well, i'm finally back! this has been in the works since before i finished my last story, but i've had a reeeeal hard time getting anything done because of school. i finally had an evening to work on this a little, so i figure i'll get it up and see what you all think. this can be a single chapter story, or i can expand this out for a good while, i have a decently developed idea on where to take this. soooooo, it all depends on you guys - if you like this, then lemme know and i'll try to get working on more (even if it takes me a while v.v). you don't like it, this is all you have to deal with. hope you enjoy it, it's a bit of an unusual mixing of genres.
Fifteen year-old Harry Potter stepped across the threshold of the secret house which was the epicenter of the resistance against Voldemort, his trunk thumping hollowly against the step of number 13 Grimmauld Place as he entered. Any other home of this size, and in this part of London, would have had an improved feel upon entering from the dark and overcast afternoon outside. The black haired youth cast an expressionless gaze around the drab, moldering foyer before letting out a small sigh.
'Same as always…'
The Order guard, relieved of their escort duty, silently filed into the kitchen, presumably to announce their return or to grab a bite of the current house matron's, Molly Weasley's, cooking. Said woman must have been alerted to Harry's arrival, as she materialized in the doorway, apron around her waist as usual and a wooden cooking spoon in her hand. She smiled as she bustled over to Harry, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. Harry would have felt frustrated at the note of pity he saw there, but he was just too tired to worry himself over it.
"Harry dear, it's good to see you made it here safely! Oh dear me, you look so thin, have you been eating? Come on, come on, I'm making soup, I'll get you a bowl," she gave the reluctant youth a crushing hug and made to guide him into the kitchen, but Harry evaded her arm.
"Mrs. Weasley, I'd actually like to lie down for a bit, if it's alright with you," he said evenly. "I'm a bit tired, I haven't had much time to rest…"
"Oh, that's right, I'm sorry dear," she smiled in her motherly way, "I forgot that you were sent right over after arriving at your relatives. Why Dumbledore sent you there at all when you'd just be coming here I'll never know, but he does know best. It's upstairs and on the left, you're bunking with Ron, the children are all upstairs as well." Mrs. Weasley gave Harry a gentle push toward the stairs, but didn't leave until he was up the stairway and out of her sight. The upstairs hall looked no different than the foyer; in fact the whole of Grimmauld Place seemed practically unchanged from when he had first set foot within its desecrated halls around a year ago. It was almost as if the house itself was resisting anything that would remove the ill air that hung inside its walls, or that some foul Presence just out of range of the senses was working tirelessly to revert the cleaning efforts of the residents and withhold the death grip it kept over its domain. Harry rolled his eyes a little as he thought of the motherly woman downstairs; Mrs. Weasley meant well, but he was no longer a child. Not after what he had seen.
'Not after what I'm destined to do,' he added darkly as he opened the door to his sleeping quarters, the prophecy hanging over his head feeling nearly like a dementor to him. Three heads snapped up from their quiet conversation as he paused at the threshold; it was clear from the rather surprised and slightly guilty look on their faces that he was the topic of conversation. Ginny Weasley, the youngest of the read-headed family and the only outsider of the so-called "Golden Trio," seemed to take Harry's arrival as her cue to leave. She passed by him in the doorway with a short "hey Harry," but hesitated and turned to give him a quick, tight hug. With difficulty, Harry withheld his frown as he saw the same pitying look in her eyes that her mother's had held.
"Hi Harry!" Hermione Granger was poor at forcing cheerfulness, he noted. Her smile stretched too much and it didn't reach her eyes.
"Hey mate," Ron Weasley said from where he was perched on the bed. They had just seen each other a few hours ago, and Ron seemed to remember that fact the best if his lackadaisical attitude was anything to go by. Harry gave them both a halfhearted "hey" as he walked to the far side of the room, dropping his trunk down by the bed and seating himself on the windowsill. Silence reigned over the room, stretching for untold seconds that felt far longer.
"Dinner's ready downstairs," Harry intoned quietly. The other two Hogwarts students looked at each other uneasily.
"Harry," Hermione began.
"I'm not hungry, I was thinking of lying down for a while," the black haired teen continued, looking out the window.
"… If you'd like to talk..," she continued slowly, seemingly unaware of the interruption, "about, well…"
"Sirius," Harry spoke quietly and sharply, rounding on the girl, whose eyes had gone comically wide (like Ron's when Voldemort's name was spoken, Harry noted to himself with an inner chuckle of irony), "is dead. You're not a psychologist, 'Mione, and I don't appreciate the intrusion. Excuse me." Harry stood and strode from the room, the adrenaline in his veins banishing all thoughts of sleep from his mind. He had those feelings caged deep inside, and he had no desire to fight those demons any time soon.
