Albus Dumbledore had to force his protesting old body out of bed. He'd been awake half the night, waiting fruitlessly for Lucius Malfoy to report back after last night's Death Eater meeting. He needed to know what had happened to Harry after Severus had brought him to Voldemort. He tried to tell his conscience that the boy had not suffered at the end, but the fact was that he had no idea if the boy had been awakened and tortured before being killed. That was why he desperately needed Malfoy to contact him.
Inexplicably, he was actually worried that his new spy might have been seriously wounded at the meeting. Severus had often been violently and severely punished for even a minor failure or transgression. The Malfoy Lord might have been in favor, but bringing the Aurors to his Lord's lair would be considered treason. Albus ruthlessly suppressed his protesting conscience at the thought that the man might be seriously hurt, or even dead because of something he'd instigated.
A couple of quick grooming-spells and he was clean, dressed and ready to face the day. His usual morning cup of invigorating tea awaited him in his office, along with... he sighed in annoyance. The Minister of Magic's proud eagle owl perched on the back of his chair. "What does the man want now?" he grumbled as he rolled open the missive.
The happenings at Hogwarts this school-year has been a travesty. My undersecretary reports of illegal clubs, riots, murder attempts and kidnappings. As you obviously can not guarantee the safety of the students, the The Ministry of Magic and the Hogwarts Board of Governors have decided that Hogwarts will close early this semester.
Students will be sent home today, Monday 22nd of June, 1996. Missives have already been sent to parents and guardians to notify them of this change. Please make sure the school have the students ready to leave after breakfast. The Hogwarts Express will leave Hogsmeade Station no later than 10 AM.
Minister of Magic
"What a mess," he sighed, sinking back into his comfortable chair. He'd wanted to check on Malfoy, but that would need to wait until he'd organized the students trip home. He snapped his fingers to call for the head elf and tripped the ward that alerted Pomona, Filius and Minerva that he needed them in his office immediately. He frowned in dismay when he realized he'd probably have to take care of the Slytherins himself. Did any of them know what had happened to their head of house already? Not that it mattered much if they did.
Rolly, the house elf, showed up first with an eager smile and a bow. "What may Rolly do for Headmaster Dumbly today?" he asked formally.
"The students will be leaving today. You need not do a full lunch, instead make sandwich packages for all the students to bring with them on the train. Help any students not packed and ready to leave by nine thirty to get ready. Trunks and pets are to be moved in the normal fashion."
"Rolly will fix," the experienced older elf bowed and was gone. Albus was glad his elves didn't need much in the way of detailed instructions. They probably knew more about how to run the school than he did.
The three remaining Heads arrived even as he refilled his teacup and conjured cups for his colleagues. "Come in, come in," he urged with a wave. "We have some unexpected orders from the Ministry this morning."
"What is going on Albus? Did Dolores stir up trouble again?" asked Minerva, sounding rather concerned.
"She did put a nasty spin on the events, yes. They decided that we are to send the students home this morning."
"Today? Why? We managed well enough this far" asked Pomona.
"Apparently the school isn't safe enough," Albus replied.
"When you add up all the things that has happened, I'm not surprised this is the reaction," Filius snorted.
"Indeed," Minerva nodded. "Not that it is any of our fault."
"Perhaps it is for the best that the students return home. We do have other, more pressing things to do," he mused. "Minerva, why don't we reconvene after breakfast to make separate arrangements for Miss Granger's return home. I do not believe she is well enough to travel all those hours on the train."
Minerva nodded in agreement. The girl may have to stay an extra day or two since the warding of her home wasn't done, or even started, yet. He had thought do do it himself in the coming week, but perhaps Bill Weasley could be persuaded to begin the warding of her house immediately.
Together, the four of them abandoned his office to attend breakfast in the Great Hall.
Harry stood at the edge of his terrace, watching the sun rise over the green hills in the distance. He'd spent the early morning hours, before dawn, planning a few practical magic training sessions. Intellectually, he knew the spells and moves he needed to rehearse before going into any kind of battle. He'd managed with his old Harry Potter mentality when he'd been attacked in the Alley, but that wouldn't hold up against any serious opposition. He needed to bring back his skills.
Turning to look out over the mesmerizing water, he thought he coped surprisingly well with the change, mentally at least. Only, he still had a hard time reconciling with the Voldemort guise. The bald scaly skin, and the hissing voice was too much of the Madman for him to feel even slightly comfortable, he figured.
He took a deep breath and pushed the revulsion to the back of his mind. He'd need to be Voldemort at least for part of that day. Thank Merlin he wasn't stuck looking and sounding like that all the time! Good thing it really didn't matter, either magically or physically what form he used; switching between them was easy enough. With a hand through his long hair, he confirmed that he did indeed look human.
"Good morning, Tom," greeted his somber companion, coming onto the terrace behind him, interrupting his contemplative mood.
Harry turned. "Good morning, Severus. You're up early after such a late evening."
"It seems the magical boosts you've been giving me have lessened my need for sleep," the former professor noted dispassionately as he stepped up next to Harry. "Watching anything interesting down there?" he asked with a gesture down towards the massive garden under the glass shield below them.
