Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter - and this will be the only sensible disclaimer. From this point on, I'll be writing the first thing that pops into my head. Like pumas, or strawberry sundaes... Mmmm...
A/N: READ IMPORTANT! Well, here we go again, folks. This is the second installment of the The Hero Trilogy, the first installment being Sword of the Hero. If you have not read that story, then this one probably won't be too much fun. Although it sort of stands on its own, and then gets really insane. This story is completed, as is the third story - links can be found in my profile to the yahoo! group where they are already posted in their entirety.
All the best,
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEFIANCE OF THE HERO
We live in a world of infinite possibilities; a planet that is absolutely teeming with life and colour, with beauty and art, and with mystery and intrigue. To many our planet is just one in a universe of such a sheer magnitude that it is beyond comprehension. A relatively small, blue planet that rotates around an insignificant sun on the spiral arm in a galaxy of, again, unimaginable size. An important planet nonetheless, as it is the only one we are ever going to live on.
Magic thrives on this world. It is in the planet's very veins, pulsing, changing, creating... and destroying. It even creates boundaries that can and do separate universes.
At any one moment a billion different choices or decisions lead this world down its set path. But what if those choices had been different...? What if a decision made was different from what was supposed to happen? It could be something as meaningless as crossing a road, or as shattering as preventing the death of a friend. You could either choose to cross that road, or not. It may not seem to matter at the time, but what you choose will unstoppably map out the course of the rest of your life.
Suppose you do choose to cross that road, but end up under the wheels of a bus. You would have made a decision that ended your life. What would have happened, how many lives would have been different or affected by yours if you chose not to cross that road? What course would the world and universe have taken then?
Where do all these other paths lead?
The roads not taken?
The chance... of choice.
This, of course, leads to the question of parallel universes. Crossing that road ended your life but, perhaps, in some unreachable reality, on another world, in another universe, you chose not to cross that road. You're still alive there, so how different would that world be with you continuously effecting events and making choices. It wouldn't be the world you died in... For every choice you make, an alternate choice may be played out in another place.
This idea suggests that there is more than one universe, and each is separated from the others. Unreachable, untouchable, inaccessible. In truth we interact with these "hidden" universes all the time, in many different ways. It is only through the awesome power of magic that these other worlds are kept separated from each other – in our hearts and in our minds… and through our very Soul.
No spell, no incantation, no potion has ever been known or used to try and break the invisible barrier between universes. No one even knew that one existed, or could be used so simply. None that is... until now.
Magic is blood, and blood is magic.
The fate of a hero, of a boy ruled by destiny and prophecy, has just been thrown into question and doubt as he becomes the first mortal being ever to defy the strongest law of magic... and live.
But just because the barriers and boundaries of alternate universes can be broken, does not mean that they should. Consequences beyond imagination may occur now that one has stepped above the plane of existence, and into the unknown.
Who knows what hunched and terrible nightmares could follow? Nightmares trapped forever in the dark space between worlds… A door opened one way can be forced another…
Here is the end of the world…
Chapter 1 - A Thought Was All It Took
As the wind blew his hair about and he limped the last few steps over to the blackness of the circular tear in front of him, an unexpected calm floated over Harry. He knew what he had to do, and he accepted that. All the fights, all the anguish, all the loss and personal pain had led to this one moment, where the fate of a thousand lives and that of the world rested on his actions. A painful destiny had to be realised. He had to sacrifice himself to the unknown, and stop the inevitable.
With a final deep breath, Harry simply fell forward and into the blackness of the blood magic in front of him.
Harry Potter and the Sword of the Hero, Chapter Twenty Nine
Harry gasped as he was submerged in piercing cold water. The cold stabbed him like a thousand sharp needles and all the air was thrust from his lungs. He lost complete feeling in his wounded shoulder and he felt his glasses fall from his face and float away through the dark, unforgiving cold of the water.
Despite his shock, he made a vain attempt to catch them but a swift current took them away. The current pushed him forward straight into a ball of bright light, and suddenly Harry had an idea of what infinity looked like.
He was no longer submerged in cold water but stood high atop a mountain. Stars stretched on for an incomprehensible distance and he fell backwards from the clear shock of how far he could see into the universe, and how insignificant he was against it. No cold or darkness affected him anymore, although he knew it should. He wasn't wearing his glasses but that didn't seem to matter anymore.
Harry lay on his back staring into a star-filled sky and gazing into what was infinite. It was beyond his imagination to grasp just how far it stretched. The sheer distance of the universe around him simply defeated his mind. He lay there battered and bruised, his bloodied and torn shoulder bled heavily once again, as did his scar... but Harry could not feel it, and therefore did not notice it.
It was strange though. He knew he should be feeling it, but it was as if the place he was now in didn't abide by the laws of pain and feeling. He could not feel a thing... absolutely nothing.
As soon as he realised this the world fell away beneath him, and Harry screamed as he began to fall through an impenetrable darkness. What once had been infinity was now simply nothingness. He was falling from nothing, and into nothing. There was no sound, no colour, and no movement... and yet Harry simply knew that he was falling. It was unnerving, and the pain in his shoulder and scar returned with a renewed ferocity.
It was the first feeling he had had in several minutes, and it hurt so much that he instantly passed out.
When Harry awoke he saw a thousand pinpricks of light had surrounded him. They were like little stars, but he reached out and grasped one in his hand. It was warm to the touch and felt like a drop of water. Suddenly the 'drops' of light began to spin around Harry incredibly fast, until they became a blur of nothing that disappeared before his eyes.
Where am I? Harry thought nervously. I fell into the circle...
A howling wind rang throughout the darkness around him, and for a moment Harry could not breathe as he was tossed across vast distances and through endless space. He gasped desperately for air and after a moment it returned, as did the light. The tiny pinpricks of starlight surrounded Harry once again, only this time they began to join with one another, creating bigger balls of light. This happened for several minutes, although time had no meaning here, and when it was over a ball of light about the size of Harry himself floated in the darkness in front of him.
Harry stared at it with unfocused eyes for a long time. It did nothing, simply floated in front of him as he was suspended in the darkness. Long, quiet hours passed in which Harry drifted in and out of consciousness, and the sphere of light remained immobile in front of him.
As time slipped slowly by, he thought about his life, and what choices had led him to wherever he was now. Harry seemed to be able to think with crystal clear clarity here, with no distractions and nothing but a warm glow of light in front of him. He thought of all the pain and the few good times that had made it all worth it. But mostly he thought of Ginny.
Where am I? he wondered briefly, as a more rational part of his mind awoke. He floated gracefully around the ball of light and bit his lip against the numb pain in his shoulder. He chanced a look at it and cringed when he saw the deep gash and congealed blood crusted onto his ruined dragon armour. The white polo shirt he was wearing hung loosely to his body as it was torn, bloodied and burnt in several places. His jeans and boots were similar to the shirt.
"Where am I?" he croaked, using his voice for the first time in... he wasn't sure how long. Those words carried for miles in the darkness and didn't die out like sound normally does. They rang throughout and across worlds, reverberating for minutes.
And then for the first time since it had been created, the light in front of Harry shimmered and rippled with life.
"The Stream," a voice from within the light said. It was a cool, clear, crisp voice that held no accent. Harry couldn't even tell if it was male or female, it seemed to be both at once.
Harry, startled, stared incredulously at the light in front of him. "Hello...?" he whispered.
"Hello," the same voice replied.
Harry fell silent as he circled the rippling light. It had no distinguishable features, but he felt as if it was watching him as he watched it. "Where am I?" Harry asked again.
"The Stream," the voice repeated calmly.
