"I didn't think we'd find you here," Harry said.
He'd just spied Evan's table, hidden away, where few students ventured.
"How'd you find me?"
"I'll tell you, but you have to tell me why you're hiding."
"'M not hiding."
Harry crossed his arms. "Right. You're just in the back corner because it's convenient."
"Fine," Evan said before looking around. "But if your answer is that you're me, so you knew I'd be here then I'm not answering. I'm me, and I know I don't go here when I'm–"
"When you're?" Harry let the words hang, a small smile tugging at his lips.
Evan huffed out a breath. "I'm not hiding, per se. And well…well– I don't want to say."
Sighing, Harry, withdrew a worn piece of parchment from his pocket. "You know what this is?"
Evan said, smacking his palm on his forehead. "The Marauder's Map. I had it but…yeah"
Harry pulled out a chair and sat down. "So?"
Evan reclined in his chair. He really didn't want to get into Helena and get frustrated over not being able to talk about Horcruxes. Then there was Victoria being annoyed at him, which the spying ghost more than likely knew about.
He was going to go back and talk to her, but he didn't feel like listening to her laugh at him right now. And with the days flying by, he figured it'd be prudent to start seeing if he could put together a better plan than flying around a dragon.
Feeling phantom pain, he leaned forward, rubbing his shoulder. The last dragon had got him good. He didn't need to get it worse this time.
"I know what the First Task is," he said, rubbing his temple. "But I'm not sure I want to try and outfly a Hungarian Horntail again. She almost got me last time."
"Dragons!" Harry exclaimed, his eyes wide with fright. "There's no way!"
"Dragons," Hermione hissed out, startling Evan.
He turned around to see her outraged face.
"Tha– that's…barbaric!" She dropped her bag onto the table with a heavy plop. "I thought they were making this safe."
Evan shrugged. "Nobody got too injured going against one last time."
"Still," Ron said, shaking his head. "Dragons. Charlie tries to keep it from Mum, but he's got all sorts of nasty scars and he's been burned loads of times. Just last Christmas, I overheard him telling Bill how close he's come to being burnt to a crisp."
"Nobody would have signed up if they'd been honest about how unsafe it is," Hermione said.
Ron snorted. "You'd have to be bloody mental."
"I guess the gold could be nice for some, but I won the last one, and let me tell ya, the eternal glory isn't all that it's cracked up to be."
"Is fame ever?" Harry asked aloud before ducking his head.
Evan murmured a 'no' but it wasn't audible and the rhetorical question brought an end to the topic of conversation.
"So… dragons," Ron said after a few moments of silence.
"I don't need to fight them," Evan said. "Just distract it long enough to retrieve a golden egg from its nest. The Firebolt is fast and maneuverable but the dragon broke its chain and flew after me. It seemed unlucky at the time, but I don't think I could have gotten it if it had stayed hunkered down in its nest."
"You flew a wooden broom with a fire-breathing dragon hunting you?"
Evan rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah… Not the brightest idea, eh?"
"Did they keep it from breathing fire?" Ron asked. "Charlie's told us loads of times that you can't outfly a dragon. The sky is their domain. It's where they hunt."
"No…" Evan said awkwardly, with all three of 11them focused on him. "But at least there is a mini-me if anything happens to me this time," he said before forcing himself to laugh.
As soon as his eyes landed on Harry, he felt as large as a flobberworm. His hands were gripping the table as if he was dangling off a cliffside, and if he let go, he'd surely die.
"Nothing is going to happen to you," Harry said. Though his eyes fixed on the floor, his low voice was full of resolute resolve. "You're going to make it past the dragon, win the tournament, and we'll live together this summer."
Hermione's eyes flashed with righteous indignation, and she dropped the book she'd just opened.
Having noticed Harry's sudden change, she scooted over and wrapped her arm around him, all whilst glaring at Evan.
Harry looked up, his eyes red, his cheeks red and blotchy. "Right?"
The question and timing hit him like a bludger to the face.
At the end of third year, Sirius had promised him an escape from the Dursleys. And, even greater, hope for the one thing he'd craved above all.
Now here he was, not even a year later, dangling an escape from his horrid relatives and a chance to live with a blood-related family member.
He felt ill. What a sick, disgusting joke.
"Why don't you go for a fly, Harry." Hermione said, her voice soft and warm. "Go clear your head. Help Ron get ready for next year's tryouts. I'll find some books to go through, and we'll read and help Evan later."
She patted his shoulder while giving Ron a significant stare. She held her gaze on him until realisation dawned on his face.
"Erm, right. Great idea," he said after clearing his throat. "We'll do that."
He stood, stooped over Harry, and pulled him up. "C'mon, it's a nice afternoon for a fly."
