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Fate, Chance, and the Master of Death
by Lens of Sanity

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On the whole I'd say things hadn't really been going too well. I hope I need not remind you that I'd had a fairly busy, action packed couple of days. For one thing, I'd only gotten about three hours sleep over the previous seventy two hours. A full day scrubbing the edges off the Gringotts robbing plan, then a terrible night tossing and turning, where I get those three precious hours. Followed by actually robbing of the damn place.

It turned out the plan was… not very good.

Whatever, it worked, and nobody can ever doubt I'm good at thinking on my feet. Call me Harry Potter: Dragon Rider. Yeah, maybe not so much. Still, thinking back it was pretty bloody cool, who the hell rides Dragons for Merlin's sake?

The reason I was so tired wasn't just the physical crap I'd been going through, but the emotional stuff knackered me just as much. I should probably ask someone if that is normal at some point. I'll put it on the 'things I want to know eventually' list, at around five hundred and eleven. Right behind Fred Weasley's 'do Merpeople have pubic hair' question from fifth year.

Fred will never learn the answer to his own ponderings unfortunately, given the current nature of his apparent deadness. This saddened me quite a lot. I liked Fred, he was the cool twin.

So Dragon Riding and emotional upheaval, caused by learning stories of the old man's childhood, and the possible murdering of his sister. Even if he'd actually done it, it was an accident, so I suppose he gets a pass. You know, I wonder how old she'd been, Ariana I mean. Somewhere around poor Colin Creevey's age I guess. Yeah, Colin was dead too, bummer.

I'm rambling a little here aren't I?

Okay, fine, I'll get on with it. No need to line up a Monty Python clip or anything. Not that I'd ever actually seen the clip in question, only heard about it from Dean Thomas.

Right, right, I'm getting on with it.

So this is what happened. I'd just watched Tom's adorable little pet offer my favourite Professor his first kiss since, probably ever. It was a nice deadly hickey he was just not going to recover from. Then the man offers me a big goblet filled with swirly wind made solid, Pensive Memories as I'm sure you'll recognise from the description. They are kind of distinctive.

Severus Snape used the last of his strength to give me a bunch of Pensive Memories. This was confusing. Not to be callous with regards to human life or anything, but Snape dying is way up there on my 'things which I really want to happen list.' I officially need to stop making imaginary lists, they are not helping. So the former Potions Master ruins my sick enjoyment of his death scene by being confusing.

His last words were a plea to look him in the eyes. At the time I thought it was so he could Legilimens me or something, but it wasn't too much later I found out the real reason. The reason being of course, that I have my mother's eyes. People say it all the time, you'll have heard them doing it yourself I'm sure.

Anyway, I move off back to the castle and it's around an hour until dawn. The bodies of the fallen were all laid out with mourners gathering around them. Tonks was there, damn but that pissed me off. Tonks, Fred, Colin, and Hedwig last year. There was something about those four deaths in particular, which just seemed wrong in so many ways. You could ask me why Remus and Dumbledore don't fall under the same category, but I doubt I'd be able to articulate the why of my feelings.

I didn't join in with the other inhabitants of the school, instead I stomped my way to the Headmaster's Office, and dove into memories that the greasy haired bastard thought so damn important. Firstly, Snape as a kid was a whole barrel of creepy, and I felt my heart go out to him and his obvious hand-me-down clothes. By the way, this feeling is important, as you will soon understand.

I'm not going to get into everything I saw. Suffice it to say my Mother was cute as a child, a knockout as a teenager, and had no compunctions against telling someone what she really thought. I liked her immediately.

On the other hand James bloody Potter, was just as much a hateful bastard as Snape had always said he was. Think Draco Malfoy only with talent. I knew he grew out of it, but the memory of their first trip on the Hogwarts Express really touched a nerve. There was a memory I'd seen before following the O.W.L. Defence Exam, and it kind of made sense in a different way on the second viewing.

So I'm feeling uncomfortable to find myself experiencing an odd kinship with the man whose death should have me skipping with joy, and that was when things went bad. Oh, my Mother's death destroyed him, and the whole thing was just reeking of tragedy, and learning Dumbledore basically planned his own death from the start struck me as fairly typical of the man. But it was the horrifying revelation my Scar was a Horcrux which sideswiped me so strongly.

My favourite line was this:

"Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?"

Yeah, even Snape thought that one was pretty cold!

