Truth Amid the Lies
By Anne B. Walsh
Harry squeezed Meghan’s hand once more, then drew her up beside him. She wrapped her arms around him and put her face against his side, requiring him to walk slowly so as not to step on her or make her trip. Draco and Hermione, still holding hands tightly, followed them.
The thing sitting in the chair by the fire leaned forward to look at them, and Harry put an arm quickly around Meghan’s head to hold her face where it was. Hermione, behind him, was shivering so hard he could hear it in her breath. Draco didn’t seem to be breathing at all.
"Harry Potter," breathed a soft, whispery voice, coming from the slit in the skull-looking face that was in the place a normal person’s mouth would be. "How you have grown." Red eyes in sunken sockets glowed sullenly, like a fire about to die. "Six years old, now. Old enough to understand who I am. So tell me, boy. Who am I?"
"My lord, is this necessary?" asked Danger in the unfamiliar voice that Harry knew made her sound like Draco’s mum. "Harry knows his lessons. He has been taught well."
"Better, it seems, than you have been, Narcissa," said Lord Voldemort, turning slightly so that his red gaze fell on Danger. "I was not speaking to you."
Danger paled. "Forgive me, my lord," she said, bowing her head so that her pale blonde, straight hair fell about her face. "I thought only of the child..."
"You need no longer think of him. I will do it for you." Voldemort turned back to look at Harry. "My question stands, Harry. Who am I?"
Harry loosened Meghan’s grip on him a little bit and bowed low. "My lord," he said as Danger had.
The words made him feel a little sick, but he knew he was only playing a part, the same way Danger and Moony were. He has to think I want to be on his side. Then he won’t want to hurt me anymore. He’ll think he’s safe.
Lord Voldemort began to laugh, a thin, wheezing cackle that seemed to hurt him, but he did not stop. "You hear this, Severus? The son of the Potters, calling me..." He leaned back in the chair, still laughing.
"The world is indeed a wondrous place, my lord," said Snape’s dark voice from the corner of the room. "I would not have thought it possible, had I not been present to observe it myself."
"Ahhhh." Voldemort sighed, bringing himself back under control. "But this, of course, leaves me with a dilemma. What to do with this so-trusting child?"
"My lord." Moony stepped forward, giving Voldemort a shallow bow. "Do you trust me?"
"Perhaps as much as I trust anyone, Lucius." Voldemort sat up with a small grunt of effort. "Do you still have the book I gave you? The diary of my days at Hogwarts?"
"I have not moved it, my lord," Moony said easily. Harry glanced at Danger and saw the momentary panic on her face, but Moony’s unfamiliar features remained calm. "And I do not recall whether I ever thanked you properly for such a sign of your trust in me."
Voldemort smiled. "You did. And in the morning, perhaps, I shall wish to see it, but for the time being I trust you that it is safe. The issue at hand, though, is Harry Potter. Even with his new loyalty, can I allow such a dangerous creature to live? Would it not be gambling with my own life, my own sanity, to keep him alive?"
"My lord, forgive the presumption, but I believe I may have something to add," said Snape, standing up. Harry drew back a little, bumping his shoulder into Hermione, who took the hint and scooted backwards as well, pulling Draco with her. "You recall, of course, that it was I who first brought you the news of the prophecy about the child to be marked, the child who would hold power you knew not."
"My lord, the prophecy was yet unfinished when I was discovered. If this is the case, then perhaps we should endeavor to discover the rest of it before taking any action which cannot be reversed. There might be... repercussions to killing the boy."
Voldemort frowned. "Repercussions?"
"If his life and yours, perhaps, are linked," Snape said, every word said delicately, as though he were stepping through a swamp of words and must find only the ones which would hold his weight. "Any power which could defeat you, my lord, would be a weighty power indeed. Does it not seem prudent to ensure that such power does not survive the need for it?"
The frown deepened, then lightened. "I see. I think I see. You are suggesting that should Potter live to manhood and by some fluke defeat me, that the power within him would then destroy him, as he would be no further use."
