Chapter 20 ~ Talking Time
Gripping his broom tightly in his right hand, and Rick’s hand with his left, Harry felt as though his body had dissolved. There was absolute silence, there was nothing to see. Harry’s senses all strained, but there was nothing for them to touch. The world had vanished, leaving him – or his awareness at least, behind. It was a bizarre experience, but oddly pleasant and comforting.
Then suddenly, the world materialised once more, around him. He found himself standing with Rick, by the lake, with the Hogwarts castle in front of him. But this time it wasn’t destroyed – in fact, it looked just the same as always.
“Rick! What happened? What did you do? Where are we?” asked Harry, feeling very confused.
“Exactly where we were a moment ago,” said Rick smiling. “The question is when are we? If I got it right, this is the same Saturday morning that we were out flying together, when Voldemort pulled us into the future. We’ve returned to when we came from. I just wanted Voldemort to think we were Apparating away – to put the wind up him. Did you catch that look of fear and loathing on his face as we were leaving? Oh, and did you notice that Golden Eagle circling high above us?”
“Err, no,” said Harry. “A Golden Eagle? You don’t think ... that it was me?”
“I’m almost certain it was,” replied Rick. “You must have mastered the Animagus transformation before Voldemort attacked Hogwarts. That’s how you escaped him after Hogwarts fell – you just flew away. And that’s why he can’t find you in his time. You’re staying in your Golden Eagle form. He hasn’t got a hope in hell of finding you – and it’s driving him slowly crazy!”
“Rick, is it true what Voldemort said about you?” asked Harry. “About the spirits of the witches and wizards of the Light giving you all your powers and sending you here to defeat him?”
“Yeah, mate,” said Rick. “Something like that. But, in fact, I discovered I can’t kill anyone – not even Voldemort. I’m here to help you – but in the end, it’s you, not me, who has to kill the evil sod.”
“Just like the Prophecy says,” murmured Harry. “So you’re the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor! You saved me from being dragged off to Voldemort that night by Lucius Malfoy, when you Squibbed him. Gosh, Rick, I owe you.... You’ve saved me so many times.”
“Just doing my job, mate,” said Rick, smiling.
“But Rick, what happened that day the Death Eaters attacked us at Hogsmeade station?” asked Harry. “Hermione said that you’d gone to get the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor. But you are the ghost! So where were you really, when I was fighting off all those Death Eaters?”
Rick sighed, looking down at his feet. “Err, Harry, I’m really sorry about that. But ... well, you see, I stayed behind on the train, with, err ... with Hermione. We were, sort of, err —”
“Snogging?” asked Harry. Rick nodded, still looking at his feet. “Boy, that must have been some snog – if you didn’t notice a massive Death Eater attack!”
“Yeah, I seem to get rather absorbed ...” said Rick in embarrassment. “I’m really sorry about it, mate. I felt terrible when I realised there was an attack. You have no idea how relieved I was to find you alive.”
“Forget it,” said Harry, sighing. “It seems pretty unimportant when you think of the future we’ve just seen. Even with all the powers you received, you won’t be able to stop the Dementors when Voldemort attacks Hogwarts. It looks like all our efforts will be for nothing in the end – Voldemort is going to destroy Hogwarts – and soon. I just can’t get those images of the castle, all in ruins, out of my mind. Hogwarts – this castle – symbolises everything that is good and wonderful and magical in my life. To see it in ruins like that ... to think of everyone kissed by the Dementors ... and me escaping. I wouldn’t want to keep living with that on my mind....” But Harry couldn’t continue. It was too upsetting to think about.
“Harry, we need to go talk with Dumbledore, right away,” said Rick, as they started for the castle. “Maybe it doesn’t mean what we think it does. Maybe it’s not inevitable. I’m not giving up yet – that’s for sure. Hey, there’s Hermione. It looks like she’s been searching for us.”
“Harry! Rick! Where did you two get to? I’ve been looking for you since breakfast!” exclaimed Hermione, sounding concerned, as she approached the two boys.
“Looks like I got us back to the right day at least,” quipped Rick conspiratorially to Harry.
“What are you talking about, Rick?” demanded Hermione, her worry changing to annoyance. She hated it when she didn’t understand something – especially when it was Rick behaving mysteriously.
