Albus Dumbledore, until that moment believing he was alone in his office at Hogwarts, looked up with a start. Sitting across from him was a man who held such a stark resemblance to middle age James Potter, it made the old man's breath catch. The lines of the face, the cut of the hair, the posture. The man was almost exactly what Albus had pictured in those occasional musings of What-Might-Have-Been. A second glance at the man revealed a pair of emerald colored eyes peeking out from under the unruly salt and pepper hair.
"Yes, Professor, how very perceptive of you," "Harry" replied as he ran a finger along the grooves of the chair almost as if he were looking at an old friend long missed. "Though, I'm not the Harry you're used to seeing. I've aged a bit in the past nineteen years. Well, this year was more like twenty-one years past for me, though I only started really counting after that last school milestone."
"How did I come back in time?" the man replied with a smile. The expression seemed to have something darker behind it, but the impression was fleeting, as if it were only an illusion of the flickering candlelight. "Time turners aren't the only tool for this kind of thing. The specifics aren't important."
"So... you killed Voldemort, then?" Albus asked hesitantly. "You won the war?"
"Oh yes, Tom was dealt with, though we lost the war," Harry replied honestly.
"What?" Dumbledore looked across the desk with a look of horror.
"Oh, it's rather simple, we won the final battle, but lost the war," Harry repeated as clarification, running a hand through his messy graying hair, revealing the fading scar above one eye. "Too many good people died, exterminated one by one in camps that nearly matched Auschwitz in its heyday. Muggleborns hunted down like foxes running from the hounds. And then, when I died for them all, when so many others died for the remainder to kill Voldemort and his kind, the others who never came back, do you know what happened?" He looked to Albus who could only shake his head. "They forgave them. The Malfoys got off Scot-free simply because Narcissa was worried Tom was going to kill her son and lied. The stupid masses ignored the torture, the murders, all the crimes Lucius and Draco committed just because they wanted it to be over. Lucius didn't even have to claim imperius this time. We thought we had won, but it was too late."
Harry paused to take in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he looked off in the distance. "None of the laws Riddle's minions put into place the year he was in power were repealed afterward. Muggleborns were banned from education, work, treated no better than werewolves are today. Hermione, the woman with the most talent and intelligence in my generation became a housewife for a man who, because he was a lazy, useless creature, never rose above third desk clerk in a very minor, underfunded ministry department. I got to watch her waste away little by little as she became a broodmare and my friend died, though her body still lived." Harry waved a hand, a glass of water appearing before him. He took a sip, setting the glass on the table. "And then things got worse."
He laughed darkly at the mortified look upon the Headmaster's visage. "They decided I was a thief and a murderer and just like this year, the masses, the sheep of the wizarding world believed everything their Ministry shepherds told them in the Prophet. When someone died when I defended myself, they called me the next dark lord, citing events that took place within these very walls."
"It's funny, by then I couldn't even speak parseltongue, hadn't for more than a decade," Harry mused with a slightly crazed look on his face. "So, I twisted things and came back to fix the greatest travesty ever forced upon the Wizarding World."
"Voldemort?" Dumbledore asked. Harry threw his head back and laughed as if it were the greatest joke in the history of the world. After a while the man wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes and shook his head.
"No, professor," Harry replied. "Not at all. No, the greatest travesty ever committed on magical Britain is one you, yourself created and I perpetuated: Compassion."
Albus Dumbledore froze and locked horrified eyes with the younger man.
"Yes, Professor, compassion," Harry replied, answering the man's unspoken question. "You see, we kept forgiving people. Over and over we gave people more chances. I let people walk all over me, while you believed everyone could be, and wanted to be, redeemed. And people treated me like shite, over and over, while I just shrugged it off and you just let it keep piling up. Hell, this year I saw a man who was almost a friend murdered right in front of me by the man who betrayed my parents; I saw the creature that killed my parents resurrected using my own blood; and what did you do? You locked me up, isolated me. You're very lucky for my mental fortitude, or just raw stubbornness; many, many people have snapped under similar circumstances. Now, it's only been a week since he went home, plenty of time to fix that mistake."
"I don't think-"
"Which is exactly the problem, Professor," Harry replied as if he were speaking to a very little child who got caught playing in the mud after being specifically told not to. "You never think of others, only your plans. Somewhere, perhaps when you couldn't bring yourself to kill your old friend and instead locked him up, you forgot that the humans, the goblins, the veela, the half-giants and so on, you forgot that they are people. Yet, you fostered this belief of compassion at all costs. That cost is in people's lives, Professor."
"You have no idea what I've had to do!" Dumbledore growled out angrily.
"And I don't really care about the specifics, I've only seen the results," Harry replied without an ounce of anger or rage. "I've just come back to fix things, simple as that. I, or, Harry, I suppose I should say, the younger-me, needs a better life. So I fixed things."
Albus blinked at the tense in that statement.
"How long have you been back?" he asked the time traveler. Harry's smile widened into a grin that would fit better on the Clown Prince of Crime than a middleaged wizard.
"Very good, very good indeed," Harry replied. "Only a week, but I've been very busy. Very busy indeed. In fact, I'm amazed they've kept things as quiet as they have." He cocked his head and looked at the aged wizard. "It's funny, both our hands are stained red with the blood of the fallen, professor, but unlike you, no blood on my hands is innocent."
Albus's mouth felt as dry as a desert and his tongue as rough as sandpaper. The lemon candy felt like acid searing his skin.
"Why? Why was this necessary?" Dumbledore pleaded. All jovial expression, indeed all emotion at all vanished from Harry's face.
"They came during the night," Harry said, looking off beyond the old man's shoulder, but not seeing the wall behind him. "I was a problem so they decided they needed to teach me a lesson. I was too outspoken in my beliefs and they saw me as a potential symbol. In their eyes I had a ready-made army in the form of old school chums. Ha! Most of them hadn't cast a spell in anger in years. But just like Fudge this year, the facts never interfered with the 'truth'. The geezer-mot had met up in a closed session that I hadn't been told about. They brought up evidence and witnesses and hearsay. The verdict was passed."
"Harry, just because they attacked you-"
"Oh, no! They never attacked me, they never even cast a spell at me, not at first, anyway," Harry said with complete honesty. "I was out on assignment, looking for some werewolf that decided Grayback was the greatest role model ever. I wasn't home when the Ministry showed up with the dementors. I wasn't there when Ginny was Kissed because she had been possessed by Tom Riddle in her first year. I wasn't there when Umbridge directed the dementors into my children's rooms 'just to be sure'. I wasn't there when they went next door and 'exterminated' the 'dangerous werewolf-spawn' that was my godson. I wasn't there."
Albus Dumbledore, having been so sure of his ideals before, was starting to understand.
