Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: So this dark little one-shot had been rotting in my incomplete file for way too long. Since I haven't actually finished and posted anything for quite some time, I decided to dust it off and spruce it up. So, here you have a very obscure and creepy story. I hope you enjoy… Jules
Peter Pettigrew was the first to die. His body was discovered on the steps of the Ministry of Magic, naked and mutilated. His face was left intact, so that there was no question of who this was, and the Dark Mark had been untouched, but the rest of the former animagus had been destroyed. His torso was decorated with deep cuts, words carved into the pasty flesh; words like rat, traitor, Death Eater, Judas, coward, murderer, and maggot stood out stark red against the bluish skin of the dead man. His genitalia had been removed completely and later discovered during the autopsy to have been shoved down the man's throat.
The most horrifying fact discovered during the autopsy was that Pettigrew had been alive through the entire thing, awake and aware of the torture. Those assigned to the investigation could only imagine the terror and pain involved.
The second to die was Bellatrix Lestrange. Again the body was dumped on the steps of the Ministry, and again the body was mutilated, carved with insults. Again the Dark Mark was left untouched.
The first thoughts that went through anyone's mind was that Lord Voldemort was making an example of his followers who had displeased him, but that theory was quickly discarded when Severus Snape reported to the Order of the Phoenix that the Dark Lord was livid when he found out. Pettigrew may have been an annoying little sycophant, but he'd been loyal and useful in his own cloying way. And Bellatrix had been insane, but was handy with a wand and a demon in bed, apparently.
After thorough autopsies on both bodies and methodical investigations, no clues were turned up as to the identity of the killer. The Ministry, the Order and Voldemort were all stumped.
Following Sirius Black's fall through the veil, Harry Potter spent three weeks at his relatives before finishing his summer at Grimmauld Place. Everyone was concerned for his emotional wellbeing after his strong reaction to the Diggory boy's death the year before. What they found instead was a focused and motivated young man who seemed oblivious to any concern aimed his way and spent much of his time in the Black family library learning everything he could to fulfill his part of the prophecy.
When not locked away in the library, Harry spent his time with his friends, laughing and playing games and pranks. He seemed to be happier and more content than anyone had ever seen him. For most, this was a relief. Dumbledore twinkled whenever Harry was near, Molly Weasley smiled at him affectionately, and Remus chuckled at his antics, so like his father and Sirius at that age. Only one man thought that there was something amiss with the Potter brat's reaction.
Severus Snape watched the Potter boy with intense dark eyes that seemed to see more than anyone else could. When he brought up his concerns, his worries were waved off as being too negative. Severus often made Moody's paranoia seem normal in comparison.
But every once in a while Harry Potter would look at him and he would not have that goofy grin that he presented to the rest of the world. Instead, Severus could see darkness in his eyes, pain and madness warred for dominance. Then the moment would pass and the green-eyed boy would give him a cocky smile and return to whatever he had been doing.
No one else questioned the hours the young man spent locked away in a library filled with manuals on the Dark Arts. No one else questioned the fact that Harry spent so much time alone. As long as he seemed happy and healthy when he was with them, they didn't bother to look beneath the façade he willingly showed them.
Severus Snape vowed to keep a close eye on the boy, even if no one else would.
Walden MacNair was the next victim of the serial killer the press had dubbed 'The Carver'. He was not dumped at the Ministry. Instead, his body was found in his home. He'd been tied to his bed and had systematically lost each of his limbs to his own axe, which he had used during his years as a Ministry Executioner of Magical Creatures. Each wound should have been fatal, but magic had been used to sustain him until he was beheaded, much like he'd done to so many creatures over the years. His body was once again covered in the now familiar insults. This time, however, the words were accompanied by runes, pictographs, and demonological symbols. And this time, the victim had been brutally raped by some blunt instrument, likely the axe handle.
Harry's sixth year seemed to be rather unusual in that it seemed ordinary. No year thus far had been more dull or unexceptional. There were no mysteries that needed solving. The DADA instructor was a capable, yet completely innocuous witch. There were no threats against Harry from unexpected sources. Even Voldemort seemed more concerned with finding and destroying 'The Carver' than he was with Harry Potter.
Of course, most of the Wizarding world was concerned with the hunt for the serial killer. There had never really been anything like this in their world before. Yes, they'd had killers, and they had had Dark Lords, but not one who took such obvious enjoyment from mutilating his victims. The Ministry had gone so far as to call in an expert from the Muggle world to aid in their investigation. This person was called a profiler and specialized in looking at the patterns of a killer to figure out traits and characteristics which could help the investigators eventually identify the killer.
