Chapter 1: The Fallen One
Ginny slowly trudged her way onto the battlefield. Around her lay many corpses, the bodies of those Death Eaters still foolish enough to stand with the Dark Lord. They bore a variety of wounds, as many of them sporting conventional injuries as spell damage. There, on her left, was a man whose ribcage was laid open by a Reductor Curse, and several feet past him was a huge blond man whose neck had been violently twisted to the right. Dozens of bodies littered the area, some not damaged much at all, others barely recognizable, but all dead. The whole place was a gruesome sight. She glanced around.
It's amazing that once upon a time a scene like this would have made me hurl just at the sight of it. Now I barely blink.
She finally reached her destination, a spot on the far side of the bloodbath from which smoke rose in a great plume of black.
There he was. Standing amongst the flames, with a crater beneath his feet was the gaunt and haunted figure of Harry Potter, The Chosen One, as he used to be known. Nowadays, of course, he was known by another name, one far more appropriate to his new temperament. Nowadays, they just called him…The Fallen One.
Ginny drew closer, looking to a twisted mass of red and black on the ground. It was barely recognizable as having once been human…well, close enough, anyway.
It's over, she realized. He did it. He killed him. Sadness filled her eyes. But at what cost.
She raised her wand, waving it and creating a path to Harry through the flames. Quickly closing the distance, she hugged him tightly to break the trance that had him currently staring blankly at the flames around him. Technically she needed only to touch him for it to break, but it was finally over, and she wanted to feel him against her, no matter that he was covered with the blood of his enemies.
The trance broke. Harry fell to his knees, dragging Ginny with him. He gasped for air. His formerly empty eyes now filled with exhaustion and pain.
"Ginny," he choked out around his gasps. "It's over. It's finally over." With that, he broke down into sobs.
"Yes, Harry, shhh," said Ginny. "Save what strength you have left. Tell me how he died tomorrow, after you've had a good long rest. Merlin knows you've earned it."
With that, she clutched him to her even more tightly, and twisted herself as best she could to pull them both into the black compression of Apparition. The final battlefield was left as it was. The dead deserved not burial. After all, there were no fallen friends. They had died long ago.
Harry woke. Where was Ginny, he wondered. She knew better than to leave him alone these days.
As soon as he had that thought, she came back into the room from the adjoining bathroom, her face pink from scrubbing, and wearing what looked like a nightgown.
"Harry! You're awake," she said. "I just wanted to wash my face."
He nodded, and she lay down in the bed next to him. "What's with the nightgown?" he asked, his voice soft.
She raised an eyebrow. "Well, I figured since it wasn't likely that we would have to get up in an instant anymore, I'd try wearing actual nightclothes for once. It's been years since I even bothered."
It was then that he noticed where they were. It appeared to be one of the bedrooms in Sirius' old house, Grimmauld Place.
"This place is still standing?" He said. "Of all the houses to be left intact, this had to be the one. The Burrow's gone, and most of the Wizarding houses are rubble."
"I was surprised too. I brought us here on a whim, looking for a place to stay the night that wouldn't result in us lying on the ground, in the cold."
"I don't care if I'd had to sleep on a bed of nails. That damn monster is finally gone, after all these years," said Harry, his eyes going cold.
"About that," said Ginny, her eyes questioning. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Every detail. Not that there was much besides blood and death. After you and I got separated, what else could you expect?"
Ginny grimaced. "True," she said darkly. Her eyebrows drew together. "Look, it's not your fault that we walked into that ambush. It all worked out for the best, didn't it?"
"Yeah, I suppose so," Harry said reluctantly. "It's ironic, though. Albus always thought it would be the power of love that defeated Voldemort. Sure didn't feel like love to me." His hands clenched on the bed. "And I love you, Ginny, but I don't know how much longer I can hold out now."
Confusion appeared on Ginny's face. "Hold out? For what?"
"The insanity, Ginny. Each time it gets harder and harder to come back. Just not being in your presence makes me go berserk within minutes. Sooner or later, I won't be able to regain myself. When that happens, I want you to kill me."
She seized him roughly by the shoulders. "What?! No! Never! We've lost too much already to give up now, Harry!"
"I know," Harry said miserably. "But what else is there to do? I thought killing Voldemort might free me, but obviously not."
