In limbo (May 2d 1998)
"You cannot help," said Dumbledore.
With shameful relief, Harry turned away from the flayed creature that groaned under the seat. Since the wizard had arrived in this strange vaporous white place, the thing that had the form of a small, naked child had not ceased to emit pitiful and obscene noises, disturbing the ethereal atmosphere. It was choking.
It was as if it was struggling for breath, but it had no lungs, as if it tried in vain to speak, but its tongue had been torn off. In any case, it had neither hair nor skin. It was only a tiny being, curled up on the ground, whose raw, rough flesh was partially covered with a sticky, reddish substance. It was sad and disgusting.
Harry was extremely afraid of it.
As soon as he had seen it, so small and wounded, unwanted, he had knew he ought to comfort it. Yet his entrails were twisted with repulsion and his whole body had told him to step back. His eyes barely could stand the vision.
At eleven, he had seen the cadaverous face of Voldemort on the other side of Quirrell's skull. At twelve, he had almost been eaten by a Basilik with bursted eyes, which whistled sinister melodies. At thirteen, he had had to face hundreds of putrid Dementors trying to give him a kiss. At fourteen, he had witnessed the resurrection of Voldemort and the murder of Cedric Diggory.
At fifteen, he had seen Sirius passing on the other side of the veil and had had to escape once more from Voldemort and his followers. At sixteen, he had been at the top of the Astronomy Tower when Snape had sent Dumbledore into the void without mercy. Finally, just an hour earlier, he had seen Snape die in the Shrieking Shack, his throat slashed by Nagini.
Nevertheless, none of these terrible events had left him as panting and desperate as this small and ignoble creature. When finding himself face to face with the most atrocious things, he had always been able to make quick and effective decisions. But now he did not know what to do with this struggling creature.
Dumbledore had appeared at the right time. A moment later and Harry would have obeyed the moral law in him and he would have stretched out his hand to caress the creature's cheek, in a poor gesture of comfort.
Phew, the teenager thought. I don't have to worry about this anymore. Dumbledore can save it, he is a righteous person.
With these thoughts, his stomach made a turn on itself and an unpleasant feeling of guilt invaded him. He was not used to act so cowardly.
He no longer remembered that Dumbledore had approached him by simply saying "You cannot help". It was absurd. Dumbledore could not ignore a being who was suffering, even if it was a very tiny being, could he? Apart from Voldemort, who could he let die?
Dumbledore will find a solution to help it, Harry thought as he followed his former mentor.
The old man, more serene than ever, led them a little farther, towards two comfortable and curiously solid armchairs.
After a few moments of silence, Harry could not help staring with amazement at the dead man's face, so keen, so similar to his memories.
"But you're dead," he said at last, astonished.
xXx xXx xXx
His encounter with Dumbledore caused him to momentarily forget the thing that moaned behind them. He had a lot of things to ask and Dumbledore answered all his questions cheerfully.
The former Headmaster was very satisfied with himself. His plans had worked perfectly. Before the dawn, Voldemort would be just as dead as himself. He certainly could take a few moments to reassure Harry and explain to him two or three things he had forgotten to tell him during his lifetime.
No, Harry had not died in the Forbidden Forest, even though Avada Kedavra had touched him again. On the contrary, as the teenager had not defended himself, Voldemort had accidentally killed the Horcrux the boy carried in him. Wasn't it wonderful?
“Your soul is whole, and completely your own, Harry.”
“But then ... what is that, Professor?” the Boy Who Lived asked, pointing to where the small, maimed creature trembled under a chair.
“Something that is beyond either of our help.”
This answer somewhat annoyed Harry. If he, Harry, could do nothing, that was understandable - after all, he did not have his NEWTS - but how could Dumbledore be helpless? It seemed so unlikely...
But Harry still had so many questions to ask!
Dumbledore then explained that if he had not succumbed to the spell of death, it was again thanks to his mother's love. Even if Harry had reached his majority, Lily's protection was still active. Indeed, in Little Hangleton's graveyard, Voldemort had used the teenager's blood to come back to life. From that moment, Lily's love had flowed in their veins. So neither Harry nor Voldemort could die while the other was alive.
