A/N: The scene played out in my head today, much after reading the massively good fiction Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Future Past by S'TarKan. Hopefully this will go somewhere and not just be an exercise in futility, but I do have ideas beyond a single scene. Sets up an AU. Time Travel Harry. Standard pairings.
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Prologue: Second Chances
Sunlight was a thing that Harry Potter had not known for a long time. It actually seemed that the world was constantly in a state of gray nowadays. Yet today was a day where the sun made a welcome appearance, and it crept through the small window in the Hut on the Rock. It was his home, his last home, his last sanctuary as it were.
As had been the case for years since, he instinctively tried to drive out the nightmares that had plagued him through the night. They had actually been quite minute the previous few nights, only popping up when he let his guard down. The practice of keeping occulumency shields up for prolonged periods of time made him used to not really sleeping for prolonged periods of time. It was often he would go two or three weeks with only a few hours sleep caught here and there when he knew he could let his guard down. But he'd allowed himself to splurge as it were these last few days, nightmares be damned. He had earned his rest. After all these years it was over.
After 30 years, the prophecy had finally been fulfilled. Voldemort was gone.
The more Harry allowed himself to think of that, the more it numbed the pain of the thoughts that came of it. He had won, he had fulfilled Dumbledore's prophecy, but the cost had been high. Far too high.
Hermione had been the first to die. Seeing her die in Ron's arms was something that to this day plagued everyone of his nightmares. She had been killed fending off an attack from Death Eaters just prior to his 7th year. They had all assembled for a small birthday at Grimmauld Place when Bellatrix Lestrange and a caveat of Death Eaters attacked. Most people weren't hurt in the early going, but Hermione had never been as quick to think on her feet as Harry or Ron. She had dived in front of Ron to block what she thought was a stunner, having not heard the incantation. It had been the Killing Curse.
Harry was only partially conscious to see what happened next when his best friend stood up from Hermione's lifeless body to stare down Lestrange. He woke up three days later to find that Ron had used the killing curse himself for the first time in his life, and then left Bellatrix's body a burning husk in the yard of Grimmauld Place.
He became relatively quiet after that.
Their remaining friends rallied around them and Hogwarts was closed for his seventh year. The Battle of Grimmauld as it was known had been the unofficial start of the Death Eater War. An underground war was started with three different factions: The Death Eaters, the Ministry and the Order of the Phoenix acting outside of the Ministry's control.
The war had gone badly in the beginning, due in part to the inaction between the Ministry and the Order in coordinating attacks. It was a moot point though, as most of the Ministry had been destroyed by the end of the second year of the 14 year war. The Order had used the now abandoned Hogwarts school for their HQ, but it was under constant assault. Slowly but surely his friends and family were killed in the melee.
The Weasley parents and the twins had been wiped out by a fire at the Burrow, with Harry powerless to save them. Bill had died at the Battle of Gringott's after the fall of Hogwarts, defending the goblins with his last breath. Charlie had stuck with the Order but been killed at the fall of Hogwarts.
Harry's eyes stung as he went through the Weasley's fates one by one and stopped on a red-headed angel that he would soon rather erase the memory of than linger on. He and Ginny had gotten back together shortly after the Battle of Grimmauld, almost out of necessity to keep Ron from killing himself than anything else. The red-headed boy had never admitted his feelings to Hermione, something he had regretted to his dying day. He remembered something Ron had told him..."don't let her go Harry. Don't ever let her go."
He hadn't. They had been married about a year after that, though they never celebrated too much, constantly being on the run and hunting Horcruxes. It had been some 7 years prior when Voldemort launched an all-out assault on the castle, and Ginny had been killed by the heir of Slytherin personally...using her to create a new Horcrux out of the sword of Gryffindor. Seeing her mangled body on the grounds was a memory that nearly consumed everything he had then and there, and he had struggled for almost 4 months just to make any kind of action and come out of the malaise that had threatened his life.
Shaking off the memories of everything and fighting back his tears, Harry stalked out of bed, inadvertently letting out a small yawn. He walked over and grabbed the best set of robes he could find and headed for the small shower. It wasn't much of a bathroom that the Hunt on the Rock had, just a small showering area with a small lavatory to match and an even smaller wash basin next to that. But after days on the run at times, it was nice to have running water, even if it could be bonechillingly cold at times.
Harry stood under the shower and took a look in the small hand mirror that hung from the head. He was a right mess, he knew that much. Half his body was covered in scars that would never disappear, the one on his forehead chief among them. His hair was a complete lost cause, hanging down into the middle of his back and usually held together by a loose ponytail. It was his eyes that had changed the most, he internally thought. Gone was the emerald gaze that glistened with youthful vigor and life, only to be replaced with a duller shade of the color, any sign of a twinkle absent. He rubbed his chin and made a mental note to shave at the most convenient time, whenever he could find another blade anyway. He wouldn't risk being discovered by something so simple as conjuring a razor blade.
