Spliced and Shattered, Set and Sealed
It probably would have been more accurate to say that part of the Order of the Phoenix was now present; Professor Snape, Tonks, and Professor Dumbledore were there with Lupin. Moody and Kingsley had apparently volunteered to take a very terrified, if very complacent Crabbe and Goyle back to the Ministry for…debriefing of a sort. The pair had been found wandering around St. Mungo's waiting room, looking none too sure of their situation, and had basically given up under the most cursory of scrutiny by the members in the Order. Not surprisingly, Draco Malfoy had managed to make a hasty departure while leaving his companions behind to fend for themselves. It also explained how the Order had known precisely where to come—Crabbe and Goyle had quite happily volunteered the required information after having narrowly escaped Harry's little reign of terror for them.
What they had failed to realise was that Harry had never once planned on killing them in the first place. It wasn't that he hadn't experienced the feelings, or repeatedly entertained the idea in his mind; that would be a complete lie. He had been tempted, oh-so tempted, but several reasons had come to him for just why that would be the worst possible idea, not the least of which Harry would've earned the title of "murderer" the Ministry had seemed only too ready to give him.
The moments before he let the trio run away, Harry had found not a shred of true forgiveness within him for his enemies. This frightened him, so he determined to try and find the feeling through any other means; he forced himself to tap into the waves of pain he had been sending them. Astounded at the level of power this involved, it still hadn't given Harry enough reason to override the fact that these people deserved every bit of that which they were receiving. So, he had taken the one avenue left to him; Harry had reached out to his friends and their thoughts and feelings. And there it was—empathy, compassion, mercy.
Harry had almost felt shamed that he had narrowly overlooked the fact his friends were now playing the roles of innocent observers; a position Harry had found himself in constantly since the tender young age of fifteen months old. He refused, right then and there, to be the reason that anybody would gain the regrettable ability to see thestrals.
In spite of all those things the young Potter had been through thus far, despite the fact he had the means at his disposal to justifiably do away with those who had been responsible for his current position, he still cared about the effect of his actions on others. Harry wasn't a monster, regardless of how Voldemort or anyone else had tried to convince him or make him otherwise. Knowing full well which route the Slytherins would choose, Harry had still offered them a dignified choice, and his present companions were just coming to realise how much this truly attested to what type of individual he really was.
After getting over their initial shock of actually seeing Harry in spirit form, the adults gave all the rest of his friends a good once-over at his behest. They all looked quite a fright, after having fallen to the floor twice and faced dementors all in the same twenty minutes or so. A few of them still couldn't shake off the cold and had been provided conjured blankets to remedy the dementor-induced affects.
Although rather surprising, Hagrid had shown up too. It was as if he had known just how desperately his presence would be needed.
Everybody had filed into the chamber and come to see exactly what Dean had meant by saying Harry was in there. He'd pointed out a figure in a far corner to them...
When Voldemort had severed the Gemini Stasis Charm between Madam Adonna and Harry, it had effectively split Harry in two; mortal half and spiritual half. It had very nearly done the same thing to the healer, but she had somehow picked up on the whole of what was going on, both inside and outside of their minds. Harry had not been given the luxury of that knowledge—not that he could've done much about it if he did, however.
Going purely on instinct, his superconscious, spiritual self had sensed something was horribly wrong, and somehow separated itself from his body. At the time of the severing Voldemort luckily had not known of this unobserved, yet highly crucial thwarting of his next action concerning Harry. The reason why the charm had been wrenched off in the first place was because he had wanted to whisk Harry away from hospital; with a bit of fancy time-turner planning, a decoy, as well as strategically placed assistance, this was pulled off without anyone being the wiser.
Until now. Initial reaction would have been to rush, but the group instead hung back, picking up on Harry's lead. Accepting he could put it off no longer, Harry carefully paced the way toward his body.
Voldemort had brought Harry's body to this chamber roughly ten days ago, to perform the dementor's Kiss and finally be rid of his archrival. This was a critical action, because if he could deprive Harry's body of spirit, Voldemort would at last be able to extract and crush that piece of his own soul that he'd been driving to get at for so long. A mindless, spiritless Harry Potter would be completely defenseless against the onslaught of such an exploit—physically and psychologically.
So sure was Lord Voldemort of his plans, he hadn't even bothered to check and see beforehand if all was going accordingly. For at the prescribed time of the dementors, Harry had, in true Potter fashion, done Voldemort the very great disservice of…not having a soul to suck.
