Okay, I guess the first thing I should say is that this isn't HPDH compliant. Just consider it an AU from about…Oh, let's say after the fifth book. For more info, read the AN at the end.
As he opened the door to his office, Dumbledore was surprised to see the Baron, already present and leaning over one region of his overstuffed shelves, intent upon something he couldn't quite make out through the haze of the phantom's body.
That the ghost was in the room would have been no more shocking than anyone else being in his private rooms – the wards did not prevent ghosts from entering, rather Hogwarts itself would strongly discourage uninvited guests from entrance – were it not for the fact that the Baron was notoriously reclusive.
In the entirety of his stay at Hogwarts, the ageing headmaster had heard a grand total of two words from the Baron addressed directly to him – following his introductory speech to the staff and residents of the castle upon ascending to the post of Headmaster, the ghost had hovered in silence before the assembled audience, finally uttering a crisp "We'll see," in tones as chill as the grave, and sinking solemnly into the ground.
The rest of the audience had taken that as their cue to speak. While he was chatting animatedly with his peers and colleagues, Dumbledore couldn't help but reflect on that odd encounter.
His time as a teacher, and before that as a student, had taught him how highly the reclusive ghost's wisdom and advice was valued – more so for it's rarity.
Objectively, he knew that those two words were probably the best he could have hoped to receive. No one could recall any professor actually receiving a positive endorsement. Those who got given a negative review tended not to last long in their positions, collapsing quickly under the weight of their peers' scrutiny, as they examined the accused harshly to try and determine the cause of the Baron's ire.
But still, some part of him – the part that laughed in glee when people praised him, that squealed in joy whenever one of his papers was published to critical acclaim – had hoped, even expected, that never-before-seen praise.
After all, he was Albus Dumbledore. Genius. Prodigy. A legend in his own time. Word on the grapevine was that he could be Minister of Magic in a few years, if he so wanted.
But it seemed that wasn't enough for the sprit. The phantom apparently had higher standards.
Dumbledore could have accepted that, if only he knew what those standards were – who he was being compared to.
But no-one seemed to know the Baron's origins, or his true identity, or his motivations. And if anyone did know, they weren't talking.
This mystery man had been haunting the castle for as long as anyone – living or dead – could remember, and no one had ever managed to find a written record describing a Hogwarts without his presence.
And over the years, that small part of Dumbledore – Dumbledore the Great, Dumbledore the Wise – that sought the approval of others, had never stopped hoping that one day he'd turn around and come face to face with the ghost himself, ready to acknowledge him. Ready to talk.
But in over fifty years of dedicated service to the school, the most he'd ever received was an intermittent feeling of being watched, followed by him catching the Baron out of the corner of his eye for a second, moments before the shade vanished, silent as the grave.
In fifty years, his legend had grown. He was considered the greatest wizard in living history. A pinnacle of the light in every aspect. The school and it's residents, along with the entire wizarding population of Britain and it's allied nations, knew him and looked up to him as undoubtedly the greatest Hogwarts Headmaster ever to have lived.
But the ghost had never deigned to speak so much as one more word to him.
Which is why he was shocked again – dumfounded, in fact – when he stepped forwards to see what the shade was so interested in, only to be addressed by the man himself.
"Headmaster." The ghost never turned his head, or gave any other acknowledgement of his presence. Dumbledore knew he had made no sound in entering his office, and a visitor could just as easily been Minerva, or even one of the other House heads, all of which had a permanent invitation to his study at any time. In this way, he was caught flatfooted for a moment by one of his own favourite tricks, turned against him.
Still speechless, he stepped further into the room, bringing the object of the Baron's intent into view.
It had been there forever. A permanent fixture on that shelf long before this office had been his.
A tiny golden hourglass, filled with a brilliant emerald sand. It didn't move, apparently fixed utterly to the wood beneath it. Countless attempts to move it had been made over the years. One bright Headmaster a few centuries ago had had the idea of flipping the entire sack of shelves, only to find that they likewise seemed to be fixed down.
