Harry tries to get some rest while Bill & Ron get into some trouble.
Um... say. It's been quite a while, hasn't it? I just want to finish this, considering how much effort I put into actually plotting the damn thing out. So let's see how it goes, shall we? Additionally, I made some changes to the names of the various factions to be less stupid; those changes are in chapters 3, 4 and 5, and are as follows:
/The "Balancers" are now "Verus Pondera Animadverto" - The Sustainers of the Scales/
The "Mergers" are now "Vita Tribuo"
/The "Utopians" are now "Wu-Tuo-Bang" - Order of the Twin Ideals/
The "Finishers" are now "Zhōngjié zhě" - The Circle of Attainment
Harry sighed as he slipped through Grindelwald's diary, passing many pages of complicated runic diagrams and arithmantic equations. Harry felt that given enough time, he could potentially puzzle through a couple of the complex bits, but didn't quite feel in the mood. Finally, he reached something a bit more like a narrative, entries written in words instead of pictures.
What began as a simple matter has mutated into something far more serpentine and mysterious. I truly wonder now what we have uncovered. Mulciber and his allies have attempted to convince me that my discovery is their discovery, and that the cause is worth fighting for more than petty infighting. Could they possible fathom what I have seen, what I have mastered? Their mundane and foolish quest for purity and power is shortsighted and horrendously stupid. I am not in such a good position anymore. Perhaps it would be best to mitspielen for now.
Naturally, I will continue my own research, but hiding my further discoveries and epiphanies while presenting them with reasonable facsimiles will surely prove to be trying. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to prevail.
Ah ha! So now their little plan has been uncovered, although they do not suspect I know anything at all. I pretend that my real goal is the Unsterblichkeit mixtuer – feh, as if immortality concerns me? I know well that such things come with grave sacrifices. But they smile at me, thinking they are smarter than I, the one who discovered how to rip apart the causal threads and manipulate the very internen geist of reality? They think I don't see what they're doing? Mulciber was only the beginning, the rest of these peons think they are master manipulators and thinkers? They have no idea who they face.
I am gravely worried. Verdammt schweine.
The depth of their insanity troubles me to no end. Now I wonder if perhaps I have underestimated the fools. I have discovered that not only does this nonsensical "faction" consider itself rightful ownerr of the piccolo fuoco spell and its connected magical notions, but desires greater influence over the chaotic energies that power the extricated spiral. What, do they fancy themselves sole arbiter of the understanding of existence? Of reality itself? I am glad beyond measure I have protected my notes and artifacts with protectiosn beyond even their understanding.
Even meine Zeitschrift is at risk – but I know many insidious ways to protect my property. Let them try to break through my protections! Their minds and bodies will be ripped asunder and fed to the demons of the neunten Kreis der Hölle! I have underestimated them once, but never again. I must consider my future now. The war draws to an end soon, I can see it even if these dummkopfs cannot. Things will not be easy to alter. Paths begun will be problematic to diverge from. Is there no end to this circle of destruction?
Thankfully I have, at least, dismantled the temporal arch. They will no longer have any easy access to the Deeper thoughts of Radavra of anything further than the primary subjuncts. They will need to struggle to make any progress, that much I have ensured.
I am undone. They have poisoned me, cursed me with a magic I know all too well. But I cannot believe they have manipulated the deep ethers so effectively. I think it was almost accidental thaet they were successful. Deep within the layers of reality my knowledge of the wonders of Deep magic and Schwarzenmagie were punctured and grabbed by that curse. Here in the full totality spectrum, I would be immune. They stumbled onto the means to destroy me, to destroy my mind and my magic. I cannot abandon my knowledge, it would be the end of me.
Unless… my old friend Albus has similar problems with his own pack of fools as I have. Perhaps it is time we pooled our resources once again and turn the magical world on its head. Together, we will rip these inferior sludge primates from their bodies and scatter the ashes of their minds into the oceans. It will be glorious. I have a feeling he will be glad to help. Perhaps we parted on bad terms, but we can overcome such petty inequities in the face of shared danger.
