MAY 16 1996

"The prophecy's smashed," Harry said blankly. "I was pulling Neville up those benches in the - the room where the archway was, and I ripped his robes and it fell…"

"The thing that smashed was merely the record of the prophecy kept by the Department of Mysteries. But the prophecy was made to somebody, and that person has the means of recalling it perfectly." Dumbledore answered after a significant pause. "That person…was me."

"You?" Harry questioned with disbelief. "You knew the contents of the Prophecy for all this time? Then why keep it there, with all the guards and everything? Mr. Weasley would never even be attacked, and Sirius…" Harry couldn't bring himself to say it any more.

Dumbledore looked solemn. "It was a gamble, albeit a very risky one. I was trying to make Voldemort arrive at the Hall of Prophecy, to take the ball for himself. The confrontation with the Death eaters, it was staged and pre-planned for months. However, I must admit, I never quite saw this coming."

"Why the hell would you do that?" Harry snarled. For the nth time, he reconsidered starting to break Dumbledore's possessions once again.

"To provide a definite proof that He had indeed returned. Nothing else would convince Cornelius that he was mistaken."

Harry just seethed.

"As I said, Professor Snape found out that you were dreaming about the Hall of Prophecy. That said, I never expected that you, along with your friends, would actually travel to the Ministry like the way you did. It threw everything into disarray."

"So, it's now my fault? That your grand-plan failed?" Harry snarled.

Albus raised his hands up. "You misunderstand Harry. There is only one person to blame, and that person is me. I will be candid, you are not quite as angry with me, as you ought to be."

Harry sneered in a way that would have made Severus Snape clap in delight. "Tell me about this… prophecy."

Albus sighed. This had been coming for a long time, regardless of how much he didn't wish for it to happen. Strange were the ways of Magic. He knew it as good as anyone that nothing ever came from trying to tinker with prophecies, since they would always find a way to come true. Fate was after all, an instrument of Magic.

He got to his feet and walked past Harry to the black cabinet that stood beside Fawkes's perch. He bent down, slid back a catch, and took from inside it the shallow stone basin, carved with runes around the edges, in which Harry had seen his father tormenting Snape. Dumbledore walked back to the desk, placed the Pensieve upon it, and raised his wand to his own temple. From it, he withdrew silvery, gossamer-fine strands of thought clinging to the wand, and deposited them in the basin. He sat back down behind his desk and watched his thoughts swirl and drift inside the Pensieve for a moment. Then, with a sigh, he raised his wand and prodded the silvery substance with its tip.

A figure rose out of it, draped in shawls, her eyes magnified to enormous size behind her glasses, and she revolved slowly, her feet in the basin. But when Sybil Trelawney spoke, it was not in her usual ethereal, mystic voice, but in the harsh, hoarse tones Harry had heard her use once before.

"The one with the power to vanquish the dark lord approaches…
Born to those who have thrice defied him,
born as the seventh month dies…
And the dark lord will mark Him as his equal,
but he will have power the dark lord knows not…
And either must die at the hand of the other,
for neither can live while the other survives…
The one with the power to vanquish the dark lord
will be born as the seventh month dies…"

The silence within the office was absolute. Neither Dumbledore nor Harry nor any of the portraits made a sound. Even Fawkes had fallen silent.

"Professor Dumbledore?" Harry said very quietly, for Dumbledore, still staring at the Pensieve, seemed completely lost in thought. "It… did that mean… What did that mean?"

"It meant," said Dumbledore, "that the person who has the only chance of conquering Lord Voldemort for good was born at the end of July, nearly sixteen years ago. This boy would be born to parents who had already defied Voldemort three times."

Harry felt as though something was closing in upon him. His breathing seemed difficult again. "It means — me?"

Dumbledore surveyed him for a moment through his glasses. "The odd thing is, Harry," he said softly, "that it may not have meant you at all. Sibyl's prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, both born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times. One, of course, was you. The other was Neville Longbottom."

"But then… but then, why was it my name on the prophecy and not Neville's?"

"The official record was relabelled after Voldemort's attack on you as a child," said Dumbledore. "It seemed plain to the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy that Voldemort could only have tried to kill you because he knew you to be the one to whom Sibyl was referring."

"Then — it might not be me?" said Harry.

"I am afraid," said Dumbledore slowly, looking as though every word cost him a great effort, "that there is no doubt that it is you."

"But you said — Neville was born at the end of July too — and his mum and dad —" He just had to be sure, had to be sure that it had not been a giant mistake.

"You are forgetting the next part of the prophecy, the final identifying feature of the boy who could vanquish Voldemort… Voldemort himself would 'mark him as his equal.' And so he did, Harry. He chose you, not Neville. He gave you the scar that has proved both blessing and curse."

"But he might have chosen wrong!" said Harry desperately. "He might have marked the wrong person!"

"He chose the boy he thought most likely to be a danger to him," said Dumbledore. "And notice this, Harry. He chose, not the pureblood, which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing, but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you, and in marking you with that scar, he did not kill you, as he intended, but gave you powers, and a future, which have fitted you to escape him not once, but four times so far — something that neither your parents, nor Neville's parents, ever achieved."

Harry was angered beyond belief, beyond rage, beyond anything he had ever felt. He tightened his fists so hard that the palms whitened from the pressure exerted. It took everything he had to not jump at the old man and… and… "And you think that – that just - that just because I survived, by some random throw of fate, I'm supposed to be the chosen one? Voldemort, the most feared Dark Lord to ever live, chose me because I was a half-blood like him…" The words were positively scathing.

Harry could not possibly believe that the greatest wizard alive had placed all his hopes on a prophecy, especially one given by a drunkard who barely even remembered what hour of the day it was.

Dumbledore smiled sadly. "I know you think I am wrong, Harry." The student snorted harshly. "When I first heard the words, I too believed, as you do, that Sybil was merely trying to put on a show, to obtain a professorship she did not possess the talent for. Yet, when I was contacted by the Department of Mysteries, I realised that the prophecy I believed to be a hoax would soon come true."

"And you simply decided to sit back and watch?" Harry was livid. People were dying and the old man had believed in words spoken by a – a- a charlatan, a choice that had destroyed his life. He hated Dumbledore for the fact that he was alive… and he hated himself for the realization that he was the cause of the death of his parents.

Dumbledore's smile vanished. "No, Harry. I did not, as you say, 'sit back and watch'. But Voldemort had learned of the prophecy and his forces were now searching for the child who would be his downfall. The child who would secure the future of Wizarding Britain from the hands of the Dark Lord and his followers."

At Dumbledore's mention of a future, images of his friends appeared before Harry's eyes. Ron and Hermione had stayed beside him for years despite the rumours and slandering they too had to face, and he had repaid that friendship by leading them to their death. Neville had trusted him to help, and the boy was now in the infirmary nursing severe injuries. Ginny had only escaped an instant death by pure luck. Luna… He hung his head in shame. Luna had been the only person in the school who had understood him in her own strange way. The girl might be eccentric yet she had never failed to provide him with true advice, and her payment for being his friend was nearly getting killed at the hands of death eaters. Frankly, he was surprised that they were all alive when, by all rights, they should have died twice over.

The Order members who had arrived to help him and his friends were now in the hospital or, knowing his dreaded luck, probably dead. After all, why should they too be alive when Sirius had…? Staring at the headmaster sitting in front of him, Harry felt a thread within his mind finally snap.

Oblivious to Harry's thoughts, Dumbledore continued to speak. "When that tragic night arrived, Voldemort had sent all of his forces on distributed attacks across the length of Britain. The Order, myself included, were busy helping the aurors and hit wizards protect the civilians when I felt the Fidelius on Potter Cottage fall."

A film of tears formed on blue eyes no longer twinkling behind half-moon glasses. "I had arrived there expecting, hoping to find someone, anyone alive. The sight I first laid eyes on had nearly brought me to my knees. Two of my most cherished students dead, already moved on to the next great adventure. Yet… yet I found you in the arms of Hagrid. A familiar wound on your face, yet you were clearly unharmed. And when I finally learnt of the events inside the house, I knew at once the prophecy was true. Harry, you are the prophesized one. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. And when you do, Harry - for you will not stop until the evil that is Lord Voldemort can no longer harm your friends - on that day, you will finally gain the future you have always wished for."

Silence.

Then the most inexplicable of things happened. Harry giggled.

Dumbledore was alarmed at the unexpected reaction. "Harry-?" he asked with some hesitance.

The giggles turned into voracious laughter. Yet, as Dumbledore stared at Harry, he knew it was not humour as something far darker passed through the green eyes he had seen for two generations.

Harry, still chuckling, said, "Powers…and a future?" A shadow flashed through his eyes. "A future, Professor Dumbledore? This… this abomination… that you call a prophecy, it has not given me a future." He laughed again, insanity dredging through his mind. "The Boy-Who-Lived isn't a name, it's a curse."

As the Headmaster continued to stare in despair and growing horror at what might come about from the sudden circumstances, Harry's words oozed loathing, anger… and fear. "It was nothing more than a curse, Dumbledore. Your blasted prophecy took my parents away from me. It took away Si-" His face contorted. "It has done nothing but make my life a miserable heaping length of grief and fear, and it did not even have the courtesy to spare my friends either."

"I haven't achieved anything." He swiped his hand in a slashing gesture. "No. That's not right." A smile full of self-loathing played about his lips. "I did achieve something. I nearly got my friends killed. Ron is at the hospital because of those brains. Hermione is fighting death because she tried to protect me. Neville, Ginny and Luna nearly lost their lives because I was too weak, too easy, too freaking dumb to understand I was being manipulated by Voldemort. I am not the legendary Boy-Who-Lived. I am the touch of death."

Dumbledore widened his eyes at the last statement, a slight cough escaping him.

"This is why my life was so miserable, wasn't it, Professor Dumbledore?" Harry sneered. "For the first six years, I knew my name was Freak, as someone responsible for anything and everything bad that happened around me. They said that it was my… freakishness that killed my parents, which caused them to become drunks and ultimately die. I lived a horrible life for the ten years. And even when I thought I finally found a home here in the school, I was always sent back. Tell me, was it my punishment for not dying?"

Dumbledore's eyes widened in shock. "Harry, what do you-?"

"Don't play ignorant with me, Dumbledore." Harry yelled, green eyes glowing with a maniacal glint.

Dumbledore reached for his wand, unaware that it would not be needed. Not yet.

"You know what, Dumbledore? I am tired. Tired of your plans. Tired of this world. Tired of this magical world." Harry sneered. "I didn't choose to be magical. I didn't choose to become the boy-who-lived. MY mother and father had to pay with their fucking lives because they committed the crime of giving birth to me."

"Harry-"

"NO Dumbledore, I am not finished!" Harry roared drowning out the headmaster's words. "They just had to… Cedric died because of me. Voldemort possessed Quirrel to get back at me. Mr. Weasley was nearly killed because of me. And now…" An unnatural silence filled the room.

"Harry, you are not-"

The rest of the words went unsaid as a massive burst of energy lashed out of Harry. Dumbledore managed to conjure a shield in time. The office did not fare well. Silvery instruments around the room exploded, shelves slammed into the ceiling before falling back down and the headmaster's desk smashed into the stairs leading to the private apartment.

Dumbledore, despite his shield, was thrown out of his chair and landed on his rump, a quick wandless cushioning charm saving his head from smashing into the floor. But, despite the chaos, his eyes never left the boy who was now standing, green eyes blazing with power.

