Speaking of this being slightly "alternate universe"-y, sometimes
Harry might seem a little out of character – sounding smarter/wiser
than he really is. I've been having a lot of trouble making his
dialogue stick to character (that's why it took me so long to
update) and it still failed. But it serves the plot so I'm just
going to have to keep it that way. All right, enjoy!
So my dad is in my body, Harry thought, and a quarter of a century into the future.
If Harry believed that he could, he would have yelled in horror long ago. It seemed at the moment that his vocal chords were constricted to the point of muteness on his behalf. Harry cringed at the thought of his father, mingling with his peers (particularly Ginny and Liz). It was a good thing that neither of them are interested, he thought bitterly with images of Dean Thomas and the odious Christian Clark hovering before his eyes.
Harry managed to smile at thought of how James Potter might deal with Professor Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy in his stead.
But Harry's father in his place … not to be narcissistic, conceited, or anything of the like, but Harry Potter's shoes were hard to fill. James would probably have a tough time dealing with the gawking students. Harry might be used to it, but it was six years since he was first exposed to all that attention, and he remembered quite well that it had not been easy to adjust to. And what of the great Harry Potter's reputation? What if James Potter got a hold of a Harry Potter biography, in which all sorts of information about the Potters' future fate would be revealed? Worse yet – what if James Potter got a hold of those revolting Rita Skeeter articles? Harry groaned inwardly at all the possible repercussions his father's presence might do to the past, when he got back. If he got back.
Oh god, Harry thought. What if neither of us gets back?
"With all due respect Professor," James said, his voice quavering, "how exactly am I to pull that off? I'm only sixteen for Christ's sake!"
"You'll find a way," Dumbledore said. He did not sound quite as reassuring as he had meant to.
James shook his head. "I don't know if I can, professor."
"No pressure then," James muttered. "What happens if I don't pull it off? I know you remember me coming back … but what happens if I screw it all up and die?"
"But what if?"
Dumbledore heaved a sigh. For the first time, James became astutely aware of the effect time had had on Dumbledore. "A man's character decides his destiny, for the choices he makes comes from the person he is. Trust in who you are, Mr. Potter, and have faith that you will make the right choices. The only if that presents itself to us at the moment, James, is if you face the challenge presented to you. It is not if you are ready, or even if you are capable. It is whether or not you will. Will you, James?"
James didn't answer. Dumbledore didn't seem to expect him to.
"Harry?" Dumbledore was saying. "Are you all right?"
Harry jerked himself out of his reverie. "Yes, Professor," he said, slightly higher pitched than usual. "Ahem, I mean uh, yeah, I'm fine Professor."
Dumbledore frowned at him for a moment longer before saying, "No you're not, but I think we've discussed this enough for one day. We'll speak again, when either you or I make a breakthrough in this mystery. This must have happened for a reason, Harry. I want you to think long and hard, using your knowledge of the future and what has happened, to figure out why you have been placed so specifically in the past. Do you understand?"
"Sure, Professor," Harry said.
Dumbledore nodded and said, "Now I think it would be best to resume your father's activities."
"Yes Professor," Harry said stumbling toward the door.
Out in the corridors, taking his time to Gryffindor tower, Harry contemplated his predicament. He spent a long time on all the superficial stuff, thinking about how he might screw up the past, and how his dad might be screwing up his future, and then he was hit with a sudden, much more serious thought: If Voldemort kills me in the past, does that mean he wins?
Again, Harry felt the pangs of bitterness as the words of the prophecy echoed in his head. He hated having his destiny so decided. Were prophecies ever wrong?
There would be no need for ifs if only I knew the future, Harry thought. How ironic.
Harry had been walking with his head down, absorbed in his worries. With his eyes on the ground, watching his feet move forward closer and closer to a future that was a guaranteed disaster, he did not react in time to the girl who was careening around the corner into the corridor.
Once again, books and papers flew everywhere. Lily Potter was certainly a very busy scholar.
"You again!" she said angrily, hurriedly gathering her things.
Harry immediately bent down to help. "Hey Mu- - I mean, hi Lily." It was strange that he saw this sixteen-year-old girl as his mother, but then again, he didn't want to think of her as anything else. Revolting. "You in a hurry?" he asked.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Lily said curtly. "Are you blind?"
"Not anymore," Harry mumbled. One good thing about being his father was that he didn't have to worry about having glasses.
