Just a little time travel 'fic. The idea's so neat, after all.
... I rather think this is a bit different from most. Whether that is a good or a bad thing ... I'm not precisely sure yet.
Before you read any further, I suppose it's my duty to inform you that this story will contain slashy elements. (For those of you who have been coming here for a while, yes, I finally moved this announcement to Chapter 1.) If the idea of two people of the same gender having romantic feelings towards each other offends you, it would probably be best if you turn around now.
If you're here to see said characters going at it like rabbits, though, this story is not for you either. There is not now, nor will there ever be any sex in this story. I won't even guarantee that they'll hold hands. This fic is character-focused, and relationship-focused (and I've done my best to make sure that there's some plot in there too), but I like to think that the relationships being focused on are not always the romantic ones.
… And for all you readers who have stuck with this story for the nearly 10 years (!) since I started posting it, and the 7+ years since I stopped – my sincerest apologies for making you wait so long, and I cannot express the depths of awe I feel at the fact that some of you are still around waiting for me.
I've gone through and made minor edits to the existing chapters – most visibly, restoring all the quotation marks that mysteriously disappeared sometime in the past seven years and removing the review responses that ffnet no longer allows. Otherwise – there may be a few sentence-level changes, but I have not materially changed the story. All the same scenes and plot threads are still there; it's still the same post-4th-year AU that it was back when I started writing, when books 5-7 didn't exist yet. (And surprising no one, the Harry Potter franchise still doesn't belong to me, either.)
Of far more interest to you all, I'm sure, is the fact that I've finally sat down and finished it. I will be posting a chapter a day from now until it ends.
So, without further ado, I present Coexistence. I hope you all enjoy reading it at least as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
# # # Chapter 1 # # #
Something was Not Right.
It was a feeling, almost an instinct, completely different from the Sight that Professor Trelawney claimed she had. No, this was no vision of the future, but merely a creeping sensation ... like there was someone watching from the shadows, about to strike.
He had tried to articulate this feeling, to tell his friends about his apprehension, but they hadn't understood. "Of course you're a bit nervous, Harry." Ron had said. "I would be, too. But you've survived the first two Tasks ... there's only one left! Just think, you might actually win ..."
It wasn't nervousness about the Third Task, though. Sure, he was nervous – only someone entirely stupid wouldn't be. But this feeling was different, separate ... and neither of them understood that. Ron and Hermione were his anchors in many ways, but both were too down to earth to truly believe, much less understand, this nebulous impulse that drove him.
"Have you done your Herbology homework yet?" Hermione asked from somewhere behind him.
An irritable grunt. Leave me alone, Hermione! Can't you see I'm studying?
"Just being in the Triwizard Tournament does not give you license to skip out on more mundane things like classwork." Hermione said severely, before softening. "Look, Harry ... I know you're worried, but you really need to just relax for a bit. Even I don't study all the time."
It was the same argument they'd been having with increasing frequency – as he grew increasingly reclusive – over the past several weeks. As usual, Harry ended it by shutting his current book and standing, turning to face his friend. "My Herbology is done, Hermione. I'm fine. And I'll relax ... after the Tournament is over." He headed towards the stairs. Distantly, also as usual, he belatedly felt bad about snapping at her, but … certainly she of all people ought to understand the way he had recently attached himself to the stacks of books that now littered – and, at times, haphazardly spilled out of – his corner of his dorm room.
"Harry?" He stopped, turning his head partly back in her direction, though he made no verbal acknowledgment. "You dropped this." He accepted the yellowed sheet of parchment, almost crackling with age. Must have been stuck between two pages ...
Then he focused on the text written on the paper, and his eyes widened. Interesting indeed!
# # # # #
I can't let him win. As if from a distance, Harry could hear Voldemort gloating, could feel the pain at the elbow from which his blood had been taken in order to bring the monster back to life; the sudden weight in his right hand, where his wand had been placed.
"Bow." The snakelike countenance sadistically grinned. No, not a snake. I like snakes. They may be cold, but they're also kind, after their own fashion. It was, if possible, one of his best-kept secrets. As a Gryffindor, as the Boy-Who-Stood-Up-To-Voldemort, he was supposed to hate snakes and all they stood for, hate all the Slytherins and Voldemort, the foremost Slytherin of them all.
"No." He hated Voldemort. He greatly disliked Malfoy (both of them ... the elder was, unsurprisingly, here tonight) and Snape and ... well, all the Slytherins he knew. But just because he had never met a Slytherin he liked didn't mean there wasn't one out there. Maybe.
If magic is possible, just about anything could be, right?
The lazy feeling of the Imperius Curse stole over him, dissipating all thoughts. Bow. A whisper, then a shout.
