"Who said anything about panicking?" snapped Arthur. "This is still just the culture shock. You wait till I've settled down into the situation and found my bearings. Then I'll start panicking."
- Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
London was much as Harry had expected it to be.
It wasn't any different from its counterpart in his world; it was still just as crowded and the air was just as smoggy. He could practically smell everything being cooked, thrown out and burnt within a two-mile radius. It all mingled together with the breaths of a thousand scurrying people, rising up into a grey sky. The weather was muggy, the moisture in the air clung uncomfortably to the skin and every now and then they were treated to small showers of rainfall.
Basically, just a typical English summer.
He looked down at the pavement, only to see the same gum stained streets he might have seen in his own world. He looked around and saw the same hurried expressions of a drone of London business workers. An attractive blonde woman wearing a formal business suit ran passed them with a pair of bright, yellow trainers on her feet. A quick glance at the small tog bag she carried over her shoulder and Harry had the feeling she was carrying her heels in there for her arrival at work. Next, he found himself staring at a harried looking man arguing on a mobile phone. Vernon Dursley had one much like it, a thick, grey rectangular device with an antenna sticking out the top. He wondered why they carried about the contraptions; they looked too big to be easily moved about.
Harry smirked a little in amusement at the thought as he recalled his own lack of interest in muggle technology since learning of his magical heritage. He hadn't watched a lot of television as a child – Dudley was usually the only person who could decide the channels anyway – and during the past few years, it had just seemed a pointless pass time. He had only been on a computer a few times during primary school and had never in his life used a mobile phone. He had little desire to keep up with muggle technology either. Although admittedly, he preferred the muggle means of transportation to Flooing and Sidelong Apparation, (his experience that morning holding onto Remus' arm still had him feeling green). For most other things, magic worked just as well and was far more interesting.
It was strange to think how far he had come since then.
Harry followed the Marauders, his eyes darting around half expecting everything to be different or for someone to recognize him immediately. But people hardly spared the four a glance. He wasn't sure what he had thought would happen, but even he had been nervous about the outing. He just hadn't wanted to be treated like some errant child. He'd had enough of that from the Order and since he was trapped in a place where no one knew him, he thought he might have a taste of freedom. But somehow, he doubted it. For all their differences to the men in his world, there was something inherently similar about Lupin and Sirius' expressions when they were hiding something. Unlike his Siruis though, this one didn't seem to be battling to tell him anything. He had looked for the same thing in James, but wasn't entirely certain about the man's character. Still, there was definitely something those other two knew that he didn't, and he did not like that.
He felt a bit awkward having these men purchase clothing for him and had attempted to find the cheapest things on the rack. Lupin had stopped him immediately - particularly after he had pulled out a shirt coloured a rather putrid shade of orange. He now carried in a large paper bag several pairs of trousers and jeans with a range of shirts to go with them. James had bought him a pair of trainers as well, as Harry only had his leather school shoes.
He kept stealing glances at James. It was hard not to, in the broad daylight of a busy street, he could finally see what people were talking about. He did look just like his father. Not just in looks but also in the way he moved. Harry could detect the slightest hint of wariness in James' step, the way he avoided the gazes of strangers without looking down, and the manner that said he was carrying a burden and wasn't going to show it. Harry was all too familiar with the feeling.
He was surprised to recognize it in someone else.
No wonder Hermione's always worrying, he thought with a grumble, I probably look like a train wreck waiting to happen.
Thoughts of Hermione brought back thoughts of home and how he should be there. He wondered what was happening there right now. The Order was probably in a panic and he didn't even want to think about what his godfather would do when he found out Harry had just disappeared. He could only hope to God that the man didn't run off and get himself killed. He had been so restless this past year, what if he took this as an excuse to leave Grimmauld's?
Harry tried not to think about it.
He just had to get through today.
Looking up, he found Lupin and James having a small argument in hushed tones. Sirius had sidled up beside Harry and was rolling his eyes in bemusement. Frowning, Harry turned his attention to what they were saying, it wasn't hard as, with every passing second, their argument became louder and louder.
"-we're here now, we might as well go," Lupin argued.
"We're not going into Diagon Alley," James protested immediately, "There's absolutely no need to!"
"We already bought him clothes," James' voice sounded desperate, "It's a bad idea Remus, what if someone recognizes him!"
"No one knows who he is!" Lupin sounded exasperated, "We have to take him to Ollivanders-"
"How do you know we can trust him?"
"We're going to have to," Lupin sounded dead serious, "We can't get passed Wand Registration without him. Besides, he will help."
Wand Registration? Harry frowned, unsure of what they meant. He knew his wand was registered because he was a minor, but it hadn't flown up anything since he had been in this world. He had assumed it was because he didn't exist.
Casting a glance at Sirius' unconcerned expression, Harry guessed he at least knew what the two were talking about. Not for the first time that year, Harry felt completely left out of the loop.
"What's Wand Registration?" he asked Sirius.
The dog animagus turned a surprised glance his way.
"You don't have it in your world?" his voice sounded tentative.
Harry shook his head, frowning.
"Is it something to do with being underage?"
"No," Sirius' expression darkened, "It's an act that was passed several years ago, it requires all Muggle-borns to register their wands with the Ministry upon leaving Hogwarts for a further period of five years. The Ministry is aware at all times of their location and what spells they are using."
Harry's eyes widened.
"Only Muggle-borns?" he asked, aghast, "That's blatant discrimination!"
"Extremely blatant," his godfather's counterpart agreed stodgily, "Some of the more radicals tried to have half-bloods placed on there too, but thankfully there was enough protest to the bill itself to silence them. Barmy old loons."
Harry felt strong indignation and anger building up within him. It reminded him increasingly that although Voldemort was a huge problem, he was not the root cause of all the bigotry and discrimination within the wizarding world itself. In his mind all he could see were Malfoy's sneers and the Toad's spiteful eyes. He had certainly not been missing them.
"How did they get away with it?" he asked aloud without really intending to.
Thus he was surprised when Sirius answered.
"If you ask me, after Lily's false imprisonment," he said sadly, "It was easy."
Before Harry could respond, Sirius had stridden several steps forward to catch up with James and he was left, lagging behind. Closing his eyes against the image of Dementors, his mother's pale face and the memory of her screams, Harry took a deep breath. When he opened them again, he found himself staring into James' eyes; the man had stopped to wait for him.
Feeling his cheeks heat up, Harry quickly scrambled to catch up with the Marauders, breaking eye contact. Surprisingly, James shot him a small smile, almost making Harry give a start. He swallowed hard, still unsure of what to make of the man and sidled up to Lupin.
James Potter knew there was something he had been forgetting.
When he remembered what it was, he felt an icy sharpness in his stomach and he almost forgot to breathe. His thoughts had been so consumed with concern for Harry's little 'outing' into society, that he had forgotten to ask Sirius for any news from Severus Snape. The Potions Master had not been in contact with them since the day after Harry's appearance in this world, apart from a brief fire message in which he had taken possession of the summoning spell and practically told them to leave him to his work.
James didn't like being told what to do.
The summoning spell had backfired, true, but if he had been focusing on the right thing, maybe it could still work. And James was not about to abandon an idea that might lead to Lily's release. Their other ideas had all met brick walls. It seemed so simple to break into Azkaban, but compared to getting out again, it was near impossible. The sensory abilities of the Dementors may not be full proof, but they still kept the head count inside the prison's walls under constant surveillance. The problem was distracting them from that long enough to break Lily out and not raise any alarms.
That was the trick.
They needed time to get out of Azkaban and into hiding without anyone being the wiser. They also needed secure alibis for Remus and Sirius. James had no qualms about becoming a fugitive, but he had flat out refused to let his best friends do the same. He knew that, unlike him, each of his friends had carved out lives that certainly did not revolve around James and his problems. Although they had offered, tried to insist really, he would have none of it. James knew he would be the first suspect in Lily's escape and be followed very closely by his friends.
That was why the summoning spell was so temptingly perfect. If they didn't even have to go near Azkaban, all three of them could be sure to be seen 'publically' around the time of Lily's escape, which would hopefully give any search parties a moments pause whilst they relocated her somewhere safe.
After that the plan was simple; keep her hidden until the heat died down then leave the country.
With a humourless smile, James wondered what South Africa was like this time of year.
He glanced at Harry as they walked through the streets of London. The boy had been a little green after his Sidelong Apparation that morning and even after all the shopping they had already done, was still looking uneasy. He briefly wondered if being bought clothing embarrassed Harry. Which was ridiculous, of course, they were the ones who had stranded him here, so the least they could do, would be to make sure he had something to wear. Still, he had been reluctant and flushing all morning, an interesting sight after the angry, brooding fifteen-year-old James had come to know over the past few days. Remus was speaking to him quietly and Harry was nodding absently, his mind apparently on other things. James could only wonder. He had no idea what to do with an irritable teenager and decided to leave Remus to the job.
"Padfoot," James said softly, sidling up to his friend, "I haven't asked, but has Snape sent you any messages?"
Sirius, who had been grinning in a rather troubling way, suddenly snapped his blue eyes to James. They looked oddly sad and James had a bad feeling he wasn't going to like Sirius' answer.
"Remus hasn't told you?" the dog animagus asked carefully.
James shook his head.
"Bullocks," his friend muttered, checking to see that Harry wasn't listening and then slowing his pace, making James drop back a bit with him.
"Remus got an owl from him yesterday," Sirius' face looked grim, "He…tested the spell on several rats."
"And?" James couldn't keep the hopeful tremor from his voice.
Sirius looked away.
