- Harry Potter and the Bridge of Dreams -

Chapter 14

Wheel of Fire


Voldemort, The Dark Lord: The chosen title of Tom Marvolo Riddle. Last known blood descendent of Slytherin, the Lost Founder of Hogwarts; perpetrator of atrocities against sentient beings not limited to the scope of the entirety of the First and Second Serpent Wars (see entries Serpent War, First and Serpent War, Second for further information). Arch rival of Albus Dumbledore (see entries Dumbledore, Albus, and Hogwarts Headmasters appendix for further information. Arch rival of Harry Potter (see entry Potter, Harry, and all previously mentioned entries for further information).

From An Encyclopedia For The Muggleborn, by Regan Gherreimon


The fury of the Dark Lord at his second defeat, perhaps more ignominious that the first, spared the world its presence in palpable destruction. This was only because the confrontation he had suffered with the wards that infused Harry Potter's blood – and through that blood, the property at Privet Drive - had suffused his spirit into a vaporous cloud of ill intentions.

For a three months and more he drifted senseless and cold, a malodorous, wavering energy that splayed itself like a viscous, gray-green fog across the horizon for those who had the eyes to see. When finally Voldemort returned to himself, regained consciousness and some control over the scattered energies of his being, he was full of an anger that he had no outlet for. More than a third of the energy he had carefully stored within himself, gathered over a decade of menial striving, was gone. Vanished.

The wards had drained it from him, had sucked the power from him and perhaps even some of the life – but he did not like to think about that. He was Voldemort, the most feared Dark Lord in centuries – more feared than Grindelwald, more feared than any since great Slytherin himself...perhaps more even than Slytherin!

But I can not be the most feared Dark Lord of all time...if I do not regain a body! Immortality in this form...is not the immortality I require. Immortality...in this form...is not enough...is less than nothing...!

He moved across the British landscape as drifting mist and nauseous shadow; he infringed upon the boundaries of many homes where he sensed magic, and fed upon the wasted tendrils of energy that seeped out into the midnight air. Even the energy he found beside the muggleborn he did not disdain; anything to bring him back to his former power, to give him a chance to once more kill that boy and prove himself forever dominant over Death.

Forever...powerful...forever...the chosen one.

At first, Azkaban prison beckoned him with the weeping sensation of his own power, bleeding outward from the Mark with which he had claimed his Death Eaters. There was darkness beyond darkness there and many of his old followers were hidden behind the gray stone walls – the most loyal, the most insane, the most vicious...but he could not venture too close. Azkaban was guarded by the Dementors, and the Dementors would not care who he had been, only that the stretched out spirit of his existence was a lovely morsel for an afternoon snack.

There was only one other place Voldemort could think of that he would be safe; only one other possibility. It had occurred to him before, but now he considered that the risks which had earlier kept him back were worthwhile. Better the risk than his own dissolution; better the chance of detection than to float formless through the better part of another decade.

It is...dangerous. The old fool will not...be easy...to avoid...and the one...who might host me...will not be easy...to subdue.

If he had been living he would never have dared to attempt the challenge that was before him. There were too many reasons to stay away, too many things that could go wrong. Now, the only danger to him was the same prolonged weakness that he had suffered, and continued to suffer – not truly a danger, just an inconvenience.

In the end, he did not think it would matter; this was not the immortality he wanted but it would serve, until he could secure something better. And something better might be just around the corner; a powerful beast, a creature with which he had allied himself once before, the willing servant of his bloodline. The serpent of serpents; the king of kings; an abomination...a terror...a sleeping promise of death passed down across a thousand years...a basilisk,

Voldemort lifted himself up over the hills that rose before him, and drifted down into a long, dark tangle of woods that was so very familiar; so precious...almost home. He sensed lives moving around him; dark intentions, predatory thirsts...hungers...dreams...and conscience, too – and then a purity so bright, so clean it blinded and disgusted him and sent him fleeing forward. He would not be deterred; almost home!

The thought tingled within his being, and then – ah, then. A welcoming presence; a feeling he had missed...so long, he had missed it.

