Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

AN: Been a while, I apologize. Writing just fell by the wayside. I will try and not let so much time pass before the next update.


Too Have Fallen

Actions do not Make a Man, They Reveal Him



It had been days since Harry sluggishly awoke in a strange room with only a short letter of explanation from the goblins as to his whereabouts, his belongings safely within reach, and himself nestled in a warm cocoon of linens and small bodies of heat. Well, that might be somewhat incorrect… a simple letter, a comfortable bed, and a curious audience of more felines than any crazy cat lady had any business of collecting, all sheltered under the crooked roof of a place Harry had come to refer to as "The Inn".

He had christened the establishment thus because its given name was indecipherable to his English-trained tongue with its foreign characters of squiggled-lines and dots.

After a day spent exploring the modest inn and being tailed endlessly by his nosey inn-mates, the Gryffindor soon discovered that there was only the old, wrinkled woman known as Mao and a few maids holding down the fort in the human category and the rest was left up to the cats. Not that Harry had ever seen the elderly woman actually move beyond the floor-pillow she sat upon besides to puff at the sweet-smelling tobacco in her pipe or to sip at her murky, green tea. And the maids were infuriatingly hard to approach, always disappearing around corners and vanishing into thin air.

The felines however, were everywhere. They came in every shade of color, textured fur, and a wide variety of personalities from the Laissez-faire attitude of the plump tom that oversaw bookkeeping at the front desk, to the rambunctious antics of the adolescent kittens in the halls. Yes, his title was certainly friendlier than the name the locals had taken to calling the inn, even if it was somewhat appropriate.

The "Litter Box" turned out to be smack-dab in the middle of an alley previously unknown to Harry, dubbed The Midden.

A dump, the street's name roughly translated into, and with its crowded pathways built into a natural slop and the perpetual shadows cast by Gringotts and the more popular, higher alleys beyond, Harry could see where it got its name and reputation. It was a working man's avenue with buildings teeming with lower-class people, magical workshops tolling endlessly, and rowdy pubs open all hours of the day. The Midden was well off the beaten path of carefree shoppers and featured none of the pageantry of Diagon Alley or the foreboding feel of Knockturn. Here, life moved at a faster pace than the slow crawl of the outside world, and they cared not for your name or face, only the money in your pocket.

It had taken some time to get use to the new, lively environment outside his room's window and the distant attitudes of some of the locals. Not to mention The Inn's inhabitants themselves and the strange changes happening to him.

His body's renewed aches and tiredness had kept him inside for the first couple of days after waking, despite his eagerness to explore, and his only company had been the cats, a drowsy Hedwig, and his thoughts. The fickle felines had reminded him too much of the hours spent trapped with Ms. Figg to be comfortable at first, but when he awoke in the late hours of the night to do his restless wanderings, sometimes their presence was the only thing keeping him grounded. And when they tightly curled up next to him whenever he finally exhausted his busy mind into slumber, he subconsciously compared their closeness to an embrace. They were his constant companions and he was grateful to have them to distract himself when his thoughts turned to the many issues he was trying to avoid.

However like most things in his life, they refused to bow to his desires. But what else was there to say that had not already been made perfectly clear by the actions of Dumbledore, Voldemort, and various other guilty parties. Harry had already decided to distance himself from the Headmaster, wait for the Dark Lord's reply before making further decisions towards his allegiance, and seek out more information on his magical relatives and his legal situation when time permitted.

And yet, despite hours of tedious planning for his future, Harry found himself filled with doubt on every decision he made. Constantly second-guessing himself now that he had no Hermione or lion-like voice guiding him constantly, and his crippled pride kept him from asking Hedwig once more for advice thinking, that he burdened her too often. He felt as if he had no one to turn to; he was truly alone and that was what scared him the most, having to single-handedly struggle his way up through the ever-deepening pit of lies and problems he had dung for himself.

One late night Harry's uncertainty had come to a head. Ruthless whisperings of his shortcomings had plagued him for hours, and questions regarding Dumbledore's actions and his own cowardice looped like a broken record in his ears. He had been so close to seeking out the Headmaster, struggling to function over the pounding in his head and oblivious to the blood leaking from his nose when a blanket of numbing darkness stretched across his battered mind, chasing away the pain and the fire that had seized his body.

