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rise like a phoenix in the desert winds

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Chapter One
Anakin Skywalker

The memories come back slowly, but steadily, and by the time he is ten years old, Harry Potter remembers everything of his previous life. Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, and everything between the two – he remembers all of it. It’s not an easy thing to remember, and sometimes the memories are more vivid than Harry would like... but he’d rather have the memories than not. Because however painful his memories are, in the end, losing them would mean forgetting Padme, and Luke – and his memories of them alone make remembering everything else worth it.

It’s a hard life he lives, especially for a child, but Harry considers it penance, for all the terrible things he did in his previous life.

The man he had become was neither good, nor kind; and although he did one last good, brave thing in saving his son’s life, that does not undo two decades’ worth of atrocities. Harry can’t forgive himself for those, any more than he can forgive himself for the death of his angel, something he still mourns as much as if it had occurred yesterday. Neither time nor death have been able take that grief from him: he loved Padme as he has loved no one else. He no longer knows if it was true that she had died at his hands, as Palpatine had said: but that he was unable to save her life, however her death had happened, is a truth he has to live with, always.

For all that he’s a child, Harry is older now, and wiser, and he knows better than anyone the trap that the Sith way of life represents. It gives the illusion of power, and nothing more; but the Jedi way, Harry thinks, was hardly any better. The denial of emotion – the one thing that had always given his life meaning – and its ‘we assist the Republic, not individuals’ rhetoric was, frankly, stupid. Harry knows that his emotions are what give him strength, and while controlling them, channelling them into something useful is important, denying his feelings only leaves him lost an uncertain. As for the rhetoric the Jedi had spouted about serving the Republic and keeping an eye on the big picture... when the ‘big picture’ means ignoring people’s suffering, because stability is more important than the wellbeing of helpless people... well, something has gone drastically wrong, Harry is sure of that, now.

In the end, when he’d died, he’d left his previous reality with zero Sith in existence, and one Jedi who believed in faith and family rather than the purging of emotional ties... and it is, perhaps, a good thing that the old ways of the Sith and the Jedi were lost. They had failed, just as the old Republic and the Empire had failed... leaving people like Anakin’s son to build something new, something which, just maybe, has a better chance of working.

Harry holds onto that thought, sometimes, when he despairs at all the evils he committed. In the end... life in his home reality will go on.

In the meantime, Harry’s life in this one continues. It has taken years for all his memories to return, but return they have, leaving him more Anakin than the boy he’d been reborn as. He still answers to the name Harry Potter, of course, but inside his head and his heart, half the time he still thinks of himself as Anakin.

Not that anyone but his teachers at school ever call him Harry, anyway. He has no friends, thanks to his cousin, and his relatives are a cruel parody of a family, at least where he is concerned. They starve him, and mistreat him, and force him to do all the housework; even making him cook breakfast in a pan which when he’d started cooking had been far too big for him to hold, and is still difficult for his tiny, malnourished body to handle.

But Harry sees his current life as penance: so he grits his teeth and does as he is told, resisting the lure of the little voice of his head that tells him that it would be so easy to use his abilities with the Force to frighten and intimidate his relatives into doing his bidding. But that is the Sith way of doing things: and now that he is free of that way of life, Harry has no intention of ever going back to it. To be a Sith is to know hatred, and fear, and helpless despair; and Harry, for all that he is treated badly right now, knows that as long as he keeps his head down and doesn’t give in, one day he will be old enough to leave, and choose his own destiny. For his entire existence, his destiny has been chosen for him: first as a slave, then as a Jedi, then as a Sith. Anakin isn’t about to lose the one chance he has at a free future.

Besides, he has been a slave, twice over – once as a boy, then in servitude to Palpatine. He understood how to keep his head down, to defy his masters only in the little ways they would not notice, and to keep on fighting for his survival even when life wore him down and left him tired and miserable.

When he is eleven years old, a letter addressed to Mr H. Potter arrives. Staring down at the address – The Cupboard Under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey – the hairs on the back of his neck rising, Harry wonders how the sender knows, and what they could possible want with him.

