A/N: Hello, dear readers o'mine!
Hm, what can I say? My muse is a fickle thing. She plays me like a boss; nagging ceaselessly, then deserting me the next minute. As such, my Hobbit story is on temporary hold, though not abandoned. Instead, I present to you this delightful cliché of a Harry Potter time-travel. I hold out hope that I will be able to finish this one without other plot-bunnies drawing my attention away. (Hint: reviews are excellent motivation.) However, I already have the first eight chapters done, and I'm still rolling with the idea, so it seems the fic has a good chance of completion. No promises though.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Duh.
Warnings: The fic is rated M — I sure hope anyone who clicked on the link can deal with what that entails. The story is also plot-oriented. If you're here for the romance, it will take a while. Speaking of, there will be slash, eventually (if a character's inclination warrants a warning at all). The prose is a mix of British and American English — I read way too much without proper attention to the authors' nationalities to be able to differentiate as I should.
If I feel that further warnings are necessary, you will find them at the top of the chapter in question.
"The choice is yours, my boy. What do you want to do?" Dumbledore asked, the red Hogwarts Express letting out a merry chime in the background.
Harry felt the urge to snort, but no matter the old Headmaster's questionable intentions and decisions regarding his life, Harry still thought about the man as a beloved mentor and friend. He certainly wasn't about to show blatant disrespect if he could avoid it. "What I want? Headmaster, I either go back to fight a war and mourn the dead in the aftermath, or I die myself and abandon my responsibilities, my friends. My options have nothing to do with what I want," Harry stated, his tone so bitter, he hardly recognized it as his own.
These past months, years... his whole life — Harry was tired. He had done nothing except fight. And no matter the outcome, the end result was ultimately always loss. If he accepted Dumbledore's offer, what would he go back to? He would fight, he would kill, and even if the Light won, Harry would lose. So many friends, so many innocents have fallen victim to Voldemort's insanity. The Wizarding World's population was decimated.
"Harry..." Dumbledore trailed off sadly, the whimpers of Voldemort's Horcrux deafening in the awkward silence. Harry resolutely ignored the pitiful thing as his blank gaze wandered over the abandoned train station. He still found it odd; such a mundane setting his mind conjured up for his crossing to the afterlife.
"Life was never meant to be easy, my boy. One cannot appreciate that which they didn't fight for."
Harry couldn't keep it back this time; he did snort, fastening his green orbs on the forever idealistic old man.
"You don't understand. Everything is already ruined. I may build a new life, find things to live for that make me happy, but in the end, the loss will remain. I have lost too much for a cause which I don't entirely believe in. I hate the Ministry, Professor. I don't think our world is right as it is. I just hate Voldemort's vision and methods more. That's all there is to it. This war was definitely not waged for peace," he spat, the last word rolling off his tongue like acid.
Dumbledore frowned. "My boy, what are you talking about?"
"If the Light wins the war, what then?" Harry asked with a sigh. "Nothing will change. The Dark will not disappear. It will remain and keep fighting against its opression. Dark Lords will rise again and again. And the Light? They will do nothing to change. Corrupt and intolerant; it's their actions that give cause to war, even if they don't start it. There is no right and wrong here."
"Do you think Voldemort should win after all?"
"Of course not!" Harry snapped, rubbing his scar in frustration. Truthfully, he could hardly make sense of his feelings himself. He was just so damn tired, so... sad.
Dumbledore hummed, stroking his silvery beard as he gazed at Harry steadily. "My dear boy, if you want change, why not live and fight for that?"
Harry shook his head. "I would. That's exactly what I would do. But Professor, don't you see? Those who deserve it most are already dead and gone."
"And those who remain?"
"Is that consolation?"
"No, I don't suppose it is," Dumbledore conceded. "Yet it's what everyone has to face."
Harry groaned. "Headmaster, I know that. I'm not trying to get pity, nor am I blind to the pain of others. I am not the naive idiot I once was. But you have asked, and I answered. The choices you gave me are both bad — one because I already lost, the other because you offered it as a choice in the first place. I could have died in peace if it weren't for the option to live." Some of his impotent anger at the situation leaked into his voice, and Dumbledore shot him a sympathetic smile.
"Ah, I see where this indecision stems from now," the old man said with a small smile. "You have already accepted death, wanted it even, and because of me, it became a struggle. You think I have made this a question of morals and strength of conviction."
Harry glared. "Well, haven't you?"
