Greater Than, Lesser Be
Malvolio: …be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
- Twelfth Night, Act 2, scene 5
June 24, 1995. Little Hangleton.
As the after image of the bright green Avada Kedavra curse faded, Harry stood unharmed and tall, looking directly into Voldemort's red eyes.
There was silence between the two, despite the noise around them. Harry's Joe's were taking down the Death Eaters painfully and quickly, using plastic tie-wraps instead of standardised rope to keep them from slicing through. None of the Death Eaters had ever accounted the tie-wraps before, and the tight cinching of the plastic aided Harry's Joes.
The two spells from Voldemort and Harry had briefly collided and began to activate Priori Incantatem, but Harry broke the spell quickly. He wanted to save that for later.
"James Potter," hissed Voldemort, his eyes narrowed in anger and thought.
Harry, liking the idea that Voldemort thought he was his father and not actually Harry Potter, tipped his head in acknowledgement, gripping his wand's handle tightly. Let Voldemort think his Avada Kedavra failed that night, thought Harry vindictively, a small smirk on his face.
It angered Voldemort even more; with a slash, the Dark Lord shouted, "Fiendefyre!" and a burst of molten, bright white fire erupted from his wand in the shape of a basilisk, aimed directly at Harry.
Harry didn't move.
Before he transported to this reality, he was an assassin, a hitwizard. His job was to take down desperate, brilliant men and women for his employer. He met those who were as pure as fallen snow but made the wrong enemies and he had met those who were darker than obsidian. Fiendefyre, Avada Kedavra, intestine bursting curses, blinding curses, summoning Inferi – he'd dealt with them all.
Voldemort wasn't the worst out there, but don't tell him that – Harry met a Dark Wizard when on assignment in Laos that made Voldemort seem like child's play and he tested Harry's abilities. It took several weeks of intense recuperation at St. Mungo's upon Harry's return to the UK, but Harry still came out the victor and the Dark Wizard was in pieces.
A little Fiendefyre never hurt someone who knew what they were doing, after all… Harry responded with a slash from his wand as well, ignoring the rushing heat from the basilisk and the shrieks from the Death Eaters and GI Joe's around him. Casting a non-verbal spell he learned in Norway, a burst of icy water erupted from his wand, changing into the shape of a phoenix. The two creatures rushed towards each other, colliding in a spectacular hiss.
As the water and fire met, steam burst from the middle and quickly spread out, thickly coating the graveyard. It was impossible to see your hand in front of your face and Harry used the steam as a cover to creep from his position a few feet to the left, closer to where the younger Harry was tied to the gravestone.
Crouching near the ground, Harry waited quietly and patiently as Voldemort lost his patience and waved a hand to disperse the steam on his end. The shadowy outline of his sweeping figure began to materialise in the steam, gaining a solid form as the Dark Lord stalked forward.
"Hiding, are we, James?" questioned the Dark Lord in his sibilant tones. "That's not very Gryffindor of you."
Once upon a time, saying 'Gryffindor' in the insulting tones Voldemort used would've got Harry's back up; he was older now. Wiser. Stronger.
Once Voldemort stalked past him by only a few steps, Harry sprung out from behind, thinking¸ reducto!
The red-tinged curse sped towards the Dark Lord; but Tom Riddle wasn't one of the smartest graduates from Hogwarts for a reason—he stepped out of the way of the spell, but only just. Part of the spell caught him in his right hand, shattering the bones.
The left-handed Dark Lord didn't waste time in retaliation. Curse after curse burst from his wand, lighting the remaining steam up with flashes of multicoloured spells. Harry's instinct was to dodge all over the place and wear himself out, but his hitwizard training told him to stand his ground and move his body within a small sphere.
The curses sailed by; Harry concentrated on sending spells back. He barely noticed a cutting curse graze his cheek, or the stinging pain that came with it as the skin on his cheekbone split open and blood seeped down into his collar. He didn't notice the agonising throb of pain as a bone-shattering curse hit his collarbone; but he did notice his cutting curse strike Voldemort's neck, grazing and causing blood to spurt out. Harry did notice the way his borderline Dark lung-cursing curse caused Voldemort to stumble back.
Harry ducked under an Avada Kedavra, rolled through the dirt and came up only a few feet away from Voldemort. A quick sweep of his right leg against Voldemort's had the Dark Lord stumbling to the ground in surprise.
Harry jumped up and began the incantation to cut the airflow off in his enemy. Unfortunately, Voldemort recovered quickly and hit Harry.
Harry dropped to his knees, clutching the soft earth with one hand while the other pressed into his chest, the pain grounding him from falling over and collapsing. However many times he came up the Cruciatus curse, it never prepared you for it happening again.
"Not so high and mighty, now?" asked Voldemort, moving closer to Harry. "And who would think that the great James Potter would lower himself to using Dark magic to battle me?"