"This… fucking prophecy… this is the cause of everything. This is why Voldemort made me an orphan, why I had to live the life of a freak… this prophecy and this… damned magic. I never fucking wanted this… I did not want money, fame or the attention that these people seem to think I'm after." His voice went so quiet that Dumbledore strained to hear the words. "I just wanted to be normal…."

Harry's right hand raised up and, as though by command, Dumbledore's wand flew from his hand to settle in his palm. "The power the Dark lord knows not…. The power…the magic… If all of this is because of this prophecy, then this prophecy shall not exist at all." His eyes gleamed with a foreboding determination that made Dumbledore break out in a sweat. "Do you know the first spell that I remember? I learnt it long before I even came to Hogwarts. I remember hearing it in my sleep."

He paused and bright green eyes met blue as he placed the tip of the wand right above his ear and against his temple as his lips twisted into a queer smile.

Dumbledore tried to push a wandless bani-

"Avada Kedavra!"


Harry was standing a few yards away from the Womping Willow, staring at the majestic castle which served as the introduction to the wonders of magic.

He blinked at the sight, mind trying to piece together what had happened before he arrived here. His mind immediately scrambled to remember how he had arrived here. The last thing he remembered was a bright green burst of light and the feeling of strings-being-cut passing through him.

Harry cocked his head, feeling quite strange and unable to place his finger on the source. But, despite everything he was currently feeling, he could not find it within himself to ignore the sight before him. It was very dear to him after all. The first place he could, and had, truly called home.

"Beautiful, ain't it?"

A voice floated to Harry from his left. Instincts honed over years of surviving danger rose to the fore as he quickly turned towards the source, hand reaching for a non-existent wand, and stopped short at the sight that greeted his eyes.

Sirius stood beside him, a roguish grin on his lips. For a moment, Harry wondered what he was doing there in this strange world. His godfather looked horrible. The clothes the man wore were tattered, large strips missing in many places. His entire body looked emaciated with grey skin, sunken cheeks and grime-coated hair.

This was not the Sirius Harry had seen through the past year. It took a moment for Harry to place this… rendition of his godfather. This was Sirius Black, the Azkaban fugitive and, if his memory served him right, this looked like the exact moment when Sirius had asked him to come live with him. He wondered if by some weird way, he had time-travelled back to this time back again but dismissed the thought as his friends, Remus and Snape were absent.

"Yes," Sirius replied, his face radiant with a smile. "This is the very moment when I offered you to come live with me."

Harry stood aghast, looking at him in shock as he noticed a detail he previously did not. The Sirius who had just escaped from Azkaban had eyes filled with madness and revenge. The Sirius he knew during the past year had eyes filled with love and fear, traces of madness still present in the grey eyes. However, the Sirius that stood before him had eyes filled with understanding and an experience that spoke of untold eons.

"Good to see you Harry. But I am not Sirius." The Not-Sirius said confirming Harry's suspicions.

Harry deflated at the answer, looking down at the ground covered in fresh grass glowing in the moonlight. "This isn't real, is it?"

"I'm afraid not." Not-Sirius smiled, before holding up a can of butterbeer towards him.

Had this been a different situation, Harry would have questioned how the man had gotten butterbeer of all things. In this moment, he simply accepted the drink without question.

Not-Sirius asked, taking a sip of butterbeer. "How do you feel being back here, in this moment?"

"I feel awful." Harry admitted, holding the can with both hands. Try as he might, he could not muster up the grief he felt was necessary. "This is the moment where Pettigrew escapes, when the dementors nearly kill you if it wasn't for my special brand of luck. Is… Is this my punishment? For trying to break the prophecy…" His voice was almost broken by the end as his memories supplied the answer to his mysterious arrival in this place.

Harry knew he had killed himself with the same curse of which he was purportedly the first survivor, and the reason he was a legend in the Wizarding world. While his decision did make sense in the moment, he now felt that he could have done better. Why did he have to choose to die when it was supposed to be the other wanker? Why could he not have chosen to get away from it all?

Although… this might be for the best. Now, he could no longer endanger his friends. Now, he did not need to always look over his shoulder for a homicidal dark lord. For now, and forevermore, he did not have to worry about being pressured by a world that had given him nothing yet demanded everything.

Not-Sirius frowned. "Not at all, Harry." He said, cutting off the boy's line of thought. "We thought that you would be more comfortable talking to a familiar face in a place you knew. I see we made a mistake."

"We?" Harry asked accusingly, eyes narrowed at the facsimile of his godfather. "Who's we?"

Not-Sirius' frown deepened. "That's… a little complicated to explain."

Harry at his wit's end. However, before he could shout, Not-Sirius pointed behind him. "Sit Harry." A plain comfortable looking red and gold couch was present behind the duo, moonlight illuminating the cloth as shadows of the Willow's branches passed over it.

Harry sat automatically, his mind still caught up in the situation he was in. Was the afterlife some great Room of Requirement? Was that why he was dreaming of Not-Sirius being alive? Where did the couch come from? Or… was he not dead yet? Could the killing curse even kill him? His expression darkened at the thought.

Sitting beside the boy, Not-Sirius snorted. "Neither of them, Harry. Let me explain." The man took a sip of his butterbeer. "What do you know about Magic?"

Harry looked at the facsimile in surprise. He had certainly not expected that question. Although, it was not like he had expected anything of the afterlife in the first place. He had fired the killing curse at himself and now, he was talking about, of all things, magic with what appeared to be his godfather. Story of my life. Even in death, I'm a freak. "It's the source of my power. It's what makes me a wizard."

"Yes," Not-Sirius' lips parted in a wide grin before it vanished, "and No." He leaned back into the couch and took a sip of butterbeer. "Your school really needs a proper History of Magic teacher, Harry. Binns has never been a good teacher anyway."

Not-Sirius paused, seemingly collecting the words he wished to impart. "When the first spark of energy created the universe and the reality you live in, we were there." He pointed towards himself. "When the last molecule stops vibrating and the universe is a barren wasteland, we will be there."

"I am talking to Magic?" Harry muttered out aloud, before berating himself at the sheer ridiculous nature of his thought. Although, it did kind of make sense. While he had ignored history class, he had, in the little spare time he spent away from his friends, read up a little on the origin of magic which stated that everything in the world was supposedly governed by its rules, even the non-magical part of the world. If this was the afterlife, it would make sense for magic to be governing the passing of souls. Although, the facsimile did say We instead of I... Is magic made up of many parts or something?

Not-Sirius grinned as he answered, "Yes."

Harry's gaze instantly shifted the ground and towards Not-Sirius, green eyes impossibly wide. He definitely did not expect his hunch to be correct. "This…. This cannot be… I can't…"

Not-Sirius frowned, an expression of concern on his face. "Take a deep breath, Harry" He replied softly. "I understand that it is a lot to take in at the moment."

"You think?" Harry almost sneered at the words.

Not-Sirius smiled widely, broken teeth visible in the gaps.

Harry turned away, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He continued to perform the exercise for a few minutes while Not-Sirius stayed silent. Once he felt he was sufficiently calm, he turned back and asked, "So, I am talking to the source of my magic, of all magic and it just appears to look like my godfather?"

Not-Sirius nodded briskly.

"That's trippy." Harry muttered, unable to decide if he should be excited or angry. Although, Sirius would get a kick of knowing that Magic had chosen to appear as him.

Not-Sirius laughed. "We basically invented trippy here."

"Why am I here?" Harry sneered at the entity that called itself Magic. "I did kill myself, didn't I? Is the prophecy so damned powerful that even I can't kill myself? I can't live. And you won't let me die either. What am I fucking sup-"

A wave of energy shot past him though Harry felt it as clearly as he did his own magic. As he turned to spot the energy, it hovered a dozen feet away from him and had begun coalescing into unnameable shapes. A minute later, he found himself staring at a bright purple symbol.

The symbol itself was quite plain. A triangle containing a circle and a line bisecting the former and latter shapes through the median. The symbol, and the energy emanating from the shapes in purple sparks, felt very familiar to Harry although he swore he had never seen it before in his life. In my life. He felt the sudden urge to giggle but he suppressed it. He had already behaved like a madman in front of Dumbledore. He did not need Magic to think he was as insane as that Bellatrix bitch.

Not-Sirius got up, placing his left hand on Harry's shoulder. "There are many things that you do not understand, Harry. Once you do, you are free to do as you choose."

"Fine." Harry snarled. "Explain."

Not-Sirius placed his hands on his lap and asked, "Why did you leave your home, Harry?"

"Home?" Harry was unable to keep the incredulity out of his tone.

"Yes, Harry." Not-Sirius nodded despite knowing the question was rhetorical.

Harry glared at the entity. "I thought you were going to explain why I am here."

"I am." Not-Sirius explained. "And the only way I can is to let you find your answers. So, tell me. Why did you leave?"

Harry growled at the entity. He hated such word games but knew he would not get his answers without humouring it. "I don't have a home to leave behind. I've never had one."

"That is a strange answer, Harry." Not-Sirius smiled. "I thought you considered Grimmauld Place your home."

It took all of Harry's restraint from not throttling the entity in front of him. Magic or not, it had no right to – to… "That was not my home. Even Sirius hated staying there. He felt like a prisoner in that place and you think that was my home?"

"Agreed." Not-Sirius said, without a hint of emotion. Harry felt stunned at the agreement. "What about Hogwarts?"

Harry quickly turned away. "It was never my home." His tone was bitter. He had always hated leaving the school at the end of the year.

"It never was, Harry." Not-Sirius said. "And it never will be." He ignored the boy's stunned gaze and continued speaking. "You have never considered Hogwarts your home."

He ignored Harry's spluttered denials. "Like Tom, Hogwarts was your escape from the world, from its bitter, jagged, dark reality. Like him, you chose to believe Hogwarts was your home when all you ever considered it was a refuge."

"You don't know anything about me." Harry snapped. "How-How dare you compare me to th – th - that monster. We are not the same."

"No. You are not." Not-Sirius agreed. "But it is the height of arrogance to think your circumstances were not similar." It ignored the boy's expression of pure rage. "There is a line in a certain novel: When I understand my enemy well enough, well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him."

"You cannot sit there and tell me that you do not empathise with Voldemort, not when you have heard all of Dumbledore's stories."

Harry looked away, not willing to acknowledge the truth.

Not-Sirius smiled, knowing he had hit the chink in the armour. "Self-deception is the major failing of many. Do not go down that path, Harry."

"If you know so much," Harry's voice was oozing anger as he turned back to face the entity. "Why don't you tell me what I should think, eh?"

"First, you should know that you will have a home." Not-Sirius answered. "The world is a vast place filled with all kinds of things. Somewhere, there is a place that is just right for you, and when you see it, you will know you have arrived."

"Stop talking like I'm going back." Harry snapped at the presumption. "And what's the second?"

Not-Sirius pointed at the still floating symbol. "Follow that."

Harry opened his mouth to ask another question when Not-Sirius disappeared. Groaning at the chore he was being put through, he got up. "I thought the afterlife was supposed to be dull." He muttered under his breath.

He turned on his feet to find the symbol was floating through the air in the direction of the castle. Taking a deep breath, he gave chase.


Time stood still and the world went silent.

When time began running again, silent tears streamed down the silvery white beard. Albus Dumbledore ignored the tears, his gaze transfixed to the sight of Harry Potter lying on the floor beside the table. A second later, the reality of the situation hit him, and he all but roared his anguish. A quick movement, and he was beside the boy. Tears still streaming down his beard and robes, he ignored the wreck that was his office and its contents and lifted the boy, hugging him to his chest tightly.

