Disclaimer: I own nothing. JK Rowling owns all. Don't we all wish we were her?
Summary: The summer after 'Order of the Phoenix', Harry is depressed and angry. And he starts thinking. Is death really irreversible?
Spoilers for: Books 1 to 5. (HBP never happened. Really.)
Harry took a large helping of spinache and potatoes. He ignored the distrustful looks some of the Order members were sending him – Moody's one was worst – and tried to make some small talk. Since nearly everyone was waiting impatiently until he answered their questions, Harry turned to Ron. Good old Ron.
"So, the Bigonville Bombers won?"
Ron nodded, and mumbled around his second helping of sausages: "Muhuh. Dey swached-eh mehpees i'do lid'l pees."
"Ron, don't talk with your mouth full," Hermione chastised him.
"Sowwee." Ron swallowed, and repeated his sentence. "They squashed the Magpies into little pieces. Honestly, it was most brutal game I've seen so far. The Seeker of the Magpies had to be carried from the field in three bags." He started refilling his plate. "Of course, the Healers managed to put him back together eventually."
Harry grinned back, but he felt a small nagging feeling in the back of his head. It felt as if he was missing something... But what?
Then it struck him. "Where are Fred and George?"
The tenseness in the atmospheer intensified, though now it was accompanied with sorrow. Arthur coughed softly. His eyes were moist behind his glasses. "Harry... They defended the Wizarding Child's Clinic against You-Know-Who's attack."
Harry frowned. "I don't know anything that has occurred in the last few months. What happened?"
From the looks on their faces, he could tell it was nothing good. Hermione reached out and took his hand. "Harry..." Her voice wavered," – they died protecting the children."
Harry was silent for a moment, digesting this unpleasant news. "How long ago was this? And how exactly did they die?"
"Two weeks ago," Molly whispered. "The Killing Curse." She hugged her husband, crying softly.
A gleam entered Harry's eyes. "Were they cremated?"
Remus frowned. "No, they weren't."
"Did you use the standard preservative charms on them?"
"Well... yes." Arthur looked up, his eyes fixing on Harry's. "Are you saying..."
The young Necromancer nodded. "It might not be too late. I don't want to give you any false hope, because there's a big chance they're too far gone, but two weeks shouldn't be too much to counter. If the preservative charms worked properly, of course."
Molly Weasley threw her arms around him and pulled him into a –literally- breathtaking hug. Harry smiled uncertainly. "I can't promise anything, Mrs. Weasley."
"You shouldn't put your hopes up, Molly," growled Moody. "Perhaps Harry here just wants their bodies to be added to his undead army."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I don't even have an undead army. Not yet, anyway. Tomorrow, I propose we go first to Fred and George, and then I have to pay a visit to Azkaban."
"To visit the Queen of the Dementors, of course. To finish off Voldemort, we'll need all the help we can get."
"I wasn't aware the Dementors had a Queen," Remus commented.
Harry smiled slightly. "There are more things you aren't aware of, Remus."
He helped Ginny clean up the table. With a wave of his wand he made the dishes do themselves.
Hermione blinked. "That reminds me, Harry. How did you manage to learn any magic at all this past year? The Ministry Tracking Charms that notify them at the use of Underage Magic should have given you away."
"Those things? I had them disabled until I turned seventeen." Harry glanced at the calender hanging on the wall. "Which I did precisely twenty-five days ago."
Some of the Order members had already left the kitchen and went to the dining room, where the Order meeting would be held. Harry and the other members followed them. On the way to their chairs they passed Poppy, who was still casting charm after charm on Sirius Black. Harry stopped for a moment. "Are you sure nothing is wrong wih him?"
"Seeing as he's been dead for a long while, Mr. Black is suprisingly healthy," Poppy answered, ceasing her spells. "He will probably be disoriented when he wakes up, and the next days he will be lightheaded and easly tired. But I can find nothing else that'll be a problem, and he can wake up any minute now."
Harry was relieved. "That's wonderful."
"He's alive!" This cry came from a very familiar figure next to Professor Dumbledore, who had just entered the room. The other remaining Order members had arrived.
The man who had yelled regained his composure. He glared at Sirius and Harry. The Potions Master's eyes narrowed when he saw the skulls in Harry's hair. "You must be joking." Severus Snape had not changed a thing in Harry's absence. "Why are you playing this masqerade, Potter? Get rid of those pins! You can't make anyone believe you actually know what they mean, let alone you earned them!"
It was typically Snape, and this time Harry was not letting the Potions Master walk all over him.