Harry ignored most of that talk, however, and spent his days going to classes and his evenings in the library. He was jovial with his friends, even as he blew off their concerns over the killings, telling them that the Ministry would handle it. They had enough to worry about with Voldemort still out there.
Severus followed Harry, but could not pinpoint exactly what was bothering him about the boy, and his intuition had already been dismissed too many times. Harry's grades had improved drastically and that was all that seemed to concern the other teachers. Dumbledore simply watched Harry smiling with his friends and decided that the boy deserved a bit of happiness.
Augustus Rookwood was killed in early October. His body was discovered on the main street of Hogsmeade by two shop clerks heading to prepare their stores in the early morning hours. The media reached the scene about the same time as the Aurors and this time the papers had pictures to print along with the gory details. This sent the public into a small panic, though it was mild considering the fact that all four victims so far were Death Eaters.
Rookwood had more of the runes and pictographs carved into his skin. The Department of Mysteries, for whom Rookwood had once worked, had been working on deciphering the symbols since the last victim was found, but with very poor results for their effort. His body was fully in tact, but there was gruesome damage done to his internal organs. At the autopsy, they discovered that he had been cooked alive, one organ at a time, until the killer cooked his heart. Whatever spell he had used was not one that the Aurors knew, though several Death Eaters recognized the results when they read about it in the papers.
Harry spent Christmas at Grimmauld Place with Remus Lupin. The Weasleys had invited him to stay, but he had politely declined, saying that it was probably too dangerous. Instead, he spent time alone with his surrogate godfather. Remus began to understand Severus' concerns during the holiday. Harry seemed fine, but had he ever really grieved for Sirius? Every time Remus brought up his old friend's name, Harry would smile fondly but quickly change the subject.
He was back to spending most of his time in the library as well. It became much more noticeable how much time Harry was spending locked away in there without all of the other Order members around to distract Remus. There was nothing specific in his actions to cause concern, but the concern was there anyway.
Alistor 'Mad-eye' Moody was the next victim. The discovery of his body in the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron sent shockwaves through the entire community. He was the first victim to not bear the Dark Mark on his left forearm. If the killer was not limiting himself to Death Eaters then they were all in danger.
Moody was found impaled on his own peg leg—which had been sharpened to a fine point—from his anus up through his internal organs and finally through his heart. Each bone in his body had been systematically broken. He had the words liar and thief added to the list of vulgar insults carved into his body. The runes and other symbols had also become more elaborate, though there was still no seeming pattern to them.
The school was filled with rumors about Moody's death when the new term started up, but Harry ignored them all. When Hermione asked how he could be so blasé about the whole thing, Harry just shrugged and said he had more important things to worry about.
He went back to his studies and ignored the rumors for a while longer.
Alecto Carrow and her brother Amycus were next. They were found naked in bed together, obviously having been forced to perform incestuous acts before their deaths.
Soon after the two relatively minor Death Eaters were found, a shock went through the Wizarding world as the Minister of Magic himself was discovered at his very own desk. Not only had the Carver dared to kill Cornelius Fudge, but he'd broken through hundreds of Ministry wards to do so. Suddenly the case took on new implications. Could this be more than just the madness of a serial killer, or was there something more sinister at play?
Rufus Scrimgeor, the new Minister of Magic, had declared that he would find and crucify this latest threat to the Wizarding world's safety.
By summer, Harry had become a person that not even his closest friends recognized. It had all seemed so harmless and reasonable over time, but as Hermione wrote to her friend and received no owls in return it suddenly dawned on her that Harry wasn't the same person she had known since school had begun. He was quiet and rarely spoke to his friends, though he did still go through the motions when necessary. He spent all of his time in the library, something that Hermione would have normally supported, and had up until it became obvious that there was something vaguely off about the whole scenario.
Harry was not an intellectual; he was a doer. He acted first and thought about consequences later. This Harry was an entirely new entity. Beneath his smiles and laughter, his mind seemed to always be working. And that vaguely worried the young witch.
Harry went to his relatives for the first two weeks of the summer holidays before he could stand it no longer and packed his trunk. There was no outlet for his obsession there and he feared he would do something unimaginably stupid if he remained. So in the middle of the night, ten days before his seventeenth birthday, Harry left Privet Drive and caught the Knight Bus into London.
