DISCLAIMER THE FIRST: It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the grace of coffee that thoughts acquire speed, the back acquires strains, the strains become a warning. The warning is that I make no money from this. It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion.
PITHY STATEMENT RELATING TO THIS CHAPTER: "Reality is whatever refuses to go away when I stop believing in it." – Philip K. Dick – American writer – 1928-1982
LAST UPDATED ON: 05-04-2017
CHAPTER ONE – WHO IS THE BOY-WHO-LIVED?
HEADMASTER'S OFFICE, HOWARTS, SCOTLAND – MAY 2nd 1998 – EVENING
Harry couldn't believe it. After all this time, he had survived only to have to die at the proper time. He wished he could hate the Headmaster but he was too numb to care. Harry sat in Dumbledore's chair and was silent for a moment trying to process it all.
Finally with a sigh he got up. There was only one thing to do, the only thing he could do. It seemed he never really had many choices in his life and now he knew the reason. Harry now saw why Dumbledore was always so insistent he try to have a 'normal' life or let Harry get away with so much: he knew Harry's life was going to be a short one.
He left the Headmaster's office and right as he stepped off the rotating staircase it occurred to him he should put on his invisibility cloak. The last thing he wanted to deal with was seeing Ron or Hermione. Especially Hermione! He threw the cloak over himself and opened the door…
…to find Luna Lovegood staring right at him.
"You can take that off, Harry. I know it is you," she said in a determined voice.
Harry paused while he tried to figure out how she knew to be waiting for him at this moment.
Luna frowned and reached out and pulled the invisibility cloak off him. Her frown faded as she smiled up at him, "You do not need to hide from me. I am here to help.
Harry blinked at this,. "Luna, you can't help. This is my burden and so I need to go…"
"…go to your death? Yes I know that is what you think you need to do. However you need another perspective on things. Come along with me." Luna said as she threw the cloak over her shoulder and started the staircase moving back up towards the Headmaster's office.
Harry could only stare as Luna was carried up the stairs. She seemed much more lucid than she'd ever been before.
Harry hurried up after her only to find her humming to herself as she examined the silvery instruments Dumbledore must have repaired after Harry's explosion of accidental magic after Sirius' death.
"Luna, I…" Harry began.
Luna held up her hand to stop him, "This is the end-game, Harry. It has all come down to tonight. I have tried to help many time before but somehow I am always shunted away from you. It had been so difficult but with so many things going on tonight, I believe I can finally help you see the truth."
Harry frowned, "The truth? What truth"
Luna smiled sadly, "A truth which I sadly cannot tell you. I can only show you the door, Harry. You must walk through the door on your own. Enlightenment will bring you the realization of what needs to be done. The truth is not something which can be revealed; you must find it within yourself."
"You're speaking in riddles!" Harry said angrily. Hadn't he had enough of that shitte from Dumbledore when he was alive and even after death with his will? All the magic in the world and Dumbledore couldn't figure out a way to secretly tell them about the likes of the Deathly Hallows among other things?
"Of course I am. It is the nature of the magical world. Nothing is real because magic can unmake reality to suit what is desired. Magic is a focus of will," Luna said serenely. She pointed to the wand in Harry's hand, "That is a focus but what is focused is a lie. Hogwarts is a lie. You are a lie just as I am. Yet every lie holds a portion of the real truth. Finding the truth in the lies will allow you to escape the rabbit hole you have fallen into."
Harry was about to make another angry retort but something in the lithe blonde's protuberant eyes stopped him, "I have to die so that Voldemort can be killed. Death is the only freedom I am going to get."
Luna laughed, "So you have been told. You have been told many things which somehow you never seem to question. So many things you should have questioned."
Harry frowned in confusion, "What do you mean?"
"Your life is an enormous contradiction; a collection of supposition, obfuscation and deceit. Yet you never question it. You are the only remaining heir to House Potter, a pureblood house, yet somehow no other house could take you in. You are supposedly the defeater of Voldemort yet no one, not even the Purebloods seemed to care you were raised by Muggles even after starting at Hogwarts. Your godfather is jailed and even when his innocence is revealed, he is kept away from you. As freedom nears, he is killed ever so conveniently," Luna said calmly.
Luna made an airy gesture. "Your life has been a series of events. Bits of life supposedly bright against the ennui of day-to-day living. Yet is this really true?"
"I don't understand," Harry said. And he didn't. Luna was being cryptic but still more focused than he'd ever seen her.
"Tell me Harry, since you did so well on your Astronomy OWL before being interrupted, tell me which constellation is the Hunter?" Luna asked pleasantly.
"What? I…uh, well…I'm not sure," Harry said. He found himself surprised he didn't know given how he seemed to feel he should.
"What about Sirius? What constellation is Sirius in? Surely you would have remembered the constellation containing your godfather's name!" Luna asked in a biting tone so unlike her.
