Harry Potter / Skyrim
Harry Potter and Tamriel cross in a story that deals with the disappearance of the Dovahkiin, and the subsequent summoning of anyone who could help end the blight on Tamriel. Harry ends up rather unceremoniously dropped in the middle of the coldest part of Skyrim, and it would subsequently lead to his temporary stay at Winterhold and involvement in some canon event. He would be more than a little talented at the local magic system.
Chapter 1 - Spirits in the Snow
Before the birth of men, the Dragons ruled all. Their word was the Voice, and they spoke only for True Needs, for the Voice could blot out the sky and flood the land with its power. Men were born and spread over the face of the world, and the Dragons presided over the crawling masses. Men were weak then, and had no Voice, though their spirits were strong.
These men were unafraid to war with the great beasts and their Voices, but the Dragons shouted them down and broke their hearts, and they despaired over the future under this terrible rule. The Goddess Kynareth called upon Paarthurnax, the Dragon who pitied these men, and they together taught men to use the Voice.
The war raged for an age, Dragon against Tongue, the origin of the Voice against the humans who wielded its awesome power. Man ultimately prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world. With their victory they proved for all that their Voice too was strong, and with roaring Tongues, the Sky-Children conquered, founding the First Empire with Sword and Voice. The Dragons withdrew from the world.
For a time.
Under a darkened sky, dark wings unfurled once more and spanned the sky. Roars reverberated across the land, thundering deep into the soil itself and outwards towards the seas. The great Dragons, gone for millennia, returned from their exile, and their might was undiminished. The greatest among them, Alduin the World-Eater, came to take back what he claimed for himself, his gaze ever judgmental. His massive claws were larger than a man, rending stone and flesh, and from its monstrous maw poured terror and flame, enough to melt courage and mighty wall.
High upon the mountains, the Tongues answered the threat.
Grey-bearded and silent, for their every word could kill, the greatest wielders of the Voice were helpless against the sheer power of the renewed armies, called back into the present by their ancient leader. From the distant west to the burned remnants of the great isle Vvardenfell, a call went out from the peak, thundering through valleys and little city streets. It was a call for those who could stand and fight, who could end the apocalypse, a call for heroes.
Many answered the promise of violence and reward, and they came from all corners of Tamriel. Thieves who desired the spoils, grizzled warriors with more scars than unblemished skin, great mages of renown that wielded their spells as weapons of war. In the great clash between human factions that had long since divided the nation, a new conflict arose – a new war. Among the many who came to Skyrim to test their mettle, there walked another. A distant heir of Tiber Septim, perhaps. Few knew his face, but all knew his title, for he wielded the Voice like no other. He slew and butchered like a man possessed, leaving nothing but crumbling bones behind when the great Dragons fell from the sky at the end of his blade.
Dovahkiin. The Dragonborn.
Yet, three months after his appearance, the Dragonborn vanished from the world. Whiterun was ravaged by the monster that followed him there, but the mighty hero did not come to slay it, and it took all the guardsmen in unison to drive the beast off. The Jarl sent men to find their hero, but none knew where he had gone, save that he did not go willingly, for his sword and shield remained in Whiterun. Many claimed to have seen him in the wild, but it had been months since the Dragonborn had slain his eternal enemies, since the Voice had buffeted across the plains from a human throat.
In the wake of the hero's loss, the Dragons crossed the mountains of Skyrim, and set alight the distant lands of Hammerfell and Morrowind, incinerating great swathes. The Red Mountain was burning again, resurrected by fell magic, and its clouds covered half the continent, blanketing out the sun. The great cities of all the lands were barricaded, and few dared to leave on their own into the wild. The Dragons were everywhere.
The last gamble was made. The dice rolled for a final time. The wizards gathered together, pooling their might, a great beacon still than that of the men on the mountain. Magic surged into the sky, brighter than the sun. Within minutes, the clearing would be gone, turned to glass under a Dragon's fiery breath.
But the beacon would be seen.
