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Either must die at the hand of the other

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    They’ll never be rid of him, Harry thinks, hopelessly, as he walks beside Kingsley into the bowels of the Ministry.

    Three days. They had three days of respite and most people spent them burying the dead or sleeping. 

    Three days in which they have been too busy grieving and trying to heal, to even have the time to be glad the Dark Lord is gone. 

    But he isn’t. He never will be, it seems. Harry should have chosen to move on, back when Dumbledore offered it, in the Forbidden Forest. 

    “We made sure he can’t use magic. Or -not effectively.” Kingsley is old. Older than he’d been three days ago. “Places like Azkaban or the holding cells here usually impede wizards or witches from using magic, but-”

    “But he’s different,” Harry says, disheartened. He’s still in shock, had been since Kingsley had retrieved him from the Weasley’s, to privately tell him Voldemort is alive. 

    No one is clear on why; they had taken his body after the battle, so Healers and Ministry officials could confirm Voldemort’s death, beyond doubt. And then he, apparently, woke up.  

    “He’s good with wandless magic. Far more control than most of us. Even so, the charms dampen him sufficiently. We took him to our most secure room, in the Department of Mysteries. To tell you the truth, it’s a new room, equipped with new-contraptions that the last ministry had been working on. Ordered by Voldemort himself, it is said. It pains me to say, but they work better than any we have made before.” 

    Trapped by his own inventions, Harry can at least take one small comfort in that. 

    “And you tried to kill him?” Harry asks, even though he remembers Kingsley already confirming it. But Harry’s ears had still been ringing, reeling from the news. 

    “Numerous times. Multiple Aurors. The Killing Curse, Decapitation Spell, even really dark stuff that I am not proud of using, but we had to try. Nothing works.”

    And that is why they came to Harry. The Chosen One.

    Harry is prophesied to be the only one able to kill Voldemort, so they are bringing him to do it. 

    Only Harry already did it. 

    Not really. A voice tells him. You never cast a single offensive curse against him. Just Expeliarmus. 

    Voldemort had been the one to cast the killing curse, that, once again, rebounded. 

    The long corridor finally ends. There are eight Aurors standing guard beside a door. Wards shimmer in the air, so powerful that Harry’s skin prickles when he passes through them. 

    Kingsley says something, but Harry is far too nauseous to hear him. He clutches his wand, tightly. 

    The door opens. More wards. Another four Aurors, crammed in a short passageway. And then another door is opened and Harry walks through it, side by side with Kingsely. 

    A room with no windows, no furniture. A harsh, bright, unnatural light almost blinds Harry. 

    Two Aurors and an Unspeakable stand inside, and in the centre, in a cage, is Voldemort. 

    He looks like Tom Riddle, had Tom Riddle been allowed to age naturally.

    Kingsley assumes Harry’s shock to be confusion or ignorance. 

    “His body started changing, before he woke up. We assume that is how he used to look, before all the magical transformations he made. We’re searching our records to confirm it. A name, to go with it.” 

    They don’t even know his name. For the first time, Harry wonders why Dumbledore never spoke it, to anyone, why he hadn’t informed at least Order members about Voldemort’s true identity.  

    The cage is metal, barbed with rusty looking wires; it surrounds him and immobilises his body, so tight he cannot even move an inch. 

    Voldemort’s wrist twitches at the sight of Harry, but he can’t do anything else. 

    He might look like Tom Riddle, his complexion is pale, yet natural, his nose is there, straight and long, his jaws powerful, his cheekbones high and his hair dark brown, as are his eyes- 

    But in those eyes, there’s nothing human, and in all that rage, Harry sees Voldemort very, very clearly. 

    His heart hurts. His hands are so sweaty, his wand almost slips from his grasp. Harry is getting dizzy. 

    It’s not just that Voldemort persists in remaining alive, though this is certainly huge. But it feels so wrong, for Harry to walk besides an adult, be backed by trained Aurors, all there for him, under the harsh glare of the light, and for Voldemort to be caged, defenceless. 

    This is not how their encounters go. 

    Harry is so mesmerises by those eyes, so pinned by the rage in them, that for a minute, he cannot look away. When he does, he realises Voldemort’s naked. 

