A/N: This is an improved version of the original. All I've done is removed most, if not all, of the original errors. Then replaced all the chapters. I had promised I would be writing an extended version intead of using the big 'Deux ex Machina' I use in Chapter 25. However, I also have two other stories being written in the wings, at the moment; and I do not wish to abandon them.
So, that promise is still being kept. Just, not yet. But you can be assured I'm still writing.
A/N: As always, the usual disclaimers apply. I do not own the HP-verse; I only play in it and make no monies from it. All I earn is plaudits.
Chapter One - The Mage's Act
# # #
"Lad, I need you to wake up now."
He was having a wonderful dream. He had lots of toys, lots to eat, and lots of cuddles like Duddles got from Auntie 'Toona. Unca Vernon didn't hit him in the head, either. He liked his dream.
"Yes, lad; it's a nice dream. But, I need you to wake up now."
The man's voice was making his dream go away. He tried to make the man's voice go away by con'trating really, really hard. He wanted his dream to come back.
"I'm not going to go away, lad. I'm not in your dream. You need to open your eyes."
Opening his eyes meant waking up in his cupboard. Waking up meant feeling hungry and sore from the last time Unca Vernon hit him. Waking up meant getting sore hands from pulling weeds from Auntie 'Toona's garden. Unca Vernon made his head hurt; and the weeds made his hands sting.
"I promise you, lad; that will never happen again. Open your eyes and you will see."
The man sounded nice enough. It sounded like Unca Vernon's voice when he was talking to Duddles; not like it sounded when Unca Vernon was talking to him. Maybe he could have a quick peek and, if he didn't like it, he could close his eyes and go back to his dream.
"That sounds like a good idea, lad. Let's try that then."
He still didn't know if he should open his eyes; but, he knew he felt different. He felt as if he was lying on his back on a really soft pillow. But his bed wasn't a soft pillow. His bed was an old, dog-smelly thing Auntie Marge threw at him. It was lumpy. Not what he felt he was lying on now. Maybe he should open his eyes to see what it was.
"That's a very good idea. Do that."
He'd do it then.
Opening his eyes the small boy expected to see the bottom of the stairs above him. What he saw, much further away, was a roof made of rocks stuck together.
He started to look around. He was on a big bed. And it had red curtains around it! And the curtains were held up by big wooden poles! Wow!
He looked around some more. Beyond the opened curtains on each side of the bed he could see walls. The walls were made of stone just like the roof. And there were some little fires on the top of big sticks stuck to the walls. At least they looked like big sticks, he thought, frowning.
Fire was bad unless it was in the fireplace. He knew he was not allowed to play with fire. Duddles played with it and burnt the rug; and he got hit lots for it - even though it was Duddles who did it. He was only 'little' but knew it wasn't fair that Unca Vernon hit him instead of Duddles.
"I put the fires there, lad. And they're called 'torches', by the way."
There was that voice again. It was coming from down where his feet were pointing.
The boy, a child barely beyond toddler stage, sat up to look where the voice was coming from. It was coming from past the foot of his bed.
There was a man standing there. He could see him through the open curtains at the foot of the big bed he was on. At least he thought it was a man. He had a funny dressing gown on.
"I see you're awake now, lad," said the man.
The boy tried to see what the man looked like. He knew he had to be really, really old because he had a white beard and white hair. He scrunched his face up trying to see him properly.
"Who are you, Sir?" asked the boy.
He had to call all man-adults 'Sir' and lady-adults 'Ma'am', unless they were Unca Vernon, Auntie 'Toona or Auntie Marge. If he didn't, Unca Vernon would hit him lots.
"You can call me 'Sir', if you like," the man said while walking around the bed to stand alongside where the boy was sitting.
The boy was glad the man came closer. It made him easier to see.
"I'm Freak!" said the small boy, beaming proudly.
The old man's eyebrows shot up on hearing that. "And what makes you say that?"
The boy scrunched his face up wondering if the man was upset with him. "That's what Auntie 'Toona calls me," he moped. But suddenly brightly said, "But Unca Vernon calls me 'Boy'."
The old man gazed down at him for a while. The boy hoped he hadn't said anything to upset him. He didn't want Unca Vernon to hit him again because he upset the old man. Whatever the old man was thinking he suddenly didn't look like he was upset anymore.
