The normally bustling common room was eerily quiet save for the crackling of the fire and the scratching of Hermione's quill on the piece of parchment in front of her. Ron flipped through Quidditch Through the Ages, though he wasn't really reading any of the words on the page. Every few seconds, he would glance up and look at the moody teenager who was sitting by the window and staring at the grounds, clearly lost in thought. There was a pause in the scratching of the quill as Hermione looked at Harry as well. Ron and Hermione's eyes met, the looks of hopelessness matching. Neither one knew what to do to help Harry, but both wanted to help him more than anything. Hermione broke eye contact first and reread what she had just written. She let out a frustrated sigh and scratched out her introduction paragraph, making it the fifth scratched out paragraph on the page. Harry turned around and faced the common room. Ron quickly lost his nose in his book again. Without a word, Harry stood up and left the room.
Once the portrait door swung shut, Ron shut his book and turned to Hermione. "He's probably off to research for his precious war effort again," he said monotonously.
Hermione sighed resignedly, put her quill down, and pursed her lips before meeting Ron's gaze. "Don't say that," she said quietly.
"Why not, it's probably bloody well true, you know as well as I do that he's obsessed with the stupid war… if you want to even call it that. We're not even fighting anyone! All we've got is Dumbledore's word that he's coming back, that he may even be out there now, that he was never gone to begin with…. "
"That seems to be enough for the Death Eaters… they're back you know. They've started killing Muggles again. It was in the paper a while back," Hermione said quietly.
"Okay, let's say for a minute that Dumbledore's right. That he-who-must-not-be-named is back. That he's going to pick up right where he left off when he disappeared when he tried to kill Harry," Ron began calmly. "What would be his first move?"
"To kill Harry because Harry stopped him before. He's got to get rid of anyone's doubts that he can be beaten," Hermione said easily.
"Has anyone ever tried to kill Harry?" Ron asked, rising an eyebrow.
Hermione chewed the tip of her quill as she thought back on their last six years of friendship. "Well… in first year, there was the time when the professors sent everyone to their dormitories. Maybe someone had been trying to get at Harry then?"
"Wasn't that because of a troll, though?" Ron challenged.
"You don't honestly think a troll would break into Hogwarts for pleasure, do you… and succeed?" Hermione asked in a patronizing tone.
"All right, a onetime thing. That doesn't mean anything."
"But what about in second year when your sister used that possessed diary and was kidnapped?" Hermione pressed.
Ron bit his lip as he was forcibly reminded of the single most traumatic experience of his life. He had been so close to losing his sister… had Dumbledore not found her… he shuddered to think what would have happened.
"What if that had been a trap for Harry?" she posed.
"What dolt would use an eleven year old girl as bait to kidnap a twelve year old boy?" Ron laughed. "Besides, Harry didn't even talk to Ginny in second year. I'm not sure he even knew her name. And what about third year. Nothing happened third year," Ron said determinedly.
"No," Hermione allowed. "But fourth year, when Harry competed in the triwizard tournament. What about when Cedric died. How did he die? Maybe someone was trying to kill Harry and missed?"
"Cedric died in an accident in the maze. I'm sure if anything sinister had happened, Dumbledore would have told us. And if not Dumbledore, Harry would have told us if you-know-who had been in the maze." Ron reasoned. "And when did you start sounding like me with all these crazy ideas and make me be the reasonable one?"
"All I'm saying is that maybe Harry's got a point and we should start looking into helping the war effort. After all, next year it'll be our problem too."
"What war effort, Hermione? Dumbledore's the only one out there saying anything!" Ron yelled. "The Prophet thinks he's off his rocker, and I don't see anyone stepping up to defend him either."
"Dumbledore's too good to be off his rocker. He must be telling the truth," Hermione said, unwilling to believe that the wizened wizard was losing his senses.
"I still don't trust that bloke walking around as Harry. Harry would have flown a heck of a lot better than that bloke did the other day."
"Ron! He just fell 50 feet!"
"Well what's with the sudden he-who-must-not-be-named obsession then? Wouldn't you think he'd just be glad to be alive and live a nice safe life?"
