Disclaimer: Standard stuff (I don't own any characters, I won't be making profit, any resemblance to previously published content is purely coincidental, etc.). If I make any legal errors regarding copyrighted material, inform me and I will correct them immediately. Don't sue me.
The Dementor and the Mind Game
"Harry, where in the world have you been?!" Hermione cried out as Ender plopped down onto the bench at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. "We've been looking for you since dinner last night, and Ron said you never even came back to the dorms!"
"Library," Ender grunted, rubbing his eyes beneath Harry Potter's glasses (which had been broken and repaired so many times that they were probably more magic than glass and metal at this point) and pouring himself some orange juice. "And good bloody morning to you, too."
Ender had spent nearly the entire night—with the exception of two thirty-minute naps—scouring the library. He had not searched for any specific information; instead, he had made a list of topics he would need to investigate, possible applications of the material, and relevant book titles. He needed to become well-versed in many subjects, including time travel, magical history, this reality's non-magical history (since the existence of magic would undoubtedly have an impact), politics, finances, and over a dozen magical disciplines (first on the list was, of course, legilimency and its defense, known as occlumency). All of this information was organized in a single—albeit heavily-enchanted—three-ring binder. Thankfully, Harry Potter, like many Muggle-raised students, had not yet abandoned normal stationary in favor of parchment for note-keeping, which meant that his research would be much easier to organize.
"The library?" Ron repeated incredulously. "What the bloody hell were you doing all night in the library?"
"Reading," Ender replied after a long, slow blink, trying to make it clear that he was too tired for this interrogation. "I needed to get up to speed on some stuff."
Hermione opened her mouth to ask what, exactly, Harry needed to "get up to speed" on, when she was interrupted by Professor McGonagall's voice.
"Your new schedule, Mister Potter," she said sternly, her tone betraying slight irritation as she dropped a sheet of parchment next to Ender's plate. "I hope you are not biting off more than you can chew. As interesting as last night's staff meeting was, I am hoping that you have no more surprises in store for us."
"Well, I suppose that depends, professor," Ender replied, giving McGonagall a cheeky grin. "I'm going to have to speak to Professor Sinistra tonight after Astronomy class. Astronomy has always been a hobby of mine, you see."
McGonagall tightened her control over her face to try to hide her smile, but Ender saw the corners of her lips turn upwards and her eyes sparkle with wry amusement beneath her raised eyebrows. In fact, Ender knew from Harry Potter's memories that the Astronomy curriculum was strictly academic, with relatively little use of magic; in general, the wizarding study of astronomy was old-fashioned by contemporary non-magical standards, and positively primitive by Command School standards. It was primarily based on the memorization of star charts, with a few occasional forays into applications (like determining one's general location by the position of the stars) sprinkled throughout the higher-year courses. Given his extensive astronavigation training, Ender was fairly certain that a few hours of study time (to be able to regurgitate the few necessary magical factoids) would be sufficient for him to pass the Astronomy OWL; like History of Magic, Astronomy had no NEWT course. He would just need to be careful to avoid accidentally letting slip any information that had not yet been discovered by non-magical astronomers.
As soon as McGonagall walked away, Hermione rounded on Ender.
"Harry, what was she talking about?" Hermione demanded. "Why are you getting a new schedule already? And what's this about Astronomy?"
Ender sighed, resigning himself to maneuvering around Harry Potter's closest friends, along with the other students and staff members who were overly fixated on The Boy Who Lived...so, basically, everyone at Hogwarts and throughout magical Britain.
This is going to become very irritating, very quickly.
A shapeshifter that will take the form of my greatest fear. How very Mind Game of this reality...maybe the Sorting Hat was full of shit, after all. This can't possibly go horribly wrong.
What was Ender's greatest fear? In Ender's current circumstance, a strong argument could be made for the memory charm—the fact that Lockhart was still (and likely would remain) laid up in the psych ward of St. Mungo's proved that it was possible to effectively erase an entire identity. What if Dumbledore (who was obviously up to some Colonel Graff-type of scheming with regard to Harry Potter) found out about Ender, and simply erased his mind from Harry's brain? The Sorting Hat—and Ender's continued ability to access Harry's memories—had made it clear that one well-aimed obliviate could have Ender walking around thinking he was Harry Potter.
