Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, and I claim no rights to the characters, settings, and situations contained herein. No money is being made from this work of fanfiction, and no copyright infringement is intended. Recognizable characters and settings are the exclusive property of J.K. Rowling and her associated publishers and agents. I'm just thankful she's willing to let me play and learn in her universe!
For the first few moments of the attack on his mind, Harry tried to concentrate through the blinding pain in his forehead, tried to close the doors to the fortress he had mentally constructed, tried to keep Voldemort out. But this time, the pressure was unlike anything Harry had ever felt before. It felt like a battering ram aimed directly at his soul.
"Happy birthday, Potter. It has been far too long."
As he heard the dreaded voice echo in his mind, Harry felt the pressure increase tenfold. He knew the Dark Lord was delving deep into his thoughts, looking for something. He pushed back with all his strength, but his defenses dropped almost completely when he heard another voice, a cold, drawling voice that he hated almost as much as the high, hissing one.
"Yes, yes. Happy birthday, Potter. It would not do to neglect the niceties."
The pain was staggering, and Harry could only vaguely hear the shouts of the people in the kitchen of Headquarters as he fought to hold on to the last shred of his defenses, that locked room deep in his mind in which his most private thoughts were held under metaphorical lock and key. Lucius Malfoy's voice drawled on as Harry felt the seeping, insidious entrance of the Dark Lord into his most private thoughts, and he knew he could not win against this new, double attack.
"Not so easy to fight when there are two of us, is it? To think that your fool of a professor actually believes you to be a match for the Dark Lord." Harry could almost see Malfoy shaking his head in mocking disbelief as his words slithered through the mind link.
Somewhere else in his mind, a scene played from a long time ago. Dudley and Harry, only five years old, had gotten into a row over the remote control to the telly. Uncle Vernon had beaten Harry after giving the remote to his cousin, and had locked him into his cupboard. Young Harry cried at the injustice of it as much as from the pain of the beating, and he begged his uncle to let him out.
"Oh, dear. What a naughty little boy," Lucius Malfoy continued to drawl.
Ginny Weasley, looking pale and almost dead, lay motionless on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets while Tom Riddle used Harry's wand to spell out "I am Lord Voldemort" in the air above her.
"That almost worked, Potter, but you managed to save the little girl. She will not be so fortunate next time," Voldemort's voice broke in smoothly.
"We will have her, Potter, as well as the rest of the blood traitors," Malfoy added.
A tall, hooded figure with death-rattle breath closed in on him. He felt cold, and he heard his mother's screams as all happiness was pulled away from him.
"Do you fear the Dementors, Potter? I will have to remember that."
As Harry grappled uselessly against the intrusion into the memories that had scarred him most deeply, he heard the ghostly voice of Professor Trelawney, weird and frightening as she revolved slowly atop the swirling liquid-gas of Dumbledore's Pensieve..."The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies....and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
Harry heard Voldemort's triumphant hiss as Trelawney's voice faded into silence. The Dark Lord had gotten what he wanted most. The memories faded, all went black, and Harry knew no more.
Albus Dumbledore pushed past the group surrounding Harry just as Charlie lowered the shaking teenager gently to the floor. Everyone in the room was horrified at what was happening to Harry - besides Molly, Lupin, and Ginny, no one had ever seen it before, even if they had heard about it. Hermione and Ginny stood, holding each other's hands tightly, tears streaming down their faces as they silently sobbed. The five Weasley brothers and their father stood close together, staring at Harry, the freckles standing out on their pale faces. McGonagall stood stock still, her hand clapped over her mouth in horror, her eyes wide. Tonks, Kingsley, and Mad-Eye stood on the other side of the table, unable to tear their gazes from Harry, although Moody's magical eye was searching the room wildly.
Molly and Remus pulled Harry's stiff body into a sitting position, and Lupin shouted desperately for Harry to fight to keep his Occlumency shield in place. Molly said nothing but held the boy to her, alarmed at his trembling and the sweat running down his neck.
Dumbledore was the single person in the room that seemed calm. He knelt down next to Harry, put a gentle hand on his shoulder, and said softly, "Harry, remember. No one can get in if you don't want them there. You can fight this -" His voice abruptly stopped as Harry's body seized, and Lupin and Molly were nearly knocked over with the force of it.
