They were a tangle of limbs in the broom closet.
Harry finally pulled himself away to see Albus Dumbledore there. The boy scrambled to his feet and looked around desperately, but the others were gone… except for, of course, Melusine. She lashed out, straight at Dumbledore, but a flash of flames stopped her strike.
Fawkes had caught her in his talons.
"Please don't, please," Harry begged the bird.
He swore Fawkes was intelligent, because the phoenix simply sang and flew low over him, dropping the protesting Melusine onto Harry. The bird then reappeared on his master's shoulder.
"Harry?" Dumbledore asked it softly, concern evident in his bright blue eyes.
Harry's heart ached. He slowed his searching.
Hands gently touched his shoulders and he looked up to see Dumbledore soul-piercing gaze. He didn't understand what Dumbledore was saying…
Harry shook his head, feeling strange.
He did understand. It had just been so long since he had heard anyone speaking that he had nearly forgotten. How strange.
"I was happy." Harry whispered it and he was surprised to see a tear fall from the elderly Headmaster's eyes. He took a deep breath.
"Where were you?" asked Dumbledore gently. "The ritual I performed was a variation of an alchemaic one, not one in any book."
This did not surprise Harry.
"I was here at Hogwarts." Harry looked around the broom closet. Silver Arrow brooms, similar, surprisingly, to the ones he had crafted. Perhaps it had been inspired by him… just as he had been inspired by them.
Time was a loop. It would give him a headache.
Dumbledore stared at him, but Harry could see the worry still there.
"I helped make Hogwarts." Harry could not control himself and he could see Dumbledore's eyes widen with clear surprise. He rubbed Melusine's head, trembling. "She's Salazar's pet. She was assigned to protect me."
"Oh dear," murmured Dumbledore. His voice was subdued, soft and low, full of sympathy and pain. "How long were you there?"
"Over a year," said Harry, missing that short life already. "I taught classes, I taught Charms and Flying and I had… I had Rowena…"
Dumbledore was silent, gently ushering Harry away from the broom shed. They walked, though Harry paid no heed to where they were going… not until they had reached the stone gargoyle. Dumbledore gave the password, it sprang aside, and he and Harry went up the moving spiral staircase to the oak door.
The elderly man helped Harry into a chair in front of the desk. He sat down opposite Harry, behind his desk, and looked at Harry.
Harry looked back at him, not bothering to hide the pain.
"It's only the end of August." Dumbledore's voice was so gentle and low that Harry could not help but rub at his eyes, at the tears welling up. "Your friends are in Diagon Alley. I have been attempting to bring you back since you vanished at the beginning of this month."
"Time must have flowed different." Harry's voice trembled. "Godric did something. Like you said, an experiment, he messed up and… and brought me there."
Dumbledore was silent.
"Could you send me back?" Harry did not care how desperate he sounded. "Please, Professor, please. They need me. The kids do, the staff do, they… they were listening, even Salazar did a little. Please."
"Oh Harry." Dumbledore looked truly apologetic. "I would, but I cannot."
"Please. You brought me here, you can send me back."
Harry trembled and he felt Melusine do the same.
"If not for me, then for Melusine, this isn't her time, she's Salazar's, it's not… it's not right." He paused before translating for Melusine who surprised him by shaking her head ferociously.
"Master told me to protect you. He didn't say time mattered. I am staying with you, Harry."
Tears sprung to Harry's eyes once more and all he could do was rub the snake's head.
He looked back at Dumbledore, desperate, aching to go back to where someone had loved him just for him, who had not cared about his fame, who had not cared about the time travel or anything.
Rowena had just loved him, as her own, no questions asked, no requirements necessary.
"Harry, I owe you an explanation," said Dumbledore. For a moment, the dazzling sunlight, visible over the mountains outside, fell upon Dumbledore, upon the silver of his eyebrows and beard, upon the lines gouged deeply into his face. "You are exactly where and when you need to be."
How could that be? Dumbledore sounded so very sure, while Harry… Harry didn't know any more.
His heart ached to be back… to go home.
"How can you be so sure?" asked Harry finally.
Dumbledore was silent for a moment before he sighed deeply, closed his eyes and buried his face in his long-fingered hands. Harry watched him, but this uncharacteristic sign of exhaustion, or sadness, or whatever it was from Dumbledore, it did not help him any. How could Dumbledore be so sure of Harry's place when Harry didn't even know it?