He almost laughed at a time when the worst punishment for such a thing would simply be expulsion from Hogwarts, now it more than likely meant a quick death at the hands of the religious fundamentalists if you were lucky, or if you were unlucky being locked away in a "detention camp," where the Muggle scientists could see what made the wizards tick.
Yes, life had been much simpler back before the muggles knew about magic.
The statue of secrecy had been destroyed about five years earlier as more and more countries devolved into the Death Eater war that had started in Britain. At first the governments had passed it off as terrorists, but eventually they came clean.
In a way it had been a blessing in disguise, Harry reminded himself. The muggles hunting wizards had forced Voldemort to go on the defensive, even if only for a short while, and had allowed the remainder of the Order of the Phoenix to regroup. They had been close to being completely shattered five years ago, as there numbers had dwindled to no more than a couple dozen. Since that time they had been knocked off one by one in the years, months, and days leading up to the final battle.
The final battle hadn't actually been a battle, but more or less a duel between the three remaining members of the Order and the 5 or 6 members of Tom's inner circle, including Tom himself. A schism within the Death Eater camp had left Voldemort a shell of his former power, but Harry knew it would only be a matter of time before Tom was ready to amass more followers and strike again. It had to be ended when he was at his weakest.
The cost of the final duel had been heartbreaking for Harry. Ron Weasley, his best friend for the whole of his life that actually amounted to anything, his brother in many respects, had sacrificed himself, much as everyone else had over the years, by taking a killing curse when Harry was nearly beaten. The sacrifice helped Harry rally his reserves, and pushed him through the final volley that finally left the dark wizard scattered to the four winds.
The cost had been great, but it was finally over.
Harry could feel the tears well up in his eyes as it all came back to him in one sudden rush. As long as he had Voldemort to focus on...vengeance to keep him going, he knew that he could stay alive. Now...he had nothing.
He idly remembered a story that Remus had told him shortly before the last Marauder's murder at the hands of one Peter Pettigrew. It was that of a young man who dearly loved his mother, absolutely adored her. This young man also despised his father, hated him with a vitriolic passion. When the mother passed away, the young man was unable to shed any tears for some strange reason. And yet when the father passed away a few years later, he could not control his emotions and fell down weeping. The moral had been to live a life other than for destruction of the object of hatred.
It was times like this he really wished he had listened to Remus more closely.
Harry kept the tears from coming out as he focused his mental resolve once more. They might all be dead. Ron. Hermione. Remus. Neville. Ginny. They might all be dead, but damn it to hell if he was going to let them die in vain...
He shed more tears when he realized his usual self-talk was no longer applicable.
He resigned himself to sorrow, stepping out of the shower and idly redoing the ponytail in his hair. He threw on a pair of robes that made the Weasley's old hand me downs top of the line and climbed up the ladder to where a makeshift kitchen had been set up. Once up the ladder, he gazed onto the small table and chairs and offered what best could be described as a ghost of a smile at his only friend left in the world. His sandy brown hair had long since been shaved off for convenience, and his eyes were almost darker than Harry's, covered by a pronounced shadow at the edge of the man's face.
Seamus Finnegan had proven to be an adept duelist, far more capable than Harry ever would have guessed back at Hogwarts. The man survived on pure guts and instinct in duels, and in the interim he had become a fierce friend to all those who stood opposed to Voldemort. His penchant for healing spells made him very useful on a battlefield, particularly after Madame Pomfrey had been killed seven years prior at the final battle of Hogwarts, where Tom had finally destroyed the castle. Only three things had escaped that battle except for the Order of the Phoenix: the portrait of Albus Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat, and one of the new Horcrux Tom had created on that day. The hat and Portrait had become lost over the years, something that added the Harry's heartache, but he could not let that grip him too greatly at the moment, lest he worry his friend.
Seamus looked up from a book he had been reading and offered a small hello and good morning. Harry returned it and sat about cooking a small meal of breakfast. They made due with what food they could scrounge together from a life of crime. Stealing to stave off starvation made one less impotent to the criminal element, Harry constantly reminded himself. After cooking the few strips of bacon and grabbing a couple of pieces of bread and toasting them, Harry sat down to what would likely be his biggest meal of the day. He savored the few bites he had, not noticing every so often that Seamus would look up and stare at him. When Harry had finished he finally looked at Seamus and caught one of the man's glances.
