A/N: Hey...just a little one-shot I scribbled down today. I just couldn't get it out of my mind, even though I usually hate one-shots myself. This is set during Deathly Hallows, and I think it's probably in-keeping with canon, just a little missing moment I thought I could add in. Enjoy! :D
Sixteen years late...
Harry sat at the table in the Weasley's garden on his seventeenth birthday, relishing being here with everyone he cared about. He knew it would not last, that soon he would be called away on the seemingly impossible mission left to him by Dumbledore, but all of that just seemed a distant memory, as though a voice was calling from a distance, reminding him of his duties, but Harry knew he would not heed it. He needed this night. He needed to lay aside all of his fears and doubts just for one night. A time to be free, who knew when this war would end. He savoured every last minute.
The Weasley twins laughed and joked around, pulling pranks on their brothers, Mrs Weasley scolded them, Mr Weasley laughed alongside them, everywhere there was a feeling of joy. The relief in a middle of a storm. Everyone knew what lay ahead, but no one spoke of it. They all needed at least a little time to escape from the pressures of everything that lay beyond the protective enchantments of the Burrow. No one was afraid, no one was sad. There was not one face around the table that did not have a grin plastered over it, lighting up the shadows of their face.
The gigantic snitch cake which lay in the centre of the rickety table seemed to shine out at Harry. It reminded him of everyone he cared about, the entire Weasley family, the Order, Ron and Hermione...More than ever now he appreciated the love in which they all gave him, the love he had not known whilst at the Dursley's. They cared about him, he cared about them, so much depended on him now...he was determined not to let them down.
Hagrid caused raucous laughter further down the table, as he regaled those around him of tales of Harry's eleventh birthday, his shock at discovering he was a wizard, his wide round eyes the first time he saw a goblin, not knowing what Quidditch was, Dudley's tail...
Harry remembered that birthday fondly, the best in his entire life. It had been then he had known who he truly was, he had joined the world he was meant to be in. He had finally found out the truth, although not all of it had been welcome, but nevertheless, his time in the dark had ended. He had changed that day.
Now he realised, he had changed again.
He had never been the average, normal teenager. He would have given anything to spend his Hogwarts years worrying over girls, exams, spots, sports, instead of all these things in addition to the heavy weight of knowing he was the one who would eventually face Voldemort, and he may not survive. All of his friends had laughed day to day, agonising over trivial matters while Harry had had to deal with this huge pressure. He would have given anything to be like that.
But he supposed, everything had happened for a reason, if he had not gone through all of that strife, he would not be the person he was today. He would not have the loyalty of his friends, and his friends were the world to him, he treasured them more than life itself, for he knew what it was like to grow up with none.
Harry smiled at those around him. They would never know just how truly he cared for them all.
Mrs Weasley suddenly called out a greeting, as two figures approached the festivities from the dull gloom of the evening and stepped into the happy glow of those gathered around the table.
Harry turned around to face them and grinned broadly as he saw Lupin and Tonks coming towards them.
"Happy birthday Harry!" Tonks said warmly as she approached him and pulled him into a tight hug, knocking a glass of pumpkin juice all over Mrs Weasley's snow white table cloth as she did so.
"Thanks," Harry was still smiling as they broke apart.
Tonks face glowed with happiness, more so than usual. Harry suspected there was something more she was not telling them. Perhaps it was just her recent marriage that caused her exuberant happiness, but, as Harry looked past her to Lupin he could tell this was not the case. Lupin looked even more grave than usual, his face appeared to be more lined, and shadows appeared under his eyes. Was the full moon coming up? Lupin looked seriously troubled.
However, he stepped forward, shook Harry's hand with genuine warmth and attempted a fond smile, which did not completely reach his eyes. Harry was extremely confused. What would cause Tonks to be so happy and Lupin so upset?
Lupin's eyes never strayed from Harry's face as he and Tonks took their places at the table. All through the meal, his eyes flicked constantly to Harry, as though suffering some inner torment, fighting with himself.
Harry tried not to think of this and continue to enjoy the frivolity of the evening with the others around him, although he could not. Lupin's mood hung over him, dampening the atmosphere, it was a nagging doubt at the back of Harry's mind. He was determined to know what was troubling him.
After the main meal was concluded, and everyone sat heavily back in their chairs, groaning with pleasure as their stomachs bulged out in front of them, lazily engaging in idle conversation which meant nothing really at all, enjoying the content atmosphere. Harry however could not, Lupin had barely touched any of his food, staring fixedly down at his place, misery plain on his face.
Tonks had appeared to notice as well, her eyes were constantly on him, concerned and worried. She seemed to know what was bothering him, although she did not show it outwardly, laughing and joking with everyone else. Apparently what was bothering Lupin was his own personal problem, evidently she realised there was nothing she could do to comfort him, this was something he had to sort out for himself.
