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The World of Tomorrow
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter and would not particularly care to.
The universe spun around him for approximately forever. He caught images of people and things before they vanished to where ever everything went when the world disappeared.
Had it always been like this? He dimly remembered a time before the swirling images. A red-headed man… a friend? A girl with a huge mass of hair… more than a friend? An old man with wild robes and a long white beard… A younger man with dark hair and a beard, smiling fondly… a parent? A teacher? A… what?
The memories slipped away, yet again, the way they always did when he tried to focus on them. Forever was such a long time.
Suddenly he stopped, and the universe stopped with him. He found himself laying on a cold stone floor, holding on for dear life as his memories came flooding back.
"Welcome," he heard a voice he didn't recognize say, 'to the World of Tomorrow!"
"Cyril?" a second voice interrupted. "Do shut up."
He found himself sitting at a table with a mug of tea in his hand. His hands trembled as he grasped the mug with both hands to raise it to his lips. Actual tea flowed over his tongue. Not a tea that would be brewed at someone's home, or even at his school, a school he still could not name, but tea that was obviously from a government office of some sort.
Even though he knew that he should mistrust the government for some reason, he found that comforting.
"Sorry about Cyril," the man sitting across from him. "He's been spouting that 'World of Tomorrow' nonsense since he did an exchange with a cryosleep facility in New New York." The man looked over a rectangular plastic panel on the table. "The first thing we need to do is get you registered into the system. Have your memories returned sufficiently to start answering my questions?"
"I… I think so," he admitted. "Where am I?"
"Oh," the blond man said, his eyebrows climbing toward his hairline. "So you didn't do this to yourself then?"
"Do what to myself?" the younger man asked.
"I see," the man said with a sigh. "Introductions first, then. I am Neville Thomas Longbottom, curator and head archivist of the Imperial Museum of the Ministry of Magic."
The younger man sat bolt upright in his chair. "Neville Thomas Longbottom?" He choked.
"Yes, I know, a horribly common name," the Blond said with a smile. "After Neville Franklin the 12th the family gave up on direct naming lines, and it allowed each branch of the clan to have its own Neville Longbottom… After all, all of us, even the minor cadet lines can claim the famous Neville Franklin the first as our Grand Father. And you are?"
"Harry Potter," the younger man answered.
Neville Longbottom's eyes widened and then flicked to Harry's forehead. "No… Surely not." The man slid a black box across the table toward Harry. "I'll need to confirm your identity, if you could put your hand in the hole in the side of the analyzer please?"
"What is it?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"It's a device that will verify your identity," the man explained. "You have to understand, over the years, quite a few people have shown up claiming to be you. Earlier versions of this device have proven their claims false. This version is linked into the Planetary Data Net and on top of verifying your identity, will also register you with all the important planetary data systems, and far more comfortably than the old Probulator model, I can assure you."
Harry hesitantly placed his hand inside the hole in the black box. His hand felt warm for a second, then cold, then the box issued a bell sound and the table top on Longbottom's side of the table lit up with what was, to Harry, unrecognizable script.
"It is you. So this is what happened to you."
"What happened to me?" Harry asked almost pleadingly.
"You've been moved forward in time, Harry, more than a thousand years."
"A thousand years?" Harry echoed.
"You disappeared the night that you and five other students raided the Ministry, this very building, to prove that Voldemort had returned," Longbottom explained. "It was thought that you might have fallen through the Veil, or that one of Voldemort's Morte Diners had killed you and then transfigured your body into something that was never found. I read all about it in digital reproductions of my grandfather's journals. What was he like, my grandfather?"
"Neville Longbottom is the bravest man I've ever known," Harry responded without thinking. But Neville must be dead, after a thousand years. And so was Ron, and Hermione, and Ginny, and Luna and … everyone he ever knew. He swallowed noisily and felt himself becoming very dizzy.
"Oh, dear," Longbottom sighed. "It's come home to you, hasn't it? I've seen it all too many times."
