He heard her laughing. Bellatrix. Bellatrix Black Lestrange. Sirius's cousin. Sirius's murderer.
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't believe. Maybe, just maybe, if he didn't breathe long enough Sirius would fall through the other side of that strange, whispering veil. But he didn't, no mater how long he held his breath.
He was yelling now. Someone was holding him back. He fought against them. He had to save Sirius – that was all that mattered. He was his godfather. All that was left of his family.
He forced his way out of the arms that held him. He'd give anything for Sirius to live. And these were the last thoughts Harry James Potter had before throwing himself through The Veil.
And Time saw what Fate knew. And she turned back whilst Fate shuffled its deck. It had not worked. They must begin again.
Part One: 4th Year
Chapter One, In Which My Loud Mouth Saves the Day
There has never been a guiding principle in my life. I never looked to God or Merlin to save me, or studied ferociously libraries seeking my salvation therein, or rested content that, somehow, things would turn out for the best. There has always and only been myself.
I know little about my parents, if they were religious or not, traditional or nonconformist, morning birds or night owls – things that, to the normal person, to the person who has grown up with a father and a mother, mean nothing. I know they were brave: they had to be to fight against Voldemort's precipitous rise to power. I know that they had to love each other very much to marry hardly out of Hogwarts and to die for me when they were just twenty-one years of age.
Still, without them in my life, I have always been buffeted by other hands, ones that brought me to my mother's sister's doorstep, ones that led me to Hogwarts and the third floor corridor there. It wasn't they who forced me to The Chamber of Secrets, where Slytherin and his heir hid their monster, to save Ginny. Nor was it they who sent their friend, my godfather, to save me and the disasters that resulted there from.
Perhaps because of this, or maybe because I'm a fairly ordinary fourteen year old, I've no idea of what to do with my life. I don't know what to make of myself, no plans for after I finish school, no idea if I'm even mentally sound enough to be allowed out on my own, without someone on hand to assure that I don't hurt myself too badly in the incidents I cannot seem to keep away from, though I do try.
The one thing I seem to be good at, other than Quidditch, seems to be acquiring detentions. I'm currently up to two-hundred thirty-eight, well over a third of those having been handed to me for minor infractions by my beloved potions professor, Severus Eteocles Snape.
I suppose this one is not exactly so minor, as Hermione was keen to point out to me, rather about the same par as the one in which I learned dear Snape's middle name for an incident involving a very angry Professor McGonagall, my one hundred eight-first detention, and pudding. Tapioca to be specific.
It went something like this: I was working next to Ron in Potions on a fever-inducing draught (though why anyone would ever want to induce a fever, I don't know) and I was getting very hot. Naturally, I removed my robe. It was no big deal, several others had done so, including Ron. And, okay, so maybe my skirt was tiny bit short and my shirt a little too tight, but Mrs. Weasley had done the school shopping while Ron and Hermione and Ginny and I were at the Cup and I'd done some growing since September. But, I mean, it wasn't like I'd half the buttons down the top undone, like Pansy, or my skirt rolled up, like Lavender.
Still, when Snape walked by and, in his snidest voice, asked if my funds were running so low I had to "advertise my services" during class time now, what else could I do but say, "Unfortunately so, sir," which caused his eyes to boggle just a little bit, and continue heedlessly with an, "I can pencil you in after the feast tonight, if you're interested," that, honestly, I'd been hoping to cause him to drop the subject entirely. It failed, of course, as an unmistakable hush fell over the classroom as even Draco Malfoy, Lord of the Snide, failed to think of anything that they could possibly say.
"I'm so glad you're free, Miss Potter," he said at last, making my eyes bug out a little, I'm afraid, "because you'll be serving detention every night for a month for that."
The story of Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Potter (though they called me "Harry," as does everyone else, for convince) propositioning the Potions Master spread through Hogwarts like a wildfire. In fact, the rumours that Professor Snape and I were secretly "involved" (shudder) almost detracted from the feast that night for the start of the Triwizard Tournament, especially when I stomped on Ginny's foot during Dumbledore's welcoming speech as she related to me something Colin had overheard from Parvati who'd heard from Padma who'd heard from somewhere else that the last time I'd been laid up in the hospital wing had been for the magical equivalent of an abortion of our (which is to say Snape's and my own) love child. It had been a very loud and undignified squeak that earned her a glare from more than one source, but she deserved it.
I mean, really. The things that happen only to me.
