Disclaimer: HP belongs to JKR/OCs belong to me
Chapter 91: The Final Temptation
"Hello, Harry," Luna said, reaching down with a hand to help Harry up, the Sword of Gryffindor behind held in her other hand. "It's good to see you."
Harry hugged Luna, taking care to avoid the Sword as he was still concerned it might burn him, even though he knew he had to be dead. "It's so good to see you too but I have to be honest, I could've waited a good deal longer to die than I did."
"Actually you're sort of not dead but you are," Luna said confusingly, before beginning to explain. "You were holding the Sword when you entered the Propylaeum, and it protected you up to a point."
"Up to a point?"
"It can still save you but only if you finish the ritual."
"No," said Harry without any hesitation. "I walked through that archway so I wouldn't have to become immortal."
"What if I could offer you a way to complete the ritual but not live forever?"
"Would I still be dead?"
Not surprisingly, this appealed to Harry a good deal more. "Then the answer's yes. But I can't finish the ritual, the artifacts aren't…." Harry's voice trailed off as the Cartouches shimmered into view as did the stone tablet and the small round Key. "Okay, so what do I do?"
"You complete the ritual as you should've done, and then you pass the gift of immortality on to me."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "But why do you want to live forever?"
"Do you remember Atropos?"
As Luna said 'Atropos', Harry gasped as memory after memory from his previous life flooded into his mind, his patchy dreams now becoming distinct recollections. Only after he got his breath back did he say, "Yes, of course."
"Well, she failed her mother's test when she messed up during her last lifetime as a mortal and treated you worse than Malfoy treated his house-elves."
Harry's mouth fell open as he put two and two together and came up with a resounding four. "You're not telling me she was my aunt…"
"How else did she know about Remus' lupinism and your past dealings?"
"You've lost me."
Luna snapped her fingers. "I forgot. Remus obliviated you of your aunt's execution, so let me enlighten you."
Harry again gasped as his memory was restored, and he could remember his aunt dying and her final words to him; but only now did his aunt's words about Harry's hands being awash with blood make sense. "She knew who I was from my previous life, didn't she?"
"On her final day, she did, just as Nyx promised she would."
This brought up a very good couple of questions for Harry. "So how do you know this, and how could you restore my memory like that?"
"I'm sort of a temporary god," Luna said, with a bright smile and not a little excitement. "Nyx needed someone to take Atropos' place, and because I'm Atropos' last living descendant from when she lived her life as a mortal, I have the right stuff."
All at once things began to fall into place for Harry. "Is it also why you could see things like Nargles and Snorkacks when no-one else could?"
"Yes, and it's why it was my relative who saw the Grismacks when no-one else did. And it's also why I need to become immortal. This incarnation is just temporary and it's causing a few problems," Luna admitted, sitting down on the steps and pulling Harry down beside her. "Because I can't see everything, a lot of people who are supposed to be dying in a particular way aren't."
"I don't understand."
"You will," Luna said cryptically. "Or at least Nyx said you will once you accept the gift, so please, Harry, say yes."
"Is this what you really want though, to live forever and to help people die?"
But even as she said it, Harry could see that Luna was far from enamored of the idea. "So why even do this? I can see how upsetting it would be for you."
"Because I can make a difference," Luna said, before sharing one of her reasons. "You see, I can help people to die differently than Atropos may have, even though sadly I can't change the manner of their death. If someone is going to die violently there's nothing I can do about that, but I can choose the method of the violence."
"Still doesn't sound any better."
"I could choose if you die in a Muggle airplane crash or by torture," Luna said, trying to make it clear to Harry.
"Luna, you can't simply let everyone die in a Muggle air crash," Harry said, guessing that his friend would choose to do something like that for everyone destined to die a violent death.
"I know," Luna said, having had plenty of time to think this through. "And if someone has been bad, then they deserve to die in a manner befitting their crime."
Luna pressed a finger to Harry's lips. "Harry, I know I'm going to have to make some tough decisions if I become immortal, but even if I can only make death easy for a few, then I'd choose to live forever to do it."
"Do you know how I'm going to die?" Harry asked after a few moments of silence, curiosity getting the better of him.
"Not yet but I will if you pass on the gift, and no, I won't be able to tell you."
Before he said yes to Luna's request, Harry wondered how it could be put into practice. "So what do I have to do to pass on this gift?"
"Complete the ritual and then kiss me."
Harry grinned. "Are you certain this isn't just a way of getting me to kiss you?"
"Only if you've brushed your teeth," Luna said in a serious voice, making Harry wonder if she meant it. She obviously did as she said, "But even if you haven't, we need to get this going, Harry, otherwise it'll be too late and you'll die, and I don't want you to waste your second chance at life."
"Why was I even given a second chance?" Harry asked as Luna began to tug him down the steps. "I mean I know that Nyx said she was doing it because I shouldn't have died as I did, but there must've been others more worthy than me."
"There were," Luna agreed. "And so, in addition to you, by using the Four Pillars, three people from the worlds where Nyx interfered were chosen to be given a second chance: Remus, Lucy, and Hermione. And although Nyx intended some mischief by allowing Thomas Seville to join you by using the Sword of Gryffindor, the universe thought differently and gave the real one a second chance, since he barely got a chance to live in your last world."
