As Vernon Dursley turned off the lamp in the cozy comfort of his living room, stomping up the stairs to retire to his bedroom for the night, he was unaware of the young Wizard in the cupboard beneath the stairs, frustrated he was no longer getting the light beneath the door to read his potions book. It had been days, and his injuries had not lessoned, most of his skin lined with welts, bruises and cuts, body too thin with protruding bones. He could trace his fingertips over his ribs, count them, grip the edge of each individual one, though he quickly found himself nauseated from such treatment to himself; it'd draw his attention to his sunken cheeks, where a bruise lined his jaw, a both top and bottom lip split, eyes lined with black and emerald irises dulled. The potions book was open to a list of ingredients needed for a healing remedy, and Harry had every intention of making it—he was growing the ingredients in Petunia's garden, though most of them were mature and ready to be harvested. Just in time, too, because the fingers on his right hand were starting to black from the infection that set in from being broken for far too long.
Sitting up in his cupboard—only to remember there was far less room because he wasn't as small as his ten year old self used to be—the Gryffindor rubbed at bruised eyes with his left hand, sighing. With Vernon in bed for the night, he only needed to wait an hour before he could leave his little cell and go collect the needed ingredients, and maybe, if he was feeling particularly brave, hide in the bathroom to finish reading up on the potion. He was so close to completion, yet, a dark, whining voice locked in the back of his head asked why he was even bothering. It would ease the nearly never ending pain—it even haunted his sleep, his dreams—but how long until he was beaten and broken again? Surely Petunia and Vernon would notice his injuries vanished overnight, quite literally. They would accuse him of using the 'M' word, and beat him again, possibly worse. They would search his cupboard, see he'd taken one of Petunia's older bowls and had a potions book along with one on wandless magic. He'd be beaten more and his books burned. Could he pay that price, for a small reprieve? Suffer worse injuries for just a few hours of not feeling pain, of peace?
Yes. Humans were, by nature, selfish creatures, and though Harry often acted otherwise, he was just as selfish as the others. He wanted to feel normal again, wanted to forget the constant knowledge that any day now, he could die from the internal injuries he suspected he had, the dehydration, the hunger. He wanted to stop feeling pain. As he waited for time to pass, Harry contemplated how Fate hurled painful hurdles at him time after time. It started when his parents were murdered, and just went downhill from there. Those who cared for him were ripped away before he could really form attachments, and those who he thought cared for him didn't really, not when he really needed it. He was in a Muggle house, beaten and treated like a slave, and where were Ron and Hermione? Where was Dumbledore? Wasn't it Dumbledore who left him there in the first place, and never bothered to check on him? When he came back to school each year, his health was pitiful, bruises and broken bones, malnutrition, yet no one ever asked. No one ever just said, "Hey Harry, how are you?" and wanted to generally know about his head. It was always what he planned to do about the Dark Lord. What was his plan of action, how would he save the Wizarding World.
That dark voice reminded him he didn't want to save the world anymore; reminded him he once thought about going to the Dark Lord, feigning fear, and hoped to be killed on the spot. He read somewhere, that the Killing Curse was quick, painless. Yet, his Gryffindor morals immediately frowned upon the idea; he couldn't abandon his fellow Wizards and Witches. He had to protect the weak, defend another's honor, and all that.
When an hour and a half had passed, Harry moved around in the cupboard as quietly as possible, whispering the wandless spell to unlock the door. His entire body ached, each movement causing an agonizing wave of pain to rush over his bonds, his muscle. Nothing was spared. With the door open, he stood up, biting back whimpers while trying not to break the crusted wounds on his split lips; Harry wouldn't dare make a sound and risk waking his uncle. Using the wall for support, barely able to stand on his own two feet and keep his knees from buckling. Limping his way to the back door, he wandlessly unlocked it before quietly pulling it open and flicking the back light on. Going down the steps slowly, his right kneecap—nearly smashed—buckled and his heart seemed to stop in his chest. It was over before he knew it, his body lying in the wet grass as pain shot through him in spasms, his breathing shallow before he choked up blood, spitting it out and whimpering at the strong iron taste.
