"Professor, I had a question… I was wondering what you planned on doing so that everyone here forgot about me?"
Albus Dumbledore stared at Harry critically, but there was still a distinct twinkle in his eyes, so Harry continued. "I mean, since no one in my time remembers meeting me – at least, I don't think they do – then you must've found some way to make everyone forget?"
Harry waited with bated breath as the Headmaster shifted in his seat. "I'm assuming you've heard of ordinary Memory Charms, Harry?" Harry quickly nodded. "Yes, while those work quite well when the Ministry has to modify the memories of one or two Muggles who have seen magic, there have been times when many more saw magic that they simply could not explain away. In these cases, rather than using a simple Obliviate, they would use Oblitus Populus. This spell is more difficult, but it can modify the memories of many more people. That is the spell I plan on using. Since I am quite good at it, I won't have to erase all of their memories since your arrival – only the ones pertaining to you."
"But sir," Harry began, "How will you cast it on everyone? Even at meals, not everyone's together – some people don't go."
"I will cast it upon the entire castle and its grounds, Harry."
Harry paused. "I suppose that'll work, then."
Dumbledore stood up and began to pace. "How are you getting along with your father, Harry?"
"Quite well, sir," Harry said quietly. It was the truth – he'd been getting along with James as though they were good friends. After speaking with Regulus, Harry had realized that accepting his father had been what he was supposed to do in the first place. But he had been sure to keep a certain distance between them. If he got too close, Harry might suddenly be transported back home, and that would mess up everything.
"Good, good," Dumbledore murmured. "We should be all right then. It shouldn't be much longer."
Harry paused, allowing that to sink in. "Regulus, it's here! That mirror is here! I – I don't want to go back! I'm not ready!"
"Harry, calm down, it's all right, isn't it? You're not gone yet." Regulus put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "And you are ready. If you weren't, it wouldn't be here."
Harry glanced down at the Slytherin. "When did you get so wise?"
Regulus didn't reply, but merely raised one eyebrow, knowing Harry was stalling.
"I've never felt less brave in my life," Harry said quietly, turning away from Regulus. "Why is it so hard to give them up? I have so much to go back to…"
Regulus braced himself for a long speech that never came. Harry simply looked at him sadly and said, "Don't do anything you don't want to do, Reg, not ever. And – " He swallowed. "If you get the chance… Before you have to cast the protective charm… Tell my dad I love him? And my mum. Because I do – so very much."
And before Harry could hesitate or Regulus could reply, Harry stepped into the mirror and was gone.
Six years later
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
But he couldn't decide if it was supposed to be better or worse.
He still remembered the day Annabelle died. She passed fighting Voldemort – she always was a fighter, even in the end. Lily had been distraught, and Sirius had locked himself up for days until Remus had the courage to talk some sense into him. But none of them had any idea where her cousin was. Rhett Hughes had seemingly disappeared after their fifth year. Most people had simply written him off, especially since he'd taught Defense Against the Dark Arts, and all of them seemed to have rather gruesome endings. But Annabelle hadn't seemed upset at all, and they'd never understood why.
But now, James understood. All of the memories in the Pensieve were proof of that. Anything Regulus had ever heard concerning Voldemort or Harry was in there. And he knew what happened to Rhett Hughes. He went after a Horcrux, but the Horcrux got him. And Regulus was left alone, with a locket he couldn't open and memories of a boy who'd barely even been born.
James understood everything now. Because on the night of October 31st, 1981, he hadn't been at the house. He'd been in Regulus Black's Pensieve. The man Voldemort killed that night hadn't been him at all. Regulus Black had died in his place.
I suppose you never thought that I'd call you James? It was hard, for all those years, calling you Potter when one day I would give everything to save you, but no matter. The past is the past, and it can't be helped.
In this Pensieve is everything you need to know. Absolutely everything. Remember this: if Harry says it happened, then you must ensure that it does. YOU MUST NOT MESS UP THE TIMELINE. Everyone, especially Harry, have to believe you are dead. Please don't try to help him, no matter how much you want to. He'd much prefer you with him when he's fifteen that for you to mess something up and have the world explode. He said that, not me. I think he gets the theatrics from Sirius.
I know you'll see Sirius again one day, and when you do, please explain everything. Don't let him blame himself, because I know he will once he's done cursing me. Tell him I love him. I know that deep down he feels the same. You'll see why.
Don't expect to sit around for the next fourteen years – there's plenty for you to do. I know you'll be impatient, waiting around for the day you can see Harry again, but you must promise me you'll wait. You'll know when. And when you see him, tell Harry I did exactly what I wanted to do.
Regulus Arcturus Black
James had waited years for this moment.
The time had finally come. He'd finished his mission only a year ago, but a year is so long when you have nothing else. After spying for years on Voldemort, Regulus had figured out what it was that kept him alive: Horcruxes. Filthy little things, if you asked James. Gave him the shivers. He'd destroyed them all – well, nearly all of them. The ring, the cup, the locket Rhett had died for, and the diadem were all gone by his hand. Harry had inadvertently destroyed the diary – James was so proud of his son, he thought his heart would burst – so the only other pieces of soul left were Nagini (James had no idea where the snake was, and had only recently discovered its existence), the one currently residing inside of Voldemort, and possibly one inside of Harry. James' fist clenched. The idea of a piece of that awful man being anywhere near his precious made him want to smash something, but he calmed himself. It was only a suspicion.
It got quite lonely, being dead. James often had to wear glamours, since his face was rather recognizable after his son's fame. He'd gotten himself a dog, but it had reminded himself too much of Padfoot, and that had only caused him to brood on his innocent friend sitting in Azkaban. He'd tried various pets – he'd even attempted to keep a spider as a pet once – but every time, he'd been reminded of something from his past and wish for it so much that his heart would ache.
It'd been so tempting to reveal himself. Just to Remus, or Sirius once he'd escaped Azkaban. But James knew that even one little thing could have a disastrous effect on their fragile world, so he kept to himself and did his job. Destroying bits of Voldemort's soul had seemed exciting at first, but it didn't take long for it to become boring. James lived for the rush that came from a fight, not from discovery like Remus. But he'd kept on reminding himself that he was doing this for Harry.
Harry was the only thing that kept him going. On cold nights, when he'd sleep in the forest as Prongs, he'd desperately try to remember the days when Harry was an infant. It had hurt so much to lose Lily. She'd always been his rock. He could count on her, even if it was just for an insult. But he couldn't count on her anymore. His memories were slipping away, and while he stored some of them in the Pensieve, not every moment and feeling could be bottled up and stored. He had all the important ones though. Their first Valentine's Day, the day they got married, their first anniversary, Harry's birth… all of these precious memories were kept so James could show them to Harry. Harry deserved to see them. Harry deserved so much, but James hadn't been able to do anything for him.
But now he could. Today was the day. To everyone else, it was completely normal. But this was the day Harry time traveled. He was assuming Harry would come back at the same time. It was possible he wouldn't – Regulus hadn't understood much about the mirror – but James felt the anticipation building up all the same. Today was the day he could see his son. He'd been waiting too many years for this day and it was finally here.