"We'll find someone who can help you, Harry. I know we will," Ginny said with conviction.
"Yeah…" said Harry. I'm not sure there's anyone, or anything, who can do something about it now. Albus… Slughorn… all the greatest wizards of our time, and the times before us are dead.
"So what happened after you and I were separated? I was just held captive till I managed to snatch a wand off one of the guards. By the time I finished and got to you, it was already over," Ginny said.
Harry grimaced. "Well, as you can guess, after you were captured, I lost it. I tried to follow your trail but there were just too many enemies in the way, so I lost you." He sighed. "Then Voldemort decided to show once and for all who was the stronger between us; after making me fight through his legions of Death Eaters first, of course. Not that that was much of a problem for me, in that state." Raising his hands to his eyes, his stare seemed to bore through them, right into the floor. "Eventually, I got to him. He had no Horcruxes left, no Death Eaters, just me and him. He put up a hell of a fight, but eventually I managed to cripple him with a Cutter, and followed it up with a series of Exploding Curses."
"… and that's why you were surrounded by flames when I found you."
Harry nodded. "We should get dressed," he said. "We should find out if there are any of our old acquaintances still alive."
"Where should we start?" Ginny asked as she stood up from the bed.
"Where else but where it all began? Hogwarts."
The two of them trudged slowly up the trail to the ancient castle. They could have simply Apparated into the castle itself, these days, due to the broken enchantments, but instead appeared in Hogsmeade, out of habit. The village was a burned out husk, a ghost town. Not surprising given that ninety percent of the Wizarding population of Great Britain was either wiped out or in hiding. Harry and Ginny had looked around sadly at the Three Broomsticks and all the other shops in the area, before moving on.
As they approached the ruined doors, Ginny asked the obvious question. "What do you expect to find here, Harry?"
"An old friend," he replied simply. "And if we find some other friends, well, that's just a bonus."
She noticed that they were heading towards the Headmaster's office. But why? Hogwarts had been destroyed by the Death Eaters years ago.
As they reached the gargoyle that still guarded the stairs, chipped and broken as it was, Harry pulled out his wand.
"Stand back," he said. "I'm not sure how many of the old protective spells are still in effect, so I'm going to use full power."
Ginny nodded and backed around a nearby corner. Turning back, satisfied, he raised the wand in his left hand, and screamed, "REDUCTO!" A brilliant ray of pure red light slammed into the gargoyle with tremendous force, shattering it. Suddenly, lightning danced in the air where the gargoyle once stood, and the ground cracked. Shrapnel flew everywhere from the force of the blast, reflecting off the shield Harry had erected just in case.
"Harry, are you mad?" Ginny asked. "Did you know that was going to happen?"
"Not that specifically, no. I expected some of the original charms and curses to still be active; after all, they stood for a thousand years, why would they give out now?" He waved his wand in a complicated pattern, checking for magical residue. "It seems that that blast succeeded in tearing down all the remaining protections. Let's go," Harry said.
They quickly ascended the stairs and entered the surprisingly undamaged Headmaster's office. As soon as they entered, voices assailed them from all sides.
"Did you do it?"
"What's going on?"
"SILENCE!" roared a familiar voice. Its tone softened. "Hello, Harry, Ginny. I take it Voldemort has been destroyed then?"
"Yes sir," Harry said to the portrait of Albus Dumbledore. "He's gone. But unfortunately so are all our friends, and most of the Wizarding population of Great Britain." He waved the wand that was still in his hand, summoning and repairing two chairs in one motion. They sat, looking directly at the late headmaster all the while.
"I… I don't know what to do now sir. He's gone, and the madness is getting harder to control. Soon I won't be able to return, and I won't let Ginny be hurt by anything, let alone me." Ginny put her hand on his shoulder, giving it a tight squeeze.
"I see," said Dumbledore. "Have you attempted to locate someone who can help you?"
"Yes," Harry said simply. "Anyone who could is either dead, or missing in action, which essentially means the same thing these days.
The headmasters face was troubled. "Well, that I can only think of one thing that might help you. Magically removing insanity from a human being has been tried before, and the results… were not very pleasant," he said.
"What is that one thing then, sir…?" Harry said hesitantly, adding the "sir" out of pure habit.
