- Action Romance
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 07/20/2005Updated: 01/05/2008Words: 204,297Chapters: 22Hits: 56,754
Harry Potter and the Soul of the Hero
- Story Summary:
- The Boy Who Lived has survived Sword and Defiance, but his fight has only just begun. Power enough to destroy Existence is growing in more than one source, and the War for Creation will burn all worlds. Beings of higher power, both Light and Dark, battle for dominance and caught in the middle is Harry Potter. But Harry has his own war to fight - against the Dark Lord - and humanity must unite if he is to win. We have reached the end, and change is coming, whether it be for good or ill. Harry must gamble again with everything on the line, even if it means damning his soul to an eternity of darkness... will he pay that price to save those he loves, or will he tear down Creation itself to destroy his enemies?
Chapter 19 - A Hand in Fate
- Chapter Summary:
- The crazy jaunt through the tangled mess of Harry's subconscious continues... The Boy Who Lived sacrificed his sanity for power a very long time ago.
Harry Potter and the Soul of the Hero
Chapter 18 - A Hand in Fate
But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them.
But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams
than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.
"I think there is a big difference between who you are and what you do, Harry," Ethan said, walking alongside Harry on this infinitely long bridge in his mind. The clear crystal structure stretched away to the horizon, suspended by nothing over a vast twilight strewn ocean.
"Listen to Billy, Potter," Beelzebub said, dressed once again in his black shirt and tie. At three feet, he wasn't a very imposing figure, but Harry had seen him fight as well as the rest of them. "He may be on to something."
"You kill, Harry, but does that make you a killer and only a killer. I think not - you kill to defend the souls that can't defend themselves. I mean sure, given the right opponent and the right situation, or perhaps the wrong situation, I think everyone can be a killer. But only you, across all of time, can fight the things you do."
Hands in his pockets, a limp in his step, Harry nodded. "If that is true," he began carefully, "then it means that we, that I, never had a choice in the matter. To kill is very easy, for anyone. To live with it, might be a challenge. Everything begins with a choice, Ethan. It's what makes us who we are."
"Which, of course, is why we're all here," Beelzebub stated. "Who are you, Harry Potter? Where are you going? What are your goals in life?"
"What does it matter?" Ethan asked, despairing of this whole dream world. "We'll slay the dragon, rescue the princess and be home in time for tea - that's what's important."
Beelzebub looked as if he was regretting bringing Ethan along, and contemplating throwing him over the side of the bridge. "It matters, boy," he growled. "This lad has power - power enough to wipe away a galaxy, to swallow planets, to end all of life - and he doesn't understand why he has it, where it came from, who he is to use it! He's an arsonist, given not a match but an atom bomb - perhaps he'll do the right thing, perhaps he'll blow up a city!"
"I don't intentionally want to hurt anyone," Harry said.
"And yet you do, Potter, you do," Beelzebub laughed. "Whether you want it to happen or not thousands die for just being near you. It happened the other day, in that city - you can name countless other times. How does that feel?"
Harry stared out over the endless ocean, perhaps looking for an answer out there that wasn't as terrible as the first that had popped into his head. There was nothing out there. "I don't feel anything," he said. "Not a damn thing one way or the other."
Beelzebub nodded, as if he had expected that. "You learnt anything yet on this crazy ride through your subconscious? Anything at all?"
Harry smiled. "That my mind is a very disturbing place... and suffers from briefs attempts at humour."
"Very brief," the little man agreed. "And deeply confusing. But it shows one thing, at the least."
"What?" asked Ethan.
"That he's still human," Beelzebub nodded, gazing at Harry. "That there is hope for him yet. You didn't get it all," he cackled.
"What's that mean?" Ethan turned to Harry.
Harry shook his head. "He means that I didn't kill all of my emotions, all of my humanity, to survive. Came pretty damn close though, I reckon."
"But is that important?" Beelzebub continued. "What is the worth of anything you do, anything that anyone does? We're all destined for the grave, Potter. You as well, given time."
"The worth is in the intent," Harry replied without hesitation. He had had a lot of time in long empty years to think this through. It had been an attempt to justify his life's dark deeds. "In the act, in my promise to do the right thing. Even if it doesn't last, and darkness undoes it, the fact that it happened in the first place is worth enough."
Beelzebub grinned and that could have meant anything. "I think," he said slowly, "you're on the right track."
There was a flash of deep white light, a harsh laughter rang out in Harry's ears, and he stood not upon the bridge but upon a vast balcony overlooking a shining silver city. Skyscrapers that did, indeed, seem to scrape the sky glittered in the soft light of the evening - in twilight, of course - in the largest city Harry had ever seen.