Harry paused his reading, feeling shocked. Grindelwald and Dumbledore were friends? Perhaps Dumbledore was involved early on with this mess as well. It would explain a great deal, including how Dumbledore seemed to know so much and yet be so worried about the dangers Harry would face. Harry guessed that if Grindelwald thought so highly of Dumbledore but still compared himself favorably, they must have both been brilliant wizards even back then. But what in Merlin's name could have occurred to set them against each other then?
After all, didn't Slughorn even mention that Dumbledore had defeated Grindelwald in battle? So how did they go from estranged friends to enemies again? Harry couldn't contain his curiosity and continued reading.
Ha, it is all too simple. Albus had a brilliant notion, one that pains me to admit I would never have considered. Hide from them right under their noses! Merely a matter of finding the right vessel to make the switch, and then the real game begins. Well, perhaps we were not master craftsmen of men's minds as youngsters, but that will change. We will each abandon our precious memories, but not permanently. They will think me defeated, and without their figurehead, their damn war will collapse.
My heart, it is almost too easy. Well, for wizards of our calibers, a nothing. For these fools, even with their sub-mastery of piccolo fuoco and minor talents at deconstructing werkelijkheids breking, will have no idea what we have in store for them. Their war will be stopped in its tracks, and we will linger, acting the Obliviated fools who have no idea about it, for that is how we will appear. It is a delicious irony to use their tricks and preconceptions against them.
My last entry, I believe. Our plan is damn close to completion. Albus has readied the vessel and I have chosen the battlegrounds. It will be one glorious last triumph for his manufactured side, but all will still believe it to be at an end. I shall lace this Zeitschrift with a few tricks to prevent even myself from reading it. One can never be too careful, after all. Although I never was able to take all the purloined knowledge of piccolo fuoco from the Macht Von, it does not matter. I have gained enough to learn the spells of Erasum Erado – any one fool enough to grab these pages without the password shall be erased from existence.
But the rest though… perhaps it would be best if I kept this safe. I can trust no one but myself and Albus. Perhaps he will have an idea of how to keep our secrets secure. The battle is nigh.
There were no more written entries after this one; the rest of the journal was completely blank.
Harry closed the diary, his mind awhirl with possibilities both fantastic and horrifying. He would need some time to process all the bizarre information from the journal. And yet, he still felt completely awake. Harry felt a bit frustrated; after all, he could easily see a lack of sleep being a real problem the next day.
A sudden light shining distracted Harry, and he glanced at his shifting bracelet. One of the gems far to the right, near the end, glinted with a faint reddish glow. Wait… red…
Suddenly Harry remembered. Red meant a Horcrux fragment in a sub-dimension, at least according to the Balancer folk. Well, who knew when Harry would have another chance to grab one of the bloody things?
"Well," Harry mused. "At least I can't sleep either." He moved his will towards the red gem and felt himself shift. Instantly everything was cold and dark, and Harry began to shiver uncontrollably.
CHAPTER 6: BOILS
/The Ministry of Magic, hellishly far to the East of the Primary Reality/
"What the bloody hell?" Harry rubbed his hands together frantically, trying to overcome the sudden rush of insidious cold. The sensation was beginning to affect him a bit; but he shook his head to clear the cobwebs. He pulled out his wand and cast the warming charm he recalled learning from Hermione ages ago.
The charm seemed to help a bit, as Harry could now at least move without being practically sent to his knees by the crippling feeling of darkness and frost. In fact, the feeling seemed awfully familiar… Harry was certain he recognized the sensation. It reminded him of his third year for some reason. Wait…
A sudden whooshing sound forced Harry to duck to the side to see what was happening. A pair of Dementors flew past him in a rush, seemingly ignoring him. Nevertheless, a wave of coldness passed by in their wake, catching Harry with a momentary chill that caused him to shiver briefly involuntarily. But something seemed odd… Well, odder than anything else. Harry didn't feel the horrific pull on his mind that was typical of Dementors, that terror that was impossible to completely ignore.
