Summary: James Potter never died the night of October 31, 1981. Harry, however, wishes that he had. How did he come to live? What has happened? An AU story. Mild slash RL/SB, but no sexual content worse than PG-13. The R rating is for language, and maybe angst.
Disclaimer: How I wish I owned all of these characters! How I wish they were real! But, they are not, and I don't, so credit goes to J.K. Rowling for her wonderful characters and storyline. I just changed one thing around a bit, but other than that, this story follows canon books as closely as possible.
Spoilers: All of the four canon books!
Author's notes: This will also be posted on Schnoogle.com, for those of you who think that there are too many problems with Fanfiction.net. Please review!
Complications: Chapter 1
Blinking sleep from his eyes and sitting up, Harry Potter reached around on the side of his bed for his glasses. Finding them, he saw Ron Weasley grinning at him from the next bed over. "Wazzamatter?"
Ron just laughed. "It's almost time for Divination. We're doing crow entrails today, remember?"
Harry sighed as he got up and looked around for his shower bucket, still half asleep. "Yeah, we don't want to miss crow entrails. I'd like to know what I'm looking at every time I cut up a dead black bird."
"If you hurry, we'll get to the Great Hall for the end of breakfast," Ron commented, ignoring Harry's sarcasm. "I'm starving!"
"Why don't you just go on?" Harry looked over his shoulder at his friend on the way to the bathroom. "I'll meet you at class. I'm not very hungry this morning."
If Ron's stomach wasn't so demanding, he probably would have noticed the dark circles under Harry's eyes, and the way the dark-haired boy drooped as he walked, slouching his shoulders. He probably would have asked Harry what was wrong.
Instead, he just smiled on his way to the door. "Okay, then. See you!" And he went with a wave.
Harry took his shower rather fast, but it seemed as if he were sleepwalking. He yawned as he turned the water off, stepping out onto the tiles and wrapping himself in the warmed towel on the rack. Drying himself, he dressed with his eyes closed the entire time, and entered the Seventh Year dorm again.
Hedwig, with a light trail of downy white feathers falling softly behind her, sailed into the open window. She had another owl with her, a brown one that Harry didn't recognize, and between the two of them, they were carrying a large box. Curious, he walked over to where the owls had dropped the package onto his bed.
"Who's that from, Hedwig?" Harry let his owl nip his finger lightly, and watched as she followed the other owl back out the window, probably to make their way to the Owlery. He ran his fingers over the box, and then lifted it up. It was heavy, something inside of it so large that it took up the entire inside of the box. A piece of paper stuck out from the small opening in the top. He reached for it, noting his name written on the outside, and opened it up.
This is a Pensieve, which is a collection of memories from the one who wishes to put them in it. You can touch any part of your skin to the surface of the liquid, and you will find yourself IN the memories of the Pensieve's owner. To get out, you simply will yourself upwards. I hope you will find these memories that I have included helpful in your dream to know more about the truth behind your past and your mother's death.
I have never stopped loving you, Harry. I regret all that has happened. I want you to know the truth.
It was unsigned, but Harry felt suddenly alert and completely awake, a tendril of dread forming in his stomach. He didn't want to know the contents of the Pensieve. He knew who had sent this to him, and he wanted nothing to do with it. Feeling ill, he shoved the heavy box under his bed, and he ignored the wave of nausea that rose in his throat as the thought briefly about the owner of the memories. He forced himself to think about Quidditch, the upcoming Potions test, the way Cho Chang had looked at the end of the school year, right before her own graduation, her smile wide and her straight, shiny black hair pulled elegantly into a twist. As his mind wandered, he started the trek down the stairs to his first class of the day.
It was one of those days where every minute of the second hand of Harry's watch seemed to last a lifetime. His mind kept slipping back to that damnable box under his bed, and the note that had come with it. He was told by Trelawney and even Hagrid that he wasn't paying attention, and Harry knew that he would never get through the day without seeing what the Pensieve was all about. Excusing himself to Ron and Hermione right before Charms (earning a stern look from the latter and a concerned look from the former), he hurried up to the dorms and shut himself up in his room.
Reaching under his bed, Harry brought the box out and opened it, taking out a blue, earthenware bowl. The truth. That's what the note had said that this bowl contained. Fighting down his fear of what this could mean, Harry leaned forward and dipped his finger in the swirling silvery liquid.
A laugh. Peter Pettigrew, his gray eyes lighting up with delight as he watched a young Remus Lupin Transfigure a light brown cat into a chicken, his wand held high for show.
"There, Peter," the werewolf and Harry's former teacher was saying with a slight smile, "chickens don't chase rats, as well you know."
