Title: World in Pieces
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Violence, angst, mentions of suicide and torture.
Pairings: Past AU Harry/Draco, canon het pairings otherwise (and no pairing for Harry in the present of the story). Eventually, a Snape mentors Harry story.
Rating: PG-13 to R
Summary: Harry is summoned to an alternate universe still suffering under Voldemort less than an hour after his own defeat of the bastard. Worse, he's not the first Harry Potter they've called on this way. Worst yet (at the moment), there is no way back home. But give Harry time, and he's likely to find something that's even worse.
Author's Notes: This is a WiP that's likely to progress extremely slowly. I know it has 24 chapters, and they'll be long, but I can't say exactly when it'll be updated. It's also really angsty at times, although hopefully never for very long. It picks up right after the last chapter (as opposed to the epilogue) of DH.
World in Pieces
Chapter One-Just to Cause Trouble
"You're coming down to celebrate with us, aren't you, mate?"
Harry shook his head as he stepped onto the first steps that led up to Gryffindor Tower. "Not right now. I don't think I can take it."
Hermione gave him a motherly glance that made Harry inwardly groan. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the mothering, it was just that once it started, it went on and on. "Are you all right, Harry? I thought you were looking a bit peaky earlier, but-"
"I'm fine as far as health goes, I think," Harry said. "I just need to be by myself and think right now. And I need some sleep."
Hermione's face softened at once, and she reached out to hug him. "Of course, Harry. I think everyone needs that," she added, as if talking to herself. "Be careful, though."
"Yeah, mate," Ron added, leaning on her shoulder and giving Harry a contented smile. "I'd hate to think that you'd fallen down a step and broken your neck just when everyone was ready to celebrate your victory."
Harry punched him on the shoulder to show what he thought of that, and Ron went downstairs wincing. Hermione leaned back against him, and he forgot about exaggerating his pain to put his arm around her shoulders and beam into her face.
Harry winced himself this time. He wanted to have what they had with Ginny, but at the moment, that felt so distant and far-away.
You're tired, he told himself firmly, and then climbed up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower, hesitating before he opened the door. He didn't know how much things would have changed under the Carrows, and he didn't think he could bear it if the common room furniture was all overturned and slashed up, or if the room was empty.
But instead, it looked relatively normal. Harry could feel a tingle against his skin that probably came from nasty enchantments, but they were already fading away. He slogged his way across the room, through carpet that felt as thick as grass against his feet, and mounted the stairs that led to the seventh-year boys' bedroom.
It was short by two beds, probably because he and Ron had left before the start of the year. Harry frankly didn't care. He cast a Vanishing Spell to get rid of some crumbs and dirt on the bed nearest the door, which looked to be Seamus's, and then crawled in and pulled the sheets over him.
He shut his eyes. It felt as though he hadn't slept for years, and he wondered how long it would take him to get there.
Not long, as it turned out. Harry found himself drifting off at once, despite the fact that he ached all over and his head hurt and he still had the slender shapes of two wands awkwardly clutched in his hands.
Shit, I forgot to put the Elder Wand back in Dumbledore's tomb, he realized muzzily. Oh, well, I can do it later.
Everything was "later" right now, he realized with a vast sense of contentment. And "later" was large.
"What are we going to tell him?"
Harry frowned. Why were people talking right next to his head? He'd assumed that Ron and Hermione would be the only ones who'd know where he was, and they'd at least have the courtesy to knock first. He rolled over, grunting, and tried to sit up.
"Shit, that was fast. I've never seen any of the others recover from the spell that quickly." This voice sounded familiar, teasing and tugging at Harry's mind, while the first voice hadn't. But the reference to "the spell" made him shoot up in bed immediately, grabbing for his wands, instead of trying to figure out who it was.
He banged his head, and dropped down again, hissing. When he opened his eyes, he saw a length of steel above him that looked like the bottom of a stacked bed, and when he turned his head, he saw bars marching down the length of the front of the room.
Beyond the bars stood a whole bunch of people, staring at him, and two of them made him roll to the floor and cast as strong an Expelliarmus as he could straight through the bars.
Two Expelliarmuses, actually. The Elder Wand hummed in response to his touch, though Harry was sure that he had only told the holly wand what to do, and Snape and Lucius Malfoy cried out in shock and staggered back as their wands went flying to him. Harry whirled around, prepared to cast it again.
This time, though, he stopped, because he had seen who the familiar voice belonged to. His vision darkened briefly, but he fought his way back to his feet and his mental balance. No, this had to be someone else, maybe using hair left over from a long time ago, using Polyjuice of Sirius. Not the real thing.
Just like Snape isn't really dead?
Harry shook his head and shifted into a position that would allow him to move quickly in any direction. "Who the fuck are you?" he asked quietly. "Why the fuck am I here? Is Voldemort not dead after all?"
Glances flew among all the people. Harry watched them, counting them and trying to recognize the ones he could see.
Sirius, or the person Polyjuiced as Sirius, whom he wouldn't look at. Snape. Malfoy. A blur behind Malfoy that might have been Draco. McGonagall. Ron. Hermione, though Hermione with an unfamiliar scar around her mouth and brilliant, intense eyes.
And Dumbledore, standing in front of the group and looking at Harry anxiously. Harry stared back and swallowed.