Confused and angry at the sudden turn of his thoughts from wanting to profess his guilt over Voldemort's letter to Dumbledore, to now understanding he had almost made a crucial mistake if not for the swift intervention, Harry had huddled deep into the cool sheets of his bed and damned himself for his own insecurities as the presence retreated.

After a night of twisting and turning - and much apologizing for disturbing his bed partners - Harry had sat up with a huff and decided to quit fighting it regardless of his mind's profuse refusal to see the man in a different light. It had indeed been Voldemort that had saved him on the stairs that day and most likely the same darkness that frolicked through his mind from time to time. He may well be oblivious to certain things or socially awkward at times, but there were a few things he prided himself in knowing: Quidditch, and Voldemort. Or at least that is what he once thought.

Far be it for him to question what nefarious things the Dark Lord had been up to that day, but what really had Harry curious was why the man had bothered to catch him at all. Truce or not, it would have been far easier for Voldemort to simply let him take a quick tumble down the stairs. There was only so much Medi-Wizards could piece back together despite their claims to the contrary, and the teen was pretty sure a broken neck was not one of them.

Dreams and visions of bloody torture he could preserve by believing the man was evil incarnate, but snippets of emotions and the occasional good deed were what really had Harry morbidly piqued, and yet terribly frustrated. Dark Lords simply did not save their prophesied vanquishers from accidentally killing themselves, even if the prophecy was faked. Yet this was not the only time something resembling acceptable morals had been displayed by the man. There still was the whole mindscape, cat-fight fiasco to consider.

But comparing the panther-like presence within his mind to Voldemort, or even the rude bastard he had encountered outside Gringotts was difficult. The panther he strangely saw as a sort of protector. It had saved him from the berserking lion and removed him, somewhat painfully, from the touch of the crown. Even after witnessing the abuse the Dursleys had engraved into his body, the animal had made no attempt to ridicule him for his weakness. Instead it had given Harry back his shirt to cover his shame and left him in peace. So it was no wonder his mind rebelled against comparing the actions of the panther to those of the manic Voldemort he knew, in spite of the overwhelming similarities.

However, the Dark Lord could disguise the flesh but there was no disguising the man's magic and the general air of darkness he extruded in any form, animal or human. The man's magic had been overwhelming that day when it had reared up and all but smothered down his own. And woe was Harry to admit that he subconsciously enjoyed the cinder-like tang clinging to the magic as it encircled him, wrapped around him tight and bound him, despite his conscious' furious denial. The two magics had been so different, almost complete opposites of one another in every way; Voldemort's honed and gently swaying and Harry's wild and playful like the wind.

For the past couple of days Harry had noticed a distinct difference in his magic. While at Hogwarts it had been sluggish, almost as if it had to struggle to travel the distance from his core to the tip of his wand. Spells in class had to be cast repeatedly before a small spark was made, but now, after the day he awoke to his unlocked bedroom at the Dursleys, his magic was free flowing, surging with movement and excitable. At first he approached this new development with the same child-like wonder he had had performing the wandless, nonverbal magic. But as the days passed and his magic restored itself from whatever Voldemort had done to it, Harry became concerned.

He could not turn it off. It jumped at the chance to fulfill his every whim and often Harry found that even the slightest thought had his magic acting on its own. Thoughts of wanting something from the other side of his inn-room had everything in the immediate area careening towards him, slamming into him and knocking him to the floor. A simple wish for more light had every light in the alley shining and his room lit up like Christmas.

Nighttime was the worst, he soon discovered. He awoke after grueling nightmares to find his room devastated and his furry companions cowering in the hallways. What had started out as a pleasing boon was now a terrifying curse. He could not walk down the alley without trinkets and other curious things that caught his wandering eyes flying towards him and him having to pay the vendor for the item to not seem like a thief.

Touching things with his naked fingers, magical or ordinary, shortly became a forbidden act when his magic started to flow into the objects and animate them; chairs danced around his room and cups began to sing old show-tunes when he tried to enjoy his tea.

However, when magical items were involved, touching them caused an impression of their lifespan to cloud his senses, or if the item was strong enough, trap him into a vision of their past. He had to be constantly aware of what his magic was doing, and when some of the cats started to flinch from his touch, Harry grew concerned that should his emotional control slip, he might seriously injure someone on accident. He took to wearing a hooded cloak while exploring the alley to shield his eyes from the vendors and gloves were constantly wrapped around his fingers to keep him from touching things.