"The Tribunal of Fate," Dumbledore said. "It is a magical test of character, power, and strength."
"How does it work?" Ginny asked.
"First, a ceremony must be performed, then, you must pass the trials. If you succeed, you are granted one wish." Dumbledore said.
"Could we wish our friends back?" Harry asked.
"I… do not know, Harry. The powers of the Tribunal of Fate have never been tested."
"Why not?" Ginny asked.
"Because, my dear Ginny, no one before has passed the trials." The portrait turned to Harry. "I think it would be wise to simply wish for a way to deal with your problem, Harry. Testing an untested power can be dangerous."
Harry paused, considering. "Where can we find instructions for the ceremony?" he asked, his mind made up.
"This ritual potion is really complicated," Ginny commented. "Three hundred and fifteen different ingredients, three different blessings, and a strange maturation cycle."
"I'm just glad it's almost done," Harry said. He had grown very weak and was constantly haggard throughout the last four months. The strain of fighting off the madness was taking its toll. "Tomorrow, we attempt the summoning of the Tribunal."
She kissed him on the cheek gently. "I'm sure we'll be fine." She said reassuringly.
"Yeah," Harry said without conviction. He'd seen too many people who said they'd be "fine" dead and buried to take such a claim without mountainous piles of salt.
The next day, after having rested as best he could these days, Harry led Ginny to the place were they had assembled all the components of the ritual, a deserted clearing in west England. A pentagram was drawn in wizard's sand, a marvelous but extremely rare commodity, which amplified any magic performed atop its pure white grains. Formerly extraordinarily expensive, wizard's sand had been easy for them to come by. After all, Knockturn Alley was deserted these days, and who would miss a barrel full of apparently ordinary sand? Certainly not the motley bunch of bandits who roamed those streets now, as they were barely more than rats.
The other components of the ritual were harder to procure, such as a strange potion requiring very powerful and hard to find ingredients, as well as a month of maturation before the final ingredient could be added – the blood of the user or users. Yesterday they added their blood to the potion. Today would "decide their fate", as it were.
"Are you ready?" Harry asked Ginny.
"No, but let's do it anyway," she replied. Harry nodded, and he raised a cupful of the potion they'd worked so hard to brew. Slowly, he poured it in a pattern roughly along the lines of the pentagram. After that was complete, he began to recite the words that were necessary to finish the ritual.
"Oh, judgment most divine, we call you to this earth
Powers untold, we wish your aid
We seek your eyes, so we may prove our worth
Now rise up and let us show you, that we are not afraid!"
Nothing happened. The two looked around, disappointment setting in, but before they could give in to despair, the potion-soaked pentagram on which they stood suddenly glowed with a brilliant green, bathing the trees around the clearing in an eerie light.
A black something began rising from the center of the star, and the two backed off the sand, allowing it room to grow.
The something proved to be a set of three chairs, thrones really, occupied by seemingly ordinary men. The one on the left was tall with a long blonde beard, the one on the right was short, black haired and clean shaven, and the one between them was of a medium height, and possessed a light brown goatee. They gazed on Harry and Ginny with disdain.
"Why have you called forth the Tribunal?" they asked in unison.
Ginny answered before Harry could, deciding to be blunt. "We wish to attempt your tests, so that we may be granted one wish."
"Very well. Which of you will be competing? Only one can do so," the Tribunal said.
This time, Harry stepped forward more quickly. "I will," he said.
"Do you understand that your life and hers will be forfeit if you fail?"
Ginny jerked in surprise. Albus had mentioned there being consequences for failing, but death?
Harry hesitated slightly, glancing at Ginny, who just nodded. "Yes," he said simply.
"Very well. There will be 3 trials. Pass them all, and if it is within our power, your wish shall be granted," intoned the three judges. Harry vanished in a flash of light.
"Harry!" Ginny shouted. She turned to the Tribunal. "Where is he?" she demanded.
Rather than respond, the blond judge waved his hand, conjuring a mirror from nowhere. With another wave, Harry's image appeared.
Ginny was gone! Harry thought in a panic. He immediately felt the madness stir. This wasn't good. If he remained separated for much longer he'd lose himself.
"This is the Trial of Courage. Hesitate even for a second, and you will die," the Tribunal's voices boomed.
