Chapter 1: A Very Confused Duo
The Great Hall was almost completely silent, which was especially startling if one considered that it currently held far more people than it normally contained. Despite this quiet, there was a nervous energy permeating the hall; hinted at by the murmurs from students as they filed in and took their seats. Headmaster Dumbledore stood in front of the students, from three different schools, with a placid smile on his face. To the sides of the room stood his own faculty along with the headmasters of each school present for the upcoming tournament.
He waited until everyone had been seated and the silence seemed to grow more powerful in the room, though there was now also the feeling of a strong, yet unfamiliar magic that permeated the air. A glance at the Goblet of fire, through his glasses, told him that the magical energy wasn't just in the air, but that it had also increased within the Goblet itself, a clear sign it was about to make its decision.
Such was his presence and reputation, that the moment he raised his arms when he had judged the time had come, that the attention of all the students present was suddenly gathered to him. The focus of the hundreds present instantly focused upon him and silenced even the smallest murmurs of those rebellious students who followed in their parents footsteps and openly mocked him.
"Now, the moment you've all been waiting for: The Champions Selection!" the Headmaster of Hogwarts exclaimed.
With a gesture around the hall, he wandlessly dimmed the flames in the braziers one by one around the hallway. The display of control didn't escape anyone there. Dumbledore was not ashamed to admit he indulged in a bit of showmanship from time to time. If the few he missed were handled by the excellent awareness of the Hogwarts House Elves, no one was the wiser.
As he turned and approached the Goblet, he held his hands upwards near the ancient vessel's rim before he backed away slowly. Even with all of his long years of experience, he was unprepared for the amount of magic that burst forth from the magical artifact, which led him to step slightly away. If anyone noticed him… bravely retreating, no one said anything. It was unlikely, as the entire hall's attention was riveted upon the the flames as they had begun to rise and swirl inside and then upwards from the cup.
A few seconds later the blue flames of the goblet contracted and turned red before it swelled once more and spat out a single piece of parchment.
Dumbledore caught the slip of paper in his hand as it slowly floated towards the floor. After a moment's hesitation to read what was scrawled there, he called out loudly to all present in the hall, "The Durmstrang Champion is Viktor Krum!"
The Durmstrang contingent reacted almost immediately. They clapped vigorously, as the newly named champion pumped his fist in exaltation before being congratulated by his peers. Dumbledore noticed there were only a few looks of brief disappointment amongst his fellows, but no looks of surprise among their student body. He also observed, out of the corner of his eye that Igor Karkaroff looked incredibly smug with the decision. Given that his counterpart had boasted, repeatedly of his certainty that Viktor would be the one chosen as his school's Champion, Dumbledore had to give the other headmaster a little credit. It seemed that the man certainly knew his students.
The young man stepped out from his group of students and took a moment to shake Dumbledore's hand, before he proceeded, as he was directed, toward the back of the room. His headmaster clapped him on the shoulder and loudly told him 'well done' before the man ushered Viktor into the Great Hall's side antechamber. Once through the door, Karkaroff turned back to watch the Goblet's other choices.
Dumbledore's attention was pulled towards the Goblet once more by a pulse of magic that once more transformed the flames into a bright red. A few moments later before they surged upward for a brief moment before they once again spat out another piece of parchment. Unlike the first, this one was in the shape of a circle with a hole through its center.
Dumbledore deftly snagged it with his hands and tilted his head to read the flowery script before he called out. "The Beauxbatons' champion is… Fleur Delacour!"
The Beauxbatons delegation was far more restrained in their applause. Their school's unanimous support of the chosen champion was certainly not as universal as Durmstrang's, as he could easily spot a few girls who had already turned tearful at the announcement. The beautiful blonde in question visibly breathed out as the Goblet's choice settled into her mind and then she grinned widely for a brief moment before she calmed and settled for the slightest of smiles. She glanced at her friends before she stood and mimicked Krum and shook Dumbledore's hand. Fleur then proceeded towards her own Headmistress who smiled at the young woman proudly before she guided Beauxbatons' Champion to the back, toward the same antechamber door Viktor had previously exited through.
Only a moment later, the Goblet flared for the final time and Dumbledore's hand shot up to catch the square piece of parchment that had been ejected into the air.
"The Hogwarts champion: Cedric Diggory!" he called out in his deep voice.
The House of Hufflepuff went absolutely wild, while the rest of the houses clapped as well; though each had a differing set of expressions that accompanied the claps. Dumbledore noted that the expressions ranged from supportive, to jealous, to upset, and then reactions tended to be split along house lines. As expected, Dumbledore noted some houses had students who were clearly more upset than others at the Goblet's choice.
The 6th year Hufflepuff stood up and moved to the front of the room. He stopped to kiss his girlfriend Cho Chang's cheek as he passed her while he headed towards the back of the hall. He paused only to shake Dumbledore's hand, and the Headmaster allowed himself to break character slightly to pat the boy slightly on the shoulder in congratulations before he gestured Cedric towards Professor Sprout who would guide the boy the rest of the way back towards the same room that held the other champions.
Dumbledore spun around to address the room as a whole, his tone practically jubilant, "Excellent! We now have our three champions!"
His excited voice turned more solemn, "But in the end, only one will go down in history."
Barty Crouch Senior drew the scrutiny of those assembled as he walked forward. Dumbledore saw he was moving stiffly, even for the famously taciturn man. He felt sympathy for the Ministry official, as the man had lost his entire family, one way or another, shortly after the war. Crouch carried a large object covered in fabric and set it on the head table with great solemnity.
Dumbledore once more drew the attention of all around and raised his voice, "Only one will hoist this Chalice of Champions… this Vessel of Victory."
Dumbledore spun around and pointed at the table with the cloth covered object, "The Tri-Wizard Cup!"
With a final movement Dumbledore spun around pulling the cover back to reveal a large cup, expertly worked in metal and crystal, ornately inscribed and enchanted in such a way that it positively glowed with it's own magic. There was an intake of breath from all around as nearly every person in the hall was amazed by the artisanship demonstrated by the cup.
He opened his mouth to say something else but saw several of his professors move forward; they slowly surrounded the Triwizard cup with joint looks of disbelief on their faces.
Confusion spread on Dumbledore's face, as he saw their expressions. For one brief shining moment, the thought passed through his mind that they had been staring at him before he realized that they all gazed directly past him. He turned around to see what had caught all of their focus and redirected away from him at what should have been the climactic moment of the Champion Choosing ceremony.
The Goblet of Fire was once more burning with sapphire blue flames.
Dumbledore didn't understand. It shouldn't have done that after the names had been picked. It shouldn't have been doing anything. It took years for the Goblet to reacquire enough ambient magic to be capable of choosing another batch of champions, and that was only when it was purposefully directed to do so.
Dumbledore watched as the blue flames surged red once more before it spat out another bit of parchment.
Dumbledore reached out his hand, he instinctively snagged the paper as it slowly floated toward the floor. His movements were automatic, almost mechanical at this point.
He looked down on the paper in his hands, and for a moment, his eyes widened in disbelief as he read the name on the parchment; disbelief in his eyes as they traced an inked name that simply could not be. As the reality of the situation settled in, his shoulders sagged as he spoke in a whisper that even those closest to him struggled to hear despite the silence of the Great Hall.
He looked up slowly, weariness and sadness in his expression, but when he looked up, it was not at the gathered students who were all pushed forward in their seats trying futilely to figure out what was going on.
Instead he looked at the head table where his professors stared at him in confusion, clearly not close enough to have heard his shocked whisper.
He looked back down at the paper in his hands before his eyes flickered around the room going over students and professors alike. Dumbledore wondered who could have put this name in the goblet.
One thing he was absolutely certain of.
Harry Potter did not put his name in the Goblet.
"'eadmaster?" Madame Maxime inquired in response to the confusion on Dumbledore's face as much to the murmurs beginning to interrupt the silence still blanketing the Great Hall. Dumbledore's reaction was clearly out of place so the students began wondering what was happening.
Dumbledore lifted his head to meet the gaze of the French Headmistress to respond, though he didn't know what he was supposed to say. A rare occurrence for the headmaster.
However, anything he would have said was cut off as the Goblet of Fire flared once more. Only this time, the fire was decidedly not blue, it seemed to be randomly cycling through different colors. One moment it was a nearly white bright yellow, and the next it had shifted to a purple so dark it was nearly black. The once beautiful flame had now started to whip back and forth as it erratically shifted between more colors that could realistically be counted. Finally, when the fire flared up, as it had done when the champions names had been chosen, nothing came out.
Instead the fire seemed to flare and then contract back into the goblet only to burst forth again in what was the largest flame seen yet that night. Dumbledore could feel the wellspring of magic that was Hogwarts itself build and flow through the object in such a large burst of mana that he was sure that even the most clueless first year was able to feel it.
The air seemed to get heavy and the entire room began to shake slightly, items on tables rattled, as heavy oaken tables shook slightly on the floor.
Students, especially those nearest to the Cup, began to quickly back away as they realized that something extraordinary was about to occur, and that not even the vaunted Headmaster of Hogwarts knew what was about to happen.
The fire from the Goblet surged and receded only to surge again higher and higher; it apex just shy of the enchanted ceiling two dozen meters above their heads. Both the Goblet and the stand it had been placed upon shook and vibrated as a loud whine filled the air. He could feel the castle's wards respond to the magical build up but their response didn't make any sense. In an odd way, Dumbledore thought the castle wards were acting much the same way they did when he returned from time away.
However, based on the increasingly higher pitch of the now easily audible sound, as well as the pressure of the magic around them, Dumbledore could only suspect that the Goblet could quite possibly explode after it had absorbed so much magic.
Dumbledore took out his wand and immediately cast a strong shield over the Goblet. A surge of magical flame burst through the shield almost immediately after he cast it. He took a moment and cast a much more powerful shield over the Goblet before the next surge of flame could burst forth. When the flame did surge, he felt a physical impact against his shield spell. At the same time, the flames seemed to pull at the lingering magic of his shield while the surges pushed against it, although it held for the moment.
"Get the students back!" Dumbledore snapped over his shoulder at the professors who to this point had done nothing more than stand and gawk at what had transpired in front of them. All geniality and gentleness were gone now from from his visage. He wasn't sure what had happened to trigger such a thing, but the fact that the Goblet had obviously been tampered with, and that this was how it had reacted, was definitely not a good sign.
He wasn't sure which one of the teachers first followed his instructions, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the large tables eject those few students who were still seated. A wave of magic pushed back the students, and then the tables themselves then tilted on their sides to create makeshift barriers which, with a great scrape of stressed wood upon the Great Hall's flagstones, began to move. The students were pushed back against the wall with a protective barrier between them and the now wailing Goblet of Fire. As an added measure the benches slotted in against the tables forming braces against the wall, as well as a second barrier, in case of the seemingly inevitable explosion occurred.
He didn't have time to consider which professors had moved so effectively to protect the students because the Goblet sent out another surge of intensely bright flame it pressed against his shield, and continued pressing. Finally the pressure was too great, with a sound akin to shattering glass, the shield smashed outward and tossed him unceremoniously backwards a dozen feet.
Rather than try and contain the now out of control flame, Dumbledore prepared to shield the area itself, with the merest flick of his wand, an area that included professors who had moved forward with their wands ready. He didn't want to cast immediately only for it to break again under repeated pressure. He just hoped he'd be able to judge the impending explosion correctly.
He had to squint his eyes as the fire was nearly at blinding levels now, though he thought he saw an odd empty space at the center of the flame.. The wail of the magic which practically erupted from the Goblet seemed to turn into a roar. Once again, Dumbledore instinctively cast his shield, along with several adults near him who had the same thought. Although most of them were casting their shields blindly as they had their arms up to cover their eyes from the brightness of the flame.
The roaring grew louder causing those present to cringe from the sound. The tension from the magic rose quickly as it seemed to reached a breaking point. Dumbledore squinted into the fire of the cup while holding his shield steady.
Dumbledore was shocked as he heard over the ripping sound two simultaneous cries of half pain and half... anger?
"SON OF A-oomph!"
Out of the empty space in the center of the fire, appeared an oddly shaped figure in dark robes. A moment later, Dumbledore quickly realized it was not one person, but two separate darkly clad individuals.
Their abrupt appearance seemed to be the final straw, as without any further warning the Goblet of Fire exploded with a thunderous detonation.
