Summary: In which our story ends, for good or ill.
Harry held the struggling cat tightly, wincing as its claws scored more than one hit. "I'm sorry." He said through clenched teeth to the feline as it yowled and dug its nails deeply into his arm. With that Harry dragged the knife across its shoulders. The thing hollered and twisted to try to escape his grip but Harry held it firm, dropping the knife quickly and holding a bowl under the wound. After collecting a fair amount of blood he cast a quick healing charm on the cat, which spat at him angrily, and turned it loose.
The creature didn't hesitate and made a beeline for the castle.
Harry sighed and placed a preservation charm over the bowl before turning back to the book. After collecting fresh cat blood, he needed to add Devils Bane to ward away any evil spirits the cat might have left behind. Harry thought it was a bit ridiculous but he didn't want to take any chances of messing up the spell, so with a sigh he added a sprig of purple flowers to the cat blood. He blinked in surprise as the flowers slowly wilted and a puff of black smoke rose from the blood. What was next? He wondered, eyeing the black smoke as it rose higher into the sky.
"A gift from an enemy, a gift from a friend," he murmured and reached into his back pocket. He grabbed a small pouch full of Tom's hair and hesitated before sprinkling it into the mixture. Was this a gift from a friend or enemy? Could it be considered a gift if it wasn't willingly given? He let the hair fall into the blood and relaxed as a small puff of white hovered above the mixture. A friend then. He thought, relieved, before pulling out a small vial of more hair. Harry felt his stomach knot up in guilt as he uncorked and added it.
More black smoke.
He hadn't expected anything different. Evan hated him, and he hated him with good reason. And now he has another reason to. Harry had taken Evan's hair that morning, trying not to look at the gaunt and grey features of the sleeping boy. It's my fault.
"I will be gone soon. Look after Tom for me… not that he needs looking after." He had murmured to the still teen, who didn't so much as twitch at the delectation.
A sprig of aged holly was next on the list, along with something personal. Harry sighed as he reached into the pouch around his neck, taking out a tiny sliver of his old wand and placing it into the mix. A redish haze appeared over the bowl, tiny sparks filtering down from the red fog and striking the liquid. It looked like a tiny lightning storm over a red sea. Finally, after it settled down, it needed to be stirred with, ironically, thyme.
That had been the easiest ingredient to collect. He had called a suspicious Tink to him and after explaining what he needed she had brought him an entire thyme plant.
After thanking her she glared at him.
"Master had better not be cooking on his own…" she had muttered and disappeared.
He smiled at the memory and carefully stirred the mixture with the herb bundle he had bound together. The red haze instantly surrounded the plants, attacking the leaves with tiny bursts of energy. Slowly the thyme lost every one of its leaves; the liquid in the bowl turned a sludgy looking green and the red haze quickly faded away. Harry set the stems aside and picked up the bowl. According to the instructions, it should work.
Should I test it first? Harry thought nervously. But what could he test it on? And how would I know if it worked in the first place? There was only one way to find out.
With a grimace he lifted the bowl to his lips and tried not to gag as the hot, thick, liquid worked its way down his throat. When he was finished he tossed the bowl aside and grabbed at a tree branch to his right,his stomach turned violently and it took everything he had to keep everything down.
His skin started to tingle, and a low buzzing sound filled his ears. Harry watched as his hands started to glow white, then his arms, torso, legs- Magic was pressing against him on all sides, sliding over his skin slowly, before reaching out as if searching for something. Apparently, it hadn't been able to find what it was looking for and sank back into his skin. Harry could feel it there, humming, just below the surface of his flesh, waiting. That was it?
"What are you waiting for damn it!" Harry hissed and tore at his arms in a sudden fit of temper "Take me home!" The magic remained immobile. Harry whipped out his wand, pointed at the nearest tree and cast the most violent magic he could muster. The tree exploded in a flurry of bark and branches, some of the debris flying at Harry and digging into his skin. The pain only drew his anger into sharper focus as he cast again and again at the surrounding foliage. He couldn't go home, he couldn't go home. He cried out as a branch lashed out and deeply cut his cheek.
Blood dripped down his face, and the dormant magic under his skin buzzed like a swarm of angry bees for a moment before fading away. His free hand went up to touch the torn flesh as his breathing evened out. He felt tired… drained of everything he was, he felt hopeless. What the hell am I going to do?
As much as the thought of staying in the 40's had appealed to him in theory, he had never actually considered not returning home. He had made no real plans to make a life here beyond getting decent test scores to keep himself in Hogwarts. He sank to the ground and buried his face in his hands.
