I do not own the rights to either the Harry Potter or Mass Effect franchises. This story is written merely for my own pleasure, no monetary profit is intended.
Leaving The Past Behind
"There was nothing left."
The young man stood upon the narrow, tortuous trail, the last vestige of what used to be a wide and well-kept road. Directly in front of him where the rusted remnants of once beautiful gates, wrought iron shaped in elegant patterns, connecting thick walls of gray stone, now partially collapsed. Beyond the gates, and all around him, thick grass grew untamed, covering the landscape all the way to the dense forest on the right, down to the large lake to the left, and even creeping upon the great ruins a small distance away. The ruins of what was once a magnificent castle, a bastion of power, a mighty fortress, a center of learning.
He knew it was time to leave this place, he was leaving, but then he turned around, just outside the walls, to gaze one last time upon the fallen structure, and now he just could not bring himself to move on. Not yet. So he just stood there, looking to the ruins of his past, seeing images that where just a few months old but, at the same time, more than a hundred years gone. A gentle, warm wind swept through the hills and the setting sun painted the sky red, as the memories of busy days on the library and lazy afternoons on the lawn assaulted him. Memories of laughter and happiness, of loyalty and honor, of friendship and love.
"There was nothing left."
There were other memories, of course, dark ones. Of prejudice and hate, of pain and sorrow, of war and death. But those, too, where long past now. Faded beyond the recollection of all but himself. Nothing but ruins upon a grassy hill, just like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The impenetrable walls had fallen; the high towers were no more. Countless hour spent carefully excavating the rubble had yielded many things; furniture, portraits, tapestries, trophies, armor pieces, clothes, cleaning utensils, lab equipment, books, cutlery, and hundreds of other odds and ends. Some still intact, most broken, torn, smashed or rusted.
The great building's fall had not been fast or sudden, but by the time it came there was no reason for its former inhabitants to preserve much.
The soft crackling of branches and rustle of leaves brought his attention to the forest. It was once called the Forbidden Forest, a dark and dangerous place. A place of powerful and wild things. The very air was heavy with primal energies, and if one would stop and listen to the wind, one could almost hear the whispers of shadowy secrets. Now it was no less old, no less dense, no less dark, and little different than hundreds of similar woods in the world. The power was gone, the strange and wondrous creatures replaced by common ones.
His mind left distant memories and came to more recent ones. To the many days and nights spent walking beneath those trees, looking, searching, and desperately hoping to find something, anything, all in vain. Sure, there were signs. Empty nests, vestiges of habitations. Just enough proof to reassure him that his memories of the place were not a dream.
Searching the dark waters of the lake yielded no better results. The crumbled ruins of the people that used to live in the depths told him no answers that he could understand.
This trail of though finally allowed him to turn his back to the castle, observing instead the village that could be seen in the valley below. Unlike the school, it was not completely destroyed. Ravaged somewhat by time, yes, but still standing. Though he could not honestly decide if ruins would have been any worse. Shops that were once full of customers, selling the most fantastic things, were now closed and boarded. Households were abandoned. The old pub, so full of laughter and warmth, was now empty. It had been there, in that ghost town called Hogsmead, that he had found the first clues. Old newspapers, diaries, letters. Not enough to tell him the whole story, but enough to paint a hideous picture.
"There was nothing left."
He took a deep breath, turning his face to the slowly darkening sky, where stars could already be seen. He had to briefly fight the now familiar feeling of despair. It came from time to time, when his memories became too much. It was far easier now, though, to get a hold of himself. Much, much better than it was at the beginning, many months ago, when he first awoke to this new reality. When he first realized that all he knew was gone. Those had been dark days. Darker, in many ways, than the days of the war. He learned then that there were different kinds of helplessness, different kinds of despair. He believed he knew what it felt to be without hope, to face impossible odds. To be cast into the deep end, hands and feet bound, and be expected to swim. He was wrong.
He was good at that, he knew. Tolerating pain. Staying in the fight. Surviving against that which could, should, have ended him. He had done that all his life. Put him into a corner, give him an impossible challenge, and where most would desist or break, he would endure. It was, he knew, what ultimately allowed his victory during the war. He faced so many enemies that were more powerful, experienced, or with far more resources. Yet he always survived, and eventually was able to fight back, and win. It was his gift and also his curse. Because no victory was without loss, without sacrifice. And many times others would pay the price for his survival.
With one last look behind him, the young man started to trek down the dwindling path, finally moving away from the castle. The old road used to border woods that were not directly connected to the Forbidden Forest, and therefore not nearly as dangerous. Now those woods sometimes crossed over the path, young trees growing unfettered along the trail. It had its own beauty, he could see. Long shadows stretched lazily along the path, the song of birds filling the twilight. It was tempting to forget his grim thoughts and simply enjoy the sensation of peace. But in the end he could not help himself. As his feet carried him over the fallen leaves, his mind once more drifted to the past.
After the war ended, he knew the danger had not passed. Although his most powerful foe had been defeated, many of the followers escaped. The broken system that allowed them to exist was still in place, and could not be changed overnight. Of those who suffered, many chose to consider the whole affair done. They were more than ready to move on with their lives, and forget about the darkness, which had been the same attitude that led to their troubles in the first place. He and his remaining allies tried to fight that sentiment, to remind the people that it was not yet time to let their guards down, that changes had to be made, and made fast. But it had been a lost cause.