"I think it too soon to share this with you," said the man finally. "Still I know I must. Two years ago, you arrived at Hogwarts, safe and whole, as I had planned and intended. Well - not quite whole. You had suffered. I knew you would when I left you on your aunt and uncle's doorstep. I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years."
"Why?" Harry could not help himself. "Why couldn't anyone take me in?"
The realization of losing once more of what he had finally gotten a taste of ached unlike anything Harry had known.
Perhaps Dumbledore knew this because he closed his eyes for another moment. He spoke quietly, "My priority was to keep you alive, Harry. You were in more danger than perhaps anyone but I realized. Voldemort had been vanquished hours before, but his supporters - and many of them are almost as terrible as he - were still at large, angry, desperate and violent. And I had to make my decision, too, with regard to the years ahead. Did I believe that Voldemort was gone forever? No. I knew not whether it would be ten, twenty or fifty years before he returned, but I was sure he would do so, and I was sure, too, knowing him as I have done, that he would not rest until he killed you."
Harry stayed silent. He found himself thinking of Salazar.
Godric had stayed silent in hopes that Harry could make his friend be better… and it had worked.
"There are charms and wards here, at Hogwarts." Harry spoke quietly, looking up. He knew this much. He had helped cast them, after all. "Why not disguise me and have me under protection that way?"
"Because Voldemort's knowledge of magic is perhaps more extensive than any wizard alive," admitted Dumbledore, looking pained. "Even my most complex and powerful protective spells and charms were unlikely to be invincible if he ever returned to full power."
Harry did not know what to think. He stayed silent, letting Dumbledore speak.
"But I knew, too, where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated - to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother's blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative."
"She doesn't love me." Harry could not understand, he knew what it was like now, having a parent's love, and how it burned to lose it!
"But she took you," Dumbledore spoke firmly. "She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you."
"I… I don't understand."
And he didn't.
"While you can still call home the place where your mother's blood dwells," explained Dumbledore, "there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, while you are there he cannot hurt you. Your aunt knows this. I explained what I had done in the letter I left, with you, on her doorstep. She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past thirteen years."
Harry slowly nodded. "Which you had planned."
"So… so what's that have to do with me staying here?"
"You remember the events of your first year at Hogwarts quite as clearly as I do. You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you and sooner - much sooner - than I had anticipated, you found yourself face to face with Voldemort. You survived again. You did more. You delayed his return to full power and strength. You fought a man's fight. I was… prouder of you than I can say."
Harry remembered the points he had earned, the downfall of Slytherin House's streak of winning the House Cup.
"Yet there was a flaw in this wonderful plan of mine," said Dumbledore. "An obvious flaw that I knew, even then, might be the undoing of it all. And yet, knowing how important it was that my plan should succeed, I told myself that I would not permit this flaw to ruin it. I alone could prevent this, so I alone must be strong. And here was my first test, as you lay in the hospital wing, weak from your struggle with Voldemort."
"I don't understand what any of this has to do with my being here," said Harry, wanting to weep. "Please, Dumbledore, just tell me."
"Don't you remember asking me, as you lay in the hospital wing, why Voldemort had tried to kill you when you were a baby?"
"Ought I to have told you then?"
Harry stared into the blue eyes, his heart racing. He was beginning to see.
"Voldemort." Harry said it quietly. "I can't go back because of Voldemort?"
At Dumbledore's exhausted, tired nod, the boy could not control himself.
"But there are loads of people that can fight him! I'm just me!"
"Voldemort will never, ever, stop looking for you," said Dumbledore simply.
"Because of the reason he tried to kill you." Dumbledore sighed. "When you were an infant, a prophecy was made shortly before your birth. He knew the prophecy had been made, though he did not know its full contents. He set out to kill you when you were still a baby, believing he was fulfilling the terms of the prophecy. He discovered, to his cost, that he was mistaken, when the curse intended to kill you backfired."
Harry went very still.
