No living man can send me to the shades
Before my time; no man of woman born,
Coward or brave, can shun his destiny.

-Homer, the Illiad

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.
-Ivy Baker Priest

Chapter Twenty-Two

One Year Later

Harry Potter trudged wearily up the stairwell of Grimmauld Place. It had been one of those days, the kind where he felt the seedy hands of guilt pressing down upon his existence. The anniversary of Hermione and Neville’s death was approaching. It was less than a week away, but already Harry was hoping he’d be able to shrink away from public attention. He couldn’t face the worried inquiries of concerned people. It would just tear him apart.

He barely even made it three steps before he stopped. On the wall beside him hung a picture of Hermione. He still didn’t have the heart to take the photographs down. All of them still were placed around the house, including wedding and couple portraits. He didn’t possess the ability to pack away the memories of his life, distorted as it was, inside boxes to be forgotten in the attic. He couldn’t forget. This was his rule.

As he stared at Hermione’s happy face, more guilt washed over him. It was potent, causing his knees to buckle beneath him. The tears were welling up in the corners of his eyes as he sat upon the stairs. He didn’t want to be taken back to that night, that god-forsaken night, but sometimes he had no choice. Sometimes he had to allow himself to flash back…

Harry held the lifeless body of his wife tightly in his arms. He trembled violently. His tears came out in a rage, flowing freely down upon his cheeks and soaking into Hermione’s hair. His sobs were loud, his voice was hoarse. He held her tighter as the wireless continued to play in the background.

“Hermione, please,” Harry begged, “wake up, wake up, wake up.”

Harry looked down. Her eyes were still open, but the brown had lost all its life, and the vacant expression was no more than the last look she had on her face. Harry extended his fingertips and graciously closed her eyelids, almost expecting her to react to his touch. This was more for his sake than hers. He couldn’t bear to look into those eyes and see the accusatory face of the dead woman.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry whispered. “Hermione, I’m so sorry.”

She was still warm. Whoever had been here might have only just slipped out minutes before Harry arrived. Did the monster approach the bedroom while Hermione was unaware? Had Hermione even felt any pain? Was it quick? If the murderer had just exited, maybe Harry could still catch the culprit. But he couldn’t possibly leave her like this, not after he had failed her.

“Please, please, please,” Harry repeated.

He stroked her hair in his hands, feeling the brown bushiness between his fingers. How many times had he done the same thing while she was still alive in this world? As more tears fell, he began to feel sudden, unexplained emotions. They were seeping their way into his consciousness. He now felt two very real, very conflicting emotions inside. He was crying for a friend, but he was also weeping for his wife. A strange, reluctant love laced the watery droplets sliding gently downwards to join the others.

“I love you, Hermione,” Harry sobbed. “I’m so sorry.”

Harry found his wand on the nightstand and lifted it. For a split second, he considered ending it right there. Taking his own life seemed to be the more feasible idea than to remain living. Instead, he attempted to conjure his Patronus because he needed to send the message to the authorities. They needed to know. They needed to capture the bastard that had done this.

Only faint wisps of light were discharged from his wand. No stag erupted, ready and willing to take his message to the Minister. No stag appeared because it was a spell that required happiness, and his stock on that very emotion was on low supply.

“Harry?” called a voice from the hallway. “The door was open. I-”

Harry looked up to see the horrified face of Ginny.

“Harry!” Ginny cried. “What- what happened?”

“Send for help,” Harry choked out.

Harry sobbed even more. He realized that Ginny must have done the same thing he had done tonight: take a long walk after lunch with Neville. Instead of returning home, she came to find him. Ginny had no idea that her own husband had met the same end as Hermione and now Harry would have to be the one to break the news to her.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry said, repeating the phrase over and over again, to both the deaf ears of the dead and the unknowing ears of the living.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry repeated under his breath.

The memory was far too strong to relive anymore tonight. Harry pulled himself up from the step and shuddered. People had every right to be worried about him if they saw him in the state he was just in. He couldn’t blame them really. He shook the flashback away and continued up the stairs.

After all these months, Harry rarely called Hermione’s death by its proper title. He disliked labeling it murder because it confirmed that it was the intentional actions of a mad man- a mad man that was the future version of himself. More or less, it might as well have been Harry himself who picked up a wand and sent the killing curse to the unsuspecting Hermione.