He got off of the perilous vehicle two blocks from Grimmauld Place and walked the rest of the way to Sirius' childhood home. He was unsurprised to find the lights blazing, even at three in the morning. There were often late night meetings, even when Remus was the only one in residence.
Opening the door to the front hall, Harry was careful not to disturb Mrs. Black. He took his trunk up the stairs to his old room before wandering down to the kitchen. If the lights were on then there would undoubtedly be someone there.
"This 'Carver' business has drawn the attention away from the real issue," Harry heard the voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt through the door and stopped to listen for a moment. He knew the adults would not speak freely if they knew he was in the house. "The public has turned all of its attention on this serial killer and the war seems to have been completely forgotten."
"Is that such a bad thing?" Remus asked. By the way they were talking Harry assumed that this was an informal gathering and that the headmaster was not present. "So far the result has been rather a positive one. The war seems to have come to a screeching halt. Voldemort is just as caught up in this mystery as everyone else. And so far, I have not regretted the loss of a single so-called victim."
There was a pause before Kingsley spoke again. "I can't argue with that, but it does not change the fact that there is a murderer out there who needs to be stopped. People can't just take it in there heads to kill someone, no matter how justified they believe their cause to be. And killing the Minister, no matter how much of an idiot he was, is never justified."
"Even if that minister was directly responsible for endangering thousands of lives with his ineptitude? And that is only assuming that it was stupidity ruling his actions and not some more sinister motivation." This came from Severus Snape. "The moral and political ramifications can not change the basic facts."
"And the fact is this speculation does nothing towards solving anything. The killer has yet to leave any trace that could lead to identifying him," Kingsley said. "We've got nothing to go on. The Muggle the Ministry brought in can only tell us that it is a male, between the ages of 25 and 40, who has an unhealthy relationship with his mother and an obsession with cleanliness. How the hell are we to find a killer with only that to go on? And that is assuming that she is correct in her assumptions."
Harry gave a small smile and tiptoed back up the stairs before turning around and making more noise on his trip down the stairs. This time he didn't pause by the door, and this time the conversation had ceased.
"Harry?" Remus said in surprise as he rose to greet his surrogate godson. "What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't take it anymore, Moony," Harry sighed. "I tried, but I had to get away from there. I'm not going back, no matter what the headmaster says."
Snape snorted in disgust, but Remus hugged Harry and asked, "What happened?"
Harry shrugged and sat down at the table. "It wasn't anything new. I just couldn't stand to be there any more."
"What? Did they make you go to bed without supper?" Snape snarked.
"If you must know," Harry said calmly, "they did. Three days ago my Uncle decided that he was displeased with me because, while I had finished mowing the lawn, weeding the garden and repainting the fence that day, I had not scrubbed all of the window screens. He knocked me around a bit before locking me up in my room and refused to feed me. Yesterday, I ran out of the food scraps I sneak from Hogwarts every year, so I'm pretty fucking hungry right now. Does that answer your question?"
Remus, meanwhile had been putting together sandwiches and as Harry finished his speech set a plate in front of the young man. "He didn't hurt you this time did he?"
"Nothing more than a few bruises," Harry said around half a sandwich. He chewed quickly and swallowed. "Like I said, nothing out of the ordinary, I just couldn't stand it anymore. Remus, tell me that I won't have to go back. No matter what the headmaster says."
"You won't go back, cub," Remus said, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "No matter what, I won't let you go back."
"Are you saying that your guardians have been abusing you for years and that Albus has had full knowledge of that abuse?" Kingsley asked.
"Yeah," Harry shrugged again. "I've told him about it a bunch of times and my first Hogwarts letter was addressed to my cupboard."
"Wait. What cupboard?" Kingsley asked.
"Harry's relatives made him live in the cupboard under the stairs until he got his letter from Hogwarts, which was addressed to the cupboard," Remus explained angrily. "After that, they were afraid of their abuse being discovered, so they put him in the spare bedroom, added bars to the window and chains to the door. When they felt like feeding him, they slipped food through a cat flap in the door."
"This is a very serious charge," Kingsley said. "The Ministry is quite severe in cases of child abuse. As an educator, Albus is legally mandated to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect. He could be brought up on charges for failing to do so. Losing his position at Hogwarts would be the least of the possible consequences."
