NOTE: This chapter has been edited heavily from its previous state. Please re-read it!
I’m in your books, playing with your Potters.
No, seriously, it’s not mine. Do I look richer than the Queen?
Severitus. “…there is no other man I could have loved as much as I love Severus. Your father may not know it, but I shall carry that love to my grave.”
Pairings, if any, will be RW/HG, and perhaps some Harry/Ginny. However, this is not a romance story. Don’t expect the pairings to be any more than a bit of side story.
There will be gore, hence the reason why this fic is rated M. I assure you though, it is well-deserved gore. Also, there will be a note on the specific chapters that include violence. That said, I don’t think there’s anything else I need to warn you about. Business as usual, I suppose. THIS CHAPTER HAS GORE! ☺
So, due to my (deplorable, really) addiction to fanfiction, and also due to the fact that I have run out of good Severitus stories to read, I am (a week before the release of Deathly Hallows, no less) responding to the Severitus challenge. This one promises to be a long one, and a helluva ride, so hang onto your hats, children. I fully intend on having Harry defeat Voldemort and living happily ever after, but not after some dramatics, a few (deserved and not-so-deserved) deaths, and a healthy dose of my own special macabre humor.
Another little change I’m going to make to the books (as well as the whole Snape-daddy thing) is how Voldemort has decided to “defeat” death. Instead of trying to attain immortality the way he does in the Half-Blood Prince, he’s trying… a different way. Oh, hush, it’s not creepy. I think. Hence, our story starts out right after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
I’m also going to be incorporating as many theories, debunked or no, as I possibly can, so if you have an interesting idea or plot bunny, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to work it in.
This is also my first published piece of fanfiction, so please be kind. It’s not as well-put together as some works out there, but I’m trying. Also, I may edit things as I go along. That’s what authors do, you know! However, I will tell you when and where, if I do. One more thing: pay attention to the quotes at the beginning of the chapters! They’ll give you clues and such as to what the chapter will be about. Enjoy, and don’t forget to review!
TRUTH BEYOND ITSELF
Fan-fiction by Garden Celandine
Chase after truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails.
There was nothing you could do, Harry.
It was the third letter Hermione had written to him, and he still hadn’t responded. What in Merlin’s name could he say that wouldn’t instigate a whole new slew of letters from her, that all said the same thing as before?
Such was the frequent theme of Hermione’s letters to him, and, far from making Harry feel better about causing the death of the remaining family he had, it made Harry feel that much worse. There was something he could have done, should have done, but that time had passed. There’s nothing I can do, now.
Harry briefly considering laying into Hermione in his response, but checked the urge to do so. He was trying to curb his nasty habit of lashing out at others. It seems that every time someone dies, I make a new resolution. At the rate I’m going, everyone will be dead before I’ll have become a decently behaved human being.
He cut off this train of thought, not wanting to think about what it would be like to not have anything left to fight for, and turned his awareness to the scene around him.
Dudley’s Second Bedroom was a littered mess of old toys as usual, with a few minor signs of Harry’s existence accenting the deplorable décor. The bluish tint of moonlight washed through the window; vague shapes of an old rocket launcher, a bicycle wheel, a grimy half-filled Sea Monkey tank and various other bits of clutter cast looming shadows around the room. Harry himself sat slouched on the creaking, thinly covered bed in the corner opposite the window, absently noting the feel of a night breeze drafting through the thin curtains. Privet Drive was perfectly silent, save for a lone cricket chirping from somewhere in the bushes.
It had hardly been three weeks since Harry had been back, and already it was getting old. Harry supposed he should be grateful for the Dursley’s lack of interest in, well, him, but he supposed it would be nice to talk to an actual human being sometime in the future. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia studiously ignored him. Dudley was a little more entertaining; he skittered away from Harry like the boy was a leper. Or a Dementor.
