Harry Wyllt and the Path to the Crown

Chapter Fifteen

It was only a matter of time, he supposed. Cornelius was nothing more than an empty shell, and Dumbledore nothing else than a rambling fool, but still he had hoped for something more. He had kept himself hidden deep within the thoughts of the Prime Minister, letting the creatures of the Hunt drain all the will of the whimpering man that once was the minister of Wizardry Britain.

Now that position was de-facto his, of Salazar Slytherin. The scream of Arthur echoed through the room, as the poor ill-guided child sent his men out of the room. The huntsmen actually ran, dispersing their effect. The first to recover were the Aurors, who began to blink their eyes at the sight of what was going on. He just narrowed his eyes, keeping his gaze settled on the sword.

Excalibur…the sword that could cut.

That was pretty shrewd of Arthur, he had to admit. He had to wonder what game the man was playing, to need the sword so desperately as to forget his surroundings. He supposed he had lived so long in the pain of being a Dementor that he didn't come out completely sane. Now back in the world of the living, he suspected he still believed himself to be nigh invincible.

Considering how the only opponent the man had fought had been a boy barely fourteen, he could even understand it. He wondered if he really should give the signal to his aurors to attack. He didn't actually care, since Arthur wasn't even planning to kill them. He probably just wanted the sword. It was the only way in after all.

Merlin's descendant or a bone of his body unlocked the Clock-Tower's wards. The Wand, the Cloak or the Stone opened the path, but without the first the only way through would be by trials one harder than the other. The last bit, the think that truly opened to the use of the Tower, was something they could no longer obtain.

They needed her blood, after all.

Morgana's blood was lost in time, her entire body torn apart by the spinning gears of the Time-Line. It had been the price to stabilize the reality. He remembered it as if it had been done yesterday…the screams, the pleading, the hope…and then the squashing refusal.

Kids who had wanted to play with Time had been punished for it: there had been no other choice. Merlin had faced his destiny grimly, but with understanding. Arthur was here, refusing and trying to tear apart the reality that was already shattering, bit by bit. Already he could feel the cracks on the surface, the throbbing and the pulsing of magic as it twisted in pain. There was little time left, he supposed, as his eyes travelled to where Mad-Eye Moody was currently giving signals to the Aurors near him.

Fiendfyre? In the ballroom? Oh the auror's moniker of Mad was clearly well earned, if he thought that a mere set of portkeys could actually bring the entire rabble of noble aristocrats out in time. Probably some in the first rows would die charred to a crisp. He twitched his lips lightly in amusement, as he took a few steps back.

He didn't actually have to play the charade of being a frightened Cornelius Fudge. He twisted his wand's tip and flicked it forward, as the entire stage morphed into a set of crossbows already primed and ready to fire. The volley departed nearly instantaneously, many of the bolts landing with a satisfying noise through the armours the huntsmen wore.

Blood splatters fell on the ground, and in that instant the Huntsmen that had remained, together with Arthur, realized their folly: they were mortal again.

That meant they could be killed.

To feel the taste of air, then one had to survive the pain of being wounded.

Another flick, a sharp thrust, and a dragon of copper and bronze flung itself at the huntsmen as his aurors decided to start casting their first spells. Of course Mad-Eye's use of Fiendfyre didn't pass through. Nymphadora pretty much slapped him —last he had seen— out of it. His lips twitched upwards, the faint smile echoing his delight in seeing Arthur forced to retreat deeper within the bowels of the ministry.

For all of his might, all of his actions…alone, Arthur was nothing more than a little sad man —one that he would enjoy crushing, once he got Excalibur out of the ground.

"Moody! Get me Miss Potter! She might be heroic enough to get the sword out of the ground," and if she wasn't, she would still serve him well as a descendant of Arthur. There were quite a few curses that could work with the blood of a descendant after all.

"Croaker! Get the lords and lady back home! Create portkeys for those who don't have a wand or don't know how to make one!" he snapped curtly, before descending from the half-torn apart stage that his transfiguration magic had nigh destroyed.

"Minister, you can't seriously think my daughter—" the senior Potter began to speak, but a single icy glare from him was more than enough to silence the whelp.

