All Good Things…
Prologue: I Can't Remember
The fire flickered, the light coming and going with it, reflecting briefly off the windows of the living room. He stood there, tired, drained, and irritated, biting his lip hoping not to add fuel to his wife's ire. She sat on the sofa, arms wrapped around their son, her head resting upon his, mouth moving to whispered words meant to soothe him.
And all he wanted to do was go to sleep. In less than four hours he needed to be ready for practice.
He recalled their last exchange of words.
"It was just a bloody dream!"
"So? That doesn't mean we shouldn't be there for him."
"Not like it'll matter anyway, he'll just forget about it in the morning."
"You're just mad because he's not the son you wanted."
With that she had left to coddle their son as she was apt to do. She was partially correct with her last statement, though by tomorrow she would likely apologize for it. It had been a continuous contention between them for years and more than once had placed undo strain on their marriage. Not to say that she was wrong.
Harry had been a disappointment for the both of them, turning out nothing like he wanted or expected. And when he did try to teach, or even interact, with Harry, Lily would admonish him for doing something dangerous. James scoffed, like riding a broom was really that hard, hell, Harry had almost gotten the hang of the child-broom. He had only fallen off a few times; he himself had fallen off a lot more when he learned to ride.
James ground his teeth and worked through his frustration, calmly telling himself this was the life he had chosen and there was no going back; though at times he wondered and wished.
He turned, realizing he was too tired to deal with this now. "I'm going to bed; I need some sleep for tomorrow."
He heard her sigh, not really caring if he pissed her off or not. "Just a little while longer, he seems to be calming down."
"Just douse the kid with a potion already."
"This kid is your son."
James rolled his eyes. "Don't put words in my mouth. It was just a bad choice of words."
"Words spoken lightly speak more for the person than those said with thought," was her haughty reply.
James took a deep breath and waited a few seconds, hoping his next words were not said with too much anger. "It's late, I'm tired, and I have to work tomorrow."
"So, call out, your son needs you."
Or is it you that need me, because you're just as frustrated with Harry as I am? At least James was honest enough with himself to admit it. He knew Lily liked to hide behind the façade of doting mother. She had called in to work enough times for her boss to threaten her with termination.
"It's not like you need the money."
James frowned. That was a low blow, even for her. She knew what a sore spot that was for him. He did not know if his attitude, Harry's nightmare, or her own insecurities were upsetting her. Because of that, he let it slide. No use in having another row.
"Whatever, I'm going to bed." He paused. "If he gets any worse wake me up and I'll call-in, okay?" He hoped that would placate her.
"Fine. Do whatever want, I won't abandon my son."
James could only shake his head as he turned to walk away, knowing she was angry at him for leaving her the burden. A burden she put on herself every time Harry had some episode. For a moment, his son's bloodcurdling scream echoed in his mind, a call that had awoken them both to come to his aid. They had found him thrashing in his sheets, mumbling incoherent words and nonsense. Of which, the only one James had picked up on was 'basilisk.' In the end, Harry had soiled his garments and sheets, something they were used to, and they had ushered him to the living room where their usual debate about Harry had gone round again.
Granted, he had never screamed quite like that before.
A sob came from behind him, giving him pause. Oh no…
Lily was crying, and James sighed, now feeling like a heel for leaving her. He joined her by the couch, offering a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry," he mumbled.
Lily wiped her eyes, refusing to look at him. "Don't be, it's just hard."
"I know, but what can we do? Send him to some reta—" James cleared his throat. "Special needs camp? You already said you didn't want that." Lily had been very vehement about that option.
"I know, I know." She gave their sleeping son a look, before trying to arrange his wild hair. "I just can't see myself doing this for the rest of my life. He's growing up and soon he'll be teenager, then an adult! Is that what I want, to coddle full my grown son because some nightmare scared him?" For a moment her face became clouded. "He should be going to Hogwarts." James could add nothing to that, knowing his own thoughts dwelt therein.
Lily regarded him with two bright greens eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "It's just not right."
James closed his own, debating sending an owl to his coach. He would be livid, complaining James should have married a more composed wife. That was actually one of the reasons he married Lily; her passion. A great body did not hurt any either. He quickly stowed that thought before he started yearning for the days where sex had still been part of their relations.
Harry stirred, slowly shaking his head and looking around. "Mum, can I have some water…Mum?" He regarded her with a confused expression, one that found its way to James. "Dad?" His head swayed.
"I'll get it." James retrieved the drink, reentering the living room to find Harry staring at the fire, Lily wringing her hands next to him.
Harry drank it with a single swig, his glasses reflecting the flames flickering before him. "I'm tired, sleepy, and my head hurts."
"You just had a bad dream, dear, that's all."
A weak smile graced the child's face. "I think I'm still dreaming." A pause. "I don't want this one to end, it's too nice." He grew quiet.