Harry got up from the bed and went to the hallway to listen to his relative’s snoring. This, he thought, is what is left of my family now. It hadn’t occurred to him for a while now, just how much he yearned for a loving home; even an escaped convict had slaked some of his thirst for family, which was, obviously, in everyone else’s opinion, rather sad. Harry knew it—he could see it in the eyes of Mrs. Weasley and Hermione. Thinking of Snape, Harry reminded himself swallow his pride and attempt to tender some sort of apology to the man for the pensieve incident. Not only did he feel rotten that his dad was such a… bully, but being vulnerable was never something Harry felt comfortable with, and he knew that Voldemort would take any advantage he could. Harry wondered briefly if Dumbledore would insist on more occlumency lessons. If he did, Harry would suck it up and deal, even if it meant dealing with an irate and malicious Severus Snape. Merlin, the man was bitter.
Vernon snorted loudly in his sleep, causing Harry to jump in surprise. He shook his head at his own jitters, and headed back into Dudley’s Second Bedroom to write that response for Hermione. Hermione—
I know you’re worried about me, but don’t be. I’m just sorry I dragged you and the others on such a fool’s errand—it’s a wonder I didn’t get you all killed in the process.
Everything is fine here; the Dursleys are ignoring me, which is better than usual. Poor Dudders has even lost some weight, due to nervous energy. He probably thinks I’m going to call up one of those ‘dementy things’ any moment, really.
How is everything with, er, the old crowd? I’ve been watching some of the muggle news when I can, but that doesn’t give me much of a clue as to what’s really going on. Merlin knows the Daily Prophet wouldn’t have anything of importance to say.
Anyways, I ought to go to sleep; it’s late. Owl me if you have any news to share.
It was sometime the next morning that Harry decided, in a fit of what must have been neurosis, that he would re-read his textbooks for the last year. After all, he reasoned to himself, there’s nothing else to do but brush up on schoolwork. Unless watching another useless muggle telecast or following Diddykins around until the poor boy ran away screaming counted as—what was Hermione’s word?—productive. No, Harry surmised with amusement, not at all.
He brushed the hair out of his eyes in annoyance, and, for the first time in his life, idly wondered if he actually needed a haircut. It was getting a little long, after all, but Harry supposed it was worth it. For once his hair was actually behaving like hair, instead of a cross between a hedgehog and a bird’s nest. If nothing else, Petunia was pleased.
Harry sighed, running a hand through the fine black strands of his hair, and, with dark amusement, wondered how his aunt would react if he asked for a haircut.
The doorbell rang downstairs and Harry sighed as he got up to get it. There was no one there; Harry looked around in confusion before spotting a letter that had come through the mail slot.
There in the front hall it sat, crumpled and yellowing at the edges. Harry stopped before picking it up, leery of any curses—that is, until he saw the elegant writing on the front. TIME-DELAYED LETTER was embossed over the cursive handwriting, which read, To Harry Potter
, and in a smaller script underneath, with love from Mum
Curiosity overcame good-old paranoia, and Harry gingerly lifted the letter and carried it to Dudley’s Second Bedroom for further inspection.
He only made it up the stairs before the key turned in the lock. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were back with the groceries (and a few new video games and gadgets for Dudley, presumably). Aunt Petunia screeched for Harry to come put away the groceries, and within a moment Harry was hiding the letter in his photo album under the loose floorboard and running down the stairs.
Aunt Petunia was staring at him over the dinner table. He looked up, eyes inquiring politely, and she eyeballed him a little more, almost as if she was trying to recollect who he was. Harry raised an eyebrow at her, more than a little confused, and she looked away, blinking. Dudley and Uncle Vernon sat, oblivious and masticating the Sheperd’s Pie that Harry had made for dinner.
That night his scar twinged, slightly, and Harry, for once, remembered to try and occlude his mind. He breathed in and out, slow and deliberate, mimicking a yoga practice he had seen Petunia watching on the telly, once. However, having no idea as to how to clear his mind, Harry quickly fell asleep to his own breathing, his thoughts swimming and his mind wide open.
“I trust,” said he, “that you have been making… progress?”
