Achieving Greatness - Chapter 4
AN: "Riddle only realized the connection when Harry was in his mind while Riddle looked into the
mirror sometime after the snake attack on Mr. Weasley. He did not know about it in the summer."
While this anonymous reviewer is most probably correct and I am thankful for the pointer, my AU timeline diverges from canon in that respect and will probably do so in many others.
"You killed me, Harry!" Cedric's ashen face accused him from all sides, blood that hadn't been there running down his throat now, slit. The sound of it was a dying garbled mess of blood, but the message hit him like a ton of bricks. The Graveyard swirled around them, black-robed wraiths rushing in from all sides.
"You're the one that murdered us all!" His mother spat at him, suddenly at his side, her impossibly sharp fingernails digging deep wounds into his shoulder. "I should've left you to die that night, hid and cowered with the likes of you."
His screams of protest made no sound, his defense impotent in this place. Surrounded and defenseless, knife upon knife hitting right between the shoulder blades – the betrayal felt so very real, though he somehow knew it was not, and his reactions were instinctual, his torment very real indeed.
"You'll get them all killed in the end, you pathetic worm!" His father's harsh features sneered at him in disgust, and Harry Potter flew to the ground as he was backhanded callously across the face. "Like you did us. Like you did him. Only trying to save yourself –"
"Like the rat that you are –" Cedric continued, standing now, tall and menacing, hate warping and marring his once-handsome features more than the slit throat ever could.
"No better than that bastard Pettigrew!" Lily Potter ripped forwards once more, landing an impossible strong kick, shattering his ribs.
As Harry Potter struggled to breathe, he coughed up blood. He lay dying for eternity, dying and ending, among the blows and abuse.
His world was a gallery of hate, and a crowd was gathered, all so carefully gathered to rip the main exhibit to shreds.
His nights were plagued by their screams and accusations, endless and forever. His friends lay dead at his feet, each one cut down to get to him, because he hid like a coward. Because he was a weak little boy. And then they rose, and then he truly was a weak little boy, as they flayed the flesh from his bones.
A multitude of researched runes, finely scribed charts and intense study of what was known of the old magical Inkan rituals, all that preparation had led up to this. The first great leap.
He would cement today as a momentous occasion in his brief existence through the shedding of blood, sweat and tears. 'Cry me a river..?' His mind supplied, and he chuckled. Something like that. Self-pity was beneath him and he pushed it away.
Eliza had helped him set it all up, and now here he was; the older girl watching at the edge of his senses now, as she was want to do. Bill had strangely opted out of attending, saying that while he respected Marcus' right to make his own decisions; he wouldn't be a part of any blood magic rituals… Harry could accept that, but he would not falter because of it.
His instincts told him that this was right. This was the moment of truth, he supposed. If he failed here and could not break the mold of 'normal' Harry Potter that he himself had so idealized… Then he was a failure through and through, not fit to fight in any war, not fit to shoulder the responsibilities that were nevertheless upon his shoulders.
This was not an exercise.
Naked as the day he was born, Harry sat in as close an approximation of the lotus position as he could manage, his back towards the door. Eliza would've been inclined to mock him, if not for the seriousness of the situation.
Around him the runic grid sparked slightly with the sustained infusion of his magic as he carved another Mayan rune into his forearm. Intense look of concentration had settled onto his face, his countenance only occasionally twitching as the agony became almost unbearable. His dark-crimson lifeblood was seeping into the symbol-covered bowl in front of him, bathing both it and the talisman in the essence of him – old and fickle magic, whispering to forgotten gods.
'Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the burn.' The pain was excruciating, but he was stone. He would not break or crumble, most definitely not admit defeat. In the face of just a little pain, he would never fall. 'Pain is weakness leaving the body…'
The magic felt like war and fangs, scorching fires and rushing wind – disturbing, yet oddly comforting.
The intricate ritual dagger of carved bone was razor-sharp and moved deftly into the next set of runes, on his upper left arm. He leant forwards to allow the freshly spilled rivulets to flow into the bowl as well. His lifeblood seeped already from the runes on his legs and his right arm, soon only the problematic parts would be left.
