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Xerosis

Story: Xerosis
Storylink: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6985795/1/
Category: Harry Potter
Genre: Supernatural/Adventure
Author: Batsutousai
Authorlink: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/577769/
Last updated:
Words: 145018
Rating: T
Status: Complete
Content: Chapter 1 to 11 of 11 chapters
Source: FanFiction.net

Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Semi-super!Harry,
Voldemort/Harry, SLASH-for the idiots
*Chapter 1*: If We Could Only Turn Back Time
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny, with suggestions of Ron/Hermione & Albus/Scorpius)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to
Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark
infringement is intended.

A/N: This story basically follows the books, including the Crapilogue. Then it goes AU. XD
I like this cliché, sorry. I've sort of played in it before, I suppose, when I wrote Déguiser, but this is coming at things from a slightly different angle
from that fic, though retaining the pairing.

I'm sorry, in advance, for the super!Harry. There I was, writing along, and the next thing I knew, he had MAD SKILLZ. *headdesk* So... yeah.

On that note... I don't really like the start of this fic. I fought with it a great deal and almost scrapped it entirely a few times, but you sort of need
something about where Harry's coming from and why he decided to change things in this cliché, so... Beh.

-0-0-0-

If We Could Only Turn Back Time

-0-0-0-

Ever since he'd defeated Voldemort, Harry had felt as though there was something missing in his life. He'd long ago chalked it up to the Horcrux
that had been a part of him for practically his whole life and forced himself to ignore the feeling. He'd become a decorated auror, married the girl of
his dreams, and had three beautiful children.

And yet, here he was, fifty years later, surrounded by his family as they buried Ginny and that hole remained. Everyone was crying, except for him.
Oh, he'd loved his wife, make no mistake, but she'd never quite filled that hole that had appeared after the war. Her death was just an addition to
the hole already there, and he'd cried all his tears decades before.

"Why did it have to be Ginny who died?" Ron whispered as the procession of mourners finally finished filing out the floo and to the apparation point
in the back yard. "Why couldn't it have been Malfoy–"

"Why did anyone have to die?" Albus muttered from next to Harry's elbow. He and Draco Malfoy's son, Scorpius, had been friends ever since their
first year when they'd ended up in Slytherin together. Usually, Ron knew better than to say nasty things about the Malfoys around the young man,
but he wasn't at his best right now. "What right do muggles have to–?"

"You really don't want to go there, Al," James said drily from just behind his brother. His girlfriend, Jessie, was a muggle.

Albus scowled at his brother, then glanced down at Harry with concern in his wide green eyes. "Dad, are you okay?"

Harry blinked up at his middle child, not really seeing the young man. "Fine," he murmured.

Hermione bustled over, then, and gently took Harry's elbow. "Let's get you to bed, Harry," she offered.

Harry glanced back at Ginny's casket, then let his sister-in-law lead him up to the second floor and the bedroom he'd shared with his wife. He
paused for a moment in the doorway, but Hermione tugged him forward and since the other rooms in the house were full of visiting family, this
really was the only place he could sleep. (Well, his room or the couch, but Hermione would never let him get away with the latter.)

Hermione coaxed him out of his outer robes and into the large, cold bed. When she started making sure the blankets were secure around him, he
murmured, "I'm almost seventy, 'Mione. I can tuck myself in."

Hermione huffed and gave him an unimpressed look. "You've been walking around with that dazed look on your face ever since the attack. I'm not
sure I trust you to take care of yourself."

"Hmm..." was Harry's only response.

Hermione sighed and settled on the edge of the bed next to him, absently tugging at a curl that had come loose. "We're all worried about you,
Harry."

Harry shrugged and closed his eyes. "My wife is dead at the hands of a psychotic muggle and we're about two months from a full-out muggle-
magical war. Better to worry about other things than me."

Hermione sighed again and leaned forward to gently press her lips against Harry's forehead, making the wizard smile sadly. "There's always time
to worry about you, you self-sacrificing idiot." Then she got up and left the room, the lights dimming behind her.

Harry kept his eyes closed in the darkness, trying to imagine that Ginny was still laying next to him. Trying to imagine that his world hadn't gone
completely insane a week ago when the muggle government first announced the presence of the magical world and the non-magical citizens of
Britain started attacking anyone who might be magical on sight.

But there was no Ginny next to him and the muggle minister was a complete lunatic. Many people were going to die in this modern witch hunt and
there was little Harry could do about it but watch it happen. What good was a hero against a terrified man with a gun?
-0-

A year passed and they were involved in a new war, this time one without a clear enemy. There was no Dark Lord to sweep in and take down,
there were no minions to capture or ask to be spies. There were only muggles and wizards, both with their own weapons of mass destruction, both
intent on coming out on top. Muggleborn children were caught in between the mess, killed by neighbours and strangers alike before anyone could
think to call for help.

The magical world was completely unprepared for a battle against muggles. Yes, they had magic on their sides, but even the best shield was
nothing against a nuclear bomb falling in the middle of Diagon Alley. Everyone looked to the aurors for help, but they were used to fighting magic,
not physical projectiles.

Harry rather thought that Voldemort and his Death Eaters were laughing in their graves.

Harry, himself, was someone that the magical population turned to. He'd finished Voldemort when all had been lost, helped rebuild the magical
world without having finished school, had fathered three brilliant children; surely if anyone could fix things, it would be Harry Potter.

He sighed over yet another pleading owl, wondering when his people would finally decide to start fighting for themselves and stop placing all their
hopes on one figurehead or another. His own wife was one of the first victims; didn't they think he'd have done something already if he could have?

-0-

Five years since the start of the bloody war between witches and wizards and muggles. Harry glanced up at the rain falling from the black clouds
which were permanently overhead. Around him, people moved in silent groups, passing the lines of coffins to pay their respects to the dead. The
muggles – mundanes, they called themselves – had finally managed to crank their weapons towards Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The once glorious
castle looked like nothing more than a pile of ruins, just as it had once looked to any passing muggle before.

Two nieces and Teddy's son had died in the bombing, as well as Teddy, Lily, Rose, Neville, and their families. Other than Albus and himself, they
had been the last of the Potter-Weasley-Lupin brood, and now they were gone.

"Dad?" Albus whispered, hand clenched tightly in the hand of the last remaining Malfoy. When Draco had died, Scorpius had come to live with
Albus and Harry and the two younger wizards had quickly ended up sharing a bed while Harry looked the other way.

"Let's go home," Harry mumbled, casting one last glance back at the line of coffins. The mundanes had agreed to a cease-fire for two days, to give
the magicals time to unbury their dead from the rubble, and that time was almost up. War would start again soon, and the only way to survive was
to spread out, unless you were part of an attacking team.

Harry would be going out on the attack later that night. There was no guarantee that he'd return alive.

There never was.

-0-

Harry cursed his lot in life as he buried the last of his family behind his caved in house. Four years since the destruction of Hogwarts and only a
handful of magicals were left in all the world. Harry had been on another useless raid when a mundane team had found his house and blocked off
the exits before setting it aflame. Scorpius and Albus hadn't had a chance.

He gently patted the fresh dirt that covered what remains he'd been able to find. The last of his sons would share a grave, as they would have
wanted.

Harry looked up into the dark sky as the acid rain started again, staining his face like tears and ripping a cough from deep in his chest. He didn't
need anyone to tell him he was dying, the dead forests he'd once taken cover in had been evidence enough. They were killing this world with their
war, and themselves along with it.

Harry only wanted to live long enough to see those mundane bastards die by their own hands.

-0-

He was running long before the shouting and gunshots started. They'd detected his alarm spell the instant they'd triggered it, but Harry had been
living on the run for long enough that he never truly rested, never really got comfortable enough. It had kept him alive, even as his body continued
to fail him. Even as the search parties got ever closer.

He ran as fast as he could, not even thinking to send curses back at his pursuers; his wand had been lost almost a year ago, and he needed all his
breath for running, anyway.

"There's nowhere to hide, Magic!" one of his pursuers shouted and the others laughed.

"It's like a helpless rabbit, bounding pointlessly away from the fox!" another called.

Harry smiled bitterly. Rabbits and foxes were as endangered as witches and wizards, these days. He wondered if those mundanes realised they
were killing all their food with the poison from their bombs.

A tree had fallen across the path and Harry knew he'd never make it if he took his time or went around. He ran right up to it and vaulted over,
grinning at his success. But on the other side, on the way down, an extended branch caught his ripped trousers and he fumbled, silently cursing.

He hit his side hard, caught leg held up above him at a painful angle. This was it. They'd finally caught him.

Faces peered over the top of the log, grinning at their win. "Well, well, lookie here, boys," one of them sang with an American drawl, "we caught
ourselves a Magic."

They all chortled for a moment, taking their time about checking their guns for ammo and aiming just right.
"Any last words, Magic?" the apparent leader asked.

"Yeah," Harry replied through a wracking cough. "See you in Hell."

-0-

Harry groaned as he heard the sound of a train. Where the hell was he? Had he apparated away? (Wouldn't that be ironic?)

"Finally awake, boy?" an irritated voice demanded.

"Huh?" Harry blinked his eyes open, wincing at the bright lights of the long-gone Platform Nine and Three Quarters. "Where the–?"

"You're in what you mortals might call Purgatory," the irritated voice offered, and Harry looked over to find a cloaked individual holding a scythe.
"And I'm Death, just so that's out of the way."

"Death?" Harry shook his head a bit and sat up in the middle of the floor. "Why...?" He shook his head again and focused on the spectre seated
just next to him on a bench. "Why am I in Purgatory? Shouldn't I have gone straight to Hell or something?"

Death huffed. "Yeah, sure, Hell. They've got a nice torture cupboard with your name on it down there. It's right next to your old pal Tommy-Boy."
Harry got the distinct sense that Death was rolling its eyes. "Not quite, kid. Look, you died the Master of the Hallows, right?"

"Erm, sure?" Harry shrugged. Surely he'd been disarmed once or twice?

"Close enough," Death decided, tossing his scythe between his hands like one might have done with a bouncy ball. "Look, you're the Master, so
you get some choices, here–"

"Choices?"

"Hey! Let me talk!" Death snapped.

Harry flinched back. "Sorry. Your story. Go on."

"Damn right it's my story. Stupid mortals." Death huffed a bit and changed his grip on his scythe, which shortened, then he started twirling it in one
hand like a particularly deadly baton. "You're the Master of Death, so you get a couple choices here. You can go back to that wretched existence
you came from and enjoy the rest of your very short life as the last magical alive. You can go on to Hell and that nice little torture cupboard I
mentioned. Or! You can take option number three and go back to your childhood to fix everything."

Harry blinked. "Erm, right. Well, no going back to a mortal hell, thanks."

"I wouldn't suggest that one, no," Death agreed. "Life is so tedious."

Harry gave the cloaked figure an odd look. "You would say that, wouldn't you?"

Death chuckled. "You amuse me. Go on. Two choices left: Hell or doing it all over?"

Harry rubbed at his eyes. "Bloody hell. Erm... Well, for all that you'd probably suggest I move on to Hell, I've gotta say that doing everything over
sounds like the better option."

"Even if you know you'll end up in Hell once that chance is over, no matter what?" Death wondered.

"Ooh, good one. Let's see, eternal torture now, or eternal torture after another lifetime? Well, crap, I don't know how I'll ever choose!"

Death's laughter reminded Harry of a cross between a Dementor breathing and a dying man's cough. "You very much amuse me, Master of
Death."

"I live to serve," Hurry muttered.

"Ooh! Wait, yes, I like that!" Death set down its scythe and leaned forward. "You, going back in time. What will you do about the mundanes? Will
you kill them?"

"Erm..." Harry rubbed absently at the spot over his chest where the bullet that had killed him had gone in. The spot was healed now, but Harry
didn't think he'd ever forget the pain of the bullet ripping through him just to the side of his heart and slowly bleeding out. "I dunno. Maybe." He
grimaced, then admitted. "Probably." They'd destroyed everything. They'd hunted him and his fellow witches and wizards like they were animals.
They ruined the whole planet in their fear and hatred. If he went back, he'd have to stop them from ever finding out about the magical world, and if
that meant killing them all...

"Good, good." Death rubbed its hands together like a mad man with his latest victim. "Let's see, in this life you've killed..." Death trailed off and
numbers like on a digital clock appeared over Harry's head, counting up. "Yes, that's about right," Death said as the numbers stopped and Harry
felt his eyes bug out a bit.

"Four thousand?" he breathed.

"Three thousand, nine hundred fifty-seven, to be exact," Death corrected him. "And that's not counting Tom Riddle, by the way, since he was more
of a fluke. I mean, I'll give you partial credit, for destroying his diary, but that's it, really." The cloaked figure leaned back as Harry rubbed helplessly
at his eyes. "Let me make you a deal, mortal."

Harry shook his head, a little sick at the number still suspended above his head, but it had been war and he'd used some of the most devastating
spells ever made to destroy as many mundanes as he could. "Deal? What sort of deal?"

Death pointed at the number over Harry's head. "Promise to match that number, and I'll grant you a boon."
Harry glanced up at the number again. "It only has to be mundanes?" he asked.

Death shrugged. "Mundane, magical. I don't care. As long as they're dead, I'm happy."

Harry nodded. "This going back to fix things... would I retain all my knowledge?"

"Not much point, otherwise," Death agreed. "How would you be expected to change it if you couldn't remember what you'd done wrong? You'll
have all your knowledge, your abilities, even your developed magical core."

"Oh. Erm... right. Okay. Uhm, what sort of boon?"

Death picked up its scythe again and started twirling it. "A skill you didn't have in this past life. Maybe... I don't know: being a Metamorphmagus! Or
having control over an element. Or–!" Death was suddenly quiet and Harry got the sense the thing was smiling at him in a most disturbing manner.
"I can give you the abilities of a dementor."

"The abilities of a dementor?" Harry parroted, a little afraid of what that meant.

Death nodded, and Harry got the sense that it was really quite excited. "Yes! Some empathy, the ability to invoke the worst memories in your
victim's mind, and the ability to suck out a soul." Death tapped where a chin might be on a human face. "I suppose I could let you have some
sustenance from the souls you collected that way, but they'd all still be coming to me. They'd count towards your soul count, of course..."

Harry grimaced. He hated dementors. With a passion. However. Being able to kill mundanes without a trace or cow his enemies... "Would I be able
to decide who was being affected by this... power?"

Death huffed. "As if I'd give you some awesome skill that you had no control over. You'd be able to decide who it would affect, how strong the
effect was, whatever. It'll take some practise at the start, but you should get the hang of it pretty quickly." Death paused. "That is, if you decide on
it."

"You said 'some empathy'," Harry recalled. "In what way?"

"I say 'empathy', but it's really not," Death replied. "Humans don't have an ability like it, but empathy comes close. Where empathy allows the
empath to feel what those around them are feeling, this version allows you to sort of... 'sense', I suppose, how much happiness or sadness is in a
person. For a dementor, the ability tells them whether or not a victim should be fed on slowly for their happy memories, or simply sucked dry for
their soul. Now, you wouldn't need those happy memories the way a dementor would, but it would certainly tell you how badly you could affect your
victim." Death paused again. "If you decide on this gift."

"What sort of nourishment would I get from sucking up a soul?" Harry wondered. Neither of them were fooled, really; Harry had already decided to
take the dementor gift, but he did want to know all the details. If he was going to be living with this ability, he wanted to know how it worked.

Death grunted and returned its scythe back to its normal size. "Knowledge," it decided. "If you suck up the soul of someone who can calculate the
square root of some obscure number, you'll be able to do that too. If you suck up the soul of someone who knows how to create a bomb, you'd
know that. If you suck up the soul of someone who's just learned their ABCs, you'll know them."

"Languages? Spells?"

"Languages would take more than one person per language, but, sure, you could learn French or Italian or whatever that way." Death started
passing its scythe from hand to hand like it had been doing when Harry first came to. "Spells, sure. I'll even... Hm. If you were to suck the souls of
ten or more people with a magical gift – say, enhanced healing – you'll find yourself developing that skill."

"There aren't that many magical people I'd want dead," Harry pointed out.

"Find a coven of vampires," Death retorted. "I hate the buggers. Every five of them you suck, I'll give you another of their skills: enhanced healing,
speed, senses, strength. Some of them get vampiric gifts, like the ability to walk through shadows, and that'll take ten per, but you can get those
too. No immortality, mind, but anything else is fair game."

Harry nodded. He'd yet to hear anything about this ability that he didn't like. Except, maybe... "Two more questions: Patroni and actual dementors."

Death sighed. "You mortals... Look, you're still human, just with new abilities. Patroni won't affect you any more than they usually would, and the
actual dementors will be able to fuck with you, same as always. None of that's going to change. Now, you want the gift, or not?"

"Yeah, I'll take it. Dementor!Harry Potter... has a nice ring to it."

Death chuckled. "Excellent." A train pulled up to the platform behind Death and it pointed at the only door that opened. "There's your ride, mortal.
Go forth and send me souls."

Harry nodded and climbed to his feet. "Okay. Erm, when will I be arriving? Or can you tell me that?"

Death sighed again. "The moment you became the owner of one of the Hallows."

"Oh." Harry shrugged and started for the train.

Just before he stepped into the car, Death called, "Oh, and mortal?" Harry turned back to him with one raised eyebrow. "Mortals get one animagus
form per life, and this will be your second life. Consider it another gift for amusing me so." Then it waved its hand and Harry found himself being
pushed into the car, doors sliding closed behind him.

As the train departed, Harry found himself a comfortable seat in the empty car. Another animagus form? He was already a black bear, what else
could he be? Hopefully something that's not as obvious.

The train started through a dark tunnel and Harry felt his eyes growing heavy. He couldn't wait to see the faces of his family again: Ron, Hermione,
Ginny... It would be good to be home.
-0-0-0-
Long Road
-0-0-0-

Harry woke at the sense of being carried. Whoever was holding him was running, he thought, and there was a slam of a door and whispered
spells. He was set down and he made his eyes open, needing to see where he was. The first time he'd become the owner of the Cloak was when
Dumbledore had given it to him for Christmas, right?

A woman with long red hair and terrified green eyes looked down on him. "It'll be okay, luv," she whispered. "I won't let him hurt you. You've got to
grow up and save the world." She smiled a broken smile.

Harry's breath caught and he reached chubby baby hands up towards her. Lily Potter, his mother. She was...

"I love you, Harry. Never forget that." Then she turned towards the nursery door as it blasted open.

She was saying goodbye.

"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"

"Stand aside, you silly girl...stand aside, now..."

"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead! Not Harry! Please...have mercy...have mercy..."

A chilled laugh came from in front of Lily before Voldemort whispered, "Avada Kedavra," and Lily Potter's body slid bonelessly to the ground.

Harry gave a brief thought to the tears he could no longer shed for the woman who had risked everything for him, but then Voldemort was leaning
over his crib and Harry found himself warring with hatred and a strange sense of need. This was the man he'd spent his younger years fighting,
and this was the very moment he would gift Harry with that piece of soul that had been missing for almost fifty years.

The man with the terrible red eyes pointed his wand between Harry's eyes and the one-year-old stared back at him, silent and oddly knowing.
Oddly expectant. "Avada Kedavra," he whispered and the baby smiled as the curse hit a strange shield around him and returned to the Dark Lord.

Both of them screamed in agony as the rebounded curse hit its new target. Voldemort's body disintegrated even as a bit of soul lodged itself inside
the fresh lightning bolt scar on Harry's brow. And Harry knew pain, pain, pain as the piece of soul and the barrier from his mother fought.

As the two bits of magic reached an accord, Harry felt his grip on reality slipping. And all went dark.

-0-

He woke next in a room he'd seen so many times during his childhood that he could never forget it. Walls of white and windows stretching high as
the roof and long as the room. Beds lay to either side of the crib he'd been placed in and the smell of healing potions hung heavy over this room.

From a distance, Harry heard voices: "And you're sure there's nothing that can be done?"

A sigh. "Honestly, Albus. The boy's magic has already acclimated to the Dark magic in that scar. Any attempt to remove it might very well kill him.
Perhaps if we'd got to him as soon as the curse was cast, I could have done something, but not now."

"Very well. Thank you, Poppy." Footsteps receded and the sound of the infirmary doors opening and closing followed.

Another set of footsteps came closer and Harry found himself looking into the troubled eyes of the Hogwarts' nurse. "Oh, you're awake!" She
managed a smile, but it was a poor one. "Let's see if you can't keep a few things down, hm?"

Harry managed a few potions and something smooshy that a house-elf brought up, but as soon as he felt his stomach rebelling, he turned his face
away and refused to take anything more.

Pomfrey sighed and put the food and spoon to one side. "Very well. Perhaps a nap, then," she decided and waved her wand over Harry's head.

Harry pouted a bit even as he felt himself drifting to sleep. That was cheating.

-0-

Harry woke again, briefly, as a loud voice boomed some sobs and the nurse shushed him. "Hagrid, if you cannot get control of yourself–"

Hagrid sniffed and loudly blew his nose. "I'ma sorry, Madam Pomfrey. It's jest so sad."

"It's a terrible tragedy," Madam Pomfrey agreed and Harry thought he could sense true sorrow in her voice. "But that's no reason to make a loud
mess about it. You'll wake Harry."

Harry quickly closed his eyes as Hagrid and Madam Pomfrey walked over to his crib. He didn't want to be hit with another sleep spell!

"Look at the little tyke. So sweet and quiet. He don't even know that people're out there throwing parties in 'is name. The Boy Who Lived, they're
callin' 'im."

"Yes, yes, I know. Hagrid, if you don't go, you'll be late."

"Oh, er, right. Yeah, best be off, then. Takin' 'im to 'is new home."

Oh. Oh, shit. Harry was going to have to live with the Dursleys. Bloody–

Oh. Oh, but wait. Perhaps this wasn't such a bad thing. Revenge is a dish best served cold and all that, and Harry had the ability now to make his
aunt and uncle very, very cold at a moment's notice. Yes. It seemed only fitting that the first mundanes he tested his new abilities on were the very
people who had made his childhood hell.

Harry was going to enjoy this.

-0-

The first two years were a test of Harry's patience. He wanted to be able to speak and move about on his own before he truly tormented his
relatives, not to mention actually control his gift. And they hadn't done anything truly despicable to him, yet, letting him sleep in a rickety crib in
Dudley's room and feeding and clothing him properly.

Harry was a quiet child, and that seemed to suit Vernon and Petunia just fine. Dudley cried and screamed all the time, but Harry just laid quietly,
ate what he was given and never made a fuss. He was the first to master potty training, much to Petunia's consternation. She seemed torn
between being upset that the 'freak' mastered something before her 'perfect' son, and being pleased that she didn't have to deal with the boy's dirty
nappies. In the end, she decided to be pleased about not having to worry about him.

Shortly after Harry's third birthday, Vernon ordered Harry moved to the cupboard under the stairs, since Dudley was a 'growing boy who needed
his space'. Harry allowed this move without complaint, content to sleep in his own cupboard if it would keep him away from Dudley's loud snoring
and occasional bed-wetting incidents. He wouldn't let himself be locked in the cupboard forever, after all, but the silence and nearness to the
kitchens served his purposes for the moment, since Petunia had been giving him less and less food.

Height had always been an issue with Harry. He'd been the shortest person in his entire family as an adult; even his children had outgrown him by
the time they hit puberty. The lack of proper nourishment as a child had been the most obvious cause of his lack of height, and Harry refused to
allow it to be an issue this time around. If that meant using magic to open his cupboard at night and steal some of the food in the fridge, that's what
he'd do.

When Harry turned four, Vernon started giving him a list of chores. It started out simple: fold the laundry, help pick up the living room, help weed
the garden with Petunia. Harry didn't mind those things, really, so he let it be.

The day Vernon ordered him to cook the breakfast, however, Harry put his foot down.

"No," Harry said quietly.

Vernon turned to his small nephew, face starting to purple a bit. "What was that?" he demanded.

"I said, no. I won't be making you any breakfast."

"Your aunt is sick with the flu and can't make breakfast, boy! It's your job!"

"It is not my 'job'," Harry retorted, turning dark eyes on the obese man standing over him. "You're the adult in the house. If you want food, make it
yourself."

"You little–" Vernon grabbed the front of Harry's too large shirt and moved to smack him, but suddenly he felt so very cold and terrified. He let the
boy go and stumbled backwards, struggling to keep his feet.

Harry stepped forwards, eerie green eyes practically glowing with malice.

"What are you– Stop this immediately, freak!" Vernon demanded, falling to his knees.

"Listen here, mundane," Harry said, voice filled with violence and hatred, "I'm not some servant you can keep shoved in the cupboard and take out
when you need something done. I'm a boy, a human boy, and I will be treated like one. Do we have an accord, Vernon?"

Vernon stared at this child, this demon that had laid sleeping in his silent nephew, and nodded hurriedly. "Right. Understood."

Harry smiled a dark little smile. "This weekend, you'll take me out for new clothing," he ordered, "and a pair of glasses. And when I ask to be
moved to Dudley's second bedroom in a few years, you'll do it without complaint. Am I understood?"

"Yes," Vernon gasped. "Yes, I understand!"

The cold vanished and Harry's smile turned light and childlike again, the demon from moments before gone without a trace. "Excellent. What's for
breakfast?"

Vernon lurched to his feet and rushed into the kitchen without a word, the light laughter of his nephew following him.

-0-

When Harry was six, he made his first kill. A strange man liked to hang out not far from the grade school he attended, always trying to tempt
passing children with sweets. Harry was never foolish enough to fall for his tricks and temptations, but other children occasionally were. They were
usually caught by an elder sibling or a neighbour before the man could drive off with them, but one child hadn't been so lucky and his body had
turned up two weeks after he'd disappeared in a creek on the edge of town.

The day after the boy's death hit the news, Harry approached the man in his car, playing the part of an innocent child who was looking for the
sweets the man offered.

"Hello there, little boy. What's your name?" the man asked, smiling.

Harry widened his eyes a bit more as he started in on the chocolate bar the man had given him. "I'm Hawwy," he said through the sweet. Sweets
were hard to come by at the Dursleys, unless you were Dudley, and Harry didn't have to fake his enjoyment at the taste of the chocolate. It was
one of the few sweets he had still enjoyed as an adult.

"I'm Jack," the man replied. "Would you like more chocolate? There's lots in the back seat, but I'm afraid I can't reach it right now. The door is
unlocked, though."
Harry had to bite back a scoff. Children actually fell for this crap? Honestly? But he obediently climbed into the back of the car and let out the
expected startled shout when the door slammed close and locked. "What's going on?" he said, eyes wide and terrified. "Where's the chocolate?"

"It's at my house," Jack replied smoothly as he started up the engine. "I'll have to take you there."

Seriously? Harry chewed his bottom lip, then nodded. "But I have to be home by five or Aunt Petunia will send me to bed without dinner," he
mumbled.

"I'll have you home in plenty of time, Harry. Don't worry about that at all." Jack looked back at him through the rear-view mirror, greed in his eyes.

Oh, Harry would get back in plenty of time, there was no doubt about that, but this man wouldn't be preying on children anymore.

At the man's house, the two got out, Harry still playing the hopeful child with wide eyes. Jack let them inside, then closed the door, saying, "The
chocolate's in the basement. Let's leave your bag here, hm?"

Harry left his bag and let Jack lead him to the basement. He skipped down the stairs, then turned and waited for the man, ignoring the various sex
contraptions sitting around. "I don't see the chocolate!" he called up, an evil smile curling his lips. This man was an excellent first kill.

Jack came hurrying down the stairs, smiling his own evil smile, but he froze when he saw Harry. "Wha–?" he started before he suddenly felt terribly
cold. Terror gripped his throat and he fell to his knees. "Oh, God..." he whispered.

"God?" Harry repeated, stepping forward. His eyes glowed with his power and his evil little smile seemed all the more terrifying. "God doesn't listen
to sinners, Jack," he whispered, drawing delicate fingers along Jack's cheek while the man shivered and stared at him with fear. "He leaves them
to the demons of Hell... like me."

Jack let out a pitiful sound and wet his trousers, making Harry laugh. "Please... please have mercy..."

"Mercy?" Harry wondered. "Is it mercy, then, what you do to the children you bring down here? No, I think not. So I shall show you the same mercy
you showed them." He opened his mouth and sucked.

Jack screamed as his soul came detached and slid down Harry's throat. He toppled over, lifeless, as Harry stepped away.

"Mm. Tastes like chicken," Harry murmured, licking his lips. He spared a brief glance for the soulless body, then riffled through his pockets for his
wallet. Forty pounds and a bank card were his gifts. He stuck them into a pocket, then wandered upstairs to riffle through the rest of Jack's things
for anything of value.

After all, if he was going to lead the magical world in a crusade to destroy the mundanes, he was going to need money, and not just what was in
the Potter Vault. The mundanes he killed might as well help him with more than their knowledge of maths and history.

-0-

After Jack, Harry spent occasional weekends walking into town or taking the bus to a nearby city to sell off the things he'd found at Jack's home.
During his trips, he'd sometimes find mundanes that were just the right side of nasty to his dementor senses that he'd follow them home or into a
dark alley, suck out their souls, then take anything and everything of value they had on them.

Before he knew it, he had enough knowledge of maths, history, science, and English that he could probably pass the A-levels without even trying.
Really, it just made classes extremely boring and he spent them daydreaming or plotting his various schemes. Since he always did well on any
quizzes, his teachers didn't bother demanding he focus after the first couple of attempts.

As for Dudley? Well, Vernon had told him pretty much right off that he was to avoid his younger cousin at all costs. For the most part, Dudley
listened, but he occasionally forgot and came over to pick on Harry. The first three times, Harry just glanced up at his cousin with his eerie green
eyes and the boy turned away.

Once Dudley made friends with Piers and the other neighbourhood bullies, however, it took more than a glare to make the boys leave. But after the
fifth time of feeling absolutely terrified when coming near Harry, even Dudley got the hint that he should probably leave his cousin alone.

Marge Dursley was another interesting bit of fun for Harry. The day before she came over for the first time since Harry had threatened Vernon, he
pulled his uncle aside and calmly explained that if Marge said one word about Harry's parents or set her dogs on Harry, he would leave them as
soulless husks. So if Vernon didn't want a vegetable as a sister, he'd best keep the wretched woman in line. Incidentally, there was only one brief
problem and when Harry set Marge's bulldog whimpering under her skirts, the woman wisely decided to follow the examples of her brother and his
family and just pretend the boy wasn't there.

Really, Harry sort of liked being the one to call the shots. For his seventh birthday, he got Dudley's second bedroom and his cousin hadn't even
bothered with a token protest, having long learned it was in his best interest to let Harry be. The rest of the time, Harry got what he wanted to eat
and he only had to do chores if he wanted to – he'd help with the laundry and cleaning up a bit, and he'd completely claimed Petunia's back garden
for his own pleasure. Every Easter and Christmastime, Harry would be taken shopping for new clothing. He had to deal with his glasses on his
own, but he had amassed enough mundane money by the time his prescription started getting outdated that he was able to make his own
appointment and pay for it and the much nicer pair of glasses he'd found. (The secretary had thought he was the most adorable thing in the world
and had given him a discount. He'd been torn between being disgusted by her cooing and pleased that his savings wouldn't take too much damage
after all.)

The summer of Harry's eighth birthday, Harry finally made his first trip to Diagon Alley. He was still obnoxiously small for his age, but he was also
taller than he'd remembered being during his last life at this age, so he'd take what he could get.

After getting Tom to open the barrier into the Alley, Harry made a beeline to Gringotts. He'd brought a large chunk of his mundane money,
intending to deposit it into his account for safe-keeping. He'd amassed far too much to continue keeping it under the loose floor board in his room,
and he had no interest in trying to set up a mundane bank account at his age.

Upon entering the bank, he walked right up to an open teller and demanded, "I need this money changed into the magical equivalent and most of it
deposited into my account here. I'd also like to request a special money pouch with spaces for both magical and mun–muggle money, preferably
with blood spells on it, the fee for which can be taken from this money. And, no, I don't have my key, but I believe Headmaster Dumbledore does."

The goblin sneered down at him. "Your name?"

"Harry Potter," Harry replied, flicking his fringe away from his forehead to show his scar. The hair settled right back into place after a moment,
hiding the lightning bolt from view. Harry wasn't foolish enough to leave his brand obvious for the casual gawker.

The goblin's eyes widened briefly, then he took the money Harry had placed on the counter and counted through it quickly. "One moment," he
muttered and hopped off to exchange the money.

Harry took a moment to glance around the large hall while he waited. He recognised a few families in other lines after having fought behind their
children in two wars or from having caught them as an auror. He also recognised a few non-humans, something his dementor senses could pick
out. A woman over there was a veela, while a man arguing over mundane money was a werewolf. And, oh... Harry narrowed his eyes at a
handsome man with a closemouthed smile. A vampire.

"Mr Potter," the goblin said, returning and holding forward a pouch and a small knife. "If you would place seven drops of blood on this?"

Harry took the knife without care and sliced the tip of one finger. Once seven drops had fallen, he stuck the finger into his mouth and mentally
chanted a mild healing spell. He could do it wandlessly about half of the time, and if it didn't work this time, well, that's why he had plasters in his
back pocket.

Once his finger was taken care of, Harry took the pouch and counted out forty galleons to put into the pouch before directing the goblin to put the
rest into his account, which the creature agreed to with a nod. He was also handed a copy of his vault key, for which there was an extra pocket in
his new money pouch. "It was a pleasure doing business with you," Harry offered, then turned away from the goblin and making towards the door.

"Hello there, beautiful," a refined voice whispered in Harry's ear and he tensed. "You look like you could use a good time." The vampire Harry had
noticed earlier stepped around him with a coy smile.

Harry bit back a mad laugh. He could feel the vampire's thrall trying to work on him, but unlike a normal eight year old, he had already mastered
Occlumency and the thrall simply slipped away. "Depends on how fun your 'good time' is," he replied, letting his eyes drift to half-mast. He had no
fear of vampires, and Death's promise that he could get some of their abilities faster than with wizards was so very tempting.

"It's the most fun you'll ever have in your life, beautiful," the vampire promised, slowly stepping backwards.

Harry smiled to himself and allowed the vampire to lead him out of the bank and down into Knockturn Alley.

The vampire led them into an empty side alley and pressed Harry against a wall, smiling widely and showing his teeth. "I've always been fond of
beautiful things," he murmured.

"That's funny," Harry replied and the vampire jerked back in shock as the air chilled, "I've always been rather fond of souls. You'll let me taste
yours, won't you?" And the vampire's mouth opened in a silent scream as Harry sucked down the ancient soul.

"Mm. Beef. A little bloody." Harry chuckled to himself as he shifted through the pockets of the vampire's empty clothing, his body having dissolved
with the absence of his soul. He took the money and added it to his new money pouch, then swept the vampire's cloak over his shoulders. It was a
little big, but walking through Knockturn in mundane clothing would only bring him trouble, so he dealt with it.

The information Harry had received from the vampire had included the address of a pub down Knockturn that catered to the undead, so Harry
made his way there. Never mind the magical gifts vampires could give him, the sheer amount of knowledge was... Harry took a deep breath. All
those mundanes and their book learning was nothing compared to those who had lived those days. The languages and the history. The famous
people and the images of buildings that had long since crumbled to dust. Harry wanted more.

No.

Harry needed more.

-0-

The first wizard Harry killed had been a mistake. He'd been enjoying his tenth birthday at a funfair that was visiting the area. Getting in without an
adult had been tricky, but he'd killed enough vampires that he could easily charm his way past the mundane at the gate. He had already gone on a
number of rides and was enjoying some candy floss in one of the less travelled areas of the fair when a drunk man came stumbling over to his
bench.

"You got any -hic- money on you -hic- kid?"

Harry sneered at the adult. "And let you get even more smashed? I think not."

The man glared at him through bleary eyes. "You don't talk -hic- to me that way -hic- brat! Do you have any -hic- idea who I -hic- am?"

Harry stood, glad for his recent growth spurt that put him at a respectable height for a ten year old. "Do I look like I care who you are, you mad
drunk?"

The man grabbed Harry's shoulder in a painful grip and shook him. "Listen you little -hic- shit–"

"Unhand me right this instant," Harry ordered, bringing his power down on the man.

The man hiccupped again and looked mildly disturbed, but he was too drunk to really understand the cold feeling crawling in his gut. "You're gonna
give me -hic- all your money and -hic- maybe that sweet too–"

Harry opened his mouth and sucked down the man's soul, done with dealing with the fool man. He was mostly just glad to be rid of him, but then
the knowledge came slithering to him and he looked down at the crumpled form with a smirk. "A wizard, drunk on mundane alcohol? Ooh, what's
this? You work for the Department of Mysteries. Excellent." He sorted through the man's pockets for his money pouch, wand, and Ministry ID, then
pocketed all of it. There was no guarantee the wand would really work for him, but at least now he had one.

After shoving the man behind a bin, Harry finished the last of his candy floss and returned to the fair. It had been, quite possibly, the best birthday
of his two lives.

-0-

Harry never bothered trying to infiltrate the Department of Mysteries, but he did keep his eyes out for other useless wizards and witches who
happened to cross his path. He finished off another four by the time his Hogwarts letter was due: one auror, one Wizengamot member and two
Ministry paper-pushers. From them he learned all sorts of fun little titbits about how their government worked, as well as quite a few spells he'd
never bothered learning or that had fallen out of popular knowledge.

On the day that Petunia set aside to take Dudley shopping for his new Smeltings uniform, she nervously looked at Harry and asked, "Should I be
picking out your Stonewall uniform, too? Or will you be making do?" Harry had long since created a wardrobe of darker clothing, much of which
was black or a dark grey. There were a few shirts that were green or maroon, and he owned one pair of faded blue jeans, but everything else was
the right shade to blend in with the shadows, which made his shadow walking gift easier.

"I'm not going to Stonewall," Harry replied absently from behind the college-level physics book he'd picked out of the library just yesterday. A
mundane he'd done away with last week had been quite knowledgeable about the subject, but the soul didn't transfer everything to Harry, so he
often found himself hunting down more information on his own.

Petunia blinked from the doorway. "You just plan to take your A-Levels and some college will accept you in spite of how young you are?" she
snapped.

Harry looked up from his book and raise an unimpressed eyebrow. "I'll be going to Hogwarts, as you very well know. I'm waiting for my letter so I
know what to get." He returned to his book, having no interest in how pale his aunt had become.

At dinner that night, Vernon turned on his nephew, who was eating in silence with a notebook next to him. He would occasionally write something
down in it in some language that wasn't English and his family had never been brave enough to ask what he was up to. "Boy," Vernon said,
breaking the usual quiet that fell over the supper table when Harry ate with them.

Harry glanced up at his uncle through his fringe. "Yes, Vernon?"

Vernon puffed up a bit when Harry refused to address him with respect, but he'd long given up on that battle, so he instead said, "You're going to
Stonewall. I won't be paying for you to go to some freak–"

"You won't have to pay for anything," Harry replied calmly as the room chilled a bit.

Dudley and Petunia flinched away from Harry, but Vernon leaned forward and demanded, "Planning to threaten them into letting you in for free,
then? You think the freaks–"

"If you continue to refer to my people as 'freaks,' I will happily take your soul, you waste of air," Harry replied coldly as his power came down harder
on his uncle, the air around his aunt and cousin warming slightly. "You're not needed for the spells on this house, and don't think for even a
moment that I hold any fondness for you. You're only alive so long as you have a use, and right now that involves making the money required to
keep this residence." Harry stood, sweeping his notebook and pen into one hand. "This is the last time we will be having this discussion,
mundanes: I am going to Hogwarts. You will drop me off on September first and you will pick me up at the appropriate time at the end of the year.
The rest of the time, we will have little to nothing to do with each other. Am I clear?"

Vernon and Petunia both whispered, "yes," while Dudley whimpered and slid under the table to hide from his cousin.

Harry smiled in pleasure and left the kitchen, taking the cold with him. He was sure he'd have to remind Vernon at least once more to mind himself,
but that could wait until next summer, at the earliest.

-0-

When Harry's Hogwarts letter came, he gave Petunia a scrap of paper to write her acknowledgement of the receipt with the promise to take Harry
to Diagon Alley herself. In reality, Harry would be going alone, and while he missed his friends, like Hagrid, he much preferred his visit to Diagon by
himself. He tended to attract less of a crowd alone, after all.

So the day after his letter came, Harry stepped out into the road and called the Knight Bus to take him to the Leaky Cauldron. He'd had to leave his
collection of stolen wands at Privet Drive, since he didn't want to chance Ollivander knowing them, but one could call the Knight Bus without a
wand, so long as they focused enough when they raised their hand.

The trip was as maddening as ever, and Harry was quite happy to get off when he did. He waved to Stan and made his way into the magical pub.
Once again, he had Tom let him through to the actual Alley, then he started his way to Ollivanders. He'd counted his money the night before and
decided he'd have more than enough for all of his supplies without stopping at Gringotts, but he intended to save the bookstore for last and see
where his funds were before traversing that particular building. Of course, since he wanted a more expensive trunk, he figured he'd probably run
out of money before the bookstore, and he did want to get some extra books...

The bell over the shop door jingled quietly as Harry stepped into Ollivanders. His dementor senses told him that the old man was in the shelves to
his left, so Harry glanced that way and waited for the man to appear.

And appear he did, eyeing Harry curiously. "Mr Potter," he murmured. "Yes, yes, I thought I'd be seeing you soon." His eerie silver eyes seemed to
look through Harry for a moment and then widened. "Oh. Oh my." He took a step back. "You have Mastered Death, and it has given you quite the
boon. But to what use will you put this boon, I wonder?"

Harry considered the man through narrowed eyes. "I'll put it to the best use as I see it. Whether others will agree with me is a matter of their own
opinion, but I won't sit back and watch my people wiped out again."

"You will bathe in the blood of innocents," Ollivander warned, his eerie eyes sparking with something like amusement.
"If it saves innocents from dirtying their hands, I would bathe in whatever necessary. Tell me, Ollivander, have you ever seen someone's head
blown off with a mundane gun? It's really quite gruesome, and there's nothing you can do but stand there and watch."

Ollivander looked away. "You have seen many terrible things, and they have done terrible things to you. Do you truly think you can lead this world
away from damnation?" He met Harry's eyes again, challenging the boy before him.

Harry looked away at the question he'd asked himself often enough over the past ten years. "I don't know," he admitted, sounding for the first time
like the child he appeared, but then he looked up, green eyes hard as ice. "I don't know if my path is the right one, but I won't let them take the
wrong one again. Perhaps they will hate me, but I've been hated before and it is something I can bear, so long as I know Hogwarts still stands and
the magical world continues to exist as it always has. I will do anything."

Ollivander smiled and inclined his head, though it seemed a little sad. "Then I wish you luck on your path, Harry Potter." He held out his hand and a
wand box soared into it. "Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple."

Harry took his wand and smiled to have it back in his hands, but something was missing. He turned to Ollivander, one brow raised.

"You are Death's creature, now," Ollivander said quietly. "Only Death's wand will allow you to reach your full potential. This wand is still yours,
however, as it will always be, and it will help you the best it can. Seven galleons."

Harry paid his fee and left the shop with his wand, frowning. That had been a mildly disturbing meeting, and he wasn't sure how he felt about
Ollivander knowing who and what he was. But there was nothing for it at the moment. The wandmaker would keep his secrets, of that, Harry had
no doubt.

Deciding to forget the odd meeting, Harry got himself a new trunk with multiple compartments and some impressive protection spells. He intended
to add some extra protection spells of his own once he got it home, but the basic set would be enough for the moment. It had also received the
extra magic-free shrinking charm, which allowed the owner to tap the trunk and say 'small' to shrink it or 'large' to return it to full size.

He went for his uniform next and ordered a couple of sets of everyday robes while he was at it, intending to wear mundane clothing as little as
possible. While he preferred trousers to running about bare below the waist, he had no interest in spending his weekends looking like he'd been
mundane-raised. Purebloods would be some of his strongest supporters, and they'd be more likely to listen to him if he didn't run about in trousers
and button-up shirts. Or, at least, if he did, he covered them with a robe.

After collecting his new wardrobe, Harry got his cauldron, phials, telescope, and scales. He also gathered some of the more expensive potions
ingredients that Snape didn't keep in the student stores and a gold cauldron for some of the potions he knew how to make. It wouldn't be hard to
find a room deep in the dungeons where no one went that he could set up a secret lab in. Or he could just use the Chamber, he supposed, but he
didn't want to chance the basilisk knocking anything over.

Finally, he had only the bookstore left. A glance into his money pouch told him that he would, in fact, need to make a trip to Gringotts. He had
enough mundane money on him that he shouldn't have to go down to his vault, at least.

After his quick trip to the bank, Harry stepped into the bookstore with a wide grin. He'd been stopping himself from coming in here during previous
trips, since hiding any books he brought to the Dursleys' would quickly become troublesome, but now he could just go all out and buy whatever he
wanted. The compartment in his trunk for books had expanding charms on it, after all. But, first, before he forgot, he should get his boring school
books. Ugh.

Two hours later, Harry lugged his shopping basket up to the desk and set it down with a 'thump'. "I may have broken the feather light charm," he
offered the shopkeep sheepishly. The basket had stopped being feather light about ten minutes ago, which had been his cue to stop adding books
to the basket. Of course, that hadn't stopped him from grabbing two more books on his way to the desk and shoving them under his arm.

The shopkeep eyed the basket like one might an angry lion, then started emptying it and totalling it. "Ravenclaw?" he asked.

"First year," Harry admitted, grimacing at the surprised look the shopkeep gave him at that admittance. "I'm mu–ggle-raised," he explained, tripping
over the words for those without magic. "I wanted to know all I could. But, yeah, probably Ravenclaw."

He'd already wondered about his House. It had been something of a question for him for the past few years. He'd loved Gryffindor when he'd been
a student, but he' would never fit in there anymore, not with all that he'd seen and lived through. Slytherin was his best bet, and probably the place
the Hat would want to put him, but he really had no interest in making his world question how evil he was before he'd finished his first feast – and
they would, Harry had spent long enough among wizards to know how they thought – so Slytherin would have to be out. Hufflepuff made him snort;
he was loyal only to himself, and while he could be hardworking, he usually wasn't.

But Ravenclaw... five years of sucking up souls and enjoying their knowledge had taught him the joys of learning new things. And Ravenclaw, like
Hufflepuff, was a House in the middle; they were neither Light nor Dark, but more a middle ground. It was perfect. All he had to do was talk to Hat
into Sorting him there.

He paid for his books, then stuck them absently into his trunk before shrinking it and slipping it into a pocket. He turned for Knockturn Alley with a
faint smirk – there always seemed to be more vampires around, and they were absolutely delicious, not to mention the money he made from
pawning off their little collections when he could find them.

In a month, he'd be arriving at Hogwarts. Finally, his plans could begin.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: This fic just sort of... wrote itself. And, yeah, Harry's a bit loony, but you'd be a bit loony if you watched your whole race get decimated and
you, yourself, were hunted for months on end before they finally caught and killed you. He seriously dislikes muggles, but he's still enough of a
good person to know that there are good muggles out there, so he only really hunts down muggles who he thinks deserve to die. (Now, mind you,
his ideas of what makes a muggle deserving to live are quite different from what you or I might think, so he'll probably kill a few people that you
wouldn't have, like the drunk DoM worker.) And vampires. He kills all vampires indiscriminately. (If they sparkle, he stabs them until they stop
sparkling, then sucks their soul. XD)
Mundane vs muggle: I figure the muggles would probably find that particular term rude and would find a new word for them to differentiate between
the non-magical and the magical. Mundane isn't a whole heck of a lot better, but since Vernon calls magical people 'freaks', I figured 'mundane'
was a good opposite. (A lot of people have complained that this is still offensive, and I admit that it is, but it was between this and 'normal', and
'mundane' won. I could have gone with 'human', or 'non-magical', but magical people are still human, and the way the non-magicals were looking at
it, they were normal and the magical people weren't. Hence, mundane.)

When Harry first becomes the owner of a Hallow: I've seen a fic before where Harry returned to his childhood when he first became the owner of
the Cloak and that person decided it was when Dumbledore gave him the Cloak for Christmas. While it's true that that moment is the first where
Harry finds out about the Cloak, we are led the believe that the Cloak is passed through the Potter family from parent to child, so the moment
James died, ownership of the Cloak was transferred to Harry. He might not receive it until his first year, but it is still his.

I hope that covers any questions for this chapter. Feel free to leave a review with anything you don't get and I'll try my best to answer it. Promise.
~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 2*: Never As It Seems
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: Bats would like to point out to Harry that his friends are only eleven and perfectly malleable if he'd like to keep them as his friends
once he's started killing off all the muggles. Not that Harry's quite that far gone.

A/N: OMG. Your reviews. THEY MADE ME SOOOOOO HAPPY! It almost made me want to post the other seven WIP stories I haven't put up yet.
*shifty eyes*
And I'm SUPER glad everyone seems to like insane!Harry. He's oodles of fun to write. XD

A reviewer – dalistar123 – asked what Harry looks like. Uhm, basically a lot like he would in the books, just a little bit taller and with nicer glasses.
He found a way to tame his hair a bit, so it actually lies flat, especially over his forehead. Nothing else really special. (Well, when he uses his
dementor power his eyes light up and, to those under his influence, he takes on a very demonic tone.)

To bmc the answer is that, yeah, this is another fic where I'm just going as it's given to me. I've got a load of stories that are half finished that I
intend to post when they're finished, but this isn't one of them. Sorry.
On the other hand, chapters 3 and 4 are finished, so it'll be a couple weeks before I hit a snag.

To Amy, thanks for the word on the NHS (I want to live in Britain! ;.; ). From the info I could find on it, I'm not one hundred percent certain that
Harry could have got the vouchers, and since he wanted nicer frames, he'd likely have had to pay at least something out of pocket.
For your question on the pairing, please refer to either the story summary or the line at the top of any chapter labelled 'Pairings'.

For everyone wondering about the title: It means something along the line of 'abnormally dry skin or eyes'. I picked it, in part, to symbolise
Harry's inability to cry, which was mentioned a few times last chapter and will probably come up again later. Really, I picked that title because I
have a fic title for every letter of the alphabet except 'X'. And that is the honest truth.

And now I'm off to be miserable with my new nemesis, HalfLytely. Enjoy the chapter.

-0-0-0-

Never As It Seems

-0-0-0-

Vernon stopped outside of King's Cross and gave Harry a beady glare as the boy took his time about getting out of the car. He didn't even have
any apparent luggage, since it was all inside his shrunken trunk. Really, Harry was being slow just to see if his uncle would have an aneurism,
which would be an awesome thing to happen just before he went off to Hogwarts.

Alas, no luck. Harry sighed to himself and started into the station as Vernon's car squealed loudly away. Perhaps for his twelfth birthday, then. Or
his thirteenth. Oh, yes. Thirteen. Harry mentally added that to a list in his mind.

A few people eyed him a bit oddly, but Harry ignored them as he slipped through the early morning crowds to platforms nine and ten. At the barrier,
he took a cursory glance around, then leaned back through the wall and onto the other side.

The Hogwarts train with its scarlet engine had ceased to inspire any sort of excitement in Harry by Lily's final year, but seeing it again after having
walked through the wreckage was... amazing. Harry stopped for a moment and just smiled at the train, feeling a bit like he'd just come home.

He wondered how seeing Hogwarts would feel.

A bump from behind him reminded him that he wasn't that far from the barrier. He'd been lucky the next person coming through hadn't been
running, honestly. "Sorry about that," he offered, turning to smile at the person.

"D-don't worry ab-about it," Neville Longbottom stuttered as his Gran stepped through behind him.

Harry's smile widened at his old friend. "Completely my fault," he assured the boy, "I stopped and stared instead of keeping on. Here, I'll help you
with your luggage, hm?"

Neville seemed completely thrown for a loop, but there was no way he could refuse Harry when he'd already started off with Neville's trunk, so the
boy grabbed his sack and Trevor and dashed after the other boy, calling, "Bye, Gran!" over his shoulder as he dove into the crowd.

Augusta Longbottom sighed and shook her head, then turned and wheeled the trolley back towards the entrance of the station. Boys would be
boys. She just hoped that new boy wouldn't be too cruel to Neville.

On the train, Neville finally caught up with the thief of his trunk as the boy hefted it up into the luggage rack without any apparent trouble, leaving
Neville staring like an idiot.

Harry dusted his hands together and turned to grin at Neville, who was standing in the doorway with his mouth hanging open. "Hey, you'll catch
flies that way," he teased, gently pushing up on Neville's chin. "I'm Harry, by the way."

"N-Neville," the other boy stuttered a bit.

"Well, N-Neville, it's nice to meet you," Harry replied, flopping down in one of the chairs. "Come on in and sit down, huh? No point in blocking the
door."

Neville shuffled over to the seat across from Harry and plopped down, clutching his toad and sack to his chest as if he was afraid Harry would steal
them as well.

Harry rolled his eyes and shifted enough to pull Hogwarts, A History out of his back pocket – which was bigger on the inside than the outside so he
could hold books and other toys in there. He stretched out over his bench and popped the book open to read, for all intents and purposes deciding
to ignore Neville.

Neville was just starting to relax when the compartment door slid open and a girl with wild brown hair filled the opening. "Oh," she said, looking
crestfallen.

Harry glanced over his book and took note of her trunk behind her. "Looking for a place to sit?" he asked, inwardly jumping for joy. He'd found
Hermione!

The girl chewed her bottom lip a bit. "Yeah. All the other compartments I've seen so far were full of upper years."

"Well, it's just us firsties in here, and you're welcome to join us," Harry said, closing his book and sitting up. "Come on in and we'll see about getting
that trunk into the rack."

Hermione grimaced. "It might be a bit too heavy," she warned even as she stepped inside, trunk sliding heavily behind her.

Harry shrugged and stood properly, leaving his book on the bench. "We'll manage," he promised and leaned down to take hold of one end.

Hermione looked quite uncertain about that, but leaned down and took a hold of the other side. She was a bit awed when the trunk that her father
had barely been able to lift into the boot went up with ease into the rack. She stared at the boy in awe. "What are you?" she whispered.

Harry flushed. Oops. He stuck out his hand and grinned widely. "I'm Harry, by the way. And this is N-Neville."

Hermione blinked, then narrowed her eyes. "Are you trying to–"

"Nice to meet you, Are you trying to!" Harry said over her demand, still grinning.

Hermione's mouth fell open and she stared at the strange boy as he flopped back down into his seat and pulled his book back open.

"You'll catch flies like that," Neville quietly said after a moment.

Hermione's mouth snapped shut and she turned to the other boy in the compartment. "Is he–?"

Neville shrugged. "I've only just met him, myself. I ran into him out on the platform and he ran off with my trunk." He glanced down at his sack.
"What's your real name?"

The girl smiled. "Hermione. Hermione Granger. I'm the first witch in my family." She puffed up a bit at that, quite proud.

Neville smiled. "Neville Longbottom. I'm a pureblood, one of the older families."

They both looked over at Harry who was watching them from over top of his book. At their expectant looks, he sighed and lowered his book. "Harry
Potter," he offered, sighing again as soon as their eyes widened.

Neville looked a bit like he'd just seen Merlin or something. Hermione, on the other hand, looked a bit like Harry was a new experiment. "Harry
Potter! I know all about you–"

"You know nothing about me!" Harry snapped as the temperature in the compartment plummeted. "You've heard fairy stories and read books
written by people who've never even seen me. Don't you dare claim to know anything about me!"

There was a long moment of silence and the three first years stared at each other across the compartment, Hermione and Neville shivering while
Harry shook with anger.

"I'm sorry," Hermione whispered at last, tears in her eyes.

Harry closed his eyes and fell back against his seat, forcing himself to come back under control. He hadn't meant to lose his temper like that, but
after the war with the mundanes, he'd become rather sick of all the people who looked to him to save them. People who thought they knew him. He
swallowed and looked back over at the two frightened children. "I'm sorry too," he murmured. "I didn't mean to lose my temper. I just..." He sighed
and rubbed at his face, knocking his glasses askew. "I'm not the hero people make me out to be. I didn't defeat Voldemort, my mum did. I'm just
the kid who survived." He looked up at them, feeling old and tired.

Hermione and Neville seemed to have calmed down and the girl was leaning forward a bit. "Your mum defeated You-Know-Who?"

Harry rolled his eyes at the public name for the Dark Lord. "Yeah. When Voldemort came to kill me, he offered to let Mum move aside. He was
going to spare her for some reason, I dunno. Anyway, when he cast the Killing Curse, there was this shield or something in the way and it reflected
back at him." Harry shrugged.

Neville swallowed. "You remember that?" he whispered.

Harry looked down at his book and gently traced the letters on the cover. "Yeah. I have perfect recall, pretty much from the time the spell hit. I
have..." He shook his head and looked up at the children across from him. "Those books and stories are wrong. Whatever." He picked his book up
and flipped it open to where he'd been reading when Hermione came in.

The compartment was silent as the train started off. After a few minutes, Hermione pulled out her own book and Neville pulled out a deck of cards
to play solitaire.
They remained in silence for almost two hours until it was broken by the appearance of the woman with the sweets trolley who popped her head in
and asked, "Anything off the trolley, dears?"

Hermione shook her head, but both Harry and Neville rose to collect some treats. Harry stuck mostly to the chocolate frogs and a couple cauldron
cakes, not up for much else, but Neville happily got a bit of everything and dumped it into the seat Harry had been taking up with his legs.

Harry was more amused than annoyed as he took his seat and he sat back to watch Neville offer sweets to Hermione, the child of dentists. She
turned all of them away until Harry absently mentioned, "Cauldron cakes and pumpkin pasties don't have a lot of sugar in them. And some of the
Every Flavour Beans are vegetable-flavoured."

Hermione gave him an odd look and he smiled at her widely before biting off the head of a squirming frog. She looked torn between disapproval
and amusement, and when Harry held out an unopened frog, grinning through chocolate-covered teeth, she laughed and took the frog. "You're
going to rot your teeth!" she complained as Harry bit into another frog.

"At least I'll be happy while I do so," Harry agreed, "what with chocolate being a natural antidepressant."

Hermione blinked in surprise while Neville asked, "Natural anti-what?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "You've heard of the medicinal value of chocolate?" he asked.

"Yeah, sure. It lightens your mood," Neville agreed.

"Antidepressant is a mund–muggle word for something that makes you happier."

Hermione was eyeing him like he was a puzzle again and Harry had to suppress a sigh. "What were you going to call muggles?"

"Mundanes," Harry muttered. "It's what my aunt calls herself." Which was a bald-faced lie, but even if someone got the balls to ask Petunia what
she called non-magical folk, she'd sooner beat them with her frying pan than give them a real answer.

"Your aunt is a muggle?" Neville wondered while Hermione smiled to herself. Mystery solved.

"Well, yeah. She's my mum's sister." Harry shrugged. "She and my uncle and cousin are all mundanes. Muggles. Whatever!" He huffed and bit into
another wiggling frog.

Hermione covered a smile with one hand. "I like that word, mundane. Muggle just sounds so... Rude, I guess."

" 'Muggle' wasn't meant to be polite," Harry muttered. "It was meant to be derogatory."

"I think it's horrible!" Hermione huffed. "We're all human, right? What does it matter if we have magic or not?"

Harry left his last chocolate frog on the seat and turned to look outside at the passing fields. His Hermione had been killed while making an
impassioned speech on that very topic. The mundanes hadn't cared whose rights she was crying for, she was magical and she had to die.

Neville looked uncomfortably between Harry's silently tragic profile and Hermione's righteous fury. After a moment, Hermione relaxed a bit, so
Neville waved his cards at her. "Want to play Exploding Snap?"

Hermione blinked. "Oh, erm, sure? I don't know the rules or anything..."

"We can teach you," Harry offered, turning away from the window with a smile. His Hermione was gone, but this Hermione was still alive and well.
And he'd keep her that way, even if she hated him for it.

-0-

Harry had been a bit surprised when they made it to Hogsmeade Station without a visit from Draco. (Of course, the only people who knew that
Harry Potter had actually been on the train had been in the same compartment almost the whole trip, only leaving to change into their robes five
minutes out.) At the announcement for them to leave their luggage on the train, however, both Neville and Hermione eyed Harry curiously.

"Don't you have any luggage?" Hermione wondered.

"You didn't have a trunk on the platform, either," Neville remembered.

Harry shrugged and pulled out his miniature trunk. "I spent a little extra money to have it shrink and resize on command, so I just keep it in my
pocket. No reason to go shoving it up in the rack if I can just keep it on me." So saying, he slipped it back into his pocket and relaxed back in his
seat for the last few moments of the trip.

"That's... sort of useful," Hermione commented. "But doesn't it weight a lot?"

Harry shrugged. "It reduces the mass, not just the size, so no. But it's also got a feather light charm on it, so it weighs next to nothing even at full
size."

"I'm going to guess that was a muggle explanation for a spell?" Neville offered.

"Pretty much," Harry agreed.

The train finally came to a halt and all three shuffled out among the throng to where Hagrid was calling for the firsties.

When everyone had gathered around Hagrid, the giant gamekeeper led the way down the path to the lake, calling out to let them know when they
could see Hogwarts.

While the other students all gasped in awe at the beautiful castle, Harry just stared up at it and clenched his fists at his side. I'll never let mundanes
destroy you again. I'd sooner die than see you as rubble again, he silently promised. Hogwarts was his first home, and he would kill millions of
mundanes to see her safe.

"No more'n four to a boat!" Hagrid called out to them as they reached the crafts.

Neville looked a little nervous as he stepped into the boat, sitting quickly and gripping one of the sides tightly. At Hermione and Harry's concerned
looks, he whispered, "I can't swim."

Hermione frowned at that, but Harry shrugged and offered, "Neither can I. I can manage a most excellent flail, however."

Neville choked on his laughter and his grip loosened slightly as a fourth person stepped into their boat. "Lillian Moon," she whispered in
introduction as Hagrid shouted for the boats to move out.

"Hermione Granger," Hermione replied, holding out a hand to shake.

Lillian looked a little uncertain at the muggle surname, but shook the offered hand anyway.

"Neville Longbottom," Neville offered, refusing to let go of the sides now that the boat was moving under its own power.

"Harry," Harry allowed when Lillian turned to him. "You know, Neville, if you fall in, the Giant Squid will rescue you."

Neville's eyes got really big. "G-Giant S-Squid!"

Hermione huffed. "Harry."

Harry shrugged. "He will. He doesn't like the taste of students. Too chewy."

Hermione gently swatted Harry's arm as Neville got even more pale. "Stop that!"

Lillian snorted. "I like you, Harry," she decided. "You got a last name?"

"I prefer to be mysterious for as long as possible," Harry replied, eyes dancing. "You'll find out at the Sorting, anyway."

Hermione rolled her eyes and helped Neville out of the boat once they reached the dock. "There, dry land."

Harry hopped up next to Neville and slung an arm around his shoulders. "After that, the Sorting should be a snap, eh?"

"I'm not talking to you right now," Neville muttered. "Next thing you're going to do is say we have to fight a troll or something to be Sorted."

"That would be way too bloody for your first day," Harry assured him with a straight face. "They wait until Hallowe'en to spring the troll on you."

"Just ignore him," Hermione hissed while Lillian chortled behind them.

Hagrid handed them off to the stern-faced McGonagall, who led them up to the waiting room to give her speech. Once she'd left, the students
started whispering about what the Sorting might entail.

Harry leaned back against the wall and watched his year mates whisper. Hermione and Neville had shifted away from him a bit during the trip from
the docks, but it was probably for the best. Making friends with them again when he knew they would hate him for the murders he committed would
only hurt that much more.

Lillian, on the other hand, leaned back against the wall next to him. "I can't decide if you actually like the scaredy little Huff'n'duff, or if you just enjoy
screwing with him."

"Neville's a good kid," Harry murmured. "And he'll make an excellent Gryffindor, assuming he can ever get past his self-esteem issues. I hope he
and Hermione become friends. They're good for one another."

Lillian eyed him oddly. "You're strange," she decided. "You aiming for a particular House? And please don't say Gryffindor."

Harry smiled at that. "Ravenclaw. I'm fond of knowledge, so I should end up there. If not..." He shrugged. "Probably Slytherin."

Lillian nodded. "Then we'd be snakes together. It's good I like you."

Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Nothing to do but wait and see."

McGonagall came back then and shooed away the ghosts that had scared some of the other kids. Then she led them up into the Great Hall. From
somewhere ahead of them, Harry heard Hermione telling Neville about the ceiling and he smiled fondly. Next to him, Lillian rolled her eyes and
muttered, "Ravenclaws."

As soon as they were all arranged before the Sorting Hat, it started its song. Once done, McGonagall started calling out students' names so they
could be Sorted.

When Hermione and Neville both went to Gryffindor, he clapped for them and smiled as they passed. He also clapped for Lillian as she made the
walk to Slytherin, head high. Everyone went to the same Houses he'd remembered them going to. Only he would break the pattern.

"Potter, Harry!"

Harry made his way up to the Hat as the Hall broke out in whispers. Hearing some of them, he had to bite back a grimace, and he was quite glad
for the Hat as it slipped over his eyes and blocked him from the Hall.

'Well, well, what have we here? Oh. Oh my.'

'Ollivander said much the same when we met,' Harry commented drily. 'You two don't happen to be friends, do you?'
'You've had quite the difficult life, Mr Potter,' the Hat said, and it sounded so very sad.

Harry wished he could look away, knowing very well what horrors the Hat might see in his mind. Only Occlumency kept his memories from
haunting his nightmares. 'It's been hard, sure, but I've come back to do it over. I'll save everyone this time.'

'You cannot save everyone,' the Hat pointed out gently. 'Some will have to die. That is the nature of war. That's the nature of the war you wish to
wage. People will die, the only thing you're changing is who will die the fastest.'

'It means the same in the end.'

'No, it really doesn't.' The Hat sighed. 'It doesn't matter. You've long chosen your course. Travel it if that is your will, but don't lose yourself on the
way, Harry Potter. The Wizarding World will never survive if you do.' So saying, the Hat returned its attention to the Hall and shouted,
"RAVENCLAW!"

Harry handed the Hat back to McGonagall and stepped silently over to the table of the eagles as they cheered for him. His mind was stuck on the
Hat's words, but he managed to bring himself out of his thoughts long enough to see that Hermione and Neville were both smiling at him, as was
Lillian over at the Slytherin Table.

Dinner was as loud an affair as Harry had remembered it being, even among the quieter eagles. After the first person asked him about the night he
received his scar and he shot them his best glare and brought his power to bear on them, no one else bothered him about it. Instead, talk moved to
students wondering about their classes and professors. They were all so excited to be learning new things and Harry found himself being drawn
into the discussion almost against his will. Little this year would be new to him, but he could understand their excitement and he was caught up in it
without a choice in the matter.

After Dumbledore's speech, the Ravenclaw Prefects led the firsties to their dorm and explained the challenge they'd have to answer to get in every
time. Harry made a mental note to study up on riddles within the next couple days or travel with at least one other Ravenclaw.

Once they were all ensconced in their four posters and his five roommates were asleep, Harry rested back against his pillows and sunk into his
mind. The Hat had warned him not to lose himself, and with all the knowledge floating about in his head and all those murders he'd committed so
far, it wasn't hard to see why it would mention that. So Harry spent the night organizing his mind into a new classification system, ensuring that who
he was – that bright, wide-eyed boy so full of wonder and adventure whose best friends had been the youngest red-head of a huge family and the
brightest witch in the school – would never get buried under death and knowledge. Because that boy, 'Just Harry', hadn't cared for knowledge and
hadn't known death. He'd only wanted acceptance and love.

That was the boy Harry swore never to forget.

-0-

The first month went by faster than Harry ever could have expected. Classes were dull, other than Snape's weekly attacks. The Head of Slytherin
could really hold a grudge and, honestly, as long as Snape left his mother out of things, he could snark all he wished. Harry had taken to keeping a
notebook of some of the best insults Snape used, looking forward to using them on people in the future.