"No!" Harry yelled, but his body suddenly fell slack into Molly's arms. He began to moan in a small voice almost unrecognizable as his own, "No, Uncle Vernon, don't hurt me! I'm sorry...let me out, please, let me out!"
Molly's eyes filled with tears. She could easily guess that Harry was being forced to relive some of his childhood memories as Voldemort probed his mind. At that moment, she hated Vernon Dursley more completely than she had ever hated anyone in her life.
Dumbledore's voice became more insistent, an almost fearful quality radiating out of him as he spoke. "Harry, you must fight him. Push back, Harry! Push him out of your mind! He must not stay! Harry!"
Harry did not respond in any way. His eyes fluttered as he said in a voice barely above a whisper, "Ginny, oh Ginny, please don't be dead."
Remus glanced at Molly, whose face had gone white with these words. The Weasley men turned as one to look at Ginny, now being supported by Hermione and looking as though she might fall if left to stand on her own. Arthur quickly went to them and took Ginny in his arms and held her close, kissing the top of her head.
"Harry! You're giving him exactly what he wants!" Remus shouted. "Fight it, Harry! You can do this!"
"You must push him out of your mind, Harry," Dumbledore's voice was quiet again, but it held an edge of panic. Besides Remus, no one else in the room knew that Harry held the words of Sybill Trelawney's prophecy in his memory, and only Dumbledore guessed it was that which Voldemort was after. Remus was too concerned about Harry to think of it.
"Mum," Harry moaned. "Mum, no..."
Remus gripped Harry's shoulder hard enough that it would have been painful had Harry been able to feel it over the pain in his forehead. "Harry, please," he whispered, terrified at what was happening to his charge. "You have to fight this. You just have to!"
"Harry James Potter!" Dumbledore thundered. Everyone in the room jumped at his sudden change in tone and volume. An aura of power surrounded the old man, who was determined to break this attack any way he had to. "Listen to me! You will fight this! You can push him out of your mind! Fight him, Harry. Fight!"
Harry, once again, made no response. His energy seemed completely spent as he mumbled, "the one with the power..." He gave a great gasp as if struggling for air and fell, once again completely lifeless, back into Molly's arms.
"It is over," Dumbledore said quietly, bending to examine Harry closely. He brushed Harry's fringe off his forehead, tracing the lightning-bolt scar with his long fingers, knowing that it was likely that Voldemort now knew the full contents of the prophecy. Why had not Harry been able to successfully keep his shield in place? He had done it once before, and Dumbledore could guess no sufficient reason for Harry's helplessness in this instance - he should have been able to push Voldemort out quickly, like he had last time. What was the difference?
"He needs to be in his bed," Molly said softly, her arms shaking with the effort of holding his dead weight. "Bill, Charlie, get him upstairs and stay with him. He won't wake for some time yet. Ron, Ginny, Hermione, you go up with him too. I want him to see your faces when he does wake up. Fred and George, go to Hogwarts and find Madam Pomfrey. I am afraid Harry's going to need her again."
Bill and Charlie supported Harry's weight between them and left the kitchen, followed by Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. Ron and Hermione were holding hands now, and Ginny had her arms wrapped around herself as tears continued to stream down her face. Mrs. Weasley knew that Ginny needed comfort, but she also knew that Bill and Ginny were very close, and Bill would be able to calm her down while the other adults talked. Fred and George, their identical faces more solemn than anyone had ever seen, threw floo powder into the fireplace, said "Hogwarts" and stepped into the flames.
Remus Lupin stood up and made to follow the group out of the kitchen, but Dumbledore said quietly, "Remus, you need to stay here for the moment. Harry will be asleep for some time. I promise that you will be there when he wakes. Everyone, please sit."
Professor McGonagall, Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Mad-Eye Moody, Arthur, and Molly all found chairs at the kitchen table, which was still strewn with the remainder of the night's party. The presents and the cake looked out of place now, and the mood in the room was extremely heavy as they all looked to Albus Dumbledore.
"I do not know," he began, "how Voldemort has been getting past the wards. I can only guess that the connection between himself and Harry has grown strong enough that he no longer needs to be near the boy, or even to know his location, in order to practice legilimency on him."
