"Do you know why you’ve been brought here today?" a stern looking woman asked, staring down at the ragged looking, long haired prisoner who’d slumped into the chained chair in middle of the atrium. After all she’d seen in the previous day, she hadn't expected him to look like that, to be honest. He was so old. There was a bony quality to his slightly wrinkled face, with his cheekbones sticking out, that made him look less like a man and more a skeleton. He was thin, so weak looking - so much like all long-term prisoners of Azkaban who didn't die within the first few years.
"It's been half a century," the old prisoner answered, his voice dry and weak. He laughed; a ragged, breathless sound, not at all pleasant. "You've unsealed the contents of my trial."
"Yes," the woman answered, both relieved and a little worried. At least it seemed like the prisoner hadn't lost his mind over the years in prison, she mused. "And in those contents was a Pensieve you supplied memories for."
"Hm-hmm," the old man agreed, leaning his head back against the backrest of the chair. He looked around the room, eyes half lidded, taking in the empty chairs. Aside from the two Unspeakables standing at the doors of the room, he and the woman were the only ones in the courtroom. "Tell me," the man said. "How did it turn out, then?" He laughed again weakly.
The woman frowned before clasping her hands and sighing. "Do you think knowing how it turned out will lessen your punishment?" she asked curiously. "You killed two people in cold blood. Do you think that now that your motive is no longer a guarded secret, you will get a pardon, Mr. Potter?"
"I see you know my name now too? Heh. And no, I don't really care," the man answered. "But one does want to know the impact of one's handiwork," he grinned a bit lopsidedly at her. "And there was an impact too, otherwise I wouldn't be here - or at least, this hall would be a bit fuller."
The woman hummed in agreement. Harry Potter wasn't stupid and already knew that the reason why the hall was empty was because she, and she alone knew the contents of the man's trial proceedings. And that was how it would remain - even the Unspeakables were blocked from seeing or hearing the discussion they were about to have, and would afterwards be Obliviated so that they would never know they had ever seen the man.
"Could you tell me your full plan?" the woman asked, leaning back a little and eyeing the man thoughtfully. "Or did you have any, beyond killing those two wizards?"
"Oh, the plan itself was much, much longer. Killing those bastards was just the goal," the man said, chuckling and tilting his head back to look at the stone ceiling high above them. "Do you know, I've been here before," he said, smiling. The expression looked odd on his thin, suffered face. "The ministry tried to convict me of the use of under age magic here - after I defended myself and my cousin from a Dementor attack. Funny how these things come around again."
"I know. It was in the Pensieve," the woman answered, glancing up as well. "That's why I chose this room for our talk."
"Ah, pardon. I have forgotten how much stuff I put in that thing," Harry Potter said, laughing and pushing his hair up from his face. The scar on his forehead was faded and barely visible anymore. "The plan, madam, started in ninety-eight," he then said. "I think I put that part into the Pensieve too - it was my good friend Hermione who cooked most of it up. She was good with plans, you know. The most brilliant witch in her generation. If she comes around again, make sure to keep an eye out for her. She's going to go places."
The woman watched him impassively as he laughed again. "Yes, I believe that part was also among your memories," she said with a nod. "It was when you broke into the Ministry that year, was it not? You were after the current dark lord's Horcruxes."
"Uh-huh. We split up," the old man nodded, chuckling. "I went after our most beloved Madam Umbridge, whilst Hermione went down below, to the Department of the Mysteries. Merlin, it was a mess."
The woman nodded again, thinking back to the memory. The fight in the court room, the flight - the injuries the two young magicians had suffered. She’d been horrified by the scene, though she couldn't tell what about it had horrified her the most. The injuries, the fights, the reason why they’d been there or the fact that they had slipped into the Ministry so easily despite its security.
"We didn't plan to use the Time-Coil immediately," Potter said. "We wanted to see if we could actually manage to win the war first, you see. With the diary, the ring and now the locket gone, we still had a chance, or so we felt. The Coil was our back up plan, so of speak, in case we failed."
"And then Miss Granger died," the woman nodded.
"Fucking goblins," the man laughed. "We underestimated their security. Though I suppose there are worse ways to go than being eaten by a dragon. I don't know, there’s something horribly grand about that. Certainly better than slipping on soap and hitting your head or drowning in your own vomit or something like that."
The woman eyed him dispassionately. "Lovely," she said scathingly.
