Severus Snape was not a nice man. He knew this and so did many others. The only problem was that he seemed to be the only person in the world alive that knew he was not a bad man. The only other person that had ever seen through his sullen persona was Lily and he had gotten her killed, murdered by the man he was still enslaved too.
It had become a nightly ritual for him to wallow in self-pity and a good strong brandy; at least on the nights that he was not called to one or both of his masters. Albus Dumbledore may appear kind to many people but for Severus he was just one more person with a claim on his life.
You see, Dumbledore was the only person who knew that he had told Voldemort the prophecy, or at least the part that he had heard. Everyone else just believed him to be a Death Eater or a Slimy Slytherin. He didn't mind being known as the latter but he knew that in his heart he would, no, could never be a true Death Eater.
He had never wanted to murder and pillage, rape and torture. It had always been more simple than that; he had wanted friends.
Tipping the bottle back to his lips once more he frowned as barely a single drip fell from the bottle and wetted his bottom lip. He always hated it when he ran out of brandy for then he would start to sober up and that meant that he would start to remember.
The odd thing was he never could, and that was sort of ok by him. When he was drunk everything but the bottle fell away and he would often wake up just in time for breakfast with a mouth that tasted like crap and a hangover to cripple any normal man. One quick hangover relief potion and a lovely minty mouthwash later and he was ready. Whenever he was sober, which unfortunately for him was much of the time, he knew that he had done bad things. He knew because he could not remember.
Severus knew that it was Dumbledore causing these lapses in memory and though he could go to a mind healer and see if it were possible to retrieve said memories he was too cowardly to try. No, being drunk was much better than knowing whose life you had destroyed the night prior.
It had been more frequent the last few weeks. He would walk around in an angry daze trying to think about what he had done after dinner but before he woke up in bed. It was frustrating to say the least but the worst part was that he thought he knew who he was destroying.
"I'm sorry Lily…I am so sorry."
. . .
It was very unusual for the elder Goblins to get involved in human matters and even rarer for them to use the chamber Reselda thought to herself as she pushed the trolley though the halls.
She wanted to scream at all of the Goblins that were gawking at her charge as she wheeled him past but it would be pointless to do so and time was of the essence.
She had never set foot in the Ritual Chambers before, it had never been necessary. The only uses of the chamber were to swear in a new member of the elder Goblins which was only viewable by elders or as a place to use base magic. She shivered; base magic was raw and dangerous and could only be wielded by those of true power. Many claimed, both wizard and Goblin, that they were able to use base magic but the truth was that none of them could. The last wizard to be able to do so was Merlin and the only Goblins that could were the elders once they had been sworn in to protect said magics.
"You must be one special kid." Reselda's voice rang out in the cavernous chamber and the heads of all of the Elders in attendance swivelled to look at her.
"He is indeed." One Goblin stepped forward, the same that had spoken up for Harry in the infirmary. He was an unspoken leader, the wise one.
"I must thank you for helping this child wise one," she curtsied. "He has seen much pain. I would like it if he could have a chance for a happier life in the future."
"As would I but as time is running short I must ask you to leave us."
Nodding her head slightly Reselda took one last look at the seemingly sleeping boy and walked quickly from the room. Once she had closed the large iron doors she leant her head back, slid down the wall and waited.
. . .
Gliocas lifted Harry off of the bed with a swish of his hand and gently placed him down on the stone plinth that stood in the very centre of the room. The next swish caused all of the torches in the room to roar up and light the room thoroughly, banishing shadows and darkness from the room.
"Are you sure we should be doing this? He is human after all." one Goblin who looked slightly younger than the rest said quietly.
"Should we succeed with our task of banishing this parasite I sense a possible alliance between humans and Goblins. This boy could be the catalyst and I want each of you to be sure that you can put everything you have into saving this boy. The fate of not only his world, but ours too could rest on what happens in this room."
The other Goblins all nodded their heads and walked forward until they had created a circle around the black haired boy.
Gliocas raised his hands and the others followed suit. Slowly and ever so quietly they began to chant until the room was deafening and a bright glow had encircled the unconscious teen. They continued chanting, louder and louder, words undistinguishable and the light almost blinding. Suddenly the light flickered and then exploded out bathing the Elders with a hot heat that knocked several of them onto their bottoms.
When they could once again see Gliocas, the wise one, stepped forward and peered down at the boy. After a moment he raised his hand over the scar and closed his eyes. "The evil has been banished."