The castle...is waiting for me.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry loomed tall and glowing with the light of a thousand candles, a beacon calling through the darkness to him. The landscape was wet and murky, but the cold of the early spring did not bother him, and the school's wards did not touch him, did not recognize him as a presence. Less than the merest ghost, a wisp of vapor with only the form that he imposed upon himself with the subtlest manipulations of magic, he followed the draw of the castle's power, its presence, and let his shadow drift through the open doors and through the long halls of Hogwarts.

He floated away from the Great Hall and the noises of school life that he could hear there; away from the presence of powerful magic whose possessor might be too attuned to his presence to let him pass by without notice or confrontation. That he had crossed the wards was mere luck, but Albus Dumbledore was a man of many unknown powers and resources, the student of obscure knowledge...

If any living man could recognize him even in this shape, it would be him, and Voldemort would not tempt fate when success was so close at hand.

Voldemort moved up through the empty spiral that sat at the center of the shifting staircases to the second floor, and then down the corridor to a disused girl's lavatory where a single ghost fluttered back and forth, moaning to herself in the absence of anyone else to share her distress with.

If he could have smirked, he would have; and yet at the same time there was a tug of irritation in the deepest part of his had been the greatest of wizards, and here before him floated his first victim; nameless now, a spirit, a ghost, a memory...but he was less than that.

I am less than that...now...but never again!

Voldemort gathered himself in front of one of the old, stone sinks and focused his essence until he was capable of a sound – a sound, not loud enough for human ears but loud enough for the magic that was waiting for just such a susurration, just such a hiss to reveal its secrets.

Open to the Heir of Slytherin!

With a grinding and a shuddering that spattered dust down onto the lavatory floor, the wall opened behind the sink and showed a long, dark, curving tunnel; an open pipe, leading down into the bowels of the castle. He flowed into it like mist, and fell down, down, down – far below.

He was already making his way through the large door that led into the main portion of the chamber he sought before a ghostly wail reached him – and Voldemort recognized with a sudden twist of rage that he might have made a mistake, discounting the spirit of the girl in the bathroom. Myrtle.

Yet what can she tell the old fool...what...but that there is a place...he already knows of...and yet cannot touch...within his school.

Black amusement strengthened Voldemort's will, and he moved forward through a circular, empty chamber that echoed with the sound of dripping water and the scurrying of rodents. Around him, though all was now dim, he knew what was there – entrances concealed, some opened long ago, when he was at school, some with passwords forgotten a thousand years ago that would never be opened again.

He moved forward in a whorl of smoky vapor and called upon his reserves of power a second time to produce a sound; a password he had discovered, one that had been left behind on purpose just for him.

Slytherin's...heir. Slytherin's...last...descendent.

As he had at the top of the long drop to this chamber, Voldemort spoke a hiss of inhuman language toward the statue whose stern figure dominated the room; twelve meters high it stood, an image of Salazar Slytherin as he had looked at the height of his power. Voldemort hovered for a moment before that image, taking strength from it, inspiration, reminding himself of his ancient, lofty purpose, the goals that had been transmitted to him with a bloodline higher and more important than any royalty in the world.

Finally, he gathered his powers a second time and sent his voice forth in a whispered rush of parseltongue, the language that marked his line.

"The forked tongue speaks twice, once cunning, once wise."

The password set up a rumble in the depths of the statue. The great figure shook with dust, but not as much as other places in the chamber; half a century's worth, only, and not a millennium of disuse. The great hands parted; robes of stone rippled like living fabric. The statue's mouth opened wide, wider, an impossible, silent scream, until the chin beneath the stone lips rested against the floor and the opening was large enough for at least a half a dozen men to walk comfortably side by side.

Voldemort experienced a first then and relished it; beyond mortal boundaries he certainly was, for he stared directly into the eyes of a basilisk, coiling its great bulk toward him, and felt nothing. The eyes were yellow, enormous, sickly in shade and disturbing in their menace. No human had noticed him; even the screeching ghost he had left above him, running toward the old fool, had not; she had noticed only the opening and closing of the secret entrance to this place.

