A/N: This will be a multichapter story, but there won't be many of them. My usual thanks to the guys at AFC for helping flesh out this idea, and a special thanks to Perspicacity and ZanyMuggle for the encouragement and help.
I may have subconsciously borrowed the basic premise from "Loyalty Unto Disgrace" (net/s/2565609/35/Odd_Ideas) by Rorschach's Blot. Thanks to eleanorw2001 for pointing that out.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe and all related materials are the property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury and Warner Brothers. I am in no way affiliated with JKR, Bloomsbury or Warner Brothers, and use their materials without their permission or knowledge.
The Goblet of Fire glowed weakly as Harry silently approached it.
He couldn't explain what compelled him to go secretly hunting for it in the middle of the night under his invisibility cloak, or how he found it tucked away in the side room, awaiting return to wherever they stored it between tournaments, but the dastardly object now sat several feet away, mocking him with its feeble light.
Dumbledore said it would not relight until the start of the next Tournament, but it didn't look completely dead yet. Then again, Dumbledore called Hogwarts the safest place for Harry besides the Dursleys, but that didn't stop his name from mysteriously appearing as the fourth champion in a contest that regularly killed or incapacitated the best adult students three schools could offer.
"I hate you," Harry told the cup, dropping his cloak. "You've cursed me, ruined my life – not that it was anything great to begin with, but you and your stupid game have cost me one of my best friends and everything I hoped for this year.
"I thought it would all be different after last year, that I'd be able to spend the holidays with somebody who actually liked me, and the rest of my time here with Ron and Hermione, without having to worry about people trying to kill me or everybody being scared of me. It was meant to be a good year, even if Sirius is still on the run. I was going to have some fun and maybe learn a bit more about my parents when I stayed with him, but you've buggered that up now, haven't you?"
The cup made no sign of acknowledging Harry's accusations.
"Why did you do it? Why did you suddenly decide to go and stuff up my life, eh?" he said angrily, taking a step closer. "Did somebody make you do it? Did somebody somehow force you into dumping on me like this? Or was it all your idea, a fine joke to play the boy-who-lived?
"Answer me, damn it!" he yelled, immense anger boiling his blood. "Don't just sit there ignoring me. You bloody well owe me an explanation!"
The cup grew slightly brighter, but nothing else happened, spiking Harry's rage even further. He stepped closer and swung at the unresponsive magical object; his anger overcoming any reservations he may once have had at taking his frustration out on an object.
"I said answer me!" he screamed, pushing his open palm with all of his might.
The moment his flesh touched the metal, multicoloured, cold fire erupted from the mouth of the vessel, but Harry's slap still knocked it off the table and onto the floor. The heatless flames spilled out in a torrent as Harry leapt backwards in fear. They quickly spread and grew until almost reaching the roof high above.
Bony hands suddenly clenched Harry's shoulders, painfully dragging him backwards, away from the flames. Harry instinctively fought to get free, but the grip was too strong. He twisted his head back and caught a glimpse of Albus Dumbledore's fierce face before he was roughly tossed aside into the arms of Severus Snape.
"Stand back!" shouted Dumbledore, his voice rising above the roar of the flames as he raised his wand.
Before Snape could even begin to move, the flames suddenly changed direction and withdrew inwards in a noiseless implosion. Air rushed to fill in the empty space, making Harry gasp, just as pain erupted in his scar.
Worse than anything he had felt during one of his dreams, it was like something was tugging on his forehead, trying to pull itself towards him using his brain as an anchor.
Screaming, Harry's knees gave way and he slumped in the potion professor's grip. He felt blood leaking into his eyes, and then the flames returned, bursting outward at twice the speed they had retreated.
The shockwave nearly knocked them from their feet. Only the lightning fast wand work of Dumbledore protected them from the force that tore through the room, destroying carpets and drapes in an inferno. A blinding white light overrode Harry's bloodshot sight, leaving him blinking and unable to see for a few seconds, while the pain in his forehead disappeared without warning.
