A/N: It lives.
Harry Potter and the Hallowed Remnants
"-. October 29, 1988 .-"
"I am leaving this world."
Regulus Black flinched at the voice. He didn't expect to hear it. Or any voice at all. There shouldn't have been anyone there but himself.
The wand etching runes into his spine withdrew for precisely as long as it took him to regain control of himself, but otherwise didn't falter. He probably assumed he flinched from the momentary burn in his nerves and bone, before remembering the real cause. He will not hear again those words or any that will come later, because of the anti-sensory spell overlaid on himself. Even though there were still some options he planned to look into, that's one thing he already decided not to eschew – eliminating every vectors through which distractions could filter in and disrupt his attention from his work. Despite the events being undergone being all possible evidence that he could probably drop all plans of further research and refinement. His designs will have had to work in order for him to still be alive, functional and willing to go through etching runes and binding spellwork into his skull and bones.
But that was a distant secondary concern at the moment compared to his unexpected visitor.
"I have done what needed done as well as could be done."
His scoff couldn't be wholly suppressed. "Getting me to do all the work was all the best you could do?"
"Not all, but yes. You accomplished well."
Not for the first time, the wizard wished he didn't still suffer from decision paralysis as to whether or not to press for personal information. Unfortunately, he still got tongue-tied when praised by his betters. Those betters he trusted to be truthful with him at least. It probably had to do with him not considering it a flaw of his character. "Done healing the world, then?" He asked instead when he realised there was no to other way to check if He was still present.
"Only incidentally, of course. The name I've been using is just something I picked out from one of this world's more prominent fictional works."
The impulse to ask almost burned his tongue, but he stopped himself. That would just be begging to open a tangent about organised religions, holy books, and which of them with any mentions of a certain archangel predated the sixth century.
Which was none of them.
"You never told me why you went with the fantasy dwarf look," he said instead. Rather redundantly since he'd always assumed it was a play on the type of star He hailed from, and so he'd never asked. It must be that having his bones carved through his flesh and skin was a mite distracting.
"This is how the flesh body of my first incarnation appeared." Wait, really? He hadn't been joking? "And living down to the name would have required a hideous merger of animal heads and parts on top of a vaguely humanoid body that is no less horrifying to behold than a demon, so-called."
So-called was right.
The wand phased out of his inner clavicle, passed over him several times in one last assessment, then the one at his back turned and left the room.
Just like that, there was just him and Him left.
The silence lingered in his wake.
"It's not over," Regulus Black said quietly, when his strangely pain-free body stopped feeling molten hot on the inside.
"All that's been done is over."
The retort would have been more appreciated if it didn't sound like a platitude. "It feels like the hard part is yet to come."
"There is always price being paid."
"For what? Saving one boy?"
"The price for that has long been paid."
The irritation of having to deal with the enlightened obtuse was rapidly returning with unpleasant familiarity. "Were seven years wallowed by my brother in Azkaban part of that price as well?"
"That was price bought, not paid."
Like hell it was, Regulus wanted to say. For who and what and when, he wanted to say. He bitterly did neither. "You could have done more." He couldn't contain the entirety of his misgivings. Even now, with all he wanted whole reclaimed, he felt them. Even knowing he was never commanded or otherwise compelled to leave Sirius there, he felt it. The bitterness of being given his life's most bitterly honest and realistic advice upfront all those years ago. "You could have done-could do everything."
"The price for that could never be paid."
Not unless it was paid by everyone in the world maybe. That's what it meant to play god, didn't it? "And what about the parasite in Harry's head? Is that a price that cannot be paid as well?"
"You still listen to reply and not to understand."
Regulus Black blinked, uncomprehending.
Then he jerked in his seat. His head turned abruptly to stare at the spectre that wasn't a spectre.
There was nothing that could be read from him. It was actually a surprise.
Not as big as what was said, though. "What?" No reply, but he didn't blame Him at all. "That-you… Are you saying what I think you are?"
"I deal not in half-measures, nor do I renege pacts."
Regulus stared and Him and His gaze, stony and hard. "Pacts? Pacts with whom?"
The Walker Amidst Stars let his forbidding seeming fade. He smiled then, slight but real. "Choice and potential for destiny do nothing by themselves. I came, witnessed and did where I would not have otherwise. Such does not occur upon mere childish whim."
Regulus Black stared at his impossible benefactor. It always had baffled him that some cosmic entity would descend upon the Earth just to save one person. It had taken him a while to come to terms with the knowledge that he himself was not that person. But now he was slapped in the face with the revelation that not even Harry Potter was that person. In fact, it literally sounded like He'd come to Earth entirely to improve Harry Potter's life because he'd been contracted to do so by someone else. Even though originally he'd told him it was because Harry made a wish!
