Before anything else registered on his consciousness, Harry was aware of the pain. It possessed his body whole, leaving no part of him unmolested by its poisoned touch, but its root seemed to center at his head. He thought it was caused or enhanced by the lightning bolt-shaped scar that had tattooed its presence on most major events in his life. The constant pain radiating from there served to signal very few things. The most significant, it seemed to Harry, that he was close to dying. That, his barely conscious mind reasoned, is exactly what this felt like. If it was not a sign of his impending end, he could only wish for the relief of death if he had to suffer this thorough aching any longer.
His eyelids fluttered briefly and he welcomed the embrace of darkness again.
The pain had lessoned considerably. Harry reasoned that a significant amount of time had passed, enough to allow his body to recover from what had been affecting him. He became vaguely aware that he was lying prone on a flat surface, something soft and moderately yielding propping up one shoulder. He still had a small headache, but the affects of it were nothing like what he'd been suffering through before. Thankfully, his scar had stopped sending out its faint traces of Dark Magic through his body. The relief he got from it not actively hurting was his first moment of body harmony in what felt like years.
Slowly, Harry opened his eyes.
He was in a narrow, rectangular room with slate gray walls and a gray ceiling. Angling his head, he noticed the floor was the same dull color. The room was devoid of furniture. Sucking in a deep breath, Harry pulled himself into a sitting position. He winced as a lingering soreness blossomed in the back of his head, neck and shoulders. The strap of his book bag slipped from his shoulder and Harry shrugged it off completely, stretching and turning his head back and forth in succession. He blinked rapidly as a small bolt of pain struck just behind his forehead.
What happened to everyone? he thought.
In bits and pieces, it came back to him. The afternoon had begun to take a strange turn. Harry had been having an argument with Hermione, made more tense by the uncertainty of both their positions. After receiving a vision from Voldemort, he'd been determined to save Sirius from being tortured, and she, as usual, was determined to get in his way.
"You have a bit of a saving people thing," she said.
Harry stared at Hermione, his eyes narrowed at the implied insult.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, his voice low.
She seemed to quell a bit under his unfriendly stare. "I—I just meant that, you know… Well, like last year, you wanted to save everyone during the second task in the Tournament, even though you didn't have to…and—and—" She stopped stammering, flushing as Harry's frown deepened. "You just get carried away, and you don't always have to rescue everyone," she finished. She twirled a finger anxiously in her dark fluffy curls and shifted from foot to foot as she waited for Harry to respond.
He could not deny that he was upset with his so-called best friend. After the year he'd had—suffering through Umbridge's maniacal power trips, losing Dumbledore to Fudge's increasing insecurity about his job and status, and being forced to endure torture in the guise of help from Snape—the last thing Harry needed was a friend he couldn't depend on. He wasn't even sure he'd have Ron's support if Hermione kept carrying on this way. What he needed was to leave Hogwarts and save Sirius, and if it meant going without his friends, he'd do it.
She'd continued arguing with him for several minutes afterwards, even pulling Ron into the argument when it looked as if Harry were going to ignore her pleas. Harry felt the lowest blow came when she claimed he was "playing the hero again," forgetting that he'd saved her own life.
He pointed an accusing finger at Hermione. "You can't want me to be your hero when it's convenient for you and refuse to help me when it's not. That's not fair."
She frowned then, looking briefly at Ron for help before returning her gaze to Harry, her eyes suspiciously shiny in the low light. "I…" She swallowed hard and looked down. "What if it's just a dream? What if Voldemort sent you that vision of Sirius just to get you away from the school? He used Ginny to get to you, I wouldn't put it past—"
"It doesn't matter," Harry shouted. "Do you expect me to do nothing because it might be a dream and Sirius might not be suffering?" He backed away a step, shaking his head as Hermione prepared to answer. "I can't just do nothing. You don't understand. I've been through this before. When Voldemort killed that caretaker last year, when he sent Nagini to attack Ron's dad—these aren't just dreams! I can't sit here and let him hurt Sirius, torture him into insanity, when what he really wants…is me." He hadn't expected to say that last part and took a deep breath as Hermione's eyes met his again, tears spilling down her face. "You can stay here if you want, but I'm going to rescue Sirius, even if I have to do it alone."
But, he hadn't gone alone. That, in short, had been the problem. His friends had followed him with a loyalty he hadn't expected or felt he fully deserved. In spite of their own fears, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny and Luna had all stood up with him against Umbridge and he'd repaid them by leading them into a trap set by Voldemort himself. Harry would never forgive himself if any of his friends died because of his own recklessness, but he knew if he had it to do over again, he would still choose to save Sirius above anything else.