Pieces of the Goblet flew in all direction as the fire surged one last time and suddenly the roaring stopped with a sound reminiscent of the tearing of cloth but only one hundred times more intense.
The two figures shot horizontally out of the black hole and half rolled, half skidded, to a stop over thirty yards from the pillar the Goblet had stood on.
Almost immediately afterward, the flames dimmed and swirled as if sucked up by a vortex and disappeared.
Every one of the professors blinked as they tried and failed to get spots out of their eyes as their shields were hesitantly and cautiously lowered. Dumbledore could see students starting to peek around and over top of tables. The tables themselves bore the signs of damage from the exploded cup.
The silence, following the wailing and roaring of the Goblet, was nearly deafening in its own right. Until it was broken by two groans.
Everyone turned their attention to the figures lying on the ground.
They were both humanoid, and wore black robes with steam rising out of them. First one and then the second lump slowly began to move, pushing themselves up.
"Ugh…" A moment later the first human figure pushed himself up to his hands and knees and a definitely male voice spoke.
"Harry, I swear to Merlin, if you enchanted my emergency portkey as a prank while I was drunk..." the redhead coughed several times which expelled an obviously unhealthy amount of smoke from his lungs each time before he pushed to stand on his feet and shook his head.
"Hurghh, I haven't done that for months," the man apparently known as Harry responded, between coughs that billowed smoke from his lungs. "Still looking for a destination to top the last one."
"I swear, if you do, you won't have to worry about what my fiance might do, I'll make sure you'll have to be bloody levitated to stand beside me at the wedding," the redhead's response loudly came back.
"Yeah yeah Ron, I'm sure, you'll try… just as soon as the floor stops moving…" Harry added belatedly as an attempt to straighten up turned into a staggered step. With a hunched over posture the man braced himself on his knees to remain partially upright, whereupon he took several deep breaths.
"Yeah, I was waiting a second for that myself," Ron spoke up.
"Even without the effort to escape the wards. That was the worst apparition I've ever done," Harry said. "But your fiance would kill me if I hadn't grabbed you and dragged you along."
"Apparition? No way. You don't get credit for this one. I grabbed you and triggered my portkey. But things were exploding, and I thought that's why it was so bad," Ron said after taking another deep breath.
Dumbledore finally, after glancing around for any other sign of disturbance, moved slowly to approach the figures, his wand still in his hand. Both men's robes were dark and streaked with soot clearly showing signs of battle damage; Dumbledore's expert eye picked out that the material had to have been finely crafted as it still appeared to be intact.
He still couldn't see either of their faces since the figures had their back to them.
"Where the bloody hell are we?" Harry slowly shook his head one more time before he finally lifted his head to blink blearily around.
"Whoop… bad idea…" he immediately put his head down, once more, and focused on getting the room not to spin.
The figure beside him snickered in response, straightening slowly, experimentally testing his balance.
"I think a more appropriate question should be-"
Both Harry and Ron spun around wildly, something that wasn't the most comfortable as it once more made keeping down their last meals a tenuous option, at best. However, both of them knew the voice absolutely anywhere, and to hear it once more was enough for both of their minds to spring sharply into focus, although Harry grabbed his stomach and closed his eyes once more. The spin had just added to his disorientation. Ron was slightly better off, though it might have been because the shock just hit the slightly smaller man harder.
"Dumbledore?" two voices echoed simultaneously.
Dumbledore, for his part, was staring with shock at two people, one of whom looked like an older teenager and vividly reminded him of James Potter. He had the same hair, without the glasses, and his face was less angular. The other was nearly a head taller than the dark haired teen, as well as being wider shouldered, he had red hair and a face smattered generously with freckles. He looked remarkably similar to Charlie Weasley.
"Yes…" Dumbledore replied, hoping either man would share his name.
Ron's reaction was a harsh whisper, "You… you're... dead." He blinked several times as he tried to focus his eyes and confirm the blatant insanity before him, but he only managed to lock onto Dumbledore's face for a moment before he had to close his eyes once more to stop the room spinning. Harry just stared at the older man as a bit of resignation entered his expression.
Dumbledore's expression was confused at the man's statement. It didn't sound like any threat he had ever received and he had certainly been on the receiving end of more than a few over the course of his long life. He was uncertain how to respond, and decided asking for clarification was the best route, "I'm sorry…?" He asked in a tone he hoped either one of the young men would be more clear.
Harry's reaction was very different a few moments later, "Oh no bloody way!" he spat out.
Dumbledore blinked, slightly taken aback this time. "I… beg your pardon?"
"Mate?" Ron asked, turning his attention to his black haired compatriot.
"No bloody way!" Harry stated louder, as his voice rose in disbelief, "I cannot fucking believe it!"
"Believe what?" Dumbledore asked, his tone cautious as the man seemed more than a little worked up and completely uncaring of the steam that still was rising from both teens clothes.
"We did not just get offed because some Spanish dumbass accidently blew up whatever the hell potion he was making in that cauldron." Harry pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation, "That's going to go really well on the gravestone, 'offed by the insane near-squib 'Ferdinand the Fearsome!'"
"Dead?" Ron echoed, a tone of disbelief.
"I'm… sorry what?" Dumbledore looked completely lost at the sudden rant. It was an odd feeling for him to feel so utterly lost in a conversation and he was clearly beginning to question the sanity of the people who had appeared.
"I know! Seriously. Blown up potion! BOOM! By Ferdinand 'The bloody Fearsome'.'" Harry threw up his hands this time, half ranting. "What is it with dark wizards feeling like they need to come up with new names?" Seriously… they should just accept that wizards as a whole suck at naming things. I think magic infects their brains."
"Oi!" Ron protested. "That's not true."
"Do you really wanna go there with me?" Harry challenged the redhead, ignoring Dumbledore once more.
Ron huffed but looked away, not willing to get into it.
"A… blown up potion?" Albus echoed, trying to follow the stream of consciousness but doing so several seconds later as he tried to catch a thread of discussion.
Ron looked sheepish and rubbed the back of his neck, "There may also have been a time turner involved."
"I dunno, I thought that was just a really ugly necklace." Harry commented.
"The idiot was relatively obsessed with glass balls and hourglasses. Had them everywhere. Kinda disturbing really… but I still think it was a time turner." Ron commented.
"Most people who are obsessed with glass balls are disturbed." Harry agreed before he hung his head in resigned disgust. "But if we were killed by someone like that, that's just embarrassing, that is."
"Hey, who says we're dead, maybe we're just hallucinating or something!" Ron offered unconvincingly, before brightening a bit, and offering helpfully, "And look at it this way, you're not naked this time!"
"You… actually have a good point," Harry agreed after a moment's hesitation.
"What?" Dumbledore echoed once more not used to being so confused. "Why would you be naked?"
"Last time I died I ended up completely starkers," Harry explained absently while slowly looking up, ridding himself of the last of the dizziness.
He looked at Ron and then around, "Well... if I'm hallucinating, at least this is better than King's Cross."
That certainly didn't help Dumbledore, who had long since gone beyond the preponderance of the sanity of the individuals in front of him. He was actually fairly certain on the decision he had come to, and now his mind had moved on towards the circumstances of their arrival.
"I just didn't expect such a large welcoming committee..." Harry explained somewhat more calmly as he looked around. "Last time I died it was just you…"
His eyes slowly looked around the room and ignored Dumbledore's even more confused expression.
His eyes settled on the teachers behind Dumbledore.
"Hagrid? Minerva? Filius?" Harry's expression was now completely befuddled as his eyes began to pick out familiar figures.
"What the hell?" Harry was damn sure he would have heard the news if all three of them had died. It would have been news everywhere. Not to mention he probably would have gotten a dozen patronuses and even more mail in his drop box.
Ron turned his attention to the direction that had caught Harry's attention, and echoed his exclamation, "What the bloody hell?"
Dumbledore had taken a breath to try to attempt to have what might have been a rational conversation.
"Let's start over," He spoke in a genial and calming voice to the young men in front of him. "What's your name?"
Harry cocked his head to the side, his expression suddenly far more cautious, "You don't know who I am?"
Ron stiffened and shifted slightly as he suddenly regarded the room much more warily.
"I have some suspicions…" Dumbledore replied honestly. He noted how the redhead shifted and moved behind the dark haired man in a defensive posture.
Harry frowned in consternation at that. He examined Dumbledore closely for several long moments before he looked around slowly, his eyes moving over the students who, even now peered over and around upturned tables, while Ron's stayed fixed on the old headmaster before he too began to look around.
There were students that looked familiar but far younger than he remembered. His eyes slowly took and registered different details of things around him. The students were slowly moving out from the tables, which had become barricades on the wall, having determined the danger had passed, the braver or more curious of the various student bodies.
And the other students, demonstrating the mentality of lemmings, followed the braver ones out.
Harry's eyes began to pick out different details.
The Durmstrang contingent.
The Beauxbatons contingent.
"What… the bloody fuck?" Harry whispered, though it was more to himself than anything else.
Dumbledore stepped forward cautiously as the two young men didn't seem to intend any harm to the people around him. However, that step forward elicited a staggered step back from the young man, followed by another.
"Oh no, no no… hell no!" Harry started shaking his head, as he jerked back from Dumbledore, now determinedly looking around for any sign he was in an illusion or dream or something.
He pinched his side deliberately and looked around quickly. When that didn't seem to work, Harry did the most logical thing he could think of. He turned around and slapped Ron in the face.
Ron, clearly not expecting it, rocked to the side from the slap. "Oi! Bloody hell, what was that for?"
"Nope. I felt that. So.. not a dream..." Harry shook his hand from the feel of the slap, as he looked around for any sign of change, ignoring Ron's discomfort, "Then again… maybe it wasn't hard enough..."
"No problem!" Ron offered, before Harry could follow up on that thought, his tone one of pure irritation as he slapped Harry over the back of the head hard enough for the dark haired man to stumble forward.
"Hey!" Harry rubbed the back of his head ruefully looking around, his brief irritation fading as he noticed things had not changed.
"You started it," Ron said, without apology.
Dumbledore noticed his other professors were moving forward, staring at the spectacle in front of them, each of them still had their wands drawn but were looking to Dumbledore for a reaction. The headmaster noted murmurs had begun amongst the students who were more and more pushing around the tables to see what was happening. However most of his attention was on the men in front of him.
"I say… are you alright?" ventured Dumbledore with even more caution at the actions of the two.
"I should bloody well say I'm not alright, Imaginary Dumbledore!" Harry stated indignantly if somewhat absently, "I do not like having my mind messed with!"
"Mate," Ron said hesitantly.
"I'm sorry… what?" Dumbledore was not used to feeling completely lost but this entire string of events had left him completely befuddled.
Harry waved him off, and closed his eyes. He checked his occlumency quickly and couldn't detect any sort of intrusion into his thoughts, nor could he detect anything untoward. Given he was particularly adept in this area, it was relatively easy for him to check for any sign of tampering, and he found nothing.
"Mate…" Ron said again, looking around with a sinking feeling of his own.
"This makes no sense," Harry started to mutter and pace back and forth in front of the increasingly confused group of teachers and the growing crowd of students.
Dumbledore was getting more than a bit frustrated at being pretty much ignored, so he raised his voice to cut in on the boy's diatribe, "Who are you? And how did you get here?"
He injected into the situation all the authority his years of experience lent him. It was a much stronger version of the voice he used when he dealt with students who had been caught misbehaving. He used the lesser version when he needed to communicate the seriousness of a situation too. It was a voice he had used to calm professors as they bickered about inconsequential house rivalries.
It was a voice he used in interacting with politicians and enemies who seemed to occasionally forget just who they were dealing with. He had used it on people like Lucius Malfoy more than once. He used it in confrontations with Tom Riddle. It inevitably demanded the full focus of the misguided and ultimately fallen young man.
When he used it, people paid attention. Therefore, the new arrivals' response was somewhat less than expected.
"Quiet, Imaginary Dumbledore, I'm trying to think here," Harry responded absentmindedly as he paced back and forth, "Okay…pinching and slapping didn't work."
"Could it be some sort mental attack?" Ron asked doubtfully, his expression grim while he also ignored Dumbledore.
"Unlikely, my occlumency is still strong and intact." Harry answered.
"Albus… what is going on? Who are these people?" McGonagall demanded as she had ventured closer, most of the professors right behind her, her own voice raised loud enough to garner the attention of every person in the hall.