Anger mounting, the late Headmaster had thrown all of his strength into a powerful flipping hex.
Once the dust had settled from the shattered remains of the shelves and their contents, the only thing remaining was the tiny golden hourglass, suspended silently in midair, entirely undisrupted by the chaos surrounding it.
The new set of shelves were built around the hourglass.
The emerald sand never seemed to move, yet measurements over the centuries showed gradually increasing amounts of sand in the bottom bulb, and less in the top..
Innumerable scholars had studied the artefact over the years, and countless theories put forward about what it really was, what it was counting down to, and what would happen when the sand finally ran out.
So far, none of those theories had been proved or disproved, as the device resisted all forms of magical analysis.
By all rights, such an artefact should have been the responsibility of the Department of Mysteries, and if it could have been moved, that is almost certainly where it would have ended up.
As it was, part of the Headmaster's duties was to report any changes in the condition of the hourglass to the DoM.
The top bulb of the hourglass had been almost empty when Dumbledore inherited those responsibilities. Throughout his career, he'd never noticed any perceptible difference in the level – it was still low.
Now, peering over his companion's immaterial shoulder, Dumbledore gasped.
Here was precisely one grain of sand remaining, glinting fantastically all alone in the top bulb of the ancient timekeeper.
Even as he watched, the grain tottered and fell, seemingly in slow motion, a solitary green teardrop hanging weightless in the air for an impossible time, before landing in the bottom, throwing up a small emerald cloud as it cratered the sand already there.
The Baron relaxed. Up until that moment, Dumbledore hadn't even been aware of the tension, but it was obvious as it left the man like a wave.
"Quiet!" The Baron cut of Dumbledore's startled question sharply with a wave of his hand, clearly expecting something else to happen.
Dumbledore focussed again on the hourglass.
Even as he watched, not quite sure what he should be looking for, a single grain of sand – the last to fall, if he was any judge – suddenly flared into brilliance, shining brightly for seconds before winking out. In the wake of the flash of light, the grain had disappeared.
It wasn't the only one, as grain by grain the process repeated itself, accelerating until the entire contents of the hourglass was flaring brilliantly.
Faced with such brilliance, Dumbledore had to turn his eyes away. When he could face the hourglass again, it was empty – void of all sand. Beside him, the Baron let out a deep and satisfied sigh.
"What…What was that? In all my years…" Dumbledore stuttered slightly as he spoke.
The Baron retained his trademark calm monotone as he replied. "That? That was … a promise, fulfilled." He cocked his head to the side, considering. "You may want to cast a shield."
"..What?" Dumbledore, still puzzling over the cryptic remark, missed his cue.
"A shield, Headmaster." Was Dumbledore dreaming, or was there a note of wry amusement in the phantom's voice. "Around the hourglass. You may want to cast one."
Dumbledore hurried to comply, not knowing why, but recognising that his companion clearly knew what was happening far more that he himself did. "Why am I doing this, exactly?"
The Baron leaned forward, immaterial fingers passing through the shield with ease and tracing the pattern of stress fractures slowly appearing on the surface of the hourglass.
"The Waiting-glass was suspended outside of time." He spoke suddenly. "Such is no longer the case."
Dumbledore had by this time regained a measure of his poise. "And that means what, exactly?" He knew as much about temporal magics as any genius could be expected to, but it was hardly his favoured field.
The Baron favoured him with a glance, and this time the amusement was clear when he spoke. "It means, Headmaster, that every force applied to it while it was outside of time, is about to effect it simultaneously."
Dumbledore's eyes widened as he realised the implication, and he wasted no time in pouring more of his power into his shield, rendering it visible – a sphere surrounding the hourglass, bisected by the shelf it sat on.
His improvements came not a second to soon, as he hourglass suddenly exploded in a flash of light, with a roar that shook the shelves even through the shield, sending countless other oddities further along the shelves falling to their doom.
When the light cleared, Dumbledore staggered back to his desk and collapsed in his chair, exhausted from the effort of containing the blast.
The Baron was unfazed, as ever. He waited for Dumbledore to regain his breath, then spoke. "I have what I came for. You may keep this bauble, to replace the ones I destroyed."
