The pain was everything, it was all Harry could even remember. He couldn't think of what it was like to feel anything but the pain.
It had started as an ache, the pain of the basilisk's fang piercing his arm worse than the poison and the dull throb from his scar ever since he had encountered the shade of Tom Riddle. But quickly, the poison started to take over, burning through his veins. He had time enough to stab the diary, freeing Ginny. Then his scar exploded.
There was so much blood, on the ground and in his eyes. But there was more pain, his body burning like ice so cold your skin recoiled and his head an excruciating twisting maelstrom.
There was a scream of pain and terror, maybe it was his own, or Ginny's, or something else, something deeper. Harry didn't know. Then there was a song of peace and calm and the world died around Harry Potter.
There was only ever one place Harry Potter regained consciousness, so he recognised the arched, decidedly anti-hospital ceiling, of Hogwarts' Hospital Wing. It was certainly an improvement on the dusty underside terraces of stairs and his pet spiders he was still used to, still half expecting almost every time he woke up.
He had been here so often that he knew that, just from the ceiling itself, he was far to the back of the wing. He looked around but his view was obscured by a series of equally familiar plain white screens. His body hurt, but not as much as he may have expected after a hefty dose of basilisk venom, his scar most of all, more than that he felt a deep tiredness. But he also felt lighter, as though, even though tired now, he knew it would not be for long. It was like the clouds in his mind had parted or a long forgotten ringing in his ears had stopped.
How long had he been out? Weeks? Hours? Was Hermione awake and attending classes? What happened to Ginny? He hoped they were both safe...and that Ron hadn't gotten himself hurt while unsupervised.
"Good morning Mr Potter." The kindly old matron of the Hospital Wing greeted, bustling through the screens and then moving them back, once more blocking his view.
"Mornin' Madam Pomfrey." The boy-who-lived mumbled in reply.
"How are you feeling?" She asked, poking and pricing him in a pattern he already knew well after only two years at Hogwarts. "Can you sit up?"
"Tired but otherwise okay." Harry pushed himself up slowly, letting his legs fall over the side of the bed as he twisted. They felt like dead weight. In truth he felt fragile.
"Yes I should say so, that is often the result when you exhaust yourself. You're lucky that bird got you here as quickly as it did." She admonished and handed him a potion. Which he took dutifully and it instantly gave him more energy, strength returning to his muscles. Must have been a Pepper-Up potion. "I have never seen the like, and trust me I have seen plenty of children during their OWLs and NEWTs. It was like all the magic had been sucked out of you and absolutely covered in blood. If I didn't see you so often I'd have took you for a squib."
"What happened to Ginny? How long…" Harry asked her, not sure if he wanted the answer.
"Miss Weasley is well and has already returned to classes." Reassured the healer, giving him a pat on the hand and a slight smile. "And it has only been the night."
"You're going to have another scar." She noted, and he looked down at his arm, where on the inside of his elbow was a circular puncture scar, which looked almost like a moon. He touched it gingerly. "Perhaps one that should be more famous than the one on your head, if all the basilisk venom I found in it is to be believed. Though that one is starting to look a bit different."
The healer waved her wand and a hand mirror flew out of her office and into her hand. She held it up for him and he pushed his hair up to look at his ever present companion and identifier. Where once a red raw jagged scar sat on his forehead, in the shape of a lightning bolt, now he had a faded scar, indistinguishable from his other childhood injuries from Harry Hunting. It was barely visible after only one day.
"It will never fade, some scars don't, despite the best application of potions and medicinal charms. But unlike the other many times I've been blessed with your delightful company, they at least did something."
"Now, the Headmaster has returned to the school and has asked that you visit him as soon as you are able. You are okay to visit him now, but you are to return straight away. Understood young man?" Poppy Pomfrey seemed very put out about this and Harry just hoped that her ire was directed at Dumbledore and not himself.
"Yes Madam." Harry gulped, nodding his head.
"Straight. Back." She punctuated and shooed him on his way, parting with a final, "Berry blasts."
He took a moment to drop in on Hermione, still petrified in the pose he now knew was using a mirror. He squeezed her hand and promised to be back soon to tell her everything.
The gargoyle protector of the Headmaster's office stood obstinate to Harry's stare. He had only been into this place once before, despite his many rule breakings over the last two years and the amount of conversations he had with Dumbledore, and that visit had been a bit of a whirlwind.
