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In the beginning…

 

Lily Potter nee Evans had a plan.  She was both a piercingly intelligent and fiercely protective individual, and the knowledge that a madman would be after her only daughter spurred her into action.  She’d be damned before the man that she had fought so long against and who had already taken so many friends from her (Marlene just this last month..) could lay one of his slimy hands on her baby. 

So, she decided to invest in some protection.

She didn’t tell James.  James, bless him, took Professor Dumbledore’s reassurances that the wards would be enough at face value.  While Lily fully respected her old headmaster’s precautions, well, he wasn’t little Harri’s mother.  Between Dumbledore, James, she, and many of their other friends, they had exhausted all of the Light magic possible; culminating in the fidelius charm.  As much as she trusted Sirius, she couldn’t help the nagging feeling that something more would be needed.

So she turned to some not-quite-Light magic.

Sirius, even without his family home Grimmauld Place’s library, would have been an invaluable source to tap.  Unfortunately, her husband’s best friend was very particular about anything that could have been verging on Dark or even Grey magic.  As such, the red-head had to make do with whatever she could scrounge up in the Hogwarts restricted section and the library in Potter Manor. 

Although the ancestral house of her husband was not currently inhabited, all possessions were left in place in anticipation for when James and she could come out of hiding.  James had also never had the will to move out his parent’s belongings in the few years since Dorea and Charlus had passed. 

Lily was quite certain that the two would approve of her using their sequestered knowledge to protect their only grandchild.  Luckily for her, her late mother-in-law was a Black by birth, and kept some interesting reading material in the manor library.

After months of scrounging together information she pilfered through in stolen moments, Lily had her last defense.  She discovered a blood ritual that allowed one to preserve an object within a bounded area.  The ritual could be bound to an object and make items inside a provided set of parameters to the object nearly impervious. 

Of course, the ritual did not specify exactly what Lily needed.  From what she could discern the “object” preserved tended to be an inanimate one.  Also, while it was possible that Voldemort would attempt to kill Harri via blood loss or bludgeoning, it was much more likely he would attempt to kill her with the Avada Kedavra curse.

While no one knows for certain what exactly the curse does, it is known that it deals no visible damage to the body.  It is possible that the Unforgiveable causes instant system-wide shut down in the body; making the heart, brain, or all of the organs simply stop functioning.  It is also viable that the avada expels the soul from the body while simultaneously shutting down the brain. 

Corpses from the killing curse do not continue functioning like those of dementor victims, but they show some startling similarities.  Wizards do not care overmuch for examining intricate biological functions of the body, Lily has learned, but they do care for the overtly obvious or inherently magical. 

The rate of decay in AK corpses and soulless bodies left unattended are the same and different to those killed by other means.  Rather than the neck, abdomen, head and shoulders initially turning green as a sign of decay, another marker is the first to appear.   A distinctly black discoloration appears on the right side of the chest opposite the heart, hypothetical location of the intangible Magical Core and soul. 

On top of this, instead of magic naturally seeping from the bodies, it appears to have left immediately and altogether.  This is shown in the rate of decay in AK corpses and rate of aging in dementor victims.  Witches and wizards enjoy both a longer lifespan and reduced aging process when compared to muggles.  This is unsurprisingly attributed to magic.  Even the corpses of magical humans do not start to decay until a week post-mortem, compared to the thirty-six hours of non-magical humans.  AK corpses decay as if they were the bodies of muggles.  Bodies that are left behind after the soul is sucked out of them age at a rapid pace, equal to if not greater than muggles.  Even those that are only exposed to dementors on a regular basis, such as Azkaban prisoners, experience increased aging. 

With these observations it is obvious to Lily that magic and the soul are related, and the avada kedavra curse somehow related to the soul.  A ritual meant to protect a physical object may not entail a shield for the metaphysical soul.  Meaning Lily had to somehow change that. 

Luckily, the twenty, soon to be twenty-one, year old didn’t take Ancient Runes just for kicks.  She also lived up to her professors hailing her during her school years as a quasi-genius.

So she spent many more months not-so-secretly pouring over runecraft.  This was not an occupation she needed to hide, as next to potions, runes were always a subject that she held a particular interest in. 

January thirtieth and her twenty-first birthday came and went.  James made sure to throw as smashing a party as he could with only being able to invite a select group of their friends.  Along with the rest of the “Marauders”, Alice and Frank came toting little Neville, who got along swimmingly with Harri, and Mary MacDonald her old dorm mate and friend since first year came to celebrate.  Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Moody, and Kingsley all came by with their well wishes too. 

Lily had a wistful moment that in another life Severus could be there too, but it soon passed.  Her old best friend had chosen his path, and it was one that endangered both her and her child.

Another month passes and she begins to feel anxious, but she can’t compromise the fidelity of these runes for speed.  She must get them right or Harri may pay dearly for it.  James notices her stress and preoccupation, but he believes it is simply from the prophesy and impending threat over their heads.  He’s not wrong, but even if he didn’t understand the full extent of her thoughts, he still managed to soothe them over with his attention.  The man never failed to make her feel loved and laugh, no matter how much he also drove her up the wall.

May came and she believes she has found her solution.  The rune array to ensure that the protection extended to a “living” object only took a few months to properly sparse out, but it was the matter of the “soul” that was tricky.  Still, she feels that with the breath of passing time on the back on her neck that she has managed it. 

Working around and winding in the runes at the bases of the ritual, she has embedded an array roughly translating to “soul be caught and bound”.  An array that focused purely on protection or preservation of the soul would cause that of opposite “body” to become unsound, possibly trapping her daughter’s soul in a dead body.  The command “caught and bound” should ensure that even if the AK did attempt to expel Harri’s soul, it would still return safely to her whole body.  It takes a keen mind to modify or add runes to those already included in an intricate blood ritual, but it goes beyond this to add something so far beyond its bounds.

It is no wonder that Lily’s precautions did not proceed as she expected.

