Chapter 7: What Was and What Might Have Been
Nobody spoke. The silence and weight of the task at hand weighed down heavily on Harry as he tried to gather his thoughts and think how to explain. Just start he thought to himself. Drawing in a shaky breathe Harry opened his mouth and promptly closed it again when nothing came to mind.
How was he going to get through this? Where should he even start? How could he explain Peter's betrayal without going into the prophesy? And if he went into the prophesy wouldn't the Order push him to know how it had been fulfilled?
How could he explain everything to people who were essentially the same people his parents were 17 years ago? But then… How could he refuse them?
Sensing Harry's trouble Dumbledore gently prompted "I find starting at the beginning helps. Why don't you start with your birth and work up until your defeat of Voldemort. That way we will be able to both know of Peter's crimes understand how the war progressed and get to know more about who you are in the process."
Several members of the Order flinched at Voldemort's name, and the rest simply nodded in agreement with Dumbledore's suggestion, but Harry wasn't paying any attention to them. His mind was stuck on the irony of Dumbledore's statement. Start at the beginning? Start at his birth? His story didn't start at his birth. It had already been outlined before he had breathed his first breath.
"Beginnings are funny things Professor. You never can seem to pin down exactly when something started. There is always something that led up to it. My beginning for example doesn't start at my birth. It starts with a prophesy that was given by Sybill Trelawney to you, or, uh, rather the Professor Dumbledore of my world and was overheard by Sn… a Death Eater."
Harry stopped. He had almost said Snape's name. Was it right to let the Order know all the information that was crucial to Voldemort's defeat. Looking around Harry quickly came to a decision. He couldn't go into everything in front of everyone in the Order. What if Voldemort captured one of them and tortured them for information?
In order to Defeat Voldemort some secrecy had to be maintained. If even a whisper got out about Snape becoming a spy for the light, or about the Horcruxes all could go straight to the loo before it even got started. But then how much should he tell everyone.
'I wonder if this is how Dumbledore felt all the time,' Harry thought. Having crucial information, but knowing that the more people you share it with the more likely it is that the whole thing will fall apart. Coming to the decision to edit out Snape and the Horcruxes Harry continued in a more self-conscious and edited oration.
"In the prophesy it said that a child would be born at the end of July to parents who had defied Voldemort three times. It went on to say that this child would have the power to defeat him, and that either the child or Voldemort would die at the hand of the other." Harry stopped here and considered silently for a moment before curiosity pushed him to ask:
"Professor Dumbledore, has this already happened in your world?"
Dumbledore's eyebrows had risen into his hairline as Harry began unfolding his history, but when he answered Harry's question his voice was as normal and level as though he were talking about socks.
"No, I'm afraid it hasn't. If it had I dear say we wouldn't have felt the need to perform the spell that brought you here."
Harry couldn't believe it. There wasn't a prophesy. As if sensing Harry's thoughts Dumbledore quickly added: "But I have scheduled a job interview with Sybill Trelawney for this Saturday. She wrote to me last week asking to fill the Divination post that will be opening at the end of this term."
'It couldn't have been that easy,' Harry thought while chastising himself for getting his hopes up. How could he have thought that the prophesy wouldn't exist? But then if Professor Trelawney did give the prophesy again would it refer to him or to the him that wasn't born yet? Or would there even be a prophesy now that Dumbledore and the Order had brought him here?' Too soon to tell.' Deciding that now wasn't the best time to be contemplating a prophesy that hadn't even been given yet Harry started up his life story again.
"Because my parents had defied Voldemort three times and because I was born at the end of July Dumbledore…"
"We haven't defied Voldemort three times" James jumped in, speaking as though he were a drowning man trying to grab hold of the smallest piece of wood to stay afloat. "This prophesy can't be about mine and Lily's baby. We've only met Voldemort once face to face, and that was in our seventh year at Hogwarts during a Hogsmeade trip. Hundreds of people saw him and escaped. And even if by some random chance Lily and I do escape from Voldemort two more times, my son, um you, or uh both I guess can't have been the only ones this prophesy could have referred to."
Harry hesitated, but the desperate look of hope James was wearing spurned him to continue.
"I wasn't the only one who was born at the end of July to parents who had defied Voldemort three times. My friend Neville Longbottom was also." James' frantic gleam seemed to extinguish like a candle tossed in a bathtub.
"Did you say Longbottom? As in the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom." Lily whispered.
"And there was no one else this prophesy could have referred to?" James asked pleadingly.
"No one that I'm aware of."
James and Lily looked at each other pain etched in every worry line that creased their faces. It was clear what they were thinking. They were thinking that they didn't want this prophesy to be about their baby but at the same time they didn't want to wish it upon the son of their friends either.'
"It doesn't matter how many children this prophesy could have referred to." Harry hastily continued. "In the end it was about me because Voldemort chose me. Um… I guess I forgot to mention the part of the prophesy that said Voldemort would mark the one with the power to defeat him as his equal."
"Yes you did. Is there anything else in that prophesy you forgot to mention?" James asked cuttingly.
