Title: The Runestones
Author: Qellaswe
Pairings: brief HP/GW, HP/?, brief RL/NT, RW/HG
Warnings: character death, brief mentions of slash
Spoilers: THROUGH DEATHLY HALLOWS! Even the epilogue, much as I didn't like it.
Summary: After being attacked and fatally wounded, Harry rashly wishes he could go back in time and change some things. When his wish is granted, he finds that some things can't be changed. To cope with them, Harry takes up a new hobby.

AN: I usually don't read stories where Harry's sent back in time to live his life over (I like them when he's in a different time period). However, this plot bunny wouldn't leave me alone. This one may take a while to complete, but I won't let it die.


the runestones, 1/?

The cement chilled his back as he lay there, feeling the blood pouring from his wound. It was ironic that he was in this position, having watched a man die like this twenty years ago.

He'd only been meant to serve a writ, then report back to headquarters and head home. Well, not home anymore, without the children there during the school year. But it had been the only home available to him without having to become a teacher, and others had wanted him to become an Auror. Instead, he'd apparated into a true den of thieves - Muggles who had an idea of the wizarding world and squibs who'd been tossed from their families. They had overwhelmed him with their numbers, taken everything of value from him, and finally slashing his throat with the largest dagger he'd ever seen.

The footsteps had faded a long time ago, and Harry was surprised he wasn't dead yet. His magic was running low, trying so desperately to fix the wound. He knew it wouldn't be enough.

Regrets and wishes flashed through his mind. As his legs and arms began to go numb, he idly wondered why his entire life wasn't flashing before his eyes. He'd always heard about stories that you did. Of course, he'd been the exception to every rule of magic, so why was this any different?

His breathing beginning to labor, Harry struggled to reach out to the one thing the thieves had left. The cool stone was a comforting weight on his chest, but he wanted it in his hands despite the lack of feeling in them. Al had found it on his first trip to Hogsmeade the weekend before, and had sent it home with his weekly letter. Ginny had almost thrown it away, but Harry had kept it.

The stone partially wrapped in loose, cold fingers, Harry looked at the runes etched into the flat surface. He had meant to figure out what runes they were, but hadn't yet had the chance. Now he would never know.

For once, Harry thought, he wished he could go back and do this all over again. He wanted to figure out the things he had needed to do, without losing so many people. There were people he wanted his children and godchild (who was much as his child as his natural ones) to have met - lived with - that he missed himself.

The numbing stretched up his chest, and he had time for one last thought. He would miss his children.

******

"Harry? Harry, are you okay?"

He blinked at the sound of the voice, wondering if someone had actually discovered him in time to keep him from dying.

"Oh, Merlin," the voice continued, "Should I send a signal for the professors?"

Harry's eyes flew open at the oddness of that statement, only to find himself looking into a pair of grey eyes that had haunted him for years. He'd had nightmares about meeting Cedric, about trying to explain that he hadn't wanted him dead, that he hadn't realized the cup was a portkey.

"Harry?"

He blinked and looked at his surroundings. It wasn't the maze, but it was definitely springtime. He could smell the grass under his feet, and there was the scent of apple blossoms blowing from Professor Sprout's orchards.

"Cedric?" Merlin, but he'd forgotten how his voice had cracked when he was fourteen. Wait, fourteen? What in the world was happening to him? The last he knew, he'd been dying on the floor of an abandoned warehouse in London.

He started to shake, shock rolling its waves throughout his body. Dimly, he heard Cedric asking if he was okay, but there was no possible way for Harry to answer him at the moment. He really thought he had been dying for the third time, and he'd been prepared to go through with it. Was he dreaming? Was this in punishment for his regrets?

He was suddenly back in the dorm, although he didn't remember getting here. He barely recalled Cedric - and how strange was it to say that - offering to take him up to the tower. He wasn't entirely sure that he'd consented, but had the feeling the Hufflepuff had done so anyway. If he remembered correctly, Harry knew that this was also James' bed. A quiver ran through him at the thought of his son - indeed, at all of his children. He missed them so much; it was like something had pierced his heart. The cruel thought of having to go through all of the trouble with Ginny to see them again ran through his head.

