I own nothing. Least of all this.
"Confusion that never stops,
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Come back and take you home
I could not stop,
That you now know…"
1) WHAT'S THE POINT OF BEING GROWN UP…
Bellatrix Black was not, in fact, a psychopath.
The very idea was ludicrous.
The definition of a psychopath was that they were incapable of feeling emotions. Oh, they could fake well enough, and in some cases pass as perfectly ordinary people; all the while contemplating things that would horrify anyone they knew if they were to ever disclose them.
The exact opposite was true for Bellatrix.
She felt everything too deeply; she always had, and she always would. The love she held for her sisters, the hatred for those of muggle birth who disrespected every tradition her world held dear, and more recently, the desire to prove herself.
Not just to the Knights of Walpurgis, whose ranks she would be joining today, but to all those who dared to belittle her simply because she was born a daughter, and not a son. To the Lords who had kept their society safe for centuries, and to those who were even now working to eradicate yet another threat to it.
To the Lord of the Knights of Walpurgis himself.
And this is how she would begin.
Her orders were clear: this was to be a simple example, nothing more. The selected site for their mission statement was a muggle pub, just down the street from the Leaky Cauldron itself. A group of the more experienced would enter through the back, and drive the muggle filth through the front, out into the open. She and the rest of the initiates would be waiting for them. Their job was to put them down like the animals they were: cleanly, swiftly, with nary a tinge of either mercy or pleasure. The bodies left to rot in the middle of the road would be message enough.
She was giddy with excitement as the first Notice-Me-Not charms went up. She was ecstatic as the first cries from the victims inside reached her ears. And she was positively gleeful when the first burning figures stumbled out the front entrance into their line of fire.
But when she realized that the burning figures were fellow Knights, ones much more powerful than she…
When it sunk into her head that the cries from inside the pub had been the voices of her fellow purebloods…
And when the burning corpses on the ground in front of her finally stopped twitching, a single man strode out. Burning sword in one hand, bleeding blade in the other, and bringing Death in his wake…
She truly began to consider whether or not she might be a psychopath after all.
Because she felt nothing.
Absolutely nothing at all.
Harry Potter did not, in fact, go looking for trouble.
What he did go looking for was adventure.
What, exactly, was the difference between the two? Well, only Harry himself could tell you that.
It had started simply enough: a single decision, made only slightly different from the one he once would have made. But the outcome of that decision had been oh so very different.
The Battle of Hogwarts. The Forbidden Forest. The opening of the Snitch. And the use of the Stone…all these as they should have been. But, when the time came for him to move on, to face Voldemort and die, he found he could not let the Stone go.
Not for his own sake: he had seen what he needed to see. But for the others…the others that had lost someone today. And for the many more that would inevitably fall alongside them.
To give George Weasley one last conversation with his twin…
That alone was reason enough to keep it.
And so, onto his finger it had slipped, to remain there even after his death. If his friends managed to succeed without him…if the war was won through his sacrifice…Hermione knew what the Stone looked like. She would know what to do with it; who could use it the most. And if they lost…well, if they lost, he supposed it really wouldn't matter, would it?
Everything after that had passed so quickly. King's Cross, coming back, Narcissa Malfoy's lie, the final confrontation, Neville, Nagini…
It was only when Harry stood for the last time before the wizard formerly known as Tom Riddle that everything went truly, terribly wrong.
There was never any question as to who actually had true mastery of the Elder Wand. Riddle's Killing Curse rebounded yet again, striking the Dark Lord in the chest. As his body sank to the ground, the Death-stick had flown through the air, Harry's Disarming Spell calling it back to its true owner. But once it hit his outstretched hand, the Resurrection Stone still on his finger, and the Invisibility Cloak folded in his back pocket…
There was a brilliant flash of light, and it was only once everyone's vision had once more restored that they realized someone was missing.
Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, had vanished from the Wizarding World entirely.
He had awoken surrounded by swirls of glowing light, laced together like spider webs, but larger even than those of the Acromantula. They had looped and stretched as far as the eye could see, and in their path there hung islands made up of a tan material that Harry couldn't identify. But what had truly grabbed his attention was the absolutely massive eye staring down at him, as if into his very soul.
