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A/N: I hope you enjoy this last chapter of year one, and do let me know what you think. Check my profile to see the sequel and Harry's second year, All Hail the Time Lord's Son. Thank you so much for your follows, faves and reviews. I've never written a story of this magnitude in so short a time, so please do continue to leave me messages if you catch any errors. I hope you've enjoyed this first instalment of my alternate imaginings to JK's universe and the metacrisis Doctor.
May 22, 2013
20 May 2013
Congratulations on winning the quidditch cup! Mummy says your competition wasn't very good, though. I miss playing footie with you. Your teammates from your club miss you, too. They came by around the time for registration to ask if you're still in love with your boarding school. Mum told them you were and that you're obliged to your school team, but that you might like to do a local league club over the summer.
I have some wonderful news! Mum and Dad bought a house in a magical village called Hogsmeade and we're going to be moving there in July! They took me there to see it and to pick out my room. I have my own tower that's bigger on the inside. I'm going to make everyone use a password to come in.
I will still have to go to school at Seaton House, though. I wish I could go to a magical primary school, because I hate that I have to keep so many secrets.
Also, you could teach me things if I went to a magical primary school. Mum and Dad say they're going to be teaching lessons at Hogwarts. Are they telling the truth or is it more undercover stuff?
I can't wait for you to come home. Good luck on your finals. Mummy says they're going to start up soon. I love you. Please send me more photos of Hagrid's animals. Does he teach any classes? I think I'd like to take them when it's my turn to come to Hogwarts. But, I suppose you'll be a seventh year by then.
Harry folded the letter and put it away. A stack of books lay before him, along with a colour-coded revising schedule courtesy Hermione. His notes, carefully organized for subject, term, and topic, were wrinkled and dog-eared from his several rounds of revision. He felt antsy. Exams were fast approaching and Quirrel still hadn't had a go at the trap door, according to the ever-faithful Cuddie and her underlings.
Neville and Draco sat across from him, benefitting mightily from his fastidious study habits, but something had to change or he was fairly certain he'd start throwing spells around just to break the tedium. Besides, he'd already memorised everything he needed to and knew all that he should.
"That's it," he said, throwing down his quill. "I'm done! Who wants to join me for a fly around the grounds?"
"I'll give it a miss," Neville said. "I'm not really clear on this last topic for Transfiguration, anyway."
"I'll come," Daphne called down the table. "I'm going mad."
"And that's my cue to give up for the day," Draco agreed. "Let's go. Zabini, Davis? You game?"
The word spread across the great hall and soon, nearly all the tables stood abandoned as most of second through fourth year and all of first year fled the stuffy hall for the inviting warmth of the grounds.
Hermione, Hannah and Susan began a relay around the castle's towers against Daphne, Harry and Draco. Blaise, Tracey and Neville picnicked below while their friends zoomed overhead.
Harry's death defying stunts of aerodynamic agility left him feeling less restless, but no less anxious about Quirrel's hesitance in acting. Questions raced through his mind, tormenting him with their elusiveness. It was too much to bear.
Why did Voldemort want him so badly?
Who else knew aside from Snape and Dumbledore?
Why did Dumbledore want him to be the hero?
Why expect a not-yet-teenager to perform such dangerous tasks as confronting a possible Quirrelmort?
Above all else, he worried for his family. It was one thing to know his mum and dad participated in dangerous activities for the protection of Earth and for the betterment of Human-Alien relations. It was entirely another thing to be the cause of that danger. He could not help thinking, for example, that his mother, father and sister would have been spared quite a lot of stress and danger had Rose and the Doctor not found him. Or, better yet, if Voldemort hadn't killed his birth parents.
Needless to say, Harry felt he was working himself into a full-on panic attack (what with those very difficult problems layered on top of his homework, revising, and continued defence lessons from Snape).
Harry pulled to a stop, allowing his friends to race past him. His broom quavered in mid-air, a reflection of his sudden spike in anxiety and adrenalin.
"Oh, I'm so thick!" he groaned.
