Disclaimer: Done but can't be undone.
A/N: Here is the end of this story, only about a year overdue. It has been a long run to the finish, and this isn't even the end. There'll be a sequel to worry about soon enough. Share your thoughts with me in a review.
Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time
There are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and the other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination; their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist, and thus they are all that matters.
Do you understand?
Epilogue – Still On Time's Watch
Hey, man, sing me a song…
~Five For Fighting
I can't stop singing along, I thought, and yes, I was alive enough to think it.
Moments – mere crystal moments buried within the maelstrom – before I'd flown the Reminiscence into Hogwarts I had Disapparated, side-along with Saturnia, smashing right through the school's anti-apparation wards and saving my life.
And her life.
I don't know why.
From the shores of the lake half a mile away, water lapping at our heels, we watched the starlit-fireball disintegrate the Reminiscence and engulf the school in its heat and energy. I clutched the open bottle of scotch against my side, wincing in tired regret.
The flame absorbed great swaths of the old castle, tremendous cracks rippled through the stone and every window was blown out, including those high, tall stained-glass sentinels guarding the Great Hall.
The ward schemes protecting the castle ruptured, as well, as my jaunt through the anti-apparation barriers disrupted their flow. Great, resounding claps of old magic falling into the abyss eclipsed the burning glory of Hogwarts!
Yeehaw, I thought, admiring the chaos, for there is beauty in chaos, but my heart wasn't truly in it.
"Did you finally kill Lord Voldemort, Harry?" Saturnia asked. She was supporting most of my weight. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open, given the bottomless fatigue wracking my body.
"No…" I said. "I can still feel him, furious and unharmed. He's fled to the south – Disapparated away as the wards came crashing down. Probably got some Death Eaters with that blast though."
The fireball was collapsing back in on itself, leaving scorched and ruined stone in its wake. For the most part, the castle still stood – broken, dilapidated – but still standing proud. The Astronomy Tower had shielded most of the seventh floor and Dumbledore's office from the assault… but it was crumbling.
With an aching groan of archaic stone, cemented over a thousand years ago, the foundations gave way and the tower fell into silence, through the smoke of the ruined ship and, as the world held its breath, slammed into the ground – a tower of rubble, a monument to my colossal mistakes.
I was knocked from my feet by the impact, falling arse-over-head into the lake. I lay there in the shallows for a moment, dreaming sweet dreams of sleep and mercy in a place free of wasted time – free of time at all.
"You really were going to kill yourself," Saturnia said, not bothering to make it a question.
"Yes, I was." The remains of the loot we had plundered in Atlantis were scattered across the ground and amongst the ruins. Thousands of glittering gold coins and tonnes of mythril bricks. I clenched my silver-mythril hand. Indestructible.
"And what of your friends and allies in the castle? Have you just killed them too?"
I shook my head. "No, the Hogwarts Express doesn't leave London… what's left of London… until tomorrow. September 2nd. I sent Neville to convince Dumbledore of that and reinforced the notion in my letter to him before we left for Atlantis. Voldemort seized Hogwarts uncontested. I have merely driven him out."
It took a lot of effort, and I waved away Saturnia's attempts to aid me, but I managed to stand, dripping wet, face swollen from my fight with Chronos and my heart piercing my soul with every beat. That shard was well and truly embedded.
For a wonder, my awesome captain's hat remained stuck to my head. "So let's recap the day's events. London ablaze, Atlantis reborn, and Hogwarts crumbling. I think you and Chronos had a hand in the Atlantis play, but the rest is on me, isn't it?" I didn't say aloud the main thought running hot and true through my mind.
Saturnia did. "And Fleur is pregnant, Harry. I was not trying to deceive you. I imagine the child can only be yours, yes, from your time spent together in Atlantis."
I nodded, staring at the burning castle – into the stark, distant future. It all looked bleak and blackened, smoking and cracked. I remembered every life I had ever lived, and not once had there been a child. Not once. I had thought the impossible time-travel had made me impotent, but apparently not... my boys could swim, god save any child born to me as their father.
"What answers can you give me?" I asked the demigoddess. She was beautiful, untouched and undamaged by the chaos. Her hair reflected the golden flames licking at the castle. "Where do we go from here?"
"You are asking me?" Saturnia seemed genuinely surprised. "After all I've done?"
"Why bring Atlantis back?"
