Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be working on many other things. This brain-jacked me. Oneshot plus epilogue, so not too bad, right?
Harry-centric, Book 4, no ships. Rating for one or two bad words.
After Happily Ever
Harry glanced warily up from his Herbology homework - were nightshade roots delicious or deadly? He couldn't remember for the life of him - at his bristling best female friend. Hermione was glaring at him with all the scholarly fury she normally reserved for mistreated books.
He glanced down.
No, the spot where he'd dropped gravy onto one of his books was basically invisible. So then what...?
"You're messing up my calculations!" She complained and he hid a sigh of relief. Arithmancy was the one subject where Hermione actually struggled - in a Hermione sort of way. She had to slow down and really work at it and when she hit something she just couldn't work out? It wasn't pretty.
"What have I done?" He asked, rather reasonably he thought. She glared some more, then whipped out her wand, waved it in a circular motion and stabbed it down at a sheet of paper. Then she stared at it. Then she stared at him.
"I-I was right." She said slowly.
"Oh good." Harry offered. Hermione looked up, relief and confusion mixing with annoyance.
"But I thought I was wrong because- because you're the wrong age!" She accused.
Harry blinked. His first thought was that the pressure of the tournament was cracking one of them and he was pretty sure it wasn't him.
"Hermione…" He said slowly. "I can't be the wrong age. Of the two of us, you're the only one whose rewound time enough to be affected. Are you sure you're not the wrong age?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes. The paper was slapped down in front of him as her wand sketched a basic privacy spell - nothing that couldn't be broken by the sixth or seventh years but most of them were busy sneaking shots of firewhiskey in the corner.
"Look." She ordered. He looked. The paper held a shortlist of information, his name and birth year, his age to the second the spell was cast, his weight…
He looked up.
"Nothing strikes you as odd?" His friend challenged. He looked again, but… nope. Born 31st July, 1980, aged thirteen and-
"Hang on." He put a finger on the paper. "This says I'm thirteen and-"
"But I'm fourteen."
For the first time some worry entered her expression.
"I don't know. But Harry, this is a simple charm. It doesn't go wrong. You either cast it or you don't. It wouldn't have recorded everything else and just 'made a mistake' with this bit. Maybe-." She cut herself short, teeth worrying her lip and eyes sliding away.
Guiltily, her eyes slid back. "I don't want to... well, worry you Harry. It might not even be-"
"I can't think of many reasons for the difference except, as you said, time travel. But… there is one other thing… I read about it when I was doing extra-curricular work for DADA and… well. You might be a changeling."
"A what? Wait, you mean - like a fairy? You think I'm a-"
"No! No, actually, if you were I'm pretty sure there'd be other signs. No. But, um, changelings are more of a general category. A lot of different magical species swap human babies for… well it doesn't matter because I don't think you're- well, probably, you're-"
"Spit it out."
"Probably, this means you're just… adopted. Wizards sometimes… it's a barbaric practice but Mrs Weasley said it still happens sometimes but basically, when a Wizarding baby dies, if the parents are quick enough they can sort of… swap their baby for a healthy one, but keep the genetics of their original baby." She cringed as she said it.
"So… wait, you think I'm…"
"I don't know! I mean, I'm sure you're not. I'm sure your parents wouldn't… but then I can't think why… Oh, Harry, maybe you should just go see Professor Dumbledore. I'm sure he could sort it all out. I'm sure it's not… well, that you're not…"
After Happily Ever
"A changeling?" Professor Dumbledore chuckled. "Never fear Harry. Sometimes, there really is such a thing as too much knowledge. It can lead to rather exciting conclusions. No, I'm sure there's a much simpler explanation, now, let's just sort this out…" The old Wizard swirled his wand in a circle and pointed it down at a page like Hermione had but with much less aggression. "Here we are. Name: Harry James Potter. You see? You are yourself. If you'd been a changeling, your original name would be recorded as well. Born: 31st July, 1980, aged thirtee-"
The man cut himself off and stared in absolute befuddlement at the piece of paper.
Harry felt a slow sinking sensation in his gut.
He sat silently as the greatest wizard of all time cast the spell again. Then a third time.
Finally, the old man sat back, visibly stumped.
