(The following story begins in the parallel Earth Hogwarts discovered by Hermione in my fanfic "Walking Through Worlds." For POV shifts, "ALT" refers to characters from the parallel world and "OUR" refers to canon characters)
"I still say the bottomless bag of Bernie Bott's jellybeans would have been a better project."
Pansy Parkinson turned her smooth, angular face up at Ron Weasley. "Of course you'd would, Ron. You think more with your stomach than your brain."
Harry Potter pressed a fist against his mouth. After a few moments he realized the effort was futile and laughed at Pansy's put down.
Ron snorted. "C'mon, Harry. You have to admit this is such a girly project."
Pansy glared at him. Ron ignored her and pressed on. "Security jinxes to keep other people from reading your diary? Like anyone really cares about a shopping spree at Aullmall's Astounding Apparel or favorite sweets or whatever other nonsense girls write about."
"After what happened to Hermione Granger I think it's a very good idea."
"Afraid of a little competition, are we?" Ron grinned.
Pansy's eyes shot invisible daggers at Ron.
Harry grimaced, remembering the mortifying incident when Luna Lovegood read Granger's journal to everyone in the Great Hall. Pansy fumed for the rest of the night. He couldn't understand why. Like he would really dump her and run to Granger because she wrote how she had a crush on him in her stupid journal.
He tried to seek her out the day after, just to say he was sorry for what happened, that he was flattered, but he loved Pansy and nothing would change that.
Every time Harry approached Granger, however, the introverted girl ran off.
Ron thought he was mental trying to talk to, "that flake." He didn't tell Pansy about it, though. He liked breathing too much to do that.
Harry forgot all about Granger when he noticed Ron aim an icy stare across the Great Hall. He followed his gaze to a trio of girls standing smugly around a table. Lovegood, Millicent Bulstrode . . . and Ginny Weasley. Harry frowned. He should have realized bringing up Lovegood's name would make Ron think of his horrid sister.
Ginny must have caught Ron's glare, because she shook her long, flaming red hair arrogantly and deliberately ignored him. Ron grunted and turned away. Harry sighed, thinking of all the grief that wretched girl had put the Weasleys through.
He looked away from the trio of Slytherin girls and gazed around the rest of the Great Hall, the long tables covered with numerous projects for the annual Hogwarts Spell Fair. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sprout, Snape and Trelawney stopped by each project, examining it and talking to the trio of students who created it.
Time passed with agonizing slowness as the professors took their time with each project. Harry slouched and stuck a hand in his trouser pocket, fiddling with the lighter of Blancosflame he used to destroy Voldemort's Wand Supreme two months ago. Playing with it to relieve boredom seemed all it was good for these days. He would have stuffed it in his trunk had it not been for Trelawney's insistence to keep it with him at all times. As usual the Divination teacher never gave him a reason, but since her premonitions proved spot on more often than not, he decided to heed her suggestion.
"Do they look bored?" Pansy nodded nervously at the professors. "They don't seem impressed with any of the projects. Do you think they'll find our project boring?"
"I'm bored just being here." Ron shifted from one foot to the other. "The Spell Fair isn't the same without Fred and George."
"But they never won." Pansy whipped her head toward him, her coiffed dark hair bouncing. "And their stupid projects always cost Gryffindor points."
"True," said Harry. "But at least the Spell Fair was never boring with them around. I'll never forget the one year they came up with the portable swamp."
"Yeah." Ron grinned wide. "Seeing Snape and Trelawney up to their necks in mud was a riot."
Ron and Harry laughed. Pansy sighed and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. She probably still hadn't forgiven Fred and George for costing Gryffindor a hundred points for that one.
The professors stopped at the project next to theirs.
"We call it the Anywhere Window." Hannah Abbott turned to her two fellow Ravenclaws, Marietta Edgecombe and Susan Bones. She picked up a small pane of glass with a swirling white light in the middle. "With it, you can check in on any room, anywhere in Hogwarts. It could come in handy for professors during detention. You can go about business elsewhere in the castle and use this to make sure any student in detention isn't misbehaving while you're gone."
"Kiss up," Pansy mumbled as the elegantly dressed Trelawney beamed proudly at her Ravenclaws.
"Perhaps you can give us a demonstration," Dumbledore insisted.