"I'm sorry, my boy. I'm sorry. I'm sorry-"

His breath left him for a moment as he felt a slight movement against his chest.

The boy was still breathing. It was too light, too fragile for a teenager but Harry was still breathing. Dumbledore could feel the magic inside Harry's body swell and crash like the waves of the ocean. It was too unstable for a fifteen-year-old.

But hope rushed through every pore of Dumbledore's body. That which he had always hypothesized, had come true. For reasons he was still uncertain about, the killing curse rid Harry of his horcrux. Dumbledore could no longer feel the taint infecting the boy, and he had never thanked Magic more than he did in that moment.

Then… why isn't he waking up?

Was Harry stuck in his version of limbo? Was something preventing him from waking up? Hundreds of questions ran through his mind but his guilt regarding the treatment of the boy overwhelmed it all.

I have wronged Harry in ways he cannot even fathom. And even then, despite everything I and the world threw at him, the boy chose to end his own life rather than kill us out of vengeance. The Council… we all feared that he will… and he….

Dumbledore shut his eyes tight. Was this how it had come to pass? They, the guardians of the magical world, had destroyed an innocent child's life, destroyed it with such ruthlessness that the child despised the idea of being magical. The child would loathe his life so much that death was preferable?

Not again.

Dumbledore would repay Harry for the injustices the boy had to suffer. He would make sure that Harry survived. He would make sure that those… that Harry would never be manipulated once again.

I will even the odds for you. Dumbledore felt the change in his magic as the oath took effect. Simultaneously, a terrible feeling rose in his body as his vow to the guilds broke due to his oath. He knew what that meant.

"But it doesn't matter." Dumbledore muttered to himself. "When I have done what needs to be done, I will have gained my peace, which is more than what any of them shall achieve." His body felt the pain as another wave of magic lashed out of Harry's body.

"I need to get him to Poppy, now."


The doors of the Great Hall opened with a bang, the doors hitting the walls, as Harry rushed in to another unexpected sight.

It looked like Christmas had arrived. Wreaths and glittering decorations hung on the walls as hundreds of candles floated below the enchanted ceiling. A large Christmas tree decorated to the brim stood before the teacher's table with dozens of gifts present at the bottom of the tree. The tables were filled to bursting with all kinds of dishes, some of which Harry identified as foreign fare from his fourth year. The major difference to this construct and Hogwarts was that all the tables were absent of people. All except one, where a lone student sat eating a great roast turkey.

"Cedric…" Harry whispered staring at the Hufflepuff seated at the respective House table enjoying a sumptuous meal. He could scarcely bring himself to believe this was the same teen killed by Pettigrew.

"Sit Harry," The teen waved Harry over to the seat beside him. "Sit."

Harry sat beside the teen who had continued to eat the roast in front of him. A second later, he wondered if this was just another facsimile made by Magic. "You're not Cedric." He stated frostily.

"I'm not." Not-Cedric agreed, a little too cheerfully.

"I see what you are doing." Harry returned with all the warmth of a blizzard. "First Sirius, now Cedric. You want to drown me in guilt because of all the people who died by my faults"

Not-Cedric laughed, a fried leg in his left hand. "I assure you, Harry, I did not die because of you. I died because it was my destiny. To be the first innocent blood to be spilled on the line of war. Sirius," He paused, "he died to save you, as a proud godfather would have done."

"But-" Harry tried.

"It was not your fault, Harry. Never your fault. I chose to touch the cup with you. Pettigrew cast the killing curse and Voldemort gave the command. You, on the other hand, chose to share victory with me. Even when you had to run, you chose to not leave me behind with Voldemort."

"I died, Harry. Nothing was going to bring me back. You cannot change that, no matter how much you think about it."

Harry wanted to snarl at the imitation, shout that it wasn't Cedric and it had no right to assuage his guilt. But he found himself saying, "If it wasn't for me…"

"If it wasn't for you, I would not have had a funeral. My father would still be looking for me, wondering if I was alive or not. You brought him closure." Not-Cedric smiled at the winner of the Triwizard Tournament, the plate of food now forgotten. "That means a lot, Harry."

"You don't understand." Harry shouted. A part of him whispered that it was not Cedric, but a greater part of him needed the teen to understand that his death was Harry's fault. "You would have been alive if Voldemort was not after me. He interfered with the tournament to get to me. He killed me because he only wanted me. I led you to your death, Cedric. You know that."

"I am not going to blame you because you believe you can finally start hurting the way you should be, Harry Potter." Not-Cedric smiled sadly.

Harry felt his breath clench at the words. All those months when Dumbledore had left him alone after the tournament, Harry had beat himself up over Cedric's death. He had spent days roaming the streets in a haze, hoping that it was nothing more than a dream, that Cedric might show up when he arrived at Hogwarts. None of them, not his friends or Sirius, had blamed him for Cedric's death. He didn't understand how they could show him sympathy when, by all rights, they should hate him for everything he did.

"You, on the other hand," Not-Cedric said, cutting through the other teen's morbid thoughts. "-made one mistake, Harry. You let Voldemort win."

"You threw away your life, Harry. You decided to let the sacrifice of your friends go in vain. You disregarded the sacrifice of your parents. You dishonoured Sirius by killing yourself."

"That I am a coward, is that what you want to say?" Harry sneered, pushing down the guilt that threatened to overwhelm him. He could not afford to show weakness.

Not-Cedric smiled. Harry suppressed the urge to pound him in the face. "No. On the contrary, you were strong and resourceful in ways you don't even realise. Living with that abomination attached to your soul, the bindings on your core, with every piece of misery inflicted on you… you managed to grow up to be the person you are today. You fought off all of Voldemort's attempts to both seduce you to his side and possess you. Frankly, it's astonishing that you haven't-"

"Hold on," Harry interrupted the teen. He was feeling quite overwhelmed with all the information he was learning in such a short period. "What abomination? What are you talking about?"

Not-Cedric's expression turned solemn. "A Horcrux. The vilest of dark magics. The most disgusting of acts, one that tears the soul into pieces so that the caste can pretend immortality. You had a piece of Voldemort attached to your soul."

Harry's eyes widened in shock. His scar…. His scar had been a fragment of Voldemort's soul? Was that why it had always pained back in first year? Was that why he had been dreaming about Voldemort? Was that why… he thought bitterly, Voldemort was able to trick me to come to the Department of Mysteries?

"I have a horcrux in my-" He stammered.

"You had." Not-Cedric corrected him blandly. "It was obliterated when you tried to kill yourself using the killing curse. Very smart, Harry. I'm was worried you might try a decapitation hex. It would have killed you instead of destroying that abomination."

Harry scowled at the boy's insinuation, but didn't refute the statement at the teen's teasing grin.

"My apologies, Harry," Not-Cedric grinned unapologetically. "But yes, you are, as you now believe, free of the horcrux. I am sure you will soon notice some changes when you return."

"Now hold on," Harry interrupted, much to Not-Cedric's surprise. "There is no going back. I am done with the world I knew, and there is nothing for me back there. I just need my parents, and Sirius, all of whom are already dead."

Not-Cedric grinned. "All right." He agreed easily. "But you need to catch that first." He directed towards the Headmaster's chair on the staff table, and, hovering over the wood, was that damnable triangle symbol, glowing brightly as it began to drift towards the adjacent door. Not-Cedric vanished.

Harry groaned.


It had been over four hours since the incident in the Headmaster's office and, for reasons unknown, Harry Potter was yet to come out of his coma-like state. His breathing was still shallow and his magic was in a constant flux, random bursts radiating at odd intervals, the infirmary bed trembling slightly every few seconds.

Under powerful secrecy vows, Albus Dumbledore had recruited Minerva, Snape and Poppy to help stabilise Harry's magic and prevent collateral damage by using as their bodies as foci to help channel the bursts into the wards of Hogwarts, the only sink powerful enough to take the power. Dumbledore knew the teachers would not be able to handle the backlash and he was currently too weak to act as a channel.

It was a good thing that all three professors were rather accustomed to doing as asked without inundating his person with inane questions. That certainly did not mean that Dumbledore was misunderstanding the angry glare that Minerva had directed at him since first sighting Harry. Minerva, he could handle later, but right now, it was necessary that Harry's magic be held back from obliterating its very host.

The aged Headmaster glanced at Poppy's face, finding a rather nasty scowl on her face. She had just performed several diagnostic tests on him. Calling on the courage which made the Sorting Hat decide to put him in Gryffindor a lifetime ago, he ventured forward. "What's wrong, Poppy?"

Poppy's scowl deepened at the question. "What, exactly, is wrong with him, Albus? His magic is a constant state of flux; the kind of result I usually see with wizards or witches being hit with an extremely powerful curse. One moment, the readings are a complete zero. The next moment, the readings are off the charts. Frankly, I'm surprised the power did not lash out far more severely. We are lucky the infirmary is still standing."

Minerva felt a shiver go through her. When she entered the infirmary after Albus had sent for her, it was to the familiar sight of Harry lying on his customary bed and the unfamiliar sight of magic rolling of him in waves that caused the entire room to tremble. She had immediately moved across the distance and, under instructions from Albus, begin channelling beside Severus. Once Harry was suitably stabilised and the sink was constructed, she had demanded answers from the old mentor and Albus had given his customary answer: all in due time. It was infuriating her.

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes. It seemed that his assumptions were correct. The horcrux was now gone and Harry was stuck in a limbo trance. Based on what he knew; Harry's magic would continue to behave like this until either his magic settled down or he returned from his trance.

Based on the glares he received from the females and the curious look from the single male, Dumbledore knew could not tell the entire truth, not to them. Not when it was no longer his secret to share. Clearing his throat, he explained, "Since that Halloween night, Harry's core was bound with highly powerful and advanced power binders. This was to ensure both accidental magic did not occur and that his power did not lash out to harm others. The binders were placed in a manner that only allowed him access to a portion of his power, ensuring he stayed at the level of an ordinary witch or wizard." Ignoring the shocked gasps and angry glares, he continued his explanation. "The rest of his power was leeched to empower the wards placed around his home to protect both Harry and his family against Death Eaters." He paused for a moment, knowing the coming revelation would forever sour their relationship with him. He called on the remnants of his courage and hoped that Poppy or Minerva did not kill him. "As you know, Sirius Black died tonight during the events at the Ministry, and Harry here, as a result of learning of certain secrets pertaining to him, felt it was better to die than to live and have magic."

Minerva gasped, her palm over her mouth, as it hit her. "Albus, surely you don't mean that-"

"He cast the killing curse on himself." Dumbledore replied, grief pouring from every word.

The greatest reaction to his last statement had not come from Minerva as he expected. Nor Poppy make a move against him. On the contrary, it had been Severus who had lashed out, delivering a well-placed punch to the old man's jaw. The headmaster had flown back three feet, crashing into the floor as the pain finally registered.

It was a few seconds before Dumbledore managed to make his way through the cobwebs of pain and dizziness to see Minerva and Poppy staring at the Potions Master with expressions of shock. Severus, on the other hand, looked while he was contemplating his death in the most brutal manner possible.

"You Bastard!" The Potions Master seethed, his right arm dripping blood onto the floor. "You sanctimonious bastard!" His wand leapt to his hand and the entire knowledge of Dark arts he knew cycled through his mind, ready to curse the old man into the realm of the damned. "I put my life at risk because you promised you would protect Lily and her child. Even after her death, I served you all these years, helping you protect her child from danger because you promised that you would help keep him safe. How the fuck did you allow him to kill himself?"

