"Are you sure? What I ask is... severe, under the best of circumstances."
"If it's what you desire, I will follow. You don't have to remind me of what's at stake. We can make this happen."
"I hope we can. My moments of clarity are fleeting at best. In an hour, I won't remember anything about this conversation."
"And I'll do my best not to do anything to remind you of it."
"You remember what to search for?"
"You know how to escape?"
"You know how to seal yourself away so that you won't be driven mad?"
"Yes. You've told me all I need to know."
"Good... good. Then I think I can let things play out how they will. Because if my gambit pays off, none of this will ever take place. And that means..."
"I realize. As I said, I know what's at stake. I want this to happen as much as you, however. Our time is running out. Their forces are plotting our downfall, and your own time is rapidly approaching, as well. I must admit... this is quite lofty. If anything at all plays out differently than you hope it will..."
"Then I will play out the role I have taken. Fate should at least grant me that much. If indeed I was to be the villain, then that is what I will be. If my death can restore peace to this world, then that is what will need to happen. Everything rests on your shoulders. Succeed, and you can accomplish more than you'll ever know."
"Succeed, and I'll never remember any of it. So yes... more than I'll ever know. But you'll remember me, won't you?"
"If he does what I think he will... and I'm sealed away as well, then yes. My consciousness will travel alongside you, somewhere out there. We'll meet again on the other side, my friend. It may take awhile for me to awaken, but I will find you. We'll solve this problem yet. I give you my word. This tale doesn't end here. Not yet. There's something that feels unfinished. As though I've been forgetting something very important. I think my time is almost up. Listen to me carefully, for I won't have another chance to speak to you alone like this. Wait. Until I'm ready to mobilize, and we're strong enough to succeed. No matter what hardships we come across on the other side, no matter what kind of battles we'll need to endure, we must do so. Because at the end lies the true way to solve this matter. It felt all wrong, and I need to fix my mistake."
"Even going to such drastic lengths as these?"
"Yes. Don't worry. I have a plan. Time will erase my madness. How we're speaking now, as friends should? I'll be able to do that once more. And when this is all over with, and we've fixed my grave mistake... I'll seek you out for a third time. I'll remember this. And with any luck, you'll have a sliver of a memory of it left somewhere, as well. It's a very tricky bit of work we're going to attempt here, but I'm confident the two of us will be able to pull it off."
"But how, master? How can you be so sure of yourself? Even now, my hands are shaking. I can't help but worry. I... if anything goes incorrectly..."
"Then we shall adapt and meet those challenges head on, as they come to us. You've believed in me thus far, and for that, you have my undying gratitude. It means more to me than words can convey that someone still believes in me. That someone is willing to help. That someone sees through what's become of me and can help me reach the ending that needs to occur. I can sense them coming... they must have moved ahead their plans..."
"How long do we have?"
"Long enough for the madness to take hold of me once more. I'll send you ahead of myself. Here, stand up."
"Quickly. We don't have much time. If they ask, I'll say you fled. It won't be that hard to imagine, would it? I'm sorry I can't give you any more time to prepare. But it's now or never. He's going to do the same thing I am, and he's going to get there before I do. You just have to help me out over there. Make sure I don't get killed. Not before we can merge and I can give him access to what he needs. His battles will likely be like my own. He'll live a cursed life from the moment he finds out who and what he is. But I know he'll be out there. Because Fate is cruel, and it enjoys seeing me suffer. Banishment to another realm is merely hiding out of sight for awhile. But we'll see this through to the end."
"When this is all over..."
"You're going to be buying me the hardest, meanest drink you're able to find."
"Hah! That's the spirit! ...I'll see you in a little while."
"Yeah. It'll seem short to me, but it's not going to be so simple for you. Take care of yourself, and remember to hold on to what's important. That alone will keep you safe until we meet again."
"I will. Good night, then."
"Until the morning breaks, and we're able to stand together as friends once more."
A wand was raised, and even as the wards began to screech in the distance, there was a moment of hesitation. A series of softly-spoken, quickly-cast incantations were rattled off in a very specific order, sending one of the two men floating up into the air, his body going limp. His eyes glassed over for a second before slipping shut. Pausing only briefly, the other man opened a rift-like opening in the air behind his friend. And, whispering his goodbye, he brought his wand straight out. The man who was floating in the air shot backwards and through the rift, which was quickly closed behind him.
"...I pray that everything calculated correctly, my friend." Murmured the man, his hand keeping a white-knuckled grip on his wand. "I'll have a lot of time to think about what we're doing on the trip to meet you."
Suddenly, the man clutched at his chest, a sharp pain shooting out in all directions. Hissing out a curse, he dropped to one knee, feeling as though someone was piercing him with a thousand, razor sharp daggers. He knew what this meant. He had experienced it only a few times now, but he knew what it meant. He was slipping away, to replaced by the part of him he thought had been squashed. Or rather, the part of him that was never meant to be.
This would be his last stand. He would fall, and would have to wait for a millennium to have a second chance.
He would fix his mistake. He just prayed that everything would work out in time.
Letting his consciousness falter, he fell back into what felt like a vast expanse of nothingness. His body steadied and he rose, but he wasn't in control. He would wrest control away during the thousand year absence, as his very being was put to what would most likely be the second greatest challenge in his life. The greatest, of course... was to kill the man who had caused this.
Tom Marvolo Riddle would see his end. He wouldn't be able to do it. But he had a good idea of who could. And, even as he saw himself greet his old friends, he felt himself grin. He still had a good deal of unfinished business. And while he would have to admit that this one time, he would be late to the party... he knew that it would be worth it, ultimately.
Across from him, Draco Malfoy raised his wands, a deathly serious look on his face. And, as he felt his own arms raise in defense, he let his eyes slip shut. It would be the last time he saw them for a long time.
He needed to remember their faces. Above all else, the image of that day needed to be burned into his memory.
Because he would make sure this scenario wouldn't play out a second time.
Moments later, a furious, white light erupted at the top of what was once the Citadel of Azkaban.
Author's Notes: I've decided to go forward with the F-Series. If you're coming here, not knowing what's going on, don't worry. This is a sequel to a set of previous works I've done. Start with Philosopher's Stone Retransmuted and go from there. It's a bit confusing, but Fear Within actually takes place after THIS series. Meaning that this is the true canon. How Gauntlet of the Magi ended? That never happened. It was an ending, yes. One of many. But it wasn't the correct ending. Harry did not wind up in Brazil after his battle with Voldemort. He did not lose an arm in that fight. He did not retain his sanity.
This is a story of second chances. A story of desperate gambits and a war across time itself. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, lost his battle with the Gauntlet and has gone insane. However, fleeting moments of clarity still occur, though less frequently as time passes. In an attempt to salvage his life, his world, and everyone he loves, he risks it all during the final battle of his natural life. Azkaban will fall, and the world will see Harry Potter as little more than a madman unless he accomplishes his goal.
A goal that will take over one thousand years to see through to completion.