“Harry, Ginny said she saw you flying by yourself along the edge of the Forbidden Forest about an hour ago. But, when I looked out there a few minutes later, you were nowhere to be seen. Where on earth have you two been?” implored Hermione.
“We’ve been right here, by the Hogwarts Lake – well, for the past half-hour at least,” said Rick, with one of his infuriating grins.
“That’s a lie, Rick! How can you lie to me, like that?” she said angrily. “I’ve been out here for almost an hour. I must have passed this spot at least twice, in the past half-hour, and neither of you were here – unless you were under invisibility cloaks, or something.”
“Honest, Hermione, we were by the lake and we weren’t invisible,” said Rick. “But when I say we were here, I’m speaking spatially, not temporally.”
“Rick! Stop that teasing, you know it drives me crazy!” cried Hermione in exasperation. “I want to know what happened to you two – right now!”
“Then maybe you’d better come with us to the Headmaster’s office. We were on our way there to tell him all about it. There’s no way I’m going to start the story until then, or we’ll never get there!”
“Alright,” said Hermione in resignation. “But hurry up at least!”
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Professor Dumbledore and Hermione listened, spellbound, as Harry and Rick gave a full account of where and when they had been – and of everything that had happened. When they’d finished, the three students looked expectantly at their headmaster, eager for his reaction. They were seated in great puffy armchairs, which he had summoned for them, in front of his large desk. Dumbledore sat silently in his chair behind the desk, lost in thought.
“Lemon Drop, anyone?” asked Dumbledore finally, offering around his favourite sweet with a relaxed smile on his face. Only Rick took one. Harry and Hermione were stunned that Professor Dumbledore could react with such a lack of concern at the prospect of Hogwarts’ imminent destruction.
“Professor Dumbledore,” said Hermione in a worried voice, no longer able to contain herself. “If Harry and Rick actually witnessed the school in ruins, then surely it means it’s inevitable that it will happen, and nothing can be done to prevent it ... doesn’t it?”
“On the contrary, Miss Granger,” replied Dumbledore, smiling calmly, “There are many things that can be done to avert the catastrophe witnessed by your friends. In fact —”
“But ... err, excuse me, sir, for interrupting you,” said Hermione, unable to restrain herself. “You warned me most emphatically, in third year, about the dangers of attempting to change time – so how can we prevent one tragedy without risking perhaps an even greater one?”
“You are quite correct, Miss Granger,” said Dumbledore leaning back comfortably in his seat and smiling benignly. “I most certainly did warn you of the grave dangers involved in attempting to influence the future, by changing the past. However, if one is very thoughtful, and careful, it is possible. I believe that you and Mr. Potter can attest to that, from your own experience,” he added with a smile, his eyes twinkling.
“If one goes back no more than an hour or two, and acts with the utmost caution, it is possible to obtain a very limited and contained change, which will have no serious side-effects, in time. But if one goes back any further than that, there are far too many unknowns, too many permutations in the chain of cause and effect resulting from one’s actions. It becomes impossible to know how the smallest, most insignificant action – even something as trivial, for example, as returning a book to one shelf, rather than another – will change the future.”
“I must compliment you, Mr. Godfry on the admonishment you delivered to Voldemort ... in my name,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Rick. “I think your impersonation did me justice. I would, indeed, have said very much the same thing to Voldemort, myself. And, it was a master stroke, to make him think that you and Harry were merely Apparating away, in his own time, rather than returning to your own. I imagine that his obsessive fears for his immortality must be quite unbearable. It will probably delay indefinitely, his planned campaign against the Muggles.”
“Yes, that’s what I was hoping, sir,” said Rick. “But there was another reason for the pretence. I didn’t want Voldemort to know that we were returning to our own time. I was afraid if he knew, he might make another attempt at snatching Harry back to the future. As soon as I realised we’d been pulled through to the future, I became aware that I could go back to my own time and take Harry with me – I just needed to twist my wand and decide the exact date and time. But since we were safely behind the Reflecting Shield, I figured we should stay a while, and see what useful information we could pick up.”
“It was an excellent idea, Mr. Godfry,” said Dumbledore. “If I’m not mistaken, you have the ability to move through time as easily as you Apparate through space. I recently discovered a secret journal, written by Godric Gryffindor. It appears that he possessed the power of Time Travel, although he kept it secret. He could move backwards and forwards in time at will, without requiring a Time Turner or any other magical aids – except for his wand. It appears that there is something special about his wand, because he was unable to do it with any other wand. No one, but Gryffindor, was able do it, even using his wand – except, it seems, for you, Mr. Godfry,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Rick.