It was almost as if… they couldn't sense him. Was it even possible?
The quickly cast charm didn't provide much illumination, but it was enough to see the immediate surroundings. Suddenly Harry realized where he had appeared; he was standing in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. Now that he noticed it, it was hard to see anything other than the human-aggrandizing sculpture at the center of the room. Although there was something different about it, but Harry couldn't quite make it out in the almost pitch black room.
Harry moved closer to the statue, but when he could make out the details, he stepped back in alarm. The sculpture was identical to the one in the normal Ministry of Magic, but here, the human's head was replaced by a screaming Dementor. Even with a cowled face, Harry was severely disturbed by the image. He glanced at the other images, and blinked in surprise. The non-human figures were similar, but they had each been replaced by animals of similar sizes.
Harry turned around, wondering what it all meant. What kind of bizarre sub-dimension was this? Dementors that exuded coldness and darkness, but didn't carry the same sense of fear? Animals instead of centaurs and house elves? There was something about the animals that seemed familiar to Harry, but he couldn't quite figure it out.
A group of Dementors entered the atrium, several following behind a single, slightly fatter one. The sight of the larger Dementor only served to further agitate Harry; who ever heard of a fat Dementor?
But then he noticed what the marginally corpulent monster was wearing around his hideous neck: the locket of Slytherin. Harry gaped, and then looked down at his bracelet, which still glowed a brilliant red color. He smirked. Perhaps things were finally looking up.
After all, Harry knew just how to deal with Dementors. He pointed his wand at the locket-wearing monstrosity and thought of the happiest feeling he could manage. Strangely enough, it helped to think of Quidditch.
"/Expecto Patronum/!" A silver stag leapt from Harry's wand and bounded straight for the group of Dementors. The lead Dementor stumbled and fell to the ground, but the other beasts swarmed and attacked the Patronus. The stag bucked and kicked at the Dementors, but every time they touched the Patronus, it grew a bit dimmer.
Harry stopped and stood still for a moment, shocked at this reaction, but then he saw the locket, still hanging of the fat one's neck, which was beginning to get to its feet. Growling, he raced forward and ducked past the stag and Dementors slashing at each other. He held out his wand and tried to silently Summon the locket. The locket twitched slightly, but did not move far.
Harry frowned and concentrated deeply. "/Accio/!" The locket snapped off its necklace and jumped into Harry's waiting hand. Harry grinned. "Finally!"
He raced down the corridor and suddenly, overcome by a sudden impulse, turned and whistled. The battered stag Patronus leapt from the fray of Dementors and bound after Harry. It quickly matched Harry's pace and nudged him slightly on the shoulder. Instantly a wave of warmth, like liquid pleasure raced through Harry's body, spreading a feeling of cheer and happiness. It was like a day's worth of joy in a single moment.
The stag nudged Harry's shoulder and nodded. Harry still kept running, as the sounds of the Dementors continued to grow louder and louder behind them. He glanced over at his corporeal Patronus.
"What? What is it?"
The stag, which seemed to effortlessly match Harry's speed, nudged him again, then gestured behind them. Harry took a moment to glance back. The Dementors were chasing after them, arms outstretched, slowly gaining. Their rasping voices began to devolve into shrieks and groans.
"Yeah, yeah, I see them. I'm not blind, after all."
The stag nudged Harry a bit more forcefully, and then gestured again. Suddenly Harry thought he got it.
"You want me to ride you, is that it?"
The stag nodded its head and gestured again.
Well, it wasn't too different from jumping on a broom in midair after all; well, it was quite a bit easier than that actually. Harry worried that the Patronus might be too insubstantial to carry him, but then he recalled feeling the nudging quite clearly. Perhaps the rules were a bit different there in more ways than one.