The icy cold grasped him tight, biting straight through thin clothes until it seeped into his bones. It was a harsh kind of cold, far worse than any he had ever experienced in England or Scotland; it felt as if a hundred Dementors were near, sucking all the life and warmth out of everything with not the slightest pity. The ice underfoot was thick and unyielding, betraying that this place only saw the warmth of summer very rarely, and now it was the heart of winter.
Harry Potter trudged on with single-minded fury, away from the cold ocean. He was desperately glad to be dry as he kept himself going into the cold night, even as it seemed intent on freezing him to death. He knew that to stop was to die. The stars blinked lazily overhead, amidst vast bands of colour which spanned from horizon to horizon, changing and moving as he watched. The Aurora, the Northern Lights – he had heard of them before, but it was very hard to care about that right now, however beautiful they were. He rubbed his fingers together, fearing the very real danger of frostbite as he once again tucked them into the relative warmth of his robe.
His breath came in short gasps, uneven. He had fallen more than once already, and was covered in nicks and scratches, and the cold air seemed to rake along his throat as it went in. He had gotten up every time, kept breathing, despite his body wanting to just lie down and die. His glasses had been left behind hours ago, frozen up and shattered, and even the small flask of firewhiskey that he had in his backpack had long run out. The backpack itself, too heavy and bulky to drag along, now lay somewhere miles away in the snow. He had taken what he could from it, and walked.
The harsh lands that he trudged across were strange to him, and he wondered what had happened to bring him here, to this forsaken place. The last he remembered he was sitting on the train to London, returning from a much-needed vacation, his backpack on the seat next to him as he patiently waited to cross the channel through the tunnel. He had nodded off, and had woken to cold. To endless frost.
Harry was wearing three layers of clothing, now; everything he had with him on his vacation trip. He looked ridiculous, and the clothes for a warm vacation were all too thin in the cold of winter. Over two layers of Muggle clothing he wore his robe, which covered most of his body, but it was deceptively thin. If he met anyone, he would need to make up an explanation for his clothing, but it beat freezing. Cold snow itself wormed itself between the layers of cloth still, and he could practically feel the remnant of warmth escaping from the gaps.
For the fourth time in an hour, Harry reached for the wand in his inner pocket, buried near his chest as he was terrified of it freezing and breaking like everything else, and he tapped his skin. The elementary warming spell fizzled at the end of the wand, producing no more than a few yellowish sparks and a slight crackle. Nothing. Again. Magic failed to obey.
"Where the hell am I?" Harry asked himself. His voice was ragged and harsh, and he winced at the sound before he clamped his mouth closed again. Talking was uncomfortable, painful even. He looked around, but with some relief he found no familiar faces. He shook his head, grimacing.
He needed shelter. If he stayed in this storm for much longer, all anyone would ever find was an ice statue, a corpse. He had tried apparating, but that had failed just like his spells did, and his wand stubbornly refused to point to safety. He had no choice but to walk into the white, heading for his approximation of the south, on the vague assumption that he was in the far north. There was nothing here to identify the place, only tall hills dotted with snow-covered evergreens that looked out over frozen lakes and gullies. There were no buildings or roads, nor any sign that anyone ever came here at all. He might as well have been stranded on the pole.
Worse than the cold, though, were the hallucinations. They had started quickly, when the cold really took hold of him and started to fog up his mind as it tried to process the shock. First came Ron, who walked next to him in the snow wearing his mum's thick woolen jumper, and a big hat with warm-looking flaps to cover his ears. He kept pointing out the thunder-clouds that were at the horizon, and chatted enthusiastically about the latest Quidditch victory in an attempt to keep Harry distracted. In truth, it had worked. Harry had kept going by focusing on the Weasley's ire at the opposing Chasers, setting one foot ahead of the other as he tried to imagine the sport scenarios presented to him. When he finally realized that he had arrived alone, that Ron could not be there, the redhead had already vanished like a snowdrift.
