Through Another's Eyes
Why the hell did I ever think this whole alternate universe stuff might be a good thing?
Harry leaned against the stone wall of the castle and slid down it, looking out towards the grounds while his fellow students enjoyed what would be among the last nice days before winter's arrival. It had been a week and a half since Sirius was arrested, a week since he'd spoken to Ron and told the other boy the truth about where he was from and who he was. Ron hadn't spoken to him since, had actively avoided any place where Harry might be, and went out of his way to keep from having to interact with him in any way. Harry had also been lacking in interaction from the almighty voice in his head. The connection to this world's Harry was tenuous at the best of times, their conversations cut short without a moment's notice, and Harry still wasn't sure what to make of this. Perhaps it was a fluke, or as he wondered all along, whether it was left over after the Killing Curse.
Whatever the answer, the voice was one of the few things that comforted him anymore and the lack of communication was becoming bothersome.
His head snapped up as he heard the crunching of leaves beneath someone's feet to find Ron Weasley approaching cautiously, hands in his jacket pocket, presumably wrapped around the hilt of his wand. Harry met Ron's gaze evenly, his own had reaching for his wand. He wasn't sure what would happen during this confrontation, but he was fully prepared with several defensive charms at the tip of his tongue, just in case.
"Hi," Ron said gruffly, shuffling around on the grass a bit.
"Mind if I sit?"
Harry shook his head. "Sure," he muttered, scooting over slightly so Ron wouldn't have to sit in the thorny bushes on either side of them. Ron sat, took a few moments to get himself settled, and seemed to settle his gaze somewhere across the grounds—possibly the Quidditch pitch. Neither boy spoke for several minutes; Ron seemed to be in deep thought, and after their last conversation, Harry wasn't sure what more there was to say. Either Ron would believe him or think he was completely mental. If it was the latter, however, Harry couldn't think of a single reason why Ron would be here now.
"How'd you know all that stuff?" Ron asked suddenly, still staring across the grounds.
"I told you already," Harry said patiently. "I'm from somewhere totally different from here, I've had different experiences."
Ron's brow furrowed. "So what happened to the Harry Potter that belongs here?"
Harry took a deep breath. "That story is a little more complicated to explain. I don't even really understand it myself. At first, we shared his body, but something happened and we were separated." He wasn't quite ready to tell Ron about the incident on the Hogwarts Express platform with Draco Malfoy just yet. "He went away for a while, but now, every so often, I can hear him. In my mind, I mean."
The look Ron gave him seemed to suggest he believed Harry needed psychological help. Sooner rather than later. He refrained from saying this out loud, though; possibly his curiosity was getting the better of him for the moment. "So if you're not from here, can you get back to wherever it is you're from?"
"Dunno," Harry said with a shrug. "I wouldn't know where to begin figuring it out. Dumbledore knows, so I imagine if there was a way, he'd have come up with it already, right?'
"Maybe," Ron said slowly. "Does anyone else know? Besides Dumbledore, I mean."
"My parents, Caleb, my parents' friends..." Harry shrugged again. "We didn't think it would be a brilliant idea to advertise it."
Ron snorted a laugh and his eyes darted sideways briefly to look at Harry. "Probably not." The smile on the other boy's face slipped away slowly and Ron shifted a little nervously. "So why'd you tell me?"
"You asked," Harry said simply. "And to be honest, I've been wanting to tell other people for weeks; I just didn't know who I could trust."
"And you think you can trust me?"
Ron sat silently for a minute or two, contemplating the question while Harry surreptitiously crossed his fingers. Over the last few months, he'd regularly thought about how badly he missed his best friends—the adults were wonderful, but when it came down to it, there really was no replacing Ron and Hermione in his life—and he wasn't sure disappointment was quite the word if Ron declared he was mental and needed to be avoided at all costs.
The red head finally turned to meet Harry's eyes, his jaw tensed. "Yeah," he said, his voice barely over a whisper. "You can trust me."
Harry did his best to hide the relief he felt; if Ron noticed, he was kind enough to ignore it. "Thanks," he told Ron with a small grin.
