Author: M. Shadow
Title: Forging the Sword
Pairing: None. (They're twelve, people.)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter isn't mine.
Summary: [Year 2 Divergence] What does it take, to reshape a child? And if reshaped, what then is formed? Down in the Chamber, a choice is made. (Harry's Gryffindor traits were always so much scarier than other peoples'.)
Notes: Because Harry shouldn't have been able to win against the most badass dark wizard of the century by luck and courage alone.
Forging the Sword
Chapter One: Shatter
He looked into Harry's face. "But it makes no difference. In fact, I prefer it this way. Just you and me, Harry Potter… you and me…"
He raised the wand.
Then, in a rush of wings, Fawkes soared back overhead and something fell into Harry's lap – the diary.
For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still in hand, stared at it. Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him.*
Harry had already started to stab down into the diary when Riddle yelled "Wait!"
He wasn't sure what made him hesitate, what nuance of tone in the memory's voice made him pause, fang still held threateningly at ready only centimeters from the diary's surface. Cautiously, he asked, "Why?"
Riddle's voice was completely serious, "Because if you kill me, you kill poor little Ginny as well."
He went still as he glanced from Ginny's motionless body to Riddle's triumphant smirk. "No…"
But God, what if it were true?
"You 're lying," and his voice was edged, hard in a way he'd never realized his voice could be. "That'd be the Slytherin thing to do, wouldn't it? And you're so proudof your Slytherin blood."
"Yes, Harry. It would." The apparition's face was calm. "And I would gladly lie at any time to save my life. But in this case," its voice turned terribly, terribly cruel, "I don't have to."
Riddle took a step forward, and this time Harry could hear the soft footfall as it hit the stone floor. Realizing that, he looked sharply at apparition, stomach beginning to knot. When he'd first entered the chamber, Riddle had seemed somewhat insubstantial, for all that he could hold material objects. But with each minute that passed, Riddle became more solid, more real, as if he moved from another world into this one. Even as he watched, Tom's edges began to sharpen.
The process had to be almost complete.
Then following that thought: When it was done, Ginny would be dead.
What should he do?
Movement snagged his attention as Riddle took another small, sliding step forward. "But speaking of houses, Harry, let's talk about you. How Gryffindor would it be, to kill your best friend's little sister? How noble, to murder an unconscious eleven-year-old girl?"
"No," he snarled back, furious. "That's your specialty." But his attention was focused not on his enemy but on Ginny, and his thoughts were frantic.
He didn't know how to break the charm or bond or whatever it was that was between the two of them. Even if he did, his wand - damn himself for dropping it - was currently in his enemy's possession. He doubted he could wrestle it free without being cursed, unless Riddle's implied threat by holding it was a bluff? But if it was, would he still be able to get it away from the older, taller boy? Would his own curses even affect a magical memory? Would he have to cast it on the diary? And what if that didn't incapacitate Riddle, or what if it did, but the link still remained open and drained Ginny's life away?
It would take at least fifteen minutes for him to get out of the chamber, find someone in charge, convince them to follow him, and get back down here. That left aside problems like having no clue how to get away from Riddle, whether the passageway could be easily cleared, or how to get back up the pipe. No adults knew where they were, nor was there anyone who could be sent for aid - damn Lockhart's useless, treacherous hide – so no help was coming.
No help was coming.
Ginny was going to die.
For one moment, everything in him seized up, rebelling. Refusing. Flat out denying, because bloody hell, little girls with red hair and shy smiles didn't do things like this; didn't die on cold stone floors, a parasite leeching their life away in silence. He wanted to cry. He wanted to fight. He wanted things to be different, damn it, because he didn't know what to do, and a clock was ticking down, and he was desperately afraid, and there was no way out.
(ginny was going to die)
He wanted to scream his defiance. He wanted to lunge for his wand. He wanted to be anywhere but there. He wanted Dumbledore. He wanted answers, wanted a saviour, wanted Tom Riddle's blood, and there was no one with him to give him any of that.
(ginny was going to die)
And there was nothing he could do.
The thought made him go cold, whispering through his mind. It echoed and twisted and caressed and sliced, sinking to his core. It soothed and pried and hurt and it triggered everything that made him who he was, and everything that he hated. It was noon, hiding in the bushes from a gang of bullies, knowing there was no such thing as safety. It was midnight, curled in a cupboard, desperately hungry and cold. It was Christmas morning, watching a world of bright glitter and colour from the outside; and it was Quirrell last year, shrieking as he burned. It was the knowledge that, in the end, there are no heroes, and there are no saviours, and magic doesn't mean miracles, and maybe never did. It was desperation and despair and knowledge, and his grief turned into something colder, his rage to something brighter, something harsher, and in that arctic fire came a familiar resolve.