Harry was not really that interested in Seville, but he was in his friends, and something important occurred to him. "Since I'd already remembered some of my previous life, why haven't they?"
"I don't know," Luna said, needing the gift Harry would bestow upon her to gain such knowledge. "Perhaps they have but have chosen not to say anything, or perhaps their brains have been invaded by Wrackspurts and it's too confusing for them."
Harry smiled as he realized that in spite of the burden she was currently bearing, and which would only worsen, Luna was still essentially Luna. "I doubt it's Wrackspurts."
"Then I don't know. You'd have to ask them yourselves."
Harry was by now standing right next to the Cartouches. "So I suppose I rub a little of my blood on these and the Key."
"And recite the Spell and then the final wording on the stone tablet while holding the Sword," Luna added, wanting to make sure Harry was going to do it correctly.
Trying to ignore the pain from the Sword burning into his hand, after smearing his drying blood on to the artifacts and offering up his recital, Harry then dropped to his knees as wave after wave of power hit him.
Dropping the Sword, Harry then got to his feet and turned on Luna, his face aghast. "How can you ask me to give this up? I know everything; I can see everything; I can feel everything."
"Do you understand why I now need the gift?"
Instead of responding to the question, Harry gasped as if he had been struck. "Merlin, no, how could she?"
Luna was more than a little confused. "Pansy?"
"It's her fault," Harry said, his voice trembling with emotion. "I thought she was my friend."
Luna sat down beside a violently shaking Harry. "She loved you. Of course she was your friend."
"She ruined my life," Harry said, his chalk white face showing his shock as visions of what Pansy had done streamed chaotically through his mind.
A soft hand touched his head, and the thoughts and images that were bombarding Harry stilled, causing Harry to look up to see a beautiful redhead looking down at him. "Lachesis." Although Harry had never met her, he knew of her, both from his previous life and from his newly gained knowledge.
"You look as though you need help." Lachesis also sat down. "I know you're feeling betrayed by what you've discovered."
"Why?" Harry's voice was full of hurt, and, even as he asked the question, he already knew the answer thanks to his immortality and the offerings it brought.
"You know why."
Harry let out a long, deep sigh. "She messed things up so badly for me."
"What are you talking about?" Luna asked, of course not possessing the same knowledge Harry and Lachesis currently did.
Lachesis touched Luna's forehead and Luna gasped out loud. "And I thought she'd just been hit by a case of Fizziwigs."
This time Harry had no smile for Luna's quirkiness. "I wish she had been; it would've been better than finding out that for all intents and purposes Pansy betrayed me." He looked worriedly at Lachesis. "Will I forget this if I agree to Luna's demand?"
"Not if my daughter agrees to let you keep your memories of Pansy's betrayal."
Hearing the familiar voice, Harry turned to see Nyx, the mother of Lachesis, and the woman who had granted his second chance at life. "Then I want to remember that, as well as how to help Remus, how to find Dru, how to…"
Lachesis held up her hand. "I'm so sorry, Harry, but there's very little of which I can allow you to retain knowledge."
Harry's lips pursed up in annoyance. "What will you let me keep?"
"Even though I believe it a bad idea, your knowledge of Pansy's betrayal, as you've requested, and the knowledge of those who were also given second chances, since these relate to past events. I cannot, however, let you retain knowledge of future events."
"But Dru will kill her sister if I don't."
"I'm so sorry, but that's how it's meant to be, and, as much as I want to do so, I can't upset the balance of the universe," Lachesis told him, before giving him a warning. "And you should know that this is a one-time offer, Harry; just as you should be aware that if you choose to keep even seemingly harmless memories, you may well change things in ways we can't yet foresee, at least not until you make your decision. So do you wish to keep those memories?"
"Yes, but I also want to keep my immortality," Harry said, before saying, "Like you, I've seen what's to come, and I believe I can prevent it… do only good."
Nyx said it out loud for a still confused Luna's benefit. "If you don't give the gift away, you, above everyone, will rule all worlds. However, the Pillars were created to provide a test for Atropos, not to give you something you were never meant to have or to become. And such power would become too much for you; you're inherently Dark, Harry, and if you continue to hold on to the gift, you'd grow to become just like Voldemort."
"It's a chance I'm willing to take."
"Can't you simply take the gift from him? Stop him becoming like that?" Luna asked, more than a little frightened by what she was hearing, particularly Harry's growing desire to keep the gift in spite of its pitfalls.
Nyx shook her head. "Unlike before, this time I'm bound by my own rules not to interfere in his world. I can only speak to Harry now because time is suspended here. Even so, I'm still going to pay a high price for appearing here to argue on your behalf, but I believe it worth it as I know Harry is a decent person who is well aware of what he needs to do."
"I do, but I still believe I could change things…"
Here Lachesis intervened. "Harry, I know you think you have the strength of character to do it, but please believe me when I say the temptation would prove too much. You would fail and be consumed by the power, and you would lead every world into darkness."
