A Harry Potter story by MavenAlysse.
Set after Goblet of Fire, but pretty much ignoring most of the rest of the series.
PG-13 for comments on torture, some mild abuse, pain and character deaths. Which is kind of the point, actually.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Voldemort, or Vernon Dursley. They are the property of Rowlings. I do, however, have basic concept rights over Saraphina and Balthazar – please don't use these characters without asking me first.
Voldemort had returned.
Resurrected by his faithful followers, and the unwilling help of his most hated enemy, the Dark Lord had immediately gone on a terrifying campaign of murder and torture. In the scant few weeks he had been back, scores of men, women, and children, both Muggle and Squib, had gone missing, only to turn up several days later mutilated nearly beyond recognition. It was as if the evil Wizard was making up for all the time he'd spent as a disembodied spirit.
The damned scar linking him to the evil creature meant that Harry had a front row seat to all the "festivities."
At first, Voldemort had been content to watch his Death Eaters torment the prisoners. Every now and then, he'd send a curse, almost negligently, to hear the screams. But as the weeks progressed, the Dark Lord took more and more pleasure in personally cursing his victims.
And Harry felt every atom of pain inflicted as if those curses were cast upon himself.
To top it all off, Uncle Vernon had taken offense at being disturbed by his nephew's screams from waking dreams and had started using his fists to "encourage" silence.
Harry didn't think he could take much more. Between the two sources of torment, something was going to give sooner than later.
Voldemort watched the Muggle jerking on the floor like a landed carp, a cold smirk upon his lips as the man breathed his last.
At first, he'd been near apocalyptic when Harry Potter had escaped his clutches in the cemetery. He'd wanted to torture the brat, listen to his screams for hours, then finally put him out of his misery. Wormtail had suffered greatly for not stopping the boy, as had a few of his Death Eaters. But as the weeks passed, he'd discovered a truly wonderful detail. As his wand was brother to Potter's, and the two shared a link through the cursed scar, he found that any damage he caused with his wand, especially towards another person, reverberated across the link and into the boy. Torturing a Muggle was literally as good as torturing the boy himself, with the added bonus of prolonging the agony as he did it again and again. It warmed the cockles of his once missing heart to inflict such pain upon the one who had nearly destroyed him.
He glanced about the room, eyes falling upon a young girl. "Bring her forward." A robed Death Eater grabbed the Squib by the arm and dragged her before his Lord. With a cold smile, Voldemort raised his wand. "Crucio."
Vernon Dursely paused with fist cocked and stared in horror as his nephew's body stiffened and arched in his grasp as tremors wracked the teen's limbs. Harry's mouth was open in a silent scream, emerald eyes rolled back in his head showing only white. Blood poured from the livid scar on his forehead, creating a crimson death mask.
Shocked, the large man quickly released his grasp on the boy's collar, letting his nephew collapse in a boneless heap upon the floor. Without noticing it, his feet backed him away from the twitching body, fingers blindly searching for the door.
Harry drew in a great gasping breath, his body tensing before falling completely limp, dull green eyes staring blankly in silent accusation.
Frightened, though he'd never admit it anyone, Vernon dashed out of the room, bolting the door behind him, unwilling to deal with the freakish situation.
Inside the room, Harry's body lay unresponsively. Not a sound broke the oppressive silence. The room appeared to shiver, a bright light flashed as protective wards shattered and disappeared, their purpose over.
Voldemort cackled as the girl screamed in pain. Suddenly, he froze, rigid, as a before unnoticed thrum of power stuttered, pulled, and snapped. Bereft, the sudden cessation of power dropped him, like a marionette with cut strings.
Harry glanced about curiously. The room he found himself in reminded him of the waiting area for the Gringott's Inheritance Office that he once sat in. Plush carpeting covered the floor, several comfortable wing backed chairs lined the walls, a few bookcases with interesting knickknacks and books bracketed the two doorways. There were no lamps or windows, but a soft light lit the room.
