Chapter 1 – Time, Mr. Potter?
September 14th, 2002
Darkness was falling on the ruins of Lambeth, a suburb of what used to be the city of London. Blasted buildings on either side of the ruined road stood empty, long abandoned by the terrified residents. Entrances stood open like gaping mouths, windows dark and devoid of glass. The tarmac lining the street was cracked and pitted with small craters, evidence of the fighting that had filled the city four years previously.
Apart from a wild dog barking in the distance, all was quiet. That was until two sharp cracks shattered the silence. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley had arrived.
The five years since the Fall of Hogwarts had changed them beyond all recognition. Harry, once a skinny teenage boy, had grown into a well-built young man. His dark hair reached below his shoulders and he sported a few days worth of beard on his rugged chin. His most distinguishing new facial feature, however, was the livid curse scar which ran across his right cheek, a memento of a battle with some vampires three years previously. He was garbed in a tight-fitting t-shirt and trouser combination, both spelled to resist mid-level hexes. A thick pistol was strapped to his thigh, enchanted with various useful enhancements such as self-making ammunition and everclean charms.
Harry's magical abilities were the subject of much speculation on his enemies' part. He had shown natural aptitude for wandless magic, and his spells were certainly more powerful than a normal Death Eater's, but he seemed to lack the flair and diversity which was needed to survive during a duel with someone like Voldemort. In short, the lack of combat experience he had had before the end of his schooling had been a handicap.
Ron had also put on weight, now rather muscular. His face was merely weather-beaten; his distinctive orange hair now cropped short in stark contrast to Harry's flowing locks. He sported his own battle scar, having lost two the fingers of his left hand in an encounter with Fenrir Greyback, an event which also saw him contracting Lycanthropy, the werewolf disease. Their friendship was unaffected by this; on the contrary it brought them closer together, united in the face of hardship. His outfit was essentially the same as Harry's, designed for combat, with the notable absence of a muggle weapon.
The third member of the classic trio was absent, to the despair of the others. Hermione had been killed six months previously by the Dark Lord himself, on a horcrux raid in Godric's Hollow. She had injured her leg on a defensive ward and couldn't move properly. Death Eaters had begun to arrive, surrounding the decaying wreck of Harry's former home. The horcrux, Hufflepuff's cup, had been destroyed and Harry and Ron had been ready to fight to the last against the overwhelming amounts of Death Eaters, but Hermione had tricked them into port-keying away while she faced the wrath of Voldemort alone. The next time they saw her she had been posthumously added to the infamous Wall of Traitors outside the Ministry headquarters, along with others such as Albus Dumbledore and Remus Lupin. Ron, Harry knew, hadn't fully gotten over her death. Harry, on the other hand, had simply repressed his emotions with a combination of Occlumency and bitter experience. There would be plenty of time for grieving once it was all over.
Harry whipped out his wand on arrival, scanning the area for traps with senses honed by years on the run. The wrecked street passed his inspection and he motioned for his partner to follow him. The pair swiftly took cover behind a burned-out car and took stock of the situation. They were in the former suburb on a horcrux raid – what would hopefully be the final one. The diary, the cup, the locket, ring and the snake had all been accounted for over the years, destroyed in the face of their unrelenting determination.
All that remained was Godric Gryffindor's ancient wand, which was rumoured to be hidden in this unassuming corner of London. The significance to the place, however, was clear to all present; they were standing near the site of Lord Voldemort's former orphanage, which was no longer standing. Harry thought it might be buried underneath, in a basement or something similar, and he and Ron were there to find out.
Finally sure that the street was devoid of traps, Harry indicated that Ron should search the buildings on the left side of the road, while he checked the right. The pair soundlessly peeled off and entered opposite buildings; Ron's a former corner-shop, Harry's what had once been a terraced house. Both were deserted, so the pair moved onto the next ones in perfect sync. When there were two buildings left to check on either side, Harry noticed spellfire coming from Ron's building. With a curse he sprinted across the cracked road and burst through the derelict front door of the semi-detached. He briefly took in a dirty hallway, paint cracked and peeling with age, when he found Ron standing over a stunned Death Eater, wand pointed at the masked man's heart. Harry sagged with relief. He didn't think he could handle losing Ron so soon after Hermione.
