Disclsimer - I do not own Harry Potter
AN -This is the new and vastly improved in my opinion BETA APPOVED first chapter of TMoD! Many thanks to MarvelousMarvel and the mastermind behind the editing and kickass writer BenignViewer!
Harry Potter faced Lord Voldemort, and as he stared at the intensely inquisitive eyes of his lifelong antagonist he felt a calm and nearly unnatural sense of peace. The jeers, screams and roars of the Death Eaters and their followers were reaching a fevered pitch, and somehow the two fated by prophesy stood amongst it and were at once apart from it.
Voldemort raised the Elder Wand, and Harry could inexplicably feel the power inside of it. He fleetingly thought of his family, who he was sure still waited, unseen around him; ready to take him when he left the world. He made no move for his own wand. He wanted to protect the others, the same way that his mother had protected him. Ginny, George, Arthur and Molly, Ron, Hermione, the professors, the students, and the innocent people of the world, muggle and wizarding alike, who suffered at Voldemort's behest. He would leave them all beyond Voldemort's touch.
He knew it was time and he whispered, even as Voldemort uttered the killing curse, "I'm sorry everyone." He saw the flash of green draw ever nearer and spread his arms wide as if shielding someone or something behind him. It was not so far from the truth. Harry Potter was struck in the chest, and fell backwards, a small smile gracing his lips. He was dead before he hit the ground.
He was adrift. He allowed sensations to wash through him until he realized that he was feeling, thus he had a body. Almost instantly he felt himself lying on his back on what felt like warm grass. Realizing he had a body he became curious of his surroundings. Upon taking a deep, slow breath he realized that he could smell wet earth, grass, and something he didn't recognize immediately. Reasoning that if he could smell he should also be able to see, he opened his eyes. He saw a star strewn sky above him, the light of the millions of stars brighter and far more vivid in the rich velvet sky. He lay there in awe for some time, watching the night as he had never seen it before as a pale green aurora lit up and danced across the heavens. He was entranced until he heard running water. In surprise he sat up and found himself facing a wide river. The river rushed and flowed and at places was still and tranquil as stones split the raging waters to create small clear patches in the white-water currents.
He watched the gushing and enthralling power of the river for a few moments, or maybe ages, before realizing that before him and slightly to the right was a bridge. He knew that this bridge was unnatural; it seemed to grow from the bank without any support and the wood looked immensely aged, yet it spanned the waters and their fury without swaying or sign of rot. He saw no signs of any kind of mounting. This bridge was made by magic.
As he – Harry, his name was – contemplated all of this, his memories returned in full. Scenes of his life swam before him; the abuse at the hands of his uncle and cousin, the indifferent treatment from his aunt, the cruelty and shunning his schoolmates, the teachers and neighbours all believing him to be a hooligan or ruffian. Then came Hogwarts; his first friends, his trials year after year – where he was branded a saviour or a sinner in the eyes of others – either the newest Dark Lord or the Chosen One to bring everlasting peace.
Harry grew ever more introspective as he relived Dumbledore's death, the murder of Severus Snape, and his own ultimate demise.
He found himself crying as he saw in his mind the friends he left behind: Ron, fickle at times but there in a pinch. He frowned slightly and adjusted the thought. Ron was not there at the darkest times. He had not been his friend as much when the chamber opened, even when he went after Hermione to warn her of the troll he hesitated. The silent tears leaking down his face slowed as he brightened slightly at the thought of his first true friend. Hermione had stood by him always. Yes she had disapproved of his using Snape's old potion book, but her thoughts had been vindicated by the sectumsempra spell he had used from it.
Harry watched in his mind as a small bushy haired girl led a pudgy boy into their compartment on the train first year, watched as she eagerly jammed the sorting hat on her head in the Great Hall of Hogwarts.
He watched her cower while a raven haired boy smaller than her leaped recklessly onto a troll to distract it from her. Watched that same girl and boy hug, before she dashed through a portal of purple fire even as the boy faced the black flames that would lead to Voldemort.
He watched her as she lay immobile and frozen in time, prone on a bed in the hospital wing. The small boy from before was there, holding her hand and speaking gently to her.
Watched them ride a hippogriff with an alleged mass murderer from the astronomy tower under a midnight sky.
Watched them studying together and her tireless efforts to save him in the tournament he was forced to compete in.
