Symphony of the Lost Soul
– CHAPTER THIRTEEN –
Symphony of the Lost Soul
I felt my eyes bulge at the sight of the Headmaster, a look of utter astonishment marring his lined face. His hair looked distinctly windswept and there was no hint of a twinkle in his bright blue eyes. I had never seen him so dishevelled, and this, more than his sudden appearance, surprised me. What could I say? How did he know? I was lost for words.
"Harry," he repeated, more softly this time, "how did you come to this place?"
Another silence fell between us. There was no lying to him - I had to tell the truth. But what was I meant to say? Suddenly, I had an idea. "D-Did you see it?" I said hoarsely.
"Harry..." His expression was tranquil once more and he peered at me intently over his half-moon spectacles.
"The portrait in that room," I said, dropping my voice. There was a glint in Dumbledore's eyes but I couldn't tell what it was. "It was my parents." It was all I could to suppress a smile of relief as the words had the desired effect. Dumbledore lowered his wand and his expression softened.
"They spoke to me," I said sadly, pushing my advantage, "they said my whole family were with them."
Dumbledore shook his great head gently. "It was not a portrait of your parents. It is a construct - similar to the Mirror of Erised. It was not your parents with whom you spoke, merely objects Voldemort created to lead you to temptation."
"B-But they were so real," I said, then suddenly had a spark of inspiration, "they told me about my grandparents; Maximus and Jane. Did you know them?"
Dumbledore was looking at me with mild interest. As usual, I felt as though I was under a microscope, as if he could see right through me, and it had nothing to do with Legilimency. I held his gaze, bringing up the memory of that dreadful portrait.
"I taught them both," said Dumbledore finally, "though it was with Maximus that I developed a strong friendship. You have been told on countless occasions that you resemble your father." He approached me slowly, smiling sadly as he did so. "But in your actions, one's defining feature, you are so very like Maximus. He too was bold and shrewd and brave. But sometimes bravery must be tempered with caution. So I must ask again, how is it that you have come here?"
I didn't respond; what could I say? That I tortured Davis for information and spoke to an old man in the village? That a connection had formed between Riddle and I since the time I destroyed his diary? That I knew about his secret Horcruxes and had to destroy them before he destroyed me?
Dumbledore walked slowly over to the three rings on the table. "At this point," he said quietly, "I can hazard a guess. It is my belief that you have conducted some extensive research in the library." He picked up one of the rings and examined it intently. "You have wondered, no doubt, how Voldemort had created such a diary. At some point between then and now, you discovered Voldemort's greatest secret. But how, Harry? You are quite a brilliant wizard, of that there is no doubt, but how did you discover the answer to a riddle I solved only after many years of thought and a pool of expensive resources?" He stared at me intently, his smile now faint, his white brow furrowed.
"I'm doing what I have to do. It's all in the Prophecy - I'm the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. I'm getting rid of him before he finds some way to get his body back." A silence, awkward and tense, fell between us. Dumbledore peered at me with something close to curiosity.
"This fight is not yours alone. There will come a time, no doubt, when Lord Voldemort feels the time apt to make an attempt on your life. There will come a time when you prove yourself to be, not his equal, but his better. That time is not now -"
"It is now."
"No, Harry. Now is the time for you to enjoy the fruits of youth."
"There is no use waiting. It's not like Voldemort's getting any older, is it?"
Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Alas that you made the discovery of Voldemort's Horcruxes alone. There is something of utmost importance that you must keep in mind. Voldemort has not defeated age. To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent, that is to triumph over age. Voldemort robbed himself of a childhood - do not let him do the same to you."
"What if he gets his body back while I'm sitting back and being idle? What if he kills more people just like he killed my parents?" Dumbledore shot me a piercing look.
"I will deal with Voldemort while you concentrate on your studies."
"But the Prophecy -"
"The Prophecy names you as having the power to vanquish him." There was agitation in Dumbledore's voice now. "That is not to say that you alone will fight him, or even destroy his Horcruxes. Would it be safe to assume that you were searching for the location of the ring while absent from your home?"
"Yes." I had to keep him talking while planning a way of hijacking the rings and running away. But how? Dumbledore stood beside the table, all three rings within his grasp.