Harry didn't know how long he kneeled there among the carnage of the destroyed trees, but by the time he was coherent enough to move the sun was almost down. I should get back, make a new plan… he thought andstarted for the tree line. Every step he took to the school felt like another failure, every breath a mockery of his inability to do anything right, and every painful throb of the injuries he sustained a tribute to how he had let himself and everyone who counted on him in his own time down.
Before long the castle came into sight and Harry sighed in relief, limping slowly through the double doors.
Something heavy slammed into Harry's side sending him flying into the Ravenclaw points hourglass. He heard his rib snap with a loud crack and hollered in agony. The dormant magic roared to life under his skin and Harry's vision doubled.
He was in the forbidden forest- Voldemort tilted his head to the side, the movement very birdlike. He looked his opponent over before a mirthless smile crossed his lipless mouth.
"Harry Potter," he said very softly, "The Boy Who Lived."
Evan Lestrange was looming over him, eyes wide and unblinking, pupils tiny pinpricks lost in a sea of hazel. "Harry Granger," he cackled gleefully. "We meet again." With that Evan flicked his wand harshly and Harry was levitated up- and promptly smashed against the cobblestone floor. Harry heard something crack and felt intense pain shoot up from his wrist. The magic pulsed again as Harry shut his eyes against the agony.
No one dared to move, not even Voldemort whose head was still tilted to the side, like a curious child who wondered what would happen if he proceeded. He raised his wand.
"Let's see how long he lasts." Evan laughed and raised his wand again. This time though Harry struggled, reaching for his wand with his good hand. He grimaced as he was thrown down to the ground again. To his relief nothing broke. I don't know how long I can take this. Harry thought, gritting his teeth against the pain in his throbbing body.
"Up…" Harry rose into the air. "Down!" He went slamming into the ground, but not before he managed to grab his wand.
"Confringo!" He rasped out, the spell flew wide of his mark and landed with a loud explosion, making Evan stumble and causing Harry to close his eyes against the brilliant light the spell gave off.
Harry stared into his eyes all the while; trying desperately not to betray the fear that was twisting his stomach to bits and making his heart try to race out of his chest.
Harry managed to find his feet, and Evan noticed.
"You think you can duel me?"
"I know I can." Harry growled and cast another blasting curse. This time Evan didn't dodge out of the way fast enough, and the shield he threw up only just kept the explosion from reaching him. Pressing his advantage Harry threw every spell he knew at him, a few of the minor hexes hit. Boils erupted along Evans skin, and his teeth started to grow at an alarming rate.
"Phnite-" He slurred out from behind his monstrous teeth and quickly shrank them before sending a curse Harry had never seen before toward him.
Harry threw up a shield but the curse tore through it like tissue paper and Harry was in agony again as large welts appeared all over his body.
He saw Voldemort's lips move-
"Lestrange!" It was Tom, his black eyes burning, mouth set into a grim frown as he cast a nasty looking purple curse toward the stark figure of Evan Lestrange. Evan dodged with surprising nimbleness. The hazel eyed boy grinned widely, carefully flipping his wand in-between his hands. Harry could only watch as he caught his breath, trying to heal himself with the little knowledge he had.
"Master," Evan purred, his wide unblinking eyes staring at Tom "I had hoped you would show up."
Tom's eyes flashed. "How could I not when you left such a lovely invitation."
Evan beamed like a pleased child. "Like that did you? I thought you would. Death suits Nurse Dove more than life did, wouldn't you agree?"
"I find that is true for a great many people." Tom retorted, and both opponents circled each other slowly. "Currently, I would put you at the top of that list, you cannot win this fight." Evan laughed.
"Oh we both know I can't best you in a duel, I don't think anyone can actually. But I can still win this battle." Quick as a bolt of lightning Evan turned his wand back on Harry.
Harry saw Evans lips move-
-heard the words distantly-
-the green light closed the distance between them-
The ritual magic rushed to cover him, a bright white light-
-emitted from his skin and surrounded him with its warmth, taking the full brunt of the killing curse-
Harry let out an agonizing scream as the magic fought hard against the killing magic, using Harry's own magic as an anchor. It used the power from the killing curse, twisting and warping it to its own use.
Magic invaded his senses and entered every inch of his body. Every part of him buzzed with power, and for a split second he felt invincible. But then the magic turned on him and with all its strength yanked.
Harry felt as if he was going to be torn into a million pieces as every particle in his body tried to pull itself apart. Harry shut his eyes and screamed.
Suddenly it stopped, and when Harry opened his eyes-
-he was standing on platform nine and three quarters. Smoke from the Hogwarts express ruffling his hair.
"Ah Harry, how delightful it is to see you again."
Harry knew that voice and knew it well.
"Professor Dumbledore?" The man in question walked toward him, robes swirling with odd colors and images, his blue eyes twinkling. This was his Dumbledore, the one from his time… and Harry couldn't help but feel glad to see him.
