September 2, 1997
Harry cradled his mug of hot tea and listened to Ron fret about the fate of the Cattermoles. He could only hope that Reg had managed to Side-Along Apparate his wife and children somewhere safe--out of the country would be best.
Out of the country would be best for all of them.
He looked over at Hermione and the question he had been about to ask--about whether Mrs. Cattermole’s lack of a wand would prevent her Apparating alongside her husband--died in his throat. Hermione was watching Ron with such tenderness that Harry felt almost as though he had surprised her in the act of kissing him.
“So, have you got it?” Harry asked her, partly to remind the two of them that he was there.
She started. “Got--got what?”
“What did we just go through all that for?” Harry said, exasperated. “The locket! Where’s the locket?”
“You got it?” Ron shouted, raising himself higher on his pillows. “No one tells me anything! Blimey, you could have mentioned it.”
“Well, we were running for our lives from Death Eaters, weren’t we?” Hermione said primly. “Here.” And she pulled the locket out of the pocket of her robes and handed it to Ron.
It was as large as a chicken’s egg. An ornate letter S, inlaid with many small green stones, glinted dully in the diffused light shining through the tent’s canvas roof.
“There isn’t any chance someone’s destroyed it since Kreacher had it?” Ron looked far too hopeful. “I mean, are we sure it’s still a Horcrux?”
“I think so.” Hermione took it back from him and looked at it closely. “There’d be some sign of damage if it had been magically destroyed.”
She passed it to Harry.
He felt the illusion spell on the locket drop the moment it fell into his hand.
Hermione gasped. “Harry! What did you do?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the newly-shiny locket lying in his hand. The S and the green stones had disappeared, and it was no longer made of silver, nor was it as spherical as it had been. Instead, it was flat, and gold, and some kind of intricate pattern was picked out in impossibly thin lines stretching across the top surface of the locket.
“That’s not normal, mate,” Ron said carefully. “I think you should put it down. Whatever that is, it’s not what we were looking for.”
Hermione reached out to take the new locket away from him. “Ron’s right, Harry.”
Harry jerked away from her reaching hand. He stumbled back, away from Ron’s bed, and sat on his bunk on the other side of the tent. “It recognises me.”
“Harry...” Hermione said warningly. “Harry, this is probably one of You-Know-Who’s tricks. Give it to me. He’s probably spelled it to enchant you.”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t think so. It feels--good. It feels nice.”
“It feels nice? Listen to yourself, Harry!” Ron exploded. He struggled to get up, but Hermione pushed him back down to the bed. He contented himself with yelling at Harry across the tent instead. “Give Hermione the locket and let her test it! You can’t die now, mate, we need you. Don’t let You-Know-Who win over some stupid shiny locket.”
“It’s not a locket,” Hermione said thoughtfully. She took one step towards Harry, and he whipped out his wand and pointed it at her, still not looking away from the locket in his hand. She stopped and held up her hands. “Harry. Harry, you’ve got to listen to me. There’s a piece of You-Know-Who’s soul inside that, whatever it is.”
“No,” Harry said. “No, there isn’t. There’s something inside it, but it’s not Vol-”
“Harry,” Ron hissed.
“It’s not You-Know-Who’s soul. It’s something good, and,” Harry decided, determined, “I’m going to open it.”
Hermione lunged for him.
Harry was too fast. He opened the locket before she could knock it away.
Golden light swirled around an upside-down watchface. Words and faces and names and conversations and places and people and events and knowledge and heartbreak and happiness and an everlasting loneliness shot through his mind like a bullet, and Harry Potter inhaled the sparkling golden light and became someone old, someone new, someone...
He blinked at Hermione, then pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, wincing. “These things are terrible, why d’you let me wear them? Prescription’s never been updated. Honestly, it’s sheer luck I ever aimed my wand the right direction.” He folded them up and put them in his jacket pocket.
Hermione snatched the pocketwatch out of his hands and checked it. The artron energy had already been absorbed; there was nothing left to see but an inverted watchface.
She looked up at him. “Harry...?”
Ron dragged himself up and hovered behind Hermione’s shoulder. “What happened, mate?”
He pointed at Hermione. “Question one, I’m not Harry, well, I am, but I’m mostly not. For the last seventeen years, I’ve been Harry, so I am Harry, but the nine hundred and fifty before that, I wasn’t, so at a ratio of nine-fifty to seventeen, that makes me...” He wiggled his hand. “About one fifty-sixth Harry Potter.” He pointed at Ron. “What happened, now that’s slightly more complex a question and may require a practical demonstration of--oof!”
Hermione threw herself at him and pinned him down, then got out her wand and tied him to the posts of the bed. “I don’t know who you are, but you’re not Harry Potter,” she said fiercely. She got up again, puffing a little, and pointed her wand right between his eyes. “Who are you, and what have you done with Harry?”
He looked between Hermione and Ron. Both of them looked highly suspicious and scared out of their minds, and so very, very young. How had he never realised how young they were? Barely seventeen. Rose had been older. Ace and Adric had been younger. Romana had been a lot older, but younger in terms of experience.
Pain spiked through his head, and he bent over, pressing his fingers to his temples until his knuckles turned white.
“Hey,” Ron snapped. “She asked you a question.”
He swallowed against the pain and, curling his fingers into fists to stop them shaking--complete physiological and mental overhauls weren’t easy on anybody, and he didn’t care how desperate he was, next time he was going to find some way other than a chameleon arch to solve his problems--and looked up at his... Harry’s... his best friends.
“For the last seventeen years,” he said slowly, “I have been Harry Potter. But before that, I was someone else, and I’ve just remembered--everything.”
Hermione’s wand wavered slightly as her curiosity almost got the better of her. Her eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
He took a deep breath. “My name is the Doctor, and I need your help.”
Later that night
The Doctor yawned and rested his head against the bedpost. He had long since found a comfortable position--though you could only get so comfortable when you were tied up--but it was getting late, and he would really like to be untied sooner rather than later.
“I still don’t understand,” Ron announced. “You’re a nine hundred and sixty-five--”
“Sixty-seven,” the Doctor muttered. Though that was nowhere close to right, it was the number he chose and he was sticking to it.
“--year old alien from a planet called Gallifrey and you travel through time and space in some kind of mental magic box, right, I’ve got that bit. What I don’t get is how you’ve been Harry for the last seventeen years.” Ron accepted a new mug of tea from Hermione and frowned very hard at it. “Did you drink some kind of Age Regression Potion?”
“And if so, what on Earth possessed you to do that?” Hermione added. She sat down on Ron’s bed, careful not to jostle him. It said a lot that she was no longer pointing her wand at him, though it was still very close to hand. “I can’t think of any reason why a nine hundred year old alien would want to be a human baby.”
“It was an accident,” the Doctor said. “Well. No. It wasn’t an accident. But it wasn’t meant to--I was just supposed to be human, not a human baby.”
And he told them about the day, seventeen years before, when this had all started.
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