"Would I be right in assuming that you gleaned some information from Miss. Davis' father?" He smiled knowingly; I could feel my eyes narrow.
"But in the Daily Prophet -"
"Ah, media, the plural form of mediocrity. I am quite sure you are blissfully unaware of the close watch they have on you. I had to act, Harry. The choice was either to admit you had been taken, or admit that you were staying at the house of a former Death Eater. The long-term impact of the latter is, as you can understand, quite profound. I have a request of you, and I hope for a truthful answer. Please tell the story of how you came to find this Horcrux."
He lifted one of the rings with such certainty that I was sure it was the real Horcrux. I decided it was in my best interest to tell him the truth. Any lie would be hard to believe, and I was certain to contradict myself at some point.
"As you know, I spent Christmas with Tracey's mother. Since we had such a good time there, Tracey insisted I stay with her father in the summer."
I winced, thinking of all the times we sat in Mrs. Jone's lounge talking into the early hours. Mrs. Jones was warm and welcoming; I had great dificulty containing my envy. The pain must have shown on my face since Dumbledore's expression softened again.
"You are not experiencing, I hope, the sting of young love?"
"No. Now I knew from reading old editions of the Daily Prophet and talking to people like Mrs. Jones that Mr. Davis was once an important Death Eater. So I thought to myself, why not see what he knows about the Horcruxes? If Lucius Malfoy managed to get a hold of a Horcrux, why not Mr. Davis?"
"An astute observation..."
"When I got to Davis Manor, I realized that Mr. Davis' study was very well guarded. Other than a brief welcome, I was not allowed in there. So I brewed some Veritaserum."
"Were you aware of the legality of your actions?"
"Yes, but finding the Horcruxes was more important."
"Curiosity is a powerful force..."
"I hid the potion and had to sit tight and wait. Meanwhile, I tried to listen in to the conversations between Mr. Davis and other Death Eaters."
"Former Death Eaters."
"But the Death Eaters talked in low voices, or spoke in codes I couldn't crack. Finally, after spending a lot of hours brewing it, the Veritaserum was ready."
"I must have a word with Severus, it seems he has grossly misjudged your ability."
"Now isn't that a shock. Anyway, I managed to corner him in the dining room and fed him the Veritaserum. He didn't talk much, but he did give me the password to his Pensieve. I stunned him and broke into it. The stuff I found in there led me here."
Dumbledore gave a sigh. He seemed older than he usually did; it was almost as if I had noticed the many lines in his face for the first time.
"You know my views on the use of such unnecessary force," he said sadly. "I had hoped to shield you from the true horrors the Prophecy would lead you into. No child should ever have to face what you have today."
"It was my choice. It's nothing to do with the Prophecy - he killed my parents."
"Nonetheless, I must be frank with you. You remind me of three other gifted students. They too were popular, determined and respected amongst their peers. Their names, as you may well know, are Tom Riddle, Maximus Potter and Alastor Moody." There was a trace of pain in Dumbledore's eyes as he said the last name. "You exemplify their greatest traits. You are charming and ambitious, like Tom; loving and talented, like Maximus; strong and determined, like Alastor.
"I say this because of how remarkably similar your situation is to theirs. Learn from their mistakes, Harry. Tom yielded to the temptation of absolute power, and we both know that it corrupted absolutely. Maximus, too, lusted after power, but it was love, that greatest of shields, that availed."
"What do you mean?"
"Maximus met your grandmother shortly after he left Hogwarts. Years later, he would tell me that it was she who saved him from succumbing to a similar fate to Tom. He had a choice, love or power. He chose what was right, not what was easy."
I could hardly believe my luck. There were so many questions I was bursting to ask. It seemed that Dumbledore had recognised the truth in my story and was returning the favour. "Tell me about the Knights of Walpurgis," I said breathlessly. Dumbledore stared piercingly at me over his half-moon spectacles. "Please," I added.
"The tale is a lengthy -"
Dumbledore suddenly stopped talking and flicked his gaze towards the door. I searched for what had caused this odd behaviour. Suddenly, inexplicably, a silver Doe came hurtling towards us. I recognised it as a Patronus, but who had cast it, and where were they?
