Disclaimer: All rights belong to J.K. Rowling, voiding that of original content and characters.
Fate whispers to the warrior,
"You cannot withstand the storm."
The warrior whispers back,
"I am the storm."
Gaunt Shack, Little Hangleton
The winter season faded swiftly on Little Hangleton, the tall hawthorns spotted with green buds and the wind whispering with promises of a cooler spring. The uneven cobblestone streets were littered with piles of muddied snow and strands of grass. During the day, young children could be found running about the melting white layers, reveling in the warmer air, cheeks flushing with life.
Past the village bar, down a narrow path in the midst of the forest was a decrepit little home.
Daylight slipped through the cracks in the wooden slates, illuminating the glistening spiderwebs and the band around Lillian Gaunt's ring finger.
She was only seventeen, slender and beautiful, but deathly pale.
Under the sunlight, Lily looked ill.
She fed the chickens and collected their eggs, lifting her dress to use as a basket. Fleas and maggots swarmed the makeshift coop, fluttering above the disease-ridden corpse of a hen that hadn't survived the winter. With a scrunched nose, the woman used a stick to lift the body. They were to be having chicken stew for dinner, then.
She watered the herb and vegetable garden, struggling to bend over. Hours passed slowly and Lily allotted herself time to rest and rub a bit of aloe on her swollen ankles.
Staring out at the weed-run garden and cloudy skies, she placed a hand upon her heavily rotund stomach. The woman could hardly get up that morning, but she forced herself to stand, fearful of Morfin's reaction if he returned and her chores weren't done.
She wore a drab grey gown, stained with sweat and blood. The clothing Morfin provided her were drab, full of mothballs and threadbare. The entire shack was in a state of neglect, smelling distinctly of mold.
There were three rooms in the shack; a small bedroom, a washroom (with only a washbin, chamber pot and a small rag) and a kitchen consisting of an oven and a sink. Standing heavily, the woman labored over to the stove. The fixings and pipes in the kitchen were old and rusted, the counter splattered with stains. Setting the stove and filling a pot, Lily idly stirred it until the broth began to broil.
As she scraped in chunks of the plucked chicken carcass, the little hellion slammed into her bladder. The child inside her had been causing mischief all day.
To be honest, Lily wasn't certain how far along she was. She'd been living with Morfin for nearly a year, constantly subject to his attentions, before Lily noticed her menses had halted. The fetus could be anywhere from four months to nine months along by now. Lily rather lost track of the time, hoarded here every day.
Her back tensed as the front door slammed open, the dank scent of death and soil stabbing through her melancholy thoughts. The heavy sound of boots and scrape of a chair was familiar.
She turned around, letting her long, scraggly hair fall before her eyes. Once, it had been a vibrant red that glimmered in the sunlight. Now, it was a dull shade of orange, almost brown with filth.
Morfin lounged on the dining chair, lighting a cigar with trembling hands. His coat was unbuttoned, a long scar running across his pale chest. His nipples were erect against the off-white undershirt. He toed off his shoes and lifted his feet to the tabletop. His soles, Lily noted with exasperation, were caked with dirt from digging graves
"Drink. Now," the man thumped the table.
With impassionate, habitual movements, the girl prepared a glass of bitter whiskey. He took a sip and gagged, spraying it onto his wife. "This is rank, cheap shit! Don't we got any better?"
"No," the woman whispered, delicately wiping the spittle from her cheek. She didn't bother to tell him he'd drank it all.
Morfin sneered, muttering vitriol in that strange, serpentine language of his. His English was poor, but you didn't need to talk to bury the dead.
"I'm hungry, bitch," he finally elucidated. "What's a man gotta do to come home to a fully cooked meal from his wife?"
Lily flinched at the word. It reminded her of the pulsing band on her ring finger, the stone carved with an odd, triangular rune. It bound her to him, in a visceral, unconsenting way. They weren't truly married, not legally. She shuddered at the thought of anyone willingly marrying this beast.
She had been only sixteen when Morfin had stolen her off the streets, knocking her unconscious with some unseen force.
Lily had awoken in the dusty sheets of his bed, her favorite sundress torn. Morfin had leered above her, his mouth stretched in a grotesque bastardization of a coy smile. With swift movements, he hiked her dress up to her waist and ran a hand across her inner thighs. He didn't get much farther than that; Lily struck him hard, leaving deep, red scratches across his cheek.