Harry believed without doubt that Cronus was the one who had cast that spell. Harry stopped several steps up again, looking at another photo. It was his picture this time, standing next to Kinglsey. Kingsley and he were shaking hands. It was the official picture of Harry as new Head of the Auror department. Harry shook his head, trying to stop the next memory from flowing, but was unable to…

Harry was seated in his kitchen less than a week after the incident. The funeral had already taken place, the ceremonies were over. Hermione was buried. Harry felt like a train had hit him and dragged him hundreds of meters before dropping him off a cliff. The necessary arrangements were done. The healing would have to begin. James was staying with the Grangers until Harry felt he was capable of anything again.

Kingsley entered his kitchen. Harry had invited him back this evening after the Minister had expressed that he needed to discuss important matters with Harry. There were many things that were running through his head, all very plausible and all most likely going to be discussed.

“Can I get you anything?” Kingsley asked. “If you have tea, I can make you a cup.”

“I’m fine,” Harry replied.

Kingsley nodded. He pulled a seat out and took his place across from Harry. The man settled himself and then took a deep breath. “Harry,” Kingsley started, “we have a lot to discuss.”

“You don’t want me heading up the case,” Harry replied.

Kingsley sighed. “You’re too emotionally involved,” he replied. “It’s going to cloud your judgment. I’m only telling you this for your own good.”

“My own good?” Harry repeated. “What am I supposed to do then if I’m not on the case? I can’t just sit around and dwell on it.”

“You could try spending time with your family,” Kingsley suggested. “Start the healing process.”

“You’re not going to give this case to Seamus, are you?” Harry asked.

“He’s your second in command,” Kingsley answered.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I grew up with Seamus. He’s not ready for something like this.”

“He’s perfectly capable,” Kingsley answered.

Harry breathed in heavily, trying to control his emotions. He didn’t like it, but he had no choice. Kingsley held the only position that was above the Head Auror. Kingsley wouldn’t budge on a decision like this. He knew the man well enough to know that. Harry reluctantly nodded, but Kingsley remained seated.

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Harry questioned.

Kingsley shifted in his seat. “Just a couple questions about-”

“Honestly, Kingsley?” Harry interrupted. “You think I had something to do with Hermione’s death? I thought you knew me better than that.”

“This isn’t personal,” Kingsley replied. “Just routine, you know that.” Harry made a sound of disbelief, and Kingsley continued. “Have you and Hermione been having problems?”

Harry shook his head. “No.”

“You disappeared for a week,” Kingsley said. “Then you meet with Ginny Longbottom. Next thing I know, your wife and her husband are out of the picture. Were you having an affair?”

“No!” Harry shouted.

“Tell me what you were doing then,” Kingsley replied. “What’s this about getting in a fight with Ron as well?”

“Let’s hear it, Kingsley. Your theory is that Ron found out about me and Ginny and he was confronting me about it?” Harry questioned sarcastically. “That about sum it up for you?”

Kingsley shook his head. “I’m not trying to anger you, Harry,” he said. “But you have to admit that your actions as of late have been out of character and strange. I need answers if you want me off your case.” Harry simply stared at Kingsley. The Minister continued. “You’re making this difficult for me. What are you hiding?”

“Give me Veritaserum. Check my wand,” Harry said. “I did not kill my wife or Neville. If you want to know what I was doing talking to the Weasleys after all these years, I was trying to bridge some gaps that I regret making. Ron and I used to be best friends. Ginny was also a good friend. The Weasleys were always good to me. I wanted to make amends. Unfortunately, Ron didn’t react so well. Ginny, on the other hand, was pleased to see me. We talked for a long time.”

“That’s all?” Kingsley questioned.


“The man,” Kingsley went on. “Who was the man that you met after Ginny.”

“I-” Harry said, trying desperately to think of the most truthful statement. “I think that’s the man we need to be looking for.”

Kingsley eyed Harry up suspiciously. “Who is he?”

“He told me his name was William Cronus,” Harry replied. “He’s not right in the head. Do you remember all those letters I used to get from admirers?”

Kingsley nodded. “They threatened your life because they thought you had married the wrong girl,” he said.

