Trigger Warning: My detail really isn't much more graphic than Rowlings, but I figured it's better to be safe. There will be disturbing and violent imagery, especially in this first chapter.

Harry Potter is copyright JK Rowling. Since this covers some of the Battle of Hogwarts, some of her writing did make it into this, particularly dialogue. It's mostly the parts that are in Italics.

Full Summary: After the battle of Hogwarts goes tragically wrong, Harry Potter does not feel like he has anything left to live for. After Voldemort kills him, Dumbledore offers him a third choice. Go back to his 1st year and shape things more favorably so that fewer people might die. Harry accepts, but soon discovers that the goal isn't as easy as it seems. He hadn't anticipated almost everything being irrevocably different.

Pairings: Harry/Ginny is the main one. I'm honestly not sure about any others, but I'll update this as I write more of the story.

Chapter 1

Crack!

Harry barely managed to duck the spell that gouged out another chunk of Hogwarts. He turned to the source and nailed the Death Eater with a stunning spell without even thinking about it. His brain was scattered and he couldn't seem to focus on a single moment with all the chaos raining down on him. Lavender falling, Seamus catching a Death Eater in the knee with a Reductor curse. He could see vicious Tentacula wrapping their thorny vines around enemies as Professor Sprout threw her pots from the balcony above.

"Harry!"

He turned to Hermione who called for him, her wand raised ready to curse anyone the instant they turned their attention to them. She looked almost as lost as him and the grief was still plain on her face. "Where are we going?"

He blinked and tried to focus his efforts, but all he seemed to remember was the explosion, voices going far, and then getting up to find Fred, lying there, his eyes unseeing. At that instant he felt for Ron and finally found him slumped over unnaturally, he squeezed his shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. He had no words.

What were we doing? Slowly it was all coming back to him. The Fiendfyre, rescuing Malfoy, and discovering that the Horcrux was melted by the cursed fire. The Horcrux. They got the last one, now the only one left was Nagini, the snake. And she could only be next to Voldemort! He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to drift. He could see rotting wood, peeling paint from the walls, furniture that was broken and chewed, and the planks rotting out of a door.

"My Lord, please...my son. I wish to find him," a croaking voice said from out of vision. Voldemort only briefly acknowledged Lucius Malfoy, but Harry was taken aback at his appearance. It was not all that long ago that Lucius had been regal and groomed in refined robes. Now, though, he appeared haggard and downtrodden; his clothes hung loosely on his frame and his hair was scraggly and he desperately needed a shave and what looked like a good night's rest.

Voldemort had once again turned to examine the Elder Wand. Something seemed to be troubling him, but Harry didn't bother to wait. "The Shrieking Shack," he shouted to them and began sprinting through the hall.

Harry thought he knew what fear was when he faced Voldemort at the end of the Triwizard Tournament, but that was nothing compared to this. His breath seemed to burn in his lungs, the shouts and screams of those attacking and dying filled his ears with an unending cacophony. Hogwarts, the only home he'd ever known, was being rent asunder. Paintings were aflame, the ceramic tile was slick with blood, and entire towers had fallen in the barrage. Friends - people who were virtually family at this point - could be seen battling for their lives and losing them. It seemed like every person he recognized, alive and dead, caused a lump in his throat to grow larger as he attempted to swallow his grief at the way they were suffering. His heart went out to them all.

He tried to put it all to the back of his mind and stay focused on what he had to do, but they slipped and fell over countless piles of rubble. They even had to stop once as McGonagall led a herd of desks past them. It was worse outside the castle. Harry felt his heart drop as they ran almost straight into the leg of a giant. It caught side of them, growling and grumbling as they wielded primitive clubs the size of Hagrid.

"Split up! He can't get all of us," Harry cried to them and he darted through the space between the giant's legs. He glanced back to see both Hermione and Ron dive in opposite directions of each other and it seemed the giant missed Ron by the breadth of a hair. Hermione screamed and scrambled her way around the giant to him. They turned to wait for Ron, but the giant had chosen him as its target.

"Go! Get to Voldemort, Harry!" Ron shot a curse up into the face of the giant and then took off in the opposite direction of them.

"Ron," Hermione called out to him, her cry half a scream and a sob.

"Let's go, Hermione. We need to get going," He mumbled to her and weakly grabbed at her jacket to pull her along.

