Harry looked around, confused. Where was he? Then he saw a black-robed figure standing in front of him, and froze. At first he thought it was a Dementor, until the figure actually spoke to him.
“You’re early,” the figure said.
Wait a minute, Dementors can’t speak! Not out loud, anyway. What was going on?
“Who are you, and where am I?” Harry asked, confused.
“Well, technically, you’re on the other side, but this is more of a holding area, until we decide what to do with you. As for who I am…well, I believe you’ve heard the story of The Three Brothers? According to it, you are the current owner of my cloak…well, of part of it, anyway.” The figure sounded amused.
Harry was shocked. “Uh…so you’re Death?”
“Right in one, Harry.”
“This doesn’t look like where I ended up the last time,” Harry said hesitantly. “Does this mean I can’t go back this time?”
“Well…that’s why this is a holding area, of sorts. Most people go straight on to their final destination, wherever that happens to be for them according to their belief system. Others decide they don’t want to go on, and return as ghosts. Then there are people like you, who come here before their time, who have the unique opportunity to go back and try to correct their mistakes, whatever they did that led to their being here early. So if you choose, you can go back, although when you go back to will depend entirely on what happened that led to you being here now.
“For example, last time you chose to sacrifice yourself to save those you loved, and that choice saved you while it destroyed the abomination that had been placed inside of you when you were a toddler. You were able to return almost immediately to the Forest to finish what you started and fulfill the prophecy. This time, because you no longer have a Horcrux inside of you, you didn’t wind up in the same place as before, but came straight here instead. Apparently this time it wasn’t intentional on your part?”
“Uh, no sir, it wasn’t. It was actually due to my own stupidity, I was so focused on the enemy in front of me that I didn’t notice the one sneaking up behind me until it was too late, and the next thing I knew a Reductor Curse had ripped through my back and I was falling…and then I was here,” Harry said sheepishly, feeling extremely foolish for his lapse.
“Hence why you have the opportunity to go back. Obviously if I sent you back to the same point in time, you would most likely be right back here within minutes, with medical help being too far away to do you any good. Therefore, if you return, it will have to be to an earlier point in time, maybe only a few minutes, maybe longer, depending on the circumstances that led to your lapse in concentration. You will remember everything that’s happened, including our conversation, but no one else will know what’s happened, unless you choose to tell them.
“You can, of course, choose to go farther back in time, to a point where the circumstances leading up to the fight haven’t happened yet, and attempt to prevent them from occurring. Some things will be out of your control, of course, but some things you will have direct control over, and the decisions you make will affect the actions of those around you. They will still have free will, and may choose the same course of action as before, but you may still be able to control the ultimate outcome by your own words and actions.”
“Then I would have to go back at least a week,” Harry said, thinking out loud. “That’s when we got the information of a new group of Dark witches and wizards operating in the area, and came up with our plan of action. Turns out it wasn’t a very good plan, as we were getting slaughtered…either that, or they somehow got wind of our plan and were able to ambush us. That’s sure what it felt like, anyway.”
“Your instincts are usually correct, Harry, and I’m afraid they are in this case, as well. I don’t believe you were betrayed by anyone in your circle, but rather that one of your enemies managed to plant a listening device or other such means of eavesdropping on your private conversations, making it untraceable by normal methods. The first thing you should do upon arriving at your normal meeting place is to sweep it for such devices and render them unusable…or deliberately send misinformation to those listening,” Death suggested, sounding pleased with the deviousness of this idea.
“Sounds like a great idea,” Harry agreed. “Anything else I should know before I go back?”
“Remember everything you were taught by those closest to you, Harry. Rely on your friends, they’re with you for a reason. Trust them to make the right decisions when the time comes, and delegate more responsibilities to them. They can handle it, and you don’t have to carry the burden by yourself, no matter what you were led to believe. You may be the Chosen One, the saviour of the wizarding world, but that does not mean the burden of protecting your world lies solely on your shoulders. Use every resource you have to accomplish your goals, and you have more resources than you realise.
“Keep your eyes and ears open, and be prepared for every opportunity. Ask your little friends for help, they will be invaluable in your fight, and are willing to risk themselves to help you. Don’t feel guilty about this, they do it because they love you, and will likely do it whether you ask for their help or not. Good luck.”