The basilisk was different. Was it scent, or a sense for dark magic? Whatever it was, the beast's awareness of his presence was a thing of which he, too, was aware. It did not overly concern him. Either way, the basilisk would have become aware of him, sooner rather than later.

Sooner...

Now.

Mist and spirit moved in the beast's next inhalation and flowed into its body – all that Voldemort was, all that remained of his fleshless being, drawn into the basilisk with a single heaving breath. It flailed and writhed, sixty feet of bulk smashing against the walls, the magically reinforced statue, splashing in the damp of a thousand years and scattering dust and mold and fine, glittering scales.

There was power to resist in the basilisk's great reserves of power, in a thousand years of sleeping substance brought suddenly surging to the fore. The serpent was confused; it had sensed an enemy but there was no foe near it – it hissed in fury, spewed venom from its open mouth that bubbled against the stone floor, but all this was as a death reflex for whatever consciousness existed within the beast.

Within the shadowed mind of the basilisk, Voldemort had already taken root. Like an insidious weed, his presence grew and gained dominance.

There was no time for him in the basilisk's serpentine labyrinth of mind, but it was not long even to his subjective awareness before Voldemort had vanquished his foe, squashed mind but not magic, won a wonderful prize for himself – a shape worthy for a dark lord, if only for a while.

Serpent of serpents, king of dark kings, Voldemort coiled the three score feet of his body and bowed before the statue of his great ancestor.

"Many thanksss, great Ssslytherin – many thanksss!"

The statue remained cold and immobile.

The chamber was filled with the sibilant laughter of the dark lord, and then with silence. The great bulk of the basilisk coiled itself just within the statues mouth; Lord Voldemort closed his new and deadly eyes. He was tired, after his long battle; tired...it was time to rest.

Time to recoup the strength he had lost attempting to go after the boy.

Time to regain what he had expended on the conquest of his new flesh...


Only one individual could give warning of Voldemort's incursion into Hogwarts. The ghost, known to all and sundry as Moaning Myrtle, was more qualified than most would have expected, too – she had been killed by Voldemort when he was only a school boy, had been murdered by him in the bathroom she haunted, by a pair of yellow eyes that had appeared where today she had seen a pit open into darkness, obeying the sound of an invisible voice.

It was not her usual way to roam the castle, but that was her preference and the tug of emotion that kept her near the magical imprint of the trauma of her own death. Tonight, having convinced herself twice it was necessary and wiped away as many ghostly tears as she could, Myrtle made her way from the second floor girl's bathroom and up to the headmaster's office.

Albus Dumbledore was not expecting her, but then it was difficult to expect a ghost, after all. She hovered before him in the drab, shimmering length of her old-style Hogwarts robes, and he felt a pang of guilt as he always did when he saw her. He knew who it was that had killed her, though the question of how had never been answered; he had spent long hours in the decades since her death wondering if there had been a way to stop it – to prevent Voldemort from becoming more than just a boy's dark-hearted fancy, more than a daydreamed doodle, the anagram of a boring day.

Hindsight, of course; the inevitable if's. He did his best to hold back a sigh, and then turned to his guest.

Despite the unexpectedness of her appearance, Dumbledore made every appearance of being a host who has received a visitor long awaited.

"Why, Miss Myrtle, isn't it? What is it you need so late at night, my dear?"

He refrained from offering her a lemon drop; it would be rude.

"Hello H-Headmaster..."

She sniffled ominously and Dumbledore prepared himself for an outburst, but Myrtle restrained herself and only moaned faintly, piteously, and floated back and forth across the office.

"Headmaster, something terrible has happened. I was just sitting in my stall, drifting and contemplating death..."

Her voice drifted, then her eyes zeroed in on him from behind the thick, ghostly gleam of her spectacles.

"I heard a voice, hissing – just like the last time. When I died."

She said it proudly, and then continued in a lower voice.

"I don't know what kind of voice it was; it wasn't loud enough to hear – hic - just a whisper. But the sink sank back, and the wall opened up – I screamed, and then hid in my u-bend, but whatever it was had gone by the time I came out again, and the wall was the same – hic – as ever."

