Death Shall Have No Dominion by Morta's Priest
Chapter 1 : Ire
The silence was maddening.
For three weeks now, Harry Potter, famed childhood bane of the dark wizard Voldemort, had spent his time lounging around his relatives' house at Number Four, Privet Drive, after a rather tumultuous fifth year at Hogwarts. It was hardly by choice that he was there, of course – for any of the parties involved. It had been several days since a word had passed between them at all.
Nothing particularly exciting happened in the neighbourhood, even at the best of times. A few people complained about the weather: gloom and rain, which had persisted since May. Some gossiped about the terrible state of their neighbour's garden (whilst ignoring the imperfections of their own). There was the usual talk of teenagers congregating in the park, or how Number Seven had ostentatiously painted their front door a bright pink. Normal gossip – the type that Aunt Petunia thrived on. However, one unwelcome rumour – spoken in hushed tones between fences – concerned Number Four: cries in the night, sometimes so loud they could be heard at Number Ten. Uncle Vernon had, valiantly, made an attempt at damage control: "My disturbed nephew – has these fits, you see." Harry had gone more than one morning without breakfast – though, truthfully, he didn't mind. At least these were the normal sort of nightmare – insofar as dark wizards, giant snakes, and the killing curse were concerned.
Harry sat languidly on his bed, located in the smallest bedroom. He was wearing Dudley's latest set of cast-offs, the only clothes he owned that were fit for Muggle life. Not much space was needed in his room considering most school supplies were locked up beneath the stairs for the duration of the summer. Harry sighed and pulled his wand from his pocket; although he wasn't allowed to use it over the summer except in a dire emergency, it was a welcome reminder that another world – his world – existed, even though it felt very far away. He had hardly seen a wizard or heard a spell – even on television – since the summer began.
With a twirl, Harry returned the wand to his pocket and stood up. He wasn't planning on doing anything in particular – for that he'd need to conjure up some motivation, and he was hard-pressed to imagine how he'd do that without using magic. He considered for a brief moment risking the Ministry's ire and performing a Cheering Charm, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. He had quite enough of the courtroom for a very long time, thank you very much. Besides that, the Ministry and he weren't on the best of terms at the moment.
Looking out of his window Harry could see neatly kept lawns across the street, in front of neatly kept houses that all seemed to look alike – no originality, save for Seven's pink door. There were few less interesting sights he could imagine, especially now that the sky was overcast and dull grey. In the distance he heard a dog barking, and he winced slightly. The last few weeks, although definitely boring, had at least given him time to think on this particular topic.
"Sirius, I wish you were still here," Harry whispered softly, his forehead resting against the windowpane, his breath fogging up the glass. He thought back on the recent events in the Department of Mysteries, deep within the Ministry of Magic. Although at least a dozen people had tried to convince him that he wasn't responsible for that debacle, he'd not really assimilated what they'd said. Not then, anyway.
Now, after three weeks, Harry saw it from a different perspective. He missed Sirius terribly – and he figured that it'd probably stay that way, as it should – but he'd manage to fight himself free from self-recrimination. Remus, in the end, had been the one whose words had most stuck with him:
"There's nothing you can do, Harry ... nothing. He's gone."
When the words were said, the emotional wounds were freshly carved and he himself had been near mad with panic. Sirius had just vanished into thin air right before his eyes . Remus Lupin had understood what it meant, then. Later, Harry had returned to Remus to ask for an explanation for his seemingly instantaneous acceptance of Sirius' death – the death of someone he had known far longer than Harry had.
"It is not that I didn't love Sirius, Harry," Remus had said. "He was my greatest living friend. I miss him terribly – like I miss James, and Lily, and even Peter – the Peter that I knew at Hogwarts – and all the others who died in the First War. I'm afraid that living through one war hardened me – hardened all of us. I'm grateful that – even with everything you've experienced – you're still hopeful; you still feel, Harry. To understand that people die, and accept that, even if they're your closest friends or family – that's very hard. To fight on after such tragedies is not something many are cut out for. Most people would rather run and hide – as many did, back then, when the Death Eaters went on a rampage."
"How do you live with it?" Harry had asked, in tears.
"In many ways, it's the same way I deal with my condition. I find myself concentrating on the important things: the here and now, and on fulfilling the goals of those who have gone, rather than spending my time on maybes and could-have-been. You can take that grief, Harry, and channel it into good actions. "
Harry had nodded, silently, and thought for a little while. Remus had found himself a small bottle of butterbeer in a deep pocket and transfigured a pair of soft chairs. Finally, Harry spoke again, deciding that this was as good a time as any to confide in the last Marauder.
"Do you know Occlumency, Remus?" he had asked, carefully. If Remus was surprised by the change of topics, he didn't show it. He answered with a shake of his head and a sigh.
"I'm afraid not, Harry. Lycanthropy, by its nature, is wild and untamed, and disrupts the mind. It takes considerable effort – especially around the full moon - to limit the change in personality. Potions help. Nevertheless, the mind is weakened and vulnerable – and occupied. I could only ever hope to achieve the bare basics of Occlumency – and, even then, I would probably be easy to read. Your father and Sirius delighted in playing poker with me – it's hard enough to control my facial expressions, let alone my thoughts. Whatever secrets you hold, you'd best keep to yourself."