Harry was looking for a set of stairs down by the dock when he felt a familiar icy chill settle in his chest, and he whipped around to see hundreds of Dementors materializing out of the Forbidden Forest. If he could hear the familiar screams of his mother, they were drowned out by the very real cries of terror around him. He raised his wand, desperately casting in his mind for something happy, but the small bits of happiness he'd encountered this year had been fleeting and overshadowed by the ever present shadow of loss. The first memory of his flight on a broom seemed petty and winning the Quidditch cup in third year felt almost trivial.

"Expecto patronum," Hermione cried, but her voice was weak and shivery.

"Expecto...expecto patro-" Harry tried to shake his head to clear it of the depressing fog that descended on it.

"Come on, Harry! You can do it!" A silvery glow in the shape of a fox, a hare, and a boar swept past him and the Dementors scattered like leaves on the wind. The fog in his mind cleared at the same time, he felt a hearty slap on the back as Seamus stepped up beside him. "We're still here and we're still fighting. You're clear to go where you're needed."

"Th-thanks, Seamus," he replied, and shivered as the last remnants of biting cold left his body. He collected himself and pelted across the grass over towards the Whomping Willow. He waved his wand and a stick nearly rocketed into the knot that caused the tree to freeze.

"What about Ron?" Hermione asked as they slipped underneath tree, her voice thick with emotion.

"We have to get the snake before Voldemort figures out we've destroyed the last of his Horcruxes. I don't want to leave him either. He'll help out the others at the castle."

"Right," she said, but her voice was a whisper.

They had to stop talking as they rushed through the tunnel. Now that they had left the battle, the tunnel seemed otherworldly and eerily quiet. For a moment, Harry felt like he was betraying his friends by leaving them to the battle while he pursued his own agenda. We can't win this until Voldemort is gone, and he'll only be able to be gone when we've destroyed the last of his Horcruxes, he told himself. I hope they'll understand.

Once they felt the ground tilt up, they slowed down and carefully crawled their way up the slope. Harry winced when he felt his head bump up against the trapdoor, afraid that perhaps Voldemort may have heard but there was no sudden discharge of a wand to blow their hiding place to smithereens. Carefully, he tested the trapdoor again and was dismayed that something seemed to be resting on it. Slowly, he lifted the lid enough to see a crack, At first he couldn't see anything, but then there was a padding of feet in a direction that Harry couldn't see and then the confident voice of Severus Snape spoke up, "You sent for me my Lord."

As much as it pained him, Harry closed his eyes to more closely eavesdrop on the conversation and once again fell into Voldemort's mind. He could feel Voldemort's rage, which was always present, begin to simmer in a slow boil. For all of Severus Snape's greasiness, Harry had to give credit that even in the presence of Lord Voldemort he remained aloof and untouched, confident in his position as Voldemort's most powerful ally.

"Severus, this wand does not seem to work for me."

"You have performed extraordinary magic with that wand, sir."

"No, I have performed my usual magic. I am extraordinary, but this wand has not unlocked its powers for me. It feels no different from my Yew and Phoenix."

"I don't understand my Lord. The Elder Wand answers to you and you alone."

"I don't think it does. You're a clever man, Severus. I regret having to do this to you, my most faithful follower."

The alarm was building on Severus' face, but he worked to control it. "Allow me to bring you Potter, my Lord. You can test the wand on him and prove once and for all that it is yours."

"I need not have you look for him. He will come to me in time. And I must be ready. I am sorry to do this to you," Voldemort replied, sounding not very sorry at all and then he slashed towards Snape with the wand.

Snape flinched, but did not reach for his own wand and seemed puzzled initially at the wand movement. Then Nagini's bubble floated to Snape and engulfed him.

"Nagini, kill!" Voldemort hissed.

It took all of Harry's effort not to cry out in alarm and he deliberately opened his eyes to bring himself out of Voldemort's mind, but the sounds were almost worse. There was a horrific thumping and Snape cried out in pain under the assault.

"Come, Nagini. We have much work to do," Voldemort's voice hissed out in more parseltongue and then with a 'pop' he was gone, leaving Snape to his death.

Harry shoved the trap door open at the crate that was on top of it went crashing to the floor and he rushed over to Snape's body. As much as he loathed Snape for most of his schooling, he wouldn't wish such a brutal death on anyway. He was surprised however, when Snape noticed him and seemed to sigh in what looked like relief. Harry knelt by him, pressing the hand to the snake bite, even as he knew it was pointless. He was surprised again, when he noticed a strange silvery blue substance began to leak from Snape's pores.