“Cronus was obsessed with Ginny,” Harry replied. “I didn’t take him seriously, but I should have.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Kingsley asked.

“I was afraid of what he’d do if I set authorities on his trail,” Harry said softly.

Kingsley frowned slightly. “Harry, I’ve known you for a long time and I trust you implicitly .If that’s what you say happened, that’s what happened. But I will tell you, if you did do this, now is the time to confess. After this moment, you will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Harry looked at Kingsley, straight in the eye. “I did not murder anyone.”

Kingsley pounded his fist into the table. “That’s what I want to hear,” he said, smiling. “Now I want to know everything you know. Where can we find him? What does he do?” He pulled out a pad of paper and a quill. “Let’s get the monster.”


Harry slammed his fist against the wall as the memory faded.

Twelve months later, there was absolutely no progress. Kingsley sent men down to the Department of Mysteries, but Cronus was gone. Since it was that particular Department, it was difficult to find the records of the workers. After some questionable investigation, not to mention the fact that it was Harry Potter, the name was found.

But that was it. William Cronus. A name. The man, the monster, had disappeared from the Ministry.

Their next stop was the apartment in Hogsmeade. Harry fully expected to find the same dust-filled room and his expectations were met. The Aurors charged into an empty flat, only to find the same lonely table that Harry had found before, the imprint of the picture still fresh in the grime.

But that was it. An empty apartment. An address. The man, the monster, had disappeared from the apartment, if he ever lived there to begin with.

Cronus was gone, slipped completely off the radar.

Harry swore and continued up the stairwell onto the second story.

Harry was sure the man had some kind of goal when he chose to do what he did. When he found Hermione, he was sure Cronus was going to show up seconds later and offer him another drink of the time liquid. Harry would have taken it without a second thought, anything to get away from the reality where his best friend was dead in his arms. Although he hated admitting it to himself, he was secretly hoping he’d find Cronus before the Aurors did and be able to travel back in time.

There was another goal that Harry guessed was Cronus’s true intention. It was the goal that Harry tried desperately to fight, but ultimately couldn’t. That was…

Harry heard a soft crying inside his room as he approached the door. He opened the door and looked inside. A beautiful redhead was sitting on the edge of the bed, crumpled-up tissues in her hands. She turned towards him, her brown eyes damp with tears, and smiled jadedly.

If Cronus wanted him to be with Ginny, he certainly got his wish. As Harry felt his heart give an extra beat for her, he was flooded with positive, healing emotions. He lost himself in her stare and soon lost himself in the memories.

Harry honestly tried with everything inside him to stay away from Ginny. He felt if he pursued her, he’d only be reinforcing Cronus’s demented existence, playing right into the twisted scheme of an insane man. Not to mention he would raise suspicion from Kingsley and other high officials in the Ministry.

No one could accuse him of not trying. What he could be accused of was not trying hard enough. He might have hinted that spending time together was not a smart idea, but he certainly didn’t need his arm twisted to comply. What kind of man would he be if he denied Ginny comfort when she needed a listening ear? What kind of man would he be if he refused his arms when Ginny needed someone just to hold her? Besides, Harry too felt numb inside. The only time he actually felt real was around her.

It started out innocently enough. She sought out Harry for someone to talk to. Eventually they were meeting every weekend. It wasn’t long before Ginny was seeing Harry every day of the week.

Before Kingsley could approach him again, Harry met with the Minister to explain the best he could. Harry said he knew it looked suspicious, but the friendship had been forged out of difficult times and mutual understandings. Kingsley smiled politely and asked if anything further than a friendship was developing. Harry answered honestly, saying that he was fighting hard to keep it as it was.

It was six months before anything more official developed. Harry vowed to keep the relationship as platonic as possible, but it was proving to be difficult. The attraction was evident. The sexual tension couldn’t have even been cut with Sectumsempra. On more than one occasion, Harry found himself in a situation that he had to force himself to leave.

In November, Harry entered his kitchen after coming home from a long day’s work at the Ministry. As he expected, Ginny was waiting for him (she did have a key, after all), but she wasn’t happy. In fact, she looked downright furious.

She slammed Witch Weekly on the table with a loud thud. “I am not a scarlet woman!” she shouted.