(because ginny was going to die)
(and there was nothing he could do)
There was nothing warm about it, nothing excited or righteous or adventurous. It was only the silent, bedrock certainty of this must be done and if none else will, I must do it.
It was traces of this cold resolve that, last year, had pushed him into his assertion to Ron and Hermione that he would attempt to stop Voldemort from stealing the stone and resurrecting. The calm of this cold that had allowed him to leave one injured, unconscious friend behind amid a field of shattered rubble, and to send another friend back as safeguard if he died, while he stepped through a wall of purple flames alone. And it was this cold he had wrapped around himself, one pre-dawn morning several days later, as he stared at the lake and pondered his first kill.
Above all else, it was that cold. The one he 'd known alone on a chill morning, known and confronted and accepted, staring at hands that had set flesh to flame.
Gryffindor, they said, was the house of the brave.
He didn't want to make a decision, not when so much was wrong and so little right. He didn't want – had never wanted – power or responsibility or to be a hero. What was a hero, after all, but someone who had suffered so much greater than any others, but was willing still to stand and suffer more?
He didn't want to do this.
But if he was going to, he had to know.
Riddle had been watching him silently, expressionless save for the triumph in his eyes. Eyes that mirrored in hazel Harry's own. Eyes he now met squarely.
"Promise me," he began softly, asking for an oath he'd read months ago, flowery and wordy and antiquated, but binding by the very things that made a wizard special. "Swear by your life and the ancestor's blood you hold so precious, that you are telling me the truth."
The triumph grew stronger. "By my life and Salazar's blood, I am."
He listened to Riddle's level voice, then nodded. "So be it." He lifted his hand as if to cast the fang away-
- Riddle started to slash the wand down -
-and in a blur of movement, he slammed it straight through the middle of the diary.
Harry's Gryffindor traits were always so much scarier than other people's.
Riddle gave a long, piercing shriek and Harry cast away the diary as it bled ink out across his robes and the floor. His enemy was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing, and then he was simply gone. Harry paid little attention other than acknowledging the grimly savage satisfaction he felt over Riddle's pain and death. Right now, he was worried about only one thing.
He crawled over to where Ginny lay, reaching out to touch her skin. He was dimly surprised to notice his hand was shaking.
"Ginny?" He asked, hoping for a moan, a squeak, a breath…
Her unmoving silence made him terrified and hurt and nauseous.
"Ginny?" But the whisper was almost defeated.
And still no response came.
He knew muggles checked pulses - a brief flash of hands at wrist or throat on the telly, stolen glimpses as Dudley watched while he did chores - but he didn't have any idea how. But there were other ways to check. Carefully, he held his hand just above her mouth and nose, hoping above anything to feel a faint flutter against his hand.
He didn't realize he was crying until he realized he could no longer clearly see her face. Didn't notice when it started, but couldn't make himself stop. He huddled on his knees by her cold body, and he cried. Above him, Fawkes was singing low, mournful notes of haunting beauty, but the bird did not fly down and cry for her. Not even a Phoenix's tears, then, could heal a life severed so quickly.
He didn't know how long he cried, but eventually, he became aware of Fawkes' song coming to an end. When silence fell he painfully pushed to his feet. Moving slowly, he gathered up his wand and the diary, rolling the Hat to stuff them in his pockets. He made his way over to the dead Basilisk's head, not flinching as he passed the bloody sockets, silent testaments to Fawkes' skill and courage. Bracing himself, he reached towards the hilt and dragged the sword free.
He wished he could do something for Ginny right now – it didn't seem right to leave her lying there with the Basilisk's corpse and muck and water, not while he took away the instrument of her murder. But he knew no charm that might carry her, and the thought of dropping her body as a levitation charm failed was sickening. He settled for bowing his head to her, and promising quietly to her spirit – wherever it was now – that he would be back.
Then he turned and, dry eyed and with sword in hand, limped slowly out of the chamber.
* Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Paperback. Pg. 346.
Slytherin, the Hat had almost put him in, and his similarity to Slytherin's heir Riddle himself had commented on. But he was beginning to think that this wasn't because he had "un-Gryffindor" qualities that fit only in Slytherin, but because the two houses – normally pictured as opposites – were in some fundamental ways quite similar.
Ravenclaws in battle, he had no doubt, would coolly plan the sacrifice of distant strangers to achieve an important objective, though that cold logic could collapse in the face of sacrificing family instead. Hufflepuffs would sacrifice no one, though it means they sacrifice an objective in its place.
Only Gryffindors and Slytherins were good at sacrificing those they loved.