Harry took the time to get to know his new Housemates, since he'd never had much to do with the Ravenclaws beyond Luna in his old life. Well,
Padma had been Parvati's sister and Ron's Yule Ball date, and Terry, Michael, and Anthony had all been members of the DA, but that left six other
Ravenclaws that he barely knew the names of, let alone anything about them.

Terry Boot, he found, had an older brother who was a mundane. Much like Petunia had done when Lily was accepted to Hogwarts, Terry's older
brother had written hopefully to Dumbledore and, upon receiving a negative response, decided to take his fury out on his younger brother. As
Terry's brother was on his secondary school's football team, he left quite the bruises behind and Terry had been nervous around his roommates
until they healed. Harry had found out within the second week, having been in Terry's position in the past, and offered some bruise cream from his
trunk. Almost immediately, Terry was his new best friend.

Michael Corner and Anthony Goldstein were both half-bloods and only children. Their mothers were the magical one, while their fathers were
mundane. Anthony's father, however, had left when he was three, unable to deal with Anthony's wandless magic. Michael's father had remained
and become one of Michael's biggest supporters.

Stephen Cornfoot was a pureblood with only his mum. His father had been suspected of Death Eater activities and sent to Azkaban at the end of
the war without a trial, much like Sirius had been. His father had wasted away after three years and had been thrown out to sea upon his death.
Stephen had never known him beyond the few pictures his mother had kept. He held an enormous grudge against the Ministry, occasionally
scribbling pictures on his class notes of the building in flames or a man with a bowler hat being burned at the stake. (Harry had asked for a copy of
the latter and Stephen had sketched him one with a laugh. Harry had it tacked over his personal desk in the dorm.)

Kevin Entwhistle was a muggleborn with something to prove. His parents hadn't wanted him to go to Hogwarts, but he'd begged and pleaded,
wanting to learn more than just what he could be taught at a mundane secondary. If he didn't manage at least an E in all his subjects, he wouldn't
be returning next year. When the Ravenclaws had heard that ultimatum, they all swore to help Kevin pass, no matter what.

Mandy Brocklehurst was a half-blood without any sort of tragic story. Her father had been a Ravenclaw and her mother a Hufflepuff. Both had been
good students and her mother, after years of trying, was finally pregnant with their second child. Mandy had been a bit upset that she'd miss the
birth of her new brother or sister, but she looked forward to telling the child all about Hogwarts over the holidays.

Morag MacDougal was a pureblood from a Dark-aligned family. She generally avoided the rest of the Ravenclaws, instead choosing to mingle with
the Slytherins when she was away from the common. Harry had tried getting her to talk to him three times before she finally cursed him silent and
stormed off, spending the night with her cousins in Slytherin. Harry had been more amused by her reaction than anything else, but he decided it
would be best to just ignore her, rather than making an enemy.

Padma Patil was the quieter of the twins and was often forgotten by her parents. She never found fault with her parents for ignoring her, preferring
the silence to her sister's loud games in the front lawn. She was also the less feminine of the two, preferring mundane trousers over robes or skirts.
She often spent her allowance on trousers while her sister picked out a new dress or robe in the most garish shade of pink she could find.

Li Su was a half-blood from China, where she'd lived until she was eight. Her mother had been killed in an uprising and her father had decided to
move them out of their country to Britain, where he'd lived for most of his own life. It had been quite the change for Li and she still had trouble fitting
in and speaking the language. Harry, having sucked a few souls who knew Mandarin, found himself enjoying sitting down with her on the weekend
and conversing in the language. It was the first time he learned a language without swallowing a soul and it was hard work, but a lot of fun. And
while Li taught him Mandarin, Harry taught her English and helped her with her assignments.

Lisa Turpin, the last of the Ravenclaw first years, had been raised in a muggle orphanage until she was adopted by a nice, older muggle couple
when she was seven. She liked her adopted parents well enough, but the orphanage had left its scars on her psyche, just as a mundane
orphanage had once twisted Tom Riddle. Lisa wasn't quite as twisted as Tom had been, but she was slow to smile and would occasionally flinch
away from any possible violence. Harry and Terry, having both come from semi-abusive homes, were working together to make her open up to
something other than her books.

All things considered, Harry liked his new year mates, but he was closest with Terry and Li, and they made his separation from his old Gryffindor
friends much easier. He didn't even really think about Hermione or Neville beyond the occasional wave across the Great Hall or a partnering in one
of the few classes they shared together. He was equally distant with Lillian, but since he'd only met her on the boat over, that didn't bother him as
much.

The only thing that really bothered him about not spending a lot of time with the Gryffindors was that there was no way he could ever hope to catch
Scabbers. Ron barely even knew he existed, never mind thinking Harry might consider talking to him. Harry didn't like the thought that this would
keep him from freeing Sirius, but his godfather had already been stuck in Azkaban for ten years, another few months wouldn't do that much more
harm. (And if doing his childhood again had taught him anything, it was patience.)

The only other thing Harry was debating about was Quirrell. While it was true that he had the same basic goals as Voldemort, he honestly didn't
know that the Dark Lord would ever agree to an alliance. More likely, Voldemort would demand Harry's subservience, which Harry would sooner
die again than grant. Never mind that Harry honestly didn't know how to approach the Dark Lord to discuss anything of the sort.

-0-

Harry woke on the morning of Hallowe'en feeling unusually jumpy. Or not so much unusually, all things considered; Hallowe'en had always been
something of a cursed day for him, no matter what life he was living. As an adult, something bad would always happen on October thirty-first – a
criminal getting away from them after a long chase, another friend dying at the hands of the mundanes, the Hogwarts massacre – and living with
the Dursleys continued the trend – getting moved to the cupboard, him breaking his arm while hunting mundanes...

Harry already sort of knew what would happen this Hallowe'en, but he wasn't sure how true to his past life it would be. Ron had appeared to fall in
with Seamus and Dean without Harry there and they certainly scorned Hermione, but the brilliant witch had a friend in Neville after they bonded on
the train over sweets. More importantly, Hermione seemed a bit less obnoxious about her knowledge than Harry remembered her being, and he
wasn't sure if that was just his faulty memory or if she actually had loosened up a bit.

At any rate, Harry was very much not looking forward to the day, no matter what it would bring, but he shuffled out of bed and into a change of
clothing like a good student, then waited in the common room for Li and Terry, both of whom preferred to sleep in a bit longer.

When his two friends finally joined him, they made their way down to the Great Hall, Li and Terry occasionally shooting Harry worried looks. He
supposed he was quieter than usual, but he couldn't really help it.

The day was as boring as ever, but Harry kept an eye out for Hermione, intending to keep her from missing the Feast if he could help it at all. But
Hermione never ran off crying because of something Ron said and Harry relaxed a bit. There would still be a troll running around, but the teachers
could handle that, and Snape was more than capable of stopping Quirrell's attempt on the Stone.

Now there was an idea for approaching Voldemort. The bastard wanted the Philosopher's Stone, and Harry knew how to get past the various
enchantments – though he might have some minor trouble with the chessboard. Perhaps he could get the Stone, then offer it to Voldemort as a
trade for an alliance? Or just a trade to keep Voldemort from trying to kill him. He'd have to think about that.

He'd also have to wait until after Christmas. It would be easier with his Cloak, and Dumbledore would have to place the Mirror in there first.

His patience was only going to last so long, however.

The Feast was pretty much how he remembered it. Moments after the food was served, Quirrell ran in shouting about a troll and pretended to faint.
While the students were panicking, Harry cast his eye over the Gryffindor table to ensure both Hermione and Neville were there – they were – then
glanced briefly around his year mates to make sure they were all there. Morag was not, but he spotted her over with the Slytherins, sitting next to
her cousin, Tracey Davis.

Dumbledore was calling for silence, but Harry had just realised something was wrong: Lillian was missing.

As the students rose, Harry slipped over to where Morag was saying her goodbyes to Tracey and demanded, "Where's Lillian Moon?"

Tracey and Morag both sneered at him, but Millicent Bulstrode touched his shoulder and said, "She had detention with Filch for tracking in mud
after Herbology two days ago. He made it today just so she would miss the Feast."

"Bloody squib," Harry muttered, then shot Millicent a strained smile. "Thanks. If I see her on my way to the dorms, I'll bring her along until the all-
clear's given.

Millicent nodded and they parted, Harry following Morag back to where their Housemates were being gathered together.

"That's everyone, then," the Prefect said. "Okay, let's go."

Once they were out in the castle proper and heading up the stairs to the towers, Harry silently cast point me to find Lillian. It pointed him towards
the trophy room, which was uncomfortably close to where the troll had shown up during his last life. A second point me told him the troll was again
in that area. If Lillian made any noise, the troll would come and investigate. Bloody hell.

Harry touched Li's shoulder. "Save me some food," he requested, then slipped away from the group, silently disillusioning himself as he went. Even
if Li sent up an alarm, they'd never spot him.
The trip to the trophy room was thankfully short and Harry dropped his disillusionment just before stepping into the room. Lillian was humming to
herself as she polished a trophy, looking a little irritated.

"Lillian!" Harry hissed.

The Slytherin glanced up and blinked. "Harry?" she asked, not bothering to keep her voice down. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at
the Feast?"

Harry shook his head. "They sent us to our common rooms because there's a troll loose in the castle. Come on."

"A troll?" Lillian repeated, gently replacing the trophy in its case and tossing her cleaning rag into the bucket at her feet.

Harry felt himself pale as the troll lumbered into the other doorway, looking dumb and angry. It spotted Lillian, who was only just starting to move
towards Harry, and its eyes lit.

Shit! Spells that'll bring it down? Nothing a first year would know. Super speed? Super strength? Do trolls have souls? Wait! Harry focused and
brought his full power to bear on the troll, hoping against hope that it could feel terror.

Harry was in luck. The troll let out a great moan and crouched down, grabbing at its head and consequently knocking itself out with its club.

Lillian turned at the moan and let out a terrified whimper as her legs gave out and she sunk to the floor. "Oh, Merlin. Oh, dear Merlin..." she
whispered.

Harry hurried forward and knelt next to her. "Hey, it's okay. It's gone and knocked itself out, see? Silly trolls."

Lillian let out a strained laugh. "Yeah, I guess it did." She reached up and covered her face with one hand. "Oh, Merlin..."

There was the sound of running feet and McGonagall, Snape and Quirrell appeared in the doorway. As before, Quirrell whimpered and had to sit at
the sight of the troll, but both Snape and McGonagall looked ready to kill.

"What are you two doing here?" McGonagall demanded. "You should be in your dormitories!"

Lillian was in no condition to answer, still in shock, so Harry turned to their professors with a blank face. "Mr Filch had Lillian in here for a detention,
so she wasn't at the Feast. I came in here to get her and take her back to Ravenclaw until the all-clear was given."

"And you didn't think to just let a professor know, Potter?" Snape asked, lips curling with disgust. "Or do you think you're above such things?"

Harry raised one eyebrow at the Potions Master and replied, "I was under the impression that it was the professors' jobs to keep track of when their
students have detentions, sir. I shouldn't have had to tell anyone, since you lot should have known there was a student about. But you all seemed
much more concerned about apprehending the troll than the one student unawares in the trophy room. I figured someone should warn her."

Snape's face twisted with anger and he seemed about ready to rip into Harry for his implied insult, but McGonagall cut in before he could. "Very
well, Mr Potter. Five points to Ravenclaw for thinking of a fellow student in danger. Now, you two need to head back to your dormitories."

Harry nodded and he touched Lillian's shoulder. "Can you stand?" he murmured.

Lillian nodded. "I think so."

They rose together, Harry poised to catch her if she stumbled. She was still a little shaky, but she was able to walk well enough on her own, so the
two of them slipped past their professors and made their way to the staircases.

"Thanks," Lillian said as they were about to part. "You, uhm... You saved my life."

Harry grimaced at that; he hated life debts. "Don't worry about it. I did what anyone would have done."

Lillian smiled sadly. "Not anyone in Slytherin."

"Well, I guess it's good I'm not a Slytherin, then," Harry replied.

"Yeah, I guess so." The girl inclined her head, then started down the stairs towards the dungeons.

Harry rubbed at his eyes a bit tiredly, knocking his glasses askew. He really needed to get a handle on his 'saving people thing'.

-0-

Christmas holidays finally came around and Harry was the only first year Ravenclaw staying at Hogwarts. He'd actually debated going home, just
to cause trouble for his relatives, but ended up deciding against it. He was perfectly capable of amusing himself at Hogwarts, and there were things
he needed to do there, like catching Scabbers and looking into the Mirror of Erised.

Like his first Christmas, he went to bed excited about the next morning, but this time he actually expected presents, even if it was just his Cloak.
When he awoke Christmas morning, he was quite pleased to find a pile of gifts at the end of his bed that far out-shone the pile he'd found in his last
life.

From Dumbledore was the expected Cloak and the Dursleys had sent him a whole pound, rather than the fifty pence from before. Clearly, he'd
scared them just enough that they were actually trying to stay in his good graces. Maybe he'd send them a galleon next year. (That should break
Vernon properly.)

All of his Ravenclaw year mates except Morag had sent him something, as they'd all agreed to get each other something small. (Harry had gone
with sweets for most of them, but bought Li an English dictionary and Terry a few pranks that were safe for use on mundanes.) Most of his year
mates had gone the same route, getting him various chocolate confections, some mundane, some magical. Terry had got him a mundane book on
history, Li a book on Chinese magic, and Stephen had drawn him an entire collage of various Ministry workers being hanged or burned at the
stake, which Harry had quite the laugh over before hanging up next to the copy of Fudge.

He was surprised to receive gifts from outside his House, however, since he hadn't spent a lot of time with Hermione, Neville, or Lillian other than in
classes or meeting in the library. Hermione had sent him a couple chocolate frogs and a pack of floss, which he laughed over. Neville sent him a
leafy plant that didn't have any particular magical properties, but would prove difficult to kill. (As far as Neville was concerned, everyone should
have a bit of green in their room.) Lillian had gifted him with a delicate glass lily and, after staring at it in awe for a few minutes, Harry gently set it
on his bedside table.

Once all his gifts were put in their rightful places – the books on his book shelf, the pound in his money pouch, the Cloak in the most secure section
of his trunk, and the sweets stuffed into a drawer – he pulled out an everyday robe and his shoes and shuffled down to breakfast.

After breakfast the day was looking to be quite boring without anyone to muck about with, so Harry gathered one of his new books and curled up in
a corner of the Great Hall where a few other students were playing chess or cards while waiting for dinner. Once the food was served, Harry joined
the table and laughingly pulled a few crackers with the students around him.

After dinner, Harry banished his cracker spoils and book back to his room, disillusioned himself, then set in to follow the Weasleys back up to
Gryffindor. If the group of them went out into the snow like they had last time, Scabbers would be left in the dorm and Harry could grab him.

Indeed, after tossing their goodies into their rooms, Fred and George collected Percy and Ron and challenged both of them to a snowball fight,
refusing to take no for an answer. Once the four of them were gone, Harry crept up to the first year boy's dorm and smiled grimly down at Wormtail,
who had curled up for a nap on Ron's pillow.

"Imperio," Harry whispered, having decided it would be the easiest way to deal with the rat.

Once Peter had his orders – get to the Auror office and transform in front of them – and was off to do them, Harry started back out of the Gryffindor
Tower.

Just as Harry reached the door, he remembered the Marauder's Map. The twins had it, and his life would be a million times easier with it in his
hands. It was technically his, anyway, since his father and godfather had been two of the creators. But did he want to steal it now, or try to finagle
the twins into giving it to him somewhere down the road?

Who am I kidding? Harry rolled his eyes, then dashed back up the stairs to the third year dorm. After casting about twenty detection spells on the
door and disabling four pranks, Harry finally felt safe enough to open the door. When that didn't set anything off, he ran a few more detection spells
on the floor, just in case. It never hurt to be paranoid, especially when dealing with the Weasley twins.

A point me directed him to Fred's trunk – well, to the trunk with Fred's name on it – and he found another two spells on that which he dismantled
before popping it open. The Map was peeking out from under some dirty trousers and Harry sighed to himself before carefully removing it. A
moment's genius had him quickly conjuring some paper and leaving a note of thanks from the next generation of Marauders and putting it back
where the Map had been.

Map safely in his own pocket, Harry replaced all the spells on the trunk and the door to the room, then slid under a bed and used the shadows
there to transport back into his own empty dorm. Once safe, he dropped his head back against the floor and quietly laughed to himself. That had
almost been too easy.

Crawling out from under his bed, Harry pulled out the Map and touched his wand to it. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."

Ink bled across the paper from where his wand was touching and the whole castle was spread out beneath him. The Weasleys were just returning
from their snowball fight, making him glad he'd shadowed instead of walking out. He glanced around the Map, smiling to himself as he spotted
various professors and students. His smile widened when he spotted Quirrell, who seemed to be walking in step with 'Tom Riddle'. Travelling
through the secret entrance to the Honeydukes basement was 'Peter Pettigrew'.

The Map also showed the mysterious third floor and its series of traps. Fluffy stood guard at the entrance and the troll was apparently named
Bimboble.

Harry stayed watching the Map until Peter had disappeared off the edge, then deactivated it and slipped it into his trunk with his Cloak. He then
pulled out a book to read until tea.

After tea, when everyone else was stumbling to their beds, Harry pulled out his Cloak and, after checking to see that Dumbledore was indeed
waiting for him in the room with the Mirror of Erised, pulled the Cloak on and slipped through the halls to an acceptable starting point.

Harry was actually a little worried about what he'd see in the Mirror. After all, he'd once had it all – a family, his choice job, peace – and then he'd
lost everything. Now, here he was, trying to save the world from a fate not-yet realised. What was his deepest desire?

When he finally made it into the room, he stopped just shy of the Mirror's range and steeled himself. Then he stepped forward and looked up.

He wasn't in the image showed to him, but all his friends from his old life were playing together on the lawn in front of Hogwarts, laughing. They
looked free and peaceful and Harry relaxed. His most heartfelt desire was for his friends and family to be happy, even if he couldn't be a part of
that happiness. That was something he could live with.

He reached out and touched the mirror over Ginny's figure. "I miss you," he whispered, voice catching. "I'll never forget you."

In the corner, Albus Dumbledore vaguely wondered who Harry was seeing in the Mirror. Who did the boy speak to with such a broken voice? Who
had he known that he'd already lost? A childhood friend, perhaps?

Albus was just glad the boy knew love, for what else would bring such pain to a child's voice. He was glad that leaving Harry with the Dursleys
hadn't turned him into another Tom Riddle; the world would never survive two of them.

-0-

Every night Harry checked the Map before bed, looking to see if Dumbledore was in the building. Like Voldemort had during his last life, Harry
didn't want to go after the Stone while the Headmaster was in the building, as he'd surely sense any attempt. However, Harry, unlike Voldemort,
was patient. He had all term to try, and with Peter Pettigrew on his way to turn himself in, Dumbledore would be leaving the building soon enough.

The night the other students returned, Harry's luck came through. The Headmaster hadn't been at the feast – something that a number of people
commented on – and a check of the Map once he was back up in his dorm showed that the man was still out.

Harry had spent the past few days sorting through memories of his original first year, especially memories of the adventure at the end of the year.
He was relatively certain that he would be able to shadow into the room with the potions, if not the one with the Mirror.

Once his roommates were all asleep, Harry closed the curtains around his bed and shadowed to the room with the Mirror. As soon as he
appeared, torches around the room lit, dispersing any shadows. "Figures," Harry muttered, rolling his eyes. He'd have to backtrack to the room with
the potions to shadow out, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Harry firmly set it in his mind that he only wanted the Stone to protect it –
he wasn't sure wanting it to ensure his own life would work for the enchantment – then stepped in front of the Mirror.

The image in the Mirror flickered between his family and friends playing and his reflection for a long moment, not really settling on one or the other.
Harry closed his eyes and focused on the need to protect. Not necessarily the need to protect the Stone, just the need to protect something. To
protect the future.

The magic in the room surged and Harry held out his hand. Something settled into his open palm and he smiled down at the Stone. He'd done it.

He slipped into the room with the potions in it and slipped under the table where the shadow was just large enough for him to squeeze back to his
own room. The Stone was slipped into the secure compartment with his Cloak and the Map, then Harry crawled into bed, feeling quite
accomplished.

-0-

"Wh-what do you w-want P-P-Potter?" Quirrell asked once the last student had filed out of the room and only Harry was left sitting at his normal
spot. It had been rather trying to get Terry and Li to leave without him, but they'd eventually agreed. Harry even had the parchment they'd scribbled
their agreements on, which he'd spelled earlier to act like something of a binding magical contract when a specific phrase was written. Perhaps a
little unfair, but Harry couldn't chance anyone overhearing this conversation.

Harry slipped his wand into his hand under his desk and silently cast a silencing ward on the door, then glanced up at the professor and said, "I'd
like to speak with your master. I have a business proposition for him."

Quirrell gave a nervous little laugh and paled a shade. "M-my M-M-Master?" he repeated.

Harry smiled coldly. "The one on the back of your head," he agreed. "I believe he answers to Lord Voldemort?"

Quirrell opened his mouth to stutter out another excuse, but a high voice from under the turban said, "You know of me, boy?"

Harry held up one hand to pick under his nails, completely unconcerned. "Of course I know of you. Every time Quirrell turns his back to me, my
scar burns." A complete lie, as his Occlumency was protecting him. "I was rather confused by the phenomenon for the longest time, but I
eventually put the pieces together."

Voldemort let out a high cackle and his host cringed. "How very like a Ravenclaw," the Dark Lord commented. "Quirrell, let me see him."

"Master–" Quirrell tried.

"Now, Quirrell," Voldemort ordered.

Harry glanced up over his nails as the Defence teacher slowly turned in his chair and unwrapped his head. Once he was uncovered, Voldemort
looked at Harry, who met his gaze without fear. "Harry Potter," Voldemort hissed, a dark smile tugging at his lips.

"Lord Voldemort," Harry replied neutrally.

"You don't fear me," the Dark Lord realised. "Why is that?"

Harry raised one eyebrow. "You're a parasite attached to the back of my Defence teacher's head, why would I fear you?" he retorted. Before
Voldemort could say anything to that, Harry added, "Anyway, the shield that formed around me thanks to my mother's sacrifice is still in effect.
Perhaps you could curse me, but if you try touching me, your host's body will turn to ash. And then you'd have to go find another poor sod to
inhabit."

Quirrell choked in surprise or fear, Harry wasn't sure which. Voldemort narrowed his eyes at the boy, who offered him a smirk. After a moment of
staring, Voldemort said, "You mentioned a business proposition?"

Harry shrugged one shoulder. "You promise not to try killing me while I'm enrolled at Hogwarts, I hand over the Philosopher's Stone."

Quirrell choked again as Voldemort hissed, "What makes you think I want that worthless Stone?"

Harry just smirked at him in response.

Quirrell let out a whimper and Harry could just hear Voldemort hissing, "You're giving me away, you worthless fool!"

Harry stood from his chair and Voldemort's attention was immediately back on him as he picked up his school bag. "Let me know when you're
ready to agree to the deal," he said, turning towards the door. "I've got all year."

Voldemort let out an angry hiss. "Sit back down, boy!"

Harry glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, are you done trying to play with me now? Because if you're not going to agree to my terms, you won't get the
Stone."
"You think I'm stupid enough to believe a mere boy has access to the Stone? We both know it's down the forbidden third floor corridor. Don't you
dare try treating me as–"

Voldemort's angry tirade died off as Harry pulled the Stone out of his school bag and smiled. "Don't mistake me for some clueless child, Lord
Voldemort. Such mistakes will only see to your downfall. I wouldn't bother coming to you if I didn't already have the item I wished to trade." He set
the stone on the nearest desk top and covered it with his hand. "Do we have an accord?"

"And if we don't?" Voldemort asked, but Harry had fought the Dark Lord long enough to know when he'd won. Voldemort was just stalling at that
point.

"Then I suppose I'll just have to sell it to the highest bidder," Harry decided. "People would pay anything for a Philosopher's Stone, you know." He
smiled coldly, eyes flashing with his power. "Even their soul."

A shiver went down Quirrell's back as the temperature in the room dropped several degrees. The Dark Lord narrowed his eyes at the eerie boy at
the back of the room. "We have an accord," he ground out, knowing he had no choice.

Magic snapped in the room, binding them both to their word. Voldemort's eyes widened, having not expected that to have been a binding contract,
but Harry just stepped forward and set the Stone on the desk, commenting, "You didn't honestly think I'd let you get away with a verbal promise,
did you?" Then he turned and left the room, the door falling shut behind him with a soft click.

Voldemort was left staring down at the Philosopher's Stone, greed in his eyes. Perhaps the boy had won this round, but that just gave the Dark
Lord seven years to plot the boy's death. And maybe he could get Harry un-enrolled from the school and kill him before the boy was ready. It
shouldn't be too hard.

-0-

"I wonder what happened to Professor Quirrell," Li commented once the train was under way. She, Terry, and Harry had all settled into a
compartment together so they could enjoy their last hours with one another before summer.

"Who cares," Terry grunted. "He was worthless as a teacher anyway."

Harry smiled a bit. The Defence teacher had remained in the school until February before he finally left. Harry had been impressed that Voldemort
had managed to wait that long to use the Stone, but knowing the bastard, he'd spent his time figuring out how to use the Stone and assuring it was
the real thing.

Harry was kind of excited to be going home this summer, for once. Sirius had been freed after a great deal of dithering in the Ministry. He was
currently at St Mungo's, recuperating. Word from the healers was that he'd be able to claim guardianship of Harry by the end of the summer, if not
sooner, and the ex-convict had been writing Harry shaky letters for the past three months, telling him about himself and asking Harry to share his
own stories, which he happily did.

This would be his last summer with the Dursleys – unless Dumbledore stuck his nose into things – and Harry fully intended to make it hell for them.
He might even put Vernon out of his misery, if the whale irritated him enough.

"What're you doing this summer?" Terry asked both of them.

"My father and I are going back to China for a visit," Li replied, beaming. "I have missed my cousins very much."

"I'll be enjoying my last summer with my relatives," Harry announced.

"You're just going to end up in the nearest library. Admit it," Terry shot back.

Harry chuckled and shrugged. "Probably, yeah. What about you, then?"

Terry grimaced. "Avoiding my brother," he admitted.

"Don't tell your parents you can't use magic," Harry suggested. "As long as you don't actually do any magic, you'll be okay. And maybe your
brother'll lay off if he thinks you'll retaliate with magic."

Terry sighed. "It's worth a shot," he agreed.

"I will see if my father is willing to let me bring a friend. There will be language troubles, I think, but it will be better than putting up with your
brother."

"And you'll get to test your Mandarin!" Harry agreed, leaning forward. "That would be so amazing. Admit it."

Terry smiled a bit at that. "Yeah, it would. But you're so much better than me, Harry."

Harry waved the compliment away. "I've been studying it longer. You're not doing too bad for someone who's only been learning it for five and a
half months."

"Honestly?"

"Honestly," Li and Harry chorused.

Terry nodded. "Then, yeah, if your dad's okay with it and my parents agree. I'd love to visit China."

Li offered him a beaming smile, then turned to Harry. "I would offer to bring you, too, but..."

Harry waved the apology away. "You'll just have to take me next year or something. I'm sure Sirius will agree to it."

"Your godfather seems so cool," Terry complained. "I wish mine was half that cool."
"What is cool about being in prison for ten years?" Li wondered.

"Not that bit," Terry said, laughing. "Come on, Li, you've read his letters. The man's completely insane, but in a wicked awesome way!"

Li sighed and shook her head. She hadn't much cared for Sirius as he portrayed himself in his letters. Harry had to admit that his godfather did
come across as ridiculously childish, but he'd started getting better once they assigned him a mind healer back in March. And Harry was more than
capable of taking care of himself, so he didn't much mind that Sirius was still a bit mad; he'd rather have a crazy older brother than a parent,
anyway.

A knock came at their compartment door before sliding open to admit Lillian who glanced at Terry and Li briefly before focussing on Harry. "Were
you intending to part without even a word to me?" she accused.

"Oh, piss off, Moon," Terry muttered, frowning.

Harry rolled his eyes at his friends. Terry was muggleborn and Lillian's family was just Dark enough that she hated him for his blood, and Terry was
just proud enough of his mundane parents to hate her for her prejudice. Harry mostly ignored the two of them, refusing to deal with what he saw as
a childish rivalry, but Li often poked fun at Terry when Lillian wasn't around for how much like a jealous boyfriend he acted over sharing Harry's
friendship.

Lillian sniffed at Terry. "Something smells in here."

"You two are so bloody immature," Harry muttered, earning a giggle from Li. He stood and moved towards the door. "I'll be back," he promised
Terry when the boy opened his mouth to complain. "I'd like to say goodbye to Hermione and Nev before we reach the station, too."

Terry settled down at that, as he actually kind of liked the two Gryffindors. He and Li didn't actually spend any time with Hermione and Neville, but
neither of them had anything against them, either. It was just that most students didn't make friends outside their own House, and the friendships
that did form didn't last long. Harry was just determined enough that his friendships with Hermione, Neville, and Lillian hadn't really been left to die
off. (It helped that he already knew Hermione and Neville far better than either of them knew themselves. And he'd saved Lillian's life, so the
Slytherin was determined to keep up with him.)

Out in the hallway, Harry let Lillian lead the way. "I don't know why you put up with so many mudbloods," Lillian complained.

Harry rolled his eyes at the insult, but didn't care enough to bother arguing it when the people in question weren't there to complain. "Hermione and
Terry are both fine people. If you ever bothered to look past their blood statuses, you might actually see people you like."

"Not likely," Lillian muttered, shoving the door to her compartment open.

Millicent, Tracey, and Morag all glanced up at their entrance and Morag sighed. "Lil, must you insisted on forcing Potter on us?"

"So much for House loyalty," Harry retorted, already used to his fellow Ravenclaw's dislike of himself. "You know, Morag, if you really hated the lot
of us so much, you should have argued harder with the Hat."

"Go get stuffed, Potter."

Harry grinned at the girl and leaned back against the closed door as Lillian took her seat. "How long is a suitable goodbye?"

"Longer than you've been here," Lillian retorted. "What do you intend to do for your summer?"

"Torment my relatives until they admit themselves to the loony bin," Harry said without pause. "Hopefully move in with my godfather before
September. Why?"

Lillian smiled faintly while the other two Slytherins chortled at Harry's flippant remark about his relatives and Morag rolled her eyes. "My birthday's
August seventeenth and I was hoping you'd come to the party," Lillian offered.

Morag moaned. "Come on, Lil!"

"I'll do my best," Harry promised. "Send me an invitation and I'll let you know once I figure out what's happening with Sirius."

"You can't reply any later than a week before," Millicent warned. "And it's a bit rude to wait even that long."

Harry inclined his head in thanks. "I should know for sure by the first," he promised.

"That's acceptable," Lillian decided. "And I suppose you can go visit your mudblood and Longbottom now."

"Thank you for freeing me, Majesty," Harry teased.

"Leave faster, Potter!"

Harry chuckled as Lillian turned on Morag with a scowl. He slipped out the door and a quick point me directed him to the compartment Hermione
and Neville were sitting in. "Knock, knock," he said, poking his head inside.

"Trevor!" Neville shouted in warning.

Harry darted his hand out and caught the toad before he could make good on his escape. "You're such a naughty toad," he told Trevor as he
slipped into the compartment and dropped into the open seat next to Hermione. "One of these days your escape is going to land you in someone's
stomach, you know. You'll make Neville very sad, but I'm sure he'll get over it after a month–"

"Leave Neville alone, you idiot," Hermione muttered, elbowing Harry in the side.

Neville held out his hands for his toad, who Harry handed over with a grin. "Don't listen to him, Trevor. He's just trying to scare us."
Harry chuckled and leaned back against the backrest. "So, hi. What are you two up to this summer? Other than devouring books and kicking
useless gardeners out of the greenhouse?"

Neville laughed at that while Hermione rolled her eyes. "That's pretty much it," the Gryffindor boy replied. "Maybe a small party for me, but I'm not
sure what Gran's planning there."

"Well, if she opens it to your awesome friends, feel free to send me an invite. I could do with a break from my relatives," Harry offered.

Hermione sighed. "I don't understand why you dislike your family so much, Harry. I really don't."

Harry waved a hand at her, having long ago given up trying to explain the Dursleys to her. The fact was that they hadn't been as horrible this time
around and he didn't spend as much time with Hermione as he had before. He'd tried a few times to explain that they were absolutely the worst
sort of people, but all that Hermione seemed to get was that he didn't like them. (He loved Hermione, truly he did, but she could be difficult about
some of the strangest things.)

"So, other than avoiding your relatives, what are you up to this summer?" Neville asked.

"Waiting for Sirius to be cleared from Mungo's," Harry said, grinning. "If he gets out in time for my – our – birthday I'll see about throwing a party
and inviting you two."

"As long as Moon isn't there," Hermione muttered, being about as fond of Lillian as the Slytherin was of her.

"And watch my party break out into a war? Not going to happen. She'll forgive me if I don't invite her."

Neville covered a grin. "We'll have to plan our parties around each other, then," he pointed out.

"Should be fun," Harry agreed, standing. "Well, I'd best head back to Terry and Li before they hunt me down. If I don't see you two over the
summer, I'll see you on the train."

"Have a good summer!" Hermione called as Harry stepped out into the hall.

He waved back at them, made sure Trevor hadn't made another escape attempt, then made his way back to his own compartment for the rest of
the trip. His summer was already looking to be quite full. He just hoped Dobby the house-elf didn't ruin it.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: Slightly longer chapter. O.o By, like, six hundred words or something.
I'd originally considered ending this chapter around Christmas, but I decided to just end the year.

Occlumency: I know someone's going to bitch about this, so to hopefully avoid an angry review, let me just point out that we don't really know all
that much about Occlumency. For all we know, it can block nightmares if utilised every night. Or at least keep them from being as bad as they
could be. (Anyway, Harry's head is so full of random crap at this point that the bad memories would have some serious trouble getting through. XD)

The Mirror: After re-reading Philosopher's Stone, I realised that Albus said it was Harry's intent to have the Stone but not use it that enabled him to
get it, not his intent to protect it. (Oops...) Dunno where I got that idea from, but I'd already written that part and didn't feel like editing it. So in the
canon of this world, it's the intent to protect the Stone that let Harry get it. (Maybe that was from the film? I really don't know.)

Off to write second year! O.o

~Bats ^.^x

A NOTE ABOUT REVIEWS: I get and love every review you guys give me – unless HP Fandom's email is acting weird again or FFN is gone
screwy – but unless you have something specific that I think needs an answer, I won't actually respond. Not because I didn't like your review, more
because I never seem to have the time/patience to go through every single review and respond, especially since FFN is always screwing up
somehow and I'm never sure if you know when I'm responding on HP Fandom. (Sorry... *shame* )
HOWEVER! Any review left for me on my LiveJournal gets a response, no questions about it. It's just really easy to do it there, and I get to use
awesome icons. (I rock the icons.)
*Chapter 3*: The Bad Man, The Sad Man
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: Wait, isn't Voldie back? XD

A/N: The whole Trace being on the wizard/witch instead of their wand has always bothered me a bit. I mean, I guess it makes sense in the grand
scheme of things, but if that's how it worked, why did the Ministry record Dobby's use of magic as having been Harry's fault? I dunno, it's just one of
those little plot holes that Jo forgot to fill. (And the films confuse this even more, having Hermione fix Harry's glasses in Diagon and having Harry
practicing magic under his bedsheets at home.)
So, in this world, the Trace is on the wand and muggleborn homes have wards around them that catch any magic used within a certain area
around the house. It's assumed magical parents can control their offspring, and even if they can't, at least they can keep things from getting out of
control.

To lluvia, Harry did swallow a few souls who knew Mandarin, but as stated back in the prologue/first chapter when Death was explaining the gift, it
takes many souls to learn a complete language, as Harry only gets bits and pieces of knowledge from each soul, rather than everything they know.
So it would be more correct, perhaps, to say that he knows some Mandarin and Li is teaching him more of it.

When I first started writing this chapter, I groaned to myself a bit 'cause there wasn't really anything planned for this year. I thought, 'This chapter is
going to be sadly short,' and then it sort of got away from me and it's actually almost a full thousand words longer than last chapter. *facepalm*
Maybe you'll all luck out and next chapter will do the same thing, but don't hold your breath. XD
Actually, on second thought, do hold your breath. It'll amuse me.

-0-0-0-

The Bad Man, The Sad Man

-0-0-0-

Harry whistled to himself as he made his way back to the Dursley's house the last day of June. His summer had been great so far: He'd been
getting all his mail, Sirius was due to be released the last week of July, and Harry had just sucked down the souls of four mundanes that would
have seen him dead if they'd had the chance. He'd taken the souls of something like twenty mundanes already this summer and intended to make
a trip to Knockturn tomorrow to hunt some vampires.

The Dursleys themselves had been pretty well behaved. Vernon hadn't yet had his expected blow-up, but Harry hadn't been around much while he
was home, so there hadn't been many chances. (Harry half expected it to happen over dinner again, really, since that was the only time he and
Vernon were in the same room.)

Harry was just outside the blood wards when he heard a whispered "Stupefy" and ducked into the shadow under a nearby tree while the spell
splashed harmlessly into a bin. His eyes darted around the area, trying to spot his attacker, but whoever they were, they were staying out of sight.
"Bugger," Harry muttered, turning his eyes to the space inside the blood wards. If this person had waited outside the wards to catch him, they
probably couldn't get inside.

An overhanging roof threw enough of a shadow for Harry to use it so he shadowed over to it, grimacing as he fell a foot to the ground. He fell into a
crouch as soon as he was fully on the ground and again scanned the area past the wards. No one.

This is seriously going to put a damper on my plans tomorrow. If this is Voldemort using one of his people to get around his oath, I'm going to rip
him a new one. Harry huffed a bit, then readied himself to jump back into the shadow thrown against the siding above him. He always kept a
shadow under his bed in case of emergencies, and if this wasn't an emergency, he didn't know what was.

A quick jump later and Harry was lying uncomfortably under his bed, one hand crushed against the wall. "Sometimes," he grumbled as he pulled
himself out, "that's more trouble than it's worth." Once back on his feet, he shuffled through his trunk and pulled out one of the few books he'd yet
to read, then fell across his bed, book held to his chest. Perhaps I'll shadow walk to Knockturn tomorrow. The place is always full of dark corners,
and there's that one spot in the vampire pub that's always in shadow. It'll be troublesome, but I can go in my Cloak and that should throw them off.
He'd taken great care over the years to keep the pub staff from finding out anything about him, lest they find some way to block him from their
establishment. The vampires never survived long enough to cause him any trouble, since once their souls were eaten their physical body crumbled
to dust, but the pub owners were werewolves, so he left them alone.

For all that Harry sucked souls of vampires and mundanes pretty much indiscriminately, he tended to avoid any other magical being – wizards,
witches, werewolves, etc – unless they'd ticked him off in some way. The few times he'd been in the pub, the werewolves had treated him fairly,
despite his apparent age, so he had no grievance with them. (Anyway, the longer they stayed alive, the longer the pub would be open.)

If nothing else, Harry could keep his eyes open for wizards hanging out around the neighbourhood. And, if he was lucky, he might catch a Death
Eater in Knockturn to question. An evil little smile curled Harry's lips at the thought. I'd quite enjoy a Death Eater snack. Yum.

-0-

Harry didn't manage to catch the stalker for almost another week and, honestly, by that point he was wholly sick of the whole thing. The bastard
was very well hidden, and without magic Harry was having quite the time of spotting him from only the readily accessible shadows.

When Harry finally spotted the hunched form, he shadowed to behind him, grabbed the back of his cloak and shoved him bodily against the tree
he'd been hiding under. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't rip out your fucking heart," he hissed, the air chilling with his power in his anger.
Slightly crazed eyes looked back at him from a face that Harry had only seen once, but had never forgotten.

"Barty Crouch Jr," Harry murmured, his grip loosening in his surprise.

Barty ducked out of the way and brought his wand around to bear, but Harry had disappeared before the man could form a spell. "Where are you,
little Potter?" the man hissed, eyes darting around the area.

"How did you get out of your father's grasp?" Harry wondered from the branches above Barty's head. When the Death Eater pointed his wand up at
him, Harry shadowed to a different branch on the other side of the tree. "Oh, wait, let me guess. Voldemort regains his real body and your Mark
darkens, giving you the extra jolt needed to shake off your father's Imperius." He shadowed again as Barty spotted him.

"You're well informed for a brat," Barty hissed, eyes narrowed against the gloom.

"And you're looking pretty good for a dead man," Harry retorted from behind the Death Eater. As Barty turned towards him, Harry snatched his
wand away and held it between two hands like he was about to break it.

Barty smiled and held up his hands. "I like you, Potter," he decided.

Harry's lips twitched with a smirk, but he didn't change his hold on the wand. "Why are you trying to stupefy me?"

Barty cocked his head to one side. "My Lord wants to talk to you."

"You don't stupefy people you want to talk to," Harry retorted. "He wants you to grab me, why?"

"You're not a normal twelve year old, are you?"

"Eleven. Answer the question."

"That jumping from shadow to shadow, that's a vampiric gift–"

SNAP!

Barty froze as Harry calmly slid the broken wand pieces into his pocket and crossed his arms over his chest, raising an eyebrow. "You're getting
boring, Barty."

The Death Eater cleared his throat. "I don't know all the details, but he wants you to go missing. Something about assumed dead?"

Harry frowned a bit, considering that. "Assumed dead? What good would that– Oh." Harry's lips curved with a little smile. "That's such an angry
Dark Lord thing to do." He chuckled and shook his head, then focussed on Barty again. "Is he currently based in Malfoy Manor, or the muggle
house outside Little Hangleton?"

Barty blinked. "Malfoy... Manor..." he admitted, a little disturbed.

Harry nodded, grabbed Barty's arm, then shadowed them to the basement he remembered in the manor. "Lead the way," he requested.

"You sort of scare me," Barty admitted, turning to lead the way upstairs.

"Scaring Death Eaters is my job," Harry retorted. "You're lucky you're not dead, honestly. I dislike being stalked."

"You don't say," Barty muttered, remembering the all-encompassing cold and the murderous intent in the eerie green eyes when the boy had first
grabbed him. He wasn't sure who was scarier, his Lord in a temper or the boy behind him.

Barty led the way up to the third floor, portraits looking down on them disapprovingly the whole way. At the door of the room the Dark Lord was
residing in, Barty knocked.

"Come," Voldemort ordered.

Barty cringed a bit, then pushed the door open. "My Lord," he said, stepping into the room and bowing.

"Barty," Voldemort hissed. "I do hope you have the boy."

"More like I have him," Harry retorted, stepping into the room behind Barty. A quick look around the room showed him a room painted all black with
drapes covering the windows. "You are so tacky."

Voldemort stared at the boy in shock for a moment, then snapped out his wand and hissed, "Crucio!"

The spell hit thin air as Harry darted out of the way, having fully expected that reaction. "I'm beginning to think you're incapable of having a normal
discussion," he commented, leaning back against the wall.

"Crucio!"

Harry ducked that curse too, then said, "If you don't bloody-well put that wand away–"

"Crucio!" Voldemort shouted again, starting to sound a little desperate.

Harry avoided the spell, narrowing his eyes. It took only moments for the room to completely freeze over. Over by the door, Barty darted outside, a
whimper escaping his throat. In his regal chair, Voldemort gasped in surprise and his wand dropped from shaking fingers. Harry walked calmly
forward and picked up the wand, then used it to conjure himself a chair across from the Dark Lord to sit in. Once he was comfortable, he drew back
his power.

It took Voldemort some time to come back from his nightmares, but once he was fully in the present again, Harry said, "Are you ready to talk like a
civilized person now? Or should I just leave and come back in few years?"

Voldemort drew a shuddering breath and visibly shook himself. "I'm listening, Potter."

Harry smiled coldly. "Excellent. Here's how it stands: I want the muggles gone, same as you. I have no intention of stopping you in whatever you
want to do, unless you start attacking any Hogwarts students. I don't care about most of them, but a few are my friends and I'll be most upset if you
harm them, so just plan to leave all of them alone.

"Yes, I'm aware of the prophecy. Better yet, I know the whole thing. It goes on about us killing each other, blah, blah, blah." Harry waved his hand
negligently. "If we both ignore the bloody thing, it shouldn't be an issue. Just because a prophecy exists doesn't mean it has to come to pass."

Voldemort took a moment to assimilate all that, then shook his head. "Let me get this straight: You're on my side?"

"It would be more correct to say that we're on the same side," Harry corrected.

Voldemort snorted. "Semantics. We both want the muggles dead. You're pretty much useless for another five years–"

Harry scowled. "Useless? Excuse me, but who got the Stone? Who soundly defeated your Death Eater? Who disarmed you without a wand?" He
held up Voldemort's wand, which he'd been twirling between his fingers as they spoke. "Just because I'm under age doesn't mean I'm useless."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes at the boy. "Yes, your mysterious ability to freeze the room and recall people's worst memories. It's very dementor-
like."

Harry offered the Dark Lord a cold smile. "You don't honestly believe I'm going to sit here and spill all my secrets to you."

"You'd make a poor hero," Voldemort decided. "Very well, Potter, keep your secrets; I'll figure them out eventually."

"I sincerely doubt that."

The Dark Lord looked for a moment like he would have liked to have his wand, but since Harry was still twirling it between his fingers, he relaxed
back into his chair. "What exactly do you intend to offer me for my leaving your friends alone?" he asked.

Harry considered that, looking off into the distance over Voldemort's shoulder. After a moment, he focussed back on the man and asked, "What do
you want? You have my alliance. Any information I could pass you about Dumbledore you can just as easily get from Snape or your contacts in the
Ministry."

Voldemort inclined his head. "Your alliance, you say?"

Harry shrugged. "The only part of that prophecy I have any interest in is where it calls me your equal. I refuse to be ruled by anyone, not even you.
I am not one of your servants, for all you've already marked me." He used the wand in his hands to flick his fringe out of the way, then returned to
twirling it.

Voldemort sneered. "Equals?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Why do I bother?" he asked the dark ceiling.

"I don't have any equals."

"And I don't have any betters," Harry retorted. "Unless you're going to start calling me 'Master' and bowing at my feet, you'd best get used to
thinking of me as your equal."

Voldemort looked like he might pop a vein.

Harry rolled his eyes, then remembered something he'd almost forgotten. "Oh, yeah! I know something I can do as payment for my friends!"

"What?" the Dark Lord ground out.

Harry smirked a bit. "You had a Death Eater named Regulus Black during your last rise, yes? Well, he somehow found out about your Horcruxes –
and, yeah, I know all about those – and went with his house-elf to where your locket was hidden and stole it. I know where the Horcrux is currently
being kept."

Voldemort considered him suspiciously. "How did you find out about my Horcruxes?"

"Mmmm... Secret, sorry."

"Potter..."

Harry rolled his eyes. "No one else knows about them, unless you've gone and told someone, so don't get your knickers in a twist. Do you want me
to retrieve your locket, or not?"

Voldemort took a moment to glare furiously at Harry, as if it would cow him into submission. Harry just watched him back, getting steadily more
amused. Finally, the Dark Lord ground out, "Yes."

Harry nodded. "Three Ravenclaws: Terry Boot, Li Su, and Luna Lovegood; and six Gryffindors: Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and the
four youngest Weasleys. So, nine students. Well..." Harry tapped his chin with Voldemort's wand. "And Lillian Moon from Slytherin, but she's
practically one of yours already." He smiled. "That's all."

"Ten students for one Horcrux?" Voldemort snorted. "Don't make me laugh, boy."

Harry scowled. "Let me make it more clear, then: Ten students for the locket or I'll destroy both it and the diadem hidden at Hogwarts."
There was a long silence, during which Voldemort's lip curled with utter contempt and if he'd had his wand, he probably would have cast the Killing
Curse, oath or no oath. Harry just continued scowling, but his eyes practically glowed with fury.

Finally – finally – the Dark Lord relented. "Very well," he hissed, slouching back into his chair a bit. "But I want the diadem, too."

Harry rolled his eyes, but stood. "Agreed. Two Horcruxes for my friends' lives."

"So mote it be," Voldemort grumbled and their magic snapped with the oath.

Harry tossed the Dark Lord back his wand, which the man caught with some surprise. "I'll be back directly," the boy said as he moved into a corner
that was cloaked heavily in shadows.

Harry shadowed first to Grimmauld Place. After using his dementor ability to render the doxies who came to attack him for disturbing their curtains
unconscious, he slipped over to the cabinet the locket was held in. The door was locked, but alohomora was one of the few spells he'd been able
to master wandlessly, so that wasn't a problem. (And that far away from the wards around Privet Drive, any magic he did wouldn't get picked up.)

Once he had the locket, he stepped back into a shadow and travelled to a usually shadowed hallway in Hogwarts that wasn't far from the Room of
Requirement. Just before he stepped into the hallway, he remembered something and groaned; I don't have any way to hide myself. No Cloak, no
disillusionment.

Shaking his head at himself, he shadowed to his bedroom, climbed out from under his bed and went over to his trunk. In the most secure section,
next to the Cloak and the Map, was his collection of stolen wands from obnoxious wizards and witches. He'd managed to catch another witch – this
time one working for a shop on Knockturn – so now had five wands in his collection. He grabbed the one that worked the best for him – the one
from the Wizengamot member – and ducked back under his bed to shadow back to Hogwarts.

Once he had the diadem, he shadowed from inside the Room back to Malfoy Manor. He arrived to find Lucius Malfoy kneeling in front of
Voldemort. Cocking an amused eyebrow, he leaned back against the wall, wondering both what they were discussing and how long it would take
the Dark Lord to notice him.

"–too easy, my Lord," Lucius was saying. "A little gold in his pockets and the man would hand over his own wife for slaughter. The only real
problem at this point is Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act."

Voldemort glanced towards the corner Harry was standing in and smirked when he saw him. "And what are your thoughts on this, boy? You really
want to protect the children of a muggle-lover?"

From the tensing in Lucius' shoulders and neck, Harry knew the man was trying not to turn around and see who was there. "Just because you are
incapable of making friends doesn't mean we all are," he replied, lips curling with a smile. "Anyway, the children are not the father, for all that they
share similar genes. Actually, now that I think of it, that's something Snape never quite learned, either." He pushed off against the wall, absently
conjuring a bag and dropping the Horcruxes into it. "I brought your goodies."

Voldemort held out a hand for the bag, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. As Harry reached him, the Dark Lord took the bag in one hand, then drew
Harry forward by his sleeve, eyes on his wand. "That is not your wand," he commented.

"Hm?" Harry held the wand up and looked it over. It was rather worn around the edges. "No," he agreed, "it's not."

Behind Harry, Lucius let out a faint sound of surprise. "That's Kaus Gumboil's wand. He's been missing for almost two years now."

"Oh, was that his name?" Harry wondered, gently slipping his arm from Voldemort's grip and turning to look at Lucius, whose eyes widened further.
"I never knew."

"And what did you do to Mr Gumboil?" Voldemort wondered, amused.

"Mmm..." Harry considered the wand for a moment, then slipped it in his pocket. "I don't think I'll tell you. He was quite naughty, though, selling
children in Knockturn Alley." Harry offered the Dark Lord a bright smile. "He tried selling me, but I convinced him it was a bad idea."

Voldemort let out a cackle while Lucius looked at Harry like he couldn't decide if the boy was insane or not. Harry winked at him, just to watch the
pureblood choke. "You keep your secrets, Potter. I shall enjoy discovering them," Voldemort decided.

"I'll enjoy watching you try," Harry agreed. Then he turned to Lucius and cocked his head to one side. "You'll have to forgive my ignorance, but how
would Mr Weasley go about getting his bill passed? Does it go through the Wizengamot? Or through Fudge?"

"The Wizengamot," Lucius replied, brow furrowed.

Harry nodded to himself, then turned back to the Dark Lord. "No more sending Death Eaters to stalk me or you'll get the next one back in pieces,"
he warned, getting a cackle out of Voldemort, then he walked back to his dark corner and shadowed to Diagon Alley. A quick glamour spell
ensured no one would look at him twice.

It was nothing against Mr Weasley, really, but Harry didn't intend to see his bill passed. He'd always been fond of his eccentric father-in-law, but the
man's fondness for mundanes would get them all killed. Harry couldn't let that bill pass.

A floo trip to the Ministry later and Harry was off across the foyer. The Ministry cards in his pocket – he always kept them on him, just in case he
ever felt the urge to travel to the Ministry – allowed him to pass the wand registration desk without incident, only recording who had been by. (Harry
wished he could be a fly on the wall when they realised that four missing persons had visited the Ministry all at once. It really was a pity they didn't
have any sort of visual surveillance system.)

Having worked in the Ministry – even a much changed Ministry – for forty-some years, Harry knew exactly where he needed to go to find
information on the members of the Wizengamot. Once in the office, he turned on his vampire charm with the witch behind the desk, flirting with her
and subtly slipping in questions about the Wizengamot while utilising Legilimency to learn even more.

An hour and a half later, Harry left the Ministry with a satisfied smile. Now all he needed to do was take out a few of the mundane-friendly members
and Arthur's bill would be shot down in no time. The only thing he had to worry about was if they replaced members to make up for those he did
away with, but few people were really interested in serving on that body in Harry's time and he doubted the wizarding world had changed that much
after the war.

At any rate, he'd keep an eye on matters when he could.

-0-

Harry smirked to himself a bit when Dudley stumbled into the living room on the twenty-seventh of July, as he did every morning. His fat cousin
walked over to the telly, turned it on, then made to walk to the couch. He froze the moment he recognised Harry, who was sprawled out quite
comfortably on the couch, book on magical Chinese history resting on his stomach in a prime reading position.

"Good morning, Diddy-dums," Harry cooed. "I thought I'd see for myself how comfortable this seat was, since you spend so much time on it. I
admit, it's probably better suited to you, what with your rolls of fat and all, but it's relatively nice to stretch out over."

Dudley blinked, then called, "Mum! He's in my seat!"

Petunia came to the doorway, nervously wringing her hands in her apron. "Leave him be, sweetums. He'll be gone soon enough."

"We should have thrown a party," Harry commented, idly pulling the remote out from under the edge of the couch and flipping off the telly. "Sort of
a, 'Thank Merlin we're done with each other!' gig. I might have even been talked into baking the cake. Oh well. Too late now."

Petunia had tensed when Harry mentioned 'Merlin' and had paled when he'd commented he would have baked the cake. "Come along, Diddy, luv,"
she said, focusing on her son. "I've made your favourite for breakfast."

Dudley shot a disgusted look at Harry, but a lifetime of avoidance had taught him that walking away from his cousin was always in his best interest,
so he followed his mother into the kitchen without complaint.

Harry chuckled to himself and scooted down a little farther on the couch before returning to his book. He'd miss living at Privet Drive, if only for the
amusement factor.

About an hour later, the door bell rang and Harry glanced up from his book to watch his aunt hurry out into the hallway and open the door. "Oh,"
she sighed, then looked around the corner into the living room. "Your... person is here."

Harry smiled a chilled smile. "My godfather, Aunt Petunia."

She swallowed. "Yes, your god...father..." She grimaced. Vernon had spent the past several days wondering if it was legal for 'freaks' to have god-
anythings when he thought Harry wasn't in hearing range. Harry had considered correcting his stupidity, but eventually decided he'd have to kill the
man to correct that and he wasn't sure his digestion could handle the man's soul.

Perhaps he'd come back next summer with a carving knife. He had planned to do something terrible to the man on his thirteenth birthday.

But, for now, he had a godfather to meet, so Harry got up and walked over to the doorway. When he saw Sirius, he couldn't help but laugh, as the
man had come wearing a mini dress and heels. "I can't believe they had shoes in your size," Harry commented once he'd got his laughter under
control.

"I had to transfigure them," Sirius admitted, smiling like a loon. "I considered shaving my legs, too, but decided it would be too much of a hassle."

Harry snorted. "I think you look brilliant. Are we apparating, or going by motorbike?"

"Like you even had to ask," Sirius replied, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at where his motorcycle sat at the kerb. "Have you got everything,
then?"

Harry nodded. "Trunk's in my pocket."

"Excellent. Let's get the hell out of suburbia, then. Place gives me the creeps." He turned and started down the pavement.

Harry turned to Petunia, smile razor sharp. "It's been lots of fun; here's hoping we'll never see each other again."

Petunia managed a jerky nod and slammed the door shut as soon as Harry was out of the way.

Harry slipped his book into one of his expanded pockets, then hopped onto the bike behind his godfather, absently slipping on the helmet Sirius
handed him. "So, I probably don't want to know the answer to this, but... Are you wearing anything under that?"

"Of course not. I'm wearing muggle clothing in true wizarding style!" Sirius declared before revving the motor.

Harry groaned – he really hadn't wanted to know – but wrapped his arms around Sirius' stomach anyway. He'd never ridden with his godfather on
the motorcycle before, but knowing how insane the man was...

Sirius hit the gas and they were off like a shot, breezing past stop signs and turning corners at dangerous speeds.

Yup. Harry knew the man was insane. At least he was in good company.

-0-

Neville's birthday party had been rather tame, with only Hermione and Harry there from school. The rest of the guests had been older members of
Neville's extended family and there had been very little in the way of 'partying' going on.

Harry's party, on the other hand, had been absolutely insane. He'd basically let Sirius have free reign over the planning, which probably hadn't
been his brightest moment, but Harry had never claimed to be completely sane. The dog animagus had invited pretty much the entirety of Harry's
year, minus the Slytherins, as well as most of his old school and Order friends and their families. Remus, sadly, had been unable to make it due to
the nearby full moon, and he'd been the only person beyond Harry's school friends that he'd cared to see at the party.

"Sirius, I don't even know half these people," Harry pointed out over the music and laughing.

"But it's a lot of fun, isn't it?" Sirius shouted back.

Harry rolled his eyes and slipped back into the fray to find his friends. Next year, he was making the guest list.

-0-

Harry had tried everything to avoid visiting Diagon Alley on the same day as Lockhart's book signing, but to no avail. All of his friends – except
Lillian, who was, perhaps, the brightest of the lot – had decided to go on that particular day.

"Can we do Flourish and Blotts first?" Harry pleaded as he and Sirius made their way out into the alley. They were supposed to meet with the
Grangers, Longbottoms and Sus – Terry was still staying with Li – at the bank.

"Nope, sorry. No can do," Sirius replied, practically whistling. "Gotta be there for the book signing. Those books could be worth a lot of money one
day."

"You are so full of crap," Harry grumbled. "Those books'll be worth more defaced than signed."

Sirius grinned at him. "I really don't know what you have against this bloke. He's got a fantastic smile!"

"Your over-the-top gayness scares me sometimes. Between you and Dumbledore, I'll be scarred for life."

"He does seem a little gay, doesn't he?" Sirius pondered.

"I wonder if Lockhart is gay," Harry mused, tapping his chin. "You two would make a nice couple, him being so pretty and you being... well... you."

Sirius shot Harry an amused look. "Aren't you a little young to be trying to set me up with other blokes?"

"You're never too young for revenge!" Harry declared, an evil idea forming. "You and Snape compliment–"

"OH DEAR MERLIN, MY BRAIN!" Sirius howled, grabbing his head and hunching into a ball in the middle of the street.

Harry whistled to himself and finished walking the last few feet to where his friends and their families were waiting. "Hi!"

"What did you do to him?" Terry wondered, looking over Harry's shoulder with a disturbed look.

"Broke him a little, but don't worry, he's got a self-repairing spell built in," Harry quipped. "Give it another ten minutes or so. For now, perhaps we
can gather our money?" He nodded to the bank behind them.

"I can't decide whether or not I'm upset by this," Hermione murmured as the adults traded looks and silently agreed to head inside. "I mean, he's
your guardian, but he's also a little..." She trailed off and bit her lower lip uncertainly.

"Completely and utterly mad, is the phrase you're looking for," Terry offered. "Bonkers, even. Off his rocker. Gone round the bend–"

"Yes, thank you, Terry," Li cut in, rolling her eyes. "We get it."

"Do you need Sirius here to go down to your vault?" Neville asked Harry as Terry and the Grangers all peeled off to exchange their money.

Harry shook his head. "Nah. Honestly, I probably don't need to go down at all, but it's always nice to top off my pouch." He pulled his money pouch
out of his pocket and jingled it a bit.

"Fùqīn would never let me carry around that much money," Li whispered, eyeing the adults with concern. "He barely allows me a galleon for the
sweets trolley."

"Well, I've never had an adult around to tell me how much money I can or can't carry with me," Harry replied with a shrug, stuffing his pouch away
as a goblin came to collect them for the trip down. "Anyway, my parents left me a fortune, so I can afford to splurge a little on things like extra
books or a pile of chocolate frogs."

"And your godfather will not complain?"

"Sirius?" Harry snorted. "Merlin, no. He's got a fortune all his own, just in case I ever overspend. That cottage we're living in? He bought it when he
got released and it barely dented his fortune."

Li stared at him with wide eyes and almost tripped trying to get into the cart. Harry and Neville both reached out to help her, chuckling. Li wasn't
anywhere near as poor as the Weasleys, but she wasn't in the same league as Harry or Neville, either, since both of them were from old pureblood
families.

When they got back up to the foyer, pockets full of jingling coins, Sirius was standing with the Grangers and Terry, looking a little grumpy. He'd also
changed his robes – which had been a fine shade of dark maroon – to a bright, Gryffindor red, with little flashing gold lions.

"My eyes," Harry complained, taking off his glasses and rubbing at his eyes. "Good Merlin, man! Are you trying to blind me?"

"You're already well on your way," Sirius replied with humour, "I figured I'd just speed up the process."

Harry moaned. "I'm not sure I'm talking to you anymore."

They all set out then, generating quite a few stares thanks to Sirius' eye-catching robes. Harry took care to walk directly in front of his godfather so
he wouldn't chance being blinded. Sirius made this particularly hard by weaving back and forth a bit so he could get in Harry's peripheral vision,
which always got a whimper from the boy.

The few things they needed other than their books were collected quickly enough and then only Flourish and Blotts was left. As they approached it,
they could clearly see it was overfull and Harry said, "Hey, it looks pretty packed. Maybe we should come back tomorrow?"

"But I want to meet Lockhart!" Hermione complained, looking hopefully at the shop.

"He is very handsome," Li agreed, smiling a bit.

"I have lost all respect for the both of you," Harry decided.

"You've been out-voted," Sirius commented as Li grabbed Terry's arm and Hermione shoved Neville towards the shop. "You can either keep
soldiering on like a good godson, or I'll drag you and you'll have to look at my robes."

"You cheat," Harry complained, but followed his friends and their guardians towards the shop.

Inside was a madhouse, as Harry remembered. Witches were crowded together, jostling for the best view as Lockhart came out and flashed his
smile.

"I will be upstairs," Harry informed his godfather before escaping the madness up on the second level, which a number of other wizards were
wandering around on. Harry let out a relieved breath; the last thing he needed was to be accosted by Lockhart again. It was bad enough the man
would be teaching them this year.

Harry had actually considered hunting the bastard down and sucking out his soul before he could take the post of Defence professor, but
Lockhart's popularity made it difficult to catch him alone long enough for Harry to finish him. He'd just have to wait until school started.

Lockhart's voice filtered up from the mass on the ground floor and Harry sighed as he heard the man beginning his usual, 'I'm so awesome, look at
my pretty smile,' bit. He felt a tick developing in his left eye and hurried further into the shelves, trying to escape the man's voice.

"Mr Potter," a stiff voice said.

Harry glanced over his shoulder and smirked a bit as he caught sight of platinum blond hair. "Mr Malfoy, what a pleasure. How is your... house
guest?"

Lucius cleared his throat a bit. "As well as can be expected. I've heard you've a new living arrangement. How is that working out for you?"

"Idle chit-chat?" Harry wondered, leaning against a bookcase. "How unexpected. Sirius and I get along fine, for all our different views of the world.
How did your attempts against Mr Weasley's bill go?"

Lucius narrowed his eyes. "Rather well, actually. A number of Wizengamot members who would have voted for it went missing rather mysteriously
a few weeks ago. I don't suppose you'd know anything about that?"

Harry's eyes took on a faintly demonic gleam. "Perhaps they crossed paths with an angry vampire," he suggested. "I'm sure they'll never be seen
again, at any rate."

"I'm sure they won't," Lucius agreed, eyes flicking up to look at something behind Harry. "Ah, Draco."

"Father," Draco replied, stepping forward and looking at Harry with some curiosity. "Potter."

Harry smiled faintly. "Draco. I'm surprised you're not downstairs, mocking Ron."

"I'm surprised you even know the weasel's name," Draco retorted.

"Mmm... He came to my birthday party," Harry replied with a shrug.

"Along with everyone else not in the House of snakes, I've heard," the younger blond commented, looking rather like a pouting child.

Harry reached up and gently patted Draco's cheek. "Don't worry, next time I'll be the one making the guest list." Draco flushed a bit in anger as
Harry turned back to Lucius. "Give my regards to your house guest."

"Of course," Lucius agreed neutrally.

"See you in a couple weeks, Draco," Harry offered to his yearmate, who still looked a bit upset. Then Harry turned and started back towards the
stairs, hoping Sirius was bloody-well done listening to the puffed-up peacock downstairs so they could go home; Harry was afraid his ears were
about to start bleeding.

-0-

The sweets trolley had already gone by and Harry was utterly sick of hearing about Lockhart from Hermione and Li. Even Terry seemed a bit
interested in the bastard and Neville had retreated to the plant he'd brought with him for his bedside table and was having a one-sided
conversation with it. Harry felt a bit like he was the only sane one in the compartment – which was wrong on so many levels.

"I'm going to visit Lillian!" he shouted over the extolling of Lockhart's virtues before he pretty much ran out of the compartment and slammed the
door behind him. "Oh, dear Merlin, save me," he muttered, starting down the hall to the Slytherin girl's usual compartment. "I don't know if I can
take another minute of this, let alone a year. Ugh."

"Hello, Harry," Lillian said as he opened their compartment door.

"Go. Away," Morag ordered.

Harry grunted and dropped himself into the tiny space between Lillian and the wall, making the girl snort. "I don't want to hear a single word about
Lockhart," he muttered.

"Why not?" Millicent asked, leaning around Lillian. "I think it's wonderful that we'll have–"

Harry jumped up and dashed out the door, leaving the girls all staring after him as the door slid closed.

"Sanity, sweet sanity, why have you abandoned me? Surely there's someone on this train who's not gone nutty?"

Harry walked the halls for a while, shying away from any compartments with girls in them and stopping occasionally to say hello to some of his
male friends and commiserate about the Lockhart Madness going around.

Finally, after walking almost the entire length of the train, he found a compartment with the one occupant he hadn't yet spoken to in this life. He slid
the door open and stuck his head in. "Hello, there."

Wide silvery grey eyes looked up at him from an issue of the Quibbler. "Oh, hello. Were you just going to stand there and stare at me?" Luna
Lovegood asked.

"Erm, maybe. You're not nutters about Lockhart, are you?"

"Should I be?" Luna wondered.

"I'd rather you weren't, honestly."

"Then I'm not," Luna decided before returning to her magazine.

Harry smiled a bit and stepped over to the seat across from her. He stretched out over it, pulled out one of his mundane psychology books – a
recent interest of his – and settled in to read.

They were both silent for a few hours, content to read in each other's company. Eventually, however, Luna finished her magazine and set it to one
side before considering Harry.

After a few minutes of being stared at, Harry glanced over at her. "Yes?"

"You're quite different from what I expected," Luna offered, "but I suppose anyone who'd died once would be a bit strange."

