Author's notes: What to say? Let me be candid from the get and put out there that if you've found your way to this story on account of Fire of Life (my shamefully abandoned first attempt at fanfiction), thanks, but you shouldn't expect anything like that. In fact let's say that was my Jim Henson Muppets, family friendly version of a Harry Potter fanfiction. What I've got here in Dark Respite is much closer to my Frank Miller Sin City, wait till the kids are in bed version of a Harry Potter fanfiction – as evidenced by the mature rating.
Inevitably some will be offended by the violence and foul language, and while I don't apologize for this I certainly understand. Hell, I'll even look forward to whatever criticisms such offended folk might care to offer.
I am, after all, an admitted feedback whore!
Updates should come at about a chapter per week basis. Thanks go to Lisa725 for her exquisite beta skills.
Chapter 1 – Dark Respite
It's a trap, and I know it. But it's kind of like drinking a mouthful of spoiled milk. You can smell trouble beforehand, yet you still manage to take a swig. Well, it smells like stewed ass in here, so I guess I've got no room for complaints.
Voldemort's new digs are the standard Death Eater affair: dark, damp, and dreary — the three "d's" of dungeon design. I hear them coming for me up ahead, boots on a stone floor. You'd think these guys had never heard of trainers.
The first Death Eater around the corner is so surprised to see me he just freezes. His bad. "Extraho Pectus!" Silly arse watches his heart fall off the top of his boots before he has the good sense to fall down. From the look on his face I'd say the sight really got his blood pumping, if the pump weren't a stain on the floor. The next two go just as easily, and so will the rest. It helps when they know, and you know, and they know you know that they can't kill you; it's a fringe benefit of being almost immortal.
Only Voldemort can kill me — and I him. Today is the day that we get our opportunity to try. Tom said he'd write the book on "worse things then death" with me. It was a fine novel; I'm here to write the epilogue.
But this is the end of the story, and there's no reward without some work. Trust me, I'm an expert in the field. So cue the third person narrative, and let's spy in on the Dursley household one last time. Poor bastards. May they rest in peace.
The drive home had been surprisingly quiet. McGonagall had seen to it that the Dursleys were there to pick Harry up at Kings Cross. Whether or not the newly instated Headmistress had done so to ensure the blood magic one last time, if she even knew about the blood magic, or because she just didn't know what else to do, Harry didn't care. All that mattered was getting through this inconvenience for last time and finally ridding himself of Privet Drive, its hand-me-downs, insipid residents, and that bloody closet under the stairwell. There was no way for him to know exactly how long it took for the magic to renew, but seeing as how Dumbledore had taken him from the Dursleys after only four days the summer previous, Harry saw no reason to stay a moment longer. As far as he was concerned, it would be four days to prepare for the rest of the unknown life that lay ahead.
At the least, Harry figured he owed the Weasleys a stop in before beginning his search for the remaining Horcruxes. Besides, he'd be willing to wager more than a few quids his surrogate family would enlist a Ministry-wide manhunt should he off and disappear without a word; that was the last thing he needed. After the Burrow, well, the plan grew a bit hazier. Despite he and Dumbledore's multiple forays into the History of all things Riddle, the fieldtrips had provided very little in the way of direction. That was, of course, the tremendous shortcoming of the old man's cryptic teaching style. Knowledge earned through guided discoveries was well and all, but now that his guide had taken a lifeless dive off the Astronomy Tower Harry was about as well off as a pig on a mountain.
"Bring your freeloadin' arse down here at once, Potter!"
Where would life be without the constants? The sun rises, the Chudley Canons never win, and Dursleys will always be wankers — particularly any of the Vernon persuasion.
Harry intentionally took his time descending the stairs. With any luck, he'd get a peek at that infamous forehead vein. It wasn't till he rounded the bottom step that a familiar cold chill made its way up the back of his neck. The sort of tingle that had never been wrong before, and usually meant a trip to the hospital wing would soon be in order. He brought the tip of his wand to his fingertips, concealing the rest along his forearm.
