The Sugar Quill
Author: Amiable Dorsai (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Flashback  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Flashback

Flashback

A Harry Potter Fan Fiction by Amiable Dorsai.

I’d like to thank Night Zephyr for her usual great job of beta reading, and J. K. Rowling, the actual owner of all these wonderful toys.


Two weeks ago, the unthinkable had happened. 
 
Eight days ago, he had been sent back “home” to mourn in isolation.
 
Sixty minutes ago, he’d come up with a plan.
 
Harry Potter finished the last of the letters he’d started writing just an hour earlier.  He blotted it, and set it aside to await the return of his owl.  The letters were the first step of his plan. He had to convince his friends to stay away from him for their own good.  He couldn’t think of any way that would happen while they still liked him.  The letters were offensive enough to take care of that problem—he hoped. 
 
He stared at the posts from his two best friends, lying open on his bed.  At least they had each other now.
 
The hall clock chimed twelve times. 
 
Midnight.
 
He looked out the window, just as the dark sky flared neon blue and a stabbing pain coursed through the lightning bolt scar on his forehead.
 
Nymphadora Tonks stood in the front garden of number four, Privet Drive, wand out, whispering urgently into something cupped in her other hand.  “Something big just happened on the edge of the wards!” She listened, then, “I don’t know what!  They lit up for a second, and went dark again.  Get Dumbledore, and get a patrol on the ward boundaries now!”
 
A shaggy-haired young man carrying a wand in his right hand ran out of the house and called, “Tonks! I felt him, just for a second, but it felt like Voldemort was nearby!”
 
“Damn! Get back in the house!” She raised her hand to her mouth again, “Full callout, Harry says Voldemort is nearby!” An object Harry had never seen before was hanging from a lamppost, buzzing loudly.  “Accio Magic Detector!” cried Tonks, who caught the squarish object as it flew toward her.  She studied a cryptic pattern of light on its face and swore quietly.  “Someone’s coming this way: wizard, I think, huge magical signature....” She looked up at Harry, “Get back in the house!”
 
Harry ignored this advice. "Is it Voldemort?"

"I don't know, the only people I know with a magical presence like this are Dumbledore and Voldemort.  It's not Dumbledore, and the wards should stop Voldemort, but the wards aren't fussing him at all!" She pocketed the Magic Detector, “Harry, you have to get back in the house.  I can’t watch you and fight at the same time.”

“I’ll back you up...”

“I’ll have all the backup I need in a second; Mad-Eye’s just up the street, and the Order will be popping in any moment.... Damn!” 

A tall, thin, silhouette was striding down Privet Drive, only two doors away. The streetlights reddened and dimmed.

Tonks raised her wand, "Pettrrriiiiiiiiiiii...."  Her voice slowed, deepened, and stopped.  She stood like a statue, like a wide awake corpse.  A grey sheen seemed to lie on her skin; Harry could see no life in her at all.  No! Not another friend dying to protect him!  Harry tried to reach for her, but he could barely move, invisible taffy hindering his every muscle.  Breathing was suddenly like trying to suck treacle into his lungs.

The man, dressed in a battered, black, dragonhide trench coat, and wearing a slouch hat that shadowed his face, ambled up and watched as Harry tried to move.  "Impressive," he said.  "I was sure you wouldn't be able to fight a Time Stop Spell at this point.  Slow down a bit, relax.  Try to feel your way past it, rather than fight it."

The man leaned over to Tonks and gently kissed her on the top of her head.  "I'm sorry," he whispered, "so sorry."  Tonks, staring glassily into space, responded no more than a statue would.  Apologizing to his victim, to the dead?

Harry, furious, strained against whatever was threatening to freeze him like a Body Bind.  Time Stop? He had almost managed to level his wand when the stranger held his hand out.  The wand slipped through Harry's sluggish fingers and flew to the stranger's hand.  He looked fondly at it, and slipped it into his pocket.

"Oh stop, you'll hurt yourself," he said, looking at Harry.   He looked familiar, but Harry was too infuriated to care.

