When I opened my eyes, I could sum up my experience in only one word.
No. Weird was too mundane a word to properly describe my… vision? Then again, I doubted there was a word that perfectly fit. The best way I could describe what I'd seen was by comparing it to a movie, except I'd been watching it through the eyes of the protagonist. Who was me. Adding to the strangeness, someone had grabbed the remote and started skipping through the scenes.
Shaking my head, I began to focus on my surroundings. I was lying down on something firm, yet quite soft. The warm air smelled of smoked wood and herbs. Slowly sitting up, I realized I was on my bed, the one from my room at the Burrow. Yet, it didn't look quite as dilapidated as the one I remembered.
I looked around, expecting to see my old room and the garden out back, only to blink in surprise. My guess was completely wrong. Not only was the room way too big, but there wasn't a window in sight. However, I couldn't shake the feeling of familiarity. It wasn't until I saw the green and silver banners, roaring fireplace, and stone floors that I made the connection with the Slytherin Common Room.
Wait… that wasn't right either. Those banners weren't showing the Slytherin Shield. They were emblazoned with the Hogwarts' crest instead.
I blinked again before shaking my head.
Yup. Weird was definitely too tame.
The stone floor felt warm under my naked feet as I began to take a few tentative steps away from my bed, eyes roaming around, trying to find more clues so I could pin down where I was. The more I searched however, the more confused I felt.
The nearest corner to me was pretty much a copy of the Slytherin Potion Room. Complete with a workbench, ingredients, and tools. The center of the room also seemed out of place as it was an exact replica of Greengrass' living room, complete with sofas, chairs, and carpeting. Yet, for some reason, the mish-mash of different things felt… right. Like they belonged.
Shaking my head again, I made my way to the living room area, looking beyond it. Deep shadows hid the rest of the room, making me wonder what lay beyond them.
"I wouldn't go there yet."
I blinked before turning around. Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see… well, a much older me, wearing a black Field Agent uniform, watching me with an utterly blank expression.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Your Anchor is not complete yet," he replied. "You may get lost in the darkness, and we don't have time for that."
I frowned. "Anchor…" I muttered, toying with the oddly familiar term. "Are we in our mindscape?"
"Yes and no."
"So… is it a yes or a no?" I asked.
"Both. There is more to it than that."
I bit my lip, wondering why he sounded so familiar. I mean, yeah, he looked like me and for some reason, I wasn't surprised by his presence. However, that voice… I definitely heard that somewhere recently.
I snapped my fingers in sudden realization. "You were the one I heard during my duel with Delacour."
He nodded. "Yes."
Snorting, I asked, "If you're here, does that mean I'm finally ready?"
A familiar grin appeared on his face. "Maybe," he replied. "Are you sure you want answers?"
I frowned but nodded. Suddenly, I felt the ground disappear underneath my feet, falling down a tunnel made of stars. Before I could react, I landed on something jagged and cold.
I didn't pay attention to that though, because I was greeted with a familiar sight: a picture of the burning building of the Ministry of Magic.
The image was identical to what I saw earlier—the fire raging with billowing smoke covering the sky, and the air smelling of the nastiness of char. Ash floated midair while the stationary muggle firemen and police struggled to do their jobs. A moment perfectly frozen in time to show the full horror of what had happened.
However, that wasn't the only picture. There were two others, one on the left and one on the right, that caught my attention. The former, I noted, was far more solemn, one that didn't logically fit with the destruction I'd just witnessed. It was a small, well-kept garden surrounded by six-foot walls, with an open gate serving as the entrance. The latter looked more like the interior of a hallway, unaffected by the chaos of its neighbor.
I made my way to the garden first, studying the wall that surrounded the area. The smell of smoke and ash had vanished, replaced instead with the aroma of wet grass and flowers. I took a deep breath before stepping through the opened gate. Inside was three tombstones, each bearing a name that filled me with sorrow.
Here lies Hermione Weasley.
Here lies Rose Weasley.
Here lies Hugo Weasley.
Gone, but never forgotten.
