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Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 1: Ruptured Realities
June 10, 1994
The Astronomy Tower
Hogwarts castle, set atop a towering cliff, stood tall and imposing. At this time on most nights, the hulking black shape would have blended in with its surroundings, with the insurmountable mass of black stone camouflaging conveniently with the equally dark abyss of the night around it. Tonight was different. Tonight was the night of the full moon. The silvery, luminescent light didn't allow the castle to blend in at all. It cast the titanic building into sharp relief, beaming down upon it like an ethereal spotlight, making the castle look more like an ominous, impenetrable fortress than a boarding school for the finest witches and wizards of the United Kingdom.
Despite the beguiling image painted by the night, the castle really was just a boarding school — if one wished to truly quantify the existence of such a magical place. Of course, it was a boarding school that was more well-secured than any other building in the country, if not the world. A boarding school with magic practically vibrating in every nook and crevice of its ancient, stone walls.
Yet still a boarding school. A boarding school that hosted a vast number of students between the ages of eleven and eighteen. At the present hour, it was expected that every last one of said students would be curled under their covers, willingly succumbing to the grasp of Morpheus and preparing for yet another day.
That was mostly true, at the current moment in time.
One student served as a notable exception. A small, thin figure with jet-black hair, large, clunky glasses and deep, emerald eyes. If one was to look upon the figure from afar, standing atop the astronomy tower and looking over the grounds in what might have appeared to be disinterest, they might have thought they were gazing upon a young, regal prince surveying his land.
The truth of the matter was far less jovial and far more tragic.
The figure who stood atop the tower wasn't quite as young as those onlookers might inevitably believe. He was small for his age; years of neglect did that to a person. One might think him a tall boy of eleven or twelve years old.
They would be wrong.
This boy was nearly fourteen. He would be in seven weeks' time, and he would be entering his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Less than twenty-four hours ago, the still third-year boy in question had completed his final set of end-of-year exams.
That was the normal part of his day.
School was actually the most normal part of this boy's existence. Excluding the countless number of near-death experiences he'd been through while residing within the school, naturally.
Yes, Harry Potter had been through a fair number of those.
Life hadn't exactly given him any breaks.
If one ever wanted to complain about their own life, they might find small reprieve when comparing their own life to this boy's. At the very least, it would surely put into perspective, for most people, that their own lives truly weren't that bad.
When barely more than a year old, Harry Potter had lost his parents. They had been murdered in cold blood by the most feared dark sorcerer to walk the British Isles since Emeric the Evil. Despite the tragedy, it had appeared, for the briefest moment in time, as if life had perhaps sought to balance the scales. It had taken Harry's parents away from him, but in return, it armed him with a defence so potent that it vanquished the Dark Lord. A feat that some of the best witches and wizards in the United Kingdom had failed to accomplish for more than a decade.
Any who thought it a fair exchange would be wrong.
They would be viewed as naive for thinking that life always struck a perfect balance. The truth of the matter was that life was, and always would be, as ruthless as it is magical.
Lord Voldemort, though vanquished for a time, hadn't truly died that night. Worse still, he'd taken far more from young Harry Potter than just his parents. He had taken the two last decent members of his family and indirectly sentenced him to ten years of hell under his aunt and uncle's rule. Ten years of hell where his bedroom would be a boot cupboard and his daily consumption habits would mirror that of a boy half his age, with half of his nutritional needs.
Yet the cruelty of circumstance and destiny had not stopped there.
Voldemort was hell-bent on returning any way possible, and he was willing to stop at nothing to see that reality come to light. Harry almost died while ensuring that exact prospect hadn't manifested in his first year, when he had, yet again, vanquished Lord Voldemort with the help of his mother's final gift. A defensive manifestation of her sacrifice so powerful that not even the deadliest of magics could touch him if cast by her killer.