Harry didn't bother replying, gritting his teeth under a fresh wave of nauseating pain from the curse. Thousands of blindingly hot knives stabbed him all over his body, his nerves overworked and stimulated, sending wave upon wave of signals to his brain. Voldemort only needed to move a few steps closer…
"You, who defied me three times," continued Voldemort, only a foot or two away now, "Who left his wife to die at my hands, who left his son to be raised with despicable Muggles… what happened to the great James Potter now, lying at my feet?"
Somewhere, a tinny voice scratched into Harry's ear, stating, "Team C has destroyed Nagini. Repeat: Team C has destroyed Nagini."
The horcruxes were all gone… Voldemort was mortal…
"I'd say he won," ground out Harry guttery, looking up at the Dark Lord and shouting his signature spell. "Expelliarmus!"
Voldemort's eyes widened and he retaliated quickly, shouting, "Avada Kedavra!" but it wasn't enough.
The two spells collided together, creating a blinding white spark of energy in the middle, which grew to the size of a small golf ball. Harry rose to his feet, willing that ball of energy to move closer to Voldemort's wand.
It wasn't easy. The last time Harry did this he was fourteen and scared out of his wits, only knowing that he had to win. This time, Harry did not have the same feelings but he had the same drive: he had to win.
Slowly the ball grew in size as both struggled to contain the influx of power that two phoenix feathers in brother wands could generate. The sphere grew in size again, inching slowly towards Harry's wand, causing Voldemort's lipless mouth to smirk in delight.
The smirk disappeared as Harry furrowed his brow and with a snarl, sent the volleyball-sized gathering of energy back to Voldemort in a quick burst. The energy slammed into the Dark Lord's wand, uncaring of the wizard's shout of "NO!"
The two connected wands began to buck and spark in Harry and Voldemort's hands, yet it was Voldemort who looked at his wand in growing horror. The wailing of a phoenix echoed in the graveyard, making Voldemort's blood-red eyes widen further.
Don't break the connection, Harry, stated a melodious voice, whispering the instruction in Harry's ear.
I know, the time-traveller replied.
A pale figure of a tall, balding man with a walking stick emerged from the crackling energy attached to Voldemort's wand, looking around the graveyard in morbid fascination; he recognised where he was.
"He was a real wizard, then?" the man questioned, and Harry felt his lips twist up into a small, sad smile as Frank Bryce stared at Voldemort. Harry had tried… he tried to save him… "Killed me, that one did… you fight him, sir…"
A woman's head burst from the sparkling energy attached to Voldemort's wand and Harry knew it was Bertha Jorkins, the poor witch who lost her mind under Voldemort's Legimency attacks.
"Don't let go now!" she called, "Don't let him get to you, Potter! Don't let go!"
Strange, thought Harry, did they know who he was? The game would be up soon enough as his mother, father would emerge from the wand, and there was no Cedric Diggory this time…
Lily Potter emerged from the wand, ignoring Voldemort's sputtering and fear-drenched face as his wand and Harry's trembled and buckled under the strain of holding the connection. The red-haired woman walked towards her son, looking at him carefully from head to toe. Was she disappointed in the way Harry led his life…? In the decisions he made…?
"Your father is coming," she whispered, her voice so low that it could not be heard outside of the small area around Harry. The crackling of energy sparks and spellfire drowned out anything else. "He wants to see you… but Voldemort will know what is happening, even if he doesn't understand it… it will be alright, Harry… just hold on a little longer."
And there he was, a tall man with untidy hair fell from Voldemort's wand to the ground, straightened up and pushed his glasses further up his nose like Harry would do. Voldemort's eyes went from round, wide ones to narrowed slits immediately as they darted from James Potter to the tall man fighting him.
"You must break the connection, Harry," said James quietly, staring into his son's eyes. "We will linger only for moments, but we will give you the time you need."
"No," answered Harry, gritted his teeth as he physically had to wrench up the wand to keep it in place—Voldemort struggled to control the connection at his head. "I know what I need to do. He needs to die. The horcruxes are gone."
James and Lily Potter shared a look between the two, something so familiar to Harry that an ache started in the pit of his stomach. They were echoes of the parents he never had the chance to know… but the opportunity to see a conversation in a glance, just like Molly and Arthur, like Remus and Tonks… Harry ached once more for the things he never had.
"Very well," said James finally. "We will give you the time you need. End this tonight, Harry. End it."
Harry nodded and turned his attention to Voldemort. The Dark Lord was scheming, planning his way out of the connection but Harry had something else in mind. The wand's bucked some more, violently now. The connection was becoming unstable.
"Do it now, Harry! Now! Be ready!" cried Lily Potter, and the echoes of the souls Voldemort ripped away with the Avada Kedavra curse rushed at the Dark Lord. But Harry didn't break the connection—instead, with the two wands and their cores attached, Harry cast a spell.
The blood-red eyes of Voldemort met Harry Potter's between the ghostly shadows of Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, and James and Lily Potter; other figures were emerging from the still-connected wands, rising up and surrounding the frightened and furious Dark Lord.
Harry held his enemy's eyes as he clearly stated the words to his next spell. "Avada Kedavra, Tom."
The sizzling green spell launched itself along the still attached line of energy, deep green sparks spitting off into the space around them as it rushed towards the Dark Lord, who could not break the connection with the echoes around him plucking at his robes, swirling around him, their voices angry and patronising.