"I do not think. I know. Now, Lord Potter, go and bring here your daughter: there is no longer a threat in the ballroom, if you notice." His hand swayed to his side, displaying the torn apart room and the dispersing nobles.

"Where's Harry?" the terrified voice of Lily Potter soon caught his attention. "Where's Hermione? Where did they go?" he knew terror, he could feel it creep through the throat of the woman who seemed just a split second away from reaching a natural conclusion to an extremely frightening event. Indeed, as he looked with a half-bored gaze, the woman's eyes rolled on the back of her head as she fainted.

Probably she had suspected them dead. Maybe torn apart…or maybe hunted —and this was the real case.

He took a single deep breath, and then he waited, for Lillian Potter to arrive. He had a naughty child to punish, after all, and without the correct instrument the lesson would —unfortunately— not stick.

Professor Graham

It hurt. Her left arm hurt. It looked spliced and splintered, giving off a light blue colour that seemed a mixture of electric neon and ocean. There was no blood, or sight of bones or muscles beneath the cracks and the open wounds; in their place was a suffused blue fog that didn't drift nor did it move. It hurt however, to even gently touch it. Was this what it meant to disappear forever?

She closed her eyes, her body covered by the Invisibility cloak she had been gifted by her parting lover. Or had it been him, the monster that had inhabited Harry's skin? She didn't know which of the two he had been in that moment, but did it matter?

In the end, Harry had loved her nevertheless. For all of her broken bits, for all of her insecurities and wrong desires…for all her jealousy unwarranted and unwanted…he had still loved her. He had died for her, once. She had seen it. She had understood it.

Yet no matter how many times she went back and forth, nothing worked. She had tried her best, but her best had never been enough. He had died, time and time again, with her just watching from different angles the same blood-freezing scene.

And then things had changed. Finally for once Harry hadn't died. They had escaped. They had battled Dumbledore and Cornelius, they had fought the ministry at a standstill within Hogwarts, and a treaty had been issued. Harry was really a King then… And when he got the crown, she knew Peeves had played the strings all along.

She had gone back, fighting tooth and nail for one last chance. She had gotten it, and it had been for nothing. He had won again. He always seemed to win. She had aged, but she hadn't lost her hope. Finally…finally the last time came and everything changed again.

This time, the last time, there was hope in her chest for things to go differently. The Time-Turners lay all destroyed. There were none except the one holding her body together in the Ministry, and the search of this Harry and this Hermione would be for nothing. They would look for them, but they would not find any.

She could die in peace, embracing the Invisibility Cloak that still managed to smell like her lover. She had screamed the No, saving her past-self from committing the crime she had experienced for herself countless times. She had done what had to be done. Her eyes settled on Cornelius Fudge, the man who had given the order to use Unforgivables on school children.

The man who had been forced to accept a treaty after losing his Unspeakables to her Harry's might. It had been a show of strength, just like Harry and Dumbledore battling over the towers of Hogwarts, repeatedly tearing apart the landscape as they fought.

Yet Dumbledore had kept on coming. She smiled bitterly after coughing up blood: the old coot was in for a surprise, if he ever died again. She had to be bleeding internally, where the veins that should have gone in her right arm disappeared. She had used a Reparo, but even that wasn't strong enough to delay the inevitable.

This reality was expelling her, banishing her from existence. It was the price to pay, and she had known about it from the very beginning. She had known that eventually, this would be her final time. It was needed, because as long as she existed, then Hermione's destiny would be the same. She didn't know if now her younger self would live or die, if Harry would be saved or not…

But at last, she wouldn't have to see him die again. She wouldn't have to see his eyes lose their light, his chest stop rising, his muscles lax down. She wouldn't have to cry, to scream, to pound his chest for any sign of him being alive.

She wouldn't have to listen to another him laugh, with the face not his own but belonging to a monster. She wouldn't have…

And that was enough for her to die peacefully.

She had to hide the Time-Turner and the Cloak, but not before recovering the sword. It was important.

Lillian arrived with a worried face, looking around fretfully for any sign of her past-self or her brother. She screamed a 'what happened to mum!?' before being brought hurriedly along to try and remove the sword from the stone.

It did not yield…

Of course it would not.

