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Embracing His True Self

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Embracing His True Self

Chapter 1

The Dark Lord

"My Lord…" Pettigrew choked, "my Lord…you promised…you did promise."

"Hold out your arm," Voldemort said lazily, his red eyes piercing as he looked around, although he was still keeping an eye on the boy; he did have a knack for escaping. If he wasn't his enemy, he would have had a grudging respect for his abilities, but since the boy's escapes put his plans to ruins more often than not, he wasn't happy in the slightest.

"Oh, Master…thank you, master…" choked Pettigrew, getting dizzy from the loss of blood. He extended his handless arm towards Voldemort, who just laughed coldly at his minion, concealing his surprise that Potter was suppressing his own sadistic amusement at Pettigrew's current predicament. "The other arm, Wormtail."

"Master, please… please…" Pettigrew piteously whimpered, missing the green eyes of his bound prisoner watching him with a great delight that he couldn't quite mask.

Voldemort snatched Wormtail's left arm, Harry noticed, and forced his sleeve up, ignoring the man's snivelling. He noticed immediately a red tattoo, the same design he'd seen projected into the sky at the Quidditch World cup. It was pretty hard to forget, since he'd been accused of firing it into the sky himself. It seemed no matter where he went, whatever he did, he always had people blaming him for something.

"It is back," said Voldemort softly, and Harry couldn't help but remember the Chamber…his voice back then. What had caused him to become so hideously disfigured? Shaking off his entirely inappropriate thoughts, he tried to think of a way to get out of this. He was drawing a blank… he was tied to a bloody tombstone, for Merlin's sake. Damn Dumbledore for not stepping in and preventing him from participating in the tournament. But Voldemort's voice drew his attention back to what was happening around him as he hissed softly, "They will all have noticed it…and now, we shall see…now we shall know…" Then Voldemort touched the tattoo with his finger; just then Harry's scar seared with pain. What had Voldemort just done? Why could he feel what he'd done? This was different than anything else he'd ever felt in relation to his scar before. The tattoo had gone black now, and he watched Pettigrew scream in agony; the sight of his suffering caused his lips to twitch. Hopefully Voldemort would leave it too long and actually kill the snivelling thing.

"How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?" the Dark Lord whispered once more, his red eyes gleaming. "And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"

Return? Oh great, he'd somehow summoned his followers; how many did he have? How did he get out of this? His wand was out of reach; Cedric Diggory was dead and no help at all. He had no idea where he was, or how to get back to Hogwarts. In other words, he was done for. Maybe it was for the best…when he died he wouldn't need to return to the Dursleys. No more abuse, no more pressure, no more looking at the disappointment on everyone's faces when he didn't do what they expected. No more pretence…no more putting up with people who pretended to give a shit.

"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father," Voldemort hissed softly, "A Muggle and a fool…very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child…and I killed my father; see how useful he has proven himself, in death…"

"Too bad they didn't cremate him then," Harry said bluntly, watching the red eyes flash with surprise at his effrontery.

Then Voldemort continued on as if Harry hadn't spoken at all. "You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was…he didn't like magic, my father…he left her and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage…but I vowed to find him…I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name…Tom Riddle…"

"Oh please, you weren't the only one who's had a shit childhood," Harry snapped, his green eyes flashing in barely suppressed fury. How many times had he wished to kill his own so-called family? Each year his imagined retribution got more and more inventive…unfortunately he couldn't. Dumbledore would know within seconds what he'd done.

"Listen to me, reliving family history…" Voldemort said quietly. Did he do anything other than bloody whisper?! Harry snarked silently to himself. "Why, I am growing quite sentimental…But look, Harry! My true family returns…"

"I already know your family history, I got the same talk just before you tried to kill me in the Chamber of Secrets…so please, spare me," Harry said, rolling his eyes and shifting his head from side to side; he ached something fierce. True family? His heart sank at the sight of all the wizards Apparating into the Graveyard. Yes; this day was truly his last. Snakeface thought of them as family? That much he hadn't expected. There was so much he was ignorant of; he wished he had answers.