"It seems only logical. He might actually grow to be dangerous to any organized regime, as such great strength would necessarily make him a free agent. The general reciprocity of magic, if nothing else, leads me to believe it might be so."
"What are they talking about?" Harry breathed over his shoulder.
Hermione rested her face against his back. "Snape’s trying to make Voldemort think he shouldn’t kill you," she whispered into the cloth of his shirt. "He’s saying maybe there was something in a prophecy, in the part he didn’t hear, about you and Voldemort being linked together."
"He heard a prophecy about me?" Harry studied Snape, or rather Snape’s back, more carefully. He could see tension in the set of Snape’s shoulders, but the deep voice had been completely calm. Maybe I can ask him what the prophecy said... what it was about...
"But I fail to see the point in your little peroration, Severus." Voldemort’s voice cut across Harry’s thoughts. "Even if Potter’s own power would destroy him after he had defeated me, what difference does that make to me? My power has never threatened me, and I have had fifty years to allow it to try."
"But you have never matched it against a power of which it was specifically said that you had no knowledge," Snape countered. "I do not pretend to understand the prophecy better than you do, my lord, but I would be far less than happy, now that you have returned to us so unexpectedly, if you were harmed, especially if that harm were avoidable."
"Do you doubt me, Severus?" Voldemort asked, and his voice lost the half-joking edge it had held a moment before to become very cold and quiet. "Do you doubt what I can do?"
"No, my lord. Never for a moment."
"Come, come, Severus, you should know by now I do not appreciate being lied to. You wish to spare my feelings. Speak the truth."
"If you wish it of me, my lord, I will do so." Snape bowed before speaking again, his voice slower than before. "My lord, you appear weak and ill. Wherever you have been these last years, it has taken a toll on you. Magic which you might have no trouble in countering under normal circumstances might now destroy you, and I would not have that happen. I beg of you, rest for just this one night."
"Odd, how you seem so eager to keep me from the boy," said Voldemort musingly. "You and Lucius both, and Narcissa as well. Almost as though you had something else in mind."
"My lord, the only thought in my mind is your welfare," said Danger from her place on the hearth, but Harry could see her knuckles going white where she had her fist clenched around a handful of her robe. "I would not have you hurt for the world."
"Indeed?" Voldemort lifted where an eyebrow would usually have been. "Then why do you seem so intent on denying me that which will bring me the most pleasure and relief?"
"I thrive, my dear Narcissa, on the destruction of my enemies. Something that you should have known long since. Killing Harry Potter, far from harming me, will give me the strength I need to fully recover myself, and to begin bringing this land under my control, as it should have been done five years ago."
"My lord, what if you are wrong?" Moony said.
Voldemort turned sharply. "What was that, Lucius?"
"I said, what if you are wrong?" Moony stood very still, meeting Voldemort’s eyes. "As Severus said, you are weakened. It is possible that not only your body, but your mind, were affected by whatever horrors you have passed through. Your judgment may not be perfectly sound at the moment. Will you not allow us, who have been faithful for so long, to help and guide you through this time of difficulty?"
Voldemort’s eyes blazed. "There are few who would dare speak to me so," he hissed. "Very few."
Danger’s hands were buried once more in Padfoot’s fur, her face was openly terrified, but Moony did not flinch. "I dare, my lord, for the sake of my wife’s dear sister, for my son and his future, for all those who have so long harbored hopes about your return. Fault me for that if you will."
The moment stretched, growing endless. The firelight flickered, casting shifting shadows about the room, but there was no other movement.
"I... cannot," Voldemort said at last. "Still, Lucius, you would do well to amend your manner once I am fully myself again."
"My lord, when you are fully yourself again, you will find me as obedient a servant as ever I was." Moony bowed deeply. "I thank you for listening to me."
