Chapter One, The Backstory
First, I would like to start off by saying that, in my opinion, there are so many time travel stories in Harry Potter fanfiction for one simple reason - Rowling has written a situation that is completely FUBAR. The situation, as it stands, cannot be pulled out of at this point without resorting to Super-Harry or time travel, or diverging at a much earlier point into an alternate universe.
HBP was the final slap in the face that convinced me that Rowling was just writing to abuse her main character, that she enjoys torturing him for the sick sort of amusement you get by pulling the wings off flies. In the official series, it doesn't matter if Voldemort kills Harry or vice versa, the Dark has already triumphed.
That said, before she went and crapped all over it, she'd started out with a decent premise and a situation that had loads of possibilities. And that being the case, if you can ignore what Rowling is befouling on her end, there are still games that can be played in that sandbox.
Disclaimer: It all still belongs to her.
Warning! Dumbledore bashing! But after I've done beating him like a rug I do my best to retrieve that character from the pothole Rowling threw him in.
On a related note, the story starts fairly dark and heavy before it lightens up. But the aim is for a fairly lighthearted tone overall.
Harry stood at a window, staring out at a rainy Georgia night, the TV flickering on some show in the background, and sighed.
Twenty six. How did that happen?
Well, actually, he knew quite well how that had happened, and all of those times it nearly stopped happening, those close brushes with death that seemed to shave off bits of him as they got closer and closer on each occasion.
Getting out of school after his sixth year he'd really intended to go hunting horcruxes, he really did. But on a routine supply run to Diagon Alley he'd paused to see what speech the Minister was giving after rumors of a ruckus at his house the night before. The Minister had turned to see Harry approach the edge of the crowd and given a smirk Harry'd seen on only one face before.
Harry didn't know how he knew it, but in a bolt of inspiration as had struck him so often in his youth he'd known in that instant that wasn't the Minister of Magic. That Voldemort had ordered a replacing of the Minister the same way that Crouch Jr had done to Moody in his fourth year of school, and somehow he'd known that was Lucius Malfoy staring out from behind the Minister's face before the crowds that day.
Harry hadn't even put any thought into his reaction at all, he'd run.
Oh, he'd never at the time thought that he'd be leaving for good, he hadn't thought about much of anything except escape, really. But he hadn't stopped running until he was all of the way out of England, and ever since then had not been able to convince himself to return.
Oh, he'd shared his suspicions with Ron and Hermione of course. But around that year they'd stopped believing him and didn't give any credit to his wild assertions. Figuring that if he couldn't get his two closest friends to believe him, no one else would, Harry hadn't even bothered to tell The Quibbler after that.
Now he wished he had, of course. Not that it likely would have changed anything.
With Dumbledore dead and Voldemort in control of the Ministry through his agents, replacing any Wizengamot members he couldn't bribe, Britain obviously fell fully under the Dark Lord's control.
At first they'd passed laws and regulations to make it that Pureblood Utopia that his followers had always dreamed of, ensuring that country got intolerable for anyone else and resulting in mass executions at first conducted in secret, then later publicly. The trouble for Voldemort was he'd never stopped the killings, it all just sort of ran out of control. Anyone who disagreed with him, Pureblood or not, got Dementor kissed. Having the wrong parents was punishable by death, never mind that he needed some people to run the flower shops and ice cream parlors. Not everybody could be in the top echelons of government. If they wanted a society to rule over it had to have someone in it to be ruled.
No, Voldemort just ordered them all killed. By his new restrictions, even Voldemort's own ancestry was worthy of death. But, naturally, he concealed those damning facts about his unworthy parentage from his followers.
And that became the norm in England for a time, people hiring people to forge the required documents, ancestry records and pedigree charts to 'prove' they were as pure as the Malfoys. Ironically, that ended when Lucius Malfoy was revealed to have a squib as one of his grandfathers and got publicly executed the next day.
That led to a mass exodus from England and the British Isles overnight.
Naturally, those black-as-tar Ministry officials fleeing at last had to have a scapegoat, a reason for why they'd been serving the Dark Lord in his reign of terror and brutal purging of half of the magical population of the kingdom. So, to excuse their own murders, they took the same handy excuse that had served them so well for years and claimed that it was all Harry's fault.
