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King's Crossing

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PART TWO

"Then this is the place where time reverses..."

 

Five Years Later

 

“Teddy, be careful!”

Andromeda’s voice rang out across the garden, as Teddy barrelled full tilt over the grass, zooming his new figure of the Magpie’s star seeker up and down with his hands.

“That was a great present, mate,” Ron said, coming up behind Harry with a fresh drink in his hand. “Only, did you have to get him Bridger? Are you trying to turn him into a Magpie’s fan?”

Harry took the cool glass of lemon squash with a nod of thanks. “Maybe the Cannons can sign him, eh?”

Ron snorted. “I’m a lifelong fan, but even I know their limits.”

Laughter echoed around them, from children and adults alike. Even the absence of Teddy’s parents at this special occasion, his fifth birthday party, didn’t seem to bring the guests down. It was exactly the kind of carefree, pleasant day that Harry had needed.

“He certainly likes that better than our present,” Hermione observed. 

“Andromeda will read it to him at bedtime, I’m sure he’ll love it,” Harry assured her. “I wish I’d grown up with Beedle the Bard.”

“We got him Tales from Tabitha, as well. I’d not heard of that one, but Ron and Ginny both mentioned fond memories.”

It was bittersweet for Harry, discovering Wizarding culture for children through the eyes of Teddy. “Does that one have morbid stories like Beedle, too?”

“Worse!” Hermione laughed. “There’s one about a witch who eats toes, to the point she goes mad and eats her own. I’m not sure what lesson it’s supposed to impart. Oh! And there’s a fox character who reminds me of Lockhart that gets into an argument with a mirror trying to one up himself.”

“Does he end up in St. Mungo’s, too?”

“No, he ends up shouting the mirror to pieces. Most of the stories are humorous, actually, even the more disgusting ones. Ron and I got into a small argument about the Tale of the Threads, though.”

“Threads?” 

“It’s about a girl searching for her soulmate.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I said it was a metaphor, but Ron insisted there was truth in the story. Honestly, I think it sounds cruel to be tied to one person by a thread, doomed to unhappiness if the other dies and it’s cut.”

Something pricked at the back of Harry’s mind. 

Our threads cut…

“And what about the concept of choice?” Hermione continued. “Ron took it as a bit of an insult that I didn’t think we were soulmates, but I don’t need a thread tied from my wrist to his to know that I love him.”

“I’m sorry, what kind of thread?” Harry asked, suddenly picturing the devastated face of Draco Malfoy, five years ago in the Forbidden Forest, staring at his right wrist.

“Oh, some sort of intangible one.” Hermione waved her hand in the air dismissively. “Supposedly a secret spell reveals it. Or death.”

“And it’s on…”

“…your right wrist.” 

Malfoy’s sad, lonely voice came rising out of the fog of Harry’s memories.

“It’s a pity, isn't it. You and I. Our threads cut too soon.”

“What happened to the girl?” Harry asked, suddenly feeling very uneasy.

Hermione was oblivious to Harry’s thoughts. “She chased down Death to beg him to show her the thread. It’s obviously a parable about the dangers of fixation and the folly of the very concept of destiny.”

“We thought the Three Brothers were just a story,” Harry pointed out.

Hermione flushed. “Well, that had tangible proof! Your cloak is real.”

“So you don’t believe in these soulmate threads at all?” Harry pressed, recalling how Dumbledore had also become melancholy over the topic. 

“Honestly, don’t you start in on me as well.” Hermione sighed. “Don’t you think if fated lovers were real, you’d have ended up with Ginny?”

Harry cringed. “Ouch, Hermione.”

“I’m sorry.” She frowned apologetically. “I know that’s a sore subject.”

“I just wish it wasn’t such a do in the tabloids.” Harry took another sip of squash, swirling the ice thoughtfully. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t… soulmates, or whatever, though.”

He could feel Hermione’s curious eyes on him. “Well,” she said, almost begrudgingly, “if you’re interested in stories about soulmates, you might ask Parvati if she has any sources.”

“Parvati?”

“She just started working in the Department of Mysteries."

