A/N: So… this one goes out to "Ryan Chessman aka Crys" and his fabulous one-shot, "Different Timeline" at also on Fan Fiction. Check my Favorites if you can't find it on your own. All amounts of begging and pleading by the multitudes of his adoring fans have fallen on deaf ears, his refusal to write the second chapter and continue in the alternate universe that he created. Sure, he blames the Muse for not inspiring him, but come on… there were just so many other things to look at.
Don't get me wrong… the story works just as it is, at 18239 words, it's longer than three or four chapters written by other authors, me included (usually).
I decided to take a huge risk and try my hand at a second chapter. True, my style is different than his and I am usually a bit darker than the lightness that he filled his story with, but I wanted to give it a shot. In Crys honor, this is my one-shot… over 13000 words.
I hope he likes it. I hope you like it. Maybe, either way… love it or hate it, he might decide to show us all the way the second chapter was supposed to go.
And to Crys, my personal thought: I never considered a Harry Potter/Padma Patil pairing. Damn, but that I liked it.
I will appreciate any reviews you send to me, but the true reviews belong to Crys.
I hope you like it.
A/N2: Oh yeah… please read his story first. It will make things sooo much easier to understand and follow.
A/N3: Now edited thanks to Crys and his explaining to me what I "screwed up." Thanks.
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
LIFE IN A DIFFERENT TIMELINE
Everything was a blur. The air around him rushed past, the sound could only be described as being like caught out in the middle of a hurricane, the harsh press of the unyielding wind roaring in your ears. Colors all around passed without shape, the speed at which he fell from the heavens almost too much for him to focus on, if he had dared move his eyes from the flicker of gold that was trying to dance away… to lose itself in the looming green of the grass below.
Straining against the forces of gravity versus the laws of physics, he threw his arm out, his fingers dancing along the fluttering of wings, as he dared to continue his drop to the earth, the impact on seconds away.
He felt the smile come unbidden just as his left hand felt the cool metal of his quest while his right jerked violently on the wooden handle in his grasp, the scream of everything around him washing over him… the sudden drop in speed bringing the noise all around him crashing back, regaining his sense of hearing as he nearly performed a ninety-degree change in direction from straight down to the earth to a parallel line to what could have broken every bone in his body.
"Harry Potter caught the snitch! Harry Potter got the snitch!" Colin Creevy screamed into his wand, his voice barely making it over the absolute pandemonium that had erupted throughout three-quarters of the stands surrounding the Hogwarts pitch. "Absolutely un-bloody-believable! Gryffindor wins!"
"Mister Creevy!" Professor McGonagall admonished, though the erupting roars also drowned her voice out.
Harry, for his part, was oblivious to anything and everything else as his hand pumped up and down in the air, the small golden orb clutched tightly in his fist. The smile was impossible to stop, the sweat along his skin already cooling and his chest heaving as the adrenalin rush from pushing his Nimbus 2000 to its absolute limits started to fade.
Unable to control himself, his gaze roamed across the furious myriad of faces across the stands… idly noting so many familiar smiles as well as many he knew were new… first finding Hermione and Neville… who was with his girlfriend rather than his own house, their arms wrapped around one another, jumping up and down, as they were caught up in the sudden chant of his name, their eyes sparkling. He waved at both of them before turning to the Ravenclaw stands. Sure enough, Padma was staring at him, her expression one that made Harry suddenly blush… his thoughts turning towards other things besides Quidditch.
"You did it, Harry!" Ron's cry forced him to look up, his once best mate from another reality was grinning from ear to ear. "That was amazing! How did you…"
"Harry!" Harry was suddenly attacked, a flurry of arms and red hair swooping down on him, pulling him tightly into a hug. "That was fabulous… and you were great… not that you weren't always great." Ginny's voice was wild, running through excitement to embarrassment and back.
He laughed as he hugged her back. "It's okay I understand… really, I do."
"Leave the poor bloke alone, Gin-Gin…"
Harry watched the feisty redheaded girl slap her brother's arm. "Don't call me Gin-Gin…"
The three of them slowly floated down until their feet touched the grass, the rest of their team cheering along above them, his name on their lips along with the stands as many of the students started pushing their way onto the pitch, pressing forward.
"Final score," Colin's voice called. "Gryffindor 370: Slytherin 160."
"Ron, you were brilliant, mate. Fantastic." Harry watched as the redhead boy blushed, his skin nearly matching his hair under the praise.
The team had been understandably upset and concerned when Harry had first made the change from Chaser to Seeker, even more so when he had exchanged positions with the petite Ginny Weasley, each and every one of them worried about whether the small girl could handle the Chaser position. Much less that their star player wanted to change positions after five years. Words like 'mental' and 'unbalanced' were tossed in his direction. That, however, had been nothing to Harry resigning from his Captain position and handing it off to Ron.
The words they used then weren't to be shared in the presence of ladies, not that it wasn't the female members of the team that were tossing those same phrases at him.
Everyone had grumbled, arguments that any chance of retaining the Quidditch Cup for Professor McGonagall were evaporating in front of their very eyes… especially with the first game being against the Slytherin Team that had all but one of their players retuning. Plus a new star seeker on an impressive broom.
No one was complaining now.
Harry continued to smile, his spirits higher than they'd been in years, as the inevitable fight between Hermione and Padma on who would hug Harry first was nearly waged right there in front of him. Hermione won, but only by a step as his best friend in this reality and the last put her arms around him.
"You were magnificent, Harry." She breathed. "I've never seen anything like it…"
Hugging her back, he grinned over her shoulder as Padma's eyes narrowed, definitely not happy about having to wait.
Giving the bushy-haired Gryffindor another squeeze, Harry disentangled himself and moved over to where his girlfriend was all but tapping her foot… the scowl on her face at having to be second, third if you counted Ginny, was only marred by the smile that kept threatening to break free.
"Hey, you." Harry whispered as he drew closer to her. The softness of his voice seemed to work whatever apologetic magic was necessary as she gave into the grin, any scolding he was to receive put on the back burner, and launched herself onto him, her lips meeting his harshly.
Losing himself into the kiss, Harry allowed for the rest of the world to fall away as he felt her hands push up into his hair, pulling his face closer, her tongue dancing with his. His own hands tightened around her waist.
"Alright, Pronglet…" Neville clapped him on the back, Harry and Padma breaking the kiss, he with a slight flush to his cheeks while her eyes danced mischievously. "You've got the whole of the school trying to get to you and you want to spend it publicly snogging your girl?"
Padma Patil reached her hand around Harry's neck and brought his face down for a quick kiss. "Absolutely, he does."
"How about you save that for later." Remus Lupin's voice suddenly cut through any further ribbing.
Neville turned to look at his adoptive father, Hermione right there with him, both of them with innocent looks on their faces. "Gee, professor… we weren't doing anything."
"Yeah, right." Ron barked. His sister was rolling her eyes.
"Harry... that was brilliant." Remus laughed. "Completely reckless and dangerous… your father would've been proud, though I think Sirius will channel your Mum for a bit and yell when he finds out."
"It wasn't that bad…" Harry began, but Padma took the opportunity to slap the back of his head. At his look, she mock glared at him again. "You nearly scared ten years out of me…"
"Don't 'honey' me, Mister Potter." Padma narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Where do you get off trying something like that?"
"Really… it was no…"
Any further conversation was lost as the group were finally overwhelmed by the myriad of screaming students, all trying to congratulate Harry on the most unbelievable catch that they'd ever seen. Harry had rolled his eyes at Padma and the others as he smiled good-naturedly and tried to accept their thanks and well wishes graciously.
