For the record – I'm not Rowling, I don't own Harry Potter, etc. I'm not making money at this. And parseltongue is in italics.
Chapter 38 – The Black Sheep of the Family
Harry stood on the dock facing the distant island of Azkaban. His hand, grasping his wife's in sweaty nervousness, was trembling slightly. Albus had fought the Wizengamot and Minister of Magic for three years now, and finally got the authority to give Sirius Black a true and fair trial.
"It will be all right, hon" Ginny whispered to Harry. She shivered, despite wanting to put up a strong front for her husband's sake. The chill of the dementors reached out for miles – even to where they were standing.
The Boy-Who-Lived nodded. Padfoot had been in Azkaban only seven years – five less than 'his' Sirius, so the damage should not be as severe. But Harry was a person who was used to things going wrong, and couldn't help but feel fear and dread – and not just because of the effect of the dementors.
"Why did it take so long, Gin?" he growled in frustration. "Three whole years? If Tipton was in the attic I would have done it my way, no matter what Albus and Minerva said."
She shook her head in partial agreement. Friendly aurors stood with the couple, giving them some space for privacy. The Potters (in disguise and unknown), were here by the express permission of the Head of the Wizengamot, so they were given all due courtesy. Ginny glanced at them with a sigh. "You know I agree with Albus on this." Dropping her voice to a low whisper, she continued. "Albus went though great pains to adopt Albert legally with no loose ends. Let's do this the legal way too."
"The boat is coming, sir, madam," a young auror interrupted, pointing out to sea. Harry and Ginny craned their necks, shading eager eyes with their hands. A few long, torturous minutes later and the small vessel reached their shore. The young wizard's face turned pale as he looked frantically for his godfather. Two disheveled and grim looking aurors were standing, looking disgusted and guilty in turns.
"Where is he?" Ginny and Harry asked in unison, standing on tiptoes. Their faces echoed matching expressions of fear and dread.
There, in the bottom of the boat lay a pile of rags barely covering a human shape. One of the aurors poked it with his toe and shrugged. "Sirius Black here – don't know why you want 'im though." The pile giggled insanely and rolled over. Drool ran down the filthy face, and eyes were glazed with madness. Harry and Ginny gaped in shock. There was no doubt – this Padfoot had not survived the dementor's ravages.
Back at the orphanage, the changes in Dudley were slow at first. He grew sneakier, smarter, and nastier. The children in the orphanage used to avoid him because he was a bully, violent, and not very fun to play with. Now they kept away from him because of the fear he invoked. Strange things would happen to kids that didn't let him have his way, or upset him in the slightest.
The minders at first didn't believe the children. They thought their accusations were exaggerating, saying anything they could in an attempt to put the beast in his place. But they weren't so sure themselves now. Anyone who crossed the Dursley boy would end up with painful boils, slipping and hurting themselves, or finding treasured possessions destroyed. And the sneaky, satisfied smile the boy would give – it was just plain evil.
It was late spring, and Dudley was seven years old. School, for the first time in his life, was boring, and not because he didn't want to do it. Tom stayed in his shirt pocket and whispered the answers, and explained his lessons to him. He showed the boy that learning could be pretty interesting at times. So his second year of grade school was too easy for the lad, having a private tutor like he did.
It was after school, and Dudley was in his favorite hiding place – under a large bush in the back garden, far away from the other children and nosey adults. Few ever overheard his hissing conversations with his secret pet – when they did, they would chalk it up to the boy being crazy. "Sssso, Tom" he whispered to his snake, "how'd you like me making that ssssstupid girl break out in zits like that?"
"Ssssubtle," the snake nodded with approval. "Making Billy trip last week was too obvioussss. You don't want people to undersssstand how sssspecial you are, Dudley."
"I ssstill missss mummy and daddy," the boy hissed in an abrupt change of topic. "Thingsss are better with you here, Tom. But I hate having to work for my ssssweetssss. And why ssshould I have to forcccce these morons to sssee how much better I am than they? Mummy and daddy undersssstood."