He supposed that in his second year, Voldemort hadn't been directly responsible for the atrocities that befell the school. Much of the blame for that fell upon the well-dressed shoulders of Lucius Malfoy. Though he supposed Voldemort had initially created whatever the hell the diary had been, so the psychopath was far from blameless.
And then there was this year… Merlin, where to even start with this year.
Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban, where he had been imprisoned more than a decade ago for a crime he had never committed. Peter Pettigrew had framed him. The rat Animagus had done so masterfully. If not for the spell that Sirius and Lupin — the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor — had used to revert Pettigrew to his human form, Harry might have been fooled.
Not that it had mattered he wasn't.
Pettigrew had escaped regardless, and that wasn't even the worst thing that happened in the past number of hours.
Not by a long shot.
As the memories crashed into his psyche like an oncoming tide, piling the debris of despair upon his mind, Harry slumped down the side of the Astronomy Tower. He was completely unprepared to deal with the savage surge of emotion that poured into every fibre of his being, threatening to tear him apart from the inside out.
This explained what most people might have mistakenly assumed was a look of disinterest while Harry Potter had been surveying the Hogwarts grounds.
The truth of the matter was that the look had been one of complete and utter numbness. He hadn't a clue what to think or feel, and his facial expression had reflected his state of mind.
It was far too much. All of it was far too much.
Over the course of the last few hours, Harry's brain had taken in about as much information as a human's mind could possibly cope with.
Sirius Black — his godfather and the man whom he had suspected to be responsible for selling his mother and father to Voldemort was innocent. Peter Pettigrew — a man unanimously believed to be dead before tonight — was the true culprit. And to make matters worse, he'd been hiding right under Harry's nose for nearly three years and the Gryffindor youth hadn't even noticed. Neither had his best friend, Ron Weasley for that matter, but that seemed slightly more forgivable to Harry, even though he knew that sentiment made no sense and was utterly ridiculous.
Whilst on their way back up to the castle, the procession of students, fugitives, professors and traitors had been ravaged when one of the professors in question had made a rather horrible miscalculation. Harry would have gawked at Lupin's idiocy if he himself had not been blatantly guilty of failing to employ common sense many times in the past three years. Walking into the light of the full moon around students, knowing that you're a werewolf, had to be up there with lighting a match while bathing in gasoline in the ludicrously idiotic department.
The werewolf was mercifully driven off by Sirius Black, who was also apparently an illegal animagus alongside Pettigrew, because of-fucking-course he was. Speaking of Pettigrew, he'd escaped, and it had infuriated Harry beyond comprehension or belief.
What had been worse was watching the scenes that unfolded next.
While chasing Pettigrew, Sirius had been ambushed by dozens of dementors — the tall, hooded figures who lorded over the hellhole that was Azkaban prison. Harry had converged on the scene as quickly as possible, but it hadn't been enough.
No matter how many times he tried to conjure his patronus, he couldn't quite do it. It would form and even surge forward, but the brilliant manifestation of hope and happiness would quickly be drowned by the metaphorical ocean of despair that ploughed forward to meet it.
Eventually, Harry heard Hermione scream and fall, and he joined her, prone and vulnerable on the ground not moments later. A dementor had leaned over him, drawing its horrid, rasping breaths and reaching up to pull down its hood, revealing its disgustingly disfigured face. Idly, in what he had assumed at the time to be his final moments of true life, Harry thought that he must be one of a very select few to actually see under a dementor's hood.
Before he could suffer a fate deemed by most to be worse than death, a brilliant silver light filled his vision. It was quite obviously the light of a patronus, but it was far brighter than any patronus Harry had ever seen. Far larger, too. Unnaturally light, blindingly bright, and spine-tinglingly powerful, the stag patronus galloped majestically through the air and at long last, it had enough power to drive off the oncoming swarm of dementors.
Ruthlessly battling against the pull of unconsciousness, Harry looked up, with difficulty, and peered across the black lake. There, on its far shore stood a figure. One who, at the time, he had suspected was, somehow, his father.