Lily and James exchanged a weighted glance. She spoke. "Do you want to go back to bed? You can sleep here in front of the fire if you like. Remember, that usually helps you."
Harry regarded her for a long moment before reaching and gently touching her. He looked to his hand and frowned. He withdrew it and held both palm's up in the fire's light, scrutinizing them. He swayed again and leaned back in the sofa. "Why do I feel so weak?"
Lily cleared her throat, worry etched in every line of her face. "Maybe you're hungry, would you like some like a piknese pie? It's your favorite."
"No, it's not. Apple is my favorite, I think. I'm remembering things weird." He turned to them. "You're not even supposed to be alive…" He closed his eyes, fell back on the couch, and drifted off to sleep.
Something was very wrong with their son. "Lily," James whispered, then motioned his head towards the kitchen. She took the hint and rose slowly, so as not to disturb their son. She paused before leaning down and gently pushing him on his back. He opened his eyes and mumbled something, but Lily shushed him. He closed his eyes once more with a smile upon his lips.
Together the parents went to the kitchen, James speaking first as he leaned against a counter. "What did he say?"
Lily ignored him at first, confusion and worry riddling her face. "He said I was beautiful."
Shocked silence was James' only reply, allowing the statement sink to in, coupled with what else Harry had said painted a very strange picture. "I'll send an owl to Coach Rodgerick." He looked back to the living room briefly, his eyes lingering on the couch.
Lily sighed. "Something's wrong with him."
"I know. Do you think his condition could be getting worse? That he's starting to lose his mind?"
A sob escaped from Lily. "Oh God, I hope not." James stepped forward and embraced his wife, letting her cry on his shoulder. "The healers said it had stabilized, that there wouldn't be any more regression."
James patted his wife's back. "I know what they said. I know. Tomorrow we'll take him to St. Mungo's."
"I don't want to lose anymore of him."
James shushed her and pulled her with him to the stairs. Right now what both of them needed was sleep and to deal with this latest setback in the morn. After getting his wife situated James returned to the kitchen to send off the letter, giving a curt statement about his son. Hopefully, the coach would have some heart.
As he let Artemis out the window, he turned to find Harry standing in front of him. "You should be asleep."
"I-I think I am sleeping, but…" His voice trailed as touched his father, much in the same manner he had his mother. "You're real? Alive!" He shook his head, as if trying to clear something from his mind. "I don't understand."
James placed a hand on his son's shoulder and squatted to look in him in the eye. "Harry, me and your mother aren't going anywhere, alright? Just head back to the couch and get some sleep, tomorrow everything will be better."
Harry let himself be lead to the couch once more, where he reluctantly laid down. "I'm not feeling weak anymore. I'm feeling—"
James pulled out his wand and touched it to his son's forehead. There was spark and Harry was out cold, once more in the embrace of dreams. "Sleep, which is something I need to get."
With that he made his way upstairs to crawl in bed with his already slumbering wife.
They waited outside in a sterile, white hallway as busy healers bustled past, heads bent over rolled parchments; every so oft a patient in white robes would be following. Some had obvious problems, additional growths, missing appendages, wrong colored skin, and a few had less obvious. James watched them go, trying to guess what was wrong with them, offering a few suggestions to his wary wife.
"He has the nimblers, and the last one can't stop eating his own teeth. Oh and that one can only say fuck over and over again." He turned his attention away from the trio of patients being lead by and graced his wife with a smile.
Her response was a weak one, which elicited from him a sigh. He had tried.
He felt her hand cover his. "Thank-you, it's just—"
"I know…Harry. He'll be fine, I think." I hope.
There had been a scare earlier that morning, where Lily had woken first and found no trace of their son in the house. Her frantic cries had roused him and together they set out into the neighborhood in search of him. It had taken some time, but they had found him sitting atop a slide at the local playground.
After some overreacting on Lily's part, they had escorted him back to the house, Lily lecturing him the entire way about how dangerous it was for him to be out on his own. His only reaction was to stay quiet and stare at the sidewalk. Him roaming on his own had been worrisome, but actually leaving the house has been the more distressing part. There had been a weak compulsion placed on all the doors to make people leave them be. It took most visitors by surprise the first time, but they generally just waved it off.
With Harry's condition, it should have been impossible for him to leave.
His musings were interrupted as his son walked out of the door, an aging healer following. He patted Harry on the shoulder and offered him a smile, one their son did not return. "Have a seat, kid, while I talk to your parents a bit."
Harry refused to meet anyone's gaze as he sat on the bench previously occupied by Lily and James. The healer pulled out his wand and waved it, muttering a quick incantation. James felt something fall over his body, but the sensation faded.
Privacy ward in place, the healer spoke. "What happened exactly?" His cheery tone was gone, replaced with one of concern.
Lily seemed to wilt, fearing the worst no doubt.