"I was still out of communication when Hermione was sentenced to Azkaban for punching Malfoy in third year," Harry said stonefaced. "Her husband didn't even go to the trial 'because he could lose his job.' Damn idiot thought it would just blow over, or maybe he didn't care? Doesn't matter. He didn't even realize what had happened until he got home and dinner wasn't on the table."
"I got back a week after all that, Professor," Harry said. "Everyone who mattered to me was dead, or at least dead to me. And it was all done to teach me a lesson. That was five years ago by my reckoning. And I did learn a lesson, and I learned it well. I taught them a lesson as well: never back a wild animal into a corner where the only option is to fight."
"I killed them, Professor, I killed every member of the wizengamot who voted to have Ginny Kissed. I killed every person present at Hermione's trial, and every person who could have been there to testify for her, but never showed up. I killed every death eater who escaped justice. I killed every head of every department. I fixed Minister Deloris Umbridge's head on a pike in the middle of Diagon Alley with impervious charms and permanent sticking charms. No simple 'finite' could end a spell cast by the Master of Death. I lived up to the name."
Harry looked up to stare into his old professor's eyes. The gaze was hollow, the eyes seemingly glazed as if the time traveler was merely a walking corpse. "I might not have had Tom Riddle's bodycount, but I used my time much more wisely. I learned efficiency. There were no innocent bystanders killed in my rampage. I walked in, killed my target and got out. I never gloated; I never bragged; no monologue crossed my lips. I never cast a dark mark in the sky. I had nothing left to lose and as a result I became exactly what they called me: a dark lord."
"They started to fear my name, the stupid sheep," Harry said, a little emotion slipping into his voice for the first time since he related the past. "But I wasn't 'the Dark Lord' or 'You-Know-Who,' oh no, I was just 'HIM.' As in 'It's HIM!'" Harry let loose a manic cackle. "It's funny, your little club was some of the first to go, so there wasn't anyone to oppose me. I could have taken over and had it as my own little kingdom. But as my rage slowed, I realized something."
He paused just enough for Albus to get a word in.
"What was that?"
"I had nothing to live for," Harry replied honestly. "Everyone I cared about was either dead or had betrayed me or mine."
"What about Miss Granger?" Albus asked, his eyes pleading that there was something to bring the Harry he knew back into the creature before him.
"She wasn't like Sirius when I found her," Harry explained. "She didn't have an animagius form to hide in. Without her wand to cast a patronus it was dementors every hour of every day. When I finally found her, there was almost nothing left. No happy thoughts; no understanding of what was going on; no will to live anymore. So I took everything that was left." Harry tapped a familiar elder wand to his temple. "Everything she knew, I know now. Everything."
Albus, his hand trembling from the story and the presence of a certain wand in the younger man's hand, conjured his own glass of water. The liquid sloshed over the top as he brought it to his lips. Carefully, using both hands, the headmaster set it back on the desk.
"So... so you came back?" he asked.
"I said, even if I won, why let things get this bad? There was nothing left for me, no reason for me to stay. I had no muggle connections anymore, anything I knew was decades out of date. Everyone in the magical world knew my face, my name. I bet if that world still exists mothers are telling their children that I'll come for them if they don't behave. I was the boogyman, a horror story that Poe, Shelley or King could never write. There was no place for me to go." He looked up at the old man again. "So I came back, a week ago."
"A week ago."
The old man let that thought settle in his mind for a moment.
"How many?" he asked, horrified of any number above zero. Harry shrugged.
"To be honest, I lost count," the time traveler replied. "Lucius, Draco-"
"He's just a boy!"
Harry just looked at the man with confusion. "So? Just because someone's only fifteen, doesn't mean they don't deserve to die."
"He hasn't done anything yet?"
"He has," Harry stressed with a shrug as if he didn't care either way. "I remember all the things he did. He and Snape killed you. He let Death Eaters, Grayback, into this very school when it was filled with children, myself included. We didn't know then, but the monster bit five first years. They ate their families three days after the trains took us home after your funeral."
"That hasn't happened yet!"
"It has to me," Harry said. "It's part of my past. But back to the list, I spent a few hours at Azkaban. Tom won't need to put the effort into a jailbreak this time, though the remaining prisoners do have to deal with a prisoner/dementor ratio much less in their favor. Oh, that reminds me, you're going to need to hire a new DADA prof, the ministry appointed under secretary won't be able to make it. Deloris came down with a sudden case of my enchanted fist breaking through her chest and ripping out her still beating heart. Barring necromancy, she'll be unavailable for some time. Though, looking back on it, she'd still be a better professor dead than she was alive."
"How could you?"
"Me? She led hundreds of muggleborns and mixed race people to their deaths. She ran the camps, I mean really, get her to talk about centaurs some time," Harry said before snapping his fingers. "Oh, right, she's dead. Never mind."
"Compassion, old man, compassion," Harry said. "I watched a movie once. There was a line in it that struck me, though I didn't really understand it fully at the time. Hermione, during one of her 'Let's reconnect with the muggles' moments, dragged me to it. You see, there was this man. He was, well, let's say that he was sort of a Hit-Wizard of sorts. He hunted down 'undesirables' for the government. He'd find his target or a witness and ask them a simple question: 'Do you know what your sin is?'" Harry waved his hand, vanishing his now empty water glass and crossed his legs. "He'd go on to explain the sins and then kill the target. But there was another character. He was a lot like me. We'd both survived wars that we lost. The hit-wizard asked him if he knew what his sin was. The man said: 'I'm a fan of all seven, but right now I'm a bit particular to wrath.' Or something like that, I don't remember the exact quote." He stretched his shoulders, cracking his spine a little. "So, professor, do you know what your sin is?"
Albus was silent and looked down at his hands that were still trembling around the half-empty water glass he'd conjured earlier.
"Hubris, professor, hubris," Harry replied. "You always think you know best, though I must say it's a rather popular one among wizards and witches. Snape, on the other hand, is envy. He see's everyone around him as having something he wanted and never got. I especially remind him of that. Funny, it's this green eyed monster that brings out the green eyed monster in him."
"Me, well, Sloth was pretty well beaten out of me at a young age, thanks professor," Harry said, not paying attention to the older man. "Lust, well, while I used to indulge from time to time with my wife, it couldn't really be considered a sin as it never dominated my life. Gluttony? Nope, no issue here. Greed? Every possession I ever got was because someone close to me died, so no. Well, save for that broom McGonagall gave me first year and a few jumpers, well, actually the jumpers started because Molly pitied the poor orphan, so I guess that counts too. So, it isn't Greed for me. Envy, well, on occasion I look at families, the children with loving parents, and I admit a bit of Envy. Hubris, well, that's a bit of a funny thing because it's the one most people accuse me of, but I've never inflated my actions or abilities, if anything I've hidden them a bit. I'd say no, but others might disagree. But Wrath? Me and Mal have plenty in common if you think about it. We both survived wars we lost. We, well, to be honest, he's got a much better coat than mine, but that's not really an issue right now."