"We'll need to watch how often we do the magic transfer then, or you'll end up like me; not sleeping at all," Harry replied wryly. "And no, there's nothing interesting down there, quite boring actually."
Severus seemed to think not sleeping might be a good idea. Harry frowned at his new friend. "Not that I'd mind the company, but you do not want to give up sleeping, Severus. Believe me!"
"You have been awake and alert ever since this happened, haven't you? There's no reprieve, no break, no pause...I guess that would wear on you after a while."
Harry nodded. "Exactly. The human mind isn't made to be constantly awake. The not sleeping, more than anything else, makes me feel not human anymore."
"Have you tried potions?"
"I haven't, but the Madman did on many occasions. Even HE didn't find it enjoyable to not sleep for lengths of time."
"And how did that work out?"
"Oh, most didn't work at all. Can't induce something that isn't physically possible. You could stupefy me, again and again, but that isn't very restful, now is it?"
Severus sighed. "I guess not."
"Don't worry about it, my friend. I'll manage. The best of all is; there's no nightmares to keep me awake, like I they did when I did need the sleep. Also, I'm pretty happy I can still eat, even though I can survive on plain magic. On that note, have you had breakfast yet?"
Severus checked the time. "The twins should be here soon. Why don't we wait until they arrive and have some food along with them?"
"Sounds like a plan," Harry nodded, banishing the depressing thoughts from his mind easily at the thoughts of the busy day ahead.
Together, they companionably walked downstairs. He could practically feel Severus' curiosity about the day buzzing around his head. He'd have to wait for later to find out what was in store.
Fred and George was sneaking in through the front doors when Harry and Severus arrived at the central hall. They were hovering several large boxes in front of them.
"Did you bring half your stock?" Harry laughed as they set the crates down in the middle of the floor. "Good morning, friends," he added as a greeting.
"Master!" they shouted in unison, both of them bowing head to the floor. "Good..." began one.
"...morning..." added the other.
"Our Lord and Master!" finished the first one as they jumped up to their feet with happy grins.
Harry groaned. "No, no, no!" He shook his head in dismay. "There will be none of that dark minion shit among the four of us! All right?"
"Aaw, but Harry..." one twin whinged.
"...you're our dark master, our lord..."
"Why can't we?"
"No!" Harry cut them off. "You may act any way you wish around here, joke with me, prank me, talk to me, but this is where I draw the line. There will be no excessive bowing and scraping. Understand?"
Instantly, they stood straight, serious as they'd rarely been. "YES HARRY!" They didn't bow.
"All righty, then," Harry nodded.
"Yes boss," came under their breath, just loud enough to be heard.
From behind him, came a deep laugh. He turned. "Amused, are you Severus?" The man immediately sobered
"No, My Lord, of course not." His face was as blank as ever, hiding his every thought.
Harry shook his head. Now Severus was doing it too.
"Hey! Why does he get away with it?"
Harry arched an eyebrow. "Is he? I could have sworn he was calling me arrogant bastard?"
"Breakfast is served in the garden, Masters!" the squeaky voice of Dobby cut in, before he again popped away.
"Him too?" whined one twin.
"...are you discriminating against us, Harry?" asked the other while they abandoned the crates and the entrance hall to find their way to the garden.
Harry sighed, he couldn't help himself. "Thanks guys, you sure know how to lighten the mood."
"That's what we do, Harry."
"No worries, Harry."
"Well, I do have a tendency to worry, don't I? I obsess over every little detail. It's good you guys are on my side. Marauder blood or not, I'd be way too serious otherwise."
They patted him on one shoulder each as they walked. "Being dark doesn't mean you can't have fun. Look at us, our magic is as dark as it comes and we're all about having fun."
"I think I'm beginning to realize that, but there's not much about my situation that is fun at the moment. I still have two soul pieces to destroy before I can be certain the Madman is gone, and I still have at least one powerful wizard out to kill me."
"Yeah, you just switched mad old geezer to be after you, didn't you?"
All of his three companions winced in sympathy.
Harry again shook his head and shrugged. "I guess I'll just take every day as it comes and hope I'll manage to make the best of it."
"No, you will certainly not," came Severus most forbidding voice. "We will make plans and we will make sure things turn out the way we want them to. No more of this defeatist nonsense, you hear!"
Harry took a deep breath. "Sorry guys, slight boy-who-lived relapse there. Perhaps you 'should' call me your lord: that, if nothing else, will remind me of who I am and am not."
That got the three of them to turn their head from the breakfast table right quick. "Nah, just kiddin' ya!" he snorted and reached for his own plate. The cinnamon rolls smelled pretty good.
Severus looked at him funny for a moment, probably having a hard time figuring if he was seriously having such a moment, or just having them on. Harry had to admit that it was indeed easier to slip back into his old personality around the twins, but he could never truly forget whom he'd become either. Considering their contribution, he figured that he did need to lighten up the Tom Riddle part of himself that tried to take over completely.
