The Road Not Taken Chapter Twenty-Five: It Has Made All the Difference
There was screaming and loud crashes coming from all sides of him and he could hardly see. Flashes of dazzling light of all colors shot past him and he stumbled forward onto someone and they both fell to the ground with a thud. Was it Neville? Had his Arcus Temporae Charm worked? Was he dead or not?
A jet of light hit him hard in the side and he doubled over. The pain was so intense, like fire, like the Cruciatus Curse, but far worse than either. He screamed and retreated back into the shadows from which he had just come, the world going completely black and all sound muted and otherwise ceased to exist.
* * *
There was murmuring above him that sounded muffled in a way, like someone was holding a pillow over his hears.
"Was he dead?"
He opened his eyes but saw only bright, white light glaring angrily into his face. There was nothing but whiteness all around him.
"Was this what it was to be dead?"
He saw figures materializing in front of him slowly, gray shadows were swarming around and he felt prickling sensations on his arms. He couldn't breathe: he was trying to force air into his lungs but there was none to be had. He felt like he was on the bottom of a swimming pool looking up at the blazing sun and couldn't surface for air. He was on the verge of panic when he felt a pop in his chest and sight came slowly back to his eyes and he drew deep breaths of air into his lungs.
"He's awake! He's going to be alright!" he could hear a woman screaming.
"Albus, Alastor, Remus, come here, quick!" she sounded so familiar, so real and so recognizable.
"Mrs. Weasley?" he croaked hoarsely.
"Harry, oh Harry! We were so worried!" she screeched as she grasped him in a tight hug.
His ribs and entire body hurt so badly from her embrace. What had happened to him? Where was he, and moreover, what day was it?
He heard people rush into the room and could make out that they were, or at least who they appeared to be: Professor Dumbledore, Mad Eye Moody, and Remus Lupin. His mind began to fill with thoughts so quickly that it was almost painful. Mad Eye was supposed to be dead.
His senses were slowly coming back to him and the room and the people in it were beginning to become more focused and vivid.
"Harry? It's good to have you among the land of the living again," said Remus in a soft voice.
"I- where- what's today?"
"Today? You have been out for quite some time Potter; you've slept through much of June. Today's the eighteenth," Moody muttered.
"It's June 18th?" he gasped. "It was just Christmas a few days ago!"
"Poor dear, he must be delirious, it's no wonder, considering," Mrs. Weasley fawned.
"Wait! I don't understand. What happened? I was dueling in-" he thought the better of saying that he had been dueling in Mr. Ollivander's shop, for he still wasn't certain where he was. "I was dueling and then-" he also thought it would be better to leave out the part about the Arcus Temporae Charm" then I fell on top of someone and then there was this awful pain."
"It was a very foolish thing you did a few weeks ago, you could have-" Mrs. Weasley began to reproach before Dumbledore interrupted her.
"I would rather like to speak to Harry alone for a moment, if the rest of you could leave for now?" Dumbledore requested politely.
The others left the room and he sat up a bit in his bed and looked around. He was in St. Mungo's and he and Dumbledore were now alone in the ward.
"You were very brave a few weeks ago Harry, but Mrs. Weasley was right, you were a bit reckless, but your actions resulted in good all around I must say."
"My actions a few weeks ago?"
"Your memory may be a bit hazy. You fled to the Department of Mysteries, along with Mr. and Miss Weasley, Miss Lovegood, Miss Granger, and Mr. Longbottom-"
"That wasn't a few weeks ago, what are you talking about?" Harry asked in disbelief. "That was like, a year ago."
Dumbledore's furrowed his brow and gazed deeply into Harry's eyes and straight into his soul, searching.
"Is there something you want to tell me Harry?"
There was no getting past Dumbledore on anything; Harry had always known that, but he wasn't sure how to explain any of the events of the past months to him. Part of him wasn't even sure if it had been real. What if he had been dreaming? What if there was no such thing as the Arcus Temporae Charm, what if he had been hospitalized after the incident in the Department of Mysteries and had been asleep ever since?
"Professor, is there such a thing as the Arcus Temporae Charm?"
"Yes Harry, why is it that you ask?" asked Dumbledore, almost as if he already knew the answer.
"Riddle came to my house last summer and somehow he got a hold of my wand and he did it. He went through the gateway or whatever it is that it's called. And when I woke up I was at Grimmauld Place and my par-” he couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence over the gush of tears that trickled down his cheeks and the immense grief growing inside him once more.
"Harry, do you know why Voldemort might have performed the charm?" Dumbledore asked, again seemingly as though he knew the answer.
"He said it was because Neville would be easier to kill. He tried to force us to fight one another so that both people who could have fulfilled the prophecy were dead."
"Yes Harry, there was indeed a prophecy made about you and Voldemort which both you and Neville might have fulfilled. I understand that you know that somehow. There are certain things about you and who you are that given some of Voldemort's power would make you a very formidable opponent indeed. Though I daresay people discount Mr. Longbottom too much. He has a power all his own that he doesn't have the confidence to see in himself. I would have thought Voldemort might have known that. But with all things considered, it must have been a very different place you woke up in."
"My parents were alive, Sirius was free and alive too," he could feel himself choking up but he didn't want to stop, he needed to get it off his chest, but at that very moment Dumbledore again interrupted him.
"Are you wondering if it was real or not Harry?"
"Well, yes, I rather was. How could it have been real, I mean, things were just too different."
