Harry whipped down the halls of Azkaban traveling deeper into the prison. Ron would free whoever they needed, his job was a little more…delicate. Dementors were a liability, he doubted anyone truly understood how dangerous they would be if given free rein. Riddle maybe, but Riddle killed a man he'd never met and his family in cold blood at the age of fifteen so his judgment was… iffy.
Contrary too popular belief Dementors were not renegade ghosts, or vampires who'd been corrupted beyond the norm, they weren't monsters like manticores or cockatrices, and they were in no way like Inferi. No, Dementors were actually a single entity. It was a little known fact that Azkaban was controlled by the goblins before it was used as a prison. An even lesser known detail was that the before the goblins possessed it the isle was a citidal controlled by the a viscious Warlock known only as the Earl of Demise. There was an accident during the late fifteen century and the dementors began appearing.
The true story was that the Earl was bested by one of the greatest Sorcerors, one who history attempted over and over to forget. The wizard went by the name of Alhazred, and He was the darkest of all magicians. Darker than Riddle, Gellert, Kimball, Tizoc, and all rest of the modern Dark Artists combined. The man never died and never lost but one day he just got up and walked into hell voluntarily, hand and hand with Satan.
Alhazred destroyed the Earl's mind, Mummified his still living body and sealed the man in a chamber far below the rest of Azkaban. He flooded the chamber with supersaturated saltwater and summoned several demons of despair to torment his foe for all eternity before freezing the prison and sealing the iced vault.
Years later, dementors appeared all over the island, attacking any who approached and reducing them to husks. The dementors where a creation of the Earl. When he'd been alive he could conjure secondary bodies that bore his likeness and acted as his minions. Now that he was sealed below Azkaban frozen in a salt solution frozen at impossibly cold temperatures his copies bore his likeness: devoid of blood, eyes, organs, and emitting freezing cold like their original. The Dementors prowled over the Island hunting anyone who came near it's shores. Eventually they stopped attacking people long enough for someone to communicate with the monsters and the rest is common history. Dementors escaped to the mainland eating away peoples feellings and emotions vainly trying to enjoy life again and ripping out the souls of those who succumbed to their kiss. The Dementor's kiss was not an in-survivable death sentence, it was far worse. It ruined your will to live. The experience of the kiss was described by the priest who survived it as: "It forced all the misery, sorrow, and despondency of the world into my mind and then offered to take my soul out of the body in a painless suicide in order to avoid living in a truly miserable joyless world."
The priest was one of the few recorded survivers of the Dementors kiss. The only ones who avoided the kisses effects had been not merely religious, but radically religious in their devotion. Their fear and/or love of god overrode their desire to avoid misery in a guaranteed painless suicide.
Harry had come to the Island to free prisoners and make a stand against Riddle, but his primary concern was destroying the immortal Earl and removing Alhazred's influence from the Island fortress... after which he prayed the demons would leave to find victims elsewhere. Harry knew he was by no means strong spiritually but he was far from succumbing to despair and hopefully the demons would hunt other people who didn't have his desire to live before stalking him and slowly breaking him down later when he was already at a low point.
Honestly he wasn't sure which of the horrible options was worse, but he knew that leaving the Dementors alive was even more foolish than destroying them and facing the consequences.
"I can do this..." Harry muttered as he looked at the black slab of ice that sat inlaid within the wall in front of him. He took a deep breath and exhaled while forming a circle of flaming symbols on the ice.
"...Heaven help me I can do this." With that said to reinforce his will Harry laid his hand on the slab of ice, and closed his eyes as flames burning brighter than magnesium, and several hundred times hotter exploded out of his hand and began eating through the ice.
It was slow work but the ice slab actually continued down a spiral staircase and as Harry walked down the steps evaporating/sublimating away the barrier in front of him he realized exactly how cold the core of the prison must be. Finally the stairs ended and the light of his flaming drill illuminated the ice filled cavern he was steadily melting his way into. Within the icy wall in front of him, behind sheets of ice harder than diamond, he could see the coffin, chained and covered in seals.