Softly, the hand holding her wand rose forward for a moment, pointed at the girl who was desperately trying to take the sword. Eventually she would succeed.

She knew that Harry would be forced to fight with an inferior copy —the sword of Salazar… and she couldn't let that come to pass.

And so, with the hate of all those times the girl had been there interrupting her, with all the times the girl had yelled and screamed and ruined Harry's plans, with all the times she had just been there breathing…

Hermione Granger, Time-Traveller for far too many times than she could count, whispered two words filled with all the hatred she could muster.

"Avada Kedavra!"

And the green dazzling light shot forward, flying in the air as it perfectly clashed against Lillian's entire body. The girl froze, and then slumped on the ground.

Hermione smiled as she wobbled up. The volley of wands belonging to the aurors and Unspeakables were out now, but it was no use. No matter the revealing charms, the Invisibility Cloak would not be pierced. She felt her soul break, but what was another crack? Now it would be their turn to cry. Lillian's father screamed as he cradled the body of his dead daughter, but in that instant she couldn't care less.

She had a final destination to make, and nobody would stop her.

Harry Potter

He had died. He knew that for a fact. He knew he had died the moment he had felt his heart stop beating. Yet at the same time…he had woken up again. The cold feeling left his bones, and warmth had spread through his flesh. He knew he had stopped breathing. There had been no mysterious light to go to however, no God or Devil to call him on what he had done. There had been nothing.

One moment, he was seeing the pitch black darkness of his eyelids, the next he was blinking his eyes open and covering Hermione under the Cloak with him.

Was the Cloak the answer?

It should have a limit. Such power… to be able to avoid death as long as he wore it, there had to be a price to pay. Had he sold his soul? He didn't want to suspect such a thing, but even if he had, shouldn't there be a warning about it?

As they stumbled out of the elevator and into the Department of Mysteries, Hermione began to walk slightly ahead of him. He didn't know how the girl knew where to go, but maybe she was simply walking in hope of finding some sort of sign?

Carefully, the girl opened a door, and after having peeked inside closed it again. No alarm sounded, and Harry couldn't help but snort. Really? The Department of Mysteries was without an alarm? Maybe it was supposed to be manhandled, but the ball and the celebration had taken away all of them. It could be an answer, but it still left him puzzled.

It was when they found the first trail of blood, that he realized something was wrong with the entire picture. There were signs of battle, holes in the ground and deep gashes. There were no corpses, but a door was unhinged and its interior charred. An opaque plaque stood outside of the door, declaring it a prohibited entry to all unauthorized personnel.

It was the only plaque in the entire corridor.

Hermione stopped in front of the charred room, before clutching her head. Behind them, the elevator's door closed as it slowly began to rise again. Someone had called it: they had to hurry.

"Harry," the girl whispered. Her voice was cracked as she seemed to shrink on herself. "This is the room."

He paled as his eyes widened. He walked slowly inside, looking around with more and more desperation as his hand that wasn't holding the cloak moved to touch the empty charred remains of the shelves. There was nothing in there. He saw a glint of white and removed a black piece of burnt wood, but his eyes merely narrowed as it revealed a bone that had yet to completely char.

There was no Time-Turner in the room.

No way back to try and change things. No way to go back and look for another solution.

But it didn't make any sense.

He knew he had seen his future selves fight one against the other. He had seen them kill each other! Was that a ruse? How could he kill and be killed, if he didn't have a Time-Turner? Was there anything that actually made sense!?

He felt his head hurt. Even if he went back to the very beginning, what could he do? He would look for clues on Arthur's origins, starting by Merlin's tomb. He would explore the forest of Broceliande, wouldn't he? He would go to the Lourdes then, probably. Maybe he would find what he sought in the end, and then?

Then he would try to challenge Arthur and succeed.

Once he succeeded, he would probably believe himself powerful enough to challenge the system. He was the King of Hogwarts after all, he was Duke Wyllt. He was ousting Dumbledore from his office, wasn't he? Would the old man obey however?

No, he wouldn't.

He would fight him. They would fight for it. He knew he wouldn't be able to challenge and defeat Dumbledore to begin with, so he'd go back a second time.

He'd train more. He'd age. He'd seek answers and ways to increase his power. Then he would challenge Dumbledore again…

And afterwards?