"What are we doing here?"
Dumbledore looked around curiously. "Where do you think this is?"
Harry frowned "Isn't this Platform Nine and Three Quarters?"
The old man beamed "Indeed it is, I had been wondering. But you must have questions, come and sit with me." Dumbledore gestured to a table Harry hadn't noticed before.
"Alright…" they started walking together. It was strange to see the normally bustling platform without people, and Harry's head kept spinning to try and find someone in the stark white of… he didn't even know.
"Professor, where exactly are we? I mean I must be dead or you wouldn't be here, but…"
Dumbledore chuckled "My boy, you are not dead… at least not completely. Another soul took the brunt of the Killing curse, leaving yours intact. As for where we are, the best way to describe it would be a crossroads."
Harry frowned, "Then why does it look like the platform?"
"It looks different for everyone who comes across it, for one man it might be a series of dirt paths through the woods, for another it could be a bus. I believe that the Hogwarts Express symbolizes to you great change, and so it is what you see."'
That was true enough.
"What do you see professor?"
Dumbledore smiled "Right now I see what you do, as for what I saw when I first came here- well that is a story for another time. I daresay you will enjoy the tale."
They were almost to the table when something snagged the end of the cloak he was wearing. Harry turned to see what had stopped him and froze.
Long bloody fingers were hooked into the fabric, long limbed arms shook as if supporting the too large hands were too much for it, a large almost infantile head lulled to the side as if its neck wasn't strong enough to properly support it, and a tuft of thin midnight hair fell over too large red eyes. Its gaze was imploring as it patted at the end of his cloak.
The thing at his feet blinked slowly.
"You are half correct Harry. This Horcrux is different from the others destroyed."
Harry glanced over at Dumbledore; the man had paused and was looking back at him solemnly.
"What happened to make it different?"
"I did?" Harry asked, confused.
"Indeed, this is the shard that was attached to you. Your close interaction with Tom Riddle reminded the shard what it should look and behave like. So it was slowly changing according to its original design before preparing to join with its whole."
Harry frowned. "But Hermione said only guilt and regret could make the Horcruxes reconnect to Voldemort."
Dumbledore nodded "Miss. Granger was not incorrect… but love could also make the connection needed to reattach a soul."
Harry stared incredulously at the former Headmaster, "But sir, you said it yourself, Tom can't love-"
"But you can, and you have…"
Dumbledore knew. Harry paled.
"It is never wrong to love someone Harry, despite what the world might say." Dumbledore looked infinitely sad as he said this, and his eyes were far away as he looked over Harry's shoulder at something only he could see. "Come, we have little time and much to discuss."
Harry looked down that the tiny clutching thing, it didn't look like it was going to let go any time soon. Gently he reached down and carefully pried the long hooked fingers off of him. As Harry stepped away, the thing reached and wailed and some part of Harry wanted to comfort it.
Harry frowned but obeyed and tried to ignore the screaming from the soul shard. He sat across from Dumbledore at the little table.
"You have a choice to make Harry," Dumbledore said without preamble "And I wish that I could say that it will be an easy one." Dumbledore flicked his wrist and two mirrors appeared, completely identical in every way, and Harry saw himself in each of them. It wasn't his reflection.
One Harry was lying down on the forest floor with his eyes shut; he was dirty and ragged looking. I look terrible. He thought idly as one of the Death Eaters slowly made their way to his prone form. In the other mirror Harry was in the Great Hall. He looked better than he did in the first mirror. He looked better fed at least. This Harry's eyes were wide open, but blank and the sight sent a chill down his spine. Evan was laughing, but he wouldn't be for long-Tom was casting, his eyes a deep maroon.
"History as we know it has changed many times before Harry. Despite the common opinion, Time is fluid and ever changing, and you have changed it yet again from its set pattern."
"How? I don't even know what I did!" Harry shouted in exasperation.
"Ah, but you do Harry." At Harry's confused glance Dumbledore explained. "When you preformed the ritual in the past to take you to the future, the magic first had to bring you from the future to the past."
Harry's head hurt. "So… I sent myself back in time in the first place by trying to get back to the future?"
"Exactly right, you see Harry nothing can happen in the past without affecting the future."
"But what would have happened if I hadn't found the spell to send me back? What if I never bothered trying to get back?"
"Then it never would have happened in the first place, and we would not be having this conversation."
"It doesn't make any sense." Harry mumbled and grabbed at his hair.
Dumbledore smiled "Extraordinary things and happenings rarely do." Dumbledore glanced over at the mirrors and frowned.
"But we are running out of time. You must choose which timeline to remain in."
