This was a one-shot that came about after considering the line in the prophecy that states, "neither can live while the other survives". Obviously, they could and did live at the same time, so perhaps it was fulfilled that Halloween night in 1981. What if Harry simply didn't have a reason to fight any longer? He had been vilified by family, by teachers, by the press and by the Ministry. What if he also lost the few friends that kept him tied to the Wizarding world? What if Voldemort and Harry decided that they would leave each other alone?
The Boy-Who-Kills Reign of Terror Continues
For the last several weeks, dozens of eye-witnesses have been shocked and sickened to recognize the distinctive features of Harry Potter, who became known as the Boy-Who-Lived after being the only known survivor of the Killing Curse, fighting on the side of Death Eaters during unprovoked attacks on homes and businesses.
"He was casting deadly curses against shoppers and shopkeepers," said one witness who declined to give her name after an attack on Diagon Alley. "He was vicious in his attacks, and protected the Death Eaters from those that were fighting back."
"Mr. Potter disappeared from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry several weeks ago," admitted Headmaster Albus Dumbledore when Potter's presence was first identified. "We can only assume that he's been the victim of an intense spell and potion regime to make him act in such an irregular manner."
"Everyone at school noticed that he had become erratic and prone to violence," said classmate Draco Malfoy. "We all wondered whether he was turning dark. Based on the reports of the witnesses, he appears to have joined the Dark Lord of his own free will."
"Bloody Malfoy," muttered Ron Weasley, his face red with anger as he read the latest report against Harry Potter after finishing his breakfast. He looked across at the blonde Slytherin who was smirking in apparent triumph over the latest story. "Merlin, I still find it hard to believe that Harry turned to You-Know-Who. I know he was furious and withdrawn after Sirius died, especially when the Headmaster told us to leave him alone to grieve, but it makes no sense to turn to the people that caused his godfather's death. How could Harry betray us like that?"
"The Headmaster is probably right that he was kidnapped and treated to an assortment of potions and compulsion spells to make him act this way," responded Hermione Granger. "They could have taken his anger and twisted it to somehow seem right to fight the way he is. Since he can throw off the Imperius curse, they had to have found another way to distort his perceptions."
Ron raised unhappy eyes to his girl friend. "Even if he was drenched in potions and spells, Dad says that won't be enough of a defense once he's caught. The Ministry and Fudge let Death Eaters get away with the Imperius defense last time, but Scrimgeour won't let it happen this time. Especially since Harry refused Scrimgeour's request to be the…what did Harry call it…'the poster boy' for the Ministry. He's going to spend years in Azkaban when they finally catch up to him, even if the Quibbler has been staunchly on his side." He rubbed his eyes tiredly, "I just get so angry that he did this to us."
The noise in the abandoned theater currently serving as the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix was loud as everyone found seats. Albus Dumbledore rose and shot off a series of sparks from the Elder wand to gain everyone's attention. "Quiet down, please," he instructed. He turned towards the taciturn Potions Master sitting in a shaded corner, his back to a wall. "Severus, what news do you have?"
"I still have never seen Potter at any Death Eater meetings and find it difficult to believe that he joined the killer of his parents and godfather. He suffered too much under the Dark Lord to ever willingly join Him."
Dumbledore allowed the voices to rise in protest to their spy's words for a minute, and then regained control with another shower of sparks. "While no one wants to believe that Mr. Potter has turned dark, the evidence of so many eye-witnesses is incontrovertible, Severus." He raised his hand as the Potions Master opened his mouth. "Yes, I know you hold out that it is someone in Polyjuice, but the magical signatures found at the scenes of the crimes are too close of a match to Mr. Potter. It's time to recognize that whatever they did to him, he's now under their control."
The spy shook his head and leaned back against the wall. His glare proclaimed them all to be fools useful only as potions ingredients. "I do have the location of a potential safe house," he sneered at the group. "I overheard Avery give the location to Rosier."
Albus nodded and looked over at Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Kingsley, would you work with Severus, Tonks, and those in the Ministry we can trust to organize a raid on the safe house? Perhaps we can put a few of Voldemort's followers out of commission." After the tall Auror gave his nod of agreement, the attention turned to suspected Voldemort sympathizers within the Ministry.