Etoch, it had been called, and he had visited it about fifty years ago. Looking up into the sky, Harry saw the streaks of smoke and the bitter trails of intercontinental ballistic missiles. ICBMs. He was standing only moments before the impressive and quietly beautiful city exploded into the radioactive flames of chaos.
Every world he visited, if not barren and desolate, had been engaged in some type of conflict. Every single one had been at war with either itself or monsters. Chaos had followed him and even overtook him on his long march across existence. Entropy, the inevitable decay of a society, had accelerated when his scar link tore a hole through the Ways of Twilight.
"In a few minutes," Harry said, turning around on the marble balcony to face Ethan and Beelzebub. "This is not going to be a very happy place."
Even now, far in the distance, they could hear the sounds of battle, of gun fire and explosions. Light flared on the horizon and smoke quickly followed. For this world it was Armageddon.
"So you just gonna kick back and watch the madness?" Beelzebub asked. "Do you know how many people live in this city?"
"Countless innocent millions," Harry muttered, with a careless shrug. "That's always the way of it - there are a lot of them and they're mostly innocent."
"People with lives, families, little kiddies. It's gonna go up in smoke!"
Harry's eyes flashed in the twilight. "I know," he growled, his fists clenched in rage. "I watched it happen once before. I stopped it from happening at the Ways of Twilight."
That made Beelzebub smile... darkly... and his own little eyes narrowed. "But you hold a dark suspicion that you did more damage than good at the Ways, don't you?"
Ethan looked at him and Harry couldn't meet his gaze. He turned away as a fresh line of nuclear missiles streamed overhead, and the sky suddenly became littered with enemy jet aircraft. Shockwaves as these planes broke the sound barrier shook the shining city and shattered thousands of panes of glass. It had begun.
"What's he talking about?" Ethan asked.
Harry sighed as the bombs started to drop, as the world began to fall apart around them. "History is doomed to repeat itself," he said. "By changing time in the mortal realms I sentenced existence to a slower death at the hands of the Destroyers... and probably Voldemort."
"You're making it sound like you've already lost."
Have I lost? Harry wondered. Have I... failed?
There was a whistling from up above and the three of them looked up to see an awesome sight. Dozens of sharp missiles were raining down upon the city, falling in groups and alone. Feeling his strength returned to him, Harry growled and waved his hand through the air, cutting a path.
Sparks jumped between his fingers and a rush of power jumped from his arm in a long, swinging arc that rocketed outwards towards the sky and across the breadth of the empiric city. The missiles were washed away in this growing shield, exploding against it uselessly or just caught spinning and spinning as the power wave expanded.
Not a one struck the shining silver towers, but the sky and surrounding country was decimated with the blasts, radiated from the exposure, and blinded with the light of a hundred warheads exploding as one.
"Great," Beelzebub sighed. "Now a big, angry nuclear cloud is going to descend on this fair town. You've turned a quick fiery death into a slow painful one."
Harry blinked. "I have, haven't I... shit."
The tired and dark look on Beelzebub's face slowly turned darker, and then mischievous. "But then... you have every right to, don't you, Darkslayer? It is you who gets to decide who lives and who dies - not even Death could fault you there, and he tried."
Harry shuddered. "Yeah, I remember," he said. "He stabbed me with his scythe... and I pulled it out. Death wasn't too happy about that."
"It wasn't your time," Ethan whispered, as the smoke and radioactive clouds began to roll over the city. Screams, explosions and crashes, and dreadful silence were all that could be heard. "We might want to get out of here...."
Beelzebub was jumping around in circles, biting down hard on his cigar. "What have we learnt this time, Harry?" he asked.
Harry snorted. "That no matter what I do... innocent people will always pay the price."
"We're having fun, aren't we?" Beelzebub grinned. "Fasten your seatbelt, Mr. Twilight, things are about to get fast."
The world faded and Harry blinked inside of a white sphere of dazzling light. He blinked again and was lying on his back, staring up at a dirty grey ceiling, lit by one dull bulb. Sitting up, he looked in a daze around the very familiar room he was in, looked out the nearby window just to confirm his suspicions, and then collapsed back onto the bed and began to laugh hysterically.
Although it had been over one hundred years since he had set foot in it, and although it had been annihilated by Voldemort, Harry's memory recalled in perfect detail his small bedroom at Number Four Privet Drive. All of his cousin Dudley's old and broken possessions littered the room. His trunk sat at the foot of the bed and even the blasted calendar, on which he counted down the days until his return to Hogwarts, was pinned to the wall.
"Ah... memories," he sighed, jumping out of the bed and gazing out of the window at Privet Drive. It was early evening, twilight, and the calm that this street had always existed in was firmly in place.