So, I'm a "Pig for slaughter" am I? Fantastic. Nevertheless, I knew what had to be done, and at the sight of that silvery doe Patronus my resolve strengthened and I braced myself to do what must be done. I had friends and a kind of family, and they had to survive. Don't misunderstand, I did not like it in the least, but I'd do it. For them.

My resolve built steadily and at the sight of the Sword of Griffindor something strange happened.

I suddenly thought of Ginny.

Yeah, not unusual really, but this was different somehow I couldn't quite place. I think it was because my thoughts had been focused toward the former Potions Professor, and the heroism he'd been hiding all those years, but for once Gin Weasley was the furthest thing from my mind.

I now know what happened of course, but at the time I had no idea. It was just a little tickle of the edge of awareness, the certainty that something somehow, was all sideways and wrong. Memory of Ginny, and my desire to see her safe, to see her happy, it crashed into my fledgling Occlumency shield. It was pure dumb luck that I noticed anything at all, but notice it I did, and so on exiting the Pensieve I slumped to the ground in confused contemplation.

As I say, there was only an hour until dawn when I'd been given these memories. So I checked Fabian Prewett's watch, the one Mrs. Weasley had given me for my seventeenth birthday. It turned out I had plenty of time. Relatively speaking. Given I was still headed for the gallows. But the time spent in Snape's recollections had been far shorter than I'd have guessed, so I turned around and watched them again.

I'm not sure exactly why I did it. Maybe it was some perfectly reasonable cowardice. That I simply wanted to delay my meeting with destiny a while longer. But I'm glad I did. Because who'd have guessed it, but that little tickle I'd felt right at the end of the infernal briefing. Well, it wasn't my imagination at all.

I actually watched those memories four times back to back, before I was confident I'd found them all.

A dozen.

Twelve.

Twelve little impacts to my mind, Compulsion Charms imbedded throughout the memories. And my were they subtle. I'd only caught them all on the last pass, once I'd finally narrowed down the feeling I was looking for.

Now don't get me wrong. Snape used to be friends with my Mother, and I was a Horcrux, and Dumbledore knowing about it the whole time. This was all quite a big deal. I remember calmly contemplating a repeat performance of Fifth Year, smashing things was always a good plan when one was under stress. Only I didn't really fell all that angry I'd been played.

At this point in my life this was par for the course.

The Charm's were as follows: Each time I saw Lily Evans I was forcibly reminded of how she'd died to protect me. With the sole exception of the train ride, where the similarities between James, Lily, Ginny, and myself were pointed out. Seeing Snape at his worst when switching sides, gave a reminder of heroism and self sacrifice. Dumbledore holding back knowledge of the Horcruxes from Snape made me emote on how the old man always knew best.

Finally the Sword of Griffindor prompted me to experience the feelings I had for my closest friends, and Ginny. The one I cared for most of all.

Interesting.

I'd been given a little push in the right direction. Go now Harry, lay down your life for The Cause, capitalised. I could feel the uppercase for Merlin's sake.

This was one bizarre experience, let me tell you. Take it from a guy whose life is one long series of bizarre experiences. With a shake of my head I suddenly saw with distinct clarity what a sack of worthless shit those memories must truly be.

Memories can be faked dumbass! I knew that. The whole thing with Slughorn last year, hell, the whole reason he was invited to teach at all, that was all because of a fake memory. So my watch said I had twenty minutes until the deadline, and I was thinking at a pace which would cause Hermione's pants to moisten. Or maybe that's not how it happened. Perhaps it was more like I just knew what I was going to do all at once, the path lay out in front of me clear as crystal in noonday sunlight.

"Those Who Are About to Die Salute You!" I quoted, from yet another movie I'd never seen.

The Snitch I'd been carrying all these months cracked open at the word die and I threw away the saliva strewn casing. Three turns of the Resurrection Stone later the old man was standing over me.

Yeah, I should probably have stood, but I was comfortable down there on the floor.

"Was it worth it?" I asked. "Messing with my life, sending me like a lamb to slaughter. Seventeen years of nonstop abuse. Was it worth it?"

He was dead, Dumbledore I mean, and even now I kind of doubt it was really him. That I was really calling his very Soul back from whatever Hellish afterlife he'd earned himself. Nevertheless whatever shade of my memory the Stone conjured was enough.

"You are a Horcrux, Harry. You could never have survived this war." The Headmaster began. "It is for the Greater Good…"

Yeah, he went on.

And on.

And on.

I'm pretty sure I may have compared him to Hitler, and how he was in fact considerably more evil than his old friend Gellert. But it was mostly a big pile of wanky teenaged angst. The last of it I'd ever spew by the way. So there was at least one good thing which came from my discussion with the old man.