"I was- I was-" Dumbledore found no clever answer or truth to give Severus. The pain in his jaw was blinding but his focus was now on the man who had sworn to keep the child at all costs.

"Your reasons no longer matter, you old goat." The Potions master sneered and his fingers tightened around the wand pointed at the aged old wizard, the tip glowing a familiar eerie green. "Avada-"

"SEVERUS!"

Contrary to everyone's beliefs, Poppy halted the incantation. "Get a hold of yourself!" She chastised the man who still had his wand pointed towards Dumbledore's head. "What has happened is now in the past. Killing him will not change a thing. Harry has fired the killing curse on himself, true. But again, like in October 1981, he has survived such an attack on his person for the second time." She frowned to herself. "I am doing the best I can, but I might not be able to wake Harry up any time soon." Or not at all.

Minerva still stunned at the turn of events and glaring at the Headmaster and the Potions Master, asked, "What is happening to him, Poppy?"

Poppy scowled. "I wish I knew, Minerva. I have not seen such readings before." Taking care to maintain her channel to both Harry and the wards, she cast another diagnostic charm. The boy glowed green for a second, then turned blue, red, black and green again. "It is almost like when a witch or wizard first gain access to their magic consciously. The first time their magic comes into the awakening state, their core reserves tend to fluctuate like the way Harry's magic is currently fluctuating. It takes a week or more before their magic settles down. That's why a binder is usually placed during that period to prevent severe magical acts or backlashes."

"Harry, on the other hand, is now past his full maturity. At this stage, his core must be a smaller state of flux until he reaches the age of twenty-one. But no healer has ever had to work with someone who survived the killing curse."

From the corner of her eye, Poppy recognised Severus reforming his channel to Harry and the wards.

"Best I can tell, his magical core is currently unravelling all the binders placed on it, which in itself is a danger, as binders must only be removed by professional healers. Since I cannot read the binders he has without causing further harm, I'm guessing there were either too many binders or the ones he does have are extremely powerful." How did I never sense them? They should have shown up during at least one of my diagnostic checks before this year. "Hence, the reason for the severe backlash. It's almost scary how much power the boy has." Turning to scowl at Dumbledore who was still in the floor, she snarled, "And you tried to keep the boy with his binders for fifteen years? Binders are always, always removed by the age of eleven. Not only does it prevent the child from properly casting magic, the child might try to force their core to perform better creating a feedback loop into the binder that could kill not only them, but anyone beside. If we did not need you right now to save Harry, you would be lying in the long term spell damage ward at St. Mungo's, ALBUS."

"Poppy." Minerva spoke in a dispassionate voice, causing the healer to quickly turn back to her patient. "Harry…" She trailed off, knowing the healer would understand.

Poppy berated herself for nearly losing control. Control was the most prized aspect of healers, knowing that even a moment of distraction could result in the death of a patient. Looking at the non-awake form of Harry, she wondered how he had even managed to cast any spells. The level of backlash usually indicated the power of the binder or binders. In this case, however, she was at a loss. By all accounts, Harry was magically stronger than his peers. Poppy had treated him long enough to know that.

But based on the information given by Albus and the power Harry displayed regularly, Poppy postulated that it might a single advanced binder with interlocking limiters under an obscurity charm to both allow a small trickle of magic to ensure the boy could cast spells and hide them from the checks of any healers. It would explain why she was unable to sense them before. She did remember reading an article in the Hippocratic Monthly years ago about a sorceress in Vietnam who had developed such an obscurity charm, although the reasons for developing it were never revealed.

She would have asked Dumbledore, if not for that fact that he had readily admitted to performing the binding in the first place. A callously cruel act for she had heard of several cases where such bindings had caused the deaths of several children when left fester to beyond a particular age.

Wiping the sweat that begun to build on her brow, the healer grimaced as a particular powerful wave of magic pass through her. She might have to drain his magic herself if this continued as channelling for longer periods of time tended to cause damage to the magic circuits and the nerve endings.

"Right now, the only thing we can do is try to keep his body safe and functioning until Harry is able to wake up. As sad as it is, we need the Headmaster for that." Her words had a raw, unspeakable ferocity to them, something that was completely out of character for the Hogwarts matron.

Snape sneered at the man. "I will help you this one time, until Lily's child is back to health. Once the child is healed, I shall be re-evaluating our relationship with you, and this school. Both have shown a recurring theme of taking things which matter most to me."

"I know neither my reason nor my apologies mean anything to you, Severus." Dumbledore replied sorrowfully, as he slowly picked himself off the ground. He knew that the trust the man had placed in him was well and truly lost, and Poppy would sooner trust Severus to not bully students before she ever trusted him with a child. "I will not stop you from either course of action should you choose to do so, Severus. But I implore you to wait a little longer. Harry will wake up. I know, with every bone in my body, that he shall, and when he does, he will need the help of us all."


Harry raced all the way past the stairs, past the portraits and finally chased the symbol through the open portrait entrance of the Gryffindor common room on the seventh floor. Just as he had expected, he found himself in the near empty common room.

Just like the Great Hall, it resembled the room at Hogwarts although this room held a power that the original lacked. The room shone brightly from the light of the fireplace. The red and gold paint of the walls shined with an otherworldly brilliance. The couches scattered around the room looked to be far more pristine than he remembered, and the armchairs were painted in shadows and light. Harry had always remembered that fact that the room seemed to accommodate the entire student population of Gryffindor Tower although the size of the room never seemed to change. He had tried several times to spot the change when it occurred but it always eluded him.

When he turned back from the view of the night sky through the high windows, Harry froze at the sight of the adult seated in one of the two armchairs.

"Dad…" He breathed, but immediately berated himself. This was not his dad, just another facsimile created by the entity calling itself Magic. However, he also knew he would not stop talking to them like they were his family.

"Hey, son." Not-James Potter smiled, beckoning him towards the other chair. Harry could tell what it was that was coming next. "Sit Harry, sit."

Unwittingly, Harry sat down. "You are not him. You are not James Potter." He knew he was simply repeating the truth they both knew.

Not-James chuckled. "I sure am not."

"Then why are you doing this?" Harry pleaded.

The expression on Not-James was extremely grave. "You are here because you are on the path of committing a grave error. No matter how right you think you are, it is still a mistake."

"Mistake," Harry breathed sharply. "Is it? My wish to be reunited with my parents is a crime?" He was angry at the entity or entities, whoever they were, for trying to dictate his course of action. It was not enough that they were throwing his failures and weaknesses at him. Now, they wanted to berate him for choosing to be with parents who loved him instead of a world that hated him.

Why did even his death have to be more than others? Why did he need this special treatment? Why did he have to be singled out every single time? "Tell me." He sneered. "Does everyone who die get chastised by you?"

Not-James chortled. "Oh not necessarily. You, like one of the few, get the special treatment from us."

Harry dearly wanted to snap the thing's neck, but could not bring himself to assault what appeared to his own father. Turning to stare into the fire, he seethed at the injustice of it all. He did not want to be special, damn it! "The only special quality about me is that the people around me either die. I am nothing more than the touch of death. In order me to live, my parents sacrificed their lives, Cedric was killed without reason and Sirius… Sirius died trying to protect me like my parents." His chin hit his chest, remembering his friends who were struggling to survive back in the living world.

A flash of insight made him wonder if Voldemort was already dead because Harry killed himself or if he was still alive. A chill of dread passed through him at the thought of Voldemort attacking his friends in retribution, or for fun as images of Bellatrix holding Hermione under a Crucio, Ron being tortured by Lucius and Neville being put in the same state as his parents or Ginny being possessed again or Luna-

NO! His mind roared at him as Not-James sat in absolute silence beside him. No! No! No! He was dead. Voldemort did not need to go after them anymore. They were innocent.

Are they truly? A traitorous part of his mind whispered. They came with you. They fought beside you. Neville even tried to kill that insane bitch that Voldemort calls a follower. What makes you think they won't go after your friends because a pathetic freak like you simply killed yourself?

Harry shook his head violently, unable to stand his thoughts and trying to retain his resolve to stay here. He did not need to go back no matter what Sirius or Cedric or what-looked-like-his-father said. He did not have to go back. They would be safer without him.

Is that the truth? His mind supplied unhelpfully. Or is that what you want to think?

Not-James looked solemn. "There are so many things you do not understand, Harry." The words interrupted Harry's thoughts and when the boy looked up, it seemed Not-James knew what he had done. "Secrets that have been kept from you, memories never shared and things you should have received. You do not even know the truth of your own family, Harry. Did you ever wonder why you did not ask someone for more information about your family?"

Harry sunk deeper into his seat, not willing to face the truths being pushed at him. Did Magic hate him so much that it wished to taunt him with all his hopes, dreams and fears…? He knew he did not truly seek the truth. He understood the reason too. He was afraid, afraid that he might not like what he found, afraid that everything people told about them was a lie and he was nothing more than a scared little kid who still sat in the cupboard waiting for someone to save him.

"Over a thousand years ago" Not-James said, interrupting the boy again. "The Potters did not exist. We were known by our true name. A name that is now considered to be a myth of the wizarding world, our legacy reduced to bedtime stories told to children by their parents. A name that is feared by magus with a passion, especially by those unwilling or unable to accept the truth of history."

Harry wondered if there were any more surprises left because you felt numb. While he may not have actively sought information on his family, he certainly had not stopped wondering what they were known for. Their achievements, the history they made, the world they created and eve their business ventures after he had first laid eyes on his trust vault.

But he had never expected that his family name was not even real or that his true name was feared by the rest of the world. In fact, it might be the reason why people seemed to hate him on principle. The universe must have a really sick sense of humour. The scathing thought floated around his mind.

"Oh, yes!" Not-James said. "What you do know about the Potters is nothing more than what everybody knows, and it is nothing more than smoke and mirrors." At the boy's stunned expression, he chuckled. "We are one of the oldest magical lines in the world, with the power to crush our enemies underfoot. We were the guardians and the invaders, the protectors and the punishers." Hazel eyes glowed with power. "We are the House of Peverell."

"Peverell." Harry repeated as he turned to face the facsimile beside him, desperately exploring his memories to try and find a single reference to the name.

"Do not waste your time, son." Not-James waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Anything you might find on our family is either part of myth and legend or lying in vaults of unbreachable security."

"So, here is a quick lesson. You are descended from a legendary mage known as Alduin Peverell, one blessed by three True Magics, the only one of his kind in the world. You are the twenty-first descendant of his line."

"True Magics? What's that even supposed to mean?" Harry questioned. Inwardly, he was cursing himself for not trying to find more information on his family. He had faced dementors and watched his mother died. Surely, he could have mustered up the courage to learn about his own.

Not-James chuckled. "You seem to think that waving a wand and saying a few fancy looking words is all there is to magic." Leaning toward the boy, he waved a finger. "Remember that this is magic, Harry. There is always more to it."

For some reason, Harry found the statement rankled him. "You're telling me there is more than just wands and potions and runes?"

Not-James chortled. "Hogwarts is not a school of magic, Harry. It is a school of witchcraft and wizardry."

"Isn't that the same?"