Harry had nodded apologetically, but Remus didn't seem to consider the secrecy a slight against him. Remus had suddenly snapped his eyes up to Harry's and his eyes were piercing in their intensity. "Harry, be very careful of whom you share your secrets with. Not all will be as mindful as myself and confess their weaknesses. You can certainly confide in the Headmaster, and even Severus to some extent, I admit – but you have very few certainties left among your allies. There's a spy in the Order. Perhaps more than one. Alastor – that is, Professor Moody – has been hospitalized twice in the last few weeks when our actions were known by the enemy. You should be extremely careful."
"Why didn't I know about this?" Harry had asked vehemently, scowling. "I thought there wouldn't be any more secrets? Why keep me out of the loop of either the actions of the Order or those of Voldemort? How did Moody get hurt? Why would you keep such things secret?"
Remus didn't look remorseful, replying curtly. "Think, Harry. We knew you had a potential link to Voldemort. It could be possible that you were unconsciously being used to channel information through that bond. Without your involvement in planning, we were able to deduce with certainty that you are not our leak. Furthermore, you have not reported any new visions, despite a number of attacks on His part. The Headmaster has concluded that Voldemort has been performing Occlumency against your link since his unsuccessful attempt at possession. Fortunately for us, this means that the connection is effectively closed – and you would notice if it were, shall we say, unclogged."
Harry had acquiesced unenthusiastically at the time, somewhat peeved by the continuing secrecy.
Now, more than three weeks after that discussion, it made a lot more sense. Ever since the Department of Mysteries, Voldemort had been quiet – too quiet even for Harry's nerves. It turned out attacks were taking place, and people were being killed – but he just didn't know about them. There were no visions; no eerie dreams – besides the usual – not even a twinge in his scar or strange, distant memories and emotions. His scar was, for the first time in years, as useful as any other.
"I can't even use it as a road map for the underground." Harry said jokingly, rubbing the scar absently. A scar made by the Killing Curse shouldn't just be a marring of the skin. It just didn't fit, really.
Of course, thinking of the Killing Curse brought him right back to thinking about death. 'Such an enjoyable topic.' Harry thought dryly, as he sat himself back down on his bed.
Harry absentmindedly twirled his wand around in his hand, thinking of what he was going to do after this summer was over. He'd seriously considered Remus' words: he could do something good. He could join the fight against Voldemort; he could challenge the prophecy. He knew that Sirius had had great confidence in his abilities; and Remus had treated him like an adult for a long time now – as far back as Third Year. Even Dumbledore had acknowledged that Harry could do a task if he set his mind to it. Dumbledore, the greatest wizard in living history. That had to count for something ...
'I can do this,' Harry decided grimly. He was certain that if he really focused on it, he could grow to become the second wizard that Voldemort feared – with Dumbledore's help, no doubt. For Sirius; for all those people dying under Voldemort's wand. Unbidden, Cedric came to mind – it had been some time since he'd thought of the night in the graveyard, and he shivered. Voldemort had a lot to answer for.
Harry strolled over to the tiny desk that was crammed in between his bed and the far wall, cluttered from top to bottom with writing materials, mostly unused, and a handful of worn books. The Dursleys were hardly the type to read, so he'd browsed through the few volumes that were stashed in his old cupboard when he put away his school material. On the back of each cover a curvy 'L.E.' was written with cherry-red ink. Lily Evans. These had been, at one time, his mother's. None of them were about sorcery – of course – but they were still engrossing reads.
One of the books was open – an old anthology of poetry. The page it was showing had been dog-eared when he found it.
"And death shall have no dominion," it started. Encapsulated in a sentence had been what the Headmaster and Remus had been trying to tell him. It had been the last straw. He'd cried for hours, unable to stop. Then he'd started reading:
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
Harry smiled slightly, fighting a chuckle. Such a grandiose thoughts, he considered, were probably best left for the Headmaster, or other wizards of actual wisdom; even Muggle philosophers or theologians. Not upstart sixth-years.
After a moment he closed the book and put it back under the loose board. He noticed his invisibility cloak, shimmering silvery in the gloom of the overcast afternoon. It felt smooth and cool to his touch, and after a brief moment he removed it from under his bed. Harry thought back on his first uses of the cloak with some nostalgia.
"Death shall have no dominion." Harry muttered as he smoothed out the magnificent cloak, turning back to his mother's poetry book. In a few weeks, the summer would give way to a new year at Hogwarts. He'd get to work, then.
He collapsed back onto the bed, eyes drifting to the ceiling and mind into daydreams. Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes to an hour – maybe more. The afternoon slowly, quietly, ticking away, with only the faintest murmurs of life downstairs. Harry was contemplating going to sleep when, quite suddenly, something changed. His breath caught, and his eyes darted around the room – something was different. Something significant. It felt almost like – like –
Between one instant and the next, everything transformed. A second – maybe less. Everything vanished in a maelstrom of measureless energy, burning and searing like the sun – fire burned in his blood with astounding intensity, as if magma was poured into his very veins, and he couldn't stop himself from crying out in an extended shriek. Light burst behind his eyes, sharp beyond all reason, as if the stars themselves had chosen to share his mind. With a fury that was completely out of his control liquid fire flowed through him in waves, searing him alive from within, scorching his flesh with the stench of fried meat. He couldn't think properly – the pain was excruciating and yet oddly consoling in a bizarre dichotomy that had him quivering. From whatever distant viewpoint he was watching – it almost felt like he wasn't the one in pain now – he felt strangely purified, as if the fire had burned away all the inconsequential things in his life.
