Even when stranded in a strange world, Harry continues to make waves. Friends are scarce, but there is no shortage of those who would like to see him drown in the swell of his own making. And what ...
By Random Shinobi
Summary: Even when stranded in a strange world, Harry continues to make waves. Friends are scarce, but there is no shortage of those who would like to see him drown in the swell of his own making. And what are the true motives of the beautiful Summer Lady? [HP/Dresden Files crossover. Not Deathly Hallows compliant. Starts before Grave Peril.]
Rating: R (M)
Disclaimer: If you recognise it, then it might well belong to Ms. Rowling or Mr. Butcher. I only claim my OCs and plot.
Special thanks to snuggle the muggle for her help.
Chapter Ten: The Forbidden Apple
He's an insidious corrupter. Lord Sakhr doesn't tempt you with power, wealth, or earthly pleasures; he offers his fell wisdom. Those misbegotten fools who say that there is no inherently evil knowledge know not what they speak of. He demands no reward for his services, knowing very well that weak mortals always end up misusing his foul gifts and in doing so, damning themselves. Knowledge is power, which is the catalyst of change, and there has never been lack of ignorant men whose desire for change exceeds their common sense. Many have tried to use his vile teachings for good, but nothing wholesome ever stems from a malign source. Eternity of excruciation awaits practitioners who believe otherwise.
The White Serpent doesn't do what he does for profit or because he enjoys suffering; he does it because it is his despicable nature. Just as you don't ask why a plague spreads or fire burns, you don't ask why the Daemon Lord does what he does. He's not idealist ‒ he's an idea; a mighty avatar of warped wisdom and malefic knowledge. Despite his tremendous inhuman intelligence, Lord Sakhr is only an evil automaton, mindlessly fulfilling his chosen purpose and brazenly ignoring everything else.
He was originally one of the earliest spirits of intellect, if not actually the first. As time passed and more and more sentient minds emerged, giving birth to innumerable amount of his weaker kin, the older spirits not only grew in power but begun to specialise, narrowing their concepts. They become spirits of knowledge, spirits of logic, spirits of abstract thinking and so on. Sakhr, however, become the spirit of forbidden knowledge.
Lord Sakhr will not rest until all the dark secrets and cruel truths of the world are his to tell. And share he will, with those most unworthy: the Hallowed Order of the Immaculate Serpent.
‒Excerpt from the Key of Solomon.
Harry's heart skipped a beat.
Smoking fragments of molten stone clattered harmlessly against him, but he hardly noticed them. All his attention was focused solely on the quickly disintegrating Circle. The wizard had already lifted a hand to protect his face from the unavoidable magical explosion, but as if to mock him, the Circle simply unravelled in a cascade of swirling colours that calmly flowed onto the demon lord's palm. The blobs of light formed into a luminous sphere and when Lord Sakhr closed his hand, the multicoloured orb faded into nothingness without even a whisper.
A pair of dark figures stepped out of the shadowy forest and stood at the edge of the clearing. The waning light of the Circle barely reached them, leaving the two in twilight. Both of them wore flowing, charcoal-black robes with wide hoods that hid their faces and almost melded their forms to the darkness behind them. The larger of the duo spoke from under his black cowl, "We did our part, O' Lord of Tindalos. It's time for you to keep yours." His voice had strange ethereal quality, as if there were two speakers slightly out of synch with each other.
"Do not presume to command me, wizard. I am in no way beholden to you," Lord Sakhr stated. His soft monotone never wavered, not even a little, and it was plain creepy how the demon failed to stress any word or syllable. "But you are correct; it would not do for me to renege on a deal ‒ not even one made with such insignificant and worthless creature as you. You shall receive the trinket you desire and I shall not wield my vast powers against you and yours, as agreed."
The demon lord extended an arm and the air above his hand shimmered, a black-handled dagger appearing out of the blue and dropping onto his palm. Harry instantly recognised the silver knife; it was the Arthame. Without a warning, the White Serpent's hand blurred, whipping back and then forth with inhuman speed. The enchanted athamé buzzed loudly like a crazed wasp as it flickered through the air, aimed with impeccable precision.