"Welcome, Death Eaters," Voldemort said. "Thirteen years…thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it was yesterday…we are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"

Harry was beginning to think that Voldemort didn't know how to raise his voice other than to laugh manically. Harry's eyes assessed his surroundings―there were too many Death Eaters, he'd not a hope in hell of getting out of this…hopefully they would end him quickly. He didn't want to count his chickens, after all, the last times had been far from pleasant, even with no attempt at a flash of green light.

"I smell guilt," Voldemort whispered, "There is a stench of guilt upon the air."

That surprised Harry. Really, he could smell like a snake? Then he was bound to smell his fear, and that didn't sit well with him at all.

But Voldemort was still talking. "I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact ― such prompt appearances! And I ask myself…why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their Master, to whom they'd swore eternal loyalty?"

Eternal loyalty? Really? How had he gained so many followers; was the blood supremacy notion really that…twisted in all purebloods?

"And I answer myself," whispered Voldemort, "They must have believed me broken; they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment."

How did Voldemort know all this? Yeah, Pettigrew had spent…thirteen years as a rat, listening to the Weasleys. There was also Jorkins, who had died by Voldemort's hand; he would have gotten all information he possibly could have from her first. If he'd found out about the tournament from her, then it was probable he had gotten more, he mused.

"And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power, in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living?"

He had every Death Eater present frozen stiller than statues; he had them hanging on every word, and if Harry was honest…he would have been as well, if he wasn't about to die. Voldemort had a way with words, even the memory of him at the age of seventeen had, down in the Chamber of Secrets. Licking his dry lips, Harry cursed himself once again for letting his mind wander…he had to figure out a way out of here before he was met with a sticky end like Malfoy had promised, when he was twelve. He would hate to prove the git right ― especially considering he was there…he could see his blond hair shining like a beacon in the stillness.

"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still-greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort…perhaps they now pay allegiance of another…perhaps even to that champion of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore!"

Harry snorted, unable to help himself; that was a new one, he'd never heard Dumbledore called that. Fortunately he didn't think anyone had heard him, since the Death Eaters had all flinched at those words, and began shaking their heads, muttering and denying the accusation levelled their way.

"It's a disappointment to me… I confess myself disappointed."

Then what happened next had even Harry fearful and very nearly showing it: the Death Eaters were kneeling before Voldemort, begging for forgiveness, only to be hit with a spell that must have caused unendurable agony if their screams were anything to go by. Swallowing thickly, Harry realised that this must be the Cruciatus Curse…Moody was right then, it had been a favourite of Voldemort's during the war. His stomach tightened into a knot.

"Get up, Avery," Voldemort softly said, "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years…I want thirteen years of repayment before I forgive you. Wormtail has paid some of his debt already, have you not, Wormtail?"

Harry wondered very briefly why Avery was Avery, yet Voldemort called Pettigrew by his nickname…a nickname that his father James had given him, only to be betrayed by him. Was Pettigrew closer to Voldy? Other than the fact he'd brought him back? He shook off those thoughts, feeling sick.

"You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain, Wormtail. You know that, don't you?" Voldemort asked, as if curious what denial he might get.

Of course; now, that made more sense than Pettigrew actually giving a shit. Sirius and Remus would have been amused to learn that Pettigrew was terrified of them.

"Yes, Master," moaned Wormtail, "Please, master…please…"

"Yet you helped return me to my body," said Voldemort coolly, watching Wormtail sobbing on the ground. "Worthless and traitorous as you are, you helped me…and Lord Voldemort rewards his helpers…"

Harry grimaced in disgust at the sight before him. Pettigrew was more rat than human…then again, Voldemort was more snake than human, but he hadn't always been that way…Pettigrew on the other hand had always been like that, at least according to Sirius. It could have been bitterness speaking, but either way he was dead…there was no way he could survive this, surely? It would take a miracle, and he had a feeling he was all out of them. Ignoring the conversation going on around him, Harry still absorbed the names of those he could for his own sake, should he actually get out of this in one piece. Then hearing Voldemort speaking again caused him to pay attention… missing Death Eaters?

"And here we have six missing Death Eaters…three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return…he will pay. Two who remain my most faithful servants, one of whom has already re-entered my service," Voldemort whispered, sounding thoughtful.

"He is at Hogwarts, my faithful servant…and it was through his efforts that our young friend arrived tonight…" Voldemort continued. "Yes, Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. One might go so far as to call him my guest of honour."