"Lad. You are not a freak; and I will not call you 'Boy'," the old man said kindly. "Neither of those two words are your name."
"Oh," the boy sadly said. If 'Freak' and 'Boy' weren't his name he wondered what it was. He wondered if it was 'Lad'.
"How about you come with me, lad," the old man said, reaching to help the boy off the bed. "And I'll tell you all about your name and who you are."
The boy started to get off the bed but then hesitated. "Are you 'a strange man'?" he asked.
Hesitating, the old man asked, "What makes you ask that?"
"Unca Vernon said that, if a strange man should come up to me and tell or ask me to go with them, then I should."
The boy saw that what he said seemed to make the old man get angry again. It frightened him. But the old man was only angry for a very short time before the angry face went away again.
Meekly, the boy said, "I'm sorry if I said something that made you angry, Sir."
"That's quite alright, lad," the old man replied, finishing helping the young boy off the bed. "I just didn't like that your Uncle Vernon said that to you."
Leading the small boy over to a chest of drawers against one of the walls he said, "Now - to answer your question - I guess I am 'a strange man'. I've been called much worse."
Kneeling, the old man opened a drawer and began to remove clothing fit for a boy of his young charge's stature.
"First, though, I'm going to get you out of those rags you're wearing and into something much nicer," he said. "Then we're going to go and have some breakfast."
"Me, too?" the young boy asked while the old man was helping him change.
"Yes. You, too."
'The boy had been even more mistreated than I believed,' the old man thought. He should have taken him earlier.
The boy brightly asked, "After, are you taking me back to Auntie 'Toona's and Unca Vernon's? Auntie 'Toona's going to want me to help with breakfast."
Pausing in finishing dressing his young charge, the old man said, "No, lad. You'll be living here now. And you won't have to help with anything like that."
"Okay," the young boy said. If he was going to live 'here' now - and he didn't have to help with breakfast, lunch or dinner - he wondered what other chores he'd be doing.
"Will I still be pulling weeds?" he asked.
"No, lad," the old man kindly replied. "You'll be spending a lot of your time learning and playing. And, the more you learn, the more you'll get to play."
The young boy's eyes lit up hearing that.
"Wow!" he said. "With toys and everything?"
"Yes," the old man replied with a smile. "With toys and everything."
The young tyke was really excited. He was going to like living here. It sounded much nicer than living with his Aunt and Uncle.
The boy asked eagerly, "Can we start after breakfast?"
Standing back up the old man took the young boy's hand.
Leading him towards the door he said, "Well, we can start learning some things now. And even while we're eating breakfast."
"Wow!" said the boy excitedly.
"For a start," said the old man as he led the young boy out the door, "My name is Myrrdin Emrys and I'm going to help you do something very important when you get older.
"And your name is Harry James Potter. Today is your birthday. As of today you are now four years old. Happy Birthday."
# # #
In his office at Hogwarts, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was sitting up late doing parchment work. He noticed the monitoring ward he had upon the Dursley home had triggered for only a moment. Frowning, he watched to see if it triggered again.
When nothing happened after a minute he guessed it must have only been an anomaly. Such occurrences were rare but, with the fate of the wizarding world on the line, he wasn't prepared to take chances.
He'd approach the house under a disillusionment charm tomorrow to ensure the boy was exactly where he was supposed to be.
It hadn't even dawned on him that today was the boy's birthday.
# # #
Within a few days of collecting Harry from the Dursleys, Myrrdin began to explain what Harry was going to do when he grew older.
In terms the small child could understand, he explained about the magical school known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And how the small castle - keep, really - they were currently living within, was somewhat similar. He told stories about the four founders and made little dolls of each of them, keeping the boy spellbound for hours. He explained what an heir was and he explained how Harry was going to bring the four heirs of the founders together. And, together, they began to watch history on what the old man called a 'time viewer'. He also told the lad what sort of boy he was going to grow into. At least, what sort of boy Harry would have grown into had he not removed him from the timeline.
Myrrdin knew he would be years mentoring this child, but he also knew the future of the world hinged on his young charge. The old man had prepared for his role very carefully. And he would prepare young Harry James Potter just as carefully.
