Title: The Runestones
Pairings: HP/TBA, SB+RL+SS(triad), brief RL/NT, RW/HG
Warnings: character death, 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: Finally, huh? I was finally able to get this chapter up. Between computers dying and getting sick, I didn't think that I'd be able to get this thing up. I also have chapter 4 almost ready to go, so it should only take as long as it takes me to get internet access again. I have more information on what's been going on about the wait on my profile, so if you want to check it out, please do so.
I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday, and hope you all have a good new year! Happy reading!
Ron was snoring into his pillow when Harry scanned the room to see if any of the others were awake. They shouldn't be, at two in the morning, but one could never tell. Seamus could be having one of his infamous wet dreams - the kind that usually woke Harry and Neville up, since they were such light sleepers. Dean was impossible to wake up during the night, so it just left Neville to observe before Harry left the dorm.
With all signs clear - judging from the book covered in vines hanging limply from Neville's hand - Harry carefully made his way down the stairs. Once down in the common room, he quickly glanced around for anyone still up. Luckily for him, Hermione wasn't still up. If she had, he would be in some questioning.
Harry shouldn't be afraid of his friend, but, he had to confess, he'd always been intimidated by her intelligence. Even now, when his mind was so much older than hers, he didn't want her to get so curious as to find out what's going on.
He was trying to work from the shadows, but curious cats usually let things out of the bag.
Once out of the tower, Harry made his way down to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. There he found an impatient man in black, scowling at him for his lateness. On the man's shoulder stood a phoenix, who was trying to hold on as the man paced back and forth in rapid strides.
"Sorry," he whispered to the man. He turned to the last sink, but didn't need to see the snake etched on the pipes for him to access the Parseltongue. In his former life, he'd found that he could still speak the language, and, over time, had cultivated it. Ginny had thought it creepy, Hermione had worried that something had been left over from his time as a Horcrux, while Ron and the kids had been entertained whenever he charmed the garden snakes as though they were in a street market in India.
The two men and one bird made their way down the pipe to the Chamber of Secrets, winding through the various rooms until they came upon Slytherin's study, as Harry liked to call it.
"Potter," Snape began in a low voice - the kind of tone that made Firsties piss in their pants. "Why are we down here, and why is this infernal bird clinging to me?"
Harry looked over to Fawkes, who was bobbing his head. If birds could smirk, this one would have been doing just that. "If you would like the honor?"
Snape's brows pinched together as Fawkes spread his wings and floated to the floor. "What...?"
There is nothing so grand in the world as a stunned-looking potions master. It was all Harry could do to keep his laughter in as the phoenix grew into a man with dark hair and glittering eyes. He did his best to hold it in as the other two stared at each other. Snape now had a calculating look in his eyes, while Slytherin was looking bemused at the inspection.
It was all too much, as the laughter burst out, garnering Harry the attention of the other two. He waved a hand at them in apology.
Harry slid in between the sheets, a headache softly thudding through his skull. It had been a long day, and he was more than ready to go to sleep. He'd spent most of the day in the Chamber with Salazar, working on his animagus form. He was extremely close to getting it, as he been able to produce feathers along both arms.
There was a slight change in his perception - a kind of instinct that had him searching the corridors as he walked to class or the Great Hall. Salazar had told him that phoenix were omnivores. Although they preferred fruits and nuts, they occasionally ate meat. It was this awareness of potential prey that Harry was experiencing.
Tonight, he'd met with Cedric in the library, going over what they would do in the maze. The sixth year was growing increasingly nervous, although he hid it well. Harry decided he wouldn't comment on it unless absolutely necessary. Instead, he'd ignored the behavior and had concentrated on the plan.
He was tempted to capitalize the two words, as the simple plan he had first come up with had grown exponentially. When Salazar had explained all of this to him, Harry had thought that he would be able to get away with changing things slightly - a little nudge here or there. He was very wrong about that. Salazar had told him that he would need to think very carefully on what events to manipulate, and it would take some very careful planning to bring the changes to fruition.
Most of the plan for the Third Task was set. Now, though, he just needed to find a way to expose Barty Crouch posing as Mad-Eye Moody. As much as he wanted to stay up and find something, Harry knew he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer.
He didn't know when he fell asleep. When the dream had first started, he thought he must still be awake because of all the detail. Harry watched himself confront Moody's imposter in front of an impossibly large crowd, calmly giving reasons on why one of the Ministry's top decorated Aurors was not who he said he was.
