Author's Note: Okay, this is something that I wrote a while back and decided to clean up and post in celebration of our favorite fictional character's birthday! As I said in the summary, it is completely finished with a sequel to come at some point in the future when I get around the writing the rest of it. Please note that Harry is DARK in this fic. Not evil, but definitely having some questionable morals by the end.
Warnings: Rated for language, situations and themes, and mild sexual content. No smut. Honestly, this one's right on the fence between T and M.
Pairing: Harry/Bellatrix/Severus, but that is a really minor part of this fic, so you don't really have to be into the pairing (grouping?) to read it. In fact, there's no Harry/Severus at all until the epilogue, and even then it's more like two partners for Harry than an actual threesome. Okay, that's all I have to say about that. Read, enjoy, and do review.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything to do with it. I'm not making any money from this. There. Ass sufficiently covered.
From Darkness Born
(28 June 1996)
"On the charge of the willful use of the Unforgiveable Cruciatus Curse, we, the Wizengamot, find Harry Potter guilty.
"On the charge of two willful uses of the Unforgiveable Killing Curse, we find Harry Potter guilty.
"On the charge of two counts of willful and malicious murder, we find Harry Potter guilty.
"On the charge of torture, we find Harry Potter guilty."
"On the charge of five counts of willful and reckless endangerment of minor children, we find Harry Potter guilty.
"On the charge of breaking and entering the Ministry of Magic, we find Harry Potter guilty.
On and on the list went in Harry's mind, the charges growing increasingly more pathetic even though he'd been doomed from the first. When he'd at last been convicted of the willful destruction of Ministry property and trespassing, of all things, he'd been expecting to receive the Kiss without delay. After that list of "crimes" it seemed absurd that he'd have any other fate.
But his fame, it seemed, had one last golden egg to offer. Lifetime imprisonment in Azkaban rather than having his soul sucked out of his body was the sentence they passed. Whether this was as much as Dumbledore had managed to get for him or if they were just afraid of trying to kill the one Voldemort hadn't been able to kill, Harry didn't know. It didn't really matter. Instead of losing his soul today, he'd slowly go insane due to the effect of the Dementors in that awful prison – the only person in the world knowing that he was innocent.
A dementor passed by Harry's cell and his thoughts were driven away by the awful memories that gripped him again. He ground his teeth until his jaw ached, and squeezed his eyes tightly closed while he rode through the visions again. In the back of his mind, his only thought was the question of how long he could endure this before it destroyed him.
He watched his parents die again – heard that maniac laughing and wondered if he'd sound as unbalanced if he ever again found cause to laugh. Then he watched Cedric murdered. Then Neville, Sirius, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Neville fell under that hailstorm of prophecy globes, and Lucius finished him with almost no thought to the life he was taking. Sirius fell through the veil. Ginny was tortured by Bellatrix for what had felt like hours before she was finally allowed to die. And then the worst came.
Voldemort had possessed Harry, and with Harry's hand and Harry's wand, he had twice cast the Killing Curse. Ron and Hermione had had no chance. Then came Luna… Poor, innocent Luna who somehow saw the light through the deepest darkness – who never held a grudge against her greatest tormentors. Who had looked at Harry with forgiveness in her eyes at the end. Harry tortured her with the Cruciatus. Tortured her until her eyes had been as vacant as Neville's parents. She had survived, he knew, since she'd not been listed among the murders he had been convicted of committing – not that he was sure there was any real mercy in that.
What he had not known at the time was that Fudge himself had stood frozen behind Harry through most of his possession – a 'witness' to Harry's crimes. That bastard had looked almost gleeful when Harry had been sentenced. He had called it vindication that Harry had been lying about Voldemort – though of course he hadn't the stones to say the monster's name. Fudge had been so pleased with himself for capturing the next dark lord before he could rise to power.
The only charge for which Harry considered himself guilty was the reckless endangerment. He should never have gone to the Ministry, much less taken his friends along. They were all dead or the next thing to it because of him, but he'd not 'willfully' killed any of them. Not that it mattered now.