A flash of light caught his eye, and he turned to find himself looking at Fawkes. The phoenix eyed him before letting off a soft trill. To Harry, it sounded like the bird was laughing. One black eye winked at him as a floating sensation came over his body. Harry blinked at that, the same moment Fawkes burst into flames.

The world swirled around him. He shut his eyes at the rush of wind running over his face and raised his hands to his ears as noise began to build up. Harry's stomach began to turn as the sensation began to feel like a portkey, and just before he was ready to release its contents, it all stopped.

He ended up lying on a cold, hard floor. He looked around in the dim light and found nothing but a few distant walls. It was definitely a room and probably at least the size of the great hall, if not larger.

A chirp behind him caught his attention, reminding Harry of his companion. "Fawkes?" he asked as he turned around. "Where did you bring me?"

Lights grew brighter around the huge room, revealing a familiar room. Harry pinched his nose as the smell of rotting flesh reached him. The basilisk's carcass lay twenty feet from him, its mouth partially opened to reveal the intact fang. He turned around and spotted the ink-covered fang that had pierced his arm two years - and twenty five years - ago.

Harry had the awful feeling that this was going to give him migraines trying to keep it all straight.

A chirp from Fawkes brought his attention back to the phoenix perched on the statue of Slytherin's head. He had the strange feeling the bird wanted him to go into the basilisk's lair, which Harry wasn't too sure about. There was another chirp as Fawkes took flight and soared into the dark opening that made up the statue's mouth. Taking a deep breath, Harry followed him in.

Lights began to flare up just before it became too dark to see anything. The mouth turned out to be a short tunnel, leading into a room that was half the size of the chamber he'd just left. Harry figured it was big enough for the basilisk to move about, before the scariness of that thought made him change the direction of his mind. He found there was another tunnel opposite of where he'd come in, with fresh air flowing in a soft breeze.

"I wonder if that goes into the forest or somewhere else," he muttered in a low voice.

Fawkes chirped again, in what Harry guessed was an affirmative answer. Maybe he was getting the hang of communicating with the phoenix. He'd always been able to guess what an owl was trying to get - with the exception of Pig, but that was a whole other story. A nod at the phoenix brought another chirp.

"I do wish there was another way to talk to you," Harry complained after a few seconds.

He stumbled back when the air around the phoenix shimmered before a small pop sounded, with a dark-haired man replacing Fawkes. "We could talk like this," the man said in a deep voice.

Harry stumbled back at the appearance of the man. "What? Who the hell are you?"

The man chuckled. "I'm Fawkes, of course." He grinned. "Well, that is what Albus decided to call me after I found him."

"But-?" Harry was confounded, as he'd never heard of anyone being a magical animagus. Wait. He was in a time where Voldemort was around again. He whipped out his wand and pointed it at the man. "Are you one of Voldemort's men?" he asked in as stern a voice as he could manage, in spite of the slight crack in it.

The man gave a full out laugh. "Oh no, Harry. A phoenix is always aligned with the light, even one who is an animagus." The man's brown eyes gave off the same twinkling Dumbledore's did when Harry had seen him laugh. "Besides, I try not to meddle in the affairs of humans too much. I did enough of that when I was still a wizard."

Harry blinked and slowly lowered his wand at that. He was rather confused by this entire situation. After all, he was in the Chamber of Secrets with a man who had, two minutes before, been Fawkes. Who was a phoenix. "Um, wizard?"

The man's laughter was directed at Harry's incredulousness. "Of course! You didn't think that someone who didn't have magic could become an animagus?"

He felt himself shaking his head in answer. Merlin, this was confusing. This morning he'd left his house - an empty house without his children and in spite of his wife's presence - gone to work, been killed by a den of thieves, woken up by a boy he'd seen murdered, and now he was deep beneath Hogwarts with a man who thought he had a funny bone. Maybe a man; after all, he'd just been a bird ten minutes ago. "Who-who are you?" he finally asked.

He received an elaborate bow. "Salazar Slytherin at your service."

Harry gripped at the wall to keep himself upright at the news.

