Chapter Fifty-Seven: Past and Present
Friday, 4th August 2000.
Merlin watched Harry and Hermione reappear in the Atrium of Aether, both seemingly upset over the topics they had been discussing moments earlier.
"That could have gone worse." Harry mused, and Hermione turned to look at him with disbelief.
"Not by much. Every Unspeakable in that room was about ready to lock us up and pour Veritaserum down our throats."
"True. And we told them we plan to come back and look at the Veil tomorrow." Harry replied. "Might have to think of a way to deal with that. They're not going to be happy with us."
Merlin smirked at the pair. "If I may interject?"
They both looked up, seeming to realize they were not alone here for the first time. "Sorry." Harry apologized.
"Not a problem. I just had a few things I needed to discuss with you. If you will follow me." Merlin instructed and headed off down the ramp leading to the lower levels.
The hologram did not need to turn to tell that Harry and Hermione were indeed following along behind, the sensors of the base fed directly into his remote interface, acting as his eyes and ears. The three continued through several of the levels, coming to an area that he knew the group did not often bother to visit. Even less so since they moved to Aedis.
Merlin opened the door but did not yet enter, instead turning to the pair.
"Thanks to the advanced sensors that you all chose to equip Aether with, I was able to detect the energy pattern of the time loop beginning at the SGC stargate. This is what allowed me to sever the connection to Atlantis in time to prevent the effect from translating through to there as well.
"They also allowed me to be aware of the beginning and end of each loop. While all matter within the time loop reset to its position at the beginning, including myself as I am still based in the Glastonbury Lab, I was still able to interface with Aether as normal between the resets. The defences you layered over Aether, especially the dimensional protection against the Ascended, allowed it some small measure of protection. Some parts most certainly reset, which I have spent the evening accounting for as some parts of the base are now four months older than others…"
"Is Aether alright?" Hermione asked, seemingly concerned for their former home.
"Are you ok?" Harry asked at the same moment.
Merlin smiled at their ability to hold dear so many intangible and inanimate things. A trait that Merlin himself did not yet truly understand. Humans were a fascinating group.
"We will both be fine. The important part is that I was able to detect the approach of two Asgard probes." Merlin stated and Hermione gasped. "And an Asgard starship. When the vessel did not attempt to vacate the loop before the reset began, I acted in the brief window before I would reset myself."
Hermione did not wait for more information, rushing into the open room and letting out another gasp of surprise, despite Merlin being fairly certain she knew what lay within. Harry glanced at Merlin curiously before he followed Hermione into the room.
When they had built Aether, the group hadn't really had any need for such a room. But Merlin had added it nonetheless. He believed that Luna was aware of its existence, but as they had no need for stasis at the time, the room of ten pods was left unused during their time here.
Now, however, two of the pods contained the small grey-skinned figures of two Asgard.
"How?" Hermione asked.
"This central portion of Aether under the gate and Atrium is the most heavily shielded, and thus was most able to resist the reset each time. Having said that, certain things inside of the base did still behave erratically. So, rather than having them walking about, at risk of falling prey to these anomalies, for however long the event might last, I suggested they wait out the loop in stasis."
Harry walked over to the nearest pod and looked over the control panel in the wall.
"Their life signs are stable. We can let them out now." He suggested, and Merlin nodded.
Harry tapped the controls next to the pod and took a step back as the crystalline insides retreated around the figure. He held out a hand as the small Asgard stumbled forward a little, grabbing the offered appendage rather than face-planting.
"Hi," Harry said, in their usual Alteran.
"Thank you." The Asgard replied, matching the language. "I am Laga. Where is Glúm?"
Hermione stepped over to the other pod. "I would guess that this is Glúm in here." She said, triggering the revival process on the pod.
Harry, Laga and Merlin all watched as the pod opened and Glúm grasped at the offered hand as well. Before both Asgard righted themselves.
Glúm looked around Hermione, staring straight at Merlin. "Thank you."
Merlin nodded in return. "You are most welcome."
"How do you feel?" Hermione asked.
Glúm looked over to Laga, who just nodded to her in response. "We are both well. Far better than we would have been without your assistance. I take it that the Heimskhan is gone."
