Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter! I'm only saying this once, as this annoyingly necessary statement shall apply to the following chapters. I claim no rights to the characters or relevant situations they find themselves in. JKR gave us a sandbox and I'm going to play in it.
A/N: This is going to be waaaayyyy AU. For time-frame purposes, imagine things are cannon-ish up until the Department of Mysteries but after that, everything goes out the window and does so quickly. Will be a Harry/Luna fic but be patient, will take a while to get there.
This will also be a Darker fic as apparently, I have an affinity for it. Not sure where it's going to go, but I imagine it will be, ah, interesting. Could be three chapters, could be 50. No clue. And I write as I go, so don't expect a consistent update rate.
If you'd like, leave a review! Thoughts, suggestions, critiques, I welcome them! I prefer no flames but some of you are overzealous, I understand. Unless you have solid reasoning though, best get out your own flame shield. I prefer not to, but I can dish it back ^_^
Lastly, bit of exposition in this one but necessary. You'll see why. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Didn't See that Coming
Harry walked quietly through the Forbidden Forest, sweat dripping down his face and a slight gimp in his step but he soldiered on.
This was it.
This was the end of years of suffering, of meaningless death.
"You'll be alright, son."
Memories of lost chances and mistakes filled his mind, along with his father's encouragement.
"My poor boy," whispered the ghost of Lily. "We are so very proud of you."
He stopped and turned to the images. He was about to smile sadly in thanks before he noticed Remus and Tonks appear to the side of them.
"H-How? When?" he whimpered as tears fell freely.
Tonks shrugged, "Apparently, my cousin is an animagus. A fox if you'd believe it. I don't have a concept of time here, but I think it was a few hours ago, to you that is."
"Di… Did it hurt?"
"Not at all," replied Remus, taking Tonks' hand. "I'm sorry, Harry. I watched Tonks go and I lost it." He smirked, "But for the trouble, took a few dozen or so of them with me."
Harry hiccupped as he chuckled, "Anger is a powerful motivator. Changed on the spot did you, all without the moon?"
Remus frowned, "Yeah. We're sorry, Harry. I'm… so sorry."
Harry cried. He tried not to, he really did, but seeing Remus and Tonks appear was too much. The ghosts of the past frowned sadly at the young man in front of them, a man who they all considered a son and who endured so much. Lily and James drew close to him, as did Remus and Tonks and together, they provided what bitter comfort they could.
After nearly dying at the Department of Mysteries along with Sirius, Harry was forced to acknowledge many things at once: his feelings for Hermione, his severe lack of skill, and that his family was well and truly dead. None of these thoughts reached his friends however, who were hospitalized in some way or another: Ron due to the Brain's attack, Hermione from Dolohov, Neville from a scrap with Bellatrix and finally Ginny and Luna, although their wounds were less severe. Due to this, Harry came to realize a most devastating truth.
He was Death.
Maybe not in true form or a direct agent, but all those associated with him died as a result. What else could his existence mean? It would be a miracle the other two parts of the trio survived that night, let alone his friends who followed him into the fray.
After the private service held in Sirius' name two days later, Harry locked himself away in Grimmauld Place. As the new Head of House Black and with everyone else still needing medical attention or too busy to say otherwise, no one stopped him and no one would notice until a member of the Order tried to get in. Eventually, they would give up trying and Dumbledore would come to admit that only when Harry was ready would they see him again.
Fueled by misery at what his existence meant to those he cared for, Hermione particularly, and from the loss of his godfather, Harry turned into a monster. Rage comforted him in the darkness of House Black and he found solace in destroying everything inside. Runes of the ancient House would spring into action the moment Harry exhausted himself, rebuilding what was broken and by the next morning he would start the cycle anew.
Eventually, he grew tired of it and instead turned his suffering inward, allowing the anger to fester and burn. One day, in early July, something inside him let go and before Harry knew it, he was in the family library and surrounded by books.
It would be thanks to Kreacher that Harry continued to live as the elf would bring his Master food and drink, otherwise the young man never left the library. He would practice occasionally, learning the feel and use of the new spells under his command but then he would go right back to studying.
Hermione would have been proud, if only it hadn't been the Dark Arts.
By the end of August, Harry Potter was on the fringe. Thriving off of the numbing effects from his studies, he delved deeper into the darkness and edged closer to incurable madness. It was by chance that he found a picture of Remus, Sirius and James in one of the many rooms that he used as a training area. The image struck a chord within Harry, a distant memory or feeling and it resonated. He realized his folly and began to fight the crushing pressure in his mind however he was unable to relent the Dark Arts.
