Chapter 1: A Tryst Down Diagon Alley
"Without the Darkness, there can be no Light."
The boy hurls himself back, panting, as purple tendrils of lightning arc for his feet. The streaks of psychic power blast craters into the ground, and the tremendous force that follows is enough to knock the boy to his knees.
"Without the Lie, there can be no Truth."
Pillars of flame erupt from the soil, and the boy is forced to duck and swerve to avoid the scorching fire. The heat is suffocating, deadly, and the clothes that the child wears are left in tatters, charred and blackened.
"Without the War, there can be no Peace."
Nightmares. Dreams of dead, decaying hands, reaching, clutching. Screams of tortured souls, tormented to insanity by the capricious beings of the Warp. The boy clears the horrors from his mind with a shake of his black-haired head and flings himself away from a volley of incoming missiles.
"Without the Death, there can be no Life."
A second volley screams after the first, bolts of black energy that sizzle and contort as they streak through the air. The boy cries out as one grazes his side, and dissolves the skin it touches to reveal raw meat and flesh.
"Without the Sacrifice, there can be no Victory."
A mind blast, so incredibly potent, so concentrated, that an unguarded man would be stripped of his memories and sanity in a heartbeat. The boy's eyes widen, and he scrounges what psychic energy he can to form a barrier between the blast and him. It works, but barely just. The shield he conjures shatters like glass, and the boy feels madness beckoning towards him with malicious glee.
"Well fought apprentice, but this battle is mine," the bladed tips of a Bedlam Staff is suddenly pressed to his chest, not forceful enough to draw blood, but threatening all the same, "Do you yield?"
It was the busiest hour at Diagon Alley, and the streets were bustling with shopping witches and wizards. To make matters even more hectic, it was the week before Hogwarts opened for the fall season, and many of the witches and wizards could be seen leading children by the hand in a mad quest for school supplies. It was altogether, a rather chaotic scene, which made it easier for the boy and his companion to go unnoticed.
"So this is the fabled Diagon Alley," the feline stalked gracefully by the boy's side, "It looks like a rubbish heap to me, though I find myself hardly surprised. After all, you mon-keigh can live in a hovel made from ork refuge and still call it beautiful in your deluded minds."
"I think this place is crowded too," the boy mind-spoke back to the elegant creature, a smile threatening to form on his lips, "Though I wouldn't exactly call it a rubbish heap…"
"If this was an Eldar establishment," the Gyrinx gingerly stepped over a dead rat, its amber-colored nose twitching in disgust, "There would be great wraithbone structures everywhere, and the very ground you tread upon would be so delicate to the touch, it would feel like you were walking on air. Many lesser life forms have been struck dumb for days after seeing the beauty that is a Craftworld."
"Right. Looking at an Eldar building will make me dumb. Got it."
"Insufferable little mon-keigh! Must you belittle everything I say?"
"The Master says to keep a sharp tongue around the 'pointy-eared space elves' to practice my wit."
The Gyrinx rolled its eyes, a strangely non-feline gesture that thankfully went unobserved.
"The Astartes has been a bad influence on you. He should have given you to us."
"What would you have taught me?" the boy scoffed mentally.
"All he has taught you and more! The Chosen of Old Ones are vastly more powerful in the psychic arts than humans! The Farseer would have melded you into a very potent psyker."
"For your information, your Farseer," the boy said the last two words with a grimace, "is quite literally insane."
"She is not! The Exalted Mistress is wise beyond her years and possesses a keen mind unlike any other!"
"She dressed me in girl's clothing and started calling me 'lover'!"
"The Farseer was merely lonely."
The boy muttered darkly and glared at the cat-like creature beside him. The feline smirked, another humanlike expression that went unnoticed by the crowd, and stared back with luminous eyes.
"Do you even have a destination, human?"
"Yes. Gringotts Wizarding Bank," the boy said, breaking contact with the bright yellow orbs, "It's supposed to be around here somewhere."
"Why don't you just ask? There's enough mon-keigh around you for a zoo, and chances are there's at least one smart enough in this menagerie to point you in the right direction."
