(12/1/2012) And here we are, at the very end.
Big thanks to everyone who has read this story and enjoy it – you guys were a large part of why I kept writing it initially, and not wanting to leave you hanging permanently played a large part in bringing me back to this story to finally finish it, now that I've started writing again.
So to everyone – those who've been with me since the first chapter, those who never saw this story until a week ago, and everyone in between – a giant THANK YOU.
Special thanks also go to my NaNoWriMo writing buddies, who were incredibly encouraging and supportive as I sat down to write these last several chapters this month … even though I did not include these words in my word count.
P. S. Happy 10th Birthday, Coexistence.
# # # Epilogue # # #
When the swirl of images and memories of things-and-people-that-weren't came this time, Harry had been prepared and resisted it, fighting to stay where he was. He didn't know where Remus had disappeared off to – could only hope that, as fellow casters of the same spell, they'd at least be able to see each other even if no one else could – but he could at least be fairly certain that wherever he'd gone, it was unlikely to be Harry's own time and place.
For some reason – he still had only the barest idea how any of this strange time-hopping worked, particularly when it came to the hops that didn't involve being attached to people – his desperate clinging to that time period had worked, and he had swirled back into existence in his non-corporeal form only a few feet away from where Petunia still stood.
Mrs. Weasley finished up her ceremony and smiled at the younger girl. "Well, that should have fixed it, dear. Can you feel him anymore?"
Petunia shook her head. "No, he seems to be gone completely." She smiled. "He wasn't … a terrible house guest. But I must say, it's lovely to be alone in my head again."
Mrs. Weasley chuckled. "Well, I doubt it'll be a problem for a Muggle like you, but if you ever get possessed again, do feel free to give me a call."
Harry by now knew Petunia well enough – and wasn't that a weird thought – to know that she hadn't taken kindly to the 'Muggle like you' remark, but she apparently figured it wasn't worth the fight, and politely asked Mrs. Weasley's advice on the best way back to Hogwarts.
Mrs. Weasley led her outside, suggesting that they call the Knight Bus – and then explaining to a somewhat bemused Petunia just what the Knight Bus was. Just as she was about to raise her wand, she turned back to Petunia and asked idly, "By the way, dear … if you'll pardon an old woman's curiosity … did young Harry ever tell you his last name?"
Petunia stiffened, and Harry tensed as well. She knew, after all, and now that he was no longer around as far as she knew …
But she just smiled and shook her head. "No." She said. "He never did."
# # # # #
The first jump he'd tried was 'to where Remus is now', using his strange Apparition-but-not trick. He hadn't been terribly surprised that it hadn't worked – at least not entirely; it had brought him to a form of Remus at least. He had stared down at the rather ridiculously ornate headstone and wondered if perhaps he had jumped here because a part of him couldn't help remembering Remus as he'd died – that smile, a moment before he'd crumbled to dust.
So he tried again, trying his best to push thoughts of death out of his mind and picture Remus as he'd been alive. Nothing, or perhaps another jump to his gravesite – it was hard to tell for sure since he hadn't moved.
Perhaps that hadn't worked because there no longer was a living Remus for him to home in on. So he tried again, imagining Remus the way he thought he himself might look – somewhat transparent, floating a few inches above the ground, like a ghost but somehow even more insubstantial. Still nothing.
For days of real time, as life passed him by, he tried off and on, stopping whenever he got so exhausted he couldn't think anymore, then starting again as soon as he thought he'd recovered enough to. None of the jump attempts ever amounted to anything, and eventually even Harry had had to give up. I guess I'll have to find him the hard way, then.
# # # # #
Eventually, out of curiosity and perhaps a desire to do something, anything other than simply drifting around in the past, trying to find either Remus or something who could see him – which for whatever reason, no one he'd tried could anymore – he attempted to bounce back to his own time. It took him a little while to figure out the trick without being forced into it, but he had a good enough sense of how the transition had felt (having been through it quite a few times) that he was eventually successful.
