Note: Thank you for all the reviews. A couple of people asked about other Harry, so I had a think and other Harry will now feature. *** indicates the universe is changing, it should be pretty obvious anyway.
"We should go check out the library right now," said Rosalba.
Harry abruptly switched his focus to hanging onto Remy as his brother nearly eeled his way out of his grip.
"I think we should do something with Remy first. Or he'll get bored and into trouble."
"Yeah, you're right," she agreed reluctantly. "Do you want me to take him?"
"I was thinking we could do something together. Maybe flying?" he offered hopefully.
"Sounds great." Her face sharpened, "You'll put Remy in a child harness?"
"Of course," said Harry, because, even if he had never heard of one before that was clearly the correct answer.
"And just because Neville's not here, doesn't mean we're going to relax the rule about you being allowed to play beater. I am not going to let you entertain yourself trouncing me hollow."
"I wouldn't," said Harry instinctively. After a second he worked out that her words implied that in this universe he played beater, with Neville. He wasn't quite sure how he was going to deal with that long term, but right now he knew exactly what to say,
"We'll play Seeker Quidditch. Want to make a bet?"
"Oh you are so going down, Harry James."
Harry grinned his very best evil grin.
Three universes over, another boy called Harry Potter blinked open his eyes and stared up at an unfamiliar ceiling.
Sheer terror petrified him. The Death Eaters had finally claimed him, he was going to die. He lay there frozen, staring at the plaster snakes twisting across the ceiling, as his heart thundered.
The bang on the door on the door was a painful relief.
"Harry! Get up!" shrieked a young woman's voice, "Ginny will be here soon."
His brain struggled with trying to understand such mundane words in so dangerous a setting.
"Give me a minute," he managed to shout shakily.
"Are you alright Harry?"
"Fine," he said more firmly. "I'm fine, I just need a minute."
"If you say so." She didn't sound convinced but to Harry's relief he could hear footsteps retreat from his door.
Weakly he pushed himself up into a sitting position. When the world did not immediately cave in around him, he took stock of his surroundings. The first thing he spotted were his glasses on the bedside table and he quickly shoved them on. He blinked a couple of times, the world was now in focus but otherwise did not change significantly.
The room was furnished in fusty pureblood, circa a long time ago. On one wall though, there were two bright Quidditch posters and strewn across the floor was a tangle of clothes and –
"Are those jeans?"
He lent out of the bed, tugged the suspect blue trousers free from the snarl of clothes and held them up to inspect them. Harry had only ever seen jeans at a distance, but these certainly seemed to be the Muggle-lovers' clothing of choice.
"This makes no sense. Death Eaters would never wear jeans, nor would a Slytherin. And whoever owns this room is definitely a Slytherin." He glanced up at the plaster snakes, now he could see them clearly they seemed almost to be alive and writhing their way across the ceiling. Queasy, he closed his eyes and turned his head away.
The darkness reminded him of that weird dream he'd had last night. The weird, wonderful dream where a red light offered him a way out of the darkness and death ahead. Of course it had only been a dream, although he remembered it awfully clearly for a dream, and he was in this strange new place...
"Merlin and Morganna, this is my room."
He stared at the room taking in the same details through this new perspective.
"Merlin, I'm a Muggle-lover."
He stared some more, "And a Slytherin. I'm not sure which is worse."
His head started to hurt. He couldn't be a Muggle-lover and a Slytherin. Then he remembered his father's so-called best friend, Sirius Black had come from a Slytherin family and turned into the worst sort of traitorous Muggle-lover.
"So maybe I'm not actually a Slytherin. At least it will be easy to stop being a Muggle-lover."
Or maybe it was okay to be a Muggle-lover in this new world with no Dark Lord. He would have to make sure he understood how things worked before he made any big changes. According to the red light the other him had defeated the Dark Lord, so he must be a pretty important person in this world. They'd probably overlook a little eccentricity like a Muggle-born mother.
Feeling more secure, he decided to risk getting out of bed and getting dressed. Picking his way through the detritus on the floor, he couldn't find anything he was willing to wear. The other him was clearly penniless. He knew there had to be a disadvantage to the whole no Dark Lord deal. Still, if the other him had got rid of the Dark Lord, there must be all kinds of opportunities he could take advantage of. A successful Ministry career was a given.
Provided he could find some decent clothes. Nobody would employ him if resembled some disgraceful Muggle ragamuffin.
Plundering the wardrobe was more successful. Squashed on the far right he found a respectable robe that couldn't have been worn more than once or twice. He pulled it on and was relieved to find, other than being a little tight across the shoulders, it fit perfectly.
A mirror hung by the wardrobe. He was disappointed but unsurprised to find his hair was as shocking here as it had been in his original world, and quickly flicked into as close to order as possible.
"Looking good Potter."
He snatched up the wand that was resting on the bedside table.
"Ow!" he yelped and promptly dropped the wand. Nursing his stinging palm he glared at the chunk of wood. "If the other me can use you I can too."
Wrapping a sock around his hand, he risked touching the wand again. He could feel the raw magic inside the wood jump and buck against his control. He gripped it fiercely, grabbing another sock to protect his left hand as he used both hands to force the wand to obey him.
"Lumnos," he said loudly. The room blazed white. Screwing his eyes shut and ducking his head, he focused on reducing the power thrumming through the wand. Eventually, when he could no longer feel the light through his eyelids, he risked squinting his eyes open.