"You see a lot of time travelers, do you?" Harry managed to ask.
"Wizards found many, many, ways to travel through time, and the Unspeakables were the center of all British research in that vein for centuries. We average a time traveler appearing here ever four months. Usually the traveler is an ambitious mage who never intended to come this far forward in time, though some have actually aimed for this era, imagining a time where Wizards ruled the world."
"Do they?" Harry asked, almost afraid of the answer either way.
"Oh my, no," Longbottom laughed. "We speak of your time as one of giants. Magic today is a shadow of what it was. Hogwarts only has forty students at any one time."
"Hogwarts is still there," Harry nodded, a sense of relief washing over him. "Forty students isn't bad, that was the size of my class. Mine and your grandfather's."
Longbottom smiled. "You misunderstood me Mr. Potter, I wasn't speaking of a single cohort, but the entire student body. In all honesty, if all the candidates who show signs of magic were to attend, it is likely that we would fill the school as it was in your time, but most don't bother."
"But…" Harry hesitated, trying to understand the mindset that would allow someone to 'not bother' with magic, "its magic…"
"Once you get out into the world, you will see the wonders of the 31st century," Longbottom said gently. "Our mundane cousins have surpassed everything we ever achieved with magic, and with a fraction of the study and dedication it too us. I often wonder why I continue to do my job, but then I remember the official Motto of today's modern ministry," the man gestured to a poster on the wall of the office. An image of a downtrodden government official with the legend 'One does what one must do.'
"Well, Harry," Longbottom said after several moments of reflection, "it is time to install your Career Chip."
"My what?" Harry asked.
"Your Career Chip," Longbottom said, picking up a large pincher like device. "It will establish to the world the one career you are best suited for." He reviewed the notes that the tabletop presented. "Though, in all honesty, I'm not sure how much call there is for a Righteous Avenger."
The term 'Righteous Avenger' was repeating over and over in Harry's mind to the point that he never noticed Longbottom closing the strange device over his right hand.
Exiting from the Ministry building, Harry paused to take stock of his situation. He was fifteen years old, or one thousand, one hundred and thirty, depending on whether you counted from the number of birthdays he had actually experienced or the number that had passed since his birth and 3010.
To sum the situation up, his life sucked, as usual. Despite everything, despite the fact that he knew nothing of this new world he was in, the system still expected him to solve other people's problems. How else could his new 'career' of 'Righteous Avenger' possibly be explained?
Just getting out of the Ministry of Magic had been a pain. Word spread among the Witches and Wizards that the Mythical Harry Potter had returned from wherever he had been for the last thousand years and everyone had wanted a photo taken with him, though no one seemed to have anything that he recognized as a camera. His escape from the building proper through an irising door out to the street and not a secret entrance was surprising, but then it seemed that the Statute of Secrecy had died centuries before.
London was unrecognizable. The Ministry building was a bit different, but basically unchanged from his time, but no other building in sight looked anything like any building he had ever seen before. Some of them seemed to be as intrinsically unstable as the Burrow, but what did he know about architecture? The sky was full of flying machines, none of which appeared to be airplanes, and there were network of tubes, that appeared to be moving people through them.
Life was going to be extremely odd here. That much was clear. But what was he to do now? He had his supposed career, but what did it mean?
Word of his return had evidently spread far beyond the Ministry, as evidenced by the small mechanical owl that fluttered down to light on his shoulder.
"Yer' wanted at Gringotts Bank, Meatbag," the owl said.
"You talk?" Harry asked in spite of himself.
"Right on top of things, ain't cha?" the owl sneered. "Yer grasp of the obvious must make you the envy of all yer friends."
"What does Gringotts want?" Harry tried again.
"How should I know, Meatbag?" the Owl demanded spreading its wings. "I just deliver the messages."
Harry watched the mechanical owl fly away and sighed. Having nothing better to do, he set out to find Diagon Alley. Hopefully it was still in the same place it had been.