Dumbledore straightened with slow, precise motions. His back grew stiff against his chair; his fingers reached into his sleeve instinctively and grasped his wand, stroked the smooth, pale ridges of its wood.

"This...happened tonight, Myrtle?"

He took great pains to keep his voice calm; she was a flighty spirit, and he needed to know what she knew – if only legilimency worked on the dead!

"This afternoon, Headmaster, or maybe it was – hic – evening. I – I was scared so it -"

"It took you a while; I understand. Is there anything else you can tell me?"

Myrtle shook her head, and wrung her hands, and then let out a wail and sped away from the Headmaster through the wood of his office's closed door. When she was gone, a steel entered the eyes of Albus Dumbledore that many would have found startling.

He considered his options for only a moment, and then summoned those he knew he could trust. A whispered word and a flick of his wand sent a glow into the air; it formed into the wide-winged, glimmering shape of a great phoenix. The bird was only a construct of magic, yet it looked at him with intelligent eyes, and he spoke his message for it to carry.

"Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick, Pomona Sprout, Severus Snape, please come to the Headmaster's office immediately."

He considered for a moment, and then walked over to the fireplace and tossed in a pinch of sparkling powder.


The Headmaster was involved in a very late night discussion with the four individuals he had summoned, the heads of Hogwarts' ancient houses and one Sirius Black. Their talk lasted through the night, until Sirius had to leave to go tend his charges and the professor's to tend their morning duties, and it was with red eyes and a throbbing head that the Headmaster made his way down to the infirmary to seek the aid of Madam Pomfrey. On another day, he might have slept, but today important things required his attention, and that wasn't an option.

The school healer was sitting in her office, but she took one look at the headmaster as he sidled through her door and opened the bottom left drawer of her desk.

"Pepper-up potion, I suppose, though for the life of me why the five most needed professors in this school thought it wise to stay up all night like school children, I'm sure I don't know."

"Ah, so I see our erstwhile heads of house have paid you a visit this morning as well – I hope you weren't too harsh with them, I was the one who summoned them last night."

"So I was informed. Well here; take the potion, and do try to get some sleep tonight, headmaster! You're not as young as you used to be!"

Dumbledore upturned the vial of potion and swallowed quickly; steam blasted out of his ears, his eyes, his nose, and his mouth – and then he hiccuped and rolled his shoulders and smiled brightly, much changed from how he had entered.

"Ah, excellent effect as always, madam. I'll try not to avail myself of your services any time soon. Will I see you at dinner?"

"Of course, headmaster; you're leaving the castle for the day?"

"Yes, I'll be with young Harry today; it seems he's of a mind to befriend Lucius Malfoy's young son...but that's not something that can be allowed to happen without supervision."

Madam Pomfrey looked at him with a suspicious gaze, and then shrugged and stood, shooing him before her out of her office.

"Well, you'd best get on with it then, hadn't you?"

Albus grinned and bowed in her direction, then left the infirmary and made his way down to the front gates. Along the way he attempted to unstick one lemon drop from another and get one out of the bag he kept in his pocket. Effective potion, pepper-up, but what a terrible taste!

He considered the conclusions and questions that the night's talk had turned up; far more of the latter than the former, unfortunately, but despite the aggravation of Sirius in particular, Dumbledore was inclined to think that what they had learned was an excellent thing.

Only Voldemort could open the Chamber of Secrets, and he was aware that it was that near-mythical chamber Myrtle had seen a passage to. He had deciphered as much almost fifty years before, when the poor girl had been killed, but not even now, when he was considered by many to be them most powerful and knowledgeable wizard in the world, could he break the wards that protected the secret of the Chamber and its entrance.

And perhaps that is not surprising; I have no reason to believe they were not set by Salazar Slytherin himself, as the legend suggests, and the fact that Tom, a parselmouth, is the only one who can open...the fact that he is Slytherin's direct descendent...also highly suggestive...

Suggestion was, however, no help to him, and without the ability to access the Chamber all he could do was wait for Voldemort to act.

"But you've made a mistake, Tom; we know where you are, now...and we'll be watching for you."

