Chapter 1 Prologue
A/N: Hiya! Welcome to the re-write. Just a foreword: the rating may later be upped to M. Don't know, yet.
A young man sat in his luxurious office, alone, with a glass of scotch in his hands, and a pensive look in his eyes. As he poured himself another drink, Harry considered his latest project, the latest among a series. He took up multitudes of small projects and causes to fill his now-ample time, but this one…this one could change history.
Mindlessly, a sip of scotch flowed past his lips and down his throat, the burning not even registering in his mind. He'd felt this same burn, craved it, far too often for him to remember it anymore.
He took another sip, leaning his head back, shutting his tired eyes. One of those moments where he was glad for the potion that fixed his eyes. No glasses to deal with for an impromptu nap.
He was sprawled across the large chair in his office. His head and shoulders were hanging off one arm, and his legs were draped off the other arm. He sighed, before swallowing the whole damn glass in one go, letting the burn in his throat last as long as possible.
"You know," the portrait of Minerva McGonagall said. "You're setting a bad example."
"The students don't actually see this," Harry pointed out, sitting up a little bit to pour himself another glass. "Besides, look who's talking. I've seen your detention records, remember?"
She rolled her eyes as Dumbledore's portrait chuckled.
"I was the one serving her those detentions," he said, laughing. "She was quite a rambunctious child."
Harry smiled to himself sadly as he downed another glass, listening to the portraits' bickering. Oddly comforting as he continued to sip. As much as he wanted to drown away the sorrows, he had a feast to attend, tonight, and he refused to let anyone see him drunk. That part of himself, like many (or rather, most) parts of himself, he kept deeply hidden.
He didn't much like the 'mysterious, tortured soul' stereotype he seemed to constantly fit into, but sadly, it was true.
"She does have a point, Harry," Dumbledore's portrait continued.
"I know, Professors," Harry said, already tracking back into the conversation.
"We're no longer your professors," McGonagall said.
"You'll always be professors to me."
"Then listen to us: it won't do for you to be drunk."
"I'm not," Harry said. "I have the alcohol tolerance of a bloody Veela."
Another eyeroll elicited from the headmasters and headmistresses around the whole damn room.
The small gargoyle head above the main door to the office came to life and opened its mouth to speak.
"Professor Lavender Thomas is coming," it said simply.
Harry expanded his Occlumental range, and in a moment, he sensed another mind just outside the door.
"Come in," he called out, swinging the door open with a flick of his fingers.
The blonde divination professor just shook her head as she walked in. She was used to this.
"Harry," she said. "There have been some concerns about Cho Chang's ghost. She's been missing for quite some time now, and the students are worried."
"Check the bathroom that's the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets," Harry said. "Cho sometimes goes there to mope along with Myrtle."
"We already checked," Lavender said. "But we couldn't find her there."
"Room of Requirement?"
"…er, no, not yet."
"Try that, then the Astronomy tower, then in the cave in the forest. If you can't find her after that…she probably passed on."
"I'm kidding! Jesus Christ, learn to take a bloody joke, Lav."
"Huh – if you made better jokes…"
"Do you find something wrong with my absolutely outstanding sense of humor?"
She rolled her eyes and shook her head, before suddenly, she spotted the bottle on the desk.
"You really shouldn't-"
"It's Halloween," Harry said succinctly.
"Oh…" Understanding tinted her voice. "Right. Well…"
She knew him well enough to know false platitudes would do nothing to help, so she simply thanked him for the help with the ghost and went off.
"One of those moments where I wish I was the Defense teacher, again," Harry said, his edge softening as soon as she left.
"You make a far better headmaster," Minerva said, trying to comfort him. "Mr. Malfoy is doing well enough on his own in Defense."
Harry shook his head with a stonily amused look on his face. What he needed was a good cigarette, right then.
Turning in his chair, he checked the watch the Weasely's gave him for his seventeenth birthday, still in mint condition, before getting up in his seat and heading up to the Owlry for a nice smoke before dinner.
Harry lounged in his chair as he looked over the Halloween feast. He smiled as he watched the children clamoring over each other for the best sweets, the pastry and sugary smells of said sweets reminding him of his slightly overstuffed stomach, as he listened to the dull roar of chatter for plans of illicit parties that the staff happily pretended to know nothing about.
He smiled as he chatted with his Defense teacher – of course, in Parsletongue, if only to annoy Lavender.
"…curse repelling the day after," Malfoy said.
"So soon? I thought that was normally set just before Christmas for third years."
"They've done exceptionally well, this year, Potter," he said airily.
"For god's sake, stick to English, Damnit!" Professor Michael Coroner said quietly as he took his seat.
Harry and Draco just rolled their eyes, returning to the topic of discussion, in English so Michael could join, chipping in occasionally about his own Runes class.
Pretty soon, the conversation turned to the Quidditch games, all the teachers arguing about it incessantly, each rooting for their own houses of origin.
