Through the Cupboard
The remaining week in the Potter home was relatively uneventful when compared to the few days they'd gone through recently. Most notably, the wizarding press became more determined to get answers about what happened on Platform 9 ¾ on 1 September. A few mornings for the Potter family had been spent on their front porch watching as reporters attempted to get through their property's wards. Some of the more courageous of the bunch had been sent to St. Mungo's to have their electrocution injuries treated.
"Serves them right," Sirius said, looking over his shoulder as yet another reporter was jinxed. "It's not as though we haven't warned them..."
James shrugged as he held the door open for his friend. "Either they'll learn or the Daily Prophet will need to hire a new staff," he said.
Ignoring the distant shrieks in the woods, Sirius followed his friend into his study. "So why are we meeting here instead of the Ministry?" he asked, sitting in a chair.
"I asked Harry who cursed him on the platform," James began, no hint of amusement on his face. "He says it was Draco Malfoy."
Sirius blinked. "Draco Malfoy? Lucius' kid?" James nodded. "Why would a fifteen-year-old use the Killing Curse on a fellow student, no matter whether they get along or not, in broad daylight?"
"Not sure," James said with a sigh. "But Harry also believes he was under the Imperius Curse. You said Lucius was on the train and he got you and Tonks before either of you saw him?"
Sirius nodded. "Yes. Are you thinking Lucius had his own son under the Imperius Curse so he could kill your son?"
"Do you have another suggestion?"
"No." Sirius sighed. "And somehow I'm not surprised, either. So we're going to Hogwarts to arrest him?"
James sighed in response. "I've already talked to Dumbledore. Before we march in there with an arrest warrant—which I have, by the way—he wants to question Draco on his own. And much as I hate to wait, I've agreed to let this happen. You and I will head back with Caleb on Monday morning and find out the results."
"Does Lily know about this?"
"Not yet. And if you'd be so kind, I'd rather she didn't find out until I've got more information."
"Rather she didn't find out what?"
Both wizards jumped as Lily wandered into the study. Sirius glanced at James a moment before standing and giving Lily a rather charming smile. "We didn't want you to know just beautiful you really are in the morning."
He could nearly see James rolling his eyes behind him.
"Thank you, Sirius," Lily said lightly. "But if you're going to flirt, make sure my husband isn't around to hear, won't you? Will you two hurry? Caleb should be home soon, Remus is on his way, and we have to figure out exactly what we're going to say to him."
"What's there to figure out?" Sirius asked, following Lily out of the room. "Just tell him his brother is a lot stranger than anyone ever thought and he's having a bit of an identity crisis."
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that, Sirius," Lily said dully as James clipped him in the back of the head.
They entered the living room to find Remus had already arrived with Helen and the two of them were greeting Piper and Harry. The boy seemed unaccountably nervous as he watched the fireplace.
"You okay?" James asked, sitting next to Harry on the sofa.
Harry let out a ragged breath. "Yeah, fine," he said with a higher-than-usual voice. "I tell people all the time that I've come from a parallel universe and that I'm actually not their brother."
James chuckled and patted his shoulder. "Caleb's a smart kid," he said. "He'll hear us out before he jumps to conclusions."
"Yeah," Harry muttered under his breath, "then all I have to worry about is Ralph the Mutated Cotton Ball eating me while I'm asleep."
"What was that?" James asked.
All attention turned towards the fireplace as it lit up in green flames and a quiet chime sounded. Within seconds, the small whirling form of Caleb Potter materialized in the grate before it stumbled out onto the carpet. Piper detached herself from Remus to give her brother a hug. Caleb absently hugged her back as he looked around the room, his hazel eyes finally landing on Harry. The older boy gulped surreptitiously; Caleb grinned. "All right?" he asked Harry.
Harry somehow managed to grin back. "All right," he said quietly. "You?"
Caleb nodded. "I almost didn't get out of the common room this morning. Somehow, Lav-Lav found out I was coming home; she cornered me and begged to let her go in my place. Luckily Hermione was there to get me loose..."
