The Second Wizarding War had officially come to an end the night of the attack on Hogwarts. Dumbledore was dead and the few surviving Order members had disappeared, which left Voldemort and the Death Eaters to take full control of the Wizarding World.
Much had happened in the three weeks following the attack on the school. The first few days were surprisingly quiet aside from the feasts and parties the Death Eaters insisted on throwing, many of which lasted throughout the night. Voldemort insisted Harry attend at least a few of the celebrations and dragged the boy along to accompany him. He complained through the whole process, but if Harry was honest with himself he was slightly excited about attending. He enjoyed the peace and quiet of Voldemort's manor, but there was a part of him that wanted to join in the Death Eater's revelry. He knew they had accomplished something great and wanted to experience the joy of the celebrations. The festivities soon ended though as Voldemort was more than ready to set his changes and plans into place.
The Death Eaters previously placed among the departments in the Ministry of Magic had taken command, ridding their individual departments of those who would likely become a problem in the future and filling the positions with those loyal to The Dark Lord. Minister of Magic Fudge had mysteriously 'disappeared' shortly after the battle, and with the Death Eaters controlling the Ministry there had been no official searches to locate him. Voldemort himself took over as Minister and became the governing leader of the Wizarding World. He controlled the government in all aspects, and there wasn't a force strong enough to even begin to try to prevent his new-found power.
Both Harry and Draco had received recognition in the war for their influential assistance in gaining access to Hogwarts, and Harry was now widely considered a hero for his acts during the battle inside the castle. While Voldemort focused his initial efforts in gaining control of the Ministry, Hogwarts remained open to any student who wished to stay. Countless students and professors had been harmed or killed in the battle, but those who remained were left to the task of picking up the pieces of the broken school. Some professors left while others remained to continue teaching and assisting in the aftermath, but Death Eaters were positioned inside the school to thwart any Order resurgence.
Harry kept tabs on which Order members the Death Eaters had encountered in their hunt, but in the first few weeks following the battle he never heard the names of those closest to him. He did learn that the entire Weasley family was on the run and last seen in a far corner of Romania. Harry didn't share his information, but he assumed they were there to find Ron's brother, Charlie, before disappearing completely. During one of the many times Harry and Draco were forced to interact during the war celebrations Harry had asked the Malfoy heir, who continued to study at Hogwarts, if he had heard of Hermione's whereabouts. Apparently she and her parents were now on the run as well. It was odd for Harry to celebrate among the very people hunting The Order because, to an extent, he felt like he had abandoned those closest to him. No matter his choices he still very much cared for them and wished them safety, but he knew the likelihood of ever seeing his friends again was slim.
The majority of the remaining Order members disappeared and Voldemort had sent some of his followers to locate them. Thanks to Harry the Death Eaters were instructed not to mortally harm anyone they found, but instead were to capture them and return as quickly as possible. It took much begging, but Harry had convinced Voldemort to allow any found Order members the opportunity to change allegiance and serve The Dark Lord in some capacity. He knew it wasn't likely they would accept Voldemort's proposal, but Harry knew it was better than allowing the Death Eaters to ruthlessly kill all those found. Severus Snape had disappeared during the battle, and Voldemort soon established a specialized group of Death Eaters to track the man down. The Dark Lord didn't take kindly to traitors, therefore when Harry heard that the hook-nosed man had been found and returned he asked Voldemort what had occurred.
"I have taken care of Severus," the man had simply said. "Do not worry over it."
Harry had hardly considered that an answer and continued to question Voldemort about what had happened, but never received an explanation. Eventually Harry assumed Snape dead and tried not to think too hard on the various torture methods Voldemort had practiced on the man before his death. Although Voldemort never showed nor commented on it, Harry knew the man had been surprised at Snape's betrayal. Severus Snape had been one of Voldemort's leading men since the First Wizarding War, and Harry knew Voldemort had since been replaying and questioning every interaction the two men had had over the years.