Harry glowered. He could feel his temper brewing. This was hard enough as is. Why was his dad…or rather this James Potter being such a jerk about it?
Harry fixed him with an angry stare before biting out "I've only just begun telling you what happened. It's hard enough doing this without you trying to explain why none of this could or should have happened. I know you're just worried about m..your son, but that doesn't change the fact that this is my reality. You can stop freaking out because it's not going to be the same for you anyways. After all that's why you brought me here isn't it. To fight Voldemort again and kill him before he can kill any of you or hurt your families? If I die I guess you might have to worry about your son being pulled into the whole 'Chosen One' role and everything, but if I kill Voldemort it won't really matter will it. So please Da…James just let me tell this the best I can okay. I've never had to explain my life story to anyone before, and if I had a choice I don't think I would have ever chosen to tell it to all of you."
James' mouth opened and shut with an audible click. Shock was written across his features like graffiti on a building. Unable to verbalize an answer he simply nodded.
Harry drew in a breath suddenly angry at himself. He hadn't meant to let his frustration break out. And he certainly hadn't meant to blow up at his dad. He had thought that he had his emotions under control. But then again it had been an exceptionally brutal day. Harry broke eye contact with James. This man wasn't his father. No. He was the father of the baby in his wife's stomach. A different Harry Potter. But then again his parents and the James and Lily who were sitting next to him, they would have been one and the same wouldn't they? Or had his coming made it so they weren't? So were they his parents or weren't they?
Did he want them to be his parents? He didn't get the chance to decide.
"You said that this prophesy was overheard by a Death Eater. Who was he?" Moody cut in.
"No idea." Harry said a bit too rushed to make it convincing though. Moody seemed to catch the lie in his voice with the ease of a seasoned Auror.
"You sure it wasn't Pettigrew?" Moody pressed
"Um, no. It was someone different."
"How do you know it wasn't Pettigrew if you don't know who it was?"
"I.. I.. I just do okay. Look it really doesn't matter who told Voldemort it isn't exactly relevant to the story right now."
Moody didn't look convinced but before he could continue pressing for details Dumbledore interjected. "What did Voldemort do after hearing this prophesy?"
Grateful for the opportunity to get back on track Harry quickly responded, "The uh, Death Eater only heard the first part of the prophesy, the part that talked about the one with the power to defeat him being born at the end of July to parents who had three times defied him. He didn't hear about how he'd mark him as his equal or how he'd have a power the Dark Lord knows not."
"You keep saying 'he' Harry, don't you mean yourself."
"Um yeah. But it's easier to talk about the prophesy as though it refers to someone else. So… Yeah. Anyways after the Death Eater told Voldemort the prophesy, Voldemort decided to eliminate the threat before it became well… a threat. Dumbledore told my parents that Voldemort might be going after them since I fulfilled the requirements mentioned in the prophesy so my parents decided to go into hiding. They used the Fidelus charm to hide themselves and me and originally planned to make Sirius the secret-keeper. However, at the last minute Sirius convinced them that he was too obvious a choice and that it would be a better idea to switch to Peter."
Harry paused again and glanced unsurely at James and Lily. Even though this hadn't been nor would be their fate, both looked severely shaken by what they were hearing. James had his eyes shut tight and looked like he was in great pain and Lily was merely wide eyed horrified.
Finding the sight of his knees easier to look at Harry focused there and pressed on.
"Peter gave the location of my parent's house to Voldemort and on Halloween when I was one year old Voldemort came to our house. My father tried to hold him off so my mother and I could escape. Voldemort killed my father and then went upstairs to where my mother and I were. Voldemort ordered my mother to give me to him and told her that if she did he'd let her live. My mother refused. She… she died trying to protect me from him."
At this point Harry found it too difficult to continue.
Why did he have to be the one to tell his parents how they had died? It seemed unfair enough to have been the one to benefit from the tragedy, but having to face the people who had died for him, here in the past before he was even born, before they had ever come to love him, seemed beyond unbearable.
Surprisingly it was Lily that spoke up. "But it worked. I.. I mean she… she protected you. You lived."
"Yes." Two matching pairs of eyes met. One set filled with guilt and the other with hope and fear. "Her sacrifice protected me. When Voldemort tried to kill me his spell backfired and ripped him out of his body. The wizarding world called me The-Boy-Who-Lived after that night."
Harry stopped lost in his own thoughts as were the rest of the Order members. One member however didn't seem pensive so much as livid.
"That bloody traitor. I'm going to kill him. I'm going to hunt him down like the rat he is and tear him limb from limb." Sirius's fists were clenched and his body was so rigid that it shook like a crumbling building. James who also looked far from steady gave his best friend a one armed hug.
"Steady Padfoot. We're still here. This hasn't happened yet. Lily and I are fine. This isn't going to happen. You need to calm down." James seemed to be saying these thing not only for Sirius but also for himself. Peter's betrayal had awakened emotions he didn't know he had.
"How can you tell me to calm down James? Peter as good as killed you and Lily. How can you just sit there and not want to track him down and kill him?"