"Sweet Nancy, I haven't got all day? Move along! One of those freaks is here for you." Vernon moaned. Indeed the vein was threatening to evict itself from the fat man's forehead.
"Rubbish, Potter. Take your time. I'd rather savior this moment."
Unfortunately, Harry couldn't draw his eyes from the large, hooked nose and greasy hair for him to notice.
"I thought I smelled something dead," Harry said.
"Hmm…or perhaps fear is confusing your senses," Snape replied coolly. "Let's say we have a look?"
Harry had his wand forward in an instant, but Snape's self-satisfied smirk made him pause with the curse still on his lips.
"I could always count on your predictability. Now would I really go and perform magic in front of a Muggle? Why, that would be in violation of Ministry law."
"And here I thought that one of us had gone off and murdered someone. It must be the law-abiding side of your two faces here today," Harry said, seething.
"You put that foul thing away in my house!" The vein made its presence known. A flash of red, a painful looking fall through the setting table, and just that quickly the vein departed. There was a moment's pause while Harry took in what Snape had done. They exchanged a glare — well, Harry glared and Snape smirked. As soon as realization set in Harry lunged wildly toward Snape. Though his wand was still in hand, the desire to grasp that greasy neck overwhelmed logical thought. There was a purple flash of light at the moment he felt the object of his desire. The next thing he saw was the Dursley's ceiling, until everything went black.
"Then again, maybe we're not so concerned with the law after all, eh, Potter."
The light of consciousness returned slowly and was met quickly by a wrenching pain in the forehead.
"Harry Potter, a year has passed since our last encounter. Circumstances aside, it appears time has treated you well."
"Wish I could say the same, Tom. You still look like shit run over," Harry said from the floor.
The smug look on Voldemort's pale face flickered for a moment. "Perhaps your fall rattled that frail mind more than you realize young Potter. One should take stock of their situation before slighting their captor. Maybe a query to your Muggle family will assist you."
Voldemort turned and crossed the room as Harry forced himself to sit up. On the couch the three Dursleys sat unmoving — frozen even — though their eyes gaped open with shock. Harry shuffled to bring himself to his feet but was met with a hard boot to the head, rightly returning the Dursley ceiling to view.
"Don't get antsy, Potter. Your turn will come soon enough."
Harry's sight blurred as his eyes filled with water. Still he attempted to follow the leg of the boot that now rested on his chest up to the face of his attacker. The indistinct figure leaned over to bring his face right in front of Harry's.
"No matter how many times I do that, it's never any less satisfying," Draco Malfoy said with a sneer.
"Draco, don't get too overzealous. Potter must remain conscious for the time being," Snape drawled as he too came into Harry's line of sight.
They must give out smug looks as a door prize in Slytherin, because they were coming in surplus today. Harry didn't even have to look over to Voldemort to know the third in a matching set was etched onto his face. The thought made Harry's blood boil at a rate to match the pain in his scar. Yet as far as he could tell, he was powerless to do anything about it.
Unable to sit up with Malfoy's boot still in his chest, he could only turn his head and watch from floor as Voldemort took a seat on the couch next to the three Dursley-pops. The shift in the seat cushion caused Dudley's portly body to fall stiffly onto the floor. The look on his face didn't change: His eyes were still wide open and staring directly at Harry.
"Ah, it appears we have a volunteer," Voldemort said, almost with a coo.
It took every bit of will for Harry to tear his sight away from his cousin's empty face and look up to Voldemort. As if out of thin air thirteen and a half inches of Yew wood presented itself, "Imperio." Voldemort stared at his new puppet, conveying an unspoken command. Just like that Dudley's body animated, and he rose to his feet; yet his face still remained unchanged.
"We could go through all the pomp and circumstance of making you select who dies first, Potter. But then we have to put up with all the, I won't choose, you can't make me. Of course I'd then be obligated to prove that I could indeed make you. Which, requisitely, is followed by you cursing me and mine to the sorts of, I'll get you even if I die trying." Voldemort made a show of exhaling. "Really who has the time or desire for it all? No I think we'll just kill your family, let you watch, and then get around to finishing the last thing this worthless world might believe could stand in my way — no matter how ridiculous that really is."