"What are you waiting for? Finish the job and let's get a damned move on," he spat, not wanting to delay in a place which was obviously under surveillance. Ron looked at him with a calm expression on his lined face, his eyes oddly glassy, as if distracted.
"We shouldn't be so hasty. This scum," Ron said while aiming a kick at the Death Eater's side, "could tell us some valuable information. I say we let him live for now and Portkey him back to base when we're done."
"Your call. I just think we shouldn't linger, is all," replied Harry. He strode out of the empty house and back onto the darkened street, a scowl on his disfigured face. Ron followed shortly after, wand gripped tightly in his hand. The pair walked, side by side, down the scorched pavement until they reached the end of the road, where the imposing orphanage had once been. Now all that remained was a square of blackened earth, the building having been literally removed from existence by an angry Voldemort. Harry and Ron stood staring at the dirt, unmoving, as if deciding where to start.
"Ron, can I ask you something?" Harry began, his expression pensive.
"Sure mate, unless it's where to start looking for this horcrux, because I don't have a damned clue," replied Ron, shaking his head in frustration.
"Do you miss her? Hermione I mean. I've been thinking –"
"Shut. Up." growled Ron, with uncharacteristic anger. "Don't mention her. I'm not ready for that kind of conversation just yet, alright? We're in the middle of searching for a bloody Horcrux, mate. Maybe when this is all over, yeah? We haven't had much time to talk about things like that, and I know how you must feel, but I just need focus on the task in hand." He said while staring at the ground, his voice beginning to soften. He sighed, "I do miss her, of course I do. I just don't think you know how much, mate. Now lets just get to work on this horcrux and we can take that hurdle when we get to it, O.K?"
Harry stole a glance at his friend and was shocked to see tears in the young man's eyes. Harry had seen Ron, in werewolf form, slaughter an entire group of Death Eaters for daring to look at him. To see him like this was disconcerting, even to Harry. He moved an arm to comfort Ron, when all hell began to break loose.
Apparition cracks sounded like gunshots throughout the previously-quiet landscape. Over two dozen masked and hooded figures appeared up and down the road, wands out and at the ready, looking for the enemy. Harry and Ron whirled around, the emotional moment over, and immediately began to fight the attackers with feral ferocity. The Death Eaters were at a disadvantage, being disorientated and dispersed after the Apparition, so the initial fighting was firmly in the defender's favour. Reductor curses, Cutting hexes and Bone-breaking jinxes rocketed from the ends of their wands, causing casualties almost every spell. Bits of heated masonry and shattered stone erupted from the tarmac as stray spells hit the ground, slicing into unprotected flesh with ease. Harry un-holstered his pistol and began to fire at the packs of Death Eaters, scoring a hit with every shot. The pistol was so effective, despite being non-magical, due to the element of surprise it offered and nature of its ammunition. Bullets travelled far faster than hexes and consequently pierced magical shielding far easier. Harry had noticed this fact at an early stage in the war and had quickly adopted the use of firearms. He hadn't regretted it yet. Ron wasn't as proficient with Muggle weaponry, so he stuck to his wand, instead learning a wider variety of spells than Harry to compensate.
The Death Eaters began to fight back at this point, their curses impacting on the pair's shields. They retreated down the road and dived as one behind a low wall which surrounded the remains of a garden. Harry holstered the gun and steadied his wand, ready to renew the assault. He turned to Ron, his eyes lit up with bloodlust.
"Well this is a real way to spend your evening! Who'd bother with reading a book or listening to the wireless when you could be duelling for your life for the third time in a week? This is living!" he quipped with a grin, blindly returning fire over the flimsy bricks that made up their fortification. Ron just looked at him blankly, which slightly unnerved Harry. He had seen that look before, on the victims of the Imperius…
Realisation flashed through his mind, a fraction of a second too late. Ron raised his wand and shot a Petrificus Totalus at Harry's exposed chest, the power of the spell bypassing his shirt's defensive wards. Harry froze in mid-curse, a shocked look on his face, his mouth half-open stupidly. Death Eaters, emboldened by the lack of retaliation to their curses, began to approach the garden where the two were hidden. Harry fell onto his back, his arm outstretched, unable to move as the first masked heads poked over the wall. Ron just crouched there passively, his expression still blank.
