An unbeatable wand, a stone of resurrection, and a cloak of invisibility. Three items, individually powerful, best known for their combined power to imbue their master with the powers of death itself.
Harry Potter had never sought to master death. He walked to his death that day with no hope of ever journeying back. He had chosen to sacrifice himself and when the time came he greeted death like an old friend. And yet, whether by fate, miracle, or happenstance, he returned to the world of the living.
Later, as he stood across Voldemort's corpse, two wands - neither his own - in his hands, Harry dared dream that he had finally found some peace, unfamiliar a concept as it was. But it was not to be. Reality came crashing down, and with it the crushing realization that he was alone. The casualties of the battle were great, and among them was the family he had made for himself over the past seven years. There was no peace to be found.
And though he could not bear to face it - had locked the thought away and threw away the key, Death had marked him that day. And Death would not allow its chosen Master to remain ignorant for long. Nor would it suffer him to waste away, in his misery and self-imposed exile, in the aftermath of the battle. Wizarding Britain had been freed, and as its saviour and as the Master of Death, Harry Potter would also be freed of the chains that bind.
The unmissable smell of car exhausts, the stench of garbage, and an unpleasant herbal aroma. Those odours and many more were the first to greet him, before he even felt the hard pavement he was sprawled on. As his eyelids flickered open, he took in the sprawling skyline of steel and glass and concrete reaching into a cloudless blue sky. Alarmed, and needing to take in more of his surroundings, he tried to sit up, groaning as his stiff limbs put up a fight. He found himself sprawled at the entrance of an alley, between two large concrete buildings in what seemed to be a modern city. Looking around he also noted the garbage bags filled to the brim, the puddles of what he hoped were just water, the broken crates, empty barrels, and litter scattered around.
Dulled senses slowly coming to life, he then noticed the steady stream of people walking around. Men and women, unquestionably muggles, going about their day and seemingly oblivious to the teenager with black hair, striking green eyes, and a lightning bolt scar, sprawled on the ground just a few feet away.
Harry Potter was beginning to panic as he took in his strange situation. He was alone in a strange city, had seemingly been unconscious, and - as he jolted up and started searching his person & his immediate surroundings - he was without his wand.
A wizard without a wand was incredibly vulnerable and, having just survived a war, Harry was not someone who could allow himself to be vulnerable. Increasingly unnerved as he wrapped his head around the strange situation he was in, he desperately wished he had his wand on him. The desperation he felt was not in vain though, as in that moment he saw a wand appear in his hand with a swirl of darkness. It was a wand he was well acquainted with, one with a tragic and destructive history. It should have been broken and buried in the woods where he left it, but here it was in his hands after only a prayer in the wind.
"What the bloody hell is happening…" Harry muttered. He had so many questions. Where was he? How did he get there? And though he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer, he had another question - why was the Elder Wand in his hand?
It defied all sense that he could have somehow summoned the wand to his hand with only a thought. And why the elder wand, rather than his own wand? Why not the phoenix feather and holly wand that he carried on him at all times?
With a grunt, Harry picked himself up and got to his feet. With another glance at the people walking obliviously past, he took a few steps back deeper into the alley & raised the wand, flicking it skyward.
“Cave inimicum,” he incanted, casting a protective charm that kept himself hidden from the view of those outside its area. He followed it up with a muggle-repelling charm as well. The spells weren’t difficult, he’d certainly used them enough over the past year while on the run, but they seemed to be particularly easy to cast in this instance. His magic seemed to surge through the elder wand with no effort on his part. Something about the wand also seemed different. In an aborted thought, he almost described it as feeling… pleased?
Shaking his head and choosing to ignore the peculiarities of the wand, he pushed through and started casting. A few spells later, Harry discerned that he was in New York City, in an area called Manhattan. It was apparently August 1st, 2017 - the day after his birthday - and given that his reflection on a conjured mirror still showed the same young face staring back at him, he could only conclude that he was either hallucinating or in another time. The possibility of another world hadn’t even occurred to the seventeen year old wizard yet – after all, even magic had its limits... wizarding magic at least.
Taking a deep breath, Harry took down the privacy ward, and walked out of the alley. He joined the crowd of muggles and let his feet take him to places unknown. He knew he should be rushing back home, but he felt a strangely powerful sense of wrongness at the idea of going back to England. The feeling confused him, it seemed to have come out of nowhere, but he supposed it did make a small amount of sense. What awaited him there except an empty house, besieged by owls from those who sought his time and attention? Still, after waking up in another continent with no idea of how he got there, he would have thought he’d be more eager to get back home.
Stopping with the crowd at a crosswalk, Harry looked up at the sky, and stared directly at the sun shining so high above. Somehow, the blinding rays felt comforting, a reminder that some things never change. He may be in a foreign city, surrounded by strangers and far from home, but the sun was still the same as ever. It rose, and it set, and it would continue to do so for eons to come.
Looking back down, Harry caught the light turning green, and took that as his signal to follow the crowd of muggles as they walked across the road.