Voldemort's face hardened, and Harry saw his thin lips move. It's hard to imagine such a high screeching voice speaking words that seemed to hang in the air forever; nonetheless, it was in just that fashion Harry's mind registered the Dark Lord's command: "Kill your family, Muggle." And he watched as Dudley, without hesitation, walked over to Vernon and Petunia and snapped both their necks.
Harry waited for a response to stir in him, for the visceral pain to strike him down. But all he could think on was why that way, why break their necks? Had it been Voldemort's will, unspoken yet demanded through the curse? Or was it Dudley's own creation, the first manner that came to his fat cousin's mind to fulfill his putrid task. Harry looked at Dudley. The boy's face vacant but for a solitary tear that fell down his cheek.
Voldemort watched unflinchingly as Harry battled with his thoughts. He waited for the emotional break to come, as it always did. But not this time. Eventually, Harry's stare turned to the Dark Lord, and it matched the cold, hate-filled glare that Voldemort's red eyes set upon the boy. Voldemort smiled.
"Yes, my lord."
"Kill the spare."
Harry's heart erupted. Emotions filled him at such a rate that his body and mind couldn't compensate, and for a moment he felt consciousness slip away. Eventually, the explosion formed to a steady pound in his head. The pound of one dominating, sharp sentiment. He wouldn't watch Dudley be murdered, for damn sure not like this.
As soon as Snape turned to Dudley, Harry knew he had to move. Channeling every bit of hate that consumed him he kicked up at Draco and struck a blow that gave reason to doubt for the future proliferation of the Malfoy bloodline.
One Slytherin down, two to go.
Unfortunately, he only got that far on his checklist. Snape's spell struck Dudley dead just as Harry's fist landed against the traitor's face. It was then that Harry heard several very loud cracks, though each seemed to come from inside his head rather than out. He realized the broken bones were his own when he found himself flying through the air, struck soundly by Voldemort's curse. The blow had broken two ribs on his right side, and he knew that he'd have a matching set on his left as soon as he arrived at his appointment with the approaching wall.
There it was again, a nice view of the Dursley's ceiling.
At least Malfoy obliged him with a howling yelp of pain that he couldn't quite muster on his own. It was hard enough to breathe with broken ribs much less verbalize the pain. He did manage to cough up a nice gob of blood though.
"Your petulance never ceases to astound me Potter." Voldemort smirked. "It's such a pleasant change of pace from Dumbledore's incessant chattering. A shame really; such disposition would be prize amongst my followers."
Another spurt of blood spewed from Harry's mouth and caused him to choke. It was all he could manage not to pass out from the painful coughing fit that resulted. At least he could still hear Malfoy crying openly in the background, it was enough incentive to keep conscious.
"Well, I believe we've overextended our welcome, Severus. To be honest, the residents here are horrible hosts. What say you? Shall we relieve Harry of their crude accord?
"Yes my Lord, quite gracious of you." Snape's muffled reply came through the hand nursing his jaw.
Harry watched through bleary eyes as Voldemort's sallow figure came to stand over him. The red eyes of his nemesis glared at him. The smug look of victory gone, replaced with hateful intent.
Voldemort raised his wand once more, though Harry never heard the words — everything went black.
The body was first in queue to report with Harry's mind as he slowly came to. Suffice it to say his body wasn't recommending another ride on the Voldecoaster any time soon. In fact after that report, if he'd had a choice in the matter Harry would have been quite happy to black out again. However, body report complete and off to play xylophone with his broken ribs, the rest of his senses wanted their equal parts.
It only took him a moment to figure out he was lying on his back again. At first thought, he was happy to notice it wasn't the Dursley's ceiling that occupied his vista. But as his sight registered its own report, he realized the new view wasn't a change for the better.