Harry leapt onto the stag's back with a smooth motion. Before Harry could finish exhaling, the stag accelerated, now completely losing the Dementors far behind them. The stag continued to run through the Ministry, twisting and turning down various corridors. They moved so quickly, Harry could barely keep track of where they were going.
And then they were in a long hallway, decorated with beautiful stained glasses windows on sides. With a large, intricate window at the end that stretched to the ceiling. The stag began to accelerate once again, straight towards the great glass window.
But before Harry had even a chance to yell out in horror, they had smashed through the window, sending glass fragments splintering in all directions. Harry blinked and checked himself for any hidden cuts or shards poking out. And then he noticed the glow; he and the stag were glowing a low, but visible light.
"Huh," Harry remarked. "Did you somehow protect me from the glass?"
The stag nodded its head once and then abruptly turned to the right, heading north. Harry had another question on his lips, but the stag did not allow this, instead beginning to travel with incredible speed, faster than anything Harry had ever experienced. Faster than a Firebolt, faster than the Knight Bus - in a way, even faster than a Portkey might be. Although that was more a sense of it than anything else.
The world around them flashed in images far too quick and transient for Harry to make anything out. Without warning, the stag slowed, and gradually the world around them coalesced into a very familiar sight. Harry recognized the eldritch woods of the Forbidden Forest with ease.
Now the stag walked through nothing at all, a wall of air that shimmered and bent the substance of the reality around it. And they walked out into the Room of Requirements.
Harry felt a bit out of sorts with the rapid changing of his surroundings, but the familiar setting comforted him slightly. He slid off his Patronus and smiled at the rush of memories. Bright lights shimmered around him, and several Patronuses appeared, a few wolves, an otter, and several others. They all seemed a bit familiar, and Harry wondered if they were connected to the ones his friends could summon.
It seemed odd at this point to think of the Patronuses as magical things that could be created - these beings existed almost by themselves in this odd sub-dimension of Dementors and Patronuses.
The stag bowed its head and the other animals bowed in response, causing Harry to smile at the sight. It was a marvelous thing, seeing the Patronus animals act so distinctly human.
And then, without warning, the stag leapt into Harry, causing him to step back involuntarily. But it was a wondrous sensation, a natural high that he had only come close to experiencing flying high in the air.
"Harry," /one of the wolves said to him in voice that echoed not out loud, but inside his body - like a reverberating sound that he could feel all over.. "Can you now understand us?"/
"/Can you, lovely one?" /the swan asked.
Harry blinked in surprise. "I can, actually," he replied. "Why couldn't I understand the stag before?"
"The stag was you and is you, you cannot talk in a voice to nothing at all," the same wolf responded somewhat cryptically. "But now that you are yourself once more, not separated by the Protector's Call, you can speak. You are one again, like we are. Why were you split here, in the world of the Protectors and the Maddeners?"
"I think you mean the Dementors, right?" Harry asked.
The wolf nodded.
"I'm here to collect something, a piece of a Horcrux," Harry held up the locket he had retrieved from the fat Dementor. "Do you know what that is?'
"I do," /the wolf answered sadly. "Although not all of us have such dark knowledge. The Ravaging Horcux is a dangerous thing, I know that much. I had no idea there was one still in existence."/
Harry frowned, getting an odd feeling of familiarity. "Do I know you?"
The wolf chuckled in a wolfish manner, wagging its tongue. "Very funny, Harry. As if you don't know me. I'm Bill, Ron's brother, remember?"
Harry slumped back against the wall in shock. "Um, I don't suppose Ron is here too?"
A small Jack Russell terrier leaped over and wagged its tail happily. Harry dimly recalled that this was Ron's Patronus. "Yes, I'm right here, Harry! Want to go for a run in the Forest? Grab a bite to eat?"
At this, Harry couldn't help but laugh. "Well, you're Ron, all right." Harry then sighed heavily. "I don't suppose you have any idea where the other Horcruxes are? Or maybe anything about this hidden war of reality?"
