A/N: This is a direct continuation of "Stormseeker: Cycle of Nightmares". You may want to read that first, otherwise this might be a little confusing. It's fairly short.
Chapter 1: Dawn of a New Day
The Nexus of Torn Elkandu sends me hurtling across space to another world. I've never been to Wizarding Earth before, and don't really know what to expect. But anything is better than staying behind to die again.
When the glowing mists clear away, I'm standing in a dusty alleyway in between two buildings. We generally try to target the Nexus so that we're out of sight of any immediate bystanders. I poke my head out of the alley and look around the village. The buildings are quaint, made of wood and thatch, with signs hanging outside the shops declaring their names.
It would look just like any town on Lezaria, if it weren't for the fact that the sun is dimmer and the gravity lighter. That'll take some getting used to. Sure, Torn Elkandu doesn't have a sun at all, but that was different, considering its sky is always swirling purple-black. That, coupled with the fact that its gravity is about the same as this, always made it feel a little less than real. Which makes sense, considering it's located in the Ethereal Plane and not the physical world at all.
But this is a real, physical world, and I still feel like my feet aren't properly connected to the ground and that the sky is lit by merely a lamp rather than a real sun. Yeah, I'll definitely have to get used to this. Provided I survive the day, and actually get to spend years here.
So, I have about five hours before the 'moment of truth', give or take how long after that it might take for them to come after me, if they're coming. I feel like getting drunk. I've never really drunk before, and some would say I'm too young for that anyway, but right now... I just want to make these memories fade. That's a dangerous path, though. I don't really want to forget. I don't want to forget a thing. I must remember what I'm doing and why. I must never forget this.
No, I should really take the opportunity to get started on learning. If I have to become a god six hours at a time, I damned well will, somehow. I'll find a way.
There's a building that looks like a bookstore, judging by the sign. I head inside. It's not a very big shop, but it's packed with narrow aisles and shelves stacked with books. They're all marked with price tags. Three sickles for this one, a galleon for that one. I don't know how much those really are, never mind have any local currency on me.
No matter. I can still browse. I skim through book after book, to see about getting a handle on how they use magic in this world. From the sounds of things, they're pretty reliant on using wands as magical foci and chanting arcane words. It seems like an excessively restrictive form of magic, but at least I suppose it would be easy to learn to start off with.
"Can I help you find something?" the little old lady watching the shop says from over my shoulder.
"I'm just looking," I say. "But most of this is way beyond me."
"I would expect so," she says. "Starting at Hogwarts this year?"
"Hopefully," I say.
"Afraid you won't be accepted? Or not sure that you'll be able to pay the tuition?"
"Both, really," I admit. There's tuition? Damn, I suppose I'll have to find a way to get some local currency, then.
"Well, good luck with that. Let me know if you need anything or decide on something to buy."
"Alright," I say. I spend the next few hours looking through books, skimming over basics. The little old lady doesn't bother me again or seem to mind me taking my time about it.
Six hours. I don't need to look at a clock or anything. I know how much time has passed. Perhaps it's one of the benefits of being a Time Mage. I grow too nervous to even continue browsing, and slide back the book I was looking at onto the shelf, and head out of the building. I'd rather not have anyone else caught in the crossfire if I can help it.
I head out to the edge of the lake, and look across at the castle. It's a large castle, with several spiring towers, and it looks like there's a forest behind it as well. I'd love to see what it looks like inside. I'd love to learn what they might be teaching there.
I sit down on the grass on the lake shore. It's a warm summer's day, with a cool breeze blowing by, and there's not a cloud in the sky. A perfect day, some might say. One might think that nothing bad could possibly happen on a day like this. And yet I'm nervous. Deathly nervous. Any moment now, men in black robes could appear behind me, and kill me with a glance.
"Pleasant day, isn't it?" says the kindly voice of an old man.
I glance behind me. Oh, no. An elderly man with a long, white beard wearing gray robes. Shit, the Dark Elkandu could be here any minute. They might kill him if they see him talking to me!
"No need to be scared, boy," he says. "I am Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts. I'm not going to hurt you. Wait... Harry? No, it can't be."
"I don't know who you think I am, sir, but you should get away from me," I tell him frantically. "There are... dark wizards after me, trying to kill me, and they wouldn't hesitate to kill you, too, if you got in their way."
"Your concern for my well-being is admirable, but I assure you that I can handle myself," says Dumbledore.
"You don't understand!" I say. "You might be able to take on Sedder the Shadow, but you've no hope against the Dark Knight Sardill!"
Dumbledore blinks at me as if I've just said something very strange. Before he speaks again, he pulls out his wand and mutters, "Muffliato." Then he asks, "Who are you, young man?"
"I am Lexen Chelseer, the Stormseeker," I reply.
Dumbledore stares into my eyes for several long moments before finally replying, "I see... So you are the Stormseeker."