Over the next few months Voldemort had eagerly and not-so-subtly hinted that he wished to visit the Dursleys soon. Now that he had taken care of Dumbledore and The Order, Harry knew The Dark Lord was anxious to continue his pursuit of retribution. Though slightly hesitant- not that he would ever inform Voldemort of that- Harry agreed that it was time to revisit his family and prepared travel to Little Whinging the next day.
Harry was awoken early the next morning by a cold nose pushing against his face.
'Snakeling, wake up. Wake up!'
'Snakeling, Nagini says it's time to get up.'
'Go away…' he mumbled into the pillow, 'And stop poking me.'
It wasn't until he felt the snake trying to wedge herself under his body that he lifted his head.
'What do you want?!'
'Master told Nagini to make sure that Snakeling was out of bed and reading a letter.'
'What?' he said groggily. 'Reading a letter?'
Harry stared at the snake, confused. It was much too early for this.
'Ok, fine. I'm up.'
He pushed himself up and threw his feet over the side of the bed. He padded the nightstand with his hand before finding his glasses and putting them on. He immediately saw a note on the bedside table and assumed it was what Nagini had been pestering him about.
I must attend to something but I will return shortly. Be dressed and have eaten by the time I return.
- Lord Voldemort
The boy crumpled the parchment in his hands and threw it to the floor before hauling himself up from the bed. Yawning, he found a pair of clean robes and made his way to the bathroom.
He didn't know what to expect when they reached the Dursleys as he hadn't seen them in almost a year, but memories of the dementor attack filled his mind. It seemed so long ago that Dudley and his friends had been attacked at the playground. Harry had tried to intervene but failed miserably, only to be rescued himself by the one person he least expected.
He could practically hear the raspy sounds of the dementors edging into his memories, breathing roughly into his ear. He quickly tried to shake the thoughts from his mind and almost yelped when he heard something hit against the bathroom door. He froze and heard it again, instinctively reaching for the wand he had left in the other room. It was a muffled sound, but something was most certainly trying to make its way through the door.
'Snakeling! Snakeling when are you coming out?'
Harry's body relaxed at the familiar, albeit annoying, voice.
'Nagini, leave me alone. I'll come out when I'm done.'
'Snakeling is done then!'
He snapped angrily, 'I am not done yet! Go away!'
He heard the noise again, but now recognized it as the snake trying to nose her way through the door.
Sweet Salazar, is it too early to find the firewhiskey?
With the destruction of the damaged horcrux, Nagini had quickly recovered and soon returned to her old frustrating self. There had been peace between her and Harry the first few days she was well, but it didn't take long for the two to begin their usual bickering and Harry soon yearned for the peace and quiet once again.
He ran his hands through his hair as he exited the bathroom, trying in vain to get his unruly hair to stay in place, and almost tripped over the overgrown snake.
'What do you want?'
'Is Master and snakeling going somewhere?'
'None of your business,' Harry hissed back sharply.
The creature was immediately offended, 'Where is snakeling going? Snakeling will tell Nagini!'
Harry ignored her completely and called for Tibby. Remembering Voldemort's command to be ready when he returned, he asked for a simple and quick breakfast of toast and marmalade.
Nagini questioned him unsuccessfully for the next few minutes before finally giving up. She was muttering angrily to herself in the corner as the boy stared out the window deliberately, refusing to acknowledge her presence as he ate.
The door opened and Voldemort could immediately sense the tension in the room, "Again? Already? The sun is hardly up."
"It's not my fault."
'Master! Do you know snakeling is leaving? Where is he going? Snakeling refuses to tell Nagini.'
Voldemort looked at Harry unamused, "You couldn't have just told her?"
"I told her it was none of her business."
"Harry, stop. It's too early in the day for this, we have too much to do."
"What? I didn't do anything," he said with wide-eyed innocence.
Voldemort looked to his familiar and said, 'Yes, I know snakeli- I mean Harry is leaving, he is coming with me.'
'Where is Master and snakeling going?'
'You're coming with us so you will see.'
"What?!" Harry said, "No please don't let her come! She's annoying as hell."