"Berry...blasts?" He tried and the statue sprang to life, standing and moving out of the way. The twelve year old made his way up the spiral staircase and knocked on the door, which opened with a small creek immediately after. The room was unsurprisingly the same as he had seen it earlier in the year after Justin had been petrified. The portraits of former Headmasters were sleeping soundly and there was a chorus of soft tinkling and puffing from the various ornaments of unknown purpose. He looked for the Sorting Hat, it wasn't in its original position but upon the claw legged desk, along with the diary with an immense hole in it, the fang of the basilisk and the sword of Gryffindor. All of these artefacts took up the entire desk, now cleaned of the paperwork and knickknacks he had seen on his last visit.
Dumbledore sat studying them, his normally cheerful blue eyes now pensive and distant, a contrast with his absurdly cheerful robes. Fawkes trilled quietly from his perch and Harry gave the beautiful creature a sincere smile which he hoped conveyed the true gratitude he felt for the resplendent bird.
"Hello Harry." The Headmaster greeted softly. "I trust your presence here means you are well?"
"Yes sir. Though I have orders to return to the Hospital Wing as soon as we are done." Dumbledore nodded his understanding and ushered Harry to a seat with an outstretched hand.
"I am most glad, and do not wish to risk the wrath of Poppy Pomfrey, so I will endeavour not to keep you long. I fear I must once more thank and apologise to you Harry-"
"You have nothing to apologise for sir." Harry interrupted.
"Unfortunately, in this case, that is not true. You have done this school a great service, and like Tom Riddle in the past, you will be rewarded. But I must also apologise, for many things truth be told, but most specifically that once more in these halls you have faced mortal peril." A weary look passed across the colourful Headmaster's bearded face.
"Young Miss Weasley has already told me her part in what happened, both in the Chamber of Secrets and through the year." He gestured at the motley collection of artefacts on his desk.
"Sir, what was the…" Harry started, then reconsidered. "What happened to me?"
"My dear boy, a more important question I am not sure I have ever been asked. And the answer very likely has much to do with your unsaid question." The Headmaster stood then and picked up the diary. The book was in decidedly poor repair, besides the large hole and damage from the poison it looked almost like it was barely holding itself together, with the cover coming away from the loose pages and the leather had become old and curling in on itself.
"The diary of Tom Marvolo Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort, a young and talented wizard who I had the pleasure and then shame of introducing to the magical world. Unfortunately his lust for power and recognition got the better of him and in his final year here at Hogwarts he used extremely dark magic to bind a piece of himself to this book. It was that piece that Ginevra Weasley had been communicating with all year."
"And this is where I apologise once more to you Harry. Since you revealed a most singular talent this year I have suspected something, something I thought you too young to be burdened with. That was wrong of me, and in the coming years we will have further discussions to ensure I do not repeat this error."
Harry's mind almost clicked into place immediately. It was an odd explosion of clarity and deduction, in a way he never truly felt capable of before.
Ginny was releasing the basilisk, she could only do so with the ability to open the Chamber, and talk to the beast. She had to be using Parseltongue, and she could only have that ability imparted to her by the diary, a portion of Voldemort's very being according to what Dumbledore was saying.
"I am like the diary." Harry muttered, both to fill in the Headmaster's absent explanation and I'm disbelief to himself. The bearded wizard nodded sadly and placed the diary on the table. He then did something he had never done since they had met. Dumbledore reached out and gripped him on the shoulder.
"Were Harry, it is more correct now to say you were like the diary. When Tom attacked you that night he did not die, likely because of this diary. When his soul was severed from his body a piece of it broke off and attached itself unexpectedly to the nearest possible vessel, you. Parseltongue is a unique magical ability, and like most of its kind you must be born with it. For a Potter to have manifested this ability it would need a truly unique circumstance. But no longer, and most relievingly so."
Dumbledore mustered himself up and looked a bit brighter. "To destroy the diary you used basilisk venom, one of very few approaches that would have succeeded. You too acquired a decidedly unhealthy dose of venom and it seems to have had a similar outcome. Miss Weasley informs me that Fawkes then offered his tears to your wound."
"And so you are now liberated of this burden, your scar has healed over, no longer the cursed scar we discussed last year. Though I regret it came at the cost of a new scar. I would be most surprised if you retain your linguistic abilities as a result."
