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Chapter Two—Halloween, 1981
Harry knew it was getting close to Halloween. James had hung up a few pumpkins and was telling stories of ghosts and black cats—the black cats were always the heroes—to Jonathan. He told them to Harry, too, although he didn't think Harry was old enough to understand.
Harry had been that since he was born, but unfortunately, he wasn't old enough to make his tongue work the way he wanted to. He had noticed after a few months that none of the other Marauders ever visited them, and after listening to a few more conversations when he was "asleep," he'd found out why. Dumbledore was their Secret-Keeper. Even Sirius and Remus and Peter weren't trusted with that secret.
But then James, who missed his friends, had prevailed with Dumbledore to give the secret to them one at a time. Sirius had visited and tossed Harry in the air higher than James did. He got worse scoldings from Lily, too. His eyes were only a little shadowed and they shone with joy when he changed into a dog and dragged Jonathan around the drawing room in a little sleigh.
Remus didn't appear. Harry had tried to hint that Remus wasn't evil by asking about him and even saying simple, child-believable things like, "Moony good!" But Sirius had just ruffled his hair and smiled sadly, and James teased Lily about her sons growing up to be half-Ravenclaws just like her, since Harry was way too smart and speaking too clearly for thirteen months old.
"Moony can't come, pup," Sirius said, and balanced Harry on his knee and bounced him up and down under the mistaken impression that that was what he wanted. "He just—well, never mind. Maybe we'll see him someday."
You suspect Remus and you trust Peter? Harry had thought the next time Pettigrew was visiting. He cringed way too much, and never took off his long-sleeved robes even when James or Lily routinely invited him to.
But there wasn't much Harry could do about it. He did try to stumble over to Peter and "accidentally" yank his left sleeve down so that they could see the Dark Mark. But either James would swoop him up and fly him around the room when he did that, or he was so slow that Peter had plenty of time to get out of the way. He would sit Harry on his lap and talk to him, but Harry never bothered listening to a word he said. His pulse was pounding too hot with indignation.
He tried to find a scrap of parchment and a quill, too, because he would risk a suspicious note appearing before he would risk leaving his parents and his brother to Peter. But when he did find a quill, his fists were too clumsy with baby softness. The quill just broke, and James teased Lily some more about Harry's inherited Ravenclaw tendencies.
I hate being a bloody baby, Harry thought grumpily.
He tried. How he tried. He attempted to focus his magic on Peter's left sleeve and pull it up that way, but he was simply too bad at manipulating objects when he was this young. He could best strengthen his own body, like his eyesight, but he couldn't even make a toy or a piece of clothing float back to him when he had dropped it.
He decided to throw all caution to the winds and talk like an adult and not a baby, but when he did, Lily just cooed at how cute he was for repeating words she seemed to think he had got out of the adult conversations, even when he was very articulate about the dangers of the Fidelius Charm. Harry decided, miserably, that she would believe he could articulate at such a young age before she would believe that one of her husband's best friends other than Remus was evil.
His only comfort, really, was that both Sirius and Peter had the secret of the address. That might mean there wasn't immediate blame laid on Sirius.
Not that he expected to be here to see it. He had begun to sink inwards, focusing all his magic inside himself and on the protective blaze that he would have to fling in front of Jonathan when the moment of the attack came.
I love you. I wish I could spend longer with you.
He tried to make his every action say that to his parents and brother and Sirius, every day.
In the silence, the stalking silence, the circling silence, Lord Voldemort came to the Potter house.
It was Halloween. Night of the darkest moments, night of the fervent and the false. Lord Voldemort was beyond such tricks as masks and costumes and frightening stories. He was the story. He was the one who had created five Horcruxes, the only surviving one, the monster of the stories, the force of the darkness. Let them fear him.
He crossed the garden slowly, ignoring his cringing Death Eater behind him. The man had his uses, his multiple uses. But he was done now. Lord Voldemort was here. There was no need for anyone else.
He listened, his senses reaching out, tuned to vibrations in the earth like a snake's as well as in the air, tuned to worlds these fools could not even imagine. He could hear only the low, cheerful chatter of voices. There was one child's voice in there, the voice of the one he had come to kill. He nodded, he moved his head with dreadful slowness like a glacier falling down upon mankind. He was here. There was no need for anyone else.
