You know the Spell. Do it. Do it now!
Harry does know the Spell. It's haunted his dreams all his life. That spark of green, those two words, the cut-off scream of the victims, his own mother. To cast the spell, one has to mean it, has to want to kill. Has to be capable of it.
Bellatrix's curls are bouncing as she heaves for breath, her eyes wide. She looks unhinged, not afraid. She's giggling before his wand because she doesn't think he can do it, doesn't think he wants to do it, but she doesn't know. She can't possibly know just how much he wants to.
It makes him sick to think about it. He's just angry enough to ignore the coiling in his stomach, like a snake preparing to strike. His skin feels hot and itchy, even if the air around him is ice-cold.
His grip on his wand is shaky.
You know the Spell, Harry...
He does. He knows it better than most, in fact. Knows it in ways no one else in the world will. The sole survivor of such a Spell. He has no recollection of such a feat, but he can imagine that the aftermath had been explosive. One doesn't simply survive the Killing Curse without repercussions.
"Is the itty, bitty baby sad about his Godfather?" Bellatrix mocks in a high-pitched babble, her eyes boring into his. In the reflection of her dark gaze, he can see Sirius' body falling through the veil.
She took everything from you, Harry, the voice in his mind hisses, a coaxing edge to the words. She killed the one person you felt closest to. The person you allowed yourself to feel safe with. Others betrayed you, but never him. He wanted to treat you better than the rest, better than you've ever been treated, and now he's dead. She killed him, Harry. Return the favor… You know you want to. You know the Spell.
Harry feels a sharp shiver run up his back, making him roll his head to the side with a shudder. Intense anger lashes out within him in response to the words in his mind. They sound bitter, sour, egging him on. It scares him, but it spurs him on.
A step. Just one. Putting him closer to Bellatrix, who actually shrinks back with an exaggerated pout. She's deranged, no doubt about it, but Harry can suddenly taste her fear on his tongue. It tastes good, sweet. He can see it in the widening of her eyes, in the way she shuffles backwards.
Good. He wants her to be afraid. Sirius would want her to be afraid. It's nothing she doesn't deserve, not after all that she's done. The people she's killed, those she's driven to madness, and now the murder of the one person Harry desperately wishes were alive. It's Harry's own fault for falling into the trap, and he knows it. That only serves to make him angrier, to want to take it out on the woman foolish enough to cast the Spell.
She should know better, the voice declares sharply. You've come running just for him. You would have done anything for him, to save him, and she took him from you anyway. You can only avenge him now, Harry.
"Potter," Bellatrix croons, her eyes flashing again.
Harry grips his wand harder. "Shut up!"
Silence her, the voice orders harshly. Silence her for good. You know the Spell…
It's too much. The rising crescendo of his pain and anger. There are scents hitting his nose—the smell of his own sweat, something distinctly familiar swirling around him, and the heady press of Bellatrix's fear. He shudders again, so angry, so hurt and lost. His mind feels scrambled and occupied, as if someone marched in and went searching through every thought he's ever had.
"Harry," comes the soft, tentative voice of the Headmaster.
Ultimately, that's what makes him snap. The way Dumbledore sounds. Not frightened, exactly, but a touch wary to be sure. Like Harry's unstable, like Harry's losing it a bit, and he'd be right, wouldn't he? Harry has tried telling him all of this, but he has refused to listen. He must know, must be able to sense the problems Harry is having, and he must have given up on him.
It's not right. It's not fair. Harry has done everything he could. He's been doing his best. After last year, he didn't think things could get worse, but now Dumbledore clearly doesn't trust him. Maybe he's not right to. Sirius is dead because of him.
This time, there's no prompting from the voice in his head. He just explodes, "Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up! Avada Kedavra!"
One has to mean the Spell to cast it, and Harry doesn't think he's ever meant anything more. There's the familiar flash of green, accompanied by the strangest surge of something in the center of his chest. It's warm, inviting, thrilling, enticing… He can feel it curling around his lungs and heart, squeezing like a hug, making him breathless with it.
Bellatrix's body hits the floor with a thump.
"Oh, Harry," Dumbledore whispers hoarsely, and for Harry, everything goes dark.
The last thing he remembers is the cruel laugh of delight falling from his lips, sounding nothing like himself, though it feels like his own.
