He said it wouldn't hurt, he lied.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit. No shit.
Chapter Two: Haven't We Met Before?
By Big D
On another world, in another time, the boundaries between the dimensions bent, then broke, allowing something that should never have existed in that place to take its first breath of air there.
On this world, there were only two humans capable of sensing that breach. One, his mind consumed with a war he was slowly and inexorably losing, passed the slight tremor off as a side effect of the massive stress he was under.
The other, half a world away, but always searching for potential threats to his dark plans, sat up and took notice.
The chamber door slamming open was an unwelcome wake-up call.
Harry looked up from his place in the middle of the room. His unwashed hair had grown long and matted and fell into his eyes, but the blob of platinum-blond was unmistakable. The chains holding him to the ceiling were digging into his wrists painfully, but Harry refused to give Lucius Malfoy the pleasure of seeing him stand upon his entrance.
The cell he was in was a simple eight by ten stone room, with a not-so-simple purpose. The walls were perfectly smooth and seamless, with the exception of the latticework of complicated runes etched lightly into them. The symbols somehow turned the room into a zone of null-magic, where even Voldemort would be no better than a squib. Unsurprisingly, the Dark Lord himself avoided the room like the plague. That didn't, however, stop him from sending his flunkies in to make Harry bleed whenever it amused him. The one advantage, if you could call it that, was that they were unable to use magic to do it.
All things considered, Harry was happy to see the elder Malfoy. Lucius, for all his supposed intelligence, was a poor pain-giver. Brutal and unforgiving, but also unimaginative and easily rattled.
Each of his usual torturers had their own style. Avery was excitable and eager to please his master, he felt that, if he hurt Harry badly enough, then he might be able to make up for denouncing the Dark Lord after he fell. Macnair was a professional, businesslike at all times. His method was to get in, get a few screams, and get out. His visits were probably the most painful, but also the shortest in duration. Bellatrix got off on it, always with a knife in one hand, and the other wiggling around inside her panties. With her, the sessions lasted a long time, but the damage was somewhat minimal... the physical damage, at least. She usually kept a memento of their time together when she was done, either some of his blood, or a lock of his hair.
The only one that really scared him was the one for whom he had no name. Voldemort's lead researcher was a short, chubby man with beady, bird-like eyes who didn't look like he could hurt a fly. He never spoke, and rarely even looked at Harry. His purpose wasn't to torture Harry, but to study him. His visits generally lasted for hours, and often left Harry feeling ashamed of how desperately he had begged the man to stop. But no matter how much he begged, or how angrily he cursed, the man took no notice. He didn't see Harry as a person, only as a subject to be analyzed. In his own mind, Harry had taken to calling the man Mengele.
A hand grabbing his hair and jerking him to his feet brought Harry back to the here and now. Lucius' face filled his vision as the taller man looked down his nose at him.
"Yet again, I find myself forced to enter this disgusting place." Malfoy spat, his eyes narrow and angry, "And why?" he asked rhetorically, bringing his face closer to Harry's so that they were nose to nose. "Because you refuse to see reason!" He released his grip on Harry's scalp and stepped back, straightening his robes and trying to regain his composure. A little calmer now, he moved behind Harry and whispered into his ear. "What are you waiting for, boy?" he hissed, "Rescue? That will not happen! The rest of the world believes that you are dead!" He paused, and seemed to be contemplating Harry's motives. "Perhaps you think that if you resist long enough, the Dark Lord will get bored and have you killed?" He leaned in even closer, and growled. "Dismiss the thought from your mind. You are here until you submit, or you die of old age. Use what meager intelligence you possess and make the correct decision, for both our sakes."
Harry leaned his head back, and smiled. His bone-dry and abused lips cracked open, and a tiny bit of blood oozed from the cracks. "But you don't understand." he rasped, the infection in his lungs giving his voice the sound of a death rattle. "This is the best summer vacation I've had in years. This room is much larger than the one I grew up in, and," he lowered his voice conspiratorially, "just between you and me, the company here isn't much worse than what I get at home."
Malfoy's response was to slam his fist into the back of Harry's head as hard as he could. Bright lights flashed in Harry's eyes at the contact, and he felt what little he had in his stomach come back up and splatter onto the floor, as well as parts of his nude body. His knees buckled and the chains in the ceiling were all that kept him from going down like a sack of potatoes, the shackles digging deeper into the cuts on his wrists as they stopped his momentum.
"Have it your way, then!" Malfoy snarled, reaching into his robes and producing a leather object. There was a slight tinkling noise as he uncoiled the cat o' nine tails, the metal tips of the lashes clattering on the stone floor. "I hope you enjoy this as much as I will."
