Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ BACK TO REALITY ( Chapter 31 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

“Harry? Harry, are you awake?”

He opened his eyes and looked around. He was sitting in a chair in a large hall. It was painted white, with windows along one wall which looked out on a sparse lawn. There were dozens of Formica-topped tables surrounded by plastic chairs.

A middle-aged man wearing a suit was leaning over him. A Muggle suit. There were several young men surrounding him, also wearing Muggle clothes.

“Who are you? Where is this?” asked Harry.

The man smiled. “I’m a doctor, Harry. Your doctor. They called me to check on you because they said you fainted. You’re in Saint Brutus’, Harry. You’ve been here for many years. Do you remember?”

Harry shook his head. “I was… I was at Hogwarts. How did I...”

“No, Harry,” said the doctor patiently. “You’ve been here, at Saint Brutus’ since you were eleven years old. But now… tell me what you see?”

“It’s a hall full of tables and chairs. Formica tables. Is this… is this the Saint Brutus Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys?”

A number of the young men laughed. The doctor frowned. “No, Harry, just the Saint Brutus Rehabilitation Centre. It’s a place for boys and young men who have mental health issues. We’ve been trying to get you better, Harry. I’ve been your doctor for nearly ten years. This is the first time you’ve seemed to know where you really are.”

Harry shook his head. “But that was just a lie, that Uncle Vernon told the neighbours.”

He looked down at himself. He was wearing, not robes, but jeans and a t-shirt. The doctor placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled. “Your Uncle Vernon sent you to us, Harry. He visits you, with your aunt. Harry – we’ve been trying for a long time to get you to leave this imaginary place that you’ve been lost in, and get you back in the real world.”

“I… I’m locked up here? I’m… insane?”

“That’s not a word we use any more, Harry. You’ve just – not a proper grasp on reality. But you can see me, now. See this building. That’s very good, Harry. That’s very promising.”

Harry looked at the doctor, and shook his head. “No. No, I don’t believe this. I don’t believe that my whole life is some kind of delusion. My friends, my school… I’m sorry, doctor. I can’t accept this. Something… something happened.”

The doctor nodded. “Of course, Harry. I’m not asking you to abandon everything in one go. This is going to take a long time. Why don’t we focus on where you are right now, and what you’re doing at this very moment? I’m not going to try to tell you anything apart from that.”

Harry nodded. He felt sick and dizzy. He gripped the side of the chair. It felt real, and solid.

“Harry – I think this is getting to be a bit much for you. I’m going to give you a little sedative – nothing to worry about, just something to help you sleep – and then when you wake up – well, either you’ll still be here, or you’ll be in … where you’ve been before.”

Harry felt a jab on his arm, and started to slip away. I’ll wake up, he thought. I’ll wake up and I’ll be back at Hogwarts.

But he didn’t. When his eyes opened, he was lying on a narrow cot in a small, neat bedroom. The walls were the same blank white as the hall. Saint Brutus’, he thought. I’m still in Saint Brutus’.

A knock came on the door. Harry closed his eyes, and reopened them to the same scene. “Come in,” he muttered.

A boy aged about fifteen peeped around the door. “Harry?” he said, tentatively. “How are you? Time for breakfast.”

“Yeah… hang on. I’ll be five minutes.” Harry sat up. The door closed. Harry looked around, and saw a neat pile of clothes on a chair. A pair of worn sneakers sat on the floor.

A second door opened into a small bathroom. Harry’s glasses were on a shelf above the sink. He put them on and stared into the mirror. His own face looked back. His unruly hair hanging over his forehead. He swept it back and saw the familiar scar. He was the same person, wasn’t he?

He quickly washed and dressed and left his room. The boy was leaning on the opposite wall, staring vacantly. He saw Harry and his face lit up.

“Harry! Hey, is it true what they’re saying? You’re cured? You’re better? Does that mean no more Hogwarts? I loved that, man.”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t know. Do we know each other?”