"Beelzebub?" he called, turning around in the room and nearly tripping over his old Nimbus broomstick. "Please explain, Beelzebub. What does this mean? What does any of it mean?"
He went over to the door and found it locked - from the outside. Smiling as he remembered the locks his relatives had placed on the door, Harry wrenched it clean out of the frame with one good tug and stepped out into the hallway. The house was as he remembered it, right down to the stairs that creaked and the marks on the wall.
He made his way to the kitchen, having to open the door there as well, but it was empty. Biting his lip thoughtfully, Harry checked the living room and found it the same. Immaculately clean but entirely deserted. He was about to leave, about to open the front door, when he heard someone sneeze.
It came from the cupboard under the stairs. Turning back around, Harry saw his old 'bedroom' had been bolted shut. Slowly now, he undid the latch and slipped the bolt out, curious as to who would be inside. He found himself, as he had looked one hundred and six (just six?) years ago.
Messy black hair pointing ever which way, glasses askew on his face, pale, skinny and wearing tattered old clothes, Harry knelt down in front of the cupboard as his younger self gazed up at him curiously.
"Hello, Harry," he said.
"Who... who are you?" the ten year old Harry Potter asked, genuine curiosity in his emerald eyes.
The older Harry, the real Harry, oddly felt nothing as he gazed at what he once was. "I am what you will become," he replied. "I'm the bright future you always wanted. Its all sparkles and fireworks from here on out, kid."
Harry smiled... and Harry smiled as well. "Not much time is left, Darkslayer," the younger Harry said.
Older (much older) Harry nodded slowly. "I'm inclined to agree with you."
"Do your best with what time you have - no one can fault you on that."
Harry's vision slowly faded, and the world around him was spinning faster and faster until all he could see was a dash of spinning colour that forced him to close his eyes. One thing was not moving though, and that was Beelzebub. The little man was standing next to him, holding a new six pack of beer and grinning.
Suddenly the spinning of the world got a whole lot more... forceful, and Harry felt as if he were caught in a whirling tornado of half glimpsed worlds and forgotten dreams. Only it also felt like he didn't move at all, and still Beelzebub grinned up at him.
"Look out, Dorothy," the little man winked. "This ain't Kansas anymore."
A harsh screaming filled Harry's ears and he cupped his hands over them, probably screaming himself but the sound was lost. It didn't matter - it never mattered!
Raindrops were falling on his head when he opened his eyes, standing quite symbolically on a yellow brick road. Clean cut fields, cornfields, the storks swaying gently in the breeze, were all he could see for as far as he could see.
A motor engine roared behind him and Harry jumped off the path as Beelzebub came storming through on a motorcycle, horn blaring and driving goggles firmly in place. He spun on the wheels, white smoke and burning rubber marked the yellow brick road, and a sidecar simply materialised out of the air.
"Jump in, Dorothy, we're off to see the wizard," Beelzebub grinned.
Shaking his head, Harry sat down into the sidecar with a sigh. "Why not?" he said. "Why we going to see the wizard?"
"Are you kidding!?" Beelzebub exclaimed. "We're gonna rob the bearded bastard. What are you packing?"
Harry blinked. "I--" He lifted his hands and wasn't the least bit surprised to see he was holding a double barrelled sawn-off shotgun. The muggle variety - no crazy modifications on this weapon. "I got this," he said, swallowing slowly. "Fully loaded, I reckon."
The two of them took off down the yellow brick road, alongside the wavy cornfields and under the unchanging blue sky. "Billy Boy Ethan is off battling space monsters," Beelzebub said, gunning the bike for all it was worth. Harry had no problem hearing him, however. A quirk of reality in this place of illusion.
"So tell me, Harry," the dwarf-man grinned after they had travelled a fair distance and the scenery had not changed the slightest. "Are you ever afraid, old chap?"
No need to think about that one. "Not of what I fight... but of the damage I could do, yes," he replied. "It may have been better if I'd just died a long, long time ago... someone else may have defeated Voldemort eventually."
"Ah, but you never run away, do you, Darkslayer," Beelzebub continued. "You stand your ground, as anyone worth a damn would. Here, let's pull over and have a look at the graveyard."
Harry frowned. "What graveyard - all I see is corn--" The corn was gone and Harry didn't see it go. Now, as far as the eye could see, stretched grey and old tombstones rotting in the sun or locked with brambly vines. The graveyard of Harry's mind was an awfully full place.
"Oh, look," Beelzebub said with false surprise. "There's a funeral going on right now. I wonder who you're burying."
There was indeed a group of mourners standing all dressed in black around a freshly dug grave. A shiny sandalwood coffin hung suspended above the hole in the earth and a marble tombstone stood tall, the last marker for the dead. Beelzebub pulled right up alongside the grave, and none of the several dozen people there seemed to take notice.