Harry slips it into his pocket to read later, without telling his relatives: he knows them well enough to realise that they would take it from him, if they knew he had it. It’s not until hours later that his chores are all done, and Petunia sends him outside to ‘keep out of trouble.’

Harry walks to the local park, ignoring the evil eye the neighbours give him as he passes, and reads the letter. Mingled apprehension and curiosity is replaced with sheer surprise, and when he is done, Harry sits on the swing set, stunned.

He knows, of course, that many planets in his home reality held beliefs in magic. Anakin himself had been raised with them as a slave on Tatooine, praying to the gods for leniency from his master and escape from his bonds. Once he’d left Tatooine, of course, the Jedi had tried to drive such ‘primitive superstition’ out of him. According to them, the concept of magic was how ‘primitive’ peoples inaccurately conceived of the Force. For the Jedi, no mystical beliefs in anything but the Force were valid.

For a long time, Anakin had left his childhood belief system behind, to the point where Harry now had trouble remembering much of it. But he remembers that the desert is Mother to her children, those who are enslaved by the Hutts, and that her children can shelter against the desert sandstorms when their masters cannot. He remembers, too, the trickster god, who in a thousand different stories frees himself and the other slaves by fooling his master.

Once Anakin had known the names of these gods, spoken in a secret tongue known only to the slaves. But it has been too long since he has last spoken the secret language to another: these days, Harry remembers only a handful of words.

Palpatine had been just as contemptuous of beliefs in magic as the Jedi, if not even more so, and Anakin had deliberately not thought of his childhood belief system while under his master’s control: what his master did not know, he could not take from Anakin. Besides which, Anakin had been in a very different mental place, then: nothing had really mattered to him anymore, and he had distanced himself from the life he’d led before he was Vader; just as when he’d become a Jedi, he’d distanced himself from the life he’d previously led as a slave.

But now, Harry is neither Jedi nor Sith: and he is willing to look back at his childhood beliefs with a much more open mind. Sometimes he regrets the fact that he turned his back so thoroughly on where he’d come from, but there isn’t all that much Harry can do about it, now. In this reality, after all, Tatooine probably doesn’t even exist – or is so far away that no one on Earth even knows it exists.

Staring into the distance, Harry wonders what this ‘school of witchcraft and wizardry’ really is. A hoax? A school of misguided Force users? Or genuine magic, of the kind spoken of in the old stories he’d listened to on Tatooine?

A read of the enclosed book list has Harry discarding the ‘misguided Force users’ theory. The book and equipment list speaks of witches’ hats and books of spells and magic wands, the kinds of things Harry would expect to see in films or in children’s storybooks. The whole thing doesn’t sound like it can be real, and yet... Harry wonders.

Little does he know, this letter is only the first of many.

In the days that follow, more and more letters arrive, and Harry’s relatives deny him each and every one, unaware that Harry has already received one of the letters. Harry grows steadily angrier with each confiscated letter. He is certain by now that this is no hoax; Vernon and Petunia are too furious, too frightened, too knowing. Harry wonders if this has some connection to his mysterious parents, the ones that his aunt and uncle refuse to speak of.

With each passing day, the letters are delivered in increasingly ridiculous ways: Anakin’s favourite method of delivery is when he cracks open an egg while cooking breakfast, only for a rolled-up letter to fall into the pan. Anakin almost falls off his stool from laughing so hard (he isn’t yet tall enough to cook at the stove without standing on something) and Petunia threatens to box his ears if he doesn’t stop laughing this minute. But the whole thing is so absurd: a pair of grown adults thrown into rage and fear at the delivery of a bunch of letters, all delivered in an increasingly bizarre fashion.

In the end, Vernon loses it, and packs them all into the car and drives. He drives all day, without stopping for food or water, until they reach a gloomy-looking hotel. Here, Vernon declares, surely the letter-senders will not find them.

The next morning, delivered with breakfast, is a letter. Mr H. Potter, Room 17, Railview Hotel, Cokeworth, the envelope says.

Vernon grows ever closer to losing his sanity altogether.

It’s in a shack on a rock in the sea that Harry learns of his birthright, of magic, and of his fame – all conveyed through a sordid little story of a Dark Lord on the rise, and rise, until he had come after Harry and his parents, and...