Simultaneously he despaired over what was happening, tormented, and revelled in the power. For a split second, a line from his mother's poem came to mind - 'Though they go mad they shall be sane.' He couldn't hold on this any longer, he'd –
With suddenness as jarring as its arrival, the conflagration disappeared. From one moment to the next, Harry teetered precariously, and then crumpled to the ground with a suppressed cry. His scar felt like it was branded on his brow, as if someone was sticking a hot poker into it. With short breaths he slowly calmed down, until his heart stopped feeling like it would hammer right out of him. With a grunt, he lifted himself unsteadily to his feet.
At the door, transfixed by the sight, stood Petunia Dursley with a single bony hand raised to her mouth in shock. Harry practically turned the air blue with half-articulated curses as he tried to concentrate on Snape's lessons in Occlumency, but the pain and ire he felt got in the way of all efforts to clear his mind. Voldemort's anger, no doubt, worse than it had ever been before – after such a long period of relative calm, the connection had been ripped wide open. Still, he persisted, and the sensation dissipated.
"Aunt Petunia" Harry panted finally, composing himself somewhat. "I need to make a phone call. Now."
Petunia Dursley faintly gestured and stepped aside, evidently terrified of him – no doubt because he had just been screaming his head off, and was currently disregarding a rather significant amount of blood dribbling down his face from his bright red scar.
With some care, Harry descended the stairs. The astounding normality of the house seemed almost unreal – it felt like this was not reality at all. He lurched over to the phone, ignoring Dudley, who was looking at him with an expression between fright and disturbed captivation. Harry picked up the phone and held down the number '7' for some time.
This had been another safeguard he'd reluctantly agreed upon with Dumbledore, just before he'd gone back to the Dursleys: a way to get into swift contact with the Order of the Phoenix that wouldn't unduly upset his relatives. At first, he'd simply requested the phone numbers of some Order members – of course, none of them actually owned phones, and most of them lived in places where Muggle electronics wouldn't even work. Instead, Dumbledore had opted for enchanting the phone to alert various Order members that he wished to speak with them, by holding the numbers – 1 through 4 for Remus, Dumbledore, Moody and Tonks, respectively – the people responsible for watching his safety over the summer, if from the shadows. The number 7 was to alert Dumbledore that something pressing had come up. The number 0 was for emergencies of the most serious kind, and Harry sincerely hoped he'd never need it.
Harry didn't have to wait long. A soft crack broke the silence that had fallen over the house, and mere moments later someone knocked on the front door. Harry finally put the phone back on its holder and opened the front door, where Dumbledore was waiting for him.
"Please come in, Professor," Harry said cautiously, quickly stepping back. The aged man nodded subtly, seeming somewhat uneasy amongst the floral decorations and unmoving family portraits. Leading him to the sitting room, Harry realized they'd not parted on the best of terms.
"I believe I can guess why you called me with such urgency." Dumbledore said, pointing at the stains of blood on Harry's face and clothes. "You look quite a fright, I must say."
"The scar," Harry said with a grimace, "It began bleeding just now. It … It was quite different."
"Really? Let's wait until I make sure we have no unwanted eavesdroppers," Dumbledore suggested, his eyebrows raised. He swiftly walked into the living room where Dudley was still seated at the table, quaking slightly at the sight of the Headmaster's purple robes. With a squeak, Dudley made his way out and joined his mother upstairs. Harry suspected that she was still standing at the door to his room, frozen. It was a slight boon that Uncle Vernon was out to work.
With a quick flourish of Dumbledore's wand, all the windows and doors closed themselves and silence descended over the room. In place of the Dursleys' rickety, straight-backed chairs appeared two cosy soft armchairs, entirely pink with flowery embroidery. Dumbledore quickly sank into one, sighing contentedly. "That feels well on the old bones, I must say. Now, to business."
"Yes, sir," said Harry, lowering himself into the other transfigured chair. It was surprisingly sturdy. He patted at his bloodied scar with a tissue.
"It appears that Lord Voldemort has chosen to reopen the connection you share with him," Dumbledore said with a worried frown. "This is a puzzling decision, considering that his recent activities, particularly those disclosed to me by our inside source, seemed to indicate he had shifted his attention elsewhere. Indeed, he is expected to be attacking Hogsmeade within a few days' time, and it seems peculiar he would potentially allow you to catch wind of such plans. He is clever enough to realize that he cannot perfectly control what you see and what you do not, and if he were already aware of our foreknowledge, he would've long since murdered our spy."
Harry frowned and glanced up. "Is it possible that this time it was – not intended? It felt... very dissimilar, and he seems to be feeling quite angry at the moment. Is it possible he lost concentration on maintaining his Occlumency?"
Dumbledore shrugged noncommittally, but his eyes betrayed worry. "This seems an unlikely possibility to me. Tom Riddle is not the type to try something especially dangerous while fully involved in other activities, nor does he seem the type to lose control over his Occlumency at any time. For practically all advanced Occlumens the defence of the mind becomes instinctual, and I believe it was merely the unique nature of your particular magical bond that allowed you to access his mind in the past. No, I believe that this was done by choice, – his choice – and I am worried that I cannot find a good explanation. It likely doesn't mean anything good."
Harry licked his lips and glanced to the skies outside, still dull grey. He felt as if they should be fiery and boiling – he wasn't sure why, but he felt like this was a false calm. "When he reopened the link – it was like nothing I'd ever felt. Even the Cruciatus curse seemed friendly," he finally answered, shuddering. Dumbledore raised his eyebrows.
"What exactly occurred this afternoon, Harry? I know that your scar has pained you in the past, but I was not under the impression that the pain was agonizing. At the very least, you have not told me such." Dumbledore seemed somewhat flustered, now.
