Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the end of the story, and the series. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Part Seven

"You are lucky you haven't permanently drained your ability to do magic."

Most of Healer Hawken's lecture hasn't made Harry flinch, because it's all the sort of thing he's heard before: "Your life has value," "You're reckless and careless," "You should have more care for yourself." But the thought of not being able to keep his promises to his oathsworn and defend those who need defending from Voldemort makes Harry wince.

"But I haven't," Harry says, and Healer Hawken whips around to face him with such force that his own tail of hair hits him in the face.

The Healer pushes it away from his cheek with a hiss and glares at Harry. "That's the only part of my warning you're going to react to?"

Harry shrugs a little, deciding not to say anything about how it's the only new part. Then he winces again. Even a shrug hurts his shoulder. He's lying in a bed in the Hogwarts infirmary between what are essentially two huge Transfigured pillows, both of them pressing potion-soaked bandages against him. Apparently the injury to his magic means that he can't even drink potions the normal way and trust them to work with his innate power to heal him. He has to go through the slower method of absorbing them through the skin.

"You have enough people who are worried about you," Healer Hawken says in a low, deadly voice, "that I don't see any reason I should stay and scold you any longer. I'm sure they'll do it far more effectively than I will." He pauses, apparently struggling with something, and then asks, "What was so urgent that you couldn't wait a few more weeks until the magical concussion had gone away? It was healing. You were recovering."

"I had to destroy a powerful artifact that could have rendered a Dark wizard more dangerous," Harry says, and leans back to let one of the potions work more slowly into his skin. "I was afraid that he would move it somewhere else if I waited, and I would have to find it all over again."

"Better than that to destroy your magic or kill yourself."

Harry sighs. "I know."

"One of those people who think everything is all right because they're still alive," Healer Hawken announces to the air, and then turns around and walks over to the door of Madam Pomfrey's office. "I give up, he's your problem," Harry can hear him saying.

Harry, meanwhile, closes his eyes and drifts for a minute. It's not going to last long, if only because he's sure to have more visitors, but it's soothing to feel the cool press of the potions. Even the blanket that's draped over him to cover his bare skin is coated with a thin layer of soft liquid.

"Professor Salvare?"

I was right, that didn't last long, Harry thinks, and opens his eyes to see Regulus and Severus standing in the doorway of the hospital wing. They're staring at him with eyes so huge that Harry has to smile at them. "I'm all right," he says.

"You are not," Severus says, his voice a frigid snap that reminds Harry of his own future's Severus Snape for the first time since he traveled back. "I can smell—they don't use Amanita mushrooms for anything shore of desperate cases! What did you do?" He marches towards the bed and then stops and stares again, running his gaze up and down the bed and the blanket as if he can see every potion that Harry is taking. Well, absorbing.

"He had a hemorrhage in his brain," Regulus says. "The cause was magical, but it did physical damage."

While Severus gapes in silent outrage, Harry narrows his eyes at Regulus. That's too close to the exact phrasing that Healer Hawken used to content him. In fact, it is the exact phrasing. "Where did you hear that, Regulus? Were you listening at the door when Healer Hawken talked about it?"


Harry continues staring at him. Regulus only looks back, the picture of innocence, before he adds, "I was listening to him with an eavesdropping charm from the Slytherin common room."

That distracts Severus enough from his fuming that he looks at Regulus. "Eavesdropping charms can't reach that far."

"If you attach them to two objects, one of which is an exact copy of the other, and you leave the original object in the place you want to eavesdrop on while you keep the duplicate, they can."

Harry closes his eyes and reaches up to massage his forehead. He did think that Regulus was oddly interested in Duplicating Charms, but he never thought about why.

"You little brat," says Severus in what sounds like wonder.

"Sure, but at least now you know what's wrong with him," Regulus says. "There was also something about acute magical exhaustion."

Severus continues studying Regulus in silence for a moment, and then faces Harry. His face has gone smooth and somber. He says, "Sir, I know that you don't want to hear it, but your death would have left us vulnerable."

"So would not destroying the artifact that Voldemort had left on that island."

Severus swallows. His face is pale and haggard, and it suddenly occurs to Harry that he looks not only angry, but like he hasn't been getting enough sleep. "Sir…we would have managed to survive somehow. Even if Riddle moved that artifact and we had to track it down again. But we wouldn't have survived the loss of you."

"Mr. Prince," Harry says softly. "I promise that there wouldn't be a backlash down the conduits of the magical oaths. The ones we swore aren't that closely binding."

"We wouldn't survive as an alliance," Severus says, his eyes burning with a deeper kind of anger now. "It's already been fractious in the days since we heard that you'd returned to the school injured. Regulus's brother knows that his father went with you on that quest, and he was accusing Regulus of having deliberately set it up so that their father would destroy you, just like a slimy Slytherin, I believe were his words. Potter is spending all his time with Lupin, trying to persuade him to swear to you, but Lupin is reluctant to do it, and saying something about how he doesn't want to swear to a leader who could be taken down by a single trap. Tiberius is talking about how, if you die, we don't have a choice except to go to the Dark Lord."

Harry's head spins for a second. He does say to Regulus, "Tell your brother that I'd like to see him, please."

"Yes, my lord," Regulus says, and leaves the hospital wing before Harry's glare can catch up with him.

"I understand what you're worrying about," Harry says to Severus. The thoughts in his brain move like ponies trying to canter through fudge. But it's important that he say this. "However, it's possible that I'll fall in battle against Voldemort, or even die of something simple a few years from now. Dragonpox could fell me tomorrow, or I could trip down the stairs and break my neck."

Severus's glare intensifies. "Sir."