Yet even that hadn't been the most jarring revelation.
The most jarring revelation had come when he had looked to his left. It felt as if all of the oxygen in his lungs had been frozen solid, not only rendering it useless but transforming it into a legitimate hindrance. He tried to breathe, but he couldn't. He tried to think, but it wouldn't work. He tried to move, but he was unable.
Every fibre of his being had unilaterally paused in horror to gaze upon the nightmare made reality that quite literally laid in front of him.
It was Hermione, lying face up.
She wasn't dead, but that did nothing to crush the grief that began tearing at Harry's very soul. For a time, he wondered if that would do what the dementor couldn't and simply wrench his soul straight from his body. Hermione's eyes weren't lifeless, per se, but they lacked any spark of intellect or personality. It was as if somebody had flipped a dimmer switch. No emotion nor thought sparkled within the orbs. They were flat, dull, and stagnant, much like the useless container they now occupied.
He looked away as tears stung at his eyes, intent on seeing anything but the horror before him.
Yet it still got worse.
On his other side, lying in much the same position as his closest female friend was an emaciated figure with long, matted hair, sallow skin, and blurred grey eyes.
Harry couldn't help it.
He let out a moan of pure agony as he allowed the blackness to close in on all sides, pulling him under and into a realm that would hopefully contain much less pain than the one he'd just left.
Back in the present…
Harry's heart nearly wrenched itself from his chest at the mere memory, yet even that hadn't been all.
He had woken up in the hospital wing some time later and been almost immediately confronted by the somber visage of Professor Dumbledore. Harry had hurriedly explained exactly what had transpired to the venerable Hogwarts Headmaster, but he had done so in a detached, monotone voice.
And that was when yet another mind-blowing facet of the magical world had been revealed to him, as if it wasn't a complicated enough place already.
Time travel supposedly existed, because of-fucking-course it did. Dumbledore had pulled a long, golden chain with an hourglass-looking pendant and explained to Harry exactly how his brilliant, muggleborn friend had managed to take as many classes as she had.
It explained everything.
From her utter avoidance of the topic, to the inconsistencies in her cover stories, to her impossible timetable.
Dumbledore had then made a proposition that was even wilder than the reality of his best friend being a time traveller.
He, Harry, could use the time turner — which Dumbledore had taken from Hermione's soulless body — to go back and change the events of the past.
For a time, the flames of hope had been stoked once more, and a roaring fire of pure resoluteness had been lit inside of Harry's stomach, filling his chest, contracting his throat, and solidifying his resolve.
How naive he had been to believe.
To believe that he, an average, thirteen-year-old wizard could go back and change the events of the past, saving his best friend and godfather in the process, while simultaneously capturing the man who was truly responsible for his parents' murder.
He supposed "average" may have been a bit harsh. He was no Merlin, but he was at least talented at Defence Against the Dark Arts. He had managed the fastest time in his year on the obstacle course Professor Lupin had set up earlier that day and it was far from rivalled. He also very much doubted anyone else in his year would be casting a Patronus Charm any time soon, let alone one strong enough to combat dozens of feral, soul-sucking demons.
For it had indeed been he who had cast the patronus that had spared his own past self's life. And yes, wasn't that just a lovely paradox of mind-bending complexities, possibilities, and problems. Any glimmering hope of his father — which had only strengthened when he'd been enlightened as to the existence of time travel — had been ruthlessly crushed the moment he'd been forced to spare his past self. He had no idea what would happen if he allowed his past self to die, but he also had no desire to find out.
He hadn't been quite quick enough in accepting the fact his father hadn't arrived.
He had wasted valuable time trying to capture Peter Pettigrew. His efforts had once more been fruitless, and it had, in the end, been a major factor in his second consecutive failure. He had managed to save himself but for the second time that night, he was left gazing down on the soulless husks of Hermione and Sirius. This time, no mysterious time traveller had appeared to help him, which only meant one thing in Harry's mind.