Harry is running through a field, running as hard as he can, though he has no idea why. Is he running from something? Towards something?
Why is he running?
He comes to a sudden halt, taking in a deep breath as he blinks dazedly. The air around him feels wet and heavy, like the barest touch of mist is trying to suffocate him. Every inhale comes with the touch of danger, just a faint hint of what drowning must be like. Oxygen feels muddled as he breathes it in, sloshing around in his lungs.
"You didn't hate the Muggles?"
Harry turns, coughing up water that dribbles down his chin. The man isn't looking at him, and his hood is up. "Hate them? Why would I hate them?" he asks, his words a surprised gurgle.
Six years old, Petunia yanking on his hair until he sobs. Many different ages, Dudley's fists hitting him over and over, chasing him until he can barely breathe and chasing him some more. A regular occurrence, Vernon's face turning purple in rage with explosive tangents and raised fists that make him flinch before he can stop himself.
"Why wouldn't you?" the man says.
Harry doesn't know. Maybe he does. Maybe he always has. Maybe that's just another thing he's scared to admit to himself.
"It's raining in my lungs," Harry says nonsensically.
The man hums. "I suppose it would. You should consider a boat. A boat in your throat."
Harry can feel oars tickle his windpipe. "I won't float away. I can't. I have somewhere to be. There are people waiting."
"Who awaits you?" The man doesn't reveal his face, but his head carefully cocks to the side.
People lying to him. Well-meaning, trying to do their best for him, but there was no help. Something is wrong, and they don't listen. They don't hear him. They don't give him a chance, and they won't now. They see his seclusion, they allow it. He wants it, but he wants more for someone to try. Why do they never try?
Harry opens his mouth to answer, but rivers run from his eyes, splashing on his tongue. The oars in his throat paddle harder. "Please," he chokes out, desperate, "they only try their best!"
"Do they?" The man steps forward, his head ducked low. "You shouldn't hate them. You shouldn't."
Burning anger for those who locked up the one who deserved to be free. Curt words said to those he should have wanted to speak to the most. Eyes avoiding his as he glared at those he used to smile at. A hatred in his chest for those who shouldn't have earned it, those who somehow did anyway. Who's hatred? His?
"My heart is on fire," Harry gasps out.
The man nods. "Put it out. Just put it out."
The fire spreads, and Harry can't contain it, let alone douse it. The burning fills him up and spills out of him. Steam escapes his throat as the man reaches up to push back his hood, and Harry finds himself staring into his own face.
He tries to scream.
With a gasp, Harry bolts up as his eyes snap open. His entire body is covered in sweat, trembling despite the heat that seems to settle beneath his skin. He works to get his breathing under control.
A light breeze makes him shiver in relief. It ruffles his hair and cools the sweat clinging to him. The meadow around him sways, and Harry slowly stands up with a frown.
This isn't a familiar place.
He seems to be standing in a meadow in between two rolling hills, a healthy green that stretches as far as the eye can see. The sky above him is a calm blue, the clouds puffy and vaguely cheerful. There are no trees or any landmarks of any kind. The only sound is of the rustling grass as the wind eases around him. It's strangely peaceful out here.
Harry wraps his arms around himself and looks around, unsure what's going on. He has the nagging feeling that something has happened. There's a memory tugging at his mind, something involving boats and striking green eyes just like his own.
Jolting, Harry whirls around so fast that he nearly topples over. He fumbles in his pocket for his wand immediately, knowing the owner of that voice, recognizing as simply as he would his own. He's heard it frequently enough in the last five years that he should know it, though he's never heard it sound like this—careful, polite, hesitant.
Malfoy zones in on his wand immediately and visibly flinches, taking a solid step back. Harry feels a vindictive spike at that, at the palpable fear on the other boy's face, even if it makes no sense.
Why would Malfoy be afraid of him? He never has been before, not really, not like this.
"Where am I?" Harry asks harshly. "What have you done to me, Malfoy?"
"I—I didn't do anything," Malfoy says slowly, his words stuttering—actually stuttering—out of him.
Harry scowls and steps forward in vague threat, raising his wand. "Where am I?!"
