It was at night when he heard the screams.
Mind, screams were pretty common to for him to hear, especially at night. The Triwizard Tournament was never far from his mind…
But this was different. Harry wasn’t sleeping, for if he squinted his eyes he could see his room at the Dursleys somewhat clearly. And if he had been at Hogwarts, hearing a few screams wouldn’t be that uncommon, despite Hogwarts’ reputation as the safest place in the wizarding world. But he wasn’t at Hogwarts, and his relatives weren’t into watching horror movies. So. The screams had to be real.
It was at that thought that Harry leapt out of bed and fumbled around for his glasses. He reached under his bed to find his wand, hoping he wouldn’t need it. But if it came to his life and getting expelled from Hogwarts, the answer was somewhat obvious. After all, if he was dead, there wasn’t much chance of him going to Hogwarts.
Harry slowly crept down the stairs, skipping the step that creaked. He held his wand out in front of him, a few hundred counter – curses and charms on the tip of his tongue.
The screaming stopped. All that filled the air was the sound of heavy breathing and the occasional whimper. Harry kept edging his way down, slowly, carefully placing his foot on the step beneath. Seven more to go…than six…only five left…now four –
“So.” A voice that Harry thought he’d never hear in the Muggle world, a voice that visited him in his nightmares daily, spoke up. “You’ve finally decided to join us Harry Potter.”
Harry started shaking. It was him, he was here! How could he be here; hadn’t Dumbledore himself say he was protected at the Dursleys? Harry thought he wouldn’t see him until at least a good amount into the school year. And what about the Dursleys? Were they alright? Were they the ones who had been screaming earlier? Were they still…alive?
He almost didn’t notice Voldemort walking up to him, so caught up in his thoughts. Voldemort was only a few feet away before Harry jerked back…and stepped on something lumpy.
Stifling a scream, Harry looked down. Uncle Vernon was lying right beneath him, his eyes wide open in terror, his chest no longer rising up and down. Harry jumped off of him and stumbled right into the wall. He was trapped, cornered.
Harry fell to the ground, biting his lip so he wouldn’t scream. He wouldn’t – couldn’t give Voldemort that satisfaction. He vaguely remembered dropping his wand as he thrashed about. Harry couldn’t take it. He screamed and screamed, hoping beyond hope that someone anyone would come, someone would help. For he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t duel Voldemort and expect to win. The last time…the last time had been just luck. He had no chance. Harry was going to die if no one came.
The curse was lifted. Harry curled up on the floor, his head held in his hands. His body hurt, it ached.
“Do you wonder how I am here, Harry? How I surpassed the wards that kept you safe?” Voldemort laughed, a high pitched, maniac laugh. He pointed his wand at Harry once again. “Crucio!”
Harry writhed on the floor. There was some infernal screeching coming from somewhere, a screeching that couldn’t be coming from him, it was just too inhuman.
But he had to at least try to get away, stall Voldemort in some way. He was supposed to be a hero, not someone who didn’t fight back. He was supposed to be a Gryffindor, he belonged to the house of red and gold. And what was he doing? Not even trying to escape, giving up just minutes after the fight was started. What kind of savior was he?
Harry gritted his teeth and pulled himself to his hands and knees. He could at least try to get away; prove to himself and everyone else that what happened in the graveyard wasn’t just luck. If nothing else, at least Fudge couldn’t deny that Voldemort was back.
He struggled to his feet wincing every time he put too much weight in place for too long. ‘Voldemort is probably having a great time.’ Harry thought bitterly. ‘Watching me torture myself just to stand up, and do what? It’s not like I can duel without a wand.’
True to his thoughts, Voldemort watched with thinly veiled satisfaction. “Do you remember how I was resurrected Harry? How I took my father’s bones, Wormtail’s hand, and your blood? How I was able to touch you without your disgusting mudblood of a mother interfering? And I do believe you know that you return here every summer because you are protected by the shared blood with your muggle aunt. But now your blood runs in my veins, Harry. Now I share blood, unfortunately enough, with your aunt. Even you are bright enough to make the connection.”
Harry most likely wasn’t listening; he was occupied with standing still. His legs and knees kept on buckling and his arms wouldn’t stop shaking. He slowly looked around, trying to locate where his wand was lying. The house was too dark, however, to see much. Harry wouldn’t be able to find his wand unless he stepped on it; it wasn’t the most outstanding shape in the living room.
Alas, Voldemort did not appreciate Harry’s lack of response funny. “What’s the matter, Harry? Is the savior of the wizarding world not as bright as some make it seem?” Seeming to get annoyed at Harry, he pointed his wand at him and made a slash. “Sectumsempra!”