Harry jerked up in his seat and turned to face Luna, book forgotten next to him. "What did you just say?"

Luna smiled a bit dreamily. "You have Death's Mark," she offered. "He changes the people he's chosen."

"One of these days," Harry griped, "I'm going to figure out how you and Ollivander can figure out this stuff."

Luna blinked slowly. "Perhaps you're just looking at the wrong thing."

"Hn." Harry lay back down on his bench. "I don't suppose you've met Death too, have you?"

Luna gave a high laugh. "Met him? Oh, no. I've only heard stories."

"The Tale of the Three Brothers."

"And others. Death isn't all that popular a character, but he always seems to find his way into stories." She cocked her head to one side. "If you met
Death, why didn't you die?"

Harry considered Luna seriously for a long moment, then slowly sat back up. "There were things I had to do; people I had to save."

"Everyone dies eventually," Luna pointed out, but she didn't sound disapproving, just curious.

Harry inclined his head. "Very true, and I have no intention of keeping my friends alive indefinitely; but I do want the end of their lives to be easier
than they were. Will be. Whatever."

Luna nodded and picked her Quibbler back up to start reading it again.

Harry watched the strange girl for a few more minutes before picking his book back up and returning to reading it. Out of all of his friends, it
seemed right that Luna would be the one to understand first.

-0-

"I'm not sure I can last until the winter hols," Harry muttered, dropping into the chair next to Luna. Terry and Li were both still mad about Lockhart,
so Harry often spent his time with the blonde first year. Luna had yet to tell him to bugger off, so he kept coming back.

"If he vanishes the day everyone's leaving for holiday, they'll assume he's just gone home," Luna offered neutrally, not looking up from her essay.

"Well, yeah, but that doesn't solve my problem now," Harry replied.

"What will you do with the body?" Luna wondered.

"Feed it to a basilisk," Harry said without pause, having already worked that out. In fact, he'd already worked out pretty much everything. It was the
waiting that was killing him. "Luna, amuse me," he ordered.

Luna groped at her side for a moment for her bag. Once she'd found it, she felt around inside for the latest Quibbler, then slid it over to Harry, all
without looking up.

Harry rolled his eyes, but leaned back in the chair and opened it up to a page that had been marked. His first reaction, upon seeing Lockhart's
giant face, was to rip the thing to shreds. But then he actually read the article title: 'Long-Time Lover of Lockhart Bares All - Gilderoy Gay?'

Harry sat forward in his chair and read the article all about this guy who claimed to be Lockhart's gay lover for the past ten years. Some of the
details were practically pornographic, but the whole thing lifted Harry's spirits sufficiently and he enjoyed the laugh. "This is fantastic, Luna. Do you
mind if I keep it?"

"I have another copy," Luna replied absently.

"You're the best." Harry leaned over and kissed her cheek before jumping up and bounding upstairs to put the article on his wall next to Stephen's
art of Ministry workers being killed. Stephen was already working on a new series of pictures depicting Lockhart's various deaths that he promised
to give Harry this Christmas. Harry would have to suggest a picture of Lockhart being eaten by a fifty-foot basilisk.

-0-

Harry kicked his feet absently against the teacher's desk as he waited for his prey to show up. Lockhart always seemed to take forever at meals,
but things should be pretty much winding down, what with all the students leaving in an hour. Harry had already gone back into the office and
vanished all the man's things – he hadn't even wanted to touch the things for fear of germs – so now he was just waiting for the man himself.

Finally, the door to the classroom popped open and Lockhart stepped in, whistling a bit and smiling a lot. He paused and blinked a few times when
he finally saw Harry. Then he smiled his most blinding smile and hurried forward. "Harry, Harry! I see you've finally come to me for help in
managing your fame!"

Harry cocked an eyebrow at the man. "Managing my fame?" he asked. "Why would I come to you for that? I'd be more likely to ask the
Headmaster for help. No, I'm afraid I'm here for a much different reason." Harry's lips turned up with a cold smile. "A much more... pleasing one."

He hopped off the desk and took two steps forward to where Lockhart was frozen in surprise, then opened his mouth and sucked down the man's
soul.

"Oh. Ew. That was... Ugh. I think I'm going to hurl," Harry complained, gagging a bit. "Oh dear Merlin, that was, quite possibly, the worst thing I've
ever eaten. That tops Sirius' casserole surprise." He shook his head and turned back to the soulless body in front of him. "Please don't be
contagious," he muttered, grabbing Lockhart's arm. A wave of his wand drew the curtains over the windows, throwing the room into darkness.

Once Harry had shadowed Lockhart down to the Chamber and left him there as snake food, he shadowed to a cupboard off the entrance hall, then
stepped out to join everyone as they made for the carriages to the train. Sirius had talked him into coming to visit for Christmas and Harry had
agreed with the stipulation that his godfather let Harry cook Christmas dinner.

"How does it feel to be going home for Christmas?" Lillian asked as she appeared at Harry's elbow.

Harry glanced suspiciously around her, half expecting Millicent or Morag to pop up and start waxing poetic about Lockhart. "Kind of nice. Where
are your groupies?"

Lillian blinked in confusion, then snorted when she realised who he meant. "Tracey and Morag went ahead so they didn't have to see you, and
Millicent left last night by floo so she wouldn't miss her portkey; her family's travelling to Canada for the holidays."

"Hn." Harry shrugged and they climbed into a carriage together. Since very few people would get into a carriage with a Slytherin, they started out
after a few minutes without any additions.

"I know you're a half-blood and all, but did you receive an invite to the Christmas Ball?" Lillian wondered.

Harry, who had been watching the passing forest out the window, glanced towards her and shrugged. "Yes, but I very much doubt I'll be allowed to
go. Sirius doesn't care for pureblood gatherings." His lips curled with a smile. "Although, it may be for the best. Knowing my dear godfather, if he
came, he'd dress for the occasion, and no one wants to see that."

Lillian grimaced, having heard about how the last of the Blacks had dressed to pick up his godson. "Fair point. Still, we'll miss having you there."

"You might, but I know plenty of people who will be all the happier if I miss," Harry retorted, amused.

"Not as many as you might think. You did get an invite, after all."

"I'm Harry Potter," Harry pointed out as the train came into view. "I would be the talk of the year if I attended a pureblood gathering, especially one
that attracts the sort of crowd this one does."

Lillian sighed, silently conceding the point. The Malfoys' Christmas Balls were known for their exclusive guest list. Families like the Longbottoms or
Weasleys would never be invited, simply for their Lighter leanings. Even Minister Fudge had never received an invite, for all that he sucked up to
Lucius practically year-round.

The two stepped together onto the train and wandered down the hallways, glancing into crowded compartments for a place to sit. Harry's friends
were mostly staying in the castle over the holidays, only Neville going home. The Gryffindor boy, Harry knew, would be more comfortable sitting
with his Housemates than Harry, especially without Hermione there to run interference. For all that Neville was okay with Harry, the half-blood was
just the right amount of crazy that Neville was never sure if he was taking the mickey or not.

They finally came across a mostly-empty compartment and Harry slid the door open, not so much to take it over, but because of its occupant. "I
thought you were staying at the castle?"

Luna looked up at him from her Charms book. "Oh, yes. Daddy's travel plans fell through when the man he was supposed to meet with about the
Blibbering Humdinger mysteriously died."

"Mysteriously?" Harry repeated, amused.

Luna nodded. "That's what the report in the Daily Prophet said, but Daddy and I agree it must have been the Blibbering Humdinger. They very
much dislike being in captivity."

"Vicious little blighters," Harry agreed, moving into the compartment to sit across from Luna.

Lillian looked troubled for a moment before sighing and joining the two Ravenclaws in the compartment. "Lillian Moon," she said to the first year in
introduction.

"Luna Lovegood," Luna replied absently, eyes on Harry. "How did your meeting with the peacock go?"

Harry's lips turned up at the corners and satisfaction gleamed in his eyes. "Fantastically. I introduced him to a snake I know of and left them to get
acquainted."

Luna smiled ever so faintly. "I wonder who we'll have for Defence after Christmas?"

"Hopefully someone who isn't a great fraud."

Lillian blinked at them. "You think Lockhart's going to leave because of some snake? What did you do, lock him in Professor Snape's office?"

Harry chuckled. "No, though that would have been fun. More the pity."

"Then what did you do to the man? And don't try playing innocent with me!"

Harry's eyes darkened with amusement. "I left him in Salazar Slytherin's famed Chamber of Secrets," he replied. "The basilisk is always hungry."

Lillian's eyes went wide. "You–!"

"Or I would have, if I were a Parselmouth," Harry added as he pulled out a book to read. "Maybe we'll all luck out and the ponce will have eloped
with his gay lover."

Lillian spent a good hour simply watching as the two Ravenclaws read as if nothing had happened. Eventually, she got bored and stood. "Well,
Harry, I'll see you in two weeks, assuming you don't make it to the Christmas Ball."

"Have a good Christmas, Lillian," Harry replied, looking up from his book and shooting her a smile.

As soon as the compartment door had closed, Luna dreamily wondered, "What does peacock taste like?"

"Wild berries that have been shat out. And, for the love of all that's magical, don't ask me how I know how that tastes."

Luna glanced up at him, mischief in her wide eyes. "Whose faeces–?"

"Luna!"

The girl burst out laughing while Harry moaned and covered his eyes.

-0-

Harry didn't need to have experienced Christmas with his godfather to know that if he wasn't up in time, Sirius would wake him up in the most
obnoxious manner he could. So when Sirius came in at the crack of dawn to wake Harry, he found the boy already dressed in a house robe, book
resting on his stomach as he read.

"Do you ever put those books down?" Sirius demanded.

"I could hunt down the authors and suck the knowledge out of them like some sort of dementor-human hybrid, if you'd prefer," Harry retorted as he
marked his spot.

Sirius made a face. "Okay, new rule. We don't mention dementors or soul sucking on holidays. Ever."

Harry rolled his eyes and levered himself out of bed. "You have no sense of humour."

"...you are completely inexplicable," Sirius decided, shaking his head. "Did those muggles break you?"

"I got hit in the head with a Killing Curse and he blames my oddities on the mundanes," Harry muttered to himself as he preceded his godfather
downstairs to the tree.

"Muggles have mysterious ways!" Sirius defended.

"I think Azkaban rotted your brain!"

"No debate there," Sirius replied before dropping to the floor next to the tree and grinning hopefully up at Harry as the boy looked around for a chair
to sit in. "Come on, it's Christmas! Sit on the floor!"

Harry sighed and dropped lightly to the floor. "I don't understand what it being a mundane religious holiday has to do with sitting on the floor."

Sirius shot him an odd look, then waved his wand and sent the packages from under the tree zooming to their respective giftee. "Presents!" Sirius
declared with a disturbing amount of glee before pouncing on a random gift and ripping the paper to shreds.

Harry sighed and looked over his disturbingly large pile before picking out one from one of his friends and opening it carefully. He continued in that
vein while Sirius demolished his pile, then turned greedy eyes on Harry's. Harry rolled his eyes at his godfather and shoved a section of his pile
from people he didn't know towards his godfather, much to Sirius' glee.

Terry had given Harry the second book of a set on Chinese ritual magic; he'd given Harry the first one for his birthday. Li gifted him with a magical
charm from China that was supposed to help him retain information better, which worked best, Li had noted, when worn between one's eyes, but
could also be worn as an earring, necklace or hair decoration. Hermione had given him a lovely eagle-feather quill. Neville had given him a couple
singing lilies to plant in the summer and Harry made a note to put them in the garden out front as soon as he got home in June.

From Stephen was the expected art of Lockhart dying in different ways. He'd added in the piece of Lockhart being torn apart by a giant snake, then
gone with the theme and also drawn pictures of the other House animals taking their turns. Sirius, predictably enough, had bought Harry a Nimbus
2001. Harry wasn't on the Quidditch team this time around, but he still loved flying, and the school brooms sucked. The Nimbus would get plenty of
exercise.

Lillian, continuing the trend from last Christmas, sent him a glass stag figurine. He'd mentioned in passing one afternoon in the library that his
father had been a stag animagus, partially hoping she'd send him one to go with his glass lily. Luna had also sent him a glass figurine, but hers
was meant more as a joke and it got a surprised laugh from him.

"What?" Sirius looked up from yet another box of sweets. As soon as he saw the glass peacock, he frowned a bit and asked, "Why is it
decapitated?"

Harry snorted and covered his mouth. "Erm, Luna and I refer to Lockhart as a peacock," he explained, gently setting the statue next to the stag and
out of harm's way.

Sirius sighed and shook his head. For all that Luna sounded a little odd to him – Harry had mentioned her a few times in his letters – she was
certainly better than that Slytherin friend of Harry's. Sirius honestly wasn't sure how those two had become friends and managed to remain such for
a year and a half. Surely Harry had discovered the evils of snakes by now?

But, no, Harry liked snakes, even the animal kind. Sirius had caught him scaring a hawk away from a wounded snake in the backyard over the
summer. Sirius honestly didn't know what had happened to the snake, but Harry had never tried bringing it in, seemingly understanding that his
godfather wouldn't be okay with it. (Honestly, Sirius was absolutely terrified of snakes, so he was glad Harry hadn't tried bringing the thing inside.)

The rest of Harry's gifts were from people who'd attended his birthday party and felt obligated to send a gift. About half of them sent books – most
Harry had read and owned, some he hadn't – or sweets, such as the box Sirius had open in his lap. Harry wasn't looking forward to writing thank
you notes, but at least he had a few Trace-free wands he could use to speed up the process.

After sorting his extra gifts into piles either for him – the books he didn't have and any chocolate – or for Sirius – the books he already owned and
any other sweets – he started the long, tedious process of moving his things up to his room while Sirius dithered over which books to add to his
own library and which ones to toss.

Once both of them were done, they shuffled into the kitchen and Harry tossed together a quick breakfast. After that was cleaned up, Harry set
about preparing dinner while Sirius left the kitchen under penalty of dog kibble.

Harry turned on the wireless and quietly sang along to the songs he knew while he went through the familiar motions of making a Christmas dinner.
While Molly had still been alive, she had often been the one in charge of making the large family meals, only allowing her children to help with the
small things. When she died – of old age, about twelve years before Ginny – Harry had taken over the making of family meals, having long moved
past his lingering resentment from the Dursleys making him cook for them as a kid.

Now, in a different world, it seemed strange to be making a Christmas dinner for only two people. He'd considered inviting all his friends stuck at
the school to enjoy the holidays with Sirius and him, but hadn't been sure how they'd react to him cooking food. It was nowhere near normal for a
twelve-year-old to be so proficient in the kitchen. Honestly, Harry was lucky Sirius had been willing to accept his excuse of helping Petunia with
large meals, or he'd probably be stuck with Sirius' cooking. Or Chinese food.

As Harry started on the pie, he forcibly turned his thoughts to a new track: the Malfoy Christmas Ball. He'd received his invite shortly after
Hallowe'en and immediately replied that he most likely wouldn't be making it, due to his guardian's views of his cousin and her family. Narcissa had
personally sent back her understanding and added that they would keep him on the guest list in case he was able to make it, but they wouldn't
expect him.

The real question was, did Harry want to go to the Ball?

Harry had spent most of the last month mulling over the pros and cons. On one hand, the Ball would be a great place to be seen and make
connections among like-minded individuals. However, on the flip side of that, if the wrong person saw him there, it would completely ruin him. He
was under no delusions about what the wizarding public would do if they found out their saviour and champion hated mundanes as much as
Voldemort, and Harry had no interest in testing his Occlumency barriers against real dementors. (Though it might be interesting to see what
happened if he tried sucking out the soul of a dementor.)

At any rate, going to Azkaban was out of the question, and as much as Sirius irritated him, Harry didn't want his godfather to find out that his
godson was a murderer. Not like that.

So, going to the Ball wasn't an option, but it was also too good an opportunity to pass up.

What to do... What to do...

-0-

"I'm surprised you dared show your face, even such a poorly known one," he commented to Tom Riddle as he came to stand next to him.

The Dark Lord glanced down at the pale-eyed apparent vampire at his side. "And you are?"

Pale eyes glittered up at Riddle as a smile curled his lips. "The one you Marked as your equal."

Riddle jerked at that, then narrowed his eyes. "Potter?"

The smile widened. "Yes. However, I'm currently using the name Xerosis."

"A skin condition?"


Xerosis coughed. "Skin or eyes, thanks. What did you do, memorise a dictionary?"

Riddle grunted and turned sharp blue eyes towards the dance floor again. "I'm surprised to see you here. I was under the impression your
'guardian' wouldn't let you come."

"Sirius doesn't know I'm here. We're currently playing Monopoly in the living room."

Riddle glanced back at him. "You have a time-turner."

"Would you believe me if I said a fan sent it to me?"

"No."

"Mm. Pity." Xerosis sipped at his wine and glanced over the guests, making note of who was there and who they were talking to. "I snuck into the
Department of Mysteries and stole one. Or I will, in about... five hours, I believe."

"You make a very bad poster boy for the Light."

"I've decided that my sole purpose in life is to serve as a bad example," Xerosis retorted. "Or, at the very least, completely break the people who
would stand against me." He glanced back up at the Dark Lord. "How long are you planning to hide out and plot, anyway? I get that you need to re-
gather your forces, but how long before you start decimating leeches?"

"Leeches?" Riddle replied, lips curling unintentionally with amusement.

"Mundanes, muggles... Whatever."

Riddle glanced back down at the boy. "Mundanes?"

Xerosis shrugged. "My aunt's word for non-magicals."

"Only one person I know calls muggles 'mundanes'," Lillian's voice declared from behind the two wizards. When Xerosis turned to her with one
eyebrow raised, she smiled. "I'm glad you could make it. Even if you did have to come in costume."

Xerosis rolled his eyes. "Do you have a radar or something?" Lillian smirked a bit and Xerosis snorted. "Whatever. Thank you for my gift, by the
way."

"Of course. And thank you for mine." She struck a pose and her new necklace glittered in the candlelight.

"It looks good on you," Xerosis complimented.

Riddle cleared his throat. "I assume this is one of your friends?" he asked.

"Lillian Moon," the girl offered with a brief curtsy.

Riddle's lips curled with a dark smile. "You have your mother's eyes, Miss Moon."

Lillian's eyes narrowed. "Few dare to mention my mother, sir. Might I inquire as to your name?"

"I am Lord Voldemort," Riddle informed the girl, enjoying the way her face paled.

"Merlin save me from megalomaniacs," Xerosis muttered, rubbing at his eyes. "Lillian, calm down. He's under oath to not harm you."

"Potter–"

"Xerosis," Harry reminded him, seeing Lillian's father approaching.

"Is something wrong, Lily?" Mr Moon asked, touching his daughter's shoulder and eyeing the two males sternly.

Lillian cleared her throat and nodded. "Everything's fine, Father. We were just discussing... um–"

"The Ministry's cruelty," Xerosis smoothly inserted. "A friend of mine was recently hunted down for preying on a mudblood. We were... unaware...
of Miss Moon's own grudge against the Ministry and I fear we might have upset her. My apologies." He sketched a perfect bow.

Mr Moon blinked a few times in surprise while Lillian's mouth dropped at her friend's smooth cover. "I– Please, no apologies needed. Lily seems
fine, right, darling?"

Lillian snapped her mouth shut and managed a smile for her father. "Yes, just fine. Don't worry about me, Father."

Mr Moon nodded. "Excuse me, gentlemen."

Once he'd left, Lillian turned on her friend. "That was practically Slytherin."

Xerosis smirked. "I did tell you there was a chance I'd end up in the House of snakes."

"Well, yes. But usually you're too busy being a mad Ravenclaw with his nose stuck in a book, that I forgot about that."

"That was sort of the point."

Riddle snorted. "You? A mad Ravenclaw? I can't see it."

"I also do a disturbingly realistic Gryffindor," Xerosis quipped, shooting the Dark Lord a wild smile. "If we ever face each other in public, I promise I'll
put on a good show."
"Strangely, I think I'm looking forward to it," Riddle decided. "Well, Potter – Xerosis – I'll take my leave. Enjoy the rest of your year."

"I'll give Alissia your love!" Xerosis called after him, naming the basilisk in the Chamber.

Riddle shot him a sharp look, then snorted. "Don't forget to feed her while you're forcing yourself on her, lest she eat you."

Xerosis chuckled and turned back to Lillian, who was looking at him like he was mad. Well, madder than usual. "Yes?"

"I'm still trying to wrap my brain around you being on speaking terms – pleasant speaking terms, at that – with the Dark Lord."

"We hashed things out over the summer," Xerosis replied, waving the discussion away. "Now, why don't you show me around? And perhaps we
could do a circuit around the dance floor?"

Lillian smiled. "You know how to dance?"

"I know how to do many things, my dear," Xerosis teased, taking her arm. "I am, after all, a vampire." He flashed his fangs at her.

Lillian snorted. "Of course, how could I have missed that. And how old are you?"

Xerosis chuckled. "Not quite a century, yet. Ninety-six."

Lillian shook her head. "Sure you are. Alright, Xerosis, wasn't it?"

"That's correct."

"What does that even mean?"

"Evil, mundane-killing, child vampire," he retorted.

"You're so full of it."

"But you love me anyway."

Lillian laughed, glancing over at him with a fond smile. "I suppose I must, to put up with you all the time. Come on, I'll introduce you to my friends.
Properly, this time."

"Without the spitting of the ground I walk on and the thumbing of their noses?"

"With any luck, they'll actually like you once they give you a chance."

"One can only hope."

-0-

"What did you do for your break?" Luna asked as Harry took the seat across from her.

"Ate a couple of souls, stole a time-turner, joked with a Dark Lord, and crashed a ball. You?"

Luna smiled dreamily. "I painted my ceiling."

Harry smiled back. "I'll have to come see it this summer."

"Okay," Luna agreed before burying her nose in the most recent Quibbler.

Harry pulled his own copy out. "Thanks, by the way, for the subscription. And the peacock."

"Of course, Harry."

They both settled in to read for the trip, at peace with each other.

-0-

The Ministry had lent Hogwarts the use of an auror who'd been wounded in action during Christmas and wasn't allowed back on active duty until
late June. Auror Sian certainly knew what he was talking about – in fact, he'd banned all of Lockhart's books from his classroom the first day – but
he disliked children on principle. He seemed to get on well enough with the seventh years and he tolerated the sixth years, but everyone else was
gum on the bottom of his shoe.

Harry loved him. During his third class, he started up an argument on the use of Veritaserum during criminal trials. During his sixth class, they
spent almost forty-five minutes debating the moral repercussions of using the Unforgivables during the first war against the Death Eaters. For the
ninth class, Harry asked about what sort of Dark spells aurors used in their line of work and how they justified that while chasing men and women
who used the exact same spells.

"Potter," Auror Sian replied, "either shut up and let me teach, or start coming to my classes with the seventh years. You're confusing your
classmates."

Harry grinned a bit madly. "I'll do that, sir," he agreed and Sian had snorted before returning to their lesson on the disarming charm.

After that, Harry started attending the seventh year classes when he didn't have a class of his own. At the start, the seventh years seemed quite
displeased with the interloper, but then Harry started a debate with one of them about which of three shield charms would hold up best under a
blasting curse and they slowly accepted him as being on the same level knowledge-wise, even if no one would let him try casting any of the spells
they discussed.
By the end of the year, Harry decided it had been the best year of his entire Hogwarts career. When he mentioned that to his friends during the
train ride back, Hermione drily pointed out, "Harry, it's only our second year."

But Luna, who had curled up on the floor between Harry's feet, had glanced up at him with a knowing smile and he knew she understood.

"So, what is everyone doing this summer?" Li asked.

"Pranking my brother," Terry decided, glancing up at where his trunk was stashed overhead. Harry had spent a pretty knut on pranks for his friend
for both Christmas and his birthday, if only to make his summer that much more bearable. All of the pranks, Harry had assured him, were
mundane-safe.

"I'm going on holiday in France," Hermione replied, smiling a bit. "I owl-ordered a tourist book about magical France and Mum and Dad said we can
stop by a few places."

Everyone agreed that sounded pretty amazing.

"I'll probably spend the whole summer in the greenhouse," Neville admitted, pinking a bit. "Gran said she's got a few new plants in since
Christmas."

"Sirius and I will be driving each other completely bonkers," Harry reported. "You're all invited to come and save... Well, to come join in on the fun, I
suppose. Sirius has already expanded the guest rooms just in case." He rolled his eyes.

"You'll come visit me like you promised, though, won't you?" Luna asked hopefully.

"How about in two weeks? That should give me sufficient time to be considering decapitating Sirius," Harry replied cheerfully.

"I'll have Daddy pull the cot out of storage," Luna agreed.

"Are you going back to China, Li?" Hermione asked, leaning forward. She'd spent a portion of the past year asking the Chinese witch about her
home country and was absolutely fascinated. She'd been a little jealous that both Harry and Terry had learned Mandarin, but Li had lent her a
couple of books for over the summer so she could teach herself.

Li shook her head. "No, but my family is coming here for a couple weeks." She smiled a bit sheepishly. "They speak very poor English, so I do not
know if inviting people over while they are here would be polite."

"I'd like to meet your family," Harry decided. "And I could use the practise."

"Yeah, and your cousin is really nice," Terry added.

Li giggled. "That is because she has a crush on you."

Terry grimaced. "What? Ew!"

They all shared a laugh over that, then settled in to talk about next year. Bets were placed about what sort of person they might have for Defence
next year and Hermione, rolling her eyes, promised to keep hold of the money until they knew for sure. Eventually, they all settled in to play
Exploding Snap or read a book and the rest of the trip passed in a blur.

When they arrived in London, Harry waved his goodbyes, then hurried over to where a big black dog was waiting for him, tongue lolling out to one
side. "Hey, Padfoot. You ready to go?"

Padfoot gave a loud bark, then transformed into Sirius, who wrapped Harry in a hug before apparating them away. "Welcome home," Sirius said,
stepping back from his godson.

Harry looked around the cottage Sirius had bought and smiled. Somehow, without him realising, the cottage had become his home.

And he wouldn't change it for the world.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: So, I wasn't sure if I'd use the title of this fic as anything more than a title, but then I needed a name to call Harry and, well... It's random
enough. And I kinda like it. (Lord Xerosis has a nice ring to it, don't you think?)

I know someone's going to ask this – you lot are too predictable at times about the things you pick at – Albus did want Harry to go back to the
Dursleys for only a week to renew the wards, but Sirius managed to convince him that the wards over his new cottage were awesome enough that
Harry would be perfectly safe there. (Something about a do-no-harm ward and a ward that disallows anyone that both Harry and Sirius disapprove
of. Of course, Sirius has no idea that Harry is on Voldie's side and, therefore, is okay with a couple Death Eaters. XD He'd have gone for a Fidelius,
but there was no one he trusted enough with his and Harry's secret.)

For those of you who are quietly – or not so quietly in some cases – bemoaning the lack of Draco Malfoy: I don't much care for Draco. I think he's
too whiney, and overused to boot. So Draco will play a very minor role in this fic. Like, you might see him every third chapter or so. You'll be seeing
way more of Lillian and, through her, Millicent and Tracey.
So, seriously, can we stop it with the reviews asking for more Draco?

Oh, a minor translation, since it threw Shara:


Fùqīn - Chinese for 'father'

'Til next chapter!


~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 4*: Armies of Robbers and Thieves
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: Did you hold your breath? If yes, why aren't you passed out on the floor? If no, enjoy the obnoxiously long chapter. O.o

A/N: So, wow. I haven't received a flame in years. But I got one, for this fic, because I like Hermione and dislike Draco. O.o (If anyone wants a
crack at the bigot, they were something like the twenty-fourth reviewer on FFN for chapter 3. They were... very rude. And rather opinionated about
how the fanfic world should be. I told them they should write their own fanfic, but I don't think they will. Hm.)
And, yeah, it might be out of line to let you all have a crack at him/her, but they were rather rude and could do with a dose of reality. (And maybe I
was a little snippy with them the first time they reviewed, but I didn't swear at them. Honestly.)

Oh, and in case any of you wondered why I keep picking on Barty? He's Shara's second favourite Death Eater, after Sev, and since I was having
such a time fitting Sev in anywhere... XD
So, yes, lots of Barty. Also, Lucius will be popping in and out a bit 'cause he's also fun.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WORRIED ABOUT LUNA NOT BEING PROTECTED FROM VOLDIE: Go back and read the start of last chapter again.
Specifically the list of ten students Harry protected.
Seriously. You lot are almost as bad as the people who keep asking what the pairing is going to be. *rolls eyes*

-0-0-0-

Armies of Robbers and Thieves

-0-0-0-

"Why are you stalking me again?" Harry asked as he gently patted down the fresh soil around the young blue rose vine.

The wizard hiding behind a nearby bush shifted nervously, but didn't answer.

Harry rolled his eyes and moved on to the cluster of daffodils. Strangely, he didn't much mind being stalked at the moment. Perhaps because there
wasn't a single mundane living within almost two miles of the cottage. Then again, perhaps it was really because he'd stolen another wand from a
nasty part-veela down in Knockturn just yesterday that fit him almost as well as his holly wand and he had it shoved in his back pocket.

"I suppose that why isn't really the question, knowing how hard-headed old Voldie can get," Harry said, smirking when he heard the surprised
sound at the rude name for Voldemort. "The real question is, 'Why do you think you can actually hide from me'?" He grabbed a handful of dirt from
the bucket at his side, then tossed it towards the hidden Death Eater.

"Bloody–!" Barty jumped to his feet, giving up all pretentions of hiding. "These are my best robes!"

Harry raised an eyebrow at him. "If those are your best robes, you need to go shopping." He pulled off his gloves and swiftly got to his feet. "What
does Voldemort want this time? Other than for me to send a Death Eater back in pieces."

Barty shuddered. "He just wants me keeping an eye on you. I honestly don't know why! Please don't kill me?" He turned wide, pitiful eyes on the
boy.

Harry sighed and massaged his forehead. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood today," he muttered. "Just don't let Sirius see you."

"I will be like a mouse, silent and completely beneath anyone's notice," Barty promised before crouching behind the bush again.

Harry sighed again, then pulled his gloves back on so he could return to his garden-tending. "You can't tell me that's comfortable."

"...I almost died in Azkaban," Barty reminded him, "and then I spent years under my father's Imperius. This isn't that bad, really."

Harry thought back to his months-long escape from the mundanes. "I suppose that's a good point."

They were both silent while Harry finished with his garden. As the boy was standing, Barty asked, "I don't suppose you'd be willing to get me a
sandwich?"

Harry laughed and grabbed his bucket before walking inside, shaking his head.

"What's got you in such a good mood?" Sirius asked, poking his head out of the living room. Harry heard the static from the telly and the quiet
music he associated with a video game on pause.

"Crazy snake out in the garden," Harry replied cheerfully.

Sirius shuddered and ducked back into the living room.

Harry chuckled at his godfather's phobia and put his gardening things away in the hall closet before going into the kitchen. Barty's plea for food had
reminded him that it was lunchtime and he could use some food himself. He threw together a couple sandwiches, grabbed a small handful of crisps
from the opened bag on the counter and pulled out two bottles of water before making his way back outside. "Eating outside!" he called as he
shuffled the food and drinks to open the front door.
"No snakes in the house!" Sirius called back.

Harry rolled his eyes and wandlessly summoned the door closed behind him once he was on the stoop. He made his way over to a tree that wasn't
far from the bush Barty was hiding behind and relaxed against the trunk. "Sirius is currently being distracted by Solomon's Key 2, so you can come
eat some if you'd like," Harry offered, picking up a sandwich.

Barty peeked out from behind the bush, looked around the property, then scuttled over to the tree.

Harry covered his mouth and tried really hard not to choke.

"Thanks," Barty mumbled, putting the tree between himself and the house as he grabbed a sandwich. When Harry held out one of the bottles of
water, the man's face lit up and he left his sandwich on his knee in favour of the drink.

"You know, Voldie never did answer me at the Ball when I asked him how much longer he's planning to hide out for," Harry commented before
popping a crisp in his mouth.

Barty's eyes flickered towards Harry before returning to his lunch. "He mentions breaking into Azkaban every once in a while, since most of our
people are in there, but he's also been working on recruiting from the ex-students that weren't open to him during the last war. He's also trying to
bring everyone back into the fold without alerting Dumbledore."

"Hm." Harry tapped his chin. "You were freed when your mother took your place, right?"

"Yeah." Barty shot him a suspicious look. "How do you know that, anyway?"

"I have mad skillz," Harry replied absently, still thinking. "I might have a way to break the Death Eaters out of Azkaban without anyone the wiser,
but it'll take some time for me to set up."

"How much time?" Barty wondered.

"Mmm... Maybe two weeks? I can probably do it sooner than that, but I don't want to push my luck. For all that I get away with a lot around Sirius,
he'll eventually notice my sneaking out to do naughty things." Harry flashed Barty a mad little smile.

Barty shuddered slightly. "Do you require assistance?"

"Voldie sent you to try and figure out my secrets, didn't he?" Harry wondered, having guessed that was the aim as soon as he sensed Barty behind
the bush. When the Death Eater winced in response, Harry chuckled. "He's so predictable. No, you'd only get in my way. Tell your Lordship he
needs to be more Slytherin than that to find anything out."

Barty sighed. "He's going to Crucio me again."

"You're the one who decided to work under a mad man."

"Says the equally mad child," Barty retorted.

Harry grinned. "Well, yes, but I don't toss around the Cruciatus like it's a sweet, either."

Barty snorted. "You're a little young to have mastered the Unforgivables."

"Hmm... Maybe," Harry replied knowingly, then asked, "Has he brought Snape back into the mix? I know he at least suspects something is up if his
Mark is acting up, but has he been Called?"

Barty shot him another suspicious look. "You know a disturbing number of things for an almost-thirteen year old raised by muggles."

"I am a Ravenclaw," Harry reminded him.

Barty snorted, then shook his head. "My Lord is being careful about Snape, since it's a little hard to know for sure which side he's on."

"Good choice," Harry commented. "And he's on Dumbledore's side."

"There's no way you could know that for sure."

"I am omniscient," Harry announced. "I know all things without question."

"You're full of shit."

"Yeah, I am," Harry agreed, smiling and wiggling to scratch an itch on his back with the tree trunk behind him. "Anyway, Snape had this crazy-mad
crush on my mum, so he asked Voldie to spare her life. Now, Voldie tried, sure, but Mum wasn't the sort of person to just step to one side and let
anyone kill her son, so he had to kill her. Snape thinks he was betrayed – and it's partially his fault, anyway, since he's the one that reported the
bloody prophecy to Voldie in the first place – so he turned to Dumbledore who promised him retribution, forgiveness, and a free pass out of
Azkaban.

"Anyway, only two people alive know that Voldie tried to spare my mum, and he's not about to admit that he tried to spare a mudblood, and I'm not
really on speaking terms with Snape. So he's still all betrayed and stuff. Probably best to just let him wonder what's going on for now."

Barty shook his head, a little disturbed. "You know, I don't think I want to know how you figure these things out, really. It'll probably scar me for life."

"Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger," Harry retorted.

"Harry! Phone!" Sirius shouted out the living room window.

Harry rolled his eyes and gathered the leftovers from lunch. "Tell Voldemort I'll come find him when everything is set up to get his people out of
Azkaban. And if he sends you to stalk me again, do the smart thing and go torture a couple deserving mundanes instead," he told Barty before
standing and making his way back into the cottage. "Who is it?" he yelled at Sirius.

"Terry!"

"Cool!" He ran through the front door and absently banished his dishes into the kitchen before bouncing into the living room to pick up the phone.
"Hi! What's up?"

"How long can I stay at your place?" Terry whispered.

Harry's eyes narrowed, but he kept his voice light. "As long as you want, of course. Though if you try stealing the NES, Sirius might kick you out,
but we've got a couple of brooms in the shed, so you could fly around the backyard until he calms down and lets you back inside. Oh! And there's
the library, too. Sirius never goes in there unless he's desperate, so it's actually the quietest room in the house."

Terry let out a strained laugh. "Cool."

Harry dropped the easy-going act. "Is your trunk packed? I can send Sirius over to get you right now." He glanced over at his godfather and saw
that Sirius had put down the game and was watching with a worried frown. He'd already heard stories about Terry's brother.

"Uhm, yeah, please?" Terry requested.

Harry nodded. "Where are you?"

"Neighbour's. Number twenty-six."

Harry glanced at Sirius. "Two doors over on the left," he directed, then turned back to the phone as Sirius apparated. "He'll be there directly."

"Thanks, Harry."

"Hey, that's what crazy friends are for," Harry replied with a smile before hanging up. Once the phone was back in the cradle, he growled a bit.
Maybe he'd add Terry's brother to the mundanes he'd switch out with the Azkaban Death Eaters. A life sentence in that hell-hole sounded like a
fantastic punishment for his friend's abusive older brother.

-0-

Harry knew from his previous life that there were approximately twenty Death Eaters locked up in Azkaban at this moment in time. He also knew
there was a chance that some of the other prisoners might be inclined to escape, so he planned for about thirty mundanes, including Vernon
Dursley, but not Terry's brother. He would suck the souls out of them – except for Vernon, his uncle could suffer the dementors – then set them up
in an empty underground area he'd created out in the woods with enough food and water to stay alive for a couple weeks.

A potion that a Potions Master had created in his last life shortly before the Mundane-Magical War would enable them to change the appearance of
the mundanes to that of the prisoners they'd be taking the place of. The potion's only real down-side was that there was no antidote to turn you
back into your normal form, but that wouldn't be a problem here. The potion took a week to brew, then all it needed was a drop of blood from the
person you were turning into.

Judicious use of his stolen time-turner allowed Harry to finish his preparations without either Terry or Sirius' knowledge. The only inkling that either
of them got about Harry being up to no good was when he asked Terry if he'd be sad if his brother died. On one hand, Harry understood familial
bonds, having raised a family of his own, but his mistreatment at the hands of his own mundane relatives made him understand that familial bonds
weren't all that important in the grand scheme of things. But Terry still loved his brother on some level and didn't want the boy dead, so Harry had
grudgingly decided to leave him alone. (Of course, the first time he heard even the slightest hint of real hatred in Terry's voice when he spoke of his
brother, his life would be forfeit. It was just a matter of time.)

Harry's preparations were completed a few days before the two-week limit he'd given Barty, but Harry used his extra time to ensure everything
would go well. He also enjoyed a few rounds of the Cruciatus cast on his uncle, revelling in his screams like he'd never done with any of his victims
previously.

Finally, Harry's two weeks were up. He waited for his godfather and Terry to fall asleep – a dose of a sleeping draught in some fresh-baked
cookies had helped – then turned his time-turner back three hours so he could have extra time to plan with the Dark Lord. He debated for a bit
about who to go as, but eventually decided it would be easiest for everyone involved if he went as Xerosis. Voldemort already knew who he was
and Barty would probably figure it out without too much trouble, but keeping Harry Potter's name away from this venture would be the safer course.

When Xerosis shadowed into Voldemort's dark room, the Dark Lord was meeting with a few of his minions. As he had before, Xerosis leaned back
against the wall and waited for Voldemort to notice him.

It didn't take the man long, thankfully. "Xerosis, I was wondering if you would be joining us," he hissed, red eyes lighting up when they landed on
the apparent vampire in the corner.

Xerosis stepped lightly from his corner and smirked. "I have thirty mundanes ready to take the places of any in Azkaban you want to free," he
offered.

Voldemort nodded, looking pleased. "Excellent."

"Excuse me, my Lord?" Barty murmured, eyeing Xerosis suspiciously as the boy came to stand next to the Dark Lord's chair.

"Go on, Barty."

"How do you intend to keep the muggles from being discovered? Polyjuice only lasts an hour, and glamours can only stand up for so long."

Voldemort looked curiously at Xerosis, who only smirked a little wider at him and commented, "That's a secret, I'm afraid."

The Dark Lord scowled, which earned him a chuckle from the boy next to him, then hissed, "Boy–"
"It wouldn't be any use to you anyway," Xerosis allowed, "since the change is permanent. About the only thing it's good for is taking someone's
place for the rest of your life."

"My Lord," Walden Macnair spoke up, "how will we know the muggles won't make a fuss? They're quite loud when they're scared, after all." He
looked quite pleased at that comment, obviously being the sort to enjoy making them scared.

"I suppose you could say I've stolen their voices," Xerosis mused. "Well, one of them can still think for himself, as much as he ever could, but a
silencing charm should keep him busy until we're finished. Once we're gone, it won't much matter what he says; the guards will think it just the mad
ravings of a prisoner." He smiled widely, flashing his false fangs.

"Was there anything you didn't think of?" Barty wondered a bit sarcastically and Xerosis knew the man had figured out who he was.

"But of course. I haven't figured out how you're getting the prisoners off the island, what you'll do with them, or even how we will be getting there to
do the switch." He flashed a winning smile at Voldemort, who seemed more amused than irritated at the moment. "I thought I'd give you something
to use your genius mind for."

"A compliment?" Voldemort replied. "How unlike you." Xerosis chuckled while the man stood. "Lucius, I trust you have the portkeys I requested?"

Lucius nodded as the three Death Eaters took their cue from the Dark Lord and also stood. "I have them in my pocket, my Lord."

"Excellent." Voldemort turned to the boy next to him. "Are you capable of apparating?"

"Yes. I assume we're going to the dock?" Xerosis replied. He noticed Barty twitch out of the corner of his eye and wasn't sure if it was due to the
thought of returning to Azkaban, or the thought that a not-quite-thirteen-year-old could apparate and knew enough about Azkaban to safely
apparate there.

"That's correct. Lucius?"

Lucius nodded and concentrated for a moment. They all felt the anti-apparation wards around the room fall and quickly apparated out.

Xerosis grimaced as he landed on the dock, already feeling the effects of the dementors. He tightened his Occlumency and glanced around at the
others as Lucius finally showed up, having fixed the wards on the room before leaving himself. "How do you intend to move past the dementors?"
he asked the Dark Lord as Barty let out a faint whimper.

Voldemort glanced at his people and sighed. "The dementors will answer to me, no question," he informed Harry as he absently called his
patronus, a large snake. "The problem comes when you're attended by those who can't even stand to get close to them."

Xerosis shrugged and added his own patronus, a glowing owl. "If you want to take Macnair and deal with the dementors, I'll take Lucius and Barty
and start trading the mundanes for the prisoners."

Voldemort eyed the two patroni as they shot glares at one another, then nodded and looked back at the Death Eaters. "Lucius, Barty, go with
Xerosis and deal with the prisoners. Walden, you'll come with me to talk with the dementors."

Lucius cleared his throat. "My Lord, who will be in charge of our party?" he requested, glancing at the boy at the Dark Lord's side a bit
uncomfortably.

Voldemort glanced at Xerosis as well and the boy met his look with a silent challenge: Would Voldemort allow him power over his people and claim
Xerosis as his equal, or would he give in to his pride and give Lucius or Barty the position of power? "Xerosis will be in charge," Voldemort decided,
turning back to Lucius so he wouldn't have to see the victory reflected in the pale eyes.

Lucius scowled, but one look at the apparent vampire's warning glare kept him from complaining.

The two groups separated, attended by their patroni as they made their ways into the prison proper. Xerosis' group only ran into one dementor and
the owl patronus had let out a silent screech as it drove the Dark creature away.

Once Barty indicated they were approaching their destination, Xerosis stopped them. "Start gathering the prisoners up while I collect the
mundanes. Don't start sending them back to the manor until I've returned." He shot Lucius a pointed look, familiar enough with the man's son to
guess what he was thinking, then turned to his patronus. "Hedwig, love, stay here and keep the dementors away, okay?"

Hedwig nodded her head and circled the area, sharp eyes looking for a foe.

Xerosis shadowed to the area where he'd been keeping the mundanes and slipped a number of vials of the potion into his pocket before grabbing
the two nearest mundanes and shadowing them back to Azkaban. He wasn't sure if Barty had been keeping an eye on Lucius or if the blond had
simply decided it best to not test Xerosis' patience, but the prisoners were standing together in in middle of the hallway, quietly trading hugs with
family who'd been out of reach for over ten years.

"Barty! Lucius!" Xerosis hissed and the two men slipped through the gathering and met up with him, both eyeing the dead-eyed mundanes warily.
"Stay," he ordered the mundanes before letting go and reaching into his pocket for the potion and pulling out two vials. "One drop of blood, no
more, no less, in each vial from the person they're turning into. Tell the mundanes to drink it and they will. Make sure they go back in the correct
cell."

"Understood," both men agreed, so Xerosis handed over the vials, then shadowed back to get more.

Things continued smoothly until Xerosis finally picked out Vernon, who wasn't as afraid of Xerosis as he'd become of Harry. He tried snatching his
arm away when Xerosis shadowed him, but the boy had a firm grip on Vernon's wrist and all that happened was he pulled his arm a bit. When they
appeared in Azkaban, Vernon again tried getting away, only to run into Voldemort, who grabbed him by his fat neck and picked him off the floor
with one hand.

"What have we here?" Voldemort wondered as Vernon silently gasped and struggled.
"A suicidal mundane," Xerosis replied, walking calmly over to Voldemort. "If you'll set him down?"

Voldemort shot the boy an amused look, but set Vernon down. "Are you sure he won't run again?" the Dark Lord asked while the mundane gasped
for breath.

Xerosis pulled out his wand and pointed it at his uncle. "Vernon, I recall telling you to behave yourself," he commented. "Crucio." He held the curse
for a long moment, then ordered, "Get up, you fat bastard."

Vernon gingerly climbed to his feet, little eyes flickering everywhere, but no one there looked interested in helping him.

Xerosis led Vernon over to one of the remaining wizards, got a drop of his blood, then handed the potion to Vernon. "It's not poisoned," he
commented when the mundane refused to touch it. As Vernon took it, Xerosis added, "If you do anything other than swallow it, I will flay you alive."

Vernon swallowed nervously, but one look at the cold eyes told him he'd best behave, so he downed the potion with a grimace.

Xerosis nodded and directed Vernon to the cell the wizard had been in while Lucius handed the wizard a portkey. As the door of the cell fell closed,
Vernon started changing and he let out a silent cry of agony as his bones shrank and his fat was burned away. When he was left gasping in pain,
he glanced up at the entrance of his cell and found bright green eyes glowing down at him. "I hope you enjoy hell," the demonic boy offered before
shadowing away to get another couple mundanes.

When they'd finished, Xerosis still had three mundanes left in his underground hole, but he'd thought that might happen and had set the place to fill
in if he didn't visit for four days. Those mundanes would suffocate to death, not that they'd know, since there was nothing left to them.

Lucius and Macnair went back by the last portkey while Xerosis shadowed the Dark Lord and Barty back to the manor. Since the portkeys dropped
them off downstairs where Narcissa had been waiting to receive their guests, the three wizards had a moment without Lucius or Macnair around.

Barty took full use of it, turning to Xerosis with a shrewd look. "What are you? Apparating? Casting the Cruciatus? Creating a whole new potion?"

"You're almost cute when you're upset, Barty," Xerosis replied, reaching up and patting the Death Eater's cheek. "I'm completely human."

"You can't possibly be human," Barty insisted. "You're twelve for Merlin's sake!"

"Potter, you've broken one of my favourite Death Eaters," Voldemort commented drily as he sat in his chair.

Xerosis shot him a wide-eyed innocent look. "I'm sorry."

"...That was disturbing," the Dark Lord decided, shaking his head. "Go back to your guardian. Surely he's missing you by now."

"Nah. I put a sleeping draught in his cookies," Xerosis replied with an evil little smile.

"You are an evil, impossible child," Barty decided.

"Aw, I love you too," the boy cooed before shadowing away.

"My Lord–"

"Go to your room, Barty," Voldemort ordered, rubbing at his forehead.

Barty bowed. "Good night, my Lord."

-0-

Harry didn't hear from Voldemort or his Death Eaters for the rest of the summer. He figured the Dark Lord was probably giving his people time to
rest and recover before sending them out to do his bidding. He honestly didn't know how much longer they'd be staying silent, though, especially
not with Bellatrix involved. (That woman couldn't do silent and stealthy if her life depended on it.)

Life at the cottage was rather nice and quiet, even with a guardian like Sirius Black. The charms built into the walls of the living room kept the video
game music from getting too loud and disturbing anyone else in the house. Sirius spent a lot of time playing video games, completely ignoring the
occasional times Harry said, "I'd warn you about those games rotting your brain, but..."

Terry made full use of the library, curling up in the plush chair in one corner to read whatever struck his fancy. Harry had been talked into adding
some of his personal library to the cottage library, so there were books in practically every subject – minus Dark Arts, which Harry had a few books
on, but Sirius still entered the library often enough that putting them in there was just asking for trouble – including a few mundane ones.

Harry spent most of his time in his garden, working with the flowers or reading under a tree. He'd never been able to actually enjoy being lazy
during the summers during his last life, so he was making up for it as much as he could. He still made dinner for everyone, since he didn't trust
Sirius in the kitchen and Terry had no interest in learning to cook.

Harry and Terry both went over to Li's for a week before Harry's birthday and met all her cousins. Harry and Li conspired together to get Terry in
the same room as Dao-Ming, Li's cousin who had a crush on him. Watching Terry fleeing while Dao-Ming tried to get him to date her was worth
every threat of retribution.

Harry also enjoyed a couple visits to Luna's house. Her father was always fun to sit down and listen to, and Luna's ceiling was truly a work of art,
with a picture of Harry as central and his various friends circled around him, Luna at his right hand. He'd hugged her when he'd seen it, then
suggested some other people for her to add in; people from his old life who he either hadn't met yet or simply wasn't as close to in this life, but
were almost as important to him as those already in the mural.

Harry's birthday, as per his own demands, had been much smaller for the celebration of his thirteenth year. He'd invited all his friends and made
the cake himself. Hermione hadn't been able to make it, but the others were there. Even Lillian, who had agreed to a day-long truce with Neville
and Terry.
When the time for school books came, everyone but Lillian met in Diagon Alley again for another shopping trip. Hermione would be staying at
Harry's afterwards, since her parents had an appointment scheduled for the morning of the first that they hadn't been able to change, so she'd also
brought her trunk, which Sirius had helpfully shrunk.

The trip was pretty easy, as they only needed to stop by the bookshop and Madam Malkin's. Harry, knowing how book crazy he and his friends
were, suggested they tackle the robe shop first, which Li and Luna's fathers both agreed to, eyeing their daughters knowingly.

Their stop at the robe shop was suitably entertaining for all involved. Sirius spent the entire time trying to get Malkin's assistant, a cute blonde girl,
to agree to a date with him. Most of the party was either shaking in silent laughter by the time they left or covering a smile. Harry hadn't bothered
hiding it, he was holding on to Hermione's shoulder, laughing.

"Shut up, Harry," Sirius muttered, cheeks slightly pink.

"You should stick to blokes, Siri," Harry commented once he'd calmed a bit. (Hermione leaving him for the bookcases sort of forced him to calm
down.)

Sirius huffed and leaned against the wall next to the door of the shop. "All the good ones are straight. Or taken."

"I hope you're not referring to Lockhart," Harry replied, grimacing a bit.

Sirius shot him a sly look. "And if I am?"

"I'm glad he eloped with his boy-toy."

Sirius snorted. "You are far too young to be thinking of 'boy-toys'."

"I'm young in body, old in soul," Harry retorted.

"You're nuts. Go find a book to read."

"Pot, kettle!" Harry called over his shoulder before disappearing into the stacks.

He was left to his hunt for a basketful of books for a good twenty minutes before a silky voice commented, "Imagine, a Ravenclaw stocking up on
books."

Harry glanced over his shoulder and flashed a smile at the Death Eater behind him. "What can I do for you, Mr Malfoy? Or did you just come to
stare at this shocking, everyday sight? If so, I know of three other Ravenclaws you can stalk just as easily."

Lucius let out a faint sound of amusement. "I'm sure none of them have your wit."

"Mmm..." Harry picked out a book on human transfiguration. "If you mean my sense of humour, no, I'm afraid that's something my friends don't
share." He turned so he could lean back against the bookcase, slipping the book into his basket after deciding it was a good addition to his
collection. "If you didn't want something from me, you'd be in Knockturn, hunting down cursed items or following Draco around like a good
pureblood father, pandering to his every whim. I'm also going to assume this has to do with your houseguest, as you and I have very little else in
common."

Lucius' lip curled with a suppressed smile. "Considering we have my...houseguest in common, I think it's safe to say we have other things in
common as well."

"Well, we are something like fourth cousins," Harry commented drily. "And we're both technically Lords of an Olde Family, even if that title means
nothing these days." He pushed away from the bookcase. "Please get to the point, Lucius. There's only so long that Sirius can amuse himself and
I'd like to find a few more books before he hunts me down."

Lucius scowled a bit at the use of his first name, but reached into his robe and pulled out a letter. "Correspondence," he explained, handing it over.

"He couldn't have used an owl?" Harry muttered, setting his basket down to take the letter in one hand and pull out his wand with the other.

"You seem to go through an exorbitant number of wands for a student," Lucius commented as Harry silently cast a few detection charms on the
letter. He only trusted the Dark Lord so far, after all.

"I keep finding ones that fit me better," Harry replied as he slipped his wand away. The only spell he could find on the letter – one that enabled only
those who met a certain criteria to see or touch the letter, in this case having been marked in some way by the Dark Lord – explained why an owl
hadn't been used. He quickly broke the wax seal and opened the letter to read.

'H,
'I have no doubt you're, again, wondering why I have yet to make my move. If you're half as smart as you appear, you'll have deduced that my
people from Azkaban are still recovering. They should be fully recovered by Hallowe'en, however, so you may expect word of an attack to come
around that time.
'You're wondering why I'm bothering to send this letter. Perhaps it is simply my informing an equal of the coming attack, so he isn't surprised.
Perhaps it's to ask if a certain vampire will be attending any attacks during the school year, or if he's only available at Christmas and over the
summer. Perhaps it's just because the idea of using Lucius as an owl amuses me.
'Enjoy your school year. My love to Alissia.
'V'

Harry chuckled to himself as he closed the letter and slipped it into a pocket. "My thanks for the letter, Mr Malfoy. I'll have to check a few things
before I'll have a response for certain." His lips curled with an evil little smile. "And please feel free to tell him that Alissia is strangely fond of blond
ponces. Something about them being 'just the right amount of crunchy'."

Lucius grimaced. "I'll... let him know," he agreed.


Harry chuckled and grabbed his basket before moving towards another bookcase. The image of Lucius Malfoy on a broomstick, trying to deliver
mail in a nasty storm would stay with him all day.

-0-

He hadn't even bothered sending a message back, since he could just as easily prove it. So it was, the first night back, Xerosis appeared without
warning in the corner of Voldemort's room. Which was empty.

Xerosis raised a single eyebrow, intrigued, then slipped out into the hallway and cast a quick point me. The room Voldemort was in wasn't far from
the meeting room. It was also better protected and Xerosis spent more time admiring the spell work than he did finding a way through the spells
without wrecking them. The latter took him almost twenty minutes and he was grinning by the time he slipped into the room.

A light by the bed snapped on and Xerosis found a yew wand being pointed at him by a rather irate Tom Riddle. There was a moment of stillness,
then Riddle let out an aggravated sound and dropped his wand. "Potter."

Harry let his fake vampire form melt away as he moved over to a comfortable chair near the end of the bed. "Hello, Tom," he said cheerfully.

Riddle scowled at him. "What, exactly, are you doing here?"

"Proving I'm more than capable of attending your Hallowe'en attack," Harry replied blithely as he glanced around the room, which was done in a
pale green with hints of forest green as accent. "I like this room."

"You couldn't have sent an owl?"

"Where's the fun in that?" Harry wondered, considering the Dark Lord in the bed. "So, wait. The human form – that's your real form?"

Riddle gave him an odd look. "What, something you don't magically know the answer to?"

Harry pouted.

The Dark Lord snorted and covered his mouth, shoulders shaking.

Harry blinked, then pinched himself. He glanced back up at the Dark Lord, who was audibly snickering now, then pinched himself harder,
squeaking in pain. "Shut up!" he ordered when Riddle actually started laughing. When the bastard wouldn't shut up, Harry sat back and pouted for
all he was worth, which just made Riddle laugh all the harder.

After about five minutes, Riddle relaxed back against his headboard, still smiling a bit, but otherwise calm. "Yes, to answer your question. A ritual
before my death," a mild glare was inserted, "gave me two forms. I tend to avoid my Death Eaters when I'm like this. It lets me go a bit incognito at
things like public Christmas Balls." He cocked his head to one side. "You know who I am like this, but you didn't seem to know this was how I
actually looked."

Harry sighed and rubbed carefully at the bridge of his nose. "I've seen pictures of you, from when you attended Hogwarts. I recognised your aged
form."

Riddle rested his chin on the palm of his hand. "There are no pictures of me from back then. I never allowed them."

Harry winced. "Ah..."

"Finally, I've caught you in a lie. Come on, Potter, give me something real. Not your usual, insane bollocks."

Harry considered him. "What do you think is the truth?" he wondered. Tom Riddle had been lauded as a genius, surely he had some sort of theory,
and Harry was curious about what it would be.

"Reincarnation," Riddle said without pause. "There have been studies done about wizards or witches who truly remembered their last incarnation.
Knowing spells that were beyond them, knowing things they had no right knowing." He frowned a bit. "They knew those things, but they couldn't
actually cast the spells. I know I'm wrong. Give."

"You're like a small child demanding sweets," Harry muttered, glancing up at the ceiling. He honestly wasn't sure if he could tell anyone the truth,
but he supposed he could try. If anyone deserved the truth, it would be this man. His equal. The man whose soul he held. "It's... Reincarnation isn't
far off. Uhm..." He rubbed at his face, knocking his glasses completely off and not caring in the slightest. "What do you know of the Deathly
Hallows? The three brothers who tricked Death and each got a gift from him?"

Riddle huffed. "Fairy stories."

Harry's lips curled with a bitter smile. "Reality. They were the Peverell brothers, and we're both descended from them; you from Cadmus, I from
Ignotus. I've been the owner of one of the Hallows – the Invisibility Cloak – since the moment you killed my father. Your Hallow is a ring, the stone
of which is the Resurrection Stone–"

"That belonged to Salazar Slytherin!" Riddle hissed.

Harry shook his head. "No," he said simply. "The last, the Elder Wand, currently belongs to Albus Dumbledore."

"He has– Well, no wonder he's so hard to beat," Riddle muttered.

"He beat its last master, Grindelwald."

Riddle snorted. "Grindelwald was clearly a pathetic excuse for a Dark Lord."

Harry shrugged, knowing nothing about the man personally, only the tales he'd heard from the lips of others or seen through Voldemort's eyes.
"The story is, if you master all three Hallows, you become the Master of Death. It's something many have attempted, but none managed." He
rubbed at his face again, glasses resting in his lap. "I...managed it–"
"When?" Riddle demanded and Harry could just imagine the suspicious look on his face, though he was too near-sighted to actually see it without
his glasses.

"In..." Harry considered it. "A little over four years from now." He smiled bitterly. "In another world, one where I fought you and you didn't regain
your body until next year, using a ritual that required the bone of your father, the blood of an enemy, and the flesh of a servant. Before that, you'd
been living off Nagini's milk. Or something."

"Using Nagini to survive?" Riddle murmured. "I must have been desperate. And, yes, that would have lost me this form. Go on."

"There was an epic battle in Hogwarts during what would have been my seventh year if I hadn't been on the run, destroying your Horcruxes. I
defeated you, largely due to luck." He could practically taste Riddle's curiosity. "You had the Elder Wand, having pilfered it from Dumbledore's
grave, but I'd already mastered it. You cast the Killing Curse, I cast the Disarming Charm. The Elder Wand wouldn't kill its master, so it sent the
spell back on you."

"That's a stupid way to die."

Harry laughed. "It sort of was. Though, I might beat you out."

The bed rustled, as if Riddle was getting more comfortable. "Do tell."

"No need to sound so eager," Harry muttered, rolling his eyes. He was awarded with a quiet chuckle and couldn't help but smile. "Anyway, I
became an auror, married Ginny Weasley, had three amazing kids... You would have hated it." Riddle chuckled again. "I was... not quite seventy
when the mundanes discovered us and started a very long, destructive war." He swallowed, trying to make himself continue. Perhaps he shouldn't
tell this tale. Perhaps it wasn't important?

"You died," Riddle offered him.

Harry let out a bitter laugh. "I was the last fucking magical person alive in the whole world. I got caught on a fallen tree and pulled my leg out of its
socket. I was just laying there and four of them came to stand over me, smiling like the mother-fucking freaks they are and the biggest, ugliest of
the lot asks, 'Any last words, Magic?' And I say, 'Yeah. See you in Hell.' And then he shot me." Harry touched the spot in the middle of his chest,
wincing in remembered pain. "Didn't even have the kindness to aim at the heart and make it quick." His lips curled with disgust. "Mundanes."

"...why do you call them that?" Riddle asked quietly.

Harry took a deep breath, dragging himself back from his death. "At the beginning of the war, when we thought everything would be okay. Back
when we still believed in our own superiority, before they blew a fucking hole in the side of Hogwarts–" Riddle let out a choked sound, "–we had a
couple of peace talks, and one of their demands was to be called 'mundanes'. The term 'muggle' was too derogatory. The Minister of the time told
him where to shove it, and his house was one of the first they took out. We all started calling them mundanes, then. Sometimes..." Harry let out a
strained half-laugh. "Sometimes, they'd leave you alive if you called them mundanes. Back in the beginning."

They were both quiet for a long moment, Harry rubbing at too dry eyes, Riddle just sitting on his bed, staring at the boy in the chair. The boy who
was older than he was. The boy who had lived through loss and pain and died once.

Finally, Riddle said, "You came back."

Harry nodded. "I died the Master of Death. Death met me in Purgatory and gave me three choices: I could go back and get shot again, I could go
on to Hell, or I could start over. From the beginning."

"So you started over," Riddle finished. "Reincarnation, but not."

"I remember–" Harry snorted. "I came back to the moment of my father's death. I got to see my mum, for the first time I can remember, and she
was saying goodbye. And then you were there–"

"You smiled at me!" Riddle realised. "I thought it was just... You know how babies smile sometimes, for no good reason?"

Harry laughed. He grabbed at his stomach and just laughed for a long moment.

Riddle didn't say anything as the boy – man, whatever – got everything out of his system. He half expected Potter to start crying, but he just
laughed until he stopped and sat back up, a faint smile on his face, dry eyes unfocussed on the wall a little to Riddle's left.

"Death, before he sent me back, gifted me with an ability. One ability, my choice. I chose to become something not unlike a dementor. I can cause
cold and fear in people. I can also suck out souls."

"Ah." Riddle grimaced. "That is... a useful gift."

Harry grinned a little madly. "Especially when you're forced to grow up with mundanes who would see you dead. My cousin and uncle occasionally
required reminders, but my aunt only needed to be told once and she left me alone. And now I've got Sirius, who makes a better insane older
brother than an actual guardian, but we work. I hardly need a guardian, and Sirius likes having someone around to feel responsible for that can
take care of himself."

Riddle snorted. He could see that, sure. From what he remembered of Black, the man could barely take care of himself, let alone a godson.

They were both silent for a long while. Eventually, Harry slipped his glasses back on, only to find Riddle staring at him. "What?"

Riddle shook his head. "I don't have a certain date for the Hallowe'en attack yet. It might be on Hallowe'en, it might not. I assume you're a
Parselmouth, since you've spoken to Alissia?"

Harry tapped his scar. "Horcrux," he replied, smirking a bit at the Dark Lord's wide-eyed look. "Yes, I'm a Parselmouth. Technically."

Riddle shook his shock away. "Right. Well– Wait." He frowned a bit. "You're a Horcrux?"
"Yeah."

"My Horcrux?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "No, Albus Dumbledore's."

Riddle closed his eyes and rubbed them. "Nagini's a Horcrux and I can communicate with her or see through her eyes."

Harry knew where he was going immediately. "You can send me dreams, and I can share your dreams or see out of your eyes. Possession is also
disgustingly easy. Anything else, I don't know. I also don't know how well you'll manage anything, since I'm blocking the soul piece with
Occlumency."

Riddle raised a single eyebrow at the ready answer, then shook his head. "There's a Parsel Spell that enables contact between two Parselmouths.
I assume you don't know of it?"

Harry shrugged. "After I got rid of your Horcrux, I lost the skill. And I haven't bothered with any research into the subject during this life."

Riddle nodded. "Come here," he ordered, pointing to the edge of the bed.

Harry shot him a vaguely suspicious look. "Why?"

"Potter, come here," he repeated.

Harry scowled a bit, but pulled himself out of the chair and shuffled around to the edge of the bed. He didn't sit, though.

Riddle sighed and grabbed the boy's sleeve, dragging him down to the bed. "You are the most obnoxious thirteen-year-old I have ever had the
displeasure of dealing with," he decided. "And don't get technical with me about who's older," he added as Harry opened his mouth to do that very
thing.

As soon as Riddle had eye contact, he slipped into Harry's mind, coming up against impressive walls. He waited there for a moment, and was
rewarded when the boy turned his attention inwards and joined the Dark Lord at the wall. When Harry wondered what he wanted, Riddle offered
the sense of sharing information. He smirked to himself when Harry warred for a moment between suspicion and want. Finally, the boy let him
through the wall.

Riddle didn't have much trouble finding the spot where Harry stored his spell knowledge. The boy's mind was eerily like his own, which he
supposed made a fair bit of sense, considering their connection. However, Potter had way more knowledge stored in his mind than Riddle could
ever hope to gain. Some of it couldn't possibly be the boy's–

Oh. Riddle shook his head and quickly left a copy of his knowledge of the Parsel spells, then returned to the real world. As soon as Harry came
back to himself, Riddle said, "You get information from the souls you eat?"

Harry's lips twitched with amusement. "Yes. And vampiric abilities from vampires."

Riddle huffed a bit. "That is... terribly useful. I'll admit to being a little jealous."

Harry faked a gasp. "Tom Riddle? Jealous of someone else?"

Riddle scowled. "I have been jealous of people before."

Harry grinned. "Bet you never admitted it, though. Or, if you did, you killed them shortly after."

Riddle's superior grin answered that question.

Harry chuckled and stood. "I should be getting back," he decided, glancing briefly at his watch. "I still need to sleep before classes tomorrow."

"Very well." Riddle waved at him a bit negligently. "I'll let you know about the attack when I know more."

Harry nodded. "I'll keep an eye out for it." He turned to one of the few shadows in the room.

"Potter," Riddle said just before Harry could leave and the boy glanced back over at him, one eyebrow raised inquiringly. "Thank you, for telling me
the truth." He grimaced a bit, but knew it had to be said. He had heard some dangerous secrets, after all.

"Fair's fair," Harry replied with a shrug. "I know of some of your worst moments and your most... Well, I know about your Horcruxes. I know what
they all are and how to destroy them. I know how to destroy you." He offered a slightly bitter smile. "We're equals, Tom; if you can stoop to inviting
a thirteen-year-old on a raid and let him lead your Death Eaters, I can tell you what I am." He turned away. "Good night."

"Good night," Riddle replied as the teen disappeared.

-0-

By the end of the first week of school, Harry had won the bet about their new professor. He put his winnings to one side, fully intending to use them
during their first Hogsmeade visit to buy everyone some chocolate. In the meantime, he simply enjoyed having Remus Lupin as a professor again,
for all that he was mildly ticked that the man was avoiding him. He'd been avoiding Sirius, too, from what little he could get from Sirius. (Getting
anything about Remus from his godfather was proving quite the chore, as Sirius was avoiding thinking of the man after his first four letters went
unanswered.)

Finally, a month into term, Harry got sick of the dance and pulled out the Map and Cloak to stalk the werewolf. He wasn't quite certain what he'd
say to the man, but he was going to catch him and Remus was going to damn-well explain himself.

