Disclaimer: I solemnly swear I don't own Harry Potter.

Chapter 2: Snap

One of the wizards smiled at him genially, but the other man's eyes were ice as he spoke. "Hello, Mr. Potter. So nice to see you tonight. I only regret that we come on such unfortunate business."

Uncle Vernon spoke up from behind where Harry's frozen form was blocking the doorway. "Who the ruddy hell are you?"

The words broke Harry's paralysis and his mind raced as he stepped back from the doorway. The Auror with the boots, the one who had first spoken, pushed his way through the door, his sharp eyes scanning the room as he talked.

"We belong to the British Ministry of Magic. You are Mr. Potter's uncle?" He turned abruptly to Vernon.

"I—well, yes—that is, I—"

The man cut him off. "And you are aware of the charges that have been leveled against him?"

Vernon stuttered some more, obviously extremely unsettled by these people that had so brazenly invaded his once so desperately normal home. "Well, yes, I think—"

"Good. That makes our job here much easier. Mr. Potter," the man barked, seeing Harry edging toward his trunk. "Please remain where you are. You are not in the best of situations right now."

No, really, said the back of Harry's mind irreverently as he stilled but continued to inch his hand inconspicuously toward his wand. And here I was, having the time of my life…

The Aurors began stalking around the Dursleys' living room, looking quite out of place as they "explained" their version of events to Harry's aunt and uncle. The Dursleys, despite having heard Harry's story, seemed to be listening to them and beginning to revert back to their more familiar modus operandi: hate the freak.

"Poor boy of yours…. probably fainted from the shock of the charm… Lucky no one else saw… been a bad influence for a long time… No surprise, probably trying to scare the poor dear…" Harry only caught a few phrases as he tried to think of how on earth he was going to get out of trouble this time.

The Auror who seemed to be in charge turned to Harry just as he was able to slip his wand carefully up his sleeve. In contrast to the obsequious tone he had adopted with the Dursleys, the wizard's voice was as icy as his eyes. "Mr. Potter. I believe you know why we are here." It took almost everything Harry had to stand strong against that implacable gaze. Those eyes… where had he seen those eyes before…

"Yes. Sir." he added for good measure. "I performed the Patronus charm to drive off a couple of dementors that attacked me and my cousin."

Those blue eyes assessed him, flicking once to where his trunk rested by the wall of the foyer. "And after that?"

Harry gulped. "I dragged Dudley back here… he couldn't really stand on his own. And then I got the letter…" There he stopped. He couldn't tell them he was going to run—

He didn't have to. "So you then decided that rather than being a responsible citizen and remaining where you should, you would attempt to… run off somewhere. Is that it, Mr. Potter?" The Auror's eyes dared him to lie. Harry gulped again.

"I—I—Look, sir, you've got to understand, there really were dementors; I have to keep my wand, I have to stay at Hogwarts, Lord Voldemort—" Harry faintly registered that the other Auror had squeaked and jumped, but the cold man's eyes were dissecting him again, and he fell silent.

"So you maintain your lies even in the face of reality, hmm? Interesting…" The man's tone turned businesslike abruptly. "There is no possible way that dementors could have been on your street tonight, Mr. Potter, they are all currently employed at Azkaban under Ministry control. Due to your misdemeanor despite prior warnings –"

"But the dementors aren't all under Ministry control!" Harry could keep quiet no longer. "Look, Voldemort is back, the dementors would just as soon be his as exist, and he wants me dead-"

"MISTER POTTER!" The man's red rain boots looked even more incongruous against the face of rage that he suddenly bore. "The Dark Lord is dead, no thanks to your apparent attempts to resurrect him with your wild stories! There were no dementors in Little Whinging tonight! You will be silent!" This last was added as Harry opened his mouth again.

The man appeared to forcibly calm himself. "Now. Mr. Potter, let me make myself clear: you have been permanently expelled from Hogwarts. You are thus no longer in need of a wand, and indeed, have no legal right to possess one. Why don't you just make our job easier so we can leave you and your charming family in peace?" His voice was heavy with subtle sarcasm as he flicked a glance toward the clueless Dursleys.

Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. Had this Auror, a member of the highest law enforcement agency in the country, just – admittedly, subtly – threatened him? And why?

"I—" He did not know what to say. He could not legally stand up to these people, but he needed his wand… At that thought, the word came blurting out without even thinking.


The other Auror, the man in the yellow sunhat, spoke directly to Harry for the first time that evening. "What do you mean, 'No?'" His voice was disbelieving. "You can't just refuse to cooperate with the law—"

Harry knew he was grasping at straws here. "I won't give up my wand." It would be as good as committing suicide at this point, anyway… He could not think, why could he not think, he had to—

"Curse it, we don't have time for this." The ice-eyed Auror's suddenly exasperated voice cut through Harry's rising panic.