# # #
"I'm not happy hearing this, Myrrdin!" Harry stated angrily.
In the few years Harry had been with the old man, this was the angriest the old druidic mage had ever seen him. And it was the first time the young boy had ever spoken to him using his name.
"He volunteered, lad," the old man calmly answered. "And with his magics he can protect himself far better than you could have done for yourself if I left you in the same situation."
"That's not the point, Sir," snapped Harry. "He's a living sentient being! No one deserves that treatment! Not even the lowliest of non-sentient creatures!"
Myrrdin, or Merlin as he was otherwise known, knew this was going to be a touchy matter with his young student. But, when Harry began to understand he had somehow been replaced within the Dursley household to occlude knowledge from Dumbledore as to his absence, the old man thought it best to begin the discussion while they were having a spot of tea between study subjects. He did not expect Harry to be quite so... incensed... as to jump out of his armchair in the near rage he was obviously feeling. He realised what would have happened had he waited until Harry was older and his magical core was more powerful.
"Harry, I'm very proud of you that you feel that way," said Myrrdin. "But, I gave Dobby the opportunity to see what you did for him, or would have done for him, in May 1993. Plus for a few years after that.
"He knows you would have freed him, he knows you treated him as a friend, and he knows you love him, or will love him, even if you've not yet met. Please, trust me when I tell you the abuse he would have suffered within the Malfoy household is much worse than this."
"I understand why you did it, Sir," fumed Harry, pacing back and forth. "I understand that you used a very strong Polyjuice Potion to change him into me and that you'll continue to provide him the Potion until we switch back. I understand that you trained him in what were my mannerisms and speech of the time, and what they would become through to my staying overnight at the Leaky Cauldron the night before the Hogwarts train. I understand he'll be able to use the Polyjuice Potion antidote once we swap back. And I understand all this is necessary to prevent Albus Flippin' Dumbledore from discovering I'm missing."
Leaning forward, Myrrdin said, "You haven't thought it all the way through yet, lad. What it means for Dobby to be able to carry out his role."
Harry stopped and glared at his teacher. But the old man could see the boy before him was thinking furiously about the situation. He knew Harry was calm enough to understand he was trying to teach him something. Or, at least, trying to get Harry to figure it out for himself.
After a few moments Harry gave a quick shake of his head and said, "No, I don't see it. Explain, please."
Instead of answering straight back, Myrrdin asked instead, "How are house elves bonded, Harry? And what are the requirements associated with that?"
Harry thought about it for a moment before answering, "House elves are bonded to an individual master or mistress, to a house, or..."
As Harry paused looking off into the distance, the old man saw the boy had begun to understand.
"Elves are bonded, and required through that bond, to come when summoned without hesitation," said Harry calming down while thinking hard. "That means, if Dobby was... is... still bonded to the Malfoys, he would have to immediately pop back to Malfoy Manor when summoned."
"Yes. So..." the old man encouraged.
"So, the idea of Dobby impersonating me would collapse the first time he was summoned as the Malfoys would see him in his Polyjuiced form..." said Harry, calmer now. "And, also collapse the first time it happened in front of anyone back with the Dursleys."
"So, the only possible explanation would be..." prompted the old man.
"That Dobby's no longer bonded to the Malfoys!" replied Harry with wonder.
"Correct, lad!" beamed Myrrdin. "I removed the bond when I brought him here."
"So, he's bonded to you now?" asked Harry.
"No, Dobby is now already a free elf," replied Myrrdin. "I freed him nine years before you would have done so, after the incident with the Chamber of Secrets."
Harry thought about that for a few moments before saying, "So, when you said Dobby volunteered to take my place, he did it when he was a free elf. It was solely his decision. He really did volunteer!"
"Correct," said the old man smiling.
"But, wouldn't the Malfoys have noticed he was missing the first time he was summoned?" asked Harry. "Wouldn't that have indicated something was up?"
"No, lad," the old man replied. "The current wizarding world believes a bond can only be broken by the master or mistress giving the elf at least one item of clothing, by the transference of bond from one master to another freely given, by blood or magical inheritance, or by the death of the elf concerned.