Harry turned his head, cracking his neck and resettled himself in his chair. "Wrath and I have a long history. I have a temper, I know it, and when it burns, it burns hot, but for most of my life, it burned itself out quickly. But, my temper, like a campfire, burns best when it's fed regularly. Since Cedric's death, that fuel's been piling up next to a bit of crackling tinder. Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Fred, Ginny, Teddy, my five little... well, it was a big pile towards the end. Five years ago by my reckoning, the ministry started tossing those logs on the fire, only to try to put it out with petrol. So, yes, I'd say my sin is wrath."
"But when you were done, there wasn't anything left to burn?" Albus asked.
"No, it pretty well burned itself out," Harry said. "I didn't have anything left to care about."
"But you're here now."
"I'm here now."
"-took care of business," Harry finished for him. "Tom has only a few people with him this time. There was Peter, but I needed him alive to clear Sirius, a few Death Eaters I never saw unmasked, I bet. And Snape."
"That he's obsessed over my mother ever since they met even if he's a loathsome individual with no hope or desire for redemption? That he's the one who sent Voldemort after my parents in the first place?" Harry asked with a cocked eyebrow. "Yes, I'm aware of what kind of creature he is."
"A monster," Harry cut in once more. "But a monster of his own creation, rather than circumstances or careful crafting like the monster you made me. He became what he wanted to be and only regretted it when his obsession was endangered."
"That's not being very charitable," Dumbledore half-heartedly argued.
"Charity is compassion, and compassion is the eighth deadly sin," Harry said. "And we already established that my sin is Wrath."
"What of Mr. Weasley?" Dumbledore asked.
"Arthur, Bill, Charley or George?" Harry asked.
"No, young Ronald," Albus clarified. "Your friend."
"Who?" Harry asked. "I'm sorry, but I don't have any friends by that name."
"Betrayed me at every opportunity, Professor," Harry said. "Hell, he betrayed me in the middle of a war over food. I'd say Ronald Weasley is pretty equally split between Sloth, Gluttony and Envy. I'd add Greed, but it's more of an issue of who has it and that he doesn't, rather than that he wants wealth for wealth's sake. He covets what others have, me especially."
"I was Britain's most wanted, Professor," Harry explained. "I was on the run. He and Hermione came with me and we lived in a tent. He betrayed us both over the size of his portions. Really, he could have been a redheaded Dursley. Add a few stone and a dye job, and he could pass for Dudley's twin."
Albus's hands were shaking again, and he set them in his lap.
"It's funny, Ginny grew up into a wonderful woman once she got over her childhood obsessions. She helped me raise our children and Teddy, my godson, while we both worked. We traded shifts with me working in the morning, and her in the evenings. Kreature helped, but it was mostly our hard work. George expanded his joke shop to other fields and became quite an economic power and it was all through his hard work. Bill managed to do the impossible: got married to a woman he was completely in love with and loved him in turn; had a successful career as a curse breaker specializing in obscure locales; and above that he managed to raise his children as an equal with his wife. Charley, well, he was promoted and with his experience in Romania, started writing books on dragon care that were used all over the world, translated into numerous languages, even murmish. Even Percy went far in his ambitions, even if those involved arse-kissing and brown-nosing."
Harry's expression grew a bit cruel. "But Ron, dear old Ron. He never wanted to work hard. Hell, he never even wanted to work at all. Everything was supposed to be handed to him on a silver platter. He actually managed to get fired from the Cannons for not showing up to practice. Arthur used his connections and got him a job. It was one of those that was supposed to be a steppingstone job, ripe with opportunities for advancement. Ten years later he never got a promotion. It was basically perfect for him. He could get away with the bare minimum and not get fired, but he never put in the extra effort to getting something more. Molly used to make excuses. 'Oh, he's just taking a little longer to grow up.' But even she gave up after a couple of years.
"But it's his betrayal of Hermione that I could never forgive," Harry said, his fists clenched. "He never hit her, he never hexed her or cursed her, but he definitely broke her." Harry looked up at the old man with a curious look on his face. "It's funny, I stopped by her place the other day and I saw her by a window reading a book. After the sixth kid was born, she never had time to read. She wasn't allowed to work, not with those laws on the books, and Ron wasn't making enough for potion ingredients so it was child after child after child. Ron turned my best friend into a horrid mockery of his own mother. If she'd asked..." Harry paused. "Hell! If she'd accepted when I offered, I would have given her the money. Goodness knows I had enough. If she'd been able to let go of her pride for a moment... but she didn't. She got worse and worse, becoming a nag, and Ron became more and more jealous of me. Eventually, even if I was their brother-in-law, even when I was godfather to three of their children, I saw less and less of them. By the time I was thirty Ron had basically twisted almost everything I loved about Hermione out, like dirty water rung out of a dishrag. She was a caricature of a person I once knew, kind of like those exaggerated images you see in political cartoons but with less personality. We practically stopped talking. I didn't even know she'd been sent to Azkaban for a month because Ron blamed me for what happened to Ginny. Truth be told, he was probably just angry that he had to go to his mother's house for meals. It was Molly who told me."
"I'd been killing people for three weeks, my temper was hot," Harry explained as if he were talking about going to the store. "I'd stopped by the Burrow because I'd heard Percy was visiting. Come to think of it, Molly was remarkably calm when she told me, considering I had just killed her third oldest. Well, she probably didn't discover that fact until after I'd left."
"Hermione started out hard, brittle but hard, when we first met. She grew stronger, with a more forceful and powerful personality as we went through school. Even when Bellatrix tortured her, Hermione didn't break. Those first few years after I exterminated Riddle, she had some momentum. If we'd won, she would have been amazing. But we lost and that momentum took her flying into Marriage-To-Ron-Weasley Crevasse, " Harry continued. "Well, what Ron had weakened and warped, Azkaban broke. There was almost nothing left. Hermione hadn't been doing much more than household charms for years then. I don't think there were many happy memories left. Most of those she still retained from childhood were tainted by years of Ronald fucking Weasley. Having her Kissed would have been kinder."
"Harry, I just don't understand-" but once more Harry cut him off.
"Pray that you don't, Professor, pray that you never understand," Harry replied. "Even a pensive memory couldn't capture it. And the thing is, I was never really dark. Oh, I killed, I murdered, but a dark wizard can't truly use a patronus except with an unhealthy dose of self-delusion. I still can. My cause was just -terrible- but just. I never really crossed that line even if I did become a monster."
"Harry, if you'll let me finish," Albus said, holding up a hand. "I don't understand why you're telling me this. If you've really-"
"-taken out the magical trash?" Harry asked. Albus clearly did not like that particular description.
