Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns everything in and about Harry Potter universe. Including me, as you'll soon see.
Warning: Adult Language.
Preface: So this is a self-insert fic. Yeah, I know, self-inserts are supposedly the bane of all fanfiction, but as I believe I say in my profile, I have a bit of a weakness for them. Specifically, I enjoy the self-insert fics where the author-character is a new character, and he retains knowledge of the fictional work in the story. So obviously, this is what you will find within. This is not the first bit of fanfiction that I've written, having had a number of false starts and other stories on the back burner, but it is by far the longest.
Also note that while 'I' am based on me, the PoV character in the story is not me. I am more boring than he is, and I'm older. It can be you, if you like, though unfortunately you'll have to put up with certain traits of mine, not the least of which is being male. Sorry, ladies. I'm also American, so this is fair warning that the PoV character deliberately uses Americanisms.
A Curse of Truth
Chapter One: Snapping out of it on Platform Nine and Three Quarters
Standing against a circular pillar in Denver International Airport with a backpack slung over my shoulder, I flick my thumb across the e-reader screen to turn the last page of my fiftieth novel-length Harry Potter fanfiction. When I lift my head up to stretch a bit, a massive case of vertigo sweeps over me, and my left hand shoots back to steady myself on the pillar. Unfortunately, it finds nothing but air. It must be on account of the sudden onset of nausea and dizziness, but it seems like I'm falling through the pillar. As I shake off some of the symptoms, the sights and sounds coalesce from blurred and slurred to more distinct shapes and noises. I'm facing a tall, age-worn stone pillar that looks absolutely nothing like one from the airport...or anything I've ever seen, for that matter. My heart tries to jump through my throat as the shrill whistle of a train blares behind me.
"What the—" I begin, but stop after I spin and catch sight of the old steam engine, and the throng of children with their familes bustling about in odd clothing with large carts of luggage and...is that an owl? In a split second the familiarity of the scene hits me, and my eyes snap to the engine to verify: Hogwarts Express.
"You won't need your wand, here, son," a gruff old man says, off to my right. He's leaning over the counter of what appears to be a newspaper stand. I look down, and in my right hand, sure enough, is a light, slightly red-tinted wooden wand clutched in my hand where my e-reader used to be.
"Wha...uh, right, sorry," I say, and I realize with some embarrassment that I'm trying to copy his English accent. Yeah, that's not going to work. I look down at my clothes and find myself still in my travel attire: faded blue jeans and a white tee-shirt, with a zip-up hoodie hanging over my backpack. But something is off about them...
I turn back to the pillar, and it seems completely solid, no matter how much I try to imagine it being a gateway back to Denver International. At first I try to nonchalantly lean back up against the pillar, and eventually I'm openly inspecting the thing, hoping to find some kind of switch or push plate that might send me back.
I find nothing. Absently I rub my chin in thought. I appear to have been magically transported to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Did I fall asleep? No, everything feels real enough...far too vivid for a dream, not to mention I usually wake up once I realize I might be dreaming. I look again at my supposed wand, then at my backpack. What else has changed? Perhaps there are more clues in there...
Rummaging through the pack I find my nicer black shoes on the bottom, crumpled heap of nicer clothes that I'd worn for the meeting, and, in another pocket, a faded brown letter with a red wax seal. Perplexed I dig it out and see it addressed to Bud A. Lerner, Gate C36 Southwest Pillar, Denver International Airport, USA. "What. The. F—"
"You'd best hurry, son, it'll be off soon," the old man said.
I glance over to see him starting to pack up his newsstand. Then a newspaper headline catches my eye: "NEW LEADS IN HUNT FOR SIRIUS BLACK!" it says in big, bold, block lettering. The subtitle says "RESPONSIBLE FOR QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP SCARE?" The picture, sure enough, is the same one from the third movie with Sirius apparently screaming like a madman.
Holy shit, it's 1994 in the Potterverse! The Triwizard Tournament! But in 1994... Suddenly the reason my clothes seemed off hit me: I'm younger! I'm still a teenager, so the timing doesn't really work out, but I definitely lost a couple years.