In early June, when James was out on a two day “boy’s retreat” that she had vehemently insisted on for both his sanity and her own, “you are driving me barmy with your pacing James Potter!”, Lily set to work.  She made her daughter’s crib the binding for the ritual and carefully began painting runes in a mixture of her blood and ink.  She then traced over each of the characters with her wand, channeling magic while simultaneously chanting the allotted words of the spell.  By the end, a half hour later, her vibrant red hair was matted to her head in sweat and she shook with exhaustion.  She felt a cool thrill of satisfaction as her tirelessly placed rune array flared with light then faded to seeming nonexistence, indicating a successful ritual.

She took a break to make Harri and herself some lunch and subsequently crashed on the couch for three hours, her black haired daughter dozing on her stomach.  Lily woke up when the young Potter began tugging on her long hair and babbling nonsense in her ear.  The mother caught up her daughter and began tickling her mercilessly, resulting in peals of laughter.  The gummy smile and stunning green eyes identical to her own directed at her caused a burst of love to flourish in her chest.  She would do whatever she could to protect her child.

Lily had hardly felt older than a child herself when she found out she was pregnant at nineteen; nonetheless James who had matured to be beyond a school yard bully a mere couple years earlier.  On top of that, they were in the middle of a war where they could die at any moment.  Yet as soon as their little Harriet Zinnia Potter had been born, James seemed to come into being a father before her eyes.  When Lily, hair a mess from the long labor and more exhausted than ever before, held her child in her arms for the first time, the fierce love of a mother overcame her and she knew she would protect her child no matter what. 

Almost two years later that love burned strong as she placed the last bit of her protection.  She secured a spell layered on top of her array, set with the activation of the array as the trigger mechanism.  The ritual would activate with an attempt to harm the object inside the crib, Harri, and her layered spell would subsequently zap whoever triggered it into smithereens.

Neither the ritual nor the spell were remotely in the region of Light magic, but Lily couldn’t find it inside herself to care.  As much as the wizarding world had given her, it had equally taken away.  She did not intend to let it take one of the most precious things in her life.

And so months passed, and Lily began to feel a bit more relaxed with her precautions.  She allowed James to bully her into having her wand on her at all times, her own paranoia letting her tolerate his. 

She enjoyed her time with her family and her friends when they came around.  She felt a bit distressed when Remus began pulling away, but despite the other boys’ worry, she felt confident in the werewolf’s loyalty.  She, James, and Sirius quietly celebrated Harri’s birthday on July 31st, and the young woman couldn’t help but feel that everything may be alright.

Halloween came around, and despite her hope, Lily was prepared.

“Lily, take Harri and go!  It’s him!  Go!  I’ll hold him off!”

As she hears her husband’s parting words, she feels a lurch of fear.  But as she races up the stairs, her daughter in her arms, to Harri’s room a sense of calm determination floods over her.  She tests the wards around her house and senses the anti-apparition ward surrounding it.  The knowledge that Peter must have betrayed them passes through her mind, and she feels a spark of stinging grief before smothering it with rage.

She carefully lowers Harri into her crib, the toddler just a few months over a year staring back at her guilelessly.  The girl attempts to make her mother pick up back up with mutterings of “up”, but Lily gently pushes her back down.  Harri, somehow sensing that something was wrong, begins to tear up.  Lily soothes her, running her hand over her daughter’s silky black hair and placing a kiss on her peachy forehead.

“Don’t worry; momma made sure you’ll be alright.  I love you so much my Harri, my heart.”

Lily hears footsteps and stands up, knowing in her heart that it is not her other half that is approaching.  She stands resolutely in front of her daughter’s crib, flicking her wrist so that her wand slides out of her arm holster into her hand.  The smooth wood of her wand acts like a balm to her soul, like her dearest friend makes this stand with her.

The door creaks open, a long pallid hand appearing to push it aside.  The sight of the barely-human man makes Lily’s insides curl in both fear and revulsion, but solemn determination soon rushes back over her.

Voldermort’s red eyes bore into her and a sneer crosses his face.  He speaks, hoarse and sibilant, “Move aside, foolish girl.”

It strikes Lily as curious that he did not kill her straight out, but she pushes this to the side.  There was the slightest chance that Voldemort, being a Lord level wizard, may be able to escape her trap.  To avoid this, she could prime it with his magic.  Lily first weaves her wand to form a shield around her daughter, carefully leaving the edge of the where the array would be if visible exposed.

She hisses out her first spell and sees both surprise and irritation flash across her enemy’s pallid face as he easily deflects it.  The following moments are intense as multi-color lights flood the room.  Lily carefully diverts a purple colored curse from her opposition, feeling a swell of relief and satisfaction as she observes it out of the corner of her eye being absorbed by the array.  Voldemort did not notice, not expecting it, and her having diverted the spell could be cause for any emotions she hadn’t been able to suppress. 

Before a sickly green spell catches her in the chest, Lily is able to slide a slicing hex through the bald man’s guard, cutting the edge of his arm.  Red blood hits the ground.  The red head couldn’t help but feel a bit surprised, having supposed someone with such a demon-like visage would bleed black, or green as it may be.

But that was what this whole war was about, wasn’t it?  Blood.  Even someone who claims to be above the rest of humanity bleeds no different from her.  For all her “dirty blood”, it is Lily here cutting the man where he hadn’t been injured in battle since he began avoiding Dumblebore.  It is Lily who is going to have the last laugh when the fool man mistakenly goes after her daughter.  Voldemort is much more mortal than he wants anyone to believe.  A small vicious smile crosses her face as fury floods his.

Avada kedavra!

It comes too fast and strong for her to block.  But as Lily awaits those few moments before death, she feels only anticipation in seeing her husband and love for her daughter, the satisfaction in saving her and regret for leaving her.

Lord Voldemort steps over the crumpled body of the foolish mudblood that dare wound him and looks at her spawn, the only supposed threat to his immortality.  The girl cries, a result from both the fight she witnessed and the unmoving body of her mother.  She is weak and pathetic, and he cannot believe this creature could ever defeat him.