Though, what he probably needed at the moment was someone who could save him.
From what, exactly? At the very least, an uncertain future. He shuddered when he thought of how Lucius Malfoy had teased him about Voldemort using visions of the Hall of Prophecy to lure him out of the school. Somehow, that hadn't bothered him as much as his accusations about Dumbledore and what it implied about the Headmaster.
"Did Dumbledore not tell you the reason you bear that scar?" Malfoy asked in a low voice, his growing confidence clear in the way he moved forward, a smile beginning to crease the corners of his mouth. "Oh yes," he said as he drew closer. "Your mentor has known for some time about your connection. After the visions you've been sent, the Dark Lord wondered why you had not become more curious before now, but perhaps Dumbledore sought to keep the truth from you—to keep you under his control as long as he could."
"That's not true," Harry blurted, feeling heat flush his face. "He wouldn't—"
"He wouldn't hide something from you if he felt it was for your own good?"
Quick thoughts flashed across Harry's consciousness of the previous summer, when he'd sat miserably awaiting news of Voldemort's actions after witnessing Cedric Diggory's death. He found out weeks later that Dumbledore had deliberately asked his friends to keep information from him, the full reason for which Harry had not yet been able to ask him. The Order of the Phoenix had been reformed and Harry had been the last to know.
He'd had a strange feeling the entire school year, as if Dumbledore had not told him some elemental fact that would allow the events of the last few years to make sense. If Lucius Malfoy was to be believed, Harry should've been the first person Dumbledore confided the truth in, instead of being continually left in the dark.
Malfoy smiled knowingly as several Death Eaters appeared behind him, wands held at the ready. "I would wager he felt you would become restless if you knew the truth about your destiny."
"What truth?" Harry asked before he could stop himself. "What's in the prophecy?"
Malfoy smiled, and this time there was something of a quiet triumph in his leer. "Give me the prophecy and all will be revealed to you. It is simply a matter of telling you your predetermined destiny, something Dumbledore obviously felt you couldn't handle."
"But why would Voldemort want to steal a prophecy about me? It doesn't make se—" Harry cut off abruptly as he recalled the words Voldemort spoke shortly after regaining a human body the night Cedric had been killed. They have called this boy my downfall…he has been better protected than I think even he knows. A small snatch of words spoken from the small globe as he'd picked it up glanced through Harry's thoughts. The Dark Lord will mark him as equal, but he shall have power the Dark Lord knows not... Did Voldemort seek the prophecy to find out Harry's strength—and his own weakness?
"Are you finally starting to see?" Malfoy asked.
Yes, he had seen. And that had been enough to distract him and almost allow Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange and the other Death Eaters to get their hands on the prophecy. The fight that ensued led to Harry and his friends being forced into a flight through several rooms in the Department of Mysteries, culminating in a room filled with time pieces—a room where Harry had quickly become convinced their time would run out.
Hermione yelled a spell that sealed the door and then collapsed against it, her breath coming in heavy gasps as they all looked around to take inventory of each other. Both Ginny and Luna were suffering from cuts on their faces, in addition to the bruises they'd already suffered at the school. Ginny was leaning against a case of small standing clocks, one elbow clutched lightly in the opposite hand. Luna was bleeding severely from a cut just above her left eye and the right was nearly swollen shut. Ron appeared to be limping. Neville was wheezing, dark, angry bruises around his neck showing that he'd been hit nearly dead-on. Hermione and Harry were the only two that appeared relatively unharmed from what had ensued so far, but Harry knew they would not escape that way. At this point, he just hoped they would all make it out alive.
Through the door, they heard Malfoy shouting orders to the other Death Eaters and Hermione raised her wand in alarm, sealing the other door to the room before it could be breached, looking to Harry with panic in her eyes. They were trapped.
"How are we going to get out?" she asked, her voice low and shaky.
The door on the far side of the room began to shake and Ron jumped away from it, holding his wand up and favoring his hurt leg.
"We'll have to fight our way through," Harry said, keeping his voice beneath the ticking sounds that filled the room so it wouldn't carry. "Malfoy has them split up into pairs. If we all go through the same door, we can probably fight off whoever breaks through the spell first and make it to the elevator before everyone else catches up with us."
The door shook menacingly again and this time Neville swerved to face it, arm up as if he expected it to swing open at any moment.
"Is everyone okay with the plan?" Everyone nodded and Harry looked over at Ron, who had begun leaning against a desk, shoving aside the clocks that covered it, eyeing his twisted ankle dubiously. "Will you be able to keep up with us, Ron?"