"That is correct. Destroyed by the loop resetting." Merlin explained.
The vessel had been too large to attempt to rescue in time. He had barely rescued the two Asgard off the ship before the reset had come into effect. Upon reconnecting to Aether after resetting himself, he had been rather surprised to find the pair still within the structure.
"How long has it been?" Laga asked.
"The reset that destroyed your ship occurred on what should have been Sunday the 27th of August," Merlin explained. "As such, it has been another one hundred and two days since you entered stasis."
Glúm and Laga looked at one another in surprise. "Sooner than we had expected. Was it one of your own number that broke the loop?" Laga asked.
"No, it was SG-1. Although we still don't know all the details of the incident." Hermione noted, repeating what Merlin had explained to her less than twenty minutes before.
The two Asgard looked at one another once again.
"It appears that Thor is right. The SGC bears watching." Glúm said to a nodding Laga.
"Merlin is keeping a close eye on things for now," Harry said, with a smile at the hologram.
Merlin nodded his appreciation.
"We should be getting back to Othalla," Glúm said. "Though any data you currently have on the anomaly would be appreciated. So that we might analyze it in detail."
Merlin looked to Harry for approval, but the boy just nodded in confirmation.
"Of course. If you come with me, I shall prepare a data burst we can send through with you to Othalla."
"Thank you all," Laga said as the three turned and headed from the room, leaving a still somewhat shocked Harry and Hermione behind.
Saturday, 5th August 2000.
Harry and Hermione beamed into place, he noticed that the room seemed far darker when one entered it via the bright energy transportation method.
He could immediately hear the muddled whispered voices coming from the Veil, but ignored them as his eyes adjusted. He saw that there were at least half a dozen Unspeakables arranged around the dais, pointing their wands up at the two of them. Hermione glanced at Harry and shook her head, turning away from them.
Neither of them were overly concerned by the Unspeakables as they were both in their full spacesuits today, with the built-in energy shield active, more to prevent danger from any further backlash from the Veil than the wizards. If any of them were stupid enough to attack them, they would still be very capable of returning fire.
Hermione immediately moved over to the Veil itself and pulled out a powerful scanner that Harry had requested Merlin manufacture the night before after the Asgard had returned to Othalla. One designed for this very purpose. He on the other hand, merely knelt in place and pulled a large device from the bag hanging off his shoulder.
Glancing at the few Unspeakables in his line of vision, Harry shook his head and laid the device on the dias before activating it. Almost immediately four walls of light shot out from the device and came to a rest at the edges of the dais. The device was a portable shield generator he had spent a significant portion of the previous night designing and building for the purpose of keeping the bloody Unspeakables at bay.
Harry was not going to mess around with the Veil with that lot constantly hounding their backs. He had learnt his lesson after the last time. Not to mention the way they had behaved upon learning that he and Hermione knew details about what had occurred the day before.
"Cover is up." He said to Hermione as he turned away from the spells now firing into the potent shield.
Hermione nodded as she began to scan the stone archway. This was something they had wanted to do for some time now, but had always been reluctant to try. Gaining access to the room was never the problem. Keeping the Unspeakables away while they worked was. Luna had estimated it would be three minutes before Croaker arrived if he was on-site at the time. Seventeen if he had to be called in from home.
Harry checked his remote and noted the time. He had promised her a reward of her choosing if her guess had proven accurate, after all.
"This thing is fascinating," Hermione said as she circled the large archway.
Harry could see the information streaming out of the device Hermione was waving back and forth over the structure. It clearly showed the unstable wormhole contained within the arch. The shimmering fabric of the veil itself was merely a malfunction. It was originally meant to function as a shield, preventing people from accidentally stepping into what was primarily a communication device.
However, as Myrddin had once told them, Moros was a politician when he built this place, not the scientific mind he became upon returning to this plane after millennia of ascension.
According to these fluctuating readings, it was a miracle that Sirius had survived his journey through it. For most who had been fed to the thing over the years, it had indeed functioned as a Veil of Death. Though it was certainly possible a handful may have survived the trip as well. But Harry very much doubted they lasted for very long afterwards.