Afterwards…something would happen. Something horrible, that would make him curse his very self. And he would go back a third time, to kill his past-self.

As he went back the third time however, the one of the second time would come over to kill the one of the third time and be destroyed at the same time.

That…that wasn't possible, it would pretzel the entire line of events: even if he killed his future-self, the other one was still younger than the other. There was no way that event was possible.

Unless…

Unless the Clock-Tower was used for its original purpose, the same one that had sent one of the two Merlins mad.

He hadn't gone back the third time with the Time-Turner. He had used the Clock-Tower. That had altered the events to the point where his past killed his future. Since his future had directed his past to reach for him, then both were removed from existence.

That, beyond everything else, made sense.

It was an epiphany he supposed.

It was also what made the most sense out of the entire cluster-fuck that Time was becoming.

It just had to be his luck, he supposed. He was sent to Hogwarts, and a conspiracy involved the Headmaster. He was adopted, and his new mother was a psychopathic servant of the Dark Lord. His second year had been in Durmstrang, where he had seen and battled their Headmaster. He was given a Time-Turner…and this, this mess generated.

He wondered if he would ever feel boredom, in having a normal time at school eventually.

Come here.

A voice whispered tenderly from the hallway.

Come here.

It whispered again, the tone chilly and frosty.

He moved, Hermione settling for following his silent lead through the corridor of the Department of Mysteries, walking near the other doors until they reached a final one. One that seemed to open up with the lightest touch, to show them into an amphitheatre of sorts, with an archway erected in the middle of it.

There was a thin and transparent veil flowing slightly in the middle of it, as if an invisible breeze was ruffling it.

Come here.

I am waiting.

He hesitated, before starting to slowly descend the stairs.

"That's the veil," Hermione whispered. "It's one of the methods of execution used by the ministry...Harry? Are you listening to me?"

No, he wasn't.

He was listening to the voice.

Come over. I am waiting.

Come to me, I have what you desire.

"Harry? Harry —stop!" Hermione's scream brought him back to reality, as he took a shuddering breath a few steps away from the archway.

"Harry, what's going on? Is something happening?"

"I can tell you what is happening," another voice burst in the silence of the room, as Professor Graham's head appeared from the top of the amphitheatre. She had probably been the one to follow them, and yet something made him perplexed. Why was he seeing only her head? "The question is, will you listen?" she continued, taking a few steps back as he realized she was beneath an Invisibility cloak.

He recognized the cloak. It was the same as his, how could he not?

"I…I knew it," he whispered. He snapped his eyes open wide, looking carefully to the right and the left, half-expecting the Hunt to already be on his trail.

"Worry not, my King," the Professor replied. "Without their hounds, birthed from their sins, they cannot find you as you speak."

"Who are you?" Hermione asked, "And why are you calling Harry—"

"You can't be that thick," the Professor snorted back. "I did my best to teach you about the ministry, didn't I? About the Arthurian mythology, Merlin's history, and all that helped you piece together this riddle."

Harry brought up an eyebrow at that bit of information, before turning to stare at Hermione. If the professor's words were true, then the woman was an ally…yet she seemed to be donning his own cloak, which could only mean…

"You're her," he whispered. He should have seen it sooner. Only the hair colour was different, but the lineaments, the eyes… "You're Hermione."

"Yes," Professor Graham spoke calmly. "I am."

"Harry?" Hermione's voice came out choked to his side. "What are you talking about?"

"She is you, from the future…how many times?" Harry asked. "How many times did you go back?"

"There are too many to count from where I come from, but here? Here only once…since this is the result." Her right arm, or what was meant to be it, came into view then. It was torn apart, split and cracked as a blue coloured light emanated from within it. "Only because I used the Time-Turner of Merlin did I manage this. Otherwise we would be stuck in a loop. You cannot change time with a normal Time-Turner, and even that of Merlin cannot do much except keep your real self… true enough? I don't know how to describe it better, my King." Her eyes softened as she gazed at him. "I tried hard, really I did…in the end I had to go through the Clock-Tower myself. It was the only way."

"What happened?" Harry said, looking around nervously, in wait for the Hunt to appear from nowhere.

