Chapter One Hundred Five: To Prepare for the Coming War

To his lasting surprise, he did not feel that different once he had awoken, after what he was told had been five days, than he had before he'd lost awareness. He was in the Hospital Wing, as if he'd had some sort of minor accident on the quidditch pitch, instead of losing his mind and trying to take over the world again, or something. Even the headache had had a chance to subside, over the five days he'd been unconscious.

Ron, standing guard again, was the first to notice that he'd awoken. All he had to do was open his eyes, and turn his head slightly to the side, and Ron noticed. Perhaps it had been his turn to keep watch.

"He's awake!" Ron called out, and Hermione and Ginny appeared in Harry's line of sight even as he was turning his head to the left to look for them. Everything seemed to be moving very quickly, as if his reflexes, and even his mind, had slowed down. Or, perhaps, that was just a cooldown after a night filled with adrenaline. Ginny came to a stop, swaying, near his bed, but Hermione bent over him to cry on him, and try to suffocate him under a mess of bushy brown hair. Well, at least she cared.

He winced. Right, yes.

"Hello, Hermione," he said, "Ron. Ginny, I didn't expect to see you here."

"Of course you didn't. That's because you're an idiot," she said, in a voice that seemed rather strained and ragged, as if perhaps she were also on the verge of tears.

"What, did I die?" he asked, some acerbity creeping into his voice despite his best efforts. "No. Of course, Hermione is doing her best to rectify that."

Hermione punched him in the shoulder, showing that she was, indeed, spending too much time with Ron. He gave a token "ow" of protest, but didn't pay much attention, his mind shifting elsewhere. At least Sirius had the restraint and subtlety not to immediately swarm him. He was sitting next to Harry's bed, looking cool and relaxed, as if he hadn't worried at all. Harry wasn't entirely sure, but he thought Sirius had been there all along, just in a less upfront fashion.

"How are you doing, kiddo?" he asked.

Harry paused to take stock of his current state. His leg had been healed by Fawkes, and the damage from having his arm cut open for the ritual had never been noteworthy. The real question had to concern his mental state, and, he'd had less time than everyone else to acclimate to the new normal, whatever that was. However long he'd been out. Ron had said three days, in first year, and that he'd then died. Who knew?

He realised that he was still all a coherent whole, as he'd been the last he'd remembered, except the corrupted corner of his mind was sealed back within its container wall. There was no far-flung corner of himself left as a guardian of it; perhaps it had never been necessary. When the barrier held, it held. When it fell, they'd best hope that Ron was nearby…. He'd reassembled himself anyway, automatically, as a response to the threat of it breaking out, in the graveyard. Now, however….

Well, now he seemed to be like everyone else—those who didn't have sequestered-off pieces of their mind, who didn't think of themselves as a series of masks. He'd somehow pulled himself together into a coherent whole. He hadn't felt this way since…well, ever.

Once upon a time, he knew, he'd thought of himself as just Harry Potter. Before the dreams had started. But, somehow, despite that, he hadn't been as himself as he was now. Hmm.

He'd think about all of that later, he decided, or rather, not at all. He blinked, and looked up at Sirius.

"I feel much better, thanks! Except for Hermione's efforts to crush me to death."

Hermione glared at him, and sat up, wiping tears from her eyes again. Ginny came over to stand by his bedside, not seeming to realise that she was pushing Hermione out of the way. Sirius quirked an eyebrow, and Harry, without Hermione weighing him down, slowly sat up. Everything he did seemed very slow.

"How long was I out, then?" he asked. It was a question needing to be asked. Sirius and Ron exchanged a look, Sirius a bit paler than usual, unless that was the light.

"Five days," Ron said, at last, his voice almost flat, but carrying throughout the Hospital Wing. Harry glanced to his left, noticed that the Diggorys had gone, observed that it was only the five of them in the Hospital Wing. Remus was out gathering the old crowd. Presumably, Mrs. Weasley and the rest of her family were making their own preparations, and Fred-and-George were sulking. After that…Neville, Seamus, and Dean were the only other contenders, and they were, doubtless, not considered "family" enough to visit Harry. Not that he was counting visitors, the way Dudley counted presents (lest he be shortchanged).