Nymphadora Tonks walked cautiously through the halls of the suspected safe house. Only two Death Eaters had been on guard duty outside, but the halls were filled with wards and traps. She had heard some spell fire further away, but she and Hestia Jones hadn't run into any more Death Eaters themselves as they warily cleared the building.
"Wait Tonks," said Jones suspiciously. "Look at this wall. Something's not right about it." She cast a series of spells at the wall, only to find it heavily warded. "There's obviously something important behind it. Maybe it's a cache of potions, ingredients, or even their plans." They marked the location and continued clearing the building.
Two curse-breakers and three Aurors returned to the hidden entrance a hour later, once all the prisoners had been transported. It took them over an hour to dismantle the wards and the traps that had been set. Finally, the glamour on the wall dissolved, and they followed the hallway down to a heavily locked room, carefully dispersing traps as they went. It took another thirty minutes to break through the magical locks and suppressions on the door.
Once the door was opened, Tonks nearly retched at the disgusting stench coming from the room. The smell of blood, sweat, unwashed body and human waste rolled out towards them. With a handkerchief over his nose, Kingsley conjured a globe of light and rolled it into the room.
Chains hung from the ceilings and walls, and several torture devices were scattered around the small cell, but their attention was drawn to the stone slab in the center of the room. A naked, emaciated, bloody and heavily scarred body lay spread-eagle and chained on the cold and blood-stained stone.
They entered the cell cautiously and Tonks couldn't keep her hair from cycling through colors in shock and horror. A hoarse pain-filled whisper filled the room as they grew closer to the stone slab, "Thank Merlin you found me! Why did it take you so long?"
"Merlin's balls," Hestia Jones gasped, "it's Harry Potter!"
"My dear boy," Albus said remorsefully as his blue eyes showed his distress, "we are all sincerely sorry. We honestly didn't know you were being held prisoner. If we had realized, we would have made every effort to find and rescue you."
Harry lay in the hospital bed at St. Mungos and stared grimly at the Headmaster. "I disappeared without a trace and it never occurred to you that I had been kidnapped? Then my doppelganger shows up acting in ways I would never act and you just believed it was me?" His voice was hoarse from the damage caused by his voice box being crushed, and the Healers weren't sure he would ever speak normally again. "You knew me! You knew what I believed. You knew how I behaved. How could you possibly believe that I would become a callous murderer?"
He looked at Ron and Hermione and then back to the Headmaster only to shake his head. "You didn't even search for me! I was tortured day after day after day, but every single day I would somehow find a scrap of energy to say 'I know Dumbledore is looking for me. I know Hermione won't give up on me. I know Ron will figure it out.' It was the only way I survived…I didn't want you to have to face my broken and ruined corpse. But instead you believed your eyes instead of your mind and heart. How you could turn your back on me..." his hoarse whisper trailed off. He looked back at the two teenagers, "Sweet Circe Hermione and Ron, we brewed Polyjuice potion in second year! You know how easy it was to impersonate another person! How could you not believe in me?"
Tears spilled from Hermione's eyes and ran down her face, while Ron looked at his shoes in embarrassment. "Do you know that they never even questioned me? They just crucio'd me day after day. They used a fire whip on me regularly, peeling the flesh from my bones. When I was too near death, they healed me so they could begin again. They didn't even feed me real food; they forced a nutrient potion down me every few days."
Hermione was sobbing loudly, while Ron's face was twisted in pain. Dumbledore looked every year of his one hundred and fifty years and seemed to shrink in on himself. Only Snape carried the same sneering scowl on his face, although it wasn't directed at Harry this time, but at the others in the room.
"And you permitted it! You believed the worst of me without reasonable proof and just abandoned me to them! You didn't protest my innocence; you didn't offer any other explanations. You just sat back and let the press and public believe the worst of me, even as you believed it yourselves."
He lay back on his pillow in exhaustion. "Get out. I don't want to see you again. You abandoned me to my fate, so you'll have to deal with the consequences."