Voldemort barely glanced over to the boy when he said, "Enough, Harry."
His mouth dropped, "Aren't parents not supposed to have favorites?"
"She is not my favorite, you both annoy me equally," Voldemort replied, not failing to notice Harry's inadvertent use of the title 'parent'.
Harry rolled his eyes and looked back out the window as he finished off the last of his breakfast.
'We are going to visit Harry's family,' Voldemort informed.
'Do snakeling's family live in the rainforest too?'
Harry almost choked on his toast, "What?! The rainforest?"
"She's a snake, Harry, that's how she thinks. No, not in the rainforest.' Voldemort answered, switching to Parseltongue midsentence. He looked to Harry, "Are you ready?"
"Good, let's be on our way then."
Voldemort hauled Nagini to his shoulders and stepped over to the boy, gripping his arm tightly. They disapparated immediately and appeared with a crack in a familiar neighborhood.
Harry looked around and was hit with a sense of déjà vu. It was as if nothing had changed in the little neighborhood he had once called home. They had appeared on the sidewalk in front of a long row of houses only a couple blocks away from the Dursley's home.
Harry blinked out of his reverie and realized Voldemort was already striding down the sidewalk with Nagini still around his shoulders. He jogged to catch up and fell into pace with the older man. He wondered about the odd picture they made in the Muggle world- and a boy who disappeared and went unseen for a year walking alongside an abnormally pale and noseless man carrying a massive snake.
"They can't see us," Voldemort stated, acknowledging the boy's unspoken thoughts.
"Oh, right. Magic."
They turned a corner and Harry saw for the first time in quite a while the house he considered to be more of a prison than a home. It looked ordinary, no different from any of the other houses on the street, but Harry still felt unsettled as they approached. He almost dreaded walking back inside those doors.
They stopped a little ways away from the house and Voldemort bent down to allow Nagini to slide off his shoulders. He stood back to his full height and looked to the boy beside him.
"You look terrified."
"I am not terrified!"
"Harry, a few weeks ago you helped defeat one of the most powerful wizards alive, you most certainly can do this."
He must truly have looked uncomfortable, for Harry was unaccustomed to such outright support. The man spent too much time nitpicking him for Harry's liking.
Harry looked back at the house, "Yeah, I know."
"You don't have to do anything if you don't want. I'd be more than glad to do it."
With a smirk Harry said, "And let you get all the glory? I don't think so. I helped with Dumbledore and I'm going to help with this."
Although the scars lingered on his skin, Harry hadn't thought of Vernon's abuse in some time. He remembered lying in bed most nights and willing the tears away, trying to stay silent so that his uncle wouldn't come back into his room to shut him up. He had never forgotten when the Dursley's had taken his wand and left him a defenseless little boy, completely powerless as he was thrown roughly against walls and furniture.
He recalled his Aunt Petunia watching her husband scream at him. Harry would beg for help as she stood a silent witness, completely unwilling to stop her husband and put an end to the abuse. She neglected Harry, neglected to stand up to her family as she watched them berate the boy. She stood by and did nothing to help her sister's only son.
Voldemort watched as the memories ran through Harry's mind and actually pitied the boy, for if there was someone who understood abuse and neglect it was Tom Riddle.
Harry felt something move against his leg and looked down to see Nagini entwining herself around his feet, her tongue working in and out of her mouth quickly.
'Snakeling smells scared.'
For Merlin's sake he was not scared!
'Do not worry, snakeling. Nagini and Master will protect you.'
Harry was caught between wanting to roll his eyes and actually feeling touched.
Voldemort smirked at the boy's thoughts and put a hand on Harry's shoulder for a moment before turning toward the house. Harry jolted when the front door was blown from its hinges with complete silence; he assumed Voldemort had cast a silencing charm.
The Dark Lord stepped through the front door of the Dursley's home with Nagini slithering in behind him and Harry following closely after.