Those extra evenings spent with Moody (after he began feeling that Something was Not Right) stood him in good stead. Staring straight into those red eyes (Gryffindor colors ... weren't they once green?), he reiterated. "No."
For a moment, nothing happened, almost as though time had briefly frozen. Then, as one,
Had Hermione known what was on the parchment, she most likely would never have returned it to him. The Soul Shredding Curse, Kawo Kedavre, was magic at its darkest – a very closely relative to the Killing Curse.
In many ways, it was worse, as it not only killed the body – which Voldemort had, after all, proven it was possible to bounce back from – but utterly annihilated the soul of the person it was cast on.
Perhaps fortunately, it had also never been terribly popular, even among those Dark Wizards who would delight in such things, because of a couple of significant drawbacks:
For one, it was very powerful magic. Only the greatest of wizards had the ability even to consider casting the spell. This was not something that could be thrown around by anyone with slightly higher than average magical ability the way its sister spell, Avada Kedavra, could. Even as the words left his lips, Harry still wasn't certain it would work – but it was the best chance he'd found.
And the reason the Dark Wizards with enough basic power themselves didn't use it – it required self-sacrifice. In order to work, the wizard casting it had to draw such immense power from themselves that their body crumbled instantly into dust. Worse, as far as he had been able to tell, no one knew what happened to the soul of the caster.
It could be sent onward to what Professor Dumbledore called "the next great adventure"; it could be doomed to eternally wander the Earth, bereft of even the form taken by ghosts; every source he had managed to find that discussed the curse (though there weren't many) had their own theories, each as completely lacking in solid proof as the next.
Remembering how Voldemort had possessed Professor Quirrell in his first year, and figuring that he would almost certainly be back eventually, probably using the same trick, Harry had made a point of learning the spell.
It was, after all, his purpose to defeat Voldemort. It may not be what he had been born for, but it was what he had Lived for. If only the Dark Lord's body was destroyed, he'd return eventually – experience ought to have taught the world that. Only if his soul was destroyed would this end.
If Harry had to give his life for Voldemort to be killed, so be it. His mother and so many others had given their life just trying to keep Voldemort at bay. It was time the Light Side went on the offensive.
If Voldemort died and the magical world was left in peace, Harry would be at peace too, wherever – and in whatever condition – his own soul ended up.
Shuddering, the cores of their wands reacted against each other, drawing a line of glowing gold between their tips. Voldemort's eyes had gone impossibly wide. "Boy, do you have any idea what you have done?"
"I've defeated you." I hope. Yet the bead of light was progressing towards Harry; his doubt as to his ability to pull this spell off was hurting his efforts. He narrowed his eyes, trying to make up for his lack of confidence with sheer determination, and slowly all those doubts drifted away, leaving only cold calm logic in control. He thought of this as the "snake side" of his personality, where the world narrowed to himself, his target, and his conviction that he would be the one to prevail.
The bead, which had been moving steadily, if slowly, in Harry's direction, shuddered to a stop.
Voldemort must die. It's the only way. Emotion intruded, an icy anger that reinforced rather than weakened his "snake" side.
Because my parents ... and all the other parents ... and all the other children and adults that might have eventually become parents shouldn't have died.
Because Neville's parents shouldn't be lying mad in St. Mungo's while their son muddles his way through school, unable to find confidence in himself.
Because ... Cedric ...
# # # # #
Although the students were for the most part unaware of the disaster that had occurred, most of the teachers knew. Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory had vanished, portkeyed out of the center of the maze to no-one-knew-where.
Even if he hadn't been privy to that news, he would have known that something was going on the moment the Mark started to burn. Striving to maintain his usual determined stride, he made his way over to Dumbledore. "News, Severus?" It had been a long time since he had seen his mentor quite so clearly look his age.
"Nothing." He winced as particularly nasty pang shot through his arm; out of habit cast a quick glance around to make sure no one was in clear eavesdropping range. "But ... the Mark ..."
Dumbledore's eyes widened. "Go, Severus."
Without another word, he rushed away. Taking all the shortcuts that had become second-nature all those years before, he soon arrived at the edge of the wards. Rolling back his sleeve, he stared for a moment at the lividly black mark on his arm, an unreadable look on his face. Then, after one unnecessarily deep steadying breath, touched a finger to the Mark and Apparated.
The momentary blackness of Apparition cleared away, leaving him looking around at an unfamiliar graveyard. Seems like nearly fifteen years as a phantasm hasn't changed his tastes any.
And there was the Dark Lord reborn he's alive again shit and there the brat Potter. A line of light had formed between their wands he gave Potter back his wand? What was he thinking? along which a bead of gold traveled.
