A/N: *Creeps into Fanfic central, gently and cautiously puts down some paper, double checks the coast is clear and then runs for the hills*
Memory seven: Part I ~ The Will of Albus Dumbledore
The room came slowly into focus, turning from a hazy blur to a blob of blindingly bright orange before taking the shape of Uncle Ron's old attic bedroom. The posters would have been more assaulting on the eyes if James wasn't so used to it after all these years. The one responsible for this horrendous décor was leant over a camp bed, waking up its occupant.
"You were muttering in your sleep," was Ron's morning greeting.
Harry rubbed the sleep out of eyes and peered up at his friend. "Was I?"
James could see the concern and confusion on his uncle's face and wondered what his dad could have been dreaming about. Was it the same nightmare? He quickly banished the picture of his dad twisting and turning frantically; calling desperately for help that never came.
"Yeah. 'Gregorovitch'. You kept saying 'Gregorovitch'."
Not Cedric then. Yet James was sure he'd heard that name - Gregorovitch - somewhere before. It can't have been in History of Magic; he simply didn't pay attention anymore. Albus? Yeah, that was it. He was sure he'd heard his brother say that name before - not that he paid much more attention to his little brother than he did Professor Bins.
"Who's Gregorovitch?' James wracked his brains. What on earth had Al been babbling on about? Something that had happened ages ago, as usual. He was probably some goblin that started a war over some ancient heirloom or something.
"I don't know, do I? You were the one saying it," Ron pointed out and Harry rubbed his forehead. He looked like he was concentrating hard; like trying to remember the wand movements to turn a turtle into a tea-cosy in a Transfiguration exam, though James had a feeling his father had far more important things on his mind.
"I think Voldemort's looking for him."
Al hadn't said anything about Voldemort in his rambling. (Tom Riddle, he chided himself. It's Tom Riddle and I will not be afraid.) He didn't think Riddle would find a Goblin important enough to hunt down personally, either.
"Poor bloke," Ron replied solemnly. James grimaced in agreement. Harry sat up on the bed, looking more alert now, and told Ron that Riddle was now on the move.
"…looking for Gregorovitch. It didn't look like anywhere in Britain." James frowned, puzzled. Was he talking about his dream or an image he'd seen; information gathered and passed on to him? His dad had never seemed the sort to view dreams as a valid source of evidence.
Ron was frowning too, but he didn't seem very surprised by this revelation.
"You reckon you were seeing into his mind again?"
James' eyebrows shot up, practically disappearing into his hairline. 'Seeing into his mind'? He knew that some wizards could do that – there was a special name for it and everything - but he'd thought you'd have to be face to face to do that. He did sometimes wonder if his dad was a mind reader; he would often take one look at James or his siblings and would know what was wrong or, more often in his case, what James had done wrong. But to close his eyes and be inside the mind of the evilest wizard of all time? James shivered. He did not want to know what his dad saw brewing behind those slits.
"Do me a favour and don't tell Hermione. Although how she expects me to stop seeing stuff in my sleep…" Harry trailed off; becoming lost in thought. A whole slew of new questions erupted in James' brain. Could his dad see into anyone's mind, in his dreams, or was it just Riddle? Was this why Riddle was so determined to kill Harry? Not that he needed more of a reason, considering Harry had already defeated him once, as a baby no less. Why did Hermione want him to stop? He could spy on Riddle and pass on valuable information. It probably helped win the war! Maybe his aunt was just trying to protect him from further trauma, he mused. Luckily, before James' thoughts could delve into darker territory, the mention of his favourite sport perked him right up, though he'd never heard of a Gregorovitch being associated with Quidditch.
"Quidditch? Sure you're not thinking of Gorgovitch?" Ron reasoned.
"Who?" James shook his head; disappointed by the gap in his father's usually impressive and extensive Quidditch knowledge. Dragomir Gorogovitch, now retired, still holds the record for most Quaffle drops in a single season. This didn't seem to impress Harry, however, and Quidditch was ruled out as a possibility.
"Well, Happy Birthday, anyway," Ron acknowledged, and Harry's face lit up, his serious mood forgotten in an instant.