The dementor passed and Harry sagged onto the floor of his tiny, lightless cell, wondering if Dumbledore had any chance of either exonerating or rescuing him.
(11 August 1996)
Harry shivered as the dementor moved on, struggling to right his tattered mind, though he was beginning to wonder if there was any point. Dumbledore had been by that morning – the first since Harry had been imprisoned. The headmaster had not stayed long, but the message he'd given had been simple. Reading between the carefully phrased lines, he'd said that there was no chance of overturning Harry's case while Fudge was Minister. And he was currently a very popular Minister for "saving" the world from a dark lord that may have been worse than Voldemort had ever been. What Dumbledore had implied without explicitly saying was that it would probably be years before there was any chance of Harry being released.
Years. In this hell. To Harry, looking at the forty-three scratches on the wall, there was little difference between two years and eternity. He was certain his sanity would not survive the wait. If Dumbledore did ever succeed in freeing him, he'd not be good for anything anyway.
He tried to remind himself that Sirius had survived thirteen years. Sure, he may have been somewhat unbalanced when he'd gotten out, but he could have recovered with time.
And then the pessimistic voice in his head that was getting louder every day, added that Sirius had used his animagus form to survive. A form that Harry did not possess. He would never make it so long. With his still-strong guilt for the deaths of his godfather and friends, Harry wasn't sure he'd make it even one year. He wasn't sure he even wanted to.
Wouldn't it be easier to just let go? To stop fighting. His entire life had been a fight, first against the Dursleys, and then Voldemort, and the popular opinion of the wizarding world with each new piece of trash the Prophet printed about him. Against his schoolmates in second and fourth year. Against the Ministry in his fifth. Now he was fighting against himself in his struggle to stay sane, and for what? If he survived this and did get out some day, all of his battles would be waiting for him. Against Voldemort and against the very people he was supposed to protect from the Dark Lord. What was the point?
(30 January 1997)
Harry barely registered the passage of the dementor. He rarely did anymore. The nightmares they inspired were with him all the time now, whether sleeping or awake. He had few happy memories left, living now in a constant state of grief dulled only by the fact that he had no more tears to cry, no more screams to bellow. No more cries against the world that had betrayed him, the monster who'd tried to kill him, or the injustice of it all. The novelty of it all had long since been lost to him. There was no point in any of it, so he just wallowed in his grief.
No one had been to visit him since Dumbledore's one and only visit. He had warned that it may be years, but Harry had still expected his former headmaster to at least visit briefly every couple of months. For a long time, he'd told himself that he would be by any day. It had to be soon. He'd given up on that delusion. No one was coming to see him. No one but the dementors, who had become almost as meaningless as everything else on the other side of his cell door.
He often wondered if he was losing his mind. He didn't feel like he was, though he couldn't be sure. He thought it much more likely that he was simply going to go completely catatonic one day, retreat into his own mind as Luna had done, and forget about Azkaban, Voldemort, and the Boy-Who-Lived. Just forget it all.
He hoped it would happen soon. He didn't like it here, and no longer cared about anything that mattered outside the four walls surrounding him.
(1 November 1997)
Harry silently ingested the food left for him, some part of him noting the dementor outside his cell. It was lingering, for some reason. They'd started doing that a few months ago. Well, he thought it was a few months ago. He'd given up trying to record time. It didn't seem to matter anymore. Every day was exactly the same, and he no longer held any delusions of his life ever becoming anything else. This was his life now. This place. These four scarred walls that he now knew better than his own face, which he'd not seen in so long.
He didn't feel like he was insane. He didn't scream hysterically, spout nonsense, or jibber incoherently as many of the others did as their minds left them. He didn't make any noise at all, actually. He didn't see the point. When food was put in his cell, he ate it. When he was tired, he slept. Most of his time he alternated between sitting on the floor against the outside wall and pacing circles around his small cell.
The nightmares no longer bothered him sleeping or awake. It wasn't that he'd gotten passed them. He no longer had them at all. Perhaps complete and total apathy was the way to defeat the dementors. If he felt nothing, there was nothing on which they could feed. Maybe that was why they liked to congregate outside his cell. They may have been trying to figure him out or to get him to feel something. Maybe both.