He again watched her fall with a look of surprise as a bolt of purple fire struck her. Felt his own relief anew when the now older, and less pudgy, boy from the train, told him she still had a pulse.
He saw her scowling at the book that the black haired teenager clutched like his own child.
Saw her crying in a tent as her heart broke.
Saw her kissing Ron. He felt a sudden pang of something… indescribable.
Watched them holding hands while he, invisible, crept away to do what only he could do; die at the hands of Tom Riddle. To make him mortal once more, or escape the happiness that was never his?
He sighed as he looked at the old bridge again and was startled to see four cloaked and hooded figures. Unsure what to do he stepped forward, one of them called out. "Hold, young one."
He froze in mid step, but slowly faced the speaker. He knew that they were not enemies. He couldn't say why, but he knew, almost instinctively, that he was supposed to meet them here.
The speaker was the largest of the four and continued in a deep, hoarse, voice "Ye who are the true owner of the Wand of Destiny, Bringer of Death, I ask of thee this: Would ye choose vengeance or justice?"
Harry thought but a moment before he answered, "Justice." in a carrying voice over the sounds of the river.
The hooded figure nodded once and stepped back as second figure, thinner and smaller than the first, stepped forward, "Ye who are the true owner of the Stone of Resurrection, Reverser of Death, I ask of thee this: Would ye choose past or present?"
Harry felt confused. Past or present? He thought honestly and chose the one thing that he knew in his heart was best for everyone, "Present." His voice seemed to come from a great distance this time as the man nodded and stepped back.
A third stepped forward and said in a strong, pleasant voice, "Ye who are the true holder of the Cloak of Invisibility, Shadow of Death, I ask of thee this: Would ye choose to cower or fight?"
Harry had come to realize that each had questioned him on a different value of the object, but even son he realized his use of the cloak was both: to avoid the Death Eaters and to end the threat they and their leader posed. With these thoughts he spoke, "To Fight." and his voice was becoming stronger.
The third figure nodded as it backed away to be replaced by a tall, thin being that spoke in a higher and emotionless monotone, "Ye who hold Death's Hallows, master of Death, I ask thee this: Would ye lord thyself as Death's Conqueror or would ye accept Death's Judgment?"
The cold voice sent a thrill of terror through his body, but he knew that the dead – and Harry was sure that he was dead now – belonged to Death, and thus replied "I submit to Death, as a true master of Death must, and accept Death's Judgment."
The last figure nodded but remained as the other three faded from sight back across the bridge. Harry watched with no fear, only understanding and acceptance as the figure drew back its hood, revealing a handsome and yet terrible visage. Alabaster skin and high cheekbones with flowing black hair, offset by the terrifying, deep-set, eyes as black as a starless and moonless night. The thin mouth was fixed in a half smirk as he rested his gaze upon the one on whom he was to cast judgment. Harry faced Death as an equal, and Death nodded as he raised his hand and chanted in a strange and dark sounding language for a few moments before Harry was enveloped in brilliant white light that washed away the scene they had been in moments before.
Now Harry and Death stood facing each other in a sea of white. The walls and floor and ceiling were all white. Death spoke in the flat voice once more. "You have died before now, Harry. This is in fact the sixth time you have died." Harry was struck dumb by the pronouncement, but Death continued, "Shall I tell you how you died child?" Harry nodded mutely, still unable to comprehend his unfortunate circumstance.
Death gave him a slight smile, but it only highlighted his inhuman nature. "The first time you died when your relatives decided to beat the magic out of you. Your uncle grew so enraged as he watched you recover from broken bones and lashings that had bled the night before, as though they were scratches that one night he took it too far and used a tire iron... on your head. You were five and just showing the first signs of magical aptitude."
Harry, who had made his peace with his alleged family, felt betrayed and hurt all over again. How could they kill him? And over him having magic? He almost missed the next part of his story.
"Your second death was during the first year of Hogwarts. Halloween, the troll managed to swing at Hermione Granger and you dove to push her out of the way. Well, I am sure you can imagine the result of diving into the path of a half-tonne club."
Harry was slightly mollified by this death and knew that if the situation had turned out that way he would have died happy. He gulped at the thought of what that could have done to his future best friends mentally, and was glad they had all survived the encounter, to his memory.
"Thirdly; in your second year. You should know that basilisk venom has but one cure. That time around Fawkes was too late to help you and you perished."