No matter what he did, there was no way he could prevent the outcome from taking place.
That thought had brought forth Trelawney's words from earlier in the day, and he'd realized far too late that Pettigrew couldn't be stopped. Fate had ordained it, after all.
"THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS. HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE MIDNIGHT. . . THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER. THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANT'S AID, GREATER AND MORE TERRIBLE THAN EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT. . . BEFORE MIDNIGHT. . . THE SERVANT. . . WILL SET OUT. . . TO REJOIN. . . HIS MASTER. . . ."
Going after Pettigrew had truly been his downfall, yet Harry couldn't will himself to try for a third time.
He couldn't bear the sight of Hermione's dull eyes and the vacant look on his godfather's gaunt, but otherwise regal countenance. If he had to see any of that again, it would break him. The nightmares would be bad enough. He didn't need to see it again in the waking world. Besides, he had a dreadful feeling any intervention he made would lead to the same, morbid outcome regardless.
If he was meant to time travel yet again, surely he would have seen that intervention come to fruition the last two times he had attempted to capture the traitor and save those whom he cared for.
They had doubtlessly found the bodies on the grounds by now. He hadn't stayed around. He had bolted to the top of the astronomy tower as soon as possible, not caring that he wasn't in possession of his invisibility cloak. That was with his past self when he'd succumbed to unconsciousness and present Harry, with his mind boggled and any chance of coherent thought voided, hadn't possessed the wherewithal to grab the cloak.
It hadn't mattered.
He'd made it to the top of the tower easily enough, where he now sat shaking, still wearing the golden time turner; it's metallic texture cool against his skin in the otherwise humid night. There was a moment while surveying the grounds when Harry had debated just throwing himself off the tower. He had gotten to that point. He had endured so much in his almost fourteen years of life, and he thought now, at long last, he had finally been pushed past his breaking point.
He couldn't sit still anymore.
Yet he couldn't stand, either.
His legs wouldn't work, no matter how hard he tried.
Even when he heard the thrum of voices below, doubtlessly investigating his absence and obviously coming up on the stairs that would lead them up onto the tower itself.
Harry's shaking intensified. If he were found, he would have to explain what had happened. That would mean vividly reliving the atrocities of the past number of hours, something he was not only completely uninterested in, but rather adverse to as a whole.
Yet he couldn't stand.
Whenever he tried, his legs failed him, but he couldn't face Dumbledore. Not when he would have to relive all that had happened, and not with the knowledge that he had failed.
It was all too much, and his hands, which so desperately needed to be doing something, twitched idly towards the golden band around his neck.
If his theories about the inevitability of the night's events were true, this would do little more than postpone the meeting that would be as inevitable as the events themselves. But it was good enough, for now. Anything was better than facing this, and he couldn't just sit here and relive all of it.
He reached up towards his neck with shaking hands, extracted the time turner from the collar of his shirt and turned it — turned it many, many more times than he could count.
And swiftly relived the events anyway.
It was odd.
He was watching everything play out as if they were on fast forward, yet it was happening in reverse, and he seemed to be watching from a third person's perspective. He had to be, for he couldn't possibly be here again, watching the horrors of the night when he, Harry, was supposed to be sitting atop the astronomy tower.
He watched once more as Sirius and Hermione had their souls sucked out. He watched once more as Pettigrew escaped again, and then he relived the confrontation that had come before it.
But it didn't stop there.
In fact, the replay of sorts he was experiencing only seemed to accelerate as he crashed back through time.
He was in his Divination exam… no, his Defence exam. He was in classes, then flying against Draco Malfoy in the Quidditch final, and then back in classes for a significant period of time.
Before he knew it, he was back in the kitchen on Privet Drive, watching Marge inflate like some grotesque balloon.
Yet still, it didn't stop.
