Harry glanced at his surroundings, his senses attuned from the war, cataloging Dumbledore beside him, the wailing of the Horcrux behind him, the unnatural stillness of the world surrounding him. His mind going over all that he had learned in the past few minutes.
"You want me to go back."
It was a statement, one said with the surety of someone who knew it, who foresaw it.
"I would admittedly want you to my dear boy, after all, you have come so well, so long."
Sharp resentment built up in Harry, bile rising in his throat. How could he? How could he ask that of him? When finally, finally he felt he could go on, be with his family, see Sirius again, meet his parents for the first time. Hadn't he already done enough? Sacrificed enough? Fought for them enough?
He was just beginning to speak when another voice spoke over him.
"Or you could do-over."
Both him and Dumbledore whipped around. There, standing leaning against a pillar was a girl, a teenager really, probably younger than him. Her white, white, white hair almost mixing in with their surrounding, piercing gold eyes studying them calmly. Her white dress moving to a tune of its own, weaving its own melody in the absent air.
"My dear girl-" Dumbledore began.
"Enough!" The sharp retort rang out as the girl held out a hand to silence him.
"You have done enough Albus Dumbledore. You have no right to influence him anymore. This, this is not your domain anymore. You are no longer the ringmaster."
"Who are you?" Harry asked curiously, he wondered who she was and why she was looking at Dumbledore in so much contempt.
A wince graced her face, pulling her sharp features, even more, taut against her bones.
"That is a long story better told when the others arrive."
"Others?" Dumbledore interjected alarmed.
"Yes others, you didn't think you could interfere in the Master of Death's life anymore once he had gained the title did you?"
"Master of Death? I can control Death?" Harry exclaimed surprised.
"No. No one has control over me." A deep voice rumbled to the side. It was old yet young, male, female, childlike at the same time. A person? Thing? No, a being stepped out of a tear. Billowing black robe covering every inch of the being, glowing green eyes, the same shade of the killing curse, the same shade of his eyes, and bony claws were the only thing escaping the anonymity of the cloak. Harry knew, without a doubt, this was Death. The premating chill of the air, the way the shadows seemed just a tad darker, the way Dumbledore seemed a shade paler. Strangely, he didn't seem to be affected by it, neither did the girl, the aura of the being felt familiar, calm, good.
"Hello, Death. Dramatic as ever I see." The strange girl greeted, a strange mirth swimming in her eyes.
"Evangeline." Death greeted back. His glowing green eyes swept over her, over Harry, stopping on Dumbledore. The chill increased in the air.
"Leave." He intoned to Dumbledore.
"Harry, you need to-" His words cut off as he dissolved into nothing.
"Well, time for explanations I believe?" Evangeline said as the mist rose again and developed into a large tea table with seven chairs, teapots, and various pastries piled high.
"Please sit." Evangeline said as she glided over to the table, Death already seated, was daintily selecting a couple of strawberry pastries to eat.
"Er..right. There seem to be more chairs…?" he stated hesitantly even as a cup of steaming tea settled beside him and a plate of treacle tart moved towards him.
"Right!" Death said suddenly as if just realizing that fact. He snapped his fingers and four familiar faces materialized in the remaining chairs. The young man with wavy hair and the unburdened werewolf shocked Harry, but it was the woman with red hair, green eyes, and the man with messy hair and hazel eyes who materialized beside him that had him dropping the cup suddenly. His heart thudded painfully loudly as tears collected in his eyes.
"Mum…? Dad…?" He stuttered out, wide eyes staring with hope disbelief happiness sadness, and nostalgia.
"Oh sweetheart." Lily Potter's choked voice said as her hands came around to hug and hold her sweet, sweet child after so many years, the ache in her heart finally abating.
Feeling his mother's arms around him for the first time in forever, Harry's stupor and composure broke as tears ran down freely, his bony hands going around her, his face hidden in her shoulder. Two more arms encircled him from the back as James Potter held his wife and son, the hole in his soul closing after eons. He buried his face in his son's hair, so similar to his own, his arms tightening around them, tears running down his face, his choked sobs muffled by his son's hair.