Harry sat in the overlarge chair, practically engulfed by the upholstery and implications. He had a piece of his parents murderer in himself, absorbed or something at the time of their death, possibly because of their murder. His soul sank and he felt dirty, tainted, even as he felt better than he could ever remember, which also added to his mood.
He fingered the round mark on his inside elbow, where the snake had bitten him. It had almost killed him, one of the deadliest substances known to wizard kind. Yet it had also delivered him, saved him from the most evil of fates. A life possessed by the man who had taken everything from him.
"Harry." The old wizard started softly. Harry looked up at him, into bright blue concerned eyes. "Harry, you are a twelve year old boy who has been made to suffer a terrible injustice. But you have also not allowed it to overcome or define you. Instead you have shown such remarkable bravery and resilience. You have achieved great deeds, beyond the reach of most wizards."
"I knew Tom Riddle as a boy, despite similar beginnings you could not be more different. We are nothing if not our actions, and in your short life you have shown you qualities more brightly than Tom Riddle could have ever hoped. Now this burden has lifted and you have the opportunity to write a new story. As all young minds at this time in their life must, it is time to discover who you, Harry Potter, are meant to be."
"Sir?" Harry asked, but not really wanting to bring the topic up
"Sir, does this mean Voldemort is dead? If the diary, or even...even my scar." He gulped, stumbling on the words. "Does that mean he will fade away?"
"I am afraid Harry that it is entirely possible that there are further items and we will see Tom again. It should not be underestimated though the victory of these events and the damage we have done him. Not least of which is that we now know there are items and have removed one. The others are not your responsibility however, allow older minds to take up this charge. Let those responsible for Tom be responsible. You should instead continue to learn, to grow, and most importantly, to live." Fawkes trilled at the final sentiment, and Harry felt slightly better for it, but he knew it was not so simple.
"But Voldemort won't leave me alone will he, Sir?" The old wizard remained silent for a time, and then moved around the desk, placing the book back down in front of him. A grave look overtaking him as he looked down at his student.
"No, I am afraid he likely will not. Amongst many, one of Tom's flaws is that of pride. Even ignoring this event, of which we should do our best to keep him in the dark, and those of last year, your defiance of him as a mere baby will be an affront that must be corrected. Our society celebrates this event and that is intolerable to one such as Tom." The Headmaster paused then and waved his wand, the items on his desk moved off into various hiding places. The diary flew into a drawer, the sword swept off into the background as though it had always resided in the office and the sorting hat back to its shelf with a grumbled protest.
"But I am afraid we must bring this to a close as we are about to have some rather unpleasant company." A knock sounded at the door. "Come in Lucius!"
The final days of term were a whirlwind for Harry, but at least this time it was not a negative one. He had helped to free Dobby shortly after Lucius Malfoy had left Dumbledore's office as though an unpleasant smell had curdled his nose. Hermione, the other students and cat had been cured of their petrification. She then immediately panicked about the loss of time for revision before exams. Harry was glad to have her back.
Exams went by, once again without a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, not that they had really learned anything all year.
Hagrid then also returned from prison, looking both more harried than usual and relieved to be back.
Lastly Gryffindor, despite the best efforts of Snape, once more won the House Cup.
"We should do Divination! The twins said you can basically make phoney predictions and get full marks!" Enthused Ron as the three friends sat down in an empty cabin on the Hogwarts Express. The train was chuffing quietly getting ready to leave the station and children were almost clambering over each other to find seats for the ride home. It was a chaos Harry enjoyed watching, as trunks caught on each other and pets grew increasingly indignant. He also dreaded it as the ritual heralded the end of year and subsequent return to number four Privet Drive.
"Honestly Ronald!" Hermione retorted with indignation equalling Ron's enthusiasm. "Even if it is a woolly subject, you need to apply yourself more to classes." She turned to her dark haired friend then, with scrutinising eyes and a stubborn set to her features that Harry knew well. "What do you want to take next year Harry? Please tell me you will take this seriously."
Harry looked back at her, suddenly uncertain at the attention and demand for an answer. He hadn't really thought about it. Some of the classes seemed attractive, Care of Magical Creatures seemed an option he might enjoy, it would be also useful for learning more about the magical world, which was knowledge he recognised he was sorely lacking.