I blink at him. "Yes, I am the Stormseeker. What of it? That's just the title they gave me... They told me it would unambiguously identify me in prophecies and whatnot, but that's crap."
"There was a prophecy regarding the Stormseeker made three years ago," Dumbledore says.
"Oh, for..." I say, sighing and rolling my eyes. "Prophecies can't actually tell the future, because the future isn't set in stone! All they can do is say what might happen, what could happen, not what will happen. I don't suppose you'll tell me what this prophecy said?"
Dumbledore takes a deep breath. "The Stormseeker approaches. Born of the blood of the dragon, born of a galaxy far, far away. He comes seeking the power to fight the shadow and the dark night. Deaths beyond number mark his path, but he bears the hope of a thousand worlds."
I blink, and rub my eyes. "Well, that's... accurate enough, I suppose... but I don't know that it really says much of anything..."
"I had at first believed that 'the shadow and the dark night' refered to evil and darkness in a generic way," Dumbledore says. "And that it was nighttime, rather than a knight person... But you say they are titles of dark wizards?"
I nod. "They're very powerful, very dangerous. They... I was forced to watch them murder my family... And I came here, hoping to get away from them... They could show up any minute. I don't want you to get hurt, too. You aren't involved in this. You shouldn't-"
"Relax, Lexen," Dumbledore says. "I am an old man, and I am not afraid to die for a noble cause, if need be, but I doubt that I will be dying today. Why don't we head over to the school to speak more in private? Hogwarts is heavily warded, and even powerful dark wizards would find it difficult to break in by force."
I don't think it'll help, but there's no use arguing about it. I sigh, and give a nod of acquiescence. "Alright," I murmur reluctantly, turning to follow after him as he heads back into the village.
We step inside a seedy-looking tavern called the Hog's Head, judging by the sign outside. Dumbledore says to the bartender, "Aberforth, do you mind if we use your Floo?"
"Sure, go ahead, Albus," Aberforth replies.
"Have you used the Floo before?" Dumbledore asks me.
I shake my head. "What's a Floo?"
"Take a pinch of this powder and drop it in the fire, and state the name of your destination," Dumbledore says, tossing a little powder into the fireplace to demonstrate. "Hogwarts, Headmaster's office!" He vanishes into the green flames.
I quickly follow after him, my mind too numb to do anything else. I tumble out of the fireplace on the far end, rolling end over end for a few moments before landing flat on my face.
The headmaster's office at Hogwarts is a spacious room, luxuriously furnished, and containing a number of clearly magical items whose purpose I can't begin to guess at. The walls are covered in paintings that look alive, some of which I could swear are blinking at me. They make me feel a little uneasy, but I try to ignore them.
"Sherbet lemon?" Dumbledore says, offering me a bit of candy and gesturing to a chair.
"Thanks," I murmur, absently taking the candy and popping it into my mouth, and taking a seat across from him.
"You've had a rough time of it, from the sounds of things," Dumbledore says. "Try to relax. Why don't you start with telling me exactly where you're from? You have an American accent, but I don't think you're actually from the States."
"I'm not," I reply honestly. "I'm an Elkandu. A dimension traveler. Normally, we Elkandu try to keep a low profile when we're on other worlds, to avoid letting on that we're from another universe, but these aren't normal circumstances. As I think you've already figured out from my outburst earlier."
"I see," Dumbledore says. "Would you like a Calming Draught?"
I assume that's some sort of potion. I shake my head. "No, it's alright. I'll... I'll be fine. Really." Way to play the tough guy, Lexen. He's not going to be very convinced of it if I'm still shaking.
"I don't think you're even managing to convince yourself of that," Dumbledore points out gently.
"It's just... I don't know what's happening back home right now," I say. "Every last person I ever cared about could be dying horribly as we speak..."
"I understand," Dumbledore says. He goes over to a cabinet off to the side and pulls out a vial filled with a light blue liquid, and passes it over to me. "Why don't you drink this?"
I sigh softly and accept it with reluctant gratitude. "Alright," I murmur, uncorking the vial and swallowing the contents in a single gulp. It tastes slightly minty and cool, but I hardly notice the flavor going down.
"Did you come to this universe simply to hide from them?" Dumbledore asks.
I shake my head. "I wanted to learn. Learn all I could about magic. To become powerful enough to defeat them and protect those I care about."
"Ah," Dumbledore says. "Yes, of course. I'm assuming you wished to attend Hogwarts, then."
"Yeah," I say. "But I didn't realize there was tuition. I don't have any local currency, I'm afraid. I didn't really come with anything..."
"Hmm, yes," Dumbledore says thoughtfully. "I may have a solution for that, provided you're willing. But you've had a rough day, and it can wait until tomorrow. Perhaps you should have some dinner, relax, and get some sleep first."