Between the air of panic that prevailed over the collapse of a magical government and the abandonment of an entire kingdom to what at last got revealed as a ruling Dark Lord and the persuasive lies of those career politicians escaping Voldemort's new purges, Harry had gotten arrested, pending a trial that never happened.
Oh, the American government meant well. They'd responded in force, attacking the entrenched Voldemort and driving him out of the halls of government and back into hiding. But in reclaiming England they'd also restored the British Magical Government, and they'd assembled it out of those people they had on hand - namely the ones who'd held posts under Voldemort's rule, then fled, only to save their own hides by claiming Harry was to blame for everything.
Naturally, as a British citizen, Harry had gotten handed over to the newly restored British Ministry of Magic as a gesture of goodwill and respect to shore up the fledgling government, and just as quickly Harry'd gotten thrown into a cell at Azkaban by guilty men hoping he'd disappear and be forgotten so their own crimes would never be revealed.
It had worked, for a while.
Later, Harry was unsure of the details as he'd been out of circulation at the time, the British Ministry had gotten taken over again. Maybe it had happened at once, perhaps it had taken a while, but Voldemort got control back. Once it'd gotten revealed that he was killing people again only a handful of survivors had been left to greet the returning American Auror forces. Official figures said that perhaps one percent of magical Britain had survived the Dark Lord's second return, with all the rages, purges and random excuses to kill people, and ironically half of those survivors had been in Azkaban, which the Dark Lord seemed to have forgotten. Official speculation was that he'd gotten too caught up in securing his hold on power, and that his paranoid and suspicious mind had been so focused on finding traitors (even where there were none) that he'd never stopped intently watching for twitches of disloyalty to punish among his followers, and thus never went on to other things.
Personally, Harry thought that didn't sound too much like the Voldemort he knew, but had to admit he didn't have any better theory about Death Eater loyalty. He'd been too busy rotting in his cell to know what was going on in the outside world all that time, so had no information to base counter-speculation on concerning his enemy's followers.
The one thing he did know for sure was information he'd gotten through his scar. Now, he'd learned long ago how to block out Voldemort's manipulation and sever those parts of the link that made him experience the torture of others. He'd have gone insane at seventeen otherwise. But they did still get flashes of each other's character from time to time. So Voldemort knew that Harry was powerless and miserable, so could be ignored, while Harry knew that Tom Riddle Jr had a great big hole inside of his soul, and Voldemort could only forget his own incompleteness during moments of murder, torture or robbery on a large scale - and the more he did of it, the larger that scale had to be in order for Voldemort to get a moment of respite from his own self inflicted agony.
He could never kill enough or steal enough or hurt others enough to fill the hole in his own soul, but during those times he was causing untold suffering to others he could forget his own pain for a few moments.
So he killed others mostly to escape his own personal hell, one that he'd created by the very dark rituals that kept him alive and gave him his power.
Alive, yet trapped in the hellish prison that had become his mind.
That was probably why Voldemort left Britain, after sucking it dry, and moved on to mainland Europe. Reports of deaths there made it seem like England had been merely a training camp for the Dark Lord's execution squads. And, Harry was certain, when he had run out of convenient people to kill in Europe he'd move on to America or somewhere else, using the same tactics of Imperious curse acquired moles and agents as well as the more dangerous Polyjuice substitution of officials in government to gain control before his Death Eaters started their mass torture and executions.
Tom would use those tactics for as long as they continued to work, and so far they were working out for him quite well. Blind panic had gripped the world and the only thing that gave Tom any pause was having to recruit new followers after one attempt or another by a government to stop him had thinned their ranks a little. But desperate, stupid people were flocking to Voldemort's side in the vain hopes that it would spare them some of his cruelty.
No. Harry knew from long and personal observation that Voldemort used more of the Unforgivable curses on his own followers than he did on his enemies.
Actually, as far as joining sides went, Harry couldn't think of any he'd want to be on in this whole conflict. Privately he'd taken to calling it The War of Three Dark Lords. Dark Lord One was obviously the Dark Slytherin Voldemort. Dark Lord Two was the Dark Minister. It didn't even seem to matter which Minister, or which country either, they were all so corrupt it didn't seem to matter. The magical government was always so horrible in their treatment of him, and shortsighted in their actions in general, they easily counted as destructive enough to equal any other Dark Lord, in his opinion.
