AN: Warning, lots of AN at the end.
Lucius Malfoy approached Harry, Lily, and Hermione cautiously, careful to make enough noise to be readily detectable. He had discarded his black cloak before entering the graveyard, and the only Death Eater masks around belonged to the dead and dying littered across the graveyard. It was not hard for Malfoy to recognize the trio's disheveled and worn state, but Lily and Harry still turned to face him before he had closed within a dozen paces, turning the Granger girl with them.
"I am not here to fight, Mister Potter," Lucius said, holding out empty hands to signify his lack of threat.
"I know, Lucius," Lily said as she collected a black cloak that was not too heavily bloodstained from one of the downed Death Eaters, and eyed the Malfoy up and down, "You never were the suicidal sort. Age has treated you well."
"And death has treated you well, you do not appear to have aged a day during your mortality," Lucius replied promptly, "I am here, however, to speak with your son of our prior agreement."
"I have seen and heard everything that has happened around my son since Voldemort struck me with a killing curse thirteen years ago," Lily replied flatly, wrapping the cloak around her bloody flesh.
Lucius was silent for a few moments, ignoring the weight of Hermione and the Potter's stares while he considered.
"I watched from the perimeter of the graveyard," Lucius said, "As a fourteen-year old boy slaughtered thirty of the most prominent purebloods of Magical Britain, and the specter of a twenty-one year old woman defeated the most powerful Dark Lord of our age. I do not wish trouble with either of you."
"G-good," Harry said, "Because I've l-learned from this fight, and next time I'll be more lethal. I still intend to leave after my OWLs."
"Then our deal remains in place," Lucius said, nodding.
The trio of non-purebloods stared at him, and he gazed at each of them measuringly in turn, before nodding, and walking back towards the center of the graveyard.
"Lucius," Harry called after a moment, and the man paused, looking back over his shoulder, "You remember why I didn't kill you the first time I met you?"
After a moment of thought, the Malfoy patriarch nodded.
"Remember," Harry said, "That no longer applies."
Lucius nodded, and continued towards the center of the graveyard.
Once he was out of ready earshot, Lily turned her attention to the young adults with her.
"Now," She said, standing up and then pulling the other two to their feet, "You two have both been through quite the ordeal, and it's time for you to be examined by an experienced healer. I know quite a bit of basic healing, but nowhere near enough to deal with the Cruciatus, or what happened to you, Hermione."
She paused for a long moment, closing her eyes, before speaking again.
"I have been bodiless and unable to Apparate for thirteen years," She said, opening her eyes again to look at Harry, "Is Riddle's ward still up, or am I simply failing in my effort?"
"It's still up," Harry said, leaning heavily on Hermione and his mother, as his legs refused to properly hold his weight.
"Let's get to the edge of them then," She said, and helped Hermione support Harry as they walked out of the Little Hangleton graveyard.
Voldemort's magical power, while he had still possessed it, had been formidable, and it took several minutes for them to reach the edge of the wards, at which point Harry Apparated them all to the front gate of Hogwarts.
"Hello, Voldemort," Lucius said as he approached the moaning spirit near the center of the graveyard.
"Lucius," The spirit hissed, "Why did you not come when I called?"
"Fifteen years ago," Lucius said, "I joined you as a servant. You were a powerful Dark Lord, rising to power, supporting the cause I believed in, and I was barely a man. You were charismatic, persuasive, and near-peerless in ability."
Lucius stopped speaking for a moment, beginning to circle the wraith before continuing.
"Two years ago, Harry Potter came to my attention. He was twelve at the time, and held me at sword-point. I did not even manage to touch my wand before he had my life in his hands. This, of course, piqued my interest, and I began looking both into his, and into your backgrounds. I discovered that he was raised amongst his muggle relatives, and that his uncle was serving a life sentence in prison for child abuse, and attempted murder.
"You," Lucius continued, his voice and posture full of aristocratic poise, "I already know had once carried the name Tom Marvolo Riddle, from the diary you entrusted to my care. I discovered that you, too had been raised by muggles, in far from ideal conditions. To my considerable surprise, when I looked further into your past, not an easy task by any means, I found that you were a half-blood."
