Harry stood next to his friends at a very familiar place, staring at an equally familiar train. Fond memories swirled in his mind and danced before his eyes: finally escaping from the Dursleys after long, long summers, going back to his only home. Meeting Ron and Hermione again, often after scarce correspondence.
There were some differences, however, starting with the additions to the people who surrounded him. Hermione wasn’t already dressed in her school robes reading a book, but conversing with Andromeda Tonks, for one, and Ron wasn’t excitedly sharing sweets with him, but grinning madly at three of his nephews, while his eldest niece Victoire rolled her eyes at the ‘motivational speech’ her cousins and sister were receiving. It was supposed to ‘make sure they all landed in Gryffindor right away’.
Harry sighed fondly at the Weasley clan’s antics, but he also had speeches to deliver. Namely, to one Edward ‘Ted’ Lupin right in front of him, clasping a smaller figure’s shoulders.
“Teddy, remember what I said,” he began. “Make sure he doesn't get in trouble, alright?”
“Oh come on, dad! I won't!” James protested petulantly, crossing his arms. “I’m older now, I’ll get in Hogwarts. Can't you trust me for once?”
“It’s because you're about to get in Hogwarts that I’m not trusting you, James,” The Deputy Head Auror said, exasperation in his voice. “Stuff from Uncle George’s shop is forbidden, no sneaking out after curfew, no badmouthing Snape if you stumble upon his portrait-“
“Uncle Harry,” his teenaged godson interrupted with a smile. His hair was a more natural shade for once, a dark blond, but his eyes were a flashy orange. “Don't worry so much. Besides, a little birdie has told me that you used to get in lots of trouble during your Hogwarts years.”
“Oi, stop conspiring against me, you two,” Harry grumbled, a flush creeping up his neck. “That is not the point. You really don't want to face Headmistress McGonagall’s wrath, James. She’s got claws.”
Teddy choked in sudden laughter, while the eleven year old looked at them in confusion. He’d get the joke in a few days’ time, Harry thought.
“Dad, dad!” A higher voice called him, and the man who used to be the Boy-Who-Lived turned around to see long, ginger hair and three children. “Mum bought muggle soda for Hugo, Rose and I. Do you want some?”
Harry chuckled, accepting a red can from his middle son and taking a sip. “She did?” The drink returned to young fingers, and his niece Rose nodded.
“Yes, but I had to help. Aunt Ginny almost hexed the vending machine open when she thought it kept her change,” she explained, acting like a cultural bridge like her mother and Harry himself often found themselves doing in their youth.
“It’s not my fault they don't come with instructions,” his ex-wife jokingly complained, arms crossed in a grumpy gesture so similar to her son’s.
The following minutes were spent with James complaining about not getting his own can of Coca-Cola, and his brother shooting back that he got to attend Hogwarts instead. Harry shook his head. “Did your mum send a Patronus yet?”
“Yes. Lily’s still got a fever. …you don't mind if she stays at the Burrow for a few more days, do you? I told her that too much ice cream would give her a cold, I should have placed a locking charm in the freezer-“
“Gin, it’s okay, really,” Harry assured her. “She loves it in there, and Albus and I can wait a few days, can't we?”
Lots of things could have gone wrong when Harry and Ginny got divorced, all things considered. They could have ended up hating each other, hurting their children’s feelings, fighting endlessly over custody or what belonged to whom. Against all odds, they stayed in more than good terms and raised their children showing a united front. Harry liked to think that he’d lost a wife, but got regained a close friend.
Some people asked them why they didn't remarry already, but things were never that simple. Sometimes, relationships like theirs, since Hogwarts, worked. Sometimes they didn't, and that was okay.
“Have you talked to your cousin yet?” Ginny’s voice brought him out of his thoughts. Harry sighed.
“No, not yet. I think I will go for a visit sometime soon, but not here. Not now.” It had been a shock to find one Dudley Dursley at platform 9¾ with his wife and eldest daughter, one he wasn’t ready to tackle just yet. Harry as all about family, but when it came to the Dursleys, he was fairly reluctant to approach them outside of typical, obligatory holiday meetings.
Ginny looked like she was about to say something, but a loud voice called for all students to get on the train. Both parents hugged James tightly in farewell, and he had the faintest dusting of pink on his cheeks at the public display of parental affection.
The last thing Teddy Lupin did before closing his train compartment window was to offer them a mock-salute and a grin.
Harry, Ginny and Albus were taking a walk around Godric’s Hollow. The two adults were discussing the unexpected newcomer at King’s Cross, while their middle son busied himself with his pet ferret, trunk with his belongings already at Harry’s house.
