October 10, 1980
“But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learned from experience, that we are coming slowly, painfully, to an autumn of understanding. And I hope that it will be followed by a winter of common sense,” Margaret Thatcher said. “If it is not, we shall not be diverted from our course. To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the ‘U-turn’, I have only one thing to say--”
The Doctor straightened his bow tie, completely unaware that he was grinning like a loon. He mouthed the words along with the Prime Minister.
“You turn if you want to.”
“Pause for applause,” the Doctor muttered, and apparently obliging, Thatcher did, and the attendants of the Conservative Party Conference stood up, clapping.
Then, once the ovation had died down a little, she added, “The lady’s not for turning.” And her audience went out of their minds with adoration.
The Doctor spun around in his chair. “Good ol’ Baroness! Wasn’t that--”
Then he stopped. He remembered that he was once again alone in the TARDIS, and there was no one to agree with him that that had been an amazing piece of oratory. No one to tell him to shut up and take them to Barbados, all these speeches are mind-meltingly boring.
He scratched his face and sighed, and started fiddling with the controls. He would have to wait until everyone had cleared out of the room before he could go--the TARDIS made a racket when she took off, he thought, stroking the console affectionately--but he could put in the co-ordinates for his next destination, at least.
Then the Doctor saw something strange on the view screen.
There was a shimmer in the fabric of reality, just off to one side of the lady Prime Minister. The Doctor couldn’t think how he had missed it before, when he had been watching her speech so intently, but there was definitely someone hiding there. Possibly under a perception filter.
“Well, well,” the Doctor murmured. “Have you brought me somewhere I need to be again, you sexy thing?” He trailed his fingers over the hot and cold taps sticking out of the console, then flipped on the scanner.
The scanner showed a bulge in the space of the room. It was slightly bigger than it should have been. Not much, just a few molecules, up near the stage, but there was definitely more space in the room than it was physically able to hold, and whatever it was, it was agitating the molecules it was squished up against, the real, supposed-to-be-there molecules, making them vibrate fast enough to look like a shimmer in the air.
He couldn’t just jump out of the TARDIS and march up to the podium to have a look. Not during this speech, not when a protestor had already been hauled out of the room. He’d be on his knees with a gun in his face before he could get out the psychic paper.
Maybe if he got out the psychic paper before he even left the TARDIS?
He started patting down his tweed jacket, trying to find where he last put the paper--had he given it to someone to use and never gotten it back, but he always remembered to get it back, it has to be here somewhere, what if River took it--
Then the Cloister Bell sounded, and those few small molecules bulged and quadrupled and quintupled.
In the time it took the Doctor to grab the diagnostic screen and realise what was wrong, the molecules of space, of nothingness, of air, had taken over the podium. Maggie Thatcher and her supporters and bodyguards, and even the lectern, had been knocked off the stage, and the Conversative Party supporters were running away from the invisible force sweeping out through the room.
“There!” he shouted. There was no one to hear him, but shouting helped all the same. “There, right there!”
The Cloister Bell sounded again.
The Doctor whacked away at the navigational keyboard, putting in the co-ordinates of the tiny, tiny rip between dimensions just off-centre on the stage. “It’s going to take some pushing, old thing, but you have to get us through that rip!”
Bong. The Cloister Bell rang again just as the Doctor hit the confirmation button, and red lights started to flash.
WARNING, the screen said. YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO CROSS BETWEEN DIMENSIONS. WARNING. THIS DIDN’T TURN OUT VERY WELL LAST TIME. WARNING.
“I know, girl, but we’ve got to seal up the hole, or that whole other dimension is going to pour through into this one and obliterate them both!” The Doctor threw the brakes off and twirled the dimensional transducer back the other way.
Optimally, what he needed to do was get through that hole, stop whatever was causing the sudden output of energy, then come back through and seal up the gap. What was probably going to happen was that he would get through the hole and get caught up in an adventure in that dimension in order to stop the output of energy, and completely forget about sealing up the gap, which was really the most important part, seeing as a single crack in the dimensions could open up a hole big enough for anything in the Void, or any other non-sealed dimension, to crawl through into this one.
The humans really didn’t need any more troubles, especially not at the start of the ‘80s. Torchwood was a mess, UNIT not much better, and it’d fall to the Doctor to take care of anything that crawled through, which would only be fair as it would be his fault it got through anyway if he didn’t seal up that gap. He really would prefer not to create more work for himself.
It only took a second for him to convince the TARDIS to dematerialise, and he gave her a fond little pet.