Yet, he will leave no chances for him to fall into Death’s icy grip and after that irritating showing he would not mince words.  Feeling satisfied, yet not taking any time to gloat or consider that the rather powerful witch may have also been terribly clever, the dark lord raised his stark white wand.  His bloodless lips move, forming the words of his favorite spell.

Green light fills the room.  A ritual is triggered.  A spell flares.  Voldemort does not have time to feel any emotion before his body is destroyed and his spirit flees.  The room is left in ruins from the outpouring of magic, blowing the roof straight off.

Harri Potter is saved by love.  However, instead of being saved by her mother’s bloodless sacrifice as one Harry Potter was in another world, she is saved by her mother’s preparedness and magical skill.

But not all is as Lily planned.

The killing curse hits Harri Potter and her soul is expelled.  The runic ritual does as commanded and reaches out to catch a soul.  The acquired soul is then bound to the perfectly preserved body of Harri Zinnia Potter.

The toddler collapses from stress and all is quiet in the Potter house.  The runes, the ritual complete, are gone without a trace.  With the passing of Lily Potter, no one knows how the child survived where all others died.  Dumbledore would later suspect it was through an act of love.  He was not wrong.

Some time later Sirius Black would come to find his best friend’s house in ruins.  He’d howl in grief over his brother in all but blood’s corpse before dashing upstairs in a desperate attempt to find a sign of life.  He would find Lily, violently alive Lily’s, corpse strewn in front of the crib of her child.  Despite all expectations, he found his still living godchild inside of the crib instead of the still body he expected.

He gathered her up in his arms, relieved beyond all words.  But soon that relief would turn to rage, and Sirius Black tended more towards violent emotions than peaceful ones.  He grew up in a house that cultivated negative emotions, and he will never be quite rid of that damage.  Soon Hagrid, the groundskeeper at Hogwarts, would come and demand that Sirius give him Harri.  Consumed by thoughts of revenge and securing his goddaughter’s safety, the man agrees and disappears from the girl’s life for years to come.

By the end of the night Harri Potter was placed on the doorstep of one number four Privet Drive.  She would be found in the morning by her not-so-loving aunt, and be taken into their household out of fear.

And no one knew just how much changed that Halloween night.


 

I am dead.  I know I am dead and I am moving through the universe.  It feels as if stars are bursting behind my eyes and one moment something is there and the next it is gone.

I shake because I hope I see God and heaven and I remember my fear of forgetting.  I try my best to hold on to myself as I move. 

I do not know where I am going.  I do not know where I am.  Where I have been – I know that, right?  The trickle of a memory tickles the back of my mind, but I am moving before it can form.

I am formless, but I remember form.  I think I should hurry up and get to heaven because this is all just a bit much.

I meet death.  I think.  I can’t remember.  I think I was somewhere; I remember a definite feeling after I was formless, and I think that must mean I was somewhere instead of nowhere. 

I stop.  I’m not moving and it feels as if I am caught up by a great pitiless force.  It tastes like something I can’t describe and it roars through the veins of my being.  I am suddenly stuffed into something and it feels overcrowded so I push down and out and try to break from this cage.

I breathe and it hurts.  There is a bright green light and a man who is not a man but is familiar and there is a woman on the ground who should not be there.  My thoughts do not feel all my own and it is uncomfortable and confusing, but then I am alone and everything is quiet.

I fade back to black and it is more comforting than I expected.  I do not know what happens but I do not think that was heaven or hell.  I think I might need a refund from death, because that was not a “peaceful rest” as promised.  But my thoughts fade and I no longer worry about death or definiteness and I can sleep.

I do not know that will be the most peaceful I feel for a long time coming. 

 

Chapter Text

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory

 

I am five when I first wake to awareness.

It is dark, the air dusty and stale, and my first thought is that I am in a coffin.  It isn’t a particularly coherent thought, but the last thing I remember was sort-of-maybe dying so I had some legitimate concerns.

I bolt upright, my head rushing in protest of the sudden movement, and my arms flail.  Pain ricochets through me as one hand hits a wall.  I curse and clench the injured hand to my chest.

I take a deep breath and attempt to calm my pounding heart.  I sit stalk still in the dark, the beat of my heart pounding in my head and my shallow breaths disturbing the silence.  My hand eventually stops throbbing but I don’t release it.

Where the hell am I?  How the hell am I alive – assuming I’m alive?  I don’t think I’m in hell.  Is purgatory actually a thing?  I always just thought it was bullshit other sects of Christianity believed in. 

Lord. Stuck in the dark for an indeterminate amount of time, waiting to pass on into the afterlife?  Not only that, but assuming I just hit a wall, I may be stuck in someplace that limits my movement too.  Hell.  Hell, what the hell am I supposed to-

I have never been overly scared of the dark, but for some reason this one seems consuming.

I suck in a gasping breath, feeling panic paint pinpricks of heat along my face and neck.  My head is swimming and I’m vaguely worried I’m going to pass out.  I blow out air steadily before forcefully breathing in again.  I do my best to calm down, trying to assess my situation before I devolve into a blubbering mess.

So.  I know I’m not in my room – my curtains are sheer so I’m never in the absolute dark.  I don’t remember going anywhere that would mean that I’m in a hotel room or someone else’s place.  The last thing I remember—

Well.  Well I sure as shit am not in a hospital either, which rules that out.

My teeth grind and I wiggle the fingers of my clutched hand.  Now that my head is clearer it’s also hard to believe that I’m dead.  Not quite in the but-I-can’t-die way (though there’s some of that too) but in the I-sure-as-hell-don’t-seem-dead way.

I can feel pain, am breathing, and damn near had a panic attack.  That doesn’t seem like proper conduct for a spirit who has left its mortal coil.  But then again if I am in purgatory it’s not like I know what the hell that’s supposed to be like.  It is the place between life and death, so maybe it’s like I’m alive but not living. 

