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Game Over, Try Again

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She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Okay, Ana,” she encouraged herself, “you can do this.”

She looked down at her arms, where Voldemort’s soul shard was sleeping peacefully. She smiled gently at the baby and caressed its exposed cheek with her knuckles, before placing a soft kiss on its head. “I’ll see you in nine months,” she told him.

She gazed at Death. “I’ll be going now,” she informed him. He nodded. “I’ll be counting on your assistance if things get too difficult with Voldemort. You know … if he decides to curse me first and ask questions later.”

“Don’t worry,” he assured her, “I’ll always be there for you and the baby, protecting you from spells and potions. However, you should pay attention regardless. Remember that, though immortal, you are still human. You can still get hurt. You can still feel pain. You can still feel emotions.”

She sighed. “I know, Death. I know. That’s why I’m asking for extra help. I don’t want anything to happen to the baby.” She cuddled it closer to her chest. “I don’t want to lose him.”

“As long as you pay attention to your health, you have nothing to worry about,” Death assured her.

She nodded and smiled a little. She looked towards the Realm of the Living.

“Here it goes.”

With a final sigh, she steeled herself and walked towards the portal, away from the train station, baby in arms.

Muffled chirping of birds rose her from her sleep. When she slowly opened her eyes, she needed a few moments to collect herself and her thoughts. She recalled dying, speaking with Death, and the soul shard inside her.

Alarmed, she looked at her arms and found them empty. There was no baby in them. Before she could panic, she remembered the soul shard was still with her, but the only way she could bring him back with her to the plane of the living was to give it its own existence through pregnancy.

She caressed her flat abdomen, hoping the child was indeed there. Because as long as the baby was there, she was happy.

Somewhat relieved, she let out a deep sigh, with a hand on her chest, and felt a metal chain around her neck. She looked down and saw the locket.

Right … she went back for nine months from the day of her “death”. Which, if her math was correct, made it August 2nd 1997.

She looked around the tent and saw her friends sleeping. Ron had his torso exposed and his shoulder bandaged, while Hermione slept next to the bed in a chair.

Of course. They had infiltrated the Ministry the day before to get the locket from Umbridge and Ron was splinched during their escape. She had lost track of the time with all that has happened during the war.

She smiled at them. They have been dating since the second semester of their fourth year, after Ana gave Ron a nudge to confess his feelings for Hermione when he spent most of the Yule Ball jealous over her dancing with Viktor Krum. Hermione had been fancying him too, despite his eating and table manners.

They still argued, but far less than in their third year and their arguments never lasted long and they never became too heated.

Her best friends didn’t deserve to live through this hide and seek, cat and mouse, and wild goose chase thing she had with Voldemort for a second time. Not if she could have a say in it, even though they were blissfully unaware of what was to come …, and if everything went well, as far as she was concerned they would never have to live through it. Hermione would be able to go back to her parents to undo the memory charm she had placed on them and Ron and his family would never have to lose Fred in battle.

It was true that Ron and Ana had a brief falling out during November of their fourth year after that whole fiasco with the goblet, when he openly admitted to feeling envious of her fame and her money. Instead of being his own person, he felt overshadowed by her just as he felt overshadowed by the achievements of his elder brothers.

At that, she told him, she never wanted fame and the money her parents left her was mostly meant for her education and essential things, such as clothes, footwear, food and hygiene, not to spend it left and right on luxury items and lifestyle. And while to him it might seem like a fortune, she was aware that without a regular income, the money reserve in her vault would not last her forever.

When he accused her of cheating and going behind his back to enter the tournament and gain even more notoriety and fame, she in turn said that if he hadn’t come to know her as a person in three years’ time, to know she would never have done something like that, then he was not the friend she thought he was.

It wasn’t until she had to face a Hungarian Horntail for him to realise he’d been wrong and to apologise, while fiercely hugging her. After admitting to being a hot-headed idiot, he promised he would never doubt or abandon her again.

And he stayed true to his word … sometimes a little too true. When Malfoy continued with his ‘Potter stinks’ badge campaign, he punched the blond git in the face. The punch then quickly escalated into a fight, until they were both bloody, Draco more so than Ron, and Professor Snape intervened, separating them.

When she returned with Cedric’s corpse from the cemetery and said Voldemort had returned, he believed her and when she had to face charges for using a Patronus in self-defence and was being slandered by both the press and her peers for telling the truth, he defended her from anyone who dared say anything against her. He was even ready to team up with Fred and George and poison Umbridge for the Blood Quill she dared to use on her. She was glad she and Hermione stopped him, because Umbridge’s death just wasn’t worth going to Azkaban for.