"The Malfoys know the first three did not occur, so only the fourth - Dobby's death - was possible. As far as they know, Dobby was either killed or succumbed to some unknown elvish malady somewhere of which they're unaware. Such a thing happens from time to time. I encouraged that by placing the suggestion of such an event in their minds while they slept the night of the first time they tried to summon him."
Harry resumed his seat in the armchair and slumped forward before stating very quietly, "I owe that... we owe that... little elf more than we can ever repay."
"And I'm sure you and I are going to make every attempt at just that impossible feat after you return."
Then, leaning back, Myrrdin asked, "Now, shall we get back to our tea? Though, I think we need a new pot."
# # #
Sitting on the window sill of their combination study room / laboratory / library, Harry said, "Sir, I understand the concepts well enough. Through your magics and mastery of the knowledge of space and time you've created a piece of reality... space... outside of normal reality as the rest of us understand it. And, through your mastery of time, within that space you're able to manipulate time."
Harry had now been a student under Myrrdin's tutelage for what felt like a decade. But he did not really know because there did not seem to be any seasons other than Spring around their keep.
"Yes, you've got it so far. Keep going..." Myrrdin said, sitting at his desk.
"You're actually alive in the year 515 AD when you set all this..." said Harry, waving his hand about distractedly, "...up. And I'm alive in 1984 AD. At least, that was the year in which you pulled me out to join you here."
"Correct," the old man responded. "What else?"
"By creating this... pocket reality..." continued Harry pausing for a moment.
Interrupting, the old man said, "Pocket reality. I like that. It's a good name for it."
"...Pocket reality," continued Harry, "you've created an environment where we can both exist and you can teach me without causing a time paradox in... normal... reality."
"Correct. And what appears to be bothering you about this?"
"How does the paradox not occur when we drop out of the pocket reality back into normal reality?"
"Ah!" said the old man, light dawning. "I can return back to my own time in normal reality pretty much any time after I left. I'm far enough isolated in my little abode I rarely interact with anyone, or anything, going on. However, I'm planning on returning to my own time no more than a few seconds after I left, thereby not causing a paradox to a time before; nor upsetting the time continuum. People will not notice any aging effects upon my behaviour or body due to my advanced age; and I already know the role I'm to play.
"As for you, I can send you back to any time after I removed you from the Dursleys. However, I need to put you back into normal reality before the First of July 1991, when you're soon due to receive your letter from Hogwarts."
Harry sat for a little while gathering his thoughts before saying, "So, I've only a couple of years left before I have to go back. Can we get everything done in time?"
The old man grinned. "Think it through, lad. I can go back to my own time frame barely a few seconds after I left. And should, as I've already explained."
Harry nodded focussing on his teacher's words, "So that means time passing in here is irrelevant to time passing in normal reality."
"But what about the effects of aging in here, not just on my wisdom and knowledge, but on my physical and magical self?"
Instead of answering, Myrrdin asked, "You've not noticed you don't seem to be growing in line with children the same age as you in the time viewer?"
Harry shrugged, "I thought I was just small for my age. Probably due to the malnutrition I suffered at the hands of the Dursleys."
"No," replied Myrrdin. "I anticipated, in advance, it would take many years to impart upon you the knowledge you would need to defeat Riddle and counter Dumbledore's manipulations; and make a good start on restoring balance to the magical realm in Britain. As such I've slowed your aging process."
"I would have thought I'd learn faster if I was older physically, emotionally, spiritually and magically," said Harry.
"Yes, you would. Well done for recognising that," the old man congratulated him. "However, would you really want to go through puberty, in here with me?"
Harry visibly shuddered before answering with a grin, "No, no; definitely not."
He had not enjoyed the discussion about human sexuality he received from his mentor. As with all things, his mentor spoke with enthusiasm on the subject, and even used diagrams. He had trouble sleeping for a couple of nights after that particular lesson.
Grinning, the old man paused to ensure Harry had no further questions before continuing, "Now, shall we look once more upon the matter of the Protean Charm and its relationship with quantum entanglement?"
Harry groaned and dropped his head to his chest.
