A/N: Oh, I know. Time flies. I'm gonna see about getting you an ending to this story.
Harry Potter and the Heartlands of Time
Chapter Twenty-One – The Wiser I'm Not
'You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.'
And you ask me back to this.
One crime after another.
One last fight to fought.
Fought to fight?
Bad guy, or at least guy, whose ideals don't match me own.
"You want I should kick that guy's ass?" I asked Fleur, the mother of my child, my wife-to-be, my French cuisine.
"He is… not a guy, oui? This is a fight you cannot avoid, I think."
I sipped a drink I didn't remember ordering, but in time's such as these, one found oneself with a drink. "Yeah it's one of those. Portkey or huffy exit?"
Fleur sighed and crossed her arms. "You do not see me, do you?"
I drank again, unsure whether it was whisky or soda water, double gin or diet coke. "I… I've been here before. So many times." I frowned and tried to maintain a tether to now. "Sitting and talking to you, if only for a moment, can sometimes cause my mind to slip a year, or two years, three, or more. I am broken." I pressed a hand against my forehead, uncertain, unsure, but ready to fought a fight. "Do you not see? The wastelands of my time fell through your mind—you must see."
Fleur took my hand, turned palm upward, and found a single golden galleon. A portkey I had made before I knew it needed making. She smiled softly, sadly, adverb-ly. "You did not bring me to dinner. 'Arry, you did not. We are here because you must be here. You are… required… to destroy that creature at the bar."
The well-dressed monstrosity in the tailored suit raised a glass and knocked it back. Tom Riddle, as he could have been. The wild horcrux. The end of the road. After it fell, nothing remained but the end game. A game I had been avoiding my entire lives. And why not? When moments became centuries, why not dilly-dally, or shilly-shally, toward the last regret? I hated the scent of spilt beer, pepper-sauce, in the carpet and on the air. The cute eighteen-year-old waitress, her perfume a harsh strawberry, her breasts pressing against a tight-fitting shirt, knee-high socks, Converse shoes—
"Harry," Fleur said, her accent fading. "Be safe."
She grasped the coin in my palm and, to the astonishment of Muggles and drunks alike, spun into nothing. Gone for now. Gone forever. I hoped she would be safe.
I stood and turned toward the bar, sauntered across the space, and saddled up against the last horcrux of the Dark Lord Voldemort. Sipping whisky, he was, confident in his end game. If there was one certainty, it was that. The shades of Voldemort never doubted themselves. Such was the only weakness I'd ever been able to exploit.
"Did it take me five seconds or five years to cross this bar?" I asked.
"He sent me, you know."
"Yes." I was tempted to reach over the bar and pour myself a drink. I turned my knuckles white against the stained mahogany instead. "He's done that before."
The last horcrux, unbound from a shell and shell within itself, a shade of Tom Riddle, raised a single eyebrow. "This is not… new to you?"
"But you are without reference. Harry, you are… adrift in time."
I snorted. "Oh, always. Often."
"This story of yours," one-seventh of Tom Riddle-that-was said, "should not have taken this long to tell."
"Blame the booze, sweetheart."
Riddle nodded and touched the whisky to his lips. "Voldemort poured our memories into my mind before sending me here."
"He's done that before. I remember more than him. One of the downsides of splitting one's soul. You think this is unique, you think this new." I failed to keep a disgusted snarl from my face.
"No," Riddle said, and glanced around the bar—at patron and bottle alike. "I don't think that."
"Why the hell not? This is a sad song stuck on repeat for me. Only for me. You'd be better off just—"
The horcrux raised his hand—not arrogantly, not in a way that caused me ire. Just… as if he were done. And done he was. The last wild horcrux of the Dark Lord Voldemort finished his drink and then offered me his hand, as if we were old colleagues, almost old friends, and at what point did that ring true? Hell, we were enemies long before time fucked me.
I paused, considered, and then took his cold, dead hand in my own.
"It's the end game," the horcrux said, and faded to nothing, eliciting a round of gasps and polite screams from around the bar. Booze and a healthy dose of Muggle cynicism kept them from screaming aloud.
I felt the last of the Dark Lord's split soul leave this world, as sure as if a brand was removed from my forehead, and frowned into the dead air, the empty glass, the fight-that-should-have-been. So, here was something new. Here was a regret. A…
Saturnia, Tessa, handed me a drink, something I shouldn't drink, something I would, something that would kill me, and pressed herself against me. She was warm, and sure, and cinnamon-pumpkin wrapped inside a softly flickering candle. If there was a point, I'd probably missed it.