For the next hour or so, the group sat around the kitchen table with a pot of stew for lunch and let Caleb describe the reactions of the Hogwarts student body. It didn't come as a surprise to Harry to find out he was the talk of the school. Some people were saying he had some sort of magic that repelled the Killing Curse while others claimed the entire incident on Platform 9 ¾ had been a setup by Harry that secured his position in Lord Voldemort's Inner Circle. Caleb seemed to enjoy this rumor more than any others; apparently with the whole of Hogwarts, terrified that Harry was some powerful Dark Lord, they feared picking on Caleb might draw unwanted attention to themselves.
After lunch, James, Lily, and Sirius took Caleb into James' study while Harry tried to occupy his mind with Remus, Helen, and Piper. He couldn't for the life of him figure out why he was so nervous about Caleb's reaction compared to those of the adults, which could have been far worse and landed Harry a cell in Azkaban Prison. The worse Caleb could do was get angry and maybe make Harry a test subject for one of his experiments.
It's because you know Caleb's just started to like his brother and now he's being told his brother wasn't actually the one showing interest in Caleb's thoughts and inventions, said one part of Harry's mind.
Harry sighed and stared at the empty fireplace. The past month had been one of the strangest he'd ever experienced, but it seemed to be settling down. Still, he knew that if he were given the chance to take everything back, to make it so that he'd never found the strange portal in the back of the cupboard and this world's Harry had never died, he wouldn't. It was horribly selfish, but since he was never going to get that chance anyway, he didn't think it mattered.
His mother and father had certainly accepted the situation quickly, though there were times during the day when James was at work and Harry would be walking through the house, and he would begin to hear sobbing. The source of the sobbing was his mother sitting in places like the kitchen pantry or in Piper's closet. Whenever Harry interrupted her crying, she would insist that she'd just stubbed her toe or broken a nail, and then attempt to go on with the day in a feigned cheery mood.
James was a little harder to catch in his grieving. It usually happened during dinnertime—the wizard would be caught staring into his mashed potatoes or with his fork paused in its path halfway to his mouth. And whenever one of these instances happened, James disappeared the moment the table was cleared and went out to fly or sit in his study for the night.
But anytime one of them found Harry sitting somewhere alone and near tears, they sat with him and told him to stop blaming himself. He hadn't been the one to cause this; it had been Lord Voldemort.
Easy for them to say, Harry thought broodingly. Neither of them was the one who were locked in a cupboard, found a portal to another world, and was stupid enough to stick their hand through. If I'd just ignored my curiosity, none of this would have happened and I'd be back at school in my own world with my own friends who want to spend time with me.
Yeah, and if Voldemort had only been patted on the head once or twice and been told he was a good boy, there would be no coming war, would there? It's happened, deal with it. And if you hadn't come here, their Harry would have been dead and gone, and they would be attending a funeral instead of telling their youngest son that his brother, in some sense, was still alive.
Harry's brow furrowed. The tone in which his mind was speaking to him sounded suspiciously like the other Harry, the one from this world. He tried to goad the voice into responding again, but nothing came; Harry finally had to come to the conclusion that even though the other boy was gone, there was still some remnants of his personality left behind.
Makes sense. He wore this body for fifteen years, and I've only had it for a month.
Just as he'd decided he wasn't going insane, regardless of the voices in his head, the study door was yanked open, footsteps exited, and one set stomped up the stairs before slamming a door Harry was certain belonged to Caleb.
Heaving sighs, James, Lily, and Sirius entered the living room and collapsed into chairs. "Well, that went better than expected..." James said dully.
Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk, his fingers steepled beneath his beard as he observed Draco Malfoy entering his study behind Severus Snape. Silently, the Headmaster gestured for them both to sit, all the time watching the boy's face for any sign of guilt.
"Good morning, Draco," Albus finally said. "Do you know why I've asked you here?"
Draco gulped as his eyes darted around the room nervously. After a few moments, he looked directly at the Headmaster, and nodded.
"Look, I didn't have anything to do with what happened to Potter!" Draco blurted, his tone desperate. "I didn't want that to happen! I didn't have a choice! He made me!"
Albus' eyes widened briefly in surprise as he glanced at Severus. The other wizard was staring at Draco with a look of the same surprise. "Who made you, Draco?"
Draco took a shuddering breath. "I... I can't tell you," he said. Albus wasn't surprised to see tears coming from the boy's eyes. "He'll kill me if I do."