… Except he never said it was Harry Potter that made that wish, did He? Or if he did, He never said it was that wish he was answering. Even when talking about a soul who chose to be born on this world and didn't get his due, He didn't give any names at all. And what about himself? Where did he fall in all this? The Wizard didn't know if he should feel grateful that he'd been recruited, insulted over being used like some instrument, or offended at the blatant implication that he hadn't earned any of the new lease on life he got as part of everything.
The conflicting feelings stumbled over each other until he couldn't say anything at all.
The not-a-man smiled, wry but fond all at once. "Be well." Then he was gone.
Regulus Black sat. Alone. Wondering.
What was he even supposed to do with this information?
The answer, it turned out, was he didn't know.
So instead he stood up, refrained from testing any of the runes and spellwork branded into his skeleton, and left the room as well. He had agreed to only do tests when in company. And particularly the presence on one Edward Tonks that would be on hand to put him back together if something happened. Regulus in no way begrudged any of it, save perhaps the assumption that he would begrudge the need for supervision. He wasn't Sirius to ever consider something as reckless as that. The only reason he couldn't have anyone present during the procedure just now was because he wanted no distractions. And more importantly, for there to be no other magic or souls nearby for his to lash back at.
There were limits, it turned out, to even solutions developed by approaching things sideways.
He followed the staircase out of the attic of Number 12 Grimmauld Place all the way down to the ground floor, and specifically the antechamber where Sirius and the healer in question waited for him. Jittery and unnaturally controlled by turns, they both relaxed upon seeing him.
Soon after, they left that place and returned to the same place on August 29, 1988. Then they disapparated for Black Manor.
He spent the next two months testing out the enchantments and charms, first one by one and then in various combinations. The base spellwork held up as well as he hoped, and worked even better. The secondary charms and rune etchings proved similarly effective, as well as potentially useful for purposes other than those for which they were designed. The atmospheric control, comfort and anti-collision spells in particular had… notable applications outside the normally considered scenarios. Not that this came as a total surprise, but the possibility of it not extending beyond the bones themselves could not be dismissed. Fortunately, a lot could be accomplished via particular interpretations of concepts such as "whole" and "enchantment-bearing object." Ultimately, the very precise wandless activation magic was the hardest and slowest thing to master, what with having to account for both physical location of activation runes and bone chip cut-outs. As well as the will-dependent activation and intensity of those spells with intent-based and adjustable effects. But he mastered all of it, and along with it came a full awareness of every line, gap and groove that had been cut, burned, melted or transfigured inside him. Along with the rest of him.
How intriguing. He'd accidentally developed the self-awareness required to allow casting of the animagus spell. And probably every other way of self-transfiguration. Wandlessly even. Dare he try to become a metamorphmagus as well? That was a bloodline trait of his family, wasn't it?
All the while, there was not even a hint of his various limbs or vertebrae wanting to explode every which way or anything else inconvenient like that.
He still made sure Ted was there every time he tested new functions and maneuvers though, all the way to the end of the time loop. Some days it even wasn't because he felt like a clay pigeon now that he suddenly didn't have some cosmic entity watching over him, however undeservedly. He hadn't actually met the not-a-man for years, since all the way back at the end of his training, but only now did it feel like he was gone. Like Regulus was suddenly adrift. Exposed.
Ridiculous of course. There had been no moment during any life and death struggles when he felt invincible. Not before and certainly not after the cave.
Then again, there didn't need to be, did there? That was not the point. The point was that there was a safety net for if he did get himself killed. Someone to pick up where he dropped the quaffle, so to speak. He'd been spoiled, Regulus thought wryly as he left the bedroom his grandfather had set aside for him at Black Manor.
He walked to the window and looked outside to the horizon beyond the orchard until the sun dawned on the day of October 29, 1988.
Then he dissapparated for Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
He climbed the stairs to the attic and entered the empty chamber at the end of the hall. Or, more specifically, empty save for the seat in the center of the room and its occupant.
Regulus Arcturus Black beheld himself. It was still unnerving to see himself that way, even now. Hard to reconcile being able to see himself. And see himself seeing himself. And vice versa. All without some self-ending paradox or other occurring. But then, neither space nor time actually worked that way apparently.
There is no was or will be. There is only what is.
He walked to stand over himself, drew his wand, applied an anti-sensory charm on himself until all he had was his touch and sight, then he activated his contact lenses' pellucid perception enchantment.
Time to get to work.
It was strange to feel twice the amount of himself he usually did while working magic. He hadn't actually expected the double feedback, nor for it to not feel at all confusing. A great many lessons therein, he was sure, about the nature of the soul, magic, spellcraft and self-related epiphanies. All of them irrelevant to his current purpose. What was not irrelevant was that the normal defensive reaction to intrusion by foreign forces did not materialise, just as he'd hoped and by now expected.