The boy nodded, then shook his head. “Well, I hang out with you, but I don’t think you ever knew who I was. Oh, yeah, I’m Carl. I’ve been here three years. I mean, you always seemed to end up with us, me and our lot, whether you knew who we were or not. I think you must’ve.”

“What was I like? Did I talk?” Harry looked down the bare white corridor, with doors on one side and windows on the other.

“Did you talk? Oh, boy, did you.” Carl was laughing. “Some days we’d just sit and listen to you. Hogwarts, and Ron, and Hermione. Do you know who was my favourite? Hagrid. He was bloody funny. Sometimes there would be twenty of us, just listening. Hey, Harry, is that going to stop now?” As he talked, Carl led Harry down the corridor.

“I don’t know,” said Harry. “I… I don’t know if I believe this or not. If I believe this then… where’s my life?”

Carl opened a door that led into the hall. “You know, a lot of us would love to be able to forget the last five or ten years. Look, you know what they tell you. You can’t change what’s happened. Everything starts today.”

They queued at a cafeteria line and Harry was handed a plate of scrambled eggs and a glass of orange juice. They sat down at a table and Harry found he was ravenously hungry. The eggs weren’t good, and the orange juice was warm, but Harry finished everything. He looked up from his empty plate to see that a number of the boys in the hall were giving him covert glances. Some of them were openly staring. So one thing is the same, thought Harry. Everyone wants to know what Harry Potter is up to.

He felt a tap on his shoulder, and looked up to see the doctor. “Harry? If you’re finished, can we have a little chat?”

Feeling numb, he rose and followed the doctor, who led him to a surprisingly cosy small office. The doctor gestured at a couch and Harry sat on it – then, without being asked, lay down.

“Harry, I know that your experiences over the last ten years – well, there’s what I, and my colleagues say happened, and there’s what you feel happened. You can only really talk about what you know, and what you know is this world of Hogwards.”

“Hogwarts… what do you want me to say?” asked Harry.

“Just describe, in general, what you think about your life… what you perceive as your life, anyway.”

“What’s the point?” asked Harry. “I mean, if you say that it’s all imaginary...”

The doctor leaned forward, his hands clasped. “It will help because if this comes from you, everything in this world of yours is an indication of what is happening in your mind. It’s what happened to you that I’m interested in.”

“Where should I start? What should I talk about?”

“Hm. I think it might be helpful if we started with the more… mundane elements of your life, and move on to the fantastical. If you start with the earliest you remember, and continue from there.”

“Doctor. I don’t know how much you know, but there are secrets… things I’m not allowed to tell.”

The doctor nodded. “That’s fine, Harry. I’ve been monitoring you for a long time, so I’m aware of the nature of… of the kind of things you’ve been talking about. You believe yourself to be in a world where magic is real – is that correct?”

Harry nodded warily.

“So that’s not a secret any more. There’s your school, a school for wizards. There’s an evil wizard, who’s trying to kill you.” He held up a bulging paper folder. “It’s all in here. Not everything you’ve ever said, obviously, but the gist of it. Now, if there’s anything really secret, then by all means keep it to yourself. However, I think it would be all right to just clarify the main points.”

“OK, doctor. Well, my parents were killed – murdered – and I was left on my aunt and uncle’s doorstep…”

Harry began slowly, but gradually he found he was talking naturally. The doctor rarely intervened, except to reassure him that he was on the right lines.

“And then I was given this other mission from Dumbledore. Can’t tell you what that is. Next thing I know, I wake up here.” Harry paused. Had he just summarised his whole life? How long had it taken?

The doctor looked at his watch. “I’m afraid we’ve missed lunch, but that’s all right. We’ll get some sandwiches. Well, Harry, that’s been very helpful. I’ve learned a lot.”

Harry sat up. “Doctor, I’m worried. I still sort of feel that this isn’t real. Well, if it isn’t – then I suppose it doesn’t matter what I do here.”