"Arthur, the other one, the mad one…he appeared." The Future-Hermione took a small breath, before explaining as she usually did, that so much resembled how her past one explained. "Think of going through a motion, like lifting a cup. You lift the cup, and then you put it down. Afterwards, you go back in time and watch yourself do the same motion, before taking out the Time-Turner and going back in time. As your past becomes your present, everything is fine. Time is appeased, and the Time-Line can continue to hold."

Harry nodded subtly, he could understand this.

"The Clock-Tower removes that need. The past does not need to become the present. So it splits. You don't have to watch yourself lower the mug. You can break it in mid-air. If your past then uses the Time-Turner to fix the line, nothing happens. Your past and present melt together and you recall your mug being broken, rather than just put down."

"And if that doesn't happen…" Harry's voice was a bare whisper then, but the answer came in a male voice, one that he dreaded because it was extremely familiar.

"Then you live and at the same time remember everything your past self is doing, at the same moment as your true memories mix." Cornelius Fudge chuckled as he came down the stairs of the room, his wand out and poised to strike. He was alone and yet as he stilled midway the smile on his face…

Somehow, Harry didn't believe the man to simply be the Prime Minister. The coldness in the voice was different, eerily familiar too.

"And madness ensues," the man added. "Merlin did say he would be killed thrice, in one of the myths. I wouldn't say 'killed' as much as 'pacified' but it was the only solution. We had to do it, with all of them. They were kids who had toyed with magic too powerful for their understanding. We had to try and save them, since they were our blood…and the hastily made patch worked. It worked for years, decades and centuries. We all vowed we would not remove it, that we would keep it where it stood untouched and unaltered…"

His voice trailed off as he narrowed his gaze on Harry.

"And then you came along."

Cornelius' wand moved faster than any of them could see, as Future-Hermione was literally torn to splinters of blood and ash as her body splattered on the ground, while his time Hermione merely had the time to scream before she burned alive, leaving behind nothing but ashes.

Ashes and blood.

"You despicable imbecile did the only thing you were not meant to do. You freed Arthur. You could have killed him. I would have killed him, rather than set him free, but you didn't. You freed him because a bird told you to!" the voice was too familiar for his tastes, "Even when I went to such lengths to keep you away from it, you did it nonetheless!"

And Harry's eyes widened, as he realized what the man was meaning.

"Godric gave you the ring of Merlin because he wanted his son freed, for some sort of paternal ideal I suppose. I didn't want any of them freed! They would all rot and be punished as it was meant to be! As my own son suffered so too did one of Godric, as my son gave away to pain unimaginable so too would one of his! It was meant to be that way! It was meant to be a perfect circle, a perfect solution…and then you came along and destroyed it all! You tore apart the fabrics of Time and reality for your fretful disposition in obeying a damnable bird!"

Harry took a step backwards, as Salazar instead took one forward.

Salazar Slytherin eyed him with fury, as he spoke and the ground around them cracked and splintered.

"You think this is over, Harry Potter? You think calling yourself Duke Wyllt —calling yourself a King— means that you become one overnight?" Salazar chuckled grimly, as he moved closer just as he faltered back.

"Well, think again Harry Potter, because you just have no idea what hell you have brought on Earth." Salazar breathed once more, before his cold eyes settled on him with something akin to disdain. "I will have to fix this, as always. You know that one of legends tells that the Lady of the Lake died because she was forgotten? Well Harry…all of this, everything you see around you…will never be yours to see again."

And with the mere flick of the wrist, Harry Potter felt himself being flung through the veil, the Invisibility cloak shining as he passed through it.

The air left his chest while his lungs felt as if someone was trying to pull them out. His entire body felt sluggish and cold. He squirmed as if he was beneath the water, but all around him was only pitch-black darkness. He opened his mouth to scream from the pain, but in that moment his entire body twisted as if somebody was apparating him elsewhere.

He stumbled, his entire body giving way to a paralyzing weakness that seemed to be spreading through his nerves. He stumbled down face first on a soft and mushy ground, which seemed more of a mixture between mud and sleet than rock or grass. His vision blurred as a squashing feeling of pain and shock settled on him.

He could hear the screams now, coming closer and closer to where he was, and a blurry figure calling them forth with a shining spot next to him.