The wounded spirit sneered, and opened its mouth to speak, but Lucius Malfoy silenced it with a flick of his wand, which Voldemort had not seen in his hand a moment ago.
"It is interesting, really," Lucius pressed on, continuing to circle the wraith, "That of the three most powerful British wizards in the last century, only one is a Pureblood, and we are all well aware that Dumbledore is quite prominently in favor of muggle-born rights, and uses his positions of influence to champion such. So, when you called your followers to you tonight, I chose to watch, to see if you were still worthy of being called 'master.'"
Lucius Malfoy stopped circling the silent specter, and surveyed the destroyed and mutilated bodies of Death Eaters strewn across the graveyard.
"You had thirty of your followers to aid you," Malfoy said, grimly, "My peers, many of them my friends, and they were slaughtered by a fourteen year old boy. Even with their aid, you would not have won save that they held a hostage for you, and even then, it took only a single muggle-born woman to turn the tide once more, in admittedly the single most dramatic event I have ever witnessed in my life. This is the end of whatever you have been doing in the thirteen years since you lost power."
Malfoy turned and faced the spirit directly.
"Whereas I, I," Malfoy said, "Rule Magical Britain in all but name. Something you failed to accomplish at the height of your power."
Malfoy turned his back on the spirit, and began striding towards the edge of the graveyard.
"The answer to your question, Tom Riddle," Malfoy said loudly, without bothering to look back, "Is that I did not answer your call because you are no longer my master. If you regain your magic and body, I may treat with you as an equal, but now I have no master but myself."
Behind him, the specter silently raged, but was utterly powerless to actually do anything.
When Hermione Granger and Lily Potter entered the tournament area all but carrying Harry Potter, the near-chaos amongst tournament officials and the crowd turned into complete and total pandemonium. At this point, Minerva McGonagall decided she had had quite enough of this nonsense, and decided to bring some order to her school.
Everyone in the area, save Harry, was momentarily deafened by the massive skyburst McGonagall had conjured directly over herself. She waited a few moments for people's hearing to start to return, before addressing the crowd.
"This nonsense will cease at once," She firmly declared, her voice augmented by a Sonorus charm, "And you will all make way for me to escort Mister Potter and company to the Hospital Wing. An announcement will be made later tonight, or tomorrow morning in the Great Hall as to what has happened."
The crowd parted before McGonagall's stern glare, and she quickly moved to them, and then began escorting them back to the castle. Lily could feel Harry's still-spastic muscles tensing as they moved through the crowd, and his magic pulsing beneath his skin as he constantly scanned the surroundings for threats. Hermione still hadn't said anything since she had been healed, which was beginning to worry Lily, but she could tell from her grip on the girl that she wasn't trembling, and her pulse was steady, so she was confident the girl would be fine until Pomfrey had a look at her.
McGonagall's glare also served to silence any questions thrown by bystanders, or at least cow their desire to pursue an answer until the quartet had passed. Within a few minutes, they had passed into the castle, then up to the Hospital Wing, where Pomfrey promptly took control of the situation.
"All three of you, beds, now," The Mediwitch said, staring at only briefly at the bloody Lily Potter before helping the unsteady Harry into a bed.
"Trembling and fatigue," Pomfrey said after a moment's visual inspection, and whipped out her wand, beginning to cast diagnostic charms, "What happened to you?"
"Cruciatus," Lily said quietly, "Around five minutes worth in nine or ten exposures."
For a moment, Pomfrey became very, very still.
"Harry," She said softly, "I need to sedate you. Can you lower your barrier?"
Harry nodded, closed his eyes and visibly focused for a moment, then nodded again. Pomfrey gently tapped his brow with her wand, and Harry's entire body relaxed utterly into sleep. For the first time since Lily's new body had formed in the graveyard, Harry's trembling and twitching stopped.
"Merlin," Pomfrey breathed, "I'd hoped to never see this in a student."
"He was under the curse too long, wasn't he?" Lily asked quietly.
Pomfrey nodded silently, moving over to check on Hermione.
"Judging by how quiet you are," Pomfrey said as she looked the girl over, then began casting diagnostic spells, "You've had another near brush with death, haven't you young lady?"
Hermione nodded, but said nothing.
