Disclaimers: The characters don't belong to me... *waves off* I know that already, dammit. Only the idea belongs to me, and I can hardly remember when the idea started floating around in my head. And I'm writing this when I should be doing math homework... ^^;;;|
Warnings: Angst and angst. This is NOT going to be a happy, feel good story. I might end this with a happy ending, but I doubt it unless people actually convice me. And even though I'll use it as an alternate ending. LOL. A little bit of Draco+Harry/Harry+Draco but it won't come up until later.
There were voices screaming in the distance, in the back of his mind. Perhaps they were actually close to him, perhaps the screaming had been right next to him. But he didn't hear- because he couldn't hear it clearly. So much fire and smoke and screaming and blood. Always the fire and the blood- he could feel it. The heat in the air threatening to choke him, the thick congealing substance that covered him entirely and smelled even stronger through the flames.
He could barely see a foot before his face, partially because he had lost his glasses some time ago and mainly because of all the smoke in the air, the fumes making it so hard to breathe. The night sky was filled with the light of the flames, with the heat of the hell that had occurred that night. The thick smell of coppery blood was mixed with the smell of burnt flesh.
Yet with all the screaming, all the pain filled moans and cries of the desperate, he could hear the laughter. Laughter that had haunted his nightmares for years already, laughter that signified the end of one era and the beginning of another. It was so hot already… it felt like the flames were crawling up his flesh and leaving nothing but scorched bone.
The laughter was the flames. The fire was laughing at him, at all the pain in his heart, and all the pain it had inflicted on others. He had to put out the fire. He didn't know how. He didn't know how he knew that he had to put out the fire, and he didn't know how to actually put out the fire.
"Do you give up so easily?" The fire mocked him, the voice deep and scratchy. "The great Harry Potter… not much without your friends, are you? Did seeing them die break you? Did hearing them plead for their lives excite you?"
The flames were creeping up his body ever so slowly, filling him with the heat that made it so hard to breathe. The fires caressed his skin, making it burn and blister before moving on.
The screaming. He recognized the voices, knew their names. And with that knowledge came the worst pain of all. It wasn't the physical pain of being slowly burned to death- although many would argue that it was the worst way to die. It was the pain in his heart. A sudden squeezing that brought the tears that had been so long denied to him. A sharp pain that made him gasp and choke when the flames and smoke could not.
"Yesss…" the voice hissed its approval. "Die knowing that it was you who did this to them. It was you whom they came for… and it is because of you that they are dying… dying before your eyes. And you don't raise a single finger to help them."
The voice was right. The flames were holding those people whom he could suddenly see captive, circling them like a shark would. His friends. Ron and Hermione, who were shouting at him at that moment, trying to break him out of the trance before the flames killed him. Draco, who was trying his best to dispel the fire, and Seamus and Neville who were making sure none of the flames came in contact with the small group.
He could see another group further in the distance, with Ginny leading various Hufflepuffs and Slytherins through the fire and screaming at them to hold on. So many distraught faces… so much pain and suffering.
It was Voldemort, he knew. Voldemort had poured his magic into this fire, this enchanted fire that would burn and burn until nothing was left. And the fire was burning him right now, stealing his strength and his life.
This was it. This was the end of everything…
Put out the flames.
There was so little left. He could see the forbidden forest in the distance, burning. Could hear screams from the trees that had lived so long dying. Even if there was a small, remote chance of being saved, nothing would be the way it was before. Hogwarts was destroyed. Rather clever of Voldemort, since he had feared facing the Headmaster. What to do other than use the forces of nature to destroy everything?
Put out the fire, Harry.
They wanted him to… but he didn't know how. He wasn't old enough to know how… still in sixth year, not even graduated yet. The best wizards the Ministry had to offer had not hindered the flames. Those who studied elements all their lives could find no way to stop this fire. How could he? A name, fame, and accident didn't allow him such great abilities. It was his mother who really defeated Voldemort, and it was always other people that got him through. Never himself. There was nothing special about himself.
So why was Voldemort so intent on killing him? Because of what happened so long ago?
The heat was getting to him. He could barely feel the stinging of smoldering debris in his eyes anymore. The pain of his own burning flesh was fading, and the screams that tore at his heart were all but stopping.
How do you fight fire?
With water, of course! Great amounts of water, everyone knew that.