Allowing himself to get swept away with the crowd, his only demand was not releasing his firm grip on Padma's hand, the two laughingly were pulled from the pitch as the impromptu parade seemed to begin towards Hogwarts for the party that was sure to follow.
No one could see the pointed looks and dangerous expressions on the faces of the Slytherin team as they left in the opposite direction.
Life was definitely interesting. Just less than two months had passed since the world around Harry Potter had changed…
Some plot by an unknown figure, though Cornelius Fudge, the current Minister of Magic, was the early front-runner in the suspected party department, had somehow dared to take a risk that which some of the greatest wizards and witches throughout history had warned against… been afraid to even explore beyond the theory of its possibility. Someone had gone back in time and altered the proper flow of history, the world changing with no one the wiser to the changes… well… almost everyone. Somehow, Harry had escaped being changed.
So it was the same Harry James Potter that had existed for the past seventeen years, to him anyway, that had woken up in the school infirmary to find that nothing in his world was the same.
Voldemort had not risen again. Sirius had not gone to Azkaban, instead raising Harry as his own son and giving him the life he had always dreamed of. Remus Lupin had married a widowed Alice Longbottom of all people and had raised Neville as his own, as well as providing him with a sister, Lily Lupin, a third year student at Hogwarts. It would be Neville Lupin that was his best mate, the boyfriend of his other best friend, Hermione Granger. Ron was nowhere to be found… a wallflower overshadowed by the exploits of his older brothers and his younger sister.
But it was Padma Patil, Ravenclaw, that to Harry was the most different. Now, in this reality, she and Harry had become involved, boyfriend and girlfriend… and had been since a setup date for the Yule Ball back in fourth year.
It had almost been too much, Harry mused as they drew closer and closer to the Gryffindor tower. Those first few days in this timeline.
Friends that he had depended upon to make it from this day to the next were nothing to him here. His walking down the hallways of Hogwarts had been a truly eye-opening experience… many people absolutely terrified that Harry's being nice to them, saying hello or just waving, was the beginning of some elaborate prank, something of a reputation that he and Neville had apparently earned since coming to Hogwarts. Others simply didn't know how to react.
For the first week in his new world, the rumors of why Harry was so different were just that: rumors. He had discussed with several of his friends and parental figures the best way to deal with the subject. None had much of an idea… at least, none that seemed likely to work in a completely safe and positive way. He had eventually decided to follow Padma and Hermione's advice and just not say anything. Seven days after retuning to class, the truth of what had happened finally broke.
That was followed by nearly three weeks of interesting conversation with classmates. Everyone that could summon up the courage eventually found their way to Harry, wanting to learn what they were like in what was slowly becoming in Harry's mind as the 'Old World'. Ron and Ginny Weasley were really the first, though after the teasing that Harry had done to them in the Great Hall had ultimately been the catalyst for the talk.
Ron had been first; his mind so focused on actually learning if Harry was going to step down as Captain of the Gryffindor Lions and turn it over to him. Harry had to spend nearly an hour of promising the redhead that it wasn't a prank and that, yes, it was real. After that, he and Ron had spent the better part of the evening and night talking.
Here, Ron was unsure and quiet, his argumentative nature never having fully developed without the constant support of Hermione to contend with. Harry had almost laughed aloud when he realized that Ron and Neville had changed places in almost every way from the previous timeline to this one. He and Harry had finally succumbed to exhaustion, but not before Ron had thanked Harry for talking to him and pulled out promises from him that they could talk again at another point. Harry had happily agreed… maybe this Ron could somehow become like the Ron he remembered.
Ginny, on the other hand, was something that Harry had never really expected. Life for her was in a lot of ways, so much better here than in the previous life. This version of the youngest Weasley had never suffered the stigma of possession by a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle. She had never been ostracized by her fellow classmates due to opening the Chamber of Secrets and attacks that left so many muggle-borns petrified. She had never been forced to deal with a brother that ignored her, Ron's own shyness lending to their having a closer relationship when she came to Hogwarts… which allowed for her to make friends much more easily. In fact, she was actually fairly popular, though she only dated one or two guys, the last being Terry Boot in a relationship that had ended before the end of last school term.
With a sparkle in her eyes that was reminiscent of what Harry remembered, she had coyly flirted with him after his 'fabulous kisser' comment and had asked to know everything, starting with the both of them.
With a smile, Harry had told her of her crush on him… a fact that she admitted wasn't entirely restricted to just the 'Old World' before he'd gone in to how they had briefly dated during his sixth year, but that the actions of Voldemort and the constant strain on Harry and what part he played in the fight against him had led to their dating eventual downfall.
She had laughed at the stories of pranks and other events all related to her family (Fred and George usually in the starring roles), a way to push the conversation away from anything too emotional. Their talk had lasted most of a Sunday, neither of them realizing how much time had passed until Padma had found them sitting on the bleachers around the Quidditch pitch.
His girlfriend had been, to say the very least, very upset to find that Harry had spent the day in the company of another girl. After Ginny had made her hasty retreat avoiding the death glare coming from the older girl, Padma had lit into him earning Harry his very first row, in his mind at least, with his girlfriend. It had ended with the exotic brunette running off, tears falling freely down her cheeks, exclamations of never wanting to talk to him ever again on her lips, crashing against Harry. First and last row, apparently. Harry had sat there, stunned, unmoving, until Neville had come to get him several hours later.
"You messed up, Pronglet." He'd offered. Harry had just nodded slowly, not even rising to the obvious bait from the Marauder nickname he'd been stuck with.
Neville Lupin had sat down next to him, the cool evening air turning dark as the sun began to set in the distance, the trees of the Forbidden Forest ever gloomy and forbidding. Suddenly, the idea to somehow find his way home was looking more inviting as the seconds ticked away.
"I'm not sure what happened…" Harry had started, his voice low. "I was talking with Ginny about…"
"You spent the whole day with another girl, a pretty girl, and you don't know what happened?" His voice was disbelieving. "Just how thick were you in your other time?"
Harry had barked a laugh. "Utterly clueless."
"Well, to let you in on some brotherly advice, you never spend free time with another girl unless she's your mum, your sister, or really, really ugly."
"I just wanted to talk to the people that are my friends."
Neville nodded sagely. "I get it, Harry. Padma does, too, really." He waved off Harry's incredulous stare. "But everything she's come to depend upon in her life… you, your relationship, the future we've all talked about and shared. She's terrified that it's gone for her."
He sighed. "Harry… she loves you. Really, really loves you. You are her world… and up until a few days ago, she was yours. How is she supposed to react when you want to talk to others about something that doesn't exist anymore?"
Neville held up his hand. "Wait. I get it. I do. But why are you not trying to learn more about what the world is now… what there is here for you? Instead, you're telling everybody what they were to you and you to them rather than learning what is now and trying to build new things."
"I'm not trying to push anyone away." Harry had cried out, his voice harsh. "And I like the idea of a girlfriend… especially someone as great as Padma, someone that loves me. But I don't know about love. Nothing."
"Listen to me, Nev." Harry interrupted. "I like Padma. Bullocks! I could even find myself falling in love with her. Again, apparently. But she's totally into someone that isn't real anymore. It isn't me."
"I'm not trying to…"
"I know you're not, but look at it from my side. Imagine you wake up tomorrow and learn that the life you know, that you remember, is nothing but a… a… a dream, or something. Everything that defined your life is gone. You're not with Hermione anymore, but maybe with… I don't know… Luna Lovegood or something."
"Luna? Who in Merlin's name is Luna?"
Who's Luna? Harry sighed. "Never mind. It's not important. Just someone that was in Ravenclaw before."
"Oh." He responded quietly.