As Harry ran through his mind calculating what he could use to kill the prisoner without freeing it, he felt the cold slimy fingers of legimency trailing over his mental sheilds.
"Quite the Occlems aren't you, Little Magician." Harry tensed and lashed out violently at the source of the telepathic message. If the eerie foreign laughter that rang through his head was any indicator it was safe to assume he hadn't hurt the intruder.
"To think after all these years. The one who found my prison is the same sad crying brat that fainted from the presence of my weak shades."
Harry felt his ire rise up through his growing fear.
"So arrogant. You actually think you're better? Than me? than the Snake?"
"I don't think I'm better, I know it!" There was silence for a moment and then laughter ripped through his mind.
"Your arrogance is astounding. You've made it here to the cell of a man long forgotten by time... but in reality you found nothing, the man who did the searching wasn't you it was Grindelwald. You've done nothing, you can do nothing. You've gained power you don't deserve, skills you never worked for and experience that other people died to gain. And In the end you are still nothing but a errand boy for the dead."
Harry glared through the ice at the coffin containing his accuser.
"Scary. I'm terrified. Let me give you some advice child, your confidence is unfounded, your opponent is far better than you assume he is. Gellert had knowledge of the forbidden, Kimball has cruelty, but Riddle is more dangerous than both of them."
Part of Harry halfheartedly tried to ignore the thing's words, but he was curious. He wouldn't ask but if the dying man was going to give him advice... well how much could it hurt?
"Why ?" His question was a both verbal and a growl, two things he hadn't intended.
"Simple. He's more powerful and intelligent than you believe. But, his true strength is in his own fragile mind. He's butchered his soul, and in many ways his mind. He's unpredictably insane. He plans methodically and carefully, but he's torn. He follows patterns and randomly acts on instinct. He could offer alliance or torture in the same moment. He's reckless with his resources. He's Vindictive and most important he is obsessive."
"The same could be said about my Aunt Marge's bulldog, so what?" Harry snapped.
"You're truly an incorrigible ignorant child."
Muttering a focusing chant he whipped the Elder wand around him summoning flaming runes schemes from his mind while he sliced his hand open and let the blood flow out freely until the wound stitched itself closed.
"Sorry" Harry said speaking to the coffin in the ice. "Nothing personal but you need to die." Without another word he pointed his wandtip at his victim and the blood he'd spilled burned away as the runes floated to attach to his wand. For a moment nothing happened and then gold flames burst from his wand, plowing through the solid icy barrier like it was made of smoke. True Gubraithian Fire, burning ceaselessly, destroyed the entire underground chamber, But as Harry bolted up the stairs eager to evacuate before the whole area caved in he heard the eerie telepathic voice of the Earl calling out in insane amusement.
"You two are the same! Hopeless!"
He sprinted up the steps and into the dungeon level of the citadel mere moments later. After leveling out of the staircase he turned and flew down the halls searching for his partner.
He didn't have to look long, about eighty seconds later he arrived at a caved in section section of the prison where Ron and a swarm of gigantic hawks burning with the flames of Horus were protecting a group of prisoners while holding off thirty Guards.
Harry observed the conflict for a moment before he roused himself to action. With a stabbing of his wand he fired out a shockwave of crimson energy accompanied by a blast that sounded like someone firing a dozen cannons.
The shockwave ripped through the air and sent the Prison Guards and Ron crumbling to the floor like puppets that had their strings cut.
Without pausing Harry summoned the guards wands and revived Ron with a flick of his wand.
"We need to go." He stated pulling a small brown cube the size of a matchbox. Ron, shook his head dizzily and nodded tiredly.
"Right." Harry tapped the box in his hand and it expanded into a trunk the size of a coffin.
"Get everyone inside." He snapped as he pulled off the lid of the trunk showing that the inside was exponentially larger on the inside.
In forty-five seconds all twenty rescued prisoners were stunned and locked inside the trunk. As Harry shrunk the trunk and put it in his pocket Ron looked around at the Dementor-less landscape.
"You broke Azkaban."
Harry didn't respond to Ron's observation, he was absorbed in thought, so much so that he almost missed the burst of energy that accompanied a pair of Portkey's arriving.