"If you wish," the old man said. "If you've really done all this, why are you tell me?"
"You can't understand, Professor," Harry said. "But someone had to know. I had to tell someone. No, not just someone. I had to tell you. This couldn't happen simply without explanation."
"Why me? If you're really so opposed to compassion, why tell me? You obviously blame me for all these deaths," Albus asked.
"I didn't kill everyone," Harry said. "Don't get me wrong, I killed a lot. There were plenty of people who escaped justice last time who would just jump back to Riddle's side. A few already have."
"All this and you didn't kill him?" Albus asked. Harry laughed and shook his head.
"I already did, don't you remember?" Harry cackled, mania once more touching his eyes. "But punishments should fit the crimes. Tom Riddle now lives in a world with only a few followers. Almost his entire fanbase is dead or unavailable to him. He gained power by making connections. While his magical prowess is great, it's his cunning and social web-crawling that made him such a power, not his ability to flick killing curses hither and yon. I cut the strings, burned the web. Without his minions, without his connections he's next to nothing. I left him almost powerless."
Harry reached into a pocket and tossed a few misshapen objects on the desk and enlarged them with silent wave of his elder wand. Albus had only seen one before, but the symbolism on the others were hauntingly familiar. "Malfoy's favorite book, Slytherin's neck weight, Hufflepuff's cup, Ravenclaw's headband, Nagini's skull, the Resurrection Stone, well that's not here, I've sent that to myself... sort of, And so, there's only one left."
"Horcrux..." Albus whispered in horror. His eyes flicked up to Harry's forehead.
"Precisely, only one left," Harry nodded. "I've left Tom Riddle alone and powerless. Oh, that reminds me, would you mind paying for the COD from the tannery? I'm not sure Remus has the galleons to pay for his new doormat."
The nonsequitur threw the old man for a loop.
"The full moon was three days ago," Harry said. "The biggest problem with werewolves is that they turn human when they die, even on the full moon. If you want a pelt, you've got to skin them when they're still kicking."
Albus, long past horrified, was well on his way to revulsion.
"Yeah, so I sent a rat in a cage to Sirius," Harry said. "Since Fudge won't be a problem, I'm betting Amelia Bones could help that along. From what I heard she was always very strict about justice being served. I only met her once before Riddle had her killed and that was at my trial, so we didn't have much time to socialize."
"But why? Why tell me?" that was the one thing he couldn't figure out. Harry wasn't one to brag, it wasn't in his nature, and everything about him screamed that this man across from him was Harry, older, warped, but still the son of James and Lily, resident of 4 Privet Drive, Surrey.
"Didn't I say the punishment should fit the crime? Just as I cut Riddle's strings, severed Severus' hands, I'm punishing you for your crimes," Harry explained in a tone of a professor speaking to a first year. "You needed to know why this happened. You needed to know that hundreds died because you fostered this idea that we needed to forgive and forget, that everyone was capable of being redeemed. You needed to know that those deaths are on your hands just as the deaths of all who I've killed with my arrival are also your fault. I'm the Monster risen from your slab, after all. If they had been punished, if justice had been served when they did the crimes, this never would have happened. Sure, some people might have died. We've got two different views on the subject. Professor, your crime is illogical compassion."
"Every time you let a boy like Draco Malfoy get away with some act of bullying and intimidation, every time you let them think they're above punishment because of wealth or blood or any other reason, you reinforce the idea that it's acceptable," Harry continued to explain as if he were holding a detention with Albus as the unruly student. "You did the same thing with my father and godfather. At any other school, Sirius and my father would have been expelled for setting up what would have been the deaths of at least two students. And it would have been two: Snape via Moony, and Remus because he had the misfortune to be Moony and would have been executed for it. My father was no saint, even if he did grow out of it, but you allowed that behavior to fester like a gangrenous wound, just as you allow Malfoy cart blanche because he's Snape's favorite and I'm Snape's favorite target. By saying: 'Boys will be boys' you were actually telling them 'It's fine, go for it.' And what happens when they graduate with that mindset?"
Harry paused to let the older man think about it. "They go out and believe everything is fine, so they can keep doing it. And what happens when those festering social wounds gain positions of power? They make laws that let them keep doing it legally. Did you know almost no wound gets infected if it's treated early, Professor? But if a limb turns gangrenous, you lose the whole thing instead of just a little scar. You let this scratch fester into a gangrenous wound that I just cut off and cauterized."
Albus was quite for a long while as he mentally digested the information. "Wait! You cut off Professor Snape's hands?"
"Yes," Harry replied. He said nothing more, letting the implication of a handless potions master sink into the old man's brain. Albus went back to his thoughts.
"How many are left?"
"How many of what? There might be a few acromantulas that I missed, might be an unnmarked death eater here and there, but when I start something I do my best to finish completely," Harry replied. "If you're worried about your students, well, the male Slytherin dorms will have a bit extra room this decade. Only a few empty beds on the female side, as there are few like Bellatrix in this generation. A few Ravenclaws won't be returning. Hufflepuffs weren't too bad. They make good Aurors, but have an unfortunate ability to stay loyal to the wrong people. Only a few from that house. You might want an orphan support group though. I made a few of them for you."
"Oh, I didn't kill anyone there," Harry replied.
"But what you said about Mr. Weasley..."
"The punishment should fit the crime, Professor," Harry said. "I did nothing more than accentuate that individual's personality traits. It's a simple spell, really, anyone third year and up could probably manage it. A person who loves others becomes more loving. A person who gossips, gossips more. A person who reads, reads more. As far as I know, there's no counter-curse. And the youngest Weasley male..." Harry paused. "Well, I fully expect him to make the Twins' combined OWL scores look pretty good. He'll be more lazy, gluttonous and envious than ever before. He'll drive away others simply by being himself at the worst possible moment."
"So this is my punishment," Albus said with more than a little resignation. "You're not killing me, you're not cutting my social web, you're just telling me this?"
"It's the consequences of your sin, Professor," Harry explained. "You still blame yourself for your sister's death, for what happened when your father killed the muggles who hurt her. You blame yourself for Grindlewald's actions, for every life he took while he spouted about the Greater Good. I expect that's why you co-opted the phrase for your own use, to somehow redeem yourself. You blame yourself not for the deaths Tom Riddle caused, but the path he decided to take even if the signs were there before you even visited him in the orphanage. You've taken on a lot of things to your own personal vat of guilt that aren't your fault. Your punishment is to know what is your fault for inaction, for compassion where none was deserved."
"These deaths are your fault, every person who was killed by one of Riddle's followers is your fault, every student, present or former who is bullied into suicide or depression is your fault," Harry explained. "You can't look away anymore, Professor. You can't ignore what you see. At first I thought it was just my life you threw away, but your score is so high. Heh, Teddy'd probably say something about you hitting the kill screen. Not sure what he used to mean by that. I've never actually managed to kill someone with a screen before. Maybe if I animated it...?"