Harry had then done something that even he would have categorized as foolish:
He had jabbed his wand up…directly into the eye itself.
The resulting shrieks of pain, while slightly metallic sounding, had reassured him that whatever had captured him was alive, if decidedly non-human. He had taken advantage of the creature's distraction to roll off of the table he had awoken on and back as far away from the thing as possible. He raised his wand arm to cast…only to realize the wand was no longer in his hand.
Yep, there it was. Still stuck in the creature's eye.
He had whirled around, looking for the other wand he was sure must have come with him. If a regular old wand owned by Draco Malfoy could survive getting captured, then the infamous Death-stick could as well, one would think. But aside from the piece currently impairing his captor's vision, there wasn't a twig of wood to be seen anywhere in the room.
He had turned back to the creature, already planning a suicidal charge forward to retrieve his weapon, when the massive, rotating, thing, had given one final shriek, and then shot a purple blast of energy directly at him…from its eyeball.
The blast vaporized Harry in an instant.
The vapor hung for a moment in the air, as if surprised at its current state of existence. Then, the vapor had become a cloud. The cloud became dust. The dust became clumps. The clumps became flesh.
And then the flesh had become Harry Potter once more.
The Cyclops (for that was what it was) would normally have noticed paracausal activity of this sort, seeing as how investigation into said reality-breaking powers was what it had been invested with as a Vex Mind, were it not for the damage caused by Harry's wand-jabbing, atop the foolish attempt to shoot an eye-burst around said obstruction. Its vision was now completely obscured, and would have remained so for some time until the Vex could repair it, were it not for certain events that happened very rapidly afterwards.
If the Cyclops had still been capable of seeing, the first thing it would have observed would have been the reconstructed Harry Potter gasp for air, his eyes flying open. The next thing it would have noticed was the fact that Harry's eyes contained, for a brief moment, the image of a bisected and inscribed triangle instead of his normal pupils. And the last thing it would have seen was the outstretched wand arm of the boy, aimed directly at its only weak spot.
What it heard, however, just before it backed up its memory to the Vex Network for the last time, were two words it had feared ever since reading of them in the legends of the last remaining traces of humanity:
The Vault of Glass.
That was where Harry was.
Now exactly where the Vault of Glass was, well, he couldn't say for certain.
After the whole "coming-back-to-life-for-the-third-time" schtick, Harry had immediately crawled over to the corpse of the sentient machine to retrieved his wand. Once it was in his hands once more, he immediately realized it would no longer be of use to him. Snapped in half, only the dragon heartstring barely holding the two sides together.
He had sighed, placed the wand in his pocket, and then given the scraps of metal a good kick, loudly lamenting the fact he would probably never find out now exactly how he got where he was. Much less what role the creature had had in his transportation.
He was ashamed to say he had screamed quite loudly when the ghost of said creature had immediately appeared beside him.
After quite a few assurances that the apparition was, indeed, the spirit of whatever Harry had just slain, before he cautiously began to question it. It wasn't long before he was doing his best impression of Hermione, wringing every possible bit of information he could out of it.
That the legends about him had lasted for thousands of years had come as quite a shock. That alien races were willing to bend the rules of time itself to get their hands on him had left him speechless. It was only when he heard the Vex rendition of his final stand against the forces of Voldemort that he had been able to put two and two together and realize exactly what had gone wrong in their plan.
In what he supposed was his original timeline, he had left the Resurrection Stone behind in the Forbidden Forest. He had not had it on him when he disarmed Riddle, and thus had never possessed all three Hallows at the same time. It turned out the title "Master of Death" actually did have some meaning to it. Apparently, the moment the Elder Wand had slammed into his palm, his very existence had broken causality, leaving his timeline in shatters. He existed, now and forever, the same as he always had and always would.
The Vex plan had originally planned to retrieve him from the end of his timeline, or at least after their last recorded account of him. Their intention method was to be somewhat stealthy: snatching famous magic, or to them, Light wielders before their recorded deaths, and then experimenting on them to determine just what produced a natural connection to the Light, i. e. Magic. He had merely been lucky (or unlucky) enough to be their first target.