Harry sighed and, at that moment, felt very, very tired. He had done too much, seen too much. He didn't want to have to deal with this, but then he wanted to be back with Ginny. So...
"What is the Stream?" he asked.
The light still held no distinguishable features, other than it was bright, but Harry still got the feeling that it was thinking about his question. "The Stream," began the light, "is a boundary."
Harry frowned and continued to float around the light, his shoulder and other wounds aching terribly. "A boundary? A boundary for what?"
"It is a boundary that separates the Universes. That keeps everything created in one world remaining in that world."
On the edge of slipping away, into a coma and death, Harry's mind didn't even bother to comprehend that. "...And who are you?" he asked quietly.
Again Harry thought that the light was thinking extremely hard, although it didn't change in the slightest. "I am a guardian," it finally answered.
"Magic," was the one-worded answer.
Harry tore his gaze from the light and looked around, in hopes of seeing anything familiar that he could gain some sense of reality from. It was nothing but complete and utter darkness in every direction. He rubbed his forehead as the pain in his scar grew and sighed.
"Who are you?" asked the light.
Harry turned back to it and through the growing pain, spoke. "Me? I'm Harry, Harry Potter."
"And why are you here, Harry Potter?"
Harry frowned. "I don't know? Still not exactly sure where 'here' is."
"This is The Stream."
"So you said," Harry nodded. "How can I leave?"
Again, Harry perceived that the light was thinking although it didn't move or change in any visible way. "I can help you find a path when the time is right... but I would like to talk with you some more. It has been countless aeons since anybody entered The Stream, let alone a mortal. And you… you, Harry Potter, carry the air of being here before, of knowing more than you know, so to speak…"
"There are people who will be worried about me..." Harry said.
"And yet you left them?"
Harry shook his head. "I saved them."
The light shimmered and grew in size, before shrinking again. "Indeed. You sacrificed yourself into the strongest blood magic that exists in the mortal world... and lived!"
"What was that?" Harry questioned. "That rip, that circle of dark light that I stepped in to?"
A deep thrumming sound emanated from the light and Harry had to look away for a moment as it glowed brighter before dimming again. "It was a gateway into The Stream. Had you not stopped it with your blood then it would have grown until it collapsed in on itself."
"Taking Hogwarts with it," Harry stated.
"Taking your planet with it," the voice gently corrected and Harry gasped. "Do not be troubled," the voice of the Guardian continued quickly. "You did prevent the destruction, but only just."
Harry let out a breath he didn't realise he was holding. "So where do we go from here?"
"From here? From here you can go anywhere you wish..."
"I want to return to where I came from," Harry said quickly and without any hesitation.
The light wavered and moved closer to Harry. It grew so close that it was almost touching him, and Harry could feel the heat and pure, raw power emanating from the white of the light. After a moment it spoke, and Harry thought it sounded shocked.
"You carry the Mark of Death!" it shouted, with awe and a grave respect mingled into its voice.
"This thing?" questioned Harry calmly, reaching up with his good arm and gently touching his sore scar. "This was slapped on me years ago."
"I see now..." whispered the voice. "I see why entering The Stream did not kill you..."
"Should it have?" asked Harry, wincing as his shoulder twinged with pain.
"It should have torn you from existence, destroyed your mind, and scattered your essence across many universes," the Guardian replied calmly. "But obviously it did not."
"Thankfully," Harry replied matter of fact. "But why?"
"Why didn't it destroy you?" asked the Guardian light and Harry nodded. "Because of the Mark of Death. You should have been killed by the Avada Kedavra magic, as all who have suffered it have."
"Yeah," Harry said, and clicked his teeth thoughtfully. "That curse has its work cut out when it hits me."
"You have survived it more than once?" asked the Guardian unbelievingly.
"Twice now," Harry said with a nod. "But why did that stop this- this Stream from killing me?"
"You may have survived the curse but that does not mean you escaped unscathed. As I said, the Mark of Death is upon you. The Stream recognised that, and assumed you were dead. It is an incredible oversight, a loophole – if I did not know better I'd say you had to have planned this yourself, but..." the voice in the light trailed away to nothing.
"Well I always have been the exception to the rule," Harry shrugged, and winced as this movement affected his shattered shoulder.
"I agree," the voice said but it sounded worried. "This has never happened before. Not in any of the Universes throughout the course of time. A mortal in The Stream is unheard of and... unexpected. This changes the perception of magic itself!"
Harry nodded but he was weakening by the minute now. His shoulder was cold and that feeling was slowly spreading from the wound and into the rest of his body. He took a deep breath and sighed.
"So how can I leave?" he asked.
The Guardian, the voice in the light, seemed not to hear him. It was muttering to itself. "Survived Avada Kedavra... broke the boundary... entered the Stream and lived." The light grew again and Harry thought he caught a glimpse of a pair of deep eyes within it for only a moment.
"What a story your life would make..." the Guardian said to Harry eventually, and with a profound curiosity in its voice.
"I'll tell you about it sometime," Harry said quickly, panting heavily. "But I want to leave..."
"Very well," the voice answered. "Where would you like to go?"
Harry frowned. "Back to where I came from..." he said, as if that was obvious.
The light shimmered and grew unexpectedly. It began to float around Harry and swirl terribly fast. After a moment it stopped. "You really have no idea of the power you possess, do you?"
Harry gritted his teeth as the movement of the light had caused him to jerk his shoulder and reopen the crusted wound. "In a few minutes," he said through the pain and tears in his eyes. "It isn't going to matter. I'm dying."
"No... You're not. You're far too strong to die. One with power such as yours can choose his own death. And I doubt you want to die now."
"Look," Harry said fairly strongly. "I don't want this power. Send me home."
"You can survive The Stream!" the Guardian continued. "You, literally, have all the powers in the Universe at your command. You can choose any world to call your home."
"I only want one," Harry replied.
"Think of the possibilities, Harry," the Guardian whispered. "You have a power now that none have ever had!"
Harry shook his head. "And I don't want it!" he practically shouted.
"Surviving The Stream is impossible, Harry. No one has ever and probably will ever do so again. Choose carefully now... because you are giving up the power of a God. What do you want?"
The pain in his shoulder was now freezing his very flesh and bones. He felt it clawing at his heart, straining to get an icy grip over him. His scar was almost the exact opposite, scorching hot. Despite himself Harry found himself thinking about what he did want, what he had always wanted. His thoughts strayed from his own world and he thought of Sirius, and his parents.
He thought of James and Lily Potter.
A thought was all it took...
"Destiny has a strange way of forging power, Harry," the Guardian said quietly as he began to lose complete consciousness. "There is more than what we both see happening here, but no matter. I see what you want, and what you have always wanted. You have chosen wisely... that world is in need of a hero."
"...What...?" Harry said with a harsh scratch to his voice, his eyes flickering between life and death.
"Farewell, Harry Potter," the Guardian said with a sense of finality. "I hope we meet again, under better circumstances, and you can tell me your story."
The world blurred and Harry gasped as he was once again doused in freezing cold water. Or so he thought. It did not feel wet, only cold. As he slowly slipped into unconsciousness, the last thing he saw was a mass of great stars and light rushing past him as he was thrown across and through the Stream.
He was literally being thrown across the vastness of a universe.
A howling wind filled his ears and soon the darkness faded and was replaced by a shining white light in every direction, the only other colour was his shadow reflected across the long miles behind him. There was a sound like the tearing of paper and a deep gash opened in the space before him, and a gust of rushing wind pushed him up and into it.
Instantly a great weight seemed to be lifted from Harry's shoulders and a world seemed to spring to life around him. Harry, although closer to death now than he had ever been, saw through his blurred vision the outline of rushing people and looking up he saw clouds in a blue sky.
