Natural Order

Chapter 5: Home

His dreams bothered him at times, though his dormitory mates had long since become accustomed to it. He would be travelling through mists and clouds, sometimes walking across the ground, sometimes flying, and there were voices – faint voices, crying out, crying for him to save them, or crying for his damnation because he had killed them. He tried to set it aside, but sometimes it was hard, which made it difficult to get going in the morning. Thankfully, they were rarely more than once a week, and the right people had learned to recognise the signs long ago.

He was looking forward to the wedding after leaving school at the end of the month. Tonks had finally forced Remus to make an honest woman out of her, not that the writing had been less than clear for the past three years. Hogwarts' first and only lycanthropic DADA teacher had also been the one to break the rumoured curse upon the position, staying in the job since the second term of Harry's first year. Harry wondered what random girlfriend Sirius would bring to the event, but regardless, he knew fun would be had by all.

Harry looked up at the sky and enjoyed the clear blue that spread across the horizon, signifying one of those rare summer days in Scotland with nary a cloud in sight. He could faintly see Ron flying about the Quidditch Pitch from here, savouring his last days as Head Boy and Quidditch Captain. Harry was happy for his friend, recently selected as a reserve player for the Cannons, but was happier he was not going there to play. Maybe Ron could turn the team around, but Harry doubted it. Hermione had offered to help Ron plan strategies for the team, but he honestly thought she had no hope for it either.

"Feeling all right, Harry?" Dumbledore's voice cut through his thoughts as they walked along the edge of the lake. "It's not the dreams again, is it?"

"Not really, sir." Harry smiled at the headmaster, secure in their friendship. The man even came around during holidays and summer breaks, spending time with Harry and his motley family at Number Twelve. "Just thinking about everything that's changing in a week or so."

"Relax, Harry," Dumbledore said with a fatherly pat on the shoulder. "Don't listen to the people who think I'm grooming you to be my successor. I want you to live your life and to do what you want. You've earned it, lad. Some day, should you want to come back here once you've had a bit of experience in this world, we'll talk about it."

Harry laughed softly. "Thanks, I think," he said after a moment. "It's not that, really. I just feel like . . . like sometimes, there's something I'm supposed to be doing, you know? There's some battle to be fought, or some big event coming."

Dumbledore said nothing as they walked around the lake, and Harry enjoyed the solitude with him. It was clear that the headmaster was old, but Harry liked to think his virtual grandfather would be there forever, immortal in a fashion.

"Harry, I do not know when next we will have a chance to talk like this, so I would like to tell you something." Harry nodded when Dumbledore made eye contact, saying without words that this was serious. "There may come a time when things look bleak, when there are Dark powers gathering. If that happens, you must come back here and talk to the Sorting Hat."

Harry was so surprised that he stopped. "Talk to the Sorting Hat?"

Dumbledore smiled, but the expression failed to reach his eyes. "Yes, I know it sounds like another barmy request from an old man, but I am most serious."

"Err, all right, sir," Harry said, unsure what to make of the request. "I'll do that, but I hope I don't have to."

"As do I, Harry, as do I." Dumbledore began walking again, so Harry joined him.

"Sir, is there something you know that I don't, something about the future?" Harry was unable to shake a certainty that Dumbledore was trying to hint at something, but this was the first time he had ever noticed it.

"The future is never fixed, Harry, you should know that. Many things we do can change the outcomes once seen, and all I ask is that you remember my request." There was a hint of humour in the headmaster's voice as he changed the topic. "And how does your personal life look today, Harry?"

"Better, sir," Harry said with a chuckle. "She's not threatening to hex me after that prank, so she must truly love me."

"You think that she feels that way, or you think that you do?"

Harry shrugged. "I'd hate to think it's otherwise, really. We've talked off and on about what happens next. Next year will be hard, but we'll certainly stay together. Still, we both also need to decide what we want to do with our lives individually before we can decide how we're going to manage being together farther down the road."

"Most wise, Harry, most wise." Dumbledore remained silent as they continued on, before speaking again as they reached the half-way point around the lake. Dumbledore gestured back to the castle, and Harry stopped to stand beside him, shoulder to shoulder. "It's a beautiful sight, isn't it, Harry?"

"I've always thought of it as home, sir," Harry said softly.

"Yes. I feel the same." They continued to look at the castle, and Harry enjoyed the dual image between the reflection in the quiescent lake and the castle itself. "I'm glad you feel that way, Harry. As long as people feel that, I have hope that Hogwarts will always be here."

Harry laughed lightly. "Of course it will, sir. Where else will I send my children? It's not like I'll even have a choice. She would hex me into next year if I suggested Beauxbatons."

Dumbledore chucked softly. "Indeed, Harry, indeed." As he started walking again, Harry resumed his place at his side.

"I was wondering, Headmaster, how well the . . . Ministry is taking to our use of Malfoy Manor?"

Dumbledore, Harry thought, giggled briefly. When he looked more closely, all he could see was Dumbledore watching him with those eyes twinkling like mad. "I think it's safe to say, Harry, that they have no say in the matter. But, just between you and me, they could have heard the screaming from some members all the way inside the deepest vaults at Gringotts."