Afterward, there had been a tense, hate-fueled pause consisting only of the two glaring at each other, his bulbous eyes flashing. With a hissed word, Lily's hands were bound above her head and he'd slammed into her, her screams ear-ringing.
Eventually, Lily became numb to the sensations. The days faded into each other, full of pain, desperation, and exhaustion.
It wasn't as though she never attempted to escape.
In fact, her first few months had been wrought with half-hearted escape attempts - each plan more elaborate than the last. She'd knocked Morfin out with a chair once, but the moment she got to the treeline, the wards seemed to flutter around her and Lily was flung backward onto the grass. She'd tried every angle, testing every square inch of the property - but it was as though there was an invisible bubble around the land.
It simply was no longer worth the effort.
While she was working - cooking, cleaning, pleasuring him with her pale skin and plump lips - Morfin liked to talk.
He'd launch into diatribes about sullying himself with a filthy 'Muggle' like her, how he was descended from Salazar Slytherin, a fore-founder of Hogwarts. He told a number of unintelligible anecdotes about love potions, curses and a place called Azkaban.
At first, Lily thought he was simply insane; but Morfin's stories revealed more about his life than she cared to know.
Several years prior, Morfin's little sister, a Squib whore, ugly as a horse's ass - had fallen in love with Thomas Riddle. Poor Merope had been infatuated with the man, working as a handmaiden in order to get close to him.
Morfin, smarter than he appeared, had noticed his sister's starry-eyed looks and came to the correct conclusion. Morfin cursed the Muggle with hives and had thusly been incarcerated for breaking something called the Statute of Secrecy. Along with his father, Morfin was brought to Azkaban to rot.
After a three-year sentence, Morfin returned to an empty home. Merope had taken the chance to flee, leaving Gaunt Shack to crumble and decay further without even a bit of magic to hold it up. With his body failing and his mind clearly gone, Morfin discovered he had no idea how to care for himself. He needed a woman in the house, a wife to bear his brood, carry on the Slytherin line, and to maintain the shack.
Morfin always stressed that he had chosen Lily; he'd selected her from the number of other, worthless muggle girls from Greater Hangleton.
He was disgusted at the thought of touching any Muggle, but Lily was, according to him, too beautiful for her own good. It was her once luscious hair and bright eyes that endeared young Lillian Evans to him.
She'd heard of the Gaunt family, the scandal between the young Riddle scion and the deformed Gaunt girl. The Gaunt family had once been an affluent, if not secluded family until the rumor of inbreeding and a tendency for violence tore their reputation to shreds. They fell into squalor, their bank account empty, with nothing left but their pride.
Morfin was hideously hunch-backed, rail-thin and nearly impotent. He was as ugly as he was mean, but he had a secret.
Lily knew the man had some sort of power over her.
He waved around a gnarled stick and things would happen. With a whispered curse, pain would ricochet through her body. When she dared to backtalk, Morfin would sew her lips shut and fuck her into the mattress, thrilled by her stifled screams and contorted features. As blood dried between her thighs, he would somehow seal the door shut - despite it being bereft of a lock.
Placing a hand on her stomach, Lily wondered if her child would be the same as it's father; just as freakish, just as cruel. It was horrifying thought. She wasn't a religious woman, but the girl prayed harder than ever that the child died during childbirth.
Five Years Later
When Lily went into labor on the thirty-first of July, Morfin doused her with alcohol, the nicest thing he'd ever done for her. Hours passed and Lily nearly bled out on the bed sheets. Morfin had stemmed the bleeding with a clotting spell.
At midnight, Hadrian Gaunt was born prematurely, with small, pale limbs and dark, squinting eyes - but he was alive. Lily weakly breast-fed her son and slept the next few days away, regaining her strength. This was a small reprieve.
Hadrian had been a troubled child, prone to insomnia, colic and sudden bouts of fevers; but Lily tried, damnit. She did everything she could to reduce Morfin's interactions with the boy, taking it upon herself to raise the child right in this small, diseased hovel.
She spent every day with Harry, hardly able to care for herself. Her stomach was wrought with stretch marks, her hair falling out in clumps, chest heavy with the weight of her breasts. The only good thing was that Morfin found her entirely unattractive.
Harry, too, was malnourished and skeletal, a sad sight for any mother. Lily knew that what little food Morfin brought home was hardly enough for a growing boy.
Still, she persisted. It was all she could do.
