The Future Imperfect
Ginny's eyes were full of urgency, and she was almost pleading. "This arrived days after your death, Harry—remember that! That's why I was so shocked you knew of the box's existence and contents." She gulped hard. "Someone wanted you to have it…they knew you needed to know! Keep reading!"
Days after? Harry thought wildly. Just how long have I been dead? Then, Does it really matter? He didn't think so. All that mattered now was…to keep reading…?
is that so?" I know you'll want to ask,
Ergo simplistic answers; I'll take you to task.
Healthy evil's afoot so all must be revealed
Albeit cloak and dagger—using words as our shield.
must burn desire to change what he sees;
Fight when things are wrong—not his destiny.
By changes, I mean, at the very least—
Lies—question the fact he's really deceased?
Harry stopped reading again and stared at the paper, not really seeing the words. Considering the things he'd experienced as of late, this poem was a bit rich. After a minute, Ginny snatched the paper from him in irritation. She continued:
rests the assistance to reverse his mad end;
Odds can't be undone without true living friends.
Duo's already learnt this—one near-death, one life;
Present clues remained hidden till you shared your light.
now is one future—though both skewed and altered;
Inception near-whole, it's no wonder you've faltered.
Now the black-riddled soul who holds right events fast
Conceals wizard's true fate. Boy who lives in the past!
on this box—find our wizard host's mirror.
Look in—call his name—bring reality clearer.
If things that are seen leave you mystified
Remember to cipher the wrapper inside.
haste on your quest, be quick then—good show.
Opportunities taken; victory you'll know.
If you don't quickly switch back right from wrong,
Our wizard we know shall fail to go on.
watchful, be wary; in his present state
Separate spirit and body deteriorates
His will to live on; death's siren call zeal.
He needs you—his friends—to keep straight, what is real.
let him give in, postpone the surrender
Lest Dark One's minions will make him their member.
First point out what's wrong, when he knows you're sure
Could be the one thing to help him endure.
Moonrise strikes his toll, yours too—all be brave
And stand tall together with him by his "grave"
Next Summon more friends, as much as you can—
Door Keys for his return you'll each hold in your hand.
Signed, A Helpful Friend
Finishing, Ginny looked up at him, eyes overflowing with importance.
"This is it," she said positively, "Harry, don't you see? You're not really dead! Vold—it's he who's changing what the true events are! It can be changed back…we can do this!"
She bustled about, gathering the death cert and box halves, continuing, "And we don't have much time, according to this. We need to figure things out straight away—moonrise is soon—whatever they may be."
Just standing there, Harry folded his arms and called to her, "What's the rush? That poem's probably all rubbish anyway. No need to stress yourself out over nothing," he said dismissively.
"'Nothing?'" Ginny repeated with disgust. "Something falls into your lap, telling you not only your death is a mistake, but how you can reverse the process?" she stopped, as if a terrible thought had just struck her.
She gazed at Harry and in a concerned tone said, "Harry, the poem is real. There are things mentioned in it that could never be possible otherwise. It even speaks of why you're having this uncharacteristic reaction to the news. You've been out of body so long; you're not even capable of recognising it on your own," she pressed her lips to a thin line and folded her arms, studying him.
Something stirred inside Harry as she spoke. Looking down at her, he said, "…yeah…I-I think you're right—you have to be right." Holding a hand to his forehead, he gulped in fearful realisation. "I just…I can't explain it. Right now, I'm feeling so—so not like usual—I'm just…so tired…" his eyes widened and he stared at her, "…dead tired," he finished in a frightened whisper.
Ginny sucked in a breath through her teeth. "Well of course you are, Harry. If the last thing you remember from your life is passing out on the Knight Bus, that could mean you've been in ghost form for nearly two weeks now. That would exhaust anyone, I'd imagine," she reached out automatically to touch him, and awkwardly let her arm drop.
Then her gaze grew hard, determined. "What you need to do is fight it, Harry. Just like the poem says. You need the personal belief you're not dead—you have that at the moment now—the desire to fight against all the things you know are wrong, and friends to help point out the difference," she turned as if to march passed the headstone, "which is why I'm going to get us some more help—right now."