That left the third.
Like the Dark Minister, the one holding the spot of the third Dark Lord was not the first one to hold that position and title. The first one to hold the final seat in this three way war had been defeated long ago, but his agents still carried on in his legacy, and a new person now held the crown of leadership in that faction.
Harry felt a bit guilty about doing it, but he'd long since labeled the third party in this war as the Dark Headmaster, and the original one to hold that title had been Dumbledore.
As he'd said, Harry still occasionally felt a bit guilty about that label, after all he'd met the man (when he still lived) and Dumbledore always gave the impression of someone who was earnestly trying to do what he felt was right. On the other hand, after careful examination he had yet to discover any decision that old man had made on his behalf that hadn't caused Harry hurt, sorrow, anguish and death.
In the first place, it had been Dumbledore who'd instructed his parents to go into hiding behind a Fidelius charm. While possibly sound from some perspectives, the end of months of examining this from every angle had left Harry with only a few facts: when his parents had been openly fighting they'd each faced Voldemort personally three times and escaped all three times. Once they'd gone into hiding they'd dropped their guard and been murdered almost at once in the first encounter.
Perhaps the blame didn't lie with Dumbledore. That could be debated. But the more actions of his Harry counted up the thinner and thinner the 'well-meaning mistake' excuse wore. Because the second intervention of the old man in his life had been to take him from his godfather, a legally and morally questionable act because the entire role of godfather was to take care of a child in the event that the parents are gone (and Sirius had not yet had his infamous duel with Pettigrew or gotten framed by that point).
Harry's take on his godfather's character was that he never would've gone after Peter if he'd been allowed to take responsibility of Harry in the first place. So by that act the old headmaster had sent his father's best friend to Azkaban, at least theoretically.
Both of those were questionable, and Harry'd debated over them long and hard before reluctantly concluding that he had no proof, only conjecture, and that either of those choices could have gone either way.
However, there was no question about Dumbledore's choice to send him to live with the Dursleys. They'd hated him and treated him so badly anyone caring for a DOG so poorly could be jailed in any civilized country! And Dumbledore had been spying on him all along while he'd lived on Privet Drive, through Arabella Figg. Mrs. Figg had even admitted as much, then TOLD Harry, direct and to his face, that she'd had to make him hate his visits to her house or else the Dursleys would never have let him come over.
So she knew. There wasn't any possible way she COULDN'T have known about his treatment there if she'd out-and-out admitted to having to adjust her behavior a certain way to continue operating in spite of the Dursley's open prejudices against him. If she'd had to adjust her behavior to be allowed to baby-sit him despite the Dursley's prejudices, she knew about those prejudices. And knowing how they felt about him she'd had to have been a piss-poor spy not to go from knowing their feelings to investigating their actions. It defied all logical sense to say that she didn't know that the Dursleys abused him.
Now, the purpose of any spy was to uncover information and pass that along to whoever hired them, and so if Mrs. Arabella Figg knew about his abused childhood, then Dumbledore knew. He had to have known all along, as his spy was in place almost as soon as Harry himself was. So, as she was there to keep an eye on him, she probably knew about the mistreatment when he was still small before it had grown into full abuse.
Actually, there was logical evidence there as well. If Mrs Figg had messed up even once, caring for Harry too openly or allowing him to enjoy a visit, then the Dursleys never would have let him go over again. She'd said as much herself. So either Arabella had never slipped up, meaning she knew full well about what would happen if she'd treated him too nicely, or she had slipped up once or possibly twice and had some active witch or wizard (almost certainly Dumbledore himself) over to perform a few memory charms to erase the slip-up from their minds. In that latter case, it was even MORE certain they knew about the Dursley's antagonism and bias against Harry.
So there wasn't any logical way around it. By the facts at Harry's disposal there was no other conclusion to draw but that Dumbledore had known full well what the Dursleys had done to him, how they'd treated him, and done nothing about it.
No, worse than nothing. He'd actively prevented anyone else from knowing about his sorry state, purposely preventing anyone else from saving him or disturbing that horrid abuse he'd suffered, making sure it continued for the longest possible time.