"You spoke only the truth." Voldemort sat back in his chair, looking idly around the room, at Snape, at Danger, at Padfoot. "Still, Iâ€”"
He froze, red eyes fixed on Padfoot’s gray, and Harry yelled as his scar exploded with pain.
Sirius fought, shoving mentally at Voldemort’s intrusions into his mind, but it was like trying to fight off the dementors without a wand, the cold fingers drove deeper into his mind every second, touching and tainting his dearest memories, and pain and fear drove a whimper from himâ€”
Voldemort wheeled, breaking the contact, and Sirius slumped, gasping for breath. Danger’s arms were around his canine form, holding him together, he thought muzzily, if she let go he’d break...
"Traitor," Voldemort breathed, and Sirius lifted his head enough to see the Dark wizard glaring at Snape, who seemed unable to moveâ€”no wonder, if he’s getting what I got, but I thought he could fight it offâ€”maybe he’s just out of practiceâ€”
Voldemort stood. His left hand rose in a circular motion, and a shell of magic sprang into place around him and Snape, translucent but gleaming fitfully. His right hand shot out and caught in Snape’s robes, dragging the Potions Master towards him.
"A well-designed trap," Voldemort said, almost playfully, still staring into Snape’s eyes. "You almost had me fooled. I would have trusted in you, would have fallen asleep here among you, and I would never have awakened, would I? But now you can do nothing."
He gestured again with the left hand, and the door, which had crept open, slammed shut. Danger leapt up as a second shell of magic appeared behind her, behind Remus and the cubs, all around them, between them and the walls of the roomâ€”
He’s sealed us in. We’re dead. As soon as he does whatever he’s going to do to Snivellus, we’re dead, and it’s my fault, all my faultâ€”
"Stop it," hissed a voice in his ear, and an invisible hand squeezed his canine shoulder roughly. "Now."
Sirius swallowed his yelp and nodded his head very slightly.
"So Lucius is in Azkaban, and Narcissa is dead," Voldemort said to Snape. "Theseâ€”" His careless wave indicated Remus and Danger, now standing side by side with the cubs huddled behind them. "â€”are impostors." His voice grew icy. "And you have never truly been mine at all."
Come on, Sirius, think. There’s got to be something you can do. Silently, Sirius shifted his form back to human, and eased his feet underneath him. Letha’s here, Prongs and Lily are here, and they’re hidden, he doesn’t know about them. They need an opening. Maybe while he’s distracted with Snapeâ€”
"But I will still have you," said Voldemort. His gaze still held Snape pinioned, and Sirius stared as he saw the glistening in Snape’s black eyes. "You may never have been mine in your heart, but you were mine in your soul, and soon your soul will be mine in truth..."
He reached out and seized Snape’s left arm, and pulled up the sleeve of the other wizard’s robe. The Dark Mark gleamed red on the pale skin beneath, and Voldemort hissed between his teeth and laid his hand on it.
Snape convulsed, a half-choked cry tearing its way out of him. Sirius winced despite himself.
A small rustle beside Sirius, and then James and Lily stood there, Aletha between them, their wands in their hands. As one, the wands came up, as one they came down, and three spells shot straight and true for Voldemort’s back.
Two of them struck the shield and disintegrated into showers of sparks. The third seemed to shrink as it passed through the coruscating field of light, but pass through it did, and Voldemort froze as it struck him. His hands opened, and Snape collapsed to the floor, gasping, his face twisted in pain.
"Whose spell got through?" Lily demanded urgently.
"I don’t know!" James shook his head. "Let’s all try again, everybody, we might even be able to collapse itâ€”throw anything you think could get him out of there, on three, one, twoâ€”"
Voldemort shook himself and turned to face them. James dodged to one side, taking Lily with him, and Aletha dived out of the way behind Sirius.
"Three!" Sirius shouted, and threw his own spell. It sparked off the shield, turning it briefly opaque. Two or three others struck a second later, and then two passed within, and an instant later Snape skidded out of the far side of the shield. Lily dashed to him, James an instant behind her, Harry an instant behind him, and within a few moments the entire Pack had recongregated around Snape.
