"Well, Harry, just one more to go and then we're finished, aren't we?"
Harry Potter glanced up at the blonde-haired woman as she regarded the sixth book in her series, and ran her fingers lightly over the colorful dust cover. This summons didn't seem to be a working one. She was thinking about him, and the excitement generated by the new release, but she wasn't writing.
Harry couldn't claim to be surprised, not after six books now. He knew how she tended to operate. The release of a book always meant a little downtime for everyone. The Woman, he supposed, would go and do things more interesting than writing for hours on end, day after day, and he would go back to his shelf.
This wasn't an unusual circumstance, of course. He was returned to his shelf every time she finished writing for the day. As she began thinking of other things, he would feel the now familiar sensation of a hook being jerked behind his navel. Once dismissed, he would be returned to his shelf, but this time, instead of her fetching him again in the morning, he would remain there until she thought of him again, or was ready to start her next project.
As he landed lightly on his shelf, Harry stretched, and took a moment to look around. This had been his home since The Woman had first begun to mull over her ideas. He remembered being rather vague and ghost-like in the beginning. Later, when she began to write her ideas down on paper, he became more solid and well defined.
As she crafted the world he lived in, and sketched out the events of his life, he would be summoned to her side where ever she happened to be, watching curiously as she wrote the words by hand. When her hand tired, or she quit for the day, he would be banished back to his place on the shelf to await the next session.
The shelf had been a lonely place in those days, and Harry had rather hated it. During the time that she wrote her stories, he was in the location and with the people of her choosing. When she stopped for the day, he was on a single shelf in a small empty room with nothing to do, and no one to speak to. The only things he had, were the things The Woman gave him in her books. He was actually quite glad when he was allowed to go shopping on Diagon Alley, and purchased his school supplies--at least he had some books to read. Later, when he'd been made Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, he had his Nimbus 2000, and could fly around a bit.
But things changed over time, as they usually do. One day when Harry was deposited on his shelf, there was another Harry there.
"Hello," the other Harry had said, clearly as perplexed as Harry himself. When the first Harry asked who he was and where he came from, the second Harry shrugged and said, "Well, I was thought up by a girl today."
"A girl?" the first Harry asked, arching an eyebrow, but relieved that he didn't seem to have been replaced by The Woman.
"Yeah. She likes your story, mate. Decided to write one of her own based on it," the other Harry answered with a shrug. "She started writing, and here I am."
The original Harry thought this was a bit weird, but wasn't too fussed. He was tired of being alone all the time when The Woman wasn't dreaming up her stories. By now she had stopped writing longhand and had a computer instead.
He thought at first that it might be a bit odd--talking to himself and all--but The Girl's ideas differed from The Woman's. The other Harry was small and thin with untidy black hair, and startling green eyes, and shared Harry's history up to a point, but that was where the similarities ended. Because The Girl was going forward with the story, carrying on from where The Woman had stopped, this other Harry walked a slightly different path from his own. It was actually sort of interesting to talk with him and find out where The Girl was taking the story, since he, himself was rather committed to The Woman's plot line.
The first Harry could hardly wait to share this news with his friends. The next time The Woman summoned him, he talked to Ron and Hermione about it during a break when she was writing about someone else. They told him that doppelgangers had appeared on their shelves as well, and furthermore, their "twins" seemed to have been created by the same Girl.
Harry mulled that over while The Woman put him through his paces. When he was returned to his shelf that evening, he discovered the other Harry was missing--summoned by The Girl he supposed--but seventeen others had taken his place!
That had been early on, of course. These days, all Harry could do was goggle when he was returned to the room with the shelf.
Or shelves actually, he corrected himself as a chorus of voices, all eerily similar to his own, welcomed him back. The room had been rather small in the beginning, with only his one shelf and nothing more, but as more and more Harrys showed up it sized itself accordingly and added more shelves as necessary. Now it was easily as big as the Quidditch Pitch with loads of shelves, stretching from floor to ceiling.
Waving in return, Harry smiled, and let the sight wash over him. He didn't think he was ever going to get used to this. It was like being in a weird hall of mirrors or else going to some crazy family reunion.
Most of the Harrys in the room had jet black hair and startling green eyes, but not all. There were a few brown haired, blue eyed ones who were based on his movie version, a few whose hair was streaked with gray or white due to age or stress, and a scattering of others where Harry looked different because he was in disguise.
They also varied widely in overall appearance, ranging from hideously maimed, to startlingly beautiful. Most were the age The Woman had him in her books, but again not all of them were. As with appearance, the choices seemed to be limitless. There were versions of him in every stage of life, from helpless infant to fully-grown adult. A few even had him surviving long enough to see his twilight years.
And their stories...
God... Harry sometimes considered The Woman to be a trifle unfair and entirely too enthusiastic about heaping trials on him, but compared to some of these other people she was a lightweight. Some of his shadow selves had it worse than he ever would.
Many were taking the deaths of Cedric Diggory and/or Sirius Black very badly indeed and had developed any number of neuroses and self-destructive habits.
Others had been forced to spend time in Azkaban Prison.
A sizable number were hospitalized because of some sickness or injury, but the most numerous group by far were those who had been victims of torture, abuse, or some other form of assault and battery.
Unable to hide his horror and pity, Harry glanced over at "The Mental Ward" as it has come to be known. Behind a well-cast silencing spell, several broken, glassy-eyed versions of himself stared blankly at nothing or cackled in mindless insanity. Other, less fortunate ones, shrieked in unimaginable pain or howled curses from their hospital beds, struggling futilely against their medical restraints. The lucky ones had temporary conditions that would improve as their stories unfolded. The unlucky ones, were simply made as comfortable as possible.