Harry glanced around. He was in a narrow corridor, the walls simple stone, with no decoration but the torches that lit the way. He stepped forward.
Suddenly, the stones opened all around him, revealing deadly traps.
Harry moved as fast as he could, all the while gingerly avoiding the traps. A grumble sounded behind him, and he chanced a quick glance back. The wall behind him had suddenly grown three foot metal spikes, and was advancing on him quickly.
"Shit!" he shouted, no longer able to move carefully, and having no choice but to run at full speed.
Spears and other bladed weapons fired from all directions, pitfalls opened up on the floor, and spinning blades swung out into the corridor. Harry dodged them all. He twisted and turned around the weapons, jumped over the pitfalls, and sped past the blades. Ten feet from the end of the hall, however, Harry slipped. He lost his footing, sliding on the smooth stone of the floor, as a spinning whirl of death whipped back at him. Standing quickly, he leapt as high as he could, attempting to clear himself from the path of the blade. He made it, but was cut badly along his inner calf. The wound bled profusely, quickly soaking through the Muggle jeans that he wore. Landing hard, he winced at moving the injured limb, but forced himself to move quickly once again.
Finally, he made it, the spikes that had chased him locking into place at the end of the hallway. Panting, he looked around. He was in a strange room, filled almost entirely with an unusual construction. He moved closer, limping slightly. Examining the thing more closely, it seemed to be some sort of puzzle, with three levers that obviously controlled the mechanism.
"The Trial of the Mind," the Tribunal's voices boomed suddenly. "You have three minutes to unravel this puzzle, and open the door to the third and final test. Be warned, only one of the levers will open the portal. The other two release a deadly poison into the air."
Harry examined the machine again. It was useless. All the working parts were concealed by a metal casing. Raising his wand, he muttered, "Reducto." As he'd thought, the spell crackled against an invisible shield that was protecting the machine. "Great," Harry said. "There has to be some sort of clue as to which lever is the right one." He glanced around. There, on the door was an inscription.
I am heart of all things. Find me, and you will find yourself.
"I am the heart of all things…" Harry murmured. "Heart. Does that mean the center, the middle lever? Is it that simple? But what does the second phrase mean?"
Harry eyed the center lever carefully.
"The center… find yourself?" Harry mused. "It's got to be it. The second phrase was just there to throw me off." Steeling himself, Harry grabbed the center lever, and pulled.
Ginny's heart had nearly stopped several times already. When Harry fell, and took that wound to his leg, she been paralyzed with fear, and now, as he contemplated the puzzle in the Tribunal's so-called "Trial of the Mind", Ginny felt compelled to speak to the strange beings.
"What happens if he fails to solve the puzzle within three minutes?" she asked, afraid of the answer.
"It will be exactly as if he had pulled the wrong lever. The room will be filled with a lethal poison, and he will die," the three said in unison.
"How can you be so casual, talking about his death like that?" she shouted, tears filling her eyes. She had always felt compelled to not cry in front of Harry. He had enough problems on his plate as it was. Now, however, it was too much. She'd held it in for too long, and her mind had reached the breaking point.
"Human affairs are not our concern," the three spoke. "We involve ourselves only to fulfill our ancient and sacred duty. You called, we answered, and you will both have to deal with the consequences."
Harry yanked the middle lever towards himself, praying that he'd guessed correctly. He heard a hiss, and cursed, thinking he'd failed. However, the door creaked slowly open, and he passed through, immensely glad that he had been right. Harry's leg still throbbed in time with his heartbeat. I've got to tie this off,he realized. If I don't, I'm going to lose too much blood. He bent, tearing off a large strip of his shirt to make a jury-rigged bandage. That'll do for now. But I have to end this quickly. The madness is getting closer, he thought, rubbing at his head with his fists.
He strode to the end of this new corridor, glad that it did not mimic the first, but at the same time dreading what came next. He pushed open the great wooden doors that stood in his way. His mouth widened slightly in amazement. Before him was a great stadium, with a life-size statue of an ogre at the exact center.
Suddenly, he felt his wand's familiar weight leave his hand. "What the- ?!" He shouted.
"This is the Trial of Strength," spoke the Tribunal. "You will prove your strength as a warrior; without magic."