"Well, I'm at a loss." He admitted candidly. "I have never seen nor heard of that spell offering conflicting information. I suppose it's possible the Avada Kedava affected it, you are the only known survivor after all, but.."
Fawkes, watching with dark, glittering eyes, crooned. As Dumbledore looked over with an absent smile, the bird sang five long, lingering notes.
Harry shivered at the unearthly music and scratched his prickling scalp. He turned back to the headmaster to find him staring, wide-eyed.
Blushing, Harry snatched his hand down.
"I do brush my hair." He grumbled, knowing it looked like a rat's nest at the best of times but most especially when he'd been running his hands thought it.
Professor Dumbledore just blinked.
"Indeed. Tell me, Harry - have you ever cut it?"
Harry, remembering barber trip after barber trip culminating in a near-scalping by his horrifically uptight aunt, scowled.
"Yes. Lots." He said, a trifle rudely. Dumbledore just hummed in response.
"Well, it seems we share the same affliction, you and I." He stroked his long beard proudly. "No mere set of scissors can best us."
He straightened. "I will look into the situation further Harry but in the mean time I would urge you not to be concerned. Your name is authentic and well documented - by the Goblet of Fire, by this spell and in Hogwarts' own register. You are who you are, there's no doubt about that. As to your age… Well. I suppose if you want to go back a year-"
"No thank you!" Harry yelped. Dumbledore's lips twitched.
"Well then, I see no issue. Was there anything else I can help you with my boy?"
Yeah, getting me out of the tournament would be nice. Harry thought privately but dutifully answered "No thanks, Professor." Twinkling eyes gave the impression the old man knew exactly what he'd not said but all the elderly Wizard offered was "Well then, best of luck with your studies!"
Harry nodded glumly and left, mind already well and truly back on his homework, completely oblivious to Dumbledore's facade of cheerfulness falling behind his back.
After Happily Ever
"Did you know about this?"
A cheeky chirp and an avian version of 'Who, me?' was his only answer before the phoenix flamed away.
Dumbledore sat back in his chair and indulged in a well-deserved moment of disgruntled annoyance. Then he took a deep breath and got to his feet, crossed to his bookshelf and withdrew a very old, very well-known book.
The title glittered in never-fade gold dust. Both Muggle and Magical worlds shared this story, but only the Magical one filed it under Biography.
"My poor dear boy." He sighed quietly.
After Happily Ever
"Mate, I think Dumbledore's lost it. For real, I mean."
Harry glanced up at his on-probation best friend, who was frowning after a whistling Headmaster. He followed his gaze just in time to see the man whirl on the spot and stroll back, this time belting out a song in a rich tenor that reminded him of an opera singer he'd overheard on the telly once. The entire time, the old man kept glancing over at the small knot of Gryffindors gathered in the courtyard.
"Maybe he's trying to give us a hint." Hermione guessed, brows furrowing. "Maybe the last task will involve singing?"
"God I hope not." Harry mumbled, unheard as Ron pitched in his own opinion.
"But not just any song I reckon - haven't you noticed? He keeps singing the same thing. Listen."
They all paused to do so. The Headmaster's voice echoed back to them as he entered the enclosed section of hallway but didn't fade, as though he were standing just out of sight to finish. Hermione scrambled for a quill and a bit of paper, scribbling the words down. After another verse or so, their headmaster's bearded face popped back into view - scrutinised them - then popped back.
"Lost it." Ron shook his head sadly. Harry could only nod.
After Happily Ever
"Found it!" Hermione slammed a book down in front of him, jolting him out of a rather nice daydream where Karkaroff and Malfoy admitted in front of the whole school and the Daily Prophet that they'd masterminded the whole tournament thing but hadn't expected Harry to a) Still be alive and b) Be doing so well and the fact that he was meant that he didn't have to continue and they were turning themselves in for just generally being arseholes and also they were having an affair.
He frowned up at her.
"No, seriously - I found it. That song the Headmaster kept singing?" Kept singing until the twins followed him around with roses and rapturous applause, anyway. "It took me forever, but I found it. You're not going to believe this, but I think you're going to have to reenact part of a historical event as part of the third task!"