When little Albus had said the previous year that he wanted a ferret, Harry had chortled into his fist, while Ron guffawed loudly and then suggested they get one and name it ‘Malfoy’. That afternoon had been filled with Ginny and the ‘Golden Trio’ reminiscing funny stories of their time at Hogwarts, to five very young people’s delight and attentiveness.
Ultimately, the poor animal hadn't been named after a pureblood family name, but ‘Pluizig’. Another trait of Ginny’s that had passed over to their children was her knack for terrible names, it seemed. ‘I’ll remind you that Dumbledore’s Army was my idea and everyone seemed okay with that name!’ she defended, indignant, whenever Harry brought it up.
"Are you sure you’re alright with this?” Ginny asked, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “We both know how the Dursleys affected you. We have been visiting for the kids’ sake, but you don't have to talk to that git if you don't want to.”
“Gin… I have to. He’s… he’s my cousin, and I still remember how my uncle and aunt reacted when they got my Hogwarts letter. He might have managed a quick trip to Diagon, but…” Harry was rambling at this point, and he messed with his fringe to cover his scar, a nervous habit he hadn't grown out of. “Look. I can tell he loves that child to death, but there’s just so much he doesn't know. He doesn't know that accidental magic will most likely have stopped by the first Christmas break but can come back if she’s angry, he doesn't know about magical growth spurts, anything about the Ministry… he will not like it, I will not like it, but there’s stuff he needs to understand if we want my niece to be happy.”
“I know that, Harry. I just don't like the idea of you having a friendly chat with him, who was raised as a bigot, on how to deal with his magical daughter.” The once Potter shook her head, lips pressed into a thin line.
“To be honest? I’m surprised my mum’s magical genes survived Uncle Vernon’s DNA,” Harry attempted to joke, which earned him a light chuckle. “I’ll be alright. He’s behaved okay so far since the… since the war, and… Besides. D’you know who else was raised as a bigot? Malfoy. And he turned out to be decent at the end, didn't he?”
“…well, I still think he’s a prat. But he’s a tolerable prat,” Ginny snorted. “Don't tell Ron I said that, though – he’d never let me live it down.”
Harry smirked at the remark, relaxing a little. His aunt, uncle and cousin were still a somewhat awkward subject for him, but the knowledge that now he had a tightly knit group of friends, other blood relatives, and his children to brighten up his days, made any problems easier to deal with.
“Dad!” Ah. Speaking of his children, Al had been walking ahead, with his ferret draped over his left shoulder and clutching on to his neck and shirt for dear life. He was near the village’s small cemetery, and Harry frowned at the route they’d unintentionally taken in their stroll. As they walked closer, the nine year old’s voice got significantly quiet. “Dad, there’s… someone crying in front of that man’s headstone.”
Harry didn't need to be given a name or a title to know who the man in question was. Albus didn't know the details, only that there was an evil Dark Lord whom his dad defeated during war, and he was the reason why he had two grandparents instead of four, everyone but especially his dad, uncle George and grandma Molly got that haunted look in their eyes sometimes, and there was a grave in the cemetery that no one brought flowers to and was separated from the rest.
Lord Voldemort was buried quietly. Ironically enough, it was members of the Light who organised it – the Dark had lost, and all families that were loyal to the late Dark Lord were busy trying to keep their close relatives, or themselves, out of Azkaban for war crimes. They could not leave the serpentine man’s body there to rot, in the Great Hall of Hogwarts: it was simply not humane, no matter who he had once been and what he had done.
It was decided that he’d be buried at Godric’s Hollow, place of his first downfall, and where the war memorials were. There was something poetic about it, but it was lost on the raw sobriety of the event. People were numb, grieving their dead and recovering both physically and mentally, and they were going to place the man who started it all six feet underground. It gave some a sense of closure, but others felt that he did not deserve this dignity. There was no funeral, or at least a proper one: just a small gathering of people with their chests hollowed out by battle, watching as a modest wooden coffin was lowered to the ground and their nightmare ended for good.
Who could possibly be mourning this man, enough to shed tears before his grave? Harry frowned, quickening his steps. A former Death Eater, perhaps? Two of the lesser ones had recently ended their time in Azkaban, he knew.
His position as Deputy Head Auror would mean nothing if this was, in fact, a criminal who had already paid for their actions. Despite this, he felt it was his duty to at least see who this person was: curiosity aside, it was always a wise move to keep an eye on possible future trouble.
