Through the echoing screams he was hearing, and the weakness caused both by the Dementors and the pain in his scar, Harry heard Ron and Hermione bellow “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” in unison. He opened his eyes just enough to see two silver forms charge at the Dementors. Even as they did though he knew the foul creatures were backing off.
“They’re leaving?” Hermione said a little breathlessly. “Why?”
Harry knew why. As the screaming in his head started to abate, the pain in his scar was increasing. Voldemort definitely knew that they were there, and was going to act soon. His scar gave a particularly painful throb, and Harry stumbled sideways into Ron.
Hermione and Ron had been so preoccupied with their defensive spells, that they hadn’t noticed Harry. He always had a strong reaction when in the presence of Dementors, so they may not have thought anything different. But when Harry knocked into Ron, their attention was focused on him.
“Harry?” Ron asked worriedly, as he too stumbled, then tried to straighten himself, while not letting Harry fall. “What’s the matter?”
“We . . . have . . . to . . . go,“ Harry was trying to tell them they had to get the hell out of there, but was finding it hard to talk, owing to the excruciating pain that was radiating from his scar.
“Go?” Hermione asked, looking at him, worried as well. “The Dementors are gone though.” She looked at Ron, as if asking why Harry was still having such a strong reaction.
“Not Dementors,” Harry gasped. Any second now Voldemort was going to appear, and he didn’t want to think about what would happen then. He was just forming the word Voldemort when a small pop told him it was too late. He was here.
Ron and Hermione turned around, both now supporting Harry, who was still teetering on the brink of consciousness.
“I must say Harry, I’m surprised to see you here,” Voldemort said. “After your lucky escape from Privet Drive, I’d rather have thought I’d be the one calling on you again.”
Harry was trying to signal to Ron or Hermione that they needed to Disapparate. He didn’t think he could in this condition, but one of them could side-along him out of here. The problem was that there didn’t seem a way to do it without Voldemort seeing; if he did, he was likely to act in some horrendous way.
“I was rather upset that you didn’t stay around for my visit,” Voldemort confessed. “I will still have to teach you manners before the end, it appears. Your Aunt Marge’s sacrifice was not enough. I thought that would teach you.”
So it really was Harry’s fault. Voldemort had ordered her murder because he had got away at Privet Drive.
“Well, I daresay we have all the time in the world now. There’s no mummy, or old fool Dumbledore to save you this time Harry. And it was lovely of you to bring along the spectators. This lesson starts now.”
“Crucio,” Voldemort shouted, pointing his wand at Harry, who was ready for just this sort of thing. In the chaos that ensued as he, Ron and Hermione scattered, Harry yelled to them,
“Get out of here.”
He heard a loud crack and felt a little better. At least they weren’t going to get hurt.
As he ran, sure he wouldn’t be able to Disapparate given his weakened state; Harry realized Voldemort wasn’t shouting spells at him anymore. Turning back, he saw something.
Apparently it had only been Hermione that had left. Ron was still there. He was standing twenty feet from Harry, not moving at all.
“Ron, come on, let’s go,’ Harry called to him. His friend still didn’t move. Something wasn’t right here.
Forgetting that the most feared wizard ever was standing mere feet from Harry, he ran over to Ron, hoping with every ounce of his being that he was not going to see what he thought he was. This was not going to be a replay of the graveyard. Harry would not let Ron be head.
Dreading it, but expecting the worst, Harry reached Ron and looked at him.
“NO!” Harry screamed, when Ron didn’t respond to his shaking. He had forgotten completely that Voldemort was still there. That is, until he heard that chilling laugh.
“It’s foolish to fight me, Harry. You will never win.” With that Voldemort disappeared.
“YOU BASTARD!” Harry screamed, quite pointlessly, turning to the Riddle House, where Voldemort had returned. “YOU FU – YOU PIECE OF SH – AARRGGHHH! I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL BRING YOU DOWN, IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO!”
Out of his mind in pain from his scar, and the loss of his friend, Harry had half a mind to storm right into that house and not leave until one of them was dead. He probably would have done if a sudden sound from behind him hadn’t made him turn around.
