AN: Thank you for the reviews, made the corrections that were suggestions ^_^
Beta: sugar tear, OnixMoon
The brand of Death
Harry swore loudly as his face connected with cobblestone. He cursed again when he realised that his nose had started bleeding yet again.
"Isn't there even one way of magical transportation out there that won't end with me stumbling around?" He grimaced as his stomach clenched violently. "Or make me sick for that matter?"
Slowly pushing himself up into a kneeling position he blinked his eyes rapidly to rid himself of the dots still dancing in his view. Grumbling he pressed one hand to his nose in an attempt to stop the bleeding. "Obviously no matter which universe you are in wizarding transportation still sucks."
Harry heard a disapproving hoot from beside him. 'Oh? And what do you call flying a broomstick then? As you are obviously not counting it as a means of transportation?'
Looking around he saw Hedwig perching on a trashcan not far from him. She was watching him with amused eyes not one of her feathers out of place. Sighing to himself he shook his head and smiled fondly. Apparently not even wizarding transportation was capable of making her look anything but in prime condition.
"Brooms are different they can be controlled. Apperation and Portkeys are simply vile inventions that regularly throw people around in an uncontrolled manner."
Hedwig tilted her head. 'Maybe it's not the means of transportation that can't be controlled, but the wizard using it that is out of balance.'
Harry dusted his clothes off and chuckled slightly. "Did you just call me unbalanced?"
Out of the corner of his eyes he could just barely glimpse a mischievous sparkle in the owls yellow eyes. 'Maybe, yes. You could definitely work on your landing.' Finished with his task Harry met Hedwig's exasperated gaze. 'And you messed up your feathers again! 'Shaking his head he chuckled at his friends antics.
Huffing Hedwig spread her wings and flew over to his shoulder. Once on his shoulder she eyed his hair disapprovingly. Obviously letting it go she scanned their surroundings. 'Well, at least you choose a good destination, dear one.'
Realising that he hadn't given their current location any thought Harry scanned their surroundings quickly. He grinned. It appeared they had indeed arrived at the location he wanted them to; a small well-lit side street of Diagon Alley. Beside them there were only trashcans in the small space between the tall buildings on both sides. Nothing of interest could be found here. His grin widened. It looked as unassuming as he remembered; the perfect spot to watch while remaining unnoticed. No dark shady people anywhere in sight either.
Tilting his head Harry listened to the familiar loud busy noises from the shopping district. He smiled to himself as he remembered finding the street in the summer before his third year at Hogwarts. He had been exploring Diagon Alley at that time. It had been a fun time, despite all the stress he had been in after the incident with Aunt Marge. It was a shame Fudge just had to ruin it.
Feeling a soft wing touch his cheek Harry blinked. Understanding loving eyes looked at him as Hedwig's soft voice echoed in his head. 'You should keep in mind that this isn't the place you are familiar with. Things are a bit different here.'
Staring at the light coming from the end of the street Harry petted his friend's soft feathers. "Different….? In what way?"
Hedwig tilted her head before responding. 'I believe when your friend showed you the time turner she told you how delicate time is. She probably also explained to you how one little change could have major consequences, right?'
"Yes, she was very adamant about it too." He could still remember her reluctance to show him the time turner at first. "Said that was the reason why time turners were forbidden."
The owl inclined her beak a bit. 'That is true, dear one. It is also how parallel universes came to be-'
He raised his eyebrows confused. "They came to be due to time turners?"
Narrowing her eyes Hedwig pecked his cheek. 'No, as you would have known if you hadn't interrupted me.' Pausing for a moment she glared at him to make sure there wouldn't be any further interruptions. 'As I was saying parallel universes exist due to differences. Something in the past of each parallel universe caused them to develop in their own unique way. From small things like a plant not dying out to the original continent never splitting into the ones we know.' Tilting her head to the side she added, "All the parallel universes resemble each other in some way. It is that reason why they are parallels and sometimes even blurred mirror images of each other.'
"And what is different in this world, Hedwig? What makes it so unique?"
Hedwig hooted before gazing at him with a Dumbledore-like twinkle in her eyes. 'A lot of things, dear one, a lot of things...' She paused thoughtfully before adding, 'Too many to name them all, too many to even attempt to discover them all.' She pecked him affectionately. 'As I said before it is important for you to keep an open mind. It is another world despite all the similarities it holds to your own.'
Flapping her wings she flew from his shoulder back to the trashcan. Once she was perched she eyed him up and down. "Now, before you can go see the differences for yourself, there is something else that needs immediate attention." Fixing him with serious eyes she continued. "Focus on yourself, dear.'
Staring at her blankly he could only repeat her words uncomprehendingly, "Focus on myself…?"