"This is a dream, then," he said, seizing the first explanation that made sense to him. "It has to be."
"No, it is not," Dumbledore said, gently. Harry thought he was waiting for something more, and realized a moment later that it was "dear boy." He wasn't used to a Dumbledore who didn't show him a sign of affection beyond the careful way that he was phrasing things. "We have brought you from your world to ours, to defeat the threat that we know you have very recently defeated there." He paused, as though considering how to word the next thing he said, but Harry didn't think he had chosen a very smart way when he continued, "You see, our Harry Potter is dead."
The ground seemed to waver beneath Harry. He put out one hand, because it felt as if he were falling, and rested it on the bars. They hummed beneath his fingers, arcing bolts of energy zipping up his arm. For the moment, Harry ignored them. "Excuse me?" he managed. "You-what?"
"This is another universe, of course," said Hermione, in a bold, impatient tone that Harry had only heard her take when homework was several days late. "You have to realize that. We were using a Dream Mirror to watch your progress, and I know that several people are alive here who have died in your universe. Like the Headmaster, and Mr. Black, and Professor Snape."
"How...fascinating," this Snape said, his eyes inscrutable as they watched Harry. "The others had managed to preserve me. How badly did you manage to handle the mess in your world, Mr. Potter, that you succeeded in defeating the Dark Lord without saving my life?" His voice had a faint, interested tone to it, as if Harry were a potion that had behaved in an unpredictable way.
Harry shook his head, but before he could ask why they were playing this elaborate practical joke on him, someone pushed his way forwards to the front of the crowd. It was Draco Malfoy, who looked at Harry in a weird way, as if he was the answer to all his prayers and his worst nightmare at once.
"He looks mostly like him," he announced to his audience. Harry had to assume that didn't include Harry himself. "But not exactly. I think my Harry was sharper and had suffered more. You could see it in his eyes."
"The fuck?" Harry told him, ignoring the way that McGonagall winced at the word. "What are you talking about?"
"The Harry Potter who was born here," Malfoy said, his voice lowering as he leaned forwards until he touched the bars. "My Harry. We were dating when the war got bad." He shook his head and stepped away abruptly, turning his head to the side. "You aren't him, but if you defeat the Dark Lord, then that's enough for me."
Harry lowered his head and pushed it into his hands. "You're shitting me," he said. "This is a really bloody strange dream."
Malfoy only sniffed and started to say something else, but Dumbledore interrupted. "No dream, Harry. I am afraid I must tell you that there is no returning to your own world. We have summoned you here, but the passage is one-way only. We could not even have summoned you if the place our Mr. Potter took in this world were not left...vacant."
"The fuck?" Harry asked weakly again, but then Sirius spoke.
"He does look like him," he said. "But not exactly the same. I think this Harry is more like James." He peered intently at Harry, and smiled a little. "Will you tell us what House you were Sorted into, in the dreams? We couldn't tell."
Harry smiled, glad to find an inconsistency in this mad story of theirs that would make him feel less like the world was spinning beneath his feet. "But if you had this Dream Mirror or whatever it was, then you ought to know everything about me, including which House I was in," he said.
"The Dream Mirror only shows your battles with Voldemort," Hermione said. "Nothing else."
Harry found himself glad, for some reason, that this Hermione had the courage to speak Voldemort's name like his own did. Then he shook his head fiercely. He was thinking as though he believed them. "I was wearing my tie during some of those battles."
Hermione gave a short, violent laugh. Ron didn't move away from her, which increased Harry's huge, sinking conviction that these weren't his friends playing a joke. "The Dream Mirror moves very quickly," she said. "You only get to watch each scene once, and I was far too busy taking notes on the important things, such as the battle skills you displayed, to see something that irrelevant."
Harry bared his teeth. "Fine, then," he said. "Gryffindor."
The noises that they made were not at all what he expected. Sirius whooped, leaping in the air with his clasped fist above his head. Snape flinched, and Malfoy made a sound like a kicked dog, causing his father to step forwards and grip his shoulder. Hermione said, "What?" with Ron right behind her, and Dumbledore sucked in a breath. McGonagall was the only one who gave him a normal smile.
"What?" Harry demanded.
Malfoy-Draco-was the one who answered him, voice so soft that Harry couldn't hear the emotion in it. "My Harry was Slytherin."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well, there's the problem with your bloody universe right there, then."
Malfoy acted as if he would try to attack, but his father laid a hand on his shoulder and restrained him. Harry shifted uneasily at the current look he was receiving from Lucius. Cool and—something else. Well, maybe Lucius was glad that his son's boyfriend was dead, or glad that Draco wouldn't be dating him. Harry had no idea. He still didn't know enough about what was going on, or what they wanted him for, or even if this was real.
He turned to Dumbledore, not because he trusted him the most of anyone here but because he seemed to have recovered more quickly from his surprise than the others had. "How did your version of me die?" he asked.
"It is incorrect to say that he was a version of you," Dumbledore murmured. "You could as well be a version of him. The theory of other worlds does not tell us which one came first, or if every one exists side by side, but I do think that to talk about an original is misleading."
Harry waited and let him get that out, since it seemed he needed to, and then repeated, "How did he die?"