Even Sirius had been seriously injured by the trip, and Harry had to be begrudgingly thankful to Qetesh for her selfish desires that had saved his godfather's life.
"It has a connection to other devices on Earth," Hermione said curiously, drawing Harry's gaze.
"Where?" He asked though he had a fair idea.
If the Brits had built their centre of government around this ancient monument, he would not be surprised to see others do the same.
"There are another four being detected by this one. I am trying to pull location data now." Hermione replied, tapping away on her own remote as she moved.
Harry turned to look through the shield as three minutes passed. Two of the Unspeakables were now hammering on the yellow-coloured energy walls by hand. Not that it was having any kind of effect. While it did not contain a potentia, that little generator was more than powerful enough to last all day without any problem.
He knew there would be consequences to doing their assessment like this, but he would not risk their lives around this thing. Not with that lot. He had clearly seen the hungry stance on all of them before Shack had shooed them into the office. They wanted to take Hermione and himself and hide them somewhere in the bowels of this Department and drain them of information.
Stupid, really, when they were prepared to offer that information fairly freely. And they didn't have much at that time either.
"Harry, come look at this please," Hermione said, and Harry turned away from their vain effort to gain entry.
Hermione was standing in front of the wavering veil staring into the opening.
"What do these readings look like to you?" She asked, showing him the hovering tablet she had pulled out.
Harry looked at the datastream, occasionally focusing on certain aspects before one, in particular, jumped out at him. Harry groaned audibly and Hermione glanced at him.
"Yeah. That's what I thought too. This thing leads into the Ascended Dimension."
"I guess Moros wanted to be able to converse with his already Ascended friends while he worked on getting there himself," Harry said. "And I suppose that explains the voices Luna and I can hear. Though not why we're the only ones hearing them."
Hermione frowned at the reminder there was something there she couldn't sense. But she quickly shook it off. "Maybe he thought it best not to put all the details into the Mirror. In case an unsavoury sort found their way to it." Hermione added, and Harry knew she was referring to the way Merlin had explained the device to them for the first time. Merely mentioning Moros's 'far-flung fellows'. Giving them the impression it was for communication with other planets, not other planes.
The pair continued to run their scans in silence for several long minutes, and were on the verge of packing it up and moving to one of the other detected locations when a loud noise drew Harry's attention back to the shield wall.
Over two dozen figures were now standing outside, several firing spell after spell at the resilient energy field. But it was the one in the middle glaring at him that had Harry check his remote again. It had indeed been seventeen minutes since he had activated the shield. And there was Croaker.
"Open up now." The man said, barely audible past the floor-to-ceiling shield. Especially with the noise of the spells firing off and splashing harmlessly against it.
Harry turned and smiled at Hermione who tucked her tablet away. He gave her a shrug and Hermione pulled her wand, aiming it down the length of the scanner as she twisted it slowly.
Harry and the Unspeakables outside watched as the fabric stopped waving in an unseen light breeze and stiffened completely. Harry stood and stepped over to help her, drawing his own wand and aiming at the other side of the ethereal material.
As the two worked together, weaving their wands back and forth, the Veil once more smoothed against the surface of the invisible wormhole within. Reforming into the protective surface that it was supposed to be instead of the pointless waving about that had no effect beyond being pretty.
There was a reverberating slurping sound as the bottom of the field reconnected to the stone base and Harry and Hermione stepped back with a heavy sigh at the exertion it had required of them both.
All sound from outside the shield had stopped and Harry didn't even bother turning to look at them this time. He simply laid his hand on Hermione's shoulder to draw her eye.
"Good work." He said before he turned to the shield generator. "You go first. I'll bring this and be along right away. I've no desire to speak to him like this." Harry added, indicating the livid man outside.
"Be quick about it."
"If I could beam it away while active, I would. But it would make a mess of the Veil we just fixed." He replied and Hermione smiled and beamed off to the first of the additional sites.
Harry knelt beside the small device and tapped two commands into his remote ready to execute. The first would disable the generator, and collapse the shields. The second would beam both he and it to wherever Hermione had picked.