Here, too, he found that even those who had previously been able to see him could no longer do so anymore. Though he thought Professor Snape might have had a vague clue, after Harry stuck an arm in one of his more delicate potions – half out of spite, half out of genuine curiosity. It had, in fact, exploded, and somehow managed to turn Harry's nonexistent arm a truly alarming shade of pink (additionally alarming given how insubstantially pale the rest of him was) for the equivalent of about two weeks.
It disturbed him a bit when he finally acknowledged it, but Harry found that there truly was very little tying him to his home time-period anymore. He still missed Hermione and Ron, but he found he had mostly come to terms with the fact that he would – he could say, now, with near certainty – never be able to truly interact with them again, particularly now that there weren't even any helpful people who could be used as intermediaries.
So he checked in on everyone he had known and loved in his present – including Professor Lupin, who he was glad to see appeared completely unaffected by his counterpart's disintegration – and then bounced himself back to the past.
# # # # #
Days turned into weeks turned into years. Harry found that he could bounce forward in time with reasonable accuracy (he usually landed within a day or two of where he had aimed), but could not bounce backwards. So, over time, he did so less and less, preferring to experience time more or less the same way the still-living did. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, preferring to tie himself to the slow plod of time rather than bounce forward and risk missing something he would have preferred not to have.
It was with one such time bounce – the bounce that, in fact, convinced him to stop doing so for the most part – that he managed to completely skip over the seventh-year graduation. He heard enough references to the Marauders' 'going-away present' to the graduation ceremony that he really wished that he'd been able to see it in person – hearing people talk about it, even if some of them got pretty descriptive, just wasn't the same.
He also missed his dad proposing to his mum – though that was less due to time skip, and more due to the fact that he didn't actually know for sure when it had occurred (since it certainly hadn't occurred over Christmas their seventh year the way his dad had originally planned) and he, quite frankly, had more interesting things to do with his time than to follow his dad around constantly.
On the other hand, purely by accident he happened to have been checking in on his grandparents and Petunia – who was studying madly for her A-levels in the hopes that she wouldn't have to delay college for a year due to the minor upset of having been absent from school while trapped in a magical castle for roughly four months – on the day when Edwin dropped by and formally asked Petunia if she'd consent to date him.
Which was, admittedly, not the same as a proposal of marriage – but Harry had been floored to see Petunia blush and accept shyly. And he was as surprised as anyone – which is to say, not at all (though he had to admit, he would never have believed it if he hadn't seen the buildup gradually happen) – when two years later, Edwin did propose, and Petunia did accept, though they agreed to hold off on the wedding until Petunia finished university.
Harry was also there when Snape received his formally acknowledged Mastery of Potions – one of the youngest ever to have done so. He watched with pleasure as, instead of getting deeply involved in the Death Eaters as Harry supposed he had before (which admittedly, even if he had been of a mind to, would have been difficult given that the same rescue mission that had lost them Remus and killed Voldemort had also allowed Dumbledore to catch, red-handed, a not-insignificant number of high-level Death Eaters, which in combination with the Aurors, they'd been able to convert into rooting out almost all of the remaining ones), Snape set up his own modest Potion shop – primarily for brewing on-demand of the sorts of advanced Potions that most people could not be bothered to (or didn't know how to) brew on their own, although he also did a limited number of sales of ingredients as well.
With the modest proceeds, he was able to go into the sort of advanced Potions research that he had spoken once of being interested in pursuing. And honestly, it appeared to suit him to the ground – far better than teaching ever had.
Peter, after flailing around for several months post-graduation, finally settled into a role as Snape's shop's "public side" – taking care of most of the customer interaction and tracking the books, thus freeing Snape to do more of what he was actually interested in: the Potion-brewing and research.
James and Sirius went on to become Aurors, quickly becoming the terrors of their class at the Academy with the same sorts of prank spells and tag-teaming that they'd used to such effect in the attack on Silverthorne Manor. And if they became a little bit quiet sometimes, before exploding off to cause even more trouble than before, well – they were minor celebrities from the aforementioned attack, and everyone knew that the hero Remus Lupin had been one of their closest friends, so they tended to let it slide.