So it was after the feast I made my way down to the dungeons in the most conservative outfit I owned, half-tempted to sew myself into the clothing before realizing, with magic at my disposal, that wasn't exactly the most sensible plan. I knocked tentatively on the Potions Master's classroom door.
"Come in," he called. He looked a little dower sitting there, as if the festivity above had been personally offensive to him. At his desk you couldn't tell it, but he was tall and hawkish, with the look of someone perpetually underfed and under-slept. I know how those two things look, I've seen them oft enough in the mirror to find them on other people, though I doubt he is for the same reasons. The eerie light coming from the potions behind him did nothing to make him look more human, though, and with the stacks of papers and tests before him, an uncapped bottle of ink I mistook for blood for just one instant and a well-used quill in his hand, he might have been any of my professors, any teacher at any magical institution.
It was hard to remember he was Lupin's age, the age my parents would have been if they still lived. It was hard to remember that this was the man that Sirius had tricked so many years ago, who still bore anger towards all four of them over it. No, as I entered the classroom it was hard to remember that he was human at all and not some undead, impersonal thing who's mission in life was to hate and be hated by all.
He pointed me wordlessly to the mess of cauldrons to the side of the room by the sinks, leaving me to scrub, scrape, and peel the dried potion off the sides. Washing dishes was something I'd done often enough at Azkaban South, also known as the Dursleys', and cleaning cauldrons was a detention I'd done for Snape several times. I'd the system down, soaking, scrubbing, and rinsing everything in turn and trying to make sure nothing would blow up on me, and overall leaving me free to let my mind wander.
I thought about the upcoming tasks, of course, and who the Hogwarts champion would be. It seemed clear to me then that Krum would be the Durmstrang champion just as much as it was clear that Mademoiselle Delacour, one of the Beauxbatons students, was too pretty for any normal girl's good. I thought about the Seventh Years who were of age, and ran through the strengths and weaknesses of each that I knew. I thought of Sirius, some place warm, and what he would say if he ever found out I had, however unintentionally, been involved in the "propositioning" of his nemesis. I thought on my homework, and how there were some essays I really needed to write before Monday. I thought that I should write Mrs. Weasley with my measurements and ask her to pick up some better fitting uniforms.
I thought about The Unforgivables, why any professor in their right mind would show them to a group of Fourth Years, especially when at least one's life had been destroyed by a man wielding those curses. How Dad had died first, then mum, trying to protect me. How that wand had been turned on me and how, somehow, I'd survived an unsurvivable curse cast by a merciless man.
It was past midnight when I was allowed to leave. I knew tomorrow most those same cauldrons would be dirtied again, but that didn't affect my choice to do something so unexpected that it surprised even me and, in retrospect, probably had never been done before: I apologized to Snape.
"Look, I'm sorry I said what I said." Snape looked up, probably not realizing I was still there. His brief moment of surprise was the most human thing I'd ever seen from him, probably only visible because it was, after all, after midnight.
"Pardon, Miss Potter?"
Weakly, "I wasn't trying to be rude or anything; it was just the first thing that came to mind, okay?" I don't know why I was trying to explain myself to Snape of all people. I was probably just tired, and some of those cleaning potions smell really funky.
Ron and Hermione had fallen asleep on one of the couches waiting for me to come back when I finally returned to the tower. I considered waking them, but thought rather evilly that they could cause the next big stir and have everyone forget about my supposed affair with Snape. I fell into an exhausted sleep the moment I hit the pillow.
Fate was not with me, and my late return from detention with Snape seemed to be taken by all as all the confirmation they needed. I stayed up in my dorm doing homework and generally hiding from everyone until the Halloween Feast.
Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good holiday as much as the next, but a part of me has always felt separate from festivities of all sorts, an intruder on other people's happiness. At the Dursleys'- well, it doesn't much matter about them, but even at The Burrow in normal everyday moments, I feel like I don't belong. I shall never belong anywhere, I fear. I am the only child of people in history books; I am in history books myself, the infamous Harry Potter, The Girl-Who-Lived. And on holidays, watching other people smile and laugh and talk about their families, or watching The Twins and Ron and Ginny interact, generally loving each other, it is the strongest, this feeling that I have accomplished all that there is for me to accomplish, and I am just a dusty history book remnant lingering, waiting to die that lingers within me always.