"Alright," I murmur. I think the potion is having an effect upon me. At least I've stopped shaking.
Dinner is brought in by a strange little creature with long ears. At this point, I'm taking everything about this world in stride, and don't even really think about it as I settle in to eat in silence. It's good food, but I have a lot on my mind at the moment, which I'm trying not to think about too hard. But between Dumbledore's potion and the fact that nobody has shown up to kill me yet, I'm starting to relax more.
It's still early yet, but I go to sleep in the room Dumbledore directs me to. Despite my having gotten some sleep in the cave, I'm still pretty tired. I don't even know how long I managed to sleep at that point. But I gratefully lay down to rest.
I wake with light falling upon my eyelids, and blink for a moment. There's morning light streaming in through the window. I climb out of bed and look out.
It's morning. It's another day. I never though I'd be so grateful to see the dawn of a new day.
Whatever might have happened yesterday, whatever might happen back home, there's hope. I can dare to hope. I can find a way. I can live a day without dying horribly. I can learn and become strong.
I realize my face is wet. I'm crying? Tears of joy, perhaps. I'll take any joy I can get in these circumstances.
I head out of the guest quarters and down to the headmaster's office. Dumbledore is already up and at his desk.
"Ah, you're awake, Lexen," Dumbledore says. "Care to join me for breakfast?"
"Yes, please," I say. "Er, just so long as it isn't pancakes."
"No pancakes," Dumbledore says, nodding. "Have you ever had a full English breakfast, Lexen?"
"No, sir," I say. "I'm not familiar with that term. What does it consist of?"
"I'll let you see for yourself," Dumbledore says.
The strange little person appears again, bringing a hearty heap of food. I start eating gratefully. There's bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms, baked beans, and hot buttered toast. I eat up every bite like a starving man, and wash it down with some tea.
Once we finish eating, Dumbledore says to me, "So are you feeling any better this morning, Lexen?"
I nod to him. "Much better, thank you. What was the possible solution that you suggested yesterday?"
Dumbledore takes a deep breath and lets out a heavy sigh. "This will take a bit of explaining on my part, so I hope you're up for a bit of a story."
"I'm listening," I say.
"A decade ago, a powerful dark wizard calling himself Voldemort threatened this world," Dumbledore says. "He was so feared that few people dared to speak his name, instead calling him 'You-Know-Who' or 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'. A prophecy was made about one that could defeat the Dark Lord. This prompted Voldemort to attempt to strike down a year old child. But something unexpected happened. When he tried to cast the Killing Curse upon the infant, the spell rebounded upon him and destroyed his physical body instead, leaving the child unharmed but for a scar on his forehead."
"I don't see what this has to do with me," I say.
"I'm getting to that part. Patience, my boy," Dumbledore says. "This boy, Harry Potter. His parents were killed in the attack that gave him that scar. I placed him in the care of his mother's sister. There were... measures in place that I believed would ensure his safety. But while they may have protected him from external threats, they did not help against internal ones. I would not outright accuse his family of being abusive or neglectful, but it stands that dear Harry Potter died at the age of five, from an apparent fall down the stairs."
I frown a bit at that. What kind of people would hurt their own blood? "So what happened to this Voldemort you mentioned? You said his body was destroyed..."
"I do not believe that he is truly dead," Dumbledore says. "And now we are without Harry Potter as well. The future looks grim, to say the least."
"I'll help, if I can," I offer. "I'll need a lot of training before I can match any Dark Lords, but I'm not afraid to try."
I know little of Voldemort, but if he's anything like Sedder, cackling madly as he tortures children to death... I want to help any way I can. And if I can't take down Voldemort, what chance do I have against Sedder, never mind Sardill?
"Are you certain about this?" Dumbledore says, raising an eyebrow. "You're an outsider, and you don't have to get involved in our problems."
"I know," I say. "And I hardly expect to be ready anytime soon. But how could I just stand by and do nothing when other people's families, and children, may be in danger? If there's anything I can do, I should do it."
"Very well," Dumbledore says. "Just so long as you understand what you're going up against. You see, I have an idea. Harry Potter would have been about your age, and looked a lot like you, before he died. Aside from the scar, of course. It's not perfect, but I believe it's close enough that you could pass for him."
"You want me to... take Harry's place?" I say.
"Effectively, yes," Dumbledore says, nodding to me. "We'll need to fake the scar, and there's some things that I'll have to do in order to have you magically and legally recognized as him, but I believe I can pull that off."
"You want me to replace your Chosen One just because I look vaguely like him?" I say incredulously. "This plan is... in a word, insane. Doesn't anyone else know that he's dead? What about his family?"
"No one outside of this room realizes that he's dead yet," Dumbledore says. "After he died, I had his relatives' memories modified so that they wouldn't even remember that he'd ever been there."