Harry stared in horror as the stone ogre came to life, its great stone blade flashing around it as it took a few practice swings. At the same time, he felt a new, far heavier weight appear in his hand. Glancing down, he found himself holding a broadsword, made of steel, and razor sharp.
The ogre charged, and Harry was surprised by its speed. He barely dodged, amazed how it moved despite its size.
Sprinting to the other side of the room, behind the meager cover of a pillar, Harry was somewhat desperate. How am I supposed to kill a ten-foot Ogre with nothing but a sword? The Ogre swung it's huge sword, smashing through the pillar easily, forcing Harry to leap down and to the side to avoid being crushed. Scrambling to his feet, he ran for distance again.
Its legs. That's the only weak point I can think of. I don't know if I'll be able to do any damage, but if I can get it down to the ground, I can try and blind it. Resolved, Harry raised his sword. As it came at him again, instead of dodging his opponent's weapon like before, he dashed forward as best he could on his injured leg. Sliding underneath the stone being, he struck out with his broadsword, leaving a long scar on the back of its leg. The creature roared with pain. Rising to his feet, Harry struck again, at the other leg, with similar results. Its tendons cut, the Ogre fell to its knees. Harry attempted to get closer, and strike a more decisive blow, but a swipe from the creature's claws sliced across his chest in a spray of red blood. Sensing weakness, the Ogre raised it's sword above its head. Its sword flashed down towards Harry.
The blade never made it. With a resounding clang that echoed off the stone walls, Harry's sword intercepted the Ogre's, barely stopping it a centimeter from his face. Displaying remarkable strength that he had not had previously, he gave a great shove, and forced the Ogre's stone sword away from him, and he stood.
"GRAAAAAAH!" roared Harry, his eyes now shining crimson red, eerily reminiscent of the eyes of Lord Voldemort.
"What magic is this?" asked the Tribunal, all six of their eyes focusing on Ginny for the first time.
"It's Harry's magic gone berserk. Ever since he lost our closest friends, one of whom was my brother, he's been like this. He can't stay away from me for too long or he loses his sanity to the magic. It forces him to fight, fight harder that his body can really handle. His physical strength, speed, and his magical power are all increased," Ginny explained, trying to keep the explanation as short as possible.
"We see. Then it is impossible to separate him from this magic, as he is a slave to it. We understand," intoned the Tribunal. "In this state, he is quite the effective warrior."
Indeed, from the view in the mirror, Harry was tearing the formerly mighty Ogre to pieces. It was already missing one of its arms, and the other was only hanging on by a thread.
Please, Harry. Come back this time. Don't give in, Ginny pleaded.
"RAAAAAAAH!" Harry screamed again, swinging his sword with all his might, and finally killing the Dark beast, severing its head from its neck. The head flew, bounced once, and then hit the ground with the crack of breaking rock. The creature had already turned back into stone.
His magic still raging uncontrollably, Harry swung his sword again, shattering the Ogre's remaining arm.
Just then, a white glow surrounded him and whisked him away.
He reappeared in the original clearing, with Ginny. She immediately grabbed his hand.
"Calm down, Harry," she said. "Calm down." She repeated in a more commanding voice.
"Ginny…" Harry's voice said weakly. Ginny smiled. Thank Merlin, she thought.
"You have proven yourself worthy, wizard. We return to you your wand, and we shall grant you the one wish that was promised, as long as it is within our power to grant."
Ginny opened her mouth to speak, but Harry raised a hand and cut her off. "Can you bring everyone back? All our friends, their families?" he asked quickly.
The Tribunal glanced at each other. "No," they intoned. "We are afraid that life and death are outside our power. However… we can make it so you can make sure they stay alive. A second chance, if you will."
"What do you mean," Ginny asked suspiciously.
"We can send you back through time, to the moment of your choosing," they said. "You will, unfortunately, have to merge with your younger selves, and become one being. You shall retain all of your memories, but any physical attributes you may have, be it amount of magical power, or just strength, will be as they were when you were younger."
"Let's do it, Ginny. It's a chance to save everyone! We'll never get a chance like this again," he said, turning to her.
"Harry, even if everything works out as planned, and we return to the past, how will you deal with the madness? You can't be near me at all times if we go back to Hogwarts, and that's exactly how far back we'll have to go if you really want to save everyone," Ginny said. "It's a better idea just to wish away your problem, and then we can find a quiet place to settle down and rebuild."