"He's as tired as you are," Saturnia said. "You thought for a fight, because that's all you've ever known." She licked her lips, trying not to enjoy this too much. "What's the point? After a thousand years and so much chaos, so many end of the world bouts, why bother? Did you ever consider that Voldemort may have tired of this? He stands aside from time, as do you, as the memories you poured into his mind show. Perhaps he's willing to risk it all to make this the last…" Saturnia considered her words, bit her gorgeous red lip, and then kissed me, warm and wet and—
I reached down to my waist in time to catch the sharp dagger she'd been ready to thrust into my guts. It sliced my fingers and palm open, hot blood flowing as well as hot blood did flow.
She grinned and darted her tongue around my lips before pulling away.
"Well," she said, "looks like you can teach an old dog new tricks."
I chose to bleed for a bit. Then disappeared too.
The grocer closes at 8pm, but today was a public holiday so it was probably earlier. Either way, missed my chance for a bottle of something amber and aged.
It was time to take a bow.
To stop pretending I had some point.
I wasn't willing to stop, I was too sentimental to walk in the rain, so I kept going. A thousand years of daydreaming. Fucking myself over in dregs of whisky and cigarette ashes better spent.
Give the people what they want. An ending. Something. As much as they'll hate it, and chapters like this, where I've gone adrift, lost the thread, looking for a rest.
The moon is upside down.
Better I'd been changeable.
Why try to change me now?
Hey, you seen all those songs about rainbows?
I wrenched myself back to the present, on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, in the shadow of the Forbidden Forest. I assumed apparition had brought me here, across the face of the world, but I didn't remember using the magic. Old mind had gone a'wander, a-wanting to stray, to connect amiss. I couldn't allow that. That disconnection. Not on some bullshit morning star. Don't let it get what-so-amazing and star-gazin'. Under that probable spell, that probable magic.
Half-asleep and hearing voices.
A sweet sound.
For us young sailors.
Last call, sir.
I awoke in a cosy bed, next to window of burst sunlight, and felt warm—safe. Hungover. Drunk without a drink. Or had there been drink? I wasn't certain. The last horcrux had ended itself, I was sure of that. I could no longer feel it out there in the world. I was attune to such things. I'd had need to be, over the years.
Someone draped a cool cloth across my head and that felt wonderful. I didn't need that familiar scent of apples and roses, the shock of short purple hair, or kind if worried green eyes, to know whose hand pressed down on the cloth. If I was attune to the evil in the world, then I had spent long enough in the presence of certain souls to know them by heart.
"What day is it, Tonks?"
"Friday, Harry," she said. "Are you… you were raving mad when they brought you in… are you feeling better?"
"I lost a hold on Time for a moment there." I frowned. "And maybe a day or two. Though I think it cost Voldemort a horcrux, so no matter. I've had my fair share of days, after all."
"We've been watching you in shifts," Tonks said. "I arrived at the castle last night. Fleur, Ron, and Hermione watched over you. They're resting now. It was a long night."
"Is… Jason with you?" I asked. "I seem to remember. You fell in love with Jason Arnair, and were looking after him after he was hurt in the sky over London. Is that right? Am I…" I coughed and tasted blood. "No, I'm not well."
"Madam Pomfrey examined you," she said. "She says you're all torn up inside." Tonks bit back on a sob. "She tried healing, but that only worsened the scars. You're dying, Harry."
I sat up a little in the bed, the comfy pillows supporting my back. Out the window, I glimpsed green fields, the greenhouses, the forest, and portal stones across the castle grounds. Hogwarts was a hive of activity. A tent city had popped up, no doubt far bigger on the inside, to house the refugees and those who had come to fight in the last battle.
"I've done my fair share of dying, too, Tonks." I felt fine—well, no, I felt like I'd drunk a distillery dry—hell, you may have, nattered an annoying voice in my mind—and no worse for the wear. I felt as I normally did. Half-mad, half-insane, and struggling to remember what day it was.
I swung my legs out of the bed, the cool cloth fell away from my forehead.
Tonks grasped my shoulders to push me back down, but I resisted, gently removing her hands. "He died, then?"
Tonks' chin trembled and she nodded slowly. "For all his strength, Harry, he fought as long as he could. Jason…" She sniffed. "The Healers did everything they could."
"I'm sorry, Tonks. Truly."
She blinked and wiped away tears. "It's not your fault, Harry," she said, though a spark in her eyes said otherwise. Tonks took a deep breath and sighed. "What next for you?"
I shook my head. "Shower, breakfast, war meeting. The horcruxes are done with, even the blasted one from the island of Riau." Remember your promise, Lady Time. "I see no sense in delaying the inevitable. I'm going to hunt down Lord Voldemort and take my best shot."
Tonks' eyes nearly bulged out of her head. "Is that all?"
I stood on shaking legs in nothing but my boxer shorts and the cerulean blue gemstone necklace around my neck. My pale torso and legs were a mass of scars and veins, running with blood darker than red. I'd been alive too long. Died too many times. Last time counts for all.
Tonks smiled sadly. "Perhaps some trousers before fulfilling a thousand years of destiny and prophecy, aye, Harry?"