"Potter was sent to his relatives for his own safety," Severus said.
"And yet the headmaster knew that I wasn't safe there," Harry said with a shrug. "Maybe I was safe from Voldemort, but for the first 12 years I lived there, Voldemort was nothing but mist and shadow."
"He has a point, Severus," Kingsley said with a frown. "Dumbledore knowingly sent a child back into an abusive home year after year."
"It doesn't really matter," Harry said with another shrug. "I survived and I'm not going back."
The entire wizarding world was in shock when the news broke that Albus Dumbledore had been beaten to death. His body had not been found for almost a week, as the school was closed for the summer. The strangest part was that his rooms had been sealed with magic from the inside with no way in or out. In fact, it took nearly 15 hours for a team of aurors to blast their way into the headmaster's office to retrieve his body. Whoever had killed him had slipped past the school wards as well as the personal wards of one of the most powerful wizards in generations.
There was only a single word carved into Dumbledore's forehead: fraud.
Severus Snape wasn't entirely surprised to find out the Dumbledore had been killed. After the revelations at Grimmauld Place two weeks before, he had almost expected it. He had long before begun to suspect that Harry Potter was once again right in the center of this latest mystery. Any vigilante would target Death Eaters. A random vigilante would not target Moody or Dumbledore.
Severus himself had been the one to report the fact that Moody had been embezzling funds from Black's vaults the entire time the man had been imprisoned. He had stopped for a time when Black had escaped, but had begun again after Black's untimely demise.
And Dumbledore's decisions to send Harry back to his abusive family, combined with his choice to ignore Moody's thievery, certainly provided plenty of motive. Not to mention the blatant manipulations the old coot had perpetrated over the years.
Even Fudge had directly harmed Harry with his incompetence.
In truth, Snape had to admit that he was surprised that Umbridge had yet to join the ranks of the deceased.
But as much as he believed these people deserved punishment of some sort, Snape worried that the Boy Who Lived had become a psychopath.
Seven more Death Eaters were discovered over the weeks that followed. By the time Hogwarts was back in session for Harry Potter's final year, the Carver's total had reached sixteen.
The day of the Welcoming Feast, Delores Umbridge's body was found floating in the Fountain of Magical Brotherhood in the Ministry's atrium. That made seventeen.
Severus Snape watched Harry Potter closer than ever during his seventh year. Not because he feared for the boy's life, but because he feared for the boy's sanity. Over the past year, he had begun losing weight that he could scarcely afford to lose. His eyes were shadowed with dark circles. His façade of joviality had fallen away until all that was left was a boy on a singular mission. Just what that mission was remained to be seen.
In September, two more Death Eaters were discovered, this time in Hogsmeade.
In October, Lucius Malfoy was found inside the Malfoy family manor. In fact, he was found inside the family vault, which was sealed up tight with ancient magic that was seemingly unbreakable.
In November, Fenrir Greyback was found with large chunks of his flesh eaten away by what appeared to be wolves.
In each case, there were more words and more runes and more symbols that no one truly understood.
There were two things that Severus could not figure out. First, how Harry Potter was doing it? How was he getting out of Hogwarts without anyone noticing? How was he getting into supposedly impenetrable places?
Second, if he was able to find all of these enemies, break through countless wards, and destroy them so easily, why had he not taken out Voldemort yet?
Over Christmas break, Severus Snape camped out at Grimmauld Place to keep an eye on Harry. He was looking even gaunter and lost these days, though he still insisted on locking himself away in the library for hours on end to continue his research.
Remus watched him with worried eyes, but never said a word to the boy about his concerns.
And then, on Boxing Day, Harry emerged from the library looking even worse than ever and collapsed.
Severus and Remus brought him up to his bedroom and Snape called in Madam Pomfrey to check him over.
"He's exhausted and undernourished," the mediwitch tisked. "His magical levels have been strained for an extended period of time and it is taking its toll on him."
"What is straining his magic?" Remus asked with confusion. "He was only doing research. He hasn't even done any training since he's been home for the holiday. No spells more taxing than a levitation charm."
"I can't tell you what has caused the drain," Madam Pomfrey said. "All I can tell you is that it is near constant, unlike a spell, and that it has been going on for a very long time. Now, I've placed him into a healing sleep. He'll rest for at least a day, but I want you to keep an eye on him. Until whatever is draining him is broken, he will continue to decline."
