The pair of them had moved around a while before settling down a bit in what used to be Little Hangleton. Two hundred years ago it was a sleepy little village with a run down shack and a ruined old manor house on the hill. Now, however, it was a bustling magical-muggle city called Serpent's Cove, after the legends of Salazar Slytherin's descendants settling down in the area.
Death was understandably annoyed. His Master was almost gleeful, stating, "Now you know how I felt when you insisted we live on the old Potter Cottage lot in Godric's Hollow you unfeeling bastard."
So the pair of them settled into a cottage at the edge of the city, Harry taking a perverse delight in the fact that they could see where the old Gaunt Shack used to stand.
And that year Halloween started out like any other. Harry clearing his schedule - he'd taken up teaching history at the city's secondary school more as a joke than anything truly serious - and Voldemort started his usual day of traveling around and reaping many of the souls that were due for collection that day. He'd become rather good at his job, and creative in the ways he took the souls, too. Almost as if he had been born for the line of work.
Though, having been an insane Dark Lord who killed and tortured on whim for his entire life had been great practice for where he found himself now... so perhaps he actually WAS born for that line of work. Being Death, however, he'd never really be able to test that idea given he couldn't be born in a mortal body again.
However... that Halloween may have started as any other, but it did not remain that way.
Mid-way through the day, Harry decided to go wandering around, wanting to see how much had truly changed from the days when he and the snarky bastard that had become his servant and then his bed-mate of convenience were still trying to kill one another. Morbid fascination had led him to seeking out the place the locals called the Old Haunted Cemetery. And indeed it WAS haunted by many who were buried there.
Navigating the overgrown grounds was done easily enough in the daylight, and he found himself trailing hands along crumbling headstones, loving the feel of the worn and weathered stone beneath his fingertips.
"Fancy seeing you here after all this time, Harry Potter."
He looked up to see a ghost sitting on a very familiar, though rather eroded, statue of the angel of death. "Cedric?!"
"I never did find out how the tournament went."
"I won. But..."
"You didn't want it. I know. So what did you do with the winnings then?"
"Gave it all to Fred and George. They dropped out of school part way through the next year and opened a joke shop in Diagon Alley. It's still there, too. I stop by when I can. Check up on the latest batch of the Weasley brood."
"None of your own then?"
"No. Went on a date with Cho, after... you know. She had some time to-"
"You can say it. I died. Not like I could get mad at my girlfriend for moving on now."
"Right... Well, that didn't work out anyway. Dated Ginny Weasley for a while but that didn't work out either. She dumped me for something that wasn't even my fault. We were still good friends after though so no big loss."
The ghost boy, still in his Hufflepuff colored Tri-Wizard Tournament clothes nodded, then shrugged. "Just as well. She's long dead and you're still," he said, gesturing with a ghostly hand towards the living wizard. "Not. You haven't aged a day since you died."
Harry frowned. "You can see that?"
"Oh yes. Very clearly."
Harry stayed a while longer until the sun had begun to set. It was strange, chatting with the ghost of a boy he barely had known. But also somewhat refreshing. The only person he had to talk to about the old days was Voldemort, and it wasn't always pleasant then either.
Little did he know as he bid farewell and made his way back to civilization, back to his and Death's little cottage, that the entire visit was observed by another spirit before she slipped away into the night.
Death came shambling in near dawn to find its Master sitting by the window with a hot mug of tea and a frown.
"So what world were you dragged off to tonight that's put you in such a foul mood?" His black cloak was hung on a hook by the door as his form changed to the one the Master of Death preferred to look upon. Certainly more out of habit than desire. When no answer came, he huffed in annoyance. "Well my night was fun. I spent most of it sitting with an old hag that just refused to die. She kept downing pepper up potions until finally I got sick of it and spiked one with drain cleaner."
That got a bit of a smile out of the otherwise morose immortal. "Come on, it wasn't that bad, surely."
"She was determined to beat the world record for oldest living human and didn't much care for my glare."
"You actually let her see you?"
"Sometimes I like to have a bit of fun with my victims. Especially on Halloween. It keeps me distracted while you're off playing hero one night a year." Voldemort sat down on the nearby sofa, red eyes turning towards the window seat. "You didn't end up in a world ruled by Albus again did you? You always look like that when you've had to kill him."
"I didn't get pulled anywhere this year," he said, shrugging. "Just went out for a bit, thought I'd compare the city to what the village used to look like after the war."
"Oh Sweet Circe you're feeling nostalgic again. Do not drag me back to Hogwarts or so help me I will invent a new way to try and kill you."
"I went to the cemetery, actually. Had a nice chat with Cedric." When he received no response, he sighed and set his mug on the windowsill. "Kill the spare," he quoted at him.
"Oh! That Cedric."
"Yes that Cedric you idiot," Harry said, then sighed. "He seemed rather lonely. I think I'll make a habit of visiting him from time to time. It will give me someone else to talk to when I'm feeling, as you say, nostalgic."
"Good. You know I don't enjoy your... feelings and things."
Harry smiled at him then, a genuine smile. "Then it's a good thing I feel enough for the both of us then isn't it, my dear?"
Voldemort waved a hand dismissively at him before rising from the sofa and moving towards the hallway. "Whatever you say, my lord."
In the weeks and months that followed, the Master of Death made a point of visiting Cedric at the Little Hangleton Cemetery more often. Once in a while other ghosts would come to visit with the dead teen but mostly it was just the two former Hogwarts students.
This went on for months until one day, in late May, Harry had arrived after having a rather bitter argument and a vigorous round of hate-sex after with his partner in eternal damnation, to find two women sitting at the statue with Cedric. The three of them conversing quietly, and quickly cutting themselves off when Harry approached.
"What's this then? Got yourself a couple of girlfriends, Cedric?"
"Actually Mr. Riddle-"
"Potter," Harry snapped back viciously.
The woman who had misnamed him smirked, giving him a knowing look. "To you, mayhap. But we all know better, don't we sister."
"Indeed, sister," the other woman said. "Call your servant, Master of Death. We have need of him."
"I told you he'd say that. Harry doesn't like being bossed around."
One of the women nodded. "So you did, young Mr. Diggory. So you did." She smiled softly at Harry then. "Perhaps another approach is needed here. It has been some time since we have made ourselves known to the living... or rather in your case, the near living."
"What do you want?"
"What we want is to make you an offer. An apology, if you will. For all the wrongs that have been done to you time and time again. Wrongs that, after we have taken a rather hard look at events, should never have happened in the first place."
"Harry," Cedric said. "You really should call him to you. I think, after hearing what they have to say you're both going to want to do something about it."
Harry shrugged. It wasn't like there was anything better to do and at least he had a flimsy reason to bother his bed-mate during his personal alone time. After spending a few moments with his eyes closed, concentrating on the bond Death and his Master shared, he smirked. "He'll be here shortly."
When Death had arrived, angry as an adder and looking as menacing as possible in his black robes and his hideous nose-less snake-like appearance, it was clear he wasn't at all happy about being disturbed. "You called my lord," he snarled, not bothering to give the three ghosts a second glance. Harry smiled brightly at him, quite used to the dramatics by now.
"Well, my dear," he said back, voice dripping with sarcasm. "These lovely ladies want to tell us both something and my dear friend Cedric insisted we give them the courtesy of hearing what that is."
"If he wasn't dead already I'd kill him again," Voldemort snarled at him, unaware that his attempts to be a menacing monster of death were completely failed due to the faint scent of lavender and rosemary that still clung to him. Clearly, Harry had bothered him while he was having a relaxing bath.
Once the two had ceased their squabbling and given the ghosts their attention, Cedric smiled. "Harry, Lord Voldemort," he said brightly. "I'd like you to meet my new friends. Corra and Nostiluca."
Voldemort's pale skin went utterly and completely white, so white that Harry thought he might be back in the not-quite-dead state of the White King's Cross station. "What is it?" he asked the ex-Dark Lord.
"Harry," he said, not a single trace of venom or spite in his voice for once in all their long years stuck with one another. "We are standing in the presence of the goddesses of Prophecy and Magic."
Harry's eyes narrowed as he whirled on them in anger. "So YOU are the ones I need to give a swift kick in the arse to!"
"Actually dear, that would be Death," the woman on the left said, then looked towards Voldemort. "Not you, Mr. Potter-"
"Riddle!" Harry snapped at her, the same one - Nostiluca - who had called him by the wrong name as well.
"Touchy touchy," she said back, smiling. "Fine, have it your way..." She sighed, and her sister goddess took over for her.
"He wanted a holiday and so he manipulated events to get one. Or rather, he tried and failed, which led to massive death on a scale he rarely ever likes to see. This snowballed later into what the mortals call World War Two, which shaped not one but two Dark Lords... one at the end of his reign of terror and one just finding his way..." She glanced at Voldemort. "Ultimately Chaos ended up being unleashed, and trust me when I tell you nobody likes when he comes to visit. Especially those of us who's job it is to direct and guide the fates of man.... which ultimately leads to a novice seer making a false prophecy that people believe to be true... and I think the both of you know how THAT turned out."
"It's taken us two hundred years, and admittedly kidnapping you because we knew you'd never go on with it of your own free will, to sort out the tangled web that resulted. And for your unwilling help, we're here to offer you something neither of you ever truly had to begin with."
"What's that?" Harry asked, both pissed off and curious.
"Absolute freedom to do whatever the hell you want dear child," Nostiluca said. "With a few... perks and only one real draw back."
"What's the catch?"
The two goddesses looked at one another, then to Cedric, who just nodded. The women smiled, a touch of madness in their expressions. "To keep his perks, the Dark Lord here still has to answer to you and will lose all of his hideous Horcruxes."
"Absolutely not!" Voldemort roared.
"That which is dead cannot again die, you silly boy," Nostiluca said.
Corra smiled a very cruel smile. "Besides," she said. "I really don't like it when people force children to do things against their will, whether a prophecy be true or not."
All the way back in the year 1995, in a graveyard there stood a large, bubbling cauldron. A teenage boy tied to a statue, and a rodent-like man had just cut his own arm off to drop into the cauldron.
The boy's arm was cut as he screamed. Words were incanted. A hormunculus dropped into the cauldron and once again the Dark Lord was reborn.
Or rather... that is what the rodent-man believed he saw. For when the hormunculus hit the liquid, the tatters of soul within had been released, briefly, but had nowhere to go when the cold hands of Death slipped in and another, more powerful soul slithered into place by the will of Lady Magic.