"But think about it. Somebody that you know of but don't really know is all over you, loving you, kissing you."
"Sounds pretty good, mate." Neville laughed.
"Yeah." Harry grinned. "It does. A lot. But there's all of this other stuff… all of these other people that meant so much to you, as well."
"You almost sound like you wish everything hadn't changed." The other boy offered quietly.
"No!" Harry retorted quickly, his eyes wide. "Things are so much better here… I can't even tell you all of why… I'd need a lifetime just to start on how it's so much better here… now… but it's hard… and now Padma is breaking up with me, will never speak to me again."
"Sure she will, Harry." Neville put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Hermione is talking to her right now. She'd been ready for this ever since that first night."
Neville nodded. "She's not the brightest witch for nothing, mate. Hermione knew that you two would have a falling out… hell, you cost me a date at Madam Puddifoot's since I said you'd last longer than you did. Hermione was only off by when you'd row by a day. She said tomorrow at the latest."
For the first time in a while, Harry felt hopeful. "You think we can fix this?"
Neville Lupin nodded. "Yeah. I was told to come down here and fetch you… hold you off for an hour or so and then we're to meet up with the two of them at the crazy room of yours."
Harry smiled. "Then why are we sitting here? Let's go."
Everything had gotten back on track after that. No right away, of course. Neville and Harry had arrived to find Hermione and Padma already inside the Room of Requirement, the inside made to look like a private dining room where some house elves had prepared a simple, but very delicious, dinner for just the four of them.
It had nearly broken Harry's heart to see the red-rimmed eyes and tear stained cheeks on the lovely girl, but with a nod of encouragement from Hermione from behind Padma's back, Harry had walked over and summoned every bit of the fabled Gryffindor courage to talk to her. Dinner had grown cold, much to their servers' disapproval, as they had talked… Neville and Hermione acting as referees and chaperones to make sure that everything stayed civil. In the end, things were somewhat better, though nowhere as good as they had been for Harry in those first innocent days of waking here.
Harry had taken the next week, whenever not in his classes, studying for classes or practicing Quidditch under Ron's leadership, to focus on learning all there was to know about Padma Patil. By the week's end, they were back to holding hands and kissing, though the kisses were much more hesitant this time around.
Together, they made their way around the school… Padma pointing out every spot that held a memory for the two of them, and there had been quite a lot. At first, Harry had pointed out places of significance for him in another time, as well, but those had soon stopped as he realized that Neville had been right and that he was remembering nothing but a dream.
Help for his predicament had come from the most unlikely of places… Lily. Somehow, the little gossip and Marauder-in-training had gotten wind of what had occurred between Harry and Padma, and had made it a point to find Harry and to spend every quiet moment he had when not in the presence of Padma to talk to him about the Harry she remembered. He had been doubtful at first, but the untarnished viewpoint of a thirteen-year-old had actually been exactly what the mediwitch ordered. In no time, Harry had the basics of the world and a beautiful woman to woo.
In the time of learning of his new world, Harry also took Neville's advice to heart and tried to learn who his friends were. How everyone stacked up to Harry in this new world.
The first surprise is how many people the DA had introduced Harry to the first time around, the almost singular nature of each House in relation to the other, except in those few cases where couples were formed from different Houses… Neville, Hermione, Padma and he being the most prominent.
By learning to talk to people with Padma or Hermione or Neville there, trying to understand the new reality of things… needless to say, including them on things worked so much better than leaving them out, something he was never doing but after his in-depth and late night talks had learned that was what Padma feared… being left behind. Harry had pledged to her and to himself something he would never do.
By the beginning of October, Harry had a strong belief that it had all been worth it when Hermione let slip that Padma was happier than she'd been in a very long time… the honeymoon phase of their relationship back in full force.
It had been a moment that Harry would remember for the rest of his life, the night that Padma had finally arranged to spend the night with Harry… making full use of the Room of Requirement's privacy. There had been blushes and soft teases, Padma knowing everything about him, everything new to him… the only thing that kept any hint of jealousy from bubbling up at her experience and his virgin-like actions coming when she'd whispered that she'd never been with anyone but him… and she wanted no one but him.
The ribbing he'd endured from Neville and Hermione the next day at the blushes he'd been utterly unable to stop at every touch and look that passed between him and Padma well worth it.
"Oh, Morganna, Harry…" Seamus broke into Harry's musings as they finally made it into the Gryffindor common room, Padma resting comfortably in the crook of his arm. "That dive you made for the snitch was incredible. Even Krum never dared something like that."
Jack Sloper nodded vigorously in agreement. "Too true. Was amazing."
Harry laughed, his spirits high, as a butter beer was pressed into his hand. He immediately offered it to his girl, Padma rewarding him with a smile that lit up his entire heart. "Thanks, mate."
"Really, Harry. How can you act like it was nothing? Nott never had a chance… even with that Malfoy boy they recruited this year for Seeker on his Firebolt his mommy sent 'em. You totally outclassed him on your broom that many are already calling obsolete."
That Draco Malfoy was the Seeker he'd face against the Slytherins had been no surprise to Harry, though the rest of the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students had been shocked. He was used to the slimy git. Here in this reality, however, nobody was used to having to deal with an egotistical, son of a Deatheater. Now, Draco was nothing more than a quiet schoolboy that stayed to himself in the dungeons.
Harry had laughed at Lavender's comment, never really remembering her as a Quidditch fan, though he never said a word. "It's about the skill of the player, not the equipment."
Padma smirked evilly as she pulled his ear down to her lips. "Never hurts when the player has the skill and the right equipment…"
He endured the laughs and whistles from around the surrounding classmates as he felt his face light up, his eyes darting to hers. "You pick equipment over skill?"
He was rewarded by a smile. "I'll take both from you, Mister Potter."
Wiggling his eyebrows, Harry leaned down and caught her lips for a quick kiss, the sweetness of the butter beer lingering there. "Looking to check up on both later?"
Ignoring the catcalls, Padma turned and pressed her entire length along him. "Absolutely."
Padma and Harry both looked over to find Neville giving them a very pointed look. "How about you save the personal congratulations for the win somewhere… private. Preferably not where I can see it."
While Neville rolled his eyes, Harry silently agreed with Padma's assessment.
Hermione and Romilda Vane, a fifth year Gryffindor, chose that moment to appear from the crowd, each of them holding several butter beers. "Here, Harry." Hermione handed one of the bottles in her hand to him, while the younger girl handed hers off to Seamus and some of the others that were crowding around. Nodding in thanks, Harry tipped up the bottle.
Life was pretty damn good.
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
"You did what!" His godfather nearly screamed, the timber of his voice making it difficult to tell whether he was immensely proud or unbelievably upset. Remus had been right… Sirius was channeling his mum. "Of all the foolhardy, idiotic…"
Harry decided to try for proud and hope for the best. "It was great… you should have seen it." Harry laughed. "About a four hundred foot vertical dive towards the pitch with a quick pull out at the last second, the snitch in my hand… game over. Gryffindor wins. Kiss the girl."
"Pronglet…" Sirius put his face in his hands. "You could have been killed."
"Killed?" Harry scoffed. "No way… injured, maybe… but it was great. And besides, I'd never take a tumble from such a routine manuev…"
"Routine maneuver?" Sirius moved so fast that he seemed to almost apparate out of his seat, his eyes blazing. "Professional Quidditch players don't even do moves like that… can't do moves like that. And on your old Nimbus… Harry, I taught you better than that."
Harry glanced over to where Remus and Alice were both sitting, their postures revealing their obvious attempts to not witness Padfoot's parental instincts kicking in.