"They can't be all my fault! I didn't-"
"-Do anything," Harry finished for him. "You heard what I said, but you clearly didn't listen. These are your fault. You were the Deputy Headmaster when Myrtle was killed. You should have known it wasn't an acromantula! Was the body devoured? Was it drained of blood? No! Hagrid's creature, monstrous though it was, couldn't possibly have killed that girl. Riddle told you the moment you met him that he liked to hurt people! And he 'uncovered the killer.' Bah! Your self delusion is worse than I remembered."
"Harry, I..." This time, the time traveler did not interrupt the old man's sentence. Albus Dumbledore trailed off his own protestation of his own will. He didn't wanted to believe he was wrong, but of course, that's the problem with narcissists, they couldn't possibly wrong as that wouldn't fit into their own world view. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore might not have been as overt a narcissist as Gilderoy Lockhart, but the same building blocks were there. The two went in different directions, one to self promotion towards what he thought he ought to be, and the other to wield his truly earned fame into something closer to legend or myth, but the reinforcement of their own superiority was present in both.
"You can't unsee what you have seen, Professor," Harry said, that manic, mocking smile present once more. "You know I'm right. You don't want to believe, you want to think it was fate, that it would have happened anyway. That's why you always leaned on Trawlaney's prophesy like a cripple walking with a crutch. 'It wasn't my fault,' you say. 'It was prophesied, fated,' you told yourself. You know, I've always wondered about that prophesy. It says he marked me as his equal. You always thought it was the scar. After years of contemplation, I came to the realization that wasn't it at all."
Harry crossed his arms, the elder wand still in one hand, his forefinger stretched out along the ornately carved stick. "The scar wasn't it at all. He marked me as my equal by killing my parents. He marked me as his equal by removing those who loved me and sending me to a place where they always hated me. Hated me for memories I represented and hated me for being different. Orphanage, 4 Privet drive? No difference. That was how he made me his equal. No scar, no 'equalizing of power' or any other crap people spouted off after the prophesy became public. And the power?"
Harry cackled again. "I seriously doubt a rock, a rag and a stick were the 'power he knew not.' I suspect it wasn't love either. No, I think it was a lack of fear. Not courage, which is merely the choice to act despite fear," His eyes, once more looking like something plucked from a corpse, locked with Albus' own, nary a twinkle to be seen. "Riddle was always afraid. Even his made up name was related to fear: Flight from Death, poor French that it is. He was afraid of death, afraid of being powerless, afraid of being alone, afraid of weakness. Why else would he go to such great lengths to use my blood just to be able to touch me? It wasn't because he was a pedophile. He feared the protection my mother gave me."
"Me, on the other hand, I gave up on fear long ago," Harry said, suddenly very somber, all humor vanished in an instant. "I learned to play the game. I do well on a test? I go to my cupboard without the meager excuse for food the Dursleys gave me. I fight back against Dudley's gang? Vernon takes off his belt and reminds me not too. I learned the rules. I do well in charms? Ron gets pissy because I showed him up. I brew a perfect potion? Snape vanishes it and gives me a zero for the day. I react with reasonable force to Malfoy and his gang? I earn at least a detention and points removed. I understood what happened when I do something. Cause and effect. But I kept on doing those things, knowing the consequences. Most other people would have started toeing the line when their face was plastered across the front page of the Daily Prophet as a liar. Most would have caved under the social pressure. Me? I end up with multiple detentions with a blood quill. Funny how the scars on my hand are so much clearer than the one I'm best known for. But, during all of that, everything that happened, Basilisks, Dark Lords, Dragons, I wasn't afraid. I knew all along what would happen. I understood the consequences."
"What about the dementors?" Albus asked.
"'All you have to fear is fear itself,'" Harry quoted. "Some American said that. I have plenty of bad memories. Truth be told, it's a miracle I can cast a patronus at all considering my life has been anything but pleasant. But deep inside, it wasn't fear. It just took everything else away. Come to think of it, I always found it odd that I never saw the thestrals before this next year considering I witnessed my mother's death. Perhaps it isn't having seen death, but rather the understanding there of. But I digress. You've made me slip off my rant."
The manic look was back as Harry waved a scolding finger.
"I really think, deep down inside, that the prophesy was very misinterpreted," Harry explained. "For the reasons above and some more. 'Neither can live, while the other survives.' Riddle's ideals still existed, still survived. I really think that everything that made me what I am had to die, to no longer survive, so I could live."
"But you've already said you have nothing left," Albus inquired.
"Equal, but opposite, Professor," Harry replied. "Equal, but opposite. That's what Riddle and I were, are, will be. I've lost everything so now he loses everything. He's afraid, so very afraid, Professor. So, very afraid. I cause fear, but I have none of my own. He causes fear, but it's only a reflection of himself."
"Harry, my boy, you're not making sense," Albus asked. Harry shivered, or perhaps convulsed, briefly.
"Looks like there's one more death on your conscience, Professor," Harry said with a horrifically happy smile. There was nothing sane about that grin.
"Harry... are you... mad?"
"What you mistake for madness is merely an acuteness of the senses," Harry quoted. "Always liked that story. No, Professor, I'm not mad. I'm pretty sure this is full-blown insanity."
Harry smirked. "I realized years ago, when I had nothing left to do, no more social wounds to cleanse, that there wasn't much more of me left. Oh, there are times, times when I remember love. Times when I remember what it was like to have close connections to other people. I think that's what sent me here. One of those times. I'm not sure if they're my clear moments or when I'm at my most divorced from reality. Most of the time I don't feel anything."
He shook his head. "It's not like I killed all those people and came out unscathed. It's not like I'm some comic book hero and spells bounce off me while I float around in primary colors. I'm a lot more like Mary Shelley's Monster. Where Frankenstein's Monster was deadened flesh tied to deadened flesh by sinew and thread, reanimated by lightning; I'm living flesh tied together by choices, mine and others' only reanimated by necessity and purpose. I'm a creation of events and actions. Other people's choices that I just allowed to be made for me, choices that I made myself. It wasn't until I lost everything that I really started making my own choices on a regular basis. I was never a leader, people with similar goals just flocked to me and let me reach those goals for them. But this?" He waved a hand to encompass his presence. "This was made of my choices. This arm is a choice fused with more for each finger. My scar is my mother's choice to sacrifice herself to save me. The basilisk venom and phoenix tears running through my veins are multiple choices, mostly mine, Riddle's, yours and Lucius Malfoy's. My bones are all different ages, different choices. Only a few haven't been vanished and replaced. Some multiple times."