"That was your doing—"
"NO!" I kept a rein on my temper, barely, yet my wand was itching in my palm to unleash all manner of dark and dreadful magic. I had been used, betrayed, and was apparently going to be a daddy. Everything was so different this life around... times had changed. "No, Saturnia." I took a deep breath. "Be gone then. But understand that one day, one day soon, you and a great many innocent people are going to regret keeping me alive today."
Saturnia smiled and leaned in close. Her breath was warm on my face. She kissed me softly, mindful of my split lips and bruised face. "I look forward to the chaos, Harry Potter."
"Last time will count for all," I spat as she shimmered away into nothing, leaving me standing sodden and bleeding before the destruction of my only true home.
You, a father? God save that poor child...
That's what I said.
Yeah, but you didn't mean it.
That same night, I returned to Hogwarts after making several trips across the land.
I had broken into an apothecary and stolen some healing potions, as well as a Muggle tailors and 'borrowed' a new suit. The one I had been wearing was all kinds of ruined, well beyond repair. A pair of leather gloves concealed my mythril hand. I stole some cash, too, and rented a hotel room in Edinburgh to fix myself up.
Showered, shaved, and feeling kind of human, despite my eternal memories and fathomless fatigue, I returned to the school I had so recently destroyed.
As it was, I found myself entering Hogwarts through the Entrance Hall and making my way slow and steady through the castle to Dumbledore's office. Several of the corridors were impassable, collapsed or worse, and the moving staircases had ceased to do so...
I could have simply apparated into the old man's office, but I wanted to assess the overall damage. In my mind were clear memories of what Hogwarts was, how it all fit together. I knew more about the school and its secrets than anyone who had ever lived, and I wanted to take stock, to take a measure of responsibility for the damage I had done.
The gargoyle guarding Dumbledore's office wasn't manning its post when I arrived, so I let myself in.
The room was a shambles. My explosion had knocked the shiny instruments from their tables, the portraits from the walls, upturned Dumbledore's desk and sent Fawkes' perch tipping into the window alcove. I picked up the chair opposite the desk and sat down amidst the mess.
I waited and tried hard not to think beyond the immediate future – or the immediate past. So many memories of past lives, of things I had to do to prevent so many little things from happening, clambered in my mind, clawing for attention.
I don't know how long I sat alone in Hogwarts, but it wasn't long before I began to fall asleep. At first I struggled against the fatigue, as always, but after all this time awake it now seemed not only wrong but pointless.
I let the nightmares come.
It was slumped in the chair, troubled yet asleep, that Dumbledore found me some time later. I awoke with a start to his gentle hand on my shoulder, automatically reaching for my wand and only relaxing when the headmaster came into focus before me. I needed a new pair of glasses at some point.
"Good evening, Harry," Albus Dumbledore said, his tone soft and grandfatherly. "I must say, I admire your choice of headwear."
I managed to sit up in my chair and inclined my captain's hat to the old man. Dumbledore turned and plodded around his office, setting things to right with a quick wave of his wand. After a few moments, he took his familiar seat opposite me across his desk and folded his hands patiently across the beard tucked into his belt.
I tried to find a good place to start... and came up empty.
"Lost for words?" Dumbledore mused. "Surely not after all this time, Harry. I imagine you are here to tell me why Hogwarts is wounded, why a mysterious city is encased in a deadly magic off the western shores of England, and why the Ministry Obliviators will be claiming exorbitant amounts of overtime in London tonight."
I opened my mouth, thoughts and thoughts running through my mind, and then simply just shrugged.
Dumbledore nodded. "Or perhaps why you look so beaten, my boy, and where Miss Delacour and Miss Tonks may be found. Perhaps you are here to tell me where Lord Voldemort is hiding, and what his plans are. Harry, perhaps you are here to tell me why the goblins seek your demise, and why the infamous Miguel Blue, the North American Crime Lord, is upset with you."
I found my voice. "I could tell you all that, all that and more, but I'm actually here to make sure everyone is safe. The Weasleys, the Grangers, the Longbottoms and the Lovegoods. Everyone, Professor, everyone I mentioned in my letter."
"All accounted for, Harry, and all safe within the Burrow." Dumbledore's gaze turned a few degrees hotter, his tone less friendly. "You look tired beyond measure."