"One down, and about seventy-six more to go, then," drawled the voice of Sirius Black, coming from the corner of the scene, which was exactly the same as the present Gryffindor Common Room of Harry's time. "You going to catch them all, Remus?"
A wave of a hand and a shifting of motion-the memory's owner was moving. Remus looked straight at him. "What do you think, James? Moony the Feline-Chaser?"
A snort from Sirius. "It's the only Chasing you're likely to be good at." Remus actually looked hurt.
Throat clearing, and suddenly James Potter was speaking from Harry's point of view. "Actually, seventy-five cats are left. I don't think McGonagall counts. Unless she chases after rodents, too..."
Laughter from the four boys at the thought.
Charred remains of a small house. The two houses next to it were untouched. Lily Potter, her brilliant red hair streaming down her back, looked straight at him.
"Oh, James," she sighed, her eyes filled with tears. "Why does he keep hunting us?"
Arms came into view, holding a tiny, wriggling baby in them. A voice from the owner of the arms. "Little Harry. I vow, son, to protect you."
Lily was sitting in a bed. White sheets made her look paler than normal, but she was smiling. "And I vow to protect both of you," she said.
"No, Lily," Sirius stepped closer to where baby Harry was being held. "I vow to protect all three of you. Voldemort will never get you. I won't let him. As long as I draw breath, I will NOT see either of you harmed."
"It's someone you trust, James," Dumbledore was saying. "Someone who knows your every move. Who have you told?"
"No. NO! Only Sirius and Remus and Peter know, besides you. Lily and I have been moving frequently. I can't let anything happen to Harry, Albus. But to not trust my closest friends...they're all I have, outside of my family. They would never betray me!"
"It's obvious, Sirius. I trust you more than anyone else, and you know it."
Sirius shook his head, his eyes troubled. "No, James, I just think that I'm too obvious of a choice. Pick Remus or Peter! Please! I'll lead them away, so they'll suspect me."
"No, Sirius." A firm hand appeared on Sirius' shoulder. "You have to be our Secret Keeper. There's no one I trust more completely than you."
A pause, and then a nod. "Alright. Alright, James. Just...tell me when. I'll do it. If it's your wish..."
"No. NO!" A fist pounded against the wall in front. "NOOO!!"
It was dark, the only light coming from a sliver of moonlight through a window high up. Barty Crouch Sr. was on the other side of the bars, smirking.
"Think you'd get away with it, did you? Upset that your Dark Lord is gone?" Crouch shook his head, staring into the cell. "You'll rot forever here, Potter, for what you did. Betraying your family to You-Know-Who. You will go mad in time."
"I didn't...Sirius...I trusted...he was the Secret Keeper...ask Dumbledore...Sirius..."
A snort. "Yes, you two made a...er...NICE team, there. Evidence is against you, Potter. Two Killing Curses found as the last two spells from your wand. Can't argue with that."
Crouch leaned in close, his eyes feral. "I hope you rot in here, Potter."
Harry had enough. He willed himself out of the memories and promptly took the bowl to the sink in the bathroom, pouring the silvery substance down the drain, and then washing it out with a brush, not touching any of it with his skin.
He couldn't believe that HE had the audacity to send him the Pensieve. Did HE think that Harry would feel sympathetic? That Harry would somehow shift his hate and blame onto Sirius? No, Sirius had never come outright and told Harry what had happened, exactly, but the truth was like a nugget fully lodged in Harry's stomach. He knew that Sirius was innocent. There was no reason for his godfather to have lied for four years straight. Sirius had told him about the switch of Secret Keepers at the end to Pettigrew, and what had happened in the Shrieking Shack back in Third Year had confirmed that. If Sirius had been the one who had betrayed his family, then why wouldn't the older man have finished Harry off? Handed The-Boy-Who-Lived over to Voldemort?
No, HE was just trying to trick him. Putting false memories in the Pensieve or something. He didn't know if it was possible to put false memories into a Pensieve, for he had never asked Dumbledore, but Harry was SURE that what the Pensieve had shown him had not been real. Sirius would have never betrayed him. Harry considered him the father he never had now.
Placing the empty bowl back under his bed, Harry curled up under his covers and tried to catch up on his sleep for the rest of the afternoon.
Two nights later, Harry couldn't sleep again. His lessons seemed to be slipping from his memory, and he found that he wasn't retaining anything that he had learned within the past few weeks. Ever since the Daily Prophet came out with a surprise news article, one that set the whole of Hogwarts talking, causing everyone to look at him out of the corner of their eyes.
A second escapee from Azkaban. The first, Sirius Black, had not been found, yet. For that, of course, Harry was glad. But this second escapee...
