Joe's Note: If you're having problems visualizing the house, it's heavily based - on the interior at least - on a real set of blueprints that I can link you to if you message me. Thing is massive: three stories, seven bedrooms, seven and a half baths, and just shy of 9,000 square feet - about 835 square meters - of floor space. To put that in perspective? That's slightly more square footage than one entire floor of my apartment complex - consisting of six units with two bedrooms and five single bedroom units - contains. It's a BIG house and so we're going to be finding nooks and crannies for chapters to come. Apart from that… not much else to say. Other than that while I don't do that stupid 'holding chapters hostage' shit, I've got nothing against whoring for reviews and so review please!
Dedications & Thanks: To Alexander, Nicholas, William, Koby, Wil, Thomas, Tracy, Christopher, Mitch, and Jess for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.
June 21, 2006
The Mysterious Shared Walk-in Closet
Fowey, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
If not for his mother's shout that lunch was ready, Harry probably would have stood there trying to make sense of the bizarre wardrobe situation for hours. Her booming voice echoing through the house pulled him from his thoughts, though, and had him meeting up with his sisters outside their rooms before following them down the stairs into the foyer. They almost reminded him of Fred and George, Harry mused, talking over each other as they jostled for position on their way down the hall. Bumping Rose into the opposite wall, Jasmine skidded a bit as she took a corner too fast before disappearing, leaving her twin sister to catch up and Harry bringing up the rear. His mother just rolled her eyes at their antics, shooing them over toward the table in the breakfast nook that evidently served other meals as well.
Despite being fairly hungry, Harry found himself hanging back as he eyed the table uncertainly, wondering if there were unofficially 'assigned' seats like at the Weasley house. If he was going to be discovered, he swore, it definitely wasn't going to be because he sat in the wrong seat for lunch. Somewhere off to his right, there was a loud whoosh as the floo activated and then Sirius was breezing into the kitchen with a lovely blonde on his right arm. Olivia, presumably. No children accompanied them, but given the stories he'd heard about Sirius in his prime, he wasn't surprised. Hell, there was a good chance that Olivia was his girlfriend of the month rather than his wife.
Then Remus brushed past the couple and took a seat at the table, and everything else quickly fell into place. Once Remus came to a stop in the middle of the bench seat that wrapped around the edge of the breakfast nook, the twins quickly claimed spots on either side of him and then Sirius plopped down next to Rose. Olivia claimed the chair at his left and Lily left one chair open between them before seating herself. Given that the average boy his age probably thought his younger siblings were annoying as hell, Harry decided to take a gamble and picked the open seat between his mother and Olivia. When she smiled and patted him on the head before transferring a slightly larger than average sandwich from the serving platter to the plate in front of him, he knew he'd guessed right.
Given how quickly they'd run off after being released from the search for him, Harry assumed that his sisters would likely disappear after lunch to go back to whatever they'd been doing and so he decided to spend lunchtime studying his sisters as discreetly as possible. They were definitely identical twins like Fred and George, but seemed to lack the Weasleys' obsession with remaining absolutely identical. Jasmine seemed to be the more athletic - or at least more active - twin, sporting slightly darker skin, more freckles, and chin-length hair to go with her t-shirt and trousers. Rose, on the other hand, was wearing a sundress and her hair disappeared down her back. Almost down to the middle of her back, if he remembered correctly. She was paler, too, and her less freckled face was probably what Jasmine looked like when the cold of winter forced her to stay inside most of the time.
Neither of them appeared to prefer black or silver clothes, though, and while Jasmine was wearing a green shirt, that didn't mesh with what Harry had found upstairs. They also seemed about as fond of him as he imagined he was supposed to be of them, so it seemed unlikely that they would willingly share living and closet space with him. Which left Harry no closer to solving that particular mystery, and increasingly uncomfortable about what the answer might actually be.