"Minerva… I'm afraid I don't have the faintest clue what is going on… as to who this is..." Albus said as he once more approached the two, cautiously. A small part of his mind bemusedly noted to himself that his professors followed his lead, moving closer to the arrivals but keeping behind him.
"What if someone dosed us with that dream stuff Nev helped Luna come up with?" Ron ventured, also ignoring the gathering crowd, "That could cause something like this right?"
"The Draught of Memoried Dream?" Harry paused, the pacing he had begun again as he considered Ron's words, "Well, that… would explain the realism, the sensations of pain and disorientation."
Harry muttered, his brow furrowed in concentration, "Would also explain the inability to break the illusion with occlumency." His tone was calm and reasoned.
He winced, and turned to Ron, "Well… only one thing for it. Try boiling it out of me."
"Oi, mate, you sure?" Ron asked, his expression serious.
Dumbledore's wand was in his hand as the two young men talked, uncertain of what was happening now.
Ron met his friend's eyes and then pointed his wand at him, "Sanguine Ignis," he incanted.
Harry grunted, hunched over, and shuddered as he fell to one knee while Ron kept his wand focused on him.
There were two loud gasps from behind Dumbledore loud enough to turn his attention backward to see Snape and Moody both pushing forward, past the other professors.
"What in Merlin's name?!" Snape demanded as he pushed past Albus.
"What is it?" Minerva demanded, with a frown on her face, the spell sounded familiar but wasn't jumping immediately to mind.
"It's a curse, he's boiling the boy's blood!" Snape said in exasperation, a sneer on his face. It was something Albus already knew; though he was surprised as he'd only seen it in action twice before.
Ron didn't respond to Snape's accusation, not even looking over at the other man, he dropped his wand, clearly stopping the casting of the curse, as Harry let out a small gasp of relief, slumping down. "Any change?" Ron asked hopefully.
Harry took in several deep breaths, then looked up and around slowly, before shaking his head, "No, I'm still seeing Imaginary Hogwarts."
"Headmaster, must we put up with this… nonsense? We should stun the two imbeciles and dose them to get the truth out of them." Snape growled, his wand already in his hand. He didn't appreciate being ignored any more than most teachers.
"Love you too, Imaginary Snivellus," Harry coughed and then looked over from even as he was still bent over at the waist, and allowed himself a brief smirk despite the situation.
Snape stepped back as if he had been slapped, his expression was horrified and he stared at Harry like he'd seen a ghost.
Harry however ignored his reaction and frowned, looking around as he mused in confusion still on his knees, "Ron… that… should have worked…. But it didn't do anything to break the image… I'm running out of ideas here."
"Enough of this, foolishness!" an irate Snape snapped before Ron could respond. He stepped forward once more and fired a powerful stunning spell at the clearly insane teenager on his knees. One who not only reminded him of James Potter but had called him that hated... wretched name.
What he had not expected was the reaction. One minute he was standing and firing a spell at the insane teen down on his knees in front of him, a teen who had just been on the receiving end of a relatively powerful curse.
The next he found himself facing the opposite direction, an arm around his neck and with a wand resting under his chin.
Snape saw his own wand in the boy's other hand, then his mental processes stopped as he let out a cry of agony as the pain signals from his wand arm finally processed in his head. Two seconds after the extremely loud crack that issued forth when his arm broke in multiple places, it registered with his ears.
This left everyone speechless once more.
Dumbledore had to blink three times before his mind caught up with what he'd just seen.
Despite his position on his knees, the dark haired teen with green eyes had spun out of the path of the stunner in one direction while the redhead had spun the other.
The redhead rolled and came up firing and had cast first one spell and then after a moment's pause another spell, fast enough that even Dumbledore could not follow the spellfire without difficulty. While at the same time the dark haired teen had gestured with his hand and Dumbledore had felt the magic of the wandless spell, along with the simultaneous crack as his potion master's arm was broken.
The second spell from the redhead had jerked the potion master forward as the redhead used his larger frame to catch and pin Snape in place as he shoved his wand up under his chin. While at the same time the black haired teen shifted back to stand next to the redhead, far more warily now.
The two of them were in a perfect defensive stance, their backs slightly turned toward one another to cover the other's blind spot, with Snape between them and any direct assault from the professors.
"Let's everyone… calm down," Dumbledore said placatingly after several seconds of silence as he held his hands up in the universal sign for intending no harm. Ironically, his words were as much for the professors and students as it was for the strangers in front of him.
At the casting of spells in their direction the students had all scampered back a little, his professors all had their wands up and they were now pointed at the young men holding his Potions Professor in an extremely vulnerable position.
"Given the circumstances, I'd say I'm quite calm," Harry said, his voice firm, though it was almost conversational, "How about you Ron?"
"Feels like I'm sitting down for afternoon tea, Harry," Ron responded evenly, giving no indication he was holding one person under wandpoint, and facing a dozen or more other wands.
"Why don't you cut past whatever crap has caused this illusion and explain what the bloody hell is going on?" Harry demanded of the headmaster.
"Could you take your wand away from my Potions Professor's head please?" Dumbledore inquired politely.
"Yeah, that's going to be a big fat no," Ron replied flatly as he looked around warily.
When Ron turned his head, Dumbledore shifted his focus back to the dark haired man. He met the man's green eyes and attempted to glean Harry's intentions with a gentle legilimency probe. He quickly found himself soundly rebuffed.
Harry's eyes narrowed angrily in reaction to the intrusion, "Another legilimency probe goes into my mind and I send a Reductor into his." He said, one of his bare hands going up near Snape's head and sparks of magic flickered threateningly in his hand.
Dumbledore's eyes widened as the hand glowed slightly, clearly not only was the man able but also willing to make good on the threat, even if he was doing so wandlessly.
"Not if I do it first!" Ron proclaimed, the tip of his own wand glowing underneath the potion master's jaw.
"Headmaster, they are quite clearly insane," Snape said, though anything further was cut off as his mouth was forced shut by the wand pushing up against the bottom of his chin.
"Quiet, Imaginary Snivellus! If I'm going to speak to delusions it's definitely not going to be with you, Death Eater." Harry responded.
"What is it you want?" Dumbledore asked in a tone he hoped would calm the situation.
"I just want to know what's going on!" Harry demanded, even if he felt a bit silly as he demanded answers from things he didn't think were real.
"I am trying to figure that out myself," Dumbledore admitted.
"Where are we?" Harry demanded.
"You are at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Dumbledore replied slowly.
"No! I mean where are we really?" Harry spat.
"I'm afraid I don't have any other answer for you." Dumbledore replied, his tone apologetic, an attempt at being soothing.
Harry took a breath to calm his frustration, "Okay, let's… pretend for just a second there's the possibility, even for a moment, I could believe you are who you appear to be and we are where we appear to be. How the bloody hell did we get here?"
"I don't know the answer to that either, you just… appeared. I would say out of thin air, but you seemed to appear out of the Goblet of Fire," Dumbledore explained calmly.
"Oi, I thought we destroyed that thing," Ron asked in an incredulous tone as he glanced over at Harry.
Harry had glared at the ceiling at the mention of the Goblet of Fire. He and Ron had indeed taken great pleasure a few weeks after Voldemort's defeat, when the last of the Death Eaters had been locked up. They had gotten thoroughly drunk in the celebration, which had somehow culminated with a loud drunken adventure that took them into the Department of Mysteries, where amongst many other things, they had destroyed the annoying artifact. Sure, it had been Ministry property they had destroyed, but given that they had defeated Voldemort a few weeks earlier, there was not a single person employed in any position of power who was going to say anything to them about their actions.
So he and Ron had quite gleefully taken turns as they had used the Sword of Gryffindor to chop the ancient cup into tiny pieces.
Harry looked from side to side as he took in the Hogwarts contingent as it slowly grew in size. He felt Ron stiffen and freeze completely behind him, but wasn't sure what detail had garnered the attention of his best mate. His own attention was fixed on the figures of several students he vividly remembered… because he had attended their funerals.
"Imaginary Headmaster…" Harry asked, his voice a strangled whisper as his head turned from side to side looking for anything that would stop the horrible freefall his stomach just went into. "What… is the date?"
Dumbledore frowned, but easily determined there was no reason to not answer the question, "It's October 31st."
"Oh hell," Ron swore, flicking his eyes to Harry, "Just bloody perfect. Halloween. What did your bloody luck get us into this time?"
"The year… what is the year?" Harry demanded as he ignored the facetious question posed to him by his friend, even while he gazed frantically around the room and saw more things that simply could not be..
"Nineteen ninety four," Dumbledore slowly replied.
Harry's eyes widened further and his jaw worked slowly but no sound came out. His eyes darted around wildly now. Finally they settled on familiar faces who were moving out from behind the tables now that the explosion, or risk of, had passed.
Standing around other burgundy and gold students were younger versions of people he remembered.
The Weasley Twins. Both alive. Both whole. He heard the strangled sound that escaped Ron's throat the instant he laid eyes on the two, who were among the first to slip around the barrier.
His eyes darted rapidly picking out other faces as his brain raced to conclusions.
"Now, I've answered your questions, will you answer one of mine?" Dumbledore asked,
Harry looked at him cautiously but nodded slowly as he was stumped at anything that would be a satisfactory follow-up question.
"Who are you?" Dumbledore asked carefully, his tone even and coaxing.
Harry tilted his head, to regard Dumbledore. If this was a memory or delusion he wasn't sure what the point was of them pretending not to know who Harry was. It wouldn't help them get any information or help him trust the apparitions at all. So he couldn't figure out what the motivation behind pretending ignorance was.
"Harry… Harry Potter." He replied honestly. It wasn't like it was top secret or anything. He was not prepared for the reaction.
There were gasps all over the place. McGonagall's wand fell from her hand with a clatter to the floor; she put her hands to her mouth as she stared. However, there was a louder gasp than anyone else's from behind her.
Harry's attention was drawn away by Snape as the man sneered, "I don't know what your game is. It's clear the boy is delusional! Stun him and get it over with, Albus!" He demanded.
Ron responded first moving the wand away from his neck for just a moment, not long enough for Snape to react, even if he could break the iron hold around his neck by the other arm. However, it was long enough for Ron to vanish the arm of Snape's robe. The wand was right back under his chin afterward as he saw the faint but unmistakable Dark Mark there on the skin.
"Shut up Imaginary Snivellus, or we're going to play 'Pop Goes the Imaginary Death Eater.'" Ron growled flatly in return, his wand digging painfully under the man's chin once more. He followed Harry's lead on what to call the apparitions they were seeing.
"It's played just like 'Pop Goes the Death Eater'. Which happens to be one of my favorite games. I'll give you three guesses as to how it goes." Harry offered brightly and then trailed off to hum the tune to 'Pop Goes the Weasel.' Both he and Ron knew that they needed to play for time as they figured out what the heck was going on. The banter they had fallen into was easy to do, as both partook in long-abandoned childish fantasies where they could heap abuse upon Snape without consequences.
"It's not possible… he died… fourteen years ago." A devastated voice spoke up drawing Harry's attention from the strangled grunt Snape responded with and from humming the tune.
A strikingly beautiful redheaded woman had pushed her way to the front and was staring at him in an expression of someone whose entire world had just been upended.
Harry stared at her for all of two seconds before he shook his head, and made a point to look anywhere but at the red headed woman, "Okay, Ron… I'm having a major twilight zone moment here. Dead Death Eater under wand point. Dead Headmaster twelve-o'clock, Dead... ringer for my Mother, eleven-o'clock."
"Dead deadringer?" Ron offered helpfully, though his eyes traced the Great Hall for the first sign of attack, though they kept flicking back to the twins who were among the growing crowd watching.
"Never should have let Sirius teach you the concepts behind puns," Harry muttered as he shot a brief glare at Ron, while he refused to meet the eyes of the woman who had taken several steps forward, and was only stopped seemingly by Dumbledore's hand upon her arm. Otherwise it was obvious that the woman would have walked right up to him.
Dumbledore spoke, "While you claim to be Harry Potter… who is your friend?" He asked. His tone was mild, but it was clear that he had his doubts, but was doing his best to try and defuse the situation they found themselves in.
An awkward silence fell before Ron spoke up belatedly, "Er... I'm Ron Weasley."