Harry jumped out of the sidecar, curious as to whose funeral this was. He moved through the crowd without drawing attention, Beelzebub at his side. No one spoke, it was all too silent, and Harry simply clicked his teeth together when he saw the name on the tombstone.
Harry James Potter
1980 - The End
Gone away owin' more than he could pay.
"Well that rhymes," Beelzebub decided. "Oh look, Potter, someone is going to say a few words."
Harry pulled his gaze away from the words etched into the marble and turned to follow Beelzebub back a few steps so he could get a look at this person. He began to recognise a few of the mourners as well. Dumbledore was there, as were the Dursleys, Ron, Hermione, the entire Weasley flock, dozens of his old Hogwarts friends, Ethan Rafe, a few dozen of the people he had met along the years including Sarah the nurse, and Tarishma the warrior.
Harry laughed when he saw who was going to be speaking at his funeral. Lord Voldemort stood at the head of the coffin, resting his skeletal hand lightly on the brass handle.
"Harry and I were always close," Voldemort began, a tear falling from his flaming red eye. "Many enemies came and went over the years but Potter always managed to hold on that extra second, to escape me in some unexpected and spur of the moment type way."
Others were crying, some were smiling, and everyone was nodding.
"I killed my only son for siding with Potter and the Light," Voldemort continued. "I'd kill all of you here for more power, and I think Harry would understand that. He wasn't like the rest of us, was Harry. Some called him a madman, others called him a hero. But I like to think that there was a spark in Potter that could never die out, no matter how long and hard I tortured him or killed his surviving family members."
"Its true," Vernon Dursley wept, sniffing into a handkerchief. "He killed us and Harry just smiled and kept on trucking. He was such a little trooper. I only wish I'd mistreated him more...."
Feeling rather out of place at his own funeral, Harry glanced back at the tombstone. It had changed.
Harry James Potter
1980 - God knows?
Aged 117 - Only the Good Die Young
"I always thought Harry had a way with words," Hermione said, now standing in Voldemort's place. The Dark Lord was mingling amongst the crowd, and a storm cloud was following him around. "He was funny and articulate, but never let it go to his head. He was the kind of guy that people wanted to be around - because he had strength of character, he was leader, and you can't fake that."
The top of his coffin was suddenly littered with dying white roses, wilted and burning around the edges of the petals. If it meant something, something symbolic, it was lost on Harry, who had pulled himself up to sit on the top of his own headstone. A headstone which now read....
Harry James Potter
1980 - Till the cows come home
He kept trying to get better at it
"I never had a rabbit," Luna Lovegood said, sporting her Gryffindor lion's hat and her butterbeer jewellery. Her dirty blond hair flowed down to her waist and her eyes, those pale pools, looked not at the coffin but up at the real Harry swinging his legs against the tombstone. "But Harry was close enough. What with his furry ears and cute pink nose... I'm fairly certain that Harry would have made less of an impact on the world had he been a rabbit."
There were tearful nods at this, as if it made a whole world of sense. Compared to the rest of this crazy dream trip Harry guessed it did.
"Keep on rockin', Harry," Luna continued, still staring at him. "In death, you may find calm but certainly not peace."
Harry blinked. The headstone changed yet again.
Harry James Potter
1980 - You figure it out, buggered if I can!
He's all dressed up with no place to go.
"I remember this one time Harry and I went out on the town," Ron said, laughing and crying. "We picked up these girls - at least they looked like girls, and Harry blah blah blah blah box of old spandex and a blah blah blah blah watched a Death Eater swallow a canary whilst dancing to the blah blah blah...."
"I think the drugs must be wearing off," Harry whispered down to Beelzebub, smiling as Ron continued to speak but say absolutely nothing.
"Or maybe you just don't want to hear what he has to say...." the little man replied.
Larry Barry Gary
1980 - Time flies
He was God's bitch. And Fate's doormat.
"One thing I remember most fondly about Harry," Ralph the houseplant said, resting on the lid of the coffin, "is the moment he died. Who would've thought, after surviving so much, that he'd eat a bad piece of fish and choke on it? I didn't see it coming, and I wasn't his friend. In fact, I'm glad he's dead. How poetically ironic... it makes you think...."
Harry sighed and looked up into the blue clear sky and watched it wash away into twilight. The first star of the night wasn't a star, but the planet Mars - the planet of war shone brightly with her eternal radiance.
"I will say this for Potter though," Ralph continued. "He had balls - big balls. There wasn't anything he was afraid of. The pair on this guy were so big that you could almost guarantee he was going to defy whatever stood against him. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing is all a matter of your perspective - I'm not here to tell you what Potter was. You have to make up your own damn mind about that."