Lily wasn't paying attention though. She grabbed a stack of parchment out of Harry's outstretched hand.
Unsure of what to say, Harry opened his mouth and hoped whatever came out wasn't the sort of stuff he'd expect from the other end. "Erm … I'm just bumping into you everywhere, aren't I?" Thus, his hopes were disappointed.
"Sufficiently lame, Potter," Lily said, gathering up the last of her things and stuffing them into her bag. "Why don't you try looking where you're going next time? Then we can avoid this whole scene from ever happening again, which would make me very, very happy."
"Well I could try that," Harry said, "but … why don't you try slowing down a bit? You know … stop and smell the roses. Enjoy a tapestry or something. Why were you in such a hurry?"
"I am still in a hurry," Lily said. "Your lessons might be over already, but my schedule is probably more occupied than yours."
"Trying to do everything?" Harry asked, as he picked up a last bit of stray paper.
"Not just trying, Potter, doing."
"Pace yourself, Evans, there aren't enough hours in a day."
"Tell me about it," Lily said, beginning to walk. "And I certainly have better things to do with my time than stick around talking to you. I have big things in store for me. Don't worry, there's something in the future for you. Probably something akin to sweeping up rubbish in the Chudley Cannon stadium. You want a career in Quidditch – that vision ought to make you happy."
"Ouch," Harry said. "But don't worry about me. I'm going to be just fine."
"And how can you be so certain?" Lily asked, a little disgruntled, with a subtle hint in her tone of … envy.
Harry just laughed. "Because I've seen the future. Whatever I end up doing I'll make a small fortune so I'm not really worried."
"Oh that's easy for you to say," Lily said. "You've already got a trust fund, and thanks to your parents, a great reputation in the Wizarding Community. You've got everything handed to you. Although your downfall might just be that you're a prat about it."
Harry snorted. "Easy? No one's life is easy. And trust me, you've got nothing to worry about when it comes to your future."
"Who said I was worried?"
"You just did," Harry said.
"Oh don't pretend to know everything. You don't know anything about me."
"I know enough to be sure that whatever you pick, you'll be great at it. But do us all a favor, because we're all curious to know what the great Lily Evans has in store for her, pick something. Don't just try everything. You'll have more time if you can just try one thing at once, you know?"
"Easier said than done," Lily said. But her voice didn't bite as much as it had before. "I've thought about that … just picking one thing and running with it. But what if, ten years from now, I realize that I made the wrong choice?"
"Trust me," Harry said, "ten years from now, you're going to be right where you're supposed to be." Fleeing for your life on account of me, Harry added in his head.
"You okay Potter?"
"You just looked … upset is all. Probably reading too much into … I do that."
"Don't doubt it," Harry said. "Well … erm … have fun during lessons I suppose."
"Yeah," Lily said. "Well … see you around." She turned.
"Wait! You forgot this." Harry held out a copy of the Daily Prophet she had dropped. As Harry looked at it, he saw that an article had been highlighted. "What's this?" he asked.
"Oh, that," Lily said, taking it from him. "I'm doing my Defense Against the Dark Arts essay on the Correli murder."
"Yeah – don't you know?" Lily looked confused. "Oh, that's right. You were out for the whole weekend weren't you? Sunday, it was all over school that some famous Seer had been murdered in London – Marcillinus Correlli."
"Why was he murdered?"
"He was visiting from Italy and it's alleged that he had information for the Ministry."
"Sounds big," Harry said.
"Yeah. Bigger than Quidditch, even," Lily said, then she added, "A lot of people were disappointed when you knocked out. Worried too, when you didn't wake up when Madam Pomfrey said you would. But not me," she added hastily. "I knew no bludger could ever damage that big head of yours."
"Speaking of Quidditch," Sirius popped around the corner. "We humble Gryffindors need our Quidditch captain down at the field. You didn't forget about booking practice did you, James?"
"Yeah, just a sec – " Harry turned around to say goodbye to his mother, but she had already gone. Harry sighed. It's not right that my mother hates me. Shouldn't a mother's love prevail over time continuums and other rubbish?
"James?" Sirius said again. "James?"
Looking unsure, Sirius asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Sure. What would make you think otherwise?"