James spoke. "He woke-up screaming from some nightmare. We tried to calm him down, but he kept thrashing. Eventually, he stopped and we brought him downstairs."
"He likes sleeping on the couch when he has nightmares," Lily provided.
"He woke-up, saying he thought he was still dreaming and that he felt weak. I put a sleeping charm on hi—"
"You did what?"
James cleared his throat and continued. "He said he was feeling a lot better and wasn't tired, but I didn't want him walking about in his state." He quickly finished giving his wife a sheepish grin. "You looked like you needed the sleep, hun."
The healer cleared his throat. "A sleeping charm would do him no harm, so long as it was not used often." He quirked an eyebrow at James.
"I don't do it that often, maybe every couple of months. Usually when he's being rambunctious at night and you," he stared at his wife, "need sleep." Lily looked mollified, but far from pleased. "So has he gotten worse?" His tone fell. "I didn't think the disease could get worse."
The healer brought a hand to his goateed chin, stroking it while gazing at a subdued Harry. "No, the disease can't get worse. Atchin's Delirium only affects certain parts of a magical's mind. Usually short-term memory retention, and only because it settles into the forefront of the brain. In his case, the Delirium has already gone, leaving behind only some residue in his mind." He lowered his voice. "Mostly mental contamination with no physical scaring, he was very lucky in that regard, if you'll recall."
Lily nodded. "It meant he would not get any worse, just that he wouldn't get any better. But last night he thought we were dead!"
"Yes. There is actually an emerging treatment for survivors of the Delirium. A way for an Legilimens to go into their mind and try and remove the curse, for lack of better term for it. It's not ground-breaking, and the success rate is not that high, depending usually on the patient's willingness to cooperate."
James felt his chest swell and saw hope bloom in his wife's green eyes. "Does that mean…"
"But, I won't be recommending that treatment for your son."
Those same green eyes blazed. "And why not?"
The doctor smiled. "Because young Harry there does not need it."
What? "Of course he needs it, he thought—!"
"Harry has been cured."
A pregnant silence filled the air, wherein relief dwelled, unable to be born save through two parents too afraid to hope.
"Did you just say…that he's cured?"
"But, I thought there…"
The healer's smile broadened further. "I don't know what happened last night, but Harry shows no signs whatsoever of having been afflicted. Well, there are some holes in his memory, given how he has lived for the past six years, but other than that I would say he is a normal, if a bit introverted, young boy."
Liberation was born in the form of tears streaming down pale cheeks. James seemed to sway, unable to comprehend that the years old burden he had lived with was gone. Lily gave him a vicious embrace, muttering thanks to her god, and then delivered the same to the healer, who was startled.
"I really didn't do anything to help him." He tried to say, but both parents ignored him.
Lily's next target was Harry, who was quickly overwhelmed, struggling under his mother's iron grip and sodden cheeks.
And James looked on with a wistful smile and moistened eyes. He wiped them away, not wanting to get too weepy like his wife.
James and the healer exchanged a few more words about check-ups, just to make certain, before the father bid the healer farewell and joined his family.
The euphoria of being a family quickly faded into disappointment. Instead of the bright-eyed child they yearned for, they got a sullen one devoid of cheery reactions and prone to distrustful glares. When giving him hugs, he would stand stock still, and once Lily thought she felt him shuddering. It added up to a confusing week for them; they spent their nights before the fire discussing ways to get him to be comfortable with them, while he spent the days sequestered in his room.
Bidding the healer a visit only gave them the advice of giving Harry time and distance. What he had gone through had been a traumatic experience, similar to waking up from a groggy sleep that lasted years and suddenly finding yourself able to do things you thought previously impossible. He was just overwhelmed and needed time to adjust.
Weeks passed and James returned to work while Lily stayed at home and filled the motherly role, hoping giving her son love would turn his attitude.
Coming home late one eve, a tired James entered the foyer to hear his mother crying, while Harry stared morosely into an empty hearth. He sighed, putting away his equipment and wanting nothing more than a hot bath. Walking over, still clad in dirt-smeared pants and blood-stained shirt, he stood over his wife and addressed his son. "Go to your room, Harry, me and your mother have to talk."
In a low voice, he responded. "I can't."
"She stuck me to the chair." James thought he heard some bit of regret in Harry's tone. "I'm sorry…Mum." His lips thinned at saying the word, and for a moment his eyes watered, but he cleared them away with an agitated swipe of his sleeve.
James canceled the charm and let Harry dash up the stairs, hearing the door slam loudly behind him. He sighed again. "What happened?" he asked, bending down to collect his sobbing wife and help her to the sofa.
Collecting herself took a moment. "I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. He did what he normally does," she sniffled, "but then he said I wasn't his mother."
"He said I needed to stop pretending and let him go." A fresh round of tears threatened to overcome her, but she took a breath and steeled herself. "I hugged him harder, and then he struck me, screaming his mum and dad were dead."