The doctor nodded. “I’m not going to try to tell you what’s real and what isn’t, Harry. I hope that in time it will all become clear to you – but in the meantime, I want you to be as happy as possible.”

Harry stood. “The thing is – all the things I value – everything I love – it’s all in this other world. Either it’s real, or it’s in my mind. My friends – I don’t want to lose them. Even if they’re imaginary.”

“I see,” said the doctor. “Perhaps I can reassure you. You’re right that if I, and this institution, this world, are all imaginary, and your ‘Hogwarts’ is real, then presumably you can do no harm by this process. I’d like to reassure you about what will happen if they aren’t real – or at least, not real as having existence outside your mind.”

Harry sat on the edge of the couch as the doctor continued. “It seems plain to me that these two ‘friends’ of yours, Ron and Hermione – they represent different facets of your personality. From the Freudian point of view, Ron is the id – the basic desires that drive each of us. Hermione represents the super-ego, the driving force of moral decisions and abstract reasoning. When you incorporate them into yourself in a healthy way, Harry, then you won’t feel a loss. You will be whole.”

Harry swallowed. “And… what about...”

“Ah, your girlfriend. Ginny, is it? Yes, I’ll have to think about that. She’s clearly very similar to your mother in many ways. That’s not unusual with real girlfriends, though. But don’t you see that she’s very much a wish-fulfilment? She’s your best friend’s sister, she’s the most beautiful girl in the school, she’ll wait for you forever, she’s even on the… the flying football…”

“Quidditch,” said Harry shortly.

“She’s on the Quidditch team with you, and she loves the game as much as you do, and she’s nearly as good. Harry, my hope is that you will come to see that your desires, your wishes – and your fears – are all legitimate emotions, which you can fully express. When this happens, your other world will slowly slip into the background. It will be as much a part of you as ever. I hope it will remain a resource for you.”

Harry thought for a few seconds. “It’s just, for me, these are real people, doctor. I’m sorry, what is your name?”

“I’m Doctor Riddle, Harry. Thomas Riddle.”

Harry gasped. “You’re Tom Riddle?”

He backed away to the corner of the room

The doctor stared at him with concern. “Harry – what’s wrong?”

“You’re Voldemort!” Harry spat out. “That’s what this is!”

The doctor shook his head. “I said my name was Riddle, Harry. Why do you think I’m this… Lord Voldemort?”

“Tom Riddle is Voldemort! Tom Marvolo Riddle – it’s an anagram of I Am Lord Voldemort. It’s his real name! Your real name!” Harry reached for his wand, but of course it wasn’t there.

The doctor held up his hands. “Look, Harry. First, my name isn’t ‘Marvolo’. That isn’t even a real name. It’s a made-up stage magician’s name. Second, you said this Voldemort character is dead. Thirdly – well, if I were actually somebody trying to trick you, I wouldn’t tell you my real name, would I?”

Harry took a deep breath. “I suppose. If this is all a big conspiracy, then using that name would be a bit of a giveaway.”

“It’s an interesting little twist from my point of view,” said the doctor. “It appears as if Lord Voldemort is a kind of version of me. Is that what you think I am, Harry?”

Harry grinned and shook his head. “I don’t, really. Either you’re a figment of my imagination, or Voldemort is. I suppose I’m willing to trust you on that basis for the time being, doctor.”

“In that case, let’s find ourselves some lunch. If you still think I’m an evil wizard, then you can do something about it later.”

Harry sat alone in the empty hall, eating a limp ham sandwich. The doctor had excused himself and returned to his office. No, Harry thought to himself. This is not true.

He’d been knocked out, and kidnapped. He’d been brought to this place where people were trying to convince him that magic wasn’t real, that all his life was a lie.

He was not going to accept that. He finished the sandwich, and leaned back. Without magic he didn’t know how to get to Hogwarts easily, or the Burrow, but there were plenty of places in London that he could find. As an Auror he had been to a number of Ministry of Magic offices, and knew the way to access them.