Ignoring the doors for a moment, Harry curled up in one of the chairs, sighing in pleasure at the comfort. He was pain free for the first time he could remember. All of his injuries had disappeared as if they had never been. Even the constant low-grade headache from the scar was gone. A small smile crept onto his face. 'Did I die?' He shrugged, snuggling into the soft cushions. If he had died, he was going to enjoy this state for as long as he could.
A few moments later, another figure appeared in the room. The Dark Lord Voldemort no longer looked as he did when resurrected. Instead of the oddly flattened face and scaly skin, he looked like a normal fifty year old man.
Harry watched, dispassionately, his emotions muted by his own circumstances, as Voldemort blasted the walls and furniture in his rising anger – and perhaps some fear as well? He didn't react even when the Dark Lord finally noticed him curled in the chair.
Voldemort stalked forward, face contorted, wand ready. "Potter! You had something to do with this! I shall take great satisfaction in taking your life!"
"You already have."
Both Harry and Voldemort turned to see a third figure standing in the doorway to Harry's right. The woman appeared to be in her mid twenties. She wore a white Muggle business suit beneath a black Wizard's cloak that had silver and gold stitching along the hem and collar. She had silver white hair that flowed unfettered to her waist, pale, almost alabaster, skin, one blue eye, one green, and a kind, but stern expression that reminded Harry of Professor McGonagall, though when she smiled, Harry swore the room warmed. "If you'll be seated, Mr. Riddle, we're awaiting one of my associates and then we may begin."
Visibly stunned, the older Wizard did just that, sitting stiffly in one of the chairs. Harry could feel the fury and confusion pulsing off the man, and wondered how long it would take before the Wizard exploded in a rage.
Harry guessed he dozed off for a moment, for suddenly a fourth figure was in the room. It was of a tall man in his late twenties with short dark hair, tanned skin, and black eyes that appeared tinged with red. He wore a black Muggle business suit beneath a white Wizard's cloak that had back and red stitching along the hem and collar. He carried a black leather portfolio beneath one arm. Harry mused that they looked like mirror images or reverse negatives of each other.
"Saraphina," he gave a cool nod.
She returned the greeting, warmly, "Balthazar. Good to see you again."
He smirked, "They realized long ago we work well together. No need in making things harder than they need to be. At least, not yet." He swept the other two with a dispassionate gaze, taking a seat opposite Saraphina and to Voldemort's right. A large office table suddenly appeared between the four of them. Balthazar began laying out parchment from the case. "Harry James Potter..." Harry sat up at this. "...and Tom Marvolo Riddle..." Voldemort, that is, Riddle, jerked in his seat, scowl firmly upon his face. "The two of you are here because of a prophecy..."
"A few not so well thought out spells..." Saraphina added.
"...And an odd ritual or two," Balthazar finished, several pages before him.
Harry stayed silent, after only four years in the Wizarding World, he didn't know enough about magic to quite understand what they meant, but it didn't sound good. A cold ball formed in his stomach.
Riddle sneered at all of three of them. "What insolence is this? How dare you bring me here, spouting such utter gibberish. I'll see you all tortured for my pleasure!" He brandished his wand, aiming at Harry as the nearest target. "Crucio!"
Harry blinked at him, nonplussed. Prior incantations had made a mess of one set of bookshelves and scorched an armchair, but nothing happened this time. Riddle was furious, repeating the curse several times, each time louder until he was screaming, froth appearing at the corners of his mouth.
"Sit down or I shall make you." The icy tone brought the older Wizard up short. Harry could barely stifle the laugh that tried to worm it's way out at the sullen, almost pouting look upon the "Dark Lord's" face, but sobered quickly when Balthazar cast a cool eye upon him as well. Harry straightened somewhat in his seat to pay closer attention.