This had enraged the evil man so much, that he had gone to greatest lengths to prevent the rejoining of Harry's body to his soul. Having been little more than a random collection of ions himself at one point, Voldemort had known Harry's spirit would be drawn toward anything remotely familiar to him. Unfortunately for Voldemort, the extent of his influence concerning Harry's soul stopped at sensing the fact it was still around, somewhere; or what havoc he could wreak on what was through Harry's physical mind.
At this point, all the group could see of Harry's body was from the back. He was half-twisted on his side, waist-length hair ratted into stringy mats covered in grime, fetid water, and whatever else the floor was coated with. One of his arms was thrown out toward the wall away from them, perhaps as if reaching for some unseen rescuer that had never come.
Although Lord Voldemort hardly had to convince the dementors to hang around in the chamber, the horrible plans he had put into motion included tormenting and aggravating those closest to Harry; any trusted Hogwarts staff, Remus Lupin, Fred and George, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ron and Hermione—anyone whom was considered even a remote threat had been put on the watch list, and quietly manipulated from a distance. Even if it merely included the planting of artificial feelings of apathy, disbelief, or stoking of numbing indifference due to loss, Voldemort's influence had certainly taken its toll.
Again because of prideful negligence and underestimation of the power of Harry's influence on others, Lord Voldemort had failed to look outside Harry's tightest circle of friends. Not to mention Hedwig—Hedwig, bless her wonderful, magical heart, had been on the lookout—and came and found him, to draw Harry to the one place where he could find true help.
It wasn't exactly a mystery that soul and body are drawn together at the time of passing. Harry would have eventually been pulled toward that chamber, even if he couldn't gain access to the inside. The critical part of finding his friends was that Harry had needed assistance or guardianship of a sort. He was not his true self without his body, and had needed the constant safeguard that only his good friends could provide at that time. Evidently, blood protective factor was moot if you had no blood to protect you.
Suddenly, Harry threw a sharp look at Dumbledore, and the headmaster motioned everybody to halt their approach. Then the two of them quietly stepped around at a discreet distance so they were facing the group, facing the boy on the stone.
Another thing that Voldemort hadn't counted on, and only merely suspected, was that Harry's spirit could carry on without his body indefinitely. That was the most important thing Harry had discerned in the antechamber after trying to execute the Imperius Curse. He had not been kidding in the slightest when he'd told the three Slytherins that Voldemort had been terrified that Harry would be able to destroy him anyway, dead or not. With what one could only assume was instinct at work, Harry had become a creature of thought; he had been sustaining his vitality purely on the goodwill that others had for him. More astounding still, even when there wasn't any optimism to be found, Harry had somehow converted the energy to that which he needed, to keep "carrying on," as it were.
Positive thought was an endless reserve of nearly-untapped potential; one which Voldemort hadn't even one inkling about. And it was this, alone, which had helped Harry differentiate what in the world had been happening concerning him in the past two weeks. The psychiatric backlash that had filled the antechamber following his Imperius Curse attempt was energy of pure, unadulterated thought—thoughts from Voldemort's very mind.
Simply by learning what was there for the taking, Harry had become an aphysical superconductor and subconsciously transformed the very darkest of places—that horrible, dank antechamber—into a haven of sorts, and all with the informational thought fields he had seemingly plucked from the air surrounding him at the time. So Ginny had been right, but not in the way she had originally assumed. Harry had indeed, used Lord Voldemort's own powers against him in effort to bring himself back.
Despite the fact everything Harry had been experiencing the last two weeks had been nearly intolerable, except for that one terrifying dementor run-in, he had still been spared the brunt of Voldemort's latest round of armageddon against him. Regrettably, as everybody could now see, Harry's physical body had not been nearly as fortunate.
A seldom talked about fact in the wizard world was that one's body could still technically exist without its spirit. It was also a well-established fact that anybody who did so would be classified as little more than living dead, or at least better off dead. Either way, they wouldn't long have to deal with it—the longest known time span anybody had ever managed to live without their spirit was seven days, maybe a little less. Even this would have been a welcome respite compared to the constant torture Harry's mind had been subjected to as of late. Most people would have given up long before, but Harry Potter wasn't most people. Through some horrible twist of fate, his soul-raped body had still retained an otherwise enviable modicum of self-awareness.
