builtofsorrow: (dw | donna noble)
[personal profile] builtofsorrow
title: On This End of the Telescope (You're Mostly a Ghost)
character(s): Ten, Donna Noble; Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, & Hermione Granger
rating: G
word count: ~2,300
spoilers: DW 4x13 (Journey's End) & Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. To be extra cautious: [very] vague references to DW 4x2 (Fires of Pompeii), 4x5 (The Poison Sky), & 4x6 (The Doctor's Daughter).
notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] dw_cross.
Title from Jakob Dylan's This End of the Telescope; betaed and inspected by my resident canon expert [livejournal.com profile] trinsy_fics (&hearts!)

---

He wonders what he did with the phonograph.

He used to have one in here, somewhere, didn't he? It's hard to think of now – not remember, but think of – now all of that was so long ago, regenerations ago, and he's not so nostalgic as he was then, and he'd get better sound from technology that's right at the tips of his fingers, so to speak (he strokes a dial softly – want me to leave you two alone? her echoes ask), and where to, where to next?

-----

'Right then, where to next?'

'You choose.'

'I
always choose.'

'Like you mind, bossy. Anyway, works more like you suggest, I agree, and then we end up somewhere entirely different.'

The Doctor manages to look wounded. 'I am perfectly capable of arriving precisely where I'd like to, thank you very much.'

'Prove it, Time Boy.'

'All right, how does Loch Ness sound?'

'I suppose you're going to tell me Nessie's real now?'

'I have to
tell you?' He busies himself at the console, humming, before she has a chance to formulate a comeback.

-----

His hands move nearly of their own volition, falling back into the old familiar patterns of flying a one-manned TARDIS, hands and feet and arms and legs and nose and even forehead, sometimes, moving in a ridiculous sort-of dance that more than one of his companions has laughed at him for.

He steps back after awhile, lets the TARDIS take care of the rest, pacing slightly, resolutely ignoring the silence. He only stops moving when she does: just as she settles herself down gently, he freezes, staring at the door.

-----

'Are there always so many oddly-dressed children at Loch Ness?'

'Oddly-dressed…?' He joins her at the TARDIS door, looking slightly disappointed before the expression on his face becomes one of scarcely-suppressed glee.

'While there does appear to be a lake here, this looks entirely different to any pictures I've ever seen of Loch Ness. Are you sure…'

'Donna, we're at
Hogwarts! How can you think of Loch Ness at a time like this?!'

-----

He draws a breath in slowly, holding it as he feels the oxygen reaching each extremity. Finally, not bothering to stop and check the date or time on the way, he walks to the TARDIS door and pulls it open and steps out onto the grass. And finally, then, he exhales.

The TARDIS has settled in the very same spot as then, and as he turns back to look at her – he's half grateful and half resentful, he realises – the doors swing shut gently. Almost as though he's being pushed by the same momentum, he turns back and starts walking toward the shore of the lake before him.

-----

'Hogwhats?'

'No no no, Hogwarts.'

'That sounds… more than slightly unpleasant.'

'Has a nice ring to it, I think.'

'Actually no, not unpleasant, exactly. Sounds like a name thought up by dyslexic warthog enthusiasts.'

'Not really what dyslexia is, you know, but ooh, bad lot, those ones.'

'Dyslexics? Rather-'

'Warthog enthusiasts.'

'…I was speaking of their existence in hypothetical terms.'

'That's for the best, really. Think I'll join you.'


-----

The fact that the grounds are all much quieter than last time doesn't take long to sink in, and it's something the Doctor's glad of, almost. Four steps and two breaths later, he's aware that the air is heavy with something that worries him, gnaws on the edge of the seeming peace: some sort of tragic triumph, perhaps. One more step, and everything finishes processing –

It feels like the end of a war.

-----

'What planet are we on, then?'

'Earth, late twentieth century.'

'Right, of course, 'cause you always see things like
that on Earth,' Donna replies sarcastically, gesturing to two ginger boys near the shore of the lake, who are using wands to levitate frogs and transfer them to the top of unsuspecting people's heads.

'I don't think mischief is confined to the wizarding world,' the Doctor replies, mostly to wind her up a bit.

'Ohhhh, yeah, 'cause that's what I meant.'

