The Master of Life
By Mr. Intel
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Check it out! (This chapter was revised on 8/8/2008).
Chapter Four — Nothing Hidden
Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny Apparated back to the Burrow a week before the wedding, after a trip to the Department of Magical Transportation. They had been there to secure portkeys and apply for the necessary visas for travel abroad. Hermione still hadn’t been convinced that Ron should accompany her on her trip to Australia, but couldn’t say anything against him applying for a travel visa all the same. Despite his protests, Harry could see her side of things. If he had to put his Aunt and Uncle into hiding by modifying their memories, he’d want to have as few people there to witness their realisation as possible.
"Who knew there was so much paperwork just to get a portkey?" Ron said as he flopped unceremoniously onto the sofa.
"It’s no wonder, really," replied Hermione. "If you think about it, there’s bound to be at least four government agencies working in both countries to make international travel safe."
"Spare us," said Ron, who busied himself with the latest Quidditch Monthly.
Hermione huffed and plopped into a recliner near the dormant fireplace.
"I’m excited," said Ginny as she reached for the books she’d bought from the travel kiosk in the Atrium. "We’ll get to see so many places we’ve never been." She promptly sat on the far edge of the sofa and cracked open the first book from the stack.
Harry sat between her and a still sulky Ron as Finbar Quigly of the Ballycastle Bats zoomed across the front of his magazine.
"Hermione?" asked Harry.
"Hm?" she replied, her eyes focused on Ron.
"How’s the Polyjuice coming along?" He secretly hoped that it would be a flop so no one had to get ambushed for him while he was out of the country, but knew that Hermione was more than capable.
"It’s fine," she replied, still looking at Ron, who was repressing a laugh at the comic strip featured in the back of every Monthly. "I’ll be adding the fluxweed and knotgrass tonight."
Ginny flipped a page. "Look, Harry." She pointed to the top, where there was a caption underneath a charming urban skyline. "They say that Victoria is the most British city in all of Canada. Isn’t that where that picture was taken of your grandfather’s grave?"
Harry nodded, looking at the entry. There were pictures of famous landmarks, including the Parliament Building, Hatley Castle, and Fisgard Lighthouse.
She turned the page again. "Ooh. Look at all those flowers!"
There were thousands of flowers waving in the breeze, with colours from every part of the rainbow. "They’re spectacular."
Ginny was positively dancing on the sofa. "It’s going to be a perfect honeymoon."
A tawny owl flew through the opening in the fireplace and landed on the arm of Hermione’s recliner. Before she was able to remove the letter, a pack of owls followed the first and began to clamour for her attention. One by one, she patiently removed each letter and dismissed the carrier.
"Hermione?" asked Ron tentatively. "What’s with all the owls?"
"In a minute," she replied and began to read through each letter. They all watched as she made two stacks. She scowled as she set one down on the now larger stack and grimaced at another one that went to the shorter stack.
Finally, she was finished. "Well?" asked Ginny.
She grinned. "I’ve got a job."
"Really?" asked Harry who was very shocked to hear Hermione was taking a job without completing her education. "What about Hogwarts?"
"I’ll take the N.E.W.T.s through independent study and re-apply for the job I really want in a year."
Ron scratched his head. "What do you mean the one you really want? Why not just wait to start working until after the N.E.W.T.s?"
"Because what needs to be done now won’t wait until then." She scooped up both stacks of letters and tucked all but one into her robes.
"So what are you going to be?" Ginny asked.
Hermione brandished the lone letter in her hand. "You’re looking at the newest file clerk for the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures."
"A file clerk?" said Ron disparagingly. "You can do better than..."
"Of course I can," she said, cutting him off. "That’s not the point."
A light went off in Harry’s head. He understood. "You want to spy on Crackshot."
"Well not at first," Hermione demurred. "It’s doubtful I’ll get anywhere near him initially, but being in the Ministry at all is better than not." A gleam shone in her eyes. "Besides, I’ve got a good working knowledge of where everything is and how it operates. It won’t take much to get the information I need."
Harry didn’t doubt that in the least. He only wished he could help her in some way. Kingsley was a better Minister by far and he’d do almost anything to get him reinstated. For the hundredth time, he wondered if becoming an Auror would be a good choice.
"When do you start?" asked Ron. There was something painful in his voice.
"I’m going to ask to start after I get back from Australia. Two weeks after Harry and Ginny’s wedding."
Ron nodded and returned to looking at his magazine.
"What’s the matter, Ron?" Hermione asked gently.
"Nothing," he said and folded the Monthly in half.
"I’ve been watching you all evening," she replied. "There’s definitely something wrong. Tell me?"
Ron looked up, his face set. "Do you really want to know?"
"All right, you asked for it." He set down the magazine and sat up straight. "Everyone is moving on with their lives — getting married, getting jobs, and the summer isn’t even half done. Why are you in such a rush? The war’s over! Why can’t we just enjoy some time off?"
