CHAPTER ONE: THE STARS
Harriet came to slowly this time, like a gentle lullaby, consciousness sang her to awareness. This time, the lighting wasn't blinding. This time, there was welcomed heat to the air. This time, panic didn't drive her into stubborn and thoughtless action. No. Instead, she found herself coming to with a sort of keen resignation. She knew when she opened her eyes, Hogwarts would not be awaiting her. She knew she wouldn't be hearing Hermione's scolding tone or Ron's rye laughter. She wouldn't be smelling fresh damp earth or frost biting in the Scottish winds. For a moment, as her eyes slid open and she stared bottomlessly at the high, bronze ceiling, that loss felt all to heavy to bear.
Yet, she sat up. Steadily, she swerved and she swung her legs over the side of her cot and she stared. The pain in her side was gone, and with only a momentary dizziness that struck her, Harry, overall, was feeling better. Weak, insurmountably weak like a kitten, but well, all things considered. This room was different, she noted. The colours hadn't changed, the strange angles still felt too sharp and the smell wasn't much better, but this one was smaller, more enclosed, with only one little door to gain entrance and exit from. A doorway in which two people stood, waiting, watching.
The boyish doctor was back, fiddling with a contraption, smiling at her as if she wasn't cornered in some room like a lab rat. Next to him stood, well, the man that smelled like desert sands and smoky spices, the one who had rocked her back and forth as she bled out in his arms. Harry, in turn, stared right back, unblinking, unmoving, right into those arctic eyes that refused to leave her own.
"You have your mother's eyes."
His, the man who looked like her as she was now, voice was soothing, like a warm polished rock, heavy but dulcifying. More importantly, this time, she could understand what he was saying and Merlin, it unsettled her so. It took her a while to find her own voice to answer back, and when she did it sounded dry, harsh, unused.
"You knew Petunia?"
Thankfully, he seemed to understand her too as he smiled, just a little twist to his lips as he came to the edge of the doorway, cocking his head at her. It had been a test, of course, one he had seen through straight away by that lilting smile. How did this man, this strange being, know her mother? Harry could feel energy, swarms of it, filtering through the walls, bleeding out, like veins in this damned place, but she could feel no magic. None what-so-ever. So how did he know her mother?
"Her name was Lily. Petunia, if I recall correctly, was your aunt, and we both know that."
He knew her name, he knew her mother, well enough to compare her eyes as many did, and he knew her aunt, at least by name. This sudden familiarity he had, when Harry felt no recollection to him, unnerved her more than any Dementor. Especially when, after the little stunt she had pulled, a proud sort of gleam shone in his eye, as if pleased by her underhanded prodding of the waters around her to see just how much these people knew. Harry's chin jutted out, her shoulders squared back and she did all she could to fight the ugly head of the urge to run raising in her gut.
"What do you want from me?"
He faltered, she saw it. It was quick, a flash, just a twitch in his jaw and a sad sort of downward twist to his eyes, but he faltered.
"I'm afraid the situation is a lot more complicated than any answer I can give to that question."
Harry didn't relent, even if that melancholic type of shadow hooding his eyes twisted something inside of her. She didn't know him. She didn't know anything about him, not even his name. She shouldn't feel anything about this stranger. But she did. Strangely, she did. And it terrified her.
"Then make it less complicated."
She needed someone, anyone, to. This place, what was happening, these people, nothing seemed familiar or right. It felt as if she had been plucked from everything she had ever known and thrown head first into an entirely new world. Muggles with laser beams, strange beings, buildings not like anything she had ever seen before. Right here, right now, up was down and down was around and left was dead and right was sailing somewhere over the bloody rainbow. So, yes. Perhaps her tone had taken on a sort of wounded pleading octave, perhaps her hands were shaking where she let them clench into the edge of the cot and perhaps she was even faltering herself, but Merlin dammit, she was trying to understand just what had happened.
"You have your mother's fiery temper too, I see."