A gasp from Snape as his vision cleared echoed through the room. In the exact centre, just in front of the now inert cup, stood a group of people. It was two boys, a girl, a man, and a woman, all of them somehow strikingly similar, and disconcertingly familiar.
Harry couldn't think, his mind struggling to understand what he was seeing while at the same time refusing to accept it.
"I'm hallucinating," he thought, but Snape's next words, spoken even as Harry constructed his thought, swept even that idea from his mind, especially as they coincided with the Headmaster's own uncharacteristic outburst.
"Lily," said Snape in a whisper.
"James?" asked Dumbledore.
Harry didn't even notice that Snape was no longer attempting to keep him upright as the last vestiges of consciousness fled like the shadows created by the extinguished magical flames.
The soft murmur of whispers intruded on the pleasant numbness of his mind, like the start of an itch that would quickly be forgotten, if only you could stop thinking about it. Minutes passed as the annoying hissing grew either louder or more insistent, but either way, more intrusive.
Eventually, it caused sluggish synapses to warm up and consciousness clawed its way out of the comforting, all enveloping whiteness.
The familiar arctic white ceiling of the infirmary greeted his eyes, its stark bleakness a mirror to Harry's own thoughts. The curious blankness remained as Harry listened to the voices drifting in from another part of the room, and his memory slowly returned.
"You listen to me, Albus Dumbledore," snapped the school nurse loudly. "I don't care what nonsense excuse you are giving, but that boy is staying right where he is and will not be disturbed until I say he is good an ready."
Several voices competed to argue, but Madam Pomfrey was having none of it.
"Out!" she said. "All of you out, right now. I have patients to care for."
Arguing continued, but Harry lost interest. Slowly he turned his head to take in his surroundings. The curtains around his bed were open, giving him a clear view of the rest of the ward. All except one other of the beds were empty; the sole exception was right next to him.
Harry's friend, Neville, lay on the bed, his face and hands covered in painful looking blisters. A sheen of green goo covered every visible surface of the boy who lay propped up on several cushions, eyes open, watching Harry.
"Hello Nev," whispered Harry. "What happened to you?"
"Hiya, Harry," Neville replied quietly. "Potions. Somebody threw something into my cauldron, again. Luckily it was only me that got hit this time."
Harry smiled, bemused by the poor lad's constant misfortune.
"Next time you ought to try aiming for Malfoy," he said. "Make it worthwhile."
Neville smiled nervously, obviously thinking about something else, but not brave enough to talk about it. Harry watched him for a few moments, trying to decide if he should prompt him, or let him get to it on his own. Curiosity won out over patience.
"What's up?" asked Harry.
"Is it true? What they're saying? About your mum and dad, and, you know, the others," he asked, leaning forward excitedly.
"I dunno," said Harry, some of the disassociation leaving him. "What are they saying?"
"Mr Longbottom!" snapped Madam Pomfrey. "I told you go back to sleep, not to disturb Mr-, the other patients."
Neville mumbled apologies and settled back into his cushions.
"Now," said Madam Pomfrey, turning to Harry. "Let's have a look at you, then."
She bustled around Harry, waving her wand and casting spells Harry didn't recognise. She poked and prodded, and poured potions down Harry's throat, but somehow managed to avoid looking into his eyes.
"Well you appear to be in perfect health," she said, after twenty minutes that left Harry fully awake and no longer dreamy at all.
"What happened?" Harry asked.
"An excellent question," said Dumbledore, suddenly appearing behind the nurse. "Can I now assume Mr Potter is fit enough to leave?"
Pomfrey creased her brow in annoyance, and sighed loudly. "Physically he is fine, but-"
"Thank you, Poppy," said Dumbledore, cutting her off. "Harry, let us move to my office, where we might continue this conversation."
Harry nodded and slid off the bed to close the curtains and get changed. Just before stepping out to join the headmaster, he stuck his head through a gap to where Neville lay.
"Catch you later?" he said.
Neville nodded and grinned at him.
They made the walk through the empty halls to the headmaster's office in silence. Harry was surprised to see it was night time, meaning he must have been out of it for a least a whole day.