"He said he learned stuff from his dream," Hermione defended.
"And when exactly did you become a defender of divination. Last I knew you walked out on divination claiming it to be a load of dung. And if he remembers everything like he says he does , shouldn't he realize his dream was just a dream and that it has nothing to do with the real world?"
"I just can't bring myself to not trust him. He's Harry for crying out loud!"
"Well, maybe we should reconsider that. He's not the Harry we know."
"And why on earth would anyone want to impersonate Harry?" Hermione asked, throwing her hands up in the air.
"Well, this Harry's been trying to be real chummy with Dumbledore and talk about the 'war' effort," Ron began. "Maybe Harry was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and some Death Eaters decided to use Harry to get to Dumbledore to find out what he knows."
"I thought you thought Dumbledore was off his rocker for believing you-know-who is back," Hermione challenged.
"I'm just saying!" Ron yelled.
"And I'm just saying-" Hermione said, interrupting Ron. "-that we ought to try and help Harry. He's confused now. He thinks this war-effort thing is the most important thing in the world, but no one's helping him. No one is supporting him. Maybe what he needs right now are a couple of friends." Hermione held up her hand when Ron opened his mouth to speak. "We don't have to believe what he believes, but we need to be his friends like we always have been: through the scar hurting, through the unfair detentions from Snape, through the Triwizard tournament, through it all. And maybe, he doesn't remember everything. Maybe he's still confused from his dream, and if that's the case, then he needs his friends, us, to help him remember what the real world is like, remind him that he doesn't need to fight. That there's really nothing to even fight."
"What if we got some veritaseum and slipped it into his pumpkin juice, just to check," Ron said, still doubtful.
"Ron," Hermione began in a warning tone.
Ron picked up his book again. "Forget I said anything. We'll try it your way… though you don't have to share a room with the bloke. Do you have any idea how creepy it is to change in front of a bloke that you feel like is a complete stranger to you?"
"He's your best mate… he's just a little confused about reality," Hermione said calmly.
"Whatever," Ron said, not entirely confident in Hermione's statement. Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but Ron clearly ended the conversation by picking up his book again and sticking his nose in it. The corner of Hermione's mouth twitched as she recognized her own method of getting people to leave her alone.
Harry watched the stones of the floor pass by as his feet moved wherever they pleased. He didn't know where he was going, but that didn't really bother him. What bothered him was he didn't know where he was. He knew he was at Hogwarts… but was it real? Could he dare to let himself believe that his parents were alive, that people weren't dying every day? He thought back to his dream, to the losses he had felt in his dream that were suddenly gone: his parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, Moody, innocence, happiness, Hedwig, friends, the chance at a normal life. Could he just accept the lack of these losses? What was the worst that could happen if he didn't? He would lose them all over again. He'd push them away until they were as good as gone. And if he did? He would make everything worse for everyone and be the reason Voldemort wins and everyone lives in oppression under him. Harry chewed his lip and thought. The idea of living like a normal 17 year old wizard was highly appealing. His parents were more than willing to keep him in the dark regarding the war; he could easily go with it. But then he would be responsible for the so many innocent deaths he knew either had happened or would happen. After all, wasn't knowing something was going to happen and letting it happen just as bad as causing it to happen in the first place? Harry looked up from his feet and realized he was standing just inside the doors to the grounds. He looked at the bright blue sky and decided to try the flying thing again. He felt the wonderful freedom flying always offered him calling to him. As he felt this familiar longing, the longing to have the wind blowing his cares away for a few exciting moments of Quidditch, Harry decided that it really didn't matter if he had just woken up from a dream or if he was in the middle of a dream. The risks were too high, there were too many consequences if he chose to ignore the war. He would have to fight. He would appeal to Dumbledore and his parents one more time. And if they didn't agree to let him fight, he would do it by himself.