Harry saw his parents, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, Marlene McKinnon, countless others he didn't know—all of them surrounding the Dark Lord and then the spell connected, encasing Voldemort in a deep, emerald colour and cracking the air around him.
For a brief moment, it seemed as though time stopped… and then it rushed back like the air let of out a vacuum, collapsing in on Voldemort and causing the Dark Lord to burst apart.
Distantly, Harry could hear his Joe's cheering and someone saying "Voldemort's dead!" but in that moment, the green spellfire he sent to Voldemort came careening back towards Harry and engulfed him, swirling around him and blasting him backwards through the air in a haze of pain.
Then Harry knew no more.
Harry and Cedric were side-along apparated with Quentin and Remus, a bunch of other Joe's surrounding them as they made their way towards Hogwarts at a brisk, fast pace. Cedric was eyeing the strange men in black wear, especially at the wands they carried in their left hands and the non-magical guns they carried in their right.
"When we get to the maze on the Quidditch pitch, I want the two of you to stay together and get out of the way. Make your way to the teachers and stay with them," instructed Remus. "Do not leave with anyone, regardless if it's Dumbledore or McGonagall, or Flitwick or anyone else. Wait for me."
Cedric and Harry nodded, even if Harry was entirely unsure of why Remus was acting the way he was.
The gates opened at a wave of Remus's hands – Harry's eyebrows shot up in surprise at the gesture of wandless magic. But it was the emotion behind the gesture that had Harry gaping. The heavy iron gates slammed back against the rough stone columns, creaking and clanging loudly before swinging back at the group.
They never touched them; they were already far past the gate.
Harry could hear the screams and jeers from the crowd in the stands where they were.
"They must have seen him," murmured Cedric to Harry, glancing at the fourteen year old beside him. "They must have seen You-Know-Who."
Harry blanched. "Your parents… Merlin, they must have thought you died!"
Cedric's face paled of all colour, and he looked around at the men surrounding the two. "My parents…?"
"Soon, Mr. Diggory," replied Quentin. "We're following protocol here."
"Whose?" snapped the Hufflepuff.
Remus glanced back at the two Hogwarts students. "Mr. Houdini's, Cedric." With that said, they reached the entrance of the castle and bypassed it, moving down the worn dirt path to the Quidditch stands. Quietly, the group emerged from between to bleachers, just out of sight from where Dumbledore stood with Cedric's parents, McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape and Mad-Eye Moody.
Moody saw the group first, his magical eye twisting in its socket to face them by rolling towards the back of his head… his body turned and the conversation was diverted, the rest looking the way Moody was facing.
"Cedric!" gasped out Mrs. Diggory, darting away from the group and pausing only briefly at the armed men surrounding the two teens. She reached forward and pulled Cedric into a strong embrace, smoothing his hair and checking him over for injuries.
"Mum, I'm fine," said Cedric, trying to soothe her. "Really, I am. Just have a bump on my head!"
"My boy!" cried Amos Diggory, reaching his wife and son as well. Soon, the teachers, drawing the attention of the entire pitch as the crowd watched the two teens.
"Remus," began Dumbledore, his mouth a firm, straight line. "What is going on here?"
Remus took his time in replying, looking predatory and glancing slowly as he took in the tense atmosphere the spectators were emitting the worry and fear and mild paranoia. Dumbledore, Flitwick, McGonagall, Moody, the Diggory's and Harry, as well as Remus and the Joe's, were standing near the teacher and dignitary box. The box was situated directly in front of the entrance to the maze, with the spectator stands rising in the U-shape around the maze. They were drawing attention.
"Perhaps that is something for your office?" suggested Remus smoothly, glancing at Quentin and catching the older man's eyes.
The Joe gave a miniscule nod at Remus, his eyes then darting at the uncomfortable-looking Harry, who stood beside the Diggory family.
Dumbledore missed the byplay. "Very well. Professor McGonagall, if you could please go to Hagrid's vegetable patch, there will be a large black dog. If you could bring him up to the office…?"
McGonagall looked at Dumbledore as if he was insane, but hurriedly moved off. With that said, Flitwick was left to control the masses while Moody and Snape, who broke off from the spectator box to join them, followed the Headmaster. Remus motioned for Harry to join him; the Diggory's fell in line behind and the rest was made up of the Joe's.
The walk into the castle was silent and contemplative. Remus and Quentin ensured that either one of the two were between Moody and Harry and Cedric; the rest of the Joe's ensured that they were ready to fight if the Death Eater made any movements.
At one point, Remus wondered what Dumbledore thought. Was he thinking about the horcruxes? About Tom Riddle and who he became? About Harry's destiny and the prophecy?
As they neared the gargoyle, Dumbledore mumbled his password and the stone guardian leapt aside, revealing the stone staircase. Everyone piled on and the stairs rotated up to the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore absently waved the Elder wand—Remus wondered how it would work now that there were two versions of the same wand in the same reality—but the wand obeyed its master and conjured up several more chairs for the party.