Harry opened his mouth to reply when he realized he didn't know. He racked his brain but all he could remember was various nights on top of the Astronomy Tower looking through telescopes.
Luna seemed to read his mind. "I could quiz you all night. However we do not have the time. Suffice to say you do need to confront Voldemort tonight. On your way, all I ask you is to think hard on your life. What do you remember going back to before you were eleven? Do not think of the big things. Try to remember any normal day. Pick any semi-normal day like your aunt's birthday three years ago. Or even here at Hogwarts. What did you do most days during the Tri-Wizard Tournament since you did not have to attend classes as a champion?"
Luna stood up and walked over to where the Sorting Hat seemed to be sleeping on a shelf and gave it a pat. "I suspect you will be unable to because these days never truly existed except as a part of the overall deception. They are part of the lie but their nonexistence reveals a truth."
Harry just stared at her as he tried to think on what she had said. What had Aunt Petunia done on her birthday that year? It was between his 3rd and 4th year and he was certainly home for it. Yet he couldn't even remember cooking for it which he certainly would have been made to do. Most of his 4th Year seemed rather blank as well.
Luna cocked her head to the side. Her face again graced by a sad smile. "When you leave here you need to ask yourself the central question. Who is Harry James Potter? Why is he the Boy-Who-Lived? Because the answer to everything is wrapped up in this question."
Luna picked up the Sorting Hat and to Harry's surprise tossed it to him. "You should be able to pull out the Sword of Gryffindor. While most things here are a lie, much of it is of your creation. Even in deception, you cannot help but try to provide the means for you to survive. Did you not notice that when death seemed certain, something always happened to keep you alive?"
Harry continued to stare at her for a moment before nodding. He had noticed this and it had bugged him quite often in the dead of night when he could not sleep.
Luna's smile became more of a grin as if she was reading her thoughts, "Yes, I thought you might. Some of it was by design but some of it was you. You are you biggest enemy but you are also the only one who can save you. I can only show you the path to the truth. You must be the one to walk it."
She gestured to the Sorting Hat in his lap, "Take up the Sword, Harry. You can trust it unlike any wand except for the Elder Wand."
"Why can I trust the Elder Wand? Besides Voldemort has it," Harry replied.
Luna shook her head, "Who has the wand does not matter. It is not there for you to use but for you to remember. The Deathly Hallows are something people have quested for and killed for or so you were lead to believe. The story was just a deception to hide the fact my father and I were trying to get information to you. Your secret enemies acted quickly to quash interest in them. However the Hallows are only a part of a larger puzzle. A puzzle whose answer is in your head. Reunite the Hallows will help you see what the puzzle is. When the question becomes known, all will be revealed."
"The answer will solve everything?" Harry asked.
Luna shook her head again, "No Harry. The answer does not matter at all. Find out what the question is and everything will make sense. Mark my words and remember for it is through remembering that you will triumph. But before you can do that you must solve the riddle of the Boy-Who-Lived."
Harry put his hand into the Sorting Hat and sure enough he was able to pull out the gleaming Sword of Gryffindor. He pulled it out of its sheath and admired it for a moment before looking at Luna.
"A sword can kill but it can also cut. Cut away the deceit and you will triumph. You must go now and I can only say one last thing to help you," Luna said in a voice more serious than he had ever heard her use.
"What is that?" Harry asked as he sheathed the Sword and buckled it onto his belt.
"The riddle of the Boy-Who-Lived is about who he truly is. Divining the answer to this question will open the door and allow you to go up. All I can do is impart this simple fact," Luna intoned.
"And that is?" Harry asked.
"Harry James Potter is truly the Boy-Who-Lived." Luna said simply.
Harry scowled, "But I've never, ever felt I was the Boy-Who-Lived!"
Luna smiled enigmatically, "Then there is a disconnect in the equation. Balance it out to find the truth."
HIDDEN GROVE, FORBIDDEN FOREST, SCOTLAND – MAY 2nd 1998 – EVENING
Harry could hear voices coming from up ahead. He knew it must be the Death Eaters camp. Yet he made no move towards it. His mind was a whirl with questions.
Just as Luna had asked him to, he had thought on his life and he realized he could remember many things quite clearly. Killing a basilisk, kissing Ginny, Ron's betrayal, Dumbledore's funeral, the cat on the desk turning into McGonagall. All of these things seemed clear in his mind as if they had happened just yesterday.
Yet it was everything in-between these moments which seemed to be missing. For the life of him, other than vague impressions, Harry could not remember any one normal day. Everything he could remember which might seem normal had an element related to another memory. What had happened to the rest of his life? Did it even exist?