The ceiling that currently occupied his view was dark and damp and made of stone — your typical dungeon-ess type of view. So it wasn't a surprise when Harry turned his head to see the stone architecture also comprised the walls and floor. He was apparently in the dungeons of some sort of castle — that is if Hogwarts' dungeons were to be considered an accurate template for how such things were. Of course the floor he was uncomfortably set on was cold…and wet. His nose was happy to report that the obligatory smell of mildew fragranced the air.
Harry rolled over and foced himself to stand, despite his body's ardent complaints. It was then he found himself the center of attention. Somebody cue the spotlight, he thought.
"Good evening, Potter. I do hope you had a pleasant nap."
"Yeah, Riddle, I'm feeling quite refreshed, thank you." Harry noticed his voice had a sick wheeze to it. "On to sherry and giggles now, I'm sure." A mouthful of blood allowed him the opportunity to spit a nice exclamation to his slight.
Voldemort's face hardened. "I will enjoy watching your demise, if only to see that insolent spirit broken."
"No worries, Tom. Even if you already know I'm going to say it, I am going to kill you and every last one of your Death Eaters. Until then, you'll just have to put up with my insolence."
"Indeed, seeing how you're in just the position to do so. We are all right here after all." Voldemort motioned around him. Fuck all, if there wasn't every last Death Eater present. "But alas, don't you just love the old man's interjections…there are worse things than death, Harry." Voldemort smiled wickedly.
At the mention of Dumbledore, Harry's eyes immediately searched out and found Snape. The arse wasn't ashamed to provide a smug look of pride for the recognition either. Harry didn't look away from Snape as he addressed Voldemort.
"You're right, Tom. You could be a spineless coward all your life. Alone. Hated by everyone you've ever respected and a puppet for whoever was left to have you." Like bleach to a stain, that wiped the smile clean off of Snape's face.
Voldemort witnessed the interaction and smiled again. "You could have made a great Death Eater indeed, Potter. If only I hadn't killed both your parents, your aunt and uncle, your cousin…did I miss anyone?" He wasn't a bastard for nothing. "Oh yes, the old fool. Well I didn't really kill him, but somehow I don't think the semantics will matter much to you."
"Shut your mouth you son of bitch!" Harry threw composure to the wind. "Having your do boy kill him only proves you knew you could never be as great a wizard as he was!"
"Great wizard? Great! If that weren't such an ignorant statement, I'd think it a joke! Dumbledore was a fool! The fact you, of all people, cannot recognize it only proves you're an idiot!" Voldemort snapped.
As Harry opened his mouth to respond, he was flung against the wall violently by the swish of Voldemort's wand. Instead of words, his mouth eschewed a coppery, acidic mixture of blood and vomit. Through bleary eyes Harry watched the as the Dark Lord glided across the dungeon to him. Voldemort pinned the boy to the wall and held himself so near that Harry could feel the monster's cold skin beneath his robes. He smelled like spoiled meat, and it took all Harry had to contain his heightened urge to retch.
"A fool at best, Potter. But just between you and me, I think he was senile, doddering, and feeble-minded," Voldemort said, breathing into Harry's ear. "." He pulled his head back so that Harry could see his face. "You know, a few wizarding cards short of a full deck; three Bertie Bot's short of every flavor." Voldemort circled his finger at his temple as he released Harry and stepped away. "Simply put, Dumbledore was a fool," Voldemort announced. "Only that could explain the utter fallibility of his last years. Senescence must be the only plausible excuse for the insult he became as an adversary. The great Dumbledore, hah. I would have dispatched of him sooner had I not overestimated his abilities. In the end, all it took was a child."
Harry fell to the damp stone, gasping at air that felt like lava in his chest. "He knew what Malfoy was doing. Dumbledore's only mistake was hoping for an ounce of humanity in that bastard. It was the same mistake he made with you as well." Harry wheezed.