"-just trying to help, mate…"
Harry let the voices fade from his thought and ears as he drifted a bit aimlessly through the hallways of the ancient manor. He had few choices to keep him busy – going downstairs was out of the question, as Mrs. Weasley would surely coddle him half to death. He couldn't sleep, he was too awake and his friends would only pester him more if he went back there. Passing a door which was slightly ajar, Harry hesitated, before coming back and nudging it open. A very small smile, one devoid of any real happiness, flitted across his face as he slipped into the library.
The Black library was about twice as deep as it was wide, with long bookshelves that were either black or so filth-encrusted that they appeared to be so. The walls may have once been a rich and striking green interspersed with gold ornamental patterns, but now they were faded with time and neglect until any elegance they may have once held was lost. The room was lit with too few everlasting candles, which were short and misshapen. There was a small reading area in the near corner by a lit fireplace with a few armchairs, but it looked more imposing than inviting, almost as though the fire was cowering within the hearth, and the lack of clean windows left most of the room cloaked in perpetual shadow. Harry grabbed a candle to light his way and lost himself in the shelves, his eyes roaming over the titles indiscriminately.
Harry knew that it was a goal of the Order (at least of Molly Weasley) to remove anything from the library that could be considered "dark," but the sheer number of titles (there were well over a thousand) and the state of near disrepair so many were in made this all but impossible. 'Most of the books in here were lost a long time ago,' Harry thought to himself as he rounded the far end of the shelf and started up the other side. 'Time… it eats all we are, even the knowledge we collect, and the knowledge of who we were…' He did a double take as he saw a (relatively) bright book wedged in between two disintegrating moldering ones. The faded red jacket had drawn his eye, despite the near-rotting books beside it having nearly decomposed around it in a fetid shell. Carefully nudging the rotting mess aside, Harry had to suppress a snort when he saw the fading title on the spine.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Not only was this a grand irony in a place such as this, but this was clearly a muggle book from the looks of it. Harry reached out and gingerly plucked it from the shelf, eyeing it with no small amount of confusion. This was the last kind of title he expected to find here. He curiously flipped the book open, forgetting just how many books in a place like this were likely to be cursed; the book flipped immediately to a page in the middle. Harry jumped a little before realizing that it wasn't magic that caused it, but a small folded piece of parchment wedged in the pages, folded up unevenly. Harry set the book aside and opened up the parchment, once again violating his good sensibilities in touching something in so dangerous a place. This time, however, the consequences were far more dire.
Here follows the final account of Regulus Arcturus Black, youngest son of the Most Noble House of Black. If you should find this, dear reader, than I am dead, and no powers that be are merciful enough to protect me from that which I will endure beyond the Chasm, the Void, the yawning Hungering Dark-
But I digress. Upon completion of this manuscript I shall take my own life. The secrets I take to my grave, should they fall into His hands, are unthinkable… The Dark Lord is but a shadow of the terror I have glimpsed, and should he learn of the deeper magics, the Power from the Stars, the world itself will be ripped asunder as They are freed… R'yleh will rise from the deep, the dead dreaming priest will wake! The Great Depths will meet the surface and The Thing That Should Not Be will consume the light of the sun! All will be shapeless, formless, gnawing, biting, evil, nyggsthotha fhyll nyh kha! Whn kishf'h k'yth y'ythsahg! I shudder to think of the horror that will be released should the Dark Lord throw open the doors of this world to the Great Old Ones…
Listen closely, dear reader. The Dark Lord Voldemort has created no less than five horcruxes, pieces of his own soul torn away and stored in physical objects. He may be planning to make more, though I do not wish to know the mind of a madman – what I know is madness enough! The powers I fear most see no opposition to this, time and space as we know it means nothing to them, they are everywhere and nowhere, dead and alive and awake and dreaming-
Forgive me, my time draws near, I hear the voices in the walls, I feel the gnawing darkness coming for me. I delved too deeply into the forbidden knowledge, and they have SEEN me, they KNOW me now, and there is no escape. Dear reader, in this library where I store this last account of my final moments, hidden behind the portrait you want least to look at, is a secret room containing the foulest and blackest of tomes to grace this planet since the lizardmen of old fell before their hellish idols and cried out to the stars in their evil tongues, as well as the one single horcrux I was able to locate and secret away.. I implore you to destroy these books, the horcrux, and this account with them! They must never be used, the power is too great, the knowledge too terrible for any man to wield! Destroy them and stop the Dark Lord from bringing the throne of the Old Ones crashing down upon us! The password is 'Cthulhu fhtagn.'
