My computer crashed and I lost all of Somewhat Damaged (which was completed, by the way), so I've been too sad to rewrite the chapters. However, this fic - which is also a time-turner, heh - has already seven chapters completed, betaed, and stored so far. I'm now quite anal about my writing and I e-mail it to myself. Giggle.
Anyhoodles, as I mentioned earlier, this is a time-turner fic, but this one is Sirius/Hermione. This is Epilogue compliant until the actual time-travel occurs, at which point I lead the Epilogue up to the guillotine and behead it. The Epi-head is displayed above my mantlepiece.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, and there is no profit gained or involved here.
Chapter Warning: Graphic violence.
A snog to my beta, Lady Lynn (aka redheadfaerie here on FF), for putting up with my repeated mistakes and rooting the story on the whole time.
The Thief of Time
Prologue: Of Harry and a Lost Hallow
"Time is the only thief we can't get justice against." -Astrid Alauda
The fireplace erupted in a whoosh of green flames as Harry flooed into Ron and Hermione's lounge. He expected Rose and Hugo to come running to greet him like they usually did, but the house was abnormally quiet. His fingers twitched over the handle of his wand out of pure habit. He was, after all, a war veteran, as well as Head Auror. At thirty-nine, he had done quite well for himself career-wise, and managed to stay alive thus far. Of course, he knew he never would have survived during the war if it hadn't been for his two best friends. Hermione, especially, who had done what everyone before her had failed to do: hide from Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Sometimes, Harry would catch himself staring at her when her eyes would cloud and her mind would drift. Somehow, he knew her mind was travelling back to the war. Ron confessed that Hermione still had nightmares, sometimes waking him up at night with her cries. Harry, too, suffered from the same bout of bad dreams once in a while, and had kept his eyes open many a night simply because he just didn't want to close his eyes and see all the people who had died because of Voldemort, or the people who had died protecting him.
Yes, his guilt still ate away at him. If he could be granted one wish, it would be to rewrite it all. Like an author, who would just crumple up a page and start it over, changing the plot to fit his dream better. The ideal tale, at least in Harry's opinion, would be for someone to have gotten rid of Voldemort and his Horcruxes before the prophecy had even been uttered.
He would have grown up with his parents, maybe even have had brothers or sisters. He would have his godfather - who would have never had to step foot inside Azkaban - and perhaps even a godmother. Harry grinned at the thought. There was so much he hadn't known about Sirius before he fell through the Veil. There just hadn't been enough time, no matter how much they tried to selfishly steal with one another. Remus would never have had to lose everyone he loved and trusted. Perhaps Snape could've eventually even became friends with... Harry scratched that thought before he even finished it. Severus Snape would have never become friends with the Marauders, and Harry couldn't blame him. He had seen first-hand how cruel his father and godfather had been to Severus in school. But, perhaps, in time, he could have re-established his friendship with Harry's mum...
Dumbledore would probably still be alive. Sure, he would be knocking on two-hundred, but Harry knew the old coot would still be kicking. Of course, without the war, Harry would never have been as close to Dumbledore as he was, but he would have been willing to trade his mentor as long as the man got to keep his life. Fred would be alive, and George wouldn't be just a shell of what he once was. Bill would never have been scarred almost beyond recognition. Remus and Tonks would have been able to care for Teddy themselves, to see the man he grew into firsthand. Neville's parents would have never been tortured, and perhaps he, too, would have had brothers or sisters. Countless others, saved from death, insanity, torture...
Harry still found himself subconsciously running his finger over the jagged scar on his forehead. Sometimes, he would have an overwhelming fear that it was going to start hurting again, even though it was impossible. Hermione had been the only one who didn't laugh when he said it aloud. Harry would sometimes suffer from random muscle spasms, remnants of the Cruciatus' he had endured. He knew that Hermione, too, would get them even worse. She had faced torture from Bellatrix's wand and knife, and if Harry was correct in his assumptions, he had a feeling Greyback had gotten a little... touchy with her. Hermione refused to speak about that night, and no one ever pressed her for details. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know exactly what she had been put through. It was bad enough knowing that it was his fault for breaking the Taboo and having to listen to her screams while it happened, it would be even worse to have to picture the exact forms they used.
But she never complained. When the side-effects of her torture would hit her, she would tense, clench her teeth, but smile through it and continue what she was doing. Hermione had given up her childhood to protect Harry, and he had no words to describe how much it meant. He had never been able to put it into the right phrasing that would convey the depths of his gratitude, because every time he did try, it would sound mediocre compared to what he was actually feeling. Harry shared a bond with Hermione and Ron that he would never share with anyone else. Even Ginny knew it and accepted it.