Guilt tore at Harry’s stomach. He had been so caught up in the Elder Wand, Ginny, and what was happening in his own life that he didn’t realise that Ron was feeling left out.
"You’re being ridiculous, Ron," Hermione countered. "There’s an idiot heading the Ministry."
"Wouldn’t be the first time," Ron said under his breath.
Hermione crossed her arms. "Something needs to be done and why not me?"
Ron stood. "Because I need you."
She didn’t seem to know what to say to that. "I...I...," she stammered.
"I know you need your parents and I know you need to be involved in what’s going on at the Ministry, but what about what I need? Have you considered anyone else in your plans?"
"It’s not like that, Ron," Hermione pled. "I’m not trying to exclude you."
Ron dropped his magazine on the sofa. "I guess you don’t have to try." And he walked upstairs.
"Ginny?" asked Harry that night outside her bedroom. "Can I come in?"
There was a sound of rustling fabric and the muffled click of a door being closed. "Sure, Harry. Just leave the door open or Mum will have kittens."
Harry turned the knob and tentatively pushed the door open, balancing a heavy package in his other hand. It was only the second time he’d been in her room, and he approached her with a very different pang of apprehension.
"What’s on your mind my husband to be?" She smiled and it warmed his heart a little.
He put the package on her bed and sat beside it. "I need to show you something. Some things that happened to me and some things I did that I’m not particularly proud of." He made a motion for her to sit and she took the spot on the other side of the package.
"What is it?" she asked, a note of concern in her voice.
Pulling the string that held the paper, he revealed a large rune-covered stone basin.
"Yes," Harry confirmed. "I picked it up in Diagon Alley while you were getting fitted for your dress."
Her eyes darted to her closet door. "Oh."
He met her questioning gaze and gestured at the empty pensieve. "I need to show you some memories. I didn’t have a pretty life and you’re about to be a part of it, so you need to know."
"You don’t have to..." she began, the beginnings of a frown forming on her lips.
"I do," he said. "I have to because marriage is supposed to be forever. I can’t help but believe that my parents had more than a couple of years together and I want that, too."
Ginny’s hand found his. "Of course they did. I’m sure they’re together right now and are proud of what you’ve done."
Fighting the urge to pull his hand away from her in shame, he looked at the pensieve. "I’m not proud of some of those things." He dragged his eyes to her face again. "You need to know who you’re marrying, Ginny. You need to know so you don’t wake up one day in ten years and realise what you’ve gotten into."
She smiled reassuringly and reached out to touch his cheek. "What I’m getting into? Harry, I know you. I know what kind of man it takes to destroy evil and come away untainted." He grimaced. "No, Harry. I mean it. You’re good. Bloody stupid and noble sometimes, but you’re good and handsome and mine."
She said this last bit so ferociously, that it startled him. He searched her face and the doubt began to thaw. "Thank you, Ginny, but I still need to show you what happened. I know we’ve talked about the Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows, but there’s really no better way than to show you. Will you let me?"
She gave a single nod.
They put the pensieve on the floor and knelt in front of it. Harry took his wand and pulled eight silvery memories out of his temple and plopped them in the basin. He stirred them until the right one was showing and took Ginny’s hand. "This first one is probably going to be a little disturbing. Well... they’re all disturbing in a way, but this one is of you in the Chamber."
She shuddered and then said with determination, "I’m ready, Harry."
He squeezed her hand and they leaned their faces into the misty liquid.
The Chamber of Secrets opened tall and dim before them. It took a minute for their eyes to adjust and when they did, they saw a younger Harry staring up at the old stone statue of Salazar Slytherin.
"Ginny!" A skinny, twelve-year-old, ragged-looking Harry ran across the dusty floor and dropped to his knees in front of a girl with bright red hair. They followed and Ginny’s hand clamped down on his arm like a vice.
"Ginny - don't be dead - please don't be dead -" The younger Harry flung his wand aside, grabbed Ginny's shoulders, and turned her over.
"Ginny, please wake up," Harry muttered desperately, shaking her.
And then, they saw him slinking out of the shadows. Tom Riddle was there, his eyes fixed on the Harry and Ginny on the Chamber floor.
"She won't wake," he said.
The younger Harry jumped and spun around on his knees.
"Tom - Tom Riddle?"
"What d'you mean, she won't wake?" Harry said desperately. "She's not - she's not -?"
Older Harry guided Ginny behind Tom to look at their younger selves. Ginny’s hand hadn’t relinquished its hold on him. She was beginning to tremble.
"She's still alive," said Riddle. "But only just."
"Are you a ghost?" Harry asked.
"A memory," said Riddle quietly. "Preserved in a diary for fifty years."
He pointed toward the floor near the statue's giant toes. It was the diary.