"Harry," began Hermione only to have Harry's rasping voice raise in volume "Get out! All of you, get out!"
A Healer stepped into the room and began shepherding the others out. "Mr. Potter has been through enough. He doesn't need any added stress. I must ask you to leave and let him rest."
Albus tried one more time, "My dear boy…."
The broken voice repeated, "Get. Out. Now."
"Please Chief Warlock, I must insist that you allow my patient to rest," the Healer said firmly. The elderly wizard hung his head in defeat and left the room.
The misery hanging over the next Order meeting was palpable as was the depression of the members in attendance. "Albus, what's the latest on Harry," asked Molly Weasley. "I tried to see him at St. Mungos, but they weren't permitting any visitors."
"I believe he was released today, Molly," responded the Leader of the Light in a heavy tone. "I also received official notice of his withdrawal from Hogwarts this morning."
"But…he needs an education," said the startled Weasley matriarch in protest. "Surely he's too young to make such a decision on his own, especially after everything that happened!"
Albus sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead briefly, "Sirius emancipated him in his Will. Mr. Potter has the legal right to withdraw from the school if he so chooses. He's decided it's better for his mental health if he is not surrounded by the constant reminders of those who abandoned him."
Alastor Moody snorted briefly, "Seems there is reasonable doubt regarding his mental faculties. Perhaps you should push to temporarily gain guardianship of him."
The Order leader shook his head, "No Alastor, his Mind Healer is willing to go on record that Mr. Potter may feel angry and betrayed, but he is fully cognizant of his rights and the effects of his decisions. I have no legal recourse to invalidate his emancipation."
"The sheep in the general public are feeling so guilty over their belief in him going dark when he was in fact being brutally tortured, that they would likely riot if anyone disturbed their hero," Snape added sarcastically.
Albus nodded and looked over at Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Kingsley, I understand that Mr. Potter finally gave a statement yesterday. What can you share?"
The dark-skinned Auror frowned heavily, "Potter was stunned while in Hogwarts and woke up in his hidden cell. He said that Bellatrix Lestrange claimed that Draco Malfoy was the one that stunned him and took him out of the school, but he never saw his attacker so we have no proof. Once in the cell, he was tortured on a daily basis, mostly by Lestrange, Avery and Nott. He was subjected to more than four dozen crucios and suffered severe nerve damage that is still being treated. They used the flame whip spell on him regularly, as well as the bone shattering curse. His throat was crushed and he will likely always speak with a heavy rasp. It is believed that the magical signature found at the scenes of the Death Eater attacks was actually from Voldemort himself using Potter's wand while under Polyjuice. The Ministry has arrest orders out for everyone he named, although we have little hope in finding them. They've gone to ground pretty well."
Molly Weasley had tears running down her face while her husband looked ready to be ill at the tortures inflicted on the boy they had once considered another son. The other Order members felt as sickened as Arthur looked. Even Snape's normal scowl was paler than usual.
Albus turned to the youngest Auror, "Tonks, were you able to follow him when he was released from St. Mungos?"
"Yes, he went to Gringotts and spent over four hours there. Obviously, I have no knowledge of their discussions. He later rented a flat in the street behind Gringotts and apparently hired the goblins to ward it. I doubt any Death Eater will break through the protections on that flat."
Molly Weasley spoke up again, "We have to do what we can to beg the poor boy's forgiveness. All of the owls I've sent have been returned unopened."
"We have to ensure he fulfills the prophecy," spat Moody. "Whether the boy forgives us or not, he's the only one that can defeat the Dark Lord."
Snape shook his head in disgust, "The brat is unlikely to forgive anyone. Except for the Quibbler, his closest friends and even those in the Order believed him capable of turning Dark and joining the Dark Lord. You all conveniently ignored the fact that I repeatedly said he was never present at Death Eater meetings. As dim-witted as the brat may be, he's not going to forgive this perceived betrayal easily."
Shocking Announcement from the Boy-Who-Lived
by Xenophilius Lovegood
Harry James Potter, heir to the Potter family, recently freed after being tortured for weeks at the hands of Death Eaters while someone else impersonated him during attacks, gave an interview to the Quibbler earlier today.