"As long as I can enjoy a good laugh you never need worry about me turning all Dark Lordy on you guys. I promise," he spoke up between bites of his bun.
"Good." Severus voiced and the others nodded in agreement.
"Again!" Harry demanded.
Severus fired towards the target on the wall, pressing himself to do it faster, squeezing even more power out of his core. "Confundus, Crucio, Stupefy, Incarcerous, Sectumsempra, Duro, Incendio, Confringo, Reducto, Expulso!" Both the marble statue he'd been aiming at, and the wall behind it was blown to pieces. He ended the chain with a casual "Protego!" to avoid the debris and dust.
"Better!" Harry barked, repairing the damage with a casual wave of his wand. "Again, silently!"
Confundus, Crucio, Stupefy, Incarcerous, Sectumsempra, Duro, Incendio, Confringo, Reducto, Expulso! This time the statue was still blown apart, but the wall didn't quite blow up. Though it did crumble to pieces.
"Still weaker, Severus. You should know how to do this! One more time, without the wand," he ordered, again he repaired the damage.
He sheathed his wand and took a breath to focus his mind. He pushed his hand forward and began. Confundus, Crucio, Stupefy, Incarcerous, Sectumsempra, Duro, Incendio, Confringo, Reducto, Expulso! This time neither of the destructive curses had much power. This was bloody exhausting.
"See, you're getting it!" Harry was beaming with what looked like pride. "Have some rest while the boys have a turn," he urged.
Severus grinned, catching his breath. They may have started on the lighter end of the scale, but these were still curses he regularly used in his Death Eater career. He began with the personally painful or deadly, then followed up with environmentally destructive.
He sank down onto the conjured couch and watched as the two Weasleys fired in perfect synchronicity. He was rather impressed. They didn't have his strength or stamina. What they did have was the speed, and then some. A couple of weeks and they'd be doing the spells wandless too, he was sure.
Soon, the boys joined him on the couch. He put up a protective shield, hoping to avoid getting crushed if the ceiling went down with the wall and half the floor this time.
Harry just stood there, then light flashed and the room erupted into destructive chaos. Severus blinked. That was unexpected. He had used neither words, a wand or even gestures. The curses had erupted from somewhere unseen and still hit the wall with unprecedented power, the statue was just gone.
"Now, that is how it's done, my friends." A grinning Harry cleared the dust and debris outside Severus little shielded bubble.
Severus shook his head. "And you say you need to practice? If this is you being rusty, I'm afraid to find out what you can do with some practice."
"Bloody Hell, Harry, that was bloody Marvellous!" the twins crowed, jumping off the couch.
"Well, I guess I'm not as bad as I thought," Harry squirmed. "Now, how about we do a little friendly duel, the three of you against me?"
Severus shook his head. They wouldn't stand a chance. "Very well," he nodded anyways. Even if Harry didn't actually need the practice, the rest of them surely did.
As he expected, it was over before they barely started. Harry ducked and fired three disarming curses just about simultaneously. Only Severus managed to get a second curse off before he too was disarmed and blasted across the room. Bloody Hell!
Severus blinked, trying to reorient himself before he moved his aching body. He was sprawled on the ground, facing the underside of a table. "I'm too old for this shit!" he groaned, rolling over onto his side.
On the other side of the room stood Harry in his Tom Riddle guise, looking completely unaffected. The twins were also groaning from their positions on the floor. The three of them should have given Harry a good fight, but in the end he was now the Dark Lord, and he had the agility and stamina to go with it. Severus felt rather disappointed, they had not even managed to wind Harry's inhuman body.
"Good job, guys!" Harry smiled, then surprised Severus with a wince when he limped towards the wall. Did that confringo hit after all? "You're not the only one, Severus. I'm a good thirty-five years older than you are." He righted one of the overturned chairs along the wall before he carefully sat down with another wince.
"Right, old man. How are you holding up, boys?" Severus got off the floor with the help of the table he'd fallen under. He moved carefully, nothing seemed broken. He figured a few bruises, but nothing serious.
"That was fun!" Fred, or perhaps George exclaimed, already bouncing back to full health.
Severus turned towards the boys. "You did really well. Practice your spells and you'll rival most order members in offensive casting in no time at all."
"So you really think we'll need to fight the Order, Professor?" asked one of them, looking rather apprehensive.
Severus glanced over at Harry, but shook his head. "We're not going to attack, if that is what you're afraid of. But, you have to realize we may well, at some time, be attacked by them."
Harry filled in somberly. "Yes, there's every chance that they'll find out about what we're doing and decide to attack us. You are Death Eaters now, I'm the Dark Lord, there are no guarantees when it comes to the conflict with the Light. They do not know we have abandoned our old evil ways. I promise guys, I won't be sending you out on missions where you might face your family as long as I can avoid it."
"Thanks, Harry," both twins nodded.
"We did worry about that. Most of our family fights for Dumbledore."
"There would be no changing their minds."
"Make me the toys I need, make me laugh when we train every morning and I'll be happy with your contributions."
"We can do that!"