Cheers erupted from the others, several even going so far as to pat another on the back in celebration. The noise abruptly stopped when Gliocas fell to his knees. "I cannot sense the boy. His soul is also gone."
. . .
Reselda was not sure how long she had sat propped only by the cold damp wall but she was not intending to leave Harry until he was once more back in her infirmary and she could force some weight onto the scrawny boy. A good regime of potions was all he really needed.
She blinked her eyes owlishly as the door to the chamber began to slowly open. Several of the elders walked past her quietly and continued on their way towards what she assumed would be the refectory. Base magic really made you hungry, or so she had been told.
Eventually the only one left was Gliocas and he looked exhausted. His eyes were large and round in their sockets and his jaw drooped as though fighting a thousand yawns. He looked at her sadly and she knew.
"We have banished the evil but we have unfortunately banished the boy as well. It is not an exact science but we tried. You may take the boy back to his family; they will need to begin preparations for burial." With that said he slowly hobbled along the same corridor using the wall itself as an aid.
Making her way into the room seemed to have a gentler, less malevolent air. It barely seemed more than a regular room now that there was nothing to be done other than collect Harry's body. Barely looking at his limp figure she magically lifted him back onto the same cart he had arrived on and slowly made her way back to the infirmary. Telling families was normally someone else's job, that was the perk of being the boss, you could tell any other Goblin nurse to get on with it and they did. Detachment, that was the key.
As she pushed open the door that separated herself from the family she felt a cold sweat prickle her skin and a heavy weight settle in her stomach. Breathing deeply, she stalked into the room and refused to meet anyone's eye. Pushing the cart into its original place and removing the wheels once more the walked away from them all. Each one a vision of childlike hope. "I'm very sorry."
The last thing she heard as she returned to her office was the sound of silence as they adjusted to the news. Closing the door behind her she let out a hiccupping sob. She had been so sure he would make it.
. . .
All eyes in the Weasley family home were glue to the hand that said mortal peril. How on earth were they going to figure out where the boy was when they had no leads? Now that they knew the danger to be very real they were at even more of a loss as to what to do to fix said problem.
The clock gave a weak groan and as they all watched the hand for Harry Potter dropped soundlessly from the family clock and landed with a gentle plop on the living room rug.
Chaos ensued as each realised the reason. The Boy Who Lived – was dead.
. . .
Meanwhile, many miles away in a beautiful Scottish castle which doubled as a school, Albus Dumbledores office was in shambles. Great glittering contraptions practically exploded off of the shelves and landed in scattered clumps around the once pristine office.
Fawkes opened one eye, glancing at the mess. Ruffling his feathers he closed his eye once more and began to dream.
. . .
Lord Voldemort was not having a good morning. He had had an awful migraine for the past hour and it did not seem to be going anywhere. "WORMTAIL!"
The rat man squeaked and ran into the room. "Ye-es master?"
"Get me a pain reliever!"
"Ye-es master!" The poor excuse for a human being scurried from the room and returned quite quickly with a small bottle.
Grabbing said bottle from the rats shaking hands Lord Voldemort popped the lid off and downed the contents in one. Nothing. The pain remained, steadfast and unyielding. "Wormtail," his voice had turned dangerous, almost soft. "I said fetch me a pain potion."
"Master," the quivering rodent bowed low. "Begging your pardon but that was the best pain potion we have, reserved especially for you sire." He bowed once again. Snivelling creature.
Raising his wand, the word crucio on the tip of his tongue he stopped suddenly, his hands grabbing his head, squeezing, scratching. With a final, anguished scream he fell limp in his crude throne.
Wormtail didn't know what had happened but he did not want to be around when Voldemort woke up. He didn't know why his master was now unconscious but it was bound to lead to punishment if he were to stay. Using his mark to summon Severus he scurried from the room transforming mid step and disappearing into a small hole. Self-preservation had served him well so far.
. . .
Harry awoke amid a small group of chattering people. "Where am I?" He groaned out.
"You know I don't think he knows where he is Prongs!" A man spoke suddenly, the voice slightly familiar but different.
"Well of course he doesn't!" Another male spoke up suddenly. "You didn't either! If I recall you sat in a corner crying for three days!"
"That was an adjustment period!"
The other male laughed, a deep belly laugh.
"You two stop it right his instant. Can't you see he's scared?" This voice was softer, feminine. It was also familiar.
