Chapter 1: A Hero falls
“So, in the end, the boy must die?”
“Yes…he must die…”
“You’ve kept him alive so that he can die at the proper moment. You’ve been raising him like a pig for slaughter!”
The words of Professor Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, once a man that Harry trusted with his very life, seemed to echo within the mind of the so-called Hero of Hogwarts, the leader of the Light’s rebellion against Voldemort’s siege on Hogwarts and the Golden Prince of Gryffindor.
No matter which way he looked at it, Harry couldn’t get his mind off of what he’d heard: the truth that he was one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. The blind fact that, for Riddle to meet his end Harry had to die; perhaps the weirdest revelation of all, there was the fact that, all this time, all these years, Severus had never hated Harry nor had he held any ill will against him.
No: instead, he was as bound and trapped by fate as Harry himself, forced to serve two different masters while honouring the memory of one whom he cared for greatly.
And that care, that dedication to his cause had cost Severus his life…and for what?
So Harry could learn that he was meant to die!?
As he slowly walked into the Forbidden Forest, having left Ron and Hermione with the rest of the school back in the Entrance Hall, Harry stopped for a moment, looking down at the wand that he held in his hand: the wand that wasn’t even his and yet, by some miracle, he was meant to go up against Tom with.
‘No,’ thought Harry, feeling a soft laugh bubble up inside his chest as he reasoned, ‘I’m not meant to fight Tom: I’m meant to stand there and let the snake-faced bastard kill me so that his Horcrux is destroyed and, as a result, Tom himself is destroyed!’
Clenching his fist around the hilt of the wand, Harry felt his breath catch in his throat while, at the same time, he was aware of a cold, damp feeling trickling its way down his cheeks. With his free hand, Harry lifted his fingers to his face before he actually laughed as he felt tears running down his cheeks, their touch as cold as death itself.
‘Why…why am I crying?’ wondered Harry, laughing to himself as he exclaimed, ‘I…I should be happy, right? I mean, this is what I want, isn’t it? To risk my goddamn neck again just because some senile, demented, sorry excuse for a headmaster wants to see me die?’
Lifting his head to the heavens, Harry felt his tears dripping off the edge of his chin as he cried, “Is this what you want from me?”
As he let out his cry, Harry was actually surprised to see the heavens open, causing a torrential rainstorm to fall onto the earth below. The cold sting of the raindrops obscured Harry’s glasses while, at the same time, their icy touch seemed to cause his lightning bolt scar to sting with a familiar pain as Harry, clenching his fist even tighter, lowered his head, sobbing through the wind and rain.
“Is this who I am?” asked Harry, falling to his knees before he pounded the ground with his fist, feeling a brief flash of pain cross his senses as the impact of skin on rock caused the skin on his knuckles to crack open, shedding his blood onto the ground.
As the blood flowed from the wound on his knuckles, Harry looked at the red rivulets that slowly started to seep into the earth. As the rain continued to fall and the skies overhead became thick and black with thunderclouds that seemed to promise destruction on behalf of Mother Nature, he let his eyes linger on the sight of his blood. At the same time, a new, colder feeling gripped his chest, filling him with pain that was unlike any that he could remember feeling before now.
And given that he’d been bitten by a Basilisk, attacked by two hordes of Dementors, scarred and nearly burned by a dragon, cursed by Voldemort himself and Death Eaters alike and found himself going to Death more times than any kid should have done, the intensity of the pain that Harry felt was definitely saying something.
As the pain intensified, Harry gripped his free hand against his chest, the blood on his knuckles now staining his clothes before, with an almost trembling breath that seemed to turn into something more as it passed his lips, Harry drew himself up to his full height before he walked forwards. The rainstorm now emphasised by a bolt of lightning that seemed to illuminate Harry’s figure as he made his way to the rendezvous point with the Dark Lord and his forces.
Every move he made seemed to suggest that his body moved on autopilot and, as he reached the clearing where Tom and his forces waited, Harry just glared at the Dark Lord before, lifting the wand in his hand, he threw it down onto the ground, surprising the Dark Lord and his allies.
“There you go, Tom!” spat Harry, his green eyes as cold and hard as the emeralds they so famously-resembled as he hissed, “Do your worst, but I hope you realise the price you’re paying for what you’ve done!”
“Defiant to the end, Harry,” hissed the Dark Lord, lifting his wand, the Elder Wand, before he commanded, “Avada Kedavra!”
Green light consumed Harry’s vision and he knew no more…
That was the first thing that Harry was aware of when he felt consciousness return to him.
It was dark, but it was warm and surprisingly dry; as he let his body return to normalcy, or whatever passed for it, Harry’s eyelids flickered while a look of surprise crossed his face as he heard a voice that he had not heard in many a month, since before this craziness had even begun.
“Up! Get up!”
As Harry snapped his eyes open, he nearly cried out when he saw that, instead of lying on the ground in front of Voldemort as dead as a doornail, he was instead lying on a familiar, but seriously unwelcome cot in the cupboard under the stairs that occupied the space beneath the stairway within Number Four, Privet Drive.