"C'mon, Hurry!" a shrill voice snaps me out of my daze, and I dash off awkwardly toward the train. I have to hold my pant legs up, and my shoes are a bit too big. I barely make it. As I trudge toward the back of the train, every compartment appears full. One of those pieces of fanfiction - though I can't remember which - conjectured that the train magically expands to only leave just enough room for everybody. Makes sense, really, since the last ones on the train tend to be the protagonists, and they pretty much always find only one compartment open.
"Did you get hit by a shrinking charm?" a familiar, melodious voice asks behind me.
I smile and turn to see the serene visage of Luna Lovegood, peering up at me with large gray eyes flecked with only the slightest hint of blue. "Or did my clothes get hit by an engorgement charm?"
She smiles back conspiratorially. "I suppose we'll have to wait and see."
"Say, do you think a wrackspurt might have gotten me? Is that why I can't seem to remember?"
Her already large, slate gray eyes widen. "Oh no! I knew I should have convinced Daddy to let me take a pair of Spectrespecs! Let me get my notes!"
"It's okay, it'll wear off—and she's gone." I laugh and shake my head. Oh man, messing with Luna is going to be fun. I should probably feel bad about that thought.
Continuing down the train I spot the trio in one compartment, where Hermione is gesturing excitedly, no doubt explaining something in great detail while Ron looks bored but Harry actually looks interested. Suddenly an odd fact strikes me. Sirius looked exactly like he did in the movie, and so did Luna. And here was Hermione looking just like Emma Watson. Now, it's been a long time since I had my own pictures of the characters in my head, but Hermione wasn't really supposed to be attractive, was she?
I open the door to their compartment somewhat loudly to get their attention, Hermione stops mid-sentence to look at me, as do Harry and Ron.
"Mind if I sit here?" I ask, giving them my best smile. "Everywhere else seems to be full."
"Are you a Yank?" Ron asks, brows furrowed.
"Ronald Weasley, have you no manners? That's a pejorative!" Hermione says quickly with a furious frown.
"A wha—?" he asks dumbly.
I laugh. "No worries, no worries. You might use it as a pejorative, but it doesn't particularly bother me. Yes, I'm from the United States. Don't hold it against me."
That doesn't get much of a reaction, though Hermione generously turns the corners of her lips up at my joke. "I'm Hermione Granger, and you already know this gentleman with his foot in his mouth is Ron Weasley, and that's Harry—" she trails off.
"Harry Potter," the Daniel Radcliffe doppelganger says with a sigh.
He obviously doesn't like being introduced to strangers, so I smile and decide to throw them for a loop. "Hermione Granger, are you really?" I ask in my best star-struck voice. "I've heard so much about you!" I gush.
It has the intended effect of silencing the entirety of the cabin with open-mouthed stares. "What?" Hermione asked, being the first one to recover. "You...you have?"
"Uh, not really," I lie. "Sorry, I was just giving Harry a break."
They all look surprised, then Harry laughs and Hermione joins in with a chuckle. Ron gives a nervous laugh like he didn't get the joke, which he probably didn't.
"So you are...?" Hermione prods.
"Oh yeah, I'm...uh...oh!" I remember the letter in my bag. "Call me Bud. Bud A. Lerner," I say, trying to avoid thinking about how stupid my name is, I shake her hand gently and then offer mine to the others. "Nice to meet you."
"Yep, definitely a Yank name," Ron observes briefly before a solid smack to his shoulder causes him to cry out in indignation.
"Is there no filter between your brain and your mouth?" she asks angrily, then turns an apologetic look to me.
"No, it's okay, I fully agree," I assure them. It does sound like a redneck name...maybe I should come up with a better one. "Can't help our names, can we?"
I pull out the letter and hand it to Hermione.
"But this isn't even open!" she says incredulously.
"But how did you get here? How did you know what stuff to get?"
"Uh...oops again? I uh, kinda forgot and then I kinda accidentally ended up here this morning."
"How did you 'accidentally' end up on Platform Nine and Three Quarters?" she asks dubiously.