That made Dumbledore responsible.
By any law Harry knew of, those acts of hatred the Dursleys had done to him were crimes, some with fearsome punishments. Dumbledore had put him there, so despite any question of the legality of that act, he'd shared some responsibility for what happened to Harry there. Being ignorant was a small excuse, but he couldn't have been ignorant of his situation, not with what his spy had already admitted. So there was another mark against any plea of innocence on the part of his once Headmaster. Decent citizens are supposed to report crimes of child abuse to be investigated, and he hadn't.
No, what Dumbledore had done was cover them up, and by helping the Dursleys to conceal to continue to perpetrate those crimes, Dumbledore was an accomplice at the very least, if not a conspirator.
As far as Harry was concerned, Dumbledore was just as much to blame for the inhuman treatment he'd received, the SLAVERY he'd suffered under, as were the Dursleys who'd inflicted it all on him.
Why? Because he could've stopped it at any point.
He was the head of the Wizengamot, the magical court system. He'd had the ear of the then-present Minister of Magic all that time. He'd been up to his neck in legal authority and contacts and never once had he used any portion of that to improve Harry's situation or stop the unnecessary suffering and humiliation he'd been under all that time.
Harry could understand why, at least in theory. Those thrice-blasted blood wards and their supposed protection. If anyone ever investigated the Dursleys for their inhuman treatment of him Harry would've been removed from their care in an instant. That hadn't happened, so obviously either no one had investigated or Albus had somehow put a stop to any reaction to his circumstances. In the latter case, he'd probably also had to have destroyed certain records and performed memory charms because no one in the magical world, in or out of the Ministry, seemed to have any idea that Harry was being treated any less well then they would've done themselves - and nothing was too good for their hero. Magical people would have raised him like a prince, so magical people always assumed that whoever'd raised him had done exactly as they would've.
What Harry couldn't understand was how a blood-ward, supposedly based upon love, could prosper in an environment of open hatred.
And what was worst about that was there were dozens if not hundreds of ways that it could've been worked out to have Harry treated decently AND still maintain the blood wards. The Dursleys were bullies, every one of them, and all bullies were cowards at heart. All it would've taken would've been a few threats, a visit from one of the many aurors the Headmaster had in his pocket, a minor compulsion spell, a few words in the right ears to let the Dursleys know that others, even muggles, were watching! Something, ANYTHING to let them know they weren't going to get away with it, and they'd have had to tone it down some. There was even proof of this, in that when his first Hogwarts letters started to arrive, addressed to the cupboard under the stairs, Petunia and Vernon had had a whispered conversation in which they discussed their fears of wizards watching the house, and their response had been to move him to the smallest bedroom!
They had already proved that they would have caved in to the smallest pressure. A mere word here or there could have vastly improved Harry's living conditions!
That nothing was done was criminal. No more, and no less than a crime.
Harry'd pursued thousands of different conjectures, from subtle legal pressure to a word of warning to the neighbors, up to having Harry AND Dudley taken away and given to some sane family, as he'd thought over this, seeking for ways his life could have been made better.
And it would've been so easy!
Dudley was his mother's son, and the nephew of Lily Evans. He had his mother's blood in him, so he also had the blood of Lily Potter. Taking both he and Dudley away to be raised by someone else would've worked. It would've stopped the abuse and still kept up the blood wards. Even the THREAT to take both him and Dudley would've cowed the Dursleys and made them approach something like decent treatment of him!
No, there were ways that Albus Dumbledore could've improved that situation, most of them easy and at minimal risk of even the slightest negative effects, without even any real danger of breaking that secrecy he'd so cherished.
The fact remained that he had done nothing.
For that, Harry could not forgive him. Nor was that the last of the Dark Headmaster's offenses against him. Harry had never once been allowed alone with his own money, had never been permitted to shop unsupervised, was tightly controlled both at home and at school, was put under virtual house arrest every summer, and in all other ways reduced to the Headmaster's sock-puppet as much as possible. But all of that he could've lived with if that had actually meant getting any special training for his future. Even a simple warning to get ready would have been nice.
Instead, the Headmaster had kept him blissfully ignorant.