Hadrian was nearly five now and in a constant state of anxiety. His heart thumped wildly, adrenaline soaring, thin, coltish limbs trembling in a barely-perceptible way. This restlessness was largely due to the influence of his mother, who always seemed on the precipice of paranoia.
On the nights Morfin disappeared to drink in the village, Lily would creep into Harry's cot - on the floor of the living area - and whisper promises of what might be.
She spun stories of extravagant journeys and exotic, fantastic worlds Harry could only dream of. Her arms would wrap around him, their bodies pressed close, but he could see in the woman’s skittish green eyes that she was thousands of miles away.
Lily recited the story of Rapunzel, a beautiful princess who was locked in a tower by a cruel sorcerer. She threaded her fingers through Harry's long, black hair, voice silk-like.
" -and Rapunzel's glistening golden curls kept growing, and growing, until one day she used her hair as a rope to climb down."
"Why didn't she just kill the sorcerer and take its magic?" the boy asked in that small, too-serious voice.
Lily grimaced at the casual mention of murder.
That man was fond of telling Harry about mudbloods and how they 'stole' magic from purebloods - only to point out Harry's own half-blood status. "You're filthy blooded, you know that, boy? If you weren't mine, I'd have my snakes choke you in your sleep."
"I don't know, Harry," Lily said tiredly. "It's just a story."
Harry snuffled tiredly, too used to his mother's quiet dismissal of his questions. "When's father coming back?" he murmured, bringing a thin blanket to his chin.
It was rare that Morfin made it home after a night drinking, even rarer that he returned even somewhat lucid. But the last time Morfin stumbled into the shack, close to midnight, he'd tripped over Harry's cot. In a fit of rage, the man held Harry and choked him in his sleep, just like he'd always threatened. It took Lily's screams and sharp nails clawing at him for Morfin to relinquish his grip. Harry's trachea had been damaged and the boy developed an awful asthmatic reaction to stress.
"We've moved your bed since the last time, darling," Lily trembled. "It - it won't happen again."
With that consolation, the soft hissing of nearby serpents lulled Harry to sleep. The sporadic footfalls of Morfin returning home the next morning did not wake him.
Lily, however, was trained to the sound of her husband climbing into bed. Green eyes jerked open as she felt hot breath on her nape.
"So sorry," Morfin slurred, grasping her waist. "Didn't mean to wake you."
Sometimes, Morfin was a violent drunk. Other times, he was tender and careful - perhaps too entrenched in his addled fog to recall his core personality traits. This happened once in a blue moon, but his kindness was more torturous than Lily could handle.
She hated that he made her like it.
The man turned Lily on her side and gently pressed his thin lips to her collarbone. "You've given me such a beautiful boy," he whispered, caressing her stomach proprietarily. "He looked so very sweet in the moonlight."
Lily tensed, danger thrumming through her nerves. "Don't you dare touch him," her voice was small, but fierce, a hint of the girl she once was.
Morfin smiled, yellowed teeth bared. "No need, when I've such a willing body here."
With that, he thrust into her, swallowing her screams with his lips.
The man scrambled for his wand a little while later, pressing the tip to her stomach. A burning heat spread through her, accompanied by the wet squelch of his release. Lily remembered this spell all-too-well.
Morfin was greatly infertile, but magic could fix anything temporarily.
Hot, wet breath brushed against her ear. "Give me a little girl this time."
The Next Morning
It was raining.
The cotton blanket he'd been wearing had fallen away in the night, leaving him chilled to the bone. Harry sat up in bed, staring listlessly at the pool of liquid on the rotted floors. The shack was prone to leaks - usually, his mother was quick to patch them up, but she wasn't getting out of bed today.
It was one of her sleepy days.
The boy glanced up as a cold drop fell to his forehead. A shiver traveled down his spine.
Harry pulled his knobbly knees to his chest and slipped them beneath his thin grey tunic, the fabric stretching.
His father clomped out of bed, half-dressed as usual. The man looked hungover today, his features twisted. Harry watched as the man downed a vial of hangover cure, the taste foul. Morfin was not skilled at potion-making, but the slop he brewed worked well enough.
"You'll be doing your mother's chores today, hatchling," he spoke in the serpent tongue. "Lillian isn't feeling well."
Harry nodded meekly. "Yes, sir," the sibilant response came naturally.
Morfin grunted and tugged on a coat. "Put a bucket under those leaks, won't you?"