"Wow – that's right, I forgot! I'm seventeen!"
How in the name of Merlin's saggy underpants could you forget you were seventeen? James wondered in bemusement; he was counting down the days until he turned of age. Harry snatched up his wand and summoned his glasses, sending them straight into his eye.
"Slick," Ron snorted.
James laughed at his dad's enthusiasm as, once recovered, Harry ignored his mate and made more objects fly about the room; waking up Ron's owl and zig-zagging around them as they got dressed, like hyperactive snitches. Trying to do his laces by magic was a complete fail and untying it by hand took a while, to much jeering and teasing from his best friend. With a flick of his wand, Harry changed the robes of the Chudley Cannons players a bright blue; whether for the sheer joy of it or in retaliation, James didn't know, but he was definitely enjoying seeing the more lighthearted side of his father.
"I'd do your flies by hand though," Ron suggested and James sniggered along with his uncle as Harry checked his jeans. As he looked up again Ron was holding out a brown rectangular parcel to him. James looked at it suspiciously. Surely it wasn't…a book? Unless this was going to end up in another round of 'book catching', his uncle certainly had not outdone himself this year.
"Unwrap it up here, it's not for my mother's eyes," Ron advised and James' interest rekindled.
"Bit of a departure from tradition, isn't it?" While James agreed with his dad, he'd used and heard Ron's words often enough to know this wouldn't be a bog-standard book.
"It's pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. Explains everything you need to know about girls," Ron enthused. James looked at the present dubiously; as far as he was concerned you'd need a much bigger book than that to understand girls. Hmm, could have its uses though, he thought grudgingly. "If only I'd had this last year. I'd have known how to get rid of Lavender and I would've known how to get going with…"
There were no prizes for guessing who his uncle was talking about as he trailed off, but who on earth was Lavender? There must be a story there, he thought slyly. It was hard to imagine his uncle with an ex, though just like it was mind-warping to think his aunt had a thing with Victor Krum or that his dad had dated Cho Chang, no matter how much amusement he got out of the latter. It was all too easy to convince himself that his parents and aunts and uncles had been together since the dawn of time. Harry unwrapped the brown paper and slipped the unveiled book into an old battered backpack as Ron continued to endorse the book. As they left the room to head downstairs, James looked back taking a moment to note the lack of school trunk where the backpack now lay.
James followed them into the kitchen, feeling mild déjà vu. He thought back to the last birthday gathering he'd witnessed. Would he be hearing more dark conversations? The war would be in full swing now; getting worse before the end. Any time now and his dad would be off – 'camping' they'd say flippantly; their expressions giving the normally innocent pastime a sinister turn – and doing what James didn't know, but it would lead to the defeat of Voldemort.
His Grandma, Molly, was stood at the cooker, chatting happily, while sat at the table was his Uncle Bill. He looked so drastically different than the last time James had seen him, it was hard to take. He guessed he had an answer to his question; it hadn't taken long at all for his Uncle's scars to appear – deep gashes down the side of his face. James had hardly noticed before, not knowing Bill any other way, and now it was hard to tear his eyes away.
He recognised the man sat beside his uncle as Louis' grandad that would come and visit sometimes with his wife. They were there last Christmas at the Grimmauld gathering; teasing Teddy and asking him when he was going to propose. James wasn't sure he'd seen his brother's hair go a deeper shade of pink.
"Arthur told me to wish you happy seventeenth, Harry," Grandma said, smiling at Harry and she explained that James' own Grandad would be back for dinner. She gestured over to a small, lopsided pile of brightly wrapped presents on the table and declared the present on top to be from them both. The wrapping unfolded to reveal the watch Harry had been wearing for as long as James could remember. He knew that he would be receiving one on his seventeenth, as Teddy had before him. He looked up at his Grandma, and wondered why she was looking so anxious.
"I'm afraid that one isn't new like Ron's, it was actually my brother Fabian's and he wasn't terribly careful with his possessions-"
James didn't know very much about his great-uncles, but he knew they'd died in the first wizarding war. He figured it must have been hard to give the watch up and he knew that his dad still treasured the possession.