With a cheeky wave at the gathered Unspeakables, Harry tapped the command to chain-execute the two commands.
The shield collapsed, still catching a handful of spells that were cast too quickly by the gathered crowd. Before any of them could move to rush him, however, Harry vanished in a cloud of white light.
His only thought was that he would need to apologize to poor Kingsley for subjecting him to Croaker again today.
Monday, 7th August 2000.
Padma nursed her head. The intense thrumming headache she'd been nursing for days now would simply not go away.
Given Naga Panchami's lack of alcohol, she knew it was not due to overconsumption. But it felt very similar to the headache she'd suffered after allowing her sister and Lavender to convince her to go out for a solid night of drinking after the war had ended. They had all needed some time to come to terms with it all. Especially poor Lavender, given her new condition.
She tried to push the sensations aside as the others entered the brightly lit conference room in Aether. It had been decided, now everyone had spent the weekend visiting those they needed to see for some reason, that their 'usual' meeting would be held early and on Earth, so that 'everyone could attend at once'. Despite the fact that it was only the second one to take place since they had moved out of the place.
Several people had arrived from off-world. Including Luna escorting a very alive Sirius Black. While she knew the general true story of Sirius Black, it was still strange to see a man who had only ever been a sinister escaped criminal to her sitting across the table.
With the window behind her, Padma watched the nearby stargate flare to life again, but this time a pair of holograms shimmered into existence opposite her. She had never seen either of the figures before, but the others seemed to be familiar with them.
Merlin soon appeared in the room as well and it seemed that everyone who would be attending was now present. Including a few new faces, and unexpected figures as well.
"Welcome, everyone," Harry stated, drawing all eyes. "I have to be honest, this time last week, I wasn't sure half of you were… It is so good to see you all."
Similar sentiments were shared about the table and focusing on the discussion seemed to help Padma suppress whatever was causing her headache, the throbbing lessening.
"For those of you who have been on Earth since the party, allow me to introduce Doctor Elizabeth Weir, returning to Earth for the first time in ten thousand years." Harry indicated the withered old woman at the far end of the table who just smiled. "Seber Lal, Captain of the Aurora. And Lia Trebal, formerly of the Aurora, now Administrator of the Mind Palace of Atlantis."
The two holograms nodded their own acknowledgement, but neither of them spoke for the moment.
"For our new guests from Pegasus, I'd like you to meet Councilor Padma and Parvati Patil. Aurora Horn, our resident magical healer. My godfather, Sirius Black. Our military advisor, Jack West Jr., Nym Lupin, more commonly known as Tonks. And of course, Merlin, the intelligence running this lovely little home away from home.
That seemed to draw the attention of the holograms and aged woman, all of whom looked at Merlin like he was a ghost.
"We all, of course, know Cyla and Carson." The two simply smiled at the mention. "Dobby sends his apologies. It seems the house-elves took the breaking of the loop about as well as they did the raw ley line. I guess house-elves are a lot more sensitive to magical fluctuations than we are, which makes sense. But he already looks better than he did on Friday night, so should be back to sorts quickly enough." Harry finished.
The pause soon filled the air and Padma noticed there was a very strange feeling accompanying it. Both joyous and concerned at the same time.
"I guess we best start with why we're all here a week early. Has Merlin gotten you all up to date on what happened?"
Padma smirked at this. Merlin had explained that Earth had supposedly been trapped in a time loop for months, but there was no way that could have been true.
"I'll take that as a yes. And how many of you believed a word of it?" Harry asked, pausing again to look at those who had remained on Earth while they took their intergalactic trip. "Thought as much. Hermione?"
Hermione sat forward and activated a hologram of a set of ruins open to the air on a volcanic desert plain somewhere. They were beautiful in their own way, with the rounded columns leading away from the stargate over to a control panel of some description.
"Thanks to the information that Merlin acquired from the SGC, we sent vulta to Crona and have identified the time manipulation device in the ruins there. It seems that it requires a coronal mass emission from the planet's star in order to function. The Alteran were certainly experts at pulling energy from nearby stellar bodies.