But Snape was the final straw. Once more, there was no way that Dumbledore could have avoided knowing how that man had treated him - they'd both read his mind often enough!
And speaking of mind reading, Snape knew, he KNEW that Harry wasn't pampered or spoiled, that he wasn't attention-seeking or a glory hound, yet he called him all of those names anyway. He'd begun abusing Harry from that first class together, long before Harry himself could've given the man any excuse to dislike him, and that was the final straw as far as Harry was concerned.
It was enough that the Headmaster had ruined his childhood. It was magnified by his having kept a tight leash on Harry's movements so he didn't know anyone out of school that Dumbledore did not control, and that he'd kept him locked up every summer. But it all came to a final head in that the Headmaster kept Snape at school, and by so doing ensured that Harry could not recall a single day of his life where he wasn't being abused or subject to the very real danger of being abused more.
Potions classes were bad enough, but every time he met Snape in a hallway, or ran into him on the grounds, there was more of it. Every chance he got it was ridicule and unfair treatment, harsh phrases and behavior that should have gotten any normal teacher fired and blacklisted for life.
But once more the abuser had Dumbledore's unfailing support and protection.
No, Harry had led a life of hardship, sorrow, misery and death and the person pulling all of the strings to arrange it that way over all of his growing-up years was Dumbledore. Because of him, Harry'd never lived a day without fear, not that he could recall.
He had earned his title as the Dark Headmaster.
What Harry couldn't understand was how well-meaning that old man had seemed, the few times he'd talked to him in person. He'd seen him, on average, once or twice a year and always there was that air of a kindly grandfather.
Either the man was a consummate actor and a black-hearted scoundrel, or one of the most self-deceived men he had ever met, always making the stupidest level of mistakes and doing them over and over again. Neither image made any sense to him.
But the man was no longer alive to ask.
Shrugging, Harry once again resigned himself to the fact that the ultimate question of why Dumbledore had done what he had done would remain unresolved, and turned away from the window, heading back into the simply furnished room. Thunder boomed in the storm outside as he refreshed his drink, a mug of cocoa from a pot he kept warm on the stove. The chocolate taste still did much to wash away the terrors of Azkaban.
He'd spent seven years of his life there, locked away on accusation alone and held there by the very men who'd accused him to cover their own crimes. They'd taken him from Auror school, too. That had a strange sort of irony.
He'd been nineteen at the time they'd arrested him. His teacher had even used the opportunity as a training exercise for the rest of the class, too. "A wanted criminal has been discovered in your midst. Apprehend him!" Then he'd given Harry's name, as if chosen at random. It was only after he'd been defeated and bound that he revealed this wasn't just another exercise, and they wouldn't be letting Harry go.
That teacher had died in one of those counter-invasions of Britain. Good riddance.
The dripping stone walls and damp of Azkaban had taught him something of interest however. None of his life had been happy enough for him to forget. Oh, there'd been a few moments here or there. He could no longer recall the day he'd learned he was a wizard or the subsequent trip to Diagon Alley. The trip across Hogwarts lake was lost to him, but over seven years exposed to the Dementors and all he'd lost was a few weeks, in total, of memories. That in itself was a sad statement about his life.
The saddest thing was now, having no happy memories, he could no longer cast a Patronus. But that hadn't been required of him, either.
A thin grin. "You know it, Hermione."
The ghost of his best friend floated into the room from the pantry, where the box of her remaining personal belongings got stored. The scars of how horrible a death she'd died were thankfully hidden by the folds of her robe. In that, she had surprising control for a ghost, as those bloody rags she'd died in wouldn't have covered a flea, and she maintained an image of her unmarked face in spite of the flesh having been removed before she died and hung over Draco Malfoy's fireplace for years as a trophy - even after the Malfoy line had been exterminated by Voldemort shortly after her demise.
But in its own way it was hardly surprising. She'd been a great witch, now she was equally great as a ghost.
"I thought that after getting out of Azkaban you'd change."
"I may be less insane, then again I may not." He sipped from his cup, warming his hands as he stared out at the rain. "Give it time, it's only been a few days."
"I worry about you," she confessed.
"I'd worry about me too, but I don't. Insanity has it's privileges, I guess."
"You're NOT insane!" she insisted for the umpteenth time.
