Disclaimer: Still not mine. Except the toothpaste bit.
In a dream that might not be a dream...
Harry woke to the voices of dead people and what felt like a tube of toothpaste clutched tightly in one hand.
He opened his eyes.
He closed them again.
He took a deep breath, tried to remember that he was most definitely dreaming, and opened them again.
Five curious and confused faces stared back at him, including one that hadn't been there before.
"Remus? When did you turn up?"
"About 15 seconds after you fainted."
"I fainted? God, this is a lame dream."
Bill made a frustrated noise. "See? He thinks he's hallucinating. Keeps going on about how he's going to kill George. He acted like Ron was some kind of horrific monster. Something bloody weird is going on."
"Not Ron. Ron and Pansy. Although, Ron with ringlets? Bit strange." Harry shuddered.
Fred grinned at his twin. "He's got a point there. They are kind of monstrous together."
Fred ducked as Bill attempted to whack him in the head.
Remus rolled his eyes and hauled Harry up off the ground and onto a conjured chair.
"Right. Obviously something strange is going on here. You think you're hallucinating and it's George's fault. You're also supposed to be in Switzerland, last time I checked, you're wearing glasses, which you haven't done since you were thirteen and let's be honest, you're not really acting like the Harry we know. Maybe you could tell us exactly what you were doing before you landed in the Ministry Atrium in your pyjamas?"
Harry shrugged. "Fine. Might as well."
He leaned back in the chair, carefully avoiding looking at Sirius. He figured there was a fairly good possibility he might faint again if he did.
"I was at George's flat in Diagon Alley. We – me, George and Ron – had stayed the night there. I was in the bathroom looking for toothpaste. Asked George if I could use his, and I'd just started – Merlin this is stupid, I'm in a dream with a couple of bizarrely dressed dead people talking about brushing my teeth. I'd just started brushing my teeth when George burst through the door, said something about not using the red one, and then, bam, I'm being subjected to one of the most horrific things I've ever seen."
"Hmm." Remus looked thoughtful. "Can I see that, Harry?" he asked, pointing to the tube of toothpaste.
Harry handed it over to Remus who was careful not to let the paste touch his skin. "Sirius? What do you think?"
Harry carefully averted his eyes as his sort-of-dream godfather examined the innocuous looking tube. He sniffed it carefully. "Huh. I think...no...maybe...oi, George, have a look at this."
His eyebrows went up.
He looked again.
He and Sirius started arguing furiously in barely audible whispers.
Remus looked on with amusement. Fred and Bill just looked confused.
"Right," the two of them straightened from their huddle. "We're going to go and look some things up at Grimmauld Place, but we think you might have crossed to an alternate dimension."
Harry jerked. "What?"
"Sorry, mate." And they were gone.
Harry ran his hands through his hair and made a face. He wondered if this incident would put him off brushing his teeth in the future.
Remus, Fred and Bill seemed to be at a bit of a loss in terms of what to do with the young man muttering to himself in the corner.
"Um. Harry? D'you want a drink or food or something?"
Harry looked up, startled. "Nah. I'd rather not, if it's ok."
"There's one thing you could do, although I'm almost afraid to ask."
"At the Ministry...that...Fudge...Umbridge..." Harry shuddered. "What the fuck was that about?"
All three wizards appeared to be warring with equal amounts of horror, fear and unbridled amusement.
"Ah," said Remus. "Well. It's kind of a long story."
Harry shrugged. "Apparently, I've got time."
"Right then. Well, it started years ago, after Voldemort was shot..."
Harry wasn't sure he'd heard that correctly. "Wait, what?"
"After Voldemort was shot?" Remus looked thoughtful. "Well, I guess that proves you're not our Harry."
"Voldemort was shot? With a gun? Metal, bullets, bam you're dead? That kind of shot?"
"Right. I've changed my mind. Tell me that story first."
Remus scratched his head. "There's not really much to tell. Dumbledore took care of Voldemort's protections against death while you were a kid, and when you came to Hogwarts there was that whole debacle thing with the Philosopher's stone and Sirius had been reading too many westerns and decided to teach you to shoot. The Order got wind of it, Dumbledore lured Voldemort into the open and you shot him."
Harry's expression could only be described as flabbergasted. "You just shot him?" he whispered. "It can't have been that easy. Fuck."
Shaking his head, he got a grip on himself. "Okay. You shot him. Can't believe it, but if you say so. How did you end up with Mr Lime-green-spandex and his minions of ugly?"
"Like I said, it started a little while after Voldemort was killed. He'd be thrown out of power you see, and he wasn't very happy about it. As far as we can tell, he came across some Muggle comic books somewhere. We don't think he actually read them, as he seems to have got the wrong idea about Muggle superheroes, but we do know that he somehow got the idea that costumes commanded respect and decided a cape and spandex was the best way to show the wizarding world he wasn't to be trifled with."
"Yeah. The first time he appeared in public like that, he had Umbridge dressed in a Wonderwoman outfit. You've no idea how many patients St. Mungo's had that day. I think some people even tried to obliviate themselves. And that never goes well."
'Yes, well. After the first couple of times he tried to carry out his plan, he became completely convinced that his costume had granted him super powers that 'struck fear and awe into the hearts of the populace'." Remus explained.