"They all died James," he licked his lips, "He said he'd try it on something larger, but if it won't even work on rats…"
"Ah," that explained why Remus hadn't told him then, "What about sending Harry back?"
"There's no obvious way but," Sirius shifted uncomfortably, "James, you don't really want to use a spell on Harry that could potentially…well you know."
"Kill him," James breathed, images of his little boy's unmoving body flittered into his mind and he suppressed a shudder, "No, we can't do that. But, why did he survive the summoning in the first place?"
"Maybe the spells only meant to summon things from other worlds?" Sirius shook his head, "I just don't know James. We don't have anyway to test if a reversal would even work and…argh! Well there just has to be some other way."
And more time taken to find it.
Damn it! Another brick wall!
"Does Harry know yet?" he asked quietly.
Sirius gave him a surprised look.
"No," he said slowly, "Not yet."
James pursed his lips. It was tempting to wash his hands of the boy, let Remus and Sirius continue to deal with him, but that didn't feel right. Yet, they'd hardly spoken to each other the past few days and James was certain Harry didn't like him. They had no connection.
"I'll tell him," he said so quietly, it may have been a whisper.
Sirius raised an eyebrow.
"You will?" he questioned.
"He hates me already, might as well be the one to give the bad news," James chuckled flatly.
His friend sent him a sharp look.
"He doesn't hate you," Sirius said quietly, "He just doesn't know how to act. You're dead to him and when he goes back, he'll have to face that again."
This had crossed James' mind before, but when someone else said it out loud, it just made it seem all the more real. He had to be careful how he acted towards Harry; it was just another reason not to get too close to the boy.
And now they had to find another way to send Harry home.
He felt like he was doing a juggling act, in one hand he had Lily, in the other was Harry and riding piggyback was a ten-ton mountain troll trying to whack them out of the air.
"I'm an idiot," he muttered, "I don't even know how long he's been without a dad."
"Why don't you ask him?" Sirius suggested with a small smile.
James blinked owlishly. Ask him? Was it that simple?
"Is that a good idea?"
"I don't know James," Sirius said, clapping him on the back, "Why don't you tell me?"
He walked past James and as his hand left his back, he could feel something release inside of him. James stood for a long time, just staring at the retreating backs of his friends and Harry. His eyes especially went to the back of Harry's head.
Just ask him.
All he had to do was ask Harry.
So why was he so afraid?
Diagon Alley certainly hadn't changed that much, and James irritably wondered why his friends seemed to think he had been missing out on something by not coming here. He was sure he'd been here since Lily's imprisonment; he just hadn't been…paying attention.
The twisting, cobble stoned streets were familiar beneath his feet and for a split second he was a child again, holding his mother's hand and trying to drag her off to the Quidditch shop. Years later, he had been the one dragging his small son there, only to be tugged away to get ice cream a moment later. Lily would grin in amusement and reassure him that their boy was very probably going to be just as much of a Quidditch fan as James when he was older. He'd pretend to look hurt and smear a little of his ice cream on her nose whilst she giggled and tried to get away. Little Harry would cheer him on.
The memory faded, leaving James nothing but a dull ache in his chest. He glanced again at the Harry walking not too far in front of him now and found himself smiling a little as he recalled the breakfast conversation they'd had only a few days before. Lily had been right in the end, his boy did end up liking Quidditch.
The last thought almost stopped him in his tracks. His boy? James was getting tired of these conflicting emotions.
They made their way though the street, Remus was still talking to Harry and Sirius was listening in on their conversation. James had lost track of it sometime ago and was now just blindly following them. He had Harry's shopping shrunk and was carrying it around in his pocket, trying not to look too sulky at Tom's reaction to seeing him when they had passed through the Leaky Cauldron, or Sirius' clear look of 'I told you so.' Maybe he did need to get out more often.
It wasn't long before they reached Ollivander's and he was quickly suppressing all previous thoughts and emotions behind. Now was the time to concentrate after all.
The store was just as James remembered it the first time he had entered the establishment as a boy. He had been with his father at the time, could still recall his nervousness, and unbridled excitement at the prospect of his first wand.
The door clinked as they entered the familiar, dusky looking shop. It didn't take long before the strange gaze of one Mr. Ollivander greeted them.
"Hello, hello," he enthused, stepping out into the light, "Now let me see here! Remus Lupin is it? Thirteen inches, ash and a unicorn tail hair! Excellent combination, nice and sturdy, perfect for finesse. Sirius Black, hmmm, let me see…ten inches, oak and dragon heartstring…ah yes, a nice all rounder!"
His gaze brushed over Harry for a moment, before swiveling to James.
"Ah yes, James Potter," the older gentleman smiled toothily, "Eleven inches, mahogany, I believe, good, pliable wand, excellent for transfiguration! From what I hear, you've been putting it to very good use."
As all three men nodded in wordless unison, never certain how the man could remember such things, Ollivander had returned his gaze to Harry.
"And you young man?" he tilted his head to the side quizzically, "I do not believe I know you, but it seems like…hmm, yes…I wonder…"
He was about to turn his back on them to disappear behind his counter when Remus had the good thought to stop him.
"Mr. Ollivander!" he called out, "Wait! We actually came here needing your help. Um…you remember at Hutch's funeral, you said if I ever needed anything…"
He let the statement hang.
James glanced at his friend sharply, as indeed were Sirius and Harry, curiosity as burning as his own in their gazes. Who the hell was Hutch? Remus did not look at them though, his eyes was firmly planted on Ollivander. The wand maker had a steady look of understanding on his face and nodded slowly.
"You'd better come round back," his voice just a little weary, "I was wondering when you would put in that favour, Mr. Lupin."
Remus' expression didn't change, but his eyes grew sad.
They followed Ollivander without a word; James made a mental note to ask his friend what all this was about later and dragged behind as they entered a small room. It was lined from wall to ceiling with shelves of wands and there was a workbench and tools laid out in a corner. There was also a thick stack of books and ledgers piled up on a desktop, scattered quill and inkpots lay about. It was an oddly somber room, dully lit and a little cold. Ollivander closed the door behind them with a sharp bang, startling James in the solemnity of the room.
"And what is the favour?" Ollivander asked, waving his own wand to conjure several more seats.
"I need you to file a false wand registration," Remus got to the point quickly, "For Harry here."
He pointed to Harry, who had thrown him a sharp look, clearly unimpressed with the use of his name. He had been drilled in the need to keep his identity a secret, after all. James pursed his lips, not sure where Remus was going with this but willing to trust his friend. Ollivander was peering at Harry, his expression calculating.
"And where is Harry from, exactly?"
Three people froze in that room whilst Ollivander and Remus looked as calm as if they were discussing Sunday lunch.
"Far away enough that he can't exist here," Remus responded coolly.
A silence followed. James could have sworn you could have heard a pin drop. Ollivander's eyes widened and he nodded slowly, not removing his gaze from Harry.
"I'll need to see your wand," he said, holding his hand out.
Harry hesitated, looking at Remus for support. When the man nodded in the affirmative, Harry handed over his wand in silence. Ollivander's wrinkly hands enclosed over it, bringing it up to his face for inspection. James thought there was almost a loving look in his eyes as he scanned over the magical instrument, only to see them widen. A curious, excited look bounded onto Ollivander's face and his lips stretched into a smirk of triumph.
"I made this!" he exclaimed, then looked at Harry, "But I never sold this to you. In fact, it's still- just a moment!"
He quickly gave Harry back his wand and then rushed out of the room, disappearing for a few minutes into his shop. James exchanged a quizzical look with Sirius, but the dog animagus only shrugged, clearly as confused as he was. Eventually, Ollivander returned, carrying a wand box. He gingerly held it in front of them, lifting the lid.
Inside was a duplicate of Harry's wand.
"Eleven inches, phoenix feather core and holly," the wandmaker breathed, "Unique in that it shares a core with one other wand. Though perhaps, now two."
While James was confused over the added tidbit of information, he didn't understand the point in all this either. He glanced over at the resident dimensional traveler. Harry's face seemed set, his hand slowly reaching over towards his wand's counterpart. He stopped suddenly, just an inch before his fingertips were about to touch the polished wood and shook his head, as though breaking out of a trance.
"Sorry," he mumbled, drawing back.
"No, no!" Olivander pressed the box closer to him, "It's calling to you, isn't it? You can feel the hum, the quiver in your own wand."
James looked from the wandmaker to his alternate son. Harry's lips pursed and he stared at the wand in front of him, his own grasped firmly in his other hand. He took a deep breath and reached for the wand.
Ollivander was right. Harry could feel something.
It sung right through him, as warm and melodious as the phoenix's song itself. He could feel his wand vibrating to the rhythm with it and with the very beat of his heart. He had felt something similar when he had picked up his wand for the first time when he was eleven, but now it seemed intensified. The other wand, the very copy of his own, it was calling out to him. It wanted him and he found he wanted it too.
As his fingertips touched the surface, the song burst into a raging chorus. A shot of glorious warmth shot through his arm as he picked it up.
And watched it crumble into ashes.
He gaped, blinking rapidly as the once fine wand disintegrated before his eyes. A tug of loss yanked at his heart and he had to strongly resist the urge to give a cry of despair. He looked up at Ollivander, panicked.
The man was watching him curiously, an oddly hungry expression in his eyes. He licked his lips and leaned in closer.
"Curious, very curious," he muttered.
Harry opened his mouth to speak when the song started again.
This time though, he could hear it in the air, not from within him. From a quick scan of the other's faces, so could they. It trilled and chimed, sad, beautiful, and filled with longing.
"Look," Ollivander breathed softly.