It ended there, and Harry finally closed his eyes, for what felt like the final time.
Choice... everything always comes back to choice. One choice leads down a path that affects the lives of hundreds for years to come, and other choices are sometimes meaningless, pointless, and futile.
One choice, made by a man in 1981 led to the death of those who called him friend, and condemned another to twelve years in one of the worst places on earth. These choices shattered this man, ruined his life and many others... but a Dark Lord fell because of his choice to betray.
Good had come from evil.
But what if that choice was never made? What if the man chose to remain loyal to his friends, and die in their stead? Choice can have a cruel way of destroying men and restoring hope, but never can pure good come from it. Evil will always find a way to exist, and a broken choice can give it a way to win.
Some things should never be changed...
Halloween Night 1981
A breeze blew silently across the top of the forest. It was a cold breeze and brought with it the beginnings of winter and the frost. The wind blew out of the forest and against the gravelled brick of a small cottage that, although you would never notice it, was protected by a Fidelius charm.
Inside this simple, small cottage lived a family of three. James, Lily, and Harry Potter. For the most part a happy family, but they had their secrets, their choices, and their sacrifices.
A war was being fought in their world, the Wizarding world, and it was unclear on which side many belonged, or which side would eventually win. James and Lily were on the right side, and for that they are hunted. But young Harry was more of an uncertainty in the war than anything else. It was prophesised he would end this war, but he was no more than a year old, and yet he must defeat the strongest Dark Lord in existence.
The Dark Lord Voldemort seeks to destroy Harry Potter simply because he was born. And this night would be the beginning of all decisions... Many choices will have to be made to decide what course this world will take, and sometimes these choices aren't as black and white as they seem...
James Potter stood silently at his window. For three months now he and Lily had lived in hiding at Godric's Hollow with Harry, all for Harry. He stood invisible against the darkness of the night and held his wand firmly in his hand as his dark shadow flew across the room.
James sighed and looked over to the sleeping baby in his mother's arms on the other side of the room. Lily had fallen asleep with Harry in her arms. With a flick of his wand James checked the wards for what must have been the hundredth time that day. Something was not right, and he knew it.
But the wards were in place, and the night was quiet. Nothing stirred, and as James turned away from the paned glass window he did not see a figure appear in the darkness at the foot of the garden. A swish of the figure's cloak later and he began to move up towards the small cottage, his wand shaking in his hand.
"Lily," James whispered. "You should get into bed, love."
Lily's eyes fluttered open slowly and James smiled. "James..." she said sleepily but then her eyes flew open. "Where's Harry!?"
James smiled gently and ran a hand through his son's already unmanageable hair. Lily relaxed as she recognised the comfortable weight of Harry in her arms and the two of them smiled as he slept on oblivious to the danger his life was in.
"I think something is wrong, Lily," James said eventually, leaning against a chest of drawers.
"With what?" she asked, cradling young Harry.
James clicked his teeth and tapped his foot against the hard wooden floor. "I'm not sure..." he managed. "I think the wards-"
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
James jumped as if stung and three brief seconds later he ran out of the bedroom door and down the stairs towards the front door. He told Lily to hide quickly and prepared himself for the worst. But as he ran down the stairs a few things struck him as odd. One, Voldemort and the Death Eaters would never knock on the door and that only Peter could find them here.
He was their Secret-Keeper, and one of their best friends.
Nevertheless he already had a curse on the tip of his tongue that would kill a man. Anyone threatening his family would die, and die quickly. Making not a single sound, James reached the bottom of the stairs and his eyes fell upon the dark silhouette of a man framed outside the door.
His eyes narrowed and he was just about to blast the door to pieces when the figure knocked again. James frowned. This was not proper bad guy procedure. Carefully, slowly, James approached the door and the dark figure knocked a third time. James got the impression that the figure was nervous and worried, and desperately wanted him to answer the door.
So he did.
Ever so slowly, James flicked his wand and the door began to open. He stood hidden in the shadows just to the left of the stairs and waited for the figure to enter.
"JAMES?" called the figure and almost instantly James relaxed. "LILY? Is anybody here?"
"Peter..." James whispered, stepping out of the shadows and using his wand to light up Peter's face. "What the hell are you doing here? You scared me half to death!"
Peter sighed and grasped his friend's robes tightly. "You and Lily have to run now, James," Peter said strongly, his eyes twitching and sweat beading on his forehead.
James frowned and then, with a strength that belied his shape, he grabbed Peter by the throat and pushed him up against the wall.
"Ja-" began Peter but was silenced a moment later by the look in his friend's eyes.
With a flick of his wand James cut off the arm of Peter's robes, as a cool breeze blew in through the still open front door. He then brought the light of it to rest on Peter's arm and James spat and recoiled slightly as he beheld the disfiguring Dark Mark burnt into Peter's skin.
"Peter," James began slowly, very carefully... "What have you done?"
A tear fell from Peter's eye as he saw the look of betrayal mixed with confusion on James' face. "There is no time now, James," he said quietly. "He's coming. I told him where you are. I couldn't resist."
"We trusted you," James hissed fiercely. "With our lives! With Harry's life... and you're a Death Eater!"
"Run, James," Peter sobbed. "He's coming."
James bit his bottom lip and looked down to the ground, still holding Peter up against the wall. A thousand thoughts swirled through his head as the severity of the situation hit him hard. Voldemort was coming! He was coming to kill Harry... and Lily. There's no time to summon the Order or the Ministry... DAMN IT!
With a tired sigh James let Peter go and he fell to the ground coughing. "Why did you come here tonight, Peter?" he asked quietly.
Peter coughed and then smiled softly. "I would rather die for the right choice, than live for the wrong one... Go James, give Lily and Harry my love. Tell them I'm sorry."
Not wasting another second, James turned and taking a deep breath, lunged up the stairs as fast as he could. He didn't wait to see what Peter did, nor did he care. Right now it was all about Lily and Harry.
"LILY!" he called, running back into the bedroom. "LILY!"
There was a scraping sound and a second later Lily threw off James' invisibility cloak. He turned and saw the two of them, mother and son, huddled in the corner. "We have to go," he said quickly, running over and helping his wife up. "Peter is downstairs and Voldemort is coming."
Lily gasped and James saw the terror reflected in her eyes. "It's going to be okay," he said, trying to reassure himself as well. "We can use the floo that Dumbledore set up to take us to Hogwarts, but we have to go now."
James and Lily flew down the stairs with Harry resting in Lily's arms. He was awake now and looking around at the world in confusion, a naive curiosity. They found Peter at the bottom of the stairs, shaking uncontrollably and grasping his left forearm in pain. Both Potter's knew what that meant.
They ran passed him and over to the fireplace on the far wall of the living room, just as a flash of light lit up the sky outside. "Oh God..." Lily breathed.
"Quickly now," James said, pushing Lily into the fireplace. They both knew that two people travelling on the same floo powder was never comfortable, and sometimes fell just short of agony, but Lily had to escape with Harry. "Here," James whispered offering her the floo powder. "Be safe," he added.
With tears in her eyes Lily dropped the floo powder and great green flames swallowed both her and Harry, sending them to Hogwarts. James sighed with relief and was about to step into the fireplace himself when he remembered Peter.
"Damn..." he breathed. He couldn't leave him. They had been friends for a decade, and in the end he had done the right thing. Marauders always. James pocketed the small satchel of floo powder and ran back out towards the stairs, wand in hand.
He ran into the entrance hall and looked to where he had last seen Peter. He was no longer there. James turned and saw the open front door, and it was then that his heart skipped a few beats. His mind jumped back to the flashing light he had seen just before reaching the fireplace with Lily. It had been the light of death, it had been the Killing Curse.