Annoyed by his inability to fall asleep, Harry put on his nighttime robes and went downstairs to the Common Room, falling very ungracefully onto the couch in front of the fire. He heard a crinkling sound, and remembered that these were the same robes he was wearing the last time him and Ron went to sneak food from the kitchens awhile ago.
The Marauder's Map was pulled out of his pocket, and Harry stared at the blankness. He pulled out his wand and tapped it. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Lines lit across the parchment, and Harry followed them with his eyes, catching names in certain rooms. Blaise Zabini and Millicent Bulstrode in the Trophy Room. Severus Snape slowly moving down a corridor in the dungeons.
Harry stared in disbelief. It couldn't be...
With surprising swiftness for one who had gotten perhaps three hours sleep in the past week, Harry tore up to his room, dug around in his trunk for his Invisibility Cloak, and braced himself for what he would face as he checked the Map again, just to make sure he wasn't imagining things. Confirming his past realization, he hurried back downstairs, and out past the Fat Lady.
The corridor was eerily silent, the torches on the walls holding flickering flames that cast orange glows onto the ceiling and walls. Shadows seemed to move, and a faint sound of ghostly laughter rang out from somewhere floors below.
Probably just Peeves, thought Harry. He gathered his Invisibility Cloak more securely around his thin frame as he crept ahead, his destination clear in his mind. He had been waiting for this moment, this confrontation, for about four years, but especially for the past two days.
The wrinkled, aged piece of parchment was secured tightly in his right hand, his left clutching the front of the cloak. He wanted to look at it one more time, just to make sure he wasn't seeing things, but he knew that his eyes were not lying. Thirteen times of checking the parchment in the last ten minutes of walking meant only one thing-the person was definitely in the castle. More specifically, the person was in the Order of the Phoenix's meeting room, which can only be accessed from the mirror in the room behind the Great Hall.
Harry hurried, though. He didn't want to miss this opportunity to finally do what he had wanted to do since December of 1993. He wanted to hunt down the person that had changed his life forever.
He wanted to catch the person, and make them pay for their crime.
Twelve years in Azkaban is better than he deserved, thought Harry viciously as he turned the corner. He should have been Kissed. He should have died, at the very least. Harry was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice what was right in front of him.
A wet rag (which smelled rather moldy-it might have been one of Filch's dust rags) hit him in the face, and Harry looked up, startled. Peeves, an annoying poltergeist that caused trouble for everyone in Hogwarts, was floating about ten feet away, peering in Harry's direction with a maniacal grin and another wet rag in his hand.
"I can hear you!" Peeves cackled. "I can't see you, so you must be a student out of bed. Oooh, once I tell Snape on you..." He laughed and threw the other wet rag, but Harry dodged it. "I can hear you breathing! That first rag hit something, so I know you're there!"
Harry did the only thing that he could have-he tried a trick that he had used before. "Peeves, the Bloody Baron has business to attend to tonight, and does not wish to be seen." His voice, which had lowered considerably since the last time he had tried the ruse six years ago, effectively copied the rusty voice used by the most feared ghost of Hogwarts.
Peeves paused, and then started backing away. "Mr. Bloody Baron, sir. Of course, of course. I'll be going down to the 2nd floor if you need me." He vanished through the floor, and Harry let out a sigh of relief.
Halfway wishing he had awoken Ron, or even Hermione, Harry set off once again for his destination. He reached the Great Hall and paused in the middle to stare up at the night sky, the full moon brightening up the tops of the long tables. He briefly wondered where Remus Lupin was now, and whether or not he still had access to the Wolfsbane Potion that Snape had made for him years back to help him to keep his mind when he transformed.
His footfalls echoed around the huge room, making it sound like there was more than one person walking. Harry turned his head to look behind himself quickly, but he found no one. Of course, if someone else had an Invisibility Cloak...
Chalking it up to nerves, Harry hurried. He came to the door behind one of the staff tables, grabbing the old, gold-plated doorknob and twisting it slowly. Silently. He didn't want anyone to hear, after all. It opened about two feet, and Harry pushed his head through the door. No one was in the room, but a fire blazed in the fireplace, warming even the space in which Harry crept through the door. Shutting it behind him, he crossed quickly to the other side of the room, standing in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the wall.
His eyes reflected the orange glow from the fire in the mirror. Black eyelashes framed his large eyes, and his round, black-framed glasses were sliding a little down his small, thin nose, because his face was sweating from the heat of the fire. Reaching up with small hands, he pushed the glasses back up his nose with long, skinny fingers.
