Time to Fix the Mistakes
A/N: The Deathly Hallows Epilogue was truly unsatisfying. Here's the rest of the story that begins about two years after the DH Epilogue. Not for Ginny enthusiasts. Character Deaths. Time Travel. Avenging!Harry.
Chapter 1: Even the Hardest Stones Crumble
July 31, 2018
Harry Potter was enjoying his Sunday morning. He had just turned thirty-eight years old. He had three wonderful children and a wife he loved. He had a quiet morning planned before the boisterous party occurred in the afternoon and early evening.
His wife loved birthday parties…even for her 'oldest child,' Harry.
"Speak of the devil…" Harry murmured when Ginny came into Harry's study with a plate full of something that smelled good.
"I baked it fresh this morning…"
"It smells lovely, but isn't it a touch early for birthday cake?"
Ginny gave an odd sort of laugh. "It's coffee cake, silly. Blueberry and cinnamon. Found the recipe in one of mum's old books."
Harry lit up in a smile. "I always did love Molly's cooking." Harry pulled the plate from his wife's hand and took a bite.
Ginny looked at her husband as he chewed.
"We'll have chocolate cake for pudding after dinner…"
Ginny walked out of the room and Harry quickly spat out the disgusting coffee cake. It had smelled so promising, too. He loved Ginny, he really did, but she surely hadn't inherited her mother's talent for cooking and baking.
"I hope she got the elves to bake the birthday cake," Harry muttered.
The cake had certainly not been very sweet and had a rather unpleasant, even metallic taste to it. Par for the course. Ginny managed to screw up nearly every kind of baked good. The kitchen was usually the domain of the elves or Harry. The lessons he had learned the hard way at the hands and fists of the Dursleys were ones he still practiced.
Harry did try to ensure his children had some skill in the kitchen. He had taught all three of his children some basic cooking skills… He smiled thinking about his little brood. He loved each of his children: his Gryffindor James, his Ravenclaw Albus, and his Hufflepuff Lily. Each was a perfect person, flaws and all. James smiled thinking of the time the three of them had last pranked him: a hair growth potion did have quite a few possible uses, didn't it?
He'd wanted a larger family, but Ginny hadn't become pregnant again. Such is Potter-style luck.
He contented himself with three beautiful children…
The thought stopped in his head as he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He was also in severe pain which just added to his wave of nausea.
He stumbled to his feet. "Ginny," he called out.
He made it downstairs before he was doubled over in pain. Then he came across the dining room. His children…his beautiful children…were all seated, slumped forward, but none of them were breathing.
"Help! Ginny, help."
Harry slumped against the table. His hand was out feeling for Albus' pulse. Nothing. James had none. Little Lily…oh, god. She was dead as well.
Finally Harry saw his wife saunter slowly from the kitchen.
"You're still moving, Harry? I wouldn't have expected that with the dose I gave you…"
"You? You killed my children?"
Ginny laughed. "You think I wanted to be a brood mare for your messy haired children? I had a career before I married you, Harry, now I can go back to Quidditch and have the Potter fortune and fame to my name. The sad widow. Because of the stupid Potter entailment rules, I just had to wait for the last child to reach age 12 before I enacted my little plan. Otherwise I'd have done this years earlier, you foolish –"
At that, Harry wandlessly broke his wife's neck. He was crying in pain and grief for his children, but he'd never shed a tear for that woman. If he survived this, he would pay to have her soul excised by a necromancer. All remnants of her life and soul should be removed from the world.
He summoned his wand from his study and began sending Patronus messaging spells out as fast as he could manage. He called for the Potter elves for help. He then clutched his nearest child, poor little Albus, as he succumbed to the darkness.
August 3, 2018
Harry woke up in St. Mungo's three days after his children died – and he executed his wife for familial betrayal (which the purebloods of old had put and kept on the books as a crime).
Harry was visited by his Healers first, but he couldn't even ask about his own condition.
"Did my children suffer?"
Healer Magnusson tried to shake his head, but he ended up shrugging. "They each consumed the cake, where you only had some in your mouth before spitting it out. I'd suspect the compound acted quickly…"
"What did she poison us with?"