"If you are quite done Dumbledore," I told him a short while later "I think it's about time I show you why schoolteachers shouldn't be in charge of wars."

After rummaging for a Vial in the Headmaster's desk, I stuck the Resurrection Stone in my sock. Don't twist your faces at me like that! The artefact needed to be in contact with my skin to work, and I really wanted the biggest bastard in my life to watch this.

Because you see, I had a newfound clarity in my life. I got it, I really did. It's not like I finally understood anything. More like I experienced the euphoric sense of power one gets from finally being in charge of one's life. Perhaps Sirius felt this way when he got out of Azkaban, or a destitute got hold of a winning lottery ticket.

The world and everything in it was mine.

Now we were beyond the Veil, a number of the relationships I had became quite suspect. And I admit the idea of tossing my bookish friend over my shoulder, and running off into the sunset did make itself known. Strenuously. Honestly, anyone who has met Hermione recently knows the woman is a knockout. It isn't flashy in your face kind of beauty, like the exquisiteness of Cho Chang for instance, but an understated elegance which will keep a guy interested even after she celebrates her centennial.

And the woman has had my back since she was twelve years old.

Beauty, brains, and unflinching loyalty. Yeah, over the shoulder, and off into the sunset was sounding pretty good right about now.

Is that the guy I wanted to be though? That was what I asked myself as I headed for the Great Hall.

The world and everything in it remember?

The real question was Ronald Bilius Weasley. My quote, unquote, best friend. It was him, and not me, who would decide my course. And as my course flew through a firestorm so to speak, having a little leeway, a little flexibility as to the path to my destination seemed appropriate.

You see, through my new lens of clarity, a number of Ron's actions and motivations became a tad suspect. Dumbledore hardly knew the guy, and even he knew well enough to give the Deluminator to him, as a means to return should he bail.

When the going got tough Ron was sometimes there, and I distinctly remember feeling hopeful for my friend. Ron left halfway through the camping trip Hermione and I were in the middle of, and that had been pretty much the worst thing he'd ever done. He abandoned his friends when they needed him. Ask him yourself, he'll readily admit it. So the questions I needed answering at this point were simple ones:

'How much of it was him, how much of it was the Horcrux influence, and was the experience something he'd learned from?'

Because I remember needing Ron to be the man I thought he was, and I knew deep down that the time spent alone at Shell Cottage after he left, would either make or break him. He'd either be the friend I thought I'd made on the Hogwarts Express, or he wouldn't be.

Ron was a good man. He had a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong protective instinct toward his friends and family, and a surprisingly skilled wizard with a wand in his hand. Seriously, I'm not sure you know this but he took down Rookwood one on one during the Department of Mysteries Battle. He was barely sixteen, and the guy he defeated was an Inner Circle Death Eater.

"Ron." I commanded, Hallow of Ignotus Peverell draped across my shoulders. He came toward me side by side with Hermione and I slammed his back against the wall. Hitting him with a Full Body-Bind, I silenced Hermione's protests with nothing save the look on my face. "Muffliato"

I'm not going to get into the conversation we shared, using Veritaserum taken from the Headmaster's Office. It was between him and me, with Hermione allowed to hear nothing save an indistinct buzzing.

I'll admit there was a small pang of regret. Maybe even not so small. The upshot of our heart to heart meant there was no shoulder throwing or sunset's in the future for Hermione and me. As I unstuck him from the wall I realised two things. Firstly, I didn't have the antidote to Veritaserum on hand, so Hermione had to muffle his ears until those two could find some. Second, how much bigger than me, Ron had gotten.

Since when had the guy been built like a goddamned tank?

I've always been small, 5'7" if you must know, but Ron was easily a foot taller than I was. I'd have probably been intimidated if not for my new sense of clarity. Besides he was my best mate, I was right to hope he'd learnt something over Christmas at Shell Cottage, Ron would have my back if I took it into my head to cross the River Styx!

"Time is up Harry Potter." Tom's voice bellowed from all and nowhere at once, whispering, hissing at the back of our necks. "You squander the lives of your friends thanks to your own cowardice."

There were reverberations as the remaining Giants began closing on Hogwarts, but I ignored them as I ignored the words of a man who'd wasted his life. Tom was just not important anymore.

This probably wasn't the time, but my curiosity simply needed to be sated, and I really had to know. I didn't bother with Veritaserum this time, as it came to me in a flash of the obvious how little I actually knew the woman. Ginny Weasley saw at me standing, with blatant unconcern in the face of an approaching army, just looking at her.