"Whaaaaattt     hhaaavve    yooouuu     dooooonnnnne     toooooo    Tooooooonnnnnnkkkkks     yyooooouuuu     baaaasssstttaaarrrddd......?" Harry's mouth would barely function; he gasped for breath that wouldn't come.

"She's fine, they're all fine, and they'll stay fine.  You're the one in danger!  Just relax!  You're trying to outrun the local time stream.  You can't do that without hurting yourself.  You're using oxygen faster than you can move air through your lungs.  If you don't calm down..."

Brown dots appeared in Harry's vision, a roaring sound filled his ears, the dots grew to patches, blackened, and filled his field of vision....

He was lying on his back in the grass.  The old man, hatless, was staring down at him, a sardonic smile on his lips.  "I did warn you.  Now relax, I'm not here to hurt you or anyone else."

"I can breathe..." Harry whispered.

"I've helped you adjust."

The hair was gray and very messy, the eyes were shadowed and the cheeks wrinkled but... "Dad?"

"We do keep making that mistake."  He put his hand to his forehead and pushed back his fringe to reveal an unmistakable, if somewhat faded, scar.

"It's a trick..."

"You were afraid that Luna wanted to kiss you last Christmas in the Room of Requirement, so you moved away from the mistletoe.  She told you it was a good idea, that mistletoe could harbor nargles.  Since end of term, you've been wondering if she would date you, now that Hermione and Ginny seem to be taken.  You were a little afraid of what Ron would think, and you were wondering if Hermione would give her a hard time. An hour ago, you decided that it didn't matter, that you couldn't afford to have a girlfriend—that you couldn't afford to have friends at all.”

Harry had never told anyone any of this. "Time Turner?"  He got warily to his feet.  His older self watched with some amusement, returning his wand when he was vertical again.

"No, not exactly.  I, well, you really... no, that's too confusing, I've spent the last several decades learning some interesting tricks.  Time Travel is just one of them, though it's not nearly as useful as you would think."

"Why not?"  Harry would love to be able to time travel.  If he could only go back....

"Two weeks."

"What?!"

"You want to go back two weeks.  You want to rescue Sirius.  Trust me, don't try.”

The wild hope that had flared in Harry's heart faltered.  "Why not go back two more weeks?"

"Just trust me on this.  The Veil isn't what everyone thinks it is, and Sirius is a really good wizard."

That sounded like there was hope.  Was Sirius not really dead?  Still... "Why don't you do it?"

"No point. Besides, I had to take a chance I thought I would never take, make, well, make a sort of deal I never thought I could make, to travel this far back."

The old man's face set.  Harry had seen that expression in the mirror more than once. "You aren't going to tell me anything else, are you?"

"Nope.  Don't dwell on it; we have much more important things to talk about.  She wouldn't, by the way."

"What? Who?"

"Hermione, she wouldn't give Luna a hard time.  Not if you ask her not to.  In fact, she and Luna got to be pretty good friends, my timeline.  Right now, Hermione would do anything to help you get a girlfriend.  She's feeling guilty that she didn't help you more with Cho, and she wonders if she hurt you by falling in love with Ron."

Harry was suddenly suspicious, "You said you pushed her away, how do you know what Hermione is thinking?"

"She told me, on her deathbed—about a year and a half from now."

Harry felt like he'd been punched in the gut—a year and a half?  "How...?"

"How did she die?  Simple: you weren't there for her."

"What do you mean?"

"Just an hour ago, you decided to distance yourself from everyone—that they'd all be better off without you.  My timeline, I did that.  Hermione was the last one to give up on me.  I thought that she was finally safe.  Joke's on me: when the Death Eaters came for her, she was alone.  I wasn't there to watch her back."  The old man's voice dropped to a whisper, "She was something, though, got a half dozen of them.  Gutted Dolohov like a carp.  If I’d been there..." He shook himself.  "Doesn't matter.  You will be there, won’t you?  Keep your friends close, Harry.  Watch their backs.  Let them watch yours."