"We're still trying to figure it out, Mr. Potter. The Aurors found the remainder of that vile concoction in the kitchen…"
"I don't care what it costs. Find out. I have to know how she destroyed my family…" Harry wasn't crying at this, but his voice was filled with emotion stronger than mere anger.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Potter."
"Thank you." It was genuine, but the Healer left the room wondering if Harry would have preferred not surviving the poisoning.
Kingsley Shacklebolt and the leaders of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement were next.
"Harry," the Minister of Magic tried to begin.
"I know why you're here. Bring me a pensieve and my wand and I'll show you…"
One of the Auror Captains, Urdroot, already had the stone basin in his arms. Harry pulled the memory from his head and dropped it into the rune-carved receptacle.
Several heads went inside and several heads came out minutes later with shock and revulsion writ large. "I've known her for twenty years. I never would have thought…" Kingsley said.
"Check her corpse for the usual signs of Imperius or other mind control spells or potions," Harry said. "I don't think you'll find them. She seemed normal in my study – and then insane after my children were dead. She was an actress in the worst sense of the word. I don't think she's been right in the head for a long time, if ever."
Kingsley tried to coax Harry into talking as one friend to another, but Harry bucked and weaved his way through every question. As Kingsley was leaving, Harry said one last thing. "I'll be back in the office in a few days, Minister, but I'll be turning in my resignation. I can't do this any more…"
"Heal for now, Harry. We'll talk more about that when you get out."
Then, for his final act of his hellish day, he had three reporters summoned, along with another pensieve.
"I want the true story of what happened to be reported. My attorney, Lord Stanhope, is documenting this entire meeting. Here is my memory of what happened…"
The journalists came out of the experience even more traumatized than Harry would have expected.
"Let it be known that Ginny Weasley is forever banished from the House of Potter for familial betrayal. May the wraiths of hell hunt her down."
It was only the oldest of the pureblood families that ever used post-mortem disownment, but Harry knew all of the laws and customs. For his old job as Head Auror, he'd had to know them all.
He took a Dreamless Sleep and slept for twelve hours. No dreams meant no tears.
August 8, 2018 – August 10, 2018
When Harry walked out of the hospital five days later – as the poison had done hard-to-heal damage to most of his internal organs – there were reporters outside waiting to talk to him. But the glamour Harry used allowed him to pass them all by without a second glance.
Harry mourned his children with every step, but he could no longer think of having a family in this life. His entire world was shattered. Every person became a potential betrayer. Every person was a potential enemy.
In the days that followed, Harry closed the home he'd purchased when he and that woman had started a family. He scheduled a private funeral for his beloved children in Godric's Hollow, next to the markers for his parents and the one he'd laid to Sirius Black's memory. The stones for Remus and Nymphadora Lupin were a few rows over. This sad place now contained Harry's only family, all dead.
The morning dawned clear and beautiful. Harry put on his nicest Muggle suit. He would get through the ceremony for his children. He had to. He would cast his spells of blessing and of physical protection. He would make their gravestones the most memorable things he could.
He apparated to an abandoned shop near to the cemetery. He opened the door with his magic and stepped out and walked to the cemetery. Very few people had been notified.
The Weasleys had not been told the day and time of the service. Harry wasn't sure if he could manage seeing auburn hair right now. (He'd heard that she had been buried four days ago. She deserved to be fed to the crows.)
Neville and Luna were already there as was Teddy Lupin, Harry's godson. A very elderly Filius Flitwich had also come. His old Charms professor had retired five years earlier and wouldn't likely live out another year. Kingsley showed up just a moment after Harry arrived. His children's former tutor, Madeleine Catchbasket, was the last to arrive.
Harry himself conducted the brief graveside memorial.
"…Those are the stories I remember of my children. Their beauty and puckishness, their brilliance and stubbornness. Their love of jokes, stories, pranks, and living life to the fullest. If I lived a hundred lifetimes, I would never find three children I adored more. They were robbed from me, from you, and from this world. I promise today that I will never forget and I will move mountains to give them some form of peace in the afterlife."
Harry stepped forward, wand in hand, and began casting the spells to settle his children's caskets into the ground – to seal them, to protect them, to comfort their mortal remains in the only way he had left.
He spoke with everyone who'd come to the service. Harry stayed strong for his babies.
Minister Shacklebolt was the last of the people to stop by to extend his condolences. Harry listened to the kind words.