He was in the Chamber of Secrets, standing in front of a boy several years older and much taller than himself. A boy with hair as black as Harry's and dark, blue eyes. Then, he was in Tom Riddle's diary, watching him frame Hagrid as the Heir of Slytherin before he was back in the Slytherin common room, polyjuiced as Crabbe as he and Ron tried to pry Draco Malfoy's non-existent secrets from him.
On and on it went.
He watched, once more, the rogue bludger, Dobby at Privet Drive, the confrontation in the catacombs of Hogwarts with Quirrell, the detention in the forest and on, and on, and on.
Faster than he could believe, he was watching memories from before Hogwarts and still the speed at which he seemed to charge backwards through time increased. Soon enough, he was watching things he didn't even remember, things he hadn't been able to remember for several years.
It wasn't long before he was back in Godric's Hollow, watching Voldemort remorselessly tear down his family. He barely had time to register the pangs of fury and sadness before he recognized the day he was born.
And then… darkness — complete and total blackness, as he could neither see nor feel anything at all.
Harry didn't know how long it was until he opened his eyes once more. It felt like only a second — little more than going to sleep — but he knew it might have been far longer. More disconcerting, however, was that when he finally did muster up the strength and energy to open his eyes, he didn't recognize his surroundings.
They were vaguely reminiscent of King's Cross Station, but this was most obviously not the train station housing the magical platform associated with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was so thrown off by his surroundings that it took him a moment to realize he was naked.
Until he thought that, at least.
Once he did, soft, warm clothes moulded seamlessly to his body. They fit better and more comfortably than any clothes he'd ever had.
As he glanced at the vast, bright, unfamiliar space around him, he could do little more than voice his singular, predominant thought aloud.
"Am I dead?"
"Complicated thing, that."
Harry jumped about a foot in the air and whirled around. He went to go for his wand, only to realize he didn't feel it in his pocket. At the thought, it materialized in his right hand, every bit as perfect as he remembered.
Speaking of memories, what he saw in front of him made his jaw fall agape.
He had seen these two people before, but only in dreams and dementor induced nightmares. And his most recent journey through what must have been time, he supposed.
The man and woman were both of average height. The woman had a slim waist but a curvaceous figure, and the man looked lean and athletic. Ostensibly, Harry's father — for this could be nobody but his father — had stayed in shape; even after his Quidditch days. Like his son, he had jet-black hair, and their facial features were nearly as identical as everybody made them out to be. The primary differences were their eyes and the fact that, unlike Harry, James's glasses didn't look like something out of a poorly illustrated cartoon.
The woman who stood beside James had Harry's eyes, just as everyone had told him for nearly three years. They looked a bit more alike than many gave them credit for. Harry noticed that while his appearance did primarily resemble that of his father, there were certainly hints of his mother's softer features as well.
For much of his childhood, he had envisioned meeting his parents. That dream hadn't gone away when he had finally been taken away to Hogwarts. The image had just become clearer. In both cases, he always pictured that, if he met his parents, they would smile proudly out at him.
That wasn't the case in reality.
They didn't look displeased. Just… serious.
Lily's lips were thin and her eyes practically shot sparks. James, who had spoken, wore a hard expression and his face was set in a firm line of resolute determination.
"Mum, Dad?" Harry's voice was a whisper in the wind and barely discernible. Quite honestly, he was just impressed it hadn't failed him altogether.
Lily smiled. It wasn't a smile of joy. it was a sad, sombre smile, and the woman was very obviously trying not to have an emotional breakdown of her own. "Yes, Harry. It's us."
He had no idea how to react to that. Perhaps he was supposed to rush forward into the arms of his parents after all this time.
Two things stopped him from doing that.
He had never been overly fond of being touched at all. He had put up with it on the odd occasions when Hermione had forced it upon him — likewise in the case of Mrs. Weasley — but that had been about it. After years of associating touch with danger, it wasn't an easy thing to become accustomed to.