Dumbledore sat behind his desk; Snape stood silently behind and off to the side of it, leaning against a tall bookshelf; Remus quickly beat Harry out for a seat and made sure he was in the chair closest to Moody, who was against the large cupboard that held Dumbledore's knickknacks. Disgruntled, and shooting his uncle a dark look, Harry then moved to his seat while Cedric was gently ushered to sit in front of the desk, with his parents hovering just behind his chair.
The tiny office felt crowded, it wouldn't be long until McGonagall, and Sirius arrived, making the already small space seem smaller.
"Harry…" began Dumbledore, who looked carefully at the young wizard. Then, sensing another avenue for information, the man turned his blue eyes on the Hufflepuff. "Cedric. Perhaps one of you could enlighten us as to what happened tonight. We all saw what happened from the rather interesting pieces of technology that Cloak & Dagger made for you… but I would like to hear it from your perspective."
Harry and Cedric shared a look, glancing at each other and reading the other's face. Cedric came out of the TriWizard Tournament better than Harry in terms of wounds; the elder wizard only had the large bump on his head from where he fell at the graveyard. Harry was covered in much more muck, grime, and blood. Cedric, realising that Harry needed to visit the hospital wing soon, gestured for him to begin.
Harry began his version of events with Krum's attack on Cedric. Mrs. Diggory made a sharp, whimpering noise from behind her son and grasped tightly onto his shoulder. Cedric winced but gamely did not tell his mother to remove her fingers.
Harry glanced at his schoolmate worriedly, but continued: he spoke about their teaming up, how much help Cedric had been, their idea to share the cup as a Hogwarts win… then he began to speak about the Portkey trip.
He had recognised the graveyard, he began quietly, mentioning it was in his dreams back in the summer holidays. He knew of the house on the hill but he wasn't sure whom it belonged to. The story continued, with Harry being knocked out and tied to the gravestone, of Pettigrew partaking in the ritual and how Voldemort could touch his face.
Dumbledore's eyes sparkled at the admission, just like how Harry Houdini had said they would when he showed Remus his original memory of the night. Remus was waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Was Dumbledore going to say anything about Harry being a horcrux?
Harry finished by trailing off the end of his point of view of the evening. "The next thing I knew, Uncle Remus was there with some of his employees, telling Mr. Quentin to take Cedric and I back to Hogwarts. I saw nothing else."
Cedric collaborated the story, filling in details from his perspective that Harry did not notice—but they were minor details.
Remus felt his Chatter mirror vibrate in his trouser pocket, tucked securely there, and excused himself during Cedric's retelling. The three Joe's that followed the group, including Quentin, moved away from the door to allow Remus to pass through the Headmaster's office to the staircase.
Out there, he turned his back on Dumbledore and Moody, and took the call. Piers' face was grimy, sweat-stained and fatigued, but there was a trace of a smile on the man's lips.
"Remus," he began.
"He's dead. Voldemort's dead."
Remus felt his heart drop out of his stomach and then leap up into his throat, rendering him unable to speak for a moment.
Piers was continuing, "We got all the horcruxes, too. He's definitely gone this time. For good. Harry did it."
"And… Harry? How's he doing?" asked Remus, sucking in his breath. Please, please don't let him be gone… not after all we did.
Piers halted in his conversation and something came over the South African man; Remus could physically see the change as Piers' face drooped, his pallor became pale and his eyes dimmed. "Remus…"
"No. Piers, no."
"I'm sorry. He cast Avada Kedavra while still connected to the Prior Incantatem. There's not even a body."
Remus felt despair sweep through him. Harry…
Piers ended the connection on the Chatter and absently Remus placed the mirror back into his pocket. The werewolf leaned against the cool, smooth wall of the staircase, resting his body. As he stood there, he took a deep breath, fashioned his face appropriately and let a mask slide on to cover the hurt he was feeling.
While he collected himself, McGonagall and Sirius, in dog form, came up the frozen staircase slowly. McGonagall took leave when she saw Remus standing outside the room, a final, curious look back at the large dog sitting patiently at Remus's feet.
"We need to go back in, Padfoot," muttered Remus, turning and opening the office door. The Joe's stepped aside, none commenting on the dog that followed Remus. Instead, Sirius went straight to Harry and whined as he nosed the young wizard in the hand.
"Is everything alright, Remus?" asked Dumbledore, kindly, although everyone in the room could tell it was only a polite question as a social necessity. Cedric had finished his retelling by this point.
Remus briefly wondered if he should reveal what happened tonight, everyone would know soon enough, through the Quibbler, but perhaps it might speed things up here.
"Voldemort is dead," announced Remus steadily.
There was complete silence for several moments before the predictable members in the room broke it in a clamour.
Remus pursed his lips into a tight line and explained, "Voldemort is dead. Cloak & Dagger received a tip that something would occur tonight during the TriWizard tournament and we set out to take the appropriate precautionary measures required to do damage control."
"Remus," began Dumbledore, slowly, "There are other factors at work here. If anything, your company has only delayed the inevitable and he will return."