Nodding, Ron began to stand up again, glancing at his wristwatch. Harry did the same and was surprised that it was nearly dinnertime already. Ron stretched out a hand to help Harry up. "So I imagine you've got some pretty interesting stories..." he said leadingly.
Harry's grin grew. "You could say that. Want to hear a few?"
Ron grinned as well as they headed for the castle doors. "Yeah, but after dinner. Probably wouldn't be the best idea to—"
The sentence was cut off very suddenly as the world started to move. At first, the shaking was slight, and if it had remained that way, Harry might have put it off as his imagination. But within thirty seconds, both Harry and Ron had lost their balance and had fallen to the ground. They weren't the only ones; all across the school grounds, Harry could hear his fellow students calling out in surprise, some in fright. Harry glanced up, hoping to reorient himself with the world. The only thing he managed to do was spot a large stone portion of the castle wall loosening right above Ron and himself. Just in time to avoid them being crushed, Harry grabbed Ron by the collar of his robes and yanked him a few feet away. They both dived to the ground again and covered their heads with their arms, just as the others on the grounds were doing, and resigned themselves to waiting the phenomenon out.
Their wait was long. It felt like an hour while in reality it was only around five minutes, but when the shaking finally stopped, Harry cautiously lifted his head to look around before pushing himself off the ground.
"I think it's over," Harry told Ron shakily.
Ron stood up, looking pale and frightened, something Harry could easily empathize with. "What the bloody hell was that?" he breathed, meeting Harry's eyes again. He suddenly reached out to grasp Harry's shoulder as the ground gave another violent shudder, one that only lasted a second or two, before all was calm again.
"Earthquake?" Harry suggested. "A really big one."
Ron nodded his agreement, swallowing hard and looking as though he was about to be ill. All around them, students were getting to their feet and looking around as though searching for the source of the earthquake. A few of the older students seemed to be attempting to laugh the whole thing off, partly to calm down the younger, crying ones. Ron took a deep breath. "Maybe we should—"
Again, his sentence was cut off, this time by Professor McGonagall's voice. It sounded as though she was standing right beside Harry; so much so that he actually started to turn around in search of his Head of House. "All students please return to your common rooms and await further instructions."
"Come on," Harry told Ron, suddenly wanting nothing more than to be surrounded by the familiar décor of Gryffindor Tower.
James bolted out of his office the moment the earthquake had begun, shouting for Lily and Piper. He found them in the kitchen, Lily kneeled down and curled defensively around her daughter; James crossed the room and pulled both of them to stand beneath the doorframe until the shaking stopped.
"You all right?" James asked, straightening up and turning to check his wife and daughter for any injuries. From what he could tell, neither of them was hurt—Piper's arms were wrapped around Lily's neck, her face buried in her mother's shoulder, shaking; Lily kept a protective hold on the little girl and looked paler than usual, but otherwise all right.
"We're fine," Lily assured him, rubbing Piper's back comfortingly. "Was that what I think it was?"
James smiled a little. "If you think it was an earthquake, then yes, I think it was." He turned and looked around the house, running his hand through his hair. There was no visible damage to the house. A few photographs on the wall in the hallway had fallen and their glass had broken; some of the plates from a kitchen cabinet had fallen out and shattered. Nothing irreparable. "Don't think I've felt one like that in twenty years..." With Piper still firmly attached to her mother, James and Lily started to clean up the mess.
As they finished up, and Lily finally convinced Piper to release her death grip, the fireplace lit up and Kingsley Shacklebolt's face appeared in the flames. "Did you feel it?" he asked James by way of a greeting.
"How could we not?" James replied. "Everything all right?"
Kingsley's head shook. "Ministry's calling in all department heads. There's been some damage to the building, mostly down on Level Ten, even though none of the Unspeakables will tell anyone what that damage might be. Also, St. Mungo's is reporting their own issues, structural damage and the like."
"Any injuries reported?" asked James.
"Not yet," replied Kingsley. "But it's only been a few minutes. I imagine it won't be long before the owls start arriving."