"Hello, James," hissed the voice of a madman from within the door frame.
James' eyes widened at the sight of Lord Voldemort, but he grasped his wand hard and his resolve was strengthened as he saw the prone form of Peter lying at the Dark Lord's feet.
He was dead, killed for his betrayal.
"Hi," James replied lamely, fighting to keep his voice steady and his emotions in check. "If you came for Harry he's gone. You'll never touch him."
Voldemort had his wand drawn against James' heart, and James had his raised likewise. They stood only ten or so feet apart, and both of them remained unmoved and unblinking.
"Your son will die, James," Voldemort spat, stepping through the doorway and into the cold house. "How quickly, and how painlessly… well, that is up to you."
James frowned and a hard edge crept into his voice. "My son will kill you one day, Voldemort," he said fiercely.
Voldemort's eyes blazed with anger underneath his dark hood. "SECTUMSEMPRA!" he cried and a torrent of red light shot from his wand towards James.
James had always prided himself on the fact that he had achieved the highest score on his NEWT exam out of his whole year in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and that, coupled with the brief Auror training he had had, saved his life then.
With a cry James jumped backwards and purposely tripped over his own feet, bringing himself down to the floor as the red light of the curse reverberated over him and singed his robes and hair. He landed hard on the ground and raised his wand. Not fast enough. As the stairs behind him exploded into a thousand splinters of wood from the curse and Voldemort's strength, the Dark Lord attacked again.
"Crucio!" Voldemort whispered almost lazily, and James writhed in pain as his nerves burned and his insides boiled.
Half a minute later and Voldemort lifted his wand and broke the connection. James lay panting on the floor as the stairs burned from the fire of the last curse. Smoke and ash gathered in the air and the flames licked at the carpet he lay on. Breathing heavily, James looked up into the eyes of the demon and spat out some blood.
"The end will be quick, James," Voldemort assured him, "and so will young Harry's and that of your mudblood wife. They will not suffer."
James laughed harshly and wiped the blood from his mouth as the second floor began to burn. "You should know something about me, Voldemort," he said quietly, but then gained strength. "My friends and I, the Marauder's, we always managed to get out of any situation."
"Peter did not," Voldemort smiled, his wand pointed between James' eyes. "And neither will you or Harry."
James' eyes narrowed. "And one more thing," he began. "Whenever the people we cared about were threatened, we were famous for making very stupid moves."
And with that James lunged forward at Voldemort, but as he did transformed into a stag. Prongs. He changed into his Animagus form and charged at Voldemort with a great fury in his eyes.
For a moment Voldemort didn't react, completely thrown of balance by the fact James Potter was an Animagus. At the last possible moment he apparated to safety just as Prongs would have run him through, and reappeared almost instantly in the same place.
James didn't stop running as he charged through where Voldemort had stood only moments ago. Bounding over Peter's body, James ran off down the garden path and into the night as he heard his home, his cottage in Godric's Hollow, exploding under the power of the Dark Lord's fury. Down the road and he came to a line of trees. He entered the forest, and did not turn back.
Almost ten years later
Diagon Alley, August 31st
Harry Potter walked quietly down the busy street of Diagon Alley with his brother and sister on either side of him. His mother walked behind him and standing strongly in front of him was his father. Harry knew they were there to protect him, from the Death Eaters and Voldemort. His parents had told him as much.
Despite that, Harry was excited. Tomorrow he would be boarding the Hogwarts Express for the first time. He had been eleven for just one month now and had received his letter the day of his birthday. Today he and his family had come to Diagon Alley to purchase his school supplies.
Harry had lived a very secluded life, and he understood why. A year ago his parents had told him that the Dark Lord wanted to kill him, to hurt him if he could. They had not told him why and he hadn't asked, but he knew when to keep his head down and when to accept the little outings into the world when they came.
Harry looked at his father as they walked down the busy street towards Gringotts. He wasn't overly tall but Harry knew that he was both magically and physically strong. Everyone was always saying how much he and his father looked alike (although Uncle Remus and Sirius had told him that there were potions that could change that) and Harry was proud of his dad. The only notable difference between them was that Harry had his mother's eyes.
To his left walked his younger brother Michael. Michael was seven and Harry held his hand strongly. Although his brother was protecting him, Harry would not let anybody hurt him. Michael had taken more after his mother. He had scruffy red hair and blue eyes with a pointed face and sharp eyebrows.
They walked past a group of people who had their hoods up, obscuring their faces and as they passed Lily put a steady hand on Harry's shoulder, and James put himself in between the strangers and Harry. They passed without incident and Harry relaxed and his sister placed another warm hand on his shoulder.
Harry turned to the right and smiled at his sister. At nine years old Melissa Potter didn't really resemble any one parent. She was an equal mix of the two. She had her father's hazel eyes and her mothers long red hair. She was about as tall as Harry was (a fact she never failed to remind him of) and liked to look after her older brother. All three siblings had known what it was like to live constantly on the run in fear of the Dark Lord, and a war that none of them could escape.
Harry blinked and readjusted his glasses as they continued down the street towards Gringotts. They passed by Flourish and Blott's and his mother told him they would be back there later to buy his books. Ollivander's was what Harry was looking forward to the most, but they passed that as well and after a few minutes reached the goblin bank.
A quick cart ride later, Harry noticed that only he and his father actually enjoyed it, and they stocked up on gold for the day's shopping. Back outside, and the family was in a lighter mood. As they made their way around the bookshop, Harry kept thinking about all the sacrifices that had been made to bring him here.
His father had become a Secret Keeper for the family, and they lived for the most part in a cottage near Hogsmeade. James had gone back to work as an Auror after Peter had been murdered at Godric's Hollow and, along with Uncle Sirius, were the two most successful fighters there under Alastor Moody.
But after Voldemort had attacked Hogsmeade searching for Harry when he was seven, James had accepted the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and had moved the family into the castle for the most part. That didn't last long as four separate attempts on Harry's life had been made in only two months and it was endangering the students, as well as the Potter's.
So James once again became the Secret Keeper for the family and they had moved to a location on the coast of Scotland, and only James knew where it was. He stayed on as Defence teacher and Lily worked at the school as well under Madam Pomfrey as an assistant in healing. Remus had become their guardian for a time during the days and many safety measures were in place for all three Potter children to escape the seaside home if needs be.
All in all it had not been an easy life for any of the Potters, and Harry had never been fully told why they were so targeted. He knew it had something to do with him, but when he ever breached the subject his parents would get angry, and sometimes his mother cried. Harry didn't want that, so he didn't bring the topic up again.
After Flourish and Blott's, Harry and James headed over to Ollivander's, while Lily, Michael and Melissa bought potion supplies and cauldrons. Both father and son entered the dusty shop and were disconcerted at how eerily silent it was.
"Hello?" called James as Harry examined the wand seated on a pillow in the window. "Ollivander?"
Harry turned as there was a shuffling behind the counter and from down the dusty corridor came a short man with long, wiry hair and eerie, moon-like eyes "Mr. Potter," Ollivander said, looking at James before his eyes travelled over to Harry. "And Mr. Potter," he finished with a smile. "I knew I would be seeing you soon enough."
James nodded and offered a small smile to the wandmaker. "Can we hurry please, Ollivander," he said. "It isn't safe."
"Where is nowadays?" Ollivander mused and then set his tape measure to work on Harry.
Harry, who had grown up around magic and magical items, didn't bat an eye as the measure travelled up and down his body of its own volition. When it was finished, Ollivander pocketed it again and headed into the stacks of wands behind the counter. He emerged after a minute carrying three different boxes, containing six different wands, two to a box.