"Rebuild? Rebuild what, Ginny? Everything we knew is gone. Your family, our friends. They're all dead. Most of the Wizarding buildings have been razed to the ground. The Muggles are running scared. It's only a matter of time until the rest of the world finds what's left of us and sends in soldiers to destroy that too!"
Ginny was quiet for a several minutes. "Alright, we'll do it," she said softly. "We should only go back to your second year. That way, I'll at least be in Hogwarts in case something happens."
Harry nodded. "Nothing too bad happened in my first year anyway. Apart from Quirrell dying, anyway." He scowled. "Not that he was much of a loss, being a container for Voldemort and all."
"We've decided," Harry said, turning to the Tribunal. "Send us back to my second year, when we're getting on the train at King's Cross."
"Very well. So it was chosen, and that is your Fate. Fare well, young ones," said the Tribunal. The three of them rose to their feet, and swept their hands before them, sending sparks of light flying everywhere. Harry and Ginny looked around, nervous. He grabbed at her hand, and squeezed tight. The light surrounded them… and everything was gone…
"I don't understand why the gateway's sealed itself- " said a familiar voice. "Harry? You okay?" (1)
"Ron?" Harry said, holding his head.
"Yeah, what is it? Do you have some idea of how to get through this barrier?" the redheaded, freckled Weasley asked.
It is Ron! He's alive! Harry thought joyously. He looked around himself, recognizing the station that he'd most recently seen lying in ruins, the tracks twisted and scorched from the power of the curses used in the battle of King's Cross.
I remember this. Harry realized. Dobby sealed the barrier to try and prevent me from reaching Hogwarts! He studied the still solid barrier quickly, examining the flows of magic. Aha! He thought triumphantly. He drew his wand surreptitiously, making a small, complicated motion with it, and muttered "Effligo Signum." The barrier shimmered slightly. Harry glanced around. No one had noticed.
"Let's go," he said to Ron, stepping through the now unsealed barrier. Steam was pouring out of the stack of the Hogwarts Express. They sprinted towards the train.
"WAAAIT!" shouted Ron.
"So you were late because the barrier sealed itself for no apparent reason?" Hermione asked, obviously skeptical.
"Yeah, and then Harry looked at it for a minute, and made it open with his wand!" said Ron, who had just settled down after the mad dash to catch the train.
"Harry! You're not supposed to do magic outside of school!" chided Hermione.
"Relax," Harry said. "With all the magic around here, the chance of the Ministry detecting the magic is almost nonexistent. Besides, we're heading back to school. I doubt we'd be penalized too heavily." Hermione relaxed somewhat.
"Still, you shouldn't go breaking rules like that!" she said.
God how I missed these two, Harry thought. "I know, Hermione," said Harry calmly. "It was an emergency, and it probably won't happen again." He stood up from where he had taken a seat near the window. "I'm going to the loo." He opened the sliding door to the compartment, and shut it behind him.
I've got to find Ginny, Harry thought. Before the madness-
He stopped in his tracks, nearly knocking over another student passing through. I don't feel it! He realized. Ever since it's emergence with the death of Ron, madness had always been right beneath the surface, lurking. I can always feel it, Harry thought. What's going on? His desire to find Ginny intensified, and he resumed walking, faster than before.
He finally found her in the rear of the train, chatting with the twins- something to do with classes. After a moment, they noticed him.
"Harry, mate!" the twins said. Ginny hung back, looking nervous to be around him, like she had in years long past, even down to the nearly ever-present blush.
Harry's stomach dropped. Oh no. What if Ginny didn't come back?
AN: Cliffhanger, Haha! Well, I'm giving this author thing another shot now that I've got a bit of free time. Yes, it's a time travel fic. Cliché, I know. But I've read so many of them that I just felt compelled to write my own. You know the drill. Read, review. Point out mistakes, unbelievable OOC-ness, the like. I'll do my best to write them better from then on. Also, if anyone has a better idea for that "chant" used in the ceremony; please, review or PM me, I know it's horrible. I can't rhyme or write poetry worth my life. All credit will be given!
Disclaimer: The above is a work of fiction that was created for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made. The characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and her associates.
(1) Ron's first line is directly from the book "Chamber of Secrets." Credit to J.K. Rowling.