When he had inquired as to exactly how he had been taken, the answer had horrified him. Apparently, the sand used in Time Turners was the Sands of Time itself…and it was all that remained of Atlantis, the mysterious landmass that had fallen into the sea. Only it hadn't been drowned: it had been erased from existence. Atlantis had been home to the entrance to the Vault of Glass for some time, and quite a few peoples had made it their home…right up until the Vault's entrance moved, erasing the island and all those on it from reality itself.
The so-called Sands of Time that had been left behind were part of the Vault itself, and wherever they went, so to did their connection to the Vex network. Whenever someone used a Time Turner to travel to the past, they were literally plugging themselves for a brief moment into the entirety of the Vex collective. And once the Vex were connected to something, they were connected forever.
Harry was now quite convinced he had been more lucky than not. He was sure that after taking him, the next two people on the Vex lists would probably have been Hermione and Dumbledore, and he knew for a fact that both of them had dealt with Time Turners before. If the Vex had been able to plumb the minds of the two smartest magicals Harry knew…the thought did not bear repeating.
After all these revelations, Harry's mind was under threat of implosion. So, he did his best to occupy it with another distracting task: namely, searching for the Elder Wand. It was only once he realized he was missing the other two Hallows as well that he began to suspect something more than mere misplacement.
Remembering his previous display of wandless magic, he had held out his hand as if a wand were in it, and then made the motions for a Stunner. A beam of red light had shot out of his palm, streaking away into infinity. So; the Death-stick had advanced his wandless abilities. Considering the Resurrection Stone had been able to summon a spirit with merely a verbal request, it seemed that too had given him an upgrade. But what about his Cloak?
What about his Cloak indeed?
Complete invisibility on demand, for one thing. For another, a form of Occlumency Harry had never heard of before. Instead of walls in his mind, with defenses and fake memories, it was as if his mind did not exist at all. Covered by the Cloak itself. And for a third, while under the effects of the invisibility, his spells became utterly colorless to anyone but him (the Cyclops' ghost had confirmed that particular tidbit).
After practicing his new abilities for awhile (all except the summoning), he had decided enough was enough. If this place was connected to all possible realities, then by George (and Fred) he was gonna find his way back to his own. And the sooner he got started, the better.
He had Reparo'd both his blackthorn and holly wands (both now feeling even stronger than they had before thanks to the Death-stick), Cloaked himself, and set out to find his way home…
Many, many years later, a much older (and wiser) Harry Potter managed to do just that.
There had been just one, slight little hitch.
He had landed thirty some years in the past.
He had almost lost his breakfast when he the date on the Daily Prophet caught his eye in the Leaky Cauldron. July 1970. His parents hadn't even started Hogwarts yet. Everyone he had known had been dead for so long that he had come to terms with it, but now, by his coming here…they may never exist at all.
In a daze, he had wandered out of the Cauldron and down the street. It was only when an advertisement for a pub selling vodka caught his eye that he decided the best course of action at the moment was to get good and drunk. Spend enough time wandering the Cosmodrome scavenging for whatever remains of the magical world you could find, and vodka becomes your best friend for life. And here it was now, ready and willing to serve once more.
He had been getting some awkward stares from the pub's other patrons (after all, war-torn trench coats and exotic looking swords weren't exactly passé), but it wasn't until halfway through his first bottle that the trouble started.
Harry knew something was wrong the minute the muggles stopped looking his way. That many people, just suddenly forgetting the odd character they had been staring at seconds before…the only thing he knew of that did that were Someone Else's Problem Fields. Ones that had been applied to the whole building.
At first, he considered Aurors. He certainly looked the part of Dark Wizard, and considering the rather tremendous amount of magical energy that had deposited him at King's Cross that morning, they could very well be after him for the Statue of Secrecy. Then again, something that large may have drawn the attention of the Department of Mysteries, and thus, the Unspeakables. And from what files Harry had dug up in the ruins of the EDZ, he had no desire to spend any time in their company at all.
But it was when he witnessed (from his perfectly-positioned-for-escape-through-the-back-exit seat) four black cloaked figures wearing masks enter said back exit, that he realized exactly what was going on.