The werewolf smelled him before Harry was close enough and sped up to get away. But Harry would have none of it and, using his vampire speed,
which he usually avoided, quickly caught up to the man and grabbed his arm. "You are, quite possibly, the most obnoxious non-human I've had to
deal with," Harry grumbled as Remus tried tugging his arm out of the teenager's grip.

Remus froze, complexion fading to white. "Did Sirius–"

"No, Sirius isn't going around blabbing your secret to everyone," Harry snapped, pulling his Cloak off. "I can sense whether or not people are
human. I can tell you, for example, that there's a sixth year Slytherin with diluted veela blood, for all that I've never even met him. I don't know why I
can do it, but it's useful. And you have been avoiding both myself and my godfather. I want to know why."

Brown eyes darted around the hallway for a moment before saying, "Someone might..." His voice died off when Harry held up the Map, which
showed that no one was anywhere near them. "Where did you–?"

"Stole it from the Weasley twins," Harry answered, scowling a bit. "Look, I really don't care that you're going out of your way to avoid me. Really, I
don't. I don't even care that you wouldn't let me have my turn with the boggart because, honestly, I don't want to know what it turns into. But all this
avoiding Sirius? You're the last friend he has left. Hell, he's the last friend you have left! So why aren't you responding to his letters?"

Remus trembled ever so slightly. "I-I left the country and–"

"Don't you dare tell me you didn't get news outside Brit–"

"I left!" Remus snapped, something in him lighting at Harry's assumption. "I didn't question anything, I let them put Sirius in Azkaban, I left you to..."
Remus swallowed and looked away.

Harry let go of the arm he'd still been holding, understanding in his eyes. "Guilty conscience," he murmured, nodding when Remus flinched. "Ah, I
love Gryffindors. You should hear Sirius go on about how he and my father had thought you were the spy and he needed to apologise–"

"Why would he–"

"You two are funny," Harry decided. "First Hogsmeade visit is on Hallowe'en. Go visit my godfather. Get drunk. Do something. I'm tired of him
moping around the house when he thinks I'm not paying attention." He turned away, pulling the Cloak back on. "And stop avoiding me, would you?
You're making my friends suspicious, and when one of my friends is a Slytherin, well..." He chuckled to himself before starting back down the
hallway.

He should have known it was a Gryffindor thing. Now all he had to do was talk Hermione into using her time-turner to get some extra sleep,
preferably without letting her know that he knew what she had.

-0-

"Murder and mayhem, two of my favourite things," Xerosis commented as he as Voldemort walked down to the ballroom, where all the Death
Eaters but Snape had gathered. "You know, I don't usually like Hallowe'en, but this year might just be awesome."

" 'Awesome'?" Voldemort repeated, amused.

Xerosis waved a hand at him. "I spend all day surrounded by teenagers. Shush."

The Dark Lord chuckled and swept into the ballroom, followed by the slighter figure. They walked together up to the head of the room, neither
missing the distrustful looks the apparent vampire received. "This is Lord Xerosis," Voldemort announced to the Death Eaters. "He is a valuable
ally, and you will treat his words as if they were my own." Voldemort cast a sharp glance over his people, picking out those he thought would give
the boy at his side any trouble. Xerosis had already assured the Dark Lord that he could easily handle any trouble, and Voldemort didn't doubt it,
but that didn't mean he wouldn't try and keep his people in line.

"Due to the nature of this attack and the need to keep under the Ministry's radar for a while longer, there will be no Dark Marks cast. However, you
may have whatever fun you wish. Use this attack to stretch your magic and apply your creativity once again. These muggles are worthless, and it
was time we reminded them that we are the greater species!"

Under the sound of the Death Eaters' cheers, Xerosis murmured, "Don't get too cocky."

Voldemort glanced at him. "No, but do you honestly think they would believe that muggles might one day wipe us out?"

"Hmm... Good point."

As the Death Eaters finally calmed, Voldemort gently took Xerosis' arm – taking care to touch only cloth, as neither of them wanted to test the
weakening protection that still lingered – and apparated them both to just outside the research lab Voldemort had targeted. The Dark Mark acted
as something like a portkey when the Dark Lord wished it to, so all his people appeared moments after them.

Despite the late hour, the lab was still quite active, as the scientists were dedicated to their research. And Xerosis had used his time-turner to bring
him back to just before the feast, so they had more time for the attack.

When Voldemort motioned his Death Eaters forwards, it was rather like watching a black tide of destruction. They all flowed forward, blasting their
way into the building and grabbing whatever mundane they could.

Voldemort and Xerosis let the Death Eaters go first, content to just watch the destruction for a moment.

"How long are you giving them?" Xerosis wondered.

Voldemort shrugged one shoulder. "Most of them aren't recovered enough for more than twenty minutes or so. I'll give them a little over half an
hour before dragging them back." He glanced down at the teen. "You'll take care of the building?"

Xerosis nodded a bit absently. "Yes. It's not hard to make it look like something exploded and set off a chain reaction; it just requires you to be
familiar with the layout of the experiments. I did my homework a couple days ago."

Voldemort snorted. "Ravenclaws," he replied, then swept into the lab to find his own target.
Xerosis chuckled to himself and shadowed to the part of the lab where he intended to start the explosions. The Death Eaters hadn't made it that far
yet, so he slipped around, occasionally stealing souls or using Dark spells to destroy mundanes' bodies.

The first couple of Death Eaters he saw either didn't see him or glanced at him, then hurried past without a word. Xerosis was mostly amused by
their reactions, though he was curious if anyone would dare challenge him.

Xerosis was just finishing off another mundane when a curse hit him in the back. He bit back a shout of pain and turned on the offending Death
Eater, who had the most peculiar expression of disbelief on his face. A quick jab of Legilimency made Xerosis bare his lengthened teeth in fury; the
spell he'd been hit with was supposed to kill a vampire as soon as it hit. "You son of a mundane," Xerosis spat, slamming the man against an
opposing wall. The air around them practically froze with his fury and the Death Eater in his grasp choked, nightmares flashing through his eyes.

"Why are you manhandling my Death Eater?" Voldemort wondered a bit idly from behind him.

"He tried to kill me," Xerosis growled. "I'm debating the best way to punish him."

Voldemort snorted and turned away. "Have fun," he called over his shoulder.

Xerosis' lips twisted with an evil smile. "There's this wonderful spell," he commented cheerfully to his victim as his power backed off a bit, "that
drains the magic out of someone. It's useless against mundanes, but used on a squib or witch or wizard..." He chuckled a bit, eyes flashing, and let
go of the Death Eater, who crumpled to the floor without the apparent vampire's support.

"No, please. My Lord, please!" the Death Eater cried, eyes wide behind his mask.

Xerosis silently cast the spell, seeing no reason to let his small audience know the incantation. The spell had been discovered when he was in his
forties by an Unspeakable who'd been trying to replicate the effects of dementors. She'd never managed to create a spell version of the infamous
Kiss, but she created any number of spells that drained other things, such as magic or blood. The benefit to using the magic-draining spell was that
it gave the caster the victim's magic, which was great on the battlefield, not so good among friends.

He turned from the sobbing wizard and cast cold pale eyes over his audience. "Anyone else want to debate my leadership?" he offered with a
twisted little smile.

The watching Death Eaters fled.

Xerosis looked back at the magicless-wizard and debated between leaving him alive and aware – at least until the building exploded – or taking his
soul. While he might very well have knowledge Harry didn't have, the idea of leaving him to suffer was...

"I do believe you've sufficiently cowed my minions," Voldemort said from behind him. "What did you do?"

"I stole his magic," Xerosis replied absently.

"You can do that?"

The apparent vampire glanced over his shoulder and smiled at the horrified look on the Dark Lord's face. "Certainly. An Unspeakable trying to re-
create the Dementor's Kiss created it."

"Why not just use a dementor?" Voldemort wondered, sweeping closer to Xerosis and the still-whimpering Death Eater.

"They were destroyed. The Minister decided they were more trouble than they were worth, and I hated them." Xerosis reached forward and
removed the mask from the magicless-wizard. "Still do, actually."

"For all that you're practically one yourself," the Dark Lord muttered, watching the boy's actions a bit suspiciously. "Are you going to Kiss him?"

Xerosis made a face. "Ugh. My brain just combusted."

Voldemort snorted.

"And, yes, I think I will." So saying, he opened his mouth and sucked the Death Eater's soul down. "Hmm. Tasted a bit like two-day-old mouse..."

"That was a little disturbing to watch," the Dark Lord decided as Xerosis left the body to slump to the ground. "And when have you had two-day-old
mouse?"

"Small rodents survived the radiation fall out longer than the larger animals," Xerosis reported, glancing around. "You already sent the Death
Eaters back?"

"Yes. I am... curious about this explosion you intend to start."

Xerosis shot the Dark Lord a smirk, then crooked his finger in a 'come hither' gesture before leading the way to where the most explosive
experiments were being carried out. "A basic knowledge of chemistry helps a lot in knowing where the best explosion has the chance of
happening," he offered, winding his way through the counters to the storage room in the back. "None of their experiments are particularly
explosive, unlike some other labs I've blown in the past, but they do keep quite a few chemicals near each other in the storage rooms. Mundanes
are always stupid like that."

The door had a passcode on it, but Xerosis just shorted it with a burst of magic, then pulled the door open. Inside were shelves and shelves of
powders, liquids and gases. "I'd take my shoulder or arm, if I were you," he warned as he gingerly moved a couple of bottles forward on the shelf
so they were teetering a bit. "You're not going to be fast enough to apparate out of here before everything goes 'boom'."

Voldemort placed his hand on the boy's shoulder, then watched as he pulled a bottle forward, apparating them just before the bottle connected with
the next thing on the shelf below. They appeared on a small hill a short distance from the lab and watched as, slowly but surely, a series of
explosions rocked the building, each one setting off another and another until the lab was little more than a burning pile of rubble.

"That was impressive," a voice commented from behind the two wizards and they both spun, wands out. Death stood behind them, leaning on his
scythe. "You mortals are cute."

Xerosis sighed and slipped his wand away. "To what do we owe the dubious pleasure of your presence?" he wondered.

"Counting souls," Death replied. "After the Death Eaters got through, and not counting the ones you took out before the explosions, that finished...
twenty-seven. Just in case you're keeping track."

"I'm not," Xerosis admitted. "I'm leaving that to you."

Voldemort cleared his throat. "Counting souls?"

"I gave him his dementor ability in return for a promise for him to match the number of people he killed during his last life," Death explained, turning
his head up to the Dark Lord. "You. Your Horcruxes."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes, tightening his grip on his wand. "What of them?"

"I don't like them," Death declared. "They're cheats."

Xerosis snickered.

The Dark Lord spared a brief scowl for the teen before looking back at Death. "Well I'm not about to get rid of them."

Death huffed a bit and picked up his scythe to hold it threateningly towards the Dark Lord. "I'll hunt them down."

"You can't hunt them down," Xerosis commented with amusement. "If you could, the ability to make them never would have existed."

"You have had far too much time to think about things," Death decided.

"You set me the task of decimating the ranks of vampires because you don't like them," the apparent vampire pointed out. "I figure, if you hated
them that much and could affect things, you'd have done them all in yourself. Instead, you get mortals to do it."

"Don't make me take your gift back," Death threatened.

Xerosis held up his hands in surrender. "I'm silent as the grave."

Death turned back to Voldemort, swinging his scythe back to rest over his shoulder. "You can have one Horcrux, the one in him. Get rid of the
others."

"Why should I?" Voldemort asked, finally slipping his own wand away. "What would I get out of only having Potter as a Horcrux?"

"My eternal thanks for ending your perversion of the world."

Xerosis covered his mouth and quickly turned away, shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

"What do I care for that while I'm immortal?" Voldemort replied, smirking a bit.

Death let out an irritated sigh. "I really hate mortals," he told them. "You all spend your lives avoiding me like I'll never get you. You create
Philosopher's Stones and Horcruxes and make deals with vampires just to keep from ever meeting me. I mean, what did I ever do to you,
anyway?"

The two wizards traded looks. Xerosis snorted and started silently laughing again while Voldemort looked back at Death like he was the insane one
of the three of them. "Do you really want an answer to that?"

"You're not funny," Death declared, pointing his scythe at the Dark Lord. Then he turned to Xerosis. "And, you, stop laughing."

Xerosis coughed and turned back around, covering a smile with one hand. "He's not going to just give up his Horcruxes," he pointed out. "Can't you
make a deal with him, like you did with me? You gave me this ability, I kill, erm..."

"Three thousand, nine hundred fifty-seven," Death intoned.

"Yes, I kill that many people."

Voldemort gave Xerosis an impressed look. "Seriously?"

"I have mad skillz," Harry replied drily. "I also blew up a lot of buildings."

"How many of them were muggles?" the Dark Lord wanted to know.

"Most of them. I never really bothered with magical people, since we're already so few."

"You bring your Horcruxes down to one," Death interrupted, "I'll absorb any Killing Curses that would hit you until you've either got the magical
world under your thumb, or he finishes his end of our bargain, whichever comes last." He paused for a moment, then turned to Xerosis. "You can't
die until you finish your end of the bargain, by the way. I don't think I mentioned that."

"Must have slipped your mind," Xerosis replied drily.

"Only Killing Curses?" Voldemort wondered, but his eyes sparkled with victory.

"What do you think I am, some sort of god?" Death snarked. "I can stop instant death, but anything else you'll have to resurrect from in your usual
pathetic mortal way. Deal or no deal?"

"Deal," Voldemort agreed without pause. He'd take what he could get.
Death nodded and waved his scythe in Voldemort's direction. After a moment, all the items holding Horcruxes were surrounding them, including
one very irate snake. "I don't trust you to behave yourself," Death commented at the Dark Lord's frown. Then he waved his scythe again and
disappeared as all the broken pieces of soul jumped out of their receptacles and back into Voldemort.

Voldemort screamed in pain and fell to a ball on the ground, his snake-like visage fading away to the more human body. The pain was... He didn't
have a word for it. It felt like his whole body was being simultaneously torn apart and put back together again while also being held under the
Cruciatus. It was, without a doubt, the worst pain he'd ever been in.

Harry dropped to his knees next to the Dark Lord, his own fake face falling away. Wide green eyes watched on in fear as Riddle gasped and
wheezed, tear-tracks marking his cheeks.

:What is happening to Master?: Nagini whispered as she slithered over to Harry and sat next to him to watch her master in concern.

:He made a deal with Death,: Harry replied, gently stroking the serpent's head. :Death was...not kind.:

:Death is never kind,: Nagini pointed out.

Harry thought about running through a forest, surviving by the skin of his teeth. About celebrating the finding of a two-day-old mouse or searching
through dying berry bushes just for something to eat. :Sometimes,: he murmured, :Death is kind. When it's all that's left; when it's dying and
finding peace or living forever and being tortured every day...:

Nagini bobbed her head. :Death is many things,: she decided.

Riddle gasped and tipped forward as the pain finally faded away. Harry grabbed him around the shoulders and braced him as he shuddered. The
Dark Lord buried his face against Harry's neck, finding comfort in his equal and falling asleep before he even realised he was tired.

Harry tightened his grip on the Dark Lord as he heard the man's breathing even into sleep. :We need to take him back to the manor,: he told
Nagini quietly.

:Don't forget his treasures,: Nagini reminded him, raising her head so she could slither part of her body into the boy's lap.

Harry nodded and summoned the ex-Horcruxes into one of the pockets of his robe, then shadowed them to the Dark Lord's bedroom. Once Nagini
had moved, he hefted the man into his arms and carried him to the bed, silently thanking his vampire strength. He removed Riddle's shoes and
outer robe, then pulled the covers over him and helped Nagini onto the bed. :I need to see to the Death Eaters. Stay with him?:

:You needn't ask,: Nagini replied, curling up at Riddle's side. :He is my chosen, my master.:

Harry smiled at her, then quickly cast the series of complicated glamours that made him look like the vampire Xerosis. A step backwards into a
shadow shortly found him in the ballroom, where all the Death Eaters had gathered. They were getting restless and Xerosis sighed silently. He
wasn't looking forward to dealing with them, but they had to be dismissed and the Dark Lord was in no condition to handle them.

He took a fortifying breath, then stalked up to the head of the room, smirking a bit as the men and women in the room quieted. Once they were
silent and he was in the Dark Lord's usual spot, he turned to them. "Lord Voldemort is currently busy with other matters, so I get to debrief you." He
smiled darkly at them. "I hope there are no problems with that?"

A quiet murmur of agreement went around the room.

"Excellent. Everything went as we'd planned. Good work. For now, I'm sure many of you are wobbling on your feet, so you're dismissed." He
waved them away and they all turned to the doors to leave.

All but two, who came up to him and removed their masks to show them to be Lucius and Barty. "Is my Lord okay?" Barty asked, his eyes dark with
concern.

"We were not aware of any other matters he had to attend to," Lucius added, holding himself stiffly.

Xerosis glanced past them to where the door had fallen closed, the other Death Eaters gone. As he faded back into Harry Potter, much to Lucius'
surprise, he commented, "He's fine. An old... companion of mine stopped by for a visit and he and Voldemort don't really get on. He's just a little
drained, so I helped him to bed."

Lucius shook his head. "You're thirteen," he commented.

"And you're thirty-nine," Harry retorted, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "What of it?"

"You're–"

"He defies all explanation," Barty helpfully cut in before Lucius could tick off the teenager. "And he won't tell me why. It's not worth the headache."

Harry shot Barty an amused look. "So I'm a headache, am I?"

"You're often the cause behind mine," Barty agreed cheerfully. "And, if you'll forgive me, you look like crap."

Harry's lip curled with a tired smile. "It's been a long day," he allowed, "and it's still too early for me to return to Hogwarts."

"Too early?" Lucius repeated.

"I have a time-turner. I believe I am currently debating shield spells with Anthony, Terry, and Padma in the Ravenclaw common."

Lucius blinked, then shook his head. "I can lend you a room to rest in until you can return?" he offered, grimacing a bit.

Harry shook his head. "Thank you, but no. I'll make sure Voldemort is resting and not being his usual obnoxious self." He waved a hand over his
shoulder, then stepped into a shadow and faded away as the two Death Eaters offered him faint goodbyes.
Up in Riddle's room, Harry pulled the chair closer to the Dark Lord's bed and sank down into it. He'd just rest for a moment, then shadow back to
Hogwarts...

-0-

He woke to the sounds of voices quietly conversing. He groaned and straightened, his neck aching from the strange angle. The voices stopped
and he opened his eyes to find Riddle and Nagini watching him. Nagini looked as pleased as a snake ever could, while Riddle looked a bit
uncertain. "Erm, hi?" Harry asked, absently casting a silent tempus and glancing at the numbers. "Ten in the morning... Shit!" He jumped to his
feet. "Classes started an hour ago!"

"Sit down, Potter," Riddle ordered drily. "You have a twelve-hour time-turner."

Harry flushed and sat back in the chair. "Oh, yeah. I, uh, forgot." He rubbed at the back of his neck nervously.

Riddle shook his head and leaned back against his headboard. "You weren't required to stay," he commented neutrally.

Harry shrugged. "I hadn't meant to sleep that long. I still had to wait a bit before I could go back, so I thought I'd take a quick nap, and, well..." He
trailed off and grimaced. "I can leave now, if you want?"

Riddle frowned. "I don't..." He shook his head and glanced up at Harry. "Nagini said you have my..."

"Treasures?" Harry offered when the Dark Lord couldn't find a word for the ex-Horcrux receptacles. He pulled everything out of his pocket and held
them out.

Riddle carefully collected everything, setting all but the ring to one side, which he studied. "So, this is one of the mythical Hallows..."

Harry relaxed back in his chair and watched Riddle examine the ring. "I called the shades of my parents and Sirius when I was walking to my
death," he offered. "It had even been broken in half at the time. It's the real thing."

"Walking to your death?" Riddle repeated, glancing up at the teen.

Harry shrugged. "The only way to remove the Horcrux in my scar was to be killed. The soul fragment passed on, I returned to my body."

Riddle gave him a disbelieving look. "I'd ask if you're suicidal, but you picked life over death..."

"I was a tragic hero," Harry replied drily. "The archetype says I have to lose everything important to me before I can defeat the villain."

Riddle snorted and covered his mouth with one hand. "Sorry."

Harry grinned at him. "You should have seen my reaction when Hermione forced me to realise that. Ron had to be force-fed a calming potion, he
was laughing so hard."

Riddle snorted again and shook his head. "Who fed him the potion?"

"Hermione, of course. I was too busy trying to excuse my behaviour," Harry replied, old enough that he was comfortable with the faults of his youth.
He'd been a bit of a fool back then, but he was past most of it. He still occasionally had to save people, but he wasn't willing to sacrifice himself or
put up with people's shit.

The Dark Lord shot him a considering look. "I have a question, but I'm not sure how you'll receive it."

"My hormones haven't kicked in yet," Harry replied with a smile, "so I should be fine."

"Your... hormones...?"

"When I was fifteen, I was a moody little jerk. Pretty much all year. I destroyed Dumbledore's office in a fit. Although, too be fair, I'd just lost Sirius,"
Harry explained. "And I'd spent the year being called a liar by the press and being tortured in detentions by a professor." He blinked. "That reminds
me, I should hunt down and kill Umbridge."

"Right." Riddle gave him an odd look, then shook his head. "Your friends... I know from Lucius' spawn that you're friends with the mudblood,
Granger, and Longbottom, but not the Weasleys." He frowned a bit.

Harry understood where he was going. "I very much doubt any of my old friends will accept my choices in this life," he offered. "Hermione and
Neville were... I suppose you could say my friendship with them was by chance and I'm honestly not certain how it's lasted this long. I never
thought I'd have their friendship again, but I intend to treasure it while I still can. And, yes, that is ridiculously Gryffindor of me, but I spent most of
my life with them by my side, and Hermione is practically a sister to me. I'm doing this – coming back and taking out what mundanes I can – for
them. Even if they'll never understand why."

Riddle sighed. "Have you never thought of explaining the truth to them?"

Harry laughed. "Tell Neville and Hermione that I'm going to kill all the mundanes? No. Neville might be able to understand to some degree, but
Hermione will never understand why we can't all just get along. For all that she didn't have a single friend before coming to Hogwarts, she's still
remarkably naïve when it comes to the ways of the world. She died preaching about the rights of all humans, even after two years of war.

"I don't even know where to start with Ron and Ginny. It took a war and the death of his brother before Ron got past his occasional bouts of
jealousy for my fame. And Ginny had this terrible crush on me that circumstances that won't happen this time around put to an end. Ron and Ginny
simply aren't the people I knew them as in my world, and I can't make them those people. Their lives are their own, even if it means we're nothing
more than passing acquaintances."

"So you intend to go through the rest of your life with the knowledge that, once you come out as a muggle-killer, all of your friends will disown you?"
Riddle asked. "Forgive me, but that doesn't seem like the Potter I've come to know."
Harry smiled a bit and shook his head. "My old friends may disown me, but I've made new friends who might not. Well, Terry and Li might, but
Lillian is right next to me. And Luna..." He chuckled. "Luna is a creature all her own. She became my friend, knowing what I intend to do. I doubt
she'd ever actually kill someone, but she understands my reasons and is my friend in spite of everything."

"You're content with two friends?" Riddle replied disbelievingly.

Harry snorted. "I'm ninety-seven years old, I won't cry if my friends abandon me."

Riddle blinked, then chuckled and shook his head. "I suppose that's true," he agreed.

"Anyway, Barty and I have a strange little friendship going–"

"You scare the magic right out of him and you call that a friendship?"

"And you and I are...something," Harry continued, ignoring the Dark Lord. "I think that's a fair amount of friendships."

Riddle glanced up at the ceiling. "Merlin save me from Gryffindors and their 'everyone is my friend' mentality."

Harry laughed and stood from his chair. "I should get back. Oh! I told your Death Eaters that you were busy with other business, hence why I
dismissed them instead of you. Lucius and Barty figured something was up so they know you were in bed. And Lucius knows who Xerosis is."

Riddle grunted and dragged himself out of bed. "Very well. Go to class and leave me to curse my minions."

"Have fun!" Harry chirped before ducking into a dark corner and shadowing to the space under his bed. He pulled out his time-turner and turned it
back five hours, before any of his roommates might be up, then climbed into his bed and snuggled under his blankets. There was nothing wrong
with dozing until the others started getting up.

-0-

Remus apparently did get around to striking up a conversation with Sirius, as the dog animagus asked Harry in one letter about his ability to spot
non-humans. He also asked whether or not Snape was part bat, to which Harry replied, 'How should I know? I can catch vampires and
werewolves, but animal forms are beyond me. Cast an animagus revealing spell on him and leave me out of it.'

The werewolf was still wary of him in class, but he stopped completely ignoring Harry and offered to let him try his hand against a boggart after
Christmas, which Harry turned down. He much preferred facing his boggart inside Remus' end-of-the-year obstacle course, when the only person
who would see it would be himself.

Christmas came and went and Harry enjoyed his holiday with Sirius. The Malfoys weren't holding a Christmas Ball that year, due to their manor
being full of escaped Death Eaters, so Harry didn't have to try sneaking out after tea like he had last year.

Before he knew it, second term was over and he was trudging down to the train with Luna, helping her carry her shaking trunk from the carriage –
the thestrals who'd brought them down were eyeing them a bit suspiciously – and onto the train.

"What–?" Hermione asked before Li could cover her mouth.

"Don't. Ask," the Chinese girl ordered. She'd seen a couple of Luna's roommates on the way down and the horrified looks on their faces told her
they were better off not knowing.

"You're no fun," Harry told his friend as Luna let go of the trunk. He hefted it up into the luggage rack without a grunt, ignoring the weird looks
everyone but Luna shot him. Honestly, he'd sort of let that cat out of the bag back in first year. He was still waiting for one of his friends to demand
he explain what he was, but other than Hermione's brief question back on that first train-ride, they kept their mouths shut.

"It's a pity Professor Lupin won't be back next year," Neville commented as Harry took a seat, Luna happily curling up between his legs on the
floor.

"Snape is a real jerk," Terry muttered.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Luna, uhm..." She shook her head. "Never mind."

Luna considered Hermione with perpetually wide eyes. "Yes?"

"I think she's asking why you insist on sitting between my legs when there's a seat for you," Harry offered drily, pulling a book out of his pocket.

"I like it here," Luna replied with a distracted smile. "Are you jealous?"

"Am I what?" Hermione squeaked, cheeks turning a faint pink.

"If you want to sit between Harry's legs, I'll trade you places," Luna continued.

Hermione's mouth fell open and a squeak came out.

Harry absently reached down and placed a hand on top of Luna's head, nose in his book. "She's not ready for you to torment her yet, Luna. Maybe
next year."

"Harry!" Hermione shrieked.

Li coughed and looked away while Terry waggled his eyebrows suggestively at Hermione and Neville sank down in his seat, as red as the engine
starting to pull them towards London. Luna just smiled a bit absently and started braiding a bit of her hair, humming quietly to herself.

"Harry," Hermione growled, pulling out her wand.


Harry turned a page. "Hmm?"

"Aguamenti," Hermione intoned.

Harry let out a surprised shout and dropped his book into Luna's lap as he was suddenly soaked. Luna and Terry both also got wet and Terry shot
an offended look at the Gryffindor girl, but Luna went right on braiding her hair and humming as if nothing had happened.

"Was that really necessary?" Harry wondered, leaning around Luna to grab his book from her lap.

"You were ignoring my plight," Hermione insisted as Harry cast a drying charm on the compartment, much to Terry's relief.

"Next time I'll just laugh instead," Harry replied, carefully looking over his book for any damage. Finding none, he set it gently to one side and
looked back at Hermione, who was puffing up to snap at him. "Honestly, Hermione, it's just a bit of fun. I'm sorry if Luna sitting at my feet bothers
you, but she could care less. Anyway, we both know there's no meaning behind it, right, Luna?"

Luna blinked up at him. "You mean I'm not your favourite minion, my Lord?" she asked.

There was a moment of silence while everyone blinked at the youngest member of their compartment, then the others all laughed.

Harry rested a gentle hand on top of Luna's head. "Of course you are," he agreed before picking up his book to read again.

Still chuckling a bit, the others pulled out books or cards to play a quiet game.

Harry smiled to himself for the rest of the ride; he'd never had a minion before.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: Not sure how I feel about the ending, but...meh.


And I'm sorry if the end of the chapter seems a bit rushed but, uh, it was. And I didn't have a great deal else to write about. Maybe another attack
or two, but there wasn't going to be a lot to say about them. Just assume a few more happened in there somewhere.

There were one or two questions about why Death dislikes vampires so much, especially since they kill so many people? Well, for the same
reason as he dislikes someone having Horcruxes: They won't die. Those people they kill would have gone and died anyway, since that's the way of
the world, but those people with their gimmicks and curses to make them immortal won't die.
Hope that helped.

Next chapter will involve the TriWizard Tournament! And the revelation of Voldemort's return at long last!
See everyone next week. ^.~
~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 5*: Fear Falls Like Rain
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: The spells you don't recognise that Harry uses in this chapter are ones I made up. They were created for my Abandon re-write, but
since I was stuck without my Latin dictionary and needed a spell, I just stole them from those notes. Yes, you can use them yourself, but credit
where credit is due. And all that jazz.

A/N: So, if this chapter seems a little... meh. Well, it is. The previous four chapters sort of wrote themselves, taking maybe two days a piece to
write. This chapter took two weeks, and it was a struggle the whole way. A holiday in West Virginia wrote most of it, avoiding unpacking and a
sleepless night wrote the rest.
Here's hoping chapter six isn't half this bad. -.-

So, everyone wanted to know what Harry's boggart was. Erm, you know, I never really thought about it all that much, which is why it wasn't in
there. Bit of a throw-up between the end of the world and the mundane who shot him. (Not that he fears the mundane, specifically, but he fears
failure, and both of those represent that. The end of the world is pretty obvious, but the mundane represents Harry's failure to survive.)

I've recently started posting on Archive of Our Own, for those who can't use LJ or whatever. I've got some of my insanely old, pre-HP fics up there
if you wanted to see how badly I used to write. XD

-0-0-0-

Fear Falls Like Rain

-0-0-0-

"I have just heard the most delicious rumour about next year," Voldemort said as soon as he noticed Xerosis in the corner of his small meeting
room.

"The TriWizard Tournament, perchance?" Xerosis replied, stepping smoothly over to the second chair the Dark Lord had created next to his own
after their run-in with Death.

"You take a great deal of fun out of my life," Voldemort decided.

Xerosis bared lengthened teeth in a parody of a grin. "It's my job. Something of a full-time one, too. Why, it's shocking I ever manage to get
anything else done–"

"Yes, thank you for that!" Voldemort said over the apparent vampire's ramblings. "Perhaps you can provide us with more information on the
Tournament?" He motioned briefly to where Lucius, Barty, and a few other Inner Circle Death Eaters stood, eyeing the volley between the two Dark
wizards a bit warily. The idea of the Dark Lord in a temper was terrifying enough that none of them could even envision teasing him, and every time
Xerosis started, they all had to fight the urge to back away. That the boy had yet to actually anger their Lord other than the one time – which Barty
refused to talk about – always surprised them.

Xerosis leaned back in his chair, an amused smirk tugging at his lips. "What would you like to know? I'm not one hundred percent on the dates, but
I can tell you what each of the Tasks will be." He tapped his chin as the Death Eaters shifted in disbelief; Lucius hadn't been able to discover what
the Tasks were. "I can make a pretty good guess as to the Champions, too, if you want."

"The Hogwarts' Champion will be a Gryffindor," one of the Death Eaters commented, sneering. "It always is."

"I was going to say Cedric Diggory, from Hufflepuff, personally," Xerosis replied. "Then Victor Krum from Durmstrang, and the part-veela, Fleur
Delacour, from Beauxbatons."

"Victor Krum!" someone whispered in the crowd.

"Crucio," Voldemort intoned, lazily pointing his wand at the wizard who'd spoken. "And the Tasks?"

"The First, dragons," Xerosis reported, picking at dirt under his nails. "They'll be required to collect a golden egg from a nesting mother. Damaging
the other eggs or being harmed themselves will lose them points. The egg will give them a clue for the Second Task, which will involve collecting a
close friend or family member from the merpeople in the Black Lake. The Third Task will be traversing a maze built up over the course of a few
months in the Quidditch Pitch. The first person to collect the Cup receives 'eternal glory', or some such rot, and one thousand galleons."

"Hm." Voldemort idly scratched his cheek with the tip of his wand, which sparked a bit in response. "How distracted by this Tournament will the
Ministry be, do you think?"

Xerosis shot a sharp look at the Dark Lord. "Perhaps marginally more distracted than they usually are. Security will only be an issue for the First
Task, and they'll probably leave that to the dragon handlers. You intend to announce your presence during the Tournament."

Voldemort cackled as the Death Eaters let out surprised sounds. "It is a brilliant plan, isn't it? They'll have more important things on their minds and
in we swoop, making messes left and right and they'll have to split their focus between us and the Tournament!"

Xerosis chuckled and shook his head. "They would certainly have their hands full," he agreed. "However, this means we shouldn't do anything
during the Quidditch World Cup."
"Quidditch," Voldemort huffed. "No one cares about Quidditch."

"I suppose that means you don't want to attend?" Xerosis replied. "Ah, well. I'll have to give my extra ticket to someone else. Hey, Barty, you like
Quidditch, don't you?"

Barty cleared his throat. "I played Beater for four years in school," he admitted.

"Cool!"

A couple Death Eaters snorted and looked pointedly away from the thirteen-year-old who was looking his physical age, practically bouncing in his
seat in excitement.

"Xerosis, calm yourself," Voldemort ordered, debating the pros and cons of casting the Cruciatus Curse on the teen.

"You're just jealous," Xerosis retorted, though he calmed down. "So, did you want to stage your grand attack on Hallowe'en, or wait until the First
Task?"

"I've always been fond of Hallowe'en."

"I knew you were going to say that."

"Lucius," Voldemort said, ignoring Xerosis, "what does the Ministry look like on a normal Hallowe'en evening? Night guards? Aurors in
attendance?"

"Maybe six aurors up in their office, ready to answer any night alarms," Lucius answered. "The night guard won't be there, though, as they close
down the floos for the night. There might be a couple of people in the building who are trying to finish some last minute work, but most people go
home to enjoy the holiday."

Xerosis cleared his throat. "A witch, Dolores Umbridge, is she one of those who tends to stay behind?"

Lucius frowned a bit behind his mask. "I don't believe I'm familiar with her, my Lord."

"Really fat, vaguely resembles a toad. Has a tendency towards ugly pink cardigans."

Lucius' eyes lit with recognition. "Yes, she often stays. I don't believe she has anyone at home, so she spends much of her time at the Ministry."

"I am somehow unsurprised." He glanced over at Voldemort. "She's a creature-hater."

"Ah." Voldemort nodded. Knowing the other, that was probably only a tiny part of why he wanted the woman dead, but that was more than enough
for the moment. "Xerosis, since you have a vested interest in devastating the Ministry, you'll take a small team in with you. Take care of anyone in
the building, then do some damage."

"Forgive me, my Lord, but what about the Department of Mysteries?" Lucius asked. "Only Unspeakables have access."

Xerosis smirked. "I have access to the Department of Mysteries." He turned to Voldemort. "While I'm making the Ministry look like a mundane fun
park, what will you be up to?"

"I'm debating between St Mungo's and Diagon Alley," Voldemort admitted. "Both would be equally devastating, especially with the trick-or-treating
in the Alley."

Xerosis pondered that. "St Mungo's will always be full, but once it's known you're back, they're going to avoid Diagon. On the other hand, if you
want to train the wizarding world, you'll want to avoid killing the children, since they're the ones who will carry on our legacy." He glanced over at
the Dark Lord and raised an eyebrow in a silent request for a private talk between them.

Voldemort bared his teeth, but waved his wand to create a silencing barrier between them and the Death Eaters. "What?"

"Attacking the magical world is all well and good for reminding the sheep that you've returned, but there aren't a great deal of us as it is. Attack the
Ministry, make a statement there, then make a run through a mundane town. Hit London, if you're feeling daring," Xerosis offered, leaning on the
arm of his chair closest to the Dark Lord.

"And what about the mudbloods?" Voldemort demanded, eyes narrowed. "Will you be asking me to save them next?"

"Don't be nasty," Xerosis retorted, not the least bit bothered by the Dark Lord's silent threat. "Look, mudbloods come from bad blood, yes, but
they're still magical. They can still cast the same spells and brew the same potions. Using a magic-stealing spell will steal their magic the same
way as it would yours or mine; same as it would Barty or Lucius'. Yes, they spend eleven years being taught we're demons and I'll agree that some
of them need to go, same as I'll agree some purebloods are too entrenched in their pro-mundane beliefs to be kept alive. Riddle me this, if you will:
Two children, pre-Hogwarts age, one raised to love mundanes, one raised as one; will you kill them both, or can you change their minds?"

Voldemort sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "Nature vs nurture. Potter, you read too many muggle books."

"I eat primarily mundane souls," the boy reminded him. "I watched a six year old mudblood lynched by his parents and older brother; mundane or
magical, they're cursed either way. We're both mundane-raised, should we have been drowned at birth?"

The Dark Lord shot him a disgusted look. "I despise your Gryffindor side," he muttered, then waved the barrier away. "London, you said?"

"It would make the biggest statement," Xerosis agreed, sitting properly again in his chair and biting back a victorious smirk.

Voldemort nodded and glanced at the apparent vampire while the Death Eaters cast nervous sideways glances at each other. "How many people
will you need with you?"

Xerosis hummed a bit and considered the Death Eaters, many of whom flinched away from his pale eyes. He smiled a bit at them, then turned
back to the Dark Lord. "No more than four, I think."

"The Ministry isn't that empty," Lucius offered, flinching when Voldemort pointed his wand at the pureblood.

"You're cute," Xerosis decided. "Can I take Lucius and Barty with me?"

Voldemort glanced at the boy, target forgotten, much to Lucius' relief. "Why them?"

"They amuse me."

"Hmm. Fine. Anyone else you want to request?"

"No, that's good enough for me. Take Bella with you, though; she'd have more fun in London." Xerosis shot the Dark Lord a winning smile.

Voldemort snorted and turned back to his Death Eaters so he could organise the attack on London. Xerosis just relaxed back in his chair and
occasionally offered his own suggestions.

-0-

"I would think your guardian would attend this match with you," Barty commented as Harry bounced along in front of him. Both of them were
supplied with a couple doses of Polyjuice and were going as a father-son duo, much to Barty's consternation.

"Well, normally he would," Harry agreed, pausing to lick at his ice-pop while Barty caught up, "but he doesn't care for Ireland either way and he
hates the Bulgarian team. Something about them reminding him too much of Slytherins?" Barty chuckled. "Anyway, he said I could go with
whomever I chose, as long as their parent was okay with it." Harry shot the Death Eater a mad grin. "I doubt your dad's okay with you being about,
but I decided you're old enough to manage yourself."

Barty snorted. "Does Black not believe in adult supervision?"

"Are you referring to Sirius as an adult?"

The Death Eater laughed at that and gladly took his seat once they'd found them. They weren't in the announcer's box, but they were pretty high
up, and that was good enough for them.

As other people started filling in around them, Harry waved down someone wandering the stands with boxes of sweets and some butterbeer. The
teen bought some chocolate and a butterbeer for both himself and Barty, then curled up in his seat next to Barty.

"You're going to rot your teeth," Barty muttered, even as he took the offerings.

"I'll have Madam Pomfrey fix them," Harry replied with a shrug, popping a chocoball into his mouth. "All I have to do is blame it on Sirius and she'll
never say a word."

Barty snorted and relaxed back in his chair as the mascots came running out.

When Krum finally caught the snitch, Harry was grinning like the cat that caught the canary and Barty was chuckling to himself. The teen had got
his guest to bet on the outcome with some of Harry's money, and he'd won. They could go collect their winnings, then return to the tent Sirius had
pulled out of storage until the portkey to the Leaky Cauldron was set to leave tomorrow afternoon.

"I don't know why you even bothered," Barty commented as Harry bounced a bit, money pouch jingling heavily. "I was under the impression that
the Potters had more than enough gold."

"I do, but since I'm waging a war..." Harry turned and waggled his eyebrows at the Death Eater.

"My Lord has money."

"True, but you can never have enough money."

"I suppose."

Harry smiled to himself a bit and ducked into the tent. "I'll start supper."

"A sandwich is fine!"

"You're such a man," Harry commented as he tackled the fridge. "I swear, you and Sirius give men a bad name. I mean, you can't even cook with
magic. That is... I have no words for how sad and pathetic that is."

Barty rolled his eyes and went to put his things away in his room. Harry had grumbled about that the night before, too and Barty had just decided
that his young Lord was insane – there was more than enough evidence for it – and left it at that.

"You and my Lord have the strangest relationship," Barty commented over their dinner of roast chicken. "Sometimes, when I think he's about to kill
you, you smile at him a bit and he backs off."

"We all have our secrets," Harry replied after swallowing a mouthful.

"You mean some of us have our secrets; Merlin knows you know all of mine."

Harry shot him a mad little grin.

Barty rolled his eyes. "You're absolutely terrifying," he assured the teen, which earned him an eye roll. "I'll bet you've got some sort of blackmail on
my Lord."
Harry shrugged. "Sure, I've got loads of blackmail on him, just like he's got plenty on me. We're a lot alike, Voldemort and I – more alike than you
could ever know – so we get each other. We don't have to curse each other to make our point. That's not to say we don't curse each other, sure,
but we don't have to."

"You are, quite possibly, the only fourteen-year-old who could charm a Dark Lord and live to tell the tale," Barty decided. "You two have got to have
a lot in common for him to be so nice to you."

Harry snorted. "Let us get something straight, Barty. Lord Voldemort is not nice. He wasn't nice when he was my age, and he isn't nice now.
Voldemort and I have agreed that working together was to our mutual benefit, so we've agreed to keep all our disagreements behind closed doors
and when one of us has a point, we've agreed to shut up and listen to it fairly. But don't suddenly go around thinking we're best mates or anything."

"You two are just a little bit mad. You know that, right?"

"Know it?" Harry bared his teeth in a parody of a smile, green eyes flashing behind his glasses. "Oh, yes. Be certain that both Voldemort and I are
quite aware of our insanity."

Barty shook his head. "What are you planning for the rest of the summer?"

"Oh, Voldemort and I had another lab we were thinking about–"

"No, not what my Lord Xerosis is planning on doing; what is Harry Potter planning for the rest of the summer?"

"Hm. Don't know. Play with my garden a bit more, I suppose."

"...You are strange."

"I like my garden! I put a lot of work into it."

"It's a very nice garden," Barty agreed. "But you're fourteen! Surely you've got more exciting things to do than play with flowers and dirt.

"Mmm... Flying a bit? Reading? Starting another prank war with Sirius... Sure, there are other things. But I like my garden."

Barty sighed. "You are the strangest fourteen year old I've ever met."

"But you love me anyway!" Harry declared, pasting on his winning smile.

Barty couldn't help the smile that curled his lips in response. "I suppose I must."

-0-

"So, Anthony was telling me just last week in Diagon that his mum's been going a bit mad at work," Terry commented once they'd all been settled
in their usual compartment for a good bit. "It's not the Quidditch Cup, either, he said. It's something else. Something to do with Hogwarts." He
glanced around the compartment, eyes stopping hopefully on Luna while the others glanced up from their books or, in Neville's case, plant. "I don't
suppose you know anything about it, do you? Your dad's a reporter, right?"

Luna blinked her wide eyes at him innocently. "The Ministry? What do we care for them when someone finally got a shot of a Crumple–"

Hermione shot Luna an irritated look. "If your magazine actually focused on the real world, instead of some–"

Harry cleared his throat. "TriWizard Tournament!"

Everyone was silent for a long moment, blinking at the Boy-Who-Lived a bit blankly. Only Luna seemed to understand what he had been talking
about and she smiled a bit to herself and relaxed against Harry's legs.

"Why are you bringing up an archaic tourney?" Li wondered, frowning a bit.

"It's not archaic," Harry muttered.

"It has not occurred in almost two hundred years," Li replied drily.

"What's the 'TriWizard Tournament'?" Hermione asked, frowning a bit. She didn't like not knowing things, but spending most of her free time with
four Ravenclaws – two of which were wizarding-raised and one of which liked to pretend he was – had taught her that, sometimes, she didn't know
something, but if she asked, they were more than happy to fill her in.

"It's a tournament that was started maybe seven hundred years ago between Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang, to allow them to prove
which school was better," Neville explained, brow furrowing a bit as he tried to remember the stories he'd heard when he was younger. "People
used to die in it a lot, though, so they eventually discontinued the practise."

"Beauxbatons and Durmstrang?" Terry parroted, taking his own turn at being the unknowing muggleborn.

"The two other European magical schools," Harry offered, picking his book back up with a faint smile. "Beauxbatons is in France and largely admits
students from the western European countries. Durmstrang is somewhere between Germany and Russia – they don't like giving an exact location
– and they take most of the prospective students from the eastern parts of Europe, with an occasional Russian student. Durmstrang is well known
for their hatred of mundane-borns and their usage of the Dark Arts, while Beauxbatons is better known for its acceptance of part-creatures and use
of both Light and Dark Arts. Hogwarts, on the other hand, is well known for its predominately Light curriculum and acceptance of mundane-borns."

"So Beauxbatons is better if you're willing to learn either type of magic?" Terry wondered, eyes lighting up a bit.

"They also tend to be more formal," Li offered, shooting her friend an amused look. "Etiquette classes are required until your sixth year."

Terry mocked gagging at the very thought while the others laughed.
Li cleared her throat and stared at Harry until he looked over his book at her, one eyebrow raised. "You're the one who brought it up," she
reminded him.

"Technically, Terry brought it up," Harry pointed out. "Or, more specifically, he asked what has the Ministry in such a flurry and I answered."

"The Ministry wouldn't bring the TriWizard Tournament back," Neville replied, shaking his head. "Too many people died."

"They're more than stupid enough to try it," Terry reminded the pureblood.

"I certainly hope the Ministry knows better than to allow a tournament that people died in!" Hermione cut in. "It's bad enough they allow quidditch–"

"What's wrong with quidditch?" Terry asked, scowling a bit. "It's a great sport to watch–"

"Riding on sticks of wood hundreds of feet in the air!" Hermione cried. "What if someone falls? What if–"

Harry gently nudged Luna with a foot and stood once she'd moved out of the way. "I'm going to go see Lillian," he told Luna and Li, then left to the
sounds of Hermione and Terry bickering. Really, the whole argument rather reminded him of his Hermione and Ron from before. He was somehow
both sad and happy that Hermione wasn't all that different and that one of his new friends could take Ron's place. Of course, the argument in
general drove him a bit mad; sometimes it was nice to have a friend who didn't get on with the rest of his friends.

"Oh, Merlin forbid," Morag muttered as Harry poked his head into their usual compartment.

"Oh, Morag, how I've missed your shining personality this summer just past!" Harry cried, striding into the compartment and dropping to his knees
in front of his fellow Ravenclaw. "I don't know how I've managed to survive!"

"Potter, get away from me before I catch your insanity."

"But Morag, my dear, dear Morag–"

Lillian leaned forward and gently dragged her male friend away from the other Ravenclaw while Millicent laughed and Tracey covered a smile.
"Come on, Harry. Not everyone has your sense of humour."

"More the pity," Harry sighed, then hopped up off the floor and plopped into the seat next to Lillian. "I had to get away from Hermione and Terry, so
I thought I'd come visit my other bestest friends!"

"Don't group us in with your deranged friends," Morag immediately retorted.

"What were the mudbloods doing this time?" Lillian asked, completely ignoring her other friend.

"Arguing quidditch," Harry replied. "Terry's for it, Hermione's against it. It was funny back in second year, and maybe even a little bit in third year,
but it's just boring now."

"Speaking of, I thought for sure you'd be at the Quidditch World Cup," Lillian said, frowning a bit.

"I was," Harry agreed, grinning a bit. "But my friend and I decided it was easier to go in disguise, so we utilised Polyjuice."

"Which friend did you take?" Millicent wondered.

"Probably Boot," Morag suggested.

"Nah." Harry waved a hand, amused. "I don't think you'd know him, since he's a bit older than us. Anyway, he's staying with the Malfoys right now."

Lillian choked. "You didn't take–"

Harry laughed and shook his head. "The Dark Lord? Merlin, no. He hates quidditch. I took Barty Crouch Junior."

The gobsmacked looks on the other Slytherins and Ravenclaw's faces were totally worth admitting to the knowledge that Voldemort was back. And
he knew these four wouldn't spread it around, though they might slip hints to other Slytherins. It would be fun to watch the House of snakes while
the rumours flew around that Harry Potter was cosy with a convicted Death Eater.

Of course, once the name Xerosis was known in conjunction with Voldemort, the reactions should be even better. Especially since Lillian knew
Harry had used the name two years ago. He would enjoy watching the school after Hallowe'en.

"How do you know the Dark Lord hates quidditch?" Morag demanded, leaning forward, eyes narrowed.

"He mentioned it when I brought up the World Cup," Harry replied with a shrug. "So I asked Barty, since I knew he liked it well enough."

"I'm beginning to think you have imaginary friends," Tracey decided. "That, or you're crazier than I've given you credit for." She looked at Lillian,
who was shaking her head with a faint smile on her face. "You don't, honestly, believe him, do you?"

Lillian cleared her throat uncomfortably. "You know how I told you I met the Dark Lord at the Christmas Ball two years ago?"

"Yeah, sure. Except you said he looked all human." Morag scoffed.

"What, you think the Dark Lord was born looking like a human-snake hybrid?" Harry asked, amused. "I can just see his mum's face now. Although,
given, his mum wasn't much of a looker..."

"Now I know you're full of shit," Tracey decided.

"Yeah, mudblood shit," Morag agreed, smirking a bit nastily. "Your mum was one, after all."

Harry narrowed his eyes, no longer amused. "You leave my mother out of things, McDougal."
"What are you going to do if I don't, Potter? Go crying to her grave?"

Harry snapped out his stolen wand and spat, "Membrum."

Morag gasped as the Dark spell set her fingers and toes screaming in pain. The curse, known as the Curse of Burning, was a precursor to the
Cruciatus Curse, and while the pain build-up was slow, could cause just as much agony as the Unforgivable. More so, if the Curse of Burning
wasn't removed from the target, it was fatal.

Harry leaned forward, green eyes gleaming with a dark light. "Let me make myself clear, McDougal: Leave. My. Mum. Alone."

Morag nodded her head viciously in understanding, a whimper escaping her lips as the curse started moving towards her ankles and wrists.

Harry's lips curled with a cruel smile. "I didn't hear you, McDougal."

"Harry, stop," Lillian whispered, gently touching his shoulder. When he turned to her, she swallowed, then added, "Please."

Harry pursed his lips, but ended the spell. As Morag gasped in relief, the boy stood and turned towards the door. Just before he opened it, Morag
whispered, "I'm sorry, Potter. I won't... I won't mention your mum again."

Harry turned to look at her, eyes hard. "See that you don't," he said, then stepped from the compartment and down the hall to the nearest men's
loo. In there, he stepped over to the sink and leaned his forehead against the mirror, trying to get his temper under control. Morag didn't know it –
would likely never know – but it had taken all of Harry's will to keep his dementor ability in check and not suck down her soul or cast the Cruciatus
in response to her jab.

There were few things that could upset him like someone talking badly about Lily Potter, but he'd always been fond of his mum and that tiny piece
of her he carried in his eyes and temperament. Seeing her say goodbye, watching her give her life for him... His mum had been the most amazing,
kind and wonderful person he'd ever known, and he'd only known her for a moment. That someone could find something hateful to say about her...

The door behind him opened and Cedric Diggory stepped in. The Hufflepuff paused for a moment, watching Harry watch him in the mirror, then
sighed and asked, "All right there, Potter?"

Harry considered the older boy in the mirror for a long moment, debating with himself. On one hand, he and Diggory had absolutely nothing in
common at the moment, not even quidditch, and Harry had been the entire reason Diggory had found out about the dragons. On the other,
Dumbledore could very well find another way to let his Champion find out what was coming, and getting to know Diggory at this juncture...

"Just fine," Harry agreed, pasting on an easy, but slightly ashamed smile. "Just some bad food for breakfast. Probably Sirius' fault, knowing how
his cooking attempts usually go."

"Oh, alright then." Diggory nodded and stepped over to a urinal.

Harry quickly left the loo at that and started down the passage to his original compartment, seeing little sense in seeing Morag again so soon after
losing his temper. He'd keep his eye on Diggory, perhaps. If it was within two weeks of the Task and the boy was still clueless about the dragons,
an anonymous note could be slipped to him.

Harry may not have cared one way or the other for the tournament, but he had enough school pride that he wasn't about to make it easy for Krum
or Delacour.

-0-

Xerosis pondered the buttons in front of him as the other four Death Eaters shuffled into the phone booth. It had a couple of expanding spells built
in which would allow a party of no more than seven, something the auror department had demanded back when the Ministry had first moved to the
current building after a particular raid had found them with four Dark wizards and three aurors trying to fit into a phone booth which could only fit
two if they both squeezed.

Once everyone was in, Xerosis typed in the numbers. "Please state the purpose behind your business at the Ministry of Magic," the pleasant voice
requested as the booth started its decent.

"Lord Xerosis and Death Eaters here for the purpose of death and destruction," Xerosis intoned in a bored voice.

"Please enjoy your visit to the Ministry of Magic," the voice replied as five buttons popped out of the bottom.

Xerosis glanced at the buttons, then passed the four stating 'Death Eater, Violence Against Ministry Personal and Property' back to the others
behind him, smirking to himself.

"This won't alert the aurors?" one of the extra Death Eaters, a man named Ash Venting, asked.

Lucius snorted. "You're an idiot."

"Now, now, Lucius, not everyone is as familiar as yourself with the intricacies of the British Ministry," Xerosis chastised, glancing over his shoulder
at the Death Eaters and smiling a bit. "However, Venting, you really must remember not to question me."

Venting swallowed and tried shrinking back against the glass door.

Xerosis' smile darkened with promise before he turned back towards the front as the empty atrium came into view.

Once the lift came to a stop, everyone shuffled out and the Death Eaters turned to the apparent vampire to await his orders.

Xerosis glanced at the statue in the fountain, considered his options, then turned back to the Death Eaters, content to change it on their way out.
"Lucius, you're the most familiar with the Minister's office and the subsequent offices on the first floor, so why don't you pick either Venting or
Robbins and tackle that. The rest of us will start our play on the second floor, taking out the aurors and subsequent personal. Meet us there when
you're done, since the second floor will likely be better staffed than any other floor except, perhaps, for the Department of Mysteries. Once those
two floors are done, we can tackle the rest of the building."

When the Death Eaters had nodded their understanding, Xerosis led the way to the lifts and called one. Once they were all on it, Lucius motioned
to Robbins and drew him to the side to discuss their attack plan.

Barty glanced at Xerosis, who was humming a bit as the lift continued its journey. "My Lord, do we have an attack plan?"

The boy smiled at him. "Now why would I want one of those?" he wondered.

Barty sighed and shot Venting a glare when the younger Death Eater opened his mouth to comment.

"I do very much like you, Barty," Xerosis decided. "Yes, we have a plan. I want you at the lifts, watching for anyone who might step from those
offices on the hall. Venting will come with me into the auror offices, where we will deal with our friends there, quietly, if at all possible." He glanced
at Venting, who shuddered and nodded his understanding. "Once they're taken care of, we will deal with those offices. If, by some miracle, Lucius
and Robbins join you before Venting and I return, you may start on the offices together."

Barty nodded. "Thank you, my Lord."

Xerosis reached up and patted Barty's cheek, a fond expression on his face, then turned and led the way out of the lift as they reached the second
floor.

Barty remained behind them, as ordered, so Xerosis led the way forward to the auror offices, pulling out his wand. He shoved the door open, took a
moment to spot all seven aurors in attendance, then snapped, "Obretio!" Before any of the aurors could properly react, they found the malleable
items nearest to them – a potted plant, a drape, a blanket hidden under a nearby desk or their clothing – wrap around them and make them
incapable of moving, other than two of them falling over.

"Accio aurors' wands," Venting whispered and twenty-ish wands soared towards the spot he'd been standing in, falling to the ground at his feet
when he directed them down.

A quick spell had the cursed wands burning, then Xerosis collected the rest of them and stuck them in his pocket. Upon seeing the faces of the
aurors, he assured them, "You won't be needing them again." Then he turned to the Death Eater at his side. "You've risen in my eyes again,
Venting. Good job with the wands."

Venting swelled with pride behind his mask.

"Don't get a big head," Xerosis added, then stalked forwards, twirling his wand in one hand. "Hello, luvs. I'm Lord Xerosis, partner of Lord
Voldemort. Voldemort sends his regards and apologises for being unable to greet you himself, but he's busy organising an attack on London which
should start, in, oh..." A silent tempus showed the time to be just before six o'clock. "Another hour or so." He smiled at the disbelieving souls. "Don't
worry, you won't have to worry about answering the alarm. Venting!"

"My Lord?"

"You may deal with four of them as you see fit." He glanced towards the hallway that led to Arthur Weasley's office, where he could sense another
human, albeit, a sleeping one. "Although, make sure they don't get too loud, hm?" he added before sweeping past the aurors and slipping down
the empty hallway to the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office.

The man Xerosis only ever knew as "Perkins" sat at his desk, eyes closed and wheezing slightly. The part of the teen that was still fond of his
once-father-in-law was glad Arthur hadn't been the sleeping occupant. He had no care one way or the other for Perkins, so he leaned over and
absently sucked his soul before reaching out and snapping his neck. The man's wand joined those in Xerosis' pocket, as well as some amusing or
potentially useful cursed mundane objects, then he swept out of the office and back out into the auror's office, where he found that Venting was
making quite the sport of silently torturing the aurors. One of them was trying to climb the wall while another was beating himself over the head with
a paper weight. Two of them, clearly friends, were trying to choke each other, wrestling around on the ground.

Xerosis absently flicked Killing Curses at the last three, who were watching their Imperiused co-workers with horror. He tossed himself into a chair
to watch the action, absently tossing a Killing Curse towards the door when a runner from one of the hall offices dashed in.

Barty appeared behind the dead wizard. "My Lord, this floor and the first floor are clear."

Xerosis nodded and got to his feet. "Playtime's over, Venting. We've got another six floors yet."

Venting shot off two Killing Curses – the one who'd been beating himself had died a while ago and one of the wrestlers had choked to death only
moments before – then turned and joined Xerosis and Barty in walking towards the lifts, where they met up with Lucius and Robbins.

"Barty, how many people do you want for level three?" Xerosis wondered as they stepped onto the lift.

Barty glanced at his options. "I'll take Venting and Robbins if my Lord allows."

"Go forth and devastate," Xerosis agreed as they stopped at level three. Once the three Death Eaters had left, he smiled at Lucius. "If you see Miss
Umbridge, do save her for me. I have just the thing in mind."

"Of course, my Lord," Lucius agreed smoothly as they stepped out into the hallway.

Umbridge was found in the small tea room at the end of the floor. Xerosis took great pleasure in crucioing her and carving 'I am a fat toad' into her
hand. Then he grabbed her around her fat throat and bodily tossed her against the wall at the back of the tiny Centaur Liaison Office, smirking
viciously at the sound of her fat squelching.

Down the hall, standing over a couple of other Ministry employees, Lucius winced and made a mental note to stay on his second Lord's good side
if at all possible.
They all went together into level five and had some fun, then split up for the equally empty levels six and seven. They all gathered together again to
tackle the Department of Mysteries, where Xerosis split them up into three groups with Barty and Venting making up one team and Lucius and
Robbins making up the other. Xerosis travelled on his own and swallowed a good fifteen souls by taking the offices.

Xerosis also made sure he got the Death Room and the Prophecy Room. In the first, he blasted the Veil to bits, not willing to chance Sirius falling
through it a second time, even if it was rather Gryffindor of him. In the Prophecy Room, he picked up the prophecy and dropped it to the ground,
where it broke into a thousand pieces. "Remain unfulfilled," he whispered as Trelawney's voice drifted to the ceiling and faded away. "I'm not the
boy you once put your hopes in. I am the Dark Lord Xerosis, and I will see those who murdered my people dead." He turned on his heel and
stalked from the room, hunting down other Unspeakables he could suck the souls from.

Once they were done, Xerosis silently cast the Parsel communication spell the Dark Lord had taught him and murmured, :Ministry is emptied of
all personnel I could sense. London attack is a go.:

As they walked past the fountain, Xerosis stopped and concentrated for a moment to transfigure the statue into a warning. The four Death Eaters
shuddered to see the two Dark Lords glaring down at them, wands raised in a threat. Standing behind Voldemort and Xerosis were four Death
Eaters, masked faces blank and Dark Marks bared as they pointed their wands towards the doorway to the lifts and the security wizard's desk.

Xerosis finally led the way to the apparation zone and they all returned to Malfoy Manor, which was already empty of the second party, gone to
tackle London. "Venting, Robbins, go home. Take a night off and get some sleep. Barty, you'd best make yourself scarce. Lucius, be prepared to
receive any wounded or any suspicious guests from the Ministry or Dumbledore's Order."

Venting and Robbins both apparated away while Barty went off to assist Narcissa in waiting for any wounded. "Enjoy the rest of your Hallowe'en,
my Lord," Lucius murmured, bowing low before the boy who was the same age as his son.

Xerosis gently removed Lucius' mask and considered the man. After a long moment of silence, he nodded and handed the mask back. "Enjoy your
Hallowe'en, Lucius," he murmured before shadowing away. In the Death Eater's eyes, he'd looked for any deception, any disgust at serving a
teenager, and he'd found none. When he finally revealed his true form to the Death Eaters, he knew he'd have at least two allies among the troops.

-0-

"Did you hear about the attacks last night?" Hermione whispered as Harry slid into the open seat next to her in Charms. Terry and Kenneth took
the seats in front of them while Li settled in next to Neville behind them.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," Stephen muttered.

"They were innocent muggles!" Hermione hissed.

"Steve was talking about the Ministry," Harry commented drily as he pulled a quill and some parchment out. "And of course I heard about it, what
with the racket you lions were making."

Hermione huffed. "It's a big deal! Over two thousand killed!"

"There are plenty of muggles, Granger," Morag spat, coming to a stop at Harry's shoulder. "Don't get your knickers in a twist over them. I'd be more
concerned for the eighty killed at the Ministry."

"At least the Dark Lord was focussing on the mundanes instead of the magical people," Harry pointed out, glancing at the rogue Ravenclaw.

"It's wrong that he's killing anyone!" Hermione cried.

Morag sneered at the Gryffindor and stalked away to her usual seat – as far away from Harry and his friends as she could get.

"And you!" Hermione added, turning on Harry once Morag was gone.

"Sixty million," Harry replied in a monotone.

Hermione blinked in surprise, rant completely cut off. "What?"

"That's how many people were killed in World War Two by mundane weaponry. Approximately."

"What does that have to do–"

"Over fifty percent of those were civilians," Harry continued. "Over three thousand were magical. That's almost twice the number of magical deaths
from the last war with Voldemort." He glanced over at her. "Who is worse?"

Hermione stared at him, appalled. Before she could come up with a response, Flitwick had entered the room and quickly started class. He, like
many of the professors, looked worried and a little sick.

Harry wondered how long the teachers had thought Voldemort might have been back before that attack. Snape certainly had his suspicions, and
Dumbledore had likely shared them, but as for the other professors...

As soon as class was over, Hermione grabbed Harry's arm in a steel grip, eyes burning. "You can't believe that muggles are evil, Harry. You grew
up with them!"

Harry considered her for a moment, then commented, "Approximately seven mundane-borns a year are killed by their parents, Hermione. It's
because I grew up with mundanes that I know what they're capable of. You've often told me that you were shunned in school for your brains.
Imagine what would have happened if they'd known you were magical." He gently removed her hand from his arm. "I understand that there are
nice mundanes out there, mundanes that deserve to live; don't think me completely against them. But don't believe I will cry over their deaths,
either."

He turned and left with his classmates, falling in next to Stephen. Li and Terry had stopped walking with him when he'd given them much the same
speech that morning over breakfast. A spell would keep them from spreading his words on to anyone else, but they were certainly capable of
thinking about it.

Harry's only sadness was that he may have just lost all of his friends in one fell swoop. Only Lillian and Luna remained. Stephen stood by him; the
boy had no love for mundanes, though he held no particular hatred towards them, either.

He wondered how long it would take Dumbledore or his pet spy to realise that Harry was spending his time with a different crowd. It would be
interesting to watch.

-0-

"Why do you hate them so much?" Hermione asked one afternoon a week after Hallowe'en. Harry had been working on a paper for Moody in the
library when the Gryffindor had approached, Neville standing nervously in her shadow. "And don't give me more numbers."

Harry considered the two from behind his glasses before waving them into seats and discreetly casting a silencing spell over their table. "I am
afraid of them," he admitted, comfortable enough with his fear to accept it. "They far outnumber us and they have more devastating weapons. I
know you never believed that my relatives were cruel to me, Hermione, but they were. They hated me because I had magic, something they
couldn't fully comprehend. Something they couldn't fight. If they hadn't been so afraid of the potential backlash, they would have happily seen me
dead."

"They would never–"

"Hermione, for once, stop debating with him and just listen," Neville murmured. "Please?"

Harry was beginning to understand why Hermione had even bothered searching him out. "You've heard plenty of stories about Terry's brother," he
offered. "If you ever got the boy into a room, tied to a chair and completely helpless, what would you do to him?"

"I..." Hermione sucked her lower lip into her mouth and chewed on it a bit. "I don't know."

Harry leaned forward, smiling at her knowingly. "Yes you do."

Hermione turned away, face burning in shame.

"People – both mundane and magical – are ugly, vicious souls. We're all very much alike, and when we find someone with something we don't
have, something we crave, we react one of two ways: Either we become jealous and hateful, or we accept that we'll never get any closer than that
person and we cherish them. How do you think most mundanes would react to knowing there were people out there with magic? People who
carried in their pocket a weapon more lethal than a common gun? People who could point a stick at you and erase everything you've ever known in
the blink of an eye?"

Hermione swallowed, picking at a groove in the table. "They'd hunt down every magical person they could find and kill them," she whispered.

"Even the smallest children," Harry replied grimly, eyes dark with memories of war. "Mundanes kill one another because their religion is different.
They kill each other because they have different coloured skin or prefer their own sex. They kill each other to make a statement or even because
they're sick of the world and they don't want to die alone."

Hermione shook her head. "And wizards aren't just as bad?" she snapped, fire in her eyes again as she stared at Harry.

"We're all human," Harry replied with a shrug. "But if I have to pick between mundanes and magical people, I'd pick the magical people. Call me a
hypocrite. Hate me if you'd like, but that's how I see the world."

"You're as bad as the Slytherins and their purity of blood nonsense!" Hermione shouted, jumping to her feet.

Harry met her furious look with a resigned one of his own. "Yes," he agreed, "I suppose I am."

Hermione let out an aggravated sound and stormed off.

Neville glanced towards where Hermione had gone and back towards Harry. Harry smiled at him. "Go after her. You're her best friend, not mine. I'll
have Lillian and Luna, but without you she'll have no one."

Neville rose and paused to chew his lip. "What you said, Harry... It made a lot of sense. But Hermione..."

"Go, Neville," Harry replied. "I knew a long time ago that this would happen. Don't worry about me."

Neville glanced at him. "You were my first friend," he whispered. "When you looked at me, even when I first bumped into you, you saw the person I
could become, not the idiot I was. Thank you for that."

Harry shot him one last smile, then turned down to his paper as Neville's footsteps walked away. "It was the least I could do," he whispered to his
quill. "You're not an idiot, Neville Longbottom; you're one of the bravest men I've ever known. Your parents would be proud; I know I am."