An alarm buzzed and Harry stood. "Time for us to get about our business. Severus and I have two Horcruxes to find today. How many of my gadgets did you bring?"
Severus ignored the rest of their conversation even as he followed them out of the training room. He wondered what Harry had in mind for the day. He had mentioned a human sacrifice needed to get at one of the dark artefacts. This day would tell with finality how much the boy had changed over the last few days. Sure, he could put up a good Dark Lord act, and tortured some Death Eaters, but so far he hadn't killed anyone in cold blood. Today he might have to.
He had to admit, It would indeed be interesting to see who he'd choose for his first kill. Maybe he wouldn't consider this a murder, perhaps he could rationalize it as a sacrifice for the cause; one more victim of the Madman.
He passed Harry and the twins in the entrance hall. "I'm going for a shower, Harry. I'll meet you down here in half an hour?"
"Sounds good. Bring any flammable or explosive combat-potions you have, and a couple Bezoars, just in case," he answered. "We're going to deal with Inferi and poisonous liquid," he explained before he returned to the boxes he was checking through.
"Inferi? Bloody Hell!" Fred or George blurted out.
"You don't do things by half, do you?" the other agreed.
"I have some napalm grenades somewhere in my toy chest. Will that do, My Lord?"
Harry laughed. "Napalm combined with a shield charm? Yes, that will do nicely, I think." Severus blinked, he sounded almost excited at the scope of destruction. "Too bad we can't bring Neville," he added with a wink.
"Yes, well. I think not. With Mr. Longbottom along we'd be the ones on fire, not the Inferi," Severus replied with a wink of his own.
"Maybe we could hire him to get the garden in shape once this situation we're in is over?" Harry noted thoughtfully, but not very seriously.
"We'll see...we'll see..." Severus mumbled, leaving for his quarters. He'd need a nice warm shower to soften up his stiff limbs and down some general healing potion for the aches. He really hadn't had such a thorough workout in years.
He shook his head at the regimen Harry had put them through. Fire off ten common curses, then again either silently or wandlessly. Harry had managed all three variants, Severus managed everything silently, but only a few with any strength wandlessly. The boys had managed most silently, but barely a wandless summons. Should be interesting to see how that developed in the future. Harry had even taught them some new cool dark combat spells.
Severus had to admit, he really liked the flame whip and the silver shield that protected against it. He looked forward to what he'd learn next. He caressed the Dark Mark and remembered the unaided flight it now gave him. With a grin, he skipped the last flight of stairs and shot up through the air.
Ron Weasley had stayed with Hermione in the infirmary until the last possible minute, letting the house elves do his packing for him. The trip on the train would probably be extremely boring without either Hermione or Harry there. Maybe he could convince Dean or Seamus to play a couple rounds of chess or exploding snap? He sighed as he dragged his feet through the corridors. It was finally hitting home how stupid he'd been to be jealous of Harry's life. Why had he at no time considered the negative aspects of having all that attention? There was a madman out to kill his best friend, and he had been jealous of a new broom or money. If they ever got Harry back, he swore he'd be a better friend.
As he ran across the courtyard to catch the last of the carriages, he stumbled over something and painfully hit the ground. The carriage continued on, the Thestrals ignoring him when no one in the carriage called out for them to stop and wait. He winced as he pushed himself off the ground. He only got to his knees before he was painfully pushed down onto the gravel again. This time scratching his chin as well. He hadn't just been pushed, someone was sitting on his back. Sharp knees were digging into his kidneys painfully.
"Get the bloody hell OFF me!" he growled, trying to twist free.
A sharp pain in the back of his neck reminded him that this wasn't someone who was playing around, this was serious. "Hello, little Weasel. Long time no see," it hissed menacingly.
Ron twisted his head and was faced with a sight he'd never in a million years expected. "Wormtail!" What was the traitor doing here? On school grounds no less. Where the bloody hell were all the teachers or the Order members when you needed them? Nowhere to be found, that's what! "HELP!" he bellowed for all he was worth.
"Forget it, boy," do you really think I didn't put a silencing spell on the door as soon as I saw you came out all alone?"
"What do you want?" Ron winced when the wand pressed harder into his back.
"I'm taking you to the Dark Lord."
"Why? He's already got Harry. Why would he need me? I'm nobody."
"What do you think? Leverage, you stupid boy. You're his best friend. With you in our dungeons both the boy and your family will do anything we say, won't they?"
Ron frowned, the Rat on his back was acting and sounding rather desperate. The usually so mousy and insecure man acted with a lot more confidence than before. Ron was far from convinced the Death Eater had already won the fight. Harry would never give up in a situation like this, neither would he, Ron decided with a hidden smirk.
One little mistake, one moment of inattention and he'd have his chance.
The moment came sooner than expected. The weight on his back left, without him being stunned or even petrified. "Get up, boy!" he was ordered.
He came up, off the ground, with a deliberate stumble backwards. He crashed into Wormtail with an angry growl.
"No, what are you doing? Stand still!" the Death Eater whined when he fell back.