"What?" Harry finally asked, his voice slightly hoarse from the magical exhaustion he was still going through.
"You honestly don't know what day it is," Seamus asked, his eyebrow raising and an infectious grin sliding across his face. Harry was puzzled. He had tried not to keep track of days, especially in the time since everyone died. Struggling he went through his mind. Given the early rise of the sun he could guess it was summer, and the small telly they watched had talked something about rain totals for the month of July...
It dawned on him quickly, and he closed out his eyes and sighed. It was July 31st, 2011, his 31st birthday. Seamus smiled again, and Harry couldn't help but match it with one of his own, though the emotion behind it was relatively empty. They had long ago stopped being genuinely happy, such things were not in the schedule when constantly being chased down by Death Eaters and the like.
"Happy birthday Harry," Seamus said, pulling out his wand. He risked capture by waving it around a few times and summoning a small cake for the two of them. Harry rolled his eyes at the man's recklessness, and idly wondered how he had survived.
Why either of them had survived and the others hadn't.
Seamus pulled out a lighter and lit a small candle on the cake. "Go ahead Harry," Seamus urged with the grin never really leaving his face, "Make a wish." Harry leaned forward and deeply considered it. Though he was beyond superstition at this point, he silently wished for the same thing he always did whenever he realized it was his birthday: a second chance.
After blowing out the candle he cut the cake in two for Seamus and he. Harry thought the man had done a bangup job for an on-the-fly conjuring of a chocolate cake. It tasted about as good as anything conjured from thin air could ever taste. It would be filling for only a while, but it would last him the whole day more than likely.
The two sat in silence as they ate the conjured dessert. Harry considered Seamus for a moment and knew the man had something else on his mind. After finally finishing the cake and placing the dishes in a small sink, he opened a drawer and pulled out a small parcel. Sighing, he walked over and handed the package to Harry. Harry regarded it for a moment before asking, "What's this?"
"Consider it a birthday present," Seamus answered, sitting back down, his eyes never leaving the package. "From Ron and I." Harry winced. It had been just the three of them for the better part of six months, and the recent death of Ron still hurt. Fighting off the sudden stinging in his eyes Harry opened the package quickly and watched as a small, non-descript, gray rock came tumbling out. Harry bent over and picked up the stone, regarding it in his hand.
"Er, thanks," Harry asked with a question in his voice. To be honest he hadn't gotten a birthday present in three years, though he appreciated the thought.
"It's more than a rock," Seamus said, as if reading Harry's thoughts, though Harry quickly reminded himself that Seamus was far from skilled enough at legilimency to even come close to touching his occulumency shields. "Take a closer look." Harry did as he was told and he could feel and see faint, but intricate carvings covering the rock. It was written in a language that had long since died, but Harry recognized it in an instant.
"This is written in the Goblin tongue," Harry exclaimed. Seeing the goblins fight first hand at the Battle of Gringott's had brought a great deal of respect for goblin culture and customs to Harry, and he made a point to carry on the traditions of their now nearly extinct race. Harry considered the stone for a moment longer and felt a few more carvings, not of a goblin nature, on the topside of the smooth rounded surface. "And there's some ancient runes on here too." Seamus nodded.
"That's the source of its power," Seamus said, a smile creeping across his face. Harry raised an eyebrow. Seamus definitely knew more than he was letting on.
"So, what does it do?" Harry asked, looking over the rock more carefully.
"You remember the stories you told me about third year," Seamus asked, lulling Harry into his reminiscing mode. Oftentimes when someone was bedstricken with some injury or another, the remaining Order members, which for many years consisted of old Hogwarts classmates, simply exchanged stories of the happier times at the school. However brief it had been in the scheme of things, his time at Hogwarts were the only happy memories Harry had left in his otherwise battered psyche. Harry thought back to the stories of the third year. It could have been anything, from Buckbeak to finding Sirius for the first time. From learning of Pettigrew to Hermione and her...Harry suddenly stopped and looked at Seamus closely. The man's smile was growing wider by the second.
"What is this," Harry flatly asked, his tone not carrying any indication of the knot that had just appeared at the bottom of his stomach.
"That my dear Harry," Seamus replied. "Is a second chance." Harry looked at the stone, his eyes widening, as Seamus continued to explain.
"Remember a few months back when the Americans barreled through the ruins of Diagon Alley and Ron got word there might be some survivors in the vaults of Gringotts?" Harry nodded. They hadn't found anyone sadly, anyone who was alive that is. "Well Ron and I found that in one of the opened vaults. He spent the last few months trying to figure out how it worked and everything, and just before...well you know...he told me all about it." Harry could see Seamus' eyes lighting up with genuine excitement, the first time he had seen that emotion in quite some time. "That Harry, is a Goblin Time Stone."