"But they could get killed!"

"Probably some of them will.  I won't kid you, if things go at all the way they did my timeline, it'll be rough.  But it can't turn out any worse than it did when I pushed them all away.  My way, everybody dies."

 "Except you."

"With luck, even me.  I'm trying to change my own past, Harry.  If this works, I'll just fade away.  I won't even be a memory.  I hope it does, this is my only chance to avoid..." Old Harry choked.

Young Harry frowned, "Hermione says you can't change the past.  She says it would create a paradox."

"Yeah, the Grandfather Paradox: you go back in time and shoot your grandfather before your father is conceived.  Then you never get born, so you can't go back to shoot your grandfather, so you do get born and the whole thing repeats.  Oddly enough, I got the solution to the problem from Hermione, or at least, one of her notebooks.  It's pretty simple, really.  You make a subtle change, one that might have happened anyway, say, you deciding to stick close to your friends, rather than desert them..."

"I wasn't going to desert them! I want to protect them!"

The Older Harry looked at him sadly.  "I know. I made the same rubbish decision, remember?  Anyway, you make a subtle change and you seal it with a sacrifice.  The paradox doesn't happen, because you make the same decision even without intervention from the future, next time around."

"What kind of sacrifice?"

"Human."

"Who?"

"Me."

Young Harry blew a long, low, whistle. "How bad does it get, in your future?"

"I told you—everyone died. Short form: Voldemort won, Death Eaters started killing Muggles by the millions. Turned out that Muggle governments knew a lot more about the wizarding world than anyone realized.  They expressed their displeasure by, among other things, nuking some wizard settlements.  Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley went first, then Durmstrang got it in the neck, then a bunch of places in America and Canada. The next thing we knew, nukes were going off everywhere, a magical plague of some sort jumped from the Muggles it was supposed to kill to wizard folk, and, well, everyone died.  Everyone except me and Riddle."

Old Harry made a face, "Riddle is lousy company."

Young Harry sat gracelessly down on the grass, horrified.  The whole world dead?  His fault?  One last chance to save it all, to stop Riddle...?  Riddle! "Riddle survived? Could he... start meddling with history too?"

Old Harry raised his eyebrows and said, "Don't worry about it.  Just before I left, he was lecturing a herd of cockroaches on the importance of purity of blood.  He's completely mad.  I used some of his power to make the trip back to now."

“I felt him! Voldemort, just before you turned up!” Young Harry’s eyes narrowed; he stood up and slid his hand toward his wand pocket

Old Harry blinked.  “Really?  You shouldn’t have... I wonder if you felt his power when I arrived.”

Young Harry gripped his wand. “Or maybe you’re Voldemort in disguise.”

Old Harry chuckled, “I could have let you kill yourself fighting the Time Stop a few minutes ago.”

Young Harry still looked dubious.  “Come on Harry, are you getting any twinges now?”  Old Harry tapped his forehead.

Young Harry pondered this, and relaxed. "Why didn't you kill him?"

"Couldn't."

"Why not?  The prophecy..."

"Not sure.  I think I gave up the "power the Dark Lord knows not" when I turned my back on friendship and love."

"Oh."  Silence, as young Harry digested this and old Harry looked over the Dursley house.  Young Harry looked too.  He could see a bluish glow around the house that extended past the frozen figure of Tonks, past—was that Moody under an invisibility cloak? – everything, as far as Harry could see.

"Say what you like about Dumbledore," Old Harry mused, "he casts a cracking Warding Charm.  It's hard to believe how powerful this ward is."

"You went right through it."

"Of course I did, I'm you, or at least the person you were going to be, if you'd kept on as you were.  Be a bit useless, if it kept us out."

"Why can I see it?"  And what's wrong with Tonks and Moody?"

"Nothing's wrong with them, we're outside of the normal flow of time.  As to why you can see the wards, and Moody under his invisibility cloak, you're not using light to see them with.  Couldn't really, light isn't moving either, from our point of view."