Abruptly stopping, Ginny looked up at the thing now blocking her would-be exit.
She had almost run straight into Neville Longbottom. He looked down at her with a gaze of deep concern and said in his sweet tenor, "Ginny, are you…are you all right? We heard your crying and then…not. Are you talking to someone?" he inquired softly, and looked around.
As he did, Harry noticed other friends of his filing passed the headstone around them. Harry and Ginny suddenly found themselves surrounded by Seamus Finnigan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, Susan Bones, Michael Corner, along with Longbottom. Each of these former classmates had been members of the D.A. And all of them wore similar expressions to Neville's; even Luna's usual dreaminess was heavily subdued.
Attempting to step around Neville, Ginny hastily answered, "No, everything isn't 'all right' yet, but it can be. I need to get some more people—"
"But there's nobody else here," Susan spoke up, surprisingly timid.
"What?" Ginny asked, stopping.
"Yes," added Seamus, "everyone pretty much cleared off. "Nobody wanted to be around for the…casket lowering," he finished barely audibly.
Eyes widening, Harry contemplated this. The…the casket? He hadn't even noticed the thing on the other side of the headstone whilst reading the epitaph to himself. Apparently, Harry had stumbled upon his own funeral and hadn't realised his body lay before him in state. How undeniably…creepy.
Ginny's eyes narrowed and she said impatiently. "What of my family?"
forward, Justin said, "Your twin brothers could barely hold it
together through the end. They're so convinced the Ministry plotted
Harry's death, they can't decide whom to kill first—Fudge or
"Your father went with Bill and Charlie to the twins' flat in Diagon Alley," Michael's shoulders tensed, "to hopefully cool them down and convince them of the futility of such an action," he added behind Justin. "We stayed here for you," he emphasized, "because we knew you'd want to be alone for a bit."
Stunned, the pair of Ginny and Harry just stood there. Never before had Harry realised that grief could affect those he knew in so many ways. Apparently, great anger had driven Fred and George's thirst for vengeance. Harry knew that feeling very well.
"And Mum?" demanded Ginny, shaking off her surprise, "Ron? Other adults?"
"Everyone witnessed Hermione's near-collapse," Dean said sadly. "She was so upset, she couldn't stand the thought they were going to put her best friend into the…the cold ground," he faded away as everyone pressed their eyes shut in sympathy, and Harry found himself feeling terrible for poor Hermione.
"Ron and Mrs. Weasley went with her to the Leaky Cauldron to hopefully sort it out. Ron is also the only one Hermione will speak to," finished Justin, looking down. Everyone stood together in pained silence.
Then Neville began more strongly, "And did you remember the Hogwarts staff is setting up for the wandlighting ceremony tomorrow night? Loads of people have been showing up all week at school—to pay their last respects for Harry."
Ginny tilted her head and studied Neville.
Wandlighting ceremony? thought Harry incredulously. For plain old me?
Those kinds of things were for really important people, like Wizengamot members and such. Harry, Hermione, and the younger Weasleys had sometimes heard the Order talking about similar things during their stays at Grimmauld Place.
"But I thought our ceremony was intended as a memorial service to Harry's fellow students and friends," said Ginny, perplexed.
flashed in Neville's eyes and he continued in an even stronger voice,
"Professor Dumbledore let slip to the press of our planning. At
first, the rest of us were all upset—we wanted to keep it private,
after all—but too many people wanted to be involved the more they
heard about it." He took a deep breath and said, "Apparently,
thousands of witches and wizards wanted to take active part in the
service, to show their unflagging support for Harry. How they think
what the Ministry has done to him is unjustifiable in the worst
Dean rejoined, "And evidently, we're not the only ones convinced of Harry's innocence." He smiled tightly. "The whole wizard world seems to have got wind of this, and wants to show their belief of Harry's true intentions as well. A dozen or so Wizarding schools the world over are hosting simultaneous services tomorrow night. It's turned into a virtual protest of Ministry's catalogue of offencive actions against Harry—the boy wizard who never once lied to us," he finished forthrightly.