“What? You mean, you have Godric Gryffindor’s wand?” asked Harry, incredulously.
Rick just nodded, and then looked back towards the Headmaster.
“I must warn you,” Dumbledore continued, looking Rick very seriously, “that for all your special abilities, you are in no way immune from the considerable dangers involved in Time Travel. Many witches and wizards have experimented with Time Travel, using Time Turners and various other magical means. Some have been foolish enough to try changing the past. The result has always been disastrous. Tempusilo Viator, the most famous Time Traveller of all, vanished unaccountably and mysteriously at a very early age. It is assumed that he changed something in the past which negated his own existence. Beware, Mr. Godfry!”
“Professor Dumbledore,” said Harry, feeling confused. “How are we going to prevent Voldemort from destroying Hogwarts? I mean, you keep talking about the dangers of changing time. So how can we do it, without creating some other catastrophe?”
“But don’t you see the irony of it?” asked Dumbledore cheerfully. “Voldemort has already done it for us! When he pulled you and Mr. Godfry into the future, he changed the past. He broke all the rules, and now he must suffer the consequences. He has told us exactly how, and roughly when, Hogwarts will be attacked. He even told Mr. Godfry how to deal with the Dark Creatures that he will send – by transforming them into something harmless. He has also warned us that the one thing that can defeat us is Dementors, so now we know where to focus our attention. We can act on the information Voldemort unintentionally provided. The cardinal sin of Time Travel is going back and changing the past. Voldemort has committed that sin. However, acting in the present moment with the intention of determining future events, is perfectly safe – we do it all day long.”
“The future you witnessed,” continued Dumbledore, “has not yet happened, and indeed may never happen. It is simply a possibility. It is, at this moment, only one, of an infinite number of possible futures. What has happened in the past is fixed – unless someone is foolish enough to meddle with it – as Voldemort has done. But the future is not yet cast.”
“So, you’re saying we are free to do what we like to avert the destruction of Hogwarts,” said Hermione, fascinated. “What Harry and Rick saw was the future that would have been, if Voldemort hadn’t played with time and pulled them into the future. By doing that, he’s changed the past from where he is in the year 2000. If we manage to prevent the destruction of Hogwarts, he might suddenly find himself in a very different world – one in which he is not the undisputed Lord.”
“Exactly, Miss Granger,” replied Dumbledore, smiling. “Then there is the matter of the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin. I am not entirely convinced that it is impregnable. If we can find a way to penetrate it, Voldemort in the year 2000 might simply disappear altogether – because he was killed, before that year ever arrived.”
“Do you mean it may have an Achilles Heel, Professor?” asked Hermione. “What makes you think that?”
“Voldemort has been acting very cautiously for someone who believes himself to be immune from the magic of others. It is true that my spells did not seem to harm him, when we fought in the Ministry of Magic last year. But if he was certain of his invincibility, why did he Apparate away as soon as the Ministry Aurors arrived? Why didn’t he stay to finish off Harry, when he finally had the chance? Voldemort is not the most modest of men. If this cloak makes him truly invincible, he would be crowing about it. It is not in his nature to keep quiet about something like that.”
“So our two priorities are to find a way of dealing with the Dementors, and trying to discover how to penetrate Voldemort’s protective cloak,” said Hermione. “It’s a pity that we can’t change the past. Rick could go back in time and remove the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin from the Chamber of Secrets long before Tom Riddle was even born. But we can’t do that, can we, sir?” asked Hermione, looking up at Dumbledore hopefully.
The Headmaster smiled at her, shaking his head. “Things that happened so long ago must be left to happen as they will, I am afraid....” After a few moments of silent contemplation, he continued. “It is most interesting that Voldemort’s cloak does not protect him from his own charms. Salazar Slytherin must have done it deliberately. It was probably necessary, so the wearer could do magic himself. The wearer’s magic has to be able to pass through the cloak, but it seems that it can pass in both directions. Of course, Salazar Slytherin would not have thought about Reflecting Shields, as they were unknown in the time of the Founders. In fact, there are only a handful of wizards who have ever been able to effectively cast the Reflecting Shield – and two of them are sitting in this room,” he added, smiling at Rick and Harry.
