Loch an Eilein
“--on?” Ron finished. He instinctively went to clutch at his shoulder, the Doctor noticed, probably thinking he’d been splinched again. He didn’t have time to worry about that. He grabbed Hermione’s wand and started casting the warding spells, adding one he created on the spot to repel wizards as well as Muggles.
He was fuming quietly at himself. How could he have forgotten? It might have been years since he had read the books, but it was one of the most important parts. He himself knew the power of a name, having almost forgotten his own, he hadn’t used it in so long.
He should have been more careful. He should have thought. He should have remembered.
Hermione laid a careful hand on his shoulder. “Harry?”
He shook her off, too irritated to be calmed, and stalked off into the ruins of the castle.
The castle at Loch an Eilein had once been grand, he was sure, but the waters of the lake had long since risen, cutting off the castle from the mainland and isolating it, ruining it. There wasn’t much of the castle left to stalk about in.
When he came back to Hermione and Ron, he found Hermione had transfigured some of the loose rocks into a lumpy mattress for Ron.
“How is he?” the Doctor asked.
“Fine,” she said shortly, stroking Ron’s hair away from his face. “Confused. We both are. Care to explain what that was?”
“And who those blokes were?” Ron added. He looked far too pale. Maybe he shouldn’t have Apparated again so soon after splinching, but they had had to get away from the Snatchers. It would have ruined everything if he had been captured so soon. He had none of the tools he needed to gain the advantage yet.
The Doctor settled down beside them, sitting on the cold stone floor. “They’re called Snatchers. There’s a jinx--it’s called a Taboo. If you say You-Know-Who’s name, the Snatchers will come and find you. Catch you. Torture you, I think, put you in Azkaban.”
Hermione looked horrified. “How do you know?”
“I remember something like it, from before,” he said vaguely.
She frowned, but didn’t push the issue.
“I said,” Ron told them. “I said, didn’t I, that we shouldn’t say his name. And wouldn’t it figure? Just when people are getting brave enough to say it, he curses it. Makes sense, the bastard.”
“Well, he is!” Ron cried.
She sighed, and forced him to lay down as she checked on his shoulder wound.
The Doctor took the radio out of Hermione’s bag, where he had thrown it in the mad dash to get away from the campsite, and started fiddling with the back of it. The TARDIS key was hot in his pocket, and he knew she wanted to come, but he wanted to do this first. Ron and Hermione had been through a lot for him, and he had just nearly gotten them in danger again.
It was a wizarding radio, so it was wired differently than a Muggle one, meant to pick up different stations. The hidden station, Potterwatch, required a password to access it. The Doctor didn’t have time to always be divining the new password, so he would make it so Ron and Hermione would always be able to access it.
He hoped it wouldn’t get to the point where it was their only source for good news, and if he did get the TARDIS back, then it wouldn’t be long before this whole War mess was sorted out anyway, but it was meant to be a gesture.
An apology. For seven years’ worth of trouble and pain.
With a quiet click, the Potterwatch station unlocked, and Lee Jordan’s voice echoed from the radio’s tinny speakers. He put it down carefully next to Ron and Hermione.
“Hello and welcome to another episode of Potterwatch. I’m your host, River, and today I bring news of the first few days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Severus Snape has been appointed headmaster...”
The Doctor shuffled away to sit around the other side of a tumble of rocks that had once been a wall. He pulled the TARDIS key out of his pocket and focused his entire mind on it. They had been apart for seventeen years--rarely longer since they had run away together--but forgetting how to reach her would be like forgetting how to ride a bicycle.
The key, already warm in his hands, grew hotter and brighter the closer he came to connecting with the TARDIS.
Then a sudden breeze blew his hair back from his face, and the Doctor looked up, beaming, as his TARDIS vworp-boomed into sight.
Hermione darted around the corner as the Doctor snapped his fingers and opened the door of the TARDIS. She stopped and stared at the little blue police box, then at the Doctor. “Is this your ship?” she asked. “You found it?”
The Doctor smiled. “No. She found me.” He got up and waltzed through the open door, stroking the wood of the frame as he went past. Then, when he realised he was halfway up the walk and Hermione was still where she had been, he skipped lightly back. “Are you coming?”
Hermione walked all around the box, then looked inside. “I can’t wait to see Ron’s reaction to this.”
Inside the TARDIS
“It’s bigger on the inside!” Ron exclaimed.
“Is it?” the Doctor said. “I had no idea.” He clapped Ron on his good shoulder. “Care for a proper bed, shower, hot meal?”
“Is it like the tent was, then?” Hermione asked. “Running water, bit of gas. All that?”
“Bit bigger than the tent, but yeah, I can see where you’d draw the similarities.” He led them to the door to the living quarters and showed them the bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchen.
Hermione took over an entire bathroom and Ron ate his way through half the pantry in under twenty seconds--or tried to, at least, grabbing everything he could find and then some--leaving the Doctor alone for a while.