There were another round of disbelieving gasps from all around. This time Mcgonagall passed out in a dead faint. There was a girlish scream from the group of students gathered around them.
"Huh, so that's what it's like to get that reaction," Ron commented to cover up his discomfort as he glanced over at Harry.
"You kind of get used to it after awhile…" Harry answered with a shrug. "Then it just gets bloody annoying."
"My brother is dead!" shouted a female voice as Ginny Weasley stepped forward, only to be cut off from moving closer as Pomona Sprout intercepted her, keeping her back to them, but spreading her arms making it clear she wasn't going to let the girl any closer to the two who still held a professor under wandpoint.
The twins, Fred and George Weasley both had pushed forward and were stopped as they got a closer look at Ron and they both froze in their tracks. "Ronnie-kins…" One of the two said in disbelief as he stared into Ron's face.
Ron did not divert his gaze from his twin brothers. Both whole. Both alive. "Harry…"
"I know, I know. Your twin brothers at two o'clock, both alive." Harry said, putting fingertips to his temples. "My magic still feels weird, so I can't tell what the hell is going on."
Once more he turned his attention to Dumbledore, deeming that safer as he spoke, more to himself than anything, but clearly audible, "Okay so either this is all some crazy elaborate, stupid, aggravating deception… for which someone or several someones are going to die…painfully… and slowly, or I've finally gone utterly off my rocker. Can't discount that."
"If you're off your rocker, we both jumped off," Ron said, still shaken and unable to keep his gaze away from his brothers for long. Although the wand under Snape's chin didn't so much as twitch. "Or you've dragged me with you. Can't discount that."
"I assure you, there is no deception, at least on our part." Dumbledore spread his arms, trying to keep his tone as placatingly calm as possible. Despite this he couldn't entirely remove the doubt from his tone. In fact, his own mind was racing with the implications of the presence of the men who had claimed to be Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, he idly noted that Filius had begun to tend Minerva from where she had fainted.
"She..." Harry started to say and then broke off as he gestured with his chin toward Lily who stared at him in an odd combination disbelief, confusion, rage, and hope all mixed into one.
Not that he had more than glanced her way. Nope. Not at all.
"She just said that I died fourteen years ago." Harry said after he took a moment to steady his voice.
"She said that her son died fourteen years ago. She is not lying, Harry Potter died, fourteen years ago. I am certain of this. On this night no less, in a magical explosion." Dumbledore explained, as he kept his tone calm, "But somehow his... name came out of the Goblet of Fire tonight."
"Well isn't that a bloody deja fuckin' vu…" Harry muttered.
"And Ronald Weasley perished in these very halls three years ago… also on this night…" Dumbledore trailed off as he considered that.
"Clearly, I've been hanging out with you too long Harry," Ron commented, "Your Halloween luck has worn off on me."
"Yes, and then the Goblet flared and you appeared." Dumbledore explained, being truthful with the men.
Harry's eyes regarded Dumbledore's expression for several moments, then he chanced a legilimency probe of his own. He wasn't sure if illusions, delusions or hallucinations could have mental representations but it couldn't hurt to try.
To his utter not-surprise he hit Dumbledore's occlumency barrier. He was about to retreat when the barrier in front of him opened at least a little and a memory was pushed to the front. Clearly Dumbledore was extending him an olive branch of trust so he could review the brief memory of his name coming out and the Goblet's reactions afterward.
Harry debated pushing deeper but even as he considered trying it, he was quietly rebuffed. Clearly the Headmaster's allowance only went so far.
His eyes narrowed at Dumbledore as he considered what he had seen in the course of only a moment. He had never heard of a spell or any potion that could replicate the detail of a memory in someone's head, with quite that accuracy.
Silence hung for a moment, as he considered what he had seen.
"Now… I've answered your questions, will you please release Professor Snape?" Dumbledore finally asked breaking the silence. He was surprised that the teen knew legilimency. Although he realized in retrospect that he shouldn't have been given the occlumency barriers he had encountered in the young man.
"Following your lead," Ron said as his eyes flicked back and forth between Dumbledore and Harry.
Harry narrowed his eyes in thought as he stared at the Headmaster. "Call Fawkes." He suddenly demanded.
Dumbledore tilted his head, with a puzzled expression, "What?"
"Call. Your. Phoenix." Harry repeated, "I know exactly what the magic of a phoenix feels like. I've never seen it replicated. Call him."
Dumbledore stared at the teen a moment before he nodded slightly. With a raised voice, he spoke to the ceiling of the hall loudly, "Fawkes!"
A moment later there was a swirl of fire in the air, accompanied by soft 'ooohs' from all around the hall. Phoenixes were rare creatures, and the sight of one always did catch attention, especially if they arrived as spectacularly as Fawkes had just done.
The phoenix flapped its wings slowly in the air as it somehow hovered and stared at the old wizard in curiosity.
Dumbledore couldn't help the brief smile that crossed his face at Fawkes' arrival. But then he refocused his attention and tilted his head to look past the phoenix that flapped his wings in the air to peer at Harry, "Satisfied?"
The majestic bird of flame took that opportunity to turn in the air to face Harry.
It took one look at him and squawked in surprise. Fawkes actually seemed to fall out of the air as it tumbled to the floor.
Dumbledore looked down at his companion in surprise, having never seen that reaction before.
However the phoenix was only down a second before he flapped his wings and pushed itself back in the air awkwardly, and then trilled at Harry.
Harry narrowed his eyes at the bird, "What the fuck do you mean 'What are you two doing here'?"
The bird squawked again in what was clearly a chiding manner.
Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation, "Yes, I'm quite aware of the meaning of the question. I'm not dense thank you very much."
This time the phoenix trilled in reply sharply, amusement in its tone. At the same time there was a snort from Ron.
"Hey!" Harry protested, his tone defensive toward both of them.
The bird trilled at him again.
"Yeah well, I didn't mean it literally. I meant more… in a 'what the bloody hell is going on?' type way," Harry responded with a roll of his eyes.
The bird trilled sharply.
"Language is kind of the last thing on my mind right now, Fawkes." Harry replied as he glanced around the room significantly, giving the legendary avian an indication as to where his focus was at the moment.
"Bloody turkey's sense of humor hasn't improved any," Ron muttered.
Fawkes trilled for a few moments in a scolding tone as his head bobbed toward Snape.
"Oh, right." Harry said before he tilted his head towards Snape, "Go ahead and let the bastard go."
Ron shrugged and then his wand flashed red and Snape slumped down. He dropped the insensate professor in his arms carelessly, as the man flopped to the ground. The way his head bounced against the floor was purely accidental.
There would have been more reaction if Dumbledore hadn't spread his arms holding off any and all response from his professors. Normally he would protest someone hitting any of his professors with a spell.
But Fawkes' response had thrown this to a whole new level.
He also reminded himself to scold the Weasley twins later when he heard their simultaneous comments, "Whoa! Awesome!"
Harry barely spared the potion master a glance, a small part of him sad that the potion master was only dead weight being unconscious, and not actually dead.
Harry didn't hold a grudge for six years of making his life a living hell. Not at all. Snape did it all to help Harry.
Dumbledore was somewhat relieved as he was able to tell his Potions master still could be counted amongst the living. He would have to consider the confirmation of Snape as a former Death Eater among the student population later.
Fawkes seemed to trill sharply in half amusement half remonstrance at the red haired teen.
"Sorry, force of habit." Ron apologized dryly, which sounded anything but apologetic to all that heard it.
Fawkes fluttered forward finally and settled on Harry's shoulder, an act that forced everyone, which included Dumbledore, to take another indrawn breath. Both Harry and the phoenix seemed to ignore this as Fawkes leaned himself forward and then tilted his head around to look at Harry and Ron and trilled again at him, this time the tone was clearly a question.
"I don't have the faintest clue." Harry ran a hand through his hair as he turned to look at the bird "One minute we were in Spain, facing this dark wizard called Ferdinand..."
Dumbledore spoke up interrupting the man and very conscious of wanting to get him away from students. "Do you mind if we take this conversation elsewhere?" He still had his hand on Lily' Potter's arm and could feel her trembling with emotion beside him, and knew the discussion would probably not be best had here.
In part because he wasn't sure what was going on, but also in part because he didn't want these people who claimed to be people he had personally seen buried, to endanger the still gathered students. Although given the interaction between the strangers and his phoenix, that possibility seemed remote, an observation that once again threw everything for a loop.
Harry frowned and looked at the bird who seemed to nod in agreement and let out a chirp.
"Sure, okay." Harry said absently, his focus on the bird, although it didn't stop the two of them as they walked around the professors rather than through them. Dumbledore also noted that Ron's wand was still in his hand.
Dumbledore hesitated, but he could tell that Harry didn't seem like he was going to attack anyone. He looked at Fawkes who didn't even look his way and decided to trust that his familiar wasn't going to let him get cursed into the back.
Yet the teens appeared resigned at least for the moment.
Then he enervated Snape with a wave of his wand, Dumbledore was surprised when the man didn't wake up. He put more power into a subsequent cast which caused the potions professor to groan and stir.
Harry ignored him completely as Fawkes continued to trill questions at him. He was preoccupied with the information the bird was quick to impart, much of it beyond his level of comprehension without Hermione to dumb it down for him, which caused his brow to furrow further and further.
Dumbledore waved for Poppy to come over and tend to his potions professor as the man continued to groan on the floor of the Great Hall. Dumbledore gestured to the other professors and ushered them toward the antechamber to the young man who seemed almost careless of their presence now that he was deep in a conversation with the phoenix.
Dumbledore had to move and gently but firmly guided Lily Potter. Although she walked, she was stiff as a board and clearly torn over what had just happened as she stared at the young man who studiously still refused to look in her direction at all.
Fawkes was trilling at Harry again, even as he stepped around the professors, keeping distance between them and himself. Dumbledore knew even without long exposure to the phoenix that the immortal firebird was definitely trilling something of a questioning nature.
"Yes, he really named himself 'the Fearsome.'" Harry responded with an exasperated sigh as he practically lead a procession of professors to the anteroom.
This time it was definitely an amused squawk.
"Yeah I know right? Stupid name. Could have been stupider though. Could have been an anagram," said Harry as he snickered a bit.
Fawkes squawked in agreement.
"I'm sorry, are you actually able to understand Fawkes?" Dumbledore asked in disbelief as he looked back and forth between the aforementioned bird and the person claiming to be Harry Potter as he followed them into the atrium.
"Of course," Harry answered with a puzzled expression.
"You can talk?" Dumbledore asked turning to the bird as they entered the room.
Fawkes responded by making a sound that seemed like he had just blown an irritated raspberry at the Headmaster before the bird turned his attention back to Harry with a much put upon trilled sigh.
Harry nodded agreeably, "Yeah I know. It's no wonder people thought he was barmy."
Fawkes trilled in response.
"Really? Too much stress?" Harry responded sounding more than a little surprised, "Are you sure? Personally. I always thought it was the lemon drops that did it."
Fawkes let out an undignified snort.
"Well, how else do you explain the robes?" Harry asked.
The sound made by the bird was unmistakably now the equivalent of a phoenix belly laugh mixed with a few warbled tones.
"Oh, just poor taste?" Harry responded, "But isn't the stereotype that he should have good fashion sense?"
This time Fawkes chirped amusingly before it was followed up by a curiously toned reply.
"Well... I just thought he was color blind." Harry shrugged slightly with the bird still on his shoulder.
This time the bird trilled in slight remonstration.
"Right, okay so not going there…" Harry quickly shook his head in an effort to rid himself of any mental images. "Anyway this potion the idiot was working on starts to explode. I tried to apparate through the wards with Ron."
"And I activated my emergency portkey and portkey away and… end up here. After the worst portkey ride ever. Of all time," Ron added with a shudder.
Dumbledore turned his attention away from the two teens who were focused upon an unprecedented conversation with his phoenix, all the while he kept a grip on Lily's arm to keep her from doing something rash, to the two students who had forced their way past Pomona to get his attention. He held up his hands to the twins, "I'm sorry Messrs. Weasley, I do not know who they really are, I have no answers for you, and I'm afraid that I am not going to let you speak to them for the moment."
He glanced at the two teens who claimed to be dead people had moved off a way. He watched the way they walked, keeping their backs to as few people as possible. While Harry spoke to the phoenix, Ron watched for any sign of attack warily.