Like so many other things, it didn't matter.
Harry no longer thought about life outside his cell, either in the past or in some fantasy of the future. Nor even just to wonder what the world was doing out there. None of it mattered. None of it any longer related to him. His world was here, so this was where he lived, mind, body, and soul, night and day, every single day. It was where he would continue to live until his body expired, at which point he wondered if he'd stick around as a ghost. Even an afterlife was beyond his desire to contemplate at this point.
(27 December 1998)
Three thousand nine hundred sixty two.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.
Three thousand nine hundred sixty three.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.
Harry paused in the steps and laps he'd been counting and pacing around his little cell as he heard something unusual. So little changed in his world that anything unusual was of note. Most of the time, these unusual things involved one of the prisoners down the hall being hauled out, having died in the night, or a new prisoner being carted in. Less often, it would be a visitor to one of the inmates.
This was neither of those things. It was vaguely familiar, and he knew that it was something from his past life. From his life Outside.
He shrugged it off. He didn't care about anything from that life.
Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.
Three thousand nine hundred sixty four.
One. Two. Three.
It came again.
Harry frowned. He didn't want to be bothered. He was nearly finished with his daily four thousand laps around his little cell, and was looking forward to the nap that would follow, which would end when he was woken by his dinner plate sliding across the floor. Then he'd sit and listen to the movement and ramblings of the prisoners down the hall until he was tired and went to sleep. He did this every day, and didn't want to change it.
He was about to start pacing again when the sound came once more, and this time, it penetrated. A voice. It was a voice that he recognized only distantly. It tugged at memories long forgotten. He didn't like it. He knew, vaguely, that forgetting had been hard, and he didn't want to do it again. This voice was going to make him remember.
He tried to dismiss it, but it was getting more insistent.
"What?" he finally snapped.
Silence scuttled down the hall as the restless prisoners stilled. None were accustomed to any sound greater than the scuff of his feet on the floor coming from his cell. He was a little startled as well, honestly. It had been a very long time since he'd spoken, and the sound of his voice was strange to his ears.
"Temper, temper, Potter," the voice replied.
Harry frowned, glancing first around his cell, and then peering out into the hall through the bars in the door. There were two dementors lingering out there as there almost always were at least two, but no one else. And dementors did not speak.
"Who are you?" he asked, wondering if the speaker was invisible.
There was a long pause in which he almost assumed that the voice had either left or been nothing but his imagination. "I am Lord Voldemort," the response came at last, sounding both irritated and curious. "Have you forgotten me already?"
Memories drifted through Harry's mind, but they didn't tug at his heart as once they had. That was good. He didn't want to feel again.
"You no longer matter," Harry replied, beginning to pace again.
He was on three thousand nine hundred eighty eight before the voice returned. "Has the Boy-Who-Lived finally lost his mind then?" the voice audibly sneered the title.
"Maybe," Harry replied unconcernedly, continuing to pace and count in his head. He finished his laps and sat down against the wall.
"You do not seem insane," the voice finally concluded.
"The definition of insanity is a fluid thing in here," Harry replied thoughtfully, deciding that he didn't mind this conversation. It was more interesting than the moaning and shuffling of the other prisoners.
"I imagine that is so," the voice laughed cruelly. "Still, I had hoped you would sound more broken."
"Have you taken over Britain yet?" Harry wondered idly as he searched for the source of the voice now that he was decently convinced it originated inside his mind.
Another laugh, "Not yet, but plans are in motion."
Ah, there it was. Like a wart on the inside of his skull, there was little feeling when he prodded it, but a kind of definition that did not fit the surroundings. "You always have plans in motion, Tom," Harry replied thoughtfully.
Now that he was prodding at his Voldewart, he could feel the irritation coming through it.
"These things take time," Tom replied coolly, his irritation not reaching his voice. "You were the first step, of course. And now that you are safely detained for the rest of your natural life, I can destroy your friends and your precious mudbloods at my leisure."
"I no longer have any friends," Harry replied, drawing away from the wart that held emotions he did not want to feel – even if they weren't his own. "Good luck with your war, Tom."