Of course, what if the boggart was able to delve deep, and get at his true greatest fear? Would it be one of his recurring nightmares from Battle and Command School, like an image of buggers slaughtering Valentine? Would it be an image of the destruction of the bugger homeworld, of Ender's nigh-unforgivable genocide? Would it be his corpse, floating around in microgravity and leaving a trail of frozen droplets of blood? Or...maybe the boggart would be able to go straight for the jugular. Because when it came down to it, the only thing Ender was truly afraid of was—
Ah. Of course.
Though Lupin had moved to intercept the boggart—and in the instant before it changed, Ender realized that the professor, conscious of Harry Potter's history, had expected it to turn into Voldemort, or perhaps the scene of Lily Potter's murder (both possibilities being undoubtedly unsuitable for a class full of civilian children)—Neville Longbottom had clumsily bumped into Ender in his attempt to escape from the rolling thorax of Ron's legless spider, pushing him closer to the creature. Lupin came up short, and the boggart turned toward Ender and changed.
Suddenly, where the legless spider had been stood a tall teenager, clearly well into his transformation from boy to man. Objectively, he was very handsome: he had a square jaw, high (almost aristocratic) cheekbones, and dark hair—combed into a neat, conservative side part—that provided an attractive sort of contrast from his relatively pale skin. His broad shoulders and long, muscular limbs suggested an active lifestyle, and perhaps involvement in some organized sport. The young man looked nearly of an age to attend university, and the way his deep cobalt eyes sparkled with an unsubtle suggestion of intelligence simply strengthened the impression of maturity.
However, for all the boggart's physical allure—and indeed, many of the teenaged girls in the room were practically ogling it—there was something undeniably wrong about every single one of his otherwise attractive features. He held himself arrogantly (if such a thing was even possible), like someone accustomed to using his physical size and strength to intimidate smaller and weaker children. His thin lips were pulled back in a way that a fool might call a mischievous smirk, but which anyone else would call a sneer of disdain or disgust, as too many of those too-perfect teeth were showing, while his nostrils were flared in a way that almost evoked an image of a cornered dog showing its fangs. His pale skin had an almost corpse-like pallor, and a closer look at his sparkling eyes revealed that, in truth, they were glinting as malevolently as the edge of a knife in a darkened room. As quickly as they had appreciated the boggart's beauty, everyone in the room was almost overcome with an appreciation of how terrifying the boggart had become. Suddenly, banshees, mummies, and spiders didn't seem quite so scary anymore.
Peter, the undefeated demon of Ender's childhood. Peter, the invincible foe, against whom Ender had always lost. Peter, the ruthless psychopath who had been deemed too violent even for Battle School...and this was the same Battle School that had admitted Ender in spite of—or perhaps even because of—the way he had brutally murdered a bullying classmate before he even reached the tender age of six. For Ender, he would always be Peter the Terrible. For the rest of the world—except perhaps Valentine, though she had helped the madman effectively achieve his dreams of world conquest—he would always be Peter the Great. Peter the Peaceful. Locke, who had used his pseudonym on the 'net to end a civil war and launch himself into the Hegemony, while Ender had murdered an entire species.
Ender froze, and his thoughts ground to a halt as the terrifying avatar of Peter Wiggin stalked forward and grabbed his throat with one strong hand. Not-Peter pulled Ender close, and leaned down until the two were practically nose-to-nose. Ender was vaguely aware that Lupin was pointing his wand at the boggart—presumably preparing to save his student in the event that the boggart actually began to do physical harm—but the rest of his mind was focused on Not-Peter's eyes. Somehow, he knew that the boggart was not yet done, had not yet struck its true blow...but that it was about to come.
A few seconds—or minutes, or hours, as Ender currently did not possess the ability to process the passage of time—later, the boggart's expression changed, and Ender would have gasped, but he seemed to have completely lost the ability to breathe. With a expression of empathy on his face, Peter looked remarkably like an older version of Ender.