"Even so, I still want this so badly," Harry confessed, the feeling of power overwhelming but still more than a little welcome.
Luna took to pleading with him. " Harry, I know it's hard for you but please, please don't fall at this hurdle; don't give into this final temptation. Kiss me and pass the gift on."
Harry's hands were shaking as he dropped his head into his hands. "I know I should, but I don't know if I can, not knowing what I know, of what I could do to help those I love, even if it means I'll fall one day."
Luna knelt down in front of him, moving his hands and cupping his face so that she could look into his eyes. "Harry, you have to do this, otherwise I'm scared you'll lose everything you are."
"But it's so hard…" Harry discovered he was struggling against unexpected tears, his desire to keep the gift warring with what he knew he should do.
"I can see that." Luna leant in and kissed Harry's forehead, feeling him shudder as she did so.
Lachesis also added her own encouragement. "As can I. But, Harry, I know, from having witnessed your past life, that you have it in you to do what is right and not what is easy. And I believe you will do so again."
As Harry's tears ran down over her fingers, Luna took over again. "And I also believe in you, Harry. I always have and I always will… just as Justin always has and always will do."
In the end, it was not Luna's loyalty or Lachesis' observation that turned the tide in the right direction but the mention of Justin's name; it struck Harry like an arrow to his heart, forcing Harry to think about his best friend's unrelenting belief in Harry's ability to do the right thing. And, even though it would be so easy to say no to the women before him and to keep the gift, deep down inside of him, Harry knew it would be the wrong thing to do, and he was unable to bear the idea of his best friend thinking badly of him.
Therefore, before he could change his mind, Harry did what he knew his faithful best friend would have expected him to do, and he surged forward, grabbing Luna's face and crushing her mouth under his, the kiss full of anger at what he was about to give up.
When the kiss ended, a weakened and shaking Harry collapsed to the ground as Luna began to glow and grow taller. However, he swiftly became concerned that something had gone wrong as the blonde woman began clutching at her throat and gagging. "Luna?"
Luna was unable to answer as she began coughing violently until suddenly a black cloud spewed from her mouth.
Crawling over to her, Harry scooped her up and held her against his chest. "Luna?"
"Luna will recover momentarily," Lachesis assured him after a long silence as the black cloud flew across the room and away from Luna.
Eventually Luna was able to speak again and confirmed Lachesis' assurances. "I'm okay, Harry."
"What is that?" Harry asked as he sat Luna up.
"Voldemort," Lachesis answered, Nyx having vanished now her goal had been accomplished.
"Why release him?"
"Because the moment you kissed Luna, your future became clear to both of us, and Luna chose to risk her newly acquired gift and her life to change that," Lachesis said, explaining her pause before she had confirmed Luna's impending wellbeing.
"Luna!" Harry protested.
Luna smiled weakly at Harry. "I had to do it."
"She's correct. You've been having terrible nightmares, haven't you?"
Harry nodded. He had frightened Hermione one night with his screaming, although thankfully he had not lashed out at her when she had woken him. "They were because of Voldemort?"
"Yes. Unbeknownst to you, he was beginning to separate from you and becoming self aware. If Luna had left him inside of you, he'd have reacted like a poison, one that not even the cufflinks Susan Bones gave you could save you from; he'd have eventually taken you over and your world would've been his until he died."
"But I know the future wasn't like that," Harry protested, but even as he said it, his knowledge of it was fading like grains of sand running through his fingers.
"Giving the gift to Luna changed your future, and so she decided to save you by stripping Voldemort out of you."
"So he's going to stay here?" Harry asked hopefully.
"He can't; this is just an inter-dimensional stepping stone," Luna said, rejoining Harry and seeming to grow even taller as she did.
"Big words," Harry teased, although deep down, he was concerned, both about Luna's new status and Voldemort.
"Ravenclaw, always learning," Luna teased, before her face saddened. "And I'm sorry, Harry, but one of the things I've learnt is that there's always a price for things like this."
"I'm going to end up living with a room full of Nargles," Harry joked, trying to get Luna to smile again.
She did, but in a sad way. "No, Harry; Voldemort will have to retake human form when Lachesis sends him back."
"But he doesn't have a body," Harry protested, recalling that H.J. from his former life had had to use a different vessel for his soul since his own body had been destroyed.
"A body will be provided," Lachesis said, surprised that Harry had not figured it out now that his former memories were totally intact. "I can take one from another world where Voldemort has been stripped of his soul but his body still remains, thus keeping a balance in the universe."
"Bloody stupid universe," Harry grumbled as Lachesis snapped her fingers and a vacant eyed man Harry knew only too well appeared; what bothered Harry most was the fact he was bearing a wand. "Can't you use your power and kill him?"
"No," Lachesis said, before informing Harry, "Only you are destined to do that."
Harry wondered if by choosing to remain dead he would spare those in his world in case he failed in his fight. "What would happen if I said I didn't want to return?"
"I'd still have to return Voldemort to maintain a balance," Lachesis said, snapping her fingers and the cloud flew into Voldemort's mouth.
"Hold on!" Harry held up his hand as Voldemort vanished. "Where will he end up?"