He nodded and dropped the leg of his pants. "I'd feel better if I was in the middle of the pack, though."
Harry nodded and they all jumped together, moving into the middle of the room instinctively as the door lurched on it's hinges again, a few short blows away from being destroyed by the Death Eater on the other side. Quickly, Harry slipped the small globe into the bag on his shoulder, lifting his wand to shoulder level as the door furthest away from them flew open with one final shouted spell.
The door they'd come through shot open seconds later and everyone ducked for cover as spells were shot back and forth across the room; the Death Eaters had surrounded them all again. Tables were overturned and the sound of ticking mixed with the sounds of glass breaking and screams all around as the battle recommenced.
Harry dove behind a desk as a sliver of red light parted his hair, accompanied by Bellatrix Lestrange's throaty scream. He looked up again to find that she'd been stunned by one of his friends, or possibly another Death Eater, as their quickly cast spells crisscrossed the open room. Ron shouted in pain as a spell hit his already injured foot. Harry lunged to where he lay and pulled him behind a desk as another Death Eater aimed for him, just barely missing, striking where Ron had been helpless on the floor seconds before.
Instinctively, Harry turned to block a curse that had been aimed at Neville's back, causing the spell to rebound and hit the Death Eater who'd sent it. He crashed into a wall, bringing down several shelves of clocks as he slumped to the floor. Harry ducked to avoid another spell aimed at his head and ran across the room, careful to keep his body low, ducking behind desks as he moved. Ginny was slumped against the far wall unprotected and he struggled to get to her, too far away to put a shield around her with Death Eaters attacking from every side.
Seeing where Harry was headed, Malfoy raised his wand to Ginny, a curse forming on his thin lips.
"No!" Harry shouted and he jumped over Ginny to shield her with his body, pushing her to the side as he reached her. He quickly covered her with a shield spell before he raised his wand to face Malfoy. Another curse was quickly sent, but barely missed Harry as he turned and leaned back. It crashed into the glass case behind him, sending a shower of glass down upon his head. He closed his eyes and began to slip to the floor, the contents of the case falling down around him and onto his lap. Before he could raise his hand to defend himself, two more spells followed in quick succession, one hitting Harry squarely in the chest, spreading a deep paralyzing pain, the other hitting the Time-Turner that had fallen over his stomach, sending the hourglass spinning rapidly backward.
The sounds of breaking glass, of incoherent screams and his own name falling from his friend's lips in worried shouts all disappeared abruptly as Harry closed his eyes and fell into darkness.
Harry looked down and frowned in realization of what had happened. There was a Time-Turner in his lap, similar to the one Hermione had used to double her class schedule their third year. This one was larger, about the size of his fist, and the hourglass was filled with fine gold sand that glowed faintly. He stared at the object numbly as slow reaction set in. If he'd followed Hermione's explanation, the small Time-Turner she'd been allowed to use would transport users by the hour. From the size of this one, he guessed it would be measured in weeks or maybe even months. All that remained was to leave the Department of Mysteries, check the date, and return to his friends. Maybe he hadn't traveled that far.
He shook his head to clear it and stood abruptly, easily saving the Time-Turner from a fall as a wave of dizziness swept over him. I should put this away before it gets bro— He stopped abruptly, remembering why he'd been tricked by Voldemort into going into the Ministry in the first place. Clutching his bag shakily in one hand, Harry fished out the small globe Voldemort had manipulated him to get his hand on. The glass surface was no longer filled with the silvery smoke that had touched its surface when he'd first retrieved it. It had fallen dark and did not change as Harry shook it minutely. He replaced it in the bag next to the Marauder's Map, then added the Time-Turner, cushioning the latter on his Invisibility Cloak. Retrieving his wand from the floor, Harry made his way to the door and to the world outside.
The breath seemed to catch fire in his throat and remain suspended there, choking his airways as his heart skipped a few long beats. Harry wondered, not for the first time, how many of the events in his life were coincidence and how many were by design. He was more curious now in light of the prophecy he'd heard a portion of earlier. Struggling, Harry took a shuddering breath and blinked away the tears that had instantly pricked up behind his eyelids as he looked at that morning's edition of the Daily Prophet.
The headline read He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Terrorizes Families In Three Communities. Seconds later it changed to Minister Promises Peace Soon. Below, a picture of a much-harried witch the caption identified as Millicent Bagnold brushing past reporters to enter the Atrium Harry was now standing in, speaking over her shoulder the words that had become the day's headline. In the top right corner, Harry reread the section of the page that had startled him: October 30th, 1981.