"Do you think I belong in a zoo as well?" the boy asked, feigning outrage.
"Of course. You will be the prime attraction. Along with your God-Emperor. Think about it. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, and the Man-With-A-Fetish-For-Golden-Thrones… All in a gelded cage. Ahhh… if only dreams could come true."
"Delusions of grandeur," Harry snorted.
"Don't worry. I promise to feed you well."
The boy ignored the last comment, and marched resolutely towards a preoccupied-looking witch.
"Hello ma'am," Harry smiled his most winsome smile, "Can you please direct me to Gringotts Wizarding Bank?"
The woman looked down at the boy in surprise, and then her features softened.
"Oh hello child. Hogwarts too, hmm? You'll need your books and supplies before you're ready for Platform Nine and Three Quarters! My little darling is going to be a First Year this season. Oh I'm so proud of the boy! But I'm so nervous for him too! Do you think they'll pick on him? Good gracious, what will I do if he's being bullied! I can't look after him when he's at Hogwarts! Oh my, I'm feeling faint! Oh, what will I do? I can't bear the thought of my little darling being bullied!"
"Amazing!" the feline mind-spoke to the boy, "Out of that entire tirade, I haven't heard a single word that resembled Gringotts."
"Quiet you." Harry admonished mentally before trying again.
"Umm… Ma'am? Can you please point me to Gringotts Wizarding Bank?"
"Oh good gracious! I think I left the cake back home in the oven! Oh no! It was supposed to be a surprise for my dearie! What on earth will I do? I can't bake another in so short a time! Oh, my boy will be so disappointed! He'll look at the cake and think mommy is horrible at cooking! I can't bear the thought of my little darling disappointed in his own mommy! I'm such a horrible mother! Horrible me! Horrible me!"
"The cake is a lie."
"My day," the Gyrinx stated sadly, looking up at Harry with gloomy eyes, "It is ruined."
"Ma'am," Harry said more firmly this time, "Can you please direct me to Gringotts Wizarding Bank?"
The witch glared down at the boy, and Harry stepped back in surprise.
"Don't you dare use that tone with me young man! Honestly! Young people these days! And look at what you're wearing! It's horrendous!"
Harry looked down at the plain combat tunic he was dressed in and blinked. He wasn't sure if he should be offended or not.
"Heh heh heh," the feline snickered, "She called you horrendous."
"Taking after Muggles of all people!" the witch continued to sprout indignantly, "Come now boy! We're visiting Madam Malkin's right away!"
"Is that where Gringotts is?" Harry asked weakly as a stern hand clamped onto his arm and proceeded to drag him away towards a clothing store.
"I can't believe how rude this generation has become! Why, when I was young, manners meant something!"
"If you don't know where Gringotts is," Harry tried digging his heels into the street, but the witch was relentless, "I can ask someone else…"
"Honestly! Children need to behave and do as they're told! Why, if my darling little boy ever misbehaved, I'd give him a stern telling off! But my little dearie would never do that!"
Harry sighed, defeated, and gave in as the robed woman hauled him to the doorway of what he supposed was Madam Malkin's. The store had a glass window and Harry peered through it to see children his age being outfitted with what in his opinion, were the most outlandish clothing he had ever seen.
"Go on now, child," the witch that had dragged him here ordered commandingly, "Madam Malkin will see to your lack of fashion."
With a sniff, the witch wheeled on her heel and stalked off, muttering about 'the lack of decency in the current generation'.
"Are all wizarding mon-keigh this dim-witted?"
"Hopefully not," said Harry as he pushed open the door.
The first thing the boy noticed was the noise, a swelling cacophony that had been dimmed when he was outside. Now, inside the shop, a literal storm of sounds buzzed into his ear, and Harry winced slightly at the sudden difference in noise level. His companion slinked by him through the doorway, and padded to the nearest cloth-rack.
"This is what you'll be wearing?" the cat-like creature hissed in astonishment, "Oh Isha's Tears, I feel sorry for you! If it's any relief, I'm sure the Farseer will gift you a nice sturdy wraithbone garment if you ask."