"Well," Pomfrey said after a moment, "Physically, you're fit as a fiddle. Almost excessively healthy, actually. I'll come back to you after I've had a look at Lily."
"I'm not entirely sure what you'll find," Lily said as the older woman moved over to her, "You should probably check to make sure that I have the regular set of organs first."
"I assume," Pomfrey said as she began a more involved series of diagnostic spells, "That has something to do with how your dead body was recovered from Godric's Hollow thirteen years ago?"
"I am rather curious about that myself," McGonagall said, interjecting herself into the conversation for the first time since they had entered the infirmary.
"Understandably so," Lily said, "Have either of you ever studied Soul or Blood Magic?"
"I looked over the basics of blood magic once to see if it had any potential for healing," Pomfrey said, while McGonagall shook her head curtly, "Other than that, nothing."
"What I am now," Lily said, "Is a product of both. I'll spare you the technical details, neither of you would understand them without a solid grounding in the fields anyways, but in essence, I used myself as a sacrifice for a protection ritual that had unintended consequences. The intention of the ritual, was to protect Harry against any magic cast with intent to kill or maim him, and have its destructive force turned back against the aggressor. It was fortunate for me that Voldemort offered to spare me when he came for Harry, as him subsequently killing me when I refused strengthened the effect of the ritual drastically."
"How so?" McGonagall asked when Lily paused to gather her thoughts.
"First," Lily said, "It established the context; I did not need to die, but voluntarily sacrificed myself for my son's benefit regardless. Second, in both attacking personally, and using the Killing Curse on first me, then Harry, the effects of the ritual were optimized to protect against both him, and that curse in particular. Third, the curse itself had unforeseen effects. Tell me, do any of you know how the Killing Curse works?"
"I doubted it," Lily said, "In truth, I doubt any living being other than myself understands. Simply put, it severs the connection between body and soul. The effect this lead to that I had not expected, was that the ritual, in order to protect my son from the same curse as had killed me, bound my spirit to his body, essentially wrapping my essence around his to protect him. When Riddle cast the Killing Curse on Harry, it actually struck me, and attempted to sever the connection between my soul and my body, to no effect, as my connection to my body had already been severed. Then the retributive portion of the ritual came into effect, destroying Voldemort's body. Unfortunately, he had already used soul magic of his own to gain a form of immortality. He managed to gain a new body tonight, which is why we're all in such rough shape."
"Merlin," McGonagall breathed, "He's back? Why didn't you say so before, I need to-"
"No," Lily said, cutting McGonagall off abruptly in a way that the twenty-two-year-old Lily from thirteen years before, that she still looked like, never would have, "Had a new body. He formed it in part out of Harry's blood, and it was actually quite easy for me to destroy as a consequence. Besides that, he is not only a disembodied wraith once more, but he has also been stripped of his magic, due to breaking a binding oath to Harry."
"Well," Pomfrey said, interjecting as she completed her scans, "According to my diagnostics, you have an entirely functional human body. Completely without scars, muscular or skeletal wear, or, in fact, any sign you've spent any more time in this world than a newborn."
"I think," McGonagall said, "You should simply tell us the full story of what happened after Harry disappeared, start to finish."
By the time George Granger arrived at the gates of Hogwarts with Andromeda Tonks and his new French research assistant, Marie Legrande, the crowd had spread across most of the grounds, and was thick with worried whispers. Some considered moving to impede their progress across the grounds, but George Granger was almost frothing at the mouth in barely-restrained rage, and had… something in his hands. Nobody was quite certain just what it was, but it seemed to involve a great deal of electricity, and was causing his hair to stand on end.
"This way to the Hospital Wing," Andromeda Tonks said when they reached the castle itself, and began to lead the other two into the rather bewildering maze of Hogwarts.
Outside of the infirmary entrance, they found Hagrid standing a rather imposing guard.
"'lo Andromeda," He greeted as they approached, "Why're you here?"
"Hermione Granger was abducted from our care several hours ago," Andromeda said, "I've been trying to trace her with tracking spells ever since then. The first successful casting placed her in the Hogwarts Infirmary."
"Gimme a minute," Hagrid said, "I'll ask McGonergall if'n you kin come in."