And though he never admitted it out loud, his bond with Hermione was the strongest. Yes, Ron was his best mate, managed to make him smile when he was sad, and stood up for him for any and every reason, but Hermione... She had been the first person to hug him -- well, the first person he remembered hugging him. She had taken time out to teach him anything he was having trouble with. Hermione taught him to stand up for himself, and to be a leader, especially when it came to Dumbledore's Army. She kept them safe during the war, and if it weren't for her, they wouldn't have had any necessities or prior preparations before they had to leave the Burrow.
She stayed with him when Ron left.
Hermione had been there when he first saw his parents' grave, gave him something to leave for them, and held on to him when he needed the support, and never once did he even have to tell her, she just knew. And after their brush with death that night, she had held him while he cried. How many nights had he selfishly cried on her shoulder, only to have her comfort him and never once burden him with her own worries or fears? She was like an older sister to him, and he had a bond with her that was stronger than blood ever could be. If it wasn't for her know-it-all mind, time and time again, he would be dead. Know-it-all wasn't a derogatory term in his head, either; at least not when it came to Hermione. She really did know it all. He reckoned she was just as smart as Dumbledore now in her older years. She even had that all-knowing stare and the ever-calm face. Harry understood why Dumbledore had entrusted Hermione with so much responsibility, and Hermione had never once complained or said she couldn't do it. She kept her back straight and took care of the boys like they were her own. It was so reminiscent of how a mother would be; never letting the children see her tears, and letting them feed off of her knowledge and bravery.
No words would ever be able to convey the brotherly love he felt for Hermione. But she knew. Harry knew she did. He could see it in her eyes when he tried his best to tell her how much she meant without actually saying anything. The way they would soften and she would nod ever so slightly, to let him know she heard him loud and clear, and she would mirror his look, to let him know she felt the same.
Ginny and Ron understood it was only platonic love between the two. Ron used to get jealous way back, but he opened his eyes one day and actually saw it for what it was. Ron had had a crush on Hermione ever since fourth year, when a whole new Miss Granger showed up on the Hogwarts Express. Harry amused himself quite often when he recalled the look on everyone's face when the newly... er... filled out Hermione walked through the train corridors. He was quite sure even Draco Malfoy had harboured a rather large, secret crush on the brilliant Muggle-born witch. Hermione, Harry knew, had never quite reciprocated Ron's feelings the way Ginny had reciprocated Harry's. He and Ginny were prone to fighting before they got together, simply because of all of the sexual tension, but once they finally were together for good, the childish arguments ended.
Hermione and Ron never quite grew out of the bickering. Ron was a hot-head, and once he got an idea in his head, it was a difficult task to change his mind. Hermione was a strong, stubborn girl who stood her ground. There was bound to be arguments. Sometimes, they would take the yelling to the extreme, and Hermione would have to send the kids over to Harry and Ginny's because she wouldn't want them to hear. Once, Hermione had even confessed to Harry that she and Ron had talked over getting their bond broken, but decided to stay together for Rose and Hugo.
Harry was, albeit selfishly, scared shitless when he heard that they were considering it, simply because he didn't want to lose one of his friends. Relief had flooded him when they decided to stay together, but sometimes Harry wondered how much of Hermione's happiness she had sacrificed for someone else. She had lost her childhood helping Harry, her parents when she altered their memories to protect them because they never forgave her, and her adulthood to Ron, whom Harry was pretty sure she only stayed with because she didn't want to lose him or Harry. Hermione loved her children, Harry knew, but sometimes he would catch her staring at them with a sad smile, and he just knew that she regretted to have to let them grow up in a house filled with fighting.
But there was no sound whatsoever at the moment, and it was bloody unnerving.
"Hermione... Ron...?" called Harry, stepping quietly on the hardwood floors.
"In my study, Harry!" he heard Hermione call, and his shoulders relaxed.
The black-haired man went up the stairs three at a time, and headed straight for the open door that led to Hermione's study. His striking green eyes barely glanced at the room. He had seen it countless times before. Every inch of wall from the floor to the ceiling was lined with shelves, with books piled upon them. It had taken him and Ron a week to install the shelves when the newlywed Weasleys had first moved in, but in the end he thought they did a superb job... even if some shelves were on a slight slant. Hermione hadn't minded; in fact, she said it gave the room character. Harry was sure she only said it so they wouldn't feel like incompetents, but it worked wonders for their male egos.