He heard a door open, and looked up to see a middle-aged woman walking towards him. She smiled at him, and pulled up a chair at his table.

“Hello, Harry,” she said. “Mind if I join you.”

He nodded and she sat down.

“It’s quite strange talking to you. I know you so well. I remember when you first joined us, as a little boy. In all that time, you never seemed to know me, or to talk to me. Do you recognise me at all? Any idea who I am?”

Harry shook his head. The woman looked completely unfamiliar.

“I’m Jane Adkins, Harry. I’m the administrator for St Brutus. I was only one of the assistants when you first came here. You were… well, I suppose it’s fair to say you were in a world of your own.”

“Literally,” said Harry, dryly.

“I usually greet new residents when they arrive, but in your case it really hasn’t been possible until now. We all know you very well, Harry. I think it’s fair to say that you’re quite popular with staff and residents, though how well we really know you, it’s hard to say.”

“And I’m afraid that I don’t recognise any of you at all,” said Harry.

“I’ll leave all the medical details to the professionals,” continued Jane Adkins. “I’m told that we should assume that you’ll remain in your present state for the time being, and our aim is to help you manage the transition to normal life.”

She opened a folder full on notes which had Harry’s name on it. “You’ve at no time been a threat to the safety of yourself or anyone else, so there’s no justification for restricting your movements. You have previously kept mostly to the grounds, but I think you’ve accompanied various outings into town and elsewhere, under staff supervision. You may come and go freely, but I would recommend that you take things easy to start with.”

She riffled through the pages. “Since you came here you’ve been entitled to a weekly cash allowance. You’ve never been in a position to draw on it, so it’s been invested for you in a savings account. You may have the bank book if you wish. There’s a total of… let me see… over fifteen thousand pounds.”

“Gosh,” said Harry. He’d always been rich in the wizarding world, but had never had any Muggle money of his own.

“Now that may seem like a lot, but if you want to re-integrate into the world it won’t go very far! You’ve not much in the way of qualifications. In fact, you have no qualifications at all, or training.”

Harry thought about what he was good at. Riding broomsticks, casting a Patronus. Nothing that would help him in this world. The Muggle world.

“Would it be possible to have a little cash – I mean, until the bank is sorted out?” He didn’t know quite what he wanted the money for, but he was quite sure he would need some.

“Of course. Just go to the front desk and ask them. We normally hold money for most of the residents.” She stood up.

“If there’s anything you need, come straight to me, Harry. We’re all fond of you here, and it’s been wonderful to suddenly see that you’re with us – really one of the gang.” She patted him on the shoulder and left.

Harry decided that he should not delay any more than absolutely necessary. His friends would be looking for him, worried about his disappearance. They – whoever ‘they’ were – didn’t want to kill him – if they had, he’d be dead by now – but there must be some plan, and whatever it was, he would have to try to escape before it came into effect.

He decided to make a break the next day. The woman at the front desk advanced him two hundred pounds without question – ten twenty-pound notes. That’s enough to get me to London, he thought. I can go to Gringotts – wait, he couldn’t go to Gringotts. But he’d find people he knew at the Ministry, at the Aurors’ office. Neville or Ron would help him – and then send a team to investigate this place, whatever it was.

He found that he was able to wander the building freely, but there were people everywhere – nurses, cleaners, patients, security guards. They all seemed to know him, and gave him a cheery greeting. They all seemed so sincere. Could they all be part of the same plot? Perhaps they didn’t know what was going on. But they must, if they were claiming that he’d been here for half his life. Where they under some kind of spell? They didn’t seem confused – but if their memories had been altered? It was puzzling. He’d ask Kingsley Shacklebolt. He’d figure it out.

The routine of St. Brutus’ seemed simple enough. He knew when it was dinner time when he saw the boys making their way to the hall. They were a mixed lot. Some seemed aggressive, throwing their weight around. Some were shy and nervous. Most of them seemed vaguely anxious. All, however, seemed to know Harry, and acknowledged him, either with a nod or a called greeting.

