Harry Prewett and the Case of Inadvertent Illegal Time Travel
Chapter Twelve: The Homefield Disadvantage
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
They reached Hogsmeade station at three in the afternoon after a tense hour-long stopover in Dufftown, and for a brief moment after debarking from the train Harry felt that, for the first time in weeks, he was on familiar ground.
Which was probably why Peter Pettigrew caught him so unprepared.
The boy was, and there was really no other word for it, cute. Or something like it anyway, certainly he more closely resembled an overfed dormouse than a rat. He was short and plump with a head full of golden-sand curls, halfway dressed in pajama bottoms that had seen better days and his school robes, and he came barrelling towards them the second they left the station and threw his arms around James' middle, in a sudden, but, as far as Harry could tell, sincere hug.
"Thank Merlin!" he babbled, into the sleeve of James' jumper, "They announced in the station that they'd found dark magic aboard one of the trains and that they were being stopped and searched and diverted and I found Remus but I wasn't sure—I'm just so glad you're alright!"
Remus wasn't too far behind him, thin, slump-shouldered and haggard looking with his too-long hair pulled back in a sloppy queue, but wearing a relieved grin that was brighter and livelier than any he'd ever seen on the careworn professor he knew from his own time.
Sirius was quick to tug Remus close and give him a hard squeeze, and something serious and wordless passed between them before he pulled away and ruffled Peter's hair affectionately.
"We're fine, Pete, keep your shirt on," he laughed, "We slept most of the way here, had to get up at the ass-crack of dawn, I can't believe you're here before us."
Remus nodded apparently unsurprised.
"According to Hagrid and Professor Kettleburn the muggleborns were all gathered first and quietly moved to the school before the half and purebloods," Peter explained, slapping Sirius' hand away, "For their own safety, everyone was hoping that the students with wizarding background wouldn't be made a target, but Dumbledore himself helped organize the priority trains."
"And before you ask, yes Prongs, Lily made it just fine, she's in a foul temper, exiled Mickey and Alice from the dorm room and nearly made a first year cry, but in perfect condition otherwise."
James breathed out a genuine sigh of relief, scrubbing a hand through his hair, flashing Remus a sideways grin, "Thanks for looking out for her Remy."
"Yes well, she is the love of your life, apparently, Merlin only knows why, and I knew you'd ask. One of us needs to get an owl," sighed Remus, slinging an arm around James' shoulders and knocking their temples together briefly, "If you had an owl you could've sent it ahead and saved me a few grey hairs."
"You're sixteen, Moons," Sirius pointed out, "You don't have grey hairs!"
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Remus dryly.
"Don't fret Rems," said James, "Even if you did, through no fault of ours, acquire a bit of grey, it'd make you look mature and distinguished."
"Which is just a polite way of saying old."
Harry, well, he kind of wished that he had his invisibility cloak handy although he was sure he didn't think he'd need it to be invisible to the four boys in front of him, they were so wrapped up in their own world not only did they not see him, but they completely forgot he existed. No, he needed the cloak for the pitying looks he was going to need to avoid when the rest of Hogwarts saw him hovering on the edge of that friendship like a dog begging for scraps.
His pride wasn't prepared to take that. Instead he continued up the path, the afternoon was nice enough that he could stroll slowly enough to see if James and Sirius would notice his departure and call out, or catch up.
He made it up to the school on foot, and alone.
When the castle came into view though, it was like coming home. It was coming home, actually, because as wonderful as Lionsgate was and as like a home it was starting to feel Hogwarts was the first true home he'd ever really had. And it finally felt like the ground steadied under him as he took in the familiar towers, battlements and parapets. The milling students and the grounds and the Black Lake and the swaying trees of the Forbidden Forest and the smoke rising from Hagrid's hut, it all felt more real, somehow. Like the past few weeks had just been a really weird dream and he was finally waking up.
The Great Hall was like one giant pajama party, a pack of grumpy sleep deprived teenagers in their nightclothes braiding each other's hair and gossiping. The noise was incredible, a low familiar buzz of fearful whispers and wild rumours that was almost comforting. There was also food, in abundance and variety.
Suddenly, aware that he hadn't eaten anything more substantial than chocolate frogs and licorice wands all day, Harry realized he was actually starving and dropped down in an empty place at the Gryffindor table and started slathering marmalade on pieces of thick toast and eating strips of perfectly done bacon with his fingers, not questioning the fact that fresh breakfast was still available even though it was well into the afternoon and that it was being served alongside small well-frosted cakes and sugary beignets and with copious amounts of tea and nary a pitcher of pumpkin juice to be found.
He wouldn't have put it past Dumbledore to set the house elves to providing all-day breakfast complete with comfort food. Whatever his personal problems with the man he couldn't deny that he cared about his students, in his way. All of them. And he would want them to feel safe.
Despite himself, Harry felt pretty safe.
Though given that his stern Head of House had left the head table and was making her way towards him, sensible heels clacking authoritatively on the stone floor, perhaps he shouldn't have.
"Mr. Prewett?" she queried politely, arching a brow.
She nodded to herself, her lips twitching upwards slightly at the corners, "Yes, I thought as much," she said, "You have your father's looks."