The animals all shook their heads.
One of the other wolves snarled. "The only war I know about is the never-ending one between us and the Maddening Horde."
At this, all the other Patronuses growled or chirped angrily.
"Hmm," Harry considered. "Then I suppose I had better get back home. Although I feel so good, merged with my Patronus self... I hate to give that up."
The Bill wolf laughed again. "Sometimes you seem awfully ignorant, Harry, although I suppose that is because you broke in half. You are one now, Harry. The Protector's Call should no longer be necessary, because you are finally whole."
"I'm whole?" Harry wondered. "So does that mean... is the call the same thing as the charm itself? You know, /Expecto Patronum/?"
"That is the Word of the Call," an otter said with a sage nod. "/You are the only one I've ever seen whole. It is a beautiful thing, Harry. I am so very jealous/."
Harry smirked. "Thanks, otter. Good seeing you, although perhaps from your perspective I won't be going anywhere at all." He focused on the yellow gems and Moved.
And he was back at the Tonks home, lying in bed.
Suddenly Harry felt unbelievably tired, but he still had the presence of mind to tuck the locket under the bed to keep it out of sight. Harry yawned mightily and smiled. It hadn't been that bad of a day, after all. And something about those Patronuses... he still felt wondrously complete. But what that would truly mean, he wasn't sure. And soon, Harry was asleep, a faint smile still on his face.
And it will become dust upon the entire land of Egypt, and it will become boils, breaking out into blisters upon man and upon beast throughout the entire land of Egypt.
Bill grabbed for his wand, but Ginny merely waved her own, instantly disarming him.
"Now, now," she chided. "None of that." Another swipe of her wand, and Bill was tossed against the wall, stuck completely. Ginny turned to Ron. "Petrificus Totalus."Ron instantly became as stiff as a board.
Ginny began to laugh in a mad, befuddling manner. "And here I was actually worried for a brief moment," she wiped a tear from an eye. "But this was like nothing at all. Perhaps it's time we finally start for real."
"What's wrong with you?" Bill managed to ask, although it took a great deal of will. He hadn't been Stunned, just stuck against the wall, although he was terrified in a way he had never thought possible.
"You wouldn't understand," Ginny snarled. Then she paused and nodded thoughtfully. "Well, of all of you idiots I call family, perhaps /you /might actually grasp some minor piece of esoterica of what I need to accomplish." She grinned widely at her older brother. "I need to bring my love into this reality."
She looked around the room and whispered conspiratorially, "He's stuck in between nothing and here. Sort of like how you're stuck against the attic wall!" Ginny giggled shrilly.
"Who is this 'love' you're talking about?" Bill asked as calmly as he could manage. "Someone I know?"
Ginny's eyes narrowed. "Oh, you know him. Know of him, I should say. Ron almost had a chance to meet him, but only one person ever met him other than myself. My old boyfriend, Harry Potter." The red-haired girl chuckled ruefully. "Poor stupid Harry. Way in over his head. I will almost feel bad killing him. Although perhaps I'll concede the honor to dear Thomas."
Bill swallowed. "Thomas? I haven't heard of anyone by that name."
"Oh, I know," Ginny smiled. "But that's because you know him by a different name altogether. Well, that's not entirely true. You know of the wrong one, the impostor. The one who died and should never have come back." She scowled. "We despise him most of all."
Ginny turned to Ron and looked between him and Bill's circle. "You know, this is quite a well-designed circle. I believe I shall be able to utilize it myself." She pulled at her wand, and Ron floated up and over into the circle. Ginny kicked at him until he was completely within the bounds of the magical circle.
"Perfect. And now for a few adjustments." Ginny bent down and used her wand to change several of the markings and cleaning up the scuffs in the chalk.
"I can't quite see what you're doing," Bill remarked casually. "What do you need Ron for?"
