Thanks to Thobeobo for beta-reading this chapter.

I do NOT own Harry Potter or its universe. All rights go to JK Rowling and her publisher.


Chapter 18


As it turned out, a phoenix could carry Krios up the pipe and into the bathroom with no issue. It was a surreal experience, flying with a magical bird, even if it was in the plumbing. When they emerged on the school's side of the pipe it was to find Moaning Myrtle gaping at them.

"You're a boy," she pointed out unnecessarily.

"What was your first clue?" Krios drawled snappishly.

"This is a girl's bathroom."

"I am well aware, thanks. If you'll excuse me?"

Without waiting for her reply, Krios left with the phoenix perched on his shoulders and the diary in his hands. He was still dripping wet and freezing, despite the warmth radiating from the phoenix, but he needed to see Professor Snape as soon as possible—preferably before the adrenaline wore off and forced him to face the horrors of what he had just experienced.

The words written in his blood on the wall opposite the bathroom made him pause. The sting of the dagger phantomed against his arm. He squeezed his eyes shut, pushing aside the memory before he continued on his path, trying as hard as he could not to dwell on it.

With his eyes still tightly closed, he turned and let his feet carry him down the hall. He didn't open his eyes again until he knew he was far enough to avoid seeing the scarlet words.

When he arrived at Professor Snape's office the door was shut. Krios hesitated before knocking.

It opened immediately, and he was greeted with the incredibly rare sight of a flabbergasted Snape.

Krios attempted a grin, but he was sure he failed.

"I'm alive," he said with forced cheer. His voice croaked from the effort.

Professor Snape stood aside and beckoned him in. Krios had barely taken a step before someone shorter than him slammed into his chest, her arms crushing him. Unable to speak for fear of breaking down in front of everyone, he rubbed her back while she sobbed.

Krios hadn't realized just how much she cared about him until now. It was… He couldn't quite think of the words to describe it, but he was filled with an unfamiliar warmth.

The phoenix leapt off his shoulder and flew to Dumbledore, whose presence surprised Krios. It was only then that he realized the phoenix had to be Fawkes, the same phoenix he had met nearly two years ago in Dumbledore's office. The man himself was smiling at Krios with sad eyes, as if he already knew what had happened and wished that it hadn't.

Regulus, Hera, and Bellatrix stood together beside Professor Snape's desk. Bellatrix was looking back and forth between Krios and Fawkes, dumbfounded.

"That's a phoenix," she said numbly. She looked at Krios. "Dumbledore's phoenix. On your shoulder."

Krios couldn't tell whether she seemed impressed or nervous about that, but frankly, he was far too tired to care right now. All he wanted was for everyone to go away while he talked to Professor Snape about what had occurred in the Chamber of Secrets, then return to his bed for a year.

However, he realized that the office was more crowded than he had first noticed. Lucius stood near Professor McGonagall, who was gaping at Krios as if she had never seen anything like him.

It was only then Krios remembered he was covered in his own blood.

"I think," Dumbledore said to Lucius, "this is a conversation best left for another time."

Lucius glowered at him with only his eyes, but said nothing.

"How?" Regulus asked before Dumbledore could. He looked at Krios as if he was a ghost. Regulus's skin was pale, and even a little clammy. "How did you escape?"

Instead of answering, Krios tossed the diary on Professor Snape's desk.

It could have been his imagination, caused by his exhaustion or some other factor of tonight, but he was almost certain he had seen Lucius's face lose what little colour it had. His eyes flashed with an indiscernible glint, but Krios would have been willing to bet it was fear.

But that didn't make any sense. What did Lucius have to fear from a book?

As a suspicion formed in his thoughts, he met Dumbledore's eyes. Dumbledore shook his head slightly, telling him not to voice it aloud.

It was then that Krios remembered Dumbledore was a Legilimens second only to the Dark Lord.

How had he known what Krios was thinking, though? He hadn't felt even the smallest use of Legilimency against him. Was Dumbledore truly so skilled in the Mind Arts? And if he was, how powerful would the Dark Lord really be when he regained power if he was supposedly better?

It was a terrifying thought.

"I believe we should let Mr. Black speak with his family," Dumbledore suggested. Professors Snape and McGonagall nodded their agreement and followed him out of the office.

The Blacks and Lucius were left alone to focus all of their attention on Krios, who wished Professor Snape, at least, had stayed. His presence would have provided more comfort.