The Nimbus rocketed toward the ground and slowed just enough for Harry to hop off without breaking something as he ran toward Neville, Blaise and Tracy. They stared at him as he ran forward the last couple steps to land in a heap on their blanket. Neville looked positively alarmed.
"I just had a horrible thought," Harry said a little breathlessly. "What if they think what they do because someone told them to? What if…"
Harry looked around and sent Blaise and Tracy a pointed look. Tracy gave him a wry grin and tactfully pulled Blaise to his feet.
"Come along, Mr Zabini. I think we should go replenish our pitcher of pumpkin juice."
"But we can summon the elves out here," Blaise grumbled.
"I prefer to walk," Tracy assured him.
Harry took their brief exchange as an opportunity to catch his breath, at least until they had wandered out of earshot. He then flopped gratefully onto the blanket.
"What is it, Harry?" Neville whispered.
"Are seers real?"
The Gryffindor boy blinked at the non sequitur.
"Seers. Prophesy-makers. Are they real?"
"Oh. Oh," Neville groaned. "Yeah. They are. There's a whole department in the Ministry that handles stuff like that. Real Prophesies are stored there so their subjects can listen to them."
Harry closed his eyes and felt horrible understanding slowly creep into the far reaches of his mind as it washed away the stress of the unknown. It made sense, now, mostly. Dumbledore's strange over-involvement in his life still baffled him, but something in Harry's head seemed to whisper that was just a problem specific to the headmaster.
"It's like a cheap paperback novel," Harry commented. "But Dad says the universe just has an odd way of operating like that."
"I've no idea what you're talking about, but I think you should ask your dad to check into the Department of Mysteries before he quits for the summer."
June 7, 2013
Harry left his Potions final feeling exceptionally pleased with himself. His forgetfulness had been perfect. Professor Snape silently bottled several phials worth for Madam Pomfrey's store, which in itself was as good as him pronouncing Harry first in class. The Slytherin's Charms exam the day before had left him feeling similarly pleased, having made his pineapple dance a perfect imitation of a Ginger Rogers routine he once saw on the telly. He performed admirably in Transfiguration, though Daphne managed to make her mouse-turned-snuffbox far more decorative than his own. None of his friends did as poorly as Crabbe and Goyle, however, whose boxes still had whiskers and tails when they ran out of time.
Their astronomy exam felt laughably easy – a simple affair of mapping the night's sky and labelling the heavenly bodies – and herbology seemed positively relaxing after their especially long and tedious written exam for history of magic.
Contrarily, his exam for defence against the dark arts went horribly. It wasn't that Harry didn't know the material, but in the presence of his personal headache-inducing demon, he found it nearly impossible to concentrate long enough to do anything with it. Most of his energy went to reinforcing the rather formidable defences around his mind, and the small fraction left over barely managed to fill in his essay questions before the bell rang. He could only feel glad there wasn't a practical portion, or he might have done even worse. As it was, Harry knew his score would be exceedingly low compared to his others.
But now, it was over, and Harry happily allowed Neville to escort him to the hospital wing for a well-deserved dreamless sleep potion and a long, long nap.
Or, so he hoped.
Very Early June 8, 2013
Ron Weasley woke from the same nightmare that had haunted him for the last several weeks, ever since his ill-gotten detention from the greasy-haired, long-nosed, over-biased, anger-inducing Professor Snape.
Sweat clung to his forehead and made his fringe stick uncomfortably to his cold skin. Ron's pyjama shirt practically dripped with perspiration. His hands shook. A shiver rolled down his spine.
He bent over the side table and hastily lit the candle there with the tip of his wand, unwilling to sit in the darkness with the spectre shifting just beyond the fringes of his imagination. Its shrouded face shone with silvery unicorn blood and its clawed hands reached for him even as the light of Hagrid's lantern shone behind him in the dark.
"What's wrong?" Neville asked sleepily in the bed beside his own.
Ron grunted something unintelligible as the other boy's curtains opened. Only then did he notice their guest.
"Gah!" Ron screamed.
The pointy-eared creature crossed its arms and glared up at the red-haired boy.