Harry waited until Morfin left before getting up.
With soft footsteps, he peered into his mother's room, seeing her lying as still as a corpse on the bed. Fear coursing through him, Harry waited until she took in a shallow breath before he released a relieved one.
He shut the door softly.
Taking a piece of yellowing fruit, Harry ate it absently, placing bowls and pots beneath the leaks. Slipping on one of his father's large coats, Harry collected scraps of food from the rubbish pile. Once outside, he fed the chickens and locked them in their coop. He had trouble reaching the lock, but climbed onto a wooden crate and fumbled with the latch until he found success.
Raindrops fell from thunderous clouds, splashing onto the leaves of the dutifully-kept cabbage patch and carrot tops. The lengthy vines of a domesticated Devil's Snare reached out from the shade, stretching its limbs to soak in a nearby puddle.
Lifting his arms, Harry turned in a full circle. Streams of rainwater traveled, cold and wet down the contours of his face. Mud streaked through his hair, the hopelessly curly strands tangling with one another, plastering his long fringe to his forehead.
A tendril of the Snare flicked in annoyance, flecks of soil landing on his face.
Giggling, Harry wiped his cheeks and swooped down to cup a handful of dirt, molding it into a ball. Tongue peeking out the corner of his mouth, Harry pulled his arm back, aimed . . . and fired. His missile sailed toward the pile of Snare, splashing over the green limbs.
Underground, a long tendril crept towards him, wrapping around his ankle and yanking off his boot. Slipping, Harry hit the grass, frigid water soaking into his back.
"Why, you little -" he growled, pouncing up. As he made to pry his boot from the ground, the Devil's Snare attacked. He screamed shrilly, raising his arms as mud flew through the air, decorating his pale skin and catching in his hair. The assault ceased and, breathing heavily, Harry looked down at his body.
Wiping a bit of dirt from his lip, Harry glared playfully at the Snare, green eyes practically glowing the in grey lighting. "Now you're asking for it."
Face clenching, Harry concentrated on the dirt beneath him. A tingling sensation built up in the back of his head, giving him a slight migraine. Harry didn't let this stop him, and it paid off.
"Oh!" he gasped, startled. The ground had begun to shudder, the rain seeming to slow midair.
Swiftly refocusing, Harry urged the dirt to rise higher, collecting into a floating orb of dirt and water. The effort to move it even a few feet was tiring, but he managed to inch it over the tangled mess of Devil's Snare. Quivering, the plant braced itself as Harry let it collapse, mud and muck cascading across the soaked green limbs.
Defeated, the Snare slumped and curled in on itself.
Harry let out a victorious shout.
A strangled noise came from behind him.
Harry twirled around, a delighted grin on his face. "Did you see it? Did you see what I did?"
Lily stood at the door of the shack, back stooped, arms squeezing her stomach. Her green eyes were lit with an emotion Harry had never seen fixed upon him before. Fear. Horror. Hatred.
Lily had been awoken from her stupor by the sounds of shouts and giggles from the yard. Sitting up in bed, Lily realized abruptly that she'd never heard her son laugh before. It was almost a relief to hear him acting so normal.
Then, she realized - this was no laughing matter.
Harry's smile fell away and Lily seemed to snap out of her daze. "I saw it," she said slowly. "Come along, Harry," Lily stepped forward, twitching as the rain dampened her shoulders. "Let's wash off that filth before your father returns."
A small hand tentatively clasped hers.
Lily walked with an imperceptible limp, wincing every few steps. She led him to the washroom and filled the basin with water. The grayish soap bubbles made it seem polluted. Harry stripped his dirty clothing and timidly stepped into the basin. "It's c - cold," his teeth chattered.
"Just get in," Lily said, sweeping up his legs and dunking him into the bath. A rough hand scrubbed a rag across his front, removing the grime and sweat covering his skin.
"Mummy," Harry hissed, writhing away. "It hurts. Please stop."
Harry was unaccustomed to this sort of aggression from his mother. Most days, Lily would clean him tenderly, washing the dried blood off his welts and avoiding the discolored bruises marring his small body.
"You shouldn't have been playing in the mud," she said unsympathetically, bringing the rag to his back. "What if I hadn't woken up and Morfin returned to see you tracking mud all over the place, hmm?"
Ashamed tears slipped from the corners of his eyes, mixing with the streaks of water falling like dew drops down his cheekbones.