He smiled and Harry snapped, the temper he so fondly spoke of flaring where confusion had only muddled.
"Is that it? You want to know about my mother? Is that why I'm here? Well, she's dead. She's been dead for a long time. You're too late to the game."
The smile dropped from his face, shattering like glass on concrete, and Harry felt a bubble of guilt and remorse simmer in her throat, but she refused to let it out. She clamped it down, locked it away. Stranger. He was a stranger. An unknown. And still, his sadness, the hint of it haunting his face, confidently hidden but still so blatant to her own eyes, somehow became her own sadness too. Harry didn't care for that feeling, that muted intimate connection, not one bit.
"I know, otherwise she would be here right now, and for that, I truly am deeply sorry. I should have been there for her and for you."
He really did sound sincere, and Harry, truly, felt her heckles drop just as her gaze drifted away. Her mother had always been a sour topic, a festering sore that people often pocked, even when they didn't mean to, and belatedly, Harry realised this was honestly one of, if not the, first time someone had said they were sorry, regretful, that her mother was gone. Oh, they apologized for James Potter all the time, Sirius would rant and weep over him, Remus would mope for his ghost, but no one ever said they missed Lily, not to Harry, or at least, have their unspoken words tell just that like this man had. Sometimes, in the heat of war, in the dead of the night, it really did seem like only she and Snape ever really thought or remembered her mother and missed her. It was more than a tad confusing to find someone else, a stranger, who felt like they did.
"I don't understand what's going on."
And wasn't that the truth. Harry knew she was arrogant, extremely so in some regards, Snape had been right about that, and still, the admittance that there was something she didn't understand didn't sting as much as she thought it would. This whole ordeal must be humbling her Gryffindor edge, or, perhaps, the scales on her face were making her Slytherin tendencies show. Either way, she wanted… No, needed answers. This man had them, she knew that much. The doctor decided now was his time to intervene.
"You've been through tremendous trauma, even before your accident on the Promenade in which you found Garak. From the medical scans I have ran, you show obvious physical signs of long-term malnutrition, abuse, neurological damage-"
Harry cut him off by lurching from her bed, coming to a lopsided stand. Weak. She felt so fucking weak.
"Stop! Just tell me what you want from me! You think you can just, what? Pin me in here and question me? Oh, don't look so surprised! I can feel the bloody energy you're pumping through this room, encasing it in! You've put me in a jail cell! I don't know who you are, what you want or where you come from, but if you don't lower this-… This-… This shield, I'll blow this entire room, no, this entire building down around us!"
Maybe it had been the none too swift reminder of her cupboard, of the years of Vernon's fists and the Dursley's scathing remarks, or the war and blood, her own scars and nightmares, or perhaps she had truly began to crack because, let's face it, she had been cracking for a long time, but the doctors almost clinical regurgitation of things, in a voice that sounded perpetually happy, speaking of wounds, damage he knew not how she got, made her react so violently. Or maybe she was just feeling trapped and her claustrophobia was kicking in. What did any of it matter? What did any of them know? How did they know her mother? What the hell did they want?
The man, Garak, tried to placate her but she was done. Done. She charged, as close as the energy blocking the doorway allowed her to, and accusingly jabbed a finger in his direction.
"How do you know my name!? Huh?! How the fuck do you know my name?!"
She wanted Garak to get angry. She wanted him to yell, or scream, or curse and meet fire with fire and still, there was only sadness and understanding in his eyes and it made her feel sick, violated, as if he could and had stripped her of her skin, her masks, and found all her secrets written in the marrow of her bones. Who was he?
"Because I chose it."
Harry stepped back and rubbed the heels of her palms harshly over her eyes. The ridges lining her brows caught the soft skin of her palms and her hands dropped as she looked down at the grey skin. She felt sick. What had happened to her? What had they done to her? What had she become? What was happening? So many questions, no answers, only sadness and understanding and she had no clue why that was there, on his face, why it was aimed at her of all people. Her fists clenched, and she scowled at Garak, shaking her head. It was a trick, it had to be. He was playing her.