Yet Harry continued to try and make the most of it. The handful of days he had spent waiting for Gringott's summons were spent wandering the alley and its many hidden treasures of shops, chatting with a few of the more talkative vendors, and studying his growing collection of new books on various subjects including Occlumency, Defense, and Wizarding genealogy. Nights were dedicated to forming plans and trying to loosen the growing unease about his future with every day that passed without a reply from Voldemort.




With the segmented beams of sunlight raining down from the cragged roof onto the supposed perpetrator of this daytime kidnapping, it did not take Harry long to determine why he found himself unexpectedly standing in a collapsed building when he had just been resting after a morning spent exploring the end of the alley. Rule #124: When in doubt, blame the Dark Lord.

Or, at least someone Harry guessed was the Dark Lord. This man certainly did not resemble the snake-faced bastard he had seen at the Ministry some weeks ago, or the brown-haired man on the stairs to Gringotts. The individual striding towards him looked exactly the same as the man Harry witnessed killing his parents and attempting to kill him in the Dark Lord's visual recount of the Halloween night over a decade ago. Even with his rudimentary understanding of magic, connecting the dots as to what must have happened was not all that difficult. Voldemort, being the narcissist that he undoubtedly was, must have found some way to shed the guise of the snake and return to the looks of his prime.

'No doubt using some Dark and forbidden ritual involving virginal sacrifice and defenseless, little animals,' Harry thought darkly, green-eyes narrowing as the unwilling observation regarding the man's looks flittered across his mind. Voldemort's face was somewhat passable for a male now that he had found himself an agreeable nose and his features no longer resembled the epitome of childish nightmares.

Nimbly picking his way through the overgrown vegetation springing through the uneven floor and around the fallen pillars of white stone, the now restored Dark Lord walked down the aisle of the collapsed building without even a glance in Harry's direction. The man's body was shrouded in an unembellished black robe that gently swayed with every step, and he carried a curious, brown satchel tucked under one arm. Voldemort approached the center of the dwelling where the mossy rubble of the broken dome above made its resting place and carefully placed his parcel on a waist-high, free standing stone beside him.

With one outward wave of the man's hand, the sizeable stone fragments littering the ground slowly lifted into the air, hovering—unaffected by the laws of physics—until they began arranging themselves in sequential order by size, outlining a fairly large circle with Voldemort at its very center.

Harry would have never noticed, thinking them to be only random bits of rubble, until he saw them completely aligned. Each stone had its designated place, forming a perfect circlet of inclining stones with the smallest occupying the side Voldemort had entered and the largest meeting together across the circle's circumference. Glyphs etched deep into the stones' surfaces glowed faintly sliver in color and they all hummed in a low tune with the solid masses beside them. The already magic-laden air spiked dramatically and the surrounding atmosphere became pregnant with the feeling of something Harry, with his limited experiences in magic, could only describe as ancient.

With the stones all removed except the unique-looking one at Voldemort's side, the tile-free floor underneath was completely exposed. The Dark Lord then began removing items from his satchel, placing a few on the ground while others were gathered to be manually placed outside the stone halo. Seemingly as a last preparation, the man removed his outer-robe leaving him bare, with nothing except the simple, black trousers he wore underneath and the strange tattoo-like markings that littered the man's upper body.

Each shift of compacted muscle caused the markings to dance along his skin. They spiraled down the older man's biceps like twining snakes and decorated the tender flesh of his wrist and forearms like bangles. Some were so fine and intricate Harry could barely see them, while others stood loud and bold against Voldemort's lightly-tanned skin. Each seemed to hold a place of importance but none more so than the large runes scrolling down his spine. With each drift of long, dark hair, the teen would catch new glimpses of the elusive image. From what Harry could tell, it originated from the back of the man's neck, traveled down the length of his spine, split in two at the small of his back, and dipped past the waistband of the low riding trousers he wore. Words and designs, increasing in font as they scrolled ever downward, branched off the main route like the boughs of great tree and covered the entire expanse his exposed, broad back.

With a sweep of raven hair, Harry briskly looked away as a deep blush consumed his face at the traitorous thought of wanting to see the rest of the tattoo and how far the fascinating script went down. It was purely from Gryffindor curiosity he told himself, because in no way did he want to see the villainous man naked. Focusing his thoughts elsewhere, the teen determinedly banished his deviant thoughts, wishing the man would put a shirt on already and stop prancing around half-naked.