Two hours. Two hours he had walked by his lonesome, completely convinced that Ron had joined his trek south, keeping him company. It was a little disturbing to realize that he honestly wanted to the image back, even if it was fake, since it had kept him going, kept him from focusing on the pain that was working its way into his bones. He was certain he would have frozen to death long ago, even with three layers of clothes, but what was left of his magic – even if it did not want to channel through his wand – was keeping him alive, prevented him from collapse. If he gave up, he was sure that it would too.
He needed the illusion of company.
The hallucinations grew worse after that, when he no longer cared about whether or not they were real, but only that they were there. Hermione appeared briefly, looking at him with worry, and so did Ginny – when Harry tried to grasp her hand, she shattered. Perhaps he should not have been surprised. The image that stayed longest was, oddly enough, Luna Lovegood. She urged him on with tales of Blibbering Humdingers and other nonsense creatures, and she had full-sized radishes hanging from her ears, which looked rather amusing. She promised him she would stick with him, though even she departed in the end, blown away in a gust of frosty wind.
While crossing ice flows and jagged ice that had frozen back together in strange formations, Harry had finally gone from seeing vague images, even people, into full-on hallucinations brought on by the cold. He was delirious, and still sane enough to realize it. The ice vanished, and he walked through a cold and dank hallway, unlit and terrifying. Irrational dread crept up on him, and he was suddenly convinced that Snape's Occlumency lessons waited at the end of the hall, unpleasant as ever. He was on his way to another session of pain and embarrassment, another torture session disguised as teaching. The hook-nosed professor sneered at him from the room at the hall, preparing his potions over an open fire; Harry had warmed his hands at the flames, ignoring the figure outright.
Warmth surrounded him. Warmth, after all this time. Yet, he knew rationally that the fire had not been real. Like Snape, it was a figment of his imagination. So why was he getting warm? With a shiver of recognition, Harry pressed on, quicker than before, his eyes peeled for any sign of rescue. He knew the contradiction as a sign of hypothermia – and that meant he did not have long.
"Hello again, Harry."
Harry twitched at the voice, but did not stop. A shape from his past formed besides him, coalescing from fluttering snow and the clouds of breath that Harry puffed out on every step. He knew who it was, who it had been all along, watching from a distance while his friends joined him in his trek, imaginary or not.
Instead of the snake-faced abomination that had died at the end of his wand in the Great Hall, this spectre of his mind looked younger, far younger. Perhaps Harry's own age, fresh out of Hogwarts, he was Tom Riddle as he had once been. His wavy black hair remained undisturbed even in the cold wind, and he had his hands in the pockets of an expensive dress robe; the expression on his face was as haughty and proud as ever, though it lost some of its potency without the blood-red eyes. He remembered this vision from the Chamber of Secrets, so long ago.
"What do you want, Tom?" Harry asked softly, spitting the man's name like a curse. The echo merely smiled, unconcerned with the use of his true name, unlike his real counterpart. "Why are you the one that keeps coming back?" he continued, annoyed. "Why does it have to be the mouthy bastard with a superiority complex that keeps following me? Why you?"
"There is no need to be uncouth," Tom said silkily, raising an eyebrow. "You should really consider going inside, you know. I believe the cold is getting to you."
"No shit. I don't have much of a choice, do I?" Harry snapped back, and he winced at the biting cold as it attempted to work its way in between his teeth. He licked his lips carefully, knowing that they had turned pale blue ages ago, and were probably beyond saving. "What would a dead man know about it anyway," he said through clenched teeth. "Much less a spectre of my own making?"
The wind howled, and for a time neither could hear the other over the gale. Harry trudged on, and Tom followed, unconcerned by all that went around him. When at last the worst of the storm faded, the erstwhile Dark Lord spoke again. "It seems we'll both share the distinction of being dead men, in the near future." He looked around calmly, frowning in distaste. "It will be less dramatic than my own demise, don't you think? I remember that day very clearly, you know. A basilisk's tooth makes for a formidable weapon, contrary to my every expectation."