"No. My father chose my name."
Garak's voice never left that soothing dulcet decadence. There was no anger in his tone. There was no indignation hiding in his words. There was no violence lurking in his vowels. Nothing anything Harry was used to and it felt like another loss, another stab, another grief. Why wasn't he angry? Why wasn't he yelling back at her? There was just sadness and understanding and with four words, it felt like he had slapped her around the face.
"I am your father."
There was a bout of silence, drawn and long, and then laughter, hot, burning, loud laughter as Harry howled.
"Very funny. Do you really expect me to play into your sick little game? My parents are dead. They died fifteen years ago! My fathers name was James Potter. He and my mother met when they were eleven years old and-"
Garak nodded as if he expected her to react just the way she had, before he strolled over to the door, poking at a small panel as the doctor went to hold him back, but it was too late. Harry felt it more than saw it, as the energy swirling around her dropped, dissipated, the shimmer along the door, just a phantom of light telling her that something wasn't quite right there, fading. With no caution or weariness, as if he thought she wouldn't attack him, that the possibility of such an outcome had not even crossed his mind, Garak was stepping through, closer, pulling something out from behind his back and holding it out towards her.
"Test it. The spell is quite a simple one, is it not? Familia Revelarius, if I'm not mistaken?"
She didn't miss the way he emphasized the word spell, nor did she miss the obvious implications it had. She stiffened, gaze flickering to her wand and then back to Garak's own steady gaze.
"You know about magic…"
His hand raised, urging her to take her wand.
"Yes, I do know about the abilities your kind call magic. Your mother taught me about it. She was quite the remarkable woman and witch. Go on, do it. See for yourself."
Briefly, her eyes darted to the doctor, who stayed in the hallway, watching, but not intervening, before her eyes trailed back to her wand and subsequently the man holding it. Cautiously, she took it. She wouldn't lie, for a second, she thought about stunning Garak, then the doctor, before she tried to make a second run for it, but, well, look how well that turned out. Furthermore, these people knew her mother, knew her, knew about magic, they had answers she needed.
So, she grasped onto Garak's hand before he could pull it away, aimed her wand at their joined limbs and muttered the spell. She refused to look down, she didn't need to see the gold light take shape and pulse and life. Yet… Yet, as she looked at Garak and grinned, as she was sure, so fucking sure, that seconds from now this madness would stop, that she could somehow show them they had got the wrong person or this had all been a terrible mix-up, blue light shimmered from her peripheral vision. Harry threw the soft, warm hand away from her as if it had scorched her very bones, stumbling back, eyes wide.
"I don't… No… James… How?"
Blue. Blue… It had turned blue… How? Had she done it wrong? No, no light would have come otherwise. Had they tampered with her wand? No, the wand was just a conduit, she was the power source and they couldn't tamper with her magic, she would feel it inside of her, wriggling, alert. Then why the fuck had it turned blue for her paternal line? No. There was a sound logical reason. There had to be. She knew who she was. She knew where she came from. Dammit, she had the scars to prove it!
"Many years ago, when I was young myself, I… Skimmed across a spatial anomaly. The anomaly radioactively spiked my cellular composition with chroniton particles. From there, I experienced temporal fluxes when my REM sleep engaged-"
She bumped into the cot as she back away, and still, she fumbled, skirting backwards, away, trying to push that blue light from her mind. She managed to get the bed between them before Garak could try and follow, and still, it wasn't enough distance.
"Spatial anomaly, chroniton particles, temporal fluxes… You don't make any sense!"
The doctor finally entered the room, although he kept to the edge, almost politely keeping his distance from a quickly unravelling Harry.
"Garak experienced an accident that left him, for lack of a better word, swinging between times when he slept. He would fall asleep in one era, awake in another. Yours, to be exact."