Myrrdin laughed and said, "Come now, lad. Since you've mastered Occlumency, and your mind is not the untidy clutter it once was, your memory is close enough to perfect to allow total recall at will. We only have to go over this once and ensure you understand, rather than just know it, before we can jump onto the next subject matter."
Knowing how to encourage his young student's eagerness for the subject at hand the old man said, "And after that, perhaps we shall make use of the time viewer for a while. Though, I still don't know why you insist on calling it by the acronym 'teevee'."
Harry sat bolt upright on hearing that with a big grin on his face.
"And, after that, can we work some more on magic?" the boy eagerly asked.
Chuckling, Myrrdin replied, "Of course we can. That's a wonderful idea!"
# # #
Walking into the study Myrrdin saw a much matured Harry sitting in his favourite armchair speed reading a weighty tome. Other books were piled around him, either freshly read or about to be.
Harry now looked to be the eleven year old he would be once he was reinserted into normal space. The only sign of his fifteen years studying and maturing to what would have been nineteen years of age in the pocket reality was his eyes. Someone attuned to his emotional output may be able to sense there was depth to the boy not found in normal eleven year olds, but that was all they would discover.
"What are you reading, Harry?" asked Myrrdin.
"English and Scottish law as it applied circa 1000AD," said Harry not looking up and barely pausing during his rapid flicking through pages.
Marking his page he looked up at the old man and said, "I want to make sure I'm not going to be conned or advised contrary to the law when I... sorry, we... smack the Wizengamot down.
"At least we now know the fracture of wizard law from mundane law mainly occurred during the Second World War and parallel Grindelwald War, and later. So, the work of synchronising them again won't be as difficult as we first thought. Most of the most appalling ones are only since Riddle's first run-around in the 1970s."
Myrrdin nodded. More and more over the past few years he had left planning on the course of action of the four heirs to Harry. He had given the lad a good grounding in strategy, diplomacy and politics and watched as the boy took the lessons to heart and made his plans. And Harry knew he first needed to get the heirs together before they arrived at Hogwarts.
"Have you given further thought to how you're going to contact the other heirs, lad?"
"I had thought the original plan was sound," the boy responded. "But I think we're going to have to go with 'Operation Nuclear Bang' and immediately bring the heirs and their guardians together. And once we get to Hogwarts we go with 'Operation Baby Steps'.
"Of course, if 'Nuclear Bang' fails then I'm going to have to go with 'Operation Knock Knock' and, if and where necessary, use the Obliviate Charm to prevent Dumbledore discovering what's what. I'm really not going to like doing that.
"If 'Baby Steps' fails we'll go with 'Operation Mailed Fist'. But, of course, that means having to use the memory crystals on the heirs before they go to Hogwarts, which I'd rather not do. I don't want to do that because I think it robs them of their childhood. However, to have 'Mailed Fist' in place in advance, I'm going to need to use the crystals well before we board the train."
It amused Myrrdin how his young charge used modern military terms in his planning. But, he had to hand it to the boy; it made discussing strategy and various options so much easier. Of course, no plan survives first contact. So you need contingency plans for what happens after that event. Or, you'd need a first plan so over-the-top the chance of failure was greatly minimised. This was young Harry's preferred plan.
"As I've said before, but I'll reiterate, lad," said the old man. "The memory crystals are quite safe to use if they're activated when the recipient - or recipients, in this case - are ready for sleep."
Harry sighed, "I know, Sir. But I feel as if it would steal their innocence doing that to them."
"You're a good lad, Harry," said the old man, coming up to put one hand on Harry's shoulder. "That care you have for the welfare of others will stand you in good stead as you work towards all four of your objectives. But, they would all lose their innocence soon enough if you fail."
"I know, Sir," sighed the boy again.
Backing away to sit in his own chair facing Harry, Myrrdin asked, "Have you given much more thought about how you and the other heirs are going to tackle those objectives?"
"Yes, Sir," Harry responded. "As you know, Sir, that'll be launched with 'Operation Queen's Ire' as long as you've managed to ensure each artefact is in its right place..."
Nodding, the old druidic mage said, "That's now been done, and I'll manage them across time to ensure they're where you need them to be, when the time comes."
"Good," said Harry, also nodding. Leaning forward he said, "Then, when the time comes, I plan to..."
# # #