"-it's a bit dented at the back, but-"
She was cut off as Harry got up and hugged her tight. James understood that his father was grateful to Molly and Arthur for taking him in and making him part of the family but he didn't know how it felt; his family was a given to him. He'd seen this hug, though - between his brother Teddy and his mum and he reckoned it said a lot more than any words could.
"Happy Birthday, Harry!" James turned to see Hermione enter the kitchen and place her oddly shaped, yet precisely wrapped present to the pile. "It's not much, but I hope you like it. What did you get him?" she asked Ron who ignored her and James smirked as his uncle quickly enthused,
"Come on, then, open Hermione's!"
It was another sneakoscope, and James wondered what had happened to the last one. The other parcels turned out to be various chocolates, except one – an enchanted razor from Bill and Fleur. A big orange box was taken out from under the table and James eyed it jealously; despite his vast collection he would love to have some merchandise from when Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had first opened. The box was closed all too soon for his liking as more family members began to drift into the kitchen and the trio departed back up the stairs.
Hermione took the presents from Harry, kindly offering to pack them for him.
"I'm just waiting for the rest of your pants to come out the wash, Ron-"
James didn't know whether to be disgusted or laugh at the expression on his uncle's face; he didn't seem to mind so much now they were married. The door on the left opened and a head popped out. It was the younger version of his mother.
"Harry, will you come here a moment?" James glanced back at the trio and gauged their expressions. His mum and dad were dating at this time, weren't they? If so, Ron didn't seem so happy about it. Hermione took her future husband by the elbow and pulled him up the stairs, past Ginny.
James hesitated by the door as Harry followed Ginny into her room. One part of him felt like he would be intruding and another part felt like he'd seen enough of his parents being affectionate to last him a lifetime. As a whole, he figured this was a memory he wouldn't mind skipping out on. The basin, however, had other ideas as the stairs began to fade away below him; the blank white space creeping up towards his feet. Quickly, he plunged through the closed door and into him mum's childhood bedroom.
It wasn't blindingly orange, or pink and fluffy but rather simple and neat; two large posters on either side of him, a bed, and a desk in front of the window that held a sprinkling of Quidditch memorabilia, discarded quills, and an innocent pygmy puff. By the desk stood his dad, looking out into the garden.
"Nice view," he remarked lamely.
"Real smooth, dad," James teased, but his heart wasn't really in it. Two seconds in their presence and it already felt like a gaping chasm existed between his parents. This wasn't at all like his parents in his time; never too far apart. He'd almost prefer it if they were snogging each other's brains out than seeing his dad standing there awkwardly, unable to look her in the eye like they were old acquaintances with a secret past.
"I couldn't think what to get you." Her voice was even and her gaze steady; fixed on Harry.
He assured her that she needn't get him anything. Ginny ignored him. Least some things haven't changed, James thought wearily.
"I didn't know what would be useful. Nothing too big or you wouldn't be able to take it with you."
She took a step towards him and James felt a strange kind of relief as Harry looked up at her.
"So, then I thought, I'd like you to remember me by-" James blinked at the words and the expression on her face registered in his brain. Oh Merlin.
"-you know, if you meet some Veela when you're off doing whatever you're doing."
"I think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest," Harry replied, his voice low; eyes now locked with hers and James began stepping back towards the door, thinking maybe the vanishing stairway wasn't so bad after all.
"There's the silver lining I've been looking for," she whispered back and James managed to get his hands clasped over his eyes just in time.
"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts," he sang loudly, refusing to let his imagination fill in for his senses. Subjecting a child to this had to be illegal. "Teach us something please, whether we be ol-"
The door burst open behind him and he jumped to the side; just stopping himself from melding into the wall and become a new member of the Weird Sisters. There in the doorway was a peeved-looking Ron and an out of breath Hermione.
"Oh. Sorry." He didn't look very sorry and James looked back to his now disentangled parents. Hermione chided Ron, but James' eyes were fixed on his mum; he'd never seen her look so defeated or her voice sound so flat as she said, "Well, Happy Birthday anyway, Harry." She turned her back on them as if to look out the window and James felt a burst of anger within him. He'd never really been mad at his uncle before; he was constantly told how alike they were and Ron had always been incredibly supportive of both James' parents, so what was going on here? He glanced at his dad and he could see that Harry wanted to comfort her but, to James' ire, he stopped himself. What was wrong with these people?
