Year Zero

Stage 01 - The Day the Demon Was Reborn

Slowly, as the days and weeks and months crawled by, it became easier to think. It felt less and less like he slept the entire day away, but for someone so used to burning the midnight oil, this existence had proven beyond infuriating. His motor skills were shot but recovering. He could barely remember things. The less said of his emotional control, the better. But on the upside, he could finally string a few words together without screaming in frustration. Words had always been chief amongst his powers, and he wanted them back.

It came as a strange relief that his brain had finally developed enough for him to contemplate how much he hated being a toddler. If this was his punishment for all of the bad things he’d done in the name of a better future…well, it could be worse. He would drive himself mad at this rate, true, but someday – he hoped – he would grow out of it.

As some consolation, however, he had doting parents who weren’t monsters. He appreciated that, he admitted, even if their circumstances were less than desirable. From what he’d overheard, the Potters were in hiding from a terrorist with a silly pseudonym. When he’d first put it together, the irony had sent him into a laughing fit.

But the real surprise was magic. Wherever he’d ended up, magic was real. He was a wizard. With his geass gone, his only power at the moment seemed to be destruction fuelled by embarrassing emotional tantrums, but still. Perhaps he would be a healer in this life. He hoped he didn’t have to sort whatever war raged in this world out himself.

Regardless, those were problems for later. Right now, Lelouch only needed to figure out how to convince his new father he had absolutely no interest in riding brooms.

From downstairs came the cry of James Potter. “Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off–”

Peter Pettigrew! Lelouch growled in his own mind. He committed the traitor’s name to memory, determined not to lose it to the peculiarities of being an adult shoved into an infant’s body. If I live through this night, I swear I will destroy you.

Despite his body’s general inability to cooperate, Lelouch managed to scale his crib and escape. Lily Potter rushed into the room but moments later. Her wand flew into motion, barricading the door behind her with all manner of sorcery. Soon enough, she turned her attention to the son she’d come to rescue. The shock showed on her face when she found him standing a little unsteadily right beside her. Nonetheless, she scooped him up and quickly made for the nearest window.

And there she paused. Much to Lelouch’s confusion and worry, she backtracked and placed him back into his crib. As her wand once more went to work, she whispered gentle reassurances that so contrasted with the resolved, resigned expression on her face.

The door to the nursery and much of the surrounding wall flew across the room in a thunderous crack and a mighty boom. Lily fingered her wand lightly as she turned to face the terrorist responsible for the destruction. He strode into the room completely at ease. The man’s features were burned and distorted into a grim mockery of a human being.

“A displeasure, as always,” Lily said.

The terrorist snorted in amusement. “Stand aside, woman. I give you this rare chance to demonstrate your supposed intelligence.”

He’s after me? That was certainly new information.

“Just kill me and be done with it,” Lily returned, apparently not having picked up on the subtext. “Kill me and leave my boy in peace.”

“This is your last warning. Stand aside.”

If nothing else, Lelouch’s new brain shared his previous one’s ability to think under pressure. How curious it was that the terrorist – and this man did indeed fit the word better than he ever had – seemed disinclined to simply murder Lily and be done with it.

Of course, Lily responded to the demand as would be expected of most mothers. “Never.”

Without warning, the terrorist snapped his wand upon her. So fast that Lelouch almost missed the words, he cast, “Avada kedavra.”

It was done. With a flash of green light, Lily fell heavily to the ground, dead.

Good job, Mum. What wonderfully sarcastic words to go out on in this second chance at life.

“Foolish woman.” The terrorist shook his head and approached Lelouch. “Now then, Harry Potter.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Lelouch noticed Lily’s wand had fallen into his crib. An idea immediately sprung into his head. It was a long shot, but it could work. He had no control over his accidental magic, but he had just learnt a spell.

Lelouch snapped Lily’s wand up in imitation of the terrorist and shouted, “Awada Kadabwa!”

Nothing happened. Lelouch cursed his underdeveloped body and lack of magical education.

Worse, the terrorist’s response was immediate. Although the surprise showed on the man’s twisted visage, he promptly disarmed Lelouch. Laughter – a horrid, uncertain thing as though he’d forgotten how – soon replaced the astonishment.

“Well, well. Now that’s respect. If a prophesied child could possibly destroy me, this is the level of competence I expect. Well done, Harry Potter. Unfortunately, you must die now. Such a waste. Farewell.”