"WE ARE THE SAME," Not-Peter intoned. The words struck Ender like hammers, with the force of law and murder and divine judgement, and everything in-between. In that instant, the boggart's eyes changed unmistakably to Ender's. They were the same shade of blue, but simultaneously kinder and yet infinitely harder, the eyes of a murderer a billion times over who has reconciled himself to the truth of his criminal nature. Stricken, Ender gasped and fell to his knees as the air rushed out of his lungs, while the boggart spoke a second time, with such authority and finality that there could be no possible argument, "YOU ARE JUST LIKE ME."
The boggart's words were the final straw for Remus Lupin. The new professor had begun to stride purposefully toward his stricken student as soon as the boggart opened its mouth, and grabbed the boy's arm seconds after he fell. Lupin pulled him away from the boggart, putting himself in Harry's place; after a few beats of indecision, the boggart instinctively changed to Remus's fear.
The silvery orb of the full moon stared him right in the face, and even though it was his true fear, it was also an old fear, largely conquered by virtue of experience. Without another thought, Remus waved his wand, shouted the incantation, and watched as the familiar silhouettes of four animals danced across its surface before the boggart burst into vapor and disappeared—though he hadn't laughed aloud, there was enough mirth, friendship, and brotherhood in his memories of those times that no boggart could ever stand a chance.
The classroom was absolutely silent. Several seconds later, Ender looked up, having finally slowed his breathing and heartbeat enough that he was no longer on the verge of passing out. Everyone in the room stared at him, shocked at the intensity of his reaction to what had admittedly been more terrifying than every other students' boggarts combined. Ron was pale, Neville was straightening back up (having actually vomited from anxiety), and Hermione already had tears running down her cheeks, no doubt imagining all the horrible things that her friend could have been subjected to for that (an older, stronger, unmistakably cruel boy) to be his worst fear, ahead of the likes of dementors, basilisks, and Voldemort. Lupin—likely having some of the same thoughts, if his stricken expression was any guide—stepped back slightly and removed his hand from Ender's arm, as though Ender was a wounded animal that needed to be handled with absolute care.
How the hell do I spin this?
"Well, that's the first full week down...only thirty-nine left until summer!" the headmaster quipped. Most of the staff rolled their eyes—Albus Dumbledore had opened the first end-of-week staff meeting (since the actual first week of classes had been a half-week, the meeting had waited until the end of the second week) with that same weak joke every year since he had become headmaster, and contrary to his annual assurances, it did not "get funnier with age." "How was everyone's first week of classes?"
Most of the professors grumbled halfheartedly. They had work to do, essays to grade, research to conduct...generally, the first several staff meetings of each year were widely viewed as being wasteful of their valuable time, as there hadn't yet been enough facetime with the students to get any useful impressions. However, this year, one of the professors was visibly more excited than usual, and another was extremely tense.
"Surprising," Aurora Sinistra mused aloud, drawing a silent cacophony of raised eyebrows, as it was rare indeed for the tall, dark, alluringly mysterious witch to volunteer an opinion. "Very surprising."
After several beats of tense silence, Albus—intrigued, and worried that the brilliant astronomer might have been surprised by Harry Potter—felt the need to move things along.
"Would you care to elaborate, my dear?" he prompted, attempting—and, as far as most of the staff were concerned, failing—to hide his voracious interest with an affected air of casual humor.
Aurora's eyes briefly flicked to the deputy headmistress, and Minerva immediately knew where this was going.
"Well, Mister Potter rather cornered me after class the other night," the astronomer remarked, ignoring the instant hubbub and casually inspecting her manicured and polished fingernails. Knowing Aurora's sassy, sarcastic sense of humor (many who knew Aurora Sinistra maintained that she was the best kind of Slytherin for this exact reason), the rest of the staff immediately recognized that she was mocking Albus's poorly-disguised hyperinterest in anything related to Harry Potter, and several suspiciously-mirthful snorts and coughs were heard from around the table. "In short, he requested entrance into my OWL-level class. Given Septima's experience the other day, I decided to humor him, so I administered a quick quiz of his knowledge of Astronomy and he impressed me enough that I forwarded the paperwork to your inbox this afternoon, Minerva."