In that moment, across the island of Great Britain, objects seemed to scream out as the magic within most of them were destroyed. A black stone buried beneath the floorboards of an old shack nearby cracked and fell from the silver setting of the ring. A locket in a cabinet, hidden amongst other dark, dusty objects, rusted over and lost its golden shine. A snake slithering among the tombstones nearby twitched and writhed before coiling in on itself to rest and recuperate. A golden and jeweled cup fell over in a vault that hadn't been touched in thirteen years and a lost treasure hidden in a secret room of the most magical building in the country lost some of it's mysterious aura and glimmer.
And a boy screamed.
He screamed and he screamed as he struggled against his bonds as his head ached from the backlash of the domino effect. Of the Horcrucxes dying one by one.
But Death was kind and when it took the last piece, the last portion of this broken and mutilated soul that had eluded him for so long, he took another that had been so intimately tied to it, giving the poor child his deepest desire - to be with his parents again. Lady Magic worked her will a second time and allowed another to fill the void left behind as the serpentine Dark Lord was robed.
The boy quieted.
The Dark Lord gave his faithful servant a silver hand.
The boy stilled.
The Dark Lord stepped over the dead body of the human sacrifice that allowed a second, unknown but infinitely more important ritual to take place this night. Bare feet traversed the gravel and the grass as the white Yew wand cut the restraints.
"M m m m master?" came the stuttering voice of the cowardly rat behind him.
The boy dropped, and was caught in cold, pale arms. "Potter?" he murmured, a note of question to his low tone.
"That's my lord, to you, my dear," came the soft, mumbled reply.
When Harry Potter returned to Hogwarts with the portkey Goblet, he was understandably distressed. Two centuries worth of pretending to be people he wasn't had proved itself useful. Pettigrew had been placed under the Imperius, beating the boy black and blue but not in such a way as to grievously injured him. After all, he wouldn't be screaming that the Dark Lord Voldemort had returned this time. Just that Cedric was dead.
He evaded the press, and the false-faced professor long enough to get back to the castle. It was strange not to bump into the ghosts that now would never grace these halls. Fred, he knew, should have been up ahead. He liked to scare the firsties when they came back past curfew to Gryffindor Tower.
Lavender should be in the girl's dorm giving fashion tips to her living housemates before their dates on Hogsmede weekends.
Harry crept up to his room and threw everything into his trunk, shrinking it, and then ran.
By the time anyone caught up with him, the fake Moody was taking another swig from his flask of Polyjuice and Harry had just slammed the lid back on the now silent trunk. He hated to kill the man, but knowing the paranoid old bastard there would never have been another chance. Besides, if the plan was to work, he needed Barty alive. And Death did not like to be stiffed a soul on his balance sheets.
Later that night after the castle has been searched all that could be found was the dead body of a retired Auror. It was found in a trunk in the DADA professor's office.
Harry Potter and the impostor are missing.
The 4th year Gryffindor boys argue about Harry's missing trunk and the empty drawer of the nightstand beside his bed.
Down in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and a distrustful Barty Crouch Jr. traverse tunnels under the school, following a path once traveled by a basilisk so that she may leave the chamber to feed once every few years.
"It took you long enough to find me, my dear," he snapped in annoyance. "I can't believe I let you talk me into using the bloody tunnels."
"Would you have rather risked being spotted or tracked by that werewolf of yours?"
"You leave Remus out of this. At least he's not an uncontrollable feral monster like Greyback."
"Greyback has his uses."
"Like scaring the shit out of the Malfoys."
"And Severus as well," Voldemort said, Barty Crouch Jr. trailing along behind him still not quite sure what he was witnessing. As far as he knew, his Lord wanted to kill the Potter brat on sight. And yet here they were, conversing as if... as if they were old friends. Which was impossible because they were mortal enemies.
"I keep forgetting the dungeon bat has a severe phobia of werewolves," Harry said. "Speaking of, how do we deal with him? He's Dumbledore's man."
"With a fondness for your mother. We can use that."
"We can try but it won't work. Anything I do he doesn't like he automatically attributes to my father. And you killed her so he's not likely to switch sides back any time soon. If at all."
Barty shuffled along behind them, listening but not quite understanding what exactly was going on.
The three of them walked a while longer before finally they found what the Dark Lord and Potter were looking for.
"Finally! A bath!" Potter exclaimed as he ran ahead, disappearing into what looked to Barty to be a empty meadow. When the Dark Lord stepped through the invisible barrier, Barty hung back, a little confused before a pale white hand reached out, grabbed him by the arm, and yanked him inside the wards.
A bit of whispered parseltongue and the passage back into the forbidden forest disappeared, replaced with a high stone wall. The Dark Lord stalked onward towards a tall tower, a carved stone over the entrance bearing the Slytherin crest. "What... My Lord, where are we?"
"That is not your concern. Clean yourself up and rest. We leave in two days with or without you," the Dark Lord Voldemort called back to him.
The three spent two days in Salazar's Hideaway, a secret residence in which the ancient wizard of old had lived prior to the construction of Hogwarts. In their old lives, their old world, the pair of them had found it while traveling around and had explored its secrets. Normally Harry would have taken the tunnel from the Chamber of Secrets directly to the secret tower, but they knew the tunnel was collapsed and didn't have time to clear it away.
It could not be entered by floo because it wasn't hooked up to any other floo or to the network. Apparition was out because of the wards that extended far into the forbidden forest which bordered the property. And a portkey was also out for similar reasons. Potter and Voldemort would have survived, of course. But Barty still had his uses and Harry preferred him over Wormtail any day.
Currently Barty guarded the door to the Dark Lord's private chambers in Malfoy Manor, trying his hardest to block out the noises coming from the other side of those doors. First there had been angry shouting. Then he swore something broke. After a while there was more angry shouting, or rather, hissing, then more breaking of things inside.
He felt his arm burn quite often during the hissing and the breaking of things before the door was flung open behind him. Barty jumped out of the way just before the green light of the killing curse whizzed by, slamming into the back of Potter as he left the chamber.
"You know that doesn't work on me you nose-less git!" he snapped viciously before stalking on. "I'll see you after the meeting!"
Barty peered into the room as his lord was casting repair spells over his furniture. "My Lord?"
An angry hiss and the man went down, twitching in agony. Then he was released. "You are permanently assigned to Potter. Now leave me!"
Moments later, as Barty raced through the manor to find Potter, Lucius Malfoy hurried in the opposite direction, not even sparing him a glance as he passed on his way to his Lord's chambers.
After liberal use of the Point Me charm, Barty finally found Harry Potter again. He had hidden himself away in a part of the manor that was hardly used so as not to be spotted by the other Death Eaters milling about. Not that he could blame him - no one but himself, the Dark Lord, and that vermin Pettigrew knew of the boy's change in loyalties.
"Your Lord has decided," Potter said with a hint of anger in his voice, "That it would be best if my identity remains hidden for now. I get my own cloak and mask and everything. But until then, I'm sitting out the meetings."
"A wise idea, actually, given most of them want to kill you. I know Lucius wants to skin you alive." He winced when he realized he'd spoken out of turn.
"Don't do that. I'm not going to bleedin' torture you. Tom's the one that likes death and mayhem, not me." He sighed, took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. "When it's just us, you can speak freely, Barty. Only because aside from Remus Lupin, you're the best damn defense teacher I've had at that useless school."
"Thank you.... I guess?"
Harry nodded and put his glasses back on. "Well, until I can get into these damn meetings, you're my eyes and ears. You'll come back to me and I will look at the memory for anything important I need to see or know. Try not to get yourself under his wand and you'll be fine. Once the place has cleared out, we'll be returning to his quarters so we can go over the next step in our plans." He waved his hand towards the door. "You're dismissed."
Barty hurried to leave, but was stopped when Harry called back to him. "One more thing, Barty. Tell him not to touch my muggles. I already have plans for them."
"Yes, sure, of course."
As the summer wore on, not a peep was seen in the Prophet regarding the mysterious disappearance of The-Boy-Who-Lived.
They had decided that Malfoy Manor was the best place to hold Death Eater business, but Salazar's Hideaway was the best place to keep an eye on Dumbledore and the Order. Well... one of them.
Not that it mattered much since the Order wouldn't be able to gain as much ground as before.
In the meantime...
Barty made his way into the meeting, wearing his new uniform meant to mark him out as belonging to the mysterious hooded and masked figure standing at the Dark Lord's immediate right side and not one among the throng of Death Eaters pledged to the returned Dark Lord.
"My Lords, I've come back from the field with news."
"And this could not wait?"
"It was the task Lord Moros set, sir. The one with the whales."
Of the hooded and masked man to the Dark Lord's right, only the lower half of his face could be seen. He smiled brightly and gave a nod, stepping away and signaling Barty to follow him.
Once they were safely in an adjoining room, Harry lowered his hood. "Merlin these things are murder," he complained, then turned his attention to his personal Death Eater servant. "So, the whales?"
"I caught them both, and left the horse where she was as you ordered. Had to confound her though, and she thinks she dropped cherry pie on the carpet but... well... the big one wouldn't go quietly."
"No, I imagine he wouldn't."
"They've set a watch on your house, too. It was lucky that Mundungus Fletcher was on duty today. That blasted werewolf keeps sniffing around. He's there more than anyone."
"I know. Otherwise I'd have gone myself. Would have loved to shove those fat bastards in the cupboard under the stairs. Let them see how it feels."
"I've got them chained up at the Hideaway in the dungeons, just as you asked. Left some of those old rusty medieval torture devices we found out for them to see when they wake up, too."
"Good man. Let them piss themselves a while."
After a few minutes more, Harry pulled his hood back up, adjusted his mask, and the pair stepped back out to the meeting just as Wormtail found himself on the wrong end of a Cruciatis once again.
Barty winced right along with Pettigrew as they stood outside Lord Voldemort's chambers at Malfoy Manor. The Dark Lord and Potter had retreated inside, and were once again shouting at one another, breaking furniture.
"What do you suppose they're fighting about this time?" Barty asked.
"P-p-p-probably B-B-Bellatrix again."
The door was flung open as Lord Moros stepped out, robes askew just a little, and his mask pulled up and sitting in his black hair. "Three years, Tom! THREE YEARS!"
The two Death Eaters looked at one another, shrugging in confusion as a bright yellow hex was flung out the door towards Potter. A shield came up quickly and angry green eyes narrowed.
Now, Barty wasn't familiar with that look.
The Dark Lord was, having been on the receiving end of it many a time.
But Peter? Peter's eyes widened. He recognized immediately the anger and determination set in those green eyes. He'd seen it far too many times on Lily in school whenever a pureblood would insult her talent.
Potter's wand flew up, the room's only occupant they assumed fell, as there had been a rather loud 'thunk' after Potter flung a silent jinx and stalked back into the room. The door slammed behind him.
Barty sighed, taking a pack of cards from his pocket and gesturing to one of the decorative tables in the corridor. "Exploding Snap?" he asked the rodent.