Balthazar referenced one of the parchments, "If I may continue. The two of you were bound by a prophecy. A prophecy which Mr. Riddle only heard part of and that Mr. Potter has not been made aware of at all." He gazed at both of them as if daring them to interrupt. Neither did. "The prophecy is thus: The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies, ..."
Saraphina broke in, "This is all you hear, Mr. Riddle. Because of that, you decided to kill the Potters, putting into the motion the next qualification and turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. For shame," she tisked.
"... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, ..."
"That would be the scar," Saraphina indicated.
"... , but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ..."
"That would be the reason Mr. Potter didn't die from the Avada Kadavra and why Mr. Riddle was disembodied."
"... and either must die at the hand of the other ..."
"Which is why Mr. Potter reacted to the curses Mr. Riddle cast with his wand."
"... for neither can live while the other survives ..."
"Which is why Mr. Potter's life has been so difficult, why it took so long for Mr. Riddle to become corporeal again and why neither of you are happy."
" ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ..."
"And that's why we are all here now," Saraphina spread out her hand with a smile.
Riddle was furious. "What do you mean that's why we're here? According to what you just said, the prophecy is over. I killed the damned brat. That means I've won."
"You mentioned some spells and rituals?" Harry interjected before Riddle could start on another rant.
Both Saraphina and Balthazar smiled, hers warm and bright, his brief and curt, glad he was taking an interest. "Some of the rituals Mr. Riddle used prior to becoming disembodied brought the attention of some Higher and Lower Beings. Cutting yourself off from the natural balance of Life and Death really pissed them off," Balthazar bared his teeth in a semblance of a grin.
"But your Resurrection Ritual tied you back in when you used Mr. Potter's blood," Saraphina quirked her lips in a smile.
"How is that possible?"
"You double-linked yourself back through a single person both magically and mundanely. The scar and the blood."
"That shouldn't have affected anything," Riddle argued. "The ritual clearly stated to use 'blood of the enemy unwillingly taken.'"
"Yes, but you're at war with so many people. Anyone would have sufficed. You negated most of your previous attempts at Immortality by choosing Mr. Potter. Bad luck on your part," Balthazar tisked mock-sadly. "My Superiors are looking forward to having a little ... chat ... with you." Riddle shivered slightly.
Saraphina turned to Harry. "Before she was attacked, your mother cast a protection spell upon you, Mr. Potter. A variation of very old soul magic. It enhanced your own natural ability. As it was done with pure intent, it kept your soul pure – at least as pure as a soul can be and still be human – keeping Riddle's taint from truly touching you. It lingered throughout the years, keeping you from dying from the atrocious neglect from you family when you were younger. The last of it helped you survive long enough for Professor Dumbledore to find you during your confrontation with Quirrel your first year in school."
"If you were a cat, you'd be on your last life," Balthazar nodded solemnly at the silent question. "You've managed to survive on your own merit for the last three years. No mean feat, considering your opposition."
Emerald eyes wide, Harry stared at the two, studiously ignoring Riddle. "So, what happens next? I guess he did kill me with those curses."
"Yes, but only because your Uncle's ... attentions ... had weakened you."
"You have a choice, my dear," Saraphina smiled across the table at the boy.
"This is utterly ridiculous! Choice? He gets no choice! He's dead! I won! And I demand that you return me to my proper place so that I may continue on my conquest ..." Riddle rose from his chair, wand brandished, ranting in his hatred and frustration.
As if choreographed, both Balthazar and Saraphina tilted their heads to stare at the near maniacal Wizard and snapped their fingers. Riddle was forced into his chair, stuck to the seat, arms waving uselessly, mouth opening and closing in soundless explicatives.
"As I said, before so rudely interrupted, you have a choice."
Balthazar broke in, "As of this moment, you are on your last life. With a word, we can restore you to the mortal realm."
Harry felt his heart lift – he wasn't really dead. He could go back. But he studied the two beings and his heart fell again. "What's the catch?"