"That's exactly what the Sirius in my world tried to do." Harry cut in.
Sirius, as well as the rest of the Order, fixed their attention back on Harry. A predatory gleam entered into Sirius's eyes as he asked with a look that could easily have convinced someone that he was a murderer: "Did I kill him? Did I kill that lying Son of a…
"The Sirius in my world hunted Peter down and cornered him in a street of muggles. But before he could curse him Peter yelled for the whole street to hear 'James and Lily, Sirius, how could you?' Then he cut off one of his fingers blew up the street killing twelve muggles and disappeared down a drain."
"He got away? Why didn't I go after him again? I wouldn't have just let him escape. I'd have kept hunting him down even if it took the rest of my life to do it."
"I'm sure you would have Sirius. But you couldn't. The Arours arrived after Pettigrew escaped and arrested you. The witnesses thought that you'd blown up the street and killed the muggles. And since you and my parents had kept the switch of secret keepers quiet you were blamed for their betrayal as well. You were thrown in Azkaban without a trial."
Sirius's predatory look broke like a window.
"Azkaban? I was sent to Azkaban? Well how long did it take for someone to figure out I was innocent and get me out of there?"
"No one figured out you were innocent Sirius. But you did break out of Azkaban twelve years later, and, well, Dumbledore, Remus, my friends and I found out about your innocence. But the wizarding world as a whole didn't find out until after you were killed."
"I'm dead in your world?… Sirius paused and tried to digest this information. He was dead? Or rather he would be dead sometime in the future. Or rather he might die sometime in the future. Sirius stopped his thoughts there. He was thinking about how he might die sometime in the future? How was that different from any other day?
"Well how did I die?" Sirius finally asked.
"You were killed by Bellatrix Lestrange in the Department of Mysteries."
There was a notable pause here, but Harry didn't know what exactly he should say. Sirius however was not one to be denied.
"And? Come on Harry that's not how I want you to tell me the heroic story of my death. You make it sound as boring as though I simply fell asleep. Aren't you going to tell me how many Death Eaters I took down with me, and how many helpless Unspeakables I protected? That kind of stuff."
Everything about this is wrong, thought Harry. But deciding to just be as honest as possible he pressed on.
"None and none Sirius. You fell through the Veil of Death because you were rescuing your idiot godson who was stupid enough to be tricked into going there by Voldemort."
"What! That death suc…" Sirius cut off and was once again silent. This wasn't the glamorous death he'd always imagined, but… Looking at the self-hating look Harry had on his face made something click in his mind.
"I guess if I couldn't die in my sleep as a wrinkled old man, a death like that is the death I'd want."
Harry was as stunned as though he'd been hit by fifty stupefies simultaneously. "What?"
"Dying to protect someone I love. That's the best way to go. At least I can't think of anything better. Can you?"
Seeing that Harry was too shocked to do more than shake his head Sirius grinned and let out a barking laugh. "Dang though. If I go the same way again I'll have to make sure to take a few Death Eaters with me so my death sounds more exciting. Do me a favor though kiddo, when Fabian and Gideon get out of the hospital will you embellish a bit and tell them I took fifty Death Eaters with me? I do have a super awe-inspiring image to maintain after all. Oh, and don't forget to tell them how I laid siege to Azkaban fighting and killing hundreds of Dementors and finally escaped by bringing down the wards and apparating away.
"Um actually Sirius you…." Harry began uncertainly
"Harry." Sirius cut in while putting on the largest puppy dog eyes he could muster.
Harry laughed a short hysterical laugh. "Actually Sirius, after killing hundreds of Dementors you found an abandoned wand, blew up the entire prison and flew off the island into the sunset on the back of a Hungarian horntail dragon they had hiding there."
"Now that's what I'm talking about!"
"As interesting as Sirius's naturally heroic escape from Azkaban was perhaps we should return to the story and leave the task of embellishing it until later." Dumbledore cut in eyes twinkling.
Ignoring Sirius's disgruntled mumbling Harry replied "Um, sure. So, well after Voldemort lost his body the wizarding world had thirteen years of relative peace. I was sent to live with my Aunt and Uncle and didn't really have any contact with the wizarding world until I received my Hogwarts letter. But I did find out later some of the events that happened during that time, starting with the fact that several of Voldemort's Death Eaters were pardoned because they claimed to have been under the Imperius spell."
Dumbledore held up a hand to stop him and pulled out a sheet of parchment. With a grim smile that held no twinkle Dumbledore asked "Would you happen to know the names of any of those Death Eaters Harry?"
Harry smirked in a way that would have made Draco Malfoy jealous. "It just so happens, Professor that I do. There's Avery, Nott, Macnair, Malfoy, Crabb, Goyle, Karkoff, Yaxley, the Currows, Barty Crouch Jr, Bellatrix and Rudolphous Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, …"
Moody's disgruntled look that he'd been sporting since Dumbledore had cut him off earlier melted off his face and was replaced by a mad gleam and a smile that any child would have had following the announcement that Christmas was coming early that year.