Disclaimer: Harry Potter is property of J.K. Rowling.
Characters: Harry, Draco, Hermione, Ron, Ginny
Summary: "Blink but a little and you will be transported to an alternate of this time and place." Harry accidentally inhales the fumes of a premature potion that transports him into numerous alternate worlds. Brought to light are the issues of his 'bigger picture'. AU, H/D, H/Hr, H/G.
Author's Notes: Thanks to SlicedBread and LogicalQuirk for beta reading this fic for me. And thanks to Ellybelle, who first saw this fic over a year ago. Yes, it's up now :).


Part 1

It was probably common knowledge among his classmates that Harry did not enjoy Potions. For the most part, that was true; for obvious reasons such as Snape and stuffing up his projects more than once in a while. But there was a little part of him that liked it. His secret indulgence in Potions stemmed from his hatred of it; his failing in it. His work, clearly not going as well as he would have liked, left no other choice but to apply his full concentration to the subject. And by concentrating, this meant focusing all his thoughts on it – and nothing else, like the pressures of performing as The Boy people expected him to be; the one Who Lived. So, dealing with Snape and the dreaded subject for a part of the day was not so bad when Harry put it in that perspective. As the years went by waiting for the inevitable, it became more and more relieving to spend a time each day when he did not have to think about his whole future. Only his 'passing Potions' future mattered during those lessons.

Harry caught his thoughts stretching outside the realm of Potions and shook his head to halt it. The heat in the dungeon was to blame, as well as the masks they now wore at every practical lesson. It made sense, of course, to protect themselves from the incomplete fumes that wafted purposefully to their noses as its source cooked in the cauldrons. But to block out the fumes with their masks also meant blocking out the air they needed to breathe. It seemed ridiculous when Harry thought of it this way. He poked, a little irritated, at the mask over his nose and mouth and attempted to scratch his skin through the cloth.

"Harry, stop that!" snapped Hermione, swatting his hand away from his face. "You're letting the premature potion in!"

"No, I'm not," said Harry, in an equally high-pitched voice, swatting her hand back in mimicry of her manner. It was one of those days when baiting Hermione never failed to pull him back from thinking of the bigger picture. He sat back and waited to focus all his thoughts on mocking affront as she predictably gestured at him rudely.

Ron barked out a laugh at the sight of her finger, then attempted to place a consoling hand on her shoulder. Hermione did not buy it, despite her unique fondness of him, and she shrugged him off in a huff.

"Just don't put a wrinkle in that mask, okay?" she said, seriously. "Wrinkling creates small openings to your airways, Harry. And small openings to your airways allow the evil incomplete potion to get into your lungs and wreak havoc! Okay?" She returned to watching the cauldron intensely as Harry and Ron sighed in unison, exasperated.

After a while, Harry became irritated again by his mask and craned his neck to slip his fingers under the hem. Just a quick adjustment, he thought, as he yawned in satisfaction. But as his yawn turned into a coughing fit, he knew he'd been too careless in allowing the eager fumes race into his throat and nostrils. He doubled over as he heard Ron exclaim, "He's choking!" and his skin flushed with distress and heat that quickly consumed him.

Harry pleaded wordlessly for help. With teary eyes, he looked to Hermione instead of Ron, who was indecisively shifting from foot to foot. Hermione knelt on the floor beside Harry and helped him crouch on all fours and then closer to the floor where his cheek was cooled by the stone.

"Harry!" she cried as she levelled her face with his. "Keep your eyes open, Harry! Stay awake!"

A chill spread under his skin as he strained to do what she had said. He let the rest of his body slump to the ground while he urgently thought: what was happening to him?

"Professor, please!" Hermione yelled as she squeezed his hand, shaking it frantically. "You'll be all right, Harry," she told him, then pleaded for the professor again.

"Now, now, Miss Granger," said Snape, in an unaffected tone. His steps clicked on the dungeon floor at a leisurely pace. "Calm is the best kind of help right now; this will be dealt with soon enough. I will have the potion prepared to counteract this effect, of which I had explicitly warned you all about." He paused for a long moment during which Harry guessed he had eyed every Gryffindor who had surrounded them and then smirked knowingly with every Slytherin who had bothered to view the scene.

Harry felt Snape's breath on his cheek as the teacher crouched low to him. Harry frowned at Snape's polished shoes as the professor whispered, "Calm, Potter, is the key."