Not-James chuckled. "Hardly. Time for a quick lesson on Magical theory." He leaned back in his chair as the boy leaned forward. "Despite all the mysteries that surround magic, we do know one fact about it. The universe we live in is not unique." He outright laughed at the stunned expression on Harry's face. Still chuckling a few seconds later, he said, "Looks like you understood my meaning. Yes, this is not the only universe in existence. There are countless universes and innumerable worlds in the vast space known as the multiverse. You should have seen the Atlanteans or the Indians when they figured it out. Boy, did they piss their trousers." He rubbed his hands together. "I'm getting off track. Like I said, there are many universes out there, but all of them, every last one, originates from a single point or are governed by a single centre. It's a bit confusing to understand without certain conditions in place."

"Now, the point of origin or control or existence or destruction of all these universes has several names. Some call it the Void, some use the word Heaven and most magus of our world call it the Root. The destination of the lowliest of peasants to the greatest of kings. The path on which all beings must walk; the unreachable destination, the road without end."

Harry tried to take it all in, as Not-James went on dumping information than he could take in.

"It the archive of all probabilities of every known permutation of every possible future of every universe. It exists beyond everything known and unknown principle, beyond the scope of laws known and unknown. It is the source of magical energies and phenomena that occur across all universes. The beginning of all Origins; the ultimate form of Transcendence that the mages of old once aspired for." Not-James paused for a moment, allowing Harry to grasp what little he did understand. "Once a magical - through decades, sometimes centuries, of research and dedication- reaches the edge of the Root, he is able to discover for himself a new true magic for himself. The other magus have either studied the principles and application of magic under the holders of True Magic, or have pursued research through other avenues or performed Grand Rituals to entire an entire Thaumaturgical system, all of which are known under a single term, Magecraft. The fields of magic you have studied – Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, Alchemy and Wards – are all classified as Magecraft."

"Magecraft." Harry repeated, wondering how, for Merlin's sake, was this not taught at Hogwarts? This sounded and felt really important. Teachers were obligated to give students all the necessary information to understand magic, were they not?

Not-James nodded. "The Peverell line has possessed a close link to Magic, a factor that is either a blessing or a curse depending on the point of view. The name Peverell originates from a now forgotten tongue. It literally translates to 'loved by the Gods'. Our bloodline has discovered m0re True Magics than anyone else can ever hope to achieve."

"We… did?" Harry felt that he may as well continue to berate himself for the rest of eternity.

Not-James smiled. "The first Peverell died before he could use what he had discovered. The second Peverell's demise came about through the very magic he discovered. The third," He paused, "rejected what he had discovered."

"Wait… what?" Harry interrupted. "What does that even mean?"

A sly grin crossed Not-James's features. "You will find out soon enough. Besides, you need to learn something you should have known years ago. You are far more important to the world than you could possibly ever realise."

"Is that because of the prophecy?" Harry questioned, still feeling quite bitter over the revelation.

Not-James chortled. "The Prophecy exists because of you, Harry. You do not exist for the Prophecy."

Harry narrowed his eyes at his cryptic statement. "Why are you so intent on me fulfilling the prophecy?"

Not-James narrowed his eyes. "Tell me Harry, why exactly are you so intent on dying?"

Harry grumbled under his breath. "Is being with my family not reason enough?"

"And is that your only reason?"

"Yes." Harry argued.

Not-James frowned. "Continue to lie to yourself if you so wish. Right now, you need to catch that." A finger pointed towards the fireplace.

Harry turned to find the purple, almost blackish symbol, drifted towards the fireplace which burned a bright green for an instant and the symbol disappeared. A Floo.

He did not look back, knowing the facsimile of his father would have already disappeared. He contemplated not going after the symbol for once. He was sitting in the heart of the common room in Hogwarts, the place he considered ho-

"You chose to believe Hogwarts was your home when all you ever considered it was a refuge."

Harry snarled. Even his mind was playing against him. He did not want people to continue gloating to him about his failures. He had done enough. Nobody was ever going to die because of h-

"I am not going to blame you because you believe you can finally start hurting the way you should be, Harry Potter."

Argh! Damn it! Was death worse than living? Why did he always have to be the one to do everything? He did not want to be a hero who saved people. He just wanted to be himself.

He sighed in defeat. Apparently, that was far too big a wish for the universe to grant, especially considering the revelations Magic had received regarding his family.

Knowing that he would, sooner or later, be forced to do it, Harry stood up. Dusting off his trousers in an effort to give regain some composure, he stared at the flames with an expression of anger and fear before jumping into the fireplace.

Another instant later, the flames cast a soft orange glow on the now empty common room.


The entire house was in ruins. There were stairs against the wall through the foyer to his left, ascending upwards in a straight, steep line, the wood railing quite plain and missing several pieces with rickety boards over the steps. The walls of the room were partially caved in with several patches of paint either stripped off or peeling away in pieces. There were traces of what looked like a small kitchen to the left. There were deformed pieces of furniture lying around the floor of the room and several pieces of shrapnel embedded in the walls and smashed shelves filled with broken or shredded decorations were collapsed on each other. Most of the floor appeared to have been hit with a high powered blasting curse with pieces of clay, wood and stone littered around. Put together, the entire room painted a rather graphic picture of a battle hard fought.

While Harry was sure he had never really been here before, his mind argued otherwise. There was a queer feeling to the place; he could not quite place a finger on it.

The main door from across the fireplace was smashed inwards, the pieces of the door no longer visible among the rubble on the floor. The one thing Harry was quite sure about was that whatever had occurred here were events that should not have occurred.

Harry felt his body lurch forward as his mind finally supplied the answer. No! It could possibly not be that cruel!

He felt his throat constrict as he ran up the rickety stairs, the wood groaning under the pressure. Old half-remembered memories were guiding his feet and he knew where he needed to go yet was afraid of what he knew he would find there.

The one just before that pink wall.

He stood in front of the pristine white door, the only thing without any visible damage in the house he stood in. Taking deep breaths, he grabbed the knob with a shaking, sweating hand and twisted it. Opening the door with the air of someone going towards his execution, his heart stopped at the sight of something he had simultaneously hoped and dreaded to lay eyes on.

The entire room was brightly lit with several candles affixed to small holders on the walls. Stringers ad balloons were tied to the walls in a manner that reminded Harry of Dudley's birthdays. And sitting on the rocking chair, a book on her lap, was the one person Harry could always, always recognise, the only good that had come about as a result of his encounters with the dementors.

"My baby…" Not-Lily cooed at him. Motioning to the tiny bed beside the chair, she said, "Take a seat, Harry."

Harry was done with it, with everything that was happening to him. He was supposed to dead, not visiting a psychologist. He did the only thing he could and lashed out with his words. "is this your twisted version of a joke?" He took heavy, measured steps towards the thing that dared to imitate his mother. "Giving me glimpses of my dream and yet locking me in this prison? Is this my punishment?"

Not-Lily got up, book thrown to the floor, and palmed Harry's cheek, stopping the boy in his tracks. "Tell me, Harry. Would your parents really want you to die like this? Think about it, Harry. Your parents chose to embrace death in hope that you might live. Sirius gave his life so that you could live Harry."

"And you went and threw their sacrifice away! What did you expect them to tell you when you met them? 'You've been so brave, Harry. We are so proud of you.'?"

The words hit Harry with the force of a hundred bludgers. He would have collapsed on his feet if not for Not-Lily holding him up with a hand around his waist. Leading over to the bed, she, slowly, lowered him to a sitting position and occupied the chair beside.

She smiled at him. "You are just fifteen, Harry, decades away from even the prime of your life. You need to live and love. Are their sacrifices really so worthless that you intend to end your life, just to prove a point?"

Harry just sat, dumbfounded. A distant part of his mind registered that this facsimile was not referring to itself as his mother.

"Albus Dumbledore was at fault for your sufferings, if not more than Voldemort and so many others who you have yet to hear about. Relinquishing the gift given to you by your family is not the right thing to do, Harry. It does nothing to prove the point you tried to make. The end result you would achieve is them winning and the lives of friends are now at the mercy of Voldemort. Do you really believe you did the right thing?"

"If I am dead, then the prophecy is broken, isn't it?" Harry replied automatically, despite knowing the answer was not something he wanted to admit he knew. "Either will die at the hands of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. If I died by my own hand, it means that the prophecy was wrong and everybody you destroyed the lives of me and mine were bastards who should be put to the death."

A minute of silence later, Harry heard Not-Lily do the strangest of things. She giggled. "Oh Harry, you are so innocent and… naïve." Her expression turned dark for an instant before morphing into a radiant smile. "Prophecies do not work the way you believe they do. They are sign-posts, declaring the presence of a possible confluence in the time-stream. Prophecies want to come true, Harry. Despite all the actions you took to go against it, you have – and you already know this – not truly succeeded. Fate will ensure that the prophecy occurs, and that you shall follow your destiny. It is, after all, an instrument of the Root."

"I don't have a choice?" Harry questioned feebly. The experiences had taken a toll on him, and he was now growing weary of it all. "Then why do this? Why try to torture me when you can just send me back to that hellhole you call a world? It would save you the effort of trying to convince me."

Not-Lily frowned. "Of course not, Harry. You, unlike everyone else, have a choice. You… are the only person in this entire state of affairs who gets a choice. A choice of either relinquishing everything your parents stood for, or standing up and living the life they wanted you to live."

She paused for a moment. "This chance might never come again. You finally have a chance to set everything right, and that is exactly why we want to make sure that you consider everything before you decide."

"Why me?" Harry pleaded, "-and what's that ridiculous symbol that I've been following around all this time?"

Not-Lily smiled. "That, my dear Harry, is the symbol of the amalgamation of the three True Magics that belong to the Peverell line, and it now belongs to you. She raised a finger in the air, and began drawing a golden line – it was akin to the Pyrologos spell Harry had seen Tom Riddle perform in the Chamber of Secrets. "The first of your line, Antioch, discovered the True Magic of Amplification - Pure, autonomous amplification; an impossible phenomenon, according to most magus – and imbued into a wand. The Elder Wand." Her finger had finished drawing the symbol. "Triangle. A symbol of amplification."

Harry just listened.

"The second, Cadmus, discovered the Face of Death - an illusion so strong that it could force anyone to leave their mortal shell and join the eternal rest - and imbued it into a stone. The Stone of Resurrection, I believe they call it." Not-Lily's lips twisted into a smirk, as Harry realised the obvious deception. The stone did not bring back the dead. Rather, it drew the living towards their death using an illusion. A shiver went down his spine at the thought, wondering how many had died trying to bring back their loved ones only to join them.

She drew a median to the golden triangle. "A line, the symbol of division, the gateway between the realm of the living and the land of the dead."

Her face finally lit up with a smile. "The third, Ignotus, discovered Concealment, and imbued the magic into his cloak. The Cloak of Invisibility." She drew a circle inside the triangle, the line bisecting it in two. "A circle, the symbol of concealment, protection and defence."

Not-Lily turned to stare at Harry. "The first died before he could master his gift. The second died at the hands of his gift and the third rejected his. The seventh of their line was the only magical to ever be born with a True Magic. He united the magics of the three brothers and, together with his gift, was known as the Master of the Deathly Hallows. The Master of Death."

"Deathly Hallows?" Harry repeated. "What magic did the seventh discover?"

Not-Lily smirked. "You shall find the answer to your question soon."

Harry sat there calmly. Time, it seemed, did not matter here, wherever here was. His fingers reached up to touch his scar, and was surprised to find it was missing. The soul piece, as Cedric or the facsimile of him described, was now gone. His life was now truly his own, and Magic was offering him a choice which was more than anybody ever did.

"Tell me." Harry asked slowly, as Not-Lily beamed at him, "Even if I go back, there is still the extremely high chance that Voldemort is going to kill me, isn't he?"