Utterly helpless, Lelouch resigned himself to this abrupt end to a second chance he probably didn’t deserve anyway. An incantation, a flash of green light, and then the world erupted in pain.

Lelouch knew no more until he woke up in what, in the near darkness, appeared to be a cupboard.

Out of one hell and straight into another. Fantastic.

If there had ever been any doubt that this was a punishment, none now remained. He’d orphaned plenty of children. Turnabout was fair play.

In the dark of his cupboard, Lelouch rooted around for one of the rags that passed for a shirt. Carefully, he rolled it up with his left hand. Once he had, he took a few slow breaths to calm himself.

Now that he had the physical capacity to do work, Lelouch’s so-called Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon forced him to do as many chores around the house as his body could manage before collapsing. Then, if he was lucky, they only threw him into the cupboard under the stairs with some stale bread, locked the door, and forgot about him for the rest of the day.

Were it not for that bloody lock, Lelouch would have murdered the Dursleys in their sleep months ago. He’d executed men as Zero for lesser crimes than these monsters had committed against him.

Lelouch bit down on his rag, ignored the ache in his stomach, and braced himself against a wall. With a solid push, he popped his dislocated shoulder back into place. Once the pain subsided, he carefully tested his range of movement until satisfied with the results. With the obvious problem fixed, relatively speaking, he made an inspection of the rest of his body.

Plenty of bruises, but nothing broken. Today could have been much worse. One of these days, they’ll leave me an opening to use the phone or escape outside. There’s no way this level of child abuse is legal in this society.

With a sigh, Lelouch collapsed onto the thin mattress that functioned as his bed. He rolled around until he eventually found a position that kept any pressure off of his right shoulder.

Better me than an innocent Harry Potter, I suppose. I at least have the knowledge necessary to survive this trial.

It’d been an entire week since Lelouch had reported his own abuse, and nothing had happened. In his own world, he’d assume the police simply didn’t care or merely considered him a child complaining about the cruel, unfair nature of parents who most definitely did not know better than him.

But magic was real. And it seemed hereditary, unlike geass. There had to be an entire magical community out there living in secret. This was, of course, impossible in the ‘modern’ world without a way to erase mistakes quietly and effectively; murder drew too much attention. Therefore, mind magic existed.

Lelouch clenched his fists, determined not to let his anger slip any further out into the real world. I will not be subjected to this again. Last time Suzaku had been his minder. This time, who knew? It could be the Dursleys themselves, but they seemed genuine in their hatred for all things magical. It would likely be someone else, someone he didn’t yet know.

Over the course of his slave labour for the day, Lelouch managed to steal a pen and rescue some paper from the rubbish. As much as he hated this sort of security risk, it had to be done. He had no other recourse. He wrote down his suspicions and his plans and then stored the paper underneath a floorboard he loosened in his cupboard.

He would file another report with the police in a week and after random lengths of time thereafter if necessary to gather evidence. Probably sooner rather than later, the person keeping him imprisoned here would either make a critical mistake or, much more likely, would turn to a more effective solution than simply maintaining the status quo.

As had become a nightly ritual – if someone read his mind, he was in any case doomed even if his guard couldn’t read his native dialect of English, so he paid the regularity no mind – Lelouch withdrew the pile of paper from beneath the floorboards of his cupboard. He read by the faint light of the corridor seeping inside.

Why would I report my own abuse? What good would that do? It’s not like anyone would care.

But that thought rang hollow in Lelouch’s mind. It clashed with his pride. Even in this reduced form, he knew he had intellect to spare. He wouldn’t take pointless actions. If he made a report to the police, it would be with a purpose.

Lelouch seethed with fury as he felt the compulsion not to report the Dursleys’ abuses snap in his mind. In sharp, rigid lines, he wrote down this latest violation. When he returned the papers to their home for the night, the latest found itself impaled and suffering from nearly a dozen tiny holes.

Dudley starts school soon, and I assume I’m his age. Unless the Dursleys go to the trouble of pretending to homeschool me, they’ll have to let me outside my cage. I may be able to force the matter if I can cause a big enough ruckus.

The cupboard door opened to reveal his wonderful Uncle Vernon.

The compulsion immediately snapped in Lelouch’s mind. He did not love, accept, tolerate, or even mildly dislike his relatives. The look of defiance on his face earned him the hardest beating of his life, and for the life of him, he didn’t care. He wore the injuries as a badge of honour.