The moment Harry stepped inside the house he felt as if nothing had changed. He was forced to remind himself that he was older, stronger, and more powerful. His wand was no longer locked away and his magic was far more advanced. He was not the scared defenseless boy he was a year ago.
Not to mention he had two of the strangest, albeit deadliest, companions with him this time.
Harry was barely through the door when he heard the first scream. His aunt Petunia was standing frozen in the hallway with both her eyes and mouth comically wide. Harry was shocked at her appearance, as the woman he had once known was no more. Her usual tidy appearance was gone and had been replaced by slightly rumpled clothes and there were lines on her face that Harry hadn't remembered being there before. She had slightly graying hair that, while pulled back into a ponytail, frizzed out at all angles. She looked as if she had aged ten years in just one.
Nagini made a short lunge toward the woman and struck out with a sharp hiss. Petunia's small frame jolted with such intensity that she almost fell over as she quickly retreated back down the hallway toward the kitchen.
Harry heard Vernon coming long before he actually saw the man. It was obvious the great whale hadn't lost any weight in the time since Harry had last seen him. Vernon Dursley appeared at the top of the stairs looking quite aggravated, likely thinking his wife's scream was because of something mundane such as a mouse scurrying quickly across the kitchen floor. Instead, he was met with a sight he never thought he'd see again, Harry Potter.
Unable to see Voldemort or Nagini from where he stood at the top of the stairs, a fire lit behind the man's eyes.
"What in the bloody fuck are you doing here?"
Harry took an instinctive step backward. Even after all this time there was still a significant part of him that wanted to flinch when he saw his uncle angry. He can't hurt me now, there's no way he can hurt me now, the boy reminded himself.
"I've come back for a visit."
"Well you're most certainly not welcome in this house, not after what happened. Get out!"
When Harry showed no signs of movement, Vernon started to make his way down the stairs, "I said get out, boy!"
The refusal made Vernon freeze, "Ah, I see. Gotten a bit big for your britches have you?"
Harry didn't reply. He had imagined this moment so many times and yet here he stood silently, the needed words simply not coming.
"Get out of my house you worthless boy. You and your fanatical magic are unwanted!"
Upon hearing his voice, Harry looked to Voldemort for the first time since his uncle had appeared. The man had obviously cast a silencing charm on Petunia, for her mouth was open in a silent scream and she looked unable to move from her place in the hallway.
"It's fine. I've got it."
"What? Who the bloody hell are you talking to? I've had enough of this," Vernon said as he continued once again down the stairs. "I'll throw you out myself."
You're not unwanted.
The shared thought had hardly entered Harry's mind before Voldemort stepped forward and finally into Vernon's line of sight.
"I believe I've heard enough," Voldemort's voice showed neither anger nor apprehension; it was as silky and calm as always.
"Wha- what the- wh-"
Vernon stumbled slightly over the steps as he instinctively backed away from The Dark Lord. Harry felt a rush of confidence and couldn't help but smirk at the sight.
"Oh yeah, I made some friends while I was away," the boy said. 'Nagini, come here.'
The monstrous snake who Harry himself had once been terrified of slid heavily across the wooden floor.
"Oh m… oh my god," Vernon sputtered before he spun around. He hadn't taken two steps up before Voldemort's wand was trained on him, turning him back toward them and freezing him in place much like his wife.
Voldemort spoke, "I quite loathe journeying into the Muggle world, so I'm sure even you can deduce that this is a particularly important visit."
"Wh- who are you?"
"He's The Dark Lord," Harry piped in. "He rules over the Wizarding World. He's my guardian now and he's not too happy about what you've done to me."
You're being awfully cheeky.
Harry smiled and continued, "Oh, and this is his pet snake."
Oh she'd be furious if she heard you call her my 'pet'.
I think you're having just as much fun with this as I am, Harry replied before Vernon's voice broke through.
"I- I don't know what you're talking about!"
Harry's face fell, "Excuse me?"
"He's lying! I never touched him! Not once I did!"