I scratch my head and squint my eyes as if I'm trying to remember. That's not too far off, really, since I don't know how this happened. "Well, I was just standing in an airport leaning against a pillar, and next thing I know I'm just sitting on the Platform."
She doesn't look like she believes me. "But what about your stuff?"
"Well, I've got my wand, but...uh...I don't have any money for the rest," I say sheepishly. I dig out my wallet and there's a ten dollar bill and a few ones. I'm not sure what the exchange rate is between dollars and pounds and galleons, but I figure it can't be much more than a galleon. "This is all I've got," I say, showing them.
"What are those?" Ron asks.
"American dollars, of course," Hermione says, then looks up at me sadly. "Well you're a bit taller than Ron...Ron, do you have any spare robes?"
"Not really, my other two are too small even for me...oh wait," he says with a grimace. He digs out his hideous dress robes that would only not look out of place on a vampire in the 18th century. "Mum packed these awful things..."
Just then the door slides open to reveal a platinum blonde-haired boy with a pointy face twisted into a sneer. "What ridiculous robes, Weasley! Were those your great-grandfather's?"
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Harry snaps.
I decide to jump in. "Did you say Malfoy? As in Draco Malfoy? Are you really? Oh, Mr. Malfoy, I've heard so much about you! Can I have your autograph? I know I must have something around here..."
He looks surprised for a moment, then takes in my state of dress and smiles imperiously. "Well, at least some peasants around here seem to know their place." Then he notices Hermione snickering, and a scowl formed. "What's so funny, mudblood?"
"He's not a peasant, you ponce," Harry says angrily.
"Look at him," Draco says, gesturing toward me. "He dresses worse than Weasley!"
"I'll have you know my grandfather is Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the most feared Dark Lord in United States history! You might want to take that back." I fix a glare in his direction, trying to avoid breaking out into a grin.
Hermione chokes out a laugh and I have to bite my lip to fight to keep the smile off my face. Draco looks uncertain for a moment, then turns and angrily hisses at Hermione, "what's so funny?"
"Oh, I think you've got something in your hair," I say, waving my hand in his direction. I feel an odd rush flowing from my stomach, up my chest, and through my arm. Much to my surprise, a pink blob appears entangled in his hair.
"Wha—" he begins, hand darting to his hair. "What is it?" he screeches in a high-pitched voice. "Get it out! Get it out!"
"Sorry, I don't know how to get bubble gum out of someone's hair. Maybe Ms. Granger knows?"
Draco squeals like a girl, pushes one of the big lugs behind him out of the way and runs up the train.
"That was brilliant, mate!" Ron says enthusiastically.
"Did you conjure that gum silently?" Hermione says, astonished. "That's really advanced magic! What year are you in?"
"Uh..." I shrug and point at the letter. "Open it."
She looks torn between asking me about my accidental conjuration and opening my letter. Hermione probably lives for Hogwarts letters. "Are you sure?"
"Sure, no big deal, I'm sure there's nothing personal in there, right?"
"Okay...it says, 'Dear Mr. Lerner, we are pleased to inform you that your transfer application has been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Based on your age and transcripts we have placed you in your Fourth Year?!' You're a Fourth Year?" Hermione asks incredulously. I shrug. Last I checked I'm a a couple years older than fourteen, but I guess not, here in the Potterverse. "'And you will be Sorted with the First Years upon your arrival. Please find enclosed a list of materials for required classes and possible electives, and please be prepared to discuss your electives upon arrival.' This is incredible, you're in our year!"
"Well I'm glad I found your compartment, then," I reply with a smile.
"What about your electives?" Hermione asks, leaning forward, eyes lighting up.
"Oh boy, here we go," Ron mutters.
"Ah, I'm thinking Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, for sure. I have to take two, right?"
Hermione's widen even further and she breaks out into a dazzling smile. "Great! I'm in those, too! You know you can take more than two if you want."
"You realize those are the most difficult ones, right?" Ron asks with a groan.
"You should take Care of Magical Creatures, too. It's really interesting – I got to fly a Hippogriff last year!" Harry says excitedly "And the professor, Hagrid, is a good friend."
I smile. "Well I don't want to load up too much, but I think I could swing that."