Twenty four hours later, Harry was standing in front of what was perhaps the oddest building he had ever seen in his life, knocking on the door. After a short wait a mechanical man opened the door and growled, "What do you want?" and blew a cloud of cigar smoke into Harry's face.
"Hi," Harry said hesitantly. "My name's Harry Potter, and I'm here to see Thomas Scruffington."
"Who?" the robot asked, his eyes somehow narrowing.
"He means Scruffy, you blasted toaster," a pudgy middle-aged black man said in rich Caribbean tones as he was passing by.
"Scruffy's on break!" a different voice called from further inside the building.
"Scruffy's on break," the Robot repeated. "If you want to talk to him, you'll have to wait, come on in. I'm Bender."
"Thank you," Harry said. "I'm Harry…"
"Potter, yeah, you said, no one cares," the Robot said dismissively. "It's not like you're great, like Bender."
Harry couldn't help but grin as he followed the robot through the building. In his slightly more than a day in the 31at century he had met almost a dozen mechanical beings and he was really starting to like them. They tended to be like Ron, with their honesty turned up to 12. The fact that they didn't care about his being Harry Potter only made them that much more attractive to his mind. The pair entered a large room containing a conference table, a small kitchenette, a large television and an occupied sofa.
"Hey Fry," the Robot said reclining on the sofa, his feet-cups swinging up to rest on the coffee table. "This is Potter, he's here to see Scruffy, who's on break."
"Scruffy's on break!" the voice called out again.
"Hey Potter," the ginger already on the sofa said, offering a bottle. "Want a beer?"
"It's Harry," Potter said accepting the beer and taking a sip. It wasn't bad. It wasn't good either, but as any school kid knew, when it comes to beer, you take what you could get. "So what do you lot do?"
"Delivery service," Fry answered. "I'm the delivery boy."
"And I'm the Bender, I'm great," the Robot reported before letting loose with a belch that blew flames across the room.
"Impressive," Harry noted.
"You should see when he tries," Fry said. "So what do you do?"
"Well," Harry sighed, "the career chip I got yesterday says I'm a Righteous Avenger."
"You got your chip yesterday?" Bender asked.
"I just got here," Harry admitted. "I got stuck in a time travel trap of some kind."
"Really?" Fry asked, suddenly interested. "Me too. I'm from the 20th Century, how about you?"
"So am I," Harry laughed. "Yesterday morning it was 1996, and then suddenly it was 3010."
"So, why did you come here?" Bender asked.
"Mostly due to having nothing else to do," Harry sighed. "As soon as I was processed into the system, my bank contacted me and told me that a Tom Scruffington at this address asked me to contact him as soon as I could. I came here, asked for Tom, was told he's called Scruffy…"
"Scruffy's on break!" the voice called out.
"And he's apparently on break, so here I am." Harry concluded.
"I got frozen on New Years Eve 1999," Fry confided. "Best thing that ever happened to me."
"Because he met me," Bender confirmed.
"And Leela," Fry agreed.
"But mostly me," the robot agreed. "Because I'm so obviously great."
"Are you two going to sit on the sofa watching TV and drinking beer all day?" A tall woman with a purple pony tail asked, her hands on her hips in a gesture that reminded Harry of Hermione.
"I answered the door," the robot responded sarcastically.
"Yeah, Leela," Fry nodded. "Bender answered the door."
"The most work either of you have done all week," she sniffed. "And who are you?" she asked turning her attention to Harry.
"I'm Harry Potter, I'm from the 20th century, and I'm here to see Scruffy," Harry answered honestly.
"Scruffy's on break," the now familiar voice called out from somewhere deeper in the building.
"Who is evidently on break," Harry continued. "Should I ask about you having one eye?"
"Only if you want me to kick your ass," the woman responded.
"So, that's a no," Harry noted.
"Good news, everyone!" a very old man wearing a white-ish lab coat announced when he entered the room. "Scruffy's off his break."
"Keep yer shirt on," the voice that had, until recently, been insisting Scruffy was on a break, called out.