Lily apprenticed to Professor Flitwick in order to continue her Charms studies, with the express intention of someday becoming assistant professor, and eventually the full professor of Charms there at Hogwarts.
Bill and Claudius continued to be as close as ever – closer, really, than before, now that Claudius' father was locked away in Azkaban as one of the many who had been caught in the raid on Silverthorne Manor, and his mother had effectively shut herself away from the world in shame. When Mrs. Weasley had learned of this, she had insisted that Bill bring him home for major holidays and as much of the summer as he liked, now that the 'poor boy no longer had a proper home to call his own'. It wasn't long before she was treating him as a sixth son, especially given that 'as much of the summer as he liked' ended up being effectively the entire time.
In Claudius' words, he preferred the friendly atmosphere of the Burrow to the cold emptiness that awaited him back at home.
And as Bill observed, anyone who could handle babysitting the infant twins – just as much of terrors now as they would be when they grew up – deserved the title of 'honorary Weasley' for that alone.
Early on, Harry spent a larger share of his time watching Bill than the others, trying to figure out if or how much Tom was still there, affecting things. As far as he knew, Bill hadn't gone to his mother to get Tom exorcised entirely, but Harry couldn't tell whether that was because Tom was still as effectively trapped as before and Bill was content to leave him that way, or whether the two of them had come to some sort of agreement. Either way, Harry eventually reassured himself that at the very least, Bill Weasley did not appear to be on the path to becoming the next Dark Lord anytime soon, and let himself relax.
Through the various ups and downs of the lives of his friends and family, Harry waited, and watched – missing some important events, finding a way to be there for most – and never stopped searching for Remus. Occasionally he'd pause, and focus his mind on everything he knew of Remus and everything the other boy had meant to him, and jump, and hope – but it always led him back to his friend's grave.
# # # # #
July 31st, 1980.
Harry had been one of the most surprised when Lily had announced she was pregnant, and he had counted forward and realized that the due date matched suspiciously well with his own birthday. It was with a large dose of bemusement and no little humor (because if nothing else, watching his very pregnant mother order his father around was hilarious) that he kept a weather eye on the pregnancy that, in another world, in another set of lives, would have turned out to be him.
He was simultaneously entertained and somewhat relieved to find that the name 'Harry' had not made it anywhere near their short list – the plan was 'John' if it was a boy, or 'Daisy' if a girl. One Harry Potter in the world was, to his mind, more than enough. It would be weird enough watching the boy (or girl, he supposed, though he doubted it) who could have been him growing up without also having to deal with hearing his name all the time.
Lily had gone into labor quite a while earlier; Harry waited patiently with his father and the other two remaining Marauders (theoretically there for moral support, more realistically there to distract James from going completely mad) in the waiting room, eager to hear the announcement of the results. He supposed he could have been in the delivery room proper – no one would have been able to see him, after all – but honestly, there were some things he would be just as happy to go through life (or death, as the case may be) without seeing, and 'a woman giving birth' (especially when the woman was his mother and the baby could have been him) was pretty high on that list.
"Harry Potter?" Harry turned, and saw Remus stroll back into his life, as casually as though he had never left. "I thought so." The other boy said, pleased, then added, "I thought I might find you here."
Only then did Harry realize what his turn had inadvertently revealed. He tensed – then suddenly relaxed, as he realized that it truly did not matter anymore. Who would Remus tell? And it wasn't as though he didn't trust the other boy – hadn't already been considering telling him, hadn't spent long parts of the past several years kicking himself for not finding an opportunity to tell him already (for not finding an opportunity to say a lot of things, actually). He smiled ruefully. "So you found me out? I hope you aren't too upset."
Remus smiled back. "I wasn't sure until you reacted like that just now – but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and for all that there are still things I don't understand, it was the theory that made the most sense." He paused. "I can … sort of understand some of your reasons for not publicizing it, though I don't understand quite why you made such a big deal of hiding it."