It wasn't bad enough that Harry had been bereft of spirit; it wasn't bad enough that Lord Voldemort had starved him of anything remotely humane—no. Voldemort had caused Harry not only to relive his worst past memories repeatedly, but had created new horrors for him to deal with as well. Even though Harry's soul had taken leave, there was still grey matter in that head of his, too. This, combined with that small piece of Voldemort's consciousness, had allowed the snake-eyed man carte blanche havoc on what little was left of Harry's mind. Nightmare scenario after nightmare scenario had been hard-pressed through Harry's brain, only to be perpetuated on a feedback loop by the presence of at least a half-dozen dementors.
Without the temperance and rationality of his soul, Harry's mind had reverted back to all things primal as a last means of defence. For the endless duration of ten days, his poor soulless body had been left to its own devices. The first three days or so had been filled with nothing but Harry screaming like an animal at the dementors, attempting to fight them off and drive them away. He hadn't even had the ability of language conjugation, as that appeared to be yet another function of spirit he lacked. Harry had literally roared himself hoarse.
Then came the tears. Torrents of tears had been forced out of Harry because of the waves of despair Lord Voldemort had caused in the young man's psyche. Harry hadn't even had the relief of being able to sleep or fully withdraw, because anytime he tried there was Voldemort, staring back at him from the void. Even nightmares would have been better than this horrid, dreamless state—normal REM sleep of any type helped to keep everyone lucid. It was yet another otherwise overlooked utility Harry had been stripped of by the heartless Voldemort.
Finally, after so long with nothing concrete to fight against, Harry's pitiable, spiritless body had turned on and attacked the only thing left to him—himself. Whether as a means of punishment or out of fear, or both, he had started tearing his raven locks of hair out in patches during fits of craziness. The glass-shard scar on Harry's arm hadn't even been given a chance to fully heal before he was brought to the chamber, and it had been ripped open by its bearer multiple times. A fresher, newer mirror of it had been created on the opposite arm as well. The thin shift and trousers Harry had been dressed in before his arrival here now hung in tatters, after having been clawed at and pulled on by their wearer.
And yet, most phenomenally, Harry's dreamless, soulless, completely deprived self had managed to, against all hope or odds, cling tenaciously to what was left of his life. It was also this end result that Harry and his companions had most unfortunately come across in the chamber.
Now walking toward what was originally mistaken for a pile of rags, Professor Lupin cautiously approached the completely still form of Harry on the floor. Streaks of scarlet marked the surrounding stone, making manifest the places where Harry had curled up or collapsed in recent days, when he'd been able to move at all. Scarcely dried rivulets of blood stood out on the young man's arms and clothing, and long-since dried tear stains had also left salty tracts all over his face. The greyness of the granite reflected off what small bit of his colourless skin had been left unmarred, and his eyes, normally a fiery emerald, had been tinged with a sickly shade of yellow and stared out sightlessly at the wall. He had also lost weight, as evidenced by the prominent taughtness of his sallow cheekbones and sunken eyesockets. Not a sound was uttered from his parted, cracked lips. In every sense of the word, Harry looked dead; and by all rights, he should have been.
"Are we too late? Is he…?" questioned Lupin at large, grimly yet with great determination.
Despite the fact the former professor obviously wanted to help, he still sensed a need to keep his distance, intuitively. Everybody else had been driven to silence at the sight of what had been left of Harry. They all looked on with widest eyes, unwilling or unable to talk amongst themselves about the unspeakable things that had evidently taken place in this chamber of horrors.
"Dead?" answered Harry softly. "No, death would be merciful. No dying allowed as long as you can still be of use," Harry said, matter-of-factly.
His almost-cavalier manner seemed to have surprised his friends, but it was the only way he could bring himself to deal with the present situation. Everybody was outpouring feelings of shock and pity, and he had to shield himself from the onslaught, so he could better sense what was coming from his other self on the floor. Even Dumbledore seemed at a complete loss.
Lupin, on the other hand, didn't even question Harry's demeanor and instead went on calmly, "Has he lost his mind?"
Talking about his injured self in third person seemed to make this easier to handle somehow, and so Harry answered Lupin in kind.
Harry replied, "He still retains his primeval self-awareness, if that's what you mean. Going insane also isn't allowed; at least not for prolonged amounts of time. No checking out of reality permanently, because then Voldemort would lose control over what's left of his mind."
Harry heard everyone wince or draw in breath and hold it, the deeper he described what had happened here over the last while. Thoughts of how insanity could possibly be a form of mercy were now going through their minds.