Forcing himself onto a new train of thought, Harry turned his attention to Remus, who sadly lacked both a significant other and children at present. Evidently this world wasn't any kinder to its werewolves than Harry's original had been. Hmm. It made him wonder, had he met Tonks yet? Maybe they were already dating and she was just busy being an auror at the moment and unable to be here with Remus for lunch? Or perhaps circumstances hadn't conspired to put them into contact with each other, which wasn't an unreasonable possibility given that the first war had clearly ended differently in this universe. Thinking back, Harry remembered Remus mentioning an interest in one or two of their fellow Order members during firewhisky-fueled moments of sharing. Maybe he could manipulate things so Remus met them again in this world, except without the shadow of war and painful death hanging over them to squash the romantic mood?
The werewolf was still a part of the extended Potter-Black-Lupin family, though, entertaining the twins with jokes as the group passed the soup pot and sandwich platters around. Lily would occasionally scold him for a joke that skirted the line of good taste, making Harry raise an eyebrow. His world's Remus had never been that relaxed in the four years he'd known the man. Fascinating. When she wasn't busy scolding Remus, Lily would engage Olivia in discussions about what Harry was pretty sure were the latest advancements in the field of enchanting; while he could cast spells with the best of them and even knew how most of his repertoire worked these days, that was one field he'd never gotten around to touching and so it was all Gobbledegook to him.
Sitting quietly between his mother and Olivia, Harry slowly worked his way through a delicious sandwich and a bowl of soup, enjoying the sounds of his happy family just as much as the simple but tasty food. His good mood came to an abrupt end, though, when he glanced up at Lily and found a pair of green eyes boring into his own. They were quite familiar; he saw them in the mirror every day. After all, he'd been told ever since he'd first entered the wizarding world that he had his mother's eyes. "Harry? What happened this morning? You've been bedridden for over a month and then just suddenly you're up and wandering around the grounds with no warning? We're happy that you're awake, don't get me wrong, but what inspired you to wander off like that instead of… I don't know, coming to find me or your father? I had to call in Sirius and Remus to help look for you, your father was late to work…"
"I… uhh…" Even as he filed away the useful tidbit that Remus was a 'call in' rather than a resident of the Manor, Harry racked his brain as he desperately tried to come up with an answer to give her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing came to mind to explain such odd behavior - and lapse in judgement - on 'his' behalf. Never mind, of course, the fact that he'd actually woken up in the graveyard. Because telling her that would just raise more questions. Bugger. Maybe his mother had a sense of humor? She had to have one to be married to James Potter… right? "You don't need to know why I wandered off this morning."
"I don't need to know why you wandered off this morning."
"This isn't the son you're looking for."
"You aren't the son I'm looking for."
"I can go back to my lunch."
"You can go back to your lunch."
"Eat up… eat up." The twins were giggling away, even as Olivia tried to affect a politely confused smile rather than admit she had no idea what was going on. Sirius and Remus seemed likewise baffled. His mother's lips quirked upward at his evasion attempt, but she didn't join the twins in laughing at his joke. "If you want to sit here making jokes when your mother is concerned about her son's health, then fine. If you don't want to tell me, we can talk about it with your father when he gets home tonight. And you heard what his thoughts on this situation are."
The way his sisters abruptly stopped laughing told Harry that doing as much would be a Very Bad Thing for him and his future in this house. "Um… can we discuss it after, then? As in, not with an audience? You know, so I don't have to embarrass myself in front of everyone?"
Lily eyed him before nodding slowly. "Fine. But you should know by now that the longer you make me wait, the more time I have to think up well reasoned questions to pester you with instead of just working off the cuff." Picking her sandwich back up, she paused just before biting into it and let out a small snort of laughter. "I never should have taken you to see the trilogy when they were rereleased. Although the Jabba imitation you did the first time you met your cousin Dudley… that was hilarious." Thank God he'd actually seen the movies here. Harry hadn't even thought about that before trying his little joke out. That would have been a hell of an awkward explanation, to be sure.