"You will wake your friends, young Gryffindor," the house elf hissed. "Cuddie needs Master Neville, sir!" she said, turning to the bleary-eyed blonde.
"Whaswrong?" Neville yawned. "What do you need?"
Cuddie hopped up onto the bed and tipped a potion into Neville's mouth. Steam immediately spewed from the boy's ears as he straightened; his eyes bulged momentarily with the potion's effects.
"Master Harry is in danger! Cuddie went to wake him because Cuddie's helpers saw the bad man enter the corridor, but he was not in the hospital wing or in his bed! Cuddie fears he has gone on his own! Please hurry! Cuddie has already woken Miss Greengrass, Miss Grangey and Master Malfoy!"
The little elf rang her hands as Neville jumped from the bed and slid into his shoes. He didn't bother changing out of his teddy bear pyjamas and only paused to take up his wand.
Ron watched all this in bemusement and mounting frustration.
"What are you doing? You're going to lose us points just to go hang out with that traitor Potter?" he hissed.
Neville pushed past him.
"Sorry Ron, I haven't got time. Go back to bed."
"No!" Ron shouted as he grabbed a fistful of Neville's collar. "You tell me what you're on about, now, or I'm fetching Percy!"
There was a loud crack! and Ron found himself thrown back to his bed and tangled in his covers. The little house elf stood over him with a glare on her pointed face.
"No! Wheezey will stay and sleep or Cuddie shall make him! Master Longbottoms is needed!"
Neville didn't wait for Cuddie as he ran down the dormitory stairs to meet Hermione in the common room. They shared one look and dashed through the portrait hole to run, flat-out, to the third floor corridor. It was a wonder no one stopped them on their way, but then, Cuddie may have thought of that before she fetched them. By the time they reached Daphne and Draco, both were out of breath and panting and the Slytherins were in no better shape.
"I've got Harry's flute," Daphne said. "Are you ready?"
Neville nodded rather than trying to speak around his gasps. Hermione managed a squeak.
Draco pointed his wand at the lock.
Daphne had already raised the flute to her lips when they entered, but there was no need. The beast inside lay trussed and bound in the corner, whining pitifully to itself. All three noses sniffed eagerly at them as the children entered, but its eyes, usually mad with the desire to defend its post, stared forlornly at them while they approached the trapdoor.
"Oh, it looks sort of sweet when it's not snapping at us," Hermione murmured, still a little breathless after their panicked run.
"Well, we've not got the time to waste and we need to help Harry," Neville grunted. "Besides, he'd only get in the way on the way back up."
Draco huffed as he lifted the heavy trap door.
"We don't have Harry's broom," Daphne said regretfully.
"We'll just have to manage without. It's good Draco's such a good flier," Hermione said.
"Let's not waste any more time," the Slytherin boy grumbled. "Let's go."
Just as in their practice runs, the devil's snare gave them little trouble and the key room quickly fell to Draco's skill. The chessboard presented a new challenge.
"We've never tried to take so many people across," Hermione grumbled.
"Four. We usually do two or three," Neville said. "We'll manage."
And they did, though there were a few close calls without Harry directing the pieces. With the four of them thinking together, however, they still finished the game within fifteen minutes. The white pieces bowed out of the way and the children rushed forward into Bob's chamber.
A stench more terrible than usual met their noses and Daphne nearly wretched.
"Oh no," Hermione sobbed through her sleeve.
Neville and Draco shifted closer to the girls as they took in the scene.
Bob the troll lay dead on either side of the next door. His top half faced them, his eyes staring dully at them all, his mouth curled in a snarl of silent agony. His lower half lay twisted nearby. Dark grey blood pooled around the chamber, flecked with bits of flesh no one dared try to identify. The girls were quietly crying. Neville tried very hard not to be sick.
"He must have tried to defend it, anyway," Draco whispered.
"No," Neville grunted. He'd spotted the footprints and smeared marks through the muck. "He tried to save Harry. See? I think he's been dragged…"
"We'd better get going, then," Daphne whispered shakily. "But before we go, someone should go back and get Professor Snape."
"And Dumbledore," Hermione said.
