A/N - Dedicated to my lovely reader Prongslet. (See, I told you I'd get it posted quickly!)
Chapter 14 – A Glimpse of the Future
Harry wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to do with himself for the next 24 hours. He had found Hedwig, who had been thrown forward with him, but had landed quite a distance away and lay there stunned until he collected her. He had given Sirius the potions, and the instructions. Now he needed to rest. His ribs ached, and he was fairly sure he had a small fracture in his left wrist. That was all right, though. He'd nicked some salves and potions from Grimmauld place before slipping away, and they had already begun to work. But they would work better and faster if he could find a place to lie down. He had originally thought that perhaps he could go directly to Godric's Hollow and try to reawaken his parents, but he wasn't sure how long that would take, how tiring it would be, or if he could even manage it on his own. Hopefully when he did go, he would have Sirius by his side to help him. He smiled at the thought: himself, Sirius, and his parents all together.
But where would they go? They would have to stay hidden for five years, somewhere the wizarding world would never find them. And now he had a goal. He had 24 hours to heal, and find a place for them to stay, to hide. It didn't need to be permanent. It just needed to be somewhere they could recuperate until they found themselves a home in the muggle world.
Harry felt Hedwig hoot softly next to his ear as she landed on his shoulders. He reached up and gently scratched the top of her head and said, "I'm going to go scope out Godric's Hollow, see if there's anything around there we can use." Then he let her loose and turned on the spot, disappearing with only the faintest sound. Apparition, because it did not require him to channel his magic in the same way spellcasting did, was still something he could reliably do with his unstable magic, for which he was grateful.
Godric's Hollow itself had nothing to offer. James and Lily couldn't move into a house there, for a number of reasons, but Harry was more interested in the land around the village. He didn't want to have to travel too far from the cemetery once they were revived, but he needed a place that was also far enough away from people that they couldn't be found. The answer lay only a half-mile from the cemetery: a hilly forest with plenty of possible hiding spots. He apparated once again and reappeared in a small clearing surrounded by enormous fir trees. The air smelled sweet and slightly tangy, and the taste of decomposition tickled his tongue. He smiled and breathed deeply, savoring the solitude of the place. There was no war, no evil in this place. Voldemort hadn't touched this place, and never would if Harry had anything to say about it. Harry walked forward slowly, listening to the light crackle of twigs and leaves under his feet and the twittering of birdsong overhead in the trees. It was so peaceful here. Why couldn't all of England feel this free?
"It will," he promised himself. "I will make it free." With that resolution in his mind, Harry began to search in earnest. 24 hours really wasn't all that long, when he thought about it. He climbed for quite a while; he wasn't sure how long, just that it was a steep rise and his feet were tired and his ribs aching. After a time Hedwig joined him, the telltale signs of a recent fresh meal lingering on the side of her beak. This reminded Harry that besides being tired and footsore, he was also hungry.
"And of course I can't eat raw meat, and I don't really have the energy or knowledge to forage," he muttered to himself. "Do you think you could find me something I could eat, Hedwig? Maybe snitch something from the village?"
Obviously, Hedwig did think so, because a moment later her weight was gone from Harry's shoulder and she had disappeared into the deepening night. With a sigh, Harry settled himself on the ground by a large oak tree and closed his eyes. If he was going to take a break to eat, he may as well use the time to rest. He carefully placed his time turner on a rock by his head so he wouldn't crush it as he slept, and closed his eyes. By the time Hedwig returned with a small loaf of bread in her talons, Harry was fast asleep.
Several hours later, Harry was awake and wishing he could use his wand so he could roast a squirrel or something. He was grateful for the bread Hedwig brought him, but it did not go far to ease the pang in his belly.
It was now close to midnight, as far as he could tell by his inner clock. The forest was nearly silent, but for the occasional rustle or growl from a nocturnal creature. It was nearly impossible to see where he was going, so he trusted Hedwig to guide him as best she could. He managed to get a small light to cling to the end of his wand when he was finally fed up with the darkness, and used it to navigate for a good fifteen minutes before his foot caught on a root and sent him sprawling forward onto his ribs, which had healed some from his pilfered potions, but were still quite sore. He reached a hand up to his throat to make sure the time turner hadn't been damaged in the fall, and… sweet Merlin, the time turner!
Harry was on his feet in a moment. He ran his hands up his neck and over his shoulders, and shook his robes carefully, but the tiny hourglass did not reappear. Of all the stupid things he could have done, he had forgotten his ticket home on a rock back by that tree where he'd slept. Harry groaned. How in Merlin's name was he supposed to backtrack and find it in this darkness? Thankfully Hedwig seemed to have a pretty good idea of where to go.
"Why didn't you remind me?" Harry grumbled at the owl. Hedwig didn't answer.