Staring out the broken, colorful panes of a nearby window, Harry figured that he must be having another vision from the man. But from the calm, relaxed feel that Voldemort went about preparing for whatever it was he was here to do, the teen was rather curious why their connection drew him here. Here, to this forgotten place…this titan engulfed by the wilds.

And it truly was a wonder; its magnificence was comparable to that of Hogwarts. The abandoned building that Harry believed to have once been a massive church of some kind was undeniably beautiful even in its dilapidated state. Something about the wilds of the surrounding forest reclaiming the stone relic gave him the feeling of a peaceful haven deep in his bones. Vines of the nearby trees crept in through shattered windows, entangling along sconces and entwining together amongst the fresco ceiling, where sunlight poured in from gaping holes and down from the oculus of the dome above. Large roots upended elaborate tiles on the floor, breaking them open so the earth underneath was exposed and a low mist drifted between the rotten, wooden pews. The atmosphere here reminded Harry of the vast forest he dreamt about, and even the air was thick with magic like that of his dream.

Movement from the corner of Harry's roving eyes caught his attention. Voldemort was crouched amongst the crumbled stone of the once great cathedral, tracing intricate lines of salt on the floor. Starting at the base of the smaller stones, he began tediously working with the small grains of the crystal-like mineral and the younger man looked on fascinated as the circle slowly grew in intensity and structure.

Time passed slowly, and Harry impatiently lingered in the shadowy outskirts, trying to observe without alerting the Dark Lord of his presence. Hours seemed to slip by, and still the man tirelessly worked, etching runes and elaborate patterns, and scorching others deep into the earth. Voldemort appeared to do the entire design out of pure memory, for he held no tome or map to collaborate with. Furthermore, no magic was used to align the salt or burn the marks; just the man's bare hands and a small tool he used to crave and create the needed fire.

Despite the obvious skill and perfection that went into its making, Harry was fast growing bored in his inactivity and frustrated from not knowing what the runes said or for what purpose Voldemort could possibly be expending so much time and energy to achieve. From the look of the drawing Harry guessed the man was preparing to perform a ritual, but that was just an educated guess on his part. He had never actually seen one performed, only mentioned in some of the more stocky books Hermione selected for 'light reading.'

Trying to turn his thoughts to more productive matters was harder said than done. No matter how hard he tried, his thoughts kept creeping back towards the pink elephant in the room: Voldemort and all the hundreds of other questions that paraded after him. Despite his foray into the topic earlier that week, Harry still found himself with no small amount of questions that needed answering. What exactly was the man's aim for the war, what motive did he have for offering Harry a truce, and what would happen should the Dark win or lose their fight?

Voldemort ruled his people with an iron fist because they needed him too; Harry understood that point all too well after witnessing the conflicting personalities of the Death Eaters. The Dark purebloods own actions and misconstrued ideals did not win them any favors or very many useful allies. Galleons, Dark knowledge, and spineless cowards they had in abundance-t was numbers and cooperation within their ranks that they lacked. Too many of the purebloods were too stubborn or maniacal to follow a lesser man. Yet with Voldemort at the reigns, the Death Eaters worked like a well oiled machine. The man was a dangerous tactician and knew just where to strike to stagger his much larger opponent in the Ministry and Dumbledore.

"Not so intimidating now though, playing in the dirt and all that," Harry absently said aloud, slouched down against the stone behind him while tracking specks dust as they drifted through shafts of sunlight.

Green eyes suddenly snapping wide at his actions, Harry nervously peeked around his chosen column to see if the man had heard him, chewing grievously on his lip and dreading the outcome of his carelessness.

Tools still in hand and face blank of anything except intense concentration, Voldemort continued to steadily work away, seemingly unaware of his fretful onlooker.

Harry slumped sideways against the pebble-studded ground in relief, string up a cloud of dust as he let out a small laugh at his foolishness. In all the visions he had had before, the Dark Lord had never made any definite sign of ever seeing or hearing him, only Nagini. So unless the terrifyingly lengthy python was sneaking around in the dark underbrush, he should be ok.

Once again reassured in his obscurity, Harry inched back over the fallen column he hid behind and followed Voldemort's long fingers as they carried on their delicate work. The older man was now almost half-way past the center of his circle and design, still leaving the Gryffindor clueless as to his intention.