Change the masks, change the names, in the end, it would always be the same. The blood purists seeking to dominate those stronger than them, and those like him standing in their way. Harry sighed, and put down his glass. Shame. He had hoped to get a good binge going. With nary a whisper, he disappeared from sight, creeping silently by until he was perfectly positioned behind the enemy.
It was at that moment Harry began to wonder if he really did go looking for adventure, and not the other thing.
Because this was trouble with a capital T.
And he was looking forward to every second of it.
His first Thorn shot went through the back of the leader's head. As the body hit the floor, the man's mask rolled away to reveal the face of one Antonin Dolohov. The man that had hurt Hermione in the Battle of the DOM.
Harry would have taken a moment of he could to reflect on just how young the man looked, but unfortunately, he had other things to do. There were reasons he had gone with the Thorn instead of a normal spell: one, it didn't leave a telltale stream of light when he wasn't invisible, and two, it gave the other dark tossers an actual sound to alert them something was wrong.
Which is what they had just done.
Instead of turning their wands on the relatively defenseless Muggles, they began whirling each and every which way, looking for what had downed their companion. Excellent; these idiots had at least some training. He hadn't had a decent challenge in a very long time.
The three remaining wizards all saw him at the exact same second. Their spells were no further apart.
The first two spells splashed against his summoned Sentinel Shield. The third, surprisingly, merely shattered it. Huh. He had been expecting it to go straight through and kill him. The effect of coming back to life from that would have been a lot more theatrical. Oh, well. This would still work just fine.
Slowly, a glowing blade of Arc energy grew in his hand. Not his preferred weapon, but this was a tight environment, with possible civilian casualties. No sense going over the top.
Another barrage of spells flew at him. He deflected all three of them, with only one finding its mark. His fault for using the Killing Curse again, even after seeing it had no effect. The remaining two fighters threw up shields just in time, and then proceeded to back away towards the front door, negating his advantages in the close range and forcing him to deflect and dodge as he made his way forward.
Okay, so maybe over the top was better. He needed these people running.
The Arcing blade lengthened and changed into one of Solar fire. A wreath of flame cloaked his entire body, extending into a pair of wings emerging from his shoulders. With his remaining free hand, he reached over his shoulder and drew the weapon he had carried for far too many years now. Forged from the shards of Willbreaker, the sword of Oryx itself: the Dark-Drinker.
The Death Eaters froze at the sight, their shields falling as they struggled to comprehend exactly…
"What are you?"
Harry threw his first Dawnblade.
Bellatrix could only watch as Rabastan Lestrange took a step forward. Drawing the attention of Death himself. He always had been a cocky sort of a man; had, being the operative word. For now Bellatrix was quite sure his fate had just been sealed. His body just hadn't caught up with it yet.
Rabastan's voice rang out. "Who are you, wizard, to stand up to your betters! I will see you dead for this!"
At first, the man gave no response. Then, of all things, he began to giggle. Then, to chuckle. And finally, to shriek in laughter. The hair on Bellatrix's neck stood straight up. She had only ever heard the Lord of the Knights laugh like that; and it never meant good things to anyone that heard it.
The laughter died away only long enough for the man to get one sentence out. "Lestrange, of all people, telling me I'm already dead! Never thought he'd be the smartest one of the lot!"
Then it was back, and even more horrendous sounding than before. Her fellow Knights had begun to show signs they were just as uncomfortable as she was, and if they hadn't been there Bellatrix was quite sure she would have been cowering on the ground in front of this wizard.
Rabastan, apparently, had had enough. "KNIGHTS! KILL HIM!"
An absolute wall of light soared straight at the man. Bellatrix screwed her eyes shut and whimpered as she heard the spells impact. She only opened them once more when she heard the gasps of those around her.
The man was still standing, the bleeding blade from earlier somehow extending to protect his entire body. Then, it was gone, sheathed on the wizard's back.
He cupped his hands together, and a ball of purple energy that just seemed wrong grew in between them. If she had been able to see his face, or even his eyes, she would have had at least something to reassure her that he was still human beneath his mask. But there was nothing. Just an unyielding black wall of indifference. And somehow she still felt as if he was looking right at her.
The man's right hand came up, still holding the ball of energy.