Harry held the rock up to the light and tried to decipher the runes on top. Truth be told he hadn't a clue how to read them. Hermione had always been the smart one, and after her death Ron had done everything in his power to study all of her copious notes, books and journal articles. He hadn't become as smart as Hermione, but he was nearly there before they were forced to abandon their tomes and notes while living on the run. He considered what Seamus had said, thinking about everything in a few short seconds. Sighing, he set the stone on the table and muttered. "No."
"What?" Seamus asked, feeling a bit antsy, "You haven't even heard my idea yet!"
"I don't have too," Harry replied, his tone somber and matter of fact, "I know what you're thinking Seamus Finnegan and I'm telling you right now we're not going to do it."
"Why not? It's what you've wanted for several years now."
"We're not going to meddle in the time stream. You can't change the past Seamus, it's impossible." Seamus nodded, but the anticipated look in his eyes never really left. Harry raised an eyebrow.
"I know Harry, but that's the beauty of it." Seamus picked up the stone and held it in front of Harry. "You won't be changing the past, at least not this past." Harry shrugged and shook his head, obviously confused.
"It was a theory Ron was working on before he died. He thought that if we used this time stone, we would go back in time like we planned, but instead of affecting this world, we'd effectively create an alternate reality where we could change things. This world would still be here, but we'd escape it...we'd have a second chance." Harry's eyes grew wider, but he allowed himself to remain stubbornly cautious.
"But...what about the people here...what are they..."
"What people Harry," Seamus asked, adding some ferocity to his voice as he stood up and began to pace around the room. "There's no one left but you and I. The Order is gone. Hogwarts is gone. Everything we ever cared for and everyone we ever loved are gone. We can bring them back, for you anyway." Harry dropped his head and Seamus sat back down, speaking again in a whisper.
"I know it's a longshot Harry, but what else do we have to lose?" Harry considered the man again, his face softening at seeing the pleading and excitement...the raw emotion that had ingrained itself into Seamus' features. What did he have left to lose, Harry asked himself repeatedly. It was true, everything they ever cared about and everyone they ever loved were long gone. Ron. Hermione. Hagrid. Dumbledore. ...Ginny.
Sighing, Harry asked, "How does it work?"
"Well," Seamus began, considering the stone in his hand again. "Ron said it worked differently than a time turner. Instead of just sending you back a few days or a month, this could send you back years, based on two things. First, the person or persons using it couldn't go back any further than they'd been alive. So like you couldn't go back and kill Voldemort when he was a baby." He paused a moment and thought of the other caveat. "The other thing is that the runes on this stone are degrading, and as they do power seeps from it. Right now it has about enough juice to send the both of us back about ten years."
"Well that won't do," Harry replied, slightly frustrated. Ten years wouldn't be near enough time. Hermione would still be dead. They could probably save a few people, including Ginny, but nowhere near enough to justify the risk.
"But," Seamus replied with a frown, "it could send one person back about twenty years." Harry listened to him, and his mind went wide at what Seamus was suggesting.
"No bloody way," Harry said firmly, "I'm not going alone."
"You have to Harry," Seamus answered back, the anger creeping into his voice again. "There's no sense in denying yourself a second chance on my part. Besides, there's another reason I can't go." He took a deep breath before he continued, "That stone requires a blood sacrifice to work." Seamus held up his hands before Harry could answer. "It has to be someone with magical blood. And last I checked you and I are probably the only wizards within a hundred miles of here now." Harry started to say something but quickly closed his mouth. He hung his head at what was being suggested at that very moment.
"Can it Potter," Seamus replied with a sad smirk on his face. "I for one don't want to go on living in this world, and you deserve the second chance. Besides, you're the only one who knows how to beat Voldemort...or at least can do it. You have to go back, not me." Harry simply nodded in a grim fashion. Seamus continued though.
"And we both know that we have to do it now. If the muggles don't find us than the remaining Death Eaters under Lord Malfoy will." Harry nodded again. Draco had been the cause of the schism in the Death Eater camp that had probably allowed them their win in the final duel, but the newly christened Dark Lord would turn out to be as big a threat as his former master, especially if he had been able to deduce the finer points of Voldemort's immortality. "And if they don't, then we will. I see how you look at your wand, same way I look at mine. We both know two easy words that would make all the pain go away. One of these days we won't be able to resist that temptation." They both went silent at that.
"How do we make it work," he asked, trying to get on with it.