The first Death Eater to appear was the one Ron had stunned in the house; Harry recognised the build. He stepped over the wall into the muddy garden and aimed a kick at Harry's frozen ribs. "Take that Potter. Not so smart now are you, you little prick? Didn't suspect your friend for a second. I'm glad I told him to fight my colleagues, although I don't know if a half-blood scumbag like you would have noticed anyway," he snarled, punctuating his tirade with repeated kicks to the side. Harry felt every one, mentally crying out in pain. Once the Death Eater was finished he motioned for his fellows to grab Harry and carry him into the middle of the road. Harry noted with satisfaction that there was a small pile of bodies and body parts further down the street, evidence that they had inflicted some damage. Ron followed the group meekly, his wand in the hands of the previously-stunned Death Eater.
"Now, Potter, I'm going to summon the Dark Lord. And I don't think he'll be happy to see you. I was ordered to stand guard here on his express permission, and it looks like I succeeded in my duty. I will be rewarded! And you, you worthless rebel, will get what you deserve. And I hope it's slow and painful!" the man cried, motioning for Ron to stand to attention next to him. He rolled up the sleeves of his black robes and pressed the raw Mark on his forearm, hissing in pain as it turned jet black. Then, with a smile that could be seen underneath his mask, he stood back with the dozen remaining followers to await the arrival of Voldemort.
Harry wasn't really paying attention to all this; he was more preoccupied with trying to break free of Ron's spell. The problem was that Ron was a powerful wizard, and a wandless-soundless spell was notoriously difficult to pull off in the best of circumstances. Harry was in pain and shock, and for all his efforts he could only remove the spell from the fingers of his left hand, which were currently pinned to the pocket of his trousers. As he tried to focus on freeing the entire hand, he was distracted somewhat by the arrival of his nemesis.
Absolute power had treated Voldemort well. In the Fall of Hogwarts he had sustained significant magical trauma, losing the use of his legs and being forced into a three-day coma. But he had had five years to recover from old injuries, and magic allowed him to move much faster than normal legs, while maintaining the semblance of walking. Today he was dressed in what seemed to be an ordinary black cloak, but was in fact much more. The cloak had the rare property of absorbing light as well as most spells, giving Voldemort the semblance of being swathed in darkness, with only his piercing red eyes showing from beneath the hood. The effect was very imposing, something which Harry reckoned the man relished.
When he saw Harry lying helpless in the dirt, he threw back his hooded head and laughed for a full minute, with no one else daring to make a noise. The laugher sounded wrong coming from his mouth, like a perverse imitation of real humour. Then he stopped abruptly and began to speak in his smooth, condescending tones, as if nothing had happened.
"Oh dear, Mr. Potter, we do seem to have got ourselves into a sticky situation, haven't we? Petrified by your own friend and helpless at the hands of your enemy. I don't envy you at all," he turned to the huddle of Death Eaters behind him and snapped in a much colder tone, "Give me his wand. Now."
The man who had Imperioused Ron stood forward and handed over Harry's holly wand with a bow. Voldemort, with barely a glance at the man, turned back to Harry's prone form and began to bend the piece of wood in from of Harry's eyes. With deliberate slowness the wand began to bend, splinter, and finally snap in two. Voldemort allowed himself another laugh as he snapped the pieces in two again, and again. Finally he dropped them at his feet; inches from Harry's face, and set them on fire with a flourish. Harry could only watch as his faithful tool slowly turned to ashes before his very eyes, the phoenix feather core crumbling to pieces under the heat of the magical fire. He felt something within him diminish, like losing a part of himself. Before he could come to terms with the loss, Voldemort began to speak again.
"Well, that deals with our little… problem… with duelling, doesn't it Potter? Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to indulge in a bit of Muggle justice. Normally I wouldn't lower myself to their disgusting levels, but I've heard it is extremely satisfying. One kick for every Horcrux destroyed should be poetic, don't you agree?" the speech drew some gasps from the Death Eaters behind him as they realised simply how far their master had delved into the dark arts. Ignoring their exclamations, Voldemort raised a booted foot and brought it down on Harry's face, again and again. Blood spurted from Harry's nose, red and hot, as he felt it break. His teeth began to loosen as Voldemort continued to stamp on his head, five times in total. Finally the assault ceased; Harry's face was covered in blood and he could feel multiple teeth loose or missing. Voldemort laughed again; he was doing that a lot lately.