When the shouting turned to angry hissing, Peter nodded and scurried over to play a few rounds.
When Potter emerged over an hour later, face half bruised and his robes slightly ripped, he was quite smug for a mere fourteen, almost fifteen year old teenager. "Let's see Bellatrix top that!" he tossed casually over his shoulder.
"She'll have to break out of prison first," Barty muttered after Potter had gone by. He sighed and made to follow.
Two days later, a run down shack in Little Hangleton received a red robed visitor. He quickly undid the wards, took a cracked stone and the ring it used to sit in, then replaced it with a replica.
Two weeks before September 1st, Lord Moros and his faithful servant Barty disappeared on a secret mission for the Dark Lord.
Harry Potter appeared in the Virgin Islands, sitting OWLs one week.
The second week he appeared in Canada to sit his NEWTs.
The night of September 3rd, Lord Moros and Barty had returned for a Death Eater meeting. Afterwards the Dark Lord informed Lucius Malfoy and his wife that they were to accompany himself and Lord Moros to their stronghold for dinner.
That night, Harry sat in the dungeon, off to one side, reading a muggle book while the Dark Lord and Lucius Malfoy had a bit of fun with the whales.
Narcissa found the library of Salazar Slytherin to be very interesting. Barty was just thankful that his lords didn't need him, and had busied himself higher up in the tower with paperwork.
The day Harry received his OWLs and NEWTs scores, he and Voldemort celebrated by breaking Death Eaters and other nasty criminals out of Azkaban.
It wasn't that difficult, considering the Dementors wouldn't go near the boy now. Now that they could smell the power of Death on him.
Of course, no one knew Harry Potter was there and part of the raid. The Savior would never do such a thing...
Though there was a question about the two strange red robed Death Eaters that had been spotted from time to time during raids over the summer...
"All the Weasley family except Percy. Also Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Neville Longbottom, and Hermione Granger."
"Why not Percival? He's high enough in the Ministry to be useful."
Harry rolled his eyes and turned to the Dark Lord with a frown. "He's a prick."
"A prick he may be, but a useful prick."
"You're a useful prick," Harry said back, glaring. "Percy can die. Be tortured. Whatever I don't care. Hell, hand him over to Malfoy if you like. Let him be a new test subject. But everyone else gets to live. Is that clear, my dear," he said coldly.
Lord Voldemort hated when Harry took that tone with him. Granted, he didn't do it as often as he used to back before they had accepted the boon from the two goddesses who felt guilty for all they'd done to both himself and Harry. But he still didn't like it. "Of course, my lord," he ground out in reply.
Halloween was spent in the Lords' Chambers of Salazar's Hideaway. Both Harry and Voldemort had ensured there would be no meetings, no important things to deal with, nothing.
Absolutely nothing to distract them.
As had been the habit for quite some many years now.
After Halloween had passed and November 1st arrived, both men sighed in relief.
The goddesses had been true to their word. No more dragging Harry around from universe to universe to solve everyone else's Dark Lord problems.
Neither would admit it, of course, but they were quite glad to finally pass out next to each other in the wee hours before dawn.
The evening before the students left for Winter Break Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge disappeared. Though no one knew she had disappeared. The woman was presiding over the mass detention that evening, having all of the students sitting and writing lines with Blood Quills. Unknown to all, their perceptions had been modified with a handy little spell found in the library at Salazar's Hideaway. They only perceived pain when in fact the quills weren't drawing their bloody ink from the students. Instead they drew their ink from a large toad bound and gagged in a trunk in her own office.
Her body was found on Boxing Day in the Ministry of Magic's atrium clad in nothing but a pair of neon pink knickers and a Santa hat. All over her body, in a vast array of handwriting, were little phrases.
I will not speak unless spoken to.
I will not tell lies.
I will not stay out after curfew.
I will not tell lies.
I will turn all assignments in on time.
I will not tell lies.
I will not argue with the professor.
I will not tell lies.
I will not arrive late for class without a note.
I will not tell lies.
I will not disobey Professor Umbridge.
I will not tell lies.
Harry had hidden off to the side beneath his invisibility cloak to watch the horror unfold when the body was discovered. He wasn't one for murder and torture, at least not needlessly. But even the Master of Death was allowed to indulge from time to time.
Besides, this bitch earned every line.
The Daily Prophet published an expose on Harry Potter and Dumbledore.
It was all lies.
On New Years Eve, Harry gave Lord Voldemort a chocolate cupcake with a single birthday candle sticking out of it.
"I couldn't fit all of them on otherwise I'd set the tower on fire."
Red eyes rolled before he blew out the candle and went back to his book. Harry set the saucer with the cupcake down and added a bottle of firewhisky. "Happy birthday, my dear," he said, his tone lacking any hint of his usual snark.
Voldemort gave a small nod of acknowledgment. "Happy New Year, my lord," he replied in kind.
Auror Shacklebolt was hired on to replace Umbridge.
The wards on one of the old Horcrux hiding places started to show signs of life.
No longer needing the tainted things, Lord Voldemort was rather glad he'd sent Harry out to fetch the remains of the ring. Since the stone belonged to the Master of Death, it wasn't like he could properly use it anyway.
But it was amusing leaving the other objects in place, just in case. The wild goose chase should prove entertaining at least.
"Hey, do you really want to unhinge some people?" Harry had asked him out of the blue the day after Hogwarts released her students upon the world for the summer.
"You seem to have developed a rather devious mischief streak since you killed the pink toad."
"Come on.... you know you want to hear it, Tom. You love making chaos everywhere you go."
The older wizard had to admit, he had missed his days spent as Death. Setting up elaborate chains of events just to kill as many people as possible in one fell swoop. Or to finally catch a very slippery soul. The chaos that always resulted just felt so right in the darkest pit of his black, withered soul. "Alright, Harry. What is this grand scheme of yours?"
"You lift the curse on the DADA position at the school."
"Trust me. Seeing Auror Shacklebolt there at the start of term feast is going to really freak everyone out."
"No. You cannot guarantee that the man will not return to his job at the DMLE."
"What if I cursed it after you lift yours? Curse it with unbelievably good luck but only while the person is working in that job. Of course, Kingsley is probably going to have to meet a severe injury that will take him out of the field..."
Lord Voldemort thought it over a moment. Even if they lost the war, it wasn't like he could die anyway. He was bound to the Master of Death because of the blood taken from him in the ritual. And since the Master of Death could never die... He waved a hand dismissively. "Alright fine. But you have to severely cripple the Auror first. And you can only use Pettigrew and Barty. No one else can help you."
Harry beamed brightly. "Thank you, my dear."
"Think nothing of it, my lord."
Neither would comment that their words of endearment lacked any snark.
Bellatrix Lestrange did not like this self-important, filthy, blood traitor Lord Moros.
Then again, Bellatrix Lestrange didn't like a lot of people. She barely tolerated her husband and his brother, if only because they were nearly as mad as she was.
Not that she thought she was mad. Far from it. She was the sanest person she knew.
But Lord Moros and that backstabbing daddy's boy Crouch needed to die so that she may show her Lord how they did not belong in his magnificent presence.
Voldemort had to admit, Harry could be ruthless and efficient when necessary.
Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt was gravely injured in a raid in Knockturn Alley. The Daily Prophet reported that the raid had taken place at a Vampire bar known for illegally selling squib children as food.
On July 30th, something unprecedented happened. The curse on the DADA position was lifted.
On July 31st, Severus Snape confirmed for Lord Voldemort the appointment of Auror Shacklebolt once again at Hogwarts, much to his own displeasure, as the DADA professor.
After the meeting, of which Harry had not attended since it was his birthday and he preferred to be off doing more enjoyable things, the Dark Lord relayed the news over dinner.
"Happy Birthday, my lord," he said.
Harry set the report aside and picked up his fork with a wide grin. "Thank you, my dear."
Lord Moros and Lord Voldemort visited Horace Slughorn on August first.
By the time Albus Dumbledore eventually went to pay the man a visit, the doddering old retired potions professor had no clue what his old friend and former colleague was talking about.
But since Albus was there to visit why didn't he stop for a spot of tea and catch up on old times.
Lord Moros had been watching from afar, reading a knitting magazine he'd stolen from the loo of Slughorn's current borrowed residence, as he waited for Albus to leave empty handed.
"Serves you right you old buzzard."
Harry Potter was seen for the first time in over a year in Diagon Alley on August 28th looking rather well and sane, hanging off the arm of a handsome older man as they left Gringotts for a day of shopping and entertainment.
Flashbulbs went off and photos were taken.
Cute little quips and sound-bytes scribbled with Quick Quotes Quills and laughs by all.
When asked about Hogwarts, he'd told them the truth. He had taken the tests he needed already and had no need to return to the school. And if they didn't like it, his NEWTs were on file at the Ministry, where they had been for a year.
Witch Weekly asked after the man on his arm, and before Harry could say anything Death Eaters attacked the alley.
More photos from suicidal journalists were taken. Flashbulbs going off to catch pictures of the brave and heroic Boy Who Lived and his companion fending off the dastardly Death Eaters and protecting the innocent bystanders doing last minute shopping for school.
At least, that's how The Daily Prophet framed it.
Barty recounted the harrowing tale over dinner with his Lords later that evening. All at the table took great pleasure in the fact that Harry had turned Bellatrix, the most fearsome and ferocious Death Eater of the lot, into a lavender miniature poodle. He had never in his life, during his service to Lord Voldemort, heard the man laugh.
It was a disturbing sound that will forever haunt Barty's nightmares.
"Well, I always told you she was a bitch," Harry said when the laughter died down, causing the Dark Lord to start up all over again.
They spent Halloween in Little Hangleton, right under the nose of some Order members that were patrolling the area under the false belief that because of it's ties to the Dark Lord's past, he might be in the area.
Well, he was, but not for the reasons they'd assumed.
It helped that he and Harry were wearing heavy glamours to look entirely different. They visited the ghost of Cedric Diggory, with Harry apologizing to him for his death. By the time Voldemort came to collect him, the old-young man was openly sobbing for the first time in a century.
They had dinner at a little muggle restaurant before returning home to Salazar's Hideaway. They sat in the study, a fire burning in the hearth and Harry laying stretched out across the sofa with his head in the Dark Lord's lap. Spindly fingers combing through his wild black hair while the other hand was otherwise occupied with a book.
"Happy anniversary Tom," Harry mumbled sleepily as he started to doze.
Red eyes glanced down at the head in his lap. "And you, Harry," he mumbled softly in reply.
"I killed Sirius Black! I killed Sirius Black!"
Her voice bounced off the walls of the ancient castle as she ran, Lord Moros on her heels roaring in anger and the Order not far behind him. "I'll fucking gut you!"
"My lord, there's no time for petty squabbles!" came a voice from his left. A black robe - one of Voldemort's men.
