At the age of four Harry was biting his nails again, unbothered by the bitter taste that had been infused in them by a spell.
Moony, who was chasing Evan around. Harry’s twin brother was on a small broom and was flying around while clutching the book Moony had just been reading. Uncle Padfoot was howling with laughter.
Harry bit down harder, tasting blood. He wiped his spit and blood on his jeans before edging closer to the trio.
He gently tugged on Padfoot’s shirt. The older man started before sighing.
“My turn?” Harry asked in just a whisper.
Sirius looked away from him, grinning at Evan and Moony. “Speak up.”
Harry’s throat felt tight. “Is it my turn yet?”
“No, Harry, you need to learn to share.”
Harry opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak.
Evan had been on the broom since they went outside.
Padfoot glanced down at him. “That’s Evan’s broom. You should have asked for one for your birthday like Evan if you’d wanted one.”
But Harry had asked for a training broom.
Harry bit his thumb nail, sucking on it slightly. Padfoot flicked his wand and Harry nearly threw up at the taste that invaded his mouth.
“That’s a filthy habit, Harry.” And then he turned back to egging on Moony and Evan, throwing padded Bludgers at them. Evan squealed with delight.
Harry went inside.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let you get hurt,” Harry’s mum said soothingly. Still, he didn’t want to get into the muggle pool. It was so deep and there were all sorts of people in it that were splashing and shouting.
“It’ll be fun.” Evan looked at him with matching green eyes. They were identical, except Evan had a tan from always playing outside, along with the famous V shaped scar on his forehead.
Evan tugged on Harry’s hand, almost making him fall into the pool where their mum was. Harry gripped him tightly. Evan gave him a bashful smile.
“Bril. You’ll be swimming in no time.”
Harry and Evan walked down the stairs into the water. It was up to his mid-torso. He didn’t feel as scared as before. The water was nice in the summer weather.
Harry sputtered when Evan splashed him.
Lily chuckled. “None of that yet. You need to learn how to swim first.” She ruffled Evan’s hair and he smiled at her.
She began telling Evan about pool safety. Harry started warming up to the idea of swimming. Everyone in the pool looked happy and there were colorful balls being thrown around. There was a game where kids had to dive for toys, but Harry didn’t think he wanted to try that.
Harry was told to sit on the steps while she started with Evan. Harry sat on his hands to keep from biting his nails. He watched everyone around him, and as time went on, nearly an hour, he started to feel like he needed to go to the potty.
“Mum,” Harry called out. She had Evan on her hip. She leaned down and he blew bubbles in the water. Their mum smiled brightly, laughter in her eyes. “Mum!” Harry tried again. But everyone was being so loud.
He bit his bottom lip while glancing around. He wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, and she was just as far away from the sides of the pool as from where he was sitting.
He squirmed. “Mum! I need to go!” She still didn’t hear him. He wished she’d turn his way.
Harry got off the stairs and then took a step closer to her, then a few more. The water was up to mid-chest. He called for her, but she didn’t hear.
A splash hit him from behind. Harry lurched forward and choked on water. He thrashed, trying to find his feet.
He couldn’t breathe! When his knee scraped the bottom of the pool he tried to stand up—but was still under the water!
It pressed against him from all sides, squeezing— crushing him!
His lungs burned as he choked on water. Darkness seeping into his sight.
His ears popped and he gasped in air. There was a bubble around his head. He spit up water. He was still on the bottom of the pool, the water crushing him. Everything looked distorted as he cried and coughed.
Soon his tears would fill up the whole bubble! He gasped and choked, calling for his mum over and over again.
The water knocked him sideways. He screamed, clawing at the water as he tried to go up.
A flash of red and something grabbed him. He thrashed, panic coloring his every movement. He was yanked upwards, the bubble popping as he surfaced.
“Mum! Mum!” Harry shouted through his coughing.
His back hit hot concrete, the lady in a red swimsuit hovering over him. He couldn’t tell what she was saying.
Finally his mum appeared and brought Evan with him. Lily’s face was red, her frown having a sharp edge he didn’t understand.