Sirius looked as though he had plenty to say in answer to that question. Harry waited for Sirius to speak with his fingers crossed beneath his robes. Fortunately, Sirius just shrugged and said, "Well I'm going to find some trouble. See you later!" His grin had returned and Harry smiled at him as he turned in the direction of the Slytherin dungeons.
"Don't get caught!" Harry called after him.
On his way down, Harry looked out of the fourth floor corridor's open window. Leaning out, he felt the cold February air brush his hair back. He breathed it in and could smell the beginning of spring. It was hardly detectable, but it was there.
"Things have got to get better … " Harry said out loud. "They've got to … oh what am I saying? Everything's going to go wrong. I can pretend but it's not going to work. This is going to be a disaster."
Unbeknownst to Harry, Remus Lupin was just around the corner and had heard every word. But everyone had their secrets, and Remus was very good at looking the other way, but even then he couldn't help but wonder just what was wrong with his friend.
James was pacing up and down the seventh floor corridor toward Gryffindor Tower thinking about what Dumbledore had said. He couldn't ask himself if he could do it or not. That wasn't important – and he had to keep telling himself that that wasn't important. It was sort of hard to do considering the new Grindelwald was after him. And considering that Voldemort had managed to stay out of prison the past quarter of a century, James was pretty sure that having that particular wizard wanting to kill him wasn't a good thing.
James decided that he would certainly try to do what he was supposed to – that is, foil whatever plot had set up against Harry, and at the very least, keep Harry's body intact while he, James, was in it. What if Harry's body got hit with some curse or whatever? Maybe James would survive as Dumbledore told him he would, since he did get back into his body eventually. James knew that it is impossible to change the past once you know for sure that something happened. But even if James' soul got through the ordeal all right, maybe Harry's body would get destroyed or something. James couldn't have that on his head. He'd be responsible for his son's death.
But how am I going to pull this off? He thought. Just as the thought began to process, someone grabbed James into a broom closet.
"Oi! Get off!" James cried, struggling to break free of his captor's grip.
"Harry, this is ridiculous!" the captor replied, keeping hold of her escaping prey. "You have to talk to me sometime! It's your own fault that I had to resort to such desperate measures."
"Who are you? Let go of me!" James yelled, still struggling.
"Will you calm down?" the girl asked, finally letting up. She flipped a switch and the lights came on. James blinked against the brightness of what he had thought to be a broom closet. "It's only me – Liz."
That helps, James thought to himself. Out loud he said, "Where am I?"
The girl called Liz rolled her eyes. "You're in the Room of Requirement. Remember? Seventh floor corridor?"
"Oh. Right." James said, trying his best to be nonchalant. "I just lost my bearings for a bit … which wouldn't have happened if you had just asked to speak with me like a civilized person instead of kidnapping me."
"I've tried that, Harry!" Liz cried in exasperation. "You know I've tried! Since before you ran off and almost got yourself killed! You avoided me before Lestrange nearly murdered you, you tried to prevent me from being there to help you and Ginny, and Hermione, and Ron, when you knew very well that it was my right to be there, and now that you've gotten out of the hospital, you downright ignore me!"
Liz paused, breathing hard after her angry rant.
James didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry," ended up escaping from his lips.
"Don't be sorry," Liz said brusquely. "I know you have every reason to be angry with me. Don't be sorry. But don't pretend to be ignorant either." Liz glared at James, but then her look softened, and she looked tired. "You never gave me a chance to explain myself. And when you got yourself into St. Mungo's … despite what you may think now, Harry, I do care about you, and I care what happens to you. I was worried about you. I wanted to talk to you, but you pushed me away, like we never knew one another. Like we were never friends."
James shifted uncomfortably. He thought bitterly to himself that this wasn't his problem, or his business. Harry should be hearing this.
"Now I know I may sound like a hypocrite," Liz said, "but what I did, I believed, and still do believe, that I did it for the best."
James didn't answer. He didn't know how to.
Liz tried again, "Believe me, Harry, I had to push you away. Look what happened to my home and my parents! Look what happened to innocent people who knew nothing about my parents' work! I don't want death to be the Cain legacy, Harry, and the more you know, the more anyone knows the more danger they're in."
James opened his mouth to speak (to say what, he didn't know).
Fortunately, Liz spoke for him. "I know you only want to help, but I'm going to have to ask you again, like I did in November and again at Christmas, trust me. I know what I'm doing. You needn't have gone that night. You needn't have followed me. It was my fight. But you had to pick one yourself, didn't you? And for that, you nearly got killed. How do you think I felt, Harry, when I found out what you had done?"