I stared at their names for a few more seconds before shaking my head and turning around. Passing by the ruined building, I made my way through the open hallway. The feeling of giddiness and excitement surrounded me. The air was warm and smelled of musk, sweat, and flowers. Why would—
"Really?" I had to ask as I reached an open door at the end of the corridor. Inside were three naked adults—one Ron Weasley, sandwiched in between the beautiful Greengrass and Davis, mid-coitus.
"Hmm?" asked the Unspeakable Ron beside me.
"I think I'm slowly understanding where I am," I replied, shaking my head. "This is our Anchor."
"My Anchor," he corrected. I looked at him, filing away his wording before nodding.
"I can understand the burning building, as well as the gravesite," I said calmly, but growled as I pointed at the pornographic scene in front of me. "But that?!"
Unspeakable Ron shrugged. "At the time, I had been utterly lost, swimming in hate, anger, and regret. Those two excited me, gave me something to look forward to. In a way, they made me live again."
"What I saw," I began, "with Greengrass… I would have thought—"
"Greengrass and Davis did use me for their own benefit," he interjected. "However, that didn't mean they weren't important to me."
"Did you love them?" I asked, frowning.
"Yes." He stared at the trio with a sad smile. "We couldn't take it as far as having a proper relationship, though."
"Davis didn't really love me," he said. "She was a masochist who only wanted me because I learned how to hurt her the way she loved. Greengrass was… complicated. Her family Curse made it impossible for her to truly love someone. Her sister, Astoria, did and died young because of it. Naturally, she didn't want to follow suit. However, I can safely say that Greengrass was quite fond of me, in the way that a sadist was fond of their slave. Then there was me, who treated them as assets, to keep me informed on the criminals they had entwined themselves with. We all used each other. And that was enough for us three."
I shuddered, suddenly thinking back to Daphne. Was that our—?
"Stop that," he said with a shake of his head. "Different world, different people. What happened between Greengrass and I doesn't have to happen to you and Daphne." He smiled wistfully. "I'm glad you met them, your Slytherin friends. They were instrumental in stabilizing your Anchor."
I shook my head. "You talk like our Anchors are separated."
"They are," he said immediately, making me frown.
"Does that mean we're two different people?" I asked. Then, a horrifying thought came to my head. "Does that mean I'm—?"
"Again, yes and no," he replied. "While we can claim that we're separate entities, you are not the Ronald Bilius Weasley that Violet Lily Potter knows."
"What am I then?" I demanded.
"My son," he replied, making me step back like I had been slapped. "Well, that's the best way I could describe you. If you want a more clinical explanation, you are my latest and greatest persona, a perfect mix of my ideal, younger self that is aware of the cruelty of life. More importantly, my replacement when the time is right."
"Replacement? Why would I need to be if I'm supposed to be just a mask for you?"
"Ah, good question," he said with a grin. "Come. Maybe this will finally clue you in."
With nothing better to do, I followed him back through the hallway and returned once more at the burning building. I thought there was something I missed in that first scene, only to see Unspeakable Ron cross the street. I blinked, trying to figure out what was so special there. There were a few traffic signs, faceless muggles watching the fiery ruined building behind me, and a few stores.
"Well?" he asked. "Cross over. You can't see it from there."
"See what?" I asked as I took a few steps. "There's nothing—"
My eyes widened when the whole scene changed in front of me. Gone were the bystanders, the stores, the signs, and the scent of smoke. Instead, I bore witness to something so utterly alien that my eyes hurt just by looking at it.
The best way I could describe it was an endless scene of sharp-looking crystals that encroached everywhere. It was present as the sky, the horizon, and even the ground underneath my feet. If it hadn't been for the ethereal green glow, I would have thought I was looking at a massive pane of shattered glass.
Stranger still, each crystal shard contained a different face. They were all distinctly different—man, woman, ugly, handsome, pretty, tall, short, pale, dark, hairy, bald. Yet, for some reason, I felt connected to them. I felt like they were all Ron Weasley.
"They are," Unspeakable Ron spoke up, making me look at him. He wasn't staring at me, though, but at the unworldly wall in front of us. It made me wonder how he could look at it so calmly. I could barely stand seeing it. "They are all Ron Weasleys."