This last question had bubbled up from within him when the shades of Sirius and his parents had spoken to him. Even now he held the Resurrection Stone in his hand. Why had his parents been proud of him? They had sacrificed themselves to keep him alive. Why would they be happy to see him cut down now? And Sirius! There was no way the man he knew, even after Azkaban, would cheerfully wish him well on Harry's road to death by Dark Lord.
So everything about these shades seemed off. A deceit; a lie. Luna had spoken that everything around him was a lie but in these lies was a kernel of truth. So what did he know?
At this point it seemed his whole life had been leading up to this moment. So this was the focal point. He was supposed to die at the hands of Voldemort. But why Voldemort? Why was it so important that he had to let Voldemort kill him? Was it because he had been recreated out of Harry's own blood? More to the point, it seemed Harry had to willingly go to his death. To reenact sacrificing his own life (like his mother had) to save others.
And what of the horcruxes? He had often wondered why Voldemort couldn't be 'killed' prior to all the horcruxes being found. Certainly the Dark Lord as a wraith was a nuisance compared to the embodied evil wizard he was about to face. So why the quest?
This is what bothered Harry the most. The Quest. His entire life seemed an improbably tale which lead to this moment. Like it had been scripted by a bad author. Just when things seemed to be going well, things went bad again. His life was almost like a comic book in that respect. Bad plot or not, everything had kept pushing him towards this moment.
If his life was a story, then the outcome was him willingly letting the villain kill him. Voldemort wanted to kill him because of a prophecy. A prophecy which lead him to being disembodied and for Harry to be named the Boy-Who-Lived.
Yet Luna had said Harry Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived but deep down Harry had always known he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived.
How to resolve this paradox ate at him.
Harry looked down at the Resurrection Stone. The sign of the Deathly Hallows stared back at him along with the crack from the Sword of Gryffindor when Dumbledore destroyed the ring. What were the Hallows and why was the Sword so important? Harry wasn't sure but ever since he first saw the sigil of the Hallows, he had felt something like an itch behind his eye. A memory half remembered. A memory tied somehow to the Sword.
Harry frowned as the evil cackle of Bellatrix LeStrange floated out of the gloom. What was he missing? What had he missed his whole life? What was the one common thing? He looked down at the Stone and it suddenly dawned on him.
Every part of his life had been affected by Dumbledore. From that first Halloween night when he took it upon himself to put Harry with the Dursleys to even after Death when Harry and his friends had gone off on the Horcrux search Dumbledore had put him on. Everything he did, Dumbledore was there. Why was this important?
Harry shook his head. He was close to something but not enough. Luna had said he needed to unite the Hallows so he made his way forward. Finally he found himself nearing a campfire filled with Death Eaters, a giant or two and even some lurking acromantulas. Hagrid was tied to a tree and Voldemort stood apart with no expression on his serpentine face. He almost seemed to Harry to be a puppet with no one manipulating the strings.
Harry stopped as a cold wind seemed to waft through his brain. He looked at the Death Eaters. They were carrying on like they didn't have a care in the world. They were almost cartoonish in a way. Like some sort of thing you'd see on a Disney ride…
Harry blinked as if he'd been slapped. Disney ride? He'd never been out of England so where had that thought come from? Yet even as he thought on this, the feeling grew. He watched as two Death Eaters chased a screaming woman around and around a large rock. Just a few moments before he'd have just accepted this was two evil wizards tormenting a muggle or maybe a muggleborn. Now he was feeling like he'd seen this tableau before.
How was that possible?
Harry looked down and saw Voldemort was holding the Elder Wand. Unlike most wands, the Death Stick had an odd handle and it was not straight. It almost looked like a queer dental instrument or machine tool rather than a wand.
Again Harry blinked at this thought. Was this was Luna meant? That everything around him was a lie but when he started to see the underlying deception, the truth of what it meant would come out? What if the Elder Wand was a symbol for something else?
Harry looked down at the Resurrection Stone at the Hallows sigil again. More and more it felt familiar. The Stone brought the dead back to life but not all the way. The Cloak kept you safe by keeping you from being seen. The Elder Wand was powerful and could do what seemed miraculous even to wizards.
All tied to the Boy-Who-Lived who wasn't him.
Harry pushed the Cloak open and removed his hood without thinking any more on things. It was time to start rattling cages to see if he could learn more. "I am here, Tom."
The glade broke into surprised shouts but it was Voldemort which interested Harry the most. He seem to come alive like a house whose lights suddenly turned on. As if no one had been home prior to him being aware of Harry.
"Well it appears I was correct in your Gryffindor courage would bring you to me. You could not let anymore of your friends die when you could save them," Voldemort said with a sneer.
Harry tried to keep the frown off his face. Hermione had always said he had a 'saving people thing' and now even Voldemort remarked that his driving purpose was not to let anyone die if he could prevent it. This was important somehow. Like he had done something to keep someone dear to him from dying regardless of the odds.