"Ughhh. I'm almost willing to take you up on that offer," the boy fingered the robe on display distastefully.
"Hey you! Little boy!" a sales-witch glided past, looking frustrated and tired at the same time, "Don't touch that! Wait your time to be fitted!"
"Okay…" Harry had to dodge another pair of witches as they carried bundles of silken cloth in their arms. The boy stared after them, and saw at least a dozen children his age standing on stepstools with their parents fussing around them.
"Can you imagine?" his companion grinned, "Apophis tut-tutting as he strides around you with robes dangling from his arms."
Harry shot an annoyed look at the Gyrinx.
"The last time my Master had anything to do with my clothing was when he accidentally burned all of it off during one of his more zealous lessons!"
"I know. I was there. It was a wonderful experience."
"I had third-degree burns covering my entire body!"
"I know. I was there. It was a wonderful experience."
"I hate you."
"I hate you too, mon-keigh. I hate you too."
Harry snorted and turned to walk away.
"Where are you going? The mon-keigh in the ugly dress told you to wait."
"As far away as possible from a hairball like you!" Harry pointed to a blonde-haired girl waiting impatiently for her sales-witch to return, "And I'm going to make some new friends."
"I bet she'll ignore you."
"You're on," the boy said as he bounded forward.
Daphne Greengrass was, without a better word to describe it, bored.
Today was supposed to be a special occasion for her; it was her birthday after all. The day when little girls became little princesses and treated with presents and parties. And what better way to spend a birthday then visit Madam Malkin's and stock up on top-of-the-line robes and fashionable dresses (at least according to her mother)? Well, Daphne could count dozens of different ways in her mind, a majority of which involved ponies, unicorns, and girlfriends. Sadly, the party had ended hours ago, and now, she was forced to sit (or in more correct terms, stand) through a whirlwind of clothes-changing and fitting.
And so, the girl stood in her new dress, a look of resignation on her face as she realized that it could be some time before the fitting ended completely.
But then, the most amazing thing happened.
A boy, at least she thought it was a boy, rolled to a halt before her, and then leapt up in what he no doubt thought was a gallant pose. The boy gave her a dazzling smile, and raised one arm into the air as though it carried a sword.
"For the Emperor!" the boy shouted at the top of his lungs.
Now, it was not everyday that a girl got to see a boy roll to a stop in front of her and then strike a dashing stance and then flash a handsome smile and then shout 'For the Emperor!' at the top of his lungs. In fact, Daphne could recall no such circumstance happening in all of her eleven years of life. And so, she could not figure out if she should be impressed by the display or revolted by it.
Seeing her hesitation, the boy flashed another brilliant smile and spoke.
The girl looked uncertainly into the boy's emerald eyes, and decided at least he was relatively cute.
"Hello…" Daphne slapped herself mentally. She was a pure-blooded lady! Not some common, mudblood wench! Her position as the exalted Heiress of Greengrass forbade the greetings of a peasant, and her mother had drilled into her impressionable head the mannerisms of a member of high society.
Daphne extended a hand in the boy's direction, and waited imperiously for the kiss to grace her knuckles. To her chagrin, the boy seemed perplexed by this action, and made no movement to return the courtesy. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, with her hand still extended without having been kissed, the boy finally spoke.
"Um… I don't know what you want me to do with your hand… It's a very pretty hand," Daphne's cheeks flushed crimson at the praise, "But I don't know why you want me to have it, unless this is a wizarding custom or something, and we have to cut each other's hands off and give them to each other."
"No!" Daphne exclaimed, horrified at the thought.
"Oh good!" the boy said with relief, "Your hand is very pretty, but I don't think it will suit my wrist very well."
"You're supposed to kiss it," Daphne said haughtily, her chin held high, "It is a tradition for all pure-blooded witches and wizards."