"I don't believe it." Harry said agreeably. He glanced down at the book. There was a picture on the front of a weeping woman with long golden hair - hair that spilled out of the picture and off the end of the book. He nudged it aside with his quill.
"You know the story of Rapunzel?"
"Well it turns out, the Muggle story is just a watered-down version of a real Magical event! In the one we grew up with, Rapunzel was just a beautiful girl locked away in a tower and found by a prince, right?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Well according to this, Rapunzel was actually a princess - it makes sense that the roles were changed in the Muggle version considering the era - and the prince was just a thief who came upon her by chance. But, she wasn't just a princess. There was a reason she was locked up and that reason was her hair - it was magical. If you knew the right song to sing and touched it, it could heal anything and even restore youth."
"The song Professor Dumbledore has been singing!" Harry realised. Hermione nodded rapidly.
"Right! Although I've been thinking about it and it could be just a general clue. You see, the Magical story was about much more than just two people finding each other and getting married. Rapunzel's hair was only magical because her mother had eaten a magical flower. Now, I cross-referenced this with a dozen other books and it was really hard to find but I think… I think maybe you're supposed to find this magical flower in the maze? Or, possibly, finding it is worth bonus points or-"
"Hermione, wait. Wait. Are you sure we're not… getting a little ahead of ourselves? It might have just been a song. Professor Dumbledore wouldn't help anyone cheat, after all."
Hermione waved him off.
"Oh Harry, he's been singing that song all over Hogwarts for weeks! There's no possible way the other champions haven't gotten an earful. This isn't cheating, it's part of the tournament - I'm sure of it."
"Alright then. But we don't know how exactly. Not really. I might have to storm a tower, or-"
"Climb. Rapunzel threw her hair out the window - it was really long - and the prince, I mean thief, climbed it."
"…Right. So I might just have to climb a tower."
"Or sing. Or recover a flower and transport it safely through the dangers of the maze without harming it. Or-"
"Alright, alright." Sigh. "I'll read the book. And, I dunno, ask Neville how to move a flower safely. Okay?"
"..Okay. You know, I'm just worried about you."
He smiled and, impulsively, hugged her. It was simultaneously the most awkward and most awesome thing he'd ever done in his life. She was warm and she smelled nice and she hugged much better than he did.
"Thanks." He replied, pulling back and picking up the book to avoid looking at her. "I. I do appreciate it, 'mione. Thank you."
"Your welcome, Harry." She replied softly, almost shyly.
"Oho, what's this?!" Gred (or Forge) crowed, bursting in on them. "Harry and Hermione, sitting in a tre-ack!"
The two fourth years left the sixth year silenced, bound and twitching madly on the floor behind them as they found somewhere a little quieter to be. For research. Obviously.
After Happily Ever
He'd reviewed his memories but found nothing. A quick trip to the Muggle world netted him a birth certificate (Wizards didn't hold with such things) that confirmed at least part of his suspicions and a pointed conversation with lots of eye contact with Remus and Sirius in turn sorted out the rest.
Harry Potter had been born with golden locks. By the time Albus himself had seen him for the first time, an infant wrapped in a blanket and looking tiny in Hagrid's enormous arms, he'd had pitch black hair just like his father. Sirius had almost forgotten the difference, mind damaged by his long exposure to Dementors and half seeing James every time he looked at Harry. Remus had simply thought it was something Albus himself had done.
"I figured you knew." The exhausted werewolf had explained, hands wrapped around a mug of tea. "Knew, and had hid it. That, or his aunt had just cut his hair one day and all that power was lost. It hardly mattered, anyway. By the time I saw him next, he had his father's black hair and the power was gone for good. End of story. Why do you ask?"
He'd fudged an answer he was sure the werewolf hadn't quite bought but that was his own fault for, apparently, not bothering to research the legend enough when he, Sirius and James had scrambled to find something to save Lily's life mid-pregnancy. As a werewolf on the fringes of society, Remus was well-travelled. James' pockets were deep and Sirius had been relentless. They'd found the unfindable, a golden sun flower, and brought it home to feed to a woman on her deathbed. It was only after the fact, after a baby was born with golden hair, that they looked a little more closely at the legend and realised what they'd done. The Potters had gone into hiding not long after.
