Description: Stripped of his humanity, Logan became Weapon X. When the doctors were through with his reeducation, he was little more than a remote controlled beast, killing on command and guided by base instinct. In contrast, Harry became Weapon IX and was stripped of his human trappings. Care, love, and compassion were torn from him, creating a superb machine who kills without thought or remorse. Is that all they would ever be?
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Wolverine, or anything X-Men related.
Warnings: This story will contain extreme violence, child abuse, and eventual slash. Note: The relationship portion of this story is a slow build up.
Pairings: Logan/Harry, the rest undecided for now.
Author's Note: This story is AU. The X-Men universe that I'm using for the majority of this story was taken from and inspired by Marc Cerasini's book Wolverine: Weapon X, and will continue through his second book: Wolverine: Violent Tendencies. For those who've read the stories, my Director will be OOC. The original wasn't strong enough for this story.
The timelines are also going to be played with to bring everything into alignment. When I've finished the first two arcs, I will shift to the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This fic will remain in the X-Men universe. The sequel will shift to the Harry Potter universe, bringing in all the characters from there.
Harry is still the Boy-Who-Lived, Voldemort is still going to be around, and they will all play a part in the sequel. I might stop over in the Wizarding world to see how things develop while Harry is lost to them now and then.
Chapter 1: Potential Asset Acquired
"True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed." – Tom Robbins
January wind howled around the edges of bland carbon-copy houses, plucking at winter stripped branches and moaning like forgotten souls in the blackest hours of the night. While the shades of paint varied, there was still a deep sameness about each shoveled driveway and trimmed house. Light flared behind the shaded windows at Number 4, Privet Drive. Not the dim glow of an electric bulb heralding a midnight snack, but the radiant flicker of something more. Something unusual.
Sandy blinked, and gave a huge yawn when her room was filled with bright dancing light. The five year old frowned, a groggy pout curved her small lips when she peaked out her window and was nearly blinded by the unnatural light blazing from the house next door. Feet clad in footy pajamas swung out of the small bed and grouped for the floor. She'd gotten her new big girl bed for her birthday and she was still getting used to the difference in height. Once her toes found the plush green carpet, she looped an arm around Bibby, cuddling the well-worn unicorn to her chest, before scampering out of her room.
Pushing open her parents' door, Sandy crawled up onto the huge bed and bounced between her parents. "Mama, mama! The house next door is glowin," the little girl squealed as her jump sent her sprawling on top of her now wide awake father.
"Oomph, guh. Kitten, don't jump," Mike wheezed. His large arms wrapped around the tiny girl to keep her from abusing him further.
Groaning, Kelly rolled over and covered her face with her arm. "I told you we shouldn't have let her stay up to watch Hocus Pocus," she moaned, desperate to get back to sleep.
"Really mommy, it's glowing so bright I can't sleep no more. My whole room is sunny," Sandy said with the firm earnestness of a young child who believed in the monster living in her closet.
"Go show daddy."
"Hey!" Mike didn't get to protest further as his wife kicked him out of bed. "You owe me for this," he muttered, but he couldn't stop a fond smile from forming when she blew him a kiss before vanishing once more under the mound of blankets and pillows.
"Alright darling, let's solve the mystery of the glowing house, hm?"
Picking up the little girl, he settled her comfortably on one hip, and carried her down the hall to her closed bedroom door. His coffee colored eyes narrowed when he noticed the line of light under the door. It could have been her bedroom light, but it wasn't the normal soft white glow. No, this had a darker tone, more red, and it wasn't constant. Dread stroked icy fingertips down his spine when he reached for the handle. This wasn't a little girl's flight of fancy, a phantom of the night to be defeated by a flashlight and a few words of reassurance. It was something else.
Steeling his resolve, Mike opened the door.
"Daddy, that's a naughty word," Sandy scolded, a small smile flashed over her heart shaped face. She squirmed out of his arms and ran to the window. "Isn't it pretty?" she said, wide eyes staring at the sheets of fire that had fully engulfed the house next door.
"Sandra, get away from there! Go get your shoes and coat, and tell mommy to get dressed." His voice was hard, the DADDY voice, and Sandy ran out of the room. Her daddy's sharp tone and worried face made her simple joy at the pretty lights turn to fear.
Tears filled her wide eyes as she pulled the covers. "Mama, daddy said we need to get dressed and go. The house next door is really bright now, and he said we gotta go."
"What in the world?" Kelly huffed, climbing out of bed, she went to the front door. A startled curse fell from her lips when she saw the fire. Neighbors were already forming a crowd outside, and Kelly scrambled to get dressed and get Sandy into some warm cloths. If the firemen didn't get here soon, the fire would spread to their house.
Bundled up in warm coats and winter boots, the Hendersons joined the growing crowd in the street. Sirens wailed in the distance, steadily growing closer.
"Oh dear, I hope that the Dursley's weren't home," a woman's voice chirped.
"Maybe they were visiting what's her name, the bulldog woman."
"Henry! Her name is Maggie," a prim voice replied.
"Marge," Kelly whispered under her breath, not bothering to correct Mrs. Stanley out loud. The woman was an insufferable gossip, and it was amazing she didn't know the name. After all, she and Petunia spent an inordinate amount of time whispering over coffee cakes and tea. Then again, Marge was a most unpleasant woman, so perhaps the name had been forgotten deliberately.