“You-Know-Who killed ‘em,” Hagrid says, and Harry feels dread bubble up inside him, as Hagrid goes on to add, “An’ then – an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing –he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin’ by then. But he couldn’t do it. Never wondered how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That’s what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh – took care of yer mum an’ dad an’ yer house, even – but it didn’t work on you, an’ that’s why yer famous, Harry. No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ‘em, no one except you...”

Harry misses some of what Hagrid says next. He doesn’t understand why he’s alive when an entire world thinks that he should be dead, dead at the hands of a powerful Dark Lord... but he thinks of Anakin Skywalker’s dying wish – I wish I could have a second chance, to make up for what I’ve done – and he thinks of destiny, of a future foretold and a prophecy fulfilled in the greatest of irony – and he recognises the shape of the story he’s been told.

He thought that he was free of destiny at last. But Hagrid speaks of a Dark Lord mysteriously vanished, of a death curse, thwarted... and Harry knows, with the unerring instincts of a Force-user, that his destiny is far from over.

He asks Hagrid quiet questions, and when the Dursleys try to interrupt, speaking unkind words and implying far unkinder actions, Hagrid leaps into action, pointing the battered umbrella he carries at Dudley –

And Harry throws out a hand, and Dudley is shoved sideways by an unseen force, a flash of violet light missing him by inches.

“Much as I understand the impulse, do not attack my relatives in front of me,” Harry says, and there is command in his voice, for all that it has the pitch of an eleven year old boy. Hagrid falters at the look on Harry’s face, and says, “Right, yer right, of course... shouldn’ta lost me temper...”

Harry nods once, and turns to his relatives.

“I suggest you spend the night in the other room,” he says, and his voice is cold and still with that note of command. For once, it is Harry’s relatives who do as he says, not the other way around – shaken, perhaps, by Dudley’s brush with peril, and the realisation that when dealing with magic, their usual bluster and intimidation tactics will not prevail.

The next day Harry enters into a hidden world, of wonders and dangers, following in Hagrid’s wake as the giant of a man makes his way through crowds of strangely dressed people. But Anakin had seen far stranger in his lifetime, so Harry follows Hagrid through the throng without staring. He is curious, yes, but he knows better than to gawk like an Outer Rim nerf-herder visiting Coruscant for the first time. Instead he moves like he knows the place, and the people; no one gives him a second look amongst the crowd.

In the robe shop, a pale boy with a pointed face tries to speak to Harry, talking of what a crime it is that first-years aren’t allowed their own brooms at Hogwarts and speaking disparagingly of any house which isn’t Slytherin, whatever that means. Harry recalls twenty years of attending Imperial functions as Vader, forced to rub elbows with the privileged elite, who believed that wealth made them better than other people and that their every whim ought to be indulged. This boy puts Harry strongly in mind of the Imperial aristocracy, and Harry glares silently at him until he falls silent. Harry leaves the robe store without learning the other boy’s name, and hopes that Hogwarts isn’t full of others like him, who talk about magic like it’s something that only belongs to those who are born in this world. 

When Hagrid buys Harry an owl as a birthday present, Harry is touched by the simple kindness of this man, whom Harry knows has logged every word of abuse the Dursleys have hurled in Harry’s direction while in his presence, and noticed Harry’s ragged, oversizes hand-me-downs.

“Thank you,” Harry says quietly, and looks at the owl. She looks back at him with intelligent yellow eyes, as though assessing her new owner. Harry smiles, and they continue onwards to the wand shop.

There, Harry tries several dozen different wands before one responds appropriately to him with a shower of red and gold sparks.

“Curious... how very curious...” mutters the wand-maker, and Harry fixes his eyes on the man.

“What’s curious?” he asks, and the wand-maker looks at Harry with a pale-eyed stare.

“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather – just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother – why, its brother gave you that scar.”

Harry goes still.

“Yes, thirteen and a half inches. Yew. Curious indeed how these things happen. The wand chooses the wizard, remember... I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter... After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things – terrible, yes, but great.”