Not-Lily smiled. "Death comes to everyone, Harry. Not even the Master of the Hallows can escape that fate. Besides, should such a situation come to pass, do you truly have anything to fear?"

Harry flinched back, understanding the true meaning behind the words.

Not-Lily smiled, seemingly understanding his unsaid resolution. "If you decide to go back, then you will be honouring your parents. You can truly live up to your full potential. You can continue the Peverell bloodline, and do some good in the world. You can ensure that no other innocent child ever becomes another Boy-Who-Lived."

Harry felt the words stab him with shards of ice

"Tell me Harry," Not-Lily pressed. "Why do you wish to choose life over death? Is it because you truly want to be with your parents, or is it because you do not wish to return to a world that has treated you unfairly? Your parents died heroes, and so did Sirius. On the other hand, you inspired your friends to fight against the most feared Dark Lord in the history of Britain and gave up. Do you believe that your parents are proud of you? That your deeds have earned you a place beside them? Are you going to continue running away because a bunch of fossils have thrown a few obstacles in your path?"

Harry just sat dumbfounded, unable to answer the entity before him. In his haste to run away, to not feel any further pain, he had unwittingly let his friends and family down. Sirius had given up his life for Harry to live. His parents had sacrificed themselves to save him from Voldemort. His friends faced hardships beside them and followed him in a reckless attempt to fight against adults of greater skill.

With a clarity he lacked before, he wondered if his decision had already changed and he did not yet know. Shifting his gaze to stare into the eyes mirroring his own, he thought back on the elaborate game orchestrated for his sole participation. Was it an attempt at manipulating him to return to a place where he felt both misery and joy?

It did not matter. He had to go back. He still had unfulfilled hopes and dreams that had yet to come true. He had friends he needed to save. There were people to protect, and things to do. He wanted to see the world with his friends and family beside him. He wanted to enjoy an ice cream at Florean's without worrying about a Dark Lord. Most of all, he wanted to make his parents and Sirius proud of him. Anything or anyone who stood in his path were going to be smashed to bits.

"If I am talking to Magic… then can I meet my parents and Sirius? Just for once?" Harry asked suddenly, knowing this might be the only chance he had for a long, long time.

Not-Lily had a solemn expression on her face. "There exists no magic can return the dead to life, Harry. Those who choose to pass on, become part of the Root. They are no longer chained to the world of the living."

For the first time, Harry felt at peace. The fact that his parents had moved on and become a part of Magic was more comforting than he could express. He had seen his parents at the end of his fourth year and, no matter how little it was, he had a memory of them.

"They were not the spirits of your parents, my dear Harry," Not-Lily exclaimed. "They were projections of the very moment their lives ended, created by the very essence of the True Magic you were born with."

"The power the Dark Lord knows not…" Harry said aloud, "Is that it?"

Lily gave him a sly grin. "If you decide to go back, you can ensure that fewer lives are destroyed, fewer families are torn apart, and in doing so, finding a family of your own. This is your chance to truly live your life."

Harry stood up.

The decision was made.

For the first time, Harry James Potter had something else to look forward to, besides the duplicity of the wizarding world and the threat of an insane monster. He now, had a purpose.

"Just answer one question for me." A smile graced his features. "Is this real? Or is it just happening inside my head?"

Lily smiled teasingly. "Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should it mean it is not real?"

Harry smirked at her reply, as he extended his right hand, innately knowing what would happen next. The glowing symbol of the Hallows, the symbol had been chasing for the past few hours, shot towards him as dazzlingly bright light inundated his world.


17th May 1996

The first time Harry opened his eyes, he was blinded. Everything was too white. It felt quite jarring to his senses and he closed his eyes. He spent a few minutes feeling his body, checking for any injuries, slings or bandages before opening his eyes once again. His eyes adjusted to the light. A few seconds later, a familiar white ceiling appeared in his line of sight giving away his position in a bed on the infirmary. The soft, crisp sheets were a dead giveaway.

"Back to earth, I guess," Harry murmured, trying to move his hands, which ached. A lot.

For better or worse, his head seemed to be a lot less painful. The slight ache from his scar which had been his constant companion through his life or the traumatic pain of the past year were strangely absent. His fingers moved to his forehead, and just like he suspected, the scar had vanished completely with a very small mark he could feel over his skin.

His anger was strangely absent too. He closed his eyes, mind wandering to his personal experience in the… wherever it was. The entity that called itself Magic had informed him about the True Magic he had been born with, effectively pointing out the power the Dark Lord knows not.

However, any explorations of his power would have to wait until immediate concerns were handled, the most pressing of which was the Headmaster himself. Before the prophecy, Harry had considered as the man as his honorary grandfather, the man who always knew what to do and held all the answers.

And now I will have to walk down a different path.

He briefly wondered how he should react to the old man should he see him again. Considering his luck, it would be anytime soo-

"Harry!"

Called it… Harry grimaced inwardly. Raising himself using his still aching elbows, he gazed at the open doors of the infirmary. Albus Dumbledore, still in flamboyant blue-green robes strode towards him. His facial expression flitted between indecision and a scowl, and ended with a something that was almost but not quite a frown. "Professor." He replied neutrally.

"I am glad to see that you are finally awake and in health." Dumbledore replied genially, standing beside the bed occupied by the teen. Seeing no change in the boy's expression, he continued, "Since the… incident, you were throwing out powerful bursts of magic. Professors McGonagall and Snape helped serve as conduits, channelling the excess energy into the Hogwarts' wards."

"I was… giving out bursts of energy?" Harry asked with wide eyes as he lay flat on the bed.

"Of considerable intensity, I am afraid." The Headmaster replied. "We were worried that you would burn and possibly damage your internal organs in the process."

Harry scowled. "You talk like you knew that I was going to survive the killing curse… sir."

The man's face grew solemn. "I admit I did."

"So you knew about the… horcrux in me, didn't you?" Harry accused, inwardly feeling glad when shock flitted across the old man's face.

"I did," Dumbledore admitted with a sigh, not sure how Harry knew the answer and not willing to question the boy's sources. "It was a form of protection. When Voldemort used your blood to resurrect himself back to life, it strengthened the protection. A horcrux vessel is always indestructible, and in the given situation, nothing short of a killing curse by Voldemort himself would have destroyed the horcrux. I admit I never anticipated you trying to end yourself like you did."

Harry's eyes narrowed, as Dumbledore continued, "However, if you wish to blame anyone for your ordeal, know that I was responsible for everything that has occurred."

Harry closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. "The horcrux is gone for good. I am not indestructible anymore, Headmaster. Another killing curse will kill me just like it would kill anyone else." He eyed the headmaster wand as the old man tensed up. "But you do not need to worry. I have my own purpose in life now, a goal beyond that prophecy you seem to hold so dear to yourself."

"Oh." Dumbledore breathed, as elation shot through him. "Harry, there are matters that I absolutely need to tell you, before-"

"Before I get killed, or worse, kick myself off the bucket?" Harry pointed out sarcastically.

Albus shook his head. "You misunderstand me, Harry. During our last… discussion, I mentioned that you were hardly as angry at me as I had expected you to be. I know that you might decide never to trust me… ever again, but there are things you need to know."

Harry frowned. "What are these important matters that I must know?"

Dumbledore looked away. "I think it will be better, if you just rested tonight. Tomorrow, you will have all the answers you want, and more. I am quite sure that… when it is done, you might well decide to kill me. I assure you, I shall not stop you."

Harry scowled, making the old man chuckle.

"Do not be like that, Harry. You have woken up after twenty hours in a magical coma. You need your rest. If I might be so bold, you should stay here instead of returning to Gryffindor Tower tonight."

Harry raised an eyebrow, but did not argue.

"It is close to sunset, Harry. Besides, your body is currently adjusting to all the new changes in yourself, one of them being your newly fixed eyesight."

Harry opened his mouth, then closed it again. The old man was right, however irritating that was. His mind was clearer, and he could feel it working much better than ever before. All his life, his mind had been fighting the Horcrux trying to possess him and keeping him alive. Now with the additional baggage off its shoulders, it seemed his mind could finally focus on the tasks it was initially meant to do.

"Good night, Harry." Albus Dumbledore replied, walking out the twin doors.


Flames!

He was surrounded by a sea of flames. He could see demolished buildings, roads with chunks of soil missing, logs of scarred wood and marble littering the paths and craters. Beside the smashed houses lay the remains of whatever remained of the inhabitants. Corpses, mutilated, burnt and hacked by recognition lay inside the houses, hung on the windows and were present both over and under the rubble. Corpses of all ages and sexes were visible as far as he could see with a distant sound of terror surrounding the ruins.

The entire village burned in a sea of red, yellow and orange and the cries of the people echoed into the night. In the midst of the destruction, stood a little boy, blood dripping off from his temples and sides while he slowly treaded his way through the corpses and around the rubble. As he walked with an unsteady gait, the young boy watched as the flames flowed through the buildings and tendrils of smoke reached high into the shy in an effort to escape the blazing inferno below and choke the light of the starry sky.

"You think he knows that he is literally walking into Hell?"

The sudden voice took Harry off-guard as he spun around. The deep, cool and cultured voice belonged to a man who stood behind him, wearing robes and battle-armour the likes of which he had never witnessed before. The armour seemed to be a part of the man's body with a large grey cloak covering his back and arms and fluttering in the wind.

Harry found the cloak had captured his attention for a few minutes, for reasons unknown to him. Breaking his gaze from the cloth, he looked up and glanced into steel grey eyes.

"Who are you?" Harry croaked.

It seemed that the man had either not heard him or, Harry scowled, decided to ignore the question entirely. "This used to be a mundane village. That thing you see…" He pointed towards the large burning building to the north of their position. "-used to be a church. The Elders decreed that it must be built in the centre of the village so everyone could be equally close to God. I like that…" An inhuman smirk flashed in his face, "the geometry of belief."

"Who are you?" Harry repeated.

"Alduin Maximus Peverell," The man intoned offhandedly, "And you are someone unimportant."

Harry glared at the man and realized that Alduin was pointedly ignoring him. "What happened here?"

"An outcome of their efforts." Alduin answered. "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create avengers. People create…" He chuckled, "Everyone creates something to supplant them… to help them… end."

"So who did this?"

"They say that I did it."

"Did you?" asked Harry, wondering if the man was as insane as Bellatrix

Alduin glared at him. "No. It was the berserkers… Who else are capable of such monstrosity?" A maniac laugh tore through his lips.

Another name that I now know without knowing what it means. Harry thought sardonically.

"But how am-" His words stopped midway in his throat as impenetrable darkness engulfed him.


Harry woke up with a start. Panting hard, he shifted slightly and relaxed upon feeling the sheets below him. They were completely drenched, and his entire body felt sticky with sweat. It almost felt like the dream had well and truly happened

What the hell was that?

He sat up on the wand, trying to get his breathing under control. Once he had regained his composure, he took a few moments to think about the dream his mind had conjured.

He had never seen the village before and he had certainly never seen the scene of destruction either. However, it was far too vivid for him to dismiss as a mere dream. He rarely remembered his dreams or nightmares with such clarity. In many ways, it felt like the when… when he was in Voldemort's mind, looking at his memories.

Eyes narrowed in thought, Harry thought about the man he had met in the dream. He said his name was Alduin Maximus Pev- His heart lurched with a sudden fright. ALDUIN! It was the name of his ancestor who was the first and only Master of Death. According to what Magic had told him, Harry was supposed to possess the same power he did.

