Written by Sectumus Prince, co-authored by AppoApples (the dyslexic one), and beta-read by Thobeobo.
Sectumus Prince is author of the highly recommended Crashing Into Darkness, Two Birds of a Feather, and many more.
I, AppoApples, am truly honoured to be writing with Sectumus and you're about to have your socks blown off in understanding why that is if you aren't already a fan.
Hi, it's Sectumus, and I am very excited for this story. Apples has been one of my favourites since I started reading fanfiction, and even just plotting this is some of the most fun I've had. It's an absolute pleasure to work together. If you do check out my profile, my one-shots are better than my actual stories (Apples is way too nice).
AppoApples: (Disagree, I'm addicted to their stories).
Thobeobo (the beta): Well holy shit look at this. It's a fic co-authored by two of my absolute favourite authors in the community, and if you're a fan of one of them and haven't read anything by the other, please do so. It is an honour and a privilege to do beta work for these two incredible, talented authors.
Harry missed his shot, and he paid the ultimate price. His path is laid out before him when he is offered a home with people he has always wanted to meet. There's just one problem: He isn't in his own body, and the body he's in is one he'd rather not be anywhere near. Time Travel, AU
"War does not Determine who is right — only who is left."
-Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Worse Than Death
Dawn broke and rays of sunlight appeared like fire, casting its welcome warmth across the Hogwarts grounds, lightly illuminating the shadowed, razed courtyard and the rubble that filled it. Two figures knelt across from each other, breathing heavily, while a crowd of onlookers surrounded them, awe-struck and terrified. The figures had been thrown around for several minutes as one of them flew without a broomstick and the other attempted to fight, leading them to crash where they were now.
Minerva could not quite describe what she was feeling. One moment she had believed the entire world had ended, seeing Harry Potter dead in Hagrid's arms. Then, the next thing she knew, Harry was alive and duelling Lord Voldemort once more, distracting him while the rest of them handled the Death Eaters.
And it had all come to this: The two wizards facing off in front of them all.
"Come on, Harry," muttered the young boy beside her. "You've got this."
Minerva prayed he was right.
Everyone seemed to hold their breath as Harry and Voldemort raised their wands at the same moment.
There was a heartbeat of silence.
Then, as if some unspoken signal had been given, they flicked their wands together, unleashing their spells without speaking a word.
A burst of silver light erupted from Harry's wand, and a nightmarish, evil black and purple sliced from Voldemort's. The spells raced across the courtyard to their targets, which was when everything went wrong.
Voldemort turned his body ever so slightly and Harry's curse harmlessly passed him.
But Voldemort's curse struck true, right in the centre of Harry's chest.
Minerva's throat seemed to close in on itself. One of her hands absently raised to her chest as, wide-eyed and frozen, she watched Harry fall backwards as if in slow-motion. A pained cry escaped his lips as the curse took effect: It appeared he was turning into dust, flakes of his body breaking away and being carried off in the wind. Every eye in the courtyard was focused entirely on Harry Potter as Voldemort's curse wiped him away.
And then he was gone.
Voldemort threw back his head and laughed while, all around the courtyard, Harry's friends and supporters collapsed to their knees, against the person beside them, against the walls behind them, unable to believe their eyes.
"At last!" Voldemort screamed for them all to hear. Minerva's gaze snapped to the monster whose sole purpose of existence seemed to be devouring the world in anguish and misery. The monster continued in joyous malice, feeding off of the sorrow that had descended on them all, "Harry Potter is—"
An incoherent bellow broke Voldemort's words. Neville Longbottom emerged from the crowd, as quick as thought. The silver glint of goblin steel flashing in the air before him, the sword of Gryffindor catching the stray bit of sunlight that passed through a hole in the castle wall.
There was a sickening squelch, and every eye watched as the Dark Lord's head rolled across the stone pavilion. No one moved as that shrouded body, now relieved of its head, dropped limply to the ground.
Lord Voldemort was dead.
Neville stood above the fallen evil with the gleaming Sword of Gryffindor in his hand and a fiery rage in his eyes. His face carved from the tears of grief and the conviction of a man moved not by hope, but desperation.
When nothing else happened, Minerva witnessed the most astounding thing.