They had taken too deep a hold.
During this time of self-imposed exile, Remus took charge of figuring out a means to breakthrough to Harry, someone who he had come to see as a son. He journeyed to the Black ancestral home on a daily basis, accompanied by Harry's friends or those who had healed enough to do so.
Remus' hope was to get Harry to realize they were there, every day, waiting for him. As the new Head of the Black family, the house would have notified him each time they stepped within the wards and he believed that eventually, Harry would come out to them.
Although they tried to reach the shut in young man, each day they were met with failure.
He, along with Tonks, started to spend every waking moment they could in researching ways to get inside but always came up short. You didn't simply break into House Black, even with extensive preparation; you might as well throw yourself at a horde of Dementors.
They would have enlisted the help of Hermione as she often voiced her concerns, but her injuries were the worst, second only to Ron's. She was unable to do anything strenuous for the rest of the summer and Remus, having sensed Harry's attraction to her for the longest time, subtly encouraged Hermione to recuperate. She and Ron ended up spending a lot of time together recovering and it wouldn't be until much later that Remus realized his mistake.
Setback after setback hung over their heads but in the middle of September, fate finally smiled on them through a secret clause in Sirius' will. It had taken time due to its nature, but the Goblins informed Remus of his full access to the Black home, no matter who the Lord of House was. There was a special room set aside, crafted by Sirius himself, one that only Remus could enter for his 'furry little problem.'
Remus and Tonks immediately finalized the necessary magics and without bothering to wait or tell anyone, they stormed Grimmauld. It was in the farthest corner of the library were they discovered the shadow of a man, one whom they barely recognized.
Harry, having nearly gotten a hold of his addiction, snapped at their sudden appearance and lost all control. He lashed out at them, firing a barrage of Light and Dark spells without remorse. Remus, thanks to his werewolf tendencies, and Tonks, due to her Auror training, recognized immediately what Harry was going through. In an effort to save him, they fought tooth and nail against the crazed wizard but it wasn't long before both of them realized they never stood a chance.
Harry had grown leaps and bounds while inside the mansion and only when Remus' unconscious body was thrown angrily on top of Tonks did the fighting stop. The now Dark wizard stalked his prey, who struggled against Remus' weight and her own heavy exhaustion.
Tonks had taken a short breath as Harry's wand pushed gently on her forehead. She knew her time had come and refused to cry. Instead, by looking unflinchingly into his eyes, she conveyed to him all the love she could.
"It's not the way Remus and I would have wanted but at least we know you can beat him, Harry."
The man recoiled as if burnt and fell to his knees, crying like the days just after locking himself away.
For the next several months and with their help, a new Harry would be forged from the wreckage of the old. His skills in both Light and Dark magics would be refined; Remus helping him tame his dark monsters and Tonks teaching everything she knew from the Auror Academy.
His friends started owling him, while Dumbledore and some of the other professors would visit and offer pointers or encouragement during his recovery. In time, Harry felt fit enough both mentally and physically to return to Hogwarts. Part of his return however was fueled by the public's need of it, as Voldemort's reign of terror grew worse every day.
But when he returned in March of the New Year, his stability would be tested.
The girl of his dreams, the one he had often used as inspiration to overcome his evils was dating his best friend and from the looks of it, they were madly in love. Tonks had been there to escort him back to the castle and her motherly instincts that had formed during their intense bonding were on overdrive. During her short life she would argue there were two times in which her heart had been broken. The first was discovering Harry in his most desperate hour and the second was watching him come to terms that Hermione was now out of his reach. Harry did the only thing he could and congratulated them, giving Ron and Hermione his full support but sadly, the trio would never be quite the same again.
Harry devoted himself to his studies, mastering spells at such an astounding rate that even Hermione was in awe. However, with Ron taking Hermione away more often times than not, Harry would be left alone in the library. She always showed her remorse for leaving him and although it did not convey a deeper meaning, Harry still struggled with it. This change in their dynamic had a ripple effect, alienating him from them and the rest of his friends.
His pseudo-parents, as that is how Harry came to see them, saw right through his attempts to conceal the pain but they knew nothing could be done. With renewed vigor, Remus and Tonks continued Harry's development, joined a month later by Alastor Moody and Dumbledore. McGonagall and Flitwick also chipped in and by the end of his sixth year, one year since Harry's descent into madness, he began to believe he may stand a chance.