He had resigned himself to a life of constant vigilance, as one of his mentors would often say. At any moment, the supporters of the old regime could try and reestablish their position. Someone could try and exact some revenge. He was no longer an unprepared child. The threat of torture and death to himself and, more importantly, to his loved ones, forced him to grow and become strong. And he had. Through will and hardship, he became stronger than any of his peers. A few years after the war, no one in the world would match against him carelessly.
But defeated and humiliated people were capable of horrifying acts.
He remembered every minute of that night. The frantic call for help, the desperate run to lowest levels of the Ministry. The attackers counted on the element of surprise and it worked. By the time he and the others arrived, the invaders had been entrenched. They were ready and willing to fight to the end, the last holdouts from his old enemies, led by a woman drove mad with the desire for vengeance. Yet they had not been prepared to the harshness of his response. Pure luck, or some would say fate, had played a great part in his victory during the war. In the intervening years, that luck had been replaced by skill.
They were defeated much sooner than either side expected, but not soon enough. The ritual had been completed. It was meant to cause great destruction, to serve as a symbol of terror and a rallying point to those who would see the return of darkness. But when you dabbled in primal and forgotten arts, one could never predict the consequences, and the consequences of that night would cost them everything.
When the darkness engulfed his vision, the desperate call of his friends as if a world away, he thought it was the end. One could tempt fate for only so long, after all. As the last vestiges of consciousness left him, he believed death had finally won. But it was not to be as once more his curse would see him survive, sequestered in a dark limbo, suspended in time, while outside his world slowly crumbled.
After waking up, and finally understanding what had happened, he never wished so much for death.
"There was nothing left."
In the end there had been no victors, only victims. The Sundering, as he learned it had been named, destroyed his entire people. Everyone he knew, gone, friends and enemies alike. And not only his own people, but every other race who shared in their nature. One and half a century later, nothing but the skeleton of their world was left, just shadows and ghosts. And all his power and skill was for nothing now, because there was no enemy to defeat, not a fortress to assault or a bastion to defend.
Still he was able to use his hard won knowledge to traverse the strange new reality he found himself in, looking for answers. He managed to keep a semblance of rationality while he searched through places both familiar and new. When the full scope of the tragedy that befell his people revealed itself however, only that unyielding core of stubbornness kept him from joining the ghosts. He honestly did not know how he survived those weeks. It had all been a daze, in truth. When he was finally able to push the despair away, most of the time at least, he started collecting every last scrap of his people's legacy that he could find.
And as he rounded a corner of the trail and beheld the sight in front of him, he was once again reminded that, although his world had ended, there was another world, an even bigger one, that kept going. Behind him was a shard of the past, even though bereft of much of its old power. In front of him was the future.
A great city of concrete, glass and steel stood from the middle of the Scottish Highlands. Just a little beyond what were once farmlands, magnificent skyscrapers rose to the heights, some piercing the very clouds. The night had almost completely covered the world, and the light show was breathtaking. Amongst the lights of the elegant buildings, many other lights danced around. Some on the ground, but many in the air, floating speedily in what that at first glance appeared to be utter chaos.
As the power of his own world vanished, the power of the common man over nature continued to evolve, to the point where they could finally start to heal the damage done by themselves in their younger years. There was still a very long way to go, of course, and Earth was still rife with problems. But humanity was changing, becoming a little wiser, a little less prone to turn against their world and each other.
And just a few years earlier, they had found the legacy of another people, a much older and advanced one. And that had been a surprise when he found out.
As he watched, one of the tiny specks of light started to go higher, higher even then the tallest of buildings. It went beyond the very edge of the sky and up into the stars. Humanity new found power reawakened the spirit of exploration. Fantastic new horizons opened up, and people everywhere were eager to dive into the unknown. The young man put a hand in his pocket and pulled out a rectangular piece of plastic, barely larger than his hand. With a touch, it lit up, colorful images covering the surface. It was an advertisement, a call to explore and settle new worlds, far away amongst the stars. He pressed some points, and the image changed to that of a digital receipt. A proof-of-purchase of a one-way ticket.
He had made the decision some time ago. The last couple of weeks had been spent in preparation, and if he was honest, procrastination. But he could delay no longer, it was time. He pocketed the plastic screen and breathed deeply, the scent of trees and grass filling him. The cold wind caressed his skin, and his other, higher senses could feel the last vestiges of power in this place, that even now protected the ruins of his people from the rest of the world, even if there was no one left to hide.
Night had fallen completely now. He gave one last look to the hill rising above the treetops. To the barely visible remains of the place that had been his first true home, the house of his best memories. For a moment he stood there, in the middle of two realities. The old and the new; the secret and the apparent; the mystical and the scientific.
The dead and the living.
There was nothing more left for him there, nothing but memories. And he could no longer linger in the shadow of a dead world. He would go as far away as he could from the vestiges of his past, and in this new age he could go very far away indeed.
With that one word, Harry James Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Man-Who-Won, and the Last-Wizard-On-Earth adjusted the backpack on his shoulders, filled with far more than most could ever imagine. With a small twist of his body, and a nearly inaudible crack, he vanished, now on his way to the stars.