A Second Chance
Chapter One: Of Two Worlds
"And how would you repel a boggart John?" James asked as he rubbed his temples and tried not to think of the painfully slow moving hands on the classroom's clock. He had been going over boggarts with his third year class all morning, and the basics still weren't sinking in. In short, James couldn't wait for that blessed bell to ring, sounding the beginning of the Christmas holiday.
The nervous boy James had addressed gnawed at his lip and began shuffling through the scattering of papers on his desk. Giving up his search, John timidly peered at his professor. "La-laughter… pr-profes-s-sor?"
Sighing James moved his hand away from his temples to pinch the bridge of his nose. Honestly, was he really that frightening? He pushed his black-rimmed glasses down from his forehead onto his nose so he could survey the rest of his third years. No one else looked afraid of him. Actually the majority of the class was half asleep, and the rest were anxiously watching the clock.
John was a Longbottom after all, and they tended to be a nervous bunch, John more so than the other Longbottom children even. He had been a student of James' for almost two and a half years and he still quivered whenever James asked him a question in class.
"Yes John, very good," James said. "5 points to Hufflepuff." He glanced back down at his watch in hopes that it would display something more agreeable than what the clock on the wall read. Fifteen minutes still stood before him and his Christmas holiday.
Bugger that, James thought and pushed himself off from his leaning position against his desk. Forget scheduling, as far as he was concerned class was over.
"Class dismissed everyone; let's call it an early Christmas present. Now don't forget to study over the holiday for your test next month, oh and Linda," James pointed to a blond girl as she packed up her books. "Tell your brother I said hello, and that I am expecting a visit from him before he leaves for Greece. Be safe everyone, have a Happy Christmas and most importantly have fun!"
As the students filled out, waving goodbye and wishing him a happy holiday, James forced himself to smile. Normally he wouldn't need a fake smile- he actually enjoyed teaching immensely- today however, he just wanted classes to be done with so that the holidays could begin. He intended to spend the rest of the night packing so he and his family could leave for their house in Hogsmeade first thing in the morning. Tomorrow afternoon his best friends, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, would be arriving to spend the two-week Christmas break at the Potter house. During that time he didn't intend to do anything but relax with his wife Lily, hang out with his best friends and play Quidditch. The only students he wanted to see were his son Brandon and his daughter Marissa.
It took a few minutes for the third years to empty out of the classroom, but the moment the last group cleared the threshold James cheerfully slammed the door shut. Another moment was all it took for James to retreat into his office and slam that door shut as well. Then he grabbed a pot of floo powder and threw a pinch into the flames of his small fire. "Number 12 Grimmauld Place," he shouted as the flames turned a bright green, then he promptly stuck his head into the fire.
James' head spun through space for a moment before popping into the flames at Sirius' place. The kitchen was empty so James called out for his friend until he saw him running into the room holding a pair of boots by the laces in one hand and a dusty old robe in another.
"Hey Prongs! What's up?" Sirius greeted, throwing the things onto the kitchen table before kneeling down in front of the grate.
"All packed up?" James asked him, not bothering to hide the excitement in his voice.
Sirius gave a noncommittal shrug. "Packing now mate," he replied, looking back at the things on the table as if in deep thought. "Think I'll need omnioculars for any reason?"
"What? Why?" James asked; his brows knitted together in confusion. However he rushed on before his old friend could launch into a long, drawn out, and completely Sirius Black explanation. "Whatever mate, bring what you want."
"What about an Ever-Bashing Boomerang?"
James shook away the flames that were licking at the side of his neck. "Only if you want Lily to kill you."
"And I thought I would bring Bran some of Dr. Filibuster's fireworks," Sirius continued, giving no indication that he heard James at all. "I picked up a new box of them last week."
"Bloody hell Sirius, shut up for a minute will you?" James shouted at his oldest friend.
Sirius gave him a careless sort of grin. "Oh don't worry about favoritism James. I'll pick up a book from Flourish and Blott's for Mare."
"I'm not," James began, trying not to snicker at his friend; it pushed too much soot up his nose. "Listen, I'm not concerned about favoritism, but hey, if you're going to Flourish and Blott's could you pick up a copy of Jinxes for the Jinxed for Lily? I think I managed to burn her last copy. Anyways," James tried to rush on, but Sirius held up his hand and smiled.
"Burned it?" he asked.