Harry 'Twilight' Potter
Once - Never
This story may go on forever
"What am I learning this time, Beelzebub?" Harry asked his short companion.
"You suspect that all of your defiance," Beelzebub said, "may have been compliance. Hey, that rhymes. The Darkslayer Prophecy, was raised to be the Right Hand of God. Has your life, has everything you are and ever done been on the whim of a God that needed your help....? Its food for thought."
"I'm not a pawn," Harry growled. "I'm not...."
Beelzebub snorted. "Even if a pawn becomes a king, Potter, it is still just a playing piece."
1980 - Until it is done
He's the last hope for the living
"Endless battles, impossible wars, tireless struggles...." Harry sighed. "I've seen and done it all and I am tired. I've a tiredness of the soul, of the mind, that death could not cure. Who am I? When will I die? Beelzebub, you got a beer?"
Beelzebub winked. "Thought you'd never ask," he whispered, and chucked a can of beer up into Harry's open hands.
Bringer of Chaos
Beginning - End
He was everywhere in between
"I loved Harry," Ginny Weasley said. "And he knew it. I was one of the few that loved him, one of the few that cared. There was a tenderness about him, something that could not be destroyed no matter how much he suffered. The power the Dark Lord knew not... a power to love through even a soul as black as the night."
Harry was quiet as he gazed upon Ginny, her eyes wet with tears and her body shaking in the small breeze. He slowly sipped his beer and sighed into the air.
"If he ever had a fault, it was that he was too forgiving," Ginny continued. "I think given a choice between the world and me, he would choose me - and be damned for it. God and Harry never saw eye to eye on a lot of things, and I'm fairly sure Satan learnt to fear him. A lot of people died, a lot of people will die - they will be the lucky ones."
Harry James Potter
1980 - 1998
He was only human
Dumbledore began to play a big set of bagpipes as the coffin was finally lowered into the cold earth for eternity. Beelzebub was dancing to the sound of the pipes amongst the white roses on the lid of the coffin, doing a few flips and kicking his legs high into the air.
"He is an Englishman," sang Beelzebub, winking at Harry as he flipped through the air and slowly sank into the earth. "For he himself has said it, and it's greatly to his credit, that he is an Englishman."
The dozens of mourners joined in with the little devil. "That he is an Englishman!"
Beelzebub continued solo. "For he might have been a Roosian, a French, a Turk, or Proosian, or perhaps Itali-an.
Everybody. "Or perhaps Itali-an."
"But in spite of all temptations," Beelzebub was building up to a crescendo, Harry saw. "To belong to other nations. He remains an Englishman! He remains an Englishman!"
Harry drained his can of beer and crushed it in his hand, tossing it aside as the coffin was fully lowered and the dirt began to fall in on either side. "Well at least it didn't get weird this time," he shrugged, jumping down off his tombstone and gazing at his epitaph a final time.
Harry James Potter
1980 - FOREVER!
It will never be over, not for him.
"Scowling won't help you, Harry," Beelzebub chuckled. "Nothing will change for the better in anger."
"That was surprisingly wise," Harry replied, as the world melted and a new one was born in a heartbeat. He now stood upon another long, empty road - one of millions in his mind that led nowhere and everywhere. Stars blanketed the dark sky. "You're right, of course."
Beelzebub nodded. "What is right? Who's right? It is all perspective again, Harry, all perspective. Do you think Voldemort considers himself the villain of this story?"
Harry shrugged. "Madmen rarely do... so what does that make me?"
"We're trying to find that out!" Beelzebub exclaimed. "You try to do the right thing, Potter, I know you - I am part of you - and I've seen you try... but this happens."
Beelzebub flung his arm towards the night sky, blazing with stars, and like a television screen a memory played out. It was of Harry's fight with Allarius, round two, on the world with the city that they had destroyed. Harry watched his face move from passive to beyond angry as the demon murdered the innocent to reach him. He sent a beam of power in Allarius's general direction, and it toppled skyscrapers - killing thousands.
"Was that the right move?" Beelzebub asked. "Thousands died in a heartbeat on your choice. Allarius wasn't even scratched."
Harry watched the image in the sky fade away. "I did what I had to," he sighed. "I've no excuse. The innocent usually pay for the ambition of the powerful."
"You live with that," the little man continued, removing a fresh can of beer from his pocket and pulling the tab. "You destroyed billions of lives, and yet returned them to life at the Ways of Twilight - you saved humanity and every mortal creature... but now, now they are doomed to an even slower and final death at the hands of an army you also returned to life at the Ways."
"There was no choice."
"Allarius is back, Harry, Allarius! And he's as pissed as all hell. This time he is going to rain down from the sky, tear open the Boundary and, in the form of billions of Destroyers, waste this world and universe. All for you, always for you."
