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Chapter 9 : Chapter 9: To Portkey or Apparate?
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“That’s a bloody strange message, sweetheart,” Sirius said to his wife, even as he looked at the bit of parchment in her hands. “What does it mean?”
“Newton, the alchemist?” James asked.
“Newton, the scientist?” Lily asked at the same time. “Like Einstein?”
“Rule number four?” Remus queried, his question layering on top of the rest of the words, making a verbal soup so thick Anwen couldn’t accurately hear any of them.
“Which rules are you talking about?” Remus followed up, sufficiently later than the rest for the question to be understood. The brown-haired imp of a woman held up her hands and commanded the rest with her words and actions.
They followed her directive.
“Please, let me think,” she asked. The witch closed her eyes and began mumbling in near whispers. Even as close as Sirius was, he could only make out about every third or fourth word.
“Both scientists ... gravity ... not ... rotational ... quantum ... physics ... speed ... light...”
Her fingers appeared to be moving, as if she was flipping through pages of books. He’d often wondered if his wife’s memory worked like photographs in her mind; the way she appeared to be searching for something now confirmed Sirius’s suspicions. Having a near photographic memory would go along with her visualization skills perfectly.
“There aren’t many places where the work of Newton and Einstein overlap which would be important for us,” Anwen stated even as she was opening her eyes. “Given the lengths I went to get this message to myself, I can only assume it has to do with time and time travel,” she admitted, even though it pained her.
“What?” Sirius asked, his eyes probing his wife’s, as if he could draw the answer out of her if he concentrated long enough.
“Simply put, Newton believed time was a constant, that you’d always travel the same distance in a given amount of time. Einstein disagreed, making time a variable, just like distance,” she explained. Only Lily, who had at least studied Muggle science, had any idea what she was speaking about. The others looked at her dumbfounded.
“Huh?” Sirius squinted at her.
“Time isn’t constant. Depending on how fast you’re moving, time gives the appearance of moving in concert with you. Think of it this way; when one Apparates, the skill of the witch or wizard Apparating can affect how quickly they arrive at their destination, regardless of the distance, even if two left at the exact same time. Everyone with me so far?” The others nodded. “However, when we Portkey, it always takes the same amount of time. Whenever we Portkey from London to Cardiff, it takes eleven and a half seconds, regardless of who has created the key or how many are travelling. This is why there can be regularly scheduled Portkeys for longer travel. The first demonstrates Einstein, the second Newton. Do you see where the dichotomy occurs?”
The others nodded, although still looking puzzled. Anwen realized she wasn’t getting anywhere attempting to explain the physics to them. It made sense to her, which was ultimately all that mattered.
“None of this is really important, other than understanding the message I sent myself. I think I’m trying to tell myself that somewhere there’s a gap in time or the like. It’s a leap, but given the third bit of the message, I think it’s correct,” she explained.
“The fourth rule?” Remus asked her. “Which set of rules are you referring to? Augustus’?” Anwen nodded, suddenly making things clearer for everyone but Sirius. The confused look on her husband’s face made Anwen smile and lean toward him to gently kiss him.
“Did you read any texts while at school?”
“Not really,” he replied and she simply shook her head.
“How did you complete your Master’s program?”
“Sheer skill and my affable personality,” he answered and she rolled her eyes.
“Augustus’s fourth rule of time travel states Time is fluid. New paths are constantly being created. If my brain works the same in the future, I think I understand. The message means somehow the future is changing so quickly one or all of us are slipping out of sync with the world around us,” Anwen explained, even as she ran her hands through her hair. “The implications of such a thing are …disastrous.”
“Why wouldn’t you just tell yourself that?” Sirius enquired.
“Because, if we’ve been messing with time, it’s likely there are others doing so as well. I needed it to be vague enough that if it fell into the wrong hands no one else would understand it,” she replied. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence this arrived now, just as we encounter this new challenge.”
“Wait, how would that work?” James asked, leaning forward as he spoke to his cousin. “How could they know time was changing?”
“I don’t know,” Anwen admitted. “But, theoretically if things were happening fast enough, you might be able to witness the changes around you. Like when you turn a Time-Turner. The world around you seems to be moving very quickly. Because you’re within the circle of magic which the Time-Turner creates, the movement around you is noticeable. Any movement within the circle, however, would seem natural. Those outside the circle do not see the changes, they simply see time moving as it always had.”
“So, you think this message is telling us that change is happening, whenever they are, to be witnessed?” Remus asked.
“Perhaps, but I don’t think what’s happening to them is the issue. This message came to you within the last week, that means something extraordinary must have occurred or will occur right about now,” Anwen stated. “Whatever it is, I would surmise it’s the explanation for the changes.”
“The prisoners? The attempt to locate the crystal?” James wondered and Anwen nodded.
“It would make sense,” she ruefully replied. “Resurrecting old Moldy-shorts, regardless of his having that last sliver of a soul or not, would be disastrous.”
“What do we do?” Lily asked. “How do we stop something that’s in the future?’
“It’s far more complicated than that,” Remus replied, his mind finally beginning to dissect the entire paradox completely. “This is something which is happening in the future, the past and by our involvement, the present.”
“What if we just sent one of ourselves into the future to ask what exactly the problem is?” the redhead suggested.