The first blow hit Harry's back like a shotgun blast, and he didn't even bother trying to hold back his screams. His body jerked in his bonds, and he could hear a voice in the distance.
Again the lashes pounded him, the metal tips cutting his skin open as easily as a scalpel.
He tried to pull himself to his feet, but the third blow sent him back down. Tears started to form in his eyes, and the world became very bright.
"Alright now, you're almost there."
The nightmare faded as Harry slowly regained consciousness. In the distance, he could hear someone move away from him. His muscles screamed as he pulled himself up tenderly from his place on the muggle hospital bed. He could tell it was a muggle hospital from the smell, magical hospitals tended to smell more like kitchens, due to all the herbs in use. It felt like every soft tissue he owned was bruised.
"The little liar said that it wouldn't hurt." he muttered irritably.
"Oi there, boy!" an exasperated female voice came from Harry's left, "You'd best be laying back down so the doctor can have a look at you!"
Harry looked over at the flummoxed nurse. She was a rather severe-looking heavyset woman with thick black glasses. "That won't be necessary, love." he sighed, "If you would be so kind, could you bring me my personal effects so I can be out of your hair?" he asked as politely as he was capable of, what with his head trying to burst out of his skull.
He needed to find out what had happened to his team. With any luck, they had followed orders for once and portkeyed out when they were ambushed. He also needed to confer with Albus to try and find out exactly what Voldemort had tried to do to him. The dark wizard had said something about banishing him into limbo but, unless limbo was really a muggle trauma ward, it hadn't worked. Either that, or the spell didn't have anything to do with sending him into limbo, and Voldemort had only said that to throw Harry off the real trail. The idea of spending time alone in a room with the Headmaster of Hogwarts was enough to make his skin crawl, but the old man really was the preeminent authority on all types of rare magic.
"Listen to me, young man!" the nurse said, "You've just spent the last week in a coma, so if you think you're going to..." She trailed off as Harry whipped his head towards her and sprang to his feet. It was remarkable how quickly the words "week-long coma" had managed to clear his head. The idea that he had been laying here, totally unprotected, for a week, was a sobering thought.
"Where am I?" he demanded, "How did I get here?"
The woman's eyes narrowed, and she put her hands on her ample hips. "Don't take that tone with me, little boy!" the angry nurse growled, "I've put bigger lads than you over my knee and taught them respect!" She stared him down for a moment, then when she was sure he had gotten the message, she explained. "You're at Saint Thomas's Hospital. Sergeant Metcalf said that the boys found you half-drowned in the river, and he brought you to us. Had I known you'd be so ungrateful, I'd have asked them to toss you right back in! Now you wait here while I fetch the doctor." She left the room, giving him a look and a sniff as she exited.
Harry was taken aback. How in the hell had he gotten to Westminster?! The castle they had been attacking was all the way over in the Cambrain Mountains. Something just wasn't adding up here. He'd been missing for a week, and no one had thought to call the hospitals for someone matching his description? Unlikely. And St. Thomas's was one of the oldest hospitals in the world, surely Hermione or Dumbledore would think to check there once they figured out that he wasn't in Wales anymore. He needed more information.
A quick search of the room didn't turn up any of his things, but since he hadn't had anything other than his black robes with him at the time, he wasn't too concerned about leaving them behind. He quickly transfigured his hospital gown into suitable muggle clothing, cast a notice-me-not charm on himself and, only a few minutes later, found himself standing outside on Lambeth Palace Road, with the River Thames sparkling just beyond the stream of automobile and pedestrian traffic.
A hot gust of wind hit him in the face when he stepped out onto the street, catching him off guard. He had transfigured long slacks and a jumper, perfectly appropriate attire for early autumn in London, but not for the thirty-five degree (Celsius) weather he encountered outside.
Harry was struck by the sheer wrongness of the situation. London was almost never this hot, even in summer. The idea that it could be this hot in mid-November was preposterous. There was also something odd about the crowd outside the hospital. Not anything that Harry could put a finger on, but odd nonetheless.
His notice-me-not spell was still working, so he transfigured his clothing in to a tee-shirt and shorts, then cancelled it. He crossed the street and made his way to the Westminster Bridge. After crossing the bridge, he entered Westminster Station, looking for a newsstand. If there had been a sudden heat wave, then surely it would be in the newspapers. He conjured a fifty pence coin, tossed it at the man behind the counter, and grabbed a copy of the Times. Harry started to walk away, but the man called out to him.