"The scanned writings all over the ruins indicate these emissions occur roughly every fifty years. The most recent of which reached its peak on Friday. An archaeologist named Malakai, who had found the ruins, activated the device during that window while SG-1 was setting up equipment to assess the CME, before they intended to return to Earth. After finding Doctor Jackson had been knocked out by Malakai, and wrestling with the man as he attempted to further operate the controls, Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill were subject to the effects of the control system and were the only ones on Earth able to remember the loops."
"The sensors here in Aether did detect the anomaly as it momentarily engaged the SGC stargate," Merlin interjected. "I was able to disconnect the wormhole to Atlantis in time to prevent it from propagating any further. Though I do wonder if the loop would have collapsed if I had not."
The hologram became pensieve and seemed to be running some calculations. Padma was finding all of this very hard to believe. But now that they were seeing the evidence, it was becoming harder to refute in her mind. There was also something there, deep in her subconscious that seemed to want to accept it as the truth.
"It is possible that if the loop were forced into an adjacent galaxy via that connection, it would have collapsed due to insufficient power," Merlin added at last. "Or it could have caused the device and any world connected to it untold damage, possibly even exploding. But any such theory is mere conjecture."
"Thanks, Merlin," Harry said. "It's probably for the best that we weren't all trapped in there regardless."
Harry's eyes flicked to Doctor Weir for a moment, but no one seemed to pay it much notice. Harry gestured to Hermione to continue.
"The device used the energy in the ionized atmosphere caused by the CME to access the stargate's subspace field used to generate and sustain wormholes. As a side effect, or possibly by design, this meant it also simultaneously dialled over a dozen planets. Which created a time inversion outside of subspace and isolated all those worlds, including Earth in bubbles cut off from the normal flow of time."
Silence followed Hermione's declaration, and had those that had been in Pegasus not looked completely serious, Padma might have burst out laughing. The description was so complex, it barely registered as possible, much less the truth.
"You aren't kidding us, are you?" Aurora asked.
"No. Cast the age test spell on me or Neville if you don't believe us." Harry said.
Parvati pulled her wand and cast the spell at Harry while Padma did so to Neville. Both boys simply sat there as the spells confirmed what they had been telling them. That the two boys were four months older than they should have registered as.
"Ok then…" Padma said, laying her wand softly on the table. "What does that mean now?"
"Thankfully, Teal'c and O'Neill were able to translate the writings on the ruins. Something Merlin could have done on the first day if we had allowed him leeway to actually communicate with the SGC, rather than just watching. But, it's too late for that now. They were then able to explain to Malakai that the device would never function in the way he had hoped. Malakai shut it off and the bubbles returned to real-time." Hermione explained.
"Which caused every single place studying Time Magic on Earth to have a really bad day," Harry added.
"Correct. We analyzed the Department of Mysteries and a few of the other explosion sites. There were seven that featured some kind of Veil-like structure, each likely left behind by a Lantean as part of their meditation on Ascension. Though most were still properly intact, unlike the British one. Each one contained a weak unstable wormhole that passed into or through the Ascended Dimension, which is probably why no vulta we sent through ever survived the trip.
"The wild exploding Time Magic somehow interacted with those unstable wormholes and caused a memetic field that spread over the entire planet."
"Which means?" Sirius asked, looking at them like they had been using something other than words.
"Which means that all of this will just seem like a weird feeling in the back of the mind for almost everyone on Earth. They aren't even noticing the fact that being cut off from the universal flow of time means that most of the stars are, admittedly slightly, out of alignment now that the light from the edge of our bubble has reached Earth. Which would be panic-inducing front page news if people had noticed."
Harry continued. "The energy in the dimension that the Veil and its siblings tap into, which keeps that dimension from being detectable from this one unless you really know what you're doing," Harry glanced at Merlin for a moment and smirked, "reacted with the magic in just the right way to conceal all of this from ever having happened. So far as the general populace is concerned. Or... someone in that dimension took the opportunity to fiddle about. I doubt we'll ever truly be able to know for certain which."
"So that's it?" Aurora asked. "We lose four months and nobody bats an eye?"
"We will always know," Luna said simply. "And it's more that we gained four months than you lost them. You're not suddenly four months older, after all."