The Death Eaters turned on each other. All of the worst Dark wizards alive were subdued under the onslaught from those they thought to be their allies and the foes that joined them, ending the battle in minutes. The Lestrange brothers, Antonin Dolohov, and so many others who had ruined so many lives: all of them were Stunned and stripped of their wands, if they were lucky enough to not be killed.
But when all was said and done, no one felt victorious.
Harry Potter was dead, as were so many others, but Harry's loss hit Minerva the hardest.
The boy who, only hours ago, had used the Cruciatus Curse in her defence.
The boy who had his father's looks and his mother's heart.
A child who had been so dear to her and yet , in the end, she had never been able to protect him. But Harry, who had been forced to grow up beyond years, had protected them all.
How cruel that they had all named him a boy, when his actions were that of a man who many could never hope to match.
Not in strength, but in his goodness.
Harry Potter, the Greatest Wizard of his Age, who saved them all and could never be repaid.
How was it that the afterlife was just as bad as the world he had left behind?
That was the biggest question on Harry's mind as his nose was assaulted by the smells of burning flesh and all sorts of other foul things. He was laying on the ground, surrounded by rubble, which by itself wasn't so unusual, considering where he had died, but the fact that he didn't recognize anything made him wish he had a wand close by.
But nope, he was alone and wandless.
And trapped. He couldn't forget being trapped beneath what looked like the ruins of an entire wall.
Harry groaned. His body was in so much pain that all he had been able to do until now was swivel his head to look around. But when he searched around him this time, he fought back the bile that rose in his throat and wished he was still unconscious, unable to see the horrors before him.
The bodies that were still burning.
Harry didn't recognize either of them, even though their faces were still mostly intact, but he couldn't bear to look any longer and turned away.
His vision darkened as the building around him trembled. Ash fell across his face, making him cough. Pain lanced through his chest, and the following wince brought that pain to the rest of his body.
Harry released a tired breath and let his eyes heavily close.
Minerva McGonagall had seen many terrible things in her life, but identifying the corpse of her second-cousin was among the worst.
"What could have done this?" Minerva asked as the white sheet was pulled over the woman who had once been Willa Ross.
Albus Dumbledore sighed as they began walking down the halls, "Not what, I am afraid, but whom. Voldemort has decided to escalate his methods."
Minerva fisted her hands. She forced her breathing to steady before she could unclench them. "Willa and her husband were on his side? Why would the Dark Lord do this? It isn't even smart, the Manor was destroyed, and their son…"
She couldn't finish the thought. Willa's aunt, and Minerva's cousin, Euphemia Potter, was with the boy now.
"The magic used was incredibly Dark in nature," Albus mentioned. "It is very likely it was experimental, or so obscure that the ritual is akin to being so."
Their footsteps sounded far too loud as they walked the distance from the St. Mungo's morgue to the lift that would take them to the main floors of the hospital. The doors pinged open and, reluctantly, Minerva entered, her heart heavy with the knowledge that Willa's son had a very slim chance of surviving his injuries.
Albus laid a soft hand on her shoulder, his eyes full of a gentle reassuring. "They will see justice for this atrocity."
Minerva said nothing. Her eyes stung with tears she would not allow herself to shed. The silence lasted what seemed an eternity in the minutes it took to ascend to the fourth floor, which was primarily known for treating patients afflicted by unliftable jinxes, hexes, and curses.
Euphemia Ross Potter stood like a sentry at her godson's bedside.
"—had help arrived any later," the healer was saying, "aside from the trauma his body received, he would have died from blood loss before we could do anything. As things stand, it is uncertain whether he will ever wake again."
"You said you were able to heal the damage." Euphemia's normally soothing tones were as sharp as a goblin-forged blade, as if by will alone she could change the diagnosis and heal her family.
"The physical damage, yes, but it remains unknown what curse he was struck with. We have no way of countering it or understanding of the trauma his mind and soul went through."
"His soul?" Euphemia demanded as Albus and Minerva took positions at her side.
The healer, a grey-haired woman with long earlobes and dark brown eyes, nodded remorsefully. "His symptoms mimic those of a victim of the Dementor's Kiss."
"He still has his soul," Euphemia stated, her voice dropping a few octaves.
"Yes, he does, but his body, mind, and soul are no longer in harmonic unity. Until, or unless, that changes, he will not wake. It is probable that he never will."