He drew his wand, his faithful tool. He lifted it high…
There was something else in that house, something beyond hearing. Not a voice, but a circling. A silence within the silence, a gathered power. It reminded Lord Voldemort of a Hidden Fire spell, the curse that could be cast on a place and would remain alert and untriggered until someone who was not the caster walked across it. Then it would blossom in fire.
This thing could do the same. This thing could cause him trouble. This thing made him wary.
Of course, he could face and conquer it. Was he not Lord Voldemort?
But there was no need to be hasty, no need to crash through the protective spells and bring the fire to flower. Lord Voldemort paced slowly around the house, raising his own charms that would make him invisible. Was he not a genius? He had perfected ones far stronger than the Disillusionment Charm.
When he was ready, he leaned in and studied the room the voices were coming from. The weak wizard sat on the floor, telling a story to a child that made his mind surge with hatred, like cold waves in a cave and a cold diadem in an Albanian forest and cold metal of a precious Hufflepuff artifact under his hand. This was the boy prophesied to vanquish him.
But it would not happen. Was he not Lord Voldemort?
The red-haired Mudblood sat off to the side, a book open in her lap, but her voice joining in the story. The words did not matter to Lord Voldemort. Nothing mattered except that none of them was the source of the waiting magic. So the boy was not so strong after all. Of course, he could not be. But Dumbledore was. He would have placed the magic of the trap, envisioning Lord Voldemort as the weak, pathetic child he had been when Dumbledore knew him best, foreseeing nothing but stupidity, glimpsing nothing but his own doom.
Lord Voldemort nearly drew back from the window, ready to search the rest of the house for Dumbledore's trap. Then he realized that he had overlooked one other Mudblood in the room. He turned his head. The other child, the one Pettigrew had told him was born at the end of July last year and could not be a menace to the great Lord Voldemort, sat in the chair next to the Mudblood's and watched the story.
The magic was clustered all around him.
Lord Voldemort narrowed his eyes and used his sharp intelligence to cut through the cobwebs and surging waves and deceptions and secrets and mysteries that would have baffled someone of lesser genius in order to find the answer. The child was gathering strong magic. It was intelligent, this gathering. It was the flower of fire. It would burst out when the child decided it would. The green eyes were bright with power. No one else noticed because they were Mudbloods and idiots.
Pettigrew had not noticed. If Lord Voldemort had not come to the house and been wary and precise and intelligent, it would have gone undiscovered until he entered and had the trap burst in his face. The trap would burst, of course. The child somehow suspected. It was magic gathered against him, because who else could it be gathered against? Who else was so much a threat?
Lord Voldemort did not believe in coincidence. If the family had one child who was prophesized to destroy him, it might have another. It must have another. That gathered magic, enfolding and reaching and swirling and waiting to flower into fire, could mean nothing else. The child was not old enough to wield it through a wand, but that would not matter if it concentrated the power into a single thrust, with a single purpose.
And his servants had not heard all prophecies.
Lord Voldemort glided to the door and changed his plans.
Harry raised his head. He could feel the Dark magic coming towards them, swirling in between the loved voices of his family and the warmth that surrounded them. He had known tonight would probably be the night, but not exactly when Voldemort would arrive. The hour varied even in the worlds where the attack happened on Halloween.
But he retained a sensitivity to Voldemort's magic even though he had never been a Horcrux since his first life. He seemed to keep up talents from other lives like that. He could still speak and understand Parseltongue, and he could practice necromancy if he had to after his desperate twelfth life, and he also had certain affinities left from life number nineteen—
Which I am not going to think about.
Harry turned and pulled himself up on the back of the chair. He would have to scream, to attract Voldemort's attention to him as soon as possible. The burst of sacrificial magic would only work if Voldemort killed him. And Harry didn't dare chance releasing a bit of it, either, because that would weaken the protection he could place on Jonathan.
I love you so much, he thought to his brother, whose head he could just see turning in what looked like slow motion as the door blew open. You deserve to grow up with both your parents. I'm sorry. Goodbye.