"That's a disgusting tradition," the boy replied without a hint of humor, "Did you know that the mouth contains more bacteria than any other body part? You could get a boatload of germs on you if you're not careful! My master tells me that Tyranids have this thing called bio-acid that's like drool and if it drips on your skin, it burns clear through it! And that Plague Zombies can transform humans into other Plague Zombies by transferring the disease through biting! And that some plant forms on Death Worlds can inject your hand with a stream of tiny molecular cells that when transferred to another through saliva, dissolve, and turn both you and the person you're transferring saliva with into a gory soup!"
A growing look of horror had appeared on Daphne's face ever since the boy started to speak as it dawned upon her just how many times her hand had been kissed during her birthday party.
"I… I don't want to turn into a gory soup," the Heiress of Greengrass shook in her dress.
The boy looked down in sympathy, and then quickly knelt until he was face to face with her; an action Daphne thought was very noble of him.
"It's okay," the boy said, running a hand through his unruly black hair, "I'll turn into a gory soup with you!"
Daphne fought back the tears, and sniffed loudly.
The boy nodded sincerely, and offered his hand. Daphne placed her own hand in his, and the boy kissed it in a chaste and innocent manner.
The Heir of Greengrass blushed pleasantly, and played timidly with strands of her blonde hair.
"Thank you Mr…"
"Potter. Harry Potter," the boy smiled.
In retrospect, the boy probably shouldn't have said his name out loud. But then, he was only a child, and no amount of warning could prepare him for the sudden silence that filled the store. The entire shop's worth of people stared at him in stunned astonishment, and Harry swore he could have heard a pin drop. Yup. There it was. Harry blinked at the seamstress's now empty hand and inwardly sighed. Then dozens of people were rushing for him, pointing to the lightning-shaped scar crossed on his forehead, and the recent silence was broken utterly and completely.
"Is it true? Is it true?"
"Harry Potter is here!"
"The Harry Potter?"
"The Boy-Who-Lived is in the same room as me! I've never felt more honored in my life!"
"Oh I'm feeling faint already!"
"Henry Blightsforth," a tall, lanky man grasped Harry by the arm and started pumping said limb up and down, "It's a real pleasure to meet you Mr. Potter! A real pleasure!"
"Um… Hello Mr. Blightsforth-" Harry started to say.
"He said my name!" Henry gasped in delight, and Harry thought his arm would pop from his shoulder as the man continued pumping it up and down, "Can you believe it! Harry Potter said my name!"
"Emma Jenkins," a rather pretty witch reached out and grasped Harry's other hand, "I know this is terribly rude of me Mr. Potter, but can I please touch your scar? It would mean so much to me!"
Nervous fingers brushed against the boy's forehead, and the witch stepped back, looking as though if Christmas had come early.
"Thank you Mr. Potter!" the woman squeaked and retreated back into the throng of well-wishers.
"Javiar Linkswop, sir! I run a small business at the very end of Diagon Alley," a mustached man took Harry's hands in his own and the boy was stunned to see tears forming in the man's eyes, "Bless you Mr. Potter for what you did that day. Bless you! Bless you!"
"These mon-keigh worship you for a deed you do not remember having committed," Harry nearly sagged in relief as the Gyrinx emerged from under the sea of robed legs, "If someone did not nearly step on me, I would have found this whole affair rather humorous."
"Don't just sit there! Help me!" the boy whispered mentally as a few of the crowd ran through the doorway and started attracting the attention of the shoppers outside, "My arms are going to fall off if these people continue shaking them!"
The feline gave the boy a pointed look, and then started licking its paw in an arrogant manner.
"I'm afraid I can't do anything. I'm just a 'hairball', remember?"
"I hate you."
"Yes. I know. We've already established this."
Harry very nearly cursed out loud, but stifled it when a fresh wave of wizarding folk entered the shop looking frantic. Dozens of eyes locked onto him and then moved to his scar, and the crowd promptly swelled in number.
"Mr. Potter! Please! Just one word!"
"Can I have your autograph Mr. Potter? My niece idolizes you!"
"I named my first borne child after you Mr. Potter!"
With a sinking feeling, Harry wondered if the crew of the The Wayward Son could fit him with augmented limbs, since the tide of hands that reached for him would surely mean the premature death of his arms.