Dumbledore nodded. "I did. Yet I didn't. Harry, you have nothing left to prove. The decision is yours alone. I certainly will not pressure you one way or another." Harry wanted to roll his eyes. Dumbledore's presence itself was pressure. The twinkle was suddenly rekindled in the old man's gaze. "My dear boy, how about a compromise?"
"A compromise?" Harry parroted, taken aback by the turn.
"Precisely," Dumbledore said with a mischievous quirk of his lips. "Begin anew."
"Huh?" Harry asked intelligently.
"You can start somewhere where you haven't experienced loss yet, if you have no love left for the present."
"You mean..." Harry gaped. "You are able to send me further back in time?"
Dumbledore lifted his brows. "My boy, it is certainly not me sending you. I am but a part of this world of in-between, a projection. It is your ability to chose, and I the messenger."
Harry blinked in confusion. "I don't think I get it."
"You are Master here," Dumbledore clarified.
"Mast- Oh. Oh!" It was finally clear. The Hallows; Harry had died with all three of them in his possession. He was Master of Death. "The Hallows," he muttered out loud. Then a horrifying thought occurred to him. "Wait, does that mean this will happen every time? I will always have the choice?"
Dumbledore shrugged. "Quite."
"No," Harry whispered, "no, no, no! I have to get rid of those things!" He couldn't go through this... torture every time. He couldn't. Because in the end, he knew he would always live on. Wouldn't, couldn't allow himself to give up. And the Hallows — the damn things would have to go. Harry could never entrust them to someone else. His only option was to destroy them.
"I'm afraid it wouldn't make a difference, my boy," Dumbledore said, his tone melancholic. "You have earned your title for collecting them, the reward is yours."
"Reward?" Harry fairly screeched. "What kind of reward is this? I don't want it!"
"Don't forget, my boy, you may move on any time you wish. Even now."
"It's not that simple!" Harry roared in anger. "I thought you understood!"
Dumbledore inclined his head. "I do. And I must say; the Hallows couldn't have ended up in better hands."
"Worry not, my boy. You never know what your future may bring."
"What shall it be?"
Harry snapped his mouth shut, opened it, then closed it again. What an absurd situation.
"I- I'm not sure," he muttered finally. "I don't even know... How far back can I go?"
"There is no limit."
"Really? Say, can I go further than my birth then?"
Harry considered that. What should he do? He couldn't allow his rage to cloud his judgement. No matter how angry he felt, there was nothing he could do about the Hallows at the moment. Perhaps he would find a solution once he was back to the living — and how strange that sounded! But for now, he needed to think clearly.
So what to do with this unconventional opportunity? Harry had to make it count. He could save everyone if he played his cards right. All who had fallen to the madness of Voldemort. Remus, Tonks, Fred, Snape, Moody, Sirius... They could all be saved. All the innocents, muggles, children, murdered in cold blood over the years. Even Harry's parents.
"Wait," Harry focused back on Dumbledore. "If I go further than my birth, what about, uh, me? I mean, what body would I inhabit? And what if I met my other self? Hermione had always told us that time-travel was dangerous, too. Won't I create a paradox or something?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "Not at all, my dear boy. Unlike Wizarding magic, time-turners for example, you are Master here. Your will is the influencing factor, not the laws governing magic. As such, no matter where you go, it will be a new reality for you to inhabit, a new life — for all intents and purposes."
"New life," Harry murmured. "I would be born again, you mean?"
"I will be an infant?" Harry furrowed his brows. "But Professor, it would be pointless if I don't remember my past."
"As I said, your will defines the outcome."
"So I can wish for my memories to remain intact, and it will happen?"
Harry nodded to himself. This was good. Better than he had initially anticipated. So then, where to go?
"I think... I suppose it all began at the orphanage..." Harry mused. Yes, Tom Riddle's beginnings. That's where the greatest difference could be made. And what was it that Riddle lacked? Parents and love. Harry could change that without having to resort to murder. He could negate the problem before it ever existed. "I would need to be at least seventeen by the time Merope gives birth... perhaps I could even save her along with her son..."
Dumbledore regarded Harry evenly. "You have decided, then?" he asked. "And my boy, I hope you remember that even if you succeed, Voldemort is not the root of all evil in the world, but a facet of it."
Harry scoffed. "I know that."
"Do you?" Dumbledore murmured. "Very well. I see you have made up your mind."
"I have," Harry said decisively.
Dumbledore's serious expression brightened, all misgivings forgotten. "Good, good!" he exclaimed with a jovial clap. "Farewell, my dear boy, and good luck!"
"Huh? Professor, wai-"
But a moment later, all was black.