"Take a seat," said Dumbledore, gesturing to an empty chair on the near side of his huge desk.
Harry took a moment to look around, finding everything exactly the same as when he had last been in the office, only Fawkes was missing.
"What can you recall," asked Dumbledore, after offering Harry one of the sour sweets he kept in a bowl on the corner of his desk.
"I hit the Goblet of Fire, it sort of exploded, you pulled me back, then I saw ghosts," said Harry. "At least I think they were ghosts, of my parents, but there were other people there too."
Dumbledore watched Harry quietly.
"Sir, how long was I out?" asked Harry, unable to stand the silence any longer.
"A little over three days," answered the Headmaster sadly.
Shocked, Harry didn't know what to say.
"Harry, when you attacked the Goblet, as foolish and rash an action as I have ever had the misfortune to witness, something extraordinary occurred, and revelations have been made that have profound repercussions."
For the first time since waking, Harry felt a glimmer of emotion.
"They weren't ghosts, were they?" he asked nervously.
"No, my dear boy," answered the headmaster.
"Are they alive? Are they still here?" he managed to ask, despite the huge lump in his throat threatening to choke him.
"They are not currently at Hogwarts, but yes, they are still here."
It was all he could manage without allowing an overwhelming flood of emotion drown him. He was scared, and hopeful, and sad, and happy, and a thousand other things, all at the same time.
Dumbledore removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly, suddenly looking a lot older and frailer than Harry had ever seen him.
"Harry, I have a long story to tell you, and most of it, sadly, is going to be extremely painful for you, but I ask you to listen and hear out the whole tale."
Harry nodded numbly.
"Before you were born, I was privileged and burdened to hear a prophecy of the coming of a child who would vanquish Voldemort; I will not trouble you with the exact wording. Suffice to say, I believed two children could fit the profile. I passed on my suspicions to the parents of both children, and recommended they all go into hiding.
"Lily and James Potter acted on my suggestion, and as you know, placed their home under the Fidelus charm with Peter Pettigrew as the secret keeper. That however, is not the only precaution they took.
"The Potters were both incredibly talented individuals, possibly the smartest and most powerful of their generation, and together their combined abilities made them formidable indeed. Knowing even the Fidelus charm could be broken, they constructed a secret room in their house. I understand some Muggles build similar places in their homes to hide in - A 'panic room' I understand they call it.
"Inside that room, they recreated one of the most complex spells ever developed; a spell thought lost for all time. Working with hundred years of research notes gathered together from every corner of the magical world, they built a gate into a magically constructed world, a paradise where they could hide, if needed, for as long as required.
"However, that amazing spell, sometimes called the Door into Avalon, was not their most impressive achievement.
"Realising Voldemort and his followers would not stop searching the house if they expected to find the family at home, Lily and James embarked on another even more formidable, and infinitely more dangerous, project.
"Using their own blood, and that of their newborn son, the Potters created complex constructs in their own image; Golems, made of flesh and blood. The two adult Golems were built able to follow only simple patterns; one would appear to try and fight to protect the other two, while the second would plead for the life of the smallest.
"The smallest, the Golem made in the image of Harry Potter, was an entirely different matter.
"In this construct, they poured tremendous amounts of magical power, and weaved a tapestry of protective charms into its very being. Nothing short of the killing curse could hope to damage the substitute baby, and even that was to have disastrous consequences for the caster, as indeed it did."
"A booby trap," said Harry.
"Indeed, a very clever and formidable trap, one that Voldemort fell to, but the Potters made a mistake in their calculations, and the backlash from the destruction of the Dark Lord partially destroyed the house. The damage closed off the gateway, trapping them in Avalon.
"And the baby Golem, the booby trap, was not destroyed."
"Me," said Harry, a cold fear gripping his insides. "I'm that Golem."
Dumbledore nodded. "Indeed."
Harry felt sick. His stomach twisted in knots and threatened to empty itself, while his heart raced and his head spun.
"How?" he asked weakly. "And why didn't they come back? Couldn't they have built a new gate or something?"