Vivid memories, if they could be considered genuine memories, flashed through the forefront of his mind. James Potter, confronting Voldemort in their front room, giving his mother time to run. Lily, running upstairs to find her infant son, shielding the crib with her body after Voldemort demanded she give up her son's life. Screams and a brilliant green light filled the room, and then there was darkness—in Lily's eyes, the destruction of Voldemort's body, and the cloud that would hang over Harry's life from that day on. The entire night was just one day from happening. Harry drew his eyes away from the newspaper case and closed them, finally releasing a few of the tears he'd been holding back. He knew what he had to do before the thought had fully formed in his mind. He had to go to Godric's Hollow. He had to save his parents.
Harry flew southwest, not sorry for taking and enchanting the broom he'd spotted on the back stoop of a Muggle house, not worried about being seen under cover of the heavily clouded night, and refusing to consider the negative consequences of what he was proposing to do. The consequences were on his mind, surely; Hermione's voice was firmly intoning a lecture on the dangers of changing the past, the irrevocable damage that could result.
There was no doubt in Harry's mind that saving his parents could only result in a change for the better in the future he'd return to. They would be safe to raise him, Peter Pettigrew would never get the chance to betray them, Sirius would not go to jail for murder, other future victims could possibly be saved. The Longbottoms? Others? With their strength and knowledge, by the time Harry returned to his fifteenth year, Voldemort could already be defeated—or his parents could fight by his side.
Was this what the prophecy foretold? Was it the ability to save his parents and countless others who would fight against Voldemort the one action that would lead to his defeat? If this was the possible consequence of changing the past, Harry knew it was right. For the lives spared alone, it would be worth it.
He landed near a small copse of trees, on the outskirts of the village. Closing his eyes, he tried to visualize his parent's house from the few fleeting visions he'd had of Voldemort approaching to attack. Harry wasn't sure he would be able to find the house at all, because his parents were still protected by the Fidelius Charm. Peter Pettigrew had yet to betray their confidence.
He began walking towards the first row of houses, a jittery feeling suddenly assailing his stomach. None of the houses he passed resembled the two floor cottage his parents shared. Resisting the urge to peek into the windows of each to make sure, Harry pressed on, knowing he'd feel something if he got close to them. The spell protecting them would probably make sure of that. A short time later, Harry knew he'd reached the right one and the anxiousness left his stomach to spread through his whole body.
Acting purely on instinct, Harry retrieved his Invisibility Cloak from his bag and pulled the edges around himself. He realized then, his father would have a duplicate of it in the house at that moment. He opened the gate slowly and made his way up the walk, careful not to step on too many leaves. He wasn't sure if his presence would set off some type of alarm, but he was going to find out soon enough—he'd come too far to stop now.
Voices from inside drew him to a window to the right of the front door. Just as Harry leaned against the window sill, his mother's laughter rang out to him. She stood in front of a sofa, holding out a baby and laughing as her husband tickled the child in her arms before pulling back and laughing harder as baby Harry kicked his feet and giggled at his father. They repeated the motions a few more times before Lily handed the baby off to James. Harry's father kissed his cheek repeatedly before snuggling him in a tight embrace and rubbing his back as he yawned. Jzmes then rose and brushed his wife's lips in a brief kiss before taking Harry upstairs, leaving Lily to turn down the lamps that had lit the downstairs room.
A burning desire to run into the house and hug his parents—embrace them in the flesh for the first time since he'd been too young to fully appreciate it—overwhelmed Harry for a few moments. He had to force himself to take a few steps back from the window before the impulse overtook his good sense. It was dangerous enough that he was about to warn the two people he cared for the most that their life would be coming to an end. It would be the worst possible thing to go inside and declare he was their offspring from the future—his father's looks and his mother's eyes as proof—and scare them as they relaxed in their presumably protected home.
Harry stood outside for hours staring up at the house, debating what he was going to do, watching until the last light was put out and the home his parents lived in—and would die in if he did nothing—stood silent, along with the rest of Godric's Hollow. Finally, he approached the front door on stiff legs and pulled out his wand, his mind made up.
"Alohamora," he whispered and the door eased open into the quiet house, gliding backward with a soft whish. Harry entered the foyer and closed the door softly, freezing in place as he stared at the staircase. He hoped neither of his parents would be alerted to someone entering their house in the middle of the night. A few moments later, he walked into the living room, the tip of his wand lit as he observed the space.