Blinking away the scum coating his eyes he looked around the group of people and gawked. It couldn't be true but it seemed so real to him. Before him and smiling down at him was his Mum, Dad and Sirius. "I'm dreaming."
"I am afraid not honey." Lily said, offering him her hand. He took it and allowed her to help him to his feet.
Harry was confused. If he wasn't dreaming yet he was stood in front of three dead family members, then that could only mean one thing…he was dead.
"I think he's just twigged Padfoot."
"I agree Prongs."
Harry bent double at the waist and proceeded to dry heave. Someone was rubbing small circles on his back and it felt kind of nice. Breathing deeply, he stood and turned to face his family.
"Is this heaven?" Harry asked quietly, wide eyed.
"No sweetheart, this is, well, it's a type of limbo. You see, you are technically dead on earth but you have a choice."
Harry stared at his mother, willing her to go on.
"Once we tell you this you will have to make your choice and we will not be able to stay with you."
Harry could see the tears well up in his Mothers eyes and could even see a less jovial, more sombre expression on his father and Padfoot's faces. Walking forward he did something he had always wanted to do, he hugged his Mum.
"I love you Mum."
"I love you too Harry, we're so proud of you!" Lily's voice cracked and she squeezed him to her tighter.
"Careful Lil! You can't break the boy before we send him back!" James Potter was smiling happily at the sight he had wished he had lived to see a thousand times; his wife hugging their son. Gently he placed his hand on the top of Harry's head and ruffled his hair softly.
Turning immediately at the touch Harry grabbed his father around the waist and squeezed.
"Wow, you could give your mother a run for her money!" James said with a smile as he hugged his son.
Next was Sirius's turn to receive a bone breaking hug. "Damn kid you're strong!" He said afterwards, slightly winded.
"Can I stay with you?" Harry asked quickly.
"Of course you can baby but…" Lily stopped and motioned to a squalling lump of cloth twenty or so metres away. "You have to consider the consequences."
Slowly Harry made his way over to the creature crying a little way away. The noise got louder and higher pitched and in the end Harry had to cover his ears to get close enough to see the creature clearly. It was thin and angular and had skin like old leather. The eyes were too large and sat sunken in their sockets.
When the creature saw Harry it's screams, if possible, became louder and sounded angry, almost hissed out. Jogging back towards his family he breathily asked them what the creature was.
With a wave of her hand a table appeared with sandwiches, crisps, fruit and all kinds of wonderful food. Harry felt his stomach grumble slightly at the sight and his father and Godfather practically leapt for their own chairs to begin the great feast. There were pitchers filed with cold orange and pumpkin juice and a few small steaming pots of what Harry assumed to be tea judging by the china that had appeared.
"Sit Harry," Lily said gently pointing to the chair nearest to her. "There is a lot you need to know."
. . .
"Albus the clock he—he-!" Molly Weasley wailed so loudly that several glasses that stood within her display cabinet shook ominously.
"My cub…" Remus dropped his head to his chest and sobbed, huge wracking cries that splashed down the front of his shirt. He had failed his pack and lost his only cub, he may as well end it all he thought to himself as he mourned the loss of his loved ones.
Albus Dumbledore stood still staring at the hand laying on the rug. This could not be possible, this was not part of his plan. The only good thing that could come from the unfortunate ending of the boy was to be granted full access to his vaults. He mentally wrote himself a note reminding himself to write to his Goblin friend.
"I don't understand?" Tonks said quietly between Molly's sad wails and Remus' tears. "If Harry was presumably taken along with everyone else there why is Bill's hand not showing mortal peril also?" She stared intently at the clock and spotted that Bill's hand was indeed not pointing at Mortal Peril but at Hospital.
"My baby!" Molly cried again, but this time was inconsolable as her husband led her to a plush armchair to sit.
"Hospital hmm?" Albus thought for a second. "They must be in St Mungos! We must go and check immediately. Tonks you check floors 1 through—" he went to continue but was interrupted by an angry red headed young auror.
"I am taking Remus home and I will not leave him when he is like this. Can you not see he is in pain?" Having said her piece she pulled Remus away from the Burrows warmth and out into the cold air where he promptly began to shiver. Tonks was not great at side-apparition but she could do it if she concentrated enough. Breathing deeply she popped away with the pair of them and arrived in the hallway of her small flat.