The black-robed wizard was fast with his magic. His hand whipped up in a warding gesture before the dagger even left the demon lord's fingers and a transparent golden shield swirled into existence. Not that it was of any use. The enchanted blade did what enchanted blades did best and pierced the defensive barrier without even slowing down. The shield unravelled in luminous strands of gold, and the dagger sunk into flesh with a meaty thud. The pained scream that filled the air, however, wasn't the earlier man's voice, but rather distinctively feminine. To Harry's amazement, the shorter figure had jumped in front of the Arthame and shielded the man with her body.
As if following a trend, Aurora too lifted her hand and pointed her fingers at the intruders. She made a few sharp motions and an enormous blast of pure Summer Fire bloomed forward. Hissing and cracking, the huge torrent a swirling fire streamed past Harry and swallowed the black-robed pair. The Summer Lady obviously wasn't above kicking somebody already down, but at this time he wasn't about to complain. Those two had freed the crazy old Daemon Lord, and totally insane things like that had the habit of making him feel a lot less charitable and chivalrous.
The air shimmered with heat and a scalding gust of wind blasted against his face and billowed his robe. The violent stream of flames she had called wasn't nearly as large as the blast he had used to destroy the Raith Manor, but it was still easily bus-sized and more than enough to turn a human into a pile of grey ash and blackened bones. When the golden-orange flames died, instead of a pair of charred corpses, Harry found himself looking into a shimmering portal and to the snowy landscape opening behind. Wherever the magical flames had vaporised the pure white snow, the now bare earth steamed and smoked. Then the magical gateway collapsed upon itself and vanished with a soft hiss. Harry's last sight from beyond the rift was tiny plants and flowers sprouting from the charred earth.
"They escaped..." Aurora whispered. "They are in Winter now."
"Why do you not pursue them?" Lord Sakhr suggested. He was still standing calmly in the destroyed Circle, apparently utterly unworried by the three Knights, and their glowing swords of divine retribution, that had come to destroy him. The Knights themselves seemed a bit hesitant to attack the ancient Daemon Lord, but were, overall, very stoic about the situation. "The female is gravely wounded and the scent of fresh blood is irresistible to many Winterborn. Who knows, unless you act promptly, the Arthame might end up in Queen Mab's possession..."
"Do you take me for a fool, demon?" the Summer Lady asked harshly, anger and disappointment seeping into her usually melodious voice. "I know better than to run into Winter wastelands after a pair of deranged wizards who might very well be in your employ. No, your life shall end tonight."
The demon lord wasn't even remotely impressed by her defiance and sheer gall. "I would suggest a more salubrious course. You are far from your domain, Lady Summer. Your power is feeble here; your flame flickering. Have you really deluded yourself to believe you can overcome a true Daemon Lord?"
"Of course not," Aurora agreed flippantly and pointed her gleaming sword at the Hellbound spirit. The tiny symbols etched on the silvery blade were now burning brightly. "You, however, are not one. You are a mere shadow of Lord Sakhr possessing a hapless mortal who fell under his fell power. You are no Daemon Lord, only an Eidolon. And you will fall, by my hand or someone else's."
"If ignorance is bliss, then you have certainly achieved nirvana, milady," the demon, or whatever he really was, said evenly. "Anyone can make mistakes, but only a fool persists in her error. You seek to end suffering, but have forgotten that ignorance is the root and stem of all evil. I shall‒"
"Perish," Aurora dead-panned and turned Sakhr's own words into a death sentence. The echo of her harsh decree lingered ominously in the silence of the night for a moment before the last dregs of the illusion of peace were violently shattered.
The ground around the demon bulged and exploded upwards as hundreds spiky vines burst out from the soil. In less a heartbeat, the poisonous plants had Lord Sakhr completely surrounded and engulfed in a bone-cracking death grip. Aurora, however, clearly wasn't satisfied by just letting the demon to be poisoned, crushed, and ripped apart.