Hermione was sitting at her desk, looking quite regal as she scratched an eagle-feather quill to parchment. The window behind her let in the orange glow of the setting sun, so Harry could make out her silhouette, only seeing her face scrunched with concentration when he neared. Her brown curls were pulled into a messy bun held up by a Muggle pencil, if he wasn't mistaken. She wore Muggle clothes, since the trio normally did, and her big brown eyes were reading over whatever she had just written.
"Whatcha writing?" asked Harry, walking around the desk to kiss her forehead.
"A new version of the Werewolf Laws," she answered a bit distractedly. She now ran the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, so Harry had no doubt that she meant what she said. Hermione had already tossed out and rewritten all the laws that were in favour of purebloods. "I'm passing a new law that eradicates discrimination against them, at least by legal standards. They'll be allowed to attend Hogwarts, as long as they're administered the Wolfsbane accordingly, brewed by a Potions Master, and kept in a separate, heavily charmed dormitory on the nights of the full moon. Any job position shall be open to them, as long as they qualify, of course. Any discrimination or bias shown against them will be punishable by law. It's time everyone realized that they're just regular men and women, except for a few nights of the year."
Harry cleaned his glasses on his shirt and replaced them, peering over her shoulder to look at the document. Moony's Law was scrawled across the top in her elegant handwriting, and Harry had to control his breath, because it unwittingly hitched with emotion. Not five months ago, she had passed Padfoot's Law, which guaranteed that no witch or wizard would be convicted of a crime without a full hearing in front of the Wizengamot, regardless of the circumstances. While Harry and Ron kept the dark wizards at bay, Hermione was changing the rules of the wizarding world for the better. Together, the trio were working to make the world their children lived in a better place.
"I wish Remus was here to see this," said Harry quietly, clenching his jaw.
"He is, Harry, we just can't see him," corrected Hermione in a matter-of-fact tone. He still heard the hidden emotion in her voice, and he knew she wished she could see his face. Wherever he was, Harry knew he was beaming with pride.
"Teddy's going to throw a party when he hears, you know," chuckled Harry, and even Hermione giggled along. His twenty-two year old metamorphmagus godson looked exactly like a blue-haired Remus. He even had Remus' quiet mischief, but he had his mother's wild-child spirit. Any excuse was an excuse to party to Teddy.
"So Ron took the kids out so you could work, then?" Harry asked after a long moment, and cringed when Hermione sighed deeply - a sign that she was frustrated.
"He went to play quidditch with Seamus and George," she answered in an eerily calm tone.
"Er.. I thought he was taking Rose and Hugo to the park...?" he almost didn't want to know, but his curiosity got the better of him.
"Oh, he was supposed to, but he forgot. He said he promised Seamus and George a game ages ago, and now they finally all have the time. When I reminded him that he promised his children a day at the park, he said he could do that any time, whereas they might not get another opportunity to play that quidditch game again any time soon..." she trailed off, turning her head to look up at Harry. A single brow was arched, and Harry knew just by that small gesture that she was royally pissed.
He shifted awkwardly on his feet. "So where are Rose and Hugo...?"
"Angelina, thankfully, took pity on me and insisted that Rose and Hugo stay there until Ron picks them up later."
There was a few moments of silence, in which Harry tried to think of a way to pacify the situation, but he was never any good with words. Hermione's stomach rumbled rather loudly, and Harry was glad for the break of tension. They both grinned and Hermione relaxed.
"I've been working since noon, I didn't even realize it was dinner time already," she said with a sigh, placing the important document she had been working on in one of the many desk drawers. She tapped it with her wand, and the drawer disappeared. It would reappear with a password, one which only the trio knew.
A tribute to the dearly departed Dobby, who had died in Harry's arms. Yet another life that could have been saved...
He snapped out of his daze when Hermione stood. "Staying for a bit? Wanna get some take-away with me? I'm thinking something that comes with chop-sticks.."
Harry grinned and nodded. "Yeah, that sounds good. Gin took the kids to see her Great Aunt Muriel. Those poor children..." he added, cheekily, and Hermione widened her eyes sympathetically. It was no secret that Muriel wasn't the nicest woman in the world, especially now that she was one-hundred and fifty-eight. She got crankier with age.
"Alright, I'm going to go hunt for the menu," said Hermione, heading towards the door to go downstairs to the kitchen. "Coming?" she asked as she stood in the doorway, but Harry was browsing her bookshelves.
"Yeah, in a sec," he agreed, and Hermione nodded.
Harry heard the pitter patter of her feet as she headed downstairs.