With that he turned on his heel and sunk ankle deep into the floor, before apparently having a change of heart, stepping out again and striding through the door, ghostly booted feet clicking smartly and silently against the stone floor.
Dumbledore ad been too tired to even request he stay and explain the events that had happened He sat in his chair until he had regained energy sufficient to hobble over to his cabinet and down the pepper-up potion he kept there for emergencies.
Somewhat revitalised, he recalled the Baron's offer of the 'bauble', and tugged sharply on the thread of power still leading away from him.
The shield he had created flew swiftly over to him, along with its contents, apparently no longer held fast in space. He eyed with discontent the shelf, now sporting a perfectly round hole where the hourglass – no, the Baron had called it 'the Waiting-glass' – had once been.
The object inside the shield had cooled enough to touch, so he cancelled the barrier and let its contents fall into his hand, breath escaping in amazement and wonder.
The object's structure was impossible to describe, passing through such strange angles and loops that conventional mathematics would fail to contain it. Trying to follow a line on its surface with his eyes, he ended up at the opposite side of the object with no memory o the path that had led him there. Trying again from the same starting point had him ending up somewhere completely different. He was getting the idea that the bauble existed in more dimensions than he was used to dealing with.
It's material was odd too, being a weird mishmash of gold, glass and wood, blending together seamlessly, and with odd sections presumable consisting of mixtures of all three material components fused together in some manner.
Placing an eye to a transparent portion, he had the feeling of his vision dropping sharply away from him into a long tunnel, followed by many twists and turns. Eventually, a figure swam into view. The image was blurry, but he'd know his own features anywhere.
But this wasn't him, or at least – not him as he was now. Despite the fact that the figure was standing in the same office, staring into the same device, this was a beardless, unbespectacled youth.
He couldn't be more than twenty.
He lowered the glass from his eye, catching one last glimpse of his younger double doing the same before his office swam back into view.
He pinched his beard between his fingers, sitting down at his desk.
The device was a magnificent curiosity. To an amateur alchemist such as himself, it was a princely gift, even without the other magical and theoretical challenges it posed to him.
Wondering over the possibilities that the device might hold, the headmaster failed to notice as his attention was neatly diverted, and the questions he had wanted to pose to the Baron receded to the back of his mind.
He had no time for such things, not until he'd finished playing with his new toy.
There was a certain sense of ceremony about his actions, as he moved through the halls and corridors of the great castle, rather than taking a more direct route through the walls.
He walked with an eternal grace and dignity, despite not actually needing to walk at all, in order to move. For a ghost, motion through the ether was a mere act of will.
He chose to walk.
Several ghosts passed him in the halls, bowing their greetings but not speaking, perhaps influenced by his mood. He saw Peeves setting traps for Filch near the broom cupboard. The poltergeist took one look at his face and fled – realising perhaps that the Baron would have no patience for his antics at this moment.
Myrtle looked up as her sanctuary was invaded, ready to tear into the intruder until se saw who it was. The Baron was said to be cruel by some, but Myrtle had never believed such. The ghost was a little distant, perhaps, but he'd never been anything but kind to her. She'd had a schoolgirl crush on the man when se was alive, and dying had only exacerbated the matter.
She counted herself lucky that she'd been too shy to approach him properly during the early years after her death, and that delay had let her crush blossom fully, while utterly annihilating any hope she might have had for a romance with him. This knowledge had saved her much pain, in the long run.
To the seasoned observer, it was clear that the Baron was a man – a ghost – on a mission. He had something he felt that he had to do, and the rest of the universe fell into line behind that sense of duty.
The ghosts understood. Mortals might consider him cold and uncaring – and he was – but that was simply because most mortals managed perfectly well on their own. It was the ghosts – those sad individuals who managed to screw up their lives so badly they were forced to stick around until the managed to pass a make-up test – they were the ones that needed his help and guidance.
The Baron was the oldest and wisest of them all. Sooner or later, ever ghost in Hogwarts – and far more besides – owed something to him, whether t was their happiness, their redemption… in some cases, even their very existence.