Beneath the school a monstrous snake rustled in uncertain dreams.

Dumbledore pushed open the Hogwarts Gate and stood still for a moment beyond them; then he vanished, and reappeared in London with a wrenching crack.


Sirius Black had not slept when he returned from Hogwarts and his unsettling meeting with Albus Dumbledore and the Heads of House. Before either of the boys who were visiting him were awake, he had drunk not only a pepper-up potion but a whole pot of coffee to wash away the taste, and instead of eating breakfast had chosen to jitter back and forth across the downstairs.

Voldemort, in Hogwarts. The Chamber of Secrets – a real place – inaccessible even to the Headmaster...Voldemort. In Hogwarts -

He had never been gladder than at that moment that Harry was not yet in school – but there wasn't much time before he would be, and it seemed the Headmaster had neither a plan to dislodge Voldemort nor any intentions to form one. In a few months, it would be Harry's tenth birthday - and in only one more year after that...

Watch and wait, Dumbledore says.

Sirius was not so easily satisfied, but topped with the concerns he still held over today's visit; it was a cold, dreary morning in early March, and the sky was dripping at him as if in disdain of his predicament. It had taken them weeks to decide on a date, and months to agree on activities – for while all the parents had agreed that the boy's day out would include two activities, one wizarding, one muggle, each muggle activity that was suggested was declined by Lucius Malfoy as being inappropriate for his heir.

Dumbledore had stepped in finally, because the truth of the matter was that Lucius was unlikely to approve any activity that included contact between Draco and muggles, even if such was left explicitly unstated. A cousin of a cousin who was a squib worked in a muggle planetarium; would Lucius consent to the boys viewing a planetarium show? It would have to be after usual hours of course, but the boys would still enjoy a private display...

Agreement had been swift after that, and the boys were pleased enough at the prospect of a laser light show not be disappointed that the amusement park and the cinema were no longer options. Considering the weather, Sirius was glad they had decided for something indoors – but he was no longer happy in the least that the Malfoy scion had been included.

When Harry came downstairs at seven o'clock, considerably more awake than anyone had a right to be at the hour, he stood watching Sirius pace for a while before he went over to the couch beneath the front windows and plopped down.

"Are you still worried about Draco, Padfoot?"

Sirius whipped around and then slumped and came over to sit beside Harry.

"You could say that. Don't worry, I'm not going to call off your day out or anything – Merlin knows Dumbledore'd have something to say about it if I tried, anyway."

"Sirius, Draco's not a bad kid -"

"I know, Harry. I know, he's just a kid, right? Except that I was raised by parents like his parents, to be something like what he's trying to be. I know what my parents wanted me to be when I was nine years old, and my brother too – it worked on him."

"But not on you, Sirius."

"Harry – Harry it's not the same. I was the odd one out; I was the heir, and as long as I made a good show of it, I was left alone – and to be honest with you, Harry, I wasn't the nicest kid. Uh...for a long time. I did some..."

Sirius paused, and winced, and then shrugged.

"I did some not-very-nice things when I was younger, even though I was never anything like...like the kind of people who became Death Eaters. It was your father who saved me, Harry – your father, and your grandparents. When I was at the edge of going mad, when I would've died or gone dark, your grandfather took me into his house. He chose me to sit beside his son – me, the son of a Slytherin house, Black in name and blacker in ancestry – groomed me alongside your father, the noble heir of a most noble house – trained me to be a good and honorable man, as much as he could, as well as he knew how -"

Sirius had to stop, had to press his hands against his eyes, and Harry stared wide-eyed at his usually light-hearted godfather. They had talked of serious things before, but never with a depth like this; was it because he was older, Harry wondered, or because Sirius was more worried?

"You think Draco is like me, and maybe that's true, but I haven't seen anything that tells me he wants more than to be just like his father. He doesn't have anyone like your grandparents or your parents, Harry – he doesn't even have a brother to show him what it means to really be on the dark path he wants to take."

"Your parents – they changed me, they made me want to be better people, made it so that I would have sooner betrayed myself than them; I was their secret keeper, you know that – and I kept the secret; even when I was captured."

