An Awfully Big Adventure
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the rights to the works of JK Rowling or JM Barrie. Nor do I want to. They're doing just fine without me.
I always liked the question: What if? Every writer does. That one question releases the imagination. This site is filled with the answers. More than a million of them. So I invented the Traveler Stone. This is the fourth result.
It was a warm, sunny day for October. That was why the old man was found outside. Colin Creevey was the Headmaster of Hogwarts, had been for forty years or more. He had titles and honours but for all that he was always referred to as 'the old man'. And he was sitting there, by Dumbledore's tomb. All they had to do was walk up to him.
Colin turned his head at the approach of the three students. Three first years. Three Gryffindors. Two boys and one girl. One of the boys was a Weasley. That was where the comparison ended. The girl was a Black. The boy was named Evans. His father was a muggle.
"Headmaster?" the Weasley boy asked.
"You want to ask about Dennis." Colin knew it was only a matter of time before someone asked him. Being Headmaster did not make him exempt. It only made him harder to reach. He told them, "You've heard what everyone said. You know what happened."
"The same way I know the Battle of Hogwarts," the Weasley boy replied.
"You were there," the Black girl said, almost pleading. She frowned at Colin's amused smile.
"Professor," the Evans boy said in his most formal voice. "We do know what happened. What we want to know is what HAPPENED."
"Oh," Colin said as though he suddenly understood, "you three want a story."
Evans sat down on the grass, his smile bigger than his head. Black and Weasley followed suit, all smiles and eagerness. Colin returned the smiles with one of his own, feeling younger than he had in a hundred years. His memories swept back through the long decades, back to Harry Potter and the Hungarian Horntail.
"They cancelled Quidditch that year. Many of the students thought that was the only bad thing about it . . ."
They cancelled Quidditch that year. Many of the students thought that was the only bad thing about it. Instead, they had the Tri-wizard Tournament. Colin was thrilled when Harry's name was called. He was one of many who refused, at first, to believe his house mate didn't put his own name in. He was one of the first to realize he was wrong.
Other houses accused him. Then the badges began to appear. Colin hated that they said 'Harry Potter Stinks'. He and Dennis tried to change them but only made it worse. Then the first task came. That changed everyone's mind. The badges disappeared on their own. Even Ron Weasley came around.
None of that mattered to the story except to set the place and time. It was two weeks after the first task, the week before the end of term and Christmas break.
It was breakfast. Tuesday. Colin's thoughts were on making it through the next ten days, then home. Dennis was speaking those same thoughts aloud.
A strange man walked into the Great Hall. A man with a lion's mane for hair. He walked directly to Professor McGonagall. The instant she saw him, she was on her feet. They met in the middle of the hall and walked out after a brief conversation. Both looked worried.
That started the rumours. Something had happened but no one knew what it was. It was helped that all morning classes were cancelled. The teachers were all called to a meeting in the Headmaster's office. Dennis made the best guess. He said something had happened to Dumbledore. Not that he could know. No one did. It was the best guess because he was right. They found out at lunch.
The entire school was in the Great Hall. No food had been served, yet, not even after the last stragglers had arrived. Professor McGonagall was standing at the teachers' table. At the Headmaster's place. The strange man was next to her.
First was the introduction. The strange man was Rufus Scrimgeour. He was in charge of the Aurors. Second was the surprising news. Scrimgeour was here to investigate the disappearance of Albus Dumbledore. The Headmaster was believed to be safe but no one knew where he was. Until he did return, Professor McGonagall was acting Headmistress. The only good thing she said was that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day.
Everyone turned to Dennis, the best guesser Gryffindor had. They wanted to know what he thought had happened. Dennis gave Colin a worried look, changing it to a smile when Colin told him to give it a go. Dennis decided that Dumbledore went on a vacation. He would be back when he'd enough fun. No one believed him but they all agreed it was a good guess.
Dinner was more hushed than normal. There were a few comments from the Slytherin table about how good things would be with Dumbledore gone but most of the other conversations were in whispers. None of the teachers had said anything. That was bad enough. It was their worried looks that frightened the students. Even the guests from Beaubatons and Durmstrang felt it.