"You can...you can borrow my books when you need them," Hermione says, but she looks a bit ill at the thought. "But about your robes..."
"Neville's sprouted up quite a bit, hasn't he?" Harry offers.
"That's right! I'll go ask him," Hermione says, taking off before I can object.
"So do you play Quidditch?" Ron asks.
Damn, I'm really going to have to come up with a good back story. Then it hits me: I've read Harry Potter fanfiction set in the United States! "Nah, it's actually not as popular over in the States as it is here," I say.
"Really? But...but...but why?" Ron blubbers. I think he's going to cry.
"I dunno, Quodpot is more popular there. It's like with Muggle sports, your Muggles like soccer - or football, as they call it here, and ours like American football. I never really got into it, though. Quodpot, I mean. I'm pretty awful when it comes to riding a broom." That's a guess, but a likely one. "And the thought of getting caught holding the Quod - what you guys call the Quaffle - when it explodes never really appealed to me."
"That's too bad, Harry here is a brilliant Seeker - he's been Gryffindor's since his First Year! Now that Wood's gone I'm thinking of going for Keeper..." Ron then began a lively monologue about Gryffindor's chances for the House Cup, potential new players, and the advantages of different brooms over the school's.
"Bothering him with Quidditch talk already?" Hermione says, sliding back into the compartment with a large black robe over her shoulder.
"What's wrong with that?" Ron asked in an annoyed tone. "Just getting him caught up on our chances for the House Cup is all."
"You realize he isn't even Sorted, yet? He might not even be with us in Gryffindor!"
Ron coughs in surprise and then looks ill. "You...you won't spill our secrets, will you?"
I laugh. "Of course not, I doubt I could even repeat most of the stuff you said, since I don't know anybody you were talking about," I lie. "So you guys are all in Gryffindor?"
They nod. "You know about the Four Houses, right?" Hermione asks.
"Gryffindor bravery, Hufflepuff loyalty, Ravenclaw wisdom, and Slytherin ambition."
"That's...compact yet insightful," Hermione says in surprise. "Which one do you think you'll be in?"
"Slytherin, definitely," I say with conviction, and watch their faces pale. My face twitches and I burst out laughing. "Sorry, couldn't say that with a straight face. I don't know which House, do I get a say?"
"Oh, well there's an enchanted hat that sort of evaluates your personality..." she begins, but trails off. "Actually, I don't think you're supposed to know more than that before you're Sorted." She looked over at him. "How did you get Sorted at your old school? Where did you go to school over there?"
"I went to—" I begin, but then I realize Hermione probably knows the names of them, and I wouldn't put it past her to dig around looking into my past. Should I say Salem, since I know it exists in canon? Or should I go ahead and use the non-canonical school I first thought about and hope she never figures it out? I frown in thought.
"You...can't say it, can you?" Hermione asks. "We found out about this last year, right Harry? It must be a Fidelius Charm!"
I love you, Hermione. "I guess so...I mean it was right there on the tip of my tongue but..."
"Don't worry about it, you can't tell us if you're not the Secret Keeper. So what can you tell us?"
"Uh, well we weren't actually separated into Houses or anything. I guess there weren't enough of us. My Alchemy professor, or Potions as you guys call it, was a huge jerk, and so was the Dean. She would be called the Headmistress here." Damn, it's been too long since I read that series, I can't remember anything else. "Oh! I thought the janitor was pretty cool, though he turned out to be a bad guy in the end."
"Well we can relate to having a complete git of a Potions professor," Ron mutters.
"But the janitor? Is that why you left?" Hermione asks.
Uh, sure! "Yeah..." I say, acting like it was some painful memory.
"So is your grandfather really a Grand Chancellor or whatever?" Ron asks, trying to break the awkward silence.
Hermione giggles, "No, Ron, that's from an American Muggle movie."
Ron looks confused. I get the sense he looks that way a lot. "What?"
"I was messing with him," I say with a smile. "I've dealt with bullies like him before, you just gotta keep them off balance, not let them get to you."
"Well it was bloody brilliant, I say," Harry, interjects.
"Yeah, I doubt you'll end up in Slytherin, though it might be funny to know you're messing with him all the time," Ron says.
