A/N 19-09-14: Waahh! Here we are, book three! Things are about to get real crazy ;-)
In my epic rush to get book two up and edited on time last week, I completely forgot to add my acknowledgments, which is rather rude of me. So apologies for that, please go and check them out now at the end of the epilogue for Tread On My Dreams.
Well, without further ado, here is What Dreams May Come. I shall leave you in Alex's capable hands. Or, maybe not so capable, if some people are to be believed…
A/N 13-01-15: Just a quick reminder that if you want to find out loads of fun extras about the trilogy or me and my other writing, please follow me on Twitter at HelenJHaslam, or give the Facebook page a like by searching for The HP Dream Trilogy or /thehpdreamtrilogy.
Declare this an emergency
Come on and spread a sense of urgency
And pull us through
And pull us through
And this is the end, the end
This is the end
Of the world
And it's time we saw a miracle
Come on it's time for something biblical
To pull us through
And pull us through
And this is the end, the end
This is the end
Of the world
Proclaim eternal victory
Come on and change the course of history
And pull us through
And pull us through
And this is the end, the end
This is the end
Of the world
Alex was as slumped down in his chair as far he could possibly get, his hands pressed to his face, his eyes peering out between his fingers, cringing. He wondered, in situations like this, what one needed to do to get the ground to swallow him up whole; he'd seen it done before, he didn't think it was that unreasonable a request.
He had never been to the Great Courtroom before, but he could safely say he could go another several lifetimes without ever coming back. It was scary in there.
He was sat at a table facing the Jury of Elders, and behind him seemed to be congregated half the entire inhabitants of Limbo. To his right sat Jia who was full of so much caffeine she was visibly vibrating, and to his left was Seamus, who had put on a dark navy suit for the occasion with the intent of looking mature and responsible, but instead more resembled a schoolboy on work experience at a car dealership.
And everybody...and Alex really did mean everybody...was screaming. At the top of their lungs. Paper was flying through the air, ink pots were being thrown. The gavel had ended up in the hands of some sort of infant orangutan that was swinging it at any and all of the heads it could find. People pointed and spat and turned red as they roared and wailed at each other.
"Is it me," came a nasally voice from the table in front of Alex. "Or have you made everyone a little bit cross?" Alex closed one eye so he could see between his fingers clearly, and sighed pitifully at the little crimson dragon sat on his haunches as well as Alex's pile of notes. He had cobalt blue eyes, and in his sharp claws was clutched a well hugged teddy bear.
"Go," said Alex very calmly, and very slowly. "Away."
"Uh-uh," said Puff the dragon, waving a little scaly finger. "You have something of mine."
People continued their many, many arguments around the courtroom, but Alex was still able to hear Puff's whiney drawl perfectly. "I don't have it anymore though," he said in frustration, flinging down his hands onto the wooden bench.
Puff shrugged his shoulders and pretended to examine his claws. "Not my problem," he said petulantly. "I am not leaving until I get it back."
One of the four elders, a little girl as black as the night with a raggedy dress and bare feet, was slamming her hand repeatedly on the high bench they were stationed on. "SILENCE!" she roared. "WE WILL HAVE SILENCE!"
They did not have it, in fact, a woman more dog than person began howling in the aisle behind the little gates that separated the audience from those (and Alex dreaded to think the words) on trail.
The courtroom, though on a much larger scale, was not that dissimilar to the ones Alex had seen in countless American legal dramas, where the lawyers representing the wrongly accused would make a terrific speech at the end and save the day. The only thing that was missing was the terrific lawyers and wrong accusations. It was all dark mahogany wood and green leather on the seats. Bright sunlight was beaming down in shafts through the tall windows high above them, but rather than being a comfort it only reminded Alex of light glaring off a knife blade.
"Let me help you," said Puff in a voice that was so dripping with sarcasm it was as far away from helpful as it could possibly get. "Where did you last leave it?"
Alex sat back up in his seat as Seamus rubbed his back, both of them glaring at the dragon. "There are far more important things than your ball-ball," sniped Seamus. "How did you get in here anyway?"