Ron whirled around, somehow he managed to stay standing when his attacker was down on his butt. "You clumsy idiot," the fallen Death Eater growled.
Ron didn't hesitate to push any advantage he'd created, he immediately let loose a kick at the downed wizard.
Wormtail, apparently without his wand, grabbed his foot as it was about to connect; and again Ron was on the ground. This time he went directly for the Death Eater. The mere thought that he'd be able to overcome the disgusting rat gave him the strength to attack instead of just defend. Harry would be really happy if he could catch the Rat and clear Sirius' name, even if the man himself was now gone. Revenge would be so sweet.
"I'll make sure you'll never run free again, you Rat!" he growled, pouncing.
"Just you wait until I take you to the Dark Lord!"
Harry turned from the majestic sight of the ocean. So far, he figured he'd never get enough of watching the raging power of the ocean. They were standing close to the edge of a massive cliff, high above the water. At the bottom of the steep fall, was the narrow ledge leading into the cave where he'd hidden one of the Horcruxes. They were waiting for the tide to reveal the opening, it was under water most of the day. Once the water receded, they had barely ninety minutes to get their mission taken care of before the entryway was flooded. He did not relish swimming through the cold, dark water to get in there.
He walked over to the very edge and looked down. The secret mark he had made showed the water to be receding low enough for comfortable access within the next hour; it was time to get started. They needed a sacrifice and he knew just the man for the job. Harry stepped back from the edge and gestured for Severus to bare his Mark. He obligingly did. "Come to meee, Wormtail. Come to mee now," he hissed menacingly.
"Today, Missster Pettigrew, will be of usssse to me," Harry hissed gleefully. Yes, today his parents betrayer would find his final justice in the cave of the dead.
They waited silently. Harry, having a hard time refraining from bouncing in anticipation, turned his face to the sun, enjoying the immense power. Some might think a Dark Lord might shun the bright light of the midday sun, and the Madman might have on principle alone; but not Harry. His new body absorbed any power, and made it his. He turned towards his pale companion. "Beautiful day, isssn't it?"
Severus, still squinting in the bright day, looked at him as if he'd been crazy.
"Oh, don't be such a bat!" he laughed. "Enjoy the day while you can, we're about to head underground to a cave; slimy seaweed, Inferi and a deadly potion… oh, right, almost forgot, you'll be right in your element, won't you?"
The return glare was truly magnificent in it's sincerity.
They waited in mutual silence; waited long enough to stretch Harry's patience thin. "Where the hell isss he? We don't have all day, damn it!" he growled, crossing his arms across his chest.
Five minutes later, he grabbed Severus' arm, eliciting a surprised yelp from the man. "Wormtail!" he growled, while sending a massive amount of pain. "Now!" he added. With a smirk he forced the issue, taking the voluntary aspect out of apparating away from the little worm.
"Thanks a lot," Severus bit out sarcastically through clenched teeth.
"Right, forgot," Harry mumbled. "We really should come up with a lesss painful way to call the othersss," he added as an afterthought even as the Rat appeared with a loud crack, along with another wizard, right in the middle of a wrestling match.
"What the...?" Harry made big eyes when he realized he'd pulled Ron Weasley along with Wormtail when he'd forced the issue.
At first, Ron being the taller, more athletic of the two, seemed to have the upper hand; with an arm hooked around Wormtail's throat. Then, Wormtail managed to disengage from Ron's grip through a quick, partial animagus transformation. None of the two combatants seemed to even notice the change in locale, the both of them only had eyes for the other. With a little more space between them Ron managed a punch to the Rat's gut. The Death Eater staggered back, actually squealing in pain and anger.
None of them seemed to have a wand and both were already unsteady on their feet. Ron, being younger and more fit, used to roughhousing with his brothers, swung his fist again, this time hitting the nose of the smaller man. He backed up a step, aiming again, obviously not finished. "You disgusting piece of Death Eater trash!" he screamed and punched for all he was worth.
Ribs crunched, the Rat's high pitched wail as he went down made the two spectators wince.
When Ron pulled back, this time obviously aiming for a final kick, Harry decided to intervene. The rat might be disgusting, and Ron might have as much right to extract his vengeance as Harry did, but he needed the Rat for the pending mission into the cave. "Stop!" he called out, freezing Ron in place.
Unfortunately, leaving Wormtail unrestrained, thinking the Rat was incapacitated, was a mistake. With a mighty squeal, he rushed head first towards Ron's frozen body.
"Accio Weasley," came the calm drawl from next to Harry, before he had even realized what was happening.
Ron toppled over to the side and Wormtail, unsteady as he was, continued past the frozen teen's body and into the loose gravel next to the edge. "Noooo!" The scream of rage turned into denial when the momentum carried him to the edge and over it.
Harry blinked. "Oopsss."
Severus released Ron, he sat up on the ground. For the first time, the teenager seemed to notice he was not where he ought to be. He looked around with a bewildered blink.
"He might have been a disssgusting piece of trash, but I needed him thisss morning," Harry announced with a frown and a glare at his friend.
