Chapter 16: Just One Day
James and Lily stared at Harry for a breath, taking in every little detail, minds racing as they tried to rationalize the teenager before them. Harry's entire body tensed, waiting for drawn wands and raised voices.
"Oh thank Merlin," sighed James. "I was so scared for a minute there."
Lily hurried towards him and hugged him harder than Molly Weasley ever could have. "God, Harry, you've grown up so much. You're so big. So…mature. But you'll always be my little baby boy, remember that. Well, you know, for today, anyway." She pulled back and took his face in her hands gently, darting eyes scanning his features. "Oh, I'm beginning to think no one will ever find us here."
It was now Harry's turn to be completely stumped. That was certainly not the response he had been expecting. "What…what do you mean?" He hesitated, and then hugged her back. It wasn't like any other hug he'd ever felt. His heart almost stumbled for a beat. She smelled like soap, something flowery, and something comforting all her own. Something deep down inside him told him he knew it well.
"Oh honey, Dumbledore didn't tell us you would keep growing up in here. Look at you, we must've been in here fifteen, maybe twenty years…damn this stupid bubble. Damn the memory wipes! I know it saved us, but…" A tear slipped from the corner of her eye as she trailed off.
"Yeah, must've been something like that…so," Harry struggled to keep up, "So it wipes your memories? How often?"
"Every night, at midnight, Harry," James joined them, putting an arm around his wife. "You really do look so much like us. This is insane, Lil, he's like looking into a mirror."
"But with her eyes, yeah, I know," Harry smirked.
Lily gave him the exact same smirk. "Alright boys, we can't waste the day in sentimentality. I'm positively dying of hunger. Who'd like to make me breakfast?"
James' hand flew in to the air. "Ooh, pick me, pick me, Lily!" Harry couldn't contain the laughter that bubbled up inside of him. He'd never imagined his own parents like this: young, in love, full of life, and just a little bit odd. Just like him. He liked it.
The breakfast was absolutely divine. Clearly he'd inherited his father's talent for cooking, if not all of his incredible secret family recipes. His eggs benedict were to die for, and Harry couldn't help but think that Ginny would go completely mental over them. Thinking of Ginny made his stomach contract into a ball of guilt and sadness. He tried to just focus on the present instead.
His parents were talkers, and his father in particular told a myriad of stories while he cooked, with his mother occasionally interjecting to correct his hyperbolic retelling. Harry just sat back and watched them. What if this had been his normal? Years of his stories, years of her rolling her eyes at him, years of him kissing the top of her head as he handed her a plate stacked high with food. His mother snapped him out of his thoughts.
"You alright, sweetheart? You seem a little out of it." She brushed a piece of hair from his eyes, and smiled sadly to herself. "Of course, maybe that's just how you always look."
He laughed lightly, "No, I'm just…this just seems a little surreal, I guess. I've never," he caught himself, "Well, I mean, I don't remember you guys. Not like this. It's really nice."
"This whole bubble thing really fucked up our little family, didn't it?" James muttered, a sliver of anger seeping through his upbeat attitude. Harry glanced at Lily with alarm, expecting an outburst about language. She seemed unperturbed. That would've been nice to grow up with, he thought, beaming, I wouldn't have gotten in half as much trouble as I did with Mrs. Weasley if I'd been with these two.
"James…please don't." Lily said, clearly exasperated. Harry suddenly remembered James' letter. They'd had this argument before.
"I'm just saying, it's not exactly ideal. Look at him! If he were outside, he probably would have already finished school! He could've had a normal, happy, life with kids his own age. A REAL life, Lily!" he replied defensively, doling out freshly finished pancakes. "And, on top of it all, we don't even have the satisfaction of remembering any of it. HE doesn't remember any of it. This isn't really living, babe. This is just insane, is what it is." A tense moment of silence followed. She avoided his intense gaze.
"I know," she laid the statement down quietly, finally meeting his eyes. "You know I know, James. But what's done is done. Let's just enjoy what we have right now. At this point…it's all we can do." Her voice wobbled. She stood from her chair abruptly and began on the dishes. James gave Harry a cryptic look, and stood up to help.
"I'm, um, I have to use the loo." Harry muttered before slipping away into the small bathroom. A glance in the mirror gave him an idea of why his mother was concerned; he was white as a sheet, eyebrows practically knitted together. His eyes were wider than he'd ever seen them. He sank down to the cold tile, leaning back against the side of the tub.
So this was unexpected.
Nothing was as he'd imagined it would be. They were happy, but there was something underneath the happiness. They were sad, angry, scared, tired… We're more alike than I ever could have imagined, he thought humorlessly.
The funny thing was, he mused, was that he probably wouldn't have a hard time convincing them out of the spell, not when they already seemed to trust him, not when they were already aware that some time had passed based on his appearance. Definitely not when they already wanted to be out. That probably wouldn't even take that long. But, on the other hand, he was really enjoying just spending time with them like this. It didn't seem fair to (metaphorically, not literally) burst their bubble, when everything felt so…natural. It might not be the same once they knew that he wasn't like them. Would it be so wrong to spend just one day with them like this? One wonderful, relaxed, albeit completely bizarre, day in their world? He could tell them at the end of the day, maybe even wait until tomorrow all together. That was fine, he decided. It wouldn't hurt anyone to spend a little time with his parents. The only problem seemed to be the memory wipes, but surely he could just write himself a letter explaining the situation. Clearly it wasn't that thorough of a wipe, either, if his parents could still remember things from before the spell was cast.
After flushing the toilet as a cover up, Harry emerged from the bathroom feeling like he'd just put down the weight of the world.
"HEY HARRY!" James came barreling towards him in excitement with a thin, rectangular box in his hands. "Wanna play Battleship?"
