Out Of The Bag
A man with stiff black hair and a bushy mustache leaned over the bed, as six-year-old Calvin drifted between the conscious and unconscious worlds.
“Mmgmph?” mumbled Calvin.
“Shh,” said the man. “No need to wake up.” The man was holding a thin stick in his left hand, and something familiar in his right. The familiar thing was snoring obliviously.
“You dropped this guy on the floor, buddy,” the man said, smiling, as he placed the sleeping tiger next to Calvin. “You found him caught in your tiger-trap, remember? Tigers are suckers for a tuna fish sandwich. Always keep him with you, Calvin. He’ll keep you safe even when you forget what you need to be kept safe from.”
“I’ll visit soon. Before I cannot visit at all. Someday, we’ll meet on different terms, I think. For now, sleep.”
And Calvin slept, slipping into dreams as his eyes locked shut like deadbolts sliding home.
Calvin’s eyes snapped open, granting him a perfect view of the ceiling.
“I have got to stop with the chocolate-cake-before-bed thing,” he told the ceiling. “My dreams are getting a tad surreal.”
“We didn’t go down to the kitchens last night, Calvin,” mumbled Dean from across the room. “We were busy studying, remember? Your dreams are always surreal.”
Calvin paused in the act of pulling the covers over his head to try and return to lala-land. Huh, Dean’s right. I actually did study last night.
“Good morning, Harry, Calvin, and Mr. Grumpy Face,” Hermione said brightly, sitting down across from them and serving herself a generous helping of eggs. “Ready for the Transfiguration test today?”
“I…yeah, actually,” said Calvin, furrowing his brow. “I am.”
“See? Doesn’t it feel good to be on top of your school work? You three have been much better about it these past few days. I’m glad you’re finally listening to good sense.” She poured herself a cup of pumpkin juice while Calvin’s brow furrowed deeper and deeper.
Listen to good sense? Me? That doesn’t sound right. Who am I becoming?
“Studying so much just doesn’t feel right, Hermione,” said Ron, staring at his empty plate. “I think it stole my appetite.”
“Nonsense,” she responded. “Maybe you just care about the test this time, and are nervous.”
Ron laughed dryly. “Believe me, if I was nervous I’d be eating even more than usual.”
“It does feel nice to be prepared for once,” interjected Harry, giving Hermione a smile.
Calvin sat back, putting his hands on the bench to steady himself. The light blurred and cut off as he slowly closed his eyes. I sense a disturbance in the Force. Namely, there are no disturbances.
“Uh, Calvin? You alright?” Dean elbowed him lightly in the side, bringing Calvin back to the present.
Calvin turned abruptly to face his friend, seizing him by the front of his robes. “Something is wrong, Dean! Something is terribly wrong!” Then he spun to confront Harry. “What did I do last night?”
Fork halfway to his mouth, Harry shifted his eyes to his left. “Study for the test today?”
“And the night before that?”
“Study for the quiz we had yesterday?”
“WHAT CLASS WAS THE QUIZ FOR, HARRY!?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “History of Magic?”
Calvin shivered, wrapping his arms around himself. “Something is terribly, terribly wrong…”
There were other things that tipped Calvin off throughout the day. Like the feeling of intense annoyance he felt bubble up inside himself whenever he spotted Draco, because two days previous Draco had come to Hogwarts just to sabotage The Game.
Like the memories filled with afternoons of studying and the hours spent actually listening to Professor Binns’ mind-numbing lectures.
Memories of Neville actually being there.
Too many things didn’t add up.
The final straw was the startling lack of pranks inhabiting the memories of the days since The Game. These were all the clues Calvin needed to deduce the truth of the situation.
It was at dinner that he finally confessed his fears to the rest of his friends. They did not take it so well.
“You think we were what?” replied Hermione incredulously.
“It’s easy to see when you look at the facts,” Calvin exclaimed, hands waving in the air. “Everything’s been different these past few days. I’ve been doing things I never would have believed I’d do. Neville’s been…present. No pranks have been pulled since Christmas.” He paused for a breath. “We were obviously transported to an alternate reality! Somewhere between me, Harry, and Dean falling asleep in the seventh-floor hallway, and waking up with morning, we were snatched from our rightful reality and sent to a twisted reality much like our own, yet terrible beyond imagination.”
“I think you’re reading too much into this, mate,” said Ron, talking around a mouthful of meat. “Just ’cause you haven’t pulled any crazy pranks lately doesn’t mean you’re in a different reality.” After having explained to the redhead earlier in the year what, exactly, and alternate reality was, Ron had shown a peculiar attraction to the idea, often wondering aloud if there was an alternate reality where he was a quidditch star like the twins, or where he became a prefect like Percy, or where he got to ride a dragon like Charlie, or any number of completely preposterous things that could never happen. Now, however, it didn’t seem like he was willing to believe.
“I’m telling you guys, it’s the only thing that makes sense! The only question is…why did I only realize this today?”
“Because you’re mad?” suggested Ron.