Despite the heat of the room, she became ice cold as realisation set in. She stopped then, all movement, dead, limp, just her heart pounding in her ears as her gaze swung to Garak's and suddenly, like a car crash, his sadness and understanding became bitterly clear to her. The people… The laser beams… The odd style and fashion and exactly how a muggle managed to heal her so fast…
"You time travelled."
She was in the future. How far? She didn't know, but here she was.
"I did. I met your mother. I fell in love, as the young are oft to do, and I watched as she swelled with you despite our races being incompatible."
Garak turned to doctor and all Harry could do was try and keep herself upright in a world that was determined to see her fall.
"Dear doctor, please, can I have some privacy?"
The doctor nodded and left after casting her one last lingering look. That look was sad too and Harry felt like the ground underneath her feet was splitting apart, the void forming beneath her feet threatening to swallow her whole. Garak only started to speak once the doctor was well out of sight.
"I loved your mother. I truly did. But our time was always meant to be short and sweet."
He edged himself towards the only seat in the room, her cot, and sat down, gently patting the side of him in silent invitation for Harry to do the same. She swallowed, she blinked, and she followed and sat because, really, she couldn't think much more passed motor functions.
"The radiation that allowed me to, time travel, as you put it, eventually began to deteriorate in my bloodstream. I went back less and less. I tried to remedy it by tracking the anomaly with a half-formed plan to reradiate myself, but the radiation of the anomaly was only temporary and dissipated before I could follow through with it."
Radiation, anomalies, time travel, she was hearing him, but it wasn't fixing itself inside, it wasn't sticking. She felt fluid, shapeless, streamlined. It was a strange feeling, having your core, something so fundamental that you took it for granted, yanked away from you. It left you freefalling, airborne, unbalanced. She wanted to deny it all. The spell had gone wrong. This was a trick. All liars and crooks and staged games. But every time she went to deny it, to argue and yell and curse, she saw that blue light encasing their hands and her tongue shrivelled in her mouth like a wilted rose.
"The last time I saw your mother was just after she had given birth. I remember her smiling at me, you in her arms. You were so small. So fragile. You barely fit into the crux of my arms… I grew quite close to your mothers' friend, James Potter. He was overly cheerful, disdainfully friendly and naively trusting, but he was a good man. We knew if people discovered that you were… Different, like me, then nothing good would come. James was brilliant at biological manipulation. I believe he called it-"
"Transfiguration. You biologically transfigured me. You hid what I was. You passed me off as James Potters child. You made me into a lie."
The words from her memories, they made a disturbing amount of sense now. Her voice wasn't accusatory, nor was it argumentative, it was simply just that, a voice, hallow and as shapeless as she felt. In hindsight of things, when had her life not been a lie? When she was younger, her parents had been good-for-nothings that died in a car crash. Sirius had sold out her parents. Voldemort was dead and gone and Harry could live a long and happy life. Lies. They had all been lies fed to her.
Her parents had died fighting a war, Sirius had been innocent, Voldemort had hunted, tortured and tried to kill her, and she… She had been a Horcrux, born and raised to die at the right time. What did one more lie on top of the others really matter to her? Too much when that lie stripped her of the one thing she had left, her bloody name.
"We tried to protect you. There was a war, was there not, between your people? Lily was scared for you. She wanted you away from there. I wanted you away from it. We planned for me to try and take you away with me when I faded back, but it wouldn't work. We figured out that if we found the anomalies entrance, that the radiation would be like a gateway, allowing us to pass through from one end to another. We were correct. However, the anomaly that placed me in that time only opened every sixteen and a half years on Lily's end and every fifty on mine, and only stayed open for a month. We, unfortunately, lost the first chance to take you back with me when we arrived at the entrance to late. By then, my radiation had dipped so low that I was forced back. Alone."
Harry's chuckle was a horrid thing, all cracked leaves and smashed porcelain as her head lolled back and she looked up to the ceiling, letting the words ghost out her mouth like her very soul was being sucked from her.