The dream was relatively short, probably lasting no longer than five minutes. The impact was humungous, though. Harry shot out of bed the moment he was awake, scrambling to write down everything. He knew that this was very important.
Sometimes you'll have dreams that seem so real, it's as if you are still awake," Salazar said after a brief lull in the conversation.
The two of them were seated in front of the fireplace, a small table covered in tea things between their chairs. Harry looked at him for a brief moment, unsure of where the other man was headed. "So, what should I do?"
Salazar sighed, and Harry knew that he was exasperated with him. Sure, Harry's mind was that of an adult, but he sometimes thought that Salazar thought that he was dumber than a doorpost. Mentally, Harry rolled his eyes. So what if he wasn't book smart? He'd take his people smarts over that any day, if it meant that he'd live to see his hundred and fiftieth birthday as he was planning.
"You should write it down, like I've been telling you to do when you think of something. I don't trust a Gryffindor to remember everything you come up with." Salazar obviously couldn't resist the smear against his rival's house. "There are things that you'll want to be able to look at later, to see if you are on the correct track or if you will need to amend your plan."
That, Harry could understand. He still didn't like the idea of having a 'dream diary.' It just brought back too many bad memories of his first adventure into the Chamber of Secrets. He'd just have to tough it out, though. He could do that.
The coolness of the stone felt good as it glided between his fingers. He'd found the runestones good at calming him down. Harry had found another stone, this time on the way back after his conversation with Slytherin and Snape. However, he just didn't have the time to find out which rune was carved into its surface, though he was hoping to be able to do so soon. There was too much to do in such a short amount of time, so it would have to wait.
Maybe it was providence he'd had the first stone, because the confrontation with Snape could have gone much differently. Still, the two had gotten a lot accomplished in a short amount of time.
Never let it be said that someone who wasn't in Slytherin couldn't be ambitious, Harry thought with a smirk. He wondered, for a brief moment, what his life would have been like if he had taken the Sorting Hat's advice and gone into Slytherin. He would have been killed within the first week of school, most likely, but it was a probability that he would have been expelled for killing Malfoy in their first year. A tossup between the two really, and not much of anything to really think about, either.
"What do you want me to do?"
It had been too hard to hold back his laughter when he had seen Snape's reaction to who they had gone to meet. Even more telling was the fact that the potions master hadn't said a single word to Harry for the next two days - something that had the entire school buzzing about, for Snape always had something to gripe about Harry.
It had helped that these last three days he had been 'excused' from his classes because of the tournament. He had been able to take the OWLs, although it had surprised the few fifth years who had noticed him. A little persuasion with them and they had promised to keep quiet until the end of the year. Luckily, they were Gryffindors, who all knew how much Hermione would rant about not being able to take the tests, and knew that he wanted to avoid such a confrontation.
Harry felt the tiniest bit guilty for deceiving his friends but, for the most part, he knew that they would always be younger than him - for while it had been maturity in the past, now it was age and maturity. He wouldn't let that get him down this time, as he really couldn't care about the rest of the world. What was important at this junction was keeping everyone he loved safe from the evil that would be rising tonight.
He wasn't sure what was going to happen in that graveyard tonight. Preparing for this had been hard - more than he had expected. So much of what was planned hinged on tonight's events that Harry needed to go right. It made him want to sigh again, but he didn't want Remus to ask if he was alright.
The man showing up had been a surprise. The last time around, only Mrs. Weasley and Bill had shown up to cheer him on when the families had come. This time, though, Remus had come with them and had brought him a note from Sirius. His godfather had written that he was the 'lovable grim hanging out with Hagrid's today - just in case he needed him.
Harry sincerely hoped he didn't need him 'just in case.'
"So," Remus began, interrupting Harry's angsting. "Why does Cedric keep looking over here?"
He turned to find the sixth year looking at him with a nervous expression. It wasn't like he could just tell the truth - that Cedric was afraid he was going to die (and that Harry wasn't going to let that happen). Well, he'd go with some of the truth.
"We've been working together, and I think the situation's really getting to him. I think he's looking to talk with me." Harry stood. "Let me go see what he wants and I'll come back to say 'bye,' since it's almost time to go."
Remus smiled as Mrs. Weasley stood and enveloped Harry in a hug.
"Don't worry about coming back, dear," she reassured him. "We'd better go look for Mr. Weasley and find our seats; he should have arrived from the Ministry by now."
"Good luck, Harry," Bill said as he followed his mother. He stopped for a moment as his mother left the room off the Great Hall where they'd spent the afternoon. "You know, you seem older than you did last summer. It's too bad this thing really made you grow up." Bill came back and held out a hand. "Owl me in a couple of days if you need a big brother to talk to."