::Hatchling, speak.:: a low hiss came out, Harry barely able to hear it over the pounding in his head. Did he hit it on something? Or was he dying? Head lifting, he could barely see the skinny garden snake in the shadowy grass, looking at him with black eyes. ::I was worried. I thought those filth killed you with a shovel.:: Despite the pain, the Wizard still managed a chuckle, even if it hurt his lung and ribs. Shovel was a common way of death for garden snakes, but Harry wouldn't put it past Vernon to use such a weapon, then bury him with it in the back yard like some pet. It was a morbid thought, but he found himself rather emotionless towards the thought in general.
::I-I am f-fine, Ki'the.:: With his left hand he reached to rub the snake's head, smiling at the pleased hiss. Pulling his hand away, Harry struggled to his feet in the grass, trying not to put what little body mass he had on broken or too damaged limps; it took several minutes, his breathing reduced to rasps as his thoughts were fogged over with pain, eyes barely able to focus. But he was up, and all he needed were the medicinal ingredients—then he'd be able to make the potion, and he'd be healthy again. He could breathe without worrying about choking on blood or his lungs filling with the viscous liquid. He could walk without needing to limp or wince. He could think without the haze of pain. Eager, excited even, to complete the poition, he moved to the garden with obnoxious, rasping breathes and collapsed to the ground, very aware of Ki'the slithering to his side to where his left hand carefully uprooted the ingredients. The snake flickered his forked tongue out, licking the bloodied skin.
::You are not well, hatchling.:: the snake spoke, the familiarity of parseltongue, something so much easier to speak than English.
::I-I'll b-be fi-fine,:: he started, realizing he sounded like a broken record. How many times did he tell Ki'the he'd be all right (as the snake was the only one who cared—possibly only because he brought the garden snake the dead insects from his cupboard)? How many times did he tell himself that? Just another day, just another beating. He would survive. He survived the Killing Curse, he survived a Dark Lord's obsession with his death. He was the bloody Boy-Who-Lived. Even when he wanted death it wouldn't come. ::J-just need to-to make… this potion.::
::It will make you better?:: Harry nodded, but kept to himself that it wouldn't last. After he took the potion, it'd be a matter of hours before they discovered he was perfect and healthy, and that he used magic to heal himself.
Finally getting all the ingredients gathered in his left hand, he pet Ki'the one last time and bade him good night, before slowly, so very slowly, climbing the stairs like they were a mountain and he was a child. Each lift of his leg brought both the limb and his spine mind crushing agony, and he was certain he wouldn't make it up the stairs. But he did. Harry made it to the top and shut the door, locking it, and making his way to the cupboard, getting the bowl and book and going to the kitchen table where he could see after flipping the light on. His vision was blurred, even with his glasses, but he was certain he added the ingredients right. After mixing the bowl for as long as the book told him to, he took a vial and filled it, before eagerly bringing it to his lips. Downing the purple liquid, he waited for the effects to take place. The familiar feeling of bones snapping into place, bruises healing and cuts sewing back up.
However, what started as a small burning sensation quickly grew into his body becoming engulfed in an inferno, skin on fire as a tingling sensation crawled over his skin, bringing him to his knees as he pitifully grabbed onto the table for support, knocking the bowl off the table as he pushed a chair over. His vision was blurring, only colors apparent to him as his breathing became harder and harder, until he felt like he was suffocating, his body crumpling on the ground in violent seizures. Darkness clawed at the edge of his mind, until he let out a pained keen and lost unconsciousness.