"Right. You're the one I destroyed in second year," Harry said. "You're not real, you're just what my mind comes up with when it's going nuts." He winced. "It figures you'd still be an ass, even when it's my brain coming up with it."
"Maybe i'm a mirage, maybe I'm more. Who says that the things you see have no truth within them? Dreams are figments too - but they can tell us many things." Tom seemed curious, linking his hands behind his back as he walked. "So many shades came for you, reflections of yourself. Have you seen through that yet, or do I have to enlighten you?"
Tom sighed tiredly. "You truly did not care to expand your horizons while in Hogwarts, did you? I speak of the Weasley boy, the girl with the books, little Ginevra... I saw them all, you know. Each of them came to you and disappeared again, back into the ether. Did you think that you just happened to imagine those people, lucky hallucinations of a dying mind?" Tom shrugged. "They're what drives you, or representatives of what drives you. That's what I think. Conjured into being by your magic, constrained as it is."
"And you're an authority on how hallucinations work, figment?" Harry asked. "Don't make me laugh, monster."
"Such petty insults. If I am you, you merely insult yourself. Think. You see things that keep you going in this miasma. You see the reasons that keep you from stopping and falling asleep, that keep you in motion." He sneered. "The Weasley boy is friendship, no doubt. You're pathetic enough to value that, it seems."
Tom scoffed. "I am not blind, Potter, you spoke of nonsense for so long, and one could only tolerate that from someone who one respected. The girl with the radishes, did she symbolize loyalty, perhaps?"
Harry thought back to Luna, and her selfless decision to join him in saving Sirius from the Ministry, knowing the danger. A bit airheaded and strange, she was unerringly loyal. She or Neville would certainly fit with that description.
"It's curious," Tom said, an eyebrow raised. "Ginevra represents love, of course, yet she was weak, gone in a moment."
"That's none of your business," Harry said then, scowling aside as he rubbed his stinging eyes.
"Trouble in paradise?" Tom inquired, still smiling. "Little Ginevra, so desperate for a penpal, who had a crush on you that was so enormous that she could not skip a day without reminding me, in excruciating detail. She was your bride-to-be, was she not?"
"Shut up." Harry looked away, frowning. "You talk about all these others, but what about yourself?" he asked sharply. "What the hell are you supposed to represent?"
The young Dark Lord smiled, his eyes shining. "Why, isn't that obvious? I would have thought you knew me well enough to take a stab at it. What would be any man's reason to keep going, to never give up without a fight against the cold hand of the reaper? I believe you know what I am. Your fear of death, of course."
Harry was silent for a time, narrowing his eyes as he glanced back to Tom, considering his suggestion. Finally he shook his head. "I went to you in the forest. I walked right up to certain death, to save the people I cared for. I would have sacrificed my life, permanently, had it been necessary. They were worth it." He frowned. "I don't fear death enough for the issue to be bothering me as much as you are. So, what are you, really?"
Tom shrugged. "You killed the older me in the end, I am aware. Or perhaps I killed myself, if not willingly. Of course, this me hasn't drawn breath since the day that dear Myrtle died." He grimaced as he looked away. "Foolish girl, that one. I would have killed someone that I actually hated, someone who was a thorn in my side, but she was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're still a monster, I see." Harry turned away, hoping beyond hope that the endless ice sheets would end soon, that a light would appear on the horizon.
The young Dark Lord smirked. "A monster, you say? What does that say about yourself, if some part of you is represented by what you despise? If I am not the fear of death, then what am I, do you think? What do I represent?"
Tom chuckled. "So very limited in your imagination. Consider the fact that Albus Dumbledore, your great mentor, fails to make an appearance. He would be authority, I imagine, but you don't respect anyone in that position, do you? Not after Fudge, Scrimgeour, and what came after them. You distrust power, like your dear mentor before you. It is why he never chose to become the Minister." He shrugged. "Not even your parents make an appearance, although it is no surprise. What family would you live for, since all your relatives are dead or preferably forgotten? Knowledge and Love you already spurned. What remains?"
"I'm done with you," Harry said shortly. "Let me die in peace, if that's what's going to happen."