He looked over at the arrivals, ignoring the 'Aurors' he looked directly at one man. Tom Riddle.
Were he being honest Harry would admit that yes, he and the Dark Lord now looked similar. Both had long jet black hair and pale-white skin, both had sharpened facial features, glowing eyes and tall skeletal bodies.
He's more powerful and intelligent than you believe.
It was hard to accept, he knew it shouldn't have been but as he observed his fellow sorcerer he realized it was true. Riddle was stronger, ridiculously stronger than he had been years ago.
His powers...were surprisingly well-developed for such a young wizard and — most interestingly and ominously of all — he had already discovered that he had some measure of control over them, and begun to use them consciously...they were not the random experiments typical of young wizards: He was already using magic against other people, to frighten, to punish, to control.
Maybe he had underestimate his primary opponent.
There is no good and evil, there is only power...and those too weak to seek it.
With a mentality like that was it even possible that Riddle could be anything less than a Master Sorcerer?
The most dangerous Dark wizard of all time.
Harry let out a sigh
"Ron, change of plan." Without another word he lashed out with his wand unleashing a explosive flood of water on the new arrivals. Without ceasing the flood Harry threw his free hand out and directed the deluge to form into a spinning pillar that proceeded to eject it's victims out into the raging surf with explosive force.
Once the arrivals were thrown clear off the Island Harry saw the proof he needed.
"Bloody burning bollocks!" Ron's choice words summed up Harry's feelings quite nicely.
Tom Riddle had accomplished something Harry had dreamt of since childhood: unaided flight. The older sorcerer glided through the air like smoke and Harry couldn't help but envy his opponent's ability. Envy gave way to rage, pure unadulterated envy driven wrath followed in the wake. Riddle had been a given. He'd all but written off You-Know-Who as a minor nuisance, He was so obsessed with what he had to do after winning, he'd forgotten why he needed to win.
Dumbledore had been too weak to win.
Handicap or not that's what it amounted to. Dumbledore hadn't been good enough, he'd been too old, too tired, and too weak. Harry felt the chuckle growing in his throat but he didn't stifle it, he let it out. Once it developed to full-blown hysterical laughter he moved. He pointed his wand skyward at the man he'd been born to kill, and he let loose hell. Flechette's of burning metal exploded into the sky with a roar, they smashed into a barrier of magic with the sound of crackling lightning. When the Shield fell away and bolts of black flames rained down on the island like hail as the stones on the ground hurled themselves skyward.
The airborne Dark Lord, clearly unaccustomed to aerial combat, returned to the earth avoiding the boulders of stone that Harry had hurled into the sky above. As Tom landed he was forced to duck underneath a missile of molten iron that exploded outwards on impact with the ground a few meters away, as he ducked he sent out a vibrating electric blue beam that tore the terrain apart, reducing stone to dust and leaving nothing but the scent of ozone and burning stone in it's path. Harry parried the attack with a lightning bolt and the two attacks detonated with so much force that the prison of Azkaban cracked and crumbled.
Harry lashed out with a horizontal slash of his wand and let loose a wave like concussive blast that destroyed the remains of the stone citadel and blasted copious amounts of the stone structure into the freezing ocean. Voldemort conjured a shield that was shattered by the destructive wave of magic but still took the brunt of the attack in his stead. As the shield shattered, it revealed Riddle and a few dozen serpents formed out of the rubble of Azkaban, each one was easily ten meters in length and thicker than oak trees.
Harry felt rage rush through his body like a flood released from a damn and green flames whipped off his body. He raised the Deathstick over his head like an ax and brought it down with a scream of:
As the wand descended it let loose a wall of crackling rusty brown flames that tore over the ground and ripped through Riddle's serpents just as Riddle leapt into the sky like formless smoke. The inferno continued to burn a deepening trench outwards, eating through the ground and the air, leaving blackened seared earth and molten rock in its path. By the time the flames exploded into the surf over a hundred meters away they had formed a trench over eight meters deep and forty meters wide. But the flames were still burning at the tip of the Deathstick and Harry was far from finished.
