The Sugar Quill
Author: James Bow (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Grandfather Paradox  Chapter: Chapter Two: All Our Futures...
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Chapter Two: All Our Futures...

Through urgency and persistence, Hermione, Ron and a host of Gryffindors rushed Wesley through the questions of Filch and others, up the chain of command until Dumbledore, sullen and bleary-eyed, met them at the door of his room. At the first mention of Harry and Ginny's kidnapping, he waved Wesley, Ron and Hermione inside. Filch followed. A glare at the other students kept their anxious chatter to a minimum.

"Tell me everything that has happened," said Dumbledore.

Wesley stepped forward and held up his staff.

Filch glared. "Answer the headmaster's question, boy!"

"Sir," said Wesley. "When I reported to Hogwarts a week ago, I lied to you. I did not transfer from Beauxbatons. My real name is Harry Granger-Weasley, I'm from the future, and Ron and Hermione are... will be my parents. I was sent to prevent Harry from being taken by Voldemort."

"This is a preposterous story," Filch exclaimed.

"No," said Wesley. "It's not. The staff proves it."

"What does it prove?" Filch sneered. "So what if he has a staff? What's so important about it?"

"This," said Dumbledore. He went to a closet behind his desk and pulled out an identical staff. "Mr Granger-Weasley, here, is holding my staff."

Wesley swallowed hard. "Don't bring that staff any closer."

"Don't worry. I'm well aware of the risks." He caught Hermione's questioning look. "Having an item meet itself in the past could have some explosive repercussions."

The others could feel a new power in the room, like an elastic band suddenly pulled taut, emanating between the two staffs, that had appeared the moment Dumbledore had brought his into view.

Dumbledore nodded at everyone's consternation. "Quite." He put his staff back into the closet.

"So, Wesley really is from the future?" said Hermione. "I didn't think Time Turners were that powerful?"

"They're not," said Dumbledore. "The only thing that could bring your son back twenty-five years is a powerful Time Spell."

Hermione flushed to hear Dumbledore speak of Wesley as her son. Dumbledore ignored this, and turned back to Wesley. "How well versed are you in staff magic?"

"I'm still learning," said Wesley.

"Then you're well beyond most of your classmates," said Dumbledore. "In my day, before it fell out of fashion, staff magic was taught post wizard doctorate. I haven't seen a fifteen year old hold a staff for..." He dismissed decades with a wave of his hand. He looked back at Wesley. "So, Harry, you knew that Harry was to be kidnapped, and so you used a time spell-"

"Call me Wesley, sir."

"Why?"

"It keeps the narrative line uncluttered."

"Headmaster," Ron cut in. "Time spells? Staff magic? What's going on?"

"If sending people back years in time is so easy, why haven't we heard more about it?" asked Hermione.

"Time spells take a lot of power to cast," said Dumbledore. "Then there is the fact that the moment we realized that Time spells could be cast, we started theorizing on the outcomes of such spells. One theory was called the Grandfather Paradox." Dumbledore looked at Hermione. "Let us say that you went back in time and, by accident or design, killed your grandfather before he met your grandmother."

Hermione blanched at the analogy. Then she frowned. "But, wait, if my grandfather died before meeting my grandmother, then how would I be born?"

"And if Hermione wasn't born, how could she go back and kill her grandfather?" said Ron.

"I'm getting a headache," said Hermione.

"You're not the only ones," said Wesley. "Another theory views time as a tree, where possibilities branch off each other endlessly as decisions are made. You make one choice, time moves in one direction. You choose another path, so does time. Go back along your branch, alter things so a different decision is taken, then time flows along that new branch, but the old branch, the parallel universe that you came from, doesn't cease to exist."

"However, the new path time takes could well be worse than the path that had sent the time traveller to the past in the first place," said Dumbledore. "The changes could be such that the traveller is locked in a new future, unable to return to his or her true home. It was all theoretical. We couldn't tell what would happen, and we weren't willing to risk finding out. Thus, time spells became considered to be spells of last resort. And as they require so much power, by the time they were needed, the casters didn't have the power to cast them. Why did you cast a Time Spell, Wesley?"

"I didn't," said Wesley. "The time spell was cast for me."

Dumbledore stared hard at him. "Who by."

"You, sir."

Dumbledore's expression did not change. "Why?"

"Because you felt we had nothing to lose."

The room was silent for several seconds. Finally, Dumbledore said, "What were you trying to prevent here today?"

"I wasn't sure," said Wesley.

"Wasn't sure?" Hermione exclaimed.

"All I know is that Harry and Ginny disappeared around this time," said Wesley. "That's all anybody remembered. It was twenty-five years ago, and the accounts weren't precise. That's why I wasn't prepared when the attack hit. I thought I'd given myself two weeks to prepare, not one. In my timeline, after Harry and Ginny disappeared, we didn't hear from Voldemort again. He stayed away for so long, we started to hope that he wouldn't come back. But he did. And he brought Harry with him, and the two were unstoppable."

"What?" Ron exclaimed.

"No!" yelled Hermione. "Harry wouldn't!"

"They all said that Harry had been changed." Wesley shuddered. "I didn't know how he used to be, but my parents hardly recognized him. Think about it: Harry and Ginny were in Voldemort's clutches for twenty-five years. If Voldemort was patient enough, and persistent enough, couldn't that have changed Harry?"

Ron staggered. "Ginny," he breathed.

Hermione clasped his hand.

Wesley thumped the staff against the floor. It gave a little spark as it hit. "It's academic now. I've failed to prevent the kidnapping. So, now I turn to you. I did make one thing different. Before I went back in time, nobody saw Harry and Ginny's disappearance. I did. I know it happened in the common room, and that it was a very powerful spell."

"We'll investigate from there," said Dumbledore. "Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, return to your common room. Filch, see that they get there. I would like to discuss something with their son alone."

Filch jerked back to reality. His eyes had glazed over after the first mention of the grandfather paradox. He ushered Ron and Hermione out. Before the door closed behind them, Ron muttered, "I wish he wouldn't say he's my son-"

"Wesley," said Dumbledore. "How well do I know you in the future?"

Wesley hesitated. Then he said, "You gave me your staff. You taught me how to use it. You were my godfather."

Again, Dumbledore just looked inscrutably at Wesley. "Why did you accept this mission?"

"If you sent back anybody who existed in this time period, you could run the risk of crossing timestreams," said Wesley. "It could be as disastrous as touching the two staffs together."

Dumbledore shook his head. "You volunteered for this mission, didn't you?"

Wesley blinked at him. "How did you know?"

Dumbledore chuckled. "Wesley, surely you must know me well enough to know how well I can read people. Especially my future-godson. Why did you volunteer?"

Wesley looked at the door through which Hermione and Ron had gone. He looked back and took a deep breath. "Because, sir, I felt I had nothing more to lose."

***

The common room was ordered off-limits so that an investigation could took place that morning. Nobody complained, as everyone was tired and wanted to get back to their dorms, though most doubted they would get to sleep.

Ron and Hermione stayed behind, standing near the stairs to the boys' dormitory, leaning against a table and staring straight ahead.

"So," said Hermione at last. "Our son."

"So it would appear," said Ron.

"Our son," said Hermione again.

"Hermione," said Ron warningly.

They stood in silence a moment longer.

"That would mean that you and I would have to-"

"Hermione!" Ron cut in.

Another pause.

"I did hit him with the right spell, didn't I?" asked Ron. "I made him tell the truth? I didn't pick some odd syllable that forced him to come up with the silliest, most ridiculous explanation imaginable?"

Hermione shook her head.

Ron sighed. "This is crazy."

"Is it?" asked Hermione.

Ron looked at her.

"That's what makes this so... so..." Hermione gave up the word search in frustration. Instead, she said, "Ron, can you imagine, in your wildest dreams-"

"Don't bring my dreams into this, Hermione," Ron snapped.

Hermione smacked Ron across the back of the head. The boy flinched. "Ow! Will you ever stop hitting me?"

"Nope," said a voice by the portrait.

Hermione and Ron looked up. Wesley was standing there, Dumbledore's staff in hand. "Hi," he said.

Hermione and Ron gave him small smiles. "Hi," they said in turn.

Wesley stepped into the common room. He twirled Dumbledore's staff, and the wood shrank down to the size of a wand. Wesley stood across from them, leaning into the wall. The silence lengthened.

"So," said Wesley at last. "Is there anything you want to ask me?"

"Why didn't you tell us?" asked Hermione.

Wesley stared at her for a moment. Then he said, "Hi, Mum! Hi, Dad! I know I'm almost your age and you've never seen me before in your lives, but I'm your son, on a secret mission from the future. You won't conceive me for another ten years, but I thought I'd drop by and chat."

Hermione huffed. "Point taken."

Wesley looked away. "Sorry. It's not been easy. I know it's unnerving from your perspective, but it's just as unnerving from mine. I've been struggling not to call you Mum and Dad since I first saw you, but... I can see you, and yet you look so different." A smile touched his lips - his first real one this evening. "I doubt you could ground me, now."

Hermione and Ron stared at him. Wesley's smile vanished. He looked at the floor at his feet. Then Ron snorted. "Son, did you empty the dustbins?"

Hermione stared at Ron. Then she too began to chuckle. "Son, did you clean up your room?"

"Did you do the dishes?"

"Have you finished your homework?"

"Wesley, go to bed, now!"

Wesley's smile was back and he was answering every question with a "Yes, Dad! No, Dad! Honest, Mum! I will!" until everyone broke down laughing. It was a cathartic release. When they got their chuckles under control, and looked at each other seriously, it was with a lot less tension in their shoulders.

"May I call you Hermione and Ron?" said Wesley.

"You certainly may, Wesley," said Hermione.

"Please," said Ron. "Call me nothing else but Ron."

"Thank you," said Wesley.

"What do we do, now?" asked Ron. "We've got to rescue Ginny and Harry."

"Dumbledore's on it," said Wesley. "We can help him tomorrow morning, or tonight if he finds something quickly and decides to wake us. But, right now, he suggests that we all get what sleep we can."

"Well, I guess we can try," said Hermione.

Wesley extended his hand. "Look, this past week... it's really been nice. You've been as good to me as I could have ever hoped. I'm really sorry I deceived you."

Hermione came forward and took Wesley's hand. Then, to his astonishment, she wrapped him in a warm hug. Wesley's eyes were wide when she let go.

Hermione smiled, ruefully, but with no hint of anything snide. "It seemed like the right thing to do."

Wesley looked relieved when Ron shook his hand. They left for their respective rooms.

//
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