"Take it. Take it," Snape rasped, weakly gesturing to the memories he was generating.

"Hermione, a vial! A container of some kind," Harry ordered and it seemed like in no time at all, she put a stoppered vial into his hand. He did his best to catch every bit of the gooey substance and his mind was immediately fixated on what it is that Snape had to tell him. He glanced back up at Snape when the man feebly grabbed his collar and for a moment they just stared. Harry was curious as to what it was that Snape seemed to be looking for when he whispered, "You do have your mother's eyes." And then just like that, the light faded from his eyes and the breath left his body.

Harry hesitated a moment before stepping away. It seemed wrong to just leave him there, but they had still not killed the snake and the war was waging without them. They had to find Voldemort again. When this is over, I will come back to see that you're properly buried, Harry vowed before turning to leave.

He was stopped short in his tracks when a hissing voice seemed to sound from the very walls and he grimaced, trying to shut out the pain that was enveloping his mind.

"You have fought valiantly! Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery. You have sustained heavy losses. If you do not retreat, you will die and every bit of magical blood lost is a waste. Let it not be said that Lord Voldemort was not merciful. I command my forces to retreat. You have one hour to dispose of your dead with dignity and treat your injured.

"Harry Potter, I now speak directly to you." He had his eyes closed, but he felt Herminoe wrap her hand in his and squeeze it. "You have permitted your friends to die for you. I now give you this opportunity to redeem their sacrifices; come to me at the end of the hour and I will spare everyone else. If at the end of the hour you have not presented yourself, the battle shall recommence. I will enter it myself to find you. And every man, woman, and child shall die for concealing you from me." Finally, the voice faded away and all was quiet.

"Don't listen to him. We can do this. We've almost got him," Hermione said to him, continuing to squeeze his hand.

"Right. Come on, we should find Ron and tell him what happened," he replied in a voice that was hardly better than a croak.

Hermione followed him forlornly. They had already seen too much death for their age and most of it just that night. They trekked their way back to the castle at a brisk walk, exhaustion weighing heavily for everything they had done. Did they only just break out of Gringotts on the dragon just yesterday morning? It already felt like a lifetime ago. He was so consumed in his thoughts that he almost forgot to remove the branch he had wedged into the knot.

He and Hermione stepped into the courtyard and stopped. An eerie gloom had befallen the castle and the lack of battling made it look like the castle had simply been worn away by the centuries, ready to collapse in on itself. Dread settled in the pit of his stomach and he cautiously and hesitantly made his way toward the Great Hall, uncertain he actually wanted to step in there.

As dreaded, the hall was lined with bodies. He was sorry to say that he didn't recognize many of them, but he felt his heart catch in his throat when he finally did recognize a few. Remus Lupin and Tonks were lain next to one another, appearing to be asleep. A little ways down rested a particularly tiny body that was too small even for a student, and he couldn't control the gasp at seeing Professor Flitwick among the dead. But...how?

Hermione gasped and couldn't contain her sobs as she saw the same thing. Then she said, "Oh no" and gripped his arm tightly.

Near the end were a group of redheads, the Weasley's, but he was terrified to see that there weren't nearly as many as there should have been, even without Fred. He felt himself begin to shake and he tried to control it as he stepped closer to them. Hermione was in lockstep with him and was cutting the circulation from his hand, as she gripped him tighter and tighter.

Mrs. Weasley was crouched and wailing uncontrollably as Bill, Percy, and Charlie stood awkwardly around her. George was still holding his twin as though he expected him to open his eyes and say, "God you good, didn't I?"

Harry thought he might vomit when he saw the rest of them. Mr. Weasley, Ginny, and Ron, all were laid out next to Fred. There was a ghastly bloody stain across Mr. Weasley's chest, Ron's head was bloodied, but Ginny looked untouched and vulnerable. Harry practically fell to his knees and picked up her hand, suddenly disgusted that his ashen and bloodied hand was cradling her unblemished skin as though it might taint her and ruin the illusion.

"Ginny. Ginny, please," he managed in barely above a whisper. Tears began to cloud his eyes and he wanted nothing more than to howl in grief and rage. Someone's hand patted him awkwardly on the back, but he almost cringed from it. It's his fault that Ginny was now dead! He made her leave the Room of Requirement so that he could get to the final Horcrux, but she had gladly left and run off to join the effort.

