The Angels of Prague
5. The Times We Have Seen
Minerva McGonagall left the Church of St Jude and made her way back to the small yard where the TARDIS waited.
"Everything is as it should be." She told the Doctor and Donna. "The floral arrangements are particularly pleasing."
"Brilliant!" The Doctor was pleased. "So the anomaly the Prior set up was just that -an anomaly. Something that should never have happened."
"Something that never did happen!" Donna told him.
"I suppose," Minerva said, "that I can never tell anyone about this?"
"Better not to." The Doctor agreed. "Unless you ever meet a man called Jack Harkness. He'd believe you, nobody else would!
"So that just leaves us with one more question. Minerva McGonagall, how do you feel about a slightly grander Tour? Say, anywhere you fancy in time and space?"
It says something about how tempting Minerva found the offer that it took her – normally so decisive – a full minute to make up her mind.
"Thank you, but no." She said regretfully. "The offer is truly tempting, but I have responsibilities. My parents are no longer young, and I have two younger brothers who I am convinced will never be able to take care of themselves."
"Time machine, remember?" The Doctor said. "We could whizz around for a year, and have you back before you left!"
Minerva shook her head. "No, Doctor, I know myself too well. If I once begin this adventure, I will never want to stop, and as I said, I have responsibilities.
"I will miss both of you. Almost as much as I will miss my jeans and Nikes!"
They all laughed, then the Doctor said. "Well, the least we can do is get you back to your friends."
The girls were sitting at a couple of tables outside a small cafe in the wizard quarter of Prague. Minerva had been worried about getting her friends past the wizard watchman, but he apparently recognised the Doctor, and let them through without a word.
"What can I say?" The Doctor had said. "I'm famous!"
"Legend in his own lunchtime, this one!" Donna said. Then she hugged Minerva again. "It's been great!" She said. "You were great! You take care of yourself, now, Minerva."
"I will. You also, Donna." Minerva replied, then turned to the Doctor and took his arm. "Can I beg one last favour?"
"Anything." The Doctor replied.
The two walked decorously arm-in-arm down the street until Minerva was sure all her friends had seen them and were watching. Then she stopped and turned to the Doctor. "Goodbye, Doctor, and thank you for everything!" Then she reached up, pulled his head down to hers and proceeded to give him a highly indecorous kiss.
Donna, watching from a shop doorway, could barely suppress her laughter. She watched the Doctor surface, his look of astonishment giving way to a wide grin. He leant down again, whispered something in Minerva's ear, then strolled back toward Donna as Minerva moved toward her friends.
"Don't say anything!" He said to her grin.
"Just one thing." Donna insisted. "What did you whisper to her?"
"Oh," he replied airily, "just that if she ever met a kid called Harry Potter, to make sure she watched his first flying lesson!"
Minerva responded to the babble of questions and comments with a small smile and some teasingly vague replies. Finally, the girls gave up and, by common consent, decided to make their way back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.
Genevieve, however, caught Minerva's arm and held her back until they were out of earshot of the others.
"Min," she said, "I'm thinking that we ought to be moving on. The girls are getting a bit bored and homesick."
Minerva nodded. "There is a change of mood. Perhaps a day or so in Moscow, just to say we completed the Tour, then home?"
"You always were the clever one!" Gen said warmly. "Travelling around is fun for a bit, but school's over and it's time for real life. Jobs to get and husbands to find, eh?"
"Jobs to get, certainly." Minerva allowed.
Gen gave her a shrewd look. "Husband not high on your agenda, Min? Didn't think so. But not all of us are as capable of making our own way in the world as you are! Most people need somebody, you know!
"Anyway, we'd better catch up with the others and tell them what we've decided."
"Indeed." Said Minerva. "Allons-y!"
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor immediately began to work on the controls.
"What's up?" Donna asked. "Did I miss something?"
"No." He told her. "But I nearly did! No 14th Century wizard, no matter how powerful or clever, could have created that rift without getting dragged into and coming out of the other end like toothpaste! Even Rowena Ravenclaw couldn't have done it!
"It could have been a natural rift, like the one in Cardiff, that he tried to make expand. But then there are others who'd've closed it.
"Also, that Prior gave up a bit too easily. I didn't say anything because I wouldn't want to take anything away from Minerva. She did brilliantly, and she deserves to remember it like that.
"But something or someone else was involved!"
"Those aliens?" Donna hazarded. "The Vorlons, you called them?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No. Not their style. Anyway, the Vorlons avoid wizards and telepaths. Both are too prone to finding things out the Vorlons want hidden. They're a very private species.
"But there are some other people I know who could and would do something like that. We're going to see them now, and they'd better have a very good reason for doing it!"
Commodore Braxton looked up at the man who had just entered his office.