"Back in the Death Chamber with you if you choose to go but the time to decide is now. If you stay, your life will fade, you'll pay the price for all those you've killed, and then move on. If you choose to return, then you'll have to fight Voldemort."
"Not exactly a great choice."
"But I'm afraid it's the best I can offer you."
"But you already know what's going to happen," Harry said.
"Now that Luna has removed Voldemort from you and he's gone from this dimension, I'm afraid that once again your future is clouded; only once you make yet another decision, that of choosing life or death, and only after you too leave this dimension, will it become clear again."
Since he was not about to roll over and die if it would do little to help others, Harry's choice was an obvious one. "Then I choose to go back and take my chances."
Upon hearing this, Luna leant forward and kissed Harry on the mouth, her kiss far gentler than Harry's had been and meant as a goodbye.
Harry held her for a long time, before he set her away from him. "I wish I could stay longer."
"I wish you could too, but it's time," Luna said, stepping away from Harry.
"Goodbye, Harry, and good luck. I hope it's a very long time before I see you again." Lachesis then snapped her fingers again and the world began to shimmer around Harry.
Even as Lachesis was bidding him farewell, forewarned, Harry was already drawing his wands, ducking instinctively as he reappeared in the Death Chamber, a Killing Curse flying over his head.
Unlike in his previous life, where Harry knew he would have stood no chance of taking on and beating Voldemort, thanks to his fully restored memories, Harry now had an advantage he hoped Voldemort did not: two lifetimes worth of memories.
As he rolled to his feet, ducking to avoid a purple spell that would have stopped his heart if it had hit him, Harry shielded with one wand, while aiming the other one into the air, casting a weather spell favored by Harry Sebastian, his former boss and friend from his previous life. "Tempestas Imber Maximus Ter."
Harry dove out of the way as Voldemort sent the green Killing Curse at him yet again, although Harry knew Voldemort would be uncertain if he had succeeded in killing Harry now that the overpowered thunderstorm Harry had created had produced rain so blinding, it would be hard to see through it even for a werewolf, let alone a normal man.
Harry used his next spell wisely, aiming this time at the ground, at the same time thinking that Voldemort had no imagination as yet another Killing Curse came hurtling by him, although in the rain it missed him by a good two feet. "That's not very creative."
"I just want you dead, Potter," Voldemort retorted, catching Harry's muttered comment as he ended the thunderstorm. "Avada Kedavra."
Just as Voldemort finished speaking, the door to the Chamber flew open, distracting both men, particularly as it closed just as swiftly as it had opened, and gave a loud bang as it slammed shut. The disturbance allowed Harry's second spell to kick in without any form of defense, and Harry almost laughed at the shocked look on Voldemort's face as the man was thrown off his feet, the ground trembling violently beneath him from the earthquake spell Harry had cast.
However, Voldemort showed off why he had become the man he had, taking aim at the intruder even as he fell. As he did, Harry screamed out a warning, the cloaked individual avoiding the Curse by millimeters by throwing himself on to the ground.
Harry had at first thought it was Remus, but decided it could not be since whoever it was had been slow and ungainly, possessing none of Remus' grace. The intruder's clumsiness was rewarded by losing both wands, one to Voldemort, and the other to a huge snapping sound as it was caught under him as he fell.
It was at this exact moment that Harry finally put into action a threefold spell he could now remember from his previous life: the spell would allow Harry to weave three spells into one so that they hit in quick succession and without allowing their victim to determine their intent. Its only drawback was that it drained power exponentially more quickly than casting three separate spells. Even so, Harry decided it was worth the chance, his first spell a simple stunning spell, the second one a more complex Reductor Curse, and the third spell the Killing Curse.
Ignoring his bleeding head and the fact he was now lying on the floor, Voldemort began to defend himself, actually managing to avoid the Killing Curse by rolling out of the way as he spotted the green flash at the very last moment, and taking Harry by surprise at the speed he used to get out of the way. It was also when Harry recognized the wand that was lying on the ground by Voldemort, and realized his first guess had been right; it had been Remus.
Still somewhat off-kilter from his recent experience and from his realization about the wand, Harry was also caught off guard by the fact that, even as he rolled out of the way, Voldemort managed to fire off a shot at him. However, already on his feet and moving towards Harry, Remus had expected it and, with both wands out of action, he instead used the only option available to him and was already in motion even as Harry was lifting his wand to defend himself.
Distracted, Harry would have been too late to save himself, and was instead saved by Remus barreling into him, taking the full brunt of the powerful Reductor Curse that Voldemort had sent his way. Although the shove had not been hard, it had been enough to move Harry out of the way, and he felt sick as he realized Remus had been hit in his lower stomach, his cloak not covering that part of his body. What was most worrying was that Remus failed to get up but Harry's attention was brought fully back to Voldemort as he spoke to Harry again.
"Time to die, Potter."
"I don't think so," Harry said, doing as Voldemort had and rolling over to avoid the Killing Curse coming his way, while at the same time, as he regained his footing, sending his second attempt at the threefold spell at Voldemort, this time sending two Reductor Curses followed by the Killing Curse.