Hagrid opened the door and stuck his head in for a few moments. The trio of new arrivals could see his chest moving as his lungs worked for speech, but hear nothing, marking the presence of a silencing spell over the infirmary door, and probably walls too.
"Right," Hagrid said after pulling his head back out, "McGonagall said ter have you go right on in."
The Granger, Tonks, and Legrande all quickly entered the infirmary, and Andromeda nearly had a heart attack.
"Lily Potter?" She breathed out, disbelievingly.
"Yes," The red-headed woman said, turning to look at the three, "Hello Andromeda, George, Marie."
None of the three managed a response, and Lily smiled at them, amusement twinkling in her green eyes.
"I've been keeping a watch over Harry during my discorporation," She said, "As best I've been able. Everything he has seen or heard, I have also."
Andromeda boggled, mouth opening and closing as she fought for words, but none came.
"Rather a shock, isn't it?" McGonagall said wryly, from where she was seated between the bed Lily sat on, and the one Harry lay on, sipping at a glass of whisky, "You may wish to take a seat yourself."
"Why won't she say anything?" George Granger said, abruptly drawing everyone's attention to where he stood beside Hermione's bed, his… device no longer so blatantly electrical.
"Hysterical muteness," Pomfrey said promptly, "She's been through a life-threatening situation, and is in a sort of mental shock. I saw this before, after her experience with the Troll, first year. She'll be fine."
"I think," George Granger said, "You'd better fill us in."
So they did.
Hours later, after the recent arrivals had been briefed, a progression of Tournament officials, Aurors, and other Ministry personnel had been filled in as much as McGonagall saw fit to do so, eventually, Pomfrey and McGonagall forced everyone except the Potters and Hermione out of the infirmary. Once the various gawkers had been pushed out, McGonagall and Pomfrey retreated as well, into Pomfrey's office to give Lily and Hermione some privacy.
Once they were alone, Lily quietly moved over to Hermione's bed, where the girl still lay, silent, but very much awake, and sat down, pulling the Hermione into her lap.
"Thank you," She said softly, gently stroking the silent girl's hair, "You've done more for my son than anyone else since James and I were killed. He'd already chosen the hero's path when you started to help him, but there are so many things he's learned from you, that he might have been deprived of his whole life otherwise."
Hermione trembled, and clutched at Lily, beginning to shiver.
"H-h-happy to help," Hermione whispered, barely audible, even in the silent infirmary.
Lily smiled, and pulled the girl into a closer embrace.
"I'm also quite aware that you've taken a fancy to him," Lily said, a hint of teasing in her tone.
Hermione's shivering stopped, and she began to blush.
"Oh," Lily said, chuckling, "You'll find no disapproval from me. My son is quite the young man, and saving your life, twice now, is quite the way to draw a girl's attention, isn't it?"
Hermione blushed more.
"If the rest of your actions hadn't shown me that I can trust you with my son romanticly," Lily continued, in a more serious tone, "Two things would. First, how you handled the Yule Ball. You most probably could have convinced Harry to take you as his date, but instead, you encouraged him to go with young Gabrielle, and arranged for every girl that he is well acquainted with to have a dance with him. In doing so, you proved that though you desire him, you are not going to let your desire push you into stupidly possessive behavior."
Lily pulled Hermione up, and turned the girl to face her before continuing.
"Second," She said, intense gaze boring into Hermione's eyes, "You proved that you were not only willing to die for him, but die painfully. Harry wasn't really in any shape to see or hear, but I know that they put you under the Cruciatus three times before they resorted to cutting up your body."
A shiver ran through Hermione at the reminder of what she had suffered through earlier that night, and Lily just held her for a minute before speaking again.
"In the end," Lily said, "Real Love, the most important Love, involves looking out for what the other needs before oneself. The first time Harry saved your life, he didn't really know what he was getting into, whether or not he was really in any danger from the Troll. Tonight though, tonight…"
Lily trailed off for a long moment before continuing.
"Tonight, you both knew you were almost certain to die, trying to protect the other. But you both made the sacrifice anyways. That is Love. Harry is only beginning to open his mind to the romantic, and even as he does, he may never seek you out in that way, but whether he does or not,"
"I already know he Loves me," Hermione said, "He laid down his life for me."