All of this was thrown into the air upon Dumbledore's death.
In his will, Albus gave Harry the remaining pieces of the puzzle, pieces that the elder wizard had kept hidden from everyone. After learning this truth, it nearly destroyed everything Harry had worked so hard to retain.
Horcruxes. There were seven and Albus believed Harry to be one of them.
Remus had vented angrily to the old Headmaster's portrait and although the painting looked thoroughly chastised, the damage had been done. Harry left shortly after the start of seventh year to find the cursed things, along with the help of Remus and Tonks who tagged along. Ron and Hermione had protested initially, but after a private word with Harry on what Remus assumed to be a demonstration, the shards of the trio relented but not without Hermione in tears and Ron close to. They may have been fractured, but they still cared for him.
The new trio hunted day and night for the evil anchors that Voldemort had created . Yet despite their best efforts, no solution was found for removing the Horcrux that had been buried into Harry's soul. Once Voldemort and his Death Eaters attacked Hogwarts some hours ago, Harry knew his time had come.
With a little bit of luck and a lot of planning for this very outcome, the captured Horcruxes had been placed together and tied by blood magic to the soul fragment residing in Harry. If all went well when he died, the fragment would be released, taking with it all the others and that would be the end of it. Remus and Tonks were going to explain things once it all settled down or finish it if something went wrong, except now Harry was staring at his adopted parents through flooded eyes.
"We didn't mean to cause you more trouble."
He managed a smile, "It's alright, Tonks. No one needs to know and it's probably better if no one does. Everything will work, I'm sure of it."
A white mist formed to the right of the small group and Sirius appeared with a forlorn expression.
Harry on the other hand smiled, "Sirius, good to see you."
"I wish I could say the same. I watched you pup, every step of the way. This shouldn't have happened."
The young man shrugged, "Nothing for it. I'm just glad everyone's together and waiting for me."
The others started to fade away, the magic of the ring running out. They gave their goodbyes and then only Sirius remained.
"We'll always be waiting for you, no matter how long it takes. Fight until the bitter end, Harry. You may still come out on top."
Harry blinked away the last of his tears as his godfather faded away, "Not likely, but I'll try."
"My Lord!" cried Bellatrix. "It's Potter!"
Lord Voldemort turned to look behind him as a battered and weary Harry came out from the shadows. The wizard smiled, "Ah, Harry Potter… The Boy-Who-Lived, come to die?" Voldemort threw back the sleeve of his arm, exposing the Elder Wand. To his surprise, he watched Harry take a solid step forward.
"I know I'm going to die so I just want to say one thing and after that, by all means, do what you will."
The small army of Death Eaters all chuckled together, which in turn made it sound like a low rumble throughout this part of the forest. Voldemort too could be heard laughing and this only encouraged and excited his followers.
"Very well, Potter. Speak your piece."
Harry glared angrily at him before taking a deep breath and he surprised everyone by smiling, "You're going to lose and it doesn't matter what I say because the end is still the same. You should know though, Tom," the Dark Lord hissed but Harry ignored it, "that it will be your own hand that causes your downfall. Pity I won't be around to see what comes next."
"ENOUGH!" bellowed the Dark Lord and sparks shot angrily from his wand. "You know not what you speak! Avada Kedavra!"
Harry watched the green spell fly angrily towards him. If a few seconds, it would all be over: the pain, the heartache, and struggles.
It would finally end.
When the spell connected, Harry was blown back and his scar felt as if it split open. Voldemort also fell to the ground, screaming in pain. As the Dark Lord continued to thrash, for Harry, the pain simply stopped a moment or two later. The difference was so jarring he nearly jumped up, feeling better than he could ever remember being in his entire life.
Some of the nearby Death Eaters shrieked in fear, wondering what kind of devil stood before them. Before they could run or get a curse in edge wise, Voldemort's form glowed brightly. Harry squinted, almost unable to watch but he was able to see seven black shapes converge on the Dark Lord's body.
As quickly as the light came it left and everyone looked on in awe as a human looking Tom Riddle stood up from the ground. Tom seemed just as surprised as everyone else and he studied his hands, now a healthy color.
He looked at Harry, "What have you…" and then his eyes shot open, "You… Potter! You were a seventh!"
The old Harry would have blanched but the new one held his ground, wand already pointed in the proper direction, "What are you talking about?"
Tom started to look nervous, "Now is not the time for games! Were you a seventh?"