"No, he won't," stated Remus firmly. "We also destroyed all his horcruxes."
Dumbledore's breath was sucked in so suddenly and his aura, crackling magic, erupted. "Remus Lupin, what have you done?"
Remus's temper blew. His emotions were already volatile that he didn't need a scolding or dressing down from a man who ruined his friends' life time after time. "We did what you failed to do, Dumbledore, so shut the fuck up and get off your horse. You knew that Voldemort made more than one horcrux, or at least suspected. Well, we did one better and not only found all of them but destroyed them. All seven of them."
Dumbledore's face was pale, frozen at Remus's deadly outburst. Harry was half-out of his seat, but Padfoot's whine compelled him to stay seated. The Diggory's remained silent but Amos had a rather speculative look on his face.
"Seven…" breathed Dumbledore, slumping in his seat. A glance at Harry drew Remus's attention.
"Yes, Dumbledore, that one too," he said, answering the unasked question. The elder wizard's bushy eyebrows rose so sigh his glasses slid to the end of his nose and threatened to fall completely off.
"Everything that you failed to do, we did. We picked up your slack, we set things right. We captured all the Death Eaters, we fought them and killed the ones who weren't going to surrender. We battled Voldemort and won. What have you done for this community?"
The accusations came fast, clipped and angry. Remus felt the strength of his lycanthropy surging through his veins and visibly collected himself. Several deep breaths later, Remus finished the conversation. "Dumbledore, you're a piss-poor educator. You're a terrible leader of the light. You keep things too close to your chest and don't tell those who trust you what they need to know to perform their tasks appropriately. You had years to collect and find the horcruxes and you didn't. So we're cleaning up your mess. Deal with it."
Remus turned to Quentin, gesturing for Harry and Padfoot to join him, as well as the Diggory's, who, after a look at Dumbledore's stricken face, wisely stood and joined Remus at the door.
"Quentin," began the werewolf. The head of security perked up. "Please take the two Death Eaters in the room into custody. We'll hand them over to the Aurors with the rest of the Death Eaters who remain alive tomorrow at some point after our interrogations. And if they don't cooperate… well… handle it however you like."
Remus ignored Dumbledore's gasped "Remus!" and Snape's bellow of rage or Moody's roar of frustration as the Joe's quickly intercepted them all, taking the Death Eater's wands. Dumbledore remained too stunned to do anything but watch from his place being the desk.
The Diggory's led the way out of the office first, with Mrs. Diggory speaking to Harry and asking him questions (Padfoot trotted beside). Remus turned back once, looking around the ostentatious office and the chaos his words created.
Dumbledore was struggling to gather his thoughts; the Joe's had not only knocked out Snape, but had used tie-wraps on him and had snapped his wand. Moody – or rather, Barty Crouch Junior – was in the process of changing back to his true form as his Polyjuice ran its course. The young man was shouting and doing his best to fight back but three elite wizards, and Quentin, subdued him quickly.
The office had broken furniture, papers strewn everywhere and books were knocked off the shelf in the Snape struggle. But it was glorious to see Dumbledore put in his place, Snape knocked out and beyond Dumbledore's help, and the Death Eaters rounded up. Remus felt a smirk twitch onto his lips.
Mischief managed, Harry. Mischief managed.
Dorset. Cloak & Dagger Headquarters. July, 1995.
Harry Potter was not entirely sure why his uncle Remus was escorting him to Cloak & Dagger in the middle of the summer holidays. Especially with the media going bonkers over everything that happened on the night of the Third Task.
Harry sighed. Since that night, Harry Houdini's disappearance, the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort and his defeat at the hands of Harry Houdini, the capture of Peter Pettigrew and the clearing of his godfather's name, as well as the capture of the many Death Eaters who flocked to Voldemort's call… it had been a busy few weeks.
The media hounded Harry and Cedric constantly upon their arrival at Hogwarts the next day, having been the only two Champions alive to see Voldemort's resurrection and the beginning of Houdini's fight with the dark wizard. Reporters clamoured for their quotes, their impressions. Their classmates asked them the same questions, interrupting lessons with retelling of the last Blood War.
Harry was tired of it all. He just wanted to go back to his home in Wales and crawl into bed, pull the covers over his head and wish the summer away.
Because every time someone asked him about Houdini, Harry didn't know what to say. Voldemort died thinking the man he was fighting was James Potter, back from the dead. But Harry saw the scar. He knew that wasn't true.
It didn't make sense! It couldn't be true…
… but who would believe him if he told anyone? If he said that he killed Voldemort, only a version of him that was older, jaded and far more dangerous than he would ever be?
So Harry swallowed his suspicions and kept them secret, locked away deep within him, forgetting he even saw his counterpart's face that evening.
Remus did not speak, solemnly leading him up through twisting corridors until they entered a large boardroom near the CEO office. Houdini's office. Merlin above, his office.
Remus nodded cordially at one of the youngest men in the room, who was sitting near the head of the table, just left to the empty chair at the head. The one Remus was leading Harry towards.