Evan sank in his chair as he watched Harry get manhandled out the door.
"What is wrong with you?" she hissed. "All Harry has ever wanted is family. Then you show up, spend a little time with him, hide from him when we were supposed to meet up, and then you joke about dying?"
If they weren't in the library, Evan knew Hermione's quiet voice would be anything but. Not that the lower volume did anything but make her anger more menacing.
"We all know He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is behind this. He's had dreams that worry him. Your life's on the line, and you're callous talking about dying to Harry? The boy whose hearts' greatest desire was family?" she said, leaning over the table, closing the space between them with each word.
Whether it was courage or an overabundance of guilt, Evan finally met her eyes. "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
Hermione scowled at him as she crossed her arms. "You don't know?"
He wasn't sure what he should be saying here. He'd been a big berk, and nothing she could say would make him feel guiltier than his own recriminations.
With a shake of her head, Hermione packed the books into her bag, her lips pursed.
Evan thought she'd get a last word in, but she walked away after shooting him a filthy and thoroughly disappointed look.
She was capital M Mad. Too worked up to verbally eviscerate him.
As he heard her steps stop, he sighed in relief.
He'd bungled another relationship, but he knew Harry. He'd give him some space, let him fly out his frustration, and they'd make up after dinner. Then he'd do better. Be better.
A sudden deluge of angry steps overtook him. Turning around, he saw Hermione standing over him. Her finger held out just in front of him.
"I wasn't going to say it, but it's done. Finished. It's never coming back."
At first, he thought she meant Harry, but her body language was all wrong. She was angry, but Hermione didn't get red-faced when she was angry. Only embarrassed.
"I've fancied Harry since first year. It might have been Ron that plunked the club but it was Harry that came for me. Harry remembered me," she said, her brown eyes swelled with emotion. "I didn't know what it was at eleven, but at fifteen, there's no mistaking it."
Evan opened his mouth to answer but thought better of it as he rubbed at his jaw and remained silent.
"Love, affection, and a friendship so fierce that it frightens me. I'd do anything for him. He'd do anything for me."
A hippogriff ride, trip through time, and mission to save his godfather flashed through his mind's eye.
"And then you showed up," she said, no longer meeting his eyes. "Harry. Older, stronger, wiser. And though my Harry might not see me that way maybe you could. Maybe, just maybe, if my other self had bucked up the nerve to confess her feelings, something could have happened between you two. And though you wouldn't have her, you could have me."
His mouth felt dry. Hermione had fancied him? The bravest girl he'd ever met had been too scared to confess her feelings? Or had his Hermione just preferred Ron? She'd clearly focussed her attention on Ron in 6th year, but had she already given up on him after he'd gotten into that trainwreck with Cho?
"But you're not my Harry," she whispered. "You look like him, you talk like him, but you aren't him," she said, her voice gaining in surety with each sentence. "My Harry will brood. He'll put the world on his shoulders and feel guilty for not doing enough. But the one thing he'd never do is be so callous and cruel…so uncaring about his friends. Especially those he sees as family."
With her piece said, she turned on her heel and stalked out.
Evan watched her walk away until she was out of sight. He dropped his head, ran his hand along his scalp, and pulled at his hair with a silent scream.
He'd just wanted to hide away from being a berk but instead, he'd found a way to make himself into an utter git.
Evan stormed through the halls with no particular place in mind.
He didn't get it. He didn't get himself. Why was he driving away everyone that was trying to help?
Rounding a corner, he half walked, half ran up another set of stairs.
What was wrong with him?
Why would he do this?
It was like he was bloody fifteen again. Having been locked up at the Dursleys, angry at the Ministry for slandering him, upset at Dumbledore for avoiding him, and livid with his friends for withholding things from him.
He'd felt alone then. Sequestered. Secluded. Isolated. Hopeless.
Even with the Ministry fallen, Dumbledore dead, and bands of wizards trying to capture them, he'd not felt that level of despair
Was it because he was working on the Horcruxes alone? Was it that he was feeling cutoff and despairing?
He bounded up another set of stairs and whipped through a secret passage.
Was that why he was pushing everyone away?
He wanted to think he was justified, that this was a reasonable response to being dropped into a new world but there was a quiet whisper within his mind saying: you're just doing it because you're scared of getting close to anyone again.
Evan finished pacing back and forth, and the room opened. Entering the door, he was almost knocked off his feet. He reached for the door but found himself on a slippery rock towering over an ocean below.
A heavy crosswind was trying to push him off, plunging into the raging waters and crashing into the rock below.
All around him was dark, desolate. Water smashed into the rock, spraying him, and black clouds blocked out the heavens.
Lightning flashed, and the accompanying thunder shook him.
