Once upon a time there was a chosen group of 12- they were chosen as the greats of the next generation, meant to propel the kingdom’s future. They excelled in their chosen traits and skills. From Knowledge and Strategy to being brave and charismatic- these 12 were the best of the best.
Of course, not everyone was happy with the 12. There were some who were jealous and neighboring kingdoms that were worried, so you understand why it was not a surprise that someone targeted them.
It was a subtle curse that was placed upon them, so subtle that no one knew who actually cursed them. So subtle that the 12 didn't realize they were cursed at first.
The first one to realize there was a curse in effect was the head magician- Albus Dumbledore. He's the one who called for guards to watch them closely when all of them agreed that they didn't feel any different.
Something else to note, was that thanks to the status the 12 held, they lived in a well secured, well out-of-the-way wing of the castle. So no one knew, until the night of the first watch, that all 12 slipped out of their rooms one by one, walking quietly to the large ballroom and until the clock struck midnight, they danced.
The guards told Dumbledore the next day and he said to watch them once more. To notice the order and the length of the dance, and how long it took. With a curse this subtle, every detail mattered. So the guards watched them once more and took note.
And then they reported to Dumbledore, and then the next day they watched, and then the next day, and the next, and the next.
They slowly realized that the 12 were dancing a bit longer each night. This... was a problem. What if they couldn't awaken during their dance? What would happen when the dance took so long, the 12 could never awaken? Just- sleeping bodies, marionettes dancing to the tune of whatever force that was making them move.
The guards finally tried to take action a week into watching. The dance had prolonged itself by half an hour, not long enough to see anything happen to the 12- but long enough that it caused some concern for the future. The guards tried to stop the 12 from leaving their rooms at first. It didn't work, they would either claw at the door- causing injury- or find another way out.
They then tried to physically stop them. It didn't work, whatever force was making them do this stopped others from interfering.
They then tried to awaken the 12. They banged on armor, pots, doors. It didn't work- it only caused the 12 to go out of sync, each one dancing to the beat of a different noise maker.
They knocked into each other, but they kept on dancing.
This was what they feared.
How will the 12 live their lives and do their duties, if they are stuck in an everlasting dance? Will their bodies break down? No one is meant to dance that long- no food can be eaten, no water can be drunk, your body cannot rest if you are constantly dancing.
This was cause for concern. They went to Dumbledore and told him everything.
"This is what I had hoped would not happen", he conveyed a tired, knowing look. He explained that he, of course, tried to break the curse when he had noticed it. However, he could not. Everyone was shocked- the greatest magic user in the kingdom could not break this curse? If not him- who?
The people of the castle debated, what to do? Should the guards interfere with the 12 more than they had already? Might that not cause unknown consequences? Should the king have everyone search for the criminal? Should the servants spread the news to the kingdom- in hope that someone more powerful than Dumbledore come forward?
The king refused the last action. Things were not that dire yet- he ordered the guards to keep the 12 awake for as long as possible and for Dumbledore to continue searching for the cure.
The guards brought the 12 together and tried- really they did- but no amount of screaming and noise stopped them from sleeping (none of the guards had the heart to hurt them to keep them awake- they'd been so kind to the staff).
The 12 went to sleep that night, as they had every other night, and one by one they jerked up (as if they were pulled by strings), walked to the ballroom and started to dance.
This happened night after night until the people of the castle reluctantly accepted that there was no solution but to find a solution to the curse itself. They let the 12 back to their rooms and waited for Dumbledore.
But Dumbledore tried and tried and called other experts in other fields and found nothing.
They watched the 12 dance each night in concern, but could do nothing but watch and wait.
They watched and waited, until one of the 12 started to show fatigue while awake.
Then things started to spiral down from there.
Like they had known all along, people's bodies were not meant to dance for so long.
And they did dance for a long time. They had started to dance for hours- when they danced, they danced like masters, however they did not train like masters. They did not stretch or take care of their bodies the way masters would. They would force their bodies to take part in amazing leaps and spins while asleep, but while awake- some could barely jump up a few steps.
The 12 had the curse for much too long. Some were starting to get tired during the day, it was like they never went to sleep at all, some were walking around with bruises and bleeding feet.
It made sense, the ones who started dancing first experienced the worst symptoms- what the others would experience in the near future- while the ones who danced last experienced little pain and discomfort.
The king heard of this happening, the injuries that started to happen, and he waited for Dumbledore. Until finally, the first dancer collapsed during the day. Hurt and tired- their body had forced them into a true rest.