"Minister, may I come by your office tomorrow sometime to have that discussion?"
Kingsley looked surprised for a moment before he remembered what Harry was referencing. The Minister nodded sadly. "I hope I can talk you out of something that will make you miserable."
"Well, we'll see."
August 11, 2018
"…Harry, you know I owe you my position…"
"No, Minister, you got the unrewarding task all on your own merits." Harry's voice was somber, but slightly tinged with dark mirth.
"Not true, Harry. I served as the Interim Minister for two years after the war. Then I got booted to the Wizengamot, eventually becoming the Chief Warlock. But you brought down Minister Shipley with your corruption probe…and that basically brought me out of my Wizengamot dotage."
Harry just nodded. If that's the way the Minister wanted to see history, there wasn't much Harry could do.
Kingsley tried reapproaching the topic. "You were the one to push for the two pronged strategy after the war, Harry. The truth telling commission and amnesty for those who'd never killed or raped; combined with a redefinition of the Dark Arts that freed up entire branches of magic for renewed study, while increasing the penalties on all the parts that were genuinely considered Dark Arts. You're the reason there are now fifteen Unforgivable Curses and Rituals, Harry. You're the reason that Muggleborns are taught wizarding culture and traditions and why all purebloods are taught Muggle science, history, and such."
"Then the world is a better place for the things I accidentally crusaded for. But, now, it's time for me to bow out…"
"What are your plans? You can't live in the past. It'll wither you, Harry."
"My plans are my own, Minister, but I thank you for inquiring…"
The Minister rubbed at his temples. "I know you hate the fame, Harry, but you are a public person, especially after this disaster. You won't be left alone…"
"I'll be left alone, Minister, to finish my work. I can take care of myself."
"You won't be happy, Harry." His tone of voice suggested Kingsley thought this his best, his final, argument.
"Kingsley, sir, I don't think I'll ever be able to be happy again."
"Time will dull…"
Harry stood up from his seated position. "Sir, I'm afraid it won't. You have my letter of retirement. I assume I'll retain privileges relating to the use of the Ministry's libraries?"
Kingsley bit his lip. He just nodded. "I'll sit on this letter for a week, Harry. Take some time and rethink this."
"Since the horror happened, it's all I can think of. Nothing else matters, I'm afraid. Good day, Minister."
September 30 – December 19, 2018
Harry had both disappeared from the wizarding world and become a totem for its continued change. People realized that they agreed with what Harry wanted to do, but no longer had him around to do the simple, impossible things he attempted on a monthly basis. Other people began to step up.
Harry was still around, though no one knew it. He found his mind locked in the past, not just on his most recent personal tragedy but the one that had stolen his parents from him as well. It was a bit easier to think of his parents' tragedy rather than the recent, bitter one Harry had felt.
He read trial transcripts from the Death Eater trials.
He read family histories: the Bones, the Prewetts, the McKinnons, and the histories of the eleven old wizarding families that had been completely extinguished during the first war.
He read reports from orphanages and the appropriate volumes of the Annals of Hogwarts and thousands of pages of bureaucratic output from the Ministry of Magic decades earlier.
Then he went to the Ministry's 'secure archives' and retrieved old Auror reports. He looked at individual battles, the tactics they claimed to use, and all the minutiae.
Harry's perception of his world began to change.
The Death Eaters used Unforgivables and 'killed innocents.' The Aurors used Unforgivables and sometimes 'people were hurt in the crossfire from Ministry actions.'
Harry went back to the archives and found confiscated Death Eater records. He read all of them, too. They were diaries kept by Voldemort's top people. The man had even had an unofficial historian to document his campaigns.
Some of the stories agreed precisely with what the Aurors had stated – well, except for the bureaucratic language employed. But others were vastly different accounts.
The Aurors and the Death Eaters agreed on who'd killed Fabian Prewett, but disagreed on how Gideon had died (Aurors blamed Antonin Dolohov; the Death Eaters credited friendly fire from an unknown Auror). There were inconsistencies like this for almost a decade's worth of records.
Then Harry began to pay attention to the details around the official reports (not the facts inside them): who'd approved the reports, who'd read and authorized them. Quite a few names came back again and again. Crouch, Bagnold, Fudge, and others he wasn't familiar with.