Dumbledore seemed to have understood something and moved towards the Doe. The Doe opened its mouth. "They are coming."
My voice caught in my throat; the voice was Snape's.
Seemingly unperturbed by the warning, Dumbledore plunged a hand deep into his robe pocket and withdrew a large fang - I recognised it at once as a Basilisk's. Before I could even draw breath, the Headmaster plunged the fang into the stone of the ring. There was a low, foul hiss and the ring dropped out of Dumbledore's grasp, the stone cracked, black and withered.
I gasped as a sudden pain, like a jolt of electricity, cursed through me. My scar erupted with excruciating pain. I screamed. It felt as though my head was going to explode. Everything was trembling. I could faintly hear Dumbledore's voice. Darkness began to cloud my vision. No! I had to fight it!
Then it stopped.
My hands were cold. I looked down at them. They were resting against the dirty, dusty floor. I had somehow managed to collapse onto my hands and knees. Breathing was painful. Suddenly, I was being hoisted up by the arm. White beard. Blue eyes. Dumbledore.
"You must leave now, Harry."
"Who? Who are coming?"
Dumbledore broke into a run and beckoned me to follow.
"Harry, darling, we need you here!"
I ignored the shouts of the portrait and followed Dumbledore. Despite his remarkable speed and agility, I reached the door before him. I almost opened it when it burst open. A woman with dark, heavy-lidded eyes and a wild smile entered the room, her wand raised.
"Well if it isn't little baby Potter!" There was something about her, perhaps the sarcastic screeching or sickening mirth. Whatever it was, it revolted me.
I shot a Bludgeoning Hex at her, only for it to be blocked and sent right back at me. I ducked as three men with black robes and white, skull-like masks burst into the room. I noticed Dumbledore charging at them, his wand held aloft, from the corner of my eye. I had to dodge the Killing Curse of the taunting Death Eater.
"Don't run away from it!" I heard James yell.
"Embrace the curse," screamed Lily, "I did!"
Drowning out their yells, I conjured a spear and curved its path towards her chest. It passed inches from her dark hair and struck one of the Death Eaters piling into the room. Another Killing Curse passed over my shoulder. The unfortunate Death Eater fell to his knees, the spear sticking out of his barrel-like chest.
"So ickle Harry knows how to play!"
She was absolutely barking mad.
"She will save you, dear!"
"Give up, son!"
She jabbed her wand at the floor below me. I saw, too late, a flash of red. Next thing I knew, I was howling in pain. A gash, deep and red, had sliced my shoulder. I lost my footing. Almost as though the floor was oozing with oil, I slipped onto the hard floor.
"HE IS MINE! HE IS MINE!"
I tried getting back onto my feet, but my legs kept slipping on the floor.
"It's nearly over, honey!"
"We'll see you soon, son!"
"Oh dear!" cackled the woman, looming over me. Her breath was vile, like rotting fish. It was suffocating. "Look who's caught in a trap...why it's Potty!" She threw her head back and laughed raucously.
I glanced over at Dumbledore. He was keeping half a dozen Death Eaters at bay, with more struggling against the great ropes he had placed around them. I focussed on the Death Eater nearest the woman. There was no time for mistakes. No Snape to cast it if all went wrong. This time, I had to pull off the curse.
"Aww, baby Harry's struggling to take his first steps. Does he want Aunt Bella's help?"
Bella was saying something else. I wasn't listening. Slowly, I raised my wand and whispered, "Imperio!"
"Oh dear, he's missed again."
The spell hit the Death Eater in the stomach. He stiffened. Stop her, I thought with all my might, stop Bella. Stop her now.
The Death Eater turned around dumbly. I only hoped Dumbledore didn't get him. I locked my eye with his, focussing all my strength into controlling him; steeling his free will. Stop her. Just raise your wand and do it.
"Now for some fun!" cried Bella. "Crucio!"
I refused to break the connection with the Death Eater. Hot knives were piercing me, the pain was indescribable. I bit my lip; I refused to give her the satisfaction. I had to keep my watering eyes on the Death Eater. Finally, I couldn't hold it in; the pain was too great. Then it stopped.