Without warning, Lily ducked his head underwater. She lathered his hair painfully, Harry's neck pulsing with stretched muscles and blue-tinted veins. Harry's ears went deaf as the claustrophobic pressure surrounded him. Back arching, he writhed weakly, feeling his mother press down his scalp. He screamed underwater, bubbles rippling to the surface.
Lily's thoughts were running dark and rampant.
Harry was a freak, just like Morfin. He was unnatural, evil, devil's spawn. He was -
No longer struggling.
His hair drifted in the water like a dark halo, his eyes slipped shut.
Lily gasped and yanked her son upwards. Harry resurfaced with choking, tremulous coughs, his eyes bloodshot and throat sore from his muffled screams.
His naked body was pulled into his mother's lap, bath water soaking into her dress. He struggled to catch his breath, water spluttering from his lips.
"I'm so sorry, oh, my boy - my boy - " she whispered frantically, rocking them back and forth. Harry didn't respond, green eyes wide and fear-struck.
There was no denying Harry was a timid boy, fearful of many things.
Harry was scared of his father, naturally, and the serpents Morfin often tormented him with. He was afraid of things that went bump in the night, of fire and belts, his arms scattered with cigar burns and his back laced with long scars.
Often, when the chickens snapped at him, he had to resist a startled yelp. He didn't like the crows that pecked at the chicken carcasses, or the hunting dogs that howled in the distance, or the sound of thunder cracking like a belt.
He didn't like it when Lily told stories of wicked witches that trapped children and princesses in eternal sleeps, gingerbread houses, and castles covered with vines. He was raised to believe in monsters.
He was terrified of being alone, Morfin leaving them to starve and waste away in this nightmarish shack. It was a legacy, a fear passed from mother to child.
Lily was the one person Harry could rely on.
She was the woman who raised him, protected him, fed him, bathed him, cherished him, wiped his tears and cleaned his wounds -
But until now, it never occurred to him to be afraid of his mother.
Seven Months Later
Yet another long morning crept by at Gaunt Shack, the shimmering sun disappearing into the horizon. Lily sat on a dining chair, pulled out to sit under the sun.
A tattered book was in her hands, the dirty cover nearly unreadable. The well-loved pages were dog-eared, open to a page somewhere in the middle. She read tiredly, her voice barely above a whisper, though the breeze carried it just fine.
" - the young girl, intrigued by the castle, wandered off to find a forbidden wing where she found the Beast's old bedchambers. In the bedroom, illuminated by moonlight, was a glass container holding a beautiful, enchanted rose. "
Harry has heard this story time and time again. He glanced down at his hands, the appendages buried deep into dry earth, specs of brown crawling up the pale skin of his arms. A patch of withered, grey petals sat on his lap. He sneezed lightly.
"Its petals had begun to fall, one by one, fluttering gently through the air before landing. Just as the girl was about to touch it, the Beast arrived, furious. The girl ran as far and as fast as she can, into the cold winter night. A pack of wolves appeared, yipping at her h . . . heels - " Lily grimaced, placing a hand on her stomach. Harry didn't look up, too familiar to his mother's occasional bouts of belly pains.
Lily told him he was to be having a little brother or sister soon, but Harry thought they were rather mean. The baby made his mother vomit every day for an entire month, doing somersaults inside of her tummy.
"Just - just then, the Beast came tearing through the forest," she forced out, breathing heavily through her nose. "He scared away the wolves, but was i - injured. The princess couldn't decide whether to run or - oh, shite." Lily gasped out, struggling to stand.
Harry looked up just as her book fell to the grass, a trickle of dark, thick blood staining the pages. The boy scrambled out of the dirt, darting over to his panting mother. Her face was pale with panic.
"What's happening? Is the baby - "
Harry flew forward to catch his mother from collapsing. She was heavy on his small body, but her hands on his shoulders kept her from collapsing. The older woman hunched over, murmuring nonsensically. “Bedroom. Bring me . . . .bring me to the bedroom."
“Oh, mummy, ” he whispered, clasping her hands and pulling her inside. Lily's dress had begun to soak up the blood. “Come, let’s lie you down.”
The dark and musty room was decorated with a bed, a small desk and a bookshelf filled with leather-bound tomes. Daylight streamed through a yellowing windowpane, the view distorted by grime. Lily let out a delicate cough. As she laid back onto the tiled sheets, Harry squeezed Lily's hand tightly. "What's happened?"