The meal was near to the end. The desserts had only appeared, when the main doors could be heard opening. Rufus Scrimgeour walked into the Great Hall with a look of amusement. Behind him came two Aurors. Between them walked a boy, maybe twelve, maybe younger.
"Minerva," Scrimgeour called out. "We found this boy."
"Wonderful," the boy called out, looking at the ceiling.
Colin's eyes grew wide. He wagered everyone else's did as well. The boy ran past Scrimgeour and jumped. Except he didn't come down. He flew. That was the word. Flew. Up to the ceiling that mirrored the night sky. He bumped into the ceiling and fell a few feet. Cautiously, he flew up again with his hand extended. And laughed.
"The ceiling is enchanted," McGonagall called out to the boy. "It reflects the sky outside."
"Magic?" the boy asked happily.
"They did magic to bring me here. I was in London. Then I was all scrinched and scrunched. When I unscrunched I was by a lake." The boy pouted. "Then we had to walk all the way up here. I don't like walking."
"The magic is called apparating. The school is warded. You can't apparate on the school grounds."
All the while, the boy was slowly floating down toward Professor McGonagall. He stopped when she said the word, school.
"What's a school?"
Colin had to laugh. Nor was he alone. How could someone not know what a school was.
The boy looked around, angry. He was still twenty feet above the tables, almost in the middle of the Great Hall.
"A school is a place where children learn," McGonagall said in a calm voice.
The boy's anger faded as quickly as it came. He laughed. "Then I have a bigger school than yours. It has mountains and river and pirates and indians and mermaids and fairies and all sorts of adventures."
Colin started when Dennis suddenly shouted that it sounded wonderful.
The boy turned smiling. "It is," he said as he flew directly toward Dennis. "And I don't live in any dumb house. I live under a tree. A big tree. With room underneath for everyone."
He stopped in front of Dennis and doffed his cap of leaves and moss.
"I," he said grandly, "am Peter."
"I'm Dennis," Colin's brother said, jumping up and standing on the bench. He stretched out his hand.
Peter shook his hand in a pompous manner.
Dennis was grinning. And he asked another question.
"How do you fly without a broom?"
"You can fly?" Peter seemed amazed.
"Not very well. And I need a broom."
"We'll fly together," Peter commanded. "I've never flown with anyone before. Except Tink. But she's a fairy." His face darkened. "You do believe in fairies?"
"I do now," Dennis said as both boys laughed.
Colin dared to glance at the Headmistress and the others while Dennis was talking. She was holding her hand as though to tell the teachers not to say anything. A glance at Scrimgeour making the same gesture to his Aurors.
"Are you . . . human?" Colin dared to ask. Everyone else was quiet, watching the strange spectacle, so his voice carried throughout the hall.
The boy beamed. He fell halfway to the ceiling. When he stopped, he shouted with glee.
"I am the PAN." He pulled out a short sword from his belt, waving it about. "I can fight. I can fly. And I can crow." He threw back his head and made a cockerel sound that rang through the hall.
"He's barmy," someone shouted from the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy. Peter turned and flew at him, faster than anyone had thought. He slashed twice with his sword. As he flew off, Malfoy jumped up. As Malfoy jumped up, his robes fell down. The shoulders had been cut off. As Peter turned and flew at him again, Malfoy ran. Or tried to. He tripped on his own robes, twisted around his ankles. He went down. Hard. At the thumping sound of him hitting the floor, Peter pulled up in mid-flight and crowed again. The hall roared with laughter and applause.
"Peter," Professor McGonagall called.
Colin had to smile. Peter looked at her and sniffed. He then flew back to Dennis.
"You need a broom to fly? What's a broom?"
"It's . . ." Dennis paused. "It's a . . ." He made gestures with his hands that could be barely understood to those who knew what a broom was.
"You could show him," suggested an adult voice. From someone Colin could not see. He assumed it was Professor Flitwick. His guess was confirmed when Peter looked down and shouted, "A Little Man? You are a man?"