“If it’s a cloak, would it protect his head?” asked Harry. “Would it be possible to get it off of him?”
“I don’t think it’s a cloak in the ordinary sense, Harry,” replied Dumbledore. “It’s a Spell Cloak. Once Voldemort had mastered the magic to wear it, it would have become an invisible part of him, protecting his entire body, including his head. Only Voldemort, himself, would be able to remove it. Salazar Slytherin was a powerful magician, and particularly gifted in the art of magical protection. I doubt very much that there was any flaw in the cloak when he created it. If there is one now, then something must have caused it ... I wonder what it could have been?”
“Professor?” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “If Salazar Slytherin hadn’t considered the possibility of the wearer’s own spell rebounding, and penetrating the cloak from the outside, then he wouldn’t have considered the possibility that it might damage the cloak.”
“Very astute, Miss Granger!” said the Headmaster enthusiastically. “You’re quite correct. He would have paid no attention to that particular possibility when he created the cloak. It is indeed conceivable that the wearer’s own spell, penetrating the cloak, could damage it.”
“And we know of an occasion when that happened,” said Hermione excitedly. “The night Voldemort killed Harry’s parents – and tried to kill Harry.”
“But, how does that help us?” asked Harry, sounding upset. He felt hurt that Hermione was trespassing on that event, which, for him, was so charged with grief and pain.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I know you don’t like talking or thinking about that night,” said Hermione sympathetically. “It must be terribly painful for you, but we have to – it could be really important.”
“Yes, indeed,” agreed Dumbledore, nodding his head. It was clear that he and Hermione were on the same track. “If the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin has in fact been damaged, as Voldemort’s actions – both in the past and the future – suggest, it was almost certainly the Killing Curse that not only failed to kill Harry as a baby, but rebounded upon Voldemort, with such disastrous consequences – for himself.”
Hermione could no longer contain herself. “So, if Rick—”
“Precisely, Miss Granger,” said the Headmaster smiling at her. “If Mr. Godfry were to go back to that night, and observe very carefully what happens when Voldemort attempts to kill Harry, he might discover where the weakness in the cloak is located. If he is able to pinpoint the exact location on Voldemort’s body where the green flash of his own Killing Curse strikes him, then we will have found Voldemort’s Achilles Heel.”
“Exactly!” said Hermione, excitedly, her mind in overdrive. “Is it true, sir,” she asked the Headmaster, “that the protection Harry’s mother used to save him from Voldemort that night, is a great mystery – even now, as Voldemort said?”
“Yes, indeed, Miss Granger. There are many forms of protective magic. As you will know, from your own studies of Empathetic Magic with Professor McGonagall, there is a special magical relationship between a witch and her baby. The magic which protected Harry from Voldemort when he tried to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone in your first year, is very rare, but not unknown. Even though Voldemort was in the body of Professor Quirrell, he was still unable to physically touch Harry.”
“Yet Professor Quirrell was able to curse Harry and nearly kill him in his first Quidditch match,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “That curse didn’t rebound on him. I was wondering, sir, if perhaps Rick could go back a bit before Voldemort attacks. He may hear Harry’s parents talking about the protection his mother used. He may even witness her casting the spell. It would be a very valuable spell to know about.”
“Yes, I agree, Miss Granger,” said Professor Dumbledore. “At the time, I questioned Lily and James’ closest friends, and more recently, Sirius Black. Some of them recalled that Lily was researching protection spells, but none of them knew what she had found – or had used to protect Harry. It has been a great mystery, all these years, and it could be a very valuable spell to have at our disposal. After all, it stopped Voldemort. It almost destroyed him, in fact.”
Harry remained silent. He was feeling very peculiar and uncomfortable about this whole conversation. It was all about him, and the night Voldemort had murdered his parents, the night Voldemort had tried to kill him, when he was a baby. The night he became famous – as The Boy Who Lived. Harry loathed that label. He shunned the undeserved fame. But most of all, he didn’t want to think about the events of that night, which had orphaned him and set his life’s course. Now they were talking about Rick going back there – actually being there, when it all happened. He was going to go back there, like some Time Tourist and just watch it all happen, without lifting a finger to prevent the great tragedy of his life. A tragedy, which had robbed him of his loving parents, and left him to grow up – unloved and unwanted – with the beastly Dursleys.