Harry fell back to the ground, hitting his head on the wall behind him quite forcefully. Deep slashes appeared on his chest, and his hands went almost immediately to where the blood was soaking out. And he could just feel the blood around him; he knew he was lying in a puddle of it. Harry gasped, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe! And the blood kept on running out of his chest, despite his hands futile efforts to block it. And he was losing blood so fast – didn’t people say there was a certain amount of blood you could lose before it became fatal? – wasn’t he already at that state? Was he dying right now?
But he couldn’t die! Not now, not when he had just survived the third task, not when he still had so much time to spend with his godfather, not when he was so close to fifth year. He just couldn’t die now. Now was too close, too soon. He thought he would at least live till sixth year, not at the end of fourth! Just…it was too soon. And Hedwig, what about Hedwig? She was still in her cage, what if she went hungry? And what if Voldemort…what if he killed her? It would be his fault. And why didn’t he send Hedwig with a message to Dumbledore? Why hadn’t he been thinking? He could have asked for help from someone. Now he just had to hope that someone would come, check up on him, do something. But how would they know? It’s not like they had been sending a lot of letters to him. Why would someone randomly get the urge to check on him in the middle of the night, when he hadn’t seen head nor tail of anyone with magical abilities since the train ride back.
As Harry lay on the floor of his late relatives’ house, he could see through his pain filled eyes Voldemort say something – he couldn’t hear what he said, why couldn’t he hear what Voldemort said? – and disappear, leaving Harry by himself.
At first Harry felt relief. Voldemort was gone, maybe he had even fled. Perhaps he sensed that Dumbledore had come, perhaps someone had come to rescue him?
But that thought changed when Harry saw a great flaming serpent coming towards him. It seemed to devour his aunt and uncle’s bodies, snapping them up in it’s fiery fangs. It was moving so fast, and it was eating everything in it’s path, that it seemed like the objects were being drawn to it; like it was a large magnet, and everything in front of it was just small pieces of metal.
Harry lost control of his voice box, he screeched in terror, in fright, for now he had no chance of living. He wouldn’t be able to escape this fire, he doubted he would be able to survive even if he was able to run. This fire was alive, this fire was hungry. And it wouldn’t be far from now when that serpent found him.
Acting on instinct, Harry tried to scout back, tried to delay the inevitable, but it was no use. Every time he tried to move, the blood flowed quicker – why wasn’t he dead yet? – and he couldn’t breathe. The slashes were too deep, were too in the way. If they were on his arm, maybe he would be able to run. Maybe he would have had a chance. But they were on his stomach, and he wasn’t able to move.
Harry watched with horror as the flaming serpent came closer. He could feel the oxygen leaving the air, which was scary in its own sense. It was already so hard to breathe and the serpent was devouring all the air. ‘Where are the muggles?’ Harry thought wildly. ‘Shouldn’t they be able to notice fire, even if they only see the fire and not the animal shape? How come they aren’t here, how come they don’t notice the fire?’
Nowhere was safe. Nowhere was not filled with fire. The world was burning and all Harry could see was orange and yellow. This was it. He was dying, he was practically already dead. There was no chance for him; for even if someone came, and that was a very big if, they wouldn’t be able to save him. His wand was somewhere in that inferno and Hedwig – Hedwig! She was going to die, if she wasn’t already. Oh, why hadn’t he sent her with a letter to Dumbledore! Even if no one had come in time; even if he would have still died, Hedwig would be safe. She should have lived longer, hell, he should have lived longer. This wasn’t fair! Why did Voldemort have to go after him on Hallowe’en? Why couldn’t he just be a regular wizard boy, – he would even take being a muggle – why did everything have to happen to him?
In desperation, Harry screamed, louder than he ever had before. Perhaps someone might hear him, perhaps someone could help him. Because he didn’t want it to be the end, he didn’t want to die so soon. For if he was still alive, maybe he could be saved. Maybe this didn’t have to be the end for him. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
He couldn’t scream anymore, the air was almost gone in this room. He was wasting breath, he was wasting valuable breath all just based on the hope that someone could help him. Who would come into this conflagration?
Dimly he saw the flames getting closer; the flames filled up all his vision now. Harry couldn’t even see the yellow and orange anymore, everything was just so bright. The fire was dancing before his eyes, the serpent was looming above him, it’s fangs coming closer and closer…
And it was so hot. It was so hot, the heat was consuming Harry, he was melting, dissolving, crumbling to pieces. His feet were so hot, they were burning, they were actually burning. And now his legs…Oh, it was so hot, and it hurt so much. Why was he still alive, how was he still alive? There was no relief from the scorching heat. His throat was dry, so dry. He had never thought that his throat could be this dry, this empty.
And he couldn’t breathe anymore, he was suffocating. The fire had eaten all the air, it had stolen all the air.
He was dying, dying, dying.