Harry chuckled lightly as they continued their path back toward the castle. "I suppose an in-depth study of the evidence contradicting every pureblood claim would grate against some people. Not to mention the museum dedicated to famous Muggle and magical inventors and their works, regardless of blood."

Dumbledore clapped Harry lightly on the shoulder, sliding his hand around and pulling Harry into a one-armed hug. "Harry, my boy, I can't tell you how proud I am of what you and your godfather have done, have been doing. The changes are far too late for many, but the future generations . . . I have great hope for the future, Harry, and it's all because of you. You've changed so much for so many."

Harry smiled up at the man he had spent so many hours and years chatting with, learning magic from, and ultimately, growing up under the wisdom of. "Thanks, sir. I'll do my best."

"Ah, I know you will, Harry."

Harry heard someone calling his name, and as he looked up, he had to laugh at the person running toward them. She never let him be alone for long, and he liked it that way. He looked forward to their future together, in whatever direction their careers took them.

He was happy to hold his arms out in open invitation, just watching her long, vibrant hair fly as she joined him.

oOo oOo oOo

A/N:

Fin.

The original title to this was "Take Two" but Sovran unwittingly gave me a better title. I was also briefly tempted to use "Double Jeopardy" but I really do like "Natural Order" a tad better.

Due to the interesting reactions, I thought I'd share extensive comments on the story, something I usually try to avoid getting too far into. I prefer people to find their own interpretations and understanding, as well as try to work out the clues in the writing.

Draco + Noise

What happened to the Draco investigation? Harry took a calculated risk. Chapter 1 Harry is insane, unbalanced, driven, and above all, gunning to get his agenda in place. He knew what he was planning for later that night for Pettigrew, and he took the chance that eliminating Draco would be a small ripple compared to the big ripple he was going to cause. Was there an investigation? Yes, and it was becoming large, until the rest happened. Then the manpower was pulled to the corruption, scandals, and so on, and the remaining under-manned team made the only call they could. It happens all the time in real life just like that. Would the investigation be re-opened later? Probably. But by that point, Harry would have been quite safe – either dead or unknowing of his own acts. Could he have just had Draco imprisoned? No, there was nothing to use for that purpose. Bear in mind, this is only partially DH compliant. If Voldemort hadn't been stopped, what would canon Draco have done? Gone along with everything.

Lack of opposition, timing, constant barrage

Did you deliberately make Harry some kind of uber-powerful person? No, actually, he's not Super!Harry or some variant thereof. He's normal Harry, except he knows how to use wandless magic (see Bk7 and the Snape memories of Lily), but he is also older and experienced with years of knowledge from his past life. What you see as an unstoppable Harry is actually Harry causing a massive wave of inertia to swamp "the system" which is loosely modelled after the Augustus situation (if that makes no sense, read Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Fudge's reign relies on discrediting opponents, underhanded attacks, and so forth – and that's based on canon alone. Here, Harry is deliberately making a massive change, and forcing the ripples to "keep going" while increasing in magnitude. There's no chance for the purebloods, Fudge, etc. to take a breath and work out a counter-strategy. They are blind-sided, and it's too late for opposition to matter much. Instead, if Harry had taken the Viridian/MaxFic/foo route of careful and slow changes, the opposition would have gathered and made an effective counter to his presence. Here, they don't even know who the opposition is, only that their careful blankets of lies and influence have suddenly been yanked off rather rudely in the middle of the night.

Azkaban is enough

Harry didn't kill lots of people even though he could have. Why? Mostly because with the changes forced, the Azkaban guards remain unchanged and are still nominally servants of the Empire, err, Ministry. Sentencing the remaining Malfoy family, for example, to many years (or life) there is good enough. Harry had contingency plans in place to "permanently" deal with them, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, but those plans never were called for.

Planned self-obliviate

Harry was planning to Obliviate himself, as you discovered fully in Chapter 4, though there were clues much earlier. He knew he was unhinged, he knew he couldn't keep going with his future self inside his head, and more than that, he knew he couldn't keep going with his present-actions inside his head either. He had to remove all future memories, as well as all memories related to what he did to change the timeline so massively. He was perfectly willing to die in the process, but Floppy had an alternative. For the record, and it's all off-the-page, Floppy's "treatment" of Harry's memories left him hospitalized for a while. Dumbledore smoothed over any issues related to it all. This is also one of the driving reasons why Harry was willing to forcibly "nudge" his old/future friends in more positive directions, since he was not going to force changes – merely attempt to alleviate the most acute character flaws from his prior experiences. Was he successful? That's for you to decide.