When lunch ended, Harry decided to beat a hasty retreat with the twins so he could buy a bit more time to think of a decent excuse to give his mother. Returning to his bedroom, he couldn't help but marvel at the sheer size of it. It was… well, huge. Especially for someone who had grown up in a cupboard under the stairs. But even comparing it to what real bedrooms he was familiar with, it was still huge. Possibly the size of both his and Dudley's bedrooms at Privet Drive, and easily half again bigger than Ron's room at the Burrow. And it was all his! The walk-in closet made his room seem even bigger by shunting his clothes out of sight and eliminating the need for one or more pieces of furniture to hold them, and he even had his own bathroom! Then the little details began to filter into his brain: he owned a Nimbus 2000 and a ridiculous amount of Falmouth Falcons quidditch memorabilia, but evidently not a desk or even a single book. Granted the elves could be relied upon to deliver a book at a moment's notice, but… he didn't even have anything in his room that he was working on as pleasure reading? Clearly this world's Harry was not an intellectual, or at least he hadn't been in the past. Because with all the knowledge Harry had brought with him, it would be hard to avoid being labeled as a bookworm unless he severely downplayed what he knew and could do… and that wasn't something he was entirely keen on doing.
He could ponder his future at a later date, though. For now, he had to decide what to do with his afternoon. Given the trouble he had caused with his appearance, laying low seemed like a good plan especially since he still knew almost nothing about this version of himself or the world he now lived in. Granted there was always legilimency, but getting in the habit of mentally invading his family and friends seemed like a terrible idea. So he decided to adopt Hermione's outlook on life… or rather, Hermione's original outlook on life. He somehow doubted copious amounts of shagging would solve any of his problems, after all. No, he left his room behind and headed straight for the house's library. Thankfully, history books were among those left out on the shelves and so he grabbed Modern Magical History and settled down to see what he might learn from this world's copy.
What he found shocked him. This Harry's parents had escaped Voldemort three times on the battlefield, but the house at Godric's Hollow had never been attacked at the end of the first war. Instead, Voldemort had attacked the Longbottoms and turned Neville into this world's version of the Boy-Who-Lived. But according to the notes scrawled in the margins in a looping, feminine scrawl? There was more to the story than most of the wizarding world. Neville wasn't the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom, but rather the son of Frank and a near-squib witch they'd turned to when Alice proved to be infertile. Having no interest in pureblood politics, she'd been willing to let Alice take credit for continuing the Longbottom line in exchange for a quiet life of relative comfort. 'Chloe' had been hired on as Neville's nanny after delivering him, and had been the sole adult home when Voldemort attacked. So while the wizarding world thought Neville himself had done something to disembody Voldemort, Lily suspected it had more to do with his mother sacrificing herself to try and save his life, especially since that matched up with an enchantment she'd been researching during the war. Harry was inclined to agree, knowing how things had played out in his world. From that day forward, Neville had been known as the Boy-Who-Lived, bearing a lightning bolt scar upon his forehead that marked him as Voldemort's supposed equal. Although assuming the prophecy here was the same, it confirmed a suspicion of Harry's and finally provided an answer to an ongoing argument of his with Dumbledore… not that he'd be able to tell the man now.
That raised two very interesting questions, though, and Harry abandoned the book he was reading in favor of hurrying off to his suite's bathroom. Closing the door behind him and locking it with magic, he leaned forward and peered into the mirror. The answer to the first question was immediately evident: from here on out, references to his scar would involve the past tense. Harry ran a finger over his unmarred forehead slowly before shaking his head and leaning back. But if the physical trace of his former connection to Voldemort was gone, what of the remnant of the man's magic that had clung to Harry even after the horcrux was gone? Turning, Harry waved his hand and conjured a small, silvery-red viper in the bathtub. "Hello?"