But how could he see Alduin's memories? There was no other soul in him right? Or was he some kind of reborn soul?

Argh! Looking at the dark state of the infirmary, Harry knew it was far too early to be entertaining such thought. Shoving all his worries and theories to the back of his mind, he searched for his wand to help clear the moisture from his clothes and bed.

There was a single candle glowing at a distance, and even in the dim light, devoid of his glasses, Harry turned to find his school robes, pressed and packed with his wand on the pile, placed on a small table beside his bed. Pushing himself up slowly, he took a second to regain his equilibrium. Once he was sure he would not fall upon taking a step, he stood up and walked towards the table, his body aching at every single movement. It was nothing he could not bear. Ten years at the Dursleys along with his near-death experiences at Hogwarts had boosted his pain-tolerance to extreme levels. Reaching his destination, he held the edge of the table for support, as his fingers circled around the handle of his wand.

What happened next was not something he expected.

Instead of the warm, familiar vibe that had always accompanied the feel of the wand, there came an indifferent coldness that felt oddly repulsive. It felt as though the wand hated to be in contact with him. Disgusted by the odd sensation, he dropped the wand down on his robes and the feeling immediately dissipated.

Strange.


18th May 1996

The next morning, Harry found himself standing in front of the oak door that served as the entrance to the Headmaster's office. His hand reached for the large crimson knob, his mind still lost in the past.

It felt like a different life, when he had entered this office once before, praying that the Headmaster would believe that he was not the Heir of Slytherin, and was being wrongly blamed as the perpetrator.

"Come in, Harry."

Harry could not help the smile. The man always knew who stood at his door. Must be something like the magic in the map. He pondered. The clarity of his thoughts and the speed at which his mind was now taking in information was exhilarating and, if he admitted it, a bit frightening to him.

He stepped into the circular office and pass a glance over the refurbished furniture, quite pleased to see Fawkes on his perch, the phoenix in question trilling at him. He smiled. "Nice to see you too, Fawkes."

"I hope you had a good rest, Harry." Dumbledore replied genially from the same armchair he was last seated in.

Harry was glad to see the smile wiped away at his frown.

"My wand is not working for me anymore." He decided the blunt approach would serve him better. "It feels strangely… repulsive to me." He pulled the wand out from his robes and placed it on the tea table, taking note that the table, along with every other artefact and piece of furniture in the room was fully repaired from his… outburst.

Dumbledore hummed, his chin resting on his fingers. "The only thing I can hypothesize is that the wand does not suit you anymore."

"But it chose me-"

The Headmaster stopped the boy with a hand gesture. "Do not misunderstand me, Harry. As I have stated before, you and Lord Voldemort have been related in ways beyond what even I can ascertain. You carried a piece of his soul, or should I say… a horcrux, though I'm uncertain how you know the name, considering it is a highly secretive piece of knowledge known only to those who dabble in the highest of the Dark Arts or Soul Magic."

Harry did not answer as he knew the technique the man was currently using to fish for answers. Using a vague statement to get the other person to reveal their hand was an old trick the headmaster relied on heavily.

Feeling that he would not get an answer, Dumbledore continued. "If you remember, I have shared the story behind the core your wand uses. Fawkes had only ever given two feathers to Ollivander. One of them rests within your wand, and the other is part of the wand that Voldemort has used since he first walked through the gates of this school. In the beginning, I had theorised that the wand chose you because you were his equal, as stated in the prophecy, but it seems that I have… erred once again."

Harry raised an eyebrow.

"The feather did not choose you, but the piece of Lord Voldemort that lay within you, protected and nourished by your magic. Since the horcrux has been destroyed and now you are entirely your own person, it does explain why your wand has rejected you. You are no longer the person it bonded with."

"Great!" Harry murmured sardonically. "Even my wand hates me." Looking at the headmaster, he asked, "Does that mean I will have to go to Ollivander to get myself a new wand?"

Dumbledore made an odd noise in his throat, before opening his mouth and closing it. "Tell me, Harry. Do you remember… holding this wand…?" he softly placed the Elder Wand beside the Holly and pushed it toward Harry. "You used it to cast the killing curse at yourself, two days ago."

There was no audible response, as Harry glanced at the wand in question. It was, perhaps, the oddest wand he had ever set his eyes upon. The wood was thicker at the base and grew thinner until the tip with white lines crisscrossing the oddly grey surface and small beads were placed along the handle at even intervals. The handle seemed to be made of bone, a grey darker than the rest of the wand. It was true that using the Headmaster's wand had felt far more… natural than using his Holly wand ever did.

"What is this wand? It feels… familiar," Harry muttered, "and yet… so different." His fingers entwined around the handle of the wand and, almost in acknowledgement, the wand gave out sparks of bright golden light as a feeling of reunion and joy sang in his blood

"That settles the matter of your wand." Dumbledore replied, his lips widening in a joyous smile. "Tell me Harry… Do you happen to know anything about the tales of Beadle the Bard, or specifically, about the Deathly Hallows?"

Harry breathed in sharply, and cursed himself for giving himself away.

"So…" Dumbledore observed, "You know."

"And what if I do?" Harry glared at the aged wizard in defiance.

"Well, for one," Dumbledore shifted a little on his seat, "it does make explaining things a little easier." He rested his chin upon his fingers once again. "That wand which you seem to wield so… exceptionally was created by Antioch Peverell, your ancestor."

Harry widened his eyes in surprise. "This is… this is the Elder Wand?"

Dumbledore observed him keenly. "What exactly do you know about the Hallows and your family history, Harry?" At the boy's obvious discomfort at the line of conversation, he backpedalled. "I mean to say, I cannot explain properly unless I know the extent of your knowledge on the matter."

"And how am I supposed to know that this is not another of your manipulations, Headmaster?" Harry spoke dispassionately, a hint of anger escaping at the last word.

Dumbledore sighed. "I, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, hereby swear that anything and everything that I share with Harry James Potter from henceforth is completely true to the best of my knowledge." He could see the surprise in the boy's eyes as he continued, "Furthermore, I also swear that my sole intention is, and always has been, to ensure the wellbeing and life of Harry James Potter. As have I sworn, so mote it be."

A light blue aura radiated out of the old man, as the magical vow took effect.

Years later, Harry would realize how powerful Dumbledore truly was to bind a magical oath wandlessly.

"That wasn't necessary…" Harry replied, a little shocked by his behaviour. The headmaster's actions had thrown him off. "However, I do appreciate the gesture."

"It seemed to cause the least delays." The Headmaster commented. "Now, if you could please tell me… what do you know about the Peverell family and the Hallows?"

Harry considered it. He had gained pieces of what was potentially important information, but here was a chance to actually get the full details of the knowledge he had acquired from his… afterlife.

"I know that the Potters are descendants of the Peverell line. Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus were… the three Peverells who discovered some form of… True Magic, I think - I don't understand the word yet. I know what the Hallows are, and the magic inside each, and that…" He paused, hesitating at his answer. "That they belong… to me."

Dumbledore stayed quiet for a moment. Finally, he looked at Harry and smiled softly. "You are correct, Harry. While I admit that I find your knowledge of such classified information to be rather curious, the knowledge of your source or sources is beyond the scope of this discussion. The secret is yours to share with whom you wish."

"You aren't going to prod me with questions?" Harry almost yelled in disbelief.

Dumbledore smiled. "I might be many things, Harry, but right now, I am racing against the most formidable opponent of all."

"Who?" Harry asked on reflex.

"Time." Dumbledore replied simply. "And hence, all such curiosities are unimportant at the moment."

Harry chose not to comment on the man's cryptic statement.

"Do you know the specialty of that… adorable invisibility cloak of yours?"

Damn! I knew it. I knew it! Harry almost gasped. "Do you mean to say that-?"

"That cloak is more than a simple heirloom." Dumbledore answered, "If I may say so, such a cloak has not existed before, and will probably not exist again. That cloak, Harry, was created by Ignotus Peverell, your ancestor, and imbued with the True Magic of Concealment, passed down from father to son, until it reached his last descendant who, like Ignotus, was born in the village of Godric's Hollow."

"Me." Harry replied, feeling quite detached from reality for at the moment. Everything seemed so surreal. It was like the battle at the Ministry was nothing more a simple schoolyard scuffle. "Do you know where the stone-?"

"Fortunately or not, I do not have any idea about the present location of the stone. While the Peverell artefacts have been tracked extensively by certain Higher Powers, the stone disappeared from history around the fourteenth century."

"So it's lost." Harry replied, almost sullenly. The pain of loss was quite high, considering he gained knowledge of the stone a day ago.

"I'm afraid so." Dumbledore answered, "I had access to one of the Hallows, one of which I won by conquest from the Dark Lord Grindelwald, when I defeated him in 1945. I borrowed the cloak from your father out of vain curiosity to study the ancient artefact. However, despite my disappointment, it seems that the Hallows only allow a fraction of their abilities to be used by their bearer."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, curious about it himself. Were the items no longer capable of unleashing their full power?

"The magic of Amplification; pure, unadulterated, autonomous amplification. A magic that has always been beyond our reach. Magus have researched extensively on the subject for centuries, trying to develop wands that can amplify our magic when cast through it."

"And?"

Dumbledore sighed. "It was in vain. Despite all our efforts, it seems that Amplification is something that has always managed to evade our grasp. Of course, certain magical cores like phoenix feathers and dragon heartstrings manage to intensify our spells, but not amplify them, certainly not without extensive reliance on the user's own reserves."

"What's the difference?" Harry asked genially. He wondered if the incident had not occurred, would his past self would be sitting in his position and having a discussion with the wizened wizard seated on the other side of the table.

Dumbledore tilted his head subconsciously. "When you wish to cast a spell, you create the structure of the spell, pour your magical energy through it and add the effect you wish to induce. As the spell travels through the wand, the ambient energies of the combined wood and core serve to intensify the spell, creating a more potent and effective version than if you tried to cast it wandlessly."

The Headmaster paused for a moment. "Though I must say, once you have developed a… sense memory of a particular spell, you can even cast it wandlessly, although the intensity of the spell might not match one cast through a wand."

"Is that why wandless casting is so… difficult?" Harry asked. He had never even known that spells had structures or that his body itself could act as foci.

"Wandless casting is not a matter of difficulty, Harry, but a matter of experience. Familiarity is the cornerstone of mastery. The more you cast a spell, the greater your sense memory of said spell. It grants your mind and magic an innate understanding of the spell, allowing which grants your body the ability to structure a temporary conceptual foci allowing you to cast the spell."

Harry nodded in agreement.

"What makes the Elder Wand so different, so prized is that not only does it intensify your spell, but amplifies it to a level beyond what any individual caster is capable of. A normal blasting spell might crack a wall in the school, but the same curse amplified through this… wand would perhaps break through the wall and anything that is present beyond it by using nothing more than the bare minimum necessary to cast the spell."

Harry's eyes were as round as saucers, unable to believe that such a weapon could even exist. He could not fathom why Dumbledore would even hand over such a powerful artefact to a teenager. Then, his now-better-working brain supplied a question.

"You said that you were disappointed." Harry pointed out.

Dumbledore chuckled. "It is good to see that you are paying attention, my boy. Despite what the powers offered by the wand to its bearer, it simultaneously resists him."

"How can you use a wand that resists you?"

Dumbledore chuckled. "How did it feel when you held the phoenix wand?"