    This body is as ridiculously tall as the serpentine one, but the similarities end there. His arms, held by the iron cage away from his trunk, are slim but muscular. His chest wider than his waist. Very long legs. And between them, his penis, heavy and-

    Harry abruptly looks away, cheeks flaming. Wrong, so very wrong. 

    “Is this necessary?” he spits out to Kingsley, though he keeps his eyes trained on Voldemort’s shoulders. 

    “He needs to be restrained.”

    “Naked,” Harry clarifies. “Why is he naked?” 

    Silence. No one answers. It’s so oppressive, the lack of noise, it’s all so surreal. The worst nightmare he’s been into. 

    Please wake up. Please wake up. But life is never kind to Harry, so he doesn’t. 

    “Go ahead, Harry,” Kingsley puts a hand on Harry’s shoulder, his voice suddenly much gentler. Harry flinches, frightened. He’s heating up, he’s so over sensitive, so very aware of everything. “Try.” 

    This is why he’s here. To kill Voldemort. This is why he’s been born, it seems, because it’s what he’s been trying to do, for a very long time, what he’s been prepared and raised to do. 

    Be done with it. So you can return to the Burrow, with your family. So you can hold Ginny close as she mourns Fred. So he can be there for Ron, when neither can sleep. So he can help rebuild Hogwarts. Go with Hermione to Australia, to look for her parents. So he can finally start living, so they can recover from all the grief the monster before him has caused. 

    Harry aims his wand. His hand is shaking. He hates him so much, so much-he knows the words. 

    Yet-yet to kill-to take away a life… To attack someone that is naked and chained, defenceless. 

    Voldemort glares at him and he doesn’t look defenceless at all, his face set in stone, radiating power only through sheer force of will. 

    “Avada-” Harry tries but stops, mouth dry. He shakes harder. He lowers his wand. “I’m sorry-” He turns to Kingsley. “I-”

    “That’s alright, Harry,” The man frowns at him. “You never-not once, in the war?” 

    “Of course not!” Harry answers, surprised. Then he remembers this man was an Auror. A soldier. A grown one, that’s been through two wars. 

    “I didn’t think. Let’s get you out of here, I’ll show you how to-” 

    “Pathetic.”  

    That voice, low and much deeper than what Harry recalls. Only he remembers this one too, from the diary. 

    “Shut him up!” Kingsley says harshly, and the Unspeakable does something with his wand, the cage glows orange, hot, and it’s in contact with every bit of skin on Voldemort. 

    Harry can smell it, flesh burning, and the room sways around him. He fixes his eyes on Voldemort’s face, who’s jaw clenches, muscles straining in his neck, but doesn’t let out a single noise. 

    “Stop,” Harry says. “This-stop.” 

    He can’t think. 

    The iron returns to its natural colour again. 

    Kingsley can’t teach him anything. He knows the words, he knows he needs intent. He just needs to do it. 

    Harry raises his wand again, thinks of Fred and Colin, of Remus and Dora. His parents. Most of all, he thinks of Sirius, the only one to have been there for Harry, to make him feel safe, looked after, if only for a short while. 

    Their eyes meet. 

    “Avada Kedrava!” he says, determined. 

    Nothing happens. 

    Voldemort laughs. 

 

    (-)

 

    “You can try again later,” Kingsley reassures Harry once they’re away from Voldemort. “Your first try-it’s no wonder.” 

    But he sounds disappointed. 

    Because nothing came out of Harry’s wand, no famed green light. Nothing. He’d failed to kill not only his enemy, but the monster that caused so much harm. Others failed too, but not for lack of wanting on their part.  

    Harry doesn’t understand how it can’t work. He hates Voldemort. With all his heart, but-

 

    (-)

 

    “You’re not a killer,” Ron says, squeezing Harry’s shoulder. 

    Harry’s been terrified to confess, specifically to Ron, who’s just lost a brother to a man Harry couldn’t kill. 

    “Kingsley shouldn’t have asked you,” Hermione is quick to agree. She looks so tired, big dark circles under her eyes. 