"I don't think he's here," Draco said a little helplessly. "The old fool probably went to the Wizengamot meeting."
"We don't have time!" Neville hissed. "Hermione, with me. Draco and Daphne, you go back. If Harry's right and it is You-Know-Who, you two'll have more to lose than we do. Go!"
The two Slytherins looked at the boy for a long moment. Neville nodded once and they turned to depart at a run. Hermione took the Gryffindor's hand and they stepped through the threshold together.
"What's our plan?" Neville asked as the flames sprung up before and behind them.
"We empty out one of the wine bottles, pour out the flame-freezing potion, and wait for the phial to refill. Then we go through the black fire together."
Neville nodded and Hermione double-checked the riddle and the arrangement before pouring the tiniest phial. As they discovered in an earlier trial, as soon as the little phial sat once more on the table, it refilled with the same potion. Neville held his bottle aloft. Hermione toasted him. They swallowed their potions in one go and, shoulder-to-shoulder with wands in hand, stepped through the black flames.
Harry woke from a horrible dream. The flames surrounding his head in sleep seemed to follow him into wakefulness; pain, hot and insistent, burned across his brow. Gasping, the boy fumbled on the nightstand for his glasses until the tips of his fingers encountered the familiar plastic frames.
Madam Pomfrey had left only a few candles burning through the hospital wing, and so the chamber swam with shadows. The matron herself stood nearby, statue still, as if watching over him in his sleep.
"Matron," Harry rasped. "May I have another dreamless sleep? I'm still getting nightmares."
The hair on the back of Harry's neck stood on end at the sound of that voice, absent of its usual stutter. His head pounded ever more ferociously as the boy scrambled to sit up. His fingers groped beneath his pillow.
"You've no need of your wand, Potter," Quirrel hissed. "You will come with me, or you will face the same fate of the dear matron. She was most unwilling to allow me entry, you see."
"You didn't need to hurt her," Harry said more bravely than he felt as he slid out of bed and stepped into his shoes.
"Do keep that in mind," the turbaned professor sneered. "I do not need to do anything. I do only as I please."
With two wands pointed at his back, Harry began the all too familiar trek to the third floor corridor. Quirrel made quick work of Fluffy. Harry winced as Quirrel cruelly bound and trussed the three-headed dog with thick black cords that cut into its protesting flesh. For the trapdoor, the professor bound Harry's arms together behind his back with the same painful bands before pushing him in, face first. It was all he could do not to scream as he fell through the open air to land hard on the devil's snare below. The professor followed far more gracefully and proceeded to burn away the wriggling vines with a nonchalant manner.
"Did you think," he snarled as he pulled Harry from the floor. "That my master would not sense your magic throughout this blasted gauntlet? That He would not recognize the very thing that once undid Him?"
They had reached the key chamber. Quirrel stopped his rant to weave a complex summoning spell that stank of bleach to Harry's sensitive nose. The key flew to his hand.
"The headmaster thought he could trap us here, but we were cautious. We took our time and undid the detections he placed though this place. Now…"
He pushed Harry forward to stumble onto the chessboard. The pieces shuddered and moved to stand aside.
"Now, they are all His. Each defence, so carefully laid to slow Him down now bows in His presence. Even the troll knows better than to stand in His way!"
But he was wrong, Harry knew. The other defences may have been re-rigged to bend under Quirrel's will, but Bob, sweet old beast, had never felt loyalty for the turbaned man who locked him in his chamber. Quirrel opened the door to Bob's domain and pushed Harry through. The troll's reaction was immediate.
The beast, previously seated quite docilely in the corner of the vast room, lumbered forward with his club raised as soon as he spotted Harry stumble to his knees. Quirrel snarled and jumped away as the spot he previously occupied fell to the troll's club. Bob wasn't done, though. Enraged, he charged, the club swinging again.
"Stand aside, foul idiot!" the professor shrieked. "You're my beast and you shall obey!"
"Get away, Bob!" Harry yelled. "Run!"