"Well you stood up to Malfoy, which means you'd likely fit in as a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff, but you also silently conjured that bubble gum, which by the way is probably NEWT-level spellwork, so you'd probably fit in as a Ravenclaw, too," Hermione says, thinking out loud.
"Well, what about what I want?"
"Well...you'll see soon enough," Hermione says, waving off the question. "I wonder if you'll ride the boats with the First Years or the carriages with the rest of us? Probably the boats, since they take those to let the rest of us get there first."
"Does she think out loud all the time?" I whisper to Harry.
"Best to let her finish when she does," he says with a smile. "She might get angry."
"Anyway, we should change. Here's a spare set of Neville's, he's another Gryffindor."
Turns out I had to ride the boats in the pouring rain. So that was fun, though at least I got to meet Hagrid. I wondered how that was going to work out with the camera tricks and all, but turns out he really is an enormous Robbie Coltrane. I tell him I sat with Harry, Ron, and Hermione so he immediately takes a liking to me.
So here I stand amongst a throng of sopping wet, diminutive First Years.
"Are you...are you related to that guy?" one asks in a high-pitched squeak. "You're both huge!" I'm surprised to see that it's a boy. Or at least appears to be.
"No, I just ate a couple other First Years on the way here," I say in my deepest voice.
Several of them snicker, but more of them back away even further.
I sigh. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm a Fourth Year transferring from the United States, and since I don't have a House, I'm gonna be Sorted with you." I look at the frightened boy who asked the question. "Which House do you think you'll be in?"
"G-Gryffindor I hope...my brother's there..."
Some kids laughed. "Did you forget you have to be brave for that?"
The boy's face turns beet red, so I feel I need to say something to make it up to him.
"Bravery doesn't mean fearlessness. And ganging up on somebody isn't brave either. In fact, being brave means being afraid to do something, but doing it anyway." Wow, I'm pretty terrible at talking to kids, that sounded pretty condescending. Even though the whispers don't stop, the little boy stands up straighter after that, which makes me feel better about scaring most of them.
"First years," a clear, Scottish-accented voice rings out, "you may come with me now to be Sorted." Her gaze snaps to me. "Mr. Lerner, as a transfer you will be Sorted last." She spins briskly around and enters the Great Hall.
As we enter I gawk just as much as the First Years at the floating candles, the stormy ceiling reflecting the weather outside, and just the general sensation of being in such a magical place. Maybe I'm just projecting, but it seems like I feel the magic thrumming all around me, and I can almost hear it underneath the din of hurried, post-vacation, catch-up conversations. Sure I'd seen this on a screen before, but it is pretty damn impressive in person.
Some movement in my peripheral vision draws my eyes to the table next to me, where Hermione waves at me with a brilliant smile. I can't help but return both gestures, with a nod toward Harry and Ron. A glance to the other side and I see Draco glaring at me, as if I was the one who put gum in his hair. I guess I did, but he shouldn't know that, and I didn't mean to do it. Oh well.
"Creevy, Dennis," Professor McGonagall announces, and the squeaky boy from earlier climbs the steps toward the Sorting Hat.
Ah, that makes sense now.
I don't recognize any of the other names, and before I know it, Professor McGonagall has stopped calling names, and I'm standing there alone with whispers starting to spring up around me. I look at her, but she is looking up at the head table. I follow her gaze to find Professor Dumbledore apparently studying me intently. Suddenly it hits me: I'm about to go under the Sorting Hat, who is going to be in my head. It's going to find out what I know! And Dumbledore's eyes are on mine, too. Legilimency! He wouldn't use it on me, would he? I look away, just in case, back to the Sorting Hat, and then back to McGonagall.
I avoid looking back at the headmaster, and I'm relieved when he continues the Sorting a moment later. With a scrape of his chair, the aged headmaster silences the Hall. "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we welcome the first of several opportunities this coming year to comport ourselves admirably in front of outsiders. Mr. Lerner here has transferred to Hogwarts, and shall be joining the Fourth Years upon his Sorting. Professor McGonagall, if you please."