Her eyes searched James' face with such grief and concern that James felt guilty and hung his head. And although he had done nothing, he mumbled something of an apology to this strange brunette.
After a moment of silence, Liz spoke again. "It's all right. I know you went with the best of intentions." After a pause, she added, "It was nice to see that you still cared. But … try caring a little less."
James was confused. "Why?"
Liz turned to the door, saying, "Because I don't want you to get hurt. And … " she turned back to James, "because I don't want to get hurt either."
When she had gone, it occurred to James to wonder about her last words.
What did Dumbledore say? This must have happened for a reason. If that's true … what am I doing here? Harry picked at his dinner, trying to concentrate, but finding it exceedingly difficult because the thought that he might be stuck in the past, as his father, no less, for the rest of his days kept springing up.
"James?" Sirius said, waving a hand in front of Harry's face. "Helloooo?"
"What?" Harry said wearily.
"Are you quite all right?"
"Yeah," Harry said, irritably. "I wish you'd stop asking me that."
"Well I figured that if you're hungry, which you always are, and you're not eating, something must be wrong," Sirius said.
"I was just thinking … "
Peter piped up. "Well, if you don't want your potatoes, I'll take them."
Harry held his plate out for Pettigrew.
"Thinking about what, pray tell, Prongs?" Sirius asked. "Not the lovely Lily Evans. Mate, stop pining. It's not attractive."
Harry winced. "Well, I'm off to the common room. Don't really feel like eating."
"Well I'm abashed," Sirius said. "Moony, are you as stunned as I?" he asked, elbowing Lupin.
Staying intent on sawing through his steak, Lupin said, "Very stunned," in an indifferent and off-hand voice.
Harry just shrugged and walked away, and in the hall, and on the way to the dormitory he had time to think. Dumbledore had said that James and Harry must have switched place for a reason. Harry thought about it, and again wondered whether a fight with Voldemort in the past would lead to Harry's death. For certainly Harry couldn't kill Voldemort in the past – that would change the whole future and the reason Harry ended up in the past in the first place. Could Harry avoid Voldemort in the past? No one had ever mentioned James Potter being attacked by Voldemort … as a boy, anyhow. Harry figured as James went on to bigger and better things from school, he would become a target for Voldemort. He couldn't be a target now could he?
What about James Potter? Why had he been sent to the future? Was he even there to serve a purpose? He must be. Perhaps … perhaps it had another thing to do with the prophecy. If Harry had been killed by Bellatrix Lestrange, that wouldn't fit. Did all prophecies come true? This question had been bothering Harry – that his future had already been decided. Maybe it could still be changed… but then why else, and how else could he have switched places with his father over time itself? Maybe Lestrange did the spell wrong? Harry had managed to throw her off her game, at the very least.
And if James was in the future, in Harry's body … well, Harry had no doubt that there was certainly something up in the future that was worrying Harry. What Malfoy was up to, for one thing. There was also what Dumbledore was trying to investigate. Not to mention the Cain murders.
The Cain murders. That was what Harry had been trying to do something about when he had his blast to the past. That must be why James was sent to the future – to finish what Harry had started.
So what did Harry have to do in the past?
Harry arrived at the dormitory and found that the other three had already arrived.
"Where've you been?" Sirius demanded.
"We were getting worried," Remus said, with a frown.
"We've been waiting for ages," Peter added.
"Sorry," Harry apologized. "I just lost track of time."
"Thinking again?" Sirius said. "Been doing an awful lot of that lately. Too much."
"What's up?" Remus asked.
"Oh nothing, nothing," Harry tried to dismiss their concern but they would have none of that.
"No, it's not nothing," Remus said. "Something's been bothering you. What is it?"
"Well," Harry hesitated, trying to think of something on the spot. "It's just that … you know … my cousin, er second cousin … bit of family drama … erm …"
The three answered him with dubious looks.
Harry gave up and said, "Look, really it's nothing. I shouldn't even be worrying about it." He gave them a hopefully convincing grin. "Honestly, it's really okay."