Flitwick assured him he was. Peter asked if he was a pirate. Flitwick replied that he was a wizard. Peter's eyes were wide.
"Did you magic the ceiling?"
Flitwick laughed, "Not this one."
"I want to see one that you did."
"Later, perhaps. There are none nearby. And we are still eating."
Peter noticed the food for the first time. Dennis moved over to make a space and Peter, landing first, sat down and grabbed at the first thing in front of him. A treacle tart. He made a loud approving noise as he swallowed it in two bites. He grabbed a piece of nearby cake with his hands and ate it almost as fast. He licked most of the icing off his fingers then wiped his hand on the vest he wore.
"What's that?" He pointed at a pitcher.
Dennis poured him a glass of pumpkin juice. He drank it all down and said he wanted another. "Cherry pie!" He called out and reached over two of the students to grab a slice of that.
"You could have asked me to pass it," one of them said in an annoyed tone.
Peter laughed. "I'll have you pass me another one, then. Will that make you feel better?" He turned to Dennis. "Do you eat like this every day?"
"Three times a day," Dennis grinned.
"And you fly?"
"When I can," Dennis admitted, "but not very often. Between classes and homework."
Peter asked what classes were, then asked why Dennis went to them. His grin returned when Dennis said he wanted to. Apparently, classes weren't bad if you wanted them.
One of the girls said they didn't like potions. Peter agreed. He was explaining how he always made the lost boys take their potions and they tasted terrible.
"Excuse me . . . Peter."
Peter turned to see Professor McGonagall standing nearby. "I'm eating."
"Oh, don't let me stop you," McGonagall said in thinly veiled anger. "I thought we might explain to everyone, including you, why you are here."
Peter responded by finishing his cup of pumpkin juice and dropping it onto the table. "Yeah." He reached over the table and grabbed another cup that still had juice in it. "I'm not going to your school."
"Peter," McGonagall said softly. "This is a different world than yours. In this world, you are in charge of this school. You are the headmaster."
Peter stood up on the bench and looked around. He understood. He was almost excited as he asked. "This is what would have happened if I didn't run away?"
McGonagall was smiling. "Yes, Peter. This is what might have been. The voice told you that when you touched the stone."
"The pretty stone," Peter agreed.
Once Peter agreed to listen, McGonagall explained to everyone what had happened. About an artifact called the Traveler Stone. If someone touched it, they change places with their counterpart from another world, an earth where things happened differently. They would stay in their respective worlds until they understood each other, when they understood how they differed.
"The Traveler Stone?" Black asked.
"It's a magical artifact," Colin explained. "No one knows where it came from. But this is what we know of it. It glows red, with an inner light. It is small, about the size of a lumpy sickle. And when you touch it, you freeze in place."
"And then?" Evans dared to ask.
"Then you hear a voice which says, according to Albus Dumbledore, 'come, traveler, and learn what might have been'. When you can move again, you're in the same place but in a parallel world. Your counterpart in that world, who would have touched the stone at the same time, is sent to your world."
"But?" all three asked as one. They wanted to know how you returned.
"Well, you need to learn about your counterpart. Once you understand how you are similar to, and different from, him then you return. Assuming your counterpart has learned the same about you. If one of you doesn't learn, or one of you dies, or if one of you touches the stone in the other world, you are stranded there forever."
"And the boy, Peter, was Dumbledore?" Weasley asked.
Colin nodded. "When magic is involved, anything is possible."
By the time McGonagall explained that Albus Dumbledore had touched the stone, Peter had drifted up to the ceiling where he was nestled in one of the nooks. His feet could be seen hanging down. If everyone was quiet, a light snoring sound could be heard. And everyone became quiet once they understood. The boy in the rafters was what Dumbledore could have been.
Once he was back in the common room, Colin was the center of attention. Those who were far away wanted to know what he looked like. Did Colin notice any resemblance? Those nearer wanted to know why Dennis went to talk to McGonagall. And the girls talked about how cute he was. And how rude he was.
