Alright guys, I'm back. I know it's been an outrageously, unforgivably long wait, but unfortunately super-fast updates are an unrealistic goal with my schedule. I hope that the quality makes up for the slower updates, though. So, without further ado, this story is about to take more of the lighthearted tone as promised in the first chapter. Enjoy!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
The food was all but gone, the dishes and plates were being levitated to the sink for washing, and small clusters of conversations were beginning to form. Rory took this as his opportunity, reaching for Amy's hand and pulling her up and away from the table. His wife in turn tapped both River and the Doctor on the shoulder, motioning for them to follow along.
The group of four quietly slipped out of the house, and Rory led them around the side away from the garden, down the slope of a green hill until they reached a tree that in his extremely young days he and his siblings had climbed and raced around together. Now it was the permanent resting place of one Weasley sibling; just in front of the tree, nestled between the roots, was a headstone: Fredrick Gideon Weasley.
He said nothing as they stopped in front of it, simply allowing them each to silently take it in. Amy rested her head on his shoulder and River slid her hand into his. The Doctor stood not too far off, hands in his pockets and gaze downcast, in one of his more serious moods.
"Fred was George's identical twin, so you know what he looked like, I guess," the nurse spoke at last, his voice sounding quite loud in the otherwise silence. "He had both ears, though; George lost the one during the war. Mum could finally tell them apart after that." He'd meant it to be just a slight show of humor, something to lighten the atmosphere perhaps, but he merely choked up at the end instead. Amy and River drew closer to him in response, and the sad frown the Doctor wore deepened even as he nodded in acknowledgement of Rory's words.
"Fred was always better with jokes," he managed hoarsely at last, giving a heavy sigh as he finally sat down on the grass, his wife and daughter joining him.
"I wish we'd met him," Amy said softly. "It wasn't your fault, Rory," she hastened to add, "I know it wasn't safe."
"If I'd known he wouldn't survive the war, I would've told you sooner," he shook his head. "But I was just scared; Wizarding Wars are terrible."
"You did what you knew you had to," River reasoned. "None of your family would have wanted to see you in danger."
He scoffed. "I'm in danger practically every other day. I probably could have helped them, really."
"Wars aren't won by one man," the Doctor suddenly said, and it troubled Rory that the Time Lord did not look at them, instead focusing his gaze on the gravestone so they couldn't read his expression. "Only lost."
River tentatively reached her free hand out to the alien who still stood, but it was hardly necessary as he crouched down of his own volition a moment later. "Now this date, May 2nd—his death date…it's very interesting."
"It is?" Rory raised an eyebrow, not really sure why the other man appeared to be entering investigative mode. And the Doctor did indeed glance back to address his question, that openly curious look on his face.
"Yes. It's carved all over the rock."
Amy furrowed her brow. "No it isn't, just the once."
"Yes it is," River countered, sitting up straighter and studying the headstone much more closely. "But it's in Circular Gallifreyan. See all those interlocking circles?" Now that his daughter had pointed them out, Rory thought he could make out a bit of a pattern repeated over and over, what he'd originally dismissed as grooves or uneven indents in the rock. Of course, he'd have to take the two Time Lords' word for it that it said May 2nd.
The Doctor by this point had leapt to his feet and was scanning the gravestone with the sonic. "Yes, someone felt it was necessary to carve this into your brother's headstone, but who and why—" The alien stopped mid-sentence as his wife cleared her throat. "What?"
The archeologist merely gave him a look, one he was sure he and Amy were echoing.
"Oh. I wrote this?"
"I think so, Sweetie," River confirmed with a nod.
"Makes sense," Amy agreed. "I mean, you were the first one to notice it, and it sort of has to be you or River, yeah?"
"So a future version of you did this in the past, then," Rory stated out loud, as he'd found it was the best way for him to work these complicated situations out. "That still doesn't answer the why."
"Well, if it was me—and it probably was—then I must have been trying to tell myself something, so maybe—" The Time Lord was circling around to the other side of the rock, leaning carefully around the tree, and his eyes lit up. "Aha!"
"What is it, Doctor?" River was hurrying over to examine it for herself. Amy and Rory got up a bit slower, just as interested yet knowing that whatever had been discovered would be indecipherable to them.
"Coordinates!" The alien exclaimed joyfully. "The rest of them, that is, so if my hunch is right—" here his friend began scanning the ground above where his brother's body lay, which Rory wasn't sure how to feel about. "Yes! Rory, tell your family—our family," he amended under Amy's disapproving frown, "we've got to dash, we'll be back next Sunday, and then meet us back in the TARDIS."
"Wait. Why?" He tried to protest, but the Time Lord was already ushering him and Amy up the hill. Left with no alternative in the face of their determined and ecstatic driver, Rory made the trek back to the Burrow, looking back once to see the Doctor tugging River back to the blue box and gesticulating wildly with his arms. River herself seemed to be getting more excited by the second.