After turning back and forth to assess its surroundings, tongue flicking out of its mouth to taste the air, the viper raised its head to stare at Harry. Then it hissed… and all Harry heard a hiss. Nothing more. No words. He wasn't a parselmouth anymore. Which meant that if he ever needed to access the Chamber of Secrets, he'd need to talk Neville into giving him a hand… but on the flip side, at least he didn't have to worry about accidentally freaking people out anymore. With a quick Vanishing Charm, the viper was gone and Harry made his way back out to the library so he could keep reading about the recent past. Which thankfully seemed to be about as recent - or distant - as it had been for him; he'd lost a year, maybe two at most in the transition between universes. Which was a relief; he couldn't imagine being sent back into the body of a prepubescent version of himself…
Moving on to just after Voldemort's fall, Harry discovered that Igor Karkaroff had again betrayed his comrades and provided the Ministry with a list of names. Lucius had again bought his way out of trouble, the Lestrange trio was in Azkaban, albeit for crimes unnamed… and Peter Pettigrew had not only been named, but captured and imprisoned? That was new. He was currently serving three consecutive life sentences in Azkaban for crimes also not listed in the book but was, at least at the time of printing, still alive. Harry checked the publishing information. Five years ago. How that weak, pitiful, miserable excuse for a human being had been able to survive this long, even with the benefit of his animagus form, Harry had no idea.
It was so odd, finding himself in a place where things he'd taken for granted as 'fact' weren't anymore, while other things that had been completely and totally screwed up in his world were finally set to rights. Letting his thoughts wander down that path led Harry to wondering if his original self here had kept a journal, so he could get a better idea of how he was supposed to behave around everyone. Even if this wasn't really his family, it was the closest he'd ever get and the last thing he wanted was to be torn away because Dumbledore thought he was a renegade Death Eater impersonating Harry Potter or something.
As the afternoon marched on and day turned into night, Harry continued to read, totally unaware of the progression of time. Dinner passed without him noticing and it wasn't until his stomach rumbled noisily that he realized it'd been a while since he'd last eaten. Closing his book, he looked up and found his mother standing in the doorway with a plate of food. "Hi?"
"Hey, Harry. You missed dinner. And that explanation you owe me." Lily entered the library, setting his dinner down in front of him. "So… last chance. Your father will be home in twenty minutes or so and if I don't have something to tell him, he's going to come looking for an answer from the source. Be honest with me. What happened this morning? Comatose people don't just… wake up and run off for no good reason."
Harry found himself studying his mother's tone and expression intently as she spoke… there was a bit of either fear or nervousness at the prospect of James confronting him, morphing into genuine concern at his disappearing act. The former was worrying; was his father abusive? If not physically, then verbally and mentally the way Hermione had been? As for the latter… at least it meant that one of his parents gave a shit about him. He had been comatose, though? At least now he knew for sure why he'd been sent here of all places: anywhere else, he'd have essentially killed their version of Harry by displacing their mind when he took up residence in their body. So Harry decided to go with as close to the truth as he could manage; after all, the best lies were based on the truth. Easier to keep his story straight that way. "I wish I could give you an answer, but the truth is… I don't know. I woke up standing in the graveyard, had a few seconds to look around, and then Jasmine was there."
Tilting her head to the side, Lily regarded him uncertainly. "You woke up there, or you don't remember why you headed down there? Because at least one of those options implies that you were at least somewhat conscious and that your body didn't just… sleepwalk, for lack of a better term… out of the house."
"I may have walked down there and just not remember doing it. To be honest, there's a lot I don't remember." Harry wanted to pat himself on the back for his brilliance; he could take advantage of his former self's condition to cover up for any mistakes that he might make as he adapted to the new universe that he was now inhabiting. "I know you're my mum, for instance, but I didn't recognize Jasmine or remember her name until someone said it. I remember bits and pieces of Hogwarts, but I have no idea what year I'm in or what happened to me or who I'm friends with or anything." He gestured to the books scattered in front of him, glad that the house elves had brought him all the books he'd asked for at once and left them sitting there while he worked his way through the first. "That's why I'm in here. I'm trying to see how much I can jog my own memory using books because I don't want to be a burden on the family, wandering around constantly asking stupid questions."
Letting out a sigh, Lily reached out to cover one of Harry's hands with her own. "Sweetie, we're your family. You could never be a burden on us." Pausing for a moment, she tilted her head to one side before amending that. "Well, I might reconsider that statement if you stay here as long as Tonks has… but you know what I mean. I'm your mother. It's my job to help you when you need it. If you have questions, ask. Especially now that I know your memory has gotten dodgy ever since… the incident."