Harry smiled coldly, letting loose a bit of his power. In this house, infested with Dark Arts, it was ridiculously easy to take hold of the dormant magic in the air. He made the lights dim a little, and an icy breeze go through the room.
"Don't assume you know me, Professor. Now, sit down. We have much to discuss, and I'm sure you all want to know what I've been doing this past few months."
A silence had descended on the table. All the Order members were staring at him. It was Dumbledore who broke the silence. "Very well. Everyone, please take a seat. Let the meeting begin."
As soon as everyone was seated Harry took the lead. "Do you guys want the long version or the the short one?"
"The one wich gives us the most information, please," wanted Dumbledore. "How and why exactly did you leave your guardians?"
Harry grimaced. "That's something I wanted to talk to you about, yes. You said the wards on their house were love-based. But I'm fairly certain they would gladly hand me to Voldemort if he offered to to pay them. Wards that are based on non-existent feelings are rather... ineffective."
"Surely your guardians love you," protested Hestia Jones.
Ron was the one who answered. "They put bars on Harry's window in second year."
"My Hogwarts' letter was addressed to 'the cupboard under the stairs'," Harry told them. "That was the 'room' I lived in until I got to Hogwarts. No, there is no love lost between my guardians and me." He shrugged. "It's the past. I didn't need to like them to live with them." He ignored their looks of pity and continued his story. "So I was stuck with people who hate me right after my godfather died. And don't forget the Prophecy."
Ron glanced up. "Wasn't the Prophecy destroyed last year?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "No, Ron. You can't destroy a Prophecy, only the recording of it."
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "I happened to be present when a Seer made this Prophecy. After the happenings at the Departement of Mystries I told Harry."
"And after I got the chance to think about it, I wasn't suprised," Harry said grimly. "The gist of it was just that Voldemort and I would end up against eachother, and only one of us who would walk away from that encounter. As if we really needed a Seer to predict this." He sighed. "Of course, if Voldemort hadn't heard of the Prophecy, he wouldn't have come after my parents and me, I wouldn't be 'marked as his equal' and my parents would still be alive." He closed his eyes for a moment, lost in thoughts of what could have been.
Hermione broke the silence with a soft: "You can't... bring them back?"
Harry shook his head. "It's been too long. And even if, it would not be fair to take away the peace they now enjoy." He breathed in deeply. "Anyway, I had a lot of time to think during my time at the Dursleys. I couldn't accept Sirius' death, and decided to order some books about magical artifacts and the Department of Mysteries."
"Where? There are no books about the Department of Mysteries," Kingsley wanted to know.
Harry showed them a sheepish smile. "Would you believe me if I told you I dreamed it? At the start of the summer I was a... little reckless. I sort of followed one of those visions of Voldemort back into his head, and I may have accidently stumbled upon some memories of the Post Order address of an obscure little bookshop in Knockturn Alley." Harry tried to look innocent but failed.
Everyone reacted at once.
"You were in Voldemort's head!" Hermione.
"You're a failure at Occlumency, the Dark Lord would have noticed you immediatly!" Snape. Of course.
"A shop in Knockturn?" Moody's growl.
"Harry, that was a very reckless thing to do." And Dumbledore.
Harry waited until they all had quieted down. Then: "Believe it or not, I can be very lucky. I ordered those books. While I was waiting for the owls to bring them, I observed you guys when you were guarding me. The weakest spot appeared to be Mundungus, and it was on his shift that I slipped away. As soon as I had read the books, of course."
Angry glances at Dung, who fidgeted with the loose treads of his left robe sleeve and looked very guilty.
"I spent the next few days wondering what to do. Because one book said only a Necromancer could pull a person from the Veil, I decided I had to either find one, or become one myself. The first option proved to be a big problem." Harry sipped from the tea Molly had just poured him, and smiled in thanks before continuing. "Since I read that Necromancy is a Dark Art, I disguised my scar with muggle cosmetics, dyed my hair blonde with a spell, hid my eyes behind a pair of sunglasses, and went to Knockturn Alley." He grinned at their incredulous looks. "It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I asked some shopkeepers if they could point me to a Necromancer, but they all gave me blank looks. After a few days of searching – I rented a room in one dingy Knockturn hotel, an experience I hope I must never relive again – a group of wizards approached me, telling me they had some books on Necromancy. If I would just come inside and take a look? I believe I already told you I was a little reckless those days? Well, I followed them. And I must admit: what they gave me was more useful than any book, though at the time I wasn't so pleased. As soon as the door had closed behind me, one of them used the Killing Curse on me."
"And you survived it again!"
Harry smiled faintly. "Not exactly."