He ducked into a passage hidden behind a tapestry, pulling two Death Eaters with him. "Which ones are you?" he hissed as the Order ran past in pursuit of Bellatrix.
"Carrow. Alecto Carrow," one said as the other answered, "Bulstrode."
"Carrow, circle back and get the body of Sirius Black. Take it to the rendezvous."
"Trust me. Just do it. Go!" he barked angrily, hand twitching. Itching for his holly wand but having to settle for the walnut one he found in the Potter vault last summer. It worked for him, but wasn't.... the right fit. The holly one wasn't either, not really. But it worked better than the walnut.
But everyone knew Harry Potter's wand. And he couldn't risk it, not here in Hogwarts. Not yet.
Carrow checked that the coast was clear before ducking out. "Bulstrode, with me. Astronomy tower."
They were too late. Albus had fallen to his death. The hand that had appeared withered all year long was no longer withered. The illusion designed to alter the man's perceptions and caused by the false horcrux now gone.
Harry looked around at the chaos. He ordered Bulstrode to keep watch, but not to look at his face. Harry ripped off his mask and transfigured his robe to normal muggle clothes before placing a hand on the old man's chest.
A few rounds of brief chanting later the old man was gasping for breath. Unable to move, his spine broken in his fall, blue eyes stared up at the face of Harry Potter.
"This won't last long. Who disarmed you in the tower?"
"The wand, professor! Who disarmed you? I can't let Voldemort get his hands on it!"
The moment he got a name he removed his hand and returned his robes to normal. He summoned his mask and, as the light died in the blue eyes again, he made sure Albus Dumbledore's last sight was Harry Potter putting on his beautiful Death Eater mask, bejeweled unlike all others, with a visage resembling a stag.
Unknown to Lord Moros, however, angry amber eyes were watching from the base of the tower as the teenage Lord commanded his Death Eater companion to follow as they left the body of the headmaster where he lay.
No one in the meeting hall at Malfoy Manor expected Lord Moros to burst through the doors in a rage. Especially after the successful storming of Hogwarts and the death of the Lord of the Light.
It was also the first time any of them, save Barty, Lucius, Peter Pettigrew, and now Alecto Carrow and Bulstrode, had heard the red robed lord's voice.
Celebrations ceased as the stag masked lord stormed through the chamber. The collective felt the very air begin to tingle as magic, wild and free, crackled in the air.
She opened her mouth when she saw him, but a holly and phoenix feather wand was pulled out and a silent cruciatis lit the tip of it as the most loyal and devoted Death Eater fell to the floor screaming.
The torture was released after a solid three minutes and the mask was ripped away, thrown haphazardly as green eyes bore into the cackling woman.
"Look at me," Harry commanded her.
She laughed. "Wittle Potty gonna cry now?" she spat out without looking at him. "Potty gonna cry over-"
"LOOK AT ME YOU DISEASED CUNT!" He cast the cruciatis again and held it one minute longer. When he released it, she was still twitching. Still laughing.
No one said a word as she staggered to her feet only to drop down again, pressing her cheek to the cold floor as those around him drop to their knees.
Harry snarled, hand clenched tight around his wand as he turned to see Lord Voldemort watching him curiously from his throne. "Lord Moros," he said simply.
"Lord Voldemort," Harry said back, biting back his anger for the moment. "Control your pets or they will be taken away." The threat was very clear in his tone, and he didn't care who heard it.
Lord Voldemort considered the threat a moment, looking past Harry to Bellatrix laying flat against the floor. "A treasured pet for a treasured pet," he said in calm response. "I have no use for a wild bitch that cannot be trained."
Harry gave a slight nod. "Severus. Barty. Pick up the dog and bring it to the parlor," he said, reaching out to wandlessly summon his mask to him. As he passed the throne, his words were low and soft so that only the Dark Lord could hear. "Thank you, my dear."
Voldemort closed his eyes and gave a small nod of the head as the only indication that he had been heard.
Once Snape and Barty dragged a petrified Bellatrix out of the door, pandemonium broke out in the meeting hall as the realization sunk in that the deadly, menacing, and downright frightening Lord Moros was actually The-Boy-Who-Lived the entire time.
In the parlor, however, was a different story. The moment those doors shut, Harry pushed off the wall where he'd been leaning, staring down into the stag mask before setting it aside and moving swiftly to join them. He reached down and grabbed a fist full of ratty black hair, wrapping it tightly around his hand. He ignored Snape and gave his attention to Barty. "Do you know where Carrow put him?"
"Lord Voldemort's private chambers, my lord."
"Bring him home to me. Before I make the exchange I'm going to make this bitch sing," he said, yanking her hair and jerking her head rather hard. "Be sure to set up the ritual chamber for when I'm ready."
"Of course, my lord," he said before Harry hissed, activating the portkey on his wrist, dragging Bellatrix along with him.
Snape felt his gut twist as horror took hold of him, truly took hold, for the first time since Lily was killed.
Sirius Black mysteriously appeared in the Hogwarts hospital wing two weeks after the murder of Headmaster Dumbledore.
He had no memory of how he got there. No memory of anything that had happened during or after the attack, really. He just remembered being very cold. And it was very dark.
Remus could smell it on him though. The cloying scent of death mingled with the faint scent of his cub.
The mutilated body of Bellatrix Lestrange appeared on a spike in the middle of Hogsmede the same day her cousin woke up with his best friend beside his bed at the castle.
Meanwhile, Barty Crouch Jr. stood at the top of the tower, a pair of muggle binoculars in his hand as his lords stood nearby, waiting for their turns. His eyes were turned towards Hogsmede, to the bloody spike with the witch impaled on it. "Remind me never to get on your bad side."
Harry smirked, glancing at Voldemort and making sure to speak in parseltongue to keep his personal minion from learning anything of use to use against them later. ~I did something similar to Albus Dumbledore in the world where he'd murdered that world's Neville Longbottom after mistaking him for the Chosen One.~
~Longbottom? A hero?~
~Need I remind you of Nagini and a certain sword of Gryffindor?~
~A stroke of luck, nothing more.~
"Oh oh! The aurors just showed up!" Barty exclaimed, offering Lord Voldemort the binoculars.
A smile spread across the Dark Lord's lips as he watched aurors attempt to take down the body and clean up the mess only to be jinxed each time they tried.
"I thought you said you don't like killing and all that," Barty said.
"I don't. I hate it. But she really pissed me off."
~Your work is exquisite, my lord. You should get worked up like that more often.~
~And I will the very next time one of your rabid dogs attacks one of the people on my protected list, my dear.~
Remus had smelled them before the doors had opened to allow them in.
The familiar scent of his cub filled his nostrils when Harry had run past him to throw himself at the man in the infirmary bed. But the smell of death clung to him like a slimy film.
"Sirius thank Merlin you're alright. When i heard about the attack I..."
"He was mad with worry and grief."
Remus nearly growled when he caught a whiff of a very familiar scent. One that he would never forget for as long as he lived. Harry, oblivious to the others, hugged his godfather, pulling back only to wipe at his eyes with the sleeve of his robes.
"And you are?"
Harry finally looked at Remus and gave a weak smile, then reached over for the man stepping closer to the bed, sliding a hand into the man's. "This is Antony. We met while I training in Canada. And I know I shouldn't have run away and you can both yell at me about it later but after Cedric I- I couldn't- And then when- when I heard about the headmaster and you and..."
Nearly two hundred years of pretending to be someone else often came in handy. The hand in his retreated only to offer some tissue. Firm hands came to rest on Harry's shoulders, giving a gentle squeeze.
Voldemort wasn't exactly thrilled with being there, and would have preferred it if Barty had taken the disguise this time. Unfortunately the man was so magically exhausted after helping Harry in the dungeon and then again with his negotiating with Death itself - a soul for a soul and a bit of threats from both sides - he couldn't very well order Pettigrew or Lucius to do it.
So he endured.
Even if he didn't like the glare coming his way from the werewolf sitting at the dog's bedside.
"So what's up with you and the Dark Lord?"
It was so out of the blue Harry nearly choked on air as they looked through shelves of potions ingredients. "You're lucky we're in Romania right now and not back in Knockturn."
"Why do you think I waited until we got so bloody far away before bringing it up."
"It's a long story."
"Can you shorten it?"
"I suppose," Harry said, picking up a jar of pickled Odom dragon kidneys. He put it in the basket and moved on. "You know half of it already. Man hears prophecy. Man seeks out prophecy child and gets himself killed by said child's mother's sacrifice. Child grows up abused. Kills one of his teachers at age eleven. Fights a basilisk at 12. Helps rescue an escaped convict at 13. Unwillingly helps the Dark Lord get a body and watch as another kid gets killed at 14."
"Yeah, then you run off with the Dark Lord and start shagging like angry fucking rabbits."
Harry stopped to look at a jar of powdered hippogriff talons. He hummed. "Wasn't always like that though. You were meant to die that night. It's why I killed Moody. Well... one of the reasons. Death's balance sheet has to stay the same. But I can play around with what names end up on it."
"So you're a secret necromancy prodigy or somethin?"
"You could say that," Harry said. "Anyway, you die. I go on back to my asshole relatives. The Whales, you see. I was meant to get attacked by Dementors, but the buggers want nothing to do with me now. Umbridge was supposed to teach and terrorize me, but without me there she couldn't. At least, not to me. Got her back in the end though."
Barty listened to his lord's mad ramblings as they continued looking around the shop. He started paying attention again when Harry reached the part about purgatory and evil fetuses. Fetusi... Barty briefly frowned as he thought what the plural for that should be before he shook the thought out.
"You offered him a job?"
"Of course I did. You do know what his name means, right? Flight from Death. The man's scared to death of, well, Death. So like the brilliant idiot he is he split his soul numerous times, losing more and more of his sanity as he kept carving away at the bloody thing like it was a hunk of Easter ham." Harry waved his hand towards a shelf of herbs. "I need more blood thistle, belladonna, and that purple one that always makes Greyback gag. You know the one," he said. "Now where was I... Right. So because eight soul shards refused to admit they died and move on peacefully, Death fucking quit. Like how does that even work? Since Death quit I kind of needed a replacement as soon as possible so of course Snakeface jumped at the chance to never die because you can't actually kill Death itself..."
Barty found the purple herb and added four jars of the stuff to the rest and shook his head as his lord kept rambling on.
"Wait a minute," Barty said, interrupting him again. "You, The-Brat-That-Wouldn't-Fucking-Die is the Dark Lord's master?"
Harry shrugged. "Well, yeah, technically. Though we let his pets believe I'm only his sort-of equal."
"So that's why he let you have Bella without a fight."