The second was that, for an oddly ominous reason Harry couldn't articulate, there was an… instinct, of sorts. A feeling that if he walked into the arms of his parents, he was sealing himself into something.
Neither James nor Lily seemed to hold his reluctance against him. On the contrary, they beamed at him. In a sad, depressing sort of way, but there was definitely pride in their eyes. Why that emotion would exist after he had failed so utterly, Harry wasn't sure.
"Am I dead?" he asked again, his voice only slightly louder than before.
James and Lily Potter exchanged glances before the former shrugged and spoke. "It's like I said before. Complicated thing, that." When James saw that answer clearly wasn't going to cut it, he finally elaborated. "Honestly, Harry, you're not really dead or alive right now."
"What do you mean I'm not dead or alive?"
Now it was Lily's turn to speak, and she did so with so much compassion and understanding that it made Harry's heart ache. For a vague moment, he examined how his life could have been different had one or both of the two survived. He did not allow his mind to linger on that dream for too long. It was a depressing rabbit hole he'd gone down many times; one he had no desire to return to.
"Time travel isn't something to be trifled with, Harry. Nobody has ever tried to travel back more than a few hours and come back."
His heart sank. "Nobody?" Both parents shook their heads. "They died then?"
"Some of them," James answered vaguely. "I don't think there's a set thing that happens, if truth's to be told. I think time is always just going to be finicky. Like your mother said, it's not to be trifled with. Funny things happen when you mess with time." He winced. "Or… not so funny, most of the time."
Lily shot him a somewhat annoyed, clearly exasperated glance. "What your father is trying to say is that the time turner had an… effect." She paused. "Do you have any idea how many times you turned that, Harry?"
He blushed. "I… no. I have no idea."
"Neither did the time turner," said James with obvious amusement. "You turned the bloody thing so many times that it lost track and just booted you back as far as it could go."
Harry's eyes bulged. "As far as it—"
"Don't worry," Lily assured him. "You're not going to end up in the Middle Ages, or something. When you travelled to before you were supposed to be born, well…"
"The universe doesn't like getting kicked in the dick very much," his father supplied.
"Am I wrong?"
Lily hesitated. "Well… no, but that isn't the point!" She sighed. "You went back too far, Harry," she filled in. "You went back to a time in which you weren't supposed to exist. The universe is a lot of things and it revolves around a lot of principles, and order is one of them. It doesn't like when things happen that can change reality. Usually when that happens, it… rearranges events in a way that eliminates the threat to that reality."
Harry's stomach gave a jolt. "So I'm really dead then?"
"That's where it gets complicated," James said with a grimace.
"And even more so because we can't tell you everything," Lily added.
This didn't exactly make sense to Harry. If he was dead, what did it matter? If he wasn't, surely they could explain something like this to him, since it didn't seem as if it would be overly relevant.
"It's just… the dead can't impact the world of the living. That's a rule of nature."
"So I'm not dead?"
"No, not exactly," James answered at last, running a twitchy hand through his windswept-looking hair.
"But you said the universe—"
"Oh yes," said James, the corners of his lips tugging upwards, "the universe did try to eliminate you."
He sighed. "And here's the part where we have to be cryptic and hope, if you go back, that you can figure things out." He seemed to choose his next words very carefully. "Dumbledore's told you about the connection between yourself and Voldemort, hasn't he?"
"My scar, right?"
"Your scar, yes."
Harry nodded. "He said it happened the night he attacked. The night…" his voice trailed off as he looked towards his mother, whose sad smile remained, emotion dancing in those familiar green eyes like beads of sunlight on the surface of a shimmering lake.
"When I sacrificed myself for you."
Harry looked down towards his feet. "I never wanted you to die," he muttered. "Not for me — not for anyone."
Lily took a step forward and pressed a finger under a surprised Harry's chin, tilting his head up to look at her. "I would do it again if given the choice." The look in her eyes practically dared him to challenge her, but he did not dare.