Older Ginny pointed her mouth to Harry’s ear. "That was a Horcrux?"
Harry nodded and noticed that she hadn’t taken her eyes of the memory of Tom Riddle as he grew more and more defined. "It had... a bit of him in it, then?"
Harry nodded again. "That’s how he was able to possess you."
Ginny’s hand loosened on Harry’s arm and they returned to watching the scene unfold before them.
The younger Harry lowered Ginny back onto the floor.
"Look," said Harry, losing patience, "I don't think you get it. We're in the Chamber of Secrets. We can talk later -"
"We're going to talk now," said Riddle, smiling broadly, and he pocketed Harry's wand.
"How did Ginny get like this?" he asked slowly.
"Well, that's an interesting question," said Riddle pleasantly and older Harry was struck with the way Riddle was able to turn on and off the charm. "And quite a long story. I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley's like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger."
"What are you talking about?" said Harry.
"The diary," said Riddle. "My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes - how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with second-hand robes and books, how..." Riddle's eyes glinted. "how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her ... ."
Ginny snuggled close to Harry and her trembling eased.
"It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven year-old girl," he went on. "But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, Tom .... I'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in .... It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket ...
Riddle laughed, and Harry found himself mirroring his younger memory by shivering at the sound of it.
"If I say it myself, Harry, I've always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted.... I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her..."
"What d'you mean?" said Harry.
"Haven't you guessed yet, Harry Potter?" said Riddle softly. "Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the school roosters and daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods, and the Squib's cat."
"No," Harry whispered.
"Yes," said Riddle, calmly. "Of course, she didn't know what she was doing at first. It was very amusing. I wish you could have seen her new diary entries ... far more interesting, they became...."
"Dear Tom," he recited, "I think I'm losing my memory. There are rooster feathers all over my robes and I don't know how they got there. Dear Tom, I can't remember what I did on the night of Halloween, but a cat was attacked and I've got paint all down my front. Dear Tom, Percy keeps telling me I'm pale and I'm not myself. I think he suspects me... There was another attack today and I don't know where I was. Tom, what am I going to do? I think I'm going mad... I think I'm the one attacking everyone, Tom!"
Even now, Harry wanted to attack Tom for saying those things about Ginny. He was struck with the notion that even if his romantic feelings hadn’t existed for her back then, he realised that this experience in the Chamber had opened something up inside him that eventually became the love that he felt for her now. They were forming a bond in the memory that was playing out before them.
Riddle and Harry’s memory of himself were still talking.
"I have many questions for you, Harry Potter."
"Like what?" Harry spat.
"Well," said Riddle, smiling pleasantly, "how is it that you, a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent - managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort's powers were destroyed?"
"Why do you care how I escaped?" said Harry slowly. "Voldemort was after your time.....
"Voldemort," said Riddle softly, "is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter...."
He pulled Harry's wand from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words:
TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE
Then he waved the wand once, and the letters of his name rearranged themselves:
I AM LORD VOLDEMORT
Ginny was staring at Tom with a blank look, now. Her eyes were fixed and determined. As he prattled on about reviling his Muggle heritage, Ginny spat at him. "You’re a coward, Tom Riddle! You got what you deserved and I hope you never ever forget what you’ve done!"
Harry pulled her close and let her bury her face in his shoulder. She shuddered and then they heard music. It was Fawkes. He appeared in a ball of flame and then swooped down to Harry’s shoulders, dropping the sorting hat at his feet.
"That -" said Riddle, eyeing what Fawkes dropped on the ground, "that's the old school Sorting Hat."
Riddle began to laugh again. Harry and Ginny cringed at hearing it. "This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?"
Harry could see his younger self straighten his back and ready himself for Riddle’s attack.
Then, Voldemort began to talk more about Muggles and Slytherin’s noble work and finally, he turned to the statue to command the basilisk.
Then he heard Riddle's hissing voice, and he couldn’t understand it. It was just hissing and it was exactly what Harry hoped it would be.
"I can’t speak Parseltongue," he said to Ginny. "When Voldemort killed me, he killed the bit he left inside me and now I can’t speak Parseltongue!"
Ginny smiled up at him and they both turned to watch Harry fight the basilisk.
"I can’t believe you actually killed that thing. It’s huge!" she said as younger Harry tripped and fell.
Then Fawkes was there, diving and attacking the huge serpent’s eyes.
"NO!" they heard Riddle screaming. "LEAVE THE BIRD! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. YOU CAN STILL SMELL HIM. KILL HIM!"
The snake's tail whipped across the floor and swept the Sorting Hat into Harry’s hands. They watched him jam it on his head and he staggered and pulled Gryffindor’s sword out of its opening.
"Just like Neville!" Ginny said.
"KILL THE BOY! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. SNIFF -- SMELL HIM."