The figure in front of Lord Voldemort’s headstone was tall, and wore outer wizarding robes, although Harry could make out the hem of a pair of trousers where the garment ended. They were giving him their back, but it was obvious that this person (a man, most likely, judging by the broad shoulders and the style of his robes) was barely holding it together. His stance was hunched, gripping his knee with one hand and seemingly, his chest with the other. He appeared to be hyperventilating by the rising and falling of his shoulders, on the verge of a panic attack, and at that moment Harry did not care who this man might be, or why he was bordering hysteria while standing on the mortal remains of his once arch-nemesis.
He only saw a person in a vulnerable position. His instincts (or perhaps the hero complex some accused him of having) screamed at him to do something about it.
Harry entered the cemetery quietly, Ginny and Albus following him. The mystery man was mere metres away from them, and something felt off. He looked at his ex-wife for confirmation, and her frown spoke louder than words. There was something familiar about him-
His legs wobbled, his head lolled back, and Harry ran. He sprinted towards the stranger and grabbed him by the armpits before he could hit the ground, or worse, break his neck against another headstone.
Just like that, the once known as Boy-Who-Lived found himself with an armful of a very unconscious man.
A very unconscious man with familiar raven hair so similar to his own, familiar nose, familiar jaw, familiar eyes whose colour Harry knew despite them being closed, familiar pale, pale skin and hollow cheeks
What was one supposed to do with an unconscious young Voldemort slack in one’s arms?
“…Gin. Gin, please tell me I’m not going mad.”
The redhead had gone very still, frozen like a statue in a way he hadn't seen her since she was a little girl. She gripped their son’s hand protectively, and her freckled face was pale. “We must both be barking mad, because… because I recognize him too. H-how? He was supposed to be-“
“I know,” Harry whispered, trying to calm down. “I know, maybe- maybe time travel, or- please, please don't let it be necromancy, that-“
“Maybe it's not him, maybe- no, Polyjuice doesn't work with material from a dead person,” she was shifting her weight from one foot to the other, resisting the urge to pace around. “Harry, what do we do now? Call the old members of the Order and the DA?”
Ginny was uncharacteristically nervous, which was understandable, since they were in presence of the man who had possessed her for almost a year, and he was looking the part. At least he resembled his teenager self far more than his serpentine construct could ever hope to, despite him looking like he was in his late twenties at the very least.
(It was unsettling to see her like this. She usually was so sure of herself, stomping her way into the unknown with her contagious energy.)
Harry took a deep breath. "I'll bring him home, ask a few questions, and then I’ll send a Patronus to the others.” At his ex-wife’s horrified look, he sighed. “You know I can create wards that would put the Auror Interrogation Room’s to shame. It will be fine.”
"I'm sure he could escape from blo- from Azkaban if he wanted to,” Ginny pointed out, getting a hold of her language in time.
“Mum? What is going on, who is this fellow?”
Harry froze, having forgotten, unlike his ex-wife, that young Albus was still there. There was something of far more importance that needed to be taken care of before anything else. “I’m sorry, Al. You will need to go with mum somewhere else, alright? This is… someone from my work.” Well, that wasn’t a lie. His job technically consisted on imprisoning people like the man slack on his arms.
“One of the bad guys?” He asked, with a hint of the same innocence he displayed when he played ‘Aurors and Dark Lords’ with his brother a few years back.
"…kind of.” He looked at his worried friend, begging for her to oblige with his eyes. “Gin, please. I can handle this.”
“Now is not the best of times to pull the puppy eyes card on me, Harry,” she grumbled with far less seriousness than she intended, minutely distracted from the tension in the air. “…alright, but I will be coming back. I’m not leaving you alone with him of all people.”
Harry pulled out his wand and muttered “Incarcerous” at the limp form of Tom Riddle, as Ginny side-disapparated their son.
It was only eleven in the morning, and he had never asked for any of this.
If there was one thing Lord Voldemort liked, it was to see his plans fulfilled. He would often obsess over his goals, taking notice of all the things that could go wrong, and ramifications his possible course of action could have. Everything he did was carefully thought out.
…usually. But his temper could be hardly considered a weakness, could it? No, everything crumbled under his power, under his crimson glare, whenever anyone was foolish enough to think they could anger Lord Voldemort and walk away unscathed.
Regardless, the Dark Lord liked to follow through his plans, and most importantly, get feedback on their progress. Confirmation was everything to him.