"Of course, Professor. Let's see . . . why don't we check in on the Ravenclaw Common Room."
Hannah pulled out her wand and tapped the pane three times. "Ravenclaw Common Room. Revealio!"
The swirling light jumped out of the pane. It spun in the air, growing larger by the second. Hannah bounced on the balls of her feet, her sparkling eyes darting between the light and the professors.
The swirling light just hung in the air. Harry saw no sign of the Ravenclaw Common Room.
Ron clasped Harry's shoulder. "Looks like her project's a bu-"
The light shot toward them before Ron could finish his sentence. White filled Harry's vision. A sudden gust of wind nearly knocked him down. Dread burst inside him.
The wind died. The white glare in his eyes faded, replaced by the stone floor of the Great Hall.
"H-H-Harry . . ."
Harry held his breath. He hadn't heard Ron's voice tremble like that since they were twelve.
"Are you guys o . . ." The words trailed off. Harry's jaw fell open.
The Spell Fair projects were gone. The tables in the Great Hall had been put back to normal. Students that had been showing off their projects now sat down to lunch.
"I don't believe it. It's them."
The voice sounded familiar. Harry whirled around, glimpsing the stunned expressions on Ron's and Pansy's faces. He saw the source of the voice, and his body went numb with shock.
He almost didn't recognize her without the glasses and disheveled appearance. But the face . . .
My God. How . . .?
Hermione Granger's wide eyes locked on him.
Harry canted his head. Was it really Granger? She looked . . . she actually looked attractive.
A face suddenly appeared in front of him, a face that made Harry stumble back in shock.
It was . . . him. He stood face-to-face with another Harry Potter.
Voldemort. He couldn't think of any other way to explain this madness. But what would his reasoning for this be?
Harry caught sight of the other astonished faces behind . . . himself. There were exact likenesses of Ron, Lavender Brown, Dean Thomas and . . .
Ginny? Ginny Weasley?
Footsteps clicked rapidly on the stone floor. Slowly, Harry turned.
Professor Dumbledore strode up to him. He blinked, his head snapping from Pansy to Ron to Harry.
"My office . . . now."
Harry couldn't tear his eyes away from the other Harry. Goosepimples sprouted across his arms. His counterpart from another Earth stood less than a meter from him in front of Dumbledore's desk. Thousands of questions raced through his mind during the hurried walk to Dumbledore's office. Was his Sirius Black still alive? Did Voldemort threaten him on his Earth? What was it like to have an Aunt Petunia who actually loved him?
The incredulity of the situation froze his vocal cords. Harry could only gape at the alternate versions of himself, Ron and Pansy the entire way here.
"I can't believe you were actually spying on us."
Pansy's sharp voice brought Harry back to the here and now. He saw her aim her narrow eyes at Hermione.
"I wasn't spying." Hermione placed her arms on her hips and matched Pansy's glare. "As I was telling Professor Dumbledore, I was observing your world. And since most of my observations were done in the Gryffindor Common Room and the Great Hall, which are rather public places, you can hardly call it spying."
Pansy's glare became more pronounced. The alternate Harry and Ron both moved their heads back in surprise. From what Hermione told him about her counterpart, they'd probably never expect such a forceful response from her.
"Be that as it may . . ." Dumbledore held up a hand. "The fact is we have three students who do not belong on our world." He peered over his half-moon glasses at the counterparts. "I assure you, I and the rest of the staff will do everything we can to return you to your Earth. And I'm confident the Dumbledore of your world is doing the same as well. Hopefully one of us will find the answer."
"What about these Diversus Cubes Granger was talking about?" asked the other Harry. "Can't we use them to return home?"
Dumbledore frowned. "Unfortunately, they only open a window to other worlds. You can't actually step through them and become a part of that world."
"I suppose the Hannah Abbott here wouldn't know anything about Anywhere Windows, would she?" The corners of Pansy's mouth curled.
"I have sent Professor Sprout to ask her about it, but while Miss Abbott is a talented student, I do not see her being able to create the sort of spell you spoke of."
"Great!" The other Ron slapped the sides of his legs. "So we're stuck here."
"We will find a way to send you three back. You have my word on that." Dumbledore placed his hands on his desk. "To that end, I am canceling all classes for the rest of the day and ordering all professors to the Great Hall to search for a way to re-open that portal."