No one moved in the stuffy, warm air, everyone was too tired to, and were happy just to watch the stars beginning to appear overhead, or observe one renegade gnome race around the garden, pursued by Crookshanks, whilst Mrs Weasley whispered imperiously to her husband to 'get rid of that nasty thing' before the wedding took place the next day.
Mrs Weasley was just rising to begin to distribute huge slabs of cake to the guests when Lupin was finally pulled out of his reverie.
"Harry...seriously, happy birthday. In know I'm acting like a depressed goblin right now and I'm sorry. I wasn't intending to ruin your evening."
Harry shook his head.
"You haven't ruined it Remus, I'm just glad you're here."
Lupin smiled weakly.
"I remember the day you were born Harry, as clear as though it were yesterday, and now you're an adult. Time really does fly."
He paused for a moment, his eyes distant and he recalled his memories.
"James was running around like a headless chicken. He was frantic. Sirius was teasing him the entire time, saying his hands were flailing about so wildly he looked like the Giant Squid. Nothing would calm him down, at least until he put a Silencing Charm on Sirius. And then, when you were born, and James held you for the first time, I knew he'd be a great father, despite all his worrying that he'd let you down. And he was. You may not remember, but I sincerely doubt there was ever a child better loved than you. James was just like a child himself, teaching you how to fly on your toy broomstick, making bubbles for you to chase and joking you''d be a great Seeker one day, letting you ride around on Sirius' dog form, until Lily started shrieking about fleas."
Lupin smiled at the memory. Harry didn't know what to say. Everyone around the table were now listening intently, Hermione in particularly looked upset.
Lupin hesitated, and as though coming to a great decision, his face was set in firm resolve.
"I never got the chance to buy you a birthday present Harry."
"You don't have to," Harry said hurriedly. He knew how things were for Lupin, how it was near impossible for him to get a job, he had never expected anything from him.
Lupin smiled, as though he knew exactly what Harry was thinking.
"This present didn't cost me a thing. I've had it a long time, and I've been debating all day whether to give it to you. I made a promise that I am determined to keep, an obligation, yet...I don't want to ruin your day."
Harry frowned. What on earth could Lupin possible have to give him that would distress him?
Lupin nodded to himself, and withdrew a letter from his robe pocket. Slightly aged parchment and faded ink were just visible.
"I made a promise Harry, a promise sixteen years ago to do this, and I will be held to my word. I promised, that if anything ever happened, I would give this to you on your seventeenth birthday. Its a letter...a letter from your father."
Harry felt himself grow very still and cold. A letter from his father? The Weasley's and Order members were all staring at the letter held outstretched in Lupin's hand shocked. Harry watched it also.
Faded ink stood out on the yellow parchment. It simply said:
He wanted to stretch out his hand and take it, yet something held him back. A letter...from his father?
It seemed so unreal, so distant, he couldn't believe it. He had always known that James Potter existed. He had heard stories about him, tales of schoolboy misdeeds, he had seen the photographs, he had seen his likeness every time he looked into the mirror. Yet, James Potter had never seemed a real person to him. The stories that were told were just that, stories, he no memories of his father to either support or contradict the character painted by his childhood friends, he could not connect the two together, these stories had always been to Harry as a narrative of someone else's life, he couldn't relate to it. The photographs had been no different. His mother and father had stared out at him, laughing and smiling from each one, but they were just people in a photograph, they weren't real to him. Even the photos which included himself as a baby weren't real. Harry without a scar, without all these worries and fears which now plagued him. The scar was so much a part of him now, he could not imagine not having it. That child in the photographs was not Harry. At least, it had never felt like it.
But now, seeing the ink on the parchment, it signified, James Potter had truly lived, that he truly had cared about Harry. Harry had always been used to hear people telling him how great his parents were, how kind and good they were, but he didn't truly know that in his heart. They were just two strangers to him, strangers whose stories intertwined with his own from time to time, yet strangers nonetheless.
To think, James Potter had written that letter...for him.
Harry hesitated. Did he truly want to know what the letter said? Would it make much difference into how he viewed his parents? Or would it just reinforce the gap between them, the massive gulf would just be widened, proving to Harry how he could never truly be a part of their world, he would never know them. Harry did not know if he could deal with that.
The letter was still held out in front of Lupin as everyone's eyes lay on it.
Harry took a shuddering breath, reached out, and took it in his hand.
It was heavier than he expected, the parchment felt rough and worn under his skin.
He stared for a moment at his name written on the front of the envelope, written sixteen years ago, before Harry could even speak his own name.
He slowly turned it over, and saw a large ruby wax seal. A stag and a doe majestically surrounding a large ornate letter 'P'.