The owner of the voice entered the room, revealing himself to be a bald man with a bushy white mustache almost hiding his mouth. He was wearing a one piece jumpsuit, jacket, leather cap and boots. All in all, he appeared, at least to Harry, to be some kind of janitor.
"What was it you were wantin'?" Scruffy asked.
"Get this place cleaned up," the pudgy black man demanded.
"I works on terlets and boilers, boilers and terlets, and that one boilin' terlet on the third floor," Scruffy protested. "Fire me at yer own risk."
"Yes, yes," the old man in the lab coat interrupted, "before any toilets boil over, you have a visitor Scruffy."
"A visitor?" Scruffy asked turning to survey the room, stopping when he spotted Harry on the sofa. "Harry?" he gasped.
Harry rose from the sofa, "I'm sorry," he said, "have we met?"
"Harry," Scruffy proclaimed as he rushed forward to wrap the confused time traveler in a bear hug. "You haven't changed a bit. Do you really not recognize me? I'm Tom. Tom Riddle."
Harry stepped back in horror, "Voldemort?"
"Oh, no, not for a very long time," Scruffy laughed. "Come on, Harry, we need to talk, and to do it properly, we'll need a drink." Scruffy turned back to his erstwhile employers. "Scruffy's on break."
"Fry's on break too," the ginger lad spoke up, "because this is a story he has to hear."
"And Bender is on break, because he's great!" the Robot chimed in as he followed the others out of the building.
"So," Harry said after the three humans and one robot were comfortably seated in a booth in the back of a small bar, and the first round of drinks had been consumed, "what happened? With your nose and hair I mean?"
"Oh, this?" Scruffy asked, touching his nose. "It just sort of grew about fifty years after my rebirth. Hair came later," He picked up his glass and took a pull, "And then the hair fell out about two hundred years ago. The old soup strainer keeps going strong, though."
"Noses are a pain," Bender opined. "That's why I never wear mine."
"You probably want to know what happened after you disappeared," Scruffy continued. "The long and the short of it is, your friends went insane. Longbottom became a one man wrecking machine who tore through Death Eaters like they were weeds in his gardens, and Weasley was almost as bad. Inside of ten years, Longbottom was the Head Auror, training all of his troops, mostly kids from your time at Hogswarts to hunt my people down. And Weasley had somehow ended up the Minister of Magic and was funding Longbottom with all the money he needed for whatever he wanted. I couldn't get my people near either of them."
"Ron became the Minister of Magic?" Harry marveled.
"Oh, that's not the half of it. As bad as Longbottom and Weasley were, Granger, she was worse. Far worse. She formed cells of Muggle Born and started actively hunting me and my people, combining magic and Muggle technology in ways that no one had ever imagined. Every time we tried to stand and fight, we ended up dying before we even knew we were under attack. After almost thirty years of running for my life, it all ended when my last followers and I were caught in an ambush that killed us all."
"Killed you all?" Harry asked. "I can't help but notice that you are kind of alive."
"Oh, that's just Scruffy," Fry explained, without explaining anything. "He dies all the time, give him a couple hour and his zombie powers have him up and around again."
"What?" Harry asked.
"Oh, I'd died dozens of times in Granger's ambushes, and at least ten time due to Longbottom and his Aurors. Usually, my followers would drag my corpse off, or at least gather the pieces together and let the Magic take its course. This last time killed the last of my Death Eaters, so I woke up on a slab in the Ministry's morgue. I transfigured one of my Death Eaters to look like me, and disappeared." Scruffy got a faraway look and took a long pull from his beer. "I originally planned to just wait them out. Wait until the last of your cohort died off and then start again. Then Weasley died, about a century after you disappeared, and not two weeks later a new Dark Lord showed up from nowhere. Let me tell you, that new kid scared the crap out of me. He lasted three weeks. No one had seen Granger in a decade, and Longbottom was crippled, confined to a hoverchair, but the people they had trained reduced the new kid to a chunky paste as soon as they found him. I took one look at that and decided to give up Dark Lording as a bad habit. I left for the Muggle world and took up working in the only field I was ever any good at, customer service."