Harry’s mind was filled with all the possibilities of averting the calamity of that Halloween Night. There were so many ways the tragedy could be prevented. Rick could warn his parents not to trust Peter Pettigrew as their secret keeper, or memory-charm Pettigrew so he couldn’t reveal the secret. He could at least warn his parents that they’d be betrayed, so they could flee Godric’s Hollow for Hogwarts or somewhere safer. With all his powers, Rick could stop Voldemort from killing his parents. But no, Dumbledore would forbid him to change anything. He wouldn’t even be allowed to prevent Pettigrew from committing mass murder and then pinning it on Sirius, who would rot for twelve years in Azkaban. Harry wished he could shut off his mind. He just didn’t want to think about it anymore.
“Harry,” said Dumbledore kindly, drawing him out of these painful, self-enclosing thoughts. “I know this must be very unpleasant for you. It will be stirring up very painful thoughts and emotions. I wish we didn’t need to do this – to send Mr. Godfry back to that fateful night – but I believe we must. This could provide us with the key to finally ridding our world of Voldemort. You have seen, firsthand, what the future holds, not only for the magical world, but for the Muggle world also, if Voldemort is not stopped.”
Harry didn’t respond, he just continued staring down at the carpet. “I imagine that you are thinking about all the ways, in which your parents’ lives might be saved. Am I correct?” Dumbledore asked Harry, sympathetically.
Harry nodded silently, his sad eyes downcast.
“Unfortunately, I cannot allow it. If Mr. Godfry attempts to change anything at all on that Halloween night, the result will almost certainly be totally disastrous. In all documented cases, the outcome has inevitably been calamitous for the one who changed the past. The result is almost always the opposite of what was intended. But that aside, it should be quite obvious to you what the immediate consequence would be in this case, if Mr. Godfry attempted to save your parents.”
“You mean Voldemort wouldn’t lose all his powers and disappear,” said Harry, blankly, still looking down at the floor.
“Exactly,” said Dumbledore. “You are, perhaps, unaware of how dire the situation was at that time – you couldn’t know. Voldemort’s power was growing daily. The Order of the Phoenix was heavily outnumbered. The Ministry of Magic was weak and riddled with Death Eaters in high places. Voldemort’s victory seemed a certainty – it was only a matter of time. Many of the weaker witches and wizards, who were not at all sympathetic to Voldemort’s cause, were, nevertheless, flocking to his ranks – to save themselves.”
“Like that traitor, Pettigrew!” spat Harry.
“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, sighing. He was silent for a few moments, lost in memories of the horrors of those times. “Things were even worse then, than they were at the beginning of this year. If Voldemort had not killed your parents that night and then attempted to kill you – and in so doing, met his downfall, he would undoubtedly have soon triumphed over the Order and those who still opposed him. Your parents, along with everyone else in the Order, would ultimately have perished, along with the Squibs, the Muggle-born witches and wizards, and many others. I know you resent your fame, Harry,” said Dumbledore, smiling kindly at him. “But you have to understand the feeling of joy and deliverance from a great and impending doom, that the wizarding world felt when they learned of Voldemort’s demise, that Halloween night when he failed to kill you.”
Harry remained silent, his eyes fixed steadfastly to the floor.
After a few moments, Dumbledore turned his attention back to Rick. “You may not change anything, at all. You may only observe the painful events of that night, as they unfold. Under no circumstances may you interfere with those events. To do so, would almost certainly mean that Voldemort would not fall on that night. I need hardly tell you what the terrible consequences would be. I am certain that none of us want to find ourselves living in such a world.”
Rick nodded his agreement. “I will abide by your wishes, to the letter, Professor Dumbledore. So when do I go?” he asked.
“The sooner, the better,” said Dumbledore. “In fact, I suggest you go right now. You will have noticed that when you travel through time, your location remains unchanged. I suggest you make yourself invisible and Apparate directly to Godric’s Hollow. Then, go back to the 31st of October, 1981, at around six o’clock in the evening. That should give you several hours before Voldemort arrives. We will wait for you here. You should return to the exact moment in time that you departed. To us, it will seem like you were hardly gone at all, regardless of how long you actually spend in the past. Good luck, Rick – and remember the golden rule of Time Travel: Change nothing!”
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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Coming up: Chapter 21 ~ Halloween 1981
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