Snape kept his head bowed. “Yes, my Lord. It is finished. The potion, however, needs a physical object to apply itself to—
“I am aware of that, yes.” He hissed, impatient with his undoubtedly loyal follower. Nevertheless, he was very, very pleased. His skeletal hand lightly caressed Nagini’s scales, in an extension of his delectation, and the snake herself lay coiled in his lap. “Give me the brew.”
The moment Snape handed over the vial of potion, he secreted it out of sight. “One more thing, Severuss…”
Snape, to his credit, did not tense. However, the curse that came was not what he was expecting.
After a moment, Snape seemed confused, unaware of his surroundings, before he realized he was kneeling in front of a relaxed and expectant Dark Lord, who was watching his every move.
“You called, my Lord?”
He stretched his lipless mouth in a hideous caricature of a smile. “Yes, my dear Severuss…” Here he paused; let the poor soul stew in his juices for a few moments. “I want an update. But for the moment—Crucio.”
Snape fell to the ground, twitching and trying his best not to scream. After years of practice, he was relatively successful. However, the curse went on and on, and the Dark Lord made it a game to see how long the man could last.
Dumbledore hummed slightly as he went over his papers, muttering words under his breath that only he could hear. Severus had just gone to a DE meeting and would not be back soon, and while he lamented the lack of such amusing company, Dumbledore hardly thought Severus would appreciate an old man’s ramblings at the moment. The resident Potions Master had been rather short-tempered as of late, for any number of reasons. Albus suspected it had something to do with the newly-announced and reinstated Professor Lupin, but really, it could be anything. Bad Lemon Drop, he supposed.
There was a knock on the door; two sharp raps, and Dumbledore smiled. “Come in, my dear Minerva!” The professor in question strode in quickly, followed by Professor Lupin, who shut the door behind him. “Ah, Remus as well. How delightful. Sit, sit!”
McGonagall rolled her eyes, but sat alongside Lupin, who had a look of vague politeness. “Good evening, Albus,” she said primly, and Lupin nodded his greetings. “I’d like to discuss the appointment for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post, as well as the Order business Remus has been telling me about.”
“Ah, yes.” The headmaster adjusted his half-moon spectacles, then steepled his fingers, looking ever bit the wise, learned paragon. “The lovely lady has agreed to come to England and teach for me, on a favor.” McGonagall wondered briefly how many favors Albus had accrued over the years. “She is older than me, and not exactly fond of teaching, so her time here will be limited to one year.”
McGonagall nodded curtly. “I’m sure she will be perfectly capable of teaching the students what they need. Now, about Remus being here for the year, Albus… Are you sure that’s wise? The ministry—“
“The ministry has other problems on their hands, such as the pending investigation against Dolores Umbridge.” Here McGonagall smiled in triumph. “Besides,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling mischievously, “what they don’t know can’t hurt them.”
For once, McGonagall did not protest the Headmaster’s rule-bending.
A loud, shrill noise echoed through the round office, emanating from an odd-looking bauble sitting on the Headmaster’s desk. It was glowing a ruddy red, pulsing with the noise it was creating. Dumbledore stood up, his attention on the object.
“We have a problem,” Dumbledore said quietly. McGonagall inhaled sharply. “Remus, gather a team.
“I need you to go to Privet Drive—take Harry to headquarters—and quickly!”
When Harry's vision righted itself, the pain against his skull still burned deep as before. He lay damp and contorted among summer bed sheets, breathing steadily with the pounding beat in his chest. It was only when he heard a resounding CRACK of apparition somewhere outside his bedroom did he move, rolling noiselessly to the floor into a crouch.
Harry fumbled for his glasses a moment before finding and pushing them on. The beat of his heart sounded in his head, emphasizing the pain blazing on his forehead. Gritting his teeth, he walked to the door—
As soon as he opened the door of Dudley's Second Bedroom, he knew something was very wrong.