"And my mother's eyes," Harry quipped with a wry smile.
McGonagall arched a brow at him, no longer in on the joke and continued on as if he hadn't spoken.
"I am sorry to interrupt your meal, I realize that it must have been a stressful morning for you but the Headmaster and I would like to have a few words about your situation before classes begin and given the," she waved her hand to indicate the situation in the Great Hall, "Events of the day, it seems likely that we won't receive another oppourtunity."
"Of course, professor," said Harry standing up, "Let me just—"
He grabbed one of the still-warm scones that appeared to replace a tray that had once held single-serving cheesecakes, and began munching on it as McGonagall led him out of the Great Hall and through the empty-feeling corridors down to Dumbledore's office.
"Pepper Imps," she told the gargoyle, not waiting for it to finish moving aside before she started ascending the staircase.
The door to the Headmaster's office had been left slightly ajar, and McGonagall gave it a perfunctory knock before slipping inside, beckoning Harry forward with a wave of her hand.
Dumbledore's office was a scene of organized chaos, the window was open, leaving owls free to swoop in and drop their missives into a massive basket filled to the brim with similar correspondence that was being sorted by three elves dressed in Hogwarts stamped tea towels who murmured quietly to each other, apparently dividing the important letters from the howlers, cursed missives and the like that were coming in from angry, worried and fearful parents.
"Ah, Minerva and this must be the estimable Mr. Prewett," said Dumbledore, looking up from his desk and favouring Harry with a warm, grandfatherly smile, "Welcome to Hogwarts, please, do have a seat."
"Thank you, sir," said Harry, settling himself into the usual squashy purple armchair across from Dumbledore's desk, leaving McGonagall to conjure a stately wing-back in forest green velvet for herself.
"I am sorry about the abruptness of this meeting," said Dumbledore, "And it was quite unfortunate that your first day at our fine school should be marred by this unfortunate commotion."
"It's alright, sir," said Harry, "I know you must be busy. I don't want to take up too much of your time."
"Well, I confess I could do with a bit of my time taken up, but given the state of things, I think a bit of haste would not go amiss," agreed Dumbledore, "I have spoken to the representative from the Department of Mysteries about your situation—well, I say spoken to, but I am afraid he was rather unspeaking," he said, eyes twinkling conspiratorially, as he chuckled a bit to himself, "In any case it was made plain to me that they have the situation well in hand and I am not meant to pry or press, however, I just wanted to clarify a few points."
"I'll tell you what I can sir," said Harry diplomatically, slightly disenchanted with Dumbledore's manner and wanting to cut to the chase.
"Excellent," said Dumbledore, clapping his hand together, "Now I have been assured that you are on track with the Hogwarts curriculum and that your classes should not give you undue trouble, but I ask that if at any point you feel you will require accommodation or extra lessons that you notify Professor McGonagall immediately. I wouldn't want ill-preparedness to jeapordize your OWL results."
"Of course, sir."
"Good. Yes," said Dumbledore, nodding, "Secondly I will ask that if your unique perspective allows you some insight as to events that may present a danger to yourself or other students that you inform me or another professor."
Harry fought down a wince, he knew that the Marauders were going to complete their animagus transformations this year and they would present a considerable danger to the school and village roaming around with an insensate werewolf at their heels. But he didn't know if he would say anything, he hadn't decided. He wanted to trust that James and Remus would have everything under control (he knew that Sirius would be reckless).
He wanted Remus to have the memories of running with his friends who would do anything to make moontimes better for him, to make them fun and interesting rather than full of pain and fear and self-hatred. But Harry was also very sure that Remus would never forgive himself if anything happened and that he would be devastated if the Marauders got someone hurt with their short-sightedness and he could have done something to prevent it.
Still he hadn't decided what he was going to do just yet.
So he said, "I understand, sir, I will," and hoped that it wouldn't come to that.
Dumbledore gave him a piercing stare, and Harry didn't bother trying to clear his mind, but let the five-thousand other daily thoughts and concerns rush into the forefront of his thoughts and hoped that the Headmaster wouldn't think to probe deeper.
"Very good," he said finally, "I take the safety of this school very seriously, and things are becoming tense in the Wizarding World, to put it mildly. If it can at all be helped I don't want to be caught unawares. In turn I assure you I will use all the utmost discretion, if you choose to share your unique perspective on such matters."
"Yes, sir," said Harry.
Well, now he was very sure that Dumbledore knew he was a time traveller. He'd all but said it aloud, and he was already begging the privilege of foreknowledge, after the Unspeakables likely told him that no one was going to speak of it.
Harry resisted the urge to shake his head at the Headmaster. He respected the man, he was one of the greatest wizards who had ever lived and much of what he did he did for good reasons, but his compulsive need to know everything and share nothing was making it really difficult for Harry to continue liking the old meddler.
"I understand that this whole situation must be difficult for you Mr. Prewett," Dumbledore said, steepling his fingers under his chin, "There are very few wizards who have ended up in your current predicament so I cannot say that I know what you are going through, but I can imagine it must be very draining to keep up the pretence."
