(Art by Acnara)
There was no glory in this.
Harry stood on shaking legs, fingers quivering at his sides. His hands were empty. The stone was dropped in the woods, lost to grass and sticks and dirt. His wand was resting in his pocket, but it may as well have been on the other side of the world.
He would not reach for it. He would not defend himself.
There was no glory in this.
Lord Voldemort was a distorted, serpentine apparition on the other side of a veil of smoke. His voice was a whisper, a frigid hiss interwoven with the light crackling of the flames.
"…The Boy Who Lived…"
There was no one else.
The Death Eaters fell away, the sounds of Hagrid's muffled shouts became silenced. There was a dying fire, a fractured wizard, and a trembling boy who was now a man with his chin jutted forward and his head held high.
The Dark Lord tilted his face to one side almost imperceptibly. Pensively.
Harry waited for death. Voldemort lifted his wand, and Harry's thoughts spun with a velocity that painted the world in an adrenaline-soaked blur. His fingers twitched but he did not let his body betray him. He would not move to protect himself. Harry awaited the blow of the killing curse, the end of it all; he would look death in the face unflinchingly, with eyes wide open -
The wrong curse.
Harry Potter fell into himself.
The Dark Lord's mental claws reached in and tore their way through Harry's psyche, dragging him down into his memories in a whirlwind of searing pain.
…Lightning flashes of Harry as an infant, wailing in his crib while a man in black robes kneels on the floor at his side, sobbing equally hard, ignoring the baby's cries as he clutches a woman to his chest… Beautiful and crimson, delicate and dead…
…Harry as a child, eleven years old and his scar on fire as a stone manifests in his pocket…
…The scar, always his scar - memories of its pain and its occasional, accompanied emotions. Voldemort was following that neurological pathway with a manic intensity, and Harry was being strung along for the ride. He tried to fight it, to shake the Dark Lord off, but it was hopeless.
No, he thought with horror, as Voldemort edged closer and closer to the most damning of realizations.
No. No. No.
The Dark Lord's power was earth-shattering, devastating. Harry could feel the ghost of an emotion that resembled joy at his pain.
…Harry convulsing on the floor of the Ministry of Magic, burning alive in a scorching pyre of agony as the Dark Lord spoke with his lips, begged with his voice for a death which was denied him…
…Sixteen, and feeling detached emotions coursing through his mind in waves of fury, fear and happiness…
No, no, no—
…Seventeen, and realizing that the Dark Lord had finally divined where the Deathstick rested, at last, at last…
...Hallows or horcruxes, hallows or horcruxes…
No, no, no—
...Hidden underneath of a wooden floorboard, only an inch of dead tree between Harry James Potter and Lord Voldemort himself… Severus Snape begged, but his pleas fell on deaf ears…
'I regret it.'
Snape's memories were siphoned into a glass chalice, and Hermione Granger was offering them up into the Chosen One's hands—
Harry's memories dissolved into Severus Snape's memories, and the rabbit hole of the past became amplified, plunging in its duality.
Severus and Lily. Severus and Lily. Severus and Lily. Unrequited love that told the tale of a traitor in Lord Voldemort's midst.
Severus Snape…had managed the impossible task of deceiving the Dark Lord…
Harry snapped his eyes shut, using every inch of resistance that he had left in his tired, aching body. He reached for his wand, fumbling through his robes with desperate hands that trembled like a child who was freezing to death.
Lord Voldemort reacted so quickly it was inhuman. One second, he was a distorted white phantom on the other side of the fire, the next, he was there, right there, a mere inch in front of Harry's shaking form. A pale hand snatched at his face like a viper, sharp nails sinking into the skin of his cheeks and forcing his jaw up so that when Harry's eyes instinctively flew open, they were met with a searing, crimson gaze, so close, frighteningly close.
There was nothing he could do. Harry couldn't even scream as the Dark Lord once more ripped open his unwilling mind.
…The ghost-like memory of Albus Dumbledore proclaimed his damnation to a horrified Severus Snape…and it was over.
Harry was wrenched back into reality. Voldemort kept ahold of his face, staring with piercing eyes into the depth of Harrys' own. Not hostile. Not murderous, not angry.
Analytical. Intellectual and searching, despite their stillness.
The silence was suffocating in every conceivable way. Harry could barely draw breath as the Dark Lord held him there, frozen by red eyes and snow white fingers wrapped around his jaw.
Harry finally choked the words out in a raspy voice. A plea. A desperate request for the Dark Lord to do what he'd always wanted to do, what he'd been trying to do for as long as Harry Potter had been the object of a meaningless prophecy.
For a time, the Dark Lord did not react. He merely continued to stare at the Boy Who Lived with that detached demeanor.
Then he smiled.
A small, crooked grin that made the already inhuman face of Lord Voldemort appear altogether demonic. He chuckled so softly that Harry was sure no one else but he could hear it. The soft air from his laughter was inexplicably chilly as it brushed against Harry's lips, sending shivers down his already shaking spine.
Voldemort's breath smelled like ice and blood.
The Dark Lord didn't move at all when he finally did speak. He kept Harry's eyes locked under his, pinned down with little more than a stare. His next words, spoken loudly enough for all of his followers to hear, would be the declaration that ripped Harry Potter's world to shreds.
"A change of plans."