Sweat was pouring down his face, his body aching with cuts and bruises and the Cruciatus Curse's aftershocks. He was looking in desperation as his friends – those who still were able – were trying to help their reinforcements in whichever way they could.
This was his fault. All of this was his fault. Yes, Voldemort did trick him, but did he actually take a moment to think? Did he take a moment to sit down and consider that Voldemort might not be entirely truthful? He was his sworn enemy after all. He was a homicidal maniac. Double-checking any and all messages, visions and anything else of the sort, one would receive from someone like Voldemort, should be a given, but apparently not for him. He just rushed headfirst into danger, never thinking, and ended up accomplishing nothing other than dragging others down with him.
His gaze locked onto Sirius and Bellatrix, the cousins engaged in a frantic, yet mesmerizing duel; a sight to behold, which quickly turned to horror when Sirius got stunned.
Everything seemed to slow down as Sirius slowly fell towards the Veil behind him. Harry got up and ran, his godfather both inching closer to the Veil and farther away from him. He heard screams and laughter and somewhere, in that horrid mixture of voices, he was sure he heard himself.
Just out of reach, he saw Sirius touch the Veil of Death and the moment he did ghostly hands reached for him, pulling him in. Harry reached him moments later, desperately trying to pull him away, ignoring everything happening around him and that, he realized, was his last mistake, when his hands touched the veil and everything went black.
He regained consciousness seconds, minutes or maybe hours later, his head throbbing a bit as memories of what happened flooded his mind once more.
Voldemort, the ministry, Sirius and Bellatrix, the Veil of Death...it was, to be blunt, a giant clusterfuck and all of it centred around him.
"Shite," he muttered with a sigh, his head cradled in his hands. He then slowly got up to look around, see if he could figure out where he was, where Sirius was. It was very likely that he fell through the Veil of Death with his godfather, but what did that actually mean? Was he dead? Was he somewhere at the crossroads between life and death? Where was Sirius?
He couldn't really tell, because, once he took a moment to look, there was nothing but eternal black. He might as well have just closed his eyes. It felt like he was standing on something solid at least, even if it looked like he was standing on nothing. It didn't matter where he looked – everything was pure blackness.
He took a step forward – at least he thought it was forward – when a sudden voice made his very bones tremble, and he meant that as literally as possible.
"Mr Potter. Why are you here?"
He stopped in his tracks and frantically looked around, but there was still nothing he could make out, not even the faintest of shapes of anything. It was just him, the eternal nothingness and the voice.
"Who are you?" he asked, hating how unsteady his voice was. "Where am I? Where's Sirius?"
For the first time since he arrived, he could make out something in front of him and it made him take a step backwards. It was big, really big. Thin, sickly so, and easily twice his size, probably a bit more. It walked towards him in slow, deliberate steps and once it was right in front of him, it stopped.
"I see. You do not know where you are, even when you allowed yourself to be dragged into my realm, into the Afterlife."
Harry's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets when the words sunk in, even when he knew it was a possibility. He was actually, truly dead. His life was over. He felt a bit bad but...if he was honest, a bit of relief did wash over him. Wasn't his life just a huge pile of problems after problems after problems? Wasn't he constantly straddling the line between life and death? It probably wouldn't be too bad. He might even see his parents again.
"I do not think so, Mr Potter," the figure said, its voice rattling his very skull. "Your time has not come yet."
"You can...read my mind?" That was kind of bollocks, if he may be so frank.
"I do not need to read your thoughts for your thoughts are as open to me as if you spoke them yourself."
Great. "Are you...you know, are you Death? What did you mean when you said 'your time has not come yet'?"
"I am Death, indeed. And is it not obvious? You died too soon, Mr Potter."
He would have laughed if it wasn't such a completely ludicrous notion but, somehow, still so unbelievably typical of him that he even managed to mess up his own death. I can't even die right. "What about Sirius? Was it his time? And what does it mean for me that I died...too soon?"
"Mr Black died as and when he was supposed to. His soul is on its way to the Eternal Wheel, awaiting its return to life. As for you...your case is a bit more complicated, I am afraid."
"Yep, that's me." He couldn't help the snark, even when he was standing in front of Death itself, even when his throat choked up because Sirius...Sirius died for his stupidity. The guilt in the pit of his stomach solidified and he just wanted to sit down and cry.
"Indeed. The dice of Life and Fate did not roll in your favour, did they?" A chuckle escaped Death and Harry felt as if space itself was vibrating, pulverizing his bones. "I have to send you back, Mr Potter."
He groaned. No time to grief, it seemed. Bloody great. The Boy Who Lived Part 2. Just kill me now.
"You are already dead, Mr Potter. There is no reason to kill you again."