Oh man. "So I slapped him and told him to watch his mouth." James gawked. "Don't look at me like that. I'm tired of treating our son like's he's glass. He acts normal. He cleans-up and walks around the neighborhood. So if he's a normal child, I'll punish him like one."
"What happened next?"
"He tried to run away, so I stuck him to the couch and told him how I felt, what I had to deal with while he was sick. What we had to put up with. He started shouting back about letting him go and dropping the stupid façade. He said none of this could be real, that I needed to stop desecrating his real mother's memory." She hesitated.
"You slapped him again, didn't you?"
"Not very hard. I was more distraught than angry. I kept thinking that maybe the disease had made our son insane." Her eyes widened. "I hope that's not it, but why else would he be acting this way. The doctor said he was fine!" There was both anger and panic mingled in her voice. James made a mental note not to take Lily to the next examine; at least if she were in a state like this.
"Maybe he's just confused, getting the nightmare mixed up with being awake. Remember, that night he said something about dreaming?"
"Yeah, but that doesn't explain the last thing he said. I asked why he couldn't just accept that we loved him."
"And what did he say?"
"Nothing for a while, he just stared at the wall. I let him stew, hoping I had gotten to him. Then he said it was hard to love someone he had never known. And that's when I broke down. Our son doesn't remember all those times we were there for him." She took a breath. "No wonder he's so distant!"
James looked to his wife and came to a decision. "Hon, you're going back to work."
"Because Harry has you at your wit's end. I'll take the week off while you go back to work. How does that sound?"
"It sounds nice, but our son loving us sounds better."
James could not argue with that.
The few days following, James found his son slowly descending the stairs. "Morning!" he called from the kitchen as he was putting the finishing touches on a ham sandwich. "It's nothing like your mum makes, but it'll still fill you up."
Harry looked at the sandwich in question before sitting at the table as James brought him the meal and a glass of pumpkin juice. Harry seemed somber as he sat down, eyeing the food in front of him. He pushed it away, looking a bit green.
"Harry, breakfast isn't an option. You need to eat." He used his dad-voice; it usually did the trick when Harry was being difficult.
His son looked to him with two green eyes that seemed to shimmer for a moment, before resuming his gaze at the food. With deliberate motions he set about eating with slow, purposeful chews.
James only shrugged at the boy's behavior, chalking it up to him adjusting to life. He looked ready to cry. Maybe he stepped on a bug and realized it wasn't coming back to life. He snickered and tried for small talk, maybe pulling the boy's mind from such thoughts. "So what do you do all day, stare at your ceiling in your room?"
"No." Harry responded hollowly, attention still upon his meal.
"Okay…met any of the local kids? The McNillan's down the row are pretty nice lot." James began cleaning his mess—small as it was—a habit that had taken Lily years to instill in him.
Harry shook his head and continued eating.
Okay, this is getting nowhere fast. "Don't you play?"
Harry shifted his eyes a bit. "Yeah. He—I play with the Quidditch figures sometimes."
"The Puddlemere United ones I got you?"
Harry nodded and took a sip from his glass.
James pondered in the silence, having asked that question on a hunch. A feeling his son had been dodging his initial query. The figures he had gotten Harry belonged to his own team; the Falmouth Falcons.
"Okay. After breakfast why don't you head outside and enjoy the day some. I've got some repairs your mum wants me to get started on."
He went to the living room and started examining the lose stone in the hearth that Lily had been bugging him about for months. Her words rang in his mind. I know I could do it just as easily as you, but you're the one who said you wanted to do all the repairs.
He sighed, now regretting that stance. His sticking charm had failed, for some reason wearing off after only a few weeks. Was there something in the mortar? One of the enchantments interfering with additional charms? He groaned. I don't want to replace the whole damn hearth.
He cast a few spells on the stone, hoping some errant curse had not found itself within it; though the likelihood of that was not very high. Soon he heard the front door close and frowned at Harry not even saying he was leaving. Shaking his head a thought came to him about his son's dubious answer earlier. Should I?
Stone set aside, mind made up, James scaled the stairs and entered his son's neat and tidy room. This is unnatural. James recalled his own room as a kid being littered with debris, most broken from his aggressive playing. It had driven his quiet mother to despair more than once. He rifled through a few chests that held what Lily deemed safe toys for Harry. Much to his relief they were unorganized, but he did not miss the layer of dust coating them. Before the cure, his son would occupy his time with playing, now it seemed he had found a different time-waster.
He looked under the bed, through the closet and dresser drawers, finding nothing out of the ordinary but lint. He lied about it, so he'd want it hidden.
James sent his mind back to his earlier years, trying to remember where he had stashed his more questionable items. His lock-knife, his girl magazines, and other things his parents would not have approved of. His brown eyes sought the floorboards. If he recalled, there had been one or two lose that he had fixed sometime last year.