"Sorry, sorry. Fifty years in prison with little amusement," the man grinned. "Dreaming of my enemies dying in most awkward and stupid ways kept me entertained for a good five years."
"I see," the woman murmured. "So, you decided to use the Coil after her death?"
"Well, yes. Ron was already dead, not to mention most of the bloody order, fucking death eaters," Potter growled. "Here’s some advice for you, nameless Ministry lady; if you need to cause a diversion, don't use people if they're in any way important to you. Fucking plan got almost all of us killed."
"I'll keep that in mind," the woman promised. "You used the Coil next?"
"Well, I moped around about two weeks," the man answered, shaking his head. "She was dead and we didn't even get the bloody cup, so I was a bit upset. When I finally snapped out of it, though, I didn't think of using the Coil as such. My first idea was to actually become a raging mass murderer and kill every death eater - and goblin - that had the misfortune of stepping in my way." He shrugged his shoulders. "I was a teenager."
"Why didn't you?" the woman asked curiously. "You had the talent for duelling, and the power to back it up. As far as I could tell, the only reason you didn't cause any more severe damage to the Dark Lord's forces was because you refrained from using lethal magic."
The old man snorted. "I figured that in the end I would've just gotten myself killed for no good reason," he said. "Sure, I probably could've made a nice big hole in Voldemort's forces, one that they couldn't have recovered from. But I couldn't have defeated them all - not to mention him, since he still had some Horcruxes left." Potter shrugged his shoulders again lazily. "So, I decided on another plan."
"And used the Coil instead," the woman nodded in understanding. "What made you decide to use it to commit murder?" she was more curious than appalled by that, and the man seemed to notice it because he snorted with laughter.
"Well, it was actually kind of funny. It was my first idea, see. But differently. Originally I intended to use the Coil to go back and kill everyone in Voldemort’s forces before they won the war. I was actually toying with the idea of going to Department of Mysteries when we were fighting over the Prophesy orb and killing them all right there and then," the man said, and then frowned. "Now that I think about it, you haven't asked a thing about the Prophesy."
"It is of no interest to me," she answered. "It was a self-fulfilling Prophesy - and the meaning behind it was highly debateable. What made you decide not to go with your first plan?"
"Well, there were the Horcruxes. Sure, defeating Voldemort's forces would've been considerably easier as there weren't that many of them yet and they weren't yet fully organised, and so forth. Defeating him, however, was no easier than it was in the fucked up future," Potter answered, shaking his head. "So, my next plan was to go back four, five years before Voldemort got a new body. Without him and his Death Eaters, collecting the Horcruxes would be easy, I thought," he shook his head. "But then I realised that breaking into Grimmauld place and into Gringotts wouldn't be easy, and I had no idea where Dumbledore found the damned ring. So, that plan was scratched up as well."
"And you decided to go back further," the woman nodded and the man affirmed it with a wave of his hand. She hummed thoughtfully. "Did you decide the year immediately?"
"Yes, and no. I knew I had to go back in time before he made a single Horcrux, which meant his Hogwarts years or earlier," the man agreed. "Of course I knew I'd change history probably in ways I couldn't imagine, but I figured it would be worth it. However, it got a bit tricky from there on."
"And that… trickiness was what made you chose two targets, instead of one?" the woman asked.
Potter nodded, smirking in lopsided, mirthless way. "It took a while, but it did eventually sink in that despite all the things that Voldemort did, it actually wasn't all his fault. With a different mentor, he could've turned out different. If instead of being suspicious and never trusting the boy Dumbledore had actually acted like the trustworthy authority figure he was supposed to be, and maybe even given the brat some guidance and advice, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't have grown up to be a mass murdering son of a bitch." The man laughed, spreading his chained arms in exaggerated shrug. "Who would've thought it?"
The woman smiled faintly despite herself. "So your plan changed."
"So it did," Potter agreed. "I had a bit of a problem with timing though. Because Tom Riddle made his first Horcrux in year forty-three - which meant I had to kill him before that. However, I needed Dumbledore alive in forty-five so that he'd kill Grindelwald. So it was a bit problematic, until I got the idea that ended up being my final plan."
"Going back further," the woman said.
"Hm," the old man nodded. "The funny thing is, I don't think killing those two bastards was as important as what I did on the side," he said, smiling faintly. "Though of course I don't really know how that turned out, but I still think it was probably more important than the murders themselves."