He wasn't browsing the shelves for anything in particular, just glancing over the hundreds of titles. All were in alphebetical order, in true Hermione fashion, and the when his green eyes roamed over Accepting Your Inner Animal: A Guide to Becoming an Animagus, he smiled. After the war, when the trio had gone away together for a month, Harry had bought that for Hermione in wizarding Dublin. The three had just wanted to get away by themselves for a little while, away from the memories of the war, and no one had held it against them. They visited Dublin, Glasgow, Berlin, Venice, and Paris, in that order, all over the course of five weeks. Along the way, they had even trained to become Animagi, and by the time Hermione was out of her seventh year at Hogwarts that following year, she was already able to transform at will into a fox. He thought her animal fit, since she was certainly the cleverest person he had ever known. The colouring of the fox reminded him of her, too. A light tan, like her skin, except for the tips of the ears, legs, and tail, which were dark brown, exactly the colour of her hair. Harry turned out to be a stag, just like his father, which delighted him. The only difference was that even in his animagus form, his distinguishing mark was the lightning bolt shape on his forehead. Ron was indeed, much to the redhead's bemusement, a weasel. No one but the trio and Ginny knew they were Animagi, and Harry liked it that way. For some reason, it made him feel closer to his dad, his godfather Sirius, and Remus.
A glimmer caught his eyes in the dying sunlight, and he headed over to the T section. The Tales of Beedle The Bard that Dumbledore had left Hermione looked like a book out of a fairy tale, which seemed to fit since it was a book of fairy tales. It was large and had jewels encrusted on it, which he had a feeling were real. He pulled it free from its lodgings and ran his hand over the worn leather cover. It didn't bring back memories of the war, like he thought it would, instead just reminding him of his mentor. Harry had read Hermione's new translation, but unfortunately could not read the original copy. He had always been rubbish at Ancient Runes.
Harry carefully opened the book, flicking through the pages to look at the pictures. It really was a beautiful tome, and he had a feeling it would go for a pretty galleon. When he pressed the hard, leather bound cover back down, he ran his fingers over it. I must not tell lies was still clearly written on his hand, but he had grown so used to it he barely saw it. His focus was on the ancient book of chidren's stories. Albus had treasured this in his lifetime. The Hallows were always in the back of his mind. Eventually, all the Hallows had passed through Dumbledore's hands in one way or another, but in the end, he had proved that he really was a great wizard by letting them go, just as Harry had done. The last words Dumbledore had spoken to him replayed in his mind.
Of course it is happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
"Thank you for your help," he whispered, hoping that his former mentor could hear him from that other adventure.
But, something... odd happened. As soon as the word help had left his lips, the book opened by itself in his hands. Harry thought he may have unwittingly jostled it and made the cover swing open, but he examined the inner cover and furrowed his brow. Something was scrawled on the inside of the flap, in Albus Dumbledore's distinct handwriting. That definitely wasn't there before.
He should have called Hermione back up to read it with him, but he saw his name in it and something made him decide against it.
Should you ever come across this, I hope that it is due to a false alarm and not because you are actually in need of the help you asked for. The word of man can not express the pride I have in the three of you, no matter your outcome.'
Harry stared, perplexed. Help must have been the password to reveal his writing. No wonder the Ministry never found anything, it was so simple it was overlooked completely.
'I have utter faith that you have figured out by now that Harry is a Horcrux, though I doubt you would have informed him unless it was necessary. It was most important for him to figure it out himself, to come to terms with it, so he didn't become bitter and lose his way. I hope one day he understands why I kept it from him, and I hope that you three will forgive an old man for weighing down your shoulders with this burden.'
The green-eyed man paused in his reading to frown. Had Hermione known all along...? Probably, he decided. He was thoughtful for a few moments, trying to sort his feelings to figure out how he felt about that. After his silent deliberation, he didn't blame her for not telling him. Who knows what kind of emotional mess he would have been in if she had?
'However - and it tears my heart apart to write this - but if Harry has fallen, I must insist you get yourself to safety immediately. I fear this world is lost if the prophecy's Chosen One has perished. I assure you, the battle is not yet over, and I ask that...'
There was a few sentences crossed out, as if the old wizard had been unhappy with his words. Harry's breath hitched. Had Dumbledore had a Plan B all long? Of course he had, Harry thought. It was Dumbledore, after all.
'Forgive me, I beg of you, but I must ask something of you again, Hermione. Something very great, and very terrible. If Harry has indeed gone to the next adventure, I...'
