Chapter 1 : Strangers in a Box
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A/N: Chapter image by me. Other than that, I hope you like it! The story, I mean. The chapter image? Not necessary.
Lily’s badly muffled giggle went fainter and fainter the farther I ran into the mass of trees. She displayed a perfect row of teeth at me as we went our separate ways.
“Don’t go too far!” Mum warned like she always did, worry lacing her words.
“Yes, Aunt Hermione!”
We both said it at the same time, which emitted a laugh from Lily. I caught myself smiling to myself at the sound of her voice. Yes, we were that close until the other’s happiness became a concern for the other one. She was going through the usual girl-likes-bloke-but-he-doesn’t-feel-the-same-way lingo right now. You’d understand.
It started out as one of those usual walking in the woods routine Lily and I had developed lately before a wheezing sound suddenly came to my left, like the sound of a hyperventilating elephant. There was a blinding white light through the branches, which faded in and out and in again. The sound ceased at the same time the light vanished. One thing I knew for sure: that definitely wasn’t Apparation.
I didn’t even remember turning left.
Straying from the path I had picked out in the first place all the while carefully avoiding tripping on tree roots, I looked back once in a while to make sure I hadn’t lost my way. I also paid attention to the little details and every noticeable landmark around me in case I actually got lost and had to retrace my steps.
That day, I found out that I was probably more careless than I thought I did.
And just a tad nutters.
Scratch that, absolutely nutters.
It wasn’t long before the Burrow disappeared between the trees behind me, but still I discovered nothing. Did I really want to find out whatever it was? You’d only do it once, my mind rationalized. Two minutes walk and that was it. If I didn’t find anything in two minutes, I’d turn around. Sounded like a solid plan, but what hadn’t crossed my mind was what to do if I did find anything.
With wand at the ready (screw the Underage Magic Prohibition thing!), I treaded along the direction the noise and lights came from. A clearing came up ahead of me soon enough. There it was, a blue police box, looking out of place in the woods. The oddest thing was that it was spewing out small wisps of smoke as if it crashed or something.
And I thought I had seen every quirk this world had to offer.
Resting my hand lightly on the door, it proceeded to open by itself with a creak. Startled, I moved one step back.
“Hello there!” Someone had strolled out of the smoking box; a man in a long brown coat and a huge grin on his face as he looked around.
“Excuse the rather odd question, but where and when exactly are we?”
Before I had the chance of open my mouth, someone else stumbled out, coughing. It was a woman this time with hair as red as my dad's. When she looked up, she was burning holes at the back of her oblivious partner’s head.
“You would be in Ottery St. Catchpole in 2021. Who—who are you?”
“Ah! The unknown, I love the unknown, it’s been a while since I’ve come across something unknown. Tell me, what planet is this? It wouldn’t happen to be in the Hudgneurym Galaxy, would it? Haven’t been there for a while, to be honest, not much exciting things going on—“
“Pretty sure this is Earth, Doctor,” the red-haired woman snapped, the sarcasm as clear as day on her last word.
The Doctor’s eyes widened imperceptibly. He directed his next question at me, “Is that right?”
“Y-yeah,” I stuttered, still pointing my wand at him.
The woman rolled her eyes, impatient. “Oh, do lower the fancy-looking stick, won’t you? What are you going to do, poke us with it?”
“Do excuse my friend, Donna. She’s being rather snappy today. I think it’s because she failed to fly this thing.” He patted the box lovingly.
“I failed?! No, how about you failed as a teacher!”
“Whoa, whoa, wait,” cutting them off with a raised hand. “Can everyone calm down for a moment and tell me what’s going on? Who are you, are you a wizard or a Muggle or…?”
The Doctor bloke furrowed his brows and moved his mouth next to Donna’s ear, whispering, “By any chance, do you reckon he’s delusional?”
“Not delusional, probably just a crazy Potter fan.”
The idea of the two strangers thinking I was delusional was laughable, had the situation not been this bizarre. Normal Muggles would probably end up in a mental hospital if they saw what I had seen, heard what I had heard, went through what I had gone through. Either that or they’d be awfully awestruck. Or horrified. Whichever.
Even though my parents’ adventures were way more exciting, I didn’t have to tell these lunatics that. What was up with her mentioning Uncle Harry, anyway? How did they know him? I’d love to hear him explain about how he had come to befriend people like them.
“Me? Delusional?” I shook my head, getting more confused the harder I thought. “And Potter as in my uncle, you mean? Harry Potter?”
“Doctor, I think we should take him home… wherever his home is. We shouldn’t let this boy wander around the woods like this,” Donna suggested.
“Yes, quite right,” the Doctor agreed with a nod.
“Hang on, I’m not crazy! You are, with your weird police box that’s bigger on the inside and everything! What kind of wizards are you?” They both gave me these looks of concern and when the woman made a move to touch my shoulder, I yelled out, “No, get away! Expelliarmus!”
A burst of red light hit her square in the chest, throwing her back into the blue box. I cringed when I heard her head slam into something hard.
“Donna!” The tail of his brown coat flapped in the breeze as the Doctor ran up to her. Without hesitation, I followed him suit, blubbering words of apology.
To my relief, Donna sat up while clutching her head. She appeared to be muttering some expletives under her breath. It took her a while to calm down, and by the time she did, she gazed at me in shock. “You can’t be real.”
As soon as the words rolled out of her mouth, the door behind me slammed shut, locking us all in.
“Let me out!” I shouted in panic, beating my fists against the wood.
“Doctor…” Donna started accusingly.
“I’m not doing anything!” he yelled, running around what I guessed was the machine’s main engine. The wheezing sound was back. Right in the center of the machine was a transparent circular pillar. Inside it, the once immobile smaller, circular tubes started to move.
The day was getting darker as it gradually turned into the night. Hugo and Lily still weren’t back yet. Ron was pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, my consoling words ignored when the front door clicked open and Lily’s cry rang throughout the living room.
“H-he never got to the river,” she explained through shuddering sobs. “He’s just… g-g-gone.”
An owl swooped in out of nowhere in the silence that followed, dropping a letter with the Ministry seal. With shaking hands, I ripped it open.
Dear Mr. Weasley,
We have received intelligence that you performed the Disarming Charm—
Hugo was attacked. He was trying to defend himself. And now he disappeared.
I vaguely recalled Ron’s arms wrap around me as I dissolved into tears.
Born in a family of wizards, time travel wasn’t a strange idea to process, especially if your mother was a time traveller when she was your age. It was the idea of being able to travel this far, though, that had caught my attention. During our shaky flight (in which I had calmed down considerably), the Doctor and Donna had summarized everything to me, especially the time machine or the TARDIS. In short, I was fascinated.
“So when and where are we?” I inquired; looking at a monitor the Doctor had pulled down.
“We’re 10 years into the future, but that’s all I know. The reading’s still quite fuzzy.”
“We can always go back, though?”
He offered his (somewhat) customary grin. “Sure we can. But don’t you want to see what’s outside?”
I was already at the door, curious as I was. Grabbing the door handle, I gave it a gentle push.
A gasp escaped my lips.
“Hugo Weasley, welcome to the year 2031, where—“ the Doctor stopped mid-sentence when he took in the view outside, “—what?”
“We’re in Hogsmeade.”
I barely recognised the village, only the remains of the sign splayed out on the ground in front of me confirmed my thoughts.
Hogsmeade was in ruins.