She tossed him off his feet in reply.
When the TARDIS finally rematerialised and settled, the Doctor popped back up onto his feet. It took him a moment to regain his balance.
His ears popped, adjusting to the new pressure in this dimension.
He cracked his jaw. “Odd. Very odd.” He shook his head and clapped his hands, grabbing up his screwdriver and, ah, there was the psychic paper. Then he bolted for the door and threw it open, screwdriver out in front of him like a weapon.
A very tall, pale man with curly black hair backed him up, right back into the TARDIS, a thin stick of wood stuck into the Doctor’s throat. Two other men in black cloaks and silver masks rushed in after him, dodging around the Doctor and the pale man.
The TARDIS recognised the man before the Doctor did.
Without the Doctor, the curly-haired man or the other two in the black cloaks.
The Doctor spun around and jumped for the console, but she was gone before he even got close.
The Doctor’s arms and legs snapped to, his face freezing in the middle of a horrified expression. He fell face-first to the floor of the stage where the TARDIS had left him, unable to move a muscle.
Hands rolled him over. The curly-haired man smirked. “My dear Doctor. I’m afraid you have no idea what you are getting into, but, well. Since when has that ever stopped you.” He stroked the Doctor’s face. “Do you know who I am?”
The Doctor looked into the man’s shockingly pale blue eyes, and he knew.
The Master pointed the stick of wood at the Doctor again. “Stupefy.”
Hermione seemed totally engrossed in the story. “Then what happened?”
The Doctor looked down at his hands. He missed his long fingers and bow tie. He hadn’t expected to keep liking the bow tie once he regenerated, but he had wanted to be ginger two regenerations in a row, so it wasn’t out of the question that bow ties would stay cool through more than one.
“Then I realised that I wasn’t in my world anymore.”
Ron heaved a great sigh. “Look, it’s very clear that you’re head over heels for being dramatic, but could you just tell your story in a few simple words rather than dragging it all out like this. I’m tired and I want to sleep.”
Hermione cuffed him up the side of the head--gently. “Ronald. Let him speak.”
“No. Somewhere in here, there will be an explanation for what happened to our Harry. You do want Harry back, don’t you?”
Ron settled back into his pillows, grumbling. “‘Course I do. He was my friend before he was yours, remember.”
She bit her lip, and looked back to the Doctor. Ron didn’t see the flash of hurt in her expression, but the Doctor did, and he felt terrible that he knew exactly what caused it--his and Ron’s refusal to be friends with her when they were eleven. If the Doctor had been himself then, he never would have been such an idiot to her, but eleven-year-old boys would be eleven-year-old boys.
“Please,” Hermione said after a moment. “Go on.”
The Doctor sighed. “There’s not much more to tell. The man was an old friend of mine who had long since become an enemy. I thought he was dead, or trapped in another dimension, at the very least. When I woke again...”
“...and that is how I worked out how to cross between dimensions.” The Master said, insufferably smug. “I won’t tell you exactly how I did it. A man’s got to have some secrets.”
The Doctor rolled over on his straw pallet. It wasn’t the least bit comfortable, but he would rather lay down and vibrate with fury than stand up and vibrate with fury. Much less tiring. More energy to use for the fury. “So you crossed from Gallifrey to here.”
“From one bubble dimension to another, yes.”
“This is a bubble dimension?”
“Can’t you feel it?” The Master crouched down on the other side of the bars, face almost to face with the Doctor. “The pressure of an entire dimension, all curled up in a space far too small for it?”
“And when there was a gap created--”
“--the pent-up energy spilled through. Like lots of water trying to balance itself between two containers, one much too small for it, but the other already full.”
The Doctor sighed. “That’s not quite right, but--”
“Yes, Doctor, I know. I was dumbing it down for you.”
“There’s no need for that.”
“My apologies.” The Master stood up again. “Everyone here is unbelievably stupid, far too reliant on magic to develop their brains. I suppose I have merely gotten into the habit of speaking simply.”
The Doctor sat up, his chains jangling as his wrists and legs moved. “Is this your roundabout way of trying to tell me that you’re glad I’m here?”
“Hardly, Doctor.” The Master sniffed. “If I were glad you were here, you would not be locked up, chained up and spelled.” He smirked again. “Isn’t magic just the most marvellous thing?” He pulled out his long, black stick of wood--which the Doctor now realised was an actual wand--and twirled it in his long fingers. “No match for even the smallest circuit in the TARDIS, of course, but quite useful nonetheless.”