"How?" I asked.
"I've shown you all the relevant memories," Unspeakable Ron said, tapping his head. "Take it as an exercise. Observe. Think. Then speak."
I frowned once more before studying the structure in front of me, blinking multiple times just to get the stinging out of my eyes. I noticed some of the crystals were bigger, and their images were more refined than the rest.
The biggest and clearest was one of a well-dressed man with long blonde hair done in an elegant ponytail. A cruel smile was plastered on his lips as he pointed his wand at someone. For some reason, the name Reginald Warbeck popped in my head.
Looking away, another shard caught my eye. This one showed a beautiful woman with long dark hair and dark skin, covering her smiling mouth with a gloved hand. Around her were various men and women, armed and ready for a fight. Mistress Romilda Whisp.
The more I looked, the faster I began to assimilate the information the other smaller images were showing me. There was a beggar, his white goatee long enough that it traveled way below the neck, and a hand holding an empty cup. I also counted a mercenary, a Ministry official, a medi-wizard, a bartender, a thief. I even spotted two Ron Weasley prostitutes, male and female, naked and entertaining faceless people.
"These are other persona…" I concluded. "You used them as covers."
"So does that mean Kowalski was right?"
"In a way, yes and no," he replied.
"I am getting really tired of hearing that," I growled.
"I bet you are," he said with a laugh. "We don't really suffer from dissociative disorder in the traditional sense, but we do hold a lot of personas."
"The Greengrass Occlumency," I gathered.
"Right," he confirmed. "It allowed us to be anyone we needed to do the job."
"Okay," I began, looking away from the mess of images, "so what does that have to—" That's when I saw something that made my eyes widen.
How could I not see this one earlier? At this distance, I could see the burning building, the gravesite, and the hallway altogether. Except… there were massive cracks across each of the pictures.
"Bloody hell, is your Anchor—?"
"Damaged?" Unspeakable Ron finished. "Yes. Yes it is. You couldn't see it earlier because the core is still intact, but they've already done enough harm that it's only a matter of time."
"They?" I asked, staring at Unspeakable Ron. "Who's they?"
He just spread his arms. "Who do you think? Look around you."
A shiver traveled up my spine as I realized what he meant. "Our multiple personalities are damaging us? Is that what you're saying?!"
"Only me," he replied with a sad grin. "Do you realize it now? Why we have two different Anchors? Why I considered you as my replacement?"
I gathered my thoughts before realizing an ugly conclusion. "You're disappearing, getting lost in all these personas."
"Good. You're on the right track." He began walking back to the burning Ministry building. "Come."
I followed gladly, if only to just remove myself from this uncomfortable world of… brokeness. Once we crossed the threshold, the shattered Anchor looked whole once more. It was strange to find myself relieved to be in the burning, choking air than that alien world I had just left.
"I'm sorry," Unspeakable Ron said, frowning. "I know you have so many questions, but we are very short on time. This is the best I could do is make you more aware of what's going. About why you're here, in this new world, facing even greater dangers this time."
I glared at him. "You did the same thing as Violet."
"Made a deal with a god, yes," he replied with a shrug.
"Made a deal with a what?" I blinked before shaking my head. "Actually, forget that for a moment. You're saying that you were fine getting us reborn, reincarnated, whatever? Is that what you're saying?"
"Why?" I got in his face. "Have you seen the trouble that Violet and Granger got themselves into? Were you so afraid of dying that you had us reborn in another world? Is that what we have become? Voldemort?"
"It wasn't fear of death that made me decide on this course," he said, shaking his head. "It was the fear of not being able to see Hermione and our kids again."
"Yeah, well tough shit," I growled. "Granger isn't our wife. In fact, it's even worse than that! We're now stuck in a world with a version of Hermione that wants nothing more than to hurt and kill us."
"I wasn't talking about Granger," Unspeakable Ron said before sighing. "The last few seconds before I was killed, I had been so ready to see them again. I planned it out, you know? I would beg Hermione for forgiveness, for loving two women other than her. I would also apologize to Rose and Hugo for not being smart or strong enough to protect them. And finally, I would relax and rest my weary bones." He scowled. "Except that didn't happen."