Shaking convulsively, I stood up. The floor was no longer slippery. The madwoman, Bella, was lying in a crumpled heap, the Death Eater staring on in horror. I stunned him.
I glanced down at Bella again. I couldn't let her get away with humiliating me. I glanced over at Dumbledore. He was duelling a handful of Death Eaters, but no others were entering the room. I summed Bella's wand. My head began pounding again.
Bella raised her head sharply, her eyes blood-shot, her hair falling across her face like a mop. She checked her pockets.
"Looking for this?" I held her wand up. She looked from me to my wand and then back to me.
"Has Auntie Bella lost her wand?" I said, mimicking her. She looked positively murderous. "Crucio!"
My head was pounding. Bellatrix's screeching was all I could hear. She was thrashing about on the floor. I enjoyed watching her suffer. I clutched my scar with one hand. My vision was clouding.
"Crucio!" I hissed, my voice high, cold and unfamiliar. The screaming was gruffer, more masculine. Where was Bella?
"You have disappointed me, Alastor," I said quietly.
A young man, no older than twenty, had taken Bella's place. His face bore a multitude of scars, his hair matted flat with blood and sweat. I lifted the curse.
"It's over, Tom," he wheezed. "Gone, it's all gone."
"It will never be gone. We have created something eternal to make sure of it. Or have you forgotten all the hours we put into the Knight's Labyrinth?"
"Look at you, Tom. What have you done to yourself?"
"I have pushed magic to its very limits. I have delved into its most powerful and secret depths. You could have been part of that, but you choose instead to blindly follow the Ministry, the very institution we vowed to conquer."
"We were children," snarled Moody. "For God's sake, Tom, listen to yourself. The Ministry cannot possibly fall, and Hogwarts is the safest place in Europe, especially now that they've appointed Dumbledore –"
"Dumbledore is nothing! We passed under that crooked nose of his for seven years, stirring up rebellion, and he saw nothing. And now you talk of becoming a mere Auror like some common Mudblood?Crucio!"
Moody writhed for a minute more, his screams terrible, his voice fading.
"You could have been great," said Tom softly.
He flicked his wand, and Moody's torn sleeve rolled up to reveal his right bicep. Instead of a multitude of scratches, there was a skull of the darkest grey. Its mouth hung open and two weapons I recognized as spears had been pierced through it, their tips laden with a dark substance. The heads of the weapons peeked out of the two dark eye sockets. There was something strangely fascinating and grotesque about the thing.
"You are a disgrace to the mark you now wear begrudgingly. Maximus and I helped you greatly, Alastor, let us not forget."
"Ha!" rasped Moody. "You think Max subscribes to your madness? We are not Death Eaters, my Lord, we are your equals!"
"When you are an old man, sitting on trinkets given to you by lesser men, what then, Alastor?"
"Then I accept death with open arms, knowing I've served my fellow man, and that my children will live long and prosper."
I laughed cruelly, and even when I stopped, it seemed to linger in the air like a foul mist. "Weakness, in a word. You will fall into your grave and rot like some common Muggle. You will be another nameless coward, afraid to test the waters of greatness."
"It is impossible," breathed Moody, "your goals are impossible. You'll never be satisfied, Tom."
"So you choose then to be a traitor?"
"Traitor? What madness is this?"
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." It was neither Moody or I who had said this.
My eyes darted to the left, searching for the owner of the voice, wand still trained on Moody. A tall, thin man with a jet black goatee, the same age as Tom and Moody, had appeared beside me. His gaze was caught between his two friends.
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death," I repeated, nodding at Maximus.
"What is this, Tom?" asked Maximus.
"We have a traitor in our midst. Alastor here has given in to death. He is no longer a Knight of Walpurgis."
"Are you still a Knight?"
"I, more than any, have worked hardest towards our goals."
"What of the Ministry? What of our revolution? Have you not realised that Alastor may be doing just as much by becoming an Auror as you are?"
"The Headmaster did not allow me a position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"Then you have failed where Alastor has succeeded."
"So it has come to this. You choose Alastor over I. You choose weakness over power. Expelliarmus!"