He banished his work to his room, then left the library to find Luna. Her mad sense was exactly what he needed.

-0-

"Are you intending to go to the dance?" Lillian asked as they worked on repotting their most recent assignment in Herbology.

"He already asked Luna," Stephen offered from Harry's other side. He, Morag, and Lisa Turpin were the only members of their year in Ravenclaw
who would talk with Harry anymore, so he often found himself partnering with one of them in various classes. At that moment, he was working with
Stephen, Lillian, and Millicent, with Morag and Tracey at the next table over with some other Slytherins. For all that Lisa spent time with Harry, she
was still mostly welcomed by the other girls in their year and often sat with them when Harry didn't require a partner.

"Why would you ask Loony when you could have asked me?" Lillian demanded, puffing herself up importantly.
"It's not fair for me to only ever dance with you, Lil," Harry replied, rolling his eyes. "And I like Luna."

"You're the only one that does," Millicent muttered.

"It's the new thing," Harry retorted. "No one likes me anymore, so everyone else around me is trying to find ways to become unpopular. Next thing
you know, they'll all be painting black around their eyes and sulking around like a cult of demented vampires."

"You are a disturbing individual," Millicent decided.

"It's part of his charm," Lillian offered, giving Harry a pitiful look. "But I've been turning down all sorts of offers just so I could go with you."

"It's not against the rules to take two dates," Stephen helpfully pointed out.

"And dance all night? Merlin, no. I'll be hanging up my feet next to my dancing shoes."

"Disturbing," Millicent commented.

"I kind of like the idea of two of us going with you, Harry."

"Now who's disturbed?" Harry muttered, rolling his eyes. "Lil, I'm not taking both you and Luna. I will dance with you at least once, but you'll have to
find a different date."

Lillian managed an impressive pout. "Come on, Harry."

Harry decided his daughter had pulled that particular expression off better than his friend and shook his head. "Not giving in to you, Lil."

Lillian sighed. She'd just have to go with a Slytherin after all.

-0-

Harry supposed things were a little hectic, what with the Tournament and Voldemort's return – and bi-weekly attacks – but he was still rather
amused by how long it took Dumbledore to call him on his change in friends. It was the first Monday of winter holidays when he got the note asking
him to drop by the Headmaster's office and he smiled at it before slipping it into a pocket. "The phoenix has come calling at last," he commented to
Luna, who sat on his right.

"If you don't return in two hours, I'll sing a fitting eulogy at your funeral," the blonde promised.

"Don't forget to mention how tall I am," he reminded her as he stood.

"Potter," Morag commented drily from across from him, "you're not that tall."

"Next to Professor Flitwick, I'm practically a giant," Harry disagreed cheerfully.

"Who's the phoenix, by the way?" Stephen asked.

"Practically my grandfather," Harry offered. "Or so he'd like to think." Then he walked off, starting the long trek to the Headmaster's office.

When he got there, Dumbledore called him in and offered him sherbet lemons and tea. Harry accepted the tea, silently tested it for the Veritaserum
he knew would be in it, then pretended to drink, absently vanishing a bit to make it look like he was actually swallowing it.

Dumbledore smiled and leaned forward. "Harry, my boy, I've been remiss in not speaking to you. How has your time at Hogwarts been so far?"

Harry had been dosed with the truth serum enough times in his long life that he had no difficulty in faking the absent stare. "It's been fine. I've made
some excellent friends and learned so much," he replied with very little inflection. "I wish Professor Snape wasn't such a git, though."

Dumbledore smiled fondly at that. "I'm glad you're enjoying your time here, my boy. Now, I've noticed that you haven't been spending time with
Miss Granger or Mr Longbottom of late."

Harry forced himself not to react to the absence of his Ravenclaw friends in the implied question. In the Headmaster's black and white world,
Gryffindor was the only House that mattered. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff was just gravy. "We had a disagreement," he replied, absently pretending
to sip more tea.

"What was your disagreement about, my boy?" Dumbledore wondered, the perfect image of a grandfather.

"Whether or not mundanes needed to die," Harry answered, absently looking around the room. "That's a cool toy."

Dumbledore stared in disbelief at the boy for a long moment, before asking, "Mundanes are muggles?"

"Mmhm."

"And... which side of the argument were you on?"

Harry turned back to the Headmaster, eyes sharp. "Why, on the opposite side from yourself, Headmaster," he said with a pleasant smile. "After
suffering through the Dursleys for ten years, did you honestly think I'd come away as a well-adjusted, merciful saviour? I spent ten years doing their
laundry, making them meals, listening to their hateful comments about me and my parents. I spent seven years bearing the marks of Dudley's
amusement, and not a single mundane ever asked if I was okay. Not a single one wondered if I was getting the love I needed at home."

"My boy–"

"Don't act like you cared," Harry hissed, leaning forward over the desk. "Don't act like you looked any closer than to see if I could still smile, could
still love. And don't mistake my fond memories of my mother as any form of fondness for those mundanes. Petunia and Mum may have been
sisters, but they were completely different people."

"Oh, Harry..." Dumbledore whispered as Harry took a breath to control himself. "Oh, my boy, I have let you down..."

"You have let a great many wizards down in your life," Harry whispered. "Your own brother, Professor Snape, Lord Voldemort... Perhaps you're too
old for this post. Perhaps you should retire and finish your life in quiet, contemplating your failings." He smiled coldly and got to his feet. "Goodbye,
Albus Dumbledore." He lifted his wand and pointed it at the old wizard's heart. "Avada Ked–"

Harry gasped and sat up in his bed, one hand held over his thundering heart. That hadn't happened. Yes, Dumbledore had called him up. Yes,
he'd tried dosing Harry with Veritaserum. Yes, he'd asked about Harry's flagging friendships. But Harry had explained it away as a fight over
something simple: Harry's friendship with Lillian. Dumbledore had been very understanding while Harry wove a complicated story about his other
friends hating Lillian and giving him an ultimatum – them or her – and him not willing to lose any of them, but his inaction lost him Hermione and
Neville and Terry and Li anyway. And Lillian had been very understanding about the whole thing and he was so glad she was his friend and Luna
too...

Dumbledore had bought it, of course. He loved stories like that, loved giving second chances.

But Harry hadn't broken his cover, no. He hadn't killed the old man, certainly!

So where had the dream come from? Voldemort? Repressed emotions? The need to kill something?

"Well, I haven't been on a raid since before the First Task," Harry reminded himself. He'd been so busy doing his homework and dealing with a
school full of teenagers who couldn't seem to decide if they liked or hated him that he hadn't been able to slip out and join Voldemort on his bi-
weekly raids. The Dark Lord had understood, and Harry hadn't thought it would be a problem, having spent his first year without leaving the
building to kill anyone. But first year hadn't been this obnoxious and he'd had ten years before then to get the killing out of his system. But now...

Harry slipped out of bed and pulled out his Cloak and time-turner, then shadowed to a mundane village he knew of. A twist of his time-turner and
he was ready to collect the souls of mundanes just going to bed. A village fire wouldn't be too much trouble to fake.

-0-

The Yule Ball was far more pleasant the second time, Harry decided. It helped that he hadn't been required to attend, and that he hadn't struggled
about whom to ask. It also helped that he knew how to dance, and didn't mind it so much. And, of course, Luna didn't have the impression that this
date meant anything beyond that they were friends.

Luna also looked lovely, far lovelier than Parvati, who sat angrily next to Ron on the other side of the room. Luna and Harry had done their formal
robe shopping together, coming dressed in similar blue-grey robes. Harry had got her an earring and necklace combo of a moon set with
sapphires, which matched the colour of her eyes almost perfectly. He'd also found her a gold hair clasp with dangling hearts and helped her put it
in her hair. Without the odd jewellery and with her hair up, she looked absolutely stunning, and Harry couldn't help the smirk that took over his lips
when he caught some of their classmates' stunned looks.

"Well, well, Loony. You clean up pretty well," Lillian commented as she and her date, a fifth year named Terrence Higgs, stopped at their table.

Terrence had gone with the clichéd Slytherin green and silver, but Lillian had pandered more towards her own looks. She'd hunted down some
beautiful bronze robes which matched her eyeliner and helped bring out the flecks of bronze in her eyes. She'd left her long black hair down, but
twisted it in some silver strands of something – Harry wasn't honestly sure what – so it rested over her right shoulder and caught the candlelight of
the hall. She'd gone with plain silver studs for her ears and worn the silver and gold lily pendant she'd received just that morning as a Christmas gift
from Harry.

"You don't look too hideous either, Moon," Luna replied, smiling a bit absently at the older girl.

Harry rolled his eyes, then motioned to the empty seats. "You look fantastic, Lil." He glanced at the Slytherin boy. "Higgs."

"Potter," Terrence replied politely enough.

Lillian smiled at her date and let him pull out a chair for her next to her friend. "So, I know you've heard that Millie and Trace both had to go home,
but you'll never guess who Morag caught!"

"Victor Krum?" Harry suggested, amused.

Lillian gently smacked his arm. "You're no fun. Isn't it exciting? I heard he asked your mudblood, Granger, but she turned him down. Can you
imagine?"

"Hermione went home for the holiday," Harry pointed out.

"I bet she's just making sure her parents aren't dead." Lillian sniffed. "Stupid mudblood. Like the Dark Lord has any interest in her parents in
particular."

"Mind if we take these seats?" a familiar voice asked from behind the open seats across the table.

Lillian immediately sneered at Terry, Li and their dates. "We don't want a bunch of mudbl–"

Harry shot her a look and her mouth snapped shut, then he looked curiously at his friends. "If you really want to sit with us, you're welcome to
them."

"Harry!" Lillian hissed.

Zacharias Smith, Li's date, sat while Li and Terry traded looks. Once those two had taken seats, Padma Patil slipped into the open seat next to
Terry.

Before anymore could be said, the three Champions entered and made their way up to the top table. Once they were seated, Dumbledore made a
show of how they should order their food and everyone set about doing it, many delighting in the ability to order whatever caught their fancy, rather
than having to ask for it to be passed down the table.

At Harry's table, orders were murmured and they ate with only the occasional mention of how nice someone looked.

Once the dancing was started, Lillian flounced off with Terrence, leaving the Ravenclaws and single Hufflepuff to 'talk like Gryffindors'. Harry
leaned forward, eyeing his friends curiously. He wasn't about to start talking, but he saw no reason to walk away, either. Padma and Zacharias sat
back, content to let the talk flow. Harry couldn't help but wonder how much the two had been able to figure out. Padma would probably have a
better idea of things than Zacharias, but the Hufflepuff had proven himself to be quite Slytherin-like in Harry's original life.

Terry and Li traded looks, then glanced back at Harry. "Harry, I'm–" Terry started.

"We are," Li insisted.

"Yeah, we. Both of us are sorry, for acting like..." Terry frowned.

"Mice fleeing in terror?" Zacharias helpfully suggested.

"Do not be a prat," Li ordered her date.

"You knowing we were going to react that way doesn't absolve us," Terry added, frowning a bit. "We've been friends since first year, back when
everything in the magical world confused me and Li only knew a little bit of English. Without you, we would have been lost."

"You'd have managed," Harry commented, shaking his head. They had, in fact, during his first life.

"Maybe so, but not as well," Li pointed out. "You have treated us, always, as your friends. Even back in second year, when we spoke so often of
Lockhart–"

"Can we not mention the peacock?" Harry requested.

Li grinned. "Even then, you were our friend. You avoided us a bit, yes, but if we really needed you, you came."

"Even that one time Li asked for your help about deciding on which robe to wear to Lockhart's first class," Terry added, smiling a bit.

"Not mentioning the peacock!"

"Although, to be fair, as soon as he realised what you were asking him for, he sort of ran out of the common room, fingers in his ears and shouting
at the top of his lungs," Padma offered.

"In Czech," Luna helpfully added.

"I'm multilingual," Harry defended, then turned to his date with an odd look. "How did you know that was Czech, anyway?"

"I asked the Bi–"

"Anyway!" Terry interrupted, knowing Luna well enough to expect her answer's uselessness. "What Li and I are trying to say is, you're our best
friend, have been all along. You've forgiven us our faults, why can't we forgive you yours?"

"Forgive his faults?" Lillian snorted, stopping behind the mundane-born. "You are disturbingly Gryffindor. Harry, they honestly consider you the one
at fault?"

"Why don't you bloody well shut up, Moon?" Terry hissed, turning to look at the Slytherin.

"Why should I, mudblood?"

Harry opened his mouth to tell them to quit it when a hissing reached him. To anyone else, it would sound like a whisper, but to a Parselmouth, it
was communication, and there was only one other Parselmouth in the world other than Harry. :I'll be calling Severus tonight. If you want to
attend – and I suggest you do so, Potter – the meeting will be shortly. Enjoy your ball.:

The others had all stopped arguing to eye Harry a bit strangely while he cocked his head to one side and frowned. Then, suddenly, he cast a silent
tempus before turning to look at the head table. The others followed his gaze and they were all watching as Snape suddenly jerked in his seat and
grabbed his left arm. Panic and fear flashed in his eyes for a brief moment before he looked as calm as ever, though he was paler than usual. The
students watched as the man hurried over to the Headmaster before leaving the Hall.

"Hmm..." Harry rubbed at his chin. So, Snape was definitely still working for Dumbledore at the moment, not that there was ever any doubt. By his
fearful look, he probably thought he would be killed that night. Unmindful of his friends, Harry silently cast the Parsel communication spell and
murmured, :Snape is on his way. If we let him go tonight, let me know the moment he leaves. I'd like to know what he says to Dumbledore
afterwards.:

"You're a Parselmouth!" Lillian realised, eyes wide.

Harry narrowed his eyes at the students on the other side of the table. The three Ravenclaws and Zacharias had all gone pale. Lillian looked
shocked, while Terrence looked almost greedy. "Funny you mentioned Czech earlier, Luna," he said, wand in one hand under the table, "as I
happen to know of this wonderful Czech spell for keeping secrets. It goes something like jen pamatovat, nikdy mluvit."

Harry sat back, a faint smirk on his lips as the six on the other side of the table all tried to talk about him being a Parselmouth, only to find
themselves incapable. While they were having a minor panic attack – which Harry felt a little bad for, really, but he didn't need Dumbledore getting
suspicious about his unusual gift – Voldemort's voice drifted back to him. :Are you incapable of going back yourself once you know for sure?:

Harry's – or more likely Xerosis' – voice commented from near Voldemort, :You're an idiot. Everyone knows you can only have two versions
of a time-turner in existence at any given time.:
:Shut up, Potter!: Voldemort snarled. :You attacked the Ministry and you didn't think to grab a second time-turner?:

:And do what with it? I'd have to switch time-turners in between uses. Do you know how utterly obnoxious that would be? I'd probably–
Ah. Snape just apparated in downstairs. Harry, the meeting will take approximately an hour. I'll have the red-eyed git let you know
exactly when Snape is off.:

:Don't refer to me as a git, Potter!:

:Oh, and obliviate Higgs, won't you? He's not worth the security risk.:

Harry shrugged to himself and absently shot an obliviate at the older Slytherin, commenting, "I have more faults than I think you could forgive,
Terry. I once asked you if you'd feel sad if your brother died, and you told me you would. I wouldn't. In fact, I'd happily wring his neck." He stood,
hand held out to Luna. "When you can forgive me for that, we'll have this talk again. Come on, Luna, this is my favourite song."

Luna smiled a bit absently and allowed Harry to lead her out to the dance floor. After a moment, she asked, "When are you leaving me for your
meeting?"

Harry smiled at her fondly. "Approximately an hour."

"I have to share you with Moon, though, don't I?" She looked up at him with sad eyes.

Harry chuckled and kissed her cheek. "I do so adore you, Luna."

Luna's eyes lit up. "Does that mean I'm your favourite?"

"Like there was ever a doubt. Don't worry, Luna, I'll never have anyone I'm more fond of then you."

Luna's smile turned a little odd. "You shouldn't make promises you cannot keep, Harry."

Harry frowned and shook his head. "Don't be silly."

"I wonder," Luna commented, "whether it was Ginny Weasley you loved, or the monster who lived silent within her."

Harry stopped, watching the girl with wide eyes. "What do you–?"

Luna's smile was back to its usual absent self. "If you don't want to dance, you should get me some punch. It's only polite."

Harry stared at her for a moment, then sighed. "Sometimes, my dear, you are distinctly unsettling."

"Thank you, my Lord."

He shook his head and took up her arm again. "One more song, and then I'll get you two cups of punch. Agreed?"

"Of course." Luna smiled at him as he started around the dance floor again.

One day, perhaps, he would understand his best friend. But not today.

-0-

Xerosis was leaning against the far wall, hiding in the shadows, when Snape finally walked in. The man walked quickly up to Voldemort and knelt,
not even sparing a glance for the second chair. Voldemort didn't look up from the report he was reading about the most recent raid. Xerosis made
a mental note to steal the parchment later, since the Prophet never reported everything that had happened, and he was tired of getting shoddy
news.

"Severus, I've had some very...disturbing news about you," Voldemort finally said, glancing up from his parchment.

Snape remained motionless, but Xerosis thought he caught a faint gulp.

"Xerosis," the Dark Lord called, glancing up at the shadowed corner, "your chair grows cold."

"Hm, I suppose it does," the boy agreed, stepped smoothly from his hiding place and taking his usual seat. "So this is your double agent."

Snape glanced up through his hair and tensed as he saw the apparent vampire, who bore a striking resemblance to James Potter, with his short
hair and the shape of his face, but his eyes were far lighter than James' had been. Harry Potter had slightly longer hair and his eyes had never
been quite as creepy as the child sitting next to the Dark Lord, though they appeared to be around the same age.

"Yes." Voldemort's lipless mouth curled with a cold smile. "Ah, of course. Severus, this is Lord Xerosis, my partner. I don't think you will have heard
of him."

"That is rather obnoxious, you know," the boy commented. "I spent so much time wrecking the Ministry and making that new statue and what does
the magical world think of me?"

Voldemort shot the teen an amused look. "That you're my latest conquest?"

"No offense, Voldemort, but ew."

The Dark Lord snorted.

Xerosis leaned forward quickly, causing Snape to jerk back in surprise. The boy smiled widely at him, flashing fake fangs, then said, "Hello, little
spy. I've heard all sorts of stories about you and your misdeeds. Your crush on Evans. Your long-time rivalry with James Potter and the life debt
you once owed him, but now owe his son." He tapped his chin. "You owe Harry Potter a life debt. How are you at all useful?"
Snape turned to Voldemort. "Please, my Lord, I am in Dumbledore's employ! The old man trusts me! I... I'm part of his Order!"

"Crucio," Voldemort cast, then turned to his partner while Snape writhed. "Your appearance is disturbing my minions."

"I'll work harder on growing up," Xerosis replied, rolling his eyes.

"See that you do." Voldemort removed his curse and considered his Death Eater while the man gasped and regained his kneeling position.
"Severus, I will forgive your slip this time, but don't forget the next time that when Lord Xerosis is in attendance, you will address him as you would
myself."

"Apologies, my Lords," Snape gasped.

"Being part of the Order could be useful, I suppose," Xerosis commented, "but only if he doesn't leave anything out of his reports."

Voldemort glanced at him. "Do you have a way to ensure he's telling the truth? Preferably one that leaves him capable of continuing to be useful."

"Take all the fun out of my life why don't you," Xerosis griped before snorting. "I have a few things up my sleeves."

Voldemort glanced back at his minion, who was watching them both with fear in his eyes. "Severus, here's your first chance: I want to know
everything that Dumbledore has planned since I announced my return."

"I want to know how long Dumbledore has suspected you've been back. And did our spy tell him."

Snape looked between them, then nodded and quickly explained the actions that Dumbledore had taken so far, including recruiting numbers. He
explained the arguments that Dumbledore had been having with Fudge about how they would handle Voldemort's return. As it was, the Ministry
and the Order were utter crap at working together. (Things were getting a little better since Tonks had just graduated auror training and was a
member of the Order. The Weasleys had also joined – they hadn't during the first war due to having so many small children around the house –
which gave the Order at least two Ministry personnel.)

It turned out that Dumbledore had guessed about Voldemort's return almost as soon as Quirrell had disappeared. When the professor had just up
and left, Dumbledore had checked on the Stone and, finding it missing, went to find Snape. The old man had been in the room the moment
Snape's mark had turned black to announce Voldemort's return to life. Dumbledore had only been able to gather a small group of the 'old crowd'
without any solid proof, but they'd been making plans for years, for all that they'd been such a small number.

When Snape hadn't been called after two years, the Order had started falling apart again, insisting it was just a false alarm. That none of the Death
Eaters in Azkaban had been freed was also a point against Voldemort's return. Dumbledore had tried to argue against the Tournament, but his
claims of it attracting trouble had fallen on deaf ears.

When the unveiling had occurred on Hallowe'en, no one had been ready for it, not even the Order, although they'd started recruiting early the next
morning and the older members had all reported to Dumbledore as soon as the news got out about the attack. However, without Snape spying,
they were unable to figure out when or where Voldemort might attack. It didn't help that the Dark Lord had done a fair bit of attacking magical
people last time, but this time he was focussing more on the mundanes, which was way harder to predict.

The two Dark Lords considered Snape's words while the man stayed still on the ground before them.

"You loved Lily," Xerosis murmured, "and you were once friends with her. Why did you ask for her safety?"

"My Lord–" Snape started.

"And Snape, don't give me any bollocks about how much you loved her. She might have forgiven you for putting her family on the line, but how did
you expect her her to forgive you for saving her, while her family died?"

Voldemort sat back with a faint frown, not sure he understood the point of his partner's question, but willing to let the teen do as he pleased.
Xerosis knew far more about Severus' motivations than he did.

Snape swallowed and looked down at the ground. After a long moment, he said, "Perhaps she would never have forgiven me, but at least she'd
still be alive. She was... an amazing woman, able to charm everyone around her, even the purebloods who snubbed their nose at her dirty blood. I
thought, maybe... maybe she could end the war, one way or another. Without Potter and his spawn, she could focus on finding a way to end
things."

Xerosis glanced for a moment at Voldemort, who was sneering at the words of his minion, then glanced back at Snape. "You would have taken
away her reason for fighting," he commented and Snape flinched.

:Potter, I grow tired of this,: Voldemort warned and Snape flinched again at the sound of the snake-tongue.

Xerosis waved a hand at him. :Yes, I know, your whole 'love is a weakness' shtick. Well, you can continue ignoring it, but if you want
Snape back, you'll have to use love against him. You be silent and I'll handle him.:

Below them, Snape had tensed, his wide eyes disbelieving. This creature, this second Dark Lord with a child's body, was a Parselmouth? No
wonder the Dark Lord was letting him play second leader.

Voldemort hissed wordlessly, displeased, but motioned for Xerosis to continue.

The teen smiled faintly. "Perhaps you weren't too far off the mark, Snape, as Lily's sacrifice is what ended the war. Not permanently, no, but it did
bring it to a momentary end. If Voldemort–" Snape flinched again. "–hadn't offered to let her live, Harry Potter would have never survived that
curse." Xerosis paused and blinked in thought. "Does that mean you were truly the one to bring a holiday to the war, then?"

"Xerosis," Voldemort growled.

The teen smiled at him. "You're fun." Then he looked back at Snape, who was once again frozen in disbelief. "Snape, here's what you can do:
When you report to Dumbledore tonight, tell him about me – you can even tell him about my being a Parselmouth and my disturbingly similar
appearance to James Potter – and you can tell him about our inquiries into the doings of the Order. Leave all mention of Lily in your mind. Think
about things, certainly, but don't mention her."

Snape swallowed and whispered, "Was that all, my Lords?"

Voldemort glanced at Xerosis, who smirked knowingly, then sneered down at his minion. "Not quite. Crucio."

After a long round of Cruciatus, Voldemort finally let his spy go, then sent Harry a message letting him know Snape had left. Once that was taken
care of, he turned to the apparent vampire next to him and scowled. "Leave out all mentions of love next time, Potter."

Xerosis chuckled. "You're fun."

"Potter!"

The teen turned sideways in his chair and hooked his legs over one arm. "Snape did – will do – as ordered. Gibbering a bit, but he does act well. If
nothing else, the overuse of the Cruciatus has assured Dumbledore that you're still mad as a hatter, even if he's confused by why you'd share
power. He probably thinks I'm the sane one of the operation, if nothing else."

Voldemort snorted. "You're not sane."

"Yes, thank you." Xerosis rolled his eyes. "But I speak the Language of Love, which Dumbledore believes whole-heartedly in, so he'll see me as
the real threat of the two of us."

"I might just throw up," Voldemort grumbled, then glanced thoughtfully at the teen, who was chuckling. "I will admit that, if not for you, we wouldn't
be doing half as well."

"Hm. No, you wouldn't be," Xerosis agreed with the wisdom of someone who'd lived through this war once before. "But as awesome as I am, I still
don't know what to do about Snape. Given, I've never much liked the man, though I did name a kid for him–"

"I think my mind just imploded."

"Shut up."

Voldemort snorted and relaxed back in his chair. "How do you intend to keep an eye on his actions?"

Xerosis sighed. "It will take some work, but once I've managed to figure out when and where the Order meetings are, I can easily slip inside and
attend them. The only real problem, I think, will be if Dumbledore does as he did last time and puts the building under Fidelius. On one hand, that
could wreck everything. On the other hand, being who I am to him and his organization, I might well be invited in."

Voldemort nodded, looking thoughtful. "You're supposedly the only one who can defeat me. In your last life, you and I often faced each other, isn't
that right?"

"Mm-hm."

"Then we shall have to contrive a meeting to assure Dumbledore that you're still on his side. He'll almost certainly allow you into his meetings
then."

"Or, at the very least, his meeting place," Xerosis agreed. "January fourteenth is the first Hogsmeade visit of the new term. Perhaps it's a bit
clichéd, but an attack on the students would properly assure Dumbledore that you're still the same, insane Voldemort as thirteen years ago.
Without Xerosis there, it can be assumed that you – or some of your Death Eaters – got tired of only attacking mundanes and needed to take out
some mudbloods."

"Again, assuring him you are the sane one." Voldemort rolled his eyes. "How does focussing on muggles make you the sane one, anyway?"

"Clearly I'm not as sane as he is, but I'm more sane than you," Xerosis commented drily. "Attacking the mundanes makes us more unpredictable,
for one thing, and it keeps us from needlessly cutting down our own numbers. It's sensible as an attack strategy, not necessarily as an actual
mindset."

"True. You're a Ravenclaw, how would me attacking Hogsmeade get you to act?"

"What, like I don't have friends?"

"Potter, keep your emotions to yourself."

Xerosis let out a loud laugh and had to grab the back of his chair to keep from falling to the floor.

Voldemort sneered. "I swore to leave your little friends alone."

Xerosis cocked his head to one side. "Actually, technically, I think you only swore not to kill them."

The Dark Lord shot him a curious look. "What's this, Harry Potter allowing me to torment his friends a bit? Have they finally irritated you with their
love of muggles?"

"Tom, do me a favour and shut up," Xerosis muttered, sneering. "I'm saying you can torment them a little because two of them are mudbloods and
it makes sense you'd target them. Also, it would get a plausible response from even a Ravenclaw, especially the sort of Ravenclaw that I appear to
be with friends from three different Houses and two different years."

"It is disturbingly Gryffindor of you," Voldemort agreed, amused.

Xerosis just sort of stared at him for a long moment while Voldemort smirked. Finally, the teen said, "They're only fourteen and fifteen, however, so
do try to be gentle with them. Well, as gentle as you ever get, I suppose."
Voldemort snorted. "I don't know what your mudbloods look like."

"What, you're not a mind-reader?"

"Potter, don't play muggle, it's beneath you."

Xerosis rolled his eyes and conjured a picture of his friends. As he named each of them, the picture zoomed in on them. "Terry Boot, Ravenclaw,
mudblood. His mundane brother is abusive. Hermione Granger, Gryffindor, mudblood. Her parents are dentists and, for all that she was tormented
in school for her intellect, she has a hard time seeing the evil in people, though she does seem to understand it exists. Li Su, Ravenclaw, half-
blood. Her mother was killed in a mundane revolt in China before she and her father moved here. Neville Longbottom, Gryffindor, pureblood. He's
the other child of prophecy and is actually surprisingly willing to support me in my hatred of mundanes. Luna Lovegood, Ravenclaw, pureblood. Her
father runs the Quibbler and she knows what I am. Lillian Moon, Slytherin, pureblood. You've already met her."

"You told one of your friends about your dementor abilities?"

Xerosis smiled wryly. "She sort of figured it out herself." When Voldemort shot him a disbelieving look, the teen shrugged. "You'd have to meet her.
Luna's an odd duck, but she's also my best friend. On that note, you should probably make as much a point about attacking her as you do
Hermione and Terry. She won't mind."

"It makes an odd sort of sense that your 'best friend' would be as mad as you are."

"Almost as much sense as counting the man who tried to kill you when you were one among your friends."

"...Potter, keep your emotions–"

"–To myself, yes, I know." Xerosis waved a hand at the Dark Lord.

Voldemort scowled. "Anyone else I should specifically target?"

"Well, I'm technically on the outs with everyone but Luna and Lillian... Attacking Neville's good for posterity, I suppose."

"Other child of the prophecy, of course." Voldemort nodded and considered the picture a bit more, then waved his wand to disperse it. "The
fourteenth?"

"Yes." Xerosis grimaced a bit. "Try and only bring Death Eaters who can behave, please? Not Bella, certainly."

Voldemort snorted. "I wouldn't bring Bella near children unless I intended for a couple of them to die. What time should all of your... friends be in
Hogsmeade?"

"We usually lunch at the Three Broomsticks around one, assuming we can find a table. Whether everyone will stick to that when they're not talking
to me, I can't be sure, but they'll definitely be in the village by then. We're all fourth years, so no one should see any point in staying behind, and if
someone looks like they will, I'll find a way to get them there."

"I'll plan to attack a little before one, then. Pick your mudbloods, Longbottom, and Lovegood out of the crowd, Crucio them a bit, then face off with
you?"

Xerosis nodded, looking thoughtful. "Might as well grab Li with Terry, since they tend to stick together. I can probably get Luna to leave me for
Terry and Li just before one, to make it easier to get to her. Knowing how most magical people react to your presence, there will probably be a
stampede, which should give me a reason to come to the rescue a little belatedly." He grimaced a bit, feeling bad for knowingly causing his friends
harm, but it needed to be done. "I will attempt to get them all in a general area to make attacking them easier, but I make no promises."

Voldemort shrugged. "I can direct the Death Eaters to bring them to me."

"Just make sure you bring Death Eaters that can think for themselves," Xerosis grumbled.

The Dark Lord shot him an amused look.

"Assuming you even have any," the teen added, flashing a smile at Voldemort.

Voldemort snorted. "Potter, go back to school."

Xerosis chuckled and slipped from his chair and into the nearest shadow to return to Hogwarts.

-0-

"We are not eating with them," Lillian hissed as soon as Luna was off on Harry's task to hunt down his other Ravenclaw friends with an offer of
lunch.

"We always eat together," Harry pointed out a bit absently as he checked the pocket watch his Slytherin friend had given him for Christmas.

"Yeah, before they got all protective about the muggles."

"Potter, if you want to eat with your mudbloods, we'll happily leave you to it," Morag cut in, rolling her eyes.

"There's nothing saying we have to eat with them," Tracey agreed.

Lillian grimaced a bit, then glanced at Harry and rolled her eyes. "Merlin, Harry! What is it with you and that watch!"

Harry held a finger to his lips and leaned back against a nearby wall. He slipped the watch into his robe pocket as the screams began. "Feel free to
start running for the school," he offered. "I doubt you'll want to stick around."
"What's going on?" Lillian demanded as people who had been calmly milling about started running every which way.

"Hm? Oh, the Dark Lord is paying a visit." Harry flashed the three girls a sharp smile.

"The Dark Lor–?" Morag started before she caught sight of the pale-skinned man with insane red eyes. "Merlin!"

"Why is he–?"

Voldemort started laughing and Harry's over-sensitive ears caught the sound of Luna and Hermione screaming. "That's my cue," he said, pushing
himself off the wall and pulling out his phoenix wand. "I'll see you back at the school."

"You–" Lillian grabbed Harry's arm even as her friends all turned back towards the school. "Did you plan this with him, or–"

Harry leaned forward, getting in Lillian's face, bright green eyes intent. "I'll see you back at the school, Lillian."

Lillian let out a gasp and stumbled backwards. Shooting one last disbelieving look at him, she turned and fled, joining in the crowd of other students
fleeing towards the school.

And then, loud and shrill above the crowd, Luna screamed, "Harry!"

Harry swallowed his pain at letting his friends be tortured, then set his shoulders and put on a concerned face. "Luna?" he called back, jumping into
the crowds and pushing against them.

"Harry!" Luna screamed again, and her voice was accompanied by Hermione and Neville.

Voldemort laughed, and the fleeing people let out sounds of terror and doubled their attempts to flee. "Oh, you fool, fool children," he said. "Calling
for your saviour."

"No!" Harry shouted, doubling his efforts against the crowd. "Let them go, you monster!" But who was the monster? The one casting the spell, or
the one that had allowed him to?

Deep inside him, a small boy cried out for the friends he'd pointed out to the Dark Lord. The friends he'd told the man he could torture.

The next few moments, as Harry fought against the crowd and his friends screamed seemed like one long, terrible blur. And then, finally, he broke
through and he found himself standing just behind his three friends as Voldemort ended his current round of Cruciatus. Harry briefly wondered
about where Terry and Li were, but then he was dashing forward and getting between his friends and the Dark Lord before the man could cast
again.

"Let them go!" he shouted. "I'm here, now let them go!"

Voldemort smiled cruelly. "Brave little Potter," he murmured, "ready to sacrifice everything for a mudblood and some blood traitors. How far the
name 'Potter' has fallen."

"Fallen?" Harry demanded, losing himself in the Gryffindor he'd long ago buried. "I'd say it's risen, first by your defeat at the hand of an infant, and
now with me standing against you. You're an abomination, Voldemort! An abomination of all things magical, with your hate of the very thing you
are!"

Fury roared in red eyes, announcing to all in attendance that Harry had hit a nerve. "Crucio!" the Dark Lord snarled.

Harry bit his lip against the pain, refusing to scream. Refusing to give anyone, not even Voldemort, that much power over him.

Green and red duelled as the pain curse was ended. And then, as if by some silent signal, Harry was rolling away and reaching for his wand at the
same time as the Dark Lord shot a Killing Curse which went wide, missing Harry's helpless friends as much as it missed the green-eyed teen.

Harry tossed a shield spell over each of his friends, dodging the Dark curses Voldemort shot at him. Adrenaline brought a grin to Harry's lips as he
ducked another curse and finally returned his own spell. He didn't remember having this much fun in a duel since...

...since the Final Battle, all those decades ago.

Voldemort tossed Dark curse after Dark curse, usually aiming for Harry, but sometimes he'd turn on one of Harry's shuddering friends and the teen
would be forced to stop dodging and come to their rescue, occasionally with a summoning charm, but usually with another shield spell. When he
wasn't protecting his friends, Harry was casting the lighter spells he knew, trying to keep them to those learned in fifth year and below, considering
that a Ravenclaw might very well go searching for harder spells.

And then, a new player emerged and Voldemort found himself faced with Albus Dumbledore, resplendent in bright orange robes. Harry's eyes
followed the old man's wand for a moment, hungry, before he forced himself to turn away and run to his friends. "Hermione! Neville! Luna!"

Hermione and Neville had crawled or been summoned closer and were leaning against each other, quietly crying. Luna curled on her side near
them, offering Harry a strained smile.

It took Harry a moment to decide between the Gryffindors and his best friend before he was kneeling at Luna's side and gently lifting her head into
his lap. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

One shaking hand with a radish ring gripped his. "It was my choice," she replied before coughing.

Harry snapped his wand in a too-familiar healing spell and relaxed when he found nothing but the expected damage from Cruciatus exposure.
Voldemort hadn't over-done it on Luna, at least. "Can you move?" he asked, running a gentle hand through her hair.

Luna smiled. "Not like you can," she offered.

Harry's lips twitched with a small smile and he leaned down to whisper into her ear, "After a while, you start to develop a resistance to the
Cruciatus."

Luna let out a half-wheeze, half-laugh and let Harry help her to her feet. He supported her as they stumbled over to Hermione and Neville.

After casting the medical scan again and assuring himself the Gryffindors were fine, Harry slumped a bit, his adrenaline gone with his relief. He
may have some resistance to the Cruciatus, true, but no one cast the pain curse quite like Voldemort; it had taken a lot out of him.

Hermione reached forward and touched one of the burns on Harry's arm that had slipped past his defence. He winced slightly and she bit her lower
lip between shaking teeth. "Oh, Harry..." she whispered.

"I'm okay," Harry assured her.

Hermione let out a strangled sound and half-fell forward against his chest, shaking arms wrapping around his waist. She shook with sobs and the
after-effects of the Cruciatus and Harry gently wrapped his arms back around her shoulders, quietly shushing her. Luna leaned against him, eyes
slipping shut with exhaustion. Neville met Harry's gaze for a long moment, deep pain in his dark eyes, and Harry reached out one hand for the
pureblood to take and squeezed his hand when he did.

Cracks of apparation let them know that the Death Eaters and Voldemort were all gone, and shortly after that someone – McGonagall, Harry
recognised through his exhaustion – conjured a large stretcher for all of them and ferried them up to the castle together while Dumbledore, Moody,
Flitwick, and Sprout remained to help with the villagers and distract the people away from the four students.

Harry forced himself to remain awake long enough to ensure that Madam Pomfrey had a stock of potion for the Cruciatus and take his dose. Then
he let himself slip into blissful sleep, even as he was being separated from his friends and ferried to a bed.

-0-

"You could have been killed!" Lillian hissed.

Harry tiredly rubbed at his forehead. "I did what I had to do."

"But fighting the Dark Lord? You're fourteen!"

"He was torturing my friends! If that was you under his wand, would you prefer I save myself?" Harry snapped, already done with the argument.
Lillian knew he had had some sort of part in planning of the attack, but that didn't keep her from yelling at him about it. And he understood, honest
he did, but she didn't honestly think he would have got himself into something he couldn't get himself back out of, did she?

"I'd have expected you to do the Slytherin thing and save your own bloody arse! You stupid, idiot–!" Her shouts broke off with a sob and she
covered her face with her hands.

Harry sighed. Sometimes, Lillian was so much more mature than his other friends that he completely forgot that she was only fifteen. He reached
out his hand and touched the side of her face. "Lil, I'm sorry," he whispered and quickly found his arms full of Slytherin girl. He hugged her gently,
absently noting that her hair was a mess and there was a blot of ink on one sleeve. He really must have worried her, for her to have lost her usual
care for her appearance.

Finally, the girl pulled away, dragging a sleeve across her eyes to hide the evidence of her crying. "Stupid half-blood," she muttered.

Harry smiled and pulled a tissue out of the box next to his bed. "Silly pureblood, not trusting me," he replied quietly as he leaned forward to wipe
away the liquid she'd missed. "I'm not suicidal, Lil."

She huffed at him a bit. "You went rushing in like some sort of reckless Gryffindor, fighting the Dark Lord like you thought you had a chance."

Harry smiled knowingly even as Hermione, two beds down, couldn't hold her tongue any longer and snapped, "Someone has to fight that monster!"

Lillian's eyes darkened with anger and she leaned around Harry to snap, "You're only saying that because you're a mudblood! Maybe we would
have been better off–!"

"Lillian," Harry said quietly, steel in his voice.

The Slytherin's mouth snapped shut and she turned away, flushing an angry red.

Hermione's eyes lit with victory and, the next bed over, Neville sighed before commenting, "Hermione, give it a rest. Please?"

"But, Neville–!"

Neville frowned at her, then glanced past her to where Harry was quietly murmuring to Lillian. Luna watched him with wide, innocent eyes that
knew too much. "Hermione, think. V-Vol..." He swallowed and shook his head. "You Know Who is cruel and vicious. He doesn't leave opponents
alive unless it benefits him in some way."

Hermione blinked. "So?"

"We're still alive," the boy said, eyes flickering to Luna's again. He shuddered as a smile curled her pale lips.

Hermione blinked again, then her eyes widened in understanding. "Why would Voldemort leave us alive? I'm muggleborn and you're from a family
that's always fought against him. So why would he–?"

The girl fell silent as a silencing barrier fell over their little corner of beds and the two Gryffindors turned to where Harry was watching them, wand
twirling in one hand while the other held his chin. Lillian sat beside him in her visitor's chair, watching them defiantly.

Luna helpfully offered, "You thought it would be Hermione who caught on faster."

"Hm. So I did," Harry agreed, absently reaching into his pile of personal effects and pulling out a sickle, which he flipped to Luna. "Sorry, Neville."
Neville shook his head, hand buried in his sheets as it shook with the memories of the Cruciatus. "You want the muggles dead, same as Him," he
said, meeting Harry's eyes in spite of his fear.

Harry's eyes were sad even as his face remained blank. "Yes," he agreed.

"And muggleborns?" Hermione demanded, one hand grasping for her wand.

"That, Voldemort and I do not agree on," Harry replied evenly, apparently not noticing Lillian's violent twitch at the Dark Lord's name. "Hermione, if
you point your wand at me, I will curse you," he added as the girl's fingers closed around the vine wood handle.

Hermione's shoulders tensed, but she left her wand turned slightly to one side, still gripped in one hand.

"You've... you've spoken to Him, then," Neville decided, swallowing with difficulty. He wished his own wand was in his hand, but it lay just out of his
reach on the table behind him.

Harry considered them for a moment, then inclined his head. "Yes."

"And that attack...?"

Harry's eyes closed, briefly, in regret. "I'm sorry for that," he allowed. "I... never wanted you hurt. Any of you." His green eyes flickered over his
three friends while the hand holding his wand touched Lillian's hand, silently including her. "But our choices were few."

Hermione's eyes filled with tears. "You asked him to torture us?"

"No."

"Then what? You mentioned your friends in conversation and the two of you just thought it might be fun to have us tortured for your amusement?"

"Do not think, for one moment, that I got any amusement out of that," Harry spat, eyes flashing with fury as the temperature around them dropped.
"Don't think me so heartless–"

"What do you expect us to think?" Hermione demanded. "You go around hating muggles and talking to Voldemort about attacking Hogsmeade and
torturing us–"

"You have no idea what mundanes are capable of!" Harry shouted. "You can't even begin to imagine what those... those monsters are capable of!"

"And you can?"

"He doesn't have to imagine," Luna quietly cut in, shivering absently in the cold. "Harry, it's a bit chilly in here."

Harry breathed in a sharp breath and closed his eyes, forcing his power back. "Sorry," he whispered, silently casting a blanket warming charm for
the others.

Luna smiled at him and snuggled down in her covers.

"What did Loony mean?" Lillian asked while the Gryffindors were still busy processing the youngest witch's comment.

Harry shot his best friend an irritated look and she blinked innocently at him before commenting, "They have the right to know."

"Know what?" Hermione asked, drawing her blankets closer around her. "What aren't you telling us, Harry?"

Harry's eyes flickered to Hermione and Neville, then to Lillian, sitting at his back with a thunderous expression. With a sigh, he leaned back against
his pillows. "This is my second life, a second chance, really. The first time, I fought Voldemort and won and became an auror and had a family and
everything. It was..." He smiled faintly, pain dark in his eyes. "When we were almost seventy, the mundane Prime Minister who had just been voted
in was the sort of man who hated magic. He lashed out, telling the rest of the world about us during a worldwide broadcast.

"We never stood a chance. Once the mundanes knew about us, they did everything they could to destroy us. They attacked anyone even
suspected of having magic, even children." Harry closed his eyes against the horror in their eyes. "They hunted us down like animals until only a
handful remained, running through dying forests and struggling to survive for even another hour."

"You..." Neville breathed.

Harry chuckled bitterly. "I was killed with a shotgun," he offered, glancing at Hermione, the only one who would truly understand his words, "like
some sort of game they'd been hunting. When I got to Purgatory, I was given a choice: Live, or die and go to hell for my crimes. I chose to live, to
change the world. To kill the mundanes before they could kill us."

Hermione looked away from those bitter, too-old eyes. She looked down at her wand, remembering how happy she'd been to join this world.
Remembering how amazing it had felt to know that there was another world she could explore, more things to learn, wonders to see.

"At that party," Lillian murmured, breaking the heavy silence, "when you were disguised as a vampire, you said... You said you were, ninety..."

"I'm ninety-eight, counting both of my lives together," he murmured. "I restarted this life the moment my father died. My first memory is of my mum
telling me goodbye." His jaw clenched. "She was mundane-born, same as you, Hermione. Same as Terry."

"The muggleborns were as much a victim as the purebloods," Neville murmured, feeling sick to his stomach. His friend had lived through so much,
and still he fought.

'I knew a long time ago that this would happen,' Harry had said back in the library those many months ago, after Hermione had stormed off.

"Why did you befriend us on the train?" Neville wanted to know. Needed to know. "Why didn't you just walk away?"
Harry considered him, head cocked to one side. "Why? Because you were my friends. Because, once upon a time, when the world was falling
apart around my ears, I had five best friends who stood beside me, three of whom are in this room. And because I'm a selfish old man."

Hermione looked up at the boy she'd turned her back on because he saw a different world from her, because he'd looked beyond the happy stone
walls protecting them and seen a threat. Harry had never been anything but kind to her, and she had hated him because he saw the world
differently from her. She was no better than Lillian and her fellow purebloods, seeing only the surface, not bothering to look beneath. Not bothering
to wonder what terrible things must have turned her friend into a muggle-hater.

Hermione burst into tears, hating herself.

The others were silent for a moment, shocked, and then Harry was scrambling from his bed and over to her, gently pulling her into a hug. "Shush,
Hermione. It's okay..."

"I-I'm s-so-sorry," Hermione sobbed, burying her face in the stiff hospital robes.

"I know," Harry whispered, laying a gentle kiss against her bushy hair. "I've already forgiven you." He smiled. "I could hardly blame you for being
yourself, now could I?"

Hermione just held him tighter, silently swearing to herself that she would stand by Harry no matter what. Because he was her friend and he cared
for her in spite of her faults. Because he had never stopped being her friend, no matter how much she scorned him. She could never repay him for
that, but she could try.

-0-

Following the Hogsmeade attack, Harry suddenly found himself being the centre of attention everywhere. In his classes and the hallways, he found
people hopefully looking to him, expecting him to save them. Inside, he sneered at them and how pathetic they were, but outwardly he smiled
uncertainly at them and hid behind his friends when he could.

He also found that, after telling his friends the truth, Neville, Hermione, and Lillian were closer to him than ever. The three of them had even come
to a silent agreement to leave their arguments behind them and made a point of keeping wide-eyed students from mobbing him in the hallways or
awkwardly questioning him in classes.

The other good thing to come from the Hogsmeade attack was Sirius' insistence that Harry be allowed to stay at the Order Headquarters that
summer while the wards around his and Sirius' cottage were upgraded by a well-paid goblin team. The new wards would keep anyone Sirius or
Harry didn't officially welcome onto the property out. That meant no more stalking from Barty, but Harry could deal with that. (He'd just have to stalk
his favourite Death Eater at Malfoy Manor, instead.)

But once summer started, Harry would finally be able to watch Snape at the the Order meetings and they could decide where he stood. Harry
might have to manipulate him more, but that wouldn't be too hard. In fact, it might even be fun.

As the end of the year finally drew to a close, the TriWizard Tournament ended, with Krum coming out with the Cup first, expression victorious.
Cedric reached the centre second, putting Hogwarts in second place and making Beauxbatons the last, much to their disgust.

Finally, the students were climbing onto the train, laughing and giggling about their summer plans.

Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Luna settled in their usual compartment, Luna sitting on the ground at Harry's feet. Hermione was curiously asking if
the position was comfortable when the door opened to show a nervous Li and Terry.

"May we... join you?" Terry asked.

"You may," Harry agreed, "if you want to."

Terry met his unflinching gaze and nodded. "Yeah."

Everyone shuffled a bit to accommodate their additions. Conversation picked right back up, Luna politely asking Hermione, "Would you like to try
it? I find it's most soothing."

Hermione considered that for a moment, then shook her head. "I'm not quite as small as you, Luna."

"Suit yourself," Luna replied, leaning back against Harry's legs and smiling when a hand carded gently through her hair.

They had been travelling for a good two hours when Terry finally cleared his throat and Harry glanced at him from over his Quibbler. "I..." Terry
shook his head. "A, uhm, a gay couple moved in down the street from us just after Christmastime. My brother... Well, he's being... difficult."

Harry narrowed his eyes. "He's attacking them?"

"Verbally," Terry agreed quietly. "One of them's kind of big, Mum was saying, so he's not about to go trading blows with them, but he's been really
rude. Mum tried to get him to stop, and when he wouldn't, she kicked him out of the house." He slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a slip
of paper, which he handed over to Harry.

Harry raised an eyebrow at the contents. "An address?"

Terry licked his lips. "My brother's. I..."

Harry smiled knowingly. "It's different when it's other people who are being attacked."

Terry looked away, which was as good an agreement as anything.

Harry leaned forward, lips curled with a sharp smile. "Terry, if I go to visit your brother, you'll never see him again."

Terry took a deep breath, then looked up at Harry, scared but determined. "Good," he whispered.
Harry gently reached up and patted Terry's cheek before sitting back and slipping the paper into a pocket. "As long as you understand that," he
offered, picking his magazine back up.

There was a long silence, and then Hermione said, "Just... make sure he suffers a bit."

Green eyes smirked at her from behind the Quibbler. "Don't worry, Hermione, he'll get what's coming to him."

Terry shuddered minutely, but there was a faint smile tugging at his lips.

Harry smiled back at his article. At the beginning of the year, he didn't think he'd have any friends left, and here he sat, with those same people
from the start of the year. Maybe things were a little more strained, but they were still there.

Harry hadn't lost anything, after all.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: Aaaaand... another rushed second half. *sigh* Oh well. Forgive me?

I never intended for Hermione and Neville to find out the truth, and certainly never Lillian. That part just sort of wrote itself. (On the other hand, it's
the only part of this chapter that didn't give me fits, so...)
Further debate about Harry sort of handing them over to Voldemort was ignored for the moment. It may come up again in future, may not. Haven't
decided yet. XD

Kudos to Mari23 (FFN) for catching a boo-boo in the Czech spell.

READ ME: So, I'm having a bit of trouble with chapter six, mostly because I'm a bit burned out on writing this fic. I'm planning to take a little break
and then come back to it after a couple weeks or so. So, you lot have a choice – and I bet I know your choice, but I thought I'd let you decide: I've
got ten thousand words written, which is my minimum for a chapter, so I can clean it up a bit and put it up next week, or you lot can wait a couple of
weeks for the whole chapter all at once.
Messages demanding I update without specifying one way or the other will be mocked.
/READ ME

~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 6*: Rage Like Fire
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Super!Harry

Disclaim Her: I apologise in advance for any misstatements made about the British government during this time-period, but politics and I very
much do not get on, so much of what I found went right over my head. I did my best. Please feel free to rant at me if it makes you feel better. (Also
do keep in mind that I'm American, so the British system is, at times, inconceivable to me.)

A/N: So, originally, I completely forgot about putting anything in about Terry's brother or Barty-stalking. And then you people were like, "OMG,
BARTY-STALKING!" or "Please show what Harry does to Terry's brother?" and I was like "*sigh* Okay..." So those scenes are for you guys.
Because I love you. (And because Barty is too much fun. XD)

Honestly, when I posted that note at the end of last chapter, I expected everyone and their mother to insist I update the following week with
whatever I had, but only 35%-ish of you asked for that. The majority of you were okay with waiting. O.o I love you people.
So, for your awesomeness, this is the first bit of Harry's fifth year. The summer, specifically. Hopefully, the actual school year will be out next
Thursday or, worst scenario, Thursday after that (erm, the 6th); I keep getting distracted by Criminal Minds and updating the wiki for people reading
Fallen Night. ^.^"

-0-0-0-

Rage Like Fire

-0-0-0-

Harry hummed to himself a bit as he curled up in the library chair with a book. If Sirius saw what he was reading, he would be most disproving, but
the man was off checking the progress on the wards over the cottage, and a ward on the hallway outside the room would warn him before anyone
entered the room. Not that Harry expected anyone would, since most people avoided the house unless there was a meeting. Or they were
watching him, in which case they avoided the library unless they needed him.

As Harry had half expected, his godfather had offered the use of his mother's house for the Order. Dumbledore had quickly placed it under
Fidelius, having no intention of allowing Voldemort to find the building, especially once it was agreed that Harry would spend most of his summer
there. Understandably, Sirius avoided the building as much as possible, so Dumbledore had set up a rotation of adults to stay in the house during
Harry's stay. For all that the teen was mature for his age, the Headmaster wasn't willing to leave him completely to his own devices, no matter how
much Sirius insisted Harry didn't need a baby-sitter.

Molly Weasley had been quite beside herself when she found out that Harry would be staying at Grimmauld Place by himself. She'd put forth
various ideas of him coming to stay at the Burrow or perhaps all the Weasleys moving in with the boy to keep him company. Thankfully,
Dumbledore had immediately refused any mention of Harry staying somewhere besides Headquarters or Sirius' cottage. Harry, himself, had been
the one to veto anyone else staying with him full time, citing his need to get his work done in peace and catch up with his extra reading. Sirius had
supported him, knowing well how Harry enjoyed his alone time during the summer. (Not that Harry didn't like the Weasleys, but he really had no
interest in putting up with Ginny's crush or Ron's jealousy for the entire summer.)

Molly and her four youngest were often around, as the motherly woman had been quite adamant about spending some time around the Ravenclaw
teen, and Dumbledore did seem to like the idea of him becoming friendly with the Weasleys. His close friendship with Lillian and her Darker friends
had probably worried Dumbledore, for all that the man approved of reforming Slytherins.

As for the Dark Order, Voldemort had moved on to staging weekly attacks on mundane shopping areas, moving from city to city at random to keep
the Order from guessing where they were going to strike next. Xerosis almost always appeared with him, making a point to use NEWT-level spells
or above as often as possible to keep people guessing as to his real identity. He and Voldemort also made a point of scheduling attacks around
lunch or supper-time, when someone would be certain to see Harry Potter in the kitchen, just in case some brainless Order member finally
connected Harry's similarities to his other self.

Snape was, for the most part, at least told about the attacks before they happened, occasionally being dragged along for the Dark Lords'
amusement. Snape was directed to not tell about some attacks or give misleading information on others. Every once in a while, he was allowed to
forewarn the Order about an actual attack, to keep them from getting too suspicious. As far as Harry could tell from sneaking in to Order meetings,
the spy was behaving himself, but Dumbledore occasionally gathered his forces to respond to an attack too quickly to have not been forewarned,
which meant Snape may be relaying the information directly to the Headmaster, leaving the Order out of things. Harry didn't have any way to
check, however, not with the way Fawkes had watched him the last time he'd shadowed in the Headmaster's office to watch Snape and
Dumbledore talk. Without clear evidence of Snape's wrongdoing, he and Voldemort were at a bit of an impasse about whether or not to kill him,
especially since he was still useful in giving them information on the Order and misleading them about half the time.

According to Lucius, who'd heard it from a distraught Fudge, the mundane Prime Minister was quite distressed by these attacks on his people and
the magical government's inability to do anything about it. The mundane people themselves were freaking out a bit, and the Ministry couldn't seem
to obliviate everyone who saw an attack, which caused all sorts of wild reports to be circulating about what the attacks actually were.

For the most part, Harry and Voldemort enjoyed the fear they were striking in the mundanes' hearts, but they also remained wary of potential back-
lash, often picking up a mundane paper or finding a free telly and flipping it to the news to keep an eye on things. Lucius' reports also helped, since
the Prime Minister and his Cabinet didn't seem to have any thoughts of returning fire. Yet. (Harry and Voldemort, who were silently following the
political strife already ongoing in the country, privately agreed that the Prime Minister was too busy fighting with his party behind the scenes to take
much care about the deaths of his people. Once Major handled things behind the scenes, he'd probably turn his attention more fully on the
magical-mundane war brewing on the horizon.)
Harry glanced up as his alarm in the hall triggered and carefully switched the Dark book he'd been reading with a sixth year Transfiguration text
he'd found in Regulus' old room. Moments later, the youngest Weasley poked her head in, cheeks flushed with heat. "Mum sent me to tell you
lunch is ready, Harry," she breathed.

Harry sighed and nodded, waving her off. Every time he had to put up with this Ginny, he tried to find the woman he'd married, but all he saw was a
young girl in the throes of hero-worship. He had to remind himself that this Ginny had never been touched by a Horcrux, had lived a sheltered life.
Even now, she was sheltered, for all that a war brewed in the streets beyond their residence.

Ron was equally a problem. Harry saw a jealous boy where he'd once seen a brother and auror partner, whining about Harry's money or fame or
about how he got to live in Headquarters and find out all about the Order's plans, etc. Harry had almost cursed him three times in the four weeks
since school let out, and he never saw the boy except for the occasional meals. True to form, Ron avoided the library like it was a cursed tomb,
which made it the perfect space for Harry to hide out.

The twins, on the other hand... Harry smiled to himself as he heard Ron let out a disgruntled shout down the hall, a sure tell that Fred and George
had pranked him again. With them being seventeen, they took great pleasure in setting all sorts of traps for their younger brother or apparating
straight to their siblings or mother. They'd tried catching Harry a few times, the first week, but his vampire senses often gave him warning of their
tricks, and if it didn't, his knowledge of them and his own ability to wordlessly and wandlessly check anything and everything for unusual magics or
potions warned him away from things. He'd also utilised a little-known personal ward that kept them from apparating within two metres of him,
which kept them from surprising him like they did the rest of their family.

They were absolutely stumped that they could never catch him, but really it was just a new challenge. They occasionally tossed a few things at
him, just to see what would happen, but he was still avoiding things without even seeming to try. They'd been pretty well behaved for almost a
week, now, so Harry expected they'd try again soon.

"Oh, good." Molly smiled fondly as Harry entered the kitchen. "I hope you're hungry, Harry, dear."

"We know we are!" the twins chorused, dropping their arms around Harry's shoulders.

"Hm," Harry replied, ducking the silent giggling hex they both tried casting at him. As they started helplessly giggling, he took a seat at the table
and shot Molly a smile at the offerings on the table. "This looks wonderful, Mrs Weasley."

"Well, tuck in!" Molly replied, beaming.

The twins finally managed to get themselves sorted and sat down on either side of Harry, wearing matching grins as they served both themselves
and Harry. Harry cast his spell before tucking in, absently making a note not to eat the broccoli.

When he finally stood, having avoided participating in any conversation, the twins frowned at his plate, which had only broccoli on it. "You're not
eating your veggies," Fred commented, eyes glinting happily.

"Pot, kettle," Harry replied, stepping over to the fridge to grab some carrots out of the crisper to munch on. "Didn't much feel like broccoli today.
Sorry, Mrs Weasley."

Mrs Weasley smiled at him in response. "Don't worry about it, Harry, dear." Then she turned to her sons. "He's right, you know. Eat some broccoli."

Fred and George traded resigned looks, then reached for the pile of green on Harry's plate. They let out simultaneous squeaks before turning into
red-haired mice.

The other Weasleys were momentarily stunned, then all started laughing. Harry chuckled himself and slipped from the room. The twins had
ensured that the rest of their family had served themselves before they served Harry, so their broccoli had been free of spells. Mostly, that had
been to keep Harry from catching on to the prank, but it never worked anyway.

-0-

"Jim Boot?" Harry asked, leaning against the doorway into Terry's brother's flat.

The teen who had answered the door frowned. "Yeah? Who're you?"

Harry smiled a cold smile, which only widened as the other boy took a few steps back in surprise. "I'm a friend of your brother's," he offered,
slipping into the flat and shutting the door behind him

"You're just another freak!" Jim snapped, straightening and trying to appear unafraid.

Harry chuckled at that. "Yes, I am," he agreed. "However, I'm a freak who hates people without magic. Especially people without magic who hurt
those with magic." He narrowed his eyes as the room chilled a good thirty degrees. "You've found pleasure in beating up your brother."

"Freaks should be beat!" Jim spat, eyes flicking around for an escape even as he kept his air of superiority. "Terry was a good kid before you lot
got your claws into him!"

"Terry is still a good kid," Harry replied coolly, leaning back against the closed door without a care. "Any changes in his personality can be
attributed to your abuse."

Jim glanced up and down the kid in front of him, a superior smile curling his lips even as he shivered a bit at the chill in the air. "You're the same
age as my brother, aren't you? Terry told me about how freaks can't use magic until they're of age."

Harry smiled at that. "The Ministry of Magic places wards around the homes of mundane-borns to keep them from using magic, but you live here,
by yourself, so no magic I perform will be picked up." His smile grew as Jim's eyes widened in understanding. "That's right, Jimmy-boy, no one's
going to stop me from ripping your heart out."

"You're just a kid!" Jim tried, backing away from the boy with the cruel eyes.
"I am," Harry agreed. "However, I've also killed a couple hundred mundanes. What's to stop me from killing you?"

"Terry!" Jim insisted. "Terry won't let you kill me!"

Harry laughed and absently put silencing wards around the flat as he started towards the teen. "Terry's the one who gave me your address," he
replied before snapping his wand forward and hissing, "Crucio."

Jim let out one long scream as he crumpled to the ground, twitching with pain.

Harry ended the spell after a couple minutes and came to kneel in front of the mundane. "You want to know a secret, Jimmy?" He smiled. "As far
as the magical world is concerned, I'm pro-mundane. They expect me to be the one to save your sorry species."

Jim let out a faint whimper and struggled to drag himself away from the younger teen next to him.

Harry chuckled and pointed his wand at Jim's crotch. "Execo. Just to make sure there's no chance of you spreading your magic-hating genes," he
offered as blood bloomed at the spot and Jim let out a pained cry. Harry got back to his feet and twirled his wand a bit. "Hm. Well, I have options, I
suppose. I could cut you up some more. Which would be fun! But not nearly as satisfying. I could crucio you a bit more... Also fun. Maybe a bit of
both? Crucio," Harry cast, then set about utilising the cutting curse to bleed the other while he screamed in pain.

By the time Harry ended the curses, there wasn't much left of Jim Boot except a slowly dying body. Harry leaned over him, careful to avoid the
spreading blood, and smiled at what little sanity was left. "You know what's the best thing about my gift?" he asked rhetorically. "It doesn't need you
to be sane to work." Then he opened his mouth and sucked down Jim's soul.

As he'd hoped, Jim knew of a few other anti-magic mundanes. Harry would have to visit them soon.

-0-

"Barty, is there a reason you keep looking over your shoulder?" Rabastan wondered drily as Barty did just that.

Barty twitched faintly and turned back to the chess game he was losing. "I can't help it," he whispered. "I swear there's someone watching me."

"...all that time under your father's thumb has made you just a little bit insane," Rabastan decided. "There's no one there."

Barty twitched again and looked over his shoulder at where he swore he heard a faint giggle. There was a shadow under a table with just enough
space for a child the size of their young lord. "You're only saying that because you can't see him," he insisted. "But he's there. I swear he's there."

Rabastan sighed and got to his feet. "Where do you think this mystery person is?"

Barty pointed to the table, only to feel the eyes watching him disappear. "He's gone," he offered as Rabastan went to check.

The slightly older Death Eater gave him a disgusted look from next to the table. "Barty, there was never anyone there!"

Barty let out a faint whimper as he felt the eyes again and slowly turned to look at a new shadow. Bright green eyes glimmered at him for a
moment before vanishing. The man shuddered again and hunched down in his chair. "Whatever I did, I'm sorry!" he complained to the room as
Rabastan sat back down across from him.

"Barty..." Rabastan sighed, shaking his head.

"Oiy, Crouch! Stop being a loon!" another Death Eater complained from behind the day's Prophet.

The faintest of kisses pressed against Barty's cheek and he whimpered again. "Poor Barty," the young Dark Lord's voice whispered against his ear.
"Scared of a shadow."

"Please, my Lord?" Barty tried.

"Barty, it's your turn. Stop talking to your imaginary friend," Rabastan called.

"He's not imaginary," Barty insisted.

A throat cleared in the doorway to the sitting room and all the Death Eaters immediately jumped to their feet and bowed to the Dark Lord. "Xerosis,
stop stalking Barty."

The apparent vampire ended his invisibility spell and appeared just behind Barty's chair, making Rabastan jump in shock. "But he's so much fun."

"You're late for our meeting," Voldemort added before turning and leaving the room.

"Is it that time already?" Xerosis wondered, glancing over at a clock. "Hmm. Oops." He leaned over and kissed Barty's cheek again as the frazzled
Death Eater returned to his seat. "I'll see you later, Barty."

"My Lord, please?" Barty tried again.

Harry chuckled and skipped out of the room, leaving all the other Death Eaters staring after him in disbelief while Barty whimpered and covered his
face with his hands.

-0-

Harry was relaxing in the sitting room with the twins and a purple Ron when the whole place shook. A few car alarms out on the street started
going off and all four teens ran to the grimy windows overlooking the street.

Far in the distance, a great cloud of smoke was rising, like some parody of a balloon. Down the street, someone was starting to cry.
Harry slammed the window open, startling Ron, who stood next to him. He strained for even the faintest sound of a telly or wireless, but heard
nothing. He let out a few Mandarin curses under his breath, then spun and dashed downstairs to the kitchen, hoping the wizarding wireless would
prove more useful. Behind him, the three Weasleys traded shocked looks, then hurried after him.

"What was that banging about?" Mrs Weasley asked as Harry slid into the room, but he didn't speak, only switching on the wireless and twiddling
the dial to see if he could find something. Anything.

There. '...reports now coming in from just south of Regent's Park of a massive explosion. So far no certain reports of the numbers of dead, but the
area is known to house a number of magical families...'

Harry gritted his teeth. Regent's Park was as much a mundane area as it was magical. Magical families with a lot of money and some knowledge of
the mundane world often bought houses over there to show off their wealth and their fondness for mundanes. Tonks' parents – Andromeda, 'call
me Andy,' and Ted – lived over there, as did Anthony Goldstein and his mum. He and Voldemort hadn't had any plans for an attack today, but it
was just as much a possibility of it being a magical attack as it was a mundane one.

The floo in the kitchen flared green as the news started repeating again that nothing so far was known and they all turned to see Dumbledore
brushing off his robes. He offered them a strained smile and requested, "I think it's best if the children retired elsewhere for a moment, Molly."

Molly nodded as the floo flared again, admitting more of the Order, and turned to the five children – Ginny had been in the kitchen when the boys
had all come running in. "Come on, now, off you go."

Ginny bit her lip and turned towards the door obediently. Ron followed her with a disgruntled look while the twins had a moment of silent
communication. "We want to know–" they started.

"Upstairs!" Molly ordered and the twins sulked towards the stairs. She turned to Harry with a smile, assured that he would leave without a fight as
he usually did, but this time his eyes were hard. "Harry, dear–"

"I'm not leaving," Harry said quietly, absently noting that the four Gryffindors had stopped on the stairs up.

"Now, Harry, this really isn't a meeting–" Molly tried.

"One of my friends lives near Regent's Park," Harry interrupted. "And Cousin Andy! You can't just expect me to sit upstairs without a word!
Voldemort already attacked my friends once this year–"

"This attack wasn't Voldemort," Dumbledore interrupted gravely.

Harry's breath caught. So, the mundanes had finally made their move.

"Not You Know Who?" Ron asked from the stairs, squeezing past his brothers.

"Upstairs!" Molly shrieked.