Malfoy actually closes his eyes, flinching back violently, and it's like a slap to Harry's face. With just that, just a flinch, Harry vividly recalls the way Bellatrix recoiled before—before—
Oh, Harry, Dumbledore had breathed out.
It's not that Harry forgot, exactly, but the memory has been lingering untouched in the back of his mind, waiting to remind him. It does now, and he nearly drops his wand in pure shock.
He's killed someone. He actually—
"Oh no," Harry chokes out, his eyes bulging.
Malfoy's eyes snap open, his gaze sharp as he stares at Harry in silence. No wonder he was scared. Harry would be scared, too. There's something heavily terrifying about knowing that someone who has only disdain for you is capable of murder. Harry would know; he's been dealing with it for the past five years.
For a long time, Harry just stands there and hyperventilates. Malfoy simply watches him, his hands still held up like Harry might attack him at any moment. Would he do that?
No. No. Merlin, he hadn't even wanted to kill—
Actually, yes, yes he did. He remembers that with stark clarity, that strong pulse of desire to take Bellatrix out of the world the same way she took Sirius out of it.
And Sirius. Harry chokes on air, feeling his eyes flood with a fresh wave of tears. What would Sirius think? What does everyone else think? People must know. If Malfoy knows, everyone else likely does as well. What will become of him?
"Potter," Malfoy says slowly, his tone soft.
Harry sucks in a sharp breath, his hands shaking hard. "I—I didn't mean to. I swear it."
"Yes, you did," Malfoy replies immediately. "You have to mean it to cast—"
"I know that!" Harry shouts, his anger flaring. Malfoy snaps his mouth shut, his chest expanding on a hasty inhale, and Harry can't be bothered to care. "Don't you think I—I know that?"
Malfoy doesn't say anything for a long time, just looking at him, and Harry reaches up to grip his forehead a little clumsily. It's clammy under his hand, but at least his scar doesn't hurt.
The thing is, Harry wants to be able to say he didn't mean to and let it be the truth. But he can't. Because Malfoy is right, you do have to mean the curse, and Harry remembers meaning it. In fact, he remembers relishing in it, in the rush of it.
The memory is terrifying and tantalizing in equal measure. Harry can barely breathe.
Malfoy seems to draw himself up, holding his head higher and giving a prim sniff. "Sit down, Potter, now. With your sniveling, you'll pass out."
His voice is so stern that Harry actually stumbles back a step and sits down, mostly led by his shock. Malfoy seems surprised that Harry actually listens, but he nods in approval. Harry stares straight ahead with wide eyes, his heart beating a relentless tattoo against his sternum, a hot thrumming in his chest that burns on every thump.
Malfoy swiftly moves over and shucks his outer robe, laying it out on the ground with a small frown before lowering himself on it, sitting right next to Harry like he's not afraid. There's something strangely comforting about that. Harry very nearly sobs in relief. Maybe if Malfoy isn't scared of him, it means that Harry isn't capable of—
But he is. He's already proven that.
"Do they know?" Harry rasps, his gaze flicking over to Malfoy with a desperation he doesn't understand.
Malfoy seems to get it because he nods. "Yes. They all do. Everyone does. The story was released in The Prophet the following morning."
"D-Dumbledore… Did he—"
"He refused to give a statement. He's been recovering anyway, so people haven't really had the time to pester him."
"Recovering?" Harry asks.
"You don't remember?" Malfoy looks at him with a small frown. "What do you remember, Potter?"
Harry swallows. "The last thing I remember is—is killing… I killed her. Bellatrix Lestrange."
"My aunt," Malfoy informs him casually.
"Is she?" Harry mumbles, feeling numb.
Malfoy shoots him a look. "She was."
"Well, you...er, you got into a duel with Dumbledore. No one knows how you managed to hold your own, but it's not like he was aiming to hurt you. Father says that—that Dumbledore was telling the Minister that you were possessed. He claims it wasn't you who...dueled him, which I'm inclined to believe, because as adept at dueling you may be, you aren't nearly at the level as you portrayed there."
"Did I hurt him?" Harry asks weakly, feeling his eyes prickle with heat. There's a steady strum of anger fluttering at the dip in his throat.
Malfoy won't meet his eyes. "Multiple witnesses caught you using the Cruciatus Curse on him."