"Oh yes, yes, I quite agree," said Puff with a nod. "There's all those nice shiny nuggets of possibilities you owe me." He grinned, showing all his sharp teeth. "How many was it again?"
The other three Elders, just as unused to not being listened to as the little black girl, were all trying to calm their courtroom down in addition to her banging. There was a bald man's head on a purple satin pillow rocking back and forth, bellowing from behind lavender coloured teeth. A female centaur was rearing and stamping her hooves. And what could only be described as a swirling cloud of dark blue mist and the occasional flash of lightning, well, swirled. And moved bits of paper around.
"No," continued Seamus. "Seriously, how did you get in here? It was created by the minds of the Elders, and they chose who were invited. You were, most definitely, not."
Puff tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. "Shut it, newbie," he snarled. "You have no idea what you are talking about."
Alex groaned. Since they had been there all anybody had done was shout, and fight, and occasionally giggle hysterically. Enough was enough.
He stood up, smoothing down his tailcoat and faded jeans. "Excuse me?" he said. Nothing happened. Everyone carried on with their hollering, and a paper aeroplane soared by Alex's head. And then it was like all the worry, all the terror and anger of the last few hours came crashing down on him, exploding out of him like a dam buckling under the pressure of an entire reservoir. "EXCUSE," he roared in a voice that made the floorboards shake. "ME!"
Everyone stopped still. The paper that had been flying around slowly floated to the floor, and the baby orangutan dropped the gavel with a whimper. The four Elders seemed to notice Alex for the first time, and all sat back down in their seats (except for the centaur, who remained standing, the head, who remained perched, and the whirlwind which just carried on whirling). There was a brief scuffle as the audience members shuffled around to find seats, and then the courtroom was quiet. Alex let out the breath he'd been holding.
"Yes," said the little black girl peevishly. "Well, that's better isn't it."
Alex looked down at Jia, who still had her fingers in her ears and was staring ahead, shell-shocked, and Seamus who was grinning like a maniac at him. Alex cleared his throat, and sat back down again.
"We are all here," began the centaur. "To address a very serious matter, and your cooperation would be greatly appreciated."
"So quit your yapping!" barked the head with the purple teeth.
Alex could feel his palms sweating. This was wasting time, they needed to pool their information, work out what had happened, then get back out there and help his boys. And girls, good gracious it was such a mess.
"The being known as 'Alex'," the little black girl called out. It was beyond Alex why the Elders thought themselves above names, it made situations like these all the more stressful, not to mention when it came to writing Christmas cards. "Present yourself to the Jury."
Alex stood up again, feeling hundreds of eyes on him, and he shifted his weight in his pirate boots. "Hello," he said in a weak but cheery voice. "Yes, that's me, I'm Alex."
"Thank you," said the centaur.
The head rolled his eyes. "Perhaps," he said. "The being known as 'Alex' would like to explain why we are all here."
Alex looked down at Seamus, who gave him two thumbs up and a little smile. Jia patted his arm. "Okay," he breathed out. "Well, it started when one of my constituents accidentally sent himself to another universe last November in my world's calendar - do you need a conversion?"
The little black girl waved her hand. "We know all about that, and the resulting Dimensional Leap back, and then the two beings from the being known as 'Seamus'' world crossing over. The last we were informed," she paused as she glared at Jia, who hunkered down in her seat. "They were due to return to their own universe, and that was to be the last of the matter. What, dare I ask, happened?"
Alex ran his hand through his blond hair, making it sticky with wax. "So," he said, stepping out from behind the table and wiping his hand on his jeans. "Whilst he was in Seamus' world, my Harry Potter defeated Voldemort, just like he did when he was a child in his own universe. This meant though he now had another Horcrux in him, another part of Voldemort's soul. And this couldn't be allowed, it was highly dangerous and meant the people of Seamus' world had no chance to defeat their Dark Lord once and for all. So I began on a quest to resolve the situation."