"You were captured, Padfoot?"

Harry thought Sirius was changing the subject, but he wasn't – not really.

"Yes, I was – and your parents broke into Voldemort's secondary base, where I was captive – I still don't know how they found out where I was. I was held at Malfoy Manor, Harry, while Voldemort tried to torture the truth out of me. That's why I'll never trust Lucius...and why until I see strong evidence otherwise, I'm not going to let my guard down even with Draco."

Another moment of silence passed between them. How could Harry argue with that? Except...maybe, he thought. Maybe. If he could be for Malfoy what his father had been for Padfoot...Harry kicked his feet against the couch.

My father...

"You...Padfoot, you said my parents broke in and saved you?"

Sirius leaned back against the couch and nodded.

"Yeah, they sure did. Your dad carried me out of my cell his back, with Lily in front of him, and her eyes blazing like a spell, and her wand spitting light, catching Death Eaters right and left – outside, past the madness, he was waiting."

Harry spoke the name solemnly – not a question. There was only one he, after all.

"Voldemort."

"Yes. Your parents -"

Sirius paused, almost chuckled, swallowed back tears instead and shook his head.

"I barely believe it now, thinking about it. Lily fought off him almost by herself, because your father had his hands full with me. Never seen a witch or wizard duel like that before, she was a woman possessed – until we reached the edge of the anti-apparition wards, and we could get away.

Harry stared at Sirius with shining eyes; his parents had been heroes.

"It wasn't until later that we found out your mother had been pregnant at the time; the fact that she was, that there was more magic than just her own inside her – it probably saved all our lives. A pregnant witch has twice as much magic as anyone except the most powerful of wizards. Really, you saved all our lives, Harry."

Harry grinned

"Anyway, that was part of why when she told us she was pregnant – and when Prongs – when your dad asked me if I would be your godfather, of course, I said yes. Of course; you would be like my own son, I promised him that. And Lily cried, and later your dad said that was probably the only reason she agreed."

Harry snickered, and then kicked his feet against the bottom of the couch.

"So...do I have a godmother too, Padfoot?"

Sirius rubbed at his head with one hand and didn't quite meet Harry's eyes.

"Well...uh...kinda."

"Kinda?"

"Your mum didn't have any many close female friends that survived long after we left Hogwarts. Alice Longbottom was her first choice – your friend Neville's mother – but she was pregnant at the same time as your mother, and the two of you were born so close together, and in such a dangerous time, that they didn't dare meet for the naming ceremony. So...your mother left the choice of your godmother to me, cause...your godmother is my wife."

Harry's eyes opened wide, and Sirius continued quickly.

"If I get married – if. Then my wife becomes your godmother – you see? I think she wanted to make sure that if anything happened, I picked somebody you approved of – like I'd do anything else."

Sirius scoffed at the very notion, and Harry only grinned.

"So when is Headmaster Albus coming?"

"Nine o'clock – and it's still..."

Sirius peered over Harry's head toward the clock and then let his head thunk against the back of the couch dramatically.

"It's still only seven thirty!"

Harry laughed, and Sirius ruffled his hair.

"Come on, pup, let's see about some breakfast and then you can go harass your cousin into getting up."

"Waffles!"

"Waffles – you always want waffles."

"And treacle tart -"

"For breakfast? Interesting choice..."

"With bacon."

"..."

Harry shrugged.

"Dudley's going to want some."

"Dudley better watch it, he hasn't got the Potter eating gene's and he's going to blow up like a balloon when he hits puberty."

"Puberty?"

"..."

"Padfoot?"

"Never mind, Harry, I refuse to deal with that until happens – you just...go get your cousin, I can smell the bacon already."

Harry's snickers came echoing down the stairwell as he went up.


A/N: . A chapter. For all of ye. WOO! I think I've finally got a handle on balancing fanfic and OS, joy is me! I'm working on the uh...play date of doom currently, so once again, here's hoping that there won't be a huge delay - but rest easy, oh readers, for you are not forgotten! To all of you who review, an extra special thanks, and I hope you enjoy this installment!

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