"If I'm not using light, what am I using?"

Old Harry grinned a not entirely reassuring grin, "You're using your Inner Eye, dear boy," he quavered, in a near perfect impersonation of Sibyll Trelawney, Harry's batty old Divination professor.

"Inner Eye.  Right."

Old Harry chuckled, "You really do have an Inner Eye, you know, I've Opened it for you so you can function here."

"You can do that?  Trelawney would freak."

"She would.  Poor Sibyll, she actually is what she so desperately pretends to be, a True Seer.  My timeline, she died without ever knowing it."

"Dumbledore never told her?"  Harry actually started to get angry on behalf of the old fraud.  Another fool kept in the dark by Albus Dumbledore.

"Would you?  You know she'd never be able to keep the secret." 

Young Harry winced; he could see the justice in this, but.... 

Old Harry sighed, "You know, you have to make up with Dumbledore."

Young Harry was suddenly furious.  "I am not making up with that man! You have no idea...."

Old Harry tilted his head and raised his eyebrows.  

Young Harry felt his anger drain away, leaving a hollow space.  "Right, I guess you do have some idea. But Dumbledore..."

"...bollixed it properly.  Yeah, he sure did.  So did we, so did Sirius, for that matter.  He should have zapped Bella first, then gloated. Should have gone straight to Dumbledore the night Mum and Dad were killed, too." Old Harry held out his palm, in a stop gesture, to Young Harry, who wanted to scream.  "Point is: we all make mistakes, big, horrible ones sometimes, mistakes we'd give anything to take back.  You set a new record this evening when you decided to do without friends, without Dumbledore.  I'm doing my damnedest to erase that one."

Young Harry started to object, but Old Harry talked right over him, "We ended up with three separate forces: the Order, those members of the DA who decided to follow me even if I was a cold-hearted prat, and the Ministry, all opposing Voldemort, all squabbling with each other.  We got in each other's way more than we did Old-What's-His-Name's.  The only chance we ever had of stopping him was if he laughed himself to death."

Despite himself, Harry almost giggled, "Old-What's-His-Name?"

"Ron came up with that, he had a million of them: He-Whose-Name-We-Can't-Think-Of, Moldywarts, the Dim Lord....  Really spoils the mystique of "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, don’t you think?  He even rechristened the Death Eaters, called them Tommy's Toerags."

Young Harry whooped.

"Bloody good strategist, our Ron.  We could have done great things together."  Old Harry's face went gloomy.

"Could have done?"

"I pushed him away, remember?   We weren't there for him, either.  He paid Tommy's Toerags back for Hermione, though: took five hundred gallons of petrol and the biggest bomb Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes ever built.  Portkeyed with it all bang into the middle of Riddle's headquarters.  Closest we ever came to winning the war.  It set Riddle back years.

"Shame Ron never came back from that one.  Guess he didn't really want to."

All the humor drained away.  The hollow space in Harry's gut doubled in size.

Old Harry bored in, "You were a real berk last year to both of them; you know that, don't you?"

"Thank you; I needed a little more guilt just now," Young Harry bristled.  "Shouldn't you be telling me how to become a murderer?"

"First of all, self-defense is not murder. Riddle and his agents have been trying to kill you since you were a toddler.  Second, all I can offer is advice: there are people who love you—love them back.  He really can't deal with love."

"But there's so much you could teach me.  Tonks said you were as powerful as Dumbledore!"

"Subtle change, Harry, all I'm allowed is a subtle change or the paradox kicks in.  You waking up as a Dumbledore-class wizard tomorrow morning is not a subtle change.  You deciding that friends are worth having is."

Young Harry stared into the distance. “I’m afraid for them.  I don’t know what I’d do if they died for me.”

“You’ll deal.  You’ll be eaten up by grief and guilt—useless guilt, none of this is your fault—but you’ll deal. And in the end, you’ll win this time.  I’m sure of it.  Use the ‘Power the Dark Lord knows not’, and you’ll be unbeatable.  It’s your—and your friend’s—best hope.”