From the moment the threefold spell left his wand Harry began to feel drained and knew he would probably do himself no favor by using the spell again. He therefore decided to deal with Voldemort in a different way as Voldemort easily shielded against the first Reductor Curse.
Having begun to run towards Voldemort, Harry was stopped in his tracks as Voldemort changed his shielding, using a reflective shield to deflect Harry's second Reductor Curse smack back into the struggling and somewhat exhausted Harry, finally causing some damage to him, injuring his leg. Most annoyingly, Voldemort avoided Harry's Killing Curse by anticipating Harry's actions, leaping up on to the steps, allowing the Curse to hit the spot he had been standing in.
Even with the setback caused by his injury, while Voldemort had been dealing with avoiding the Killing Curse, Harry had made the most of the little time he had to cover the distance between the two of them and was by now at the base of the steps.
As Voldemort's wand arm came up again, Harry decided to continue to not use magic, and instead, as he navigated the final few steps, he swung his arm out, bringing his fist up and smashing his opponent in the face, the cracking sound echoing through the Chamber. In contrast to the feelings he had suppressed when he had cast the earthquake spell, this time Harry did laugh, although it was filled with bitterness, as Voldemort went down, his jaw broken.
"Bet you didn't see that coming. I sure as heck didn't when it was used on me by the good man you've just hurt."
Although Voldemort could now say little, Harry refused to take any chances, and he therefore stamped down on Voldemort's left wrist, breaking it, while aiming a slicing curse at his right, taking both wands out of the equation, and leaving Voldemort writhing and moaning in agony.
Harry picked up both wands, mocking Voldemort as he did. "Do you know, I didn't think it'd be that easy? One casualty, and for once it wasn't me."
Unable to speak, Voldemort merely glared at Harry as Harry bound him up and then rushed over to Remus, breathing a sigh of relief that he was still alive, although it was obvious to Harry that given much longer, Remus would die. Aware he had to act quickly, he hurried back over to Voldemort.
"I'd make your death a lot more painful if I knew I wouldn't have to go through the same thing when I die," Harry said, before explaining. "You see, as unbelievable as it sounds, I've died before, and when you die you experience all of your victims' deaths: their fears, their pains, their final hours. So I'm going to keep this death simple as I refuse to go through hell for a piece of shit like you."
Voldemort's eyes had widened at Harry's words, his fear evident on his face.
"Give Nyx my regards when you're paying your dues. Avada Kedavra."
As the life drained from Voldemort, for good measure, Harry floated Voldemort's body into the Death Arch and through the Veil, satisfied as he watched it vanish, before the archway collapsed with a mighty rumble, leaving nothing there.
Aware that time was now of the essence if he wished to save Remus, Harry tried the door to leave the room, only to discover it refused to open. Deciding to try another way, he took hold of Remus' hand and disapparated, reappearing outside of the door rather than in the medical bay he had been trying to reach, and surprising both himself and a group of guards, who all turned their wands on him.
"Commander Potter?" an Auror Harry recognized as one of the people he had rescued from the Muggle-born campsite asked.
"Yes, and you can lower the wands."
"Sorry, Sir, but we need to see your identification."
Harry slowly fished inside of his pocket, carefully removing it and showing it to the man. "There you go."
As Harry was showing his ID, a young woman knelt down by Remus, checking him over. "Ignotus needs urgent medical care."
"I know," Harry said, struggling not to snap at the woman that it was obvious, when she was merely doing her job. "Is Lieutenant Black here?"
"He's in his office," a young Auror piped up.
"Thank you," Harry said, pocketing his ID, before taking another leaf out of his old boss' book, "and you're on night duty for a week for failing to call me Sir." Turning his back on the stunned Auror, Harry then addressed the woman who had checked Remus out. "Would you please arrange for Ignotus to be taken to Healer Weasley, Healer Digbeth?"
"Yes, Sir, of course," Digbeth said, only to hesitate before saying hesitantly, "Sir, you should know that your appearance is going to be a bit surprising. To be honest, we thought you'd died quite a while back."
"Fine," Harry said in a short voice, before reminding her of her duty. "Now deal with him." Once she had gone, bypassing the wards with her medical clearance, Harry addressed the enthusiastic young Auror, who was now rather down mouthed after his punishment.
"How long have I been gone?"
"Six months, Sir." The Auror made sure this time to tack on 'Sir'.
Harry was taken aback. "Six months?"
"Then what was Ignotus doing here?"
With the young Auror unable to answer the question, the senior Auror in the group took over. "Lieutenant Commander Black authorized his being here, Commander. He, Healer Black, and Lieutenant Commander Black, amongst others, have been taking turns to sit here and wait as they all believed you would one day return." It was obvious from his face that the Auror had thought differently. "Today was the first sign we've had that that might be true. We heard rumbling noises, and tried the door, something we've been unable to open since you first disappeared. When the door opened on its own, Mr. Lupin was sucked in and it closed before we could follow him in, Sir. In fact it's now vanished."
Harry turned and noticed for the first time that the man was right. "In which case, I do believe your services will no longer be needed. Dismissed."
Harry then headed for his office, only to change his mind, and he successfully disapparated to see Sirius, who was in his office, as he usually was. "Hello."