A fury like none he had ever felt before rose in Harry's chest and before he knew what he was doing his wand was directed at his uncle. He wasn't entirely certain what spell he cast, but watched as his uncle, still frozen to the steps, screamed in agony.
"SHUT UP!" He lifted the spell. "How dare you!"
He was enraged, how could the man even have the nerve to plead innocence? Harry could hardly stand still as every nerve in his body screamed at him to strangle Vernon Dursley with his bare hands.
Sensing the sudden change in mood, Nagini reared back and lifted her head into the air, putting her at an equal height with Harry.
"Say one more thing like that and you'll be lucky if you live another minute," Harry said.
"Someone will come, someone will hear!"
"I can assure you none of your neighbors will be able to hear you scream, nor will-"
"The police will find us. They will come!"
The Dark Lord chuckled lightly, "Harry you never told me your uncle was so humorous. I assure that you should be less worried about your innocence and more concerned with pleading for your life, Mr. Dursley."
"We did nothing wrong, nothing out of the ordinary! He was a troublesome boy from the start and he had to be punished, that was all. I did nothing any other parent would hesitate to do!"
"Yes because all parents lock their children in closets," Voldemort remarked.
"It was- he was- he was trouble! Always doing something wrong, never listening, he deserved much more than he got. He's damn lucky he never came back after what happened."
Harry spoke again, "What are you talking about?"
"Don't play me for a fool, boy."
"I don't know what you're talking about!"
"Dudley is what I'm talking about!" the man practically snarled.
"You bloody well killed my son and you're lucky you ran off after! I would've whipped you within an inch of your life and-"
Harry froze, "I didn't touch Dudley!"
"Like hell you didn't! You and that magic! Trouble from the start I say! Your whole family is ridden with it. Do you know how long they questioned us? What you did to those other boys? To their parents? And yet you had the nerve to come back here," Vernon spat.
"I tried to save him! I didn't touch him- I tried to help them," Harry hotly defended.
"Had I known… magic! Of all the things! My own son-" Vernon was rambling now, completely oblivious to Harry's protests. "A gift the letter had said, HA! A gift! A gift for trouble is what it is!"
"I HAVE HAD ENOUGH. I've had enough of everything! I'm tired of it! I won't listen anymore!" Harry was shouting now. "I no longer have to listen to you, no longer have to bend to your every need. You can't touch me anymore, but I can touch you," he threatened. "You're under my control now, Uncle Vernon. I could lock you in a dungeon to rot for the rest of your existence if I so chose. I could force you to jump from the highest place in this town and laugh as your fat body fell to the ground. For the first time in my life I have the control over you, and believe me I am going to enjoy it."
And in that moment, unknown to anyone in the neighborhood, the first of many screams to come echoed throughout the house.
It was almost a half an hour later when Harry finally stopped. He had lost track of what curses he had used or the number of spells which had come from his wand but Merlin had he enjoyed it. He leaned heavily against the wall to rest as he lifted the last curse.
"Are you finally finished?" Voldemort drawled unenthusiastically, but when Harry looked to the man he was met with one of The Dark Lord's characteristic smirks.
Harry sighed deeply and tried to calm his breathing, "I think he's had enough, don't you?"
"I'm more worried about you than him."
"Oh I'm fine, just tired."
Harry looked down to the floor where Vernon lay sobbing in a shaking heap. While not grotesque, there was blood was splattered across the foyer.
'Snakeling is scary when he's angry,' Nagini hissed beside them.
'Yes, he is. He's impressive.'
'He's such a small snakeling though. He doesn't scare me.'
'I'm not that small you overgrown monster.'
'Stop picking on him, he will get bigger before long.'
The boy silently wished for that day to come sooner, he had never enjoyed being so small. He glanced down the hall and saw his aunt on the floor with her knees pulled to her chest, hands covering her ears.
'What are we going to do with her?' Harry questioned in Parseltongue so as to keep his trembling aunt unaware.
'It is up to you.'
'I can eat her!' Nagini chimed in eagerly.