The Hogwarts ghosts might complain about Peeves's presence, but the Baron allowed him to stay, so their complaints only ever went so far.
It would be the work of seconds for the Baron to draw his sword and perform the psychic surgery necessary for Sir Nicholas to ride in the Headless Hunt, but Nick – for all his vaunted Gryffindor bravery – had never quite worked up the courage to ask. The Baron had never offered. Everyone else – and even Nick, in his heart of hearts – knew how miserable the Gryffindor ghost would be I he lost the only thing that made him truly unique.
And Myrtle knew that, as he was, the Baron was simply incapable of returning her affections, devoted as he was to whatever it was he perceived to be his duties. So she considered it a kindness – a personal courtesy – never to put him in a situation where he would have to disappoint her in such a way.
Still, it never hurt to be polite, in case the situation ever changed. She dropped a curtsey to the senior phantom, dipping briefly from her position in midair as she did so.
The Baron, in turn, gave a half-bow that had become his trademark among the ghosts, denoting a high degree of respect towards the target, despite them being of lower standing than himself. It was his standard greeting to another ghost.
The living received no such courtesy.
"My Lord," Myrtle dimpled prettily as se smiled at him, "It's rare to get a visitor here…?"
He smiled, a rare occurrence. "young Madam, who could resist such glamorous company. Were that I was here for leisure. Alas," Myrtle giggled, suspecting correctly that his flowery language was for her benefit, "I have business today, below, or I would gladly tarry longer."
He gathered his cloak around him, smiled his goodbye, and stepped through and beneath one of the sinks.
Myrtle watched him go as the last of her laughter subsided. When she realised the full import of his actions, she stood solemn.
"The lady should hear of this."
So saying, she put actions to words and sped off through the walls.
The Baron did not slow to admire his surroundings. While the Chamber held countless magical mysteries undreamt of to most of wizarding-kind, it held no secrets to him.
Walking to one of the walls, he drew his sword. Here he hesitated.
A ghost's sword is not a physical thing, and can have no more affect on the material world than the ghost itself.
What it can affect, is the immaterial world.
The Baron himself, if asked, would answer in a faintly lecturing tone, that it was similar in some ways to sympathetic magics such as certain variants of voodoo. In both cases, and effect on the 'soul' of an object or person relates to a physical effect.
In voodoo, it is possible to prepare a wax doll using hair or blood stolen from a person, so that actions made upon the doll affect its likeness too. This happens because the 'soul' of the doll – it's breath, it's chi, or it's fundamental energy, depending on who you talked to – is similar to, and resonates in sympathy with, the soul of its likeness.
When a hair is plucked from a head, its chi is altered slightly, but remains fundamentally intact. It is thus linked to its former owner. Attached to an amplifier of sorts, it can be used to affect its former owner.
The Baron's sword, his 'Phantom Edge,' worked in the opposite manner. It did not touch the physical object at all, instead cleanly severing the objects fundamental energy, the action of which the caused the physical object – the material representation of the soul of the object – to follow suit.
Facing the wall, he made three swift cuts, his mind racing along well practised lines. Sheathing his sword, he reached forward and touched the wall, letting his fingers sink into it's surface. A moment later, a triangular piece of the wall simply fell away, along with its section of the preservation charms placed on the Chamber, both neatly severed from their mountings.
It was a trick he had practised countless times across the centuries, focussing his mind to perceive and alter the fundamental energies around him. His sword, in truth not a sword but a mental representation of his memories of a sword and his ideas of a sword – what a sword should be, what a sword could be – consciously enhanced by his will, had grown to become a powerful artefact in it's own right, maintaining its existence and ethereal sharpness even when he wasn't thinking about it, or when he actively diverted his thoughts away from it, although never as effective as when it worked in concert with him like the part of his soul it truly was.
All the rest of his skills had developed from there, although many diverged from his swordsmanship over the years. He might lack the directness of a natural poltergeist like Peeves, but a well trained ghost could have much further reaching effects, consciously manipulating the immaterial world, and through it both the magical and physical domains.