Harry snapped back to the small pile of ashes lying in the box, only to find they were glowing. It was as though the last embers of a dying fire were burning beneath them. They smoked, sparked, and burst into flame. He drew back in surprise as a small, phoenix, shaped from swirling flames soared out of the ashes and circled the room, brightening everything up and growing in size.
"Well isn't that something," Sirius whistled as the phoenix did its sweep across the room. A hot wind brushed over Harry's face and he worried for a moment that it was going to set light to something. It whooshed past the clattered pile of books and papers, blowing a few sheets about as it did. His eyes widened when the apparition, having circled the entire room twice, finally settled in front of him, hovering in the space between him and Ollivander. Its fiery gaze bore into Harry, who stood frozen.
"The wand!" Ollivander hissed, "Hold out your wand!"
"Be careful!" James cautioned and Harry was vaguely aware of the man edging closer.
Harry swallowed hard, licking his lips and raising his wand up to the creature. It seemed to pulse for a moment and lit up as it flickered, embers dancing off its form. A flash filled the room and the phoenix dived right into Harry's wand.
Harry gave a great yelp of surprise. He could feel the force as it collided into his wand and stumbled back a bit. He probably would have fallen back, except he felt a strong pair of hands grasp his shoulders, keeping him upright. The force only increased though.
The air exploded and Harry was thrown back along with whoever was holding him up. There was a loud thud as they flew through the air and hit the back wall, followed by a sharp round of clunks as a whole shelf full of wand boxes fell on top of them.
"Harry!" Sirius cried, "James!"
Harry probably would have been mortified at the idea of laying on top of his father had it not been for the pile of boxes they were both buried under. They struggled together for a couple of minutes as the others cleared away the debris and helped them up.
"What the hell was that!?" James groaned, brushing dust from his clothes as Lupin pulled him up to his feet.
"No idea," Sirius responded, yanking Harry up a bit roughly, "But it was bloody brilliant!"
"Harry, your wand…" Lupin trailed off.
Harry stared down at the magical item still clasped in his hand. It looked completely normal. The surface was a bit smudgy from his fingerprints, but he had never really bothered keeping it polished, even after the whole wand inspection in Fourth year. In his arm he could still feel the burn from the phoenix's flames, the sensation spreading through his body, as heady and intoxicating as a drug. For just a second, Harry felt like he could do anything, but as quickly as it came, the feeling faded away.
"It looks fine," he shook his head, "I don't…what happened?"
"I'm not sure…" Lupin trailed off, turning his head, "Mr. Ollivander?"
Harry's head snapped round to the wand-maker, now standing on the other side of the room, the most gleeful, excited look on his face as he stared at the ashen remains of the wand. A manic grin spread across his lips and he gave a little laugh.
"Ha ha!" he dropped the box of ashes and rushed over to Harry's side, lifting his arm to inspect his wand, Harry was too dumbfounded to protest, "Extraordinary! Absolutely extraordinary! I didn't think such a thing was possible!"
"Uh…?" was all the sound Harry could make as he was poked and prodded.
"How do you feel? Do you still hear the singing? There appears to be no bleeding-"
"Bleeding?" Harry squeaked.
"Yes, yes, no cranial bleeding whatsoever, very good!"
"Cranial bleeding?" James practically growled, "This is ridiculous! What in Merlin's name was that and what did it do to Harry?!"
Harry wasn't quite too freaked out not to realize that James Potter was actually getting angry over him, but he was pretty darn close. As it was, he heard it and it made him momentarily think of something besides eminent cranial bleeding, though it didn't last too long. He had a strange, overwhelmed sensation in his chest and felt himself swallowing hard.
"Nothing, nothing," Ollivander was reassuring the concerned parent, "He's perfectly fine. I was just wondering if the theory was true-"
"What theory?" James barked.
"Wand convergence," Ollivander finally answered, "The combining of two wands. Wand-makers have been wondering if it was possible for centuries. But the wands have to be perfectly compatible for it to be successful and as far as history goes, no two wands have ever been exactly alike. Not even brother wands have the capability."
Harry noticed the man looking at him especially when he said 'brother wands' and felt a chill run up his spine. Just what he needed, another person knowing about his connection to Voldemort.
Okay, so it was just the double of one of the people who already knew, but still…
"What's it supposed to do?" Sirius asked curiously.
"I haven't a clue," Ollivander said with a smile.
"And the cranial bleeding?" James put in pointedly.
"Just another part of the theory," he chuckled, "There have been experiments with this kind of thing before. They didn't end well."
"But the wands never touched," Harry was confused.
"Yes, they did," Ollivander looked amused, "Through you. You acted as the…ah…I believe the muggles call it a 'conduit', the thing they had in common."
"Both wands chose you and thought converging would be the best way to occupy the same space, I suppose," he peered closer at Harry, "The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter and you have been chosen twice by the same wand."
Everyone except Mr. Ollivander froze.
"H-how did you know my name?" Harry asked shakily.
Ollivander's thin lips stretched into a smile that would have made the Cheshire cat jealous.
"You look remarkably like your father," he said finally, "But you have your mother's eyes."
"Your glamour!" Lupin cried, as though realizing for the first time, "The burst of magic must have nullified it."
Harry couldn't very well see if his hair had been restored to its naturally dark colour, but the startled looks on the Marauders' faces was all the confirmation he needed. Ollivander was still smiling widely, looking for all he was worth as though he had won the lottery. Harry shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
"My wands still going to work though, right?" he asked shakily.
The wand-maker's eyebrows rose dramatically.
"Why don't you try it?" he offered.
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He gripped his wand and muttered a quick spell to set all the boxes back on the shelf. It thankfully worked and in no time the room was back to being relatively less cluttered. He let out the breath he only just realized he had been holding and lowered his wand arm.
Ollivander clapped his hands together, clearly delighted.
"Now then," he said in a jovial sort of way, "Shall we get to business?"
Harry's head snapped back up and he shook his head furiously.
"No wait!" he protested, "What happened exactly? Did this do something to my wand? What-?"
Ollivander cut him off.
"I'm afraid I'm in new territory with this as well," he admitted softly, "Let's just say you'll have to wait and see."
Needless to say, Harry was not comforted in the slightest. He glanced at his wand and pursed his lips, slipping it back into his pocket without another word. Wait and see?
Not something he had the patience for.
It took about half an hour to draw up the paper work and file the report. Ollivander placed the trace on a dummy wand and presented Harry with a copy certificate. James observed as the boy hardly noticed, still staring at his wand as though expecting it to crumble into ashes again. James couldn't even say for sure what had happened; only that he had never seen anything like it in his life.
The phoenix had been terrifying and…beautiful.
When James heard the song, he didn't think there was anything he had ever experienced that could quite compare. The only phoenix he had ever seen was Fawkes, Dumbledore's old friend.
The flaming impression, no doubt connected to the magic in the wand, was a dazzling copy. Fiery and intimidating, it was a reminder of the magical creature's splendor and strength. He remembered his days back in the Order. The phoenix had stood as a symbol of hope for all of them, the consistent reminder of goodness in the world.
Somehow, James felt like it suited Harry.
Remus and Sirius left them at the store after reapplying Harry's glamour, both had errands to run. James watched them go with mixed feelings, but one glance at Harry's pensive expression told him he wasn't likely to get into another fight while the events of the wand shop were fresh in his mind.
"Lunch?" James asked weakly, disrupting the boy's thoughts.
He blinked and nodded.
"Sure," he murmured quietly, not really looking at James.
He finally pocketed his wand though.
"Ollivander really won't say anything, right?" Harry asked suddenly as they walked, "I mean…he doesn't seem like he's concerned with that sort of thing. And Lupin seemed to trust him with my name and that. But…he knew who I was…he recognized me…"
He looked away, frustrated.
"I'm surprised he recalled enough to say that," James murmured.
"Ollivander remembers people through their wands, I doubt he pays much attention to faces at all! I'm just surprised he remembered Lily…"
He sighed, and then turned a small smile on Harry.
"You really do have her eyes," he murmured.
Harry turned red.
"So I've heard," he said dismissively.
James chuckled softly.
"No, its more than just the look of them," he said absently, "There's something distinctly Lily-like about you."
"There is?" James thought Harry looked a little pleased.
Maybe he's a bit of a Mama's boy, James thought, slightly amused.
"Yes," he said, wincing a little as he joked, "Definitely a good thing. I spent most of my free time in detention when I was your age."
If anything, Harry turned redder and opened his mouth to respond when he was interrupted by someone yelling at them.
James turned in surprise, smiling brightly when he recognized the owner of the voice. Alice Longbottom was skipping her way towards them; a sunny grin on her round face, blonde curls bouncing as she walked and her conical hat about to fly away. Alice was one of the few very lucky people, James surmised, who would age extremely well. Even now, she looked years younger than she should…despite being several years older than James!
He noticed Harry frown in confusion, but didn't pay it any mind.
"Alice!" he waved as she approached, "Excellent to see you! How are Frank and Neville?"
Had he been paying attention, James would have noted how comically wide Harry's eyes became and how his jaw dropped, but as it was, James was just far too happy to see the woman who had been helping he and his wife for so many years.
Alice stopped in front of them, reaching over to give James a peck on the cheek before answering.
"Right as rain," she said, her voice cheery, "I almost didn't think it was you Jamie! This is the first time in years I've seen you out and about in the market."
James often marveled at Alice. He'd seen her at work in the courtroom and knew she could be unforgiving and zealous, but outside she maintained an extremely bubbly personality.
It was good to see.
Her comments made him want to grumble though.
Okay, so maybe Remus was right. I am a recluse.
He'd deny it to his grave.