The young Potter swallowed his fear and the lump that suddenly grew in his throat. Silently, he took the seat at the head of the table, feeling like lightning would strike him down as soon as he sat in it. He remained tense and edgy as Remus sat in the chair to his right.
A quick glance down the table had Harry recalling the names of the Heads of Cloak & Dagger: Remus, Camilla, Yui, Edith, Sebastian, Justine, his godfather Sirius, Piers, and Jonathan on his left.
"Harry…" began Remus, softly. Harry flinched violently, but forced himself to face Remus. "Um, there are some things that we need to take care of today. It… it will be a lot to take in, but you deserve to know these things."
Harry nodded. Remus took a breath and asked, "Do you have any questions before we start?"
Harry paused, looking at the people in the room. Either they were looking at him hungrily or sadly, like he was an image of someone they knew and missed. They must have known who Houdini was, realised Harry suddenly. His Uncle Remus must have known too, the entire time.
"He was me, wasn't he?" asked Harry, in a convoluted, roundabout way. His voice was matter-of-fact, sad and simple.
Remus jerked back, startled, but a small smile crept onto his face. Everyone in the room looked at Harry the same way, but his godfather. Perhaps Sirius didn't know…?
"Yes, Harry. You're right. Houdini was you," replied Remus gently.
"What?" barked Sirius from where he was sitting, eyes wide.
Remus turned to face the last Marauder. "Harry Houdini was, in reality, Harry Potter from the future. When he was twenty-seven, Harry learned that he was ingesting a variant of Amortentia, which caused a less severe reaction to the subject of the potion. It allowed for a gradual increase in affection over a long period of time, which could finally result in the subject of the potion being weaned off it after several years. The potion would then retain its potency. It is liquid Imperius."
"It's also illegal in every single magical country and state in the world," inputted Edith, who along with Sebastian studied the potion. "While not as potent as Amortentia, it's ten times as dangerous because it completely destroys the free will of the subject of the potion. They become a shadow, a shell of themselves."
"And Harry was drinking this?" asked Sirius, aghast. It seemed as though he was accepting that Houdini was his godson from the future, but Remus was sure he was just trying to rationalise and pick something to focus on first before he would go back to the revelation of his time-travelling godson.
"Yes," answered Remus, continuing the story. "But that's not all. When Harry learned of this, he went to confront his wife and mother-in-law. They confirmed it, but Ginny—" Remus glanced at the started Harry Potter—"then revealed something far worse."
"What was it?" breathed Harry, fascinated, disgusted, and completely taken with the tale.
Remus frowned. "She revealed that Harry discovered the truth about the love potions before. He discovered that he was not the only one of his friends who was doused with the potion and how they were all being used and guided through their spouse for another reason—an ultimate goal of some kind.
"Harry never discovered what that goal was. But he did learn something else—Ginny used a spell on Harry that was supposed to send his soul back into his one-year-old body, without his memories, to relive his life over again."
Harry gapped openly at the idea of having to go live with the Dursleys. Had Houdini not intervened with Remus, would Harry still be in the cupboard under the stairs? Would he be at Stonewall Secondary, or at Hogwarts? Would he have finally died, succumbing to one of Vernon's violent beatings?
It didn't bear thinking about. Those things didn't happen. Houdini had saved Harry from the Dursleys.
"We came across a similar spell," inputted Justine, taking up the story from Remus and drawing the attention of those in the boardroom. "While it's not an exact translation or the same spell, it has enough similarities that we were able to piece things together."
"How does it work?" asked Harry, turning his full attention to the witch. If someone had used this spell on a version of him before, he wanted to know what to watch out for in the future!
Justine cleared her throat. "We back-tracked it using Harry's memories and the notes his source gave him before the time jump. Essentially, we think Dumbledore may have come across the spell in the first reality—now, hang on here because this is where it's going to get tricky: in the first reality, Dumbledore discovered the spell and for whatever reason, he sent Harry back in time to relive his life. From the notes, we can only assume it is because Harry didn't fall into line with Dumbledore's 'grand vision' because he sent Harry back after Harry was in his sixties.
"Thus began the second reality with Dumbledore retaining his memory of the event. He now knows the spell and knows where to find the spell… whether it is in a book, a scroll, or whatever.
"Harry lost his memory but Dumbledore didn't. Now, maybe Dumbledore wasn't sure that he'd live long enough in the second reality, so he told the spell to Snape to use as a last resort. And, according to Harry's notes, Ginny mentioned that Snape sent Harry back again for a third time when he was sorted into Slytherin."
Here, Harry Potter made a face. He was proud to be a Gryffindor!
There were some stifled smiles around the table at the sight. Jonathan continued for Justine. "We're now into the third reality. Snape's retained his memory of the spell but Dumbledore doesn't know about it now. He's also lost some of the vital information, such as where Dumbledore originally found the spell because he didn't tell Snape. They're now passing on information verbatim to each other, losing information of what the spell does or how it truly works each time they cast it.