Harry barely had time to hang his coat up. He frowned and replied, “I didn’t know that was being disputed between us.”

Ginny began pacing back and forth, muttering under her breath. While she was, Harry looked down at the magazine and read the headline: “Local Celebrities Betraying the Memory of Spouses.” The byline read, who else but Rita Skeeter? Accompanying the headline was a big picture of Harry and Ginny in a tight embrace.

“That’s not even real journalism,” Harry replied, trying to make Ginny smile.

Ginny made an enraged noise. She summoned the magazine into her hands. “Think it’s funny?” she growled. “Is THIS what you think of me?” She hastily opened the publication , ripping the glossy pages in the process, until she found the appropriate page. She read a passage from it, “'Former Holyhead Harpies’ star Chaser Ginny Longbottom was not only a speedy player on the Pitch, but when it comes to mourning her dead husband as well. Only months have passed since her spouse’s untimely death and she’s already thinking Neville Who?”’

Harry listened, but was confused. “Ginny, why are you mad at me?”

She turned the page to a different page. “’A friend of Harry, who wishes to remain anonymous, knows the reason why Harry is keeping the redhead around. 'Isn’t it obvious?' says Anonymous. 'Harry’s a very lonely man. Ginny’s always been infatuated with him. He needs someone willing to throw herself at him. I think you can do the rest of the math. Harry and I have spoken about this plenty of times.’”

Ginny stopped reading and threw the magazine at Harry. “Is that all I am to you?” questioned Ginny venomously.

“No!” exclaimed Harry.

“Is this my punishment for what I did to you all those years ago?” cried Ginny, tears of anger flowing from her eyes. “You string me along, pretend to be interested in me, all in the hope that I’ll shag you?”

“Hold on,” Harry said. “Pretend to be interested in you?”

Ginny scoffed and took a step towards him. “Oh don’t deny it!” she hissed. “You must know how much I fight to not kiss you when I leave here at night.“ She took another step as she screamed the words. “You must know how much I cry afterwards, thinking it’s much too soon to be falling for someone else. It’s been going on for months.” She was now standing right in front of Harry, eyes blazing. “You keep tempting me, Potter. What’s your game?”

Ginny stared angrily into Harry’s eyes. She was breathing violently and he could feel the warm bursts of breath upon his face. He sniffed, getting a whiff of her natural fragrance. “I-” Harry said, gulping, catching the gentle, pleading look in the brown pupils he was in love with. They were close, extremely close.

“Spit it out, Potter.”

Harry reached up slowly and placed his thumbs against her cheeks to wipe away the tears. Ginny closed her eyes and reacted to his touch. He knew his fingertips could calm her.

“Don’t,” she whispered. “You-”

“Shut up,” Harry commanded, closing the gap and pressing his lips against her own. After several seconds, he pulled back. “People are going to talk,” he said.

“They’re already talking,” Ginny whispered, kissing him harder and more frantically than Harry had ever kissed a woman.


A small smile crept upon his face. Ginny cocked her head to the side in a questioning manner. “What are you smiling about?” Ginny asked.

“I was just thinking about the night we first made love,” Harry answered.

Ginny reached out her hand and Harry came closer, taking her hand in his own. “You know you don’t need to think about it,” she answered. “You can relive it tonight.”

“I was counting on it,“ he replied. Harry grinned again. He repositioned himself on his knees behind her. He began to rub her shoulders.

Ginny made a noise of approval. “That’s right,” she said. “Not even the great Harry Potter can get something like that for free.”

“You’ve trained me well,” Harry said, working hard to get a knot out of her left shoulder.

“I think tonight went fairly well, don’t you?” she asked.

Harry nodded. “I would say so,” he said. It was the twenty-first anniversary of the Hogwarts Victory. Although it wasn’t as big a celebration as the original one in Harry’s world, seeing that it still took another two years to defeat Voldemort, the Wizarding World still celebrated it as the beginning of the end of the Dark Lord’s reign. The surviving Weasley family had come over to Grimmauld Place to celebrate. After the party, everyone went home and the children went back to school.

Harry chuckled somewhat. “At least better than Christmas,” Harry answered. “Ron didn’t hit me this time, so that’s always good.”

“He’s slowly coming around,” Ginny said. “What were you and him talking about?”