"Missing Quidditch, Potter?" Malfoy asked with an amused expression as he raised an eyebrow, when Harry mentally drifted off while the conversation finally turned away from the beloved game.
"Yea…what of it?" Harry returned.
"I'll play you a match this weekend," he said. "Release a Snitch, whoever catches it first gets a nice bottle of Scotch from the loser."
Lavender just rolled her eyes.
Harry leaned back suddenly as a silvery head popped up from the plate in front of him. A beautiful head, and painfully familiar.
"Hello, Harry," Cho said.
"Wotcher, Cho," Harry said. "Where've you been?"
"Myrtle and I were playing with some Mermaids hatchlings in the lake."
"Anyway…" she leaned in slightly. Cho being the castle's secret messenger, along with the universal tutor, wasn't anything new. "Your little 'project'? The Room of Requirement has been cordoned off. According to the students, the magic in it has finally deteriorated."
She paused. "Though, a few students have already tried to sneak in."
Harry swore – in Spanish, luckily – and said, "Who?"
"Who else? Melinda Wood." Oliver's daughter. Figures.
"Got it," Harry said, a nod in thanks, before silently turning back to his food to eat the rest of his meal in silence.
Professor Lovegood looked up from her review of the Charms essays she was grading. "Harry!"
"Hey, Luna," Harry said, strolling in after knocking the doorframe. "How are you?"
She grinned. "No Limple-Worms in my eyes today! I was so worried – mid to late fall is usually their mating season. I've been checking my eyes for egg-spots for quite a while."
He smiled at her familiar quirkiness, and wisely chose not to ask what the hell Limple-Worms were.
"And you, Harry?"
"Remember the book I requested from you? On soul magic?"
Almost immediately, her face darkened. That was quite rare from Luna, for her to be serious, but Harry wasn't completely new to it.
"Yes," she said. "I had Dobby take it up to your quarters. Why are you suddenly interested in the post-mortem properties of human astral energy?"
"I have my reasons-"
"So tell me."
Nice thing about Luna – she was just so fucking blunt.
Shutting the door behind him, putting up a single spell that would ensure privacy, he said, "I'm doing a bit of a project. Not entirely legal, though."
"Legal?" Luna frowned. "That's never stopped you, before. I mean, you're so close to the Minister. He-"
"Luna, even Percy can't cover for me on this one."
Her eyes narrowed. "What are you doing, then?"
He sighed. "Just…I'm trying to fix a lot of the damage I've caused, all right?"
Now her eyes widened back to normal size, before she turned away, shaking her head a little morosely. "When will you stop blaming yourself for everything, Harry?"
"Never. Now please, leave it. Thank you for the book. I would appreciate it if you kept my research into this particular field of magic…quiet."
A little resigned, she nodded, and Harry grinned. "Good. I'll leave you back to your essays. The only thing I don't miss about teaching, myself."
"Oh?" she asked, her voice returning back to its usual, dreamy state. "I thought you never assigned homework."
She laughed as he bid his goodbyes and walked away.
Harry strode through his private library, flicking through the books by topic. Temporal Magic. Astral Paths. Post-Mortem Magical Energy. Quantam Sorcery. Magical Theory…Theoretical Magic. The Physics of Magical Fusion…
Harry was rather into the subject of magical theory, and how magic in general worked. And while it had started off as a fancy, a bit of self-education when he'd gotten a lot of free time suddenly on his hands from his post as Headmaster, it was starting to take a turn he never expected.
He was in his unusually-large study of Godric's Hollow, where he tended to stay during weekends, and the extra odd day or two otherwise, when he could.
Putting down his book, he headed into the living room, where tools of his more artistic hobbies littered all over the living room. With a few flicks of his wand, he set his sketch pads, drawing pencils, and photographs into neat little piles, and banished the music sheets he'd been playing from to their appropriate corner above the stupid piano.
He flopped down on the couch, switching on the telly Hermione had given him, and then absently looked out the window.
Floor-to-ceiling window, taking up almost an entire wall, gave Harry one of his favorite views, as Godric's Hollow was set atop a hill, looking out over the Potter Estate – the bit of woods and forest, the pond near the edge of the land, the mountains well out beyond, and the path which Harry knew lead down to the village.
Ginny had loved this view.
Harry shook his head, away from that particular train of the thought, and turned back to at least try and get himself absorbed into the television serial.
He smiled in reminiscence as he took a look at the plasma television set in his living room. Even after her death, Hermione's technology hook had left Harry rather self-indulgent in the missing chunk of his life. Lucky that it came right at the wizarding world's pro-Muggle cultural revolution.
He could just imagine what Ron would say at what Harry was half-watching now.
Are you sure Muggles aren't on to Wizards? That man just walked out of a little blue box that seems to hold a bloody palace inside it.
Turning down the volume of Doctor Who sci-fi serial a little bit, Harry latched on to the more pleasant memories as he looked down at the mass of notes and charts and graphs.
God, he wished Hermione were here to help.
But if she were around, along with the countless others that would have to be, too, he wouldn't be doing this.