None of them spoke for a very long time. Krios set the diary on Professor Snape's desk, the weight of every eye in the room settling upon it, then sat down in the chair he had become all too familiar with over the course of this year. He knew his eyes weren't tricking him this time: Lucius definitely looked a little paler than usual, and his eyes darted between Regulus and Bellatrix as if he were trying to figure out which of them was a bigger danger to his life.

Krios figured he was just glad Narcissa wasn't here.

"I don't think this is a conversation I should be present for," Lucius said. Before anyone could question or attempt to stop him, he swept over to the door of Professor Snape's office and slipped out.

Regulus and Hera exchanged frowns, but Bellatrix looked quite pleased he was gone.

"We were told you were taken into the Chamber of Secrets," Regulus said, turning to Krios. He gave him an uncharacteristically penetrating stare, and Krios felt the use of Legilimency this time: Regulus wanted to ensure he was told the truth when he asked, "How did you escape?"

So Krios told them. A heavily edited version, of course, and nothing that involved the revelation that he was the true Boy-Who-Lived. But he shared what Slytherin's monster was, that Tom Riddle was the one behind the attacks—noting the dark looks Regulus and Bellatrix exchanged—and how he had finally overcome Tom's influence with the help of Fawkes the phoenix, subdued the basilisk, and at last returned to the castle before heading straight to where they were now.

Altair sniffled and hugged him tighter. Krios felt terrible for keeping her at a distance if this was how much she really cared. Sure, they had bonded and spent a lot of time together, but he hadn't really thought they were to a point where she would be this upset if he—

Krios closed his eyes and held her a bit tighter.

"So Fawkes just… appeared?" Regulus asked.

Krios nodded as he opened his eyes again.

Bellatrix was looking at Krios, as if he were a puzzle she couldn't solve, but she was speaking to Regulus when she said, "Do you think Dumbledore—"

"It's possible," Regulus interrupted. "We would have to ask him to know for sure, and I doubt he'd be willing to give us that answer."

Krios didn't understand why that would be.

He was too tired to ask.

"Let's get you home," Regulus said softly as he stepped up to Krios. "I'll help you prepare for your exams when I have the time. You can take them when you're ready."

"But—" Altair started.

Krios squeezed her hand as he slipped out of her embrace.

"You can write home as often as you want," Regulus promised. He glanced between them. "I'm sure Krios could use the distraction. This won't be—" He cut himself off with a deep breath. "It's going to be difficult to get through this. We'll figure out something, though."

Hera, who had been entirely silent until now, stepped forward and rested a hand on Altair's shoulder. She looked her daughter in the eyes and spoke in a soothing voice.

"Krios will be fine. He will be with us at King's Cross when we get you for the summer."

Reluctantly, Altair released Krios and let her mother guide her away. Hera and Regulus exchanged a brief look, passing a silent message between them, then he put a hand on Krios's back.

"Let's get you home," he said softly. He looked at Bellatrix. "Grab a Dreamless Sleep, please."

"Had one last night," Krios mumbled.

"Two nights in a row won't harm you," Regulus said, not even questioning why Krios would have needed to take one, though Krios figured that would come eventually.

Assuming Regulus didn't just ask Professor Snape directly, which he probably would.

Krios was led out of the office. He kept his head down as they walked. They passed the professors, and Regulus briefly paused to exchange a few words with them concerning Krios's studies and exams, but then they continued on their way.

A calloused hand softly pressed his shoulder.

Professor Snape.

"I will see you soon, Krios," he whispered.

Krios didn't say anything. Soon Regulus was escorting him out of the castle and across the grounds to the main gate. They had hardly stepped onto the other side of Hogwarts' enchantments before Krios was gripped tightly and they were spinning away with the unpleasant sensation of Disapparation.

They reappeared in the square outside Grimmauld Place.

"Kreacher," Regulus called as they entered. When the house-elf appeared, Regulus continued, "Please prepare a cup of tea for Krios. Quickly."

Kreacher popped away immediately.

Krios was surprised to find himself being tucked into bed seemingly seconds later, wearing fresh, dry, warm clothing that wasn't soaked in his own blood. His hair was wet, though, so he guessed Regulus or Kreacher had bathed and changed him. An empty teacup sat on the bedside table.

He couldn't remember drinking from it.

"Rest," Regulus instructed gently. "We'll talk more when you wake up."