'It is Earth though,' a voice cuts in from behind them. 'We're just quite good at concealing ourselves from non-wizards.'

'Muggles,' the Doctor adds in an aside, as he and Donna turn about to see who's speaking to them.

Donna raises an eyebrow at him.

'It's what we call non-wizards,' the owner of the voice – a small, bushy-haired girl – clarifies. 'I'm Muggle-born, actually, which means both my parents are Muggles. Not that it matters, really, in terms of magical ability, though some people think it does, but we, my parents and I, I mean, didn't know about wizards and witches or Muggles either, not until I got my letter from Hogwarts a few years back.'

'She talks almost as much as you do,' the Doctor observes to Donna, grinning.

She gives him a slight shove. 'I don't think you should be commenting on anything regarding that, timey-wimey man.' She sticks her hand out toward the girl. 'Donna, by the way. Donna Noble.'

'Hermione Granger,' the girl replies, smiling as she grasps Donna's hand. 'And that must mean
you're the Doctor,' she continues, as she and Donna release their hold on each other's hands.

The Doctor recovers quickly enough, but Donna still has the chance to laugh at how obviously flabbergasted he is. 'How did you-' he begins.

'Well, you didn't exactly leave the TARDIS in an inconspicuous place, now did you?'

'She has a point there,' Donna cuts in.

'Shhhhh.' the Doctor says, waving his hand in her direction. 'So you recognise the TARDIS, eh?' he asks Hermione.

'Well, naturally. Well, not everyone would, you know, but there's a whole chapter on you in one of the supplemental Charms texts. Though if you don't know that, I imagine I'd best not tell you which one.'


-----

There are three figures coming around the shore of the lake, coming from what looks like a tomb a little ways down. The Doctor walks toward them.

-----

'This is Harry,' Hermione says; then, as an afterthought, 'And Ron. Harry, Ron, this is the Doctor and his friend, Donna.'

'Thanks, Hermione,' the second boy mumbles, rolling his eyes a bit. 'Nice to meet you though,' he says, looking at the two adults.

'Well, he'd
asked about Harry,' Hermione nearly hisses in an undertone, as Harry takes the Doctor's outstretched hand, saying, 'Nice to meet you, Doctor…?'

'Oh, just the Doctor,' he replies, airily. 'Splendid to meet
you, Harry Potter. All of you, really,' he continues, releasing Harry's hand and grabbing Ron's. 'I like your hair, Ron Weasley.' His grin is nearly manic.

'Um, thanks?' Ron's eyes dart about, as though he's not quite sure where to look.

'How come you've never said you liked my hair?' Donna interjects.

'I do like your hair.'

'Wouldn't hurt you to say it once in a while.'


-----

It's the flash of ginger hair that confirms to the Doctor that he's walking toward the correct group of people.

But Harry's the first to recognise him, standing, hands in the pockets of his trousers, where they'd all first met, all that time ago.

The Doctor sees him say something to the other two, and they change course slightly before they – Hermione in the middle of the trio, arms around the boys' waists, their arms about her shoulders – come to a stop in front of him.

'Hello.'

'Hello, Doctor,' Hermione replies. 'Everything all right?'

'Oh, you know. Er, well, you don't, really. But yeah. Everything's all right. What about you lot? It's – quiet.'

'We'll be all right too,' Harry says.

'It's the beginning of right,' Hermione adds, slowly. 'I'm not sure that makes sense.'

'I thought it might be,' the Doctor says. 'Hoped it was.'

-----

'So you can see the future?' Harry asks, later, when the five of them are sitting in the grass near the shore of the lake.

'You could say that,' the Doctor replies, carefully.

'It's not as though he can
tell you, Harry,' Hermione cuts in.

'He wasn't going to
ask,' Ron retorts, before looking at Harry. 'Were you, Harry?'

Harry shrugs. 'Not really. I just… wondered.'

'The thing about time,' the Doctor begins.

'Here we go,' Donna murmurs, nudging Ron. 'We'll never shut him up now.'

The Doctor glares at her; she responds with a sparkling grin; he clears his throat. 'As I was
saying. The thing about time is that things don't really happen in a linear, cause-effect sort of fashion, not as much as people assume, at any rate. Certain events are fixed, but other things, a lot of things, can be changed.'