With a quiet hum of pain he rounded of the third Egyptian control-rune that curved out around his left shoulder. He had unfortunately not been able to unearth a Mayan or Inkan equivalent, and the Peruvians seemed uneasy about relinquishing the entirety of their knowledge. Some truths should be made from the self, not gotten from others.
Though he wanted to stay true to that ancient, original ritual… Egyptian would work just as well, Harry told himself; it is the intent in the shape that forms the magic. Slowly, trembling, he repositioned himself appropriately by the bowl and reaching behind him, his tattered skin felt like it would shred completely any second now, but he endured.
One large and uneven rune of complex design that Chieftain Beruma had been willing to send in the letter was carved slowly and with difficulty in the center of his back. Symmetry was hard to achieve, but this was endlessly harder. This shape was unknown, but the Peruvian had seemed insistent and it was strangely familiar to Harry – something on the edge of memory – though not so to the others.
Several times he thought he would twitch or slip, all his agonizing work ruined and his life quite possibly forfeit, but he bore through it.
He felt cold now, the warmth quickly leaving his body as he closed his eyes and softly sliced the simple patterns into his eyelids before moving on to the circular-shaped binding rune around his navel. The wild magic of the ritual strained and thrashed against his will, eager to break free.
Plasmatic tears flowed softly down his cheeks, mirroring his pain with a macabre display of sadness.
He disentangled his legs, kneeling as if in reverence before the bowl, murmuring soft phrases of badly pronounced Native American words he barely knew the meaning of.
He knew their purpose, their true meaning; and intent was enough. Even through his throbbing lids, he could see the whole runic circle light up with his power, and right ahead of him was the bowl with the talisman.
It roared with his magic like a miniature sun, blinding and deafening and beautiful.
He grasped it and it grasped him. The brightness swallowed him up and consumed him, while he drank it eagerly, swept up in the torrent of repeated ancient history.
And he was no more.
It was a small, well-kept manor in the countryside, modest for such a large house, with white brickwork and muted black tiling.
Ivy crawled the height of its northern short-side wall, partially covering even the large windows, and its gardens were filled to the brim with various flowers both magical and mundane, some in bloom, while others were not.
Forcing such beauty took half of the enjoyment away, Lord and Lady Greengrass agreed, and had therefore instructed their Garden-Elf Tipsy to let them blossom in their own time.
Lord Greengrass held much the same opinion about his two daughters, Daphne and Astoria, whom he loved dearly however infrequently he had the time to show it. They were the apples of his eye, as it were, and death meet whoever tried to take them from him.
Death was no stranger to Nathaniel Greengrass, no they had tangoed before.
International procurement and sales of potions ingredients was a nasty business, the competition fierce and riddled with backstabbing and treachery. Sometimes the literal kind, with a very sharp knife. Nathaniel was a hands-on type of businessman.
The trade had made and kept the Greengrass family wealthy for generations, since Meridea Black legally changed her name back in the 1600s and was granted Ladyship of her own for her obscenely generous contributions to the founding of the Ministry of Magic.
Poisonings and stabbings had not gotten any less frequent since the time of Meridea Black – there were still so many lawless places in this world were things of value lay in wait. A fourth of Europe was without Ministries, governed only and poorly by the International Confederation of Wizards and their "guidelines"; and Europe was best off, save North America, so that was saying something indeed.
This is why not being able to kill Lucius Malfoy felt like a stab-wound through the heart. Oh, he could do it, certainly. The man was formidable, but much too sure of himself. But he would be caught – and normally that would be fine, anything for Daphne after all – but in dealing with Lucius… The rest of the Dark was a package deal.
If Malfoy was struck down with any indication of Greengrass' involvement, all their heads would roll. His lovely Veronica, his daughters… An unacceptable conclusion. There had to be another way. A pawn. A puppet.
There would have to be a way to kill him, cut the head of that disgusting serpent named Bad Faith and its power, without facing the wrath of the Dark Lord… And without once again joining his service.
Their gold and service to Malfoy had saved them as of yet, but it was only a matter of time before they demanded more even… He could not bear the thought of it, but he needed to think.
They would demand more even than his eldest daughter as a toy to some- Some bastard child with a bloated sense of self-worth. To even suggest such a marriage was an insult.