"I haven't gotten to it yet—the bloody Weasley twins kept me too busy to knock out all my paperwork today—but I will admit that I rather expected this from Mister Potter," the deputy headmistress admitted, nodding. "When I gave him his updated schedule, he mentioned that he would be speaking to you, claiming that Astronomy had been something of a hobby, though I wondered at the time if he had been joking. I assume you feel that he will be able to keep up with the pace of the class?"
"Oh, most definitely. Mister Potter has clearly studied Astronomy from a non-magical perspective, and it has obviously served him very well indeed," Aurora murmured. Her choice of words reminded the rest of the staff that Aurora was a rare creature in magical Britain, in that she was known for her effusive praise of muggle technology (particularly in the fields related to astronomy, such as optics and space flight), despite her social status as a wealthy pureblood. "In fact, it's almost a shame that the Ministry only administers the OWLs in June; I quite suspect that Mister Potter could score an O if he took the OWL today."
After the exclamations and murmurs died down, Pomona Sprout asked the new Defense Against the Dark Arts how his first week of teaching had gone. She had heard some vague rumors that spoke of something happening with the third-year Gryffindors, though most of the students were being uncharacteristically close-lipped about whatever had transpired.
Lupin's jaw clenched, and his lips pulled back into a disturbed frown.
"As a student in my third year, I found the practice of subjecting children to their worst fear—before their peers, no less—questionable, if not outright distasteful. This week has impressed upon me the unshakable belief that this practice is barbaric at best, and frankly, quite cruel."
"What?" Snape scoffed, "did some of the little brats cry? I say if they can't handle a little fear, then that just goes to show that perhaps the Defense Against the Dark Arts professorship should have gone to someone—"
"Like you?" Lupin snapped, his eyes sharpening. "Funny you should mention that, considering how many of the students seemed to fear you above all else. In fact, at least one student per class—yes, including your precious Slytherins—had their boggart take your form."
"Who was it?" Snape roared. "I'll give them something—"
"How proud you must be, you petty, cruel, snivelling little man, to know that some of the children in your care consider you to be the most terrifying thing in the world!" the Defense professor snarled, practically panting as he finally vented some of the anger that had been stewing in his chest for the last few days. The normally calm man was clearly on the verge of violence, and his typically nondescript brown eyes began to lighten to a bright amber, while his canine teeth began to visibly lengthen to fangs. Recognizing that Lupin was losing grip on his tenuous hold over the beast within, the rest of the professors leaned away from him, fingering their wands beneath the table. Thankfully, Lupin forcibly pulled his attention away from the offending potioneer, appearing to calm himself as he instead focused his eyes toward the head of the table.
"Albus, Minerva, I am terribly disappointed in you both, for the way you allow one of your professors to terrorize—yes, bloody well terrorize—your students," Remus ground out. His words clearly had a heavy impact; the headmaster's eyes had long lost their trademark twinkle, and both he and McGonagall were glaring at Snape in a way that promised swift and terrible retribution. Remus, however, had one final bombshell to drop.
"And speaking of terrified students, would one of you care to explain how exactly the fuck Harry Potter came into contact with a teenaged Voldemort within the walls of Hogwarts?!"
Though Defense Against the Dark Arts—as taught by Professor Lupin—quickly became most students' favorite class, that was not quite the case for Ender. The simple fact was that, for all of Lupin's enthusiasm and charisma, most of the information in his curriculum was little more than worthless trivia. For example, it didn't matter that one could bow at a kappa, enticing it to bow in turn, and thus spill the water from its bowl-shaped head; it would be much easier, more efficient, and more reliable to simply shoot it with a gun (or, given the wizarding aversion to all things "muggle," hit it with virtually any direct-damage curse). That seemed to be a common theme with the majority of the threats discussed in Lupin's class. At the very least, no further mention was made of Ender's boggart after he explained that it was a teenaged Tom Riddle; luckily, Peter Wiggin resembled the fledgling Dark Lord to a surprising degree (certainly to the extent of a detailed description of his features), and any visual differences could easily be attributed to "Harry's" fear of blending into or becoming Tom.