It was too late. Quirrel's wand whipped this way and that in his hand, and where once a great mountain troll stood moments before, Harry could only discern a cloud of dark gray mist. A pungent odour overtook his senses. It was all he could do not to be sick. His feet felt numb as Quirrel dragged him forward again. He could only think how very wrong it all was. This wasn't what Harry had planned. Where had Cuddie been? She should have fetched him if Quirrel was moving. He should have been able to beat the stuttering idiot there, and then Bob wouldn't have died. Madam Pomfrey wouldn't be hurt, maybe dying herself, in her office.
The flames brushed softly over Harry's skin after Quirrel forced the potion down his throat, and then he lay sprawled, again, before the Mirror of Erised.
"Why am I dressed?" he wondered nonsensically after several moments of the professor staring into the glass. "The flames-"
"Weren't you paying attention, Potter? I've altered the protections here to my suiting. This damned thing… I see myself presenting the stone to my master. He is rewarding me beyond anything I could ever desire, and yet, I cannot find how to retrieve the stone itself. My master felt your magic here and thought perhaps your presence would unlock the secret…"
Harry didn't listen. Everything was going so very wrong. He couldn't get the stone himself, he was bound – He couldn't even call Cuddie because she'd surely be killed. If the professor was telling the truth, Dumbledore's monitors on the place no longer existed.
He felt wholly unsuited for such an impossible situation. He needed to be more. He needed to be better. He needed to be a Time Lord.
Harry Potter-Tyler needed a miracle.
Harry turned, his heart both soaring and sinking at the sound of that voice. Neville and Hermione stood framed in the black flame archway, their wands drawn and levelled at Quirrel's back. The man did not react. Harry slowly began inching toward his friends as they walked closer. Neville's slightly green face remained focused on their mutual enemy, but he did not move from his muttering before the mirror. Harry's heart beat a desperate tattoo against his ribs. They needed a plan, and fast.
"Do you remember what you were telling us about concussion spells?" Hermione whispered as she and Neville pulled him to his feet.
But Harry had never taught them about concussion spells.
"I could kiss you," Harry breathed as his memory caught on to Hermione's idea.
He glanced back at Quirrel, still intent on his task.
"On three," he whispered as Neville and Hermione lowered their wands. He caught their eyes.
Neville seemed grim and determined and Hermione, terrified but committed.
"One," she breathed.
"Two," Neville grunted.
Harry forced every other thought from his mind and exhaled sharply as his nose and mouth filled with the flavour of his friends' magic and his own aching desire to live.
Quirrel shouted in surprise and fury as his body flew hard against the glass mirror. It shattered into a million pieces beneath his weight and the children's will. The fire behind them blinked out and before the man could rise again, Harry summoned his wand to him and ran for the archway after his friends. With the man's concentration broken, the bonds around Harry's arms loosened enough for him to work his way free just in time to cover his head as chunks of rock rained down on them.
Somehow, he, Neville and Hermione managed to dodge the debris and run, gasping, into Bob's chamber.
"Run!" Harry yelled.
The scream was his only warning. He flew, hard, against the rough-hewn wall. Neville shouted and Hermione shrieked as they joined him in a heap at the wall's base. Quirrel towered over them, horrifying in his twisted anger. His turban sat askew, and the horrible stink that followed him filled their nostrils.
"YOU DARE! YOU DARE DEFY ME! NO BETTER THAN YOUR TRAITOROUS FATHER AND MUDBLOOD MOTHER!"
Harry gaped. Hermione whimpered.
"Where's that voice coming from?" she hissed.
"Behold what you've done to my master! What you've reduced Him to!" Quirrel screamed as he tore the turban from his head.
He turned away from them to reveal the most horrible sight Harry had ever beheld. Hermione screamed. Neville made a strange choking sound. Harry felt very sick. His head pounded relentlessly. He was beginning to feel dizzy.
A horrible, snakelike face protruded from the back of Quirrel's bald pate. Red eyes glared at them through fleshy, lidless slits. There was no nose, rather two narrow slanted nostrils over a horrible, sneering mouth.
"See what I have become?" the face spoke. "See what your mudblood mother did to me? All for the sake of you, cowering now at a mere shadow of my true power. You will pay, boy, for your insolence. For stealing my victory today."