Voldemort raised his wand, "Tonight I shall finish what I started all those years ago. The Boy-Who-Lived will be no more. Only I shall remain!"
Harry shook his head, "You cannot kill the Boy-Who-Lived, Tom because I've been told that he and I are not the same person. A fact I've known my whole life. So who is the Boy-Who-Lived, Tom? The only reason I'm called that is someone told the tale that your curse rebounded off me and destroyed your body. Who was there to tell this tale? Wormtail wasn't there and you'd already killed my parents. After your body blew up, who was left to say what happen? You were a wraith and I was a toddler. The Boy-Who-Lived is a myth conjured up out of thin air. It's smoke and mirrors, Tom."
Voldemort sneered again, "You speak nonsense! Of course you are the Boy-Who-Lived. I was there to see it."
"But you weren't there to talk about it, Tom." Harry said. Out of his peripheral vision he noticed most of the Death Eaters had become still, almost like Voldemort had been. Yet a few seemed quite animated like Bellatrix.
Indeed she called out, "Kill him my Lord! Cement your greatness forever!"
"In due time, my pet," Voldemort said with a gruesome smirk and an airy wave of his left hand.
"Actually Tom, I don't think you want to do that considering my scar is your last horcrux," Harry said. Yet even as he said this to buy time, there was a feeling of wrongness about it. Once again the whole concept of the horcruxes felt off somehow. They were related to keeping one alive but not in the twisted way Voldemort used. What were they really?
Voldemort's face twisted in surprise, "What? How do you know about horcruxes?"
Harry laughed, "How do I know? Dumbledore of course. He's had me chasing after them and destroying them since before Snape killed him. We destroyed the Diadem just tonight so that just leaves my scar as the last horcrux. I don't think you want to destroy your immortality."
Voldemort's face contorted with rage, "You lie! Even if true, I have another horcrux!"
Harry shrugged, "Yes your pet snake. Yet something has always seen off to me about your familiar. How could you break off your soul when not in your body? In looking through books at Grimmauld Place, I found many references to Soul Magic and they all stressed the importance of the soul/body connection. So maybe you think you made a horcrux but I am not convinced."
Voldemort seemed to hesitate before his face went back a silky, smooth sneer; the type Lucius Malfoy did so well, "You are babbling before you die. I do not know why I'm even listening to you."
Harry nodded, "Maybe you can't help but listen. You're made out of me. Everything I've ever learned about you relates to me. We had similar upbringings; we were connected by prophecy and now we're connected by blood. Supposedly I have a piece of you in me. I'm beginning to wonder though. You could have easily killed me regardless of priori incantem if you were the powerful Dark Lord you are said to be. Yet every time we meet, I escape. Why is that Tom? Perhaps you are not meant to kill me; you are a goad for me to give myself up to death."
"Kill him my lord! Wipe him from the earth along with his impertinence!" Bellatrix screeched. A few other Death Eaters called out similar threats.
Voldemort waved them off, "I can kill you now. One spell and you are no more."
Harry was feeling more confident about the feeling he had gotten about Voldemort since he had seen him so inanimate. Voldemort wasn't really a person; he was like a computer program with limited inputs. It responded to things in certain ways. But it couldn't act against its prime directive.
Harry had to willingly give himself up to Death and right now while supposedly Voldemort or any of the other Death Eaters could kill him, Harry didn't want to die. No, he had to know the answer to the riddle of his life.
Harry crossed his arms, "Then do it. Kill me. I'll go to my grave defiant. You are a nobody, Tom. A shell, a fake. Somewhere there is a curtain and there is a man behind it."
Again the Death Eaters called for Voldemort to kill him but now they also started to suggesting going to Hogwarts and killing his friends. Voldemort seemed to like this suggestion as he smiled evilly, "Perhaps I shall bind you and make you watch me killing your friends."
"Go ahead. I don't really have any friends. Not really. Ron betrayed me and Hermione went with him after all we've been through. The students are fighting because they are trapped yet why is that? With Snape dead, McGonagall is now the acting Headmaster. She can authorize portkeys. The castle should be empty but it isn't is it? No all those people continue to be a potential massacre I'm supposed to keep from happening by sacrificing myself to you."
"You are the Boy-Who-Lived! The hero! It is what hero's do," Bellatrix sneered. "Where is your Gryffindor courage?"
"Right here," Harry said as he pulled the Sword of Gryffindor out from where it had remained hidden by part of the Cloak. Harry held it up so that he could easily slash his throat open. "I could slit my throat open and be dead before you could finish with saying Avada Kedavra. I wonder what would happen? Somehow, no matter the odds, I survive. It's almost like I had to survive up to this moment only to sacrifice myself regardless of it I actually wanted to live?"
One of the LeStrange brothers made a move but Harry pushed the Sword into his neck enough to draw blood, "Ah ah! Let's all remain calm here!" Harry noticed that Voldemort seemed at a loss of what to do. If anything, the Lestranges seemed the most animated of all present.