Tom gave an inward sigh. Stroking this young, spoiled brat's ego was tiresome at best, but until the child was willing to share his body, he was stuck convincing the odious boy he was his best friend. Thankfully Dudley didn't wait for an answer, but rolled onto his pudgy back and gazed at the blue sky through the branches of the bush. "My life was ruined becausssse of that sssstupid freak. Mummy and daddy were right – he just wanted to dessstroy our home."
"You have mentioned him before, massster," the snake groveled verbally. "Wasss he your brother? Why do you call him a freak?"
"Brother?" Dudley burst out in nasty laughter. "Naw. Potter wassss my cousssssin. Dunno why he was a freak – he was ssssscrawny, wimpy – just freaky. Mummy and daddy called him that. He didn't even know his real name I think! I overheard mummy ssssay that was hissss name to the doctor once."
"Potter?!!" The snake swung his head around and stared hard at Dudley – not that the boy noticed it. "What did thisssss boy look like?"
The child gave a disinterested shrug, while absentmindedly shredding a leaf. "Not handssssome like me. Sssskinny, dark messssy hair, sssstupid green eyessss. He had this really ugly sssscar on his head."
Tom wanted to bite the moron of a boy he stayed with, but calmed his temper with effort. "Why did your coussssin live with you? Did your parentssss want him there? He ssssoundsss like he ruined everything."
"Hisss parentssss died drunk driving mummy told him. Nobody wanted a freak, sssssso the policcce left him on our doorssstep, caussse they didn't want to bother good people like ussss with ringing the doorbell." Dudley gave his snake a dirty look. "I don't want to talk about the Freak anymore. Becaussse of him they took my mummy and daddy away! The policcce ssssaid ssssomething about 'abusssse' and trying to murder. Jussst becausssse they hit him a few timessss."
The small serpent was quiet as he pondered what Dudley just told him. So Harry Potter survived his killing curse, and somehow reflected it back to his own self. Obviously one of Dursley's parents was the sibling to Lily Potter – probably a squib. Where did Harry Potter end up? He turned his attention back to the obese brat who was pouting and frowning. "It sssounds like the Freak did ruin your life, Dudley. I think we sssshould get revenge, don't you?"
Sirius Black had barely enough sanity left for St. Mungos to extract pensieve memories of the fateful night of October 31st. Although the ex-prisoner was not fit to stand trial, the memories were enough to pardon the man and put the warrant out for Pettigrew. The Wizengamot decided the Ministry would pay for his care in St. Mungo's mentally disabled clinic.
So Albert's godfather was free, but it wasn't much of a victory. Harry visited twice, but the guilt he suffered after each session was just too costly. Ginny held him, cried with him and listened to him, but mostly she ached for Harry. Marriage has its seasons, and this was a time of serving her husband as a crutch. She held him up as is heart tried to crumble.
"I don't get it, Gin," Harry sighed one morning as they sat to a quiet breakfast. "Why do I feel this so deeply? I know my Sirius is fine back with Harold. I understand this wasn't my fault. I've dealt with the outright death of several Sirius' now, including my own – as far as I understood at the time. Why can't I get over this?"
The red-haired woman watched her husband's face with gentle fondness. It had been several months since that fateful trip to Azkaban's shores, and the healing was slow – but it was happening. "Harry – you love little Albert. You wanted him to enjoy his Godfather as much as you enjoyed yours – or wanted to." A slow sympathetic tear made its way down her cheek, and he reached out to wipe it away with a weak but grateful smile. "Hold little Albert all the closer, but perhaps it is time to move on, my love."
Green eyes blazed with understanding and acceptance. He couldn't save everyone. He couldn't always prevent the death or destruction of every world's Sirius Black. But he could protect the young charge in his care for this moment, he could learn more from this Albus Dumbledore, and he rejoiced in the realization he had the perfect soul-mate for a wife. His kiss would have to express what he was feeling – words were not adequate.
"Now, Albert and Harry, my boys," Albus directed, with fondness in his voice, "look into my eyes, relax and trust me."
The young wizards took a deep breath in unison. Trust did not come naturally to Harry. But he needed to break down the barriers imposed by his harsh upbringing for his training, and for his relationship with his wife. Albert, to Harry's grateful surprise, barely remembered the Dursleys already. Trust came easily to the lad. Two pair of green eyes penetrated into sparkling blue.
