eat him, take him into the dark where he would never again have to face the sunlight in this grey, evil world.

"My nameā€¦Tom Riddle," he answered with a crackling. Some blood was pooling in his throat.

"Are you in pain, Tom?" the quiet, almost kindly voice asked.

Tom almost wanted to glare at the man for asking such a question, but that was not within his emotional power. "Y-yes."

"Who did this to you?"

Again Tom almost didn't want to answer, but something made him speak.

"The older boys, mostly, but the Head b-broke my arm..." Tom wasn't even sure why he was answering the probing questions. He just suddenly felt so relaxed in the presence of the monster. A soothing hand touched his cheek, wiping away crusty old tears and stroking gently through his midnight hair. In that single gesture the supposed monster had shown more kindness than Tom had ever experienced in his life.

"It's time to go to sleep Tom. Soon, all will be well." Tom smiled at the stranger. He felt he could trust the man for the moment, even if he was only too far gone to care.. Slowly his eyes drifted closed. In his dream he could see bright green eyes smiling at him...

---

The muggle newspaper headlines the next morning screamed of an entire orphanage full of children and few adults dying mysteriously in their sleep. They quickly spread fear of a new virulent epidemic among the muggle population. Only briefly was the despicable state of the building and its contents mentioned, deemed not important enough for the general population to dwell on.

Meanwhile, the wizarding world was searching around frantically for the killer who had set off the Unforgivable Detectors in the Ministry no less than seventy times in a single horrid night.

---

Harry opened his eyes to see what changes he had brought about in the world.

He watched, detached, as hundreds of people got down on their knees before him, saluting the all-powerful Dark Lord who had united the entire earth.

Harry closed his eyes again as a tear found its way down his cheek.

He felt like something was missing.

---

EDIT 12/18/2008: Revamped and made somewhat book 7 compliant. A sequel is in the works, though I'm not sure how soon it'll be out.