Pensive, Harry lazily draped himself over the curved summit of the fallen pillar, fluted ridges digging uncomfortably into his torso, and calloused fingertips just barely reaching the ground below to petulantly bat at bits of stone while he continued his ponderings.

"Why would you care if I was in this war or not? What big difference, in the grand scheme of all things, would it matter if you had to kill me or not?" Harry said, peering pass the overgrown fringe of his bangs to look at the underlying source of his mental dilemma. If Harry publicly renounced his involvement in the war, then the wizarding world would become hysterical. He could already imagine prophets singing their foreseen doom in the streets and cowards fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. The magical world believed him to be their Savior, their only hope, but if they saw him back away, what would they do then?

'Would they give up hope just because you were not there to fight their war for them?' a dark voiced whispered in shadowy recesses of his mind.

"Maybe," Harry answered audibly, turning thoughtful green eyes down to the pictures his fingers drew in the dirt – absently trying to recreate some of what he saw the Dark Lord etching. "Or they could just find some other poor sod to hide behind. Maybe then Ron would finally get his fifteen minutes of fame; see how it really feels to be loved by the masses…" The bitter thought was out and voiced before he could stop it. Sighing deeply – disturbing the sand of his picture - Harry had to acknowledge its truthfulness. Just because it was offensive towards his best mate, did not make it any less than the truth.

Was that Voldemort's plan then, stir up the people, have them questioning their ability to win this war and scrambling to find a suitable replacement for their missing savior? All this just tied right into what the man was saying about the wizarding world hiding behind him. Did they truly believe he, a teenager with very little knowledge of magic, could bring about the end of one of the most dangerous Dark Lords all by himself? Sure seemed that way…

"What are you going to do if you lose? Have you even thought of that possibility?" The thought struck him out of the blue and Harry was suddenly curious as to the answers.

"What would happen to all your followers should you die and Dumbledore prove triumphant? Have you even considered what the Ministry would do to the Dark purebloods like Malfoy? The Ministry might have fallen for Imperioed defense once but they will not allow supposed Death Eaters to escape persecution for their actions a second time! You could be possibly leading them all to slaughter!" The teen stated heatedly, throwing an accusing glare at the guilty party and rigidly crawling off his stone perch to stand. He did not know why it mattered so much to know these things but the callous disregard Voldemort had for his subordinates' lives chaffed at Harry and had his mind spinning with all the possibilities.

"The restrictions on all purebloods will heighten astronomically. The Ministry will more than likely repeat the hunts that took place at the end of the First War but far worse since they will have learned from their past mistakes. It will be like the Salem Witch Trials all over again. Any dark pureblood, even if they had no affiliation with the war will be hog-tied and brought in for questioning. There will be an express lane to Azkaban installed and any suspicion brought against your name, true or false, will have you on it!

"The smallest of actions against the Ministry would have anyone, Dark or Light, spending years in a cold cell. They will justify their actions to the public as a bid to stave off another civil war… and the battle weary people will whole-heartedly support them," Harry quietly finished while staring out through the open doors and into the forest beyond as a chill crawled up his spine and a distant anger not all his own bubbled within his mind. It was horrifying to think about, but with the way the British wizarding community had always acted towards threats with extreme prejudice, it was more than likely true.

Whole pureblood families would disappear overnight and their traditions and heritage right along with them. All their possessions would be sold off to the highest bidder to fund Ministry post-war programs. Priceless heirlooms that had been in families for untold generations would be pawned off like cheap silver and their history forgotten along with the ancient knowledge of their ancestors.

Was this what Voldemort meant by not wanting to kill him, not wanting to lose the Potter and Black name? Was this what the dark purebloods were fighting for, to keep the wizarding world from forgetting itself?

"'But now the Potter legacy will be forgotten and your ancestors' culture lost when you never come to understand what it means to hold what you do. Two of the most Ancient and Noble Houses, all their power and history, their knowledge and legends, at your very fingertips but you allow your prejudice views on magic to blind you to this treasure…'" Harry repeated lowly in a whisper, glancing over towards the hunched figure of the Dark Lord as the man's words slowly came back to him. Was he not somewhat committing the same crime against his ancestors by remaining ignorant towards them?

It was a little disturbing how the man knew him so well.

But considering where Harry had gotten his information from, it could be all flawed. "For all I know, you could be fighting for animal rights and casual work attire on Fridays. Though I severely doubt it, I just don't know." The teen let loose a sigh, his breath disturbing his unruly bangs as he once again felt overwhelmed and at a lost as to whom to believe.