Taking another sip of his favorite drink – Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch – he picked up another tome – Understanding Long-Term Temporal Travel – and set to reading again.
"What can I do for you Harry?" was one of the first things Harry heard when he Flooed into Percy's office.
Normally, Harry would've shadow-walked, preferring it to Apparation, to somewhere nearby in the Ministry, but Harry wanted to keep this visit as private as possible, and the Minister's office was protected against even shadow-walking, despite the fact most of the wizarding population didn't even know of its existence. He didn't want Percy's secretary enlightened to the fact he was visiting at all.
The fact that Harry was Flooing in probably tipped Percy off that this was no ordinary visit.
"I need to have access to the Department of Mysteries," Harry said calmly, standing right before the fireplace, still brushing himself off.
"Why ask? You already have it," he asked.
"Not as widespread, though. I only have access to the most 'open' areas. I need more access."
Percy sighed, gesturing to the comfortable seat in front of his desk. Conjuring two glasses and pouring them both liberal amounts of Firewhiskey, he asked, "What kind of access are we talking?"
Percy's eyebrows shot up, and Harry was glad Percy had just set the bottle down, the way his hand froze.
"Epsilon?! What in Merlin's beard do you need full blown access to?"
Harry sighed. "I…I don't think I can answer that, Percy-"
"Like hell," Percy said. "If you want that kind of access…"
"No. What are you planning to do, Harry?"
A resigned sigh escaping his lips, Harry picked up the tumbler and leaned back in his seat.
Now Percy's eyes narrowed. "Then what do you need Epsilon levels for? Ignoring how impossible getting you temporal magic allowance would be, you can get that in Delta. Hell, depending on what you're doing, even Gamma."
Harry shook his head. "It's more complicated than that."
"First of all, the extent," Harry said.
Percy's eyes narrowed slightly, the shrewd politician in him emerging. "How far back do you intend to travel?"
"Hopefully, no more than about eighteen years."
The glass tumbled from the Last Weasely's hand and fell to the plush carpet below, spilling its contents as Percy stared at Harry, before snapping his senses back.
"Eighteen years?! Are you fucking insane?!"
"Probably. Sanity is overrated."
"Harry…" Percy sat back at his desk. "Eighteen years. 1992. Merlin's beard…you'll be twelve! Not even a teenager. I'll…I won't even be Headboy of Hogwarts, will I? I'll have just become Prefect…"
"Er, yea, I guess so. But yes, about that time. That's when everything just started to go downhill. For me, for the Light, and in favor for Voldemort. As far back as I can go to have the most impact, while still keeping it within a plausible range to change history."
At least the flinch has been lost since Harry defeated the Dark Lord.
"So…you intend to go back and…what? Change everything?"
"Yes. Eighteens years – you can imagine the drastic change I'm looking for."
Percy stalled saying anything, instead picking up the glass and setting it carefully on the table, before using his wand to clean up the contents from the carpet.
"So…you want to change eighteen years of wizarding history," Percy said, pseudo-calmly as he poured himself more vodka – a lot more. "Okay…okay…Epsilon Access…wait a tick-"
Harry had already anticipated the question: why universal access to hyper-restricted areas?
"I do not intend to just go back," Harry said. "I plan to erase this timeline all together."
"I'm not intending to take my body back. Just my soul. Mind. Memories. Whatever."
Percy frowned. "Okay, Harry, I'm a magical lawmaker, not a magical researcher like you-"
"I'm not a researcher, anymore, Perce," Harry said. "I quit, remember?"
"Still the same mind," Percy said. "And how the blazes do you intend to do that?"
"Separate my soul from my body."
"But you can't do that unless…" and then it all clicked for Percy. "You want to kill yourself and send your soul back eighteen years to your old self…? And reverse all time in the process? Is that what you meant by 'erase this timeline'?"
Harry was so glad for his immense self-control.
"Merlin…" Percy mumbled. "I…it's not…do you really think it's plausible?"
"Yes." Harry nodded to emphasize the point. Percy wasn't the only one with Ministry certifications in psychology. Not to mention political practice. "It would take a lot of technical magic that I doubt you'd understand, but yes, it's possible."
Percy swallowed. "What would you do, if you went back?"
"I'd keep manipulations small, at first," Harry said. "Keep as close to the original timeline as possible while still having it lean my way. However, I imagine if things go my way, it won't be long before I'd be off in a completely different direction. But by then, things will hopefully be set right."
Percy nodded semi-dumbly again, as a sharp three knocks came from the door.
Spelling the door open, Percy answered to his secretary, while Harry mused as to what kind of turmoil Percy might be working through as he thought over this.
"Sorry," Percy said as he stood up and dismissed the secretary. "I have a conference with the Sentience Coalition."
"Is it about the school?" Harry asked. Ever since Harry had changed provisions to allow anyone with magical capability to attend Hogwarts – including, to most people's outrage, werewolves, Veela, and vampires – there had been quite a large amount of turmoil between the humanoid species of the magical world.