Sure.  Possible, if still unsavory.  It’s not like any of us know what the afterlife is like for sure anyway.  Could be sitting in a dark fucking box for eternity. 

I should probably make sure I’m not in a box.

I reluctantly release my vice grip on my right wrist, wincing slightly as I feel the sting of where my fingernails dug in.  I shake out my arms, careful not to hit the wall to my right again.  I then try and pump myself up into moving.

I feel anxiety claw at me again at the thought of moving.  It feels like if I move I may disturb some delicate balance that I’ve found.  Exploring would make everything more real.

Death is such a inconstant thing in my mind.  Things in my life have made me dread it, most often in regards to other people, but it’s hard to really understand.  To understand that something, something that seems so permanent is gone.

If I’m dead, really and truly dead, that means that my friends, my family, the world, is gone.  The life I’ve lived is out of my reach.  While my beliefs dictate that I should meet everyone I love again in heaven, well, the Bible didn’t exactly mention waking up in the dark and hitting walls. 

So while I know that I am most likely dead and alone wherever the hell I am, I guess I don’t really understand it.  Logically, I may not see anyone I know ever again depending on how this goes.  But I feel like I should just be able to call them or if I wait long enough someone will find me. 

It’s very tempting to just sit here and hope for the best.  I mean I lived lazy, why change that when I’m dead?

But it also goes against my nature to expect others to fix my problems for me.  If I expect things to change or get better I have to be willing to instigate that change myself.

Right, so, exploring.  Taking a step into the literal unknown. 

After all, what is it Dumbledore said: To the well ordered mind death is just the next great adventure.  Or something along those lines.  Not great at getting the exact words in quotes, but I still love them.

Anyway I spent half my life reading stories and imagining myself as a protagonist in them.  It’d be pretty sad if I refused to move a muscle the first time I find myself in a “fantasy/adventure-esque” situation.  If I treat this like a story, like a dream I’m having, I should be able to be braver than I am.

Not sure if that’s particularly good for my sanity, but I’m also not quite sure if spirits have mental health.  Either way it’s better if I have some way to function.

Before I can second guess myself I shoot up to stand.  I quickly regret this as whatever I was sitting on wobbles, causing me to stumble precariously.  I wave my arms to catch my balance and try my best to keep my feet firm.  It’s then I notice how weird my body feels.  I can’t pinpoint how exactly.  It feels- stubby?  I’d almost say ill-fitting.  I bring my hand up to my face and squint.  Unfortunately I can make out absolutely zilch. 

I place my hand to my face instead.  Weirdly my face feels kind of chubby.  I’d think it had swollen up from some kind of reaction but I don’t sense any itchiness or pain.  My fingers also feel shorter but I think my hand still covers the amount of my face it’s suppose to.  Hard to tell.  I do notice that I’m not wearing my glasses but it makes little difference at the moment.  I sigh and slide my hand into my hair.  I freeze.

The…hell?

My hair isn’t curly.

I slide my hand through the unruly yet straight hair and dig through my memory. 

As much as I’ve been avoiding thinking about that last day, I try to remember if I had straightened my hair.  Even then, the texture’s all wrong – my hair is as unruly as if it was curly and in the middle of a humidity ridden summer.  It utterly baffles me for a second before I push the thought away.  I’m sure death has weirder ramifications than sudden inexplicable hair change.

With a feeling of unease in my stomach I abruptly decide to start investigating my surroundings rather than what may or may not be changed about myself.

The thing I’m standing on is actually relatively plush.  Not an adjective I would connect with a purgatory setting.  Not that I’m complaining. 

I cautiously reach over to the right.  My hand soon finds its way to the wall/wall-like structure.  I first run my hand up the wall.  My hand slides up the smooth surface, reaching above my head until it soon runs into a juncture.  I quickly follow that and am surprised to realize that the “ceiling” isn’t too far over my head.  Interestingly, the ceiling seems to slant, lower to the right and higher to the left. 

My stomach jolts again, recalling my first scattered thoughts of being trapped in a coffin.  I quickly shake the thought off knowing this structure is much too large for a coffin.

…But really, does the size make the coffin?  If I really am stuck in some dark box or small room, is it too much different than being in a smaller one?

Well, of course it is.  Much easier to break out of something that gives you leg and arm room.  Who says I have to stay here? 

Right.  Not much of an story if I stay in some damn dark room the entire time.

Nodding absently to myself, I trace the plush thing I’m standing on with my foot.  With a few short shuffles to the side my foot dips off its end.  I quickly pull my foot back up and steady myself.  I sit back down on the structure and stretch my legs in the direction of its end.  I cautiously scoot closer to the end, letting my legs dip down.  I grip onto the lightly plush material to steady myself before I let my legs completely dangle off.  With a flex of my toes to point downward I  hit something hard.

I am immensely relieved to find the ground so close to me.  I’m not quite sure what I would have done had I found no ground.  Probably explore to the left first.  Then decide if I was willing to jump for it. 

I hop lightly to the ground.  I smooth a foot in front of me before taking a step forward.  I do so again only to find my head rubbing against the ceiling.  I fall to my knees, noting the cool hard ground on my naked toes, and crawl cautiously forward again.  My heart gives an alarmed jolt as I quickly hit another wall.

Breathe.

I take a shuttering breath and resolutely turn around.  I shuffle forward on my hands and knees until I’m somewhat certain I won’t hit my head if I stand up.  The floor sends chills up my body and it feels dirty.  After I crouch upward into a stand I try to dust off my hands and knees.  I notice that my knees feel rather knobby and skinny.  I take a moment to consider what death may have done to my body before my train of thought is interrupted by a growling sound.

I jolt, my heart racing.  Then I feel my face heat up in embarrassment and reflexively cover my cheeks. 

I…

I was scared by my own stomach growling.  Truly, this is a new low. 

But damn, was I hungry.  My panic must’ve been distracting me.  I could feel hunger gnaw at my belly but did my best to ignore it knowing my situation is too uncertain to account for food right now.  It is such bullshit that I have to worry about things like hunger when I’m dead.  Not only do I have to find some way out of here, but it’s looking like I’ll have to find a source for my normal bodily needs.