Ah, Ginevra Molly Weasley, now there was one attractive young woman. I've said how Hermione is all elegance and understated grace, well Gin is quite the opposite. Flash, bang, and in your face, stunning. Maybe it's just my thing for redheads, but this girl is one in a thousand, she makes Sue Bones look plain. For the love of god Sue Bones!

Here is what I knew about Ginny. She tastes of spice and cinnamon. She's the second most magically powerful student in Dumbledore's Army, third if you count both Neville and I. And lastly, she is not afraid to tell me where to get off when I'm being ridiculous.

All great qualities.

Unfortunately I did not know her favourite colour, I was unsure whether or not she supported the Harpies or just wanted to play for them, I didn't know what her best class was, nor could I have told you what she wanted to do with her life.

We'd only been going out two weeks when I'd traumatically witnessed Dumbledore's planned death scene. Anyway, like I say, I'd just been standing there looking at her for a long moment.

"You ever given me a Love Potion?"

"Yeah. Beginning of last year. My mother told me to."

"Strong one?"

"No."

"Want to watch me kill Tom?"

"Please."

Romantic conversation of what? Looking back I've got to admit, she was direct when I called her on it. We were standing there, with an oncoming army literally seconds away from battering down the door, and every single one of the defenders was just standing watching us have a totally irrelevant conversation.

I turned to Neville who was right there, sandwiched between Oliver Wood and Hannah Abbott, he looked even more battered than he was when Aberforth summoned him. Wow, I'd not really taken the time to notice the change in my friend. His long hair made him look older, he was still big but none of it was from fat anymore, and most of all was the look of easy command he seemed to radiate.

Members of the DA seemed to be looking to him for direction, and Neville was clearly comfortable in the spotlight.

"You know all about Wizard Customs being educated as a member of an Old Family, right?" I remember asking him.

He quirked an eyebrow questioningly. "I do."

"Any way I can sucker him into a Duel?"

"You want to fight Voldemort one on one?" Neville clarified and several adults gasped at his casual use of Riddle's anagram. Anyway, at my nod he finished "Not in any binding way as far as I can recall. Unless you go for a Lord's Duel, but I doubt he'd go for it."

Every fighter in the Hall followed the two of us out to the front of the Castle. Neville briefed me on the Duelling Formula as we walked. It was pretty straightforward and the Wraith Dumbledore beside me was nattering uselessly to my ears alone. I ignored him.

"Sonorous! I, Harry James Potter, Noble Blood of the Griffindor line, challenge the pretender Tom Marvolo Riddle, alias Lord Voldemort, to an Honour Duel for crimes against his Families Patriarch Salazar Slytherin."

What a pile of bollocks. Whatever, it's what Neville told me to say, the emphasis on the self imposed title of Lord was all Neville, but sucking his ancestors name into it was all me.

"I find being labelled your equal offensive. So I will give you one honest shot at me, and the chance at meeting me in honour." Remember this is Voldemort I was talking to, the guy's a bloody maniac. He put a piece of his Soul in his main adversary's stronghold for crying out loud! He was far from a balanced individual. So I went for ridiculous grandeur, it seemed right down the idiot's alley.

He was surrounded by his Army, and his Dementors, and his Giants, and outnumbering us many times over. And predictable for anyone who knew him, Voldemort called a halt to his advance. What a prick.

"Terms?" He hissed.

"No Seconds and to the Death." I answered instantly. "And you are to order your forces to withdraw should your body be destroyed."

I said body destroyed not dead on purpose, nodding toward the snake in its impenetrable bubble, and he nodded in understanding. Prick!

"Agreed." Came his sibilant reply, and the magic took hold. Anyone from either side interfered and the Old Magic involved would kill the person who was supposed to be aided.

§Lord Voldemort, you are a fool§ I told him with a smile, speaking Parsel so the conversation was just between us. §Bow to death Tom§

Looking back this was actually my favourite part. His red eyes narrowed. His wand tip charged green. And he spoke those familiar two words "Avada Kedavra!"

I rolled my eyes and snapped a loud "Expelliarmus!"

I was told many years later that this method of defeating powerful opponents is called 'Cherry Tapping' and is one of the cockiest things one could have done in a situation like this. It gives me no end of amusement thinking about it, I know that much.

That's right. I killed a Dark Lord with a Disarming Charm. I'm just too cool for school.