Even were Nathaniel to allow this to pass, Daphne would be lost to him. To death, he was quite sure, for the Malfoy spawn would bleed out before he touched Daphne of her own accord, and then her fate would be sealed just as surely.
The options were unacceptable; Lord Greengrass needed new options.
As the immense overflow of light and heat died down, Harry lay unharmed. The runic circle was gone, no evidence to suggest it was ever even there, as was the blood, the knife and the bowl.
The only things that remained were a stark-naked and unconscious Harry, the talisman glued to his skin like a grisly tattoo and glowing metaphorically though not literally with life. If Eliza truly concentrated, she could feel and… almost see the outlines of the runic structure now imbedded in his being. Not in the skin, or the flesh, but in all of him.
It was odd and exciting, almost unprecedented in British wizarding history, a ritual of this magnitude without the sacrifice of another. A… noble ritual, if she could call it that.
It felt to her as though Marcus was the bulwark of the world, soaking up all this punishment so everyone else wouldn't have to. His impassioned speech that first day had lead her towards that line of thought, but his dedication since then spoke louder still. It was truly an odd thought… It stirred sadness and admiration, though she had no idea where it came from.
Green piercing eyes stared up at her, a rough hand touching her cheek. Warm, gentle. She blinked, and he was different, eyes once more blue, never green.
"If you could get me something to cover myself with, that would be great." His voice was rough from disuse even though he used it no more than half an hour ago. Had he screamed? When?
"Oh, I'm sorry, I- I just wanted to make sure you were okay and –," Eliza's own grey eyes widened slightly, but she fought the blush as she quickly took a step back and turned her back on Marcus instead. How was this suddenly embarrassing? He'd been naked in the same room as her for over two hours now and sure she'd looked, but as he spoke of it, everything changed abruptly – "What was that at the end? I've never seen anything like it."
Harry smirked as he walked by her, either unwittingly or quite on purpose flashing her again, garnering a repeat of her reaction. "Well, if I had to guess, that was the magic trying to deconstruct and reconstruct, err… me." He rasped. "It wasn't successful, of course, but…" Cough.
"Some of me definitely feels a bit… newer. If you know what I mean?" He ducked into the shower room and she followed warily, leaning against the wall outside the frosted glass.
"I have no bloody clue what you mean." She muttered quietly.
Harry ducked his head out of the shower and winked at her. "Fair enough. Can't blame you for being distracted."
Eliza sputtered. "Hah! You think rather highly of yourself, don't you?"
Harry laughed and she could see an unmistakable shrug through the glass door. "Anyway, here's the deal: the magic wanted to make me into something else, I could feel it. It wanted to rip free before I was even finished. Which makes sense – it probably attempted to induce my animagus transformation."
Eliza's brow furrowed. "- But that shouldn't happen until the next stage and - and that's probably why it failed, right? That's actually good news though, or else you might've been stuck in your animal form; the changes of this ritual are supposed to be permanent."
"That's what I was thinking, yeah; so, how about we get Bill in here and –"
"In your shower?" Eliza interrupted slyly.
"NO! – Eh, I mean, yeah, no. One man shower, this –," Her semi-hysterical laughter snapped him out of it, but Eliza was sure she could detect a blush even through the glass. "Very funny, Liz. Har-har-har."
"You reaction? Yeah, priceless. So you want to run some diagnostics before we proceed?"
"My thought exactly. A shitload of diagnostics, to be a little more specific." She couldn't help but chuckle. "So, yeah. Get your arse out of my bathroom and call Bill, can't be too careful here."
"You are an absolute idiot!" Bill snapped angrily, "Why the hell did I let you do this alone? Do you think that I just might have considered it's not a good idea to wear jewelry in a Ritual where you are supposed to forsake all material things?" Bill grabbed Harry's wrist roughly, shoving the offending item in front of Eliza's face. "Bloody hell!"
"I'm sorry, Bill, I mean – fuck – you didn't want to be present and – Well, I'm the one that has a freaking bracelet growing out of my arm." Harry felt like a twat. 'Who misses that? Goddammi –'
"I was too caught up with the correct placement of the Inka-Mayan combination rune structure around the Power Rune and –" Eliza was rambling. She was, if anything, feeling worse than Harry. She had studied this… 'Beginner's mistake, you freakin' idiot!'