"I've never opened it Harry, I've kept it all these years," Lupin spoke to him quietly. "He wrote it just before the Fidelius Charm was performed, he made me swear to give it to you on your seventeenth, even if nothing ever happened. He wanted to make sure you always had something of him, no matter what."
Harry nodded faintly, gulped, exhaled sharply, wedged his thumbnail underneath the seal, and prised it open.
He slowly unfolded the parchment within, two heavy sheets, filled with small close fitting handwriting, a hypnotising pattern spread out and vivid against the yellowing parchment. He took a deep breath and lifted the first sheet to his eyes. Everyone at the table watched him, their faces eager with either expectation or sympathy.
Mrs Weasley alone realised how unnerving this must be for Harry and spoke to him gently:
"You can be excused if you want dear. You don't have to read it at the table."
Harry shook his head, unless he read it now he may never bring himself to do so again. And anyway, he did not want to be alone.
James Potter's handwriting was small, cramped, but neat, at least neater than Harry's had ever been. Harry looked at his name written in his father's own handwriting for the first time. He really had been there...
He began to read:
By now you'll know I've given this letter to Moony to give to you, and you'll know why. Either he's kept it all these years, intent on humiliating me by exposing all the embarrassingly sentimental things I've written in this letter when I'm faced with danger, or you're reading this as an orphan, a stranger to your own parents. If it's the first case, remind me to kill Moony afterwards, as you're sitting at the breakfast table, laughing at your father's mushy words and girlish statements, as I sincerely hope I am there to hear your laughter. But, I know how dangerous the world is becoming, I know how small our chances of survival are in this war, when we're faced with such an enemy, which leads me to believe this is likely the first time you have ever heard anything from me. It that's the case, I am extremely pained to have to write these words, no one should ever have their first conversation with a parent via a letter, sixteen years in the future, when there's no possibility of replying. The thought of not seeing you grow up is physically painful to me, and I'm sure no less for you, especially if you've had to have Padfoot looking after you as godfather all these years. I hope more than anything that this letter will be nothing more than a joke and funny family story to tell in years to come, the memory of how silly your dad was in writing such a gushy letter, I'm sure Sirius will tease me no end. I wish this more than anything, despite all the embarrassment it'll probably cause me.
I'm looking at you now Harry. You're asleep at the moment, thank Merlin, it's taken me hours and hours of conjuring colourful bubbles and reciting Beedle the Bard stories endless amounts of times to get you to sleep. Your mother is much better at this sort of thing than me, I'll be the first person to admit I know practically nothing about babies (although don't tell your mother that or she'll make me go to that awful Parenting Class at St. Mungo's again). But you're different. When I first found out you were coming, I was terrified, not only at the thought of bringing a child into such a dangerous world and the thought of a hormonal Lily (the horrors!) but that I would be a dreadful father. If Padfoot has told you anything you'll know how immature and reckless I was at school, and I don't suppose I had yet properly grown up. I was terrified I'd be a huge disappointment. But when I first looked at you, I knew. Well, perhaps not the first time, you were purple, screaming and covered in slimy gooey stuff at the time, but the next time...all my doubts just left me right away. I had to be faced with what I was afraid of to truly resolve all my doubts. It was only after I had faced it, I knew for certain. That's life, you have to confront things head on if you want to really conquer them (although don't tell Wormtail that when he's faced with a Boggart, he'll have another accident). You just lay there in your mother's arms asleep (miraculously, you really can scream when you want to), with the trademark Potter hair already sticking up all over the place. I knew then this was right. Even looking at you now I realise how lucky I am, you're just so perfect, despite my complaints over your crying. I never thought anything as amazing as this could happen to me. I know that if I were to die tomorrow I would have no regrets, nothing could make me happier than having you in my life. It's the oddest feeling, knowing that in sixteen years time you'll be reading these words, when right now you're lying asleep next to me, unable to say more than a few words.
I feel kind of stupid, saying all of these things, I'm not usually the kind of person to let loose my emotions like this, unless of course your mother is involved, just in case she's reading over your shoulder at the moment. When the rest of the Marauders read this they'll probably crack up in laughter at the sentimental rant I've been on, and I hope to Merlin you know what the Marauders are or I'll go mental and start spinning in my grave. I will be severely disappointed if my son never finds any of the secret passages out of Hogwarts. The Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map are all yours (if you can find the Map, I've a nasty feeling Filch may have burned it by now, R.I.P Map) and I'm daring you 'solemnly swear that I am up to no good'. Although for Lily's sake I'd better also tell you to, ahem, 'do as you're told, be a good boy, do all of your homework, don't get into trouble', just in case she manages to read this, she'll kill me for encouraging you to break rules.