James nodded and glanced over his shoulder to where Lily and Piper had taken a seat on the sofa to listen in. "Am I to take it that you're not in my fireplace to merely inform me of all this?" he asked wryly.
Kingsley grinned a little guiltily. "All hands on deck, mate. Think you can spare him for a few hours, Lily?"
"I think we can manage," Lily told him. "I'll send him on in a minute, Kingsley."
With a wink, Kingsley's head disappeared from the green flames, and the flames themselves reverted to their normal orange color. James turned and stood, facing Lily. "You sure you'll be okay?" he asked.
She raised an eyebrow. "Of course," she told him. "Piper and I will have a bit of dinner, maybe watch a movie. Go. Take care of Ministry business before they collapse in a panic."
Chuckling, James nodded, kissed his wife and daughter, and headed upstairs to change into his Ministry robes.
Almost the moment the earthquake ended, his eyes snapped open. It was a minute or so before he was able to gain full control over his stiff muscles and as he sat up, he reached a shaking hand up to massage the back of his neck, surveying his surroundings warily. The décor was both new and familiar, and very disconcerting, though not as quite as disconcerting as the moment his own hands caught his attention. Breathing rather erratically, he lowered the hand massaging his neck and examined it very carefully, then lifted his other arm, staring at it in wonder.
Once he was certain he had his bearings, and that his legs would support him, he stood and crossed the tiny room to the door, which opened before he had a chance to test the doorknob. He poked his head around the door, finding a long, narrow hallway with several other doors of each side, all of which had opened just as his had done. Whoever the other occupants of the other rooms, none of them had thought to leave just yet, which bode just fine for him: his path to the door at the very end of the hallway, the one he assumed to be the exit, was clear, and he proceeded almost eagerly.
He managed to slip out of the empty, silent hall into a much busier, more crowded part of the building. When nobody spared him even a glance, he joined the throng of confused, slightly panicked witches and wizards, and navigated himself down four stories, walked directly past the front desk, picked up a brisk pace as he reached the main exit, and finally sucked in fresh London air for what felt like the first time in ten years.
Hesitating only a second, the man headed for a nearby alley where he took a moment to breathe deeply and steel his nerves before turning on the spot and disappearing. He had orders to follow.
Once again, Remus was climbing the stairs towards Sirius' flat. Over the last week or so, he'd visited his friend twice more—once with the promised groceries, since the restraining charm on Sirius alerted the Auror office if he stepped more than a few feet outside his building; the second time, merely to keep his friend company. Their conversations had slowly been returning to normal, for which Remus was grateful; it indicated that once all this was over, his friendship with Sirius might be salvageable.
Today, Lily had decided to come along with Piper. It went unsaid that this little outing was not to be mentioned to James. At least not until they figured out a way to convince him of the truth. Remus was well aware of what it meant for Lily to go behind her husband's back and he knew it couldn't have been an easy decision to make. The few times in the past when she had gone behind his back, it had been because she was absolutely convinced he was wrong and the only way to prove it to him would be to do something she knew he wouldn't approve of. The most recent, of course, had been in late summer, when Remus and Dumbledore had informed James and Lily of the incident with Harry. James decided immediately he wanted nothing more to do with the boy—in his mind, his son was gone and there would be no replacing him—and when Harry had disappeared from his hospital room, James had flatly refused to assist in the search, regardless of how strongly his wife had felt about it. It had taken a literal slap in the face from Lily for him to agree to help. Considering James' attitude change in regards to James, Remus felt it only a matter of time before they would be able to bring him around this time as well.
Nevertheless, if this went pear-shaped in the end, Remus would never forgive himself if this ruined the Potters' marriage and he was fully prepared to take all the blame from James, even if it risked losing his friendship.
As they reached Sirius' door, Remus turned to Lily, giving her one last chance to back out. "You're sure about this?" he asked quietly, his eyes darting meaningfully to Piper, who was fully absorbed with their surroundings from where she was being held in her mother's arms.