"Now, now! See here!" a commanding voice rang out, and Harry was relieved to see a squat, older witch with snow white hair forcing the crowd back angrily, "Give the boy some space! Can't you see he's frightened?"
"Well. Not exactly frightened," Harry mused in his mind.
The Gyrinx peered at him from the ground with a knowing look.
"If you want the boy's autograph, you can ask him outside my store!" the witch was now threatening Harry's well-wishers with her wand, and the crowd grudgingly complied, shuffling out the shop and earning a grateful look from Harry. Of course, the crowd didn't really leave, and a good portion stared at the boy from outside through the wide-paneled windows that Harry himself had looked through.
It made Harry feel like an exhibit at the zoo, and the boy felt a faint blush tinge his cheeks.
"See? You're already a prime attraction. Now I just need to hoist your Emperor from his Throne and pluck him in here with you, and my menagerie of mon-keigh will be complete!"
Harry bit down the retort that was about to come from his lips with a grimace. You could never win a game of words against the Eldar.
"Really," the white-haired witch marched for him, "Rioting in my store! I won't have it! I just won't!"
The woman stopped in front of Harry and smoothed the creases in her robes.
"Hello Mr. Potter," the witch spoke stiffly, "I am Madam Malkin, owner of Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions. It is an honor to have you in my store."
"It is an honor to be here, ma'am" Harry said, figuring that this was what he was supposed to say.
The older woman nodded, and a smile appeared on her face.
"It is good to see you have some manners, Mr. Potter. I had hoped those two years away from the wizarding world has not dulled your sense of magic. Muggles, no offense to them, have no right to take a magical child into their world."
Harry blinked, and considered telling the woman that the Muggle he was currently staying with could quite literally drive the entire wizarding world insane if angered. He settled instead with 'thank you'.
"No thanks is needed, Mr. Potter. I can safely say for all of us that we're happy to see you safe, here, where you belong. Now, I'm guessing you need to be fitted for robes for Hogwarts."
"Very good then. If you don't mind, I'll do the fitting and measuring myself."
"Out of all the mon-keigh we have just been forced to meet, this one is by far the most intelligent," the Gyrinx plodded forward until it was right next to the boy.
Harry was about to thank the woman again when he saw the girl he had just befriended give him a funny look.
"Errr… She was kinda here first," Harry nodded towards the girl, who flashed him a grateful smile in return.
Madam Malkin harrumphed disapprovingly, and gestured for one of her employees.
"Really Mr. Potter," the witch flicked her wand and a length of measuring tape began snaking over Harry's body, "I know you're a celebrity, but don't you think you're a little young to begin courting ladies?"
"I take back what I said about this one being smart."
Albus Dumbledore was about to take the most dangerous risk in his life.
The Headmaster of Hogwarts trembled as his hands reached for the platter of forever-filling Lemon Drops sitting on his desk. His wizened fingers graced over the yellow colored candies, and picked not one, but two of the sweetened delicacies from the plate. The aged wizard licked his dry lips, and swallowed. Always he had enjoyed his Lemon Drops one at a time, and never in pairs. He was loathe to think how much carnage two of these candies could inflict to his sensitive taste buds.
Shaking with dread and excitement, Dumbledore plucked the Lemon Drops from the platter and lifted the two creamy delicacies to his nervous mouth. This was it. The moment of truth.
Suddenly, the door to his office slammed open, and an agitated Professor McGonagall stormed in with her robes fluttering behind her.
"Albus! Albus! Good news!"
Dumbledore's attention remained riveted on the two Lemon Drops he was about to devour, though his mouth worked to formulate a reply to the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.
"Now, now. I am sure whatever news you bring can wait, Minerva. I am quite busy here."
"No Albus! It's Harry! Harry Potter has come back to the wizarding world!"
"Harry who?" asked Dumbledore as he began counting the number of sprinkles adhered to his favorite candies' surface.
"Harry Potter! Someone spotted him in Diagon Alley! We must head there right away, Albus!"