Before he could open his mouth to speak though, Alice's eyes had landed on Harry. She tilted her head to the side, squinting at him curiously.
"And whose this young man?" she asked with another smile, "He look's really familiar…"
That snapped James from his reverie.
"This is Henry," he said quickly, "He's one of Lily's cousins…from South Africa! He decided to come up to England for a visit and well…I'm just showing him around."
He felt extremely lame.
Alice's eyes widened though.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "Well that must be why he's so familiar!"
She extended a hand to Harry.
"Splendid to meet a cousin of dear Lily's," she said warmly, "I'm Alice Longbottom."
Harry looked extremely bewildered, but accepted the hand nonetheless.
"Alice represents Lily in court," James atoned.
Harry blinked and offered the woman a smile.
"Thank you," he said meaningfully.
Alice looked about ready to pull Harry into a hug and James couldn't blame her. There was a strange vulnerability in the dimension hopper's expression, mixed with the absolute gratefulness in his gaze that made him suddenly seem so much younger than his fifteen years.
"Don't mention it," she said kindly, slowly taking her hand back, she looked back to James, "Speaking of which, since you're here, I wanted to pass something on to you."
She gave a flick of her wand and a small stack of papers appeared seemingly out of nowhere. These she handed to James.
"Just some extra work for the appeal," she said seriously, "I had a couple of new ideas, but it's really going to depend on who we get overseeing the hearing."
James sighed, skimming over the first page, but not really taking anything in.
"Doesn't it always?" he asked morosely.
Alice nodded sadly.
"Any other case like this and Lily would have been placed on early parole years ago," she commented, looking a little frustrated, "I'm sorry James, but all the 'Boy-Who-Lived' hype is still extremely fresh in people's minds. Public opinion just isn't on our side."
James didn't respond, he shrank the papers and placed them in his pocket for later review.
"Thanks Alice," he said softly.
She offered him a small, empathetic smile.
"I'd best be off," she said finally, "Nev's coming home soon and I'm planning a little surprise for him. Poor boy needs cheering up after the stress of OWLs! It was nice meeting you Henry, I hope you enjoy the remainder of your visit. I'll see you soon James."
She gave James a hug, then clearly surprised Harry by doing the same to him, before waving goodbye and disappearing once more into the crowd. James took a deep breath, thinking about the parole hearing. It might work this time, but even he knew putting all his hope in that was pointless. He looked down at Harry.
A frozen look of shock was plastered to the boy's pale face.
James frowned, worried.
He was even more confused when Harry suddenly grabbed him and unceremoniously began to drag him away.
Harry couldn't help himself. The moment he'd met Alice Longbottom he had felt a funny twisting in his gut. This was Neville's mother! He'd seen her before, or at least, the one in his world. That Alice Longbottom had been a husk, she was wispy haired, pale and withdrawn. This Alice was so…pretty. She looked filled with life, her face lighting up when she saw James.
He'd wanted to cry out in joy. He wished Neville had been there with him, he wished his friend could see this woman. With her curly blonde hair, dark brown robes and lopsided pointy hat. With her smiling face and her eyes sparked with warmth and friendliness. This little witch who was defending his mother, who treated his father with compassion and seemed generally pleased to meet him.
Then she had started talking about the parole hearing.
And Harry's world came tumbling down.
Harry stopped dead. A memory flashed in his mind, scrambling in the darkness before a grave, reading the messages on little wooden crosses. They had called Harry Potter The-Boy-Who-Lived. He'd ignored the importance of the title for so long, brushed it away as just a reminder of that night, that it wasn't even significant for him anymore. Afterwards he'd been confronted with James and anger over Lily Potter being imprisoned for his murder and the meaning had faded from his mind.
If the Harry Potter here had been The-Boy-Who-Lived…
If he had had the same scar…
If he had survived the Killing Curse…
Why was Lily Potter still alive?
James waved goodbye to Alice and Harry stared at him, not seeing him at all. He felt so cold all of a sudden and a sick feeling had started in his stomach. He lunged out and grabbed James, pulling him along until he found a narrow alleyway behind Flourish and Blotts. He tugged him in behind some rubbish bins before letting go.
"Harry!" James looked flustered, "What's wrong? Did something-?"
"How?" said Harry in a dead whisper, "How is it possible for your Harry to have been The-Boy-Who-Lived?"
His hands were shaking.
"I imagine the same way you are," he gestured to Harry's forehead, "He survived the Killing Curse when he was one."
Harry clamped his hand over his forehead, wishing he could tear out the stupid thing with his bare hands and glared.
"He had the scar too?" it was a rhetorical question, but James nodded all the same, looking bewildered. Harry didn't care.
"Halloween, nineteen-eighty-one," he continued, lowering his hand, his voice oddly hoarse, "Voldemort attacked your home and tried to kill him? You and Lily tried to protect him? The spell backfired and hit Voldemort? He just disappeared?"
James nodded slowly.
Harry bit down on his lower lip. He thought he'd want to cry, but his eyes were dry as bone. He just felt icy and that feeling in his stomach-
"It's exactly the same," he chocked, he could feel the bile rising in his throat, "Then why did Mum have to - he said it was her sacrifice - but then why here…?"
He broke off, his breathing becoming heavy.
"Harry," he was surprised when James grasped him firmly by the shoulders and made him look at him, "Are you saying-? I mean, Harry when did I die in your world exactly?"
"That night," he managed to get out, more than a little surprised by the heart wrenching pain he saw in James' eyes.
"Same," Harry shook all over, "Professor Dumbledore said - he said it was her sacrifice - I thought the only reason I was alive was because she - I'm going to be sick!"
He broke away from James and rushed to one of the trashcans, doubling over and retching on the pavement before he could open a lid.
My mother didn't have to die.
The thought taunted him.
He'd been so stupid not to realize it before. So horribly stupid! It hadn't occurred to him, why hadn't it occurred to him? Was it because he hadn't seen Lily yet? Was it because in the back of his mind, her being alive, even in Azkaban, still wasn't real?
Somehow, in some wonderful way, she had survived here.
"Harry," came his father's soft voice, "I'm sorry."
"Just leave me alone," he said sullenly, wiping his mouth on his sleeve and swerving to look at James. The anger was back, raw and beaten by this revelation. He welcomed it. It chased away the cold, sickly feeling and replaced it with hot, burning flames. But it flickered and almost died at the stricken look on James' face. Harry swallowed hard; it tasted awful.
"Harry," James tried again, he was reaching a hand out to him.
Harry backed away, his feet moving instinctively, his eyes suddenly growing wide.
"No," he shook his head, not even sure what he was denying, "Just leave me!"
He turned and ran. James yelled after him, but he didn't care; he just had to get away.
James slammed his fist against the alley wall, ignoring the pain that shot up his arm and gritted his teeth. He felt like an idiot. Of course there had to be something more to this boy than he'd realized at first, he'd just been too wrapped up in himself to look. Of course Harry didn't know how to act around him; he didn't know him! At all! Not even by memory. Halloween, he and Lily had died on Halloween.
All this time he'd been imagining Lily raising Harry by herself, but instead it was far worse. Harry was an orphan.
This must be why he was so much more comfortable around Remus and Sirius. This was why he could barely look at James. Why he was so angry…
And he thought his life had been bought with Lily's death?
No kid should ever believe that.
The smell of trash and Harry's vomit hit his nose, making it crinkle at the acrid scent. He could remember the look on his face, like someone had just poured an icy bucket of water over him, shocking him to his core. Then the look of - James shuddered to think- self-disgust. It was enough to break his heart.
Merlin, he'd probably have been sick too.
He had never been clear on why Lily's spell had worked or what spell she had actually used. She had been a little evasive about it. But he had just been so happy that Harry was alive, he had never bothered to find the answer, never even thought of the importance.
Now, he wished he did.
Because there was only one person in this world that could give Harry the answers he sought.
And she was locked up in Azkaban.
"Just ask him, he says," the Maruader muttered darkly, "It'll be so simple. Damn it! There's nothing bloody simple about this!"
James had the strange urge to track down the alternate Dumbedore and wring his aging neck. Even if it was true, and James wasn't so sure it was, he should never have told Harry that. At least not until the boy was old enough to understand what love was, to comprehend what it meant to do everything and anything for the ones you love. Until he understood that that kind of sacrifice was a choice, he was never going to let go of the guilt. His mother had perished protecting him, but did he know that sometimes James wished he had gotten the chance to do the exact same thing?
Of course he didn't.
James kicked the trashcan, spewing the contents all over the cobblestoned ground of the alleyway. He wasn't cut out for this sort of thing. He hadn't been around children, much less an emotionally charged teenager, in years.
It wasn't his responsibility. None of it was. He could just walk away, he didn't have to comfort the boy, he didn't have to reassure him, and he didn't have to even think of acting like a father…
But the more he tried to justify that to himself, the dryer it sounded. He may not have been this Harry's father, but he had as much of a duty to care for him. If it had been his Harry lost in another world, he would want his alternate self to do the same thing. It was as simple as that.
Yes, that did sound much simpler.
He ran back into the street, looking around frantically, trying hard to spot the messy haired head he was now so familiar with. But Harry had already disappeared into the crowd of witches and wizards. James cursed under his breath and chose a direction.
"Where did he get to now?" he wondered.
The crowds in Diagon Alley were growing thinner. The majority of people were heading inside for lunch or to escape the heat of the day. The hot, muggy June weather did not lean much to teeming crowds and without the influx of Hogwarts students; the whole area was considerably less populated than it usually would have been over the summer holidays. Remus wondered where James and Harry had gone off, he'd seen Alice Longbottom approaching as he and Sirius left them. He just hoped they weren't fighting again. Sirius walked beside him, looking strangely pensive.