"Is that supposed to be an explanation? Your worthless attempt to defend that old man is as distasteful as his meager existence. It is because of Dumbledore that you were eleven years behind the rest of your peers. Because of Dumbledore, you had to live with those filthy Muggles – and make no pretense that you held an opinion of them to the contrary. Because of Dumbledore, the truth of your connection to me was held from you until two years past. And because of Dumbledore, you find yourself here now, exposed, unprotected, and incapable of defending yourself on the eve of your demise. If I were capable, Potter, I would pity you."
"None of this is his fault. This is your doing and none other!" Yet as the implications of Snape's treachery sunk in from what Voldemort had revealed, Harry couldn't help but doubt his own words. "This is your fault, Riddle, from the very first of it!" Harry confirmed.
"Well I have been a busy little bee," Voldemort chided. "But all this babble about decrepit old men and finger pointing bores me. We both know in the end all that matters is that Dumbledore is dead, and Potter "the savior" is on to worse things. Curse connections; blood protection, which incidentally doesn't do you much good as it was your own blood that helped resurrect me; the lot of it — all rubbish now. The Prophecy, now therein lays the reason for the breath left in your broken body." Voldemort steepled his fingers in front of his face and cocked his head slightly to the side. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me, Harry, or shall we do this the hard way?"
Harry raised his head and summoned the most hateful glare he could manage. "You were born a bastard, one whose whore mother had to poison a Muggle to get him to bed her, the same mother who then left you alone and unwanted. I would pity you, if you weren't such a sick fuck!" Harry happily spat another mouthful of blood at Voldemort. "I think that covers it."
Voldemort's entire body went rigid, and his eyes narrowed so tightly that they almost seemed to shut. It was the exaggerated wave of his wand that proved otherwise. "Legilimens!" Voldemort hissed loudly.
The spell hit Harry like a freight train, and instantly he felt Voldemort's presence flooding in through his scar. There was no bracing himself against the intrusion, no hope for bearing the assault. As soon as it began Harry felt as if he'd been struck with a cruciatus curse concentrated inside his head.
Then the memories began to pour forward: Quirrell attacking him, the battle with the Basilisk, the graveyard and Voldemort's resurrection, the Department of Mysteries and Voldemort possessing him, the Dursleys and Voldemort killing Dudley.
"This is only the beginning of your pain, Harry. When I'm done with you, death will be the sole desire left in your broken existence. You'll beg for it, and only when that very moment arrives will I deny you release. There are worse things than death, indeed Potter, and I'm going to write the book on it with you."
The pain inside his head doubled, which seemed quite impossible. Suddenly, he could feel his body again, and it wasn't a good thing. Something warm ran down the side of his head, from his ear he decided. He was choking, and it only exasperated the pain in his ribs. Slowly, he regained sight and sound – only to see the pool of blood dripping from his ear and to hear his own screaming fill the room.
"So many different ways to make you suffer, Potter. Which to choose, which to choose?"
Harry wanted to concentrate; he wanted to focus on fighting back. But aside from the blood leaving his head, there was nothing else he could clear from his mind. The only thought was that this was just the beginning, and Voldemort was just toying with him.
Then it started, though only flashes at first: Dumbledore's office, the pensieve, and the broken trinkets and knick-knacks. He heard Dumbledore's apology, and the intensity of the Voldemort's presence increased. Sybil Trelawny's visage stared at him as clear as if she were in the room. Her lips began moving, but no words could be heard. Harry wondered for a moment if Voldemort were capable of taking this memory from him without him even knowing. Then he felt cold, soft fingers digging hard against each side of his head.
"Give it to me Potter! Your struggle is in vain. I…will…have…it." Voldemort strained.
Harry heard Voldemort, and this time it wasn't from inside his head.
Trelawny's image smeared with that of Dumbledore in his memory and Voldemort in front of him. The boundaries of memory, reality, and consciousness blurred.
"…he will have power the Dark Lord knows not." Trelawny's voice pitched like a warped record. "…neither can live…with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord."
Harry felt Voldemort's grip around his head weaken, and the room flashed in and out of view. The searing in his head subsided just enough for him to think on his own. His only thought was, this is gonna hurt!