Puff, still sat on the desk by Seamus and Jia with his bear, tutted and rolled his eyes. Alex began to pace. "So I acquired an amulet that would draw the foreign Horcrux from out of Harry and return it to the right world, all I needed was a carrier, so I started luring people that had already had contact with my Harry near the Hotspot, with the hopes they might crossover."
"It was Draco Malfoy and Sarah Potter that eventually fell through," supplied Seamus.
"And after months of waiting, Harry finally went into a state of flux," continued Alex. "When he fell into the Floo network, so I was able to give him the amulet and explain the situation. It was all going to plan."
"So what happened?" harrumphed the bald head on the pillow.
Alex swallowed and looked back towards Seamus, Jia, and an unnecessarily smug looking Puff. "Draco Malfoy happened."
The whirlwind flashed a mini fork of lightning. "Sorry," said Alex, licking his lips. "I didn't mean to be sarcastic, that was my 'tragically resigned' voice."
"Continue," instructed the centaur, and Alex nodded.
"Draco and the other students-"
"Harry Potter," interrupted Seamus, leaning forward on the table. "Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all from Alex's universe, and Sarah Potter from mine." Alex raised an eyebrow at Seamus, and he sat back down in his seat again sheepishly.
"Yes, those lot," agreed Alex. "They all got in a spot of bother, but the long and the short of it is, Draco's mother sacrificed her life for her son's, just as Lily Potter had done for my Harry, and when Voldemort turned his wand on Draco to perform the killing curse, it rebounded and destroyed him, just like it did with Harry."
The Elders looked grave. "And thus," said the little black girl. "Instilling a Horcrux in Draco Malfoy as well."
"Yahtzee," said Alex, jabbing a finger at the girl. The ice cold look in her eyes made him pull it back again.
The bald head rocked on his pillow. "Today man," he griped. "Explain what happened today!"
Alex swallowed and stopped his pacing. "Yes," he said. "Like I said, it was all going so well."
The centaur pawed at the ground. "And then?"
"The amulet," and Alex couldn't help but throw Puff a dirty look. "Was only designed to withdraw the Horcrux from Harry when the spell was cast to return Draco and Sarah to their world. It would latch on to one of them, and transfer to an object once they were back through. After that Seamus would orchestrate its safe removal etcetera, etcetera…"
"And instead?" prompted the little black girl impatiently.
Alex felt so heavy he leant against the railings in front of the audience for support. "The Horcrux within Draco threw the amulet completely off kilter. It removed both their foreign souls, but the inter-dimensional spell rebounded, expelling Harry, Ron and Hermione, and leaving Draco and Sarah behind."
"Expelled them where?" demanded the head, alarmed.
"Well," chipped in Seamus. "We know at least one of them came back to my universe, but the other two…" he trailed off.
"We're not sure," said Alex in a small voice.
There was another burst of shouting from the audience as people became riled again. "You've lost two constituents?" bellowed the little black girl.
The whirlwind flashed some lightning again, and Alex stood up in response. "Well that's an interesting idea," he conceded, his brow furrowed.
The centaur flicked through some papers in front of her. "How long have you been a Watcher?" she asked neutrally.
"Uh," replied Alex, thrown by the question. "About fifteen hundred years, give or take a few decades.
"A child," scoffed the head on the pillow.
The centaur didn't seem pleased. "And for someone with so little time in the service," she said coldly. "This is the second time you have lost a citizen in the wrong reality, am I correct?"
"Oh I didn't lose her," said Alex quickly. "I got her back lickity split."
The centaur brandished one of the sheets of paper at him. "At the turn of the nineteenth century – your calendar – you allowed a non-magical person to travel to an openly magical parallel universe, and then upon her return to publish books recounting the entire affair!"
Alex held up a finger. "Now that's not fair," he countered back. "I made her take all the zombies out of those books, and the sea monsters."
"Enough!" shouted the head on the pillow.
"Indeed," growled the little black girl. "That is not the issue at hand, it was dealt with by the Jury of the time." She rested her chin on her hands. "So we can safely assume that this matter will be taken care of as easily as the previous case, yes?"