"He knew I'd take her from him anyway," Harry said with a shrug. "Come on, let's get this paid for. I need to stop in with some hags and haggle over thumbs before we head back."
"Severus hasn't been answering his summons, My Lords," Lucius said.
Harry glanced at the man on the throne to his left. "I told you he was Dumbledore's man."
"So you did."
"He's likely already reported back that I am Lord Moros."
"Perhaps," Voldemort said. "Is he one you would like to show special attention to, Moros?"
"I hadn't planned on it, no. I would prefer that he remain until the final battle. Let him live and watch knowing that it was his words to you about the prophecy that started these events. By now he's likely told them about Bellatrix's fate. Let them stew with what they think they know conflicting with what they've been told."
By the end of the day Harry and Voldemort had plans for the Ministry set. Now all that remained was to give Harry some plausible deniability...
Harry spent the entire week of his birthday highly visible to the magical world with "Antony". He was photographed going out and about in Edinburgh’s magical district. Shopping in Diagon, and even having lunch with the younger Weasleys in public, regaling them with tales of his travels and training to fight You-Know-Who.
Ginny didn't exactly care much for "Antony", but held her tongue to keep from causing a scene with reporters lurking around every corner.
All of that to culminate in his birthday where, as The Daily Prophet would later claim, with photographic evidence even, the brave young hero Harry Potter and his handsome companion Antony Cesaro of Montreal Canada were set upon by Death Eaters while enjoying a romantic dinner in a high end muggle restaurant near the Ministry of Magic.
Unfortunately, Antony lost his life in the attack. The photo the Prophet ended up using was of a bruised and battered Harry, face streaked with blood and his clothes ripped to hell and his dead boyfriend's head cradled in his lap.
It painted a beautifully tragic scene for the masses.
In the relative safety of Grimmauld Place though, a werewolf and a potion master didn't believe a word of it.
Later that night Harry returned to find a package wrapped up for him in the Dark Lord's private chambers at Malfoy Manor with a small note written in parsel.
~Happy birthday, my lord.~
Harry opened it and was pleasantly surprised to find a Time Turner inside.
After the fall of the ministry, the Light rallied around Harry as he "fought" against the Death Eaters and led open rebellion. He was careful not to be left alone with members of the Order and made no secret that he based himself at Hogwarts while that evil Dark Lord Voldemort's power base was clearly at Malfoy Manor and the Ministry of Magic.
It helped that after Voldemort's forces took the ministry Harry had been gifted a time turner. It made things easier for the ruthless and deadly Lord Moros to take the battlefield when Harry was fighting elsewhere. Once in a while Harry risked crossing wands with himself just to see what happened when he crossed his own timeline.
For six months Harry left on a "quest" with his friends, seeking out the Horcruxes, spinning the now false tale that if they managed to destroy all of them, Voldemort would become mortal again and they could finally kill him.
This time Ron didn't run off and abandon them. Because the rusted necklace wasn't a soul shard anymore.
It was fun, actually, though Harry didn't outwardly show it.
His cover was nearly blown by a stupid snatcher when they were captured and dragged to Malfoy Manor. Though later when Pettigrew helped them to "escape" so that he could pay his life debt to Harry back, he and his friends were somehow separated from one another.
Ron and Hermione managed to get away with a few other prisoners.
Unfortunately Harry Potter had sacrificed his freedom so that his friends could escape.
In reality he was holed up in one of the many private suites of the manor, taking a long, much needed soak in the bath.
A rescue attempt was made to save Harry from the Dark Lord and Lucius Malfoy's dungeons.
Fenrir decided to ignore the Dark Lord's edict that certain individuals were not to be harmed in this war when he broke the neck of Remus Lupin during the rescue attempt.
Once again, before the entirety of the Death Eater collective, Lord Moros demanded payment. A wolf for a wolf.
Remus Lupin had no idea how he ended up waking in the Hogwarts infirmary, a battered and beaten Harry Potter a few cots down from him.
The body of Fenrir Greyback was found in pieces in the middle of Hogsmede in similar fashion to that of Bellatrix.
The slimy, filthy scent of death clung to the young man a few beds down.
Once Harry was allowed out of the infirmary by Madame Pomfrey, he disappeared from the school.
Remus followed his nose but was unable to follow beyond the second floor girl's bathroom, the trail stopping at the sinks.
During the assault on a Order safe-house in the West Country, a Weasley twin was injured. George was assumed dead for a week before mysteriously appearing in St. Mungoes with only minor injuries. Namely, missing an ear.
The body of Peter Pettigrew arrived around the same time to Number 12 with a parchment pinned to it, the rat stabbed in the heart to hold the paper in place.
An official pardon for Sirius Black in light of new evidence presented to the sham government.
George had no idea where he had been during his time missing. After a whiff of the air around him though, Remus had a pretty good idea of who he'd been with.
They had tried to avoid it, but the Battle of Hogwarts happened anyway.
Harry and Voldemort traded deadly spells and curses that to all others looked like amazing and impossible feats of magic and battle. To them, it was just playful foreplay.
Barty could attest to that, having had to stand guard outside Voldemort's chambers at Malfoy Manor more than he'd have liked.
The battle was over at dawn when, as the sun rose, the two most powerful wizards alive crossed wands once more. The deadly green of a killing curse matched with a simple wordless disarming spell. Green against red. Pushing more and more until finally-
Harry Potter slumped to the ground, wand falling out of his hand as blood seeped out around the knife in his chest. Angry green eyes glaring at the man in the red robes with the stag mask, standing at the Dark Lord's side.
The survivors of the Light were rounded up and locked in the dungeons.
The black throne from Malfoy Manor was brought to Hogwarts and placed in the great hall where the head table would normally go.
"Leave us," Lord Voldemort ordered his followers after they had drug the last of the dead from the room. Moros dismissed Barty, instructing him to fetch the corpse of Potter and take it to the Lords' chambers at the Hideaway.
Once alone, Lord Moros pressed a hand to his chest with a wince. "Still a bit sore."
"I told you not to coat the thing in basilisk venom."
"So you did. But I wanted to see what would happen. It's not every day you can kill yourself, you know."
"And what did you learn from this experience, my lord?"
"Basilisk venom takes a long time to purge from the bloodstream, my dear. Plus, I had to make sure I stayed dead long enough to be believable."
Eight years after the Battle of Hogwarts and the Fall of the Light, a small cemetery in Little Whinging held a small gathering of mourners.
There weren't many. Just a few from her bridge club and some from her quilting circle. And the Privet Drive Garden Committee.
Out of respect for the deceased personal beliefs the casket was lowered into the ground by hand using ropes and pulleys - the old muggle way - rather than the convenient use of magic.
Some would call her bigoted, especially now that the country was rebuilding from the magical-muggle war in which the muggles of Great Britain certainly lost. Most opted for old fashioned.
So it was rather much a surprise that some gentlemen standing in the back of the small crowd were wearing wizard's robes when others, certain guests noticed, remained at a distance.
The men in the back remained silent throughout the small muggle ceremony. And they remained in their places as the muggles dispersed back to their jobs or homes. Eventually, the figures did move. One of them standing guard as the other removed something from his robes. Bare hands dug into the fresh earth before sprinkling the ground with something that, from the distance Remus Lupin watched from, couldn't clearly see what it was.
Then, a few passes of a hand over the dirt and a small sprinkling of water. Green sprouts followed by longer stalks and blooming flowers. Petunias in various colors. And then, the men were gone. The flowers the only sign they had even been.
Life for muggles and magicals under the rule of the Dark Lord was, surprisingly to all, quite prosperous and peaceful as long as you followed the law. Magic was no longer hidden in the British Isles. Ireland and Northern Ireland were now just one big Ireland again and part of the kingdom which had, in it's own strange way, been rebuilt to resemble something of a more medieval sort of government.
The Dark Lord sat at the top, ruler and king of all who sat on his throne in the Scottish highlands at the castle known as Hogwarts. The kingdom was divided into fourths, each region controlled by a governor who reported directly to the Dark Lord himself.
The islands had become isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Massive wards were created to block out those who were not given explicit permission to enter the country.
Harry and Voldemort had been content with stopping at just the United Kingdom. Their own piece of hard won freedom. But the rise of the Dark had lit a fire of rebellion across Europe. Those with magic yearned to leave the shadows to which they had been banished. They longed to be free to walk among the muggles without hiding what made them who they were.
And so it was that as peace reigned in the United Kingdom and the Dark Lord Voldemort sat upon his throne at court, Lord Moros and his forces went to aid any of their foreign allies. The Red Doom, many had called them. Rumors of Harry being anything from a demon from the pits of hell to a deformed deer-man hybrid (hence the stag mask) always accompanied word of the devastation left behind.
It had taken just over three years of non-stop fighting. He had died many times in battle and each time his mind returned to that moment in the graveyard. The smiling faces of the goddesses beaming as Death and his Master spent all night excitedly planning their future and plotting out the course they would take. The only thing that had been asked of them in return had been something both men were more than happy to try and give. For in the end, it would also save all of their own kind.
With each new breath as he woke up and went right back into battle, he was reminded of why he was fighting. The one thing he and Voldemort wholly agreed on because it had affected them both so strongly....
Magic must be out in the open. It must become accepted by the masses. Otherwise... well... Harry and Tom were two prime examples of what happens when the wrong sort of muggles end up raising magical children on top of not having any knowledge of the world they belong to.
But after a little over three years, the contingent of fighters - magical and muggle alike - that followed Lord Moros across the continent and from one ocean to the next, followed him across the channel and into the heart of the Magical Kingdom of Britannia.
As Lord Moros rode upon the back of a hippogriff, up the winding path to the castle where he had always felt at home, he couldn't help but smile beneath his mask. No longer that elegant jeweled one he had worn to indicate his higher worth among the Death Eaters, but rather a more fitted silver affair that had been molded and sculpted for his face. Intricate designs carved into the surface and the two small horns jutting out from the top front. If they were not obviously meant to resemble a small set of deer antlers, one might look upon him as he rode by and called him the devil.
Certainly at times he felt like it. He leaned forward and patted the feathers of the hippogriff beneath him as the castle now loomed ahead. His red cloak hardly enough to keep him warm in the colder Scotland climate. Especially when he was used to fighting in warmer terrain of late.
Guards met him at the gate, and to prove his identity he pulled the broken jeweled mask from the folds of his battle robes. "Send word that Lord Moros has returned home," he said, offering the mask to send ahead as proof.
By the time he had made it to the large doors of the entrance hall, he was hurried through by a messenger sent out from the Dark Lord, who had been holding council at the time. When he was brought before the throne, the messenger went down to his knees, but Harry would not.