"Some more stuff happens in this reality and instead of Dumbledore or Snape making Harry relive his life, it's Molly Weasley who's not happy with how things are going. Maybe Harry and Ginny didn't get together. Maybe he had an affair with Hermione. Maybe Ginny had an affair. Who the hell knows—we just know that she tried the spell out and sent Harry back into the fourth reality."
Remus cleared his throat and continued for Jonathan, catching Harry's attention and speaking clearly, if not softly. "This leads us to the world we knew Harry came from. In the fourth reality, Harry defeated Voldemort at the age of seventeen while camping out with Ron and Hermione and searching for the horcruxes. Many friends and people he cared about died, Sirius and me included."
Harry was sure he face reflected the horror he felt at the thought of losing his Uncle Moony and godfather.
Remus smiled gently and reached out to touch Harry's arm. "Dumbledore and Snape were also dead; Molly Weasley remembered the spell and once Harry and Ginny were married, she taught it to Ginny in case anything would happen. Think of it as a precaution. When nothing happened for several years, things settled… until Harry received information from his employer about Ginny and Molly's use of love potions on Harry… and his friends."
"But why would she do that? Why would Mrs. Weasley do that to me, or Hermione or anyone else? And Ginny?" asked Harry, thinking back to the shy redheaded girl who sat with her friends at the house table. He couldn't picture the little girl becoming the vixen and bitch Remus was painting.
"Who knows, Harry," answered Remus patiently. "Harry Houdini never found it out, either. All he knows was that he confronted his wife and mother-in-law, which led to him chasing her out of the house and a duel on their property."
"And then she cast the spell," finished Harry quietly, looking down at the wooden tabletop.
"Yes," agreed Remus, just as quietly. "She did."
"But how did Harry keep his memories?" asked Sirius, piping up from his seat.
Yui raised a hand to take the question. "Mr. Black, Harry kept his memories because his line of work required him to be knowledgeable in various magical fields for safety purposes. While he did not have to be a master of all his trades, he had to be competent enough in them. Moreover, one of those he needed to know was Runes. On the night of Ginny's attempt of the spell, Harry changed whatever runes he recognised into something else that made sense to him. The backlash of the spell was to send him into the past, as Ginny intended, but with his memories intact and with his current body."
The room was silent, allowing the two who didn't know of Harry Houdini to absorb the information presented. There were still many unanswered questions, but Harry was sure he could wait for another day to have them answered, especially if Remus knew Harry Houdini as well as he was hinting at.
"So what am I doing here, then?" asked Harry, getting back to the original reason.
There was some shuffling as those at the table settled more comfortably into their leather chairs. Remus pulled out a briefcase from the floor beside his chair and opened it. He pulled out several heavy-looking pieces of paper, all cream coloured and thick.
He hesitated, then slid them across to Harry to look at. A single gold ballpoint pen was placed next to Harry's left hand.
"When Harry created Cloak & Dagger, he knew there was a chance he wouldn't survive his final plan. It was always to destroy Voldemort," stated Remus, ensuring that he caught Harry's eyes as he spoke. "His sole purpose for creating the company was to publicly announce Voldemort's return so there was no smear campaign against you, like there was when the TriWizard tournament happened in his reality; but also to prevent the multitude of deaths that his reality experienced. He wanted to save you from the same fate he was manipulated into by taking the role of Voldemort's destroyer."
Harry stared into Remus's amber-coloured eyes and saw beyond the words his uncle was speaking; there was a reason why Harry Houdini fought Voldemort to the death that Remus was not saying. Harry would speak to him about it… but another time.
"Harry knew he wouldn't survive," said Jonathan quietly as Harry looked hard at the papers in front of him. "But he wanted the company to go on. Remus can't legally hold a company in his name, being a werewolf, and the rest of us declined."
"So he left it to you," whispered Remus. "He left everything of his to you—who better than the same person as himself? The Potter trust ensured you never had to work if you didn't want to, but… Harry wanted you to have something you could play with and create things with. He wanted you to bring a new era to the wizard world with our non-magical electronics and to help change the world."
No pressure, thought Harry darkly for a moment, but the thought left him just as quickly as it arrived. Harry had wondered what he wanted to be when he 'grew up,' and Hermione was going on about how in their fifth year they would have career counselling…
At one point in his life, Harry thought to be an Auror. Fame and glory from Quidditch never interested him and he wasn't as interested in Herbology as Neville was, or brain-crunching jobs like Hermione geared towards…
But the possibility of creation? Or to take something and make it new? Images and ideas began flowing into Harry's brain and suddenly he realised why Harry Houdini did some of the things he did. There was reason to his madness, it seemed—and who knew Harry best than himself, really?
Harry reached forward and gripped the gold pen in his right hand, and began signing.
Harry's wrists still ached from signing the papers hours later as he, Remus, and Sirius left the Cloak & Dagger building, deciding to forgo the apparition point in the basement. Harry would have all the time in the world to discover the nooks and crannies that the previous CEO had created.
They walked through the shiny gates at the edge of the company property, turning off the paved road and walking down the country lane. No cars passed them, leaving them to their thoughts. Harry was sure that Sirius was having trouble dissecting the idea of his time-travelling godson and all he sacrificed for the good of this reality, but Harry was more concerned about Remus. Sirius only knew of Harry Houdini briefly and more in passing—for Remus, Harry Houdini was a friend.