"I do hope they weren't home. Piers's birthday is next weekend, and Dudley is his best friend. This would just ruin everything," Mrs. Polkiss's shrill voice cut through the general murmur of the crowed.
Mike snorted "as if that boy needed any more cake, takes after Vernon he does." Kelly gave him a light swat. "What? He does! Sometimes I think Dudley must be a clone, there's nothing of Petunia in the little- ouch," he hissed when his wife smacked him again.
"This isn't the time for jokes Michael. Yes, they weren't the most pleasant neighbors, but they might still be in there," she whispered back. He gave her an abashed look and cuddled Sandy closer.
"Look daddy, a kitty," Sandy shouted as she pointed at the fire. For an instant, something that looked remarkably like a large feline made of flame stared at them before it flung itself forward to splash back into fire when it seemed to hit something solid. Mike shifted and shook his head, logic already dulling the sight into a more acceptable form.
"Fire's a lot like clouds dear, you can see all sorts of shapes if you look hard enough," he offered. But he couldn't shake the unease that gripped his lungs. There was something off about the fire. It isn't spreading. That was it, there seemed to be a perfect line around the flaming home that the fire didn't cross.
Before he could ponder the mystery further, the blare of the fire trucks cut through the crowd and the group was forced back to make room for the emergency personnel.
"Who lives here?" The gruff fireman's voice barked, demanding answers even as jets of water began shooting at the doomed home.
"Vernon and Petunia Dursley, and their son Dudley. They don't have any pets," Kelly replied, worry etched over her features. I hope they were visiting Marge, I really do.
"Thank you ma'am."
- The previous day -
Tuesday began in the same fashion as every other day in Boy's existence, with three sharp taps on his cupboard door, followed by the softer sound of locks being released in quick succession. The tiny child woke with the first rap. He'd learned from painful experience how to wake up all at once. Hunger gripped his shriveled stomach, threatening to pull a whimper from his throat. He stifled the sound before it could slip out, not wanting to draw unwanted attention to himself.
"Hurry up and get breakfast on the table Boy. I have to go shopping today and Duddie needs to be ready early to go to work with Vernon for Father-Son day."
Boy hardly felt the twinge of exclusion. His father had been a very bad man, a drunken womanizer who'd gotten himself and his tramp of a mother killed in a car crash. The crash that forced the Dursley's to take a freak like him into their home. The litany of insults ran through his young mind, not needing to be voiced by Petunia to be heard in the silence. His life had been defined by their cruel words, and he knew that he wasn't good enough to even dream of being a part of the family, let alone be included in something like Father-Son day.
In fact, Vernon's coworkers would be stunned to learn another child lived in the Dursley's home.
The cupboard was pitch black, but the darkness didn't hinder Boy's movements. Once, there had been a naked bulb hung almost out of the short child's reach, but Vernon removed it a year ago when he'd seen the gentle glow of light through the cracks during a storm swept night. Boy's fear had gotten the better of him and he'd turned it on after being woken up by a loud clap of thunder. Vernon had come down stairs for a midnight snack. When he'd seen the light, he'd wrenched open the door and with one swipe of his massive hand, he'd pulled the string so hard the bulb shattered. It took months for Boy to find all the shards, and his feet still bore a few silvery scars from those that found him first.
With an exhausted sigh, Boy pulled a large threadbare t-shirt over his head. Years of living in the dark confines of the cupboard made the child's movements precise and efficient. He'd memorized every inch of his minuscule domain and no longer needed light to find his way. To some, the cramped space, streaked with dirt and old blood, spiders, and perpetual darkness would inspire terror. For Boy, it was a sanctuary.
The crusted dirt and grime kept Petunia away. That, and the proper woman would never get down on her knees to crawl into the tiny living space. To do so would be entirely undignified. Both Vernon and Dudley were too large to fit easily into the cupboard.
With gentle fingers, Boy coxed a fat spider out of his hair. He reached up and shooed the arachnid onto one of the many webs that littered the corners of his home. Even though the spiders bit sometimes, he would never think to kill the tiny creatures. They couldn't help their nature, and they were even more defenseless than he was.
Boy bit back a whine of pain when he stood to open the door. Taking a slow breath he probed the bruise stained skin that stretched over gaunt ribs. A deep ache met his questing touch. The grinding pain, a gift from Dudley's new hiking boots, had faded. Only the impressive bruises and ache remained. Dudley's muddy boot prints on the kitchen floor made Boy late in getting his chores done, and earned him another day without food.
Even though he knew he shouldn't, Boy thanked his freakish nature for putting his bones back together. For some reason the bruises always stayed, but the deeper wounds healed overnight. He didn't remember when the abuse became physical, or the terrible beating that almost killed him when Vernon saw his underdeveloped magic had healed him after the first attack. His power wasn't strong enough to prevent the abuse, but it could protect its barer after the fact and evolve to keep his enemies from realizing the damage had been healed.
When the surface wounds remained after the second attack and Boy couldn't move for days afterward, Vernon was satisfied that he'd beaten the magic out of him. The huge man failed to notice that grave wounds became superficial overnight.
Pushing the small door open, Boy stood and stretched before going to the kitchen. At the sink, he scrubbed his hands and face, knowing that Petunia would be furious if he dared cook without cleaning himself up first. Once clean, he began cooking breakfast.
