Gen. disclaimer. This fic A.U.s off the end of the fifth book, which was when I began writing. Everything not recognizable from J.K. Rowling is original, this isn't a crossover (I get that question a lot).
Chapter One: Into the Vortex
August 4, 1980
"James! James!" Lily ran into the room, hysterical. In her arms little Harry scrunched up his face in distress as she clutched him tightly against her chest. James sat stunned at the kitchen table, a bite of toast in danger of falling out of his mouth.
"What's wrong? What happened?" He asked, and leapt to his feet.
"I was packing when I heard Harry moving around in his room, and went to go see if he'd woken up. When I entered the room, there was a man standing over his crib." She in a rush she added, "James, it was Dark Eyes."
"A man-" James stopped mid sentence and stared at her as though she'd sprouted a second head. "Dark Eyes," He said slowly, skeptically. "And how do you know this was Dark Eyes?"
"If you'd seen him, you'd know."
"A man in our home worries me. I am going to go have a look around and check the wards." He pushed her into a chair and kneeled down, looking into her eyes. "Honey, Dark Eyes is a being from legends…a God. He does not sneak into people's homes just to look at children."
Knowing she'd lost his belief, Lily clenched her jaw stubbornly and turned away. "Well he did. He was standing over Harry, looking down, and when I came in he looked up at me." Her voice faded to almost a whisper. "He said something… something I didn't understand. Then he stepped backward and disappeared." Had Lily been facing him, James would have seen the way her cheeks flushed as they always did when she felt dishonest… when she lied.
On the verge of tears, Lily gazed down at her baby with regret. He smiled, pleased with the attention, and it broke her heart. There was nothing she could do to fix this. "Next week is too far away. I want to move to Godric's Hollow now, today. I don't care if we leave half our stuff behind."
And so they did.
August 4, 1996
Harry lounged on his bed, exasperated. Half the summer was gone, and only now only did he get the letter he'd been anticipating, the one that would free him from his private hell, Privet Drive. Yet, the contents weren't what he had expected. Instead of granting him freedom at the Weasleys, it was summoning him to Hogwarts a full month early by Dumbledore himself. I wouldn't have to be at the Dursleys if I still had a godfather, Harry thought, breaking his rule of not dwelling on Sirius' death for the thousandth time. "Your friends will be joining you soon," Harry read aloud from the letter. Not Soon enough.
When Harry arrived at Hogwarts a day later, he waited in the headmaster's office for an indiscernible amount of time, ignored. The Headmaster was nowhere to be seen. Harry couldn't help glancing over the contents of the desk, not paying much attention, but he took notice when he saw his name on top of a small pile of papers. There were several clippings from the summer's Daily Prophet about him; he'd seen them all already. Underneath was a birth certificate. His. He read it.
Behind him the door clicked shut. Harry had never even heard it open. Turning around, he faced Dumbledore, who looked mildly surprised. Whatever Dumbledore was going to say next, Harry cut him off.
"Headmaster?" Harry asked curiously. "Why is my place of birth blank?"
There was a tense silence as Harry waited expectantly for the headmaster to respond. I hope he's not keeping any more secrets from me. Dumbledore contemplated his answer before replying.
"You learned that sooner than I'd thought to tell you. That piece of paper, in fact, is the reason I asked you to come days before the others arrived, so we could talk privately." In Harry's opinion, it was much too long before he continued as he made his way around his desk and seated himself, gazing thoughtfully at the birth certificate. "If you had a birth certificate made, Harry, it was either lost or destroyed. Many students are enlisted at Hogwarts from early childhood, and for the Hogwarts records of you we compiled the one you are holding in your hands now. Unfortunately, Lily claimed to have a personal midwife and unlike most did not check in to St. Mungos. Near the end of her pregnancy, she and James disappeared for a couple days, we assume with the midwife. We never found this woman, or where she lived. So after discussing it, we opted to leave it blank instead of making up a birthplace."
"'We'… meaning who?"
"A few of us among the staff."
"How come nobody has ever mentioned it?" Harry asked, bewildered.
"Is it important?" Dumbledore inquired calmly.
"Nobody even knows where I was born? I would have been interested to know that."
"Had you asked, we would have readily answered."