"Thank you, Professor." The other Harry bowed his head slightly.
"Don't mention it, Harry." Dumbledore got to his feet. "Now . . ." He looked at Harry, Ron and Hermione. "Why don't you take our guests to the Gryffindor Common Room? They can wait there while we sort all this out."
"Even her?" Ron scrunched up his face and nodded to Pansy.
"I am a Gryffindor, whether you like it or not."
"Yes, Ron. Even her." Dumbledore gave them a brief smile. "I'm sure you can find ways to entertain . . . yourselves." He chuckled softly at his own joke.
They exited Dumbledore's office and walked a few feet before stopping. The six stood in a semi-circle, giving each other incredulous looks.
"This is just too weird." A wide-eyed Ron stared at his counterpart.
"So what do we talk about? Or do you already know everything about us?" Pansy gave a sharp look in Hermione's direction. Hermione responded with a scowl.
"My parents." The other Harry turned to him. "Are they . . . alive?"
Harry bit his lip. He could see the desperate hope in the green eyes of his double. His throat seized up. All Harry could do was shake his head.
The other Harry's eyes dropped to the floor. Pansy squeezed his hand.
"What about Aunt Petunia?"
"She's fine," Harry snorted. "So's Uncle Vernon and Dudley."
"Uncle Vernon and Dudley? Alive?" The other Harry smiled at Pansy. "This is great. I never knew them on my world. Voldemort killed them, the same night he killed Mum and Dad."
The other Harry drew in an expectant breath. "Do you think I could see them?"
"You wouldn't want to."
A perplexed look fell over the other Harry's face. "What do you mean? I have to know what they would have been like if Voldemort hadn't killed them. Please, just for -"
"They don't love you . . . me. They're some of the most wretched people you could ever meet."
"Your Aunt Petunia? Wretched?" The other Ron canted his head. "The same woman who always sends me off to Hogwarts every year with a big box of pastries. Mate, you must be out of your gord."
"You don't want to believe me, fine." His eyes locked on those of his counterpart. "If your Aunt Petunia didn't make you live in a closet, or feed you table scraps or look at you with nothing but contempt in her eyes, then you're luckier than me."
He stormed past the alternate Harry, Ron and Pansy. A wave of jealousy roared through him. Even in a world where Voldemort also killed his parents, at least his counterpart had one true relative who actually loved him. He even had a girlfriend, though it was Pansy Parkinson. But a Pansy much better looking and a hell of a lot more decent than the one on this world.
The thousands of questions he had for his alternate self evaporated. He had no desire to open that door again.
It must have been over an hour before most of the Gryffindors that surrounded them began to drift to other parts of the Common Room. Ron was glad for the respite. Never in his life had he answered so many questions in so short a time. The worst came from the girls. Parvati Patil and Katie Bell seemed obsessed with who was going out with whom on his world.
Half the time Ron had to ask them to repeat their questions. His mind wandered as he gazed around the Common Room. The furniture, the paintings, all seemed the same. But it just didn't feel like his Common Room, not with certain people here and others missing. He couldn't get over not seeing Padma Patil standing next to her twin sister. And how could this be a proper Gryffindor Common Room without the happy-go-luck Ernie MacMillan cracking jokes?
The weirdest part had to be seeing Hermione Granger here. She didn't look like the nutter from his world. She came off much more confident, and not bad looking either.
Ron winced. I actually thought Hermione Granger was good looking?
The worst part came when Lavender entered the Common Room. His heart sped up. He stepped forward, trying to find a way around the crowd to get to her, to take her in his arms and bury his face in her thick hair.
Instead Lavender strode up to the other Ron, whispered something in his ear and dragged him out of the Common Room.
A white hot flame burned in his stomach. Lavender with another man?
Wait. That man is me
Ron shook his head. Was he really jealous of . . . himself?
He groaned. This parallel Earth stuff would surely drive him mental. He prayed Dumbledore, either the one from their world or the one here, would find a way to return them their nice, normal Earth.
"What if we're stuck here?" The color drained from Pansy's face when she asked the question. She stared at both him and Harry, seated in high back chairs in a quiet corner of the Common Room.
"Don't say that," said Ron. "I'm sure someone will find a way to get us back to our world."