He gave the first one to Harry and he flicked it inexpertly. No good, the counter was on fire. James laughed and doused the flames in cold water. Another wand and this time Harry barely held it before Ollivander tore it out of his hand. They went through all of the wands Ollivander had selected and none of them were quite right.
"Not to worry," Ollivander said as he saw the crest fallen look on Harry's face. "It is near impossible to select the right wand straight away."
Harry nodded and James cast a quick glance out of the window. Over the next half an hour Harry tried over fifty different wands. None of them were any good and Ollivander was frowning as he returned the fifty first. "Perhaps," he began slowly. "Perhaps..."
"What is it?" asked James.
Ollivander disappeared into the stacks again and emerged five minutes later after much searching. He was holding a simple black box and his hand shook slightly as he removed the wand from its box. He held it for a moment in indecision, looking from Harry to James and then back to the wand in his hand.
"Eleven inches," he began, "Holly and Phoenix feather... Almost one of its kind."
Five minutes later and Harry and James walked back out onto the sunny street of Diagon Alley with his new wand. James was worried as he and Ollivander had had a whispered conversation on the origins of the wand. It was Voldemort's brother wand. He shuddered, and put a guiding hand on his eldest child's shoulder. Things are happening too fast, he thought.
"James!" called a familiar voice. "Harry!"
James and Harry turned and spotted Lily with Michael and Melissa enjoying an ice cream outside in the sun at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. They made their way over.
"Did you get a wand then?" Lily asked Harry happily.
"Yes," he replied just as happily and pulled the box out of his bag. "Eleven inches, Holly and Phoenix feather."
"Almost one of a kind..." James said slowly and cast a worried glance at Lily.
After Harry and James had bought ice creams of their own, the five of them sat outside the parlour talking happily as the wizarding world passed them by. Clouds had begun to gather over the sky now and James mentioned getting home. Lily agreed and after collecting all their bags, they headed for the floo in the Leaky Cauldron.
The sky continued to grow darker as they walked up Diagon Alley, and no one thought anything of it. James was up front again and it was he who felt them first. No one else noticed it, no one suspected a thing. Almost instantly, the sky grew so dark it was as night. James gasped and clutched his chest as he began to feel the first effects of the Dementors.
"Lily," he gasped as the entire street began to feel the creatures of darkness. "Run... Leaky Cauldron."
It was far too late.
Descending from the darkness on the roofs of the shops, twelve Dementors glided silently down onto the unsuspecting shoppers. All were feeling the effects now and James had begun to shake uncontrollably. Harry was miserable and his brother and sister were crying.
"Come on," said Lily quickly, desperately, and pulled the emergency Portkey out of her robes pocket. "HARRY, MELISSA, MICHAEL! Hold on."
Lily thrust the Portkey into Michael's hand and grasped Melissa's arm tightly, still holding Michael. As the screams began to resound up and down the street, Harry jumped over to his brother and grabbed his other arm. They were all connected... except for James, who was struggling to raise his wand against the approaching Dementors.
Harry watched with a growing fear as the creatures moved ever closer to his father. And just as his mother pointed her wand at the Portkey, and cried "Activate" he saw something that made him forget about escaping to safety.
James raised his wand at the nearest Dementor but his mind was screaming the worst parts of his life at him. He couldn't concentrate. "Expecto..." he tried. With a frustrated sigh he looked over to see Lily organising the Portkey and smiled to Harry as he knew he would escape.
Harry saw his father smile but his own blood ran cold. There were more Dementors than his father thought. Five were advancing up the street towards him, but another three were descending from the rooftop just behind him. James couldn't see them, but Harry could.
"DAD!" he cried, letting go of Michael just a small second before the Portkey activated. Lily's eyes widened in absolute terror as she shimmered away to the safety of their seaside home, but it was too late to do anything.
Panicking shoppers were running and screaming up and down the street and Harry was pushed back and forth as he tried to reach his father. "DAD!" he cried again.
James struggled against the fogginess in his mind and tried to summon a happy thought. Come on! he screamed to himself. Anything? Lily!
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" he cried and a misty silver fog shot out of his wand and formed a shield between himself and the Dementors in front of him. He didn't see the ones approaching from behind. Harry did.
Pushing himself through the crowd Harry ran over to his father. "DAD! BEHIND YOU!" he called and James looked up suddenly, his eyes reflecting the fear he now felt.
"Harry?" he whispered and fell onto his back and into a roll. He was now facing three more Dementors that stood barely ten feet away. He tried to summon another happy thought. The day I married Lily! "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry smiled and ran over to his father's side as a great, silver griffin burst out of his wand and ran the Dementors down.
"Nice one, dad," Harry said happily and James offered his son the smallest of smiles.
"Thanks, Harry," he said but then his face turned serious. "We have to get you out of here before-"
POP! A loud, ominous pop echoed up and down the street just behind James and he gasped. Without the need to look, he knew who had just appeared.
"Hello again, James," hissed a voice colder than the Dementors, and a thousand times more evil.
Without even turning around to face the Dark Lord, James grabbed Harry and picked him up. A half second later, and he was tearing up the street faster than he had ever ran before. It wasn't fast enough.
James stumbled and almost fell as Lord Voldemort appeared in front of him, only six feet away. He turned again but saw the Death Eaters closing in behind him, killing shoppers and innocents that got in their way.
"James, you of all people should know the futility of running. None have escaped my grasp for so long, yet all your running is now done…" spat Voldemort.
James put Harry down and held him close against his body while he raised his wand. Harry for his part glared violently at Voldemort, who had only briefly glanced at him. "Leave, Voldemort," James said with a courage surpassing anything he had ever felt before.
Voldemort merely laughed. "You should have known this day would come, James," he hissed. "Known that young Harry was living on ten years of borrowed time."
Harry, despite himself, shuddered as the Dark Lord's gaze fell upon him. "Never," James began, "without a fight."
Voldemort blinked in surprise. "You wish to duel... me?"
James nodded and pushed Harry off the street and into the alcove of the front of a shop. He looked around himself for a brief moment and assessed the situation. He saw a dozen Death Eaters forming a line behind him and a row of bodies all around them. Terrified witches and wizards stood frozen against walls and inside shops as James challenged Voldemort. Not one of them moved. No one was fighting. No one would dare defy the Dark Lord. Except one...
"Now," James said quickly. "Constrictus Amropa!" James had struck first and coils of hard chains shot from his wand like snakes and made to devour Voldemort.
Voldemort laughed and sidestepped the chains and conjured some of his own, which were complete with burning flames. One of the chains closed around James' ankle and threw him high into the air, before letting him go. He fell to the ground and landed with a sickening crunch, his collarbone shattered.
"Come now, Potter," Voldemort laughed. "You're better than this."
James' eyes blazed with fury and not wasting a minute he stood, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. "You don't have to worry about your son," he growled. "Incendio!"
The Dark Lord batted the jet of flames away as if they were nothing. "No... my son is loyal to the true power in this world."
That one caught James. Voldemort has a son!
The Dark Lord used that moment of hesitation. "Imperio!" he cried.
James raised the most powerful shield he could and the Imperius curse was deflected, but only just. "Cusindeo!" he returned fire with a bone-breaking curse.
Voldemort was incredibly fast though and he responded with a Vestic curse. Dark red light met purple in mid-air and the two spells collided, sending showers of sparks everywhere. The duel became one sided after only a few minutes, and James no longer had time to think, only defend as the Dark Lord slowly devoured his strength.
The Death Eaters were laughing and Harry didn't know what to do. No one in Diagon Alley seemed to know what to do as James and Voldemort duelled. Cobblestone and debris was thrown everywhere as James deflected dark spells into the ground and surrounding buildings.