"Deep in thought?" Remus questioned lightly, "Quite dangerous for you."
Sirius shot him a sharp glance.
"You didn't tell James about Snape's message," he said bluntly, "Why?"
"He's had enough disappointment," Remus pulled a face, "You did though, didn't you?"
Sirius had the dignity to look sheepish.
"He asked me," he defended, "I couldn't lie to him."
Now it was Remus' turn to look at him sharply and Sirius blushed a little. They did lie to James. They lied to him about a lot of things. They didn't tell him what they did when they weren't with him or at work. Sirius especially, kept nearly everything from James. Remus kept the most important parts of his life from both of them.
Sometimes he wondered how they all still trusted each other.
"We're both still treating him with kid gloves, aren't we?" Remus commented bitterly.
Sirius was silent, his expression tainted with a little guilt, but also grim resolve. Remus knew the feeling. They had been looking after their friend for so long now that protecting him from things they didn't think he'd like to hear, but probably still needed to, was second nature to them. Perhaps they'd enabled his recluse behavior.
Things were so much easier when Lily was around.
Sirius stopped suddenly, turning to stare at one of the shop windows. Remus, curious, followed his gaze. It landed on a brass cage; inside was a snowy white owl flapping its wings a little in annoyance, before settling down again.
"I see that owl every time I walk passed this store," Sirius said lightly, "She's been here for years. It seems like nobody wants her, but sometimes I wonder if maybe she's just waiting for the right owner."
"She's lovely," Remus offered.
"And lonely," he nodded, "I thought about buying her once, but I don't think I'm the person she's waiting for either. Whenever I see her, I think of Lily and…I think of James."
"When you see an owl?" Remus asked dubiously, "That's quite the leap."
"Maybe," the dog animagus mused, "But I think they're waiting for something too. Maybe it's just Lily's freedom but…maybe it's something more."
Remus shot him a look.
"He's not a replacement," he reminded his friend, "We both know that."
"But you've been thinking the same thing I have," he looked away from the owl now, "Even if we freed Lily today, what would be next for them? A life in secrecy and hiding? Lily never able to see the light of day again? She'd just be moved into a new kind of prison and James along with her."
"We can't leave her there!" Remus protested, appalled.
Sirius bestowed him with a truly disgusted look, clearly offended. Remus blushed, it had been a long time since he had spoken in haste like that. Of course Sirius would never suggest such a thing and the werewolf's mind began to fret on how he could have momentarily thought so. It was all the lies and secrets, he decided finally, he was starting to become a little insecure himself.
He couldn't let that happen again.
"No," Sirius turned away and continued walking, "But maybe there are other options."
Remus cast one last glance at the snowy owl. She was ruffling her feathers and appeared to be staring at him, large amber eyes unblinking. He frowned a little before following his friend, leaving the owl behind.
"Even if there are," he said as he caught up, "We don't know much about it."
"We can find out," Sirius smiled a little, "We have time. With the kid here…he needs this Remus, it's like a slap to the face."
Remus opened his mouth to say something more, when he felt an icy chill in the centre of his chest. With a tired sigh, he lifted up the cord from his neck and looked down at the small, metallic disc that hung there. A symbol flashed across the surface.
He laid a hand on Sirius' shoulder.
"I have to go," he said quietly, "You'll keep an eye on those two?"
"More 'Man of Mystery' business?" his friend asked, he'd been using that phrase since Lily had made the comment upon Remus' appointment to Unspeakable.
He just nodded.
"Something like that," he said vaguely.
He wondered when secrets had become second nature to him. Maybe they'd always been apart of his life…he blamed the Marauders for that.
Sirius glanced at him through tired eyes.
"The next meeting is tomorrow night," he looked around to make sure no one was listening, "You think we can leave those two alone?"
He was referring to Harry and James, last Remus had seen them they had been talking to Alice Longbottom. He thought about that for a moment. Things were tough, but they should be fine. In all likeliness they would probably just keep ignoring each other's existence. So he nodded.
"They'll survive," he said, shaking his head, "When are we letting James back in?"
Sirius look surprised by the question, then shrugged, his face becoming stern, unmovable. It was the face he never let their best friend see.
"He's waking up," Sirius said carefully, "But he's not there yet. He'd be a liability now. Soon though, he'll be ready soon."
"If you say so Padfoot," Remus resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "I really need to go."
Sirius nodded and the cheerful look flashed back onto his face.
"You're going to have to tell me about this mystery girl sometime," he grinned, "I know it's a girl Moony."
Remus flashed him his 'Man of Mystery' smile.
"Maybe Padfoot," was all he said, before disappearing with a crack.
Harry stopped running before he could topple into someone, though in truth, he didn't think he'd care much if he did. Today was turning out worse than he'd expected it. No, that wasn't right, he hadn't expected it to be bad at all, just awkward. He couldn't believe he had been so stupid not to think of the significance of being The-Boy-Who-Lived before. That horrible title he had never been able to escape from, it should have been ingrained into his mind like some bloody brand.
He paused mid-step.
What did James think of him now?
Torn between anger and guilt, Harry thought back to their conversation and flinched a little. Yes, it had been shocking to learn that, in another life, his mother might have lived, but did he need to take that out on James?
He felt better about doing it though. It was easy to be angry with James, Harry could admit that to himself. It was very easy.
He knew that his life hadn't been traded for his mother's, he knew that it had been her choice to protect him the way she did and he knew he couldn't have done anything to stop her.
But he also knew she wouldn't have been in danger like that in the first place if he hadn't been there. And neither would his father.
He sighed, scratching his head tiredly. Yes, it was easy to be angry at this alternate version of his father, but that didn't rob him of the guilt over his own Dad's death. Maybe that's all he was really doing, trying to shift blame. Logically, he was aware that acting this way was not going to get him anywhere, but he couldn't help it either.
The worst word Harry had ever come across was…why? Why had Voldemort wanted to kill him so badly? Why had he given Lily the choice to stand aside? Why did he bother to come in person to attack the Potters that night?
For all Harry was proud of his parents, he knew they had both been fairly young and that it was their premature deaths (and son's unwanted fame) that had made them so well known in the wizarding world. There was no reason he could think of, even if they had been fighting against Voldemort, that they would have to warrant his direct attention. Voldemort could have easily sent his Death Eaters to dispatch of their small family, but no, he had gone himself. He hadn't even brought a single follower with him, as far as Harry knew.
What had made it so personal to him?
He shook his head.
Maybe he was just over analyzing it. He wanted very hard to believe that there had been a reason and at the same time, he felt relief that there wasn't. But Voldemort hadn't just been there to simply eradicate a Light family; if he had he surely wouldn't have offered to spare the Muggle-born Lily Potter's life.
No, he'd wanted to kill Harry from the start.
Harry just didn't know why.
He thought back to the end of his Fourth Year. Voldemort could have used anyone to bring himself back, but he'd wanted Harry and the protection in his blood. The protection his mother had given him. The violation left an acrid feeling in Harry's chest. Anger burnt hot again, how dare that monster share the gift bought by his mother's sacrifice!
At least, Harry thought that had been the price.
Had the Lily Potter here made a different choice?
Too many questions with no answers.
He felt lost, not even caring where he was walking and completely absorbed in his thoughts, he didn't notice the people passing him by. It wasn't until he was approaching a corner that he took stock of where he was. The first thing his eyes fell on though, surprised him completely.
On the side of the street stood a large cart, the kind merchants used to display their wares in markets. Its wheels had been trapped with bricks to stop it rolling away and there was a huge array of wooden drawers and trays poking out of it on all sides. A large collection of strange looking items and brightly wrapped packages lay on them, several were moving about on their own. Small labels in neat, straight handwriting were perched atop each tray, no doubt there to detail what each product was.
At the top of the cart stood a banner, hung between two orange, candy stripped poles, it was obnoxiously colourful with little flags and streamers flitting about its edges. In large, bold red letters it proclaimed; WEASLEY'S WIZARD WHEEZES.
Harry's first thought roved to the twins, had they left Hogwarts early as they had in his world? If so, he was happy they were getting out there and doing it. He guessed that this would be the route they'd have to take until they could afford a store.
Feeling cheery for the first time all day, Harry approached the stall eagerly. Even if they didn't recognize him, it would be good to see Fred and George again. As he got closer, an oddly dressed figure came out from behind the cart, clearly having seen Harry coming. The huge smile on his freckled face and his red hair marked him clearly as a Weasley.
Just not the Weasley Harry thought he was going to see.
"Percy?!" Harry gaped.
The man in question eyed him curiously; his horn-rimmed glasses had been replaced with thick, orange frames and he wore a fire engine red coat that clashed horribly with his hair. His cravat - Harry thought the world had turned upside down when recognized what that thing around his neck was - stood out in all its purple glory. The only thing that could make it worse, were his sunshine yellow trousers.
Harry was too horrified to look away.
But this was Percy; there was no mistaking the man's face. It was Percy Weasley who stood before him in his entire colourful splendor. It was Percy Weasley, standing on the side of the street, trying to sell joke products from a stall. And it was certainly Percy Weasley who was looking at him now with a raised eyebrow and a goofy grin.
Goofy? Percy? Did those two words even belong in the same sentence?
"Have we met?" Percy asked, his grin plastered to his face.
"Uh - no, no of course not," Harry said quickly, eyes roving to the sign on the stall, "I mean - uh - I'm from Port Shepstone – I mean I'm new around here, my friends told me to keep a look out for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. I guess, here you are!"
He put on an encouraging smile, hoping that Percy wouldn't realize his slip.
"A customer!" Percy exclaimed grandly, looking truly delighted, "Well you've come to the right place sir! We here at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes pride ourselves on delivering the very best. Is there anything you're interested in specifically? Or I could show you a few of our most popular products for all your joking needs."
Harry fought not to frown in confusion. Percy plus joke shop did not compute in his head.
"That's uh - I mean, that sounds great!" he tried to say enthusiastically, "Um, I was actually wondering, see, my friends said twins ran the store…Is that you then?"
His tone ended off a little hopeful, he tried to quell it, but there it was. He hoped he'd be corrected immediately, told quite firmly that Percy was just minding the store today and would never willingly be here. Percy running a joke store was about as strange as - his smile became rueful - as strange as being summoned into another world. He watched for Percy's reaction and he wasn't disappointed. The older boy's face paled a little bit but his smile remained glued to his face.
"Your friends must have been mistaken," he said, his voice just a little strained, "I have twin brothers, but both are still in Hogwarts at the moment."
The Twins had already left Hogwarts in Harry's world, albeit a little unconventionally and earlier than normal. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised that it wasn't the case here. After all, it was very likely they hadn't had the Toad to deal with.
"Right," Harry's mouth felt a little dry, "Sorry about that."
"No problem!" Percy smiled widely, "Now, what can I do for you?"
Harry looked down at the wares; he recognized a few of the things, Skiving Snack Boxes for instance and trays of suspiciously tasty looking Canary Creams, but most were unfamiliar to him. He looked back up at Percy's hopeful face and was about to answer when an all too familiar voice spoke right by his left ear.
Harry turned, startled at the sound of Mr. Weasley's soft voice, but what he saw only shocked him all the more.
Arthur Weasley, in Harry's eyes, was probably the best kind of wizard. He was open-minded and kind hearted with a fierce loyalty to his friends and family. He had always treated Harry like one of his own kids, seeming more interested in his welfare - and knowledge of the muggle world - than his Boy-Who-Lived status. He was also one of the many reasons Harry had often wished he could trade places with Ron; Mr. Weasley just screamed 'dad' all over and, in truth, had been Harry's first example of what a father ought to be like. Perhaps, that had been partly why he had been disappointed with finding out about his own father's bullying years, because subconsciously he had been imagining his dad turning out a little like Arthur Weasley.
Kind, understanding, but also firm and protective.
The other thing Harry had admired about Mr. Weasley was his enthusiasm and zest for life. The man standing beside him now was anything but enthusiastic.
Never had Harry seen Mr. Weasley so pale and tired. Even when he had been bitten by that snake and nearly killed, there had been that liveliness about him, that fight in his eyes which lessened Harry's worry. Who else but Arthur Weasley would try stitches on a magical wound after all?
But this man; he may have sounded like Mr. Weasley, but that was where the similarity ended. The absolute dead look in his eyes scared Harry in a way that surprised him. Everything about the man seemed faded and worn away, as though he were starting to vanish from existence.
His once red hair had turned completely grey, his entire manner appeared unkempt, from the fraying edges on his clothes to the scraggly beard on his chin. His eyes drooped with sadness and his face was more lined than Harry was used to seeing.
He looked so old.
"Hi Dad!" Percy said cheerfully, though his eyes took on a softer look. This alone made Harry give a start. He didn't think he had ever heard Percy call Mr. Weasley anything but 'father.'
Mr. Weasley smiled softly, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"How are things?" he asked, but he seemed to be going through the motions more than anything else.
"Good," Percy chirped, "Just tending to a customer right now. A Mr. - oh, I didn't catch your name?"
"Henry," Harry said quickly, tearing his eyes away from Mr. Weasley, "Henry Evans."
"Evans?" for a split second, there was a spark in Mr. Weasley's eyes, "Muggle-born?"
Harry nodded, waiting for the tirade that muggles were such 'fascinating creatures,' but it never came. Instead, the Weasley patriarch just gave him a faded smile, his eyes glazing over as though lost in memory.
"Knew an Evans once," he said absently, "Brilliant girl. Horrible, absolutely horrible thing they did to her. She reminded me a bit of…"
He trailed off, his expression becoming sad once more. Percy, clearly reading some sort of warning sign, began chatting with his father about his day, asking after Mrs. Weasley, if Bill was bringing his new girlfriend home soon and when the Hogwarts Express was arriving. Harry listened, partly because he was actually interested in the answers, but mostly because he was gauging the interaction between these new versions of Percy and Mr. Weasley. He couldn't remember a time he had ever seen Percy being gentle, but here he was speaking kindly and offering support to his clearly struggling father. Then there was Mr. Weasley who was responding like a child being coaxed into talking.
It was a sight Harry had never imagined seeing.
"Ha-Henry! There you are!"
All three turned at the voice; James was bounding towards them, a relieved look on his face. Harry pursed his lips in annoyance.
"Hi James," he said flatly, ignoring the looks of the two Weasley's beside him.
"I've been looking for you everywhere!" the stag animagus burst out, "I was worried."
Harry blinked in surprise at the omission. Something warm crept into his chest, but he pushed it away quickly.
"I was just looking around," he tried to stop the apologetic tone from entering his voice, but it was still there. Damn the man, now he felt bad about running off.
James closed his eyes for a moment and nodded.
"It's fine," he said calmly, "Let's just get going."
"Friend of yours James?"
Harry watched his reaction carefully. James turned to look in surprise at the questioner, seeming almost shocked that Mr. Weasley had spoken.
"Arthur," he said in greeting and Harry saw it. The look in their eyes was identical. It wasn't the sadness, or the weariness; it was something stronger…something mutual that Harry couldn't put his finger on.
Mr. Weasley gave a weak smile in return.
"This is Henry," James said finally, not turning to look at Harry, "He's my new apprentice."
"I thought you weren't taking any this year, Mr. Potter," put in Percy, for once actually sounding like the intellectual and ambitious young man Harry was familiar with.
"Special circumstances," James said smoothly, then went on to explain Harry's cover story. At hearing he was the 'cousin' of Lily Potter, both Weasley men looked at him with unmasked sympathy in their eyes. Shifting uncomfortably, he looked away.
"It was good to see you again Arthur," James finished meaningfully, tugging Harry by the arm, "Percy, I hope I'll see your application on my desk next year."
Percy turned a light shade of pink and muttered something in the affirmative. James gave him an encouraging smile and began to walk away, waving his goodbye to the two Weasleys and pulling Harry along with him. Harry shrugged off his grip immediately, disliking being lead around like a child, but the somber look on his father's face stilled the comment he had been about to make.
Instead, he asked;
"Do you know the Weasleys well?" he had never really found out how well his and Ron's parents had known of each other in his world.
"Arthur was several years ahead of me in Hogwarts and Bill Weasley was an apprentice of mine a few years back," James said absently, "He works for Gringotts now."
"Curse breaker?" Harry asked, relieved when James nodded.
"Bloody good one too," the older man said fondly, "Best student I ever had."
Harry looked over his shoulder at the Weasleys, they were still in view and speaking quietly with one another. He turned back to James.
"I'm glad one things the same," he admitted softly.
"The Weasleys in your world?" James asked knowingly.
"Bill's a curse breaker there too," he explained, "But Mr. Weasley and Percy are very different."
"I see," James nodded.
"Everything's different here," Harry carried on, feeling lost all of a sudden. Then he thought of Alice Longbottom's smiling face as she chatted endlessly about Neville and added, "Some things are better."
Then he looked back at Mr. Weasley.
"And some things are worse."
He felt oddly morose and momentarily forgot why he had run from James in the first place. He probably would have continued to forget about it had the man not brought it all up again. They walked in silence for a while, James only mentioning once that they would be heading home soon. Harry just nodded stiffly.
James stopped him, laying a hand on his shoulder. Confused, he glanced up at him with an enquiring gaze. The older man had a serious look in his eyes and was surveying Harry with scrutiny.
"When we're home," he said quietly, his tone brooking no argument, "I think we need to talk."
Harry's stomach clenched.
But for some reason, part of him felt relieved.
He looked at her for a moment, for just the briefest moment their eyes met, but his weren't seeing her. She didn't know what they were seeing. Then he was gone. It was like he had blinked out of existence. She stared at the spot he'd been; his astronomy book fell to the floor with a soft thud. Harry was gone.
Bloody Harry Potter was gone.
And all she could do was stare.
"Okay, that did not just happen," she muttered to herself.
Ginny took three breaths, just three. On the first, she considered some possible solution to the immediate problem. Someone could just be playing a prank. Only, her brothers were gone and she doubted anyone else at Hogwarts was ingenious enough to pull off something even remotely like this. Plus, it wasn't all that funny. And if Harry had decided to do it himself (which she highly doubted) he was going to be on the receiving end of a rather nasty hex when she got hold of him. On the second, she entertained the thought that she was just having a dream. A very realistic dream that she didn't like in the slightest. Pinching her arm hard, she rid herself of that notion very quickly. On the third breath, she steeled herself to move, accepting that she could not see a reasonable explanation at the present moment.
She needed help.
She ran up to the girl's dormitory and moved into the Fifth Year's room quietly. She slipped passed the sleeping forms of the other girls and gently drew back Hermione's curtains. She shook the older girl awake.
"Ginny?" Hermione sat up, rubbing a hand over her face, "What – what is it?"
Ginny studied the sleep weary face of her friend, bushy hair messy and bedridden, eyes blurry and enquiring.
"It's Harry," she said softly, "Come on."
Hermione frowned at her, but nodded and slipped out of the bed, following Ginny outside. Everything was quiet. Hermione grabbed her arm as soon as they were out the door.
"What's wrong? Where's Harry? Is it another dream?"
Ginny wasn't sure how to respond.
"Let's just get Ron," she said instead, still trying to figure out how she was going to explain Harry's little disappearing act. How was she supposed to really? A ball of light appeared and whisked him away to places unknown? Or maybe it just made him vanish? Or maybe it had done something far worse?
Her stomach dropped.
She was not going to think that. Harry had just…gone somewhere else. They were going to find him and he was going to be safe.
Waking up Ron was a considerable feat, more so than in Ginny's living memory. She had woken her brother plenty of times, thought she knew all the tricks, but apparently Ron during OWL week was a whole other story. Nothing she did seemed to work, but the moment Hermione opened her mouth, Ron had shot out of the bed mumbling about spiders, homework and claiming he hadn't stolen her notes for Potions. Neville had already crawled out of his bed during one of Ginny's earlier attempts and followed them as they dragged Ron down to the Common Room. When the four Gryffindors were assembled, Ginny explained everything.
To say the news was taken well would have been a foolishly optimistic statement.
"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"
After re-explaining the situation and quelling Ron's indignant protest of whether the event had in fact happened, she crossed her arms, waiting patiently for everything to sink in. Ron was blinking. Nothing else, he was just blinking. Neville was looking around the Common Room, as though he was hoping Harry would just pop up. Hermione was…well she was being Hermione. Her eyes were already lit, calculating, assessing. Ginny had the odd suspicion that she had some kind of weird filing system in her memory bank that she could just flip through at leisure.
"A glowing ball…" Hermione whispered, her feet started shifting from side to side as though she wanted to start pacing.
"We need to tell someone," Ron stated, "The Order or – "
"How exactly?" Ginny scoffed, "We are stuck here. The owls are monitored, the professors are all practically on probation and the Toad is everywhere."
She was just picking fights now; she knew it and she didn't care.
Hermione's half pacing was beginning to annoy her.
"Well we have to do something," Neville was rubbing his chin, "Maybe we should try getting to McGonagall-"
Hermione's feet were making a tapping sound.
"She can't get out any easier than we can," Ron looked thoughtful, "And the fires are being monitored anyway, so-"
Shuffling. She was shuffling now? That was it.
"Hermione! Stop it!"
Okay, so she had snapped a little. But the half pacing was really, really frustrating. Hermione stopped, her eyes blinking several times at the ground.
"I need to get to the library," she said, her head snapping up.
"You're not getting there now," it was Neville who spoke up, "The patrols have gotten tighter and if you're caught out of bed…"
"That's a no to the library," Ron put in immediately and looked at Hermione, "I've never heard of any kind of transportation magic that involves glowing balls. You've read just about every book in that library, so if you haven't read about it already, I don't think you'll find it right now."
Hermione glared at him.
"It might not be transportation magic!" she snapped, "Harry is gone. Do you get that? He is gone and we have no idea how or why?!"
"He vanished!" she was starting to wring her hands now, "That doesn't just happen! You can't Apparate or Dissapparate on Hogwart's grounds. Portkeys are solid, charmed objects, not glowing balls. Floo powder requires the use of a fireplace and…"
She carried on rattling off every form of transportation spell she had ever heard of, their methods and their limitations.
"…but that requires the blood of eight goats and it can't take you more than-"
Ron grabbed her by the shoulders, making her look at him.
"It's not any of those," he said, firmer than Ginny had ever seen him, "Come on, we'll find Harry, but you need to calm down."
Ginny watched in amazement as Hermione did just that. She gave her older brother an appraising look; she hadn't expected him to act so firm or mature in light of a crisis like this. In fact, she had expected him to be panicking even more than her. His face had become oddly pensive and he was watching Hermione, as though afraid she would start to hyperventilate again. Hermione just shot him a weak smile and nodded.
"What we need is a plan," it was Neville who spoke, "There has to be some kind of explanation, after all."
Hermione's eyes suddenly widened.
"Dobby!" she exclaimed.
Ginny frowned, confused and she noticed Neville wore a similar expression, but Ron's face lit up with understanding immediately.
"You think he would?" Ron asked.
"He said Dumbledore hired him," Hermione said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, "He's a free elf! He's not loyal to whoever is in charge of Hogwarts and he adores Harry!"
"Dobby's brand of help isn't always, exactly well…helpful," Ron made a rolling gesture with his hand.
"Oh Ron," Hermione sighed, exasperated.
"What?" Ron threw his hands up, "The last time he tried to help, he nearly killed Harry!"
Ginny glanced between the two, unsure of what was going on. She thought she knew the name Dobby, but for the life of her, she couldn't quite recall. There was so much that happened between the three that she was unaware of. They all had their secrets and it seemed that the only people they shared these things with was each other. She felt a strange surge of jealousy. She didn't think she was that close to anyone and while she and Hermione often talked, she knew it would never quite match up to the friendship she had with Harry and Ron.
Immediately, she felt guilty.
Of all the idiotic things to be concerned with at a time like this…how selfish!
"Dobby's the house-elf, right?" Neville scratched his head, "That funny one who has an obsession with socks."
Ah, now Ginny remembered.
"Right," Ron nodded, "He can get past the wards and he pretty much stalks Harry-"
"Ron!" Hermione protested.
"And what else would you call it?" Ron snorted, "He's nutty."
"The point," Hermione reiterated with a small glare in Ron's direction, "Is that elf magic is the best option we have. We should still try to get to McGonagall if we can, but the most direct solution is to have Dobby take the message to headquarters now."
"We'd still need to get to the kitchens," Ron pointed out, "Wait! You think Harry left his cloak in his trunk?"
"And the map," she nodded, "You better check."
As Ron darted back up to the Boy's Dormitory, Ginny bit her lip.
She hoped Dobby could help.
Harry sat in his room pondering whether or not he should venture downstairs again. They had arrived back at Godric's Hollow not even half an hour ago and the look on James' face had clearly indicated he still wanted to 'talk.' A part of Harry was curious. He wanted to know a lot of things; what had happened differently on Halloween here? Why were Percy and Arthur Weasley so different? What was the Wand Registration really about? What were the major differences?
He wondered, most of all, just how much was identical to his world. Had their two timelines simply skewed over a single event, or were the two worlds merely similar with a few concurrent circumstances?
He thought about Lupin and Sirius. He had just assumed that his parents surviving had altered their destines, but it was more than that. Other things, other changes had pushed them into the positions they held now. Frank and Alice Longbottom had been saved too. Why? What was different?
What was the same?
Dumbledore was dead. That must had caused more changes than anything else. And to die so soon after the war ended must have had a lasting impact. Did the Ministry and the Board of Governors have more influence in Hogwarts here? Harry shuddered to think what Lucius Malfoy might have done to the school. This last year of Ministry influence hadn't exactly been pleasant.
He scratched at his bandaged hand absently.
And if Percy was different, what were Ron and the Twins like? What could have possibly caused Percy to be the one with the joke shop? Was he working for the Twins? And what about Mr. Weasley?
Questions, questions, questions…
He sighed, laying out on the bed and staring at the ceiling for a moment.
Well, he'd find no answers here.
Quietly, so as not to disturb Granny Potter who was taking a nap in her portrait, he left the room and crept downstairs. He found James waiting in the kitchen for him, seated at the table with a Butterbeer. He had one for Harry too.
Without a word, Harry took the seat opposite him, accepted the Butterbeer and took a sip, waiting. He thought about talking first, but the look on James' face said otherwise. Immediately, Harry felt like squirming. This was going to go back to his outburst in Diagon Alley.
He blushed a little, remembering himself and lowered his eyes. Strangely, he felt somewhat regretful about his burst of temper and now all he could think about was what James thought about him. The past year had made him a little more sensitive to people's opinions, causing him to feel more self-conscious about the staring and whispering than he ever had in previous years. It affected him, it made him angry, but he had resolved not to care.
"You wanted to talk?" Harry said quietly.
James gave a start, seeming surprised by Harry's question. He nodded slowly.
"About what happened in Diagon Alley-" he started.
"I'm sorry!" Harry blurted hurriedly, then turned red, not sure why he was apologizing. James frowned.
"I shouldn't have - I mean -" he cut off, lost for words and threw his arms up, "I just – I shouldn't have said all that."
"I'm glad you did," James admitted softly, drawing Harry's incredulity, "I've realized…well…I haven't exactly been the greatest person for you to talk to. To be honest Harry, I had been assuming I was the only one dead in your world, that you at least had your mother there for you. I'm sorry you had to grow up without us, I hope you know, that's the last thing I ever wanted for you."
Harry blinked, dumbfounded. His throat seemed to squeeze tight and his chest panged uncomfortably. He supposed he could see why James would think that; he hadn't exactly been forthcoming with information about his home life. He secretly wondered how James would react if he told him about the Dursleys…
Not receiving an answer from Harry, James continued.
"Lily did…something that night," he cleared his throat, "She never told me exactly what it was, but it saved our Harry's life. The Killing Curse rebounded, leaving the scar. I don't know if it's the same, but anything you want to ask me…I'll do whatever I can to help you figure it out…because I want you to know, more than anything, that it was not your fault. And-and I hope that maybe you'll tell me about it…about your life. I'd really like to know."
Harry just stared. His chest felt hot and he was all chocked up. It was not your fault. How funny…just hearing someone saying those words out loud…he couldn't explain it. Relief? Close, but not quite. Reassurance? Maybe. He wasn't sure yet he wanted James to know everything about his life, but the thought wasn't as terrifying as it might have been this morning. He watched James, trying to detect any insincerity. The man did look distinctly uncomfortable and perhaps a little wary, but he was meeting Harry's gaze with his firm, hazel eyes. Harry wondered wryly if the wariness was because he expected another outburst.