His smile broadened at the sight of their dumbfounded faces. "I sort of... woke up, and found myself in a strange, grey place, in the middle of a stone forest. In the distance I could see a silver river winding through trees of stone. It was an odd thing to see, but even odder was the being standing right behind me. He gave me quite a scare when I first saw him. Understandably I'm a bit jumpy around people with long dark robes and hoods. He introduced himself as Death." He frowned, looking thoughtful. "I'm calling Death a him because that's the shape he showed to me, but I believe he's genderless. Death isn't a man or a woman. Death simply is."
"You met Death," Snape deadpanned.
Harry nodded. "He isn't really a people person, I know. He doesn't often talk to the souls he guides, but he is not half bad. Anyway, after he convinced me that he truly was Death and not one of Voldemort's lackeys, he told me I had messed up the natural order of things." He grinned. "I'm good at that."
"Unsuprisingly," murmured Snape.
Harry ignored that. "To understand what he told me, you must know a few things. First: Fate is another being like Death, only more powerful and it controls a lot of things. The second thing is that Fate cannot mess with free will. It can influence it a bit, though. For example, Fate can decide you'll lose all your money in one night, but it can't make you commit suicide because of it. It can help things along a bit, by giving you other reasons to do it, but it can't force you. Prophecy is a strong weapon of Fate, to move things along on the path it wants us to take." Harry breathed in deeply. "The third thing is about the Veil. It's a gateway between the stone forest and this reality, as you probably have guessed by now. It was created by Fate for when free will messes something up and there's no way to repair the damage without messing it up even more. The beings who were the cause of this problem would be guided to the Veil and fall through it. Why couldn't Fate get rid of them in another way? Because that would leave tracks. A body, a bloodstain, ash, it doesn't matter. Someone who falls through the Veil is supposed to be completely erased. And they are. That's why there is no record of anyone falling through it. Except Sirius, of course."
Harry shrugged. "Seems that Fate had decided I had to face Voldemort, and I wasn't supposed to die before fulfilling this Prophecy. Sirius' free will led him to the Departement of Mysteries that night. His free will led him there. He wasn't supposed to fall through the Veil, and that's one of the reasons it was so easy to bring him back. But it was Sirius' death that made me go to Knockturn Alley, and got me killed before I could fulfill the Prophecy. By dying, I ruined Fate's Plan." He smiled. "So it had to fix things. As you probably don't know, a Necromancer can survive the Killing Curse. Only once, though. The Killing Curse turns the Death Magic dormant, and prevents it to shield against the second Killing Curse. This is something I learned from Death, and I'm guessing it's rather obscure knowledge. It probably hasn't happened before in this reality, thus you all think there's no way to survive Avada Kedavra. There is." He took a deep breath. "So Fate decided to awaken my dormant Death Magic and bring me back amongst the living. It made it so that I'm shielded against all Avada Kedavra's, until Voldemort fires one at me. A second one and I'm toast. But for now I'm feeling rather safe."
Another long, deep breath. "I spent a lot of time with Death before he sent me back. He didn't want the magic to overwhelm me, and taught me quite a few things. I won't bore you with the details. I must say, being in his domain changes you. I realise I'm not quite acting like the person you guys knew, but I can assure you I'm still the same Harry. Anyway, I got sent back to the exact time I died. You should have seen the faces of those Dark Wizards when they realised their Killing Curse had failed!" An amused smile. "Then I spent the next year researching in other countries, and found a lot of books on Necromancy. I still needed to find a way to bring back Sirius. I didn't follow the news, so I don't know anything about Voldemort's activities while I was gone."
The Order members didn't get a chance to react to Harry's story, because Poppy entered the room. On her leant a pale Sirius Black. "Hi guys," he croaked.
Mouths dropped open. It seemed some people hadn't really dared to believe Sirius was alive until they saw him walking around. Tonks stumbled towards him, nearly tripped three times and pulled Sirius in a quick hug. Remus was openly crying, tears wetting his huge smile. The last true Marauder wasn't te last any longer.
Sirius smiled weakly at them all, but it was his godson his eyes found first. "Harry."
Harry rose fluidly. But what use was keeping up appearances on a moment like this? It was impossible. Harry didn't cry – he just threw his arms around Sirius, like the child he hadn't been for a long time.
Sirius patted his back, hugging back with all his current strenght. "Shh... I'm back." The small silver skulls caught his eyes. Understanding dawned in them. "You're the one who... You did it for me, didn't you?"