Harry nodded before using his free hand to gesture to Lily. "Okay, let's start with that. I remember being at Hogwarts and then being here. Nothing in between. What happened to me? How did I end up like this?"
"Well, what I personally know is limited because it's not like I could question your cohorts too closely about what you got up to that night, but the gist of it? You followed Neville Longbottom into the Department of Mysteries chasing after a prophecy that was being stored there, Death Eaters attacked you, and at one point you came in contact with a cognivore." Lily released his hand, reaching out to tug at one of his sleeves. "Even with the best healers that we could find, the marks wouldn't go away… not that we were too worried about those compared to the fact that they weren't sure you'd ever wake up. But here you are. So… long sleeves might be the new normal for you if you don't want random strangers asking awkward questions."
Good to know, Harry mused as he pushed one of his sleeves up and winced at the marks he found on his arms. He wasn't Remus or anything, but he definitely wasn't the average teenage boy. And assuming that things had played out the same way here as in his universe, Lily's information finally allowed him to pin down a firm date on the calendar: he was in the summer between his fifth and sixth years at Hogwarts. Somewhere in June, if he'd been out for roughly a month. "Based on how Dad reacted, I'm guessing there was some discussion of the Janus Thickey Ward going on when it came to me?" Lily cringed before nodding reluctantly, and Harry sighed. "I'm also going to assume that you're the one I have to thank for not ending up there, so obviously I'm not going to hold anything against you."
Lily opened her mouth to respond but was cut off by a soft and distant whooshing noise. Raising an eyebrow, Harry filed away exactly how well noise traveled in the relatively open floor plan of Potter Manor. "And there's your father. Okay, why don't you take the food and go hole up in your room for a bit while I deal with this. I wish I had better answers to give him, but they'll have to be enough. Especially since I'm not letting you go now that we have you back." Harry nodded, watching as Lily rose to her feet and made her way out of the library. As she walked, her voice drifted back to where he was sitting. "One of these days, I'll figure out a way to avoid Azkaban and then I'll kill those damn Longbottoms for turning my husband into…"
Filing that little tidbit away for future consideration, Harry stacked his plate of food atop the closed copy of Modern Magical History and headed back to his room. The lack of useful furniture had him retreating all the way to his bed, sprawling out on his stomach and returning to his reading as he began blindly shoveling food into his mouth. It wasn't bad, all things considered, although the chicken was awfully bland. So were the vegetables, for that matter. Hopefully his mother was just having an off night because of today's excitement, because to be frank? He could do better. He just had no idea how he'd go about imparting what he knew on her so that the quality of food in the house would improve. Or, Merlin forbid, how he'd go about educating what would have to be some remarkably inept house elves on how to cook better.
Eventually the clock struck nine, and Harry marked his place in the book as he heard his mother ascend to the first floor and start talking to Rose. They were all a bit old to be 'tucked in' per se, but that evidently wasn't going to stop her from making the rounds to ensure they were all ready for bed. It made him very glad that he'd managed to squash his paranoid instincts; Lily probably wouldn't have reacted well to finding an array of locking and privacy charms on his door.
As he changed into a pair of pyjamas, Harry frowned as he inspected his scrawny body. Once he figured out what chores were expected of him, he needed to figure out a way to take on more. Or maybe maybe he could organize regular family walks along the South West Coast Path. Because his current condition was almost worse than being fat like Dudley; the boy had been capable of a reasonable degree of exercise when the situation called for it. See also: Harry hunting. But he definitely had to start working out again, Harry vowed; even if he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived in this world, he wasn't going to just sit back and let Voldemort run wild. Neville might be the only one capable of killing the bastard in this dimension because of Trelawney's damned prophecy, but that didn't mean he couldn't help. And kill a whole lot of Death Eaters along the way.
Hmm. Well, when in doubt, fall back on his normal Privet Drive workout: long walks that became long jogs that became long runs. Setting his alarm clock for five in the morning, which would hopefully get him up and out and back in before the rest of the family awoke, Harry crawled into bed and waited for his mother to arrive.