"And how does nobody else know?" I say. "You've covered it up for this long?"
"Harry was being kept at his aunt and uncle's home in secret," Dumbledore says. "The only ones who might have known he was there were Muggles, who wouldn't have realized his importance. Only a couple people in the wizarding community knew he was living there, and they don't know that he's dead."
I sigh heavily. "This just strikes me as a terrible idea... I know little about this world. How would I ever convince anyone that I'm supposed to be Harry Potter?"
"That's alright," Dumbledore says. "Harry would have been raised by Muggles. It's doubtful that he would have known anything about the magical community anyway."
"I'm guessing that 'Muggles' are how you refer to non-magical people?" I say. "Alright, even considering that, I don't know anything about the Muggle parts of this world, either!"
"Neither do many wizards," Dumbledore says. "And we can claim that you were raised in the States, and just aren't used to how things work in this country."
I take a deep breath. I'm overreacting here. This is what Elkandu normally do on explorations. Blend in with the populace and avoid letting on that they're from another world. I should be able to do this. And I can learn, can't I?
"Alright..." I say. "Alright. I can give it a shot. I can do this..."
"Relax," Dumbledore says. "You aren't alone. I'll help you in any way I can. Just be sure about it before you agree, because once the preparations are made, you'll be Harry Potter for as long as you're on this world."
"I understand," I say. "But it is probably the best way to get me a place in this world."
"It's hardly the only possibility, however," Dumbledore says. "You could always pose as a Muggle-born, for instance. That would not be questioned by anyone."
"People will be expecting to see Harry sooner or later, won't they," I say flatly.
"He would have been starting Hogwarts this autumn," Dumbledore says softly.
"And if he doesn't, you'll have to give an explanation as to why," I say. "Another excuse, or coming clean."
"This is true," Dumbledore says.
"I imagine that you would rather not have to admit to the world that their Chosen One died on your watch," I say, looking at him, but he looks away. "Don't worry. I don't blame you for it. You couldn't have known what would happen. But others may not see it that way."
"His mother sacrificed herself to save him," Dumbledore says distantly. "She used ancient blood magic to put arcane wards upon him. So long as he lived with her or a close blood relative of hers, he would be protected. But I never imagined that he might not be safe there..."
"I understand," I say reassuringly. "I don't like the idea of lying about it and hiding it... but I can understand why you did it."
Dumbledore means well, but he's not infallible. People can make mistakes. Things can happen that nobody could predict. I regret what happened to Harry Potter, but there's nothing I can do for him now. Now, I can only take on the role of the symbol that he's become. And I see no wrong in that. People didn't care about Harry Potter as a person. Only as the Chosen One, the symbol of the defeat of the Dark Lord. And that, I can be.
"Let me be Harry Potter," I say quietly. "Let me be the symbol that they're looking for. And maybe, just maybe... I can bring them salvation when it's most needed."
"Very well," Dumbledore replies, nodding gravely. "There's a few things that will need to be taken care of in order to complete the charade. First, the scar. I will need to give you a magical scar that will not heal easily. This may hurt a bit."
"Go ahead," I say, bracing myself.
Dumbledore pulls out his wand and points it at me, and utters an arcane word. Blinding pain shoots through my forehead like a white-hot knife, and I cry out involuntarily. I clench my teeth. Well, he did warn me. Dumbledore comes over to pull my hair out of the way and take a look at my throbbing forehead.
"Excellent," Dumbledore says. "A good enough approximation of the correct shape. Are you alright, 'Harry'?"
I nod. "I'm fine. It was quick enough. Have you a mirror?"
Dumbledore points me over toward the bathroom, and I take a look at myself. There's a pale but striking scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on my forehead now. Definitely an interesting distinguishing feature.
"There are some arrangements I must take care of now," Dumbledore says. "I would advise you not to leave this part of the castle for the time being."
"Yes, sir," I say, glancing about. "Is there something you wouldn't mind me reading in the meantime?"
"Ah, certainly," Dumbledore says. He goes over toward one of the bookshelves in the office. "This shelf contains copies of the current required course books. The lowest shelf has the books for first year. I'll ask you not to touch any of the books on the other shelves without permission."
"Of course, sir," I say, nodding. I imagine they might be dangerous, and I wouldn't have the grounding in magical knowledge to understand them anyway.
Dumbledore leaves by the Floo, and I pick out a book on magical theory and settle in to start reading.
I didn't hear any word from Keolah, so she must either be dead, or in a position where she's unable to get in touch with me. Either way, she's out of my reach. Hmm, the Zarnith didn't appear beside my bed this morning, either. Does that mean that Hawthorne is still alive? No, it would have passed to my grandmother, Keliole or my mother, Anara, before me. And Mom was far away on a remote world somewhere.
I'm very much alone on this world, but at least I have Dumbledore.