There were framed photos of the three of them on every surface—his father throwing him into the air and catching him as he giggled; Lily cradling Harry when he was a newborn, small wisps of black hair standing straight up on his head; Harry sitting up on a toy broom, he and his mother both laughing as he zoomed near his father's feet. Glancing around, he noticed his own toys, including the child-sized broom, scattered around the floor as if he'd just finished playing. If Sirius's description of Lily fit, she'd straighten the room the moment she was up in the morning, just before breakfast.
A small brush against his ankles and a low purring made Harry jump . Looking down, he spotted a bushy white cat which resembled a ghostly-white version of Hermione's pet. It wrapped itself around his legs, purring loudly in apparent recognition of a member of the family. Willing his heartbeat to slow down, Harry stepped gingerly out of the circle the cat was walking around him and headed for the kitchen, deciding to leave the note for his parents there, where they'd be sure to find it first thing in the morning.
Paper and quill in hand, Harry paused for a moment, weighing his options. How much could he tell them without causing more harm than good? After all, if Voldemort did not lose his body the next night, the fight would continue, harder than ever once Voldemort realized his intended victims were safe elsewhere. He would warn them about Neville's parents as well, he decided, dipping the quill. Everything else could resolve itself.
James and Lily, (It felt strange to be writing his parents names this way, but he could hardly call them Mum and Dad.)
Peter Pettigrew has betrayed you. This note is evidence that the Fidelius Charm has been broken. Further proof will come tomorrow as Voldemort plans to attack you in your home after nightfall, killing you and your son if he can. Please leave and do not tell anyone except Sirius Black or Albus Dumbledore where you are going. Also, you must warn Frank and Alice Longbottom their lives are in danger from Death Eaters. They must go into hiding immediately. (Pausing, Harry decided to add more to the note while he had the chance to say it.) Your contribution to this movement means more to the fight against Voldemort than you'll ever be aware. Be careful in the future as the road will get harder and there are many whose loyalties are divided.
Harry started to sign a name, but remembered as he dipped the quill that he had none that would make sense to his parents. He blew on the ink to dry it and looked around the kitchen for someplace to leave the note with a Sticking Charm. He finally decided that leaving it in the middle of the formerly empty kitchen island counter would be enough for his parents to notice it in the morning. He took one last look around the kitchen, before exiting the house and relocking the front door, pulling the Invisibility Cloak back over himself as he left.
Making up his mind quickly, Harry decided to sleep in the front yard, in spite of the slight breeze that blew through the village. He'd been running around since early that morning in another time period, had fought, traveled through time and flown hours to see his parents. A rest, close enough to see if his parents heeded his warning, was well-needed. Besides that, a quick inventory of his pockets and bag showed he barely had enough money to get a butterbeer, let alone a place to sleep for the night. After he retrieved the broom he'd stolen from where he'd landed earlier and hid it under a nearby bush, Harry leaned against the inside of the fence with his bag cradled in his lap. The Invisibility Cloak gave him protection from potential onlookers and the slight wind as he fell asleep facing his parents' house the night before they would be murdered.
A woman's scream woke Harry in the morning and he jumped, thinking he'd been wrong and Voldemort had attacked anyway, only in the cold light of this October morning instead of Halloween night. Had his own fifteen-year-old presence somehow broken the charm? Shivering as he considered the possibility, Harry heard his mother call for his father by name, and the next rush of words from her mouth that meant she'd found the note he'd left for them. Harry held his breath, hoping they would react by escaping their fate, rather than dismiss the note as an improbability because of the protections around their home. Minutes later, the front door banged open and Harry got his answer.
As Harry sat just inside the gate, he watched his parents struggle down the walkway and exit the gate with a bang. Lily was carrying her crying infant son in one arm with a couple of overstuffed bags sliding back and forth over the opposite shoulder, James was carrying a large suitcase in each hand. Several steps past the gate, James opened one arm to encompass his wife and child, then they both turned on the spot, Apparating from sight. Harry's scar tingled lightly.
Now he would return to the Ministry, and to a future he hoped was far brighter than the one he'd left. He would accept no other possibility.
One hundred ninety. Months from the date his parents were, or would have been murdered till the night Harry would have been fighting alongside his friends in the Department of Mysteries. It was the number of turns he'd have to engage the Time-Turner to return to that night, where he knew the evening would end quite differently after his future changed for the better.
Clutching his bag over one shoulder, Harry looked around the Ministry Atrium once more before grasping the Time-Turner firmly and beginning to return to his future. Before he reached the required number, the hourglass began spinning faster and faster, no longer allowing Harry to direct it. He closed his eyes and waited as he was transported.