Potter's face was cold, distant ... but his eyes, even through the twilit scene, burned.
"What's going on?" He demanded of the nearest cloaked figure, keeping his voice low.
"Severus." Lucius Malfoy. Of course. "How nice to see you made it after all."
He tapped a foot. "Cut to the chase, Lucius. What have I missed?"
"Well, as you see ..." the aristocrat nodded towards the taller of the two figures, "our lord has been reborn, using the bone of his father, the flesh of one of his loyal followers –" a sneer in the direction of a familiar man with an unfamiliar – brand new, of course – shiny silver hand.
Snape sneered too. Wormtail. The sniveling bastard. He knew the potion, of course. "And blood of an enemy, unwillingly taken." There, from Potter's right elbow, running down his arm, a trail of red that dripped into a small, but slowly growing puddle. Despite himself, Snape was slightly impressed. He acts as if he doesn't even feel the pain, and it must be bad ... especially to someone like him. Spoiled brat.
"Precisely." Lucius smirked. "Then our Lord gave him back his wand – 'fair fight' and all that – and told him to bow. Even cast the Imperius Curse on him, but the accursed boy threw it off as if it were nothing." How unfair – now Snape had to feel even more impressed. Not many could do as well.
"Our Lord cast the Killing Curse at him, of course. But at the same time the boy cast some strange spell – Cow Oh Kedavra? – the spells met, and this happened." Lucius shrugged. "So now we're waiting for our Lord to triumph."
Snape froze. Not for nothing had he had the reputation of knowing more curses entering Hogwarts than most seventh-years – and his knowledge since then had only grown, even as he turned his attention primarily to his one love, potions making, instead.
He was actually surprised that Lucius – who, he heard, had had a similar reputation, and who hadn't had a love of Potions to distract him – didn't know of the curse. More likely, he had come across it once, looked at the consequences, and dismissed it entirely from his memory. That would be like the blond aristocrat. "Kawo Kedavre?" He whispered, a morbid need to be sure taking hold.
"Yes, that's it." Lucius replied dismissively.
Snape closed his eyes. Oh, Potter ... There was almost no point in remaining; either way, the boy would be dead ... or worse. What possessed you?
Yet, he had a feeling he knew. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. The boy who defeated Voldemort –although he hadn't. Once Voldemort returned to the public eye, the boy who would have been expected to defeat him once and for all. The boy who was poster child and figurehead for the cause of the Light. The boy who had just cast one of the darkest spells in the history of wizardry.
How could he not feel that it was his responsibility to do anything and everything he could to stop Voldemort?
Snape bowed his head and mourned the child who had been weighed down by the world's expectations ... and hadn't really been so arrogant as he had always made out the boy to be ... and had somehow pulled through. The boy who might just succeed in accomplishing a task that many men had failed.
He watched as the bead, wavering in first one direction, then the other, began moving steadily towards Voldemort. He leaned forward in anticipation, much like the rest of the Death Eaters surrounding the two. Only he was rooting for the opposite side.
Suddenly, Potter smiled. A truly happy smile that impressed on Snape just how rare an occasion it was, that Potter smiled like this.
With ears accustomed to listening for the slightest change in a fire's roar, the precise instant a mixture began to boil, the exact moment to interrupt a conversation in order to maximize the embarrassment of both students, it's possible that only Snape heard.
For a moment that seemed to last an eternity, the bead hovered on the edge, almost touching Voldemort's shaking wand. "Mum ... Dad ... I'm coming ..." Potter whispered.
The bead touched Voldemort's wand, and the line of golden light flashed unbearably bright to the deepest of blacks – the color of the Soul Shredding Curse.
Voldemort began to scream, a horrific sound that climbed up and up until it passed the registers in which ordinary humans could hear, until only his open mouth and tensed muscles testified to the fact that he continued to scream.
Abruptly, his body fell slack, striking the ground with a muffled thump, as if the soul powering the body had fled. Well, in a way it had – only far more permanently. Congratulations, Potter. You did it.
Later, Snape would wonder where Potter had found that darkest of Dark spells; would find that scrap of paper wedged between the pages of one of the books on charms and hexes that stacked the boy's corner of his dorm room. Later Hermione would remember picking it up and handing it back to her friend without first looking at what it was; would remember how momentarily shocked Harry had seemed when had taken his first real look at it. Later the world would mourn the death of a boy who had done what many men could – or would – not.
Now, he just watched, silently, a faceless member of a crowd of Death Eaters, the only witnesses.
And Harry Potter, yet again saviour of the wizarding world, still smiling peacefully, disintegrated.