And perhaps I should have died thirteen years ago in the arms of the mother I never will know because of a bastard who thought he could do whatever he pleased, because he was Slytherin's last heir. Who thought that I and my parents should die for what they believed in, never mind that I was only a baby and too young to have fought against him, too young to have known even who he was or what he stood for as he aimed his wand through the bars of my crib and prepared to kill me.
Perhaps no one expects anything of me, and that's my problem. My Aunt and Uncle want nothing of me other than never to return, and have never wanted anything but my disappearance since I arrived on their doorstep. I could turn into a Lockhart for all my fame and there is no one who will care or say, "She could have done more with her life."
I'm a sea of despair among the revellers as they enjoy the sweets and the newness of our foreign companions' presence. I smile, put on a happy face, and act as normal as possible, but inside I'm… I don't know what the word for it is. I don't know if there are even words for half the things I feel. No one noticed I was down, not even Hermione, who notices so much, because, after all, I am famous and the famous are forgiven much. Thirteen years ago my parents died, but no matter, it's the anniversary of the day I survived and Riddle didn't for whatever the reason, and people are happy. Never mind that I don't think I've ever been truly happy in all these thirteen years.
"Well, The Goblet is almost ready to make its decision," Dumbledore spoke up, drawing me out of my reverie, "I estimate that it requires one more minute. Now, when the champions' names are called, I would ask them please to come up to the top of the Hall, walk along the staff table, and go through into the next chamber where they will be receiving their first instructions."
I wondered briefly who The Cup would pick, but couldn't concentrate on what was going on around me for long. Instead, I put my thoughts to how best sneak up to The Tower after the last champion was named, maybe to finish my Potions essay in the half-hour that I'd have until reuniting with my cauldrons, maybe to catch a nap to make up for the hours of sleep I was sure to miss tonight, remembering what I could, thanks to the Dementors, of Mum and Dad's last minutes.
Suddenly, I realized The Hall was silent, and every pair of eyes within it was staring at me. I looked around blankly, stupidly, and wondered what I had done this time.
"Harry Potter!" Dumbledore called, "Harry! Up here, if you please!"
I turned to Hermione to ask what was going on when she pushed me slightly and told me to head up.
I did, not knowing why. When I did, at last, join Dumbledore, he ushered me through the door the champions had left through, and suddenly I understood.
But I hadn't entered…
But I wasn't of age…
I didn't want this.
When I was in the room where the champions were gathered, I looked quickly for a second exit, but found none, and was about to consider ways that I could kill myself to keep the school's gossip mill from doing it for me when I counted the number of people inside. Krum, the pretty French girl, and Diggory – three. I couldn't be a champion after all; it had to be some misunderstanding on my part.
I sank into a chair relived only to get a heart attack a moment later when Bagman, who'd entered the room after me, grabbed my arm and pulled me forward towards the others. "May I introduce – incredible though it may seem – the fourth Triwizard champion?"
I didn't need this.
But I couldn't explain myself. Suddenly there was shouting and people all in the room, debating whether I should compete or not, and I just wanted to tell them that I had no interest in doing anything of the sort, and then, unexpectedly, I heard Snape's voice interrupt Karakoff's in a tone that he usually reserved only for me. "It's no one's fault, Karakoff. Don't go blaming Dumbledore for what appears to be Potter's unique ability to create trouble even asleep."
"Thank you, Severus," Dumbledore said, taking control at last. He'd get me out of it, I knew. With that, I turned to Snape, whose eyes glinted with something I'd never seen before as he looked at me as if trying to read my thoughts.
The Headmaster asked, calmly, if I put my name into The Goblet.
"No," I replied vehemently.
"It's true," Snape offered, and it took me a moment to process that he was actually not claiming I'd done this to myself. "Miss Potter was serving detention with me last night." I about gapped at him.
"Did you ask an older student-?" Professor Dumbledore asked while McGonagall behind him looked at Snape with an expression of open bewilderment.
But I interrupted. "Excuse me, Professor, but I'm not stupid. I about die on a regular enough basis not to want to do so for fun." That raised a few eyebrows, but they were off again with the arguments, leaving me with no word to get in edgewise.
Eventually it was decided (by them, of course, as I looked alternately at Snape and the merrily crackling fire, as if either of them could get me out of something I never wanted to do) that I'd no choice but to compete. I glared at them as they said this, and Mr. Crouch explained the rules. They wanted us just to show up in November, no idea what we were facing, and have at it in front of the whole school.