Harry began to draw up a speech to present to Dumbledore and his parents to convince them that he needed to be a part of the war effort. Just as he was finishing, he reached the broom cupboard. He opened it and pulled out his Firebolt. His recent decision that it really didn't matter if he actually had fallen in a Quidditch game or shot with a curse left his hands steady. His mind felt as at ease as it could be during the war. He had much bigger concerns than his fear of flying. He thought back to his crash on Hagrid's flying motorcycle in the other possible reality... Sirius' motorcycle. That hadn't shaken him up in the least; a few laps around the Quidditch pitch should hardly bother him. Harry mounted his broom and kicked off from the ground. A certain sense of freedom flooded his body as he rose higher and higher. He didn't feel bound by his fears. He didn't feel bound by his inability to determine which of his worlds was the real one. It didn't matter. Wherever he was, whatever state of mind he was in, there was a war going on against the dark side and he had to help, he was a key component. Whether he was awake or dreaming, he was going to fight. Harry never thought that an acceptance of ignorance could feel so wonderful, but it mixed with the wind whipping in his unruly hair put a smile on his face, a smile he hadn't felt since he had "woken up."
Pet walked onto the pitch with her broom over her shoulder. She couldn't stand one more minute of studying and had decided to fly for a bit to relax her mind. She saw someone already flying above the pitch and was about to turn around, bitter for someone choosing to fly when she wanted to fly, when she recognized the black haired, bespectacled boy on a shiny new broom. "Harry," she whispered, a grin quickly taking over her face. She quickly rushed to the ball storage and pulled out a Quaffel. Not even bothering to get back to the pitch, Pet hopped on her broom and kicked off the ground. She got close enough to her brother to throw the ball to him, but far enough away that he clearly had yet to recognize her presence. "Think fast," she yelled at him as she threw the ball in his direction. Harry instinctively pulled out his wand and shot a disarming spell. Pet's jaw dropped as her wand that had been safely stowed in her pocket went flying through the air. Harry and Pet reacted at about the same time to the falling objects.
Harry mentally berated himself for reacting the way he had. Even if this was the world where I'm in the war, Lupin would not have appreciated me using the disarming spell over something else, he told himself as he went into a dive to catch the Quaffel. He grabbed the ball out of the air and pulled up and watched as his sister dove for her wand. She was clearly not a diver like he was. She slowed her descent long before she reached the ground and had to dismount her broom in order to pick up her wand. She quickly kicked off again and regained her original height. Harry gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry about that," he mumbled.
"I don't know, I might I have a heart-attack. You're flying, you're speaking to me, AND you're almost smiling... what happened?" Pet asked as Harry tossed the Quaffel to her.
"If I told you, I'd have to kill you," Harry said with a straight face. Pet stared at him with a slack jaw, unsure or unable to react. "Kidding!" Harry said, lifting his hands off his broom and holding them in a defensive position.
"A joke? AND your hands are off your broom?? I don't know if I can handle this!" Pet laughed. The siblings passed the ball back and forth a few times in silence before Pet broke it hesitantly: "So what actually happened? Why the sudden change from the moody boy that's been hanging around?"
"I have not been moody!" he cried.
Pet raised her eyebrow. "Oh yeah? You do realize that everyone has noticed that you're different than you used to be? And not just you ridiculous moodiness. You're bloody well afraid of flying!" Pet cried exasperatedly.
"Who says I'm afraid of flying?" Harry said indignantly.
"Umm... anyone that watched the last match?" Pet asked sarcastically as she did a quick imitation of his hesitant motions and slow flying from the last match.
"Except I'm flying now! If I was scared of flying, would I be here right now?" Harry challenged.
"Which brings me back to my original question. What changed? I still wouldn't say you're yourself, but you're certainly different than the Harry that woke up from the coma." Pet's smile slid off her face as his eyes darkened.
Harry bit the corner of his lip before opening his mouth. "Promise not to tell?" he asked, deciding he could trust her. Pet nodded her head. "I finally decided that it doesn't matter if I just came out of a dream or if I just fell into a dream. I have to stop Voldemort. The consequences if I decide wrong are way too much."
"Oh." Pet didn't know what else to say.
Harry watched as disappointment filled her eyes and her face fell.