"Like the Monster, I kept searching for my creators, be they my parents, you or those who removed everything important. I've always been searching. I hoped that those I met wouldn't fear me, treat me as the monster I am, but the wizarding world was like William and only saw the monster, not the man. I spoke to snakes, so I must be the Heir of Slytherin. I warned those in power that Voldemort was back, and was called a liar and framed for a crime I only committed in self defense and defense of others. You, like Doctor Frankenstein, kept vital information from the world, or at least those who needed it, and innocents were killed. I dared to share my opinion and was declared an enemy of the state. Well, after countless attempts, you and the wizarding world succeeded. I'm a monster, Professor. What's worse, I'm your monster."
"I don't understand the connection," Albus admitted.
"You should read the book," Harry said. "It's one of my favorites. I especially like the ending."
"How does it end?"
"The Monster, Frankenstein's life's work, the creation he dedicated everything to, takes everything good Frankenstein ever had away from him. I always saw it as the Doctor realizing that, while his creation was a reanimated corpse, or rather parts of many corpses brought together in a reanimated form, while the creation was horrific to look at, the creature wasn't the greatest monster of the story. Frankenstein, the one who made the monster, was the true monster all along. That's another difference between me and Riddle. He walked his path naturally. You created me!"
Harry looked up at Dumbledore's shocked face. "So, Doctor? How's it feel?"
Harry's face was paler. He was starting to sweat. "I destroyed the thing you loved. The thing you married yourself to. The Wizarding world as you knew it is dead. I figure I've killed a good third. Not bad for a week's work, eh?"
He convulsed once more, both chair and desk shaking like a small earthquake had hit. The ancient oaken desk shuddered and skidded across the stone floor as Harry grabbed a hold to steady himself.
"Harry?" Dumbledore asked. "You're ill? You are."
"Still trying to save someone who doesn't deserve redemption, eh? Haven't learned your lesson yet? It's funny, I never even begged you to make a bride for me. Or maybe you did when you told the world about The Boy-Who-Lived, which resulted in shaping Ginny's obsession," Harry cackled through chattering teeth. His grip on the desk slipped and the man's strength seemed to fade. Dumbledore stood up with a strength and grace of a much younger man, he caught the time traveler in his arms. "Your creation, your monster has returned to its master!"
"Fawks!" Dumbledore called out and the red plumed bird popped in, grabbing a hold of them both and flew them to the infirmary. "Poppy!"
The matron was there in an instant. You'd think she never left. Dumbledore flicked his wand and levitated the time traveler's shuddering form onto a familiar bed. "How's it feel, Professor? Congrats, you succeeded!"
"Albus! What is this?" Poppy demanded as she cast a few charms over the man. "How can this-?"
The Headmaster sighed and waved his wand, immobilizing the man. "This is a story far too long and I'm sure anything your charms tell you is true."
"Then he is-" she cut herself off, unwilling to finish the statement.
"If your charms say he is, then he probably is," Albus replied. He looked up as Minerva walked in.
"Go to Headquarters, I want everyone to look for rumors about dark families," he said. "I'm not looking for anything specific. Anything, please."
"What is going on?" his deputy asked as she glanced in shock at the sickly man on the bed.
"I'm attempting to correct a mistake," Albus replied cryptically. "Now go, and send Miss Nymphadora and Alistair to Miss Granger immediately. If you'd bring Miss Weasley along on your return? Perhaps Sirius and Remus should be here as well."
"Albus! This is already-" Poppy Pomphrey started in protest.
"Go, now!" Albus commanded, sending his deputy scurrying towards the nearest floo. He turned to Poppy. "Do what you can." He paused, looking with sad, ancient eyes at the man on the bed who's words were no longer coherent. "Do what you must."
He shared a momentary gaze with Fawks. It seemed much longer than it was. Perhaps it was the adrenalin pumping through his veins or perhaps it was fear that the time traveler was right. Any second that passed was too much. "Go, Fawks. Bring Mr. Potter here."
Albus sat down, feeling every one of his years. "Perhaps this is part of my punishment as well."
Poppy glanced briefly in his direction, but he waved her off. "I am many things," he said, perhaps to Harry, perhaps to Poppy, perhaps to himself. "But I am not all things."
Harry Potter was having a miserable summer like he did every summer when he returned to the "normal" abode of his aunt and uncle. This summer was arguably worse due to the circumstances of the annual "Let's Kill Harry Potter" event. This time, however, there was a death. Cedric was dead and it was all his fault. Then there had been no communication, every time Hedwig went out, she returned empty handed. Or was that empty-clawed? It was like the summer after first year all over again, only this time with added self-pity and misplaced guilt.
No longer living in his cupboard, he curled up into a ball on his bed. He was back to one meal a day, a few hours of chores and a toilet trip, then back to his personal cell. At least this time he was allowed to keep a window open at night. He expected this particular day to be little different from those previous and so settled into another night of self-loathing over the death of a young man who was almost a friend.
Change, almost as if to spite the normality of the Dursley household, arrived in red plumage and a burst of fire.
"Fawks?" Harry asked, poking his head up. The mystical bird trilled, bringing something akin to hope and the barest inkling of a warm feeling into his soul. He held out a hand, letting the magnificent creature perch on the offered limb. There was another flash of light and Hedwig was alone. Had she been a less noble animal, she might have huffed in irritation and rolled her eyes, but she was above such plebeian actions. It was time for another thankless flight to Hogwarts in the middle of the night.
Hermione was reading. That in and of itself was not strange, but her meditative activity being disturbed by a knock at the door at that particular hour, was.
"Hermione! Wizards here for you!" her mother called up the stairs as if it were a normal occurrence. She quickly bookmarked the tome and slipped a night robe over her pajamas and quickly slipped down stairs, her wand in hand. A young woman with pink hair spoke politely with her father as a familiar figure glared up the stairs.
"Professor Moody!" the girl exclaimed.
"I was never your professor, girl," the scarred man replied. "Dumbledore wants you at Hogwarts as soon as possible."
"It's rather late," her mother protested.
"Can't it wait? Hermione just came home," her father agreed, slipping an arm around her mother's waist.
"Professor Dumbledore wouldn't ask if it weren't an emergency," the pink haired woman replied. She winked at Hermione. "I'm Tonks."
"Uh, hi," Hermione said. "How long is this going to be?"
"Not sure," Tonks said. "Prof. McGonagall just said there was a man in the infirmary and the Headmaster wanted everyone there immediately. She said he wanted us to come get you immediately."
Hermione turned to her parents. "I'll probably just be overnight. If it's any longer I'll warn you early on."
"I'm not really comfortable with you just going off with strange people," her father said in lowered tones.
"Well, Pro- um, Mr. Moody is a retired Auror and was supposed to be our professor this year," Hermione argued. "He had some, uh, health problems and wasn't able to be there."
"Magic cop," Hermione explained. They were clearly overheard as Tonks pulled out her badge.
"Current Auror," she said, flipping the badge closed before they could read her full name. "She'll be safe with us."