Lily pinched her eyes shut. "The baby, it's . . . it's early. Too early."
"I don't know what to do, mummy, I don't - "
The woman squeezed his hand, certainly leaving finger-shaped bruises. "Just . . . be with me."
The next few hours were a blur of red and echoing screams.
Lily's legs were spread and caked with fluids, her skin speckled with sweatdrops. Harry had to resist gagging at the smells. He knew this was very serious. And even though the wizard could've lessened Lily's pain, he was glad Morfin wasn't there. Morfin didn't deserve to be there.
When Harry held the small body of his sister, he knew instantly something was wrong.
She was very pale, dark lashes closed over soft, smooth skin. Swallowing tightly, Harry pressed trembling fingers to the child's cool cheek. He tapped it lightly, stomach sinking.
"Mumma, she's not . . . " He looked up. Lily's breathing had slowed, eyes fluttering. Carefully cradling the baby's head, he placed his sister into a pile of bloodied sheets. Harry moved to sit next to his mother on the mattress. "It's over, mummy," he said encouraging, petting her hair. "The baby is out, you can feel better now."
Lily raised a trembling hand, wrapping his fingers around Harry's wrist. She kissed his pulse gently, labored breath tickling the tender skin. "My good, brave, beautiful boy," Lily murmured. She was deathly pale, green eyes dull.
It was then Harry noticed Lily hadn't stopped bleeding. The rivulets were still streaming, dribbling down the sides of the bed. Harry's eyes widened. He hurried to staunch the bleeding with a bunched up towel, chest heaving with quiet sobs. He'd never felt so helpless before. She wouldn't die. She couldn't die.
"I'll - I'll get you a doctor from the village, Mumma," Harry promised, stuffing the blanket between her legs. "I'll be right back, I promise,"
"Harry," she whispered, unable to reach toward him. "You are so loved. So loved. "
"No! Don't - don't do anything, I'll be right back," Harry backed away quickly. He couldn't just watch as she died, he had to try something. "Don't you dare die!"
Lily gave a twitch of a smile, her head tipping into the pillow.
Harry stumbled away as her eyes fell shut.
He stormed outside, unaware of the state of his clothing and hands. It was as though he'd been through a bloodbath. The boy looked like a wolf-raised child, back hunched and body tremulous as if prepared to launch himself at the nearest unsuspecting prey.
Thicks tree branches blew about the property, the sun barely visible through the tall branches. Sticks and leaves crunched under his shoes as Harry ran through the treeline.
He breathed heavily, feeling a sudden resistance.
A heavy weight tried shoving him back. Sweat pooled on his forehead as he took a pained step forward, hands in front of him. He pushed. The ward formed a concave and sprang back with an audible pang.
"No, no, no," Harry whispered frantically, shoving against the invisible barrier. "Please, please, I need to get through - " The wards reacted again.
Harry let out a wailing keen, landing painfully on his bottom. "I can't - " he shoved the barrier, tears and snot trailing down his face. He planted his feet into the ground, pushing at the air. He was desperate. "Please!"
His muscles trembled, vibrating intensely, before he was forcibly tossed through the air. Harry's head smacked against a rock, ears ringing as though an explosion had occurred.
Everything went black.
Harry blinked the spots from his eyes, groaning. The sky above him was dark, the silhouettes of the trees looming over him like the spectre of death.
Grief raptured through him like the blade of a knife. His mother was dead and he couldn't do anything. Harry couldn't go back. He couldn't see her dead face, her hair lank, hands forever clenched in pain. "Too late," he mumbled, helpless. "Too late."
When Morfin returned a few hours later, it was to his son, sitting hunched on the front stoop.
"What're you doing, boy?" Morfin barked out in Parseltongue, the sound harsh and grating. Harry slowly raised his head. He hid his bloodshot eyes behind long, tangled fringe. "Where's your mother?"
Harry let out a long, shaky breath. It was then that Morfin noticed the splotches of red on Harry's tunic. "She . . . she had the baby," Harry whispered dully in Parseltongue. "B - but it wasn't breathing. And mum, she wouldn't stop b . . .bleeding. There was so much blood."
He looked down at his hands as though they were foreign to him.
Morfin's beady eyes narrowed dangerously. He shoved past Harry in a rough rejection. "That stupid, Muggle wench - " His father was swearing. He kicked the wall of the shack in frustration.
Flares of hate shot through Harry.