The basilisk lunged and missed and older Harry found himself trying to dodge for his memory. Then, the snake struck and was stabbed fatally with the sword. It teetered and fell to one side and the younger Harry pulled a fang from his arm.
Fawkes was crying on Harry’s wound and Riddle was taunting him. Then, Riddle realised what was happening.
"Get away, bird," said Riddle's voice suddenly. "Get away from him - I said, get away --"
Riddle pointed Harry's wand at Fawkes; there was a bang like a gun, and Fawkes took flight again.
"Phoenix tears. - ." said Riddle quietly, staring at Harry's arm. "Of course ... healing powers ... I forgot..." He looked into Harry's face. "But it makes no difference. In fact, I prefer it this way. Just you and me, Harry Potter ... you and me...." He raised the wand. Then, Fawkes dropped the diary into Harry’s lap.
For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still raised, stared at it. Then, Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book.
There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream, much louder and longer than older Harry remembered. The diary seemed to pump ink out like a wounded artery. Then, the memory of Riddle was destroyed and the diary fell to the ground.
There was a faint moan from the end of the Chamber. Ginny was stirring. As Harry hurried toward her, she sat up. Her bemused eyes travelled from the huge form of the dead basilisk, over Harry, in his blood-soaked robes, then to the diary. She drew a great, shuddering gasp and tears began to pour down her face.
"Harry -- oh, Harry -- I tried to tell you at b-breakfast, but I c-couldn't say it in front of Percy -- it was me, Harry -- but I -- I s-swear I ddiddt mean to -- R-Riddle made me, he t-took me over -- and - how did you kill that -- that thing? W-where's Riddle? The last thing I rremember is him coming out of the diary --"
The memory grew dark and they felt themselves pulled back into the present.
Ginny wasn’t trembling anymore, but she rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms as if fighting off a chill. "Why did you show that to me?" she asked.
"I wanted you to know..." he sat and leaned his back into her bed, letting his long legs stretch past the pensieve. "I’m not a real hero," he began, trying to match words to the swirling feelings in his chest. "I get some things right, but I always have help, and when I don’t... Well, you’re lucky, that’s all. You’re lucky that I didn’t get eaten by that great snake, or missed the sorting hat when Fawkes swept it into my hands..."
Ginny’s eyes were moist. "Do you really think I don’t count every day since then as a blessing? You saved me from more than Voldemort that day, Harry. Did you know?"
"I did?" said Harry, confused.
"On the way back to Dumbledore’s office, all I could think about was how awful you thought I must be and how disappointed my parents were going to be when they found out." She took his hand. "But you didn’t tell them I’d been the one. You told them everything but that and I never thanked you for it."
She drew closer and held him. "Thank you," she whispered and kissed him.
They pulled apart after a moment. "You are a very good hero, Harry Potter, and I’m proud to have been saved by you." She giggled and kissed him again. He felt his heart lighten and allowed a smile to form on his face.
"Remind me to save you from deadly snakes and dark lords more often."
She shifted on the floor and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "Then the next year, I didn’t see you much because I thought you hated me."
He opened his mouth to contradict her, but she held up a hand. "Then at the Quidditch World Cup, I watched you and realised that you didn’t hate me. I asked Hermione to find out, and she said you didn’t hate anyone besides Voldemort, so I started to look after you again." She pushed a lock of hair from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. "Then Ron tried to get us to go to the ball together and the look you gave me... It was like you’d never even considered it before... never considered that I was a girl apart from Ron’s little sister." She said this last bit in an undertone.
Not knowing where she was going with this, he let her continue. "That’s when I told Hermione I’d given up on you."
"But I didn’t know!" he protested.
"Of course you didn’t," she said patiently. "That was the problem. But it didn’t last. You came around eventually."
He smiled. "I’m so glad I did."
She kissed him again and gestured back to the pensieve. "You said there were more memories?"
"Yeah." He took a deep breath and let it out. "If you don’t want to see them tonight, I understand completely..."
"No," she said firmly. "You need me to see them, so I will."
He kissed her on her crown. "Okay. This one is the night Voldemort came back."
She shivered. "I’m ready."
He swirled the memories one more time and then they plunged downward.
They were in the graveyard in Little Hangleton. Cedric lay dead on the ground and Harry was being tied up to the headstone of Tom Riddle Sr.
"You!" the younger Harry gasped.
Nagini was twisting around the graveyard. The cauldron was bubbling over the fire and once again, Ginny drew close to Harry, but this time, it was Harry’s nightmare they were reliving and he was very glad for her comforting presence.
"Hurry!" It was Voldemort’s high-pitched voice coming from the bundle of robes. Harry shivered.
"It is ready, master."
"Now ..." said the cold voice.
Wormtail pulled open the robes on the ground, revealing what was inside them, and Harry and Ginny both recoiled in horror.