Harry swallowed past a lump in his throat and shook Bill's hand. "Thanks."
Remus waited until Bill exited the room before standing. "He's right, you know," he stated in a soft voice. "You seem much more mature than you did at the end of the last school year. I wish this hadn't done this to you."
Harry shrugged. There wasn't a way to explain his 'new-found' maturity without taking a lot of time he didn't have. It would have to wait for a more appropriate time.
"Thanks, for what it's worth," he said as they said their goodbyes. Harry watched him leave, finding that Cedric's parents were following the graying man.
"Are you ready?" Harry asked as he felt Cedric come to stand by him.
The sixth year shook his head. "Not really."
Harry gave the most reassuring smile he could to the Hufflepuff. "The trick, Cedric, is that you go into a situation knowing that you'll come out alive on the other side."
"Is that the Gryffindor way?" Cedric asked as they slowly made their way to the maze built on the Quidditch pitch, lagging behind the other two champions.
He shook his head. "No. That's the Harry Potter way. The Gryffindor way is to jump in with two feet and hope for glory."
Cedric looked at him in surprise. "That's a Slytherin way to look at it."
Harry laughed. "You have to think in the same manner as the villain in order to beat him. That's how I've survived him all of these years." He turned to look Cedric fully in the eye as they stood in front of the door that led onto the pitch. "I'll tell you something that I've only told the Headmaster" - in this time, at least - "is that the Sorting Hat wanted me in Slytherin."
"Really?" The Hufflepuff looked stunned. "But, how did you end up in Gryffindor?"
"Because I made the choice not to be in Slytherin. I may think like a Slytherin, but I have a set of Gryffindor morals to temper those thoughts. Likewise, any tendency to act like a total moron is tempered by my sly thoughts."
The sixth year thought on that for a moment. "It's why Granger's a Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw."
"Or why you're in Hufflepuff instead of Gryffindor."
Cedric grinned. "I got it. So, I am brave like a Gryffindor, but it's my Hufflepuff instincts that will guide me tonight."
Harry nodded as he pushed the door open. "You got it."
Harry let himself get caught by the acromantula. He could have avoided it - just like all of the other obstacles that had blocked his path - but he didn't want 'Moody' to get too suspicious. It was bad enough that Krum had almost gotten caught by the imposter's Imperius curse. Luckily, he had still been fighting it when Harry had come upon him and Cedric.
Fleur had already sent up red sparks, as had happened the first time Harry had done the Third Task. Krum had dropped out as well, after the Imperius incident. The Seeker had been exhausted after his internal fight. As per their plans, Cedric would raise his own sparks when Harry entered the center of the maze and had almost reached the cup when the acromantula would go towards the Hufflepuff.
A sharp pain in his leg brought him back to reality. Damn, he hadn't planned on being bitten again. He quickly subdued the humungous spider, knowing that it was only stunned for a moment, aimed a general healing spell on his calf, and set off towards his goal.
He couldn't let himself get distracted like that again. Too much was riding on this.
The fog surrounding the graveyard was properly setting the mood, Harry thought as he crept around, in search of Wormtail and his burden. The plan he had set up with Cedric had worked out as perfectly as he hoped it would. The sixth year had just raised his red sparks as Harry touched the cup and activated the portkey. Then he was flying through the space in between the living and the dead. His mastery of death allowed him to see the ghosts as they traveled, their faces lit with surprise and confusion as he waved at them in passing. He'd learned that trick before he'd even married Ginny, and it had stayed with him in spite of being in the past.
Now that he was in the graveyard, though, all of Harry's worries flew out the window. It had been true what he'd said to Cedric - that it was confidence that he was doing things correctly that got Harry through things. Several things would come out of this as he had planned, he knew, even if everything wouldn't go that way.
"Bind him, Wormtail," hissed a voice off to the right. "Take his wand."
Harry had just enough time to look over and see the traitor holding a large bundle before ropes shot out of the yew wand held in a hand with only three fingers.
He was set in front of a tombstone, like before, but this time he couldn't read the name on it. Instead of contemplating that, he focused on what Wormtail was doing as he finished getting the potion ready. Maybe it was different this time, but Harry could see how nervous the man was as he put the last of the non-reactive ingredients in the large cauldron. Suddenly, the fire underneath the cauldron was extinguished, and Harry knew that it was Showtime.
AN2: Was it worth the wait? Let me know!