"But there was another chance. Sixteen years later, fifty for you. James Potter made sure the biological transfiguration would only last for sixteen years. When I started to change back, the healers would be confused. They would be in a rush, looking for answers, thinking I was diseased. He manufactured for me reverting back to look like I was dying. But how-"
"Madam Pomfrey was also a good friend of ours."
Her head sagged back down as her eyes crunched shut, fighting back the tears that wanted to fall. She hadn't cried when she walked to her death, in what only seemed like a few days ago, and she wouldn't cry now.
"She's the one to suggest that I was to be put into a stasis chamber, wasn't she? Then it was just about getting me through the anomaly, the gate, so to speak… Why did I need a stasis pod?"
Finally, she looked at Garak, really looked at him, from his scales to his ridges to his strange skin, an action she had been fighting against and then it hit her. It really hit her. The situation, the conclusion. She sucked in a sharp breath.
"You're not just another creature, are you? This… This isn't England. This isn't even Europe, is it? How far into the future am I?"
She couldn't bring herself to think of the word that began with an A, she couldn't bring herself to even consider the possibility. Not fully.
"You needed the stasis Pod because the anomaly was not stable. It also kept you alive and safe when you were in space, adrift. I recovered your pod three months ago, which had drifted three light years away from where you were meant to be, but I've been waiting for your arrival for over fifty-two years. A few months of searching seemed inconsequential."
Time travel. Space… Aliens. Her head swam and throat felt dry and swollen. If the anomaly opened every fifty years here, on this end, then she had been in space… actual Space, asleep, in stasis, for two years. Two whole fucking years. Lily, James, Madam Pomfrey, they knew, they all knew… How many more people knew and kept her in the dark?
"I sort of hate you right now."
And she did. They, James, Pomfrey, Lily, this strange man called Garak, they had stripped her choices from her. Forced her onto this road. They knew what was to come and never once thought to ask her whether she wanted to go through with it or not. Then again, when had that been any different? She had no choice but to fight Voldemort, she had no choice in dying, and here, she had no choice again. Truth and free will weren't often given. She knew that. And still, he gave her that kind smile in return for her anger.
"I understand. However, I do not, nor will I, regret any decision or action I have taken to bring you here."
It was strange. To protect her, to bring her here, he had been willing to take her hatred. In fact, he had been expecting it. He was willing to give something up for the betterment of her. This was a novelty feeling. Normally, she was the one sacrificing.
"We found these in your pod, alongside your bag."
Garak delved a hand into his pocket and pulled out a little stack of parchment, handing them over. Harry took them and ran a finger across the cursive writing she knew so well. Ron and Hermione. They were letters from her dearest friends. The bag. These letters. They had known too. Perhaps Pomfrey had told them. Perhaps Hermione, with that brilliant brain of hers, had figured it all out, and still, they had sent her through the anomaly. Why would they send her away? Why would they do this? There was still so much to do back there. Deatheaters needed rounding up, Hogwarts needed to be rebuilt, the ministry needed investigating and-… Perhaps that is exactly why. Perhaps they had known she wouldn't rest, couldn't, when she thought there was work to be done. Perhaps they had given her a chance she had always dreamed of, a chance at a family, a real family, that they knew she wouldn't take if she thought it would cause harm.
"What if I wanted to go back? What if I said I didn't want to be here?"
Harry had to know, she had to, she needed to know whether, here, her choices would matter for something. If push came to shove, would this man, Garak, her fath-… Would he let her decide? Even if it went against what he wanted?
"Then, in fifty years, when the anomaly reforms, I will send you back. It will be sixteen years after you left originally, but I'm sure you'd find your way. You'll be just about old enough to start living your own life about then."
And he would. He really would. She could see it in his eyes, the slope of his mouth, it hurt him to say it but if it was truly what she wanted, he would let her go. No one had ever given that to her before. No one had ever put what she wanted above what they thought they needed from her. A tear did fall this time, catching on the ridge of her cheekbone, and for the first time, she smiled back.