"Let's get you a drink Remus." She said gently as she led him into the living room and sat him down gently on the couch.
When she came back from the kitchen she held two glasses of deep amber Fire Whiskey and passed one to the now silent wolf sat stiffly on her sofa. She sat next to him and sighed.
"I've lost everything now Dora." He said eventually, his voice sad and rasping.
She grabbed his callused hand in her own smaller one and squeezed, silently adding her sadness and support. Inside her mind her brain was shouting: You still have me!"
. . .
"So time moves differently up here?" Harry asked taking a sip of pumpkin juice.
"Well, yes and no." Lily furrowed her brow in concentration as she tried to find a way of explaining their predicament. "You see how we have not aged since the day that we died Harry?"
Harry nodded as he looked around the table at the faces before him.
"Well, though we have not aged on the outside our minds and soul continue to grow and form. The soul is so powerful that it lives on long after the body has aged and worn out. I'm afraid you cannot see where we live unless you decide to come with us but know that we will be waiting for you anyway should you return to your friends."
It was at this point that James took over. "Son, I get the feeling that we may not have too much time left. A lot of strings were pulled so that we would be the ones to talk to you at this moment. There are a few things you need to know desperately and though your mother and I both love you we hope you will go back and fight. Fight son and win." Leaning over towards Harry, James began to explain what had been happening since they had died. How they had seen everything and what Harry would need to do in order to get his life back under his own control. Sirius also had a few wise words for him including a rather unlikely pair of allies.
Lily looked around sheepishly. "It is time to make your decision Harry. We will agree with whatever you decide but we hope you choose to do the right thing."
The world around them was becoming foggy and dark. The fog so thick that you could no longer see, or even hear, the monstrous baby-like creature that had been there before. "I need to fight mum, dad, Sirius. I love you all so much but I love them too and I cannot leave them."
"We are so proud of you my son!" James hugged him once more and whispered in his ear. "Do not forget what we discussed Harry, your life will change for the better if you only remember."
Harry smiled at his father and nodded before hugging his Godfather and Mother also. Tears were shed and promises made but Harry was not sad that he was leaving for now he knew that he would see them again. He was sad that he had not had them around for very long. It was one thing to hear people talking about who your mother and father were but it was another thing entirely to see for yourself.
Harry stood still not knowing how to make his way back to his friends and also not really wanting to leave his family. He laughed as he saw Sirius punch James on the arm for crying so much. "We love you!" Lily called as the fog took over his vision and everything went dark.
. . .
Four saddened souls stood around the bed of one Harry Potter who lay unmoving and not breathing. Each had feared the worst when he had been taken by the elders but they had all equally hoped that they were wrong. They had awaited news with baited breath but several hours later they had known the very worst had truly happened.
Ragnok and Bill had comforted the two muggles as best as they could, grieving also. They had tried their best to explain that what was done was done. That magic was not able to revive the dead but the news had done more harm than good. It was now almost ten minutes since Harry had been returned to them and the tears and emotions were still so very raw.
Petunia Dursley was not an overly emotional person but the last few weeks with her nephew had been a rollercoaster ride for herself and her son. Neither had assumed that it would all end so soon, I mean, they had only just started being a family! Neither of them was happy to give that up just yet but fate had dealt them a cruel hand.
She held her nephews limp hand and cried. Dudley stood to her side, tears pouring over his broad cheeks but no sound was forthcoming; he just did not understand death. In the past few weeks he had discovered a brother he never knew he had and though the way he had treated him before had been cruel and unnecessary he had not yet fully recognised that it was not his fault. Inside, Dudley Dursley was a child crying for more than death, but his lost chance at forgiveness also.
Bill and Ragnok were unsure of their places beside the grieving couple but neither would leave them alone, their honour would not allow such a thing. Bill was wondering how he was going to tell Harry's friends what had happened. He was sure that whoever had given Harry the love potion had never expected such results to have occurred but it seemed logical that it was a member of his family as they were the only ones around the food whilst it was being prepared. Unofficially, this was murder.
Ragnok had been ready to rip Reselda a new one when she had returned the boy without saying a word but one glance at her stiff shoulders and cloudy eyes and he had realised that it had affected her as much as it had affected any of them. He vowed to have justice for the boy. He would continue working to get the boys money back from the greedy fools that had taken it and he would also find out who had done this.
"Aunt Petunia? Why are you crying?"
. . .