The spell was still powerfully enough to light the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Harry tightened his grip, gritted his teeth and concentrated. Slowly he managed to choke off the power until he had a Lumnos charm of appropriate intensity.
"Alright!" he cheered. "I can do this."
He cancelled the charm and the cessation of the power-rush left him hollow and shaky. Reeling, he dropped the wand and clutched at the bed post.
"Oh Merlin," he panted. He thought he might throw up. He'd never felt this bad no matter how much firewhiskey he and Neville had drunk.
Giving up on dignity he curled up on the bed and concentrated on breathing shallowly until the trembling in his muscles faded and he longer sweated cold. There was a glass of water on the bedside table and he gripped it with both hands to take a few careful sips. He was still hollow, and ravenous, but no longer felt as if he would collapse at minute.
Carefully he touched the wand with one finger. The wood just tingled slightly. Harry suspected there wasn't much magic left in him to react, after the wand had sucked so much out of him for that ridiculously over-powered Lumnos.
"Breakfast," he said. "That's what I need. After breakfast, I'll be fine. Dad's always running his magic down to nothing and he's always fine."
Gingerly holding the wand with the tips of his fingers, he slid it into the sleeve holster of his robe.
"I just need to practice a bit before I have to cast any spells in public. That's all. Everything's going to be fine. I am Harry Potter, defeater of the Dark Lord." Sort of, anyway. The Dark Lord was defeated, that was the important part.
"Harry!" yelled a male voice.
"Coming," Harry yelled back. He checked his reflection one last time, then strolled boldly out the door.
Harry was thrilled to discover his little sister was a natural Seeker. Rosalba seemed equally thrilled to discover he was a natural Seeker, even though he caught the Snitch in under five minutes, twice, before she stopped accusing him of cheating and started taking him seriously.
Their third round was still going, Rosalba was seriously sneaky, when he spotted the three figures approaching. He flagged Rosalba down and brought his broom around to hover beside her.
"Hey Sis, who're they?"
Her broom flinched as she caught sight of the intruders.
"I don't know Harry. Nobody's supposed to be able to enter the Potter grounds without an invitation, I don't know why the wards haven't gone off."
Harry's first thought was Death Eaters. It didn't seem a very Death Eaterish plan though, just approach a house in broad daylight. There was only three of them too, and the Death Munchers usually liked their odds more uneven than that.
Something glinted bright and sharp in the sunshine. Raising one hand to shield his eyes, Harry squinted and realised the man was carrying a camera.
"Reporters," he growled.
"Reporters, they're fucking reporters." Overall Harry preferred the Death Munchers, at least they didn't try and pretend they weren't ripping people's lives apart for their own amusement.
Kicking his heels, he swung his broom around and swooped down.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded.
"Harry Potter, do you have any comments on the latest Death Eater attack and the scandalously slow response of the Aurors?"
Harry stared, it was Rita Skeeter in all her bright, poisonous glory. As he struggled to reign in his desire to just obliterate the woman, Rosalba appeared by his side.
"What are they doing here, Harry?"
"They're leaving," said Harry firmly, trying to Incendio the reporters with the force of his glare alone.
Rita Skeeter's hair started to smoke.
"Hey!" she jerked her head aside, patting out her hair with a quick practiced hand. "I don't expect this sort of treatment when I've been invited."
"Dad would never invite you in."
"Harry," she smiled, all teeth. "You invited us."
Harry stared at her in disbelief until he realised exactly how much of a moron the other Harry was. Cursing other Harry violently in the privacy of his own head, he turned his best shark-smile on the reporters.
"Good, that makes it simple. Consider yourselves uninvited and get the hell out of here."
Harry has never seen Rita Skeeter caught so off guard before and it is deeply satisfying to witness.
"Was something I said unclear?" he asked.
"No Harry," said his sister, "I think you were pretty clear." She turned on the reporters, "Now get the hell off our land."
Harry drew his wand and moved so he had her back, if things went sour he wanted her in view so he didn't hit her accidentally. He wrapped his free hand around the baby and waited.
"Is this the sort of treatment the free press can expect at the hands of Potters?" demanded Rita Skeeter with a rhetorical flourish.
"As long as you continue to print lies about my father certainly." Harry was beginning to get tired of being polite. Hermione had been trying to hammer into him the importance of maintaining a pretence of civility no matter what the circumstances, - pure-bloods expect it, Harry.
Frankly the point of it escaped Harry completely. If everybody knew you loathed each other, why pretend any different.
"If Mr Potter does not wish to speak to the press, we can only assume he has something to – awk!" she squawked as her note parchment disintegrated into ashes.
Harry flicked his wand again and her quill went up in a puff of flame.
The photographer eyed him suspiciously and wrapped a protective arm around his camera,
"Come on Rita, we've got all we're going to."
"Fine." The look she shot Harry promised vengeance, then she turned on her heel and stormed away.
"She looked awfully poisonous," said Rosalba nervously as they watched them leave the grounds.
"Yeah. I wonder if she's a stinging sort of beetle, I never thought to ask."
"Should we have done that? What if she writes nasty things about Dad?"
"She was going to do that anyway. But I'll be damned if she puts my name to them."
"But there must be something we can do."
"Maybe there is. Sis, do you know a girl called Luna Lovegood?"