"Just about? I'll be an old woman of nearly seventy."
It was a poor joke, for sure, but it told him what she couldn't bring herself to say. He reached out then, placed his hand over hers, pulled it away from the letters she was holding, to which she dropped beside her, gently and squeezed. Harry squeezed back.
"Cardassians are renowned for their protective instinct when it comes to their offspring and we do have considerable life-spans. I doubt you'll get away from me much before you turn eighty."
Harry's gaze flickered towards the empty door.
"Cardassian… That's what they, the people outside, kept calling me."
"It's what we are, the name of our race, what other aliens call us."
Aliens. It was one thing thinking it herself and an entirely other experience having someone external establish it. Garak pulled her hand closer and, in an odd event that felt too natural, leaned his head across and bumped his forehead spoon against her own. It felt intimate, but tender, like how Harry used to picture how getting tucked into bed and her forehead kissed by a loving parent before sleep felt like when she was locked in her cupboard.
"I know this is difficult to digest. I know decisions were taken that you had no say in. I know you've lived a rather… Colourful life up until this point. I know this will take time. But that is all I am asking for. Time. Just a chance to show you the father I've been waiting fifty years to be."
He was pulling away then, detaching, standing from the bed, but he looked back at her from over his shoulder.
"Let me show you something."
He offered her his elbow and, still, Harry hesitated for a moment before she took it. Slowly, her legs still feeling weak, he led her out of the room, down a hallway and into a large area which Harry guessed was the entrance lobby to this healing ward. This room was colder than the one before, leading Harry to believe they had upped the temperature in the other for her comfort. The doctor was there, sitting at a large desk of some kind with screens and flashes of colours beeping out, waiting. His grin was almost blinding when he spotted Harry trailing slightly behind Garak, arm laced through his as she made tottering steps forward. Eventually, Garak's arm slipped away from hers as he went to a far wall by the side, eyeing something Harry couldn't see from her vantage point. He nodded her over.
"Come, have a look."
Slowly, casting a glance to the doctor as she passed, Harry made her way to Garak, before she followed his sight and looked out and found a circular window. Her breath caught in her throat. Blackness, as far as the eye could see, greeted her, but there, in that hallowed pool of ink was subtle little lights, glimmering like diamonds of a thousand dreams. There were so many colours in those little lights, blue, yellow, red, pink, there, shining and dancing in the vastness of space. It was like she was truly seeing the stars for the first time.
She whispered as she pressed in closer, her hands coming up to the cold material of the window, too warm to be glass, palms flexing as if she could reach out and touch the sea of lights before her. She laughed, loudly, almost hysterically as she looked over her shoulder, to the doctor.
"Do you see this?"
Both he and Garak chuckled at her incredulous tone but Harry was already turning back to the view, transfixed. So many stars, so many worlds, and she was there, floating amongst them. It put things into perspective. Garak's finger invaded her vision, pointing as he leant in closer.
"That one there, the bright red one, do you see it? That's called Farianne VI."
VI? Where there five more? How many of these stars had names? How many had planets? Aliens were real… How many were there? What kinds? Her world had crumbled before her, but here, seeing these stars, a whole knew one was opening up right before her very eyes.
"What about that one, the pulsating blue one?"
Harry asked, perhaps a bit too eagerly, as she pointed at it. Garak chuckled and it was soft and soothing and most importantly, kind. His hand came up to her shoulder, landing, heating the skin that was beginning to get chilly from the thin clothes she was wearing and the overall coldness of this room.
"That one, I believe, is called Verik III. The Denobulans have a rather interesting tale about that star. They believe that-"
And that's how she was lost to tales of stars and aliens and vast worlds unexplored. And, if but for a brief moment, a little bubble of respite, she didn't feel grief or absence, she didn't feel like she had lost anything, only gained.
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