In spite of his hopes, Sirius unholstered his wand. "I need an oath that's it really you and you're not a trap."
Harry gave up the required oath, before saying, "Remind me to bollock the guards outside of the Chamber for not doing the same."
"I can do that," Sirius said, as he grinned and shot around the desk, wrapping Harry up in his arms, immediately contrite when Harry winced. "Sorry, it's just I'm relieved to see you. Let me help you."
After Sirius had patched Harry up, he said, "I thought Remus would've been with you."
Harry's face reflected his concern. "He was attacked by Voldemort. I've sent him to Lucy."
"Is he badly injured?" Sirius asked, surprising Harry by not asking about Voldemort.
"Then let's go." Sirius hesitated and held out his arm. "I'd better accompany you to save questions."
Sirius arrived outside the emergency room and rushed in. "Yes, Harry's alive, and it's really him. How's Remus doing?"
"His core is failing totally," Lucy snapped out, her stress showing on her face. "I'm going to lose him."
Sirius took over for her. "Get the Draught."
Lucy rushed over to the cabinet where the most volatile and potent potions were kept, unlocking it and removing the Draught of Living Death. "Here."
Harry watched in fascination as Remus became a waxen statue moments later. "Okay, what am I missing?"
At that moment, Justin came dashing in through the doors, grinding to a halt, his wand out, only for Sirius to say, "I've taken an oath from him. It's really Harry."
"Auror Landau said they didn't get an oath," Justin said, explaining his actions, as he gathered his friend in a bear hug. "I was beginning to get worried, Harry. Will and Lulu were starting to think I was lying to them when I said you'd be back."
Harry experienced a moment of guilt as he realized he had not yet asked about his children. "You've been taking care of them?"
"I've been sharing their care with Hermione, Sophia and Nev," Justin explained, before checking his watch. "I'll tell you more but I just need to let Emsie know that I'm leaving."
"I needed someone to take my position while I took over yours as Sophia's pregnant again and she was unable to do it."
Harry was astonished to learn that Justin had promoted Emsie Viking, who was barely twenty, to work in such a high powered position. "You recruited a second year trainee Auror to work in your job?"
"I wrote off her need to finish the training and passed her," Justin said, not flinching as Harry's face showed his displeasure.
"Are you mad?"
"She passed all of the tests with flying colors, beating out every single applicant for the position. And besides, it's a purely clerical position, and she's working on completing her third year on the side when she can."
"Harry, she's bloody brilliant and I don't regret my decision for a moment. Now I'd better go see her," Justin said, before disapparating and returning moments later. "Since I've already been informed about Remus by Landau, who had no idea what went on in the room, I'd like to know how it happened."
"First, I want to know why Sirius has just used the Draught of Living Death on Remus."
"Let's use my office," Lucy suggested, turning to her head nurse and giving instructions that Remus should be moved to a private room. Once inside, she indicated everyone should sit down. "Do you remember my use of the Spark of Life on Remus?"
"Yes, you've done it twice now," Harry said, well aware of what Lucy had done to Remus.
"Well, I may have bought him some time but I also signed his death warrant that second time; it should never be used more than once, and so his core has begun to fail, as has his heart."
"Is there nothing that can be done?"
"We don't think so but since we only discovered what was happening about two months, we're still looking into it; today simply has brought matters to a head," Lucy said
Harry knew that he must have known about this when he had wanted to keep his gift, but now those memories had gone. "I thought he was slower than usual." Harry also guessed that the room had sucked in Remus because he was dying and had therefore not considered him a threat, or Luna or Lachesis had somehow had something to do with it.
Sirius reminded Harry of his earlier comment. "You mentioned Voldemort; how could he have done this?"
And so, over the space of several hours, Harry told them about what had happened to him, or at least what he could remember. "The upshot of it is, is that Remus was granted another shot at life. However, he's not the Remus I knew, but the one from the world my boss, Harry Sebastian, came from."
"Why did he get another chance?" Lucy asked, intrigued by what she was hearing.
"He died of a heart attack," Harry said, noticing the looks all three shared at his comment. "Ironic, isn't it? In that life he had a heart attack; in this one his heart is failing."
"But why give him another chance?" Justin asked, a little confused. "I can understand you getting one because you had such a horrible death, but lots of people have heart attacks."
"He lost his soul mate to Voldemort in a ritual when Voldemort was trying to gain immortal life, and he was never truly happy after that. It would never have happened if Nyx hadn't interfered, hence the second chance, which isn't looking so good now."
Sirius decided to push on. "You said five people altogether were given second chances. Who else?"
Harry knew he was about to shock one of them. "Lucy, you were also given a second chance."
Lucy's eyes widened with obvious surprise. "Me? Why?"
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
Lucy scowled at Harry. "Unless you want me to do you some serious damage, I suggest you tell me."
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
"Harry, just spill," Lucy growled.
"Okay then; this is where it gets complicated," Harry said, leaning forward a little. "And I'll explain why in a moment. First, you should know that Hermione was also given another chance."
"To be with Remus?" Sirius asked.