Harry briefly debated being obstinate and demanding to stay, but he was much more interested in finding out what had actually happened than
sitting around listening to the Order argue, so he spun and stalked up the stairs without another word, brushing past the Weasley children a little
more roughly than necessary, but he had other things on his mind, like getting to Regent's Park and seeing the devastation himself. Anthony wasn't
really his friend, but Andy was family. She had been the one to raise his godson and taught Harry so much about taking care of a family. And when
Sirius had introduced them in this life, she'd been just as cheerful as he remembered her, insisting right away that he call her Cousin Andy.

If Andy and Ted were dead, it wouldn't just destroy Sirius, it would hurt Harry, too. He didn't want the first deaths of this war to be Andy. Wasn't
losing Ginny right off the last time punishment enough?

He hurried to his room, grabbing his broom and Invisibility Cloak out of his trunk. He took a moment to make sure his extra wand and time-turner
were in his robe pocket, then slammed his window open and awkwardly shuffled out onto the ledge.

"Good thing muggles can't see this building," George commented from the doorway.

"Yeah, they'd think you were committing suicide with a cleaning implement," Fred agreed.

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "What do you want?" he asked, not looking back at them.

"You really think you're going to make it safely to Regent's Park in this climate?" George wondered.

"They'd shoot you out of the sky in a heartbeat, those muggles."

Harry turned carefully and cocked an eyebrow at them, lips curled with an ironic smile. "What's this? A couple of Weasleys speaking of mundanes
so poorly?"

"You heard Dumbledore–"

"–this wasn't the doings of You Know Who–"

"–and we all know the Order and the Ministry wouldn't try something like that–"

"–okay, the Ministry might."

"True, brother. True."

"But not in Regent's Park. Maybe at Malfoy Manor–"

"No, no, not Malfoy Manor. Not with the way Malfoy sucks up to Fudge all the time."
"Very good point. But, anyway, not the Ministry, not the Order–"

"–that only leaves one more possible group of people."

"Radicals from France?" Harry suggested drily, even as he slipped back into the room, intrigued. Given, the whole mess wasn't that hard to catch
on to, but to see a couple of teens from a Light family laying it out so...

The twins smiled grimly at Harry's poor joke, then chorused, "The muggles did this."

Harry watched their grim faces for a long moment, then commented, "Magical people often underestimate what mundanes – muggles – are
capable of. They look at them and they see a lack of magic, they see a people capable of nothing. It's like looking at a baby tiger and thinking, 'Oh,
it's so cute and helpless, surely it's no threat to me'."

"Until the tiger grows up," Fred murmured.

Harry smiled without humour. "The mundanes grew up a long time ago, we just hadn't really crossed paths. Maybe we poked them with a stick now
and then, but never enough to really catch their attention. This time, the stick couldn't be ignored – won't be ignored – and they're going to fight
back with weapons far greater, far more destructive than simple claws and teeth."

"It's all You Know Who's fault," George muttered.

Harry let out a loud laugh. "Voldemort may have been the cause behind it coming right this minute, sure, but this would have happened eventually.
You can't keep obliviating them and hope they'll never notice something is off. You can't continue sharing the same land, the same cities, and think
they'll always over look everything."

"You think they would have eventually, what?" Fred asked.

"Spotted a dragon running around in a preserve?" George suggested.

"Or, maybe, they'd think a kneazle was a little too smart."

"Or, maybe, one day, they'll elect in a Prime Minister who will find out about our world and they'll be scared," Harry said quietly, not smiling at their
thoughtless jokes. "Maybe that Prime Minister will happily announce to the whole world that magical people exist. And, sure, some people might
think that's pretty cool, but more people will be scared of what they can't understand and they'll fight it in the only way they know how."

"And how's that, then?" Ron demanded from behind the twins. "Throw a couple of punches our way."

Harry smiled then, almost amused by his once-brother's sense of superiority. "No, Ron, they'll destroy the world." Then he turned and, tossing his
Cloak around his shoulders, scrunched back out onto the ledge and jumped onto his broom and away.

"Muggles can't destroy the world," Ron scoffed as Harry was making his escape.

The twins traded a worried look; they weren't so sure of that.

-0-

Xerosis appeared in Voldemort's meeting room about half an hour before the explosion just south of Regent's Park and strode forward, uncaring
that he'd interrupted a meeting. Voldemort turned to glare at him, but whatever he might have said was halted when he saw the cold expression on
the teen's face. Xerosis didn't even sit down like he was wont to, just stood next to his chair and intoned, "We are about to have a very large
problem."

The Dark Lord grimaced at that and waved his Inner Circle out. "What happened?"

"One moment." Xerosis turned to the retreating Death Eaters. "Lucius, how close is Narcissa to Andromeda?"

Lucius turned back to the young Dark Lord, blinking in surprise. "Andromeda, my Lord? Not particularly, why?"

Xerosis sighed. "Would she be willing to invite Andromeda out for tea? Perhaps a shopping expedition in Diagon?"

"Xerosis," Voldemort warned.

The apparent vampire turned angry eyes on his partner. "Don't you interfere," he hissed, then looked back at Lucius, who flinched away from the
fury-filled eyes. Xerosis sighed and reached up to rub at the bridge of his nose. "Please, Lucius, it's important. To me." He looked up at the man,
weary from his three-hours long trek through the ruins. Perhaps using the time-turner to protect his cousin was cheating, but he had the means,
and Fate owed him.

Lucius nodded his head. "I will do what I can, my Lord." He sketched a quick bow, then turned and finished herding the Death Eaters out into the
hall. Bellatrix was one of the ones he had to herd and Xerosis vaguely heard her snarking about her eldest sister.

Xerosis dropped into his chair, slumping tiredly to one side. "In maybe twenty minutes, there will be an explosion about five blocks south of
Regent's Park, most likely caused by a mundane bomb. There's a small group of houses down there that are owned by magical families with
mundane ties that have money. All of them, as well as many of the surrounding buildings and businesses, will be completely destroyed."

Voldemort frowned and leaned back in his chair, focussing on the problem the teen had just handed him rather than at his anger for being snapped
at moments before. "There's no way to stop the explosion?" he asked.

"There may well be, but we didn't do anything about it," Xerosis replied tiredly. "Practically the whole of London north of the Thames felt the
explosion."

Voldemort sighed and glanced at the teen, considering the rips in his robe and the brushing of dust. "You went to the scene."
Xerosis let out a choked laugh. "I had to see it myself, figure out exactly what happened. See if..." He ran a hand over his face. "Andy lives there,
with her husband. I never really got to know Ted, but Andy is my cousin. I wanted to know if she might have been killed."

The Dark Lord silently bemoaned his partner's familial attachments. "If nothing else, this will show the magical world that the muggles can and will
attack back."

"Never mind showing how much damage they will do, and how many innocent lives will be lost in the middle," Xerosis agreed, sitting up in his
chair.

"Do you know who set the attack?"

"So far as I could tell, they have no idea. There were mundane teams all over the place, looking for any clues at all, but they were having a hard
enough time deciding what had actually done the damage, never mind setting about finding anything. There were a couple of magical teams
mucking about, too, but they were completely at a loss." Xerosis snorted. "Merlin, wizards are so useless when it comes to the mundane world."

Voldemort glanced up in a plea for patience. "What did you find out?" he asked, knowing the teen was capable of finding things out on his own.

Xerosis was silent for a long moment, then quietly replied, "From the looks of the aftermath, I'd say a gas pipe exploded. Since no such thing
happened in my original timeline, I'd say it was done on purpose by someone. When the... attacks really started, there was a group of mundanes
who would snoop around for areas where two or more magical people lived within a couple of blocks of one another. They'd block off a large
second of the sewers or underground tunnels in the area, fill the blocked off section with gas, then set it off. It would blow up much of the
surrounding area and take out more mundanes than magicals, but still..."

"You think someone thought of something similar," Voldemort commented.

"Yes. They don't have the same technology as they did then, but it wouldn't be too hard to set a pipe bomb or other improvised explosive to go off
after a set period of time. It probably wouldn't be too hard to block off a section of sewer, either, though it might be harder to do with the
underground tunnels at this point in time. After the government starts falling apart, sure, underground is fair game, but not yet."

Some running and the distant sounds of shouting came from out in the hallway before someone dashed into the room, falling to their knees in front
of the two Dark Lords and flinching like they expected to be cursed.

"What?" Voldemort demanded, already guessing what was going on.

"My Lords, apologies, but there's been an explosion in London. It wasn't set by any of us!"

"It's the mundanes," Xerosis replied comfortably, relaxing in his chair and absently pulling out his stolen wand to fix the tears in his robes. "They're
making their move. Send Lucius to us."

"Yes, my Lord Xerosis," the Death Eater whispered and scrabbled out of the room before one of them could curse him.

"We'll have to use this," Voldemort commented, twirling his wand between two fingers. "A couple of whispers in the right ears..."

"Rita Skeeter would take this story and blow it completely out of proportion," Xerosis commented, spelling patches of dust out of his abused robes.

"I take it you're familiar with her?"

"You could say Rita and I have some history together, yes. She's not aware of it, but I've got some blackmail on her that will have her citing
whatever we want her to say."

"Can you set something up, or should I use a Death Eater?"

"Mmm... She's an unregistered animagus. A beetle." Xerosis shot Voldemort a smirk and the man smirked back in understanding.

Lucius swept into the room and bowed quickly. "My Lords," he offered, then focussed on the apparent vampire. "Narcissa got Andromeda to agree
to a meeting in Diagon about ten minutes before the explosion, my Lord. She should have been away from the house at the time, but I have yet to
hear anything back from my wife."

"Andy may very well run back to her home to see what happened," Xerosis commented, more to himself than Lucius. "We shall have to wait and
see. At any rate, thank you, Lucius."

The Malfoy patriarch offered the faintest of smiles in response.

"Lucius, have someone else wait for word on Narcissa's return. We need you in the Ministry, twisting this to fit our needs. The attack was put
together by mundanes, likely using a mixture of gas and a pipe bomb. No, you don't need to know what it means, just make it sound good,"
Voldemort ordered. "Have someone fetch Jenkins for me on your way."

"My Lords." Lucius bowed to them and hurried from the room to do as bid.

"Jenkins is...?"

"A mudblood, disgustingly enough, but he married well and despises muggles. He found Lucius and requested an audience with me shortly after
Christmas. He lives in London, and his muggle knowledge should help him spin things properly for your Miss Skeeter."

Xerosis nodded, absently tapping his chin with one finger. "From the sounds of things, the Order is aware that this attack was mundane-created, so
we shouldn't have too much trouble from them. If the mundane government declares this to have been a gas main leak, the Ministry could very well
try a cover-up."

Voldemort smiled cruelly. "It's good you have a time-turner, then, isn't it?"

Xerosis responded with a smile of his own, then glanced towards the door as shuffling footsteps approached.
The man who entered walked with a slight limp, his left foot dragging slightly, but he didn't seem impeded by it, bowing and murmuring, "My Lords."

"Jenkins, Lord Xerosis has a task for you," Voldemort offered, shooting the teen at his side a smirk.

Xerosis rolled his eyes, then focussed on the Death Eater. "We need to put the right spin on this attack, preferably before the mundane
government starts pointing fingers and getting everything mixed up. Lord Voldemort says you live in London?"

"I do, my Lord."

"Were you at home when the explosion occurred?"

"I was, my Lord."

"Excellent." Xerosis smiled in pleasure. "I love it when things work out. We'll have you setting up a meeting with the reporter Rita Skeeter. Knowing
her, she'll be digging everywhere for someone to talk to, and you going to her will make her absolutely ecstatic. You'll be mixing a bit of your actual
experience with what Lord Voldemort and I have figured out from the attack, so make it sound good."

Once Jenkins had nodded in understanding, Xerosis explained, "That explosion was caused by gas, of that I have no doubt, but I'm also doubtful
on how natural the cause was. The gas line in that area is slightly off to one side, not directly in the middle, however there is a sewer line which
runs through the centre of the explosion. It is possible to seal off a portion of the sewer and fill it with gas. Something simple, like a pipe bomb,
could then be set off inside the sealed cavern, setting the gas alight."

Jenkins frowned, considering everything, but his eyes had the light of comprehension, so Xerosis just sat back and let the man work everything out
in his mind. After a few minutes, he nodded. "I should be able to create a believable story from that, my Lords. How am I expected to keep Skeeter
from adding her own spin on things, however?"

"Miss Skeeter is an unregistered animagus," Voldemort reported. "A beetle, to be exact. If she doesn't want pictures of her form provided to the
Ministry, she will take your testament as fact and stick to it."

Jenkins' lips curled with a smile. "As my Lords command."

"Go forth and create chaos, Mr Jenkins," Xerosis ordered and the man shuffled out. Once he was gone, the teen turned to Voldemort and
commented, "I like him."

"I thought you might." The Dark Lord nodded. "When do you need to return by?"

"Hm. I spent three hours in the rubble, so going back any time before I used my time-turner should be acceptable."

Voldemort snorted. "You're waiting to hear news about your blood traitor."

"I am," Xerosis agreed, seeing no point in denying the truth.

Voldemort shook his head, then glanced over at the teen, who scowled at him. "If you're so desperate for news, go wait downstairs in the receiving
room. If nothing else, you might be able to calm the idiots down there who are, no doubt, panicking."

"I very much doubt I will calm them, but they'll certainly shut up," Xerosis agreed, standing. "Always a pleasure to see you, Tom, darling."

"Potter," Voldemort growled.

Xerosis smirked and blew him a kiss, then dashed out of the room, ducking a curse. He chuckled to himself as he started down the hallway,
familiar enough with Malfoy Manor after regular meetings in the building for the past two years that he didn't require a guide.

The receiving room was, indeed, full of witches and wizards who were arguing about the attack. Xerosis leaned against the doorway and watched
them argue until he was bored, then started casting curses until they'd all run for it, leaving only one tired wizard in the far corner. "Why are you in
here?" he demanded.

The man hurried to his feet and sketched a quick bow. "Forgive me, my Lord, but Mr Malfoy insisted I remain here until his wife arrived and bring
her straight to you."

Xerosis waved his hand. "Go get some sleep. I am more than capable of waiting for Narcissa on my own."

The man bowed again, relief crossing his face. "Thank you, my Lord. You are a great and wonderful Lord."

Xerosis sighed and, as soon as the man was gone, dropped himself into a comfortable couch and considered his robes. The hem was a little
ragged from his trip through the rubble, but coming back with a perfect robe would probably make everyone suspicious. Coming up with a badly
destroyed robe, however, would put many of them into a panic. The hem was fine as ragged as it was, but he'd have to spell some dust back onto
his clothing and maybe one or two rips. Certainly not as many as had existed when he first shadowed into Malfoy Manor.

Xerosis had just finished applying the last of the damage to his robes when the sound of apparation came from the secured room off to the side of
the receiving room. He glanced up and smiled when he saw Narcissa step in. "Narcissa! Brilliant!"

The woman startled a bit at his voice, then sighed when she recognised him. "Forgive me, my Lord," she offered.

Xerosis frowned, seeing the pain in her eyes and the dust marring her lovely blue robes. He stepped forward and gently took her arm. "Narcissa,
sit. What happened? You look like you've been to the site of the explosion."

Narcissa eyed his own robes and smiled tiredly. "As do you, my Lord."

Xerosis waved that away and snapped his fingers to call a house elf. "Some water and chocolate for Lady Malfoy," he ordered the creature before
turning back to the woman, who offered him a grateful smile. "Is Andromeda okay?"
"She is... distressed, but alive," Narcissa offered, taking the drink and sweet that the house elf conjured on the table next to her. "Her...husband is
dead, killed in the explosion, but her daughter, as far as I know, is alive."

"Nymphadora was at the Order meeting that was called moments after the attack," Xerosis agreed. "Andromeda heard the explosion and had to go
see what happened, I'm guessing."

Narcissa nodded. "Yes. I agreed to go with her, since I had asked her out in the first place. My Lord, it was..." She looked away, closing her eyes.

"Mundanes are capable of terrible deeds," Xerosis murmured, knowing all too well what she had seen. "And that was a mundane attack, of that I
am certain."

"Can we truly stand against them?" Narcissa asked, glancing back at the young Dark Lord. His child-like appearance often made the Death Eaters
think him soft, and he occasionally had to remind them with a heavy hand that he wasn't to be looked down on, but at times like this, he was glad
for his youthful form.

"I don't know," he admitted, "but we must try. This war we have started with them will have happened one day or another on its own, through
causes outside our control. Better to strike pre-emptively and have a fighting chance than to wait for them to attack us and have no other option but
to run for our lives." He took one of her hands in his. "Narcissa, I don't know if we'll survive this, but I'm certain that we have a fighting chance."

The woman searched those pale eyes, so much older than her own, and nodded her head. "Thank you, my Lord."

The apparent vampire smiled. "Thank you, for getting Andromeda out of there. Was she suspicious?"

Narcissa let out a quiet laugh. "Of course she was, right from the start, but she was willing to have tea with me. It wasn't until after she saw the
skeleton that had been her house..." Narcissa took a sip of water, shaking with the reminder of the scene. Xerosis broke off a piece of chocolate for
her and, once she'd eaten it, was able to continue. "After she saw it, she turned to me and demanded to know why I'd insisted we go out for tea at
that very moment. It's not polite pureblood custom to have tea out of the blue like that. I..." She looked away. "My Lord, forgive me, I told her an
acquaintance of mine insisted I take her out for tea at that very moment."

Xerosis shook his head. "Estranged or not, I hardly expected you to lie to your own sister, Narcissa," he assured her, patting the back of the hand
he still held. "If she asks for my name, you may tell her it was Harry Potter who asked the request."

Narcissa gasped. "M–my Lord, is it wise to mention the boy?"

Xerosis smiled knowingly. "Mr Potter is hardly as against us as he leads the world to believe, Narcissa. I am in contact with him, and it was he who
worried after her health. That the request came from my lips instead of his, is a minor item to debate over. If she brings it up with him, he will no
doubt agree to have sent the plea."

"Andromeda is very clever, my Lord. Will the boy be able to lie well enough to convince her it was all him?"

"Mr Potter will manage, I am certain," Xerosis assured her. "Now, will you need assistance in making your way upstairs, or will you manage on your
own?"

Narcissa straightened and brushed some dust off her robes. "My Lord, I am the Lady Malfoy. I am always capable of making my own way."

Xerosis chuckled fondly and dropped a light kiss to the back of her hand. "Then, my lady, I bid you adieu. There's much work to be done if we want
those foolish witches and wizards to pull their heads out of the ground. As it is, their rear ends make fantastic targets for the mundanes."

Narcissa covered a smile and rose to offer a quick curtsey to the young Dark Lord before he stepped backwards into a shadow and vanished.

-0-

Harry saw no reason to hide what he'd supposedly been doing for the last hour. Knowing the Weasleys, one of them was certain to have told the
adults that he'd left with his broom and the intent to visit the site of the explosion. Considering none of them had ever appeared at the site, looking
for him, they had probably only just got out of their meeting before he'd returned. With any luck, Andromeda would be there and he wouldn't have
to play the panicked cousin anymore.

He was just reaching to open the front door when it was pulled open and he found himself blinking at Sirius, with Tonks, Remus, and Andromeda
behind him. They all stared for a moment, and then Harry dropped his broom and shouted, "Andy!" jumping forward to hug her.

Andromeda caught him and hugged him tight. "Oh, you stupid, stupid little boy," she whispered. "What were you thinking, flying to the site of the
explosion? You could have been hurt!"

Harry bit his lip and gave her the most pitiful look he could manage without tears. "I'm sorry, Andy, but I had to make sure you were okay! No one
else seemed to care to check and their meetings always take forever! You could have been buried under rubble, crying for help, and no one could
hear you."

Andromeda sighed and hugged him tighter. "Harry Potter, you're supposed to be a Ravenclaw, not a silly Gryffindor."

"Oiy!" Sirius cried from behind Harry, and Harry knew his godfather had forgiven him for running off.

"I have a saving people thing," Harry admitted, putting just the littlest hint of shame into his voice.

Andromeda sighed. "At least you admit you have a problem," she decided.

"Oiy!" Sirius complained again, tugging Harry away from his cousin and holding his broom in front of the boy. "Don't go dropping expensive brooms
on the stoop."

"Sorry, Siri," Harry intoned, green eyes sparkling.

Andromeda smiled at him and shook her head. "Go put your broom away, child, and maybe a change of clothing. Molly's working on a lunch for all
of us."

Harry blinked. "You too, Andy?"

Andromeda managed a pained smile. "I'll be staying with you and Dora in Grimmauld Place until Sirius' cottage is finished, then we'll be moving in
there with you."

"You're certainly not going back to your old house," Sirius pointed out gently.

"No," Andromeda agreed. "There's not a whole lot to go back to."

Harry darted forward and hugged her again, then dashed down the hallway and up the stairs to his bedroom. There, he stashed his broom and
Cloak in his trunk, then set about pulling out new robes, sighing a bit over the ones he'd been wearing, knowing that Sirius would probably insist
they should be thrown out. He'd quite liked the dark blue set. Maybe he could talk his godfather into getting him a new one. Or two.

The Weasley boys didn't bother him again while they were still there. Ron seemed rather disgusted that Harry wasn't punished for leaving
Headquarters like that, while the twins just kept watching him, as if trying to figure out a particularly complex puzzle. Considering how often they
looked at him like that when trying to prank him, no one thought anything of it, though Harry was a little concerned about what they were thinking.

Andromeda was the one to make supper that night and Harry happily compared it to one of Molly's usual meals, which made Andromeda flush with
pleasure. She then proceeded to ask him about his cooking, likely knowing exactly how useless Sirius was in the kitchen and guessing that Harry
made all the meals. Harry tried downplaying his own skills in the kitchen, but Sirius had chosen to join them and had no problems telling all about
Harry's skills. Andromeda shot the teen a knowing look and he flushed, caught in his own lie.

That night, Harry was just drifting off to sleep when the faint sounds of someone crying woke him up again. It didn't take him but a minute to
recognise Andromeda's voice, then he slipped from bed and padded down to the sitting room, where she was curled up on one of the couches with
a cup of tea. She glanced up when Harry stopped in the doorway. "Oh, Harry," she said, subtly wiping at her eyes. "What can I do for you?"

Harry watched her for a long moment, expression understanding, before he slipped over to sit next to her on the couch. "I'm sorry," he whispered,
"about Ted. He was... kind of cool."

Andromeda let out a quiet laugh and ruffled Harry's chin-length hair. "Thank you, Harry. You're a good kid."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I bet Mrs Weasley doesn't think so, after the way I acted earlier."

"One minor blow-up after over a month of quietly walking away from those meetings? I'm sure she thinks you're an absolute angel. Or, at the very
least, a normal teenager." She shook her head, smiling fondly. "Go back to bed, Harry."

Harry considered her. "You'll be okay?" he asked.

Andromeda leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I'll be just fine. Bed. Go on."

Harry nodded and with a quiet, "G'night, Andy," he left the room and made his way back up to bed. When he didn't hear her start crying again, he
mentally patted himself on the back and snuggled in to sleep.

-0-

The next morning's Prophet made Harry grin a bit madly as he read through the article on the front page. Jenkins had spun a fantastic story, citing
the series of gas-based explosions three years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico and some similar incidents to support his theory behind the cause of
the explosion. Skeeter, true to form, had taken the story and made it absolutely epic, insisting that Jenkins had a point and ending the article with a
question about whether this was the start of a war.

"You are disturbingly pleased by that article," Andromeda commented, buttering her toast. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were behind the
explosion yourself."

"Andy, you wound me!" Harry cried, setting the paper down and leaning over the table, eyes filled with sorrow. "To think me capable of such an act
of violence and destruction!"

"Kid, I have heard first-hand accounts of your duel with Voldemort; you gave about as good as you got."

Harry widened his eyes. "Against Voldemort," he pointed out.

"Living with Sirius has turned you nutters," Andromeda decided. Harry put on a wounded look. "Yeah, nice try. I spent plenty of time around your
godfather, Harry. Don't think you can get that past me."

Harry grinned. "It works on Siri."

"Yeah, well Sirius is insane. I'm not."

"You should try it some time. Being insane is brilliant."

"Eat your eggs."

Harry grinned a bit wider and tucked in.

Over the next couple of days, he was constantly trading owls with his friends. He'd only been able to tell them that he was staying in London
somewhere, so they were understandably concerned. Hermione and Neville had also wanted to know what he knew about the attack, rightfully
expecting that he wasn't willing to just sit about and cool his heels when he could be snooping. Lillian's letters ranted on about how vile muggles
were and made suggestions for killing them that, while a little disturbing and often creative, weren't really plausible with the way the Death Eater
attacks were run. Luna just asked how to make a pipe bomb.
When the wards on the cottage were finally finished, Harry, Andromeda, and Tonks made for the place with all speed and settled in to their rooms.
By the next day, the two guest rooms were filled with Harry's friends, including Lillian, who Sirius grumbled about, but didn't bother turning away.
Luna, never one for conventional rules, had offered Lillian her usual bed in the larger guest room the girls usually had, then curled up in Harry's
room on the floor. The second day, Harry rolled his eyes at his best friend and hunted down a cot for her, which she had him set up in his room,
insisting that it was too crowded in the guest room. Which was a load of bollocks, but Harry knew better than to argue with Luna, so he let her
sleep in his room without complaint.

The cottage was quite crowded for a good week before Sirius finally got tired of fighting over his gaming systems and cried to the kids' parents.
When Harry and Luna were the only ones left – Xenophilius was off on an expedition on the continent and unable to collect his daughter – Sirius
jokingly looked up into the sky and pleaded with James and Lily to take Harry back. Harry had smacked him, then dragged Luna out to his garden
to work with his abused flowers. Neville had helped a bit while he was there, but they still needed a lot of love.

Harry had spent almost two hours fighting with his godfather about whether or not he would be allowed to visit Diagon Alley for his school
shopping. Luna had made herself some popcorn and sat on the sidelines munching it while Harry and Sirius got louder and louder in their most
epic fight ever. Considering they'd never actually fought about anything before, it wasn't saying much, but Andromeda had assured them both,
once they'd calmed down, that it had been on par with the fights Sirius had waged with his mother in the weeks before he ran away. Honestly,
Harry was just glad he hadn't gone dementor on his godfather, though it had been a near thing. (Catching sight of Luna out of the corner of his eye
every few minutes had helped him keep his power in check, which had probably been the girl's original intent, knowing Luna.)

In the end, with Andromeda supporting Sirius, Harry had admitted defeat – well, it would perhaps be more correct to say that he stormed out of the
living room and slammed the door to his room before shadowing away to kill some mundanes. Andromeda had collected a list of subjects Harry
was interested in studying that year and promised to get him the best books she could find for each of them, even if it meant traversing Knockturn.

When Andromeda got back from her trip, however, she had the strangest look on her face as she stepped into Harry's room. Both he and Luna
were curled up on his bed, reading the most recent edition of the Quibbler together, which included a series of photos that supposedly had rare
animals in them. They were trying to be the first to spot each animal, Harry constantly complaining that Luna had helped take most of the pictures
while the younger Ravenclaw cheerfully pointed out that Harry had stolen his vision and reflexes from vampires, which meant he was cheating too.

"Harry," Andromeda interrupted as they were turning the page.

"What's up, Andy?" Harry asked, already searching the new photo for the creature in question.

Andromeda shook her head at the two, but continued with, "I just had the most interesting conversation with my sister."

"Narcissa, I assume," Harry replied, then groaned as Luna spotted the creature. "If it was dear, insane Bella, it wouldn't have been interesting.
More exciting, I think. Curses being flung about, aurors being called. Someone probably would have died."

"Or at least ended up in St Mungo's," Luna added airily. Harry snapped his finger out to point to the creature and the girl muttered, "Cheater."

"You're finding the same number as me, so stop whining."

Andromeda stepped forward and took the magazine away from them before they could get started on the next photo. The teens gave her
disturbingly similar pitiful looks and she rolled her eyes. "You. My sister."

"I suppose she's not too bad to look at, but her husband might crucio me if I try anything naughty with her," Harry quipped.

"You are being purposefully thick," Andromeda replied. "How do you know my sister?"

"Well, see, her son–"

"Harry, don't make me get some Veritaserum."

"You have Veritaserum in the house?" Luna asked, eyes lighting up with mayhem. "Hey, can I borrow it to ask Harry some questions about
faeces?"

"Luna, for Merlin's sake, would you stop mentioning that?" Harry complained.

"But you start turning this lovely green colour that matches your eyes–"

"Don't think I won't turn you into a peacock."

"That is cruel and completely uncalled for–"

"Merlin's dirty y-fronts!" Andromeda shouted.

"Ew..." Harry and Luna chorused.

Andromeda rubbed tiredly at her eyes, muttering, "Would you just stop playing insane for one minute?" She opened her eyes and met sharp green
eyes without a glint of humour in them and took a surprised step back.

"I don't know Narcissa personally," Harry said quietly, "but we have a common acquaintance. I mentioned to him that I was worried about you and
he found some way to get Narcissa to ask you out to tea."

Andromeda swallowed, unnerved by the dark knowledge that Harry usually hid with jokes and mucking about. Sometimes, it was easy to forget
that this boy had held his own against Voldemort and remembered watching his mother murdered. "Who is your... common acquaintance?" she
asked, wanting to know. Whoever they were, they had saved her life. Narcissa had refused the life debt, insisting that she wouldn't have saved her
if it hadn't been asked of her, and Andromeda wanted to know who she owed.

Harry offered a humourless smile. "I don't think you want to know, Andy."

Andromeda shook her head. "Harry, please. I know that anyone who knows Cissa is probably Dark–"
"He's a vampire," Harry interrupted, watching her with a strange intensity.

"There are a lot of vampires out there, Harry."

Next to the boy, Luna smiled knowingly. No, there really weren't a lot of vampires left, not with Harry hunting them to extinction when he was bored.

"Not a lot of vampires who go by the name Xerosis, though, are there?" Harry replied, an unamused smile touching his eyes.

Andromeda's eyes widened. "You know that monster?" she breathed.

Harry cocked his head to one side. "Monster?" he wondered in a child-like voice. "What is a monster but the face of man?"

"L'homme n'est ni ange ni bête; et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l'ange fait la bête," Luna quoted. "Blaise Pascal."

Andromeda frowned at her. "Wait, what?"

"It's a quote from a French mundane, Blaise Pascal," Harry offered. " 'Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act
the angel acts the beast.' " He turned to Luna. "I didn't know you knew French."

Luna smiled mysteriously. "I know many things."

Harry grinned and kissed her cheek. "You really are my favourite, Luna."

Andromeda cleared her throat. "Are you trying to excuse Xerosis' actions?"

"He's a murderer and he enjoys what he does," Harry replied, frowning at his cousin. "I'm not excusing him, and neither is Luna. We're just trying to
point out that he has his reasons and while you might find them to be wrong, to him they are correct. Where you see an evil monster, he and other
like-minded individuals see a leader with a vision and the strength to do what needs to be done."

"Andy!" Sirius called from downstairs somewhere.

Andromeda didn't move, still watching Harry and Luna with narrowed eyes while they watched her back calmly. "And what do you think?" she
asked.

"Hey, Andy!" Sirius called again, his steps sounding on the stairs.

Harry smiled. "I wonder."

Sirius' head poked around the doorway. "There you are! Here, Albus sent you another owl. What are you two discussing, anyway?" he wondered,
holding the parchment out.

"What's this?" Harry wondered, eyes widening with shock. "Siri hasn't been opening other people's mail? Has the apocalypse come? Are the
mundanes all firing their nuclear bombs at once?"

"...some days, I really don't get your jokes," Sirius decided as Andromeda took the letter.

"You're better off that way," Harry offered cheerfully. "Come on, Andy, what's in the letter?"

Andromeda glanced up from the parchment, eyes darkly amused. "In this letter? Oh, just Albus' usual ramblings."

"That is so not fair!" Harry complained as the woman shooed Sirius out of the doorway. "Come on, Andy! You can't just leave me hanging!"

The door closed behind the two adults and Harry sighed in defeat. Luna smiled a bit and reached over to pick the Quibbler up off the floor. "I
wonder who our new Defence professor will be."

Harry blinked once, twice, then laughed. "Better a suspicious Andy than a toad," he decided, relaxing back against the wall. "Well, come on then,
Luna. We've got three more pictures to go. One of them's going be the tie-breaker."

"You've actually been keeping score?" Luna wondered, opening the magazine to the proper page.

"Nah. But whoever catches the last one wins by default."

"Agreed."

-0-

"You said Hogwarts would be taken out?" Riddle asked one evening over a glass of wine. Harry would be returning to Hogwarts the next day and
they'd just finished another raid. The two leaders had agreed to enjoy a quiet game of chess, which turned into something of a tournament, Riddle
winning more often than Harry.

Harry frowned a bit at the board. "Yeah, but it took them a few years." He moved a knight to take one of Riddle's pawns, then glanced up. "Why?"

"I don't want to chance them hitting it again," Riddle admitted.

Harry rubbed at his chin, leaning back in his chair. "They're far less developed now than they were when the war started before, but need creates
what idle curiosity does not. They may advance much faster this time just to destroy us."

"It is a concern. Their random attacks are stepping up," Riddle pointed out.

After the first explosion that destroyed Andromeda's house, three other gas-based explosions had taken out magical homes in London. One target
had included a large family of mundanes with one magical child, a six-year-old girl. Harry had tried stopping that one, but he'd got to the mundane
who'd set the explosion too late, as the bomb was already set up. They'd fought next to the bomb, the mundane with a handgun and Harry with
magic. Their fight had upset the building gases, causing the explosion to occur three hours sooner than the mundane had planned it. The mundane
had been killed and Harry badly wounded; the house with the mundane family and the one magical girl had still collapsed, killing all of the people
inside.

Harry shook the reminder of his failure from his mind. "We talked, briefly, about creating a magical ward to protect important places from damage,
but there were so few of us left by that point that it really wasn't important. That was after they'd taken out Hogwarts, anyway."

Riddle nodded. "Do you think we could create a ward like that?"

"I don't see why not," Harry decided, chess game forgotten in light of his new distraction. "The anti-mundane wards on Hogwarts are good, but they
didn't hold up under the mundane computers and satellite images. Something about the distance from the satellite made the spell useless. If we
could extend the spell..."

"Or a repelling ward of some kind aimed towards their bombs?"

"That would just shoot them off elsewhere, which would still be dangerous. I'd rather they never fired them at all," Harry replied, shaking his head.

"The wards were specifically intended to repel muggles," Riddle offered, swirling his wine glass a bit. "Could we create a ward that would defeat
artificial intelligence?"

"You know, I'm not sure. And even if it worked to keep the aiming computers from locking on, they can still fire off to one side if they know where
they're aiming. Sonya – one of my partners back then – suggested working a long-range notice-me-not charm into the wards, but we weren't sure
how well that would work."

"Making it long range could be a problem, especially if you want to keep using the area it's protecting," Riddle murmured. "Any notice-me-not
charm is going to be just as effective close up as it will be from a distance. Is there a way to trick their satellites into avoiding those spots?"

"Or, not avoiding, just not seeing," Harry said, eyes lighting up. "Mess up the image so it always looks like what they'd see if they were there in
person. Also, maybe tweaking the current wards to make the ruins look even more uninhabitable?"

"Make it look condemned?" Riddle suggested. "About to fall apart at any moment. That would keep them away."

"There's already a lake next to it, could we change the shape of the lake?"

"Make it surround what looks like ruins?"

"And maybe include Hogsmeade in the wards. Right now, it's this magical town located right next to ruins that people can't help but avoid. That's
suspicious."

"Very much so, yes. Extending the wards, though..."

"Maybe not extending, just adding? Could we set up a new set of wards over the town and tie them in with the Hogwarts wards?"

I... don't honestly know," Riddle admitted, waving the chessboard to the side and summoning some parchment and a quill. He did a quick sketch of
Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, then added a faint line of wards around the school. He considered the picture for a moment, then started adding ward
lines around the town. "Covering this much area..."

"We'd need a team," Harry agreed, summoning his own quill and absently marking spots along the ward lines where they'd need people to cast
from. "Uhg. How did the Founders manage to cover the whole of Hogwarts with just the four of them? Protecting the whole of Hogsmeade and the
outlying houses will require a team of ten people."

"I don't suppose you've got a time-turner of Death that will let us go back to the creation of Hogwarts?" Riddle muttered.

"Ha, ha." Harry spelled away half of the people. "I suppose we could manage with five, if they were all strong enough."

"You, myself," Riddle offered. "Dumbledore, I suppose–"

"If we could get him to see sense."

"Yes, well, that could be a chore. Who else? Severus might work..."

"Depending on how magically draining it is, Xerosis and Harry could both help," Harry pointed out.

"Using two of the same person?" Riddle murmured, eyes distant as he stared through the parchment on the table. "That would double the power,
yes. We could all use a time-turner, at that."

"Bringing us to eight with two Dumbledores and two Snapes?" Harry rubbed at his chin. He absently erased his previous marks and put in spots for
eight people. "That could..."

Riddle reached forward with his own quill and moved them all around so one of the marks was missing, bringing it down to seven. "More magical
number–"

"Wait!" Harry erased the seven marks and quickly changed the configuration so there were four people standing on the ward lines and three people
in the centre, standing around a stone he sketched in. "Seven people with four casting the ward and three tying it to a ward stone in the centre. The
three in the centre won't even need to be magically powerful as long as they've got a strong will."

Riddle nodded and quickly wrote their own names on the outside four, with Voldemort opposing Riddle and Harry opposing Xerosis. "We'll have to
find people who won't have a fit over seeing Harry Potter," he commented.

"Can Lucius and Barty break the Imperius Curse? Well..."


"Barty can be trained," Riddle commented, adding their names to the inner circle. "What about the third person?"

Harry considered for a moment, then added Luna's name. At the Dark Lord's disbelieving look he replied, "Trust me."

"Hn." Riddle left the name where it was and started up a list to one side. "Wards to make the village look uninhabitable to muggles. Muggle
repelling wards. Something to keep satellites from seeing it."

"If we can find a way to have the satellites always see the area as they would when they were up close, could we tie that spell in with the wards?"
Harry suggested.

"A two-part spell held together by a ward stone?" Riddle murmured, sketching some quick runes to one side. "Maybe. We'd have to put the wards
up first and then tie the distance spell in to them after."

"That shouldn't be too hard."

"No," Riddle agreed, considering his runes, then turning them to face Harry. "It will have to be rune-based, though."

Harry grimaced. "Might be a bit hard to apply to the satellites already up there."

"We could just hijack a rocket and shoot ourselves up there–"

"Tom, you're completely bonkers."

Riddle chuckled and sat back in his chair. "I don't know, Potter. The science of space travel is beyond me."

Harry sighed and nodded. "I know. I'll mention it to my friends and see if they can't think of something. If nothing else, Luna will have some magical
creature that lives on the moon."

"Potter, your friends..."

Harry grinned. "You're one to talk."

"I don't have friends."

"Minions, friends. Same word, different letters."

"You are insane in ways I don't fully understand," Riddle decided.

Harry laughed at that and drew a satellite above the picture of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. "We can catch any others that are going up there, once
we've set the wards around Hogsmeade and made some changes to the Hogwarts wards. Actually, that last is the bit I'm worried about. I mean,
Luna and I are students, and Lucius is a school governor, but you and Barty might have some trouble getting in. You more than Barty."

"Never mind figuring out where the ward stone is," Riddle agreed.

"Oh, no, I know where that is," Harry replied with a smile. "We found it when we were cleaning up the wreckage. It's actually the stone at the centre
of the arch over the main doors."

Riddle blinked, then snorted. "Clever. Hide the stone holding the wards in plain sight."

"It was probably Salazar's idea," Harry agreed, eyes flickering to the runes the other had written on the parchment and tapping them with the soft
end of his quill. "You know more about runes than I do."

"You never studied them?"

Harry snorted. "Hell no. When I was in school, I was a lazy little idiot. I learned a little as an auror and a little bit more when the war started. I've got
some runic knowledge from the magical souls I've eaten, but my knowledge is spotty other than what I've learned so far in Ancient Runes. I've
done some studying on my own, sure, but it's sort of a 'what interests me when' thing."

"So for all your apparent genius, there're still things you haven't mastered," Riddle commented, a pleased smile curling his lips.

"I never claimed to be all-knowing."

"You acted like it."

"I put on a show, because if I didn't, you would never have listened to me," Harry pointed out. "And to set the record straight, I am a defensive
magic prodigy. I mastered the patronus charm at thirteen, in the presence of a dementor."

Riddle blinked a few times, then shook his head. "Okay, defensive magic prodigy it is. Everything else, however, depends on what you've learned
during your rather long, stressful life."

"That is true," Harry agreed. "Some of my knowledge is stolen, true, but most of what I stole is language or mundane-based. My magical
knowledge has been gained through my own hard work."

The Dark Lord leaned forward. "Runes."

"You'll have to figure out which ones need to be added to the stones," Harry said, shrugging.

"Will I need to make the spells, too?" Riddle wondered, uncertain how much ward creation knowledge the other had.

"Mmm... No, I can help with that."

"You want to get this done tonight," Riddle figured.


"Yes." Harry sighed and ran a hand through his chin-length hair. "Getting it done tonight means we can work on figuring out a time in the coming
weeks. I'd like to get at least this part done before things get any worse."

"Agreed."

Another piece of parchment was summoned and they leaned over the table together, adding and debating parts for their spells.

-0-

Harry woke the morning of September first to the sound of a bird tapping urgently on the window. He grumbled to himself a bit, but rolled out of bed
and stumbled around Luna's cot to shove the window open. The bird that flew in was one of Sirius' small flock and Harry frowned as he reached for
the letter.

"Trouble?" Luna asked quietly.

Harry recognised his own writing and almost tore the parchment in his hurry to get it open, not yet answering Luna.

'H,
'Elm tree, ten minutes.
'X'

"Could I be any more useless?" he grumbled, tossing the letter in the bin, a fire spell following, before moving over to his wardrobe for some robes.

"Harry," Luna reminded him.

Harry sighed and tugged on one of his few non-school black robes before moving towards his trunk. "I'm sorry, Luna. I don't know what's going on.
I'll let you know as soon as I'm back. Whenever that might be." He grabbed his Cloak, time-turner and broom.

"It's not good," Luna whispered, blue eyes glinting eerily in the light from the setting moon.

"When I wake myself after less than three hours of sleep, it never is," Harry agreed grimly before slipping out of his window and flying into the
forest surrounding the house. The elm tree was just outside the wards, so Harry was unsurprised to find Xerosis standing with Voldemort and a
couple of Death Eaters. He landed next to Xerosis, asking, "What's going on?"

"...This is only a little disturbing," Barty decided, looking nervously between the copies of the younger Dark Lord while some of the other Death
Eaters shifted uncertainly at seeing an apparent enemy.

"Xerosis, get to it," Voldemort ordered.

Xerosis rolled his eyes and looked over at Harry with sharp eyes. "There will be an explosion in King's Cross today at ten."

"How can you know that if both of you are her–"

"Barty, shut up," Harry and Xerosis chorused.

"Sorry, my Lord," Barty mumbled. Around him, some of the Death Eaters shifted again, quelling under Voldemort's angry red eyes.

"There's an old system in place from before King's Cross existed, but it hasn't been used since the mid-nineteenth century," Lucius offered,
concern obvious in his voice. "My Lord, are you certain–"

"I heard word from a trusted source and went to check it out myself a few hours ago," Xerosis reported drily. As Voldemort opened his mouth, he
added, "Yes, we could probably stop them, but if we can find a way to get the students to Hogwarts without worrying about the bombing, I would
prefer that." The apparent vampire smiled cruelly. "There's something poetic about a mundane-planted explosion killing hundreds of insects for us."

Voldemort nodded and turned to Lucius. "How much trouble would it be to get this old system up and running?"

Lucius grimaced. "I don't honestly know, my Lord. I don't know how much the Ministry will be willing to listen to reason."

"Lucius, if you can put pressure on them from your end, Harry can come at them from his end," Xerosis pointed out.

"Will that be enough?" one of the Death Eaters muttered, shooting Harry an unimpressed look.

"Were the suicidal idiots necessary?" Harry asked his future self drily.

Xerosis smirked. "No."

"I hate vampires," Harry decided, rubbing at his face tiredly while Xerosis chortled. After a moment, the teen glanced up at the Death Eater who
had spoken, green eyes glowing warningly while the man shivered. "Are you questioning your Lord, scum?"

The man stumbled back and shook his head.

Xerosis snorted and laid a gentle hand on his slightly younger self. "Lucius, Baley, Stuart, all of you get to the Ministry and put pressure on them to
get that system working. Drag Fudge out of bed if you have to, Lucius."

"Yes, my Lord," the men murmured before apparating away.

"Grayson, Thompson, get to the Prophet offices and ensure this makes front page," Voldemort ordered the last two Death Eaters other than Barty.
When the men were gone, the Dark Lord turned to his two partners, scowling, "Was there a reason you insisted Barty come?"

"Momentary amusement?" Harry suggested with a cheeky grin.


"Potter," Voldemort hissed while Barty let out a resigned sigh.

Xerosis smirked, then snapped his fingers at Harry. "March of 2054."

Harry raised an eyebrow, then considered back to the stated date. "Erm, yeah. I remember. The blue house, right?" he replied, recalling the attack
they'd made against a mundane strike group that had been based just outside London.

Xerosis nodded. "Two hours."

"Got it. How long before...?" Harry waved his hand at Voldemort and Barty even as he pulled out his time-turner.

"Four-thirty."

Harry grimaced and offered Voldemort an apologetic look. "I'm sorry?" He'd left Malfoy Manor at around two, and he'd known the red-eyed man still
had things to do when he'd left.

Voldemort bared his teeth in response. "Not yet, you're not."

Xerosis rubbed absently at his shoulder. "Give me a break," he complained. "Like I got much more sleep than you."

Harry slipped over to Barty's side, time-turner forgotten, while Voldemort and Xerosis started in on one another. "Come on, Barty, let's escape
before we're collateral damage."

Barty let himself be shadowed back to his room in Malfoy Manor. As Harry was checking that he had everything, the Death Eater asked, "Why did
you bring me? Will you. Whatever."

"Possibly to keep myself from getting involved in that argument," Harry decided. "Well, and some amusement. Sorry, Barty, but you make it way
too easy."

"I'm resigned, my Lord," the man replied drily.

Harry smiled at him. "Probably simpler that way."

Barty snorted, earning a chuckle from the teen. After a moment, just before Harry could shadow away, he asked, "My Lord... Harry?"

Harry blinked at him, always a bit caught off guard when the Death Eater used his given name, since he was the only one who ever did. "Yes?"

Barty looked uncertain, but still enquired, "2054?"

Harry smiled grimly. "Ah. It's a code I use with myself."

"I don't–"

"Barty," Harry warned before the man could press it, "it's not your concern."

Barty considered the boy with the eyes of an adult for a long moment before nodding. "Yes, my Lord."

Harry offered him the faintest of smiles before shadowing away to a park he knew of near the house Xerosis had specified. He'd use his time-
turner there.

-0-

"There's going to be a bombing at King's Cross," Harry explained to the waiting Luna as he slipped back in through his window. "I need to wake
Andy and Tonks."

"Won't the Aurors try defusing the bomb themselves?" Luna wondered as Harry unloaded his various gadgets back into his trunk.

"Not unless they're idiots," Harry retorted. "At any rate, I fully intend to stress to Tonks how bad an idea that would be."

"What if they make sure the mundane government knows?" Luna asked, following Harry as he left his room and made for Andromeda's room.

"Then the insects get warned. It happens." He knocked on his cousin's door and waited patiently while she muttered sleepily and shuffled out of
bed. When the door opened, he offered her an apologetic smile and offered, "Sorry, Andy, but it's important."

"You're far too awake for this hour," Andromeda muttered sleepily before stepping back and waving the two teenagers in. Harry and Luna took the
desk chair and the floor next to the chair, respectively, while Andromeda returned to her bed. "Okay, what's so urgent?" she asked around a yawn.

Harry cocked his head to one side. "At ten o'clock, a mundane-planted pile of explosives will be going off at King's Cross."

Andromeda jerked out of her exhaustion. "What?" she whispered, paling slightly.

Harry raised an eyebrow at her. "The Ministry has already received word, but we're not sure they'll really get their behinds in gear in time to get
their older system up and running and get the word out for parents to send their kids to Hogwarts that way. Headmaster Dumbledore should put the
extra pressure on them to get moving."

"Can't the bombs be nullified?" Andromeda asked, even as she hurried to pull on some robes.

Harry shrugged. "Probably, but I'd leave that to the mundanes; a witch or wizard would probably just set it off pre-emptively. Whether the
mundanes get told or not, we're still going to have to find another way to get a few hundred kids to Scotland by the end of the day."

Andromeda gave him a slightly suspicious look. "You don't care if they're told or not?" she wondered.
Harry smiled, but kept his mouth shut.

"You're being more obvious about your muggle-hatred than usual," Andromeda pointed out.

"What ever do you mean, dear Cousin Andy?" Harry replied, looking up at her with suspiciously innocent eyes.

Andromeda snorted. "My husband was muggleborn," she reminded him.

"As was my mother," Harry said, leaning his chin in one hand. "As are two of my friends. I see no reason to fault the child for their parents."

Andromeda snorted again. "You just blame the muggles for being born without magic."

"I never said that," Harry pointed out, amused. "I dislike them because we're all human and it's in our nature to have a certain amount of dislike for
those who are different than us. I fear them because I know they have the power to destroy the world, and I hate them because I know they're
more than willing to destroy the world to get rid of magical people."

Andromeda frowned. "There are good muggles out there."

Harry shrugged. "Yes, but even good mundanes will choose violence when they're afraid."

"Your friend – Xerosis – and Voldemort are the reasons the muggles are fighting back," Andromeda pointed out.

Harry smiled. "Time is of the essence, Andy; we can continue our philosophical debate later." He stood and reached down to help Luna to her feet.
"Come along, luv. If I have to be awake, Sirius will suffer with me. We can wake Tonks on the way."

Luna entwined her arm with his and they walked together down to Tonks' room, where they woke the clumsy metamorphmagus and left her to get
ready after explaining that there had been a bomb threat reported at King's Cross.

At Sirius' room, Luna let Harry go in first, not even bothering to knock. She followed him to the bottom of Sirius' bed, where he stopped to consider
his sleeping godfather for a minute before summoning a pitcher of water and magically warming it. This he slipped Sirius' hand in before pulling a
chair over and sitting down to watch with a smirk.

Five minutes later, Sirius was woken by Harry's loud laughter. Drowsily looking to Luna for sanity, he found the girl giggling quietly and pointing at
the front of his trousers. He glanced down, noticed the wet patch, then realised his hand was in a pitcher of warm water. It took him a moment, but
he eventually connected the dots and lurched out of his bed towards Harry, who darted out of the room, loudly shouting, "Siri wets the bed like a
little kid!"

"Get back here, you little wretch!" Sirius called back, stumbling after the teen and half falling against the wall from time to time.

Luna, still quietly giggling, grabbed the pitcher and left to return it to the kitchen. There was still some popcorn left with her name on it, and she had
front row seats to a crazy show.

-0-

Harry quickly understood why they'd chosen to use a steam engine over their old system. "What about the people with mundane parents who can't
apparate or have no access to a floo?" he asked of the room in general. Andromeda had just returned with their instructions, drily commenting that
everyone else would get theirs via owl within the next two hours. Since they had three and a half hours or so until the bomb was supposed to go
off, Harry wasn't concerned.

"The Ministry, St Mungo's, and the Three Broomsticks are all opening their floos for Hogwarts traffic," Andromeda reported. "As long as families
can stick to the schedule, everything should go smoothly."

"I have this amazing mental image of a mundane family refusing to let their child attend Hogwarts because they'll have to step in a fireplace," Harry
commented drily.

"They can take the Knight Bus," Sirius replied from behind a yawn. "So, Andy, when're Harry and Luna due?"

"Harry needs to leave sometime between one o'clock and one fifteen. Luna an hour after that."

"Can't we just go early?" Harry complained, rubbing at his face. He'd very much like to just take a long nap, personally. "I mean, technically we're
living with a professor. Doesn't that get us some sort of bonus?"

"You're living with a professor?" Sirius parroted, looking at his godson with a befuddled expression.

Harry and Luna both pointed to Andromeda, who looked rather amused. "How did you figure it out?" the newest Defence professor asked.

"Luna told me," Harry reported. "Come on, Andy. Can we go early? Luna and I can behave ourselves. We'll stay in our dorm and you'll never even
know we were there."

"I don't know, kid..." Andromeda replied, shaking her head slowly.

Harry turned an evil smirk on his godfather.

"Oh, for the love of Merlin, Andy! Take the little demon before he drives me completely off the mountain!" Sirius complained.

"What mountain?" Andromeda demanded, shooting her cousin an incredulous look.

"The Mountain of Sanity!"

Andromeda rubbed tiredly at her forehead while Harry's smirk widened and he said, "I don't think you were ever on that mountain to begin with,
Siri."
"Takes one to know one, brat," Sirius retorted.

"Hey, I will have you know that I am a proud resident of the Valley of the Completely Bonkers."

"...why does that sound more awesome than the Mountain of Sanity?" Sirius wondered.

"Because it is. Not only are there no rules, but there are also valley-wide orgies every Friday," Harry declared before glancing at a nearby calendar.
"Hey, what do you know? It's Friday!"

"You're too young for an orgy!" Sirius declared.

"No rules," Harry reminded him before turning to Luna. "I know I'm not your type, luv, but would you like to join me in my room for an orgy?"

"Hmmm..." Luna replied, considering her friend thoughtfully.

"Too! Young!" Sirius tried again.

Andromeda groaned to herself. "Merlin forbid," she complained. "Harry, Luna, get your trunks. I'll take you over early if only to preserve my sanity."

"What about my sanity?" Sirius complained as the two teens traded grins and hurried from the room.

"What sanity?"

Harry caught Luna in a quick hug at the top of the stairs before leading the way into his room. "So, what is your type, Luna?" he wondered as he
tossed a couple of last minute things into his trunk.

"Someone a little closer to my own age," Luna replied with an absent smile.

Harry chuckled. "Sorry about that."

"Don't be sorry," Luna chastised. "You would make a very poor Lord if you were only fifteen."

"Hn. Good point." Harry closed his trunk and tapped the top to make it shrink, then tossed it into a pocket. "But, really, who's your type? I know you
eventually married Rolf Scamander–"

"I've met Rolf a few times," Luna interrupted absently as she shrunk her own trunk. "He's a nice enough boy, but he isn't willing to accept that
Crumple-Horned Snorlacks even might exist."

Harry shook his head fondly and ushered the girl back towards the living room. "Luna, luv, that's what most people think."

"They're quite silly then, aren't they?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Are you two ready?" Andromeda asked when they entered the living room.

"Yes," Luna offered.

Harry blinked at his godfather, who gave him a pleading look from behind his gag. "Um, Andy, why is my godfather trussed up like a lamb off to the
slaughter?"

Sirius whimpered.

"I'm thinking of giving him to Severus as a peace offering," Andromeda replied drily.

Sirius whimpered again.

"If you're going to do that, you might want to divest him of his clothing, first," Harry commented, eyes gleaming with mischief as Sirius turned, in
turns, green and bleach-white. "After all, we both know how Siri is about first impressions when it comes to possible mates."

Sirius' eyes rolled backwards into his head and he toppled off his chair.

Andromeda blinked at her fallen cousin, then looked over at Harry. "That was brilliantly evil."

"I do try," Harry replied, grinning.

Andromeda let out an amused snort. "Yeah, I see that. Well, go on. You're flooing to the Headmaster's office." She waved the two teens towards
the open floo.

"Fair maiden," Harry said, bowing Luna forward, "ladies first."

Luna smiled a bit absently at him. "Why thank you, my Lord," she said before flooing through.

Harry considered his godfather's prone form for a moment while Andromeda watched him with an amused look. "Harry, if you're going to curse him,
do it now."

Harry offered her a wide-eyed look. "But I'm still under-age, Andy!"

"I've lost track of the number of times I've seen you performing magic this summer, kid," Andromeda informed him drily. "Not sure how you got past
the Trace, but since you spent half the summer in the Black family library, I can make a pretty good guess."

Harry smiled, not commenting on that, and pulled his favourite stolen wand out of his pocket. In truth, he'd never removed the Trace from his holly
wand, though he'd considered it, but if Andromeda had seen him using magic, she'd have seen this wand, anyway. " Unbekleidet Bekleidet," he
muttered, casting the spell on his godfather.

When nothing happened, Andromeda looked at him curiously. "Yes?"

"It's a German spell, meaning 'unclothed clothed'. No matter what Siri puts on, he'll think he's naked, although others will see the clothing he's put
on. It'll end after a week." Harry smirked a bit. "I'm kind of curious about whether or not he'll just stop wearing clothing after a few days."

"My poor daughter," Andromeda muttered, stepping forward and turning Harry towards the floo. "Go torture your other professors."

"You're not coming?" Harry asked, surprised.

"In a bit. I need to forewarn Dora about your prank."

Harry chuckled and tossed the powder into the flames before flooing through to Dumbledore's office. "Sorry about the wait, luv," he offered Luna,
who was enjoying some tea and biscuits with Dumbledore.

Luna offered him her absent smile. "The Headmaster was asking about Blibbering Humdingers," she explained. "Why don't you join us, Harry?"

Harry glanced over at where Fawkes was glaring at him, feathers puffed up threateningly. That was reassuring. "No, I think I'm going to go nap
until lunch. You enjoy your talk, though." He leaned over and kissed her cheek, earning him a pleased smile, then nodded to Dumbledore.
"Headmaster."

"Pleasant dreams, my boy," Dumbledore replied with a smile.

Harry had almost reached the door when Fawkes let out a sharp sound and the teenaged Dark Lord clapped his hands over his ears. "What the
fuck?" he demanded, giving the phoenix an angry look. He hadn't much expected Fawkes to like him, not with all the blood on his hands, but
neither had he expected the bird to verbally attack him, either.

"Fawkes?" Dumbledore asked, half-rising from his seat and watching his familiar with both surprise and concern.

Harry narrowed his eyes at Fawkes as the bird gave off another piercing screech. With his temper up, it didn't take much for Harry to bring his
power forward and he threw it at the phoenix, freezing the fire bird with a warning that was the complete opposite of everything the elemental bird
was.

Fawkes let out a sound that could only be described as a bird-whimper, then turned his back on Harry completely and hunched his head.

Harry reigned his power in and stalked from the office, wishing he could control his anger better right then. "Fucking hormones. Fucking fire birds."

He needed sleep. He could figure out what to do about Fawkes once he was thinking clearly.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: I apologise in advance for a lack of sanity in those last couple sections. I've been awake for way too long, but I wanted to make this chapter
acceptable before handing it over to my betas. ^.^"
Anyway, for all that I wanted to have the whole year in this chapter, I'm kind of fond of where it's ended. (I dunno. Let's see what I think after I've
slept a bit. XD)

ETA: Change in the German spell thanks to (FFN).


Edit made to the Blaise Pascal quote courtesy of Arwen00710 (FFN).
I fail at languages...

Hope everyone has a good week!


~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 7*: Born From Conflict
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Semi-super!Harry

Disclaim Her: So... usually my chapter titles are stolen from song lyrics – I have this long document on my computer with two to six word phrases
from songs I listen to and I just pick something from that list – but this title was inspired by something Penelope Garcia quoted in Criminal Minds –
I'm only a little obsessed – and it just... It was awesome. I kind of want to use the whole quote somewhere in this fic, 'cause it's just that awesome.
Erm... /CM gush

A/N: Responses below to some questions I got multiple times:

Muggle/Mundane killings not wise: No, killing a group here or a group there isn't really the brightest idea Harry's ever had, but he's not at his
most sane, either, you'll have to recall, and he's working with Voldemort, who also isn't all that sane. A lot of the person-by-person killing is based
on simple bloodlust or because that's how the Death Eaters and Harry's groups have worked in the past. They're guerrilla fighters. (And for the
suggestions I heard, I've seen those before in other fics, so I'm leery of using them and getting called out for stealing ideas. Especially since I know
an author personally who used one of them.)
Also, you have to keep in mind that the normal members of society would never have been willing to fight back against the mundanes without
some proof of what they're capable of. So letting them find out about the magical world and start fighting back was something of a necessary evil,
even if it does paint a giant target on their society's back.

Harry/Luna? Jesus, people. Harry and Luna are friends, not potential lovers, for all that they're insanely close. Harry honestly has no thoughts
towards romance at this point in time, and Luna is a bit young to think much about it.
And the related question: When's the HP/LV(TMR) happening? When the boys are good and ready. It's not in their characters to jump right in,
and they've both got other things on their plates. When it happens, it'll be largely by mistake. There will likely be some angst. Yadda, yadda... XD

-0-0-0-

Born From Conflict

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"You awake?" Terry asked through Harry's curtains.

Harry moaned faintly but reached up and tugged one side of his curtains open, covering his eyes for the expected afternoon sunlight. "Afternoon,
Terry," he mumbled, peeking at his friend from between two fingers.

"At least you know what time it is," Lillian retorted from the doorway.

Harry frowned a bit; the Slytherins weren't supposed to arrive until the end of the hour. "What's the time?"

"It's almost three. Loony made us wait," Lillian reported.

"Oh for– Moon, get out of our dorm!" Anthony Goldstein complained.

Harry scrambled out of bed, grabbing his glasses and jamming them on his face on the way. "Anthony, you're okay!" he realised. He felt a little
guilty for not having worried more for his roommate, considering he'd known that his house had been near the first explosion.

Anthony gave Harry a tired look. "Yeah. I was out of the house when the explosion happened."

"Wait, you lived near one of the explosions?" Lillian asked, her haughty expression fading.

"His house is two over from where the first explosion started," Harry offered. "What about your mum? Was she out with you, or–?"

"She's dead," Anthony reported in a bit of a monotone. "I'm a ward of the Ministry while they attempt to get my father to take me in."

Harry ground his teeth together, familiar enough with the Ministry's ward system to know it was not good for a kid who'd just lost his only real
parent; after his kids had left the house, he and Ginny had occasionally hosted a ward or two while the Ministry tried finding a family for them, and
the whole process was a lot of hell and bureaucratic nonsense. They'd always tried their best to provide everything they could for their wards, but
most of them had just lost everything and tended to close in on themselves. It didn't help that some families hosted wards and then treated them
poorly because of their emotional pain or who their parents were. And since everyone who kept wards were volunteers, the Ministry didn't really
check up on them beyond making sure they had the financial stability to care for a child.

"How is your ward family?" Harry had to ask.

Anthony's face blanked. "They're fine."

Harry and Terry traded knowing looks. Harry would have to write to Sirius and see if his godfather was willing to host Anthony until they could find a
new home for him.

Lillian sighed. "Harry, Loony said you wanted to talk to all of us?"

"I did?" Harry blinked and scratched at his head. "Oh, right. Where's everyone else?"
"Your other almost-muggle and the cowardly lion didn't want to chance getting caught in the Ravenclaw dorms."

Terry rolled his eyes at Lillian's terms for everyone. "They're going to meet us in the library. Li and Luna are waiting downstairs. Unlike some
purebloods I know." He shot Lillian a dark look.

Lillian smirked back.

"You lot are ridiculous," Harry declared, summoning a set of school robes from his trunk. "Lil, go downstairs so I can change."

"Ooh." Lillian wiggled her eyebrows, then slipped from the room.

Harry rolled his eyes and got changed while Terry chuckled, then the two boys wandered downstairs to meet the girls. Luna immediately fell in on
his right while Terry and Li gathered together to continue an apparently interrupted discussion about Li's summer visit to China.

Lillian moved to walk on Harry's left, quietly wondering, "Are you going to tell them?"

Harry glanced at her and shrugged. "Maybe. I'm a little worried about how many of you already know, admittedly."

"I won't tell anyone," Lillian complained. "And I doubt the mudblood or Longbottom will, either."

"It's not a matter of intent," Harry replied. "Snape and Dumbledore are both Legilimens. Dumbledore, for the most part, respects personal
boundaries, but Snape has a tendency of trying a bit of Legilimency when he's ticked off." He smiled at Lillian's scandalised expression. "Neville is
probably best off, since he never meets Snape's eyes, but the rest of you will have to be careful."

"What about Loony?" Lillian wondered, glancing at Luna.

Luna smiled at her a bit absently while Harry chuckled. "Luna is fine."

The library was, expectedly, quite empty. Madam Pince watched them suspiciously from her desk as Terry and Li led the way through the stacks to
the back corner that Hermione and Neville had settled into. As soon as they arrived, Hermione was up and drawing Harry into a hug. "Is everything
okay?" she asked, considering Harry with concern. "Luna said you got here and immediately went to bed–"

Harry chuckled and smoothed some hair out of Hermione's face. "I'm fine, Hermione. I just didn't get much sleep last night." He gently turned her
towards the table she and Neville had picked out. "Hey, Neville. How's life?"

Neville smiled at him as everyone took seats around the table. "Fine. I don't suppose you know why we had to find an alternate way to get to
Hogwarts?" At Harry's raised eyebrow, he added, "It wasn't specified in the letters."

"Huh." Harry shrugged and relaxed back in his chair, silently casting a silencing ward around their table. "Yeah, there was a bomb threat at King's
Cross. It was decided that using the old system for getting to the school was easier than working around a bomb."

"A bomb threat?" Hermione repeated, concern creasing her brow.

"What is it with muggles and explosions?" Lillian complained. "Every time I turned around this summer they'd gone and set another one."

"What is it with Death Eaters and the Unforgivables?" Terry returned.

"Are you comparing Death Eaters to muggles?" Lillian demanded.

Harry rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Can we not have this argument right now?"

Lillian and Terry looked down at the table, pictures of shame, and chorused, "Sorry, Harry."

Li let out a polite little cough. "Luna said you had something to ask us?"

Harry shot Luna a fond look, then straightened in his seat. "Call it a project, if you will," he offered. "I'm trying to figure out how to get a wizard or
witch up in space. Preferably without going through a mundane government."

There was a moment's pause, then:

"Space? Who would want to go up there?" from Lillian.

"Could we hijack a rocket?" from Terry.

"Any particular reason why?" from both Hermione and Li.

"The Usagi Tsuki that lives on the moon might help," from Luna.

Harry blinked at them for a moment, then burst out laughing. It took him a moment to calm down, only to start laughing again when he saw their
wounded expressions. Finally, forcing himself to look at the table, he offered, "I'm sorry," between snickers.

Neville, the only one not sporting a hurt – or, in Luna's case, vaguely constipated – look, asked, "Why are you asking?"

Harry glanced up, frowning slightly. "Myself and an... acquaintance of mine have some plans to keep the mundanes from using their satellites in
orbit around the planet to find Hogwarts."

"They could do that?" Lillian whispered.

"Yes," Harry said with such certainty that Lillian, Hermione, and Neville traded sharp looks. "The wards on the school only have a range of about
six hundred metres. Any cameras or people looking down on Hogwarts beyond that can see exactly what we would see close." Harry thought for a
moment, then added, "Aeroplanes are also a concern, I suppose, but none of them fly over this area because the magic interference tends to
cause them to crash."

They were all silent for a long moment, then Li cautiously wondered, "What does getting into space have to do with this?"

"My acquaintance and I have some additions to the wards which should boost their strength a bit and also link in a series of runes which – when
carved onto the side of a satellite – will only record what we want it to record."

"But you'll have to get into space to carve the runes on the satellite," Hermione deduced, frowning in thought. "I don't think we'd get away with
stealing a rocket, not with the training anyone riding in it would need..."

"My thoughts exactly," Harry agreed, leaning forward over the table. "Tom – my acquaintance – suggested some form of apparation, but you'd
need line of sight for that sort of uncertainly in landing position, so that's likely out."

"What about a space suit?" Terry wondered. "I mean, sure, a bubblehead charm would be a must, but that only gives you air. You'd need
something protective to travel in a vacuum, right?"