If the kitchen curtains hadn't been closed, the neighbors would have been stunned to see a child barely able to see above the counter tops preparing a full English breakfast. Sausage crackled in a pan of hot oil, each of the fat links turned often to keep them from scorching. Next, Boy began adding the bacon. The mouthwatering aroma made him feel faint with hunger, and he had to focus on the sharp pain in his toes and ankles to chase the feeling away. Even with the footstool, he had to stand on his tip toes to see into the pan.
Moving with care, Boy flipped the bacon. He turned his head to avoid the worst of the grease splatter, only hissing once when a large pop burned his cheek. A miserable growl rumbled in Boy's hollow stomach. It felt like the organ had devoured itself and had moved on to his other organs. How long since he'd last eaten? Two days, three? Boy couldn't remember, but the hunger had become all encompassing, eclipsing even his normal fear.
Wide viridian eyes darted around the kitchen, his hunger prodded him. Boy's hand darted out, grabbing a small slice of bacon off the plate that held the cooling meat. Pain licked at his sensitive fingertips, but he didn't hesitate as he stuffed the hot bacon into his mouth. A low moan escaped his parted lips when the rich flavor exploded in his mouth. He'd never tasted bacon before, there'd never been any left over after his relatives were finished eating. More often than not, Boy had been forced to cook even more of the rich food to fill the endless appetites of Vernon and Dudley.
Boy's greedy fingers reached out to snatch another slice when his delicate wrist was caught in a crushing grip. Terror almost made the first piece of bacon re-appear, but he swallowed it down, too afraid of what was about to happen to add to it by being sick. How could he have forgotten the way Vernon could move silently when he wanted to? Clenching his eyes shut, Boy cringed, trying to make himself even smaller. "I-I-I-"
His teeth snapped together, biting the end of his tongue. The terror leaped in his frail chest, making Boy's heart beat a wild tattoo against his narrow rib cage. Vernon's quiet tone shook the boy to the core.
"So this is how you repay my generosity, my kindness for taking in such a worthless piece of trash. I always knew you were a bad apple, and here you are, stealing from me." The words were a gentle, disappointed murmur, but the crushing grip on his wrist was a brutal counterpoint to the lying tone. "I've been far too lenient on you, Freak. In some countries, thieves would have their hand cut off for daring to steal," malice darkened Vernon's gaze as he studied the scrap of a child.
"Please! I'm sorr-"
Vernon shook the boy hard enough to cause his head to whip back. Delicate wrist bones cracked under the savage grip. "But losing a hand would make you totally worthless. So…this will have to do." Without warning, he shoved the Boy's hand forward, driving it into the pan of now burning breakfast meat and scalding oil.
Pain, worse than he'd ever felt before, tore through Boy's body. His mouth opened, but the agonizing wail was cut off before it could begin by Vernon's other beefy hand. A low grunt escaped the man as he held the squirming child in place. Grim satisfaction filled him while he held the boy still, forcing him to accept his due punishment. That's it freak, suffer and remember your place.
The stench of burning flesh mingled unpleasantly with the stink of scorched bacon. No matter how hard Boy twisted, he couldn't break free of the unforgiving grip of the man behind him. Agony roared through his body, and for the first time the pain was answered by his magic.
A wave of uncontrolled power exploded out of the small child. It crashed into Vernon with enough force to throw the massive man back. The wall behind the stove gave under the unbearable weight, leaving jagged cracks throughout the drywall.
Finally free, Boy snatched his mutilated hand out of the pan and clutched it to his heaving chest. Tears poured down his ashen face when he realized his uncle was between him and the door. Keening terror held him paralyzed. He stared at the still form, and his heart almost stopped in his chest when the hulking man began to stir.
No, oh no, no, no! Please, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
Boy's mouth tried to form the words, to beg, plead, anything to halt the inevitable, but his throat was so dry he could hardly breathe, let alone speak.
"How dare you," mad fury turned the words to a guttural snarl that would have done one of Marge's bulldogs proud. Boy shrank back against the cupboards, mindless with terror. The purple faced man staggered to his feet, his eyes blazing with promised retribution as he advanced on the cowering child.
A thick beefy hand reached out to tangle violently in Boy's wild black locks. With a sharp jerk, he pulled the shaking boy off his feet. Boy's agonized shriek was short lived. Vernon's massive fist plowed into his unprotected midsection with enough force to silence the child. Boy folded limply around the fist, gagging as all the air was violently expelled from his tortured body. The kitchen began to waiver, as if underwater, while Boy's consciousness faded in and out.
"You little bastard, I'll teach you to use m-m-, to use THAT against me," Vernon growled, forcing his voice to remain low so the neighbors wouldn't hear. Turning, he slammed the boy into the wall, relishing the crack of his skull against the unyielding surface. Even after the little monster went ragdoll limp in his grip, Vernon's fury was not spent. His lips twisted in a savage snarl, and he threw the broken child to the ground. With a grunt of satisfaction, he drove his boot into the boy's unprotected middle with enough force to bounce the small body off the wall. Again and again he kicked, until the floor and wall were both stained red, and sweat dripped down his vein lined forehead.
Panting, exhaustion finally won out, and Vernon grabbed the back of Boy's shirt. He lifted the feather light boy with indifferent ease, and threw him into the cupboard.
"Vernon?" Petunia's breath caught in fright when she saw the vibrant red stains in her pristine kitchen. "Is everything all right, dear?"