Harry shook his head. "That won't happen - I won't let it."
Beelzebub laughed, throwing back his head and downing the beer. Foam dribbled down his beard and onto the dark, endless road. "You're only human, Harry, only human. You bleed, you die. It will happen - no one knows their death before they meet it - and what will the infinite number of souls, of your race, have left then? Are you still a hero?"
Harry threw up his hands and turned away, gazing out into the darkness he was sure represented the uncertain future. "What is a hero?" he asked, bitterly. "I'm both light and dark, good and evil, right and wrong. Opposites, opposites, opposites, Beelzebub! I am what I am, and nothing can change that."
Beelzebub's eye blazed with fury. "Look at the road you've walked!" he cried, throwing his can aside and pushing Harry behind the knees so he turned and looked back down the winding path that was his life. It was littered now, and once again quite symbolically, with the corpses of millions of creatures - millions of opposites. These beings had been both light and dark, too. A red haze hung over the horizon, as the pale light of dawn rose in the distance.
"You've walked through that! Waded through an ocean of blood, sweat and tears, Potter!" Beelzebub seemed to shake with anger. "FOR WHAT? FOR WHO? FOR LOVE? You beat all the odds, you've won every hand but the last, and now your enemies are holding all the aces. Is it time for the great Harry Potter to lie down and die!?"
Harry clenched his fists. "I'll die fighting, little man," he growled. "If not this fight then the next, or the one after that. When does it end? Is Creation so fucked up that I have to live again, do it all again, for an extra few bitter years of existence before the next threat, the next evil, tries to destroy us all. It is, Beelzebub, it is... and I'm tired of it. I'll end it this time or destroy it all myself, because too much blood has been spilt. One life, one soul, was too high of a price for whatever force deemed this game necessary."
"Spoken like the true Darkslayer you are," Beelzebub grinned. "You're a living contradiction, Harry. You yourself are an opposite of yourself. Did you hear what you just said?" He threw up his hand and the last few moments played out in the sky, on the screen of stars. Harry's voice bellowed across the cosmos.
"I'll end it this time or destroy it myself, because too much blood has been spilt."
"End it yourself....?" Beelzebub whispered. "After fighting so hard and so long to save it will you be the one to finally call the game off? I think so, because I know when you're lying and I know when you're utterly serious, as you are now. Forces beyond us, beyond mortals, set this in motion aeons ago - will the Boy Who Lived rob them of their sport? Oh, I hope so. But then what?"
Harry smiled sadly. "After all of that... After everything! I'm thinking... two and a half kids, a house with a white picket fence and a job nine to five for forty or so years before retirement."
"Could you live such a life?" Beelzebub asked, genuinely curious.
Harry sighed and shook his head. "No," he said, "but it is a nice dream."
"Then what is left for the Boy Who Lived once his war is over?"
Harry didn't know. He truly didn't... and said as much.
"Time will tell, I reckon," Beelzebub nodded. "Yes, it will."
Harry began to feel cold and his gaze was infinitely sad as he looked down the road once again at the sea of corpses, swarmed over by dark-eyed carrion eaters. He very quickly decided he wanted to leave. "Let's go somewhere else," he said.
Beelzebub grinned and clicked his fingers. The red and desolate sky of the death road was replaced by a shining bright and inviting light in a clear blue sky, drifting over a field of thornless and dew covered white roses that were swaying and seemed to be singing softly in a slight breeze. Almost all of the tension Harry felt before now drifted away as he sighed and basked in the calming nature of the roses.
He wasn't alone, either.
"Care to dance, Harry?" Ginny asked him, her eyes as bright as the world he now stood in. She was beautiful, young and vibrant. Over her lithe body she wore a strapless white dress and her feet were bare as she stepped through the roses and took his hand, placing her other on his shoulder. He held her waist and they waltzed slowly amongst the flowers. She rested her head against his chest.
"This is a dream," he whispered. "But one I can live with."
"Don't spoil it," she chided, but with laughter in her voice. "It is as real as any reality you've visited... or destroyed. Anyway, you promised me cake in Paris, Mr. Potter."
Harry laughed, his own cheek resting against the top of Ginny's head. Her hair smelt of flowers, of the roses. Everything was roses - all that mattered, all that was, and that was left to die. "I'm afraid I don't know what Paris looks like," he whispered. "Life never took me there."
Ginny sighed. "No matter. It is the thought that counts. The worth is in the deed, in the thought. You've done all right there, you know."
"Where's the worth in a crazy centaur induced drug trip?" he wondered out loud. "I can't figure out half of what I've seen, can you? I mean a homicidal plant and an alcoholic dwarf... I worry about my head sometimes, Gin."