"One of the many things," Percy said.
"Need me to come?"
"No, thank you – if it becomes a main topic, I'll call you in."
He paused, as Harry stepped towards the Floo. "I'll see what I can do for Epsilon Levels," Percy said, as he started to assemble a small pile of papers from his desk. "Don't get your hopes up, though."
"I can't, Percy – I don't have any hope left. Hope is what I'm trying to get back."
A bell tolled – he always loved that phrase – as Harry finished up washing dishes in his kitchen. Strolling over to the fireplace, he wasn't all too surprised to find Malfoy's head in there.
"Let me through, Potter?"
"Yea, hold on."
Allowing Malfoy to bring his whole body through the Floo, Harry walked over to the minibar on the side of the living room, and took a seat on the stool, Malfoy right beside him.
"So," he said, after Harry poured them both some Red Label. "A little birdie, I believe the Muggle phrase is, told me you're looking into temporal and astral magic. Especially post-mortem on the latter."
Harry wasn't surprised. Even if it wasn't Luna who peeped a word, he figured Draco would eventually hear.
"Care to fill me in, Potter?"
He shrugged, and said calmly, belying his words, "Hoping to erase time and send my soul back eighteen years to change the course of history."
Draco's external reaction was slightly more controlled than Percy. He just slammed the glass down in shock and whirled the stool to face Harry.
"Please tell me you're joking," Malfoy said.
"Percy had much the same reaction," Harry said idly, as if oblivious of the true extent of what he said – one of his more favored 'conversation' tactics.
"Minister Weasely? What the hell were you telling him for?"
"I needed Epsilon Access to the Department of Mysteries."
"…care to fill what the hell Epsilon Access is for those of us who didn't work in the Unspeakables' Territory?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Levels of access to the different research centers in the Doom Zone are broken down into five levels – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Alpha is the least access, and Delta is the most."
"If Delta is the most, then-"
"Epsilon? Well, basically, it means the hyper-restricted areas. Namely, researching magical properties of emotions – like love – and researching things about death, certain types of temporal magic, and a few other things like that. This is restricted beyond restricted – outside of Ministry control, just housed there. There are rumors that Merlin is still alive and mucking about down there."
"So…why not just break in?"
"For one, those have almost impossible protections around themselves. Make Hogwarts look like a teenage girl putting a stupid lock on a diary next to a Muggle treasury security system. And, they're outside of Ministry jurisdictions – and protections. And…they have the right to maim, and if it's dire enough, even kill – and you'll get no help from the Ministry. They don't really reinforce it too much, but just in case…what I'm looking for, they just might, Chosen One or not."
Draco finally got it in him to take a gulp of Scotch.
A rather large gulp.
"So…what do you need to research down there?" he asked, after draining the glass.
"Post-mortem astral magic."
"What the hell does that have anything to do with time travel?"
"Because I don't want to just go back – I want to send my soul back, to meld with my past self. And apart from a Dementor's Kiss, the only way to separate your soul from your body without shattering said soul is to die."
Malfoy's hand was frozen around the glass, before he whipped around toe face Harry.
"You're going to kill yourself?!"
Harry didn't respond, just taking another gulp of his own drink, then refilling Malfoy's glass as said blonde started shaking his head to himself in disbelief.
"This, Potter…this is the most bizarre of your suicide attempts."
Immediately, Harry scowled and turned the stool away, facing outward, towards the window-wall. Harry's multiple suicide attempts were still a sore spot for him. As were a lot of subjects. And Damnit, Malfoy knew them all.
"Potter," Malfoy said, cutting into Harry's astute observation process. "You can not do this. You're more likely to die than gets things done right."
"So?" Harry said. "Either I die or I get sent back in time to fix things right. Sounds like a win-win situation to me."
Malfoy snorted, as Harry swung the stool back. "Win-win? Only you would call death or hell a win-win situation."
"More than a decade and a half of déjà vu. I wouldn't be able to stand it. You'll go mad with that."
Harry took a deep breath. "Yea, well. Sanity, versus a few thousand lives? I'll take the few thousand."
Draco shrugged and looked down at his drink. "So, how're you planning to do this?"
Harry wandlessly and wordlessly Summoned his journal with the most of his important notes on how this could work. The book came smoothly from the study, without breaking anything along the way. His Summoning Charm had gotten much better since fourth year.
Opening the leather-bound journal, Harry handed it to Draco, who flipped through it and said, "So, translation for non magical theory researchers?"
"Different runes and Arithmancy patterns and notes on types of magic I would have to use to do this."
"Okay…still don't get why you need the Department of Mysteries to help you with this."
"I can't do this kind of magic alone."
"You can't do this alone. This whole damned thing."
"I honestly don't think I have much of a choice, anyway," Harry said.
There was a pause, as Malfoy took another sip of his drink, looking through Harry's journal of all the important notes, despite the fact he probably didn't understand any of it.
"I'll go with you."