"Hush boy, I did not bring you here to listen to your inane chatter." Harry swore he jumped four feet in the air at the unexpected voice that rippled towards him, tripping backwards upon an unsteady landing and falling to the ground with a painful "oomph".

Scurrying up off the floor after a few seconds lost in a bewildered daze, Harry stared in unabashed horror and mortification at all he had said aloud, thinking the man was unaware, as unwavering red eyes stared right back at him.

"You could hear me this whole time?" Harry asked quizzically, hair mused and still in shock over being discovered and just barely stopping himself from stomping his foot childishly at all the unfairness in the world.

"Unfortunately," The man answered blandly as he straightened from his crouched position, shaking the loose dirt off his hands and black pants while carefully picking his way outside the circle; never taking his eyes off Harry despite running the risk of ruining the runes he had worked so tirelessly to create.

Harry scrambled back, kicking up dust in his haste to retreat and patting his lose clothing in search of his wand, only to lowly curse aloud as his search came up empty. Of course it would not be there. Just like it had never been there, and over the years it had just become routine to stop checking. In all of the visions of before, there had never any sign of him needing it. But then again, Harry had always believed Voldemort could not see him, and that had just been proven alarmingly false. So what else did he just assume to be true was actually wrong? Could Voldemort hurt him here, kill him maybe?

Refusing to face the man empty-handed, the teen frantically cast his eyes around to find something suitable and urgently bent down and picked up the largest stone he could find nearby. Which admittedly was not much of a defense as the awkward stone was barely larger than his small hand. But if he was going to die, he was going to go down fighting, even if it was with such a lowly, primitive weapon as a rock. If ordinary David slain Goliath with nothing but a sling and a pebble, maybe he could slay a Dark Lord with a rock. Hope springs eternal, right?

But his actions only garnered him a thin, raised eyebrow in bemusement as the Dark Lord turned and approached the bag he carried with him earlier.

Harry gasped as a sharp pain laced through his hand causing him to drop the rock to the ground with a muted thud and cradle his smarting limb to his chest. Well that answered his earlier question.

All the rocks in his immediate area then started to roll away from him, leaving thin trails in the dirt behind them as Harry bent down to try and retrieve his chosen weapon. Cursing again, he found himself unable to move as he tried to rise and escape while the man's back was turned.

It was then that he noticed that the Slytherin's magic had snuck up on him once again. It wrapped tightly around him in an almost suffocating embrace and kept him from standing, bearing such a heavy weight down upon him that it forced his weaker body further down until he was sitting flat on the floor. A perfect spot to watch the following proceedings a distant part of his mind darkly pointed out.

Struggling against its hold, Harry watched with frightened green-eyes as Voldemort withdrew two black feathers from an ancient, jeweled case and then a metal brazier from the depths of the satchel. Various herbs, colorful woods, and something resembling bone, all of which the teen could not identify were put into the cask before seven drops of the man's blood were carefully added from a fresh cut on the Dark Lord's palm.

Horrible, dark tales of blood magic and sacrifices danced in Harry's mind as he screwed his eyes shut and renewed his bid for freedom. He grew frantic at the thought that it was the ritual in the graveyard all over again. Him unable to move, tied to a cold stone and used as an unwilling provider of a needed ingredient, forced to helplessly watch as the man committed another atrocity against nature.

Yet his body swiftly grew tired, his energy sapped from him as Voldemort's magic tightened around him and the ambient magic of the cathedral spiked as the ritualist began to chant.

Deciding to bide his time after several minutes spent uselessly fighting against his invisible binds, Harry finally gave into his body's demand for rest as the haunting timber of the Dark Lord's voice washed over him. What was important now was to gather his strength and wait for a more opportune moment to escape while gathering what information he could on the ritual. Maybe if he did, and he managed to miraculously escape once more, he could beg for Dumbledore's and his friend's forgiveness for his doubts towards their intentions with the intel he gathered.

Harry quickly grew cold as a dark anger replaced his curiosity, fueled by strong sense of betrayal as once again his too-trusting nature was taken advantage of. How could he have actually believed in the Dark Lord's intention for a truce, even for a second? Obliviously it had all been a lie to lower his defenses and somehow lure him here.