"There have been many people who have altered time and when they went back to change it back, often times they wonder if it was all just a dream, and there is no one who can tell them the answer to that but themselves. Many great men have gone mad meddling with time. That is why it is under such strict Ministry control."
"So how do I know if it was just a dream? How do I know that I didn't take a bad Stunning Spell at the Department of Mysteries and dream it all?"
"As I said, only you can know that."
"Professor, one night I was having this dream and it was so real, I was being tortured, and my forehead, you know, where my scar is, it burned. But see, I didn't have a scar."
"Well, I can tell you that though time may have been changed, the mark that was left on you will be there forever. There is no denying who you are or what was done to you. You could do everything you could to change time and yourself, but the echoes of that mark will be there forever."
"So it wasn't a dream, or was it?" Harry asked solemnly, tears dropping from the bottom of his chin silently as he thought of everything he had lost.
"It is impossible to tell you that Harry, as I said before," was the only answer he got.
"But there are so many people suffering in this world. It's not fair. It's not fair!" Harry cried, his voice rising again and anger beginning to rise in him as well. It was an emotion he had become quite familiar with over the last few months, if those months had even been real.
"Well, the halls of time themselves refuse to be fair, it's-"
"Lupin wasn't a werewolf! My parents were alive! Sirius was alive!" he shouted, refusing to believe that those things were true no longer. Why had he wanted to leave so badly? What had it gotten him?
"Well, there is nothing I can do for Remus, or for your parents," he added quickly "but Sirius is still very much alive. When did he ever die?"
Harry's heart skipped a beat, it felt as though it skipped several beats. How? How could he possibly be alive?
"I can see you look puzzled, and you did receive a rather nasty blow from Bellatrix Lestrange which you likely don't remember, so I shall explain to you what happened as best I can."
Harry watched him speak, hardly daring to listen to what he heard next.
"The rest of the students and you had taken some serious blows, but no one was injured beyond repair, you are the last to leave the hospital. But several Order members and myself were alerted by Professor Snape when you fled the castle with Dolores. Do you remember that?"
Harry nodded his head furiously and gave him a look to hurry and go on.
"People were dueling everywhere, and I'm not sure exactly what happened after that, but from what I gather, Sirius and Bellatrix were dueling, and he was very close to falling through the Veil of the Beyond, but you somehow fell on top of him and the both of you landed just off to the side of it. Bellatrix then hit you with a severe Stunning Spell, and from there, I'm not sure what happened. There was more dueling and though Voldemort and several of the Death Eaters got away, there are some that we caught that are now sitting in Azkaban."
So if he had dueled with Neville and Voldemort in Mr. Ollivander's shop and the Arcus Temporae Charm had indeed worked, he had come out in the duel at the Department of Mysteries and had narrowly saved Sirius' life? It didn't seem possible.
"Where is he?! Can I see him?!" he yelled almost in Dumbledore's face.
"He is not here at the moment. He is down at the Ministry of Magic having his name cleared as we speak," Dumbledore said softly. "It is good to see him a free man after so many years; captivity just didn't suit him."
Harry's head was spinning. It wasn't possible, no, it couldn't be.
Dumbledore looked at his watch and frowned.
"I am sorry Harry, but this is where I must leave you. I have a meeting with the Minister." he said grimly.
"One more thing Professor."
"If I saved Sirius' life when he was supposed to die, is that wrong? I mean, what will happen?" he asked panicked.
"Sirius is a lucky man. That is all I may say. It is not as though you haven't saved him from a terrible fate before," Dumbledore said with a half-smile.
* * *
The rest of the day he was babied and pampered by Mrs. Weasley and many Order members came to visit, Fred and George, Moody, Tonks, Kingsely Shacklebolt, and so many others that Harry began to forget who. Two people he could not forget, however, were Ron and Hermione. It was an incredible feeling, having friends again.
But seeing Hermione was more different than it ever had been. She was still just as pretty as he remembered her, if not more so now. She held herself in such a confident way now, and that only drew him to her more. He would have to remember to tell her that someday.
The next morning he was allowed to leave St. Mungo's and it hurt a bit to get out of bed. As he got slowly dressed, he looked into the mirror just behind the bed in which he had been lying. There he was, scar and all, but there was something else as well. There was a slight cut that was still healing. It looked as though it had been much worse, and he knew that it had. It was the cut Neville had given him in Mr. Ollivander’s shop. It was likely no one else had thought anything of it, but he knew it for what it was.
That was all that was left of the life he both loved and detested. It was what remained of his parents. Everything considered, if given the choice to do it all over again, he wasn't sure that he would have taken it. It had been nice to see them, to hold them in a hug, and just to experience them, but now he knew exactly what it was that he missed so much before he had known them. He continued to gaze into the mirror, but no tears came. He had made his peace with them, and loved them so very much. Maybe they would meet again someday; a long day off when he was ready to face death, but there was so much more he had left to do.
As he walked out of the hospital room, he was greeted with a few cheers and welcomes from the members of the Order who had come to pick him up. They all seemed a bit foreign, as did the world he was in now.
"Hey Harry!" came a happy and very familiar voice behind him.
He looked over to see Sirius there, a free Sirius with his arms raised in the air and a huge smile on his face, and looking at him standing there in the hallway at St. Mungo's was when Harry knew exactly how he felt. The trip had been wearisome, but it had made all the difference.
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