I thought death was supposed to be the not complicated part.

I shake my head to try to rid myself of my thoughts.  While it’s nice and well that I have more complications to take into account I first and foremost have to get out of this room and the dark.

If  I get out and there is only more darkness awaiting me?  Well…

Well.

I shuffle a bit and feel my hip hit something to my right.  A bit of poking identifies it as whatever I had been sitting on.  I decide to search to the left.  I shuffle in that direction and quickly hit a wall.  Getting the theme here I make a conscious decision that I will no longer tolerate panicking. 

I scoot along the wall until I quickly hit a raised part of it.  Encouraged, I enthusiastically feel around the surface beyond it.  A hand soon finds a cool metal knob.

A doorknob!

“Thank the Lord.”

I feel a grin break across my face as I hastily try the handle.  I am disheartened yet unsurprised when I find it locked.  Finding out that I am not in some seamless room is enough to keep me from being disheartened.

I spend a couple minutes attempting to open and/or kick down the door.  At least, I think it is a few minutes.  Time flows ceaselessly in the dark.  I have no way to mark time and I have a shit sense of time in the first place.  I could have been at it for a minute or ten and I couldn’t tell you otherwise.  But this doesn’t altogether bother me – what’s time but another illusion?  It’s one thing to mark time on earth, but in death?  While my beliefs of the afterlife have been pretty debunked at this point, I think there must be something to the Soul since I’m here.  My soul, my consciousness, didn’t perish with my body, so it must be stronger stuff.  The soul is supposed to be immortal, so time really is immaterial at this point.

I do really want some food though so I wouldn’t mind this all going a little quicker.

I just decide to check out the rest of this space for something to help me open this damn door when I hear something.

I jump slightly in surprise at hearing something that didn’t originate from me for the first time since I woke up here.

The sound definitely comes from outside of the room I’m in and I quickly plaster my ear against the door, straining to hear what’s going on.

There’s the sound of a another door opening and then voices.  People.

It seems there are multiple, at least a man, woman, and child from what I can discern.  I try to concentrate on what they’re saying but my head it rushing in heady excitement.  Of course it’s possible that these “people” are actually demons or some other ghastly terror here to lead me astray, but I don’t particularly care at this point.  They could be some kind of angel – hell if I know.  I’m hoping they’re someone like me and can tell me what the hell is exactly going on.

I’m pretty good at managing by myself but I’d prefer not to have to muddle through post-death by myself.  The idea of some kind of useful information on top the possibility of them being able to help me out of this room beats out any sort of caution I may have.

I ignore how the voices scrape and claw at my nerves.  I ignore the terror that lurks right under my excitement.  As much as it is slightly baffling in its intensity, my situation isn’t exactly a calm one.

I take a breath and call out, voice cracking slightly, “Hey!  Hey can you hear me?  I’m stuck in the dark in this room and I can’t get out!  Could you try to open the door for me?”

I try to stay as polite as possible and keep out the note of hysteria I can feel creeping in.  Unsure how well I managed.

There’s a pause before the voices rise uproariously.  I flinch back slightly from the door and reevaluate the whole “I’m cool with antagonistic entities” thing.  The voices sound more pissed than surprised when I called out.  Thinking about it, hopefully they’re not some kind of jailors.  Still, I’d rather try my luck than stay locked in this place.

The voices approach closer with the thudding of footsteps accompany them.  The male voice raises the loudest and I realize that I can understand it if I try to rise above the panic racing through my body, “-girl daring to raise her voice at us like she has some kind of right to-”

Oh well that sounds good.

The voices barely pause in front of the door before I hear locks clicking on the other side.  I cringe back into the thing with a plush top and had a moment to regret before the door flies open.  Light floods through the new opening and I have to close my eyes against its harshness. 

Just as quickly I will my eyes open so I can take in the possible threat and finally see something.

There is a walrus standing in front of me.

Or, well, a walrus-like person.  And he’s more looming than standing, which isn’t hard considering— holy shit he’s a fucking giant

“What do you think you’re doing, freak?”

The guy had to be over three feet taller than me.  Hell, I wasn’t a tall person, but I sure as heck wasn’t a midget.  His face is red, mouth scowling under a truly hideous mustache.  His eyes glitter angrily and his considerable girth throws a shadow over me.

My eyes flick to the woman standing over his shoulder and I decide that the afterlife may be full of people that belong in a zoo.  The woman’s face is long and horse-like, framed by shoulder length straw blonde hair.  Her eyes glare darkly at me.

My attention is quickly grabbed as a bulbous shape squeezes under the walrus man.  The shape becomes a blond haired child grinning meanly at me.  I get the distinct urge to tell him it’s truly a marvel to see a whale with the willpower to pull its girth across dry land.  It occurs to me distantly that he and I are fairly close to the same height.  He is most likely the sprog of lovely people before me.

Or, rather, I know that he is the son of the people before me.

Because if there is one thing I had memorized front and back it is Harry Potter.

And these are the Dursleys.

And if I had to guess I would say that I am standing in a cupboard underneath stairs.

W..hat?

This makes no sense.  This is crazy, crazy—(but you did say to treat this like a story, right? The next great adventure-)

The man leans over me, invading my space and casting me back further into the darkness.  I unconsciously bristle and glare as he opens his mouth, spittle flying, “Calling out to us like we want to hear your voice – the nerve!  You know why you’re in there you little freak.  And you know you’re not to make a noise.  If we were only so lucky we could forget you exist, God willing.  Who knows why he lets your kind of abominations walk this earth.  Out of the way in the dark is the only place for you.”

Vernon Dursley’s face in twisted in a tableau of disdain, absolute certainty lining his hateful words.  Self righteous fury wells up in me as even though this has to be some shade conjured up by purgatory because otherwise—(there is no otherwise this is insane) he is the culmination of all that I hate in the world.  Ignorance and hatred married into a self righteous lump too satisfied in his apparent superiority to ever be more than a blight on humankind. 