Harry was calm when Malfoy said that, finished his sip before setting down the glass.
"Potter, do you really think you can do this alone?"
"The point of me going back is to give everyone a second chance. That includes you."
"I don't need it anymore than you do, Potter. And you can't get this done right all on your damn lonesome. Even as a kid, I've got power and connections-"
"I'm not going to subject anyone else to this!"
Harry poured himself a second glass of Scotch – and Malfoy a third – as he spoke. "I already have to live through this – I'm not dragging you down with me. You said so, yourself – death versus hell. Well, I hate to say this, but I have to agree with you."
Malfoy glared at Harry, even as he turned back to focus on staring into the amber liquid.
"Bloody martyrs, all you goddamn Gryffindors. That's why the Minister is the last Weasely left alive!"
"You know what I mean, Potter," Malfoy said. "And if you're going to do something this big, I'm not going to let you fuck this up."
Harry sighed, but didn't turn away from the man. "I'm not going to. I'm going to get everything necessary out of the way, at once. Destroy all the Horcruxes, out all the Death Eaters, everything."
"Do you really want to deprive your possible younger self of this? When I go back, I'm going to meld with the younger version of me. Neither me is ever going to get the chance to live a fully peaceful life. But you might."
Malfoy shut up a tick to think about it, Harry turning back to stare at the scatter-mirror wall as he twirled the drink in the glass, not really drinking it at all, setting the glass on the dark mahogany of the bar, which seemed to prompt Malfoy to speak again.
"I suppose I'm supposed to thank you for this?"
"I don't want, need, or expect any thanks, Malfoy, especially not from you. This is what I was born to do: save the wizarding world from Voldemort."
He turned back to see Malfoy nodding at the bar, not looking at Harry. "Fine."
Another pause. "Do me a favor: make sure I don't get turned into a ferret again. I hate ferrets, now."
"Might explain why you keep eating them in cobra form," Harry said side idly.
He heard hissing beside him, and turned around yet again to see Malfoy in his Animagus form, sliding from the stool onto the wooden bar surface.
The reason why he, too, was now a Parslemouth.
Resuming the conversation in Parsletongue, he said, "I won't make any promises, but who knows. If I've set things right by then, fake-or-real Moody might not even be Professor by then."
"Hopefully. Just make sure to stay sane long enough to get things done, and done right."
Malfoy stayed like that until Harry threatened to metamorph into his own form and rip Malfoy to shreds.
As Malfoy prepared to leave to head back to Hogwarts, he said, "Are you going to be in tomorrow, or are you going to get drunk tonight and shag someone senseless?"
"Probably the latter," Harry said, with a liberal amount of grim practicality. "Hold down the fort?"
"Hogwarts is a castle-"
"It's a Muggle expression, Ferret-Face."
"I love you, too," Harry said sarcastically, as Malfoy Flooed out of Godric's Hollow.
Harry walked through the Epsilon Levels of the Department of Mysteries like he owned this place. Of course, he was scared shitless on the inside, but he'd become adapt at disconnecting his emotions from his physical body when need be.
Not one of the healthier Occlumency tricks – in fact, it was considered Gray, and very strongly recommended against. But for Harry's life, it was necessary.
"Welcome, Mr. Potter."
Distantly, Harry knew some part of him was terrified. But considering right now he was as emotional as a rock, he simply turned and said with faux-pleasure, "Hello," to the blonde man in his late-prime who'd popped up from no where to startle Harry.
"Come this way," the man said succinctly, turning and walking down the maze of corridors. Nice thing about Doom Zone workers: most weren't quite fond of pointless social niceties, and tended to just be absolutely, sometimes painfully, blunt, and get straight to the point. Often seen as rude or eccentric at times, Harry rather appreciated it, considering a large portion of his life was based on subtleties and subtext and subterfuge and a whole lorry full of other euphemisms for lies and strategy that start with 'sub'.
The disconnected emotions, seeing safety, started to trickle back, but Harry's curiosity had no place with emotions – it was simply who he was, which led to Harry looking around, curiosity only growing the more his emotions trickled in.
"Call me Nilrem, by the way," the man said, as he walked into a door marked only with the number '5209'.
Actually, it wasn't entirely marked with it – there was a rune floating around the front of it, which required Aural Vision to see it, something only Doom Zone workers, and those in the warding business like Bill Weasely, really had. Most people would get horribly lost, once in the Doom Zone without practice or a guide.
Unless they were being guided by visions of your godfather being tortured that were implanted by a psychotic mass murder.
They were in a strangely blank and utterly non-descript room. Plain, stone walls, with the standard random, multi-colored painted bricks of the Lower Levels, and a large, oak table, with about half a dozen chairs of all kinds around it, each with a researcher, chatting quietly, until they walked in.
Taking an already conjured seat, a rather majestic looking wooden throne, Nilrem said, "Conjure in a seat, Mr. Potter. I do believe that is the 21st century way of saying things?"