"I wonder. I was supposed to sacrifice myself so you could be defeated because the portion of your soul in my head had to go. So it seems to me my scar, my defining thing as Harry Potter, is the focus of everything. Dumbledore set everything up to the point of giving me the Resurrection Stone set to open only at the one time I needed it to supposedly get the courage to come here to die. And you know what?"
Voldemort hissed, "What?"
Harry grinned slightly, "I think this whole thing stinks. It's all wrong. Life isn't like this. It's like a fairy tale, a bad movie. A set-up. A con. Someone wants me to willingly give up my life to get rid of this scar. Maybe the scar is what really is the issue here."
Voldemort laughed mockingly, "I think you are lying to keep me from killing you. I would know if I was missing a piece of my own soul."
Harry shook his head, "I don't think so because I'm suddenly realizing that you aren't real. You're a cartoon villain whose actions don't make any sense. The entire Tri-Wizard Tournament plot to get me to the graveyard is more than enough proof of that. It had to be another set up, a way to get me into the proper frame of mine."
Bellatrix leapt up and stormed over to Voldemort. "My lord, let us go into the castle. Let us see if the Boy-Who-Lived is so glib when covered with the entrails of his friends!"
Harry noticed again how he was being referred to as the Boy-Who-Lived. Was repetition a way to beat down his contention he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived? Didn't Goering say tell a lie long enough and people will believe it?
As Bellatrix continued to plead with the Dark Lord, Harry once again wondered how he knew about what he had just thought? When had he learned about the World War Two leader? He couldn't really remember anything from Muggle school except Dudders bullying him. In fact, now that he thought of it, Harry had little in the way of any childlike memories. Except odd memories of him goofing off with Ron, it was like Harry was an old soul in a young body.
"Enough!" Voldemort said loudly. "We shall go down to Hogwarts and unleash the acromantulas upon them. I want to see how well Harry Potter does Hagrid's youthful indiscretion is eating all his friends!"
Harry laughed, "Actually I just realized that once again you refuse to kill me. Once again I'm being put into a position of worrying about others when I could save them. So if I'm only supposed to die by willingly letting you kill me, I figure my death is probably going to screw up someone's plans."
Before anyone could do more than shout out like Bellatrix did, Harry viciously slashed his own throat open.
Harry awoke to find himself in a white, featureless void. He looked down and noticed he was naked. At this realization, some robes appeared out of nowhere. Harry was about to put them on when he paused.
He looked at his left arm. The puncture wound from the basilisk fang was missing. He quickly did more checks and found that except for a nasty gash over one knee he couldn't remember ever getting (but somehow felt it should be there) none of his many scars were to be found. He felt his forehead and felt that the lightning bolt scar was still there.
Harry also noticed he seemed bigger. His arms, chest and legs had more hair. As he took in these details, he also noticed his eyesight beginning to worsen. Harry looked down to where the robes lay expecting to see glasses appear.
Harry frowned. He may not be the Boy-Who-Lived but he knew needed glasses.
As he thought this, a pair of glasses appeared although it seemed to Harry that it was grudgingly so. As if the forces at work resented having to do it.
Harry put on the glasses but decided he didn't want the robes. He didn't create them or at least he wasn't sure. So he thought of a nice outfit he had purchased while on the lam while they were planning their assault on the Ministry. After some intense concentration, they finally appeared.
Harry dressed and then picked a direction and started walking. Almost instantly a destination began to form. After a few moments, Harry realized it was an odd bit of King's Crossing. Harry frowned at this. In a way, this is where it all began.
Harry turned around and began to walk the other way but in a moment another version of King's Crossing appeared. This was repeated in every direction he took. Harry scowled when he realized that whether he wanted to or not, the ersatz rail station was the only destination he seemed able to get to. So he gritted his teeth and made his way into one of the structures.
Harry found himself not at all surprised to find Albus Dumbledore waiting for him with a sad frown on his face.
"My dear boy, I am so disappointed in you. I worked so hard to get you to the right place to do what needed to be done for the Greater Good. All of that work is now mostly ruined," the old wizard said sadly.
Harry's eye's narrowed at this. How convenient that just as he got closer to something resembling a truth, Dumbledore shows up. Even if it seemed possible given how supposedly they were both dead.
"Perhaps if you hadn't been so cryptic in life, I might have had a better road map to follow. Instead you left me with scant clues and little to work with," Harry said carefully as he sat down on a nearby bench.
"Great deeds cannot be done by following instructions, Harry. They must be done from the heart. You let the ramblings of an addled girl take you away your moment of Destiny. If you had let Voldemort kill you, he would have destroyed the soul fragment within you. The feedback would have destroyed him. Yet because he used your blood, your mother's love would not allow you to die. You would have come here but then be able to return. Now you are simply dead and England is doomed without another sacrifice." Dumbledore said sagely.