    They’re all tired. They’re skinny and scratched and bruised and Voldemort has not one mark on him, no dark circles. Nothing. And Harry couldn’t kill him. 

    “It’s because they-he is caged and -”

    “I wouldn’t be able to do it either, Harry,” Hermione says, softly. “Perhaps, in the heat of battle, against an armed opponent, perhaps. But like that? We’re not executioners. We’re only eighteen for the love of God, we’ve been fighting our whole life, what more do they want of us?” 

    Her eyes tear up, full of frustration. Hers are brown too. And as intelligent as Voldemort’s.

    Yet Hermione’s are warm and familiar and loving. 

    She deserves a life. Ron deserves one too.  

    Harry will try again, for them. 

 

 (-)

 

    The next time Harry goes in, Voldemort is wearing a robe. Other than that, nothing changed. 

    “Can’t I be alone with him?” Harry asks. If it’s just the two of them...maybe Harry can do it. As it is, under the watchful gazes of the Aurors, it feels like a circus. 

    It feels sacrilegious. 

    “No.” 

    “He’s contained,” Harry tries again. 

    Silence. 

    “They don’t trust you,” Voldemort says. 

    “Shut him-”

    “No!” Harry says, a little too loudly, holding a hand up before the Unspeakable can do that thing again. “Please, don’t.” 

    “This is why the don’t trust you,” Voldemort points out. 

    Harry is very aware. He knows how it must look. Only, Harry is naive perhaps in thinking they were the good guys. That the good guys won the war. And good guys aren’t supposed to casually torture anyone. 

    Not even Voldemort. 

    “Don’t let him get to you,” Kingsley says, firmly, when Harry fails to cast the curse again and he’s escorted to the Minister’s office.

    He feels miserable. Weak. Pathetic. 

    “We have to change the two guards that stay with him every six hours. He has an effect on everyone. He’s contained, yes, but we can’t seem to manage to shut him up in any way and his tongue is as dangerous as his magic.” 

 

    (-)

 

    Harry can’t sleep. The dead haunt him. The guilt. Voldemort in the graveyard, raising from a cauldron. Voldemort, in Godric’s Hollow, staring down at Harry from a window, as they barley make their escape. Voldemort in the Great Hall, furious. 

    Voldemort in the cage. 

    Kingsley obliviates the few that had found out, except a small number of Aurors that serve as guards and a few Unspeakables. 

    The enchantments hold and Voldemort doesn’t escape. Harry imagines they try to kill him, now and again, with different methods. 

    “Go on with your life,” Kingsley had said and Harry tries. 

    He’s failing. He’s not the only one. 

    Life after Voldemort isn’t all it was cracked up to be, even for those that do not know Voldemort is still around. 

    George starts drinking. Mrs. Weasley is a wreck. Percy can’t look at George. 

    Hogwarts is littered with graves. 

    Hermione’s parents do not want to talk to her, fear in their eyes as soon as their memories are restored. 

    Andromeda hates, torn apart. She doesn’t cry at Dora’s funeral, pained beyond tears, but she sobs at Bellatrix’s, rumour is. No one is sure how that rumour started, since from what Harry knows, only Narcissa and Andromeda had been present for the event.

    Most Death Eaters are in Azkaban, rotting away. 

    The Malfoys don’t leave their house, even after Harry testifies for them, gets their name cleared. 

    Aurors hunt the ones that got away. 

    It looks like it’s not that easy to just go on, with so many people missing. 

    One man. It seems so impossible that just one man had this effect on thousand of people. 

    

    (-)

        

    Hermione gets special permission to sit her N.E.W.T.s in December as soon as Hogwarts is operational again. 

    She had thrown herself in her studies and she gets eleven Outstanding. She’s the one to take advantage of the fame “the golden trio”, as the press dubbed them, had amassed. 

    Harry hides in Grimmauld place, only leaving it to go to the Burrow. The dream he’d had of becoming an Auror had soured; he doesn’t have the stomach for it and besides, his dark wizard is still alive, even after Harry gave his best.

    Ron is helping George with the store.

    They aren’t as strong as Hermione. 

    “We didn’t go through all of this for nothing. I will make sure we will change things, for the better.” 