He then blocked himself away from that wart of voice and emotion, drifting once more into the calm that was his mind. He closed his eyes and focused on the sounds of the other prisoners once more.
(15 January 2000)
Sixty four. Sixty five. Sixty six. Sixty seven.
Harry froze in halfway down through his sixty eighth pushup when he felt the dementors move away from his cell. Voices drifted to him down the hall. Calm, sane voices. He pushed himself back up and moved into a sitting position to listen.
"…always outside that cell. We've tried to get them to move on by, but they just go right back. Prisoners in this section never last more than three or four months."
"Except for Potter," a second voice responded. It was a distantly familiar voice.
"Except for Potter," the first voice, that of the warden, agreed. "I stopped questioning it a long time ago."
The voices ceased, but the footsteps continued to approach Harry's cell.
And then they turned around the last corner. Harry tilted his head slightly, noting and dismissing the warden to examine the man next to him. He was tall and slight with platinum hair and silver-blue eyes, the latter of which widened dramatically as his steps faltered when he met Harry's eyes. After a brief pause, he caught up to the warden and approached the cell, stopping just beyond where Harry could reach should he jam his arm through the bars.
"Potter," the blonde said cautiously.
Harry made no form of reply.
After a moment, the warden shrugged, "He doesn't speak."
"Nevertheless," Draco Malfoy replied without taking his eyes from Harry. "Give me a few minutes alone."
The warden shrugged dismissively and made his way back down the hall.
Malfoy shivered and glanced around nervously before leaning a bit closer to the cell. "Potter, are you in there?"
Harry blinked slowly at the stupid question, but didn't respond.
Draco grimaced distastefully. "You're in awfully good shape for someone who's been in Azkaban three and a half years…"
Harry's eyes were drawn to the inside of Draco's left arm, and it took him only a moment to understand why. There was a presence there that was familiar. It was magic – awareness – from the same entity that lurked inside Harry's mind. Tom Riddle. The Dark Lord. Voldemort.
"What do you want, Draco?" Harry finally asked. His voice was quiet, but Draco started badly anyway.
Silver eyes widened, then narrowed as he scrutinized Harry. "Fuck," he breathed finally. "You still sane, Potter?"
"Why does it matter?" Harry wondered without altering his tone.
"Just answer the fucking question, Potter!"
Harry lifted one eyebrow, bored with the exchange already. "I need not answer any of your questions," he pointed out mildly. "As you need answer none of mine."
Draco snarled silently in response. He seemed to debate with himself for a moment before glancing around as though looking for eavesdroppers, then turning back to Harry and speaking quietly. "The Dark Lord wants to know, Potter."
Harry was not surprised. "Tell him that the answer is the same now as it was when last we spoke."
Draco wasn't satisfied with the answer, and tried to press for more, but Harry had had enough of the conversation and ignored the rest of his questions, speaking no more. Finally, Draco left.
The dementors returned a few minutes later and Harry smiled slightly. Their presence was relaxing in an odd way. He didn't question to reason for this, or the implications. He just accepted it and returned to his interrupted pushups.
(31 October 2000)
Harry had just finished his lunch when he heard footsteps approaching. He set his plate by the slot in the door to be taken away and turned his attention to the intruders just as they were rounding the corner, entering his corridor.
It was the warden with Draco again. Harry frowned curiously. He'd thought that he'd have heard back sooner if Tom had a reply to his statement the last time. He had no notion of how much time had passed, but he knew that it had been considerable. Perhaps there was a new question. Or a reiteration of the old.
The warden left Malfoy at the cell and the latter looked at Harry critically while the footsteps retreated around the corner. "Damn, Potter," he finally frowned. "You're in even better shape than the last time I saw you. Why aren't you emaciated like everyone else in this hell hole?"
Harry considered the question as well as the answer. He didn't really have one, honestly. He knew that he was different from the others that came and went so frequently, their sanity leaving them before their lives, and then their bodies were taken to be replaced by new prisoners. He knew that he was different. He survived where they did not. But then, he'd always been good at surviving. It had been a necessary skill from his very first memories with the Dursleys, and life in the wizarding world had only heightened that. Surviving was a part of who he was.
