Disclaimer: I do not own anything of Harry Potter it all belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Cheating time, Unwilling fate.
It was done at last. Voldemort died along with many of his Death Eaters and his other minions. The battle of Hogwarts was over. Harry looked around the hospital wing. People were hugging their friends and relatives, and tending to the wounded. His eyes swept through the makeshift hospital wing erected in the great hall. Healers were scurrying around all over the place looking after the injured, the elves were busily distributing food and drinks and the Aurors were combing the castle for any hidden survivors or death eaters lying hidden waiting to ensnare any possible victim. He took a deep breath and walked out into the grounds. Signs of death and destruction were everywhere. The castle had a gaping hole in the front where the huge doors used to be; the door has given way and was lying in a heap on the side, numerous scorch marks on its once magnificent front. The walls had sustained heavy spell fire last night; thankfully most of it had survived. It could be remade and redecorated again to its former magnificence soon.
After a hectic morning Harry, Ron and Hermione left for the Burrow to rest and make arrangements for Fred's funeral.
The funeral was a sad affair. Harry stood up, careful not to shift his feet and walked to the small copse behind the graveyard. He grabbed the thing he had been fingering for so long, the ebony box in his pocket. He sighed. He had spent a fair amount of time figuring out what he wanted to do now. The real cost had been too much for him to bear. Remus was dead and with him the last of the Marauders was gone, the last link to his parents. Seeing Sirius and his parents last night had bought home the personal cost of this war to his life. His friends were here but his family was gone. He remembered his Mother's face and felt a keen sense of loss. Nobody has ever talked about her to him, except Slughorn in his sixth year and even those were tiny pieces he had hoarded over the years. He had never known the woman who gave him life and then gave her life for him. Dumbledore had even used her memory to blackmail Snape. He may have forgiven his own death but all the manipulations around his life were too much for him to forgive. Thanks to Dumbledore his whole life has been one long horror story which had lunged from one disaster to other.
Professor McGonagall flooed in at Burrow in the afternoon next day and asked him to visit as soon as possible. Harry, Ron and Hermione flooed to Hogwarts and found that the Governors were demanding the school to close, citing the heavy damage to the castle and loss of life. McGonagall had persuaded them to keep school open if the Ministry doubled the Aurors stationed in Hogsmead. Kingsley had complied with the request promptly but insisted on a meeting with him. In the end, Hogwarts was granted permission to remain open with the crumbling walls being repaired as soon as possible.
Harry went straight to the Minister's office and met with Kingsley. There he was apprised of the more grim news. There was a major power scramble on, in both Wizengamot and the Ministry. Not all the Death Eaters were caught and the Ministry was rife with corruption. Many of the Death Eaters or their sympathizers, mainly Purebloods were either dead or incarcerated in Azkaban at the moment; but the allies were stepping in fast, to gain the lost ground. Kingsley himself, with the Order of the Phoenix, was in a tussle to secure prominent seats in the Government. Harry was also warned of some laws which were in draft before the battle of Hogwarts took place. His hackles rose when he read one of the chosen few. Had he been a few months late in getting rid of Riddle, Muggleborn witches and wizards would have been auctioned of to be broodmares and studs for the incest riddled Pureblood families. He was thoroughly disgusted when he finished reading the other drafts. The next few hours were spent in meetings and politically maneuvering through the grim reality that was the Ministry. It left him with a strange sense of disgust with the system. How had the rot reached till the very core of the administration? It was a precarious disaster held together tenuously at the moment and in need of a thorough clean up. It also opened his eyes to the very real danger to him. He could very well be arrested for his rebellious role against the previous government. It was time to put a contingency plan in place.
When Harry left the Minister's office, he directly went to get his Apparition License. Harry had then gone to Gringotts. The Potter vault and his other vaults contained money, jewelry, a few magical artifacts, lots of books and some papers, papers that might give him a place and an identity to hide. Harry had the vaults emptied and transferred to his personal vault. He then went to buy a trunk much like the one Moody used to carry but shrinkable, then went back and put about half of what he owned in his trunk, shrunk it and put it around his neck on a chain.
Harry wasn't too happy with the end result of the war. In his view, his task was done. Voldemort was dead. He wanted to just close his eyes and wish for the world to disappear but he knew that his chances of doing that were nil unless he can completely disappear. They would most likely soon call him to account for his lawbreaking, while on the run. Yet, leaving was like admitting that things weren't going to get better, wasn't it? He was still a target. His friends certainly wouldn't stand for the kinds of nasty allegations people would level at him. Ron was going to have a little tough time but he had his family and Hermione for support. Not that he didn't deserve happiness, finally. But still... sighing, Harry added a couple of items to one of the mental orders he'd already gone through. Hermione was less difficult to decide about. She was relatively safe and she had Ron.
Harry was tempted to skip dinner, but he had a feeling that Mrs. Weasley wouldn't be so tolerant. Besides, he was hungry, so cooping himself up in his room was a bit immature. Even he could see that, mad as he was at delegation from Wizengamot that had the audacity to show up when he was with Kingsley today, and demand his compliance to the law and provide an accurate account of the battle i.e. his culpability in the laws broken that day. Kingsley may be the temporary Minister, but he was still figuring out his control. Later in the day, he had picked up hints of a certain law being tossed about; a potential decree for everybody to become baby producing factories, a compulsory marriage law. It set his teeth on the edge. He had no desire to ever get chained to anybody. He had his escape planned; a villa in France which he had inherited would be perfectly suited, if things came to a head.