    So she accepts an offer for a job in the Ministry that wouldn’t have been offered to anyone else so young. But she’s Hermione Granger, Harry Potter’s best friend, the one without whom he’d be dead, as he’d been sure to mention it, loudly and often. 

 

    (-)

 

    The world starts to recover, slowly, by the anniversary of the first year of the Battle of Hogwarts. 

    Harry is just getting worse. He sleeps fitfully during the day and wanders around Grimmauld at night. 

    Ron and Hermione live with him. They’re all trauma bonded, and they only just recently managed not to sleep in the same room. 

    Ginny breaks up with him, softly, tenderly. She too is made from stronger stuff. She’s lost enough, she wants to live, and she can’t do that, surrounded by Harry, in a house of mourning and misery. 

    Harry makes an effort to go see Teddy as often as he can. He looks a lot like Sirius, more and more as he grows up. 

    “He looks like Bellatrix,” Andromeda counters Harry, when the observation slips from his mouth. 

    Andromeda sees her sister everywhere. Especially in the mirror. 

    She has another sister, and it seems the Malfoys start leaving their sanctuary, because Teddy mumbles excitedly about “Cissa” on occasion. 

    Harry won’t fault Andromeda for gravitating to the last family members she has. 

 

    (-)

 

    He stills dreams of Voldemort, trapped in that cage. The graveyard Voldemort fades away, slowly, same for the other nightmares. 

    He’s the best man at Ron and Hermione’s wedding. Best men for both bride and groom, because Hermione refuses to get a bridesmaid, insists he’s her best friend too. 

    Harry’s heart soars, seeing them happy and together. They deserve it; they deserve everything in the world. 

    A little part of Harry feels more lonely than ever, when he insists he’s fine and they should move out of his house. 

    They want to stay, not because they like the decrepit old dark place, that stays dark no matter how much effort Kreacher puts into it, but because they don’t want to leave Harry alone. 

    Harry will not hold them back, so he kicks them out. 

    The world is healing-it’s not easy, it’s not fast, but it crawls towards “normal”. 

    Harry despairs. 

 

    (-)

 

    “We’ve been trying to make him talk,” Kingsley tells Harry in his office, at the Ministry. “It’s not going well, suffice to say. He will not say anything.” 

    “About?” 

    “There are so many people we don’t know what happened to. That just disappeared. We’d like to know and bring closure to their families. And, Lestrange remains at large.” 

    Harry nods. There’s been three attacks in the two years since the Battle. Very poorly organised, but enough to install that terror back into the population. The Aurors find some Death Eaters and they confirm it’s Lestrange that’s behind them. He remains elusive. 

    “We offered some commodities, some comforts to him, in exchange for information,” Kingsley goes on. 

    But only after torture didn’t work. Harry knows. 

    “He is not speaking. But recently, he asked for you.”

    Harry’s heart gallops in his chest, a phantom pain strikes his forehead. He almost touches his scar, but stops just in time. 

    “Ok,” he says, after a long break. “Ok.” 

    If it helps them catch Lestrange, or give some comfort to some families-Harry will do it. 

    He will not admit there’s another part inside him, that hides behind these excuses, that wants to see Voldemort. 

 

    (-)

 

    There are deep dark circles under his eyes this time. There are scars on his body, that’s getting thinner and paler. 

    But the rage is his eyes is intact. 

    They’re left alone, Aurors retreating, because Kingsely said that after two years, he’s comfortable in the measures they have, and trusts they are keeping Voldemort restrained.    

    Besides, he will not talk with anyone else there. 

    It’s ...better. It feels more natural, just the two of them. Of course, Voldemort’s still caged, still naked, and Harry hates that it bothers him so much.

    He comforts himself he’s not the only one. Hermione is on a campaign against the conditions in Azkaban, she’s hounding the Wizengamot to stop torturing information out of convicted Death Eaters. 

    Harry has been dragged along to some meetings, and he backs her up, because she’s right, but mostly because he’s thinking of Sirius.

    The Ministry agrees, somewhat. Only there’s nothing to do about the Dementors, who cannot be killed or let loose. 

