A/N: Personal background here -- I wrote this more for me than anyone else. Sorry. My brother's pretty sick and we've been spending a lot of time in and out of hospitals. He's not getting better so...Anyway, there probably won't be another chapter for a couple weeks, but I really like this story.
PS – I don't own Harry. If I did, I would have made sure Fred didn't die.
Harry fingered the small object in his hand, weighing his options. There were so many people he'd like to see alive again. Sirius...Lupin...Dumbledore. Leaning close, he whispered a name to the ring. And waited.
James Potter sat on the end of Harry's bed, staring at him. His eyes were wide behind glasses shaped just like Harry's. But his eyes were hazel. But his hair, his hands, his face. All identical to Harry's own. Except for the scar.
Harry looked at his father, feeling a lump rise in his throat. What do you say to a man you hadn't met? Who was your father? It brought the complication of conversation to a new level.
"How are you, Harry?" James' voice permeated the still air like a gunshot, even though the words were spoken softly. Harry cringed at the sound of the voice. His voice. It was younger than he had expected. He tried to remind himself that his father had only been a few years older than he was when he had died.
"I'm feeling pretty lousy, actually." It was the truth. He was staying at the Burrow now, which had become almost an army station, filled with the wounded and families with nowhere to go. There were people camped outside and in the fields beyond the house, everyone having the same impulse to gather together. Harry had managed to sneak in the attic where the ghoul had been moved once again. He couldn't be around people, even Ron or Hermione or Ginny, who were downstairs being useful. Every time he looked at someone who had been injured in the battle he felt guilty. It was his fault...all his fault.
James squeezed Harry's hand. "You did the right thing, son. I'm so proud of you." The words fell deliberately, slowly, the same way Lupin or Hagrid would have said them. This was the only thing that could have made Harry meet his father's eyes.
James smiled at him sadly, his eyes roaming over Harry's face as if he was trying to take it all in at once. "I've missed so much...sixteen years. What's happened in all that time?"
"Don't you know?" The words came out before Harry could stop them. He'd always imagined his parents watching over him, omnipresent guardian angels watching his every move. Keeping him safe.
James raised an eyebrow. "Well, I know the basics from Sirius." He smiled a little when he said his best friend's name. "World events and all. But what about you? Your life? It can't all have been about Voldemort."
Harry couldn't answer this. He didn't know what answer to give his father. How do you sum up a whole life into sentences or paragraphs? When Harry didn't answer James pressed him smiling slightly. "Just before you called me here there was this massive onslaught of people dead from the battle. Moony was there ― married! Who would have thought that? ― anyway, he brought with him this lost looking red-head who couldn't have been that much older than you. He must have recognized me and he said something about you and his sister..."
A slow, mischievous grin spread across James' face. Harry wanted to laugh. The first thing Fred said when he saw Harry's father was to tell him about him and Ginny. The laugh died inside him when he realized that Fred had to actually die in order to tell James that.
Clearing his throat, Harry forced himself to speak, trying to start at the beginning. "Ginny ― Ginny Weasley ―" His father nodded in recognition. The Weasleys must be popular in heaven. "She's the little sister of my best mate. Ron." And before he could stop himself he launched into a "cliff-notes" version of what had happened to him in sixteen years.
"So Hagrid picked me up from the Dursleys. Well, a lot of things happened that night, including him giving Dudley a pig tail, but that's when I first learned I was a wizard. I went to Platform 9¾ in September and met the Weasleys." He smiled at the memory. "They're the nicest people I've ever met, dad." He stopped suddenly, realizing his dad was staring at him with a kind of painful intensity that he felt quite embarrassed. "What?"
James reached out, his hand landing on Harry's shoulder. A rush of emotions ran through the young boy, first and foremost among them being love. Unconditional, unquestioning love. The kind of love that Harry had never been given in his life. "You are just like your mother." James said quietly, brushing Harry's too-long hair away from his face, making the tangled mess even worse.
Feeling lost, Harry struggled for words. "Well...what about her?" he asked, wanting more than anything to know. A rush of thoughts poured out of him, fueled by the knowledge that he would never, ever be able to get this conversation again. "How did you meet? What did she look like? I know a lot of stuff about you from Sirius and Lupin, but I know almost nothing about her."