"What if they don't? What do we do on this world? Where do we go?" She turned to Harry. "If what that other Harry said is true, would you really want to go live with your Aunt Petunia on this world? And if I'm in . . . Slytherin . . ." Pansy looked liked she was about to become sick. "What must my parents on this world be like?"
She shook her head and looked away from them. Her jaw trembled as she gazed at the other Gryffindors around the Common Room.
"You all right, love?" asked Harry.
"I don't know." She turned back to them. "It's just . . . the whole time they were asking you questions, they ignored me. I know this world is different in some ways, but for people like Parvati and Katie and Seamus and Neville to not say a word to me? I know that other Pansy is in Slytherin . . ." Again she grimaced. "But can I . . . she really be so horrible?"
"Take it easy, Pansy." Ron gave her a dismissive wave. "We'll find a way back to our own world and you won't have to worry about your 'evil twin' again."
"Again, Ron. What if we can't get home?"
His stomach swirled. He didn't want to think about that. He didn't want to imagine he'd never see his family or Lavender again.
"Much as I hate to admit it, Pansy has a point." Harry leaned forward in his chair. "We have to consider the possibility we may be stuck here."
"But we can't be." Ron tried to keep the quiver out of his voice. He didn't want to go back to sounding like the scared eleven-year-old he'd been when he first met Harry and Pansy. "Look, along with not seeing our families, there's also You-Know-Who to deal with. Who's going to stop him if we're stuck in this nutter's version of Hogwarts?"
Harry worked his jaw back and forth. "That is a good point. I don't know. If that's the case, we'll just have to hope Professor Dumbledore or someone from the Order of the Phoenix can pick up where we left off."
"But the prophecy. Your connection to You-Know-Who. You know . . ." Pansy swallowed and forced herself to continue. "You know it has to be you who finally faces him."
"That's going to be rather difficult if I'm stuck here."
Pansy chewed on her lip. "Well, if we can't get back, maybe we can help stop You-Know-Who on this world. I think we should get with the other Harry and Ron and compare notes. See if they've already destroyed the Wand Supreme."
"Good idea, love. We might as well do something useful while we're here."
Ron tried to put on a supportive smile. He had no problem doing whatever he could to fight You-Know-Who. But to help the Harry and company on this world against the Dark Lord made their situation seem so . . . permanent. He didn't want to hear any more talk of being stuck here. He wanted to hear someone come up with a way to return them home.
"Well," Harry started to get up. "Let's go find . . . ourselves."
Ron stood and turned around.
The air stuck in his throat when he saw a flash of long red hair appear near the Common Room entrance. His eyes fixed on the round face it was attached to.
"Okay. Which one is mine and which one is the other one?"
She grinned, actually grinned. Ron didn't think her capable of that.
"That's the other Ron over there." A small boy pointed to him. Colin Creevey he'd identified himself earlier. Ron knew of no one by that name back at his Hogwarts.
The girl strode over to them. Rage surged through Ron.
"Hi, I'm Ginny Weasley. But I guess you know that already."
She beamed and stuck out her hand.
Ron gazed at the outstretched hand, then lifted his eyes to Ginny's face. He ignored the bright, smiling face before him. He could only see the face of betrayal.
"Get away from me."
Ron stormed past her, somehow resisting the temptation to knock her over.
"Ron. She's not . . ."
Ron disappeared through the Fat Lady's portrait before Pansy could finish her sentence.
Ginny, mouth agape, turned in the direction Ron left, then back to her.
Pansy swallowed, having to force up sympathy for the redhead standing before her.
It's not the Ginny we know.
"Um, I'll get him." She looked first to Harry, then to Ginny. Ron's sister gave her a suspicious look. Pansy shook it off and jogged after Ron. She caught up to him near the bottom of the stairwell.
"Ron. Ron, wait!"
"Not now, Pansy." He kept walking.
Ron let her catch up.
"Ron, you know that's not the Ginny we know."
"What, you chased me down just to tell me something I already know?"
"From the way you acted back there, it didn't look that way."
Ron snorted and leaned against the stone wall. "Do you think it's easy, forgetting about the last six years? Forgetting about everything she's put my family through?"
"No, I don't. But just give this Ginny a chance -"
"After what she said to my mum and dad!" Ron pushed himself off the wall and flung his arms out. "How can I forget that?"
"That was your Ginny, not this one."