I guess I owed the old man some answers. And perhaps it was time to confide in someone the madness that gripped my heart and my soul.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The last few weeks – and it has only been weeks – since I awoke at Privet Drive for the last time… they have been tiring, Dumbledore. And so very, very trying. More so than ever before. Not all of it has made sense, there are vast changes between the start and the end, but we're still here, I made it this far." I didn't know how to go on, not really. "I don't know how to explain all of this without sounding far too sane..."
Don't you mean insane? No, not at this point.
"Why, you are a time-traveller, of course," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard. "And does that not explain the heart of the matter?"
I chuckled. "It usually takes even you a bit longer to figure that out." Weary resignation eclipsed my tone. "Then again, I suppose things are different this time around."
Dumbledore sighed, assessing the weight and tragedy in my words against reflection of his own long experiences in this world. His own regret. "Oh, Harry. Truly? You have travelled to this past more than once?"
The hint of pity in his words angered me. "I'm older than Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore."
I've learnt never to dread silence – even an awkward time-travelling silence. I knew my true age as I knew all the lives and all the years of my existence. It was of little consequence, after all this time, that I hadn't succeeded. The odds were always high, the enemies always changing the game… or maybe that was just me? Mayhap I was never meant to win, Sleeping God or no…
"I need you to understand, Professor, that the nature of the world has changed. The very fabric of our reality has been stretched thin by the actions of Voldemort and myself in the realms of Forget." I shook my head. "Atlantis is here. Now. I destroyed that city. I watched it burn. And yet it exists again… like it's following me."
My laughter was without mirth, without sanity.
"Has this happened before?"
"Never." I knew that with absolute certainty. "It's an impossibility, which just confirms what I've known since I was killed in Diagon Alley a few weeks ago – that this life, this time, is my last. It counts for all, sir, and already the odds are stacked so high against me."
"Against us, Harry." Dumbledore leaned across his desk to place his dying hand on my shoulder. A curse I couldn't cure… not with Voldemort still alive… and I had not yet found a way to kill that son of a bitch. "We will find a way."
I smiled – mirthless insanity once again. "You always say that, and I always believe it. Old fools, the both us." My grin faded. "But you need to understand, Professor, the war that's coming now… it won't be wands under the Ministry, or simple curse light tossed back and forth in the night. It will be a war of True Magic, of—"
I had to stop and take a breath. My little piece of eternity, my shard of forever, buried deep within my heart, was singing a song to end the world. Ice coursed through my veins, pain as fresh and bright as the sun crippled me. At least I no longer had a headache. Small graces, all I could expect…
I let the breath out long and slow, as was my way of living in the moment. "I'm okay, just a little heartburn. Heh. Where was I? Oh yeah… Voldemort will turn cities to smoke. He will command the oceans to drown nations, the sky to fall in a rain of cold, blue fire. True Magic, Professor, and I am all that can even come close to stopping him."
Dumbledore accepted all of that in his stride. "There are several warrants out for your arrest. You can't return to Hogwarts, Harry."
"I have places I can go. People I need to see. We've a war to fight, after all."
"And how will you fight it on the run? We need to face the Ministry and clear your name."
"All in good time," I promised. "There are more important matters to attend to first."
I smiled. "Please come with me."
Together Dumbledore and I descended through the school. Smoke stained the walls and an acrid smell of burning stone permeated the otherwise cool, silent night air. It was a slow walk down through the destruction, yet after some time, close to midnight now, if I was any judge after all the years, we found ourselves standing on the grounds of Hogwarts and looking back at the school in ruins.
Dumbledore sighed. "Did it really have to come to this?"
I couldn't help but laugh. "It always comes to this, Professor. Ten times out of ten. This time, however, this time..." I trailed away and withdrew my wand from my inner suit pocket.
Memories of Hogwarts ran clear and true in my head. Of Hogwarts as it should be, not as this smouldering wreck. I had caused so much damage in the past, and today alone, that perhaps it was time to start atoning for that guilt. Complexities of time and death aside, perhaps it was time to do the right thing.
"What are you doing?" Dumbledore asked.
"Remaking the future," I said. "With wasted memories of the past."
Silent magic began to flow from my wand. Streams of colour lit up the cool night air, a harmonic rainbow of soundless light, and settled against the scorched brick and fallen stone of the castle.
I began to whisper Atlantean runes – the full catalogue now accessible inside my head. I had access to more power than any wizard on the face of the earth, and I could use it for this, for all the times I had seen Hogwarts Castle fall, by my wand or Voldemort's.