"And you'd need some training in moving in zero-G," Luna helpfully agreed.

The purebloods gave the odd girl vacant looks while the others around the table all considered her somewhat disbelievingly. Some of the things
Luna knew – raised as a pureblood as she was – were completely inexplicable.

"What's 'zero-G'?" Neville requested.

"Zero gravity," Li offered. "There is nothing really to pull you to the ground out there. You would need some sort of propulsion on top of any zero-G
training, though," she added, looking back at Harry.

Harry nodded and pulled a small notebook out of his pocket to scribble notes in. "I know of a room that could probably simulate zero-G in the
castle, and summoning charms could serve as a form of propulsion, I suppose. Lesser mass pulls to greater mass and all that."

"I hate it when you start talking muggle," Lillian complained.

"Sorry," Harry mumbled, continuing to scribble calculations in his notebook.

Hermione peeked over his left shoulder and her eyes widened at the complicated arithmetic. "Merlin's beard, Harry," she breathed. "I can't even
follow half of that."

"I'm secretly a mathematical genius," Harry replied drily, pausing to chew on the end of his pencil stub before adding a few more lines. "Ugh." He
snapped the book shut and stuffed it back into his pocket with the tiny pencil. "Fuck it–"

"Harry!" Hermione gasped while Terry grinned at his friend's language.

Harry rolled his eyes and patted Hermione's hand. "Line of sight would require something like ten jumps, depending on cloud-cover. Yes, I factored
in gravity pull and atmospheric pressure at higher levels." He grimaced at the blank looks he was receiving. "Sorry. Uhm, anyway. It's not humanly
possible for a wizard or witch to make it up there by apparation; the trip would be too draining. Maybe a group of wizards, but more people adds
more mass, which requires more magic..." He shook his head.

Luna patted his arm sympathetically. "We'll just have to find another way."

"Hn."

Terry cleared his throat. "What about a broom?"

"Brooms can't make it to space," Hermione replied flatly.

"The brooms on the market now can't make it to space," Harry corrected, pulling his notebook and pencil stub out again. "But if you drop these
spells and... maybe use these spells instead... No, what if... And..."

"You're thinking out loud," Luna helpfully pointed out.

Harry paused for a moment to wave a hand at her, then continued scribbling notes, muttering under his breath.

"He is a bit scary," Li whispered, watching their friend. Harry had always done his homework, sure, but she'd never seen him so excited about
something before. Occasionally, when working on Runes or Arithmancy, his eyes would light up with pleasure, but for most things he just looked
sort of bored, as if he knew everything they were being taught already.

"Ha!" Harry finally sat back and grinned around the table. "I think I've got it. I'll have to test it out a bit. Maybe I'll order a couple of Firebolts and play
with them."

Terry whimpered. "You're going to ruin perfectly good brooms?"

Harry blinked at him. "Yes?"

"It must be nice to be rich," Li muttered.

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'll put them back the way I got them when I'm done. The spells they come with are easy, anyway." He waved his hand
negligently, ignoring their disbelieving looks; he had, after all, made a hobby of playing with his old Firebolt when the Thunderbolt came out ten
years after the end of the war with Voldemort. He could probably take a Firebolt apart and put it back together again in his sleep. Could probably
manage a Thunderbolt, too, though Ginny had never let him pick that broom apart, even when better brooms hit the market shortly before her
death.

Luna touched his upper arm. "It's getting on to dinnertime," she mentioned.
Harry pulled out his pocket watch and grimaced at the time. "Oh. Thanks, Luna." He pocketed his notebook and the watch again and smiled at the
slightly incredulous looks still being thrown his way. "I'll probably spend the next two days before classes working on that broom, assuming my new
brooms arrive in time. Did you guys want to come with me next weekend to play in zero-G?"

Everyone's eyes lit up at the prospect, though Neville looked a little uncertain, due to his fear of flying. "Can we really?" Terry asked.

"Yeah, sure," Harry agreed, standing. "We can meet after lunch and I'll show you the Room of Requirement."

"The whats-it?" Hermione asked, blinking.

"Next weekend," Harry promised, taking his silencing ward down.

"Does this mean we'll get to go out into space with you?" Terry asked hopefully.

Harry blinked, considered the expression Voldemort would wear when he found out Harry wanted to take his friends with him out into space, then
said, "Sure. Should be fun."

Terry let out a whoop and hurried forward to throw an arm around Harry's shoulders. "Have I ever told you how absolutely awesome you are?"

"Not recently," Harry replied with a smile.

Hermione cleared her throat and gave Harry a stern look. "When, exactly, would this grand adventure occur?"

Harry shrugged. "On a weekend? We should be able to fit it."

"And if not?" the bookish Gryffindor demanded.

Harry slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled his time-turner out just enough so she could see it, then slipped it back inside while Hermione froze
in her tracks, eyes wide.

"What was that?" Terry whispered as the others crowded around Harry, forcing him to stop, as they all wanted to see his shocking toy.

Harry rolled his eyes and, ensuring there weren't any portraits around, pulled the time-turner out properly. "Time-turner."

"You should not have one of those," Li whispered as Hermione joined them again and lightly punched Harry's shoulder.

Harry gave her a wounded look. "What was that for?"

" 'Don't forget to put aside a couple hours for sleep, Hermione'," Hermione replied, repeating something Harry had told her often in their third year. "
'Don't go wasting all those extra hours on school work, Hermione'."

Harry grinned, slipping his stolen toy back into his pocket. "You'd have flipped out if I straight-out told you to use your time-turner to get a few hours
extra sleep."

"You had a time-turner?" Neville asked Hermione. "When?"

"Third year," Hermione admitted, flushing a bit.

"That's how you made it to all those classes!" Lillian complained. "Granger, that it so cheating!"

Harry chuckled. "McGonagall was the one who gave it to her, during the Sorting. She gave it back at the end of the year, though, once we talked
her into dropping some of her classes."

"You knew the entire time," Hermione realised.

"Yup."

Li cleared her throat. "You are not taking extra classes, Harry. Why do you have one?"

"He stole it," Luna reported.

"Don't say it like that," Harry complained while everyone else except Lillian chastised him. "I liberated it from its life on a shelf, collecting dust." He
paused, then corrected, "Okay, not dust; sand imbued with time. But, still."

"You actually stole from the Department of Mysteries," Lillian commented, impressed. "That takes someone truly suicidal to pull it off."

"I'm not suicidal," Harry complained.

"Dinner," Luna helpfully reminded everyone.

They started back out again, the Gryffindors and other Ravenclaws shooting Harry occasional disapproving looks. He just rolled his eyes at them.

Just before they reached the doors into the Great Hall, Hermione stopped him, and the others stopped with them, curious. "Harry, have you
considered saving people from those bombings?"

Harry shrugged. "I've tried, sure. Tried completely stopping one bomb, but it still went off. It was how I found out about the bomb at King's Cross."

That got the others to all consider him with new eyes. "If you did not have that... If you did not, we would all be dead, would we not?" Li realised,
carefully avoiding mentioning the time-turner by name.

Harry offered her a grim smile. "Yes."


Li leaned forward and hugged him, whispering, "Thank you."

Harry smiled and gently wiped away a tear trailing down her cheek. "Hey, I'm Harry Potter; it's my job to save people."

They all let out a weak laugh at that.

Hermione shook her head. "Harry, what if you..." She glanced over her shoulder to the open doors into the Hall. "Don't try stopping the bombs, just
protect the people. Like what you did at King's Cross."

Harry blinked once, twice, then his eyes widened in understanding. "Bloody–" He smacked himself. "Potter, you idiot."

That got another round of weak laughter.

"Why aren't you seven in the Great Hall?" Snape hissed as he stalked up towards them from the direction of the dungeons.

Harry and his friends traded looks, then turned and dashed inside. Only Lillian walked calmly, although even she moved a little quicker than she
otherwise might have to avoid her Head of House's wrath.

Harry took his usual seat at the Ravenclaw Table with Luna on his right and Li and Terry sitting across from him. They all took a moment to trade
greetings with their housemates, enquiring after summers and falling silent only when McGonagall led the new first years in, covered in soot as
they were.

It was going to be an interesting year.

-0-

"So, I know you said you'd figured everything out, but how are you planning to keep from burning up in the atmosphere?" Terry asked as he and
Harry's other friends joined he and Luna over by the lake. Harry was working on the spells for the new brooms that were supposed to be arriving by
lunch while Luna was playing with the giant squid.

"That's a good question," Hermione pointed out, settling down comfortably on Harry's left side and peeking at his notes.

"Terry suggested a space suit," Harry commented, handing the notebook over to his friend with a smile. "I could work some protective spells into
the suit to keep it from burning up in the atmosphere. Might have to test it a couple of times, but once I've got the spell right, I can add it to a
broom." He paused, cocked his head to one side, then said, "Or maybe an amulet with a proximity ward? Here, Hermione, hand me that back..."

Hermione shook her head and handed the notebook back. "Do you ever write in just one language?" she wondered. She'd once heard Terry
complaining about being unable to read Harry's class notes because they were in about four different languages, only two of which Terry
understood.

"Should I?" Harry wondered absently. "Knowing multiple languages is good for spell creation. Latin doesn't always have the right words for what
you're looking for."

"That doesn't explain why you write in so many different languages," Terry pointed out.

"So I don't lose my skills, to some extent," Harry replied, which was at least partially the truth. He was incapable of forgetting the things he learned
through sucking someone's soul, but anything he'd learned on his own through books or the help of Li, he could easily forget. Anyway, there was a
difference between being able to speak a language and writing it, especially for languages like Mandarin or Arabic, which used different alphabets.

"Why does it matter?" Lillian wondered, giving the two muggleborns disgusted looks.

"It doesn't," Hermione retorted with a scowl. "It does make it hard to understand his notes, though."

"I'd like to see Snape blow a gasket because you turned in a paper written the way your notes usually go," Terry added, grinning. Hermione rolled
her eyes while the others all chuckled.

Harry smiled at his roommate. "Yeah? I'd probably land myself a detention, but it could be fun. Might just do it if I'm feeling masochistic."

Neville shuddered. "To each their own form of personal torture," he offered.

"Snape does not really bother Harry, though," Li pointed out.

"Not for lack of trying," Terry added, shaking his head. "Practically every class he stands there and says degrading things about your person or
your dad or Sirius and you just smile and keep right on working."

"Or write them down," Li agreed.

"He can insult Dad all he wants, if it makes him feel better," Harry replied, closing his notebook and turning his attention fully to his friends. "Dad
and Siri and their friends were absolutely terrible to Snape when they were all in school, and as long as Snape leaves my mum out of things, I
really don't care. It's just a load of hot air, anyway."

"What if he did mention your mum?" Neville wondered.

"That might be a show worth watching," Lillian commented, recalling how Harry had reacted to Morag's comment about Lily Potter last year.
"Although, you'd probably get detention for a few months."

Harry grunted. "Snape won't say anything bad about my mum, he liked her too much. If he ever were to cross that line, however, I have all sorts of
blackmail I can use against him that he doesn't even know I have."

"Like what?" Lillian wondered, wide-eyed and hopeful.


"You have blackmail on a professor?" Hermione whispered, half disapproving, half impressed.

Harry grinned. "I have blackmail on the headmaster, too."

"Harry," Hermione and Li breathed while Terry chimed in with, "Wicked."

Harry just grinned a bit wider.

"Any other professors you have blackmail on?" Lillian wondered.

"Sure. Trelawney, Hagrid, McGonagall..." Harry shrugged. "A minor bit on Flitwick. A couple of things on some of the ghosts, too, if you'll believe
that."

"You are all kinds of scary," Neville decided.

"Why thank you, Neville."

Luna finally re-joined them, done throwing pebbles at the squid, and curled up against Harry's right side. "I wonder what it would be like to live on
the moon," she offered.

"Live on the moon?" Hermione repeated, blinking.

"It must be nice, since the Usagi Tsuki lives up there," Luna agreed, then turn to look up into Harry's curious eyes. "Don't you think?"

"But for how long?" Harry wondered.

Before Luna could supply a response, they were interrupted by the arrival of six owls bearing three broom-shaped packages.

"You're going to ruin three Firebolts?" Terry squeaked as Harry disentangled himself from Luna to collect his order.

"I'm not going to ruin anything," Harry complained, taking out one of the brooms and retaking his seat between Luna and Hermione. "I'll put it back
when I'm done."

"I think I'm going to faint," Terry complained.

"How about you just die, instead?" Morag wondered as she stepped up behind Lillian with Millicent and Tracey. "Lil, we've been wondering where
you got off to."

"Potter, what are you doing to that broom?" Tracey asked as Harry started waving his wand over the bristles of the broom.

"Reminding myself what spells are on it," Harry replied distractedly.

"We're watching Harry take apart a Firebolt while Boot has concurrent heart attacks," Lillian offered her friends. "It's a lot of fun, if you wanted to
join us."

"You're taking apart the spells on a Firebolt?" Tracey demanded. "Potter, are you insane?"

"I thought that was obvious," Morag quipped. "We've always known he was mad as a hatter."

"But..." Tracey shot Morag a wide-eyed look. "It's a Firebolt, Morag! It's only the best broom on the market!"

"For another ten years or so," Harry offered idly. "And I can boost the speed on this thing easily."

Tracey sniffed. "Lies."

Harry's eyes lit with an unholy light. "Yeah? Wanna test it?"

Tracey narrowed her eyes. "Test it how, Potter?"

"A simple race. Unless you're chicken?"

"I don't have a Firebolt with which to race," Tracey replied with a sniff.

Harry's group of friends helpfully pointed to the two unopened broom boxes. "Harry ordered three," Li offered, "and the other two are still in their
boxes."

"You're ruining three Firebolts!" Tracey complained.

"Where have I heard this before?" Harry wondered rhetorically, rolling his eyes. "Honestly, Davis, if you're too scared–"

"I'm not scared of some over-inflated half-blood!" Tracey spat, stalking over to the broom boxes and pulling one out. "Name your course."

Harry smiled, pleased with himself, and quickly cast his spell to boost the speed on the broom before climbing to his feet. "Once around the castle?
First one back here is the winner."

"Should we get a professor?" Li wondered helplessly as Harry smiled and Tracey glared.

"Agreed," Tracey replied, holding out her hand to shake on it.

"Too late," Neville offered.

"I don't think I can watch this," Hermione whispered, covering her eyes. "Harry, for my sake, come back in one piece!" she called as the two racers
mounted their brooms.

"Hermione, for you, I'll even return with my pride intact," he teased. "Hey, Lil, want to give us the call to go?"

Lillian sighed and climbed to her feet. "Oh, fine. Don't kill each other."

"Hey, I'm a Ravenclaw!" Harry complained. "If you're worried about foul play, look at her."

Lillian gave Harry an unimpressed look. "Don't even start with me." Harry just grinned at her. "On my mark... GO!"

Harry and Tracey both shot off into the air. In the moments it took them to fly out of sight behind the castle, the watching students could already
see that Harry's broom had gained ground against Tracey's.

"Bets on who's going to win this one?" Terry wondered.

"Harry," came the unanimous response, even from Millicent and Morag.

"But it's a Firebolt," Terry pointed out.

Lillian rolled her eyes. "Boot, honestly, get a clue. If Harry says he can make the broom faster, he can."

"He's an evil, clinically insane, genius," Morag added.

"Harry's not evil," Hermione complained.

Morag snorted. "You cannot be that blind."

"He's not evil," Lillian agreed. "His moral compass is just slightly more out of whack than your average fifteen-year-old." She shrugged at Morag's
disbelieving look. "What? You deserved it."

"I did–" Morag let out an angry noise. "He doesn't care if we call them–" she jerked her thumb at a staring Hermione and Terry, "–mudbloods. How
was I supposed to know he was a mum's boy? It's not like he ever knew her."

"Harry remembers his mum sacrificing her life for him," Neville quietly supplied.

Morag's mouth fell open in surprise, something like understanding flashing in her eyes. "Shit."

"You deserved it," Millicent helpfully offered.

"What did you do, anyway?" Terry wondered. "Something to do with his mum?"

"She implied she was a mudblood and that Potter was going to go crying to her grave 'cause he didn't like Morag calling her that," Millicent replied,
shrugging at Morag's faintly betrayed look. "What? They asked."

"What did Harry do back?" Hermione wondered.

"What do you think he did, mudblood?" Morag spat. She could stand Potter, for all that he was insane, but she had no interest in dealing with his
Light flunkies.

Hermione considered the other girl for a moment, then commented, "He cursed you. And not with a legal, fourth year spell."

"How did–?"

"They can be remarkably perceptive, these mudbloods," Lillian offered a bit drily.

Terry offered, "Harry's pretty good at playing the 'Light's Golden Boy,' I think the papers called him?" He glanced over at Li, who nodded. "But
sometimes, he acts just that little bit off. When he gets angry – really angry, not that faintly irritated that he gets when Malfoy acts like a prat or
Weasley gives him moon-eyes – he's a bit scary, like he might really kill you if you don't leave right that moment."

"We have only seen that once," Li supplied. "When one of the upper years said something nasty to me about my accent, and Harry came to my
defence. He was not angry with us, but it is scary even when he is protecting you, his anger."

"It's worse when you're on the receiving end," Neville offered quietly. "Everything gets really cold and the world suddenly seems so hopeless and
large and there's nothing you can do. It's like, standing on the train tracks and knowing that if you don't move, you're going to die, but you know
there's no way you could move and you've just got to hope the train can stop in time."

Morag nodded, remembering the way those cold, heartless eyes had looked at her as the pain had gotten worse. She didn't remember being
suddenly cold, to be honest, but she remembered looking into those cold green eyes and knowing, without a doubt, that he could have killed her at
that moment and there was nothing she could have done to stop him. She had no interest in seeing a boggart again, because she knew what it
would turn into: those eyes.

"Look," Luna recalled their attention to the near side of the building where a dark form was just coming into view.

Hermione gave a quiet whimper and closed her eyes. "Too fast," she complained.

Terry stood up, eyes riveted to Harry's form as he zipped past them and over the lake, sending up jets of water to either side due to his speed.
"Wicked," the Ravenclaw whispered.

Tracey finally came into view, going fast, but nowhere near as fast as Harry's broom, which he was looping back around at a much more
reasonable speed. Tracey reached them again first and hopped off the broom next to Morag, breathing hard.
"You okay?" Morag wondered as Harry finally reached them and hopped off with a mad grin splitting his cheeks.

"How could you even control that thing?" Tracey demanded of the Ravenclaw. "I had enough trouble with a Firebolt at its top speed."

"I've ridden a Firebolt before," Harry admitted, shrugging. "It takes some practise to control it, yeah, but once you're familiar with it, it's not so hard."

"But you controlled that thing easily, too," Tracey complained. "You did bloody loops around me."

Harry's grin widened a bit more, remembering the loops he'd done around her at the far end of the castle, teasing her about how slow she was
going. "Someone's got to remind you purebloods that you're not the best in the world just because you can trace magic back through your family
tree seven generations, or whatever."

"I don't–"

"Yeah, you do," Millicent chimed in before Tracey could deny anything. "You do it to me, sometimes."

Tracey had the grace to look a little ashamed at that. "Sorry, Millie."

Millicent shrugged. "I know you don't mean anything by it, but sometimes you and Morag and Lil get into that ridiculous debate about whose family
is purest. Never mind that you're all related!"

The three girls all grimaced a bit while everyone else laughed at their expense, and for that moment, it didn't matter that they didn't always get on
with one another, they could have been friends.

"So you can make the Firebolt go faster," Tracey finally broke in, considering Harry with something that might have been respect, "what else can
you do?"

"Lil did say you're a genius," Millicent added with a smile.

Lillian flushed and ducked her head when Harry turned to grin at her. "Thanks, Millie."

Harry considered the broom in his hands for a moment, head cocked to one side, before he commented, "I could probably boost the cushioning
charm, and maybe add some safety spells to avoid whiplash..." He grimaced a bit and the others shared some quiet laughter at his expense. "Oh,
shut up, the lot of you," he grumbled, giving them an offended look, which earned him more pronounced laughter from his closest friends.

"Aren't there already safety spells for that built in?" Lillian wondered.

"They have a top speed," Tracey replied, nodding. "So boosting the speed will cause the safety spells to fail. Honestly, Potter, I'm sort of surprised
you're still in one piece."

"Hmm. Potter Luck," Harry murmured, considering the broom in his hands with a serious air. "That is a shoddy safety spell, though. I mean, if they
changed just a syllable, there wouldn't be a top speed..."

"So, can that broom get you into space?" Terry wondered, breaking into Harry's disgusted thoughts towards the broom makers.

"Space?" Morag repeated. "Potter, what the hell?"

"Don't start turning into a muggle now, Potter," Tracey added, wrinkling her nose. "You were doing so well."

Harry snorted. "Mundanes are not the only people interested in going to space. Given, the few purebloods who have an interest know better than
to say anything, but..." He turned to Terry. "Not quite. The speed could be boosted a bit more – okay, a lot more, if we intend to do this in a single
weekend – not to mention the safety charms." He tossed the broom from one hand to the other, then added, "And it could use some strengthening
charms, what with it going at faster speeds."

"Will a regular strengthening charm be enough?" Hermione wondered, frowning a bit. "I mean, it's just a stick of wood, and the speeds you'd need
to get around the whole planet in two days..."

"Strengthening charms tied into a strong rune sequence," Harry replied, shrugging. "I'll need Tom's help for that, though."

"I would like to meet this 'Tom' of yours," Li commented. "He sounds rather..."

"Open-minded?" Neville offered when the Chinese witch found herself lost for words.

"Yes, that."

Harry blinked once, tried to think of Voldemort as 'open-minded', then burst out laughing.

"Why is he laughing?" Li asked Harry's other friends.

The others shrugged, but Luna helpfully offered, "Tom is not open-minded."

Harry snorted and covered his mouth, shaking his head. "Oh, dear Merlin, he is very much not open-minded. I'm still trying to sell him on the
usefulness of mundane-borns."

Morag opened her mouth, glanced at Harry, then promptly shut it again.

"So Tom is a pureblood?" Terry assumed.

"Half-blood," Harry corrected with a shrug. "Mundane-raised. He has no love for them, but he tends to share the pureblood views on those of less-
than-pure blood."
"He has less-than-pure blood," Hermione complained. "So do you, for that matter."

"So do Snape and Dumbledore," Harry agreed, smirking a bit at the surprised looks from his audience. "What? I told you I had dirt on Snape and
the Headmaster."

"Do tell, Potter," Tracey purred, leaning up next to him.

"What, and let you ruin it when I finally need to have something to hold over their heads? Merlin, no." Harry rolled his eyes.

"That time might be sooner than you think," Lillian offered quietly, watching the front doors of the castle, where Dumbledore had just exited. His
eyes were on Harry and his friends.

"Don't meet his eyes," Harry warned them all, completely serious, "unless you're secretly an Occlumens. And I'll explain what that is later," he
added, seeing the curiosity in Terry, Li, and Hermione's eyes. The purebloods and Millicent had all paled and turned quick eyes towards the
approaching Headmaster before immediately turning their eyes away from him.

Harry handed his broom over to Tracey, who took it with wide eyes, then he stepped past his friends, pasting an easy smile on his face. "Lovely
day for a stroll, isn't it, sir?" he called as soon as Dumbledore was in range.

"It rather is," Dumbledore agreed, coming to a stop in front of the bright-eyed teen. "Or a broom race, I saw."

Harry let out a nervous laugh and rubbed at the back of his head. "Oh, yeah, that. Well, I just got some new Firebolts – bit of a treat for myself and
my friends, you know? – and Lil's friends came over to talk. Tracey sort of challenged me to a race, cause, you know, Ravenclaws always seem
more interested in books that flying, so she didn't think I should have spent money on Firebolts. I had to prove her wrong." He nibbled briefly on his
lip, a concerned look twisting his features. "Was that... we weren't breaking any rules or anything, were we, sir?"

Behind him, with his vampire-enhanced hearing, Harry heard Tracey whisper, "He is good."

Neville whispered back, "You have no idea."

Dumbledore smiled kindly at Harry and set a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You didn't do anything wrong, my boy. Professor McGonagall was just a
bit surprised to see you speeding past her window while she was grading." He leaned in conspiratorially. "Between you and myself, I think racing is
an excellent way to handle House-related arguments."

Harry beamed. "Yes, sir!"

Dumbledore's eyes took a bit more of a serious cast to them. "I did have something else to discuss with you, my boy. Would you be willing to join
an old man on a trek around our fine lake?"

Harry blinked innocently. "Are you sure you should be walking that far, sir? What if you get too tired on the far side?" he asked with concern.

Dumbledore chuckled. "I'm not quite that old yet, Harry."

Harry laughed a bit nervously and coloured. "Er, yeah. I didn't mean to sound insulting or anything, sir–"

"Think nothing of it, my boy."

Harry smiled and nodded. "Okay. I'd love to walk with you for a bit, but can I tell my friends, first? I don't want Lil and her friends to start saying
you've kidnapped me or anything." He laughed a bit. "You know how Slytherins are always making stuff like that up."

"I completely understand. I'll walk over with you and we can continue from there, if that's okay with you?"

"Certainly, sir." Harry led the way over to his friends, smiling at them. "Hey, the Headmaster and I are going to walk around the lake a bit. Can I
trust you lot not to kill each other?"

"If we get the urge, we'll just leave," Morag replied drily, the only one daring to look up and open her gaze to Dumbledore. Everyone else kept their
eyes averted, either having pulled out a book or looking over Harry's new brooms. Harry shot a jab of Legilimency at the dark Ravenclaw and was
pleased to find Occlumency walls that repelled him. Morag's eyes widened ever so slightly at him.

"Okay," Harry agreed, smiling around at all of them. "Just make sure the brooms are safely put away?" Li and Terry nodded absently from behind
their chosen distractions. "And, Morag, could you explain to them about that thing I mentioned?"

Morag sniffed. "If I feel like it," she shot back. "Unlike some eagles, I don't take any orders from you." She glanced pointedly at Li, Terry, and Luna.
Li and Terry shot her disgusted looks while Luna just smiled a bit absently, twirling a flower between two fingers.

"Okay," Harry replied cheerfully, motioning for the Headmaster to lead the way. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" he added over his shoulder as
they moved past the tree they'd gathered around.

There was a chorus of strained laughter at that.

In the silence that continued as they moved around the edge of the lake, Harry heard Morag quietly explaining Occlumency and Legilimency to
Harry's friends. Hermione and Li both let out exclamations of horrified surprise.

"I couldn't help but notice how you and my familiar reacted to one another yesterday," Dumbledore commented lightly, glancing at the teen out of
the corner of his eye.

Harry blinked in confusion. "Your famili– Oh! The phoenix?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Fawkes. His song doesn't usually cause such a violent reaction." He offered Harry a slightly hopeful look.

Harry frowned a bit, as if he were trying to remember what he knew about phoenixes. In reality, he was quickly running back through the story he'd
made up the night before. Finally, he uncertainly offered, "I... Well, I'm not certain. I remember reading that phoenix song can be most comforting to
those with a pure heart, and, well..." He shrugged, putting on an uncomfortable face, "Well, I can remember my mum's dying moments, and after
last year..." He swallowed and reached up to pull on some of his hair. "I... Sir," he looked up at Dumbledore, half pleading, half afraid, "is it... wrong,
to hate him? Is it okay to hate someone so much, that you dream of making them scream?"

Dumbledore let out a quiet sigh and motioned Harry to a stop next to him. "Oh, my boy..." he whispered, gently touching Harry's shoulder.

Harry bowed his head and made a valiant attempt to sound as though he was fighting tears. "I– I can't m-make the dr-dreams s-stop-p..."

Dumbledore leaned over slightly, as if trying to see Harry's face, but the teen easily kept his face away from the old man, as if ashamed. "Harry,
child, it is not wrong to dream of doing terrible things to our enemies, necessarily. As long as you never act on those dreams, you're still a good
person at heart. The things you have been through... My boy, greater men have reached out to the darkness for revenge. As long as you try your
best to embrace the light, your dreams will remain simply that: dreams. And dreams, my boy, will fade in time."

Harry reached up a hand and rubbed the sleeve of his robe across his dry eyes, then peeked out behind his hair, uncertain. "A-and your ph-
phoenix?"

"I will talk to Fawkes," Dumbledore promised. "And the more you refuse those dark dreams, the less his song will hurt you, until that pain will be
nothing but a memory long faded."

Harry put on a tremulous smile and nodded. "Thank you, sir."

Dumbledore gave him a fond smile. "I'll walk you back to your friends," he offered.

Harry nodded and they walked together back towards where Harry's friends – Morag and the Slytherins included – were still waiting for him. They
all offered the Headmaster their greetings as the man left them, then turned to Harry as the man stepped out of range.

"What did he want?" Hermione asked, concerned.

"His phoenix reacted poorly to me yesterday," Harry explained with a groan as he lowered himself next to Luna, who immediately curled into his
side. "He, understandably, wanted to know why."

"You didn't tell him the truth, though, did you?" Terry wondered.

"Do you even have any idea what the 'truth' might be, Boot?" Lillian wondered a bit sharply.

Terry considered the Slytherin with dark eyes for a moment, then commented, "On the train, at the start of the summer, I gave Harry my brother's
new address. A few weeks in, we got a call from the police; Jim was dead from cuts all over his body and a poorly executed castration." His eyes
flicked towards Harry.

"It wasn't 'poorly executed'," Harry complained. "It's a spell which just removes the testicles of the victim. It just happens to require a healing charm
afterwards to keep them from bleeding out."

There was a pause, then:

"You castrated him?" from a wide-eyed Li.

"Why do you even know a spell like that?" from Neville.

"Will you teach that spell to me?" from Morag, who had a slightly disturbing gleam in her eyes.

And, "...he sort of deserved it," from Hermione, which earned her some very odd looks from the Slytherins and Morag.

"It's a useful spell," Harry told Neville, then turned to Morag and added, "Maybe I'll teach it to you when you're older. It's a level four restricted spell,
though."

"Level four?" Millicent asked.

When everyone else wore similar confused expression, Harry sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "There's five levels of restriction for
spells. Level one is the absolute highest and is basically reserved just for the Unforgivable Curses. Unless you're given special dispensation by the
Minister, using a level one spell will earn you a one-way pass to Azkaban. Level two spells tend to be darker spells that aren't quite as bad as the
Unforgivables, but are still pretty deadly to use, such as torture curses. Level two spells are also only legal if the Minister gives his say-so, and
using one without that okay will earn you fifty years in Azkaban.

"Level three spells are the ones that aurors can use in the field when taking out dark wizards, and usually only incapacitate, but can kill if used
incorrectly; if you're not an auror, using one of those will earn you twenty-five years in Azkaban. Level four spells are those that are used by
mediwizards and mediwitches during their practise, and if you don't have a license for using them from St Mungo's, they'll earn you twenty-five in
Azkaban.

"The last, level five, are some of the more questionable spells that we'll be taught in advanced Defence classes. They can be used with probable
cause, but just using it on your average bloke on the street – especially a mundane – will earn you a night in a Ministry holding cell and a hefty
fine." Harry considered the purebloods for a moment as everyone processed the information, then asked, "You didn't know that?"

"It's Ministry terminology," Luna offered. "Normal people just know what's illegal and what's not."

"How many illegal spells do you know, Potter?" Tracey wondered, sounding more intrigued than upset.

"Know of, or know how to cast?" Harry replied.

"How to cast," Lillian insisted, recalling that her friend had been an auror and would likely know of most – if not all – of the illegal spells.
"Erm..." Harry considered that for a moment. "I know how to cast about... Oh, maybe sixty of them. The Castration Curse is the only level four spell
I know," he added with a faint smile.

"How many of the level one spells can you cast?" Neville asked quietly.

Harry looked over at his friend, eyes blank. "Are you sure you want the answer to that, Neville?"

Neville swallowed and nodded. "Yes."

"I can cast all of them."

"You can cast the Killing Curse?" Millicent whispered as Neville buried a shaking hand in a robe pocket.

Harry raised an eyebrow at her.

"How many of them have you actually cast?" Morag demanded. When Harry turned to her, eyebrow still raised, she added, "Successfully, not just
in practise."

"I have successfully cast all of them," Harry reported, shaking his head. To be fair, he'd only ever cast the Killing Curse during his first life, and the
only successful usage of the Cruciatus had been during his current life, but they didn't need to know that.

There was a long moment of strained silence, which Neville finally broke by clearing his throat, shaking hand still buried in his robe pocket. "You're
an Occlumens?"

"Yes." Harry shrugged, then glanced at Morag, who narrowed her eyes at him. "I'm surprised to find that you are as well, Morag. It's notoriously
difficult to learn before your magic and mind have settled after puberty."

"My mother started teaching me when I turned ten," the Dark Ravenclaw offered. "But you're a Legilimens as well as an Occlumens."

"You are?" Tracey whispered, eyes wide. "But, Morag, you said–"

"I'm something of a natural," Harry cut in, knowing very well that learning Legilimency before going through puberty was considered impossible,
due to the delicate and invasive nature of the magic, which few children and even fewer teenagers had the finesse or will to work.

"There's no such thing as a natural Legilimens," Morag retorted drily. "And don't even try dumping your usual load of bollocks on me, Potter. Your
fan club might fall for it, but I won't."

Harry smiled around at his 'fan club', who all rolled their eyes at the Ravenclaw girl. "I wasn't going to give you any bollocks. I've been able to guard
my mind or read another's for as long as I can remember. The Dark Lord, who is accomplished at both, believes it's something he may have
passed on to me accidentally when he tried killing me."

There was silence after that as those who hadn't known for sure that Harry was on good terms with Voldemort stared while those who had known
considered the implications of the Dark Lord having passed that sort of magical gift on to an infant.

"So, wait, is that how you go–" Lillian choked on her words, then let out an angry sound. "Damn it, Harry! Did you have to cast that spell on us?"

"It was a precautionary measure," Harry replied, shrugging. "There were people I didn't trust at the table, and I don't take chances. Not with
Dumbledore around."

"You really don't trust the old man, do you?" Millicent realised, intrigued.

"He has a lot to hide," Lillian grumbled.

"What is it this time?" Hermione complained, half hopeful, half irritated that there were still things about her friend that she didn't know.

"Come on, Potter, share with the class," Morag shot at him.

Harry smiled. "Hermione, you know how you were complaining about my usage of multiple languages in my notes?"

Hermione frowned. "Yeah."

Harry pulled his little book out of his pocket and flipped to a page covered entirely with the written form of Parseltongue, which Tom had taught him
somewhat accidently by lending him a book written in the language by Salazar Slytherin on Parsel spells. He handed the book over to Hermione,
asking, "What language do you think that is?"

Hermione frowned at the page while Neville, Morag, Millicent, and Tracey all crowded around the girl to see. "It's decorative squiggles, Harry," she
complained.

Neville took the book carefully with his lightly-shaking hand. "I've seen this before," he murmured. "There was a healer at St Mungo's who used to
write like this." He glanced up at Harry. "No one's ever been able to read his notes to discover what he was working on before he died."

"It's an actual language?" Hermione wondered.

"It's Parseltongue," Harry agreed, absently releasing Lillian, Terry, and Li from the spell that had been holding their tongues. "I speak it."

There was a moment of stunned silence, then Neville held the book out, hand still shaking. "Here," he whispered.

Harry took both the book and Neville's hand, eyes sad. "I'm sorry," he offered and Neville smiled before drawing his hand away and hiding it again
in his robes.

"I...heard a rumour," Millicent murmured, watching Harry behind long eyelashes.


"What sort of rumour?" Harry asked, smiling slightly at her, wondering. Of all of their parents, only Millicent's father was actually a Death Eater, for
all that he'd married a half-blood.

"The new Dark Lord, Xerosis, is a Parselmouth," the girl said, still watching Harry. Her eyes widened when his smile got the slightest bit larger.
"Oh," she breathed.

Lillian huffed. "I told you," she told her roommate.

Tracey and Morag looked between Millicent and Harry, eyes widening as they connected the dots. Tracey couldn't stop a squeak while Morag
looked almost terrified.

"You are this... Xerosis?" Li asked, considering Harry with some shock and not a little fear.

"...my head hurts," Hermione complained, hiding her face in her hands.

Harry looked around at the group of teenagers, taking in their expressions of fear or horror, and stood. "I need to look a spell or two up in the
library," he commented, waving his wand to gather the brooms together and bring them to hover at his shoulder. "I don't think I need to warn you to
keep this to yourselves?" He smiled at them, but his eyes where hard and glowed with warning.

Shaken from their shock, the students all nodded.

Harry's eyes brightened and he looked down at Luna. "Would you like to remain, or come with me?"

Luna smiled a bit absently. "I am rather enjoying the breeze from the lake," she replied.

Harry shrugged and, taking her answer as a no, turned and started his way back into the school, greeting the Ravenclaw Quidditch team as he
passed them on their way to the pitch. If they recognised his broom-sized boxes, they didn't mention them.

Only when he was sequestered in the back corner he favoured and privacy spells were up did Harry take a deep breath and let himself curse fate
for bringing together the perfect combination of people that would cause him to bare almost all his secrets. The only one he hadn't shared with the
group at large was his previous life, and he wasn't even sure how long that would remain a mystery, having never cast any sort of secrecy spell on
his friends in a twisted moment of conscience.

"Harry Potter, you are an idiot," he told himself, then sighed and pushed away from the table. There were a couple of spells he wanted to look up
for his spell work on the brooms, and there was no point in moping around, cursing what couldn't be changed. He had a people to save, and limited
time to do it in.

-0-

Harry didn't even realise what time it was, so distracted by his spell work, until his friends hunted him down, looking a bit worse for the wear, but
generally accepting of his secrets.

"You weren't at dinner," Terry offered when Harry glanced up at the group silently clustered at the other end of his table. Luna had already plopped
herself down in the seat next to him.

Harry blinked, silently conjured the time, then grimaced. "Oops. Got distracted. Luna, what are you putting in my hair."

Luna smiled down from where she was carefully arranging the crown of comfrey flowers she'd braided while the others had spoken of Harry's
revelations by the lake. "I made you a crown."

"It better not be more foxglove," Harry warned, more amused than irritated at his best friend. "One afternoon with hallucinations was more than
enough."

Luna giggled. "It was fun, though."

"You didn't get cornered by Siri afterwards when he was trying to figure out what potions we'd been sniffing," Harry retorted with a shudder. "I
swear, he gives the worst parental talks ever."

"I'm having a hard time envisioning your godfather giving you a 'parental talk'," Lillian commented, carefully pulling out a chair to sit in.

"Exactly," Harry replied, rolling his eyes. "Luv, this crown... It's not pink, is it?"

Luna giggled in response and smacked his hands away when he reached up to remove it. "It's very fetching, Harry. Now, leave it alone."

Harry sighed and obediently returned his hands to the book he'd been reading when his privacy spells had let them past. "As long as it's not
foxglove," he decided.

Morag took the seat next to Lillian, commenting, "You make a very bad Dark Lord, Potter."

Harry smiled at her. "You mean, I act like a very bad Dark Lord." He took on a slightly child-like air. "But, I'm only fifteen."

"Bollocks," the girl retorted as the others all took seats around the table. Hermione dared to take the seat on Harry's left, much to the others'
apparent relief. "The lions and Lil told us about you, about it being your 'second chance' or whatever."

"Hmm. I'd wondered if they would," Harry replied a bit absently, glancing back down at the book in front of him. "To be fair, then, I am playing the
part of a fifteen year old student who has a tendency to know a bit more than your average student and who is expected to vanquish the evil Lord
You-Know-Who and become a kick-arse auror."

"Why?" Millicent wondered honestly.

Harry smiled a bit bitterly and looked over at the other half-blood. "What else would I do?" he wondered. "For all that I am an adult, I remain in the
body of a child."

"You managed to make a persona for yourself as a second Dark Lord," Tracey commented.

"It never would have happened if I hadn't caught his attention back in our first year." Harry cocked his head to one side. "Well, and made a deal
with him that summer. Hn."

"Our first year?" Li repeated. "When? How?"

"Professor Quirrell was holding Vol–" Harry stopped as most of the people around the table flinched. "Oh, for Merlin's sake! He's not going to pop in
and start cursing people if I say his name!" He shook his head at the faintly sheepish looks he got in response. "Why he had to go and make his
anagram forbidden to say..."

"Anagram?" Hermione asked.

"Huh?" Harry blinked. "Oh! Yeah. He took his full name and made up a new one with the letters. Bit clever of him, given, but what's the point if no
one ever uses it?" He rolled his eyes. "Idiot."

The students all laughed a bit nervously at that.

Luna let out a dreamy sigh and reached over to fix Harry's 'crown'. "You could just use his real name," she commented.

"I don't want to break them," Harry replied.

Luna just smiled and pulled some string out of her pocket to fiddle with.

Harry rolled his eyes at her, then looked back at the others. "Right, so..." He frowned. "What was I saying?"

"Something about Quirrell?" Terry offered.

"Oh, right." Harry shook his head. "He had Voldie's–" a few of them choked, "–spirit riding along on the back of his head." He smiled at their
horrified looks. "Long story, that. Anyway, he was in the school to get the Philosopher's Stone, which was down that forbidden section on the third
floor that Dumbledore warned all of us about at the feast, you remember?" They all nodded while Luna hummed a song ever so quietly and
reached over to braid the string she'd been playing with into Harry's hair. "Luna..." Harry sighed.

Luna smiled at him and kept on, earning some helpless giggles from around the table.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Anyway, Voldie was here for the Stone, so I traded it to him in return for his promise that he wouldn't kill me while I was still
a student."

"And he couldn't just get you expelled?" Tracey pointed out.

Harry shrugged. "He could try, I suppose. Did, in fact, by having Barty stalk me. So I took Barty back to his base and had a little tête-á-tête with
Voldie. We made a couple of deals, some curses were thrown back and forth, all very boring..." Harry grinned at their disbelieving expressions. "It
wasn't until the summer before third year that we formed any sort of partnership, though." His grin morphed into something of an evil smirk. "I like
calling him my friend just to freak him out."

There was some helpless laughter at that and Millicent asked, "Are you insane?"

"Yes," Harry agreed.

Harry's stomach made a loud noise, reminding all of them that the teen hadn't eaten yet. "Let's get you something to eat, Harry," Lillian said,
shaking her head.

Harry sighed. "Oh, fine. Help me put these books back?"

The books were put away and they all headed out of the library under the watchful glare of Madam Pince. Out in the hallway, it was agreed that
they should part ways, since there was no real point in all of them going down to the kitchens and being out after curfew. The Gryffindors, Morag,
Terry, and Li all said their good nights, then made their ways up to their towers, Terry carrying Harry's brooms. Luna and Harry accompanied the
Slytherins downstairs, then parted ways at the stairs down to the dungeons.

When they were finally alone in the kitchen – at that time of night, the house elves had other things to be doing – Harry asked, "How were they?"

Luna shrugged. "They already knew you weren't who you appeared to be in the school or at home. It was a bit of a shock, perhaps, to find out that
you're Xerosis, but they didn't seem honestly surprised. Are you going to silence them?"

"I spelled their chairs as soon as Lil moved to sit," Harry admitted, not the least bit ashamed at that. He trusted his friends, yes, but there was no
reason to allow a chance for them to slip.

Luna nodded, then cocked her head to one side, considering the 'crown' and 'hair decoration' she'd given Harry. "You look absolutely lovely."

Harry rolled his eyes and started in on his food. "Can you at least spell the flowers a Ravenclaw blue or an Avada green? Wearing pink makes me
feel like some sort of gay Gryffindor with a complex."

"But, aren't you?" Luna wondered.

Harry shot her a dirty look. "Change the colour or I refuse to wear it tomorrow."

Luna pushed out her bottom lip in an impressive pout.

Harry pointed his fork at her. "I had a daughter and Merlin knows how many nieces, luv; I am immune to all forms of pitifulness from females."
Luna sighed and quietly cast a colour-changing charm to make the flowers a pale blue. Seeing his raised eyebrow, she pulled a small mirror out of
her pocket and handed it over.

Harry considered the change, then nodded and held the mirror back out. "Acceptable."

Luna sniffed and stuffed the mirror away. "You've upset me. Terribly. I insist that you make up for it."

Harry chuckled and handed her a chocolate éclair he'd saved off to one side. "Will this do for now?"

Luna took the offered pastry and nibbled at it. "For now," she decided, "but you still owe me. I quite like pink on you."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Dark Lords do not do pink."

"Normal Dark Lords don't spend their average day surrounded by teenagers with hormone problems and sex on the brain, either," Luna retorted.

"Well, no, I don't suppose they do..."

"Or flowers."

"Okay, okay! Point taken!" Harry rolled his eyes upwards and stared at the ceiling for a moment, then glanced back at Luna. "I'm not a normal Dark
Lord, but I do not do pink. Good?"

Luna sighed. "Oh, I suppose."

"Good."

"What about lavender?"

Harry shuddered. "I'm having flashbacks to my niece and godson's wedding, thanks."

Luna smiled. "They used a lot of lavender?"

"The bridesmaids' dresses, the ring-bearer's suit, the flower arrangements, even the bloody cake," Harry complained. "It was the only colour
Victoire, Teddy, Andy, Ginny, Molly, and Fleur could all agree on."

"You didn't get a say?"

"I avoided all the planning like the plague." Harry shuddered. "Teddy tried, though. He tried to drag both myself and Bill into it, so he could have
some 'male sense' involved, but we banded together and stayed out of it." He cocked his head to one side in thought. "Well, to be fair, Bill and I
stepped in and refused all shades of pink right at the start, but that was the only part we assisted with."

Luna shook her head, smiling. "No lavender, then. Pale blue and bright green."

Harry chuckled and returned to his food.

-0-

"I had wondered when you'd track me down," Harry commented, not looking up from the broom he was working with. "Honestly, I half expected I'd
have only just laid down after leaving Dumbledore's office before my bed would be set aflame."

Fawkes settled on the perch the Room of Requirement provided for him across from the teen on the floor. The phoenix seemed content to just sit
and watch Harry's spell work for the moment, so the teen continued on.

Once he'd reached a good stopping spot, Harry set the broom to one side and looked up at the bird. "Talk."

Fawkes ruffled his feathers a bit, then met Harry's sharp green eyes and connected them mentally. The teen shuddered at the sensation of letting
someone in his mind, even just the outer reaches, but didn't force the phoenix out, so Fawkes said, 'Albus returned to me with a story of how you
dream of killing and torturing Voldemort. I am not a fool, child, for all that Albus bought your lies. What are you?'

Harry's lips twisted with a cold smile. "So he bought that after all? Excellent. And I am a human, for all that Death gave me the gift of a dementor."

Fawkes let out an angry sound. 'You are being purposefully vague, little Dark Lord. Don't mock me or I will burn you to death.'

"Don't threaten me, bird," Harry hissed, eyes sparking with his power as the room chilled. "I know how to end your cycle of rebirth. You don't want
to see who will come out on top."

Fawkes flinched away from the cold and wreathed himself in a protective halo of flames to ward it off.

They remained at a standstill for a good ten minutes, glaring at each other with silent threats.

Finally, both fire and cold vanished and they were cloaked in darkness. "Now, normally, I really don't care what you people do with your lives,"
Death commented as he appeared next to them, "but this is ridiculous."

"Do you ever stay out of my life?" Harry wondered of the apparition.

"No." Death snorted and turned his dark hood to Fawkes. "You can't kill him, so don't even try. He's working on my behalf, though how he's chosen
to go about it is his business."

Fawkes chirped in response, and Harry heard his words translated to, "You don't usually play in the lives of mortals, so what's so special about this
one?"

"He mastered my Hallows, in another life, and he keeps me amused," Death retorted.
Fawkes turned sharp eyes to the young Dark Lord. "Another life?"

"I died the Master of the Hallows and Death gave me a choice. I didn't like how the world turned out, so I chose to come back and fix it."

"You chose to come back and murder helpless muggles."

"Those 'helpless muggles' were hours from ending all life on the planet when I died, bird."

Fawkes looked surprised and turned to Death in question.

"Hours is a bit overly dramatic," Death commented. "They lasted about another two weeks before the radiation from their war eradicated the last of
the species on the planet." His voice took on a pout as he added, "It made me rather useless, too. Can you imagine an entire world already dead? I
was going to have to start forcing the dead to come back to life and die from the radiation just to keep in business."

"Woe is you," Harry snarked.

"It was terrible!" Death complained. "I was out of a job and it was boring and everything! It was like the time that silly Cold War wasn't so cold. I had
to redo that one seven times before I found the right person to keep that first bomb from going off." He paused, then turned his dark hood to Harry
and ordered, "You'd better not make me do that again, or I'll devise the absolute worst punishment for you when I finally toss you to Hell."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm working on it. Merlin."

Fawkes ruffled his feathers. "How does starting a war with the muggles keep them from destroying all life on the planet?"

"It doesn't," Harry replied, shrugging. "But it does get the magical world to move their collective behinds in an attempt to find a solution to
obliteration. Last time, we started retaliation too late and they were much more advanced. This time, we got the head start."

"What are you going to do, build underground caverns to hide in?" Death wondered. "You do sort of need the muggles to continue populating your
own species."

Harry grunted. "I don't know. Underground caverns are viable, but they would get a bit enclosed after too long. No, Luna mentioned something
about the moon. Have to discuss it with Tom."

"Voldemort is actually working with you?" Fawkes asked, surprised. "I'd have thought he'd have killed you on sight."

"Not for lack of trying," Harry retorted. "We reached an accord and we're working together, now."

"They're both evil, insane and brilliant," Death commented. "Truly a terrifying duo."

"I'm going to take that as a compliment," Harry decided.

Fawkes chirped to get their attention again. "I'll leave you to your business," he informed Harry, "but I don't like you."

"I don't much care for you, either, bird," Harry returned. "I'll avoid you to the best of my ability if you agree to do the same."

"Good." Fawkes flamed away, leaving Harry and Death alone in the dark nothingness.

"I have a question," Harry offered when it looked like Death was getting ready to leave.

Death sighed and turned to him. "Oh, very well. But only because you're my favourite."

Harry blinked, shook his head, then asked, "I'd have thought you'd hate phoenixes."

Death cocked his head to one side. "Hate them? I created them. Every time they're engulfed in their element, they die, which gives me a point, and
then they get reborn again. They're kind of awesome."

"Sure, awesome," Harry agreed, rolling his eyes. "Yet Fawkes hates me because I'm a murderer."

"He's spent so much time around that human of his, is it really any wonder? I made their species, but their personalities are their own." Death
waved a hand at him. "Go play with your sticks. And if you move your people out into space, stick to the moon, hm? The others planets are outside
my jurisdiction."

Harry saluted him and the room returned to its original brightly lit self. "The moon, huh?" he murmured, picking his broom back up to work on the
spells a bit more.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: I've received a couple of questions about why Death would let Harry reset the world, so I hope that answers those. XD

So, I was totally uncertain with what to do with the magical people without completely decimating the muggles, and talking to Shara about the
satellites and space somehow brought the moon into the picture. Honestly don't remember which of us mentioned it at the start, but there you go.

WIZARDS ON THE MOON!

And, because magickmaker17 rolled her eyes at it a bit: For those of you not familiar with Japanese culture, they see a rabbit on the moon
pounding mochi where we of the western world see a face. 'Usagi' means rabbit and 'Tsuki' means moon. So Luna was talking about the Rabbit [of
the] Moon.
And if you figured all that out without my explanation, kudos!
Okay, I'm gonna go... play Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep some more. 'Bout halfway done with Ventus' arc... *shifty eyes* And then, YES! Writing
more Xerosis. XD
~Bats ^.^x

Edit: First off, I HATE SAILOR MOON. So stop mentioning it to me. *glare*
Second, thanks to CloudySky who reminded me that Harry had used the Imperius on Wormtail in his first year, so he has used all the
Unforgivables. Whoops.
*Chapter 8*: Reach Any Star
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, semi-super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Semi-super!Harry

Disclaim Her: Bloody... All of a sudden, I know exactly how many people are familiar with Sailor Moon. For the record, I have never watched it and
have no interest in doing so. Anything in the last chapter that you related to that anime was completely your own doing.

A/N: Re: all the comments on my improper use of Japanese grammar last chapter: Yeah, I know, I took Japanese for a year and have
studied it on my own for something like seven years – Shara is also extremely good at it, having studied it for four years of uni, one of which
involved studying abroad in Japan for the whole year. But this is Luna and a magical creature that she made up. Nothing says it should have been
correct. *grumbles*

For those of you who didn't like the magical population moving to the moon/suggested an alternative to living on the moon most often
involving an alternate dimension? BORING. They're going to the moon. My story. (And, yes, you can read the BBC Sherlock reference in that, if
you'd like. If you don't know what I'm talking about, for shame.)
For those of you who gave me suggestions for their move to/living on the moon: Thank you? But I've mostly got that figured out thanks to
Shara. And some of your ideas were humorous, though very few were already in my head for use in this fic. ^.^"

Oh, yeah, this chapter wasn't posted last week because I was too busy ranting about Sailor Moon. And whinging about not being able to go to the
midnight show of HP:DHpt2. But then Shara pulled money out of thin air – literally – and bought us tickets. So then I was too busy squeeing to
bother with writing.
(Please ignore the fact that Crooked Wings got written and updated – twice – while I wasn't writing Xerosis. *shifty eyes* )

Also, this chapter starts with Voldemort, because so many of you missed him last chapter. This should win a couple of chuckles.

-0-0-0-

Reach Any Star

-0-0-0-

"I'm taking my friends up to space with me to put the runes on the satellites," Xerosis said, dropping into his chair next to Voldemort.

The Dark Lord turned to him with a disbelieving look. "What?"

Xerosis rolled his eyes. "Me. A couple of teenagers. Putting runes on–"

"No!"

The teen gave the other wizard a dry look. "Why ever not? More people means less time spent up there."

"I–" Voldemort cast around the empty room for a valid argument, then snapped, "They're children! They don't understand the delicacy of the
situation!"

"That was so weak."

"I forbid it!"

Xerosis snorted and turned away from the angry Dark Lord. "You did not just..." He started snickering.

"Potter!" Voldemort roared.

Xerosis jumped out of his chair and, snickering, ducked the string of increasingly more painful curses Voldemort shot at him between bouts of
name-calling.

The games were halted when a throat was cleared in the doorway. When both Dark Lords turned to face him – one grinning madly, the other
looking furious – Barty helpfully offered, "I got volunteered to come in and see if you're done trying to kill each other. My Lords."

"Not attempted murder," Xerosis corrected as he slipped back over to his chair next to a scowling Voldemort, "Just some minor maiming and great
deals of pain."

"Just you wait, boy," Voldemort threatened.

Xerosis reached over and patted the side of the other Dark Lord's face. "You're so cute when you're murderous, Tom."

Voldemort let out a furious shout and Xerosis was again hopping around the room, avoiding curses and cackling to himself.

Barty returned to the other Inner Circle Death Eaters waiting in the hallway. "Best to come back in an hour, I think," he offered.

Bellatrix sniffed. "That little boy–"

"That 'little boy' is older than our Lord," Rodolphus pointed out drily.
Barty twitched while Lucius shook his head and turned away. "I have better things to do than stand around while you discuss our Lords as if they'll
never hear about it," he offered over his shoulder before he started away.

"My Lord doesn't care what I say about that little brat–"

"Crucio," Xerosis intoned from the doorway of the meeting room. "Lucius, darling, you might as well come back." As the blond pureblood returned,
Xerosis turned a threatening smile on the only female in the Inner Circle, letting up the curse with an idle twist of his wand. "Now then, Bella, what
were you saying about me?"

Bellatrix whimpered a bit and stayed on the ground where she had fallen under the curse. "Nothing, my Lord."

"Good." Xerosis turned and led the way back into the meeting room, commenting to Voldemort, :Handled. I give her a month before she starts
talking about me behind my back again, though.:

Voldemort sighed. :I can try talking to her again.:

:Nah, this is more fun. I get to curse her once a month or so when she decides to be suicidal.: Xerosis smirked and fell into his chair,
watching the Death Eaters shuffle in. :I am suddenly reminded that I had something important to talk to you about.:

:It better not be more suggestions about you taking a bunch of teenagers on a delicate mission.:

Xerosis shot the Dark Lord a grin, then settled comfortably back in his chair under Voldemort's distrustful look. "Lucius, I've heard some rumours of
a move to dismiss Fudge from office. What do you know about this?"

"It's more than just rumour, my Lord," Lucius replied, inclining his head. "The vote of no confidence has already been cast and Fudge is only in
office now because they're having trouble deciding how to vote on the new Minister. Normally, they would send a vote out to the people, but with
these wars..." He trailed off with a helpless shrug.

"It was the people who voted him out?" Voldemort clarified.

"Popular opinion, yes."

"Why not utilise the Wizengamot?" Barty wondered. "Merlin knows that's who they usually turn to when the Minister is useless."

"It's in the Wizengamot by-laws that they can't vote in the new Minister," Xerosis commented, rubbing at his chin in thought. "If the Ministry ever
gets their collective pansy arse in gear, who is most likely to get voted in? In your opinion, Lucius."

Lucius frowned a bit, then offered, "It's between Amelia Bones and Rufus Scrimgeour, I believe, my Lord. Bones is well liked for her fairness, but
Scrimgeour has a less tolerant view of the Dark, so with this war..."

"Bones is the more sensible of the two," Xerosis offered, turning to Voldemort. "She might be reasoned with. Scrimgeour will not."

Voldemort nodded. "Put your lot in behind Bones," he ordered Lucius and the other three Inner Circle Death Eaters who were in the public. "If
Scrimgeour becomes a problem, I'm sure he can disappear?" He glanced over at Xerosis who responded with an evil little smile. "Excellent.
Anything else new in the Ministry?"

There wasn't a whole lot new, considering how closely Voldemort and Xerosis kept their eyes on the politics of the world around them. A few
rumours about Harry Potter had again circulated through the Slytherin House, which had been passed on to parents. There had also been a new
bombing on a magical household, but the family in question had escaped in time – Xerosis had determinately not smirked at that – and was
currently making do with a Ministry crash-space while a new home was found for them.

Once the reports were done, the two Dark Lords sent them away with orders to spread to the other Death Eaters about supporting Bones. They
would also be conducting a series of raids on some of the coastal towns, especially those near a naval base, so the Death Eaters had been
warned to prepare for those.

With the Death Eaters gone, Xerosis and Voldemort quit the meeting room to enjoy a glass of wine in Voldemort's room. There, both Dark Lords
returned to their more human forms, and settled into their usual seats by the table near the wall where all the maps were kept.

"What did you think of in the meeting room?" Riddle asked, swirling his glass a bit.

"Luna mentioned something yesterday that had me thinking, and then Death sort of agreed with it..."

"You spoke to Death?" Riddle enquired, curious.

Harry shrugged. "He came to mediate an argument between myself and Fawkes." Riddle snorted and Harry grinned at him, then continued, "Yeah,
it was kind of insane. Anyway, Luna made a comment about living on the moon, and I thought–"

"The moon?" Riddle repeated, eyes wide. "Is that even possible?"

"Dunno, but if Luna suggested it..."

"You trust the word of that crazy child?" Riddle asked drily.

"Yeah, I do. Now, hush." Harry rolled his eyes. "Death didn't veto it, and for all that he likes people dying, I doubt he'd lead us astray on this one, so
it should be safe."

Riddle sighed and inclined his head. "I suppose. But, still, how would you even get the population up there?"

Harry laughed and shook his head. "No idea. I mean, if the mundanes continue on their current path, the magical people will have to consider it,
lest they be destroyed, but I'd rather find a way to move everyone up there before it gets that far, if at all possible."
Riddle cocked his head to one side, then called over a piece of parchment. "At any rate, we're going to have to make some form of atmosphere
that will sustain life."

Harry grimaced and conjured a couple of quills, one of which he handed to his partner. The wine was forgotten as they both leaned forward over
the parchment, rapidly offering and discarding spells that could terraform the moon. Both of them wracked their brains for any long-forgotten
knowledge about the rock orbiting the planet, but came up with very little.

"Maybe, while I'm up there marking satellites, I could take a jaunt over to the moon and check it out," Harry suggested. "I mean, these spells are
great, but unless we know exactly what we have to work with..."

Riddle sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "I'm beginning to see the pros in you inviting your little friends up with you," he allowed. "If they can
manage the satellites, you'll have extra time to fly out to the moon and back." He tapped the parchment with their scribbles on it. "I want to know
what we're working with before we truly start discussing spells."

"Not to mention before we start debating how to get the ostriches up there with minimal fuss."

Riddle groaned. "Bloody hell. That will be a chore and a half."

Harry offered him a tired smile. "We're trying to save an entire race, here, Tom, and they don't much care to be saved; anything we do will be akin
to pulling teeth."

Riddle shook his head. "I know. I wish they weren't so close-minded to the danger, though." They shared knowing smiles. "Where are you with your
ways into space?"

"I ordered a couple of Firebolts and I'm modifying them during my free time," Harry reported. At Riddle's somewhat disbelieving look, he offered,
"I've done this before."

The Dark Lord snorted. "I'll believe that," he decided. "Go on. Brooms won't get you the whole way."

"They might, though I'll have to really stretch one of them to get to the moon. That could be interesting." Harry grimaced, then shook his head.
"Whatever. I'll figure that out later. I need to work on some sort of protective suit or amulet, still, but I intend to run tests on that next weekend while
the others are sleeping, or something. While they're awake, we're going to use the Room of Requirement to simulate zero-G and figure out how to
move up there."

"Hn. Interesting," Riddle allowed. "Although, I am reminded that these terraforming spells won't add any gravity to the moon. We'll need some other
spells for that."

"Joy," Harry muttered sarcastically. "Creating yet more spells. You'd think, with the way mundane science is, some mundane-born would have
made something for all this by now."

"They'd have been lynched for even considering mixing magic and science," Riddle pointed out.

"Yeah, I know." Harry sighed and removed his glasses to rub at his face. "Honestly, I'm not sure how well a spell would hold up, and if we're not
around to maintain it..."

Riddle scowled. "Bloody Death."

Harry grinned.

"Shut up, Potter," Riddle snarked, earning a chuckle from the teen. "Not a spell, then. Runes, perhaps?"

"A rune stone tied into the terraforming spells that helps regulate gravity?" Harry murmured, raising an eyebrow in thought.

"Placed at the core of the moon, so it's even on all sides," Riddle agreed.

The next ten minutes were spent drawing and crossing out runes for the stone that could hold the complicated spell work they were planning,
especially considering they would need to work with the dual gravity pulls from the Earth and the sun in their spell creation.

Eventually, they got to the point where they could mostly agree about the rune stone's basic runes, but without knowing the rest of the spells they'd
be working in, there was no way they could finish their work.

Riddle magically tacked the rough sketch of the rune stone to the wall next to the maps of Europe, then summoned the time. "You should be
getting back," he commented. "You have class tomorrow."

Harry sighed. "Some days, I really hate being a student."

Riddle snorted. "If you want anyone to take you seriously, you have to complete school."

Harry shot him the two-fingered salute.

"Very mature."

"You're a right bastard, you know that, right?"

Riddle rolled his eyes. "In all senses of the word, yes; I am familiar with how well it defines me. When do you want to get those wards up around
Hogwarts and Hogsmeade?"

"How's Barty doing with throwing off the Imperius?" Harry returned, guessing Riddle had started the Death Eater on some training a few days ago,
and knowing the way Riddle trained...

"Maybe another week and he should be fine," the Dark Lord decided. "Next weekend?"
Harry grimaced. "Merlin, no. I have no interest in being that busy. How about the following Wednesday? That should avoid most of the pub traffic,
too."

"Hm. Good point." Riddle nodded. "We'll meet you in the centre of Hogsmeade at one, then?"

"Sure," Harry agreed. "I'll bring you a time-turner next weekend."

Riddle's reply smile was only a little evil.

Harry rolled his eyes and stood from his seat. "Good night, Tom."

"Good night, Potter," Riddle replied and the teen slipped back into some shadows and away.

-0-

Classes were as tedious as ever, though Harry quite enjoyed dodging Andromeda in between working on his brooms. By the weekend, he'd
managed to figure out the perfect set of spells to get them into space without worrying about the gravitational pull or whiplash. He still had to work
in protective spells to get them through the atmosphere in one piece and to survive in space itself, while still allowing for maximum dexterity. He'd
also snuck into the Department of Mysteries and stolen another three time-turners, one of which he'd be handing over to Voldemort. The other two
would be given to his friends so they could complete their trip to all the satellites without him needing to be there to take them back twelve hours.

Saturday, they met up at breakfast – Slytherins included – and Harry took them up to the Room of Requirement. After explaining how to use the
room, he opened it and led them into a giant, empty cavern.

"Excellent." He smiled at them and got nervous smiles in return. "Oh, stop that. Now, I won't kick anyone out, but who is actually interested in
taking a trip up to space?"

Terry immediately raised his hand. "Anything to ride one of those brooms," he declared.

"I second that," Tracey agreed. "Although, Potter, you'd best be willing to give us some training on those cursed things."

"That's part of the reason I'm asking who wants to come," Harry replied a bit drily. "Come on. Anyone else?"

"I want to go to the moon," Luna offered with a slightly hopeful smile.

Harry blinked, then shook his head. "We'll see, luv."

Luna pouted.

Millicent snorted at the youngest student, then offered, "I'll go. It might be interesting."

"And informative," Li added, nodding. "I will come."

"Excellent. I'll order the extra brooms this week and we can spend next weekend practising with them."

"Where?" Tracey demanded.

Harry waved a hand at her. "Off the school grounds. Possibly over the ocean."

"Harry!" Hermione cried, shaking her head. "That's not safe."

Harry cocked his head to one side. "Hermione, these brooms are able to go over eight thousand kilometres per hour. They're as safe as I can
make them, but the only place we can truly test them without chancing hitting something before you can even see it is over the ocean."

"But what if you fall off?" Hermione pleaded.

"We'll fly low, which should keep any falls from being too damaging," Harry soothed her. "I'll keep my eyes peeled for any falls, and I'm capable of
healing spells, if it comes to that." He smiled a bit. "I survived testing these, didn't I?"

Morag cleared her throat. "Will you need the rest of us to cover for you?" she asked before Hermione could complain some more. She might not
much care for Harry's insanity, but even she had to admit that the Ravenclaw wouldn't let any of them be hurt if he could avoid it.

Harry nodded. "A little bit, yeah. I can create golems or something that you can pretend to work with in the library, but meals will be a problem. I'd
suggest using a time-turner, but flying at these speeds is exhausting enough, as soon as we get back, everyone will probably want to go to bed."

"That's going to be a problem up in space," Terry pointed out.

Harry shrugged. "I know of a potion that will keep you awake and energised for an extended period of time, but I don't want you lot getting addicted
to it, so we can use it for the actual trip, but practise will have to be planned around your own bodies."

Tracey sighed. "What if something does go wrong up there? You said something about not being with us during the actual trip?"

Harry had mentioned that in passing earlier in the week, so he nodded. "Yeah. I've got a side-trip planned. I can teach you lot a few spells for
emergencies before we leave, I suppose..."

"We are still under the Trace," Li pointed out. "It will be active as soon as we leave the school boundaries."

Harry smiled. "You honestly think the Trace can tell on you when you're in space?"

"I thought it only worked inside the country borders, anyway," Terry added.

"To an extent," Harry agreed, shrugging. "Almost all of the European countries have linked their systems together, so it'll record it whether you're in
France or Germany, say, but not in Egypt. China, Japan, Vietnam and parts of Korea have their systems linked, as do America, Canada and
Mexico, but everywhere else is pretty much just that country. Uhm, but students like Li, who have dual citizenship, are registered in all of the
countries they would be associated with."

"You're like an Encyclopaedia of all things Ministry," Lillian commented.