James stared at Harry for a second, "Okay. I'll tell you about your mother if you promise to tell me about your friends. Deal?"
Harry nodded eagerly, sitting back against the old bed. Downstairs, there were yells of grief or excitement, calls for lost friends or siblings. But it all seemed unimportant to Harry. So as the Wizarding World struggled to heal from one of the greatest battles in centuries, Harry continued to listen.
"Your mother...she was an extraordinary woman. Smart -- brilliantly smart. She had a special knack for Potions and wand work." James' face became softer, somewhat, when he talked about his wife. Harry reminded himself that the two were still newlyweds at the time of their death. Younger than Bill and Fleur were now.
"She loved everything, everyone. One of her friends was a house-elf named Pip. And everyone loved her." James sighed contentedly. "She was beautiful, of course. Red hair, green eyes. Not unlike the vixen you've supposedly gotten for yourself." James winked and Harry felt blood rush to his face. He had to constantly remind himself that this was his father. "And sweet. And kind. But she had a temper. She yelled at me a good few times, and she always seemed to be storming off somewhere when she didn't approve of something I did. Though, to tell you the truth, there was a lot of things she didn't approve of."
"Like becoming an animgous?" Harry asked.
"No. She was actually all for that. She helped with a lot of it." James leaned forward, his glasses glinting in the light of the bare bulb that illuminated the room. "Do you know why my animagous was a stag?" he asked quietly.
Harry shook his head. His patronus had been a stag even before he had known that that was the animal his father had chosen to turn into. But he had never known why James had picked that animal. "It was because Lily's patronus was a doe. A beautiful white doe."
Everything clicked then. And not just about his parents. Not for the first time, Harry had to re-evaluate his view of Snape. The patronus...Snape must have been deeply in love with his mother.
"I've told you enough." James said. "And frankly, Harry, I don't know how long I can stay here. It's rather uncomfortable being in-between like this."
Harry nodded slowly. "Okay. My friends? You wanted to know about them, right?" James nodded, and Harry began speaking, slowly at first, then picking up speed.
"Well, there's Ron. Ron Weasley. He's...well, he's my best mate. Has been since first year. We hit it off on the train, see? He seemed to know more than me that first year, mostly because he grew up with wizards and I grew up with the Dursleys. I stayed with his family before second year, and they're all...great. They've helped me so much. And Ron...I couldn't have done any of it without him."
James nodded, and Harry could see it in his face. James' friends -- Sirius, Lupin, and even Peter -- had all been important to him growing up.
"Then there's Hermione. She's the cleverest in our year. She basically got us -- me and Ron, that it -- through the whole thing with the Sorcerer's Stone. Got us past all the teacher's spells and curses as a first year. Yeah, she's brilliant. Never got Quidditch though. Did you know I'm a Seeker? But she never went for the game, not until Ron made Keeper. She and Ron have liked each other for ages. It was quite funny, actually."
Looking out at the campfires made by the several hundred people around the house, Harry knew he had to talk about one more person. "And Ginny. She's Ron's sister, the only girl out of seven. I think that made her tougher. She has a mean bat-bogey hex. Ginny's amazingly beautiful. Red-headed, like mum, I guess." Harry paused a moment, deciding. "I think I love her."
James touched Harry's hand. Startled, Harry looked at him. He was almost transparent now, like the ghosts at school. "What's happening?" Harry asked quietly.
"I have to go know, son." Was Harry imagining it, or was James' voice more gruff, as if he was trying to hold back tears. "But I love you, Harry. Remember that. Your mother and I both love you so much."
"Dad?" Harry stood up off the bed, wand out, not knowing quite what to do. His father was almost gone know, his glasses and hair trailing behind the rest of him. "Dad!"
But he was gone.
Sitting on the bed, Harry fingered the ring. He wouldn't use it again -- he couldn't. Yet. Thinking carefully, Harry made his way back down the stairs, ignoring the howling of the ghoul behind him.
He carefully placed the ring on the bed, scrawling a hasty note so George would know what to do with it.
I figure this story might go one for a while. George next, of course, and then...who? I think it should circulate around to people. Any ideas?
As always, please review.