The odd divergence between Death Eater accounts, Ministry accounts, and the printed record in the Daily Prophet occurred most often when Bartemius Crouch was involved and only less often when Fudge inserted himself into the situation.
A pattern like that was problematic, given what Harry knew of both men.
Harry took stacks of notes…and drew many disturbing conclusions about the history he'd never known. The Aurors killed three times as many people as the Death Eaters had at their three dozen different pitched battles (excluding the many, many raids where the Death Eaters were unopposed).
Harry also began counting numbers and names. The Death Eaters had numbered fewer than forty by the time Voldemort was 'vanquished' in 1981, but the reports revealed the names of two hundred nineteen known or suspected Death Eaters killed in battles, a far larger base of support for Voldemort than history ever revealed. At their height, the Aurors had only been one hundred forty bodies strong. History had obscured that fact as well.
Questions and doubts of many kinds filled his mind, but Harry found only more questions and not answers in what he read – in the distractions he filled his life with as he couldn't have his children back. The question, the main one, was 'why?'
Harry turned back to his notes on the proceedings of the Wizengamot during this time.
On the last day of November, Harry finally realized he had enough suspicions.
"How was I so blind? I almost saw the truth in that horrible last year of the war, but I flushed all my anger. I let the dying Snape and the dead Dumbledore manipulate me again…Their half truths got me to forgive them both, the ruddy bastards."
Harry went to Hogwarts over the winter break and got permission from Headmaster Keitch, former Defense Professor and Head of Hufflepuff House, to speak with Albus Dumbledore's portrait in a private setting.
Harry could barely contain his contempt for his former Headmaster. "Albus, I have a few matters to discuss with you…"
"Certainly, Harry, but let me extend my condolences. Freddie Keitch told me what happened…"
Harry waved his hand. "I want to talk about the Wizengamot in the 1970s, Albus. You were the Chief Warlock then as through much of the rest of your life…"
The portrait nodded.
"You didn't force Crouch or anyone else to follow the rules then. You let them get away without giving trials to suspected Death Eaters; you let them essentially execute a number of suspected Death Eaters…"
The portrait tried to interrupt.
"I've read the transcripts from the trials and the complete text of the Wizengamot sessions from then. I know. You allowed the Ministry to pillage the estates of extinct wizarding lines without regard to the wills left behind. You allowed wizarding orphans to be sent to muggle orphanages – which is worse than what you did to me in 1981 – and many of them never came back into our world, at least not into the British portion."
"There was nothing I could do…"
"Albus, you were the most powerful wizard in Britain. There wasn't much you couldn't do. With that kind of power, the rules no longer apply to you, unless you choose to follow them, right? That's the reason they insisted you serve as Chief Warlock? To tie you closer to the rules…"
"Barty Crouch had the public support to prosecute the war…"
"Albus, he was as much a terrorist in the end as Voldemort was. I suspect he covered up the deaths of at least one hundred witches and wizards dying, non-combatants, without any punishment for their attackers…every case was attributed to 'accidental means' or blamed on Death Eaters…"
"Now, Harry, there's no way you could know that."
"I went and found the Death Eaters' record of events. They planned to win, you know, and wanted to be able to write convincing histories of their great triumph over 'the muggle-loving fools.' So, I do know. I compared the Death Eater records with the official Ministry archives; they don't match in a lot of places. I have no idea why you let this happen…"
"There was nothing legal I could do to stop…"
"So you just sat at the head of a public court system and didn't tell anyone? Didn't explain it all to the public?"
"I didn't want to be disloyal…"
"Albus, you sat silently through the killings of hundreds of witches and wizards. And you had an illegal vigilante group keeping tabs in your spare time. I don't think you cared too much about what was legal…but you should have done the right things…"
"What would you have had me do, Harry?"
"End it. Protect the non-combatants."
"It sounds so simple. How?" Albus was almost mocking him now.
"Handle the people causing the chaos and destruction. Get rid of Crouch. Lock up or kill the mad dog Aurors he unleashed on Britain. Get rid of the Death Eaters. Solve the problem."
"Those were Voldemort's methods, Harry…"
"They were also Crouch's, Moody's, and a whole lot of others. The Aurors killed innocents while trying to capture the Death Eaters. Innocent people died needlessly every week from 1973 to 1981."