"Yeah," James said, a trifle embarrassed. "I was trying out a new jinx and well," he ignored his friend's snort of laughter and continued on. "Anyways Lily wants to know if you're bringing the motorbike. She said if you do, you can expect to stay out in the broom shed with it."
"Apparating it is then," Sirius said. "So, all done with classes?"
"Yeah. All done with work?"
"Two weeks paid vacation mate," Sirius smiled. "I'm not due back until the third."
"Wicked," James agreed, then the flames erupted around his head and he felt himself being forced over as another head appeared next to his.
"Honestly," Lily Potter said, eyeing the two of them. "One would think you both are students the way you carry on."
"Didn't you know Lily?" Sirius asked, with a completely straight face. "I'm a 41-year-old second year."
"Trust me Sirius," Lily began, "there is no doubt in my mind that you are. By the way my son has earned himself another two detentions this week."
Sirius looked away, suddenly finding a smudge of soot on his floor very intriguing. "So, what's that got to do with me?"
"You've been writing him new ideas again," she scolded dryly. "Spinning tales of the old days maybe?" She coughed implying, and gave him a meaningful look. "This last trick of his had the Marauder's all over it. Even Minerva recognized your hand in it."
Mistakenly James tried to choke back laughter, but Lily caught him at it and shot him an accusing look.
"Don't think you can get out of this either Prongs," she snapped, emphasizing his old nickname. "He could have gotten the idea just as easily from you as he could Sirius," her gaze softened and she smiled again. "Now then, James, seeing as how you two have a play date scheduled for tomorrow do you think you could spare some time for your wife?"
James winked at his best friend. "Duty calls Padfoot old friend, I'll see you tomorrow night."
Sirius rolled his eyes; he was already starting to collect his discarded things from the table. "Contain yourselves until you get out of my fireplace please, this is a respectable house after all."
"Not with you in it!" James called back before his head disappeared and returned back to his body.
When he was able to shake off the effects of the fire call, and dust the soot off the knees of his robes he found that not only was Lily in his office, but his daughter Marissa (nicknamed Mare), was there as well. Both of his favorite girls were sitting side by side on his couch giving him twin looks of expectation.
Though Marissa Potter did not resemble her mother beyond the matching long red hair, she had an almost identical personality. Though only fourteen, Mare was already a formidable young woman. She was also, (and James was rather proud of this), the smartest witch in her year, and was rarely ever found without a book. Sometimes James found her enthusiasm a little excessive, but that was about the time she would put him to shame about some potion or charm and he would keep his mouth shut.
"What did I do?" James asked as soon as he caught the look on his daughter's face.
Mare's lips twitched, never a good sign. "You were supposed to meet me in the library so I could get Most Potente Potions from the Restricted Section. Now the library is closed for the holiday and I have to wait until January. My holiday study is ruined."
James felt like rolling his eyes at an issue he found a blessing more than something to get upset about, but he knew if his daughter didn't kill him for it, then his wife would. "I'm sorry baby, I completely forgot. Maybe we can make a special trip to Diagon Alley and pick up our own copy."
Mare's lips stopped twitching and straightened into a thin line. "You can't, it's a limited release. Hogwarts has one of the only copies still in circulation. That's why it's in the Restricted Section." Then she snorted and stood up. "Forget it Dad, you just don't get it!" Then without even saying goodbye to her mother, she stormed out of the room.
James exchanged a look of pure terror with his wife. "What was that?" He pushed his bangs out of his eyes. "I really don't think I was cut out to have a teenage daughter."
Laughing lightly, Lily moved to slip an arm around her husband. "You make a fantastic father Mr. Potter. Your children love and adore you, and so does your wife." She kissed him warmly on the cheek and pulled away. "Now how about we go and grab some dinner?"
"That," he told her, grabbing one of her hands, "is a fantastic idea."
"So how were classes today?" Lily asked as they made their way to the Great Hall.
James nearly groaned out loud at the reminder. "Terrible, nobody bothered to make any effort at all."
"What with the holiday's starting tomorrow?" Lily laughed. "Its no wonder! I remember when you used to make the last week before the holidays absolute hell for our professors." She gave him a sidelong glance. "Not to mention what you used to put your classmates through," she said with a huff of indignation. It was well known that Lily and James had not been friends during their Hogwarts days. It wasn't until after graduation that they had had any kind of relationship.
