Prologue – The Price that is Paid

"But who can remember pain, once it's over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind."

Margaret Atwood

Pain. Endless, boundless, pain.

Harry felt as if he was falling through darkness, screaming. Winds buffeted him, and thunder crashed with lightning illuminating ... nothing. Nothing at all. Just the darkness.

Above the ancient castle of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, dark stormclouds swirled. In the Hospital Wing, Harry's body lay on a bed mid-way down the ward. If not for a steady, if weak pulse, one might have thought him dead. It was six hours or so since the conclusion of the battle in the Ministry, and Harry had collapsed insensate after apparently expelling Voldemort from his mind through sheer force of will.

Might have been easier for me if he was, thought Albus Dumbledore, as he stood looking out at the unseasonal weather. He had just finished a long series of diagnostic spells and scans. The school medic, Madame Pomfrey, had been supervising him at first, but after he started in on some truly esoteric spells, she had given up and returned to her office. Then, I could have set young Harry up as a martyr, a heroic teenage wizard who braved all the odds to rescue family. The kind of hero who might inspire some resistance from the sheep I have to herd. Instead...

Some of those specialised spells had been aimed at the Horcrux on Harry's forehead. The detection charm had found no trace of a foreign soul fragment in Harry, although the scar remained. It seemed that in driving out Voldemort's possession, Harry had also forced out the dark magic that enabled Voldemort to survive beyond the destruction of his physical body in 1981. However, this had been at a cost. Although he didn't know it, Harry had expended more than just his entire magical strength in evicting Voldemort's mind and soul-part. He had used up the magic inherent in his body, pouring it into the struggle for his sanity. This phenomenon was known as a 'burn out' to magical medical parlance. It left the subject unable to do or even sense magic, and was totally incurable. Normal magical exhaustion could be corrected with rest and a few potions. Burn-outs were often fatal, but when they weren't, they were permanent Madame Pomfrey had spent the last few hours bouncing between Harry's bedside, pouring restorative potions down his throat in an attempt to recover something, and her office fireplace, floo-calling the specialists at St Mungo's for any ideas, advice or potions they could possibly find. However, it had all been in vain.

On the one hand, Harry won't have to die in order that someone else, probably me can kill Tom. Dumbledore thought. On the other, he's now less than a squib. It's a shame, he was shaping up to be quite powerful, a worthy successor. However, now he's useless, unable to defend himself against even the simplest attack. Better to get rid of him - out of sight, out of mind. Then people will forget about this, like they always do.

The old manipulator sank deeper into his thoughts, seeking ways to appropriate the Potter vaults to help fund the Order. After all, it's for the greater good...I am Harry's magical guardian, or at least everyone thinks that. Maybe there is some family rule that prevents a non-wizard from inheriting ...

He missed the slight static charge build up in the air in the room behind him, a hint of power in the very air itself. Behind his closed lids, Harry's eyes darkened, becoming an inky, infinite black.

Above, the stormclouds circled.