Thankfully, the Marauders dropped the issue, but Harry could tell they hadn't forgotten it. Peter was scratching his head uncertainly, Sirius hesitated, eyebrows raised, before continuing to juggle a couple of gobstones, and Remus' frown creased a bit more, before he went back to writing his essay, and even then, couldn't help glancing at Harry every once in a while with worried eyes.
Harry decided to ignore everything the best he could and picked up a book and began reading. When they all went to bed, Harry hoped he had put up a convincing cheerful front that evening in the common room. As he shut the curtains of his four poster bed, he began worrying once more. He couldn't do this all by himself. He had Dumbledore … but in this case, Dumbledore was almost as helpless as Harry was himself. There wasn't anybody who had all the answers this time. And there was no one among his father's friends he could turn to for help. Not with this. It was too impossible. It was too dangerous, even, to tell anyone who he really was. He felt sorry for his sixteen-year-old father, who was in the same boat.
Then, Harry realized that James didn't have to be helpless.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"What? Oh, yeah," James answered, looking up from the copy of the Daily Prophet he had disregarded earlier that day. "I'm fine. I wish people would stop asking me that."
"Well you looked preoccupied," Ron said.
"I'm just reading this article," James said reluctantly. He frowned with concentration at the last few lines.
"There appear to be no more new leads as to why Richard and Katherine Cain were murdered this past summer. We can only hope that whatever it was that they were protecting, an object allegedly of potential power, which the Ministry of Magic declines knowledge of, is still safe. Perhaps then, their sacrifices will not have been for nothing."
The crease dimpling James' forehead deepened in thought. The article was a follow-up to an article that had appeared in the Saturday edition. James thought about what Dumbledore had said … Harry had been involved in a fight at the Ministry Friday night – which meant Saturday's article was most likely covering the event that had brought Harry, or rather James, to St. Mungo's. James wished he could see that article, but he would have to make due with this one. Richard and Katherine Cain. James drew connections between what happened on Friday night to them, and from them, to Elizabeth Cain. Who was she? Sighing, James put down the newspaper.
"I think I'm going to go for a walk," James said. "I need to clear my head."
"Liz said she talked to you today," Hermione said.
"Yeah," James said, standing up.
"I suppose that really does mean you've got a lot to think about," Hermione said. "Anything new?"
James did some quick-thinking. "No," he concluded, to himself, and out loud in answer to Hermione's question. "Nothing new to think about. She just … chided me for my recent behavior and told me to stay out of her business in the future."
"So nothing new, then?" Ron asked. James shook his head. Ron shrugged and Hermione went back to her work. "See you at dinner!" they called as James walked away.
James stepped down from the portrait hole and headed down to the entrance hall with half a mind to go to the Quidditch field. He kept thinking about what Dumbledore had said earlier, about what he might have to do. James stopped in his tracks and clenched his fists. No, he thought, No more mights and no more maybes. I will do this. I've got to.. Dumbledore was right. James had to stop asking himself whether or not he was capable. He had to be sure that he was even going to try. And he was sure, now. Absolutely certain.
James rerouted his course from the Quidditch field to the Headmaster's office and arrived just as Dumbledore was coming out. The Headmaster surveyed James determined manner and looked at him with inquiring eyes.
James faced Dumbledore with a resolute expression on his face and said, in a voice that was devoid of any tremor, "What do I have to do?"
Harry got up as quietly as he could and went back down to the common room, which was now empty, with some parchment and a quill. He would write a letter. It was the only way he could think of to send a message to the future, and the most likely to succeed.
He didn't quite know how to begin. He tried "Dear James" but that seemed too strange, because James was his father. "Dear Dad" definitely didn't work – James was only sixteen, and it would be weird for him and Harry. "Dear Replacement" didn't fit any better. The final version of Harry's letter to James began at 12:30 am with "To James Potter." He had much to tell, and it was difficult to find the words. It was many hours before he was able to sign it with his own name.
Author's Note: And to think. This chapter was originally going to be much longer. As it is, it's already 12 pages in Microsoft Word, so I figured it was about time to start a new chapter with the next four pages. Sorry it took me so long to finish this one. I'd had it planned out for ages, but it's so fiddly to write dialogue, for me anyway. Because I already know what happens. I know the big picture. It's hard to break it down into puzzle pieces, but if I don't, none of you will have fun. In any case, I hope you did have fun and don't forget to review, with criticism or compliments. Questions too. I won't answer them, but I'll tell you whether or not you're asking the right ones