"Of which we should all be grateful," Hermione said. "Time Magic can have disastrous results when you are reintroduced to the regular time stream."
"And we did get a lot done in Pegasus," Neville added.
"Even found our wayward Black," Harry said, smirking at Sirius at the far end of the table.
"What about the Goa'uld?" Padma asked. She doubted they would have been idle.
"From what we can tell, they were totally oblivious to the loop," Natalie said. "We sent out a bunch of vulta and vulcator to explore both galaxies, and we have a much better idea of where they are based now. We're pretty safe from attack for the time being. Especially with Harry's satellite now in orbit."
"What satellite?" Parvati asked.
"Defensive beam satellite, I was thinking of calling them Aegis satellites. But it's too close to Aedis and we already have a lot of names that begin with A. So I'm still thinking on it. I set this one in place yesterday afternoon, and it is slaved to Aether, so we can control its response, even remotely. At least until Jack helps me figure out how to get this IFF thing working properly." Harry said, smiling at the soldier.
"Max is getting some more precise rundowns of how the technology works for you," Jack replied, seemingly more interested in this new satellite than the fact he'd been stranded in a time loop for months.
"How do we prevent something like this from happening again?" Tonks asked, leaning on the table.
"Well, given the nature of its operation," Harry mused, "and the danger a repeat event would potentially pose, I recommend that we vote on deconstructing the device completely."
"Shouldn't you study the device further?" Sirius suggested, "Perhaps you could weaponize it against your enemies."
"For starters, we couldn't use it again for another fifty years," Hermione explained, "when the next mass emission occurs. Even a potentia doesn't provide the right kind of power to operate the device. It requires the chaotic ionized energy created by ejected solar matter interacting with a charged atmosphere, and the electromagnetic storms that then creates, in order to energize it. Normal electrical power won't cut it. Secondly, it doesn't work. Twice now the device has been used and both times it simply trapped those trying to use it in a loop until they gave up and shut it off. According to the history left on the ruins, anyway."
"So anyone who did try to weaponize it would be trapped right there with their target. A target that could eventually figure out their address and come in force through the Stargate. As they would both be within the field of effect." Neville summarised.
"It definitely sounds like a lot more trouble than it is worth." Captain Lal said, and Padma found herself wondering if he might be related to Ganos in some way.
"You've found many such follies our people left in their wake." Administrator Trebal offered. "I think your policy of deconstruction is the wisest course of action. At the least, it would prevent others from accidentally stumbling across these experiments and activating them. Who knows what the effects of the next one might be."
"You've found more of these things?" Tonks asked.
"Not exactly. But there are a few experiments in Pegasus that we're in the process of shutting down." Richard said. "As soon as we can finish combing through the bloody things."
"What else have we missed?" Parvati asked, and Padma found herself wondering the same things.
Harry glanced at the others for a moment before he spoke. "Well, Atlantis is fully repaired and operational. We discovered and repaired the Aurora and have transferred most of her crew into the city." He said, pointing to Lal and Trebal. "Richard finished building Salvus, another Vis-class ship that is here in Avalon. We ran into the Wraith for the first time, and are working on ways of solving that galactic pain in the arse. Encountered a group of artificial constructs the Lanteans accidentally left behind. And I built a few smaller yachts and used them to start deploying defence satellites over the Asgard Protected Planets. That's about it, right?"
"You found me." Sirius chimed in, waving at Harry.
"True, and your friend Vala. And there is Ronon. He's a bit gruff, but I think he's warming up to us bit by bit."
Carson snorted at that but nodded. Padma wondered what this Ronon was like to engender such responses.
"But we mostly kept to ourselves." Harry continued. "Even only had a couple of conversations with the Asgard too. They seem to think there might be some of their people in Pegasus and they want us to keep an eye out."
Padma felt a swell of hatred towards the Asgard being mentioned and was momentarily overwhelmed by the sensation.
"Hey, are you alright?" Parvati asked, running her hand over Padma's back.
"Sorry. It hasn't been that bad in a long time." Padma replied, leaning against the table heavily.
"Sorry, Padma. We still haven't found anything that might clear that up for you." Hermione apologized.