"He killed himself," Hermione said.
Harry blinked at her. "Because he had to, or because he wanted to?"
He had wrongfooted everyone with that last question, he saw immediately. Most of them had disgusted looks on their faces. Dumbledore was startled, and Sirius—or the person Polyjuiced as Sirius, Harry reminded himself conscientiously—leaned forwards and peered at him. "Are you all right, Harry?" he asked. "Why would anyone have to kill themselves? But no, my—my godson committed suicide out of despair, and fear that he wouldn't be able to stop Old Noseless."
"I had to kill myself," Harry said, ignoring the way that he felt about that revelation of the other Harry's emotions. If they were real. If there hadn't been a private conversation between that Harry and this Dumbledore about what he had to do. Dumbledore had gone back to looking calm and wise, so there might have been. "Or let Voldemort cast the Killing Curse at me a second time, really. There was no choice." He looked at Dumbledore, wondering if everyone here knew about the Horcruxes.
Dumbledore didn't help by just giving him a long, slow look. Harry sighed and turned around at a question from Snape. "If you killed yourself," Snape said in a voice like sand sifting through a sieve, "how are you here?"
"Well, I came back," Harry said. "Obviously."
"How?" Snape's face still looked intense, not angry. If my version of him had been like this, Harry thought, I might have hated him less. "Is there a way to retrieve the dead, in your world?"
Oh. Harry shook his head. Maybe Snape hadn't hated this version of Harry quite so much if he was in Slytherin, or maybe he wanted him back because he seemed to favor Draco and Draco had been this Harry's—boyfriend.
Which was still strange to think about. Yuck.
"No," he said. "I came back because I had the choice to come back. If he had the same choice, he must have picked a different option."
Snape lowered his eyes to the ground and appeared to be thinking. But Malfoy—Draco, whatever, Harry was unused to having two Malfoys in the room and thus having to differentiate—took a step forwards and hissed, "Are you saying that my boyfriend was a coward?"
"It's like you to think that I was," Harry retorted. "But no, how could I? I don't know. Maybe he was never presented with a choice at all. Maybe things are different here." He turned around and focused on Dumbledore, who had still offered him the most solid information. "Why can't you send me back home?"
Dumbledore touched his beard, then left his hand there as if he had forgotten his purpose for lifting it in the first place. "Because the spell only works in one direction," he said absently. "It is, in some ways, very restricted, which is why it is not often used despite its power. Each summoned person can travel between the worlds only once, and they must have a place free and waiting for them, freed up by another person's death."
A slow, dreamy panic opened in the middle of Harry's throat. He swallowed against it and demanded, "Am I the first one you've summoned?"
Dumbledore's eyes shot to him, widening, and Harry realized that the man hadn't expected him to ask that question. And, of course, that meant he probably wouldn't like the answer.
"Well?" he asked, when the silence went on, and on, and on.
"No," Hermione said at last in a small voice. Ron put his arm around her shoulders and leaned in to whisper something in her ear. Hermione closed her eyes, as though he hadn't comforted her, and continued, "There were two others. One was very close to our own Harry, one very different, but the first one died in battle. Voldemort tortured the second one to death."
Harry snorted. He didn't know what would happen to the sound, but eventually it opened out into hysterical laughter. He leaned back against the hard pillow on his bed and laughed so hard his stomach hurt.
"Mr. Potter." Snape, his voice cool. "Do you need a Calming Draught?"
"I m-might—augh!" The laughter conquered Harry again, and he went back to choking and gagging on it. He could feel everyone staring at him in freezing silence. That only made him laugh harder, until he felt tears creeping down his face, thought of the picture he must present, and managed to sit up with a last, hard whoop.
"The fuck?" he asked them. "Three other versions of me have failed to win out over this Voldemort you've got, and you think I will? I survived because of my mother's blood magic and help from friends and a lot of luck! I'm not the bloody champion you need!"
"You survived," Dumbledore said in a heavy voice. "That is more than our version of you did, Mr. Potter."
"And these other versions of me?" Harry looked at Hermione this time, since she was the one who had volunteered the information.
She flinched a little, took a deep breath, and said, "They conquered him in their own worlds."
"But not here," Harry said. "That's the sticking point I'd like to see resolved, please. Why do you imagine that I can do this when they couldn't?"
"Is it not obvious?" Snape said in a voice that made Harry like him a little better, because it was like pouring ice on a fire. "We reached out to you—they reached out to you—because there is no choice. Because no one else can save our world, and any chance is better than none."
Harry nodded. "And you're not emotionally invested in me the way you were in the Harry you knew, so it doesn't matter if I die," he said.
McGonagall and Sirius stared at him, while Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore started a chorus of protest. Snape and the Malfoys all blinked, and for the first time, Harry thought that Draco Malfoy looked like the Draco he knew, not the tearful child he'd turned into.
"That is one way of putting it," Snape said at last. "Though not a way I would have expected you to see."
"It's not true!" Hermione said hotly, more like herself at the moment than since he'd seen her. "We can't care about you in the same way we cared about our Harry, but we do care if you die fighting him!"
"Because you'd have to do the spell again?" Harry asked. He found that he was oddly calm. Probably because he'd learned this year how much Dumbledore had seen him as a weapon along with a person to be valued, he thought, and how much the rest of the wizarding world saw him as a symbol of hope. At least this view of him was consistent with the ones he was familiar with.