"You don't really remember anything, do you?" Pet asked, almost not wanting to know the answer. Harry merely shook his head in response. Pet looked even more disappointed and hung her head a little. "I was afraid of that," she whispered. She hadn't meant for Harry to hear, but he had.
"I'm sorry I had to lie to everyone, but I'm not sure I even have memories to regain, and I didn't want to waste anymore time hanging around... home. With... Mum... being so fragile."
"Waste time?! If I remember correctly, in your dream Mum and Dad weren't even alive! I would think you'd want to spend as much time as you can with them!"
"I do... and the time with them was incredible... but Voldemort's out there. And if I let him regain power, then days with them may be limited, and they certainly won't be happy days."
"Harry, you don't have to fight this war! Mum and Dad are working with Dumbledore to stop it before it starts, and they don't want you fighting."
Harry's ears perked a little at this tidbit of news. "Mum and Dad are working with Dumbledore?" he questioned.
Harry knew from the look in Pet's eyes that she regretted saying that. "...yes," she finally answered.
"What are they doing? Who else is working with them? How long has this been going on? What do they know? How do you know this?" Harry quickly questioned.
"First of all... I know this thanks to Mum and Dad slipping up a few times and forgetting I was within hearing distance. And I don't really know anything beyond the fact that there's a group of them that meets sometimes about the war, but Mum or Dad always stayed home with us."
"The Order," Harry said happily.
"The Order?" Pet asked.
"Yeah... well, at least in my... dream... it was a group of people that were resisting Voldemort. They fought him during his first rise to power, and they regrouped and did their best to fight him during his second rise to power... but in the end, they just did what they could to help me reach the point where I could defeat him."
"Why did you have to defeat him?"
"It has something to do with our destiny. I don't totally understand it myself, but the prophecy says that we have to fight each other." Harry chewed on his lip for a minute before continuing. "Pet, would you be willing to help me?"
"In what way?" she asked warily.
"Tell me stories. Give me some memories so that I can continue pretending to have all of my memory back. And if it comes to it and you'd be willing, would you help me convince Mum and Dad to let me help with the fight? Would you tell me what you know about what they've been up to? But you have to promise not to tell anyone anything, at all."
Harry and Pet looked at each other for a minute, forgetting that they had been passing the ball back and forth. Harry's eyes were pleading. If he had any chance of helping with the war effort, he had to make them believe he was 100% back to himself, and in the end, he'd need all the help he could get. In his dream he had needed Ron and Hermione, but he might not have them this time around. Pet's eyes held a lot of conflict. She wanted to help her brother, she really did. But she didn't want him fighting in this war, it was too dangerous. She didn't want to lose him. Nor did she particularly like the idea of allowing him to continue denying the fact that he had just woke up from a dream. She wanted him to be back to normal, not because he was acting off of stories she told him, but because he really did remember everything and because he accepted that he was in the real world now.
Pet opened and closed her mouth a few times, increasing the tension in the air before she quietly whispered into the air. "Okay." At first she wasn't sure Harry heard her since he didn't react at all. She half-considered changing her mind, but before she could, a wide grin spread across Harry's face and his eyes lit up.
Pet looked at her brother and decided that she would do anything she could to help him. He seemed much happier, more relaxed than he had ever been since he woke up and she would do anything she could to keep him that way. Pet and Harry went back to tossing the Quaffel between them, Pet relating whatever stories popped into her mind until it became too dark for them to see.
AN: All right, sorry for the long wait guys, but there was school and then the holidays and all that such. This actually doesn't cover everything I was going to include in chapter 9, but it was getting long and I decided this worked… and it gives me somewhere to start with chapter 10. Again, I apologize for the long wait, and any issues there are with continuity in my story and if I've lost the voices of the characters from Rowling's books. I'm currently re-reading DH so that I can pick up on some stuff again. As I read, I plan on picking a point in the story where I break off from the main story line and jump into my own because this obviously can't happen after the end of DH. Haha. I will let you guys know when I find that point.
Thanks for all your patience and I hope it was worth the wait for you.