"Oh, shut up, the both of you. You got real fucking lucky. I should kill you just to preserve the balance of the universe really." Bill took a deep breath and seemed to calm down slightly. A small smile finally tugged at his lips, though he still looked disheveled, his long reddish hair having halfway escaped his ponytail while he ranted. "Actually, when I think about it, your deep-seated incompetence is pretty funny."
"Who likes a balanced universe anyway, huh?" Harry tried meekly, watching closely as the bracelet circulated inside his wrist when he pulled it. It didn't hurt, but they needed to research this pronto. Who could tell how this would affect him? That his Marcus-disguise was still in place was a small blessing.
"Alright then, where do we start? Matter-composition analysis, healing scans, trace the ward-patterns of the runes in him?" Eliza turned to Bill, determined to at least not screw this part up, to right her wrong in any way she could.
What was that bracelet anyway? Now that it was the topic of discussion, Eliza couldn't help but notice the vibrations of magic radiating off of it.
Excerpts of The Daily Prophet
8th of August, 1995
CLAIMED INHERITANCE AND DISAPPEARED!
The details of last fortnights Wizengamot session have finally been disclosed, and hidden among the dredge of minor law modifications about the rights of Lycans, policies regarding floo-travel and cauldron-bottom thickness this reporter found quite the gem.
The ascendance to Lord Potter and subsequent disappearing act of one Harry James Potter apparently came to light during the Grand Fall Session when the Boy-Who-Lived was noted as not in attendance by the inherent magic of the hall.
Further, Chief Warlock and Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Albus Dumbledore was noted as being assigned as the Boy-Who-Lived's magical guardian and admitted to having no knowledge of the boy's whereabouts.
We have to ask ourselves, is a man who can not look after his one legal charge really someone we want running our courts and legislature? Is he someone we want to have the ultimate responsibility over all of our children, come the new school year? This reporter, for one, thinks a full-scale investigation should be launched into the continued competency of the esteemed Headmaster; it seems that perhaps, dementia has begun to take its toll.
Even more so, we have to ask ourselves: Where is the Boy-Who-Lived? The boy who just months ago tried to convince our Minister that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had risen from the grave. Has the boy gone insane, finally snapped from the immense pressure of his celebrity? Has he turned dark, guided down that godforsaken path by the hubris of said station?
The cold night air felt good against his skin, soothing the aches and keeping him alert.
They'd been devising different tests and running pre-existing ones for similar incidents for well over a day now, and Harry was getting mighty tired. Nothing much seemed wrong with the results of the ritual. A splinching diagnostic had showed that the bracelet and the part of his forearm it was running through were actually occupying the same space without interfering with eachother, but that was the only inconsistency they could find. There was no hole or wound – somehow. This had not been the plan.
He kept running, kept breathing, and kept feeling the burn and the wind. Oddly his nightmares had been muted during the night, but instead new worries filled his day.
Bill and Eliza insisted St. Mungos might be the only way to get his answers, but he adamantly refused unless the situation became truly threatening. Mostly this was because he had no idea what would happen in that place.
Having the ritual noticed and reported wouldn't be good for his health and if the bracelet was removed from his arm in front of a roomful of strangers, then he was well and truly fucked. His anonymity was what allowed him this life of training and progress, of not being constantly hounded or falling for the pitfall of considering this time a holiday when really it was a war that had already started. It was just a bloody cold one, as of yet.
It would seem there was no option but to quit or proceed – and Harry was no quitter.
Muggle London. Well, just London really, he supposed – and it was magical in its own small way. It was beautiful in the nighttime, when less people where milling about and the city seemed almost calm. He had been running all over lately, no longer quite as worried at leaving the flat now that he could apparate. His eyes found a steep incline, and he smiled, and rushed towards it.
Reaching the top he stopped for a breather, just about ready to apparate back home. The safe house at 15b Museiq Alley had turned into home at some point without him even realizing.
A bell tinkled as the door to a Chinese restaurant opened and a family of four exited, a middle-aged couple with two small children, perhaps seven and ten years old, one boy and one girl.