"I can only speculate on how you were not destroyed by the killing curse, but I am afraid much blame must be laid at my own feet for trapping the Potters in their personal paradise, despite the charms they put in place to protect against such an occurrence.
"When I discovered the magic at Godric's Hollow, I misunderstood its nature. Lily wisely placed a failsafe charm on the Golem that would retrieve them, twenty four hours after its destruction, regardless of the state of the gateway in the house. By bending the spell I believed Lily created to protect you, and transferring it your aunt, I inadvertently prevented them from returning. "
"I didn't die," said Harry. "So the magic stayed active, through Aunt Petunia."
"We failed to investigate the house properly, leaving it as it was, untouched, as a tribute to a family we thought destroyed. Had we repaired the house, we would have found and cleared the gateway, allowing the Potters to return through the door they left by. "
Harry's head spun faster, and his stomach felt even weaker.
"I can't be a Golem," he said, his panic rising. "I'd know if I was, wouldn't I? I mean, Golems aren't human, they don't have souls. I have a soul, don't I?"
"Indeed, you do have a soul, otherwise the Dementors would not affect you so," said Dumbledore.
"But Golems don't have souls," said Harry. "Did I grow one or something?"
"It is a mystery," said Dumbledore.
He appeared to want to let it slide at that, but Harry wasn't buying, not today.
"You know something, don't you?" he said angrily. "You've got an idea about it. Tell me. Tell me what's going on."
If Dumbledore was taken aback by Harry's sudden aggression, he didn't show it all.
"I have a theory, that I would like to investigate before I talk-"
"No," interrupted Harry. "Tell me now. I've got a right to know. I mean, I don't know what I am. My whole life has just been ripped from me – I'm not even human. I've got a right to know what you think I am. Tell me. Please."
Dumbledore let out a sigh and seemed to deflate a bit.
"Harry, I am afraid if I air my suspicions, you will gain no comfort from them," he said.
"No comfort?" laughed Harry bitterly. "I've just discovered that I really am the freak my supposed family called me my whole life, that I never did and never will have a father or mother, and that I am just a lump of meat animated by magic. What could you possibly tell me that could make that worse? "
"You are more than simply a Golem-"
"Why? How? Tell me," demanded Harry. "Do I have a soul, or are you just saying that to make me feel better?"
"I have no doubt you do," said Dumbledore.
"Where did it come from?" asked Harry.
Still Dumbledore hesitated.
And then the answer came to Harry, like a lightning bolt.
"Voldemort," he said, his hand unconsciously going to the scar on his forehead. "You said he left a little bit of himself behind, in me. It's his soul, isn't it?"
Dumbledore deflated even further, seeming to sink into his chair.
"Yes," said the headmaster. "I believe he previously split his soul, in a misguided attempt to become immortal. When his killing curse backfired, it shattered him further, and a piece stuck, as it were, inside of you."
Harry slumped back down into his chair, his head ringing hollowly with the headmaster's words.
"Oh, bugger," he said.
They sat for moments longer, Harry trying vainly to comprehend everything he had heard, the headmaster waiting patiently to resume his tale.
Eventually, Harry realised he had more questions that he needed answered.
"So, what happened with the Goblet?" he asked. "How did it get involved?"
"The magical contract enacted by the Goblet when your name was drawn created a link to the Potters in Avalon. Lily and James were able to use the connection to create a new gateway. Unfortunately, it relied on using a lot of your magic to make it stable enough to cross unharmed."
"They're back?" asked Harry. "They're alive, after all of this time? How did they live there for so long? Are they okay?"
"I have spoken extensively with them over the last few days while you were unconscious, and they are all in the best of health."
"All?" said Harry, catching the unusual wording.
Then the memory became clearer. Two boys and a girl stood next to Lily and James Potter.
"Oh, Merlin," said Harry. "He is alive isn't he, the real Harry Potter, and he has come back, and he has a brother, and a sister. Oh sweet Merlin."
And with that, the shock finally became too much, and the Golem known to the world as Harry Potter fell from his chair.