Runes swam along the cords of fierce light emanating from my wand. The mounds of rubble and fallen stone that had been the Astronomy Tower began to shake and then rise. Cracked brick started to spin, levitate and fuse back together. And it happened fast.
"Oh my," Dumbledore said at my side. "Harry, my dear boy..."
I fused the repaired bricks of the tower with the discarded pallets of mythril blocks, stolen from Atlantis, and set them into the foundations of the castle. Every corridor I had collapsed I remade, reinforced with the strength of the Lost City. Shattered glass flew back into place, unbroken and whole.
The magic was all there. In my head. Cities to smoke, I had told Dumbledore, but the understanding whispered deep from within the Infernal Clock could also turn smoke into cities.
And I didn't even break a sweat.
A few minutes later and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy stood remade against the night sky – stronger than ever. I lowered my wand and heard Dumbledore chuckling low beneath his breath.
I began to laugh, as well. We both laughed – just a tired pair of old men – because, as always, it was either laugh or cry... measured within and against the crimson price of all that had been gained and lost.
"A few of the rooms, particularly in the Astronomy Tower, may need refurbishing. But I guess the school year can begin tomorrow after all. Just as soon as we get the wards back up and running."
A tear fell from Dumbledore's eye and was caught in his beard. "That was a truly amazing feat of magic, Harry."
Yes, yes it was. But this was only the beginning.
"Don't worry," I said. "The best is yet to come."
It always comes back to time, does it not? Wasted time. Wastelands of Time. If there is to be redemption, Harry, mayhap even salvation, you will not find it along the light-blasted plains of Oblivica – across these desolate, these despised Wastelands.
You'll have to figure that one out on your own.
The beach was familiar, as was the surf and the pathway leading up into the seaside community. The streets were busy, for a lazy weekday afternoon, and the sky overcast yet warm. A light drizzle made the air humid and easy to breathe.
I found the shop within five minutes. And, if I was being honest, it only felt like five minutes since I had last been here. But – and oh god – it had been centuries. Honest, endless centuries.
I almost walked away, but I hadn't made it this far, survived and not survived so much, to turn away now. I was better than that, at least I tried to be, and I had come across the face of the world for this.
A bell tinkled above the shop door as I entered. It was dim inside, not dark, just comforting. There was the scent of roasting coffee beans on the air, engrained into the polished mahogany wood of the shelves upon shelves of books, and freshly baked muffins.
The last home I had visited had blown up. All at once this felt like a new home. Baby, I'd been here before... but it wasn't, not really. Time may not be linear, yet I had come to learn there was no going back, not really. Only forward. And if I could be afforded a second chance, or a lifetime of them, then it may as well have been for the first time, for all that anyone else could remember the chaos.
I didn't see the reason I was here, not behind the counter or at the coffee machine. There were only a handful of customers in the heavy leather couches, flicking between different books and sipping from large mugs. No sign of dark hair with a streak of soft blonde.
I began to browse, meandering between the shelves and running my hands along the spines of the thousands of books. My journey took me through History, Crime, over to Fantasy and diving through Horror – story of my life, if you please. But there was no sign of my goal. Perhaps I had come all this way for nothing.
I turned to leave.
"Have we met before?"
Tessa was standing behind me. Every inch of her as perfect as I remembered. To think all my memories were in order, and then to see her, to be close enough to catch her scent – a light mix of cinnamon and peppermint – brought a tumult of conflicting thought and emotion, almost enough to make me feel human again. Her hair was pulled back into a working ponytail, her narrow face caught the light, and her name badge stood stark above her breasts, upon a black shirt bearing the name of the bookshop.
"You look familiar," she said. "Have we met before?"
Oh now there was an unfair question. Only forever ago, sweetheart. It was also an impossible question. There was no way Tessa could remember anything of the life we had spent together. No vestiges of worlds torn from the sky, of perfection within nightmare. Only nothing, boss, because love can't change the weather.
Because the life we had spent together did not exist. Only in my mind, and only there in shattered fragments of spent regret. It was a shame I remembered them all so clearly – a magnificent, unfair, lovely curse, that had brought me back here today.
"I think I'd remember meeting you," I said, ever the charming, ever the oblivious, ever the handsome, heroic fool of time…
Tessa bit her lip and frowned at me in a cute, bemused kind of way. In her own charming-ever-oblivious way, she was just as beautiful as Fleur and Tonks. "What high school do you go to?"