"Is there a reason he's not moving? How long has it been since he ate or drank?" Lupin looked up at him and questioned.
"Well," discerned Harry in concentration, "the first day he was here, Wormtail attempted to give him something. But he chucked it back his face, because he knew it would only give Voldemort the satisfaction of making him live even longer." The traitor Marauder had also used his silver hand to suspend and nearly asphyxiate Harry in retaliation, but Harry omitted that detail for the sake of those present. A grim, yet fierce note of pride had crept into Harry's voice as he added, "It was the only form of punishment he'd really brought on himself since his arrival here; his rebellious ingratitude was rewarded with lack of any nourishment whatsoever."
Sympathy filled Lupin's eyes as they slowly slid shut; everyone else was hit with the realisation of the meaning of that statement just two seconds later. The party began to press their lips shut and tears started filling their eyes. Before Harry was brought here, he had been in the hospital after the car wreck and had therefore been unable to feed himself. That meant the last time he'd had one scrap of food had been on the Hogwarts Express…an interminable two weeks ago. Dehydration and starvation had just been added to Voldemort's laundry list of crimes against Harry.
The strengthening of Harry's voice caused some sort of response from his counterpart's prone form on the floor, as a weak moan escaped him and he began to stir. All those looking on had gasped hopefully, as this had been the only positive acknowledgment that he was alive at all.
Hesitantly, Lupin stepped closer to Harry's body on the floor and the boy made a feeble effort to throw his arms up over his head, but merely succeeded in burying his head against his chest and cowering in fear. Hands flew to mouths at this blatantly uncharacteristic reaction of their friend.
"Professor Dumbledore, Tonks, Snape?" called out Lupin, still looking at Harry on the floor, "I think it best if we now take these other students out of the chamber," he said sternly. "I daresay they've all been through a lot, and could certainly use a hot bath and a meal."
Nobody uttered one word of disagreement, but it was clear what Lupin was doing—at least to Harry. This is not something that children should see.
"Yeah," said Hagrid, finding his voice, "none of yeh knows what Azkaban is like," and he ran a hand over his moist eyes. "None of yeh."
Hagrid had been silently weeping as he looked on. Though Harry had allegedly "died" and escaped his sentencing to Azkaban for attempted murder by the Ministry, even the half-giant recognised that Harry had been forced to carry it out anyway. Only, this was much, much worse than Azkaban—it was a private hell on earth.
Everyone Lupin addressed—even Snape—turned to shuffle as soundlessly as possible out of the chamber, and a few words between the former professor and the headmaster were spoken about meeting up later. Hagrid went to leave too, as more words were spoken about how it was best to introduce Harry back to human contact as gradually as possible, but Lupin requested he stay instead.
Turning back toward Lupin, Harry was addressed by him again. "And he knows we're here, is that right? And who we are?" It surprised Harry that Lupin had distinguished this much by simply looking at the person on the cold stone.
"Yes. Problem is he thinks he's hallucinating. That, or you're Voldemort's latest stab at deceiving and provoking a reaction out of him again."
"Is there also a reason he won't speak? Besides the dehydration and weakness, I mean."
Harry shook his head and said simply, "He just…can't." Lupin's eyebrows puckered and he answered Harry, "Yes, that's right—not without you, at any rate," and Harry affirmed the assumption.
"Has he been sleepin'?" inquired Hagrid suddenly. "I 'member gettin' ter sleep in Azkaban, e'en if it was on'y ter ha' the nightmares."
Shrugging, Harry said, "No, sleeping isn't—"
"Isn't allowed, yes," Lupin finished for him, a tad bitterly. "The question is why?"
"He is who he is, Professor," Harry said fatalistically. "Taking into account this is Voldemort, does there really need to be a reason?"
Lupin saw through Harry's feigned indifference straightaway as he replied meaningfully, "I'm sure several reasons exist. Why don't you share them with me?"
Harry was reluctantly swept up into Lupin's patented counselor mode. Hagrid seemed to understand the need to stay quiet.
Sighing annoyedly, Harry replied, "Three main ones: revenge, personal entertainment, and…bait," he ended in a glacial whisper.
Looking at him sharply, Lupin repeated, "Bait? For whom?"
Harry hadn't had a chance to explain the "Voldemort is freaked-out I may avenge my death" factor yet. What Lupin knew was purely second-hand information from Harry's friends.