Everything looked much the same as it had when Harry had been there only minutes before, and he had little trouble locating the correct rock, but the time turner wasn't there. Thinking it must have slid off to the ground, he began a careful search of the surrounding area. He was seriously regretting his choice to head out immediately after meeting with Sirius. Why hadn't he just spent the night there and set out in the daylight? But it was no use to complain about that now. He moved his foot to change position and as he shifted his weight he heard a delicate crunch. He froze, and cursed under his breath as he lifted his foot and looked beneath it. There, reduced to a tiny pile of crushed glass and sand, was his only link to his own time. Like it or not, he was going to be stuck here for a very long time.
A rainstorm had finally come in while Harry was collecting the pieces of the time turner, and now he just wanted to find some shelter and sleep for the rest of the night. It was sheer luck that he stumbled across the low entrance of a rocky cave-like spot, overgrown with wildlife and not entirely dry inside. It was well concealed, and once he was inside, more spacious than he would have thought, although he had to stoop to avoid ramming his head on the ceiling. It would be a simple matter to fix those problems with magic, though. This meant that although he had to deal with them for the night, if this did become the temporary location for his parents, it wouldn't take long for them to make it liveable.
With daylight, Harry was able to investigate his find more fully, and realized that if crawled deeper inside a small tunnel near the back, it actually opened into a small cavern with a high enough ceiling that he could stand. It was slightly open to the outside, and so it was damp and chill from the storm. Sirius would hate it, of course, it being far too similar to the cooped up living conditions he was trying to get away from, but he would just have to deal with it. Harry was fairly certain that Lily would find some small muggle flat as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Of course, things would change if Harry couldn't repair his time turner. They would have to find a home for four people who needed to stay hidden, and three was already going to be difficult. Perhaps he and Sirius would live together. Sirius would like that. But Harry knew he needed to get back to his own time. He knew what the future looked like, and he did not want to have to wait five years to return.
Having decided that this cavern would serve as his base, he instructed Hedwig to learn it from the sky so she could find it again, and headed back down towards the village. From there, he apparated back to Grimmauld. He slipped inside when Padfoot showed up to find what had tripped the wards, and hurried to the room he had claimed as his own many years ago. He was fairly certain Sirius would smell him and come looking for him, but he would rather that than be discovered by someone else because he tarried too long in the common areas.
There was nothing much to do until either Sirius came and found him, or it came time to head to the ministry, so Harry curled up on the sunken mattress and ran over his plan in his head. There was no way to apparate into the ministry, and he could not enter through any guest entrances, because his name would be recorded. He knew that there were no ministry officials who could overlook two Harry Potters entering the ministry within minutes of each other, and the wards around the perimeter of the building would make it impossible for him to sneak in any other way. His best bet, as far as he could tell, would be to piggyback with someone else, and somehow manage to avoid giving his name. He didn't believe he'd be able to slip into the phone booth with the DA, unless he had an invisibility cloak and could turn himself into a gnat. No, he would have to be stealthy and brilliant in a way that would make the marauders swell with pride. Harry smiled. Perhaps he could bring a souvenir to prove he'd done it. Surely nobody would notice a bauble had gone missing in the midst of all the chaos and globes breaking and time turners smashing.
Time turners! The ministry had time turners! Harry could feel a wide grin creeping across his face. It was perfect. While everyone was staggering around dodging spells, he'd just nick a time turner off a shelf and slip into the shadows, and no one would be the wiser. Voila, he was saved! The main trouble would be sneaking around the room during the battle and being neither distracted nor discovered. But he could do that. Of course he could.
He was drawn out of his thoughts by the sound of the door creaking open. A moment later he heard Sirius's voice call out, "Harry? Are you in here?" He sat up on the bed and regarded his godfather, whose eyes lit up upon seeing him there.
"I thought it was you I smelled earlier in the garden. I guess I didn't expect you to come back today. You seemed like you were planning on keeping your distance until later on." He closed the door and stood there awkwardly, then moved to the edge of the bed and sat down. "So, well, I – I don't really know what to say to you."
Harry looked down at his hands at plucked at the hem of a blanket. Neither man spoke. In truth, Harry didn't know what to say either. It had been easier to talk to his parents. He'd had a whole week with them, and they'd broken the ice by working together on the spells. This was just waiting, and now that Sirius was actually here in front of him and there was nothing more to share about the plan, Harry found himself tongue-tied and anxious.
Sirius cleared his throat. "Can I, uh, ask you a question?" Harry nodded. "You're twenty, right?" Harry nodded again. "And I know you must have been through an awful lot in the next five years. I can tell that much just by looking at you, hearing you talk. You sound like a grown-up, you know that?" Sirius glanced up and smiled, traces of pride flickering in his eyes. "I hate to think of you suffering, and so seeing you like this, and those scars on your neck and face, I guess, I want to know, if you don't mind my asking, how did you get them?"
Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to answer Sirius's question. He hadn't told his parents anything of the trials he'd been through, preferring to keep them ignorant of his pain so they could all focus. But Sirius, he felt he could tell Sirius at least a little. And he wanted to. He wanted Sirius to know, to look at him in sympathy, and then rage at the injustice of the world. Even though he had never spent much time with his godfather, there had been implicit trust there from nearly day one.
"It's a long story," he said at last.
"We have all day," Sirius answered.
"Yeah, I suppose we do." Harry leaned back and stared up at the watermarks in the ceiling. This house really was in terrible shape. "I won't tell you everything, because there's a lot I don't want to say out loud, you know? But I can tell you how I got this one." He ran a finger across the jagged scar on his jaw that ran down nearly to his adam's apple. "Do you remember when I came to the house at Godric's Hollow and was talking to Dad inside that bubble?"
"Yes, of course I do. It was all Remus could do to keep me from dashing in and beating on you."
"I'm glad you didn't," Harry said wryly. "Anyway, there was a moment when Dad leaned across the table and shouted at me, and I stood and shouted back. At that moment, what I was yelling was that I would not be interrogated ever again."
Sirius eyed Harry carefully. "When were you interrogated?"
"Over two years ago, from my perspective. The war wasn't going well. More and more people were siding with Voldemort, or claiming neutrality to keep themselves out of harm's way. There was… an incident. I was captured by this group of people who would collect private information to sell to the highest bidder. They were frighteningly powerful, using old lost magic from the Celtic mages. We called them Mongrels, because nobody knew whose side they were really on or where they'd come from."
"And you-know-who wasn't going after them?"
"Not wholeheartedly. They were able to give him some very important information. They supplied him with resources that he'd had difficulty getting before. So he mostly let them be, just tried to keep their numbers down so they wouldn't turn into a threat."
Sirius exhaled loudly. "So in the future, we're basically fighting two different enemies at the same time."
"Yes. Not good for our side." Harry stood up and walked to the tall wardrobe in the corner and traced the wood grain with his finger. "Anyway, they captured me. They wanted something, information, that they believed I had."
"Does it make a difference? Either way, I refused to help them."
Something clicked in Sirius's mind. "They hurt you," he growled.
"They did." Harry was silent for a moment. "I'll spare you the details, since you don't want to hear them and I don't want to give them. Suffice it to say, they came dangerously close to breaking my spirit in a way that no one had managed before. I would sit on one side of the table, and the questioner on the other, hurling snide remarks and threats, and I was exhausted and turned my head away and just took it. I was afraid of that man, Sirius. He was brilliant and terrifying. Every day I told myself I would look him in the eye, and every day I found myself unable to do so."
Harry headed back to the bed and sat down again. "I was convinced I was going to die there, that he was going to kill me and I would never see any of my friends again. I remember the day I resolved to die with honor." He laughed a little. "That phrase, 'die with honor,' sounds so melodramatic. But I meant it. I'm not entirely sure how it happened after that, but I suspect someone must have been helping me. Otherwise, I don't see how it could have gone so smoothly. There was an altercation between a few guards, I dodged a spell and it hit another guard, and after that it was mayhem because of the smoke. The guard next to me on the ground was carrying the key to my restraints, and in the confusion I was able to get myself free. I ran towards the exit to the building and ran headlong into a blood ward that had been designed specifically to injure prisoners who tried to escape. It slashed me pretty badly, but I barely felt it at the time because of the adrenaline. Still, it cut deep, and I was bleeding quite a lot, enough that I probably would have bled out if the Professor hadn't found me."
"The Professor?" asked Sirius.
"A great man. Really incredible. He became my mentor. He's even more crotchety than Aberforth Dumbledore, but he's kind, and wise, and I owe him more than my life."
Sirius looked extremely interested. "What's his name?"
Harry laughed out loud. "You don't know him, if that's what you're wondering. Anyway, that's the story. That's how I got this scar. There's another larger one going down the front of my chest that lines up with this one pretty well."
Sirius gulped. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry that happened." He stood up and paced the room a little. "When we get back to your time, you give me the bastard's name who did that to you, and I'll tear him apart."
"You don't need to," said Harry, "although I appreciate the offer. He was taken down a few months ago. The Mongrels were disbanded. The first thing to go our way in a long time."
"Who took him out?" asked Sirius.
Harry grinned. "Oh, nobody important."
"Who?" Sirius asked again. "Was it you?"
"No, not me. I wasn't there."
"The way you're grinning though, it has to be someone I know. It must have been someone in the Order."
Sirius growled. "You're infuriating."
Harry stood up and smoothed his robes. "I'm also hungry. I haven't eaten since yesterday. What do you have for food in this house?"
"Not too much, I'm afraid, but certainly enough to tide you over until you reach civilization again."
"Sounds good to me."