Several kilometres and short stops later Harry found himself in a part of the city filled with skyscrapers. Gone were the familiar multi-story buildings of brick and concrete, he was now in the heart of the metal jungle. And, he suddenly realised, he was hungry.
Almost on cue, his stomach rumbled.
Make that very hungry.
Picking the nearest place to eat, Harry found himself in a quaint café the name of which he'd already forgotten. The place had a cosy atmosphere, and he felt his shoulders relax a little bit at the friendly vibe & the rich, almost overpowering scent of coffee. He queued up behind a muggle businessman, third in line, and used the short wait to read the menu scrawled in chalk, in endearingly cramped handwriting on a black board above the counter. He'd seen some cafes in Surrey and London the few times he'd had the chance to explore, or on occasions where aunt Petunia dragged him with her on an errand. This place was not unlike those, but much like the world outside, there were differences that made him feel a little out of time.
When exploring the city earlier, Harry couldn't help but note the sleek architecture, and the widespread use of muggle technology - like those screens that decorated every skyscraper - and the little devices in peoples' hands. He was sure they were phones, based on the fact that people were sometimes holding them to their ears and having conversations, but they were certainly much more advanced than bulky things used in 1997. Even the café's counter was equipped with some sort of screen that appeared to respond to the cashier's finger presses.
He'd got his hands on some money. A confundus charm on a muggle gave him the chance to borrow a few bills and use a duplicating charm on them, producing a few hundred dollars in mixed bills. He could never dare to do that in the wizarding world, it would have been instantly noticeable that he was paying with worthless duplicates.
But in the muggle world. Well…
The girl at the counter took his order of a scone, a turkey sandwich, and a cup of tea, and seemingly noticed nothing wrong with his money. He found himself a seat in a comfy little armchair in the corner, where he settled down to sate his hunger. The sandwich was quite good but the scone was strange and the tea tasted bland & watery. He supposed he should’ve known better than ordering a cup of tea in a place that specialised in coffee.
As he ate, Harry tried to get his wits together. He knew he was somehow twenty one years forward in time, in a country he knew very little about besides what little history and culture he had gleaned from some lessons in years one to six of muggle school, before he went to Hogwarts. Thankfully, there was no language barrier to complicate things further.
First order of business, he supposed, was to find the Wizarding World in this part of the world. Either Ron or Hermione, and damn if his heart didn’t clench at the thought of them, had previously suggested going to MACUSA to get their help in dealing with Voldemort. The idea ended up being discarded for various reasons, but it did lead to Harry learning more about the Wizarding community this side of the pond.
MACUSA was based in the Woolworth's building. He had no idea where that was, but it couldn't be too hard to find.
Maybe he could ask a muggle?
Settling on that path of action, Harry frowned as he considered his other dilemma. How was he supposed to get back to his time? The only time turners he saw were quite limited in how far they could go back or forward. He didn't even remember being anywhere near a time turner before waking up here, he-
What did happen before he woke up in this place?
He… He couldn't remember…
Putting down his cup of tea, Harry clutched his head as a dull pain made itself known. He tried as hard as he could to remember what happened before he woke up, but nothing came up. He vaguely remembered the last few days, but there was nothing strange about them. He'd just followed his normal routine. Unless he'd been snatched out of time from his bed in Grimmauld Place, something happened after he went to sleep; and something was keeping him from remembering just what happened.
It was his birthday yesterday, wasn’t it? Harry tried to remember what he did to celebrate, or if he even celebrated, but was distracted as the pain got worse. Wincing, Harry tried to clear his thoughts. Since he got rid of the horcrux in his head, he was better at occlumency than before, good at it even. He had to be, for his own mental health. Taking deep breaths, he spent a few minutes trying to shove away his questions about the gap in his memory.
"Are you okay?"
Harry looked up, startled.
"Is it a migraine? I've got some painkillers in my pill box if you need anything." the stranger said, sounding worried. He was a pale old man, with brushed back grey hair and a distinctive pair of sunglasses on. He was leaning down slightly, standing quite close, looking over Harry with an almost fatherly gaze.
Harry shook his head, pain receding as he brushed away all his questions. He was touched by the strangers concern. "I'm fine…" he breathed out quietly. He cleared his throat and continued, "Thank you for the concern though, I appreciate the sentiment."
The old man stood up straighter and took a few steps back. "It's no problem kid, glad you're okay." He half turned to walk away before stopping and turning back. "Where ya from kid? My old ears aren't what they used to be but I know that's not an American accent."
Oh dear. Harry hoped the elderly man wasn't planning to stick around to chat.
"I'm from England," he answered politely.
"Are you here with family? Tourists?"
"No I'm here alone."
At this the man frowned, and Harry really wanted to smack himself. Why would he tell the guy he was alone? That was just asking for him to ask more questions, and he was not in the mood to share with an unknown muggle.