I see them here, I feel them… only minutes now, it is forming! G'hstak mnothhga v'yal! Fhr gashhk r'lakfh n'gostggha ngg! Kshh! Kshh! Ks-----
The message ended as though the writer was interrupted, either to hide it quickly or for a far more sinister reason. Harry was shaking as he lowered the note, his breathing coming in short gasps. 'A secret message in the least likely book to look behind the least likely painting.' He glanced around furtively, hoping he was only imagining the unpleasant crawling feeling up his spine, but dismissed it quickly if only for the sake of his sanity. What drew his attention far more was the description of Voldemort and what he had done.
'He split his soul?!' the young man thought to himself, leaning against the half-bare shelf behind him. 'What does that mean for me? How do I fight him?' A look of complete horror dawned on his face as the implications began to make themselves clear. 'Is this why he didn't die when he tried to kill me? Is this why he could come back, because not all of him left this world?' Harry hugged his arms around himself in despair.
'I can't win… Even if I kill him, he'll just come back…' Harry lifted the note and re-read it, thinking over his options. He decided the smartest course of action would be to find the horcrux in the library, then turn it over to Dumbledore. The elderly man would be able to take it from there.
Another part of him spoke up unbidden as he remembered the prophecy. 'This is your burden,' it reminded him. 'Dumbledore can't kill him, only you can. You have to kill him, body mind and soul. It's your destiny.' The Order guard required for him to move, the pitying glances, the intrusive words all flickered through his mind. Harry's face hardened and he set off to view the picture in the library, his mission clear. He would find the soul fragment and destroy it himself. He would prove to everyone that he wasn't a child, that he could carry his destiny on his own shoulders.
A single trip around the perimeter of the room yielded nothing, though. Harry frowned in confusion; all the pictures were magical, and none of them seemed out of place. They were all pictures of Black ancestors, in fact.
'Magic,' his inner voice reminded him. 'If it's the picture I least want to look at, what if I'm being compelled to look away?' Armed with a new theory, Harry placed his hand to the faded wallpaper and set off on another lap. On the left wall, all the way back near the back wall, his hand hit something that his eyes had not detected. Forcing himself to look at his hand, Harry saw the dull yellow picture frame that was in plain view the whole time. He stepped back and forced himself to look, wondering if light was bending away from this spot of if his mind was being tricked to ignore what was here.
The painting was faintly… repulsive. That was the only word Harry could use to explain it. A city was rising from a sickly green ocean, but none of the buildings looked quite right, as though the lines didn't quite line up. The spires and pinnacles were like nothing he'd ever seen, and they were covered in thick, ropey, bluish-greenish black seaweed that Harry just knew would smell horrible. The crowning horror though was the building in the center of the city; a coffin-like structure which was cracked yawningly open in a think inky black line that stretched up for miles. Reaching out from the darkness was a translucent arm that almost seemed to move, fading in and out of solidity and fluidity and reality as it reached high into the sky. The lines could not be real, Harry thought (and hoped), but they bent and stretched at impossible angles as the great clawed hand groped and blotted out the sun. Harry shivered as he felt that horrid feeling again, the creeping fear, but he steeled himself and looked down to read the password.
"C-… Cuth-… C-Cthulhu… fht-.. fhtagn? Cthulhu fhtagn."
The guttural sounds were harsh at first, but almost seemed to hold some underlying coherency, and Harry felt just a little more confident in his ability after successfully pronouncing something that he guessed most people could not catch so quickly.
His thoughts were cut short as the painting clicked and swung forward, revealing a very small and cramped room about seven or eight feet wide and deep. There was a single wooden table and chair, dusty but well preserved, with a candle burning atop it. The only other object was a bookshelf on the back wall with one shelf about chest high and filled with tomes of all sizes, from inches thick to rope-bound collections of loose paper. Harry hesitated only a moment before stepping in and pulling the painting closed behind him. He approached the shelf and leaned in to examine. None of the books held titles, but small scraps of old parchment were stuck below each one on the shelf as impromptu labels.
A medium length tome: De Vermis Mysteriis.
A gathering of loosely bound parchment: Pnakotic Manuscripts.
Another tome: Book of Eibon.
A set of nine similarly shaped volumes: Revelations of Glaaki.
A very thick book: Al Azif, Necronomicon.
A thinner one: Unaussprechlichen Kulten.
A small notebook: Zegrembi Manuscript.
Harry spotted a small charm necklace laying at the end of the shelf, adorned with snakes in the shape of an 's.' He went to reach for the presumed horcrux, but quickly drew his hand back after realizing he was both unsure of its power and unsure of how to destroy it. Perplexed, Harry scanned the note again, looking for some kind of clue. His eyes widened a little as he re-read a line he had paid little attention to before.
'… the power is too great…'
'… but he will have a power the Dark Lord knows not…'
A smile slowly spread across Harry's face. He had work to do.