Acrid smoke burned his throat.
He kept running, weaving through the massive trees and thick foliage, blasting through the heavy fauna. Various curses flew by him. Fire erupted into life around him. He jumped through the searing heat, rolling down a steep hill -
The shield charm sputtered and flared under the onslaught of deadly magic, collapsing over him. He spent little time with his own curses, running as fast as he could. His target was eluding him!
"Stop stalling!" he roared into the darkness, and ahead of him he saw something moving, darting too quickly to see -
Death Eaters lay dead on the scorched land, his magic thrumming in his body. He leapt over branches and crashed through the vines. They scratched at his face, but he had eyes only for the area ahead. Dark powers weighed down on his breath, piercing his soul...There would be no more after this. It was the end.
He saw the figure hunched over, and prepared to attack -
Crimson eyes flared, and a bright flash of magic overtook his vision...
Harry didn't realize he was conscious and alive for several moments, blinking what seemed to be sleep out of his eyes. Suppressing a yawn, he immediately sat up, leaving the warm bed he had been resting on.
He looked around, taking in the large, lavishly furnished room. The bed itself was with a canopy and bedposts, a larger, more extravagant version of the one he had spent on during his years at Hogwarts. Beside him lay a sleeping figure with long fair hair, her back to him.
Harry sat confused for several moments before stumbling out of bed. He couldn't shake the feeling that he had been tricked, that Lord Voldemort was nearby, closer to him than ever before. But Harry knew the world around him was not an illusion. It felt much too real to his senses to be a fantasy.
He looked around for some sort of mirror, and found himself in a long hallway. He tried each until he found a bathroom. He stepped in front of it anxiously, and stared at his reflection.
A slightly taller, older version of himself looked back, looking as equally amazed as he. Harry touched his face, brushing against the stubble on his chin, pressing his hands against his cheeks. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, far from the eighteen year old self he was used to.
The feeling of metal on his skin caused him to look at his fingers. A simple wedding band rested on his ring finger. He stepped back into the bedroom and stared at who he surmised was his wife. She seemed familiar, but Harry couldn't place her name.
He began to look through the room, searching for any evidence of where or when he had awoken. It seemed as if someone had given him an aging potion, or had thrown him to the future. With Dumbledore gone, there was only Lord Voldemort who came close to the technical expertise to perform such a feat, if it was at all possible.
But Harry couldn't understand the reasoning behind it. If Voldemort could send him to the future, why didn't he just kill him?
He ventured past the bathroom and the rooms he had already explored, finding the stairs. It led him to a large foyer, where various paintings hung, none of occupants of which he recognized. A corridor to the side of the stairs led to a kitchen. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
In the living room was a roaring fireplace, above which was a granite mantle. On it sat several photographs. He picked one up.
Harry saw himself, not much older than his true age, his arm around a pretty young woman that he recognized as his wife. They smiled at each other and looked at Harry, winking before kissing.
Another showed a wedding, a twenty or so Harry arm in arm around the same woman. Bright blond hair flowing down her shoulders, she looked lovely in bridal gowns, her face slightly fresh, looking at him with all the love in the world. Harry saw himself returning the look, grinning happily. Scores of former DA members, also looking older, cheered in the background, chanting something before clapping wildly.
He couldn't stifle the feeling of envy before feeling foolish, realizing he was jealous of himself – assuming this was real at all.
Behind him was a small glass table, low to the ground. Several books sat on it, along with a pile of letters. He took one into his hands, turning it over to see the address and name.
Mr. Harry Potter
132 Andover Road
Shooting a brief look to the windows, he saw the ocean close by, along with a small muggle village also resting on the coast to the left.
Not bothering to read it, he picked up several more, each of them largely identical. The last was smaller, a personal letter, addressed to someone other than him.
Mrs. Hannah Abbot Potter
He dropped the letter as he heard someone walking in the house, looking up guiltily to see his former Hufflepuff classmate enter the kitchen. She glanced at him with something akin to suspicion before reaching for plates in the cabinets above her.