I caught Max's wand, but he seemed surprisingly unperturbed. A giant boa constrictor appeared out of Tom's wand, its scales glistening in the brilliant light.
"Bind him." The boa slithered across the floor. A pang of fear passed over me. Why was he not running for his life? The monstrous snake coiled itself around Max, still unmoving, and it held him in place.
"Now watch as I demonstrate how we deal with traitors. Crucio!"
"You're making a mistake…"
I ignored Max. I breathed deeply, enjoying the Moody's desperate screams. I was in charge. His fate was in my hands. Equals? No.
"This isn't you…"
I laughed and laughed and laughed.
"Who are you?"
My laughter refused to die down. I could barely see. The bright light of the room was too intense. It was delirious.
"Where...is Tom Riddle? Where is...my brother?"
I saw the movement of a boy about my age. It was too blurry to distinguish. My head spun and I heard some words which sounded jumbled, like a broken tape. The boy moved quickly as if he were in a film I was fast-forwarding. He moved faster and faster and the white light grew stronger and stronger, threatening to consume him.
Then it stopped.
I pried my eyes open. I was on my knees. Bella lay within arm's reach, her eyes glassy and unseeing.
Slowly, I looked around the room. Dead bodies carpeted the floor. Lucius Malfoy. Crabbe. Goyle. Other masked, nameless faces. All dead. And it was not Dumbledore who had killed them.
I stared down at my wand. It was me. I had killed them. But, inexplicably, I realised something else…
I did not care.
My eyes finally rested on Albus Dumbledore. He lay beside a great boa constrictor. Fear rose in me like bile. There was no way. It was not possible. It was a memory, only a memory.
"He is not dead."
I gasped. My heart was pounding so hard I was afraid it would burst. I knew who it was...I knew the voice...
"W-Where are you!" I cried, my voice cracked.
"I am everywhere."
My wand was raised. I turned this way and that, trying to find him. Find Voldemort.
"You have never questioned your remarkable ability?"
It was coming from the window. I scrambled over the dead bodies. There was nothing untoward about the sleepy countryside.
"Show yourself, you coward!"
"Now, now, Harry, there is no need to stoop to petty insults."
The voice carried on for some time after it had spoken, as if the last word had been hissed.
"You have done some fine work here, Harry, fine work indeed."
"These are your Death Eaters."
Voldemort laughed, his voice high and cruel. "My Death Eaters? My Death Eaters would have found and worked to resurrect their Lord. They have failed me and you quite conveniently dealt the punishment I myself could not administer. I do not care for them, but you know that, don't you, Harry?"
I thought I saw a shadow pass over a window and yelled, "Avada Kedavra!"
The jet of blinding green light passed straight through a hole that had formed in the window, only for it to reseal itself.
"You cannot kill me, Harry. It is unwise to try."
"WHERE ARE YOU?"
A dreadful thought rippled through me – was he inside my head?
"Almost right, Harry. Have another guess." His voice was filled with ghastly mirth.
I tried to Disapparate, anything to get away from the voice. But it didn't work.
"Cowardice is not a virtue, Harry. Your grandfather would not have run away."
The cruel voice was coming from the doorway to the room with the rings. I edged towards the marble doorway. I needed to keep Voldemort talking – only then would I find out where he was.
"How did you find out I was here?" I said, still looking around for any sign of him. I was glad to see that the large portrait was empty.
"I traced your footsteps, of course, which were not covered well. I thought I had taught you better than that."
"You taught me nothing," I said quietly. His voice was definitely coming from the Horcrux Room.
"Come now, Harry, you need not lie. I see your soul, and it is mine."
The Horcux Room, with its bare, grey walls, seemed oddly dead and forlorn.
"There's no need to hide, Tom," I said quietly.
"But I am not hiding, Harry Potter. I see your soul, and it is mine."
There was no way. I see your soul, and it is mine. Could it be? Was he telling the truth? Was I becoming Voldemort? I looked down at my hands. They were pale and cold. Was it a trick of the light, or did they seem longer than usual?
"He who knows to run away, lives to fight another day."
There was no sign of him. Maybe he was part of the room? Unleashed to torment any who dared look for Voldemort's Horcruxes?
Hoping this was the explanation, I Disapparated.