Hermione never truly left her side. Even when odds were against Ana, Hermione stuck with her through thick and thin at all times, and Ana was grateful to have her as a friend.

Careful not to wake them up, Ana left the tent to get some fresh air and wash her face. As she stepped outside, cool, early morning summer air greeted her and made her shiver. She walked to the nearby stream, where she washed her face with cold water to wake herself up and think.

For a moment, she doubted her sanity. Did she imagine the outcome of this mess in her head during a dream or was what she remembered true? It sure felt so vivid and real that she found it hard to dismiss it as mere imagination or a prophetic dream. Then again, how many people could say they died, met with Death, who informed them they were its ‘Master’ and assistant, and came back to life nine months before their death day?

Not many, she reckoned … if any.

She closed her eyes. She had to do something. She had to do something to stop this madness before it got out of hand and people started dying left and right before their assigned time. She had to stop Voldemort before he took over Hogwarts and had his Death Eaters stationed inside. However, she had to stop him without risking her well-being and the life of the child she was carrying.

To think she would be a mother without even kissing or having sex with someone. She didn’t even fancy anyone. How could she, when almost every year since she started attending Hogwarts one thing or another constantly threatened her life and the only thing that she could think and care about was surviving.

For a moment, she thought she had a crush on Cedric because he was nice, he played the same position as her and he treated her with respect when almost everyone shunned her during the tournament. However, very soon she learned that’s just how he was as a person … nice and, when she learnt he had a girlfriend, any romantic feelings she might have harboured for him were gone in an instant.

She might not fancy anyone, but she always thought that if she ever dated or married someone, the other person would treat her with respect and kindness. Someone that would make her laugh. She wouldn’t mind the dirty talking and wild and rough sex from time to time. As long as her significant other didn’t treat her like rubbish or hurt her intentionally, she was fine with it. And once she married that person, she always envisioned herself having kids with them. Not that she had any idea how the love of her life would even look like, she never saw his face, but she always imagined someone tall and muscular with strong arms to make her feel safe, warm, wanted, desired, cherished, loved.

Now, she was going to have a child, whose father was none other than the same man who had apparently made it his life’s mission to hunt her down and kill her like an animal, and it didn’t matter how many corpses he had to go through to get to her.

The irony of life.

She sighed. She had to think of what to say to him, how to convince him to stop the terror and violence. She didn’t think she could stop him from declaring himself the leader of the wizarding Britain. He was so powerful and determined to rule she couldn’t help but admire his drive, but she could stop him from causing needless death and suffering.

The question was how. What could she offer him that would convince him to stop his onslaught and that wouldn’t require giving up her life? She wasn’t special or valuable despite being the ‘Mistress of Death’ and practically immortal, and though she had a few prized possessions, such as the deathly hallows, her father’s map, and a vault at Gringotts, she really didn’t have much to her person.

Another sigh escaped her. This was going to be a disaster. She could already feel failing miserably and though Death insisted that she wasn’t responsible for who lived and who died, she couldn’t stop being who she was overnight. It was her flaw, caring too much about everyone and everything to the point of letting it dictate her decisions and life. She was aware of it and she was willing to work on it. At least to the point of not letting what others thought about her get to her and just be happy with the baby.

Speaking of the child … even if she and Voldemort weren’t intimate, the baby inside her was still his. If one did a paternity test, Voldemort would appear as the father. Therefore, should she tell him about it?

She wasn’t really sure how he would react to the news, but Voldemort never struck her as someone who would want to have children or, if he had them, he didn’t seem the type to want to be involved in his child’s life.

If she told him about the baby and he expressed the desire not to be involved, she would respect that and would simply move to some place away from people, preferably a small cottage surrounded by nature and with a small garden, where she would have her child and raise him in peace.

Yes, that sounded like something that might happen if she ended up convincing Voldemort to stop the violence and let her live, yet he didn’t want to have anything to do with her and the baby. However, if she became a hermit, how would she take care of the favour for Lady Magic?

Suddenly, the locket’s chain wound itself around her throat and started asphyxiating her, breaking her out of her thoughts. Her hands went immediately to her throat and she tried to pry it away from it.

“I saw what you did to me and my other horcruxes,” a cold male voice spoke in her ear.

She gasped for air, but managed to catch a glimpse of the ghostly apparition of a young Voldemort.