And at the moment, he would take all the consistency he could get.
"Not just that," Ron said. "Are you sure you weren't Slytherin in your own world? Because that's the kind of thing one of them would say."
Harry shrugged. "The Hat offered me the chance," he muttered. "But I turned it down."
"You're mental." That was Malfoy, Draco, shaking his head as though he was the one who'd been brought to a different world. "Turning down the chance to become part of the greatest House in Hogwarts history? And what do you mean? You can't persuade the Hat to Sort you where you want."
"Why not?" Harry asked, glad when Malfoy didn't immediately retort, and turned to Dumbledore. "You can't send me back home."
"No," Dumbledore said, watching him closely.
"Is there another spell that can?"
"Not that we know of," Hermione said, apparently because Harry hadn't paid enough attention to her in the last few minutes.
"That's my bargain," Harry said. "I fight for you only if you work on a way to send me home."
"And if there's no way?" Hermione's mouth turned into a thin line. "Are you going to refuse to fight?"
"I will if you stop working on it," Harry said. He touched his forehead, wondering if the scar would burn hot, but it remained quiet. Maybe he didn't have a connection to Voldemort in this world, or the death of the other version of himself had destroyed it. He didn't know, but it still felt like a dream. "And don't say it's hopeless. This battle looks pretty bloody hopeless to me, but I'll still fight it."
Everyone seemed to exchange at least one glance. Harry watched them, swinging his legs, and wondered what had happened to make Ron and Hermione and Malfoy—or Draco—so comfortable with the adults. Had they been part of the Order of the Phoenix since its beginning? Had they cleared Sirius's name? How did Sirius and Snape manage to be in the same room without fighting?
"Very well," Dumbledore said at last. "As long as you understand that we may fail, even with dedicated research."
"The very same thing I was going to say to you," Harry retorted, and hopped to his feet, tossing their wands back to Snape and Malfoy as McGonagall cast a spell that opened the door.
He felt sort of heartless to himself, but he knew that he had to stay tough and keep going. Otherwise, he'd collapse.
No way back…
No, he didn't know that yet. Not for certain. He had to have hope.
"This is the room that you slept in."
Harry looked around in resigned distaste. The Slytherin common room had looked much the way it had the one time he'd seen it in his own Hogwarts, but the bedrooms were—well, the only word Harry could come up with for them was poncey. There was lace on the dark green curtains that framed the beds, for God's sake. There was a pillow on each that looked like it was made of silk. Portrait frames lined the walls, all empty right now, but each one made of a dark wood that Malfoy indentified as mahogany, ebony, aged oak, and so on, taking it for granted that Harry wouldn't know what they were.
And he didn't. But he disliked having it assumed.
The same way he disliked Malfoy's assumption that he was apparently going to sleep in the room that his old boyfriend slept in. Yeah, it was terrible that that Harry had committed suicide, but Harry was still too busy thinking about how they'd snatched him away from his old world and how he might never see his friends again to spare much sympathy for Malfoy.
"Well? What do you think of it? Green was always your favorite color."
Harry started and turned around. Malfoy was behind him, close behind him, eyes enormous and so dark that Harry thought he could see someone drowning in them. Then he realized that was his own face, and shook his head.
"I'm not him," he said. "Yes, green is my favorite color, but not because that's something essential to being Harry Potter. I can't take his place. I can't be whatever he was to you." It still struck him as so strange that this Harry had been Malfoy's boyfriend that he wasn't sure what to feel, if he had to feel anything, but he believed what he was saying. "Stop trying to make me into him."
Malfoy fell back a step, flushing and raising one hand as though to hold away a blow. "I wasn't!" he protested.
"You're trying." Harry regarded Malfoy for a moment, wondering if he was more likely to talk truth and sense without his father looming over his shoulder. "How long ago did he die?"
He couldn't really soften his voice, but as he'd thought, Malfoy was too grateful for a chance to talk to care much about that. His words leaped ahead, his hands slamming against his legs. "Six months ago. And everyone talks about him as though it doesn't matter, except for Professor Snape and my father, who understand that it was like yesterday." His voice descended into a rasp.
Harry tried to look as sympathetic as he could. "How did he die? If you don't mind telling me," he added.
Malfoy laughed, but must have thought the sound was as horrible as Harry did, because he shut up soon enough. "You're the only one who doesn't know the story already, so this is the first time I've told anyone," he said. "He turned his wand into a knife and used that to cut his throat. It's—it's instant. It meant that even if someone had been right nearby and found him while he was still dying, we couldn't have saved his life." His voice fell even lower.
"Did you find his body?" Harry asked.
Malfoy nodded, not looking up.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, and then turned away to study the bed again. "Did he die here?"
"No, outside near the lake," Malfoy murmured, relieving Harry's mind a great deal. "He left a note pinned to his robe that said something about wanting to die in sunlight and air, and—that he was sorry, but he had to go."
Harry frowned and cocked his head. That didn't fit with the tale of despair and fear he'd already heard. "Do you think he killed himself because he was afraid of Voldemort?"