Evan clutched Harry’s arm, crying. He curled around Evan, finally feeling like he could breathe. He was tugged to his feet, but didn’t let go of Evan.
He stumbled as he was dragged away, Lily mumbling something about Obliviators.
Harry stared at the ceiling in his bedroom. He couldn’t sleep. He’d heard his dad going into Evan’s room to read him a bedtime story. Usually Harry would be there too—since dad only told one story a night and always in Evan’s room.
Harry wasn’t supposed to leave his room though. Mr. Dumbledore had come over at lunch and before Harry could take a bite of his sandwich, he was told to go upstairs and stay in his room.
And Harry didn’t want to get in trouble, to see that look in his parents’ eyes. He didn’t know how to describe it. He only knew it made him want to cry.
Harry spent all day in bed, using his pillow to block out the laughter downstairs. And he was so hungry.
So hungry he couldn’t sleep.
Then there was whispering outside his room. Mom and dad. He could make out the words: safer, threats, and Dumbledore.
He heard the nearly silent, but distinct noise of his door opening. He closed his eyes, not letting his tears fall. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with him.
He could feel them by his bed, just standing there like growing shadows about to consume him.
Harry’s eyes flew open. He scrambled backwards, trying to get away from Uncle Vernon. He was still struggling to breathe after being slammed into the ground.
He couldn’t hear Uncle Vernon, but Aunt Petunia’s pleased look was enough to tell him he deserved what he was getting. Harry never understood what he did wrong. He was doing his best. What did it matter if he got a higher score on a test than Dudley or had grass stains on his jeans? Dudley was the one who barely did his homework.
It was all very confusing.
But it was all he knew.
Maybe he had done something wrong while he was…
Some days his mind was like a sieve. He’d black-out and have no idea what he’d done. There was no rhyme or reason to it. At one moment he’d be out of breath from running away from Dudley and his gang, then the next he’d be in his cupboard, clutching his hungry stomach.
He’d be doing a worksheet and blink; then everything filled out, or blank as he held the pencil so hard down that the tip broke off.
Harry had an odd fixation with sticks. Any that were about as long as his forearm made him excited, made him feel hopeful. He wasn’t sure why, but the few he’d been able to smuggle into his cupboard helped him calm down.
And sometimes Harry cried, but wasn’t sure why. The sobbing would rattle his chest and protruding ribs. He could barely breathe as he held his hands over his mouth to not make a sound. A dark cupboard where all he wanted to do was scream to let all his emotions out.
But he had to be quiet as a mouse.
With a blink, time had moved forward without his notice.
Hot grease splattered onto his hand. He bit his tongue bloody.
The food smelled so good.
But he had to scrub, scrub, scrub the dishes as those three ate behind him.
The Dursleys—but sometimes Harry thought if he’d turn around it would be a different trio of three. That he might be able to join them at the table with a plate of food just for him.
But there never was.
It was an ugly red mark, yet did not stand out against his bruised and scraped face. After ganging up on Harry, Dudley had rubbed Harry’s face in the dirt—somehow not breaking his glasses.
His glasses never broke.
His glasses that had cut his skin, under his eyes.
Something was wrong with it. It was not quite healing like the rest of him.
His stomach seemed to cramp at random, despite him being well acquainted with hunger.
Harry could barely eat, his mouth not quite opening right. He felt wrong, but no one would listen to him. It was like he’d been quiet so long that he’d forgotten how to speak.
At least he was used to not being heard.
Was he covered in water because it was raining? Or because he was sweating endlessly? Had he been shoved in a pool?
(Harry hated pools.)
There was a hand around his throat, or at least it felt that way.
Only a sliver of moon above him.
He was torn from the night and into the day, once more on the ground—Dudley jeering and pushing him down outside of the school.
Harry tried to crawl behind a bush, but Dudley’s foot found his head.
A sharp pain and he was facing the sky again.
Harry’s back arched off the ground, like a string was tied around his heart and was being pulled relentlessly. He saw a beautiful red headed woman, a man with a mischievous smile, and himself—but different. Better.