Harry raised his wand with a sweeping movement and let out another wave of flames into the air. Riddle evaded the attack by flying higher into the air. As Harry raised his wand to attack again he heard the sound of the surf rising up in the distance. He whipped around and looked out at the sea where a tsunami was growing ever taller.
"Harry maybe we should leave."
Harry glanced over at Ron who was looking at Harry with a pleading look on his face, and then up at Riddle who was floating up in the atmosphere without a care in the world.
"Maybe, maybe not. But I'm not about to lose." Harry pulled the shrunken trunk out of his pocket and tapped it with his wand before tossing it at the Redhead.
"Take care of the dead weight. I'll catch up." Then, the trunk and Ron portkeyed away.
Without a sound Harry disapparated as the artificial tsunami crashed down on the remains of Azkaban, and reappeared about two kilometers above sea level: a little over a meter above the Dark Lord Voldemort.
"Crucio!" Harry shouted as he descended upon Riddle like a wolf. Riddle turned just as Harry's outstretched hand extended and latched onto Tom's right forearm and a blood red beam of magic impacted with his chest.
While Tom spasmed in agony clearly resisting the urge to scream, Harry whipped his foe backwards, dislocated the last Slytherin's shoulder, and procceded to snap his elbow backwards before slamming his heal into the black robed man's temple with the added magical force of a bludgeoning hex, sending Tom hurtling towards the water washed remains of an island below them while disapparating so that he wouldn't share in his foe's impending bone-shattering impact with the stone isle below.
As Harry plunged into the ocean surface with enough force to rip his the skin off a normal man's body he thanked Albus for forcing him to master strengthening his body with magic. After a moment of soaking in icy saltwater he mustered the will to apparate back onto the isle of Azkaban, where he found Tom Riddle broken on the ground. With bones protruding through his skin and robes, blood spayed around the point of impact like the contents of a popped water balloon and a shattered spinal column the Dark Lord was not looking well. Of course that he'd survived being sent smashing into bedrock after a two-kilometer fall was nothing short of miraculous. Had Harry not been tired, freezing, and furious he may have been impressed. As it stood, Harry was furious. Horcrux and dark rituals or not a two-kilometer freefall is supposed to kill people. Tom was not dead, and if his movements were anything to go by he was still conscious.
Harry had known that Riddle couldn't die before the Cup and Nagini were destroyed, that was the only reason he hadn't just used Avada Kedavra during their aerial skirmish. And while Riddle may not be dead, may not be able to die, if he still had the ability to feel pain and bleed then it didn't matter. Either option allowed for debilitation.
Maybe it wasn't a good thing to be using unforgivable curses as his first choice but he was past caring. In the past hour he'd had his mind scanned by a five century old Warlock that was the template for Dementors, used the Flames of Horus, conjured Gubraithian Fire, used more magic in a single skirmish than many wizards used in their entire life, free-fell two kilometers into icy ocean waters and was currently in denial that he'd grossly miscalculated his opponent's indefatigability.
Harry released his curse and turned his wand to the task of destroying his new foes. Firing a devastating concussive blast at the stone plain between him and the new arrivals caused the rocky earth to explode upwards into the path of the spellfire while simultaneously raining shrapnel on the unfortunate reinforcements.
Not giving his foes the chance to cast a second volley he let loose another concussive shock wave, this time directing it at the actual group of people who'd arrived and pumping enough force into the shock wave that their bones shattered and their skin split even as they were sent hurtling off the flattened island and into the freezing surf. As he let the shock-wave loose the only warning he received that his first opponent had recovered was the familiar sound of magic forming at wandtip prior to casting, luckily it was all he needed to dodge out of the path of a purple beam of light that exploded from the wand of a heavily injured, but still very alive Tom Riddle.
"You filthy swine! I'll rip out your spine and strangle you with it!" Riddle was definitely looking worse for the wear as he spat out blood and saliva as he addressed his opponent who was rapidly tiring from continuous combat even if he didn't show it to his enemy.
Harry's reply couldn't be heard because at that moment the already cracked and water blasted surface of the isle splintered with a loud crack and Gubraithian fire exploded skywards as the island began collapsing in on itself.