The Dark Lord sat on his black throne, holding the two pieces of the jeweled mask he had personally commissioned for Potter at the start of their crusade so long ago. And now he stood, the molded metal hiding but not hiding his identity. Those who knew Potter in life, truly knew what he looked like, would know the shape of that mask he now wore. Would know the piercing green eyes that gazed out from the dark depths of it. "Welcome home, Lord Moros," he said simply and stood, leaving the broken mask on the seat of his throne. "Council, you are dismissed. Moros, walk with me."
Voldemort led him through what was once the staff entrance to the Great Hall. Now, it was merely another passage out of the Dark Lord's throne room. After a bit of walking, Voldemort finally spoke again.
"I see you lack your usual shadow. Where is Barty? Recuperating with your troops in Hogsmede?"
"Dead," Harry replied as they came to a staircase leading down to the dungeons. "He was taken down in Japan by the dumbest of things."
Harry nodded. "Badly cut puffer fish."
"He couldn't even die like a proper wizard."
"No. But I imagine like you, Death sometimes likes to have a little fun with their victims. Admittedly, I think the poison was meant for me, not that it would do any good."
"Where are we going? The entrance to the Chamber is in the other direction and your offices are still up in the Astronomy tower, right?"
"You will see."
Deeper and deeper into the castle they went. Torches flaring to life as they passed. Eventually they stopped, coming upon a door guarded by two Dementors. Curious, Harry shooed them away and went to the door, finding a small window in it just large enough to peer inside.
"Oh.... I was not expecting that," Harry said as he looked inside.
"He was caught last May attempting to incite rebellion. The London Police lost half a precinct and it took eight of my Aurors to subdue him."
"Why wasn't he executed?"
"Adviser Lovegood said you would be returning later in the year. I thought perhaps you may like the honors of dealing with the problem yourself." Voldemort pressed his hand to the door, pushing his magic into the wards and undoing them. The door swung inward.
"It seems I was not the only one who feared Death. His horcrux was right under everyone's nose. Amusing, really, when I stop to think about it."
Harry conjured a table and a few more torches to better illuminate the cell and the old, half-starved wizard chained to the wall. "Really? What object did he use?" he asked in a conversational tone as he removed his outer cloak and placing it on the table. "I do have to admit I'm not at all surprised considering the worlds I've seen... I'm more disappointed."
"The bowl he kept his lemon drops in," Voldemort said with a smirk. "Thankfully where we came from Severus had enough sense to smash the damn thing, unlike Minerva who gave it away."
Harry canceled the sticking charm that kept his mask in place and set it on the table beside his cloak.
"If you want to hear it sing, remove the silencing charms we had to put on it. I didn't want to risk it influencing the house elves again after an escape attempt in July."
"Leave us," Harry commanded.
Voldemort rolled his red eyes. "I've keyed you into the wards on the cell. Only you and I can enter here."
Harry nodded and pulled his wand from the holster up the sleeve of his robes with a sickeningly sweet smile.
"Oh and Harry," the Dark Lord said casually as the old man lifted his head to stare at his two captors - the Dark Lords of his own making.
"Happy Anniversary, my lord. Enjoy your gift."
"Thank you, my dear," the green eyed devil replied fondly as the cell door closed behind him. He turned his full attention to his so-called gift. "Before we begin, I'm going to lift the silencing charms and you will have the privilege of asking one question, and one question only. I will do you the respect you never showed me by answering honestly and truthfully."
With a flick of his wand, the charms were broken and the old man's mouth opened but no sound came out. Not immediately. His throat, perhaps, still raw from the pointless, soundless screaming. Or perhaps rusty with disuse.
"I'm waiting. But I want to remind you, sir, that my patience has always been rather thin and my fuse very short."
Ancient blue eyes searched the still youthful face of his once pupil. Seeking out any hint or clue that there may still be goodness, still a spark of Light in the boy he had once hoped would save them all. "Why?" he asked, voice raspy in his dry mouth. "Why Harry?"
Angry green eyes blazed, but his hard expression softened as he raised the Elder Wand. "You sent me away with hateful, abusive muggles so you could mold me as you wished. I am a weapon of war just as you wanted, Albus," he said. "And everything I have done has been for the Greater Good." The wand movement was too fast, too fluid and familiar as the hateful word rolled so easily off the tongue. Spoken not in disgust nor hate, but with a seductive sort of reverence. "Crucio."
Blue eyes widened in fear seconds before the spasms hit and Albus Dumbledore witnessed firsthand a power he had known not. The power that belonged to the Master of Death.
It was a pretty tall order.
How the hell were they supposed to do something like that?
They had one week to decide. One week before the date and events could perfectly align and Nostiluca - Lady Magic Herself - could weave her spells and set them free.
Harry took his glasses off and laid them on the desk next to the stack of essays he was grading during his lunch break.
"Oh this one's quite good."
He looked up and reached for his glasses. Sliding them onto his face the dirty blond hair came into focus. "Can I help you?"
The man smiled kindly down at him before offering his hand. "Edwin," he said. "Edwin Scarmander."
Harry stared at him, then his hand, then him again with a frown. "I'm sorry, you've caught me at a bad time. I'm-"
Edwin smiled, delight in his pale eyes. "You've got quite a lot of fizzbies in your hair, Professor Riddle."
"Potter," he mumbled, picking up his red pen and getting back to his papers. The essay on top was one that made him groan.
"Yes... Well, technicalities and all that," the man said, transfiguring the nameplate on the desk - which clearly read Professor Harold Evans in the brass - into a stool for himself to sit. "I can wait until you're done."
"You've a long wait then."
"Take the offer, Professor."
"I've no idea what you're talking about."
"The more you lie, the worse the fizzbies get. And then you'll start attracting the humdingers, which then will attract the Nargles and no one wants a Nargle infestation on their hands, Professor."
Harry sighed and put down his pen after marking the essay in front of him - about the Failed Second Rise of the Dark, a subject he was intimately familiar with having been there - to hell and back and with a failing grade due to poor research. At least, 'poor research' was what he wrote in the margin. He simply just hated reading about himself regardless of whether or not it was factual. "Is there something I can help you with Mr. Scarmander or are you intending to sit here like a blithering idiot and talk about nonsensical creatures all afternoon?"
"Actually, I'm your replacement." He shrugged. "I say replacement but the school is going to say substitute as they'll believe you've buggered off on a temporary leave of absence. But we both know that's not true. My late grandmother told me as much this morning over breakfast. She's worried about her big brother."
"Figures you'd be from THAT branch of the Scarmanders...."
"Well," Edwin said. "We can't all be magi-zoologists."
Harry gave a long suffering sigh as he picked his pen back up and moved on to the next essay.
Death was bored.
Death was also annoyed.
But mostly bored.
He could interact with the world, when he chose to.
He could talk with people, if he wanted to.
He just couldn't touch anyone. Except for that smarmy little Gryffindor git, Potter.
Not for the first time he loathed the fact that he feared dying so much he was willing to bind himself to eternal servitude.
Though to be fair, Potter hated being his master just as much as he hated being his servant. Their arrangement - in all aspects - was merely one of convenience.
Death turned the page of the magazine, silently stirred his coffee with a bit of wandless magic used on his spoon, and waited.
It was the waiting part of his job he hated the most.
He was a Dark Lord, a man of action and great power.
Yet here he was, sitting in a muggle coffee shop in the middle of a sleepy Midwestern American town. With nothing better to do than read an old magazine and wait for his chosen method of Chaos to strike.
An advanced strain of Mad Cow Disease.
It was ingenious, really. And didn't even start in this little coffee shop, but rather the diner across the street. This was just the best vantage point to watch his beautiful tapestry come together.
"Can I get you a refill on that coffee, sugar? How was your pie? Want another slice?"
"It was delicious madame," Tom Riddle's very human face said with a charming smile, careful to keep his hands to himself. "Rather than coffee, I believe a cup of your fine Earl Grey would not go amiss." Mentally he imagined her on her knees begging for mercy as he flayed her alive for the sole crime of being born a filthy, disgusting muggle.
But he settled for what he knew was going to happen in, after checking his watch, seven and a half minutes.
He waited for her to take his empty cup and the saucer his piece of pie had been on. Ticking down the minutes, screams began across the street.
People began to flee, pursued by some foaming at the mouth with blood streaking down their fronts.
"Oh dear," Death said in mock concern as one of them headed towards the coffee shop.
Six minutes after he spoke to the woman a cup of Earl Grey was set on his table. He put a spoon of sugar in and stirred it for the next minute. Thirty seconds later he sipped his tea as the waitress had her throat ripped out by the madman that had run across the street in search of more people to bite.
"I'll never tire of watching muggle zombification," he said as blood spurted everywhere. Except himself, of course, because he was protected with a shield charm to keep his clothes from getting bloody.
Despite the mild entertainment of mindless slaughter unfolding before him, Death was still bored.
Sure murder and mayhem were still quite fun and provided him amusement. But there was no point to it all. Not anymore.
What was the point if he didn't get to lord his power over anyone?
Lord Voldemort was born to rule, not hide forever in the shadows - which was in itself fun when there was a goal or purpose in mind. He was still a Slytherin, after all. But this...
Having the power of a god and unable to flaunt it. It was maddeningly boring.
He finished his tea and left a few dollars on the table when he left. Not that anyone would be around to collect payment.
"Tom," he said when the ex-Dark Lord had returned home late that night. "We should do it."
"I just got home. Give me an hour to get a proper meal and-"
"Merlin's pants, Tom. That's not what I meant. We should take the offer."
"As loathe as I am to remain shackled to you for eternity, I quite agree. But we should decide what we will do once we arrive. I have no intention of stopping my war because you occasionally provide a good bed-warmer."
Harry waved him off. "I've been thinking," he said, causing Voldemort to snort in mild amusement.
"Gave yourself brain damage, did you?"
"Shut it," Harry snapped. "All they've asked us to do is free magic. This world is finally starting to get there, but it's not fast enough. Here in the UK restrictions have eased. More places like Godric's Hollow and Serpent's Cove are springing up. But places like China and Russia are still, well, you've seen it what with your job and all."
"Quite," Voldemort said. "What are you getting at, Potter?"
Harry sighed, taking one last time to rethink his decisions. "I think... if you change your stance on muggleborns and are willing to merge magical and muggle society together instead of slaughtering everyone who doesn't fit the pureblood ideal, it might be possible to complete the task Lady Magic has requested."
"And why should I do that?"
"Well for one given the time period we're going back to muggle technology hasn't developed to the point of matching magic in power. Not like it has here. So you'll still have the advantage where muggles are concerned. And you've seen for yourself how much more powerful half-bloods and muggleborns are compared to most purebloods."
"Yes, but the biggest hurtles are you and Dumbledore. And don't forget the Hallows."
Harry waved that off. "The Hallows aren't important. I'll still be the Master of Death. As for me... If you change some of your goals with the war, I believe we can come to an arrangement."