It was like falling into a well – down, down, deeply down. Harry and Albert found themselves sitting on a surface – floor? Albus was sitting next to them. Where ever they were, it was pitch black – the only light came from the three wizards – a soft, yellow glow.
"We are sharing thoughts in my mind" the headmaster smiled warmly as the young wizards looked around. "This will make it much easier to see what I am going to teach you. I am going to perform a wandless luminos – watch what happens to my magic."
Harry watched in amazement. When the spell was cast he could see ribbons of light, starting at Albus' chest and weaving their way down his arm. They danced, and raced and interwove in beautiful patterns, until they finally rested in the palm of the man's wrinkled hand, glowing in a lovely globe of soft-white light. Albus looked up and smiled broadly at the boy.
"Why did it take so long? And do you see that every time you perform a spell?" Harry blinked a few times, then scrutinized the chest area of his teacher.
"I think it's pretty!" Albert crowed, staring at his own lightless hand expectantly.
Albus chuckled with joy at Harry's interest and Albert's enthusiasm. "I slowed time down for you so you could see what was happening. And no – I do not see magic all the time – it is something you must be in a meditative state to see. Relax, clear your mind, and then look at my torso. Call for my magic – you should be able to see it now that you know what to look for."
"Whoa – can you see it, Uncle Harry?" Albert marveled, looking inward at his own chest. Colored ribbons of magic slowly danced in a graceful ballet, never stopping, but spiraling and interweaving.
"Yes, Albert," Harry answered, his telepathic voice tinged with awe. "I wonder if ours are identical?" He gazed at his own chest with curiosity.
Albert knew that 'Uncle Harry' was in fact, himself, though it didn't make a whole lot of sense. The young boy scrunched his closed eyes in concentration, examining Harry too.
The Boy-Who-Lived found himself gawking at all three of their cores, one at a time. His own was lovely, sparkling and glowing golds with flashes of every color in the rainbow. Albert's colors were identical to his own, but the number of branching off ribbons and the complication of the weave was far more simple than his. The last, Albus', was primarily royal purple, with lavender and gold high lights. It was tightly wound with feathery tendrils coming off, and the movements again showed control and precision.
"I think you boys can try it yourselves" Albus' eyes twinkled even in the created world of their minds. "watch your cores and try to duplicate what mine did."
Frowning, tongue poked out with concentration, Albert pushed the tendrils of golden magic down his arm slowly. It took awhile, but he was eventually rewarded with a ball of light sitting in his hand. He looked up grinning widely to see his 'uncle' had accomplished it too at the same time.
Harry returned the grin and looked quizzically at Albus. "So we can theoretically do any magic by simply watching our core when we perform a spell with a wand, and then duplicate the pattern of the magic?"
"That's right!" the ancient beamed at them. "Personally, I use a wand simply for show, or if I know I'm going to battle. Your wand makes the focusing easier, and drains less of your magic. If you need to do magic for long periods of time, such as fighting, use the wand. And keep your wand on you at all times, no matter what your level of wandless talent, so your enemies don't know your ability."
Albert grinned mischievously. "All right! No more fear of underage magic violations – no wand, no tracking!"
Albus and Harry opened their mouths in unison, ready to launch into join lectures about the hazards of youths getting into trouble with magic unsupervised. But looking at the huge teasing smile on their charges' face silenced their concerns, and they returned the grin with mirth.
"I tell you, Dudley," the snake whispered with a silky, soothing manner, "there is a whole world full of ssssspecial people like yourssssself I can take you to. A world where everyone is sssssspecial like you. With my help, you can be the ssssstrongessssst of all. I can make you powerful."
The fat boy was reclining under the bush in the back garden, absentmindedly shoveling a box of cookies he had stolen from a kid's locker at school down his throat. Chewing with his mouth open, spitting crumbs everywhere, he squinted his beady eyes at his pet in disbelief. Ever since telling Tom about his childhood, what he could remember of it at least, the snake had been rather bossy and pushy.
"Here nobody is ssssspecial but me" Dudley pointed out. "I can be in charge and make everyone do what I want. Why ssssshould I go live with a ton of freaksssss?"