Harry felt as if he should say something, but couldn't settle on anything beyond a quiet "Good morning." Hannah nodded somewhat but didn't reply.
Leaving her to her duties, Harry darted back upstairs, uncomfortable in her presence. Too many questions rang through his head, and he couldn't think properly. He knew he couldn't afford to seem any different than the Harry she expected. He didn't need any more problems, and for some reason, didn't want to embarrass himself in front of her.
He looked around the house some more, finding more photographs and evidence of years gone by. The year on a recent looking Daily Prophet put Harry eight years into the future, into an entirely new millennium. He was twenty-six.
What had happened to him in that time? What had become of his last battle?
The mere fact that he was alive suggested that he was successful, or at least was able to survive another day. He wondered who had died, which of his friends were left in the world. Had Albus Dumbledore's sacrifice been in vain?
He put to rest his burning curiosity to keep looking. As he returned to the bedroom, he saw robes laid out on the bed, an identification card next to them. A familiar looking wand rested nearby. Shrugging off his nightwear, he slipped into the robes and stuck on the card, his body seemingly moving of its own accord. He didn't even know why he had done so, only having the vague feeling he was supposed to change.
Grabbing his wand, he was struck with a feeling of emptiness. There was something missing that he became profoundly aware of, as if he had lost something he had been with his entire life. He looked around the room, searching. It was something so glaringly obvious, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Giving his person one more look, Harry left the room, his feet taking him back downstairs.
The sound of a fire flaring took him to the fireplace, where he finally saw a face that hadn't changed since he last remembered. It was Nymphadora Tonks, looking much the same as she did when Harry had last seen her, helping the remaining fragments of the Order to make a last stand.
"You haven't aged at all," he blurted, interrupting her greeting. She blinked a bit before smiling, grinning impishly. The fire seemed to crackle excitedly as she spoke.
"Of course I haven't! I'm surprised it took you so long to notice, considering how much we see each other." Her voice dropped, and her floating head tilted forward, as if leaning in to tell a secret. "And I'm being completely honest when I say to you I'm not using my abilities!"
Harry was surprised at the familiarity at which they talked, but quickly resumed paying attention.
"On a less important note," she continued, becoming only slightly more serious, "Is the fact that we need you in extra early today. We found another body like that other one we gave you. We think it's the same person behind it. Both seem to have died without evidence of physical harm from spell damage, which isn't something too many people can do."
Unsure, Harry merely nodded. Tonks kept talking, oblivious to his lack of comprehension. He looked down at the card pinned to his chest, seeing his own face staring back from the picture without emotion. Painfully reminded of his new state, he looked at the text next to it. His name was written, along with some of his physical features. Above it all was the title – Office of Forensics. To its right was the seal of the Ministry of Magic.
"...and you'll probably need to fill out those reports Neville wants. He's been the biggest hardass lately. Probably has a big wand stuck up his - "
Tonks stopped suddenly, her flames dimming as she looked behind Harry. He turned around as well to see Hannah there, leaning against a wall. Dressed in Healer robes, she cut an attractive feature. But it was her face that sent a rush of cold through him, making him feel as if he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't have. She merely pressed her lips together and walked out the rear door to the side of the kitchen. Harry walked over, feeling as if he should chase her, but slowed down. The sharp crack of apparition told him she had already disappeared.
Tonks' cough made him turn back to the fireplace. She looked just as embarrassed as he felt, and seemed to want to end the conversation quickly. "Well it's a good thing you're already dressed. Come quickly, I'll be there to meet you in the lobby soon!" And with that, her face vanished from the flame, the fire returning to its bright orange color.
Harry turned back to the now empty house. Things were going far too fast, and he hadn't a clue where it was all going. What had Voldemort done?
He returned to the newspaper he had found upstairs, and scanned through anything that would give him a clue to what had happened. He saw mentions of various people he knew, and even an article praising Professor McGonagall on her smooth handling of Hogwarts for the last decade.