"I won't grovel at your feet in front of my Death Eaters, bound to your or not."
"Of course not. They'd never fear you if you did. Outwardly, you still run the war the same way you always have. I'll appear subservient to you, but higher ranking than the rest. And I won't be marked."
"In case you haven't looked in the mirror, my lord, you've been marked for over two centuries."
They decided to figure out specifics after they arrived.
Nostiluca and Corra were not surprised in the least when the two men came down the cemetery path to the Riddle graves.
Cedric was half-sitting, half-floating on the base of the giant statue.
"Well boys," Corra said. "Have you reached a decision?"
"We'll do it," Voldemort said.
"Even knowing that Cedric will still have to die?" she asked, looking at Harry.
"Well someone's going to have to be the human sacrifice and I don't think having it be Pettigrew is going to be all that helpful before snake face gets a body back."
"Quite," Voldemort said. "I will still be able to change my appearance though, won't I? I'm quite fond of having a nose and proper ears."
"So you don't mind being bald?"
"I never said that. But the nose and ears are a priority. Besides, if I must I can always wear a hair piece if necessary. But a false nose will be a bit harder for me to work with."
Harry shook his head with a fond smile, but had turned his head to keep Voldemort from seeing it before reigning his emotions back in. "Alright, what do we have to do?"
"Absolutely nothing. But given when and where you're going to end up you had better have a plan in place for getting away," Corra said. "My sister and I will be ready to begin at midnight so you had better have a plan in place."
Harry and Voldemort spent the remainder of the day and the bulk of the night crafting an escape plan. It would be hardest for Harry, given that he would have to return to Hogwarts after the fourth task and the body exchange in the graveyard.
Once they'd sorted out the plan, and got into place with Cedric's ghost watching on in mild interest, Harry couldn't help but ask Lady Magic something he was curious about. "How come I don't age?"
"Because you're dead. The dead don't age, dear."
"But I'm not dead."
"But you are. No one can survive a killing curse a second time. That's why they only really just sting you now rather than kill you."
"Well, that explains a lot."
Nostiluca smiled. "The body you'll be put in is fourteen years old. You will continue to age until you die, at which point you will be stuck. So if you'd like to be able to grow a beard, I suggest holding off getting killed for a few more years."
"As long as I don't die, I could age until I actually look like an adult?"
"But if I properly die, and end up back in that bloody white place again-"
"Then you will be frozen forever at the age you were when you were killed. Yes. And if you live to a grand old age only to die a natural death then you'll come back an old man a lot like that Dumblydoor fellow. How is this hard to comprehend, dear boy?"
Voldemort laughed. "He's a Gryffindor, my Lady. What more explanation do you need than that?"
Harry scoffed. "Says the Slytherin that begs for the sweet release of Death when he gets a spot of food poisoning, forgetting that Death can't kill itself."
Nostiluca sighed, turning to her sister and shaking her head. "The fate of all magic, in the hands of these two idiots... What was I thinking?"
Corra smiled softly. "You were drunk, dear sister. You weren't thinking."
Sirius once told Harry that dying is faster than falling asleep.
Harry begged to differ.
It was slow and painful and honestly he hated every second of it.
Lady Magic had taken them across the realms one final time and ripped their immortal souls right from their bodies, leaving the things to crumble to dust.
After dithering about the morality of stealing someone else's body, even if it was your own, Harry was reassured that in this particular timeline neither he nor Voldemort were meant to survive this night.
Because the idiot Dark Lord decided to turn Nagini into a horcrux while still a hormunculus and not after regaining a stable physical form. This, Nostiluca had said, resulted in a domino effect of each Horcrux failing because Death managed to take the main portion of soul before they could activate to keep the moron alive.
So the body that would emerge from the cauldron would be, well, a nice and empty vessel that without a soul would wither and die much like victims of the Dementor's Kiss.
As for Harry's body... he'd just die as the soul shard would be forcibly ripped away by Death, and both he and Cedric would haunt the cemetery forever.
Lady Magic talked it over with Death to let this Harry pass a bit more peacefully, as having his ghost hanging around while his body was being used by someone else wouldn't really go over too well with anyone.
Cedric's murder became a human sacrifice which allowed Lady Magic to slam the souls into their new homes.
After that, well, their fate was their own to make as they pleased.
So long as they did as she asked and set magic free.
"The great and powerful Harry James Riddle," she said, peering over the dead body of her favorite wizard's closest friend. "My how far you've come in such a short time."
"Potter," he corrected but didn't bother putting any real bite behind it anymore. "Corra. This is a pleasant surprise," he said, pulling Barty's body back up into a sitting position, piece of raw fish clinging to his dead face. "What brings the Scottish goddess of prophecies here to Japan?"
"This and that," she said, glancing at Barty again. "Pity. I quite liked him. Used to visit him in his dreams for a bit of fun from time to time."
"You naughty minx," he said. "But that's not why you've come so far out of your way to visit."
"You caught me," she said. "I came to tell you to go home."
"Why? Come to warn me of some terrible fate about to befall our kingdom?"
"No. Just... you've liberated the magical people of the entire continent. Take some time off while the Americans deal with their second civil war. Did you know the magical population there actually outnumbers the muggles? Was quite a surprise that all the squibs actually sided with the wizards over there."
"I'd heard. Hopefully we won't have to cross the ocean any time soon."
"Go home, Harry. Take a vacation."
"I can't. I'm a fighter, not a ruler. Not like Tom."
"You might be immortal, and you might be the Master of Death, but you're still human, child. My sister is quite pleased with all you've done. She never expected you to actually take the time to build the foundations for a new society before you moved on to another battle. Another war. Over and over."
Harry shrugged and reached for a pair of chopsticks. Just because his only friend outside of Voldemort was sitting at the table dead, there was no reason not to finish his dinner. He'd just avoid the puffer fish if he could help it. "Tom was the one born to rule, not me," he said. "I was born to fight. It's what I do best."
"And yet you still stopped to start each place rebuild from the battles you fought and won on their behalf."
"Just because I helped Voldemort tear down a country and build a dark magical kingdom doesn't mean I don't still have a saving people thing."
Corra smiled at him softly. "And that, right there, is why we picked you for this. Unfortunately, you're a package deal. In the end though, it'll all work itself out. Magic will be free for all again and out in the open. There will be no more Harry Potters and Tom Riddles, forced to suffer because of their magic."
"People will always be cruel, Corra. Children will always suffer abuse and hate from those that are meant to keep them safe."
She nodded in somber agreement. "True, Harry. True. But they won't be made to suffer because of their magic. They won't have to become you and Tom."
"You can't be sure of that."
"I'm a goddess of Prophecy, child. Or did you forget that? I can see the future. Every future there will ever be. Even now, as more are created I can see every line, every string and every bubble. Every smile and laugh. Every life and death." She shook her head with a chuckle. "Sometimes even I forget you were born of mortals. With magic free, there is no more struggle between darkness and light. There is only magic, and power. Good and evil still exist, certainly. They will always exist, and will change in accordance with mankind's morality." She picked up a pair of chopsticks, summoning one of the plates on the table closer to her. "Go home. Take a vacation. You were born to fight and there are still more battles ahead. But even you need to rest from time to time."
"I don't get a say in this, do I?"
"Not really, no."
"Set out on Saturday. The weather will be much better for mass apparition. And stop by Durmstrang on the way."
"Any particular reason?"
"Unfinished business," she said. "Business that you need to deal with before you'll be able to move on."
Unfinished business was right.
Hiding in the ruins of Durmstrang were more familiar faces than he was comfortable with.
When he and his forces arrived, he left the bulk of them in the valley while taking his elite unit, ex-Aurors and Hit Wizards, most of them, up to the fortress under a white flag of peace.
Despite the clear signs of peaceful intent, spells and muggle mortars were lobbed over what remained of the walls until the attempted resistance was suppressed.
Behind his jeweled mask, Harry watched as the rebels were lined up before him. Green eyes closed as he sighed, walking down the line of men and women forced to their knees.
One of his men gave a small bow after coming from a side corridor. "My Lord Moros," he said. "Numerous casualties and four dead."
He turned his attention to the man and gestured for him to continue.
"Three non-magical. One magical. Mudblood." After a glare, the wizard corrected himself. "I meant to say, muggleborn, my Lord."
Harry looked back at the line of wizards and witches.
"Which one of ours killed the muggleborn?" he asked, trying to keep his voice low enough to obscure it to the prisoners.
"Which one of my fighters killed the muggleborn? And do not make me repeat myself a third time, McLaggen."
"Parkinson, my Lord."
Green eyes seemed to light up at that. "Good. Very good. I never much cared for the pug to begin with. Send for Parkinson and have her taken to the ritual chamber. Have another bring the muggleborn. With my devoted shadow dead, I will require a volunteer to bring me my tools and remain at my back as I work."
"Yes my Lord. As you command." McLaggen hurried from his presence, and Lord Moros began to leave. However, he stopped in mid-step when he heard an angry growl from the line of prisoners.
"Isn't it enough that you've taken everything from us?!"
His heart broke but for a moment as behind his mask he hid his sorrow and his pain. Harry longed for the days when he could curl up by the fire and play chess with his best friend. Spend hours talking Quidditch with the ginger haired girl at the end of that line. Argue over who made the best chocolates with the werewolf that now glared at him accusingly.
Amber eyes watching him. Always watching him. Knowing by only the scent of the air that he somehow had survived the Battle of Hogwarts. A secret that, Harry hoped, the werewolf would take to his grave.
Shame dwelt inside him, buried deep. But it was for the best. The friends and family he could never again be part of would never understand the sacrifices he had to make. The shredding of his own immortal soul just to keep them safe. Keep them alive. He could never be part of their lives, their little world again. Not if magic was to be free again. Not if the magical people were to survive.
He said nothing. Could say nothing.
Instead, he continued on his way, quietly passing orders to confine the prisoners to comfortable quarters and ration them food and water as appropriate until further notice.
No one could understand why their jailers were treating them kindly.
Remus knew, but would not speak it.
Instead he tried not to smell it. Tried not to pick out the scent of Death itself from the air that clung to the man behind the jeweled mask. Just as he tried to ignore the wolf, that dark creature buried deep inside that longed to submit before something far darker and far deadlier than itself.
So he tended the wounded. He helped Sirius and Bill to share out the rations. Make sure everyone else was comfortable.
It was one week before the wards on the door were dropped entirely. One week before their dead comrade's body was returned.
Pale but warm.
Still but breathing.
Remus had watched from his cot, trying not to breathe in through his nose as the smell of death overwhelmed him.
The smell that still clung to Sirius when he was stressed.
To George when he was depressed.
To himself every full moon that the wolf came out to play.