She raised a pale eyebrow at him, indicating she knew exactly what he was implying and why. Without answering, she reached out a fist and knocked on the door.
He exhaled a puff of laughter. "I'll just take that for a yes, shall I?"
Before she could respond, they heard Sirius' alert voice on the other side of the door. "Who's there?" he demanded.
"Lily, Remus, and Piper," replied the witch.
Remus could almost see the look of surprise on his old friend's face. He'd told Sirius about the near-disastrous conversation with James and Lily, and Remus had rather gotten the impression Sirius hadn't heard much after he'd been told James was refusing to entertain the idea of him being innocent.
The door opened cautiously after a few long moments revealing Sirius, who, to Remus' surprise, seemed to have made some effort to clean himself up for a change. He'd shaved, probably showered less than a few hours ago, so he didn't currently smell like firewhiskey, and had even combed his hair. His expression, as Remus had suspected, was surprise. Upon identifying his visitors, he immediately lowered his wand, though he still seemed slightly suspicious. "What're you doing here?" he asked, his eyes darting almost imperceptibly over his shoulder at something unseen inside the flat.
Lily raised an eyebrow at him. "Good to see you too, Sirius," she said cheerfully. "Yes, I've missed you terribly! I've been very well, thank you, and yourself?"
Sirius' expression relaxed into something more familiar and welcoming. "Sorry," he said with a grin. "Wasn't expecting company."
"Clearly," Lily said, her lips twitching. "So are you going to invite us in or has this little trek been entirely pointless?"
Remus stood up a little straighter as Sirius hesitated, his eyes once again moving from his friends' faces to the inside of the flat before resting on Piper, who somehow managed to fall asleep.
"Right," Sirius said finally, forcing a grin on his face. "Of course. Come in." He stood aside to allow them to pass and despite trusting Sirius as much as he thought—or hoped—he did, Remus' hand slipped casually into his pocket, grasping the hilt of his wand. An equally casual glance around the flat revealed the reason for Sirius' odd behavior: standing in the sitting room in what Remus identified as a defensive stance was a woman he felt he should recognize, but her identity remained in the far reaches of his mind. The two of them stare at one another for minutes with identical expressions of wariness on their faces while behind them, Piper had woken and was now greeting Sirius enthusiastically.
"I hate to interrupt," Remus said evenly, not taking his eyes from the woman. His first thought had been that perhaps Sirius had a girlfriend he'd kept secret from his friends—it wouldn't be the first time—but her posture was too guarded for that to be the answer.
"Oh," he heard Lily say in surprise as her attention turned to the rest of the room. "Sorry, were we interrupting, Sirius?"
"No," Sirius said heavily. He came around to stand beside Remus with Piper in his arms. "Remus, Lily, this is Elicia Bode."
The temperature in the room seemed to drop significantly as recognition of the name dawned on both Lily and Remus. He'd only heard the name a handful of times over the last decade or so, but every time it had been associated with overheard, hurried conversations between James and Sirius, sometimes Dumbledore, about passing information between the Order and the Death Eaters. Lily exhaled deeply and Remus heard a murmured, "I knew it," at the end of the breath.
"Look, I know what you're going to say—" Sirius began.
"Do you?" asked Lily archly.
"She's on our side, Lily," Sirius insisted. "If you'll just let me explain..."
Lily looked at Remus who shrugged ever so slightly to indicate it was her decision to make. She glanced at her daughter, still content in Sirius' arms. "You've got five minutes. And she—" Her eyes darted to Elicia, who hadn't moved a muscle since the moment Remus' eyes first found her. "—stays over there."
Sirius nodded his acquiescence and set Piper on the floor, directing the girl to a toy box in the corner next to the kitchen table to play. Remus caught the eye roll directed at Lily; the witch either didn't see anything or ignored it altogether. "Well," Sirius said, moving to sit in a desk chair beside Elicia, "if we've only got five minutes, we might as well be comfortable."
Rather stiffly, Elicia sat first in an armchair as though trying to demonstrate she wasn't the threat the others thought her to be. After a moment, Lily and Remus sat on the sofa, looking at Sirius expectantly.