Thunderstruck by all he had just heard, Harry simply stared fixedly at his friends. So many magic folk…whom I've never heard of or met…are showing their unfailing support of…me. But why? Suddenly the answer came to him. Trust. They trust me. Ministry's lied to everyone for years about Voldemort…and who knows what else…but they trust me, an ordinary teenage wizard, just because I always told the truth when I was alive. Realisation dawned on Harry as he grasped the implications. His head reeled with the impossibility of it all. This was near unthinkable. Evidently the majority of the magic world puts my words above those of their own minister.
Harry looked at his friends as if for vindication that his thoughts had been wrong; yet as he did, he became aware of a mighty change that had wrought the visage of each of them. The talk of Harry's innocence and his upcoming ceremony seemed to have brought them all closer together, somehow. Gone were the tears and sad faces; only shared knowledge and determination remained in their eyes. He had never witnessed such a companionable certainty amongst his friends before. Even Ginny found herself caught up in it and couldn't speak.
Closing his eyes, Harry drew strength from their surrounding goodwill; so strong was the positive energy, one couldn't help but want to be a part. He also felt he was going to need it. An indescribably familial sensation started in his chest and radiated throughout the rest of his body, transforming the doubt in his mind to pure certainty. But he wasn't a stranger to these feelings, however. Harry realised the last time he had even remotely felt this way had been when Sirius was alive.
Hedwig alighted on his shoulder, and Harry reached up automatically to stroke her. But as he opened his eyes, he realised he was looking right into Luna Lovegood's face. Her eyes were hugely round and luminous; she was staring straight at him.
She raised a hand and pointed, "That's who you were talking to Ginny, isn't it," she said with clear unfeigned assurety. "He's here—watching us now—Harry came to you."
Ginny whirled around and faced Luna and Harry; he was still staring at Luna's face, as if looking away would somehow make him disappear again. All of his friends in turn came to gaze intently at the spot where Luna was pointing—where Harry now stood.
In turn, all of them studied the centre of the circle. Their eyes widened together; Harry held his breath. How would they all react?
"Yes," Ginny spoke up fervently, "Harry came to me. And now our bond of friendship is helping each of you to see him, too. Just there," she said, pointing to him as well.
Rather than uncertainty, disbelief, or fear, Harry saw looks of almost relief come over their faces. A few were still squinting though.
"I can see him," said Susan clearly, "but…but he's still...I can only see his outline."
"Yeah, me too," Neville spoke up, "he's kind of…hazy…I can't see him very well."
The others nodded and Ginny stepped forward, gesturing toward him. "That's because Harry needs us, needs help. He needs our feelings of friendship to help him be seen."
"Then what do we need to do?" asked Dean earnestly, whilst everybody else nodded again.
Ginny answered, "I'm not entirely certain, but it was definitely the talking about the wandlighting ceremony which brought it about." She pursed her lips. "It's the similar concept…does everyone remember the…the thing we tried together week before school got out?" she said, darting quick glances toward Harry.
"Y'mean when we tried to contact Sirius Black's spirit?" piped up Seamus helpfully.
Ginny cringed. "Yes. That's what I mean," she answered through gritted teeth, now studiously avoiding Harry's gaze.
"You…you all tried to contact Sirius before school got out?" Harry questioned, nonplussed.
Swallowing, Ginny replied quietly, "We saw you so sad after your ordeal in the Department of Mysteries, and all felt so helpless." She turned and looked him directly in the eye. "Each of us figured it was the least we could do, to try and talk to your godfather…somehow let him know you needed to see him, talk to him again."
Harry's mouth opened in surprise. "And all of you decided to do this—do this," he gestured to the group, "just for me?"