Harry waved her off. "Anyway, the point is, you can use magic in space without anyone knowing. You can also, technically, use magic over the
ocean, but it's probably not a good idea to try it at those speeds, so..."

Luna poked Harry's arm. "Zero-G," she ordered.

"Oh, yeah, sure." Harry shrugged and suddenly they were all weightless.

"Cool!" Terry exclaimed, pushing off against the floor and shooting up towards the far distant ceiling.

They all spent a moment shooting left and right and failing at moving away from a flat surface. Finally, laughing at their antics, Harry cast a
summoning charm to bring them all together again in the middle of the room. "Alright, I think that answers any questions about movement in zero-
G."

"You definitely need something there to help you move," Hermione agreed. "You know, if you weren't using brooms, I might be willing to go with
you."

Harry smiled at her. "Well, my side trip is to the moon. If I can work together some sort of long distance portkey, maybe I'll take you up there some
other time."

"Really?" Hermione said, eyes bright with excitement. "Imagine, one of the first people on the moon!"

"The first mudbl–"

Harry cleared his throat and shot Tracey a significant look.

Tracey sighed. "Yeah, sorry, Granger. The first muggleborn, then."

Hermione sniffed in response, unable to turn her back on the Slytherin. "Whatever, Davis. But, yeah! Exciting!" She looked back at Harry. "Can we,
please?"

"We'll see," Harry replied, shaking his head. "I don't even know if I can make a portkey for that distance."

"You can try making a portkey from the moon to Earth," Luna suggested.

Harry cocked his head to one side. "Hn. Yeah, that would make the trip easier..."

"Why?" Li wondered. "Because of time?"

"Time, and the stress on the brooms," Harry replied. "You lot should be fine, just going around the planet, but shooting off to the moon is going to
add a lot of pull on the broom and I'm not sure how well it's going to handle that. I mean, I intend to take an extra, just in case, but I can only carry
so many brooms up with me, and I don't know how much stress taking them back towards the planet will create." He glanced back at Luna. "But a
portkey..."

Luna smiled.

Terry looked around at the group while Harry thought, then pushed off against Li, who was next to him, sending them both flying in opposite
directions. Terry let out a whoop while Li shouted in surprise.

"Terry!" Li snapped.

Everyone laughed a bit.

Harry chuckled and had the room supply them with a large ball at one end of the room with much more mass than any of them. "Try using a
summoning charm on the ball, huh? I want to see what happens," he called to Terry.

Terry did as ordered. The ball moved a few centimetres, but Terry was the one who really moved. He had some trouble stopping his momentum
enough to keep from slamming into the ball, but he managed to get one foot up enough to take the shock of the impact, though it did send him
shooting away from the ball again. "Ow," he offered, rubbing at his leg with some difficulty.

"Hm." Harry tried his own accio, mentally cutting back on the power behind it. He still went shooting towards the ball, but he was a bit slower. He
took the minor shock with his forearm, wincing, then called, "Okay, it's going to hurt a bit, but feel free to summon yourself towards the ball. See if
you can't regulate the power behind your spell a bit."

"And how, exactly, does one regulate their power?" Tracey demanded.

Harry blinked. "Oh. Uhm, when you cast the spell, focus on the draw of the magic." He cocked his head to one side. "I don't know really how to
explain it, I suppose."

Hermione considered her wand for a moment, then closed her eyes and focussed when she cast her accio. She was so busy studying the way her
magic worked, that she forgot to watch out for the ball, but Harry caught her, grunting as his back hit the ball.

"Oh! Sorry, Harry," Hermione apologised, flushing.

Harry smiled at her. "Don't worry about it. What have you got?"
Hermione bit her lip, but obediently explained her findings, "When I cast the spell, I paid attention to where my hand and wand were connected. I
think... I think I felt something there, but I'd have to try it a few more times."

"Could we, I don't know, cushion the ball?" Neville asked.

Harry blinked. "Oh. Duh."

Everyone got a laugh out of that while Harry had the room cushion the ball. He also had the room provide a cushioned cube on the other side of
the room, offering, "Have at."

"We're going to run into each other," Morag pointed out as Hermione and Terry both took off for the cube, while Li tried the ball.

Harry obediently conjured a dodecahedron above the door and an icosahedron opposite it. "Better?"

"Yeah, thanks." The Ravenclaw immediately shot off towards the icosahedron.

Harry rolled his eyes and used the ball to shoot off into the dead space above everyone, content to just lay in midair and watch his friends shoot
back and forth across the open space.

They spent a good hour shooting around before Harry made them stop and had the room give them some old-model Cleansweeps, which Tracey
and Terry both complained about, then had them all practise flying around in zero-G.

The brooms enabled them to move in any direction they pleased, but they did have some trouble stopping. The Slytherins and Terry blamed it on
the brooms but Harry – who had ridden a Cleansweep a few times on auror business before they had the money to upgrade their closet of brooms
– blamed it on the lack of wind and gravity resistance.

They played with the brooms until lunch, then made their way out of the room, all of them walking a bit strangely after four hours in zero-G.

"What have you crazy people been doing?" Stephen wondered as the Ravenclaws took their seats. "And with McDougal, too."

"Morag and I reached a truce," Harry offered.

"We're practising moving through zero-G," Terry explained, eyes bright with excitement.

Morag rolled her eyes. "Boot, have I told you recently that you're an idiot?"

Terry pretended to think about that, then answered, "This morning, at breakfast."

"Not recent enough. You're an idiot."

Harry snorted in amusement, then looked at Stephen, who was looking a little confused at what Terry had said. "We're playing around in a room
that doesn't have any gravity. It's a lot of fun."

"Potter, you are not bringing more idiots," Morag ordered.

"It would be more fun with more people," Luna offered airily.

"And controlling your spell output is a good lesson," Li added. "Is it not easier to cast a spell now than it was before we started?"

Harry had taught them all an easy healing spell for bruises before they'd left for lunch, since they'd all hit a few walls on the brooms. Morag had to
admit that it had been the easiest spell she'd ever learned, and she'd always been crap at healing spells. "Yeah, okay. A little."

"So, wait, what are you doing? It's really hard to move in zero-G, right?" Kevin asked, looking curious.

"We've got some really big objects that we summon ourselves to," Terry explained. "They've got more mass, so instead if it moving towards the
caster, the caster moves towards it."

"We had to pad them, though," Li added, smiling at Harry, who grimaced. "You know how when you summon something it sort of smacks into your
hand?" Kevin nodded. "Well, there is not a lot to stop you from moving in zero-G, so you just keep moving. We kept hitting the objects and
bouncing off."

"It hurt," Terry added, rubbing at his leg.

"I healed that," Harry reminded him.

"Yeah, but it still tingles."

Harry rolled his eyes.

"It sounds like fun," Stephen decided. "Can we come with you?"

The others looked to Harry, who shrugged. "Sure. Like Luna said, the more the merrier."

"I didn't say that," Luna informed him.

"Oh, whatever. Same thing."

Morag huffed. "You know Granger and Longbottom are going to want to bring some of their idiots too."

"Only if someone tells them," Li reminded her.

"It wouldn't be fair if we only invited the Ravenclaws," Harry commented, silently conjuring some parchment and a quill.
"Some of the spells you know..." Stephen commented, a little jealous. "Harry, you have got to lend me your reading material."

"I'll let you attack my library tonight," Harry promised, quickly scrawling two notes, which he then sent to Hermione and Lillian, telling them they
could invite their Housemates, if they wanted. But only the ones in their year. There was no reason to have a huge crowd.

As soon as lunch was done, everyone met up in the room again. Other than Kevin and Stephen, Anthony and Lisa had also come from Ravenclaw.
From Slytherin, Blaise, Daphne, and Theodore had joined them. Hermione and Neville had brought along Seamus, Dean, and Ron, who was
followed by a bright-eyed Ginny. Harry groaned quietly on seeing his ex-wife.

"Alright, Potter, Millicent said something about a learning experience?" Daphne snapped.

"How come I've never seen this room before?" Seamus wondered.

"Why are they here?" Ron demanded, pointing at the Slytherins with a nasty look on his face.

Harry had the room activate the zero-G and pushed off against the floor before an argument could start between the Gryffindors and Slytherins.
When his friends followed him, leaving the newcomers staring after them with wild eyes, Harry muttered, "Maybe I shouldn't have let you bring
them. Merlin."

"I always forget that Gryffindors and Slytherins do not get on so well," Li commented. "I mean, it is not so different with you all, but you can mostly
behave, yes?"

"We have more self-control than Ronald," Hermione reported.

"Or Malfoy," Lillian added with a huff. "Sometimes, I wonder how that boy and his flunkies ever managed to get into our House."

"The eternal mystery," Harry offered drily. "Hermione, Lil, could you both go back down there and give the landlubbers a crash course in
summoning yourself towards objects?"

"Sure," Hermione agreed while Lillian nodded. Both girls summoned themselves towards the cushioned objects on either side of the room, then
pushed off them to get back down near the group on the floor, a few of whom were floating a bit off the ground.

"What about the rest of us?" Terry asked.

Harry grinned. "Well, I figured you lot should get some more practise in with the brooms." So saying, brooms appeared next to Terry, Li, Tracey,
Millicent, Luna, and Harry. "Morag, Neville, what would you two like to do?"

"I'll take a broom, thanks," Morag replied and one appeared next to her.

Neville sighed. "I'll help Hermione and Moon, if it's all the same."

"Sure thing," Harry agreed and the Gryffindor summoned himself away. "Okay, troops, continue with turning suddenly in midair. And try to keep
above the newbies."

The Ravenclaws saluted him while the Slytherins rolled their eyes, but all five of them headed off to do as ordered.

Harry sped down to where Hermione, Lillian, and Neville were trying to get the kids on the ground to stop arguing for five minutes. He waved a
silencing spell at the Gryffindors and Slytherins as he came to a slow stop next to Hermione. "Better?"

"I should have thought of that," Hermione complained.

"We can't all be perfect," Harry soothed.

Hermione reached over to smack him, but only really managed to tap him before the momentum sent her back a few centimetres. "That is only a
little obnoxious."

Harry grinned. "Sure you don't want a broom?"

"Like that's much better," Hermione replied as Luna went crashing into the ceiling with a whoop.

Harry snorted. "Luna's having fun," he informed her, then leaned forward on his broom to consider their newbies, all of whom were now floating out
of reach of the ground. "So, the point of this exercise is to summon yourself to the objects above us. They're all cushioned, so it shouldn't hurt too
much if you crash into them, but you will bounce away."

"What you want to be able to do is control your spell enough to not actually bounce off the object," Lillian cut in, shooting Harry a smirk. "Granger, if
you could show us?"

Hermione nodded, then summoned herself to the ball. She had been the quickest to get the hang of controlling her spell, and with her added
genius, was able to calculate exactly how much power to put behind her spell, depending on where in the room she was.

"Excellent." Lillian looked back to her audience. "Harry, could you show us how to do it badly?"

"Why me?" Harry wondered even as his broom disappeared.

"Because I know Longbottom can do it properly. You just sat there and watched us make fools of ourselves."

"I should have brought popcorn," Harry retorted, then aimed his wand at the icosahedron and shouted, "Accio!" As he shot towards the prism, he
managed to twist himself so his feet connected first. He bent his knees as he connected to help lessen the impact, then unbent them to add to his
momentum back down to the group on the floor.

"You cheated somehow," Lillian decided as Harry returned to her side.


"We all spent four hours in here," Harry reminded her. "I didn't need to be bouncing around like a demented human ping-pong ball to know how to
move in here."

Most of the group laughed at that, albeit most of them silently.

"You've been in here for four hours?" Lisa asked.

"We came in right after breakfast," Hermione agreed. "We spent, what, an hour and a half-ish bouncing around?"

"And the rest of that on brooms," Neville agreed. "You know, I think this is the first time I've actually enjoyed being on a broom," he added with a
nod to Harry.

Harry grinned. "That was sort of the point."

"It helps that there's no chance of falling off," Hermione allowed.

"A lot of running into things, though," Neville commented as Luna went slamming into another wall with a gleeful shout.

Ron raised his hand, a little red in the face from being ignored. When Harry took the spell off of him and motioned for him to talk, he demanded,
"Why can't we ride the brooms?"

Harry cocked his head at him. "Because it's just like riding a bike, Ron. You need to start off with training wheels. In zero-G, that means learning to
move around on your own and getting used to the different circumstances before you get to try moving around on something with its own
propulsion."

"Trust me, Ron," Neville added, looking up at the Slytherins and Ravenclaws flying loops around one another above the giant prisms, "it's not as
easy as it looks. There's no real resistance in here to help you stop, so even when you tell the broom to stop, you're still going to keep moving
forward."

Ron huffed, disbelieving, but fell silent.

"Set them free?" Lillian asked Harry.

"Might as well," Harry agreed, freeing everyone from the silencing spell, since none of them had learned wordless casting yet. "Summon away,
kids. And, remember, it's not as easy as it looks."

"The trick," Hermione added before anyone could go shooting off, "is to focus on the connection between you and your wand. You need to focus
on how much magic you're using to cast, then lessen that so you move slower."

"Go on," Harry added when they didn't move right away.

Almost as one, the group shouted, "Accio!" and went flying off in various directions.

The four on the ground remained there for a few minutes, watching the new group collide with things.

"Okay, I can see the humour value in just sitting back and watching," Lillian decided.

Harry grinned and had the room supply him with a broom. "I'm off to join the others. Do you want brooms, or are you just going to use your own
power?"

"Could you let us summon our own brooms when we want them?" Hermione wondered.

Harry cocked his head to one side thoughtfully. "I suppose I can give you three access, but you have to promise you'll only use it to get brooms for
yourselves. We don't need random items appearing in someone's path at the wrong moment."

"I think we can agree to that," Lillian agreed. "If we did it, you'd make us heal them, whether we know the spell or not."

"I'm a jerk like that," Harry agreed, slipping onto his own broom and telling the room to listen to commands from his three friends. "Okay, you can
summon or banish objects at will. You may not, however, control the gravity in the room. Understood?"

All three of them saluted him, so Harry sped off, between a couple of Gryffindors bouncing around, and into the airspace above them. "I'm back!"

"Oh, bugger," Tracey commented drily. "And here we were hoping you'd stick to playing with the preschoolers."

Harry grinned at her, then slipped over to Luna, who was humming as she healed a bruise. "Is there a reason you're hurting yourself?"

"It's fun," she replied, smiling.

"Do I need to pad the walls?" Harry enquired.

"Only if you want to," Luna said before shooting off and gleefully bouncing off the far wall.

Harry sighed and had the room add padding to the walls above the objects the other students were bouncing between. Luna might have thought it
was fun to run into things like that, but Harry didn't much care to watch his friend hurt herself.

Two hours later, Harry's friends were all masters at moving in zero-G with the brooms or on their own. Of those they'd invited in, only Blaise and
Lisa were serious enough about trying to control their magic output for Harry to let them on brooms; everyone else was having too much fun
bouncing back and forth.

"I suppose I could just get rid of the padding and see how long it takes them to figure it out then," Harry commented to Lillian and Hermione, who
were still trying to teach the idiots.
"We'd have to heal them all afterwards, though," Hermione pointed out.

"Nah. Just leave them and if one of them complains, tell them it's a reminder of the lesson they learned," Lillian grumbled. "They'd deserve it."

"Maybe just a bit," Hermione allowed.

Lillian moved closer to the Gryffindor with her broom and hugged her around the shoulders. "See, we'll make a Slytherin out of you yet."

Hermione grimaced at the thought. "Moon, let go of me."

Harry snorted in amusement. "What's this? Hermione Granger, refusing positive human contact?"

"I'm going to summon something into your path as soon as you go back up there," Hermione threatened, waving her hand up at where Terry and
Millicent were helping Lisa and Blaise manoeuvre on their brooms.

The door to the room opened and the three near the ground, being the only ones able to hear it, all turned to watch as a few professors poked their
heads in, eyes widening when they noticed the kids bouncing around above them.

"Aw, fuck," Harry complained.

"Harry," Hermione hissed, though it was mostly just reflex at that point for her to tell him off for cursing.

Harry sighed. "I'm going to allow real gravity for the two metres above the ground," he warned the two girls, both of whom nodded. He changed the
gravity, then floated down to the floor. As soon as he could safely hop off, he did so, then walked to the door. "Hi?" he called while Hermione and
Lillian also moved down to the floor behind him.

"Mr Potter, what is going on here?" McGonagall demanded, taking a careful step inside. Behind her, Flitwick and Snape looked a little less trusting.

"We're just having some fun, Professor," Hermione explained as she stopped at Harry's side. "Harry found this room that will respond to the wishes
of the one who summoned it. He made it zero-G in here and we're all learning how to move around in it."

"It's a learning opportunity as well as fun," Lillian added from Harry's other side.

"Zero-G?" Flitwick asked, cautiously stepping into the room himself. Snape still looked like he had no interest in joining his colleagues.

"Zero gravity," Hermione translated.

"Luna was talking about one of her creatures that lives on the moon," Harry explained before the professors could ask why they thought it was
necessary to play in zero-G. "Well, that got me thinking, 'What would it be like to move around on the moon?' And, well, the moon has really low
gravity, see, and we thought it might be cool to give it a try, but you know it's kinda hard to simulate the level of gravity on the moon without
knowing exactly what it's like, so we decided to just go with zero-G. Terry was talking about it at lunch and Stephen wanted to come, so I said we
could all invite some people."

"Surely someone will get hurt," McGonagall commented, looking up at the students with concern.

"It's all padded, though," Hermione offered. "I mean, they weren't, at first, but then we did pad them and so it doesn't hurt at all."

"The walls are padded too," Harry agreed, mentally asking the room to pad the walls on the bottom half of the room and walking over to touch one.
"See? So even if they miss what they're aiming for up there, which they shouldn't, they still won't get hurt."

"How are they moving around?" Flitwick asked, curious. "I see you three have brooms, but everyone else..."

"The lot of them up top have brooms," Harry explained, "but the others are using summoning charms to move between the constructs. Because the
constructs have a greater mass, they don't really move, which causes the caster to move towards it instead."

"It's like how you can't summon a house," Hermione added, smiling. "It's bigger, so you'd go flying towards it, rather than it coming to you."

"I'm surprised Mr Weasley isn't on a broom," McGonagall commented.

"He wants to be," Harry replied drily, "but my rule is that they can't get on a broom until they've mastered regulating their spell power to keep from
crashing into the constructs. He doesn't much care about that part, so he's stuck acting like a bouncy ball."

"You said ping-pong ball earlier," Lillian informed him.

"I am a ping-pong ball, Ron is not," Harry retorted.

McGonagall sighed. "While I approve of you having made this a learning experience, Mr Potter, I wish you'd had a professor in here."

"Why?" Lillian asked, eyes narrowed. "It's just a bit of fun. No one's been hurt or anything."

"But someone could have," Flitwick chastised her, "and you would have been stuck on the seventh floor with no assistance."

Lillian opened her mouth to respond, but Harry shook his head at her and she subsided.

"You're here now, if you want to stay," Harry offered, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. "But if you intend to stay, you'll have to join us in zero-G.
It's not safe to leave even this small portion of ground with gravity. Someone could shoot themselves down here and instead of just floating down,
they'll crash. And then, yes, someone will get hurt."

"Always so certain of yourself, aren't you, Potter?" Snape snarked. "Too much better than everyone to even bother informing a professor of what
you were doing."
Harry rolled his eyes at the professor in the doorway, then looked back at McGonagall. "Professor?"

McGonagall looked back down at Harry from where she had been watching the students having fun above them with a quiet sigh. "Very well, Mr
Potter. If something happens, I ask that you send a house-elf for me."

Harry nodded. "I can do that."

"Minerva, surely you're not going to leave them unsupervised!" Snape complained.

McGonagall gave her fellow professor a dry look. "Unless you want to stay in here, Severus, I see no other choice." She glanced down at the
Ravenclaw Head when Snape just scowled in response. "Filius?"

"As much fun as this looks, I have a great deal of work left to do," Flitwick replied, sounding truly upset at the missed chance.

Harry smiled at his Head of House. "If you happen to have a free weekend, Professor, I can set the room up again," he offered.

Flitwick sent him a wink. "I'll keep that in mind."

Harry glanced up at Snape, who was still scowling. "What's this, Professor Snape, no sense of adventure?" he asked, eyes sparkling.

Snape looked absolutely furious. "Are you mocking me, Potter?" he hissed.

Harry put on an affronted look. "I would never mock a professor," he swore.

Next to him, Hermione had to turn away to cover a giggle.

"You're just like your father!" Snape snapped.

"I like to think I'm more like my mum, personally," Harry replied oh-so-calmly. He turned to Lillian, who looked torn between horror and amusement.
"What do you think, Lil, am I more like my dad or my mum?"

Lillian shook her head, not sure how to even begin responding to that.

"Potter!" Snape roared.

Harry grinned and, manipulating the gravity in the room to vanish around him, jumped into the air and away, offering the professors a jaunty little
wave. "Bye, professors!"

"Twenty points from Ravenclaw!" Snape shouted after him.

"Severus, that's completely ridiculous," McGonagall chastised as she ushered her fellow professors out. "He didn't even do anything."

"He mocked me!" Snape snapped as the door fell closed behind them.

Harry was a little sad, he'd wanted to hear what the other professors had to say to that. He flew back down to Lillian and Hermione, asking, "Can I
bring the zero-G back online, now?"

" 'Online'?" Lillian asked.

"Muggle term," Hermione offered as she got on her broom. "He wanted to know if it's okay to make this area zero-G again."

"Harry, stop being muggle," Lillian ordered, getting on her own broom.

"I'll work on that," Harry replied drily before he had the room get rid of the gravity on the ground. "What were we talking about before the professors
came in?" he wondered as the three of them floated back up to their original watching position. "Oh, yeah! Getting rid of the cushioning!"

"OW!" a few people above them shouted at the same time as they impacted with some of the objects. More exclamations of pain followed.

"Sorry!" Harry called up, looking contrite. "Something about getting the zero-G back online knocked out the cushioning. Give me a minute!"

" 'Online'?" more than one person repeated.

Lillian snorted while Hermione turned to shake her head in amazement at Harry. "I can't believe you just did that."

"I can," Lillian replied, glancing at Harry. "Sadist."

"Oh, they deserve it," Harry said, grinning.

"They sort of do," Hermione agreed.

"Granger," Lillian said, "you're okay."

"Thank you, Moon. Don't hug me again."

Harry laughed.

-0-

"I've never snuck out of school before," Luna commented as they slipped out of the Ravenclaw common room on a broom. They were going to fly
down to the school gates and slip out them, leaving one of them cracked open so they could get back through to change the school wards after
they'd finished with the village wards.
"Enjoy it while you can," Harry retorted. "Tomorrow morning we'll have to be innocence personified in case anyone suspects anything."

Harry had originally considered shadowing down to the village and then shadowing everyone back into the castle, but a glance at the wards told
him that wouldn't work unless Voldemort and Barty were actually welcomed at the gate. Not certain how the shadows fell down by the gate in the
middle of the night, he decided it would be easier to just use the gate and avoid all use of his vampire powers. Especially since he was about to go
cast two wards twice.

At the gate, they slipped through and Harry cast an obscure spell he knew of which would keep the gate open, then they dashed down into the
sleeping village. The rest of the group was waiting for them around the large ward stone Voldemort had carved over the past few days.

"Are we sure it should be so large?" Barty was whispering to Lucius. "I mean, people are going to notice."

"That's sort of the point, Barty," Harry commented drily, smiling at the irritated look on both Riddle and Voldemort's faces. Next to Voldemort,
Xerosis smirked at him.

"You couldn't have done that sooner?" Riddle demanded of Xerosis.

"It wouldn't have been as much fun for him," Voldemort replied drily. "He likes watching us get progressively more murderous.

"It is kind of funny, though," Harry offered, earning him disgusted looks from both Voldemort and Riddle.

"Do you have any idea how wrong it is to have four of you around?" Barty asked Harry.

"Yes," Harry replied. "I almost want to do it at a Death Eater meeting, just to watch a bunch of adults in masks slowly turn into a blubbering mess."
He shot Barty and Lucius a mad grin, making them both sigh, then pointed to Luna. "This is Luna Lovegood, by the way, my favourite minion. Luv,
Barty and Lucius. And Voldemort. Or Tom. Or Voldemort and–"

"Potter, I will Crucio you," Voldemort informed him.

"But the potential!"

"We'll both Crucio you," Riddle threatened.

Luna took that moment to walk up to Riddle with a bright smile and extend her hand for a handshake, saying, "It's good to finally meet you,
ToMeister."

They were all silent for a moment before Riddle choked. Voldemort just sort of sighed and Xerosis and Harry both started laughing a bit madly.
Barty and Lucius looked rather like they were in fear for their lives.

Luna turned to Xerosis with a smile, not minding that Riddle didn't take her hand like was polite. "We should get started."

"Luna, I love you," Xerosis informed her, dropping a kiss on her head. He then turned to Voldemort. "We don't have an endless amount of time to
do this in."

"I know." Voldemort sighed and snapped his fingers in his double's face. "Go north," he ordered. "Potter west, Xerosis east."

Harry and Xerosis both saluted Voldemort before going off in their assigned directions. Riddle went in his direction with only minor grumbling.

Voldemort turned to the three who would stay at the stone. "Lucius, stand here. Barty, here. Lovegood, you're here, and for Merlin's sake, behave."

Luna smiled as she got into position. "Harry already explained the severity of the situation, my Lord," she replied with the same sort of easy
seriousness that the teenaged Dark Lord so often used.

"It's no wonder you and Potter are such good friends," Voldemort muttered to himself as he started off to the south.

Once in position, Voldemort cast the Parseltongue spell. :The rune stone and the south are in position.:

:The east is in position,: Xerosis replied.

:The north is in position,: Riddle added.

:The west is in position. Casting in five,: Harry announced.

Voldemort counted to five, then started chanting. Probably the best thing about having him and Harry double themselves was that they knew their
magic was compatible, so there would be no complications with the ward. Their magical cores were about the same size, too, which meant none of
them would have to compensate for the others. Although, admittedly, both he and Xerosis had already done both the ward for the village and for
the school once, but they'd decided that wouldn't be a problem, so had continued with the casting.

The ward took about twenty minutes to fully cast and another ten to anchor and set. By the time the casters got back to the ward stone, they were
all tired and insanely grateful for the water and food Luna had called via house-elf. All seven of them took a break on a couple of benches off to
one side in the square, the four Dark Lords sitting together while their minions whispered together.

"I don't think I want to know what they're up to," Harry commented.

"With Luna involved, it's probably best not to ask," Xerosis agreed. "Though, knowing her, it almost certainly has something to do with one of her
creatures." He and Harry traded grins.

"ToMeister?" Riddle asked, grimacing a bit.

"At least she's not bestowing you with crowns of pink flowers," Harry replied, smiling.
"Anyway, ToMeister has a nice ring to it," Xerosis offered. "I might have to use it myself."

"Don't you dare," Riddle and Voldemort chorused.

Harry and Xerosis chuckled.

"Are you ready to go yet?" Voldemort demanded of the two teenagers.

"Hey, you are the old ones," Harry retorted.

"Potter, I am going to curse you," Riddle warned, reaching for his wand.

"Oh, save your magic for the wards," Xerosis told him, still chuckling a bit.

Harry winked at Riddle, earning him a growl, then stood. "I'm good."

"I need to do something before we go," Xerosis commented.

"Ah, yes. Best get that out of the way," Voldemort agreed.

"Fawkes!" Xerosis called, catching the attention of Luna, Barty, and Lucius, who all looked over a bit nervously as the phoenix flamed into
existence.

Fawkes gave Xerosis a disgusted look.

"I know I promised to stay out of your way, but we," he waved his hand to encompass all of them, "are going to be coming onto the campus and
adding to the wards. Also," he shot Voldemort a significant look, which the snake-like man rolled his eyes at, "getting rid of something someone
added to them in a fit of pique."

"I like that ward where it is," Riddle complained.

"Hey, which of us is the student having to deal with that ward here, you or me?" Harry snapped. "We're getting rid of it."

"Or what?" Riddle snarked.

"Or I'll Avada your arse until you agree with me."

"He will, too," Xerosis helpfully offered.

"We're removing the curse," Voldemort snapped, scowling at his younger self.

Riddle paused, then commented, "I'm not sure I want to know what he did to make me agree to that one..."

Xerosis and Harry smiled a bit disturbingly.

Fawkes trilled angrily, reminding them he was still there.

"Oh yeah, sorry, Fawkes." Xerosis shrugged. "Anyway, we're going to be playing with the wards for the school, which should set off at least one of
Dumbledore's toys. We'd be much obliged if you could, oh, borrow that toy – or toys – until we're done."

Fawkes huffed a lick of flame into Xerosis' face, which had the apparent vampire scowling, then nodded and flamed away.

"Right, up to the castle," Xerosis ordered, waving at the minions as the Dark Lords all rose.

Once everyone was up, they made their way up to the gate. Lucius, Luna, Harry, and Xerosis were all able to walk right into the grounds, but
Voldemort, Riddle, and Barty had to be invited in. (Admittedly, Voldemort probably didn't have to be invited in, since he'd already been let in once,
but they decided to invite him in again anyway. Just in case.)

On the other side of the gates, they stopped to get their directions from Xerosis. "Okay, the runes have already been added to the stone. Barty,
Lucius, follow Luna and she'll show you where you need to go. Luna has a two-way mirror which Harry has the other half of. When you three are in
place, Luna will tell Harry, who will inform the rest of us. Other than that... Harry, west; Tom, north; Voldemort, south."

Nodding, everyone started off to their positions. Riddle was able to mostly stay in his current position, since the gate was on the north side, though
he did have to go back through the gate so he was actually on the ward line. Harry joined Riddle in leaving through the gate, then got on his broom
and flew around to the west side, outside the wards. Voldemort and Xerosis were able to take their brooms inside the grounds to their positions,
though they were probably the most obnoxious positions of them all: Voldemort would be floating near the far edge of the lake, while Xerosis would
be deep inside the forest.

Once Harry had heard from Luna, he started the call for being ready. Riddle was quick to respond, then Xerosis. Voldemort took a bit longer,
having the furthest to go, but as soon as he was settled they started their casting.

About ten minutes into their casting, they hit some resistance, which angrily demanded, 'What are you doing?' to all four casters at once.

It was Harry who responded, being the only one still obviously a student of the school, 'We're fixing the wards so the mundanes – muggles – can't
see the school from space. Who are you?'

There was a long silence from the entity, then it responded, 'I am Hogwarts. One, no, two of you have added to my wards before. It was a curse
and I don't like it.'

'We fully intend to get rid of it, if you'll let us continue,' Voldemort replied as politely as he could.
Hogwarts considered that for a moment, then replied, 'Very well. If you happen to "forget" to remove the curse, however, I will place a curse on all
of you. Even the three at my ward stone.'

'Understood,' Xerosis replied.

Hogwarts' presence faded away and they were able to continue casting.

Almost an hour later, they finally finished. Harry and Riddle, as per their original plans, used their time-turners to go back seven hours, so they had
time for a break before they would need to collect Barty and Lucius and cast the wards again. Xerosis – back as Harry again – and Voldemort,
however, met back up with the others at the gate of the school. Luna had procured more water, which she handed to the two Dark Lords, and they
all took a moment to rest.

Once he felt better, Voldemort straightened. "That was interesting," he commented to Harry.

Harry snorted. "Interesting is one word for it. Do you want me to try getting in contact with her again?" he asked, referring to the school.

"Of course. Having her on our side would be quite the boon."

"Will do." Harry nodded.

"I hate it when you start talking in code," Barty complained to Harry.

The teen grinned at him. "You know we only do it to irritate you."

"Barty, contrary to your own beliefs, our conversations do not revolve around you," Voldemort commented drily, shaking his head at his Death
Eater. "Potter, how are your plans coming?"

"Relatively well," Harry allowed, glancing back towards the castle. "I want to get a couple more weekends of training in, and I haven't quite got the
protective amulets ready, but we should be ready to move by the second weekend of October at the absolute latest."

"Now I know they're doing it to irritate me," Barty informed Lucius and Luna. The girl giggled, knowing very well what Harry and Voldemort were
talking about that time.

"Let me know if you run into any trouble with it, then," Voldemort offered.

"I will, thanks."

Luna reached over and tugged on Harry's sleeve. "I'm coming too, right?"

"Yeah, I suppose," Harry agreed, rolling his eyes. Voldemort just shook his head, not even bothering to argue Luna's inclusion.

"Okay, now that is not fair," Barty complained. "How come a fourth year knows what you're planning and the rest of us don't?"

"Because Luna's my favourite," Harry retorted. "And because I spend most of my free time with her, so she figures things out."

Barty shot a glare at Luna, making the girl giggle.

Harry rolled his eyes while Voldemort considered Crucioing his Death Eater.

Lucius cleared his throat. "Perhaps it's time to leave, my Lord? It has been a tiring exercise."

"Doubly tiring for some of us," Harry agreed. He and Voldemort traded pained looks. "I'll let you know if anything comes up."

Voldemort nodded and ushered his Death Eaters through the gate. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," he told his partner before Harry could close
the gate.

"So, throw around the Cruciatus like a sweet and kill people if they really tick me off?"

"Basically."

Harry laughed and waved before closing the gate. "Come on, luv, let's get some sleep. It has been a very long day."

Luna smiled and hugged Harry as he shadowed them back to their common room. "Good night, my Lord," she offered before heading for her
stairs.

"Good night, Luna," Harry called back, heading towards his own bed and a well-deserved sleep.

-0-0-0-0-0-

-0-0-0-0-0-

A/N: So it's not quite ten thousand words, but I figured I should finish this here so I could send it out to the betas and know I'll get it back in time for
the update. Anyway, I was getting sort of 'meh' near the end there. (And, honestly, I only got about half of my list of things to cover into this chapter.
But it was the good half!)

About ToMeister: My cat's name is Tom – named after everyone's favourite evil genius – and I randomly called him 'ToMeister' one day. Shara
insisted I have Harry call Tom that in this fic, but I was having a hard time fitting it in. So Luna got to use it instead. I think it worked better this way,
anyway. XD

Okay, and there will be no mentions ofSailor Moon in the reviews for this chapter, right? Or I might 'forget' to update on the 4th. (And I'm not sure if
that's a joke or not. It depends on how ticked off I get.)
Don't worry, I still love you lot, even if you do make me homicidal every once in a while. XD
~Bats ^.^x
*Chapter 9*: Cold Fields
Title: Xerosis
Author: Batsutousai
Beta: Shara Lunison & magickmaker17
Rating: T
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (post-Harry/Ginny)
Warnings: SLASH, AU, character death, semi-super!Harry, Dark!Harry
Summary: Harry's world ends at the hands of those he'd once fought to save. An adult-Harry goes back to his younger self fic. Semi-super!Harry

Disclaim Her: Have I mentioned recently how much I love you people? Like, seriously. Love ya.

A/N: There were a couple of questions about how the professors found out about Harry et al using the RoR: The simple answer is that it's
really, really strange to see a group of Slytherins traipsing around on the seventh floor on a weekend. The long, more in depth answer is, the
portraits reported back to the professors that a group of students was disappearing down the hallway where the Room of Requirement is. I know
some of you will then go: But how would the professors even know about the RoR? Well, think of it this way: It's really, really suspicious that
students vanish down there; Tom Riddle found it as a student without the help of a house-elf and with how much stuff is in there, he can't have
been the first; and if the house-elves know about it, the professors likely do as well.

A lot of you were really hopeful about the reactions to the ward stone in Hogsmeade, but that section was giving me most of my trouble, so it's
mostly been cut out and glossed over. Sorry about that. *shame*
But there's some Tom/Harry interactions and it's longer than ten thousand words to make up for that!

-0-0-0-

Cold Fields

-0-0-0-

The Prophet the next morning was rife with speculation about the new rune stone in the centre of Hogsmeade. Specialists hadn't yet been called in
by the time of publication, but the special edition that hit the school at lunchtime had their findings, as well as their confusions as to how it had
appeared. They figured out all the protection wards, but they were especially confused by the inactive rune series that needed the other set of
runes on the satellites before it could activate.

Harry enjoyed the following days listening to his classmates argue about who would bother putting wards around the small village that was awash
in the wake of the Hogwarts wards, or what those inactive runes were for. Everyone had an opinion, though none of them had the right opinion. For
the most part, they seemed to believe it was an act of some kindly group – the Order, said those who knew of it, while those who didn't suggested
a group much like it – who was set on protecting them from the muggles or the Dark Lords. Others thought it was a ploy by the Dark Order to make
the residents of Hogsmeade think they were safe, and then when they least expected it... BOOM! The whole village gone in a second.

It was all the students – and the Prophet – would talk about for weeks. Specialists were sent in from all over and pleas for information were sent
out, but no one came forward and it eventually died down, especially when everyone reported back that there was nothing strange about the stone.

Of course, Harry considered as he and his five friends finished their last-minute preparations, it's all about to start right back up again, as soon as
that rune set is active. And we get to miss the whole thing. I hope the others can cover sufficiently.

It being the weekend, no one should notice the six missing students, especially with Morag, Hermione, Neville, and Lillian running interference. If
there were any questions, Harry had created a golem of each of them and placed it in their beds. A magical scan would show them to have a
relatively mild stomach bug, and they were programmed to respond to any inquiry with, "I'm sick, go away." Not the most sophisticated piece of
magic that Harry had ever done, but it should be sufficient to fool any worried professor or, worst-case, Madam Pomfrey. As long as they didn't look
any closer than the most rudimentary scans, there shouldn't be any problems.

"Everyone ready?" Harry asked as the others all finished fiddling with their food sacks. They all had enough food for sixty hours, and enough potion
to keep them awake for the same amount of time. They had all also been equipped with protective amulets and a magical headset that would
enable them to keep in some form of contact, in case of emergencies. The four who would be in orbit the entire trip would always be in contact, but
once Harry and Luna got approximately one hundred fifty thousand kilometres away from the planet, they would be on their own.

"I think so, yeah," Terry agreed, pulling on his fingertip-less gloves. They'd been created special by Harry with extra warming and protective charms
worked in, so they would have full use of their hands when adding the runes. Only their fingertips and face weren't covered by the protective
clothing that Harry had put together with Hermione's help – the girl had wanted to feel useful, so Harry had left her to stitching together the robes
and adding the protective runes to them with thread.

Harry nodded. "Okay. Remember, if the solar flare alarm goes off, get back into the atmosphere immediately."

"We know, Potter," Tracey replied, huffing. "You've already warned us that these spells can't stand up to that level of solar activity."

"But what will you and Luna do if that happens?" Li asked, dark eyes worried.

It wasn't the first time she'd asked, and Harry's answer was the same as ever: "We'll manage." He pulled his own hood up to cover his hair, smiling
when the others did the same. "Excellent. Let's head out, okay?"

Everyone nodded and mounted their brooms. Harry floated slowly up first, peeking his head over the tree cover of the Forbidden Forest. Sharp
eyes looked around for anyone still awake and wandering the grounds in spite of the sleeping agent the house-elves had added to dinner. Not
seeing anyone, he touched his ear piece and murmured, "Okay. Slow and easy until you're out of the trees. Let's go."

The weekends over the Pacific on the new brooms had paid off relatively well and the group were able to rise up and out of the tree-cover at a
normal speed before shooting off into the sky, picking up speed the further up in the atmosphere they got.
Harry and Voldemort hadn't been completely certain which satellites returned pictures of the planet and which had been created for other things.
Instead of worrying about which satellites were which, they had decided to get runes on all of the active ones, so Terry, Li, Tracey, and Millicent
followed Harry and Luna out to about one hundred thousand kilometres above the planet to put the runes on the Vela satellites before making their
way back towards the planet.

It took them twelve hours to reach the one hundred thousand mark, so they stopped together to flip their time-turners, then separated to either hunt
down the satellites or continue their trip to the moon.

It took Harry and Luna another thirty-five hours to reach the moon. They'd had to switch out their brooms for new ones around the two hundred
thousand kilometres mark, and their current ones were starting to fall apart. Once they reached the surface of the moon, they incinerated their
brooms and took a moment to enjoy being on a solid surface again without a broom between their legs.

After twenty minutes or so of freedom – and a meal – they pulled out their last set of brooms and started off over the surface.

"Other than Usagi Tsuki, what are we looking for?" Luna wondered through their magical communication sets. Sound didn't travel in space, so it
was the only way to talk.

"A nice place where the magical community can live," Harry replied, scanning the surface with his eyes. "Tom and I agree that finding a spot on the
far side of the moon would be the best, and from what I've learned about this rock, the soil composition is slightly different over there, since there's
no atmosphere to protect it from the sun's radiation." He paused and frowned a bit. "Speaking of, how are you holding up?"

"Feeling a little shaky, but mostly okay," Luna reported honestly. "The lack of gravity helps, I think."

Harry sighed and glanced at his own pale fingertips. He had known there was a chance that all of them would develop some minor radiation
sickness symptoms, although he and Luna would be the worst off. The protective amulets and robes would help with most of that, and his own
vampiric and Death-given gifts would give him even more protection, but still... He shook his head. "Tom promised he'd have a potion waiting for us
when we got back," he commented, half reassuring himself, half reassuring Luna.

"Coming back pale and shaky will lend credence to our weekend in bed," Luna reminded him. Hermione had mentioned the same thing the first
time Harry had brought up radiation sickness.

"There's a difference in having the shakes from low haemoglobin and having them because of an upset stomach," Harry retorted, shaking his head.
"Never mind. The potions should keep that from being obvious to any medical scans. Everyone knows to go the Madame Pomfrey if they don't feel
better in a few days." He sighed again. "Why did I agree to let a bunch of kids come with me?"

"Because Tom wouldn't get on a broom and you needed the help to finish in a weekend," Luna reminded him, smiling when he chuckled. "It's sort
of pretty up here."

Harry smiled and rested against his broom, glancing up at the Earth above them. "It really is. Living on the moon was a good idea."

"We won't be able to see the Earth if we settle on the other side," Luna reminded him.

"Not normally, no," Harry agreed. "But you can always take a broom out and go have a look. We're also not certain what sort of consequences will
come about from giving the moon real gravity and an atmosphere. For all we know, it'll start rotating a bit faster and we'll be seeing the Earth
regularly."

"That completely destroys the reason for us settling on the far side," Luna pointed out.

Harry chuckled. "I know, trust me. It would also be sort of like waving a red flag at the mundanes, 'Hi! We're on the moon if you feel the need to
destroy us still!' " He sighed. "Well, it would take them a while to develop the technology necessary to reach us on the moon, factoring in the
rotations of both Earth and the moon and the gravitational pulls of both. Not to mention, any damage they do to the moon with have consequences
on their own planet..."

Luna giggled. "You've been eating too many scientists again."

"Ah..." Harry shook his head. "Yeah, a few. It was the best way to get information on the moon while still training you lot and keeping up with
school. People would notice if I starting reading material on the moon."

"The purebloods would sneer at you for it, too," Luna pointed out.

"No one wants that. Here, what's this, then?" He brought his broom to a slow stop over what appeared to be a mountain range. It was broken up by
some craters, but the mountains that remained were huge.

"Is it another crater?" Luna wondered, moving down to get a closer look at one of the craters that had formed in the mountain range.

"A big one," Harry agreed, glancing back up towards where Earth was vanishing behind the horizon. "If I'm remembering my geography right, this
might be the South Pole-Aiten Basin. Largest crater on the moon, second largest in the solar system. Some of the mountains that make up the rim
are larger even than Mount Everest back on Earth."

"How big, exactly, is the 'second largest'?" Luna wondered. "Does it take up the entire far side of the moon, or..."

"Two thousand five hundred kilometres in diameter," Harry reported as he pulled out a case to put a soil sample in. He had room for about thirty
different samples and he intended to use it all. "That's the length of Britain twice, plus the width once. Approximately."

Luna whistled. "Impressive. Do you think we could all settle here?"

"Tom and I discussed it," Harry admitted, moving out of sight of Luna to find another spot for soil collection. "It's large enough that we wouldn't be
stepping on each other's toes, but small enough that we wouldn't have to stretch our resources overly much. The soil of the moon is so varied
because of the various impacts over the billions of years that finding a common element to transfigure over the whole moon to make the soil
compatible with our plants is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack."
Luna shook her head. "Okay. I'm going to go see if I can collect some soil outside the basin, if that's okay?" she asked, pulling out her own
container for soil collection.

"Mm-hm. Check in with me every ten minutes, though."

"Sure thing." Luna turned her broom around and traced the edge of the basin, occasionally veering off to one side and collecting samples in nearby
craters. She made sure to check in with Harry every eight to ten minutes, calling, "Harry?"

"Mm-hm?" he'd reply.

"I'm still alive."

"Good. How're you feeling?"

"Little shaky, still. No change."

"Carry on."

Three hours later, having finished filling her sample container, Luna put it away and lowered her broom to the surface. There, she reached into her
bag and pulled out ten rabbits she'd picked up in the Forbidden Forest a few days before they left. She'd dyed them lilac and given them some
potions to let them survive on the moon. It had been a lot of fun, though a few bunnies had, sadly, died in the process.

"Okay, my pretties," she said to them, uncaring that with the vacuum of space they almost certainly couldn't hear her, and smiled down at their
confused faces, "it's time for you to do what you do best: breed. Breed so much that in a few years, we can fill that entire basin with you, okay?"
She paused and cocked her head to one side. "And when you meet the Usagi Tsukis, tell them I'd like to meet them. I know they're really shy, but
I'm a good human, right?"

"Luna? Are you ready to go?" Harry asked over the headset.

Luna smiled down at her small, lilac-coloured army. "Be good," she ordered them before activating her headset and getting back on her broom.
"Sure thing. Where should we meet up?"

"The south pole," Harry said with certainty. "Where we came over the ridge. Think you can find it?"

"I'll be fine. I know how to cast point me."

Harry chuckled. "Good point. Okay, I'll meet you there."

Crossing the basin was the quickest way to get to the pole, so Luna did so, enjoying the craters passing below her and the stars above. The sun
was glimmering on the eastern horizon, casting shadows over everything. From what Harry had told her when she'd asked, the moon took about
twenty-nine and a half Earth days to make one full rotation. On Earth, that was referred to as a 'lunar month', but Luna wondered if they shouldn't
start calling it a 'lunar day', since they'd be moving up here.

"It's not anywhere near the amount of sunlight that we'd be used to," Harry had admitted, "but there are spells that can simulate sunlight or block it
out when we're stuck with it for days at a time. Where the mundanes might fail due to a lack of vitamin D, we will manage with our magic. It won't
be easy, and it may not be fun to figure out the mechanics, but we will manage it, and we will flourish in spite of it."

"We can do this," Luna whispered into the cold fields of rock and stars. "With Harry and Tom leading us, we can do anything."

-0-

By the time Luna reached Harry at the south pole, he'd already created a portkey out of a thermos he'd had tea in. "Let's see if this works," he
offered, holding the thermos out to her as she slowed to a stop next to him.

Luna smiled and grabbed the top with one hand – ensuring her uncovered fingertips were touching it – and her broom with the other.

Harry smiled back at her and activated the portkey with a tap of his wand. Like any other portkey, it started with a tug behind their navels, but then
things went a little odd. Instead of the sound of wind and swirling colours that they were used to, everything went deathly still for a long, terrible
moment. Then there was a deafening 'boom' and a flash of light, before they crashed to the floor.

"Should have got off the brooms before we did that," Harry commented through gritted teeth as he let go of the portkey. His own broom had
snapped on impact and the handle had impaled him through the stomach. "Fuck."

Luna scrambled to her feet and hurried over to Harry's side, feeling a little useless. She knew Harry couldn't die, but... "What do I do?" she
whispered, reaching out a hand, but not quite touching the handle jutting out of his back to one side. "Harry, I don't–"

"Move," a new voice ordered and Luna scrambled away as Riddle knelt next to his partner. "You idiot," he added as he magically extracted the
handle.

Harry laughed around the blood bubbling from between his lips. "I'm ninety-nine years old," he whispered, grimacing as the Death-magic that kept
him alive set about sewing together his most recent failure to die, "I'm allowed a few mistakes."

"Don't go senile on me yet, Potter," Riddle retorted, getting up and going to fetch the potions he'd kept for the teens' return. "I'd be lost without your
pretty face to charm the masses."

Harry snorted, letting Luna help him to his feet. "You think I'm pretty, Tom?" he wondered in girly voice.

"Not right now, you're not," Riddle said, coming back with the potions and a hand towel. "Wipe the blood off your face," he ordered, holding the
towel out. Once Harry was doing as told, Riddle turned to Luna, who looked pale with a tinge of green. "I have been told that this may exacerbate
any current nausea," he told the girl, holding out her potions to her. "The bathroom is over there."
Luna took the potions with an unsteady curtsy. "Thank you, my Lord," she whispered before dashing into the bathroom.

"Other than getting killed by your own broom, how did it go?" Riddle asked, trading Harry's potions for the bloody towel. A snap of his fingers called
a house-elf to deal with the towel.

"Pretty well," Harry replied, knocking back the first potion with a grimace. "Snape made these, didn't he?"

"I have no time to be holed up in some dreary potions lab," Riddle replied, settling on his bed, since the two teens had appeared in his bedroom.
Admittedly, that had been the plan all along, but still... Riddle was almost used to having Harry invade his bedroom, but the girl was making him
feel distressingly vulnerable. He blamed it on Harry.

Harry knocked back the other potion and waved his usual chair over to fall into. He could worry about blood stains later. "We went through two
brooms to get out there and it took us about forty-eight hours." He waved towards the discarded thermos and brooms. "Clearly, portkeys are
possible, though there is a strange change during interplanetary travel."

"Oh?" Riddle leaned forward, curious.

"You know how usually there's the sound of the wind and weird colours when you're travelling by portkey?" Riddle nodded, grimacing a bit. "Well, I
guess it's because most of the travel is through a vacuum, but there's no light, no sound. And then, once we hit the atmosphere, there with this
blast of sound and light. And then we'd landed."

"Did it take longer?" Riddle wondered.

"Definitely. The travel through space seemed to go on forever." Harry chuckled a bit, absently wiping away the trickle of blood the action had
brought out of his oesophagus. "It should be interesting to see what travel from the planet to the moon is like."

"Perhaps we'll try it tomorrow, while waiting for the rest of your posse."

Harry snorted. "Posse? Seriously? And I thought I'd been hanging out with teenagers too much."

Riddle sneered. "I spend my days surrounded by ex-Azkaban prisoners."

"Ah. Good point." Harry glanced up as Luna stepped from the bathroom, looking tired and somewhat unwell. "Hey, luv. How are you feeling?"

Luna sighed and walked over so she could sink to the ground at Harry's feet and rest her head on his knee. "When are we going back to the
school?" she murmured as Harry ran a gentle hand through her hair. She'd pulled the hood off in the bathroom, so the older Ravenclaw had easy
access.

"Not until the others are back," Harry offered gently. "Tomorrow evening sometime, hopefully." He glanced up at Riddle. "I should probably hunt
down Lucius for some rooms, assuming he's not already asleep."

Riddle shook his head. "He probably is. He set up the room next to this one for you after that first lab attack. A 'just in case', I believe. If you and
Lovegood don't mind, you can probably manage in there together for the night."

"Hmm. Luna?"

Luna shook her head against Harry's leg. "Don't care," she murmured.

"Bed time," Harry decided, slipping out of the chair and picking his best friend up. She wrapped her arms around his neck and fell into a light doze
as he offered Riddle a quiet 'good night' and slipped out of the room and into the one next door. It had been done in shades of blue with bronze
accents; Harry smiled a bit at Lucius' sense of House pride even as he set about getting Luna into the large bed and transfiguring her protective
robes into something more comfortable to sleep in.

Luna's extra broom and their packs were dropped in one corner – Harry's snapped broom had been left for Riddle to vanish – and Harry went into
the bathroom to strip out of the ruined robes and take a quick shower. There was no point in going to bed with flaking blood everywhere.

Once he was out of the shower, he checked his most recent scar, somewhat amused to find that it looked like a crescent moon. "Ha-ha. Very
funny," he whispered to the room.

The armoire out in the bedroom had robes in Harry's size, and he quietly thanked Lucius and Narcissa's usual attention to detail. He hunted down
some sleep trousers and pulled them on, absently touching his headset – he'd put it back on once he was out of his shower – and murmuring,
"Hey, you lot still alive up there?"

There was a moment of silence, then Terry asked, "You two are back on the surface?"

"Yeah. The portkey worked, so maybe everyone can go up to the moon next weekend. For now, how are the satellites coming?"

"They're coming," Tracey retorted drily. "Maybe another nine hours before we're done."

"Give or take," Terry agreed. "We're running into a lot of dead space-junk, at this point, but there are still a couple of running things floating
around."

Harry nodded and set an alarm to wake him in eight hours. "Okay, then. I'm going to get some sleep. As soon as you're set to come back down, let
me know and we can plan a place to meet up."

"Are we going straight back to Hogwarts?" Millicent wondered.

"No. I'll bring you all back to a safe location and you can get some rest. The potions I've got are a bit stressful on the body, especially after you've
been awake for almost seventy hours; Luna conked right out. Everyone can get some rest and some proper food – and get used to real gravity
again – and we'll go back to the school before breakfast tomorrow morning, okay?"
"Sounds good," Terry agreed. "We'll see you in nine hours."

Harry nodded to himself and pulled off his headset and glasses, then climbed into the bed and curled up to sleep.

-0-

They had been above Greenland when they finished, so Harry had directed them to land on Illorsuit Island, which was both in a fairly easy area for
him to direct them to, as well as a home to a small magical community that Harry had visited during the magical-mundane war.

After leaving the still-sleeping Luna a note explaining where he'd gone, Harry donned his Xerosis appearance and went in search of Lucius. He
found the blond enjoying lunch with a group of Death Eaters and Narcissa in the large dining room. As soon as they recognised him, they all stood
and offered him bows, murmuring, "My Lord."

Xerosis smiled at them, then focussed on Lucius. "Lucius, might I borrow you for a few moments?"

"Of course, my Lord," Lucius replied, hurrying around the table and to where Xerosis awaited him in the doorway.

"Gentlemen, Lady Malfoy," Xerosis offered politely as he ushered Lucius out of the room and down the hall to a small sitting room. "Lucius, I was
hoping you could put together a few rooms up on the third floor near mine? A few of my fellow students need to recuperate from a mission I sent
them on, and it cannot be done at Hogwarts."

Lucius cocked an eyebrow at that, but agreed, "I'll send some house-elves to do it immediately, my Lord. How many would you like? Most of that
floor is empty at the moment," he added, shrugging. "My Lord doesn't like having other people sleep near him."

Xerosis snorted. "That sounds like him. Uhm..." He glanced up as he thought for a moment, then decided, "Four should be sufficient. Also, Miss
Lovegood is currently sleeping in my room. Could you see to it that a house-elf attends her as soon as she wakes?"

"Consider it done," Lucius assured him. "I'll have the house-elves place an 'X' on the doors of the rooms that have been prepared for the students."

"Excellent." Xerosis smiled. "Thank you, Lucius."

"Your words are my command, my Lord," Lucius replied, bowing.

Xerosis chuckled and left the man to make his way to the designated apparation point. On his way, he cast the Parseltongue communication spell
and said, :Tom, I'm off to collect the rest of my friends. Lucius is already preparing rooms near ours for them to sleep in. When I've
returned and they're settled, I'll meet you in your room.:

Just before he could apparate away, Voldemort replied with, :Very well. I'll leave the potions in your room, on the table next to the door. Don't
take too long, or I'll start testing curses on your 'favourite minion'.:

Xerosis laughed to himself and apparated in an abandoned area of Illorsuit Island. Deciding he'd be best in his current disguise – Harry Potter was
too well known to wander around as, and the students already knew he was Xerosis – he made his way towards the village. It was still early – just
after nine – but enough people were up and about that he got that chance to dust off his knowledge of Danish, which most of the islanders spoke.
He knew about three words of Greenlandic, from his first trip to this part of the world, but he'd swallowed a couple of Danish souls, so his grasp of
that language was far better. (Given, enough of them knew English that he could have gone that route, but he never passed up a chance to test out
his language knowledge.)

When his friends found him, he was busy haggling with a sharp-tongued old witch who had some lovely arctic fox figurines with rubies for eyes.
They gathered behind him, staring as he argued in fast-paced Danish with the woman.

When money had changed hands and Xerosis was putting his new figurine into the hand-sewn bottomless bag he'd bought from a few stalls down,
Tracey enquired, "Is there a language you don't speak?"

"Greenlandic," Xerosis replied with an easy smile. "Come on, let's get you back on British soil, hm? You lot look like you're about to fall over."

"I hate brooms," Li informed him as he ushered them away from the stalls and towards where an earlier seller had told him he could portkey from.

"Hey, Harry, is there a reason you look like..." Terry trailed off, uncertain how to refer to Xerosis.

"The Dark Lord," Millicent offered.

Xerosis shrugged. "Sure. My other face is a bit too well known to be seen outside Britain when I'm supposed to be at school. Xerosis, on the other
hand, can do whatever he damn-well pleases and no one can say a thing about it." He flashed them a smile, vampire fangs obvious, and the two
Ravenclaws shook their heads in amusement while the Slytherins just sighed. "Right, this should be good." He pulled out a rock he'd found during
his wanderings and held it out. "Portkey."

Once everyone was touching the rock, Xerosis activated it and they all crashed into his room at Malfoy Manor.

Luna was smiling at them from the bed, a bowl of porridge balanced on one knee. "Welcome back," she offered.

"Hey, Luna," Terry said with a tired wave as he picked himself up off the floor. "Have I mentioned how wrong it is that you lot don't land on your
behinds?" he added, looking at where Millicent, Tracey, and Harry were all standing. Li had hit the ground too, and Terry reached down to help her
up.

"Harry and I landed on the ground when we got back from the moon," Luna offered.

Xerosis grimaced. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever." He walked over to the table next to the door and picked up the potions. "Tom didn't do anything to you,
did he?" he asked Luna as he brought the potions back to his friends. "He made vague allusions to testing spells on you, and I really wouldn't put it
past him."

Luna laughed and shook her head. "No. I haven't even seen him since we got in last night."
"Hn. Well, with any luck Lucius distracted him or someone blew something up. Merlin if I know." Xerosis returned his attention to the others, smiling
at their surprised looks. "Oh, yeah. Welcome to Malfoy Manor, by the way. I had Lucius prepare some rooms across the hall for you lot."

"You're going to want to be near a loo when taking the green one," Luna helpfully commented.

Xerosis considered the others, all of whom were looking a little green, for all that they'd been just pale in Greenland. Maybe it was the portkey?
"Whatever. Come on. The hallway should be clear of Death Eaters, at any rate. Except maybe Lucius, who knows you're here and won't say
anything about it anyway."

The four teens were led out into the hallway and told to each pick a room with an 'X' on the door. Once they were decided, Xerosis handed them
their potions and wished them pleasant dreams before slipping back into his own room.

"Have you eaten?" Luna wondered as Xerosis slipped off his new bag and made his way over to his pack to find his extra set of protective robes,
as well as the set he'd made for Riddle.

Xerosis considered that for a moment as he slipped out of his current purple robes. "Mmm... I had some sort of pastry made with crowberries in
Greenland, but nothing substantial. Why?"

Luna shook her head at him. "Harry, eat a sandwich. Something. Especially if you're about to go back to the moon."

Xerosis smiled a bit sheepishly, caught. "Yeah, okay, Dobby!" he called, turning back to his robes. He always called for the odd little elf when he
was at Malfoy Manor. Lucius had, at one point, commented that, "If my Lord Xerosis is truly so fond of him, you can have Dobby." To which Xerosis
had replied, "And rob you of his daily antics? I could never be so cruel, Lucius."

Dobby, prompt as ever, popped into the room as Xerosis was pulling his robes on. "What can Dobby do for the great and powerful Lord Xerosis?"

Luna giggled from the bed and studiously turned her attention to her porridge when Xerosis shot her an irritated look.

Xerosis looked down at the happy elf. "I'd like a roast beef sandwich. One sandwich, Dobby, not however many you can carry," he added, knowing
how his excitable friend could get. "Oh, and," he reached into his pack again and pulled out his thermos, "fill that with tea, would you?"

"Dobby will be back!" the house-elf replied and popped away.

"I don't know how long we'll be up on the moon, but it shouldn't be too long, I hope." Xerosis rolled his eyes. "Knowing Tom, we'll be installing that
rune stone today– Oh!" He dove back into his pack for the soil samples, then grabbed the other container from Luna's own pack. "Mustn't forget
these. He might start testing curses on me."

"Only if he can catch you," Luna replied, having heard about how the two Dark Lords usually 'fought'.

Dobby popped back in with a gigantic sandwich and a new, larger thermos of tea. He handed them over with a devious smile, saying, "Here is the
great and powerful Lord Xerosis' lunch."

"Sometimes, I think Lucius despises you simply because you can out-Slytherin him," Xerosis commented, taking the sandwich in one hand while
he slipped the thermos into one of the extended pockets of his robe. "Make sure you put that other thermos back in my pack once it's cleaned,
right? The last thing I need is Michael wondering where it got to."

"Dobby understands," the little house-elf replied before vanishing again.

"What makes you think Michael hasn't already noticed it's missing?" Luna wondered as Xerosis stuffed the soil samples and Riddle's robe into his
robe pockets.

"He only uses it during the school day. As long as I replace it before breakfast tomorrow, it should be fine." Xerosis glanced at her over his
sandwich. "You'll be okay in here alone?"

"If I get bored, I'll ask a house-elf to bring me a book. Or something."

"Hm. Well, if you need human company, you can probably call for Barty. Merlin knows he has nothing better to do." Xerosis smiled. "If the others
wake before I return, make sure they get some food and know to stay in this area of the manor, right? Lucius and Barty – and probably Narcissa –
won't freak out on seeing them, but some of the other Death Eaters might, and it won't do anyone much good if I only curse the idiots after they've
caused irreparable harm."

Luna nodded seriously. "I know. Go take care of your evil plans."

Xerosis detoured to the bed long enough to drop a kiss on the top of her head, then made his way over to Riddle's room, knocking once before
walking right in. "I brought the soil samples with me," he offered as he slipped inside.

"Were you particularly hungry or something?" Riddle wondered, taking in Harry's giant sandwich, which he'd only managed a bite of so far.

"Dobby is determined to feed me as much food as he can, in spite of my own wishes on the matter," Xerosis replied drily, taking the open seat
across from Riddle at the table. He set the sandwich down long enough to pull out the soil containers and shift back into his Harry form, then
started in on the monstrosity while Riddle waved away the paperwork he'd been working on and pulled the containers over.

"What all did you two get?" the Dark Lord wondered as he cracked open Luna's container.

"I collected soil and rocks from inside the South Pole-Aiten Basin while Luna collected some from outside the basin. I think she mostly collected
from craters, but it's hard to find un-cratered land on that side."

"Well, we do what we can," Riddle decided, waving over some parchment and a quill. He set about magically finding out about the composition of
Luna's samples and writing it down. As soon as Harry finished his sandwich, he called over his own writing equipment and got started on the same
thing.
Once they'd finished, they shared their findings and discussed the elements they could transfigure to make it close enough to Earth soil to sustain
life. Decided, Riddle pulled out a rock and cast a transfiguration on that one rock to change one element to another.

All of the lunar soil in their possession changed.

Riddle and Harry gave the soil odd looks, then looked at each other. "You focussed your spell on just that one?" Harry asked.

"What sort of idiot do you take me for?"

"A genius one," Harry retorted, trying his own transfiguration on a single rock and coming up with the same response. "Huh. Well, you know that
old wives' tale about how magic is stronger at the full moon?"

"Maybe it's more factual than everyone thought," Riddle finished, considering the moon rock in front of him. "You think some mineral in this soil
boosts magic?"

"Why not? We all know Hogwarts was built on a ley line, right? Maybe it's less a 'ley line' and more an underground mineral deposit which boosts
magic." Harry glanced over their findings again. "I'd have to say it's probably iron or aluminium."

"Possibly calcium," Riddle pointed out. "At any rate, one must then wonder what sort of power we'll get out of this rune stone."

"What if we figured out which element it is, then made the rune stone out of that element," Harry suggested, leaning forward over the table. "It
might not matter how long it existed, it could just keep powering itself."

Riddle stood from the table and called over all their notes for the rune stone. "Come on. We can make it out of rock from the moon itself. Easier
than testing each element."

Harry chuckled and stood himself, pulling out the robes for his partner. "Here, you crazy old man. I know neither of us can die, but there's no point
in half killing yourself when we've got protection already."

"Oh, very well..." Riddle sighed and set the parchments down to take the offered robes. He quickly changed, took the headset Harry held out to him
with a grimace, then picked the parchment back up again and held out a hand to the portkey the teen had made out of one of the rocks on the
table.

The portkey travel to the moon was a reverse of the trip back to the planet, with the sound and lights first, then the unending silence. They landed
with a bit of a bounce, earning a chuckle from Harry and an irritated sound from Riddle.

"You should try it in zero gravity," Harry told him as Riddle flailed a bit. "This is sort of boring, comparatively."

"We are making real gravity for this rock or I'm never moving here," Riddle snapped as he finally fell back towards the ground. "This is ridiculous."

"You're just upset because you have no practice," Harry retorted, coming to rest next to his fellow Dark Lord. "And because it's hard to pull off
dignified when you can't stay on the ground."

"Potter, do yourself a favour and shut up. Before I see how much stronger the Cruciatus is here."

Harry chuckled and knelt, touching the soil lightly. "How big do we want this stone? Same size as the one in Hogsmeade, or a little smaller?"

"Same size, I think. I'd rather have too much space than too little."

"Given." Harry nodded and started carving some rock out of the ground, pleased to find it so much easier than on Earth. "Hey, have the ostriches
noticed the activation of the runes, yet?"

"Yesterday afternoon," Riddle reported, shuffling through their rune notes. "It took them a while to spot the change, the idiots. As of this morning,
they were still trying to trace the rune set to the other side, but it's too far out of their spell range, or some such nonsense." Riddle sniffed.
"Amateurs."

Harry chuckled and shook his head. "No sensible wizard would think to power their tracking spells enough to get into space. Okay, the stone is
done. Give me my half of the notes."

Riddle handed over the requested notes, then hunched down on his side and got started on carving the notes into the rock. Likewise, Harry worked
on his, smirking a bit as he changed the rune sequence to regulate gravity. He kind of liked having a bit of a bounce in his step, though he agreed
that the tendency to soar off into the sky after a slight bounce was a little too much. But that lighter step was nice.

Other than the runes to regulate the gravity, they had a rune sequence to create an atmosphere, as well as to help the lunar soil sustain life. There
were runes to protect against solar radiation, regulate temperatures, and help water form on the surface. There were also a slew of protection
runes to keep mundane technology with harmful intent away from the moon.

Once they were done, they cast a few exploratory spells to find out how far below the surface the core of the moon was, and what the composition
was like. Upon finding it to be much like Earth's, with a solid inner core and a liquid outer core, they added some additional runes to protect their
rune stone. Excess stone was cut away and a small portion of the core was vanished, then the rune stone was activated and set into place.

The effects were almost immediate. Gravity came to bear and the spells on the robes that enabled them to breathe slowly faded away as the
oxygen naturally in the moon's chemical make-up was circulated in the forming atmosphere. In silent agreement, Harry and Riddle both cast spells
to transfigure the soil and add hydrogen to the air to help water form.

With stringy clouds forming over them, Riddle bounced a bit, pleased, then frowned and shot Harry – who grinned at him – an irritated look. "You
altered the gravity runes," he accused, secretly relieved to not have to use the headset to communicate.

Harry's grin widened a bit. "Admit it. It's nice to have a natural spring in your step."

"Potter, Lord Voldemort does not have a 'spring in his step'. Ever."
"Well, now you do. And there's nothing you can do