Voldemort stalked in, looking the way he always did in Harry's lives at this point, with dark hair and a nose, but gleaming red eyes, his body bony and thin and white, the ravaged remnants of Tom Riddle's beauty clinging to his face. He had his yew wand, and he started to gesture.
Harry screamed as loudly as he could, "Tom Marvolo Riddle!"
Voldemort jerked towards him. The light that had been pulsing at the tip of his wand, which wasn't green for some reason, died. Lily and James had just started to scream themselves. But as far as Voldemort was concerned, there might have been no one in the room but him and Harry. There was clear space between them. Their eyes met.
And Voldemort dived into Harry's mind.
Shit! Occlumency was a function of the physical body, too, dependent on more mature magic and a growth of that brain that was not the strange compartmentalization of the memories that Harry had learned to cope with being immortal. He wouldn't be able to muster reasonable shields until he was much closer to seventeen. Voldemort blew through the fragile defenses Harry did try to lift, and he saw the plan to save Jonathan, he saw Harry's fear and determination and love.
He saw the death of the last Voldemort, in Harry's life as Humphrey Longbottom, a writhing, shrinking, shadowy figure in the wake of the basilisk fang stabbing through the Hufflepuff cup.
Voldemort's face twisted. Harry knew his rage and hatred by now, none better. He flung his head back and gathered his magic around himself. Voldemort was infuriated enough to kill by now.
Make my death count.
"What's the matter, Tom?" Harry asked softly, ignoring the way Lily tried to snatch him up. He twisted to the side and fell out of the chair and took the steps he needed to take towards Voldemort. "Afraid that someone else might figure you out?" He didn't dare name the Horcruxes aloud. Voldemort would kill the rest of Harry's family if he thought they might know the secret of his immortality. "Afraid that a mere child could kill you?"
Voldemort's red eyes flickered. Then his wand moved, and Harry tensed himself. He wished he could turn for one final look back at Lily, Jonathan, and James, but he didn't dare. His focus on Voldemort had to be absolute for his wild magic to strike where he wanted it to.
But Voldemort said, "Accio second Potter child."
Harry went flying head-over-heels to land against Voldemort's legs. Voldemort promptly snatched him off his feet and bent his head towards Harry's ear.
And he spoke in Parseltongue, proving that he'd seen far more in Harry's mind than he'd ever anticipated.
"Really, Potter? You think I would chance killing anyone in this room, when I might see the Killing Curse rebound on me?"
Harry squirmed as hard as he could, trying to focus his magic against Voldemort again. But his shock was too strong—shock that his family might live, but for the wrong reasons—and the magic had dissipated. Harry could get it back under control, but it would take moments to once again tame it and direct it to a thin point.
And within those moments, Voldemort had Stunned him and stepped out through the door again.
Lord Voldemort found himself well-satisfied with many things. The weight of the Potter child—who was no child—cradled in his arms, his head drooping, his mind full of the ways to avoid being defeated in the ways that other Voldemorts had been. The knowledge that he was the one Lord Voldemort, the only one intelligent enough to avoid tangling with the Potters or another prophecy-marked child or his mother. The others were simply Voldemort.
The dumbfounded expression on Pettigrew's face as he gaped at them both, and took a step back, and wavered as if he would faint. That was satisfying. That was a thing Lord Voldemort could cause, should cause. Lord Voldemort revived him with a flash of his wand, and then they turned to leave.
The heartbroken wails rising behind them. Lord Voldemort heard their tenor and judged them good.
James stepped back into the house and tried to speak, but he couldn't. Lily looked at him and then folded her arms slowly around Jonathan, feeling the shudder of her older son's head against her chest. His mouth moved as if he was going to ask questions, but he didn't manage to.
Her older son. Or her only son now?
Lily wanted to believe that Harry would survive, but she honestly didn't know. James had run outside after Voldemort and had been in time to see him Apparate, along with a figure who looked an awful lot like Peter.
And Harry had tried to warn them against Peter, and he had spoken to Voldemort in that adult voice that—
Lily closed her eyes. She didn't understand what was happening, why it was happening. She only understood that their life had smashed on the floor the minute Voldemort walked through the door.
And she didn't know how to repair it. Not with such an essential piece missing.