Harry glanced around and took note of the Death Eaters' reactions. They seemed confused, rightly so given the circumstances, but there was no spark of recognition to what Voldemort was saying. That meant no one knew of the Horcruxes save for himself and their creator.
"What's it to you?"
Tom screamed in rage and Harry gasped as breathing became difficult to do. Everyone stumbled around, the feeling of a heavy pressure settling on their shoulders and pressing them inward. The Boy-Who-Lived-Again struggled against this pressure, recognizing it for what it was. Harry could not believe just how far outclassed he was compared to Tom. This force was the manifestation of a wizard's core and if this was the true power of Voldemort, then despite all his suffering, all his training…
In an instant the feeling went away and Tom immediately started barking out orders.
"All hands are to report to Riddle Manor immediately!" he yelled. "Anything that comes out is to be killed instantly, no exceptions!"
The Death Eaters were stunned as was Harry but unlike the mindless followers, he recognized a hint of fear in the Dark Lord's voice. In a twisted sort of way, he knew Tom better than anyone and this fact sent a shiver down his spine.
'What in the seven hells could Tom possibly fear?'
Everyone hesitated, unsure of this command. Weren't they about to charge Hogwarts?
Voldemort however was not in a patient mood, "Go!"
Snapped out of their daze, many started to leave and Harry watched as Bella quickly approached her master.
She kneeled, "My Lord?"
"Spread the word. I want every Death Eater converging on Riddle Manor. Nothing is to be left, burn the place down. Do you understand me?"
Tom's voice went up as he spoke and this added further concern.
"Yes, My Lord. It shall be done," and she was gone.
Harry blinked and wasn't sure if he was in a dream or if he had actually died and was in some sort of hell. Fifteen seconds ago, this part of the Forbidden Forest was crawling with Death Eaters and now only two wizards were left.
Voldemort rapidly approached him but Harry held his ground, "What's going on?"
To Harry's utter shock, Tom didn't make a rebuttal nor did he attempt to throw a curse. Instead, he put away his wand.
"Stand down, Potter. We need to talk."
Harry sputtered, "Talk? We need to talk? What the hell about?"
By some sense of honor or whatever possessed him to do so (and it wasn't Voldemort), he began to lower his wand. Tom's following words however, would act like Stupefy.
"I, Tom Marvolo Riddle, swear on my life and magic that what we are about to discuss for the next hour is true or as close to the truth as I know it. I also swear that the life of Harry Potter within this next hour shall not be threatened by me or anyone associated with my name."
As the magic of the oath took effect, Harry let his mouth drop. He really couldn't help it.
"What in Merlin's balls are you doing?"
"Will you stand down?"
"Will you stand down? I realize you're not going to remove your guard and I hardly blame you. I am only asking what you asked of me several minutes ago. Allow me to say my piece."
Tom's face was firm but showed no malicious intent and not for the first time, Harry was questioning if he was still alive. The man in front of him made a 'well?' gesture and Harry growled.
"Alright, say it. What's all this about?"
"You were my seventh Horcrux, weren't you?"
Harry didn't see any point in hiding it anymore, "I was but you took care of that, as I mentioned you would. The rest of them are gone too."
The Dark Lord frowned, "Indeed, my soul is whole again but do you have any idea what it is you've done? What you've caused me to do?"
"Please, enlighten me."
Harry's building anger wavered in surprise when Tom turned around. He further confused Harry by glancing all around, like he was admiring the woods.
"Magic is like Nature…"
"Actually I would postulate Nature and Magic are one in the same. Just as the winds shift over miles of land, so does Magic shift in order to balance herself. When wizards seek to alter her direction, it takes great effort to do so."
Something cold settled into the pit of Harry's stomach. He did not like the feeling he was getting from this, "Are you telling me your intent was not to be immortal? That the Horcruxes served some other purpose?"
Tom chuckled, "Oh I still aim for immortality. Any sane mortal would but yes, you are half correct. The Horcruxes were originally just a set of tools. A failsafe, to be blunt."
The Dark Lord sighed, "As I said, Magic is like Nature. She doesn't like it when lesser beings manipulate her for their own ends."
"Are you going to stop talking in riddles, Riddle?" Harry snapped impatiently.
Tom snarled in response, "I created horcruxes so that I could bring myself back to life should my experiments backfire, which they did I might add. I've died hundreds of lives over."
The wind was torn from Harry's sails, "What? Then what are you afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid of anything, boy."
"To hell you are! Like it or not, I know you better than most thanks to our damned connection. I could tell your knickers were twisting the moment you realized I was another of your anchors!"