Minerva caught Euphemia's hand and squeezed it. She didn't bother with empty words of how things would be all right. Nothing about this day, this night, had turned out fine, and there was very little hope to cling on to. There were no promises that could be made, no certainties, except for a hand to hold and the presence of family and friends so that Euphemia knew she wasn't alone.
She did not need to face this horror by herself.
Euphemia held on as if Minerva had offered her a lifeline.
It was not that Euphemia was so close to her godson that his condition had brought about so much grief. Indeed, the boy's father had never allowed his son near the Potters. But Euphemia and Willa had been as close as sisters once.
Willa was gone now. All that remained of her son laid pale and bandaged in the hospital bed.
Lord Voldemort had only months ago begun his war, utilizing rampant acts of terror with his band of heartless Dark wizards.
Minerva couldn't help but wonder how much suffering would come, how many others would lose family, before this conflict's end.
When Harry woke again after dying for what he had foolishly assumed would be the last time, he wasn't in pain.
That in itself was a novelty.
Opening his eyes and the world coming into clear focus was another.
Would the miracles never cease?
Harry tried, again, to sit up.
He was able to this time, without pain or obstruction, but the simple motion left him exhausted and short of breath. He tried throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
If a woman in green robes hadn't entered the room at that moment, Harry most certainly would have landed on his face.
His body felt different: bigger, unbalanced, uncertain.
He was used to starvation, to the muscles wrapped around his bones toned by high levels of stress, if nothing else. This body was softer, a stranger to him.
"What do you think you're doing?" the mediwitch exclaimed, assisting him back into the bed. She looked stunned. "What—How—"
"Where am I?" Harry interrupted. He winced at the hoarseness of his voice. It sounded as if he hadn't used it in a very long time. His throat hurt when he spoke, but he thought it strange that it wasn't dry. Harry actually felt fairly hydrated.
"St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries."
It was only after she said it that Harry noticed the familiar emblem embroidered on her chest: a wand and bone, crossed. The only times he had seen that in his life were after Mr. Weasley had been attacked by Nagini, but the memories were vivid enough that he could recall it in painful detail.
"Wha—Why am I here?" Harry asked weakly. His head slumped back against the pillow beneath him. The last thing he remembered…
"Who was burning?" he asked. Part of him didn't want to know the answer, but he had to know that it wasn't someone he cared about. He hadn't recognized them then, but the possibility remained that he just hadn't been able to think properly. He had certainly been tired enough. "Are they—"
Harry squeezed his eyes shut when his voice refused to finish the question.
The healer softly put a hand on his arm. The sorrow in her eyes twisted his heart, made him wish he was anywhere else.
"I'm sorry, but your parents are dead."
No shit, lady, he thought but did not say, because surely he couldn't have heard her correctly. His parents had been dead for years, he had come to terms with it a very long time ago, so why was this healer acting like it was something recent?
He opened his eyes to look up at her. The healer was waving her wand over him and whispering incantations, though what she was looking for, he didn't know.
The healer didn't appear to hear him. She stood up with a soft, sad smile.
"I was only checking in," she told him. "The healer in charge of your recovery will be with you in a minute to catch you up with… Well, a lot has happened since your accident. Just rest for now."
"But what about—"
She closed the door before Harry could finish his question. His head thumped against his pillow, and he sighed.
Harry frowned. The hair falling in his face wasn't his own: It was far lighter than his, more similar to Draco Malfoy's, and it was much longer. When he reached up to brush it out of his face he noticed that his fingers weren't his either. They were longer and softer, missing the calluses he had earned through hard labour both before and during his time at Hogwarts.
He looked around for a mirror, but there wasn't one.
"Great," he muttered with a voice that wasn't his. How hadn't he noticed before now? He wasn't sure what to make of these peculiarities, but it was becoming increasingly clear that something was very, very wrong.
He laid there in silence, utterly confused, for several minutes before the door opened again and a new healer entered.
She smiled at him. "Hello, dear, it's good to see you awake."
Harry said nothing. He watched the healer cross the room to set a tray on the bedside table. The tray was nearly overflowing with potions, and he vehemently prayed that they weren't all for him.
She stood straight again and looked down at him. Her eyes were kind, though somewhat wary, and her auburn hair, pulled into a professional bun, was just beginning to turn grey on the edges. Her touch was gentle as she helped Harry sit up.
"I am Maud Ashborn," she said. "I'm the healer charged with taking care of you."