Remus had been sure that Lily would never cut her son's hair and deprive him of the gift but the boy had arrived at Privet drive without a single strand of gold on his head and the identification spell listed him as one year and three months younger than his birth date indicated he should be. A date that suspiciously coincided with a certain Halloween attack, thirteen years ago.
What happened, he wondered, if the ultimate magic of life and renewal met the ultimate magic of death and destruction?
He suspected the answer was currently working its way through the final task of the Triwizard Tournament, utterly oblivious to his - some might say cursed - fate.
After Happily Ever
Harry trekked through the maze, intermittently humming the song Hermione had made him learn and thinking about maybe just finding a safe-looking corner and setting up shop until the task was over. What did he want with fame and galleons, anyway? Yes, part of him wanted to win it just to prove that he could, that everyone who'd talked down to him and sneered at him was wrong, but a bigger part felt that to do so would be unfair to the point of cruelty for the other (real) contestants. He didn't want to lose but… he had a shrunken picnic basket in his pocket. It wouldn't be losing if he just sat down somewhere and ate a sandwich, right? That'd obviously be him choosing not to compete.
Except he could already hear Malfoy mocking him for it, calling him a coward who knew he couldn't hack it.
He sighed and trudged on. He could always find the cup and then have a sit-down, he supposed. Maybe offer some tea and scones to whichever wizard (or witch) got there next, all proper Englishman-like.
…Or just take the cup and to hell with the lot of them.
A scream cut through the air and he stopped humming at once. He turned slowly but couldn't make out which direction the scream had come from. He continued on, slower and quieter. There was a time and place for singing. This wasn't it.
After Happily Ever
A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's — they met in midair — and suddenly Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge were surging through it; his hand seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to. A narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold.*
"What is this?!" Voldemort hissed. Harry had no answer as the beam of light split and strands peeled off, enclosing the two of them in a cage of golden power. Phoenix song echoed in the distance, raising the hair on his arms and head and sounding eerily familiar.
Wait, it couldn't be…?
He gripped the hand holding his wand with his other hand, desperately focusing on maintaining the spell. The phoenix song seemed to be weakening Voldemort and the spells cast by his Death Eaters outside the dome did nothing except cause the serpentine man to bark an order for them to stop. The Dark Lord was… afraid. Wide red eyes were staring at him, as though he were the cause of all this. He thought for a split second of singing the song himself - but that was ridiculous. The power weakening Voldemort didn't come from the song but the creature singing it. As golden beads of power appeared in the beam of light connecting their wands, Harry focused instead of forcing them away from him and towards the man trying to kill him.
As the first one slipped into Voldemort's wand, a ghostly copy of Cedric Diggory stepped out.
"Hang on, Harry." The ghost said quietly, before turning to obstruct Voldemort's view of him. Another bead entered the red-eyed man's wand, another ghostly form slipping out in return. It was the old man Harry had seen murdered in a dream!
"You keep goin' boy, don't let that bastard win!"
Another bead, another ghost - a woman this time. Then:
"Mum." He croaked, his hand and arm shaking fit to fall off. Lily Potter, silvery and somehow more insubstantial than any ghost of Hogwarts, cupped an ethereal hand over his cheek.
"My darling boy." She smiled. "Don't worry. He's destroyed himself already - he just doesn't know it yet. You have to help me this time, though. I need you to help me - alright?"
"Help how?" Harry asked, but she was already moving away, circling Voldemort and lifting her voice…
It harmonised with the phoenix song still echoing around them, matched the words Hermione had painstakingly copied from Dumbledore and made him learn and it made the Dark Lord's skin steam and blister.
Another gold bead resulted in his father stepping forward to brush a spectral hand over his shoulder. Harry met hazel eyes with his own wet emerald.
"We're proud of you, son." His father's echo said quietly. "So proud. And we love you, every second of every day. But we need your help now, alright? Just a little more. Do as your mother says now."
So saying, his father left him to join the crowd circling Voldemort. He lifted his voice to sing along with Lily and the phoenix song seemed to get louder. Voldemort made a sound of pain and that decided him. Shakily at first, he lifted his own voice and joined the song of power.
