Chapter 1 – The Dark Lord's Prisoner
"Damn you, Albus," Harry thought as waves of agony coursed through his body. "Damn you, your kind grandfatherly act, your secrets and your thrice-cursed Order of the Phoenix," the litany ran through his mind as he tried to focus on anything other than his bloodstained and broken body.
The Order followed Albus like sheep following their leader to slaughter. Albus believed in everyone's redemption, so rather than pre-emptive strikes on known Death Eaters, the Order only responded to attacks once they were set in motion. The enemy sought out and murdered the supporters of the Light while the Order debated the morality of killing the enemy. Captured Death Eaters bribed their way into acquittals and yet their victims were left with no such reprieves. "Innocents might be hurt; we must not sink to their level," the aged wizard rebuked Harry when he proposed destroying known Death Eater properties and assets to remove their funding of Voldemort's crusade.
He also blamed Albus for his own capture; he had warned the man of the visions that showed Voldemort was planning to capture him, but Albus was confident that Harry would be kept safe while hunting for horcruxes as long as he never stayed in the same spot overnight and avoided using his own wand. "You must keep searching, my dear boy," he insisted. "We cannot prevail as long as a single horcrux remains."
The search for Voldemort's horcruxes had become a full-time undertaking for several people. Hermione once again came up with a method to communicate to those searching when a horcrux was found. She had charmed medallions similar to the DA coins they used in their Fifth Year. The medallions were spelled to be invisible when worn, but would vibrate when a horcrux had been found, heat up when one was destroyed or become visible when all of them had been eradicated.
He was still embarrassed at how easily the Death Eaters had captured him. He had been exhausted, cold and wet when he finally camped for the night. He placed a few wards around his camp site and had then collapsed into dreamless sleep only to awaken to a wand in his throat.
That had been weeks ago from what he could tell, but the continual agony with which he lived made it difficult to tell. "Harry Potter," hissed the Dark Lord when the teen had been thrown to the ground before him, "what a pleasure to have you join us. I was just telling my faithful that we needed some new entertainment. In fact, our newest members need training in casting the cruciatus curse."
"Tom, I would like to say it's a pleasure to see you, but your face tends to give me the creeps," Harry taunted with as much bravado as he could muster.
The snake-like face didn't show the anger that Harry expected, but an almost pleased smile pulled at the thin lips. "I look forward to speaking with you in another week, Mr. Potter. By then you will have an in-depth understanding of both terror and torment."
He was right, the bastard. Day after day, the Death Eaters played with the teen. They took bets on how long it would take until he screamed, how long until he cried, how long until he begged them to stop, and until he begged for death. He learned that continual agony was a shattering emotion that paralyzed and devastated the soul. They brought him to the brink of death and then healed his injuries only to begin again. By the end of the second week, when he was collapsed into exhausted sleep, the nightmares of the torture and the laughter of the Death Eaters mixed into a horrendous serenade with lurid crescendos until he woke to his own guttural screams.
"Damn you, Albus," he thought again hazily. "I'm not going to live to see Voldemort vanquished a second time. He's tired of his 'toy' and isn't going to heal me this time." He no longer hoped for a rescue or a miracle. He just wanted the pain to stop so that he could rest. His cell door opened and the teen opened bleary pain-filled eyes to see Voldemort enter his cell.
"It is time, Harry Potter. I was going to offer you to Lucius Malfoy as a gift, but I am a selfish man. I want the pleasure of ending your life myself before your heart permanently fails." He twirled his wand through his fingers and smiled cruelly at the tormented young man lying in his own blood and filth.
Harry was vaguely surprised he felt only a nebulous sense of relief at the Dark Lord's words. He tried to take a deep breath, but his broken ribs prevented it. Through the pain, he sat up straight against the cold stone wall. He felt a warmth on his chest and looked down in confusion. "Oh, the medallion," he remembered. "Another horcrux has been destroyed." To his surprise, the golden medallion was visible against his chest. He fought through the haze of pain trying to remember what that meant, but his mind was difficult to focus. "The last horcrux? Are they all gone? Is he mortal again?"
Voldemort thought the brat was hallucinating or perhaps begging for relief when his cracked lips moved soundlessly, and leaned over him to hear his last words with a malicious pleasure. He was taken back when the young man looked at him with what could only be described as weary compassion. "Tom, we all die," he said softly. "But all of your life, you've been too afraid to face it, haven't you?" He looked at the enraged older man with wonder and then understanding slowly crossed his face. "But it's not really death that you're afraid of, is it?"
Voldemort's red eyes narrowed in fury as he hissed, "I am Lord Voldemort and I am afraid of nothing!"
Harry responded gently, "You're afraid of being nothing, of not mattering. You're afraid that you will be forgotten and that all your grand plans will crumble to dust. So you've done all this," he swept his damaged arm tiredly around the room, encompassing not just the dungeon, but indicating all of Voldemort's actions. "I'm sorry for you, Tom."
Harry focused all of his will, strength and magic into his broken right hand and with a lightening stroke that belied his pain, he stabbed it into Voldemort's chest. His shattered hand closed around a thick wet mass and he withdrew it, ripping out the other man's still beating heart. Shock, pain and terror raced across the older man's face before he shuddered and collapsed.
With a deep and overwhelming relief, Harry watched as the red eyes met his. His scar suddenly broke open and blood poured down his face, blocking his vision as even more pain filled his mind. Memories began pouring into his mind, scores then hundreds and then thousands of memories inundated the teen as the two were briefly connected by the Dark Lord's death. The suffering reached a new plateau and was more than the teen could endure. Just before the blackness claimed him, he felt a tug similar to a port key and wondered if that was something Hermione had done to the medallions without telling him.
Five Hogwarts students stood at the points of a pentagram, outlined in chalk and protected by salt on the floor. The long and complicated chant needed to summon their champion was intricate and needed all of their concentration. At the appropriate time, they turned to Neville and waited for him to cut himself and drip the blood in the inner boundaries of the five-pointed star. He looked at them in dismay and glanced wretchedly at the silver dagger that was across the room. None of them could leave their positions to retrieve it and casting a spell to summon the dagger would ruin the spell already begun.
One of the other dark-haired teens suppressed a growl of irritation and reached for his belt buckle. He cut his own hand on the metal buckle and dripped the requisite drops of blood into the pentagram. The bushy-haired girl across from him frowned, but together the five began their chanting again. They felt the magic grow around them as an invisible wind whipped their robes and hair and the runes on the pentagram began to glow. The pressure built until it was difficult to draw a breath and continue the incantation. With an earsplitting crack of thunder and a blinding flash of light, the pressure was abruptly released and a large object fell into the center of the pentagram.
The five students stared in horror at the bloody and gruesome body now occupying the pentagram. One of the teens broke free from the shock and ran out of the room to the nearest fireplace. He threw in a handful of Floo powder and shrieked, "Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts!"