Madame Pomphrey cleared her throat. Harry let go, and helped her to guide Sirius to a chair. The nurse handed Sirius a vial. "This will help with your voice. And don't you dare overexert yourself, young man! If I hear that you've not been resting enough I'll personally bind you to your bed."
The tired grey eyes acquired their old mischievous gleam. "I didn't know you were into that sort of thing, Poppy."
Madame Pomphrey made an undignified sound. "Obviously dying hasn't changed your personality for the good, Mr Black. Drink that potion."
Sirius grinned faintly. "Woof." He obediently did as he was told. The potion soothed his painful throat and made talking easier.
He looked at Harry, who had taken the seat next to him. "How did you do it?"
"Well, it was actually not very difficult, but very tiring. It was merely a slight bending of alternate realities mixed with some Orphean Rites and the Calling of Libitina –" He noticed their uncomprehending faces. "Err... I'll just drop the technicalities."
"Please do," Ron added, ignoring Hermione's little disappointed sound. "I didn't understand a word of that, mate."
Harry smiled at him, and turned to his godfather. "Let me translate it into normal English: I stuck my magic into the Veil and pulled you out of it."
"What was it like, being in the Veil? How much do you remember?" asked Kingsley.
Sirius frowned. "I remember the battle in the Department of Mysteries, and falling into the Veil. Then... nothing. I was drifting into a white nothingness. I couldn't really think or see or feel anything, now I'm looking back... It was simply – Nothing existed, so I shouldn't either, but I think I did keep a faint sense of self. I don't know how long I've been there, doubting if I was real, but it felt like weeks... Too long. I think I was going mad, if there was an 'I' left, of course..." He took a deep breath. Harry put his hand on Sirius', offering silent support.
Sirius swallowed, and continued. "Then a dark beam disrupted the nothingness, calling me towards it. I rode the beam, and the next thing I know I'm lying in a couch with Madame Pomphrey frowning at me."
He smiled shakingly at Harry. "I don't understand how you did it, but thank you."
A short silence. Then Arthur Weasley cleared his voice. "Sirius... It weren't weeks. You've been gone for an entire year."
"A- a year?"
Harry averted his eyes. "I should have tried to pull you out sooner. But I wasn't ready. I didn't feel ready. I'm sorry."
Sirius snorted. "You revived me and you're sorry? If you'll excuse me, I don't mind you took the time to study, instead of experimenting with the Veil and perhaps not succeeding." He looked at Dumbledore. "What have I missed in my year of absence?"
"Voldemort has been attacking almost all magical communities in Europe," Dumbledore said. "Durmstrang, Diagon Alley, Beauxbatons, Ministries of Magic... Saint Mungo's. Schools for young wizards and witches. We only barely managed to keep him from Hogsmeade..."
"You specified 'almost' all magical communities. Why? Is there a place he didn't attack?" wondered Sirius aloud.
Moody answered. "He hasn't yet attacked Belgium. The laws on Dark Magic are almost non-existent in that infernal land. It's probably filled with Death Eaters. Why would Voldemort attack his allies?"
Harry frowned. "I spent a lot of last year in Belgium, and I haven't seen any Death Eaters. Just because their laws are less strict doesn't mean they're all evil."
"Where else have you been?" asked Remus, before Moody could start arguing with Harry.
"Well, I visited Egypt, Bulgary and a few African countries. I've been to Asia too. Tibet was particulary beautiful." He yawned. "If you don't mind, I would really like some sleep now. Tomorrow will be a hard day for me. Sweet dreams."
When Harry had left the room, an uneasy dicussion started.
"He has certainly changed," mused Remus.
"Not for the good," growled Moody. "It's the most horrible of Dark Arts, Albus. We'll have another Dark Lord on our hands, mark my words."
"I admit I am worried about Harry, yes." Dumbledore's eyes had lost their twinkle. "He has been learning things that could easily sway him to the side of Evil."
"He saved my life. He did it for me," defended Sirius his godson.
"Yes, but he has turned Dark because of it," snapped Molly Weasley. "Dark Magic leads to evil."
"He certainly has the power to be very dangerous," Hermione added slowly.
Ron glared at her. "He's still our friend, 'Mione. And Mum, he's going to bring Fred and George back! He's obviously on our side!"
Arthur put an arm around his wife. "You can't argue that, my dear. Let us hope he can bring them back..."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Snape muttered. "He has been learning something, that's obvious, but I doubt he's a true Necromancer."
"He Banished the soul from Mrs. Black's portrait. The one we couldn't remove because she had put some strong Dark Arts wards on it," countered Hestia.
"That doesn't make him a Necromancer." Snape narrowed his eyes. He would have to keep a very close eye on Potter...