Of course, not all the alternate stories were horrible. There were renditions of himself in the room that he frankly envied. Some were living happily with a freed and exonerated Sirius. Others were grown up and happily married, or else successfully making their way on their own.
A rather common theme since the fifth book had been his emancipation. Harry had thought that sounded cool, and watched hopefully as The Woman constructed the sixth book in her series, but no. He would be going back to the Dursleys one last time.
Of course, now that he was getting older, girls were becoming much more interesting. Harry was honest enough with himself to wonder who (if anyone) The Woman had in store for him as a potential mate. She had seemed to be setting him up a time or two, but nothing had ever come of it. For three books now Harry had watched hopefully as she'd had him interact with Parvati Patil, Hermione, Cho Chang, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley, but something always seemed to go wrong, and now, at the end of his sixth year, he was still decidedly girl friend-less.
Harry thought this was rather unfair, especially since several of the other Harrys had no such problems. The only drawback was some of the other writers who made up his alter egos had some very interesting ideas as far as who his perfect match was.
There seemed to be no end to the stories people came up with. His shadow selves who had someone special in their lives were all naturally besotted with them, and couldn't imagine their lives any other way. He'd listened with varying degrees of envy, amusement, shock, and yes, sometimes horror when they spoke of their relationships.
One mercy in trying to keep things sorted was the other Harrys seemed to be loosely grouped together according to characteristics in common. The ones over there were paired with Ginny Weasley. The ones over there were dating Hermione, and they were all involved in relationships that the first Harry really didn't like to think about. Those were as disturbing as the ones who insisted that someone else besides James Potter was his father.
Still, he didn't worry overmuch. He was pretty sure James and Lily Potter were his parents, and although The Woman had been very cagey with him in terms of romantic partners, but he reckoned (if he was fated to fall in love in her stories at all) that he would eventually be paired up with a girl of his approximate age. The Woman didn't seem the type to build dreams around these more...unusual pairings. Harry found this reassuring, especially considering that lot over there who were coping with a condition no wizard could possibly find himself in.
The only thing more varied than the romantic choices was perhaps what Harry was destined to do for a living once Voldemort was dispatched once and for all. If he could poll all the Harrys here, Harry reckoned he'd have a fair representation of every possible Muggle and Magical profession imaginable. Some were Aurors, as he himself expected to be. Others were Healers, Teachers, Singers, Artists, Spies, or Professional Quidditch Players, and still others weren't officially employed.
A flicker out of the corner of his eye made Harry turn. A roughly human shaped blob of magic was forming about a meter to his left. Harry wasn't able to greet each and every new Harry but he tried to make an effort when they formed almost in his lap like this.
Of course this vague outline was no guarantee. Hermione thought the undefined or rather transparent-looking entities that appeared from time to time were merely ideas--stories considered, perhaps, but not embarked upon. Harry watched, wondering if this one would solidify into another version of himself, but no. The human-shaped form flickered, and faded from sight before he had even developed any identifiable features.
Harry sighed. It was too bad, really, but he'd rather they go that way. As the original version, and the representative of a successful series, the first Harry didn't have to worry overmuch about abandonment. For The Woman not to write her last installment, a verifiable disaster would have to occur.
Unfortunately, the others didn't have the same assurances. Some finished, true, but others grew weary or discouraged for whatever reason and stopped, leaving their Harry trapped in the now of their story with no resolution. Harry reckoned such a predicament was a minor annoyance to some, but for others, especially the poor blighters over in the Mental Ward, it was unthinkably cruel. From what Harry could see, the Harrys in the room only vanished if their stories were deleted or destroyed completely. Even the Harrys who died in the course of their stories stayed around. They just became more ghost-like in appearance and sported black bands on their right arms.
Harry turned at the summons, smiling when he caught sight of a couple of his shadow selves on their broomsticks. They had a large net between them and seemed to be having trouble staying aloft. The speaker was a brown-eyed version of himself--one of the Harrys in hiding. He was using a pseudonym along with wearing colored contact lenses and a headband to protect his identity.
"What have you got there, Sparky?" the first Harry wondered, then groaned aloud when he identified the furry, wriggling mass in the net attached to Sparky's Firebolt and the other Harry's Nimbus 2000. "Oh no! Not more! We just stretched the place and added new shelves yesterday."
"Yeah, well, new book, new crop of plot bunnies," Sparky commented, gesturing toward the net with one hand, while maintaining a grip on his broom with the other. He caught Harry's eye and flashed a mischievous smile. "How many will be new Harrys by morning d'you reckon?"
Harry laughed. "Who knows? Maybe we'll be lucky!" he said as a soft pop sounded from the center of the net.
"Blimey!" said a rather muffled voice. The three Harrys exchanged glances then turned to greet the latest Harry Potter, as he struggled out of the midst of the plot bunnies and blinked in confusion. "What the bloody hell's going on here?"
The first Harry grinned while the other two hooted with laughter. This new Harry looked solid enough to stick around a while but he was clearly still being fleshed out by his creator.
As shown by his floppy, white ears, and cute fluffy tail.
At least he didn't have whiskers and a pink nose like the last one.
Of course the new Harry was unaware of his new (and hopefully temporary) Leporidae features and was looking rather miffed. "What's so funny?" he demanded, wading toward the edge of the net. "And where am I anyway?"
Taking pity on him, the first Harry swallowed his amusement, and offered him a hand up. "Don't mind these idiots...welcome to Harry Central," he said politely, as he heaved the newest addition out of the net. "And by the way...nice ears!"
I have no idea who wrote the first fanfic. I chose "girl" arbitrarily.