"I'm sorry to say I left my gift behind," Harry said sardonically, his eyes never wavering from Voldemort's.

"Master, we crave to know…we beg you to tell us…how you have achieved this…this miracle…how you managed to return to us…" Lucius simpered ingratiatingly.

Voldemort finally broke eye contact with Harry and turned to Lucius, "Ah, what a story it is, Lucius, and it begins and ends with my young friend here." Harry narrowed his eyes as Voldemort stalked forward towards him, inhaling sharply at the pain in his scar, as Voldemort's long white fingers hovered just inches from his skin. "You know, of course, that they have called this boy my downfall?"

"You all know that the night I lost my powers and my body, I had tried to kill him. His mother died in the attempt to save him ― and unwittingly provided him with a protection I admit I had not foreseen…I could not touch the boy," Voldemort admitted, his red eyes gleaming wickedly as he leaned further into Harry's face; if he'd had a nose, it would have been pressed against Harry's. "His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice…this is old magic. I should have remembered it; I was foolish to overlook it…but no matter, I can touch him now."

Harry bit his tongue, keeping his face impassive despite the agony coursing through him. He'd never allowed his uncle to get any satisfaction from hurting him…so he wasn't going to let Voldemort or the Death Eaters either. Voldemort had come and actually intended to kill HIM; the target wasn't his family…why? It wasn't like he'd gone around killing children, otherwise Hogwarts would have been empty…surely? Why him? What the hell made him so special, that Voldemort would come and personally try to kill him? He'd asked Dumbledore once, but the old wizard had never revealed why. Voldemort laughed in his ear, before turning away from him again to address the Death Eaters.

"I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon me. Aaahh…pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body; I was less than a spirit, less than the meanest ghost…but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know…I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal: to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked…for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done me in. Nevertheless, I was as powerless as the weakest creature alive, and without the means to help myself…for I had no body and every spell which might have helped me required the use of a wand. I remember only forcing myself, sleeplessly, endlessly, second by second, to exist…I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited…surely one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me…one of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body…but I waited in vain…"

"Only one power remained to me. I could possess the bodies of others. But I dared not go where other humans were plentiful, for I knew that the Aurors were still abroad and searching for me. I sometimes inhabited animals ―snakes, of course, being my preference― but I was little better off inside them than as pure spirit, for their bodies were ill-adapted to perform magic…and my possession of them shorted their lives; none of them lasted long…"

Aurors? The Aurors had searched for Voldemort? So they'd known all along that he wasn't really dead? Dumbledore was one thing, but the Aurors, the Ministry…he could barely believe it; those sodding shits, were they manipulating him as well as Dumbledore?

"Then…four years ago…the means for my return seemed assured. A wizard ―young, foolish and gullible― wandered across my path in the forest I'd made my home. Oh, he seemed the very chance I had dreamed of…for he was a teacher at Dumbledore's school…He was easy to bend to my will…he brought me back into this country, and after a while, I took possession of his body, to supervise him closely as he carried out my orders. But my plans failed; I did not manage to steal the Philosopher's stone. I was not to be assured immortal life. I was thwarted…thwarted, once again, by Harry Potter…"

"If it's any consolation, you wouldn't have been able to get the stone," Harry muttered mulishly.

"The servant died when I left his body, and I was left as weak as ever I had been," whispered Voldemort, having his friends' and family's complete attention, their eyes gleaming as he told his tale to them. "I returned to my hiding place far away, and I will not pretend to you that I didn't fear that I might never regain my powers…yes, that was perhaps my darkest hour…I could not hope that I would be sent another wizard to possess…and I had given up hope, now, that any of my Death Eaters cared what had become of me…"

Harry twitched; Voldemort's voice might sound like it didn't matter but the words that came out of his mouth made it seem like he was truly hurt by their actions, or rather in this case inactions. "Try dying before you escaped," Harry muttered, curious that he couldn't even bring himself to say Quirrell's name; he couldn't be feeling guilty, could he? Harry wanted to laugh at the absurdity of his thoughts. He rolled his eyes, as he was ignored once again as if he hadn't spoken. What a way to treat your guest of honour, Harry wryly thought.

