Chapter 1: Prologue
Now hear, you blissful powers underground —
answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.
—Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers
All I knew was black.
Was this the black of death? The black of nothingness? Simply the black of the backs of my eyelids?
What was going on? Where was I? I sifted through my fuzzy thoughts, wracking my brain for the last thing I remembered.
Then it hit me.
Bellatrix Lestrange stood over me, eyes bright and dancing with delight, smirking as my screams grew louder and louder.
The curse was unbearable fire in veins, ice splintering into my very soul. But I knew this pain. It was familiar. It was as if my body recognized her magic as it coursed like waves throughout my body.
I guess too many Cruciatus Curses can do that to a witch.
It ended just as quickly as it had begun. I was sprawled on the stone floor of the Great Hall, panting, desperately searching for the breath her curse had stolen. But I refused to let a sob escape my lips this time. No tears would be shed. This was not Malfoy Manor. I was at Hogwarts.
This was my home.
I would not show weakness here.
"Oh my sweet, sweet little Mudblood," Bellatrix taunted. "I was hoping we'd meet again. Did you really think you could beat me with my own wand?"
I felt her walnut wand grow uncomfortably hot beneath me where it had become lodged while I was under her curse. I knew she was right.
She clicked her tongue disapprovingly. "And I thought you were meant to be the clever one." Dimples formed in her sallow cheeks as she smiled sweetly down at me, twirling a new wand between her fingers. The air that had finally found its way back into my lungs vanished once again.
I knew that wand.
She cackled maniacally.
"But it's no matter. When I took care of my dear little niece, she was generous enough to leave me a gift." Her foul breath assaulted my nostrils and her matted hair brushed against my cheek as she bent lower. A whimper escaped my lips, and she leered before whispering triumphantly into my ear, "And this one works just as well as mine ever did."
Oh God, I'm going to be killed with Tonks's wand.
Bubblegum pink swam to the front of my mind. Sweet Tonks, who had become like an older sister to Ginny and me…
"So what are we going to do with you?" she asked slowly as she righted herself, her voice a mocking singsong. "You tried so hard, didn't you? You, that filthy blood traitor Weasley, and precious fucking Potter." She spat Harry's name from her mouth as though the taste of it revolted her.
Tried hard, indeed. We all tried our goddamned hardest, but green jets were flying and bodies were falling all around me. Where were Ginny and Luna? We had been dueling her together, hadn't we?
Why weren't they helping?
I knew the answer before I had even asked. She had killed them quickly—but me? No, with me she wanted to play with her food before eating it.
She cast the curse again. I tried not to shout out. I failed.
"I enjoyed our little chat so much last time," said Bellatrix as if discussing the last time I came round for tea. "But you know, I think the second time will be even better."
Breathless with excitement, she withdrew a dagger from the front of her robes near her breast. Even in my addled state, I couldn't help but wonder how she kept a cursed knife in such a precarious location. It was identical to the one that had taken Dobby's life, and I gasped as my forearm throbbed.
The curse knew where it had been before.
"You've always been my favorite, you know," she said softly, her grossly dilated pupils boring straight into mine. Her voice changed to an almost loving tone, but was no less crazed than before. "If you'd come from decent stock, I might have even said we were alike. Beauty and brains. Every great wizard needs a clever witch by his side, after all. You could have been just like me." She shrugged before finishing matter-of-factly, "But sadly, blood will always win out."
Just like me.
Her shrill voice rang in my ears.
Just like her.
She sighed dramatically. "I guess all that's left is to take one last little look-see at just how filthy your blood is, little Mudblood."
Her vile words seemed to bounce around my skull like the locket had against my chest when it became agitated.
Rage coursed through my veins.
No, not again.
'No one cares what you think, you filthy little Mudblood!'
Ron. Ron belching slugs, over and over.
Draco's grin, his usually pale face flushing with glee.
'You'll be next, Mudbloods!'
Griphook's shrewd eyes widening as I proclaimed 'Mudblood, and proud of it!'
No, not like her.
Her eyes gleamed maliciously as she made to bring her horribly familiar blade to my throat, ready to mutilate my body again with her curse. But I was done. I may be a damn good witch, but sometimes…
Well, sometimes you don't need a wand.
My body felt like lead and the aftershocks of the Cruciatus Curse blazed through my exhausted muscles like Fiendfyre, but I knew what I had to do.
My legs swung out abruptly and connected firmly with her shins.
Caught off guard, she fell like a rock, the silver knife slipping through her fingers and clattering to the ground. Her head hit the stone floor of the Great Hall with a sharp crack.
Of course she hadn't been expecting it.
I scrambled to grab the walnut wand from beneath me and sprang to my feet.
Tonks's wand left Bellatrix's hand, soaring towards me. With hitherto unknown agility, I caught it. Both wands grew warm in my hands, but this time it was a pleasant, comforting warmth—like the heated touch of holding hands with a lover.
Neither of these wands belonged to Bellatrix Lestrange any longer.
I aimed the walnut wand directly at her heart, Avada Kedavra on my lips. Could I do it? Could I actually say the words?
Was I capable of taking a life?
The murder of Bellatrix Lestrange would save so many. Would that be enough to allow my soul to remain intact?
Her eyes flashed in surprise when she saw where the tip of my wand was trained, but they quickly narrowed.
"Think you can kill me, Mudblood?" she asked, running her tongue obscenely across her top teeth. Her voice, although no more than a deathly whisper, seemed to echo around us despite the noise of the surrounding duels. "How confident are you? It isn't as easy as I make it look, you know." She giggled slightly as if she were about to reveal a coveted secret. "It's not only about power. You really have to mean it."