Fred snorted. "Yeah, because people started screaming and going catatonic in the street every time he showed up with Umbridge in tow. Do you know, when they started, they had a song and dance routine?" He shuddered. "It still gives me nightmares. The kicking and the shimmying...sweet Merlin. You've no idea."
Remus too, looked as if he'd swallowed something disgusting. He looked back at Harry. "Thus was born the Great and Magnificent Fudgeman."
"We think the name came from more comic books. You know, Superman, Batman, Spiderman. Being the idiot he is, he figured just adding 'man' to his title was the thing to do."
"We're not sure where the glitter comes from. We think he just likes shiny things."
Harry finally got control of himself. "So, you're telling me, that the single greatest threat facing the wizarding world at the moment, is a disgruntled lunatic politician who, along with his two bizarre sidekicks, terrorizes the public with nudity and sparkles?
"Um. Yeah. Pretty much."
Harry started laughing. He couldn't help it. There may have been an element of hysteria helping him along.
"I'm going to kill him. When I get home, I'm going to kill him. Slowly. Painfully."
Fred and Remus looked at each other uncomfortably as Harry rested his head in his hands.
"What?" he said, glancing up at them.
Fred shrugged. "We're just not used to hearing you sound so..." he waved a hand. "You know. Scary."
"Our Harry, he'd never say something like that. Even as a joke."
"Merlin, what kind of a person am I?"
Remus looked uncomfortable again. "You're...well, you're...nice. A bit shy. And kind of timid."
Harry looked at them, figuring he really didn't want to think about how a timid and nice version of himself had managed to take down Voldemort years earlier than he, himself had, and managed to prevent the deaths of the people he loved. Sometimes, life just wasn't fair.
He closed his eyes, trying to minimise the way this whole situation was making his brain hurt.
A few moments passed in awkward silence, before Sirius and George returned with a bunch of books and the precious tube of toothpaste.
Harry avoided looking at Sirius, unable to reconcile the emotions that warred within him at the sight of his lost godfather looking like someone from a David Bowie movie. It was just too much.
"Right." George sat down next to Fred. "We think we've figured out what happened. I have to say that I appear to be a genius, in any dimension. That stuff," he pointed to the toothpaste "is bloody brilliant."
"Basically it creates a kind of wormhole in reality when it comes in contact with a specific surface – in this case, teeth – and sends whatever it's touching and everything attached through that wormhole to an alternate dimension."
Sirius jumped in here. "We think that it's probably designed to keep sending you forward through dimensions – you can't go back to the one you came from, you just have to keep going forward. There are theories which suggest that alternate realities exist as a series of concentric circles, all linked together. Different versions of the same world – created by every possible outcome of every choice and decision and circumstance within a certain part of a certain reality. All linked by some common factor."
Harry's look of confusion was mirrored by Fred.
Remus leaned forward. "Basically, what he's saying is that if you imagine a set of realities, all joined up in a circle, no matter how different they all were, there'd be something in each of them that existed in your own original dimension. For example, there'd always be magic. Or, if there was no magic, some of the people would be the same. Or have the same names. Always something that links to something else. A world where there was absolutely nothing recognisable to you would exist separately, in its own circle of alternate realities. Does that make sense?"
Harry grimaced. "Sort of. You're suggesting that the toothpaste is sending me from dimension to dimension in a circle that will eventually come back round to my world. So, what? I have to just keep brushing my teeth until I exhaust every possible dimension and get back to my own? What happens when I run out of toothpaste?"
"Well," said Sirius, sharing a glance with George. "sort of, yeah. Wait, wait," he hurriedly interjected as Harry started to groan. "We think you might be able to direct it, to a certain extent, so you can jump ahead more than one dimension at a time. Chances are, the longer you brush your teeth for – I mean, hold the brush to your teeth – the further you'll go."
"And, if your George is anything like me, he will have added something to the toothpaste that will make it hone back in on its original world. It just might take you a few jumps to get there."
Harry kept groaning. "So you're pretty much saying that you don't really have a clue and my best chance of getting home is to just keep brushing my teeth and see what happens?"
"Um. Yeah. Pretty much."
"Sorry, kiddo." Sirius looked sheepish. Which was no mean feat, dressed as he was.
Harry took the tube of toothpaste back from George's open hand. "Right then." He looked around the room. "Well, I can't say it hasn't been entertaining." He nodded in Fred's direction. "Nice to know you're still around somewhere, mate."
He gazed at his godfather. "Sirius...you...dress sense...oh never mind." He grinned suddenly. "Glad you're still here too."
Squeezing some toothpaste onto the brush, he glanced around the room. "Oh, and for fuck's sake, someone stun the 'Fudgeman' and his demonic sidekicks the next time they see them. Just wear sunglasses or conjure a blanket over them or something. No reality needs that kind of horror."
And with one last wave he was gone, leaving behind nothing but a cloud of minty fresh air and a room full of still bemused individuals.
"Did anyone tell him Bill gave him a makeover while he was unconscious?"
In a world that was both far and near...
"What do you mean, he should turn up again? Where the hell has he gone?"
A/N: Turns out this is much easier to write than Never Underestimate a Hufflepuff. If anyone has any ideas for future situations Harry could find himself landing in, let me know?
As always, please review.