Copyright and Intellectual Property Notice: This is an original work of fan fiction. However, Harry Potter and the fictional world of Hogwarts, on which part of this story is based, are the intellectual property of JK Rowling. The Matrix and the character Neo is the creation of Lana (formerly Larry) and Andy Wachowski.
Harry Potter and the Reality of Illusions
Chapter 1: Dreams
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The clanging racket of Harry's alarm clock broke his dreams apart. His dreams were always disjointed, as if the moment he began to sleep and the moment he woke up was the same thing. He rolled over and smacked the top of the noisemaker to silence it. It was too early to get out of bed. But he forced himself awake. Time to make breakfast for his Muggle tormentors.
Harry slipped on his glasses and headed downstairs to begin his chores. Despite Uncle Vernon's oppressive voice barking at him whenever he made the mistake of getting noticed, Harry felt rather cheerful. After all, he was going back to Hogwarts in a few days.
Harry took a quick look at the telly while turning the bacon. He caught sight of a frightening face. The man had wide eyes that revealed a terrible mania, wild hair flying about unkempt, and a wide-open mouth. He caught some of the announcement over the sizzle of the food, "… mass-murderer Sirius Black has been spotted…" Harry stared at the image. It was as if the black and white photograph was drawing him into it, his consciousness following some half forgotten memory of... A hot pop of grease caught Harry's arm and burned him. Harry yelped in pain, the connection to the photo disrupted by the acute pain in his arm.
"What's that racket, boy?" came Vernon's immediate reprimand. "You'd best not be burning any of my breakfast or you'll feel my hand on your backside!"
"Of course not, Uncle Vernon," Harry responded, and then added under his breath, "I'm just burning my arm off."
Harry went to the tap and ran cold water over the burned spot on his arm. As he served breakfast to his obnoxious relatives, the frightening image of the murderer returned to his mind. There was something very familiar about it. He shook his head as he took his seat and ate what was left of the food. There wasn't much, but it didn't matter. In a few days he was leaving the Muggle world behind for the rest of the year.
Harry continued his daily routine, avoiding any interaction he could with his relatives. Over the following days, Harry noticed several alerts concerning this "Sirius Black" murderer. There were very few details about his killings, but every report stressed how dangerous the man was and showed disturbing close-ups of his face.
He couldn't wait for the day to finally come when he could leave the Muggles for the school year. Every day with the Dursleys was tedium. It was like living in a nightmare of a fantasy world and he was about to return to a happier reality. Days before it was actually time to leave, Harry grabbed his trunk and headed down the stairs to set it by the door in anticipation of leaving. The stairs creaked and groaned beneath his feet discordantly, and for a moment it was if the sound was off. Even the acoustics of the stairs creaking was unreal to him here in this Muggle world. If he didn't know better, he would swear at times that this was the dream world and his dreams were what were real.
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Harry walked through King's Cross Station with a slight feeling of nervousness. There was something disconcerting about large crowds of people, so many Muggles in one place. Carefully, he made his way around all the oblivious non-magical people. In his heart, Harry pitied them, but at the same time, he was beginning to detest him. They were always so cruel and so thick-headed. Still, Harry tried to have some charity for them in his heart, as difficult as it was at times.
Harry Potter noticed that there was a boy looking around the station nervously. He was a bit older than him, but it was clear that it was his first time coming to Hogwarts. Harry watched the boy approach the uniformed Muggle officer by the platform and ask him a question. Harry knew exactly what the question would be. "How do you get to Platform 9 ¾?"
Approaching to lend a hand, Harry saw and heard the response from the uniformed officer and it sent a chill down his spine. "9 ¾? Think you're being funny, do you?" It wasn't what the officer had said. It was how he said it. The words, the sound, the inflection, and now that he was close enough to see the man's face clearly, even the mannerisms as the man turned and walked away were exactly the same as what he remembered on his first day going to Hogwarts. It felt a bit like déjà vu.
A thought occurred to Harry. Was it his fault? Had he caused the man to respond in exactly the way he did because of an instance of accidental magic? Harry postulated that upon seeing the new boy, Harry's sense of nostalgia had set off an unconscious stream of magic that had affected the platform assistant and somehow forced him to replay the scenario in precisely the way Harry had remembered it. That was the most logical explanation he could come up with. He'd need to jot this down and report it to one of his professors.
When the boy, probably 15 years old, turned away from the uniformed Muggle, Harry approached the boy with a smile. The boy looked back at him apprehensively. He had a pale face, short-cut raven black hair, and a stony look to his expression.
"Hi there! Looking for Platform 9 ¾?" Harry asked.
The boy's expression became even more apprehensive.
"Don't worry, it's okay to talk to me. It's not against the rules. I'm going to Hogwarts, too. I'm guessing this is your first year, right?" The older boy nodded. Harry extended his hand and introduced himself, "I'm Harry Potter; I'm a third year student."
"John," the boy said, taking Harry's hand looking relieved. "John Anderson. I'm glad you spoke up. I wasn't really sure what to do. Not even sure this is all real."
Harry knew exactly how John felt. When he had first learned that the reason so many strange things happened was because of magic, he wasn't sure he believed it either. But then he had gone to Hogwarts and everything that seemed strange and wrong in the world suddenly made sense. It was a lot to take in, there being an entirely hidden world that normal people didn't even know existed, but once you realized that, all the other oddities began to add up.
"Come on, I'll show you how to get on the platform."
Harry towed his trunk with his owl atop it straight towards the pillar in the wall between platforms nine and ten. When he got there, he opened the door on the wall and stepped through into a hidden room. The room was completely bare, with just a dusty floor and plain, bare brick walls.