Harry stared at him face longer, and couldn't help but sneer, his thin top lip curling upwards on the right side. Everyone had always told him that he looked like his father when he first came to Hogwarts, all those years ago. But the past 3 years, it was just the way that all of the teachers and old friends of his dad's LOOKED at him that told him, but no one said anything, because they knew that he knew about...HIM.
He hadn't shaved that morning, and it showed, casting a rough shadow over his upper lip and his jaw. Hermione had told him, once, that he looked best when clean-shaven, and he had taken that advice to heart, shaving diligently every morning in the mirror next to Ron. But this morning, he had woken up late again, and barely had enough time to get to Transfiguration, Professor McGonagall frowning at him as he took his seat, Ron giving him a sympathetic look and Hermione an exasperated one, as if he had been late on purpose.
Harry shook the thoughts out of his mind as he put his hand up to the mirror, and touched it gently. His hair, shaggy and sticking up in places as always, fell forward into his eyes, and he brushed it back with his other hand impatiently. I'm going to cut it soon, he thought to himself, but he said that often, and he never did. It always stayed the length that it was, too, for Dumbledore had told him that wizards could control things like growth of hair and fingernails, and if Harry unconsciously didn't want his hair to grow, then it wouldn't. (But Dumbledore had also made it clear that no wizard could make things UNgrow.)
"Raspberry Sugar Quills," he murmured quietly, and pushed his way through the mirror. He couldn't afford to stand about, staring at his hated reflection, when he could be catching and doing away with the one person that had ruined the whole of his life. The mirror worked a little like a port key, with a jerk behind his navel bringing him to a small room filled with tables and chairs, and a podium at the front of the room.
In the chair at the front sat...HIM. The person sat, staring at him without fear or anger, even though Harry was filled with passionate hatred all of a sudden.
"I knew you would come," the person said, and stood quietly. Harry found himself noting the differences, and not the similarities, between them. The other person's hair had grown out, tangled and disheveled, streaked with bits of gray. Though Harry knew that he was skinny, this other person was even skinnier, the bones of his face jutting out to make it look like he was a skeleton instead of a living man. The glasses on the other person's face were gold-rimmed, bent in some places. The eyes were brown.
Those, though, were the only differences. Everything else was the same, from the color of the hair (minus the gray) to the long, skinny fingers to the shape of the nose and jaw to the ears that jutted out just a tiny bit.
"Harry," said the person. Harry just stared in anger, not wanting to acknowledge the person in front of him, but also not wanting to listen to what he had to say.
"Don't speak, James," he found the words spitting out of his mouth. He would NOT call this person "Father" or "Dad". He would not call this person something that defined a loving relationship.
James Potter stepped closer, but stopped when Harry raised his wand and pointed it directly at his heart. "Harry, you need to listen to me. Please-"
"You say another word, and I will KILL you," Harry interrupted. His green eyes flashed, and his teeth were grinding together, but his wand hand was as steady as it had ever been.
James fell silent, but he tried to convey the hurt that he felt in his heart to his eyes, so that his son could see. Harry, however, was not interested in seeing anything but the fact that the man before him was a murderer, a traitor, and the cause of ruin in Harry's life.
"Sit back in that chair," said Harry suddenly, and James complied, feeling an ache in his knees. He watched his son shake slightly, and if looks could kill, James would be a thousand times dead, he knew. It hurt that his only son felt this way about him, but he had no chance until now to tell Harry the truth. "Did you get the Pensieve I sent you?"
"I said shut up!" said Harry venomously, clenching his teeth tighter together in anger. He thought briefly of the heavy bowl of memories that he had received two days ago, filled with the past, of old school friends and laughing and love and betrayal.
And Harry hated this man, his biological FATHER, even more now that he did before he had received the Pensieve. Sirius had never really told him the whole story, but Harry knew enough. He knew what had happened on the night of October 31, 1981. He knew that his father had betrayed his mother and himself. Trying to pin the blame on Sirius was not going to convince Harry.
A sound came from the mirror through which Harry had come, and he flew around, pointing his wand, just as a hand appeared through it. James sprang up from the chair he was in to duck behind the podium, and Harry twirled back around to fire a spell his way. "Farnacula!" The red light from the spell spilled from his wand towards the podium, and suddenly, Harry himself was falling backwards, an arm around his middle causing him to miss the intended target and fly to the ceiling, leaving a scorched hole. He fell back on another body, the one that had come through the mirror, and Harry looked forward to see James standing in front of the podium, unafraid, pointing his own wand now at Harry.
"Now it ends," James Potter croaked, his voice almost broken by what he had to endure for the past 16 years. "You will finally pay for what you've done!"
His wand still pointed, he muttered a curse through his bare teeth, "Avada Ked…"
To be continued shortly...