He had no weapon to fight. He had nothing to use as it walked closer.

And then he felt something enlarge itself beneath his cloak. The Staff of Merlin had been forgotten by him in his pocket till then, as if somehow it had never been the right moment to call upon it. Yet now it stood there, whispering to him as he slowly moved his right hand to grasp it.

He grasped the wood staff tightly, and then he pointed it at the blurred figure.

He saw the thorns dash forth, flying in the air as they pierced through the other figure, tearing it apart as crimson blood splattered on the ground.

His brain burned as if he was on fire, the memories of being torn apart by invisible strings reaching him as he widened his eyes for a single fleeting moment, before blood oozed out of his mouth, and he closed his eyes again.

He had killed himself before the deed.

Apparently, it hadn't been enough. Memories of being torn, slashed, pierced all assaulted him one after the other. It wasn't only this Harry. It was all of them. He felt the stab of the past Harry. He felt the claws of Sophie on his face. He screamed at the bites of the Inferi. He roared at the attacks of the monsters that lurked the forest of Broceliande.

And then, after all of that…

It disappeared.

Collapsing upon itself like a castle of cards, the memories he had held, the memories he had felt —he had believed in— disappeared. Nothing but emptiness, and the cold chilling feel of a Dementor lurking close to him, but not close enough to see him.

For Death would be thwarted for as long as he stood beneath the Cloak, and he knew that…he knew that and he understood, he understood that what had happened hadn't been a mere circumstance of chance or fate. He had been meant to die.

He should have died.

But the prophecies would not permit it.

The Cloak would not permit it.

And together, they had worked against the archway that was a passage to Death itself.

Harry laughed as he cried tears of relief, pain wracking through his entire body.

He was alive. He could change things now, he could…he coughed out hard, as he tried and failed to roll himself on his stomach, to try and stand up.

The scenery around him morphed, as he realized he could not be there if his past had been killed. The ground melted and tore itself apart, splitting up as it gushed out clocks and hourglasses filled with sand. His eyes focused once more, as the pain all but receded until it disappeared completely.

He took a deep shuddering breath as he slowly stood up.

The room looked like the base of the Clock-Tower, where the Pendulum used to swing.

The thing that surprised him, however, wasn't the pain that was disappearing with every second that passed, as if it had never been there.

No, it was the fleeting sensation that some things were wrong, but he couldn't just place them correctly.

That was probably part of the reason, that… And the fact that Gellert Grindelwald was eying him with a mixture of surprise and shock. The old wizard looked positively gaunt, as if he had gone through a fast. His clothes were shredded, like he had gone through a mixer, and yet his cold blue eyes settled on him without hesitation.

"Harry? What are you doing here, kind? Isn't this the Clock-Tower?"

"I…I don't know." And for once, in his voice, Harry realized that he was indeed afraid.

Author's notes

And this is done.

Say hello to Grindelwald. He is back.

We seemingly lost Hermione. We seemingly lost Lillian. Will it hold true in the next chapter?

On another note! Since this is chapter 90, and since a lot of people told me that it is a daunting task to read these many chapters, I was thinking about 'splitting' up the story with chapter 25 of this IV book. (Making it thus a 100 chapter novel, to be continued in a 'sequel' of sorts) OR I could split it up right here.

For me it isn't any different, since the subject doesn't change, only the 'form' of expression.

I actually had difficulty deciding the ending of this chapter, because plot-bunnies suddenly filled my mind. You know when you're reading and suddenly you go 'it should be like this, think of the fun' or 'let's hype the angst' or 'let's rock' and so on…so…omake. (It is the 90th chapter after all folks worth of celebration!)

Omake:

He took a deep shuddering breath as he slowly stood up.

And then he blinked.

For he was standing in a classroom at Hogwarts, and at the professor's desk was a horrendous looking woman clad in pink.

"Mr. Potter…is there something you wish to say to the class?"

He blearily looked to his side, where Ronald Weasley was eying him worriedly. He looked for Hermione, and found her not too far away.

Why was she sporting Gryffindor colours now? And why…he looked at his own tie too, and when the crimson and gold colours were found, he nearly gagged.

Just where had he ended up?