"Oh come on Lily," James teased, giving her hand a quick squeeze. "Besides who likes learning about goblin rebellions anyways? I simply used to make things more… colorful."
"Like when you turned Minerva's hair blue?"
James recoiled in comic protest. "Hey! She was starting to show grey! I was just doing her a favor. "He chuckled and pulled his wife closer. "So how was your day then?"
Though Lily was not a professor by any means she did call Hogwarts home. After James had taken up the teaching position for Defense Against the Dark Arts he had moved his family from Godric's Hollow to Hogsmeade and had taken to spending nights and weekends in the village. However, four years ago when Mare had begun her first year Lily had begun to complain of loneliness.
It was actually Dumbledore who had thought up a solution to the issue, after hearing James worry over the issue for the first few months of Mare's first year. He had suggested that Lily move up to Hogwarts during the term to serve him as the Headmaster's secretary.
Both Lily and James knew that the job was only for show, but Lily had jumped at the opportunity anyways, since it gave her the chance to be around her family again. Since then James and Lily lived primarily in the staff quarters and only went down to their house in Hogsmeade for the holidays. The kids quipped about having both of their parents at school sometimes, but their arguments were half hearted.
"Not awful," Lily answered, her smile wavering, "but nothing fantastic either."
After asserting herself as Dumbledore's secretary and assistant Lily began to take on new responsibilities. Now the administrative job was really more of a front than anything else. Most of Lily's time was spent riffling through reports and statements as well as other news for the Order of the Phoenix.
Both James and Lily had been in the Order since graduation, it was actually where they had begun their romantic relationship. However while James' role was only a small one, Lily knew nearly as much about the Order as Dumbledore' himself. James wasn't too sure how he felt about this at times, since it was highly dangerous work. Surprisingly enough Lily took a great deal of pride in the work she was doing, and had no intention of quitting any time soon.
"We had another threat today," she confided in a low voice. The halls were becoming more crowded with students now that they were nearing the Great Hall. "I'll have to talk to you about it later though, but don't worry, its nothing too serious."
"Don't worry yourself Lily," James said, releasing her hand before they entered the Great Hall. "We've lived with You-Know-Who's threats for this long. Things will work out, you'll see."
Lily didn't say anything in response, but James knew he would hear her thoughts later. Lily rarely kept anything to herself for long.
The Great Hall was only half full of students, as most were probably off packing. A few of the professors were already gone as well. James knew for a fact that Pomona Sprout was off visiting her sister in Berlin and Filius Flitwick had been bragging about a vacation in Paris for weeks. Severus Snape was missing as well, but James assumed that it was just because he was being a socially isolated git, and James was hardly about to complain about that particular absence anyways.
James and Lily made their way to the head table, pushing through the throng of students looking for seats. James stopped for a moment to chat with a fifth year Slytherin about a shielding charm before finding a seat between Minerva McGonagall and Lily. His wife was already engaged in a conversation with Poppy Pomfrey about a new line of Ministry approved healing potions, and Minerva was chatting politely with Headmaster Dumbledore, so James chose to watch the students.
His daughter was missing from the Gryffindor table, but he spotted Bran with fellow Gryffindor sixth year Jack Slopper, one of Bran's best friends. They were laughing hard over something Jack was hiding in a robe pocket. For a second James' teaching instinct kicked in and he felt he should see what the boys found so interesting, but the thought was short lived. It was basically the holidays and there was a good-looking Shepard's pie in front of him that he wasn't willing to leave.
Dinner of course, was as delicious as always and James savored it while he could. Lily was great at many things, but cooking wasn't one of them. The meals over the next two weeks would likely consist of the Potter family left to scrounge up their own food. But James did like to brag he had a rather wicked recipe for omelets. It was pretty much the only thing he could cook.
"Pumpkin pie, James?" Minerva asked when desserts came around. "You look like you're stocking up over there."
"You know me, Minerva," James said, accepting a piece with a wide smile. "Got to get it while I can."
She chuckled and adjusted her spectacles. "Big plans for the holidays then?" she asked. "I assume that Sirius and Remus will be visiting as usual?"
"You know it," James confirmed, tucking in to the piece of pie in front of him.
"Well as much as I enjoy their company, please remember to do your best to keep Sirius a good distance from the castle will you?"
James gave her a wicked looking smile. "Not willing to be chased up a tree again Minerva?"