As Lelouch read his latest attempt at escape, he let the hand holding the paper fall limp. He’d managed to run well enough to evade the police, he was sure – if they had even been called, of course. He’d stolen enough pounds from his aunt’s purse to last him far longer than he could have been gone. That meant his guard had a magical way of tracking him which he didn’t know how to evade.

I give up. I need to stop trying before my guard does something to me that I can’t undo. The thought of a more permanent solution brought Lelouch up short. Unless…

Lelouch spent the next hour examining his thoughts and trying to break any compulsions that might be on him to no effect. He’d admitted defeat of his own volition this time. If this desperate gamble failed completely, what did it even matter? He had no friends here, no allies, and no purpose.

No, that wasn’t true. He did want to avenge his second parents. That plan hadn’t exactly worked out the first time around, but it had kept him motivated.

I don’t know if Pettigrew is even alive. Sirius is probably dead since he still hasn’t come for me, but surely he at least exposed the rat first.

With a sigh, Lelouch took pen and paper in hand and wrote down the most halfwitted idea of his second life. If he was wrong, it wasn’t like he had anything to lose.

Lelouch breathed weakly, yet another compulsion broken. He felt far stronger than he had any right to, but he suspected it would still take a few days at least before he got back onto his feet. Idly, he noted that magical healing beyond mundane medicine must exist.

No changes have been made to my circumstances. I’m not even allowed to kill myself. My gaoler either doesn’t care or actively wants me to be just shy of suicidal. It was the only conclusion Lelouch could reach. If a six-year-old attempting to kill himself didn’t shock everyone involved with his captivity into making major changes, then this environment had to be unique in some manner or intentional. At least I’m wanted alive. That’s something.

It was. Although halfheartedly, Lelouch wrote that down as potential leverage for the future. Not that it helped him while his enemy and their motivations both remained unknown. Until that changed, the only idea he had left was attempting to gain control over his magic. Unfortunately, not only had he experienced no luck with that beyond completely random effects, every failure that got back to the Dursleys earned him a beating and a week of starvation.

I give up. I really give up this time. This is impossible without an outside conspirator. I can barely even think straight half the time. If only I could find my way back to the magical community…

While his teacher finished explaining their math assignment, Lelouch finished filling in all of the answers that would give him exactly a passing grade. The teachers knew he could do better and, he was sure, had long since been ensorcelled to not act on their suspicions of his home life. So long as he passed, no one at school made a fuss. If Dudley failed, mindless thug that his cousin was, he would just take the beating for doing better.

School was a waste of time, naturally, but it remained a refuge nonetheless. Here, he was safe from the elder Dursleys. Here, he had a bit of autonomy. Here, he could rest and recover.

As he always did, Lelouch spent all of his free time in the library. Dudley refused to enter the place unless required even for such exquisite pleasures as beating his freak cousin to a pulp. Even better, his mysterious gaoler didn’t appear to care that he’d found this sanctuary.

It was a shame the library, for the greater part, only collected books targeted at children, but Lelouch made do. Although some works were shared across both worlds, this one had an entirely new set of leisure reading that he needed to work through if he wanted to understand the culture.

Noticing that the shelves containing new releases had changed, Lelouch turned toward them. His eyes automatically skipped over the picture books and anything with less than a hundred pages. On his first pass, he read through the authors for any he recognised. There were a few, but none he particularly cared for. On the second, he glanced at the titles for anything that leapt off the spine.

Lelouch froze in place even as his eyes widened.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. It can’t be. Who… The spine listed the author as one H Granger, not a name he knew in the slightest.

Almost afraid to find out, Lelouch took the book from the shelf with trembling hands. He flipped from page to page with his entire life story sprawled out before him from the beginning of his rebellion to his ultimate death. It even held major details only C.C. or Suzaku could know.

Or my parents.

The absolute last thing Lelouch needed in this horrid new world was a reborn Charles zi Britannia and Marianne vi Britannia. He skimmed through the book again, this time absorbing it in more detail. There were a few obvious errors clearly left in place as a test as well as some creative liberties, but it held almost startling levels of accuracy. He’d just gotten into his second rebellion when he read something that confirmed the author’s identity, something he knew his queen would have never told another soul in less extraordinary circumstances.

A giddy laugh escaped Lelouch. Of all the people who might follow me here, of course it would be you. He flipped to the dedication page and read, ‘To my emperor and our infuriating witch. Seek me out.’

Lelouch snapped the book closed with a smirk on his face. This changed everything.