"And then, not even a year ago, when I had almost abandoned hope, it happened at last…a servant returned to me: Wormtail here, who had faked his own death to escape justice. He was driven out of hiding by those he had once counted friends, and decided to return to his master."

"Yes, I'm sure it's less embarrassing for him to blame those the same age as him, than a thirteen-year-old," Harry said, glaring at Pettigrew and causing him to squeak for a second before realizing something, then grinning and giving that same little wave he had last year. Just before he'd turned into a rat and run away like a coward to escape.

"He sought me in the country where it had been long rumoured I was hiding…helped, of course, by the rats he encountered along the way. Wormtail has a curious affinity with rats, do you not, Wormtail? His filthy little friends told him there was a place, deep in an Albanian forest, that they avoided, where small animals like themselves had met their deaths by a dark shadow that possessed them."

"Course he does, he is one," sneered Harry, still staring at Pettigrew; his gaze promised death. This caused the Death Eaters to twitch; their eyes going from Harry to their Lord, surprise flickering in them. Now, if they had dared to interrupt their Lord once, never mind multiple times, they would be writhing in agony by this point. Yet still Voldemort ignored the boy.

"But his journey back to me was not smooth, was it, Wormtail? For, hungry one night, on the edge of the very forest where he had hoped to find me, he foolishly stopped at an inn for some food…and whom should he meet there, but one Bertha Jorkins, a witch from the Ministry of Magic? Now see, this is the way that fate favours Lord Voldemort. This might have been the end of Wormtail, and of my last hope for regeneration. But Wormtail ―displaying a presence of mind I would never have expected of him― convinced Bertha Jorkins to accompany him on a night-time stroll."

Harry snorted blatantly at that, Pettigrew convince anyone to do anything? He grumbled inwardly, the magical bindings didn't leave any room for leeway, none at all. Every time he tried to get out they just tightened uncomfortably around his wrist. Sighing in defeat, he slumped against the statue, taking some pressure off his aching body, sore from having been in the same position so long.

"He overpowered her…brought her to me. And Bertha Jorkins, who might have ruined all, proved instead to be a gift beyond my wildest dreams…for ―with a little persuasion― she became a veritable mine of information. She told me that the Tri-Wizard Tournament would be played at Hogwarts this year. She told me that she knew of a faithful Death Eater who would be only too willing to help me, if I could only contact him. She told me many things…but the means I used to break the Memory Charm upon her were powerful and when I had extracted all useful information from her, her mind and body were both damaged beyond repair. She had now served her purpose; I could not possess her, so I disposed of her."

"Wormtail's body, of course, was ill-adapted for possession; as all assumed him dead, he would attract far too much attention if seen. However, he was the able-bodied servant I needed, and, poor wizard though he is, Wormtail was able to follow the instructions I gave him, which would return me to a rudimentary, weak body of my own, a body I would be able to inhabit while awaiting the essential ingredients for true rebirth: a spell or two of my own invention…a little help from my dear Nagini…a potion concocted from unicorn blood, and the snake venom Nagini provided…I was soon returned to an almost human form, and strong enough to travel." Voldemort murmured, yet his voice was heard clearly.

He invented his own spells, convinced all these people to follow him, yet he looked like a disgusting half-man, clinging desperately to immortality? Why hadn't he just used a vampire? It would have made things a lot less complicated. Then again, not even vampires were truly immortal... Wait... unicorn blood? Why hadn't anyone said anything about unicorns being killed again, like in first year? A cursed life; it was half the unicorn blood and the snake that had caused this appearance. If he was going to die, Harry wished Voldemort would get on with it already, he was getting hungry.

"There was no hope of stealing the Philosopher's Stone any more, for I knew that Dumbledore would have seen to it that it was destroyed. But I was willing to embrace mortal life again, before chasing immortal. I set my sights lower…I would settle for my old body back again, and my old strengths…"

He looked like that before he died? Really? Well, that was unexpected, really. How had he gone from the boy from the diary to this…this…disfigured insane guy? No, not insane…not completely anyway, but not far from it either. Harry twitched out of his thoughts when he heard his name, protection? He called it fucking protection? Biting his tongue, he winced when he tasted the metallic flavour of blood dribbling in his mouth. He'd actually bitten hard enough to draw blood; ouch, that fucking hurt. Of course that was nothing on the feeling of the Cruciatus Curse now being cast upon him. The scream that left his throat was against his will, as agony…unlike anything he'd ever felt... danced over him. Like he'd suffered ten beatings from his uncle simultaneously… Merlin, he'd rather die than continue feeling this but the Slytherin part of him refused…the survivor in him refused to bow down.