"You mean arranging the adoption of infant Tom Riddle?" the ministry woman asked.
"Yeah. It took me a while to select the correct parents, but I think I got it more or less right," Potter smiled. "The main reason he turned out the way he did was because he thought himself special when he was a brat - and when it turned out he wasn't, he wanted to be. Take that away, put him into a magical family, make it part of the norm, and voila, no superiority complex." He trailed away and then looked up to the woman. "Did it turn out okay?" he then asked, sounding unsure for the first time. "I get to read some old newspapers in the prison, but one can never know for certain.
"It did," the ministry woman assured. "Tom Potter is currently the head of the Auror division and the reason for a seventeen percent drop in magical crime - and twenty-eight percent increase in the efficiency of the Department of the Magical Law Enforcement."
"Go Tommy boy," the man grinned. "I figured the Potters would do him okay. They spoiled him rotten, didn't they?"
"Yes for the most part," the woman snorted, thinking back to the investigation of the Chief of the Auror Corps. "But they took heed of your warning, I believe, and he was raised believing strongly in the values of right and wrong. And he is very fond of his younger brother James, and is eagerly waiting for him to graduate so that he can start at the Academy."
"Good to hear," Potter chuckled and closed his bright green eyes, by the looks of it basking in this success.
"I thought you might find that comforting," the woman murmured. "Now, tell me about the murder of the Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald," she requested.
"It seemed like a pretty stupid idea at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it," the man said, smiling. "Of course, I knew it wouldn't be easy. Two of the most talented and strong magicians - within the last two centuries, at least. Not to mention the fact that they both proved to be paranoid to boot," he laughed. "But I knew two things they didn't at the time, two things I could use to my advantage."
"And those two were?" the woman asked, leaning in curiously.
"I knew the locations of the Deathly Hallows… and I knew Dumbledore's and Grindelwald's weaknesses," Potter smiled. "Collecting the ring was no big deal - the Gaunts, thanks to the fact that inbreeding diminished their magic, were hardly difficult to beat. The wand was a bit harder and took some hunting, but I eventually did find Gregorovich and got the wand from him. He was more difficult to persuade than the Gaunts, but wandmakers are hardly fighters."
"So you used those two items as a bait to lure your victims?" the woman asked.
"Victims. You make them sound innocent," the man chuckled, shaking his head. "But yes, and no. Actually, I only used the ring, and I never let them know I had the wand. With the ring you can summon any dead spirit to you, if you know how, you see. And I summoned Ariana Dumbledore."
"The younger sister of Albus Dumbledore," the woman said in realisation. That part hadn't been included in the memories.
"Yes. I asked her questions, things only she would know the answers to," the man nodded, smiling faintly. "She was very helpful, but of course she didn't know why I wanted to know. After I got what I wanted from her, I wrote letters to our two victims." He chuckled. "In Dumbledore's case, it was the knowledge I had of Ariana that was the bait. In Grindelwald's case, it was the fact that I had ability to summon her in the first place. Dumbledore wanted atonement, you see. Grindelwald wanted the power of the ring, thinking it would allow him to order the dead to do his bidding. But I think that my knowledge over their past helped persuade them."
"And so they came to you," the woman murmured, frowning.
"Well, of course not at first, and not alone. They both brought backup and didn't even try to meet me alone. But I've learned my lessons, and negotiated until I got them alone with me. Of course, this happened at separate times - putting the two of them into same room was a bad idea, I thought, so they didn't know I was… doing business with them both," Potter answered. "First I met with Grindelwald. Then with Dumbledore."
The woman shook her head. This part had been mostly in the Pensieve, the two separate lunch dates. First Harry Potter, who had been barely older than a boy back then, and Grindelwald, talking about war and greater good, and how the boy would give the dark wizard the power he required - and then, after dinner and enjoying his dessert, Grindelwald had fallen down. The same happened with Dumbledore later on.
"You didn't use the wand to fight them, though," the woman said.
"The wand was a back up. I wasn't stupid enough to try and fight them," the old man snorted. "Two of the magically strongest and most talented men in two centuries! And me, a half-trained stunted little bugger who only survived so long on luck. And I couldn't afford to rely on luck anymore. So, I relied on a sleeping potion instead."