"Oi there lad, don't you want your change?" the newskeep asked.
Harry stopped in his tracks, and turned around slowly. The last time he checked, the Times did cost 50p, and if they had changed the price, it certainly wouldn't have gone down. The newskeep was holding his hand out for Harry to collect his change, but the Boy-Who-Lived stared right through him. Somewhere in his mind there was an almost audible click. He now knew why the crowd on the street had struck him as strange. It was the slightly large cut of the men's coats. The abundance of older cars on the road. The not-quite-modern haircuts the ladies wore, among other things.
An ugly feeling was brewing in his gut, a feeling that would explain all of the oddities he had experienced since he had awakened from his coma. The unnatural heat. The odd crowd. The fact that the Order hadn't come looking for him. All he had to do to confirm his suspicions was to look at the date on the newspaper in his hand, but his arm refused to move.
Taking a deep breath, Harry did the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
Sometime later, Harry found himself sitting on a park bench overlooking the river. On the bench next to him was a newspaper with the current date on it: 4 June, 1976. He had been sitting there for some time now, staring at the water. The sun had already passed overhead, and was now falling into the western horizon, bathing the city in orange light. Harry had always prided himself on his ability to take things in stride, to adapt and overcome anything life threw at him. But this was a little much, even for him.
"Excuse me, son" a small, weak voice spoke to him.
Harry looked up and saw an old lady looking at him. Old wasn't the right word, but it was the best he could come up with. She was older than old, older-looking even than Griselda Marchbanks, with a hunch in her back that bent her almost double, and innumerable wrinkles on skin that looked like it could be torn by a stiff wind.
"Do you mind?" she creaked out.
For a moment, Harry thought she was admonishing him for staring at her, but realized that she wanted to know if she could sit down. Hurriedly, he moved his paper off of the seat, and she eased herself onto the bench next to him.
She reached out and patted his knee. "Thank you, my boy." she said, closing her eyes and resting. "At my age, I'm always looking for a place to sit." She opened her eyes and looked at him, smiling. Her gums were bare. "It's nice to see a young person like yourself taking the time to sit and enjoy a day like this."
Harry smiled back at her, then rested his head against the back of the bench. "I'm not enjoying the day, so much as wondering now I got here." he chuckled.
She looked at him suspiciously. "You're not one of those silly philosophy students, are you?"
Harry laughed again, "No ma'am." he said, "My concerns are more... practical."
She grunted. "Good. I can't stand a person who thinks that they can find the answers to all of life's questions by looking in some book, written by some foreigner who was probably making it up as they went along." She contemplated him for a moment. "You say that you're concerns are practical, does that mean that you're lost?"
Harry thought about it. "Kind of." he replied. "I do know where I am, but I'm not totally sure how I got here, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do now."
She barked a laugh. It was the loudest sound she had made so far. "Well that's easy." she wheezed, "You keep moving forward, don't you? After all, you can't sit here forever." She leaned in close. "That's my secret, you know. Even though I'm always looking for a place to sit, it's only long enough for me to rest so I can keep moving." She demonstrated this by standing up. "It's been lovely talking to you, young man." she said kindly, "And I do hope that you find what you're looking for." She shuffled off down the street.
The old lady had a point. Nothing would be served by sitting here sulking. In fact, this entire situation might be turned to his advantage, if he played it right. In his own time frame, Harry could match Voldemort to a point, but couldn't beat him. If he lived from now, to the point in which he was sent back in time, that would give him more than twenty years to figure out a way to stop the Dark Lord for good. Surely he could think of something, given that much time.
There was something else, another advantage. For the first time in years, for the first time he could remember, no one was hunting him, no one was trying to kill him. Fate had just handed him a twenty-year vacation from his hellish life. Needless to say, some of that time would have to be spent on Voldemort-related research, but he would have a chance to travel, maybe even go to University like a real person... a normal person.
Harry had never bemoaned his lack of a normal life. After all, it wouldn't change anything, and thinking about it would make him miserable. But now that such a life was within his grasp, nothing seemed more attractive. He could have a girlfriend without worrying if someone was going to try to kill her to get to him. He could walk down the street, even Diagon Alley, without getting mobbed. For the first time in his life, the whole world was open to him. The only thing he had to do was avoid getting involved with his own history, at all costs. The temptation to visit his parents, or to warn the Order about Voldemort's upcoming attacks, was incredibly strong, but to do so meant risking the entire timeline. It was best if he left the country, just to be safe. Even the slightest change in history could have vast repercussions, for the people he cared about as much as himself.