“Hermione,” Harry replied. “I explained-”

“Ow, not so hard,” Ginny said, wincing.

Harry apologized to her and rubbed her shoulder blades a bit more softly. “Better?”

“Mhmmm,” she moaned. “Go on.”

“I explained to Ron a lot of things,” Harry said. “I showed him a couple passages from Hermione’s diary. I think he’s starting to understand. How long do you think before we’re back to old times?”

“You mean really old times?” Ginny questioned. “I’m not sure. Don’t push it, Harry, please. Just let it happen in Ron’s time.”

She was right. She usually was. “That’s hard for me,” Harry admitted, moving his hands across her lower back. “I miss talking to him. I miss that old Ron, the one I knew back in Hogwarts.”

“That was a long time ago,” Ginny said. “You know how my dad’s death affected all of us. I’m just lucky I managed to turn my life around before it was too late. I could have self-destructed, you know. I was that far gone.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t help,” Harry replied.

“Don’t be,” Ginny said. “You’re here now. I might have waited twenty-eight years for you to finally notice me, but you’re here now. It was worth the wait. Even if Ron doesn’t completely agree.”

“I’m just happy the rest of your family has accepted me,” Harry said.

“Mum was always rooting for you and me,” Ginny said. “I never did tell her what happened back then. Well, she did hear I kissed you in front of the Common Room after our big win.”

“But you didn’t tell her the part where I threw you off of me?” Harry asked.

Ginny groaned. “Let’s never talk about that part again,” she said. “Let’s just leave Mum keep on believing that it was a good thing.”

Harry laughed. “Deal,” he said. “But what about little Roxanne? She might find it interesting.”

“Harry, don’t encourage her,” Ginny said with amusement in her voice.

“You don’t think you can handle competition from a ten-year-old?” Harry teased. Ginny reached backwards and slapped his thigh. Harry went on. “You should have seen her tonight when I gave her a hug goodbye. Red as a tomato. Reminded me of someone else at that age.” Harry playfully reached down and gave Ginny’s bum a squeeze.

“Hey!” Ginny responded. “That’s for later,” she said. “Right now, you’re not done pampering me.”

Harry grinned and continued massaging Ginny’s back. She was silent now as the steady hands of her lover pinched her back lightly, lovingly grasping her delicate skin. She moaned slightly as the ticking of the clock became the only sound of the room.

The Weasley family was certainly a completely different clan now. Despite only one brother dying in the old timeline, there weren’t as many children compared to this particular timeline. Fred and George had ten between them, Percy was working on his sixth, and even Charlie was married in this timeline with three children.

It was a morbid sort of way to compensate for the others’ deaths.

“You still back there?” Ginny asked.

Harry realized he had stopped rubbing and stopped responding. “Yeah,” he answered. “Just thinking.”

“What about?” Ginny questioned.

“My life a year ago,” Harry answered. “It feels so far away, yet still so close. Does that make sense?”

Ginny nodded. “I was thinking about the same thing before you came up here,” she said, lifting up her tissue to show Harry. “I deplore crying. It always happens around this time of year though. Even more now that it‘s been a year since Neville…” She crumpled up the tissue and tossed it on the nightstand. “Do you ever feel guilty?” she asked.

“Every day,” Harry answered.

“Me, too,” Ginny replied, turning herself around to face Harry. “But I also feel like this is how my life is supposed to be, as horrible as that sounds. I love Neville very much, but I never felt complete with him. You make me feel that way.”

Harry admired her brown eyes, which were glistening a little bit. “I love you, Ginny.”

“Why are you so good to me?“ Ginny asked. She raised her hand and touched Harry’s cheek. “Merlin knows I don’t deserve it.”

Harry smiled and leaned in towards the redhead. His lips swept over her own for several seconds before leaving them. “Because you’re perfect,” Harry answered. “Why do you love me?”

Ginny’s eyes sparkled. “Because you’re good,” she answered. “When I was young, I didn’t love you because you were the Harry Potter…” she chuckled. “Okay, I did at first, but when I got over that, it was because you always tried to do the right thing. You’re a good person, on the inside and the outside. I can’t imagine you being any other way.”