"Oh no," said Alex, taking a few steps towards the bench. "Anyone who said this would be easy would be telling naughty fibs."
The head on the pillow seemed to bang his face on the desk. The whirlwind cracked its lightning again.
"I quite agree," muttered the centaur.
"So - what?" demanded the little black girl. "What's so difficult?"
Alex sighed and rubbed his waxy hair again. "We don't know where the other two children have gone yet," he explained morosely. "Or more importantly, what happened to the Horcruxes."
"Now that, my good man," came a voice from the back of the courtroom. "Is a very good question indeed." The door at the back of the room banged quietly shut, and then silence filled the room like a flood.
Alex felt like the muscles and nerves in his body had been replaced in their entirety by pure horror. A silent part of him screamed to turn round and look at who the voice belonged to, but his useless limbs refused to obey. "It's not possible," croaked the head on the pillow. Alex heard as people in the audience scrambled to get away from the aisle where the person belonging to the voice was walking slowly down. He could hear the swish-swish of his robes too.
"Oh," continued the voice, as smooth as silk as he came to a halt halfway down the room. "I agree, it is very unlikely, but I can give you personal assurance that it's entirely possible."
Alex couldn't take it anymore. With a tremendous wrench, he turned enough to see Lord Voldemort smiling at the Jury of Elders behind him. "Oh no," he whispered.
"Oh yes," countered Voldemort, and laughed at his own joke. "It's funny how these things happen isn't it? When that Potter boy transferred to my universe last year, I was convinced it was all to do with the Philosopher's Stone and my eternal youth." He waved his hand. "How small, how benign my thinking was."
"How did you enter this room?" demanded the little black girl in a voice far more commanding than her stature would suggest she was capable of. People were pulling at the big double doors at the back of the hall, but they were refusing to budge, so the crowd turned and began attacking the windows, smashing them open and escaping to rooms far, far away. Some would follow those in front of them, others would change the destination using their minds or magical powers before hauling themselves up and over the high window sills.
"This is a sealed conference," carried on the little black girl. "Permissible only by the minds of the Jury and only possible to attend by our specific invitation."
"Puff got in," whispered Alex to himself, feeling like all the blood was draining out of him and he was going to pass out any second. How, how could this have happened? He'd said 'when Harry had travelled to his world,' so he must be from Seamus' reality. But how had he arrived in Limbo? He should have been a bodiless spirit, trapped in the ether, it was what always happened in every universe when Lily Potter's sacrifice rebounded on him. There was just no way he could be here.
Lord Voldemort smirked, his ruby eyes glinting in his bone white face. "My dear child," he said, which ruffled the black girl considerably. "I would be far more concerned with other matters at present if I were you."
"You must leave, now," instructed the centaur. "We will not stand for it."
Voldemort was strolling, leisurely, closer and closer to the end of the aisle where the little gate stood. Alex couldn't help but realise how dreadfully exposed he was, standing in the middle of the floor, in front of the bench. He began easing slowly to his right, back towards Jia and Seamus.
People were jostling and crying out in panic, trying not to be noticed as they evacuated the courtroom. The windows were narrow and high up though, and people kept falling as they scrambled to get through. Thunder boomed from outside the building's walls, and a chill ran down Alex's spine. Limbo did not have weather, unless you constructed it. Could Voldemort be adding his own weather to the scene? How could he possibly do that, he didn't belong here.
Voldemort smiled at the little black girl as she stood her ground behind the juror's bench. The centaur pawed at the ground and whinnied nervously, and the head was doing his best to look asleep, though he kept peeking out through one eye. The whirlwind seemed to be getting bigger, and crackled with electricity as it addressed Voldemort.
"You need to move beyond this idea," the dark wizard said as he came to a halt and people jumped over chairs behind him as the mob continued its press outwards. "That I can't be here, or shouldn't be here. The point is moot."
"For you see," came a second voice from behind, and Alex feared for a moment he might actually throw up. "I am so unbelievably here, it really is beyond a shadow of a doubt. So perhaps we should begin discussing what is going to happen now, rather than dwell on the improbabilities of the past."