The penmanship changed here, becoming a bit shaky. Had he been using his bad hand to write, or had he become overwhelmed with emotion?
'I must ask you to take his place. I must ask you to give your life, so that this tale can be rewritten.'
Harry sucked in a breath. Unbidden tears tried to squirm their way out of his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. Reading the request broke his heart, and he knew it broke Dumbledore's to ask it. He read on, through watery vision.
'I am utterly horrified as I write this, imagining what you must be thinking of me. I swear to you that if there was someone else - anyone else - who could save them, I would not be burdening you with this task.
You are the only one, Hermione. Your intelligence will soon rival my own, and yet you are a century my junior. You can figure it out, and you can fix it.
You know my story by now, I'm sure. There are a few facts which you don't know yet, however, and unfortunately they are necessities.
This book is the first of its kind, handwritten in the ancient language by Beedle the Bard himself. When it came into my possession, Gellert was... '
Again, there was a sentence scratched out.
'Gellert was ecstatic, to say the least, for the Hallows had been our obsession. But by that time, I had already started realizing that he was unstable and power-hungry. I noticed that this edition - and only this original edition - spoke of a fourth Hallow, bestowed upon all three brothers by Death. It was an hourglass...'
Harry's heart beat faster, and he wasn't sure why.
'As you may have noticed, there is a page torn out in The Tale of the Three Brothers. I did this because the fourth Hallow... frightened me. Upon reflection, I assume it must have frightened whoever did the translations to the Olde English versions as well, for the fourth Hallow is never mentioned in any other tome I have come across. The magic behind it was so crude, and the extent of its power... It could destroy everything we knew if it fell into the wrong hands! It was not the kind of power I was interested in, and I felt it my duty to keep it from the world, and most of all from Gellert.
But, later, after my sister's death, my curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself on a mission to find it.
I will admit my weakness to you, Hermione. I went there with the intentions of using it. For, if the story was correct, I would be able to make the sacrifice this life so that someone else's story could be rewritten. Time itself would bend to my will, and I would be able to place that life where ever I wished! I could have rewritten Ariana's story, so that she knew what would happen, but would be in a place where she could be safe...
I could have, and I had every intention to...'
The penmanship got worse, but Harry was able to barely make it out.
'However, in the end, I could not do it. My selfishness got the better of me. There was a chance I may have never known my sister at all if I had gone through with it, and I would rather have loved and lost than never have loved at all.
I never went back to that place, and never spoke of the lost Hallow. Until now, that is.
If Harry is gone, then the lost Hallow is the only way to save the innocent lives.
I trust you to do what you think is right.
This book will activate into a Portkey when you say the magic words.
I hope you have not come to this last resort. I pray you have only accidentally discovered my writing. If that is the case, then I do not need to stress to you that Harry should never to find out about the lost Hallow. I fear it may be too grand a temptation for him to resist. The idea of being able to save everyone, and arm someone with the knowledge they would need to take down Voldemort would be like a forbidden fruit to him.
I bid you a safe journey, Hermione, on whichever road you may take. Never forget that I believe in the three of you, even from the other side.
There was a knot in his throat. Harry's fingers felt ice cold but his palms were sweaty, and he was sure his legs were shaking. At first, anger swept through him. No, not anger... Rage. Dumbledore had this alternative the whole time? The man could have changed it all! Albus could have saved Harry's parents, destroyed the bloody Horcruxes, and defeated Voldemort his damned self, and he didn't! The man was selfish!
But then Harry leaned his back against the bookshelf and took a deep breath. The voice of reason in his head, which always sounded an awful lot like Hermione, whispered that Dumbledore knew he had no right to meddle with time. Whatever will be, will be, and Albus realized that. Still, there was a burning in Harry's chest. A range of emotions were hitting him all at once, so quickly he couldn't identify all of them. Anger, sadness, helplessness, hurt, but most of all... Desire. Albus had been right. And deep down, Harry knew it. He should have never learned of the lost Hallow, for the temptation was indeed luring him to it.
"Harry?" Hermione's voice broke through his concentration. "Are you coming down here?"
He didn't answer. She was in the kitchen still, and Harry was torn. He should have slid the book back on its shelf and walked away.
He couldn't, however. He just wanted... No, he just needed to see it. He wouldn't use it... He would just look at it...
That was how he justified himself as he used Hermione's quill to pen her a note.
'Owl came from the Ministry. Got a lead on that wizard Maverick we've been looking for. Tell Ginny not to worry, will be back later. Love, Harry.'