After months of waiting, months of the guards having sleepless night after sleepless night watching the cruel show that their beloved 12 were forced to put on- the king finally ordered the servants to spread the news of what had been happening.
And they did- they told the capital, and then the surrounding cities and then the towns, and so on. They traveled to the edges of the kingdom in hopes that someone with hidden power would come forth and save their future.
But no one did, at least not at first and not in a way anyone was expecting either.
Now, we are where this story truly starts- with the last dancer of the 12.
The one who sleeps true sleep the longest, the one who dances for the least amount of time. He is the one who is lucky enough to be the strongest. Or should we say, less ill because this curse is a sickness that causes everyone involved to deteriorate at different speeds and in different ways. He is one of the few who are able to present themselves to court. He is the only one well enough that people are comfortable seeing how each new spell affects the curse, and he is the only one well enough to be there when this mysterious man shows up at the castle claiming he can cure them all.
If you only know his name, he might seem a bit plain. After all, every Harry you meet is one you'll forget about the next day.
But it's not his name that makes him one of the 12 future greats. You can tell what he is by his presence alone.
Once you start to notice him, you can't really stop. Once you see the way he holds himself (like he could be holding the weight of the world and he still would make himself go forward), once you see those green, green eyes you'll never unsee him.
While every servant in the castle can say they never questioned why Harry is here, Harry himself doesn't fully understand how he reached this far in life in the first place.
He had expected to be dead in a ditch at the age of 12, but for some reason while he was minding his own business, a strange man stopped him in the street and asked him "If you could make anything in the world happen, what would you do?"
Harry answered from his heart and the strange man came to his home the next day and gave him a chance to leave.
Dumbledore came to Harry that day and gave him an opportunity that he would never regret taking- even with this horrible curse. Harry took what was freely given and he lived long after his expected age of demise.
He lived and flourished in his new environment. He made friends and grew to care about the people around him. He ate good food and was happy. So no, he never regretted his choices, even when his death was on the horizon. The only thing Harry wanted to do was to stop the others from dying.
He did the tests, he drank the potions and he danced at night. What you have to understand, is that while Harry was the least affected, he was still tired, sore and hurting. It was just that he looked so much healthier because he was used to it.
He was used to living everyday with a constant drooping feeling in his head. He was used to going around with his legs so sore that they trembled.
So this whole curse just made him go back to the worst days- but he still persevered because he didn't want his dear friends to feel that way too.
He was one of the most dedicated people trying to help find a cure. It only made sense that he would want to meet the mysterious man who claims he could get rid of the curse- not for himself, but for the others.
Harry stood there, in the throne room- not quite to the left of the king, but a few steps down- and observed the man in the black cloak and mask, who said, "I can solve your little problem. You have tried the limits of magic yes - light magic. Don't you think you're desperate enough for something a little darker?"
Everyone could feel it, the malevolence in the air, and the man's gleaming red eyes showed delight in their fear.
Everyone in that room knew he was not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. The king asked "What do you want in return?"
The man laughed and laughed, "I want favor- either from the king himself or from each of your 12 'beloved'."
Now, the king would never put himself at the mercy of this mysterious man. He was the king after all, and what he does will affect the country so there was only one real choice for him. The king agreed for this man's help and let his 12 deal with the debt owed.
Harry was less than pleased, but he didn't speak out. His friends were desperate and he knew they would agree with the king anyway so there was little use in arguing.
A contract was swiftly written and signed, but while all parties involved agreed to the terms, Harry couldn't help but note that Dumbledore seemed less than pleased. He put it off, thinking it was just because the king didn't ask for his council.
The man claimed that to cure them, he had to actually see the curse in action, that he had to have access to the persons involved to actually help. Which made sense, after all how can you help a situation if you don't fully understand it.
The king called for a room to be set up in the same wing as the 12 and assigned Harry to show him the way. Harry of course agreed, he quietly came to a decision that he would watch and make sure this man didn't do anything suspicious, and set off.
While they walked, Harry asked the man some questions. Nothing too invasive, just standard get-to-know you questions:
What is your name? You can call me Marvolo.
Why do you dress that way? That's nothing you need to concern yourself with- why do you dress the way you do.
What's your favorite color? Green.
Of course, this allowed "Marvolo" to ask Harry some questions in return. Why is he one of the 12? What is his assigned trait? He's Brave isn't he?
"Brave" is a reasonable assumption to make about Harry. He faces this unknown straight on and is putting himself in a position of weakness by opening a conversation.
That doesn't stop Harry from laughing.