"Of course I am! What else are you supposed to be after spending seven years, two months, and eleven days under lock and key subjected to the Dementors of Azkaban? I only learned I was twenty-six yesterday, in spite of having been that old for months."
Hermione, bless her, still retained the image of nineteen, the age she'd died as. No small feat to have lived that long as a muggleborn who'd stayed in Britain. She had to have been one of the last who died before the Second Great Exodus of Magical Britain.
It was so odd what they put in history books now.
"You can't be insane, you are perfectly rational," her ghost insisted.
He grinned by way of reply. "Ah, my dear and beautiful friend, there are many types of insanity. There is obsession, for example. I might be that." Conversations like this one had been his meat and drink for all of those years of prison.
For once, Hermione did not rise to the bait, turning away, but not before he saw her face begin to fade, revealing the horrible wounds on the bare skull, inflicted as torture before they killed her. Her robe suddenly became patchy.
He caught her sob, only then did he realize his mistake.
Putting down his cup he shook his head, moving over to where he could place his arms around her. She wasn't solid, he had to hold them in place where they ought to be, but it was the closest he could give the ghost to a hug. And, as Nearly Headless Nick had told them so long ago, there was something, not much, but something to the touch.
His arms were cold, chilled by her presence, as he apologized, "I'm sorry, Hermione. I didn't realize. It was thoughtless. Forgive me?"
What he'd done was remind her of lazy, gluttonous, slovenly, jealous and superficial Ron with his pigheaded self-absorption that bordered on obsession.
She and Ronald Weasley had been in a relationship when Harry'd fled Britain. They had continued to search for horcruxes for a time, until it became obvious that Voldemort had moved them all to more secretive and secure locations than his old childhood haunts.
All of that effort had been on Hermione's drive, of course.
Looking back it should have been obvious how poorly those two were matched. Ron was lazy where Hermione was hard working. He was greedy and she was thrifty. He made messes everywhere while she was always neat and clean. Ron saw nothing wrong with himself whereas she sought constant improvement. But worse yet they couldn't stand each other's favorite hobbies. He hated to study and she loved nothing more, while on the other hand he obsessed over Quidditch and she could hardly care less about the game.
In short, they had nothing in common except a friendship with Harry.
They'd discovered that themselves shortly after he'd gone. But Ron had kept after her even after Hermione started growing cold towards him. Harry could understand why, Hermione was in many ways Ron's ideal wife. If he'd managed to catch her she would've cooked and cleaned and done all of the work of running a household in addition to having a career, supporting her husband while leaving Ron to sit on his lazy ass and watch Quidditch games, complaining about how she ought to do more and getting mad at her for nagging him. All Ron would've had to do would be to keep her pregnant so she wouldn't leave him, for fear of hurting her children.
Thankfully, they'd never gone that far. Hermione had wised up to his friend a bit too early for Ronald's taste, so he'd never gotten anywhere near first base.
Thank goodness for Hermione's prim attitude.
In all honesty, he had to admit that his first real friend was alot more like Lockhart than anyone had realized at the time. Ron got jealous of anyone who'd accomplished more than he had, but he was too lazy to achieve anything on his own. He could so very easily see Ronald Weasley taking the credit for something another had done, after obliviating the poor fool who'd told him about how he'd done it.
But the worst thing about a Ron and Hermione match was that she would inevitably accomplish something, and he'd never be able to forgive her for outshining him. The seeds of that had been obvious from their first year together, and his jealousy over Harry.
That was probably why Ron had betrayed her to death.
Nothing more needed to be said on that subject.
Sighing, Harry mimed rubbing her shoulders while Hermione tried to get her appearance in order, patches of robe appearing and disappearing under his hands as she tried to reassert control over her manifestation.
This tender moment was interrupted by the entrance of two more ghosts.
Both came to a stop before entering further into the room, considering the scene before them. Luna and Ginny were probably the most different people he knew. Luna had quite calmly told Voldemort to his face that she'd rather be strangled with her own intestines than serve him, and he had obliged her. Ginny, on the other hand, had pledged support, volunteering to breed a new generation of Purebloods if he'd spare her, then snuck the man she'd been assigned as concubine to sterility and impotence potions before the big night, hoping he'd be too ashamed to confess to inability before his Dark Lord.