It was all for naught though, as a spell broke through his defences. "Wesudone," hissed Voldemort, with a flick of his wand.
The dark spell hit James full in the chest and sent him sailing backwards into one of the walls of Flourish and Blott's. The impact didn't shatter the glass in the wall but it did splinter the wood, and as James fell he knew he had broken some ribs. James hit the ground and almost dropped his wand. He looked up in time to see the Dark Lord pointing his wand at him again. He had no chance of blocking the next curse.
James screamed and dropped his wand which rolled away uselessly. His mind and nerves were on fire as the Cruciatus assaulted his body. But a far deeper pain cut into him so strongly that he cried out in despair. He had all but failed his son.
Harry cried out and ran into the street as James wreathed in unbearable pain. The Death Eaters all raised their wands on him at once as he ran, but he was defenceless.
"STOP IT!" Harry shouted viciously.
Surprisingly enough Voldemort did stop, and turned to face Harry as James rolled over on the ground and began coughing violently. He spat out some blood and tried desperately to regain control over his body. "You do not fear me, Harry Potter?" Voldemort asked, his wand pointed between Harry's eyes.
"NO!" Harry replied untruthfully. In reality he was terrified beyond belief. Though he did receive a little satisfaction when he saw Voldemort's eyes blaze with anger.
"For years you have eluded me, boy," the Dark Lord began. "A prophecy brought us together, and I am about to remove that threat."
Harry began to move backwards, his eyes jumping from his father, to the Death Eaters, to all the other witches and wizards, and then finally to Voldemort. He stepped backwards and tripped over a small pothole in the cobblestone. With a cry he landed on his back and looked up fearfully at the Dark Lord.
"NO!" James called as Voldemort turned his wand onto Harry.
Voldemort smiled and nodded to one of the Death Eaters. The Death Eater flicked his wand and James was suddenly levitated into the air, where he hung suspended over the street with a clear view of Harry and the Dark Lord. He couldn't move, couldn't speak. He could only watch.
Harry made a weak attempt to stand but Voldemort knocked him back down with a wave of power shot from his wand. "No more running, boy," whispered Voldemort quietly. "This is how it has to be. Are you watching, James?" questioned Voldemort finally, with a glance over at his suspended form. "Know what your defiance has now cost you!"
And as the Death Eaters guarded over their master, and the other witches and wizards still stood unmoving, locked in absolute terror. Voldemort looked down upon Harry for the final time, and spoke two words that changed the course of the world forever.
Gasps and screams rang out from the innocents around the street and the Death Eaters remained unmoving. James' eyes widened, the only part of him that he could move and his soul cried out from within. The green light of death burst forth from Voldemort's wand like a whip, and screamed through the air towards Harry.
From his position on the ground Harry screamed and made an attempt to move, but he was frozen in fear. He saw the green light grow ever closer until it filled all his vision.
He closed his eyes as he felt the harsh, frosted tendrils of the curse, and never opened them again.
James died as well. His mind could not process what had just happened for a long moment and he cried when it finally did. The hope of the entire world had just died but James couldn't care less.
That hope had been his son.
Tears of despair, of grief, of sadness, of loss streamed down his face and still he couldn't move from his suspended position above the street. He looked down to Harry's lifeless body and when he looked up again, Voldemort was all he could see.
With a fury he had never felt before, James desperately struggled against the magical bonds holding him in place. He couldn't destroy them though, but the pure fury and hatred in his eyes said all that he could have.
"This is what happens to those who defy the Dark Lord," hissed Voldemort, talking to the dozens of witches and wizards in the street. "James Potter defied me, and now his eldest son is dead. Do not make his mistakes."
James cried at the world for its unfairness and for creating such a creature of pure evil. He cried for Harry most of all though. "This is what happens when you try to be a hero, James," Voldemort turned and spoke so only James could hear. "But this is not your end."
James looked unflinching into Voldemort's eyes, and emitted pure fury and hate towards the Dark Lord. If he could have spoken, or moved, he would have ripped him apart wand or no wand.
"You constant defiance has cost me much, James," Voldemort continued. "But now I condemn you to live so that your desire for revenge will consume you. You will die slowly, James. Farewell."
And with a pop, Voldemort was gone and so were the Death Eaters. James fell to the ground as his bonds disappeared and as soon as he could, he cried out in pain and loss. He did not hear the other small pops that signalled the arrival of the Aurors.
Almost six years later
March 25, 1997
It was a quiet March morning as Melissa Potter walked across the castle grounds with her friends. They were heading for fourth-year Care of Magical Creatures with Professor Hagrid, the half-giant who had been given the job by Headmaster Dumbledore only two years ago after the previous teacher had been killed by Death Eaters.
There was nothing in the wind that blew, or in the clouds that were slowly gathering, to suggest that all was not right in the air. If anyone had really concentrated on it, they would have sensed a deep, electrical throb in the air. It was as if the world was holding its breath.
Melissa walked in between her friends as the three of them climbed over a small rise and Hagrid's cabin came into view. Half the class was already there and it was mostly Huffelpuffs and Ravenclaws.
A cold wind blew her auburn hair around her face and she laughed as one of her friends told a small joke. It was good to laugh as the war raged on outside Hogwarts. It gave her some sense of normality after the devastating event that had almost destroyed her family six years ago in Diagon Alley. Melissa shuddered when she thought of that and pushed it to the back of her mind.
Hagrid was introducing the Aethonon today, which was a breed of winged horse, chestnut in colour, which lived mainly in Britain. That promised to be fun. As Melissa walked, she began to feel a certain... charge in the air. She frowned, as she could taste copper on her tongue; like a tangy metallic flavour in the back of her throat. The wind had died down, and a quiet but distracting ringing was echoing across the grounds.
Melissa was not the only one to notice it either. Several people in her class were looking around in confusion and others were shaking their heads, as if to clear it of the ringing. As Melissa took another step the ground shook underneath her feet, and the wind returned with unbearable strength and a great howl.
It was so strong that several people were blown to the ground as a great, cataclysmic BANG rocked the entire area. From the ground, Melissa looked up to the source of the explosion and saw something she could not quite believe was there. It was a... gap in the air.
Most of the other students were staring at it as well and Hagrid had come running out of his hut to investigate the explosion. He was looking at it, just as dumbfounded as the rest. Melissa continued to stare as this gap grew into a long, jagged black tear in the air and all light seemed to be drawn to it. All of a sudden the wind died down and a silence was cast eerily over the ground as this tear in the sky crackled and fizzled with untamed magic.
It was a long moment in which every pair of eyes was fixed upon this rough rip in the very air. It didn't seem physically possible that it should be there, all light was bending away from it as if it didn't exist, as though it was just something of an inconvenience to the natural order of things.
Melissa stared at it more than a little fearfully. Her mind jumped to many conclusions as to what it could be. Some weapon of You-Know-Who she thought most likely. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Hagrid rushing her classmates into his cabin, while others had already made a dash for the castle. Her eyes returned to the tear in space.
It was then, just as Melissa returned her gaze to the tear, that a lone figure was thrown roughly from its unimaginable depths and tossed harshly onto the cold, icy ground. The figure didn't move as he struck the ground and the instant he did, the gap in the air sealed itself with the a sound zip, and everything was normal again. Well, almost normal...
Melissa pushed the hair back out of her face and stood up slowly, straightening her crumpled robes as she went. She removed her wand from her pocket as her eyes fell on the broken and battered form lying in the grass barely ten feet away from her. From where she now stood, she could see that this figure was in no good state. He looked dead to her.