Malfoy flinched back so hard that he banged his shoulders against a bedpost. "Don't say that!" he whispered. "My father says that he can hear you and fixate on you when you say that."
Harry snorted. "If you've brought two of me over already and he's killed them, I won't be a surprise. Answer the question."
Malfoy stared at him as if he had never seen anyone so strange as Harry, but answered in a murmur. "I think that he was afraid, yes. He tried several times to kill him after he understood what he had to do, and each time the Dark Lord emerged stronger. He was drinking up Harry's power. I think he was drinking up his will, too. Father says that no one can do that, but I doubt it. He's the Dark Lord; he can do anything he wants."
That was spoken so simply that it reminded Harry of some of the students at Hogwarts who had believed that he could do anything to them because he was the Heir of Slytherin. On the other hand, that hadn't kept them from telling stories and jeering at him behind his back. Maybe he would find someone here who hadn't let their fear destroy their desire to stand up to Voldemort. "Do you think I'll win?"
Malfoy gave him a deep, cow-like glance. "Of course not," he said. "The others didn't, and they were all Slytherin. They'd learned more about Defense and cunning, and they made strong friends with the people of the Order of the Phoenix who were here. You said yourself that you don't have many weapons, and I think that you've managed to antagonize everybody."
"Maybe not everybody," Harry said, thinking of McGonagall and Sirius. Snape, too, had looked at him in a strange way, but Harry thought that was probably leftover fondness for the Harry from this world, the way that Malfoy's was, and wouldn't amount to much. "I'll try to get along with them so we can win."
"You won't," Malfoy whispered, and turned and left the room abruptly, breaking into a run near the door, as if the memories were too much for him.
Harry climbed into the bed and closed his eyes. He'd expected to fall asleep right away, since he'd needed sleep back at Hogwarts and the drugged enchantment the spell had put him into probably didn't count, but instead, his thoughts wandered and dived and circled around the series of unpleasant facts he'd been presented with.
To never see Ron and Hermione again…
To have to stay here, in a world where everyone wanted someone who wasn't him…
To be apparently fated to die, since three versions of himself had struggled against Voldemort and hadn't managed to kill him…
But what his mind returned to again and again was the oddity of Harry Potter from this universe killing himself. It just made no sense to Harry. There had to be some larger goal that he'd accomplished. Perhaps he was the only one who knew about the Horcrux in him and that he had to die, Harry thought drowsily, and then he'd chosen to leave King's Cross. That made the most sense.
Except that Dumbledore isn't dead here, so who was there to meet him in the train station?
Harry sighed and finally let his mind slip towards darkness. He might know more than anyone else in the world about what that Harry's mental state and experiences when he was dead might have been, but it would do him little good right now.
Snape's voice. Harry's eyes snapped open and he sat up, heart hammering and mind full of the Shrieking Shack and Nagini, before he remembered where he was. Stolen to, he thought, rubbing the back of his mouth as he looked at Snape, who was standing at the foot of the bed. Condemned to.
"You have news for me, sir?" His voice was a croak. He cleared his throat and wondered when the last time was that he'd had something to drink or eat. He couldn't remember, despite the testimony of his pounding head and stomach.
Snape nodded minutely, but stood there giving him such an utterly blank look that Harry thought he'd changed his mind about speaking it. Finally he turned away with a sneer and said, "You are to attend a strategy meeting in the Headmaster's office to explain the past and present of the war."
"All right," Harry said. "I'll be along in a little while."
Snape whipped around to stare at him. "You are summoned now," he said, each word dripping with ice. "Not in an hour, not in a day. The Order of the Phoenix is waiting for you."
Harry laughed, which seemed to upset Snape more than all the rest, if the narrowing of his eyes was anything to go by. "I need the time to summon a house-elf and get something to eat," he said. "Otherwise, I'll trip going up those stairs to the Headmaster's office, crack my head on the wall, and die, and you'll have to go through the trouble of summoning another me from another universe all over again."
Snape went still. Harry didn't know why, and he didn't care. He turned away and clapped his hands briskly, not knowing what name he would call here for a house-elf and not caring.
"Yes, Master Harry!" said an elf who appeared a moment later, bobbing up and down in what looked like ragged bits of old sheets and napkins, a radiant smile on its face. Harry studied it closely, but it didn't look like either Dobby or Winky. "Master Harry is needing something to eat? What can faithful Burny bring Master Harry?"
Harry smiled at the elf. "A peanut butter sandwich and a glass of pumpkin juice would be fine, Burny. Thank you," he added, when it looked like the elf was on the verge of vanishing before he could say it.
The elf stopped, stared at him with tears trembling in its eyes, and then burst into loud sobs. Harry winced and cast an appealing glance at Snape. Snape folded his arms and raised his lip at him.
"You must be prepared for such antics," he said, voice dry, "if you thank one of them."
"Yeah, I reckon," Harry said, and settled back to wait for the food, which was there less than a minute later. There were several biscuits and slices of fruit on the plate with the sandwich. Harry shrugged when he saw them and started eating.
"Another student whom I know," Snape remarked to the ceiling, "had better manners than to eat like a starving wolf."
"I bet he didn't," Harry said, swallowing an orange slice. "He just did it when you weren't around."