He clawed at his throat, a new kind of pain inside of him—so deep he couldn’t dig it out.
Dudley screamed, taking off in a different direction.
Air was a stranger.
The darkness edged closer. Where would he wake up next? Would he wake up?
Flesh rendered from the delicate bones of his throat.
Someone standing above him. No face. No eyes. No soul!
His vision narrowing, narrowing—pinpricks of light—
He could breathe again, but he didn’t gasp for air. His lungs were soothed and nothing hurt.
He wasn’t weighed down by his body. Perhaps he was floating in a soothing pond, lily pads bumping against him.
Lily? Why did that word make his head hurt?
Was he dead?
His eyelids were heavy.
Cool fingers brushed through his hair, tangles and knots giving way.
Harry keened, certain that the hand was about to pull his head underwater.
The hand left, both a blessing and another part of Harry hollowing out.
He shivered, his mind seemed to expand, a door he hadn’t even been aware of opening.
His home and everything he knew—taken away.
It was worse than all the hunger, all the cruel tricks Dudley played, and Uncle Vernon’s fists combined.
“Mum,” he whispered. “Mum, please!”
He watched a younger, healthier version of himself being carried from bed by his dad. Handed off to a man with a white beard—
“It’s for the best,” he—Dumbledore said to them. “He’ll be safe with his relatives. No one would think to look for him in the muggle world.”
Taken away from home. In an enchanted sleep. A mere note pinned to his shirt as he was set on a doorstep in sleepy Privet Drive. To be stumbled upon by a stick thin woman, his aunt.
How many years since that happened?
Harry hadn’t grown much, but he remembered at least three school years.
But Harry’s memories were as delicate as spider webs. Easily broken and swept aside.
They’d swept him aside.
“In one universe, so in all universes,” a voice said, but it was not referring to him being cast out.
“A certainty,” Harry responded, the words falling from his lips unbidden.
He sat up. Somehow he was on earth again—physical. Dirt and grime under his hand, nails bloody, but throat healed.
All of him healed.
He didn’t know his lungs could be so full or that he was capable of moving without pain.
Harry was half covered by the bush he’d crawled to. It was bright with fall colors, vivid. Dying. But only its reaching hands that once cradled the sun. Its branches and roots ready to weather the cold.
A cold Harry no longer needed to worry about.
He was the Master of Death.
Senior Auror Crane had an air-cleansing charm built into his office, what with his perpetual habit of smoking.
At this point of his life, there was no point in stopping. The damage to his lungs was done and it’s not like he had anyone he needed to stay around for. He should be retired and go on one of those bog hikes that were all the rage, but Crane couldn’t see himself spending more time than he needed around people—especially annoying tourists.
At work, he normally signed off on things and kept the fresh meat on their toes.
So it was rare for an active case to come across his desk. Auror Potter had an emergency earlier, which was probably why Crane had to deal with this headache.
The dismembered remains of four people. Two adults, two children—one child who was a muggleborn. Though his last name was Potter, so he might have had some magical blood in his history.
Crane looked through the muggle photos with dull eyes. A good portion of the bodies had been bagged in black plastic by the killer, some tied off. Each heavy with body parts. The four people had been hacked into pieces.
Most of the two children had already been taken away by the killer. There was only a fat leg and a pencil thin arm of them left behind. The killer had taken trips back and forth when disposing of the bodies. Amueture.
The Aurors had already been through, checking for signs of magic, but coming up with nothing beyond a few spats of magical residue. Barely enough to get a crup’s tails wagging.
Crane didn’t give a damn about muggleborns. Let the muggles take care of figure out who killed their own kind.
He closed the case and put it in his outbox.
His parents and uncles weren’t telling him something, and it was making Evan really mad.
“Moony,” Evan said while approaching him with a cup of tea. “Are you okay?”
Moony took the tea with a sigh. “It’s hard being an adult.” His fingers drummed against the side of the mug.
“I’m ten, Moony, you can talk to me.” Evan was doing his best to mimic how his mom spoke when he was upset.