He stepped through the hole in the wall.
The chamber beyond was not natural, being almost perfectly spherical, save for his hastily cut entrance. The walls were embossed with lines of script. A dedicated scholar might identify snatches of French and Latin, Hebrew and Arabic.
If the first layer of writings could be stripped away, that same scholar would find lines of ancient Chinese and Japanese script beneath it, alongside a little equally ancient Greek, and even a few Egyptian hieroglyphs and pictograms.
Our scholar would prove his dedication if, as successive layers of writing were worn away, he continued to recognise and identify the languages that were exposed, ever older – Sumerian, Babylonian, Cuneiform …
The Baron could recognise them all. Once upon a time, when he had been a very different person – and after years of study to learn those languages ancient even when he was young – he had written them.
He waited patiently as the chamber's repairing enchantment activated, summoning his impromptu door back into place and reversing the damage done, both to the wall and the magics embedded in it.
Once sealed, nothing – material or immaterial, living or dead – could enter or leave the chamber.
The only possible exception would be something not existing according to the standard laws of time and space, and so it was in this room that he waited patiently for the same thing he had been waiting for for so long already.
Slowly, but with increasing speed, the air itself began to glow with an eerie light.
The Baron's eyes did not require mundane light – if this could be described as such – to see by, be he was grateful for it nonetheless. He would hate to make a mistake at this late stage, if indeed such was possible, after waiting so long and sacrificing so much.
A spark appeared in the air, emerald green and incandescent. As it gained definition, others began to appear around it.
The Baron stepped into the expanding cloud of emerald sands – the same sands he had recently witnessed the apparent destruction of in the Headmaster's study. Silently, the sands sprang into motion, whirling around his translucent figure in erratic orbits.
The Baron closed his eyes, concentrating fiercely. This was the difficult bit.
Centuries ago, he had split his own magical core from himself, preserving it outside of time, even against his own inevitable death, which should have shattered it and sent its energies back to the aether from which the had first formed.
Indeed, the inevitability of his death had been the primary reason to take such drastic measures. He had known, without a fraction of a doubt, he would one day need his magic once more, and the inability of ghosts to retain their magical core after death was well documented.
And so his plan had been born. It was dangerous, reckless and entirely untested. It left him hideously undefended and unprepared for attack – ultimately leading to his gruesome demise.
But it had worked. He had split his ore from himself and bound it away with his last vestiges of power.
The wait had been excruciating, but necessary. Absorbing it again shortly after his death would have been easy, relatively speaking, but doing so would have meant removing it again when its Duplicate was put into play – two identical creations could not coexist – and he could be in no way certain that his magics, almost certainly changed, transformed by his own metamorphosis into a spectre, would remain similar enough to wizard-magics to perform the same ritual and remove his core again.
And so he waited. The hourglass patiently counting down the days until the Duplicate was finally removed from the world, allowing reintegration to safely take place.
If he could get it to work.
At the time he divested himself of his core, 'The Baron' had been a disguise he had created to protect him in a dangerous and uncaring world.
But centuries of existence as the Baron since had made it more than just a role to play, and 'The Bloody Baron' was now as much him as anything else ever had been.
All of which meant that the magical core he had abandoned so long ago – which only knew him as a very much more immature version of himself – probably wouldn't recognise him as he was now, and therefore wouldn't accept him.
And if it wouldn't accept him as he was now, then there was only one possible option – he would have to change.
Using oft-practiced occlumentic techniques, he reached back into the depths of his own memory, finding a very different – very much younger, in every sense of the word – version of himself, and bringing it forward.
Ghosts are naturally amorphous entities. Any form they might possess is solely as a result of their own memory and self image. The Baron was perhaps a touch more malleable than most – having been a minor metamorph in life, and accordingly having something of a variable self-image – but even he would have been shocked by the change that swept over him, had his eyes not been closed and his senses not directed inwards for the duration of the process.