"Okay, first of all, Elicia is here to help," Sirius began quietly. "I know neither of you has any reason to trust her, but I do. And all I ask is that if you trust me at all, at least give her a chance."
"And why do you trust her, Sirius?" challenged Lily.
Sirius hesitated, looking sidelong at Elicia. "Because I'm the one who found your daughter," said the other woman plainly.
"Excuse me?" Lily said after a few moments of bemused silence.
"You received a note the night your daughter was taken telling you that if you found Sirius, you'd find her," Elicia said calmly. "I realize it was not as informative as it could have been, but it was the best I could do without giving away too much."
Far from displaying for the note that had led to the recovery of her daughter, Lily's fingers were twitching dangerously, either itching to wrap themselves around her wand or Elicia's neck. "You knew where my daughter was," Lily stated in a very carefully controlled tone.
"No, she didn't," Sirius said heavily.
"I knew your family was a target," Elicia clarified unblinkingly. "I knew a hostage would be taken, but I did not know it would be your daughter, nor did I know where she would be taken. What I do know is that she never would have been harmed."
Remus' brow furrowed as he worked to wrap his mind around what the witch was saying, or, in this case, not saying. "If Piper wasn't the target," he began in a low voice, "then who was?"
For the first time, Elicia rather than Sirius hesitated, looking at the wizard beside her as though seeking his permission to say what she wanted to say. Sirius, staring at his hands with a grim expression on his face, nodded almost imperceptibly. Elicia turned back to Lily and Remus. "There were two intended targets, though only one would have been obtainable that night. Your husband and your oldest son."
Remus felt Lily stiffen at her words. "Why?" she asked, sounding like she already knew the answer and feared it.
"Why do you think?" Elicia asked slightly patronizingly. "Your husband has been a target since day one, and your son... Well, he's something else altogether, isn't he?" She paused thoughtfully for a moment. "Or someone might be more accurate."
Lily paled considerably. "I beg your pardon?" she asked tightly, glancing away from Elicia only long enough to shoot a glare at Sirius that promised certain death if he'd told her about what had happened to Harry.
"Sirius didn't tell me anything," she assured Lily. "Worked it out myself after a few overheard conversations. It's not important how know. But I assure you, I'm not the only one, and I am the last person you need to worry about."
"There's a reason for everything that's happened over the last few weeks," Sirius picked up, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. "Everything. Harry—both of them. Helen. Piper. What happened with me and James..."
"What do you mean?" Remus asked.
"It's all part of some master plan. Harry is a really long story. But there's a reason James suddenly decided to believe I've turned against you lot. It's what they want. They want to rip us apart, turn us against each other."
Lily shook her head a little as though she was trying to comprehend what she'd been told. "Who's they?" she asked.
Sirius took a deep breath to answer, but Remus spoke first. "Voldemort," he practically growled. Sirius nodded. "He wants Harry and he wants James. He's probably convinced himself he can get one with the other. Harry wouldn't hand over James, I don't think, but if James is convinced his best friend has turned against him, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to convince him that Harry is a danger as well. He already believed it once, and if I know James at all, he might have tried to bury that feeling, but it's gone."
Sirius nodded again. "Harry has been on Voldemort's radar since he got here, before that, even. Voldemort knows who he is, knows where he's from, knows the Harry from this world is gone." He gave Lily an apologetic glance. "He's had all this planned from the get-go."
Remus felt his stomach drop, just has it had every time this subject had been brought up and yet another person managed to confirm a theory. This one was possibly the worst of all of them, considering the information was coming directly from someone in Voldemort's Inner Circle. Of course, there was also a concern about whether the given information could be considered reliable at all. Remus met Sirius' eyes directly, finding them filled with the familiar stubbornness and determination as they were when the Marauders had still been the biggest troublemakers Hogwarts had ever seen, planning their next big prank. It was an expression Remus had seen time and time again during battles and Order meetings, and through every other tough time they'd been through together in their lives. The woman sitting beside Sirius might be a Death Eater and may have done terrible things, but Sirius trusted her; Remus could see written all over his friend's face. The real question now was, even after everything that had happened, did Remus trust Sirius as much as he had before?