 

~~~

 

Parvati drove a hard bargain. 

“I want you to set me up on a date with Oliver Wood. Puddlemere is amazing this season.”

Harry's eyebrows shot up. “You want what?”

“You heard me. I know you still talk.”

“Are you sure you’re allowed to trade a date for all the hidden knowledge of the Department of Mysteries?”

She waved him off. “Psssh, no Unspeakable knows everything. And it’s you. You probably have some epic, world-saving reason for asking.” Her voice was teasing. “So you’ll speak to Oliver?”

“I’ll even suggest that fancy new French place in Diagon,” Harry assured her.

As she led him towards her office, Harry considered her: her perfectly manicured hands, the delicate fabric of her robes. “Why did you…”

“Why did I go into the Department and not my Ravenclaw sister?” Her tone indicated he wasn't the first to insinuate she was the less-clever twin. “After the war, I found myself questioning everything. Life, death, fate. I wanted answers.” They turned down a dim hall with sparkles in the air like stars, and Harry knew this must contain the Space room. Further on was Fate and Prophecy; he steeled himself against the memories he would face, but they continued past it.

“Oh, I’d assumed…”

“That because I liked Divination in school, I’d stick with that? You aren’t in Professional Quidditch, or an Auror. Why should I be any different?” She cocked her head. “What are you doing these days, anyway?”

“Fending off questions like that,” he muttered. They stopped in front of a glowing door. The metal seemed to ripple, and a faint scent tickled his nose.

“What do you smell?” Parvati asked curiously. 

“Broomstick polish? Orange blossom, and… wait. That’s Amortentia!” he accused.

She nodded. “I work in the Love room.” The door opened to reveal a table of bubbling potions, all smelling of treacle and orange, as well as several experiments in progress. The entire room was filled with a gold sparkling mist.

Parvati led Harry to the centre of the room and allowed the mist to settle on their skin. “So, you had questions about the String of Fate?”

Harry started. “You do know about it, then?”

“We do,” she conceded,  “though it isn’t common knowledge, for a number of reasons. First, we’d have the entire population down here trying to hold hands with everyone else, and it would turn into chaos. Second, although there’s a deep magic here that we don’t yet understand, being tied with a String doesn’t mean two people will never have problems, or even be perfect for each other.”

“But it does exist.”

“It does.” She did a complicated movement with her wand, then pointed it at her own wrist. Slowly a thread appeared, like a ghost in the fog. It was translucent, but clearly visible. The end was jagged, like it had been cut with a knife.

Harry watched in curious fascination as it moved in an invisible breeze. It was true, the whole story was true. And the thread had even been cut. “Why is it like that?”

Parvati smiled sadly. “Lavender.”

“I'm sorry.” Harry was suddenly afraid what his thread might look like.

“So am I.” She waved her wand in a reverse pattern, and the thread disappeared. “If she were alive, it would have extended to the border of the room, pointed in whatever direction she was on earth. Not very helpful, of course, since the world is so large. So you see that it can’t be used to actually find your soulmate, just tell you if they are still around.”

“What if they were in the room with you?”

“Then your wrists would be tied together. Unspeakables have seen it in the past, by bringing in two people who were excellent candidates. They even,” and here her voice lowered, “brought a couple in after one had died and become a ghost, to see if the threads held. They didn’t; both were cut. We don’t know what happens if both people are dead.” She looked at Harry gravely. “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

Harry wasn’t sure at all. What if it pointed outward? Should he bring Ginny to the room with him to test it? He still loved her, but not like the way he imagined true love would feel. They were better as friends. 

But what if it was cut, like Parvati’s? That didn’t mean it was Malfoy at the other end. The two of them as soulmates — that was crazy. But there had to be some reason Malfoy had stared so wistfully at his wrist, or been summoned by the Stone in the first place.

“Do it,” he said.

Her wand waved again, and Harry felt warm. The air around him glittered brighter, and there it was, coalescing out of nothing.

Dangling forlornly from his wrist was a thread, torn and frayed.

It waved feebly, seeking out completion. Harry gulped back a sob, unexpectedly bereft. Was it really his fate to lose anyone he loved, anyone who could love him back? He glanced over at Parvati and noticed she had tears in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Harry.”

He wiped at his own eyes. “I think I knew.”

“Do you have any idea who?”

He hesitated. Perhaps Malfoy was his secret to keep. “Take the spell off, please.” She reversed the spell and the thread disappeared.

Parvati and Harry were silent as they made their way out of the Love room and into her small, cosy office. Harry couldn’t think of anything to say; eventually Parvati spoke up.

“It will be OK, Harry. There’s a lot of life left to be lived.”

He plucked the tassel of a cushion idly. “How did you move on? I mean, obviously you’re looking to date.”

“With time, and love for myself. Lavender wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.”

“And you know it was her?” 

“I loved her,” Parvati whispered painfully, “and she’s gone. It makes sense. But I also have something she’d enchanted with her personal magic, and was able to use it like a compass. The thread points to it.”

“I don’t have —” Harry stopped. He did have something of Malfoy’s. He had his wand.

“Harry, do you want to tell me what this is actually about?” Parvati asked carefully.

“Not really.” Harry steeled himself. “But I will. I have to know.” She waited patiently as he gathered himself. “You know the story of the Deathly Hallows, right?”