Considering the wand for a long moment, the Doctor finally remembered the spells the Master had cast: Petrificus Totalus, and Stupefy. “This is impossible,” he said, very softly. “This is--there’s no way--but if it’s the only explanation, then, are we in Wizarding Britain?”
The Master snapped his fingers. “Spot on, Doctor.”
“Those men who were with you. In the silver masks. Death Eaters?”
“Two for two, Doctor, I’m quite impressed.”
“No, you’re not.”
“No, I’m not,” the Master agreed.
The Doctor took a deep breath. “Harry Potter is real?”
“Let’s see. October 1980.” The Master clicked his tongue. “Yes, I believe he’s even been born by now.”
“And, let me guess,” the Doctor said. “You’re siding with Voldemort. You’re going to help him kill Harry Potter, then take over the Wizarding World.”
“Nothing quite so supportive,” the Master admitted. “I fully intend to let dear old Tom do all my dirty work, then take the reins with him as my--what’s the delightful term for it--’fall guy’. Should everything go wrong, the wizards will persecute him, and I will disappear into the night to begin planning again.”
“So how are you planning on getting around Lily Potter’s protection?”
The Master grinned. “Quite simple, really. I’ll tell Tom not to kill the parents until he’s killed the baby.”
The Doctor clapped mockingly. “Brilliant.”
“Simple, yet efficient. My favourite kind of plan.”
“Are you joking?” the Doctor laughed. “Your favourite plans are the horribly complex, convoluted kind that no one but you can ever follow. This plan sounds more like one of my plans. ‘Go there, do this, see what happens, then make a new plan’.”
The Master scowled. “I assure you, my dear Doctor--”
“Haven’t called me that for a while.”
“--I will rule the Wizarding World. Call it a... summer project.”
The Doctor pulled a face. “Call it a death wish, maybe.”
The Master crouched down close to him again. The Doctor noticed he was wearing proper wizarding robes, but with a suit underneath, a very fine Muggle-made suit. Hypocrite. “And here I was going to offer you the chance to join me, Doctor.”
The Doctor leaned forward. “Do you honestly think that if I had the chance to fight in the Wizarding War, I would be on Voldemort’s side?” He sat back, chains jangling again. “It’s like you don’t even know me.”
The Master gave him a very thoughtful look, hands clasped in front of his face. “But I do know you. And that would be why--”
“I’m locked up, chained up and spelled, yes, I know, you’ve said.” The Doctor shot him a sly grin. “I’m going to stop you.”
Tipping his head ever so slightly, the Master said, patronising and gentle, “I doubt it.”
“So how’d you get away?” Ron asked. “Where were they keeping you? Where is this Master now? Why do you need our help? What happened to your ship, that ‘TARDIS’?” He saw Hermione looking at him, trying to bite down a laugh. “What?” he demanded. “I don’t think it’s true, but it’s a good story!”
“We’re all just stories in the end,” the Doctor said quietly. “I don’t know where my TARDIS is. That’s the first thing I need your help with. I have to find her. Then we need to do a few other things, then we need to find the Master and stop him.”
“So you don’t know where your ship is or where this Master is.”
The Doctor shook his head.
Hermione ran her hands through her hair, tying it back swiftly. “And how did you say you escaped, again?”
“I didn’t say.” The Doctor thought that might be a little too strange for them just yet, before he could give them a demonstration of all that he and his ship could do.
Ron cleared his throat. “All in favour of sleeping on it?”
Hermione stood up. “I’m not sleeping with a stranger in the tent.” She pointed her wand at the Doctor’s wrists and unbound him. Then she flicked her wand. “Up.”
The Doctor frowned, feeling a lot more Harry all of a sudden. “Hermione. It’s freezing out there.”
“You should have thought of that before you made us not trust you anymore.” She prodded him with the tip of her wand. “Go on. Outside. You can take watch. If you are Harry, and trustworthy, then we’ll still be alive in the morning.”
He let her push him outside, but before she could close and ward the tent flap against him, he caught her hand. “I’m still Harry, Hermione.” He was really quite upset that she didn’t trust him anymore. “I’m Harry. I was someone else for nine hundred years, but for the last seventeen I have been Harry Potter. I am Harry.”
She looked at him sadly, then took his glasses out of his pocket and put them in her bag. “No. You’re not.”
Hermione closed the tent flap. He heard the murmur of locking wards, then a Muffliato.
And once more, he was alone.
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