"I know, dammit! But I can't help it. I look into her face, that Ginny's face, and all I can think of is that day, and how Mum still cries over it. You want to be understanding about it, fine! I can't!"
Ron stormed off. Pansy watched him disappear around a corner. She bit her lip, wondering if she should follow.
She took off after him. Pansy stopped when she rounded the corner and saw a T-junction ahead of her. Which way did he go? She ran to the other end and looked around. No sign of Ron.
"Oi! What are you up to?" She heard Ron's voice echo off the walls.
"Ron?" Pansy hurried to the left. She peeled around the corner and spotted him.
"There you . . ." She skidded to a halt and gasped.
Her eyes fixed on the skinny girl with short black hair and a permanent scowl.
Is that really . . . me?
The other Pansy Parkinson turned to her, the shock on her face doing little to remove her scowl.
Somehow Pansy's eyes examined the rest of the scene. A shiver went up her spine. A girl, so young she had to be a First Year, knelt on all fours at the other Pansy's feet. Tears streaked her face. Another little girl knelt at the feet of a boy with a pinched face and whitish-blond hair.
It was Draco Malfoy.
"So, this is me from that other Earth." The other Pansy sneered at her. "Quite the glamour princess, aren't we? And a Gryffindor of all things. Argh! I can't believe there's another version of me that would associate with the likes of them."
Pansy's mouth moved silently for a few seconds. "What, what are you doing?"
The other Pansy smirked. "Performing our Prefect duties. You probably wouldn't know about that. You look like you'd be more concerned with fixing you hair and putting on your make-up than having a position of responsibility."
"Responsibility my arse." Ron whipped around to Pansy. "You know what they were doing? Making these First Years lick their shoes."
Her body went numb. Her eyes darted between her smirking counterpart and the crying little girl.
"Not that it's any of your business, Weasley," Malfoy hissed. "But these corridors are out of bounds to First Years. This is just appropriate punishment."
"Like hell it is. If you're anything like our Malfoy you probably made up that rule so you and your girlfriend here could torture poor First Years."
Girlfriend? Pansy felt nauseous.
"It's a helpful rule whenever your shoes are a bit scuffed." The other Pansy cackled. Pansy tried to swallow the mounting feeling of disgust.
"You kids get out of here." Ron waved for them to leave.
"You move a muscle and I'll throw you into the darkest dungeon in Hogwarts," Malfoy growled.
Ron pulled out his wand. "Leave them alone!"
Now both Malfoy and Pansy laughed.
"Weasley, put that thing away before you hurt yourself."
Ron shouted. A yellow flash struck Malfoy in the face. He yelped and fell on his arse.
"Draco!" The other Pansy dropped to her knees.
Malfoy's face turned to rubber. His lips and nose dangled all the way down to his chest. His ears drooped past his shoulders. He tried to talk, but all he could produce was incoherent mumbles.
"Draco! Oh, Draco, you poor thing."
Pansy shuddered when she saw her counterpart wrap her arms around Malfoy.
"Go on, you lot." Ron nodded to the girls, who scampered away
"You'll pay for this!" The other Pansy screeched. "Oh, Draco. Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey. Oh, you poor thing."
The other Pansy helped Malfoy to his feet and led him down the corridor. Pansy watched them go, her legs turning to jelly. She put a hand against the wall as her stomach rolled.
"Pansy? You okay?"
She barely heard Ron. Without a word, she turned and walked to the intersection. She turned and fell against the wall. Tears formed in her eyes.
"Pansy? Pansy?" Ron appeared next to her. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Didn't you see her? Me? Is that what I am in this world? Some rat-faced girl who makes First Years lick her shoes? And Malfoy? Can I really be with him? Do I really let him put his filthy hands all over me?"
Pansy rested her head against the wall. "I'm a good person, aren't I, Ron?"
"Of course you are."
"Then how can I do something so despicable like that? What other horrible things do I . . . does she do? I just can't imagine myself being that way."
"Just like I can't imagine my sister being a decent person."
Pansy blinked, feeling tears stick to her eyelashes. She looked at Ron, who gave her a half-smile. She now saw why it was so hard for him to be in the same room with his sister. How could any of them suddenly accept a good Ginny or an evil Pansy?
She sniffled and hugged Ron. "God, I want to go home."
"So do I, Pansy. So do I."