Snape surged a step closer to him this time. Harry reached out and put his hand on his wand—well, a wand. He couldn't tell just by touching them whether it was the holly or the Elder Wand he held, though he didn't think the Elder Wand would react like this one did, warm and friendly to the touch.
"Do not mock me in my mourning," Snape said, words stark as crows. "I cannot kill or wound you while we need you for this battle, but what I do afterwards would make you beg for the Dark Lord's mercy."
Harry seriously doubted that, but since both Snape and Malfoy were sensitive about this other Harry, he decided he might as well learn to keep quiet around both of them. He shrugged. "Sorry," he said, and returned to eating.
Snape let him finish the sandwich and the pumpkin juice as well as most of the fruit and one biscuit before he waved his wand. The rest disappeared. Harry jumped up, but Snape only gave him a smug look, daring him to react.
Harry took a long, deep breath. He didn't know if Snape had tormented this universe's Harry this way or whether it was specially reserved for him because he was the replacement, but either way, he needed Snape's help, and he didn't need another feud. He just exhaled and turned to make sure both wands were close to him.
Snape stared at him. Harry knew what that freezing look felt like, but he still didn't look up as he moved towards the door of the Slytherin common room. Snape followed, staring so hard that Harry was amazed he didn't stumble.
I hope the bastard realizes that he has to work with me, too.
"Please come in, Harry."
One part of Harry wanted to say that he hadn't given this Dumbledore permission to call him by his first name, but then he decided that it was probably better than "Mr. Potter"—as long as no one else started acting like he should be a dead bloke. He nodded and walked into the office, glancing guardedly around to see who else was there.
It looked like everyone who had been outside his prison cell, with the addition of a tall woman, the tallest Harry had ever seen, with long dark hair and intense blue eyes. She glanced at him, nodded once, and then looked back at Dumbledore. "I hope you know what you are doing, Albus," she murmured.
"Prophecy speaks true, Evelina," said Dumbledore, and his eyes did the twinkling thing at her, giving Harry an unexpected sense of homecoming. "We need Harry Potter to defeat Voldemort. It did not say which Harry Potter we needed."
Harry scowled, then rolled his eyes. Well, he had known all that already. Why else would these people from a different universe be interested in him? He was only one more meaningless name and face from all the universes in the world—no, wait, all the universes in existence—to them otherwise. He sat down in the empty chair that had been left, vaguely noticing that Snape didn't sit anywhere but leaned against the wall and stared at him.
Probably to keep an eye on me, Harry thought, and nodded to Dumbledore. "Professor Snape said that you were going to tell me about the history of the war, sir."
"Yes." The Headmaster's twinkle was gone again, and he leaned forwards, his hands folded on his desk as he studied Harry carefully. "I suppose you know from our conversation already that Voldemort is extraordinarily powerful."
Everyone in the room flinched, Harry noticed from the corner of his eye, except Hermione, Sirius, and the woman Evelina. He wondered if Dumbledore just didn't care or thought they should get used to the name. He nodded. "Yeah, but he was in my world, too, and it only took one of me to kill him."
Malfoy—Draco—made a soft sound. Harry could feel intensified glares coming his way, but he ignored them. He didn't know why they expected him to be so sensitive and gentle around people where he didn't know them and would step on their toes anyway, through sheer ignorance.
"Yes, but I believe there was a difference, based on the glimpses that I had of your world in the Dream Mirror," said Dumbledore soberly. "I believe that the Voldemort you fought was insane."
Harry blinked and nodded. "Well, yeah."
"The one you have to fight here is not," Dumbledore said. "As far as we can tell, he did make Horcruxes in the past, but then destroyed them and somehow managed to reunite his soul. He did not, I think, drink unicorn blood as he did in your world. He has people who would fight to the death for him and whom he only occasionally tortures. He has made allies among the magical creatures."
"Sounds like you're fucked," Harry muttered, and once again had to endure glares. He shook his head, suppressed the impulse to tell them all that they were stupid, and said, "But the prophecy's still in force?"
"Yes," Dumbledore said quietly. "That is why we have some hope at all. We know that Harry Potter can kill him. We do not know how. The prophecy speaks of a power that the Dark Lord knows not—"
"And which none of the rest of us know, either." Snape leaned forwards. "I beg you, Albus, as I have before, to let me—"
Dumbledore raised a hand, and Snape fell silent, his eyes half-closing as though he was trying to shut out a vision of the future. Harry wondered what he would have said, but Dumbledore was going on. "Our Harry struggled against him. He prevented him from claiming the Philosopher's Stone or using the basilisk against our students. And he had a few years to gather his breath, the third and the fourth year."
"What?" Harry twisted around in his chair to stare at Sirius. "He didn't free you during his third year?"
"Free me?" Sirius had a faint smile, but he blinked. "No, why would he? People listened when I told them what had happened immediately after the war, and I never had a trial. I think the Sirius in your world did, though," he added soberly. "I'm sorry for that."
"So…" Harry said, swallowing.
"Harry's home was with me." Sirius looked at him in some curiosity. "So where was yours? Not with me, obviously, I knew that, and I know that Lily and James died in your world, too.'
Harry shook his head. He would have responded, but Dumbledore interrupted with, "Sirius, I can't see that that matters, and we must move quickly. By now, Voldemort will probably have felt the resonances of the summoning spell and be deciding what to do."
