The trees were close here, in the place where he’d died and lived again, and the branches above him rustled in unfelt breezes. Somewhere in the dark a fox screamed and he held out his hand – not his, the fingers were too thick to be his; short and stubby and attached to a square palm, but his for now – and felt something dark and cold fly into his grasp.
The thought that something was wrong curled in the back of his mind. He pushed it away. He knew what he was doing and it would all be better for this. It would all be better.
He was always tired these days, and pale, and more than once Hermione put her hand to his forehead – funny how she was willing to touch his scar now, when she never had been before – to check for a temperature and pulled away blank-faced.
“You’re a bit chilly, Harry. Are you sure you feel alright?”
He wasn’t sure, but he knew he had to feel alright. He’d just defeated the Dark Lord and people were looking at him as if he knew what they were supposed to be doing. “Yeah,” he told her and offered her a smile that probably looked as weak as it felt. “Just tired.”
Preservation spells only lasted for so long, though they had certainly advanced over the years. The shape in the tomb was sunken and shrivelled and wisps of long white hair came away in the stranger’s hand when he ran it over desiccated skin. There was magic here, so similar to that he’d wielded before, but that task was over and he had another purpose.
He lifted the wand from between skeletal fingers and leaned down to brush his lips over the dried husk of a once-great man, and slipped out his tongue to lick along exposed teeth. Yes, this is right, though the voice in his mind is screaming to stop – demanding why and please no – and he laughs into this kiss that feels oh so perfect -
- and he searched the next day for the Elder Wand that he could remember stealing, after vomiting and brushing his teeth so hard that his gums began to bleed. He breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t find it, and shoved the dream to the back of his mind. He was the Master of Death so it should do as he wanted, shouldn’t it? And he wanted it to stay buried with Dumbledore even though there was a tiny part of him, deep in the back of his mind, that thought the idea was hilarious.
He managed to summon up a grim smile from somewhere for the funerals, and watched the funeral processions while letting the speech wash over him. Hogwarts would always be a school, but in honour of the dead, it was going to be a cemetery now too. Tonks and Remus, Fred and Colin; he watched their coffins pass with sorrow and an aching emptiness in his chest and a growing horror at the twinge of arousal that flickered in his belly at the thought of them lying dead beneath him.
The image of Dumbledore in his dream, of dry skin crackling under his lips and fingers and the cold taste of death on his tongue, flashed through his mind and he turned away, closing his eyes and trying not to breathe in case he vomited again.
This isn’t right, he thought. There’s something wrong with me.
It’s too late, darling. This is everything you should have expected it to be.
Hermione worried her lip between her teeth and studied him closely. She didn’t believe him, he could tell, and he wanted to scream at her for it. After everything – after all that they’d been through together – she just didn’t want to know. The war was over and he was supposed to be normal now. That’s it. The end. Ron just looked slightly sick. Luna didn’t look at him at all; she gazed off towards the lake with a vacant expression, but she was the one who spoke.
“Fairy tales all have a basis in fact, you know, but they don’t often resemble it,” she said. “I never knew why Daddy thought the Tale of Three Brothers was a nice one.”
“I imagine the thought of being able to decide your own fate – of how to live and when to die – would be quite appealing to some people,” Hermione replied. “Didn’t Dumbledore say that it was ‘the next great adventure’? He must have thought so.”
He’d chosen to be murdered for the ‘greater good’ instead of withering away from Voldemort’s curse - but he’d withered away anyway, hadn’t he, and so deliciously; he prefers them when they’re dry and brittle instead of fetid and bloated and just past fresh - so he must have felt that way. Harry swallowed and nodded and pretended he couldn’t remember someth-one trembling and shaking from the rush of orgasm, wearing his body, and the droplets of come desecrating the body of his mentor shining silver in the moonlight. It’s too late, he thinks. Too late to even try.
“It’s not Voldemort, is it?” Ron asked. He sounded almost hopeful. “He had the wand for a while, right?”
The wand that Harry dreamt of stealing but hadn’t found. “I don’t think so,” he said. “This is – I don’t know.”
“It’s a warning,” Luna said. “All fairy tales are.”
He drew his Cloak around his new form and travelled down and down into the dark and it was all so delightfully familiar that he smiled and laughed with more delight than, he thought, this body had ever felt. He liked the body. He didn’t like the hands so much, he decided, as he trailed them along the stone wall, but he enjoyed the memories – this school was home and he knew it from the boy better than he ever knew it from his brothers’ tales – and the height so close to his own and the boy’s cock. You’d think he’d never used it, with how it responded so eagerly to his touch.
He trod the halls he was never allowed to see in life and with his hand to the stones he could feel the centuries of magic, of love and hate that had been poured into the very heart of this place. The Founders left their souls here, and he could feel those too – they were drawn to him as the ghosts were. He’d never have been lonely here, if he’d been allowed to come. If he hadn’t been locked away – his brothers’ deathly little weapon. He could feel the boy’s fear in the back of his mind, and he wondered if he’d realised quite what he’d done yet.