It was like a hideously deformed child, but no child had a face like this thing did — flat and snakelike with gleaming red eyes.
Wormtail took the thing and hefted it into the cauldron. He raised his wand, closed his eyes, and spoke to the night.
"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"
The ground at younger Harry's feet cracked open and a fine trickle of dust rose into the air and fell softly into the cauldron.
Wormtail whimpered. He removed a knife from his robes.
"Flesh - of the servant - w-willingly given - you will - revive - your master."
He gripped the dagger very tightly in his left hand and swung it upward.
There was a plop and a scream as Wormtail completed his sacrifice for Voldemort’s return.
"B-blood of the enemy ... forcibly taken .. . you will... resurrect your foe."
As with his memory-self, Harry could do nothing to prevent it from happening again. Wormtail punctured his arm and took the blood that would course through Voldemort’s veins.
It was added to the cauldron and after a long moment, his head lifted up from the haze, followed by his body.
"Robe me," said the high, cold voice.
Harry’s mind was spinning as Voldemort examined his new body. He hadn’t realised what reliving this memory would do to him. It was worse than all the nightmares he’d had of this day since then. Yet, as Voldemort summoned his Death Eaters in the memory, Harry felt as he had at the memorial service. Something was being removed — extracted from him that made him feel lighter.
"Listen to me, reliving family history..." Voldemort said quietly, "why, I am growing quite sentimental.... But look, Harry! My true family returns...."
Between the graves, behind the yew tree, and in every shadowy space, the Death Eaters were apparating in. They formed a silent circle, which enclosed the grave, Harry, Voldemort, and Wormtail.
"Welcome, Death Eaters," said Voldemort quietly. "Thirteen years... thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it were yesterday, we are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"
He put back his terrible face and sniffed, his slit-like nostrils widening. "I smell guilt," he said. "There is a stench or guilt upon the air." A second shiver ran around the circle, as though each member of it longed, but did not dare to step back from him. "I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact - such prompt appearances! and I ask myself ... why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?"
No one spoke.
"And I answer myself," whispered Voldemort, "they must have believed me broken, they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment... .
"And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again?
"They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living?
"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort... perhaps they now pay allegiance to another ... perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?"
Those in the circle muttered in disquiet.
"It is a disappointment to me... I confess myself disappointed...."
One of the men suddenly flung himself forward, breaking the circle. He collapsed at Voldemort's feet.
"Master!" he shrieked, "Master, forgive me! Forgive us all!"
Voldemort began to laugh. He raised his wand.
The Death Eater on the ground shrieked and screamed.
Voldemort raised his wand. The tortured Death Eater lay flat upon the ground, gasping.
"Get up, Avery," said Voldemort softly. "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years ... I want thirteen years' repayment before I forgive you. Wormtail here has paid some of his debt already, have you not, Wormtail?"
Voldemort spoke about how merciful he was and then restored Wormtail’s hand with a gleaming silver one.
"My Lord," Wormtail whispered. "Master... it is beautiful... thank you... thank you. ..."
He scrambled forward on his knees and kissed the hem of Voldemort's robes.
"May your loyalty never waver again, Wormtail," said Voldemort.
"No, my Lord... never, my Lord..."
Wormtail stood up and took his place in the circle. Voldemort now approached the man on Wormtail's right.
"Lucius, my slippery friend," he whispered, stopping before him. "I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face.
"You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle-torture, I believe? Yet you never tried to find me, Lucius... . Your exploits at the Quidditch World Cup were fun, I daresay... but might not your energies have been better directed toward finding and aiding your master?"
"My Lord, I was constantly on the alert," came Lucius Malfoy's voice swiftly from beneath the hood. "Had there been any sign from you, any whisper of your whereabouts, I would have been at your side immediately, nothing could have prevented me - "
"And yet you ran from my Mark, when a faithful Death Eater sent it into the sky last summer?" said Voldemort lazily, and Mr. Malfoy stopped talking abruptly. "Yes, I know all about that, Lucius.... You have disappointed me.... I expect more faithful service in the future."
"Of course, my Lord, of course.... You are merciful, thank you...."
Voldemort then addressed the rest of the missing and present Death Eaters before Lucius could no longer be silent.
"Master, we crave to know ... we beg you to tell us ... how you have achieved this... this miracle... how you managed to return to us...."
"Ah, what a story it is, Lucius," said Voldemort. "And it begins - and ends - with my young friend here."
He walked lazily over to stand next to Harry, so that the eyes of the whole circle were upon the two of them. Nagini continued to circle.
"You know, of course, that they have called this boy my downfall?" Voldemort said softly, his red eyes upon Harry. "You all know that on the night I lost my powers and my body, I tried to kill him. His mother died in the attempt to save him - and unwittingly provided him with a protection I admit I had not foreseen.... I could not touch the boy."