Harry thinks of another lifetime, in which he brought down the Jedi Order, secured the Imperial throne for his master, and enforced Palpatine’s rule over the galaxy with an iron fist. He doesn’t wonder why it is that he has been chosen by a wand that is brothers with the wand of a Dark Lord remembered as both terrible and great.

He says nothing, and leaves the wand shop behind Hagrid, and hopes desperately that this isn’t a case of history repeating itself. After all, the wand chooses the wizard...

But Harry isn’t Vader anymore, he tells himself. That has to be enough.

The thought doesn’t comfort him at all, and he wonders how many others ways there are for him to fall.

When Harry is dropped off at King’s Cross station, he looks down at his ticket, which gives the platform as platform nine and three quarters, then looks up again at the space between platform nine and ten, and frowns.

Harry is fairly certain there’s some kind of trick to this – not the nasty kind, but the kind designed to keep the hidden world of witches and wizards from prying eyes. He waits around not far from the barrier between platforms nine and ten, and observes those around him.

Presently, a family of red-heads approachs – a family of red-heads with an owl. It’s a different species from Harry’s own, but an owl all the same. Harry walks towards them.

“Packed with muggles, of course,” the woman – the children’s mother, presumably – says as Harry grows nearer, confirming Harry’s suspicion that he is looking at a family of witches and wizards.

He clears his throat.

“Excuse me,” he says, with the kind of grin that he used to give reporters during the Clone Wars, the one that always had them unbending enough to smile back, and perhaps go a little easier on him than they would have otherwise. Harry has never understood why he was always the one who had to deal with the press – somehow, Obi-Wan had always managed to weasel his way out of that particular duty, even when it was his death-defying stunt that had saved the day during battle.

Suppressing a pang of pain and fury at the reminder of his former friend, Harry can’t help but think, given his fame this time around, that it is just as well that he has some idea how to deal with reporters and star-struck individuals. A genuine eleven year old boy with no training in that sort of thing, he suspects, would be in some trouble.

The woman in front of Harry looks down at him in surprise, and Harry pushes that thought away, and says, “I’m sorry, but do you know the way to platform nine and three quarters? I live with muggles, and no one explained to me how to find the train.” Harry lets his grin turn rueful.

Before the woman can speak, the smallest red-head – a girl even smaller than Harry – pipes up.

“No one told you?” she says, and her voice is full a quiet dignity and authority that seems out-of-place in a girl her age. “Don’t worry, it’s easy enough. See the barrier between platforms nine and ten? I know it looks solid, but it’s not – you’re supposed to walk through it.”

Harry stares at her, because there’s something about the girl’s brown eyes that is awfully familiar. It takes him a moment to realise it, but the girl’s eyes are the same colour and shape as Padme’s – and now that he’s seen that, other little things remind him of Padme as well, from the way she holds herself to the smile lurking at the edges of her serious expression.

Something of his feelings must show on his face, because the girl looks suddenly worried, and puts a hand on his arm.

“Are you all right?”

“Fine.” Harry tries to smile, but grimaces instead. “Sorry. It’s just... you look like someone I used to know.” He changes the subject. “What’s your name?”

“Ginny,” she says, still looking at him with concern. “Ginny Weasley.”

“I’m Harry Potter,” says Harry, and one of Ginny’s brothers blurts out, “No way! Can I see the scar?”

Ginny turns a scathing look on him, in the same moment as his mother says, “Ron!” in a scolding tone of voice.

“I’m sorry, that was insensitive of my brother,” Ginny says, turning back to Harry. “The last thing you want is to be reminded of...” She trails off, with an apologetic smile.

Harry just looks at her, and wonders at how much she reminds him of Padme. Her colouring is different, as is the shape of her face, but everything else...

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, after waiting a beat too long. He tries to smile a second time, and this time it works. “I should get used to it.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” says Ginny, frowning, and reminding him more of Padme than ever.

“It’s fine,” Harry says. “Thank you for telling me how to find the platform.”

“You can go through with Ron, if you like,” Ginny’s mother offers. “This is your first year, isn’t it? Ron’s in the same year as you.”

Ron appears to have been struck dumb in a mixture of embarrassment and awe, but he looks at Harry hopefully.