Albus sat forward in his chair, frowning. "Draco, Professor Snape and I only wish to help you. Anything you fear, we may be able to protect you from, but we cannot do that unless you've told us everything."
The boy didn't speak for several minutes, but during this silence, Albus discovered much more than Draco could have ever told him. For several seconds, Draco's grey eyes locked with the Headmaster's blue ones and Albus subconsciously projected his skills as a Legilimens towards the fifteen-year-old boy. Whether Draco was aware of what was happening as it occurred, he was never certain, but Albus was now observing several of Draco's memories of the morning in question as well as brief flashes pertaining to the incident.
Draco's father stood behind the boy during their journey through King's Cross train station, Draco looking nervously over his shoulder every few steps; the whispering of a few words in his father's voice and the feeling of a spell hitting him from behind; standing before Harry Potter on the platform, his wand trained on the person before him; the jet of green light shooting from his wand into Harry's chest; the sudden awareness of what had happened and Draco's fleeing the scene with his father, only to return some time later to board the train with the other students.
Albus slowly sat back in his chair, once again steepling his fingers beneath his beard. "I see," he said very softly. "Draco, if you were placed under the Imperius Curse, you can hardly be held accountable for your actions during that time. Whomever put you in that position would face the consequences instead, and if you will testify against that person, I will make sure that you are safe from reprisals for it."
Draco gulped again, faint traces of hope appearing in his eyes. "My mother—" he began.
"Will be protected as well," Albus interrupted. "But you must tell us everything. Take your time, calm yourself, and speak without fear..."
After a few moments with his eyes closed, Draco took a deep breath and began.
Rather late in the night, Harry sat in his room, on his bed, reading. The rest of the evening following Caleb's retreat to his bedroom had been rather tense in the house. The youngest Potter boy hadn't emerged all night—Lily had taken him a plate of dinner so he had the chance to eat if he so desired—but the Potter parents seemed convinced this mood wouldn't last much longer.
"He does this sometimes," James had told Harry. "If he comes across something he doesn't understand, that he can't find a logical explanation for, he shuts himself up in his room until he comprehends it, then he's fine."
Though Harry wanted to knock on Caleb's door and just get that confrontation over with, he waited. It would do no good to force his company on the younger boy if Caleb didn't want it. He did hope, however, that Caleb would eventually decide to make friends; Harry had grown rather fond of his younger brother...
He jumped at a soft knock at his door. "Come in," he called, expecting perhaps James or Lily to open the door. His surprise at the image of a bushy brown head of hair poking through the door was very high.
Hermione Granger gave him an uncertain smile. "Hi."
He managed to smile back. "Hi," he said, shaking himself a little. "What are you doing here?"
She opened the door fully, but still lingered near the doorframe. "Well, my aunt said you were out of hospital and your parents thought you might like some company... But I could come back later if this is a bad time."
"No, not at all," Harry said. "Come in, have a seat."
Hermione left the door and took a seat on top of Harry's school trunk across the room. "How are you feeling?"
Harry nodded. "Not bad," he replied. He and his parents had decided that, for the time being, the true version of what occurred on the platform should remain private. "How's school?"
Inwardly, he rolled his eyes as Hermione began going on and on about lessons; he should have known better than getting her on that particular subject. Still, it was nice to listen to a familiar voice. While she spoke, Harry wondered how best to get Hermione to trust him. She was so stuck on this world's Harry being a bully and a prat that it would probably take a lot, but it was definitely worth an attempt.
When Hermione paused to take a breath, Harry seized his chance. "I wondered if you could help me with something..." he said, scooting forward on the bed.
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "What?" she asked hesitantly.
Harry sighed and pondered his words a moment before going on. "Well, first of all, I'm truly sorry for anything I've ever done to embarrass you. I've been an idiot and if this last week has shown me anything, it's that I don't have time to run around hexing people all the time."
Hermione was watching warily, as though waiting for an opening for one of Harry's pranks.
"And I was hoping you might help me stop being such a berk and grow up some..." Harry trailed off at the look on his friend's face. "What?"
"What's the catch?" she asked.