"Now," the man - Slytherin - exclaimed, "I know you're thinking that I'm the 'Evil' Founder and that I hate so-called 'Mudbloods,' but really, do you think I could do that and still be a phoenix animagus?" He sighed as he directly into Harry's eyes, and his whole demeanor relaxed. "I am sorry to drop this whole thing on you like this, but I have to explain the situation to you, and this is the best time to do so."

Slytherin stepped back and withdrew a wand from his left sleeve, sweeping it parallel to the floor and cleaning the stone. Next he twirled it slightly, conjuring up two comfy looking chairs and a small table set for tea. The smell of steeping leaves came to Harry's nose, along with the aroma of freshly baked scones. The other man grinned at Harry. "We might as well make ourselves comfortable. This is going to take quite a bit of time."

******

Harry sat back in the chair as he thought about everything they had talked about. First, Slytherin had told him that yes, he'd had issues with the Muggles and therefore with Muggleborn students. That had been because of their religious beliefs, and he'd had the feeling that their religion would subvert his own. He'd been right, of course, but unable to do anything about it as each of the other Founders had converted.

Slytherin had left the school to protect both himself and his family, something his own son hadn't forgiven him for. The son, also named Salazar, had tried to kill him. In an act of desperation, he had changed into his phoenix form for the first time. As such, he was able to be reborn from the killing curse sent at him, but wasn't healthy enough to stop his son from taking his place.

Harry had felt for the man as he told his story, as it began to coincide with everything that he'd heard about Slytherin as told by Hermione. It had been at the point of Godric's death at the hands of his son that Harry had asked Slytherin about the time difference.

"Didn't you know, Harry?" Slytherin asked. "I am the same type of wizard as you. We are the Chosen ones - Magic's Chosen ones. Time doesn't mean anything to a Chosen one. We have the ability to go back and change things."

"Why didn't you go back, then?" Harry asked.

Slytherin sighed. "I did. The entire thing ended in the revelation of our world to the Muggles in the 1950s. It wasn't the correct time for such a thing to happen, and humanity paid the ultimate price for it. Their nuclear weapons tried to wipe out those who had magic, not realizing that we are the balance that holds the world together. In the end, I went back a second time and put it all back.

"Now you have the same chance, Harry. It's almost time for me to finally rest." Slytherin sighed deeply. "I have been doing this for three thousand years, and I am looking forward to it ending. I am not entirely sure of what you have done, as your powers are greater than mine at the moment, but I will help you in what I can."

From there, Slytherin had gone on to describe the effects of time. Most of all, he'd stated, was that some things must happen. The second thing to remember was that he could only go back a finite number of times. Slytherin had found himself stuck at twenty times, although he said that his mentor had been able to go back fifty. Of course, the other man said, his mentor had been Magic's Chosen for five millennia.

Harry tried to imagine living that long and couldn't wrap his head around it. It brought to mind, however, the fact that he would be able to see his children for a long time. Sadness welled deep in his chest, enough that he had to ask.

"What about my children?" he asked with a thick voice. "Will I still have them? Do I-?" He cut himself off. He had once loved Ginny, but their marriage had been a sham after Lily was born. Harry shivered at the thought of having to live like that. He loved his children, but his heart wouldn't be able to do that twice.

Slytherin eyed him for a moment before answering. "Children have that effect on anyone, Harry, even Chosen ones. I loved Salazar, but I couldn't help him. You should know that my other children turned out fine, no matter what I did. Salazar was one of the things that I couldn't change, in spite of who his other parent was; and yes, I was married to three different partners."

The tension that had been growing in his chest loosened, like some giant rubber band being released. He stood and stretched in relief.

Slytherin chuckled, and again, it felt like he was laughing at Harry, but this time it didn't seem to be in a slightly condescending way - more like George after he pulled a prank.

He sat down hard onto the stone floor - startled by the realization that Fred was still alive. Sirius was still alive! Tears poured from his eyes as thoughts of all those who had died ran through his head. Lupin, Tonks... Hedwig. Dobby. Even Snape. They were all alive.