The woman nodded at that, though it had been a shock to see it in the Pensieve. When Potter had been arrested and the bodies discovered, it had seemed like there had been a battle, a ferocious one sided battle that had ended up in the death of the two elder men with the young killer perfectly unscathed. It had been a horrifying sight, though of course she hadn't been there in person to see it. But the pictures spoke a thousand words - especially the one of the killer, sitting on a comfortable armchair with the two bloody bodies lying sprawled at his feet, calmly waiting for the authorities with a self-satisfied expression. It was a nearly historic picture, known as the Nameless Assassin.
It was odd to think, after seeing that picture so many times, that she alone knew the name of that nameless killer. "Why did you make it look like there was a battle, Mr. Potter? And how did you make them eat the sleeping potion in the first place?" she asked frowning. "Weren't you worried they might notice it?"
"Of course. The sleeping potion was on the desert spoons, which was delivered after the meal," Potter said. "They did check the food, but only Grindelwald checked the desert - and neither of them thought to test the spoons." He chuckled. "And I did it the way I did to make Ministry's job easier, I guess," he shrugged. "I was only blamed for one murder, wasn't I?" he asked, smiling knowingly.
The woman conceded a point. Albus Dumbledore was credited and post-humorously awarded for the death of Gellert Grindelwald. Potter, or the Nameless Assassin, was on other hand blamed for the despicable murder of Dumbledore. The common population still lived in the belief that the man before her was one of Grindelwald's assassins, who had taken advantage of Dumbledore's post-battle fatigue and taken him down, avenging his master by killing the hero immediately after that hero had saved the world.
"So," the man said. "Now that you know, tell me… what became of the magical wolrd?" he asked, grinning faintly. "In comparison to the world I came from, hm?"
"Well. There is still approximately twenty years to go - it's only the seventies now," the woman said, leaning back in her chair. "But I can say with some certainty that you fulfilled your mission perfectly, Mr. Potter. The war against Grindelwald ended over a dozen years earlier than it did in your time. Voldemort obviously never rose. It is impossible to say how many lives you've saved, but I believe it can be counted in the thousands - and without Voldemort, the future ahead of us will not see the fall of as many magical families. The Hogwarts class of ninety-one, your class, will be at least twice as big as it was in your time."
Potter and let out a quivering sigh, and smiled. "Good. That is good," he whispered.
The woman agreed silently. She had grown up hearing about this man, Grindelwald's dark assassin who’d killed the hero of the wizarding world. It was… life changing to realise that the murderer was in fact a hero greater than she had imagined anyone could be. And it wasn't just the lives Potter had saved, but also the ones he had changed. She had investigated some of Voldemort's Death Eaters and found that without Voldemort's or Dumbledore's influence, they had and would turn out different. Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Black - Severus Snape… they all would turn out quite differently.
"Now what happens?" the old man asked after a long, quiet moment. "I go back to prison?"
She looked at him silently for a while. Potter looked older now, the wrinkles on his face more pronounced. He looked much older than his seventy years in fact, which she knew was a miraculously long age for an Azkaban prisoner. They rarely survived past twenty years in prison and were definitely not this sane when they came out.
Potter had probably kept on living this long to see the end of it - he had patiently waited for the unsealing of his trial. He’d wanted to know the outcome. Which was partly why she’d orchestrated this meeting - to give him that closure, as he deserved it. But that was not why she had kept the meeting so secret.
"The world will never know what you did, Mr. Potter," she said. "They will forever curse you as The Hero Killer, the foulest of all murderers. Grindelwald's Nameless Assassin."
"I imagine they will," the man agreed, smiling. "But it's well worth it."
"I thought you'd feel that way," the woman agreed with a slight sigh. "Tell me, did you ever hold hope that this revelation would earn you a pardon?"
"No, not really," Potter answered, still smiling. He seemed perfectly content now - and oddly enough, it seemed to age him even more, like with this knowledge he had stopped fighting and allowed it to happen. "But at this point I don't much care for it anyway. I've spent fifty years in prison, young madam. I wouldn't know what to do with a pardon."
"Why do you say that?" she asked, curious. "With Azkaban being the way it is, surely you would hope for…"
"Azkaban is hell, of course, it's is a cruel and unusual punishment, it is inhuman, a slow maddening torture and against the Geneva Convention at least. Not to mention for me, with my greatest fear being Dementors. For me the people who approve the place are worse than dark wizards are," he chuckled. "But the place doesn't scare me anymore; at least nowhere near as much as the world outside it does. And besides, I'm old, and at this point it doesn't matter to me whether I die in Azkaban or outside it. I'm going to kick the bucket soon in any case."