Voldemort raised one of his long white fingers and put it very close to Harry's cheek.
"His mother left upon him the traces other sacrifice.... This is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it... but no matter. I can touch him now."
Voldemort laughed softly in his ear, then took the finger away and continued addressing the Death Eaters.
"I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Aaah ... pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost... but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know... I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal - to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked ... for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it."
He continued to speak, telling them of his attempt to get the Philosopher’s Stone; about his time in Albania, Bertha Jorkins, and his plan to rig the Triwzard Tournament to get Harry.
"But how to get at Harry Potter?" Voldemort asked his assembled servants. "Use my one faithful Death Eater, stationed at Hogwarts, to ensure that the boy's name was entered into the Goblet of Fire. Use my Death Eater to ensure that the boy won the tournament - that he touched the Triwizard Cup first - the cup which my Death Eater had turned into a Portkey, which would bring him here, beyond the reach of Dumbledore’s help and protection, and into my waiting arms. And here he is ... the boy you all believed had been my downfall. ..."
Voldemort moved slowly forward and turned to face Harry. He raised his wand.
Harry winced as his younger self writhed in pain, screaming into the night. Ginny’s face was wet with tears. The Death Eaters were laughing.
"You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me," said Voldemort. "But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger. Just a little longer, Nagini," he whispered, and the snake glided away through the grass to where the Death Eaters stood watching.
"Now untie him, Wormtail, and give him back his wand."
With one swipe, Wormtail cut through the bonds tying Harry to the gravestone. He handed a weakened Harry his wand and went back to the circle.
"You have been taught how to duel. Harry Potter?" said Voldemort softly.
"We bow to each other. Harry," said Voldemort, bending a little, but keeping his eyes on Harry. "Come, the niceties must be observed.... Dumbledore would like you to show manners.... Bow to death, Harry...."
The Death Eaters were laughing again. Voldemort’s lipless mouth was smiling.
Harry did not bow.
"I said, bow," Voldemort said, raising his wand - and Harry saw himself being bent forward, grunting in the effort to stop it. The Death Eaters laughed harder than ever.
"Very good," said Voldemort softly, and he raised his wand letting the teenaged Harry straighten himself. "And now you face me, like a man... straightbacked and proud, the way your father died....
"And now - we duel."
Voldemort raised his wand and hit Harry again with the Cruciatus Curse. And then it stopped. Ginny was shaking now.
"A little break," said Voldemort, "a little pause ... That hurt, didn't it. Harry? You don't want me to do that again, do you?"
Harry did not answer.
"I asked you whether you want me to do that again," said Voldemort softly. "Answer me! Imperio!"
The blissful wash of nothingness reflected on Harry’s face, and then his brow furrowed and his head shook just a little. It wasn’t until Voldemort twisted his wand that Harry yelled out.
"You won't?" said Voldemort quietly, and the Death Eaters were not laughing now. "You won't say no? Harry, obedience is a virtue I need to teach you before you die.... Perhaps another little dose of pain?"
Voldemort raised his wand, but this time Harry dodged and rolled behind the marble headstone of Voldemort's father as the spell impacted on its surface.
"We are not playing hide-and-seek, Harry," said Voldemort's soft, cold voice as the Death Eaters laughed again. "You cannot hide from me. Does this mean you are tired of our duel? Does this mean that you would prefer me to finish it now, Harry? Come out, Harry ... come out and play, then ... it will be quick ... it might even be painless ... I would not know... I have never died... ."
Harry stood up and with nerves of raw steel, faced his enemy.
As Harry shouted, "Expelliarmus!" Voldemort cried, "Avada Kedavra!"
The cage of light enveloped them. Voldemort looked frightened. Next to Harry, Ginny gasped as if she hadn’t expected that. Indeed, Harry remembered that nothing had prepared him for what was happening in the memory.
"Do nothing!" Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters.
They fought the connection between the wands and then the younger Harry pushed his beam into Voldemort’s wand. Phoenix song echoed through the graveyard and as before, the older Harry felt his heart lighten.
The shadows of Cedric, Frank, Bertha, and his parents appeared. Harry took a step forward, he wanted to see their faces again...
"When the connection is broken," his mother was saying. "We will linger for only moments ... but we will give you time... you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts ... do you understand, Harry?"
"Yes," the Harry fighting Voldemort gasped.
"Harry...," whispered the figure of Cedric, "take my body back, will you? Take my body back to my parents..."
"I will," said Harry, his face screwed up with the effort of holding the wand.
"Do it now," whispered his father's voice, "be ready to run ... do it now. ..."
"NOW!" Harry yelled.
He ran through the graves.
"Stun him!" Voldemort screamed.
Harry dodged the spells and reached his wand over the gravestone he’d taken shelter behind.
"Impedimenta!" he bellowed. McNair fell.