Well okay, that's not strictly what happened, I was and am, true Master of the Elder Wand. Me, Harry Potter. Draco Malfoy took it from Dumbledore, and I used Draco's Unicorn Wand to Disarm Tommy. The Wand of Destiny recognised me, as I knew it would, and backfired killing him.

15" of Elder sailed through the air, and I caught it dramatically in front of easily a thousand witnesses. Being careful not to tell people I now held the Deathstick. I mean come on, I'm not stupid enough to let that little doozy become public knowledge. I'd never see the end of idiots trying to kill me for it.

Without missing a beat I levelled my new wand at Nagini in her unbreakable sphere and went for the trifecta. The Killing Curse is the only Unforgivable I'd never attempted. But the one thing I knew about it was that, mother sacrificing shenanigans aside, it could not be blocked using magical means.

I didn't focus on hate.

I remember that distinctly.

I focused on the necessity of ending the life of Nagini and Tom Riddle. I didn't hate them, not with my new sense of clarity, but I did recognise they needed to be killed. Death was my intent, death my goal, and death was precisely what leapt from my wand. Inch by inch down a Foci of Thestral Hair, Fifteen Inches and a pool of green the exact shade of my mother's eyes.

The snake died without fuss, leaving the Dark Lord a bodyless Shade, and in possession of a single Horcrux. Me.

Betrayal came swiftly from a predicable direction. Sunken purple eyes glittering with insanity and malice. Yeah, that bitch. The one who'd Stunned my Godfather through an Exacution Veil. Bellatrix Black LeStrange.

I recognised the Purple Flame-Cutter Curse which Hermione had been hit with two years ago. It leapt across the gap between us and I just raised my eyebrow to the woman in condescension. The Curse wrapped around my Cloak of Invisibility without damaging it or me in the slightest. I'm not sure you know this, but heavily Enchanted objects like Horcruxes and Hallows, and I'd even guess the Sorting Hat, are spelled to be virtually immune to magic.

I'd have dodged a Killing Curse if she sent one, and ran like hell if I got a whiff of that Fiendfyre stuff Hermione told me about earlier in the day, but at that moment I felt the drama. I know it sounds stupid, but moments like these have a big impact on people, so standing there unharmed in the face of Bellatrix onslaught really made an impression.

I just stood there taking hits as she launched them at me. Looking at the woman with contempt.

Neville, his Army, the Order of the Phoenix, they all joined battle against the demoralised Death Eaters. I didn't. Bellatrix was the dangerous one, and I had her focused on me for the time being.

I don't remember much of the Battle after that. I know I barely did anything save stand there looking intimidating. But reinforcements came from Hogsmeade, and the Death Eaters were chased away with tails between their legs. It was a route, and the news was spread wide. The Ministry was reclaimed by Kingsley that morning, and Aurors in hiding began trickling back to their posts.

Riddle was still alive of course, as the disapproving Dumbledore Echo kept whinging on about it until I banished him. He had a body back not two months later. I've been told it's stronger than the one he got using my blood and Wormtail's hand. Bellatrix clearly being a far superior Servant in which to take flesh from.

The damage was done though, people now knew he and the Death Eaters could be beaten, I'd proven that in style even if they never realise it was mostly a trick coupled with dramatic timing. So Kingsley's Ministry marginalised Voldemort for the most part. There were still attacks, and he was still incredible dangerous, but British Magicals were fighting back now and Tom was having a much tougher time of things. I even heard Lucius turned spy for a while before Voldemot found out and killed him.

Nevertheless, this had all happened ten full years ago, and for the first time in a decade I find myself back in Britain.

"You cannot think to beat me with such a cheap trick again Harry Potter" Voldemort spoke respectfully. That's a change from last time.

"No trick, this time it's down to skill." I tell him with a real smile gracing my face.

We are in the Ministry approved Duelling Pit. The one used in the old days to settle disputes. My scarless forehead clear as day, mocking the man who I'd come to kill.

"Seconds this time?" He asked.

"My wife wants a crack at Bellatrix." I agreed.

He's fighting me because he has no choice. If he kills me, other avenues to immortality open themselves to him, and he knows from experience he cannot track me down if I do not wish to be found.

"I name Bellatrix LeSrange as my Second."

"I name Ginevra Potter as my Second."

The waist length crimson hair I so love to run me fingertips through brushes its heavenly scent against my face. If we win I've promised her children. Here is a tip for all those reading:

Don't make promises to naked women.

They hold you too them when you have regained your senses.

'It is time oh Master of Death, today Lord Voldemort is going down.'

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