"Wait. You're here in New York alone? How old are you? Please tell me you're eighteen," the old man was almost pleading at the end, and Harry would have been touched if he wasn't annoyed about the whole situation.
"Yes I'm eighteen," he answered slowly, trying to think of a way to keep this 'good Samaritan' from prying further. "I finished school and decided to travel before starting university. This city is my first stop."
The old man seemed to relax a little.
"Ah, taking a gap year! That's good, that's good. My great niece did that, but she went over to your side and did her gap year in Europe! Said it was a fantastic experience."
Harry made small talk with the man about the girls' adventures in Europe, as he finished his almost forgotten cup of tea. When the conversation started to wrap up, he stood up and started gathering his rubbish, dumping it in the rubbish bin when done.
As he made to leave, he thanked the man for the conversation and said his goodbyes. He was walking out when a stray thought came to mind. He stopped walking, and turned back to the old man.
"I can't believe how rude I've been, we've been talking for five minutes and I've never introduced myself. I'm Harry Potter, it was nice to meet you."
The old man smiled. "Nice to meet you too! The name's Gary."
Harry smiled back, before walking out of the café and picking a random street to walk down, and subtly casting a notice-me-not spell with his wand up his right sleeve. When he felt the spell take, he took out the Elder Wand and held it flat in his hand.
"Point me Woolworth building".
There was nothing there.
Harry looked the massive building up and down for what felt like the hundredth time. He'd been standing outside it for half an hour, but try as he might he couldn't find the owl that should have been carved into the building.
He thought it was supposed to be over the entrance, but he could neither see it nor sense any magic in the area. The displaced wizard tried looking all around the building for any signs of an entrance for wizards, he'd tried looking inside the building as well, but it was all so decidedly muggle.
It was at this point that Harry begrudgingly thought returning to England was his best bet. And again, there was as strong sense of wrongness, like a whisper in the wind screaming at him not to. So, before he resorted to that, he thought of another option. It was reckless, improbably stupid, but it would probably work. Harry set his eyes on what appeared to a mobile phone shop located in the side of the Woolworth building.
Harry disillusioned himself - just in case - and walked into the store, looking at the… what? - ten? twelve? people there with some trepidation. It really was a reckless idea, and if Hermione were around she'd curse him to hell and back for it. But she wasn't there, and he was feeling decidedly wild, so he squared his shoulders and went for it.
First he cast two protection charms over the store, keeping muggles outside from noticing anything, and sealing the doors of the shop. Then, thinking of his happiest memories, he cast his third spell.
At once his patronus materialised out of his wand, in a bright ball of light that quickly morphed into a dazzling, silver, ethereal stag. Harry grinned as he felt a wave of happiness rush through him from the magic of his patronus.
Other people in the store were not so thrilled. There was a startled scream from the woman closest to Prongs, as a stag made of light suddenly appeared next to her. The other muggles quickly turned to see the source of the panic, and they too were shocked.
Prongs started galloping around the store, making contact with some of the muggles, causing some of them to scream. It seemed that even the positive feelings induced by a patronus were no match for the fear and confusion muggles felt at seeing the impossible. Chaos had erupted as the muggles struggled to comprehend what they were seeing and some of them made for the exit only to realise they were trapped.
A minute later, Harry cancelled the spell and let Prongs return to his wand. He walked to the wall to his left and leaned on it, ignoring the muggles. Now it was a waiting game.
Harry almost growled in frustration. Why had no American aurors arrived? Surely they'd have detected magic used around muggles? They certainly couldn't ignore such a breach of the statute of secrecy, no matter where they were in the city or state. He knew the protection charms he used couldn’t possibly prevent magical law enforcement from detecting his magic.
Thinking about the implications, Harry gave a sigh and decided to at least clean up the mess in front of him. A few minutes later, all the muggles had been obliviated of their most recent memories, and were left blissfully unaware. He took down the protection charms, and walked out of the store in a bad mood at his realisation.
Something was terribly wrong. New York was one of the central magical strongholds in the USA, it didn't bode well that he was unable to find their seat of congress, and that no one had arrived to deal with his flagrant use of magic.
All of this meant one thing; he had to go back to England.
"Well, no use delaying it any further," Harry muttered, ignoring the terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach - one that had begun the moment he didn't see the owl over the building's entrance and only intensified over time. Harry gathered his magic and with a quick twist, he apparated across the Atlantic ocean.
Harry dropped to his knees, winded from the weight of the day's revelations. He clenched his fists, and pounded them on the bricked pavement outside what should have been number twelve Grimmauld Place. He choked out a cry as he tried to hold back the flood of tears.
The Ministry of Magic. The Leaky Cauldron. Diagon Alley. Hogsmeade. Hogwarts. St Ottery's Catchpole. Godric's Hollow. Grimmauld Place.
It was all gone.
Magic was gone.
Even two decades couldn't possibly wipe out the Wizarding World without a trace. Harry didn't know what this world was, but he knew it wasn't his own.
He was alone.