"Gently. Gently now," one of the masked figures in red battle robes said after transfiguring a chair into a low cot. The other two carefully lowering the stretcher that carried the sleeping woman.
He felt Ron move behind him, rushing to be at the woman's side. But he stopped when a wand was thrust into his face.
"That's enough, Tamil. Lower your wand."
"But the blood traitor-"
"I said lower your wand. The man would like to check on his wife."
"Leave now before I report your behavior to our Lord."
The wand was lowered. A sneer was given. And then he was gone back out the door. Ron Weasley hesitantly moved, keeping one eye on the masked men before he finally dropped down beside the cot, taking the woman's hand in his own and holding it tight. Fingers seeking out her wrist, just as she'd once shown him. A stead, strong beat.
"She's alive..." he whispered, bringing her hand to his lips to brush the back with a soft kiss and whispered praise. His other hand reached out to brush the frizzy brown hair away from her serene, sleeping face.
"We will remain camped out beyond the walls and down in the valley two more days before Lord Moros bids us to march onward. You will be left enough supplies for your group for approximately one month. After we have left, you are free to continue your lives in peace. Lord Moros however does give you one warning. If you wish to remain in peace, do not return to Britannia. Instead find a new place to settle and call home."
The men gave a small bow before turning to go, ignoring all protests.
No one but Remus and Sirius noticed that the wards were never placed back up on the door until well into the night.
Harry stood on the ramparts the final day. Still drained from the Exchange he had made with Death.
The body of Pansy Parkinson had been mounted on a spike. She had managed to fight back, some. Resulting in the breaking of his mask. The two halves now hidden safely in his saddlebag along with his tent and other personal affects.
He could not lie about his feelings as he broke the woman. She had been one of his best fighters and a skilled potions mistress. That was why he mutilated her hands first. With each brutal strike of the sledgehammer Death had squealed in delight. With each wail and cry for mercy- Mercy my Lord! Please! Mercy! OH GOD HAVE MERCY! - he would crush another bone and light her nerves on fire with the glowing red tip of a wand.
For Bellatrix the torture had been cathartic. His hatred and his anger an ambrosia for the beast that had settled in his soul when Sirius had died the first time. It was with a heavy hand and a deep rooted passion to hear her scream and wail and beg that had driven him to slice the woman to ribbons. It was rage at the pride she had felt for killing her own kin that had driven him to mounting her body on a spike for all to see. Pride for the work of his own two hands.
For Greyback it had been more a methodical meditation. First he had declawed the wolf by taking his fingers and his toes. One by one with a dull muggle blade that had required much more of a sawing motion. Then he had defanged him by using a very rusty pair of pliers and removing each and every sharp tooth in his head. Because of the alpha wolf's penchant for despoiling little boys and girls before biting them, castration had followed. Piece by piece he had broken down the animal. There were still bits of skin, stretched, dried, and mounted in the study of Salazar's Hideaway over Voldemort's private writing desk. The tattoo work had been objectively beautiful and was such finely detailed that Harry could not have brought himself to utterly destroy it. Greyback's remains were left scattered as if a beast had eaten it's fill and left the pieces behind for the scavengers.
Pettigrew had been the easiest. Harry had trapped him in his own nightmares before stabbing him in the heart. Wormtail died begging for forgiveness from the friends he had betrayed and the son at who's hand he was to die so that George Weasley could return to the family he so loved.
Parkinson had been... the hardest.
Not out of guilt. He was enraged, yes. More-so than he had been at dear old Bellatrix. It was more... he was amused. And this amusement failed to disgust him. Death had certainly enjoyed watching Harry work. The muggleborn had been crushed under a pillar that Parkinson had deliberately brought down upon her. Crushing her. And therefore, Parkinson deserved the same.
It was the enjoyment he gained out of it that bothered him. The fact that the soul of a pureblood would be exchanged for that of a mudblood. An entire noble house snuffed out, bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer in a necromantic ritual. Pureblood dying in such a muggle fashion.
He was disturbed from his pondering as Barty's temporary replacement came up behind him. "One of the prisoners would like to speak with you."
"Which one?" he asked, curious which of his godfathers it would be.
"The muggleborn, my Lord."
"Oh, she's awake then?"
"Yes My Lord."
"I will dine with her before we leave. Find a suitable room in the the fortress and have a light meal prepared. A soup if possible. She will need her strength but should not have a heavy meal just yet."
"Yes My Lord."
Harry had fashioned himself a new mask from a piece of polished silver he had found in the ruins of the old school. It now covered his face, molded to it like a second skin. He had chosen to keep the stag motif. Lord Moros was already known as the Devil Stag across large swaths of Europe. The Demon Deer in Russia and China. Why change it now?
The small antlers jutted out from his red hood. Only his mouth remained uncovered. The better for others to hear him, he always believed. The better to frighten them with his honest lips and cruel smiles.
The door behind him opened, and he could sense three figures. One, a man, floating a steel tray with two bowls and two glasses upon it to a table near the fire.
He waited until she had been seated, then dismissed the two others. He sat, the edge of his hood casting his mask into mostly shadow, but did nothing else to obscure his identity. No doubt Remus knew.
No doubt Remus had always known.
"Please miss. Eat. You need to rebuild your strength after what your body has been through."
"I died," she said flatly, ignoring the food in front of her. "I died and you used black magic to bring me back to life. You had no right."
He gave a small nod before picking up his spoon and began to eat his own soup.
She glared at him angrily. Hatefully. He could not meet her gaze.
"I was ready to die," she said, turning her head away to stare at the blazing fire.
"You, perhaps. But not the little one. I am sorry that I could not save her, too," he said quietly. "I did not know, otherwise... as much as it would pain me to do so, I would have let you go."
"Pain you? I know what I am to you. A useless mudblood."
"I wish you could see the world the way I see it."
"Right. You and that half-blood bastard Voldemort lording over everyone else. Using torture to ensure obedience. Enslaving the muggles and keeping them like house elves."
"Only in the beginning. After three years Voldemort and I restructured the entire country. We brought muggles and wizards together in a way that has not been seen since the days of Merlin himself. Purebloods and muggleborns live and work side by side with muggles." He set down his spoon after taking a few more bites. He sat back, careful to keep his hood up. Careful to keep most of his mask in shadow. "Magical children now begin proper schooling at age five alongside muggle children. Learning to read and write. Basic maths and normal, average children's education. Magical schools have been opened in each of the four sectors and are open to both magical and muggle students. The muggle students may not be able to perform magic, but they are allowed to sit in and learn the theory so that they do not become ignorant of the world they find themselves sharing. Ignorance breeds fear of the unknown. And it is that fear, weilded by the hands of muggles, that created both myself and Lord Voldemort." He paused, and sighed. "One doesn't need magic to open a potion's supply shop. Just a basic education and the ability to exchange money for goods. Muggles can chop, dice, powder, crush just as well as any witch and wizard. Better than, at times I've noticed. Many muggle products such as ballpoint pens and ruled paper are far better to work with than quills and parchment. Robes can be made of any fabric, and any muggle can design and make them if they have the skill. Muggle politicians serve on committees to help ensure everyone is treated fairly and justly, and to help maintain the laws that are set forth to prevent their kind from being mistreated."
She cast a hateful glare at him. "You expect me to believe that? No one gets news of what goes in in your exclusive little kingdom. But if it's anything like what we've seen you do here on the continent-"
"I have only gone where I am asked to go."
"You are imposing your beliefs and ideologies on people who do not want nor need it. Disrupting entire societies because you believe you are unstoppable. That your way is the only way."
"This building we are in used to be a school. Do you know why it is not anymore?" he asked suddenly. "Muggles here feared the wizards and witches that attended here once they learned of their existence. Viktor Krum died in these halls," Harry said. "He and I held the line so that the children could escape through tunnels into the mountains around us. Do you know why the war started here?" He waited, but she would not speak. "Viktor was teaching a student how to fly a broom while his daughter watched below. They believed they were safe here behind the wards. But no one knew that the muggle repelling ward had, over time, failed. Hunters came across little Amelia Krum as she was using innocent magic to build a snow man. She was a very bright girl for her age and had recently learned how to perform the Wingardium Leviosa charm. Out of fear of her innocent, simple magic they shot her in the back of the head. Viktor in his panic and grief killed one of the hunters, swooping in with the intent to knock them away from her body but instead his speed and momentum had caused him to impale the muggle on the end of his broom."
Harry had watched her expression as he told her the tale that Viktor had told him and Barty during the Siege on Durmstrang. During one of the longest nights as the muggle canons fired away in the dark, chipping at the stones. "Did you know that when he decided to leave Quidditch he became a teacher. Inspired by his experience at Hogwarts during he Tri-Wizard Tournament. He taught flying to first years and Ancient Runes. His wife taught potions. She was pregnant with their third child the last I saw her. She and their son settled with family near Moscow where they live in peace. Able to practice magic among the muggles without fear." He took a sip of his water, tilting his head back and allowing his hood to fall, exposing his mask in full and the wild black hair atop his head.
She gasped, taking the silver plated face. Every plane, every curve one she knew intimately. Sad, pain filled green eyes looked away before he stood. "For your safety, Mrs. Weasley, and that of your family, please do not return to Britannia. And I am truly sorry that I could not save your and Mr. Weasley's child. If it were possible for me to do so, I would have gladly sacrificed my own soul in exchange for hers. Unfortunately it is my great regret to admit to you that I am unable to die."
He was careful to step out of her reach, leaving her at the table, crying into her soup.
"Harry wait!" she called before he could step out into the hall. He stopped, one hand on the doorknob, ready to pull the door inward.
"I am sorry, Mrs. Weasley," he said. "But you know just as well as I do that Harry Potter is dead. Please, eat your soup and rest. Your body still needs time to heal."
He left her then, closing the door on her sobs and whimpers. "Zabini," he said to one of the men waiting outside. The one that had escorted her into the room. "Please make sure that she is returned to her family when she is ready. We will depart once she is settled back in. If you have any trouble, use stunners only. I do not want anyone harmed."
"As you wish, my Lord."
As promised, when Lord Moros and his soldiers left the ruins of Durmstrang, supplies were left behind. The carcass of Parkinson was left as well. Bill and Sirius took her down to give her a proper send off rather than letting her rot on the spike and set her on a bonfire. The ground was too hard and rocky to attempt an in-ground burial.
Remus sat listening to the hurried whispers between husband and wife late into the night as they discussed her death and miraculous resurrection.
When she got up for her turn on the night watch, she had the same haunted look in her eyes that he had seen in Sirius in the weeks following the Battle of Hogwarts and their release from Voldemort and Moros's dungeons.
She clung to him and cried into his threadbare sweater. Her Death scent came hand in hand with heartbreak.