Ginny giggled. "Very droll, Bill. As if you didn't know. Just your typical Overloaded Spectral Switch, although there are a few odd things you probably wouldn't have heard of."
Bill frowned, trying to puzzle it out. "So you're trying to switch someone with Ron, then? But who?"
"Oh, he's not here," Ginny answered, as it was very obvious. "To be honest, I have no idea where he is specifically. But after Thomas found me in the reality that doesn't exist, we realized that a strong enough anchoring would pull him from anywhere." She sighed deeply. "He has taught me so much."
"An anchoring," Bill repeated, then his eyes widened in horror. "Wait, you're using a blood anchoring?"
Ginny laughed. "Obviously. Ron is the closest family member to me in age and substance, being half of each of our stupid parents. He'd be ideal, even if he hadn't stumbled onto my plans. I suppose I can wait to kill you for later; I'm not so good at the Imperius, but Thomas should easily find use for you in the coming war."
"But that will kill him!" Bill shouted.
"Keep your voice down," Ginny snarled. "Or I'll spell your mouth shut. And besides, it won't kill him exactly - just switch his position with Thomas, wherever that is. But it can't be that bad, otherwise Thomas would be all dead, wouldn't he?"
"This is madness," Bill mumbled. "Ginny, please, listen to reason. I don't know who this Thomas is, but he's tricking you!"
"Shut up!" Ginny screamed. "And don't you dare say his bloody name!" She waved her wand and Bill's mouth suddenly snapped shut. "Now," she said more calmly. "Don't bother me while I finish this up."
Bill could only watch, completely helpless, as his sister arranged a series of burning incense, something quite vile, and setting up spell after spell. Some he recognized, some he thought he might be able to figure out. But none of it was good.
"/Instruo Orbis," /Ginny incanted.
And Ron began to scream, even through his frozen state, as a wave of darkness began to emanate from the circle.
"And now, the most important part," she grinned, and pulled out a shredded diary. "/Certamen una", /Ginny intoned and tossed it into the circle.
Ron's screams began to subside and his body began to shake horribly.
Bill desperately wanted to turn away, but his head was frozen in place.
Ginny laughed in triumph. "Yes, finally! He comes!"
And then a whispered voice came from the shadows, "Erasum Erado".
Suddenly, Ron disappeared, as if he had never been there at all.
"What happened?" Ginny shrieked. "Where is the damn idiot? Where's Ron? Where's Thomas?"
"Gone," a very familiar voice said, and Fleur stepped out the shadows, holding aloft her own wand.
Ginny stepped back in utter shock. "Phlegm? You stupid bint, what in Merlin's name have you done?"
"You 'ave gone too far," Fleur told Ginny with a smirk. "You 'ave made a foolish error, leetle girl. Reaching across ze realities like zat? Eet would not 'ave worked, obviously. And now you look like ze fool, no?"
"I hate you!" Ginny screamed. "And I don't even know what you're babbling about! Nobody can ever understand you, anyway." Ginny stopped screaming and gasped in horror. "I can't feel him anymore. Thomas... he's gone!"
"Not exactly, my dear one," Fleur clucked her tongue. "But 'e shall be gone quite soon, no? But first, perhaps you should prepare ze way?"
"/Avada Kedavra/!" Ginny spat hatefully.
Fleur jumped to the side and riposted with a spell of her own, "/Quasso ex Subter Supter!" /She managed to say the long phrase in a melodious and quick fashion, leaving Bill quite impressed she could do such a thing.
"What does that...?" Ginny started to ask, and then she yawned. "What did you do?" To Bill's astonishment, tiny dark cracks of shadow began to spread over Ginny's body, slowly at first, then faster and faster until only darkness could be seen. And then, once she had changed entirely, the shadow collapsed into nothingness.
"Tsk tsk, Bill," Fleur chided her fiance. "Look at ze mess you 'ave gotten into. Let me 'elp you zere." She waved her wand and Bill was released from the wall.