"That's just it Headmaster," Fred said.
"We think they're telling the truth," George said.
Dumbledore fixed them both with his most penetrating gaze. But he did not verbalize his own still present doubts and simply asked, "What makes you say that?"
The twins exchanged a look before Fred held out a piece of parchment and turned it to show Dumbledore. It took him a second to orient on what he saw in his hands. It appeared to be a map of the Great hall with all sorts of names on it. One for every name of the hundreds of students and faculty present.
He could see himself, surrounded by Lily and the twins and it was then, his eyebrows lifted. "Wh-" only to be interrupted when it was snatched out of the twins hand and held up by Lily.
"That's the Marauder's Map," she stated in disbelief as she unfolded it to show more of Hogwarts.
"You know what it is?" Fred asked immediately, confusion in his tone.
"My husband and his friends made it when they were in school," Lily answered sharply to the doubt she heard in that voice. "They lost it to Filch… years ago and assumed he threw it away…"
Her voice was absent and trailed off as she stared at the two dots on the map with a sharp intake of breath.
Harry Potter. Ronald Weasley.
"It's them…" she breathed out.
"Professor Potter, let us not jump to conclusions." Dumbledore said as he tried to put the brakes on whatever hopes the woman had started to build for herself.
"The map never lies…" Lily snapped.
Dumbledore quieted at that for several seconds before he turned to the twins, "I will get to the bottom of this and you have my word that I will speak with you at that time."
His tone left no room for disagreement and the twins, clearly knew when it was a time to be serious. Because they just nodded. At any other time the revelation of the identities of their heroes would have caused a much more massive reaction, and still might in the future, however, their deceased sibling possible reappearance clearly put that on the backburner.
"In the meantime I would go check on your sister, I believe she fainted, and may need to be reassured upon waking up." He gestured toward the mass of the student body.
The twins looked at each other then bobbed their heads in unison, "Okay, professor."
"Lily, let us adjourn to the antechamber where we can have this discussion with less possible intrusions," Dumbledore said even as he guided her toward the boys once more. They had stopped near the back of the Great Hall and, surprisingly were still deep in conversation with the phoenix.
Fawkes trilled at Harry again in a tone that could be identified as a question.
"Not any connection that I know of. I mean… The idiot just liked killing people and had an obsession with glass balls. I have no idea what might have been magical in his base or not. For all I know it's possible he did have a time turner, but… he just didn't seem that competent..." Harry said doubtfully.
"I told you I thought he was wearing one!" Ron said insistently.
Fawkes tilted his head and then questioned Harry again.
"Um. Pretty much that I've hit my head really… really hard and am currently experiencing a paranoid delusion brought on by a comatose state?" Harry ventured, with a hopeful tone to his voice "I've eliminated anything else I could come up with."
"What about me?" Ron demanded nudging Harry.
"Um. Group paranoid delusion?" Harry offered. "Ohhh, or you're part of my delusion!"
"Oi… maybe you're part of mine!" Ron countered.
"Now you're just being silly," Harry responded dismissively. "If we were in your delusion your name probably would have come from the Goblet. That wouldn't make a very interesting tale. 'Ronald Weasley and the Goblet of Fire'. What kind of adventure does that sound like?"
This time Fawkes shook his head and warbled at him in a very long explanation that caused Harry to refocus his attention on the bird, then scowl further and further, as they walked into the antechamber.
They were flanked and followed by the professors, who seemed to have gotten over part of their apprehension, though not enough to put away their wands. They all listened attentively to Harry's one-sided conversation with a phoenix who seemed to respond in kind. The three champions in the room looked up at their arrival, but Harry was too engrossed in his conversation to really pay attention.
Once Fawkes' long rambling trilling finally stopped, Harry scowled at the bird, before challenging in exasperation, "How do I know you're telling the truth?"
Fawkes response to that was to blink once. Very slowly.
Then he began to peck Harry right in the forehead. Repeatedly.
"Ow! Hey! You ruddy bird!" Harry fended off several pecks and glared at Fawkes, who somehow seemed to match his glare. Before the bird raised his wing and cuffed Harry on the side of the head.
"Alright alright! Being of light and all that! My bad!" Harry held up his hand to stop a further cuff.
Fawkes quite clearly harrumphed, less than impressed with the human. The fact that Ron did not bother to hide his snickers of amusement beside him certainly did not help matters.
"So… not delusions then?" Harry asked gestured around at the people who blatantly stared at the two of them.
Fawkes harrumphed again.
"Right, right," Harry sighed and slumped a bit, exchanging a glance with Ron that communicated all they needed.
This time Fawkes warbled and trilled in a manner that alternated between serious and unhappy.
"What? What do you mean, us being here should not be possible?" Harry demanded, though he kept his voice calmer.
Fawkes warbled shortly.
"Oh, us surviving the trip here should be impossible?" Harry slumped and ran an exasperated hand through his hair.
"Yeah… then it's not really that surprising. It is Harry after all." Ron commented with a resigned sigh.
Fawkes trilled in response.
"Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I get bloody tired of that nickname," Harry sighed and closed his eyes, his mind focused on a hopeless prayer that, once more, this was nothing more than some delusion.
Harry tilted his head to regard the bird, and his tone turned wheedling, "I don't suppose you, being the powerful... amazing, intelligent,...being of light, who can go anywhere... could take us back?"
Fawkes hung his head and trilled sadly.
"Right… right of course that would be far too easy." Harry muttered with a roll of his eyes. He rubbed his eyes slowly as he tried to deal with everything just thrown at them.
"He's of no help?" Ron asked.
"Of course not," Harry snorted, "When are our lives ever easy?"
"Well, for you, never. But for me there were those blissful years before we met." Ron shrugged.
"Oi, you were stuck with the twins!" Harry protested, "And your mother."
"Hm. That's actually a tough one," Ron mused, "Test subject for my brothers, my mother around all the time, pre-you or crazy evil dark wizards mucking things up every time I turn around, post-you."
Harry couldn't help but chuckle a bit as he looked around the back room more to distract himself than anything. He vividly remembered his walk into here when the Goblet had spit his name out last time. He had to figure out exactly how deeply he was in here but given his normal string of luck he had no doubt fate had decided to have another round with his life, and as usual dragged one of his friends along with him.
He noticed the three figures already in the room.
His eyes flicked over Viktor Krum, who leaned against the far wall with his ever-present scowl upon his face. Cedric Diggory, a very much alive Cedric Diggory, stood with a puzzled expression at Harry's entrance. His gaze moved to the blonde in the room and he repressed a brief smile. Fleur was still one of the most attractive people he had ever encountered.
"What's going on?" Cedric asked directing his questions toward the professors behind him.
Harry resisted the urge to smack himself in the forehead.
"Dumbledore! I demand to know what iz going on!" Madam Maxime echoed as she casually batted a chandelier out of her way. A chandelier that was head height for her and for everyone else, 3 or 4 feet above their heads.
"Yes, Dumbledore, I for one would like to know how a dead halfblood-boy's name came out of the cup," spat Igor Karkaroff.
"Were they like this last time?" Ron muttered.
"Pretty much," Harry responded dryly.
"I knew you were hiding the Potter boy all these years, Albus!" Karkaroff continued.
"Oui, now you 'ave brought 'im out of 'iding when it was safe! Zis is obviously you trying to disrupt ze Tournament and get England anozzer chance at the cup!" Madame Maxime accused.
Clearly the other Headmasters decided to replace confusion with stupid accusations.
"My son died in an explosion that destroyed the Dark Lord whose boots you used to lick, Karkaroff!" Lily snarled angrily at the the Durmstrang Headmaster and her eyes flashed in fury, although she faltered slightly as her gaze flicked back to Harry once more.
Harry looked away. He didn't even want to guess how to react to a woman he had only seen in his memories and as a phantom that was now here and alive. But given what she had just said he had a pretty damn good idea.
"And yet here he stands!" Karkaroff spat back at the woman, "Clearly familiar with the Dumbledore's phoenix no matter what acting you put on in there."
Dumbledore stroked his beard. "I can only hazard a guess," he ventured slowly, his voice easily able to draw the attention of all present in the room, "I've never heard of this sort of thing before."
"I can only speculate that his name was placed in the cup in hopes that he would be drawn to compete." Dumbledore mused in thoughtful consideration, "The question is who put his name in the cup and why put the name in of a child that was dead?"
"If you weren't hiding him, then it's a boy that this young man then claims to be." Karkaroff said, the sneer was evident in the harshness of his tone. "It takes more than the claim of being someone and a fancy lightshow to impress me."
"It seems to me like 'ogwarts just wants another bite at ze apple." Madame Maxime stated loudly.
"Of course they do! What possible reason could a fourth name emerging from the cup have?" Karkaroff demanded, pleased to be getting support from his French counterpart.
"Oh there could be many reasons, Karkaroff. To cause chaos. To distract people. To draw attention. Perhaps to lure this person out of hiding for one," Moody interjected as he stomped forward, his glare split equally between the former Death Eater and Harry, "Although I want to know where he came from!"
Harry had been exchanged a few irritated looks with both Ron and the phoenix as the group seemed to forget he was even there as they bickered. He had waited for Moody to step forward and had reached out magically, and could sense the familiar vile magic of a dark mark that lingered in the man's arm.
A quick meeting of their eyes instantly had Ron and Harry on the same page.
"Okay, first. You're all idiots," Harry said loudly, drawing their attention to him once more.
"Second…" Ron spoke up before his eyes widened dramatically, and he took a step back and pointed to the back of the room, "What in blazes is that?"
As one the entire group turned to look at what Ron was pointing at. Except for Viktor Krum who held his eyes on Harry and Ron, and his gaze did not flicker away from the duo for even a moment.
Harry and Ron barely moved as they began to cast. Harry's hand and Ron's wand flashing quickly as they alternated spells: Stunning, Petrifying, Binding, and then a knockback hex that knocked Moody back against a pillar before a non-verbalized sticking charm from Ron ensured he stayed there.
"Third. Point number one. Proven." Harry said dryly as all the professors and champions, even Dumbledore, who had spun around to look at what Ron had pointed at, all whirled back around to face him once more.
"What in blazes are you doing?" Professor Sprout demanded. Her wand out as she went to dispel the things on Moody. Harry shielded the area, with a wave of his hand preventing her from accomplishing anything.
"Why do you keep attacking my professors?" Dumbledore demanded, his wand in his hand.
However, Fawkes had leaped up and flapped in the air between them and Harry defiantly, causing all of them to halt any spell they were going to attempt on either one of them.
Harry held up a hand with one finger up, in the universal sign for "Give me a moment."
He considered using another finger, but figured that wouldn't help him at the moment.
He waved his hand at Moody and floated a flask out of his coat. He floated it directly to Dumbledore, "Open the flask. Tell me, oh 'Master of Alchemy'. Could you possibly identify for those of us not an expert in the uses of dragon's blood, what is in this flask?"
"I'm not exactly an alcohol connoisseur," Dumbledore commented as he hesitantly opened the flask and sniffed. His eyes widened and then he looked up at Moody sharply.
"It's Polyjuice potion," his eyes blazed as he regarded the unconscious man with renewed anger in his eyes.
"Two points for Imaginary Dumbledore," Harry commented dryly.
Fawkes squawked at him, even as the group ignored his comment to shift and point wands at the fake-Moody.
"Well… it's either that or I try and destroy all the imaginary people wearing bodies of people I know. But killing would probably be rude," Harry argued with him.
Fawkes regarded him for a second and then trilled at him once more.
"I don't know. I'm still not convinced I'm not just hallucinating all of this. So, it wouldn't make me evil," Harry commented, "And besides, I hear the dark side has cookies."
"Cookies?" Ron perked up and then pouted, "You never mentioned that to me!"
"We knew you would be easily swayed," Harry drawled out in his best impression of Snape.
Ron blinked looking mildly affronted, then somewhat sheepish, and lastly settled for a roll of his eyes.
Fawkes trilled at him once curiously. Harry just rolled his own eyes and remained silent.
After a few moments, Dumbledore spoke up, "We'll need Severus to bring us some Veritaserum to determine who this is."
"His name is probably Barty Crouch… Junior," said Harry, the group's attention once more upon him.
"Don't be ridiculous. He's dead," Karkaroff commented with wild eyes.