“So I’ll just love Riddle to death, then, shall I?” Young Harry spat.

“I don’t know; it might work.  We hurt him pretty badly with our love for Sirius back at the Ministry. You need to get Hermione working on this, and you need to work with Dumbledore.”

Old Harry stretched out his hand, “Accio letters.”  A fistful of parchment flew out the window, landing in Old Harry’s outstretched palm. “You can do a lot better than this rubbish,” he said, as the parchment burst into flame.  He crumbled the ashes onto the lawn. “Fertilizer, all they were good for.”  He smiled the first genuine smile Young Harry had seen on his face. “You can’t imagine how many times I’ve wished I had never written those foul things.”

“I worked hard on those,” Young Harry said doubtfully.

“Misguided effort, believe me.  You need to send some good letters to your friends, thank them for their concern, assure them that you’re doing better.  You might even send Luna that letter you were thinking of.”

“Do you think she wants to... go out with me?” Young Harry looked very hopeful.

“How would I know? I never did get a proper girlfriend.”  Young Harry’s face fell.  “Do not make that mistake, trust me.  She might, Ginny might, once she gets over Dean. There must be other possibilities—I don’t recall Katie having a boyfriend at this point.  Talk to Hermione about it; she wants to help.  I bet Tonks would enjoy giving you advice, too, but you’ll probably have to put up with some teasing.”  He looked at the frozen figure of the young Auror as though he was trying to make a decision.

He looked at his watch.  “I have to go; I’ve got things to do before I fade away.”

“What sort of things?”

“Can’t tell you.  Except... Well, if I get a chance, I want to have one more butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.  That Rosmerta is really a looker, isn’t she?”  He winked.

“So I’m to grow up to be a pervert, then?” Young Harry looked amused.

“You’re already a pervert; remember that dream about Lavender and Parvati?” Both Harrys laughed. 

Old Harry looked at Tonks again, squared his shoulders, and said, “Right, one last thing.  Good-bye Harry, better luck this time.” He walked over to the still-frozen Tonks and winked again at his younger self.  “There is one more thing I always wished I’d done.  This is going to be tricky...” He took Tonks in his arms, her wand arm over his shoulder, muttered “Finite,” and kissed her, hard, on the lips.

“...fic ummph!” Tonks’ eyes went wide as she realized she was being kissed. Her knee shot up, but Old Harry Disapparated before it could make contact, and she fell over.

She was on her feet in an instant. “What the hell was that?!”  She looked around, frantically, her eyes finally locking on Harry.  “Harry, did you...? No, it couldn’t have been....”

Just then, Mad-Eye came stumping up, and a dozen Order members, wands out, popped into the garden.

Moody took charge, “Harry! Get in the house! Tonks, report!”

Before Tonks could say anything, Harry interrupted. “He’s gone.  It’s over.”

“What do you mean?”

Harry pointed to his scar.  “I can’t feel him—if he was here, he’s left.”

Mad-Eye looked at him with both eyes, then the magical one started tracking around again.  “Still, get in the house, we need to look around.  I’ll come in to talk to you later.”

Harry went into the house.  Good, he would have time to think about how much to say.  Probably claiming total ignorance would be best. The real story would get him labeled as a nutter again.

-~--~-~-

The old man in the dragonhide trench coat appeared silently next to another tall, thin, man, on the outskirts of Little Whinging.  He fixed the other man with a glare. “Oh, well done.  I told you not to touch the ward.  You alerted both the Order and my younger self.  You almost bollixed the whole thing.

"Almost?  I didn’t then. He bought it?"

"He bought it.  Of course he did, it was all true, as far as it went."

"You, of all people, should know that truth has very little to do with what people believe."

"He believed me."

"Good, it was getting boring with only you and the cockroaches to talk to."

"We're going to win, this time."

"We'll see, Potter, we'll see.  I still have to go have a little chat with my younger self before we fade away; that was the deal."

"Of course, Tom, that was the deal."




 

 

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