"I... I don't understand," Bill said slowly, leaning against the wall in exhaustion. "What did you do to her? To Ron?"
Fleur frowned and looked sad. "I 'ad no choice with Ron, you understand, mon chéri? I 'ad to erase 'im before Ginny's spell ripped a hole in reality. She did not understand what she was doing." Then her face hardened. "But I will not apologize for what I did to 'er. She 'ad become a monster, and I 'ad to destroy 'er. She was not your sister, not anymore."
"I was beginning to think that too," Bill admitted in a choked voice. "But I didn't want Ron to be killed!"
"Well," Fleur said softly, kneeling next to him. "If it ees any consolation, 'e ees not precisely dead. Just gone from ze main reality. I am sure 'e still lives on somewhere else."
"I don't understand," Bill repeated. "What is all this talk about realities and living somewhere else?"
Fleur smiled and stood with a graceful fashion. "I do not have a problem explaining to you, Bill - not now zat you are in ze middle of it. But perhaps we could do with some company, no?" She turned to the circle. "Accio diary." The diary jumped out of the circle, but Fleur moved out of the way before it could touch her.
"Be careful wiss zat," she advised. "Do not touch it." Then Fleur smiled. "And now zat it ees no longer hidden, we wait."
"Wait for what?" Bill asked.
Fleur shrugged. "Hopefully not too long. It ees quite early in ze morning, after all."
She turned to Bill. "Before our friend appears, let me quickly explain what I can tell you. Reality as you know it ees a sort of illusion - it ees made up of various smaller sub-reality pieces zat represent aspects of ze whole. But normally we only see ze whole, of course."
"Um," Bill said slowly. "Okay."
"But zere are secret spells to change sings in zose sub-realities," she told him. "Dangerous ones. Ones to erase someone from existence - like what I did to Ginny. And zere is a zecret war to control how ze reality is put togezzer. Ginny was a wildcard, zough... she was only interested in bringing back Tom Riddle from a sub-reality, which ees not possible. It would 'ave ripped a hole in reality if she 'ad completed 'er ritual."
Fleur suddenly stopped talking and looked at the middle of the room.
Then the air shimmered before them, and quickly coalesced into the form of someone they both knew fairly well.
Harry blinked and looked around at the damaged attic. "Wait, what's going on here?" He looked very tired, which made sense, considering he had just been woken from a much-needed slumber.
Harry looked down at his wrist and blinked in surprise. "Hey, we're still in the main reality."
"Zat is correct, 'Arry," Fleur beamed. "I am glad to see our information was accurate."
"Um, okay then," Harry replied slowly. "Uh, so you know about the whole reality mess?"
Fleur nodded. "Oui, and zat ze Sustainers gave you zat bracelet. Although of course you realize who 'fixed' ze artifact for zem by now, no?"
"No," Harry said in confusion. "Someone fixed it?"
"Of course," Fleur laughed. "Ze Anubis Charm 'as been in zeir possession for ages, but zey could never figure out 'ow to use it. It was Dumbledore zat 'fixed' it - by which I mean 'e made sure only you could use it."
Dumbledore again. Harry was not at all surprised by this particular revelation. And not really hurt he hadn't been told, as he could easily grasp the Headmaster's motivations. Pretend to help out the Sustainers, while in reality give Harry precisely what he needed. Typical Dumbledore.
"So I suppose you aren't one of the Sustainers, then?" Harry asked, knowing the answer.
"Very true, 'Arry," Fleur smirked devilishly. "I am glad to see you are sinking clearly. If you can figure out which group I am with, I will be impressed, but I do not wish to convert your allegiances, so I will stay silent on zis matter."
Harry snorted. "Thanks for the consideration." He looked over at Bill. "Is Bill part of it too?"
"No!" Bill finally managed to say. "I don't know what's going on!"
"Finally!" Harry grinned. "Someone who knows less than I do. What about the rest of your family? Ron? Ginny? The Twins?"