Harry’s mind went to Cronus and he immediately tried to find Ginny’s words in his future-self. He couldn’t apply that to him. Cronus was not good. Would Harry end up that way? He didn’t know, but he hadn’t seen the crazed man in over about a year. Harry was sure he was gone for ever. Harry had often considered telling Ginny about Cronus’s real identity and the story of his time travel, but he didn’t think she’d believe him. He wasn’t even sure if he believed it anymore.

“Not to mention you have a bloody nice arse,” Ginny interrupted.

She wagged her eyebrows at him and smiled mischievously. Slowly, she leaned towards him, kissing his lips. She pressed her hands firmly against his chest, tilting him towards the bed. As she continued to pursue his mouth with passion, she swung her leg over his body and straddled him. She began to lightly kiss his neck.

Harry breathed in her scent as her hair covered his face. As she nibbled seductively, he moaned, and whispered into her ear without any previous thought. “Marry me.”

Ginny lifted her torso away from him and positioned herself looking down at him. She frowned for a split second, then her smile widened. She bit her lower lip, followed by the most animalistic, desirable glint in her eyes. She crossed her arms, gripped the bottom of her shirt, and pulled the piece of clothing over her head.

Later, as a more-than-satisfied Harry fell asleep, he guessed by the performance Ginny had just skillfully executed, her answer to his question was yes.

“Harry, get the door,” Ginny muttered in the late hours of the night.

Harry stirred, hearing Ginny‘s voice. “Get the what?” he asked groggily.


Harry heard it that time. Someone was at the front door, pounding away. Harry didn’t feel like getting out of bed and answering the door. He wanted to fall back asleep and spend the rest of the night beneath the covers with his new fiancé. Harry sat up in bed and listened, hoping the knocker would leave.


Harry swore and pushed the covers away from himself. He fumbled around in the darkness for his clothing. Where were they? Ginny hadn’t exactly been graceful when she ripped his clothing off only hours prior. She threw them in every direction. Instead of searching for them, he opened his closet and grabbed the first thing he could.


It was the black cloak. Harry didn’t think about it anymore as he slipped it over his body. He located his wand quickly and lit it. He finally found his glasses and exited the room to intercept the person at the front door.

Harry lifted his glasses and rubbed his eyes, trying to wipe the sleep away. He descended the stairwell, avoiding a broom that Roxanne had left on the stairs earlier. As he approached the door, he yawned, only to have that drowned out by the pounding again.

“Hold on,” Harry muttered.

He wrapped his hand around the doorknob, wondering who would be here at- he checked his watch- 2:30 in the morning. He turned the knob and pulled, not expecting what was behind the door.

“Cronus?” Harry asked in disbelief.

This man had not been seen for about a year. He literally disappeared off the radar. This was the same man who was wanted for two murders, a man authorities almost believed didn’t exist. And now he just strolled up to Harry’s front door. Harry should have been furious with this man, but he was rather curious instead. Why was he here after all this time?

“Harry Potter, Harry Potter,” Cronus said, his eyes glittering. He placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder and shoved Harry backwards. He hobbled into the house, repeating Harry’s name again. “I’ve got a problem.”

Harry shut the door behind him and followed Cronus into the sitting room. Whatever happened, Cronus was not going upstairs. “You’re telling me,” Harry said. “You’re a wanted man. You do know I’m going to have to take you in.”

Cronus flopped himself into a chair. His cheeks were reflecting the little bit of light shining in from the window. If Harry had to guess, Cronus had been weeping. Was this regret, Harry wondered, for what he had done? Had he finally had enough of the torturous life he led?

“I was furious,” Cronus croaked, his wrinkly hand rubbing his temples. “I was furious with you for accepting this universe. It was supposed to be you and Ginny.”

Harry pulled a seat closer to his future-self. “Listen, if you officially confess, your punishment won’t be as severe.”

“It was supposed to be me and Ginny,” Cronus continued. “We promised each other, did you know that? No more leaving her behind. No more secrets.”

Harry leaned back in his chair. “I remember that conversation,” he replied. “We promised each other that we’d grow old together.” Harry looked away, towards the hallway, praying Ginny would remain upstairs. “Listen, Cronus, do you really think Ginny would want you to become a murderer?”

Cronus slowly reached his pocket and extracted his wand. He placed the familiar holly and phoenix feather combination on his lap. “Ginny would have wanted us together,” he answered.