He watched Morfin march into the bedroom, mouth opening in an aborted protest.
With a sickening crack, Morfin broke Lily's clenched fingers, removing her wedding ring. The purple stone glinted darkly. "You won't be needing this anymore."
There was a moment of silence, Harry's hands clasped over his mouth to keep from shouting, from raging, from sobbing desperately.
"I ain't burying another body today. Incendio," Morfin whispered.
Smoke trickled into the kitchen, itching Harry's nostrils.
"No. No!" Harry dashed over to shove at Morfin's wand arm. "Don't touch her!" It was too late. Lily's body and the mattress were aflame, the scent of burning flesh overwhelming.
Morfin snarled at his son, lips pulling back to show jagged, yellow teeth. "Your mother was weak, boy. And she spawned a weak brat too," Flames licked at the ceiling, barely controlled by Morfin's wand. The boy closed his eyes, unable to watch as her body was consumed, the flames casting eerie shadows across a face he always found beautiful. "Get out! Out! Before I make you join her."
He shoved Harry to the floor, the boy landing next to the balled up bedsheets.
Without thinking, Harry grabbed the bundle, feeling the slight weight of the stillborn, and fled the room. It was too late for his mother, but Harry wouldn't let Morfin touch his baby sister.
Harry didn't return to the Shack that night.
Under the shrouded glow of the moon, he used his father's grave-digging shovel to make a small hole in front of a hawthorn tree. The small body was still wrapped, unmoving, but Harry took the utmost care placing her into the soil. He left his mother's book of fairytales on top, kissing the cover.
With shallow, shuttering breaths, Harry filled the grave and patted at the mound. The grave was so small, he doubted Morfin would notice. After a moment of consideration, Harry lifted a trembling finger to trace the tree bark. He concentrated with all his might, refusing to even blink. The words 'Baby Lily' burned into the tree, crude and nearly illegible.
Harry felt the sticky tingle of rain against his nape.
Heavy mist covered the night sky, droplets trickling over the upturned soil. Perhaps flowers would grow there, Harry hoped, imagining bright white flowers of his mother's namesake. As the rain picked up, Harry's body turned pink as the blood washed from his skin.
The rain revealed a peculiar scar on his forehead; he must have bumped his head when tossed from the wards. The pain didn't register, and even if it had, Harry wouldn't have cared.
He sat in the grass and lifted his face to the sky.
Tired and alone, Harry almost wished he could join his sister in the grave.
Every night, Morfin slept with his wand tucked beneath his pillow.
At a moment's notice, he could jerk awake and hex the living daylights out of whoever disturbed his sleep. Usually, this was Harry.
Harry loved nothing more than the days Morfin was pissed and hungover, sleeping deeply in his room without a chance of waking. Sleeping pills, that Morfin had stolen from the village pharmacy, were open and tipped over on his bedside table. Morfin was so fully unconscious that his fingers slackened from their iron grip, loose enough for Harry to take his wand.
The boy was tiptoeing, leaning forward on the soles of his feet, carefully avoiding the creaky floorboards. Keeping his breathes shallow, Harry's frail figure crept into Morfin's bedroom, eyes trained on his father's unmoving body. Morfin looked peaceful while asleep. The hard lines of his face were smooth, body relaxed and skin warm.
Was this what his mother woke to every morning, crawling out of bed early to make breakfast and do the chores, knowing that in the span of a moment, this vulnerable man could become a lecherous, cruel king of the house?
Harry wondered why Lily never tried to kill the man.
Harry wanted to, everyday day. And why shouldn't he? He had access to kitchen knives. The snakes that Morfin controlled were more found of Harry, simply because he didn't nail them to the door. He could do it. He could take his father's wand and - even if he couldn't cast the killing curse - stab it through the man's eye socket and pierce the mound of lard that Morfin called a brain.
He would be free, wouldn't he?
The magic dome around the Gaunt shack bent only to Morfin. Morfin had told him, time and time again, that if he killed his father, Harry would be forever trapped in this dreary hell. There would be no escape. No food. Just Harry and his father's rotting corpse.
Harry's breath picked up.
He knew better to trust his father, but wouldn't anything be better than the alternative?
With light touches, Harry removed the long, scratched cherry wand from Morfin's fist. The man grunted in his face, breath foul.
Once I leave, Harry thought, his father will eventually drink himself to death or be killed in a bar fight. He could have a stroke and fall forward into one of the graves he painstakingly dug for the Muggles. The snakes could fight back one day and swallow his body whole. Morfin would meet his maker one day.