The face twisted into a cruel smile. Harry clenched Neville and Hermione's arms.
"Run, as soon as I say."
"Not without you," Neville grumbled.
"We do it again. We go together," Hermione agreed.
"KILL THEM ALL!" the face shrieked.
Quirrel spun at them, wand raised, and Harry sprang into action. He ran at the man in a full-on tackle and buried his head in Quirrel's gut. He heard an oof! and a small cry as he dug his fingers into Quirrel's radius and twisted in an attempt to disarm him. A spell, hot and faintly bituminous in smell barely missed his ear. The wand clattered to the ground. Hermione crowed in triumph and Harry grinned as the unmistakable sound of breaking wood filled his ears.
"Now!" Harry shouted.
Again, the invisible concussive force of their combined will and magic threw Quirrel away from them to sprawl in a robed heap across the room, splattered with the remains of their fallen troll ally.
"FOOL!" Voldemort screamed. "KILL THEM! KILL THEM WITH YOUR BARE HANDS! DO IT! KILL THEM NOW!"
"Stun him!" Harry shouted. "Just concentrate really hard and think of him knocked out! Wish for it really hard!"
But Hermione and Neville were exhausted. They could hardly stand, and they were so scared. And Harry was, too. Even with all his practice, he hadn't used so much wandless magic all year, and he hadn't slept more than a few hours a night for the last month.
Quirrel was on his feet again. One of his arms rest at an odd angle in relation to the rest of his body, but he shuffled forward anyway, his crazed eyes focused on Harry.
The children tried what defensive magicks they knew – tripping jinxes, body binds, incendio spells – but the more powerful wizard batted them away like so many gnats. Neville charged him and received a brutal blow across the face. Harry shoved Hermione behind him and roared his desperate outrage as he ran forward. If all else failed, after all, his mother had once told him to bite and go for the eyes.
As Quirrel attempted to wrap his one good hand around his neck, Harry half climbed him to bury bony knuckles in the man's eyes. To his surprise, Quirrel screamed and pulled away and Harry watched in amazement as the professor's flesh blistered and peeled away in black flakes, as if he'd been burned. He stared at his hands. They felt hot and burned, but nowhere near so bad as he wouldn't try that again. Quirrel had begun running at Hermione under Voldemort's shrill urging.
Without a further thought to the intelligence of this course of action, Harry jumped on Quirrel's back and pressed his hands to Voldemort's livid face. It foamed at the mouth and gnashed its teeth, but the skin still burned and blistered until it crumbled like ash beneath his hands. Harry bared his teeth against the pain shooting through him from his hands and forehead. It felt as if his skull would split any moment, but still he hung on.
"If you want to kill me so badly, just go ahead and try!" he shouted, clinging harder as Quirrel's body thrashed in an attempt to throw him off. "Try all you like, because I'm not going to let you hurt anyone else so long as I can help it!"
Finally, blessedly, the moving stopped. Harry blinked as he felt the body beneath him collapse and disintegrate to leave nothing but a dirtied robe behind. He heard a strange buzzing in his ears. His face felt wet and his mouth tasted like copper. Before he could even turn to check for his friends, however, the black specks swimming on the fields of his vision expanded and he fell involuntarily beneath the heavy weight of unconsciousness.
June 14, 2013
It began with odd, half-formed murmurs and blurs of coloured light. A light, warm brush against his arm or forehead alerted him to the presence of others, but his head felt so stuffed with cotton wool he couldn't identify the owner of the familiar touch. These brief moments of soft confusion fell between long stretches of darkness, until, finally, miraculously, Harry opened his eyes. He found his glasses on the bedside table and sat up a little shakily to peer around him in confusion.
Bright sunlight streamed through the narrow, pointed arch windows spaced near the vaulted ceiling. A witch in dark robes and a crisp white apron went around the room, stripping beds with a wave of her wand and sending bedding into a basket at the centre of the floor. Several chairs sat near him, several overflowing with sweets, gifts, cards and flowers. Then the reality of his surroundings hit him.