"Even after I let you down?" He hadn't meant to speak the words. They'd just sort of… tumbled out of him.
"Let us down?" James asked, sounding completely mortified. "Merlin's balls, Harry, where in the ruddy hell did you ever get that idea?"
Harry looked up with visible reluctance. "I failed," he said lamely. "Pettigrew got away. Sirius got kissed by dementors — so did Hermione. A fate worse than death, all because I wasn't fast enough."
"You're human," Lily said softly, tears shimmering at the corners of her eyes. "We all make mistakes, Harry. No thirteen-year-old boy should ever have to deal with anything like what you had to deal with. It is incredible that you did so well for so long."
"We thought for sure we'd see you the night you went after that snake," James muttered darkly, obviously referencing the basilisk that Harry had fought in order to permanently close the Chamber of Secrets. "Don't ever say you failed, Harry," he continued. "If it wasn't for you, Snakeface would've come back at the end of your first year. Let's not even talk about what would have happened in your second."
Lily's smile turned from sad to fond. "You have no idea how amazing you are," she told him warmly. "I know Albus told you this at the end of your first year, but stop to think about it for a moment. Do you have any idea how few people could have looked into that mirror and seen something so selfless?"
"Funnily enough," James said heavily, "that's also the reason you're here."
"No, your selflessness. You really are an amazing person, but sometimes, the best people don't always get the best results."
Harry looked back at the two of them, puzzled and wide-eyed. "What about Professor Dumbledore?"
Lily sighed deeply. "Albus is a great person, but that's part of the reason why he never did manage to beat Voldemort before the prophecy happened."
"Lily," James said through gritted teeth, "we can't—"
"Oh, come on, James. It will hardly matter now. If he goes back, it isn't as if the prophecy is going to apply any more. It can't, given what will happen."
"True, true." James turned to Harry. "Long story short, there was a prophecy that said you would have the power to destroy Voldemort and that one of you would have to kill the other in the end. Snakeface only heard the first bit, which is why he attacked us. To try and eliminate the threat nice and early." He scowled. "Being too good a person doesn't usually get you places, but karma really is a bitch when you go that far."
It was a mark of how strongly Lily agreed with that statement that she didn't chide his verbiage.
Harry frowned. "So… what are you saying?"
"Be more selfish," James answered. "Don't be a prick, but you need to put yourself first sometimes. If you don't, not only will you never enjoy your own life, but it probably won't last long, in your case." He obviously said that last part very grudgingly, but all present knew the words to be true. "Don't just cave," he continued. "Look into things. Decide what it is you want to do. Fight for what you believe in."
"Yes, do that," seconded his mother. "Educate yourself. Learn what it is you want to do, but also how to do it. I love Hermione, but you won't always have somebody like her to help you." Harry's gut clenched. Boy, did he appreciate that statement right about now. "You're the perfect boy. The perfect boy for others. All that we're asking is that you be the perfect boy for yourself."
Resounding silence rang through… wherever the hell they were. After a time, Harry sought to get back to one of his original questions. "So, I'm here…"
"Right," James remembered. "The connection you had with Voldemort—"
"Had? It's gone now?"
James genuinely smiled. "Yup — all gone now. That's why you're here." He hesitated. "I...really can't say much except for the fact the connection was a hell of a lot deeper than your minds. A… piece of Voldemort connected to you. That piece is what reality destroyed when it tried to get rid of you. It sort of acted as a shield." James smirked. "Nasty shock for the bastard, I'm sure. I doubt it was meant to."
"Remember what your father just said," Lily ordered, sounding stern for the first time. "If you go back, it will be extremely important. You're going to need to research… pieces of people. Pieces that can form deep connections." She seemed to collect herself before adding, "Very dark magic. The worst of magic, but you can find the information. I know you can."
"You said… if I went back? You're telling me I have a choice?"
