Author's note: I'm back.
February 7, 2001
In contrast to the bright warm days Harry was enjoying in 1942, the present had taken a turn for the oppressive. The cold winter and lingering London fog made for miserable weather. While the Muggles brushed it off as just a dreary time of year the witches and wizards found it a manifestation of the horror and desolation they were going through.
The situation in 1942 may have held the veneer of peace, but the future had crawled out of its cocoon with cruelty on its wings.
"Ha ha ha!" Insane laughter filled the makeshift base, pounded people's eardrums, and grated on everyone's nerves. "You don't have a hope; his reign will be great and terrible! You will be crushed beneath his fist! Death to all the blood traitors!"
For almost two months the Death Eater had been the prisoner of Dumbledore's Army. The man was magically bound to a distorted iron chair so tightly that it nearly blocked blood circulation. His hair had long since grown greasy and lanky and his clothes were beyond filthy. The first day of his capture he had been arrogant and proud but after two months of imprisonment, his sanity was declining. Still, he was defiant and screamed with a fervor that was nearly religious at anyone who came within earshot.
"Joy to his downfall! The Boy Who Lived is dead! The Dark Lord victorious!" he cheered and babbled to a corner of the room as if he were having a conversation with it.
"Put a sock in it, you loon!" Ron stormed in to the crude laboratory on Hermione's heels. He glared at the man and balled his hands into fists as the Death Eater cackled madly. "Why won't you let me hit him? Maybe then he'd finally shut it!"
Hermione fell into the chair at her research table. There she set aside the papers for Harry's offensive magic training program, a draft for a potent healing spell, and Harry's potion regimen.
"Just let it go, Ron." Hermione buried herself in calculations. With her quill, she began furiously writing complicated formulas that made Ron dizzy to look at them.
Something was wrong and she needed to find out what. Hermione pursed her lips, sharp eyes dancing across the writing.
Neither muggles nor wizards could lift the veil on the flow of time. There was no way to fully comprehend the trajectories, calculate the complex theorems, and the formulas created were so interspersed with paradoxes large and small that it hindered any attempt to remove that blindness. The past could not be changed, the present could not be stopped, and the future could not be predicted.
A person trying to forcefully change anything could experience dizziness, difficulty breathing, and extraordinary pain.
"Hermione, what are you doing?" When Hermione ignored him, Ron continued in a low voice, "Does it have something to do with Harry's plan?"
Thinking about Harry's task was depressing to Ron and he couldn't help but frown. After a moment spent in unhappy silence, he spoke up again.
"Hermione, have you heard the rumors… about Harry?"
Hermione's hand paused, the scratching of the quill ceased. She looked up.
Rumors about Harry? Of course she'd heard! Hermione laughed loudly, the action sharp and deriding, a sound that was more appropriate coming from a Slytherin than a Gryffindor.
Ron winced but soldiered on. "Harry's been gone for so long trying to get that bloody plan to work… and the last time he got back, he left as soon as he could, of course people are getting worried. It doesn't help that that damned Death Eater has been shouting every bloody minute about Harry's death. I don't even know where he got the idea but he certainly seems to believe it."
"And what do you want me to do?" Hermione asked, sharply, the pressure of working long hours driving her to the brink of her patience. "Should we just let them believe it? That he's dead or a coward? They're the cowards! They want to hide behind him and watch in safety if he lives or dies! And if he's killed they'll fall to their knees and beg for forgiveness." She took a deep breath in an effort to calm down, "If we let them know what he's really doing, the plan could be compromised."
Ron clenched his hand into a fist and punched the table with a loud bang. Hermione's attitude had begun to irritate him and the rumors being whispered about the camp were like flies buzzing about his head. He wanted to do something, anything about it. He was so frustrated!
"He's found a safe place to hide!"
"Yeah, here we are on the battlefield, while he cowers behind us!"
"He's left us to die! I don't want to die!"
"What if he's dead? What do we do?"
Hermione had been weathering the storm of confusion and anger and her once tender face was beginning to bear the marks of her stress. She couldn't explain to them what was happening. Harry's mission had to be kept secret outside of a select few. She tried to comfort them as best she could, to let them know that Harry had a plan that they were not privy to.
Even knowing the plan didn't stop the questions and accusations. Ginny kept asking why he wouldn't come back. To Ginny's frowning face, Hermione decided to be truthful rather than tactful, "There's nothing that we can do about it now. We need to focus on doing something worthwhile until he gets back. Nothing is helped by you worrying about him."
Recently Parvati had gone to her and solemnly said, "The situation here is very tense. Harry didn't have to stay the entire time in the past. Are you sure this isn't him escaping?"
Luna, Neville, Angelina, George, Fred… they had all stood silent waiting for her response.