The evening sun soothed his frayed nerves. He had never slept last night or this whole day. He simply wanted to rest; rest in peace for a long time where nobody could disturb him. His hands dug into his robes and touched a box residing there. He bought it out, opened it and eyed its content curiously. He had accidentally found it in the Department of Mysteries in his fifth year and later hidden in the Room of Requirement, never knowing what it was until the night of the battle. It was a 'Time Portal' which could transcend through decades altogether with appropriate spells; much advanced than a regular time turner and powerful enough to cut off an entire timeline without the fear of paradoxes if certain requirements were met. It was his backup plan up until he had discovered that he had to die first. The rest was history.
Now, he was still alive and his life was still free for him to do as he pleased. This afternoon he had named Teddy Lupin as his heir, reinstated Andromeda Tonks into the Black family and given both Hermione and Weasleys a considerable fortune as gifts via Gringotts. They would find out once he was gone. He had done everything he ever wanted to do. There was nothing else left for him here. The afternoon's confrontation was still clear in his mind.
'Maybe there were more members of wizarding community desperate to curry his good favor than bad, now that he had emerged a victor', Harry mused. The surviving members of Order, along with Kingsley were firmly in control of the Government. That would explain why McGonagall had been less worried about Harry's safety while he wandered around the still being repaired castle. There had been several attempts to gain access to him, Ron and Hermione already, most of them bordering on ludicrous, due in part to the sheer numbers of trusted Aurors, who were screening all the mail and persons, in and out of Hogwarts. All three of them were bombarded with outrageous numbers of marriage proposals, contracts and offers of businesses asking for patronage; some left them in stitches, some left them glowering at the indecency of it.
Hermione had tried to talk to him about sanctioning some of the proposals which while looked and sounded good but his instincts screamed at him, not to consider. Hermione had not taken the rejection well. Ron was well Ron; he simply shrugged his shoulders and went back to his lunch.
Shortly thereafter, he had been cornered by a Wizengamot delegation, again headed by not yet arrested upstart Garret Thicknesse, the nephew of Pious Thicknesse who was in Azkaban for being a Death Eater (Minister while Voldemort was running the Ministry behind the scenes)
Harry opened his mouth to say a few choice words, something along the lines of I have it on good authority that you can't force me to accept any of your drivel, if that's what this is all about, but before he could speak, Garret Thicknesse was opening the conversation himself.
"Mr. Potter," he began, "We were hoping to see you this evening. The Wizengamot today had an open session and have decided to grant you and your friends, a full pardon on any laws you and your friends broke during the Dark Lord's reign." He bit out as if it was painful for him to utter the good news.
Recognizing the placation, Harry lifted his nose a fraction and airily asked, "Oh, was that all? Given that I saw you just yesterday harping a different tune I would say this came as a surprise."
Thicknesse gave him a smile as thin as a razor's edge. "I needed time to consult with my colleagues and the Wizengamot before I could do anything. Anyways, the Malfoys are grateful for the help you gave them during the battle. I dare say they still have vaults to flaunt."
Harry relaxed a bit, though he was thrown by the fact that Malfoys were still able to smooth things over by throwing down galleons, even if they were in Azkaban; he guessed saving Draco's life counted for something. Harry narrowed his eyes, "I see. Its' good then, that I did."
A ripple of discontent coursed through the visiting group, so palpable that Harry could practically smell it. The Malfoys were definitely not popular with this bunch.
Garret Thicknesse, however, appeared a bit stunned. "You know that both the senior and junior Mr. Malfoys were Death Eaters?"
"So was Snape." He leveled a glare at him, as if to say, Did you miss the part where I mentioned that he was a spy till his dying breath?
Thicknesse looked away but a minute later focused his gaze back on Harry. "I didn't mean any offense. I hope you understand it's just that the whole thing seems... weird."
"It's not weird to me," Harry announced, shoving his hands in his pockets. "And I happen to think that my opinion is the only one that matters. If you have a problem with me being influenced by other people, it's your problem, not mine."
Thicknesse set his lips in a thin line, looking as though he most definitely had a problem, but what he said was, "We're not here to argue with you, Mr. Potter. We thought you might appreciate a show of support."
Harry sneered scathingly and hissed, "I know about the law you were trying to pass in today's session, Garret Thicknesse. Compulsory marriage law. It's good riddance that you couldn't pass muster or I might have to tear down the Wizengamot too."
Garret Thicknesse looked in his eyes and retorted." War takes a lot out of us, Mr. Potter. The wizarding world needs to regroup and reshuffle to adapt to the new realities. We must make hard choices….."
"….For the grater good. Wasn't that Gridenwald's slogan."Thicknesse flinched. Harry glared malevolently over to the rest of the group and walked away.
He had to leave. There would be other plots soon enough. In that moment, he took out the box in his pocket and seriously contemplated his decision. He was going to hide in his past, perhaps meet his parents and live his life unencumbered. Changing Fate may not be in his hands but at least he could be around them as a friend. He took out the Time Portal.
"Harry", someone he knew very well called. Looking back he saw Ginny standing behind him. Her long hair flaming past her shoulders gave her an amazing aura in the sunlight. She was one of the reasons why he had not outright plunged in the Time Portal the night of the battle.
"Ginny," he whispered, his voice intense. She gave him the blazing look that had always made him weak.
"I know you are leaving." At his startled look, she smiled, "You're angry at everybody …. Go." Her eyes were tinged with both sadness and hope, "They say that if you love someone you set them free. You need to heal Harry. If we are meant to be, you will come back."
He nodded releasing a breath he never knew he was holding. Taking a last glance back, he murmured the spell he needed, opened the locket and stepped through the wormhole. A brief flash of light…..Harry disappeared.