Harry took the newspaper, and tore it into a number of generally pound-shaped pieces. He then transfigured the paper into a stack of clean, new twenty-pound notes. No wizard would be fooled by transfigured money, but for a muggle the only way to tell that they weren't real would be to check the serial numbers. So long as he didn't throw too much of it around, he shouldn't have any problems.
Mentally, Harry began making a to-do list. He would get a hotel tonight, then start searching for a room he could rent during the summer. He needed to leave the country, but first he should take a couple of months off to get himself acclimated to his new situation. He needed to find a copy of the Daily Prophet, so he would know where Voldemort was, and be able to avoid him. He also needed to find out exactly what the future Voldemort had done in order to send him here, and this time he wouldn't have Dumbledore to help him. There were other resources he could use though, including one right here in London that might be able to shed some light on the problem, if he dug in the right places. If not, there was one place he thought that he could find answers, but he would only go there as a last resort.
He now had a plan, and he was moving forward.
Three days later, Harry found himself standing in the attic of a large, well-appointed house in Bloomsbury, a few blocks away form the University of London. The attic had been converted into a small apartment, and Harry had come to inquire about renting it for the summer. The location of the house, between the University and the West End, was perfect for his purposes, and the apartment itself was surprisingly well-furnished and homey. He mentioned that to Charles, the owner of the house..
"When we decided to rent it out, my wife was determined to make it as comfortable as possible." Charles told him. "Most of the furniture is from her side of the family, they just didn't have anywhere to put it."
"She did an excellent job." Harry told him truthfully.
Indeed, even if the place wasn't so well suited to his needs, Harry would've had a hard time turning it down. The attic was on the third level of the house, with hardwood floors and large windows at either end, which would allow cool air to flow through the room, even in the heart of summer. It was tastefully furnished, with a queen-sized bed, and a comfy sofa situated near one of the windows. Harry thought he would be quite comfortable here, he just needed to hammer out the details with Charles.
Charles himself was a kind-eyed man in his late forties. He was slender, and of average height, with a full head of red hair that was just beginning to show some grey. He had an calm air of intelligence about him, and appeared to be a former athlete. Harry liked him almost from the moment they met.
"Well, I'm sold." Harry declared.
Charles clapped his hands together. "Excellent." he said, seeming pleased, "Why don't we go downstairs for a cuppa while we talk about it?" They moved down to the kitchen, and began to talk.
"So, where are you from?" Charles asked, pouring the tea.
In Harry's opinion, the best lies were always founded in truth. In fact, if he was careful, he could usually twist the facts to fit whatever situation he needed, and avoid lying altogether.
"I was born in Wales, but I grew up in Surrey and went to school in Scotland." Harry told him. "My parents died when I was a baby, so my aunt and uncle took me in." He paused a moment for effect. "We didn't always get along... that's one of the reasons I moved out." All true, but not in quite the way he made it seem. With luck, Charles would take that as a hint not to ask about Harry's personal life. The fewer questions he was asked, the less chance he had of being caught in a lie.
Charles nodded. "Sometimes it's difficult, being part of a family." he said somberly, "But you can't give up on them. Who knows, they may surprise you someday."
He wasn't quite taking the hint, so Harry threw him a curve. "Maybe." he said sadly, "But I don't think that they ever forgave me for not dying along with my mum and dad."
The older man blinked, a little unnerved at the sudden turn of the conversation. He decided to change the subject, which was just what Harry wanted.
"You say that you're only looking to stay for the summer. If you don't mind me asking, what happens after that?" he asked.
Harry scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I'm not entirely sure yet. A lot of it depends on what happens with my research at the University." He smiled at the man. "But I do expect to be moving along around September, so you'll only have to put up with me for a couple of months."
Charles seemed pleasantly surprised. "You're doing research at the University? I teach literature there. Can I ask what you're investigating?"
Harry bit back a groan. He had planned to say that he was doing research for a book he was planning to write. It was the kind of useless, and rarely finished, project that young men often undertook after graduating from school, and shouldn't draw any attention. But an English professor would be all too interested in something like that. Again, he would have to improvise.
"I'm trying to find out if it's possible to artificially create a rupture in space-time." he replied, doing his best to channel Commander Data from Star Trek.
Harry wanted to kick himself as soon as the words left his mouth. He had never said something so ridiculous-sounding in his entire life, even if it was partially true. He quickly considered casting a memory charm on Charles, and trying again, when they were distracted by the sound of the front door crashing open.
"I HATE YOU!!! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT?!?!"
"ME!!! IT'S NOT MY FAULT YOU'RE A FREAK!!!"