"It's fine." Padma lied, not wanting them to waste the day fussing over her. She would deal with it when she returned to her quarters later. After all, she'd been busy focusing on enjoying her family celebrations, not squashing the presence within for the past few days, or months apparently. Depending on one's perspective.
Thinking like that was not helping her headache at all.
"Weren't we going to vote on deconstructing that time device?" Padma said, trying to direct attention away from her problem.
The others paused for a moment, most watching her closely and the scrutiny annoyed her more than ever. Thankfully it wasn't terribly long before Harry spoke up and drew attention away from her again.
"I have to agree. I'd sleep much easier knowing it can never be used again."
Tonks smirked at Harry, and he blushed. But neither party elaborated on the reasons, so Padma tried to ignore it for now.
"Alright, those in favour of deconstruction?" Hermione asked.
Padma glanced at her sister, but they seemed to be in sync on this topic. They both raised their hands. As did Harry, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Cyla, Carson, Natalie, Richard and, surprisingly, Weir and all three holograms. After a few moments, Aurora, Sirius, Jack and Tonks added their votes.
"Alright then." Harry chuckled.
Padma found it interesting that more than just the council members had given their votes on the topic, but she figured that it was something that had become necessary with almost half their number trapped on Earth for four months.
"Later this week, I'll take one of the new ships to Crona and break it down," Harry noted.
"Shack says that most of the locations affected by the explosions have sufficiently repaired their facilities. At least enough for them to be declared safe again," Hermione said, refocusing matters back onto their proper course. "Though he was rather upset that we left him dealing with Croaker again, and wants to talk with us all at some point soon. And we will probably need to run some tests to see if Earth's new position in space affects magic in any way. Especially as no one here seems to be able to notice."
"You really think this will have an effect on magic as a whole?" Aurora asked.
"We all study astronomy in Hogwarts for a reason," Luna replied. "Celestial positioning can be vital when picking ingredients for certain potions. Ritual magic is highly sensitive to celestial distance and timing. Although most of those cases only involve local bodies like the Moon and other planets in this system, it is worth investigating. Even some of the magical creatures that use a connection to the stars or stellar bodies here in our star system could be greatly affected by the movement. And it is possible that any ingredients picked before the loop may have soured now that time is flowing freely once again. It's impossible to know for sure without checking."
"Earth may have been locked in place thanks to the loop," Harry explained, "but the universe kept on turning and expanding while that happened. Which means we are now slightly out of sync with almost everything we thought we knew about astronomy."
Natalie gave a slight giggle, drawing attention to herself. "Sorry. This probably just ruined SETI. They'll be back to square one."
"Right. Another research project to add to the pile." Neville mused.
"Right…" Harry said, turning to Merlin. "Before I forget, can you please set up a constant scan of the populace? Now that Earth is vulnerable to it again, we want you to keep an eye out for any possible Goa'uld infiltration. If any symbiotes are detected outside the SGC, away from known SGC personnel, beam them to a cell here and contact us. Just in case Qetesh did set up a secret failsafe."
"Of course," Merlin replied.
"Qetesh?" Padma asked, the name not ringing a bell for her.
"Former Queen Consort of Ra," Hermione replied. "And the one responsible for Sirius being alive."
Padma looked at the smiling man and for the first time, she noticed a silvery shimmer under his hairline.
"NO!" She said firmly, leaning away from the man.
"Relax," Harry said, raising what was surely meant to be a comforting hand in her direction, his eyes flicking to her wand sitting on the tabletop. "Yes, that is a halo. Sirius is in complete control. And he cannot use his magic at all. That's what the bracelets are for. They're a pair of modified admonitors that prevent him from casting any magic without our express approval."
"Even if Rol were able to regain control," Luna mused, "he cannot use Sirius's magic again without our consent."
"Again!? How are all of you ok with this?" Padma asked, baffled that they were allowing another Goa'uld to sit in on their meetings.
"Well, for starters I'd be dead if not for that slimy little shit," Sirius said calmly, keeping both hands visible on the tabletop. "I was a mess when I fell out the far side of the Veil. Don't travel by unstable wormhole, kids. It isn't pretty. It was months before I could even remember anything."