"Al'far askan dar!" Bright light pooled at her fingertips and surged out with a furious bubbling-hiss. She swung her hand and five needle thin filaments of white fire swept across the clearing, burning purple afterimages into Harry's vision and slicing through trees and stone pillars with ease. Acres of the ancient forest behind Sakhr crumbled down but the demon stood unharmed; his clothes were untouched and not a hair in his head scorched. Blackened and cut remains of the vines fell off him onto ground on burning heaps, many of the pieces still twitching.
There was a moment of stunned silence as everybody just stared at the demon, unsure as to what to do next. Then Lord Sakhr spoke, "While garish sycophancy is not a minimum requirement for not being obliterated on sight, I do not appreciate your inexpedient hostility. This vessel must remain unharmed until it has fulfilled its course and therefore your threat must be eliminated."
Sakhr tapped his feet thrice against the stone and the broken Circle flared up with reddish light. A swarm of dark, misty figures burst out of the stone, solidifying mid-air into huge black dogs. The furious mass of fur, teeth, and claw crashed down like a heavy swell on a shore and howled loudly enough to hurt Harry's ears. The fires of Hell burned in their slanted eyes and the beasts' massive paws gouged earth as they rushed forward, serrated teeth bared.
Harry jabbed his wand and a score of slavering hellhounds was sent flying in a violent blast of wind, but there was many more of them and they just kept coming. The fastest of them was just about to bite off his head when the wizard flicked his wand, drawing a blazing arc of amethyst light into the air and hurling it forward. Fat drops of steaming blood plashed onto his face as the purple strand of sorcerous fire exploded through demonic flesh and bone, growing larger and brighter with every foul life it claimed. Life was power and the Dark spell feasted on it with a ravenous appetite, both the caster's and the victims'.
The weight and momentum of the charging demon-hounds smashed Harry against the ground and pinned him there. Their sharp claws slid along his fine faerie mail and they bit him everywhere as they tried to find a hole in his defences. He could barely protect his head and a second later cruel, serrated teeth sunk bone-deep into his thigh, red spurting out and staining the hellhound's muzzle.
Harry screamed and his wand lit up with an angry hiss, strands of red light coiling around the wood and forming a bright halo. A sharp twist of the wizard's wrist slashed the blazing wand through the heavy leg that pressed his wand arm to the ground. The limb literally exploded at the contact, splattering the wizard with dark blood, and the hellhound collapsed on him. It let go of his shoulder and howled like an emasculated hyena, the sound tearing his ears like a fire alarm. Harry wasted no time to sweep his blazing wand across the beast's torso, easily tearing open its ribcage and gutting the hellhound like a fish.
With his arm finally free, Harry struck at the one ripping up his leg and the sizzling magic shredded the hound's muzzle into ribbons of tattered, smoking flesh. Yelling an inarticulate war cry, Harry continued to press on and the hellhound's thick skull caved in with a mighty crack, driving bone fragments deep into the brain.
A flick of his wand sealed the bite wounds on his leg. Even though they now looked perfectly fine, Harry knew they weren't and could easily re-open; no healing magic he knew of could just shrug off wounds caused by Dark creatures. There was a reason why Snape limped for days after he got his arse kicked by Hagrid's cerberus. For all his many faults, the man was a capable wizard and if there was an easy cure, he would have used it.
Rising from the pool of steaming viscera and viscous, dark blood, he took in the changes in the battlefield. Elaine had fallen and lay unmoving, but she looked otherwise unharmed. Whatever had happened to her, at least she was still breathing, very much unlike the the two charred and smoking corpses flanking her. Aurora's scrunts were rolling on the ground with hellhounds. The green and black beasts were furiously ripping each other apart with wild abandon and absolutely no regards to what happened to themselves. As magical conjurations they lacked any real self-awareness and thus had absolutely no fear of death. The Summer Lady herself stood in the middle of a circle of hellhounds impaled by another batch of killer vines rising from the blood-soaked earth. The sharp-tipped red plants were slowly curling around their victims and squeezing out what little life remained in the flailing bodies.