Ron was moving. He wasn’t dead. Absolute anger turned to shocked relief, and Harry, not caring about anything else, threw his arms around his friend saying, “oh thank god.”
He pulled away quickly, thinking that this probably wasn’t the manliest thing to do, and that Ron was going to tease him mercilessly about it. But Ron said nothing. This was most unlike him. Harry, now feeling concerned again, looked at his friend properly. Something still wasn’t right, but Harry couldn’t put his finger on it.
“You OK?” he asked. Ron said nothing. “Hello?” Harry snapped his fingers in front of Ron’s face. His friend finally looked at him. He stared almost blankly for a second and then reacted so fast, Harry didn’t have time to do anything.
Harry was on the ground writhing in pain. He couldn’t think about anything else except for the agony that he was in. It seemed to go on forever, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Ron eventually let up though. He came and stood over Harry’s limp form, now sprawled on the ground, gasping for breath.
“I told you it’s foolish to fight me, you won’t win Harry,” Ron said. Suddenly Harry understood. Ron had been put under the Imperius Curse. When the man standing over him raised his wand again, he was ready. This was Voldemort acting through Ron; Harry knew what was coming.
The two spells were shouted at the same time. As soon as Harry had finished his incantation he rolled away from his spot on the ground. The two spells missed each other, but only just. Ron’s wand went flying into the air. Harry used a summoning charm to retrieve it. He scrambled up from the ground, ignoring the protests of his aching body, grabbed Ron and Disapparated. As he did so, he knew for certain that Voldemort had been watching. His scar was burning hotter than ever.
* * * * * * * * *
ANOTHER PLAN FOILED! Voldemort fumed, as he pulled out his wand. He stuck it into the lock, and the door popped open. How was it that the boy could dodge so many killing curses? Never before had he had this much trouble killing someone.
“WHO THE HELL ARE – “ The big fat one with the bushy mustache never finished his question.
“Silence Muggle. I am Lord Voldemort.”
“Voldemort?” There was a look of dawning comprehension on the face of the fat lump. Harry must have talked about the Dark Lord with them. The family were closer than Severus had had advised Voldemort; all the better for him.
“Yes, Muggle, Voldemort. And I have a message for your nephew.”
“Then why don’t you give it to him?” Vernon Dursley asked, in a voice that clearly indicated he was trying to hide his fear. “We don’t have anything more to do with him.”
“Oh, but I think it will be more poignant this way,” Voldemort replied, raising his wand. Uncle Vernon recoiled.
“Wh — what a-are y-y-you d-doing?” he asked.
“Sending my message. Avada Kedavra.”
A blinding flash of green light lit up the tiny living room of the flat Vernon and Petunia Dursley had moved into that very day. Petunia, who had been cleaning the kitchen, and heard none of this, came rushing into the living room when she heard her husband crash to the floor.
She shrieked, seeing his dead body lying there. She rushed over to him and started to shake him, not noticing any one else in the room.
“There’s no point, he’s dead,’ Voldemort laughed, watching her. This was very like the scene in which he had disposed of James and Lily Potter. Well, that stupid girl had not wailed over her husband, as her sister was doing now. But she had sounded almost the same when he had come to take care of her son. The two sisters were really more alike than they probably realized.
All this shrieking was giving the Dark Lord a headache. He wouldn’t even have to be here if it weren’t for Lily Potter and her son. The thought of the afternoon’s events caused Voldemort’s anger to rise. And this woman, still pointlessly wailing, had aided Harry Potter in surviving sixteen years longer than he should have done.
“Avada Kedavra,” he said lazily. She too slumped to the ground, over her husband’s heavy body.
Ah, silence at last . . .
Without so much as second glance at the two bodies Voldemort Disapparated. He still had a meeting with Severus to get to in Little Hangleton. He didn’t see the piggy face of Dudley Dursley peering around the corner as he left.