Harry tried to smile through his panting as the small boy pointed at him excitedly with the hand not occupied by a lollipop, whispering something to his mother.
The brunette woman gave him an apologetic look, chastising the boy. "It's not nice to point at people, Edward."
Harry froze suddenly, as did the air around them.
'Damn it, careless!' He should've sensed it earlier. He would've, had he not considered running his own private little vacation. 'Idiot.'
As the windows of the restaurant started frosting over, Harry saw three dark shapes emerging from the shadows behind the suddenly shivering family.
The holly wand was in Harry's hand in an instant and he danced out into the sparsely trafficked street away from the family, without even thinking. But the Dementors were almost upon them, already draining every bit of warmth and happiness, and it seemed they wouldn't relinquish an easy meal just to chase him.
The children were crying now, as Harry rushed towards them, the couple looking around themselves in fright and clutching the younglings close – not able to see their real aggressors, they fixated on the rampaging teenager barreling towards them.
Rage and fire.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry bellowed unthinkingly, all lessons of silent casting forgotten, the thought of living a carefree life with Sirius and his friends at the forefront of his mind. The thought of no longer needing to be this hardened machine.
The results surprised him as much as the muggles. Just as the Dementors dug their skeletal fingers into their prey, a giant silvery serpentine creature erupted from his wand, unrecognizable in its swiftness. 'But that sure as hell wasn't Prongs…'
It charged through the family, barreling the Dementors every which way, snapping at them with claws and fangs; tearing through them, it was a blur of continuous movement.
Unearthly shrieks filled the air as the Dementors fled Harry's rapidly fading creation, while the muggles cowered against the restaurant's window.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked breathlessly, clasping the shoulder of the middle-aged man. The brown eyes met his with fear.
"Wh-what are you?" The man pleaded desperately. "What did you do to us?"
"I- What?" Harry stammered, backing away in shock. "I didn't do anything, there were… Creatures here, awful things, I had to help you!" But four pairs of eyes still met him with fright.
"I didn't – I didn't see anything until you," The brunette's voice was an accusation, "You shot some silvery light at us, and then those horrifying screams –"
"YOU GET AWAY FROM MY FAMILY!" The man bellowed, having evidently regained his courage, and Harry stumbled backwards into the street.
No thought to apparition, Harry turned and ran the other direction.
'No way. Not this quickly. Never, ever this quickly. FUCK!' Harry wanted to cry.
Aurors, scarlet robes and all, six of them and perhaps 300 feet in front of him. Fuck. Harry's mind was racing.
"I can explain!" Harry yelled in desperation, but that only served to make them draw their wands and focus said instruments on him.
"Stop in the name of the Ministry! You are suspected of a level 3 break of the Statute of Secrecy!"
"Throw down your wand and surrender quietly!"
"If you will not, we are authorized to use extreme force to bring you in!"
'Oh, hell no.' Swish-swish went his hand almost of it's own accord, and the asphalt rose like two giant waves, folding in towards the Aurors, cutting of their view of him.
Harry's senses began spreading instinctually as the Aurors blasted through it and opened fire. He dodged two Stunners and returned a wide-angle Slicing curse that wounded at least one wand arm before he had to sidestep a Foehammer. The Aurors were sparing no brutality in trying to capture him, it seemed, as the Curse could easily have shattered his ribcage. He ducked another Cutting Curse, uncomfortably aimed towards his neck. Another swish towards the pavement provided cover as he turned on his heel once more and ran.
There was no rational thought to it, but some small part of his mind knew that it was better to avoid a full-out battle against what was supposedly his allies in the coming war. The muggle London was most certainly not free of innocent bystanders, as he dodged past several dumbfounded Londoners simply watching the display. Apparition wards were up, he realized now, and he couldn't feel how far they extended.
'Damn it all…' Harry ducked left around a building and avoided another Bludgeoning Hex narrowly.
A young woman, perhaps 20, rounded the corner ahead of him and recoiled slightly as she noticed him rapidly moving towards her. With a feeling of dismay in the pit of his stomach, he noticed the curse zooming towards his unprotected back, hoping it was a stunner.