Then the last black dog slumped to the ground with torrents of hot blood spurting from its neck severed by a glowing sword. The Knights were completely unharmed and not even breathing hard. Other than the bleeding and twitching bodies scattered around, the only sign of the slaughter they had partaken in was the dark blood staining their white cloaks.
Amidst all this rather one-sided carnage stood Lord Sakhr, looking unreasonably unaffected by the rapid demise of his minions. He hadn't moved from the broken Circle during the short fight and now he didn't even lift a hand in defence when the Knights rushed at him. Hell, the demon could have at least bothered to look at the flashing blades that were about to cut him apart. Instead, Sakhr looked at him, his face still impassive as ever.
Then their eyes met. Blue faced green, and Harry's world shattered. This time there was no Circle to insulate him and the Daemon Lord's dreadful presence washed over the wizard like a tidal wave of miasma, threatening to smother him under it's terrible, sickening pressure. An utterly alien mind touched his, sliding effortlessly through his Occlumency and leaving Harry beyond terrified. Unlike what the young wizard had expected, the demon wasn't driven by senseless fury, vitriolic jealously or even simple greed – and was all more horrifying for it.
Negative emotions, while negative, were still human; the total absence of them was anything but. The cold, machine-like, perfectly rational intellect he felt systematically dissecting and analysing his thoughts and memories knew nothing of good and evil, and understood even less of pain and pleasure. All those things were distant and utterly meaningless semantics to an immortal being that had never felt anything. The mind that touched his was so incomprehensibly foreign to human experience that it was hard to not categorically label the demon as evil. That would be a folly, however; it, for Sakhr certainly was neither he or she, was nothing if not pure – so horribly pure that it was beyond abhorrent. Even unicorns were spotty grey compared to it. Everything Lord Sakhr did was for a higher purpose and not a single selfish though tainted the demon lord's mind.
Of course, this didn't make the demon nice. In fact, it was probably the absolute opposite. Lord Sakhr was a saint and a paladin – unfortunately the demon just happened to have a moral framework so incomprehensible that it made the starfish aliens look positively familiar. There was nothing but pure logic and a sense of duty behind Sakhr's actions, it was simply that the demon lord operated with entirely different sets of values and premises with which to draw its conclusions. To compare their morality would be like comparing irrational numbers to oranges – you wouldn't even know from where to begin. If men were from Mars and women from Venus, then Lord Sakhr came from Andromeda...
"The Arthame has been imparted to those with the necessary will to utilise it," a foreign thought floated into his consciousness and, despite the gentleness of the mental probe, Harry felt utterly violated. "The Summoner has been neutralised. Your existence; confirmed. My purpose here is almost finished and I can soon rejoin the collective. Your mortal intellect cannot readily envisage the sheer effort necessary to transcend the White God's bindings and channel even the most diminutive fragment of our true being here. Every moment I walk the mortal realm strains and drains us in a way you cannot comprehend. But before I depart, I will hasten to leave you with something to contemplate over."
The demon's feather-light mental touch suddenly turned into a vice-tight grip and Harry hardly noticed when his knees gave in and he collapsed on the ground in a trembling heap. Utterly unconcerned by his discomfort, the demon poured in stolen memories and, with them, imparted the knowledge worth of hundreds lifetimes. Terrible scenes of unholy death and destruction played in his mind in every gruesome detail the greater demon could conjure ‒ which was likely all of them.
No human words could truly convey the sensation of having your mind treated as a dumpster, but it felt approximately as if someone had stuck white-hot nails behind his eyes. Harry screamed from the top of his lungs and trashed against the ground, clawing his own face. His suffering stopped a few seconds later when a blazing sword separated the demon's head from shoulders.
He fell into a blissful oblivion.
"You swore to obey me, Harry ‒ go!"