“I don’t think it would work, and more likely, it would make the situation worse,” Remus explained, Anwen and James nodding in agreement. “There’s no way to know if we’d arrive in the ‘correct’ future.”
“Wait, I’m completely confused?” Eva admitted. “You’re saying there are multiple futures? Are we in all of them at the same time?”
“Maybe,” Remus answered. “But they’re supposed to exist side-by-side, without knowledge the others exist. Somehow some version of ourselves is witnessing the time changes.”
“That makes no sense,” Lily murmured.
“It does if you think of it as a tree, Lily,” Anwen interjected. “All of the time lines have the same trunk, but at a specific moment, different branches begin to shoot off. If I had to guess, it’s probably some time in 1980, the time which Harry and Ginny chose to come back to. From there thick branches are formed. One is the life Harry led, where we were mostly dead or gone and he lived with the Dursley’s. Another would be the lives we’re leading, with Voldemort gone before Harry was even born. I’m sure there are others, like one where we weren’t killed but the war continued.”
“Okay, but if we were slipping from one reality to another with such huge changes … how would that even work?” Lily probed.
“They’re probably not moving from huge limb to limb, but rather from small branch to small branch. Every time something gets changed, think of it as a branch shooting off a limb. Eventually there are hundreds of these tiny twigs which come close enough to one another to touch. That’s where they’re probably moving. The changes would be subtle, but recognizable if you knew to look for them.” Anwen rubbed her face and then threaded her hands through her hair again. None had seen her look so stressed since Draco had first been sent to live with them. All of them, in fact, suddenly looked much older than their tender years.
“So what do we do?” James finally asked, the weight of their collective thoughts oppressing the room.
“Well, the message seems rather obvious,” Remus stated. “Regardless of what might happen, we must refrain from using time travel as a way to solve the issue.”
“And, if the problem is the Death Eaters and the crystal?” the deer Animagus further queried.
“Then we train, we watch and we prepare to act when necessary,” Anwen spoke calmly.
“I would additionally propose we watch for signs of change around us. If we are suddenly in a situation where we aren’t sure what’s going on or how we got there or even why we’re there, chances are there’s something wrong. We can discuss this with each other when we need to. From what Anwen has said, it will probably be almost imperceptible at first,” Remus added and the friends all agreed.
Strong, but small, footsteps were heard on the stairs, alerting the adults to the incoming trio of boys. They’d been playing quietly upstairs, but something had driven the little men to come down. A quick glance at the clock alerted their parents it was nearing bedtime, and each of the boys was hoping for their glass of warm milk before they brush ed their teeth and fell into their beds, the Black boys already promised they could spend the night in their daddy’s old room at the manor.
Anwen stood up and went into the kitchen, settling the little ones down with their perfectly charmed glasses, and listened as they relayed the story of their adventures upstairs. She welcomed the simplicity and innocence of their conversation over the one the adults had just had.
Remus and Eva excused themselves, exiting through the kitchen so they could say goodnight to their nephews before Disapparating off the back patio to the London flat that Harry had left to Remus when he’d departed four years ago. The couple had begun to consider moving. The flat had been convenient for Eva while she was working on her counselling degree, but she was now ready to set up private practice. It would be better for her to be near other wizarding folks to encourage utilization of her skills.
Lily had taken Evan upstairs and already had put him down before hastily retiring herself. Mothers of infants learn quickly to sleep when the chance presents itself. Not wanting the conversations of today to impede her rest, she took a full dose of Dreamless Sleep as she collapsed into bed. She had no doubt her husband would be along later, but he would likely sit in his study for a while to consider and catalogue the day’s events.
James Potter had discovered while Deputy Minister of Magic that it was helpful to sort his day’s memories, and preserve those which might one day be important. If he went to bed with so many things prattling through his mind, he found sleep nearly impossible to come by. He opened the cabinet which held his personal Pensive and withdrew his wand from the holster on his belt and began pulling memories out. He relegated each one to its own small phial and then added them to the shelves and shelves of memories which lined the walls. He etched the date and general topic of the memory into the glass for quick reference, should the time ever present itself to remember. When he was finished, he poured himself three fingers of Ogden’s best and settled behind his desk. The mind was far too active to slumber, even with his nightly excising complete.
Anwen and Sirius agreed to staying in ‘their room’ for the night, although they could have just as easily returned home for the night and retrieved all three boys, their two and Harry, in the morning. To be fair, the couple liked revisiting the suite they had always used. It contained strong memories for them. Little was said between them as they prepared for bed, though they were in almost constant contact with each other; a touch of a hand here, the brush of a shoulder there. When they both were done with their routines, they settled on the bed, Anwen sitting between Sirius’ legs so he could brush her hair out. The simple act was luxuriously sensual for them both, and they ended nearly every day this way. He was surprised when she lifted her hand and sealed the doors to the suite. He then heard the familiar hum of a privacy charm go around the room, ensuring no one would hear them. Anwen turned and faced him.
“Sirius, the parchment had a second message on it,” she explained. “But given what it was, I chose not to share it with the others.”
“Why?” he asked. Anwen loathed secrets, and for her to choose to keep one deeply surprised him.
“Because, it’s about you and me,” she seriously replied.
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