Huffing, Vernon pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket and swabbed the sweat off his brow. "That nasty little viper showed his true colors. He used that…that unnaturalness against me. You know I couldn't let the freak get away with such nonsense. Like a dog that bites, he had to be corrected. Harshly corrected. He's to stay in the cupboard, Pet. You leave him in there until I decide what needs to be done, do you hear?"
"Yes, I…I understand," she whispered. It was unfortunate. Petunia held no affection for her dead sister's cursed offspring, but she didn't enjoy seeing the boy harmed. Still, it was for the best. She'd hoped that his unnaturalness could be tempered with the use of a firm hand, and by keeping him overworked and underfed. When they decided to take the boy in, Petunia starved the child, believing magic was like muscle and bone, and it would be as stunted as his body if he wasn't properly cared for.
Shaking her head, she gathered up the cleaning supplies and began scrubbing up the blood. Dudley was a sensitive boy after all, and she didn't want him to get upset before breakfast. Her lips pursed when she finished the task and studied the damaged wall. Damage that had been caused by that wretched boy lashing out against her husband.
In the beginning, Petunia believed he was like one of those American Pit bulls. A creature that needed to be trained early in the ways of obedience, and with Vernon's dedication to the boy's discipline, he would be tamed. Rinsing the pink stained bucket out in the sink, she accepted her mistaken assumptions. The boy wasn't a dog that could be trained and shaped into a harmless pet. No, he was a deadly serpent. One whose venom would strike out at any who were foolish enough to handle it.
There were only two ways to deal with such creatures. Keep them caged, or kill them. Petunia stood, her back stiff as she dusted off her knees and began cleaning up the ruined breakfast. Cold resolve hardened the last corner of her heart that pitied the boy. They'd done all they could to bring him to the proper path, but now she knew their efforts were in vain. Vernon will decide what to do, and I…I will stand by him, whatever the choice.
Jagged streaks of lightning-like pain forced the broken boy awake against his will. An explosive gasp tore from his throat when he tried to shift off of his broken arm, but even that proved too difficult. Finally, darkness pulled him back down into its comforting embrace and left a tide of gentle magic in its wake to heal the catastrophic damage.
When he swam back to wakefulness for the second time, the symphony of agony his small form had been in the last time he'd woken had dulled to a body wide ache, punctuated by spikes of sharper pain where the magic still worked to knit him back together.
The dull thump of his heart was joined by the louder thud of feet on the stairs. Please leave me alone, I'm sorry, I'll be good, just leave me alone, Boy thought, desperation making him twitch and press back against the wall. Experience told him he wouldn't be able to move around for another day or two, but if they made him, he would have to get up and do chores. He didn't even want the small allotment of half rotted food Petunia saved for his breakfast on the rare days she chose to give it to him. All he wanted was to be left in peace so that he could heal in the protective darkness.
Then what he was hearing registered. Heavy footfalls, not the dainty, almost inaudible mince of Petunia's feet. Not morning. The quiet that swathed the house, void of Dudley's ruckus and the distant thrum of traffic meant that night had fallen while he slept. Fear coiled like an angry eel in his belly, and snapped at his spine when he realized he'd missed a full day of chores and making dinner.
Just getting a midnight snack, Boy thought, some of the harp wire tension easing from his cramped limbs. There would be hell to pay tomorrow, but for now he was safe. Living with the Dursley's taught the boy the value of living in the moment, and letting go of the future.
"Are you sure this is the only way?"
Petunia's soft question made Boy freeze all over again. She never came down at night. Her light step had been hidden by her husband's heavy tread.
"It's the only choice Pet, we should have done it from the start," came the rumbled reply.
"I know darling, but what if the other freaks find out?" Fear crawled over the whispered words. Boy could almost see the woman wringing her hands as she followed Vernon down the stairs.
"Don't worry, we'll tell them it ran away. After all, boys run away all the time, why shouldn't this one?" the man's tone was nearly jovial, the sound of someone who'd made a tough decision but felt better for having made the right choice. "You'll see, we'll move to America. I bet the freaks will forget all about us. Who cares about one measly little orphan anyway?"
Terror dug bone-like talons into Boy's heart, paralyzing the small child from the inside out as their words sank in.
"All right. America, oh darling, I can't wait," Petunia cooed as she dreamed of her new home, and all the finery they would own. All the other ladies would be so jealous, maybe they could move to New York. Everyone who was anyone lived there.
Vernon's heavy weight came to a halt in front of Boy's door. Each lock that snapped open was another nail in Boy's coffin.
That day at work, Vernon had been consumed with thoughts of the freak. He'd showed his own son the ropes, and worried about the boy, wondering when that foul magic would be turned on his beloved son or wife. Every time his back twinged in pain from being flung into the wall, his resolve grew. It was bad enough when the freak used magic to heal itself, undoing all his hard work at trying to teach the thing its proper place, but to use magic to attack him? In his own home no less! He couldn't let it stand. No, this time the freak had done the unforgivable, and just like a rabid dog, he had to be put down.
For the good of the family.
Dropping to his knees, Vernon jerked the small door open. Petunia stood behind him; her hard eyes accepting what had to be done. Her lips formed a firm line that offered no help when Boy's frightened eyes darted from her husband's hulking shape, to her narrow one. Light from the hallway skittered over the sharp edge of the hunting knife Vernon had purchased over his lunch break.