"Lerner, Bud," she says, inviting me to the stool as she had all First Years.
I try not to wince at the awful name; it helps that I'm terrified of what the Hat will see. He does claim to keep what he learns a secret, but seeing as how the damned thing talks...how hard would it be for Dumbledore to get a secret this big out of it? I swallow roughly and make my way forward in the silence of the Great Hall. I imagine the Hat being placed on my head and spilling my secrets, but then a mildly comforting thought occurs to me. Who would believe a hat about me? McGonagall would probably set it on fire.
With a bit more confidence I turn and seat myself facing the crowd. "Oof..." I flop down a little harder than I mean to, because the stool is so low to the ground. The display elicits a few scattered laughs, and I feel my face flush in embarrassment but smile through it.
"Well, what do we have here, a dimensional traveller, eh? What's this? Oh...OH! Oh my, this is quite interesting. A fictional character in a fictional universe, am I? And what is..."
Suddenly the Hat starts laughing hysterically. And I mean hysterically. Not just in my head, either...I can hear it laughing externally as well. It's such a contagious laugh I can't help but chuckle myself.
"Oh my," it says when it finally calms down. "Oh my, that is delectable. I wish there were more stories about me in your head like that, though surely you realize as an enchanted article of clothing I am neither male nor female? Oh well, in any case...I must dutifully Sort you, but I suppose you know where you're going? Thought so. Before you go, I feel I must point out that, without the delicious memories you have of our entire existence, you'd have probably been Sorted into Ravenclaw. No? Well, some of your misgivings about me are quite unfounded – yes, several pieces of fanfiction have indeed gotten that right: I am quite unable to share what I've learned, even if I tried. Not even the headmaster can wheedle information about students out of me, and he has certainly tried. But your other misgivings are not. Yes, I suspect either one of the two Legilimency masters at this school could pick this information from you, even with your current abilities at Occlumency, though I'm not entirely certain they would maintain their sanity. Yes, I suggest you work on that, though it will be difficult without a Legilimens. Also, I see the canonical future, which I assume you're going to change? Yes, I see the terrible things that would have transpired had you not appeared, and I don't disagree that it could be better. But I must implore you to be careful, Mr. 'Lerner' – yes, I see your real name. But think about this: what if you make it worse?"
The hat finally pauses and the message sinks in. Oh. Shit.
"Right then. GRYFFINDOR!"
Bit of a short chapter to start, but rest assured this is an anomaly. I shoot for at least 5k+ words per chapter, not counting disclaimers and author's notes, but that's not a hard and fast rule. This just seemed like a natural stopping point. I am averaging just over 6k words per chapter.
The fanfiction I'm referring to when I talk about the school in the United States is Inverarity's Alexandra Quick series. That was one of my first pieces of fanfiction, so I'm being totally honest when I say I don't remember much about it. And since 'I' fell into the Harry Potter universe, that would be realistic. The only time I will look up facts is when I'm describing something from canon that I don't remember off the top of my head (which will be often, true enough).
Despite the Sorting Hat's reaction, I have in fact never read any fanfiction in which the Sorting Hat is involved in sexual situations. Although suddenly I have an idea for another story...
If you find any errors, be they spelling, grammatical, logical, canonical, temporal, or otherwise, let me know! That includes past/present tense mistakes as well: unless one of the characters is talking about the past or I'm recapping, everything is supposed to be in the present tense. Maybe that's kind of odd, but I like the way it reads for first-person stories since it makes it seem like you're there. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to those things, so don't be afraid to call me names when I mess something up – as long as you're explicit about what it is I messed up in the process. Also, regarding those Americanisms I brought up in the preface: if you see any non-PoV characters using them in what seems like an unusual way, that is most likely a mistake, so call me out on it. Although, if you've ever met a foreign exchange student, you might know that they often exchange words or sayings.
Let me know what you think!
One reviewer pointed out the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine did not exist in 1994; it was only through Episode I in 1999 that we learned his previous title. Oops! Hermione must have just assumed I made up a political position to firm up my fake fake back story (as opposed to my real fake backstory...you'll see). So maybe five years from this point Hermione will think it's fishy.