He brought out his wand and muttered a few words above each plank, watching none even budge, until he got to one in front of the closet. It jumped open, revealing several rolls of parchment. James only stared, slowly reaching down and unfurling one, confused eyes disbelieving what he was seeing. "When did Harry learn to write?"
With a few waves James copied the parchments and their writing, quickly replacing the loose board and making his way to his own room, where he stashed the scrolls for later.
Back in the living room he tried working further on the hearth and other small projects, but the allure of the parchments kept his mind distracted. What had his son wanted to hide? Had he written them? James doubted it, but Harry should not have been able to read them either. It was a quandary. He would wait until tonight when they put their son to bed.
I don't know why I'm doing this, but it helps. Helps ground me, because I don't know what's going on. Sometimes I forget what I'm thinking, or I just wander around lost. I remember being lost and I remember not caring about it, until later it seems I come back to myself.
What's happening to me? My name is Harry James Potter. My name is Harry James Potter. My name is Harry James Potter…
It doesn't hurt as much anymore. At first my forehead, where my scar was supposed to be, hurt, almost like it was on fire. I thought Voldemort was close.
My memories, they're still coming and going. I can remain myself for longer periods now. Mostly.
They took me to a healer yesterday. He asked me a lot of questions. He wanted to know how I felt, what I was thinking, what I thought of my fake-parents. I told him mostly lies, tried to act young and lost. He bought it. Though, apparently he told my captors I was cured of some disease. What trick are they trying to pull on me?
I'm Harry James Potter.
I went for another walk today and everything was normal. Whoever is behind this can't be affecting the whole world; just me. I think something has been done to my mind. Am I sleeping? It explains why I'm so young, why my parents and the world feel so real. I almost want them to be real…but I think that is what they want me to think. Get my guard down.
I'm Harry James Potter.
It happened again. I woke-up, smiled, and just stared at the ceiling all morning, no recollection of my past coming to mind. When I came to myself again, I felt like destroying something. I don't want to be that boy, the one whose mind I'm occupying. I don't want to be some vegetable where these people take care of me.
How can anyone live like that?
I guess I've accepted where I am is real and not some trap. This boy's mother was angry with me, I had said too much, but she just wouldn't leave me alone! She was crying, and begging me to remember. I don't think any actor could've been that convincing. This boy is her son, and she thinks he's back to normal, but instead she just has me temporarily. Until I leave here and go home, or until the boy forgets to remember me…
I'm Harry James Potter.
Another episode, but it didn't last as long. Somehow the boy found these letters and tried to read them. Or stare at them long enough for me to wake-up. Am I becoming this boy? Is this place permanent? It's not so bad, really. He's got great parents, makes me wonder if mine would have come out like them. But I want to go home. I miss Hermione and Ron. I miss Hogwarts.
Something is wrong with me. I keep getting headaches and the boy keeps wondering around. This Harry is doing something to me, whispering to me, asking me things. I'm going nuts. It's like he's curious, like he wants to be me, like he wants to become me…
I can't remember everything. There are holes, and they come and go. I think when he looks at my memories, I can't and then I forget them, until he's done with them. The boy is borrowing my past!
I don't know what to think or what to do. It's his body, but he wants to be me. I don't want to disappear. I want to go home.
I'm Harry Potter and I lub ma prants.
I like my parents. I like when my mum gives me hugs and kises. I like when dad play figures with me. I want to ride on a brum again but mummy won't let me. She says I get hurt. I hurt some. In my head. The other boy likes to talk and talk ad talk. He talks two much. I like just liek to watch. He says I need to write and to read, or he will go away.
I think he's scared. I'm not, because I like my parents and I like him. He makes my head hurt sometimes. He is always wanting to be in here without me, but we can both be in here. He says it's mine, but he uses it a lot.
I want to stop writing, but he won't let me. He keeps yelling at me not to stop. And I can't. He is angry, and he is getting quiet. I think he is sad.
I don't know what happened, I don't want to think about it. He's gone. Not just quiet, or asleep, just gone. I remember everything now, too, no holes. Hogwarts, Voldemort, Dumbledore, all of it.
And the boy.
I don't know what to think. Was it my fault? He got angry with me for being in control. He said it was his turn, but I fought him back. I didn't want him to have control; I was tired of being in some dark place while he forgot me for a few hours. While he forgot everything! That is all he wanted to do was forget things. He would forget his parents, what they looked like until he saw them again. He would forget his toys until he got bored and explored his room. He wasn't watching my memories, trying to be me. He was making me forget them! One by one, like some virus!
Why did he want to forget everything?
How could he even forget himself?
I'm not sure what I feel. He's gone and I'm relieved, because he was making me insane, but I didn't want him to go like that. He had loving parents, and they'll miss him. Though they think I'm him. I feel like a monster. I don't want to be glad he's dead, or gone, or whatever, but I can't help it. It feels good to be alone in my head again. But, this isn't where I belong. This isn't my home or my parents, but I don't think there's anything I can do about it.