"Apparently, so am I." Harry snorted, the Death Eater turncoat's statement easily ignored. "Oh, and just while we're speaking in hypotheticals, why do you all think Crouch Sr. collapsed behind you after the imperius Junior here cast on his father was stopped?"
Nearly the entire group turned as one once more to find the older man unconscious on the ground. If he hadn't been so irritated, he would have made a comment about their attentions going back and forth like a tennis match.
"Sanguine Ignis," Ron incanted once more, pointing his wand at the still immobile Crouch Junior using the same spell he had on Harry earlier.
The Faux-Moody began to twist and writhe on the wall and steam began to pour from his body. Even stunned, Moody was writhing but his body mass seemed to start shrinking. The leg and the eye popped off as perfectly useable versions grew and a much thinner man emerged pinned to the wall in baggy clothes.
"It is Crouch," said Dumbledore in disbelief "How did you know this?
"Divination," Harry replied brightly. "My inner eye is very attuned!"
"You never did tell me how you got the O in that on your OWLS." Ron murmured.
"Predicted a dark wizard would attack me before the end of the year," Harry responded dryly.
"Oh." Ron furrowed his brow. "That's not fair. That would be like me getting credit for predicting the sun would come up tomorrow."
"Yeah well, I figured my luck had to come into play occasionally." Harry responded with a shrug.
Fawkes trilled a remonstration at him.
"I am not keeping him in the dark because it's fun." Harry protested, as he turned his attention to the bird.
Fawkes responded with a sound very much like a snort.
"Okay, not just because it's fun," Harry replied. "I just don't trust everyone here. And I prefer to discuss this privately."
A snort and a definite demonstrative sound came from Fawkes in response.
"Oh, excuse me," Harry responded sarcastically, "If you are real and telling the truth, then I am suddenly realizing that we've once again been screwed over by a Ministry event using a magical beer stein that somehow seems to fuck with reality in addition to its ability to enslave people into a tournament at the cost of their magic if they violate a contract that's sight-unfucking-seen."
Dumbledore raised his hands to garner attention and interjected, "Would you be willing to speak privately?"
"That would be a yes." Harry replied, looking around at their audience, "But not here. Let's talk in your office."
He didn't even wait for an acknowledgement from the Headmaster. He reached out and grabbed the frozen Crouch's arm in one hand, and Ron's in the other before Harry turned to the bird. "Fawkes?"
Fawkes seemed to roll his eyes briefly before all four disappeared in a flash of flame.
"Did he just steal your familiar?" Lily Potter said into the silence evoked by a group that could not quite believe the events that had just transpired before them.
Dumbledore was headed for his office along with a contingent of several people. It was not an unusual occurrence. Nor was it unusual that he had some distinguished visitors.
Andromeda Tonks, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement lead the group, and apparently she had been in a meeting with Minister Darius Greengrass who had insisted his presence was required as well.
The duo's attendance was necessary, especially after the reveal of Crouch Junior and the elder Crouch's collapse. Dumbledore was intimately aware that it was much better to inform the Ministry of the night's events immediately rather than let them be shocked by what happened when they inevitably found out from the various foreign ministries about the events of the Goblet.
The foreign reaction was not something he even wanted to ponder yet at the moment.
The most unusual occurrence for Dumbledore was the fact that it was not him who led the group to his office. In fact he had to walk quickly to keep up with a determined Lily Potter along with James Potter, who were both grim-faced.
Dumbledore hadn't actually intended to have them here when he had sent his patronus to Andromeda. However Lily Potter hadn't bothered to ask when she'd summoned her husband who happened to be at the Ministry for a late night of work similar to Andromeda and Mathias.
In retrospect, Dumbledore realized he should hardly be surprised that James had dropped everything to be here, given the apparent identity of the teen that had just tilted their whole world on its axis.
They reached the gargoyle and Dumbledore spoke out, "Cherry Twizzler," before any of them could ask for the password. The gargoyle easily turned and revealed a staircase that spiraled upwards out of sight. But, before the ancient animated golem could finish its rotation to reveal the stairs, they could hear a loud voice echo from a floor above where the Headmaster's office lay...
"That hurt, you bloody overgrown dish towel!"
"Mr. Potter, I've never once in my thousand years received a more rude request. Deal with it. Maybe it'll teach you some manners," said a wizened voice that Dumbledore as well as several of the others recognized as the Sorting Hat. They moved to make their way up the stairs even as the loud conversation continued.
"Manners!? I'll show you manners!" Harry huffed.
"Oh dear. Now you've done it," Ron commented in amusement.
"Mr. Potter! What are you doing?!" the Sorting Hat protested
Dumbledore, at the sound of the Hat's distress, immediately rushed past everyone else and up the stairs just in time to hear a voice he did not recognize shout out, "What did you just do?"
A distinctly female voice.
"What did you…? How…? Fawkes, you bloody bag of feathers, this is all your fault!" the female voice screeched in indignation.
Dumbledore burst into the room, wand at the ready, only to stop in the doorway as he found a sight before him that he certainly had not expected to see, much less explain.
Barty Crouch Junior was present and unconscious, but he was stuck to a side wall in a way that appeared the rest of the room had forgotten about him. What was unique about the supposedly dead man's situation was that he was naked save for his boxers. He was affixed to the wall spread eagle right over the picture of one of the headmasters. The dark mark was clearly visible on the man's arm.
Phineas Nigellus could be seen just around the edge of Crouch's side, apparently stuck in the frame trying to get away from the arse pointed in his direction.
The young man who, more and more, appeared to be Harry Potter was in the center of the room, his hand upon the back of his head, a wince upon his face as if he'd taken a terrible blow and was slightly dazed.
A shining sword, decorated with rubies was held in the other hand.
The redhead, who the more Albus saw him, just had to be a Weasley, held a hand over his mouth in a way that hinted the man could only just control his mirth and barely… barely able to keep it to a snicker.
Dumbledore noted that his phoenix was on his back on his desk and actually seemed to rock back and forth in what could only be interpreted as laughter.
"What… is going on here?" Dumbledore demanded, half in irritation and half absolute incredulity at the situation in his normally placid office.
"Dumbledore! I demand you fix me right now!" a female voice came from a shabby looking beret sitting on his desk.
Dumbledore looked between a scowling Harry and the item on his desk. "Is… that the Sorting hat?"
"Sorting Beret now," Harry replied with a vindictive smirk that immediately told everyone who had performed the magic.
"Dumbledore fix me right now!" the now feminized hat screeched in an irate voice.
Dumbledore looked from the Hat to Harry with a raised eyebrow, "That... is impressive magic. The Sorting Hat resists most forms of magic. And was this really necessary?"
"Stupid Hat started it. Dropped the bloody sword on my head," Harry muttered as he wiped his hand through his hair and saw that it came away with a little bit of blood, "Like I haven't had enough problems with marks on my head."
"You came in here and put me on, wanting to know if I knew how to get you home. Which I don't. I merely said that the sword would be useful to you. You told me off. Quite rudely!" the Hat huffed in response.
"Well… you suck at sorting," Harry responded somewhat petulantly.
That actually seemed to shut up the Hat but there was an amused trill from the bird.
Dumbledore felt himself nudged from behind and he stepped up and to the side slightly, which allowed the people that had followed him through the school to step into the room.
Lily and James finally pushed past with the head of the DMLE and Minister right behind them.
Harry gaped at the new arrivals.
Lily and James stared at Harry, side by side with the same poleaxed expression on both their faces. Both looked like they were going to say something, but could not figure out what to say as they found themselves face to face with someone who claimed to be their son.
Harry froze as well, however, he was far more familiar with having awkward conversations as well as basic bizarreness in his life, so his frozen mind broke out of its shock first, "Bloody hell it's like the twilight zone here."
Then he noticed the other two people that had stepped in after his apparently alive parents.
"Oh bloody hell!" both of the teens who had appeared through the Goblet chorused in unison.
Harry dived backward over Dumbledore's desk, rolling over the top and in the process, knocked Fawkes off of it, along with several parchments, while also squashing the Sorting 'Beret'. Harry let out a grunt as he landed on Dumbledore's chair before he fell to the ground, only to shift behind the chair as additional protection.
Ron had a much easier job of it as he just dived to the side and didn't have to roll over the actual desk. They both were hiding behind the desk with their wands out.
There was an irritated squawk from Fawkes who flapped back up on the desk and then trilled in clear annoyance at him.
Harry looked over at Ron with a puzzled expression, "What are you doing?"
"What do you mean 'what am I doing?' Dead people, sure. Fine. No problem, I can deal with that. The craziness that your life brings on Halloween, I can handle. Merlin knows I've done it enough! But I don't risk just standing around people that would kill me." Ron said snarkily, his wand held at the ready, cautious for any sign of movement going around the desk.
"Who wants to kill you?" Harry asked, his defensiveness there, but there was a trace of confusion in his voice as he focused seemed on Ron.
"Um. The Psycho-Bitch? The one that still gives my girlfriend nightmares after she carved into her arm. The one Mum offed? Bellatrix?" Ron said in a tone of disbelief.
"Oh… Huh… I didn't even see her." Harry commented, his tone completely conversational.
"Oh." Ron nodded and then blinked, "Wait, then why are you ducking and covering?"
"Um. Standard reaction to dealing with someone who has sworn to castrate me at the earliest opportunity." Harry answered.
"That makes sense." Ron nodded agreeably.
Fawkes peered over the side of the desk and back of the chair at where Harry was crouched defensively, and then began to trill in amusement once more.
"You're sure it wasn't her/him?" Harry and Ron asked in unison in nearly the same tone.
Fawkes bobbed his head rapidly in the affirmative.
"It sure looked like her…" Ron responded.
"And I certainly wouldn't forget his face…" Harry added.
Fawkes trilled in irritation at the two of them.
"All right, but if this goes tits-up, we're going to play 'Punt the Phoenix'." Harry warned before he peered around Fawkes while Ron did the same on the other side of the desk cautiously with his wand in his hand and ready to bolt at any moment.
"Who did you think wants to… injure you?" Dumbledore delicately inquired, as they all had heard the entire conversation between the two of them, while the other four adults just looked on. Though James Potter had a quick intake of breath at the sight of Harry.
"The last time I saw Darius he was casting curses at me and promising to castrate me. Only the fact that he didn't have pants on at the time saved me." Harry explained and then furrowed his brow thoughtfully, "But, I didn't have any pants on either. So I guess that made us even."
There was a pause before he somewhat sheepishly admitted, "Then again, the fact that when he found me I didn't have pants… or anything else on... was the reason why he wanted to castrate me. So… maybe not."
"Ah," Ron nodded knowingly, "Worth it?"
"Totally." Harry answered instantly.
"I… have no idea what you're talking about," the man in question replied looking back and forth between the teenager in front of him and to Dumbledore. He left unspoken the question that was clearly there in his expression.
Ron looked over at the dark haired woman in the office warily, "Bloody hell, that's creepy, even without the insane cackling, Bellatrix… was creepy every time I met her, even when it was just polyjuice!"
The woman beside him narrowed her eyes at Harry, she fingered her wand as she glared at him, "My sister has been in Azkaban for over a dozen years. When would you have met her?"
"Sister?" Harry and Ron echoed, given that Bellatrix was the spitting image of the woman in front of them. Only… This one seemed sane. And healthier. The anger seemed to be a constant though.
"Yes, I am Andromeda Tonks, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement." The woman said, fixing them both with a steely eyed glare.
Harry and Ron both blinked as they processed the idea that the Andromeda looked so much like her sister in this world that it bordered upon considering them twins. However before he could think to say anything, both Dumbledore and Andromeda were pushed aside. As the Potters got over their discombobulation.
"Who are you?" James demanded, his wand was actually clenched in his hand, albeit not actually pointed at Harry or Ron for the moment.
Harry tilted his head a moment, then shrugged, it wasn't like he hadn't already said it. "Harry Potter."
"And Ron Weasley," Ron added when there was a brief pause.
"My son is dead, we… we buried him. How… how is this possible?!" James demanded, his entire being trembled as he looked back and forth between Harry and Dumbledore as if one would explain the reappearance.
"I haven't the faintest bloody clue? One moment I'm grabbing Ron and apparating… or taking a portkey away from a magical explosion, from a cauldron containing Merlin knows what, and the next I'm surrounded by dead people!" Harry protested, he wasn't really offended by the anger in the man's voice. He had gotten used to the bizarre situations his life threw at him; though granted, this was out there, even for him, but he was also used to being around people who weren't as used to it.