It seemed like years before Harry regained himself, his mind coming back as the fog of darkness dissipated. He was stiff, sore, and still felt hotter than anything he'd ever encountered before—but somehow, it felt natural. Yet… the pain was still there. Not as powerful and overwhelming as before, but it was still present. Though he had yet to open his eyes, he could hear someone coming downstairs and his mind reeled immediately. He was in the middle of the dining room, potion book out and table in chaos. Petunia and Vernon were going to be livid, possibly kill him. He'd left his cupboard without permission, and was doing magic related things. Screaming cut into his thoughts, and it was only then that his eyes burst open—immediately realizing he didn't have his glasses on his face, yet could see perfectly—finding Petunia a few feet away, still screaming with eyes wide. Instantly, Harry moved to pick himself up, finding his right was still just as useless, though realized something: he had feathers. His arms—no, wings—moved in front of him, his own panic taking over as his mind blocked out his aunt. What happened? Immediately he craned his head down, only to discover his neck was longer. He was covered in feathers, and small. The feathers were a brilliant orange, gold and red combination, though tinged with a silvery liquid—blood?
Before he could examine himself more or grasp what was going on—he had feathers!—Petunia had grabbed a broom and was inching towards him and wielding it like a weapon. Didn't she recognize him? No, no, of course she didn't—he was a bird!
The potion, it had to be the potion. He must not have done something right.
She swung at him, instincts making Harry flap his wings despite the pain it brought his right one as his body lurched back and he gave an distressed squawk—was that really him? Petunia screamed something and swung again, this time hitting Harry and throwing him to the side into the wall. Terrified, confused, and certain he was going to die via broom in the form of some bird, panic coursed thickly through his body along with adrenaline, before suddenly he was on fire. He could see it in his peripheral vision, and Petunia shouted "fire" repeatedly. Instinctually, Harry threw himself to the floor, rolling despite the immense pain that racked his bird body. He didn't realize, however, that as the fire engulfed him, it didn't hurt him one bit, nor did it raise his temperature. All the pain was from his old injuries from the Dursley's abuse.
Squeezing his eyes closed, Harry stopped rolling when he realized all he was doing was agitating injuries, and he wasn't dead yet. Surely the fire would have killed him by now? Waiting, he blinked his eyes open to find he was in grass, and apparently, the middle of nowhere. Also, he was not on fire anymore.
Anxiety and stress flickered through his mind; what was going on? He was a bird, he had just been on fire, but now he wasn't, yet still a bird! This had to be a dream, that's it. The potion knocked him out, and this was all a very, very bizarre dream. As the now-bird Harry struggled to his feet—which were taloned, digging into the dirt—and looked around, the dark voice in the back of his head hissing this wasn't a dream.
Trying to tame the panic that was dangerously close to making him have an emotional breakdown, Harry attempted to think logically, to calm down and just breathe.
Bloody hell he had a beak!
Body convulsing, Harry's head whipped around, and it was then he caught sight of the long tail that feathered out behind him—almost as long as a peacocks, but a wild assortment of fiery colors. A ping of familiarity hit him—Dumbledore's Phoenix, Fawkes had a tail like that.
Fawkes was a combination of red, gold, and orange.
Fawkes burst into flames without getting hurt.
Oh, Merlin, he was a Phoenix! Sharp eyes surveyed his small body, the colorful feathers, the silvery blood that decorated them, the long tail and the naturally hot temperature. The potion had gone wrong, that was the only plausible cause of his current… crisis. It wasn't just a problem. It wasn't a dilemma. It was a full blown crisis. He was a bloody bird! He couldn't do magic, he couldn't turn himself back, he couldn't tell anyone what happened! Not to mention, he was injured! His wing was broken, so he couldn't fly. Not that he even knew how. Who knew how long it'd take for him to bleed out, and he wasn't even sure how grave his injuries were. The naturally high heat his body was producing soothed the ache and made him forget.
Hearing a sound that was not from his panicking in the grass, Harry stilled while his head swiveled, looking in the opposite direction, only to feel his feathers seemingly ruffle in cold dread. He recognized the woman slowly approaching him, the slender body, high cheek bones, dark eyes and black, streaked hair. Narcissa Malfoy. She wasn't likely to hit him with a broom, she was probably going to curse him, and he had absolutely no way of defending himself or blocking the curse. He couldn't even fly away!