None of the Weasley's should've been there. If he'd been a little smarter, a little quicker, he might have been able collect the Horcruxes before it got to this point. Ron! Why had he left Ron to deal with the giant alone? If he had been a better friend, he never would've left him. How could have done that?! They needed to get to Voldemort, but he'd gotten away with his bloody snake anyway!

"It wasn't your fault, Harry," a voice said. He thought it might have been Bill's, but it seemed drowned out by the blood roaring in his ears. Tears had dripped onto his glasses and the world wobbled in the water.

"I have to end this. I will finish this," he gritted out between his teeth and with a great effort wrenched himself away from the family, trying to hold his grief. He felt so guilty and ashamed that he felt all his presence could do was mar the family's grieving.

He allowed his feet to wander of their own accord and was almost surprised to find himself standing in front of the Gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's office. It didn't even ask for a password, but moved aside for him to ascend the escalator-like stair case. It seemed strange that after all the damage Hogwarts had suffered that something as seemingly mundane as the stairs moving would remain intact. He was so consumed by his emotions that he barely noticed when he went to the cabinet with the pensieve and the doors flew open without him even waving his wand. He moved with machine-like automation, placing the bowl gently on the desk, and then reaching into his moleskin pouch for the vial of memories. He poured them in and watched them swirl, almost a perfect reflections of his emotions if not quite as turbulent. He tapped the surface and the mist disappeared and formed into a scene that he didn't hesitate to dive into.

Even though he was standing right there, he felt oddly detached from Snape's memories, which were primarily of his mother and their relationship. To some extent, he felt his heart go out to him. He knew now, what it was like to love someone and lose them. As he thought about it, he and Snape weren't too far from each other. Both had loved red-headed women with a temper, and a no-nonsense attitude, whose lives were cut damnably short by the same man, Lord Voldemort.

The conversation between Snape and Dumbledore barely registered at its conclusion. He reappeared in the room and blinked stupidly, looking around the room, as though he hadn't just been standing in it minutes ago. Slowly, it began to sink in, but where originally he felt fear and despair, now he felt an odd sort of acceptance. What exactly did he have to live for now? Ginny was dead, his best mate was dead, and if the Weasley family was sensible at all, they should very well disown him for involving them in this mess.

"Hermione," he whispered to himself. What would happen to her? Both of her best friends dead on the same night, one of whom she might have even loved if his suspicions were correct. He did not envy her, but hoped that she'd be able to cope and do all the amazing things that she had planned for after she graduated. If anyone could change the status of house elves, it was Hermione Granger.

How long had he been in there? By the silence around him, it seemed clear that the battle had yet to start. Maybe he still had time. He pulled out his Invisibility Cloak and threw it over himself. Saying goodbye would only make things worse and he might not be able to do what needed to be done. It would be easier this way, to go without fanfare.

He only stopped when he came across Neville in the Great Hall, appearing to be taking a moment for himself after helping carry the body of Colin Creevey.

"Neville."

"Harry! You just about gave me a heart failure. Are you okay?"

Harry could only grimace and he felt his throat threatening to close up again at the thought of his girlfriend and so many of her family members dead.

"I know you were really close with the Weasley's. I'm sorry about all of them. I know you and Ginny were together, right?"

No, I broke it off with her before I went on the run, Harry thought, but he'd had every intention of returning to her when his task was done. It seemed like that was never meant to be. His mouth didn't seem to want to work and he felt like he was ready to burst in grief.

"Hey, it'll be okay. We'll get through it. Just don't get any ideas. We've got your back and we'll stop Voldemort no matter what it takes."

The mention of Voldemort got him back on track and his throat finally cleared up as he latched on the real reason he stopped to talk to Neville. "About that...I just want you to know that should anything happen, to me or Hermione, the snake at Voldemort's side needs to die. Goes by the name Nagini. It must die."

Neville seemed a little shaken, as though he suspected what Harry was about to do, but he nodded. "Alright, Harry, I'll remember. Just hang in there. We're there for you."

Harry nodded with another grimace and then walked around the corner, until he was hidden to throw his Invisibility Cloak on once more. He didn't stop for anyone else, although it seemed a slide show of the people he knew went across his mind: Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fleur, Remus, Sirius, Professor McGonagall and on and on and on. This was it. The game was over, the snitch was caught. He halted so suddenly he wobbled as his mind latched onto something he'd long forgotten: the Golden Snitch Dumbledore had left him.