The sharp words drove Harry out of his dreamlike stupor and he ran to the door leading to the spiralling staircase, but the moment his fingers tightened around the iron ring, he heard running footsteps on the other side. He turned to look at the Headmaster, who gestured to him to retreat. Harry obediently backed away, but drew his wand as he did so.
The door swung wide open as if someone had kicked it and Malfoy rushed in, a wand in hand. "Expelliarmus," the blond shouted and a bright, scarlet bolt erupted from his wand, illuminating the otherwise dark room. In the corner of his eye, Harry could see another, fainter flash of light, this time aimed at him. He moved out of pure instinct and the barely visible spell went by him.
Harry stared at Dumbledore, his mouth agape. He couldn't comprehend why the Headmaster had just tried to curse him. When his back was turned, no less. Luckily he managed twist his torso in time and the spell had only grazed the invisibility cloak billowed by the sharp movement.
Despite how proud he was of his Bludger-evading skills and Quidditch-honed reflexes, deep within Harry knew that the dodge was a total fluke. The Headmaster's aim had been a bit off, likely due his shaky, potion-addled shape. Even with that massive equalizer, it had been a very, very close call. Had he been a split second slower, he wouldn't be standing where he was. Well, actually he was still frozen in a low crouch, staring disbelievingly at the old man sprawled on the floor and unable to understand the reason for his betrayal.
He barely noticed how Draco walked past him and picked up Dumbledore's wand from the floor. It was only the Slytherin's voice that brought Harry back to present. "Who else is here?"
Harry blinked. Had Malfoy somehow noticed him? He decided it would be unbecoming to just stand there unannounced. Pointing his wand at Draco's defenceless back, the Slytherin crumbled with a flash of red light and a dull thud.
He snatched the pair of wands from the air, pocketed them, and turned his attention back to Professor Dumbledore. "Is the potion controlling your mind somehow?" Harry asked, his tone almost pleading. "Can I trust you with a wand?"
"Harry," the old wizard croaked. "Behind‒"
"Avada Kedavra!" A cheerful, almost ecstatic voice spoke into his ear and Harry nearly jumped up out of sheer surprise and terror. The Killing Curse, however, wasn't aimed at him. It was a surprisingly small blessing. The young wizard watched in dread as the spiralling jet of sickly green light flashed over his shoulder and slammed into the Headmaster, forever silencing him.
A hand slid around him, grabbing Harry's collar and slamming him face-first to the ground. When he turned around, he could see Bellatrix standing a few feet from him, her wand pointed at him. Her other hand loosely held his invisibility cloak.
"So, ickle Potty was skulking around under an invisibility cloak..." she gushed. "And attacking people from behind. I'm so proud!"
Harry didn't share her amusement. In fact, he was feeling particularly serious and unamused at the moment, and it just might have shown in his reply: "Shut up, you crazy bitch!"
"Ooh, anger!" Her smile just widened at his righteous fury, incensing him even further and making him almost shake with rage. "Can you do a proper Cruciatus now?"
That was question that Harry too wanted to know the answer to. Luckily it was easily tested and Bellatrix had just volunteered herself. His wand moved in a flash, the foul incantation spilling from his lip. "Crucio!"
The demented witch just laughed and, with a tiny flick of her wand, sent the Unforgivable back at him. And it seemed that he had got the spell right. His nerves flared up as he had suddenly caught fire or been immolated in a vat of acid. The pain was unbearable, but was thankfully over in a second.
"Huh... Judging by your lovely screams, it worked. Please tell me how mine compares, 'kay?" Before Harry could do anything her wand was pointed at his chest. "Crucio!"
He screamed some more. And when she finally released the spell and his senses returned to him, Harry found that he had lost control of his bladder at some point. Phantom pains twisted his limbs and he writhed in a pool of his own piss. He tried to reach for his wand that lay a few feet away, but Bellatrix stepped on his shaky fingers.