Days later, Harry sat on a rock overlooking the Lake. He was meant to be in class, but it hardly mattered anymore. Nobody was going to come looking for him, nobody cared if he went or not.
Never in his life had Harry ever experienced anything as bitter-sweet as finally meeting his 'family'. Not even watching Sirius fly away on Buckbeak mere hours after they met made Harry as happy and as sad as finding the mother and father he always longed for were alive and well.
Unfortunately, neither of them considered him their son.
They were strangers who felt nothing towards him, aside from a rather embarrassing responsibility and some serious awkwardness. The real Harry Potter had never left their side, and had a younger brother and sister to boot. Adopting a thing that bore a remarkable resemblance to their real son was not something that came easily to anybody, and they obviously had some concerns about Golem-Harry's stability, since he was originally designed as a weapon of sorts.
There was a moment when Harry hoped they might look at him as a long-lost son and brother, a missing piece of their family that needed to be brought back into the fold, but the instance was fleeting, and his hopes dashed even before they could develop beyond a day-dream.
Rita-skeeter broke the story, even before Harry himself learnt the truth.
While he still lay in a hospital bed, she penned a front page article, telling of the miraculous return of the Potter family and their brilliant ploy that resulted in the downfall of Voldemort. The idea that their fall-guy Golem didn't die, and went on to become a glory-seeking attention hog, fit in so neatly with the previous articles printed after his name came out of the Goblet, that Rita was instantly nominated for a journalism award.
Even with the testimony of a living breathing James Potter, Sirius was still on the run, being hunted as a fugitive and wanted for a never ending string of ridiculous crimes, like breaking out of the prison he was wrongfully incarcerated in. James, reunited with Remus Lupin, was supposedly dedicating the majority of his time to clearing Sirius's name.
Harry had no doubt the trio were already together and probably on the trail of Pettigrew.
Lily was spending most of her time rebuilding the home at Godric's hollow, which was in a serious state of disrepair, and catching up with old friends. She was doing most of the work on the house herself apparently, saving the money in the Potters' reclaimed vault for more urgent matters that may arise, and to live on until they secured jobs. Harry's incredibly uncomfortable meetings with her left him in no doubt that she found his presence every bit as awkward as he feared, and possibly used the restoration of Godric's Hollow as a way to avoid the situation with him.
The three Potter children were left in a bit of a limbo, all of them surprisingly sorted into Hufflepuff, but not yet actually required to attend classes, due to their unique circumstances. That simple event, a private interview with the battered old Sorting hat, combined with the selection of Cedric as the real Tri-wizard champion, cemented the Badgers as the new gold standard of student at Hogwarts, completely destroying the myth that only the leftovers went to that house.
The rest of the school shunned Harry, calling him Golem when they talked about him, building on the resentment they already harboured after his name came from the Goblet to treat him like an unwanted object most of the time. It didn't help much that the real Harry Potter was a nice bloke, quickly becoming popular, as was his sister, Chloris.
Real-Harry was tall and healthy, looking even more like James than Golem-Harry, since he had never suffered starvation or malnutrition. With the good looks of his father, and his mother's startling green eyes, Harry Potter made the girls swoon just by walking past. He was also very talented magically, having been trained by James and Lily almost from birth.
Yet, for all of that, he came across as level headed and friendly, not at all the pampered prince somebody like Snape expected. His dedication to hard work made him almost the perfect Hufflepuff, although there was little doubt in anybody's mind he could easily fit in any of the other houses. The fact he liked a good laugh and wasn't adverse to the odd practical joke was just icing on the cake.
Chloris also had the raven hair of their father and wore it long, in the style of her mother. She was blessed with Lily's green eyes and temperament, and although only two years younger than Harry, presented herself like a much older girl. Of all the Potter children, she alone treated Golem-Harry no different to a real person, talking to him the same way she talked to everybody.
Like her siblings, there was something a little odd in her social interactions, something that often left her seeming awkward or left out, but she compensated with great politeness and a truly inquisitive nature. Golem-Harry figured much of this was because she grew up surrounded by Golems; the Avalon enchantment not containing any other sentient creatures. James and Lily created many Golems, out of every material available, and continuously experimented in perfecting them to act as playmates, guardians, and toys for their children.