Krios was too exhausted to argue. When Regulus put the Dreamless Sleep Potion to his lips, it went down without complaint. He probably could have fallen asleep without it, maybe, but at least this way he wouldn't have to deal with disruptive nightmares.

A sigh escaped him as he drifted off.

The first thing Krios noticed when he woke up the next morning was the letter that had replaced the empty teacup on his bedside table. Altair's handwriting was recognizable right away.

He couldn't bring himself to move, though. Krios felt numb, as if his body was still asleep. His head was simultaneously more cloudy and clearer than ever. Memories of everything that had happened yesterday swam in his vision with startling clarity, but he was unable to focus on them. His ears were filled with the sound of Tom's cruel laughter.


Krios clenched his eyes shut, but the dark insides of his eyelids offered no respite, no relief, from the torment of his own mind. Nothing he did brought release from such agony. He rolled over and pressed his fists against his eyes, hoping that if he pushed hard enough he would be able to shove the images away, to be freed from the terrors afflicting him.

"Krios?" Regulus said slowly as he entered the room.

Krios rolled over to look at him, having buried his face in his pillow. He blinked the spots from his vision and tried to slow his racing breaths. A vein in his throat pounded in time with his heart.

"Drink," Regulus told him, handing over a cup of water. "You look like you're about to be sick."

Krios felt like it.

"Hera looked you over while you slept," Regulus went on. "There wasn't anything permanent, at least physically, but it's going to be some time before you, well…" He sighed. "That diary was foul magic, Krios, and we failed as your guardians by not warning you that such things exist.

"Not the diary specifically," he added. "That… That diary was something else. Luckily, it's something that I've encountered before, so between our efforts, Hera and I should be able to help you recover."

Krios stared at Regulus, unspeaking.

When it became apparent Krios wasn't going to say anything, Regulus sighed again and stood up.

"Just rest. Professor Snape is gathering a list of your homework assignments for the rest of the year so you have something to do while you're here. If there's anything you need help with, I'll be around in the evenings and on weekends. Kreacher will bring you food if you're hungry, just give him a call."

Regulus left the room.

And Krios was alone again.

He hated it. Everything seemed so much more real when he was alone. All he could do was think about Tom, Tom betraying him, Tom trying to kill him.

Tom using him.

Krios felt dirty. He felt as if his body weren't his own. When he looked down at his trembling fingers, it surprised him that they moved at his command. When he reached up to his face, it surprised him that he could feel the softness of his cheeks and the rough calluses on his fingertips.

It was his body, but it felt like someone else's.

Restless, desiring to do something other than sit in bed, Krios stood up. He crossed the floor to his wardrobe to get changed, but leapt back and tripped over the foot of his bed as he got close.

The eyes in the mirror had been crimson.

Krios blinked hard, counted in his head, and after hesitating a moment, looked again.

His eyes were green.

They were Harry's eyes.

He sat heavily on the edge of his bed and put his face in his hands. It took more effort, far more effort, than usual to change the colour of his eyes to the blue-white he had become so fond of. It was a small change, but one that never ceased to make him feel better when his memories became too much, when his past haunted him.

But this time he felt nothing.

Altair's blue-white eyes, set in his face, stared back at him, and he still felt numb.

Krios jumped when Kreacher popped into the room.

"Master Regulus has requested young master's presence downstairs," Kreacher croaked.

Doing what he could to calm down, Krios nodded. Kreacher disappeared with another pop.

Krios appreciated the house-elf, having been in a similar situation himself, but Kreacher was one creepy little, well, creature. More than once he had come across Kreacher staring avidly at the heads from other house-elves that were mounted on the wall, muttering hopes to one day join them.

As he dressed himself in comfortable robes, Krios realized Kreacher hadn't told him what room he was supposed to meet Regulus in. There were only three rooms he could think of, though: the drawing room, the dining room, or the kitchen. Thankfully, they were all close to each other so he could check them one after the other until he found Regulus.

But as it turned out, the drawing room, the first place Krios checked, was where Regulus waited.

He wasn't alone, though.

"Hello, Mr. Black," Dumbledore greeted pleasantly. When Krios didn't reply, he said, "I was hoping we could talk about what happened, but only if you feel well enough."

Regulus's face was impassive. He was leaving the choice entirely up to Krios.

"Okay," Krios said. His voice was hoarse.

"Would you care if we did this in my office?" Dumbledore asked gently. "I believe the presence of Fawkes may help make the events easier to recount. I am, however, not sure Lord Black would be willing to allow access to a phoenix here?"