"No, hear me out." Harry has to keep his voice low as shouting would hurt his throat, but luckily, Severus listens to him with nothing more than an indignant huff. "I want to build something that can survive my death, including an alliance and a way for the students who are growing up in the midst of war to have more choices. I thought I was further along that path than I am. Well, I'll have to work at it. But sooner or later, it does need to survive my death. I'm not immortal."

The walls sing at him. Harry feels a violent twitch enter his left eye, but luckily Severus can't hear the chime and ignores the twitch.


Severus doesn't speak right away, and Harry nods to him. "I know. It doesn't need to be right away. And I'm going to do the best I can to be here as long as you need me to. I do want to emphasize, though, that I can't be the only linchpin that binds you together. That has to be your own strength and cohesion."

Severus closes his eyes and swallows. "Yes, sir." He pauses for a second, then opens his eyes again and gives Harry a complex look. "Is that one reason you didn't want to be named as a lord? Because a lord's followers rarely reach a second generation?"

Harry smiles. "Yes. I have no interest in creating some kind of temporary political organization or social club. I have an interest in you reaching a brighter future."

Severus looks overwhelmed, but whatever he might have said is overridden by the doors of the hospital wing flying back and Sirius running in, his hair trailing behind him like the mane of a wild horse and his eyes wide and frantic.

"Professor Salvare! You're awake!"

Sirius looks as if he's going to fling himself onto the conjured pillows, but Severus catches his robe and yanks him back before he can. "An injured Professor Salvare, Black, don't jump on him," Severus hisses.

"I know that! I wasn't going to!"

Harry has to admit he feels as doubtful as Severus on that point, but Severus snorts and lets go of Sirius's robe. Harry reaches out a hand and pats the edge of the bed, and Sirius comes over to lean against it, staring at him anxiously.

"What did my father do?" he whispers. Well, if it's meant to be a confidential whisper, it fails, since it comes out more like a growl.

"He didn't hurt me," Harry says. "He helped me. He was one of the reason that we were able to destroy the artifact we went in search of, and he helped the others who were with us to get me back to the hospital wing." They took him to St. Mungo's first, but it turned out that Albus had summoned Healer Hawken to Hogwarts, anticipating that Harry would return injured, and so he ended up back inside the walls of his first home.

Sirius swallows. "But he's a Death Eater."

"I know. I took him with me because I needed his help to get past a ward around the artifact's hiding place."

"And not…" Sirius's fingers twist into the edge of the blankets on the bed. "Not because you're going to become his ally and make me go back home?"

Some part of Harry relaxes, although he can see Severus glaring at Sirius's back, probably because Sirius cares more about his own personal problems than Harry's injuries. "Of course not. I won't make you live anywhere that you don't want to, Sirius, even if I do become allies with your father. You should get to make that decision. And my loyalty is always going to be to the people who swore to me."

"What would happen if he swore to you?"

"Then he would have to learn to get along, and respect you, the same way you had to learn to get along with Mr. Prince and your brother."

Sirius bows his head and nods. His breath leaves him in a long sigh. "I knew that, I think. I just—needed to make sure."

"I understand." Harry pats Sirius's back. "It's fine. I'm going to be well, and we'll defeat Voldemort and the Death Eaters once and for all."

"Does that include my father?"

"I think your father is in hiding from Voldemort somewhere, if he's wise."

Sirius manages a wan smile, and he talks with Harry in a low voice about inconsequentialities for a few minutes, before he turns and leaves the hospital wing. He's already walking better, with his head lifted proudly.

"I am not to be soothed by platitudes."

Harry blinks and turns to Severus. "Did I say that you were, Mr. Prince?"

"I am not going to be soothed with pretty words like a child," Severus says. His eyes are blazing now with uncomplicated fury. "I am going to keep an eye on you." He makes it sound like a curse.

Harry shrugs. "All right."

Severus falters to a stop at what seems to be the beginning of a fine rant and stares at him. "What?"

"If you want to keep an eye on me, then you can. Not that I'll be in the classroom for a week or so, and it'll mean lots of visits to the hospital wing." Harry shifts to settle himself more comfortably in the bed. He suffered some burns despite the Fiendfyre not actually attacking him, simply from standing so close to its heat. "But after that, I could probably use someone to remind me that I'm not immortal—"

Hum, go the walls. Twitch, goes Harry's eye.

"—and that I'll accomplish more if I husband my magic and don't use it all at once."

Severus glares at him. Harry looks back with an innocent expression, and Severus finally nods and says, "Right," but with less surety.

"I am glad I survived," Harry says. "I promise, Mr. Prince, I never meant to die. It's simply that sometimes, dying is worth it if you can accomplish something greater with your death."

"Telling off Fiendfyre in Parseltongue isn't worth dying over!"

"Somehow, I don't think Regulus was the only one listening to that eavesdropping charm."

Severus marches out in a version of high dudgeon that Harry knows is nothing compared with the real thing. He chuckles and closes his eyes. He has to rest.

But at least he knows that he hasn't lost the regard of his oathsworn for the stupid risk he took, and that's everything.

Harry wakes up with something silky draped over his face. He scowls and reaches up to pluck it off, wondering if Pomfrey thought he needed the blanket over his head for some reason.

But his hand touches something much softer and lighter than the blanket, and he pulls it away like a handful of nothing. Harry stares at the nothing, and then sighs as it wraps around his hand and his hand disappears.

"No," he tells the Invisibility Cloak that's snuggling up with him.

The Cloak curls around his hands and arms like a lost kitten.

"You belong with the Potter line, and you know it."

The Cloak wraps closer, with a wriggle that seems to say, I know.

