1 September 2016
"Have you seen my grade book?" Neville asked, lifting up stacks of books one at a time before tossing them into his trunk.
"Probably. They all look the same. Is it that one?" Harry pointed.
"No, that's last year's–ha!" Neville fished a leatherbound journal from where it had slid between the couch cushions. "What time is it?" he asked as he set about organizing his trunk of books so they wouldn't slide about.
"Quarter past. We should be leaving soon."
"DAD!" James called from his bedroom upstairs.
Neville and Harry were practiced at James's favorite game; without even looking at each other, they called back "WHICH ONE?" in unison.
There was a pause. "THE SHORT ONE!"
"Oh, he'll pay for that," Harry murmured as he pushed past Neville. "And stop laughing!"
Grumbling to himself as he ascended the stairs, Harry paused at one of the picture frames. It still caused a slight twinge to see Ginny waving out from it, every time he passed. He wondered, not for the first time, what she would look like now, if she'd be as bustling as her mother was on her daughter's first day of school, if she'd have cried as the Hogwarts Express steamed around the corner out of sight with their son.
Ginny, cry? Somehow he doubted it.
With a fond smile, Harry climbed the rest of the stairs to James's room, which looked rather like someone had turned it upside down and shaken it.
"The short one? Really?" Harry asked, crossing his arms in an approximation of sternness.
"I ran out of good ones," James said, his head and shoulders under his bed as he fished out his tin of Gobstones.
"Well, you can start getting used to calling him 'Professor Longbottom' instead of your little jokes. What did you need?"
James wiggled backwards out from under the bed and looked longingly over at the corner of his room. "I...Dad, can I please bring my broomstick? Maybe they'll–"
"Maybe they'll nothing. Just because I was allowed to play doesn't mean they'll bend the rules again. You're not getting detention your first day because I let you bring a forbidden object." Harry glanced around the room and let out an explosive sigh. "Didn't I tell you to clean this up?"
"I did! I got rid of all the rubbish and the laundry's in the hamper!" James bristled indignantly that his father hadn't recognized his efforts which had taken him a whole half an hour the day before.
"It still looks like your uncle's shop exploded in here. This'll be the first thing you do when you get back for Christmas hols, understood? Are you packed? Good. I'll take this to the car. Locomotor trunk." The trunk jumped to a few inches above the floor and began to follow Harry obediently. "Come on down, I want to leave soon."
Downstairs, Neville was pushing down on the top of his trunk with one knee, attempting to coerce it closed. "Didn't you have that packed last night?"
"That was my research trunk. This one's my teaching trunk." Neville finally slapped the last latch down. "I swear I accumulate more every year."
"Why don't you just leave them in your office over the summer?" Harry asked reasonably. Neville shot him a scandalized look. "Obviously that's a terrible idea. Don't know what I was thinking. Look, are you finished? I have no idea how long it'll take to get to King's Cross."
"Calm down. I'm sure I can secure a teacher's permission for James to arrive late if he misses the train."
"Perhaps, but what if he misses out on meeting the love of his life on the train?" Harry asked teasingly.
"Gross," James quipped as he skipped over the bottom step on his way down.
"I think we were a special case," Neville said wryly. He gestured with his wand and the two overstuffed trunks followed behind him like excited puppies, albeit very large and heavy puppies with sharp corners.
"Dad," James whined, "You promised."
"Oh. Right. Sorry."
"You know this one already, James," Harry pointed out. "I just did it, it's locomotor trunk."
"Yeah, but if I can't call him Dad, he can't do everything nonverbally."
"Both hard habits to break," Neville said, ruffling James's hair. It did not make it appreciably messier. "Come on, Harry's going to explode if we don't go out and admire the Ministry's car."
"That's not–completely off the point–"
Neville winked over his shoulder as he led James out the front door. Sighing in exasperation, Harry followed, James's trunk hovering behind him.
It did not take nearly as long to get to King's Cross Station as Harry had fretted; in fact, it took almost as long to find a parking space, procure two trollies, and push their way through the crowd to platform 9 3/4. Harry was slightly surprised by how enthusiastically James ran at the barrier, though perhaps he shouldn't have been.
By the time Harry and Neville made it through the barrier, James had already found his cousin Dominique; Bill shot Harry and Neville a slightly hassled look as Dominique proceeded to accidentally summon large volumes of smoke as she showed off her wand.
"How long do you think it'll be until their first detention?" Harry asked as he walked within earshot of Bill and Fleur.
"I'd put money on them not having gotten off the train yet," Bill said wearily.
"Tori will make zem be'ave," Fleur pointed out. "And Teddy is not zere zis year to encourage zem."
"Small comfort," Neville said wryly. "James can make trouble sitting alone in an empty room."
"I'm right here," James protested.
"I know," Neville responded. "That's partly why I said it."
The train whistled; students began clamoring aboard, some shaking off parents while others tried to simultaneously get on the train while giving their parents a goodbye hug. Dominique was the former; James, however, fit into neither category.
"Aren't you coming with me?" he asked in a bit of a shock as Neville hugged him goodbye.
"No, just my trunks," Neville said. "I take the Floo network, so I can be there ahead of the train. I have to make sure the dormitory is ready. Usually the Head of House is there the day before the train, if they haven't stayed there all summer."
"Oh." James looked slightly crestfallen. Harry smiled reassuringly at him.
"Don't fret. Nicki's there, and so's Tori, and tons of others you've met already. You're not going to be lonely, trust me." Harry tried very hard to ignore the fact that now school was in session with James attending and Neville the new Head of Gryffindor House, home was going to be very empty–Neville would not be coming home weekends anymore, and the house would be just him until the Christmas holidays. James might not be lonely, but Harry would be.
The train whistled again, and James gave Harry an extra-hard hug before tugging his trunk along behind him onto the train. Harry watched with a sad smile of pride mingled with wistfulness, and was grateful when Neville's hand found his and squeezed tightly.
"Hard to believe," Harry said finally as the train whistled one last time and the last straggling students on the platform hurried to board.
"A little," Neville agreed. "We knew it was coming, though."
Harry nodded, his chest feeling strangely tight as the train lurched forward and began to slowly pull out of the station. There in one of the windows sat James, waving along with Dominique, until the reflection from the lights above obscured his face as the train rolled away.
The car ride home was mostly silent, Harry and Neville lost in their own reveries. Harry had been considering all summer what he was going to do with both Neville and James away; even with the huge load of new responsibilities as Head of the Auror Department, he could not spend all his time at work.
Neville seemed to be thinking along these lines too. "You can come visit, you know," he said into the silence. "Tobias's wife always comes out for the Quidditch games. Maybe you can show the Gryffindor team a thing or two about flying."
Harry laughed. "I haven't been on a broomstick for anything serious for years and you know it. They're not going to want some washed-up old has-been teaching them to fly."
"Harry," Neville pointed out, "Someone in Quality Quidditch Supplies wanted your autograph not three days ago."
"Details," Harry said in what he hoped was a dismissive tone, attempting to hide the tiny bit of smugness the memory brought to him.
The car parked, Harry and Neville descended to the kitchen, where Neville started a fire in the grate and turned to face Harry.
"I mean it," he said. "You can come visit."
"I don't want to crowd James," Harry said finally. "He's already got one dad there all the time."
"Well," Neville said, sounding disappointed, "We can always go to Hogsmeade if you change your mind." He reached out and drew Harry to him, who rested his head against Neville's chest and closed his eyes.
"I'll see you at Christmas," he said, trying to sound cheerful. He knew he wasn't fooling either of them.
After a lengthy, tender kiss of goodbye, Neville stepped into the green flames of the fireplace and was gone.
It was a Wednesday that it happened.
Harry had answered Neville's hastily scrawled note, asking to meet him for a quick lunch after he had acquired some permits to import some plants for his N.E.W.T. class from the ministry, with relish. He'd meet Harry in his office in a half hour's time.
"Sir?" came an inquiring voice at his door. Harry looked up and beckoned Perry in.
"What do you have?" Harry asked.
"Report on the cursed wands. And this." Perry handed over a gold compass with three hands that drifted lazily. "We think it needs more work, it goes haywire even if all it's detecting is simple jinx-level stuff. We don't need to know if someone close has cast a Jelly-Legs within the last year."
"Too sensitive, then?" Harry asked, peering at the compass. "I'll pass it on to the Unspeakables. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to know it works at all." He rose from his desk and checked his watch; he should have time to drop it off downstairs before Neville arrived.
As he strode down the hall to the lifts, however, the grille to the farthest lift opened and Neville stepped out, brow furrowed as he studied a scroll he held unrolled in front of him. He made as though to continue walking down the hall without looking up from the scroll. Harry laughed and snapped his fingers. Neville looked up and his face split into a grin.
"Harry! Where are you going?" Harry's reply had to wait for a moment as they embraced and shared a hasty kiss.
"I have to go downstairs to the Department of Mysteries really quick. I thought you would be longer."
"So did I. Hardly any queue, and I've got somewhat of a reputation among Herbologists, I didn't have to fill out the casual use permit...anyway. I can wait in your office if you've an errand to run first."
"Nah," Harry said, beckoning Neville to follow. "Won't take more than a moment, and then we can be off."
Neville hesitated. "Are you supposed to be taking civilians down into the Department of Mysteries?" he asked.
"I'm not taking you into the Department itself, you'll be waiting by the lift," Harry said as he stepped into the lift. Neville shrugged and followed.
"How is James doing?" Harry asked eagerly; it had been less than three weeks, and he'd received letters, but somehow he got the impression that Neville had slightly more information than James was willing to produce.
"He causes just as much trouble at school as he does at home," Neville said wryly. "I'm fairly certain he's Fred reincarnated. He doesn't act up in my class, of course, but you should hear Tobias and Mags moan. And laugh. Mostly laugh, because they can't when they're setting him detention."
"Are there any complications, having him in your class?" Harry asked. It had been a point of concern he'd had, though Neville had assured him he'd worked everything out with McGonagall.
"Of course not. I've an assistant to grade all the homework, and everyone's fairly certain I'm not showing favoritism when he's up to his elbows in dragon dung just like everyone else." Neville looked with interest at the gold instrument Harry was holding. "What are we dropping off, by the way? If I'm allowed to know?"
Harry held up the compass; the three hands were still drifting with no particular urgency. "It's an experimental Dark Detector they're working on. It's supposed to be able to detect wands that have recently performed Dark magic within your immediate vicinity, but when they had us test it in the field it went haywire..."
"Department of Mysteries," the lift announced, and the grille doors opened. Harry and Neville stepped out.
"It'll be dead useful when they finish it, we'll be able to Apparate directly onto a scene and be able to tell..." he trailed off, and then slowly drew his wand. "Do you hear that?" he asked in a low voice to Neville.
Neville had also drawn his wand, more in response to Harry's sudden vigilant behavior than anything else. He cocked his head to one side. "No," he responded in that same low voice.
"Get behind me," Harry said, and Neville stepped behind him warily. Harry slowly stepped down the corridor toward the door that led to the Department of Mysteries, listened hard for a moment, eyes closed.
Then Neville heard it too, a great ripping sound like a fruit suddenly and forcefully outgrowing its skin.
"Get down!" Harry shouted, throwing himself atop Neville as diamond sparkling light shone piercingly bright around the edges of the door, just before it blew off its hinges.
There was no heat, no sound, just the feeling of a giant concussive wave...
"...we go. That's right. Easy does it...there."
Harry blinked numbly and tried to sit up rapidly, but it seemed as though his legs and arms didn't want to obey.
"Oh no, Mr. Potter, none of that yet," a witch's voice chided. "Calm down, you're in no danger. You're in St. Mungo's, Spell Damage, the Griselda Greenwold Ward, and you're safe." Her eyes flicked over to the space next to him. "So's Professor Longbottom. You were both in an accident at the Ministry."
"What kind of accident?" Harry asked blearily, trying to look over into the next bed. Neville's voice issued from it, also sounding somewhat tremulous.
"There was a mishap with the substance used to make Time-Turners," he said.
"You were stuck in a magical stasis for nearly forty-two hours," the witch–who had to be a Healer–continued. "Wreaked some havoc on both your bodies, it did, but yours most of all. The Professor here has been awake for a few hours, but you took a bit longer to come around."
"How long?" Harry asked, once again trying to sit up. The Healer put a firm hand on his chest to hold him down.
"You both were brought here three days ago, along with all the other victims. No deaths, thank goodness–apparently the closer you were to the accident, the longer you were in stasis–no, I don't understand how it works either, rescue crews got to you within five hours of the accident but you'd clearly been in stasis for much longer..." She shook her head. "Anyway. You'll be experiencing quite a bit of disorientation, possibly some memory problems, for the next few hours, but you should sort yourself out soon. Please don't try to sit up for a while, we don't need you passing out again." She patted Harry on the hand and got up as though to leave. "Oh, and Professor Longbottom–the Headmistress says that you needn't worry about returning to work until the beginning of next week. She said to let you know that Professor Caine has offered to take your classes for you."
Neville sighed. "All the Puffapods will be dried out with that buffoon in charge," he said wistfully. "I don't suppose you lot are going to let me out any sooner than that?"
"I'm afraid not," the Healer said, smiling before closing the door behind her.
There was a heavy silence to the pause. Harry took a deep breath, his mind spinning.
"Neville?" he asked. "This...is going to sound crazy..."
"It's the one where we're married," Neville supplied. "If that helps."
"Oh good," Harry breathed in relief. "I thought it might be, but..." He clenched his eyes tightly shut for a moment before opening them and turning his head to look at the next bed, where Neville was propped up against several pillows, a bandage wound around his forehead. "These other memories...they seem so...real."
Neville nodded. "Like you lived two lives and suddenly it came down to one. I know." He offered Harry a twisted half-smile. "Imagine waking up with no one to tell you which was real. I had no idea if the bloke lying next to me was my husband or not." The smile fell from his face. "I thought I'd gone mad, to be honest."
"I'm still not certain," Harry said dubiously, raising a trembling hand to rub at his eyes.
"Neither of you are mad," a familiar voice said from Harry's other side. Harry's head snapped around so quickly his neck twinged, and he winced.
The portrait hanging on the wall looked as though it normally held a stuffy-looking witch in white medical robes from at least two centuries ago; she looked somewhat affronted that she had been shunted off to the side to make room for the distinguished wizard with long silver hair and beard and half-moon spectacles.
Harry's brow furrowed as something niggled at the back of his mind. "You're not Dumbledore," he said. The portrait bowed his head.
"You are quite right. But you are still not mad, and neither are you, Neville. The memories in both your heads are quite real, because you did live them–in a sense. I think, perhaps, once you recover from your brush with disaster, you'll be able to understand on a much higher level than your spell-addled minds are capable of doing now." The portrait's eyes twinkled. "That is, if you want to. Conveniently forgetting can be arranged."
Bits and pieces were coming back to Harry like dandelion down: his marriage to Ginny, Albus and Lily, birthdays and anniversaries that couldn't possibly have happened, and yet...
And something vague about a flask, a flask with lines...
"Don't try to think about it too hard," Neville advised him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You'll just go cross-eyed." He looked up at the portrait. "Why now, after all these years?"
"This is when it began," the portrait said simply. "Or, rather, three days ago was when it began, but you were lousy conversationalists until just now."
"You keep saying we won't remember anything," he pointed out.
"And you keep believing."
Neville's mouth snapped shut, obviously frustrated. The portrait gave a tiny smirk, then continued.
"There can only be one timeline from this point forward; I believe you both understand that. But should you desire, now that you have played out both versions of your lives...you may choose whether you would like to retain the memories of all you have been through, what could now be considered 'could have been.'"
Harry turned his head to look sharply at Neville; his neck twinged again in the same place. An entire conversation passed between them in a glance, enormous decisions passing through their eyes.
The memories were melancholy, if not downright painful. "I could have had a daughter," Harry whispered unnecessarily. Neville nodded. "And...watched her..." his mind shied away from the image of blood and terror.
"Can you make them not so real?" Neville asked abruptly, tearing his eyes away from Harry's and looking up at the portrait.
"Why?" The portrait looked genuinely confused.
"Because this is what's real," Neville said, reaching out across the space between the beds to grasp Harry's hand. "What we're living now, this is real." He glanced at Harry. "I don't want to confuse the two."
Harry swallowed, suddenly very thirsty. "Yes," he agreed. "I don't want to forget...because going back and doing what we did...that's part of us. But our lives before that?" He carefully shook his head. "They may have happened...but we were different people then. Not who we are now."
"Interesting," the portrait mused, then smiled and nodded in acquiescence. "It will be as you wish." And the image of Dumbledore stepped sideways out of the portrait, the ancient witch in Healer's robes shuffling back to the center self-importantly.
Harry turned his head back to face Neville, who smiled and squeezed his hand once before letting go.
"We did what we had to do before," he said quietly. "We ended up together because it was what we had to do."
"No," Harry disagreed. "We did what we had to do, and ended up together because what we had to do and what we wanted to do ended up being the same thing, in the end." He smiled up at the ceiling. "Tell me," he asked, echoing a memory from years ago, "Would you have it any other way?" He looked over at Neville, who smiled.
"Of course not."
The door to the ward opened and a black-robed, brown-haired bullet shot toward their beds.
"McGonagall–brought me," James gasped. "Said you were both awake, finally. Let me come." His eyes were wide. "Is it true you were actually in an explosion?"
"Of sorts," Harry said, ignoring the Healer's instructions and pushing himself into a sitting position so he could hug his son. "We're okay, though, so don't worry."
"I wasn't," James lied boldly. He released Harry and threw his arms around Neville. "There's like a billion people waiting to see you, but they let me in first."
"Good," Neville said, tousling James's hair. "I don't think that 'like a billion' people could fit in here." James rolled his eyes at his father's straight-faced mocking.
"Anyway. They're all waiting their turns. I...just wanted to make sure you're okay."
Harry shot a look at Neville. "They can wait," he said firmly. "Let's be a family for just a little while longer before the circus starts."
James raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue. He reached out to either side to grab the hands of both his dads, and they tiredly squeezed back.
They'd have to face the world again, eventually. They'd have to come to terms with the sudden load of memories in their heads, reconcile the differences, and continue on with life as they knew it.
But for now, they could be with their son, and each other, and forget the world. For now, everything was okay.
And so ends Lost In Revision.
Before you point out the many plot holes and canon errors to me, rest assured I know about them, and as I go through and edit everything I'll smooth them out. It may interest some of you to know that you are essentially reading this in real time: as soon as I finish a chapter, I will post one. Usually I am only 2 chapters ahead of what I've posted, and as such, sometimes things happen in later chapters that I had no idea were going to happen in previous ones, and sometimes particular plot pieces just fall apart. Yes, you are reading first drafts. If you think they're wonderful first drafts, then great–it means I'm not as terrible as my Inner Editor seems to think I am. If you think they are terrible then that's okay, because they're first drafts and they're meant to be rubbish, and they'll only get better.
I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has left reviews for this piece, which is far and away my favorite. In particular I'd like to thank Nishigirl, who has disabled private messaging and so I cannot thank her privately for all her wonderful, insightful, and helpful reviews. Far from rambling, they were very rewarding to see and I hope I'll be able to produce far more writing for you to review in such a manner.
Sadly, I am going to be taking a short break from fic for the month of November; NaNoWriMo is around the corner and it's the time of year when I write something original (and considering that Lost in Revision itself has broken 60,000 words, I'm sure that I'll have no problem meeting the 50,000 word goal in 30 days). Rest assured it will not be a complete break; I do have a lovely piece in the works, as well as several one-shots, that I've been holding back for just this occasion and I'll be posting them during November, albeit on a much longer update schedule than you've grown used to.
Should anyone actually care to read the original fiction I'll be producing (read: pulling out of my ass) this year, a steampunky mystery adventure involving a dashing adventurer bandit, his plucky intellectual sidekick, and the inevitable Love Interest, my pen name on FictionPress is Jillian Rivers.