No, DADA continued to be tedious, Herbology continued to be...well, gardening, Potions continued to be an exercise in ignoring Snape's baleful gaze and muttered epithets (as most of his previous practices had been toned down a great deal after a blistering chewing-out from both Dumbledore and McGonagall that had been heard all the way to the Hufflepuff dorms), Runes proved to be largely memorization (and would remain so until the OWL-level), and the entire Astronomy curriculum continued to be roughly equivalent to a much simpler version of a single night's astronavigation homework from Ender's first year at Battle School. When it came down to it, Ender had only one truly interesting course: Arithmancy.
Ender was finding himself in the all-too-familiar position of being resented by older students for his excellence, as the math was simplistic for him (in fact, for Ender it was literally child's play) but remained nearly impenetrable to the average OWL student. However, if there was one thing that Battle School had taught him, it was how to ignore being hated by older students for being better than them. Instead, Ender focused his energy on the applications of practical arithmancy: enchanting, warding, ritual design, and spellcrafting. It was those last two that had ensnared the majority of his attention; if there was any way to return to his own reality (or at least improve his life as Harry Potter in this one), then ritual magic and creating his own spells were likely the best way to do it. As a result of this focus, he rapidly became Septima Vector's prized pupil, constantly astonishing her with how quickly he was moving through the fifth-year curriculum.
On top of his Arithmancy tunnel vision (though, true to form, he quickly rocketed to the top of the year in every class—even Snape couldn't mark down a perfect potion), Ender was spending huge amounts of time in the library. Having gotten Professor Vector to sign a permission slip to access the Restricted Section (on the grounds that he would need to "catch up to the OWL standard"), Ender was practically devouring books on virtually every available topic, at a rate unseen since Albus Dumbledore's own time at Hogwarts.
What little free time Ender had left was typically spent on the Quidditch pitch, though he had flatly refused to attend more than three practices per week; Oliver Wood had been nearly apoplectic with rage, but Ender argued that there was little point in the Seeker learning all the Chaser and Beater plays, since he would be so far removed from the rest of the players anyway. When Wood persisted, Ender put his foot down, making it clear that his first priority was school, and that if Wood wanted a Seeker who could attend more than three practices per week, then he would need to find someone else for the position. Faced with the prospect of losing the best Seeker in the school (especially since there were virtually no decent fliers remaining in Gryffindor), Wood backed down, but made sure to eke out every ounce of performance from Ender during the the practices. Ender—accustomed to the much more physically active lifestyle of an International Fleet officer—welcomed the exercise, and supplemented it with daily morning runs, stretches, and bodyweight training. This exercise, in combination with the nutritional potion regimen (which Ender simply owl-ordered, lacking the time, skill, and inclination to brew on his own) he had begun after some cursory research into the subject, was rapidly improving Harry's Potter's previously sickly-thin physique. As a side effect of all of this activity, Ender was generally completely exhausted by the time he returned to Gryffindor Tower, and typically went to bed immediately (rather than hang out or do homework with his housemates).
Unfortunately, all of these distractions and draws on his time necessarily began to drive a wedge between Ender and Harry Potter's friends and peers. Hermione was finding it difficult to have her role in the group as the "smart one" usurped (especially with how easy Ender was making the classwork seem, considering the fact that most of his library research was obviously unrelated to his assignments), Ron was keenly missing the time he normally spent with Harry, and the remaining Gryffindors—with whom Harry had never truly been particularly close—were hard-pressed to find him at all outside of classes and meals. Ender, who was accustomed to being alone and had precious little in common with these children, did not spare much thought or worry to the status of his connection to these facets of Harry Potter's life.