"You?" Lupin scowled at him slightly in concentration. "Why is Voldemort seeking to get at you, when he can kill him outright?" Gesturing to Harry's double on the floor, he continued, "Why all the elabourate methods of torture? No food, no water, no human contact, no sleep, no withdrawal, not to mention no soul.… Any single one of these things would have driven anybody else over the edge a hundred times by now. What about him, Harry? Why won't he die?"
Staring forlornly at himself on the floor, Harry's voice took on a note of distress as he tried to sift through the primitive thoughts nearby. "He's tried. Several times, Remus." His eyes shut tight as he continued reciting aloud the thoughts that strained through his mind, "But he can't manage to do it! He always gets stopped, or pulled back somehow. He—" Harry's voice cracked as he said these next words in a mixture of anguish and amazement, "—doesn't know how to die!"
The words seemed to echo in the chamber, and the boy on the floor stirred slightly once more. Again, Harry heard Hagrid's sniffling in the background, and Harry felt his own eyes start to fill with unwanted tears.
"And how does that make you feel? That he's not even given the choice of his own parting?"
Clenching his hands into fists, Harry drew in a deep breath and attempted to steady himself and failed. What exactly did Lupin think he was trying to accomplish at the moment?
"If you need to cry, Harry, go straight ahead. Remember there's absolutely no recourse if you do."
"But he's cried enough already," reminded Harry bitterly, getting worked up in spite of himself.
"Because he was forced to! There's nothing shameful about crying for yourself once in a while."
Coming forward and aiming pointedly, Lupin continued his admonishment. "Look at him, Harry! Look at you! How can you stand there, and profess that you should feel nothing? That's not a standard you'd expect out of anybody else, if you happen to see them in a similar position. I know this to be true—especially since I am a personal recipient of Lily's, and therefore your vast empathy."
Suddenly, as Harry caught Lupin's eye, he felt himself get dragged into a memory of some years past. He was at the edge of the Dark Forest on the Hogwarts grounds, surrounded by Ron, Hermione, and Snape. Shockingly however, it was from a completely different point of view—Lupin's. He felt himself to be much taller, much more feral in nature, and…he also caught full image of himself at the end of third year. Harry was re-experiencing the night of the time-turner incident when he had narrowly escaped a certain werewolf's wrath, due to intervention by his friends. "Professor?" Harry heard a younger voice inquire worriedly. Shortly thereafter, the memory dissolved around he and Lupin, and so too did Harry begin to dissolve into tears as he looked upon himself on the floor.
"You do remember!" choked out Harry through his revelation. "You…you know!" as he shook for a time, and for once didn't bother to hide his tears.
"How could I possibly forget the compassion of three 13-year-old wizards who tried to reach me, and at the cost of their own lives?" Lupin's eyes began to get shiny with moisture as he blinked and continued, "And yes, you might say I'd know a little something about dealing with basic instincts and emotions." A solitary tear escaped the corner of his eye and he said, "You've already determined not to let your experiences eat you from the outside in. Don't let it do so from the inside out, either. If you learn nothing else from this, it's that psychological death is even more frightening than physical, because it's much sneakier at being self-imposed."
Then Lupin said, with utmost kindness about the boy on the stone, "He can't help how he feels toward you, but you can change how you feel toward him—toward yourself. Don't let Voldemort win. For his sake—he's held on for you this long." Lupin gestured behind him to Harry's double on the cold granite.
A startlingly loud honking noise filled the air as Hagrid blew his nose into his tablecloth-sized hankie. "Sorry," he apologised gruffly, then after clearing his throat, "Well said, Professor. Well said."
Harry's storm of tears had been surprisingly short, but no less needed. "I can certainly understand why my father chose you for a friend," Harry smiled softly, "you do know how to get straight at the heart of a matter, once you set yourself to it—Remus." For some reason, it felt good to refer to Lupin this way—it felt right.
Staring at Harry, Lupin said, "You know, I can't decide what about you saying that gets to me the most; the fact that you sound just like James, you spoke words like Sirius, you resemble them both at the moment—and are a ghost yourself right now. It's like I'm being visited by all three of you at the same time." Harry merely arched an eyebrow in amused response.
Smacking his forehead, Lupin begged, "Please don't do that anymore, Harry. All jesting aside, it's a good thing to know reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated. A most gratifying change of events," and then he smiled the hugest smile Harry had ever seen light up his face. And then it just occurred to Harry…Remus was the last good Marauder…
Then the former professor's face softened once more as he turned to the less fortunate young man on the floor. "Time for our level best, Hagrid. Someone needs us."