When the moment passed, Sirius looked at Harry again, but Harry just shrugged and grinned. He wasn't so sure that he wanted to tell anyone about the Dursleys. What good could it do? Obviously things were different here, and they might mock or they might pity him, but they wouldn't understand.
"At the end of the fourth year," Dumbledore continued, "Voldemort did manage to kidnap our Harry and use his blood in a resurrection ritual, but Lucius Malfoy turned against him, seized Harry, and Apparated to us. The last few years have been the years of war. And of death." He closed his eyes for a moment. "We have lost so many," he whispered. "And then we lost Harry, in a way that we would never have anticipated."
"About that," Harry said. "Are you sure that he took back all his Horcruxes?" He was still a bit wary about mentioning them, but if Dumbledore had talked about them, then he thought it was all right, and his scar wouldn't matter to the Voldemort in this world anyway. "Because I had one in me in my world. That's why I had to die and come back, because otherwise I couldn't have killed him."
"I am sure," Dumbledore said. "But someone else might have told our Harry and convinced him that…" His eyes flickered around the room, so fast that Harry couldn't see who he suspected, if anyone.
"I never heard of anything like that," Hermione said. "Why would we? The Horcruxes were all objects. I didn't know that you could put one in a living being and have it continue to live." She was looking at Harry with the interest that Harry thought she would give a scientific experiment.
"He had two that were living in my world," Harry said. "Me, and Nagini." He watched Hermione flinch and lift a hand to her cheek, and suddenly he thought he might know where her scar came from. But it wasn't important right now, so he turned to Dumbledore and asked, "Sir, why can't you destroy him? You're not dying the way you were in my world, and you must have magic as powerful as his. And you're not afraid of him." Harry thought that was the most important part. Once they had destroyed the Horcruxes, then anyone could have tackled Voldemort as long as they weren't afraid of him. Here, with no Horcruxes to destroy, it ought to have been easier.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "It is not that simple, Harry, not when a prophecy is involved," he murmured. "Did your own Albus explain the way that prophecies work to you?"
Harry shrugged. "There wasn't much point. I heard the one that referred to me and Voldemort, but we'd destroyed the prophecies that the Ministry gathered at the end of my fifth year, so I don't think it was ever really important again."
"How did that happen?" Snape demanded, leaning forwards as though a study of Harry's face would reveal why he was so much more careless and stupid than the Harry Potter he had known.
"It was an accident!" Harry protested, but from the wintry glare that Snape gave him in return, Harry didn't think that excused it, at least for him. He shook his head and turned back to Dumbledore. "What's important about how prophecies work, and why does it explain why you can't destroy him?"
Dumbledore fetched up a sigh from the depths of his gut. He did that a lot, Harry thought, and tried for a moment to think if his own Dumbledore had done that, but he couldn't remember.
"A prophecy acts like a magical barrier around the people it concerns," Dumbledore explained. "It seals them off from the rest of the wizarding world, at least as far as the actions predicted in the prophecy are concerned. Yes, other people in your world could destroy the Horcruxes that you said Tom created." Harry resolved to keep his eyes on the floor next time so Dumbledore couldn't read his thoughts. "But when it comes to the final battle, only the two of you matter."
"Have you tried?" Harry demanded. Now that he was waking up and thinking more about the situation they had plopped him into, he was getting angrier. Here was this business that had caused them to summon more than one of him from a different universe, and not to care that those Harry Potters would almost certainly die opposing Voldemort. They wanted to be free and have their own lives back, and they didn't care whose lives they disrupted doing it.
They reminded Harry so much of the people who had blamed him for being imperfect and then turned back and implored him to be their savior that his disgust threatened to overwhelm him.
But then he closed his eyes and thought about the other people, outside the school, who probably knew nothing about this and just thought that Harry Potter was unusually resilient. He would fight for their sake, if he couldn't fight for Dumbledore and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix.
"Yes," Dumbledore said, voice flat as if he didn't like being questioned. Too fucking bad, Harry thought in his general direction. "And nothing happens. My spells are deflected from him if they are mortal. The ones that are not can pass through the barrier of the prophecy and affect him."
Harry grunted, deciding to say nothing else for the moment. "All right. So. What kind of story have you spread to keep people from knowing that the other versions of me died?"
"That we have a strong and secure safehouse that shelters you between the times that you face him and lets you recover from your wounds," Sirius said promptly. "And we do have safehouses that are like this."
Harry nodded. "Are we going to get any support from the Ministry?"
Snape laughed, the harsh sound startling more than one other person, Harry thought, if the swiveling heads were anything to go by. "The Ministry has surrendered long since, Potter. The Aurors and others who didn't wish to do so fled to us. What's left cooperates with him."
"That was the case in my world, too," Harry said, remembering the Muggleborn court in front of Umbridge. "And we still beat him."
"You are not listening to Albus," Snape said, stepping forwards until he was fully in Harry's line of sight, as if he assumed that would make Harry listen to him more seriously. "You are the only one who can defeat him. You came from a world where that happened, as did the others we summoned, and you are naturally hopeful. But this Dark Lord is not the one you have faced in the past. He is stronger, saner, more cunning."