'Here it comes,' Harry couldn't help but think to himself. He had heard Dumbledore speak in this tone many times. "So even though I killed myself, you're saying there is a way out? I find that hard to believe. If there is, why didn't you take it?"
Dumbledore frowned, "I choose not to move on quite yet. I am tethered to Hogwarts in a manner not unlike a ghost. However it is a tenuous bond because I do not want to remain. Yet I can work it such that I can take your place while you return to defeat Voldemort."
Harry frowned, "Wait a minute. You told me that horcruxes cannot survive the loss of their host. I'm dead so the horcrux is gone. I don't need to go back anywhere."
Dumbledore shook his head, "Voldemort's blood tie to you tethers you to the mortal realm. This tie keeps the horcrux alive."
"So what? My body will decompose eventually. Horcrux gone, end of story. Dark Lord defeated. The end." Harry said defiantly.
Dumbledore shook his head again, "No, you do not understand, my boy. You told Voldemort about the scar so he will keep your body in stasis. It will never rot. You have ensured Voldemort will not die. You must go back and prevent this."
Harry decided to humor the old man, "How?"
Dumbledore sighed, "I will take your place and go to Hell so you can fulfill your destiny and save the world."
Harry blinked, "Excuse me? 'Go to Hell' why?"
"You killed yourself, Harry. It is a mortal sin," Dumbledore said with remorse evident in his voice.
"So you'll take my place in Hell so I can go play hero?" Harry asked. "Wow! Here I thought the guilt I felt after viewing Snape's memories was bad! So now I'm supposed to go do my duty because of you going to hell in my place. That takes the cake!"
Dumbledore's face darkened in anger, "I do not make this offer lightly, Harry. I have plenty of my own sins to pay for. I have watched you and know you heard what Rita Skeeter has said…"
Harry tuned out Dumbledore as the old man rambled on about the sins of his youth. He did this because he had noticed something important. So while he tried to look like he was listening to the old wizard, Harry was actually studying the window behind him. A window which was allowing him to see the reflection of himself.
Harry saw his earlier feelings were true. He was bigger. In fact he was older. More to the point he realized he looked almost exactly like his father. The more he looked the more it was apparent he looked exactlylike his father. So as Dumbledore spun his tale of woe, Harry was thinking back to what Luna had said.
Harry James Potter was the Boy-Who Lived. He himself, however, had never felt he was the Boy-Who-Lived.
So if Harry Potter equaled the Boy-Who-Lived and he didn't equal the Boy-Who-Lived, to balance the equation out meant he wasn't Harry James Potter.
Looking at the mirror, he realized that maybe the reason he looked so much like his father was because he was James Charles Potter!
The startled look on Dumbledore's face made him realize he had laughed out loud as memories started to flood back into his head, "I did not realize you would feel the death of my sister was so humorous, Mr. Potter."
He stood. "That Albus Dumbledore, if that is your real name, is one of the first true things you've said since I got here."
Dumbledore looked suspicious, "What was that, my boy?"
"You called me 'Mister Potter' instead of Harry. Because I know the truth now. I am not Harry James Potter. That is my son. Harry, the Boy-Who-Lived. I am James Potter. I have a nasty scar on my knee. I got it from a motorcycle accident when I was 19 in eastern Washington. I'm not British but Canadian and I am not and have never been a wizard."
Dumbledore blinked in surprise before he tried to cover it by looking concerned, "My boy, we must hurry! We need to get you back to fight! You are becoming delusional!"
James laughed again, "Delusional? I'm starting to see through the delusion. You're the man behind the curtain. Luna was right. The minute I saw the truth in the lies, everything is starting to make sense. Everything here is a fake designed to trick me."
"Harry please, Let me help you," Dumbledore pleaded.
James smirked and then suddenly kicked the old man directly in the stomach. "Help me? You're here to steal from me! It's all coming back to me! The training, the warnings. Luna isn't a person; she's a manifestation of that training. You must have done something to keep her away for so long. But she got to me in the end. You had to get me alone at the last and that was her opportunity. She warned me, got me questioning things which always bothered me but things always interrupted my musings."
"No! You're wrong! You're beginning to lose your mind! It's part of the process of suffering before you are dragged to Hell. Let me help! Let me take your place so you can defeat Voldemort." Dumbledore begged.
"Voldemort? He's probably a manifestation of mine. In fact since you seem to be the manipulator, there is a good bet he's actually a corrupted security protocol of mine. You turned my own defenses against me. You knew if my own mental model 'killed' me that it would wreck my defenses further. Then you could sweep in and grab what you are looking for." James said with a triumphant laugh as he kicked the prone man again.
Dumbledore simply moaned, "Please don't! You don't know what you're risking! Think of the people! Your friends."