He reached into the moleskin pouch and pulled it out. It was strange how innocuous it appeared, but at the seam the words could just be seen faintly glowing: I open at the close. He held it up to his lips and whispered, "I am about to die." It popped open and out fell the stone that was the centerpiece to the Gaunt ring: the resurrection stone. He closed his eyes, turned it over three times, and instantly felt a shift around him. Figures were moving in his peripheral and he glanced up. His mother and father stood in front of him, with Ginny next to her who was smiling sadly. Remus, Sirius, and Ron were by his side.

He tried to smile, but it was weak and wilted as he continued to look at Ginny.

"Oh, Harry, you're so brave," his mother said, reaching out to him as though she thought she might be able to touch him.

"I'm so sorry, Ginny. I wanted you safe."

"I know, Harry, I don't blame you at all. I wanted to help. I knew it was a risk," she replied, but her smile was almost as watery as his.

"Ron, I should have gone back for you. I feel like I abandoned you."

"You had a job to do, mate. What you found was important. I was going to ask you to take care of Hermione for me, but I know you can't," his best friend said in a strangely mature manner.

"I'm so sorry, all of you!"

"The only one who should be sorry is Voldemort," James Potter said. "It's time, son. I am so proud of you."

"Will you stay with me until the end?" Harry asked so quietly he wasn't sure if it would be heard. It felt like a pathetic request, but he still shivered in latent fear and his heart pounded like a bounding hare.

"We're always with you," his mother replied.

He nodded and began moving forward. Ginny walked so close to him that if she were an actual ghost, his left arm would feel frozen. They passed the perimeter of Dementors with little trouble, as though the shadows of his friends and family were enough to guard against the seeping chill. He stepped carefully on the squishy ground of the Forbidden Forest and almost didn't see the Death Eaters standing guard.

"The hour is almost up. No sign of Potter."

"It's time," the other said and they began walking back to wherever Voldemort had set up base.

Harry followed them as quietly as he could manage, not ready to give up this short-lived peace. Like it matters. I will be with everyone shortly, he thought to himself, but his legs were beginning to shake. This cold march to his doom was harder than anything he had ever attempted. It would be so much easier to get killed in battle, in the chaos, than to simply walk to his demise.

"There's no sign of him, my Lord," one of the Death Eaters reported to Voldemort and to his credit his voice did not shake.

"A shame," Voldemort said with deadly quiet. "I truly thought that he would come."

Harry put Draco's wand into his moleskin pouch and folded up the Invisibility Cloak to stuff it under his shirt. He did not want to be tempted to draw in self defense, so he steeled himself up and clenched his fists to keep them from shaking, and then stepped out from between the trees.

"You weren't wrong," he called out across the clearing and was pleased to hear his voice seemed steady. The instant he connected eyes with Voldemort, he felt his calm slipping and he wanted nothing more than to throw curses at him until he disappeared into oblivion. This….man - though he hesitated to call him that - was responsible for all this tragedy. His parents, Neville's parents, the Weasley's, Cedric, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, and Ted Tonks. Were it not for Voldemort, none of the families he knew would have suffered! Ginny would still be alive and he would never have had to battle a Basilisk or risk his life for the Sorcerer's Stone or run the gauntlet of the Triwizard Tournament. What would life have been like if Voldemort had never been a threat? He could only imagine.

In the next moment, the clearing erupted in roars of confusion and hate. Bellatrix jumped to her feet and was panting like a dog at her master's feet. At least a dozen Death Eaters instantly pointed their wands in his direction. The great form of Hagrid, whom Harry hadn't seen before entering the clearing, shouted, "Harry! No!"

Voldemort stood in complete silence in the clearing. staring at him with a look Harry had trouble deciphering. He had expected to see triumph, but he instead appeared to be wary.

"Harry! Whatcha doin'? Get out o' here! Don' let him take ya!" Hagrid was finally silenced by another Death Eater, but his cries did not seem to perturb either Harry or Voldemort.

Harry wished it were possible to communicate a secret message to Hagrid. It wouldn't mollify him, but it might help him to understand. This is the way it has to be. He made it a few steps closer before he felt his legs might wobble and held his head up high.

"Harry Potter," Voldemort began, "the boy who lived come to die." He peered at him in curiosity, seeming to weigh his options. No one moved. Harry hoped that Voldemort would be quick about it, before he was certain his courage would fail him. His fingers grew numb and he felt the Resurrection Stone slip between his fingers to the ground.

I'm coming, Ginny, he thought. He saw Voldemort's lips move, but no sound reached his ears. Then green light flashed and his vision whited out into oblivion.