"…Five days," he repeated, his voice flat. He glanced askance at Ron. "I hope they didn't bring me to the hospital, again."

"Ah…no. They decided that the risk was too great, given current circumstances, I believe," Ron said, sounding uncomfortable. Sounding as uncomfortable as might be expected if he also took the hidden meaning.

"Well, at least I'm all fixed, then!" Harry said, brightly. Everyone stared at him as if he'd grown two or three extra heads, and he pouted, folding his arms. "Oh, come on! It's not that strange for me to be in a good mood."

Silence. He frowned. "It isn't!" he insisted, as if anyone had said anything.

"I'm so glad you're okay!" Ginny said, sounding a bit breathless and desperate. "When you wouldn't wake up, and wouldn't wake up, I thought, 'well, what has Ron done to you, now?' But I guess I blamed him for nothing."

"It wasn't Ron," Harry said, trying to keep his voice soft and therefore somehow reassuring. "I used too much magic…that night. I think I very nearly died. Ron saved me."

"I'm so sorry, Ron!" Ginny cried, and gave Ron a hug, which he clearly hadn't expected. He shook his head, but returned the gesture half-heartedly, as if this were some sort of torture Harry had subjected him to.

Speaking of torture Harry had to subject him to….

"Will someone send for Madam Pomfrey, already?" Harry demanded. "I'm fine, but I need to talk to Hermione and Ron about something. And maybe Sirius," he added, with a glance in Sirius's direction.

Ginny sniffed, and huffed, and he felt the need to add. "I'm flattered that you came to visit me, Ginny. I'm not sure what I did to deserve so much regard, though."

Ginny just muttered something under her breath about noble prats, folding her arms, and waiting as Madam Pomfrey appeared, as if out of nowhere, to re-examine Harry.

"I believe I owe you an apology," Harry said, shifting on his feet, looking down at the floor, and reminding himself of Harry Harry, before he'd known anything about his past life. He felt very much as if he were only fourteen.

Cedric blinked, and frowned, turning from looking out the window. "Oh, hullo, Harry," he said. "What do you think you owe me an apology for? What you said the other day—it's all so incredible, I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it, but I don't know how…."

"I was quite rude, wasn't I?" Harry mused. "That night. And I shouldn't have bound you up that way, as I did with that promise I had you make—"

Cedric gave a little laugh that was difficult for Harry to understand. "No, I get it. I just don't know…I mean, this changes everything."

Harry came up to stand beside him. "Does it? Have you spoken with Ron?"

Cedric swallowed, and looked down. "Ye-yeah. It's just all too much to take in. I can't believe that he's—that you're—"

Words failed him. Harry heaved a sigh, trying to see what lay outside the window that had so captured Cedric's attention. He saw nothing noteworthy. Perhaps, for a quidditch player, looking out at the sky was assurance enough. Perhaps it was constant enough….

"I understand how you feel," Harry said, without looking at him. "It took me years to come to terms with it all. I know you were raised Christian, which makes it harder for you. Just as long as you don't treat Ron as if he's some sort of demon or monster, I think we're okay. It was very brave of you, standing up to the Minister…the other night."

"What about you?" Cedric asked, frowning, turning to face Harry.

"We're not asking for your worship, Cedric. Just help me fight against You-Know-Who, and I'll ask nothing else of you. Ron's a hero. Unless he ended your conversation with a series of demands (and I doubt that he did) he'll fight for you along with the rest of the Wizarding World, regardless of beliefs and ideologies. You give him too little credit, and me too much."

He paused, then, trying to swallow the next question that wanted to be asked, but it was the stubbornest one. He rested his elbows on the windowsill, and wouldn't look at Cedric. If he didn't look, perhaps he'd be able to convince himself that Cedric wasn't even there.

"I…I don't suppose he told you who we were. Who he is. Who I was." He turned to face Cedric at last. Cedric looked as if he had just been asked to divulge rather personal information.

"Well…" he began, and Harry sighed.

"Hermione still does not know," he said, turning back to the window. "I think I've convinced Ron to speak with her. It's only…this isn't the sort of thing that people are ready to hear about, yet. Particularly in the Wizarding World. And, if he happened to mention the Chitauri Invasion—"

Of course, he had. Harry glanced at the fidgeting Cedric, and then turned around to lean back against the wall, and the windowsill.

"Redemption is an elusive target," Harry said. "I refuse to make it more so by demanding respect from you that I have not earned. If we can remain friends, then that is favour enough for me."

Cedric blinked, but seemed to be trying to smile, somewhere behind his slackjawed expression.

"I—sure, yeah," he said, almost incoherent. Perhaps he was thinking that not just anyone could honestly claim to be friends with a god.

"In that case, allow me to apologise for my behaviour the other night," Harry said, glancing at the floor, unable to meet Cedric's gaze. Apologies were always hard to make.

"Hey, I was just grateful that you saved me from getting killed by—by Pettigrew, and You-Know-Who—"

"Tom Marvolo Riddle," said Harry, smirking and spreading his hands wide. He frowned when Cedric took a step back, seeming a bit uneasy. "That's his real name. Figured you deserved it, after what you went through. Then, I went and bound you around in an unbreakable promise. I have much to make amends for, and I seem determined to make matters worse."

"Don't worry about it," Cedric said, holding out a hand to shake, which would have made little sense, if he hadn't added. "Congratulations, by the way."

Harry cocked his head, but took the hand offered. "And to you. Have you considered what you want to do after you graduate?"

Cedric visibly relaxed, now that all the talk of gods was over. "Well, at first I thought I might go into the Ministry—but not now. I think I might take an internship at St. Mungo's after the excitement dies down, but I don't see myself working for the Ministry any time soon. In the meantime, I think I'll find some sort of muggle job with flexible hours, so that I can fight in the war. I didn't think that that was what I'd be doing after I graduated, but hey!"

"Yes. Riddle does seem to complicate everyone's plans. I can think of no better path to redemption than defeating him, and then becoming an auror."

Cedric stared. "I…can almost see that," he admitted. "Which is a really weird thought. And I suppose Ron will join you?"

He still seemed a bit unnerved, glancing around after he spoke of Ron as if expecting Ron to suddenly appear when mentioned. That was Stephen's thing, however.

Harry shrugged. "I don't know," he said, with an innocent smile. "You'd have to ask him."

"Wow!" Hermione gushed, looking around the Room (which had outdone itself, as usual) in awe, as even Harry had to resist the urge to tap his feet in impatience. It wasn't that impressive, in spite of everything. It had replicated the room in which he'd first met Sirius, complete with coffee table. There wasn't a broken cage anywhere to be seen, however.

Sirius had sat this one out, claiming that he was busy. For some reason, Harry didn't believe him. It was clear that he thought that, as this had started with Harry and Ron, it had to end with them, too. Besides, three against one were hardly fair odds. Two against one was bad enough.

Harry underscored the resemblance by sending away the door, but Hermione did not seem to care at all.

"It becomes anything you need? Do you have any idea what an extraordinary work of magic that makes this?" she asked, grabbing at Harry's shoulders in her excitement. He noted somewhere in the back of his mind that he neither flinched nor recoiled (which had her narrowing her eyes in overt suspicion), but he did lean backwards, shying away a bit, because Hermione was threatening in her enthusiasm.

"Yes, Hermione," he said, voice very flat. "I am aware."

As was anyone with any capacity for logic or thought.

Hermione pouted, but turned back to face Harry.

"Oh, okay, what's the big secret?" she asked, and Harry sat down with less grace and greater speed than he might have wished. Hermione could be quite fixated on her goals. Not returning the Map until she'd caught Skeeter (and Harry had reawakened, but whatever) was only a recent example. They could, all three of them, be rather stubborn when they wanted to be. When there were important matters at hand.

"It's a complicated, lengthy tale, which is difficult to tell," Harry said, as if he had to buy Ron time. "You're a bit late to hearing about it, because I left the decision to Ron as to when to tell you, and he could never find the right time, apparently. Well, he took long enough to tell me—I suppose you know that that was what we were fighting about, third year. Since Ron has never yet explained his part well, I'll minimise his role in this by explaining the majority, and give him yet another chance to explain the rest. I suppose Stephen will show up, somehow, at the end of this. He might be able to clear some things up."

"Who?" asked Hermione, frowning, brow furrowed, as she tried to figure out, perhaps, how there could be any person at Hogwarts whom she hadn't heard of.

"We'll get to him," Harry said. "He's a friend of ours. And yours, as it turns out. From the future. I told you this was complicated."

Hermione looked as if she might be dizzy. She sat down on the sofa, quite abruptly. Ron surprised him by sitting down beside her, and wrapping an arm protectively around her. Harry held up his hands in an I'm-harmless gesture.

Of course, Ron had had the common sense not to let anyone take the Sword of Gryffindor from Harry, so Harry was still doubly armed. He hadn't gotten around to switching the sword and fang yet, so it was just as well. He would have hated to have been forced to resort to breaking into Dumbledore's office to steal the sword.

"I know you like to have all the facts laid out before you, before you get into details, so I'll start with those. First of all, Ron is a god. As in, an actual god god, and probably one that someone as well read as you has heard of."

"You're joking," Hermione said, putting her head in her hands. "Ron, tell me he's joking."

Ron withdrew, instead. "Er," he began, which was just about as strong of a start as Harry had any right to expect. He rolled his eyes.

"But—but he can't be. He just can't," she protested, an undertone of hysteria creeping in. Harry tried very hard not to roll his eyes at this overreaction. It probably didn't even seem one to her.

"Whyever not, Hermione?" Harry asked, staring at her across the table. "Come on, Hermione: look at me, and tell me why not."

"B-because…that's just…I mean, crazy people think they're gods, and, well, I suppose you're crazy, Harry—"

"Thanks ever so much for the vote of confidence—" Harry muttered under his breath. She might not even have heard.

"—But Ron knows better," she insisted, with a sniff.

"Ask him for any proof you need. I don't even know why you find this so far-fetched."

Ignoring the fact that he'd taken four years to come to terms with his own identity.

Ron's gaze was stern and full of reproach. "He speaks the truth," Ron said, instead, sounding slightly surprised to be saying such words.

Harry scowled. It couldn't be that incredible.

"But—but that's not possible," Hermione said, with mounting hysteria. Ron had the sense not to try to reassure her. She stared, wide-eyed, across the table at Harry, instead. "What have you done to him, Harry?" she demanded, tears in her eyes.

Harry stood. "I?" he repeated. "What, do you think that my insanity is catching, Hermione? Are you concerned for yourself?"

"Little brother," said Ron, his tone laced with a generous dollop of warning, rebuke, tread carefully. Harry sat back down, again.

"Shall I continue listing facts, then?" asked Harry, with such abrupt levity that even Hermione, who often got lost in details, noticed and knew. "Ron is a god, he can prove it, or he could if most of his divine powers wouldn't make this room catch on fire. Of course, I'm sure that you know aguamenti, but I'm not sure it would be sufficient."

Ron looked decidedly sheepish, at this, and would not look at either of them. Hermione opened her mouth to say something in protest, and Harry held up a hand to silence her.

"I suppose I made a similar mistake to his, and started in the wrong place, with the wrong facts. Let me say this, then, Hermione: I am the reincarnation of a god. There, nice and crazy for you, is it not? But I can prove it, Hermione. For, no matter the reason, I have retained a more limited capacity to use my old abilities in magic. Shall I show you what non-wizarding magic looks like? Of course, there's also sorcery, but Stephen is the only person I know who can use that."

"Harry, don't you think that's a bit crazy, even for you?"

"What did you just finish saying, Hermione?" he asked, shaking his head, slowly, as if from disbelief. "And I promised you proof. But, for the moment, I am still listing facts. I have told you that Ron is a god, one of whom you have heard, and that I once was the same. In a past life. My mother in this life is the reincarnation of Ron's mother in his past life, where I was his adopted younger brother. Yes, I know this is all rather involved, Hermione. Don't interrupt."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him in a cutting glare. He recognised a dagger-glare when he saw one. Hermione was alarming enough on a good day. He hastened to press on.

"I suppose I should mention the whole deal with the Chitauri Invasion, too. But, that would necessitate explaining the Infinity Stones, for it to truly make sense. Even Sirius, whom we told at Christmas Break, didn't know about those until a week ago. Let's see: All you need to know at the beginning (I promise we'll go into more depth later, but I know that you need a basic framework, and to accept that framework, before we go giving you details) is that they're leftover pieces of the beginning of time, and contain immense power. They're about the size of the Philosopher's Stone, so about the size of a marble."

He held out his left hand, fingers and thumb spread apart, at about the right size. Hermione didn't interrupt, apparently deciding that it would be best to listen to his entire complicated tale before interrupting. If Ron was lucky, he'd also get to tell his.

"No one knows the location of all of these artefacts, but some basic facts about them are common knowledge, for all that I have never heard mention of them, nor read about them, in books here in the Wizarding World.

"Each of them represents an aspect of the world, and allows a skilled wielder great control over those aspects. One of them, for instance, is composed of raw power, able to be channeled for great good or ill, especially if you were to use it in conjunction with the others. That is the Power Stone. Another allows instantaneous travel from one point in the universe to the other. It is, accordingly, called the Space Stone, which sounds a bit silly taken out of context. There are others: the Mind Stone, the Soul Stone, the Time Stone, the Reality Stone. Each of them is filled with a great deal of power, in addition to having control over aspects of the cosmos. And an ordinary human could never handle that raw power. It would tear them apart, or something equally nasty. The texts back home weren't exactly clear."

Hermione could not have made it clearer that she wanted very much to speak, but he ignored her mouthed repeat of the words "back home" to continue his impromptu lecture.

"The Tesseract, a very old artefact which served as a vessel-container for the Space Stone, has been on Earth for…a very long time. I don't know how long. During World War II, a special Nazi group you might remember from history class, named HYDRA, used its power to create weapons, among…other things. Captain America, whom I know you've heard of, was lost in the ice after having acquired it. It was recovered when they found him in the ice, although he won't awaken for another…two decades, I think?"

Hermione stuffed her fist into her mouth to keep from interrupting. He was almost tempted to go easy on her, seeing that, but he forged on, instead. He glanced to the side, to see Ron looking, of all things, thoughtful. He blinked at the incongruous sight, and tried to keep his focus squarely fixated upon Hermione.

"An American government agency of super-spies—I think they're American. I assumed they were. Maybe they're worldwide. Hmm. Anyway, an organisation known as S.H.I.E.L.D. got their hands on the Tesseract, and, being human, they dared not to extract the Stone from within it. But they, as HYDRA had before them, used the power of the Stone to make weapons, as well. Although, I think they waited to start that until certain beings whom some might be inclined to be called 'gods' returned to this world. I doubt anyone outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. knows all of the details, however, or could say for sure how long they were about such experimentation."

"But anyway, the return of gods to this world (or that was how it looked to them) meant that they felt they needed the extra firepower.

"However, that in turn caught the attention of a being from even further away than the gods who had…invaded New Mexico. He brainwashed one of the aforementioned gods, and sent him to take over the Earth, in exchange for the Tesseract, and the Infinity Stone contained within it. In return, he lent him the Mind Stone, which basically could be used to an effect similar to the Imperius Curse. It was how he'd brainwashed that god to begin with.

"What followed was, naturally, a pitched battle, in which a team of superheroes fought off the army he'd also sent to help in retrieving the Tesseract, and the god, who was taken back home for sentencing and punishment. This group of superheroes was known as the Avengers, and included the wayward god's brother, you know, and Captain America. And Tony Stark, amongst other people whom I can't expect you to have ever heard of."

"Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, and Dr. Bruce Banner," Ron interrupted. Harry glanced at him askance.

"Of course, no one knew about that far-off entity; they thought that Loki had done it all of his own free will. But S.H.I.E.L.D. kept the Mind Stone that had been embedded into a staff so that it could be handled without the being having to touch it (or any of his subordinates; I think he could have touched it, himself), and Asgard reclaimed the Tesseract, which its king had left here long, long ago. That's the future…about as much as I know of it, in summary form, anyway."

Hermione's head was spinning. She looked as if she might faint. Harry shrugged at Ron's glare, as if asking what more he was expected to do. There was silence for a moment.

"And I suppose you're claiming that you and Ron are those two gods mentioned in your story. Loki, and…and you didn't mention the other one, but I know that's Norse Mythology. But, all the records are so old, and have been Christianised; it's hard to tell what was changed to facilitate proselytising."

"Thor and Loki. And believe me, before I remembered everything, I did research on the subject. I know how difficult it is to try to put the truth together with such wildly varying sources," Harry said, with a flippant wave of his hand.

"Thor was redheaded in one of the books I read. Red hair, blue eyes… but no one seemed to have any idea what Loki looked like. Harry, this is insane."

"Yes, well, my mind is not as stable as it ought to be," he said, and her eyes widened. Her heart forgot to beat for a few moments, as she put two and two together, the blood draining from her face.

"You—you're saying that Ron is Thor, and you're Loki?" she demanded, and he tried to pretend that it didn't bother him.

"You're very quick on the uptake, Hermione."

Her response was to bury her head in her hands. Ron laid a hesitant hand upon her shoulder, as if thinking she might whirl around and slap him. It didn't seem terribly out of character for her.

"You're telling me that you got brainwashed by some…some alien being, and tried to take over the world, and…and…."

Words failed her. He leant back, as if he didn't care at all.

He winced.

"Well, Thor, would you care to continue the tale? Another chance for you to explain this in a way that makes sense. I won't hold my breath."

Hermione looked back and forth between them.

"This is insane. You're both insane," she said. Her hysteria had brought her to the brink of tears.

"Ah, Hermione—" Ron began, hesitant, but she glared at him, and he quietened. Harry smirked, but then his expression leveled out, and he looked away, before leaning forwards again.


This time, Thor began the story in the middle, which should probably be considered progress. He told of the emergence of the Aether, of bringing Jane to Asgard for treatment, the death of the queen (Harry's heart clenched, even after all the mentions before), of freeing Loki from his cell that he might show Thor another way out of Asgard.

Hermione wanted to ask about the Rainbow Bridge, here, but Harry cut her off, insisting that that was a detail, and she was missing the bigger picture. She glared at him, but shut her mouth again.

Thor relived the Convergence—how Loki had died in the battle against Malekith and the Dark Elves (which was a new story for Harry), preventing the Elves from returning the universe to a primordial time, and then how Thor'd grieved for the halving of his family.

At last, he'd appealed to his father for any way to save them, his mother and younger brother both, and he was sent back in time by powerful magic, to reunite in the same world that his mother and younger brother had been born into. The rest stood for itself.

"I don't believe you," she insisted. Harry cocked his head, glancing at her askance, and drew the Sword of Gryffindor out of thin air. She stared. "That—that wasn't there before, was it?"

"Of course it was. It was under an illusion that made it seem as if it weren't," he said, as if that were the simplest thing in the world, and she was being quite slow for not already figuring it out.

Thor gave him a sharp look, finally figuring out that Harry had had the Sword all along.

"You never gave it back did you, Brother? After the ordeal in the Chamber of Secrets, you kept the Sword of Gryffindor."

His voice was accusatory, but Harry just smiled, and then clapped. "I was wondering when you might figure that out. You're making progress, at long last."

Hermione resumed staring back and forth between them.

"Would someone please wake me up, now?" she asked, burying her face in her hands. This time, Ron slung an arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. She did not seem to have the energy to resist. She wrapped an arm around him and buried her face in his shoulder, instead. Even though he was part of the reason she was in tears. Was there any consistency to her?

"Anything else?" she asked, after she'd stopped crying, with much effort put towards that goal on Ron's part. He kept his arm wrapped around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. She might have reached the point where she resolved to think of all this, later.

Harry built a ball of pure white light, and sent it up towards the ceiling. Wizarding magic couldn't do anything remotely similar, as far as he knew. He shrugged. "That's all the basics. Well, except for Stephen—"

He cut himself off, as a ring of orange light formed in the room. He blinked at it, staring for a moment, before shaking his head, as a man in dark robes quite different from wizarding ones stepped out of it.

"Ah, Stephen!" he said, ignoring Hermione's sputtering about how you can't apparate or disapparate on Hogwarts grounds. "You're right on time."

A sorcerer is never late, he might have thought to himself, had he known the reference. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

Stephen had to make the reference, instead.

{end Book IV: Reweave Fate}