Tom kept himself from rolling his eyes with super-human effort. "Although it issss good to be a big fisssssh in a sssssmall pond, it is even better to be a big fissssh in a bigger pond," he replied, congratulating himself on such a witty comparison.
"Why would I want to be a fisssssh?" Dudley gaped at him stupidly, pasty remains of cookie clearly viewable on his tongue. "I though you sssssaid I was a wizard!"
"Ssssshut up and lisssssten to me!" Tom snapped impatiently. "You are a wizard. You can be the bessssst wizard in the world!"
Dudley Dursley was never the kind of child to take kindly to orders. He took Tom out of his shirt pocket and threw him across the yard in fury. "I'm ssssick of your bosssssinessss, Tom. Go away. I don't need you to be the besssst – here I AM the bessst." He folded his arms across his chest and turned his back, not bothering to see if his pet was injured.
Tom narrowed his eyes in fury at the brat, who was ignoring him. How dare he dismiss him – the most powerful wizard that ever lived? Why, oh why had fate led him here – to this spoiled terror of a mix blood? If only he could find another wizard to use. But the Dursley brat was all he had, so he had to make it work.
"I'm sssssorry, masssster," he groveled, coming closer to the bush, but staying well out of reach. "I wassss wrong to sssspeak thussssly to you." By the stiffening of Dudley's back Tom could tell he was listening, so he continued. "Don't you want to make the freak pay for what he did to you? Don't you want to find your parentssss? If you trussst me we can do both. In the magical world I know a houssssse that is empty – you can have it for your very own."
Dudley turned and looked at him, listening intently now. "In this housssse you will be king. I know where a magic wand issssss hidden – it will make you even more powerful, even sssstronger," Tom continued seductively. "When I wasss there, I ssssaw a room with pilessss of gold in it. You could buy much candy with all that money. Your Mummy and Daddy will be sssso proud when we find them."
"I guesssss that ssssounds all right," Dudley agreed reluctantly, drooling at the thought of all the candy in his future. He glared at Tom, shaking his fat fist at the snake. "But I'm in charge. I'm the sssmart one. I'm the sssstrong one. You need me. I will NOT be told what to do by a sssstupid ssssanke."
"Yesssss, masssster," the reptile nodded subserviently. "You are the bossssss." If snakes could smile, Dudley would have been scared. But the young Dursley was anything but bright, and he was easily fooled into thinking he had put his pet in its place. If reptiles' faces could show emotions, the boy would have run for his life and not looked back.
Zippy walked into the masculine den of Potter Manor and stood, shocked and speechless, at the display before him. Harry was slumped limply in an overstuffed chair, as he threw a butterbeer bottle against the far wall, and watched it smash. Then he casually gestured with silent, wandless magic and repair the bottle, summoned it to his hand, and repeated the process again. And again.
The elf frowned looking at the collection of empty bottles. Although butterbeer was much like the muggle root beer – not a beer and not alcoholic to wizards in the least – it was very intoxicating to house elves. And ever since Harry spent time as an elf, butterbeer was quite intoxicating to him. "Is there a problem, Harry?" he asked cautiously.
"Nope. Everything is hunkey-dorey" the Boy-Who-Lived slurred with a giggle. SMASH! The bottle broke yet again against the far wall. "Peachy-keen. Fine as frog's hair. Couldn't be better."
With a snap of the fingers Zippy vanished all the bottles – broken and whole. Another hand motion and the elf summoned a sobering potion, which he thrust at Harry in a no-nonsense manner. The young man shrugged, accepted it and downed it in one gulp. Tapping his foot impatiently, he watched Harry stiffen and regain his control as it took effect. "Ready to tell me what is wrong now, Harry?" Zippy asked in a 'take no prisoners' tone of voice.
"Sorry about that," Harry muttered sheepishly, running his fingers through his hair. With a snap of his fingers the wizard summoned tea and biscuits from the kitchen with his elf magic skills, and slumped back in the chair, eyeing his friend over with a lost expression. "I guess I was throwing a pity party. I mean I've been traveling for years now, and what have I accomplished? Am I really any closer to destroying my Voldemort?"
The elf looked at him dumbfounded. "What have you accomplished?" he sputtered. "Ok, Harry – we will spell it out for you." Ticking off on his fingers, Zippy started the list.