"I mourned the deaths, Harry…"
"Mourning is never enough, Albus. You had all the knowledge you needed, but you did nothing. Worse than nothing… You killed people yourself."
"What? I did nothing of the sort…"
"My parents died because of a faulty spell you threw at them: there are far better security wards than the Fidelius Charm. And even that one doesn't require an outsider to hold the secret…why insist on Sirius or someone else to hold the Secret? My father could have held it. Hell, even a Potter elf could have been trusted, you bastard…"
The portrait sputtered in indignation.
"I wonder why the Master Legilimencer sitting in front of me never tested his Order members? Or did you actually know about Pettigrew…"
The portrait blanched. "So, you knew or suspected…and, as always, you did nothing with the knowledge. You set it up so that the prophecy could play itself out, so that Voldemort could, with some effort, find me and my parents. You must have been so happy when you heard that the burden for ending Voldemort's days fell onto someone else. The great Dumbledore could keep his hands and beard clean, right?"
The portrait's jaw firmed. "I tried my hardest. The Order and I rescued whom we could. We fought along side the Aurors when we could. But nothing could deal with Voldemort. You could land a spell directly on him and it would do little or nothing… Only the Avada Kedavra, it seemed, would work… And I wouldn't, couldn't –"
"What good are you, Albus, if you never did anything with your vaunted powers? You say now that you did everything possible. Why was the Auror force so small compared to the ranks of the Death Eaters? Why did Voldemort have free reign to recruit in Britain and every other European country? Why did the British never ask for foreign assistance? You were the one everyone looked to for leadership, but you abrogated it to Barty Crouch and his mindless thugs. You, on the other hand, sat around, let criminals run the Ministry, let the old purebloods appear at parties during the day before they donned their masks at night. You knew the names of many of the Death Eaters; you could use your Mind Arts to find the rest, had you wanted. You had the power – and the utter obligation – to stop all of it. You could have had everyone in a private jail cell within days, not the most legal of actions, but it would have left Voldemort alone and more vulnerable. You knew everything that happened in Britain and did nothing. Why? That's why I've come to argue with a dusty piece of canvas. Why? Why did all this happen?"
"I don't know how to answer that…"
"Why did my parents die? Why did you stick me with hateful muggles? Why the little adventures in my first, fourth, and fifth school years that you could have stopped? Why didn't you stop Ginny Weasley from unleashing the basilisk? Or why not insist on Sirius Black receiving a trial? Cornelius Fudge couldn't have cast a cheering charm if he hadn't asked permission first. Why?"
The portrait pursed his lips.
"To think I forgave you all the horrible things you did, even after your history with Grindelwald and your dead sister and everything. You made Snape have me believe I was another sacrifice in your grand plans. I walked off believing I was about to sacrifice my life for everyone else's…and, even for that, I forgave you. Well, no more. Albus Dumbledore, you are declared enemy betrayer of the Potter Family. May peace forever escape you."
"What did you just do, boy?" The portrait Albus had just leaped to his feet, as if he could change anything now that he was trapped in paint.
"Tipping your hand, finally? 'Boy.' You sound like my Uncle Vernon."
"You can't do that to a dead man. It condemns them – me – to…"
"…eternal purgation. It's no less than you deserve. Lies after betrayals after omissions after plots. You are a piece of work, Albus. I hope the cleansing fires where you are find something inside you worth salvaging."
"No, stop, you have to stay your words, Harry. You can't do this to my soul…"
Harry started to get ready to leave, but had a sudden flash of realization. He smiled a deadly smile and fixed his gaze on the portrait.
"I long ago pieced together that you arranged for my ignorance. But one more part just made sense. You arranged for me to meet that woman didn't you? I don't believe the Weasleys, even that vile woman I married, knew what you had planned by ensuring I was clueless my first time at King's Cross Station. But you certainly hoped that I'd fall in with the most prominent of the Light wizarding families, didn't you? To get laughs from the twins, to make Ron my friend, perhaps even to fall for the red headed seventh child of the Weasleys. That's why Hagrid came to speak with me, not a representative of the Ministry of Magic. Everything was always different in my life; exceptions, complications. All your doing, I know now. You, Albus, are partially to blame for me meeting that woman, the Medea of our age. Because I just now realized it, I will never release you from your torments."