He saw Carl after he collected his meal – a tired looking burger with chips - and joined him at a corner table. Carl greeted him cheerfully.

They chatted aimlessly for a few minutes. Carl mentioned various things from the Muggle world – football teams, television programmes, celebrities. Harry recognised them all. I wonder, he thought. If I was in a kind of trance all that time, how would I know about these things?

“Do you get away much?” Harry asked casually. “Into town, off on little outings?”

“Boy, this is weird, talking to you – well, walking like this, about real stuff, you know? Sometimes I’d say something – about one of your people, you know, Dumbledore or something, and you’d reply, or you’d seem to.” Carl was laughing. “Anyway – yeah, we can leave. Well, some of us can. You have to check out at the desk. It’s not a secure unit – that’s over in another building – but there are people who can’t really be unattended. I was kept in for the first three months.”

“Where do you go?” asked Harry, keeping his voice level.

“Oh, into town. Around the shops, the arcades, you know. We have to be careful – they pick on you if they know you come from here. It’s usually all right though.”

“Ever go in to London?” He couldn’t keep a slight quaver out of his voice. He hoped that Carl didn’t notice.

“Oh, I wouldn’t. Don’t like the crowds. There’s a few guys who do. Catch the coach first thing in the morning, and get it back at night. Not supposed to stay away overnight without permission, but of course some do. Some skip out altogether, come to that. Anyway, the coach station is right in the centre, near the big stores.”

“Oh, right.” He tried to keep his voice bored. “Where’s the telly room?”

“You’ve forgotten? You spent enough time there, just staring at the screen.” So that’s how I found out about the Muggle world, thought Harry. No, stop. This is a trick. I’ve been kidnapped, and however nice Carl, and the doctor – Doctor Riddle! - and the rest seem, they’re lying to me. Or they’ve been tricked, or controlled. I have to believe in what I’ve lived through.

Time seemed to drag impossibly slowly, but eventually the boys started to wander off. Even though it was still light, Harry went to his room. He couldn’t sleep for many hours, going over and over his situation. As much as he kept telling himself that his memories were real, he couldn’t help feeling doubts. Over and over he repeated to himself – Ron, Hermione, Ginny. They existed, as themselves, not as an idea in his head.

It was almost dawn when he slept, and it was uneasy, fitful, unsatisfying sleep. He eventually got up and stood staring out of his narrow window at the sparse lawn, half visible in the morning mist.

When Carl’s knock came at his door, he was dressed and ready. He wanted to be off as soon as possible, but didn’t want to draw attention. He made sure to have a large breakfast. He wouldn’t have time to stop along the way.

He wanted to say goodbye to Carl, but decided against it. Carl was either part of the plot against him, or he had some kind of false memory of Harry. The eager-to-please boy was not what he seemed.

“See you later, Carl. Something I need to do.” He returned to his room and found a jacket, which he rolled up as tightly as he could under his arm. He walked quickly to the front desk. “I’d like to go out for the day, please,” he asked the security guard.

“Just sign here,” the man said, barely looking at Harry. Harry signed and walked out. Was it really that easy? He realised that he should have asked directions. He would have to wander around and find his way to the coach station.

It turned out to be quite easy to find the way to the centre of the town. Somehow every guess worked out correctly. It was like using magic, in a way. Harry stood outside the coach station and flexed his fingers. He’d never tried to use magic without a wand, but before he came to Hogwarts he’d made things happen, without knowing what he was doing. He pointed to a leaf on the ground. “Wingardium Leviosa,” he whispered. Nothing happened. He couldn’t feel the surge of power that always came with magic, even without a wand. The leaf stayed where it was. He sighed, lowered his hand. The leaf blew away with a gust of wind.

I’ll get a wand, he thought to himself. My own wand, even.

He went to the ticket window. “Ticket for London, please,” he asked.

“Single or return,” the man at the counter said in a bored voice.


“A return is cheaper, today.”