Harry leapt up and ran, diving at the place where Cedric lay. He stretched out his hand to grab Cedric's arm…
"Stand aside! I will kill him! He is mine!" shrieked Voldemort. Harry's hand had closed on Cedric's wrist.
"Accio!" Harry yelled, pointing his wand at the Triwizard Cup. It flew into the air and soared toward him. Harry caught it by the handle -
They heard Voldemort’s scream of fury and the memory dimmed. They were pulled up and back into Ginny’s room.
Harry fell back onto Ginny’s bed and she sat beside him. "Oh, Harry," she said, her voice trembling. "You were only fourteen. How did you do it? How did you turn out to be so good?"
He shook his head. "I’m not good," he said and despite the feeling that he wasn’t worth her attention, he let her hold him.
"Yes you are," she said, suddenly fierce. "You’re the best man I know and I won’t hear of anyone saying anything different, even from you."
It wasn’t easy to hear things like that. He felt so tainted. It made what he was about to show her even harder. "You don’t know everything yet. There’s more I need to show you."
She sat up and cradled his face with her hands. "There’s nothing you’ve done that could stop me from being with you, Harry."
He reached his hands up and brought hers to his lap. "Don’t say that yet. Wait until after..."
"That memory was just a preview. Voldemort used all three Unforgiveables on me that night, so I know what each one feels like, personally."
Ginny swallowed, but didn’t say anything.
They knelt again and stared into the swirling clouds of memories. Harry brought three to the surface and blew out a breath. "Ready?"
Once more, they took their journey into Harry’s past.
The veil of the death chamber loomed before them. Harry and Ginny looked down from the top step and saw fifteen-year-old Harry being held firmly by Lupin. Neville was standing next to him apologising for the smashed prophesy. Kingsley and Bellatrix were duelling....
There was a loud bang and a yell from behind the dais. Kingsley hit the ground, yelling in pain. Bellatrix Lestrange turned and ran. Dumbledore whipped around and fired a spell at her but she deflected it.
"Harry - no!" cried Lupin, but Harry had already ripped his arm from Lupin's slackened grip.
"SHE KILLED SIRIUS!" bellowed Harry. "SHE KILLED HIM! I'LL KILL HER!"
Younger Harry scrambled after her and older Harry and Ginny followed behind. When they got to the spinning room of doors, they were gasping.
"You’re a fast runner," Ginny said, holding a stitch in her side.
Harry stared at his former self. "I was motivated."
They sprinted behind Harry, through the brain room, where they didn’t slip and slide as his memory did. They saw Ron, Hermione, and Ginny on the floor and they were suddenly at the lift, barely making it inside before the doors closed.
They burst from the lift and Bellatrix fired a spell that sent younger Harry sprawling behind the Fountain.
"Come out, come out, little Harry!" she called in her mock baby voice. "What did you come after me for, then? I thought you were here to avenge my dear cousin!"
"I am!" shouted Harry.
"Aaaaaah … did you love him, little baby Potter?"
Harry flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, "Crucio!"
Bellatrix screamed: the spell had knocked her down, but she did not writhe in agony - she was already back on her feet and no longer laughing. Harry dodged behind the golden fountain again. Her counter-spell hit the head of the wizard in the fountain, which was blown off and landed twenty feet away.
"Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?" she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. "You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain - to enjoy it - righteous anger won't hurt me for long - I'll show you how it is done, shall I? I'll give you a lesson -"
Harry was edging around the fountain on the other side when she screamed, "Crucio!" and he was forced to duck down again as the centaur’s arm, holding its bow, spun off and landed with a crash a short distance from the golden wizard's head.
"Potter, you cannot win against me!" she cried.
She was moving into a better position.
"I was and am the Dark Lord's most loyal servant. I learned the Dark Arts from him, and I know spells of such power that you, pathetic little boy, can never hope to compete…"
"Stupefy!" yelled Harry. Her response was a blur.
Now the elf’s ear went spinning across the floor.
"Potter, I'm going to give you one chance!" shouted Bellatrix. "Give me the prophecy - roll it out towards me now - and I may spare your life!"
"Well, you're going to have to kill me, because it's gone!" Harry roared and they saw him clutch his forehead. "And he knows!" said Harry, with a mad laugh that didn’t suit him. "Your dear old mate Voldemort knows it's gone! He's not going to be happy with you, is he?"
"What? What do you mean?" she cried fearfully.
"The prophecy smashed when I was trying to get Neville up the steps! What do you think Voldemort'll say about that, then?"
"LIAR!" she shrieked, but they could tell she was truly frightened. "YOU'VE GOT IT, POTTER, AND YOU WILL GIVE IT TO ME! Accio prophecy! ACCIO PROPHECY!"
Harry laughed again. He waved his empty hand from behind the one-eared goblin and withdrew it quickly as she sent another jet of green light flying at him.