Snape stood up swiftly with a swish of his robes and continued his hiss to the students, though it was still mainly directed at Harry, who was now trying to summon calmness rather than the urge to retaliate. "To my disappointment, you will not die from this imbecilic act of yours. You will, unfortunately, live and be well as soon as you have been given the draught that will flush from your body those complicated fumes that I had commanded you not to inhale.

"For the moment, due to your unsurprising idiocy, you will, of course, suffer from its effects; that is, for an undisclosed period of time, you will be in a state of instability, where if you but blink for the merest of moments, you will find yourself in an alternate place where you or the beings around you may or may not change in behaviour, form, situation, etcetera. Do you understand me, Potter?"

Harry attempted to nod.

"No!" said Snape. "Don't, even for a second, think of rolling your eyes at me, dear boy. Believe me when I say: blink but a little and you will be transported to an alternate of this time and place."

Harry finished his nod, anyway, but refrained from then on to let his eyes stray from the light that reflected off one of Snape's shoes. Dolt, he thought, then complied out of grudging respect for the professor's authoritative position, and the wary assumption that he knew of what he was speaking.

Harry noticed that as he remained still and calmed himself his temperature levelled to normalcy and his breathing soon settled with it. His choking had just been an effect of the trespassing alien smoke, which had alarmed his body to activate their best last minute defence: coughing excessively.

Harry thought: this man would truly gamble with his life! The realisation of it still struck him harshly even though, without a doubt, he knew of this already. Snape would wait until the last minute to prepare that stupid antidote, delaying all help until Harry was in most need of it! He would wait for hours before he received the draught and, in the mean time, would suffer the potentially harmful effects of those stupid fumes from that stupid, useless potion!

His eyes, not having closed for a while, had begun to tear and his vision blurred beneath the liquid that veiled his eyeballs. The tears of one eye ran over the bridge of his nose to the other eye then rolled onto his cheek and onto the floor. He breathed slowly to make sure that his eyelids did not involuntarily bow, but as soon as he thought of it, they came crashing down, to the delight of his eyeballs.


Harry heard the beginning of that negative word and was startled as it echoed eerily in his mind. Hermione's voice was silenced as soon as his eyes were shut and, in fact, the whole world around him was silenced too, as if they had all disappeared from his side. He dared not lift his eyelids yet, for fear of what he might encounter.

An alternate, Snape had said, of the time and place of his surroundings. So why couldn't he hear a word or a shuffle from any of the people around him?

Harry thought that perhaps he was in between the time and place of his alternates; that he was probably in limbo right now until he decided to enter the alternate world. He fervently hoped it wouldn't be too different.

He opened his eyes to a blurred figure.

"–O!" shrieked Hermione, eyebrows furrowed and face so close to Harry's that he was forced to lean back several inches.

"I–" he said, startling at her demeanour and scrambling to remain seated on the bench he was now on.

He blinked again.

"Don't blink, Harry!" said Hermione, still very close to him, but this time without the fury he had just seen in her eyes.

Harry opened his mouth to speak but he was lost for words. He tried again. "What...?"

"Are you all right?" said Hermione anxiously. "We moved you up here while you were unconscious. I tried to get you to open your eyes, but Snape told me it was probably best that you were off somewhere 'in between' because once you opened your eyes, Harry, you would have found yourself in an 'alternate' and then you would have been confused of your surroundings because things won't exactly match up with ours…" She gestured hurriedly with her hands as she spoke and Harry raised his own to interrupt her.

"I opened my eyes–" he began.

"Don't blink!"

"To see this place and–" He looked around the dim room, at the dull grey floor and the benches that lined the dull grey walls. "Where are we, anyway?" he asked.

"Pomfrey's," Hermione answered, as soon as he recognised it. She held him by the shoulders and said, "Look, Snape's–"

"Not made the draught yet," he finished.

Hermione gave a small nod. "Snape's being really childish about this and Pomfrey has gone to pound it into his head that he has a duty to help all students, including you."

Harry rolled his eyes in contempt and blinked.


He heard Hermione's first word and then the silence that came after. The abruptness of it jarred his mind again and he wanted to take the blink back! But there was no other choice now; he'd have to meet his new alternate. He would just have to quickly blink again and that would take him back to his reality.

He peered at the darkened room. He felt a shove at his shoulders and Hermione's hands clawing at his cloak.