And then all Hell broke loose.
Bellatrix had finally succumbed to her baser instincts and done what she should have done the minute that man, no, that demon had stepped outside. She had collapsed onto the ground, curling herself up into the smallest target she could present. The only sign she was still alive was the flickering shield she was trying very hard to keep up while under the effects of extreme terror.
The only reason she wasn't dead yet was that she had dropped the minute the demon threw his first attack: the energy ball. It had soared through the space her torso had occupied mere milliseconds ago, utterly vaporizing the group of Knights behind her. Even now, its after-effects were draining her shield, seeking to drag her to Hell to join her dead companions.
The second attack had been just as deadly. The burning sword had made a reappearance, only to be flung full speed into Rabastan's chest. The blast he may have been able to dodge, but in the end, Death had gotten his due. Just as Bellatrix had known he would.
As the screams were cut short and the bodies fell around her, all Bellatrix could notice was that a small piece of rock on the ground had run a hole in her stocking. Annoying, that. Oh well. It wasn't the rest of her wasn't going to look much better after this. And she was sure they could still fix her up very nicely for the funeral. Unlike the poor sods that had just been vanished
Rodolphus Lestrange collapsed on his knees next to her, his right arm completely gone. It was only when she heard the footsteps coming their way that she realized that they were the last. The last of a group once over twenty strong, reduced now to just two. And soon to be none.
The footsteps stopped directly in front of Rodolphus. Bellatrix could just see the man's shoes, no, boots, now covered in ash. An urge to retch welled up insider her when she realized exactly what that ash was made of.
Rodolphus for his part met his end very nobly. He spat on the man's boots, a great gob of blood with a tooth in it. "Go to Hell, devil."
The man sighed. "Dolphy, Dolphy, Dolphy. Haven't you heard? Hell is empty..."
A wet shlunk came above her line of sight.
"…And all the devils are here."
Another wet-sounding noise (presumably the man's blade being removed from Rodolphus' chest), and the body of the man she had been betrothed to slumped lifelessly to the ground.
"Well, well, well."
Bellatrix involuntarily tensed.
"What have we here?"
A small whimper found its way past her lips.
The man knelt down, and that horrid, dark, empty, mask filled her view. "Is it ickle little Bella-kins? It is!"
She held back a sob. She was going to die, she was going to die, she was going to die…
"Oh don't be ridiculous. You're not worth the trouble. Waste of a bullet, and I'd hate to have to clean your blood off my sword. Yech. No, for you, I think, something different."
The mask vanished, and she found herself staring into the deepest green pair of eyes she had ever seen. A brief motion, and the man was standing once more. She dared a small change in position to see exactly what he was doing. Her eyes opened wide as they were met with an unexplainable sight. A glowing, transparent, blood-red book was floating in the demon's hands. Around his now unhooded head danced a circle of runes she had never seen before. Somehow, she doubted anyone else had either. Then, the book closed with a snap, and the man's fingers along with it. "Eureka!"
He knelt once more and retrieved an abject from inside Rodolphus' coat. She recognized it; the emergency Portkey, designed to take the group back their meeting place should the Aurors show up earlier than expected. He turned to face her; all traces of emotion completely gone from his face. She shuddered as she realized she preferred the mask.
"Now, seeing as I'm in a particularly vindictive mood, I've decided that your punishment'll be given to you by the one man who you were probably quite anxious to please. And just to ensure that things are equally uncomfortable for the both of you, give old Tom Riddle this message for me: the only reason I ever let you see my face is because no matter how hard you look, how far you go, and how deep you dig, you will never be able to match a name to it. Know that your enemy knows you, and that you know nothing of him. Except what he is. What I am. And what I am…is…ZARATHOS."
His pupils disappeared for a brief second, replaced by a symbol Bellatrix could not place.
"Oh, and one last thing. The Book of Joel. Chapter Three, Verses Nine through Twelve. Read it. I'm sure you'll get quite the kick out of it. Now, on your way, ickle Bella-kins. And give Tom Riddle my regards."
There was a hooking sensation behind her navel, and Bellatrix was whirled away, the image of a pair of flaming green eyes burned forever into her brain.