"You pull off some fool-headed move just like the one that nearly cost the Harpies the best Seeker they've recruited in the past three decades during the last World Cup last year during your first game in the position and you call it routine?"
Harry tried to hold it in, but was already shaking his head before the older man had even finished. "I've been doing moves like that for years, Sirius… since my first year at Hogwarts… I can't help it that I'm not the same kid your remember…"
Sirius started to open his mouth, his face flushing with anger, but Remus moved finally, stepping in-between both of them. "Alright. Alright." He shot a look at both of them. "Sirius, you know he's right… everything is different for him now…"
Sirius closed his mouth, his eyes still smoldering.
Harry smiled confidently until his Defense Professor turned to look at him. "But really, Pronglet. That move is seriously considered dangerous… too many people have ended careers early because of stunts like that."
He bit back any response he might have had as he caught Padma's look from across the room, her eyes begging him to relent. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Harry nodded slowly and looked back at the two remaining Marauders. "Fine. I'm sorry. Really."
At Sirius' disbelieving look, Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Things are just different… they are." He smiled at his girlfriend, returning her smile. "I'm getting it. I really am, but on a broom… just me and the sky…"
"He sounds like James." Alice offered from her seat.
"No." Sirius sat back down again. "He loves Quidditch like his father. His love of the sky is all his mother."
"But for the idiocy." Remus grinned. "He gets that from you."
Harry laughed as Sirius rolled his eyes at the insult. "Don't start. I still have that batch of Wolfsbane from third year."
At the gobsmacked look at Moony's face, Harry tried to redirect the conversation. "Okay… guys…" When they looked back at him, he smiled. "As much as 'parental scolding for crazy moves' and 'remembering the good old days' sound like fun, I'm pretty sure you didn't drop by on a Hogsmeade weekend and ruin any promised plans to the lovely and ever forgiving Miss Patil just for that… so… what's up?"
Sirius looked abashed as he turned to nod at Padma, as Alice Longbottom-Lupin moved to catch Harry's attention.
"Based on the information you were able to give us regarding some of the known and supposed goings on within the wizarding community, we've come to find that you were right on nearly ninety-three percent of your hints and tips."
"Really?" Harry was suddenly very interested in what his godfather and his auror partner had to say. "Like what?"
"The diary, to begin with, Mister Potter." Albus Dumbledore took that moment to walk into the door, his blue eyes sparkling. "Forgive my being late." He offered to the room. "But an… unexpected crisis came about regarding one of the professors here at Hogwarts just coming in before I could get here. I felt it important enough to delay my arrival."
Harry smiled. "Please, have a seat, Albus."
He watched as Padma shook her head and rolled her eyes at his familiarity with the Headmaster. Harry just winked at her. Ignoring the byplay, Alice looked at Albus, accepting his nod as the word to continue, and returned to looking at Harry.
"Several investigative and research teams have studied the diary… one even went so far as to begin writing in it." Harry started to violently object, but Neville's mother shook her head. "It was in a completely controlled environment. There were no long-term injuries sustained, but it was decided that it was too dark of an artifact to exist, so it was given to the Department of Mysteries to dispose of."
"The veil." Harry sighed. At the shocked looks from the adults around him, Harry looked gravely at his godfather. "Fifth year. Trap by Voldemort. You died passing through it, remember?"
Sirius shuddered even worse than when Harry had uttered the dark lord's name. "I try to forget every time you tell it."
Alice moved to change the subject. "You were right about Crouch Junior not being in Azkaban. A thorough search of his father's estate revealed nothing as far as if he ever helped in the escape, but the fact remains that he is gone."
Harry took a deep breath. "What does that mean?"
"We're not sure, Harry." Sirius offered. "Needless to say, a full investigation is now under way on when and how it happened, as well as where he might be. He's been moved to a highest priority with the Ministry."
"And the Deatheaters?"
Everyone shared a look. "Other than those on your list that we already had in captivity or that were… taken care of, only two could be found to have any dark dealings in their past strong enough to hold up in court. The rest, we can only watch and hope that they either never do anything again or that we're there to stop them when they do."
"What about the Chamber?"
Albus leaned forward. "I think for the time being we are going to leave the Chamber of Secrets closed. With your assistance, we are going to schedule some time during the summer when the castle is not full of students, to dispose of that loathsome creature."
Harry nodded. He could definitely see the benefit of what the Chief Warlock was suggesting. "So… is that it?"
Alice smiled sadly. "Your… suggestion at where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named could be hiding was a bust. There were signs that someone or something was there for a while, but nothing that could lend to an identity or where they might have gone."
"Bullocks." Harry sighed. "And nothing else?"
Remus stood, his eyes darkening as he looked about the room. Harry felt himself begin to worry as the sometime werewolf began pacing, much like a caged wolf in a zoo might do. "Not all of it, actually." At Harry's look, he watched the older wizard run his hands through his barely graying hair. "We've been going over some of the facts and various hypotheses of what occurred to you at the beginning of term…"
At his words, Harry leaned forward, his heart suddenly beating very fast. From the corner of his eye, he watched as Padma's face lost some color and she started fidgeting. Harry didn't even think about what he was doing as he stood from the table and moved to her, his arms surrounding her.
Together, the two students sat back at the table, Padma in Harry's lap and her hands nearly squeezing the life out of his own as Remus took a breath. "Professor Vector and several very trusted members of the Ministry… specifically in the Mysteries Departments, have been going over the various possible repercussions of the time change."
"Repercussions?" Harry asked. Padma's grip on his hand tightened.
Remus nodded. "If everything had changed as it was supposed to, meaning everyone and everything changed with it, no one feels that there would be any problem. In fact, no one would even realize that there was a problem."
"I don't understand…"
"Harry." Sirius leaned in. "You ,alone, remembering is what is wrong. For even one person to remember is an impossibility of numbers. One doesn't work."
Padma took a breath. "Arithmancy. The numbers don't add up."
Alice nodded. "Exactly. Everyone has been working on this problem for several weeks now, the endless possibilities of changing the fabric of reality is setting off a whirlwind of activity, the next generation of papers submitted in NEWT classes and beyond are going to touch on all of this."
"Not to be rude." Harry interrupted. "But why won't one work?"
"Its inherent singularity." Padma offered. "You're trying to fit the innumerably dimensions of reality, specifically time in this case, into a single frame. It won't work."
Harry shook his head as his head tried to wrap around all of this. "I think we'd have done better with Neville and Hermione on this…" He chuckled at his own joke. "So… if one won't work, what will?"
"There's the problem, Mister Potter." Albus Dumbledore pulled a piece of candy from inside his robe. "There are an infinite number of numbers that would work. Some just aren't feasible."
"Well…" Harry sighed. "Let's go on the idea that whoever did it wanted as few people to know as possible." When he got everyone to nod, he continued. "The person doing it would want to remember, right?"
"I think that's a safe bet."
Harry smiled at Remus. "Well, there would be him and me. That's two. Could two work?"
Harry grimaced at Alice. "Fine. Then what would?"
Albus popped the candy into his mouth. "At the bare minimum… three, though four would be even better."
"Three?" Harry looked around the table confused.
"As in three dimensions." Padma offered. "Just enough to fit in reality. The very bare minimum."
"Okay… so, there's the mystery person that did this. And there's me." At that, Harry looked up. "Why me?"
Alice and Remus both looked at the Headmaster. Albus sighed. "If the reason for the spell was you, Mister Potter, then the spell might have protected you in order to prevent the other numbers normally required for such a shift in reality to be required."
"What?" Harry squinted his eyes. "How about in 'plain speak' this time."