"It wasn't like any of the other times," Harry said again, "It was... It was like fire, and rage, and the heart of the sun. I don't ... it's hard to describe. It felt like I was burning – like I was burning on the inside, and there was nothing I could do to stop it – and it was horrible and ... wonderful, in the weirdest way ..." Harry sagged in his seat, staring blankly at the cheap rug the Dursleys had to cover the smudges of his uncle's boots that were engraved in the floor where he'd sat for many years. Dumbledore made no remark at all. After a few minutes, he looked up, and saw the old Headmaster looking back at him with a strange expression on his face. "Do you know what it means, Professor? Was it some new torture that Voldemort invented just for me?"
"I do not know, Harry," Dumbledore said carefully, floating a cup of tea from the kitchen, and grasping it with steady hands. "It is troubling that Voldemort would send a vision to you of what appears to me to be considerable power – enough that you'd be overwhelmed by it. Were you able to distinguish what happened in this vision?"
"That's just it, Professor. There was no imagery. If I saw anything, it was blinding light." Harry flustered. "I'm sorry, Professor, but could I have a cup of tea as well?"
"Of course, of course," Dumbledore said, quickly conjuring another cup. "I'm not generally used to being a host in another person's house, though I suppose your inability to use magic may serve as an excuse." Dumbledore said congenially. "I am somewhat surprised that the Ministry appears not to have noticed the magical discharge of this violent magical event. I suppose it is a small blessing."
"Would they lock me up for wandless magic?" Harry asked apprehensively. "I've done accidental magic in the past, and being cooped up without magic for weeks isn't doing much for alleviating tension. I wouldn't be surprised if someone got blown up one of these days," he smiled to himself. "I wonder what Aunt Petunia would look like as a balloon?"."
"Oh no, certainly, the Ministry wouldn't dare arrest you, but they'd certainly come to inquire on your effusions." Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling behind his half-moon glasses. "Generally speaking it's how the Ministry keeps track of particularly powerful wizards – as you may be aware, wandless magic of any kind is rather unusual among adult wizards – I've seen very few that can even conjure up a 'Lumos' with any reliability. If my suspicions are correct, you might be one of those powerful wizards."
"Me?" Harry asked, marvelling. Yes, he'd decided he'd become powerful enough – one day – to defeat Voldemort, but that would be the product of hard work, not inborn ability. He hardly considered himself to be naturally talented. If that was anyone, it was Hermione: top of the class, able to master any spell with almost no effort. "I ... Well, I've done some wandless magic, but it wasn't ever deliberate – I mean, other than speaking Parseltongue."
Dumbledore didn't seem surprised at all. "Intentional wandless magic is not a common skill amongst adult wizards – there are only a few people in the Order capable of it. I've seen minor feats of it from Alastor, Remus, and Severus. Voldemort, of course, can use it too. There are precious few others that I'm aware of within our nation. I know of none as young as yourself."
"I hardly think my wandless skills are particularly impressive – just light and summoning charms." Harry admitted, shrugging. Dumbledore looked up acutely, and for a moment Harry felt a chill running down his spine.
"Summoning charms, you say? Quite a bit of control is needed for that particular spell – I've not yet managed that spell wandlessly myself. I am afraid that I have rather too much magic to control with any ease. You're quite a surprise, Harry." Dumbledore looked over his glasses in pride. "I suspect you'll find that if you try, quite a few spells will be effective wandlessly, – maybe even wordlessly – if you are capable of casting even a short-range Accio. As far as I am aware, only Severus and Tom share that particular skill with you." For a moment, neither did anything but sip at their tea, before Dumbledore straightened. "Well then, I believe that particular topic can wait until you are again allowed to use magic. I'm afraid that trying out your wandless abilities would rather upset the Ministry, and I think it is best we prevent too many people from finding out about either your skills or your location. Perhaps when you return to Hogwarts, we can see what it means for you. I would request of you to put a memory of your vision into a flask, so that I can inspect it at my office. I don't believe it is wise to relive it here, considering your description. And, if I may, I might recommend that you take a bath."
Harry looked down at his over-sized T-shirt, coated in still-fresh blood. Bits of dust and dirt from where he'd fallen on the floor were sticking to the front in a haphazard, Tim Burton-esque mosaic. He flushed. "Alright, Professor," Harry agreed. "You've given me some things to think about." Harry raised his wand to his head and hesitated. "Professor, can I use my wand for this, or would it be registered as magic?
"It's fine, Harry. Memory magic isn't easily tracked, and the Ministry hardly has the resources to keep it up now," Dumbledore answered. "If you don't mind, concentrate on what your state of mind was at the time – it might help me decipher what went on. If it's not too personal, of course. I cannot give good explanations at the moment – I have suspicions, but I will require time to verify if any of them are correct."
Harry coloured a little, worrying what Dumbledore might say about his philosophizing and poetry, before nodding and slowly moving the wand away from his head. At the end of the wand was a shining silver thread which he lowered into a small flask that the Headmaster was holding for him. The moment the memory was inside the flask was quickly closed with a cork and stuffed into the folds of the Headmaster's robe.
"How are you doing, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, tone gentle yet slightly prying. His face showed genuine worry.
"Sorry?" Harry asked.
"June's events." he elaborated. "I – we all – worry about you."
"I – I believe you will find some of my thoughts on the matter in that memory, Headmaster," Harry said evasively. "Death has been on my mind of late, but Remus helped. So have you. And mum." The last slipped out almost without him realizing, and Dumbledore perked up. "I have some of her old Muggle books," Harry clarified.