Dennis came in all smiles. McGonagall had agreed that Dennis could show the boy how a broom is used. (Madam Hooch would supervise.) He would also give the boy a tour of the school and its grounds. (Weather and Peter permitting.) And most of all, Dennis would be permitted to sit in on all the discussions. And he was excused from all classes for the duration.
Colin smiled. "And you'll tell us everything that happens."
Dennis' smile was bigger. "You will. McGonagall thinks you're," he ended haughtily, "more mature."
Someone (Harry Potter) reminded Colin to take his camera.
"Was he cute?" Black asked, giggling at the fact that she dared to ask the question.
"And rude," Colin told her. "I thought you were listening."
"Did you take pictures?" Weasley asked. "Of them flying."
"Hundreds," Colin admitted. "Flying, eating, wrestling around when they started feeling foolish. We even dressed Peter in a set of robes and a hat. I had enough time to take one picture before he decided the hat was stupid." Colin sighed. "And I listened as the teachers and the Aurors tried to explain what a great man Dumbledore was. It took three days."
"That him?" A gruff man asked. Colin noticed the resemblance.
"Aberforth," Rufus Scrimgeour said forcefully.
"That the boy? Yeah, it's him."
"Aberforth, you shouldn't be here."
The man ignored Scrimgeour. He was staring at Peter. Glaring.
"Yeah, I recognize you, boy. I remember what you looked like. Before I broke that nose of yours."
Peter flew at him, hovering between him and Scrimgeour. "You?" He was glaring at Aberforth. He floated slightly upward as he pointed. "I know you." He was glaring as well. "I saw you. Through the window. They had you. They didn't need me anymore. You're the reason they closed the window."
"That was in the other world," Aberforth answered. "In this world I had you as my brother, you arrogant whelp. Albus was the star pupil, the honour student, the great wizard." He gave a dismissive wave. "You share that with him. All you can think of is yourself. All you think of is how great you are and that everyone knows it."
Colin watched as Peter slowly put his hand on his sword. Aberforth didn't notice, or ignored it. He was angry and doing his best not to yell. His voice was still filled with venom.
"You should've kept looking through that window of yours, boy. You would have seen your sister. Ariana.
"Here, here in this world, she was hurt. A hurt that didn't heal. She lost her father because he avenged her. Then her mother died. And poor Albus had to think of someone else instead of himself." He sneered at the boy with the drawn sword. "We argued, boy. Over what he SHOULD do. And he drew his wand. Him and his friend. And me."
"And Ariana?" Peter looked on the verge of tears. When the man turned his eyes downward, he asked. "How?"
"A stray spell." Aberforth had a tear on his cheek. "No one could be certain whose. That meant that Albus could avoid the blame." He angrily added. "That's why I hit him. At her funeral." He pointed to the other men and women in the Great Hall. "Ask them," he shouted. "Did he ever mention her. Did he ever mention his own sister. He's more than happy to help others, but the bastard will never admit he is wrong."
Aberforth glared at Peter.
"That's what you're like, boy. A man to make anyone proud."
No one said anything as Aberforth Dumbledore strode from the hall.
No one said anything for several minutes.
Scrimgeour broke the silence by saying, "Dumbledore wasn't like that."
"Wasn't he?" Peter asked in his usual arrogance. His sword was still in his hand. "Should I be proud?"
Peter sneered when no one answered.
"Is this what I am? A bitter old man? A foolish old man trying to hide from his fears."
"Dumbledore isn't like that," McGonagall said in an even tone.
"Isn't he?" Peter changed his sneer to a smirk. "He's stupid. He's a stupid old man. And do you know why?" The sneer was back. "He spends all his life wondering what he should have done. I don't. I never look back."
He was rising, his sword held over his head.
"He always thinks what could have been. I'm always thinking about what can be."
There were arrogance and pride in his voice.
"I AM PETER. I AM THE PAN. I CAN FLY. I CAN FIGHT." He deliberately smiled at Dennis and Colin. "AND I CAN CROW." He threw his head back. As the cockerel sound echoed through the Great Hall, he faded from sight.
"And Dumbledore came back?" The Black girl asked.
"The next day."
Colin knew what they meant.