While other classes like Muggle Studies met with automatic rejections, he doubted wizards could teach him anything about the muggle world that he didn't already know. Mr Weasley seemed like the foremost enthusiast of all things muggle and he remained confused by the simplest aspects of modern society. He doubted they would be learning about muggle government, financial systems, sciences or anything else remotely useful. The other classes on offer, he just didn't know enough about them, something he would have to fix.
"I am not sure Hermione." Harry shrugged in reply. "I thought Care of Magical Creatures might be useful, and I wouldn't mind more opportunity to get out of the castle. But we are suggested to take two to three electives right?"
Hermione nodded in reply and looked over at Ron, who looked confused as to why he was now in the spotlight again.
"Well?" Hermione asked. The train started moving now and the corridors had cleared.
"Well, what?" The redhead responded dumbly, and the female of the group huffed.
"Are you going to take Care of Magical Creatures?"
"I guess so, could be a laugh, might help me de-gnome the garden or get the bloody ghoul to shut up so I can sleep." Ron scratched his scalp absently and stretched out on the chair, putting his legs up on the other. "Still think we should do Divination though. Easy Os that one. I almost dread the answer, but what are you going to take then Hermione?"
His bushy haired friend frowned at the boy but stayed quiet for a moment. She was clearly mulling something over, her mouth moving as she did so. "I don't know. I talked with Professor McGonagall and they all seem so interesting, even Muggle Studies, just to know how wizards view muggles." Harry frowned at this notion.
"Hermione. You aren't going to take a class that you could probably teach out of curiosity. If you take on too much work your other classes and grades will suffer." Harry emphasised grades knowing it would hit her most glaring weak spot. "You will wear yourself out, and, most importantly of all, you will wear us out."
"But Harry…" Hermione started in protest.
"No 'buts' Hermione. We don't have to decide just yet anyway. Just do what I am going to do, have a look at some of the books on each subject and just pick three that you think will be most interesting."
"Fine." She folded her arms with a put out huff. Harry knew his friend well enough to know that she had decided he may be right but didn't want to admit it, and instead settled on stubborn grumpiness. She would break herself out of it, especially if Ron said or did something preposterous, which might happen rather quickly.
"And you Ron. Hermione is right about applying yourself. Take Divination if it actually interests you. But the point of electives is to learn something that you are interested in, and if you pick something that you enjoy it might not seem like work. Maybe your parents or brothers have old books you can look at to decide." His friends were looking at him weirdly now. "What?"
"Well…" Hermione started, though now looked decidedly awkward. "It's just, well you've never expressed...well, all that much interest in classes." She looked shocked at her own candour and Harry wasn't particularly thrilled with her at that moment. "Not in a bad way, you aren't bad in class, you're a good wizard Harry really! It's just, well motivation has sometimes been absent, much like Ron really."
"What she said. Without the insulting bits." The redhead agreed. "You aren't becoming another Hermione are you?"
Harry frowned at the both of them and considered what they were saying. They were probably right, he hadn't really applied himself in classes more than was necessary. He wanted to blame the Dursleys for that, and probably they did deserve some blame for the discouragement to do well in school compared to Dudley, which was a challenge in itself. However over the last few weeks he had begun to realise that he had taken a lot of the magical world for granted, even despite it being at times awe inspiring, a lot of it had felt familiar. He had also always felt somewhat weighed down, but could only recognise it when the feeling was gone.
Now he was starting to feel much more awe about his environment, the things magic could achieve and a new desire to learn as much as he could. To become a part of this new very magical world. Right after he was done with another awful summer with the Dursleys.
He shrugged at his friends, deciding not to take any of it to heart. "It's been another hard year and I just think, well its probably time I turned over a new leaf."
"Oh Merlin." Ron blanched. "Please don't become another Hermione. But if you do can I have your Nimbus?"
Just a quick note to say thank you for trying out this story.
The story will involve runes a significant amount. I am aware they are meant to just be a language in the canon, and have no inherent magical effects. But as with all things in this site we take liberties. I much prefer the idea of runes being used for enchanting so that's what we are going with.
7/4/21: I had a review that said there were a lot of typos and errors in this chapter and chapter 2 and that it was off putting. Given I wrote this some time ago I thought it was time to take a look and they were right. I would hate for someone to be put off this story due to issues with the first chapters so I have fixed them up and given some bits a little more colour. Just a quick note though I am Australian so I do use the British English, so some things aren't errors and yes those are Ss not Zs.