He had been the Baron for a long time now, and was in no way prepared to give it up entirely, and so he held those younger memories up to the light only long enough to feel the first few grains of sand pass into him, juddering to a stop as the anchored to some dark recess of his soul, before releasing his firm grip and letting more recent memories – his current, more mature self – step up to meet them and mingle.
It was a glorious, confusing mess in his mind, such as it had not been for hundreds of years, made only the more chaotic by the frequent percussive thunk as more and more grains of sand anchored themselves within him, gradually rebuilding his magical core, from where it had been torn so long ago.
He had no clue as to what the vast majority of the effects such a process might have on himself. No ghost had ever wielded magic before, and theories only went so far. For himself, a benefit he hoped to receive the most, was mobility.
Ghosts are truly limited creatures. Bound to the place they haunt, needing to leech magic from the environment for heir very existence. An enterprising spirit might manage to travel to another high-magic site from their own haunt, using the web of Ley Lines that connect such places, but sooner or later, they were forced to return to their own territory, and of course there were places even Ley Lines didn't go or couldn't take them.
Having a magical core of his own, the Baron hoped to be freed from his dependency on Hogwarts. As much as he loved the castle, the battles that awaited him might spread much further afield, and he was sick of being limited by geography.
Soon he would know for sure
He waited patiently, enduring the chaos in his mind until his core was once more complete, albeit not completely stable, and relaxed. Observing the patterns of his mind, he decided against doing anything immediately – the rougher currents would calm in a day or two, letting him control his new state of mind much better, and tampering too much right now could have disastrous effects.
Turning his inner eye outwards, he examined the changes that had been wrought upon his form. While his clothes and accoutrements were unchanged, he was younger looking and held himself with a looser, more relaxed grace. Silvery blood still dripped occasionally from his stained astral body, but unlike before, he could find no open wounds on his body to explain such, even beneath his ghostly vestments. His chains…were just as heavy as ever, but now they seemed not to burden him quite so much as before.
Reaching up behind his fringe, silvery fingers traced a faded scar, almost invisible against ghostly flesh.
Eyelids flickered open, revealing twin sparks of emerald green, luminescent in the darkness and quite out of place on his otherwise monotone frame.
A savage grin spread across his features and he patted the hilt of the sword at his side as he spoke.
"Time to get my Haunt on…"
Well, that's it. Sometime after fifth book, Harry gets flung back in time (I don't know how long), where he becomes The Baron. He knows, thanks to the prophecy, that he has to be around to fight in the future, which means he's either immortal or going to become a ghost. Various things convince him that the first is not the case, and as a ghost he couldn't have any magic, which he's pretty sure he'll need.
Cue his one-in-a-million-chance ritual to hold his core out of time until he can reclaim it, which for various reasons, isn't until his past self leaves the timeline, the date he himself was once sent back through time to become the person he is now.
Like I said up top – this isn't HPDH compliant, so nothing we found out about the canonical ghosts should be taken as fact.
I left it open with the possibility of a Myrtle romance, or a Grey Lady, or even a Tonks (both metamorphs, so if you could pull off her death of do it Patrick Swayze style…). Right now, Harry's mix of a guy who's too dedicated to his duties to have a romance, and someone who's only mostly dedicated to their duties. What that means is that Romance is no longer impossible, but you'd still have to take it slow and make it believable – He's not 100 percent against it anymore, it's just not the kind of thing that would naturally occur to him, so…
I don't know what Dumbledore's new toy does - even if it's important at all. Feel free to explore that a little further.
Harry still means to combat Voldemort. Circumstances have dictated that he must do so as a ghost. Nevertheless, he intends to win. He may not be able to match Voldemort for power (or he may, entirely up to you) but he has a vast edge in influence.
And that's pretty much all I have. This hit me on the plane to Turkey, and I wrote it on and off over the last week and a half. I like it well enough, but right now I've got no real plans for a continuation, or any real motivation to do so. I've got a lot of other stuff on right now, and I wouldn't have the time even if I wanted to.
So this one is up for grabs. Adoption is free to a good home. If anyone out there thinks they can do something with this, please feel free.
I'll leave it there.