"Not with me!" Harry hisses, trying to pull the damn thing away from him. It's hard when he's wedged between potions pillows, weighed down by a blanket, and struggling with an Invisibility Cloak that's hard to see in the faint starlight as it is. "You know that I gave up the name Potter when I came here! I'm Salvare now!"

The Cloak dives under the blanket and wraps itself around his chest, making some of the bandages disappear.

"Goddamnit," Harry mutters, and tears the Cloak off just as someone walks softly into the hospital wing.

It's too late to pretend to be asleep, but then Harry sees it's not one of his students, so he doesn't have to. Fleamont Potter walks over to his bed and blinks down at him. "I realize this is an unusual request, Professor Salvare, but you haven't seen an Invisibility Cloak anywhere, have you?"

"It's here, in fact," Harry says, shaking his head as he hands the damn thing over. He thinks he hears a distant wail, the way he keeps hearing buzzing from the Elder Wand when he's in Albus's office, but he ignores that. "Sorry. I don't know what attracted it. Perhaps the sheer volume of magic that's being put out to heal me."

"Perhaps." Fleamont takes the Cloak back slowly, studying Harry as if to pierce his way through Harry's skin. Harry blinks innocently at him, and Fleamont smiles a little and wraps the Cloak into a bundle that fits into his pocket. "This particular artifact has been in my family for a long time, and it's always had somewhat of a mind of its own."

Harry smiles. "I can see that." If he shudders because he's thinking of the artifact with a mind of its own that he recently fought, Fleamont probably can't see it under the blankets, anyway.

"Hmmm." Fleamont has his wand lit with a Lumos Charm, but that isn't enough to let Harry really make out the expression on his face. "Well. Good night, Professor Salvare."

"Good night, Mr. Potter," Harry replies, and watches his grandfather, or would-be grandfather, walk out of the hospital wing again before he closes his eyes.

He has so many other things to deal with, including the Lupin situation and how he'll get his classes caught up after the week's enforced rest and what Voldemort will do next, but right now, his body is so focused on sleep that he would be useless for anything else anyway.

"And I trust that you students will be considerate of the fact that Professor Salvare has suffered intense magical exhaustion, and not make your demands on him too frequent or unreasonable."

Those are possibly the worst words that Albus could have said at breakfast the day he came back, Harry reflects in exasperation as he leans back behind the desk. His students, even the ones who aren't sworn to him, are falling all over themselves to try and make sure that Harry isn't hurt or wounded or even having to perform basic magic.

"You don't have to Summon that, Professor Salvare! Let me get it for you."

"Let me demonstrate that charm, sir. You just sit back and rest."

"Can I stay and help with the second-year class, sir? I have a free period now, and you know that they always wear you out."

James and Lily didn't even ask permission. They just showed up for his eight-o'clock class the day after he was released from the hospital wing, the one with the first-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, and bracketed him and helped answer questions, and leaped to their feet every time Harry tried to stand up.

By the end of that class, Harry is wearing a fixed smile, and he turns to Lily and James and says, "Miss Evans, Mr. Potter, I appreciate your help, but I need to demonstrate the spells for the students."

"Why, though, sir?" Lily is very good at playing faux-innocent when she wants. Harry has the oddest flash of her doing the same thing when Petunia tried to ask her something, and has to blink, hard, to get the visions of his first timeline to fade away. "We can do that. And if we make a mistake, you're right there, and you can correct us."

James pops around Lily and puts a glass down on the desk. Harry blinks at it. It's full of what looks, and smells, like warm milk. "Mr. Potter? I know that you didn't conjure that."

"No, I brought it down under a Preservation Charm from the hospital wing." James smiles winsomely at him. "Madam Pomfrey says that you're supposed to drink something nutritious every two hours, and I thought you would ask for it. But you didn't. sir. So I brought it for you."

Harry looks around for something to bang his head against, but he knows he wouldn't get far, with two solicitous students hovering over him.

"Professor Salvare? Aren't you going to drink your milk?" Lily asks. "I know that it has honey and a pain-killing potion in it."

"I don't need a pain-killing potion."

Lily raises her eyebrows. "So I didn't see you rubbing your head earlier, sir? As if you had a headache localized behind your forehead?"

Harry hisses out and reaches for the glass of milk. Lily watches him closely as he drinks every bit of it, and James takes the glass when he's done, as if he thinks that Harry might try to break it in his frustration.

"You're going to make excellent overbearing parents someday," Harry mutters. He doesn't mean to. It just slips out.

Lily blushes, and James shoots her a sly glance and puts an arm across her shoulders. "Well, we'll be sure to—"

"Don't get fresh with me, Potter," Lily says, shoving his arm away, and stalking out of the classroom. James grins and follows her.

Harry sighs and leans back against his chair when they're gone, staring up at the ceiling. He thinks that he's done, and starts to stand up and get ready for his next class, which is third-year Gryffindors and Slytherins.

The door opens, and Severus and Tiberius Wilkes march in. Harry stares at them, a little appalled.

"Mr. Wilkes, I know you have Transfiguration right now."

Tiberius smirks at him. "Professor McGonagall was happy to let me work ahead and turn in my essay early and then miss one class, sir. She says that a hero of the school deserves all the help he can get."

"I don't need your help with the third-years."

"You need to take your next potions on time," Severus says, folding his arms. "And you never know, a dragon could break through the walls and you would heroically leap into the line of fire to fight it. We're here to make sure we fight it instead."

Harry scowls at him. Severus stares back at him. Harry is sure that he has a glass of charmed milk under a Preservation Charm waiting somewhere nearby, too.

At least his headache is gone. Harry sighs and settles back in the chair behind his desk. This is the other side of swearing the oaths to protect and help, he reminds himself. He has to let his people help him, or it's possible that they'll become bitter and not achieve the future that he wants for them.

"Fine," he says.