But what if water doesn't work?
In oil fires one had to put out the flames with rags, or dirt. Baking powder was used for domestic situations in the kitchen if something caught on fire. A candle could be put out with a stopper because the oxygen needed to support a fire would die. If it were a forest fire, the fire in itself would be controlled with more fire.
Put out the fire, Harry.
The screaming stopped. Everything stopped, and the absence left Harry cold and unnerved.
"He found him laying in the snow, Headmaster. We don't know what to make of him… or if we should tell the others about him… he looks so much like James' son…"
Harry didn't want to open his eyes. He didn't want to acknowledge that he had survived. It was too cold without all the flames surrounding him. He didn't want more fame… didn't want the others to realize who he was. If they weren't sure about it, he didn't want to confirm it for them.
In fact, he didn't want to wake up at all. How did he survive? Why was he still here?
"Shush… I think the boy can answer for himself."
He felt cool hands on his forehead, brushing back his bands fondly. He frowned, remembering the last time someone had done that for him. It was before everything started getting so serious, before all the pain and all the death. It had been the last time he was sick, when he had caught the flu a few days into Christmas vacation. He had stayed at Hogwarts, of course. Sirius had been there as well, and had taken care of him when he had been sick, saying that Madam Pomfrey had been away for the day.
"Come, child, we have much questions to ask of you."
Harry's frown grew deeper at the familiar voice he had not heard for a while, and tried to open his eyes. It was hard… much harder than it used to be, even when he had not gotten enough sleep. It felt like his eyelids were rebelling against him, refusing to let him see again.
But after a few moments, he won out and wearily opened his eyes, squinting in the bright light and blurry images. It really was too bad that his glasses had been utterly destroyed. He would have liked to be able to see more than blurry figures.
There was a sudden intake of breath from one of the people who were above him.
"He really does look like James and Lily's child."
Well, yeah. It just might be because he was James and Lily's child. But then again, he wasn't going to question anything at the moment. He was too tired to. He could still feel the aches and burns on him, although it was much dimmer now, as if he were soaked in numbing potions. It was quite a strange feeling, not altogether unpleasant.
"How do you feel, child?"
Harry strained to look to the one who was talking to him, the visage reminding him quite greatly of Professor Dumbledore. Sounded like his headmaster as well. It nearly brought Harry to tears thinking about that. Hogwarts had been destroyed, though.
His parted his lips, intent on replying this man who sounded so much like his Headmaster, only to have his voice come out in a croak. His tongue felt thick and grainy, as if it had swollen after he hadn't had anything to drink for the past few days.
The others must have noticed for there was a straw put to his lips and blessed water forced down his throat. But as he tried to get more, it was taken away with a sweet touch to his forehead.
"He should not be bothered right now, Headmaster. I think that we should leave… perhaps contact James and Lily before anything else."
There was silence for a few moments, before Harry heard a tired sigh. "Ah. You are right as always, Poppy. He does not seem well enough to answer the questions that we have for him. Especially when it looks like he had just been in a near death situation. We will come back when you deem him well enough."
Harry squinted to the best of his ability, wanting to know if he were dreaming. It looked like he was back at Hogwarts… in the infirmary, no less. And it sounded like Professor Dumbledore earlier… along with Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall as well.
But… that couldn't be right.
He mused over that thought until he fell into a deep blackness.
But never would she have suspected… that he wanted her to see this child.
This child that looked so much like James it was astonishing.
She sat down on the chair offered to her earlier, unable to form words as of yet. It was impossible for it to be Harry… their son had died so long ago… killed by Voldemort. It was the reason her and James fought so hard against the Dark Lord, and were willing to risk their very lives to defeat him.
But it was impossible, wasn't it? Impossible for such an unreal dream to be able to come true. She had so longed to only have another minute with her precious son… wanted so much to see how he would have grown up.
And this boy… liked exactly that she had imagined.
"We don't know what happened to him… who he is. He was found in the Forbidden Forest by Hagrid… half burned to death for some reason. The poor boy nearly didn't make it. If it weren't for Poppy's skills, and Severus having burn potions just in hand, he would not have survived."
"Is he… is he someone sent by the Dark Lord, then?"
Lily could hear the trepidation in her husband's voice. James was as unnerved as she was about this. Someone who looked so much like Harry appearing?