Alice sighed. "If Fudge or whoever decided to attempt this spell to save his job, what was he doing so wrong that he'd dare try it?"
Pulling Padma closer, Harry chewed at his bottom lip. "Well, considering all of the major screw ups he's made regarding the past three years, especially when you decide which mistakes were worse, choosing between me and Voldemort…"
As Harry stopped, his eyes shooting up to the waiting gazes of the others around the table, he felt the air leave his lungs.
"If the number is, in fact three, Harry…" Remus offered into the silence. "And you and… and, well… Him… if the both of you were the reason, then you, the mystery attacker and You-Know-Who all might know that everything has changed."
Closing his eyes, Harry pushed his face into the shoulder of his girlfriend, her arms going immediately around him in comfort, as he felt the tension that had only been a part of the 'Old World' start to fill his whole being again.
"There is, sadly, Mister Potter, another fact that I feel must be brought to your attention." The ancient wizard sighed as he pulled another candy from his robe.
Harry noted that everyone else in the room seemed suddenly wary. "I take it that this was the reason for your delay?" Sirius asked.
Dumbledore nodded. "Professor Trewlaney was struck very violently by prophecy just over an hour ago."
"That old fraud?" Sirius scoffed.
Harry, however, was very interested. "A third one?"
"Third?" Dumbledore's eyebrows shot up. "I am only aware of the one… the prophecy she spoke of your birth and the subsequent defeat of Voldemort."
Shaking his head, Harry frowned. "I guess the second one wouldn't have happened here. Not now. In my third year, she predicted Wormtail's returning to Voldemort's service… an act that led to his restoring him to full power in my fourth year after the Tri-Wizard Tournament."
"I still cannot believe you won the tournament."
Looking at Alice Lupin, Harry shook his head. "The price was too high, the death of Cedric Diggory…"
"Cedric is fine now, Harry." Remus offered. "He works with his dad at the Ministry. Good kid… currently engaged."
"Cho Chang?" Harry asked, but the werewolf shook his head.
"No. Some girl from France that he met at the Tournament, actually. She works now at Gringott's."
Chuckling, Harry leaned back in his chair. "Fleur DeLaCour. Part Veela."
"You would of course remember that, Harry." Padma sniffed, though her eyes sparkled at egging him on. Harry didn't fall for it.
"Anyway." Albus interrupted. "This would be Sybil's second prediction here. I must say, her words this time chilled me just as her last did."
Harry hated the feeling of foreboding that seemed to suck the life from the room. "What did she say this time?" Dumbledore stroked at his long beard, the sparkle suddenly missing from his blue eyes.
"And lo, the light shall meet the dark, the sands of time cannot bar that which is fated to occur. All shall be as either the blackest of night or the brightest of day, when the one triumphs over the other. May the light seek the truth of what has been lost, or it shall be that the dark will seek the lie of what has been found. And lo, the light shall meet the dark…"
A pin could drop at the silence that followed the Headmaster's words. Harry watched as Alice hugged Remus, though the Defense Professor's gaze never left Sirius. He, on the other hand, was staring aghast at Albus… whose gaze never left Harry's eyes.
Harry shrugged. "Well… at least this is something I know about."
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
Dinner was a quiet affair, neither Padma nor Harry in much of a mood to try to capture some last minute time down in Hogsmeade. They had stayed and tried to continue chatting with Sirius and Alice, knowing that the times that Harry could see his godfather and Remus his wife were far and few between during the school year, but their hearts just weren't in it. They quickly made their excuses and were soon alone at the top of the Astronomy Tower, the need to just hold each other until the evening meal nearly overpowering.
They whispered platitudes of affection and comfort in each others ears, their hands each seeking to touch the other, the need for contact and closeness nearly driving them to lose themselves to the moment, though Harry held back to her obvious dismay, his voice soft as he told Padma that he needed her… not just the act of love, but the emotion and power behind it. They shared tears unashamedly, the realization that the perfect world that she had always known and he had only just discovered could be soon over, though neither was able to wish it away as it would only lead to a world without each knowing other.
They had sat together at the far end of the Ravenclaw table, a wall of solitude keeping others at bay, even their closest friends, as they quickly ate and then all but ran from the Great Hall, ignoring the questioning glances and prying eyes that had covertly watched the two lovers.
The corridors were all but empty, students either already in their common rooms or still eating dinner, when Padma tugged at Harry's hand, her eyes dark as she looked at him, her steps determined and with purpose. Harry only widened his eyes slightly when his girlfriend pulled him into a broom closet, her fingers sure as they pulled at Harry's clothing.
"Padma… are you..?"
His words were cut off as the dark haired girl crushed her lips to his, all but forcing her tongue to meet his, as they both began tearing at one another's clothing. She would not be denied a second time. Harry was no longer a virgin, the honor of that milestone now taken twice by the beautiful woman in his arms, once forgotten by him and the second not so long ago, as Harry lost himself in her touches, the pull of her desire sparking his into a conflagration of want and need.
Harry felt himself gasp for air as she moved her mouth from his and bit at his left shoulder, the restraining clothing between them both having finally been removed and their bodies quickly moving together. For a moment, he thought to interrupt… to try and reason with her again, but with sudden clarity, Harry realized that he needed this as much as she… a strong truth that had nothing to do with the threat of other realities or rising evils or anything else.
He nearly cried out as he felt her teeth dig deep into the flesh of his shoulder, his body reacting by moving harder into her, the whimper and groan spurring him on. Padma was claiming him, marking him as hers, just as surely as he had marked her as his so long ago. It didn't matter that he didn't remember, that it was a Harry Potter with different memories. She was his… just as he was now hers.
Too soon, he felt himself losing control, the frantic movements becoming harder and faster. It tore from his lips, almost a growl… almost a cry of surrender, as his heart swelled just as her face came back to his, their eyes locked.
"I love you, Padma."
His declaration sparked that final piece, her mind and heart opening to him fully just as her body had, the glow that seemed to come alive in her eyes as they both fell over the edge, their bodies losing all tension as their hard sought release was finally met.
For his entire life, he had been afraid to say it… to let anyone know how much he wanted love, to know it, to share it with someone. The fear of saying it to Hermione or Ginny, the unknowing cowardice of saying something that might not be returned… an unwanted legacy from being raised in the Dursley household all of his life, a life no longer his.
He suddenly realized that it didn't matter. Padma could tell him nothing, that it wasn't love for her… that it was all a lie. That was inconsequential.
Harry had spoken the truth. He loved her.
"I love you, too, Harry."
In the cramped darkness of the third floor broom closet, Harry felt happier than he could ever remember… the sudden threats of Voldemort coming back into this reality, of the unknown dangers that were coming… to face. Prophecy and destiny demanding his attention all over again. None of it mattered.
He knew the he loved her… and she loved him back.
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
Leaning back in his chair, Harry stretched his arms behind his head and tried to stifle the yawn that he felt ready to escape. A double dose of NEWT level Potions first thing on Monday mornings under Severus Snape was worse than being almost eaten by a basilisk in second year. His mind was drifting as he waited the appropriate fifteen minutes for the Blood Replenishing potion to stew under the flame before he could add the dragon's blood, thoughts of the tears and smiles that he'd shared with Padma last night after his emotional breakthrough. Even after leaving the Great Hall early, he'd still barely made it to the Ravenclaw entrance and back to his own before curfew.
He'd tried to sneak in, thoughts of the roller coaster he'd encountered that day making him loathe to actually talk to anyone else, but fate had other plans. At the portrait's entryway, he'd run afoul of Pavarti, Padma's Gryffindor twin. It never ceased to amaze him how much the two could look alike and yet be so different.