"Lieutenant Commander." He acknowledged. "I've just read your report. You undertook rather a high-risk strategy."
"It was necessary, sir." The other man replied. "I take full responsibility for any breach of protocol. But the mission was successful."
Braxton waved a hand. "Sit down, Stephen, this isn't a disciplinary meeting. I just need some clarification. Why didn't you call for backup when the Lonely Assassins appeared at the 1955 end of your rift?"
"I was about to, sir, but then the TARDIS was detected. The Doctor would have noticed the arrival of Temporal Corps troops, and would have unravelled the entire plan. That would have been a major breach of security, and as we all know, sir, the Doctor is far from predictable!" Replied Stephen Lupin.
"That's true." Braxton admitted. "On the last occasion our paths crossed, he took exception to our actions. It took us a month to get our systems back online. Unfortunately, the TARDIS incorporates some kind of stealth technology, so we can never tell when or where he will turn up." Braxton sighed. "The Doctor is Temporal Corps' cross to bear, just as Q is for StarFleet!"
Stephen nodded. "It was fortunate that I used the Polyjuice shots rather than a holo-generator to change my appearance. The Doctor would've seen straight through a hologram. As it is, I think I convinced him.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Thank you. As much of a thrill and an honour as it was to meet an important historical figure like Minerva McGonagall, I still don't see why it was so important to warn her about that dangers of time-travel at the risk of her life."
Braxton looked hard at the younger man, then seemed to come to a decision.
"What can you tell me about the events of the night of 31st October, 1981, old Terran calendar?" He asked.
"What every wizard knows!" Stephen said. "And most Muggles, since the Rediscovery. That was the night that Lord Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter, and attempted to kill Harry Potter."
"Precisely." Braxton said. "A key point in wizard history.
"Were you aware that in the autumn of 1993, Minerva McGonagall, then Deputy Head of Hogwarts and Head of Gryffindor House, lent a Time-Turner device to one of her students, a Hermione Granger?"
"As a matter of fact, yes." Replied Stephen. "It's family history. Harry and Hermione used the Time-Turner to rescue Sirius Black from Dementors and to help him escape Hogwarts. My ancestor, Remus Lupin, was involved – he was a teacher at Hogwarts."
"And that is where the problem arose." Braxton said. "You know that our Charter states that we must preserve the timeline. Well, our researchers discovered a potential alternate line. One in which Minerva McGonagall became interested in time-travel. As such, she tinkered with the device she lent to Hermione Granger, greatly increasing its power and range, so that instead of going back a few hours, the user could travel back several decades along their own timeline.
"Hermione mentioned this fact to Sirius Black in passing. When he was rescued from Hogwarts, Black took the time-turner forcibly from the teenagers, and along with your ancestor, went to Godrics' Hollow. There they travelled back to October 1981 and ambushed Voldemort as he approached the Potter home. The Potters, alerted by the sounds of the battle, rushed out to join their friends. Outnumbered and taken by surprise, Voldemort was killed before he even saw Harry Potter."
"He couldn't have been!" Stephen noted. "The Horcruxes..."
"Exactly." Braxton agreed. "But because of that, Harry Potter never acquired the special protection he had from Voldemort's touch or magic. The boy was killed in his first year at Hogwarts and Voldemort gained the Philosopher's Stone and his full power."
"So he conquered the wizard world?" Stephen was pale.
"No, it was worse than that." Braxton was grim. "He took over wizard Britain, and attempted to spread his ideology into Europe. The White Council became involved at that point. Albus Dumbledore had discovered the existence of the Horcruxes and passed that information along to the Council before he died. An agent of the Council, Harry Dresden, found and destroyed all the Horcruxes, as well as setting in motion a full-scale rebellion against Voldemorts' rule in Britain.
"Things went badly for Voldemort, and he was forced to flee to Canada and try to regroup his forces. He was killed a few months later by a very unusual Muggle. An agent of Department H, codenamed Wolverine.
"But the damage had been done, and a massive civil war took place in the wizard community. It spilled over into the Muggle world and action became necessary. By the mid 21st Century, wizards were extinct on Earth. Your colonies were never founded, the Rediscovery never happened – there was nothing to rediscover – and you, Lieutenant Commander Stephen Lupin, were never born."
"All because Minerva McGonagall took an interest in time-travel." Stephen shook his head. "One little thing."
"History depends on such trivia." Braxton told him. "If Cleopatras' nose had been a little shorter...But this is why it was necessary to create the persona of Prior Stephen Gaunt and open a temporal anomaly in Prague. A small risk to prevent a huge loss. The intervention of the Doctor was unforeseen, but as it turns out, he might have been far more effective in convincing Minerva than we could be."
"So as long as he doesn't figure it out..." Stephen began, but was interrupted by an all-too-familiar whirring, groaning sound.