As Harry tried to adjust to the strangely-familiar event, he felt something thick poking into his side; as the sound of Petunia Dursley’s voice reached his ears once more, followed by the familiar sound of Dudley screaming that they were going to the zoo, Harry, still feeling disorientated by the events in question, looked down to his left hand side.
Straining his eyes through the darkness, Harry’s heart skipped a beat when he saw what looked like a long black traveller’s cloak along with a pendant that bore a very familiar triangular symbol. However, the reason that Harry felt such shock in looking at said parcel was because of the object that was responsible for poking him in the side.
The Elder Wand, one of the Deathly Hallows and the source of his death, was lying next to the cloak and pendant, its hilt resting idly in-between Harry’s fingertips, its tip poking at his eleven-year-old-self’s waistline. At the same time, Harry was also aware of something he’d never felt before coming from the wand, passing from its tip into his body.
And that something was power!
“What the fuck?” whispered Harry; however, before he could even begin to work out what was going on, he was cut off when the door to his cupboard opened and a familiar meaty hand reached in to grab him. Out of some instinct that had come from fleeing Snatchers, taking on Death Eaters and everything else he’d had to put up with in the past, Harry did the first thing that he could think of.
Grabbing the Elder Wand, feeling an icy, but empowering magical energy sweep its way through him as he held it aloft, Harry slashed at the air before he commanded, “Sectumsempra!”
The scream that tore from the lips of Vernon Dursley alarmed the other two Dursleys.
Harry, however, looked from the bleeding slashes that had cut his Uncle’s flesh open to the wand in his hand and, as he looked, he did something that, time was, he would never have done in this scenario.
He smiled at the sight of the Muggle in pain because of him!
Moreover, it wasn’t a friendly, reassuring smile either; instead, it was a cold, cruel, vicious smile that made a shark smelling blood in the water look tame.
‘This isn’t a dream,’ thought Harry, moving out of the cupboard, taking the wrapped cloak and the pendant with him in the process as he laughed to himself, ‘I’m really back! Why? Is it because of what I felt in the Forest? Is it the Horcrux? Could this be the prophecy’s true meaning?’
“No, Master,” said a cold voice, making Harry look up in time to see that, to his shock, the entire world around him had suddenly stopped dead in its tracks. Vernon’s blood flowed like a frozen fountain from the slashes while Petunia looked as disgusted as ever, though her expression was one of horror, as she seemed to try to save her husband.
As for Dudley, he seemed to be holding one of his thirty-six presents, his pose suggesting that he was shaking it, completely ignorant of the fact that Harry had used magic to harm his Father.
Looking around, Harry saw that he wasn’t the only figure moving either.
Standing in the doorway that led into the lounge of Number Four was a tall man with eerily-pale skin and dark hair that was brushed back, giving him a haunted, but firm, formal appearance. The man was dressed in a black tuxedo while one of his hands held onto a cane with a silver-forged head; on one of the fingers of his other hand, Harry noticed the man was wearing a ring that looked like it was made of pure silver, a white rectangular-shaped jewel embedded in the crown.
As Harry stared at the stranger, he swallowed hard as he asked, “Who…who the hell are you? How…how did you do this?”
Even as he asked the questions, Harry felt a growl ripple in his chest as he heard the fear in his voice: he’d been afraid too many times before and, whatever was happening now, Harry knew one thing more than anything else at that moment.
He never wanted to be meek, frightened or naïve towards anyone ever again!
However, even that thought was dashed when the stranger answered Harry’s question in a clipped tone of voice that seemed to echo some hidden coldness that made Harry’s heart stop dead in his chest.
And that was before the stranger identified himself as he told Harry, “I’d think you of all people would recognise Death when you see him, Master!”
Harry’s eyes widened with disbelief and horror; as he looked back to the frozen images of his family, he then returned his attention to Death as he asked him, “Did you do this, Death?”
“I did,” replied Death, a smirk playing on his lips as he explained, “Call it granting your greatest wish, Master, albeit at the cost of all you hold dear!”
Harry just blinked before he frowned as he asked, “Why?”
“Because,” said Death, walking towards Harry until they were inches apart as he explained, “I have not simply turned back the hands of time to offer you a chance to defy me again, Harry James Potter!”
“Death is cunning and pretends to offer gifts, but has an ulterior motive,” drawled Harry, earning another thin smirk from Death as he added, “I remember that part of the story; so what’s your intention this time, Death? Because if this is meant to be some sort of joke to you, then you should know that I’m not laughing!”
“I know,” agreed Death, his eyes boring into Harry’s skull as he explained, “But you are hungry, aren’t you, little Master? Hungrier than you’ve ever felt before or since for something that only you can claim and everyone else will learn to fear!”
“And what is that?”
Pointing a finger at Harry, Death smiled like a sly fox before he answered Harry, his each word punctuated by amusement and finality.
“The Power to Master me, Harry Potter: a power only the Darkest of the Dark Forces could wield and now, because of your desire to escape the fate forced unto you, it is a power that is yours.”
Placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder, Death actually bowed his head before he went on, his words still edged by amusement.
“Congratulations, hero: you have become the Master of Death!”