The papers drifted slowly from his unclasped hand, to settle upon the hardwood floor, while his mind became unsettled. Thoughts of varying kinds filled his head, each vying for attention, each trying to lay claim on one emerging emotion or another. Anger was the most prevalent, stemming from what he read and believing it to be true. It was too sick to be a prank. Wasn't it?
He clamored to his feet and leaned against the doorframe, mind still a tumble. He wanted to know how something like this could happen. How had something like this happened? Was the second boy, the one writing, his real son and the first some vegetable they had loved for no reason? But the second said this was not his home.
"Lily!" He called, not realizing how dry his throat was.
She came walking from the study, an extra bounce to her step. The week off from Harry had done her good.
"James?" Her worry was evident.
"You need to read these." He reached down, grabbed the scattered papers, and handed them to her.
"What are they?"
"I found them in our son's room under a floorboard."
She took them, a half-smile quirking her lips. "You found them in our son's room? Okay, I'll bite."
"You do that."
Lily brushed past him to have a seat at the kitchen table while he helped himself to the bourbon cabinet. He withdrew a glass, poured himself a healthy amount, and downed it, loving the burning sensation that wormed down his throat. He poured himself another, knowing he would need it when Lily was done.
Already she was rifling through the papers, her eyes skimming them quickly. She was shaking her head slowly, the same motion James had been making. What was written in those sheets was just too absurd to be real, yet how else had they gotten there? The coincidence of their son's recovery and those words was just too great.
"What the hell kind of sick joke is this, James?" She rose to her feet.
James took a slow sip from his glass, letting her see it. "I found them in our son's room under a floorboard." He made sure to speak slowly and emphasize every word. "This is no joke. Our son wrote those."
"Bullshit!" Tears welled-up her eyes. She looked down to the papers and tried to repair the damage she had incurred to the crumpled papers. Lily's anger began to wane and her shoulders began to wilt. "What's happening to our son?"
On cue, James walked forward and embraced his wife. Together they walked into the living room. Taking a seat he felt a comfortable warmth spread from his stomach, reaching to every part of his body. There they held each other while they tried to work through their feelings of the situation, and to discuss if there was any possible way this could be a hoax. Part of James, a guilty part, was hoping it was not. He honestly had to admit to himself, that an active—if withdrawn child—was preferable to one who barely recalled his own father's name.
The next morning saw the sun rise and dark clouds gather. Lily again called in to work, citing familial troubles. Her boss' response, a howler, had been loud enough to rouse Harry, who was currently sitting across from James eating a breakfast of waffles and eggs. Lily sat at his side, green eyes never leaving her plate, while James was busying himself with the Prophet. Anything was better than trying to talk to his son.
So, tell me boy, who the hell are you and why did you see fit to murder my real son? That is what James wished to say, but judging from the letters, the child staring at him was not that mentally stable. So he preferred to read the paper, waiting for Harry to leave.
Harry cleared his throat, but James kept his attention on the paper folded before him. It seemed that a seer of some purport had died in France last night. The paper claimed it ironic that she had predicted her own death, though it was not as violent as she had thought. Apparently, she had died in her sleep of old age.
Harry cleared his throat again, louder this time. James held back a sigh, wishing Lily would see what he wanted.
"Yes, dear?" Lily's voice wavered for a moment.
James drew his attention away from the news. He stared at Harry for a moment, only seeing some stranger stare at him with a face he had come to love and regret.
"I was wondering something." He gathered his courage. "I was hoping, now that I'm better, that I could go to Hogwarts. For school."
Lily opened her mouth a moment, clearly not expecting that. James was not either. He wanted to be mad that this unknown had first settled into a body not his own, and then wanted to live its life. Yet he recalled how lost he had sounded in the letters. "That is something that me and your mother are still discussing. We don't know if you're ready for that kind of shock."
He looked crestfallen.
Lily gave James a quick glance before speaking. "It also depends on what you remember of us teaching you." What is she up to? "You remember how to read, right? And the arithmetic also?"
Harry slowly nodded his head, his green eyes never leaving his half-finished breakfast.
We never even tried to teach him arithmetic.
Lily gave Harry a weak smile. "See that means you might get to go. We were worried you'd have to be retaught."
"No, I remember." He took a breath and stared at James, almost defiantly. "You even taught me how to ride a broom."
"Then I can go?" There was a challenge in his voice.
"We'll think about it." James replied evenly.
Harry's eyes lingered on him a moment before settling on his mother's. Lily looked to be on the verge of tears, evidence enough how strained the conversation had become. "He's right, it's something we have to discuss."
"Fine. Can I be excused?"