* * * * * * * * * *
Why Harry Potter was in the village of Little Hangleton at all, wasn’t more than a passing thought to the Dark Lord. The idea that the boy might have been here to retrieve the Horcrux stored in the Gaunt house never even entered his mind. He appeared back in the Riddle house, knowing that Snape and Wormtail were waiting for him upstairs. They were standing in the room that overlooked the graveyard; the same one that Snape and Draco had entered two months previous.
“My Lord,” they both said, falling to their knees to kiss his robes. Voldemort let them get on with it. It gave him more time to rant about how Harry Potter had been able to thwart him yet again.
“Get up,” he said curtly a minute later. He was looking for news of the boy. Perhaps Severus had some this time. Something useful that is. Thus far the information that Severus had provided had yielded little. Voldemort’s patience was growing paper-thin with the man. If he didn’t provide something good now, it might be time to reconsider Severus’s employment. “You say you have something useful Severus? What is it this time?”
Snape pulled a two-week-old edition of the Daily Prophet out of the pocket of his robes and flopped it down on an old and dust-covered table. The headline on this article read: “MORE ALLEGATIONS FROM BOY WHO LIVED: ‘YOU-KNOW-WHO AND SNAPE COWARDS’”
“So I’ve seen, old news,” Voldemort replied, glancing down at the paper briefly then waving it away, as though bored. Severus really let the boy get to him. These allegations were the least of their problems at this point. “Surely you haven’t taken up my valuable time with a twelve day old news story Severus. The papers are always quoting Harry, there’s nothing new there.”
“Not the article my lord, the picture,” Snape pointed to the one in which Harry was grabbing Ginny’s hand.
“R-r-r-really S-severus, I d-don’t see how Harry Potter’s love l-life —“ Wormtail started to say nervously.
“Silence Wormtail,” Voldemort said, distracted now by the newspaper. “Who is this girl, Severus?” he asked softly, not taking his scarlet eyes from the picture. The Dark Lord looked at it more closely. There was Harry, his two friends that had accompanied him here today, and another pretty little thing that hadn’t. Harry was indeed reaching for her hand. Voldemort’s eyes widened as he realized what this meant.
“Ginny Weasley,” Snape told the Dark Lord. This was just the reaction he had been hoping his master would have.
Voldemort knew that name well. How could he forget the girl that had almost allowed him to come back two years earlier than he had done? However, Harry Potter, the meddlesome fool that he was, had prevented that. What was it that the imbecilic Lucius had told his master about the girl?
She was the first female Weasley in seven generations, the youngest of seven children. And, most interestingly of all, given current events, she had a huge crush on Harry Potter. Well, it seemed certain that it was more than a crush now.
Draco had told the Dark Lord several months ago about their relationship, but knowing Harry Potter as he did, Voldemort was sure the boy would stay as far away from her, and not have any contact so as to try and keep her safe. And to be honest, he hadn’t really though she was that important to the boy. But, here they were, still together after all this time, and all these events. Harry must really care for her.
Voldemort’s face broke into a wide grin, his nostrils flaring, bringing out the more snake-like features of his skull-white face. Severus had hit the jackpot with this one, proving once again, why the Dark Lord found him the most useful servant.
“Very well Severus. You shall be duly rewarded.” Voldemort now turned his attention to Wormtail. “You are to go to this flat in London.” He handed a sheaf of parchment to the trembling man. “There you will find the bodies of Vernon and Petunia Dursley. See that their deaths reach the ears of Harry Potter. Do not fail me this time.” His last words were dangerous. “You may both leave.”
Snape and Wormtail shuffled out of the room, the former a little stiffly. Perhaps he thought he would be rewarded more directly for this information. Well, Lord Voldemort was going to hold off. Too many times had the intelligence on Harry Potter failed to yield the desired result. No, the Dark Lord was not going to dole out any praise or punishment until this deed was seen to its end.
Voldemort started down at the picture of Harry and Ginny again. If the boy’s relationship with this girl was as close the Dark Lord thought it was, this little game was going to be even more enjoyable than luring Harry to the Ministry of Magic after Sirius Black. It warranted proper planning though. This time he was not going to fail.
Harry Potter was going down . . .