"The 'catch' is that Mr. Riddle would return as well, due to the nature of your connection," Balthazar stared emotionlessly at the teen. "The return would cause the link between the two of you to finally be severed, both of you would be back on the mortal plane, and your next deaths would be final and permanent."
"And if I don't decide to return?" Harry pushed past the sudden lump in his throat to ask.
"Again, your link means that neither of you will be returned to the mortal realm. Basically, a permanent death. Without any other chances at resurrection due to your link – there are no spells that allow for two souls to return at the same time and that would be the only way that you both could be returned." Saraphina sent a pointed look at Riddle, who settled down somewhat to listen.
Harry thought for a long while. One one hand, he really didn't want to die. He was only fourteen for Merlin's sake! He hadn't had a chance to do any of the things he had dreamed of. It was unfair that such a burden was placed on him because of a stupid prophecy and an equally stupid megalomaniac. On the other hand, he was tired. Tired of the expectations of those who won't step up for themselves. Tied of everyone's impression of a yo-yo when it came to dealing with him. Tired of the whispers and stares. Tired of the Dursleys. Just tired.
"There is one more thing," Saraphina added before Harry could voice his decision. "If you chose to stay, then Mr. Riddle gets to decide which of us he gets to go with, meaning you would go with the other."
Riddle smirked, leaning back in his chair, completely relaxed. He figured the boy would choose to live, knowing that he – Lord Voldemort – would ultimately win by sending the boy to Hell while he embraced the rewards of Heaven. No teenager would sacrifice their soul in such a way – not when there was a chance of beating his rival on the mortal plane. Not that there was a chance of that – the boy was untrained and would be easy to defeat once they were alive again. Either way, he would win.
Harry was pissed. This was his choice? Live and let the ass-munch of a wanker get the chance to kill more innocent people, or die, save some people, but get sent to Hell? Some choice! He glared about the room, not noticing how his magic flared about him in an aura of color and sparks. Stupid prophecy, stupid Voldemort, stupid scar, stupid Powers that force a kid to suffer so much without even a hint of help or advice. He caught the smirk on Riddle's face, and his anger reached new limits. Oh, how he wished with all his heart to have nothing more to do with the bastard. His magic pulsed, an angry crimson, and hit Riddle dead in the chest, knocking him and the chair over. Harry stood, hair flaring in the wind created by his magic. "You're never hurting another person ever, Tom."
"So be it," both beings intoned. The words echoed throughout the room, reverberating, shaking his very bones. Harry felt the connection dissipate utterly. Gone. He sighed in pleasure, not even flinching when Riddle staggered to his feet, his hate filled voice reaching his ears once more.
"Stupid child, to sacrifice self for a few paltry mudbloods."
Harry snuggled back into the cushioned chair, ignoring the other's ranting, relishing the comfort – trying to make it last.
"Time to make your decision, Mr. Riddle," Saraphina gently interrupted, looking sadly upon Harry.
"Make your choice and get on with it. There are other things that we need to do and listening to your prattle is not one of them." Balthazar brushed imaginary lint from his sleeve, sounding bored. Riddle started to snap back a reply but was quelled with a frigid look.
A moment later, Riddle grinned nastily. "Oh, my dear Harry. I hope you have fun in Hell." He turned to the woman. "Ms. Saraphina. I choose to go with you."
She nodded regally and rose, her cloak rustling as it was adjusted into place. She gestured for him to do the same. "Goodbye, Harry. My masters would have loved for you to join us. I am sorry it had to be this way." She gazed sadly at the boy, then followed Riddle to the door she'd entered by. "Goodbye, Balthazar."
"Goodbye, Saraphina. Until we meet again."
She bowed her head in acknowledgment. Riddle, in his haste and glee, grasped the door handle and gave an impatient push.