I don't need to be a Seer to know you'll be a great Quidditch player. You race around on your toy broom all day, riding through obstacles and dodging heavy objects. A Chaser like me? I doubt it, (unfortunately), I bet you'll be a Seeker. Just make sure you play for Gryffindor...ummm...just in case Lily's reading...of course Harry, we'll be proud whatever House you're sorted into...Just think 'lions'.
I'm sending this letter to you with Moony, as he's probably the only one of us with any sense. I know I can trust him to get this to you, Padfoot would probably open it, and Wormtail would just lose it. I refuse to believe what Dumbledore says, that any one of my friends would willingly betray me. I value my friends so much, I don't know how I would've got through my O.W.L's or N.E.W.T's without Remus, got girlfriends without Sirius and managed Seventh year Muggle Studies without Peter. Each of them mean so much to me, I cannot believe any of them would betray me,(there I go again with the mushy; yes Sirius, laugh at me if you please!). But you, Harry, you know the truth. You're probably screaming at this letter right now, telling me who not to trust, but I just can't see it. I'd rather die than betray my friends, and I really believe they would do the same for me. I regard not trusting my friends as a deep dishonour, maybe you think I'm foolish, but who can you trust if not your friends? Never underestimate the power of friendship, don't try to cast them off, you'll never get anywhere in life without them.
There, I think I've gushed on enough for now. You may now look up from this letter and point and laugh at me over the breakfast table for being a sentimental old fool, although I wouldn't advise you doing the same at my grave in case some one thinks you're mental. Just know this; nothing I've said in this letter has been a lie, you really can never know how much you mean to me Harry. If you've grown up without me you'll probably appreciate this more, I've never loved anyone any more than I do you and your mother, never forget that. It's time to put you to bed now Harry, before I forget and almost end up crushing you again when we both fall asleep on the sofa. Just know, we may be sixteen years apart in this conversation, but my love for you will never diminish, you'll always be my son, even if you're Sorted into Slytherin and even if the first time you ever said 'Dada' you said it to Sirius and not me. I am so incredibly proud of you already Harry, and I just know you'll grow into an amazing man.
I love you Harry.
Harry finished the letter, and lingered on the last few lines a moment longer. What a difference two sheets of parchment could make to his life. He now felt more connected to his father than he ever had before. To know that he had carefully written out each of these lines, just to prove to Harry how much he loved him,made Harry truly appreciate the fact, that once, he had had a father.
Despite Mrs Weasley's attempts to otherwise engage their attention, everyone around the table had their eyes fixed on Harry, their eyes full of sympathy. Hermione looked close to tears.
Harry's face had remain emotionless throughout the reading, despite the flared anger he had felt at every mention of Peter Pettigrew. This was the man who had taken it all away, it was his fault Harry had never grown to know the man who had written this letter, his fault that he wasn't laughing whilst reading it with both of his parents there with him.
Harry sat back in his chair, thinking intensely. He did not know how to react. Break down in tears? Storm off angrily? Do nothing?
Lupin stood watching him. He alone at the table could possibly comprehend what Harry was feeling as he read the letter; he had lost the same people.
Harry cleared his throat, which he only just realised was beginning to choke up and said:
"I called Sirius 'Dada'?"
Lupin laughed softly.
"You should have seen James' face."
Harry smiled to himself, he could almost imagine Sirius' reaction, the relentless teasing.
Harry sat up and passed the letter to Lupin.
Lupin took a step back, shaking his head.
"No Harry, that letter was meant for you."
"And you carried it all these years. I want you to read it. You're mentioned. You deserve to know what he said about you."
Harry would not be phased, and Lupin eventually gave in. He took a step towards Harry and took the letter from his grasp, if somewhat reluctantly.
Harry watched as Lupin read the letter, watched as his eyes filled with tears; at first tears of grief, then of laughter at remembered experiences, then tears of anger. When he had finished, he collapsed in chair and almost completely broke down.
Everyone was silent for a couple of moments. Lupin then looked up.
"Trust James to write a letter like that. Yes, that was definitely him to a tee. He never could mistrust his friends."
Harry remained silent. He knew what Lupin was getting at, even complete trust in your friends did not guarantee safety .But despite the clear warnings from history, Harry absolutely refused to distrust Ron and Hermione, or anyone else at the table. As his father had said, who could you trust if not your friends?
Harry stood up, and wandered off by himself into the Weasley's garden, no one making any move to stop him.
He needed Ron and Hermione, he knew now how much he did. He could not trust himself to do this alone, without help would surely fail. It may not have worked out for his father, but Harry now had no other choice than to place his trust in his friends. If he had no friends, if he lost the ability to love as Voldemort had, he would be nothing. Voldemort had no friends, he had no love, that was what separating them. That was Harry's greatest weapon.
His initial apprehensions over reading the letter were now completely gone, if anything, this letter had just reinforced to Harry how much he needed his friends.
He knew he would never betray them.
A/N: Please review!