My eyes narrowed. "What do you mean? What happened?"
"When I died, I just found myself in the the Hogwarts Quidditch Field," he replied, "riding my Cleansweep Eleven, guarding the three goals."
"Harry described something similar when he got hit by the Killing Curse in Hogwarts," I muttered, grabbing my chin. "But his was King Cross Station, right?"
Unspeakable Ron nodded. "Let me tell you, the way Harry described it was rather underwhelming compared to experiencing it myself. Utterly devoid of life and color, I waited there, for Merlin knows how long for something to happen. At first, I thought I was going to meet Dumbledore or someone close to me. Maybe give me some sort of life lesson or some such. Well, eventually someone did come. And he did impart critical knowledge."
"Who? And what knowledge?"
"The god that I made a deal with," he replied. "He made me aware of what was going on." He stared at me. "You've heard it from Granger, right? That it's not only our physical brains that hold memories, but also our…?"
It took me a moment to recall that day, and when I did, I blanched. "Our souls."
"Exactly," he said, smiling sadly. "The damage to my Anchor? It wasn't just showing the damage done to my psyche. It represented the fracturing of my soul. It reached to the point that we couldn't cross over, couldn't see Hermione or our kids again. I was going to be stuck in that Quidditch Field for Merlin knows how long before completely disappearing."
"Did this… god explain to you why that happened?" I demanded, eyes narrowing. "Is this the consequence of the Greengrass Occlumency?" An idea came to my head, making me frown. "Did she give us incomplete training? As a means to keep a hold over us?"
He shook his head. "Greengrass wasn't cruel enough to do something that could permanently damage us. She loved keeping her toys whole. No. This was all my doing." He looked at me. "Tell me, have you noticed something odd about the covers we had?"
I crossed my arms, thinking about it before it came to me. "They were too many. There were at least thousands of them."
"A hundred thousand, more or less," he corrected.
I shook my head. "You couldn't have played these characters. Even if we assume our first life wasn't cut short—"
"It was," Unspeakable Ron interjected.
I waved my hand impatiently. "Fine. Even if you have lived a hundred more years after learning that particular style of Occlumency, that leaves around thirty-five thousand or so days. A hundred thousand means you played more than two covers a day. Different ones everyday at that. That is impossible."
"True, unless I were at multiple places at the same time."
Uncrossing my arms, I asked, "Substitutes?"
He nodded. "The nature of that Magic allowed me to build a vast network of Infiltrators. Each of them feeding me information and setting up opportunities to be more effective at the job. For example, how better to show our targets how well connected I was than to produce a mercenary, a Ministry Worker, and a medi-wizard that answered to me?"
"And you didn't have anyone else do those things for you?" I asked with a frown. "Like a team or something?"
"The Field Agents branch of the Unspeakable Department was small," he replied. "I thought you would have understood that, considering they even lacked the budget to do the standard recruitment and that it was also a relatively new agency." He smiled. "And while we might have more autonomy compared to the Corps, no one was stupid enough to spend more money on a Department that was willing to pay criminals like us. Can you imagine all the documentation it required to have that in the Ministry's name?"
I frowned. "So you had no support? At all?"
"I had a Handler," he replied.
That had me rolling my eyes. "Obviously. I meant other Field Agents."
His expression turned wistful. "Harry and I partnered a lot of times. He was the one that kept innocent bystanders from becoming victims. He was… my conscience." He paused before shaking his head. "However, he wasn't good at, well, infiltrating. His fame really didn't do him any good. As for other Infiltrators… well, let's say I didn't make too many friends on that end."
"Did Harry know what you were doing to yourself?"
He stared back at the hallway. "In the end. I tried to keep it hidden but I had so many memories of different people, each with different skills, friends, jobs, and lives that it started bleeding out to me. Harry thought I was going insane at one point." He sighed. "Gave me quite an earful when he found out."
"Why?" I demanded. "Why go that far?"