“Er… a return, then.”

The man reached for a ticket. “When are you coming back?”

Harry shook his head. “I’m not.”

“Why do you want a return then?” The man sounded completely uninterested.

“Um. Because it’s cheaper?”

There was a coach for London leaving in twenty minutes. Harry found a seat at the back and leaned into the corner. He felt nervous as he waited for it to depart, expecting the coach to be boarded at any moment. He stared out the window, avoiding the gazes of the other passengers.

The journey wasn’t long, but to Harry it seemed an eternity. He continued to stare out the window, but noticed nothing. When the coach arrived in London he waited for the other passengers to disembark first, watching to see if anyone was waiting. He then quickly ran to the underground.

Harry had used public transport in London before. As an underage wizard he wasn’t allowed magic, and he’d often taken the bus or Tube to get around. It seemed odd and unfamiliar to him now.

He arrived in Whitehall and began to look for the Ministry of Magic. The roads around the Westminster station looked strange – different to what he remembered. He walked slowly towards the Ministry building, feeling a mounting sense of dread.

The road and buildings seemed completely foreign to him. As he approached where he knew the Ministry of Magic to be, he looked among the crowds for wizards. They would all be in disguise, of course, but easily recognisable to each other. Every face he passed was a Muggle.

When he eventually reached where the Ministry should have been. It wasn’t there. The building that stood in its place was a modern office block. The area should have been full of Ministry wizards passing back and forth. There were none.

He walked into the lobby of the building and looked at the reception desk. There were three women sitting there, wearing smart suits. They weren’t witches. He walked to the desk. One of the women looked up and smiled at him. He opened his mouth to speak, but realised that he didn’t have anything to say. Should he ask if this was the Ministry of Magic? If it was, transformed, hidden, then they wouldn’t tell him anyway.

He left, and stood on the street, looking up and down. He took a deep breath. Perhaps the Ministry had relocated, or hidden the building. There might be some new menace that he didn’t know about. He would have to try somewhere else.

He returned to the Tube station and took a train to Kings Cross. He first looked for the wall between platforms 9 and 10. It seemed subtly different. He pushed against it and nothing happened. Never mind, he thought. It isn’t the start of the school year. The train isn’t there, so I probably shouldn’t be able to get onto the platform.

Grimmauld Place! Yes, that’s nearby. A few minutes’ walk, in Islington. Could he get in? He was still a member of the Order Of The Phoenix, and he owned the house. Even without a wand… even without magic, he could enter there.

But Grimmauld Place didn’t seem to exist. The roads around it were still in the same place, but the street itself had gone. It was as if the charm which made number 12 invisible had extended to the whole of Grimmauld Place.

Harry no longer wanted to travel by Tube or bus. He was desperate not to miss anything – some shop or house that he’d forgotten, that would bring his world back to him.

It took over an hour to walk to Charing Cross Road. It began to rain, and he could feel drips of water running down his cheeks. He felt a sense of mounting dread as to what he would find.

Or rather, not find. The Leaky Cauldron wasn’t there. Harry walked the full length of the road three times, but there was no sign of it. No way in to Diagon Alley.

He knew, now, but still spent the rest of the day roaming London, looking for every wizard location he could find. There was nothing.

In the end, he walked all the way back to the coach station. The rain had stopped, but he still felt damp and uncomfortable. And defeated.

It was past midnight when he found himself back at the door of St Brutus’. He tapped on the glass, and the security guard sitting at the desk wandered over and unlocked the door. “You look done in,” he said. “Better get to bed, quick.” Harry fell asleep before he could even undress, but his dreams were troubled and confused.

The next morning, after breakfast, he made his way to Doctor Riddle’s office, hardly knowing why. He found himself lying on the couch, telling him everything that had happened the previous day.

“I didn’t believe you. I was sure this place was some kind of trick. Now… everything I remember is … well, there’s nothing there. It’s either hidden from me, by some trick, or else… or else...” Harry tailed off.