"Flower, gleam and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine"
With every word, Voldemort screamed louder. The effort it took to keep the connection in place lessened, as his opponent ceased to fight back. Harry couldn't see much behind the wall of spirits circling the man but when he did catch a glimpse, it was of skin bubbling and popping like his very blood was boiling. Cracks in his face and hands leaked faint golden light - exactly the same as that which surrounded them and connected their wands. A glitter at the edge of his vision drew his gaze down to where all the hairs on the back of his arm were also glowing gold.
"Heal what has been hurt
Change the fates' design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine"
Like Quirrell before him, Voldemort was burning away. Unlike Quirrell, it wasn't due to Harry's touch. But maybe… maybe his blood? It had been taken and used as part of the resurrection ritual after all and… his hair was glowing but not burning. Could this be a spell his mum had placed on him as a baby? The spell? The one Dumbledore had called 'love'? He wasn't sure where the song came into it though, or the story it was attached to and he couldn't spare the attention right now to try and figure it out. He refocused. Voldemort had stopped screaming, now little more than a charred statue of ash that was rapidly blowing away.
Cedric came back over to him.
"It's almost over, Harry." The boy told him earnestly. "As soon as the connection falls, grab the cup - it's a portkey. We'll distract the Death Eaters as long as we can but it won't be for more than a few seconds."
Harry nodded tightly, singing the final lines.
"Oh, and Harry? Could you… bring my body back to my parents?" The Hufflepuff spirit didn't wait for an answer, surging with the rest of the ghosts to the edge of the dome as it flickered and faded with the end of the song.
"What once was mine…"
The dome fell. The ghosts swarmed the horrified and stupefied Death Eaters. Harry ran for Cedric's body, summoning the cup to him at the last second. They vanished just before a spell burned the ground they left behind.
Voldemort was dead, again. His Death Eaters scattered.
Harry, Cedric and the cup hit the ground of Hogwarts to a rising tide of noise.
With Wizards and Witches running towards them, Harry dropped his wand, curled over Cedric's cold dead body, and cried.
After Happily Ever
Barty Crouch Junior knew. He knew the second it happened.
First there had been the glorious darkening of his mark, the pleasurable surge of pain as it reestablished itself in his body and touched his mind, soul and magic. He'd known then that it had worked. All of it, the long year of careful work and meticulous acting - fooling even Dumbledore! - and guiding Potter to his doom. It had worked and he, most loyal of his Master's servants, had been responsible for delivering unto him the last piece of his Lord's resurrection.
His life, his power, his reward would be sweet.
But then… it faded. Like a nightmare, a memory of that awful night over a decade ago, the strength that had surged through him waned and somehow, somehow, his Lord was cast into the spirit world once more.
And he knew. He knewwho was responsible.
The sudden arrival of the teen in question was proof he didn't need and he was one of the first to approach him, his stupid peg leg hobbling him enough that he couldn't deal with him then and there.
"Come away lad, come on." He pulled - gently, gently, oh so gently, mustn't give it away now, not yet - the boy away from Diggory's corpse and led him back to the castle, stopping only long enough for the boy to blurt something garbled about singing and the Dark Lord burning to Dumbledore, who hastened to quiet the idiot and shoo him along as the Diggory boy's parents started wailing.
He got the boy into the castle and en-route to the hospital wing before pulling him into a side room. Bleary green eyes blinking up at him and he hated them, hated the brat they belonged to.
"I'd ask what happened," He snarled, so beyond fury that he could barely see straight. "But it doesn't matter. I know whatever it was, it was your fault. Again."
He raised his wand and sneered as the boy stumbled back from him, his own hand reaching for a wand he'd left back on the pitch.
"It's not the end, though!" He shouted, spit flying. "He shall rise again! But you, bastard son of a mudblood whore, never will! AVADA KEDAVRA!"
The door to the classroom exploded open in a cloud of splinters, a spell burning through the air to slam him away from his target. It was too late. His last sight, before he hit the wall and his neck snapped, was of Harry Potter falling back in an aura of lethal green.
Barty Crouch Junior died happy.
Harry James Potter, died.
Well, sort of. There's an epilogue after this that will tie up loose threads. I'm pretty sure I've left enough clues in this story for most of you to guess what happens and why.
*(This section of text lifted from the book and slightly edited.)