Dumbledore got to his feet and walked past Harry to the black cabinet that stood beside Fawkes's perch. He bent down, slid back a catch and took from inside it a shallow stone basin, carved with runes around the edges with a strange silvery fluid within it. Dumbledore walked back to the desk, placed the basin upon it, and raised his wand to his own temple. From it, he withdrew silvery, gossamer-fine strands that clung to the wand and deposited them into the basin.
"For when one has too many thoughts in their mind," explained the man, as he sat back down behind his desk.
"That stuff's your thoughts?"
Harry stared as Dumbledore nodded and watched his thoughts swirl and drift inside the Pensieve for a moment. Then, with a sigh, he raised his wand and prodded the silvery substance with its tip.
A figure rose out of it, draped in shawls, her eyes magnified to enormous size behind her glasses, and she revolved slowly; her feet in the basin.
"The one with the power to vanquish the - Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"
The slowly revolving figure sank back into the silver mass below and vanished. The silence within the office was absolute. Neither Dumbledore nor Harry nor any of the portraits made a sound. Even Fawkes had fallen silent.
"Professor Dumbledore?" Harry said very quietly, for Dumbledore, still staring at the Pensieve, seemed completely lost in thought. "It… did that mean… what did that mean?"
"It meant," said Dumbledore, "that the person who has the only chance of conquering Lord Voldemort for good was born at the end of July, nearly thirteen years ago. This boy would be born to parents who had already defied Voldemort three times."
Harry felt numb and cold.
Finally, he spoke.
"The end of the prophecy... it was something about neither... can live..."
"… while the other survives," said Dumbledore.
"So," said Harry, dredging up the words from what felt like a deep well of despair inside him, "so does that mean that… that one of us has got to kill the other one… in the end?"
"Yes," said Dumbledore.
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Harry's mind raced.
This was why. It was why he had been made to return to this time. To fight Voldemort, to make sure he could not hurt others the way he had hurt Harry.
The boy rubbed at his eyes but took a deep breath. For a brief time, he had known the love of a parent. For a brief time, he had been happy.
He had been a professor. He had tried to keep the students safe.
Once more, he was student instead of teacher. But that had not changed; to keep the others safe. To protect and help them.
Yet, as he rubbed Melusine's head, he knew back then, he had not been alone.
The boy looked at Dumbledore.
"I guess this is where I have to be." He said it painfully, the ache within him stronger than ever.
The headmaster leaned over his desk, his gaze piercing.
"What were you called in that time?"
Slowly, Harry smiled.
"Professor Harry Wyllt."
He was surprised to see Dumbledore's eyes widen and then start to twinkle.
"The first Headmaster of Hogwarts, whose tenure was cut regrettably short. One of Hogwarts's greatest mysteries."
"Headmaster?" Harry echoed.
"Indeed." Dumbledore smiled, "I do hope I do you proud."
Harry could not help his own smile, despite how heavy his heart felt.
He was going to be very busy. He stood once more, pausing as he caught a glimpse of the Sorting Hat. Memories of Godric running around with it atop his head made Harry smile.
"Perhaps a more detailed glimpse into the people behind the legends would be a fitting tribute?" suggested Dumbledore.
"Yeah. Their students are their legacy. And I was all of their student."
With that, petting Melusine, Harry Potter left the Headmaster's office. He had a long path to walk, and a lot of preparation to do for it.
First he would weep for what he had lost… and then write it down, perhaps acquire a pensieve to make sure he never forgot it, to make sure others could see the people behind the legends.
And then he would honor that legacy the best he could.
All of that, however, would be in due time… no matter what era that happened to be.
My dear fellow Harry Potter fans, I say this with the utmost love and awe, but you people are insane, do you know that?
Back in 2006, I started this story in between classes on a tiny netbook.
For over ten years, I repeat, OVER TEN YEARS, people have requested redos, sequels, fixes, ranted at me… you name it. That's right everyone, it truly has been that long.
I honestly have no words except for Wow and, of course, thank you. :)
Thank you for noticing me, my work, and being so invested that for literal years, you have spoken up.
I altered things, based on bits of canon and lore that didn't exist, as well as adjusted the style of speaking and the like. The original story, I downloaded and saved. It's still here, so if anyone wants it, just ask in a private message and I'd be happy and honored to oblige.
As for a sequel, even to this brief redo, I'm honestly not sure. Likely not, but who knows what the future holds.
Thanks for sticking around this long and for reading!