Harry struggled to find his sense of balance as he reached forward with both hands. He could clearly make out Voldemort's face in front of his own, though everything outside of that was still blurred. Feet found floor at the same moment his hands found their way behind Voldemort's head. Transferring his weight as far back as he dared, Harry cocked his head away from Voldemort and then swung forward with all the force he could manage. Directly at the clearest object in view: Voldemort's face.
The loud crack of forehead to nose was heard as much as felt. Now came the dreaded delay. Body tells brain what's hurt, brain tells body how much pain that adds up to, body cues nerves to start dancing an angry jig. It hurts — a lot.
By the time Harry's got enough of his wits about him to make sense of things, Malfoy's foot had returned to its adopted home, firmly planted in his chest. At this point, Harry didn't care. Without a wand or hope of rescue, even dumb luck was a lost cause now.
Malfoy leaned in close to Harry's head. "Stay with us Potter. It's almost my turn, and I'm dying of anticipation. I'd hate to have to wait any longer for you. You'll be a good lad and scream for me, right?"
In what was becoming a theme for the day, Harry had to view the scene around him from the floor. Several Death Eaters were crowded together on the opposite side of the room, around Voldemort he decided. Only bits of the jumbled talk could be heard, but most was along the lines of, "kill the boy" or "torture Potter."
As unlikely as it seemed, it was Voldemort's soft hiss that Harry heard the clearest. "To Malfoy and then the Dementors." His voice was strained, but that detail was lost on Harry. All that he could think on was Voldemort's last words, and no matter all of the reasons he had to hold out hope for having heard wrong he knew it just wasn't the case.
Malfoy's smirk returned fully. "You two, place the prisoner in the restraints." Draco commanded Death Eaters that were at least his father's peers as if he'd been doing it all his life. "It's for your own safety, Harry," Malfoy said. "No permanent damage. That was the only condition of my reward. You are to be my personal whipping post for the next evening. You should feel honored. After delivering the old fool to my lord, he granted me the freedom to claim any reward I sought, even so much as taking my father's former position. Tempting, but I can get there on my own. I asked to be the one who kills you." Draco made an exaggerated show of sighing. "Sometimes even a Malfoy doesn't get everything he wants. It's not often, but it happens."
Harry listened to Draco as the Death Eaters chained him to the wall. He took in everything Malfoy said in hope of hearing something that might contradict the impending curtain call he had with the Dementors. All he came out with was the hope that Malfoy would fall prey to his shortcomings once again and kill him in rash.
There were worse things than death, and having your soul raped by a fucking wraith was number one on Harry's list.
The festivities were kicked off by Draco poorly one-lining, "This is going to hurt you much more than me Potter." Another failed attempt at pulling of the, I'm-a-witty-young-dark-lord-in-training persona. Harry nicely trumped it by pointing out that Malfoy not only acted like a bitch but sounded the part after his recent testicular trauma. You know, just to stir the pot.
It was a long night, smattered with cuts and lashings, and punctuated by several variations of the Cruciatus Curse. Malfoy was creative — Harry had to give him that. However, none of it would compare to what was waiting, and he knew it. He'd taunted Malfoy until he was no longer capable, but the boy had maintained his composure and not killed him.
Bringing someone back from the edge of consciousness, they say that a cold bucket of water will do the trick. Let it be known for the record that this is a distant second option to a room full of Dementors. Albeit a less convenient choice, Harry roused with such expedience you'd think he got brained by a glacier.
Beaten, alone, and facing his greatest fear, the wraiths caught the scent of Harry's suffering like a fine cuisine. One at a time they took their turn, slowly working themselves to a frenzy. There was no long speech, no posturing or rituals, just the cold. Harry heard his mother's screams, watched Sirius' death, and then felt the fabric of his soul ripped from his body.
Malfoy got his scream. Voldemort wrote the last chapter of his book. Harry was now The-Boy-Who-Lost.