"MADAM POMFREY!" he yelled.
The poor woman jumped a foot in the air and whirled to glare at him.
"MR POTTER! YOU LAY DOWN RIGHT THIS INSTANT!"
But Harry didn't listen. He threw off his covers and ran to the woman to throw his arms around her waist.
"You're alright!" he gasped, intensely happy. "I was so worried… What about Hermione and Neville? And Daphne and Draco, too?"
The flustered matron patted Harry on the back affectionately and pushed him away gently.
"I'm quite alright, as are your friends. I'm not sure what that villain told you, but I was safely asleep in my rooms until Miss Greengrass and Mr Malfoy came to wake me for your treatment. I'm just ashamed he managed to come in here and take you under my watch."
"It was Voldemort–"
The woman winced.
"I doubt you could have done anything to stop him. I'm glad you didn't. I would have hated for something to happen to you."
"Indeed," a playful voice said. "What Hogwarts could there be without our beloved Madam Pomfrey?"
Harry turned as Professor Dumbledore entered the hospital wing with the two people Harry least expected to see at his side.
Rose ran forward and enveloped Harry in a too-familiar hug. She sank to her knees with her arms still around Harry's slim shoulders and squeezed him as tightly as she dared.
"You're grounded," she sobbed into his hair. "Forever. You're never scaring me like that again."
Harry just let his mother hold him as he let go of all the fear and stress of the past several months. He felt very glad the headmaster and Madam Pomfrey suddenly seemed so interested in stripping the beds aside from his own.
"Just how long was I out?" he finally asked once his mother had stopped crying.
"Almost a week," the Doctor said in a slightly choked voice. "We've been here since Saturday."
"What about Jenny?"
"With Jackie and Pete."
Harry smiled up at his dad a little shyly and the Doctor loped forward to pull both wife and son into a tight embrace.
"And your mum's right. Never scare us like that again. Just what happened?"
"You know what they say about our best-laid plans," Harry mumbled. "He sensed I'd tried... You know. And I guess he couldn't do it on his own, so he came and got me."
"Much to his detriment," the Headmaster beamed, rejoining them. "He thought to use you to his own devices, and, alas, you prevented him most completely."
Harry's head bowed.
"I think I killed Professor Quirrel," he whispered.
The Doctor knelt and gathered his son into a hug.
"No, Harry, if anyone's responsible for his death, the dear headmaster is," he said a little more loudly.
Both parents glared at the old man, who had the decency to look abashed.
"I admit I should have been more cautious than to leave while the stone still remained, but, fortunately for us all, Mr Weasley had the presence of mind to call on Minerva, who quickly dispatched her patronus to alert me to the danger."
"You know exactly what I mean, Albus," the Doctor growled. "We've spoken on this before. We know you need our son for something, and we know we can only do so much to stop you, but also know this: I've warned you once and this is your last warning. I have destroyed races and planets far beyond your greatest imagination. Vast armies run at the mention of my name."
The man, eyes blazing beneath furrowed brow, held Dumbledore's gaze for several moments as his thinly veiled threat sunk in. The headmaster no longer twinkled. Finally, the old man nodded.
"Harry's already committed to combating your Dark Lord Voldemort because that's just the sort of person he is, but you better believe it's going to be on his terms. You're too smart to have allowed Quirrelmort to dismantle your defences so easily without your knowing. You ever withhold that sort of information from him, you ever abandon my kid in a dangerous situation again, and nothing will save you from the reckoning we deliver. Your offices, your commission, your power, will crumble at your feet. And when wizards ask you why they have to answer to the responsibilities of their fortunate birth, you can tell them: 'Because I am a coward too weak to fight my own battles. I relied on a child to do it because it was convenient.'"
The headmaster shrivelled beneath the family's combined stares. His mournful eyes rested most often on Harry's stony face.
"I see I have failed more completely than I thought. You have my sincerest apologies, and my promise, Mr and Mrs Smith, Mr Potter. I will endeavour to be more forthright in the future."
Dumbledore turned to leave the infirmary, stooped as he had never before seen him, but had not passed the doors when Harry called out to him.