"Really, Minerva. I am excited about Terry Dotter just as much as you are, but I'm afraid we can't play any favorites with our students."
"Have you gone mad, Albus?" the Transfiguration professor glared at her superior reprovingly, "We need to see the boy right now! You remember the cupboard his aunt and uncle placed him in? At the very least we owe him an apology for leaving him with those horrible Muggles!"
"But, Minerva," Dumbledore tore his gaze from the delicacies he held in his hands and looked pleadingly at McGonagall, "Lemon Drops!"
"There are millions of Lemon Drops worldwide, Albus. But only one Harry Potter!"
With that being said, the stern witch dragged Dumbledore from his seat, and hauled him towards the floo.
Douglas Greengrass loved his daughters. He loved them fiercely and proudly, and dotted on them like the precious flowers they were. His marriage was one of those few ones in pure-blooded society that had blossomed into true love, and the children said union produced were one of the few things in his life he refused to give up for the promise of power.
So when Douglass Greengrass saw his eldest daughter walk out of Madam Malkin's chatting with the Boy-Who-Lived, he decided he loved his daughters even more.
The patriarch of the Greengrass fortune stalked, no glided forward, his eyes gleaming with delight. Long had he been forced to watch the Malfoys dominate wizarding high society with their vast fortune and shrewd ways, while nobler families such as the Zabini's, the Davis's, and his own were forgotten by the populace. Perhaps this Harry Potter could help direct the limelight towards its rightful place?
"Hello Mr. Potter," Douglass cooed, well aware that the entire street's worth of people were now staring at him, "May I inquire what you are doing with my Daphne?"
"Errr…" the Boy-Who-Lived looked abashed, much to the older wizard's amusement, "We're not courting if that's what you mean."
Douglas chuckled inwardly when he heard gasps spread throughout the watching crowd. With any luck, tomorrow's issue of the Daily Prophet would be chalk full of his daughter's relationship with the wizarding world's number one hero.
"Is my daughter not good enough for you?" the patriarch of Greengrass faked an affronted air.
"Dad!" Daphne hissed in embarrassment by the boy's side.
"No! Uhhh… I mean to say that she's very pretty and I like her a lot!" Harry Potter stuttered out.
Fully a quarter of the teenage witches present swooned and fainted when they realized whatever fantasies they had with the Boy-Who-Lived had just been suddenly and abruptly dashed. Douglas hid his own delight with difficulty. Luck be damned, this will be in the Daily Prophet tomorrow.
"I am glad you deem my daughter as 'likeable', Mr. Potter. Perhaps in the future, she will be more than just 'likeable'?"
Douglas restrained his urge to laugh by biting his own tongue. It was painful, but it worked.
"In any case, I am delighted that you have made friends with my Daphne. She is a very special young lady."
"I think she's special too!"
Ahhh… Childish innocence. How he loved thee.
"If that is the case, please consider coming to Greengrass Estate for the winter break. My family would be elated to have you."
"Wow Mr. Greengrass," Harry Potter said, "Your family must be very nice!"
Douglas shuddered as hundreds of eyes looked at him in a new light. He could have kissed the boy then and there. The older wizard reigned in his glee and adopted a humble expression.
"We are merely doing what is right, Mr. Potter. You have been gone from us for two years now, and we have been greatly worried over your disappearance. I am sure that many other families will be glad to be of host to you as well, but we wanted to be the first ones to show our gratitude."
"Okay then Mr. Greengrass. I'll be happy to come!"
Douglass gloated inwardly. Let's see Lucius best that!
"Daphne will give you the details at a later date. Until then Mr. Potter. Have a delightful day."
"That one is using you."
"I know," Harry watched his new friend leave with her father, "But better him than someone who has completely fallen to the lure of power."
"The mon-keigh still loves his offspring. Chaos will need to work particularly hard to corrupt him."
"And that is why I took him up on his offer."
Harry looked around, and noticed the crowd still staring at him with wide-open eyes. The boy took a deep breath, knowing the tumult that would result from his words.
"Can anyone direct me to Gringotts Wizarding Bank?"