"Naughty boy," she said and cruelly twisted her heel, causing Harry to hiss in pain. "I didn't give you a permission to touch the wand. Don't you have any‒"
Harry's other hand whipped out from his pocket, bringing Dumbledore's white wand with it. "Sectumsempra!" he screamed, the vitriolic spell driven by anger, pain and humiliation. Bellatrix's wand was flashing even before he managed to finish the first syllable, but somehow she failed to deflect the spell.
The Dark cutting curse went straight through the witch's purple shield, tearing violently into her and splattering Harry with speckles of blood. The sheer force behind the spell threw Bellatrix across the room, and when her body stopped rolling she just lay there, gurgling and twitching. The red puddle under her grew larger by every moment he watched her. He knew she would be dead in under a minute, but he didn't feel any real elation or even satisfaction, and his righteous anger was quickly waning, making way to a sense of...hollowness.
He had heard the old adage claiming that revenge was an empty thing, but only now, watching Bellatrix leak her lifeblood on the dirty floor, he finally understood it. Sure, he had certainly never wanted to be killer, but that was more because of ethical and philosophical reasons, than for some desire to not want his enemies die a painful death ‒ because that would be a lie. Yet in a twisted way, her death was just the confirmation he needed; it proved that he might actually be able to do what people expected from him. If he could kill the Dark Lord's favoured lieutenant, surely, with enough reparations, he could take down Voldemort himself, too.
Harry discarded the wand he was holding and picked up his own. It had surprised him how well Dumbledore's wand worked for him, but he still far preferred his own wand. He had barely managed to stand up when the door burst open and several white-masked figures rushed in. There was a second of mutual surprise, but unlike the proverbial deer in the headlights, Harry didn't freeze.
"Potter! Stun him!"
He was already on the move and the red bolts of light went by him. Without slowing his pace, Harry scooped the invisibility cloak from the floor and dashed towards the window...and then through it. Glass shattered and the sharp shards ripped his robes and tore into his flesh, cutting dozens of small gashes.
Cold wind whistled into his ears and billowed his robes as he fell faster and faster. He flicked his wand and the spinning that had made him dizzy ceased as his free fall ended, his speed decreasing foot by foot until he halted completely. Harry just hung there, not suspended by anything. Then the spell ended and he fell the last few feet, landing in a crouch.
He ran until he was sure they couldn't possibly see him any more. It was only then he turned and saw something terrible. Hogwarts was burning.
"Many people would consider the sight you are witnessing as aesthetically pleasant," a machine-like voice comment from behind. Harry swivelled around and faced the white-clad Daemon Lord, his wand pointed at the demon's heart. "Why are you so horrified? You have already lived this once."
"Sakhr," Harry snarled. "Get out of my mind!"
The demon ignored him. "The Hogwarts Massacre was a turning point in your life and now you have reached another."
"Elaine..." Harry whispered and wave of dizziness hit him. Facts, images and memories aligned in his mind, and he suddenly knew her as if he had lived with her for his whole life. More than that, he knew her as if he had lived her life! His eyes snapped at the demon and he spoke accusingly, "You took her soul."
Implanted memories swirled in his head and he found it exceedingly hard to concentrate on anything. Still he managed to snap a reply, "Give it back!"
"No," the demon replied curtly. Harry didn't protest as it took all his willpower and focus just to remain standing. After a while Sakhr spoke again, "Your people used to rule with indomitable will; for one resplendent moment you denied the White God and usurped a destiny that was not yours. You gave no quarter during your primacy, and asked for none during your decline and fall. To see you now... Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things, and your impuissance taints mine."
"Impuissance?" Harry repeated, still shaking a little, but suddenly feeling much better. "Your grandiose vocabulary makes me think it's just a pathetic compensation for an insufficiency in the nether regions of your anatomy."
"I see the process has begun."
"Really? Your astuteness is simply astounding," the wizard drawled. "Nevertheless, I tire of our conversation as it's rather lacking on the wits department. Begone."
Sakhr's form flickered a little, before stabilising. "You have assimilated that much already. This is...unexpected and unprecedented."
The dream shattered and Harry Potter opened his eyes in the real world...that suddenly seemed much less real.