"Now, now, I won't hurt you," the woman cooed softly, a smile gracing her face as she slowly approached the now trembling Phoenix. Harry looked around wildly, before trying to hop forward, anything to escape while trying to pretend he didn't look hopelessly pathetic in the process. His legs weren't broken or fractured, but both knee joints were weak and hurt to bend, and hoping seemed more instinctual to him than trying to walk. He ignored the pressure it put on the thin leg structures he now possessed, and glanced backwards only to realize she was right there, and had removed her cloak leaving her in an evening gown. Harry let out a sound of his displeasure as it was suddenly thrown over his entire body and her petite arms locked around him, lifting him up. He wasn't very big, so she didn't have a problem, but he was completely restrained and blinded, causing panic to surge forward as he bucked and tried to get free. The familiar pull of an apparition suddenly overcame him, only to disappear seconds later as a door opened and Narcissa moved.
"It's a Phoenix, Lucius," the woman explained, excited. "He is gravely injured, however. I brought him home to treat. Perhaps he will bless us when he is healthy again." Harry was not blessing anyone—especially not a Malfoy! Instincts to kick and dig his talons into something overtook him, just as the instinct to bite surged to the front of his mind; but the cloak covering his body was hindering him. How pathetic, to be stopped by fabric!
"Our Lord is here—take him to my study, I don't want to disturb him." Lucius' words had Harry freezing solid, going pathetically limp in Narcissa's arms as fear clutched at his being again. He was weak, hurt, defenseless, and only a few rooms away from the very man obsessed with killing him. Wasn't that what part of him had asked for? To end the seemingly endless abuse and pain? Voldemort would gladly put him out of his misery, a quick Avada Kedavra spell, and Harry would no longer be the Boy-Who-Lived. Would death be peaceful? Painless, free of the expectations on his shoulder to save the Wizarding world? It was almost like a calling. He wouldn't be a stupid bird in death. He wouldn't have to deal with a Dark Wizard trying to kill him every second of every hour of every day. He would be… free.
While the idea of freedom was exhilarating, the sinking ability of abandoning the magic world was unpleasant and felt like a heavy chain around his heart.
Feeling Narcissa move again, he remained limp in her arms, too tired to fight anymore. If he was killed, well, it's not like he asked Voldemort to do it. He didn't let the world down, it was just that he was weak, trying to survive abuse from his blood relatives only to get caught in a defenseless form and brought straight to the Dark Lord himself. It wasn't his fault.
He was put down on a hard surface, the cloak still over his body and head, though he didn't move. "Should we paralyze it?" Lucius asked. The darker part of Harry was begging it be done—then he could claim he was really defenseless, unable to fight back. The lighter side of him, however, berated the thoughts and caused his body to tense and his feathers to ruffle.
"I think it would be unnecessary, but be prepared, just in case." The cloak was pulled away, Harry's emerald eyes squeezing shut tightly to keep the blinding light out, though he did not move. He was sprawled over the table, his head and long neck resting down the table, laying on what would have been his chest were he human, and both wings tucked tight against him while his long tail flowed right over the edge. Remaining motionless, he looked between the Malfoys, finding Lucius to have his wand trained on Harry, though as he saw Harry wasn't going to start flopping around, lowered it. Narcissa's eyes lit up as she gently reached forward and pet the tuff of feathers atop Harry's head, smiling.
"We just want to help," she explained, before pulling out her own wand. It was then the door opened up, both Malfoys bowing, while Harry froze completely, all his muscles in his skinny, malnourished bird body locking up. Voldemort stood in the door way, eyeing the Phoenix with red eyes, though it wasn't the man Harry knew, that he remembered. He looked like Tom Riddle, from the diary in the Chamber of Secrets, but aged a little more, perhaps in his mid to late twenties. Immediately the Dark Lord brought his wand out, training it on Harry who let out a pitiful noise.