Evan found himself seated on the rock. In all directions, it became too steep to move, forcing him to cradle his knees up as he was now being pelted with heavy raindrops.
Lost in his own recriminations, Evan tucked his head and rocked back and forth.
The room's exterior matched the turmoil of his thoughts bombarding him. With the atrocious weather and his indefensible position, he began to shiver.
How long Evan sat there, he wouldn't have been able to say.
But after some indeterminate time, the heavens began to yield their onslaught, and a ray of sunshine found its way through, providing his seat with warmth.
"Wow," a voice said from far above him. "And I thought nobody could out-brood me."
Evan searched and found Helena descending through the clouds, forcing the darkness to give way.
"I mean, I was pretty talented, but Helga never had to come to pull me out of a storm of my own making," she said, an amused lilt to her voice. "Though…" she tapped her chin, "I was more of a sulker than a brooder."
Wiping at his face, Evan tried to dry it, but his hands were soaked, and all he accomplished was pushing water around his skin.
"Just leave me alone," Evan said, dropping his chin to the tops of his knees. "It's for the best.
"You'll just leave or I'll drive you away, like everyone else."
"Oh, wow," she said. "It's going to be like this?"
He stared off in silence.
"You won't win. I'm The Grey Lady. Centuries of students know of me as the sad, standoffish Ravenclaw Ghost."
She paused and floated right into his line of sight.
"There is nowhere on the grounds that you can escape me," she said, moving closer. "After all these years, I have purpose again. You may as well call me Auntie Helena because you're stuck with me."
"I won't be at Hogwarts past this year," Evan bit out. "You'll be here, and I'll be…"
Truthfully, he had no idea.
Voldemort was his focus, and there was no guarantee he'd be around after that confrontation. And if he was…
Being an Auror was out. He'd had enough of fighting. But what was left for him?
"I died in Albania," she laughed. "And we're at Hogwarts."
"Don't even think that you can apparate away and be rid of me," she said. She held her hand and gave his cheek a ghostly pat. "And remember, I've forgotten more magic than you know. You may well surpass me one day, but that day is decades of dedicated study away."
As her words sunk in, the rain dissipated, and the dark clouds were pushed away.
Sitting on the rock, Evan looked out at the gentle waves. Way off in the distance, water still fell from the sky, but his immediate surroundings were brighter in the midday sun. A warm breeze came from behind Helena.
He shivered, looked himself up and down, then cast a drying charm.
"That's better," Helena said, smiling down at him.
"Thanks. I–" his throat was dry and the words died in his mouth. He swallowed and gazed up at Helena. "I– I appreciate it."
She smiled fondly at him. "I'd be doing Helga a disservice if I didn't try," she said. "But you're likable. A bit too moody, but you've been through the wringer, and you're still standing."
Evan huffed a breath and shook his head. "Am I?"
"You are, Harry."
Evan barked out an anguished laugh. "Every time I hear someone say that name– my original name– it reminds me of what I've lost. What I'll never have back. That I'm an imposter. The displaced person that's supposed to save everyone again."
He let out a grief-stricken, sorrowful sob. "I just did that, and what was my reward? Being torn away from my friends–family. F- for what? So this Harry won't have to struggle through his next few years? So he won't have to face a monster? So he won't feel the unimaginable excruciating pain of being tortured for a madman's amusement?"
With his fist clenched, he pounded down on his leg. Every impact was laced with pain, but that was good. Great even.
This new world was driving him mad. Everyone and everything reminded him of...everything. Day after day of consistent torment, and he just felt numb. Numb and angry.
For him to feel something else. Pain. It was cathartic. A release of all the emotion and psychological torment that was threatening to rip him apart from within.
Eventually, his thigh felt like nothing and so he took to smashing the rock. Before long, even that was ineffectual. And so he screamed at the sky, at the world, at the powers that brought him here until his throat was hoarse and raw.
With the last vestiges of his emotional energy spent, he dropped his head onto his knees and stared at the rockface below them. Wetness dripped down onto it, but he paid it no mind.
"It's alright," Helena said, her voice soothing and soft. "I've seen this coming, and it's good to get it all out. You've hit the bottom, and though you won't want to hear it, it's going to be all up from here."
"Right," he croaked out. "All up from here. A hacked-off Harry, the counterpart of my best friends that now loathe me and the only person I didn't actually know from before annoyed or outright angry with me. Up. Yeah. Sure."
She looked at him wistfully. "A younger brother that will forget his frustration before he's done flying. Young Ronald, too. And there isn't a more loyal Gryffindor than Hermione Granger. Since the troll, you couldn't find a more devoted friend. While you didn't save this Hermione Granger, none of the trio will see it that way."