"You do," said James, becoming all of a sudden a whole lot more business-like. "See, the thing is, you should be dead, but you're not. Reality is still rather cross with you. It will let you live but only under certain… conditions."
Harry's brow furrowed. "Conditions?"
"The world you go back to won't be the one you left. I couldn't tell you more than that even if I knew, and I have no idea. I just know how the universe works. It won't let you exist in the world you just left, because existing there should be impossible, for you."
"But it will let you live," Lily jumped in, obviously not hiding which option she would rather Harry chose. "It will let you live the rest of your life in a world where your existence doesn't contradict something that's already happened."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "It's going to send me back to some parallel universe? Where everything is different?"
"I doubt it," James said thoughtfully. "That would be a whole hell of a lot of work. More than likely, it will send you somewhere with minor changes."
"The thing about reality," Lily began, taking on what was obviously her lecturing tone, "is that it's infinite. There are an infinitely large number of realities out there. The reality you left won't let you back, but a reality that is very similar will have no problems taking you, so long as your existence in that world doesn't go against things that have already happened."
"And you can't tell me where I'll land?"
"We have no idea where you'll land."
Harry looked at the two of them and made the admission that had been eating him alive ever since the notion of a choice was mentioned for the first time.
"I don't want to die, but I don't want to fail again either."
"Then don't." It was his father who answered, and his voice sounded so certain, Harry almost believed it.
"It isn't that easy."
"No, it's not," the man admitted. "Neither was learning the Patronus Charm at thirteen. Neither was surviving ten years of hell with those bastards who abused you. Neither was fighting Riddle at the end of your first year. Hell, killing that damned snake was anything but easy. But guess what? You did it all, didn't you? This is no different."
"You won't fail so long as you work harder than ever." His mother genuinely sounded as if she had no doubt.
Their words might have been meaningless placations. Harry couldn't tell. The only thing he knew was that after not hearing those voices for twelve years, their unwavering faith filled him to the brim with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was almost like a phoenix's song.
"You want me to go back, don't you?" It was the final thing he needed to know.
"We want you to be happy," his mother said softly, reaching out and cupping Harry's cheek gently. Oddly, he didn't feel any compulsion to pull away. Perhaps because it was her, or maybe it was just the fact that none of this was truly happening; at least, not in the physical sense.
"You have a lot more to get out of life if you choose," said James with a knowing smirk. "I think you'll find all kinds of things and people to make you happy." Lily shot him a mildly disapproving glare, likely for the more subtle implications that went way over Harry's adolescent head, but she didn't disagree.
Harry closed his eyes. "I'll go back," he said softly, his jaw setting in a resolute line. "But…" Merlin, this was an embarrassing and out of character question. "Can I have one hug? Just to know what it feels like, you know?"
Both of his parents beamed, stepping forward and engulfing him in warmth before, moments later, darkness overtook him again. Harry instinctively knew that the next time he opened his eyes, he would be in an unknown reality. One his world had never even been aware of.
Instead of explaining all about this story in this endnote, I encourage all of you to go read the blog about it on my website. I not only explain the premise and the like in more detail, but I give insights you won't find anywhere else, and I give some indicators as to what you can expect in this story. The blog can easily be found on my website, which can be accessed via a generic google search, or by following the link on my profile.
The only thing I will say is that there isn't really an upload schedule for this, unlike Ashes of Chaos and Fabric of Fate. It will largely depend on how quickly the audio chapters can get recorded.
Before I sign off, I would like to extend an additional acknowledgement to Raven0900. I've been toying with this idea since May of 2019, and it was with her help that I finally got it nailed down and could start writing it at long last.
On that note, follows, favourites and reviews would mean the world to me.
Stay safe and happy reading!
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, Athena Hope and Beatriche for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
PS: The next chapter is available for my Discord members. The next three chapters are available to those generous individuals who support me on P*T*E*N at the $5 level or higher.