“Or else it was never there in the first place. That frightens you, doesn’t it?” The doctor’s voice was low and kind.

“I remembered those places so clearly. Now I go there and there’s nothing.”

“Harry – can we go back to when you first remembered the experience of magic. How did you react?”

Harry thought for a moment. “Well… at first it seemed crazy. Impossible. Then after a bit there wasn’t really any choice but to believe it.”

“That’s right. Belief only works up to a point. When everything you see contradicts what you’ve always believed… Harry, you can go whenever you want. You can look at anything, anywhere. But you’ll find what you found yesterday. I think you know that.”

Harry said nothing for a long time. He stared vacantly. Eventually, he said “I don’t think there’s any choice, is there? I have to live in the world as I find it.”

“No choice at all,” said the doctor.

Harry found that he quickly slipped into the routine of Saint Brutus’. He had almost daily sessions with the doctor. He became close friends with Carl, and found he was quite popular among the other residents. He began telling them about his life in the magical world. After a while, they became stories, and he found it difficult to tell whether he was remembering them or making them up. “Does it make any difference?” he thought to himself. “They were never real.”

His talks with Doctor Riddle had become informal chats for the most part. He regarded the doctor as his friend. He was allowed to enter and leave the institute at will, and often wandered into the local town, browsing the bookshops and sitting in the park.

After about three months since what he now referred to as his awakening, Doctor Riddle sat down next to him at lunch. “Harry – a quick question. Your aunt and uncle stopped visiting a couple of years ago because… well, you seemed a bit upset to see them. Would you be willing for them to come in this weekend, just for half an hour?” The doctor smiled at him, looking hopeful.

“Sure!” said Harry. “I mean… I still only remember… well, my version. Sleeping under the stairs, the rest of it. But I don’t mind seeing them. It might get a few things straight.”

“I can’t vouch for what went on in your childhood,” said the doctor. “I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure.”

“I think I’ve just to make my mind up that I’ll never know what’s real. I mean, I know what isn’t – and I miss some of it. I don’t know what my relationship is going to be with my family – but at least they really exist. That’s got to be a plus.”

“That’s an interesting way to look at it. You know, we’ve talked about your aunt and uncle before. I know that whatever you remember is...”

“Highly unreliable!” said Harry, laughing.

“Still, it was while you were under their care that this happened. I’m not saying it was necessarily because of something they did, but I’m a believer in cause and effect. If you find that you’re uncomfortable dealing with them, then by all means, tell me, and I’ll curtail the visits. Put the blame on me if you want.”

“I really don’t know how I feel about them,” said Harry. “I’ve been living in the present for the last few months, trying to make a life for myself. I kind of parked them with the things that weren’t real. I suppose I forgot that while the rest of it wasn’t out there in the real world, they were. I think it’s time to reconnect.”

Harry almost forgot about his appointment until the Saturday. He remembered as he was getting up, and immediately felt a surge of anxiety. He’d become accustomed to the idea that he and his aunt and uncle shared a mutual distaste, and didn’t want to see each other. Now it seemed that they were to voluntarily spend time together.

He was, for once, sitting alone for breakfast when Jane Adkins came over to him. “Harry, good morning. You’re looking very well.”

He swallowed a mouthful of scrambled egg. “Morning, Jane. I’m feeling good. Things are making sense now.”

She patted him on the shoulder. “Good for you. Listen, Harry, I have to get on, but I have to tell you that your uncle can’t make it today. He was called into the office. Your aunt is coming though.”

Harry shrugged. “No problem. One at a time is probably best anyway.”

The meeting was scheduled for one o’clock. Harry wandered to the family room at about half twelve, and sat outside, drumming his fingers on the side of his chair. After what seemed an eternity Jane Adkins came out. “She’s here, Harry,” she said quietly. “Go on in.”


With some trepidation, Harry opened the door and walked in. He was totally unprepared for what he saw. Instead of his aunt, sitting at the table in the family room was Hermione Granger.