"We're at conjure up, sir," a young blonde girl who, judging by how fucking drop dead gorgeous she was, probably had Veela blood in her lineage someplace. But he would be careful – anyone here could be of any age, species, race, ect. It was possible, down here, that the researchers were literally only a few days old, to up to a few centuries old.
Nilrem shrugged. "Oh, well, then: conjure up a seat, Mr. Potter. Your desire to go back the way you intend has certainly intrigued us."
Harry nodded, conjuring up a rather comfortable black armchair by the table, immediately reaching into his bag, pulling out several copies of the journal, one for each Researcher.
"There's not much I can say," Harry said. Public speaking was, sadly enough, nothing new to him. "I want to go back eighteen years – dramatic change in history. I'd guess even you lot aren't completely oblivious to the devastation wrought by Voldemort. Even half a decade after his death, his magic is still fucking up our lives. Not to mention all the rogue Death Eaters making things a living hell for the rest of us. The how of what I want is all there. All that's left is to figure out if you can actually do it."
With that, he leaned back, waiting for the results of his subtle manipulation.
Oh, brilliant – even down here, he was dealing with another 'sub' tactic. Ah, well – couldn't be helped.
Researchers were notoriously egotistical – at least, of what they were capable of doing, within their own level. Appealing to their pride was usually the slightest edge needed, even if they were emotionally well trained.
It seemed like this was no exception. Right now, they all appeared to be silently reading his notes to themselves. However, they always seemed to change pages at the same time, and always at the same page, so he didn't doubt they were using Mental Magic to hold a form of telepathic conference, excluding him.
"There are a lot of missing pieces," Nilrem finally said. "And quite a bit of his will need far more detailed work-"
"I figured that," Harry said. "This is just the basics. I doubt I could get the whole thing – I thought I'd let the masters deal with the rest."
"Yes," Nilrem said, dismissively. Apparently, he was the spokesman for whatever they came up with, mentally. "However, it is possible. What you want to do, though, is quite difficult."
Harry shrugged. "Reverse time, is all."
"Then do your mind a favor and stop calling it time travel," the man said. The sudden change of voice had Harry suspecting that was more one of the others speaking than the man, himself.
"Forgive me," Harry said, knowing that he should but never quite remembering. Despite the emotional disconnect, he'd left his mental wards open so they'd get a better grasp of his idea.
Nilrem nodded in acceptance as he looked down. "We admit, this is a little beyond our scope. We have never tried something of this level."
Harry frowned. "Advanced temporal manipulation – is that not what the Epsilon Level is for?"
"Yes, but this idea is slightly…different. Putting time into a whole new manipulation form. Previously, it was all about moving through time. Your idea is to move time, itself – reverse everything back by almost two decades, but essentially leaving your soul and memories standing still. A bit of a reverse, if I do say so, myself."
Harry nodded. "Is that possible?"
"Theoretically, yes," Nilrem said. "But theoretically is irrelevant. Everything is possible, theoretically."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Everything?"
"Most everything," Nilrem said, sounding more impressed by Harry's challenge than offended. "But, it's practical possibility that matters…and that is still up in the air…"
He suddenly refocused on something and flipped to a section near the back, probably brought to the attention of that perfectly fuckable blonde girl who was the first to turn there.
"Thanks," the girl said suddenly, momentarily pulling away from the journal to smile at him flirtatiously. She'd probably caught on to his description of her, and the slight idea that came with it. "I'll take that as a compliment. As for the suggestion – we'll talk later."
Hm. He might just come out with more than he bargained for. But, she was already turning back to his notes.
"Impressive, Potter," Nilrem said. "How long have you worked on this?"
"Almost two years," Harry said. "Mostly on my own, and mostly just piecing together what other people have found. Not much of this work is my own."
Nilrem nodded again. "Considering you were working on your own, with very little actual knowledge of temporal and astral physics, I must say, this is very impressive."
Harry smiled and said, "Thank you, but all I care to know is if this can be done, or if it was a waste of my time."
Nilrem sighed, and put the journal down. The others were still mentally talking about it, near as Harry could guess.
"I do believe we can," he said. "It will take time, to work through these things. But, it just might."
Harry nodded, already recognizing the need for dismissal.
"I'm not going to bother to ask for a deadline of when you expect to be done," Harry said, already starting to get up.
"On the one time when we have one, too," Nilrem said. "Despite your opinion that there is no intrinsic value in birthdays, they do, in fact, hold a form of astral significance. Yours, especially, leaving such a mark in the everlasting permeation across time that is magic. If it is possible, the best time to send you back will, in fact, be your birthday. From the physiomagical point of view, it will be slightly easier to work with than any other date, and for this to stand a chance, it will need all the edge possible."
Harry nodded again. "Time moving will probably be easy. But killing me without killing me…?"
"That's why we're going to need so much time – that will be the hard part."
One of the others, some mid-forties man sitting next to Hott Blonde, suddenly gave a particular scowl, and Nilrem laughed as a young man resembling Neville, if he were slightly slimmer and blonde, nearly fell off the chair laughing, the others' body languages seeming to hint a form of argument of some sort in between their minds.