James snorted derisively, "My friends are all safe and sound out in the real world with Lily and Harry." James frowned, "Harry…the Boy-Who-Lived. Yes, this is about him…it's about the Cure. You're after the Cure! Of course!"
"No! Please Harry you do not have much time!" Dumbledore gasped.
James frowned, "Time…yes time. I'm betting that since everything was pushing towards this point, we're almost out of time. Even with the time compression. We're going to get a Kick soon aren't we?"
As more and more memories flooded back into him, James gasped. He was Dr. James Potter who had used an experimental surgery to help save his son from certain death from a cancerous tumor of the brain. It had left him with a lightning bolt scar but the brain matter samples had been the key and his son had been hailed as the Boy-Who-Lived when death of the heir to the substantial Potter fortune was considered a foregone conclusion.
The cure had broad applications. It was the Holy Grail of medicine and properly applied, even at prices barely above cost, would make the Potter's wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.
James frown turned into a scowl. More than enough reason to try to steal the secret in dreams. He had scoffed initially at the idea of extractors stealing information out of dreams. Yet some of the research doctors working with him at the Oregon Health & Science University on his son's problem told him how real the danger was. So while Harry was being treated at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, James made the time to train when not feverishly working on a possible cure for his son.
From that training James realized the time he had been in this created world meant he was under a powerful stabilizing sedative. Death here could result in being trapped in a kind of limbo for years to the mind's eye. Time enough to lose one's mind or grasp of reality. He had to be careful. James realized that whoever was doing this probably had a fail-safe involved that only would work if he didn't know he was in a dream. Now that he knew he was dreaming, death would cast him into limbo.
Yet it did mean he now had leverage of a sort. James kicked Dumbledore again and then pushed him on his back, placing a foot lightly over his throat. "So Albus, I'm realizing the horcruxes are actually the component parts of the process of the Cure. My 'scar' is the one thing you really needed. The key to parts of my mind relative to all of my research. I'm betting when each one was destroyed, it unlocked part of the secret for you to steal. But you still needed the map so to speak to be able to read what you'd stolen. The research which saved my son in the face of impossible odds. My 'saving people thing' is just the drive I had not to give up on Harry."
James' face darkened, "A cure which I am going to make the world a better place but that threatens your employers livelihood…doesn't it? I should kill you now and leave you to limbo but I need answers. Who hired you!?"
"Harry please!" Dumbledore whispered.
"Stop it! Drop the act! I am Dr. James Potter. We're probably somewhere in Portland. In America. This isn't limbo and my parents and I left England when I was eleven which is probably why Hogwarts started at eleven wasn't it? All the magic would distract me and push me towards today so you could steal it all! Don't lie to me! WHO HIRED YOU?"
Dumbledore let out a strangled scream as James pushed his foot down on his throat.
"Wait! Wait! Don't kill me! Please!" the old man pleaded.
James laughed nastily, "See? If this was real, you are already be dead and wouldn't fear death. So talk or you'll wish you were!"
The old man wheezed and tried to catch his breath, "Okay, okay! I'm part of a team to get the Cure. We were hired by GlaxoSmithKline."
James thought about the UK based pharmaceutical giant which had been created out of merger after merger. Suddenly he laughed, "Dumbledore! Ha ha! It's an old Brit term for bumblebee which is the symbol of the Beecham Group's cold and flu products! Beecham got sucked up into SmithKline before it was merged with Glaxo Wellcome. Staring me in the face the whole time!"
James suddenly realized why the sigil of the Deathly Hallows looked so familiar. It was the logo of the research arm of the Potter Corporation run by his wife Lily. In fact the Elder Wand resembled the precision tool used by the 'robot doctor' to extract the vital, gene-compatible brain tissue needed to cure his son. If he had the time, he was sure there was hundreds of these sort of things since from what he knew of extraction, so much of the people were projections from his own subconscious.
In fact something hit him, "The Sword of Gryffindor! Now I know why it responded to me. It's a manifestation of the specialized tool I created to layer the new tissue onto Harry's brain. I nicknamed it "Grieve No More" because after Harry was cured, Lily would finally smile again."
The thought of names made James sneer, "Let me guess, your team probably has Phoenix in its name"
Dumbledore didn't say anything but his face told him enough. But before James could say anything, he began to hear music. Dumbledore's face lit up so he knew the Kick back up into the real world was coming.
What troubled him was the extractor team may have kidnapped him. Hopefully they had merely found a way to sedate him in a place like a plane or train confident of their success which would leave him not remembering any of this.
Think! He had to figure out a way to ride the Kick out on his own terms or he'd wake up not remembering any of this. Worse is he might actually be a hostage meaning Phoenix team could try again. He had to find a way to get out under his own control.
While James frantically looked around while 'Dumbledore' pleaded to be let go, his eyes fell on the train. Something the old man had said earlier clicked.