"M-My Lord," Narcissa began. "I found him injured right outside the grounds." Voldemort—Tom?—didn't remove his eyes from the phoenix, the red narrowed dangerously.
"How is it, that we know this bird is not the exact one that resides in Dumbledore's office? Come to spy?" he demanded, stepping in the room and ready to end Harry's life. It was strange—Harry almost wanted to die, yet when faced with actually doing so, he felt a rush of adrenaline, a response to hide, to fight, kicking in and convincing him he didn't want to die.
"I have seen that Phoenix myself, my Lord," Lucius spoke. "It is a much older bird, the tuff of the feathers are not the same—and look at this one's eyes." Tom strode closer, looking down at the emerald eyes that just stared brightly back at him. It was suddenly that Harry realized the man was not being as… insane as he usually was. Both Narcissa and Lucius spoke without permission, and as Harry had witnessed a number of times, Tom tortured his followers for such behavior. Either he was too distracted with a potential spy, or… no. That had to be it. Harry had been told countless times that the Dark Lord could not change, he was a lost cause.
Tom gazed upon the Phoenix carefully, before replacing his wand by his side. Lucius was certainly right about the eyes—they looked young, naïve. Nothing like Dumbledore's bird. And surely Dumbledore was not idiotic enough to send a Phoenix to collect information? He looked indifferently over the creature, noticing how disturbingly thin it was, how much of the feathers were tarnished with silver blood, how many open wounds were present. Like it'd been tortured.
"You intend to heal it, Narcissa?"
"I do, my Lord," she said shyly. Harry was confused, emerald eyes still watching Tom. Why wasn't he dead yet? Or being tortured?
"Do not waste your magic or potions—a phoenix cannot be healed by our means. You will need to use old methods until his Burning Day comes." Narcissa looked surprised, although Harry gave a depressed chirp. His wounds, though he could not feel many of them, were not treatable. He knew the 'old methods' meant bandage wrap and splints, to keep him from losing all his blood and to keep him from damaging his wing more. He was still as Narcissa went to fetch materials, before Lucius excused himself from the room too, leaving Harry Potter alone with Tom Riddle. How many times had he been alone with the obsessed man? Wands trained on each other, each with a determination to kill? And now, here Harry was, weak and defenseless—and his prophesized enemy would not end his miserable existence.
Tom gently reached out, putting his hand near the Phoenix's beak for him to no doubt sniff the Wizard, and Harry wished his beak allowed him to frown. When he inhaled, however, his magical core tingled with the acknowledgement that the man was powerful, the strongest of the strong, and instincts told Harry it would be wise to make his loyalties to the Dark Lord.
And that was when Harry decided biting Tom Marvolo Riddle was a good idea.
Some instinct inside Harry's head said "bite him, bite Tom", and without really thinking the action through, his beak snapped over the tender flesh of the Dark Lord's hand. Immediately Tom jerked his hand away with a hiss, wand out and pointed at the Phoenix's head, while Harry was very aware of the salty, iron like taste on his tongue. Was he trying to get himself killed? Or was biting the Dark Lord how he was going to defeat him?
"My Lord, you're bleeding," Narcissa spoke, eyes wide as she returned. Tom glared at Harry for a few minutes, unsure if he wanted to torture the bird or kill it, before he dropped his wand with a quick spell to heal and clean his hand. Perhaps it was his own fault, for being foolish enough to stick his hand next to the bird's face without knowing whether or not the Phoenix was domesticated.
Harry, on the other hand, felt the vague disappointment that Tom hadn't killed him. He clicked his beak at the Dark Lord, before going limp against the table, tired and wanting nothing more than for this to be all over with. He wasn't sure which was worse—abuse from the Dursley's, or being in such close proximity to the Dark Lord and completely defenseless.
I would lovelovelove reviews for this! They would so be appreciated! Hope you enjoyed the story though~!