“I live . . . while he lives! But I thought . . . I thought it was the other way round! I thought we both had to die? Or is it the same thing?” Harry was again distracted by the tortured creature who wriggled behind them and he glanced over his shoulder. "Are you sure you can't do anything?"
“There is no help possible.”
Harry bit his lips but Dumbledore resumed his explanations before he could protest. Everything seemed as crazy as it was logical.
Harry was Voldemort's seventh Horcrux, the one that should never have been created. Voldemort knew nothing about House Elves, fairy tales, love, loyalty, innocence. Harry's wand had broken the one Voldemort had borrowed from Lucius because it had absorbed its twin's powers in the graveyard three years earlier. And if Harry decided that this ethereal place was King's Cross, then King's Cross it was.
In tears, Dumbledore told him about the Deathly Hallows. He felt so sorry for himself and his youthful mistakes and Harry found himself compelled to comfort him. Weren't his whining shameful? How could the Headmaster dare to sob, when the creature behind them was agonizing in the indifference of everyone?
Dumbledore finally pulled himself together. He began to monologue about his sister, Ariana, that he might have killed. He also spoke a lot about Grindelwald, his brilliant and ephemeral best friend, whom he had been forced to send to Nurmengard. Harry assumed that, for once, Rita Skeeter had been right. The two men probably messed around. In any case, speaking of Grindelwald caused tears to reappear in the old man's eyes.
Dumbledore's complaints were now so strong that Harry could hardly hear the groans of the creature behind them. He did not know why, but despite his disgust, he did not want the thing to die without him noticing it. If at least one person was there for its last moments...
Dumbledore dried his tears. He described with febrility his lust for the Resurrection Stone. When he had it in his hands, he had even forgotten it was a Horcrux and he had put the ring on his finger, expecting to see Ariana again. The Headmaster denigrated himself with a passion that annoyed Harry. It looked like he was hoping to hear "I forgive you" or "Everything will be fine now". When he called Harry Master of Death, the thing uttered the most desperate cry.
But Dumbledore continued to babble, without turning around. He did not seem to have heard the creature's noise. He asserted that Voldemort was not interested in the Hallows and that he had sought the Elder Wand for the sole purpose of defeating Harry's wand.
“He would not think that he needed the Cloak, and as for the stone, whom would he want to bring back from the dead? He fears the dead. He does not love.”
Dumbledore was certainly right, Voldemort probably did not love anybody. But to think it was one thing, to affirm it was another.
Who are we to do that? How could we psychoanalyze Tom Marvolo Riddle? Harry wondered.
xXx xXx xXx
Dumbledore spoke for a long time. When at last he shut up, nothing could be heard but the feeble sounds of the agitated creature, moaning a few yards from them. During these long minutes, as if a soft, slow snow was falling on him, Harry gradually became aware of what was to happen now.
“I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?”
“That is up to you.”
“I’ve got a choice?”
“Oh yes,” Dumbledore smiled at him. “We are in King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to . . . let’s say. . . board a train.”
“And where would it take me?” said Harry, worried.
Harry glanced again at the raw-looking thing that trembled and choked in the shadow beneath the distant chair.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry,” Dumbledore said sharply. “Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say good-bye for the present."
Harry took an instant to think and finally made his choice.
Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. But he was determined.
He and Dumbledore stood up and they stared at each other for a long time.
Harry nearly asked if all of this was real or if it was happening inside his head, but he held back. The question seemed stupid. He would certainly have asked if he had planned to return to the Forbidden Forest. Yes, if had decided to go back there, the answer would have been useful.
But for the moment there was something that seemed more important to him than killing Lord Voldemort.
xXx xXx xXx
Harry eventually went over to the sobbing creature without saying goodbye to Dumbledore, who didn't complain. Harry did not turn to check if he had already left the station. After all, the Headmaster was dead, he could not be offended by Harry's lack of politeness.
The teenager kneeled down near the thing and watched it closely. It was still alive. It was hard to get used to its partly burnt, partly oozing surface, but Harry could now look at it without feeling the urge to vomit.
In fact, the more he watched, the more he found its face familiar. Exactly as this place had gradually defined itself as King's Cross, the creature became slowly more and more identifiable.