Harry shook his head. “She loves us because we’re good,” Harry pleaded. “What do you think she’d say if she knew what you’ve become?”

“I had no choice,” Cronus replied. “No choice. No choice.”

“You always have choices,” Harry replied. “Look, Cronus, you have to come with me to the Ministry.”

Cronus’s fingers tightened around the wand.

Harry himself tensed. “If you fight or run,” Harry said, “I promise I won’t hold back. That’s my warning. Don’t make this harder on yourself. Put your wand down and let’s do this civilly. That’s how Ginny would have wanted you to do it.”

Cronus wheezed as he breathed, his chest rising and falling. “I was convinced,” he continued, as if the first half of the conversation hadn’t happened, “that all I need was more time to remember. I should have known after I met with you the first time. I had no memory from your point of view. I should have known then.”

“Cronus, we can talk about all of this when we get to the Ministry,” Harry said.

“I was convinced I just needed time,” Cronus repeated. “But the months went by, and I still didn’t remember.” He passed his wand from hand to hand and back again, and repeated the process, eyes transfixed on the moving wood. “What choice did I have? I was sure that everything would go back to normal and I’d be gone, absorbed into time as if I never existed. I was wrong. I was very wrong.”

Harry heard the bed creak upstairs and listened for footsteps. He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard none.

“That’s when I realized something, Harry Potter,” Cronus said, staring now at Harry. “The reason why I’m stuck in the past, the reason why I can’t remember your memories, the reason why I’m still here.” He cackled pitifully. “I’m no longer you.”

Harry frowned. “What do you mean? We’re not the same person anymore?”

“Haven’t you been listening?” Cronus shouted. “I’ve broken off from your timeline! Do you know what that means? DO YOU?” He grabbed Harry by the collar, leaving Harry sputtering for an answer. “I’ll tell you!” he screamed, shoving Harry back. “It means everything I’ve done was for nothing. It doesn’t matter what changes, I’ll still remain the same.”

“Listen to yourself,” Harry said. “Let’s get you help. If what you say is true-”

“And that also means Ginny will never be mine,” Cronus croaked. “She’ll never know what I’ve done for her. And I’ll never touch her again. I’ll never kiss her again. I’ll never be with her again.”

Harry didn’t like where this conversation was headed. He slowly reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around his wand.

“You know, I’ve been watching you and Ginny for months,” Cronus said. “I seem to have done you a favor. You should be thanking me, yes, you should. Instead you’re reaching for your wand.”

“You killed Hermione and Neville,” Harry hissed. “I will never thank you for that.”

“I only did what you were too weak to do!” Cronus croaked.

“You know who you sound like, don’t you?” Harry questioned.

“Do not compare me with Voldemort!” Cronus yelled. “He killed for power. I killed for love.” He started coughing violently before continuing. “Not that I’m over going to reap the benefits of my actions. You’re the one who remains happy and you’re not even thankful.”

Harry placed his wand upon his lap as well, just to make sure the playing field was even.

“I have another secret,” Cronus whispered. “I haven’t been completely honest with you. I’ve only told you half of the story. Yes, yes, only half.”

“What’s the rest of it then?” Harry asked.

“I had help with the Time Potion,” Cronus answered. “A man from the Department of Mysteries. He directed me where to find it. He assisted me in creating it. He guided me in using it. It was all his idea to begin with. I was desperate, don’t you see? His words were like healing ointment. He promised me my wife back. What choice did I really have?”

“Who was this man?” Harry asked.

“He called himself Cronus,” he replied. “He also had a secret. And I’ve been through it over and over in my head. I finally understand what happened that night my family was murdered. No other outcome makes sense. And what’s more, it will keep happening. That’s destiny, a perpetual loop. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve accepted my place in this destiny. Believe me, Harry Potter, I wish I had a choice.”

Harry gulped. “Who murdered your family?”

Cronus cackled loudly. “Don’t you see?” he crooned. “It was us.”

In speed he had not yet displayed, Cronus had cast a spell. Harry fell to the floor in a body-bind hex. Before Cronus stunned Harry into unconsciousness, he bent closer to Harry’s ear and whispered eight chilling words.

“If I can’t have Ginny, no one can.”

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