"Harry...?" he heard again, and it sounded like she was nearing the stairs. Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it at the book. The magic words... What were the magic words? He started spouting everything he could think of.
"Lost Hallow?" he whispered. "Order of the Phoenix? Sherbert Lemon? Dumbledore's Army? Horcrux? Ariana?! Hogwarts?!"
"Are you alright, Harry?" Hermione's voice grew concerned, and he could hear her feet on the stairs. His heart was in his throat. If he didn't figure it out soon, she would find him and demand to know what he was doing. He knew that if he had to look her in the eye and explain, he would never be able to see it...
Harry throttled his mind for the magic words. "Abra Kadabra?" he whispered harshly, with a biting tone.
His eyes were dark with concentration as they roamed over the line once more, now a forest green. Dumbledore always said what he meant, Harry knew, even if his meaning was unclear.
'This book will activate into a Portkey when you say the magic words.'
When he heard Hermione's feet on the landing, nearing the doorway, he said in hushed desperation: "The magic words?!"
And, surprisingly, it worked.
He felt as though he were being jerked from his navel through a small tunnel, and breath left his lungs. All he saw was black as air rushed around him.
Finally, his feet hit the ground, and from years of experience, he didn't topple over. Immediately, he had his wand-arm up, spinning around in a circle to check his surroundings. It was dark, but there was a soft white glow about the cave he was in. There was snow all over the floor, and the large cavern was completely closed off by thick ice. He could see nothing of where he was through it, and there was no escape. Harry tried to perform a Heating Charm, but it wouldn't work, and when he tried to conjure fire, again, the attempts failed. Albus must have charmed the cave to not allow anyone to find warmth. Fog escaped his mouth every time he exhaled, and he held the book close, as if trying to gain warmth from it.
The Hallow had to be around here somewhere.
This was a bit reminiscent of the cave he had gone to with Dumbledore the night Snape was forced to kill him, and a bit of the fear Harry had tried to keep at bay crept its way into his stomach. The Auror ignored it, and instead started moving around the dark cave, letting his wand-hand skim the ice walls, feeling for possible traces of magic.
Forty minutes later, he had travelled completely around the cave, and there was still no sign of a way out. The walls held no traces of magic besides Impenetrable Charms, which no one but the caster could break. Harry was shivering and trying to keep calm. Panicking would not help the situation. There had to be a way out of there. Something in plain sight, so obvious it would be overlooked.
Again, Harry made his way all around the large cavern, feeling the thick ice walls for traces of lingering magic. Sometimes, his palm would get stuck against the ice if he lingered too long, and his skin would tear. He was bleeding in certain places on his hand, but he couldn't feel the pain because his hands had gone numb. By the time he finished giving the cave walls another once-over, Harry's knees were literally knocking together. He would freeze to death if he didn't find the Hallow or get out of there soon. In desperation, he tried saying the magic words again in a vain hope it would bring him back to where he came from, but it didn't work.
When he could no longer control the chattering of his teeth, Harry slid his back down the ice wall to sit down on the snow. He was shaking from the cold, so he put the book down and brought his knees to his chest, trying to sustain body heat. Memories flooded his mind. Ginny, James, Lily, Albus, Hermione, Ron... Would he ever see them again?
His bare palm grazed the snow when he tried to reposition himself, and Harry's eyes widened when he felt a tingle in his palm. At first, he thought it was just the wounds on his hands, but he quickly ruled that out because they were completely numb.
The floor. That must be the way out.
He put his hands face down on the snow, and again, tingles shot through them. A tiny burst of adrenaline reinvigorated Harry, and he started to move on his hands and knees, hunting like a lithe lion. His wand was still in one hand, but he left the book. The tingling in his palms grew more and more as he crawled across the cavern, and finally, when he had reached the opposite end, he could literally feel the magic humming against his hands. Once again, Harry tried to perform a Heating Charm to melt the snow away, but nothing worked. Desperately, he began to manually shove aside the snow. His hands were blistering from the beginnings of frostbite, and he felt the burning and itch of the constricting blood vessels in his fingers. He kept digging through it, however, ignoring the discomfort.
His breathing was harsh and laboured by the time he saw the glow. There was a circle of ice beneath the snow he had brushed away, just big enough to fit a rather slim person through, but the ice looked much thinner than the dome surrounding the cavern. He could see the eerie green glow of water below, and he knew he had to get through the ice. Harry stood and pointed his wand at it.
Harry's stomach plummeted. The cave prohibited magic of any kind. He looked around wildly, searching for something to smash the ice with, but there was nothing. For a second, he thought about using the book, but the thing looked so old it would definitely fall apart if he beat it against a sheet of ice. So, Harry sucked in a breath of bravery, knelt back down...