Perhaps that was the answer. Where the others had withered away mind and body, Harry had adapted to his new environment. His new home.
"Why have you returned, Draco?" he asked curiously.
Draco shivered slightly, as though Harry's voice disturbed him. Harry didn't know why, but didn't care enough to try to figure it out. "You're still sane then?"
"My answer has not changed since your last visit. Is your lord still insane?"
Draco bristled visibly, then shivered and cringed as a dementor passed by in the next corridor though they would not come here while a visitor was present. More's the pity.
"The Dark Lord wishes you a pleasant Halloween, Potter," Draco sneered after he'd collected himself. "He's promised to kill a family just for you tonight."
Harry stared at him for a moment, then nodded.
Draco frowned at the lack of response. After a long moment, he huffed and stormed away.
Harry waited for the dementors to return before beginning his afternoon laps.
(31 October 2001)
When the dementors left this time, Harry listened for footsteps approaching and soon located them. The voices were indistinct, but he recognized them. A moment longer, and he could hear the words.
"…don't know why. The dementors don't seem to bother him anymore," the warden's voice was saying.
"How is that possible?" Draco's voice demanded.
"Dementors feed on emotions, particularly happy ones, but all emotions, really," the warden replied. "I don't think Potter has any emotions left. That usually happens to the prisoners shortly before they die, but Potter's healthier than ever. He's quiet and never causes any kind of trouble. Most of the time, we hardly even know he's here."
The voices cut off as they came around the corner. This time, the warden left as soon as Draco was in sight of him. The blonde man stopped before Harry's cell and stared at him for a long moment before he spoke. "Happy Halloween, Potter."
So it had been a year since Draco's last visit. It made Harry wonder if this was going to be an annual tradition.
"So are you crazy yet?" Draco asked somewhat impatiently.
"No more than I was upon our last meeting," Harry said quietly, staring into Draco's pale eyes. He thought the other man looked… older. Somehow older than a year should warrant. But then, he wasn't sure he was a fair judge. He hadn't seen his own face since before he'd come here. The only time he saw other humans was during Draco's visits and when the other prisoners were exchanged in his corridor.
Draco straightened himself slightly as he spoke again. "The Dark Lord has something special planned in honor of your sixth Halloween in here, Potter," he said maliciously. "It will be a Halloween no one will ever forget."
As Draco turned and left, Harry smiled faintly. Sixth Halloween. So he'd been in Azkaban almost six and a half years. He'd wondered sometimes how long it had been. He hoped that this tradition would continue. It was nice to have something to mark the passage of years.
After his laps that night, Harry settled down for his time of quiet before bed, but he found himself distracted by… curiosity. He mentally poked at the vague, flat emotion, hardly recognizing it after so long. Tom had something special planned for tonight. Unlike last year though, he'd not stated what it would be.
After some thought, Harry concluded that it had been planned that way. Tom was hoping that he would wonder. That he would ask. The dark lord regularly probed at the barrier Harry had raised around his mental wart. Harry had not allowed him through since that first time, but he was curious now. As he reached for it, he hesitated, wondering if Voldemort could possess him here if he was allowed that link.
It was unlikely, Harry finally decided. His mind was many times stronger than it had been back then. Occlumency, if indeed that was what Harry was doing, was infinitely easier without such heavy emotions tugging him in multiple directions. His mind was a very quiet, calm place now that the emotions were gone. Those few he did feel, like this curiosity, were mild and lacking definition. And the dementors did not affect them – whatever that indicated.
Instead of removing the barrier, Harry let himself slip through it. Theoretically, it would give him access to Tom's mind without reciprocating that benefit.
As soon as he was through, he felt the almost nauseatingly potent emotions of his one-time enemy. He wasn't sure if Tom was really feeling that strongly or if it had just been so long since Harry had that any would have seemed so powerful.
He slid his mind along the link and marveled at the sensation as he slipped into a consciousness not his own. Internally cringing when the emotions around him came into full focus, nearly overwhelming in potency. He cautiously wove shields around himself to protect him from the bulk of these emotions, leaving him feeling them, but much more distantly.