"I don't think anyone who really wants to kill all Muggleborns can be sane," Harry said. He knew he sounded stubborn and childish, but the alternative was backing down in front of Snape, which he was not about to do.
Snape put a hand over his eyes. "Do you listen to yourself?" he asked, and then turned away so that he faced Dumbledore. "I respectfully request to be excused from this one, Albus. When he dies like the rest, I do not want the burden of knowing that I wasted time on him."
Harry glared at Snape's back. All right, so he might not hate Harry as much as the one back home did—had, but he was still annoying as hell.
"No, Severus," Dumbledore said. "You have sacrificed more than anyone else in the fight against Tom. You will be demeaning your sacrifices if you stop fighting now. I must ask that you stay."
More than anyone else except the various versions of me, Harry thought, and rolled his eyes.
"Are you going to give me any advice on how I can do that?" he asked. "Or are you just going to expect me to go out there and perform a miracle, the way that they did?" He felt guilty for that a moment later, because his Dumbledore had been right about Harry's death giving them the power to defeat Voldemort, but these people didn't seem to have even that much of a plan.
"I come in here."
That was the tall woman Harry had noted when he first came into the room. He turned unwillingly to face her. He wasn't sure what she was, Auror or Hit Wizard or random assassin or professor or simple member of the Order of the Phoenix. She studied him now and smiled.
"You have the instincts of a fighter," she said. "We need to train so that they become paired with the body of a fighter."
"I haven't exactly had the chance to eat properly and exercise a lot when I was chasing around half the bloody country on a Horcrux quest," Harry snapped.
"Do show Evelina some respect, Harry," Dumbledore chided, sounding more than faintly shocked. Harry had thought Snape would join in the scolding, but instead he looked at Harry with raised eyebrows, as if he had become interesting. "She gave up her valuable free time to visit us. And she can do what she promises. In all of wizarding Britain, there is no one who has killed more Death Eaters or come closer to destroying Tom than she has."
"Then why don't you kill him?" Harry asked Evelina. "Do you believe in this prophecy, too?"
"Yes," she said promptly. "I've tried my most devastating spells against him, and they deflect. I would recognize the effect of personal wards or the kind of spells that can be woven into robes. He makes no effort to defeat me. He doesn't have to, because the prophecy barriers that the Headmaster spoke of are raised."
Harry grunted. He felt exhausted, for a moment, as though they had already plunged him into the midst of war.
But he shook off that grey, misty feeling, and sat up straight. "You can tell me more than the others, then."
"Perhaps." Evelina clasped her hands in her lap. "It would depend on what you want to know."
Harry nodded. "How close do you think he is to winning? If I killed him, would chaos follow, or would his followers immediately flee, or would there be a resistance force that could pick them off before they became a problem?"
"The Ministry will be no help, for reasons that you have already heard," said Evelina. "What I think is our best solution is to draw a cordon around the battlefield and round up the Death Eaters while you battle Voldemort. Otherwise, yes, there is a high chance that they might get away and cause new wars and rebellions. Our population is so cowed that they don't know how to hold up their heads anymore, and wouldn't even if they were suddenly freed."
Harry blinked. The searing contempt in her voice was something he hadn't expected, and it might mean that she shared his opinion of the people who would put up a seventeen-year-old as a hero and expect him to save them. It was something he resented a lot more here than he ever had back home.
She might help me to return home where the others would put off the investigation, he thought.
"Were you an Auror, madam?" he asked.
"Madam." Evelina laughed, but the sound had honesty rather than mockery in it, as had her voice when she told him about her attempts to cast spells on Voldemort. "Yes, I was," she said. "But I was never the kind of person who would be addressed by that title, I think."
"You're too young?" Harry asked, although he found it hard to tell how old she was. There were no wrinkles on her face or grey in her hair, but on the other hand, her face had a kind of stillness that didn't match up with people like his yearmates.
"No, it's too respectful." Evelina chortled again. "And in the end, that's why I had to leave the Ministry: a lack of respect." She closed one eye in a slow wink at Harry. "For the rules, for the regulations, for the kind of injustice that seems inevitable in a system reliant on enforcing the laws, for pretty much everything."
Harry grinned back at her. It sounded like she might not respect what Dumbledore had told him were fundamental magical rules, either. That made it all the likelier that she'd work with him on a spell to get him home.
"Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, in a loud voice that made it sound as if he was repeating himself, although Harry knew that wasn't the case. He just wanted to reassert control over the meeting, Harry thought. "Do you accept our offer of training? Though Tom may not yet know where you are or that you have arrived, he will very soon. This can be dangerous."
"You haven't left me much choice," Harry said, but with less rancor than he would have just a few minutes ago. If he had someone to train him who wasn't someone he knew from his own universe and who didn't seem to have known the dead Harry, then he thought he would get along better. And no matter how he tried to slice it in his mind, he knew that there were people here who needed him. He couldn't turn his back on them, although he resented the Order of the Phoenix for dragging him into this mess.
"Good." Dumbledore slumped back in his seat with a sigh. "Then we'll begin your training immediately."
Harry nodded, and jumped as he felt a hand squeezing his shoulder. When he looked back, Sirius stood there, his eyes brilliant and proud.
Harry swallowed around the clench in his throat. This might be workable after all.