Suddenly, things twisted. Harry recognized the feeling immediately, and tensed. Dumbledore seemed to notice, and quickly stepped over, whipping out his wand. "What is it, Harry?"
"It's ... happening ... again," Harry forced out from between dry lips, trembling and his eyes darting around the room, as if he could see where the pain would come from. "Volde ..." he managed before the pain slammed into him.
The scream that tore from his throat was high-pitched and reverberated around the room. The flames that tore through his veins drove him to tears again, and had he not already been in a chair, he'd likely have fallen over. Instead, the liquid inferno tore through his insides, through his extremities, and through his mind. Distantly, he saw Dumbledore waving his wand in a complicated motion, but the observation fled from his conscious mind in an explosion of white. For a moment, the horrible duality between pain and comfort returned. He wished it was over. Harry thought distantly from the rational, detached part of his mind that this felt familiar. Half of him continued screaming in agony, but the feeling was numbed and fading. The other half of him felt power, and potential, and a boundless wild enthusiasm. Without realizing quite where one stopped and the other began, his cry of anguish changed into a high-pitched laugh.
The world righted. For a moment, Harry felt like he was balanced on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall at any moment. He slumped back into his chair, muscles slackening. He felt none of the confusion or pain he'd felt the last time, which was both comforting and disturbing: was he already getting used to it? He stared at the Headmaster, who returned a look of utmost concern. After a moment Harry realized why: 'I'm still laughing.'
"Harry?" Dumbledore said as the laughter stopped with a snap. "Harry, are you with me?"
Harry nodded, licking his dry lips. "It seems ..." He began, then coughed. "It seems you got a free viewing. It was ... very similar last time. I … don't know where the laughter came from. I suppose ... Voldemort?"
Dumbledore didn't seem to hear him, but was staring out the window with a contemplative look on his face. "Harry, I will have to ask you to remain here, and you are to alert me the moment you have another one of these episodes. I neither felt nor detected magic in use even from within this very room: Clearly, what you experience is a phenomenon of the mind alone, not of the body. I fear it might well be that Tom is experimenting with your connection, and that is of considerable concern to us. I will station Alastor at this house – he should never be more than a yell away. I will similarly be available to you at most times of the day. I will need to meet with Professor Snape about alternative methods of teaching you Occlumency at the earliest opportunity."
"Is this dangerous, Headmaster?" Harry asked, shaking, eyeing the old professor. "There's no possible way this could be a good thing."
Dumbledore had a peculiar glint in his eyes, and seemed deep in thought. Finally, he spoke again. "The impression I received from your, shall we say, 'fit' doesn't set my mind at ease. It makes me think of far too many dark rituals, most of which Lord Voldemort is quite capable of performing. I believe that what you are experiencing may be a form of spill-through; whatever it is he is attempting is likely a secret from his own followers, – even his closest circle – which may be why I do not know about it. The attacks on the Order may have been set up intentionally to distract us – a most disturbing possibility. There are precious few reasons I can think of for Lord Voldemort to use his entire Death Eater force as a distraction from his own actions. None of them are remotely beneficial for us."
"I suppose I'll be using the warning bell, again," Harry said, resigned. "I hope that you'll inform me of what is going on with the Order. It's not easy being cooped up." Harry's voice no longer wavered, which gave him some pride.
For a brief moment, a sparkle returned to Dumbledore's eyes, and he stood up, dispelling the charms he'd placed on the room. "Alastor will be at the residence within ten minutes. I believe it is unlikely that more than two rituals will be employed this night, even with Lord Voldemort's magic, so you should have a restful remainder of the day. It is quite possible your connection will again be blocked as soon as Voldemort reasserts his Occlumency barriers. If you don't mind I'd also like a memory of this latest experience...?"
Harry quickly deposited the second memory into the flask which the Headmaster retrieved from his billowing robes.
"Before you go - I hope you can forgive me for my dreadful outburst in your office," Harry said with a uneasy look, his face flushing Weasley-red.
"Oh, nonsense," Dumbledore said, scoffing, though a slight twinkle returned to his eyes. "I dare say I had too many possessions in any case, and I have many more to replace those that were damaged beyond repair. I must confess that there is a valid reason why those particular possessions were not magically protected – in a school of children and teenagers, it is often wise to have an easy outlet for pent-up frustrations," he chortled slightly.
"I dare say that most, like yourself, feel somewhat ashamed for letting go of their temper in my office, and tend to replace my lost belongings." He looked carefully over the top of his glasses, his face neutral.
With a quick nod and a pop, he was the only person in the room again. It was dead silent in the house, with the Dursleys probably still terrified of any potential wizards. "Or one in particular," he muttered darkly, remembering his own scream and Aunt Petunia's reaction.
He sat in the transfigured armchair – he supposed that it would revert back to normal eventually – until the doorbell rang twice, and there was a loud knock. Grabbing his wand, he made it to the front door and quickly took a peek through the keyhole.
"Well done, Potter," the wizard on the other side said gruffly. Mad Eye. "I gave these lumps of Muggles a warning they won't soon forget, the last time I was here. That good enough to make sure it's me?"
Harry quickly opened the door, and Moody stomped in. He was rather fuzzy around the edges, almost as if – "Your disillusionment charm could use a bit of work, you know," Harry commented wryly. He didn't wait for Moody as he moved back into the living room – he noticed that both comfy chairs had reverted to their original shape. "That'll hardly help you when Death Eaters are about."
"What're you talkin' about, Potter? My disillusionment has been quite enough to get me out of all sorts of difficult situations. You know by now what it's like to be in those, I reckon, after that scuffle in the ministry," Moody answered offhandedly.