Strange thought. But considering who we’re facing...
The shield’s opacity died down, revealing Voldemort with his wand in his hand.
I was sort of hoping he didn’t have one, since he’d put up the shield without it. Guess he does.
"Odd," Voldemort said conversationally. "I had thought that spell impregnable to all but myself."
"Obviously you were wrong," Remus said.
"Indeed." Voldemort looked from Remus to Harry, then at Sirius and Aletha. "Could it be... but no. Speculation does nothing. A pity that I could not have taken more from Severus, but this pittance will have to do."
"Don’t be a fool," Aletha said. "It’s six to one. You might be able to kill one of us, but you can’t kill us all."
Voldemort chuckled low in his throat. "Are you so very sure of that?"
Faster than Sirius’ eye could follow, he flicked his wand upwards. "Venti inferii!"
Albus Dumbledore skidded to a halt outside the door of the room just in time to hear shouts of surprise and fear rising over a shrieking wind.
I should have expected this. But I did not.
Still, if they are all present...
He traced the tip of his wand along the door, making a square, and that portion of the wood vanished, allowing him to see the room within.
Yes. All of them. Lily was huddled beside Danger, both women’s arms wrapped around the children, though one of Lily’s hands lay protectively on Meghan’s back where the child clung to a dazed-looking Severus. Remus and James braced themselves against the mass of people, straining to remain upright against the furious gusts which buffeted them. Aletha knelt beside them, her arms around Sirius, holding him up against the wind. Voldemort stood before them, his robes unmoved by the air swirling all around, his vicious smile beginning on his ravaged face.
I cannot battle you directly, Tom, not this time. But I can make it easier for those within to defeat you.
Dumbledore began to intone the spell that would be needed, after pausing for an instant to look upwards.
They have not yet come to the full understanding of themselves, but I cannot believe that you will fail to help them for lack of a few words...
Harry hid his face against Tigermum’s robes, coughing. The magic wind Voldemort had made smelled like rotten meat and smoke, and it was strong. It had nearly blown him and Neenie out of Danger’s grasp before Tigermum had grabbed them. Now the grownups were holding tight to the cubs and to each other, either that or trying to stay standing long enough to hit Voldemort with a spell. But even if they could get a spell out, Harry thought, the wind would blow it away...
I’m supposed to be able to beat Voldemort. But I’m too little. I can’t even stand up against this wind, and he made it with only a little bit of magic he stole. What could he do with all his magic?
I’d need lots more magic than I have to fight him. More magic than I’ll ever have.
So get more, suggested a voice at the back of his head.
How? Steal it like he does?
No, silly. Ask to borrow it, and give it back when you’re done. Like you do with Draco’s models or Neenie’s books.
Borrow. I can do that. Harry closed his eyes, imagining it. The magic of the Pack, flowing into him, making him strong. Stronger than any of them were alone, stronger than anyone could ever be alone.
Pack means never having to be alone. Not ever.
He hugged Tigermum a little tighter and felt her answering squeeze. Something thumped against his chest, and he grinned. Even the baby wanted to help.
Now I just need to know how to ask...
The knowledge flowed into his mind easily, as though it were part of a den-night story he’d heard all his life.
Oh. That’s how.
He lifted his head, closed his eyes, and thought about his magic, burning inside him like a red fire. Go to Tigermum, he told it. Touch her magic and ask if it will help me. Then go to the baby. Then Prongs, and then everybody else.
But hurry. There isn’t much time.
Lord Voldemort laughed aloud. The winds of hell were shredding his enemies’ strength, dragging their power out of them and bringing it to him. Already he could sustain the spell. A little longer and he would be able to increase it, to make it so strong that they would never be able to stand against him.
Perhaps I can do that sooner, though... touch is helpful for draining one bound by the Mark, but not necessary...