Storm clouds overhead let loose a deluge and thunder rumbled through the sky as the two sorcerers stared each other down. And as the stony island began to crumble the wave of the sea swept up over the isle. As the last remnants of the prison's elaborate wards vanished the two combatants were left with a choice: Continue to fight as the sea swallowed up the island, or retreat. In the end Tom made the decision for the pair of them.
"I'll deal with you later. Enjoy your final hours, Filth." As he delivered his final address Riddle dissolved into smoke and apparated away, leaving Harry alone atop the burning ruins of Azkaban.
For a moment the young Sorcerer stood there, unmoving as the wind whipped rain and spray over the stone flat that was still collapsing from the heat of the Gubraithian fire dwelling in the bowels of the isle. It wasn't until the entire island cracked in half that Harry acted and even then it was only with half-hearted slow movements that he went about taming and sealing the inferno. A task that first required him to spend the next half-hour slowly compressing the inferno into a single flame the size of a matchstick, before steadily reabsorbing the magic of the flames while chanting over the course of an hour.
After reabsorbing the magic of the flames Harry was in agony. The pressure of the magic flowing through his body was more intense than any exercise Albus or Gellert had ever experienced, but in the waves of pain Harry stayed silent. Once he was able he sat down atop one of the few above water boulders left in the island's stead and let out a single long roar of frustration.
He was furious, with himself for being so disgustingly arrogant, with Dumbledore for not having defeated Riddle years prior, with Grindelwald for a whole host of crimes the least of which was robbing Albus of his power, and of course he was absolutely beyond enraged with Tom Riddle.
Tom was the one part of his life that followed him everywhere, in his infancy, in his dreams, in his school, in the fucking diary of his best friend's sister! The man was everywhere! A damn plague that stuck to him like a shadow! And just when he thought he through. Tom always showed up and proved once again how impossibly adaptable he was.
The man fucking FLEW into the goddamn clouds! He survived a two thousand meter free-fall into a stone slab while under the bloody cruciatus curse! Horcruxes be damned! That was just plain wrong.
Sure he hadn't gone all out in his attempts to kill the snake but it shouldn't have even been a competition. He was supposed to be stronger! How in Merlin's blazing balls was Riddle even able to stand up to him? For all intents and purposes he was the magical lovechild of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Fucking Grindelwald, he had a blood transfusion from a damn phoenix, had been sipping distilled unicorn, and was the Master of Bloody Death! He should be able to kill Riddle a thousand times over.
It wasn't until he'd run the entire sum of his knowledge of Tom through his head twice that he caught a reason for his foe's bottomless endurance.
The Dark Mark. It was the only thing that came to mind. Had Tom taken the magic of his followers in order to boost his strength? Probably, it explained why a significant portion of the original Death Eaters died outside combat, and why none had died from old age. Was it possible he'd drained their lives in order to preserve his own fractured existence? Yes, it was very possible. So what could he do to counter?
Kill the spare.
Yeah, that would work. Take a cue from the master and remove the obstructions, in this case that meant getting rid of all the bearers of the mark. He would have had to anyway he'd just move the task higher up on his to do list. Besides what else could he do with people like Lestrange and the Carrows? Disarm them? Stun them? Put them in prisons so that they broke out once every few years?
"For the greater good?" Harry asked looking up at the sky and pulling back his hood as the rain continued to drench him.
"I'm doing a lot of crazy things for it today, aren't I?"
Thunder ripped through the air and Harry chuckled tiredly as he felt Ron apparate overhead on a broomstick.
"HARRY!" Ron shouted as he quickly landed next to his soaked friend.
"You alright?" Harry merely smiled and airily waved a hand at his surroundings.
"Oh you know, I just feel a little under the weather."
Ron looked at his friend in disbelief.
"You're a riot you know that? Where's the snake?"
"Gone, he left shouting something about snuggling me with my wine."
"Riiight, let's get you out of the rain okay Harry?" Harry chuckled and nodded as he stood up and grabbed his partner's arm.
"Yeah, that's probably a good idea."