"Before I was born," said the still healing young man in a hoarse voice, "a prophecy was made that said 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies.. and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…' Now personally, I believe the prophecy was fulfilled the day my parents died. Voldemort marked me with this scar and was vanquished. However, Albus Dumbledore believed I still had another role to play."
"The Chief Warlock had me taken from the burning wreckage of my parent's home and placed with magic-hating Muggles. Supposedly, because one of them was my mother's sister, that allowed certain protections to be placed on their house. Of course, it did nothing to protect me from them. I was told that my parents were unemployed drunks who died in a car crash and it would have been better if I had died with them. I was left ignorant of the wizarding world and my heritage, while being treated as a house elf and nearly starved. Supposedly, this upbringing was to ensure I wouldn't turn into an arrogant, spoiled and pampered prince. Why the Chief Warlock had the right to make that decision, I don't know."
"Because I was left ignorant of the wizarding world on his orders, I had no understanding of the history, traditions or culture of the Potter family. In essence, I had no ties to the wizarding world at all. Once I arrived at Hogwarts, I made a couple of friends, friends I would have gladly died for. Unfortunately, when it came down to standing by me or believing what the world was saying, they chose to abandon me and believe what the world said."
"In the last few weeks, I've been spending a great deal of time researching magical history, law and customs. I learned that over the course of history, when two powerful but opposing wizards reached an impasse, they frequently agreed to clearly delineated territories and non-aggression pacts. Tom Riddle (known as Lord Voldemort) and I have negotiated just such an agreement. I will name three countries in the world in which I may hold property and make a home, while Tom and his followers will agree not to bring their politics or conflicts into those areas. He will have the rest of the world and I won't interfere with his plans."
"As an added incentive, he agreed to permit me to name one hundred people that he and his followers will consider untouchable as long as they don't overtly act against him. So far, only three names are on that list; the three people that publicly supported me: Xenophilius and Luna Lovegood and Potions Master Severus Snape. No one else publicly stated that my impersonator couldn't be the real Harry Potter. The rest were all quite adamant in their demands for 'me' to be captured, imprisoned and possibly kissed."
Mr. Potter had only one additional comment for the British public during the interview. "Please offer my congratulations to the ladies and gentlemen of the wizarding world; they now have the pleasure of reaping what they so painstakingly sowed. The relatives to whom I was abandoned taught me that no one is owed anything, and certainly not respect or affection. My teachers at Hogwarts as well as various Ministry representatives taught me not to expect honor or a fair application of the rules from those in authority. The wizarding world in general called me a savior and the Chosen One, but then permitted the Press to viciously shred my character and reputation long before I was impersonated."
"Each of you actively sowed the seeds of apathy and distrust in me and continually modeled the behaviors that I learned and am now emulating. You will have to live with the consequences of your actions for a long time."
Mr. Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-Betrayed left without another word. We at the Quibbler have since learned that the flat he had rented has been emptied and there is no forwarding address.
Neville Longbottom put the Quibbler down and closed his eyes briefly at the shame he felt. He knew Harry could not possibly be fighting on the side of the Death Eaters; it simply wasn't in the teen's make-up. But he had just shaken his head at the fools who believed otherwise and hadn't spoken out about the Gryffindor's innocence.
"Never again," the young man declared loudly as he slapped his hand on the table. Seamus and Dean looked at him in surprise.
"What's up, mate?" Dean asked.
The dark-haired teen looked around at the Gryffindor table, his eyes cold as they raked his house mates. "Never again will I sit silently by and let an innocent person be persecuted as Harry was. The Longbottoms have always stood for truth and honor and I disgraced my family name by not publicly supporting Harry when I believed in his innocence. Never again!"
Ron Weasley met his eyes, his own glistening after having finished the Quibbler article. He nodded at his dorm mate. "Me either, Neville. Never again." Hermione repeated his words.
"Never again" was echoed the length of the Gryffindor table as each House member added their commitment, grieving that in this situation they had acted too late, but promising that it would never happen again.