"But the Occlumency lessons," Professor McGonagall broke in. "Albus, you said the boy was doing well."
"He has been learning remarkably quickly. Just the other day, he was able to stop an attack by Voldemort within seconds of the onset, and he is able to force me out of his mind almost every lesson now."
"Then why couldn't he today?" Remus asked, his voice once again sounding tired and defeated.
"I do not know, Remus," Dumbledore answered. "I do not know what was different about this attack. That is something only Harry will be able to tell us."
"Will he remember?" Tonks asked.
"Yes," Molly answered. "He is always able to remember, though it would be best if he could forget."
"No," Moody growled. "It is best that he remembers, or he will never learn to push the intrusions from his mind."
Molly turned to Mad-Eye angrily, about to retort, but Arthur put a calming hand on her arm. She hated that Harry had to go through all of this, and it made her blood boil that they were discussing him as if he were nothing more than a pawn in this war, a weapon.
Remus suddenly thought of the prophecy. He looked at Dumbledore. "Do you think..." His voice trailed off at Dumbledore's warning look, but his heart was gripped in fear when the old man gave him an almost imperceptible nod. So Dumbledore thought that Voldemort knew the prophecy, and Remus knew that meant that the Dark Lord would stop at nothing to find Harry and to destroy him. Not, Remus reflected sadly, that there has ever been a time since Harry's reentrance to the Wizarding world that Voldemort had not sought him. He was simply afraid that now Voldemort knew the real stakes he would redouble his efforts, and it would become almost impossible to keep Harry safe.
"Kingsley, Tonks," Dumbledore began. "Until Harry returns to Hogwarts, we are going to need an increased guard around this house and around Harry if he leaves it. Can you organize some appropriate people to help us with this?"
Tonks and Kingsley both nodded and got up to floo back to Auror headquarters.
Professor McGonagall asked, "But school, Albus. What about when Harry is at Hogwarts? We can hardly expect him to travel the halls with a contingent of Aurors."
Dumbledore answered heavily, "I have increased the wards around the school as much as I am able, and it would take much to breach them. In the meantime, we will all keep close watch on the situation for Harry's sake as well as that of the school itself."
"Is there anything else, Albus?" Remus asked. "I really should be getting upstairs."
"No; for now, this is all we can do. Everyone, be on your guard. Harry's situation has never been more dangerous."
Although no one in the room but Remus knew exactly what the prophecy said, Harry's danger was evident. They all nodded, and after securing promises from Molly that she would tell them how Harry was when he woke up, Professor McGonagall and Mad-Eye Moody left the kitchen to go home.
Molly turned to Dumbledore, who had also been preparing to leave. "Albus," she asked quietly. "What are you not telling us?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Molly, I'm afraid I can say nothing more at present. When Harry is ready to talk about it, he will...and I know he will be ready soon. For now, though, I leave Harry in your excellent care. I must return to Hogwarts."
Dumbledore turned softly to leave the room, and Remus followed him, intending to go up to Harry's bedroom immediately.
Molly began cleaning up feverishly, continuing until Arthur put a hand on her shoulder and drew her into a tight hug. "Oh, Arthur," Molly said softly, the slightest catch in her voice. "How much more is he going to have to take?"
Arthur had no answer.
Ginny silently followed her brothers up the stairs to Harry's room, numb with shock. This attack had been infinitely worse than the one she had witnessed the week before, and the pleading she had heard in Harry's voice when he had spoken of his memory of the Chamber had rocked her to her very core. How dare anyone threaten Harry the way that Voldemort had! Even through her shock, Ginny started to feel anger unlike she had ever felt, a cold, simmering anger at Vernon Dursley, Voldemort, and anyone else who had ever tried to hurt Harry. He was just a teenage boy, like her brother Ron. Why did he have to go through all of this?
Bill and Charlie lay Harry gently on his bed, and even in his stupor, Harry immediately turned on his side and curled into a fetal ball, trying to protect himself even in sleep. Charlie sat heavily in the armchair next to the bed, staring at Harry in shocked disbelief at what he had seen the kid go through. Bill, however, immediately turned to Ginny and pulled her into his strong arms.