Fleur looked saddened. "Zey are not involved, which ees a good sing, I believe. But I am afraid zat Ginny was working with the Horcrux sub-reality fragment of Tom Riddle, and I was forced to kill 'er."
"You killed Ginny?" Harry repeated in shock. "She was working with Tom? But the diary was destroyed!"
"Ze main piece was," Fleur agreed. "But not the broken piece. I sought you already knew about zat."
Harry nodded, realizing that he did. "Yeah, now that I think about it, that makes sense. I destroyed the diary, but in the main reality. Obviously there would be a fragment in a sub-reality."
"Ah, but zat is no longer a concern," Fleur beamed widely. "Look! Due to Ginny's foolish actions, she managed to summon the fragment here! Zat is why your bracelet brought you 'ere." She pointed at the shredded diary on the floor.
"Huh, what do you know," Harry said, and summoned the diary to himself without a thought.
"Wait!" Bill called out belatedly. "It's dangerous to touch them."
Fleur grinned. "'Arry is in a very special position not to be quite as 'armed by zem, no? He 'as ze special powers, true?"
Harry laughed. "I suppose that's true." He then yawned mightily. "Well, let me be honest with you guys. I'd love to keep talking, but I am bloody knackered. I forgot to take the bracelet off before falling asleep, otherwise I don't know if the bright light would've woken me. Do you need me for anything else, or can we talk tomorrow?"
"Zat would be fine, 'Arry," Fleur nodded. Then she stroked her chin thoughtfully. "But perhaps I know of a sub-reality where you could get even more rest zan normal. You would like to 'ear it?"
"Of course," Harry replied with a grin. "Sounds wonderful."
Fleur's eyes twinkled and she smiled slightly. "I want you to try four to ze left, one to ze right, zen three to ze left. And 'ave a good night."
"Four left, one right, three left," Harry repeated. "Night then guys, see you tomorrow." He focused on the appropriate gem and vanished.
"You didn't tell him about Ron," Bill reminded his fiance.
Fleur sighed. "I know," she told him sadly. "But I zought zat perhaps he only needed to 'ear about one Weasley dead tonight. I feel terrible about Ron."
Bill sighed as well and took Fleur into his arms. "Well, so do I. Do you really think he might be able to be restored? I mean, maybe Harry can do it?"
"If anyone can," Fleur mused. "It would be 'Arry Potter."
/"We all boil at different degrees" - Ralph Waldo Emerson/
/An apartment off Diagon Alley, a little ways West of the Primary Reality/
Harry found himself in an unfamiliar lavatory, looking at himself in the mirror. He looked quite tired. Harry shrugged and tucked the diary away in a pocket, then walked out of the lavatory into a small bedroom he didn't recognize.
Ah, a bed? Well, Fleur had mentioned that this would be a good place to get some rest.
And then Harry realized that there was someone in the bed. Someone with very familiar blonde hair.
Harry watched with shock as Fleur Delacour looked up sleepily at him.
"'Arry, mon chéri, come back to bed," she grinned wickedly. "You 'ave woken me, so you must pay ze fee."
"Um, but what about Bill?" Harry stammered, although he felt incredibly tempted to accept her offer.
"Ronald's brozzer?" Fleur asked in confusion. "What about 'im?"
"You're engaged!" Harry managed to blurt out.
Fleur giggled. "You are very silly, 'Arry. I 'aven't switched the engagement to a random Weasley. I still 'ave your mozzer's ring, don't I?" She waved a hand that had a lovely diamond ring on it.
"So wait," Harry said, beginning to put it together. "We're engaged, then?"
"Enough of zis fooling around," Fleur said in annoyed tone. "Will you come to bed or not?"
"Hmm," Harry mused. "You know, perhaps I will." And then Harry smiled.
Sleep could wait.
The hailstones rip asunder the foundations of reality - unless some can find shelter.
BLOOD FROGS LICE BEASTS PESTILENCE BOILS HAIL LOCUSTS DARKNESS DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN