Posted: 1 February, 2013

Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story that is recognisable from the Harry Potter books, movies, etc. Everything else however (eg. story plot, original characters, etc.) stems from my own imagination and belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended and I am not profiting financially from this story in any way.

Summary: An unexpected find in the attic of Grimmauld Place changes the course of Harry's life. Except not, because it's not this Harry who'll be affected. Rather, everything is about to change for another Harry, from long ago and far away.


06: Christmas Holidays

"Mr Potter," McGonagall said, looking up in surprise from what seemed to be a stack of homework, mid-marking. "Why are you not off enjoying your free time, like the other holiday boarders?"

"I was hoping to speak to you about some things," he said. "But, it might take a while and you look a bit busy. Can I maybe make a time to see you later?"

"No need," she said, putting down her marking quill and setting aside the homework papers. "To be frank, I appreciate the excuse to put this work off a little longer. I suspect my seventh year Hufflepuffs all decided to complete their homework the night before leaving, while drunk from their end of term celebrations."

"Hufflepuffs?" Harry blurted out incredulously.

"Oh, don't let their harmless reputation fool you," she said with a rare, albeit wry smile. "Hufflepuffs are generally the friendly house, but they're not timid. They tend to extend their friendliness to fun, music and liquor. Professor Sprout has quite a time keeping them in line."

"Ah yes," James mused in a dreamy and reminiscent way. "I remember in sixth, Sirius and I cadged an invite to a Hufflepuff post-Quidditch celebration—they'd just creamed the Slytherin team as I recall. I don't think I've ever been to such a wild party, or ever gotten as drunk as I did that night."

"Oh," Harry said, a bit dumbly. Then he laughed a little. "Well, that'll teach me to judge a book by its cover."

"Or a student by their crest," McGonagall said and he nodded. "So, what can I do for you Mr Potter?"

"Right, well you see—"

"Just follow the plan we agreed on Harry," Lily urged. "If the conversation drifts off track we'll help you bring it back around."

"Yes?" McGonagall asked, staring at him a bit impatiently overtop her glasses. "Well, spit it out."

"I was hoping you could tell me some about my parents." The words tumbled out quickly and Harry watched at the woman visibly stilled, then looked a bit teary. "If you don't mind, that is."

"Of course not," she said, though her voice was a bit heavy with emotion. "I didn't know them personally you understand. Well, I did know them personally and was fond of them, but we were hardly close friends."

"But you were their Head of House. You taught them Transfiguration."

"Yes, I was, I did. So I might be able to answer some of your questions."

"Remember, start out general or else old Min will suspect a motive right off," James warned.

"Your father speaks from experience of course," Lily said dryly.

"What were they like?" Harry asked.

"Well, brilliant the both of them," McGonagall said a bit wistfully. "Some of the brightest I've ever taught. You do quite well in my class Mr Potter, in all your wand classes in fact, from what I've heard. Your father though, he had a particular knack for Transfiguration like few others. And he was quite decent at Defence too, I believe, and could incorporate the two very effectively."

"Aw Min," James cooed, fluttering his eyes. "Stop with the compliments—you'll make me blush!"

Harry, in an effort to stem his laughter, asked, "What about mum? What was she good at?"

"Professor Flitwick would rave about her Charms work. Said she was a natural of immense skill. And Professor Slughorn—he was the Potion teacher at the time—complimented her brewing abilities as well. And of course, both did quite well in all of their subjects. Not surprising for your mother, since she was a studious sort, but certainly unexpected for your father."

"Why's that?"

"Let's just say he was a mischievous youth," McGonagall said, her tone suggestive of massive understatement.

"A trouble-maker, huh?"

"Of the highest degree," she sighed. "A trickster and a prankster, and forever breaking rules." Then she pinned Harry with a stern look. "I do expect that this information will not be seen as inspiration to take up trouble-making yourself though, Mr Potter."

"No ma'am," he quickly promised. "What about their friends? Were they popular or loners?"

"They were both quite popular. Your father was on the Quidditch team, a brilliant chaser, and Captain eventually too, all of which netted him many admirers. And your mother was brilliant, beautiful, kind and engaging, which made her popular as well. Lily, as I recall, was friendly with a wide circle of people, but only really close friends with—well, just the one by the time she left Hogwarts, Dorcas Meadows, another Gryffindor girl in her year." McGonagall faltered then.

"Professor, are you alright?"

"Fine, Mr Potter."

"Ask her what happened to Dorcas," Lily said quietly. "It'll get her opening up about more sensitive topics." She wrinkled her nose. "Though, I hate manipulating her like this."

"We need the information," James reminded, wrapping an arm around Lily's waist.

"What happened to her?" Harry asked, then as McGonagall hesitated, added, "Do you think she'd mind if I wrote her, to ask some questions about mum?"

"Ah, no, that won't be possible." McGonagall sighed, removing her glasses for a moment to dab at her eyes. "She too died in the war you see, not long before your—your parents did."

"Oh," Harry said quietly.

"You-Know-Who himself came for her," the professor said quietly, almost to herself, before seeming to come back to her senses. "Well, she was a brave and brilliant witch, and was sorely missed by all, especially your parents. I understand they were quite close even after Hogwarts—they named her your godmother, you know."

"Aha!" James shouted, and Harry struggle not to react by jumping in surprise. "Quick Harry, it's the perfect opening. Ask about your godfather."

"Godmother? I didn't know I ever had one. What about a godfather? Do I have one of those as well?"

McGonagall visibly faltered. "I—well you see—ah, well—it's rather complicated," she stammered.

"Professor?"

"I'm not sure it would be appropriate to say."

"You're not sure it would be appropriate to say whether I have a godfather," Harry stated flatly, making sure his expression was one of confused disbelief. "Can I ask why you can't say? Since it's fairly obvious, given you didn't just say no, that I do have one."

"Oh dear, this is—well, as I said it's complicated and—are you quite sure you want to know?"

"Of course I—"

"Mr Potter," she interrupted, looking at him piercingly over her glasses, and stating very seriously, "the war was a terrible time, and terrible things happened. The answer to your question is not easy, is indeed complicated, and you may well prefer not to know."

"I'd prefer to know," Lily huffed. "Sirius isn't with us, we're pretty sure, so we need to know why he didn't raise you like he promised."

"We need to know," James agreed seriously. "I can't imagine Sirius not being in your life at all, not willingly. There are worse fates than death, and if Sirius was—Voldemort had the support of the Dementors you know and—please, just get her to explain Harry."

"I want to know," Harry said with certainty.

Twenty minutes later, Harry left his Head of House's office, headed down the corridor, and entered the first abandoned classroom he could find. After casting the usual Muffliato Charm, he turned the ring on his finger and called his parents names.

"I'm sorry I sent you both away," he blurted before either could begin to tell him off. "But you were both being so loud and all, that I couldn't concentrate and I was scared I'd give you and me away to McGonagall, and then I might lose the ring and never see you again and—"

"Harry," Lily interrupted, as any anger faded from both hers and James' stances. "It's okay, we understand. We should have had better control. We're sorry we made it difficult for you."

"We are," James agreed. Then he sighed, and made a defeated sound burying his face in his hands. "I just can't believe—how could anyone possibly think—Azkaban Lily!"

"I know," she said, looking tearful.

"This is all our fault. We didn't tell anyone else who the real secret keeper was, so of course they thought it was Sirius. We knew everyone would think it was him—that was the whole idea behind the plan."

"James, we couldn't have predicted Peter being clever enough to manage to frame Sirius before Sirius took him down. It must have looked very bad, with Peter's words, then Peter dead, along with the twelve others in the bargain."

"You can't be suggesting Sirius actually killed those Muggles?" James said angrily.

"James," Lily said carefully, "you know I have faith in Sirius—I wouldn't have agreed to make him Harry's godfather otherwise—but you have to admit he's hot-headed and doesn't always think things through."

"Lily," James said quietly, staring her directly in the eye, keeping his tone forcibly calm. "Sirius didn't kill those Muggles."

She stared back for a long moment. "Okay," she finally said with a nod. "I trust you to know him best."

"Thank you." James sighed then. "The problem is, since Sirius didn't do it, who did?"

"Maybe—"

"What?"

"Well, what if Peter did?"

"You think Peter blew himself up?"

"He proved cleverer than we gave him credit for," Lily said, "but I don't think his reputation as a less than gifted wizard can have been entirely faked. Is it really so unbelievable that he could have tried a spell beyond his capabilities and had it backfire on him, taking out innocent bystanders and missing his real target in the process?"

"I—" James paused to consider. "It does seem like a possibility."

Harry, who had been watching the conversation silently, finally spoke up. "Does it really matter?" he asked. At their questioning looks, he explained, "Does it really matter how it all happened, and if it was Peter screwing up? I mean, isn't the more important question how Sirius was found guilty of it all—Peter, the Muggles, and betraying us. Didn't one of you once mention that the wizarding world had truth serum? Don't they use that sort of thing in court?"

"Veritaserum," Lily said. "And that's a very good point. Plus there are other options like Pensieve memories."

"Pensieve memories?"

"A Pensieve is a device wizards can use to view memories," James explained. "Like Veritaserum there are ways to get around the truth using memories, but it's usually a lot more convincing than the potion because false memories are—well, it's blatantly obvious if a memory has been faked."

"But with both these options for questioning," Lily wondered, "how did the truth not come out in his trial?"

"Well," James said thoughtfully, "a lot of Death Eaters seem to have gotten off, so maybe the Wizengamot wasn't doing its job very well?" he suggested, though he didn't sound as if he'd convinced even himself.

"Ron said that his dad told him that the Death Eaters who got off claimed Imperius and bribed their way free," Harry said. "So isn't that a different situation? It's not like Sirius would have bribed the Wizengamot to find him guilty."

"Unless someone else did it," James said in a tone of enlightenment.

"No," Lily disagreed. "I mean it's not impossible, but even with a bribe, there needs to be room for doubt. The Death Eaters had Imperius as an excuse, but once Sirius had admitted his innocence under Veritaserum, or provided his memory of the incident, it would be too difficult to deny."

"Unless he didn't take either of those options?"

"Why wouldn't he have? That would be the first thing I'd request in his situation."

"From what Professor McGonagall said," Harry ventured, "Sirius wasn't exactly in his right mind at the time. I guess, probably, because he'd just lost you both and everything and—"

"It must have been like his whole world had fallen apart," James said heavily. "We were as good as brothers and just he'd lost me, and Lily too. And then Peter was dead, even if he was a traitor." He nodded. "I can see why he might not have been thinking clearly."

"It was a traumatic time," Lily agreed. "If they were swift with the trial, Sirius mightn't have had time to recover his senses."

"So we're agreed then, that he probably didn't get tested with Veritaserum or provide his memories?" Harry asked and his parents nodded. "So then, does that give us an in? Since none of those methods were used at his trial, can we ask for another one to have him questioned properly?"

"Maybe—"

"No," James interrupted. "That's not how wizarding law works. A retrial can only be called if a case is reopened, and a case can only be reopened if there's significant new evidence."

"Well," Harry said as the following glum silence stretched too long, his tone one of determination, "I suppose we'll just have to find some new evidence, won't we?" Then he ducked his head a little at the surprised and proud looks his declaration earned him. "So, ah—so what should be our first step?"

"Well, what sort of evidence might they have missed?" James mused.

"No, no, the first thing we need is the trial records," Lily asserted. "There's no point looking for evidence when we don't know what evidence was already presented."

"Ah, my fair Lily-flower's brilliance shines again," James said, light-hearted for the first time since McGonagall's terrible revelation. "You'll need to write to the head of the DMLE Harry. I'm not sure who that'll be though. Last I knew it was Barty Crouch."

"There's a book that used it be in the library when I went to school, and should hopefully still be there. A Guide to the Ministry, I think it was called. It's mostly blatant propaganda, but it also lists the employees of the major positions. It's self-updating too, so it should tell you the current minister, undersecretary, heads and deputy heads of department, key Wizengamot figures—things like that," Lily explained. "It'll definitely have the head of the DMLE."

"Right, let's go then," Harry said, taking down the anti-eavesdropping spell and heading for the library.

..ooOOoo..

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Scotland, United Kingdom (Unplottable)

24 December 1991

Madam Amelia Susan Bones, Head of DMLE
Ministry of Magic for Britain and Northern Ireland
London, England, United Kingdom

Dear Madam,

I write requesting a copy of the records pertaining to the trial of current Azkaban convict, Mr Sirius Orion Black. I believe he was captured within a few days subsequent to 31 October 1981, but am unsure of the exact date of the trial. I expect this rough timescale and his name will be sufficient to identify of whom I speak.

I realise that trial records are not available to just any person who asks for them. The reason for my request lies in my relation to the prisoner, Mr Black. Specifically, I am his godson and, to my knowledge, his designated heir. I believe this is sufficient authorisation according to the law.

My preferred method of delivery for the records would be that they are owled to me at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where I currently attend.

Most respectfully,
Harry James Potter

..ooOOoo..

Harry looked down at the letter. He wasn't sure whether he thought it pretentiously overformal, or that it showed him in a mature light. Either way, his parents had been insistent that it was appropriate, having dictated it to him word for word.

A barn owl, one of those belonging to the school, chose that moment to appear at the nearest window. Harry blinked, surprised for a moment, before shaking the oddity off. He'd come to realise that owls, unbeknownst to Muggles, possessed powers of uncanny intuition and intelligence. He wasn't sure if this was natural or the result of magic and spells cast on them by wizards. Either way it was often useful, especially as they occasionally chose to appear unexpectedly when they were needed.

Before approaching the bird, Harry paused and quickly looked around.

"Don't worry, the crone lost interest in staring suspiciously at you about ten minutes ago. She must've decided you weren't here to deface her precious books after all. Went back to shelving or dusting or pulling wings off flies or torturing kittens I think—whatever it is she does with her time."

Harry nodded, and moved to the window, opening it. The owl held out a leg for Harry to attach his letter. "This is for Amelia Bones, at the Ministry in London," he told it, then called, "Thanks," as it hooted and winged off southwards towards London.

"James, you need to stop with impertinent nicknames," Lily said, as Harry closed the window and returned to his seat. "One of these days Harry's going to slip up and use one in front of someone, and get himself into a load of trouble."

James, rather than contrite, appeared amused. "Can you imagine the looks on their faces, if Harry actually called McGonagall 'old Min', or Pince 'the crone'? Or—or—" He laughed. "What if he called Snape 'Snivellus'? Merlin, that'd take the git back."

Rather than seeing the humour, Harry paled. "He'd kill me," he said very seriously.

"Oh," James said, sobering suddenly. "Yeah, the bastard just might, huh?"

"Which reminds me," Lily said. "Harry, how have you been going with the formal complaint?"

"Good, I think. I've been keeping track of every time Snape does something horrible, especially to me—though, that's pretty much whenever I'm around him. It's a really long list."

"It's important though. A list of incidents with dates, times and details will bring credibility to our complaint."

"You think it'll be enough?"

"Of course, the evidence speaks for itself."

At the same time, James said, "Maybe—couldn't hurt to stack the deck though."

"James?" Lily said questioningly.

"Well I was thinking, Harry, you're not the only one Snivellus treats like shit, even if you're his favourite target. Why don't you try recruiting some other students into the plan?"

"A group complaint?" Lily said, perking up. "That's actually a very good idea."

"Heck, make it a mass complaint," James said. "Make of scroll for signatures and pass it around the school. I'm sure there'll be loads of students willing to get in on the act."

"Snape would just find out and confiscate it," Harry warned. "And then he'd put me in detention the rest of my life."

"Well, we'll just have to be sneaky about it! And lucky for you, bambi my boy, you have one of the infamous Marauders, purveyors of mischief and mayhem, willing to help you come up with a genius and unassailable plan. And sneaking goes practically hand in hand with mischief making, you know."

"Oh lord." Lily rolled her eyes, as if in exasperation, though she couldn't quite hide her smile. "James is in Marauder mode. Will the school survive?"

..ooOOoo..

When Harry awoke to Ron's shouts on Christmas morning, he was surprised at the pile of presents that awaited him at the foot of his bed. Not because he expected to receive none though, for this year, for the first time in as long as he could remember, he knew he would be receiving gifts from his parents. They had managed this through the complicated method of getting Harry to page through owl order catalogues with his eyes closed, and then to order items by catalogue number, requesting they be gift wrapped and delivered. Thus, he'd expected to see three presents waiting for him, since he had ordered only three for himself, on his parents' behalves—an individual one from each, which they had kept secret even from one another, and a third they'd decided on together. And yet, there were definitely more than that set out for him.

As he sat staring in disbelief, Ron seemed to notice and looked over. The redhead flushed awkwardly when he spotted a certain package.

"Oh no," he groaned, "that lumpy one looks like it's from my mum."

"Your mum?" Harry asked, confused.

"Yeah, I sort of mentioned you weren't expecting anything from your aunt and uncle, so she must have made you a jumper too," Ron explained as he unwrapped his own lumpy package, pulling out a knitted jumper. "Maroon, again. She always forgets I hate maroon," he moped. He brightened up though, as he saw something else at the bottom of the package. "Ah, but her fudge on the other hand is always excellent!"

Harry, eager to open his presents, but having promised his parents to not do so without them, wasted no further time before twisting his ring thrice on his finger with a whisper of their names. His parents appeared and greeted him cheerily and with well wishes. Harry grinned in their direction when Ron wasn't paying attention, but knew better than to try and talk to them with a witness around to wonder at his odd behaviour.

Mrs Weasley had indeed sent him a sweater. It was emerald green with a gold lion stitched on front, a bit too big for him but not by much, and very warm. Lily commented that it was very sweet of the woman. James meanwhile, was more complimentary of the fudge, and jealous that he couldn't have some himself—apparently Mrs Weasley's cooking was legendary among those who'd tasted it, which included the members of the Order of the Phoenix during the war.

There was only one other unfamiliar package in the bunch which, when then newspaper wrapping was removed, revealed a fifty-pence piece from the Dursleys. Lily and James fumed at the casual disregard shown their son, but Harry didn't let it get to him, not when he had real presents this year. Instead, he snorted and rolled his eyes, thinking it very in character for his family to send such a cheap gift, if they were going to bother sending something at all. Besides, he found amusement in Ron's fascination of the coin—apparently he'd never seen Muggle money—and happily let him keep it.

Finally Harry came to the last three gifts.

"Open mine first!" James insisted, practically bouncing with his eagerness. "The Gryffindor coloured one!"

Harry smiled and reached for the red parcel with gold ribbon. With great anticipation, for it was the first time he could remember ever receiving a gift from his parents, he ripped back the wrappings. Inside was a small box, on the front of which was displayed a yellow ball with wings.

"Is that a golden snitch?" Ron gasped in awe.

"It is!" James cheered. "Remember to be the first to touch it though."

"Wow," Ron said. "Better touch it before someone else can."

"So alike," Lily said with amusement, shaking her head.

"Er, why is it important to touch it first?" Harry asked.

"Snitches have flesh memory," James said.

"Because they remember—flesh memories it's called—and after that they tend to hang about their first catcher," Ron explained in an uncharacteristically knowledgeable tone. "It's why the makers and the referee and everyone have to wear gloves when handling them, and after one's been caught it can't be used in a game again."

"You mean that every Quidditch game uses a new snitch?"

"Yep."

"Isn't that a bit—wasteful?"

"Not really. They have to be charmed that way you know, so if there's ever any doubt which Seeker made the catch, the referee can use the snitch to tell for sure. Now, open it already!"

Harry opened the box's lid. Sitting inside was a shiny golden orb, about the size of a walnut, decorated with intricate tracery. He reached in and grabbed a hold of it. A second glance at the packaging box showed simple illustrated instructions on the back. Following these directions, Harry grasped a finger on either side and pressed into the indentations there. There was a pause, and then golden wings unfurled as if from nowhere—though in actuality, they'd been carefully camouflaged amongst the decorative patterns—and the snitch rose into the air. Harry stared as it hovered and, suddenly, zipped away.

"Damn," he said, jumping to his feet. "Did I lose it?"

"Nah, s'like I said 'bout the flesh mem'ries, 'memb'r?" Ron assured him around a mouth-full of fudge. He swallowed before continuing in a clearer tone. "It'll flit about like a normal snitch, but it won't go far from you—not now you've touched it. Should still be nearby somewhere." As if on cue, a blur of gold flickered in the corner of Harry's eyes. Without though, his arm shot out, plucking up the snitch. Ron looked impressed. "Good catch! Maybe when you try out next year, you should go for Seeker."

"I had one myself when I was younger," James said. "It's multifunctional!"

"Multifunctional?" Lily asked.

"Yep. It's good for entertainment, keeping your reflexes up, and most importantly, makes you look extremely cool—just ignore your mother's snort of scepticism there. So, do you like it? Huh, huh, do you?"

"It's brilliant," Harry said with honest feeling, giving his father a sideways look and a grin.

"Mine next then Harry," Lily said. "The red and green."

Harry hesitantly let go of the snitch. After a few seconds, he confirmed that it was indeed zipping about in his general vicinity, and picked up the package that was wrapped in traditional Muggle Christmas colours. It was heavier than the snitch had been, and more flat and rectangular than boxy. Peeling away the paper revealed two books inside—one was thick and the other less so. Once all the wrapping was removed he inspected them more closely. The thicker one was titled Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. The other was A Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry.

"Remember how when we first learned you were a Parseltongue, and I talked about maybe checking my line to see if I had some squib ancestor? Well, we figured that you might like to do some research along those lines, and not just on my side. Learn about your family history and all."

"That heavy one's pretty well-known in pureblood circles," James said, peeking over Harry's shoulder to inspect the gifts himself. "It's the most detailed record of the pureblood wizarding families since—I'm not sure how early it goes exactly, but centuries and centuries ago at least. Good choice Lily."

"I know," she said smugly. "The other, Ancestry, is like it says—a guide to researching your genealogy. It has some tips, and references some books, like Natures Nobility, as well as certain ministry records like for births and marriage and how to go about getting that information. But it also contains some magic—potions, rituals, spells and all—that can be used to determine your family tree. I remember looking over it when I was considering tracing mine and found it fascinating, though as you know I never got around to it."

"Wow," Harry said with a small smile, quite liking the idea of learning about his family and where he'd come from.

"Hey, when you look at your Potter side, I'll tell you some family stories your granddad told me," James said with a grin. "There's this really funny one about your great-great uncle and an incident with a hag and a Veela."

"Are you sure it's entirely appropriate?" Lily asked through narrowed eyes.

"Of course," James said with a look of utmost innocence, which was of course so out of place on his face that he was not believed for a moment.

"Open your last present Harry," Lily said, finally turning her suspicious glare away from her husband.

Harry turned to his last gift, the combined present from both his parents, which was wrapped in white and silver. In quick order he had it too unwrapped, to reveal another box, this one larger than his first two had been. When he removed the lid he gasped in surprise at the contents. Inside was what he could best describe as a fluffy custard-coloured ball. The shocking part though was that as light entered the box, a pair of eyes appeared among the fur, blinking sleepily awake and looking up at him.

"Give him a little of your fudge Harry," Lily suggested.

He did so, reaching in with a cautious hand, and made a noise of surprise when a long thin tongue suddenly shot out from a barely visible snout, curling around the piece of fudge and pulling it back to eat. The creature seemed quite pleased with the offering as it gave a literal purr of contentment and hopped awkwardly out of the box, moving to snuggle up in Harry's lap. Without realising it, a smile had found its way onto Harry's lips at the actions of the odd but endearing creature.

"What is it?" he wondered aloud.

"A Puffskein," James said, grinning proudly at Harry's obvious delight.

"What's what?" Ron asked at the same time, looking over. "Oh hey, you got a Puffskein. Cool. We used to have one when I was younger, but then the twins used it for beater practice one time—"

"What?" Harry gasped, unconsciously cradling the creature in his lap protectively.

"Oh, it was fine," Ron said dismissively. "Didn't hurt it or anything. But Fred—or was it George—got a bit overenthusiastic and sent it flying a bit far. Never could find it again."

"They are remarkably durable," Lily agreed, which reassured Harry somewhat. "It's partly why we thought it would make a perfect first pet for you. They're hardy little things and they'll eat almost anything, from leftovers to spiders, so they really very easy to look after. We thought of getting you an owl but decided this would be better, since you've got school owls available for use already. So, did we pick well?"

"I've always wanted a pet," Harry said, nodding, honestly quite pleased.

"Well, what're you gonna name him?" Ron asked.

"Him? How can you tell?"

"Dunno, looks like a he, don't you think?"

"They're both aren't they?" James asked.

"Hermaphroditic—both male and female," Lily confirmed. "You can use him, her, or it—any and all are correct."

"Looks more like a ball of fluff than a he or she," Harry said to Ron. "But sure, 'he' will do. And as for the name, I'm honestly not sure. I'll have to think about it."

Ron nodded and turned back to his own gifts then. Meanwhile, James seemed to take Harry's words as a request for ideas and began spouting some off. Unfortunately, his suggestions seemed to range from the descriptive but unoriginal, such as 'puff-ball' and 'fluffy-purry-thingy', to the down-right strange, like 'the-custard-mop-with-no-handle' and 'the-pet-who-secretly-wants-to-take-over-the-world-with-its-powers-of-cuteness'.

"Don't listen to him Harry, really," Lily pleaded. "James should not be allowed to name anything. When we got our cat, he insisted on naming it 'razor-kitty-claws-of-doom'. And it stuck. That cat wouldn't answer to anything else. At best I could get away with Claws."

"It was a good name!" James objected. "I'm good at naming!"

"Harry," Lily said gravely. "If your dad had his way and I hadn't stepped in, you would have been named Elvendork Bambi Potter."

Harry paled. "Right, I suddenly love you even more than ever," he said, giving his mother a look of utter gratefulness.

"What was that?" Ron asked, looking over.

"Nothing," Harry said, and his friend turned back to his fudge.

James huffed petulantly. "There is nothing wrong with Elvendork. It's unisex!" Then his expression brightened. "In fact, that'd make it perfect for the fur ball, don't you think?"

Harry just gave his mother a look, as if to say 'and you married him?' She just laughed and kissed her husband's cheek.

"He's just lucky he's cute to make up for it," she said with a smirk.

"Hey!" James said, not looking sure if he should feel offended or flattered.

"Merry Christmas!" two voices yelled.

Harry looked over to the door where the Weasley twins had appeared, dragging a reluctant Percy Weasley between them. All three were clad in knitted sweaters like the ones Harry and Ron wore, and Fred and George's were identical but for the letters stitched on front. Harry watched with some amusement as the pair made some fun of that, joking that their mum thought they couldn't remember their own names, and that of course they knew they were 'Gred and Forge'. Then Harry received compliments for his own 'fine jumper, of strangely familiar style', and after that there was some commotion as the twins proceeded to force their older brother's jumper over his head, knocking his glasses askew, and insisted he sit with them rather than the prefects since Christmas was for family.

"Come on Ron, Harry," said Fred, or was it Forge, or George—Harry wasn't sure.

"The Great Hall awaits!" the other twin finished.

"Hang on, just gotta grab Scabbers," Ron said, grabbing the rat from his pillow before hurrying to follow.

As Harry got up to follow after the group headed to the Great Hall—the twins frogmarching Percy between them, and Ron trailing behind—James gave a very loud cross between a gasp and a choking sound. Harry paused as a look back showed a shocked look on his father's face.

"Dad?" he whispered.

"James?" Lily asked with concern.

Suddenly James seemed to snap to his senses. "Sorry, I swallowed the wrong way," he said sheepishly. "Didn't think spirits could do that."

Harry frowned. The tone and expression seemed perfectly normal, and yet there was something he couldn't quite put his finger on—something that felt off about his father's response.

"Hey, what's keeping you?" Ron asked from the doorway, drawing his attention. "The twins just went out the portrait. If we don't hurry all the good food will be gone!"

"I, ah—" Harry floundered for an excuse before inspiration struck. "I'm not sure what to do with—" He gestured to his new pet.

"You can bring him along if you want, but he's not quite pocket-sized like Scabbers here. He'd be fine on his own though, so long as we close the door."

Harry nodded and set the Puffskein on his bed, making sure it was comfortable and, to be extra sure it wouldn't wander off, surrounded it with a wall of pillows. The creature seemed content with its little nest, and purred, closing its eyes.

"Harry," James said, as he headed for the door. "Why don't you send your mum and me back for now, and call us again later tonight."

Harry nodded. He would never keep them with him longer than they wished, not with knowing how too much of the mortal plane harmed them. And so he sent them a quick smile, received two in return, and released them back into the afterlife. He then followed Ron down to dinner.


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