His curiosity way past piqued, the nurse reentered the dining room. His mother looked up with a smile, which quickly fell as he announced, "Right, we've got to be going."
"Already?" The older redhead pushed back from the table, shuffling over to them. "You've barely told us anything about your- your travels or my granddaughter and that husband of hers."
"We'll come to dinner next week," he sighed, not liking to upset mother normally, and especially not when he didn't know why he was doing it. "We'll stay longer then. Something's just, uh, come up or something."
His siblings were beginning to eye him with suspicion, so fortunately Amy came to the rescue. "It was really great meeting you all—I can't wait for next Sunday." She successfully charmed the room as usual with her smile, and a round of hugs was exchanged, his mother only complaining once that she would have liked to bid the other two goodbye as well.
Once they were out of the door and half-jogging to the TARDIS, Amy turned to him and asked, "Do you have any idea what he's up to?"
"Not even a clue," he answered. They reached the police box doors, stepping inside to find both pilots waiting, with varying degrees of patience.
"Right!" The Doctor greeted brightly as soon as the lock clicked shut. "Off we go!"
Hardly prepared for takeoff, both Ponds were shocked and more than a bit confused to find that their rush to the railing was unwarranted, as the usual shaking of the ship did not occur. Yet if he remembered the console layout correctly, River was standing nowhere near the blue stabilizers, or boringers as some preferred. Which meant the Doctor himself had employed their use.
"Where are we going?" He finally demanded, fed up with the withheld information.
"Hogwarts, May 2nd," the alien informed them gleefully. "About fifteen minutes before Fred Weasley runs down a corridor, meets up with his brother Percy to fight off some Death Eaters, and is killed in an explosion."
Amy gasped in horror, and Rory felt the color drain from his face. But before either of them could even begin to form a reply to that, River rolled her eyes. "Oh tell them the rest, you cruel man."
Their friend cast a sheepish grin over his shoulder at her. "Right, dear. What I should tell you Ponds, is that that's not going to happen. Not really."
"It isn't?" Amy repeated, sounding as thrown as he felt.
"No. Because, I still have this!" The Time Lord skipped up the stairs practically three at a time, returning almost impossibly fast with a body slung over his shoulder. His own body.
"Wait. What?" Rory blurted, watching with wide eyes as the Doctor lowered an exact replica of himself into the pilot's chair. Aside from a different shirt and bowtie, the two were identical copies—oh.
"The Teselecta!" The alien pronounced, gesturing to the seemingly offline machine. Seeing it now was reminding the nurse painfully of his friend being shot repeatedly at Lake Silencio, and perhaps the other male picked up on that for he pointed the sonic at it and activated it. The Teselecta began to morph before their eyes, floppy brown hair being replaced by that of vibrant red, the long lanky form becoming shorter and stockier, and a heavy dusting of freckles completing the look.
"Fred," Rory breathed, hardly able to reconcile the image before him. Amy gripped his hand, but turned to speak with the Time Lord.
"So what are we doing with this?"
"The same thing I did. We switch human Fred out for robot Fred, after the explosion I shut it off so it appears 'deceased' and the Teselecta is buried outside the Burrow. That's what really showed me; I was able to scan for the biodegradable materials."
"A biodegradable robot?" Amy echoed, perplexed.
"Well, you can't expect them to keep using all those fossil fuels and landfills and the like in the future, can you?" He returned.
During all this, River had been piloting the ship quietly, and the time rotor stopped pulsing up and down. "We're here," she let them know, as the familiar wheezing had not occurred. "And invisible."
"Yes, very nice," her husband grudgingly praised. "Now, Rory, here's the tricky part. You have to lure Fred in here."
"I what?" He blinked.
"It's the only way, I'm afraid," the Doctor was explaining as if he hadn't even spoken. "If we beam him inside the Teselecta itself, we'd have to dig him up again in the middle of the night, and that could potentially scar him for the rest of his life, which he's going to have. So you've got to get him to follow you in here; I doubt he's going to like the idea of leaving the battle."
The alien certainly had a point there. Rory took a deep breath, steeling himself for the chaos and carnage just outside the door, and squared his shoulders, marching determinedly out into the corridor.
He'd only been inside Hogwarts once, and he could see that the school was in shambles. Bits of rubble and who knew what else littered the floor. Flashes of light, shouts, and screams pierced the night. A horrific snapshot of the war that had consumed his family's life. But no longer.
Running footsteps pounded closer on the stone floor, and he whirled about to see a familiar, bloodstained face racing down the corridor perpendicular to his. "Fred!" He yelled.
The younger man skidded to a stop, looking about wildly and focusing on him with alarm and even horror. "Rory?" Two hesitant footsteps forward, a glance back down the hall he'd been running, and the young wizard was running to him. "Rory, what are you doing here?! You could—"
"Exactly, I need your help," he interrupted, hoping to capitalize on his brother's fear and protective nature. "My friends, they're, er, trapped—"
"You're here with other Muggles?" The other male practically interrogated, needing no further encouragement to follow him. Fred had always been a man of action first, questions and answers later.