"My son is dead. He died in the magical explosion that killed Voldemort. For you to claim to be him..." James snarled, his body shaking with emotion.
"Killed Voldemort?' Harry echoed, cutting James off.
"Yes…" James replied, his tone filled with anger, "He attacked my family and my son! He caused an explosion of accidental magic that killed them both. My son's…death… it managed to rid us of one of the most evil and powerful wizards in history. For you to claim to be him..."
Harry frowned at that and abruptly and obviously looked past James to the headmaster.
"Rid you... " Harry said slowly in response. Then he turned to look at the death eater stuck to the wall, his eyes blatantly and overtly tracked towards the Dark Mark on the man's arm, before he turned back to meet Dumbledore's eyes. He let out a sigh of resignation and then locked eyes with the Headmaster, "Do you actually believe that to be accurate, Headmaster? That Voldemort is well and truly gone?"
"Oh bloody fucking hell…" Ron muttered as he caught on to what Harry had realized. In the craziness of what had happened thus far, the 'still-living' status of their former nemesis had been a thought that, until that moment, had not fully conceptualized in either his or Harry's minds.
Albus stared into his eyes, and a look of caution spread on his face, as the others in the room looked at Harry in confusion, "Why do you ask?"
His question and, more importantly, tone of voice caused everyone in the room to focus their attention fully on the aged wizard.
"Albus…" Andromeda said slowly.
"Well gee, it's not the first time I've heard the 'he's supposed to be dead' line.." Harry said in riposte. "Hell, by my count that's like the fifth time tonight!"
He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the form of Barty Crouch Junior still on the wall for emphasis.
Fawkes trilled at him in amusement.
Harry scowled at him, "Yes… I know I've been saying it a lot tonight as well. But… You said it too, smart arse fire peacock!"
Fawkes had the good grace to look put out at that comment.
"Let's deal with one thing at a time!" Andromeda Tonks interjected loudly before taking a visible calming breath. She'd clearly had enough of the situation and her voice rang with authority.
She stepped around the desk and raised her wand, Harry stepped back reflexively, his hand tensing upon his wand, but the Bellatrix lookalike was clearly focused on the unconscious male that was so clearly doing his best impression of a wall decoration that he held his fire.
"This… is Barty Crouch Junior. How is he alive? I signed his burial papers from Azkaban myself." Andromeda spoke slowly.
"Might want to interrogate his dear old Dad. He might be able to help there." Harry offered helpfully.
Andromeda scowled at Harry's lighthearted commentary, "I plan to have quite a few words with Barty Senior. Just as soon as we get through here."
"Through?" Harry asked, his own eyes narrowing at the undercurrent of accusation in that tone.
"Yes, as Barty Crouch is not the only person here who was supposed to be dead," Andromeda's violet eyes fixed Harry's with an intense gaze. "If either of you are who you say you are. Something I have a hard time believing for a multitude of reasons."
"Such as?' Harry challenged, his eyes locked solidly upon hers without so much as a flinch of fear or submission.
"Well, such as the fact that the magical explosion you were supposedly in, destroyed a Dark Lord… not to mention a house." Andromeda responded sharply.
Harry opened his mouth to reply and she cut him off, "There's also the fact that you look closer to nineteen than fourteen."
Harry opened his mouth to reply only to be cut off again by Andromeda's inexorable points as she stepped closer to him, her gaze not leaving his. Although to his further credit, he did not once look away.
"While there may be a strong resemblance between yourself and James Potter, had Harry Potter lived he would be only fourteen this year." Andromeda said implacably.
Harry didn't reply to that either. He merely stared at her and waited for the woman to finish, having already been interrupted twice.
"I know Lily and James and I know that they were not faking their grief over the death of their child." Her voice was harsh as she spoke. "That leaves me with one conclusion, Harry Potter is dead. I'll not allow you to hurt the Potters any more."
Without waiting for a response she turned and fixed Ron with the same glare. Unlike Harry, Ron reflexively swallowed and barely resisted the urge to step back. "And you."
"Ronald Weasley died three years ago. I had to be with the Molly and Arthur Weasley when they identified what was left of him as their son." Andromeda was clearly upset by the assertion but her anger was controlled and focused, a stark difference to her infamous sister. "He died… here at Hogwarts along with another student when a Troll was let into the castle by one of the professors."
Ron stiffened and looked at Harry, who had a similar sick expression on his face.
"I will not allow you to hurt either family more than they've already suffered. The Potters and the Weasleys have been through enough." She sneered, "So. No joking, no dragon shit. Who are you really? And if you lie this time, I'll curse you so badly even St. Mungos won't be able to help."
As Andromeda spoke, she was surprised to find the only thing that had made either of the boys react was that mention of how Ronald Weasley had died.
Harry's eyes flashed and they narrowed at her. Despite Andromeda Tonks experience and reputation for being unshakeable, the power in those eyes startled her and she had to resist her own urge to step back.
"They've been through enough?'" Harry echoed. "Funny, I wish fate would say the same about me."
"Mate…" Ron said, his voice a warning, clearly recognizing the signs of imminent explosion on his best friend's face. "You've destroyed and obliterated everything in this office once before. Let's not make it a habit, eh?"
Harry took a long steadying breath.
"Despite whatever conclusions you've drawn, my name is Harry James Potter. I am eighteen years old. I am the Boy Who Lived. Twice." His voice was filled with power and he could feel his magic fizzling under his skin, he was perilously close to ignoring Ron's warning. His own voice matching and topping hers for intensity, and ignoring the intakes of breath from everyone but Dumbledore as he gave his full name. "I have mastered and conquered the last enemy. I have dealt with suffering from the time I was an infant... and between me and my friends we have more than earned a fucking break."
"But somehow we still end up chasing down idiot dark wizards or rising dark lords. The most recent of which we'd been chasing for nearly a week." Harry continued, the volume rising bit by bit, "Just as we caught up to him in his absolutely cliched evil lair in Spain, he sets off an explosion, and we apparate and portkey out just as a magical beer stein decided it wants to have fun and dragged me across time and space."
Harry's voice dropped from ranting to more calm, "I have a phoenix who apparently understands what has happened and, just as quickly, says he has no idea how we survived to get here in the first place, and that he doesn't think there's a way for me to go back, but he isn't sure."
"And from my perspective I'm surrounded by five people, four of whom were dead the last time I checked, and the fifth wanted to kill me for sleeping with his daughter," Harry continued to speak more calmly, "To add a cherry to the top of a completely fucked sundae, I have a Sorting Hat more concerned with dropping swords on my head because it might conveniently help me again for the third time rather than giving me any insight into my situation."
"You slept with my daughter? She's 14!" Darius demanded, his wand in his hand.
"Okay whoa! First, we've been here like… ten minutes. So he has not slept with your daughter in this world." Ron rolled his eyes. "Second, she was our age."
Here, Ron paused a moment as a thought occurred to him, and turned to Harry, "It was Daphne, not Astoria, right?"
"Of course!" Harry defended, before his lip curled a bit as if he was about to be sick, "Besides, Astoria has been dating Ferret boy, and there's no way I'm getting anywhere close to that potential disaster."
"Or diseases," Ron said flatly.
"That too," Harry responded.
"There, see?" Ron nodded authoritatively back at Darius. "Besides, I have to say I'm impressed, with you… or rather, the other you, sir."
"What." Darius said flatly. He had been mollified somewhat by their explanation, but was struggling to keep up.
"Well sure. Not many people would dare threaten Harry openly over there," Ron said earnestly, "Much less actually cast spells at him."
"I'm sure not many people had to deal with him sleeping with their daughters." Darius responded.
"Oh no, loads of people have dealt with that," Ron said smirking wide. "You would not believe how much the whole 'Dark Lord Vanquishing' thing gets him laid, especially since the said 'vanquishing' happened in front of a crowd of five hundred people. Now, most people are too worried he'd turn them into a bloody smear on the ground, like he's done with a couple dozen dark wizards who have threatened him. You would not believe the irritation from the Aurors when it happens if there aren't enough witnesses; they usually floo me to see if I can help identify whatever remains of the bodies."
"Stop helping, Ron," Harry facepalmed. James and Lily were both stared at Harry now, and he had no idea what to make of how both had a single eyebrow that seemed to twitch in unison with the other's.
"No problem!" Ron said brightly.
"Arse," Harry actually looked sheepish and ran a hand through his hair.
"Consider it payback for whatever your luck has brought us to this time." Ron said, not an ounce of genuine remorse present in his face at all.
"Hey, I had to get some benefit for destroying Voldemort... again." Harry demanded of Andromeda, choosing to ignore Ron's comment.
"Destroying Voldemort again? The explosion destroyed the house and destroyed the bastard at the same time it killed our son! The Dark Lord's body was entirely obliterated!" James responded hotly, his wand now put away as he gestured with his hands.
"Are you saying you think He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named isn't dead?" Andromeda asked finally, and her words came out slowly because she didn't really want to contemplate the possibility, but had to anyway since the subject of discussion had returned to the one thing none in the room seemed to want to acknowledge.
"Glad you caught up with the conversation there." Ron said dryly as he leaned against a wall and spoke to the woman only to wince slightly as she glared at him.
Harry looked past her, which once again caught the eyes of the Headmaster. Harry just raised an eyebrow in mute challenge to the elder wizard to deny his words.
Dumbledore met his eyes for several long seconds before he seemed to slump a little bit, "Do you know how?"
That caused James and everyone else in the room to whirl around and stare at Dumbledore, "Headmaster?"
"I have long said I did not think we had seen the last of Voldemort's reign of terror," Dumbledore said, a trace of defense in his tone. It was a statement of fact. "I tried telling people for years. No one in the Ministry wanted to hear it, much less consider the bad news. Do not blame me for their cowardice."
"I thought that meant we were having to deal with the followers that managed to avoid prison." Andromeda said deliberately, her eyes narrowed at Dumbledore's comment and implied insult.
"That's part of it, sure" Ron interjected, "But if it's anything like back home, it's only part."
"I have told anyone who would listen that he is going to be returning, I just never had any proof. The Dark Mark is hardly proof positive, as it is hardly understood and the magics used in its creation mostly unknown," Dumbledore echoed again with a resigned tone to his voice, and the man seemed to visibly age by at least a decade. He focused on Harry once more, "You are certain?"
"Fairly." Harry allowed as he watched Dumbledore's expression before cocking his thumb over his shoulder at the unconscious Death Eater, "Dark Mark is still there, which is a sign, but I'm also willing to guess that, if this is 1994 like you said, it's been getting darker the past few months."
"Do you know how Voldemort is still around?" Dumbledore asked quietly, meeting Harry's eyes.
"I can't imagine any shield powerful enough to let him survive a blast like the one that… killed our son." Lily choked, her grief coming to the fore once again, especially as she couldn't tear her gaze away from Harry. "And if he did… we… we would have seen some evidence of him back…"
"Does the term 'Horcrux' ring any bells?" Harry asked while keeping his gaze dead center on Dumbledore, his only reaction to the break in Lily's question was a twitch of his shoulders, as if he had to resist turning to her.
Dumbledore reeled back as if he had been physically struck when he heard Harry's question. His tone turned haunted and urgent, his face pale enough to draw concern from all around him.
"He…a horcrux… do… do you know what item he used?" Dumbledore stuttered as he leaned forward, his voice almost a whisper.
Harry just smiled enigmatically and quirked his head, as if now he suddenly spoke now to a small child.
"Item?" he said with a bit of amusement to his voice. "We're talking about one of your brightest and most ambitious students, Headmaster."
Harry's eyes bored into the older wizard's gaze. "But we're also talking about one that had no scruples, was utterly lacking in empathy and completely apathetic to the impact his actions might have on anyone else, even himself in some cases."
Harry looked away at Barty's insensate body, "Not to mention he had an absolutely unmatched superiority complex."
"Pardon?" Dumbledore asked, his brow furrowed, since he did not yet understand the point made by the younger wizard.
"Why would such a man stop at only one?" Harry asked almost sadly, and then watched the elder man's face for the moment of dawning comprehension… and horror.
It was obvious when Dumbledore caught the reference, as his legs suddenly gave way beneath him as he seemed to topple slightly in despair. Only his grip on the back of a nearby chair seemed to prevent his outright collapse to the floor of his own office.