Ah, and there we go. No deeper meaning and no desperate tragic memories of past lives floating to the surface across her mind. Just a passing familiarity to some goofy, bespectacled kid she probably saw at her school. The small pang of disappointment that bled through my chest was just stupid, arrogant hope fading away. For a moment there, I'd thought fate had handed me a small reprieve from hell.
Apparently that was not on the cards – not now not ever, boss, can ya shut up and put up? Or do I need to get the whip? Not even a vague memory of a memory, Potter. The girl just ain't that interested.
"I don't know you. I've never met you. You have a beautiful name."
Well, that was that then. I hadn't expected anything less really. I shrugged and left the shop, leaving Tessa behind with half a smile on her face. I didn't know why I had come here, all the way to Australia. It had just seemed necessary.
It should have been Fleur I was visiting, the woman carrying my child, before I plunged myself back into war – before Voldemort, before the Ministry, before the goblins or Miguel Blue caught up with me. So many enemies, so little time. To be honest, I was afraid to go see Fleur.
I guess I'd just wanted to see Tessa's face again, alive and unharmed. That was the reason of doing any of this in the first place, and why I was now old enough to have lived over a thousand years ago. Oh well.
Silly, really, and slightly insane. But then sanity was a rare commodity 'round these parts.
And when you got right down to it anyway, trying to justify the morality of the choices made, it didn't come down to much. Salvation, redemption... absolution and retribution... they were just mere words compared to the strength of my true intent.
I headed back down to the beach in my fancy suit and strolled into the shallows of the Indian Ocean. The water was cool yet refreshing, the swell not too busy and the gentle waves crashing just before me, spraying my face with a swash of salty droplets.
It was all just wasted time caught between one moment and the next, right?
The last thousand years of my life could be chalked up to that sentiment alone. Which was a sad thought, lacking any sort of resolve.
I have written this beginning so many times now – an old soul standing in an old ocean, trying desperately to transcend the bounds between time and space and walk the thin, desperately dangerous line of the best good intentions...
Atlantis had returned.
My enemies were as dangerous as ever – made more so, perhaps, by the return of the Lost City.
Saturnia and Chronos had an end game, because everyone always did. After all, if they had wanted to watch the world burn then why try to change things at all... I had been doing quite well on my own with that particular fire. Voldemort stood apart, as always, waiting for our final battle, the one that would count for all.
And this last time would have to count for all, because the game had well and truly changed.
Fleur was pregnant. There was a new life at stake. And I found myself caring about that.
"A child..." I muttered, licking the saltwater from my lips. "What do you know..."
I began to laugh – and the sound was foreign to my ears, because it was not the mindless, insane ramblings that so often marred my existence, but laughter with a ring of truth to it. And, dare I say it, hope.
No, surely not. Did I have a reason to make a difference again? Endless years stretched back through my mind, all the way back to the start, charting the demise of my true intent, the fall of my resolve, scattered to dust and less than dust along the barren wastelands of time. Had that changed?
So many wasted lives, so many broken promises. Had I actually made a difference after so long?
Maybe yes and maybe...
A tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders – the weight of long regret – and just like my eternal headache it was gone forever. Laughter again, truer than crystal, as rays of pure, clear sunlight shot through the blanket of clouds overhead.
This wasn't the end. No, sir. But after all the long years, the impossible millennium, it may have finally been the beginning. Hmm...very well.
I guess it was time to go save the world.
The End of Wastelands of Time
A/N: There we go then. Wastelands of Time is done and dusted. Please review and let me know how it went. I'll keep this brief. There will be a sequel – it will be online soon – tentatively titled Harry Potter and the Heartlands of Time. Take what you will from that.
It was a good story, I reckon. Not overly cliché and at times rather badass. If there is any failing, I'd say it lies in character development. Save for Harry, there just wasn't enough of it, all things considered, but I've got time to make amends in the sequel. Beyond that element, I'm pretty happy with Wastelands of Time. How about you?
That's about it. I've nothing left to say – if you've made it this far then you've read over 300,000 of my words, and I say thank you. Just know that every one of those words was written whilst I was naked. Yeah. Think on that. Bare-ass in ma writin' chair, ladies and gentlemen – and I'm extremely hairy.
And that's how I'll sign off. For now.
All the best,