A slim hand slipped around James' shoulder. "Quit teasing Minerva, James. The poor woman hasn't had a break from Marauder mischief since you lot came to Hogwarts."
Minerva raised her glass to Lily in agreement and appreciation. "Well said Lily. At least I can count on you to keep that lot in line." She winked at Lily. "Have a happy holiday though dear, and do enjoy yourself, you have been working far too hard lately."
"I will Minerva," Lily agreed. "Speaking of holidays James," she whispered in his ear when Minerva turned to talk with Dumbledore. "Why don't we go upstairs and pack so we can begin ours?"
James looked up into her sparkling eyes and grinned. "Gladly love, I think we need to make this break a memorable one, you really do need some time to really relax."
She ruffled the hair on the top of his head and kissed it after he smoothed it back down. "Agreed."
"Are you absolutely sure about this Harry?" the portrait of Albus Dumbledore, former Headmaster of Hogwarts asked through his canvas.
"No doubt in my mind," the man he had addressed responded. He was not tall, but not particularly short either. He was lithe with a mess of shaggy black hair; he also wore black, round rimmed glasses.
"You must remember that we aren't even sure the spell works," Dumbledore said with extreme caution in his voice. "There might be no turning back from this you know."
Harry ran a hand through his messy hair, revealing a thin lightning bolt scar on his forehead. "Dumbledore my family is gone, my friends are dead, and everyone I ever cared for…" he stopped, unable to go on. Then he shook his head and looked up, there was grim determination written in his bright eyes. "Listen, I've fulfilled my purpose here. I've lived out the prophecy, killed Voldemort, and set the magical world on its way to recovery. It's time for me to leave, I can't live here anymore."
"Things are changing Harry," Dumbledore urged. "We are already recovering, you said so yourself."
"I know," Harry smiled gently. "And things are getting better, better than before even, but there is nothing left for me here." His smile weakened. "I will never escape from the reminder of who I am, what I've done, and what I lost. Everyone here knows my name, my legacy-" He shook his head to clear his thoughts. "I need to be normal Dumbledore. You know that all I ever wanted was a normal family, normal friends and a normal life. You understand that more than anybody."
Dumbledore hung his head sadly, admitting defeat. He had known he was fighting a losing battle here, but it had been worth one last attempt. "I will miss you boy, I have to say I had wanted to give you hope, but deep down I didn't think you would really do this." He lifted his head to stare into Harry's eyes one last time. "You should know that you've done this world proud son. I'm proud of you."
"Thank you Albus," Harry whispered, his words meant more than the old man could ever know. "Now, how do I look?" he straightened showing Dumbledore his usual black robes, the Hogwarts crest ever present on his chest.
Dumbledore gave him a small smile. "Happy," he told him. "You look ready to leave us. Be careful though Harry. The next world might not be everything it seems- everything you are hoping it to be."
"It's a new start," Harry told him grimly. He knew the risk he was taking. It wasn't an easy out, and it was hardly going to be an easy path. But it was a second chance at the life he missed out on, and that's all he could really ask for. "That's enough."
"What do you want me to tell the others when they come looking?"
Harry sat down on his trunk heavily. "Snape suspects something, I'm sure, he brewed the potion-"
"Professor Snape, Harry," Dumbledore corrected, the familiar saying causing Harry to grin.
"Also I said goodbye to what's left of the Weasley family," he went on, "but they didn't know what I had planned. I just told them I had to get away, that it was time for me to leave." Harry stood up again and smiled at his old friend. "Tell them I've moved on to my next great adventure."
Then he trapped his two trunks with his wand, muttering a spell and shrinking them until they were pocket sized.
"Do you have everything you'll need?" Dumbledore asked.
"Everything," Harry confirmed with a sharp nod. Then he strode toward the simmering red potion that sat on the Headmaster's desk. "Cheers Headmaster," he said raising the beaker to Dumbledore, then he added in a more sincere tone; "I'll miss you, old man."
Then in quick succession, he threw back the potion, slammed it back down on the desk, pulled out his wand, pointed it at himself and screamed, "Damnari Voti!" Then in a blinding flash of red light he was gone.
Dumbledore took one last look at the empty beaker on his old desk and settled back into his frame.
"Good," Phineas said from his portrait next to Dumbledore. "Now maybe we'll finally be able to get some peace and quite around here."