He's not "Brave"- that title belongs to poor Neville, the only one of them who is deathly afraid of every unknown that exists for someone to live . He was chosen by Dumbledore though, they all were, and Dumbledore said that Neville was Brave . His constant anxiety didn't stop him from going out and doing things, though. As long as it helped everyone else be a bit less scared than him.
No, Harry wasn't Brave. The trait Dumbledore granted him was "Kind".
He heard Harry's answer and saw it as truthful. He heard Harry's answer and said, "This boy would live for others. He will understand hardships and choose the "kind" option anyway- even if everyone disagrees and turn against him. He will face decisions with no kind options and create a new one. This boy is Kind."
How does someone get chosen as something as subjective as "Kind", Marvolo wondered. "What did you say to Dumbledore that gave you such a title?"
Harry responded "Now that isn't any of your business." This conversation had lasted far longer than either of them had realized, they had made it to the bedroom hallway. "Your room is to the left- across the hall from mine. Hopefully you won't be here long enough to get a nameplate, but if you are-" Harry stopped himself, "We have breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, and dinner at 5 - you just missed it. Good-bye now, I'll see you tomorrow."
Marvolo laughed, "And I'll see you tonight.”
Unknown to Harry, Tom Marvolo Riddle doesn't go inside his assigned room. Instead, he heads to the ballroom.
Marvolo wishes to finish this job as soon as possible, because while he enjoys making Dumbledore uncomfortable, he doesn't want to be in the same country as him any longer than he needs to. He also doesn't plan on sleeping anytime soon, so he might as well scope out where the 12 chosen dance.
The ballroom is unexpectedly near the bedroom hallways. Normally there would be an unnecessary trek through the palace, but it looks like this wing is different. It seems like the door leading out is just on the other side; If you wish to leave the building quickly you have to go through the ballroom.
There is very little on the inside- no tables or chairs- the only thing that could be of great importance for the curse is the giant windows that go from wall to wall, ceiling to floor. However, the lack of things could just be because the servants cleared everything out for the 12 to dance unimpeded.
Marvolo combs over every inch of that ballroom, for something strange- some magical item that could be a focal point of the curse- but he finds nothing. Do the 12 just dance in this ballroom because it's the closest?
By the time he finishes, the sun has gone down and the owls have started to hoot. Everyone has surely fallen asleep, and that means it's almost time for the dancers to come in.
How exciting, Marvolo perches himself on a window, It's like my own private show .
The moon is shining like a spotlight, and the room is a stage that the dancers come on one by one. Of course, the only thing wrong with this picture is that the dancers don't move as smoothly as they should- instead they have jerking limbs.
The door opens with a bang and in comes the first performer: Bushy hair, messy clothing- but Marvolo gives the outfit a pass, after all you don't sleep in a costume- or walk like a doll.
Right arm goes out with the right leg, left arm goes out with the left leg. Stiff movement and bobbing head, she walks to the middle, and then the show begins. The rigid feel that the girl gave is shed off and then she starts to move with fluency unseen before.
Finally some grace, however Marvolo has an inkling that this grace is as unnatural as the stiffness that came before.
He enjoys the show while the second dancer comes in with the same wooden walk and same starting place- right in the middle of the dance floor. A pattern is realized once the third dancer does the same walk and same starting pose.
Marvolo watches as the next few dancers do the same and he notices something- not only is their entrance the same but each of them follows the same choreography as well. As more come in, he wonders if it is the same dance every night or if it changes. I'll start to get bored if I see the same thing every night, oh well- another reason to finish quickly .
Marvolo only really starts to focus on the dance when the last one arrives.
It starts out the same as the rest- same walk, same destination, same choreography- nothing interesting at first, but then the dancer starts to move a little out of sync with the rest of them An untrained eye would never catch it, and it's not by much but the dancer takes a slightly bigger step here and there. He jumps a bit too far to the right, but Marvolo notices. When everyone else took the exact same number of steps with the exact same distance in between, Harry just doesn't.
Is it because he's the last? Because the dance is ending soon that the curse isn't as strong as it could be? Or... is it something else?
Marvolo takes note of the final dancer, the boy that was "kind" enough to bring him to his room- the one the king called "Harry Potter"- and for the first time in a while, takes care to remember what he looks like, so he can pick him out of a crowd.
Marvolo watches Harry dance until the performance finally ends. He is still watching as, one by one, the 12 stiffly moved out of the room. I wonder.... I guess I know what- or who - to observe first. He did say he'll see me tomorrow, it'll be terribly rude of me to try to avoid him after all.