What Dumbledore knew

Wouldn't you like to know? I had planned on leaving it all unclear, but I'll spill my personal interpretation: in the end, Floppy told him everything. Before the end, Dumbledore had strong suspicions that all was not what it seemed with Harry, and his investigations were ongoing. Unfortunately, he – like everyone else in authority – was slammed with the huge waves that Harry's actions made. Near the end, it was Harry's request for Dumbledore to spend time explaining his family and Godric's Hollow to him that assuaged many fears, and once the Hat told him everything, Dumbledore would have appreciated the pressures and problems Harry faced like no one else ever could. That would lead him amicably to set up the one-on-one sessions to discuss the past and to build a strong friendship to Harry as the years rolled by. Dumbledore's request for Harry to talk to the Hat should things become dire was actually the Hat's request of Dumbledore. Was there danger of a future gloom via some other Dark Lord? History demonstrates that there always is.

Snape + Dumbledore + Occlumency off the page

On the one hand, Harry was trying to avoid detection. On the other, he was able to clearly present a consistent image to attempts at mental invasion. Wouldn't that give up the game? Yes, he did. Snape was unwilling to dig around in Harry's memory due to the distaste for what else might be in there, but also because it was clear to him that Harry had Occlumency training and was baiting the man. The tic Snape had was less from the daisies than from the frustration of being blocked from Harry's mind and taunted at the same time. Despite the man's pettiness, bitterness, and complete lack of maturity, he would have no basis to complain over Harry's defences, and the man knew it. That didn't stop him from talking to Dumbledore about it, however, and as already made clear in the text, even Dumbledore checked out Harry's skill level. See the prior part of this A/N about concerns and investigations.

Dursleys

Why didn't magic detectors go off? Simple. Based on canon, at that age and before having an official wand or going to Hogwarts, Harry wasn't accountable. Would the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad have shown up, based on the magnitude of the display? Perhaps, but my assumption is that they have to be summoned. Did Petunia ever contact Dumbledore? No, she didn't. Vernon is in long-term psychiatric care in Surrey, and Petunia and Dudley are adjusting to a new reality. Perhaps they became better people for it. Perhaps not.

What about TimeMage/NoFP/re-do knock-offs

"Wow, this was a lot like NoFP, or some other re-do fic." Yes, in many senses, it was. The first major difference is that Harry went back with all his powers and knowledge ready. Viridian didn't quite make Harry that powerful from the get-go, though Viridian made him no slouch by any means and NoFP wound up with a Super!Harry in core strength. MaxFic is the only one I know of that had Harry completely "re-learn" and "re-develop" his own magic after going back. Both MaxFic and Viridian, however, took the slow-and-steady approach, which builds characters, explores interesting ideas and what-ifs, and also allows a navigation of the fine edge of sanity for the central characters. I opted to go a different route, obviously, mostly to show that if you really knew the score and what to do, you could do it all a good bit faster. What I glossed over, however, was the extreme risk Harry was taking. If his actions backfired, he very well could have made the future a bigger mess than it already was scheduled to be. For the record, Viridian's eventual attempt on the re-do idea has set the bar very high, and any re-do fic is always de facto compared to his. I wanted that comparison in the reader's head to highlight how different this is. Double Jeopardy is also a legal principle, in that you can't be tried for the same crime twice. I liked the irony of the story summary, as that's exactly what Harry is doing – to himself, and everyone else.

Harry's Sanity

Reconciling Harry from Chapter 1 to Harry of Chapter 4 is hard, unless you read carefully and think about it a bit. Making the switch to Chapter 5 is relatively easy since I had the Hat "fix up" Harry's mental state, albeit at a rather hefty price. In Chapter 1, it's clear that Harry is very much insane. But why? Think about it. In the first half of the chapter, Harry has been forced into his situation by events and years of hard living, yes. But he also carried around the diadem of Ravenclaw for years, without a sword or handy basilisk (recall, Hogwarts was obliterated, so no way into the Chamber). Bear in mind the canon evidence for what a crusty can do to you, and you'll understand his lack of sanity is partially artificial as well. At the end of Chapter 1, it's clear that he is, in fact, bothered by what he did to Malfoy. The Harry in the last sentences is not the Harry in the first sentences of that chapter. Why the change? First, going "back" has undone the corruption of his soul by the long exposure to the diadem. Thus, he's acting on memory and habit, rather than genuine feelings of Voldemort essence (talk about a bad perfume…). Next, the continued exposure to people, and specifically a non-apocalyptic world, has begun a process of blunting some of the more sharp edges. The pleasure and instant-gratification of seeing his friends, his former girlfriend, all the humans alive and happy at the platform before going to Hogwarts would further this point greatly. Third, time itself is an incredibly powerful healing agent. Lacking the daily reminders and influences of the past, let alone cursed items in your pocket, the passage of days blunts memories of trauma and pain. And finally, having something to focus on, something new, is a powerful means to moving beyond a troubled past. All of these things, combined with the Hat's ultimate interference, move Harry from Chapter 1 through Chapter 5. However, even though the Hat has done everything it could, you'll note in Chapter 5 that Harry still suffers from the side effects of his past and future selves. Actions do have consequences, after all. Even when JKR blows it and doesn't hold people accountable, I will.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

Echoes Ch27 is in beta (still in brit-pick stage), but with luck it may be done before the end of the year. If not, enjoy your winter holidays, in whatever form or substance you partake in.