He reappeared at the end of a long, wide driveway and walked quickly to the wrought-iron gates, glancing over his shoulder every few steps as though he was expecting an ambush at any time. Swallowing heavily, he raised his left forearm, hoping desperately it would work as passage, regardless of all the changes he'd apparently undergone. He released a shaky breath of relief when he passed through the gates as though they were made of smoke and fixed his gaze on the large manor in front of him, trying to block out the predatory eyes of the white peacocks he passed.
He thought he'd done a decent job concealing his nerves as he used the knocker to announce his arrival and even started to think he finally had some amount of control over things. As he waited, for the first time in probably his entire life, he felt important, in charge, and fully confident. After all, it was he who had been chosen for this assignment, not any of the others. He was the perfect candidate, the only one who could pull it off. The rewards after his success would be endless, beyond his wildest dreams, and his alone to—
All his confidence disappeared the moment the tall double doors opened with a bang and a wand was pushed into his windpipe. He recognized Lucius Malfoy, but only just. The Lucius he knew always stood straight-backed, shoulders squared, was immaculately groomed and had grey steely eyes that made any lesser being who dared meet them cower in fear.
In contrast, this Lucius was unkempt—his hair mussed in a way never seen by anybody. He had what seemed to be two days' worth of beard growth on his face. His eyes were alert and he still had the power to cower lesser beings, but they were dull, bloodshot, and ringed with black as though he hadn't slept in weeks. He was still a man not to be crossed, which he proved by twisting his wand more sharply into the other's throat.
"How did you get here?" Lucius ground out through clenched teeth.
"I-I was sent," choked the other man, his eyes watering in pain. "I h-have a message for our master."
Lucius' lip curled in what passed as amusement for him. "Is that so?" he asked quietly, looking closely at his uninvited guest for the first time. After a moment, a flash of recognition appeared in his eyes and he whispered, "Do I know you from somewhere?"
The other man breathed in suddenly as the pressure on his throat lessened just a touch. He opened his mouth to respond, but another voice spoke first.
"Is that any way to treat our guest, Lucius?" asked the cold, high-pitched voice. Immediately, Lucius lowered his wand and spun around to face the Dark Lord, his head bowed in fear, respect, and apology.
"My lord," Lucius murmured, his blond hair curtaining his face. "My apologies. I did not wish to disturb you."
"And yet..." responded the Dark Lord, an edge in his tone. "Step aside, Lucius, so that I may give our guest a proper greeting."
The man still outside the door mostly managed to subdue the squeak that was fighting its way out of his throat as Lucius scrambled out of the way, revealing the familiar form of Lord Voldemort—apparently there were a few things that didn't change; or perhaps they couldn't change.
Regardless, he dropped to his knees as his master reached the door, fixing his eyes on the hem of the black robes. "My lord," he murmured his voice shaking only a little. "My apologies for my unannounced arrival."
"You've a message for me?" asked the cold voice.
"Y-yes, my lord," he said almost eagerly. He was just pleased not to have been killed where he kneeled. "You sent for me."
There was only silence for a few moments. "Rise so your master can view you properly."
The man obeyed at once, reluctantly meeting the scarlet-colored eyes. "Ah," the Dark Lord said, looking pleased. "I did indeed send for you." He stepped aside, gesturing with a long white hand for the guest to enter. "Come, let us speak." The man entered the darkened house, finding Lucius staring unabashedly at him with suspicion. "Lucius will fetch food and drink for us, and we shall get you warmed up. You have had quite the journey, Peter Pettigrew."
AN: So this time, the delayed update wasn't my fault. My computer decided to fry the power cord and I've been waiting on a new one. Luckily, the computer itself is fine and I didn't lose anything. It's been a very frustrating few weeks... Anyway. New developments. Should be fun to see how this one plays out. Thoughts? Comments? You know the drill: press that pretty little review button and encourage me to work on the next chapter!