Played like the true naïve little fool so many believed him to be; he fell directly into the man's expectant hands yet again. He vowed then and there to somehow get away from this alive, take his revenge against Voldemort, and never trust anyone ever again. It only came back and bite him in the arse, time and time again.

Eye's spitting with fury, the teenage wizard leveled a glare at the man in front of him, mentally cursing everything about him as the man's chant came to an end.

"To actually believe a Slytherin was capable of keeping their word, ever the fool I guess. Now that you have me here, what do you indeed to do… kill me?" A bitter, breathy laugh slipped from his chapped lips as the dark-haired man ignored him once more, placing the now-smoking brazier on the ground before the glowing circle.

"Yes, because that has worked so well for you in the past, hasn't it Tom. All what, three or four times now!" With his spiteful sense of bravado, the trapped teen could not help but taunt the dangerous man, and only just then did Harry really question whether he had any self-preservation or not. But the thought of begging Voldemort for even a scrap of mercy or reminding the man of his hollow words of peace burned at his wounded pride. So he fought back the only way he could-with his words.

But yet again his words went unheeded as impossible amounts of scented smoke continued to billow from the small, metal bowl, outlining invisible, scrolling symbols and designs all around the circle as it floated up into the air. The building grew eerily silent as the Dark Lord returned to his satchel and retrieved another case, placing it carefully on the floor and brushing a large hand over its surface absently.

Its edges were somewhat worn, indicating an old age, but the polished, dark wood of its sides was much cared for, giving the sense that whatever lay inside was highly prized. A single piece of black wood, about as thick as a broom-handle and not even a foot long was roused up from its protective case. Harry could just about glimpse small charms and little strings dangling from its structure as Voldemort approached the smallest stones of the circle.

With one reverent glance - the strangest emotion Harry had ever seen reflected in the man's eyes - and a soft caress of long fingers down its length, the stumpy branch of wood began to grow rapidly. Accompanied by another heady rush in the surrounding magic, the small shaft of wood stretched into a pole of almost six and a half feet. The rod split into two about a quarter away from its top, twisted in a helix pattern around a ruby gem infixed in its middle before straightening out into two sharp prongs like a pitchfork. It was umber in color and adorned with small, stone beads of different shapes and what Harry thought might be runes etched in sliver.

The thought struck Harry unexpectedly as the Dark Lord took the length of wood in both hands and began to chant once more. A staff, a real bloody staff. Of course the man that lived for the dramatics more than even Severus Snape would have a staff, the teen thought sardonically. He never could do anything the normal way, could he.

And yet Harry found himself filled with childish fascination and wonder at the mythical object. Harry had only heard of wizards of old such as Merlin and Morgan performing magic with anything but wands, yet here was Voldemort, staff in hand. And it was blatantly of great importance to him. That much was evident in how the man handled the instrument with such great care.

However, Harry was torn from his thoughts as an unexplainable feeling of being watched crawled over him yet the most reasonable suspect was far too busy to pay him any mind. The man's chant was shorter this time around but the words he spoke weaved in and out of hearing range while others rang throughout the cathedral's immense ceiling like the mighty clanging of bells. Suddenly, the two black feathers were cast into the now-burning brazier, throwing the building into darkness as if the sun had been blotted out.

Harry's sense of dreadful anticipation spiked as within the center of the circle, the stone that resembled no other started to grow. Foot by foot it jerked and slowly grew higher and higher towards the towering ceiling, groaning tremendously in its development. It was not until branch-like structures started splitting off its smooth, white trunk that Harry realized that it was a tree. The stone that had been innocently lying within the rubble had not really been a stone at all, but a tree-stump masquerading as rock all along.

Anger pushed to the side and his sense of curiosity at an all time high, Harry continued to watch as the empty boughs of the tree started to become populated by fog-like shadows and as the thick mist condensed beneath the tree in true horror movie fashion.

The shock of cold wood against his skin had Harry jumping, abruptly free from his bounds and staring up at the face of his enemy with wide, emerald-eyes. Voldemort stood before him, having moved towards him while he was distracted. The touch beneath his chin had been the butt of the man's staff and Harry slowly rubbed at the tingling skin as he thoughtlessly took a closer look at the Dark Lord. The tattoos decorating the elder's back also covered his front but not with the same design or intensity. Patterned over his muscled chest were a few interconnecting circles, lines, and scattered symbols, leaving much of his flesh free and unpainted.