With a sudden influx of air, the door swung open, yanking Riddle off his feet. Scorching air swirled about the Wizard, bodily pulling him across the threshold. Harry could see flames dancing on the other side of the door. Saraphina turned to look at him, "Goodbye, Harry. As I said before, my masters would be so eager to have you join us, but I fear that is not meant to be." She laughed, the girlish giggle morphing into a low-throated cruel chuckle and she followed the hapless Riddle, the door closing firmly behind her, Riddle's terrified and agonizing screams cut mercifully short.
Harry blinked in shock. "Um... what just happened here?"
Balthazar rose to his feet, smiling a bit more warmly. "Riddle was always so much more concerned with appearances than truth. He never asked either of us just who it was we represented. He made his decisions based on what he saw." He shrugged his shoulders and Harry noticed that the 'cloak' was actually a set of white wings draped across his shoulders.
"So... um... who do you represent?"
Balthazar laughed, bemused. "Don't worry Harry. Where Saraphina worked for the Lower Powers, I work for the Higher Powers." He began collecting the parchments back into the portfolio.
"What would you like to do next?"
The tone caused Harry to think for a moment. "What am I allowed to do?"
A smile graced Balthazar's face. "Whatever you'd like."
"Any suggestions? I'm feeling a bit brain fried at the moment. Way too much has happened today. And I don't want to make a bad choice."
The smile gentled. "Harry James Potter died. The protective wards around his home shattered and fell at the same moment. Wizards and Witches stormed the house, discovered the battered body of their 'savior,' used a judicial amount of veratiserem, and appropriately dealt with those who dared call themselves your family. On the other hand, you do still have one life left."
Harry frowned. "But, won't Riddle be able to come back if I do?"
"No. Remember when we gave you your choice?"
The teen nodded, a bit apprehensive. "I was really angry."
"You severed the connection between yourself and Riddle for ever. Your anger, focused and righteous, sent your magic flaring, and you forced the curse link back on Riddle."
Recognition blossomed, "So that's why he went head over heels. Since the link is gone, then he can't come back unless someone performs a ritual, right?"
"Actually, he can't come back at all. After removing himself from the natural balance, he willingly went to Hell. And Saraphina's Masters will be imparting their displeasure upon him for a long, long time."
Harry shuddered at the implication. He thought for a long while, then asked, "If I go back, who would I be? I can't be Harry Potter anymore, but I'd hate to give up magic. I love Hogwarts, it was home, even though my friends weren't quite friends anymore. I hated being stared at as the Boy-Who-Lived, but I would hate to lose my link to my parents. What should I do?"
"Your paternal grandfather had a brother who was a Squib. Riddle was quite active during those days, so in order to protect his life, your great uncle was sent to America. He married a young woman and had a son, who was also a Squib. Technically, that man died without any children. However, as records were not kept so strenuously back then, it would be quite easy to add you to the family tree." He leaned back in the chair, elbows on the arms, fingers steepled in front of his chin. "Orphaned at six months, you were adopted by a loving family who named you Michael Gabriel Peterson. It wasn't long before they discovered you were a very strong Wizard, your displays of accidental magic meant you were trained at a much younger age. Your family has just recently moved to England and you can transfer to Hogwarts as an incoming fifth year."
"Wait. Why so powerful? I mean, I'm not that powerful."
Balthazar smirked, "You're more powerful than your peers, Harry. No one apparates at the age of ten. You would have been exceptionally powerful your entire life, except that most of you magic was being funneled through the curse scar to Riddle to keep him going. With a new life free of Riddle, you'll have access to it all this time around. Your current memories will fade, seeming like a dream, letting you have emphatic flashes about who and what you can trust. You'll have a whole new set of memories."
"And the family?"
"It will be as if you lived with them your entire life. They'll love you, Harry. Trust me." He studied the boy. "What do you say?"
The teen rose to his feet, presenting his hand. "How do you do? I'm Michael Gabriel Peterson."
if anyone cares to write a sequel, let me know. ::grin::