Staring at him intently his friend tilted her head. 'Yes, it is very much necessary. Death told you, you would notice the changes immediately upon waking. Apparently, the git, forgot to factor in how much of a distraction a new world can be.' Flapping her wings agitatedly Hedwig sighed. 'Focus on your magic, dear.'
He closed his eyes with an uneasy feeling building in his stomach. Pushing it out of his mind he focused on the task at hand. Breathing in deeply he blocked out all the noises surrounding him. The sounds from the busy street nearby faded out completely. Breathing out he relaxed his posture and determinedly reached for the warm ball he associated with his magic.
It didn't respond. Instead a red-hot inferno met him head on searing hot, bright and angry. A yelp escaped his lips. The magic fought his control, wanting out, out, out. It screamed, hissed, rattling its shackles. Heart thumbing loudly he tried to hold on, but to no avail. Pain caused him to gasp, to clutch his cloak tightly and pant for breath; the sizzling inferno burning its way through its restrains.
Harry fell to his knees; bit his cheek to keep himself from crying out. The pressure inside him built more and more tearing at his control. Wings flapped in the distance. He clenched his eyes shut tighter, cloaking his magic firmly around himself. His magic calmed slightly. Wary, Harry, loosened his grip on it slowly, relaxing.
He realised his mistake the second after. The magic burst from him: an untameable inferno rushing wild from every pore in his body howling fast and howling faster out of him, shattering trashcans, slamming against walls, bending them inwards, loosening bricks, worming under cobblestones and flinging them high into the air only for them to clatter down to the ground and break into pieces which the magic caught again spun around him in a whirlwind twister of debris and dust, swallowing him with a cloak of wind and magic and chaos. It saturated the air. It shoved itself down his throat and filled his lungs too full to breathe. It burned its way into the road beneath him leaving scorched scars like lightning in the stone and screamed its way through his ears and into his mind violently knocking around his thoughts and memories. His muscles twitched. His body ached. His heart thumped away, each beat a throbbing thrust of piercing pain hammering hard against his chest. Screams echoed in his ears.
And then it passed. Dust hung in the air like mist. It was all too still.
Relief filled Harry when he could finally breathe again. He tumbled to the ground and let the cool stone soothe the lingering fire in his veins. If he could just stay like this forever.
Snapping his eyes open Harry stiffened. Waves of magic closed in on him from all sides. A morbid sort of fascination overtook him. It was beautiful; lights of all colours lightening the air. Gasping out a breath he did his best to prepare for the impact. He failed. The waves hit him and hit him hard, sending his nerves on fire, freezing his thoughts in ice. He trembled uncontrollable. The magic saturated his every fibre; changing him from the inside out. Melting, reshaping and reforming his very being with every breath he took; over and over again, a vicious cycle.
When he finally gained control of his body he was a trembling mess on the floor. Absolute chaos could be heard from the alleyway; screams, crashes, children crying and roars filled the air. Harry lay there panting and watched with hazy eyes as spells of all colours and shapes flew past the entrance of the street.
And then the pain ebbed out. His muscles unclenched and his eyes closed. The pressure on his mind and body gone; his magic settled.
If it weren't for the chaos he could still hear loud and clear, he would have thought the incident had never happened. His magic felt so calm now, humming happily beneath his skin.
He let out a sigh and simply breathed in the dusty air, relaxing further.
'Destroying public property on your very first day here, dear?'
Harry choked out a breathless laugh and scanned the previously pristine street. His eyes trailed over the sad remains of the trashcans and the bricks lying everywhere. The buildings to both sides appeared close to collapsing and were most likely only hold together by magic. From the alleyway running feet and shouting voices could be heard, panic and alarm evident in them.
"Well, it could have been worse, I guess?"
Harry was sure that if owls could roll their eyes Hedwig would have down so. Instead she fixed him with an intense stare from her high perch on top of a pile of loose bricks; obviously settling for the next best thing.
'Tut, tut, tut, always for a dramatic entrance, aren't you?'
Meeting her gaze, he grinned softly.
"You wouldn't have me any other way."
Hedwig merely hooted exasperated before eying him critically. Her gaze wandered over his torn-up clothes, the layer of dust covering his skin, his dirty face and then settled on his hair. Her eyes narrowed. Her whole body tensed and her chest puffed out before she forcibly returned her focus to his face, deflating instantly.
'How does it feel, dear one?'
Surprised at the sudden change of subject Harry blinked confused.
'Your magic how does it feel?' Hedwig elaborated.
Hesitating only for a moment Harry reached for his magic, carefully, warily; taking every caution to prevent the earlier events from repeating. He didn't have to look for long. His magic was humming beneath his skin waiting to be used.