Then it was over; the bindings loosened as he slumped against the stone of Tom Riddle. He could barely think, couldn't see…but slowly, eventually his vision returned, although his muscles continued to spasm painfully and were definitely out of his control. He had changed his mind, Voldemort was bloody crazy; meeting blood-red eyes, he stared impassively, not allowing the wizard to intimidate him, refusing to show his fear more determinedly than before. If he were to die today, he would make it so he was at least worthy of remembrance.

"You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me," Voldemort said. "But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger."

"Just a little longer, Nagini," added Voldemort to his snake.

Standing up straighter he turned to Wormtail. "Now untie him, Wormtail and give him back his wand."

Harry couldn't keep from inwardly cursing when the Death Eaters moved in, completing the circle around the two of them and obscuring the entire graveyard from view. He hissed at Wormtail, causing him to stumble back after returning his wand. He should have let them kill him, but the Gryffindor they all expected Harry to be wouldn't kill him, no matter what he did. Maybe the hat had been right, if he had been sorted into his true house... he probably wouldn't be having this problem. Standing up, he was wary of his injured leg; he had been in the hospital wing often enough, how was it that he didn't know how to heal himself? Wait…there was a spell; what was it called again? ...Ferula, that was it, "Ferula," Harry whispered, tapping his wand against his leg, trying it out; he found it wasn't enough to stop his limping anyway.

"You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?" Voldemort softly asked, his red eyes glinting through the darkness.

"Putting on a show isn't going to make it any more impressive when you try and kill someone with only four years of magical education, which by the way sucked," Harry said bitterly, moving again ― damn that spider to hell, it had screwed up his leg big time. "Considering you tried to kill me when I was a baby, you don't really have morals by any stretch of imagination."

Those red eyes flashed again, angrily, before they shifted; his lipless mouth stretched into a smile. "We bow to one another, Harry," he said, "Come now, the niceties must be observed… Dumbledore would like you to show manners; bow to death…Harry." Voldemort bowed slightly but his gaze never wavered from Harry's.

Harry's green eyes bored into his own before the boy mockingly bowed theatrically, his arm waving out, but his eyes also never left Voldemort's. His lips twitching at the aggravated look on the Dark Lord's face; it might be the last time he did.

"And now we duel," said Voldemort, "Crucio!"

Harry hadn't even seen it coming, but considering he was riling Voldemort up he should have expected it. After what felt like nearly an hour, although he knew it was probably less than a minute, the pain stopped. He was on the ground again; he couldn't even remember falling as pain had just ate at him. He had, though, kept a tight grip of his wand, which was a good thing. He contemplated just lying there and allowing Voldemort to end this whenever he felt like it. No, he scowled to himself, if this was his last day on this earth he would make sure he was a worthy opponent to remember.

"That hurt didn't it, Harry? You don't want me to do that again, do you?" whispered Voldemort.

"Sure, I'm a masochist," Harry muttered, rolling over and getting himself to his feet, then standing still as he tried to get over the curse which was playing havoc with his insides. "Who doesn't love being Crucio'ed every day? It's the highlight of my night."

"Crucio!" Voldemort snapped, nearly losing his temper.

Harry however, was ready and leapt aside, almost barrelling into the on-looking Death Eaters but barely preventing himself from doing so. There was a scream that lasted for a few seconds before it quit; the curse had obviously hit one of the Death Eaters. Harry chuckled in amusement; they'd gotten a laugh out of him, so why shouldn't he?

"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted; it was the only real spell he knew. As the spell formed he knew he was dead…he was surrounded by Death Eaters and facing Voldemort. He had only one wand. He was dead meat; it would take a miracle to get out of this, and he was out of miracles and miraculous escapes.

Voldemort however was ready for him and shouted his own lethal spell, "Avada Kedavra!"