Harry isn’t sure that he wants to hang around with a fan, but reminds himself that the boy is merely a child, and that it won’t kill him to show a little kindness. Besides, it’s likely, from what Hagrid told him, that half of Hogwarts will be just as star-struck by his presence.

So Harry gives an easy smile, and says, “Sure.”

“You don’t have to,” says Ginny, giving her mother a look. Ron sends her a glare.

“I don’t mind, really,” Harry assures her, even though that’s not entirely true. But Ginny relaxes, and smiles.

“All right then. Good luck, Harry Potter. Have fun at school.”

It takes Harry a moment to stop staring at her, because that smile...

“Are you an angel?” he blurts out, without even thinking about it, and hears the two boys who look identical cackle loudly.

But the smile is wiped off Ginny’s face, replaced by a look of mingled shock and dread.

What did you just say?” she asks, and her voice shakes, just a little.

“Nothing, never mind,” Harry says quickly, embarrassed at himself, something painful tugging at his heart. He turns to Ron. “Shall we?”

Ron nods, and seems to want to get away from his family just as much as Harry does. They head towards the barrier at a run – and several seconds later, find themselves standing on a platform that wasn’t there a moment ago. Harry blinks up at the bright red steam-powered train, which gives Ron’s family time to catch up with them. While Ron’s mother is reminding her youngest son of half a dozen different instructions and the eldest one is saying something about a prefect’s compartment while the twins yell something about a tarantula, Harry slips away. Just as he boards the train, he glances back, to see Ginny staring at him with a troubled look.

He enters the first carriage without another backwards glance, and tries not to feel haunted by his encounter with the girl. He takes a seat in the first empty compartment he finds, and rests his elbows on his knees, putting his face in his hands.

He doesn’t know why that girl reminds him so much of Padme. But Padme is gone, dead in another reality entirely. And it’s all his fault.

Harry lifts his head as Ron joins him about ten minutes later, shortly after the whistle blows and the train begins to move.

“Is it alright if I sit here?” Ron asks, expression tentative. Harry wants to say no, but gives a short nod.

Ron takes a seat, and looks at Harry curiously.

They sit in silence, for a while; but then Ron begins to ask Harry questions, and Harry responds with questions of his own. They talk about the wizarding world, the muggle world, and everything in-between: but when Ron sends Harry a sideways glance, and asks, “So what was that with you and my sister...” Harry scowls and says, “Nothing.” Ron looks dubious, but doesn’t ask anything more about that particular topic, for which Harry is glad.

The blonde boy from the robe store stops by, insults Ron, and tells Harry that he doesn’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. Harry isn’t sure exactly what ‘the wrong sort’ means, but he can guess, based on Malfoy’s words back in the robe shop: ‘I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you?’

When ‘the other sort’ means ‘anyone with magic whose families aren’t magical’, Harry thinks, most emphatically, that they should. And he really doesn’t want anything to do with anyone who thinks otherwise.

He looks Malfoy straight in the eye and says evenly, “I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.”

Malfoy flushes pink, and tells Harry that if he isn’t careful, he’ll go the same way as his parents.

Harry only smiles, and it is a terrible smile.

“Really, Malfoy?” he asks, leaning in, and despite his superior height Malfoy takes a step backwards. “You think so?” Harry’s terrible smile widens. “Given that I defeated a Dark Lord, you might want to reconsider making threats in my presence.”

Malfoy might have been brought up to be an idiot dependent on his wealth and his name, but he isn’t entirely stupid. Whatever common-sense he has asserts itself, and he mutters something before leaves the compartment, Crabbe and Goyle following behind him.

Harry sits back down on his seat, the terrible smile fading into something weary. Ron is staring at him, looking unnerved.

“It’s alright,” Harry tells him. “I don’t bite.”

Ron swallows.

“Has anyone ever told you can look pretty scary?”

Harry thinks of twenty years as the Empire’s bogeyman, a figure which made even seasoned officers pale in terror at his presence.

“Not usually to my face,” he says, “but I’m pretty sure they’ve said it behind my back.”

It takes a while for Ron to lose his unease, but eventually, he settles down again. He and Harry pass the journey companionably.

Before they know it, they’re at Hogwarts.