"Kill you, hardly." The teen was momentarily lost as to the meaning of the drawled statement as his mind was too caught up on the strange realization that the man was barefooted. Darks brows furrowing in confusion, he then remembered his galling taunts from earlier and the anger and betrayal that had accompanied them. Tipping his heated gaze up to meet Voldemort's eyes defiantly and fighting against his second blush of the day coloring his cheeks, Harry opened his mouth to retaliate but was promptly cut off as the man walked a few feet away and looked up into the tree's moving branches. "Watch Potter and say nothing."

"What?" Was about the only question Harry could voice sharply before following the man's gaze as the shadows jostling about the tree began to solidify. The sound of a death rattle covered his flesh in chills as the figure of a corpse, far in the back and just barely recognizable due to the mist, hanging by its neck and suspended from one of the tree's lowest branch, took shape. Hundreds of beady eyes then drew his attention. Silvery-blue in color, almost milky like that of the blind, they blinked in and out as the quick figures fluttered about the branches.

Birds, ravens most likely. Hundreds of black ravens swarming about the timber. With their loud caws and the fighting amongst one another for the best perches, the leafless canopy seemed to be a living entity due to their presences. The cacophony the avians were producing grew still as two larger shadows - possessing no tangible form Harry could see - silently glided down from above, rippling across the floor and pews, and up into the pale branches as they landed without so much as a stir of the air.

"You asked for the truth, from his lips or an act of magic itself," the man answered, turning and staring decisively into Harry's eyes. "Consider this a demonstration of my sincerity."

"Stígandr …"





"One who would call himself a Lord… You dare to summon us here!"

Back and forth the hissing voices in his mind went. One a higher pitch than the other as two larger ravens broke through the inky shadows, golden eyes glowing malevolently as they stared down their sharp beaks upon Voldemort's unphased figure.

"Pitiful, lost creature… Broken… Soulless thing, cursed to forever wander Midgard long after all else is gone…

"Has it been worth the price human… This long sought immortality of yours… Is it as sweet as you once hoped… Do you enjoy the taste of ash on your tongue as you eat… Or the flavor of rot as you drink?" One of the voices finished in a mockingly sweet tone as Harry watched as a solitary large bird inched ever farther down the branches. Slowly approaching Voldemort until it was mere feet before his face as it continued to mentally speak to what Harry hoped, was the both of them.

"Tells us Wanderer, was it worth the price you paid to Her… Your venerable Dark Lady… Does she bless you still?... Tell us...TELL US, WAS IT WORTH IT?!"

The atmosphere trembled with the clattering of beaks and the caws of hundreds of voices screaming the same repeated question. Black feathers drifted to the ground like macabre snow as Voldemort stared up at the birds, an arrogant smirk tilting his lips.

"Yes." Was his simple answer, and the birds cawed louder in frustration, stirring themselves into a frenzy of movement and flight over the response. They cursed the Dark Lord's audacity, their once English speaking voices slipping into hundreds of different tongues as they raged, yet Voldemort's smirk only grew broader.



AN: Review Please.

Recommended Reading:

It's that time of the year again. The time of finals, expectations, the nauseating loop of holiday music, and… *shudder* having to interact with family. So, because I'm sure you have been good little boys and girls while Aunty Sparrow was away, and you might need a little pick-me-up to get through the season, I give onto you the Greek Epic of all Harry Potter, Slash fiction: Lightning on the Wave.

Normally I would not have rec'ed this fic figuring most of you have already read it but when I went to talk to my Beta about it a few months back, she had no idea what I was talking about. So naturally I had to remedy this error.

Lightning on the Wave is actually the author who wrote the stories. The stories themselves are called the Sacrifice Series. I cannot stress enough how long, detailed, and truly epic this story is. The author does an amazing job of bringing her(his?) world to life with intriguing ideas, new magics, and giving life to many of Rowling's characters that fell by the wayside in the books. For just a quickie, Harry has a twin who is believed to be the BWL and he is brought up to be his brother's protector while balancing becoming a third party in the war and communing with both Dark and Light magic. There are manipulating Lilies, clueless James, besotted Dracos (it's a Draco/Harry fic) and father-figure Severuses. But there is sooooo much more to this story as those of you have read it can attest too. If you are in the mood for a lengthy, slow-moving, action-packed adventure, look this one up. Downsides are that it might be a little too long.