Gone was the burning heat and biting cold and in its place was a comfortable flame that heated his whole body. It was no longer restricted to a specific form like before, no ball or inferno, no, it simply was; circulating in his body like his blood. It was strange really. It felt as though his magic had finally truly become one with him. It was so easy to feel, to reach for and he knew it would be just as easy to use.
Holding up one of his hands Harry stared at the dust clinging to his torn clothes. Taking a deep breath he let a small part of his magic loose; coaxing it to clean and mend his clothes. The reaction was immediate. A warm burst of colour poured from his body and enveloped him completely. It tingled, tickled and made him feel truly free for the first time in his life. As though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders; one he hadn't known the existence of previously. It didn't matter. His magic danced happily across his skin and he smiled brightly.
"Fantastic," he breathed not sure whether he was talking to himself or to Hedwig. "It feels… as though I am reacquainting myself with an old friend, discovering a new part of myself, fresh night air and flying in the sky. Like a warm summer breeze, a hug from Mrs. Weasley and the tightly leashed force of the sea, ever changing." He smiled at Hedwig through the slowly receding light. "It makes me happy and warm and… Hedwig, it is like I have imagined magic as a child." He lowered his voice. "In the nights when the cupboard appeared even smaller, the small blanked simply not enough and my stomach especially empty then… sometimes I would think about the possibilities. About how my life would have been if my parents didn't die. If my family actually loved me…and… and if magic existed. In this dark, cold and lonely night I imagined it to be exactly like this. And once or twice when I imagined it especially hard I even thought I could really feel it…"
The light had faded out and Harry examined his perfectly fine looking clothes. He blinked as he realised that his wishes had been complete without him even focusing on it completely. His wand hadn't been used either nor a spell. He couldn't help but gape at his clothes uncomprehendingly.
'Maybe you did, dear one.'
"Mmh…?" Harry asked distractedly.
'Maybe you did feel your magic back then, your true potential. After all children are more in touch with their surroundings than adults. They often notice things older people do not, one of the reasons being that their view is not yet too restricted by prejudices and expectations.'
The only response she received was a raised eyebrow. Hedwig's eyes narrowed.
'I said maybe you could feel your magic even back then. It would certainly explain how it felt. The magical core of a child is wild and free; an untameable force with the tendency to cause havoc.' Hedwig's eyes were unquestionable amused. 'Many a time wizards have regretted underestimating the magical core of their children and the chaos it can cause.' The mischievous spark in her eyes said loud and clear that she had witnessed more than one such incident.
'It develops and changes over time as the child itself does.' She tilted her head. 'The treatment you received in your childhood could have been one of the reasons for your magic to change so drastically.' Her head tilted to the other side. 'Outer influences another one.'
Harry merely sighed not willing to open that particular can of worms just yet. Looking his clothes over again he remembered his previous train of thoughts.
"I wasn't completely correct before. It doesn't feel exactly the way I imagined it as a child. It is stronger, more alert and very potent." He paused for a moment confused. "It is also very intent… eager to be used. Now that I have used it, it is like a soothing buzzing in the back of my mind; at the ready whenever I need it." He hummed thoughtfully. "Despite my magic feeling free in my imagination as a child it had always had that certain edge; an edge of restrain, of shackles or maybe a barrier." He held his hands in front of his eyes. "Now, though…" A white ball of light formed in each of his hands; the 'lumos' neither spoken nor thought. "Now, there remains no edge. It is held back by nothing but me. It's free."
Hedwig hooted and he let the lights dissipate again. When he looked up he was met with Hedwig's amused eyes.
'It appears Death was as kind as to rid you of any limiters you previously put on you; beside the natural one that is. Since the change to your magic was no small one you will have some problem issues. Although you don't appear to have any problems with easy tasks like conjuring mirrors and casting light at the moment you shouldn't rely on it too heavily.' Her eyes sparkled. 'After all who knows what your next attempt at magical transportation will do now that your magic is suddenly so different'
Pausing for a moment she pointedly ignored the horror-struck look Harry gave her. 'I guess that means the git does have his good points. Who would have thought?' Her eyes took on an unholy sparkle. 'As few and in-between they might be.'
Electricity crackled in the air and Harry took a step away from the owl. She had obviously lost her mind, making fun of Death like that.
'He apparently also still lacks the ability to keep his stalker tendencies under control.'
An electric shock zipped through the air. Flapping wings could be heard. Then smoke filled the air as the bent-in building behind Hedwig was hit. The owl's eyes practically glowed with glee. Harry gaped.
'Anyway, please conjure a mirror, dear. We are running out of time.'
His friend calmly preened her feathers ignoring the slowly dissipating electricity; acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Being caught off guard Harry could only stare at her bewildered.
"What do you…?"
'You stirred the magical community up quite a bit. If you want to prevent being interrogated, we need to hurry this up.' She looked up. 'There is also a complete new world waiting to be explored. Now, the mirror, please.'