Ron made big eyes when he realized he was in the presence of Lord Voldemort and Severus Snape. He looked from one to the other, swayed where he sat and promptly fainted.
"That wasss unexsspected," Harry noted, still stunned.
"Indeed," Severus agreed.
"Dobby!" Harry called. The elf arrived promptly.
"Master!" The elf immediately noticed the unconscious boy. "Yous Wheezy, hurt!" he squealed in distress.
"Besidess sssome bruisesss, he only fainted, Dobby," Harry reassured the agitated elf. He walked over to the boy and held his wand to one of his friend's bare hands. He didn't give him a mark, but he did infuse him with enough of his magic to allow the boy entrance to the dungeons. "Take him down to one of the nice cellss in the dungeon and make sssure he'sss alright, will you?"
"Of course, Master!" the elf nodded vigorously.
Severus dug out some potions vials from one of his pockets. "Give him these once he wakes up, Dobby." He handed over the potions. "These are just for pain and the bruising, there's no need to tell him what is going on. Harry will do that later."
Harry sighed when the elf popped away with Ron. "Thisss isss not what I had in mind." He went to run a hand through his hair in frustration and was startled when he realized he didn't have hair. His clawed, long fingered hand ran across scaled skin. He shuddered in disgust, momentarily distracted. He forced himself to remain in the Voldemort guise and not instinctively turn into Tom. "We need another sssacrifice," he growled.
"Indeed," the taciturn man agreed, crossing his arms.
"Now who do we choosssse?" Harry mused out aloud, while going over his internal list of outright enemies and minor foes. Who to sacrifice when his number one choice was already taken care of, by a teenager no less.
"Too bad we haven't got Umbridge yet," Severus asked maliciously. "We're at the ocean and she's already part amphibian," he added with a glimmer of dark humor.
Harry chuckled but shook his head. "No, this would be far too eassy a punishment for that monssster. Besidesss, I have other planss for her," he smirked.
"Bellatrix is already at Azkaban."
"Mmm" Harry agreed, "She would have been perfect" Indeed she would have been. Something he and the Madman had in common was the desire for revenge. The cave below them was filled with inferi made from Orphan Tom's Muggle tormentors. Later in life, Voldemort continued to see all Muggles as potential tormentors and acted accordingly. "If I had sstill been the Madman, I would have ordered you to grab sssome nearby Muggle. But we don't do random murder of innocentsss anymore, do we?"
"Indeed not, My Lord," Severus agreed.
An idea came to Harry when thinking of killing Muggles. He did have at least one whom he would love to get rid of. Permanently. "Wait a moment, I know jussst the Muggle," he grinned at his friend.
"Oh yesss!" The darkness in Harry saw no reason not to do what he'd only dreamed of doing so far. Giving his life to permanently kill a Madman, was as noble an end as the miserable Muggle would get. A quick time check made sure it was still early enough to catch the man he wanted at his home. He held out a hand to Severus. "Hold on, I'll apparate usss there."
The scenery changed dramatically from one moment to the next. The sunshine and wide open space was replaced by drizzling rain and a row of identically looking suburban houses.
His companion made big eyes when he realized just where they were. "Privet Drive?" asked Severus with a frown. "What are we doing here?"
Harry smirked. "I never did tell you about my Hell of a childhood did I?"
Severus shook his head, even as he took in the environment. "No, you didn't need to. I saw enough during our Occlumency lessons to know you were never pampered or spoilt here. Though, I can't say I saw anything warranting a death sentence."
"You didn't ssee the worsst of it, Severusss. I never let you, or anyone really, find out jusst how much their treatment affected me. Harry sspent the yearsss before sschool and his ssummersss ass a maltreated housse elf. And jusst like a loyal housse elf, Harry would never have gone againssst his Masster, would never sspeak badly of him, even. Now, asss a Dark Lord with extensive experiencsse with torture and manipulation and a grown up perssspective, I can say that what they did to me ass a child isss unforgivable. Albusss Dumbledore and Vernon Durssley were creating a martyr for the Light."
"You should have told someone," Severus replied softly, holding back his anger.
"I did. But, no matter whom it wass, I wasss ignored or plain accussed of lying. Now, finally, I have the meansss and the mindssset to dish out ssssome payback of my own. I never could depend on adultsss to help me when I truly needed it."
Severus looked down, embarrassed it seemed. "I'm sorry I was such a prat myself. Usually I'm pretty good at spotting the abuse-victims."
"At firsst, I was ashamed. Then, desssperate, I told Dumbledore in an attempt to avoid returning here. He shot me down without even hearing me out. McGonagall agreed that the Dursleysss wasss the worsst kind of Muggless but she sstill wouldn't believe they were asss bad asss I made them out to be. I got detention for badmouthing my family. After that my pleass not to have to return home were mere token complaintss. Your made sure I couldn't talk to you either. I know now you would have tried to do more if you'd known. Though, I believe Dumbledore would have ssstopped you."
Severus' face was a grim mask of fury towards the manipulative old man. "I would have indeed," he confirmed.
"Enough of thiss. It'ss time we cut thosse Muggless' breakfasst sshort," Harry decided grimly.