Her parents shared a look. Neither were too pleased with her leaving so soon. After some silent communication, her parents sighed in unison. "Fine, but let us know if you're going to be anywhere else or longer than overnight."
"She'll write or one of us will be here to relay a message," Tonks assured them. Hermione gave her mother a quick hug.
"I'll pack a quick bag," she said, running up stairs. As soon as she was out of sight, her father turned towards the scarred old man and grimaced.
"I might not be able to cast spells, but I'm an excellent oral surgeon," he said. "It's amazing how bad things can get with a simple mistake."
"And if our little girl is hurt some very big mistakes might be made," Hermione's mother said with a dark smile. "And you're the only ones we know to blame."
Moody gave a gruff grunt of amusement/acknowledgment and a nod. Tonks put Moody between her and the Grangers with less grace and subtlety than she intended. A moment later, Hermione was down stairs, a small bag over one shoulder. She hugged both her parents quickly. The two parents, call them non-magical, muggles or whatever, watched the door shut behind their daughter, once again wondering if it would be the last time.
Albus was not a medic. He was, by the accounts of others and himself, wise, skilled, powerful, knowledgeable, talented and gifted, but he had never put the time and focus into medical studies that Poppy or other healers had. His skills in the field could be best described as "immobilize and send for Poppy." Truth be told, even Severus Snape was probably more skilled in the medical field simply because of his skill in potions. Albus paused his train of thought for a moment, making a mental note to send Fawks to find the man, to see if what the time traveler had said was true. His focus returned to Poppy's frantic wand, the glowing runes and words flowing around the patient's body once more. He recognized words and individual runes, but the contextual meaning was lost on him.
Harry's words ran continuously through his mind. Was he such a person? Was this broken man on the bed his creation? Those deaths... Were they his fault? Was he this willfully blind to the suffering around him? Albus didn't know. Or perhaps he just didn't want to believe it was true. A quick glance saw the time traveler's skin had continued to shift more towards a gray tone.
"Albus, I don't know what happened to this man, but he shouldn't be alive," Poppy said as she grimaced at an unfamiliar line of runes flying over the man's form. "He... I don't know if there's much I can do for him. One set of spells says he's in his thirties, but the damage to his body would put him closer to fifty. And Albus..." She paused and frowned at some fragmented piece of information flashing before her. "The bones, the scars, they tell me exactly what a person's done, who they are. Some people carry photography albums for memories. That's what I see when I read these things. They tell me what a person does for work, what they do for fun. They tell me if they're right or left-handed; young or old; hexed or cursed. The body explains these things if you know how to listen. This man... I've treated him before. I'm not some kind of genius, but I have a good memory for wounds: burn scars on his hands; regrown bones; multiple limb breaks from high falls; a large piercing wound from something large, sharp and tapered (an isolated guess would be a fang of some kind) through one side of his arm and out the other side, grown larger as he aged and grew up; malnourishment for several periods of time; and most familiarly a curse scar on the forehead. That's not to mention all the more recent wounds, scars and breaks that I'm unfamiliar with."
"As usual, Poppy, you are correct," Albus replied quietly, his elbows resting on his knees as he looked at his shoes peeking out from under his multicolored robes. "The answer to your question is 'yes.'"
"Albus, I haven't asked my question," she protested as she summoned a bottle from a cabinet.
"I know," he said in a weak voice that belayed how tired he felt.
"I have to ask it. I have to ask it aloud," Poppy said.
"I know," the Headmaster said with a little nod, not breaking his intent gaze at his shoes.
"Is this man Harry Potter?" Poppy asked. Albus closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Yes." His response was whispered, but seemed to echo around the castle.
"Albus, did he, to your knowledge, eat or drink anything?" Poppy asked as she gave another wave of her wand over the patient.
"Yes, he conjured some water," Albus replied. The matron grimaced and motioned him over to the time traveler's bedside.
"What?" asked the headmaster, careful to keep his voice low.
"I don't believe he was drinking water," she explained. "He's showing all the signs of Iocane poisoning."
"Iocane Powder? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that," the headmaster admitted.
"It's deadly, odorless, colorless, Australian, dissolves perfectly in water and fast acting," Poppy explained grimly. "Either he was poisoned or..."
"Or he did this to himself," Albus replied, sitting down quickly. "Why would Mr. Potter do this to himself?"
"How?" Both Hogwarts staff members looked up to see a much younger man standing in the doorway, Fawks trilling away at his shoulder. The teen's eyes were locked on the patient. While the resemblance was shocking when they were apart, in the same room, it was like looking at a direful fun-house mirror where decades instead of shapes were changed.
"Harry, my boy-" Albus began, cutting himself off as words from the boy's elder counterpart echoed through his mind. He stopped himself from claiming ownership over the stunned teen before him. To do so would be to prove the time traveler right, that Harry was Dumbledore's monster, his creation. That was something the old man absolutely wanted to be untrue. With a shake of his head, the old headmaster sat up and transfigured a chair out of an emptied potion bottle. "Harry, please sit down here. The situation is rather more complicated than either of us know."
Confused, his wand gripped rather tightly in one hand, though not raised, Harry the younger walked over and tentatively sat down in the offered chair, his gaze flicking uneasily between the patient and the Headmaster.
"Harry," Albus said. "There are times..." he trailed off and gave a mirthless laugh. "Perhaps not enough, but there are times when I am reminded exactly how old I am. There are also times when I am reminded of exactly who and what I am. Today seems to be one of both."
"But..." Harry trailed off, his eyes flicking nervously to man in bed who had begun to convulse once more, only for Poppy's skilled wand to settle him down once more.
"How can he be you?" Albus asked quietly, receiving a nod in return. "I don't know. I'm discovering there are many things I do not know, but once thought I did." He closed his eyes. Harry the Younger looked up in surprise at the man who he had frequently seen as something like a grandfather or an ideal. Albus Dumbledore, the so called Leader-Of-The-Light, looked old. Not just old in the sense of a man of many years, but old in another sense. There was an expression that seemed to fit: rode hard and hung up wet. And what was worse, Albus felt it. "It's not the years, Harry, it's the mileage," the headmaster explained to his companion. "There are changes coming, Harry. Changes because your elder counterpart took it upon himself to clean up my mistakes. Mistakes I didn't even know I made until he pointed them out to me." He paused, his eyes begging the young man to let him gather his thoughts. "Some people called me a great man. I suppose, Harry, that in my hubris I took to believing such talk. If it's true, if I am a great man, then I have made great mistakes."
"But you're-" Albus held up a hand to stop the teen.