He gathered up their things from outside and brought them into the console room, then set about finding his copies of the Harry Potter books.
But they were nowhere to be found.
“Stupid.” He cursed at himself. “Very, extraordinarily stupid. The books can’t exist in this dimension. They’ve never been written in this dimension.”
The Doctor dropped closed the secret hatch under the TARDIS floor-grates and rubbed his face. His memory was tumultuous at the best of times, and this was far from the best. He’d just spent seventeen years as a human.
“Right.” He got up off his knees and ran his hand along the console. “Looks like we’ll be winging it for a while, my girl, until I remember the important things.” He tapped his fingers along the navigator systems. “Don’t suppose you could give me any hints.”
She remained silent.
“Yeah. Didn’t think so.”
The next morning
The Doctor gathered up Ron and Hermione early the next day. He sat them down on the swinging chair and hung up a big sheet of butcher’s paper on the wall in front of them. Then he said, “Horcruxes.”
Ron went from sleepy to focused in an instant. Hermione started to nervously shred her croissant.
“You-Know-Who has seven of them. A diary, a ring, a locket, and Nagini are the ones I remember.” He neglected to mention that in the original timeline, Harry Potter himself had been a Horcrux. That Horcrux was now in the wind, completely unknown. “I seem to remember something about the other two Horcruxes being something to do with Ravenclaw and something to do with Hufflepuff.”
“How d’you know?” Ron asked. “How do you remember?”
“I travel in time and space. I’ve heard all about Harry Potter’s adventures before.” He also didn’t mention that it had all been fictionalised when he’d heard it.
“You travel in time and space,” Ron said, disbelieving.
Hermione sighed. “Isn’t it obvious, Ronald?” She waved her hand around the console room. “Do you really think Muggles have invented anything like this?”
“Wizards could’ve. Those Chinese wizards--”
“Right, yeah.” Ron rubbed the back of his head. “So--you travel in time and space. So you’ve heard all about something that you haven’t actually done yet.”
Hermione clued in, as the Doctor had known she would. “An ontological paradox. Something exists without ever having been created.”
The Doctor grinned at her. “Something like that.”
She got up and took the marker from him, and started drawing a table on the big sheet of paper. With help from the Doctor, when she finished, it looked something like this:
“You don’t remember at all what the seventh Horcrux was?” Hermione asked.
The Doctor shrugged. “I know it was created the night my parents died.”
“Hm.” She tapped the marker against her lips. “And you don’t know how Dumbledore destroyed the Ring.”
That one he really didn’t remember. “No.” But he did remember the Sword of Gryffindor. How was he supposed to tell them that it was the best weapon for destroying Horcruxes? Perhaps he could recover it and use it to destroy one of them, then act surprised when it worked.
He put that out of his mind for the moment. “We should focus on the locket for the moment. We know what it is, and its last known location: in the possession of Regulus Black.”
“And Kreacher,” Ron put in. “And Mundungus.”
“We don’t know when the locket was swapped out for the pocketwatch.” The Doctor shook his head. “It’s possible that neither Kreacher nor Fletcher ever had the locket.”
“Then it’s possible Regulus didn’t, either,” Hermione pointed out. “It could have been switched out sometime between You-Know-Who putting it in the cave and Regulus taking it.”
“But who would have done that? And why?” The Doctor frowned very hard. “Who else would have known about the locket? You-Know-Who, Kreacher, Regulus…”
“And the Gaunt family,” Hermione added. “Caractacus Burke. Hepzibah Smith.”
“But none of them would have known it was a Horcrux. They all handled it before it even was one.”
Ron stopped rubbing his shoulder and sat up straight. “Burke disappeared, I’d think not long after he sold that locket. Late 1920s. Borgin and Burke’s, that’s just run by Mr. Borgin now. Dad told me. His department always thought Burke’d been done in by one of his dark artefacts--or Borgin--and Borgin had told everyone he’d run off, instead of losing business by admitting one of his products was fatal.”
“That’s got to be relevant.” Hermione looked back at the sheet of paper. “I know You-Know-Who wasn’t even born then, but it has to be important somehow. He disappeared right after coming into contact with an heirloom of Salazar Slytherin? Not a coincidence.”
The Doctor was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. It sounds important, but I can’t see the connection.”
Hermione ran her hands through her hair, frustrated.
“Well,” said Ron. “This ship travels in space and time, right?”
The Doctor looked at him. “Right.”
“And this ship can go anywhere in space, right? So we can get into, say, the Ministry of Magic and find out the exact date when Caractacus Burke disappeared, right?”
“So let’s do that, then--”
Hermione broke in and said it with him. “Go back in time--”
“To that date, and see what really happened,” Ron finished, pleased with himself.
The Doctor stared at them. Then he hugged Hermione, and dragged Ron up off the swinging chair to hug him, too. Ron protested, but the Doctor just said, laughing, “Oh, shut up and let me hug you, you brilliant thing.”
<< back << || >> next >>