The fetid stench clouted him, and he reeled before staggering down the hall. There was an unrecognizable liquid smeared on the floor, and when Harry looked up he could very easily notice blood splattered from the impact of a person's head on the wall by the stairs.
The first white-carpeted step was pristine but for a few freckled stains marring the surface; as the steps went down, however, the coat of crimson sop grew into ugly, wet puddles. The largest pool sat still as frozen waters around Dudley's enormous person, the florid surface rippling only slightly when the syrupy liquid dripped off his cousin's mutilated form. It was obvious after Harry looked again (for he had needed to look away) that Dudley had been dead for some hours; Harry was starting to hear the faint buzzing of flies and the smell was rank…
Of course, the stink was worse as one went near, Harry noted as he stepped (leaped, really) over his former cousin, his bare toes sinking into the saturated carpet with a softened squelch. He wandered in the direction of the living room, following the bigger patches of human remains until his eyes fell onto what was once Uncle Vernon's right arm in the doorway. Harry could not discern the mass of viscera attached to that arm, but it was easy to pick out the gaping wounds on his uncle's hands where fingers had been attached. Harry swallowed thickly and turned away towards the stairs again.
Harry stopped and slowly turned his head in the direction of the noise. Ignoring any survival skills he had retained throughout his reckless life, Harry walked to the kitchen, which was, unlike the rest of the house, spotless, bar two drained cups of tea sitting on the tile counter.
For a moment Harry dumbly cast his eyes around the room, failing to locate the source of the noise. He heard it again, softer this time, and—
There, under the kitchen sink, Aunt Petunia stared up at him, unseeing, her eyes glazed and her thin lips fluttering as she quietly sobbed; her skeletal fingers clutching what looked like a crumpled old photograph.
Harry promptly turned around, went back upstairs, wiped his feet on the carpet, got back into bed, and fell asleep.
Someone was shaking him awake. "Harry, Harry! Wake up," a voice hissed urgently, and Harry started, looking around wildly. He felt someone press his glasses into his hand, and he put them on, squinting. It was Remus. "Get up, we have to leave. Your uncle and cousin have been murdered." He said, and looked to the door of the tiny bedroom anxiously.
"I know," mumbled Harry, stepping out of bed and going to his trunk to find a change of clothes. "I saw."
Remus stared at him, incredulously, but turned away and started to walk out of the bedroom once Harry had started changing. "Get your things—everything; you aren't coming back. The muggle police ought to be here soon." He said from the doorway. "I'll wait for you downstairs."
Harry nodded; not that Remus could see, and quickly went to the loose floorboard, scooped up everything in the hole, and rapidly started packing. Soon he was finished; he grabbed his trunk and Hedwig's empty cage, and left the bedroom, looking behind him once to check for anything he might have left.
Remus, Tonks, and Elphias Doge were waiting for him in the front entryway, eyeing the massacred forms of Harry’s relatives with vague horror. “Wotcher, Harry,” Tonks whispered.
Harry jumped over a rather large blood puddle, tripped, then clutched at Remus' outstretched arm before he fell. "We'll be walking to Arabella Figg's place; try not to make a sound, Harry. Here,” Remus said, and flicked his wand; Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage began to shrink, stopping when they were small enough to fit in his pocket.
Doge was at the doorway, holding it open for the rest of them; Tonks, Harry and then Remus swiftly walked out into the night. Not a sound, not even owls or crickets greeted them. Old Mrs. Figg's was just a few houses down; there they walked, and it was only when everyone was through the front door and in Arabella's living room did Remus and the others breathe easy.
"Alright." He said, and turned to address Harry. "Is side-along apparition alright with you, Harry? We would have simply apparated from the Dursley's, but the Order set up several wards around the house."
Harry nodded. "That's fine. As long as I get to wash my feet when we get to…" He paused. "Where are we going?"
"Order Headquarters," Remus replied, as Mrs. Figg tried to stop Tonks from touching anything. Instead, she tripped over Mr. Tibbles.