Luna spoke up again. "Of course we did, Harry. We tried reaching your godfather every night. But the last time Nearly Headless Nick came upon us to kindly explain the futility of our efforts. How Sirius wasn't a ghost and we'd never be able to contact him. He even told Ginny at the feast how you desperately questioned him about your godfather—so he could hopefully get someone living to talk to you about it. But you weren't much up to listening to people then, quite understandably."
Overcome by this revelation, Harry stuttered, "I…I—I don't know what to say." He'd never known his friends cared about how he was doing so much. "But…thank you," he said, as a feeling of eternal gratefulness swelled inside him.
"Hey, Harry's outline's getting sharper!" shouted Seamus to the others.
Susan chimed in, "Yes, and I can almost hear him speaking now, too."
"Everybody do like we did before," called Ginny to them all loudly, "wands out, tip to tip."
As everybody else reached into his or her robes, Michael said, "But won't we get in trouble for doing magic outside of school?"
Groans met this comment and Dean said, "How can you even think about expulsion at a time like this?" whilst everyone glared Michael down.
As he humbly retrieved his wand, Ginny said, "All right everybody. Think of Harry at his best; think of how we knew him when he was alive. Anything will work—physical attributes, how you remember him walking to class, facial expressions, even him kicking the tar out of Malfoy in duelling club and Quidditch." They all shared a laugh and large grins at this; Harry found himself joining in.
Ginny now stepped to the outside of the circle and said, "Just focus on your one best thing—make the circle smaller—and we'll chant his name together." She still clutched the box in the arm opposite her wand hand.
Harry watched as all eight of them moved closer and reached out their wands to touch the tips together over his head, creating an umbrella effect.
"I'll start first, and everyone go counterclockwise," added Ginny.
Wondering what was going to happen next, Harry watched as his friends closed their eyes, one by one, concentrating.
"Harry," said Ginny in sudden clarity. He started at its strength.
"James," continued Neville in the same voice.
"Potter," sustained Susan.
"Harry." It was Justin.
"James." Michael now.
"Potter," said Luna dreamily.
"Harry," called Dean surely.
"James," Seamus intoned.
"Potter," sang Ginny, completing the first round.
But it didn't stop there. Harry listened, ensorcelled, as his friends continued to chant his name, faster and faster. Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…
Closing his eyes, he felt a rushing sound fill his ears and positive thought fill his mind. It was almost as if he were tapping into their minds somehow…able to see himself exactly as they had seen him. Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…
Since his eyes were closed, he failed to see how the wand tips generated a soft glow that grew to encompass he and his group of friends.
Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…
"Harry," Ginny softly called to him, eyes still closed, "a little help. Remember, you have to want to be seen, love." It was odd; the chant seemed to have continued, even though Ginny had seemingly broken it to speak to him.
Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…Harry James Potter…
He couldn't remember having concentrated so intently. Harry was picturing himself in solid form, so his friends could see him. Fringe brushing his forehead, clothes resting against his skin, shoes heavy on his feet, glasses perched on his nose…anything to bring back the memories of…being alive.
Suddenly, a jolt shot through his chest. It felt to him almost as if he had been hit with a Tickling Charm, but much more…concentrated. He gasped and opened his eyes.
Everybody was looking at him and smiling. "Welcome back, Harry," they all said, and slapped each other on the back in their job well done.
"Thank you," he said, still a little breathless. "Thanks all of you," he went on, returning their smiles. They beamed at him.
Ginny stepped forward again, all business. "Now that you can finally all believe me," they looked at each other guiltily—except for Luna, "Harry and I have found out clues that make this wandlighting ceremony completely moot. Contained in this box—" she held it high "—is a way for us to bring Harry back, because it explains how his death is a deceptive mistake in the first place."
They all stared at her keenly. "But the trick is, we need all the help we can get, all the adults are gone, and the deadline for reversing Harry's demise is total moonrise—tonight," she finished ominously.
Dean stepped forward with an air of indignation. "Well, woman, why didn't you tell us this in the first place?"
Harry could see Ginny wilting at Dean's harshness.
"Yes," added Neville, just as mightily, "if Harry needs our help, all you have to do is say the word!"