Harry let out a surprised laugh. These parents of his were so unpredictable. "Battleship? Really?"
"What? Don't give me that look, you've probably never even played this before. That you can remember. I'll tell you what, though, you will remember having your ass thoroughly handed to you by your ole mum and dad by the time we're through," he replied with a mischievous grin before scurrying back to set up the board game.
"Oh I'll never forget this, you've got that right," Harry whispered with excitement.
The rest of the day was something like a dream. Harry was beaten soundly at Battleship by both his parents several times, who, as it turned out, were incredibly competitive. Used to being soundly beaten by Ron in chess, Harry didn't mind one bit, laughing it off and turning down offers of rematches in exchange for watching them battle each other. Of course, thinking of playing chess with Ron made him feel guilty all over again, but he was able to shove those thoughts to the back of his mind for later.
For lunch, his mother had made sandwiches, which she admitted was about the full extent of her cooking knowledge. Still, he'd never had a better ham and cheese sandwich. Having no television to rely on, and eager to move on to something more personal, Harry asked to look through the several photo albums stacked neatly on a shelf. His parents agreed enthusiastically.
"You know, there may be an upside to all this after all," said James as he took them down. "I get to tell all my best stories a million times, and you'll never get tired of them!"
"Maybe Harry won't…" Lilly muttered, giving Harry a conspiratorial glance.
"Oy! I heard that. You wound me, madam!" He flourished a particularly dusty tome at her dramatically.
"Give that here before you break it, village idiot," she replied dryly. "Oh joy of joys! This is mine, so you don't even get the satisfaction of going first." Her wicked grin caused James to pout.
"I was born on January 30th, in a year that shall not be named-"
"Who are you kidding Lily, we're the same age!"
"A lady never reveals her age, James! As far as you boys are concerned, I am twenty-five, I have always been twenty-five, and I will always be twenty-five." Her intense glare shifted with hawk-like precision from James to Harry, who had been giggling a little more than she would have liked. "Is that clear?"
He immediately sobered. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good boy. These are my parents," she pointed to a black and white picture of a couple in perfectly put-together fifties muggle wedding garb. She continued, "My father was a wonderful man named Edward Evans, which he always thought was just hilarious," Lily smiled lovingly at his goofy black and white smile. "He was so funny, he always knew exactly the right thing to say to lighten the mood. He was a door-to-door salesman, and almost always invited a few customers over to dinner every night. It nearly drove our mother to drink, but we met so many interesting people. He, um," her voice wobbled a bit, "He died when I was thirteen after getting shot in a drive-by shooting." Lily was unable to hide the way the memory still affected her.
"I still say it wasn't an accident," muttered James sullenly, "There were plenty of other documented Death Eater attacks in the area, and you know as well as I do that they love killing muggles-"
"Stop James," she protested thickly. "There's no use bringing that all up again. He's gone. End of story."
"And your mother?" Harry interjected before the argument could escalate.
"Ah. Yes," Lily sighed deeply. "Well, her name was – well, maybe is – Gloria Evans. Her maiden name was…Collings? I think that was it. Anyway, she was an amazing woman. She stayed in London during the bombings, my father's family moved away at the beginning of the war, and she never quite forgot it. House was always spotless, never had a hair out of place, the 'always polite while secretly plotting murder' type."
Guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree, thought Harry with a snort, remembering his Aunt Petunia's impeccable home.
"Dad would sometimes say that she's so thoroughly British, if the Queen ever met her, she'd abdicate the throne on the spot," she grinned. "Of course, it came in handy, what with my becoming a witch, dad's death, Petunia…being Petunia," she rolled her eyes. "My sister, Petunia," she continued, pointing to a picture of a little girl with straight blonde hair and that horse-like bone structure Harry knew so well. "She used to be my very best friend, until I went to Hogwarts, and she suddenly decided I was a freak of nature she would not and could not associate herself with, lest she become a freak herself." The description sounded well rehearsed, like she'd said the exact same thing time and time again until she no longer felt the words.
"I'm so sorry Mum. I, um…I think I can imagine how terrible that would feel," Harry leaned his head on hers in a way that felt incredibly natural. She swallowed heavily and wrapped an arm around him.
"Oh Harry, you sweet, darling boy, don't even think about it. Your father and I have worked very hard to make sure you never feel anything close to that," she replied succinctly, planting a kiss on his forehead.
If you only knew…Harry thought to himself. And what if they did know? Would that be so terrible? After hearing his mother open up so easily about her life, his father sullenly waiting his turn to do the same, Harry had a feeling he'd never had before. It was some new kind of peace, like coming in from a cold snowstorm and cozying up to the fireplace, but better. These people got him. They were a part of him – he was a part of them. Harry remembered the way they just completely and totally accepted him as soon as they saw him. There was no question that they would do anything for him – hell, they'd already stopped time and space for him. He felt like he truly belonged, for the first time in his life.
Well, not exactly, he stopped his train of thought. It's almost like being with…
The now-boiling pit of guilt in his stomach wouldn't let him finish the thought. What was he doing, wasting time in this bubble? There would plenty of time for all this stuff once they were out, in the real world. With the rest of his family.
"Well, actually, I kind of have a story about that. A really long one. Like, probably a few books worth of story. Mum, Dad, I'm not exactly who you think I am."
(A/N: Sorry for taking so long, college is a bitch. I know from comments that people are worried, but trust me, I love these characters, and I want them to have a happy ending just as much as anybody else. ALSO! If you happen to like Ao3 better than fanfiction, I am slowly revising this story and posting it there. Let me know what you guys think, your reviews are what remind me to keep coming back year after year!)