"THAT'S ENOUGH, GIRLS!!! I DON'T WANT TO HERE ANYMORE ABOUT THIS!!!"
(Simultaneously, in disbelieving voices.) "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!!!" "YOU'RE JUST GOING TO LET HER GET AWAY WITH THAT?!?"
Harry and Charles rose from their seats and locked eyes.
"My wife and daughters." Charles explained, a little sheepishly.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Are they armed?" he asked, only half-jokingly.
Charles rolled his eyes. "Thank god, no." he sighed, "But if the I.R.A. ever gets a hold of them, we're all doomed." Again, only half-jokingly.
The three fighting females found their way into the kitchen. The mother was a petite, but handsome woman about ten years younger than Charles. She had shoulder-length, dark brown hair framing a pretty, but slightly pinched face. The first daughter was quite tall, about five foot ten, and slender, with hair like her mother's, but straighter, and grown all the way down her back. She had a long, lean body with gentle, but noticeable curves, and pure white skin. The other girl was almost a foot shorter than her sister, with high, firm breasts, and a pleasing assortment of full curves to go along with them. She had a cascade of dark red hair that flowed down past her shoulders, and a clean, smooth face that was actually enhanced by the light dusting of freckles along her cheeks and nose. If Harry didn't know that they were related, he never would've guessed that the two girls were sisters. They were almost mirror opposites, apart from both of them being quite attractive.
The redheaded sister broke from the pack and made a beeline to Charles, burying her face into his chest and sobbing in frustration. Harry had a feeling that Charles wanted to stay out of this, and allow his wife to handle the argument, but this unfair attack on a father's greatest weakness had changed his plan. He wrapped his arms around his sobbing little girl, and whispered comfortingly to her.
"Shush, princess." he said, rubbing her back, "It's okay. Tell me what happened."
Harry suddenly felt quite uncomfortable. This was a private family moment, and those tended to make him nervous, due to the fact that he never really knew how to react to them. Dealing with Death Eaters was much easier. He also felt a little invisible. Charles seemed to have forgotten about him, and he was sure that the two girls hadn't noticed him yet, although the mother had cast a curious eye at him a moment ago.
The girl let go of Charles, and glared venomously at her sister. "That... that... jealous little... BINT, did nothing but make snide remarks while we were out." she hissed, "And, if that weren't bad enough, we ran into some of my old friends from primary school, and when they asked what happened to me, she told them that I'd been sent to some school for bloody delinquents!" She latched onto her father again. "It was so embarrassing, daddy!" she wept into his shirt. Harry had the feeling that she was hamming it up a bit for his benefit, but Charles didn't seem to notice.
"Honey," he said to his other daughter, "why would you do something like that?"
The taller one looked at her father disbelievingly. "Why do you always take her side?" she whined, now near tears herself. "Besides, what was I supposed to do, tell them the truth? That she's a..."
"Girls!" the mother said sharply. "We have a guest." She nodded at Harry.
The other three members of her family flinched. Charles looked like he had seen a ghost, and the girls stared at Harry with their mouths open in shock. For his part, Harry didn't notice any of it. The ugly feeling from the train station a few days ago had come back a hundred-fold. This entire situation was too familiar to be a coincidence. His eyes were closed, and he was fighting to keep his breakfast from coming up. His stomach settled down a little, and he opened his eyes. But instead of looking at the other people in the room, he focused on a banana-shaped refrigerator magnet that fell into his line of sight.
'This can not be happening.' he thought to himself angrily, 'It's im-fucking-possible, not even my luck is that bad!' He had a powerful urge to turn on his heal, and run screaming into the night.
Charles pulled him out his dark thoughts. The older man had recovered from his shock, but was still on edge. "I'm so sorry about that, Harry." he said, "I promise this isn't something that happens every day."
"You ain't just whistling dixie, brother." Harry muttered, too low for the others to hear.
Charles took his arm, and pulled him forward. "I want you all to meet Harry Potter." he said to his family, "He's going to be renting out the attic for the summer." He turned to Harry. "Harry, I'd like you to meet my wife, Iris." Harry shook her hand numbly. "And our daughters, Lily and Petunia." Lily gave him a bright smile, showing perfect white teeth. Petunia seemed a little more shy, but also bestowed a greeting smile on him.
He may have smiled back, he wasn't sure. Still not wanting to meet the eyes of anyone in the room, he let his vision drift. Just over the doorway that led into the kitchen, there was a carved wooden sign with five words on it. Five words that confirmed Harry's belief that God really was a mean kid with a magnifying glass, and that he was the ant...
Welcome to the Evans' household.