"He sounds exactly like my little sister when she's angry because a potion made her feel better," Tiberius tells Severus in a loud whisper.

Harry glares at him, and Tiberius busies himself casting several of the standard safety charms that Harry uses at the beginning of every practical class. Severus stands at the side of his desk, eyeing everything in the room before he begins casting spells that stick to the desks to the floor.

"Mr. Prince, floating desks are generally not a problem in a class full of third-years."

"I'm not underestimating how much trouble you can get into," Severus says flatly.

Harry sighs.

"You think as I do, then." Albus rubs a hand over his blackened temples. He did try some of the spells that Harry recommended to him—Harry doesn't have the strength right now to cast them himself—and Harry can tell that the progress of the curse has slowed. But it hasn't stopped, and the Headmaster still wears a glamour everywhere outside of his office.

"Yes" Harry leans back in his chair and folds his hands on top of his chest. "Voldemort thinks that he has only one Horcrux left if he's learned of the destruction of the diary, and he probably felt us cross the wards there, if nothing else. He would have gone to check. He'll come to Hogwarts for the diadem."

Albus nods. "We must have a plan to contain him."

"I have one," Harry says quietly, and takes out the scroll that contains the spell the Unspeakables designed for him. He hands it over.

Albus sprawls it open and reads it. His mouth parts a little, and then his eyes shine, and he chuckles. "Yes. And it's uniquely tailored to your strengths." He rolls the parchment up and hands it back to Harry. "I only have two questions."


"First, it's blood magic. Are all of your followers going to agree to that? I know that you have both those who wield the Dark Arts and those who don't in your following, but—"

"I'll be the one who's using their blood," Harry says firmly. "All of them are required to spill only a little to make the spell work. That's the point of having so many. The Unspeakables know that I've sworn myself to lots of people. There won't be a requirement for anyone who's uncomfortable to participate. I'll have enough no matter what."

"And I think I've seen, in the last fortnight, that there are plenty of students in this school who would do anything they could to keep you from magically exhausting yourself." Albus only smiles innocently at him when Harry scowls a little. "As to my second question, can you tell me why my wand wants to fly across the office and bond with you?"

Harry sighs and doesn't bang his head on anything. "It's not the only powerful artifact that's attracted to me, Albus. I think it has something to do with my Parseltongue and the magic I have. One of the Horcruxes tried to approach me in much the same way. The Potters' Invisibility Cloak tried to snuggle with me when I was still recovering from my hemorrhage. I promise that I won't take your wand."

Albus looks vaguely alarmed. "I wish you wouldn't take promises like that, my dear boy."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't have that long to live, in any case," Albus says gently, and gestures at the mark of the diadem around his temples. "And my wand is a powerful artifact. I suspect you know that."

Harry meets his eyes evenly. "I recognize elder wood when I see it, yes, sir."

Albus only nods. "I plan to retire at the end of the summer term," he murmurs, utterly surprising Harry. He thought the man would try to stay in his role as Headmaster as long as he could, even though it wouldn't be as long as it would have been if he'd never been cursed. "And I cannot think of anyone I trust to hold this wand more than you."

Time snickers.

"P-Professor Salvare, I need to talk to you."

Harry looks up, glad that for once his babysitters aren't present. "Yes, please come in, Mr. Lupin. I've been expecting you."

Remus freezes for a second, then sits down in his usual desk. "The others told you that I was considering swearing to you?" He licks his lips.

"Yes, or joining the Order of the Phoenix. I'm sorry if they've put too much pressure on you. I think everyone should be free to choose."

Harry waits patiently. He thinks he might know what answer Remus is going to give him, or at least the answer he wants to give, if the way he avoids Harry's eyes is any indication. It only takes a few more minutes before Remus clenches his hands on the desk and looks up.

"I might be a werewolf, but I'm not really violent," Remus says. "And I'm not good a combat magic. I don't want to fight in this war."

"Then you shouldn't have to, Mr. Lupin."

Remus has been drawing in breath to go on, but he lets it fade now, and stares at Harry in what looks like cold shock. "What?" he finally says.

"I don't think that everyone should fight in the war," Harry says. "And I don't think they should do it against their will. I would be no better than Voldemort if I encouraged someone unwilling to swear an oath to me."

There's also the fact that someone who's so reluctant to engage in fighting wouldn't be an asset on the battlefield anyway, but Harry won't say that to Remus. It would probably sting his Gryffindor pride, and might convince him to push himself forwards and do something he regrets later.

"I—but James has been saying that no one can really stand outside the war…"

"People shouldn't just ignore it, that's true," Harry says. "I think the people who refuse to believe that the Death Eaters and Voldemort are dangerous and tell the papers so are ridiculous. But you can sit it out, Mr. Lupin. With any luck, the final act of the war should happen soon, anyway. I've harmed Voldemort too deeply for him to let it go."

Remus is approaching a normal color again. "And you don't mind if I don't fight with you?"

"No. I want you to do what makes you safe and happy, Mr. Lupin. Not stand with me just because the rest of your friends are."

Remus looks at him with respect that's tempered with awe. Harry just smiles at him. The awe isn't enough to catapult Remus into being a warrior, and it shouldn't. It's enough if he doesn't try to turn his friends away—not that Harry thinks much could sway Sirius and James from their dedication—and doesn't join the Death Eaters.

"Thanks," Remus breathes out. "I didn't know it would be that easy. I would have come and talked to you a long time ago if I thought it was."

Harry gets up from behind the desk and comes around it to pat Remus's shoulder. "You're welcome, Mr. Lupin. And I hope that you won't let fear, or pressure from your friends, keep you from making decisions that you want to make in the future."

"I'll try not to, sir."

Remus leaves his classroom with a lighter step and a lighter heart, which is all that Harry can really ask for.

Voldemort attacks Hogwarts with an army of Death Eaters on the second of May.

(Harry is highly not amused).

Albus is the one who knocks on the door of Harry's quarters to summon him, but Harry was already awake, feeling the gathering and swelling pulse of Dark magic that's rather like five or six diaries coming closer. Harry touches the parchment scroll at his belt and stands, opening the door and nodding to Albus as he finishes casting a few charms on his robes to make them more like battle armor. Fireproofing and waterproofing are the least of them.

Harry becomes aware of a small clinking sound as they walk along, and glances back once to see a round shape roll into the shadow of a suit of armor and try to hide. Harry rolls his eyes. So it took months, but the Resurrection Stone managed to leave the ocean and come to Hogwarts.

It can follow him all it likes. Harry is not going to take it up.

"Your oathsworn are ready?" Albus asks quietly as they walk down the corridor towards the Great Hall, where Harry knows his students will be waiting. The soft awareness spreading through his oaths feels like excitement and hope.

"Yes, sir."

"How many of them agreed to give their blood for this spell?"

"All of them."

Albus stops walking and looks at him with wide eyes. Harry gives him a gentle smile that he tries to keep from being cheeky as best he can. Albus has many fine qualities, and he did apologize for doubting and fearing Harry, but he always looks so bloody surprised whenever a group of people has loyalty to someone that isn't him or Gryffindor House.

"Well," Albus says at last. "Good."

Harry nods and takes the lead, well-aware that Albus lets him. But it doesn't matter. When he opens the doors of the Great Hall, a roar goes up from several dozen throats that he knows is for him, and he pauses and bows to his people, humbled by their trust in him.

The sixth- and seventh-years are at the forefront, with the few fifth-years behind them, and the adults in the back ranks. Well, minus Regulus, who is at the forefront and wriggling like an eager puppy. Harry directs a stern look his way, and Regulus calms and lifts his chin high.

"Thank you for standing with me," Harry says simply. "I can't pretend that this battle will be easy, but we'll have a much greater chance together than apart, and with each of us giving a little blood, the easiest of all." He waves his wand to conjure a great porcelain basin in the middle of the Great Hall. Porcelain is magically neutral, and thus, the Unspeakables who designed the spell reported, would work best to collect the blood.

Regulus bounces forwards first, of course, and Harry has to stop him from cutting his arm open to the bone, and insist that he pull back when he otherwise would have given too much. Severus is next, eyes shining, and then Evan, his head bowed, and Andromeda, striding up to the front as if daring someone to stop her, and Lucius and Narcissa right behind her…

They all look so proud, and Harry has to smile at them. He helped give that to them. He helped turn them into people they're proud to be.

When the last fifth-year, a wide-eyed Ravenclaw named Elise Fawley, has finished depositing her blood in the basin, Harry cuts his own arm. Madam Pomfrey distributed enough Blood-Replenishing Potions to Professor Slughorn to handle everyone some time ago, and Slughorn moves through the room solemnly, giving out the potions. He doesn't want to be involved in the battle himself, but as far as Harry's concerned, he's doing more than enough.

Harry scatters his own blood across the surface of the mingled liquid in the basin, and begins to hiss. The words make the blood bubble and jerk. Harry speaks the entire incantation, which is long and complex and doubles back on itself like a coiling serpent, in Parseltongue. The whole time, the blood boils and leaps up the sides of the basin.

"Be a loyal servant for the duration of this battle," Harry finishes, and steps back.

Severus is right there with a Blood-Replenishing Potion and a demanding stare. Harry swallows it, rolls his eyes at him, and turns back to the basin in time to see the blood begin braiding itself upwards.

The first curse from outside hits the wards, and the whole castle shudders. Harry remains calm, not looking away from the basin, confident that the plans he and Albus made for this eventuality are being followed. The younger students will have been herded to the Floos in the professors' offices the minute Albus confirmed Voldemort's approach, and the sixth- and seventh-years who can Apparate will have been taking others out down the tunnel to Honeydukes and leaving from there.

The blood boils and twists, and then the magic takes hold all at once. The liquid slams together, crimson and brilliant as if still freshly-bled, and the younger students squeal. Severus tenses with anticipation next to Harry.

A basilisk made of blood rises from the basin, twining its shimmering, thick-scaled neck in circles, horns and plume in dark scarlet rising from its smoothly-forming head.

"Hello, beautiful," Harry hisses, stepping forwards. The basilisk sways towards him, the Parselmouth whose blood it was the last to consume, and flicks out a long forked tongue that moves back and forth across the air like a scribble of ink. Harry touches the tongue, and it rasps across his palm hard enough to draw another drop of blood. The taste appears to satisfy it, and the basilisk lowers its head to the ground.

Harry leaps atop it, balancing easily. Severus is not the only person scowling at him, but Harry ignores that. The blood in the beast recognizes and embraces him, and it's no more possible for him to fall from it than it is to fail to perform a Patronus.

"Aim for the one that stinks of Dark Arts," Harry tells the basilisk.

"Yes," the simple answer comes back, and again the serpent's tongue darts out, like a streak of red lightning.

It glides straight out of the Great Hall, Harry ducking his head so that he can fit under the arched entrance. Behind him, he hears his oathsworn following, and Albus and the other professors who aren't supervising the student retreat. Harry straightens up and is glad that the basilisk bends enough that he doesn't need to duck as they leave the school.

The whole point of this is to look impressive and terrifying. Ducking rather ruins the image.

When the basilisk is beyond the doors, Harry can see the Death Eaters lined up on the road to Hogsmeade, beyond the gates of Hogwarts. There are rather fewer of them than Harry expected, which makes him smile.

Voldemort is standing alone at the front, hurling curses at the wards. He pauses when he sees Harry, and stares at the basilisk in rage. Harry wishes he could see the fear mingled in with the anger, but he doubts Voldemort would ever openly show it.

Harry commands the basilisk to halt in Parseltongue, and it does, head swaying back and forth. Harry rides the swaying easily, and smiles at Voldemort. Voldemort's eyes dart back and forth between him and the snake.

"Hi, Tom," Harry says.

As he hoped and suspected, the words fling Voldemort into a rage. He screams, and rushes forwards, hammering a swift assault of spells that brings down a portion of the wards. His Death Eaters follow him, although they're conspicuously trying to avoid Harry and his blood-basilisk and aiming for the students instead.

Harry draws in a deep breath. He has to trust, he has to hope, that their fighting skills and those of the professors will hold.

He has Voldemort to worry about.

Voldemort has obviously taken the time to study the basilisk's composition, and he flings out a charm that's not a bad choice, one used for drying liquids quickly. Harry touches the basilisk's head and gestures forwards, and it rushes him over and down, moving with the deadly swiftness that Harry remembers from the Chamber of Secrets.

Voldemort dodges the first strike of its fangs, and Harry flings an Entrail-Expelling Curse that makes Voldemort dash back in the other direction. He tries several lightning bolts after that, and Voldemort manages to dodge all of them, coming closer and closer to the basilisk.

"Never knew you were such a good dancer, Tom," Harry tells him cheerfully.

Voldemort screams, "Avada Kedavra!"

The basilisk rears and takes the curse for Harry, positioning its neck in between. Harry knows that it won't kill the creature, but the curse does make several large scales of blood fly away from it, which causes the basilisk to shrink. Harry needs to make sure that he can kill Voldemort before it's gone altogether.

"Use your gaze," Harry tells the basilisk as quietly as he can.

The Unspeakables warned him that this spell wouldn't create a basilisk that has all the traits of the real one; it will expend more magic to use them. But that contented Harry well enough, since he didn't want the basilisk Petrifying all his allies anyway.

And he doesn't think the Petrification will kill Voldemort or freeze him. But he'll take slowing him down.

The gaze does make Voldemort slow, weaving back and forth in place for a moment, his wand uplifted. Harry places his hand on the basilisk's head and snaps, "Now."

The basilisk plunges down, committing everything to the power of the dive.

Voldemort dashes to one side again, laughing maniacally. But he's too focused on the basilisk to realized that along with its fangs coming closer to him, Harry, balancing sturdily on its head, is doing the same thing.

Harry hurls another lightning bolt, but this time, it takes Voldemort broadside.

Voldemort screams as he goes flying backwards, his limbs moving in odd, jerky patterns. The basilisk lifts its fangs from where they're embedded in the grass and turns about with a snap of its tail.

Voldemort holds Harry's gaze as the fangs come towards him. There's no acceptance in his gaze, no peace at the thought of death. Harry didn't think there would be. There's hatred, and fear as hot as Fiendfyre.

"This is not the end," Voldemort says in Parseltongue.

"The diadem is gone, Tom."

Voldemort's eyes widen, and he screams in the seconds before the basilisk's fangs pierce him.

Harry doesn't know if the venom that a conjured blood-beast can give will be enough to kill Voldemort. He's not going to take any chances. He jumps off the basilisk's head as it dissolves from the effort of pouring forth the venom, and calls Fiendfyre for one, last time.

This time, it forms a gryphon which consumes Voldemort. He screams only one more time, and then his voice fades into the churning of the flames.

Harry never lets them get out of control. He calls them back with a sharp snap, and turns about, studying the battle and seeing who needs the most help.

His students are fighting magnificently, working in pairs and trios and little groups that flow and break apart as necessary to go to each other's aid, working the way Harry taught them in class. Evan takes down a large Death Eater that Harry suspects might be his father with a kick to the groin. Lily and James are fighting side-by-side, ignoring the large bloody scratches both of them bear, and breaking the kneecaps of two witches in bone-white masks with loud snaps. Severus has blinded someone who might be Walburga Black with a spray of red potion, and is busily binding her so hard that she won't be able to rise.

Sirius and Regulus are back-to-back, and a circle of Death Eaters are backing away from them, unnerved. Even as Harry watches, some of Voldemort's forces turn and flee, probably overwhelmed by the death of their lord.

Harry's heart beats with fierce pride. It looks like the Battle of Hogwarts might have few causalities aside from Voldemort himself.

But even as he thinks that, he hears a high, cackling voice that's horribly familiar, and Bellatrix, her mask gone and her hair streaming behind her from the force of her run, heads straight towards Regulus.

Sirius gets in the way, and they begin to duel in a complicated, swirling pattern that Harry recognizes at once.

The Department of Mysteries. Part of that battle is happening again, here, on the grass in the bright morning.

Harry begins to run. He doesn't know if he'll get there in time, but he gives himself more speed and more energy than he has since he woke in the bed in the hospital wing, bounding along, his robes whipping his ankles.

"Die, little cousin!" Bellatrix finally shrieks, when she tries a purple whip of fire that Sirius foils with an easy shield.

Harry continues running, in dread every second to see a red spell unwind from her wand.

But it doesn't

"Avada Kedavra!"

Chimes sing loudly in Harry's ears as he flings himself in a low tackle, hitting Sirius's legs and knocking him out of the path of the curse—

And himself into it.

Harry opens his eyes to white.

"Oh, come on," Harry says, and sits up.

The whiteness swirls around him. Harry looks back and forth, wondering what happens next. A train? (Although this place isn't solid enough to look like King's Cross). Or Albus Dumbledore coming over to him, beaming? (Even though Albus isn't dead in this timeline).