Harry's stomach turned at the thought. He contemplated a moment before pushing off the wall and making his way toward Petunia. He looked down upon her pitiful form.
"Aunt Petunia," he said, and even though he said it quietly the woman still jolted. She looked up and her eyes quickly darted to the wand in his hand.
Harry studied her for a moment before speaking, "I'm sorry about what happened to Dudley."
Immediately the graying woman's eyes filled with tears, but she stayed silent.
"I did try to save him you know. I did try. After everything he did to me I still tried to save him, and yet for eleven years you stood by and didn't try to save me," he let the words sink in. "You watched. You just stood by and watched. You could've tried to stop it."
Harry was momentarily shocked. Through her fear he hadn't expected her to speak to him at all, let alone deny her negligence.
She continued shakily, "I did try."
"Not hard enough," he said, refusing to be swayed by the poor woman's words. He pitied her, yes, but he knew long ago that he would never forgive her.
"I knew you didn't hurt Dud-Dudley," her voice cracked. "I'm not surprised you tried to help him, you're too much like your mother."
A lump immediately formed in Harry's throat.
You're too much like your mother.
He swallowed thickly and turned away from his aunt, walking straight to the man moaning on the floor, ready to end this.
He knelt down beside his uncle and quietly said, "You made my life a living hell. You are one of two people who I have truly hated in this world and do you wanna know what happened to the other person? I killed him," And even though he knew deep down that his parents would be disappointed, Harry continued, "And I am going to kill you now too."
He stood and pointed his wand at his uncle, who gave no indication he had even heard Harry's speech.
"Say hello to Dumbledore for me."
A green light filled the room and Vernon Dursley was immediately dead.
Almost indifferently, Harry turned away from the limp body, for he truly couldn't bring himself to care any longer. He knew he had to let the past go in order to move on, and Merlin knew he was more than ready for just that.
Voldemort was no longer relaxing against the doorframe but was now watching interestedly as his protégé killed for only the second time.
Harry walked over to him and with a glance to his Aunt Petunia said, "I can't hurt her."
Voldemort looked over to the woman but didn't reply.
"I was going to let her live, but I think it might be more merciful to kill her at this point. What do you think?"
"You're asking The Dark Lord about mercy?"
"Yeah, I guess so. She doesn't have anything left anyway."
"If it were up to me I'd send her to Azkaban," Voldemort said.
"You're not being very helpful."
"Well it sounds as though you've already made your choice."
Harry watched as his aunt held her head in her hands as she cried. If Harry felt any remorse it was more for Petunia and her son, the boy he failed to save, but remorse didn't equal forgiveness.
"Can you just do it for me? I'm ready to go home."
"Oh if I must," Voldemort replied with a dramatic sigh.
"Make it quick and don't have too much fun," Harry said with a smirk, knowing full well Voldemort would torture the poor woman for hours if left alone.
"Now I'm going to have to torture one of my Death Eaters when we get home to get it out of my system."
Harry chuckled as he made his way toward the front door. He was more than ready to leave this part of his life behind him and didn't look back as he exited.
Harry Potter wanted nothing more than to go back to Voldemort's manor and forget everything and everyone who had hurt him in his short but miserable life, but he knew this would never be the case. He would never be able to forget the first twelve years of his life spent in misery and captivity. He felt nothing like the boy he was only a year ago, and even though he had no idea what was ahead he was more than ready to move on. He understood that he may never return to the Muggle world, and that there was a possibility that he would never see his friends again, may never be forgiven by them. He didn't know if Voldemort intended to continue to teach him or if he would end up enrolled back in school. Would it be Hogwarts or somewhere else? Would he find himself working an ordinary job or in the Ministry under Voldemort? Now that he had renounced the Light, did that mean he was to become a Death Eater? Or maybe even a part of Voldemort's Inner Circle? Harry smiled as Nagini passed him, hissing happily to herself, and understood that these were all questions to be answered at another time.
He had no idea what lie ahead, but one thing he did know was that Harry Potter was finally free of The Boy Who Lived.
And for that he was grateful.