Frustrated, Harry threw it back at the table, looking back at the fireplace. What better place to learn about the comings and goings of the past eight years than the Ministry itself?
Harry stepped into the fire, feeling as if he had done this thousands of times before. Grabbing a bit of floo powder from the mantle, he threw it below him, feeling himself getting sucked into a fiery vortex.
"The Ministry of Magic!"
Harry stepped out of the fireplace neatly, surprising himself. He dusted off his robes and stepped aside with practiced ease, a plump witch arriving moments later. She did the same as yet another person came through. Harry could see this happening all around him as the government employees filed in for the day, each arriving on the left hand side of the long, splendid hall. The right, reserved for departures, was far less crowded.
The Ministry had changed little from his last visit nearly eleven years before. The golden sculpture resting on the fountain of the Atrium now depicted several magical creatures walking side by side a wizard and a witch, all of equal height and splendor. The smallest, house elves and even a gnome stood on a rock, propping them to the same level of the humans and centaurs.
Harry followed the throng of people to the front behind the fountain, where they queued up to pass through security. This was one change – Harry distinctly remembered the security desk being only for visitors, normal workers simply passing through the golden gates. The desk had been enlarged and relocated to the front of them to check each and every wizard and witch entering the Ministry.
As he approached, he saw the line dividing into threes, fives, and eventually seven, split up and processed separately. His stomach fell as he saw the workers providing some sort of documentation after their wand was weighed. He rummaged through his pockets, looking around nervously as his fingers found none. There were only three wizards before him, each wearing an identical expression of early-morning grumpiness, a pile of papers and a briefcase in each hand.
Soon it was his turn, and before he could gather the will to simply leave, his feet moved him forward. Harry recognized the messy looking wizard without seeing his face, remembering the peacock-blue robes and perpetually bad shave from his first entrance with Mr. Weasley.
"Wand please," he intoned in a bored voice, not bothering to look up. Harry quickly gave up his wand, dropping into the dirty looking outstretched hand. The wizard placed it on a set of curious scales, ripping off the short piece of paper that came out of the small slit at the base.
"Eleven inches, phoenix feather core, been in use fifteen years. That correct?"
"Yes," Harry said, feeling fifteen again.
"Right. And your papers please?" he said, impaling the slip of parchment on a well-used brass spike. Unlike before, however, he kept the wand in hand, evidently waiting for whatever papers he was looking for.
Before Harry could stammer out an excuse, a flash of pink hair appeared before him, a slim witch grabbing his upper arm and berating the man before him in hushed tones.
"Does he need papers? How dare you ask for his papers? You pay attention to who you're dealing with!"
The man's face purpled, his whiskers adding to the comedic effect. "It don't matter who he is. My job is to punch through every person that comes - " He stopped his angry diatribe as he laid eyes on Harry's forhead, mouth dropping a bit. He closed it quickly before sitting back down, head hung. "My apologies, Mr. Potter – your Department doesn't usually come through here..."
Harry wanted to assure him he wasn't at all angry, but was pushed through by a frazzled Tonks, who pulled him through the checkpoint and past the gates. "Come, come," she said hurriedly, dragging him up the many stairs. "Why did you go through the chump line?" she called back to him, shooting him a grin. Behind her, Harry saw the small sign for the eighth floor, remembering that this was where the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was located.
"I felt like doing something different," he said vaguely, hoping it wasn't too uncharacteristic of him. Harry thought he would struggle to keep up, but managed well, keeping not far behind the energetic and bubbly Auror. His old self would have been panting.
"Different?" she said, rolling her eyes, pushing him out of the stairwell and through a glass double door. On it was stenciled 'DMLE' in bold, intimidating letters, the full name printed below it. As the door opened, Harry could see someone tap the letters with a wand, changing them to another acronym: DMPA – Department of Magical Peacekeeping Affairs, this time in a softer, more friendly style. Tonks caught his eyes and glowered at the mustached, familiar looking man.