Maybe Death itself coming to greet him?

But instead, three shadows appear, slowly becoming firmer and more solid. Harry raises his eyebrows at the way the Cloak spreads out beneath the Elder Wand, and the Resurrection Stone lies on top of that.

"Uh-huh," Harry says.

They all buzz at him.

"You realize that you have a family?" Harry says to the Cloak. "And you have a wielder?" he says to the Wand. "And I already rejected you?" he says to the Stone.

Soft chimes sound, and then Harry hears a deep, dreamy voice, which doesn't really sound like Trelawney's, reciting words that echo and reel back and forth in the still air.

"The Dark Lord's Bane, the one who has thrice defied him, thrice spoken his will with snakefire, and thrice freed a Death Eater from service, will face the choice of three."

"I did not thrice free a Death Eater from service," Harry says crossly. "It was only two. I only changed Lucius's Dark Mark, and Orion Black's. That was all."

The chimes murmur, and if Harry listens hard enough, he can hear the name Abraxas Malfoy.

"I didn't change his Dark Mark! I just—"

Harry stops. Scared him enough that he would probably never return to Voldemort's service.

Harry sighs as he stares at the Deathly Hallows. He gave them up in his first timeline because he never wanted to be a lord, or a title, or a Master of Death. He would have given up the title of the Boy-Who-Lived if he knew how to do it.

And in a way, didn't he? By coming back in time, to where people might be mental about him in other ways, but no one knows him as Harry Potter, the Chosen One, the Boy-Who-Lived.

But now…

He knows that he can survive if he claims the Hallows.

And he won't if he doesn't.

Time likes symmetry. The Battle of Hogwarts shouldn't have taken place on the same day as the one in his timeline except twenty-one years earlier, but it did. Bellatrix shouldn't have been at the battle to fight Sirius the way she did in the Department of Mysteries—Harry didn't even think she'd escaped from Ministry custody—but she was. He shouldn't have this choice, but he does.

And he's not fool enough to turn away from it merely because he doesn't like being Master of Death or a Lord, not when he wants to live to see his students succeed, to see Narcissa and Lucius's child born, to help Albus as long as he can.

To go on being Professor Henry Salvare, the person he chose to be.

The Deathly Hallows buzz at him.

Harry sighs, and stoops, and picks them up.

"What is wrong with you?"

Harry blinks and stares up at Healer Hawken. The man leaped back from the hospital bed when Harry opened his eyes, and swore in several creative ways that Harry never heard before. Now he's pacing back and forth with his hands pulling at his hair.

"It's enough to make me retire from Healing!" he's currently ranting.

Harry clears his throat with difficulty. "Can I have a glass of water?"

Hawken conjures it for him and brings it over, but he's still ranting. "What the fuck happened? You don't recover from a Killing Curse! Except if you're Oh-So-Special-Professor Henry Salvare, I suppose, look at me, riding a blood-basilisk into battle and completely disregarding my health—"

Harry sips the water and ignores him. He can hear the running feet drawing closer. He suspects that, just as his oathsworn felt the magical and emotional fluctuations through the oaths before, they can feel that he's alive now.

Regulus flings the doors open and pounces on him in the way that Sirius managed to avoid last time. Healer Hawken starts yelling at him in turn. Regulus doesn't seem to care or hear, and Harry doesn't listen. Regulus is pushing his face into Harry's robes, and Harry can feel the tears he's shedding.

He looks up in time to see Severus leaning against the doors of the hospital wing, half-collapsed, and the way his tears aren't shed.

Harry smiles. Hearing the contented buzz of the Deathly Hallows in his ears and the chiming from the walls and the rants of his outraged Healer is a small price to pay.

Harry doesn't explain the nature of his new circumstances to everyone, using a combination of bollocks about Parseltongue and how his oaths to Sirius and Regulus, both members of the Black family, allowed him to resist a Black's Killing Curse, but a few people are owed more than that.

The knock comes on the door of his quarters, right on time.

"Please come in, Mr. Potter."

Harry looks up with a smile as Fleamont steps in. Fleamont nods and gives him a half-smile back. He sits down in the chair opposite Harry. "You said this had something to do with our Invisibility Cloak? That now we can't find anywhere?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but—did you know your Cloak was one of the Deathly Hallows?"

Fleamont's eyes widen, but he doesn't look overly surprised. "That would explain a lot,:" he murmurs. "I did know that Albus carried the Elder Wand, but no one I knew of had ever seen the Resurrection Stone. You're going to tell me that you've united the Hallows?"

Harry nods. "Yes, sir. The Resurrection Stone was in an artifact that belonged to Tom Riddle's ancestors, and after I cleansed it of Dark magic, it became—well, attached to me. I suppose that increased the attachment the other two Hallows had."

"Well, well, well." Fleamont settles back in his chair, thoughtful. "I can't pretend that James will accept the news as gracefully as I can, but I'm relieved that the Cloak is in safe hands." His eyes abruptly pierce Harry. "And in the hands of a Potter."

Harry chokes. "What?"

"I heard you, that night in the hospital wing." Fleamont stares at him. "I won't press you for explanations right now. I think that you've become used to keeping your secrets. But I would be honored to know you in any capacity that I can. As family." He pauses. "My father's name was Henry, you know."

"Yes, sir. I'm aware." Harry clears his throat.

"Grandson," Fleamont breathes. "I should have seen it before. Those damn green eyes—so my James marries his Lily, does he?"

"That timeline is gone, sir," Harry says, his voice harsher than he means it to be, colder. But he doesn't want—maybe someday he can tell James and Lily, but for now, he doesn't want them to look at him as they would if they knew. "They might not get married, they might never have a son, he might not look like me. Please don't tell them."