Harry had smiled and moved to pass the girl, but she'd refused. Rolling his eyes, he'd taken the verbal spouting of near obscenities from her as she threatened him once again that he should not hang around her sister, much less date her. It was all he could do not to push the girl's buttons, the thought of telling her just how much he and Padma enjoyed each other's company… but Pavartia wasn't worth it, and he had too much respect and love for her sister.
Eventually, he'd finally walked away and reminded her that she had her own boyfriend (flavor of the week) to attend to… the cruelness of this reality that his own girlfriend was also a prefect, and that to keep her happy he couldn't… wouldn't throw her in detention where she belonged.
He'd grinned as she huffed out through the Fat Lady, turning to go to bed, but was stopped by the next obstacle. Both Ginny and Dean had been there, their knowing looks at his rumpled appearance lending to his blush, not to mention their having apparently been spectators for his exchange of not nice words with Pavarti. They'd both agreed to remain quiet, but the price was a story for each of them about their old lives.
Harry had grinned evilly as he'd decided to tell them one story about the both of them, namely at the scandal that had come about when they'd been caught snogging in an empty classroom by her brother. That had done the trick as both had looked at each other and then back at Harry, their eyes wide and disbelieving.
"W-we dated?" Dean had asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Feeling the need to scandalize them both, Harry had shaken his head. "Who said anything about dating? I think it was after a successful Quidditch game and too many cups of fire whiskey."
At their completely startled stances, each trying to say something and failing miserably, Harry stood up and started whistling 'Weasley is our King' as he made it up to his bed in the seventh year dormitories. After such a revelation, the two had done everything but squeal and run from the room whenever he drew near… a fact that had Hermione, Neville and Padma nearly rolling on the floor in laughter over breakfast the next morning.
Harry brought his arms down instantly and looked at the front of the room to find an infuriated looking Snape glaring at him, his eyes narrowed in obvious distaste.
Snape literally spat. "You potions over the years have left much to be desired in that you believe that you can ignore watching your potion… or is that something else you experienced differently in your history?"
Forcing himself not to roll his eyes, Harry smiled. "No, sir. You've pretty much despised my work in Potions in whatever reality you and I have been in together."
"Twenty Points from Gryffindor for your cheek, Mister Potter." Harry watched as the potions master sneered. "And if your potion is not perfect by the end of the class, I will give you absolutely no credit for today's work."
Big shock, that threat was. Harry only nodded and went back to checking over his notes and watching for the potion to change to the bright orange before the next step. Everything looked normal.
A flicker to his left pulled Harry's attention to the Slytherin side of the room where Draco Malfoy was carefully watching the cauldron in front of him, his movements looking practiced and sure. Harry shook his head… Malfoy actually competent in class rather than squeaking by at Snape's generosity was definitely something that would take time to accept.
The sounds of heavy liquid bubbling from all around, not to mention the soft scratching of quills to parchment created a relaxing atmosphere… especially with very little sleep last night, that Harry felt himself start to drift off again, the memories of his training under Neville to regain his animagus form coming to the forefront.
So far, this new and improved Neville was great. In the short span of four weeks, they'd found that Padma was going to be a cheetah, a fact that Neville had laughed at since the cheetah was probably fast enough to stalk, chase and eventually take down a stag. Padma had shaped her hand like a claw and meowed at Harry, her eyes dancing.
Hermione, on the other side, was going to be a bird of some type, the exact type he couldn't remember. She and Neville had been giddy in their excitement that they would be able to fly together… a chuckle softly escaping from Harry that the two of them hated flying on brooms but could be so happy about flying animgus forms.
The big shock, however, was that Harry's form was no longer a stag as had been the case before the reality shift. He had gone through the long exercises and Revealing Potion to discover that his new form was a heavy wolf… a form that Hermione had squealed at and had wondered if the legends of the old dire wolves of Britain might have inspired somehow.
Neville had grown quiet, his entire demeanor seeming to almost deflate at Harry's excitement. It had taken both Hermione and Padma to explain that nothing proved more that Harry was different now than the fact that his animal form was no longer the same… even more so than that he could call upon a corporeal patronus. Harry had hated that he was powerless to do something to make things better.
"Psst." Harry blinked his eyes rapidly at the hissing sound. "Psst. Harry!"
Looking around, Harry found Hermione gesturing covertly at his cauldron, the color now a bright orange. Chastising himself mentally, he shot his friend a grateful look and quickly began adding the necessary ingredients to insure that he had a chance, no matter how slim, to pass the day's assignment.
There were no more times to lollygag, Harry's eyes flickering over the notes in his text book and copied down from the board at the beginning of class, he finally completed the thirteen counterclockwise stirring and smiled happily as the potion turned blood red. Taking a moment to dip his bottle into the mixture, he quickly capped it and made his way to the front of the room to pass it along to the professor.
As he stood, his gaze moving over to where Hermione had already turned hers in and was cleaning the pot, she smiled.
"Want me to clean your cauldron?"
He shook his head quietly as he made his way to Professor Snape. "Finished, I see, Mister Potter…"
As Harry handed the potion off to the teacher, he sighed as the bottle fell and shattered on the floor. "Oh. My. Clumsy of you, Mister Potter. Seems you will not get credited at all."
"Its okay, Professor." Harry returned, the sudden look of worry on Snape's face at his words. "Since I was running a touch behind, I still have some left over at my desk… I wasn't able to empty anything out yet."
"Well… how… lucky… yes, most lucky of you, Mister Potter." Snape's eyes flashed in suppressed rage. Harry simply smiled as he moved over to grab another bottle and quickly filled it.
"No matter. I've had things like that happen before… somewhere else. Always good to be prepared."
Harry knew that the Potions Professor would understand the emphasis he placed on the words he spoke, that he'd known that Snape would try things like that… that he was ready and prepared. It was a warning, pure and simple.
Ignoring that the older wizard was still livid, Harry carefully placed the second bottle on his desk and smiled as he returned to his work station and began cleaning everything up.
Class was finally called. As the students began pushing their way out of the dungeon and heading up to the Great Hall for lunch, Harry bumped playfully into Hermione. "Thanks again for… well… you know."
The curly headed girl smiled as she smirked playfully. "Well… if you would keep your mind away from scantily clad Ravenclaws…"
"Oh?" He wasn't about to let Hermione get the better of him. "Like you don't daydream about naked Ravenclaws? Or, at least, one male Ravenclaw in particular?"
She at least had the decency to blush. "I thought we agreed to not wanting to know… brother and sister, you remember…"
He nodded magnanimously. "Sure, sure. Just that I wasn't letting you get the last word. I'm thankful for your help in class, but making fun of the woman I love is just not…" His words trailed off as he realized that Hermione was no longer walking next to him.
Turning around in the hallway, ignoring the cross looks from the students having to make their way around him, he moved over to his best friend and quirked an eyebrow. "Are you okay?" He looked around. "What's wrong?"
"The woman you love?"
Knowing that there was no way to stop the creep of red that rose in his cheeks, he quickly looped her arm through his and began escorting her towards lunch. "Yes. Love. I told her last night."
Hermione let out an excited screech and hugged him quickly, her arms pulling him tight against her. Harry had nothing to do but to be dragged along into the embrace, his eyes rolling at the strange looks that people that passed them by were giving.
"Oh, I'm so happy for you… for you both." She pulled back, her eyes wide. "I've got to talk to Padma!"
In what he could only describe as a whirlwind, he found Hermione had released him from her death grip and had hefted her book bag over her shoulder, darting down the hallway towards the Great Hall. Left almost literally in the bookworm's dust, Harry started laughing softly to himself and slowly followed.