And punched it.
He did it with all his strength, and he could literally hear the sickening crunch of bone as the ice shattered. Luckily, his hand was numb, but he knew something had definitely been broken upon the impact. He lifted his fist out of the hole he had punched through, and it was dripping wet. He couldn't flex his fingers, and there were gashes on his hand. On one knuckle, he was even sure he could see bone, but he looked away quickly. Blood mixed with the water, making pink droplets fall on the snow around him. Since the ice was already coming apart, all Harry had to do was kick the rest of it to make the tiny trap door crumble.
Harry pulled off the black robes he wore. He tore a sleeve off and wrapped it around his hand as a makeshift bandage, and kicked off his shoes. He was had filled out since he was seventeen, and was much more muscular than the scrawny boy he used to be, but he was still skinny enough to fit through the hole he kicked in. It was mind over matter at this point, and when he lowered himself into the freezing water, his face hardened determinedly. The water was so cold it literally stung his skin, but Harry gripped his wand tightly and took a deep breath.
He pushed himself down, and his head disappeared beneath the water. His limbs refused to obey him for a frightening moment, simply from the shock of the cold, but he regained himself a second later. When his eyes adjusted to the water, he glanced up at the hole he had come through, and his eyes widened as it closed over, leaving him no way out. He was trapped under the ice, and, desperately, he swam back up to it. He tried to punch a hole back through, but the water would allow him no momentum, so the task was impossible. He was starting to panic, and he put his wand up to his mouth and nonverbally tried to create a Bubblehead Charm, but it wouldn't work.
Then his eyes caught sight of a glowing light, and because he could think of nothing else, he swam towards it. He could see black spots forming in front of his eyes from the depravation of oxygen, but he pushed on, treading the ice cold water. When Harry was sure he could take no more, and was on the verge of passing out, he noticed the light was coming from another hole in the ice. Just like before, adrenaline fuelled him and pushed him towards his goal, and when he surfaced, he took a dramatic gasp of air that he had only seen done before in Muggle movies. He choked up the water he had inhaled when he surfaced, coughing so hard it sprayed from his lips. He had never appreciated air more than he did at that moment.
His eyes were stinging from the cold salt-water and his lips were blue, but he lifted himself up onto the ice to get out of the water before he froze to death. He couldn't stay still because his body was shaking so bad, and his knees were weak when he stood up to look around. Harry cradled his injured hand, more out of reflex than pain since he still couldn't feel anything. His lips were trembling, but he spotted a platform of ice with... something on it.
He slipped and stumbled over to it. His wet socks were making him slip against the snow, and he couldn't keep his balance properly because there was no feeling in his toes.
There, upon the ice platform, was a large hourglass. The two glass bulbs were both the size of his head. It was on a three-legged stand made of what appeared to be diamond. It glittered far more than the crisp white snow, and it was almost ethereal to behold. However, there was nothing filling it, and there was no top to it. The upper bulb was just open, like a funnel, waiting to be filled. Harry scrunched his brow, perplexed, as he examined the giant hourglass, but his eyes widened when he noticed the mark of the Deathly Hallows. The same triangle, line, and circle he remembered, except it was upside down. Below it, there was elegant silver writing in neat lines. At first, the writing was just ancient runes, but gradually, as Harry continued to stare at it helplessly, the markings changed into English. It must have been charmed to let whoever looked upon it be able to read it. He could practically feel the magic radiating from it. His vision was still blurry, but he strained his eyes to read it, examining the words through his waterlogged glasses.
Be cautious, be weary, do not linger and leer.
I beseech you, stranger, go and be gone from here.
But if you shan't heed our warnings, we implore your request to be true.
Time is in your hands now, the gift to give someone a life anew.
They will be armed with the knowledge of what shall be erased.
Choose wisely whom you wish to remove from their time, body, and space.
Think clearly the name they were born when you pour your life inside.
Honesty is the key, there shall be no secrets you can hide.
Your chosen one will see the very moment through your eyes
They shall hear, think, and feel all the emotions you try to disguise.
They will know why you selfishly tore them from their place,
Be sure your reasons are just, lest they curse your name and face.
But take heed, stranger, the one you choose shall never be who they were,
They will be placed where they can make sure your fears shall never occur
Make sure you say your reasoning, so they will know your mind
Be sure to let them know their task as your thief of time.