Harrys head throbbed "I have to go back to my original time." He said, rubbing his temples. "They need me."
"They may not."
Harry frowned "What do you mean?"
"Time, as I have said, is constantly being written, rewritten, and… unwritten."
Harry looked at him sharply. "Are you saying that I can change history? But Hermonie said-"
"Miss Granger can, and has, been wrong before. History can be changed Harry if you would be willing to try… it would involve a lot of risk and uncertainty. But it is possible."
"…What will happen to everyone?"
"Nothing, at least nothing they will remember. Their lives will alter with the timeline." Silence stretched between them.
"Can I stop the war from happening?" He asked slowly.
"I do not know," Dumbledore said with a sigh. "As I said nothing about time is certain."
"But is there a chance to stop it before it begins?"
"There is always a chance."
Harry watched Tom in the gilded mirror. The hollow look was back in his now red eyes as he stood over Evan Lestrange. Evan was laughing even as blood poured from between his lips.
"Is there any way to stop him from being Voldemort?"
"That I do not know. Perhaps if he does not split his soul again, perhaps if he had proper guidance from someone who cared for him. It is uncertain."
"I don't know if I love him enough to stay with him." Harry said and his chest tightened at the admission.
"The choice is yours, Harry."
It was an impossible choice. Harry knew he loved Tom, foolish as that was, but he didn't know if they had what it would take to last together if he went back. If he went to the future, it was with the knowledge that he would have to kill his former lover, and watch as more of his friends died in the resulting conflict.
If I go back I might be able to save everyone. He thought glancing over at the pathetic, childlike Tom/Voldemort hybrid that groaned and squirmed. Perhaps even him.
Harry had oftentimes wondered what would have happened to Voldemort if someone had been there to care for him… But if he goes back to being a Dark Lord, it would still be my job to kill him… what a cheery thought. Either way you looked at it Tom was looking more and more like Harry's responsibility. Wasn't he always?
If he went back he would be giving up everything he knew. But if he did he also imagined how much he would gain.
His friends and family, alive and whole, happy without the threat of Voldemort looming over them… and Voldemort himself could be using his brilliance doing something good for the wizarding world. Could that happen? Could he make it happen?
It was a chance-
-and Harry was alive and well because of stupid chances "I want to go back." Dumbledore nodded sadly.
"I thought you might. It was an honor to know you Harry Potter, though I will forget our time together know that I felt it was a privilege to know you." The world around them shook, everything fading into obscure white fog, and the last thing Harry was aware of was the sad eyes of Albus Dumbledore, and the wailing of the broken shard of Voldemort's soul.
Everything hurt. His eyes slowly opened only to fall on the figure of Tom, sitting in a chair by his bedside, reading an old book with an unconcerned expression.
"Tom?" He rasped and the teen almost dropped his book in surprise.
"Harry?" He was instantly at his side, looking him over quickly. "You look terrible."
"Thanks Tom, really what I wanted to hear… what happened?" Tom hesitated and looked like he was about to speak when a young woman bustled into the room- she looked vaguely familiar….
"Madame Pomfrey, he just woke up two minutes ago."
Harry couldn't help but gape as the young Madame rapidly looked him over casting spell after spell on him, all the while babbling about how lucky he was to be alive after the injuries he had taken. "…And to have survived a botched killing curse on top of it all- angels are looking after you boy. You were lucky Mr. Riddle here acted quickly enough to stop that horrible Lestrange boy in time."
"I was." He said, looking at the stern face of his lover.
"Almost completely healed," she said after a minute "Remarkable. You are almost well enough to go now but I want to keep you one more night to be sure." Harry nodded and let her fuss over him a minute more before politely requesting privacy.
"-I want to thank Tom properly."
"Oh! Oh of course, I will be in my office if you need me." With that she was gone and they were alone again.
"I thought Evan had killed you." Tom said darkly, eyes flashing a brief scarlet before fading back to their usual black.
"For a minute, so did I," Harry said with a weak laugh "But I'm not that easy to kill."
"Were you upset?"
Annoyance flashed in Tom's eyes. "I was… unnerved. I am not used to the feeling."
I almost get myself killed at least once a year and now that I'm not going anywhere you better get used to it.
"I'm sorry to make you feel that way. It will not happen again… unless you have other insane ex-boyfriends you haven't told me about."
"I will take that as a no… in that case I think I will stick around."
Tom's eyes softened slightly "If that is what you want."
"I feel obligated to warn you about-"
He held up a hand "We will talk later; there are a few things I need to warn you about too. But right now… I'm happy to see you."
Tom took his hand and squeezed it in an uncharacteristic show of affection.
It was a start, and for now… it was enough. For good or for worse Tom Riddle, I am with you until the end.