The silence the dimension-travellers left in their wake could be cut with a Diffindo, it was so dense - the Order could only stare, astonished, between the weary Dumbledore and the open door. This revelation hit James and Lily the hardest: their son - another world's version of their son - was Dark? Was consorting with Voldemort?
Lily, nauseated, croaked out the spell to conjure a bucket.
"...horrible," Remus shuddered. "Did you see how close they are?" he hissed to Sirius.
Harry's godfather had a hand over his face; he leaned back over Remus' shoulder. "Guess we know what Harry'd be like without supervision," he tried for a joke, but it was too soon; it fell flat, and even he cringed.
But it was Harry who had it the worst of all of them, in his opinion. His counterpart had seemed so - cool. Weird, sure, but harmlessly weird, like, the kind of weird that 'reclusive genius' characters had in books. That was Assistant's aura. He hadn't seemed like - like the kind of man who'd shack up with the Dark Lord!
(Even if his Dark Lord was a lot cooler than Harry's world's.)
Harry frowned, eyeing the door. He and Assistant had talked, before, about their circumstances; one of the many times the man was showing off some of his cool little rituals for fortunetelling or whatever it was. (There were a lot of different rituals, actually.) From what he remembered of their discussion, it'd seemed like beyond the whole 'orphan' thing, he and Assistant had had a lot in common.
Now, he wasn't so sure.
He kept thinking about it the next couple of days, though. Assistant and Sir (Harry couldn't genuinely consider the man Voldemort, he was too sane, it wouldn't be fair) hadn't left the castle - they were still hanging around, working on something or other in the library at odd hours that the Order nervously hoped was for the whole defeat-Voldemort plan.
Not much was happening on the war front, recently - lucky break - which left most of the Hogwarts residents busying themselves with repairs and wardwork. Harry, since he didn't have his wand, wasn't given any work to do, and instead used his time to keep an eye on Sir and Assistant, taking notes of their schedule. If worst comes to worst, he'd thought in the beginning, this will help us strategize to bring them down.
What he learned from his observations was that the two Dark wizards - Dark Master and Dark Apprentice? Hermione had snorted when he suggested those titles for some reason - were approximately nocturnal, sleeping from dawn to midafternoon most days. It might have been a deliberate move to avoid sharing mealtimes with the rest of the Order, but it also might not.
The duo worked almost singlemindedly on their project in the library for a good portion of the day, either oblivious to or deliberately ignoring the stares from others who used the space, and then in their downtime (which was quite often) they roamed the grounds, ate, and drank. That last bit was noteworthy, because once they'd caught him tailing them, they'd invited Harry to join in.
He'd turned them down the first time, of course. His parents weren't keen on associating with their summoned hero now that they knew what he was up to, and they'd shared that un-keen-ness with Harry, warning him not to get too close.
As if Dark Arts was catching.
(That didn't sound right, but Harry didn't know enough about Dark magic to dispute it.)
It didn't matter, though. Harry was Gryffindor at heart, which meant he didn't listen to his parents for very long. Since they already knew he was watching, he started spending time in their immediate vicinity, and eventually, joined them for a drink in the quarters they seemed to share.
Neither Sir nor Assistant cared that he rarely sipped from his glass; with how wrapped up in each other they were, he wondered if they even noticed. Sure, there was plenty of idle conversation about his world, and their world, and the similarities and differences, but that was before they'd really gotten into their cups. After a while, Harry was just the odd one out, sober and attentive while Assistant and his Voldemort went on tangents about completely meaningless shite because they'd gotten too wasted to hold onto the thread of the conversation-
"-if I hadn't been kilt s'quick," Sir slurred, "or rather, h'd come back faster - then," he finished his drink, "coulda been like this, y'see."
"Y'were a little like thisss last year," Assistant pointed out, mixing another one. (Harry thought it impressive he still had the coordination to do it.) "B'fore the sanity thing."
"True," Sir yawned, absently waving at the fireplace behind him; it crackled back to life, sending heat into the room. "Lotta work, that."
Harry, who'd been staring into his glass of gin-and-tonic (which was more gin than tonic), perked up. "Wait, does that mean my Voldemort-?" he started, then blushed at the phrasing. "I mean, this world's Voldemort, is he broken - the same way?"
Because after all this time spent with the summoned hero and his - partner..? - Harry had come to think well of Sir. And hearing about Assistant's adventures, and watching Sir and him together, had led him to wonder if - well. If he could be like that. If the Voldemort of his world could be.. nice. To him.
...If underneath all the crazy there might be a man worth saving.
"Could be," Sir ventured after a moment. "We haven't gone an' looked at 'im, or we'd know f'sure."
"Oh," Harry said, averting his eyes to the fire. "Fair enough."
It was a ridiculous thought anyway, he scolded himself. Harry was Light, like his parents, like his friends. He and Assistant might both have had a few similar experiences at Hogwarts over the years, but overall they weren't really much alike - he hadn't even had a boyfriend yet, if that was Assistant's relationship to Sir anyway-
But Assistant had been Light too, once, he'd said.
Assistant was a Harry Potter just like him, even if nobody called him Harry by 'accident' anymore, and he'd chosen to become someone else, to become Dark, and he was happy with it...
So, still, Harry wondered.
Of course, when Dumbledore learned of Harry's recent adventures, he called Harry to his office for a talk.
It was dangerous, he explained, to spend time in close proximity with their summoned hero and his summoned boyfriend (he didn't actually call them that, but it was obvious from the way he said it). Dark wizards were fickle allies, said Dumbledore, with an almost wistful look in his eye. It was best, he advised Harry gently, to leave them to their own devices, especially as they seemed to be planning their attack on Voldemort soon.
Harry did understand what the wise old wizard meant. So he agreed to leave the two of them be. "Although if they seek me out I can't really stop them, s-sir," he admitted, stumbling over the title with how often it'd been used for a name recently.
The unstated problem with this, however, was that Harry now had a lot of free time. In fact, since he had neither a wand nor a job to do in Hogwarts, he spent most of his day in the Room of Requirement that Assistant had shown him how to access - since he'd never encountered it before - and only coming out for meals.
Which meant he had a lot of time to think.
Harry was a 'true Gryffindor' in Sir and Assistant's terms, which they teased him about sometimes - he wasn't, fundamentally, a critical thinker. Dumbledore had taken him under his wing and pointed him in the direction of the problem to be solved for the world, and he'd gone for it with all he had, trusting in the cause. So for the nearly eighteen years he'd been alive, he'd never questioned his purpose.
But Assistant had questioned his.
And now Harry was thinking maybe he should be.
The Room provided him with a large thinking-chair and a fireplace not unlike the one Sir had in his room lower in the castle. Harry had to use matches to light the fireplace in Gryffindor's common room, when he stayed up late enough for it to burn out; but no matches were appearing for him to use now. Strange.
Fire's the easiest thing to conjure, Sir had said once, spinning little colorful flames in his fingers. A spark, even, like what falls from a wand the first time you pick it up.
He'd had Assistant demonstrate, and Harry's counterpart had described the sensation as a little tickle on the inside of your arm, a tension or faint pressure in the hand, the finger, an ephemeral sense of something welling up at one's fingertips, so that all you have to do is snap your fingers-
The hearth was crackling as the kindling caught.
Harry stared, astonished, at the finger he'd pointed at it, like it was someone else's. Stared longer, at the flames in the fireplace, and how they seemed almost black at the edges, the only sign of their unnatural origin.