"The staff and the prefects are here to help if you need it, Mr. Prewett, and myself and the Headmaster are both very willing to listen if you simply need to talk, or to corroborate if you find yourself having made a potentially indelicate remark or revelation," added McGonagall, "You do not have to try and handle this all on your own."
"Thank you professors," Harry said, "It's good of you to look out for me but I'm sure I'll be fine. I've had a few weeks to adjust and, er, practice. With my family, and I think I've got a handle on it."
"I am glad to hear that Mr. Prewett, you are a very resilient young man."
"Thank you sir," said Harry, hamming it up, just a tad, "It's—well, I'm very flattered to have you say that."
"You are most welcome," said Dumbledore, twinkling with fond pride, "Minerva, if you could see Mr. Prewett out and then join me?"
"Of course, Albus," she agreed.
Harry followed McGonagall back past the gargoyle.
"You know where to find the common room Mr. Prewett," confirmed McGonagall, arching a brow.
"Yes professor," agreed Harry.
McGonagall gave a brisk nod, "Very well then, the password for this week is 'Prodigious'. Here is a copy of your class schedule, and a map, for the sake of plausible deniability. Be sure to introduce yourself to the prefects in your year, Lily Evans and Remus Lupin, they are both excellent students, very helpful, they will be able to answer the many questions you should need to ask about the castle and grounds and help you fill in any knowledge gaps you might encounter in your studies."
Harry nodded, he hadn't really thought about it, but it made sense that he should be full of questions and curiosity, and people might get suspicious if he just knew how everything worked when he was just a transfer student.
"I will professor."
"Good," said McGonagall, smoothing imaginary wrinkles from the front of her robes, and favoured him with a small smile, "I expect I shall see you bright and early for Transfiguration tomorrow. Welcome back to Gryffindor house, Mr. Prewett."
She then turned smartly on her heel and continued back up the stair to Dumbledore's office. Leaving Harry to make his own way through the, mostly empty, halls. Harry took a meandering route through the castle, heading up to the defense wing, wandering past the clocktower and then up to the owlry, helping himself to the parchment and nubby quills provided to send a quick note off to the Potters with an obliging screech owl.
After that he was finally forced to admit, if only to himself, that avoiding the risk of reencountering—ridiculous and for the most part completely unfair—stab of hurt he'd felt that afternoon and by consequence the Marauders wasn't going to help him, or anyone else get adjusted. So he turned around and jogged back down the stairs and take a shortcut back to the main staircase that would take him directly to Gryffindor Tower.
The portrait of the Fat Lady was just the same, perhaps her gilt frame was a tad more polished and she was not, thankfully, attempting to sing opera.
"Are you new?" she asked, peering at him suspiciously.
"Yep," agreed Harry, offering her a smile, "I'm a transfer student, I just came from speaking with the Headmaster and the Gryffindor head. You're the portrait guardian, right? This is Gryffindor common room?"
"Well, I can't say whether it is or it isn't unless you give me the password," said the Fat Lady somewhat coyly.
"Oh, of course. Prodigious," Harry intoned.
"In that case young man," said the Fat Lady, "Welcome to Gryffindor tower."
She swung aside without a fuss, and Harry took another steadying breath, braced for whispers or boisterous greetings courtesy of Sirius Loudmouth Black. But when Harry stepped through the portrait hole, he wasn't actually noticed despite the fact that he was, technically, a stranger in the midst of the lion's den.
The Marauders weren't in evidence.
He supposed that the easy, assured way he navigated the common room and made a trudging beeline for the stairs kept anyone who might have wondered about him from giving him a second glance, let alone questioning his credentials.
The Marauders weren't up and about when Harry reached the fifth year boy's dorm either but their things were, laid out in what was clearly a familiar configuration, given the discarded sweater crumpled on one bed and the way the dressers were pressed together between another two.
Then there was what had to be a new to the room four poster tucked into the nook by the window, Harry's trunk and Missy's empty cat carrier placed at its foot.
In his own time it was Dean who slept by the window, and Harry had to avoid the little hazardous puddles he left his uniform trousers in if he wanted to creep past and sit by it at night.
"What am I doing," Harry muttered to himself flopping face first onto the bed and then levering himself up to take his glasses off and set them on his bedside table and kick off his shoes before slumping back down.
Hopefully, he thought to himself, things would look better after he'd gotten some actual sleep.
AN: And here we have an update, finally. Phew.
Thanks to everyone who's stuck it out for this long, and to everyone who took the time to review or PM with encouragements and suggestions, you guys are always just the push I need to write another sentence when it feels like the chapter is stalling out, knowing that you all love this fic has been a real source of pride and encouragement from me.
So, it's been a long time since I wrote, and I know my style has changed a bit and maybe I don't quite have the thread of the story down in the same way that I did but I'm feeling really good about this chapter because it introduces the reason I really wanted to write this fic in the first place, Harry is going to need to struggle to really earn his place in the lives of the Marauders.
As always please let me know what you thought :) Any comments, suggestions, critiques and/or questions are super welcome at this point and always.
til next time
PS: No the flake author still hasn't settled on a pairing~