"You love me and so, you sacrifice Ron?" she cried, an accusation in the guise of a question. Her face twisted with anguish as she continued, "I hate you, Harry! And I loved Ron! I'll hate you forever, you bastard!" She shoved him again and he was knocked, unprepared for her full force.

He watched her storm away as his head slammed hard on the wooden surface of the bench, baffled at what he had just experienced.

Blink! He urged himself to do so and was met with brown worried eyes cast over his face – so very unlike the pair he had just encountered.

"There, there, Harry," said Hermione. "You fainted again when you didn't open your eyes straight away." She helped him sit upright with his back against the cold wall. "Don't close your eyes for too long, I think. And if you have to, just blink twice and it should be as if you'd never left here."

"Hmm," Harry agreed absently, still shaken by his encounter with the alternate-Hermione. He was determined not to meet her again and so he was determined not to close his eyes again. He glared up at the ceiling resolutely.

"So what happens here when I blink and go elsewhere?" he asked after a while, carefully glancing at his friend. "What happens here with you?" He observed with relief that she looked attentive and not menacing at all.

"Not much that I know of," said Hermione, curiosity mixing with concern. "I just see you blink and I try to stop you. And then you open your eyes again and here we are." She gave him an assuring smile.

"Huh, so nothing happens," said Harry. "As if whatever I see, wherever I go, that 'alternate' is the only one that exists for everyone else?" He looked up at the ceiling again and pinned his eyes on a spot near the chandelier.

So how does he know that this was his rightful world and not an alternate?

He attempted to answer his own question: For one thing, Hermione, here, was not a psycho. And for another, Ron, who could be heard chattering loudly outside, was clearly alive and well, and not at all what alternate-Hermione had implied.

And Hermione would never hit him like that, would she?

Harry looked at his friend again and saw that she smiled at him supportively.

"Don't you want to know where I went, then?" he asked her finally.

"Oh yeah, of course," she replied, eyes lighting up. "But I thought I'd better not in case I distracted you from your non-blinking state–"

The mention of it made him do it.

"Damn!" said Harry, as he heard the familiar echo of Hermione's voice. "Shit!" he added, as his eyes opened to an angry Ron.

"Fuck yeah, shit!" Ron shouted, advancing towards him into the dim room. "I could smash you right now, Harry! I really want to!"

"Please, no…" Harry said, cringing away. He had never seen Ron like this before. Why were his alternate friends so bent on hitting him?

He would have blinked just then if he had not been so curious of why this was so.

"Ow!" he cried, as Ron's fist collided with his jaw. "Ron, what the fuck?" He only managed not to blink as his hands flew to his cheek. He thought: now would be a good time to leave!

"That's for letting my girl," Ron replied shrilly, "go into that trap where you knew – YOU KNEW – she wouldn't have been able to survive by herself!"

Harry squeezed his eyes shut in the middle of Ron's accusations.

"Harry, you bastard! You can't even admit it! You can't even–"

Harry felt the wind of the oncoming boulder that was Ron's fist and then… nothing – silence – until he mustered the courage to open his eyes again.

Hermione's hand brushed his fringe aside from his pounding forehead. She sighed low.

"Harry, you're working up a sweat here. Are you running laps in the alternates?" she asked in a concerned tone that Harry was so glad to hear.

"I– I just got hit by Ron," he stammered, eyes wide and vowing to keep them that way.

"You what?" said Hermione. "But he's outside–"

"And– and I got hit by you, too, in another alternate." Harry let his distress show as Hermione helped him sit upright again.

"Ron and I hit you?"

Harry nodded.

"But why would we do that?"

He glanced at the spot on the ceiling and then looked at Hermione again. "I think," he said, careful not to blink, "the alternates are telling me something... about some issues… that I might have to deal with… in the future… I think."

"Issues?" said Hermione, sidling closer to him. "But we don't hate you, Harry. Do you... hate us? …In a way that would provoke us to hurt you?" She glanced up nervously at the ceiling to share his view of the spot that he was glaring at. "These alternates, Harry, they're just that. They're not real."

"Yes, but–"

Harry's concern for his best friends' alternate disposition caused him to blink.

"Not that the act is such an unusual thing to do in normal circumstance!" he muttered with restraint as he opened his eyes to a darkened figure that peered back at him. He drew back in bewilderment.

"No, not an unusual thing to do at all with such a target," gritted Malfoy. He craned his neck away from Harry and to a closed door, shouting intently, "And if I could, I'd do it again, Madam! Do you hear me?" He spat as far as he could in that direction, though it was impossible to actually get the door. "My fist would be on Potter's horrid face right now, had you not done this to me! By the Dark Lord, what is the point of this!"