Entering into the large room, Harry scanned the crowd of students that were sitting at the four tables, his eyes moving first to the Gryffindor table that was empty of his objective. Moving to the left, his eyes darted along the Ravenclaw students, his eyes finally alighting upon Hermione and Padma, their heads together and both talking rapidly. He ignored the giggles and smiles he could see from here as he slowly made to join the two most important women in his life.
As he drew near, Padma was the first to spot him. He smiled as her face lit up, but felt the nervousness that all men feel when approaching two or more women to find that they'd both suddenly gone quiet and were silently watching his approach. Keeping the smile on his face, he moved over to kiss his girlfriend briefly on the lips and then sat next to her.
"I'm so happy for you both." Hermione repeated. "I am, really."
"Happy about what?" Neville was suddenly there, his actions mirroring Harry's as he shared a light kiss before sitting down.
Hermione smiled beautifully. "Nothing, love. Just happy that everything is going so well."
Neville clearly was unconvinced, but he smiled anyway as he reached over for a sandwich and an apple to put on his plate. "Fine, fine. Whatever. Don't tell me… I'll just suffer in silence."
Harry laughed. Neville playacted having his feelings hurt, winking at Harry when Hermione started fussing over him, the ruse finally falling apart as Neville let slip a chuckle of his own.
"Prat!" Hermione pushed away from her boyfriend, her own lips tugging up into a smile. "See if I care if you ever get your feelings hurt again."
"Enough, you two." Padma fought to distract them between her giggles. "Neville… Harry told me he loved me."
Harry smiled as her hand intertwined with his beneath the table. For his part, Neville never missed a beat. "Well, any daft fool could see that Pronglet was mad about our little Miss Patil." He took a bit of the sandwich, everyone watching him until he swallowed it. "What?"
"About that." Harry leaned closer to Neville. "Think we can come up with another name besides Pronglet?"
"Neville shrugged as he bit into his sandwich. Everyone waited until he swallowed. "I guess we could try cubby or something…"
Everyone smiled as Harry groaned and sank down in his seat.
Padma rolled her eyes. Hermione smacked her boyfriend on the arm as she looked over at the girl sitting across from her and sighed. "Boys."
"Can't live with them…" Padma grinned.
Hermione nodded. "Can't live without them."
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
"You wanted to see me, Alb… I mean, Headmaster?"
The older wizard smiled mischievously as he motioned for Harry to sit. "Please, Mister Potter… Harry… Albus is fine."
Sitting, Harry set his book bag on the floor next to the chair. "Thank you, sir."
"Would you like a lemon sherbet?" At Harry's decline, the Headmaster nodded and set the bowl of candy back on the corner of his desk. "Pity. Well… I am sorry to interrupt your free period, but I felt that you should be made aware of some things."
The door behind Harry suddenly opened. Turning to look, Harry saw that his godfather, Sirius Black, rushed in, his appearance that of someone that was obviously running late. "Sorry, Headmaster. Getting some time away again so soon wasn't easy."
"Of course. Please have a seat."
Harry smiled at the older man as Sirius took the vacant chair to Harry's left. Once situated, they both turned to find the long bearded man watching the two of them intently. The bottom of his stomach seemed to drop and the lunch he'd eaten just a few hours earlier felt like a lead weight as Albus Dumbledore leaned forward, his elbows resting on some papers atop his desk.
"Let me be very frank, gentlemen." He started. "I am only relaying the information that we have concluded is the possible ending to this strange occurrence. I am sure that neither of you will be very pleased with everything that I have to say, but I would prevail upon each of you to wait until I am finished before you jump to conclusions."
"What are you…?"
Albus held up a wizened hand to forestall Sirius from continuing. "Please. I need for the two of you to hear me out."
He waited. Harry looked at Padfoot, his father's best friend in either timeline, and sighed. This wasn't going to be good. He watched as his godfather met his gaze, Harry seeing the same fear in the older man's eyes that Harry knew was in his. They both seemed to silently understand each other as they both turned to the man behind the ornate desk and nodded.
At their agreement, he smiled sadly. "Let me begin by stating what we know. On September first of this year, a time spell of unknown origins caused a… well, flux for lack of a better term, that altered reality for almost everyone on the planet."
Seeing that they remained silent, he continued. "While it was hoped, at first, that this might have simply been something that Harry experienced… a memory charm or hex of some type, things have come to our attention that give full weight and credibility to the idea that Mister Potter is in the right and everyone else is in the wrong…"
"Credibility?" Sirius whispered.
"Yes. Credibility." Albus popped a candy into his mouth. "At the same time that Sybil gave off her second prophecy, every prophet, seer and other divination touched wizard or witch on the planet had a vision… or whatever their specialty for foretelling the future might be. All at once. It was an event never heard of in all of recorded time."
Harry couldn't help it. "All over the world? Prophecies about me?" The very thought was daunting.
The ancient wizard nodded. "Yes… though you were specifically never mentioned, anyone in the know about Voldemort or you or the situation that was created at the beginning of September could easily put two and two together."
"What does that mean?"
Dumbledore silently regarded Sirius. "Reality is threatened. Not just this reality, our reality, but the reality of everything everywhere. The numbers as we spoke of the other day are not adding up… too few are acting as pillars for upholding the current timeline, there is not a strong enough support system to keep everything together."
Harry idly reached over to the headmaster's desk and put a lemon sherbet candy in his mouth, not caring that each was spelled with a mild calming charm. Savoring the taste as well as the magic induced relaxation, he sighed.
"What can we do?"
"And that is the problem, Mister Potter. Harry." The old man smiled. "The immediate solution would be to destroy the cause of the abnormality."
"Destroy?" Sirius' voice was hard, cold. "You mean kill?"
Harry felt his whole body shudder at the thought, but remained calm when Albus shook his head. "No… just the knowledge."
"You mean Obliviate me?"
"No, Harry. Not just you, anyway." The man folded his hands together in front of him. "Anyone that retained knowledge of the original timeline… if, in fact, that is the actual source timeline."
"I don't understand…"
"You see the problem. We have no way of knowing what has occurred and to what degree. For all we can formulate, this is the right timeline and you were shifted to the wrong one and then came back, the memories of the false history overlying atop what is the truth."
Harry laughed, though there was no humor in it. "So… we're screwed no matter what we do."
"No. Not at all." Albus sighed dramatically. "As I said, that is the immediate solution. It has also been offered that if the spell could be redone… recreated, perhaps, then everything would settle down."
Sirius was shaking his head. "Let me take a phase from Harry here and ask for it in plain English, Albus."
"Somehow, Harry and the others... others whom we don not even know for sure who they are, each must be made to fit into this timeline… or… we can try to restore Harry's timeline to be the correct one."
"Absolutely not!" Harry stood from his chair, anger coursing through his entire being. "You can't ask me to go back… to be somewhere where everything is so wrong. This is so much better. Sirius and Remus. Neville. Everything! I can't go back! I won't go back."
His godfather's hand on his wrist brought Harry down from his anger. Closing his eyes, he tried to center himself, to find some type of calm. Sighing, he took several deep breaths until he could think straight again.
"There has to be some other way, Albus." Sirius offered quietly.
The Chief Warlock shrugged. "We can try to fulfill the prophecies… they all call for the same thing. There must be a meeting between the darkness and the light. In this case, we can safely guess that Harry Potter must face Voldemort… let one finally triumph over the other."
"And if Voldemort isn't one of the three or how many ever other people know about the correct timeline? Does that matter?"
Albus shook his head. "Harry can either face off against the forces of darkness, pinning all of this reality's hope for a future on his successfully defeating Voldemort… or we can try to restore some semblance of balance in the timeline."