Wide, horror stricken eyes locked on the blade that would end his short life. "P-p-please, I'll be good. I promise!" Boy cried as he tried to push himself even further back into the dark recesses of the cupboard. Tears welled in his large forest eyes, desperately begging for forgiveness, for salvation.
The knife lashed out, answering that plea with a savage rejection. Its tip scored a hot line across Boy's cheek, but he jerked even further back under the stairs to avoid the full swing.
Magic exploded outward and slammed into the chest of the muggle. Hungry flames tore through flesh with wild abandon, sending the massive man careening back out of the cupboard with a yawl of agony and into the startled arms of his wife. With unholy glee, the flames leapt to her. A serpent made of fire coiled around her lanky shoulders before its gaping maw snapped down on her horse like face, burning the scream in her throat before it could escape.
The wooden door slammed shut of its own violation while the fire stalked through the house with malicious intent, leaving the tiny cupboard untouched; its precious occupant kept safe from the devastation that had been unleashed.
Dudley stumbled down the stairs after waking up to the shrill screech of the fire alarms. "Ma?" He grumbled, rubbing his eyes. His yawn was cut short when he saw the smoldering remains of his parents, and the…things…that danced on their burning corpses.
A dog-like creature turned to him, its head cocked to the side, flaming tongue lulled out of its mad grinning mouth as it stared at him with merry ember eyes. Before Dudley could maneuver his bulk around to lumber back up the stairs, the dog was on him. Paws of flame sank into the fat of his back as hungry jaws latched onto the back of his skull. His piggish squeal was silenced when the fire crashed over him, devouring his flesh like Dudley had once consumed sweets.
Even after his tormentors had been reduced to clumps of fine ash, the magical flames raged. Shields once meant to shelter and protect the Boy-Who-Lived now hid the maddened flames from magical detection. The shields had been a feat of magical ingenuity, designed to hide any flares of accidental magic so that Death Eaters wouldn't be able to track the child if his magic acted out.
Now they kept the hungry flames contained, protecting the world from the fire that would consume everything if it broke free. Caged, the fire turned on the house, burning with wild abandon, untouched by the fire trucks that attempted to stifle the enchanted blaze.
"Sir, there is something of interest occurring in Little Winging, Surry," a quiet robotic Voice stilled the soft rustle of paper. The Director of Department K set aside the field report on the latest attempt to acquire the subject needed for Weapon X Project. That one was wily and had proved difficult to capture.
Warm firelight bathed the spacious wood-paneled office with comfortable light. The old man's lips curled with smug satisfaction. Yes, the fireplace set into the wall behind his custom mahogany desk was an indulgence, but that was the benefit of being king of his domain. Let the brassy young executives have cold offices of chrome and marble. He preferred his comfort. The dancing light glittered off a large floor standing globe set in the corner; one that housed only the finest brandy. Its Lapis gemstone oceans were a perfect match to the Director's focused blue gaze.
Steepling his fingers, the Director leaned back in his custom leather chair. "Show me," he commanded.
A high definition monitor glided soundlessly down from a hatch in the ceiling above the desk before settling in front of the Director. Lines of glowing green letters, symbols, and numbers flickered over the dark screen briefly. The scrolling text was replaced by a satellite image of a non-descript street of houses. The live video feed narrowed its scope down to a single house, one that had become a raging inferno.
The Director tilted his head, studying the image. There was something unnatural about the fire, but it took a moment for him to place the peculiarity. The fire had halted, dead in its tracks about eight feet away from the house. An invisible domelike structure appeared to be holding the flames in check, confining them to that house. He could have drawn a perfect circle on the ground where the fire did not cross. Another oddity was the firefighters who were standing around, not engaging the blaze. "How long has it been burning?"
"Approximately seven hours, sir," The Voice stated. "The fire has not to spread to neighboring houses, and all efforts to extinguish the flames have been met with failure. Now, the firefighters are simply there to ensure the fire does not spread."
The flames remained consistent as the Director watched, even though he was sure the fire had consumed all available fuel hours ago.
"Curious, most curious. Sent Agent Zero to investigate," the Director decided. Perhaps it was nothing, but the slight tingle in his bones told him that whatever was behind the phenomenon had the potential to be of use to the Department.
Yellow caution tape fluttered in the indifferent wind, flapping around the mound of ash that had once been a home. A non-descript black BMW pulled to a neat stop at the curb in front of the burned out remains.
Stepping out into the chilled dawn light, Agent Zero frowned. The scene was devoid of emergency personnel. Now that the fire had been extinguished, it was expected that the firemen had gone, but where were the investigators? The lab technicians? Hell, where was the media? This place should have been a frenzy of activity, not abandoned. He thought he would be forced to play politics with the local law enforcement to gain access to the site, but all that remained were puddles on the sidewalk that were forming sheets of ice in the cold January wind and broken yellow tape.
Stranger still, when he stepped forward, Agent Zero noticed that the blanket of ash was undisturbed. No footprints marred the perfect grey expanse. "Sloppy," he muttered. It was clear an investigation had not taken place. Mentally berating the local law enforcement, and their utter failure to do their jobs, he ducked under the tape and started to step forward.