He reached mentally towards Severus again, feeling the magic surging sullenly within the other man’s soul to answer his call. Come to me, he murmured, come as I bid you, leave your master and come to me... you are mine, after all, for he is mine...
"NO!" shouted a tiny, furious voice, audible even over the sound of the wind. "NO NO NO!"
Voldemort blinked, startled. Who dared tell him no?
The huddle of people before him parted slightly to reveal the shouterâ€”Black’s child, her myriad of braids whipping in the wind, her lips drawn back in a feral snarl, her hands buried in Severus’ robes.
"Mine!" she screamed at him. "Mine!"
Voldemort stared at her for a second, then slowly began to laugh.
This infant, this insignificant half-blood brat, thinks she can challenge me? The greatest Dark wizard ever born?
Once more, he reached for Severus’ power.
"MINE!" shrieked the girl again, and Lord Voldemort reeled backwards as a torrent of raging, raw magic struck him in the face.
It wasn’t possible. It shouldn’t have been possible. But somehow, the girl’s power had penetrated his shield, just as the spells of the adults had earlier.
I wonder... I knew about one of them, at least, and it seems my moves to disable him were not entirely successful...
No. I will wonder later. Now, I must conquer.
He caught himself on the chair, stood upright once more, and allowed the winds to replenish his magic.
Time for you to learn your place, child.
Time for all of you to learn.
I am Lord Voldemort, and I cannot be defeated.
One of the other children lifted his head. Green eyes blazed, and black hair tangled into ever more complicated knots as the winds rushed over him.
Not even by you, Harry Potter.
Voldemort lifted his wand high and sent a spell directly at the boy.
Everything was going just a little bit slower than it should. Harry saw Voldemort’s wand coming up, watched the spell forming at its tip, and had plenty of time to lift up his hand and summon the magic of the Pack. It blazed inside him, feeling like the biggest bonfire there had ever been, filling him to the very tips of his fingers and toes. He could do anything with it. Even things that you weren’t supposed to be able to do.
"Go away," he said, pointing at the green spell rushing at him.
A surge of red power shot from his finger and rammed into the green spell. They both bounced off at crazy angles, the red stuff shooting into the ceiling, the green into the floor. Voldemort’s eyes went wide.
I wonder if that would work on him?
"Go away," Harry said again, this time pointing straight at Voldemort. "Go away, we don’t want you..."
The magic flowed out of him and pushed, but Voldemort’s magic pushed back. It was ugly green and black, and it hurt where it touched the Pack’s magic. Harry lowered his hand, shivering. He didn’t like the place where it hurtâ€”it was so deep inside him he hadn’t really even known it was thereâ€”
And then a shield, a shield made of magic so dark green it was almost black itself, rolled around Harry, protecting him, holding back Voldemort’s magic. Voldemort recoiled in surprise, and Harry knew he’d never get a better chanceâ€”
But what do I say?
The voice in the back of his head spoke up again. He doesn’t look too good. Wherever he’s been for the last five years, it wasn’t a nice place. But he doesn’t really deserve a nice place, does he?
Harry growled deep in his throat. No. No, he doesn’t.
He took a step forward and pointed at Voldemort. "We don’t want you!" he shouted. "Leave us alone! Go back where you came fromâ€”and stay there, this time!"
The twelve different feelings of the Pack’s magic surged forward, rushing through the dark green shield, engulfing Voldemort, whose mouth had opened in a silent scream. The winds stopped blowingâ€”for one second, everything was stillâ€”
And then all the air in the room exploded inwards, and the skeletal figure of Lord Voldemort vanished like a candle flame blown out by the wind.
I don’t blame you, those of you who thought this story was abandoned. I am so, so sorry for making you wait. Blame my life, blame the astounding discovery that real life is harder than
school, or blame me if you really must... but please, don’t blame me so much that you don’t review!
Epilogue will be forthcoming sometime this week, and this time I mean itâ€”it’s written and on my hard drive, it just needs posting. The more reviews, the sooner I put it up!