They did not come close to ever making anything as 'real' as Golem Harry though, and never made another flesh Golem at all.
Jim Potter, however, was a different kettle of fish completely. Although Chloris's twin, and favouring the same dark hair and green eyes as the others, Jim rarely spoke and never went out of his way to interact with anybody. In their two or three meetings to date, Jim had yet to say a single word to Golem-Harry, or many other people for that matter. There was often the hint of a mischievous glint in the boy's eye, and his mouth was usually quirked in smile that could only be from a private joke, but he was by far the most restrained of the trio and displayed even more of that same oddness they all carried about them.
Chloris told stories about Jim's surprisingly nasty practical jokes, and gave Harry the distinct impression he favoured James Potter in temperament more than either of the other two.
They might not be perfect, but they were as close as Golem-Harry could possibly wish for as family, if only it were possible to get over the fact he was a Golem.
The sound of his name being spoken startled Harry out of his musing. Hermione stood a few feet behind him, her hands nervously holding a sandwich in front of her.
"Hello, Hermione," said Harry quietly. "Shouldn't you be in class?"
Since the argument with Ron, and with the dramatic appearance of the Potters, there had been very little chance for Harry to talk to Hermione outside of class, and even less inside, when he bothered to show up.
"I thought, well, I was worried when you didn't come to transfiguration," she said, shifting from foot to foot. "And you didn't come to lunch, so I brought you something to eat."
"Why should I go?" asked Harry. "It's not like it'll do me any good, or didn't you hear? I can't ever get my O.W.L.s. You know they want to take my wand off me?"
Hermione covered her shock-opened mouth with one hand.
"They say I can't have it because only humans are allowed to carry wands," said Harry bitterly.
"That is just ridiculous," said Hermione angrily.
"My whole life is ridiculous," said Harry. "Just one long joke really. I always wondered why it sucked to be me so badly, now I finally know."
"You can't call me that anymore," he interrupted. "Gets too confusing."
"Harry," insisted Hermione stubbornly," You can't just give up. You have to take a stand and show them how foolish they are all being."
"No, I don't," said Harry. "It doesn't make any difference what I do, so why bother? I'm just a Golem that has outlived its usefulness - a freak of magic."
"Stop that, right now," she said, stamping her foot. "You are still the same person you were before this all happened. You are the same person who tackled a troll to save my life-"
"Ron knocked it out. I just stuck my wand up its nose."
"And you are the same person who went down into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny-"
"Fawkes saved us both, not me, and Ron was with me then too, right up to the end bit anyway."
"And you are the same person who risked his life last year to free a man who was going to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, so just stop all this nonsense right now, or I'll hex you!"
Harry laughed. He couldn't help it. The image of an indignant Hermione hexing him into a messy puddle for his own good was just too perfect.
"Go, ahead," he said. "I bet you won't even get into trouble for it. I reckon Malfoy could use an unforgivable on me and not even lose points for it, since I'm not human."
Hermione hesitated a moment while his laughter became more manic, but soon it dissolved into sobbing, and she rushed forward to wrap her arms around him, offering what little comfort she could. Her own silent tears joined his as she whispered meaningless words of encouragement and held him tightly, trying to be strong, but unable to avoid weeping for the pain of her closest friend.
"It'll be all right, Harry," she said.
"How?" he asked. "How can it ever be all right? I'm nothing – I've got nobody-"
"You've got me," she said quickly. "Don't forget Neville, Hagrid, and Ginny – they've been asking about you."
Harry held her silently, the overwhelming grief slowly ebbing away, but he noticed the absence of his former best friend in the short list.
"And don't forget professor Dumbledore," Hermione added.
Harry pain turned to anger again and he pulled away.
"Don't talk to me about him," he snapped. "It's all his fault."
"It's true, you ask him. He buggered everything, changing Lily's spell and messing it up. If he hadn't played around where he wasn't meant to, none of this would have happened."
"And you would probably be dead!"