And then her laughter became wild, as if the idea of me killing her was a hilarious joke told over dinner.
A Mudblood and a Death Eater walk into the Leaky…
Merlin's saggy bollocks, I'm going insane too.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a jet of green and a flash of red collapse as someone new was sacrificed for the Greater Good.
Another Weasley had fallen.
Please don't let it be Ron. Not Ron, too.
Not Ron. Not Ron. Never Ron.
But I knew it had been him—I'd recognized his long, lanky frame as it hit the stone floor.
I stifled a sob.
The feel of his lips on mine, hungry with passion, his arms wrapped tightly around me, fingers threaded through my hair.
The burning look in his cornflower blue eyes as he pulled away, his smile clearly saying finally.
It wasn't meant to end this way.
He was meant to be it. We were meant to be it.
And Harry was meant to have won.
I tightened my grip on the walnut wand—my fucking wand, I decided right then—and looked straight into Bellatrix's crazed eyes. It struck me in that moment that they were the precise shade of silvery blue as Sirius's had been.
Something within my mind snapped.
I could do it.
No, I had to do it.
This was the woman that murdered Sirius Black. She took away any hope of Harry having something like a family. She killed Tonks. Oh, sweet Merlin, Tonks and Remus. A family destroyed. Teddy Lupin was now another orphan of this wretched war. He didn't even have a godfather.
Because Harry was dead. Ron was dead. Ginny. Luna. Fred. So many more.
I thought of Harry's lifeless body, limp as a ragdoll, lain at the feet of Tom-fucking-Riddle.
No fucking more.
Bellatrix was still laughing.
I cast the curse. Her eyes widened. As the words I never thought I would speak left my lips, I knew I meant them. The job had been done properly.
Magic beyond any I had ever felt before flowed swiftly from my brain, traveling down my spinal cord and along the nerves of my arm until reaching my wand.
It felt really fucking good.
Violently green light shot from the tip of my wand, hitting her directly above her heart. The light left her eyes with laughter still on her lips.
Just like Sirius.
I smiled too.
"No!" a high, cold voice rang throughout the hall. The fury in the solitary word was almost palpable.
Voldemort had finally noticed that Bellatrix wasn't fighting anymore.
Tom Riddle didn't say another word. I suppose he didn't think a lowly little Mudblood deserved an explanation for her death. The hall was filled with a silence so thick it seemed to swallow us whole. All that was left was the blood pulsing in my ears.
Before I could react, before any of the remaining members of the Order could prevent it, he cast the curse. As his scarlet eyes burned with rage and his lipless mouth formed the incantation, my reality shifted to slow motion. The lethal green light left the Elder Wand, and I knew that this was it.
The long game was ended, the snitch had been caught.
It was time to leave the air.
There was no Dumbledore to sweep in and save the day—to save us, to save the whole goddamned world. There were no flying hippogriffs, no do-overs and no going back. This time there was no turning back the clock.
Turning back the clock.
I suddenly became very aware of the delicate gold chain around my neck, of the small hourglass nestled between my breasts. At the end of last year, I'd summoned it on a whim from Professor Dumbledore's office at the same time as I had summoned the forbidden books on Horcruxes. I knew it was the same one I had used throughout my third year—the MM engraved in gold verified that it was indeed Professor McGonagall's Time Turner. I had no clue why Dumbledore had it in his office, but I'd long since learned not to question the man's motives. I religiously kept it around my neck, hidden from sight, waiting to use it if there was no other option left.
It was meant to be my last resort.
I looked down and eyed the tiny sparkling hourglass that had made its way to the front of my shirt sometime during battle.
I almost laughed. It really was quite a shame. There wasn't even enough time left to turn back time.
As I gazed down at the twinkling golden sand, the curse finally reached me. However, it didn't make contact with my body. Instead, the jet of green light collided with the tiny hourglass.
The Time Turner exploded.
I screamed in agony as miniscule shards of glass embedded into my chest and face, as the gold frame of the trinket melted into my skin. My vision was obscured with red as blood ran into my eyes. But there was no missing the dazzling golden light that had begun to surround me. It shone with brilliance beyond words and pulsated rhythmically as if building up to something important.
The Great Hall abruptly dissolved and I felt the jarring sensation of flying backwards very quickly. I knew this feeling, or at least I thought I did. This time was different. I had never moved backward in time this rapidly. My stomach churned.
Too fast. Oh God, too fucking fast.
My body wasn't built for this. I attempted to brace myself as I was squeezed from all sides, almost like Apparition, but far, far worse. I was being crushed from every direction. My body was going to implode upon itself. I opened my mouth to scream in pain, but my lungs felt as if they would never hold air again.
Time was going to kill me.
I tried to close my eyes, but my eyelids wouldn't budge; they were glued open as if I were required to see the madness swirling around me. The golden light grew brighter and brighter, thrumming fiercely until it was almost white.
Fucking hell, who knew that when the Killing Curse met the Sands of Time, this would happen?
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The force of my unexpected stop caused me to fall forward, face first to the ground.
Not only was I lost in time, but my nose was broken too.
I raised myself up onto my hands and knees, retching violently. The entirety of the bread and cheese Aberforth had given us made its way onto the stone floor.
I groaned and rolled over onto my back away from the sick. I couldn't even summon the energy to vanish it away. The ceiling of the Great Hall loomed over me, moon full and stars twinkling cheerfully against the black of the night sky.
Well, I thought ruefully, at least I'm still at Hogwarts.