"No, to make up for being married to the Voldemort who caused Remus' soul mate to die, or rather she ended up to him when he became a man named Thomas Seville." Harry could see he had completely taken them all aback as well as confused them. "After the ritual failed, Voldemort ended up going through the Veil, but thanks to the ring he was wearing, he was protected from dying and ended up in another world, a world that Hermione also ended up in as she tried to track him down." Harry noticed that no-one had anything to say as he took a breather before continuing, "However, Voldemort lost part of an arm from the same charmed knife that killed Remus' soul mate and he was unable to regrow it. So he used something known as the Verto Corpus."
"The soul swapping device Reg used," Sirius said, butting in and quickly putting two and two together. "He took over this Thomas Seville, Mi fell for a man she had no idea was Voldemort, and that's why she married him."
"Good guess, and it's correct," Harry confirmed. "However, Thomas Seville also got a second chance too."
"They gave that bastard another chance?"
"No, the real one, the one that Voldemort took over," Harry said, hurriedly correcting Sirius. "He's now happily married with two children and living in Australia, so he's of little concern to us."
"You still haven't told us about me," Lucy reminded Harry, when he again stopped for breath.
"I'm getting there," Harry said, well aware of what he was about to Lucy was going to be far from palatable. "Hermione ended up divorcing Voldemort after he raped her."
"Oh Merlin!" Lucy said, paling a little. "Why?"
"He thought she'd been having an affair with the Remus of that world; she had not. They were then merely just good friends. Long story short, they were both captured, Remus was tortured and Hermione raped, but they were rescued before they could be put to death."
"I'm getting a very bad feeling about this," Lucy said, well aware that this somehow had something to do with her. "Was I killed rescuing them?"
"No, you were also attacked by Voldemort and ended up killing the Minister for Magic for him."
Harry held up his hand. "You haven't let me finish. You killed him because he was a traitor and to save lives. In that life you were an Auror and a damn good one. Another long story short: you ended up in Azkaban because Sirius, who became the new Minister, was trying to entrap Voldemort and asked you to become a spy as Voldemort was more than a little enamored by you. His plan worked, and I'm sorry to say it, but you became Voldemort's lover to retain your cover, and ended up bearing his daughter."
Even though she could remember nothing of it, her memories well and truly buried, Lucy felt sick. "I slept with Voldemort?"
"Yes, and hated every moment of it. But you loved your daughter, who was the catalyst for bringing Voldemort down, and who you named after me, since we were best friends."
"And were we lovers?" Lucy asked.
Sirius noticed the slight smile they exchanged and knew there was more to it than it appeared. "Have you two…?"
Harry sighed and glanced at Lucy, who glared in frustration at Sirius. "For the millionth time, no, although I'll admit we considered it, but we decided we preferred being friends."
Justin's mouth fell open, but he also was looking triumphant. "I knew it. You said it was just flirting, but I knew there was more to it."
"Yes, there was," Harry confirmed. "Our almost moment came not long before you two and Hermione made your reappearance from the Chamber."
"Don't worry, I won't say anything to Hermione."
"Thank you." Harry did not say to Justin though that she already knew, up until then having decided to keep nothing from her, especially as essentially nothing more than a good deal of kissing had happened before he and Lucy had both decided it was too strange.
"So what happened to Hermione in that world after Voldemort or Seville or whatever his name was died?" Lucy asked.
"She ended up marrying that world's Remus and having his baby."
"So they ended up together just like in this world," Sirius noted.
"Not exactly," Harry said, a frown appearing on his face. "They should never have gotten together in this world. In fact, the only reason they did is because of Pansy Parkinson.
Lucy asked, "What do you mean?"
"She used a love potion on them."
Justin grinned. "You're joking." When Harry turned a serious face towards his friend, he realized he was doing nothing of the sort. "Merlin, Harry! But why?"
"She was more obsessed with me than Ginny ever was. She just hid it better," Harry said, putting it mildly, Pansy having been fixated with him since before she started Hogwarts, hence her saving Harry when he had been attacked on the Hogwarts' Express. "And when her father spotted me in Muggle London several days before I got up to the courage to come and see you all and told her, she decided to make certain that Hermione was out of the picture by feeding her and Remus a love potion."
Sirius was rather dubious. "Come on, Harry, that's a little farfetched. Pansy never once showed any signs of feeling like that about you."
"On the night she got engaged to Draco Malfoy, she asked me if I was going to marry Hermione and expressed her regret when I said yes, but I also told her that I could've fallen for her if circumstances had been different. And therefore, up until I went rogue, Pansy was content merely to be friends but with my betrayal, she saw an opening and she took it."
"Harry's right. Les Miserables!" Justin yelled out, making them all jump.
Sirius and Lucy looked dumbfounded at the outburst, although Harry had retained this knowledge, and so understood what Justin meant.
"Pansy had been going on and on about how much she wanted to go and see Les Mis, so I bought tickets for her, Remus and Hermione. Then Pansy dropped out of the evening to have dinner with her father instead, something she could have done on any day, leaving Hermione and Remus alone. The day after is when you turned up."
"And by then it was too late," Harry added. "She'd already administered the potion and the damage was done."