She swept from the room and Severus and Remus shared a long look. Remus finally broke it and turned to stare at Harry's sleeping form. "Whatever you are thinking, it isn't true."
"You know there is a connection," Snape insisted.
"There's not," Remus denied.
"You continue to allow your feelings to cloud your common sense," Snape sneered. "I will be in the library looking for answers when you realize your error."
"I need to keep an eye on Harry," Remus said faintly.
"Fine," Snape said dismissively. "I shall return to take a shift in a few hours.
Snape didn't find anything beyond the usual dark tomes and magical objects in the library. He attempted to discover which tomes Harry had been using, but found that any spell he tried failed. Eventually, he was left to search for answers the Muggle way. He looked for the books with less dust than the others.
He found numerous books that fit that criteria, but the one that stood out to Severus was the one on the history of the Veil. Once he had that piece of the puzzle, along with the other books that Harry had been studying, Severus began to get a clear picture of what exactly had been happening.
"There were six more bodies found last night," Remus told Severus when he came to relieve him the next morning. He was carrying a tray with tea and toast. "And Harry was here asleep the entire time."
"I know," Severus acknowledged. "He isn't the Carver."
"I knew he couldn't have done something like that," Remus said.
Snape snorted at his colleague's naiveté. "He may not be the Carver, but he is not blameless."
Remus swallowed his tea slowly and then nodded. "I know."
"He called your mutt from beyond the Veil," Snape said. "Or rather he called a demon that has hijacked your mutt to escape into our world."
Remus gave a half-sob at this news. "He missed him."
"Well, that demon is killing him," Severus said. "He is sucking the life from Harry slowly but surely. And do not think that Harry didn't know about who was killing those people. He had to know."
Remus was silent for a long time. "How do we break the connection? How do we save him?"
"We don't," Snape said. "He has to save himself."
When Harry Potter woke, he realized that his secret was no longer a secret. Remus and Snape were both beside his bed and they looked grave.
Snape snorted. "And that makes everything better?"
Harry shook his head. "No, it doesn't. But it's the truth."
"Whatever it is you released is not Sirius," Remus said gently. "It may look like him or sound like him, but it isn't him."
Harry swallowed hard and tried to hold back his tears, but failed miserably. "I know. I know it now. Sirius would never… he wouldn't… But at first, it was just so great. He would laugh and joke and it was just like I always knew it would be. He was happy and I was happy. And then… the killing started and I knew… I knew it was him. But I didn't care because he was happy and they were bad people anyway."
"This demon will run out of enemies eventually," Snape said. "And then the people it kills won't be bad people. They will be innocent."
"I know," Harry said quietly. "I know."
"You have to break the link," Remus told him. "You're the only one who can send it back beyond the Veil."
"The next time it comes to you, banish it," Snape said. "It's as simple as that. If you do not, it will continue to drain away your life and magic until you die. Then it will find another person to fuel its demented vacation from hell."
Harry nodded slowly. "I… I have to be alone. He… It won't come unless I am."
Remus and Severus shared a look and then left Harry alone. They didn't go far, simply stepped outside the door, but it was enough. Moments later, they heard two voices: one happy and excitable, the other sadly resigned. And then there was a shriek of disbelief and rage before the room was silent.
The truth of wizarding Britain's only serial killer never came out. Even after the killings stopped, it took a while for the furor to die down. But eventually, Voldemort returned to the top of everyone's list as the most feared. The weeks between Christmas and when Voldemort finally showed his face again, however, were good for Harry. He had time to truly grieve for his godfather. He also had time to train for the inevitable conflict.
On July 27, four days before Harry's 18th birthday, Harry met Voldemort on the field of battle and walked away the ultimate victor.
"Why didn't the demon kill Voldemort?" Harry asked Severus. "It killed all those other people, so why not Voldemort?"
It was his birthday and the Order had thrown him a small party at Grimmauld Place. Severus had stayed after to help clean up. Or to spend more time with Harry. The two had begun dating the day after Harry graduated from Hogwarts.
"Because it couldn't," Severus said as he took Harry's hand. "Only you could kill him."
"The prophecy," Harry sighed. "Right."
"Are you happy, Harry?" Severus asked in a moment of uncharacteristic insecurity.
Harry smiled at him. "I have you. Voldemort is dead. And we have the future laid out before us. Yes. I am happy. Are you?"
"Unbelievably so," Severus said and kissed his lover.