“Of course. Once word got out that Voldemort had been looking for the Elder Wand during the war, the Department began researching them immediately.”

“Really?” Harry perked up. “Do you have information on the Resurrection Stone?”

“You can’t bring people back to life,” Parvati said sternly. “And there’s no evidence of the Stone in literature past a certain point, and all of that is hearsay.”

“Look, Parvati. I’m asking you as a friend, as someone who was in the DA, as someone who fought with me. Can you keep a secret?”

“Er, Harry,” she answered, bemused. “I’m an Unspeakable.”

“Right.” He stood up and paced, as much as he could in the small office. “You know that I met Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest right before the final stand.”

“Everyone knows that. Even if Rita Skeeter hadn’t written three books already, Narcissa Malfoy’s testimony is public record. She lied and said you were dead, because she blamed Voldemort for her son’s death.”

“No. She lied to get back to Malfoy in the castle.”

Parvati’s brow furrowed. “But Malfoy was dead already. Did she not know that?”

“I told her he was alive.”

Harry flinched at Parvati’s gasp. “Harry! How cruel!”

“I needed her to lie for me. It was the only way to get back up to Hogwarts.”

“Well, it got her out of Azkaban, so she can’t be too angry at you.”

“Er, not so much,” Harry winced. “She said if I ever try to speak to her again she’ll hex me so hard our shared Black ancestors will feel it.”

“I suppose I can’t blame her. She’s grieving. As big a prat as Malfoy was, he was still her only child. Merlin, she didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

“But I did,” Harry said, almost to himself.

“Right, you were the last to see him in the Room of Requirement.” 

Sometimes it still bothered Harry how many details of the final battle were public, but he’d taken History of Magic for long enough that he wasn’t surprised. The Wizarding world was obsessed with details. 

“Did you know McGonagall told me the Room won’t open anymore?” Parvati continued. 

“Really?” That took Harry by surprise. “The castle was repaired within a year.”

“I went back to consult on applications for the new Divination professor. It refused to reopen. McGonagall thinks it might still be on fire.” She didn’t meet his eyes.

“Merlin, that’s horrible.” Feeling sick, Harry recalled Malfoy’s trembling hands as he described the fire. There won’t be a body. There’s nothing left of me.

“So…” Parvati pressed, “What’s this secret? That you lied to Narcissa Malfoy while you were playing dead?”

“Playing,” Harry snorted, and ignored Parvati’s puzzled look. “No, that’s not it. The secret is I saw Malfoy again, as a ghost. In the Forest.”

“Poor thing,” she murmured. “Did you speak to him?” 

A small part of Harry still marvelled at the easy acceptance of ghosts. “Yeah. It was… kind of awful, how confused he was at first.”

“That’s understandable. Ghosts can be agitated when they first arrive back on our side. I’m surprised it happened so fast, though. And why was he in the Forest?”

“I sort of… called him there.” Harry grimaced. “With the Resurrection Stone.”

Absolute silence fell over the room as Parvati looked at Harry, aghast. “You —” she finally stammered. “You tried to bring Malfoy back from the dead? ” Her voice rose, and Harry shushed her.

“I didn’t! I wanted to see my parents —”

“You tried to resurrect your PARENTS? Harry, you can’t mess around with life and death like that!”

“No!” Harry collapsed back in the chair, both hands pulling at his hair. “I just wanted to say goodbye before the end! Dumbledore left me the Stone to use, I thought if I could just speak to them, it would all… be OK.”

Parvati took a deep breath and composed herself. “So… why Malfoy?”

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to know. For a long time, I assumed it was because he’d only just died, and I’d been there. But there was something else.”

“The soulmate threads,” she breathed. “Oh, Harry, I thought you hated him! I didn’t know you were —”

“We weren't!” Harry hastily explained his encounter with Malfoy in the Forest. “And right before we said goodbye… he saw something. He stared at his wrist like the world was ending, said it was a tragedy that our threads had been cut too soon.”

“So you weren’t having a forbidden love affair?” she asked. Harry shook his head vigorously, and she looked almost disappointed. “Then why would you think it was a soulmate thread?”

“Dumbledore — I saw him as well, just don’t ask — said something about them, too. That I’d understand about the threads someday. Look, Parvati, I don’t think it was a coincidence.”

“So you weren’t in love,” she asked doubtfully, “but you still think your soulmate was Malfoy.”

“I don’t know what to think. But that person, whoever they are… obviously, they’re dead. We saw that in the Love room. And Malfoy… he looked heartbroken.”

“And you didn’t see what he was looking at.”

“No. But could he maybe see it as a ghost?”

“It’s feasible,” she mused. “Ghosts can see many things mortals can’t, like portals and wards. But why would Malfoy think it was you of all people?”

“It showed up when he tried to touch me,” Harry said flatly, and Parvati winced in sympathy.

“It does sound possible, Harry. Is that what you came to find out today?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Harry admitted. “I’ve wanted to know if the soulmate threads are real since I heard about them and put two and two together. And then, I suppose I wanted to know if it really was Malfoy, and if the Stone brought him over because of it.”

“If he was your soulmate, then yes, I think that could be why. This is all conjecture, of course.” 

“I have his wand,” Harry offered. “Maybe I could…”

“Will it help?” she questioned, not unkindly. “Knowing for sure?”

Harry sighed. “Maybe not.”

“I tell you what, think about it and let me know. I owe you, Harry —” she put her hand up to stop his protests “— not just like we all owe you, but personally. For showing me I could be brave, for teaching me to fight.”

“You’re a Gryffindor, Parvati,” Harry smiled. “How could you do anything else?”

 