She could also hear Albus sigh. "He has been checked thoroughly. No sign of the Dark Mark, no sign of dark magic at all. No tracing devices, although I hardly think one needs to trace where he would end up in if he were taken to Hogwarts, and no sign of any strange activity near him while we have watched. In fact, the only strange thing that alerted Hagrid to his arrival would be a small fire that had appeared in the forest."
"But who can it be? How could this happen? You-know-who would have done something… said something if he were going to plant a spy. Severus would have known of it."
Lily finally forced her eyes to look away from the boy who would be her son. "It could be anything, James. Maybe just a diversion so that we would be too shocked to notice something else." She pursed her lips. It was such an awful thing to do, though.
"Lily is right, James." Albus said quietly when James didn't respond. "This is most likely a distraction sent to us. But… I cannot deny the fact that Severus has heard nothing of this, and no one else had any idea either. Perhaps we will be able to get answers when the boy wakes up properly."
"It could be that he was sent to us for a reason." Lily tried to counter. "Maybe…"
She couldn't say it. Couldn't say that maybe he was a gift sent through their prayers, because of all the hardships that they had to endure. That would lead her to being a religious person. And as she was a witch, she was not at all religious. But if there was the smallest possibility…
Albus looked to her solemnly. "That will be decided when the boy wakes up. But for the moment, he will be placed under numerous protection spells. Both for his safety and for ours." The headmaster looked to the strange boy. "It is highly doubtful that his coming brings good news, but nevertheless… I would hope it to be."
Lily slumped as her husband placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Such a miracle was long overdue in the wizarding world. If it was indeed Harry, then the press would most certainly want to know the story. Anything to get the public's minds off of Voldemort's growing attacks.
"What if he is our child, though?" Lily whispered softly. "There's no way of knowing if Voldemort set this up, and it is highly doubtful of that, seeing that Severus is one of Voldemort's most trusted men. What if by some odd chance Harry has come back to us. Perhaps a time-turner?? An accident? Something??"
"Lily." James's voice was hushed. "We don't know anything for sure as of yet. There are still many spells to be performed on him when he wakes. Veritaserum as well, most likely. Please don't set yourself up to be disappointed later."
Lily's green eyes grew sad. James was right, of course. After Harry had died… she had found out that they could not have more children. Had she been able to care for another child, perhaps the pain would be lessened. Even if they had the chance to adopt a child, to provide him or her with the atmosphere needed to grow up safe and loved.
But Voldemort was too big a problem to ignore. It was wrong to raise a child up in an environment that might have any of them targeted and killed at any day. And she could not stand the heartache if another child of hers were to be lost.
Sirius and Remus had thought like that as well. And Peter… dearest Peter had been killed in one of the skirmishes between Death Eaters and Aurors. Hit by a stray Avada Kedavera when he had been trying to protect his friends. That had been five years ago, but they all still mourned the loss.
And Harry… Harry had died ten years ago. Her little boy with the ready smile and bright laughter. Died because they hadn't been able to get to him in time when he had been kidnapped by the Death Eaters. Because they could not agree to Voldemort's terms, no matter how much they wanted to save their child.
The Death Eaters had drowned him. Drowned him in the very lake at Hogwarts to make a statement, to say that nowhere was safe. And… she had never been able to forgive them afterwards. Lily had always thought that there was no such thing as evil- only wrong choices and bad timed decisions. Only people who lacked love in their lives, and wanted others to feel what they were going through.
Yet after that… after that she could not forgive any one of them. Harry had just been a child… a child that had not hurt a single soul. They had killed him not because of who he was or something that he did, but only because James had Dumbledore's complete trust and access to files on the Order.
That wound in her heart had never healed, no matter the soothing words James offered her. And now seeing this teenaged boy before her… they boy that liked so much like her own son- she did not know if she could let anyone hurt him anymore. No matter if he was sent by Voldemort, no matter if he would scorn her or turn away from her.
Even if Albus wouldn't allow it… she would not let anyone harm her son anymore. Not now that she was given a second chance to love him.
And the thing about Harry being drowned in this universe? (He was about six years old, to clarify.) Well, I figured that he couldn't have been the only child a parent died for, so he must have had some natural immunity to the killing curse. So I needed another way to kill this universe's Harry. And well, it just seemed to fit.