# # # # #
Beneath his eyelids how do I still have eyelids? I've crumbled into dust or I was supposed to please tell me the spell worked right blackness, occasionally interrupted by disorienting swirls of color.
– looking into a mirror and seeing the face of a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle staring back –
– howling with pain as the moon took over and transformed me into a wolf, as my father – Remus? – watched worriedly –
– eleven years old, being sorted into Gryffindor –
– Slytherin – Ravenclaw – rarely Hufflepuff –
– lying in bed, secure in the knowledge that there's someone near me who loves me more than life itself –
– Hermione –
– Ginny –
– Cho –
– Ron –
– Malfoy –
– An endless array of other faces, flitting by too quickly to catch –
– SeeingHearingSmellingTasting –
– Feeling –
Too much. His eyes how can I have eyes? But I do snapped open, staring into the dark, marked by a light Hagrid's cabin I'm back at Hogwarts what's happening and the soothing light peaceful too peaceful of the full moon thank Merlin I'm not a werewolf still – oh right I never was.
:Who are you?:
A small voice in the back of his head; a feeling that he was not alone in a way that transcended the fact that there was no other person nearby.
The feel of familiar folds of cloth surrounding him; his Invisibility Cloak.
"Who are you?" He asked, returning the question to the small voice. "What's going on?"
:I asked first.: Petulant. Scared. Why? :Who are you, and what do you want with my body?:
So he had taken over the body of another? How could he return it? :I don't know ... it all happened so fast ...: He was barely conscious of himself replying to the still-nameless voice. I did it. Whatever had happened to put him in this place, he knew it had to do with that spell. I finally did it. He's gone. Forever. With that thought came some triumph, yes, but mostly a deep, abiding peace.
:He did it!: For a moment, Harry thought the voice was responding to his inner monologue. :The greasy git took the bait!: Or not. Looking around to try and figure out what the source of the voice's comment, Harry found his eyes focused on a black figure making its way across the lawn in the direction of a very familiar tree.
Greasy git. Whomping Willow. Full moon. Why did that combination sound familiar to him?
And then he knew.
:Sirius: But why would he have his father's Invisibility Cloak when his father was not around? And although fifteen years would certainly wreak many changes, the mental voice hadn't sounded quite familiar enough ...
:No, I'm James ... waitaminute, how did you know Sirius' name?:
:Aren't you going to save him?:
This was all so terribly, horribly wrong.
:Save the greasy git? Are you kidding? I was planning on watching!:
Almost before his conscious mind had a chance to catch up, Harry (James?) was on his feet, running across the ground; its light dusting of snow crunching under his feet. No. I'm not letting anyone else die tonight.
:What are you doing?! Stop it!:
He was going to be too late. Snape held out a long stick, obviously selected for the purpose beforehand, reached and prodded the knot. With a shudder, the Willow went still. Tossing the stick aside, he approached the opening in the trunk, and Harry wasn't going to get there in time.
"Wait!" He called, a distraction for that crucial last second or so, throwing himself at Snape in a flying tackle that knocked him away from the tree and the deadly secret it hid. Underneath them, the stick broke.
For a moment, Snape lay spread-eagled on the ground, the breath that had been knocked out of him only beginning to come back, with Harry perched on top and almost as out-of-breath. "Potter." Snape choked out. His voice, Harry noted distantly, was the nearly same. "What are you playing at?"
Behind them, safely far enough away that neither was in danger, the tree began once again to move. "Remus Lupin is a werewolf. That's the secret you've been searching for." :How did you know that?! Why are you telling him?! Are you mad?!:
Snape was smart; he drew the correct conclusion almost immediately, with no more than a glance at the full moon hanging overhead. "I could have been killed!"
"Precisely." Harry said grimly. "And, however little I like you, no one else should have to die tonight." :Cedric ... I will never forget.:
He stood, bent and offered a hand to pull Snape up. "Please don't tell anyone. If not for James and Sirius' sake, then for Remus'. He had no idea that the other two were planning ... this." A world of disgust and disappointment in his voice as he waved in the direction of the tree.
Snape hesitated. Finally, unwillingly, he nodded. "You saved my life; I suppose I owe you that much." Harry began his trek back towards the main building, the Slytherin following closely. At the steps he ducked to pick up the Invisibility Cloak, though he did not put it on yet.
"You're not Potter." The other boy's voice caught him by surprise; the sentiment, he supposed, did not. Enemies knew each other practically as well as friends, after all, if in a rather different light. "Who are you?"
Unwilling to answer, Harry swirled the Invisibility Cloak around his body James' body this is so weird so wrong and disappeared.
1 December 2002
20 April 2005
3 August 2011
28 August 2012