~~~

 

Two weeks later, Harry hadn’t made up his mind. He’d taken Malfoy’s hawthorn wand out of a drawer and stroked it idly, feeling the magic inside. But he couldn’t seem to resolve whether to take it to the Love room, or hide it away again, or give it to Narcissa Malfoy.

Before he could make a decision, Parvati’s owl arrived with a summons.

Back in her office, Harry noticed that her expression was more wary than the last time they’d met. “Parvati? Did you have something to tell me?”

She motioned towards the chair. “Sit, Harry.” He did as he was told. “After we spoke last time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Everything we know about the Resurrection Stone involves the bearer summoning a shade on purpose. You didn’t consciously call for Malfoy, it sent him, which lends credence to the idea that he’s your soulmate, although we don’t know for sure.” Harry’s hand twitched toward the wand in the side-pocket of his robes.

“And then,” Parvati continued, “I began to think about the Room of Requirement. Specifically, about how it works.”

“Er, magic?” Harry joked.

“I think it works on probability. That is, the Room is all things at once, and becomes what you need because it already is. There is some magical precedent for that, and all my research indicates the Room is a perfect culmination of the craft.”

“And we broke it.” Harry slumped in his seat. “Just another thing ruined by the war.”

“Or…” Parvati bit her lip, obviously hesitant. “Harry, it’s your turn to keep a secret.”

“Yeah, of course. You can trust me.”

“The Room of Requirement… it’s not really broken, per se. It’s reverted to a state of quantum superposition.”

Harry straightened a bit. “Meaning?”