Harry suddenly felt like a mother who has just given birth and who sees her child for the first time. Even if her baby is deformed and covered with blood, even if its eyes are blind and its cries are ear-splitting, she can see the human being it will slowly become under its wrinkled skin. She loves this piece of premature flesh and she gently hugs it.
In the same way, Harry eventually came to find the little thing was not so ugly. His stomach was filled with a weird affection, one you feel for something you care about. This grotesque creature was like a plant he would have watered every day and he decently could not let wither.
Without thinking, he took the thing in his arms. It had been very easy. Harry had more or less expected it to melt or freeze at his touch, he had thought its skin would peel or its inside would pour out, but the child was as concrete as another child. It was just particularly repulsive.
With delicacy, Harry palpated its crusty skin and, once again, he was surprised to find a very ordinary surface. His hands did not get through the body as if it was made of water or butter. The flesh of the creature was solid as a stone and as soft as a rotten fruit. It was a living being. How could Dumbledore let it die?
Harry tried to cross the thing's eyes but it did not have any. In fact, it was rather as if the wizard's sight was not subtle enough to discern the little being's features. He tried several angles of approach, he even carried the baby at arm's length, but he did not manage to see its eyelids. He gave up.
It was a bit stupid to put down the creature but Harry did not know what to do with it now. Dumbledore had not helped him at all. He knew he had to take care of it so it did not die under that seat. Yet he could not return to the Forest with this fetus and he could not take the train with it either, what would he say to the controller?
Well, actually, could this thing leave limbo?
As he thought too much, Harry's head was spinning. Flashes appeared all around him. He felt bad, oppressed. Very quickly, he no longer had control over his gestures and he could only see non-existent forms. Then, without reason, he bent over the creature and he devoured it.
The little being was definitely very small. It entered easily into Harry's mouth. Still spaced out, the teen swallowed the embryo without chewing. No bones cracked beneath his molars and blood did not spout out of his mouth. His lips remained clean. He felt as though he had committed a horrible crime, but this crime miraculously cured his headache.
When the thing began to slide down his esophagus, kicking softly, he felt a moldy aftertaste on his tongue. It had been more than time to eat it. One moment more and it would have decomposed. Harry had saved it. He did not understand why, but it had to be eaten in order to survive.
The gesticulating creature felt into his stomach and, for the first time since Harry had met it, it relaxed. It was in a belly with reassuring walls, it was warm, it was finally in its element.
Harry caressed his abdomen. It was a bit swollen, like a pregnant woman's. There was inside it an inhuman form of life that he simply could not let go. Even if it was totally fucked up, he had made the right decision.
Only a liar and an utilitarian old man like Albus Dumbledore could ruthlessly let die a fragment of Harry Potter's soul.
Harry watched over his stomach for days. He walked when he felt like it but most of the time he simply stayed on the floor. He found the ground contact comforting. He slept sometimes but he woke up quickly - at least that was what he thought. He was never hungry or thirsty. In fact, he did not want anything except to watch over his belly like a pathetic penguin brooding a dead egg.
During all this time, he saw no train and Dumbledore did not come to visit him. In limbo there were only him, three chairs, and a mutilated Horcrux in incubation.
At last the thing began to hatch.
Harry had became so used to live with indolence that he no longer remembered what a sensation was. At one point, however, he was nothing but pain. It was as if his body had become too narrow, too small for him, and all his joints dislocated.
My skin will break, I'll break, the station will explode!
Everything broke outside and inside him. The shell shattered, scattering shards everywhere, soiling the bright station with pieces of placebo placenta.
One could describe in many different ways what Harry experienced at that time. It was like receiving the cosmos in your body and having to regurgitate all the sharp stars. It was like being in love with a shooting star and dying while giving birth to one of its sparks. It was like believing you are one of Saturn's natural satellites when you actually are a robot sent by NASA, and eventually blew up due to sadness.
In any case, Harry's full body peeled off, it was an unsayable pain and it was a complete transformation. After this episode, he would never be the same again. After having turned into a volcano, he left everything behind him.
Then, he sank into the darkness.
To Be Continued...