"Before leaving your world, you found out Dumbledore was an enemy, you unblocked your magical core, and you made your wand untraceable." Harry shrugged non-commitally – he didn't feel like he personally did any of those things. Those were honestly Snape's accomplishments, not his own.
"In Harold's world," the elf continued, shooting him a frown, "you learned about Potter Manor, learned how to do silent casting of your spells, perfected your occlumency, and perfected your potions skill. May I also remind you about becoming an animagus, finding the Bond Terminator potion, and learning about the Innocents."
Zippy had Harry's attention at this point at least. The wizard was sitting up straighter and listening, desperately looking for a reason to feel progress.
"In HJ's world you found Uncle Archie" the elf gestured over the fireplace where they had hung the portrait since the trunk wasn't being used for the time being. "Archibald Potter gives you a sense of consistency and is a good moral compass for your hectic life." Harry nodded in agreement, giving the man in the painting a smile of gratitude.
"The Four Harrys of Hogwarts taught you group dynamics, psychological warfare, and interaction with ghosts." With a smile Zippy added "you also perfected your pranking, which always can come in handy."
Harry grinned at that. It had been fun relentlessly haunting the whole school and driving the headmaster to insanity.
"In that strange world based on your cousin's game you learned how important supportive friends are, how every one needs a vacation from reality at times, and even a bit of warlock skills – not that you'd ever need them." Zippy watched the wizard's face as Harry realized the truths the elf was giving him. Thankfully he was getting through to the stubborn boy.
"You have learned house-elf magic, a bit about parenting with Rose and Albert, learned about house wards, and the importance of family in the past few worlds" Zippy continued. "You have found and married your soul-mate, and learned about Japanese culture."
"Very little," Harry groaned, remembering Masahiko. "I don't know how useful a tea ceremony is when it comes to taking down a dark lord."
"And last but certainly not least," the elf continued, ignoring the jab at the unfortunate Masahiko, "you have perfected wandless magic and can now see and interpret auras. You have saved many alternate magical Britons. You have grown and matured. Do not underestimate what you have accomplished."
Harry looked at Zippy helplessly. "But it's taking so long! Will there even be a magical Britain when I get back?"
The elf smiled gently and patted his hand. "Hang in there, Harry. Time travels differently here and there. You've been gone less than a year. And although you've been years in this world, and that world, and another, you and Ginny have not aged – you will return to your universe the proper age." He poured him another cup of tea and handed it to him. "You've grown close to this Albus Dumbledore – enjoy the time you have with him and Albert – it will soon be time to move on."
The Boy-Who-Lived looked into the swirling heat of the tea in his cup. Where was Voldemort in this reality? They were getting harder to defeat – what difficulties would this one bring?
Dudley Dursley glared at the nurse's smoldering corpse that sprawled on the floor in front of him. His fists were clenched, and his heart filled with evil elation. "You stupid grown up," he crowed triumphantly, without a hint of remorse. "You thought you could tell me, the great Dudley Dursley, what to do. Always 'no more candy Mr. Dursley' and 'try and be nice for once Mr. Dursley'. I showed you!"
"Good sssspell work, masssster," Tom hissed approvingly from his pocket. "We need to go now – one of the workerssss could come downsssstairs at any moment. Come – out the front door and we will go conquer the magical world, like I promissssed."
The boy poked the nurses body with his foot and gave a sickening grin. True, she had been the one grown up that had stayed the whole time he lived at the orphanage. And she was the only one of the workers that attempted to be nice to him. But it didn't matter – he was absolutely finished with people trying to tell him what to do. No more nurses, or orphanages, or teachers or schools for the great Dudley Dursley. There was a world out there for him to take over. A whole new world that needed to see how perfect he was.
With one last glance at his first victim he stepped disrespectfully over the body and opened the front door. The sun light glared unforgiving into his blue eyes that watered with the discomfort. He squinted and left the door open, not caring who could come by and see his handiwork. Soon he would be gone to the 'muggles', as Tom called them, forever.
Author Notes: Please forgive the delay – my husband had surgery and is recovering nicely. I've really struggled with this chapter – I don't think it's the best at all. Somehow Albert just isn't 'real' enough, but I know folks are getting impatient.