The affection from her brother was all Ginny needed to find release. She immediately broke into great, wracking sobs against her brother's chest. Bill whispered to her, "Shhh...little sis, it is going to be all right...Harry's okay now; he's only sleeping."
Ron watched the scene as though he were miles away. He did not know how to help Ginny or Harry or anyone. He was grateful when he felt Hermione's cool hand slip gently into his own, and he looked into her frightened eyes, knowing that his mirrored what she was feeling. They had been through so much with Harry, but they had never seen him as broken as he had been downstairs. It brought a whole new dimension to Harry's existence, and any jealousy Ron had ever felt about Harry's fame melted into pity for his friend.
"We have to help him, Ron," Hermione whispered. "I don't know what to do, but we have to help him somehow." Ron nodded dumbly, knowing that even Hermione's millions of books were unlikely to help Harry now.
Ginny's sobs gradually faded into a soft weeping as Bill continued to hug her, wanting desperately to comfort the young sister he had grown up trying to protect. It was hard for him to do, though, because even his sharp mind was having trouble wrapping around what had happened tonight, and Bill sensed that Ginny's feelings for Harry had moved beyond friendship, beyond a crush, into a deeper love and a fierce determination to protect him. He knew it, even if she didn't. He knew this had to be hell for her.
Two weeks passed before Harry was able to get out of bed again. This time, Madam Pomfrey had said that it was not his body that was exhausted, but his mind and his heart. He spent most of his time in his room, always with someone but still always alone, thinking about what had happened and about what he had to do.
Voldemort, having gotten what he wanted, had not attacked Harry again. Harry supposed, as did Remus and Dumbledore, that he was busy planning and plotting on how best to ensure that the prophecy would be fulfilled in his favor. Harry was not afraid, however. He just wanted this to end, one way or another, so that he could try his hand at living a normal life. It was with this thought in mind that Harry finally got out of bed and started spending time with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny once more. Hermione had appealed to her parents to let her stay for the last few weeks of the summer, and they had reluctantly agreed.
Two nights after his confinement had ended and Harry had begun wandering the house, Remus marveled at how, although Harry always needed time to recover from his ordeals, he was always able to bounce back.
Dumbledore had questioned Harry mercilessly when he had awoken the day after his birthday. They had found out that Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy had staged a tandem attack on Harry's mind, although how that had been done was still a mystery. Lucius Malfoy was still in Azkaban when Dumbledore had checked with the Ministry of Magic. There was no way anyone knew of that he could have been with Voldemort that night.
Dumbledore suspected that the Dementors had indeed revolted, just as Voldemort had claimed during the attack on Harry. Cornelius Fudge, however, continued to insist that the Dementors remained Azkaban in the Ministry's employ. He was still trying to politically recover from the disaster that had been You-Know-Who's public return in June, and would not admit that it was possible that anything else had gone wrong. Most likely, Dumbledore knew that meant that the Dementors were serving Voldemort in secret, and that was how Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy had managed to break into Harry's mind together.
This was a completely unheard-of use of Legilimency, and Dumbledore had dedicated much of the past two weeks in research of different ways to achieve it. The fact that both Malfoy and Voldemort had broken into Harry's mind at the same time was not wholly unheard of, though it was unusual. It was the fact that, from what Harry had recalled, the two had been able to work together, to see the same thoughts - in effect, they had been able to work as one. For Harry, the effect had been disastrous. Two powerful wizards breaking into the mind at once would have been hard for even the most skilled Occlumens to fight, and Harry had only been effectively studying Occlumency for a few weeks. The worst part was that Dumbledore had yet to find out how they had done it, which meant that he did not yet know how to counter the attack.
The Headmaster continued to visit headquarters daily and to work with Harry on his Occlumency each morning. Like Lupin, he had been worried when the boy had stayed in his room for so long, and then heartened when Harry had begun enjoying his time with his friends again. Dumbledore liked to remind himself how resilient the young mind could be, but in his darker moments he worried about the long-term effects this was going to have on Harry.
So the last part of the summer wore on. Between the love of his friends, the help from his headmaster and his guardian, and the healing of time, Harry was becoming well once again.
|> Review <||Next
|> Close Window <|