He shrugged. "With Nott's capture, his circle began to separate, compartmentalizing. His sponsors began to hide even deeper as they began to branch away, recruit more people to their cause. The bastards that killed our family were out there, still untouched for years even after he had been captured. I took desperate measures, damn the consequence."
"You were still seeking vengeance," I muttered, shaking my head.
"Yes. Hopefully, you will never inherit that from me."
"All it takes is one bad day," I countered softly.
"Maybe," he said. "Hopefully, now that you know where it goes, you can avoid it.
"Yeah." I took a breath. "So, how could this god help?"
"The solution was to simply create another version of Ronald Bilius Weasley," he said, "a persona that was as close to my younger self as possible."
He nodded. "However, for that persona to be more than that, to make his own Anchor, he would need time and experience to grow into his own person. That was the nature of my deal with this particular god. He would allow you to be born in another world."
"Similar, yet different."
"Right you are," he replied. "Of course, I had to decide what memories I could give you." He looked towards the ruined building. "If I just gave out everything, we'd be too similar, and the infection in my Anchor would spread to yours. I had to be very selective. Sometimes, I had to falsify a few things and block others. You needed something to help you along in this new world without ruining your new potential friendships."
"Yeah, I can imagine that," I huffed. "I probably wouldn't have looked at Daphne or Tracey the same way if I knew about Greengrass and Davis. I don't want to imagine what would happen if I remembered Nott as well. Though that begs the question… wouldn't it have been simpler to not give me memories of what happened to Hermione, Rose, and Hugo?"
"Isn't that essentially what I did?" he responded.
"Except you included our time as an Infiltrator," I countered, motioning at his Anchor. "And you only became one because they died. Something like that I would have caught on eventually considering how closely linked they are."
He smiled. "Yes, you probably would have. However, our skills were necessary, considering the dangers that would be present during your return to Hogwarts."
I narrowed me eyes again. "That implies you were aware of the whole situation."
"Of course I was," he replied with a shrug. "I'm not stupid to get into a scenario without knowing how to deal with it."
"Yeah, except I wasn't aware of the situation at all," I growled, rounding at him once more. "In fact, I'm suspecting that the only reason I didn't seem to realize that Harry was replaced by Violet, even if all the clues were there, was because of you."
"Well, I can admit to that much."
"Why?" I asked in a tone far calmer than what I felt.
"Calculated risk," he replied. "The first ten years was critical in forming and stabilizing your Anchor. You needed to live your life as normally as possible, to adjust to your new limits, your new body, and organizing the memories I left you with. You needed a controlled environment where you could safely grow. Violet and Granger were beyond you at that time, and I didn't want to risk you getting obsessed with them."
"Yeah, live as normally as I could for ten years, then get killed because I had no idea what was going on. Sounds like a good plan."
He nodded solemnly. "I may have underestimated Granger's obsession with their Weasley. My original goal was for you to give the most innocent first impression. For example, you didn't act the way they expected their Weasley to act, being utterly and honestly confused when you met them. Then there was that happy accident of you having a different wand, which threw them off as well. I had hoped that it would give you a reprieve from their wrath until you and your credibility were more firmly established." He sighed. "Well, you know what happened. At least the secondary part of the gamble worked."
"Wormtail," he said. "I blocked memories regarding him so they could steal him from you. It was much better than what would have happened if you 'discovered' him yourself."
"You needed an ally. Someone close to Violet, but who hasn't spent that much time with the duo to be completely convinced of Granger's narrative." He hummed. "If Lady Black was freed much earlier, there was a high chance that she would joined them in plotting against you as well. Two powerful and devious women were my limit. Threesomes are tiring as it is without adding another woman into the mix."
I gave him a deadpan look. "Wouldn't being credited in capturing the traitor be also a valid way to build some sort of goodwill with those two?"
"Are you kidding?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "While it may convince Violet that it was an apology from her ex, it would also give Granger ammunition by convincing Violet that you remembered everything and were trying to manipulate her.
"Besides," he continued, "it worked out. Lady Black became your ally, a bridge to connect you to Violet, which is very important."