"My my, that did feel good, Malfoy was right. Now, what do we have here?" he asked himself, gesturing to the motionless Ron, "I do believe that's a Weasley. The last of the Weasleys, to be more precise. And a blood traitor," he looked down at Harry's frozen, blood-splattered face, "and we know what we do to blood traitors, don't we Harry?" he asked, raising his wand and aiming it at Ron. Harry screamed inwardly, not quite believing what he was seeing. He had survived countless battles, evaded Voldemort more times than he could count. He and Ron couldn't die, not in some nondescript street as night fell. It wasn't justice! Good was supposed to win, not this sadistic dictator!
Voldemort cocked his head under the dark robes, as if wondering what to do with Ron. Finally he waved the wand and summoned a large iron cross into the middle of the road, slightly bigger and wider than a man. Harry redoubled his efforts to break free of the curse, knowing what was about to happen. Ron was unresistingly levitated in front of the cross and held in place. Then several metal spikes were conjured and placed before his wrists and ankles. Voldemort paused for a moment, glancing over his shoulder.
"Montgomery, release this insufferable ape from the Imperius, I want him to feel Lord Voldemort's wrath before he expires like the animal he is."
The Death Eater who had cast the Curse in the first place cancelled it, causing Ron to blink stupidly and take in his position.
It wasn't good. Harry was petrified on the ground, and he looked like he'd been badly beaten up. The Dark Lord didn't look too happy either.
All in all there had been better days.
Voldemort smiled underneath his hood. "Well Weasley, now that you're awake, lets get on with the show!" he exclaimed with wicked glee, drawing cheers from his followers. The spikes drove into Ron's flesh with brutal force, eliciting a scream of pain and shock from the redhead. Blood spurted from the wounds onto the tarmac below, staining the dusty earth. Ron gritted his teeth and looked Voldemort in the eyes, refusing to show any more discomfort then his initial scream. Voldemort frowned at the lack of reaction and waved his wand, causing the spikes to begin to glow red-hot, making Ron to cry out in pain once more and try to tug himself free. The Death Eaters sniggered at the man's discomfort, drawing sick pleasure from the scene.
Harry tried to block out the sounds and sights from his mind, unable to look away. His mind was simply refusing to take in what was happening, he was running on sheer adrenaline. He tried once more to break the Petrificus, but was still met with no success other than his wiggling fingers. He scrabbled at his side, managing to worm them into his pocket. Inside there was the feeling of cool metal; a chain.
Excitement flooded his body, despite the woeful situation. He had managed to get hold of his rudimentary Time-Turner; a device which would send him back a short, pre-set amount of time. He and Ron both carried one and had never had to use them before now; he was ashamed to admit he had forgotten about them. Ignoring Ron's continued yells of pain; he slowly drew the device from his pocket, bit by bit, with the intention of getting out of there and then working out what to do. By now Voldemort was growing bored of his victim's incessant screaming, and cooled the spikes once more.
"Any last words, you pathetic excuse for a pure-blood? Or are you unable to speak, struck dumb by my power?" he sneered, the darkness surrounding his form blotting out his eyes for a moment.
Ron raised his head once more, shaking slightly from the torture. "Yeah, I have a few words for you," he began in a weak voice, "Most of them are unrepeatable in polite company, I'll tell you that much. But, for now, I'll just say this: Harry will defeat you, you complete and utter wanker," he paused for a moment to spit on Voldemort's robes with a flourish, "If I were you I'd watch my back. You might have got rid of me using dirty tricks, but Harry will get out this mess and keep fighting you until one of you is dead. Be sure of it."
Voldemort wiped off Ron's saliva, his glowing eyes narrowing into slits of hate. He raised his wand once more, moving it in a jerking motion, akin to a man reeling in a fish. Ron's eyes widened and his throat began to bulge alarmingly. Finally his trachea was torn clean out of his neck, dangling down his front like a macabre rope. It fluttered and wheezed as the colour drained from Ron's freckled face. Finally, he slumped over, lifeless.