"You can't ask Harry to fight the darkest wizard to ever live… it's not right." Sirius was shaking his head; worry easily read on his features. "I can't let my son, my family, take on such a monster alone. He destroyed Lily. Killed James. I won't give him the chance to hurt Harry."
"Sirius." The Headmaster sighed. "This may be the only way to…"
"I'll do it." Harry interrupted.
"Pronglet, no." Sirius looked at him with a haunted expression. "You don't know what you're saying.
"I do." Harry smiled sadly at the only parent he'd ever known. "I can do it. I've faced him before… at full strength, back in my own time. I can do this."
"No, Albus." Sirius stood next to Harry, a pained look clearly written in his eyes. "No."
"Yes." Sirius looked at Harry at his words. "I'm doing this. And the sooner the better. I'm stronger here, in better shape. I still have my magic, everything that you and Remus and Albus taught me from my old life. My magic is stronger here."
At his words, the Headmaster nodded.
Harry smiled grimly. "Now is the time for me to do this. He's going to be weak… hurting. He doesn't have my blood… Mum's use of Old Magic should still be in effect. I am at the peak of where I can be right now… he'll be at his weakest ever."
"I don't like this…"
Harry hugged the older man. "I know… but I can't lose you twice. Not after I've finally found you again. Now is the time…"
"But we don't know if you'll win, Harry." Sirius was almost crying. "You can't lose me twice, but I refuse to lose you once. You mean too much to me."
"I know… but that's why I have to do this. I can't let the man… the monster, who took everything ever get the chance to do it again."
"I love you, Pronglet."
Albus watched the scene. Harry wiped at his eyes. "I love you, too."
"You can't do this alone…"
Harry nodded through the tears. "You can't come with me, Padfoot."
Albus stood, drawing both of their attention. "I would be honored, Mister Potter, if you would allow me to take part in this quest."
Sirius' eyes rounded. "Sir. The school?"
Dumbledore smiled. "As Headmaster of Hogwarts, it is my sworn responsibility to guide the youth of the wizarding world in their endeavors for the betterment of all. As Chief Warlock, I am bound to protect that world. I can see no greater fulfillment of each of those duties than what I choose to do today."
Harry watched as the old wizard came around the desk and placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I would be honored to aid you in your quest, Son of James Potter and Lily Evans."
Sighing, Harry looked directly at his mentor and friend. "I accept."
To the side, Sirius sat hard in his chair. "Fine… you're both absolutely nutters. And if you thin for one moment that I'm going to protect either of you when you inform both Minerva and Padma what you're planning, you've got another thing coming."
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
He still marveled at the Great Hall every time he looked upon it. Craning his neck so that his face was turned to the ceiling, Harry felt the gooseflesh run along his arms at the sight, the darkened nighttime sky overhead, the stars shining brightly. Their illumination only bested by the cool whiteness of the half moon in the middle of the ceiling and the multitude of candles suspended effortlessly above the tables. In one word, he could sum it all up: breathtaking.
The pull to walk over to his friends and loved ones, to sit down to Padma and put his arm around her and bask in the warmth and comfort of her presence almost broke him, the idea of finally being in love and to leave being too much to withstand. He hadn't even realized he was moving towards her, when he felt the hand fall on his shoulder, holding him back. Turning his head slightly, Harry could see the miniscule shake of Dumbledore's head, signifying that he had to stay where he was.
They were hidden from view, a Concealment Charm that the Headmaster had cast over each of them. They had taken the coward's way out, neither telling anyone what they intended, choosing instead to leave a note behind. Albus has sent his written explanation to Professor McGonagall. Harry to Padma.
From their vantage, each could see everyone sitting down to dinner, everything appearing normal. Harry watched as Padma and Hermione giggled over something that Neville had said, not a care in the world. He could feel his heart almost break at the occasional looks that Padma gave over her shoulder, the slight worry across her beautiful features whenever she glanced at the entrance of the Hall, looking for him.
The last time they'd spoken, Harry had kissed her and told her that he was off to see the Headmaster, that he'd meet her at dinner. A promise that he was now breaking. Silently, he offered a prayer that she'd forgive him…
"There." Albus whispered silently. Glancing up, Harry watched as Fawkes flamed to life above the head Table, a parchment falling into Minerva's outstretched hand. She had barely enough time to catch the letter before Fawkes vanished into a puff of smoke, only to appear above Padma and drop another into her surprised hands. Neither seemed to notice the phoenix as it shrilled a single note of sadness before vanishing.
Harry couldn't watch. He knew that she'd cry… maybe scream and yell, some attempt at trying to catch him, stop him from what he was setting out to do. Not even waiting to see if the Headmaster followed, Harry blew a kiss towards Padma and then turned to leave the Great Hall, to leave Hogwarts… off to stop a dark lord so that he could stay here in a happier place filled with love.
Their Silenced steps led them to the front door. A lone figure stood there, his dark eyes red from crying, his arms folded across his chest in suppressed fury.
"I can smell you. Both of you." Sirius offered. "You better come back. Both of you. I'll hold the women for as long as I can, but they're going to be rightly pissed… you both better have a victory story for the ages."
"Tell her I love her, Padfoot." Harry offered. At the sound of his voice, Sirius moved his eyes closer to where they were standing. "Tell her that I have to do it… for her, yes… but for everyone else, too."
"I'll tell her, Harry." Sirius sighed. "I promise."
X O X O X O X O X O X O X
By the time this letter reaches you, I will be gone. This is not the way I wanted to say this, but I knew that if I tried to say it to your face, I would have weakened and would never have left your side.
I know that you will probably not fully understand this, and I would never blindly ask you to. I have tried so hard to deny who I am… what my destiny is since my coming to this reality, to this better world, but events have moved beyond anything that I could have ever planned and so, I must finish what my parents set out for me so many years ago.
In the time before you… yes. Before you. Nothing else really matters, but that I have a family to share you with, I was involved in a war where the light and the dark were barely matched. A world where Voldemort was nearly all-powerful and the chances of defeating him grew less likely with every passing moment. Now, here, I have the chance that was denied to me before. Voldemort can be destroyed, the world will never have to know the great destruction that he visited upon any that stood against him.
You will never have to face the horror of classmates dying, of living in fear, of losing family and loved ones.
Headmaster Dumbledore and I go in search of Voldemort. We plan to destroy him before he can do anything to taint this wonderful world where I love you and you love me. I have to go forward and slay the terrible dragon so that I can be with the fair maiden for all time, forever and ever.
That is my plan. I hope… no… pray. I pray that you will forgive me, this time of leaving you. Please know that I would not if there were any other choices worth considering, but that was not to be. If you doubt, please talk to Sirius… he heard the choices that were offered. He will need you without me there.
Tell Neville and Hermione that I love them both. Though I can only remember the stories that I have heard, I can say that Neville has been a great friend… and hopefully, he too, will forgive me for leaving him out of this… I could never take him away from Hermione.
To Hermione, remind her that she was my best friend in both timelines, a fact that proves to me that she and I were meant to be friends no matter how the universe might try to say we shouldn't be. She will need your comfort, just as you will need hers. I trust that you will be strong for one another… strong for me. I need to know that you are safe. That while the Headmaster and I are away, that you three will keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
I love you, Padma Patil.
Know that in the world that I came from and the world that is mine now, that I fight for now, that I have only ever said that to one person… you. You are more special to me than anything I could have ever dreamed or hoped for. You are my reason for fighting and you will be my reason for winning and my reason for coming home.
I love you… and know that it took the threat of you forever being separated from me to force me away from you…
With all that I am, I am forever yours.