He aimed the question at Regulus, who gave a stiff nod.

"Okay," Krios repeated. He followed Dumbledore through the Floo, and they came out in his office.

"Please, take a seat," Dumbledore invited kindly as he moved to sit behind his desk, on top of which rested a shallow stone basin carved with symbols.

Krios startled when Fawkes landed on his leg, but the phoenix's song soothed him at once.

Dumbledore smiled, though it faded when he gestured to the basin.

"Do you know what this is, Mr. Black?"

Krios shook his head.

"I would have been very surprised if you did, given their rarity," Dumbledore said. "This is a pensieve: a magical device used to examine the memories of the self or another. This particular one belongs to the school and has been passed down from headmaster to headmaster, headmistress to headmistress, for several centuries, along with any memories thought to be helpful to future leaders of this school."

Krios understood right away. He cast a fearful look between Dumbledore and the pensieve.

"I realize you may not wish to share that memory with me, but I would greatly appreciate it if you did. Sometimes, I find, it is more challenging to speak of that which troubles us. In almost any other circumstance I would not consider using this method; however, what happened to you, I believe, could be very helpful in some of my own research regarding Lord Voldemort."

Looking into Dumbledore's eyes, Krios felt light-headed.


"It was not difficult to guess who was behind the attacks," Dumbledore said. "What is much harder is learning the means as to how he managed it, when my sources tell me he is currently in Albania, and has been for a long time, thus making him incapable of being here to open the Chamber of Secrets."

Pushing aside his questions on how Dumbledore knew that much, Krios instead asked, "Why wouldn't you want to use your pensieve?"

"Because there is a risk involved, as there always is when dealing with complex magic. By removing a memory one is able to view it in greater clarity through the use of a pensieve, perhaps even bring a guest inside to assist, but one also begins to damage it within one's own mind. A shadow remains behind, keeping a place in one's brain for what was removed.

"If enough time passes without restoring that memory, one risks permanently unbalancing and damaging one's mind. It is why so few wizards care to learn what a pensieve is, never mind giving it any real use. The risk of self-harm and revealing secrets preferred kept is too great for most."

"Then—" Krios swallowed. "Then why—?"

"As I told you, I would not consider this at all if the circumstances were different. However, I assure you that I will not be in possession of your memory any longer than it takes to view it a single time, then I shall return it to you. Every precaution we can take will be taken to ensure this is as safe as possible for you. You are, of course, free to deny my request if you so desire."

It was the sincerity with which Dumbledore spoke that convinced Krios. He may not trust Dumbledore as a person, but only a fool would deny his protectiveness over the students, Krios knew that now. He had been removed from the school, yet returned anyway when he heard one had been taken.

"How does this work?" Krios asked.

"Thank you," Dumbledore said. There was a weight to his words that made Krios sit a little taller, and Fawkes made a happy noise, his song filling the office. "I will do the magic itself, I only need for you to focus at the beginning and end of what you are willing to share."

As he did so, Krios was glad this was an option. He really didn't want to talk about it, though he knew that Dumbledore would have questions after he viewed the memory. Watching Dumbledore use his wand to remove a long, thin strand of silver light from his, Krios's, forehead, watching the light flow like a river suspended in mid-air, Krios wondered whether he had seen anything more magical, despite its apparent simplicity.

Sure, he had seen several curses, transfigurations, and even conjured fire from nothing.

But none of that matched what he felt right then.

Dumbledore turned back to his desk and gently deposited the strand in the basin.

"I shall return in just a moment," he told Krios with a smile. "Again, I thank you for this."

Dumbledore lowered a hand into the basin. It was full of shimmering silvery liquid, much like the memory strand, but multiplied. Raising his head, Krios could see an image on the surface, one directly from his own thoughts. When Dumbledore's hand touched the image his eyes glazed over.

While he waited, Krios ran his fingers over the phoenix's feathers. He idly recalled Ollivander telling him that the core of his wand was one of these beautiful golden tail feathers, and he wondered if he would ever meet the phoenix that had donated it. He was honoured to have a possession that had once belonged to something like this bird.

At first Krios had been upset not to have a dragon heartstring core, because that sounded really cool, but now that there was a phoenix sitting on his lap, soothing him when he would otherwise have been freaking out… He felt like he finally understood why the phoenix feather core had chosen him.

He was startled from his thoughts when Dumbledore moved again. Krios hadn't realized how much time had passed since Dumbledore entered the memory.