James stared at his hand intently until his wand appear. Yes! "Well Mr. Dumbledore it seems you are about to be hoisted on your own petard given how even though I've seen the man behind the curtain, all the tools still work so I can do this; petrificus totalus!"
He grinned as the Dumbledore stiffened up, "Looks like the inmates are running the asylum now!" Without a backward glance, James sprinted to the engine and climbed on board. There was no conductor but that didn't bother him. He understood now that this dream world had been crafted to be even more responsive to intent and desire.
His trainers had warned him that while one could do almost anything in the dream world, do so was dangerous because the rational mind rebelled at the impossibility of it all. Whoever had crafted this dreamscape had been clever. The concept of magic gave structure to the chaos and made it safer because the impossible now had an explanation.
Now, however, James was able to manipulate reality using those same rules. He tapped his wand on the control panel, "Go!" No need for any faux Latin phrases. His desire to see his family again and justice done would have to suffice.
As the train shook like a dragon huffing to itself as it awoke, James gave out a cry of triumph! He was off to leave the wizard! He had to laugh at himself for he knew the look Lily would give him if she heard that terrible pun.
The train began to pick up steam even as the music grew louder, sounding like it was coming from every direction at once. James couldn't help but feel a bit disoriented as the train raced into the white void. Without any frame of reference, it was hard not to feel a bit motion sick.
James mentally urged the train to go faster while not realizing he was tapping his wand continuously onto the control panel all the while saying, "Go! Go! Go!" under his breath.
Just as the music seemed to reach a crescendo, the void in front of the train seemed to change into a computerized grid-like pattern. To James it reminded him of something out of Tron or Star Trek's holodeck.
In a blink of an eye the grid pattern went from being far in the distance to an encompassing wall which the train smashed into sending a screaming James falling into darkness.
"Mr. Potter? Sir? We've arrive at PDX and will be landing soon,"
James struggled to open his eyes. When he did so he was moderately surprised to find a flight attendant leaning over him, gently tugging at his arm.
He quickly looked around. It was obviously the first-class section of a commercial flight. Where was he? He couldn't remember where he had been flying from. Why wasn't he on his private jet?
James shook his head and rubbed his eyes. For that matter why didn't he just apparate? It would have been so much easier.
His glasses were inches from his face before James froze up as if hit by a spell. Spells! Why did he think he could apparate?
Memories came flooding back into him and he put his glasses on and he tried to act naturally. This was difficult because now he had the overwhelming urge to look around. Somewhere on this plane was the Phoenix team who had trapped him for what seemed like years and he didn't think for an instant they would give up on him so easily.
"Are you alright sir? You look a little pale?" another flight attendant said after glancing his way after hanging up one of the on-board phones near the captain's cabin.
James shook his head but said, "No I'm fine. Just had a bad dream. Nothing but a bad dream."
The flight attendant smiled before moving to the attendant station and picked up a microphone and began welcoming the passengers to Portland and giving the local time and current weather and telling people to prepare for landing. All around him, passengers were lifting up their tray tables and buckling in.
James sat back in his seat and wondered how many people around him were in on the plot and how many might be waiting for him when he exited the plane? He knew now that he was back in real time, there wouldn't be any last minute saves from a centaur or owl if death came knocking now!
Yet just thinking about centaurs and owls made James feel odd. Even with the compressed time he'd just been through, James felt it odd he was still thinking in those terms back in the real world.
Then it hit him.
James looked out the window. Everything looked normal. Everything looked real. James ground his teeth together. But was it? Hogwarts, for all it's magic seemed real at the time. James began to pat down his person. Where was his Token? Panic began to set in when he realized he couldn't remember what his Token was!
His stomach sank and not just because the plane began to descend. James had a bad feeling that no matter how real his environment was, he was still in the Dream. He needed to remember what his Token was or he'd never be able to tell if he was back in the normal world, still in the Dream or perhaps worse, slowly slipping into madness!
A/N: Yes I know. The title makes you think I'm setting up a Matrix cross-over only to make it a Inception one. I'm just evil like that.
Two Chapters: I was going to make this a long one-shot but the problem is I didn't write down exactly how the next part was going to go or if I did, I can't find those notes. So I need to do some digging and if I can't find anything, I'll reconstitute. That and I have to watch Inception again for inspiration. I do have some fun twists at the end of this.
Really Hidden Joke: Sadly, if I'm not mistaken, the hidden Disney joke no longer applies since they changed the ride I took it from.
PDX: Portland International Airport
Other Fics: I know most of you are here for my Harry Potter fics but please take the time to check out Nineteen and Ironheart. Especially Nineteen as I'll probably be posting on it for a bit. Also I am reworking through Paging Dr. Bell so once I get that done, I'll delete and then reload the last chapter to alert everyone so they can reread the whole thing.