Padfoot was usually easier to get talking, but he’d locked himself upstairs in the spare bedroom next to Evan’s. And Evan’s parents had left some time ago.
Moony mussed Evan’s already messy hair. His thumb briefly went over the V mark on Evan’s forehead. Evan held back a frown.
“You know we’d do everything in our power to protect you.” Moony’s voice was quiet, contemplative in a way Evan wasn’t used to. No, the only time he’d really heard it like that was when he, Padfoot, and his parents were talking about the war.
“Did someone get hurt?” Evan wasn’t sure where the question came from, but it felt right.
Moony looked upwards, his eyes glossy with tears.
Evan wanted to hug him—for Moony to hug him.
Something was really wrong.
Harry sat on the cool earth weaving a basket as best he could with his only hand. He was in a quiet place. A still forest that only he roamed.
Though there were a handful of creatures, omens of death or those that were a conduit.
Thestrals grazed in meadows. Grims roamed in packs, their howls a melodious backdrop. Crows and ravens hid in tree branches. Black cats bedded down in thorn bushes.
Dementors that brought warmth and happiness.
Harry liked the patch of land he’d chosen for himself. The first night he slept under the inverted moon, which gave off darkness, his dreams had been filled with a cozy home. When he woke he was in a bed, the cottage having formed around him.
Under the solar eclipse sun he came alive.
He ate the juiciest berries—ones that would halt the breaths of others. He cooked for pleasure.
Books of lives that ended before their time. Unfinished stories. Harry ignored the three he’d added to the pile.
He could see clearly here. His parents were misguided, but that did nothing to take away from the pain of their actions—both before and after they abandoned him.
Their cruelty may have unlocked his Master of Death abilities, but that would have returned to him when he died a far less painful death. He could see it, the death he would have had if he hadn’t been abandoned. 76 years old. A mundane car crash as he peddled home from the muggle farmer’s market. Too many muggles around for him to apparate to St. Mungos. It wasn’t a bad death. The sky had been clear, a pleasant breeze as his blood spread on the ground.
He didn’t look deeply into that other life. He didn’t want to know what was possibly still in the cards for him.
When he recovered he would venture once more into the living world.
Evan’s family was melancholic again. Evan would be leaving tomorrow for Hogwarts. He felt like they should be celebrating, but instead they were drinking together and not saying a word. They’d even tried to shoo Evan out of the house.
Evan had huffed and puffed about it, but had decided to go through his trunk again—just in case he missed something.
His textbooks were new and pristine. He’d wanted to take his mum’s old notes, but she said he’d learn more if he wrote his own. He had a muggle notebook for each class. The paper was charmed thicker and with texture so his quill wouldn’t cut it or have ink bleed through. They would ensure his notes stayed organized. He just hoped he wouldn’t be made fun of for having muggle things.
Before Hogwarts, all of Evan’s schooling had been in the muggle world, but with his dad giving him wizarding lessons on the weekend.
He had a lot more schooling than his other wixen friends, but tried not to complain. He was the Boy-Who-Lived. He had to be a cut above. He had to be what they expected…
He continued through his trunk. There were the heir books he had to read. The Potters weren’t noble snots, but their history was long and Evan had to learn how to protect them.
He had a few muggle stories, a habit his mum and dad always encouraged him in. He smiled, thinking of how even now his dad found time to read to him. It made Evan feel a bit like a baby, but also warm inside.
As Evan went through his clothes he realized that he’d nearly forgotten the family invisibility cloak. He ducked into his closet—his hands stilled on the cloak. It’s gossamer, almost silky texture felt… off.
In a familiar movement, he draped it over his shoulders—but in the mirror his body was blurry.
Evan ran downstairs and felt himself go through a ward as he opened the door to the sitting room. His parents and uncles straightened up.
Evan’s throat tightened, but he wasn’t sure why. “The cloak’s not working,” he said even though it was obvious.
His dad’s face fell. Evan nearly took a step backwards. His mum seemed to choke on air, turning and burying her face against James’ chest.
