Later that night
The Doctor paced up and down the tent.
Hermione was outside on watch, and Ron was asleep. They had spent most of the afternoon trying to work out what could have happened to the locket. Either Mundungus had sold Umbridge the wrong one, or Mundungus had found the wrong one, or Regulus hadn’t been RAB at all, or... there were too many possibilities.
And now the Doctor was trying to remember reading the Harry Potter book series. In his dimension, his universe, it was fiction, and he usually re-read them once every few years, after a decade or so. But it had been a while since his last perusal, and he could hardly remember the plot of the seventh book.
If he could remember it, then he could find all the Horcruxes and Hallows now, put a quick end to Voldemort, and focus on the Master. That would be the best plan. He remembered that Harry Potter had been a Horcrux, and wondered if he himself was, too.
“I think I’d know if I had a piece of someone else’s soul inside me,” he muttered. Besides, despite having the ability to speak to snakes--which he realised now could possibly be an extension of the TARDIS’ translation circuits--and having the horrible dream-visions of seeing through Voldemort’s and Nagini’s eyes--Time Lord telepathy trying to kick in through the chameleon arch when Harry was most desperate to know what Voldemort was doing--he possessed no abilities that would suggest a soul-connection with Voldemort.
Thank Merlin. He had no idea what the effects of having a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul inside a Time Lord’s body would be, and he didn’t want to know.
He paused for a moment. ‘Thank Merlin’. In some other dimension, he was Merlin. Thank himself? That seemed rather self-gratifying. Like the Queen singing ‘God Save Me’. Too strange. He would have to think of someone else to thank. Thank... Gryffindor? He had always rather thought he’d be in Gryffindor, with the occasional thought to Ravenclaw. Maybe Slytherin, in the days when he was playing the game with Fenric, but mostly Gryffindor.
And now he was Harry Potter himself.
Odd. Very odd. It was going to take some getting used to, as Hermione had said.
Back on topic. The Doctor started pacing again.
Harry, Hermione and Ron spring the locket from Dolores Umbridge’s possession at the Ministry. Done that. Somehow the locket was not the locket, but a Time Lord consciousness inside a stopwatch. Right, deal with that later.
What happened after that in the book? All the Doctor could remember was Ron leaving. There had to be something in between the Ministry and that. And Ron wouldn’t leave in this telling of the story, the Doctor thought, pausing to look over at his best friend. There was no need for him to wear the Horcrux locket, no need for him to become so depressed. He would keep Ron active and moving and doing useful things.
“Stop getting side-tracked,” he told himself. He needed to remember what happened next in the book, what and where the Horcruxes and Hallows were, figure out where the TARDIS was and how he could summon her back to him--he was sure, after the Weeping Angels incident in 1969, he had programmed something in to make sure he never got stranded again--and work out who and where the Master was, and what he had been doing for the last seventeen years.
Regular Tuesday, then.
To do all of that, he needed the TARDIS. He could find his copy of Deathly Hallows there, he could run scans to find the Master, to find anything he needed. TARDIS. TARDIS TARDIS TARDIS. How was he going to do this.
The Doctor snapped his fingers and plunged his hand down his shirt. He kept the TARDIS key on a necklace these days, so it was always... with... him.
It had always been with him, before he had been turned into a baby. After that, he had no idea what had happened to it. With the TARDIS key, he could summon her telepathically right to him. But without it...
Maybe the Master had taken it. That would make sense. He took the TARDIS as soon as he could, last time he had the chance. Something big would have had to have happened to prevent him from taking her again.
Or if not the Master, then Dumbledore possibly knew what had happened to it, the key found with baby Harry in the rubble of his parents’ house. But Dumbledore was dead, and the Doctor didn’t have the TARDIS to jump back to when he was alive and ask him.
He started tapping his forehead, trying to think.
Dumbledore had given Harry James’ Invisibility Cloak, and the key to his parents’ vault. What other important things had he had to give to Harry? Surely a glowing key would have rated as important.
Then he remembered the Sword of Gryffindor.
Dumbledore had tried to will the Sword to him. To Harry. He had also willed Harry the first Golden Snitch he had ever caught, inside of which was the Resurrection Stone. Maybe a glowing key was as important as the Resurrection Stone. Maybe Dumbledore squeezed it inside too.
The Doctor poked his head outside the tent. “Hermione. Where’s the Snitch Dumbledore left me?”
“Professor Dumbledore, Harry,” she said. She tossed him her bag. “In there.”
He rummaged around, coming outside to sit next to her. “I think I know how to open it,” he said.
“Is this the Doctor or Harry speaking?”
He grinned. “Both.” He remembered it from the book, but in the book Harry had been the one to figure it out. Finally finding the Snitch, the Doctor pulled it out, closed his eyes and hoped that this would work when he was not in immediate danger.
Then he put it to his lips and whispered, “I am about to die.”
Hermione gasped. “How did you--”
“Snitches have tactile memory. You taught me that,” he said. “But I didn’t catch this Snitch with my hand. I nearly swallowed it.” He decided not to say anything about the 'password'--a Time Lord was always about to die, and yet far from death, at any one moment, due to the perplexities surrounding a time traveller. He emptied the small black stone and glowing silver key into his hand.
“What are those?”
“This,” the Doctor said, holding up the key, “is the key to my TARDIS.”
She pointed to the stone. “And that?”
“Something else entirely.” He slipped it into his pocket.
“If you want me to trust you, you have to trust me,” she said.
He looked at her for a long moment. “When you work it out, I’ll tell you if you’re right or not. But--if I do everything right, then you won’t ever need to know what it is. It’s too big, Hermione. Even for me.”
“But you’re keeping it.”
He sighed. “To keep it away from Voldemort.”
There was a crack of Apparition, and feet thundering through the trees.
The Doctor slapped his head. “I’m a complete idiot. I forgot. Hermione, quick, we have to go, right now. Right now!” He grabbed her and hustled her inside the tent. “Get Ron ready to Apparate. Now, now, now!”
She jumped to Ron’s bedside and dragged him, confused and complaining, up from his rest. The Doctor grabbed what they’d need--the radio could help keep Ron’s spirits up, blankets, food, light, Hermione’s bag, clothes--and followed Hermione and Ron outside the tent.
Hermione grabbed his hand. “Ready?”
Ron rubbed his eyes against the glare of the early September morning sun. “What’s going--”
They Apparated just as the Snatchers broke the wards and swarmed over the campsite.
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