The portrait was openly crying now. The bit of soul residue contained inside the portrait was beginning to feel the pain Harry had just called down for Albus Dumbledore's true soul.
"When I see you again, Albus, it will not go well for you."
Harry left the small, dusty classroom where the portrait had been located. He knew enough now to be sure of his course.
"I, Harry Potter, will spend the rest of my life trying to right the wrongs committed by Voldemort, Crouch, Dumbledore, and every other villain who's broken magical Britain."
The golden glow of a solemn vow filled the corridor.
Without too much thought, Harry had just committed himself to an insane plan he had no idea would work.
When he was outside, he walked to the Forbidden Forest…specifically to a small clearing that he knew well. It didn't take him long to recover the small stone, very rare, he needed. When he walked back to the Hogwarts grounds, he stopped near Dumbledore's tomb.
He placed his wand hand on the white stone and said, "Come to me, my true wand." Moments later an enormous crack formed in the tomb and Harry held the Elder Wand once more. He took his holly wand and transfigured the distinctive Deathstick into something much more common: cherry wood.
He gave his new 'cherry' wand a few tests and it worked like a wonder. It was ultimate power in his hand.
Harry Potter left the grounds of Hogwarts never to return in this lifetime.
April 17, 2021
Once Harry recklessly decided on his improbable plan, he spent the next three years preparing. His pique of anger had not diminished in that time. He had not told the Hogwarts Headmaster why the portrait of Albus Dumbledore only moaned in pain now…Harry's anger for all manner of things was without bound.
But inside the anger, Harry's mind was still able to plan, to weight alternatives, and to prepare.
His planning could all be for naught, as his 'plan' seemed more than ideation of a madman than anything bound in reality. Still, Harry gathered together the elements he needed. He gathered together Voldemort's entire playbook from the first war: everything he'd done, everything the Ministry had done in response.
He compiled exacting biographies on everyone known to have played a role on either side of the first Voldemort war. Details of where they lived, how they made their money, who they associated with, what battles they were known to have been involved in, and anything else of interest.
The most important were on Dumbledore, Voldemort, Severus Snape, and Sybil Trelawney – the four people who had turned a mad woman's utterances into a 'reason' to wipe out a young family. He also studied the Malfoys, the Flints, the Crouches, the Fudges, and even the Umbridges.
He had a detailed treatise on Voldemort's horcruxes…where they were, what they were, roughly when they'd been created, and how to get at them. He listed all the known methods of destroying them and a few suspicions on other methods. Harry wanted to ensure that Voldemort's first fall was his last fall.
He had a detailed timeline on the events of the war: the dates of key Wizengamot votes, the dates of key disappearances and battles and raids, the date Trelawney lapsed into her prophecy…all of it. Harry was going to change everything he possibly could. (He had done the same with the Muggle world, as well, to have a second set of references. He even collated details lists of important stock and their high and low price points over the decades. While the information could be helpful supporting Harry's plans in a financial sense, it was also necessary to use such a thing to ensure that he didn't change history too much – just enough.)
He had a list of all his suspicions, all his hypotheses. He would try to prove or disprove them…he would try to set history aright.He also had three journals filled with notes on the theory of time travel and on the problem of paradox. He had even concocted a set of rules to ensure he wouldn't change the timeline he knew too much so as to destroy the advantage he held against Voldemort.
His plan was insane, audacious, likely to be a spectacular failure – but just bizarre enough to possibly work.
Harry was going to send himself back in time…on a one-way mission…to ensure that no one named Harry Potter ever grew up an orphan. He couldn't have children any more – couldn't stand the idea of trying to replace James, Albus, and Lily – or even use his plan to bring them back to life. He would just look at their living bodies and remember what she had done to them. No, the past he was considering was what led up to the scar on his forehead and the graves his parents dwelled in now. Harry couldn't bring himself to journey back to any point in which she had been alive.
He could ensure, however, that his own parents lived and his childhood was normal and undistinguishable from any other.
All it would take was the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisbility…Harry hoped. No one had ever attempted this sort of thing before, but Harry didn't care. He had nothing in the present. All his mind was focused on the past.
On what might have been.