He left the stunned looking Severus on the path to the door where they'd arrived. Time was limited, it was time to get moving before their window of opportunity closed until evening. A nagging worry in the back of his mind told him it was important that they finished their mission to destroy the Horcruxes sooner rather than later.
A burst of pure magic and the door exploded open in front of him. With a satisfied grin, he stepped over the debris casually. Severus had pulled himself together and followed closely behind. Both of them aimed their wands for maximum effect.
"Anyone hooome!" Harry called out in a sing-song, hissing voice, reminiscent of Bellatrix. The confidence of his new identity made him do something he'd never dare do as Harry-the freak-Potter; taunt them.
Aunt Petunia stepped out from the kitchen, scandalized that someone, presumably one of the freaks, would force the door open in such a way. "Who..." she began before she actually laid eyes on the two intruders in her hallway. "YOU!" Petunia screamed, backing away from him, further into the house.
Harry grinned, knowing the sight of his Voldemort face was hideous enough to make almost anyone faint, or close to it. He let out Voldemort's most sinister laugh and advanced towards her. "YES, Misssuss Dursssley! Me!"
"You...you..." Her pale face gave way to a tremor of fright. She stepped backwards, towards the kitchen. "You cannot be here! We were supposed to be protected!" she blubbered in denial of what was happening when he stepped closer.
To show her different, he aimed his wand. "Reducto!" The cupboard, and indeed the whole staircase, splintered into fine kindling. Severus nonchalantly shielded the two of them. Harry chuckled when Petunia was thrown backwards into the kitchen, face full of tiny wooden splinters where she hadn't managed to shield herself with her arm.
Now first, his Uncle Vernon had managed to get off his fat ass. "What the bloody hell is going on here?" he bellowed in his usual style.
Harry stepped over the debris and his Aunt backed right into Vernon when she tried to get away from him. "The Boy's not here!" Vernon spat, pushing his wife behind his back, hiding her completely.
"The boy's already dead, moron. We're here now to make sure your last days among the living are spent in as much pain, agony and humiliation as you heaped onto that little boy under your care and protection!"
Petunia peeked out from behind Vernon. "Severus, please. You were Lily's friend. How can you let him do this?"
Severus' return scowl was as deadly as Harry's. "How could you let your husband and son abuse said sister's child? How could you allow him to be starved in your care? You deserve nothing but my contempt, woman!"
"It's not our fault!" she whined miserably. "Dumbledore..." she began, then stopped when she promptly fainted.
Chills like ice ran down Harry's back. His anger towards them cooled just as quickly. The old man had wanted him to grow up like some humble, mistreated house elf, grateful for any kindness. These people had no defences at all from magical coercion where even Severus had succumbed.
Suddenly, he could no longer go through with his plan for Vernon.
"Enervate!" Petunia stirred, confused.
Vernon cradled his wife carefully, kneeling beside her on the floor.
"Finite Incantatem Omnia Maxima!" He repeated the counter curse thrice, one for each family member.
Instantly Uncle Vernon's boiling anger turned into confusion. He sank to the floor with a thud, next to his wife. "I'm so sorry, Harry!" came the long overdue apology. To Harry's surprise it was sincere.
"Too bad it's too late now, isn't it?" came Severus' sneer from beside Harry.
For a moment Harry had forgotten who he was. He couldn't accept this apology, he was supposed to be dead already. "Dumbledore'ss machinationss will ssave your livesss from my revenge today. But, you better leave this houssse and go far far away. Because when Dumbledore findss out you betrayed him, HE will take your livesss insstead of me."
"You're Voldemort. Why do you even care?" came from the boy still sitting at the table.
Harry turned his gaze at his bully of a cousin, wondering if his bullying days were over now.
"I am the Dark Lord, yess. But among wizardss, even the Dark onesss treat their children better than you have treated Harry Potter. I am appalled that fifty yearss after Dumbledore forced me to live at an orphanage, where I wass treated much like your nephew, he'ss sstill doing it to more children. Because of him, Magical children are sstill ssentenced to months of torture every summer."
"Then why were you after Harry?"
"I may ssympathise with his plight, but he wass a threat to me. Asss ssuch, I could not allow him to exisst. Dumbledore made sure he could never be turned to my sside."
"We will make sure the Death Eaters know not to go after you," Severus added. "But, there are people among the Light side who knows how you treated Harry, especially Harry's friends. Your protection is gone, you have no more use to them now. Do not take for granted they will show you mercy just because they are the supposedly GOOD SIDE!"
"Hold out your left handss," Harry ordered. "You will be the first to receive the Mark of my protection. It'ss only valid to protect you from the Dark ssupporterss and none with Light Magic will even ssee it."
Vernon hesitated even when Petunia almost eagerly held out her hand. Harry took hold of the back of her hand and turned the wrist upwards. He gently pressed his wand-tip to the pale flesh of her wrist. "Morsmordre Nova Protectum" he whispered in parseltongue.
A glowing, golden yin-yang symbol, large as a galleon, flowed into existence on the wrist.