"Anthony Goldstein, Greengrass' lackey. He was in your year, I think. His master is on a campaign to 'cleanse the Ministry, and make it a more accepting environment'," she mimed, quickly morphing her face to that of a charismatic middle aged man with dark hair. "Bloody Death Eater sympathizer thinks our department name is too harsh, and our mission to combat dark magic is 'discriminatory'. It's a good thing you never accepted his proposal. I couldn't imagine life with him hovering around."
Harry had a faint idea of the man Tonks was referring to. Though he wasn't a Death Eater when Harry was fighting Voldemort, Greengrass was providing financial and political support, taking Lucius Malfoy's position in the Ministry when he was revealed.
Any further thought was abandoned as Tonks led him to the crowded Auror offices, bumping through the many red robed wizards and witches, dodging the flying memos, and avoiding the almost living stacks of paper piled on each side of the hallways. Harry spied one moving entirely on its own, dumping itself at the feet of an exasperated Michael Corner. He had changed little, with a few new scars and a short, dark beard. He looked up as Harry passed, shooting him a smile and a brief "Hey, Harry!" before turning back to his work.
Harry had little time to respond before behind pulled on further into the offices, Tonks keeping a relentless grip on him. He tried to see where she was going, seeing another stairwell all the way in the back. But before he could read the placard on the door, Tonks tripped on something and crashed to the floor, bringing him down with her. Their fall knocked several passersbys down as well, eliciting several cries of surprise and loud swearing. Harry found himself on top of Tonks, who simply sighed and shot him a brilliant smile, pushing him off playfully.
"Dammit, Nymphadora! My daughter is less than a year old and she still walks better than you!" A voice snarled out. It was accompanied by two strong hands, which pulled Harry and Tonks to their feet. The voice belonged to a shorter, stocky man with thinning brown hair and a perpetual frown. Harry didn't recognize him at first, but it dawned quickly.
"Detective Longbottom," Tonks stammered out, looking suddenly embarrassed. Harry couldn't help a splinter of fear from running through him. It made him feel slightly pathetic, his face already red from the close contact with the shapely Auror. But the more important question of why was he so fearful of his old friend quickly drowned out his other thoughts, and he paid close attention.
Neville frowned, eyes narrowing. "That's Senior Detective to you, Nymphadora," clearly enjoying the use of her hated name. Tonks didn't at all seem angry, too nervous around her superior to properly notice. He turned to Harry, lightening somewhat. "Harry," he said gruffly, "Doing well, I presume? How's Hannah?"
"Well enough." Harry said briefly. Remembering Neville's earlier comment, he continued. "And your wife and daughter?"
"Fine, fine," he waved off. "Listen, Harry - I need you to take a look at this body as soon as possible. Hell, right now. I can't tolerate this evil bastard breathing any longer. It's because of people like this we need to stamp out this plague of dark magic. We need to get these sick fucks before they leave the cradle, burn every slip of paper with a mention of this stuff."
This Neville was something different, Harry realized immediately. The fierce beliefs, the hatred for dark magic – it was as if the Neville he had left behind had been left to ferment and grow, stewing in his small rage against Bellatrix.
"Find out who did this, Harry. I want the report on my desk by Friday." He was about to say something else, but Harry saw his eyes look behind his shoulder, eyebrows furrowing in anger once more. "Excuse me."
With that, Neville pushed away, storming toward Goldstein's direction. The mousy man was taping notices wherever he could find free space, sticking the obnoxious yellow paper on every cubicle. Tonks squinted a bit before scowling, muttering about political correctness. Finally turning back to Harry, she smiled, patting him on the side. "Off you go, Harry. Use that gift of yours and nail this freakshow."
And with that, she sauntered away, leaving a lost Harry behind. Turning around, Harry faced the dark, ominous stairwell. Above the doorway was inscribed the words "Office of Forensics". Giving the busy Aurors one last look, he descended into the shadows, wondering how he was going to bluff his way out of his newest problem.