Harry frowned. "Then who was—"
"Oh, just an assistant of mine," Maud said, waving a hand. "She's recently graduated from Hogwarts, and she's here training to be a proper healer. It was her job to keep an eye on you when I'm busy with others."
Harry, figuratively, shook his head. He was still a little dizzy, but he had more important questions that he wanted, and needed, to be answered.
"Why am I here? What happened? Who—"
"Breathe," Maud interrupted, raising a hand to his cheek, but Harry pulled away. He gave her a cautious look, watching her closely.
"You're here because you were in an accident." She hesitated, biting her lip. Then her eyes steeled. "You've been in a coma for a year."
Harry stared at her, then asked, trying valiantly to restrain his sarcasm, "An accident?"
He wasn't quite sure that a war constituted an accident. No, if anything, the accident was his surviving Voldemort's attempts to murder him, again.
Maud nodded. "I'm afraid your parents did not survive."
Harry shook his head, then angrily pushed the too long hair away from his face. "Is this some kind of joke? Because if it is, it's in poor taste."
Maud stared at him, almost pityingly. "My boy, your parents—"
"Are dead. Yeah, I get it," he snapped, he had known that his entire life. It came with the territory of being an orphan. "The question is if Voldemort is dead?"
She tilted her head, "I'm sorry, who?"
Harry was exasperated at this point, either this healer didn't know who he was, perhaps because of his appearance, or she was having him on, "Can I speak with Hermione? Where is she?"
"Hermione Granger, Undesirable No. 2."
The healer just looked more confused.
Harry sighed, "How about McGonagall?"
"Oh, yes, she and your aunt—"
"Petunia was here? At St. Mungo's?" Harry demanded, thinking this had gone way beyond absurdity.
"No, Mr. Malfoy," the healer said, "Euphemia Potter."
Harry gaped at her.
"Okay, hold on, I think I've missed something. How did I get here again?"
"You were in an accident."
"What kind of accident?" he asked. He swore, if she said 'car crash' he was going back to sleep. Really, in all truth, how bad was a coma?
"Some type of curse that not even Professor Dumbledore could identify caused an explosion in your home and destroyed it from the inside out."
Two things were wrong with that statement. The first: Harry didn't have a home, because even number four, Privet Drive, had been cleared out. And second: Dumbledore was most definitely dead.
But then, Harry should have been as well. Maybe this was just some fantastical afterlife; the next adventure, as Dumbledore had once called it.
"Your parents died and you were buried under the rubble. By the time you were found… Well, you are very lucky to be alive, Mr. Malfoy."
There was that name again.
But Harry decided to leave that for later. "Dumbledore is alive?"
"Last I checked," she answered, her bedside manner seeming to wane at his lack of understanding.
That made two of them.
"And when was that?" Harry asked, because if he had been in a coma for a year, then Dumbledore had been dead for two years.
"Two days ago, when he visited you along with Professor McGonagall."
"Days?" Harry repeated, a sinking feeling entering his gut as he realized how deeply wrong things were proving to be.
Harry swallowed. "When you say my parents are dead, who exactly are you referring to?"
Maud's slight annoyance faltered as she too realized that something was wrong. Her gaze softened. "Abraxas and Willa Malfoy. Can you tell me your full name?"
Harry felt the world spin, and this time, when he threw himself out of bed, he didn't care that his vision swam. He leaned hard on his knees on the cold tile flooring, but he scrambled away from Maud, who tried to help. He used the wall to get back to his feet, his path set on the small open door that had to lead to a restroom. The world kept spinning, the vertigo increasing his nausea with every step, but he made it.
When he was able to focus his gaze on the memory, he didn't see himself. No, he saw a young man with white-blond hair, pale grey eyes, and even paler skin.
In his own reflection, Lucius Malfoy stared back at him in horror.
Harry was left frozen, at a complete loss as to what to think or do. Of all the things that could have happened to him, this idea had never crossed his darkest of nightmares.
He let the healer lead him back to bed without another word. He couldn't even hear her questions over the ringing in his own ears and the pounding of his heart. He took the lineup of potions without complaint.
Harry Potter wasn't dead, but this might just be worse.
AN: Hi readers, Sectumus speaking. (Typing? Whatever.) Please leave Apples lots of friendly reviews. If you do, I'll give you a cookie. If it's a very friendly review then you'll get TWO cookies. Sounds like a good deal, am I right?