The words shone through him; they were a light that rekindled his spirit.
"And Victoria is easy," she said. "Young men make arses of themselves all the time. What separates the wheat from the chaff is the ability to admit your mistakes and learn from them. Seek her, apologise and try to do better."
"Haven't you been in fights with friends before?" She said knowingly. "What would it take you to forgive them? What would they need to do?"
Evan rubbed the back of his neck, thinking of McGonagall, Hermione, and his Firebolt. Of Ron and the Fourth year– even this past year. He'd left, abandoned him, but had come back right when he needed them.
"But what about being here? Feeling like an imposter?"
She let out a trill of laughter. "Really? You're asking me this?"
Evan held his hands up and looked at her pleadingly.
"Did you feel like you belonged on the Hogwarts Express your first trip here? Or your ride across the lake? What about your first night in your new bed for the year?" She said, rattling them off like a gatling gun goes through bullets.
"Tell me," she said. "Which one was it?"
He held his hands up again. "Fine, fine, I get it."
"You're a smart, likeable young man that's going to be receiving a lot of attention this year. You already have a core to build around, but it's just one foot in front of the other. Just take it as it comes and before you know it, it'll be the last thing on your mind."
"I'm not sure it'll ever be home, though."
"You won't replace where you've come from, but it is just like our existence. We cannot move backward. We can't stand still. Time marches ever on, and if you don't take a hold of it, if you don't set your path and strive to achieve your goals, you'll float around. Carrying on but never in control. Never content and always at the whims of others."
She floated back in front of him and placed her hands on the side of his face. Though Evan could physically move through them, he understood the action.
"It hurts. It's going to keep hurting for some time. But it will fade, and I don't want you to succumb to your circumstances. I know where that leads, and I don't want to see you repeat my mistakes. Don't get caught up in all the hurts, all the wrongs. Focus on the good. Grasp it, take hold, and soldier on. There are good things about your situation. Find the positives and keep yourself fixed upon them."
Evan rocked backwards and bit his lip.
He'd been so caught in the unfairness of this catastrophic change he hadn't truly taken the time to consider what was great about it. Sure, he had thought of having a pseudo sibling, his old friends, but those were the obvious things. What about befriending people earlier or meeting new ones?
"I've drifted through these halls for endless years, so focused on my mistakes that I've been holding myself a prisoner," she said ruefully. "It wasn't until you came that I felt it again. For the first time in an age, I have purpose. And it's like the sun has risen once more. The clouds, the darkness, the haze. It had taken over my life, my sight, and I was wandering around aimlessly, but now I'm not."
He looked up as she floated upwards, talking to herself as much as him.
"My regret and guilt have tethered me to this castle, but you've broken those bonds," she said, her voice lowering in volume but growing in surety and strength. "I may not be ready to move on just yet, but a trickle has started and the dam is breached. I may move on after you don't need me, or I may not. But I know I have a purpose now and need to go and correct some actions."
Evan turned to look at the horizon. It was bright, and even though it was into the evening, the sun still provided warmth.
"One foot in front of the other?" he mused aloud.
"But speaking of moving on, dinner is about to start, and it would be a good place for you to be," she said. "It's best to fix things before you go to bed. You never know what the next day will bring."
"Alright," Evan said, thinking about the people he needed to catch. "Did you want to meet again after dinner? I need to get started on thief training."
"No," she said before pinching her lips. "There are things I've long put off. I will begin to do as I should have been long before now, and it will take too long. Though you have a date with the quidditch pitch tonight if you're going to mend everything."
Evan stuck out his tongue at her. "Fine. Tomorrow then?"
"Tomorrow," she affirmed.
He waved goodbye and turned to move towards the exit as the room provided an exit at the back of the rock he was sitting on. As he was about to exit, he sucked in a deep breath and released it quickly before ducking his head.
"Chin up,' Helena called out. "You've got this."
With those words buoying him, he stepped out, ready, resolved to fix things. To grasp the positives, the blessings of this new world, and to focus on achieving his goal, his purpose: The downfall of the dark lord.
AN: I don't typically respond to reviews in the ANs but I did want to get ahead of the Harry is being a moody git/depressed/angry and he should just snap out of it already or grow up. You see so many of the pulled to another dimension AU tropes where Harry just accepts that he's stuck and suddenly he's like 'Alright, let's go kill Vodemort!'. For this fic, the reality is he was already going to be burnt out having finished the war, seen close friends die, and then ripped away. It can take time for that to really hit home. It has now and he's on his way up but there's no apologizing for a more realistic take on his character. Harry being a moody git when the world around him is difficult is canon.
With that out of the way, thanks to Petrificus Somewhatus, Nauze & Taliesin19 for the beta help!