"Nothing there!" he shouted. "Nothing to summon! It smashed and nobody heard what it said, tell your boss that!"
"No!" she screamed. "It isn't true, you're lying! MASTER, I TRIED, I TRIED - DO NOT PUNISH ME — "
"Don't waste your breath!" yelled Harry, and from their vantage point, Harry and Ginny saw a dark figure sweep into the Atrium. "He can't hear you from here!"
"Can't I, Potter?" said Voldemort.
"So, you smashed my prophecy?" said Voldemort softly. "No, Bella, he is not lying… I see the truth looking at me from within his worthless mind… months of preparation, months of effort… and my Death Eaters have let Harry Potter thwart me again …"
"Master, I am sorry I knew not, I was fighting the Animagus Black!" sobbed Bellatrix, flinging herself down at Voldemort's feet as he paced slowly nearer. "Master, you should know…"
"Be quiet, Bella," said Voldemort dangerously. "I shall deal with you in a moment. Do you think I have entered the Ministry of Magic to hear your snivelling apologies?"
"But Master - he is here - he is below…"
Voldemort ignored her.
"I have nothing more to say to you, Potter," he said quietly. "You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Unconsciously, Harry was sure, Ginny had gripped his arm again and was squeezing it tight.
But her fears were not realised as the headless golden statue of the wizard in the fountain had leaped from its place and landed on the floor between Harry and Voldemort. The spell merely glanced off its chest.
"What - ?" cried Voldemort, looking for what had caused the statue to move. And then he breathed, "Dumbledore!"
And he was there; standing in front of the golden gates.
They duelled and Harry was again impressed with the speed and intelligence of it. Not once did they utter the incantation of a spell. Even now, Harry didn’t think he could battle Voldemort like Dumbledore was doing now. And yet, he had been the one to defeat him, while Dumbledore had been killed by Snape and a potion.
They watched as they used stone, flame, and metal to attack and defend. Fawkes appeared and died for his master. Then Voldemort was entombed in water and seemed to flee.
"MASTER!" screamed Bellatrix.
Younger Harry made to leave, but was quelled by Dumbledore’s, "Stay where you are, Harry!"
Then the memory Harry screamed so loudly that the real Harry and Ginny covered their ears. He was writhing on the floor in a way that told them the pain he was experiencing was infinitely worse than the torture curse.
"Kill me now, Dumbledore…" said Voldemort through Harry.
The older wizard didn’t flinch.
"If death is nothing, Dumbledore, kill the boy…"
Then the Harry on the floor was released and slumped into a relaxed heap.
Dumbledore moved to him and the memory faded.
Back in Ginny’s bedroom, Harry eyed his fiancÃ©e warily. She moved to look out her window at the moonlit orchard. He wondered what she was thinking. What would she think of his using an Unforgiveable? Would she feel as he had, upset and devastated?
After a few minutes of silence, she spoke.
"What did you want me to see in that memory?" she asked. "Was it Tom or Bellatrix?"
"Bellatrix," he answered.
She was quiet again and Harry’s heart seemed to swell with anxiety.
"Why did Tom stop possessing you?" Her voice was soft and contemplative. It gave him reason to hope.
"It was when I thought about Sirius."
"Hm," she said and turned around. "And what about Sirius were you thinking?"
He reached back into the memory. "I guess... Well, I was thinking that if I had to die, at least I would be with him."
Her face froze, and then her eyes shone. "Then I stand by what I said earlier. You are good. If you weren’t good, you wouldn’t have had trouble cursing that woman." Then in an undertone she added, "Merlin knows she deserved it." Then louder, "And being good was precisely why Voldemort couldn’t stand to be inside you for very long."
There was a muffled hoot from the trees outside and a cloud slipped past the moon. Harry swallowed. "You don’t...? You’re not...?"
She approached him and took his hand. "No, Harry, I don’t, and I’m not."
"There’s more, but it’s too late to see the rest, so I’ll just tell you."
He blew out a breath. "When we were hunting down the horcruxes, we broke into Gringott’s and the Ministry." She nodded, remembering that he’d already told her part of that story. "I used the Imperious Curse on a goblin and a Death Eater."
"It was war, Harry," said Ginny reassuringly. "You did what you had to do."
"But I didn’t like it," he protested. "I don’t like that I used those curses so easily."
Ginny turned his head with her palm so that he was looking at her. "That’s why I know you won’t ever use them again and why I’m still planning on wearing my dress next week."
He stared at her in wonder and finally, after it dawned on him that she wasn’t ever going to leave him, he said, "I can live with that."
A lot of text from the relevant scenes in Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix were quoted verbatim. All of the dialog was quoted as in the books, except the dialog between the viewers in each scene. I tried to change scene descriptions and interstitial wording to my own, while staying faithful to the original.