Uncle Moony stood, swaying slightly. “Come on, Evan. I haven’t gotten a chance to see your new owl yet.” He placed a hand on Evan, guiding him out of the room. Evan was too scared to resist.
Harry had gotten all of his school supplies through owl order. Similar to the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry had riches that were unbound. Harry only had to think of the amount of money he needed and it would appear in his hand.
Death had not told him about this ability, Harry just knew.
Like he knew that he could turn invisible at will, cast without summoning the wand that had appeared in his hand the day he died, or speak at will to anyone that had passed on.
That was not what his thoughts were on, though.
Instead, he was in front of a tombstone that merely read: Our Beloved Son, Loved and Never Forgotten. There was no name. There were no dates.
Harry could sense the arm he’d given up in payment to kill the Dursley’s before their time buried deep below.
He sat down on the grass, his eyes sightlessly looking at the fresh flowers resting at the foot of the tombstone.
“Never Forgotten.” Harry couldn’t muster up the energy to scoff at the irony.
His fingers dug into the ground beneath him. They were boney. He looked emaciated despite all the food he ate every day. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the Dursleys or him being the Master of Death.
Despite feeling recovered—better than recovered, he still looked like he was on the verge of dying.
His cheeks were hollow, skin pallid, and bags beneath his eyes.
Harry’s fingers pulled up clumps of grass and dirt absentmindedly.
His grave, the place his parents should have put him instead of abandoning him. No one deserved going through what the Dursleys did to him.
His parents had wiped out the very roots of his personhood, unmooring him which left him even more vulnerable to the Dursleys.
Were they even planning on ever letting him know—of welcoming him back even though it was far too late for that?
He’d thought they’d loved him, but looking back with a clear mind, with the clarity of death, he could see he’d always came second to Evan.
The ground beneath him felt colder and he kept digging, digging and feeling exhaustion. He collapsed, his emotions too heavy. Tears didn’t fall as he curled up on his side. He breathed in the earthy scent and let go. He let go of his sentimental attachments, to be laid to rest where his missing arm resided.
Evan smiled. It felt a bit brittle.
It seemed like every Hogwarts student had taken the time to come see him on the train ride. A lot of them just stared, but there were the ones who asked for his autograph, and others that were a little too nice to him.
Draco Malfoy had been the worst. He made disparaging remarks about Dean Thomas (the only person who treated Evan normally since the muggleborn had never heard of him before). Evan drew his wand on the prat. A fight nearly broke out before some redheaded prefect scolded them. Malfoy said something about the redhead’s family being poor, only proving to Evan that he’d made the right choice to turn down his offer of friendship.
Talking with Dean felt easy. Evan had spent time in both the muggle and magical world, which gave him the opportunity to explain all the differences. It was fun, and they even got to talking about one of Evan’s favorite muggle books. As people kept badgering him, he and Dean gave each other commiserating looks.
In the back of his mind, Evan wondered if this would be how his life at Hogwarts would go. He was already missing his muggle friends.
On the boat ride he sat with Dean, a girl named Lisa, and a girl who was too nervous to talk.
There was a strange murmur, but Evan was enraptured by his first sight of Hogwarts.
Inside, he saw Professor McGonagall, who had once stopped by while Dumbledore was tutoring him. He smiled at her, and she returned it.
The Great Hall was just like his mum described, but Evan was distracted when the Sorting Hat sang, then the sorting began, quickly moving through the alphabet.
Parkinsons, Patil, Patil, Perks… Potter!
Evan proudly went to the Sorting Hat. He was going to be great in Gryffindor, just like his parents— “Slytherin!”
Evan gaped for a moment, but McGonagall sent him walking towards the table draped in green in silver.
But he was supposed to be in Gryffindor! His dad was going to be so disappointed. How could this happen?
Unbiddenly he looked at his new house mates. Malfoy sneered. He said something to the other first-year Slytherins. A few of them snickered, giving Evan a bad feeling.
He sat by a blond girl and whispered hello. She ignored him.
Evan gnawed on his bottom lip, not knowing what to do. Should he ask for a resort?
There was a clattering from the front of the Great Hall, distracting Evan.