“I might not be able to kill you because of your status, but if you attempt or even so much as think about destroying me and the remaining horcruxes; I will hurt and torment you,” he snarled, pressing menacingly close to her, sending shivers of uncomfortable kind down her spine. “You have been warned.”

The pressure around her neck disappeared and she started coughing and gasping.

“I’m sorry I destroyed you,” she whispered, clutching her throat and looking at the apparition. “I thought I was doing the right thing at the moment.”

He was frowning, displeased and unsatisfied with that explanation, despite it being true. “The right thing for whom?” he demanded, snapping at her. She flinched a bit at the venom in his expression and voice. “Maybe for Dumbledore, you, and the rest of the wizarding world, because it was definitely not for me or other parts of me.”

He huffed, sneering. “You let yourself be manipulated to the end,” he snarled contemptuously, “and even when you learnt the truth, you still went through with Dumbledore’s plan. You walked to your death willingly.”  

She lowered her head, ashamed.

“I know,” she sighed dejectedly, closing her eyes. “Am I proud of it? No. No, I’m not.”

She looked at the horcrux inside the locket. “But at the time, it seemed like the only way to stop the madness,” she whispered. “At that moment, I wanted the torture and suffering to end and dying to bring him closer to death seemed like the easiest and most effective way to do it.”

The horcrux scrutinised her. “You’re a fool, Ana,” he stated with a sneer. “You … and Dumbledore.”

“What do you mean?” she was confused.

“Destroying the container with the soul shard doesn’t destroy the soul piece. It merely liberates it from its anchor, after injuring it, of course. The only way you could destroy it would have to be through an exorcism ritual and as far as I was able to see in your memories, you didn’t perform a single one,” he informed her with sadistic glee.

Her eyes widened in horror as she realised what he was saying.

“Meaning that,” he continued, relishing her shocked and horrified expression, “had you not been the Mistress of Death by the time you walked to your own death in the Forbidden Forest, you would have died for nothing, because Voldemort would still have soul shards scattered around, roaming aimlessly around the plane of the living. It would have only been a repeat of what happened on Samhain, 1981.”

Ana’s breathing became erratic and laboured as dread settled and spread through her stomach and chest. She shut her eyes, fighting away the tears that threatened to collect and spill over. There was a buzzing in her ears as light-headedness threatened to overtake her.

She felt a cool sensation surround her, and when she opened her tear-filled eyes, she found herself in the locket’s embrace.

“Sh, there, there,” he cooed at her as he passed his hand through her hair, “I didn’t tell you this to upset you.” Judging by his tone that was exactly what he wanted to achieve.

“How can I not be upset,” she choked out, “when you just told me that all my actions were futile.” A strangled sob escaped her. “That I didn’t achieve a thing. That I wasted nine months of my life thinking I was making you mortal again only to learn that it was never as simple as I thought. That I would have died for nothing.” Her voice cracked and more tears rolled down her cheeks.

He tried to wipe them away.

“But you didn’t die for nothing,” he whispered in her ear. “You learned you are the Mistress of Death and thus immortal until you decide to die and you have chosen to go back to this moment with the shard inside your womb.” He placed one of his ghostly hands on her lower abdomen. “You willingly decided you wanted to keep my soul shard with you, to give it a body of its own, to give birth to my child.”

She let out a sigh of disbelief. “And what good will that do to stop this war?”

“Don’t talk like that, dearest,” he cooed. “Your choice in limbo will do you plenty of good. For one, if you swear never to cause me, myself, and other parts of me any intentional harm, I offer you my protection from my original self as well as any other outside threats until your dying breath. And two, I will vouch for you in front of my original self when you decide to speak with him and if he gets … difficult to reason with.”

“I never wanted to fight,” she whispered with desperation, looking at the horcrux. “I never wanted things to come to this. I just want to live in peace. That’s all I ever wanted peace, love, and family with a couple of friends.”

She closed her eyes and sighed. “But if I stop and back out now, I would feel like I’m letting everyone down … my friends especially. However, I also don’t want to hurt anyone … not even you or rather him.”

“You can have what you want without fighting anyone,” he assured her, caressing her cheek. “Just do as I say and everything should turn out just fine.”

She wasn’t entirely sure if she could trust Voldemort’s soul shard, but he and Death were her only hope right now, so she just let out a resigned sigh and nodded. For that, she received a grin in return.

“Good girl,” he praised her.

She sighed again and relaxed in the locket’s chilly embrace.