One polished black shoe hovered over the undisturbed ash when an almost irresistible urge to turn around and leave slammed into his subconscious. The tracker's frown deepened. With a low grunt, he forced his way through the discomfort. Some mutations were flashy, and others grotesque, but there were a few that were subtler. So subtle, only DNA proved they were mutations at all. Agent Zero had one such mutation, the ability to find things, both people and objects. Once the object of his attention was held in his mind, nothing could stop him from locating it. Now, his particular mutation flared up, piercing a hole in the strange reluctance he felt for moving forward. His foot sank deeply into the grey ash.
With precise footsteps, he was drawn forward by instinct to a higher mound of ash at the center of the barren lot. Each step was softened by mounds of fluffy ash. Whatever had caused the destruction left nothing solid in its wake. Kneeling, Agent Zero reached forward and ran a hand through the pile of ash. His sixth sense tingled, alerting him to his close proximity to the source of the fire. Inches of ash were brushed aside before something solid met his questing touch. Encouraged, Agent Zero worked faster to uncover his find, revealing a small blackened door to the early morning light.
The brittle wood crumbled under the slight pressure, creating a hole in the wood. Exposed to the light, the bitter tang of blood wafted out of the cubby, whispering to his hindbrain that whoever was hidden in the folds of darkness had been badly damaged. The coppery tang was so heavy it warred with the acrid scent of burnt wood that hung over the entire area.
Reaching into his suit pocket, Agent Zero took out a pen flashlight. The bright beam showed the inner sanctum of the cubbyhole had been untouched by the fire. His light stuttered to a halt when it captured the small, trembling form in its vibrant circle. Terror-stricken green eyes stared up at him from a battered young face. Careful now, a mutation as strong as this one needs to be handled delicately, he thought as he observed the tiny child. Such a small thing to have caused so much destruction. How many people died in this house? Human remains would be impossible to find in the ash, the fire left nothing large enough to be identified. Odds were fair that even the teeth had been incinerated in the intense blaze.
Agent Zero knew that one wrong move would see his ashes to join the rest. With exaggerated slowness, he began inching his way into the confined space. Each movement was made in careful increments, giving the child ample time to protest if he chose to.
"It's all right, I'm not here to harm you. You're safe now. I was sent to rescue you," Agent Zero surprised himself by how gentle his voice sounded. Power, pure and so strong it made his teeth ache, throbbed throughout the cramped space. It felt like a sound too low to hear, but still vibrated in the deepest parts of him. "We will make you strong," he whispered, ignoring the sharp crackle of power that flared with his every movement. The words were spoken in truth, the Agent believed them with his whole being. Department K specialized in finding and shaping unique people, drawing out their inner strengths and tempering their weaknesses until they were more powerful than they would ever be on their own. Even as the power coiled threateningly around him, Agent Zero continued his slow but steady advance.
Fear sat like an elephant on Boy's narrow chest, making it almost impossible to breathe as the stranger, much smaller than Vernon, began to creep into his cupboard. Who is he? How did he get here? Where…what happened to the fire? Frightened thoughts chased themselves around his head while he tried to understand what was going on. Vernon was going to kill him, but the fire made the man go away. Boy shuddered, a tiny whimper escaped him when he remembered Vernon's hoarse scream before the fire silenced him forever.
The stranger was talking to him. Some of the keening terror eased at the man's gentle tone. Boy had never met a stranger before. The Dursley's told him that the outside world would hate and fear him for his malformed the normal people would destroy him if they ever found out about him, but there was no hate in the quiet words, no condemnation. The soft voice helped pull Boy out of his own tortured thoughts.
With heartbreaking slowness, his jade colored eyes struggled to focus on the present, and not the past. He wants to help me? No, that can't be right…Vernon said, but Vernon's dead. Swallowing hard, still wild shy with fright, one tiny hand reached forward before freezing. The charred flesh that covered his palm from his punishment split to reveal healed skin beneath. Unlike other wounds, burns were difficult to heal while leaving surface damage. In the hours between when the burn had been inflicted, and now, his magic had been forced to fully repair the damage. All that remained of the injury was a thin sheath of burned flesh over newly healed skin.
Boy gasped, his luminous green eyes dominated the ashen triangle of his face. Now the man would turn on him after seeing proof of his freakish nature, just like Vernon always said. Before he could jerk his hand back, a firm yet gentle grip circled his bony wrist. The thrum of power spiked to a near audible level, poised to strike the stranger down if he twitched the wrong way.
Instead of flinching or retreating from that heated power, the man began to peel away the dead skin, his face awash with wonder. "Amazing," he breathed, once the whole untouched skin was fully exposed. Not even a scar remained. Boy could only gape at the man in astonishment. Never in his life had he been touched so gently, and to be touched as a result of his cursed power? Boy couldn't comprehend it. The man didn't sound scared or angry, he sounded pleased. With each soft touch, the crackling power dissipated.
Still terrified, the tiny child crept forward. To his further amazement, the man's face didn't twist in disgust, and he wasn't shoved away. Instead, strong arms lifted his emaciated form out of the burned out remains of the cupboard that had been his home for the past five years. Bright sunlight, undeluded by curtains and windows, bathed the broken child. A pained sigh fell from his parched lips. The strain of the last twenty hours finally caught up to the depleted boy. Darkness swept him under, and he trusted the stranger to take care of him.
As Agent Zero walked away with the child cradled in his arms, the small shelter collapsed in a puff of ash. The structure, no longer supported by the boy's magic, fell to dust. With a single flare of the brake lights, the non-descript BMW drove out of sight.