Tom took a calming breath, "This is utterly ridiculous. Here I am about to spill my grandest of plans to my mortal enemy."
Harry was about to retort when Tom held up his hand.
"I created a virus… A magical virus meant to be controlled by my will. It took years to perfect the runic sequences but once I had it, all it took was supplying a host and they'd succumb to it, no exceptions. Mudbloods, half-breeds, pure-bloods, you name it. If you could cast magic of any kind, you would soon do my bidding and if you couldn't, the virus would force magic into you. Humans and squibs alike would be mine to control, there was no distinction."
Harry took a step back, "You lie."
Tom laughed, "That's only the half of it. It was to be the perfect army, one that would never question my directives or lax in their duties. Better still, my army would grow… Tell me, are you aware of the currents?"
Harry frowned. Luna sometimes wandered off on her own saying she was going to knock on the sky and listen to the sound. She described it as riding an ocean of waves or currents except what she did used magic. Harry however, had a more formal introduction of the matter.
"Vaguely, can't say I had an interest in Divination although its mentioned in several prominent books on Magical Theory. 'The world is encased by magic, described as currents ever flowing like an ocean.'"
Tom looked impressed, "Text book answer for an obscure art. My virus spreads by using these currents, that's how it latches on to anyone and anything. The host must be of sufficient biomass to sustain the mutations but other than that, almost anything can be infected."
"Do I want to know how this deals with the Horcruxes?"
Harry jumped back as Tom angrily let loose a burst of magic.
"It's Nature! Despite all my calculations and efforts, right before I keyed the virus to my will I met not resistance, not issues with getting the magic to hold, but utter refusal! Nothing I tried was able to put the virus under my command. By the time I had finished crafting it, it had mutated out of my reach and blood rituals or bindings of any sort failed."
The swirling magic died down.
"It was both a fantastic discovery and a colossal failure. Structured magic became meaningless, Potter. Merlin's Principles, Equivalent Exchange, Roshburg's Theory, every rule in the book was either bent or broken when I tried to make this virus my own. It was like Magic herself fought against me."
"What… possessed you to push forward? Is that not enough of a warning? What the hell was the point?"
Tom's eyes glowed, "The point was total domination, Potter. That was my goal. I had it too, discovering that Magic could be outwitted by using the Horcruxes." He took several steps away. "I was experimenting with magical amplifiers, one capable of being worn by wizards and giving them an unlimited boost of power."
Harry's eye twitched, "I've heard of similar things. Let me guess, did you forgot about Haidlen's Limit?"
Tom glared, "My calculations were perfect and still something went wrong. Obviously, the explosion destroyed my body and I was forced to use my last homunculus I had in storage. It just so happened I wondered how the bindings would react to a soul with magic but no body."
The Dark Lord began pacing, "Everything fell into place after that. I was so close to unleashing it however I was weak. The possession process is difficult and magically draining not to mention it was no small feat to bind the virus. Foolishly, I thought it best to use one of my bitter rivals as candidates for the first infection."
Tom was mildly surprised by a wand appearing in front of his eyes along with the arm and body that held it.
"You. Bastard." Harry was shaking, his arm trembling. "Give me one reason."
"Since you destroyed all the Horcruxes, the virus no longer has a master to control it. I'm not so naive to think I can beat this thing on my own, Potter. Neither can you."
Reluctantly, Harry lowered his wand and took several breaths of air to calm himself. Tom did something similar.
"Can it be killed?"
"Because it's made of magic, it can't be destroyed by an outside force. It will vanish on its own if a host is not found in time but otherwise, when it inhabits a body it is then bound to that body. Should the body die, it dies."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, "So you first have to infect someone and then you destroy them? That must be such an easy thing to do."
"The mutations make the body heavily resilient to magical attack. Blunt force trauma will stun but not stop them and no muggle or magical artifact exists that can easily destroy them. Not without killing the rest of us anyway."
Harry cursed, "Right, so, why did you send the Death Eaters away?"
For the first time since they started talking, Tom showed fear in his eyes. "Riddle Manor is crawling with my henchmen and I have no doubt at least one of them has already been infected. Which means the virus is already hard at work at crafting itself to take another. It mutated once before so unless it's stopped, I fear it will spread with no hope for containment. If that happens..."
Harry paled, "Bloody hell. Can it be stopped?"
Tom looked more human than ever, "I don't know, Potter. I don't know."
A/N: Brownie if you catch the movie reference. So… what did you think and anyone wanna Beta?