"Customer service?" Harry echoed. "You're good at helping people."
Scruffy, Fry and Bender seemed to find his question hilariously funny. "Oh, Harry," Scruffy gasped between guffaws, "don't ever change. 'helping people', only you." He dissolved into laughter again.
"Anyway," Scruffy continued once he had managed to calm down. "I think my inability to die has something to do with the prophecy about us," Scruffy confided. "But I was never able to find the damned thing, so I'm not sure, but the part of it I heard seemed to indicate that only you could really kill me, because of the 'power I knew not'."
"What power do I have that you don't know?" Harry asked.
"Harry," Scruffy said, "I had followers who followed me of fear. But yours… they followed you because you inspired them. Even after you were gone, you kept inspiring them. That's the power I've never known, and that, as far as I'm concerned, is the power that defeated me."
Harry's hand went to his pocket, withdrew the prophecy sphere and placed it on the table in front of his former nemesis. "You said that you were never able to find the prophecy? Well, here it is."
Scruffy looked at the misty sphere for several seconds before pushing it away from himself. "Nope, nope, nope. Not gonna look," he said. "With my luck, it will say that all I needed to do to succeed and take over the universe was to leave you the hell alone. Don't want to know."
"I'll take it," Bender said, reaching out to grab the sphere with one of his three fingered manipulators. "It will look great with my collection of Mouseketeer skulls."
"So," Harry asked, "where do we go from here?"
"I'm tired Harry, so very tired," Scruffy sighed. "I've tried to die so very many ways, but they always fail. For the last three centuries, the only joy I have had in my life is not cooperating with other people, and the only thing I've had to look forward to, is you showing up from wherever the disaster in the Time Room sent you. Now that you're here, what I'd like you to do is to fulfill the prophecy, and end me. Immortality sounded like such a good idea when I was young, but after only a thousand years, all I want is for it to all end."
Harry tried and failed to hide his surprise at this request. "Okay, that's fine for you, but I would end up wanted for your murder."
"Nah," Bender interjected. "Suicide is legal these days, including assisted suicide," he drained his bottle, before chasing the beer with the actual bottle while signaling the bartender for another round. "There are even specially designed machines for ending it all, that's how Fry and I met."
"I thought it was a phone booth," Fry clarified.
"We would just need to have a policeman on hand to witness my request," Scruffy added.
"I remember," Hermes Conrad said quietly, "when we used to deliver packages."
"Oh shush, Hermes," Professor Hugo Farnsworth scolded while checking his reflection in the mirror to ensure that his party hat was on just so. "Dwelling in the past serves no purpose, besides, someone is dying and it's not me for a change, so shut up and pay attention."
"Friends," Scruffy said, "Coworkers, Legally mandated representatives of the Police Force…"
"Aww yeah" Officer URL nodded.
"The time has come for me to say goodbye to all of you," Scruffy continued. "After living more than a thousand years, it is time for me to experience what an old teacher of mine once called, 'the next great adventure.' Professor Farnsworth, in your more insane moments, you remind me of my old teacher. Thank you for my place here in your company."
"Oh, Scruffy, you have been our major stockholder since I took the company public. How could I say no when you asked for a job?" Farnsworth noted. "Speaking of your shares, what happens to them?"
"They have already been transferred to my heir," Scruffy explained. "You've met him, Harry Potter. Hermes, you've always been a bureaucratic pain, to you, I leave my completely filled out resignation forms."
"Oh," Hermes gasped, his eyes tearing up with emotion, "Scruffy, I couldn't have asked for a better gift."
"I thought you'd appreciate that. Dr. Zoidberg?"
"Yes Scruffy?" the Decapodian asked eagerly.