"This is not the Dark Mark, is it?" Petunia asked in wonder. "It's beautiful." She traced the design with a golden lion and a white snake.
"Thingss are changing, Mrs. Durssley. Thosse with a Mark like yourss, may it be golden for protection or black for loyalty and membership of my inner circle; are my mosst trussted. If any of you are confronted or apprehended by what you ssusspect are Dark ssupporterss, all you need to do iss show them your wrisst. They will know you are under my protection."
Vernon grimaced in disgust when the magic touched him. The mark immediately hid itself under his skin. He didn't want to see it, so it became invisible until he might need it.
"Can we call you with this mark?" Petunia asked, apparently remembering how the old marks hand worked. "Can you contact us?"
Harry chuckled. "No, I'm afraid not. You'd need magic for that. What little magic iss in it will allow me to track your location, but I will not know if you are in danger or even dead."
Last was Dudley. Dudley's golden mark fizzled, sparked and flamed, then settled on the wrist in muted, dark silver. Harry had to bite his tongue not to call out. "Bloody Hell, you're a wizard, Duds!"
Instead he looked to his parents "Are you aware that your son is a Wizard? A strong Dark Wizard."
"No!" Vernon almost shouted. "Our son is NORMAL! He's not a bloody freak!"
Petunia looked like she was about to faint again, she teetered dangerously before Vernon got a hold of her and held her upright next to him.
Harry looked at them closely. The denial in their eyes were total, so he instead turned towards a stunned Dudley. "Once the conflict between Dark and Light have ssettled in the Wizarding World, you may come to uss and I'll make sure you're taught, young Misster Durssley."
Dudley, as well as his parents looked mightily confused. "Why?" asked Dudley. "You are the Dark Lord. Aren't you supposed to hate normal people and those wizards born to them?"
Harry sighed. "Thingss are changing. I am not the ssame as I once wass. Ssaying I am regaining my ssanity after many years of madnesss would be the simplesst way to dessscribe it."
"We came today to coerce Mr. Dursley here into helping us destroy an object causing that madness. Until all such objects are gone there might still be relapses," Severus added.
"You are asss much victimss of Dumbledore as Harry wasss. But you can sstill be ssaved."
"We will not waste this chance to get away from Dumbledore and his manipulations," Vernon decided firmly. "We will leave tonight."
Harry looked at Severus, an understanding reached between them silently. The two began wielding their wands...
Minutes later the whole house had been packed into four match-box sized trunks. One for each of their private things and one for everything else. Only the curtains on the windows remained. They left those to keep up the appearance that they were still home.
Severus handed them a note. "Here's my Muggle address, for emergencies only. We do not need to know where you go. We will be able to find you, should we need to. To enlarge the boxes, Dudley will need to say your nephew's full name. To enlarge separate items, hold a finger to it and say my full name." He bored his eyes into Petunia. "You do remember my name, right?"
"All righty, then. Time to go." harry decided. He nodded towards his family. "Good Bye, have a wonderful life and all that crap," he quipped. With a turn, he apparated back to where they started; the edge of the cliffs.
He'd sat down onto a convenient boulder when Severus arrived behind him. "Where does it bloody end?" he growled. "I mean, the manipulations, the twisting of truth and minds. It's just too much! Is anyone or anything around us untouched by that old man's evil ways?"
"I have a feeling we have only scratched the surface, yet," Severus replied dryly as he nudged Harry over to sit next to him.
Harry stood, while pacing, he shifted back to his Tom Riddle persona. How had the Dursleys managed to even talk coherently with him, when he looked all disgusting like that? He shook his head in disbelief when he realized they had more courage than many wizards. Then again, the deeds of the Madman wasn't, by far, as real to them as they were to the wizarding population.
"You never said. Why do we need a sacrifice?" asked Severus. "Can't we do this ourselves?"
Harry frowned. "Didn't I show you where all the Horcruxes were located?"
"Yes," Severus nodded. "I know exactly WHAT and WHERE they are. You did, however not tell me how to get to them."
Harry sighed. "I didn't realize I was that brief, I concentrated on the most important facts, I guess."
"So, what about this cave, what do we need to do?"
"The locket is at the bottom of a basin. To be able to even see it, not to mention reach it, you have to drink the slow-acting poison covering it. After drinking gallons of painful potion, you have to get past the dozens of Inferi you wake up by taking the locket. If you manage this, there's still no real cure to the effects of the potion. Even with a Bezoar, you will slowly die, while reliving all your most painful memories."
"You didn't put in an override?"
"No, I figured if I needed to get to the Horcrux I'd just use some random wizard or Muggle. Back then that was no big deal."
"It has to be a real human drinking?"
Harry nodded. "No transfigurations or charms, no animals or other magical creature. I'm not entirely sure I would register as human myself, even."
"Are you certain we can't break this security charm?"
"We probably could, but I really don't want to spend days on it."
The waves below already covered the opening to the cave when Harry had a thought. He did indeed have a whole bunch of Muggles he'd already doomed to a messy death. Should be easy enough to snag one in advance.