It was Andromeda that spoke up, her voice a little bit shaky, "A… Albus?" as she sought confirmation from the person many considered the symbolic leader of Magical Britain.
This was a woman who had dueled her insane sister fearlessly and to a standstill, her uncertainty was jarring to people in the room and added to the general feeling that the floor had been yanked out from under them, even if they did not yet understand why.
However, her uncertainty seemed to galvanize the old Headmaster. He straightened with renewed determination and pushed forward once more, his attention wholly on Harry, eyes firm without any hint at the famous everpresent twindle. He ignored the questioning looks everyone sent his way.
"If what you say is true." Dumbledore said, and held up his hand, cutting off Harry's protest, "I'm not trying to cast doubt on you, but merely acknowledge the possibility for both sides, this situation is rather unprecedented."
Harry hesitated, before bobbing his head in acknowledgement.
"That's because you've never met Harry Potter." Ron countered with a shake of his head and then flinched as he realized the rather insensitive comment he'd just dropped which had caused both Potters to jerk as if slapped.
"Do you know what items he used?" Dumbledore asked again, and his voice took on a coaxing quality, as if to beckon the answers which the man so obviously desired.
Harry bit his bottom lip and frowned darkly at the memories that surfaced, "The first one we discovered was a diary belonging to one Tom Riddle, given to Ginny Weasley during her first year of Hogwarts by Lucius Malfoy."
Dumbledore's eyes widened and his gaze flickered toward one side of the desk.
Harry's gaze followed his and he shifted, stepping to the side in front of the desk and then falling back into Dumbledore's ornate chair unceremoniously.
When Dumbledore saw where Harry was going, he spoke up, "You won't be able to open it, only the Headmaster can…" he trailed off as Harry opened the top desk drawer without preamble.
"How did you-?" Lily began in a tone of voice that both Harry and Ron seemed to recognize. Lily had examined the charms in the room before, and her inquisitiveness at how he had broken through such powerful charms shown through in a way that hauntingly reminded both of Hermione.
"Yeah, I was Headmaster of Hogwarts for about five minutes at one point." Harry interrupted as he searched through the top drawer before he moved down to another.
"You said you're only eighteen, how did that happen?" Lily demanded, not letting herself be cut off a second time.
"Oh, you know. Snape got his ass bitten by a giant snake after ruling as a tyrant at the behest of ol' Tom. This of course was after he killed Albus. Before getting forced out when I showed back up from my own fun trip and the students rebelled. When he was forced out, control of Hogwarts for some reason defaulted to me." Harry answered absently as he shuffled through some papers.
At their disbelieving stares, Ron added, "It's true. My girlfriend still gets nightmares of Harry being responsible for the curriculum of all the courses. Not to mention hiring of professors."
"Oi. It's not like I could have done any worse than Dumbledore did." Harry responded, looking vaguely affronted. He glanced up and said placatingly, "Our Dumbledore, not you, Imaginary Dumbledore."
"That's… actually a valid point. I'll have to remember it," Ron admitted.
"Never did get around to figuring out why the position of headmaster fell to me before I'd turned the wards over to Minerva. Old battleaxe never even said thank you for doing it promptly, too," Harry added absently while he searched through the items in the desk.
Fawkes interrupted there and trilled at him sharply.
Harry blinked and looked up at the bird for a moment, "Really? Why on earth would he name me his successor?" his voice as incredulous as his expression.
Fawkes trilled back at him gently, almost sadly.
Harry snorted, "So, that makes up for him being a total arse to me for six years?" he said before he gave a sharp shake of his head to deny the dead Snape's final deed any semblance of acceptance. The man had been an outright child abuser and tormentor, and even in his last moments made the man a selfish bastard.
Fawkes hummed his equivalent of a shrug, clearly uninterested in a discussion that would imply he supported the snake-bitten Snape now that he had given the explanation.
"Ah ha." Harry shifted aside some parchment and pulled out a familiar diary, which he quickly set upon the desk.
"Uh… Harry… It's…" Ron pointed as he withdrew his wand and took a defensive stance that alarmed everyone in the room as they looked between the hitherto completely calm and relaxed red-head who stared at the completely innocuous looking diary as if it would come to life at any given point and begin to fire killing curses at the group.
A diary that had once nearly killed his sister.
A diary that had nearly led to the deaths of over hundreds of students when the spirit shard inside had let a basilisk loose within Hogwarts.
A diary that was disturbingly unmarked and undamaged.
He looked up at Dumbledore searchingly, "How did you get it?" Regardless of whether or not this was a dream or a...parallel world Harry wasn't taking any chances with a Horcrux.
Dumbledore seemed unperturbed by the interrogation, and took a seat in front of his desk before he leaned forward and steepled his fingers together, "Quite by accident, our Defense Against the Arts Teacher was showing a Dark Magic detecting spell, and it returned a positive reaction. So it was confiscated and brought to me."
"Well, I guess we can safely assume the Defense teacher wasn't Lockhart that year," Harry heard Ron mutter, but Harry was hardly paid attention.
"You didn't destroy it?" Harry asked in shock, as he tossed the book onto the desk as he absently slammed the drawer shut, making at least some of the portraits jump a bit.
He could feel the dark magic and compulsion charms in it, the same kind he could remember having turned an eleven year old Ginny Weasley into a shambling shadow of herself.
"I didn't know what it was, and it resisted a cutting curse and a confringo, as well as a number of other ways I tried," Dumbledore explained.
"Ah, well… I know of three ways to destroy it... " He glanced around somewhat sheepishly, "And I'm really not fond of using the killing curse so that eliminates option one."
"A killing curse?!" Darius, who had been quiet as he stared at Harry speculatively, and Andromeda both half shouted in unison.
"Yeah, friend of ours thinks that it would take care of them pretty well, never had the chance to test it before she dropped that nugget on us. Also thinks it has a damaging effect on your soul, or your sanity, or both." Harry replied calmly, "Oh well. Thanks to the Sorting Beret we have another option."
Without preamble Harry picked up the sword from where he had dropped it on the desk and with an overhand swing swung it down onto the diary with a thunk.
Harry had braced himself for the expected shriek afterward but when he was met with silence, he lifted the sword to peer down at the completely undamaged diary.
He looked back and forth between the sword and the diary, with a betrayed look on his face "I… don't understand. That should have worked."
"I told you it was rather resistant to damage," Dumbledore responded with a faintly amused air.
"Yes but the basi…" Harry trailed off, before he looked in anger at the sword, then at the diary, and then the anger melted into resignation as he looked back at the sword. He sighed and looked at Fawkes, who was caught in a bad attempt at looking innocent, or succeeding in looking somber.
"Let me guess… you never had to take the Sorting Hat to save a dumbass Gryffindor second year who got in over his head as he faced down Slytherin's monster?" Harry ventured, as he stared at the bird.
The bird slowly shook his head in the negative.
"That's going to make things harder." Ron said with irritation as he released a frustrated breath.
"Oh well. There is a third option!" Harry shrugged and then smiled brightly and lifted his hand, which now contained his wand, only for his wrist to be grabbed and held.
"No!" Ron stated firmly, holding Harry's arm.
"Oh come on." Harry gestured with his free hand. "It's right there. One spell. No problems."
"No problems?!" Ron demanded incredulously, "You remember the last time you tried that spell when you were pissed off, it destroyed that Dark wizard's entire base."
"Base? That was a bloody house! His mother's house. I thought we decided that if you still live with your mother, it can't be classed as a dark wizard's 'base.' The entire place was condemned and an eyesore anyway." Harry scoffed. "I was practically doing us all a favor."
"Yes… but we were still in it when you cast the fiendfyre!" Ron countered, "And the last time it was cast in Hogwarts it destroyed the Room of Requirement!"
"It wasn't that bad…" Harry protested. "The room still worked the last time we checked it."
"Us. Flying on Brooms. Saving Malfoy. And if riding a dragon hadn't gotten Hermione over her fear of heights she probably wouldn't have made it out of there." Ron disagreed. "No. Fiendfyre."
"But…" Harry protested.
"No." Ron was implacable.
"Fan-fucking-tastic." Harry let out a breath as he slumped and looked down at the diary with loathing. The unspoken agreement caused Ron to release his arm. Then he looked at the sword on the desk speculatively, before once more he turned and exchanged a look with Ron.
"No." Ron said. Only this time it was more of a plea than a firm protest.
When Harry kept looking at him, Ron shook his head stubbornly, "No. Everytime I go down into the Chamber of Secrets something bad happens. Almost obliviated of my entire memory. Almost killed by a cave in. Almost eaten by a giant snake. Almost drowned."
"Chamber of Secrets?" Dumbledore interjected.
"Hey, I was the one who was nearly eaten." Harry disagreed, ignoring him entirely.
Ron just looked at him sourly, "I'm not getting out of this, am I?"
Harry grinned at the seeming capitulation, and clapped his hands and picked up the sword before he tossed the diary to Dumbledore. "Okay! Who's up for a field tri-" he started to ask before he broke off.
Ron looked at Harry sharply as the red head suddenly dug into the pocket of his coat. His eyes widened as Harry pulled out a circular object that shook wildly and grew in Harry's hand. It took a moment for the other occupants to catch enough of a glimpse to realize it was a mirror.
It stopped the vibrations and there was a momentary pause, before a loud and indignant voice came through to everyone in the room.
"HARRY JAMES POTTER!"
Harry blinked once and then turned and shoved the mirror into Ron's hands. "It's for you."
1) This is a combination of a couple of elements.
First I was on ff dot net and read a story with a cool description, I don't even remember the story, but it was something about the Goblet of fire calling Harry out of oblivion to compete in the Triwizard tournament. (Not really what happened in the story if i recall) But the idea that this 'powerful magical artifact' could call someone out from death was planted.
Second, I also wanted to write something without completely hating or cutting out Ron. The idea of him being a part of the story is thanks to several stories I read. I give total props to. Gryffindor's Never Die which probably did this first and well. I also give credit to Chilord, whom the two of us discussed several story ideas and this was just one of them. (RIP Jonathan :( you are Missed).
Third, the idea that 'I'm Still Here' sorta started with before the characters I tweaked hijacked it and ran away from my concept cackling (or emo-ing). So. We have this :) We'll see what the character's do.
Yes I'm working towards updating my other stories as well. I'm not dead. Nor are any of them abandoned or anything like that. It's funny. Some random reviewer posted on one of my stories that I was A) a male, and B) died. And then I got like… 8 messages asking if I was dead. Between college/start of my master's program early, and an ADD muse who is all over the place, writing can be slow.
2) As always. Plums is my coauthor on this. But thanks go to Salient for Beta-ing.
3) Plums Pontifications:
Kat's google doc space said that this file was created in Feb 2017, but i swear it's a heck of a lot older than that.
More and more, this evolved into the concept of trying to write a Ronald Weasley that wasn't an idiot, that wasn't after Harry's gold, and that wasn't the boring cliche he's turned into in most stories these days. Chilord's Sekrit project was a significant inspiration. It certainly got fun to write after a while, but I don't believe we've agreed upon whom we could possibly pair him with. The idea of Hermione following them across words, appearing with her fist on her hip and waving a finger at the two of them was appealing for about two seconds, but I'm pretty sure that won't be happening in this story quite like that.
Alternative Chapter titles.
"This is NOT my fault!" - Harry
"God damnit Harry." - Ron.
"One million points from Gryffindor!" - Snape.
"Oi. We're not even in houses!" - Ron
"Oh please. A Potter and a Weasley. Like you could be anything but Gryffindor." - Snape
"Ron's our hero." - Fred and George Weasley
"Ron Weasley. Coulda been a death eater if anyone had offered cookies." - Harry.
"Pro Tip for dark lords, get catering for your evil git get-togethers." - Ron.
"I see what you did there." - Harry.
"Will we see Hermione in this story?" - Reviewers
"Who do you think was yelling at Harry at the end? But… we sorta killed off the one in this universe in the first chapter." - Kat.
"Not to mention Ron and Harry." - Plums.
"Yeah. Them too." - Kat
"Are you allowed to kill a canon Mary Sue?" - Reviewer
"Hermione could be the equivalent of Moaning Myrtle for this generation. Haunting the library and throwing tantrums when books aren't put away in the right bloody spot." - Plums
"Language young man!" - Hogwarts Library Banshee