The woman frowned at that. Of course, she knew. It happened in the muggle penalty system sometimes. Long term prisoners got so adjusted to their walls that they stopped being able to function outside, and were unable to handle the changes that had occurred during their long imprisonment. It was one thing to hear about it from someone she didn't know or particularly care about, however. It was something completely different to hear it from this man, this odd hero.
"If you could do something differently, would you?" she asked finally.
"Of course. Merlin and the walls of my cell know how many regrets I have," Potter snorted. "It would've been nice to have wife and children, stuff like that. A family, you know. A normal life. But knowing what came out of my meddling, I think I'm fine with things being as they are."
"And if you could still have that? If you could still have that sort of life?"
The old man smiled almost kindly at her. "I think I'm a little bit old now, don't you think?" he asked.
In answer, she pulled out a bottle of slightly shimmering red liquid from the inner pocket of her robes, and placed it to the table before her where he could see it. Potter eyed the bottle with a faint frown, and then looked up to her for explanation. "I'll be frank with you, Mr. Potter," she spoke, ignoring the silent question for now. "The reason I orchestrated this meeting is not because I wanted to know what happened or what you think. I orchestrated it because I admire you, and your work."
"Thank you, I suppose," the man said, still frowning.
"You sacrificed yourself and your whole future for ours. You don’t see that sort of determination and devotion in people these days. More than that, though, I admire the force of your will. The concept of changing timelines is a frightening one - one could erase themselves from history in such an attempt and that is enough to scare anyone. And yet, even if your motive was revenge, you did what you did without hesitation, and you changed the entire world."
The man said nothing this time, only eyed her silently in confusion.
She smiled. "Also, I want to thank you personally. You saved my life, you saved my husband's life and it is thanks to you my children exist."
"Oh," Potter murmured, frowning a little with surprise. "You're welcome, I guess," he then said.
She nodded. "However, it is not only because of what you did for me, even if unknowingly, that I wanted to talk to you. I do admire your work on a more professional level," she added, clasping her hands together. "I am the current head of the Department of Mysteries. And I believe I could use a man like you."
"Very kind of you, madam, but like I said, I'm a bit old," the man snorted softly. "I appreciate the sentiment though."
"I guess you don’t know what this is," the woman chuckled, taking the bottle and holding it up. As the liquid inside jostled, its glow seemed to intensify. "Throughout my career I've collected… debts from people I've investigated or aided in some manner - or when I've looked the other way when I encountered things they owned or had invented. And it so happens that Nicolas Flamel owed me a favour," she said, waved the bottle lightly in indication.
"Oh," the man muttered, his eyes widening a little as he eyed the bottle.
"There is enough of Elixir of Life in this to make you young again. Young enough to attend Hogwarts anew, even, if you choose. What do you say?" the woman asked.
"I could be made young again and relive my life?" the man murmured and then scowled. "What's the catch?"
"You'd work for me, obviously. Oh, if possible, I would appreciate the knowledge of the whereabouts of the Hallows too, but I will understand if you choose to keep that one to yourself," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
The old man smiled. "That can't be it. There has to be more. I don't get this lucky."
"Well, maybe it's a high time you did," she said determinedly, and threw the bottle at him. It landed in his lap, and he picked it up carefully. "What could you possibly lose?" she asked when he hesitated.
"I don't know yet, but I'm sure I'll find out," the old man said, and after a moment of consideration he uncapped the bottle. "Well, bottoms up, I guess."
Satisfied, Myrtle Potter watched as the potion took effect on her time travelling nephew, wondering what her husband would think of this turn of events, if he ever learned of it. She imagined that there would be quite a bit of indignant sputtering at the concept that he had been, in one timeline, a feared and hated Dark Lord - and insane too, judging by what she had learned. They had much to thank this odd hero for, indeed. Not to mention the fact that it was only thanks to him that Myrtle herself wasn't haunting a bathroom somewhere in Hogwarts after being killed by her own husband.
"Now this is weird," murmured the child that had taken the place of the old prisoner, staring at his shrunken hands. He looked absolutely tiny in his old, ragged clothes, and the long messy hair that had stayed the same made him look even smaller. "Hey, my joints aren't hurting anymore. Oh, I like this."
Myrtle smiled. Watching Harry Potter grow up - again - would probably be very interesting to see as well.