The remaining two marauders looked on, tears of equal parts sadness and happiness running down their cheeks. After a few long moments, the recently reunited family reluctantly pulled apart, though Lily's hand was still entwined with her son's while James's arm was around Harry, as if afraid that if they did leave him then he would vanish.
"How…" He cleared his throat, a dryness from his sudden bout of tears. He picked up his cup, which had miraculously returned to his side. Taking a sip of the warm tea he spoke again.
"How is this possible?"
He felt more than saw Death's incredulous look as if to say 'Do you even have to ask?'
Feeling awkward, he cleared his throat as Sirius barked out a laugh tinged with regret and sadness, but was nonetheless happy.
"Still as oblivious as ever pup." He teased, misted eyes hungrily memorizing the details of his godson's face.
Words escaped Harry, but the blinding smile he directed at his godfather and pseudo uncle stood for itself.
"Right, now that the reintroductions are over, let's get down to business shall we?" Evangeline spoke up.
"I am Evangeline, in simplest terms, I am the Mistress of Life essentially like how you are the Master of Death."
A frown appeared on Harry's face.
"What does that even mean?" He asked glancing dubiously at the entity who was happily on his second slice of strawberry cake.
All the occupants turned to look at Death. The being slowly chewed, swallowing the bite in his mouth, he spoke.
"I suppose it begins with the three Peverell brothers. Back in their day, they were the most powerful wielders of my magic, they had gone further than others in their pursuit of necromancy and finding unique ways to use my magic. I was pleased with how much they respected me, my magic and I gifted them my hallows. Alas, they grew arrogant, at least the first two did."
"Anitoch bragged about his power, that he outsmarted Death. Cadmus, Cadmus stole from my realm. He may have been one of my favoured but Death is finite, it is the end to everything. You cannot take back which death has taken. Ignotus, was the only one who was smart enough to not take advantage of his gift. The hallows were never meant to be only gifts, they were tools, meant to aid me. Meant to find the one soul who could unite them and attain true mastery over death."
"Aid you?" Harry asked.
It was Evangeline who answered.
"The person who unites the hallows is the, I guess you can say, is the human representation of Death on earth, similar to how I am the human representation of Life on earth. Life and Death cannot stay on earth for long periods of time without affecting earth. We are like mediums, you can call it. Half on earth, half in their realm. We usually don't have to do much, but in cases like this, when it looks like civilization is about to implode, we step in and help fix it, otherwise your free to do whatever you want with your immortal life."
"Immortal? Does that…does that mean I can't be with my family?" Harry asks scared as his parents tighten their hold on him. Fear ringing in the air.
"Of course you can." Death scoffs.
"You are my chosen, you can enter my realm to meet them or call them to you. When they aren't reincarnated. Which reminds me, these are yours."
Just as Death spoke, a silver cloak materialized behind Harry, as a jeweled ring sat on his hand and a wand of elder wood appeared by his hand.
Relief seeps into his bones as unknown tension leaves him.
"But, right now, you need to make a choice." Evangeline interjects.
"Does he have to? Hasn't he done enough already?" His mother interjects. Scared for her son who had already done so much.
"Oh he doesn't have to. That's why I said it's a choice." Evangeline waves her concern away.
"You…you said something about civilization imploding." Sirius said a pensive look on his face.
A tired sigh escapes Evangeline.
"What do you know about the first war? The reason why it started?"
"It was about blood prejudice right? The pureblood's wanted to kill all muggleborns because they steal they're magic."
A wince graced the faces of the four adults.
"Not exactly…" James began slowly.
"Originally it was about liberating magic, equality for all and every magical creature and witches and wizards. Tom Riddle was hailed as a revolutionary politician, claimed to revolutionise the magical world. His agenda was received with mixed reviews except for one point, he wanted earlier inclusion of all muggleborns. He wanted to identify them as soon as the first case of accidental magic and go and explain it to the parents. They would be checked on periodically to make sure they are being treated right and if there is any sign of abuse they will be immediately removed from their care and the parents punished. This one point every single person agreed with, and it looked like he would win."