"First we have to key the runes into your blood. Hold out your arm." Harry did as he was told and Seamus sat down the rock. He pulled a small knife from his pocket and sliced Harry's arm just below the elbow. Blood trickled downward, falling on the stone. It began to have a faint red glow as the runes one by one keyed into Harry's blood. Seamus put away the knife and held his hand close to Harry's arm. A moment later the cut was healed. "That'll take a few minutes to work," Seamus added. The silence was palpable.
"What will happen when I..." Harry interjected, trying to garner as much as he could. He still wasn't entirely ingrained to the idea and in some ways it felt like he was being led by the hand. He felt like it was Dumbledore all over again telling him to do something against his will. Harry had forgiven the man, for the most part. His meddling was well-intentioned, even if it had hindered him greatly in the early going.
"I don't know exactly," Seamus admitted, "but Ron said you won't physically go back. Rather your magical core...your essence your...soul, will go back in place. That's why it has to be in line with your own lifetime, because your spirit needs a physical anchor in the timestream to keep from floating off. Your spirit from this time will more than likely merge with your spirit from the past, creating a whole new you. You'll know how everything happens, remember everything, and you'll be able to stop it Harry. You'll be able to make things better...for everyone."
'For everyone,' Harry repeated to himself, his mind already at work with everything he needed to do. They sat in silence for a few moments before the stone finished flickering and glowed a deep crimson.
"It's ready," Seamus announced, handing the stone to Harry. "After you kill me," he said with such resignation that it startled even Harry, "take a cloth and drip some of my blood onto the stone. You'll know it's ready after the stone glows blue. Then, picture the time you want to go back to as close as you can and repeat the incantion "In tempus recedo." Then if all goes according to plan you'll wake up as whatever self you decide to enter." Harry nodded and considered everything for a moment longer. He glanced around their surroundings and thought back to 20 years prior.
"That's why we're here," he finally realized, confirming his suspicions once Seamus nodded.
"It's the easiest way we could know exactly where you were that far back." Seamus paused again before continuing. "It was Ron's idea as much as it was mine. He wanted you to have this chance more than anything." Harry sighed. Just like him he thought. If Harry was going to do this, he was going to make things better not just for himself, but for everyone else, and not just by saving their lives either.
Seamus took the silence to reach into his boot and pull out a small pistol. He slid it across the table at Harry, who just stared at it. "I know you don't like those things," Seamus said with a small smile, "but it's the quickest way. I'd rather prefer it to be quick you know...and I don't know if you have enough magical energy left to perform a killing curse. There's three bullets left in the chamber." Harry nodded and picked up the gun. He stood up and aimed it straight at Seamus' head, his eyes shimmering in the sunlight.
"Thank you," he whispered silently, barely able to contain the emotion.
"Don't mention it," Seamus replied, standing up to adjust to Harry's aim. "See you in the past."
There was a loud crack as the bullet went straight through Seamus' Finnegan's head, splattering brains and other such contents onto the wall behind him. His face had an odd expression, a mixture of fear and happiness that Harry recognized from the few people he knew who were ready to go at the end, Percy Weasley chief among them. The body slumped forward slightly and then collapsed to the ground at Harry's feet. Harry tossed the pistol aside and felt the man's neck, checking for a pulse. After several seconds he knew the end had come. Seamus Finnegan was dead.
He was alone.
But not for long Harry reminded himself quickly. He tore off a small piece of his robes and rubbed it in the ever-expanding pool of blood that lay at his feet. Soaking it throughly he took it and rubbed it over the stone repeatedly. The blood was absorbed into the artifact, and it started to flicker in color again. Quickly the crimson color vanished, only to be replaced with a pale light blue. Harry knew he was ready.
He mentally resolved himself again. It was too late to turn back now. He focused all of his mind on the time he wanted to return to...to this very location a little more than twenty years ago, just before midnight on July 30, 1991. Just before Hagrid arrived. As soon as he was certain he had the time right he closed his eyes and muttered clearly, "In tempus recedo." In a flash of brilliant white light the stone let out a massive explosion of magical energy. It dissipated almost as quickly as it had gathered, and Harry's body collapsed forward, lifeless, the time stone falling out of his hand and rolling to the other side of the room.
There was a loud ringing in his ears, as if a loud bell was being tolled, and he could feel a pulling sensation not unlike that of a portkey. He felt himself being pulled away from his body, his senses of this world and everything in it being dulled and washed away. Before long the faint vestiges of light that crept through his tightly shut eyelids faded away, leaving him in total darkness.
A/N: Like I said this was just nagging away at me. Damn muse won't leave me alone. Hopefully something will come of it in the future.