Harry presses his hands over his face, trying to smother the frustrated tears that spring from his eyes. It wasn't him, he knows that. He must have been possessed. Who's fault is that? Harry's, for allowing it, for not being strong enough to stop it? Snape's for failing to help him, for failing to teach him better? Dumbledore's, for pulling away, for giving up on Harry when he needed him most?
He shouldn't be angry, not when Dumbledore has been hurt because of him. And yet, he's still so furious that it doesn't make sense. The rage simmers in his chest, making his temples throb.
"Malfoy," Harry chokes out at some point later when he can breathe again, "where are we? How did I get here? How am I supposed to—"
At that, cuts himself off. He doesn't want to voice that, to ask that of Malfoy, who likely won't have an answer for him, not for that question. How am I supposed to face them, to go home?
"You're on the grounds of my home," Malfoy explains casually. "Not too far from the Manor, actually, and I'm not sure how you got here. I was just out for a fly when I saw you in the distance. I thought I had lost the plot."
Harry rubs a hand over his face, completely and utterly exhausted. "I think I have."
"You really don't remember anything after k-killing her, Potter?" Malfoy asks quietly.
"Nothing," Harry admits.
Malfoy looks at him curiously. "People are looking for you everywhere, you know. After what happened at the Ministry, you just...disappeared. From what Father said, you just vaporized into smoke in the middle of the duel with Dumbledore. It's been a week and a half since, Potter."
"I don't know where I've been," Harry whispers, feeling the color drain from his face. "If I was possessed, he could have been using me to—to do anything."
"Don't say that name," Malfoy snaps, flinching in the same manner he had when Harry yelled at him. Timid, frightened. He swallows and looks at Harry with a small frown. "Potter, don't ask me how I know, but...you haven't been possessed in the last two days, at least. I can't say the same for any of the days before, but I do know that."
"I already told you," Harry grits out, "I don't remember anything between killing Bellatrix and waking up in this bloody meadow!"
"Alright," Malfoy says quickly, shuffling a little nervously and side-eyeing Harry warily.
Harry glares at him. "Relax, Malfoy, I'm not going to kill you. Not that I haven't considered it, mind."
Malfoy blanches. "Merlin, Potter, I—"
"Shut up!" Harry snarls, shoving to his feet and feeling his whole body shake. "Stop being bloody terrified of me, would you? I'm not—I'm still—"
I'm not evil. I'm still good.
Is he, though? Merlin, he doesn't know. Everything feels like a torrential storm in his mind, in his chest. His palm itches around his wand, tingles running circuits around his wrist. It takes him a moment to realize what it is. Desire. A strong desire to use his wand, to lash out, to—
You know the Spell…
No! Harry gives his head a violent shake, horrified at his own thoughts. Malfoy may be horrid, but Harry won't kill him. He can't just—just kill people all because he killed Bellatrix. He doesn't want to.
"Sit down," Malfoy says again, this time firmer than the last. He stares up at Harry with a sharp gaze, prodding Harry to glare right back. They're locked into an intense stare-off until Harry realizes that Malfoy has stopped being frightened of him, and he sits. Malfoy nods in satisfaction. "Good. Now, breathe. Just...breathe, Potter."
So, for a while, that's what Harry does. He breathes. Just keeps on breathing until, eventually, his grip on his wand slackens and the burning in his chest quells. Malfoy seems pleased.
"I'm going to Azkaban, aren't I?" Harry croaks miserably, shutting his eyes.
Malfoy makes a small noise in the back of his throat, almost amused. "I don't think so, Potter."
Harry starts to reply, to ask how Malfoy can sound so sure about that, but a sudden chill has him snapping his mouth shut. He goes very still as a shudder rips through his body. There's a swirl of shadows in front of him, black mist forming right in before him and Malfoy, swirling in a dark vortex that Harry can almost feel brush against his skin. He knows who it is before they even appear.
Voldemort peers at them with ruby red eyes, the slits where his nose should be flaring as he audibly inhales. His stillness is otherworldly and threatening, exuding an easy power that would put the strongest of men to their knees. Nothing in his expression gives anything away, and he simply surveys the both of them closely.