Too bad Harry wouldn't be there to see it.
Every second that passed was tense, the only sound Morfin's deep snores. Harry was amazed at the man's insane ability to sleep, as though he had no troubles, no worries keeping him up at night.
Harry didn't have that peace. Harry rolled Morfin's wand in his hand, unsure whether to leave it behind or take it with him. He'd be leaving his father defenseless, powerless, and this was Morfin's greatest fear.
Feeling vindicted, he tiptoed from the room.
It was so dark. It was so cold. He sat there, rocking back and forth on his little mat to keep awake, jerking at every creak of the floorboards.
From Morfin's bedroom, the man grunted loudly, turning fitfully on his side. Meanwhile, Harry's entire being, from nerve end to nerve end, lit up with excitement.
Harry had few possessions of his own. They were stuffed into a burlap sack sitting on the kitchen table. Worn, ragged clothing. An old book of potions. A set of charcoal pencils. The baby blanket his mother had knitted for Baby Lily. A stag, carved out of wood.
Harry's arms closed around the sack, his heart thumping wildly, his eyes burning.
With unsteady feet, he left the shack and followed a short, lavender-framed path to the edge of the wards.
There was a tree there, a hawthorn, its branches tall and reaching. Harry used to climb that tree and stare out over the fields, imagining that he could see the village far-off and unattainable. That was before Lily's death. That was before he buried his little sister beneath the shade of those branches. Spurts of grass had grown over the dirt mound, fresh green strands that were soft to the touch. Harry laid his head down in the dirt, staring up at the tree and the sun flares.
Watching the swaying tree branches and the billowing gold-lined clouds lulled Harry into a light stupor. He tipped his head, pressing his ear to the ground as if listening. He was so, so tired.
He fantasized of phantom fingers threading through his hair.
'The princess couldn't decide whether to run or stay behind to help the Beast. She knew he would die here, left to be ravaged by the wolves. Some part of her wanted him to suffer, to make up for the pain he caused her. Another part, the part that led the princess to take her father's place, knew what was right.'
Lily spoke to him, her pale, freckled hand removing the tangles from his hair. In his dream, she was nothing but a red and green blur, her copper hair like a halo, illuminated by sunlight.
'She brought the Beast back to the castle and bandaged his wounds. As he healed, the Beast slowly opened up to her, like the petals of a flower that blooms only at night. She read to him from her favorite books and told him about her father, the clumsy inventor. In turn, the Beast told her about his mother, a beautiful woman that fell ill when he was but a babe,' red lips stretched in a wry smile. Harry peered up at his mother, feeling something tighten in his chest. 'When the Beast's mother died, he grew dark and bitter, a cruel heart masked by a beautiful face. After the witch's spell, the flesh finally matched the ugliness within. Only one thing could cure his bitter heart.'
'True love,' Harry echoed his mother.
She agreed. 'True love. The sort of love that every man aspires for, but few achieve.'
'But they fell in love, didn't they?' Harry asked his mother. 'When he was about to die, the princess stayed behind. She cried for him. She loved him. The magic made him turn back into a handsome prince.'
Lily's eyes were distant, her lips pressed in a hard line. 'Magic and true love - it's all just a fairytale, Harry.'
Harry considered this briefly, before shrugging idly. He nudged her hand with his head, urging her to continue stroking his hair. 'I think he loved her,' he said. 'I wish I could find my own prince someday, mummy. A knight-in-shining-armor to take us away.'
'Oh, Harry,' she sighed. She shifted, and soft lips pressed to his forehead. 'You're my little prince. Mummy loves you, darling.' Harry mumbled something indecipherable in return. 'Happy birthday, my love . . . '
The memory faded.
Harry ran a hand over his face, pushing away sweat-soaked fringe. He was still outside. And it was sunset. Sitting up, Harry leaned against the hawthorn tree. The bark dug into his spine, the words Baby Lily imprinted on the skin of his back. His fingers curled around his wand.
"Bye, mummy," his murmured. "Love you."
He was seven.
And he was about to do something that might save or ruin his life. Closing his eyes, he remembered the spell Morfin cast to incinerate his mother. The memory was stained into his memory, burrowed into his worst nightmares. Raising the wand, voice trembling . . .
He set fire to the trees.
"I - Incendio."
To be continued . . .