"I'll see you later," was all Harry said, as he followed his friends out the room. James glared at their retreating backs. He didn't want to follow them, he wanted to stay here with his mum. Why was Ron making Harry feel guilty for being with Ginny? They made each other happy; they were good together!
"Don't worry, mum," he reassured her as the room began to deconstruct itself around him, "you get your happy ever after". He marched out the room and hurried after them, all the way down the stairs, past the kitchen and out into the yard, fuming all the way. Godric, if these people could hear him he'd give them a piece of his –
"You ditched her." James stopped in his tracks; staring stupidly as his dad and uncle faced off. Had his parents had a breakup? That was news to him.
"What are you doing now, messing her around?" Both James and Hermione instinctively stepped up to defend Harry:
"Whoa, hang on a second-"
But Ron held up a hand and they both fell silent.
"She was really cut up when you ended it-"
"So was I," Harry retorted. "You know why I stopped it and it wasn't because I wanted to."
James knew that his parent had been unable to see each other while his dad had gone off to 'save the world', but he hadn't thought they'd actually ended it officially. He wasn't entirely surprised, his mum like to call him a 'noble prat' for a reason after all, but surely, he'd known they were going to get back together when it was all over. She wasn't just going to off with someone else while he was fighting evil. It dawned on him then, that Harry wasn't sure how long he was going be gone - or if he was coming back at all.
"Yeah, but you go snogging her now and she's just going to get her hopes up again-"
"She's not an idiot, she knows it can't happen, she's not expecting us to – to end up married, or - "
His voice trailed off and James wished he could reach out and take his dad by the shoulders. It does happen, dad. Kids and all. And I'm your favourite, obviously. That would give him a laugh; cheered him up again but Ron hadn't caught that despondent look in his friend's eyes.
"If you keep groping her every chance you get-"
"It won't happen again," Harry snapped, eyes flashing. "OK?" James looked between the two men anxiously, wondering if things would escalate. Ron seemed to rock back and forth on his feet as though considering his next words carefully.
"Right then, well, that's…yeah." There was a moment's silence as they all took a breath and then, as one, they went back into the house.
To James' relief, the bustle of visitors at the Burrow meant any tension in the air didn't last long. He joined in with the cheerful greetings as his Uncle Charlie entered the kitchen. Charlie had to be one of the coolest Uncles. Instead of getting upset or changing the subject he would jump at the chance to explain how he'd gotten a scar or burn. He would tell the wildest stories – full of excitement and adventure; the kind of true stories that weren't tainted by death and despair and left you feeling guilty for asking.
As increasingly more guests arrived, as in the previous year tables were taken out into the garden, placed end to end and covered with a cloth. James did a double take as he saw his Uncle George move past him, levitating a few chairs in front of him. His ear was missing, leaving nothing but a dark hole on the side on his head. James glanced over at Bill, once again carrying plates, the only difference his newly acquired wounds, and felt nauseous. This was the first time his uncles' physical appearances had disturbed him. He'd away seen them as markings of brave men, but now he felt a dizzying grief and resentment at what had happened to his family. And what had happened? Were they injured in the same battle? Had Greyback attacked them both? He wasn't sure if he really wanted to know – a guaranteed 'death and despair' story to be sure.
He followed his dad back out into the yard and wished it was real fresh air his was breathing in. The sick feeling in his gut began to wane, however, as he watched the younger versions of his family busy themselves with preparing the garden for the coming celebration. Hermione adorned the greenery with gold and purple streamers and James managed a smile at her look of bashful confusion as Ron complimented her artwork. Clearly, Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches was having a positive effect on him. James figured if his family could put aside their pain and worries to celebrate his dad's birthday then so could he and his strained smile burst into a grin as he caught sight of his grandma.
"Out of the way, out of the way!" she cries, levitating the best cake James had ever seen over the lawn and onto the table. It was a giant, golden, edible Snitch, and James licked his lips longingly. You always get the best cakes, dad. Showing more restraint that James ever would, the cake was left alone to await the last of the guests.