Harry rubs at his scar, dead-silent. It doesn't hurt, exactly, merely itches faintly. In comparison to how it usually reacts in Voldemort's presence, this is practically nothing. This is, however, the first time that Voldemort has stood before him that Harry hasn't had his mind screeching at him with a mixture of fear, anger, and disgust. Mostly because Harry doesn't know what to do or say.
Of course Voldemort has found him. He's not at home, under protection, safe behind his blood connection to Petunia Dursley. And it's his own fault, even if he can't remember. Voldemort is here now, and Harry's going to die.
Maybe he deserves to for what he did.
"Do you wish to kill the Malfoy boy?"
Harry feels another violent shiver rip through him at Voldemort's cold question. He can't breathe yet again, but his hearing works very well. Malfoy has just sucked in a sharp breath and doesn't appear to be exhaling, holding it in as he waits.
Waits for Harry to give his answer. Harry isn't sure what he's supposed to say. Voldemort doesn't ask questions, especially not to Harry. No, he just tries to kill him, simple as that.
And what a stupid question to ask. As if Harry wants to kill anyone. He hadn't even wanted—
Yes, yes he had. Reminding himself that once more hurts just as much as the first time. He can vividly recall the relish in which he took in killing Bellatrix. He had done it, had meant it, had wanted it.
Maybe Harry still does. Something in him wishes he could go back in time and do it again. Live through it again. Feel how it felt all over again.
But to do it to Malfoy? To kill him? Perhaps something twisted and broken in him wants to kill Bellatrix again, possibly the grief over Sirius and the lingering anger from the year, but that doesn't mean Harry wants to kill Malfoy.
"No," Harry says sharply.
Malfoy finally exhales.
Voldemort considers him. "Do you wish to kill me, Harry Potter?"
"Yes," Harry answers immediately.
"Try," Voldemort says.
Harry stares at him. Voldemort stares right back, expectant. So, with shaking legs and a weird squirming in his chest, Harry pushes to his feet. He waits for Voldemort to react, to Crucio him, to try to kill him first. He doesn't, and instead, he stands perfectly still and waits.
Licking his lips, Harry tries to stop the lurch of excitement he feels in his chest. It's more than an eagerness to rid the world of Voldemort once and for all; no, it's an earnest desire to use the spell again. He's practically trembling with the urge.
Harry lifts his wand and, strong as the breeze around them, declares, "Avada Kedavra."
It shouldn't be a pleasant experience. Killing shouldn't be. The flash of green shouldn't shoot a thrill through him, especially after it has haunted his nightmares for years. The energy expelling from his wand shouldn't split and travel up his arm, snaking warm and snug around his heart. It shouldn't feel so good, but it does. It simply does, and Harry can't help but shudder and gasp in response.
Harry knows the Spell. He's used it. He's survived it. He knows it in and out, knows how it works, knows what it looks like in action. It does not simply wrap around the target, then slip off.
Voldemort reaches up with one long finger to flick a spec of lint off his robe, completely unbothered. He stares right at Harry. "Do you see that your attempts are futile?"
Harry lowers his wand, because he does see that. "Are you going to kill me?"
"That would go against my current interest," Voldemort tells him. "You, Malfoy child, stand up."
Malfoy does, graceful even in his obvious fear.
"You have chocolate on your person. Offer it to Harry," Voldemort says, his voice soft, yet deceptively so. There's power and threat in every single syllable.
Malfoy swallows, but he digs in his pocket to pull out a small, wrapped chocolate. "Here you are, Potter," he says, his voice shaking.
"So cold and detached," Voldemort murmurs, a scolding edge to his tone that has Malfoy openly trembling and terrified. "You should address him warmly. I expect you'll be spending a great deal of time with each other from this day on."
"Take it, Harry," Malfoy whispers, staring at him with wide, pleading eyes.
Harry is alarmed by how utterly terrified Malfoy is at the moment, and he's a bit stunned that Malfoy is addressing him by his first name. Though, with an evil Dark Wizard commanding him to, Harry can't really blame him.
Slowly, Harry reaches over to grab the chocolate, opening it and popping it in his mouth. If he was going to be killed, he severely doubts they'd go through the trouble of poisoning him. And, if they do, at least the chocolate tastes good. Overall, though, Harry's a bit more stuck on what Voldemort just casually said.