In truth, Ender had found the companionship of the likes of Hermione and Ron to be lacking, made all the worse by his seeming inability to cease comparing them (unfavorably, in virtually every aspect) to his comrades, subordinates, and acquaintances from Battle School and Command School. Hermione was clever, yes, and loyal in her own—often nagging—way, but she was no Petra, and certainly no Valentine (though in fairness, Ender knew that he would never be able to compare anyone favorably to his sister). Ron had been stalwart in the past, but he lacked practically every other quality that Ender had valued in his lieutenants: Bean's intensity and brilliance, Alai's unconditional acceptance...he even fell short of matching the wild abandon of the likes of Dink and Crazy Tom. Meanwhile, the rest of Harry's friends and acquaintances at Hogwarts were so inferior to those of his own reality as to barely warrant any comparison at all; for example, no Battle School cadet had ever been as clumsy or inept as Neville Longbottom (yes, there was a tiny kernel of courage there, but it was hidden far beneath his many debilitating insecurities), and even the bullies of magical Britain were almost cartoonishly stupid and weak-willed. For all his cruelty and pride, Bonito "Bonzo" de Madrid had been an intelligent and capable commander in his own right, and possessed his own brand of honor (which had ironically allowed Ender to goad him into single combat), while—at the risk of making a sweeping generalization—Draco Malfoy and his ilk were arrogant almost beyond belief, morally bankrupt, and seemingly bereft of any potentially-redeeming qualities whatsoever.
It was this same detachment from the vast majority of the student body and the overall happenings of Hogwarts that led Ender to lose track of the one issue that had in fact been the root (if indirect) cause of his entry into this reality. It came as a surprise, then, when on the final day of October—Ender Wiggin's own thirteenth birthday, as well as a day of national celebration in magical Britain, both from ancient pagan traditon and, more recently, in honor of Harry Potter's defeat of Voldemort in 1981—after the annual Halloween Feast, Sirius Black came to call on Gryffindor Tower.
Sorry this took so damnably long—over two months! As ever, real life has continued in its rather rude tendency to poke its way into time I had previously set aside for the noble pursuit of writing.
I'd like to thank Kerowyn6 for pointing out an error I made, which resulted in me skimming this chapter and finding an embarrassing number of typos and misspellings
The canon third year class schedule is notably vague and inconsistent, so I shied away from being clear on what days and times Harry has each class. That will continue, but it shouldn't damage readability because there will be timeskips to pass between major events anyway.
The purpose of the staff meetings is to more closely parallel the structure of Ender's Game (the conversations between Graff and Anderson, and later between Graff and Chamrajnagar), and also to give me a chance to show some "behind the scenes" action at Hogwarts. Plus, teachers have feelings too! Well, maybe not Snape. ;)
Speaking of the teachers, I have received several PMs about their behavior. Specifically, Lupin's relatively short fuse, compared to his somewhat more laid-back canon attitude. There are a few major reasons for Lupin's slightly-uncharacteristically short fuse in this chapter. First, he was very recently on an emotional rollercoaster when Harry was Kissed, on top of already being touchy about Harry, since he was hired almost entirely to protect him against Sirius Black. Second, Snape's constant belittling of Harry made the issue of Snape's abuse of the students (to the point where several of them fear Snape more than anything else) a personal matter, which only served to feed the simmering hatred between the two men. Third, it was a hell of a mindfuck when Harry's boggart turned out to be a version of Voldemort that he should never have encountered, and only ever met because of the staff's reckless attitude toward the students' safety. As far as Lupin is concerned, the fact that a 12-year-old Harry needed to risk his life to stop Voldemort again constituted a huge failure on the part of the staff in general, and the headmaster in particular. Fourth, it is seriously fucked up that the headmaster-who has presumably spent the last dozen years defending Snape against constant complaints about his douchebaggery-has allowed Snape to so thoroughly abuse his students that he has literally become their worst nightmare, and any objective person would strongly argue against Snape's behavior on that point alone. Finally, he's a werewolf-with all those factors getting his blood pumping, he is gonna have a tough time keeping his cool. As for Snape's behavior...honestly, in canon, he's pretty over-the-top when it comes to how vindictive and petty he can be, especially whenever Harry or any of the Marauders are mentioned. I don't think his reactions-defensiveness, outrage, and an immediate attempt at reprisal-are OOC for him. Keep in mind that Snape acted like this throughout the first three books, before he had the excuse of "needing to keep up his cover" as an explanation for his atrocious behavior; when it comes down to it, Snape is a prick.