Then he focused on what Tom was doing.
His surroundings looked strange, and not only because Harry had been in Azkaban long enough to almost forget that there was an outside world. What he was perceiving was through Tom's eyes. Oddly, Harry was now seeing the world as Tom did. Everything looked just a little different than Harry felt it should, but he wasn't too concerned for that.
Voldemort stood on a small hilltop overlooking a small village. The signs of battle below were obvious. The dark robed shapes of Death Eaters scurrying about leaving devastation in their wake.
"Happy Halloween, Tom," Harry greeted.
The dark lord flinched internally and externally in response to Harry's greeting. "Potter," he said, forcing himself to calm down. "What an unexpected surprise."
"You invited me," Harry replied.
Voldemort frowned thoughtfully, "I suppose I did. Do you like what you see?" he gestured to the village below gloatingly.
"Do you kill them for a reason, or just because you enjoy it?" Harry asked curiously.
Tom seemed to consider that for a moment. "You don't seem disturbed by this," he noted.
"I fail to see why I should be," Harry noted. "They are nothing to me."
"They no longer matter," Tom said quietly, as though in revelation. "Is there anything that you care about anymore, Harry?"
The younger wizard gave that a moment of thought. "Little," he said at last. "What exists beyond my cell and the shores of Azkaban are no longer a part of my life. Why should any of it matter to me?"
The dark lord chuckled at that. "You may not be insane, Potter, but the boy Dumbledore groomed to 'destroy' me really is dead, isn't he?"
"Yes," Harry replied without hesitation. That was a fact he'd accepted a long time ago.
"So you defeated me once and now I have defeated you," Voldemort said thoughtfully. "Yet we are both alive. Shall we kill each other again?"
"I don't see the point," Harry shrugged. "Even were I not in prison, I've no reason to fight you now."
They were both silent for a long moment, passively watching the destruction in the village below.
When the carnage was beginning to wrap up, the village now in flames, the only survivors captured by the Death Eaters, Harry decided it was time to sleep.
"Well, happy Halloween, Tom."
"Will I hear from you again?" Voldemort inquired.
Harry was vaguely surprised to find that the dark lord seemed hopeful that he would. He smiled just a little. "Likely. There's little entertainment where I am."
(31 October 2002)
A woman's familiar cackle echoed down the corridor, drawing Harry's attention from the conversation he'd been sharing with Tom. "Was Bella arrested?" he asked curiously.
"Yes," Voldemort replied disinterestedly. "My people in the Ministry kept her from the Kiss, but considering her fugitive status, there was nothing that could keep her from Azkaban. Why do you ask?"
Harry and Tom talked nearly every day now while Harry went about his usual routine and Tom carried out his world dominion schemes. Sometimes they merely exchanged pleasantries before going on with their day. Other times, they spent nearly the entire day in conversation. Harry had found the minor escape from Azkaban and the human contact – if distant – had made him feel much more human, and connected him to the outside world. He'd feared both in the beginning, but he'd discovered now that he was well beyond any danger of ever becoming who he'd been before Azkaban. Tom's company meant that his life was interesting enough that there actually seemed a point to continuing to live.
"It seems that she's to have a cell near mine," Harry murmured thoughtfully, watching through the bars as Bellatrix was led into the corridor. She was alternately cackling and screaming, trying to kick and bite the guards that led her.
"Sometimes I almost forget that you're in Azkaban," Tom mused.
"She's quite loud," Harry said distastefully.
"Don't worry, Potter," one of the guards laughed. "Lestrange won't last long here."
The guards always seemed to bring their least favorite prisoners here. To get rid of them.
"How have you not lost your mind, Harry?" Tom asked. It was a question he voiced often, and one Harry had never answered to his satisfaction.
Harry watched the guards leave the corridor, frowning at the next cell where Bella continued to alternately cackle and spout goading profanities. Then she turned her head and saw him. "'Ickle 'Arry?" she laughed crazily. "Are you still sane?" she asked, an insane gleam in her eyes.