“It’s Harry Pyre, actually,” a boy said—a boy that looked like he could be Evan’s twin! Behind his glasses were the same shining green eyes. Crazy black hair.
But something about him was just wrong. He looked almost like a ghost that had been colored in.
He was also missing his left arm.
Evan winced. His head felt like it was being pierced by pins and needles.
“Looks like there’s a Potter bastard running around,” a girl with an upturned nose said. “At least he’s not going to tarnish our house.”
Evan clutched his head, barely seeing the other boy walking in the direction of the Gryffindor table.
Everything shifted on its side as Evan passed out.
Harry was thankful that Ron fielded the questions about who he was and if he was related to the Boy-Who-Lived. He’d met the redhead on the train. Harry could tell that for a moment Ron had thought he was Evan, before furrowing his brow and instead introducing himself. It had been a relief. Harry had already had so much of his life wasted by being compared to Evan. Compared and found lacking.
Hermione and Neville had come along. Harry summoned Trevor. It was a quirk of being the Master of Death. Harry subconsciously knew all spells, but they only emerged into his mind when he needed them. It was a balance that would hopefully mean he didn’t feel like he was wasting time at Hogwarts.
Harry wanted a normal childhood. He wanted the freedom he’d been denied.
Hermione had been in disbelief that he wasn’t Evan, citing the picture in one of her books. Harry was happy to enlighten her to the fact that books weren’t all knowing and that she should consider the evidence in front of her.
Hermione became huffy, but Harry invited her to find the real Boy-Who-Lived. She took it as a challenge and dragged Neville out with her.
They came back less than half an hour later, and Hermione prodded him about any other information that was missing from her books.
Now that they’d all been sorted into Gryffindor, which Harry had suspected he’d get into, more people were trying to poke at Harry. Hermione and Ron were his greatest defenders, making it clear that yes, Harry was his brother, but that was none of their business.
Once in his dorm room, Dean Thomas carefully approached him. He mentioned he sat with Evan on the train ride over. Harry immediately cut him off. He didn’t want to know even the most trivial thing about his once brother. He was nothing to Harry.
Though Evan was dying to shout every question that went through his hectic mind, but his mum had taught him the importance of listening. And maybe that was why he was in Slytherin, because he was fine with feigning sleep in the hospital wing as he listened to his uncles.
“They should have never sent him away,” Remus whispered.
“But he’s back now!” Sirius sounded so excited. It almost eased some of Evan’s anxiety—before Remus spoke again.
“He’s been missing for over a year. We have no idea what happened to him after… after the Dursleys were murdered.” Remus paused. “The physical trauma of losing his arm, well, you know how those sorts of things can mess with an obliviation.” Had they used the memory altering spell on Evan too?
“Then we’ll take him to a specialist! Moony, our little Har-Bear is back! And he got into Gryffindor!” Evan did his best not to flinch. “He may not remember, but he’s one of us!”
Remus sighed. “I wish I shared your enthusiasm.”
Evan was left with more questions than answers.
Harry was far from surprised when he was “summoned” to the headmaster’s office. When his green eyes set upon Lily and James Potter, there was no anger or aching in his chest. Being the Master of Death gave him perspective on the loss of loved ones—the loss of ones he used to love.
“Harry!” Lily’s hands fluttered as she stood from her chair. She didn’t move to him though.
“Lils, he doesn’t remember us.” James sounded far more calm. His eyes were steadily on where Harry’s left arm once was.
“I remember always coming in second place. I remember having everything that made me, me stripped away. I remember you abandoning me.” He didn’t raise his voice, sounding as dead as he’d been when life first escaped him.
“Harry, we were protecting you—”
Harry cut James off. “You may lie to yourselves, but I know the truth.”
“How did you lose your arm?” Lily asked, as if she hadn’t heard what Harry said.
“I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t owe you anything.”
James took a step closer to him. “Now hold on just a minute. Don’t talk to your mother like that!”
Harry was unconcerned. “I owe you nothing,” he repeated while raising his hand, “not even the memories of me. Obliviate.”