"And y-you did for me," Harry added from his bed, where neither of the women had realized he was awake.
Hermione started at Harry's unexpected words, but Lily just smiled, and carried Hermione over to Harry's bed, where she wrapped them both in her embrace, which quickly developed into a group hug, all of them holding each other.
"I Love you, Harry, Hermione," Lily said gently.
"I Love you Harry, Lily," Hermione whispered softly.
There was a long pause, and the two young women could feel Harry physically struggling with himself, before he spoke.
"I L-love you, Hermione, mum," Harry said, and if his words were a little late, they were utterly heartfelt.
And they continued to hold each other until they fell asleep, first Harry, then Hermione, and finally Lily, after she wrapped Harry's blankets around them all, and lay down with the two arranged on and beside her. That night, despite the permanent damage to his nervous system, Harry slept with more peace than he had in thirteen years, knowing that he was held in Love.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, The Bible.
The End, of Brutal Harry.
(Partially revised) Author's Note: In the end, it all comes down to Love. Not the sappy, romantic type of love, not the 'I love tacos' kind of love, but the "I will lay down my whole life for you," kind of Love. The kind of Love that shows someone that they're worth something, that shows that you are cared about. The kind of Love that you see when a man comes home from work, and his wife greets him with a smile and a kind word. The kind of Love where a man gets up in the morning, and every morning, makes coffee for his wife (who is not a morning person, and needs that cup of joe to get going), and if she's awake before he leaves for work, brings it to her in bed. Or maybe those roles are flipped by gender; I don't know.
The kind of Love where a friend notices, even when you're hiding it, that you're down, and ambushes you with an invitation to play your favorite video game, or go out for pizza, or just tries to make you laugh. The kind of Love where even when you've done something to really piss one of your friends off, maybe accidentally, or maybe even on purpose, and they don't get angry, or shout, or yell, because even if you've hurt them, they care too much about you, they value you too much to want to hurt you, even when you've hurt them.
The kind of Love that is so very, very, almost non-existently rare in every place I've ever lived, every community I've ever been a part of, even churches. I'm a Christian, a serious, 'I'll die a bloody death before I surrender my faith' Christian, and let me tell you, Christianity is all *about* that kind of Love. Hence the whole 'Christian' meaning follower of Christ, who literally died on a cross thing. It is endlessly frustrating to me that I see it so rarely amongst people who call themselves Christians, especially those who are or have been my friends and family. Instead, in the western world, and particularly America, the Church has a reputation for hypocracy, being judgmental, and all kinds of things that are *not* amazing, incredible, life-transforming Love.
This story, I hope, has given a perspective on how Love does, and doesn't work. In cannon Harry Potter, both Riddle and Harry had crapsack youths, but one became the hero, and the other the villain. I first started reading Harry Potter when I was Harry's age in the book series at the time; my Aunt (who tends to be good at picking such things), bought me the first two Harry Potter books for a birthday present, and I loved them. The third was just coming out then, so I snapped that one up to. They were wonderful books to me then, a literally magical world, exciting adventures, fantastic creatures, and a fair bit of humor too.
Now, thirteen years later, I'm a very different person. This cold and harsh world has beaten most of the naive innocence out of me, and a more intelligent eye has long since perceived the many and well-documented flaws within the Harry Potter canon. To me, at this time, the most egregious of all flaws in the series, is Harry himself, as a character. Tom Riddle grows up being bullied, and in a quite believable and natural progression, develops into the bully himself when he gains the power, and then as he is consistently able to get away with more and more without being caught or punished, and no one ever reaches out and connects with him, turns from bully to tyrant.
Harry, on the other hand, deals with years of far worse, with absolutely no noticeable effect. Riddle was the victim of incompetent and/or indifferent administration at an orphanage, and run of the mill bullies who had him as one of their preferred targets, amongst many. Harry, on the other hand, was the victim of targeted emotional abuse, belittlement, and debasement by his blood-relatives, blatantly endorsed physical violence by his cousin, being kept in inhumane conditions, and literally worked like a slave. And Rowling writes exactly no emotional response or fall-out from this whatsoever.