Alex, cringing in horror, turned around to witness the second speaker. He had emerged from the door leaning off from the side of the juror's bench where he imagined the judge would normally reside when making decisions or having a quick snooze. The Jury of Elders were all edging backwards, except for the head who looked livid at being left where he was perched. And there, leaning against the bench inspecting his nails, was a second, almost identical Lord Voldemort.
Alex swore under his breath.
"Quite!" said this new Voldemort happily to him, taking a few steps forward that Alex countered with a few back. "It is most improbable, isn't it?"
The people still remaining in the courtroom had gone from panicked to hysterical. Because, no matter what universe they originated from, no matter what worlds they now watched over, almost all of them had heard of Lord Voldemort, even if they didn't have one of their own. But every single one of them could tell you that being faced with two of them, was really, really bad news.
The Voldemort in the aisle extended a hand and a smile to his counterpart by the bench. "Ah, I see you've met me already, haven't you?" Alex turned and saw he was being addressed personally. He backed up towards Seamus and Jia.
"It's them," he rasped as his co-workers scraped their chairs back and followed him towards the wall. Puff and his teddy bear had dived off the desk and were cowering by Alex's feet. "The ones Harry and Draco defeated in each other's worlds."
The Voldemort closest to them, the one Draco had defeated in Alex's universe, placed his hand on his chest. "It is true," he announced to the panicking crowd. "We were destroyed by children from different worlds. An odd fate indeed."
"But our Horcruxes," said the other Voldemort in the aisle with relish. "Kept us anchored to the corporeal plane." He grinned wickedly at Alex. "Until you released them today, ripping them from the boys that contained them, and flung them across the Multiverse alongside those other dear children."
Alex's heart was pounding in his ribcage. He felt like a mouse being cornered by two hungry snow leopards.
"As our souls flew freely through Limbo," the Voldemort by the juror's bench very graciously explained. "We were able to – oh, how do the Americans say it? Hitch a ride?" He laughed softly. "Like catching the end of the string on a loose kite, we were pulled from an incorporeal Hell on Earth, and granted new life in this realm you call Limbo. A lovely little place from what I've seen so far."
"And he," the other Voldemort began to recite. "Who misplaces himself, shall hold the key, and he shall bring light and power and control to all he sees, all he can imagine. And with great force and acumen he will be the instrument of unity, and the king of all will rule."
The Voldemort closest to Alex clapped his hands together. "You see?" he said to them, almost completely ignoring the Elders watching on. "It all makes more sense now doesn't it? I thought it was referring to young Draco being in the wrong body, but it fits much nicer when you think about us, popping up in Limbo like this."
"Because," added the Voldemort in the aisle. "Who wants to rule one universe, where there are so many others up for grabs too."
Alex had his arms out, protecting Seamus and Jia behind him as they crept towards the wall. "When I say run," he stammered in the quietest voice he could. "We run."
"I couldn't have said it better myself," complimented the Voldemort by the bench, the one from Alex's universe.
The Voldemort from Seamus' universe bowed slightly as the crowd jostled and dashed for the doors, smashed the high windows open with chairs or shoes. "One of the many advantages," he agreed. "Of working with oneself."
"Run!" cried Alex as both Voldemorts, in perfect unison, withdrew their wands, and fired. Alex vaulted over the railings as the ceiling collapsed around them. It was like a series of small bombs going off, people wailing and screaming in terror. "Come on!" Alex yelled, as he and Seamus grabbed Jia's arms and hoisted her over the barrier.
"We've got to stop them," she gasped as the Elders fled from the bench, the little girl hastily grabbing the head and drop kicking it out the door. The whirlwind was creating a heck of a ruckus, bearing down on the Voldemort that had been nearest to them. But the other Dark Lord came to his rescue, firing at the blue cloud, trying to disperse it. The whirlwind just became bigger, more ferocious and cracked an especially loud fork of lightning, but both the Voldemorts fired at it again. Their spells sailed right on through the whirlwind, but one of them hit the centaur square on the chest.