Duck, the red curse sent the girl into a pirouette before she landed in a slumped heap against the curb of the pavement. Jump, Harry barely registered the trail of crimson streaming from her shoulder and he kept running. Right, the situation caught up to him as he rounded the corner and dodged yet another bolt of greenish magic. Bloody hell! Harry ducked into an alley momentarily, panting hard.
The Aurors just wounded a civilian. A muggle. That girl hadn't done anything wrong. FUCK.
Rage and fire.
Harry Potter stepped out of hiding, a twirl of his wand slamming the nearest Auror into the wall of the building with a resounding CRACK of broken bone.
"Take him DOWN!"
The Aurors returned fire with a couple of Bludgeoners but Harry was already moving again – he was still tired, hardly recovered from his jog around London, and dodging the continued barrage while sprinting had worn him down.
Even if they hadn't injured that girl, he would've had to make a stand, but now the rage burned through his veins. Getting captured was not an option.
Twisting on the spot mid-run, he fell into a backwards roll, neatly avoiding the next barrage as he came to a stop on his feet, his wand flying through practiced motions as he twisted to the side and let a straggling Piercing Curse brush by his clothes.
Four streaks of violet, blue and red shot towards his aggressors as Harry grinned viciously. Caught by surprise, two of the five remaining Aurors were battered into the ground by a Foehammer and a Piercing Curse, two others shielding themselves just in time.
Harry danced to the left, avoiding the concentrated return volley with ease and crumbled the brick wall of a building down on top of a third Auror with an overpowered summoning spell.
The hunt was in his blood now, driving him on as he twisted ever closer to his remaining two opponents, intending to neutralize them with close-range Stunners.
As Harry weaved through an ever more desperate arsenal of spells directed towards him, he saw fear in those two remaining pairs of eyes, so much fear of him in one evening.
Suddenly, a Piercer smashed straight through his shoulder from almost point-blank range.
Harry faltered for a moment, almost getting tagged with a Stunner as a Cutting Curse sliced into his right thigh.
'Fucking USELESS!' Harry screamed furiously in his head, once again moving through the barrage, sometimes forced to shield now that his mobility was shot. He had been reckless and stupid to get so close, but more importantly… 'Don't discount an opponent that isn't dead!'
Harry finally saw an opening and the rage in his blood screamed at him to take it, and so he did.
Slash, stab, twirl, semi-circle. One of the still standing Aurors was slammed into the other by the curved Bludgeon, apparently not as agile as Harry himself, and as they grunted in pain from the impact the Piercing Curse stabbed straight through them both at chest level.
They crumbled in a motionless heap as a blood red curse zoomed towards the downed Auror that had first tagged him with the Piercer. The tainted, dark Piercer.
Harry sensed the downed Auror now, sensed the taint upon his arm, he was so close. The Blood-boiler was a mistake, a maneuver trained for war, not for spats with the magical police force. But this Auror was not just a government official, he was a Death Eater as well.
The short-lived screams of the dark-haired Auror on the ground chilled Harry to his bones and for a moment or an eternity, he was frozen, stock still in the middle of all that carnage.
Nobody moved, all that was left was the moaning of the wounded. Blood, gore and demolition, splattered all over, one Auror not much more than a mess of flesh.
Harry's left arm was useless, hanging limply by his side, but his magic was fighting the spreading paralysis of the curse; his right hand still pointed the holly wand at what was left of the man that had rendered it so.
Suddenly time reasserted itself and Harry realized that it was over. He had to move, now more than ever; immediately he set of once again at a limping run, searching for the edge of the apparition wards.
He heard sirens in the distance, approaching quickly. Hopefully an ambulance was among them.
One building away and completely exhausted now that the adrenaline had left his system, he found his exit, and with a soft 'pop!' Harry Potter was gone.
'One fucking building away.'
AN: Hey! Sorry about the wait, even though I've been pretty clear about the fact that I have no planned updates. In fact, I have no plan at all. I'll be starting a new job next week, exciting stuff, and it means I'll probably have even less time and energy to write – but hang in there.
I'm starting to see this as a challenge to keep writing no matter how crappy I find the plot and results, and I really do want to finally finish a novel-length story. That would be nice.
Many thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far! That being said…
Suggestions? Opinions? Come ooon. Hit me!