"I'm not going home, am I?" Harry asks flatly. He doesn't even know why he asks. Of course he isn't. Voldemort has him now. He's not just going to let him go; that's not how these things work.
Voldemort flicks his harsh gaze to Harry. "You can't go home."
"What's the last spell you cast with your wand?"
Harry's throat positively closes up. He swallows thickly, twice. "It's not like—"
It's not like Bellatrix was anyone good. It's not like I'm suddenly evil. It's not like they won't be able to forgive me. They'll understand. They will.
"They won't," Voldemort tells him. "You killed Bellatrix Lestrange of your own will, Harry Potter. For revenge. You've taken a life, no matter who's life it was. The Wizarding World will not forgive you."
Harry shakes his head. "Dumbledore—"
"Dumbledore," Voldemort spits, his lipless mouth curling in disgust, "will think you tainted, boy, and he would be right. You certainly know that. You can feel it, can't you?"
"They'll just put me in Azkaban, then?" Harry snaps, that spark of rage igniting in him again. "Give me the Dementor's Kiss, perhaps? For—for killing one of the most notorious Death Eaters? I'm a boy! I didn't mean for any of this to happen!"
Voldemort continues to be unruffled. "I cannot say for sure what would happen to you if you returned. I can tell you that the Wizarding World is no more on your side than they were in the beginning of your year at Hogwarts. To the public, you remain the lunatic who believes I have returned against all odds; now with the added benefit of being the boy driven mad by the thought. Pity that they don't believe you. After all, you are correct."
"I hate you," Harry chokes out. "This is all your fault. Why won't you die?"
"You may go, if you wish," Voldemort offers coolly, gesturing lazily with his hand. "Give him your broom, Malfoy child."
Harry practically vibrates out of his skin as Malfoy carefully takes a few steps back and picks up his broom from the grass. He holds it out to Harry, staring at him with wide eyes. It's like he's trying to say something without actually saying it, but Harry doesn't really care to parse out what it is.
Stiffly, Harry snatches the broom and mounts it. He pauses, waiting, but Voldemort stares at him impassively. He makes no move to stop him.
This should be where Harry kicks off the ground and flies as fast as he can as far as he can. The chance to leave, to go home, is very inviting. To get as far away from Voldemort and all of this is all he really wants at this point. Just fly as high as the clouds until he's safe again.
But where would he go?
What safety awaits him back home? It's not like the Wizarding World has been on his side all year. That includes the Ministry. They tried to silence him, then tried to expel him when that didn't work, and had it not been for Dumbledore—angry as he was even then—Harry would have been. What could Dumbledore possibly do for him now?
Harry remembers how Dumbledore sounded. Oh, Harry, he'd whispered. Just that. So much shock and pity and disappointment in those two words.
Even if Dumbledore could do a damn thing to help him now, Harry's not so sure that he would.
But to stay here? To stay in Voldemort's presence? That can't seriously be an option. If Harry can't kill him with the one curse no one is supposed to survive, then there's nothing else he can do. How can you defeat someone who doesn't die? Is that what Voldemort wonders about him?
Harry can't go home, can he? This isn't a choice. His options are limited to two. Fly off and try to live out his life in secrecy, which likely won't work because he'll be discovered easily. Or, stay here and see what the hell Voldemort is going to do to him.
With a sigh, Harry kicks off the broom and plants his feet, holding it out to Malfoy without a word. Malfoy slowly takes it, and Voldemort hums.
"The offer to go will remain an option, Harry Potter," Voldemort tells him. "It is yours to take whenever you wish. You are no prisoner."
Harry stares at him. "Why aren't you killing me?"
"I told you," Voldemort says, his voice soft and horrible, "it goes against my interests. Now, come along, both of you. I believe you require nourishment, Harry. Do not let him faint, Malfoy child."
With that, Voldemort turns around and seemingly floats away. He doesn't actually glide or anything, but it seems that way. His robes billow in a way that makes Snape's robes seem like a joke.
Malfoy jerks his head, eyes wide, urging him to follow. Harry starts to send him an incredulous look before he remembers that he can't actually go anywhere else. Well, he can, but what happens if he does? He's not willing to find out.
So, with a deep breath, Harry starts walking.