Glancing at his uncle from the corner of his eye, Harry began to wonder. What was Harry Houdini like as a wizard and man? Why did he choose to do the things he did? His life experiences made him stronger—did he not think that Harry could be just as strong as he was? Who were his best friends? What was he afraid of? Was he afraid of anything?
There were more and more questions piling up in Harry's head and soon he realised other than the public persona that Harry Houdini adopted, Harry knew nothing about his doppelganger.
"What was he like?" blurted out Harry suddenly, the words escaping his mouth and tumbling into the silent air, sharp like staccato notes.
Remus nearly missed a step in their stride, glancing down at his pseudo-nephew with wide eyes. He recovered, frowned a bit and thought.
Harry was sure that Remus would not answer; Harry Houdini's missing body likely meant the man was dead or else in another reality with no way of returning. Remus would be mourning his friend.
"He was a great man."
Both Harry and Sirius turned to Remus. The words were spoken softly, kindly. More followed.
"Some people do things because they want the recognition. Others do it because they want the money. Harry… he did those things because he could. Because he realised he was the only one who could do them and he wasn't afraid of doing it all over again if it meant those he cared about and loved were safe.
"Do you know what the word 'great' is defined as? Of someone with exceptional talents or achievements, being remarkable or arising from the idealism of thought or action." Remus had a faraway look on his face, as he stared down the country road and towards the horizon. Sirius and Harry greedily drank up the serene look on Remus's face.
Soon, Remus was speaking as though to himself. "Harry… what Harry Houdini, that other version of you… what he did was beyond greatness. He was greater than the average person, and a lesser being for being so selfless. He never once thought about himself, or what he wanted out of life. He thought only of you, of his friends and those he lost."
Remus shook himself, coming out of whatever mood he was in and glanced down at Harry, walking between him and Sirius, with a smile. "You want to know more about Harry Houdini? Harry, do I have stories to tell you…!"
A smile broke out across Harry's face; beside him, he saw Sirius begin to smile too. He might never grow up to be the same as Harry Houdini, but he could learn about the man he was and do his best to be someone that Harry would be proud to call Potter.
After all, Harry Houdini was a man of greatness.
Harry Potter could be one, too.
Brecon Beacons. November, 2008: 3:23am. 4 hours later.
Harry moaned, a hand reaching up to clutch at his aching head. That last feedback blast had sent him careening away from Voldemort violently, and creating a painful landing on unforgiving ground.
Harry winced as he opened one eye, then another. Good Merlin, he thought, I'm blind!
It took him a few moments to realise it was night and that was the only reason he couldn't see properly. A murmured "lumos" had the Elder wand's tip light up as a soft, pale yellow orb.
The cow in front of him gave another startled "moo" and skipped away, only to forget about Harry completely. It went back to chewing grass.
Stiffly, Harry rose to his feet, wondering why they were so cold… looking down he bit the inside of his cheek to stop from laughing.
Well, that settled things! He thought, wiggling his sock-clad feet. His boots had, once again, been blow off his feet in the blast. If that was any indication… a wicked smile overcame his face.
In socks, Harry strode south, back towards the large country home he could see in the distance. There would be no wards alerting those within of his approach; he was still within the protective wards of the estate. In fact, he would give no warning at all to the occupants of the home.
He stealthily approached, silent and dark, melting into the inky blackness. No moon shone, and his wand's light was extinguished long before he was in range of the estate.
As Harry crept up to the back, kitchen entrance, he stopped for a moment to peek into the house through one of the dark windows. His wife, Ginny Weasley, sat with her back slightly angled to the window, a hand held mirror in her left hand. A dry cloth tissue was in her right. Harry watched with morbid fascination as Ginny's face crumpled into its self, her shoulders shaking as she nestled the tissue against her eyes.
Then, she stopped and peeked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were dry and makeup pristine. She was practicing faces for the announcement of Harry's death.
The Boy-Who-Lived and Man-Who-Conquered smirked, eyes judging the distance of Ginny and the back door. Let the games begin, he thought darkly, and slipped the Elder wand into his waiting hand. The wand purred its satisfaction, as dark as Harry's thoughts were.
Ginny didn't know what hit her. One moment she was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at her reflection and trying different expressions and faces for Harry's very public funeral, and the next moment she was pinned against the far wall with the heavy back door holding her legs down. Her wand was out and ready to do battle, but the damn door wouldn't budge!
"Oh, Ginny," began a mocking voice she thought she'd never hear again, causing her look up at the figure in the doorway.
Ginny paled and shivered in fear as she took in Harry Potter's dark, blood-smeared and dirty face; his hitwizard gear was scorched in places and his robes tattered. Harry looked older, with premature grey at his temples and a few more wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. Yet, strangely, it was his dirty white socks and emerald eyes that Ginny remembered most in those final moments.
Those emerald eyes burned with hate as they stared into hers; speaking words, she thought she'd never hear again.