Harry had some trouble considering the battle in which his godfather died a "mere scuffle", but didn't voice it. Instead, he peered over his glasses at the ex-Auror, studying the experienced warrior. "I suppose Dumbledore spoke to you about Voldemort's latest experiments."
Moody nodded, and hobbled over to one of the rickety chairs the Dursleys owned, quickly transfiguring it into a hard-backed tall chair made of what seemed like marble. The Dursleys' choice of seating was clearly not particularly liked among wizards, Harry noted.
"I'll be spending at least a few days around here, including my bath time. I've arranged my own accommodations – I'm sure you remember this particular trunk." He enlarged a trunk he'd removed from his pocket with a quick 'Engorgio.' It was like the one he'd been locked up in for several months.
"I'd didn't think you'd be uncomfortable in one of those," Harry said uneasily. The thought of being locked away for months gave him goose bumps. "I certainly would be."
"It's not just one of those, it's the very same one," Moody noted with harsh pride. "It's not particularly enjoyable, but that's not the point. I got caught, and it was my own fault. I was trapped in there for most of a year – in return, I intend to use it in the same capacity for the same amount of time, to get back at the bastard that got me. Albus calls it the logic of a madman, and was doing that annoying twinkly thing when I told him."
Harry snorted, and then nodded at the trunk. "I think it's best we put it in my room – you'll be close by if anything happens, and I don't think the Dursleys would be particularly fond of you storming through their house at every opportunity. You can just exit through my window."
Moody didn't have any objections. They didn't even encounter the Dursleys on their way up – Harry suspected they were sneaking a peek at the front door from one of the windows, doubtlessly convinced there were now no fewer than three wizards in the house.
It took several days for Moody to settle in comfortably – on day two, Harry had gotten the fright of his life when Moody slammed open the trunk and jumped out at precisely six thirty, wand drawn. Evidently his eye wasn't really able to look through the sides of the trunk– in Moody's world, this apparently meant that the trunk could be surrounded by invisible enemies and a surprise exit was always necessary. After the first few nights, Harry opted to put the bathroom mirror on the inside of the trunk's lid, allowing Moody to get a good peek around the room and enter in a more civilized manner. Harry supposed that it was at least a good thing that Moody remembered to apply a mild silencing charm on the door, dulling the sharp sounds, if not eliminating them – he didn't want to imagine what Uncle Vernon would say. Moody was occasionally gone for an hour or two, though he always left behind his twirling magical eye to keep, quite literally, an eye on things.
A week after the first visions, after he made up his mind about what he was going to do with rest of his summer, Moody offered training in Occlumency. Moody wasn't an expert, though he knew enough to detect intrusion and to fend off most people, but certainly couldn't match Dumbledore or Snape's abilities. Still, the meditation exercises were peaceful, and – sometimes – even interesting. Moody opted to hold all of this in the cramped room inside his trunk. When not training, Moody talked – his Golden Days at the Ministry; before long, Harry got to know him quite well. Truth be told, the weeks were quite enjoyable, and he saw very little of the Dursleys. Indeed, he saw very little of the world outside his room.
Occlumency training had been remarkably different than he'd anticipated – certainly, nothing like his training with Snape – and he had noted with some surprise that Dumbledore had not, in fact, directly asked Moody to teach. Harry considered the possibility that Dumbledore had simply known Moody's character well enough to know he'd offer, and that that was the reason he'd been assigned to the house. It seemed like something Dumbledore would do.
Moody had Harry meditating for the first two weeks, trying to achieve stability of mind; it wasn't the kind of meditation he'd expected, honestly, but it seemed to be working. It had been surprisingly easy to do so, as it called for some central focus: Harry had no trouble putting defending people and defeating dark wizards squarely in that position. It seemed that, unknowingly, he'd spent the first few weeks of his vacation on something valuable after all. Again, he wondered how well Dumbledore knew him, if the old wizard had foreseen all this. It seemed a strange idea, but he couldn't help but consider it. The old wizard had a century of experience to build on, and he was certainly quite clever, after all.
Ten days ago, Moody had begun to apply a more Snape-like method of teaching, and used Legilimency to try and retrieve particular memories from Harry's mind. Thankfully, most of these memories were quite innocuous, and revolved around spells he'd learned in class, some snippets of himself in his youth, and brief flashes from some of his more disturbing experiences. Moody wasn't nearly as blunt as Snape had been, and seemed to scrupulously avoid calling upon whole memories or particularly violent ones. Part of this, Harry suspected, was also due to Moody's relatively middling skill at this field of magic. Harry had been able throw Moody out of his mind on the second day, and completely prevented him from accessing the target memory by the seventh. The quick progression was likely due to the amount of time Moody spent teaching each day – hours upon hours, until either one of them was exhausted – though, Harry was gratefully for it.
"You're making some great progress, Harry," Moody noted, setting himself down upon the only chair in the bedroom. He'd gone from calling him 'Potter' to 'Harry' within the first week, and had asked to be called Alastor in return. Harry only remembered to use that name half the time, though Moody didn't seem to mind slip-ups. "You better keep an eye on your post, boy," he commented with a slight grin. "You never know what great opportunities might be waiting in your future."
It wasn't the first strange comment Moody had made since his arrival; Harry had been pondering the phrases occasionally, particularly when dozing on his bed in the late evening. What on earth did Moody mean by talking about career opportunities? He was going back to Hogwarts; it was hardly time to get a job yet, and he still had a murderous dark wizard after him. It didn't seem like writing résumés would be particularly helpful at the moment.