"I won't," Fleamont says. "But I meant what I said about knowing you as family, and outside a professional capacity. Consider it. We can claim you as a distant relative, but—consider it."

The yearning in his eyes is so real that Harry has to look away for a minute. He nods. "All right. But—what did you mean outside a professional capacity, sir? Are you coming to teach here?"

Fleamont snorts. "No. I did mention that I'm on the Board of Governors?"

Harry narrows his eyes. "In that first confusing conversation, yes, sir."

"Call me Fleamont, Henry, the 'sir' is ridiculous. And we'll know each other in a professional capacity because the Board's been told that Albus is stepping down as Headmaster. Minerva McGonagall will become Headmistress, of course. She's more than earned it, putting up with Albus's nonsense all these years."

"Yes?" Harry asks suspiciously.

"She'll need a Deputy, Henry."

"Oh, come on," Harry says, appalled. "I've only been here two years! You should appoint Professor Flitwick, or Slughorn, he's—"

"Slughorn would be a disaster," Fleamont says flatly. "We've all discussed this, Henry. You might only have been at Hogwarts two years, but you're the one who has the qualities. Quality will reveal itself. Talent will out. And it's nice when it actually does, and we don't have to manufacture it, or promote someone who's only in that position because of their family name."

That means that someday I'll be Headmaster, Harry thinks in horror. Probably.

Time, which wants him to take Dumbledore's place, gives the loudest snicker he's ever heard from it.

Harry clears his throat. "I suppose that Governors who've discussed it include Abraxas Malfoy?"

"Yes. He was one of the most enthusiastic, oddly enough."

Harry sighs. He did want to stop making decisions out of spite, or just to avoid power. "All right, I accept. Keep in mind that I might be a disaster, too."

"I don't think so." Fleamont stands up, looking victorious. "We look forward to your assuming the position with the beginning of the next school year."

He hesitates, and Harry looks up at him. Fleamont takes two quick steps forwards and puts his hands on Harry's shoulders in what's not quite a hug, but not far away from one.

"I'm proud to welcome you to the family," Fleamont whispers.

Harry never thought that anyone who wasn't an Unspeakable would know he had time traveled. Now he makes another decision, and stands, and hugs his grandfather back.

THE MAN-WHO-CONQUERED! blares the headline on the front page of the Daily Prophet.

Harry laughs, because he has to, and lets the paper drop. He leans his elbows on the parapets of the Astronomy Tower, staring out over the grounds. There were indeed few casualties in the battle, and none of his oathsworn, and the wounds left by his Fiendfyre and his basilisk have already been healed over. The air hovers around him, soft and warm with a June-to-be. The night sky above him is bright and clear. Harry can see all the stars.

The Dark Mark will never hover over that Tower. Albus Dumbledore will never fall to his death from it. He might live only a few years longer, but he won't die in agony and pain.

Severus Snape—Severus Prince, now—will never call his best friend a Mudblood, or become a Death Eater, or have to curse his employer to death under the weight of multiple Unbreakable Vows.

Regulus Black will never drown in a lake full of Inferi.

James Potter and Lily Evans will never die in a cottage at Godric's Hollow under Voldemort's wand.

Evan Rosier will never perish at the hands of Mad-Eye Moody.

Sirius Black will never go to Azkaban. He'll never be a fugitive. He'll never fall through the Veil in the Department of Mysteries.

Remus Lupin might never marry Nymphadora Tonks—now an adorable toddler who changes her hair to imitate Harry's every time she sees him—but he won't perish in the Battle of Hogwarts, either.

Peter Pettigrew will never become a traitor or spend years of his life as a rat.

Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Malfoy will not spend months under threat in their own home, watching Nagini devour people. Maybe they won't have Draco, either. But Harry hopes they will, and that Draco Lucius Malfoy will be a normal spoiled little prat.

(And a little brother. Narcissa told him yesterday that he will be godfather to Henrietta Andromeda Malfoy and that he's going to like it. Harry found it much easier to accept that fait accompli than some of the others).

Andromeda Tonks might never have her grandson Teddy, but she's not going to lose her husband, daughter, and son-in-law to a devastating war, either.

Fabian and Gideon Prewett are going to live. Molly Weasley's children will know their uncles.

Hermione and Ron will grow up in peace.

And Harry Potter will never be the Chosen One.

He'll never be the anonymous Defense Against the Dark Arts professor he planned on becoming, either. But he thinks he can live with that.

Footsteps sound on the stairs behind him, and Harry glances over. Regulus is standing there, staring at him with determination.

"Healer Hawken says you're not supposed to strain yourself."

"Tell me what's straining myself about standing on the Astronomy Tower, Mr. Black," Harry says, rolling their eyes. They're not in class, he can get away with it.

"You might take it into your head to jump over the edge," Regulus says. "We never know what mental thing you'll do next."

"Compared to swearing all the vows that you wanted me to, Mr. Black, nothing I do is mental," Harry mutters, and walks over to Regulus. Regulus only relaxes when Harry is walking down the stairs next to him.

"You don't mean that, sir, do you?"

Regulus's voice is soft and uncertain. Harry looks at him, at his slightly averted eyes, and is reminded that, just because Regulus Black will never drown in a lake of Inferi, it doesn't mean that he'll have a perfect life, either.

Harry still has work to do.

"No, Regulus," he says, and reaches out to ruffle the boy's hair. "It was a joke."

Regulus beams at him, and dashes down the stairs ahead of him, probably to set up some kind of ambush or warn other oathsworn that Harry is coming.

Harry shakes his head, and follows him, down to the life and the world that he chose.

Time sings like a happy child.

The End.