"Far more than you, dear Bella," Harry replied, automatically using Tom's affection for her. He heard it often enough in his visits to the man's mind.
That threw her, but she was prevented from responding as the dementors returned. Three of them this time. They settled around his cell, though they did not block his view to Bella.
She shivered violently, her eyes narrowed on him as he continued to watch her passively. After a moment, she started muttering under her breath, rocking her upper body forward, then back against the wall, then forward, then back repeatedly. Her eyes never left him.
Harry watched her for a long moment. "You'll never survive if you let them affect you, Bella," he advised.
"How…?" she breathed through chattering teeth.
Harry considered it a moment. "We'll talk later, Tom," he said. "I'm going to get to know Bella." With that, he shielded their link, blocking Voldemort out of his mind.
Bella looked around. "Who…?"
"What do you care about, Bella?" Harry wondered.
She frowned at him for just a moment before replying. "The D-dark Lo-ord," she shivered.
Harry nodded his understanding. "That explains it. The last time you were here, you survived by focusing upon your devotion to Voldemort to the exclusion of all else."
"How d-dare y-you speak his n-name…" she said unimpressively.
"Shut up, Bella," Harry said flatly. "Do you want to survive here or not?"
She didn't respond, but she didn't try to scold him again either.
"The method you used before worked, but it also served to turn your devotion into an obsession. You still went insane, just in a manner of your choosing. It's actually pretty impressive, but it won't work this time."
She stared at him defiantly, her eyes seeming to ask, "and why not?".
"Because last time, you had to deal with dementors patrolling passed your cell throughout the day and night. But here…" he looked at the dementors outside his cell. Oddly, he'd learned to tell them apart by the way they felt to him. He reached out through the bars, sliding his fingers lightly over the cloak of one of his favorite dementors. He wasn't sure when he'd developed feelings of favoritism toward any of them, but he had.
He closed his eyes and relished the magic that tingled through his fingers from the highly magical dark creature. It snaked up his arm, spreading a chill into his chest that was quite comforting. When he looked at Bella again, her eyes were very wide, and locked on the place he touched the dementor.
"There are always dementors at my cell, Bella," he explained. "You will find no relief from them while you are in that cell. How long do you think you'll survive?"
She swallowed and a hint of fear touched her eyes. "How do y-you d-do it?"
"Stop fighting," Harry advised. "Let go of your fears. Embrace your nightmares. Let them become a part of you, and accept them. They hold power over you only if you allow it. Close your eyes, dear Bella, and stop fighting. Let go."
(2 January 2003)
Harry ran his fingers lightly along the stone of the wall that separated his from Bella's cell. The magic of Azkaban was as old as Hogwarts magic, and at least as powerful. While Hogwarts magic had fed upon the magic and emotions of her children for centuries, Azkaban fed upon the magic and emotions of her inmates. It made for a much darker magic, certainly, but no less powerful. It was a magic that had almost become a part of Harry over the years. It was always there, surrounding him, encasing him, nurturing him.
He was pretty sure that Azkaban herself was the reason that he had maintained such health. Well, actually eating all of his meals and exercising each day certainly helped as well, but the prisoners really weren't fed enough to keep them healthy. Like all ancient magicks powerful enough to attain some level of sentience, Azkaban had her favorites. Harry, for whatever reason, was among them.
Harry felt the gentle pressure that was Voldemort prodding at his shield around the link. It was the equivalent of a polite knock.
Harry slipped a small part of his consciousness through the barrier. "What is it, Tom? I'm rather busy at the moment."
"Busy?" Tom asked, amused. "You're in Azkaban. What could you possibly be 'busy' doing?"
"That is not your concern."
"You are an annoying brat," Tom replied irritably.
Harry chuckled, "Was there something specific that you wanted, Tom?"
"How is Bella doing?" he asked, though Harry was absolutely certain that he'd not come calling just to ask that question. More likely, he'd just wanted to talk. One thing he'd learned about his former enemy this past year was that he was lonelier than he'd ever admit. It was a hazard that came with placing yourself above everyone else in the world. You just couldn't have a truly candid conversation with your acknowledged lesser.