It was another overcast Monday, early in the morning, and Harry was eating breakfast with the Dursleys. It was a surreal experience, as Moody had – for whatever reason – chosen to join them at the table. Uncle Vernon left early that day, which meant that two pale faces were facing two chatting wizards, one of which was particularly ferocious in appearance. Harry was half-heartedly explaining what happened in the Chamber of Secrets – a topic Moody seemed quite interested in. "I stabbed the basilisk through the mouth. Nurse Pomfrey thought it had to be fifty or sixty foot long, given the size of the tooth it lodged in my arm," Harry remarked dryly, absently rubbing where the scar was – faint, but there. "I guess that's one of those scars of mine I can point at when I'm old."
Moody grimaced, though Harry supposed it could be a genuine smile. "I'm not proud for getting any of those – I'm proud for surviving them. Most of them could've been rather lethal. Like your own, I'd think. Killing Curses and basilisk bites – you've had quite the exhilarating life already, eh?"
Harry wanted to answer – when it happened again. The air changed, and he sat up straight. It was as if something fundamental had shifted – as if the very air had gone liquid. He turned to Moody in a panic. "Moody, Voldemort's attempting another ritual, I think. Now!"
Moody raised an eyebrow incredulously. "Highly unlikely. I received a message not half an hour ago stating that Voldemort and several Death Eaters had been detected near a village, up north. You know that: you saw that phoenix patronus come in, you probably heard what it said. I rather doubt rituals and attacks go together."
"Shouldn't you be out there, fighting, then?" Harry asked confusedly; he couldn't shake the dread in his stomach. Where was the flash of pain? Why hadn't it started yet? Was it building up to be worse than the last?
"I'm your bodyguard, Potter. I can hardly go traipsing off to every battleground and leave you here to be captured. I don't much care for the passive approach, but Albus isn't often wrong." Moody twirled his magical eye in Harry's direction. "Where are you getting this, anyway? What rituals?"
Harry felt the tension building, and winced. With some difficulty he said: "Another … fit... like before, when Dumbledore ... was here. I think it's coming any moment now. Last time ... reckoned ... it was Voldemort … dark rituals." It was getting difficult to force words out, and still the pain had yet to hit – he felt like he was being squeezed into jelly.
Moody stood up from the table and grabbed him by the waist, hoisting him up on the shoulder. Harry protested, but before he could force out another word, he was already halfway up the stairs to his room, doubtlessly leaving a pair of confused and panicked Dursleys behind. His sense of time seemed to be slipping – it seemed but a moment from being on the stairs to laying on the bottom of Moody's trunk.
Before he could form another thought, the world dissipated in a blaze of crippling agony, quickly replaced by that bizarre sensation of being two people. The combination of contradictory feelings caused him to stop bellowing, and for a brief moment he felt as if he could topple mountains, as if he could melt solid rock and boil oceans dry. He stood at the heart of the raging fire-storm, and it felt wonderful. The scorching pain of the fire was still there, but it seemed distant and unimportant. He wondered at what it meant, at what the fire was trying to tell him. It didn't seem to make any sense – fire was terrible, yet magnificent? Was it trying to show him something?
The moment ended, and the sensation of fire faded nearly instantly to the dull numbness of normality. He noticed he was laughing and closed his mouth with a snap, cutting off a chuckle. He blinked his eyes – for some reason, they were watery – and looked around. All he saw was the brick walls of the trunk and a terrified Alastor Moody, holding his wand out, shaking.
"It's over," Harry said, sighing slightly as he sat up. That had been far more intense than the last two – but, in a way, far less painful. If Voldemort was trying to make it a more effective way of torture over a distance, he wasn't succeeding. "Is the scar bleeding again?" He didn't feel any particular emotion that wasn't his own – maybe slight confusion, though it seemed dull and far away. Fear? Doubtful.
Moody finally answered in a gravelly voice. "Potter, that was the most alarming thing I've seen in years. Dumbledore didn't tell me you'd be writhing and ranting like a madman!"
Harry gingerly touched his scar, and found that it was entirely dry. Huh. He looked up at Moody, looking unusually uncertain about himself. "Better alert Dumbledore," he commented, jumping from the bed. Moody hadn't moved, and he was blocking the stairs out of the trunk. "Moody?"
Moody finally relented, but raised a hand. "Let me handle this." With a flick of his wand, a Patronus soared out of his wand, moving too fast for Harry to guess its shape. It flashed away immediately. "I sent for Albus, he'll certainly be here soon enough. We'd best make ourselves comfortable – it's quite possible he's still stuck up in the north."
Before Moody could say another word, a slight crack sounded in the bedroom above. With a wave of his hand, Moody opened the lid – which could only easily be opened from the inside – and a flustered Dumbledore looked down into it. It took mere moments for the ancient professor to jump down, landing gracefully on his feet.
"I do hope my appearance was sufficiently prompt." Dumbledore said, as he brushed dust off his robes. "It has been only a few minutes since the last Death Eater was stunned near Plockton, so I'm afraid I had little time for cleaning up. I suppose we are even now, Harry."
"The attack went through?" Moody asked, disbelievingly. "Seems Voldemort is more certain of his followers than we think, considering he'd let them go off alone, in numbers."
Dumbledore frowned at Moody, and then pursed his lips. "Voldemort was personally leading his forces today. Most escaped and considerable damage was done to the village. We lost none of ours, though they lost three low-level Death Eaters."