"Anyways, we ought to be going. Everyone?" The rest nodded, and Harry automatically grabbed onto Remus' arm. "Ready, Harry?" And without further warning, Harry felt himself being sucked into a tube. He couldn't breathe—
Just as suddenly, there before them was the door to Grimmauld Place. Harry followed Remus and the other Order members in, and was immediately tackled by Hermione.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione cried, and for several moments Harry felt his ribs being crushed. He patted Hermione awkwardly on the back.
"'M alright, Hermione." Harry mumbled, and Hermione embarrassedly released him.
"Is it true?" She asked, looking horrified.
"What?" said Harry, confused.
"That the Dursleys are dead!" Hermione wrung her hands. "You must be so upset--"
Harry snorted. “Really, I’m fine.” At Hermione’s tentative, yet leery look, he continued, “It hasn’t set in yet, really…”
Ron nodded from behind them. “Give Harry a rest, eh? Must’ve been traumatizing, that…” Hermione scowled at him, but dropped the issue as Mrs. Weasley bustled them into the Kitchen.
“Good to see you again, Harry dear,” she said, squeezing him gently. “Would you like anything? Tea, perhaps? I’m so sorry about your relatives…”
Harry smiled weakly, adjusting his glasses. Things were a bit fuzzy. “Tea would be nice, thanks, Mrs. Weasley.”
She nodded, turning to put the water on, and chatted on as Harry, Ron and Hermione sat down in the kitchen. Harry looked up to see Lupin and Tonks coming through the door, and nodded as the man sat down next to him. Remus smiled, looking tired as usual.
“Harry, you’ve grown so much this summer,” Mrs. Weasley continued, and Harry felt a little nervous at the innocuous comment. “Your hair is so much better, too! What have you been doing with it?”
Remus chuckled. “Do tell, Harry. James could never get his hair to lay that flat. He finally gave up in third year after a Hufflepuff girl told him it was dashing.”
Harry smiled, shrugging. “I guess it’s just that it’s growing out, is all. I haven’t really done anything to it.”
“Well, I think it looks very nice, Harry,” Hermione announced. Ron just looked bored with the subject matter.
Mrs. Weasley turned, set the tea tray down, and started to serve everyone. “Tea, Remus?”
Remus held up a hand, “Thank you, Molly, but I ought to be going; someone needs to tell the Headmaster that Harry is fine—”
They all stopped and listened as the front door opened, and slow, limping steps were heard coming down the hallway. Whoever it was hobbled down the stairs, and the door to the kitchen opened with a creak.
It was Snape. He was twitching as he limped into the room, looking a frightful mess. Mrs. Weasley gasped, and Harry stood up. At this, Snape looked up, seemed surprised for a moment that Potter was there, then his face smoothed into impassiveness. He started to limp precariously towards a seat, but Mrs. Weasley headed him off.
“Severus, let me help you to one of the bedrooms…” she started, then stopped in her tracks when Snape leveled her with a glare. Shaking it off, she continued towards him, gently leading him to the door. Grumbling venomously, he allowed her to assist, for once, swallowing his pride.
Harry jumped up. “I’ll help you, Mrs. Weasley, and followed them out of the room, ignoring the surprise of everyone else. The tea sat cooling for a minute before Remus shook off the shock. “Tea, anyone?”
Getting Snape into one of the bedrooms proved as difficult as it sounded, and Mrs. Weasley and Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he was settled in bed, stiffly pulling off his cloak. Mrs. Weasley bustled over to help him with it, and Harry stood by the door awkwardly, surveying the damage. Obviously it had been painful for Snape to climb up the flights of stairs; there was a meandering blood trail leading from the kitchen to the upstairs bedroom they were in. “Harry, dear, go and get some bandages, will you?” Mrs. Weasley asked, not looking up.
Harry headed towards the door. “Mr. Potter.” He stopped at the sound of Snape’s weary voice. “Kindly bring the following potions, as well…” the man’s tone sounded weary, course and irritable. He listed off several healing potions, as well as dreamless-sleep and blood-replenishing potions.