Not that the inherent strength of a magical human being did much against spells, since that was their whole point. But he did not seek to overcome here. He sought to use his claim to bind and weave his latest and greatest work throughout himself.
He wanted to create the first work of human enchantment. Or, rather, the first enchantment-enhanced human being there ever was in written history.
So he did.
When he flinched two thirds of the way in, he was not expecting it despite knowing to expect it. It seems his benefactor was wholly responsible for him not maiming himself by cutting or burning or melting his bones inside out. He'd chosen a moment right as he finished one of the more involved steps of imprinted symbology. Of course, he wasn't using anything particularly prone to misfires, but spell stability had pitfalls of its own when the limbs didn't measure up. Fortunately, he did not split or blast open his skill or his spine or his clavicles or anything unfortunate like that. Not so unfortunately, the process was a delicate working that could not be interrupted. He did not have the chance to stop or slow down in favour of listening to his past conversation. Which he fully expected in light of his recollections, but having the benefit of living twice tended to make one prone to self-criticism when it came to efficiency.
It also tended to train one's patience, which was doubly good considering he'd spent the past two months refraining from putting his successfully enchanted self to good use.
Now, finally, he could.
No wind buffeted him when he walked out onto the sky parlor. Nor was there an appropriately spectacular panorama to greet his soon to be greatest accomplishment. For all that Number 12 Grmmauld Place had withstood the passing of years whole and timeless, the same was not true of the rest of Islington. Drab buildings flanked him on either side of the two-story house, pillars of a normalcy grimmer but no less overbearing than numbers 3 and 5 Privet Drive. Not that he had personal experience there, and it wasn't like number 12 didn't live down to its name, with everything inside from the curtains to the upholstery being almost invariably black for the longest time. But he considered it an apt comparison. The front of the house opened to the motorway, though, and there at least was some shrubbery on the other side of the iron gate across the street. But the greenery barely livened up the neighbourhood regardless, and was rendered impotent in the face of the grey, decrepit, bleak and desolate environment that was the neighbourhood as a whole.
Flaws Walburga Black had possessed many, but being a shut-in was not one of them. It was more like one of her few qualities.
Regulus Arcturus Black spelled the door behind him closed, holstered his wand and bounced on his heels a few times.
Then he bend his knees and jumped.
He did not slow down.
Thirty seconds and a mile later, he went from vertical to horizontal with barely meters to spare.
And five seconds and a mile after that, he willed the working throughout himself just so.
The air exploded around him, a boom like thunder in spite of the clear sky. His sight went blurry at the edges, then dark. Then it turned outright black.
All save for the distant horizon ahead and behind him, getting closer without getting closer with every air pocket and cloud and smoke and smog that broke against him as he shot through and past.
Weightlessness and levitation were good enough training wheels, but that was all they were: training wheels. Wizards had long since perfected spellcraft much more grand. Like broomsticks that could fly through the sky. Like flying carpets over which wind didn't squall. Like a bus that could move faster than sound without hitting what lied before it on its path. Which was everything.
He almost hit a flock of pigeons, but the anti-collision spells made sure they or him or both bent out of his path. The helicopter that he blitzed by later didn't swerve or fall out of the sky in shock, at least not in the moments he could still see it while looking behind. The notice-me-not must have held up fine. There was an augurey that randomly showed up out of nowehere afterwards, and somehow jerked right into his path. But impact-nullification was among the first defense magics that wizards created, and that was long ago indeed. The magical bird was the only one that left that particular meeting in more pieces than it started with.
All the while, he willed himself to push on and fly faster, faster, faster until even the distant points of light ahead and behind were a blur and befogged.
The boom of his return to subsonic speeds came when he overshot his destination by twenty-some miles. He didn't care. All he did have it in him to care about was the utter exhilaration of what he'd just accomplished. He laughed in delight for what felt like an hour. The triumph of having achieved the greatest work of self-enhancement was well and truly overcome by a terrible rush of power. A terrible rush of power and freedom from what he'd just done. He'd thought it was exceptional to self-levitate against Dumbledore back all those months. But now he'd achieved flight. True flight. Faster than man. Faster than beasts. Faster than dragons. Faster than the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
Faster than sound.
Reorienting his personal gravity, he flew back the way he came but already knew he wouldn't land once there. He didn't think he'd ever again feel at home when not in the air.
It was just as well, he thought as he looked upon Godric's Hollow from high overhead. That was the whole point of coming a day early to check things and prepare.
Harry Potter and the Hallowed Remnants - Sequel Posted. Find it on my profile.