"He had been humbled." He paused. "When he left, he was a great wizard. When he returned, he was a good man."
Weasley gave him the honour of looking confused. "But . . . wasn't he a good man?"
"He did good things, and he made sure that people knew he was doing good things. But after . . . he didn't care if people knew. That part was no longer important to him."
Weasley smiled. Colin thought it the type of smile that said 'this one is now a little wiser'.
"Dumbledore had returned to Hogsmeade within the hour. He spent the rest of the day talking with his brother. They . . . became friends. Albus would often ask, and take, his younger brother's advice. That next morning, he was at the Great Hall. He asked Harry Potter if they could talk after breakfast." Colin smiled. "He even offered Harry the chance to miss potions. No one liked the Potions teacher."
"And Dennis?" Weasley asked.
It was Tuesday, again. The difference was that Colin was now thinking there were three days left instead of ten. He was in the common room. Waiting for Dennis. There was a knock at the windows near the fireplace.
The boy was knocking at the window. Colin stared. Dennis ran past him and opened the windows wide.
"Peter? You're back."
Peter laughed. "Once I've been somewhere, I can always come back." He handed Dennis a broom. "Here. I missed flying with you."
Dennis took the broom and gave Colin an embarrassed look. He extended that look to a couple of other students who had entered the common room.
"Where?" He asked, glad that Colin wasn't saying anything.
"Thought I'd show you where I live," Peter said casually, "just there and back. Maybe look around some before we return."
Colin suddenly understood what was happening. "Dennis. That's Harry Potter's broom."
"I'm not keeping it, Colin," Dennis said defensively, "And I'm only going for a quick visit. It's not like I'm going to miss Christmas."
"Your classes," Colin pointed out.
That decided Dennis. "I'm not going to miss them, either."
Dennis jumped onto the window ledge with Peter's help and both leaped away before they could be stopped. Colin and the others ran to the windows to watch them disappear in the distance.
"That's why I stayed. I wanted to be here when my brother returned. I stayed that Christmas. I had to. I couldn't face my parents. After that, I went home every holiday. I was all my parents had left." He lost himself in thought as he remembered. He was now giving them a litany of all the things he had witnessed. How the Tri-Wizard tournament turned out. The confrontation with Voldemort. He was restored but couldn't keep it a secret. They all knew Voldemort was back and, more important for Colin, that Peter Pettigrew was with him.
The reason was obvious in hindsight. Sirius Black was pardoned. After all, the man he killed was still alive. Colin was looking at the Black girl when he said, "that was why your Great-Great- Grandfather was there to save my life during the Battle of Hogwarts."
The girl smiled at the revelation.
And there was the rest of it. Dumbledore's death at the battle, Voldemort's betrayal by Severus Snape who slew the last horcrux as his master claimed the elder wand. How he witnessed the duel with Potter. Voldemort was toying with Potter. He expected Potter to go through the motions. He remembered Potter shouting the disarming spell as Voldemort bowed. And Potter's final words to the dying man. "The elder wand has never been defeated, in a fair fight."
"Harry Potter cheated?"
"He did what he had to." Colin laughed. "He justified his actions by quoting a muggle: No man ever won a war by dying for his country.
"He didn't kill Voldemort. He only disarmed him. But that was enough. The loss killed the monster."
And Colin finished his litany. He stayed at Hogwarts. He moved his parents to Hogsmeade in their later days. He became an assistant, then a teacher. And finally, headmaster. And he waited. Always waited. For Dennis.
"And that is why your fellow first year had a brother who is 150 years older."
"But . . ." Black seemed confused. Weasley had the same look but managed to voice the question.
"Why did he come back? After all this time?"
"It was time for him to grow up, Master Weasley. He may have put it off but it is something that none of us can escape." Colin returned the smiles they were giving him. "Remember, you three. All boys . . . and girls . . . grow up. That is the nature of life." He waved a hand toward the castle. "And the sun tells me that it is time to change for dinner."
The three thanked him for the story and ran off. Colin watched them, thinking back on what he had said. It was true.
All children grow up.