'So there's always a pretty equal chance for each side, good or evil?' Hermione asks.

'Mostly, yes.'

'That's a bit depressing,' Donna says.

'Oh, I don't know,' the Doctor replies, with a small smile and a shrug. 'Seems like, especially with you lot, seems like for the most part, good wins out in the end.'

'Still,' Donna says, looking him straight in the eye (and he knows she's thinking, like he is, of everything they've seen, of Rose, of Martha, of one family and Pompeii, of Luke, of Jenny). 'There's always a cost.'

'It's worth it though,' Harry says, after several moments of silence. 'Don't you think? I mean, even if we – if we don't win out in the end, or even if we don't
see ourselves win out in the end, it's worth it to have tried.'

'I do think so,' Donna says, softly. 'I do.' She's still looking at the Doctor, and he can't stop looking back, and he doesn't think about what he's going to do whenever she's gone, as she inevitably will be.

'I do too,' Hermione affirms, slipping her hand into Harry's, and casting a pleading glance at Ron.

'Same here,' Ron adds, quickly, nodding his head to punctuate his comment. He clears his throat slightly before adding, 'I think your parents would agree.'

Hermione smiles at Ron, and Harry looks between the two of them before he smiles too, and later, when they're back on the TARDIS, Donna says, 'Those three. They'll be all right, eh?', and the Doctor just grins at her, because he knows she knows he wouldn't even have to lie if he told her what's going to happen .


-----

'What do you see when you think of the future?' the Doctor asks Harry, as the two of them sit, looking out over the lake. Hermione and Ron have returned to the Castle, and for now, it's just the two of them, sitting where they'd sat before.

'Normality,' Harry replies, after a long moment. Then he laughs, shortly. 'Whatever that is.'

The Doctor echoes the laugh; though when it comes down to it, it sounds more like a harsh exhalation of breath. 'I don't think I could define it for you if I wanted to, actually.'

'Mostly I think of laughter,' Harry says. 'Laughter and my friends all about me and trivialities being important again, like when I was a kid, before I knew anything about being the Boy Who Lived and all I really had to worry about was avoiding Dudley and his mates. And I see Ginny. She's there too. Always.'

'Yeah.' He can't decide if he's envious.

'What happened to Donna?' Harry asks, carefully, when he's realised the man sitting next to him isn't going to say anything else. 'She's all right, isn't she?'

The Doctor sighs. 'Yeah, she's okay. She'll be okay.' He pauses: sighs again: continues: 'She's got your version of normality to look forward to, I think. You know, with some details changed.'

'And you?'

'Oh, I've got my own version of normality, you know.'

Harry tilts his head. 'What do you see when you think of the past?'

It's an entirely unexpected question, and several more moments of silence beat between them before the Doctor says, 'Ghosts. All the people I've- I've ever- all my friends about me, laughing, mostly though not always, and adventuring and hoping. An awful lot of running, and the moments when we stopped to catch our breaths.'

'What about when you think of now?'

'The same.'

'And the future?'

The Doctor grins, and it's for the first time since Donna brushed off his final good-bye in her kitchen. 'The same. Some new faces too, though. Of course.'

'But the ghosts are always there?'

'Always.' The Doctor thinks of Donna, and the ghosts she won't have, and he thinks his hearts are breaking a bit, and he was going to bring her with him, to these moments, to see what he knew she knew, to see that everything was going to turn out all right here, mostly.

'I suppose everyone's got their own ghosts,' Harry says, thoughtfully. He looks at the Doctor in a measured fashion, eyes all too wise. 'Even when they can't see them.'

'I suppose so,' the Doctor says. 'I suppose they do.'

-----

Harry walks back to the TARDIS with him, and the Doctor finds he's not all that surprised to find that her door swings open at the slightest touch from him.

'See you again, someday?' Harry asks, instead of saying good-bye.

'Oh, I think you might just,' the Doctor says, grinning at him again (and it's starting to come more easily now).

Harry grins back, and they both raise hands in farewell to the other, and the Doctor steps into the TARDIS, shuts the door, leans against it, grins again.

'Right then,' he says, to no one and everyone in particular. 'How about we pay old Nessie a visit, eh?'
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