Harry shrugged. "It was another world, and other circumstances – circumstances your actions have made null and void, thankfully." He glared. "Though I still don't agree with you just going off and doing that. You had your whole life ahead of you! You could have done so much! And instead you just went off and … wasted it."
Remus snickered. "Now do you understand a bit better our reactions to your use of that spell? Anything you just said of me is equally true of yourself, you know – even more so, really."
Harry paused, arrested by a new thought, then glared even harder. "Do not tell me that you just used a murder-suicide spell to … to prove a bloody point!"
Remus looked momentarily surprised, then laughed out loud. "No, my reasons lined up fairly well with your own, I suspect: I thought the world was enough better off without Voldemort in it that I thought it worth sacrificing my own place. And, well …" He looked down at his hands briefly, flexing them as though they contained a full set of claws, "… as much as the Headmaster likes to paint a rosy picture, there really aren't that many prospects out there for werewolves, even those who have graduated with a full Hogwarts education. Honestly, the greatest draw to sticking around – aside from being there for friends and family – was the knowledge that I might be given the opportunity to teach at Hogwarts someday in the future. But knowing that that too would be taken away from me …"
"… Things are better, now. For werewolves, I mean." Harry offered, a little awkwardly.
Remus grinned wryly. "Another benefit to my death – though one that, unlike Voldemort's destruction, I had not predicted." He shook his head. "In any case – we can argue how much the other deserved not to die until the end of time, I suspect. Shall we just agree to disagree?" He stuck out his hand.
Harry took it, still a bit dazed at the realization that the object of his search was standing right there, chatting with him as though he'd never disappeared, as though Harry had not spent years keeping an eye out for even the faintest trace of his friend, and spent years being disappointed.
Given that they were both currently not even as corporeal as ghosts, it was also a shock to him to find that Remus' hand felt as real to him as though they were two living humans. And warm.
Eventually, he couldn't contain himself. "Where have you been all this time?" He demanded, forcing himself to let go of Remus' hand, even though a large part of him was urging him to keep holding on, to never let go – the same part that worried that if he did let go, or turn his eyes away for a moment, when he turned back Remus would have disappeared again. The same part that still couldn't really believe that Remus was actually here.
Remus smiled wryly. "That's a long story –"
Whatever else he had been about to say was cut off by the door to the delivery room opening, and a nurse stepping out with a broad smile on her face to address the impatiently waiting men – living and non-.
"Congratulations, Mr. Potter. You are now the father of a healthy baby boy."
The three remaining Marauders turned into a miniature mob of delirious joy, James saying something excitedly of which an incessant repetition of the word 'John' was all that Harry really caught. He turned back to Remus and was a bit surprised to see a fondly nostalgic look on his face. "… Remus?"
The older boy shook it off. "Just thinking … it would have been nice to have been here in flesh-and-blood person, you know? I envy you, a little bit, having had the opportunity, even if it was comparatively brief and pretty much random, to have continued to interact with other people as a living person, even if it wasn't really your own skin you were wearing. And I wonder…" his gaze turned back to the ecstatic Marauders. "… John was my middle name, you know."
Harry smiled. "I'm sure that's who he's named after, then – a far better role model than me."
Remus laughed. "As long as he doesn't take after his namesake in being mauled by a werewolf at age six, I'll be content." He smiled wryly again. "Though at least if he is, he'll be coming into a world that's kinder to him than it was to me. And for that I'm glad."
Harry couldn't really think of anything to say to that, so he made do with simply nodding his agreement. He hesitated. "About that long story?"
"Oh!" Remus turned his full attention back to Harry. "Where I've been … that's a long story. And I suspect you've got a few long stories of your own to tell, as well. But then, I guess for all we know we've got eternity tell it in, now." He extended his hand again. "Would you care to travel together for a while, as we share those long stories?"
Harry took it, grasped firmly, and looked up into Remus' eyes. "I'd love to."
25 November 2012