"So what?" asked Harry peevishly. "Would have been better off that way, instead of me having to go through hell for a dozen years -it would have all been over before it started."
"Stop that right now," said Hermione. "I, for one, am glad I got to make such a good friend, even if he is feeling a bit sorry for himself right now. I'm sure lots of people, including Professor Dumbledore and that other blockhead, feel the same way. Once everything calms down, we'll figure something out for you, you'll see. If it comes down to it, I'm sure you could even come and live with me. We have extra rooms in our house, and I'm sure my parents would put you up for a while, if you needed it, but Professor Dumbledore won't just throw you out on the street-"
Harry laughed bitterly, again.
"Oh I'm not worried about where I am going to live," he said, surprising Hermione. "That's the last thing on my mind, since there is a damn good chance I won't have to worry about that ever again."
"What do you mean?" asked Hermione.
"Didn't you hear?" Harry asked. "A lot of people are very interested in me, now. They want to experiment on me and see how I tick. Apparently there is a possibility that magic like mine might hold the key to whole new areas of research, including ways to heal people who have been kissed by Dementors, since they are not meant to have a soul anymore. Only problem is, their experiments might not leave me in any sort of shape for doing any normal things, you know, like breathing."
"Professor Dumbledore won't let them," protested Hermione.
"He can't stop them," said Harry. "The best he could do is stall them for a while, otherwise I'd already be in a lab somewhere getting sliced and diced."
"So he has gained some time, then, to figure out a way to stop them? That's good, isn't it?"
"Oh yeah," said Harry. "Real good. You see the only way he could stop the Auror's carting me off straight away is a real dozy.
"Seems there is this pesky little tournament thing that has a magical contract built into it, and unless they want to force the suddenly-returned-to-life, underage, real Harry Potter to compete, the nasty little Golem that shares the bond has to take his place.
"I still have to take part in the tournament, Hermione. Even with all the crud going on around me, I still have to compete in the bloody tournament, but as soon as it's over, unless Dumbledore pulls something a bit better than a rabbit out of his hat, I'll get carted off to the Department of Mysteries, and somehow, I doubt if you'll ever see me ever again."
"That's not right," said Hermione, her eyes filling with tears again. "It's just not right."
"No it's not," said another voice behind them.
Both teenagers leaped to their feet clumsily, startled by the unexpected visitor. Harry even fumbled for his wand before he got a clear look at the people standing calmly behind them.
Jim Potter, younger brother of the real Harry Potter, and his twin sister Chloris, stood patiently, and obviously unworried by the sudden moves made by Harry and Hermione.
Even more than the others, there was something decidedly odd about the youngest Potter boy, something that made him appear years older than his size and features. Something not quite surly or dour, but infinitely more serious than anything any twelve year old should have inside of him. Looking at him for any length of time was like seeing a full moon in the dead of night – the brilliant white light harshly banishing the stars from the sky and bathing familiar landscapes in an unnatural glow.
The sister was almost the opposite. Full of sunshine and light, only the startling intelligence in her eyes betrayed her image, showing there was much more to the girl than a happy, well adjusted teenager, although she still had many unusual mannerisms, probably from a lack of social interaction with other children.
"What?" said Harry, struggling to wipe his eyes.
"We agree," said Chloris. "It's not right, and we have an idea of how to fix it."
"What?" asked Harry again, finally having managed to get his wand out of his pocket.
"How?" asked Hermione at the same time.
"You are going to have to prove that you are more than just a Golem," said Jim. "You need to stand out and be seen as a person. You need to become popular and well known, not as the boy-who-lived, but as a real person, despite your origins. If you can get beyond people's current perception of you as just a thing, Dumbledore will be able to sway the government into granting you wizard status."
"Oh, that'll be easy," said Harry sarcastically. "I'll just nip out and kiss a few babies then, shall I?"
"Not yet," said Chloris, casually sitting down on the rock recently vacated by Harry and Hermione. She managed to make it look like a princess seating herself demurely on a gilded throne. "You are going to do something much more dramatic.
"You are going to win the Tri-wizard Tournament, and we are going to help you."