It is ridiculous to say something like what he’s spewing to anyone nonetheless a-

Well a child.  Because that’s what I’m supposed to be in this situation, right?  I’ve read too many stories, unraveled too many plots and woven too many of my own to not know what my role is supposed to be here. 

I am the same size as the whale-child (Dudley) who can’t be more than six or seven and I manage to fit comfortably in a storage closet. I am supposed to be some small abused child often sentenced to the dark by her (please let it be her) relatives.  Unruly hair, skinny limbs, and knobby knees.  I know exactly who “Freak” is, because, like I said, if I know one thing in excruciating detail it’s—

I take in the ridiculous walrus-man’s face, ready to spit fire, but my throat closes up as I am hit by a consuming terror.  It steals my breath away. I have never felt so afraid of someone before. 

Except, I have.  I have been absolutely terrified of these people for a while.  I trace the veins popping out of Vernon’s neck, the splotchy red dying his skin.  I unconsciously know that I will probably be shut in the closet for a few days.  The red isn’t quite vivid enough for him to remove the light bulb and leave me in the dark (but I had already done something before to earn that punishment, hadn’t I?).  I won’t start accruing extra punishments until his skin gains a purple tint.

I examine this knowledge offhandedly with the few parts of my mind that aren’t clouded in fear. 

The thing is, the taste of this terror on my tongue – it isn’t new.  This alien shaking of my body, the sweat staining my armpits and dampening my palms, the ragged breaths that filled my ears, the stinging in my eyes; these were all things this body’s nervous system had dealt with on a regular occasion.  This was something that I dealt with on a regular basis.

Just like how that dark felt like a familiar knife, cutting off my senses.  The fears and anxieties of my death only adding to a preexisting fear.

It was absolutely jarring to realize that I am terrified of Vernon Dursley’s anger.  I dread Petunia’s cold glances and sharp remarks.  I panic at the sound of Dudley’s stomping feet and mean-spirited snicker.

Because I am this five year old who deals with an abusive household and has ingrained responses. 

Because I’m dead, but I’m not.  I’m alive in this purgatory. 

It feels like the breath is sucked out of me, the panic I have been desperately suppressing clawing at my throat.  My head feels stuffed, the ridiculousness of my situation making everything feel surreal.  Tingles erupt throughout my body and I want to crawl out of my skin – get out of the body of this child.  This child who cannot exist-

Boom

A flair of light then darkness.

Somehow I knew I would come out of that room to more darkness.

Petunia’s shrill screech pierces the air and dots blot my vision.  It vaguely occurs to me that all of the lights in the house have blown out, as if there was a power surge.

My ears are ringing but I can still vaguely hear Vernon’s bellow.  He’s calling me a freak, accusing me of causing the power surge.  Which is ridiculous since I can’t control electricity or have any strange powers.  That’s just crazy because I’m, I’m just- 

Fuck all: I am Harry Potter.

Chapter Text

I wonder—

Am I the girl dreaming of being a butterfly

Or the butterfly who dreams of being a girl?

 

Before, I thought, at the heart of things, matters were rarely truly “complicated”.  This is not in regards to scientific or mathematical theory or academia in general, but rather people and the situations they find themselves in.

People will describe a relationship or situation as “complicated”.  In fact the reality of the situation tends to be quite stark.  For example, a girl may like a boy but believe he doesn’t truly like her.  When asked about her feelings towards him, she will respond “complicated”.  But the matter isn’t complicated at all; she likes him, but he either doesn’t like her back or not to the degree she needs.

Other situations may be similar.  For example someone wants something but knows it is not good for them.  Even on a larger scale in international politics countries will have “complicated” relationships or reasonings behind their actions.  Most of the time, though, what is “right” is clouded by greed, self-interest, apathy towards others, or any other filter.  People simply don’t wish to admit the truth of a situation or their feelings and instead turn it into something “complicated” in their head, therefore justifying any decision they make as one not made lightly.

In other words, the word “complicated” is a lie.

You don’t tend to see children walking around calling their problems “complicated”.  Instead, they simply say why they want something and hang the consequences.  Because they don’t mix up the situation in their head, disputes between children tend to be simpler and resolved easier.  As a child, and even a developing adult, I had always thought adults made things more “complicated” than need be, and the phrase tended to be more an excuse than anything.

My situation is complicated. 

“Girl, you’ve been cleaning the same spot on the floor for ages!  Keep moving!” a male voice shouts. 

I jolt, twin sparks of anger and fear stinging my heart.

My eyes blink, the unfocused image of the bland white tiled floor under me becoming sharper.  The wet rag clenched in my small fists comes to a reluctant stop where it had been making absentminded loops on the floor.  I indeed couldn’t remember when I had last moved from this particular spot, which is at this point spotless.

I say nothing and push the water filled bucket next to me over to the right.  I crawl after it, knobby knees aching a bit from kneeling on the cool hard ground so long.  I quickly dunk the rag into the  bucket and set to work on the new set of tiles.

I hear a derisive snort and I flash a look through my eyelashes towards the living room.  I catch a glimpse of the back of the Dursley Walrus’ head as he settles back onto the couch to watch the TV.

My lips pull into a frown but I look back down to the tiles, knowing better than to say anything at this point.  The past few weeks had very pointedly alerted me to my limitations and what may be considered a useless fight.

I can feel as my eyes unfocused and the bland image before me blurs.  I retreat easily into my mind and suspect that the younger me of this body had often also done so.  It wouldn’t be altogether surprising since I suspect she was also me, rather than actually Harry Potter.

That was an inner existential crises on top of the larger one my present existence creates.  In the dark of the cupboard, after having been thrown back in after the debacle with the lights, and furiously ignoring many, many other issues, I debated the existence of Harry Potter.

Or rather, this Harry Potter.  I quickly confirmed that the body I’m in is not the same as the Harry I know with a quick check down under.  That, at least, was the one bit of relief in this whole fucked up situation.  I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with gender dysphoria on top of all of this nonsense.