A scowl formed on Harry's face. "It was repulsive, almost as if the wand… didn't was disgusted with my touch." He refrained from telling of the sudden urge to snap the wand. While he had quickly dropped the wand, in those few moments when the disgusted feeling threatened to overwhelm him, he knew he had nearly come close to snapping it in two. It was only the fact that it was his wand that had stayed his hand. Now that he thought about it, he wondered why none of them, not one, had ever tried to snap it.

A mind put forth the theory of the wand being indestructible, but Harry immediately discarded it, surmising that the power granted by the wand must have overcome their natural urge to go through with the deed.

Dumbledore smiled. "Now you understand the feeling that every bearer of that wand," He pointed at the legendary wand in Harry's hand. "Including myself, has felt for as long as they held the reins of the wand." He paused to take a sip of water from the ever-filling glass on the table. "A feeling of rejection, of inferiority that the bearer feels for as long as they hold the artefact of dread power. The bearer knows the wand is condescending to grant a fraction of the power and the fact that they do not deserve it."

The old wizard paused again, giving the boy time to grasp the information he had dumped on him. "Hundreds before me, every wizard who has ever held the wand, have been belittled by the wand you now hold. Mocked by a tool that did not fail to provide extraordinary power yet one that did not fail to remind the bearer of the insignificance they possessed."

"There is a reason why most of the bearers either died in horrible manners or were disabled for the rest of their lives. They come to depend on the wand, coveting its power and allure, not unlike Gollum in The Lord of the Rings books. Do not look so surprised, Harry. I do quite enjoy Tolkien, Jane Eyre and other muggle authors. What I mean to say is, the wizards or witches, belittled by the very tool they held, are driven to prove themselves worthy of their prize and set out on the path to destruction. It is one of the reasons why the Elder Wand is the most visible of the three hallows as it has always, always left a bloody trail through the annals of history. Thousands have died at the tip of that dreaded and coveted artefact of power."

Harry sat in quiet contemplation, staring at the wand at the crux of the Headmaster's story. "If what you say is true, then why does it, you know?"

Dumbledore smirked mischievously. "Can you not deduce that yourself?"

"My blood." Harry realised at the old man's smirk. "Peverell blood. This wand was, is and will always belong to a Peverell."

"Truer words than you know, my boy." Dumbledore declared. "I am one hundred percent certain that the wand hides more secrets than anyone before myself nor I have ever unravelled. So, does the cloak, and the stone too, I suspect. True Magic has always been the gift of the mage who has achieved such. We mortals cannot possess but a mere fraction of the knowledge granted to them. Only you, the last descendant of the Peverells may unlock the secrets hidden within them."

Harry slowly pulled the invisibility cloak from a pocket of his school robe. Staring at the cloak, he knew he had always surmised that nothing like the cloak existed elsewhere. It had been a childish wish when he first received it, a vain hope to possess something unique to himself.

As time passed by, he did think if his wish was not the truth. In all the teime he had spent at Diagon Alley or Hogwarts, he had never once seen anything like it before. He had asked other people, those with wizarding parents and parents who worked in the ministry, about artefacts. While he had hidden his query within pointless questions to deflect any attention, there was never once any hint or even a reference to a cloak like his.

He knew his cloak was old and in a condition no normal invisibility cloak should be in. It had always rendered him completely invisible to any and all forms of detection- His line of thought stopped as one instance of discovery occurred to him.

Looking at the headmaster, Harry said, "You once discovered us when we were under the cloak in Hagrid's hut during second year."

Dumbledore blinked before he chuckled. "Forgive me, Harry. I did not sense you at all. I merely noticed the scuff marks from the shoes you wore on Hagrid's ever murky floor and simply deduced your position."

"That said, it is time that we return to the main purpose of our meeting today. I know that I promised you answers to every question you have, and more. Time is of the essence, so I suggest you begin."

Harry narrowed his eyes.


Several hours later…

A mentally exhausted Harry Potter sat on the chair, as the Headmaster stood against the window, peering down at the lush green grounds of the Hogwarts' grounds below. The sun was in the overhead position in the sky. "You now know the true scope of the powers that surround you, and machinations designed to keep you ignorant. It began from the moment you survived the killing curse right up until the point you killed yourself."

Turning towards the teenager, he asked, "I have given you all the answers I possibly could. Do you have any further questions, Harry?"

Harry said nothing, and certainly did not correct the Headmaster that he might have been manipulated in the afterlife or what passed for it. The start of the exhaustive and illuminating conversation had lit a burning rage in his heart. His rage seemed to fuel the wand in his wand as it showed him images of blazing infernos and drowning tides, promising sweet, sweet revenge if he but gave the order.

But this was not the Harry Potter of old. This Harry Potter did not have a horcrux constantly trying to possess him. This Harry Potter could use his now considerable mental clarity to understand what would happen should he choose the path of a berserker – the word seemed oddly fitting. The raging flames had turned into a mighty blizzard, his heart and mind whispering that revenge would be his in time.

"No, sir." He replied finally. "I have no more questions to ask. And I do not blame you."

"Do not forgive me, Harry. I do not deserve it. I do not want it. I do not need it." The man muttered audibly, in a voice filled with self-loathing, the likes of which Harry had never imagined before. "However, as you now know, despite the power of your bloodline and the might of the artefacts you now possess, Tom is beyond your abilities at this moment in time. He is vastly more experienced and has trained under some of the greatest magus to ever walk the earth. If you face him, you will die. Tom rarely makes the same mistake twice."

Harry flinched at the harsh words but conceded, reluctantly, that the Headmaster was right. The only reason he had survived for years was because Voldemo- Tom had chosen to underestimate him during every encounter. He did not think Harry could harm during the philosopher's stone incident, he did not believe Harry and a sword could triumph over the basilisk and he did not know about the brother wands or the portkey that would allow Harry to escape.

He blinked at his thoughts. Analysing the situations objectively, it was a miracle that he had not yet died. He only hoped his luck, and some training might help him survive ad kill the bastard. "I know." He replied in resignation.

"Do not be sad, Harry. He holds decades of experience over you and possesses arcane knowledge that would give me trouble in a fight. The two factors that can help put you on equal footing are the artefacts of your bloodline and reserves of power not unlike that of Tom."

A powerful wand to cast spells, and a cloak to hide when in trouble. And I have no idea how to invoke the other powers the objects are hiding. Harry thought.

"There is one other factor that might help you." Dumbledore murmured, "An ability that only you seem to possess. It was last seen in the hands of your ancestor, and he was considered to be extremely formidable by even those in power."

Harry raised an eyebrow. His not-mother had hinted that he was born with the same True Magic that Alduin Peverell had once possessed. Could Dumbledore be talking about the same?

"I have observed you deeply, more than you will probably even fathom. I know how you learn and react to situations. I know why you excel at certain things but fail at others."

"You… do?" Harry asked, curious.

"I… do." Dumbledore confessed. "It is indeed something I have never seen before. Know that I might be wrong, Harry, for this conjecture and theory I have built over five years of observation. I believe that once you have seen a spell being cast, you are able to mimic the spell immediately. I surmise that this mimic ability you possess is not a simple talent for you seem to master the spells quickly. I confess some of your spellcasting in charms, transfiguration and DADA reminds of my fellow colleagues who are masters of their fields. I believe you, through means still unknown to me, are able to absorb the sense memory of a spell and adjust your magical core and circuits to cast accordingly.

"I can… do that?" Harry asked, bewildered.

"You can and, at the same time, you hold gargantuan reserves of power. It explains why your Patronus back was powerful enough to repel a hundred dementors. All modesty aside, even I could not do that in the prime of my life."

"Ah…." Harry deadpanned, unable to find the right words to respond to the compliment.

"It explains why you are so skilled in DADA, and Charms. Transfiguration, requires a deeper understanding of magical theory, which I can blame on your, forgive me, unenthusiastic approach towards your magical education. As for Potions, since you cannot actually see what is happening inside the bubbling cauldron, you are unable to understand and grasp the concept behind it."

Harry's cheeks had turned red. It was true that he had not been performing his best ever since his first few classes at Hogwarts. The Boy-Who-Lived being good at defense was expected, and the spells were easy to perform, at least for him. Ron's lazy attitude and Hermione's overzealous nature did little to endear him to studying either.

Dumbledore continued his explanation. "This… ability of yours… is an entirely different kind of magecraft, unconnected to witchcraft or wizardry, and, from what little I have discovered, is known as Projection. I am a rather accomplished scholar in the lost and arcane arts and yet I admit knowing little to none about this… magecraft that you seem to have been… born with. So let me be very clear with you, Harry Potter. You will be noticed, noticed by the people who remember the last person to display such an ability was your ancestor, and they will not leave you to your own devices."

Harry was rooted on spot. Was this… mimicry… Projection… the True Magic he was born with? No… Dumbledore said it was a kind of… magecraft and no matter what he thought of the old man, the oath was still in effect preventing the Headmaster from lying to him.

"So that brings us both to the primary issue at hand. When I gave you the knowledge about the true machinations of the world around you, I broke my oath I made to the Council. As a result of my actions, I am cursed with Maledictus maledictionem. A blood curse that will slowly degenerate my organs, turn my magic towards myself, and curse me with a slow, agonizing and painful death."

Harry felt the wand slip through his fingers. His face blanched at the news and he finally understood why Dumbledore had given away the artefacts and all those secrets about the Peverell line and the world around him. "Why…. Then why did…?"

Dumbledore smiled and Harry thought the man had never looked happier. "Because… for the first time in life, I chose what is right over what is easy." Ignoring the shattered expression on Harry's face, he chuckled. "It feels good to know that, despite all my crimes against you and yours, you are still capable of sympathising with me. It only proves that I was right all along."

Harry started, "Surely there must be some way to-"

The old man waved his hand in a gesture. "I have no need of it. In fact, I am going to grow significantly weaker in days to come, reduced to a useless state of existence and a liability on the magical world. Hence, Harry Potter, I have a proposition for you."

"What… proposition?" Harry asked, still bewildered and stunned at the revelation.

"Your ability to mimic, when trained in the right way, can become a force to be reckoned with. I can show you a way through which you can significantly, if not completely, reduce the difference between yourself and Lord Voldemort, exponentially increasing your chance of survival not only against the Dark Lord but also against the other forces that will come for you sooner or later." He paused, "All of that will be yours should be consent to perform a single task for me."

"What…. Is that?" Harry asked in a whisper.

"I need your help, Harry… to commit an act of High Treason. Your help is needed at the very end as you are the only person who needs cast the spell I need."

"What… spell?" Harry asked, a sense of dread growing at the words of the Headmaster.

Dumbledore smiled. "Avada Kedavra."


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello people, this is the story my fellow author and I have come up with. NO, we are NOT abandoning PEVERELLS. It shall be updated on a regular basis.

No, we do not know when we shall begin on the other stories. I can tell you that it shall be after one of our current projects is complete.

Now, as you all know, or will come to realise, we are using elements of the Nasuverse in our story. Quite a lot of them, in fact. The FIC is still a work in progress.

On a small note, I can tell you that the term 'Magus' encompasses all magic users and any other terms used are specialised and will be exposition'ed in the upcoming chapters.

Hope to see how many catch all the Easter eggs we use in the story. I know this chapter contains at least one.

OUR ACTING ROSTER:

Alduin Maximus Peverell: HUGH JACKMAN.

Lily Potter – Jessica Chastain

James Potter – Sebastian Stan

Sirius Black – Ian Somerhalder

Poppy Pomfrey – Diane Keaton

Yes, I know where I picked the name for the characters. Please do not bother repeating.