"You have us hooked, Potter," Nilrem said.
Harry smiled – he'd figured as much.
He might just win this, yet.
It was rather bizarre. Harry would've expected that cooking would be one of his most hated pastimes, being that it was one of the things that he'd hated about the Dursely's – cooking for them – and yet now, here was going for gourmet penne all'arrabbiata and enjoying it.
It was oddly therapeutic.
Pouring the penne pasta into the salted water, he set to chopping the garlic, and smiled as memories of cooking 'with' Ginny came flooding back. He'd been on memory lane for quite a bit since he'd gotten the Doom Zone researchers hooked onto his idea two months ago.
He paused for a moment, looking over to the doorway into the kitchen, through which he could see the Living Room from here. While he'd be cooking around this time of year, Ginny would be decorating, being that she couldn't cook if her life depended on it.
Turning back to chopping, he remembered his last Christmas holiday with her, around this time of year. Full with his cooking, house decorated ridiculously just because she could, them resting on the couch, Harry putting on some Muggle movie and explaining every ridiculous aspect to her as things went.
Of course, last time, he'd had to cook quite a bit more than usual, being that she'd been eating for two. And when his arms were wrapped around her as they lay on the couch, his hands were spread protectively over her bulging belly, over both her and their child.
She laughed at some of the ridiculousness of the Muggle world, and then they'd chat and talk for hours and suddenly they'd realize they'd dozed off and it was Christmas morning and they needed to get ready for the family coming over, and she'd go take the Healer prescribed nap while he'd cook more, until they'd fix up all the presents and-
Wrong turn of thought, Harry.
Pushing away the sudden intrusion of Ginny's voice in his head, he turned back to the damn Roman pasta.
He doubted he'd ever get that again – but he'd give her back the life he took for her.
"So you're actually going back?"
Harry nodded, Percy's incredulity well justified. They sat in Harry's private office in Hogwarts, sipping at Harry's favorite Scotch, and both doing bits and piece of their own jobs while they talked, thankfully shut off from most of the world.
"Hopefully," Harry said, plucking a chocolate Easter egg Percy had gotten from some lower-down who was still under the delusion Percy was like Scrimgeour or Fudge, and that sucking up and bribery would work on him.
Harry wasn't complaining. The chocolate Easter eggs had either Caviar or 1912 wine in them, and the chocolate was white chocolate, enchanted not to melt until in the mouth – a far more complicated charm than most appreciated – and imported from France or someplace like that. All in all, delicious.
"Do me a favor, Harry?" Percy said. "Keep me from being such a prat."
"Hey, if I get things right, Voldemort won't come back, so most of that shit won't happen."
"Even before that. If what you've told me about the Researcers' new prediction is correct, you'll be entering your third year – I'll be Head Boy. Do me a favor and make sure I remain on good terms with…well, my whole family. This is when things started to crack between us. I don't want that to happen again."
Harry nodded as he bit into another white chocolate egg. "Any suggestions?"
"I don't know…make sure I don't keep throwing myself into my schoolwork to avoid my family. That's what I did. And make me attend all the Quidditch games they play in – they got so bloody angry when I didn't show up. And…make sure my ego stays in check, all right? Keep bringing me down."
"Will do, Percy. But, I'll still try to push you back to Minister once that time comes."
Percy laughed. "Thank you. But…eighteen years, Harry? Do you really think you'll be able to manage that without insanity becoming a legitimate fear?"
"We'll just have to find out, won't we?" Harry said with a slight smirk, licking the wine from the inside of the egg. "But thank you for all the shit from me you've put up with, especially once the war ended."
"No problem," Percy said. "I'm the last Weasely. Original Weasely. It's my pleasure."
Harry nodded, and said, "So, how's the Sentience Coalition going?"
"Miserably. And the Inter-House social parties?"
"About the same."
Both men stared at each other for a long moment, before they burst out laughing.
Maybe something Harry would miss…but hopefully, should he not die, everything else will outweigh it.
"Happy birthday, Harry. Welcome to Age Thirty. Welcome to your third decade."
"I better enjoy it while it lasts. What time is it?"
"I know I said I'd tell you at midnight, but this is hard – it's a bit past one am. Sorry."
"It's okay, Hottie-who-won't-tell-me-her-name-even-though-I'm-about-to-die."
Harry lay on the Rune Circle on the floor, inscribed with runes abound, stark damn naked.
Of course, while the researchers rather carved runes into Harry's thankfully medicated body, blood seeping everywhere, Hott Blonde, who he'd shagged a few times in the last few months and still didn't know her name, was making everything as awkward as possible. She was still going at it...which was pretty damn weird, considering she'd already tried to give him a hand-job in front of everyone while he was numb and his body carved into. Luckily for him, being disconnected from his nervous system also meant no erection.
Didn't stop her, though.
"…so, really, us carving into you like this when you're gorgeous and naked is just a case of super-kinky voyeurism!"