With that said, it’s not like I’m not well acquainted with the multiple universe theory.  Not in any scientific sense, of course, but rather a literary one.  Which may serve been better than science here, in any case.

So that did not assuage any worries that I had somehow bodysnatched and subsequently murdered (in spirit) a child. 

It doesn’t make much sense for me to have suddenly taken her over at this point, though.  I can’t be sure quite how old this body is, but it’s certainly beyond that of a toddler, malnutrition or not.  I couldn’t think of a reason why my spirit would randomly attach to a small child. 

Well, I could think of situations where that would happen.  Like if she had been near death.  But besides the mild hunger pains I near constantly suffer, this body had been nowhere near starvation nor death in any other means.

Plus, while I don’t necessarily have distinct memories of before I woke up, I still definitely have knowledge I would not otherwise have.  I know of the signs of the Durleys’ anger, how the Bitch likes me to do chores, and countless other mundane bits.  The fact I don’t know my age makes my throat hot with anger and tears spring to my eyes.

Ugh.  I cried easily as a child.

While the temperament of this child would not be the same as mine considering our vastly different upbringings, I can still see bits and pieces of our similarities.  I found a pencil she had sequestered underneath her mattress and the faint scribbles of drawings in graphite under my cot that you could only see if you angled the light in a certain way.  I can recall in being interested in nothing but drawing when I was young and a smile managed to crack my face at the discovery.

From the various grumblings of the Dursleys, I have also managed to patch together some of, well, my, I suppose, past actions.  Despite being beat down emotionally and spiritually, as one can only presume a child in this situation would be, it seems that something of my past life sparked through.

Vernon had grumbled about “nonsense” like “fairness” and “justice”.  It seems at times I would spout off about the right to live and treating others equally.  I don’t think this is something an oppressed child could necessarily come up with herself, even if she had heard something from Dudley’s cartoons. 

So it seems that bits and pieces of my past life had been breaking through even then.  The actions themselves also match up with what I can remember of my personality as a child.  I was, for lack of better words, rather…Gryffindorish.  With a knack for standing up for people, outrage at seeming unfairness, extroversion in making friends, reckless and a times violent behavior; the whole shebang.  I grew out of that.  Mostly.

At the same time I was always a daydreamer, lost in my own head.  Mom always said that I’d go off to play in my “own little world” if I wasn’t interested in what others were doing.  It’s a trait that stayed with me all my life.  I half lived in my head.  Mom thought it was nice because it made me independent.

Mom would also rip out the Dursley parents’ esophagus through their throats for what they’ve done to me.

Best not to think about her.

All of this together leads me to believe that I have always been the Harry Potter of this world.  It’s just that I didn’t remember who I was until that day a few weeks ago.

Which, actually, lines up quite nicely with what I remember from my psychology class.  We did a brief section on the brain and its development.  I recall children aren’t capable of concrete or complex thought until a certain age, meaning my memories would’ve probably overloaded the still developing brain in this body.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to understand them in full anyway.

If nothing else, child murdering did not go into the process of this shitshow.

Wait, actually, attempted child murder definitely happened if I’m at the Dursleys.  Never mind then; I did not personally attempt to kill any children.

Girl!”

My heart spasms in fear and I hurriedly move on to clean another section of the floor.

I ignore the man’s grumbles and grit my teeth, deciding not to recede too far into my thoughts to avoid another slip up.

At this point one may question me why the hell I’m playing meek child servant and not responding to the fat man’s dribble. 

I could tell you that I’m biding my time.  I’m lulling them into a false sense of awareness until it is the perfect time to strike.  Whether than is in some type of vengeance or simply escape.  Playing docile child is the perfect guise under which to plot. 

It’s what I tell myself, after all.

In truth I’m scared.  And going half out of my mind because of it.

Because this isn’t all my fear, see.  The child did not have my grown mind and experiences to filter her abuse through.  She had enough snippets of my knowledge flow through for her to understand that not everything that happened to her was alright, but that wasn’t enough to mitigate the damage.

That girl was fucking terrified of these people.  And rightly so – they almost seem like a caricature in how absolutely vile they are.  They lock up a small child in a small space, a dark small space if sufficiently pissed, deny her proper food, force her to do the chores around the house (including cooking what the hell), degrade and berate her and refuse to call her by name.

Did I mention I don’t know what her name is?  For all that this body is Harry Potter, I don’t actually know the name of this girl.  Which means she, or I, never knew my name.

What the hell

She was a victim of abuse.  Just straight out child abuse.  She was terrified and cowed by her abusers in equal measure and the thought of disobedience was unfathomable.  She had been outside to tend to the garden, and as much as she absolutely adored that taste of freedom, the thought of the outside world is equally petrifying.

She had never been beyond this house, never talked or interacted with humans beyond her relatives.  For all that the people she could sometimes catch glimpses of on the TV could seem nice, and she could daydream all she wanted about some nice people taking her away (her parents, of course, I wonder what she thought they looked like—), the difference in reality and fiction was still rather stark for her.  The Dursleys were reality.  Anything outside of this house, fiction.

And so while the thought of running away or putting the Dursleys in their place certainly fills up half my daydreams…

I’m scared. 

My body clenches up, I break out in sweat, my mind stops, and dread tries to claw out from my ribs.

Then my rational mind kicks into gear and I am furious.  Furious at myself and this situation, because this is just stupid.  I am a grown ass adult who does not tolerate anyone’s shit and I am perfectly capable of kicking this white suburban family to the curb.  The fear of a child should mean nothing in the face of my decades of experience, my own will.

But abuse is not so cut and dry.  It does psychological damage.  And for all that abuse survivors survive, that does not been that those hurts and that fear will suddenly disappear.  Those stuck in a cycle of abuse are in an even tougher spot; rationality and willpower have nothing to do with it.  I know that.  I’ve been taught that.  But I’ve never gone through it personally before and it’s hard to truly understand something otherwise. 