"To you, I leave the food left in my refrigerator…" Scruffy realized that he was speaking to thin air, as Zoidberg had vanished, leaving only a vaporous outline where he had been. The former Dark Lord shook his head and continued. "Leela, Fry, and Bender, I leave you nothing, in fact Fry and Bender, you two owe me $50 from this afternoon when you both claimed to have forgotten your wallets."
"Yeah, good luck with that," Fry suggested helpfully.
"And Amy," Scruffy said fondly…"
"Oh, Tom," the all too perfectly cute girl said rushing to his arms.
"Only you could have made me want to stay, Amy Wong," Scruffy said sadly. "But the age difference is just too great."
"I know Tom," she sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
"If only you were younger," Scruffy sighed, releasing her from his embrace. "Officer URL?"
"State your business, Citizen," the Robot policeman said.
"I wish to die," Scruffy said clearly, "and it is my belief that Harry Potter, and only Harry Potter, is capable of ending my life. He has my full permission to kill me."
"So recorded, Citizen," the Robot acknowledged. "Carry on, ahh yeah!"
Harry drew his wand in preparation to fulfill the prophecy.
"Wait, Harry," Scruffy said, producing his own wand. "I would rather it be done by my own wand. It's funny," he said moving his Yew and Phoenix feather wand in a pattern that Harry recognized as a switching spell, "I haven't done any magic in centuries, but it all came back to me as soon as I held my wand in my hand again." He presented the wand to Harry, handle first.
"What spell should I cast?" Harry asked. "I don't want to use an unforgivable."
"No need," Scruffy laughed. "A simple Finite will do the trick, as long as it is done by my own wand." The man once known as Voldemort reached out and put his right hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry, you're here now, learn to enjoy the 31st Century. There are some real wonders out there. People are still idiots, for the most part, but that never bothered you back home. Learn to live."
Harry tried not to think about the man who had been his mortal enemy offering him life advice, extended the wand and whispered, "Finite Incantatem!"
The room pulsed with magic, blinding everyone, metal and meat, for several seconds. Once the inhabitants of the room's vision began to clear, it became clear that the only thing that remained of Thomas 'Scruffy' Scruffington, was his clothing.
"That was one fine assed assisted suicide," Officer URL opined as he headed for the exit. "And it is now filed with NNYPD and the Central Bureaucracy. Have a good day citizens."
"Scruffy nominated you to replace him as the janitor for Planet Express," Hermes noted. "And since it's almost five, it will be easier to just hire you than start looking for someone, I'll need to scan your career chip."
The device in the Jamaican's hand chirped like an electronic bird and displayed: JANITOR.
Harry's eyes went wide. So that was what Tom had done with his switching spell. But why?
"You're hired," Hermes said, reading the display with wide eyes. "According to your chip, you've got almost seven hundred years of experience as a Janitor. Between your experience and your status as Planet Express' majority stock holder, you've just become the highest paid employee since Scruffy. Congratulations."
"Fry?" Professor Farnsworth said from his place at the bar. "Why don't you show Harry to his new office and get him settled in?"
"Well, this is the place," Fry said, opening the door. "Scruffy stayed here about half the time."
Harry followed the Ginger into a small office with a desk and chair, a few filing cabinets and a cot in the back corner.
"So, what now?" Harry asked.
"I dunno," Fry shrugged in a manner that would have had Harry suspecting the man was one of Ron's descendants if he hadn't known they were contemporaries. "No one really knows what Scruffy did around here, so I guess that expends to you too."
"I don't know if I want to live here," Harry admitted.
"Oh, that's no problem," Fry laughed. "Just save up some money and find yourself a place. Bender and I are roomies and when we were looking we found lots of places."
"Good idea," Harry nodded looking around his new office before spotting a publication on the desk that he should probably review.
"Well, I’m heading down to see if Zoidberg has left any cake," Fry said.
Harry was alone in the office, so he sat down in his new desk chair, swung his feet up on the desktop and picked up the publication for a little review. It occurred to him that he ought to make his status official to the staff.
Leaning back in his chair, Harry opened the issue of Zero G Jugs and called out, "Harry's on break!"