"It's ok, Padma. We are taking every precaution we can." Harry said.
"And they are both training with me daily to reinforce their minds and prevent any chance of their symbiote's personality becoming dominant, even without the halos," Luna added.
Padma glared down the table at the two hosts. This was getting out of hand. She raised her hand, ready to begin a tirade at the others, but she decided against it. Instead, she grabbed her wand with her left hand and tapped on her remote with her right, beaming herself away from Aether and the infestation that was growing within its halls.
Tuesday, 8th August 2000.
Neville reintegrated where the command Richard had sent indicated that he should, and was immediately struck by the space around him. The room was wide and open, much like the other living spaces in Aedis. But this one immediately felt like home to him in an odd way. And he had to double-take to see why.
The furniture in the room was different to all of the others. It was old and worn in unusual places. And unlike most of the rooms in Aedis, there were dozens of pictures on the walls. Pictures of Neville.
His eyes swept over the space again and he tightened his grip on the two hands he was holding as he realized what Richard had done. At last, his gaze settled on Richard and his gran standing just off to the side, watching him closely. His gran was watching him with a smile, but he could see the tears gathering in her own eyes.
Neville glanced at the woman between himself and his gran, his mother Alice. She too was looking about the new space, but her gaze was currently no different to how she observed anything new. The empty happiness of anyone seeing something they'd not seen before, but no flare of recognition.
He had to squash the turning feeling of joy that had built when he first entered the room. The lack of anything from his parents had quickly soured it once more, but he would not let the others see that.
Richard moved towards them, stepping around the trio and standing beside Neville's father Frank at his right.
"What do you think?" The elder Granger asked him, and both of the adults holding Neville's hands glanced at him.
They were aware enough to follow the course of a discussion, knowing that the question was directed at Neville, but he knew they had no idea what was being asked.
"It's great. Where is it all…"
"It's from home." His gran said, cutting him off. She walked over and grasped Alice's other hand, causing his mother to glance at her and smile. "Richard explained what is going on. And I decided that it should be as close to home as we can make it. So we moved all the furniture here."
Neville looked again and finally, those odd wear marks became memories. "You copied it all?" He asked with disbelief.
"Copied? No. We moved it all here. Augusta will be staying as well." Richard explained.
Neville glanced at his gran and tried not to show how that statement affected him, but he was pretty sure he failed. With Richard as well, given the man's next comment.
"Come on, through here." He said, guiding Frank forwards and Neville allowed his father's hand to slip free of his own as he happily followed the total stranger now guiding him through this new space. It only reinforced how empty Neville's parents were. Nothing seemed to cause any emotion within them. Just endless curiosity, never to be satiated.
Neville's empty hand was soon filled by his gran, but he didn't look up as she led him after Richard, into a room off to the side of the main area. He was surprised by what he saw within, expecting it to be a bedroom or bathroom. Instead, he found himself in a large lab full of the most advanced medical equipment that they had access to.
His father was already sitting on the edge of a bed that was slowly rising up, bringing a bright smile to the man's face as he rode the odd contraption.
Augusta let go of Neville's hand and guided Alice over to the other bed in the room as Neville remained frozen in place. He could only watch as his gran and Richard laid his parents onto the beds and the pair just stared upwards, watching the events move around them.
As the two beds moved into place, the scanner above each one fired up and began to run a detailed scan of his parents, from head to toe. Richard turned and Neville must have looked completely lost, as he quietly pointed to the monitor for Augusta to watch as he stepped over to Neville.
"You ok?" He asked softly, and Neville could only nod silently. "I told you that we were going to figure this out. Fitted this place with all the best we've got. And Augusta will make sure they're comfortable day to day while we do the science."
Neville glanced at him for a moment before his eyes went back to his parents, watching the blue energy lines waving over their bodies.
"I made you a promise. I intend to keep it, lad." Richard said, placing his hand on Neville's shoulder, and he couldn't prevent the hopeful tears from falling.
He just placed his own hand over Richard's and nodded. Knowing that the man didn't need any words to understand his immense thanks. Or his undying hope.