Quickly, but cautiously, Melissa ran over to the figure just as her classmates began to appear from Hagrid's cabin, and from various places around the cabin. Her friends stood twelve feet behind her, seemingly at a loss as to what was happening. As she approached the fallen figure, Melissa heard a deep, rough sound. It took her a moment to realise it was the man (she could tell the figure was male) struggling to breathe.
When she finally reached the bloodied body, Melissa felt the whole world stop for one moment as her mind could not process what she was seeing. Falling to her knees, Melissa dropped her wand and stared unblinking at the boy before her.
He had serious injuries up and down his body and there seemed to be no part of him that wasn't bruised or bleeding. The worst wound was clearly his shoulder, which was all but missing. His leg hung at an odd angle and there was a deep cut in his forehead that was bleeding heavily. But all that was not what held Melissa's attention.
This was her father. This was James Potter.
Only it isn't, she had realised and that was why she had fallen to the ground. It looked remarkably like her dad, but it wasn't. The eyes that blinked at her without focus were not hazel, but deep, emerald green... and he was too short to be her father. No, this was someone else.
Someone she knew to be dead.
"OH MY GOD!" shouted a voice from behind Melissa but she barely heard it. "HAGRID! HE HAS TO GET TO THE HOSPITAL WING!"
A thousand impossible thoughts reeled through Melissa's mind. It can't be... no... dead... who? Taking a deep breath and sighing heavily, Melissa rose shakily to her feet, grabbing her wand as she went.
"Someone levita'e 'im," Hagrid growled now that the whole class had gathered around the stranger. "Up ter the hospital wing."
Melissa shook her head and a shiver ran down her spine to her toes. With a flick of her wand she cried, "Wingardium Leviosa!"
The figure that so unmistakably resembled her dead brother, if he had lived, jumped and was levitated two feet above the ground. The crowd made a gap for Melissa as she ran with the figure held in front of her for the castle. Hagrid followed and told the rest of the class to take the period off and that they would catch up later.
Melissa felt sick to her stomach as she ran, not entirely sure what she was doing. Her mind kept screaming impossible answers at her and all she knew now was that, whoever this was, he was dying. All questions could be answered later. The cool spring wind blew her hair across her face as Melissa ran with Hagrid beside her, past the greenhouses, and up to the castle entrance. Hagrid jumped ahead and threw open the great oak doors and Melissa, panting slightly, ran in with Harry levitated before her.
As it was only second period, the castle was quiet and Melissa and Hagrid didn't run into anyone on their way up to the Hospital wing. Sweating and breathing heavily after her run, Melissa rounded the last corner and saw the double doors to the hospital where her mother and Madam Pomfrey worked.
The boy, Harry, had bled all the way up from the grounds and a long, crimson trail of blood drops had followed them the whole way. About halfway down the hall, Hagrid put on a burst of speed that surprised Melissa and barged through the double doors, shouting as he went.
"LILY!" he called. "MADAM POMFREY!"
Nursing a stitch in her side, Melissa kept her wand focused on Harry. Deep breaths, she thought as the pain in her side worsened. She could hear the boy, the stranger, her brother, the impostor, the injured figure, muttering small words and struggling to breathe. And just as she entered the hospital wing, she found herself repeating the same, silent mantra over and over again:
Please don't die, please don't die, please don't die...
Entering the infirmary, Melissa levitated Harry over to the nearest bed just as she saw Hagrid barge through the door to Madam Pomfrey and her mother's office, and heard their startled screams which were quickly overtaken by Hagrid's shouts. Taking a deep breath, Melissa collapsed into the chair next to the boy, and just simply stared at him.
She was at a loss as to what to do. There he was, a living, breathing, dying, person that could easily be mistaken for her brother if he had lived to be this age. Harry had always looked like her father, and this boy did as well. The only notable differences were the battle wounds and the lack of glasses.
Looking up sharply, Melissa saw Hagrid come bounding back down the hospital, with the obscured figures of Madam Pomfrey and her mother behind him. Oh God... Melissa thought suddenly, what is Mum going to think? But there was no time for that now, as they had finally reached the bed.
Melissa stood up fast and knocked the chair back against the wall. She ran over to her mother and grabbed her hand just as Lily's eyes fell upon the broken figure in the bed. Madam Pomfrey was straight into it though. She had her wand out and was assessing the injuries quickly, expertly.
Hagrid stood in the background for a moment, and then excused himself back to his cabin, where he still had to harness the Aethonon's. Lily Potter, for her part, just stood rigid with her heart in her throat, as she saw a pair of emerald green eyes open heavily and stare at her, bloodshot and blurred. They were closed again a moment later, and then Lily remembered to breathe.
"Mum..." began Melissa.
"Go and get your father, Melissa," Lily said quietly, with no emotion in her voice.
"But he'll be teaching..."
Lily shook her head and moved only an inch closer to the bed. "It doesn't matter... send him here, and then go and get Professor Dumbledore."
"Melissa!" Lily said sternly, her eyes wet with tears. "Please just do it."
With a sigh, Melissa agreed and then turned on her heel, and hurried out of the hospital wing. She began at a jog, as her father's classroom was on the other side of the school, and the Headmaster's study was twice as far on the way back.
Melissa held her wand strongly as she went, and all the while one question burnt furiously in her brain.
What the hell is going on?
A pain in his shoulder that he could not see, or feel with his hands.
Floating in the abyss, the cold freezing the blood in his veins.
A warm wind blew into his face, though he had no idea why it should...
Memories swirled past him, and he felt terribly alone, naked against the vastness of magic and creation.
His memory faded and was replaced with consciousness, but suddenly Death grasped his heart in an icy grip... and squeezed.
Nothing but Darkness.
Three Hours Later
Harry slowly opened his eyes and the first thing that assaulted them was bright, unrelenting sunlight. With a quiet cry of pain, Harry tried to shield his eyes with his arms but he couldn't move them. He swallowed and breathed in heavily as everything swam unfocusedly before his eyes. His throat was harsh and it hurt to swallow.
He took another breath only this time he began to cough violently, and again he struggled to move his arms and legs, but he could only just move them. It took him a moment to realise he was tied down.
"Hel..." he tried to speak as he could see dark, blurry shadows standing over him, and now that Harry was more awake, he began to fully feel the deep, throbbing pain in his shoulder. For a moment he could not remember why it hurt but then suddenly everything came crashing down around him, and he passed out.
The sun was just setting on the castle as Harry awoke again, and this time the faint, lingering light in the room was easier on his eyes. He could only just make out his surroundings, and he recognised the room he was in dimly as the Hogwarts Hospital Wing. He breathed a sigh of relief... but something was not right. He looked around again through his blurred vision and he picked out figures standing near and around his bed.
"Hello..." he managed, but the effort of speaking drained him of all his strength. The last thing Harry saw before he lost consciousness again was... himself. Standing over his bed was a figure that looked almost exactly like him; almost, but not quite. It was unnerving, and it sent Harry to sleep with troubled dreams.
"You can't go through there, Harry," Ginny almost screamed, looking in fear at the growing darkness that was the tear in space in front of her. "You don't know where you'll end up."
"That doesn't matter,' he replied, shaking his head as a single tear fell from his eye. "Voldemort has been beaten back for awhile. I intend to be back before he is."
Ginny started to cry and she sniffed, looking at the ground and not at Harry. "I almost lost you a moment ago," she managed. "I don't want to lose you now."
Harry lifted her chin up until she was looking into his eyes and he back into hers. Then slowly, but gently, he kissed her deeply and wrapped his good arm around her. "I'll come back, Ginny," he whispered in her ear as she wrapped her own arms around him tightly. "I promise..."
Harry woke up screaming and thrashing in the bed as his shoulder ached furiously and his broken leg was a dull throb. He panted heavily as he saw the pale light of dawn shining in through one of the high windows he knew belonged to the hospital.