"And why would that be imp—" a thought entered my mind. "Hold on. You said a deal with a god. That meant that he asked something from you."
"Good catch." He nodded. "Yes. Though I think you have a good idea what that is."
"To help Violet," I guessed.
"To fulfill her destiny, yes."
I found myself back at my Anchor, sitting in one of the couches with Unspeakable Ron right across me.
"We finished faster than I expected," he continued, drinking something out of a cup that suddenly appeared in his hand. "Fast enough that you can ask more questions, if you have any."
I crossed my legs. "My desire to help Violet… is that your work as well?"
"Are you asking if I influenced you to be friendly with her?" When I nodded, he shook his head. "The answer is complicated. No, I didn't exert any effort for you to try and become her friend. In fact, I doubt any influence was needed. Both of us hold a lot of regrets in regards to my early life, especially when it concerned Harry and Hermione. We wanted to be better friends with them. Then add our Auror life, which made us naturally inclined to help people in need and finally, our experience being an Infiltrator skewed our morals so that we weren't too perturbed by people trying to kill us."
"After all, today's enemies are tomorrow's allies." I sighed.
"And vice versa," he finished with a small grin. "However, do note that we made a deal with someone powerful. It wouldn't be a surprise if he influenced us without our knowledge so we would be able to fulfill our bargain. And there's also another factor."
"And that is?"
"Violet Lily Potter is a charismatic figure," Unspeakable Ron said. "A confident young woman that reminds us a bit of our wife and Greengrass." He then winked. "Plus, she also has a very attractive body."
"Of course the last part is important," I muttered sarcastically before pausing. "This… god. Is he involved with what happened to Violet?"
"I assumed so," he replied. "After all, asking us to help her out meant that she is of some importance to him. If you're asking if he was the one that she made a deal with, well… my suspicions tell me yes."
I nodded. "Has this god revealed if he knew why Violet made such a deal? To start this madness of dying and reliving their lives?"
"No," he said. "However, if I have to speculate, Violet and Harry are, at their core, the same people. The earlier tidbits you've heard from her have confirmed that."
"In what way?"
"Tell me," he replied, "what would drive Harry to do something reckless? To do things you thought he would never do?"
After a while of thinking, I replied with, "Someone hurting his friends. Or hurting people he loves in front of him. That really makes him boil."
He nodded. "Sirius' death made him cast a Cruciatus. Became quite proficient in it, especially when he started using that and Imperius during the war. In fact, he was the only one out of the three of us that could cast those Unforgivables successfully."
"He never used them after that, though," I defended.
"Of course not," he replied with a scoff. "Not that he needed them, considering how unbelievably powerful he became soon afterwards. The point is, if you hurt Harry's loved ones, he will do something very stupid and reckless. And I'm guessing that's what started the whole thing with Violet."
"Bloody hell," I muttered as I realized something from what Violet had said. "You don't think—"
"It is something to ask Violet," he interrupted with a shrug. "An icebreaker, if you will."
I snorted. "Yeah." Then, I frowned. "You know that… even if we succeed, you won't be able to see them again, right? Hermione, Hugo, and Rose?"
That made him pause, and I wondered if that was the wrong question to ask. After a while, he just looked at me with a sad smile. "Ron," he called, "if there is one thing you should remember about being a persona is this—you are me; I am you. While it's true that I will ultimately disappear, as long as you can see them again, I'll be truly satisfied." He looked up. "You're about to wake up. Last question."
I just stared at him for a few moments before shaking my head. "Mission parameters?"
"Help Violet fulfill her destiny. End the cycle of madness she found herself in. And live a long, happy, and fulfilling life." He winked. "No pressure."
I just rolled my eyes. Yeah. No pressure alright.
Author's Notes: Life has made me a little too busy once more. A bit of a bad news. My muse on this story took a vacation while I was away. I got a few drafts to complete, but right now, I'm exploring another fandom. I'm writing a short story right now. It's a RWBY story, Jaune-centric. Once that is done, I'll get back to writing here again. My apologies for that. I'll be back before you know it, though. Thanks once more for everyone's support. Hope you enjoyed the chapter.