Yes, I'd gone after The Stone first year, but I'd no other choice. There was no one I could go to about it and, if I didn't save it, no one would. I knew Fluffy lay behind the locked third floor doors and thought Snape did as well. There was nothing else I could do.
And, yes, I'd saved Ginny second year, but they were going to leave her to die. I knew where The Chamber was, vaguely, that there was a Basilisk involved, and that I was the only Parsel Mouth besides Voldemort alive. There was nothing else I could do.
And, yes, there was third year as well, but there was no time and it was either that or Sirius, my godfather, would die. There was nothing else I could do.
But this... this was something that didn't have to be done. I was not going to risk my life for other peoples' enjoyment. But did they care? No. Of course not. I was the Girl-Who-Lived, always up for a challenge.
I was kind of pleased, actually, following Snape down to detention after all the yelling had abated, that some things remained the same. Snape still hated me, wasn't treating me different, for one, and that someone was out to kill me, as they seemed to think was the case, for how else could my name have gotten in The Goblet? Professors that disliked me and people out to kill me I could handle. I'd been doing it all my life.
I thought, rather vaguely, as I cleaned the cauldrons in silence (Snape apparently not realising the significance of Hell freezing over twice and me thanking him for standing up for me earlier, and keeping quiet) that maybe I should become an Auror. If people were going to kill me, I might as well be paid for it.
) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (
The next few days were hellish. I continued to attend my detentions with Snape; was largely ignored by Ron, who seemed to think, for whatever his reasons, that I'd entered myself, and generally was the subject of stares, whispers, and general ridicule. The only good thing that came of it was, surprisingly, everyone but Snape seemed to forget my accidental propositioning of him.
Still, these days were some of the worst I'd ever had at Hogwarts, and that includes the time everyone thought I was behind the petrifactions second tear. It was only made worse, of course, by Colin appearing in Potions class one day (why does everything bad always happen in Potions?) and saying he had to take me upstairs.
"Miss Potter has another hour of Potions to complete. She will come upstairs when this class is finished," he glared down his nose at Colin, who promptly turned pink.
"Sir – sir, Mr. Bagman wants 'er," Colin insisted. ("I'd rather stay in Potions," I said under my breath, though only Hermione heard me and hid her laugh with a slight cough.) "All the champions 'ave got to go; I think they want to take photographs. For the Daily Prophet, I think."
Snape looked murderous at that instant, and I rather felt, as I'd probably be the one to clean up the mess in detention that night if he did, like helping. "Fine," the professor snapped, but I didn't move.
"Colin, you can tell them that, last I checked, I'm a minor. My picture can't appear in the paper without my guardians' permission." Or mine, I wanted to add darkly, but didn't. As I was sure the Dursleys wouldn't even touch any owl that might arrive at Azkaban South, I felt this was the end of it as Colin slunk out of the room and went back, happily, to maiming my ingredients.
He returned with a scrap of parchment fifteen minutes later.
It's taken care of.
was all it said. Quickly, I scrawled,
I'm not coming.
underneath it and handed it back to Colin.
When he returned, I could tell I wasn't getting out of it so easily. So with a reluctant look at Hermione that said, "Please, help," I gathered my things and trucked up the stairs after him, really not wanting anything to do with the cup, let alone the Daily Prophet.
We arrive in an unused classroom on the first floor, and everyone was there, waiting for me. I offer them a scowl, and take the empty seat beside Fleur, the Beauxbatons champion. She gives me a small smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes, and I wonder if its because she feels sorry for me, only fourteen and the only other girl, or if its because she looks down on me because I've still not gotten around to owling Mrs. Weasley, asking for help with new robes, and no one – no one – can leave Potions class without feeling a little grubby and dishevelled.
I mean, she's practically a goddess compared to me. I may be famous, but she's beautiful in a way people don't have the right to be. My hair, short and black, sticks up at every angle in a parody of something modern, and is utterly hopeless. I'm too thin – prison food isn't exactly good for a growing girl – and shorter than some third years, and defiantly nothing anyone would show any interest in if I wasn't famous.
Not that I really care about boys. I mean, I like looking at them – what girl doesn't? – but the ones my age are all too immature and all the older ones know better than to look twice at me, because it's not worth the effort.
Whatever the reason, she looks away quickly. Pretty girls don't have time for people like me, don't you know? Just because boys fall all over her doesn't mean-
Dumbledore, taking his place at the judges table now that I had finally answered his summons, quickly introduced Mr. Ollivander, who would be weighing our wands to insure they were in proper working order. I didn't even realize wands could not work properly, so long as they weren't broken and had chosen the wizard and all.