And he would still be that man, Rory realized, as he pulled his brother inside the TARDIS by the arm.
"Merlin's moldy trousers, where is this place?"
"Language," The Doctor's voice admonished from beside them, and both he and Fred jumped. As one, the two Weasley brothers turned to see the Time Lord leaning the copy of Fred against the wall.
"George!" Fred yelped, before squinting and taking a closer look. "No, hang on—that's me! What the bloody hell is going on here?"
The Doctor only tsked this time, pointing the screwdriver once more at the Teselecta. The robot opened its—Fred's—eyes and straightened up, walking out and into the corridor. The alien snapped the door shut behind it, clicking the lock. This seemed to startle Fred into movement once more, as he'd frozen in shock when the Teselecta had seemingly come to life.
"Hey, what was that—where am I—who are you people—Rory, what?" His younger brother appeared unable to decide on one question to ask, as he stared at them with wide eyes before twisting on the spot. "Ow!"
"Sorry, no Apparition in here," the Time Lord clarified cheerfully. "You're stuck with us for the time being."
"Stuck where? Rory, you said you and your friends were trapped—how'd you even get here?"
"Um, that's going to take a while to explain," he said uneasily as the redheaded male glared accusingly at him. "But I'm sorry I lied. These are my friends, but they're not trapped—and you're not either—we're just here to help."
"Help with what?" Fred demanded harshly.
"Saving your life, so you might want to start sounding more grateful," Amy retorted.
Fred gaped at her for a long moment. "What do you mean?" He asked in a quieter, less angry tone.
"That other you that went out there, it's a copy sort-of," Rory tried his best to explain. "We're replacing you with it because, well, there's going to be an explosion and you're caught up in it."
"What?" It was a barely there whisper, and Fred allowed him to drag his almost limp body up the steps to the monitor screen. River appeared to have taken over control of the robot with the console's controls, and they watched on the screen through the Teselecta's eyes as it and Percy fought off Death Eaters. In its peripheral view, Rory could just make out three other people—Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
"I can turn the sound on for everyone, if you like," his daughter offered gently, flipping another switch. As she did so, the Doctor handed what appeared to be a headset to his brother, who numbly put it on.
"Hello, Minister!" The brother in between their two ages was greeting one of his dueling opponents with more bravado than Rory had ever heard from him. "Did I mention I'm resigning?"
Perhaps because of the absurdity of it all, Fred chuckled and remarked, "You're joking, Perce! You actually are joking…I don't think I've heard you joke since you were—"
A sudden boom, dreadful and so much louder than all the rest burst, cutting off his brother's words as they all jumped as a group. Large, boulder-sized pieces of the castle flew up and the monitor screen abruptly went black.
"Oh Merlin…" Fred breathed in the heavy silence. "That was- that was supposed to be me? But- but—oh Merlin…" The younger male suddenly gave a start. "Percy!" The redhead raced down to the door, tugging uselessly on the handle. "Percy was in that—"
"He's fine, Fred, they're all going to be fine," he hastened to reassure, following after his brother and placing steadying hands on the other man's shoulders. "There's nothing for you to do."
"What do you mean, I've got to get back out there—"
"You can't," the Doctor stated, flipping a switch. The stabilizers still on, they returned calmly to the Vortex.
"Wait, what just happened- you can't keep me here, they need me—I should- I should- I—" His brother, seemingly overcome, collapsed against him. Rory smoothed back his hair, matted down with sweat, dirt, and blood, and shifted his brother's unconscious weight in his arms.
"The poor man," Amy said sadly, looking upon the sleeping form of his brother with pity and concern.
"Yes, it will be best to let him rest, address all the underlying issues when he feels up to it," the Doctor decided. "There should be an available room somewhere in that direction." He tilted his head to indicate the corridor up the stairs, and Rory nodded. His wife came down the steps to help him begin taking his brother back up them.
And as the two of them struggled to carry a dirty, sleeping Fred between them, it really started to dawn on Rory what had just happened, the enormity they'd just avoided. Fred's death…it had never really happened.
He had to pause as a sudden wave of lightheaded relief washed over him, and Amy stopped as well, observing him cautiously, perhaps worried he was about to faint as well. "Sorry, I just…can't believe it. This shouldn't be real, this never happens—I can't believe we did it. I've seen so many impossible things, but I can't believe the Doctor actually managed this."
"When it comes to us, he manages just about anything," Amy, the daughter of Augustus and Tabetha Pond stated, and the thought made him smile. He had to have the most complicated, impossible, wonderful family in the Universe. And in times like this, that was just fine.
Ok, stopping there for this chapter! The next will see Fred reintegrated into life and his family—because I couldn't resist a DH fixit. Sorry? Nah, not really. Thanks for reading and please review!