Harry's eyes widened, he was shocked. He always knew that Tom Riddle was an exceptionally bright and intelligent wizard, but to know that he wanted to create a magical utopia for every magical child?
"What happened then? It sounds like he was going to win, why didn't he?"
"Dumbledore." Sirius sighed tiredly.
" that time, he had just defeated Grindewald and people hailed him as the second coming of Merlin. He was already prejudiced against Riddle, and instead of a young man trying to make a change he saw a Dark Lord in the making. He was definitely dark and did have a sadistic streak, but he wasn't evil like how Dumbledore claimed. He did become deranged and evil later on, because of his horcruxes and all but that's just because of his plain stupidity."
Reluctantly his mind bought forth the memories he saw in the pensive, of a young charismatic wizard who was ostracized, who Dumbledore was immediately against when he saw he was a parsletongue. He reluctantly remembered the sharp tang of resentment he felt when he heard how the matronhad spoken of him.
"But…he killed that rabbit, and the cave…" He said futilely trying to make sense of his conflicting thoughts.
"That was wrong of him, he is a sociopath, but Dumbledore never investigated why he did that did he?" Lily said gently, trying to soothe away his confusion and frustration.
"You have to understand that it was the early 1930s, people were big believers of church and were afraid of a lot of stuff. When he started showing signs of accidental magic, they believed it was the work of the devil, he was…not treated well, similar to your upbringing." Evangeline said, her voice neither sad nor pitying, more matter of fact than anything.
Tom Riddle's words from the diary came back to him, stating they were more alike than either he did understand why he did that, maybe if things were different, he would have been more like Tom Riddle too.
"What does that have to do with well civilization imploding?" Harry asked trying to move away from the topic.
"The dark faction wanted all magic to be legal, that people should be arrested if they were using magic for breaking the law, not for practising a certain kind of magic, they wanted their traditions bought back, wanted to educate the muggleborns on wizarding tradition instead of forgetting our tradition in favour of the muggles. They wanted to change back Christmas and Halloween to Yule and Samhain. And they were right. Magic needs to be practised, all magic. The decline in rituals and traditions will lead to extinction of magic and all magical creatures in the next 80-90 years."
Fear consumed Harry, how could this have happened? How could Dumbledore have made such a mistake? A single word niggled in the back of his mind, prejudice, all his old doubts coming out, all the accusations he had hidden deep beneath his soul, about his home life, about Sirius, about everything that happened in the past years.
"How, how can we reverse that?" He asked hesitantly.
"Well, we have two options. You go back and fix it. 18 years ago the damage wasn't as bad as it is now it was still repairable. Or, we let everything implode and then build back the magical civilization from scratch."
Harry stared blankly at her, processing her words.
"Did you break my son?" James demanded when Harry didn't say anything more.
"Build back civilization? Is that even possible?" Harry asked stunned.
"Of course it is. A lot of paperwork though." Death replied with a disgusted tone as if the thought of paperwork itself offended him.
Harry stared at the table in contemplation. Wondering about what to do. He looked to his parents for the first time in his life for guidance.
"It is your choice darling. You are more than capable of making your own decisions." Lily said lovingly as she rubbed his arm.
"Hey pup, look we can forget this and move on if you want. You have no need to go back and save them after all they did. We will go back only if you want to." Remus said, ever the gentle soul.
"Personally I say let them all burn." Sirius grumbled darkly.
Harry couldn't blame him, he too had similar dark thoughts at times, but as much as he wanted to he could not let the whole world die.
"How do we even go back in time?" He asked.
"You're the Master of death, that gives you certain leeway and authority over time. Death and time are intrinsically connected, of course you can't go back or anything without Death's permission. It is similar to how I have some influence over life and fate." Evangeline said.
"I won't go back just to lose my family again." He said determinedly, fire blazing in his eyes.
"You won't have to. Like I said I have some leeway over fate, especially since Life has given us blessing to do whatever it takes to make it right.
"Alright, let's do this." He said taking a deep breath.