"Well I'm in here so it's not all bad."
And just like that she disappeared. Harry stood alone in the field as the white roses faded to black and roiling storm clouds tortured the sky. It began to rain, and yet Harry just stood there, trying to remember the smell of the roses and the sound of Ginny's voice. He was utterly spent and alone.
Ginny has a part to play, he thought, soaked now from head to toe. Beelzebub was nowhere to be seen and Harry did not particularly care if he came back or not. She's been dragged into it... as have Ron and Hermione.
Harry had not forgotten that whilst he was missing for the two months he had had his memories blocked, that his friends had been connected to him in some unfathomable way. They had felt his bruises - Ron had even shown a few of his own. There was even that dream that was not quite a dream. He had stepped over Ginny in a world of darkness, his swords drawn, and destroyed something of evil.
She had been real there - so had he and so had the creature.
They were all connected. It was all connected right down to the small coincidences in his life that he no longer noticed or even cared about. All that mattered now, and really all that had ever mattered, was saving the world so that the dream of reality could live on in some form. So that humanity, and all of its beauty and terror, its love and hate, could exist!
That was worth fighting for....
But for once Harry knew he wasn't fighting alone. It had been... ordained, he supposed, and all part of this goddamn Darkslayer burden. All part of some.... big plan. He remembered:
"I knew His faith in a mortal human was not misplaced," Ginny mused to herself, care and tenderness in her eyes. "One day you will have need for us again, but it will be harder next time - the True Magic source has almost run dry since the Beginning, and the fall of the Creator - this has drained it further to almost nothing... it will be your task to replenish it when you are done with war. Do you understand?"
Only it hadn't been Ginny - only a representation by some being that lived beyond his understanding and reach. She... it... had appeared in a friendly form as Harry lay almost defeated and dead on the field he destroyed Allarius upon. He wept then but he did not weep now. There were no tears left in him.
Did he understand? At the time he thought he did, but it was questionable if he was ever supposed to. Destiny stood behind his name, behind Potter... at the centre point of Creation, at the Ways of Twilight. But that was clouded in his mind... a lost memory of a time best left unknown.
"I...." Harry said slowly, opening his eyes and willing the rain to stop falling. A beam of pure sunlight broke through the clouds and lit up his face with an ethereal glow. "I am the Darkslayer. I am the Hand of God."
That was who he was, who he was born to be. Death to anyone who stood in his way. His heart was not pure, neither was his soul - both were damned and that was painfully ironic given who he was. But he had long since learnt that Existence had a sick sense of humour.
A familiar voice suddenly interrupted his thoughts.
"Before the face of God we duelled," Beelzebub whispered, looking down and reading from a thick tome bound in red leather. "And tore asunder the heavens. God himself smiled and waved. A small smile... as if He knew a secret we did not."
The rain fell on Harry's face and he hurt - an age old pain than never truly left him. "What is that you're reading?" he asked the dwarf.
Beelzebub smiled and turned away before answering. "It's called The Defiance of the Hero. Quite long and boring but with a few kickass fight scenes in it."
Harry felt different than he had done so far in this mind trip. He felt he had come to a great revelation, had accepted a truth that had haunted him for an eternity. He had a purpose beyond countless and mindless battles for all of time - he had to end the madness.
"How does it end?" he asked Beelzebub.
"Not happily - never that, but with hope that the hero, who seemed more like a villain at times, could be redeemed. There was no love interest in it, though, and almost all of the main characters died in horrifically painful ways."
Harry grinned and his eyes flashed. "Sounds like a waste of time and paper. Who's it written by?"
Beelzebub raised a bushy eyebrow as he scanned the title page. "On the cover here," he said, "it just says it's written by 'A Loser' and that's a direct quote. How unfortunate...."
Harry had already lost interest in the book. "Did I ever tell you that I'm the Hand of God, Beelzebub?"
Beelzebub sniffed and shrugged, tossing the book aside. "Please, it's all the crazy characters in the left side of your brain talk about. You'd think they'd have something better to do with their time."
Harry felt that it was time for the crazy vision quest thing to end. He didn't know how much time had passed both in here and in the outside world, but there was a war - the Last War - going on out there. And it couldn't be any more insane or dangerous than where he was now.
"This wacky episode is done with, Beezy," Harry smiled, silhouetted against the roiling storm clouds by the thin beam of sunlight. The black roses seemed to wilt as he spoke. "I know enough about myself to be getting on with... to do what has to be done."
"Oh, you do, do you?" Beelzebub scowled at him, a hand on his hip and the other stroking his beard.
Harry inclined his head, nodding shortly. "I'm not a hero, but I get the job done. My soul may be damned and I have no control whatsoever over my existence after I die - and I will, I know that. Hell may be my eternity or perhaps blissful nothingness. Compared to this world and reality that I have been forced to take responsibility for, I welcome death."