Why did he always attract only insane women?
"Hottie, love, please, I'm about to fucking die – tell me your damn name!"
"Uh uh, no way," she said. "Takes all the fun out of it!"
"You're not even going to be around!"
"Looking good, Potter."
Harry wished he could turn his head at the sound of Nilrem's voice, who suddenly stood over him. He was fairly sure Nilrem wasn't carving runes before, but Harry's vision was stuck straight up, where his head was propped to face, towards the ceiling, which was now blocked by Nilrem's face.
"Thank you," Harry said wryly, before suddenly switching his tone to serious. "No, really, thank you – for all of this."
"Don't worry," Nilrem said, as he suddenly mobilized and numbed Harry's head with a spell and a potion, and carving the necessary runes on Harry's face. "We're sending back some of this information, that we've got, to our own past selves – don't ask how. Giving them basic data, letting them derive observations and such from it. Just in case the properties of this room don't protect us from the change."
...protect them from the change? Properties of the room? He wasn't going to ask. Unspeakables' Territory - if they don't tell you something, it's for a good reason and you're better off not asking.
Harry mentally nodded – all of them catching it – and asked, Can I connect to one of your lots' eyes? I want to see how I look.
Sure, Hott Blonde said. Mine. Don't look for my name, though.
And suddenly, Harry was looking at himself. Always a strange experience to connect to someone else's senses through Occlumency and Leglimency to see what you don't.
His whole body was covered in even, red wounds, all of them still bright red, the ones down by his ankles already starting to scab over, while the ones on his shoulders were still bleeding, the Researchers automatically clearing the blood magically as they worked to protect the body encasing Harry's soul.
And then he was back in his own senses
"Almost done, Harry, love. You better not have gotten my name. Anyway, half hour, and you'll be a Virgin again. Tops," Hottie amended.
And just as fast, they were gone.
Here came the hard part.
Harry was mobile again, and honest to god in lots of pain. Not from the cuts, themselves – he'd had plenty over a life time – but the pure, raw magic running through them.
And the magic beneath him, searing, as the Rune Circle came to life.
"See you on the other side, Harry!" Nilrem yelled.
"Save me a date!" Hott Blonde shouted.
Harry wanted to nod, wanted to acknowledge that he heard that, that he wasn't dead yet, that he was still here, and heard them, despite the fact they weren't making any sense because he was going alone. But, he couldn't.
Then he saw several wands pointing at him, and knew the crucial point was coming. The runes on his body and the circle beneath him had to work to keep his soul anchored and intact while they reversed…well, time.
If this didn't work…then this would be one hell of a dramatic suicide.
Oh, Merlin, here it comes. He could hear it in his – and their – heads as they shouted the curse, probably out loud.
Painless, at least.
And suddenly, there was no more pain.
No, wait, not images – events. He was going through everything, in an impossible flash of sequence, watching people un-die, watching buildings rebuild themselves, watching children never be born, watching a war never start-
Suddenly, Voldemort was alive.
But so was Ginny, on that couch, his arms around her, his nose in her head, his hands pressed against her belly, protecting their child, their future-
-and then suddenly, Quidditch, with all the Weasely children, even Percy, one fateful Christmas Eve, the one after Mrs. Weasely-
Mr. and Mrs. Weasely dying.
Horcuxes and battles and feats and attacks and ambushes and counterattacks and strategies-
His friends, dying.
Dumbledore in his portrait, telling Harry so much he hadn't known beforehand, about himself and the Horcruxes and Voldemort-
Dumbledore alive! Event flashing faster, now, memory diving, Slughorn, luck potions, his first kiss with Ginny, Quidditch captain, destroying Dumbledore's office-
The visions, Umbitch, almost torture, actual torture, quills, blood, so much blood…
The maze, the lake, the dragons, the goblet, that damn goblet of fire.
Quidditch cup, Dark Mark-
Sirius, the Willow, Buckbeak-
So fast, so damn fast, now, but he was still aware of each and every single moment, even though it was all going by him in a blur, literally at once as he went through them, immersed in his soul and body, each and every moment, sleeping and awake-
Hogsmade, first trip.
Map, Marauder's map-
Chocolate – chocolate? Chocolate! McGonagall, Lupin, train, Dementors!
Leaky Cauldron, parlor with Fudge,
Marge blowing up.
The wine glass blowing up.
Chores. Hogsmade form…
And the crucial point:
About half past one am, on his birthday.
And suddenly, Harry woke up, small and scrawny and wearing glasses again for the first time in years, clutching a broom servicing kit, in his tatty bed and raggy nightclothes in the second bedroom of Number 4, Privet Drive.
Sitting up from where he was laying on the bed, he looked around, drenched in sweat.
Like his nightmares. Was it all a night mare? Well, it definitely was nightmare…an almost two decade long nightmare. A lifelong nightmare.
He looked at the clock. Half past one am.
He had just turned 13.
A/N: Tell me what you think.