He wasn't sure if Death made a joke or not, so he just opted to ignore it. "So...you send me back? What does that mean for me? Do I just get thrown out of the Veil?"
"No, Mr Potter. The pathway to my realm is a one-way-trip I am afraid. Only I, Life and Fate have the power to send someone back. But heed my advice, Mr Potter," Death said as its voice suddenly grew menacing, the faceless figure towering over him, "use this second opportunity wisely because if you do not...if you squander your life again, as you have just before, we will not have a repeat of this friendly chat."
Harry gulped audibly, staring at the silhouette before he got a bit angry at Death and his past life. "What...what do you want me to change? What was I supposed to do?! I didn't know anything! No one ever told me anything, explained anything! I wasn't prepared for anything!"
"Have you not made any mistakes?"
Deflating again, Harry's mind returned to Sirius, making him sigh, the guilt still sitting heavily in his stomach. "I guess...I could think a bit before acting?"
"Mr Potter," Death began, "I am of the mind that a change of perspectives might be more beneficial for you."
"What does that mean?" Harry asked, his brows furrowed in confusion.
"A change of perspective, a different point of view, a different angle." The silhouette of a thin and bony hand appeared in the blackness and Harry could just barely make out small things whirling wildly on its palm. "My dice will decide under which circumstances you will be returned to life."
"Wha-what do you mean?" Harry asked, a bit of panic creeping into his voice. "Why can't I just be returned into the ministry?"
"That is, of course, a possibility, albeit a small one," Death mused. "You could also be returned to your mother's womb, or to the day you experienced your first bout of accidental magic. You could return as another magical child who ends up befriending Harry Potter or you could return as Harry Potter's sibling...possibilities I would prefer for perspective reasons."
Gaping openly now, Harry tried to process the implications of what Death said. "But-how? Why?!"
"Reality has infinite layers, Mr Potter. In the grand, cosmic scheme of things, even the biggest changes are microscopic at best. When you are returned to life, your previous life will just be rewritten up to the point of your return and the rest – in case you return prior to your death – will be erased. As easy as that, nothing special."
Sure, delete reality. No big deal.
"But," Death continued, "one thing will stay the same. Your Fate is bound to Tom Marvolo Riddle's. I will allow you to keep your memories of your past life so you have a bigger chance not to die too soon, a small nudge in the right direction if you will. Whether you return as Harry Potter or not, you will face Mr Riddle again. You will either kill him yourself as Harry Potter or you will help the new reality's Harry Potter to do so."
"But I am Harry Potter!" Harry insisted.
"Your named body is a mere technicality, not a requirement tied to your fate."
"Bu-but how can I be someone else other than myself?!"
"Again, Mr Potter, it is not a guarantee that you will return in a different body. And, again, a different body means a different perspective, which might be a possible edge for you. Are you ready to return?"
"No!" He was so not ready.
"Regardless." Death closed its hand around the things on its palm-its dice maybe-before opening its hand again, a sudden blinding light shining from those things, illuminating the blackness, before its voice rattled his bones one last time. "Good luck, Soul #39772066449276848."
He woke up with a gasp, jerking upright and hitting his head on something. Tears immediately collected in his eyes at the pain as he clutched his forehead.
"You okay, Rosie?"
He was startled at the voice and movement coming from next to him. A single light bulb above him was turned on and gave him vision, which he now found really regrettable.
He was in the cupboard again.
He turned around towards the voice and nearly shrieked. He was looking at himself! Literally! No mirror but he – Harry Potter – right next to him, green eyes, untameable black hair and all that jazz!
He could feel a headache rapidly approaching and it wasn't from when he hit his forehead against the stupid stairs above him. What was-? Yes. He died, he remembered. Veil of Death, ministry, fifth year, Death. Yes, the literal personification of Death. Death, the giant bloke. Death did it. Or its dice did it. Death actually went through with this randomization and, well, congratulations. A new perspective, indeed.
He looked at himself again and it was the weirdest thing he ever did. He looked at his concerned self from…around five or six years ago, if he had to take a guess.
"I'm fine," he said and his voice sounded weirdly high pitched, even for his age.
"You sure?" Harry...the other Harry asked. What was he called earlier?
Something...Ro...Rosie. Probably a nickname for Rose. Rose was a girl's name.
Please don't tell me…
He carefully squeezed his legs together and…
Yes. There was nothing.
"Do you have to go to the loo?" He-Harry asked him – apparently now her.
"Yeah," he-she squeaked out while trying not to scream. Why did these things keep happening to him?! He didn't even know how to be a girl! If reincarnation was an actual thing and was not gender-limited, then why couldn't Death provide him with memories of a past life when he was a girl?! Stupid dice, stupid random resurrection/reincarnation/rebirth/whatever it was called.