I'm not looking to bite your head off, he thought desperately, blushing a little.
But given his reactions over the past few days, he supposed he couldn't blame James for thinking that.
"It's a long story," Harry said, "I've only really put together some of the pieces of that night."
"I know what you mean," he muttered tiredly, peaking Harry's interest.
Harry decided to go first, ripping the proverbial plaster off. He didn't mention Sirius' imprisonment or Peter's betrayal and he didn't talk about what had happened afterwards. He only spoke about what had happened in the house that night. It was all James needed to know and he didn't want to be weighed down with unnecessary questions and outbursts. There was only one thing Harry wanted to figure out (only one thing he thought he could handle that night) and that was why Lily had survived here, but not in his world.
"Dumbledore said it was her act of love that saved me," he finished, "It created some kind of protection from him. A blood ward. I don't know if it was something she purposely did, or a result of the events of that night. But-but I think she must have used some magic…she must have…or else, there were others who died trying to save their loved ones…I mean, why did it save me?"
Harry's head was bowed by the time he had finished, his expression torn.
"Things were different here," James said quietly, drawing Harry's attention, "Like you, we were under the Fidelius. The charm failed, however, when our Secret Keeper disappeared."
There was a pause.
"In my world, our Secret Keeper betrayed us," Harry admitted softly.
James nodded, frowning in confusion, but didn't press the issue.
For now, Harry thought wryly, recognizing the curious spark in James' gaze.
Still, he wanted to ask now too. Had they had different Secret Keepers? He was sure if Pettigrew had been the Secret Keeper here, he surely would have betrayed them too.
"We had just put Harry to bed," James continued, "Sirius and Frank Longbottom suddenly appeared, setting off the alarm wards. I went outside to investigate and they told us to get out of the house. The wards had failed and Voldemort with a group of his followers were on their way. The Order was coming too, but we had to get out of the house."
He looked down at his drink and sighed.
"I'd barely gotten back through the door when they came," he said softly, "I shouted to Lily to get Harry and turned back. We were fighting, trying to stop them from getting into the house. The rest of the Order arrived, but…it was so confusing…so over whelming…"
James seemed lost in his thoughts.
"Voldemort got through somehow," he shook his head, "I'm not sure how. Next thing I knew, Lily was screaming. Remus got up there first, he managed to wound Voldemort, but he was blasted out of the window as soon as he did. Lily was thrown aside and he advanced on Harry. He cast the Killing curse…Lily told me all she could see was green light, and then there was an explosion. Voldemort was just gone and Harry was crying in his crib. The scar was the only injury he had..."
James stopped there, trailing a little, as though lost in the memories. Harry mulled over the new information in his head. Voldemort brought his followers with him. Why? And how had the Order known? What had caused things to happen so differently?
And most importantly, why had the Killing Curse rebounded even without Lily Potter's sacrifice?
Increasingly, Harry's theory that this world was only similar fundamentally to his own began to seem more plausible.
He drank down his Butterbeer, followed by James.
"You think its weird that they're so…different?" Harry asked quietly, "I mean…my mum died…. she died! Both of you died and…I don't think there was anything to do about it. Dumbeldore told me it was my mother's sacrifice that saved me, but here it was something different. So different…"
He trailed off, feeling lost and awfully alone in that strange world with a could have been of his father.
"And here you died and there was nothing we could do about that," James intoned softly, "Maybe it's not meant to make sense…maybe that just the way it is."
"It doesn't seem fair," Harry muttered miserably, "You think there's a world out there where all three of us just ended up…happy?"
James' head snapped up at the question.
"I don't know, maybe," he offered up a smile, "It's a nice thought I suppose, makes life seem less hopeless. There are a lot of maybes though, I think the only thing we can do is live with what we have and try to find happiness where we can. It's hard, but nothing worth having is ever easy."
Harry's mind immediately flashed to his friends, to Sirius and the Weasleys and to the DA. He found a small smile creeping onto his face and let out a funny sort of chuckle, shaking his head slightly.
"Guess you're right," he rubbed his thumb over the glass bottle in his hand, feeling thoughtful, "Still…I'm glad I got to meet you. Even if this situation is kinda weird."
He froze as the words left his mouth. He hadn't intended to say that, but he had. It was the first thing to come to mind and he'd said it. Thinking about it now, he was glad he got to meet James. Even if this man was not really his dad, he didn't regret meeting him.
"I'm…glad I got to meet you too," came the man's low voice and Harry looked up in shock to find James smiling back at him, "We'll get you home Harry, but until then…you're welcome here."
They lapsed into another silence, neither sure what to say to the other. Harry could feel his cheeks heating and his chest felt like it wanted to burst. How could such a simple statement make him feel so…?
"Thanks," he mumbled sheepishly.
James nodded slowly, though he looked happy too. The corner of his lips tilted upwards in the ghost of a grin.
"I'm guessing you and me have a lot to talk about," Harry sighed tiredly as James spoke, "But we'll take it one day at a time, shall we?"
Harry gave a little laugh, there were a lot of things he wanted to know still and it was obvious that James did too. But he felt drained, emotionally and physically. One look at James told him that his father felt the same way. It had been an interesting day. This morning he had wanted as little as possible to do with this man and now…
Now he wouldn't mind learning a few things.
We'll take it one day at a time.
"Yeah," he murmured.
He could do that.
"Also, Harry," James looked troubled all of a sudden, "There's something I need to tell you…about the spell."
Harry frowned at the look on James' face.
Something told him he wasn't going to like this part of the conversation.
Remus' feet thumped dully on the stone corridor. It was always cool and dark whenever he came, a lonely corridor filled with unspoken things. He reached the heavy, black door within moments and stepped into the Entrance Chamber with much ease. Maneuvering himself through the confusing trap left to unwanted visitors, he went through a door that sectioned off a common work area for Unspeakables. A narrow room with desks and chairs, lockers lining the sides and brightly lit candles hanging surreptitiously in the air, it was a grandiose office where they could rest between workloads. It was there that he found the exact person he wanted to speak to. Saul Croaker.
Professor Croaker had been there longer than Remus and knew about most of the projects going on in the Department. His work he kept on a tight lip, but he was usually more than happy to direct other members in the direction of their pursuits. When Remus entered, he found Croaker with his nose buried deep in a thick volume and his bony fingers wrapped around a cup of coffee.
"Saul," Remus greeted him.
Croaker looked up. His greying head snapping up as though out of a dream. When he saw Remus though, he smiled.
"Remus," he nodded, "You'll be headed to see her now then?"
Remus nodded. He needed the key first and moved to the side lockers.
Okay, so Sirius was right. It was technically a girl.
"What was the emergency?" Remus asked, fetching the heavy, gold key from its locker.
"She won't take her potions till you're there," Croaker looked bored, "Fargo has been – "
"You sent Fargo in!" Remus snapped angrily, "You know they hate him. All he does is rile them up. No wonder you're having trouble! I told you – "
"Yes, yes," Croaker waved him off dismissively, "He volunteered, alright. You know no one else likes going in there besides you. But you were off and things needed doing today, I thought the sensitivity seminar would have helped."
"Clearly not," Remus commented dryly, "Couldn't you have gotten Bode? They like him just fine.
Professor Croaker sighed.
"He's been working in the Space Room lately," he tapped his fingers on the table thoughtfully, "Hasn't come out in two days. Last I saw he was floating about Saturn's rings, I tried calling him, but I got ignored."
"I didn't think he was interested in that sort of thing," he shrugged and added casually, "Say…we ever look into other dimensions?"
Croaker looked curious.
"Other dimensions?" he repeated, rubbing his chin, "Hmmm, yeah I think there was something about fifteen years back. You'll probably find the notes in with the records from that time, just be sure you double check for wards on it. Old Harmon was the one working on it and he was as paranoid as Mad Eye."
Remus stilled immediately. Tiberius Harmon was one of many Unspeakables who had died in the pursuit of his work. His death was used as an example of the caution each member of the department had to show. Theirs was a job of unknown dangers.
"Thanks," Remus muttered.
He was about to walk away, when Croaker stopped him, his gaze more penetrating this time.
"Oh and Remus," he called, halting the werewolf in his tracks, "Just one more thing. Harmon's partner on the project was Avery Rookwood."
Remus' eyes widened slightly.
A Death Eater was looking into other dimensions?
"I'll keep that in mind," he said quietly, walking away with his thoughts to harrow him.
They called it the One of a Kind Room. Remus unlocked the old black door with a practiced hand and gently pushed it open. The torches lit up immediately as he walked into the dark room. A huge, circular chamber was revealed. In the very centre stood the only artifact it housed, small compared to how high the dark chamber reached.
The domed structure was small, until one got inside of course. The green glass roof appeared dirty and clouded up, obscuring any signs of life within. Stony walls carved with images of animals and ferocious beasts in painted plaster danced about the outside. The firelight distorted the images, making shadows dance and illuminated the beastly appearance. Iron bars held it together, like the most restricting of cages, containing its shape and form. Runes had been scratched much later into those walls, their purpose to make the cage all the more real. There was only one door in. A heavy wrought iron gate made from twisting metal leaves and gold filigree work.
Remus took a deep breath before he entered, knowing the state his charges were most likely in. He tried to ignore the foreboding feeling in his chest and paused with his eyes on the all too familiar sign before he entered.
Hanging above the gate in letters of faded gold was the name of this cage.