Harry stood there for a long time, reading the words over and over again. Harry could put himself in the time he wanted! He could go back to before he was born and stop it all...
No, he couldn't. His heart dropped to his stomach.
'The one you choose shall never be who they were. They will be placed where they can make sure your fears shall never occur.'
What did that mean? Is this why Dumbledore never went through with it? Harry recalled the scrawled words with a lump of hopelessness in his throat.
There was a chance I may have never known my sister at all if I had gone through with it, and I would rather have loved and lost than never have loved at all.
If Harry placed himself back in time to stop it, then he wouldn't be James and Lily's son... But if someone else went back...
No, he couldn't do that...
Tears sprang into his eyes unbidden. Everything he had ever wanted was right there in front of him. The answer to all his problems. It was a way to make it so that he was never burdened with Voldemort. He would have his parents, live an innocent life! All those peoples' lives would be saved... His parents, Sirius, Remus, Fred, Tonks, Dumbledore, Snape, Moody, Cedric, Colin... The list went on and on. So many lives!
But who...? Who could he send?
Harry was breathing quite heavily, but he was no longer shaking. His mind was sluggish, and he kept dropping his wand. In the back of his mind, he knew hypothermia was reaching its final stages. He knew he was on Death's doorstep, and there was no way out of this cave. He couldn't use magic, he was frostbitten, and the hypothermia was slowly shutting down his mind and organs. He would die here, and no one would ever know what happened to him.
Or, he could change it all...
Harry shook his head, and reached down to pick up the wand he had dropped for the eighth time. He was having trouble keeping his fingers wrapped around it. Panic had fully set in, and he eyed the hourglass. Was he delirious? Was he actually considering ripping someone from their life? Dumbledore had been right, Harry thought bitterly. It was a temptation far too great for the Boy-Who-Lived. Perhaps it was the hypothermia, or maybe it was partial insanity caused by his desperation, but Hermione floated to the surface of his mind.
Hermione... She had already given up so much for him.
But her parents had turned their back on her... She was stuck in a marriage she wasn't happy in... Yes, she loved her children, but if she had a way to give them a better life, Harry knew she would...
Harry stumbled towards the hourglass, practically falling against it. If he chose Hermione, that meant there would be no Golden Trio. No Hermione Granger to steer Harry and Ron in the right direction... Harry would be putting the weight of Voldemort on her shoulders, and hers alone.
Was he so selfish?
His body functions were shutting down, so no tears escaped Harry as he sobbed. His heart was breaking.
Hermione could save them all... She would want to do that, wouldn't she...?
Either way, Harry was going to die where he knelt. It was hard to breathe and when he felt his pulse, it was much too slow. There wasn't much time to decide...
Part of him cursed Dumbledore for ever putting that note where Harry could find it, however highly unlikely, but the other, larger part of him cursed himself for being so weak.
Think clearly the name they were born when you pour your life inside.
He vaguely recalled a Muggle novel about vampires. The blood is the life.
He couldn't feel his limbs, so cutting himself wouldn't be a problem, but since he couldn't do magic, he had nothing to cut himself with.
Harry's vision was blurry. At first he thought he had lost his glasses, but he realized they were still there. He wouldn't last much longer. Again, he dropped his wand, but this time he didn't pick it up.
Partly because he wasn't thinking clearly, and partly because a person will do what they must when they're desperate enough, Harry raised his wrist up to his mouth and literally bit a chunk of flesh off from over his veins. He spat out what came off in his mouth and his whole arm shook, and held his arm over the hourglass.
Crimson blood poured from his wrist and he watched in delirious fascination as it slid down the glass bulb. He shook his head once more, to clear the fog from it.
Hermione Jean Granger, he thought clearly.
'Make sure you say your reasoning, so they will know your mind. Be sure to let them know their task as your thief of time.'
"Forgive me, Hermione," whispered Harry in a slurred voice, resting his forehead against the cold glass, still watching his own blood drip down through the narrow middle and splash down to the bottom bulb. "Forgive me for being so weak.... It should be me, but I.. my family.." he was becoming incoherent from lack of blood and his ever-slowing heartbeat. "I want you to... save them... everyone... please..."
And as Harry Potter exhaled his last breathe, Hermione gasped in her sleep.
It was not a dream, though she saw it clearly in her mind while she slumbered. She saw it all, heard it all, felt the emotions and thoughts as though she were Harry.
The world as she knew it was over, but she wouldn't find out until morning.
Chapter End Notes: Hope you enjoyed, and if you did, let me know, I love to hear from the readers. Three chapters are going up today so you can get a feel for the story.