(He'd had enough of uncertainty in his life. In his childhood, he didn't even know if he’d eat that day. He didn't know if he was worthy if he didn't say it himself. Yes, confirmation, validation, it was everything.)
(Now he was unstoppable. That scrawny orphan was gone. He’d made sure of it.)
Sometimes, he pondered on his choices. He knew that his course of action would take him to greatness – he was already beginning to taste it, sweet ecstasy in his tongue, power so intoxicating it would be so easy to get lost in it – but he wanted to be sure of it. Would his followers, renamed now as Death Eaters, remain faithful? Would he reach his goal of creating six horcruxes, thus having his soul split in the magical number of seven?
The truth was, he couldn't possibly know. Unless he was willing to push the limits of magic, of course.
And Lord Voldemort was no ordinary wizard. He would push and push magic until it broke, and even afterwards. And then he’d reinvent it again.
So, time magic it was. Relatively recent discovery, but nothing he couldn't develop to suit his purposes. He’d put his genius to use once again, and travel to the future to check his progress.
By the time he was in his eighties, he would have surely risen his own empire, right? It was only fitting that he got to witness it personally before he started to build it from its foundations.
The ritual he devised was meant to send him in the general vicinity of his future self. It would give him the opportunity to see himself, while at the same time giving him ample space to hide or run away in case there was risk of a paradox occurring.
That was why it threw him off to appear in a cemetery. Was his older self nearby, mourning someone? Voldemort had promised himself that he would not get attached to anyone, because he knew he could not afford such weakness. Perhaps one of his followers was holding a funeral-
He was alone there.
A rising suspicion made him walk around cautiously, as he assessed his surroundings. The cemetery and its whereabouts were familiar. …yes, he clearly remembered being here before, with Abraxas Malfoy and Edmund Mulciber, to initiate first contact with a vampire clan in neutral territory. Godric’s Hollow, his eidetic memory provided. A small mixed village, with muggles and magical folk coexisting peacefully. Of course, the balance was maintained by a strict policy of keeping magic either indoors or as inconspicuous as possible, and lots of muggle-repelling charms in problematic areas.
The headstones around him had the kind of inscriptions one would expect. ‘In loving memory’, ‘Rest in peace’, ‘An angel returned to Heaven’, ‘A kind mother until the end’. There were others, with the faint shimmer of anti-muggle glamours, that read something significantly more related to the magical world.
‘Died a hero against evil’
‘In the arms of mother Hecate’
‘Hero of the two wars against HWMNBN’
‘Constant vigilance, and wand at the ready’
There had been two wars, and Voldemort doubted the one against Gellert Grindelwald counted. The former Dark Lord was imprisoned with no chance of escape, and the tiny fragments of history he got from the rows of graves spoke of ‘the two wars’. They were bound to be connected in some way, right? What did ‘HWMNBN’ stand for?
Maybe he’d been the one to start them. He had been planning to start a guerrilla movement with his followers for quite some time, so the idea wasn't completely foreign.
(But something felt off. A gut feeling he couldn't possibly ignore.)
Voldemort noticed a grave far from the rest. In some cemeteries, he knew, people who didn't share the territory’s religion were buried aside to respect their beliefs – or as an act of mockery, in some cases.
This was also done to the worst kind of criminals. That practice had become less common, though.
(He didn't want to think about it.)
He walked towards it, curiosity piqued.
(He’d never liked cemeteries.)
His surroundings were unnaturally still, and the late summer breeze did nothing to soothe the chill in his bones. A lump formed in his throat, leaving him breathless like he’d taken a punch to the stomach.
Thomas Marvolo Riddle
No epitaph. No flowers. The stone was more damaged and eroded than the other, older ones. The ones that were even decades older than this one were at least clean and polished. The grass around the one before him looked unkempt.
It was clear no one tended to this grave. No one cared.
He was dead. He was deaddeaddeaddeaddead and no one cared
his horcruxes gone diaryringcuplocket they were supposed to be safe he was supposed to make more how did this even happen he had the diadem already-
(He wasn't aware of the sting in his eyes until tears were rolling down his cheeks. It was the first time he’d cried in more than a decade, and he still couldn't breathe.)
Breathe. It was easy. Breathe. But his corpse lay rotting underground and he wanted to throw up
and close his eyes
(It was the year 2015. Just a skeleton. Seventeen years since his… his…)
Faint footsteps. (He paid no mind, because nothing mattered except the fact that he couldn't breathe and he was dead and the heart he prided himself in ignoring threatened to explode and fly off his mouth and why could he not breathe-)
Everything went black.