Cold January wind swept over the empty lot, erasing the deep footprints, leaving a blanket of undisturbed ash in its wake.
"Come along dear boy, we mustn't terry," twinkling blue eyes flashed with mirth as the old wizard's brisk steps gave lie to his advanced age. Albus spent most of the day getting everything just right. It took years of failed attempts to bring his plans to fruition, and Albus was giddy with success. Finally, after being thwarted time and again, he was going to have his way.
"Must we walk, Dumbledore?" Severus grumbled. He pulled his midnight cloak tighter around his thin shoulders in a vain attempt to ward off the cold. The frosty January evening made the Potion Master's joints ache, and the sight of Dumbledore's easy stride only added to his bitterness at being interrupted. He should have known when the Headmaster gave him that old journal that something unpleasant was bound to follow. The experimental potions research the journal hinted at consumed Severus with its potential. When the Headmaster appeared in his lab not fifteen minutes prior, he knew he'd be forced to go along with whatever fool's errand the old man had in mind. Nothing is freely given, I should not have forgotten that.
"Nonsense, Severus. A little fresh air will do you a world of good."
"Where are we going?" He demanded, trying to worm more information out of the Headmaster. Each vague reply scraped away what little patience he had.
"All in good time," the old man grinned, making Severus more wary than before. Dumbledore hadn't been this jovial in a while, and having all that good cheer directed at him was distinctly uncomfortable. It wasn't often that the Potion Master was the focus of the Headmaster's more lighthearted plots, and being ensnared in one now didn't sit well with the dower man. He was a spy for Merlin's sake, not one of Dumbledore's foolish Gryffindor friends. Getting more information out of the old man when he was in this mood would be impossible, so Severus resigned himself to silence. The plot would unfold soon enough, and he'd just have to deal with the fallout then.
By the time the odd pair reached the Three Broomsticks, Severus was half-frozen, and fully convinced the Headmaster had overindulged in cheering charms. That level of joy simply couldn't be natural, even for someone like Albus. Severus froze on the threshold when he noticed the building was completely dark. "Oomph!" A surprisingly hard shove from the feeble looking old man propelled him into the darkness.
"SURPRISE!" Loud voices were accompanied by blazing light. It took everything Severus had not to draw his wand and hex the lot of them. That, and the firm grip Albus had on his wand arm might have played a small part. The glower he graced the crowd of professors with stung almost as sharply as a well-placed hex, but no one seemed to care. No, the look of seer surprise that had fleetingly covered the dark man's face before it was hidden with the sneer was worth his scathing look.
This can't possibly be…Severus bit back a curse after calculating the date. Now it all made a devious sort of sense. That sly old fox had given him the journal on purpose, knowing he would lose himself in the research. I can't believe I forgot my own birthday, he thought. Aggravation made his bitter expression all the more sour as he glared at everything that moved. For years, he'd managed to outmatch the Headmaster's attempts a throwing him a birthday party. Knowing that he'd been outwitted was a bitter brew to swallow.
"Oh do try and have a little fun, won't you Severus?" Minerva whispered in his ear when she gave him a friendly embrace. He snorted, but tolerated the unaccustomed gesture from the normally stoic woman.
"I suppose I have no choice in the matter," he muttered under his breath.
"None at all," she agreed with a rare smile.
Albus stretched and yawned when a warm beam of sunlight fell across his face at an unaccustomed angle. Strange, the light shouldn't come from that direction, confusion gave way to a wide grin. Memories of his glorious success after years of failure made his old heart sing. He'd been exhausted after the party and chose to rent a room for the night instead of making the trek back to the castle. Flopping back onto the mound of unfamiliar pillows, Albus basked in the sunshine and the feeling of self-satisfaction.
True, Severus spent a great deal of the party glaring at everyone and skulking in the shadows, but that was hardly the point. Albus won their ongoing little war, and Severus acknowledged his achievement by staying a full three hours before vanishing like fog in the early morning light. Well there were things that needed to be tended to, and he'd spend enough time lounging in bed. With a quiet groan, the elder wizard pulled himself up out of the comfortable nest of blankets and tidied himself before apparating to the gates of Hogwarts.
Shrill peeps, and an unusual amount of flapping met the Headmaster when he entered his office. Fawkes, still new and featherless after his burning day, flailed madly to get the old wizard's attention. With aged, gentle hands, Albus gathered the small chick up. "What's the matter, my friend?" he questioned, worry flavoring the words. Fawkes was rarely so active after a burning, and to be this agitated meant something of grave importance had gone awry. Another forlorn cheep escaped the small bird before his sad gaze turned to the shelves of trinkets. A silver top laid ominously still amongst the other baubles.
His breath froze in his chest as the ramifications of what he was seen shattered his good mood. With swift care, Albus settled Fawkes back into his next before rushing to the fire. The flames flared green with the help of a fist full of flow powder. "Severus's office!" Albus called, kneeling he stuck his head into the eerie green flames.
"This is a fool's errand," Severus groaned. Fat, fluffy snowflakes clung to his greasy black hair, further irritating the irate man. Bad enough that yesterday had been wasted on Dumbledore's foolishness. Now he had to throw away yet another day on mindless errands. Why couldn't the old man check on the brat? It was years, years, before he should have to deal with Potter's nonsense, but here he was, forced to coddle the boy before he'd even made it to Hogwarts.