"Yes, but we want you back by lunchtime, no skipping it like yesterday." Came James response.
Harry left the table and made for the back door, angry steps taking him farther from his family. He opened the door harder than necessary, but paused in the threshold, head lowered. He turned.
"uh…thanks for breakfast," he muttered, almost a whisper.
James had no response for the abrupt change, but Lily saved him.
"You're our son. Now go play…and don't be too hard on yourself. Your father and I are just glad to have you back." James bit his tongue, not wanting to contradict his wife in front of Harry.
They resumed breakfast, James wanting a few moments to compose himself before broaching the subject with his wife. He only lasted two bites. "One, we never even considered Hogwarts. Two, suddenly he's our son? Three, what about what he did to our real son?" James was shouting by the end.
Lily arched a single eyebrow and continued chewing her meal in peace, letting him stew in his words. Muttering a curse, James used her silence to calm himself. If I'm glad to have a son again, why am I mad at her? I mean, I'd love to play Quidditch with Harry. Show him how to service a broom, take him to my games…
It was then James realized why he was angry, why the thought of looking at his son hurt so much. Because no matter how much he thought he would like a better child, the stranger behind those familiar eyes was not his son.
"Better?" Lily asked calmly, though it seemed her eyes shimmered a bit.
"Some. He's not our son; he can't replace Harry. It's not like he's some broom we could turn in for a better model."
"Are you telling me this or yourself?" She placed a hand over his; he welcomed the warmth.
"Both of us." He ground his teeth. "But, you seem to think otherwise."
She looked to him with a touch of melancholy peeking in her eyes. "I know our son had problems, and that we loved him, no matter how hard things were with him." Her voice wavered and she began to tear up. "But, I don't think he's gone. I think he's still in there, somewhere, just maybe lost."
James shook his head. "You read the note. Our son was forgotten."
"Which makes no sense." She withdrew her hand, stood, and began to pace, her voice brittle. "Our son can't be gone just like that. Something happened, something that changed in his mind. Maybe it has something to do with the disease. Maybe whoever is walking around is someone our son created in his dreams. Maybe they're one in the same."
"Maybe they're not."
Lily wiped her eyes. "I'm getting tired of crying. I'm getting tired of not knowing what is going on with my son."
"So you're just going to ignore what has happened? Not think about it?" James could not imagine his wife would be that much of a coward. "We could show the healer the papers and see what he says."
She stopped. "Then what? Declare Harry insane? That our son invented another persona in his own diseased mind that took on a life of its own and that persona made him forget himself?"
"It'll give us answers."
Lily removed her wand and pointed it towards the living room. "Accio papers!" Papers in hand, she went to the door.
"Wait! Where the blazes are you going?"
"To the healer. I'm going to get answers and no matter what he says, I'm coming back and giving my son a hug." With that curt reply, she left and was gone with an audible pop.
James sighed and stared at his breakfast, no longer even wanting to taste it. He kicked the table and did the only thing he could; waited.
Harry came back first, quiet as usual, though he did pause to say hello at lunchtime. James let him eat in silence, himself not wanting to talk either. Too much was bogging down his mind, pulling it from one side to the other. Like a charging erumpent had run through his thoughts, then had its horn explode on top of it all.
After lunch Harry had returned to his room while James sat in the living room working on his broom, oiling it and checking the bristles for drag. It was a custom Nimbus 2000, geared more for flexibility than speed, but he was a chaser and that required maneuverability over all else. This was also completely unnecessary since he had already done it the day prior. Right now he was just going through the motions. Wishing he had his own son beside him, asking about what kind of polish to use. Asking if he could play Quidditch in school.
He sighed. Hogwarts had been an issued settled years ago due to Harry's condition, but now it seemed he was normal. Or completely nutters.
He looked at the shine in the broom, admired its elegant shape and sturdy build.
He closed his eyes, "Harry!"
There was silence for a moment before he heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
James stood broom in hand. "Let's go outback, I want to teach you something." James started walking, expecting his son to follow. Disappointment was not his to have.
Outside revealed a spacious yard of trees, bushes and a creek winding through it. Living at the edge of the suburbs had its advantages, owning all the land around his house had even more.
James turned to address Harry. "This is the latest model to come out this year; the Nimbus 2000. When it comes to speed, it tops last year's broom by ten miles an hour. But that's not something I care about. The reason I switched to a Nimbus this year and not the new Comet 4600 is because the comet stopped trying to compete and went mass market."
There were also rumors abounding that the team that had worked on the Comet Pro-series had left and were developing their own broom series.
James brought the broom closer to Harry so his green eyes could scrutinize it. "The shaft at the end is charmed to direct where you want it to go. The charms in the back control when you slow down and how fast you go. The bristles themselves are what propel the broom, so you have to make sure each one is in line to get maximum performance. But, you remember all this, don't you?" The question was almost an accusation.