It was true, compared to training for battle or holding the line against the Death Eaters in the flames and smoke of war, being in the magical community that existed seventy years in the past, while not perfectly safe, could be seen as a peaceful place to hide. The fire of the Muggle World War II would affect the Wizarding World little and the Dark Lord taking over Germany would be kept out of the United Kingdom thanks to Dumbledore's protection. Staying there, the only danger Harry would have to face was a young Tom Riddle.
It seemed too easy to them.
They didn't understand how great that commitment is, how dangerous the task, how every move has to be calculated carefully against the future, and how strong Harry has to be to face the past alone.
They aren't Harry, they don't have to make the difficult jumps in time, and with the exception of Ginny, they have never faced a teenage Tom Riddle. How could they stand there and make damning comments when they understood so little?
When she lashed back at them they assured her, "We believe in Harry, but we don't think this plan is the right choice."
Hermione had nothing to say to that. She didn't know if Harry's plan was the right thing to do anymore.
All these questions and rumors and misery culminated one day into Seamus calling for action against Voldemort and for Harry to face him head on.
"Why the fuck not, right? It's getting too dangerous for us to stay here. Harry's going to be found and killed if we don't make the first move. And if Harry dies, we die. We need to make a plan of attack. Harry's a great fighter, the best of us, I believe in him. He can take Voldemort on if we can just distract the Death Eaters long enough for them not to interfere with the fight and attack Harry." The young man stood tall, his fiery red hair like a lion's mane, speaking with the passion of a knight.
"I believe in him, too! If he goes to fight, I'll support him." Someone from the gathered crowd, said.
The proclamation lit a spark in the camp and soon the sentiment spread. Seamus' call to arms brought hope and the despair that hung over the camp for so long seemed to wither.
Harry was not the most powerful wizard to have ever existed but he was surrounded by friends who believed in him and supported him. That's what made him strong.
"My Lord," said the cloaked figure entering the room. They bowed to the man on the throne. "The rumors are spreading rapidly but it seems Harry Potter is still refusing to appear to anyone."
With the black cloth covering their hair and clothes and the hood casting shadows over their features, the defector took great pains to hide their face. Yes, hidden amongst Dumbledore's Army, Harry's most loyal friends, a traitor existed. In their fifth year, a potions and spells were used against Cho Chang to take advantage of her emotionally weak state, and now the girl was in the hands of the Dark Lord.
Voldemort stopped playing with the locket in his hand. Standing by his side, Pettigrew cast a nervous look to the handsome face of the Dark Lord.
While the Dark Lord had been reabsorbing his Horcruxes, he had been using different tactics against Dumbledore's Army, repeatedly using deception and terror to wear down his opponents without damaging his own forces.
"Continue to spread word of the Boy-Who-Lived's death." Voldemort said with a cruel smirk on his lips.
The man who never forgot his fear of death laughed at the memory of the boy's gesture of compassion.
You'll never understand love and never see friendship. I can only pity you.
What about you, Harry Potter? What are you without others standing beside you, shielding you from danger? They are beginning to waver and will one day betray you. And when you are standing alone who will be the pathetic one, then?
He openly chuckled at the thought, incredibly pleased.
"My Lord, when can we go attack the Muggleborns and blood traitors?" Bella Lestrange's eyes shone as she gazed up at him. Each time she had suggested taking action, she had been dismissed but surely this time her Lord would also want to wreak his vengeance. Never had he gone so long without venting his wrath.
The Dark Lord smiled down at her. Purebloods were nothing but a joke. They thought highly of themselves but they were nothing but his easily manipulated minions.
"My dear Bella," he said, his voice as gentle as a whisper between lovers, "we have no need for that now. Rest assured; I have a plan."
His Death Eaters whispered eagerly amongst themselves. Their Lord had been becoming more powerful and more perfect every day. No longer did insanity hamper him. Where blind violence had once been his mark, now he used tactics and reason, and had become a far more dangerous foe for it.
"History is always marching toward the inevitable," Professor Binns had said. "In the moments between one ruler and another, there are those who resist. Those rebellions are often short-lived but they can be devastating."
And if the next ruler was brutal and dark, would the people fight harder to repel him? That was something that Voldemort had contemplated carefully.
Wizards weren't complicated creatures, he knew. They only cared that they could sleep soundly with their wands on the bedside table, keep their clothes and homes and traditions, and that their child could still be sent away to learn magic. As long as they felt their lives were unaffected, they didn't care who reigned supreme, be it Fudge or Dumbledore or Voldemort.
Those selfish, blind, stupid, and ignorant people were so easy to control.
Voldemort began idly toying with the locket's chain again, his smile cruel and elegant.
Harry, my boy, watch carefully as hope crumbles around you. When your comrades betray you, when witches and wizards will watch you die for the sake of peace, when the whole world is against you, who will protect you?