The green spell formed and left the Dark Lord's wand. Harry expected it to hit him, but it didn't. Both spells collided in mid air, and a large golden dome began to surround them. A 'whoa' left his lips as both of them were lifted into the air. Both of them were also tightly gripping onto their wands, not wanting to lose them. The simmering gold that connected both their wands splintered, but the connection remained. He was relieved to see that at least Voldemort had no clue to what was happening; that made two of them. Still, Harry didn't want that connection broken, it had saved his life….oh he had no idea just how much it would save his life.

Grunting, Harry used both hands to secure the wand that was vibrating painfully, making it near impossible to keep a hold on it. Then a bead materialised in between them, and began making its way towards his own wand. He didn't want it to reach him, he thought desperately... then suddenly it was moving towards Voldemort's wand.

Green eyes met red as both combatants began to put as much magic into their efforts as possible, but since Voldemort had just been brought back to his body, he was weakening already. Harry, however, was in marginally good health, and his magic was as powerful as ever. The bead finally reached Voldemort's wand... then Harry's jaw dropped when he saw the ghostly figure of Cedric Diggory emerge from the tip of Voldemort's wand.

Breaking eye contact with Voldemort, he looked down at the edges of the dome. The Death Eaters were prowling the circumference; they were worried…about him? If it wasn't for the fact they liked to kill people he would have been touched, really. Turning his attention back to his opponent, Harry saw another figure had emerged from the wand, walking stick and all!

"He was a real wizard, then?" the old man asked, causing Harry's jaw to drop. It was the Muggle from his dream…it had been real... then how? How could he see through Voldemort's eyes? No, it hadn't been through Voldemort's eyes….he'd seen the Muggle first…then… Harry swallowed thickly― the snake?! There was something wrong with that. How could he have seen though the eyes of the snake? "Killed me, that one did…you fight him, boy…" the shade of the old man demanded.

Then another figure emerged, one he realized had to be Bertha Jorkins.

"Don't let go now!" she cried "Don't let him get you Harry ― and don't let go!"

Harry rolled his eyes, if he heard that one more time he was going to explode, he got the picture. That was until the next person who came out…was someone he couldn't ever get mad at, despite the fact he never really knew her. His mother, Lily Evans-Potter.

"Your father's coming…he wants to see you…it will be alright…hold on…" Lily said to her son.

"Alright? I'm surrounded by Death Eaters and don't have a way out!" Harry cried, his exasperation obvious. Dumbledore hadn't made sure he knew how to defend himself; he was alone as always, trying to get himself out of messes Dumbledore had started.

"When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments… but we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts…do you understand, Harry?" James said, his voice distant as though driving through a tunnel. It was obvious Voldemort couldn't hear what was being said, although he was otherwise occupied by the ghosts of his victims…Voldemort's face was blanched white with fear, a sight Harry never thought he would see. So that's how he would get back; if only he'd known he would have been able to get away earlier, before Pettigrew reached him after killing Cedric Diggory.

"Yes," said Harry, his sweat making it damn near impossible to keep a tight grip on his wand.

"Harry…take my body back, will you? Take my body back to my parents?" Cedric Diggory asked.

Harry blinked at the figure of Cedric Diggory, had he just asked him that? Here he was, fighting for his very life; after putting up with all the shit of them believing he'd put his name in the goblet for the sake of mere fame… he dared ask this of him? "I will," Harry said automatically, it was, after all, what everyone would want of him.

"Do it now," James said, "Be ready to run. Do it now…"

"Now," growled Harry, yanking fiercely; as the connection broke all the ghostly figures zoned in on Voldemort, giving him the chance to escape, helping him. Putting aside all thoughts of how much agony coursed through him, he ran like he'd never run before, his adrenaline helping keep him going, temporarily suspending all the pain he felt for a brief moment. Never running in a straight line, throwing in dodges so he didn't get hit in the back by any spells, finally he fell over the body of Cedric Diggory. Turning back he saw Voldemort's attention was now on him. "Accio!" he cried, summoning the cup.

"Looks like you'll need to feed Pettigrew to Nagini now, since I'm out of the picture…" Harry hissed, slipping into Parseltongue just as he saw the look of surprise once again on that face. He snatched the cup in mid-air, and Voldemort's surprise turning to rage was the last thing he saw before he was thumping down on the grass once again at Hogwarts.