Tom narrowed his eyes. "Think, Harry Potter. If you have no reason to live, then why do you still walk? Why do you keep going, even as you tire? Friendship and Loyalty could only get you so far – yet I have been here all along. I was there when the Weasley boy came to you, and here I am still. All the way." His eyes burned with conviction. "Tell me."
Harry grimaced. "Why should I indulge a mirage like you? It would be just like me to imagine some bastard who tries to corrupt me, and give him your face."
"Tell me." Tom commanded, and there was something strange in his voice, then. Something hoarse and flighty. Nervousness, in Tom Riddle?
Harry blinked. "You... you don't know, do you? You've been filling my head with silly talk about what my various degrees of insanity represent, and you don't even know yourself?" He shivered clasping his hands together and blowing into them in an attempt to keep them warm. It also allowed him to look away, to focus on something else. "Boy, I've really gone off the deep end, now, haven't I?" he whispered to himself.
There was a silence for a time. Harry glanced at Tom on occasion; he was still there, a ghost among snowflakes, unbothered by all the issues of a tangible body. Heat still flashed through Harry's skin, a sick fluctuation, and he knew that he was slowly falling apart, that he was succumbing to hypothermia. Even as he realized that much, he searched for an answer to Tom's question, perhaps the last one he'd ever consider. Tom had seemed so desperate there, for a moment, as if he had lost his identity, his purpose. It seemed cruel to blame a reflection of himself for the crimes of Voldemort. Tom, this Tom, was part of him.
He had long since given up on finding safety, in truth. He was in the middle of nowhere, and the storm still blew around him without an end in sight, far into the distance. He knew that there was something else, something beyond life, so his fear of death had already left him, fleeing before his foreknowledge. All he could think of was his friends, the many people whose lives he had touched, the people that had been left behind. He did not know how he had come here, but if he was going to leave the hard way, he could live with that. His will to live was practically gone, eroded away by walking in terrible cold for far longer than any Muggle could, and yet he walked.
Something else was still there, pushing him forward. Something buried beneath all the external things that he had piled on top. He took in a short, breathless gasp, as understanding dawned - or flickered at the edge of perception.
The dark-haired figure glanced over, curious. He looked so unlike Voldemort now, with those sharp eyes that told of intelligence, rather than madness. "Yes?"
"Do you really fear death?" he asked, cocking his head to the side.
Tom scoffed, and looked away. "You know the answer."
Harry shrugged. "I know you did when you were older, when you were the Dark Lord," he said carefully. "But... Is that how it started? Did you begin to make Horcruxes because you feared your death?"
"What else would be my reason?" Tom asked, but his expression betrayed curiosity.
"The Horcruxes changed you," Harry began slowly. "I know they did, because I've seen flashes of your middle-aged self, before everything went south. You were never a pleasant person, but after you started splitting your soul, things escalated. Perhaps more so than I expected."
Harry nodded emphatically. "There is a reason why you are the diary Horcrux, instead of any of the others, isn't there? You are the first. The original Horcrux." He paused, and a thin smile made its way onto his face. "You're the part of Voldemort that did not truly fear death to his core, not yet. That's what I think."
Tom sniffed. "Preposterous."
Harry smiled. "The first Horcrux was not to save yourself from death, was it? You were still young, what did you have to fear, really? You were confident, perhaps too much so - you made the diary because you had great plans." He shrugged wistfully. "Terrible, but great. And to fulfill those grand ideals, you needed insurance. Not because you feared death, but because it represented failure, because it would mean an end to your ambitions." He smiled. "You are the desire for life. The wish for more. You're instinct, and adventure!"
Tom sighed then, and genuinely smiled. It looked more natural than it had ever had. He nodded in confirmation, and then the ghostly image reached out, and his hand caught Harry's shoulder. Caught it, and pushed. Harry tumbled head over heel, incapable of stopping himself from the fall -
And rolled right into a long, ice-covered tunnel, covered with straw and rotting remnants of a camp.