She'd been wrong on that gamble.
Her reward for this deception had been to die, impaled on an iron spike. It had taken her seven full days to die. For all that it had taken more bravery at the time, Luna had gotten off easily by comparison.
These three ghosts had joined him in Azkaban after he'd been sent there. Without ability to lift the wards, they'd been stuck there beside him ever since, until his release a few days ago. Frankly, their company had been worth more than anything else to him at the time, and still remained so.
"Harry, it's that time," Luna informed him dreamily, intestines worn about her throat as calmly as if they were a scarf.
He double-blinked as Ginny floated forward a few feet, noticing that Hermione was rapidly reestablishing herself under his icy chilled palms. "What am I forgiving you for this time? Is it the anniversary of your submitting to Voldemort again?"
Ginny had never taken the mark. Those had been reserved for proven followers by that point. Having died as a betrayer, however, she was a very unhappy ghost unless she got forgiven earnestly and often. So far Harry'd forgiven her regularly of everything she'd ever done, from the serious crime of bowing to the enemy all the way down to the trivial pranks she'd played on her family growing up, and everything she could think of in between - during years she had been busily spent remembering.
"No," Ginny's spirit confessed, then blurted out, "Harry, I gave you love potions during your sixth year so you'd notice me!"
"I know, and I forgive you," that was an old one, oft repeated.
"I also made out with other men, trying to get you jealous."
"I know, you are forgiven," this one too.
"I wet the bed once when I was fourteen!"
A bit less common, but one he'd heard before. "That's all behind you now. I forgive you."
"I peeped on Ronald's pee pee when I was four!"
Harry winced. As often as he heard some things it didn't make him want to hear them any more. But his smile didn't falter as he earnestly said, "I forgive you. As a matter of curiosity, however, you've confessed to that one each day since we got out of prison. Is there a reason you'd like to share?"
Ghosts could blush silver, she did so. "I've been looking at yours every day for seven years, two months, and thirteen days. I like it better."
"Yes, it is." Luna dreamily replied, catching both off guard.
Surprised that he could still be surprised, Harry blushed. "Uhm, thank you. You're forgiven, both of you."
"No forgiveness is necessary, we both intend to keep doing it," Luna smiled with a far off gaze, stroking her intestine scarf as she stared out the window.
Chortles from Hermione brought his attention back to see she had reasserted herself and he removed his now-frozen hands, going into the kitchen to wash them in warm water. Paralyzed by this turn of conversation, he noted rather dryly the television set flaring up to a brilliant flash of energy before a pair of well-tanned feet emerged from the screen.
A platinum-haired bombshell stepped out of his TV and, with a casual "Hiya kiddo," went to pour herself a drink at the wetbar.
He didn't know why he'd said that, but seeing her pause and stare at him, he decided to elaborate. "I don't drink, but many of my enemies do. I stocked a wetbar on the assumption that if any of them broke in and actually captured me for torture they'd celebrate with a drink, and seeing them die with bloody, frothy lungs would give me a chance to get clear, grab a wand and escape."
The woman put her half-filled glass down untasted and turned her back on the bar, leaning back against it and resting her elbows on that level surface.
Harry shrugged, finding a reason to justify this warning even as he warmed his hands in the water. "I just got out of Azkaban on a false charge. I don't want to go back on a real one."
The woman straightened herself, walking past the ghosts to lean over the kitchen counter. Her outfit was both exotic and sexy, a dry and dispassionate corner of his mind noted even as he searched her for weapons or a wand, finding neither.
He had no wand himself at the moment. They hadn't actually gotten around yet to clearing his name enough to allow him to buy one. In fact, he was officially still awaiting trial. Without a wand, and with a ruined body, there had seemed small point in getting all excited at her entrance. If she'd been there to kill him there was little he could do about it, not when he moved like an eighty year old man with arthritis.
So he allowed her approach, figuring there was little he could do about it.
"My name's Urd," she told him, pointing toward his nose. "Goddess second class, second category, limited license. Norn of the Past and Goddess of love, and you've got a pure heart, kiddo. That means you're eligible for a wish, and I got sent to give one to you. You can have anything you want, but the rules say you only get one. What will it be?"
End, Part One