"It has recently been pointed out to me that I am a man. A man who happens to be a wizard, who happens to head a school of magic, but just a man," Albus replied. "There comes a time in every young person's life when they realize adults are people and people have flaws. Some children are fortunate enough to learn this by the discovery that their parents do know some rather colorful vocabulary. Others understand that traits they looked up to aren't actually positive. Age, even only a few years, gives a person wisdom. As a professor I have seen this in numerous students as they arrived at eleven and grew through the years. However, the years can also take wisdom away. If or when your elder counterpart awakens some of my flaws are going to be rather blatant."
"What did he say to you? Why is he here?" Harry demanded, his shaggy hair flipping side to side as he caught quick glances at the patient.
"He said a great many things," Dumbledore said, obfuscating the facts, not even realizing he was falling into old patterns once more. Habits, no matter who you are, are hard to break. "As to why? There are several reasons. The world he came from was not... pleasant." That was an understatement if there ever was one. "He was particularly critical of my treatment of him, that is to say, you, Harry."
"But why are we here?" Miss Granger asked once the others arrived in a flurry of green flames and ash.
"Ah, yes," Albus said. "As you might have inferred by our location, the elder Mr. Potter is not well." He turned to look at the middleage man on the bed. "His world was, as I have already told our Mr. Potter, not pleasant. I hope that familiar faces might speed his recovery, especially those of his friends, younger versions though they may be."
He waited until they were gone before turning to Harry, Ginny, Hermione and the two Marauders. "Has anyone ever heard of this... er... 'Frankenswine' character?"
There were shaking of heads, but the precocious miss Granger was quick, as always, to correct a mistake she spotted.
"Do you mean 'Frankenstein,' Professor?" she asked.
"Yes, yes," Dumbledore agreed. He looked over to Harry the younger. "Your counterpart described it as his favorite book. You wouldn't happen to agree, would you?"
The teen shuffled and seemed to shrink slightly under the man's gaze. "I've read it," Harry admitted hesitantly. "It's... I can relate to it, parts of it."
"Harry, now be honest, do you know why your counterpart would call me Doctor Frankenstein?" the old man asked. He could see the mental gears grinding. Sirius was lost; Remus seemed to have heard of it, but didn't apparently know the story; Hermione Granger's face was full of dawning horror. "Ah," the headmaster said. "Not something that's going to be pleasant to hear, I expect."
"Uh, no," Miss Granger agreed with a shake of her head. "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein isn't a happy story. Everyone dies, most of them horribly."
"I'd wondered if that were the case," Albus said grimly. "Harry, your counterpart blames me for what happened. He called himself Dumbledore's Monster. He told me the ending of the story." The old man took a breath and briefly summed up the time traveler's statements. "He's acted out the role I built for him. He's destroyed everything I tried to hold together, or at least he said he did."
Hermione bit her lip. She had the kind of face that practically screamed "That's not right, but I don't want to tell off an authority figure I respect."
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"That isn't the end of the story," Harry broke in.
"Oh?" Albus asked with a raised eyebrow. Harry glanced at Hermione for confirmation and she gave him just the slightest nod.
"The Monster doesn't just destroy everything the creator loved," Harry said. "Later, the Monster finds the Doctor dead. With that, the Monster realizes it doesn't have any reason to exist and therefore decides it shouldn't exist. He, I think burns Frankenstein's body and swears to travel to the north pole to destroy itself just so no one can ever make another one." Harry looked at the older figure on the bed, the man everyone said was him, an older Harry Potter. Hermione took one of Harry's hands in her own. "If that's what I-he, felt, then why am I still alive?"
"He's destroying himself," Sirius spoke. It seemed to be both a statement and a question. "What could be so bad that he'd..."
"It was, Sirius," Albus said. "It was." He looked at the younger Potter. "I suppose, though I'm not dead, he has destroyed me. I suppose that's his way of preventing you from ever becoming him again."
"What happened to us?" Ginny asked, stepping up to Harry's other side.
"Death, or worse than," Dumbledore replied a bit more bluntly than his usual style. "From things he said, some of us weren't destined long to live. I suppose that's different now."
"Just..." Ginny said from beside Harry. "Why am I here and not Ron?"
Albus looked at the time traveler for a long silent moment. "He told me many things, but he also made it clear that you and Miss Granger were the most important people in his life. I suppose I could tell you that because he wanted you to know. Without both of you, he was lost."
"Professor, if you don't mind my asking," Remus said. "Well, to put it bluntly, you're acting strangely."
Though they didn't hear any pop, and though it was reputed to be impossible inside the Hogwarts wards, Poppy appeared at Dumbledore's side.
"There's a good chance you're acting strangely because of a poison, especially if you came in contact with my patient's drink," she said waving a wand over him. She paused, glancing at a few runes. After a moment she let out an audible sigh of relief.
"What is it?"
"A babbling potion," she explained. "And a rather odd compulsion charm to speak the truth."
"He wanted me to tell the truth?" Albus asked curiously.
"The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing," Harry the younger quoted, "and should therefore be treated with great caution."
"Ah, and it all comes full circle," Albus said. "He claims to have...done things which I can't seem to talk about. He claims he did them over a week. But we should have known, something that would have been in the papers or on the wireless. But he told me, and I can't tell you. I want to, but I can't."
"Fidelius?" Hermione asked.
"Sharp as ever, Miss Granger," Albus nodded. "Unfortunately, I cannot award points during holiday. I thought..." He trailed off as Poppy returned.
"There's nothing I can do," she explained. "If he'd been here minutes after he took it... Well, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. It's too late. The stasis charms are only staving off the inevitable."
The headmaster nodded before turning back to the three teens. "I thought..." he paused and suppressed a sob. "I thought you'd give him hope." He sagged. "Poppy? Go ahead and remove the charms." They all watched as the time traveler's chest began to rise and fall once more. "How long?"
"Minutes," Poppy replied. "Possibly longer if it was a small dosage, but it seems like he knew exactly what he was doing."
"Of course I knew what I was doing," the patient cackled. "I've had plenty of practice to get it right." Harry the younger looked startled at the voice, similar to his own, but older, deeper, worn. "Come close professor, you need to hear something." The old man dutifully leaned over. The words were quiet, even with his ear close to the patient's lips he barely heard the message.
"Dumbledore's Monster killed the Wizarding World."
And with that, Harry Potter: Boy-Who-Lived, Chosen One, Dark Lord, Time Traveler, finished his suicide.
"What did tell you?" Harry the younger asked.
"A secret," Albus replied. "A secret I'm going to keep."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I own not Harry Potter, Frankenstein nor anything else one might find referenced in one of my fics.
I've wanted to do an HP time travel story for a while, but I tend to dislike Peggy Sue fics because of how so often authors feel the need to lock themselves into repeating the original story. I didn't want to do that. This was my answer to that and also a "canon" ending.
This is not intended to be a happy story, but some who read it thought it might have been in some fashion.
Thanks to the CaerAzkaban group for refining and assisting me in this story.