In that instant, the onus of being Chosen hit him, and he welcomed the darkness that overtook him.

When he awoke, he found himself back in the dorm. The curtains were pulled across, but Harry could tell that it was night, judging by the snores coming from both the bed next to his and across the room. It was a somewhat comforting sound, because it meant that he was alive. On the other hand, he had a lot to do. A rustle met his ears as he sat up. Reaching his hand out, he found a pile of parchment tucked neatly under his pillow. The parchment was stiff, like the older books he had read in the library when he'd finally decided to sit the NEWTs.

Damn, but he had to go through both those and the OWLs all over again. Well, there was one negative thing about this entire situation. He was certain there would be more, but he'd deal with them when they came.

Harry had determined that he would make the best of this entire thing as well as he could. He would take it one day at a time, starting with reading the letter.

Harry,

You may have some more questions for me, but now is not the time. For all the powers of the world, even we cannot stretch time, and you needed the rest. I will meet up with you before the third task, as I have the feeling that you will be changing some things about that event - and yes, I did go back in time when you did, and I will tell you how when we talk.

For now, there are several things you can do. I know that you will begin searching for Voldemort's Horcruxes, but think carefully about going after them. You probably had a couple of problems reaching a few, so take care of the ones you currently have access to. One thing, however, must be clear - Voldemort has to come back the night of the third task. If you've already realized that, you may be more Slytherin than I thought you were. If you weren't, then you really are in trouble, because Godric was always in trouble.

When we meet, I will help you with any details about the upcoming event, but most of it must be done by you. My mentor helped me with the first task I had to change, but everything after that is a solo job. After the third task, I will be unable to help you, so I will help you as much as possible with this.

A thousand years ago, I would have been fine with throwing you into the lake and seeing if you could swim. Now, I can see why you have been Chosen, for I see the same things in you that I prided myself as having. Slytherin House originally stood for cunning and ambition, as the Sorting Hat likes to remind people. I would like for you to help return my House to its former glory. I know that you will take care of its biggest detractor, but I wish for you to help more than that. That doesn't mean for you to give up your Gryffindor tendencies - I have the feeling it would be like trying to change a lion into a wolf, which is Not A Thing To Be Done.

For that, I suggest that you speak with my current Head of House. I understand that there is a very mutual dislike in your relationship with the man, but I will give you a piece of advice: approach him as a Slytherin would. But, if all else fails, hit him over the head and force him to listen, as that approach does seem to work well for anyone. It may help him remember your mother.

The last thing that I will impart with you in this letter is to begin your animagus training. A Chosen One is always a phoenix, but that doesn't make it any easier to change (if you recall, I was almost killed by my own son to achieve my transformation). There is a book in the Restricted Section that deals with a magical animagus form, although it is presented as a myth and the author does not recommend for anyone to try it. Ignore that and follow the rest of his instructions. It will take you some time to change, but it is much easier to see what needs to be changed through the eyes of a phoenix.

Regards,
Slytherin
RoR, 23.5, 2300

Harry puzzled over the last bit before he realized it was the information for their meeting. He shook his head at his own stupidity.

Reading back through the letter, he wondered just how he should approach Snape. It was true that he had hated the man all through his school years, but time had softened the memories enough that he could distance himself. The line about his mother triggered something, and a sly smile formed. Oh, he understood what Slytherin was saying about now. The only thing Harry had to figure out was to try and find a way to hid it until the most opporune moment to unleash his Slytherin side.

As to the Horcruxes, he had several ideas on how to get the ones he couldn't get to at the moment - specifically, Hufflepuff's cup. If it was anything like the diary, Voldemort would have given it to Bellatrix long before she went to Azkaban. He would just have to come up with a way to gain entry into her vault without the judicious use of dragons and traitorous goblins. Griphook's betrayal had wound Harry up the wrong way, and it had taken a long time before he'd begun to trust another goblin with his money or anything else.

If he wasn't able to get Pettigrew in the graveyard, which was a torturous task within itself that Harry was not looking forward to, he would need to come up with a way to get around Umbridge's attempt to get him expelled later in the summer. Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone if that happened, by going after the ring (and thereby getting the stone) and avoiding the Dementors altogether.

