Interlude - Lindalë

All was darkness. And silence.

There was neither sight, nor feeling, nor a sense of direction. Existence itself was boiled down to bare essentials, with consciousness the only thing that truly persisted at all, even as it had no breath to take, no body to move, no ground to stand upon. The nothingness was peaceful, in its own way. For a long time there was naught besides that peace, and the sleep of the dead.

In the void floated a being, unaware that it was doing so, without understanding what it was, or had been. There was no reckoning of time, nothing to measure against, and it could have been seconds or eons since it had come here, since it had a form, or thoughts of its own. There was only an empty timelessness.

That which woke the remnant to a semblance of existence, which revived it from thoughtlessness, was not actually something at all. It was, in fact, a lack of something. The iota of soul did not mind the darkness of being sightless, or the shapelessness of being bodiless; what made it restless was the absence of sound, the all-pervading silence that seemed far more pressing than all the others, far more wrong. There had to be more than the soundless void, without even the blood pounding behind one's ears to fill it in, something fundamental was missing. Far more than something to see, or to touch, the being craved for something to hear.

That little annoyance, that little niggling idea, stirred it into activity, into full wakefulness. Like an echo, there followed awareness of itself, of the dark, of confinement. Slowly, gathering bits and pieces of themselves from the long dark, memories coalesced, gathered together in a process that felt completely alien, and yet completely familiar. An identity reformed, slowly. The being found its name, its origin again. His origin. Harry - that was his name. But not his only name.

The silence pressed in on him, the isolation quickly turning his resting place from peaceful to lonely. For a time, perhaps a long time, he gave in to panic, and he tried to cry out in despari, though nobody answered the pleas, and they only echoed in his head before they vanished, and silence returned. He realized how small he was, how useless he was, and he hated it. He tried to move, speak, anything, just to prove that he still existed enough to affect the world around him. There was nothing, nobody. With his instincts failing him, Harry forced himself to focus, to let a more analytical side of him take over, for fear of falling again into that near-insanity. He could not alter the emptiness, that was true, but he could alter his own perception of it: He had, after all, his memories. Perhaps he could fill the silence with something, while he figured out where he was.

The darkness brought back memories of his little cupboard under the stairs, riddled with the spiders that he had considered his only companions, back when the Dursleys were all too fond of being rid of him for a while. At night, he imagined unbelievable things, like a long lost family member come to rescue him, but they had never come. He scarcely knew why he was thinking back on those days, but out of need, out of desperation, he imagined himself back behind that little locked door, arms locked around his knees as he stared at the little lines of light that curled around the edges. Things felt a little more natural that way, more famliar.

He remembered a little song that he had heard from that cupboard. It was the first tune that came to mind, and perhaps the first he had ever heard, before he could remember leaving the Dursleys' home at all. It was a nursery rhyme, sung by Aunt Petunia, very softly, as she put Dudley to bed. At the time, he had imagined it was sung for him too, and he had hummed along with his Aunt, who could hold a tune remarkably well. He imagined the same now, and the soundlessness within him retreated before it - though Petunia was replaced in his memory by his mother, Lily, as he had seen her in pictures. The music seemed to echo around in his mind, turning into interesting variations of itself, and Harry relaxed a little as his panic finally subsided.

He realized now, with a feeling of melancholy, what had happened to him, as his memories had finally stopped bouncing around inside his mind. He was dead. The whole affair had been too quick to process, too sudden to study, too merciless to fight. The darkness had washed over him like a tide, and he had been drawn with it, down, down, down into senseless oblivion. It was a certain kind of amusing, really, that the so-called 'Master of Death' would know so little of his own domain before it overtook him. It had not been threatening, as he had half-expected, but almost - welcoming, in a way.

His little mental hymn turned to something a little more interesting and complex as Harry thought of Námo, and that moment he had decided to go with the self-proclaimed god, despite knowing what he would lose in the exchange. He had really made up his mind earlier, the moment he understood Námo's attempt to spare him from the real choice, but it had taken him a while to formulate his instinct into words. Whatever had kept him whole, coherent, had vanished after that in a moment of vertigo, when his last resistance had dropped. He still existed, true, but he could say little more about himself. He just was. All his previous experiences had only taken him to the edge of death, to a way station, never across it into the undiscovered country that everyone visited in the end. Perhaps he had simply not figured out how to understand it yet, and that's why it was this way. Perhaps Death, too, was a lesson.

For a sickening instant, Harry feared he was in a coma, unconscious and insensible on some hospital bed, drooling his last days away. He forced his thoughts away from those things, knowing his predicament was real, just as he had been sure of the reality of Námo, even as the unbelievable gold-clad figure seemed to hail from his strangest dreams, defying what he thought he knew. Perhaps that man had been telling the truth, about Harry himself originally coming from that impossibly tall mountain, in that luminescent land, or perhaps from even before it existed. Perhaps he had dreamt about it before, because he had recognized it. It was the land the land of dreams he imagined when he heard the lullaby from his safe haven under the stairs.

The self-proclaimed Vala had spoken of spiritual beings, of angels and archangels, though he used other words for them, and he had spoken of others like himself, with unshakeable confidence. And then Námo had told him that Harry himself was one of them. That he was an angel with clipped wings, a trapped spirit, caught in mortality as a fly in a web. The idea was bizarre, but he had thought the same of magic, once. To manipulate reality with words and intentions, it was considered impossible, and yet he knew it to be true. He knew the same of life after death, since he had held the Resurrection Stone within his hand, had spoken with the long dead. From there, were angels such a large step?

Was he not a bodiless being, even at this moment? A creature of thought alone, existing after his physical body had long since been buried? Wasn't he already a being like those Námo had described? Suddenly, Harry understood. He was. He had been all along, even as regular old Harry Potter, but something prevented him from realizing it, from breaking free of the physical body that he had inhabited. Whatever it meant to be an 'angel', he had already made that transition. That is why he was here, in the darkness, rather than with Dumbledore and the others, in the place where the dead went. He was heading somewhere different, now.

He only knew what it was like to be a human, how to live with a mind that was in control of its physical body. He had no idea how angels were even supposed to work, no previous experience that could help him there, nor an instinct that could guide him, at least none that had awakened as yet. He knew that Námo had been assisting him before, when he had briefly released his form, before Harry had asked him to return it to him. It had been intensely uncomfortable to be like that at the time, but it seemed almost natural now that he had found a way to stave off the silence. Perhaps it really was more natural, now? Was formlessness something he should get used to?

As Harry tried to open himself to any new experiences in the wake of his realization, something changed. Perhaps it was his new understanding of the situation, or his attempts to find a way out, but there was a shift in response to his intent. Not sight, or sound, or smell, nor even feeling, it seemed, but a sensation that he could not quite describe. It was sort of like a presence, he thought, something infinitely vast that was just out of reach, so close that had he a form, he might have touched it. He grasped for it with thought alone, having nothing else to use, and imagined himself upon his broom, racing after the snitch. He reached out his arm, imagining catching the fluttery object, and closed his fist.

Existence rushed back in as a torrent of deafening noise, drowning out Harry's fleeting thoughts of awe until he was nothing more than a listener. Harry's own melodious humming, already becoming instinctual, was joined by a far greater music from outside him, complementing the meaningless melody and turning it into a magnificent symphony. The intensity of the music swept Harry away on its wild meanderings, sometimes loud and brutal with pompous drums and screeching whistles, sometimes soft like a whistle, and filled with a graceful wonder that stole his breath away. Everything vanished into the music, and it seemed as if long-held breath was let free in endless relief.

Harry Potter passed on. And he was reborn.