The idea that Lord Voldemort would have been reborn from that encounter sent a thrill of terror through him. It seemed he was thinking faster however, and he was noticing a pattern to his past lives and their deaths, but he had to hear the last two to be sure of the conclusion he was drawing.
"Fourthly was Triwizard Tournament. You were able to summon your Firebolt, but when the dragon realized you took the egg from her nest the handlers couldn't get there in time and she roasted you like a pig on a spit."
The sudden mental image of him with a red apple in his mouth, his limbs wrapped around a blackened broomstick made him simultaneously want to laugh and be sick. He ended up feeling moderately queasy and watched Death as he spoke.
"The final death was at the hands of one you called friend. Ronald Weasley. Seeing your closeness with Hermione in your sixth year caused him to become insanely jealous. He had gotten involved with Lavender Brown to make Hermione Granger see him as someone desirable. When he caught the two of you alone in a classroom talking he misunderstood and fired a Reductor Curse at your, ah, bits I believe is the popular term?" He smiled a touch wider at Harry's horror-stricken face, "When she tried to help you, he hit her with an Impediment Jinx and told her to watch you die because she refused to acknowledge his feelings. They watched you bleed out. In Granger's defence she cried and tried to help you, but he had her disarmed and immobilized."
Harry felt appalled. Even though he knew he was dead he dropped to his knees and heaved. For several minutes the only sounds were his retching as he tried to reconcile his best friend with the monster who murdered to break a girl's will and make her his. Harry recovered enough to connect the dots mentally, but he was still too ill to raise his point with the Lord of the Dead. He realized that he had bested Voldemort on his own every time and he had only died as a result of others actions beyond what the prophecy dictated. He realized why he kept reviving and subconsciously knew that he was dead for good this time. Voldemort was mortal once more.
"You have a choice to make. Before, Fate and Prophecy were bringing you back and guiding you upon each of your returns. Now, however, you are the true master of Death. You have my blessing as well and that is no small thing, young one. "You may be aware that seven is the most powerfully magical number, although I cannot tell you why, this does open new options to you after your past lives. Add the power of three also, another magically powerful number, and you will be capable of things greater than any… you, before you." Harry could practically feel Death smirk.
Harry stared blankly at, for lack of a better word, him for a moment as he marshalled his thoughts. Slowly, he stood and wiped his mouth on his sleeve before saying "So, er, Death, I have died five times already," He winced slightly but pressed on, "But because of the prophecy - my fate - I have returned me to life each time?" The figure bowed its head in acknowledgment. "But not you, you have had no say in my life, or death?"
Death smiled," I have worked in your life as well young one. I have claimed those you love through manipulations of fate and circumstance."
This caused Harry to frown as he said, "Can you speak plainly please?"
Death smile turned to a smirk, "I am afraid that you must choose your path now, for time has grown short. Will you return to life, and if so, when shall you return?"
Harry realized why in a jolt. "You can't adjust fate, but you can send me back with something fate can't?" The question was really an exclamation despite how Harry phrased it.
He watched the Death's face and saw him nod approvingly. "If I return you to the past, it will be with the power of seven and three forces beyond time and life – my hallows. I will use that to fuse the power of your seven lives together. When you return, you shall wield the greatest magicks."
Harry considered what was being said and what wasn't. His years of knowing Albus Dumbledore had ensured that he recognized where reading between the lines was necessary, and taught him all the tricks that came along with it. Combined with his new celerity in contemplation he concluded aloud, "I'll have power beyond my ability control. I would need to start over to learn that control."
Death grinned. He liked this one, and perhaps this could get Love off his back as well. "Harry James Potter, I ask you this: shall you return?"
Harry took a deep breath and said, "Send me back to my eleventh birthday, if you would. I will need the chance to prepare. But before I go, two questions: will I remember anything?"
Death looked hard at the young man before him and said "You will not. But fret not; you shall be unfettered as well. That's the best answer I can give for your first question, now, your second?"
Harry pressed his hand to his scar and said in a quiet voice, "You have cleansed the piece of Tom Riddle from my head, haven't you?"
Death gave him a feral grin, one that made his face look almost skeletal. "In this, probably your last after my interference, return to life, you will have the full protection that should have been yours." Harry had no time to express his confusion as the world faded to black and he once again felt nothing.