    The Aurors are unhappy with Hermione and Harry. They had been the ones to lose limbs and colleagues to apprehend the Death Eaters; they had been the most at risk and they do not care or understand some people can be bothered about how the scum of the earth is treated. 

    “They thought me, as a muggle born, scum of the earth. They thought me an animal, undeserving of basic rights. We must be careful, very careful, to not become them and use their sick rhetorics. They must be punished, they must be kept away from the population, but they are humans, at the end of the day, and we must remember that.” 

    The public doesn’t agree. It’s human nature to want revenge, especially after so many years of war. 

    They want the Death Eaters to suffer. 

    Merlin knows what they’d do or think if they knew the Ministry has Voldemort in its hands. 

    Voldemort says nothing, glares at Harry, who shifts on his feet, uncomfortable to behold him this way. 

    “Err,” he starts, when the silence is too much to bear. “Kingsley said you asked for me.” 

    “You came,” his voice remains as strong as his convictions, even as his body is deteriorating. 

    “If it will make you divulge some information-” Harry says, defensive. 

    “Liar.” A short break. “Look at me.”

    Harry cannot. “Just a second,” he mutters and almost flees the room. 

    “Listen, I can’t talk to him that way. Can’t you at least clothe him?” he asks Kingsley. 

    “He doesn’t deserve clothes.” Another Auror says. Robards. His father had been tortured by Death Eaters and his brother killed by Voldemort himself. 

    “We will,” Kingsley agrees and Harry waits, on teether hooks, pacing around the corridor, before he’s told he can go back in.

    It’s a huge improvement. Voldemort is wearing a robe, and he’s out of the cage, but still chained to the wall, heavy links around his hands and feet. 

    Like this, Harry can hate him again. “What do you want?” He asks and this time he has no problem meeting those brown eyes. 

    There’s adrenaline rushing in his body; he hadn’t felt so alive since the Battle of Hogwarts.

    “You will tell me one thing about the outside world, Harry Potter. And I will give something back.” 

    Kingsley had said Voldemort is not allowed to know anything, he’s to be kept in the dark, literally and metaphorically. The only information he has, Kingsley says, is that Lestrange is still at large, because they have tortured him for clues on his whereabouts and then tried to bribe him for it. 

    Voldemort smirks, as if he’s reading Harry’s mind. 

    “It doesn’t have to be anything of relevance. A minor detail. About yourself.” 

    Harry draws a blank. He feels trapped, like a deer in headlights.

    “I-” he starts, fishing for something, anything. “I-” he scratches his head. “I live at Grimmauld Place.”

    There. Everyone knows that, anyhow. Journalists have been stationed outside the buildings for months after the war ended. 

    Voldemort watches him, eyes sparkling. He nods, slowly. 

    “Caradoc Dearborn remains are in Epping Forest, forty feet south of Nott’s vacation cabin.” 

    Harry has heard Sirius talk about this Caradoc long ago. He’d even seen the man in a picture, when Moody had shown him the old Order.   

    “Who killed him?” Harry asks, because he imagines Dearborn’s family and friends would like to know.

    Voldemort raises an eyebrow. 

    “Ahh,” Harry stumbles, trying to come up with something to give in exchange. Nothing of relevance. About yourself. Harry doesn’t do anything. The little he does, is in Hermione’s and Ron’s company, and he doesn’t want to say those names to this man. Same goes for Teddy. “I-I’m studying Ancient Runes?” Harry offers. 

    It is a stretch.

    He’d only started because he’s trying to do something, about Grimmauld Place, make it cleaner, livelier, and Hermione had told him a house so old, under so many enchantments will not respond to regular magic. 

    “Karkaroff,” Voldemort says, without missing a beat. “On your own or at Hogwarts?” 

    “Ah, on my own.”

    “It wasn’t a fast kill, from what I’ve been told. Oh, no. He took his time. I could go into more detail, but it shall upset your weak stomach.” He smirks, vicious. 

    “What’s wrong with you?” Harry snaps. “What happened to you that you’re this-” Harry cannot even find a word. “Like this.” 

    “Nothing happened to me, Harry Potter. I was born, and this is who I am.” 

     

     A/N : For those of you that are reading Ouroboros, have no worries, that story is still my priority.