“Hmm…” Calvin mused. “No, I don’t think that’s it…” He clapped Ron on the shoulder. “Good thinking, though. Keep up the good work, and let me know if you come up with anything else.”
“Er, yeah, sure, I’ll do that.”
“It’s called change, Calvin,” Hermione said with a roll of her eyes.
They’re going to roll right out of her noggin if she keeps that up.
“It’s what happens due to the passing of time, and the experiences one goes through. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“You don’t think it was a little…abrupt, though?” said Harry. “I mean, Calvin hasn’t tried to drag me into anything these past couple days. It is a bit weird.”
“Thank you! Now we just have to find a good, sturdy cardboard box with enough room for all of us so we can get back to our home reality. Though I guess I could make multiple trips if it’s too small for all of us at once…”
Ignoring the results of Calvin’s unusual thought process, Hermione turned to Harry. “Don’t let him drag into this either, then. We have a difficult assignment due tomorrow for Potions, and I won’t have you boys making a mountain out of absolutely nothing and distracting me from my work. I suggest you follow your own example of these past few days and actually do the work too.”
“‘Mione’s right,” said Ron, cleaning his plate of the last bits of food. “As usual. It can get annoying, but it’s better if you just accept it.” He stood up and stretched, then, before leaving the Great Hall with Hermione.
“If you find a suitable cardboard box, let me know.” Dean grinned, then headed off with Seamus for a game of Exploding Snap.
“Harry?” Calvin said, turning back to the skinny boy with an appraising look.
“Sorry, Calvin,” Harry said, eyes averted. “You’re on your own for this one.”
And then there was one, Calvin thought, looking around at the empty seats.
“How’s it going, Calvin,” said Neville, reaching over to grab the pitcher of pumpkin juice.
“Gah! Neville! What did I say about- Wait. Neville! You’re here!”
“Ah, gerrof!” yelled Neville, trying to push Calvin away. Calvin, who had his arms wrapped around the unsettled boy, was crying tears of relief.
“Oh, it’s good to be home,” he sobbed, burying his face in Neville’s shoulder. “It’s good to be home.”
“Uh, it’s uh, it’s al- alright, I guess…” stammered Neville in embarrassment, patting Calvin’s back awkwardly. “P- please let go of me now.”
“Can’t do that, Neville,” said Calvin suddenly, springing backwards and straightening up. “No time. I have to go tell the good news to…” He stopped, realizing that everyone had already professed a lack of belief in them having been transported to an alternate reality in the first place. Surely there was someone he could tell? Someone he had always talked about these things with? Someone…someone who would listen, without expecting anything in return? Didn’t someone like that exist?
Calvin stumbled out of the Great Hall, unsure of why he felt so…unsure. He headed to his room, to sit on his bed and think. He didn’t do that to often, but a situation of such incertainty certainly called for some action. Even if that action was just sitting and thinking.
The stark red bedspread provided the perfect meditation spot. Not that he intended to meditate, not really.
“Yesterday…the day before…the day before…” Calvin strained to recall some discrepancy in the remembered timeline that could prove this reality was not his own. Despite Neville’s sudden appearance at dinner, he still felt it was a possibility. “I woke up the morning of The Game, and hurried to prepare everything with Gordee and Ferg and the rest of the Ballyhoo Brigade. Then, soon after it started, Draco and his goons came marching in, going around and messing with the Ballyhoo Brigade.”
The empty room might have added something, had it not been so empty. Even the open window admitted no breeze.
“Why? Why would Draco do that? He never did anything like that before, and even the things he did were only when I provoked him, like in Potions class. So why this? He was never so malicious.
“And what of my apparent decision not to pull any pranks or anything these past few days? Even the Ballyhoo Breakfast Radio show felt…rehashed. Recycled. Uninspired. What’s been going on? And why in the world am I talking out loud!” He screamed the last part, but there was no response from the empty room. “I know I should be talking to someone – not that I should go and find someone to talk to, but that right now there should be someone here listening to me talk to them! A friend. My friend. My…best friend?”
Some…something. There’s something there. Who is…my best friend? He tried to say ‘Harry,’ but his mouth would not comply. He tried to say ‘Dean,’ but his mouth would not comply. He decided not to try and say anything, and just let himself say the truth. “Who is my best friend?” And he knew it to be true as he answered, for his best friend answered with him.
“Hobbes,” they said together.
“I-” started Calvin, staring at the ruffled tiger as he he lept up from beneath the bed.
“I-” began Hobbes, kneading the bedspread with nervous paws.
“I missed you,” said Calvin, trying to hold back tears. “But I- I don’t know why.”
“I have a lot to tell you,” said Hobbes, distractedly licking his paw and dragging it over the unkempt fur on his head. He paused and suddenly looked up, meeting Calvin’s eyes with an intensity usually reserved for those times Calvin had woken him up prematurely from a nap in the sun.
His voice was serious; strained. His gaze foreboding. His tongue flicked out and withdrew just as quickly before he spoke again.
“You’ve been Memory-Charmed.”
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