He laid himself down amongst the rats that swarmed in the dungeons. The school was damaged and open to the elements and the rats had come as they always did to such places. He held still as they squeaked and skittered over the body and let the chill of his magic seep from his flesh to theirs. To their fleas. Tiny claws scrabbled and fangs bit deep, and the Elder Wand burned cold between his fingers.
He would never be lonely here.
The Cloak felt wrong, he thought. It was the same as always, silky smooth and as light as air, but he could remember now what it was made of; could remember weaving it - with human hair, stolen from the piles of bodies left to rot in the gutters; too many dead for the town to cope with, and all the Muggles too afraid of their God’s punitive pestilence to do more than cart the bodies to the street or a nearby pit and pray that the buboes didn’t swell in their own pits - and showing it with pride to his brothers.
He wanted to burn it. No longer his father’s relic, it was something he’d created himself. Something evil - something to show his skill. His brothers were accomplished wizards both, but he had been born with the shadow of death clinging to him, and he’d had to do something to prove he was a worthy exchange for their mother’s life and their father’s grief - and Dark. Something that should be destroyed, like Voldemort had been, but something he knew he’d never be allowed to.
The thi-person in his head would never allow it, and Harry had seen him looking back at him from the mirror with eyes as bright and cold as stars. The Master of Death - necromancer, silly child - was inside of him and death was -so much stronger than life, and so beautiful; I can show you so much - inevitable.
He clutched the Cloak close and breathed in the smell of memories and felt his heart clench in his chest as elation that wasn’t his own soared through him.
He smiled at the bushy haired girl – Hermione, the body’s memories supplied – and joined her on the grass. The book with his story was on her lap, and her fingers were curled around the edge of the cover, white at the knuckles.
“It’s just a story, Harry,” she said and he could hear in her voice how much she wanted to believe it. “You’re probably just stressed. It’ll pass in time.”
“You’re probably right,” he agreed, and stretched out his arms to study the hands he hated with their stubby fingers and unfamiliar scars. They were becoming more like his; already darkening round the nails and cold to the touch. They’d shrivel, eventually, and blacken – the price of his power – and they’d belong to him again.
The boy was sobbing still, in the back of his mind. He’d shrivel up too, eventually, but before that he’d see all the wonders Ignotus could show him – a thank you, perhaps, for his sacrifice.
Ginny was pale and shaking, feverishly hot in his arms as she pressed desperate kisses to his lips. He held her close, trailed fingers up her sides under her school blouse, and felt - a wave of disgust at the pounding of her heart - her breathing quicken. She ground down eagerly against him, trying to coax him further, but shoved herself back when his questing fingers brushed against something hard in the pit of her arm.
She climbed off his lap and straightened her skirt. “This was a mistake,” she said.
“Leave it, Harry,” she told him. “You don’t want me anymore.” She punctuated the statement with a wave of her hand towards his lap, where his cock lay limp in the confines of his trousers.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She’d died, the fiery little temptress, and now he wanted her so badly. Her grief-stricken family had taken so long by her bedside that her body was fully cooled when he spread the cloak over them both, and the first stiffness of rigor had passed. She was still fresh enough that she hadn’t started to swell or stink, and the boy’s – his cock hardened eagerly at the thought of having her.
He knelt between her thighs and pushed up the flimsy hospital gown they’d covered her in; drew her death-heavy legs around his waist and guided himself into her tight, cold cunt, honouring her last wishes with the body of the boy she’d died wanting.
He banished the traces of his seed and righted her little gown when he was done; flicking his wand to dispose of the evidence. It wouldn’t do for people to notice. One of the buboes in her armpit had burst, stinking and fetid, but such things were normal and to be expected under the circumstances. The people of this new time would see that soon enough. The pestilence was spreading once more, and the bodies would mount far higher than the gir- than Ginny Weasley – and he would have so many new friends to play with.
He tried to tell Hermione. Not what he’d done to Ginny, no; the disease. The plan. The Plague that was spreading through the castle. But his throat closed up, choking him on his own words, and when he fled to the bathroom – sick to his stomach from guilt and horror and Ginny – he saw none of himself in the face in the mirror.
”There’s no evidence, my dear,” his reflection said, and he could feel his lips moving around a voice that wasn’t his own. “It’s all just a dream.” He could see the lines of his own skull when he smiled, and the mad glint of silver in his eyes bright within in his own.
And as he vomited into the sink, he saw his fingertips had turned black. He closed his eyes as he retched, and when he opened them they were his own again – nails bitten down to the quick, and swollen slightly red with a mild infection earned by his habitual biting.
“Just a dream,” he told himself. “Just a dream.”
And when he straightened, he brushed his hair out of his eyes and freshened his breath with a spell before joining his friends in the corridor. Hermione offered him a small, sympathetic smile and took his hand between her own – frowning at the cold of his skin and the trick of the light that made his eyes look silvery-grey instead of green.
“It’s going to be okay, you know,” she said quietly.
He sighed softly and looked away. “Yes, I know.” He was making it all better now, all better; he’d have so many friends to play with he couldn’t possibly be lonely anymore.
He was so delightfully alive.
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