"Come on," Harry said, waving John in. "And close the door behind you."
John stepped into the room and closed the door.
Then Harry walked directly through the wall ahead of him, towing his things behind him. John watched in surprise, then cautiously moved to follow, slowly putting his hand through the wall. It passed directly through, and John felt a hand grab hold of his from the other side and tug him forward. He emerged on the other side to see a platform full of strangely dressed people all preparing to board a totally retro looking red and black train that had the words Hogwarts Express emblazoned in scarlet along its side.
"Whoah," John said dully, looking around.
Harry took a few minutes to explain about the entryway to the train station. It was one of the gateways into Magical Britain, which existed parallel to the Muggle version. Muggles wouldn't have even seen the door into the special room. But if they happened to see someone going in and tried to follow, they would open the door to an identical looking empty room with no way of passing through to the other side. And only a magical person could pass through the barrier anyway, and then only when all the people in the room were magical and the door to the room had already been closed.
"Don't worry, though. They'll cover all the issues about restricted magical travel in your class on the International Magical Statute of Secrecy."
Harry boarded the train, John following behind him. He quickly found his way to the compartment with his friends. They greeted him enthusiastically and Harry introduced them all to each other.
"John, this is Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, my friends from Hogwarts. This is John Anderson, a first year from…" Harry trailed off to let John answer the question.
"From New York," John finished for him.
"Really? An American?" Ron exclaimed. "Oh, wicked!"
John explained how he came to live in London. Shortly after he started experiencing what he later was told were the effects of accidental magic, his father was relocated to London by his firm. That was when the Hogwarts professor and the letter came.
Harry listened intently for a bit, but then noticed the front page of the Daily Prophet that Ron had been carrying. On the front page of the paper was a warning about the dangerous criminal, Sirius Black. The image was the exact same one from the television. The man's face was manic and upsetting, moving towards the reader as if coming to hurt them.
"Is that Sirius Black?" Harry asked in surprise. "I thought he was a Muggle criminal. What's he doing on the front page of the Daily Prophet?"
"Blimey, Harry, you don't know?" Ron asked in surprise. "It's been all over the wizarding news for months now!" Then Ron thought for a moment and realized that Harry stayed with Muggles who never let him read any news from the outside. "Oh right… well, anyway, Black is not just a mass murderer, he's a dark wizard! Can you believe it?"
Dark wizards were not common. The last great Dark Wizard, who called himself "Lord Voldemort," had been killed by the current headmaster of Hogwarts nearly forty years before. There was the occasional wizard on wizard crime, usually coming from some argument over love or money, but Ministry of Magic was extremely effective and efficient in dealing with any and all forms of magical crime. Most of the time the authorities arrived seconds after something happened. The absolute power of the aurors, the police force of magical law enforcement, and the even more frightening "Unspeakables" were widely publicized in order to deter any would-be malefactor from considering going dark.
"Black has committed serious crimes in both the Muggle and wizarding world. The funny thing his, he seems to be able to slip in and out of the magical world without being detected," Hermione lectured. "It's the oddest thing, because that should be impossible. All ways in and out of Magical Britain are carefully monitored by the Ministry…"
Harry smiled while Hermione continued expounding on her knowledge of all things wizarding. She was a thin girl, just starting to go through the changes of puberty into womanhood. Everything to her was black and white. Order over chaos. Which was what made her nervous and worried all the time. She was always concerned about doing the right thing, always careful to give the right answer. Hermione always stayed behind after classes to ask questions because she could not stand not to understand, for something not to make complete sense to her.
Ron Weasley was just the opposite. Unlike Harry and Hermione, Ron had grown up in a wizarding family. Whenever he didn't understand something, he just decided it worked by "magic" and let it go. He didn't need to know why magic worked, just how to use it to get the things he wanted. The only things he worried about were Quidditch and being accepted by his friends.
The group chatted away while the train sped on. John was able to tell them all about his life back in America, while he asked many questions about magic and Hogwarts. Eventually, they all quieted down, and Harry drifted off to sleep.
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Harry Potter suddenly felt cold. But not cold, really. More numb. As if he couldn't feel his own body. He tried to open his eyes and look out, but he couldn't. He felt like he were deathly ill and terribly, terribly weak. He remembered this feeling. He had had it before.
It was a voice. No, a thought, but not his own. It floated through his mind like a faint alien echo. He wasn't really even sure if he had heard it at all. In fact, he had no idea where he was. Everything was wrong. Very, very wrong.
The thought came again. It was an intrusion, he could tell. Something that shouldn't be in his mind at all. He tried to speak, to ask who it was who was calling him, but he couldn't make his mouth move. He wasn't even sure he had a mouth at the moment.
The thought was louder this time. Not louder, though. Clearer. More distinct. Whatever it was, it was calling to him.
'Who is this?' he thought in reply.
'I AM COMING FOR YOU.'
This confirmed it. Someone was sending him a message. Someone other than himself. Someone external to himself.
'Who is this?' Harry asked within his mind again.
For a moment the name meant nothing to him. Not in the state he was in. But then he made a connection. 'Sirius Black?' he thought back in alarm.
And then the image of the screaming face exploded into his mind. The black-ringed eyes of madness, the mouth open in maniacal laughter. It was approaching, coming closer coming…
The noise jarred him awake. Harry's head swiveled back and forth. His eyes opened to see his best friends, Hermione and Ron standing with the new first year boy, John Anderson. He was back on the Hogwarts Express.
"Come on, Harry! We're going to be late!"