Harry, in essence, becomes the hero, because he is not functionally human at all. Throughout the series, with some minor exceptions in books three and four, he never makes any particular effort to develop his own abilities, and gets through practically every peril and circumstance via sheer luck, or plot-ordained powers. Or, in book five, his foes being so utterly incompetent that a larger number of Death Eaters get their asses handed to them by a group of school children. If you take an honest look at the book series, the hero of the story should have been Hermione, who consistently pushes the other two main characters into doing productive things (schoolwork in all books), solves the mysteries for them (book two), has the necessary equipment to make things happen (book three), takes sensible precautions (Firebolt in book 3, DA in book 5, Potions book in book 6, all of book 7. ALL of it.), and has every single bit of equipment, supplies, and spell-knowledge they need to last at all in the last book.
Harry is one of the worst main male characters I've ever read, after Edward Cullen, and worse than the sparkle-pire, most people don't understand why.
Harry should be an emotional wreck. He should be in need of years of recovery and healing from what he experienced with the Dursleys in canon. Realistically, he would have fallen in to one of four results, a bully like Riddle, a complete social recluse terrified of interaction with any other human being, a broken spirit desperate to please any and everyone in order to avoid punishment, or something more like what I have written.
Over the course of my writing, a few people that I had read my story and give me feedback IRL, noted that the sort of treatment Harry has had almost universally retards learning and growth in children, rather than spurs it, and they're right. I wrote an exaggeratedly bad childhood for Harry to make it clear in no uncertain terms, he has had shit happen in his life. I made it so horrific, that there are something like 4 times as many hits on the Prologue, as on the subsequent chapters, as I scared off readers with how ugly it was. From the prologue on, however, I wrote Harry as a boy who made some of the hardest, most demanding choices that *could* be made.
Let me make this perfectly clear to those of you who have no real understanding of Child Psychology, or Psychology in general, Harry is an extreme example of a child who endured hardship, and thrived in spite of it. Pretty much any child who goes through similar circumstances, or even 'merely' what Harry went through in canon, is going to end up as a total mess. And the Harry I wrote, in spite of being as hardcore, heroic, and enduring as I could bring myself to believe possible, is still an incredible mess.
It takes him six years to open himself up enough to tell someone he loves them, after the insane abuse stops. That's doing damn well for an abused child. Of course, that's Harry only saying it when he means it, and is willing to be emotionally vulnerable enough to admit it. A lot of people who were subject to varying degrees of abuse will throw 'I love you' around without any real weight to the words, or clue what they're talking about.
Harry's got a long way to go yet; that's a large part of why there's going to be a sequel. This story is actually barely fleshed out enough to be what I'd call a 'story' proper, but then, I didn't get my start writing fanfiction, and most of what's missing, is assumed knowledge of canon and etc. on the part of the reader base. When I get around to the sequel though, it'll be a more full-fledged story, with multiple main and supporting characters, attention paid to plot threads aside from those that directly apply to Harry, and etc. Part of that will mean that when I do get around to working on and posting that, it'll either not start being posted until I'm through writing a lot of it, or it'll post very slowly.
In order to keep this from being the eternal AN from hell, I'm going to get out a last few things and then cut this off.
For those of you wondering, yes Lily is back to stay.
Other things were in the original AN, but have been revised out as they are now irrelevant.
Finally, I'm going to start posting a number of different things, shorts, partially-developed plot ideas, and other things, native to any and every fandom I feel inspired to write in or with. At the least, you'll see snippets of Harry Potter, Familiar of Zero, and probably eventually a Full Metal Panic/Ranma/Sailor Moon crossover I started a long time ago. I've even got 40 pages or so of a Naruto fic that's been on my hard drive for a year and a half now, that may see the light of day. These things, if and when I do post them, will generally not be long-term stories I intend to complete, but more along the lines of the partial-fic compilations you see on a lot of author's profiles, though one or two may be longer projects that I simply come back to and add to when I'm in the mood for.
As some final words on Brutal Harry; I hope the story showed you some Hope for real Love in this life.
And as a parting thought, a brief exchange between me and my roommate/beta:
Me to roommate: "That was a strange sound."
Roommate: "I killed a coyote with a shovel."