If seeing Teddy's father in the last memory had been hard, it was nothing to seeing both his parents; Mrs Lupin looking happy enough to burst, and James knew it wasn't the birthday celebrations that had got her smiling like that. Godric, but it wasn't bloody fair. They should be here. They should be the ones teasing Teddy about Victoire. He wished that Teddy could be here now to see how happy he'd made his mum, as she hugged Harry and wished him a Happy Birthday.
Remus, on the other hand, didn't look so happy. He was even grimmer than the last memory and James hoped that it had been a full moon recently and it was nothing to do with Teddy's inevitable arrival. He was soon distracted by Hagrid joining them; his furry brown suit making him look like a giant hairball.
"Seventeen, eh!" Seventeen. He couldn't wait to come of age; being able to do magic whenever he wanted, to fly for hours on end and have no one drag him back in when it got dark. "Six years ter the day since we met, Harry, d'yeh remember it?"
"Vaguely," Harry joked and, as he looked up at Hagrid, James had an identical grin on his face. The very first memory he'd witnessed wasn't going to be forgotten anytime soon.
"I forge' the details,' Hagrid gave a loud chuckle before greeting Ron and Hermione. "Bin busy," Hagrid announced, "we got some new born unicorns, I'll show yeh when yeh get back –"
It didn't miss James' attention that the trio was adverting each other's gazes and he sighed; they wouldn't be going back to Hogwarts, not yet anyway, and not for an education. He watched as Hagrid freed a hairy drawstring pouch from his pocket and smiled at yet another familiar object. Hagrid was right; only the owner could retrieve anything from within, as he knew from his countless stubborn attempts to open something purely because he was told he couldn't. Harry thanked him, taking the gift, and looping it over his head.
"S'nothin'," Hagrid replied and James ducked as Hagrid waved his hand dismissively in his direction. It was then that Hagrid picked Charlie out from the redheads and jovially called over to him, attracting many glances in their direction. Charlie sauntered over and offered up a casual greeting.
"How's Norbert doin'?" seemed to be Hagrid's most pressing question but James was pretty sure he didn't know anyone by that name. Charlie just laughed.
"The Norwegian Ridgeback?" Ah, a dragon. Of course. He wasn't as mad on dragons as his cousin Louis was but, well you don't get much cooler than a dragon. He could imagine Louis right now, sat next to Lucus, waiting with bated breath for the cracks to appear.
"We call her Noberta now." James looked up at Hagrid and could not help but laugh at his dumbfounded expression.
"Wha – Norbert's a girl?"
"How can you tell?" Hermione asked, ever the curious one.
"They're a lot more vicious," he explained. James briefly wondered whether Lucas' dragon would be a female or not. It didn't seem so exciting now; not with the younger versions of his family milling around him, having conversations that had happened before he'd even been thought of.
Charlie suddenly dropped his voice and glanced across the garden towards his mother. "Wish Dad would hurry up and get here. Mum's getting edgy."
James didn't have time rate his grandma's anxiousness as she raised her voice for all to hear; declaring it was probably best to start without her husband:
"He must have been held up at -oh!"
James turned along with everyone else; a streak of blue light catching his attention. He was used to patronuses flitting in and out as the adults relayed messages to each other, as casually as a muggle would send an email, but as his grandad's weasel took shape on the table and spoke in his voice, the reactions were anything but casual.
"Minister of Magic coming with me."
AN: Here you go, folks. I hope you like it. Thank you so much to DramionePerfected for the beta, her support and her patience. Thank you to everyone else that's stuck with this fic as and has given me feedback and/or encouraged me to keep going with this. Sorry if I haven't responded to you and for the long wait you've endured.
I'm not sure when Chapter 13 will be up but have no fear I shall start work on it today. Chapters 14 and 15 are written and with my beta so the rest of the story exists. :) There will be a Chapter 16 and an Epilogue. I will only be doing Birthdays and I'm sorry for those disappointed in not including events that did not happen on those days. Thank you, again and I hope you have a lovely day. -Ami x