Harry put down the newspaper clippings, and folded the birth certificate into his pocket without asking for permission. "You said that you brought me here early to speak with me?"
"I apologize for keeping you waiting so long, somebody required my immediate attention." Dumbledore pulled out one of the stacks of papers, flipping through it rapidly. "Every couple of years an opportunity arises for me to further the education of students during the summer break. Coming back to school may not seem like the greatest way to spend your days off, but it's actually quite special. We always learn something extraordinary, or go traveling in magical lands. This year I pulled together a large group of students as this is possibly the most magnificent jaunt yet. As Hermione and Ron are among them, I assumed you would want to come as well."
"Yes," Harry affirmed. "Definitely. Where are we going?"
"I was just down at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where visitors set up a portal. The portal leads somewhere not of this world. A place entirely different from our own, therefore full of fascinating things we have never encountered before. A new landscape, new applications for magic, and a society entirely unique from us. Most wizards will not make a trip like this in their entire lives. As a matter of fact, I have never been there myself. Thankfully we have a guide and several professors to accompany us."
Harry was awed, but still not to be distracted. "What's this got to do with me?"
"I looked through some records and discovered that your parents traveled between our world and the other one many times. On occasion your father's family accompanied them. The records are very imprecise. My suspicion— and it is entirely plausible— is that Lily decided to go there for your birth."
Harry's jaw dropped.
"I thought it would be appropriate for me to share this new information and my suspicion discreetly, before the others arrived." Dumbledore waited expectantly, and when Harry said nothing he continued. "There could very well be people there who knew your parents."
Harry wasn't sure how to react to this new information, and left awkwardly a few minute later. Not surprisingly, he was unable to sleep. He was alone in Gryffindor tower, like a forgotten ghost. The other beds were empty and bare, and Harry found the room to be unnaturally silent without the loud breathing of his roommates. For the third time that night, Harry climbed out of bed and went to sit, shivering, on the windowsill. Outside it was almost entirely dark, as only the smallest sliver of the moon was shining. Still he pressed his forehead to the glass, eyes searching the darkness for the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The portal was out there, waiting for him. Or maybe it's just my imagination, hoping to find out more about my parents, anywhere, even if it risks traveling to other worlds.
Two days until the others arrived, two whole days. Harry bit his lip. Don't be stupid, Harry. Don't go out there. He was no stranger to breaking big rules to save himself or others, but he wasn't crazy.
I'm not planning to go through the portal though. Harry reasoned with himself. I just want to go see what's down there. There's no harm in that!
Harry quickly pulled on a few layers of clothing, as well as his invisibility cloak, just in case. He then grabbed his broom and swung the window open as far as it could go. An icy wind tore into the room, making his eyes tear up. It's summer, honestly!
Doing something he'd never attempted in all his years at Hogwarts, Harry flung himself into the wind. A moment later he was safely on his broom, buffeted from all directions. When he reached the edge of the forest he turned left and flew as far as to the edge of the grounds, then turned back and flew all the way to the lake. He was completely numb by now, and had yet to see anything. Disappointed, Harry decided to take one last look before leaving and landed on the bank of the lake, taking a path that would lead to Hagrid's hut. He walked a while longer before admitting defeat. There simply wasn't anything there.
All of a sudden Harry walked into something that felt like a terrible wall of wind. Harry's broom was knocked out of his hands as his feet were whipped out from under him, plunging him into the dark. He struggled, but the ground was gone and he couldn't even see the moonlight any more. Tucking his legs up to his chest, Harry felt a terrible wave of fear rise in chest.
This wasn't right.
What have I done?
December 15, 1980 - Godric's Hollow
Dark Eyes was the God who'd created his people, so James knew he existed. James kept pondering what Lily had said. He couldn't help wondering what had convinced her it was Dark Eyes, and if it could be true. It wasn't for months after the fact that James realized what it would mean if it was. He sought out Lily. Her behavior lately supported a possible explanation.
"Lily." Said James firmly, feeling hollow inside. "When Dark Eyes appeared, what did he say?"
Lily didn't look surprised by his question. "He said he was sorry." She said softly, regretfully.
At this James covered his face with his hands, collapsing down onto a nearby chair. When his face reappeared, it was deeply anguished.