Harry looked down at Malfoy's unbound fists gripping the bench with much intensity. False threats, Harry thought as he rolled his eyes, but stopping short of a blink. Merlin forbid anyone ever found out he was curious to see what was so alternate about this Malfoy. Grand promises with no execution dripped from the git's threats. Harry deduced this was probably one Malfoy trait that even alternate worlds could not deflect from.

Harry thought, before he left this alternate world, he might as well oblige the boy with proper procedure. But as he summoned his quick reflexes to do his bidding, he found he could not release the bench from his grip – his fingertips remained pressed to its surface! Comprehension dawned on Harry as Malfoy turned to him with a smirk.

"Eyeing me with your Superhero Death Stare, are you?" He straightened visibly on his seat and looked down his nose at Harry. "Ability to speak: eliminated. Loss of blood: well… in time. What do you think, Potter? A thump on the head should do it?"

"As if things would come to you so easily," Harry retorted.

"Oh, but they do…" Malfoy glanced at a moving silhouette behind the door's window. A wolfish smile spread across his face. "Times up–"

"You two are dismissed. Finite Incantatem!" commanded Madam Pomfrey from her office. And, like bludgers speeding up to meet Harry, Malfoy's fists were on their way.

Harry blinked.

"Ha!" He laughed with some relief lining his smile. "Who's the superhero?" he yelled at the now absent alternate-Malfoy.

"Harry, what…?" Hermione asked as she peered at him carefully. "What are you talking about?"

Harry leaned away and let his grin grow. "I just bumped into Malfoy, in an alternate."

"And you're happy about that?" Hermione leaned back too, incredulous.

"I thwarted his assault, didn't I?" Harry said, matter-of-factly. "I blinked before he got me!"

"Oh," said Hermione, "Well, that's… all right, then, I guess."

"All right?" exclaimed Harry. "Of course it's all right. I just 'Disapparated' before him and now he'll think I'm really one of those few who are allowed to Apparate in and out of Hogwarts!" He only just managed to contain his mirth to prevent himself from blinking.

"But there is no Apparating allowed within Hogwarts at all…" Hermione looked unconvinced.

It was at this expression that Harry decided he wouldn't bother challenging Hermione's theory, even for speculation's sake. So, crossing his arms, he simply said, "Never mind."

"Just be careful next time, okay?" she said with intent. And Harry was tempted to roll his eyes in a very big way. "No, just… just don't wait until they're about to attack and then leave just because you have the power to 'Disapparate'."


"Just blink twice like I said earlier, Harry. Don't risk it. You've already been hit twice–"

"And it's done me no harm!" Harry huffed, to which Hermione grew silent. Her expression wavered as uncertain realisation dawned on him. "Has it… done me harm?" he asked in a smaller voice. And when Hermione didn't reply, he asked again, "Do I have a...?"

"Well…" said Hermione, narrowing her eyes to inspect his face, "now that you mention it..."

"Ugh," Harry turned away and glared at the ceiling.

"Just be–"


"Blink twi–"


"Pomfrey will be here soon with that draught…"


Harry knew Snape would take his time, and more, just to own the satisfaction of knowing Harry suffered a little longer under his doing – these alternates certainly showed some issues that Harry had been churning over for the past few years.

Well, he thought wearily, the last alternate was really nothing more than a reminder of the hatred that already existed in his reality. But the first three were painful to have experienced; those torn emotions that occurred between himself and his best friends; the jealousy and territorial feelings they would sometimes place upon each other, thus unintentionally leaving one of them out.

Harry had felt left out lately. Now that it was common knowledge that Ron and Hermione were an item, he seemed to have become the odd number three of their once spacious friendship.

He frowned at the spot near the chandelier and blinked.

"You could've left me, but you– you didn't," said Malfoy, his profile hunched low on the bench beside a now bemused Harry.

Time seemed to have come to a standstill at that moment, as Harry fretted over possibilities that might arise from the absence of a subsequent attack. He sidled away from his unusually soft-toned nemesis as he was, instead, informed of an escape from a Death Eater's home, whereupon seeing an injured Malfoy, Harry and his friends tended to him and then carried him back to the safety of Hogwarts.

Malfoy looked up at him earnestly and Harry strained not to move an eyelash. Had they started war here already?

Malfoy looked at pains to say something more and Harry held his breath and waited.