Harry licked his lips, staring from the broom to his father. He nodded slowly, "Yes."
"Then I don't—"
"But it's all fuzzy." He hastily added. "I don't remember all of it."
Something stirred within James, aided by the quiet plea in the boy's voice. He closed his eyes then opened them, no longer seeing a stranger's stare, but a lost child trying to find his way in an unknown world. A child who thought his parents were long dead but suddenly had some to call mum and dad. "Do you want me to show you…again?"
A smile fought its way onto his son's face. "Yes…please?"
James smiled and sat on his haunches, bidding his son closer. "Okay. See the bristles, how I have them fanned out more on the left than on the right? Well, I catch the quaffle with my left arm, so I want to bank to the left faster to protect it. I don't do this every game, I try to switch it up usually tossing a coin. If I did it consistently, the opposing beaters would pick up on it."
"I didn't know you could do that."
James smirked. "This is the pros, every little trick you use could help win the game."
As the two talked, father to son, the afternoon waned, the sun getting closer and closer to the horizon. By the end, Harry was broom bound, soaring through the sky, a smile plastered to his face as the wind rustled his black hair. Not too high, though, the concealment enchantments only worked so far.
As James watched his son—shouting pointers as he went—he could not help but think he was a born natural, from the way the he flew with the broom, to the way he picked up on his father's instructions.
And James relished every second of it.
It was when he saw a figure standing in the shadow of the back door did he bid Harry come down. Upon the ground James praised his son, ruffling his hair and noting he would have to rework the bristles; Harry was quite the aggressive flyer. "Time to tuck-in, your Mum's back from her errands."
James wondered why she had been gone for most of the day, he even expected bad news considering how well it had been going.
Upon reaching the house Lily promptly drew Harry into her arms, hands smoothing over his small frame, face tucked into his shoulder. It was obvious the intense embrace made him uncomfortable, but he leaned into in time. She laughed and withdrew, smiling, eyes glimmering. "Go ahead inside, me and your father will be in shortly to get dinner started."
Harry nodded before turning to James. "Do you want me to put your broom up?"
James sensed a hesitation in his voice. "Sure, could you put my supplies up, too?"
There was an awkward moment, where it seemed Harry longed for something, but James hesitated. It almost seemed a blasphemy to go further than he had, give more of himself to this child. The moment passed as he embraced his son, before breaking away and shooing him into the house.
"Thank-you," Lily said giving him a kiss. "That's just what he needed."
"It's what I needed, too." A pause, where this possible moment of bliss could be shattered by a healer's professional opinion. "I don't want to hear what the healer said, but I'll go crazy not knowing."
Lily blew out a sigh. "Not healer. Healers. I've been all over Britain talking to anybody I thought could help."
"Harry's healer didn't know?"
Lily shrugged. "All he said was Harry had gone through a traumatic experience and the papers showed that confusion perfectly. Apparently, the papers made him revise his opinion. He thinks maybe the disease took longer to go away than he thought; it's just that Harry was good at hiding what he was going through. He also said it made more sense for the disease to gradually leave than to abruptly disappear."
"What did the other experts say?"
"A lot of nothing. I went to six different experts, and some I think were talking out their arse. One, a mind-healer, said maybe Harry might not have had a problem with memory retention, just memory recall. That would explain how he can remember things we taught him and how he could be normal. Kind of like waking-up after a long nap."
"How does that explain the two personalities? And him missing Hogwarts, Dumbledore, and that Voldemort guy?"
"Once the one buried got a purchase, the disease tried to fight back and it confused him. He eventually won out because the disease was weakened. At least, that's the best I could figure since everyone had a different opinion. But they all answered my question. The boy in there is our son, fully and completely."
James gazed upon his wife's brilliant smile and could not remember the last time she had looked so radiant. "So he's going to Hogwarts?"
"I don't want him to." Lily spoke with regret. "But, I think he does." A wistful smile graced her features.
"I'll tell him while you get dinner ready; I know you're tired of crying." She laughed and two entered the house as the sun dipped into the horizon, leaving the family to enjoy a normal evening for the first time in years.
A/N:: For those familiar with my posting stories, then you know the usual weekly updates. For those that don't. There will an update once a week on Friday, barring RL issues. That said, this story is not completely written in it's entirety. I have just the first year written and edited. There is I hope a large enough gap between this and the upcoming years to keep the updates consistent. If not, there shouldn't more than a delay of a month or two. Took me four days to write year one, surprisingly. I have other ideas bouncing in my head, but I said fuck it, sat down, and started writing this one. It had been far too long since I started in on a story start to finish.
To those that read I hope you enjoyed it.
And the usual. I don't have a beta any more so this has probably got a few spelling errors that I missed in the editing process. Any pointing them out will be thanked and they will be corrected. Any other critiques will be welcomed and worked on with due diligence.
Till next week then, where the shocks begin. :)