"You have my everlasting gratitude, Krios," Dumbledore said heavily as he sat behind his desk. He inclined his head in a small bow. "What I was able to learn from your memory is invaluable."

"You're not upset," Krios stated. He didn't fear punishment, but he had expected it.

"You did nothing wrong except put your faith in the wrong person," Dumbledore said. "Voldemort has manipulated wizards far older and far cleverer than you, Krios. That you survived what you did is a testament to your strength and ability. Even if I believed you deserved it, I also believe that you have suffered enough. All that is left to do is help you move past this."

"What are we going to do?" Krios asked. His voice was toneless, but inside he was filled with a thirst, a desperation, to receive any advice. He felt so lost. His entire world had changed.

"That it was you whom Voldemort tried to kill that night will remain between us, unless you choose to share that knowledge with another," Dumbledore said. "I would suggest you did not, however."

"I don't want to be the Boy-Who-Lived," Krios said at once. "I'm not—"

'I'm not a hero,' he finished in his thoughts. 'I'm not a good person.'

But aloud he said, "I'm scared."

"I would think less of you if you weren't."

Krios gaped. Here was Albus Dumbledore, the Gryffindor of Gryffindors, telling him that it was okay to be scared. Shouldn't he be warning Krios to not be afraid? To push through the hardships before him?

Dumbledore smiled.

"Fear is not something to run from, Krios. It is a part of life. You are a twelve-year-old with limited training who fought a battle most grown wizards would not dare fight. You were afraid for your life down in that chamber, but you also feared what could happen if Lord Voldemort returned to power."

Krios nodded, amazed at how accurate Dumbledore's words were.

"You were very brave, and very noble."

"I'm not a Gryffindor," Krios said at once.

"The crest on our robes does not define us," Dumbledore said. "It is our choices that make us who we are. You chose to save others when you could have given up and succumbed to your failing health, yet you did not. You chose to do what you could to stop Lord Voldemort, and in doing so found something inside yourself that allowed Fawkes to come to you."

"What?" Krios asked, baffled.

Dumbledore, still smiling, motioned to Fawkes.

"Phoenixes are strange, wonderful creatures, Krios. Fawkes would not have come to you unless he felt you were deserving of his help. Your desire to do the right thing earned his respect."

As if understanding and agreeing, Fawkes trilled a musical note.

"But—" Krios paused, thinking his words over carefully before speaking, "I didn't fight back for others, though, not really. I wanted—" He swallowed, hesitating. "I wanted revenge. The Dark Lord would have killed the people I care about, and I didn't want that to happen."

"The right thing," Dumbledore said softly, "is not always selfless."

Krios stared.

"Sometimes it is acting on our selfish desires that is the right thing to do. Sometimes it is saving our loved ones that matters more. I do not believe for a moment there is anyone decent who would blame you for acting to save those you cherish over everyone else.

"It is not the place of a child to be a hero for the world."

"Then why is Professor Snape training me?" Krios blurted. "Why is he teaching me Occlumency and duelling? Why—"

"He is not teaching you how to save others," Dumbledore interrupted. "He is teaching you how to save yourself."

"But… Why would he do that?"

"Because he cares about you," Dumbledore said simply. His eyes twinkled. "Something about you, Krios, has reached a part of Professor Snape that he has long tried to ignore. He cares about you and would do anything necessary to see you safe and happy."

Krios didn't know what to say to that. He didn't fully believe it—he didn't want to fully believe it—but he wasn't going to deny that Professor Snape at least somewhat cared about him.

"But I'm not happy," Krios whispered. "I'm tired."

"Tired?" Dumbledore repeated. "Tired of what?"

His voice was softer than Krios had ever heard it.

"Everything," Krios whispered. "I'm… I'm so sick of it all. The Dursleys, the other students, being—"

He squeezed his eyes shut, biting his tongue: being tortured.

When he opened them again, Dumbledore was watching him.

"I don't want this," Krios said, shaking his head. "I don't want any of this. I just wanted to learn magic, and then I found out I have a family that didn't want me. People who hate me because of who my mother is, who my brother is, who my father is. I can't go anywhere without everyone watching, waiting for me to mess up so they can make me out to be something I don't want to be.

"I don't want to be me," he cried. The floodgates had opened, and he couldn't have stopped speaking even if he desired to. "I just want it all to stop, but it won't. It won't stop, but I'm too tired to keep going. I never wanted any of this, and more just keeps coming."