"She's surviving," Harry replied. "I'm teaching her to resist the dementors," he explained, which was mostly a lie. There was no such thing as "resisting" the dementors. It was more like learning to live with them. But Tom didn't need to know that. "Thus far, it seems that she might be capable."
"And how is that?"
Harry chuckled. "That's a secret, Tom."
"One of these days, Harry, I am going to attack Azkaban just so that I can kill you," Tom threatened.
"Oh, but then who would you have to talk to?" Harry posed.
There was a moment of frustrated silence. "Well, it's a long-term plan," Voldemort muttered sullenly.
"Well then, I'll keep my calendar open for it," Harry replied, amused. Then he closed down the link without another word and turned his attention back to the stones beneath his fingers. He felt the inky black magic brush against him and he brushed back. "Azkaban, my dear," he said softly, "it is a pleasure to finally meet you."
He felt a sense of pleasure in return, almost as though the castle was preening beneath his words.
(2 April 2003)
Harry smiled faintly where he sat in the center of his cell. These last four months he had devoted almost entirely to his new hobby of communicating with Azkaban. She seemed to like him, and had never fought his attention that he could tell. Indeed, the connection that he felt to her grew more defined every day. There was something truly liberating about having all the time in the world. It granted almost endless patience.
He let his magic – magic that he'd not consciously touched in years before starting this exploration – flow into that of the castle, and he felt it easily disperse through the stones and bars of his home. He could feel everything within the prison. He could count the prisoners, determine their physical and mental health, and follow the movement of the guards and dementors both.
Every time he did this, he could not help but smile. Azkaban welcome his magic into her with all the warmth of home.
He vaguely felt Tom brushing against his link, but he ignored it as he often did these days. He still enjoyed speaking to Tom, but he had other interests now. Azkaban was one. The other was still in the cell next to his. Bella had had more success in learning to live with the dementors than he'd expected. Through his connection to Azkaban, he could feel her mind becoming clearer each day. The insanity that had plagued her after her last incarceration was actually receding as she learned to deal with this one.
By embracing her nightmares and letting go of her outside convictions, her obsession with Tom was beginning to lift. She still sometimes rambled about her devotion to him, usually mentioning that she was doing all of this – she was surviving – for him. So that she could return to him. Harry had a feeling that she was trying to convince herself of that while she tried to deal with losing that obsession.
(31 October 2003)
"Draco?" Bella gasped as the blonde approached Harry's cell.
Her voice drew the young man up short. He stopped and stared at her. "Fuck," he breathed. "Aunt Bella?"
"Draco!" she beamed.
"Silence, Bella. He's not here to see you," Harry said mildly.
She pouted while Draco turned angry silver eyes on Harry.
"Happy Halloween, Potter," Draco scowled.
"You have a message for me, Draco?" Harry assumed.
Draco seemed to briefly consider his options before he spoke defiantly. "The Dark Lord is displeased with you, Potter."
"Tom is always displeased with something," Harry shrugged.
Draco's eyes bulged and Bella snickered at his casual use of that name. She'd gotten used to it, having listened so often to his side of his conversations with Tom.
"How dare you-" Draco snarled.
"Silence, Draco," Harry said mildly, a small smirk touching his lips as Draco attempted to continue speaking only to find he had no voice.
The young Malfoy's wand was in his hand almost instantly, but the silent finite he attempted failed utterly.
"Do not come to my house and think you hold any power over me just because you stand on that side of the bars, Draco," Harry said with quiet severity. "Now, deliver your lord's message and leave."
Draco choked as his voice returned to him, and he stared at Harry with more than a touch of fear in his eyes.
Bella was cackling silently, her voice not yet returned.
"The Dark Lord commands that you answer him or he shall come here and speak to you in person," Draco sneered, then spun on his heel and stalked away.
As soon as he was around the corner, Bella's cackles filled the hall. Harry met her eyes and smiled briefly before returning to his conversation with the castle.
FYI: I will be returning to "When A Phoenix Cries: Part 2" in September. I promise that it isn't abandoned. Just a little neglected at the moment.