"Remus did say his feelings seemed to come completely out of the blue," Lucy said, deciding that maybe it was not as farfetched as Sirius believed, Remus having talked to her about how he and Hermione had met. "And you've got to admit, Sirius, it shocked everyone. We knew they were good friends but it was more than obvious that there had never been anything romantic between them."
Sirius reluctantly agreed. "True, but I still find it hard to believe their marriage came about because of a potion. It would've worn off."
"And you're right, it did," Harry acknowledged, going on to explain when it was obvious that Sirius was still far from a believer. "In fact, it was a potion that once taken, needed close contact to maintain its hold on the takers, as well as an initial attraction, which I'm willing to admit I suspected existed but, given my relationship with Remus, never expected either of them to act upon."
"So why did they get back together if the potion wore off?" Sirius asked, still not trusting in the potion theory.
"In the beginning Pansy only administered a fairly light dose, wanting to make certain it had no side effects, but it didn't take properly and began to fade for Hermione, but..."
"But that's when Hermione and Remus broke up because Hermione's true feelings for you came back to the surface," Justin interjected. "Hermione moved out, making the potion less effectual."
"That's right but Pansy had her house-elf re-administer full strength doses of the potion to both of them again just before our wedding, although it wouldn't have mattered if she'd given nothing to Remus; his feelings for Hermione never totally faded thanks to an unexpected side effect of the potion," Harry said, finishing off what he had started before Justin interrupted.
"And it's why Tab never felt as if she could live up to Hermione when she was dating Remus; Remus' feelings didn't die away," Justin said, like everyone aware of what caused the break-up.
"So what supposedly caused this side-effect?" Sirius asked.
"There's rosehip in the potion, and, as you know, for some reason it has a bad effect on those like Remus and myself, producing anaphylactic shock in some cases, although in Remus' case, it made the potion a permanent part of him. Remus could therefore no more help his feelings for Hermione than he could stop his monthly change."
"So why did he fall for Anna?" Sirius challenged, still holding out against the love potion theory.
"The potion became dormant when Hermione was in the Chamber and out of contact with him, allowing Remus to fall in love with someone else," Harry told him. "It kicked in again the moment Hermione reappeared, but by then he'd already fallen out of love with Anna."
"So he'll always love Hermione?" Justin asked.
"Body and soul, unless we can find an antidote, although I'm not certain if one has ever been invented, since it was a potion created by Luna's mother," Harry said, before returning to Hermione's exposure. "The potion slowly wore off from Hermione when she was in the Chamber and by the time she resurfaced, it had lost its grip on her, hence their marriage rekindling failing."
"So Luna was right about you and Hermione?" Justin asked.
"She was. If Pansy hadn't interfered, I think we'd have been together, not her and Remus."
Sirius felt inordinately sorry for Harry but he knew he had to make a point. "Harry, if this turns out to be true, and I have to be honest and say I think it's wishful thinking on your part or that you dreamt it, you do know we can't tell either of them about this."
"I do," Harry said, understanding how devastating it would be for the couple to discover their marriage had essentially been a lie. "But we have to find an antidote for when we can sort Remus out."
"I don't know that we can," Lucy said, in spite of what they had done. "I don't know how to repair a damaged core and more magic didn't help; Sirius already tried it."
"What about a new heart?" Harry asked.
"We're not certain if his body would reject it or it would kill him," Sirius said, "and up until now he's been holding his own, so we didn't want to risk it."
"But now it's different, isn't it?"
"Yes," Lucy said, before dropping a very large bombshell on Harry. "And at the end of the day, it's down to Hermione. I'm sorry, Harry, but she moved back in with him when she found out he was dying."
Harry's stomach bottomed out. "Because she thought I was dead."
"She never gave up hope this time that you'd return," Justin said, not wanting Harry to think otherwise. "She's not in love with Remus or anything like that."
Sirius backed up his son. "Mi didn't feel it fair to separate Remus from the children, and she knew he'd need support since he's been getting weaker as time's gone by. She still loves you, Harry."
Harry could feel sincerity coming from Sirius and nodded. "Okay, so what do we do about the potion? We can't test antidotes on Remus and, although I'm willing to be a guinea pig, I'm not willing to expose Hermione to it again or if it will even work on her, since we're already in love."
"I'll do it," Lucy said, before saying, "but I think the other test subject needs to be someone fully human and someone I trust."
"I'll do it," Sirius said, "particularly as I don't really believe in it."
"Um, didn't you just say that it needs a base attraction to work," Justin pointed out.
Sirius and Lucy looked at each, Sirius saying, "I'm willing to admit that I find you attractive if you're willing to do the same."
Her cheeks a little red, Lucy nodded. "I am."
"Then we're on," Sirius said.
"Are you both positive about this?" Harry asked. "It could make things really uncomfortable for you, especially as it's going to be a full dose you'll be administering."
"Since we know it's fake, we should be able to deal with the enhanced attraction," Lucy said, before adding, "and we're going to rely on you two to remind us of the fact if we seem to be forgetting."
Harry and Justin both agreed to do so, and so Sirius and Lucy set off with Harry to go brew the necessary love potion.