He felt much stronger now that he had had some sleep and was desperate to find out what was going on. The Stream, he thought, the Guardian... was that all a dream? Harry again tried to move his arms from his side, but he could only do so an inch before he felt resistance. He frowned and looked down to his left arm. Although he wasn't wearing his glasses, Harry could see a brown strap of leather that tied him securely to the bed frame. A look to his other arm showed the same thing.
"What the...?" he began and pulled on the restraints. He couldn't do much with his right arm as it was still weak at the shoulder, but he pulled with all his strength at the left bind.
"Good morning," said a calm, quiet, and previously unnoticed voice to the side of his bed.
Harry stopped and stared in the direction of the voice. He could vaguely make out a silvery, tall figure standing just to his left. "Professor Dumbledore," he said with a harsh sting in his throat, "Is that you?"
The voice paused for a moment and Harry could see the figure move slightly. "Who are you?" the figure asked.
"Professor... It's me Harry, Harry Potter" Harry replied with a note of confusion in his voice. He heard several sharp intakes of breath to his right and when he looked he could just make out two figures sitting on the bed next to his. They were a blur though.
"Harry Potter is dead," replied the voice of Albus Dumbledore, somewhat sadly.
Harry frowned and once again pulled against the restraints that held him down. "I'm fairly certain I'm alive, Professor," he replied with an edge to his voice. Harry knew he could use his wandless magic to destroy the straps holding him down, but something told him not to at that point.
Harry shook his head as he felt a tingling sensation inside his skull. It took him a moment to realise that it was the sharp, probing spike of a Legilimens. Someone was trying to read his mind. Quick as a flash, Harry raised his strong defences that Minra had taught him earlier that year. He felt the intruder's surprise, and then their slow retreat out of his mind.
"Who was that?" he asked angrily, looking from side to side and cursing his poor vision. "Would someone please tell me what is going on? I am at Hogwarts, aren't I?"
"Indeed you are," replied Dumbledore and Harry once again tried to focus on him while keeping his occlumency shields intact.
"Then why am I tied to a bed?" Harry asked incredulously. Nothing was making any sense to him, and a small part of his mind knew something was different with the world, but he couldn't for the life of him pinpoint what it was.
"You have been restrained until we know your identity, and whether or not you pose us a threat. Spies are everywhere these days," Dumbledore replied.
"Spy...!" Harry said with a harsh laugh. "Professor, where am I?" The small part of Harry's mind that felt something was wrong had begun to grow, and slowly he was beginning to grasp the enormity of what had happened to him. It couldn't be possible...
"You are at Hogwarts, as we have already established."
Harry swallowed hard and shook his head. "How... How did I get here?"
"You were brought in from the grounds yesterday morning. Apparently you appeared rather spectacularly during fourth-year Care of Magical Creatures," Dumbledore told him.
It was all falling into place. Harry was slowly piecing together what had happened, from what he could remember, and what he was being told. "The Stream..." he said quietly. "Oh..."
"Are you carrying a wand?" questioned the familiar, yet cold voice of Albus Dumbledore. "We did not discover one upon you."
Harry felt sick to his stomach. "No... you know I don't have a wand. It was destroyed, Professor."
There was scattered whispering to his right and Harry turned to see three figures where there had been only two moments ago. "Who are you?" he asked.
There was no response, only a brief shuffling. "How were you injured?" asked Dumbledore. "What happened to you?"
Harry turned back to the silvery figure of Dumbledore, and then looked back to the other mysterious figures. Nothing made sense anymore. Harry didn't know who to trust, or even where he was. It looked like the hospital wing, but he couldn't be sure. How did he even know he was talking to Dumbledore? One thing was certain, he no longer trusted anything.
"I- I don't know," he lied. "I'm not sure what happened to me..."
Harry heard shuffling and saw Dumbledore, or who he assumed was Dumbledore, walk around his bed and over to the other figures beside him. Listening in carefully, he heard whispered conversation and only managed to catch one or two words.
"Polyjuice would have worn off..."
"There is no glamour..."
"He needs a pair of glasses..."
"I can't believe this... I won't believe it. It's not fair."
Harry continued to listen and he heard the three voices start to argue. Only Dumbledore's sounded familiar to him and as he strained to hear the others, Harry saw one of the figures... who had black hair, walk away towards the door. Dumbledore turned back to him.
"James has just gone to retrieve you a pair of glasses," he said.
Harry's heart skipped a few beats. "...James..." he managed as his broken leg continued to ache. He could feel the bone salve working its magic though, so it would be better soon.
Harry heard Dumbledore sigh and then saw him sit down in a chair next to him. Now that he was a lot closer, Harry could see him better. It was Dumbledore; of that much he was certain. You couldn't fake the familiar twinkle in his eye. Harry stared at him, hoping for some answers to questions he didn't even know.
"Who are you?" asked the headmaster quietly.
"Harry James Potter," Harry replied truthfully.
Apparently that was not the answer anybody had wanted, as there was a stifled cry from the shadowy figure behind Dumbledore, and Dumbledore himself shook his head slowly. "You cannot be..." he said sadly.
"I am," Harry replied strongly, as his mind jumped to the only conclusion left as to what had happened. Nothing had been a dream, nothing had been fake. He had crossed over into another world, apparently a world where he was dead.
Dumbledore surveyed the battered and bruised boy in front of him, strapped to the hospital bed. "You don't have a wand... Harry?" he asked, and his voice shook when saying that name.
"I don't," Harry answered with a shake of his head.
A moment later he felt the straps tying him down disappear, and he moved his arm for the first time. It cracked and ached as he brought it up to his forehead, and down the jagged scar that cut across it. He just had to reassure himself it was still there, as he could not feel it burning as he usually did.
"Thanks," he said, and pulled himself up in the bed. He couldn't use his right arm and his left leg was shattered, but healing. Just as he did this, the door to the hospital wing opened again quickly, and the man who had left only minutes ago returned.
Harry desperately tried to focus on this figure, but he was too far away to make out. James... Dumbledore had called him. It can't be...
"Thank you, James," Dumbledore whispered as the figure passed him a small object. "Here we are."
Dumbledore handed Harry a pair of small, silver rimmed glasses and for one, agonising moment Harry didn't know whether he should put them on. He had a fair idea of what he would see if he did, and he didn't know if was ready for it. He was, in one word, afraid.
Taking his time, Harry slowly unfolded the glasses, and then brought them up to his eyes. He was looking down as he put them on and he saw the bed come into clear focus. His stomach was doing flips as he worked up the courage to look up, and after a moment he did.
It was then that everything he had thought was constant was ripped away at its foundations, and his universe was turned up on its head. Good God! he thought as his emerald green eyes were pierced by an equally sharp pair of the same colour.
Everything finally fell into place and Harry accepted what had happened. He had, as the Guardian had put it, crossed the boundary between universes. A thought was all it took, one simple thought about his parents and he had been thrown across time and space into another world where they were alive.
"Mum... Dad..." he managed, looking at the now clear figures of Lily and James Potter standing behind Dumbledore. "No... It can't be."
James Potter took one slow step towards Harry in the bed, and looked deep into his eyes. It was a long moment before he looked away, until he was certain of what he was seeing. "Your eyes are..." he began and looked quickly at Lily, who had tears falling down her cheeks.
Dumbledore stood up first, and then looked down to Harry. "You have some explaining to do, Harry" he said. "Because I do not think you belong here."
A/N: Well, here we go again... chapters will probably all be up within a week or so - I'm reading through and editing them as I go, so expect them as I can. Join the yahoo group in my profile if you just can't wait!