"Um," said Malfoy, hesitating. "I... thanks... Potter." He gave Potter a smile – to Harry's horror!

What the hell…? Harry frowned, eyes wide. But then, he managed a smile of his own–

What the HELL!

His mind reeled at the act and went into shock. He imagined it pleading for resignation and he deliberated whether to follow.

He blinked instead, knowing that there was no place like his reality, where he would thankfully stare at brown eyes again, instead of grey ones.

He felt the need to wash his mouth out with soap even though he hadn't said a word to the scariest – no doubt – alternate Malfoy he'd ever meet. His returned smile to the boy tasted bitter in his mouth and that was reason enough. He rubbed the roof of his mouth with his tongue then spat on Pomfrey's dull grey floor.


Hermione slapped him on the arm and he blinked in confusion. Had he gone back to that crazed alternate-Hermione?

He felt another slap on his arm as he opened his eyes, but this time it was more like a nudge, a friendly one. He breathed in relief and turned to his more amiable companion.

"Nice one, Potter," said Malfoy, nudging him again and grinning at him mischievously.

"Oh, for crying out loud," said Harry, then raised his eyes to the ceiling to keep them there.

It was just as well that this Malfoy didn't seem to want to hurt him, Harry thought, as he listened to Malfoy's irritating chuckle. He didn't plan to blink anytime soon and he would remain here until he figured out how he managed to visit two alternates in succession without returning to his own in between.

Or had he just made that rule up?

As the pattern went, the last one should have been his correct world and this – sitting here beside a disturbingly genial Malfoy – should be the alternate. So that would mean his next blink should bring him back to...

"What are you looking at up there?" said Malfoy, interrupting Harry's thoughts and sounding cheery.

"What?" Harry asked, annoyed, as he snapped out of his contemplation.

"What were you looking at up there?" Malfoy repeated. "And don't give me that look!" He scowled at Harry. "It was your idea in the first place! You skived off and I… but followed." His grin was sickening when it was set in place.

Harry scowled a little more at Malfoy, though he wasn't really paying attention to him anymore; he had gone back to working out the pattern of his alternate-blinking.

"Hey," said Malfoy, after a moment. He looked away from Harry's unblinking stare and broke his thoughts again. "The year's almost up. Do you think Mother will have a fit if I invited you to the Manor over the holidays?"

Get in line! Harry wanted to cry. He'd have a fit first before she does! But instead, he answered, "Er… yeah, she probably would."

"Brilliant!" said Malfoy. "I've been planning to show off the grounds to you ever since we met. But, oh yes, you were too good for me back then and so, you have me now, grovelling for a second time. Thanks a lot, Potter." He sniffed mockingly.

Harry observed Malfoy's lively expression as he chattered on and was careful not to blink just yet, even though he had finally figured out the pattern of his alternates and reality. This alternate-Malfoy, though equally as frightening as the last, was a curiously different character and Harry, giving way to that curiosity, was a little tempted to hold his eyelids up so he could have a little more time with the boy–

Harry startled at the thought and looked purposefully away from Malfoy. He chewed over the thought for a few more moments then he let his eyelids leap to their jobs. He blinked.

"What's up, Potter?" said Hermione in a strange tone.

Harry groaned in frustration and prepared to blink again.

"No, wait! Don't!" Hermione laughed, her hands waving at him at the last moment. "It's me! I was just–"

"Who?" Harry cut in, catching on to her joke. He turned it to his advantage and bestowed upon her a blank stare.

"Wait a minute…" Hermione narrowed her eyes. "What's going on…Harry?"

There was no point in carrying on. "Got you back!", Harry crowed, as he poked her triumphantly. He chuckled even more, just relieved to be back in his own reality.

He barely noticed Hermione's girlish attacks on his chest – just aware that he felt like hugging her instead and smiling about it. The issue of being a 'third wheel' seemed almost silly now and the alternates that implied the worst of the situation were nonsense.

He now knew that, clearly, they still cared for him, or they would not be in the hospital wing with him, thus proving their reality would not lead them to any of those alternate situations. And, he also realised, there were so many others outside their circle with whom he could mingle. So, being a 'third wheel' could easily be remedied by extending his friendship to others besides Ron and Hermione.

He stilled Hermione's thrashing arms and hugged her as he closed his eyes. He heard Ron's abrupt, "Hey!" as it echoed in his mind before he opened his eyes again.

Next: Part 2