Harry nodded. “Yes sir,” he said, and went to retrieve the potions and bandages.
After an hour of Snape chugging potions and Mrs. Weasley wrapping up the cutting-curse wounds on his arms and torso, with Harry hovering nervously over them and helping when he could, Snape settled into his pillows. Mrs. Weasley left the room, expecting Harry to follow her.
Harry stopped him when Snape reached for the dreamless-sleep potion. “Sir,” he said tentatively, and Snape raised an eyebrow at him in query. Harry knew he had to tell someone about the vision, lecture or no. “I didn’t succeed in clearing my mind before I went to sleep—” here Snape snorted “and, well, I saw.”
His father tsked. “Is there a point to this, Mr. Potter…? It is not unusual for the Dark Lord to torture his own followers… though I suppose I can’t rule out you gloating—”
“That’s not it,” Harry interrupted hastily, and as Snape glowered murderously at him, he hurriedly continued. “Voldemort—”
“Don’t say his name, Potter—”
“The Dark Lord,” Harry interjected again, “obliviated you.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and Harry swallowed thickly at the look. “Mr. Potter, I do not appreciate lies—”
“I’m not lying!” Harry insisted angrily, and Snape looked ready to leap out of bed and strangle him. “You gave him a potion that he had you brew, something about it being for an object—”
Snape scoffed. “The Dark Lord has not had me brew any potions for some time.”
“Well, you wouldn’t remember it, would you?” Harry said peevishly. Snape did not seem amused. “Look,” Harry started, “Just ask Dumbledore, I’m sure you had to have told him about it when V—The Dark Lord asked you to brew it.”
“Fine,” the man snapped, “I shall ask him. Now leave me be.”
Upset and angry, Harry rushed out of the room as if dragons were on his tail. He stopped just outside the door. “Sir…”
Harry shut the door with a click. Well, he thought, feeling snappish, that went better than expected.
Everyone was still at tea when he came back to the kitchen, besides Mrs. Weasley, who was mopping up the bloodstains in the foyer.
“So, Harry,” said Ron, sipping his tea awkwardly, “How has your summer been so far?”
Harry snorted. “Just great, Ron. Did I tell you I woke up to find my relatives had been savagely murdered while I was sleeping?”
Remus made a noise of protest, but Ron responded, perfectly calm. “Why yes, I had heard. Anything else interesting happen?”
Chagrined, Harry winced. Although, he was tempted to tell him about his mother’s letter, just for the shock factor, but he resisted the urge. “No, not really. Look... sorry I’m being a berk, alright? It’s just been a rough night.”
Ron nodded, and Hermione huffed at the two of them, but refrained from commenting. “Ron and I just came to Headquarters ourselves a few days ago.
Oh!” She said, remembering something, “Our OWLs should be coming soon. Are you nervous, Harry? I suspect I did horribly.”
Harry and Ron both groaned. “Well, now I’m nervous,” Harry said, and Ron agreed.
Remus smiled at the trio’s camaraderie. “You’ll all do just fine, I’m sure.” He covered a yawn. “It’s almost three in the morning… we’d best be getting to bed.” He started to put the tea set away, and Hermione helped him, before everyone trekked up the stairs to their respective bedrooms.
Ginny stuck her head out the door of her and Hermione’s room, bleary-eyed with sleep. “Did something happen?” She asked confusedly.
“Yeah, Harry’s here,” said Ron, before Hermione ushered her back to bed. Ron and Harry walked past and into their own bedroom, and soon Ron, at least, was out like a light. Harry lay awake, brutally murdered Dursleys and scathing conversations with a certain potions master filling his head, before he drifted off as the light began to filter through the windows.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? Any questions, comments and critique will be loved forever. Flames and put-downs (what am I, in Elementary school?) will be ignored and deleted. Siriusly. Don’t forget to review!
I hope you enjoyed the Dursley’s demise… it was the least I could do, of course. ☺