"Professor, I had a thought last week… Did someone make a prophesy about me? Is that why you think you're doing the right thing?"
The headmaster looked at him for a long moment as he held the infirmary door open.
"Yes," he finally admitted. "Yes, someone did."
He left without another word, and Harry went back to enjoying his parents' embrace. It had been a very long time since Christmas holidays.
It wasn't the end of the year Harry had hoped for, but he still felt grateful for a number of things. He, his parents, Hagrid, Neville, Hermione, Daphne and Draco held a small funeral for Bob the troll, who had been buried at Neville's insistence on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The Doctor officiated and sang a beautiful Gallifreyan song of thanks, which made them all cry a little. Hagrid very helpfully carved Bob's name and death date into his club and planted it as a headstone for the fallen beast. Harry's parents departed soon after for their new home in the village.
Neville and Hermione, thankfully, really weren't hurt aside from a few minor bruises, and looked a lot better than Harry did when Madam Pomfrey permanently released Harry for the leaving feast on Monday. He was told, however, that under no uncertain terms was he to fly, run, jump, or engage in any strenuous activities for the next several weeks. She rather tearfully informed him he had very nearly died from internal haemorrhaging and also gave him a very large box of potions to take for the coming month.
Still, it was better than the recovery period he would have faced in a non-magical doctor's care.
He was surprised to receive a standing ovation when he entered the great hall for the leaving feast. Slytherin and Gryffindor, he noticed, seemed just as happy as everyone else to see him restored to their number.
"Just what does everyone think happened?" Harry whispered as he sat between Daphne and Draco.
"Quirrel was possessed by an evil spirit and tried to steal the stone. You were kidnapped to help him and stopped him instead."
"So, mostly the truth," Harry grumbled.
Daphne rolled her eyes and Draco scoffed.
"No," he asserted. "That sort of omission makes the rest of the story practically a lie."
"Imagine how your book sales will soar, though," Daphne quipped. "You really should look into your back-owed royalties."
"I'd rather just sue for libel and get them all shut down."
"The things you say, Potter… Sometimes I wonder if you're really a Slytherin, at all."
They broke into laughter and tucked into a magnificent feast as Dumbledore presented the House Cup to Hufflepuff (won thanks to Hermione's last-minute points on top of her House's already high score). Nearly everyone cheered, Harry included, as Professor Sprout accepted the coveted trophy. It had been close, though. Slytherin was only a couple points behind and only missed the trophy because, apparently, Weasley had picked a fight with Nott and Zabini while Harry was recovering, and the resulting loss nearly cancelled Harry, Daphne and Draco's extra points.
With bunch over and luggage in tow, the children gathered on the platform of Hogsmeade station. The red steam engine whistled and belched white clouds over the crowd of black-robed students and the few staff members seeing them off. Older students helped younger ones levitate their heavy trunks onboard, and housemates hugged one another good-bye.
"Do you think next year will be any quieter?" Hermione asked a little wistfully as she settled into her seat across from her Slytherin friends.
Neville laughed. He had changed drastically from the frightened boy Harry had met so many months ago. He'd stopped stumbling so much, and he sat straighter and laughed more easily. He was brave enough to face monsters and stubborn enough to stick around when all hope was lost.
"Course not. It's Hogwarts."
"I, for one, like the excitement," Daphne tittered. "It's such a wonderful relief after so many years of mind-numbing society."
Draco sneered and rolled his eyes.
"Society doesn't try to kill you, generally speaking."
"Let's just hope for the best," Harry laughed, interrupting what promised to be a very snarky exchange. "I promise you can still reserve the right to un-friend me if the need arises."
He was answered with several blows to the upper arms and a langlock hex for good measure.
"Right," Hermione grinned, putting away her wand. "Who's up for some exploding snap?"
Harry just grinned around his immobilized tongue. He could not have asked for better friends.
A/N: That's it, folks. Thank you for taking the time to read and review. Go to goo (dot) gl (slash) Rv1qqn to see the first chapter of Harry's second year. Love you all.