Beelzebub nodded in agreement. "You and Death never saw eye to eye, however. There's that to think on." One of those slow, mischievous grins that Harry had come to hate spread across Beelzebub's face a moment later. "And there is something final, as well. Something your subconscious has realised - has really always known - but that you've either ignored or denied. Do you know what I'm talking about, Darkslayer?"
Shaking his head, Harry replied, "I don't."
Beelzebub chuckled. "Search that blackened husk you call a soul. Dig deep, Mr. Hand of God, and you'll see that not everything is as it seems."
Harry glared. "Stop speaking in riddles, little man. What do I know?"
Moving his hand, Beelzebub raised his middle finger at Harry. He held it for a moment and then raised the remaining four fingers. Well, three fingers and a thumb. He stared at his hand and then at Harry as if, once again, this made all the sense in the world.
"Your hand...." Harry shrugged. "I don't see--"
Harry paled. In one instant it had all been made clear to him and he could have wept if there were tears of sadness left in him. But there were not - he had lost the ability to cry in sorrow. He had never been able to cry in joy, so that was of no consequence.
But the hand, dear Merlin, the hand. It made too much sense... after so long. If it were true, and Harry knew it was, then he was supposed to make it to the Ways of Twilight. He was supposed to start this war, recreate the Destroyers and lead the Light against Voldemort and his all too powerful enemies. It had meant to happen!
"What does a hand have, Harry?" Beelzebub said. The little man's voice sounded mocking to his ears.
Harry's lips moved soundlessly for a moment, and then he closed his eyes and clenched his fists. "Fingers," he spat, he raged, he cried. "A hand has fingers... separate digits that are part of the whole but individual from each other."
"Exactly.... Oh, exactly," Beelzebub laughed. "You always were quick on the uptake. So... Darkslayer, Boy Who Lived, Johnny Twilight, Mr. Hand of God - who do you think you've pulled down into this crazy maelstrom of death and endless war with you?"
Harry's eyes seemed to die as he thought of it, of the answer he had long searched for but now, he realised, had feared knowing. A hand had fingers... he was the Hand of God, but only one of the fingers on that hand. Perhaps the most important digit - the thumb, even, but still only one of five. At that moment lightning, purple and green, tore across the heavens, reflecting the anger he felt.
You," he said to Ginny, and then turned to look at Ron and Hermione as well. "You three, are important in this fight in a way I don't even know yet, but you are."
"What do you mean?" Ron asked.
"The dreams and bruises, Ron," Harry replied. "You felt them when I was a prisoner. We're connected, for some reason, and I think it means we have to stick together - four parts of a whole - so I'll never be far away."
Ah, why did Fate keep burning him like this? Where was the end? It seemed he had been asking himself that question his entire life, and like in the previous one hundred and seventeen years, his answer was only painful silence.
"We are connected," he said, as if dead, to Beelzebub. "Each a finger of the Hand of God. Each with their own part to play. God, I hate you," he finished weakly. "Ron... Hermione... Ginny. This is not fair...."
Beelzebub came to his side and raised four fingers. "You, Potter, make one - add your three friends and you get four fingers. Who is the fifth digit, the fifth individual destined to fight the greatest threat to Creation? Think about it...."
Harry knew before Beelzebub finished speaking, and he turned as a strong hand clapped him on the shoulder.
"I guess I make five," Ethan Rafe said, thunderous insanity reflected in his eyes from the tormented sky above. "Who would have thought we'd make it this far?"
Five humans - two of them with broken souls - against the might of the Final War, the Last Battle for Creation. Mortal, yet held fast by an unbreakable set of morals and belief in what is right and what is unchangingly wrong.
Existence could have done a lot worse than Harry Potter and his small, tired group of friends.
Deep within the Forbidden Forest, Firenze and Bane took a few unconscious steps back as Harry's eyes opened with a glint of determination burning as strong as the sun within them. He was bruised and bleeding and rose silently before the sparkling moonlit lake. Firenze felt no surprise that he had survived the dream journey.
The young man before them said nothing as he gazed out at the tranquil lake, its surface perfectly smooth and an identical mirror image of the night sky high above. Slowly a white light surrounded the boy, flowing gently across his skin and no doubt flashing across his eyes. Small blue sparks jumped across this light, only scarcely containing the awesome strength sealed within the human.
"We're gonna keep on rockin', Firenze," Harry finally said. He smiled - it was not comforting. It was terrifying. "I will count the centaurs as my allies. You will fight before the end... or be swept away with the rest. I am truly sorry."
The air shifted, reality folded, and Harry Potter disappeared.