"Then your previous idea was wrong," Harry commented dryly, moving to the edge of the bed. "I was just attacked by the mother of all visions, and it seems rather unlikely that Voldemort would be going after Muggles while sending them."
Dumbledore stared, started to say something, then closed his mouth again. For a moment Harry had the urge to point out that he'd just gotten Albus Dumbledore gaping. After a few more moments in which Dumbledore's face went from fear to intrigue to confusion, he finally spoke. "If my previous hypothesis is wrong, that leaves very few. Was there anything significantly different from this vision?"
Harry noted the strange look he was receiving from Dumbledore – almost as if the Headmaster didn't believe him. He shook off the impression and described his experiences the best he could remember – he ended up using the word 'fire' a lot. Moody's description, if anything, was scarier: he reported flailing, writhing, and rhythmic chanting of poetic-sounding verse. Harry thought he already knew what particular poem he'd quoted. He wondered, briefly, if it was the deranged, anguished half of him that had recited the lines.
"I'm afraid that I am no closer to finding a solution to this particular problem." Dumbledore admitted, still seeming somewhere poised between disbelief and horror." I searched out Voldemort on the battlefield, today. He apparated out nearly half an hour ago, and at the time I didn't think anything of it – the Death Eaters were already partially in retreat, as we had some of them surrounded. I wonder if it might be something from within your connection, rather than something either of you is directly causing. Perhaps something is tapping into your connection, and it's the cause of these surges. Voldemort might well be experiencing similar attacks on his mind. That might also explain why he's losing control of his Occlumency for brief periods."
Harry had few possible leads on what was going on – he trusted Dumbledore to eventually figure it out and dispel whatever strange magic it was. Perhaps he'd get good enough at Occlumency that he could defend his mind at length, shutting off the connection on his own end. At the moment, it seemed, the answers were far, far away.
Dumbledore left with another memory, and Moody warily took back his room, ushering Harry out into the Dursley house, his magical eye never leaving Harry until he shut the lid. Harry walked over to the window, mindful of the many protective charms located around it – wards, Moody had called them.
Harry had time to think for the remainder of his vacation. The strange visions were getting weirder each time, and now he wasn't even sure if Voldemort had even been the origin in the first place. Moody wasn't particularly helpful – he'd been jumpy ever since the first vision, and the later ones didn't help matters.
Eight times now he'd had a screaming fit – though the screaming was briefer each time – followed by a surreal experience of power. He felt like he could take on the world while he was in those – the last few times they'd not even been painful enough to knock him off his feet any more – but he was well aware of Dumbledore's opinions that, despite feeling like he was capable of destroying whole countries, he'd not actually gotten any stronger. Each time, Moody had reported moaning, retching and the occasional line of poetry – each time from that same poem. It seemed that whatever Voldemort was up to might have to do with immortality, and his mind had latched on to that poem in a strange sort of symmetry.
Dumbledore had become more and more sceptical with each occurrence. For reasons Harry didn't entirely understand, more questions were asked, and more magical tests performed, including asking about seemingly unrelated things, or asking for responses to words. Lately he'd been asked quite a lot of questions about orphanages – he'd never been in one, but Dumbledore seemed to be under the impression he should know about it. Harry reckoned Dumbledore was probably trying to figure out if any possession was taking place – not a bad precaution, he supposed. Thankfully, his mind seemed to be his own.
Finally, the summer was drawing to a close. He'd not been allowed to go to the Burrow this year – most of the Weasleys were at Headquarters and that was definitely off limits for now, both because of the connection to Sirius and the continuing concern of Voldemort using Harry as an unknowing spy. Dumbledore and Moody had been his most frequent visitors, though Remus had been by twice – both times immediately after a full moon. It seemed that the werewolf became restless without Padfoot to keep him company, and a brief chat with Harry could get him back fighting. Harry went and repeated both Remus' own words and Dumbledore's back at him, and was faced with a shy smile and chuckle each time.
With summer's end came the end of his Occlumency lessons – he'd improved significantly, and Dumbledore noted that lessons with Snape would now likely be far less daunting or hazardous; it was just a question of practice at this point. Although Harry balked at the idea of having Snape run roughshod through his mind (again), he figured it was worth it. After all, his inability to deal with Snape had unintentionally led to the death of Sirius. Facing it was the least he could do.
Another reason it had to be Snape, Harry hypothesized, was the fact that there was a new disconnect between himself and Professor Dumbledore. He wasn't sure what had caused it, but the visions of fire over the holidays had seemingly put the Headmaster on edge – perhaps because even he could not find a good explanation. Harry had caught the Headmaster staring with narrowed eyes, as if Harry were doing something particularly heinous. Other times, he'd radiated outright suspicion. Regardless, Moody continued to give all the highlights of order meetings directly to Harry, and he was free to communicate with his friends via Moody, with several letters going back and forth every few days, mostly to Ron and Hermione, with a few for Luna, Neville, and Ginny. He spoke to Remus and Tonks on the phone. Dumbledore was clearly holding himself to his part of the agreement they'd made that day in the Headmaster's office, and in return he'd chosen to forgive the Headmaster for his eccentricities. He figured that this way, things might eventually get better.
Of course, then his birthday had arrived. On the windowsill was an imposing black owl carrying a largish envelope imprinted with the Ministry of Magic's seal.
Author's Note : Beta-read by Helen Racine (/u/78047/Helen_Racine) Very many thanks. :)
Credit for a few lines here go to :
Doctor Who (2005)
Dylan Thomas :'And Death Shall Have No Dominion'.