Krios blinked back tears and licked his lips. His throat was painfully dry and sore.

"I wanted to give up," he whispered. His stomach squirmed at the admission, but he pushed on. "Tom was killing me, and part of me was okay with it. Part of me still wishes he had."

Dumbledore looked horrified. His eyes were dull and full of pain.

Krios sucked in a staggered breath. He was shaking and sweating, but none of it mattered. His head throbbed, and his body felt weak, and all he wanted was to go back to sleep. He felt like throwing up.

Fawkes trilled sadly, but not even his warmth was enough to counter the chill that settled over Krios.

These were thoughts that had plagued him since waking up, though he had refused to acknowledge them. And it was only now that he had begun to really think about them that he realized their truth.

He wanted to die.

It was such a simple thing to think, but he was scared of how appetizing that desire seemed to him, how much he coveted it.

It wasn't a new revelation. Growing up with the Dursleys, he had often felt that life would be easier if he didn't wake up the next morning, but this… This felt different for some reason he couldn't explain. All his life he had fought. He had fought back against the Dursleys when they hit him too hard, but that had only led to worse things. He had fought to survive, for reasons he didn't even know.

And it all felt so pointless.

"I don't want to be alive," Krios murmured, almost trance-like. "I wish I was dead."

Strangely, part of him felt lighter having said the words aloud. His chest felt hollow, full of air instead of what should be there. But the rest of his body felt heavier, as if his limbs were weighing him down.

A hand settled on one side of his face, and another grasped one of his, gently squeezing.

"I'm so sorry."

Dumbledore's eyes were filled with tears when Krios looked up. It was too painful to look at, so he looked down at their hands, fighting the urge to throw up. He wanted to run away from here, as far away as he could get.

"We have failed you," Dumbledore said. "I cannot begin to understand how you feel, but I promise you that I will do what I can to help you through this."

"Why?" Krios whispered.

"Because you deserve a chance to feel the happiness and love you have for so long been denied."

Krios swallowed again. It seemed much harder than before. His throat was constricting, as if trying to close itself and prevent him from breathing.

"What if I don't?" he asked in a trembling voice. His cheeks were wet. "What if I don't deserve it?"

"Every child on this planet deserves to feel loved, dear boy. Yes, you have made mistakes, but you are young enough that you can make peace with them and with yourself. You have time to make amends. The world does not stop revolving because we do bad things. But if you do not try to make your life better, it will not change.

"Life is not easy, as you well understand, but it is worth living to find who we are meant to be."

"But what if who I'm meant to be isn't someone good?" Krios asked, desperate for Dumbledore to give him some reassurance. "What if I'm the next Tom Riddle?"

Dumbledore bent lower so that Krios had no choice but to look him in the eyes.

"You could never be a wizard like Tom Riddle," Dumbledore said firmly. "You could never be someone who enjoys causing others pain. You could never become a monster."

'You're wrong,' Krios thought. And he knew that because he had already become a monster. He had caused the Dursleys pain and enjoyed every moment of it. He had done the same to Evan last year. It sickened him how much he enjoyed the suffering of others.

Dumbledore sighed.

"My door will always be open, should you wish to talk," he promised. "I will not always be here, but you are welcome to enjoy the company of Fawkes. I am sure he would be pleased to have a friend."

Fawkes trilled his agreement, rubbing his head gently against Krios's cheek. He sang a quiet note, and while Krios relaxed from it, the doubts and thoughts lingered in his mind.

"You are a strong person, Krios, and it is time for you to be a hero."

Krios glared at him, but Dumbledore raised a hand before he could retort.

"Not a hero for others. It is impossible to keep others afloat when you are drowning yourself. It is time for you to become the hero that you need. You have the power within you to do it, I know you do, but now it is important that you use it. But I need you to remember something."

Hesitantly, Krios nodded, and Dumbledore fixed him with a pleading stare.

"Help can only truly be given when one acknowledges that it is needed. Do not try and deny yourself what you need. Ask others to help you. You are no longer alone in this world. Help will always be given to those who ask for it. If someone denies you this help, then ask someone else."

"It's hard," Krios whispered.

"I know it is, dear boy," Dumbledore whispered back. "I know it is. It takes a different kind of courage to fight against our own demons, but I have faith that you will triumph."

AN: For anyone interested, chapter 19 is available on my Discord server, which is linked on my profile.

Thanks to Mtk757 for his incredible patron support. It is very much appreciated.