Those shields couldn't have been broken by a mere child, his logic tried to point out. A derisive snort met the thought as he walked down the snow brushed sidewalk. It was easy enough to ignore logic in favor of his own annoyance. I'm sure the foolish child somehow managed to knock down the house. I'll find it seething with agitated muggles, and a smug Boy-Who-Lived. It will take all morning to sort out the me…
Severus's body seemed to lock when he rounded a bend in the road and saw the vacant lot where Number 4 should have sat. Bright yellow streamers of muggle plastic marked off the property, but it was free of muggle authorities. Thank Merlin for that, he was in no mood to deal with people who thought they knew what they were doing.
The secondary wards had taken affect, snapping up anti-muggle words to keep the innocents out of danger after the primary wards had been destroyed. They were a precautionary measure, not something Albus expected to be used. Still, he'd put them up on the slim chance that the unspeakable happened and Death Eaters found the boy. Keeping him with his muggle relatives had been a risk, but the elitist mindset of the Light's enemies would never suspect the child to be left in a purely muggle environment.
With difficulty, Severus forced himself back into motion. He attempted to come up with plausible reasons for why the house was missing. Reasons that didn't involve Death Eaters, dead muggles, or worse by far, a dead Boy-Who-Lived. The closer he got, the more aware he became of the lingering stench of smoke, and the realization that the thick patch of snow covering the empty lot was far greyer than the dusting of snow around it.
Alas, denial could only go so far. Kneeling, Severus scooped up a handful of the fine ash and gave up the hope that this was all a misunderstanding. Not a single cinder remained, nothing but drifts of pale gray dust bore mute witness to the destruction. With painful slowness, Severus stood, letting the ash fall from his numb fingers.
"I was prepared to hate you," he whispered, his throat tightening around the words. Crushing sorrow clawed at what remained of his heart as another promise was broken. Bright green eyes flashed condemningly in his mind. I didn't believe I needed to worry about the boy before he reached Hogwarts, I never thought…
Albus sat in his chair, his back bent with more than age. A small glass rose turned listlessly between his aged fingertips as he waited for Severus's report. Every year he'd lived pressed down like stones on his shoulders and images, each more terrible than the last, invaded his mind. He should have gone, Albus knew, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to do it. No, he wasn't ready to acknowledge that the worst had happened. Not yet.
The fireplace flared green, and the fragile hope Albus had been nursing since sending Severus to Surry died at the sight of the younger man. Ash clung to the Potion Master's black clothes and coated his long brewer's hands. Dark eyes held darker shadows; no words were needed to tell the Headmaster what he needed to know. Still, Severus reported his findings in a cold voice that did little to hide his bruised heart.
"The house was reduced to ash. Judging by the level of destruction, I believe the cause was fiendfyre. The wards held long enough to contain the threat before collapsing after the cursed fire devoured everything available. I don't know how they found them, or how they managed to get through the wards, but it is obvious that this was the work of Death Eaters." Each word fell like a stone into a still pool, adding to the weight that threatened to crush the old man. How had they known the Headmaster was out of his office all day, and that Fawkes would be unavailable to warn Dumbledore that something went wrong? The implications of the attack made Severus's stomach churn, and casted doubt on the belief that the remaining Death Eaters were as defeated as they'd all assumed.
"It would appear we were out flanked," Albus admitted, defeat causing the great man's head to hang. He didn't look at Severus, instead he stared at the clear rose still held in his loose grip. Before yesterday, the rose had been a steady pink, indicating that the boy was safe within the wards. If the rose had shifted to blue, there might have been hope. Blue would mean the boy was outside of the wards when they'd fallen. That it was clear proved that the child had been within the bounds of the wards when they shattered. The odds of surviving what Severus described were non-existent.
"Thank you Severus. You may go," Albus said mournfully, wishing to be alone with his grief. Plans needed to be made, but not right now. He needed time to say goodbye to the child who was lost to them.
Without another word, the dark man turned on his heel, and left. There was a bottle of Fire Whisky in his room that needed tending to.
Hours later, and halfway around the world, a small body was laid out on a sterile lab table. Nude, the marks of abuse created a roadmap of suffering over the emaciated form. Scars, old and new, fought for space with deep multi-colored bruises. An IV drip kept the boy unconscious while numerous scans and probes were performed.
"Director, the review is complete," the young woman's voice was crisp and professional, untouched by the state of the child on the table. As a specimen, he was interesting, but in the end that was all he was. "Judging by x-rays of the subject's jaws and the state of tooth formation, the child's age can be narrowed down to between five and seven. In depth scans reveal that his mutation is quite unique. If reports are correct, it appears that it can be used in a number of different areas. His test show that all the damage has been healed internally, only external damage remains."
The Director studied the minuscule form on the table. "Hm, he looks much younger."
"Yes, that is due to extreme malnutrition," she confirmed.
"I see. Write up a report, and prepare transportation. The subject is to be delivered to the Professor at the Hive. Include instructions to accelerate the child's growth, mind wipe, and reprogram. Also, inform him that the subject is to be deprived of nutrients until after the growth plates fuse. The damage can be corrected after he's finished growing," the Director dictated. Weapon X will be a frontal assault unit, but this one, he'll be something else entirely. He will be a blade in the dark, slipping around behind the enemy as X distract them, and slitting their throats from the shadows. "Have him prepped and ready within the hour," he said before turning away, his mind already working over the details of the reprogramming the project would require to become an effective weapon.