“I did a little investigating. There’s no way Fiendfyre could burn for this long. But something you did locked it in a moment. The last moment, before Malfoy died.”

“Locked it?” Harry said, horrified. “You mean — he’s still dying in there?”

“No!” she rushed out. “I mean he’s not only dead.”

“I’m sorry. What?” Harry shook his head to clear it. “Parvati, I spoke with his ghost.”

“You may have spoken with a psychic projection. From what I can gather, it shouldn’t be possible for someone to die in the Room at all. It’s imbued with protective magic and should eject people in cases of true mortal peril.”

“But it closed with Malfoy inside,” Harry protested.

“Fiendfyre is one of the most destructive curses known, because it causes both physical and magical damage. Even then, the Room should have spit you out when it started, before the damage was able to spread. But it couldn’t, because something Dark was holding it open.” She gave Harry a hard look. “You had a Horcrux in there, didn’t you.”

Harry wavered. “Yes,” he admitted at last. The existence of the Horcruxes — six of them, at least — had come to light when he’d had to account for his actions at Gringotts and the Ministry, and clear Snape for Dumbledore’s death. 

Parvati nodded, almost smugly. “I knew it. The Horcrux was more powerful than the Room, and blocked the protective magic, allowing the Fiendfyre to spread with you all inside. But you — and I'm still not clear on how — carried the Horcrux out, and then the Room was able to seal itself. You didn’t see Malfoy die, did you?”

“I heard him screaming for help,” Harry whispered. “And he told me he felt a searing pain before appearing in the Forest… but he wasn't burned. But why didn’t the Room eject him after the Horcrux was gone, if he wasn’t dead yet?”

“By that point it had been too badly damaged by the spellfire to work properly anymore. But since the Room is based on probability… well, have you ever heard of Schrödinger’s cat?”

Harry laughed, a bit hysterical. “Why is there a cat involved all of a sudden?”

“It’s a Muggle thought experiment. I’m not going into physics at this late hour, but think of the Room like this: it exists in every possible state. It’s still burning, or the fire burned out. Malfoy died, or he’s about to die, or he’s about to be spit out of the Room. Until we open the Room, or fix it, it won’t come to a conclusion.”

Harry tried to comprehend what she was telling him. “But you said we can’t open it.”

“Not yet. But Harry, there might be a way. No one has really tried until now, because the idea of the Fiendfyre escaping was so dangerous to Hogwarts. But what if we have a channel to someone inside?”

Harry took a shuddering breath. “You think I can use the Stone to talk to Malfoy. But doesn’t the fact that the Resurrection Stone is what called him up in the first place mean that he’s really dead?”

“He may have died before the door shut, yes. But the Stone may have simply worked because his death is one ongoing possible state. Either way, perhaps there’s still a way to use that connection.”

Harry’s mind was racing with the possibilities. “Parvati… you’re — you’re a genius. How did I never know this about you?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t always apply myself in school. Being an Unspeakable, though. It’s enlightening.” 

The last thing Harry wanted to do was go back to the night of the Battle. But if there was a chance to save Malfoy… 

"So many people died that night," he said softly, mindful of Parvati's own loss. "If it's really possible to save him, I want to try."

She nodded in agreement. “We’ll get your man, Harry.”

“He’s not my man,” Harry snorted. “He just doesn’t deserve to be left there.” It was more than that, of course. Malfoy had shown Harry a different side of himself as they walked through the Forest. “This isn't because he might be my soulmate, or whatever,” he added hastily. “I still can't wrap my head around that. Even if I could move past our history, I don't know how I feel about him.”

“And he hasn't had a chance to move past anything,” Parvati pointed out.

“Merlin, he’ll still be seventeen,” Harry realised with a start. “His mother is going to faint if I pull this off.”

“Send an owl to McGonagall,” Parvati encouraged. “Let me know what she says, if we can have a go at fixing the Room of Requirement.”

“We?” Harry was taken aback. For all she was helping him, he and Parvati weren't close.

“I just… I want you to have this chance, Harry.” The chance I didn’t have was left unspoken.

They shared a moment of knowing silence. “I'll owl McGonagall tonight,” Harry said at last. “Thank you, Parvati.” He stood and hugged her tightly. “Thank you.”