"No catch," Harry said, grinning. "I just don't think I could do it and have people actually believe that I've changed on my own."
"And you want me to help with convincing people that you're not a prat anymore?"
Hermione sighed. "Well, you'll have to forgive me if I don't immediately jump at the chance. While it has been nice to be around you without having to worry about you hexing my food or something, I haven't really had a chance to think about this much..."
Harry nodded understandingly. "That's fine," he assured her. "I'll probably be back at school next week, depending on what the Healers say when I see them on Wednesday, so maybe we can talk then.''
"Sure," Hermione said warily, still unsure what to think about Harry.
There was another knock on the door and Harry again called for the visitor to come in. To his immense surprise, Caleb opened the door, looking inside nervously.
"Hello, Caleb," Hermione said brightly.
Caleb jumped at the voice, then looked at Hermione in slight bemusement. "Er, hi, Hermione..."
Hermione looked between the two brothers, then got to her feet, as though she could sense there was something Caleb wanted to discuss with Harry in private. "Well, I should get back to Hogwarts," she said, heading towards the door. "I've still got some work for Arithmancy to finish."
Harry waved as Hermione left the room and closed the door behind her, leaving him alone with Caleb.
"Er, can I come in?" Caleb asked rather awkwardly, looking anywhere but at Harry.
Harry smiled a little. "You're already in, aren't you?" He waved towards the desk chair. "Have a seat."
Caleb nodded and crossed the room to the indicated spot. The two boys sat in awkward silence for several minutes before Caleb finally sighed and looked up at Harry. "So," he said, spreading his hands as though demonstrating something. "Not my brother."
Harry gave a short chuckle. "Technically speaking, no."
Again, Caleb sighed, then laughed shortly. "I should have known," he said, shaking his head. "My brother was never as nice to me as you've been. Hell, if he'd seen some of those things I showed you, he would have taken pride in smashing every last one of them."
Harry smiled sympathetically. Caleb, for the first time since Harry had first laid eyes on him, looked much younger than his mere twelve years of age; his genius was no match for a brother from another world. Harry hesitated only for a moment before speaking. "You know, just because he never told you, it doesn't mean he didn't care about you." Caleb snorted humorlessly. "I'm serious. Weird as this might sound, he was actually impressed with those experiments of yours."
"You're right," Caleb said blandly. "That does sound weird."
Harry sighed. "Well, I can't take back the way your brother treated you, but if you'd like, maybe I can try to make up for it."
Caleb's brow furrowed. "Why would you do that? It's not your fault my brother was a git."
"True," Harry conceded. "But maybe I never got the chance to have a brother and maybe I want to try it out."
Slowly, Caleb nodded. "I do have to admit it's been nice not looking over my shoulder to see what prank has been setup for me... Maybe it would be nice to have a proper brother for a change..."
For the next couple hours, Harry and Caleb talked. Harry told the other boy several details of his life in his own world, which Caleb seemed to enjoy very much. There would probably be a point in the near future where Caleb, just like his parents, sat down and the shock of the situation wore off some. Until then, Caleb seemed content to just believe the boy in front of him was his brother and always had been, and Harry wasn't going to burst the boy's bubble.
When Caleb finally went to bed, Harry lay down himself, turned off the light, and stared at the ceiling above him. It was finally sinking into his mind that his life had probably changed forever, but on the whole he was okay with the changes. He had parents and siblings, he had his godfather and Remus, and he seemed to be getting Hermione back. There were still a few things he wanted to try to salvage, his friendship with Ron chief among them, but the rest of his old life he was happy to leave behind.
His eyes closed and he drifted into sleep, and just as he passed the threshold between consciousness and dreams, he saw an instant's flash of a black-haired boy with green eyes and an unscarred forehead, who grinned widely at him and gave him a thumbs-up before turning and walking away.
AN: Yes, my friends, this is the final chapter of the story. I apologize for not updating sooner, but laziness and lack of motivation have been hanging around my head lately. There will be a sequel... just as soon as I come up with a decent title. Thank you very much to whydoyouneedtoknow for beta-reading this story for me. Thank you to everybody who has reviewed this story—you're all awesome! And now if you would be so kind, please review one last time and I will see you (hopefully) soon with a sequel!