Another sly smile appeared on his face at the thought of outwitting the entire Ministry if he was caught out. He'd just have to implement the things he'd already done that much sooner. It wouldn't take ten years to rebuild the Ministry, this time. No, Harry would pull out the big guns to change things so that they ran the correct way, and not just the way it had always run - that was one reason why Voldemort had come into power in the first place. In fact, he was very tempted to do so, even if things went the way he wanted them.

A hoot broke his thoughts, and he turned to see a snowy owl sitting on the headboard. Harry blinked tears from his eyes. Over the course of the war, he'd seen several people die, but there had been one innocent who hadn't deserved to die like Hedwig had. Now here she was, sitting there and watching him with the big, golden eyes.

The tears broke free as he realized the enormity of what he had to do. As he cried, one thing reverberated in his head: he truly was willing to die all over again for this to work.

******

"Hey, mate," Ron greeted him the next morning. "You okay? You left before I woke up." The red head sat next to him at the Gryffindor table, already spooning food onto his plate.

Harry shook his head before answering. "I'm fine. I just had some things to do this morning. I got a lot of information from last night's meeting."

"How did that go, Harry?" Hermione asked as she sat down, setting the large pile of books in her arms on the table. It was obvious that she'd just been to the library - a place that Harry feared on Sunday mornings like today.

"Fine." Harry really didn't want to elaborate, because he frankly couldn't remember what went on with it. For him, it was two decades plus for him. The meeting he had been in last night, he wouldn't ever tell his friends the contents of it.

"What did they say?" Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head, but put a smile on his face. Hermione really wasn't different at any age, he realized. True, she had toned her bossiness down as she had gotten older, but she had the forthrightness to boldy ask questions no Ravenclaw would dare to ask. She just seemed so young. Ron, too, but he'd always acted younger than his age the older they had grown. He mentally shook himself at the expectant looks being directed at him. He looked down at his hands, trying to come up with a way to tell them something he couldn't remember.

"Hey, Potter?"

He looked up at Cedric as the Hufflepuff walked towards his seat. "Yes?"

Grey eyes stared into his own green ones for a moment. "Can I talk to you? For a moment?"

Harry glanced back at his friends before nodding. "I'll talk to you later, okay?" was directed at the two still seated.

Following the sixth year, he wondered what Cedric had to say. A minute later, Harry was directed into a small, disused classroom on the second floor. Once in, Cedric's movements indicated his nervousness.

"What did you want to talk about?" Harry asked when it became apparent that Cedric wasn't going to start talking.

"Are you okay? I mean, from last night?" The questions came out at a fast speed. He ducked his head and shook it before looking back up at Harry. "What I wanted to know, is if you had a vision or something like that."

"What?" He was confused.

Cedric looked at him. "You were saying some very strange things last night, and I was wondering if I should keep quiet about it. I mean, I didn't think you were a Seer."

"What was I saying?" He had a bad feeling about this, and what he was told confirmed it.

"You said," Cedric paused and took a deep breath. "You said that you had to stop me from dying."

Harry looked up at the anguish in the seventeen year old's voice. Cedric looked to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and he was clueless as to what to do. Harry had conquered his own mortality more than twenty years ago, but the boy in front of him had just been confronted by it and was understandably confused and frightened by it. Plunging in as he did when he was first confronted by Teddy's nightmares of being abandoned once James had been born, Harry tentatively touched Cedric's arm before leading him over to a desk with a firmer grip.

Cedric looked up at him, obviously trying to keep his tears in check. "Is it true?"

He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think of how to respond to it. Did he use the ruse of being a Seer? He really didn't want to do that, because of the things that would change and the fact that after they did so, he wouldn't know what was coming.

Harry opened his eyes to see that Cedric had taken that the wrong way, as tears began to fall down his cheeks. Taking a deep breath, he laid his hand on Cedric's arm once more before taking the older boy into his arms, as if he were James or Al.

Cedric fell into the embrace, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

"Maybe we can change it, Cedric," Harry whispered into the other boy's hair. "I promise you that I'll try my hardest to change it."