The man's partner turned to him in confusion. "Time? What are you talking about? All we need to do is get the wand off the boy and—"

The Auror's voice was cut off as his partner stunned him. Harry's shocked mind noticed how his hat had fallen off as the other man's cool voice came as if from far away. "Allow me to rephrase that. Idon't have time for this."

Harry snapped out of his shock as the man turned to him. "Come, Mr. Potter. We can make this easy or we can make this hard. Just hand over your wand so you – so it can be taken care of. It will be quick… It might even be painless… I would not know…"

The words sounded eerily familiar, somehow… Abruptly Harry knew where he had seen those eyes before. He was momentarily drenched in memory, memory of fear and cold and darkness; "You… you have been loyal," and triumphant icy-blue eyes flashed under a dark hood as evil passed him by to chastise his fellows, taunting a boy tied to a gravestone… the Dark Lord… only his followers call him the Dark Lord…

Harry's wand was up in the guard position before he could think. "One of you," he breathed.

The man's eyes widened a bit, and then he chuckled. "He's a smart one, then. Yes, Mr. Potter." His smile was evil. "One of us." The Death Eater's wand had fixed on his forehead before Harry could even think to react, and by then it was too late. "Famulatus expletus."

He was free.

It felt almost alien for a moment, to one so used to a world full of promise and pain… But that was not him. That was the other, and the other was not he. Here he was nothing, he was no one; he never had to be anything but what he was told to be...

There is no pain here. At last, there is no pain. No pain, nothing, no need of me… Free of burdens, free of any emotion except bliss, he floated in a softly rocking ocean of nothingness, not thinking, unable to feel—

The whisper came from the darkness around him. Come, Potter… drop your wand…it will be easy… just give it to me…

Now there is need. The ocean brightened a bit, and thought came through in more than dreams. I am here. This is me. And I must do as my master commands me. He felt his hand come up. He wanted to do what that voice told him… wanted it more than anything in the world. Just give me your wand…Go on…give it to me, now…

Yes. The master is good. Give it to the master. Something in the back of the mind almost protested, but he pushed it down; this was what he was made to do, whatever his master told him he would do… he wanted to do this, would do it if it was the last thing he did…

The whisper continued, Good… good… now just let go… let it go…

Then another whisper came, this one not from all around him, but from within, a scrap of memory akin to another that had taken hold of him earlier – Hold on, Harry…don't let go…

She saved him yet again as he slowly struggled against the dreamlike quality that had taken hold of his mind. Don't let go…don't let go…

The echoes of his mother's voice faded as, deep inside, something snapped.

Light and feeling and identity rushed back in a blow so sudden it brought pain and Harry opened his eyes. He was holding his wand out to the disguised Death Eater, and the man was reaching toward it… He had repeated Voldemort's words from the graveyard; if Harry gave his wand to this man, he would surely die…

The false Auror's eyes tightened with strain and Harry felt a fleeting moment of triumph before the bonds holding his body tightened more than ever. The voice from the hardening darkness was louder now, more insistent, as if it knew its subject was no longer quiescent and willing. Almost there… just let go of your wand…you do not need it, you will not even notice it has gone…you will obey… listen to your master… let it go

His thoughts were slowly consumed with horror and denial. No! I am not a slave! But that was what, for a moment, he had been.

Harry couldn't move. He knew, he knew that he was under a powerful obedience spell but it wasn't like the Imperius curse, this was one that he could notbreak. He knew that he was about to give his wand to a man he was positive was a Death Eater, but he would not, could not jerk away…

He saw his hand moving as if from a different body, a body that wasn't beginning to burn from the dread and fierce denial that consumed his entire being - he would not, he must not, no, no, NO…

Wild with panic and pain, Harry's eyes flicked up to those icy ones, saw in them smug and certain triumph, and the last barrier within him burst. The word exploded out of him, irrepressible, uncontainable –


The vise of pressure on his mind fell away as those icy eyes widened momentarily, triumph turning to shock. Harry could feel the wave of force bleeding him dry as the man was blown back and he fell to his knees with the shock of the release; everything was blasted away from him, including rational thought, and his last vague idea was of protecting the Dursleys as, hand still clenched on his wand, he felt himself falling, falling with no thought to any kind of ground -

Then only darkness.

As things begin to heat up, I'll now interrupt you with an important message. Updates to this story will hopefully be fairly regular, about once a month or so, since as you can see I write fairly long chapters that take a while to create and edit. I also don't post unless I'm at least two chapters ahead, so if I don't update for a while, that's why. That being said, thanks so much to those who have put this story on their alerts or their favorites list, but please, show your appreciation and REVIEW! I can update so much faster if I get feedback, and it really helps my motivation knowing that people actually care about what I'm writing. Thanks as ever to Kali Rose and Hero Memory for beta editing, and Kali for my sole review!

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