He called Fleur from her place beside me first. Twirling her wand in his fingers, he looked more like someone from a Muggle magic show than anyone who might know a thing about real wands. "Yes, nine and a half inches… inflexible…rosewood… and containing… dear me…"
"An 'air from ze 'ead of a veela," Fleur offered, taking her wand back after Ollivander had created a bouquet with it. "One of my grandmuzzer's." I felt a little lest cruel towards Fleur upon hearing that. I couldn't have been an easy life, being quarter-something, no matter how pretty she was. But mostly I was filled with dread. My wand was not exactly so unspectacular…
Of course, it could have been my natural desire to stay away from things that might end badly. At times like this, I often think I would have made a good Slytherin. I'm far too impulsive, saying things like I did to Snape and all, but maybe the House of Snakes would have curbed that drive. I doubted it, though. I'm happy where I am, mostly, and I'm no less likely to dive head-first into danger then I was when I started.
I missed Krum and Diggory's wand weighing, and found myself being called forward. "Aaah, yes. Yes, yes, yes. How well I remember," the wandmaker mused. I prepared to dock him if he so much as muttered a "curious" in front of all these people. Luckily, that was not necessary, though he did spend a lot of time just looking at my want before creating a fountain of wine with a spell I didn't quite catch.
I was about to run and hit lunch early, but Rita Skeeter was there with her photographer, and so there were questions to be answered ("Harry, how do you feel about being the youngest competitor in a notoriously deadly competition such as this?" Really, do you need to ask?) and pictures to be taken, and generally things that annoy me to be done.
Why can't my life be simple?
So, finally, I'm getting ready to run pretend this whole day never happened because, I mean, I'm so debilitated by the flashbulbs I might go blind, and I've homework to do that I can't exactly put off because I still have another fifteen days of detentions and no time to do it, what, with the first task in less than two weeks and all that. But, before I can even make it a few steps, Fleur of all people calls out, "Alexandrie-Margaux, plezze walk with me."
I stop mid-step and turn to the older girl, about to ask how on earth she knows my first name. I mean, everyone calls me Harry because in first form my name got printed on the roster "Henriet Potter," which the teacher took to be a misspelling of Harriet, and you can tell where they went from there. Before then I went by Éléonore, and in Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century I'm named variously as, "Alexandria," "Margaret Lenore" and "Alexandria Margot." Occasionally people still call me Alexandria, but, for reasons unknown to me, I was named Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Potter by my parents, and so I am.
I turn to look at Fleur, and my opinion of her triples. Someone who knows my actual name is rare, especially since I've long given in and let people call me Harry. I don't mind. It's better than being called Margaret Lenore. "Sure, Fleur," I answer her, and when we get to the great hall, she takes me to sit by her at the end of the Ravenclaw table, where she and her classmates have been sitting since they arrived.
"You truly did not enter ze contest," she offers, stating it more than asking. I nod, curious as to where she's going with this. "Poor girl," I begin to become affronted by this when she continues, "fourteen ez 'ard enough without zis az well." I still struggle to find out what exactly her point is, but I'm hungry and am not asked much as she talks, leaving me to eat, and sitting with her is better than sitting among the whisperers who want to know how I entered. She goes on along this vain for a while, something about ugly ducklings turning into swans, when she surprises me with the point. "Alexandrie-Margaux," she says again, "you remind me of my sister, Gabrielle." I wonder how, considering how she's done most of the talking until this point.
"Really? How old is she?"
"She ez eight. I 'ave missed 'er much while at school." I must admit, I'm not overly pleased to be compared to an eight-year-old. "I think I shall make you my pet," she says strangely after this, in a tone I'm not sure I like.
"Oh," is all I think to respond.
Laughing, she insists that it's not bad. She wants to dress me up, she says, get me new robes and "do" my hair and generally make a project out of me. From the girls around her – introduced as Simone, Sophie, and Sylvie, though which was which, I've yet to determine – I quickly gathered two things. One, that she was as inflexible as her wand and, two, that she was the sort who always, always, had a project.
By the time I returned with Hermione and Ginny to the tower, I felt rather out of sorts, wondering which was more dangerous: the first task, or the Hogsmeade visit next weekend, where Fleur planed to "redo" me. My confusion lasted well into the evening, scrubbing away at cauldrons as Snape graded papers in the classroom behind me.