But Voldemort had made a crucial error. In his haste to kill Ron, he had forgotten doing so would negate all spells Ron had cast, including the Petrificus affecting Harry. Harry, suddenly able to move, immediately attempted to get to his feet. He promptly collapsed again, muscles completely numb from being lain upon for so long. The pain in his nose had subsided to a dull throb, letting him think clearly. Thankfully no one had thus far noticed his movements, all the Death Eaters being enraptured by the sight of Ron's dramatic death, so he was allowed to massage his legs unobtrusively and gently wipe the crusted blood off his mouth, wincing at the spikes of agony he felt from touching the wounded area. When Voldemort turned around to deal with his enemy, Harry was already on his feet and beginning to flee down the darkened road.
Voldemort screamed in fury and began to hurl curses at his defenceless foe. The Chosen One began to dodge and jink from side to side as the Death Eaters joined the hunt, whooping with glee at the prospect of killing the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry dived to the ground as a Decapitating hex narrowly missed, and rolled off to one side as more multicoloured spells cracked the earth where he had previously lain. Ignoring the long scrapes and grazes on his knees and arms, he flipped back onto his feet and held up the Time-Turner. His attackers didn't let up in their assault, sending curses at the Time-Turner without stopping to check what it was.
Harry turned the Turner three times. The street began to dissolve.
Five curses hit the device simultaneously, causing it to crack and glow a sickly green. Pain, white hot and piercing, erupted from Harry's scar for the first time since he mastered Occlumency. He screwed up his eyes and fell to his knees, the Time-Turner clutched tightly in his hands. The street vanished, replaced with a grey mist. Harry collapsed onto his side, still grasping the Turner and scrabbling at his scar. The pain continued for what seemed like hours, but was only seconds, before stopping as soon as it had started.
Harry gasped with relief and opened his eyes. He was floating, quite naked, in a grey void. He felt his face and found his nose was no longer broken and his teeth were all accounted for. The scar on his cheek was even gone; his only blemish that seemed to be there was the lightning-bolt on his forehead. The grey mist was very thick, obscuring everything from view. Harry began to see flashes of colour in it, scenes flickering in and out of existence before his eyes.
Lupin hanging from the Whomping Willow; Hermione looking at him sadly as he was port-keyed away; Dumbledore's body silhouetted against the Dark Mark as he plummeted to his death from the Astronomy Tower; Hogwarts vanishing in a storm of fire, along with hundreds of staff and students…
Different scenes began to play, these ones unfamiliar. Harry watched, transfixed, as he saw his life play out before him, starting from his birth…
A smiling couple in front of a newly-purchased cottage; a red-haired woman cooing at a baby in her arms; a long-haired, handsome man bouncing a small infant on his knee and roaring with laughter; the Dursleys, cold and bitter, locking him in the cupboard for the first time; Ripper, Aunt Marge's dog, chasing him up a tree; Harry being chased by Dudley and his gang and ending up on the school roof; Harry having his head shaved by Aunt Petunia; Harry talking to a snake in the zoo, and somehow setting it free…
His first year at Hogwarts swiftly played out in a series of faster flashes; from Platform 9 ¾ to his first Quidditch match to fighting past the teacher's enchantments to his confrontation with Quirrell/Voldemort in front of the Mirror of Erised. Harry began to concentrate, to slow down the images, which became clearer and more coherent. He had no idea what was happening, whether this was death or something of Voldemort's doing, but it was fascinating, seeing his life in the third person.
Harry meeting Dobby for the first time; meeting Lockhart for the first time; cheering Mr. Weasley on while he fought Lucius Malfoy in Flourish and Blotts; crashing into the Whomping Willow with Ron; finding Mrs Norris petrified; finding Justin and Nearly-Headless Nick petrified; finding Hermione petrified; working out what was in the Chamber with her help…
Then the images froze. It showed Harry and Ron, having learned that Ginny was in the Chamber, on their way to Lockhart's office to help him fight the Basilisk. The image grew clearer, the fog around it disappearing. Slowly the colours grew sharper and brighter, beginning to blind Harry with their brilliance. Finally he had to close his eyes against the glare. When he opened him, he saw something he never thought he would see again.
A familiar, twelve year-old, redhead was standing over him with a look of concern on his face.
"You all right, Harry?"