Closing his eyes, he coaxed his magic to create the mirror he wanted. It was a simple enough task. He only needed to picture the small hand mirror and his magic all too willingly formed itself into the shape he wanted. Glancing down to make sure it worked, he froze. Doing a double take he couldn't help but stare.
'Apparently Death was not only referring to your magic when he said he changed your history. As it turned out your previous burst of magic wasn't completely without focus; beside redecorating this street it also changed you. Death truly enjoys messing with you too much.'
Harry stood still. Shock freezing him in place. His usual reflection couldn't be seen in the mirror. No, in its place was a stranger. Although a stranger bore some eerie similarities to him. Enlarging the mirror with a wave of his magic he put it on the floor and waited. Once it reached its intended size he stepped back and stared.
The reflection in the mirror portrayed a man a bit shorter than Harry with wavy black hair that was near shoulder length. He had smooth alabaster skin that was covered in dirt and the most intense and enticing green eyes he had ever seen. No glasses were to be seen. His hair even looked tameable, though it was currently knotted together in the worst ways possible with dust and mud sticking to it. The most shocking thing, however, was that there was no lightning bolt on the face of that man. Instead there was a birthmark in the shape of a stick, a cloak and a stone.
'Your feathers will need less preening now, though longer feathers make preening more difficult. Not that I will stop, mind you. Such a little challenge won't stop me.'
Slowly tearing his eyes from his, oh-my-gosh-it-was-really-HIS, reflection he stared at the bemusing creature. Then back to his reflection and to the owl again. Potter luck, indeed.
'The birthmark on your head symbolises the Deathly Hallows. That demonstrates the gits personality quite well actually. After all it is so like him to basically brand his Master.' She paused thoughtfully. 'Though don't worry about that. There are more important things to take care of.'
Clearing his throat Harry asked hesitantly, "Such as?" He flinched a bit when he realised that even his voice had changed. It sounded very enticing. Not even bothering with wondering how he hadn't noticed the change before he sighed.
His voice was higher now, not uncomfortable so, but it made it sound softer, smoother. Shaking his head he resolutely shoved the whole concept of his new appearance away from his mind. He would have time to freak out about it later. Probably. Maybe.
'Well, …' Hedwig's voice was filled with unholy glee. 'let's start with that feathers of yours, shall we?'
Harry yelped and stumbled back as Hedwig suddenly left her porch and flew towards him like a bullet, putting her claws in his shoulders and viciously attacked his hair. It was truly terrifying. Dirt and dust flew from his hair in a speed previously thought impossible without the use of magic. His knotted waves were untangled in rapid succession; a beak working away on it with quick and effective movements. Harry felt a shiver go down his spin. Within mere seconds Hedwig had sorted out all the 'feathers' on the right side of his head. He didn't want to know how she did it. He shuddered again when his friend switched sides and treated the other side of his scalp with the same terrifying treatment.
When she was finally finished he was pale and shaky. His hair was shiny. It appeared as though he had washed and brushed his hair for hours. He really didn't want to know how she managed that.
He breathed out a sigh of relief when she finally flew back to her previous perch on the pile of bricks. Using the space given Harry called upon his magic and made sure the rest of his body was clean as well; the tingling of the unspoken cleaning spell calming his riffled nerves.
Checking his mirror image warily he noted that he was finally fully clean and presentable again. There was no outward evidence of his more than a little rough day to be seen. Not wanting to look at the strange, his, reflection anymore he quickly vanished the mirror.
'Now, it is time we make our way to the alley. It has been a while since your burst of magic and the authorities are probably making their way here at this very moment. We will have to blend into the masses before that.' Hedwig flapped her wings and took to the air. 'I recommend putting a glamour on your birthmark beforehand though. No need to draw unnecessary attention…or more of it anyway.' Harry could barely see her now. 'You don't have to worry about the distance between us, dear one. I will stay close enough to not strain our new bond. Wouldn't do for our familiar bond to be taxed while it hasn't had time to stabilise properly yet.'
Running a hand through his hair and sighing at the new length he quickly made his way towards the exit. He paused only briefly to cast a glamour over the strange symbols on his head. Shoots and yells could be heard from the alleyway. Spell lights were blazing through the air in front of the entrance in rapid succession. It was strange how it was still so loud, many people should have made their hasty retreat by now. That he hadn't seen any authorities yet was only a token of how much chaos the remaining people were causing.
Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself as best as he could and stepped out into the light of the alleyway; ducking all the wayward spells as he went. The second he had stepped out of immediate danger his heartbeat fastened even more. This was certainly not what he had been expecting.
From somewhere above Harry thought he saw Hedwig's amused gaze.
'Welcome to Dragon alley, dear one.'