The ruins of Hogwarts rose up into the night sky. The stars were obscured by the raging bonfire that swept the Forbidden Forest. The castle was a shell of its former self, its windows broken and empty, the dormitories wrecked and the Great Hall the scene of the triumph of a Dark Lord.
It wasn't supposed to end this way, Harry's breath caught as the man who called himself the Dark Prince held up his hand for silence. It wasn't supposed to end this way!
"Bring them forward!" The Dark Prince – Hammerstein, Harry refused to call the man by the ridiculous title – beckoned to the crowd. Three bodies were pushed forward. Harry cried out, but the guards standing over his shoulders held him in place.
"Daddy!" Lily cried out. A man caught her by the hair as she tried to dart forward. James and Albus were fighting with their captors. Where is Ginny? Where is Ginny? The children were supposed to be with her, why – how are they here – what…He tried to bite the hand that held him, but got a slap for his efforts.
"Bring them here," Hammerstein's crooked teeth were yellow. He gestured to the bloodstained spot in front of the raised dais he had created in the Great Hall.
"No!" Harry's magic strained against the charmed band around his wrist. It was the same band Harry had used as an Auror to keep detained witches and wizards from escaping. "Leave them alone!"
Hammerstein smiled. "Oh, no," he said. "We have to celebrate!"
James broke free from his captor. "Dad!" He made it three steps before he was taken down. Harry struggled as his son seized on the ground. James' back arched and his head connected with the floor with a sickening crack – the body flopped for a few seconds more and then went still.
Hammerstein made a face. "Oh, dear. It seems we've broken one!"
"James," Harry whispered. Albus had stopped struggling, shaking as he tried to keep Lily from looking.
"Never fear," Hammerstein called out. "We have two more to go!"
The crowd cheered. Harry gagged, grief and rage screaming through his mind. My son, he panted as small black dots began blooming across his vision. They're going to kill my children.
"Bring the girl forward. I've a desire to hear her shriek," Hammerstein sat with a flourish. Guards dragged the two children apart, Albus being struck down as he fought them. Lily bloodied one man, kicking another in the balls as they tried to bring her forward.
"Leave her alone! I'll do anything! Anything!" Harry tried to stand, but the hex they had used to paralyze his legs still held. "Please! I'm begging you! Please!"
"You, the great Harry Potter, beg?" Hammerstein's eyes were lost in folds of skin as he smiled. "Why, you're starting to get the point, aren't you, Potter? Once I break you, I break the resistance of the wizarding world. You as my dog; my broken, obedient slave, and the rest will fall like leaves in the wind," Hammerstein snapped his fingers. "This is just some fun, to pass the time while we get our forces in place. You, the Boy-Who-Lived, you will be the key to the eventual surrender of the world. Isn't it grand?"
"Dad!" Albus shouted. "Stop them! Please! Daddy, please!"
Harry's blood went cold. It wasn't supposed to end like this, he watched as they dragged Lily forward. His vision went dark in the corners. It wasn't – it wasn't supposed to end like this.
There was a flicker at the edge of the crowd. McGonagall's ghost glided to a spot behind Albus, her transparent hands going through his captors as if she could strangle them for real. McGonagall, Harry's breath caught. The Headmaster's office! The device!
Harry looked down at the band on his wrist, then up at his daughter. Lily had bared her teeth at the men standing over her, nose bloody and lip torn. One man was still down on the ground, hands cupped over his privates as he moaned. She glanced up, as if feeling Harry's gaze. She had tears in her eyes, Harry noted in some distant part of his mind. But she did not let them fall.
"Daddy," his daughter said. Her voice wobbled. "Go."
Harry let out a harsh breath and closed his eyes. His magic flexed around the band – it shattered, slicing open his wrist with a fountain of blood. His guards shouted and tried to catch him. Harry took the second of confusion to break the Apparition wards and was gone.
The Headmaster's office was wrecked. The glass cabinets lay in ruins. Harry dragged his broken body over the shards, ignoring the gaping wounds they sliced into his skin.
It had to be there. It was an artifact Harry had carted from the Crabbe manor himself, entrusting it to Headmistress McGonagall. A time turner, a modified time turner. He had to find it. He had to find it. His failure to turn it over to the Ministry had been the reason why he'd been replaced as the head of the Auror division. Harry had never trusted the Ministry with the important devices; with a time turner like that, there was only one place for it in his mind.
There. His fingers touched gold wire. He yanked it out of the debris. His heart thudded hard in his chest. The casing was cracked. The delicate wound wires were bent. The grains of sand were leaking out, mingling with the blood and open wounds on Harry's hands.
It had to work, Harry mouthed the words as the cry of the crowd went up outside. He couldn't – if he lost them, if it all turned out to be for naught…
Harry closed his hands around the device. His wand was long gone. He curled his blood and magic over the spun gold, breathing prayers and promises to a god he no longer believed in.
Please let me go back and fix this. Please let me go back, please let me go back, please, please…
The world shattered around him and all went dark.