------0

"Harry! Harry!" called a voice as arms roughly grabbed him and turned him over. He wasn't surprised to find it was Albus Dumbledore's worried face hovering over his own. The old man should be worried; Voldemort was back, and he'd almost died because of Dumbledore's damn incompetence. Voldemort's words rang in his ears 'protected greater than the boy even realized' and that hadn't meant the blood wards, since he'd mentioned them along with whatever other protection he meant. It made him sick and furious…if he found out someone had been watching him being abused and had done nothing, that was it, he was done.

"He's back," Harry rasped, "Voldemort's back."

"What's going on? What's happened?" asked Fudge, his face staring down at the two, pasty white and terrified. "My god ― Diggory! Dumbledore, he's dead!"

Things faded out of focus; he could feel someone standing him up, but his leg just about gave out. Someone was helping him stay upright as everyone around them panicked. Harry's vision swam out of focus once again; he was finding it nearly impossible to remain conscious. He could hear voices but he was unable to focus on what they were saying. Until he was grabbed once again, and a firmer voice was talking to him.

"It's alright, son, I've got you…come on…hospital wing…" Moody demanded.

"I should stay," Harry said, trying to get Moody off him; there was a bloody spy at Hogwarts, he wasn't taking any chances. He doubted it was Moody, they wouldn't use someone so close to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore would have known it wasn't his friend.

"You need to lie down…now," Moody insisted as they left the tournament grounds, until all that could be heard was the clunking of Moody's foot.

"What happened, Harry?" asked Moody.

"Cup was a Portkey," Harry said tersely, "Took me and Cedric to a graveyard…and Voldemort was there…Lord Voldemort…"

"The Dark Lord was there? What happened then?" asked Moody, surprised when the boy stopped.

"The what?" Harry asked, gripping his wand and raising it against the Auror…the only people he'd heard calling Voldemort that so far were his followers. 'My faithful is already at Hogwarts'; a shiver ran down his spine. He was alone with a Death Eater; he couldn't take any more tonight.

"What are you doing, Potter? Put the wand away," Moody demanded, trying to stare him down.

"How the hell did you fool Dumbledore?" asked Harry. The Poly-juice potion... the ingredients Snape had accused him of stealing. So who was it? He had no idea, and Voldemort hadn't been very forthcoming about it either. He was impressed despite himself, unless...unless Dumbledore had known but allowed it to continue under his nose?

"Did he forgive them, the other Death Eaters?" Moody wildly asked, his wand aimed now at Harry.

"Stupefy! Stupefy, stupefy!" Harry fired, just as voices could be heard at the entrance hall. Moody just grinned sadistically, moving out of the way of Harry's spells, due to his exhaustion he wasn't able to move all that fast.

"Protego! Harry! What are you doing?" Dumbledore demanded after shielding himself from the stunning charm, his shocked blue eyes gazing at Harry in surprised disappointment.

"Don't let him get away!" Harry hissed as Moody ran; the others just let him through. When Harry tried to run after him Dumbledore stopped him. "He's getting away!"

Then in the distance they all saw the wooden leg fly off, and in its place was suddenly a real leg. Then the hair changed, becoming longer and greasier. The figure continued to run, leaving behind nothing but a circular object they all knew to be an eye, Moody's famous spelled eye, and the wooden leg in its wake. Belatedly spells began to fly after him, but it was too late; whoever it was…was gone.

"Damn it!" snarled Harry, forcing himself out of Dumbledore's hold. Why did nobody ever bloody listen? He had to lean against the corridor wall, unable to stay standing on his own power as his legs continued to shake. If he hadn't been used to pain...he doubted very much he would have been able to move from where the portkey had landed him.

"Was that who I think it was?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes wide with apparently shock staring at the school gates where the figure had last been seen. Then he realized something else. "Where is Alastor?" his eyes zoning around as if he suspected the Auror to appear out of nowhere.

"It must have been Poly-Juice potion; he must be alive and close by," Severus stated sharply, his face impassive before turning to lead the search. Not out of worry for the Auror becuase quite frankly he hated the old wizard, but becuase he wanted to see him at his weakest. That and to work off some steam, the Dark Lord was back...and Severus honestly didn't know how to feel about it.