There was a cry of horror from the crowd who had seen, as the Elder only had a moment to look shocked, before she disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Jia seemed to stop breathing. "Get out," she exhaled. "Now – that window – go!" Alex didn't need telling twice, as he fought through the mob and wrenched a chair from the floor and chucked it under the nearest window.
"My house," he instructed Seamus as he gave him a boost. "Go!" Seamus pulled out his wand, using familiar patterns from his human life, and burst the window above them outwards into the abyss of Limbo. By the time he'd hauled himself up though, it looked a lot like Alex's entrance hallway on the other side.
"Hey!" yelled Puff, half climbing up Alex's leg as more of the ceiling caved in and more people screamed at the evanescence of those around them. "Hey, don't leave me here, you can't leave me here!" A spell shot past them both, so close it singed the ear off of the teddy bear in Puff's scaly grasp. "Teddy!" he cried out in horror.
Unceremoniously, Alex reached down with one hand, seized the dragon by the scruff of his neck, and threw him head first through the window. "Come on!" he called to Jia, who had been firing protective spells from her fingers, just as she had done in her human life. From behind her shields people had been escaping from the destruction the Lord Voldemorts were raining down on them. "We have to-"
But the Voldemorts had obviously got tired of the Chinese Watcher ruining their fun, because at that moment they turned to her, and both hit her with jets of green light.
"NO!" roared Alex in horror as his manager, his friend for over a hundred years, vanished in a cloud of dust. "No, Jia NO!" He went to reach for her, where she had been standing, oblivious that the Voldemorts were turning their wands on him, when his feet lifted from the floor, he shot up and through the window, and Seamus slammed the front door closed behind him.
"NO!" screamed Alex again, scrambling to his feet and pounding on the door. "No, Jia! Send me BACK!" But no matter how he slammed his hands on the door, or pulled with all his strength on the handle, it refused to budge an inch.
"I'm sorry," said Seamus quietly as Alex admitted defeat and slid down the wood, sobs rattling up his chest as tears fell from his eyes. "Man, I am so sorry." Alex let himself be hugged as rage and grief tore through him. It wasn't fair, she hadn't done anything to them, no one in that courtroom had. It was mindless cruelty, violence for violence's sake. But what did he expect from Lord Voldemort?
Sir Woofsalot crept up to the Watchers on the floor, and nuzzled his tiny, delicate head against Alex's worn out jeans. Alex hiccupped and reached over to stroke his soft, downy fur. The puppy set about licking his fingers and palm like he could absorb the sorrow right through his skin, then hopped into his lap and curled into a ball.
Puff, for once, was silent. He regarded the Watchers and the dog from a distance, his burnt teddy held protectively in his arms as Alex's cries slowly subsided. He looked at one point like he was going to speak to them, then he changed his mind and twiddled his claws instead. "Poor Teddy," he muttered to himself, rubbing the burnt ear of his bear.
Eventually, Alex felt composed enough and let go of Seamus, resting his hand on Sir Woofsalot and his head on the door. It was oddly warm.
"Do you think the others got out?" asked Seamus, his voice sounding strangely loud against the near silence of Alex's house. The only other noise was the ticking of the grandfather clock, and the occasional coo of a pigeon.
"If they got to an exit," said Alex wiping his eyes and blowing his nose on his hanky as Woofsy pawed at his t-shirt. "Then yes, they could have done what we did. I'm sure most of them made it home." He had to believe that for now; he would allow himself time later to check.
"So what do we do now?" asked Puff in a voice far more scared than his usual petulance. Seamus sat back on his knees, an looked at Alex in trepidation.
Alex, got to his feet, Sir Woofsalot under his arm, and Seamus followed suit. "We have," he said, breathing deeply and steadily. "Three lost students to find. Two Horcruxes, and a very valuable amulet." Puff beamed. "And when we do, we need to get them back where they belong, safely."
"And the Voldemorts?" said Seamus, worry creased in his eyes.
"I believe," said Alex with a mad hint to his voice. "We owe them a one way ticket to Hell. Don't you?"