Except, of course, I have suffered abuse.  For the past five years.

Which brings me to this problem: while I have accepted that this child has always been me, I can’t help but distance myself from her and her experiences and actions.

See?  Her.  I can’t even think of her as I.

It’s hard; I don’t remember the past five years of this existence well and it is jarringly, laughingly disconnected to my over two decades of previous existence.  How can I reconcile these experiences with my previous ones?  Especially when it doesn’t really feel like I lived through them, with my full consciousness having not been present.

Hell, I don’t even believe someone can be the same person if they don’t have their memories.  That means I literally can’t see the child of these past five years as having been myself.

Except she was, and all of her experiences, all of her fears and impulses, are now ingrained into my psyche.  More deeply ingrained into this brain than the sudden inclusion of my past life. 

Do you see the problem?

I have no interest in being goddamn Cinderella.  I have no interest in playing victim.  And when I think about it I feel bad because I would never say something so degrading about a child suffering abuse, about anyone suffering abuse, but it’s just different when it’s me.

And so I’m angry at myself for not being able to overcome my own fear and angry for not being able to accept that this pain is natural and not shameful.  And so I’m just angry and fearful until I decide to just disappear into the recesses of my thoughts and imagination and ignore life entirely.  Which is absolutely counterproductive and there are so many things wrong with my current situation – beyond even being in an abusive home, dear God Harry Potter’s life is fucked up – that it’s really not a solution I can afford.

Did I mention I don’t do anger?  I get frustrated about things and angry at things that are wrong with the world, but I can probably count on one hand how many times I have been truly, personally angry.  Being angry always makes me sick to my stomach and it just doesn’t jive with my personality.

Maybe Harry’s angst is transferrable through body.  Or maybe having such a shitty life just makes you a person prone to anger.  Both rational choices, I think.

I huff and finish cleaning the far end of the kitchen tiles closer to the living room.  I pick up the rag and squeeze any excess water back into the bucket.  Gazing idly at the dripping water, I try to clear my thoughts.

Thinking about my ongoing existential crisis and how I’m ignoring my problems isn’t a particularly productive past time.

But it’s hard to do much otherwise.  The reality I’m living in, for all that it feels like I’m in the Twilight Zone, is too harsh to be anything but the truth.  Having such a jarringly different life creates a sense of dysphoria itself.  It makes me want to question reality, to believe I’m in a dream or some strange fugue state.  It also makes me want to question my experiences, my belief in a past life.

Am I a child or an adult?

Am I Harry Potter or me?

The butterfly or the man?

But I’m not dreaming now, and I wasn’t then.  I cannot deny my current state as reality and it is far, far too implausible that a small child could create a life so detailed and different than her own, no matter how miserable and imaginative. 

So, the question comes, what’s the punchline?

Because, clearly, reincarnating as the main character from a dearly beloved childhood story can be nothing but a bad joke. 

I look away from my listless stare at the rag in my hands towards the hallway as the front door opens.  The sound of thundering steps heralds Dudley’s return from school.  Or preschool. He does not seem overly inclined to discuss what he learns within the Halls of Education so it’s hard to decide.  He can’t be too much older than me so it’d be a nice measuring stick, since I can’t distinguish the age of children for crap.

Also, I’m too short to see into any mirrors.  Damn.  Wasn’t Harry supposed to be short for his age because of undernourishment?  Or was that a fanon thing?  I always had aspirations to be tall…

The large child sticks his head around the corner before sneering at me, “Freak.”  He snickers, then waddles around and toddles for the stairs to doubtlessly while his time away mindlessly in his room.

I know children can be cruel but.  Dear God. 

“Dear, we have a bit of a problem,” Petunia emerges from the hallway, wringing her hands.

Vernon grunts a bit in irritation from his position vegetating on the couch before lumbering upwards and move towards his wife, “Yes, love, what is it?” he peers through towards where I am still kneeling in the kitchen, “I’ve been watching this one all day, couldn’t have gotten something by me!”

My supposed blood aunt sends a cold look in my direction before pulling something like a letter out of her purse, “Dudder’s teacher gave this to me when I picked him up.  She said she would,” her face twists in disgust, “look forwards to seeing our other child next year.”

Vernon, who had taken the letter, turns a brilliant red, already hinting towards puce, “That thing could never be—”

She steps forwards with placating motions, “Of course not, dear.  Don’t worry; I assured her that that is the child of my unfortunate sister that we took in when her degenerate parents died.  No one will make a mistake like that again.”

Still riled, the walrus-man began to read whatever his bitchy wife handed him.  By his twitching mustache, it does not do many favors for his blood pressure.  Maybe he’ll drop dead from a heart attack.

“Hmph!  To think we’d have to take it in public; the girl hardly knows how to do basic chores, nonetheless function as a proper member in society!  And using our good tax dollars when it’ll just end up useless!”

Petunia is equally disgruntled, though with less color changing, “Well, we couldn’t have an undocumented child in this house when you know Betty from down the way would smell it out in an instant.  Nosey harpy.  And the government, of course, makes it so children must go to school.  There’s no getting out of it.”

He harrumphs, “If the PM knew what I know, he’d think twice about putting something like it around other children!  It’d break the poor Queen’s heart, it would!”

He pauses and turns to me, scowling forebodingly, “Listen, girl, next school year you will start going to school with Dudley.  This summer you best show that you can behave yourself or -  so help me! – I will make sure you never leave that cupboard again, bloody government or no!”

At his tone I can’t help my body going erect and nodding hurriedly in acquiescence.  He prattles on about something but my mind is already occupied with my sudden change in circumstances.

In a few months I will be heading back to school.  Kindergarten, I suppose, unless Great Britain doesn’t have it.  That means leaving the house.  That means getting away from this toxic environment for hours every day of the week.  It means seeing new people and hopefully having more opportunities to create a plan of action to break myself out of this hell.  It means change, hope.

I throw up all over the freshly cleaned tiles.