"There's something else, isn't there?" The other Harry – or just Harry, since he wasn't Harry anymore – asked. "We aren't twins for nothing. I can tell."
Stomping steps coming down the stairs interrupted him-her before the door to the cupboard was yanked open and he-she-and then the-other-reality-Harry were dragged out, a smell of colour hitting them almost violently. Ha-Rose remembered Petunia dying h-her old school clothing grey, which meant...Hogwarts letters.
"Go wash up, prepare breakfast and be on your very best behaviour, or so help me," Petunia all but hissed at them
She then left to dote over her fat pudding of a son or something, leaving Harry – this was so weird and he had no clue how he was supposed to get used to this – and him-her to do as she asked.
"Go ahead, you said you had to use to the loo."
Smiling at...Harry, he-SHE did just so and quickly went to the bathroom before closing the door behind hi-HERself. Not wasting any time, he-shE looked at the mirror and gasped.
Rose, or Rosie, was basically a miniature Lily Potter. Same hair, same eyes, even the face was how he imagined her to look like at that age.
This was all way too complicated, way too much. He...ugh, she could have eventually dealt with being another bloke, but this? H-She was her own twin sister. How was he supposed to be a girl? How was he supposed to deal with having...that every month? How was he supposed to deal with growing breasts and how was he supposed to be a girl?
A groan escaped h-her and h-her legs squeezed automatically together at the sudden pressure from the bladder. Without thinking, h-she pulled down pants and underwear and stood in front of the toilet, about to relax and ready to go, before h-her eyes popped wide open when there was nothing to grab for...aiming purposes and h-she quickly sat down, feeling h-her-face heat up. A sigh escaped her as she felt the trickle down there. Elbows resting on her thighs and head on her hands, a desperate half-sob-half-chuckle escaped her.
A bloody disaster. She even had to get used to a different way to pee.
Once done she remained seated for a moment as another realization hit. She glanced at the toilet paper and then between her legs and groaned. Not even a day.
With a furious blush, Ha-Rose arrived in the kitchen, her brother Harry busy with the bacon. She walked up to him, touching him on his arm.
"Go wash up, I'll take over."
He nodded in thanks and left for the bathroom, Rose ignoring the Dursleys while trying to listen for the mail's arrival. It didn't take long for the telltale sound of the mail-slot to be heard.
"I'll get the mail, Aunt Petunia," Rose said, making her way to the door. Once in the hallway, Rose quickly made for the mail, sifting through them and-
Yes, Hogwarts' invitation for Harry J. Potter and Rose L. Potter.
Without thinking, she stuffed both letters into the waistband of her knickers, and went back to the kitchen, face a perfect picture of innocence.
The rest of the breakfast went off without a hitch, Dudley soon after going outside to play with his friends, Vernon leaving for work and Petunia doing something, forcing Harry and Rose to stay with Figg. Rose remembered that lady to be a squib. Safe space to open the letters.
Rose pulled Harry aside in Figg's living room, the woman busy in the kitchen, leaving them to watch TV, and handed Harry his letter.
"What's that?" He asked her.
"I don't know, but I didn't want Vernon to take them away or something," she said. "Look at how they are addressed."
Harry did just that and, curiously, opened the letter, eyes widening with every word and every sentence. The wonder on his face brought a touch of nostalgia and hurt. She knew exactly what this Harry was feeling because she was him once before. The wonder, the excitement. Someone out there was interested in him, someone out there knew about him, someone out there cared. For the first time in his life, this Harry felt not invisible or irrelevant. For the first time in his life, this Harry felt hope.
Blinking away tears threatening to spill – was that a girl thing or did she really feel so bad for this Harry/her old self that she was about to cry? – she opened her own letter.
"Rosie! I-is this real? Do you think-do you think this is real?"
Before she could answer, Mrs Figg returned to the living room and saw them with their letters in their hands. "Oh dear!" The woman smiled at them, about as excited as this Harry looked. "You received your Hogwarts letters already!"
Harry looked confused for a moment before the implications of that sentence sunk in. "You knew about this, Mrs Figg? Does that mean you are...you know?"
"Oh no, my dear," the woman waved him off. "But, I think it is time for a call."
She then proceeded to take a pinch of powder from a bowl near her fireplace, which was burning in the middle of summer but that woman was always weird, so neither this Harry nor Rose questioned her as Rose didn't when she was Harry in her old life. Mrs Figg then tossed the powder into the fireplace and stuck her head into the green flames, Harry's expression one of pure shock and Rose had to do her best to look equally as shocked as this Harry did instead of giggling. She was almost looking forward to seeing this Harry experience all the...magical aspects of life for the first time.
Maybe this whole new perspective thing wasn't all that bad. Even if she had to be a girl for it.