Dreams and Half Truths
She was smiling, though her eyes were sad.
He wanted to reach out and take her hand, hold it tightly and never let go again. She reached out first, trying to lay a hand on his shoulder.
"Let go of me! Don't touch me!" his mouth moved on its own, screaming at her.
No, that wasn't right.
He hadn't wanted to say that.
"Harry, please," the woman begged.
He screamed again.
"Don't touch me!" he yelled violently, drawing stares, "I don't want you to touch me!"
It wasn't him. He wasn't saying that. He didn't even feel that way.
But he could feel the snarl in his voice and something, not him, was angry.
"You'll hurt me again!" he carried on, "Don't touch me!"
Her face became stony.
I'm sorry, Harry begged silently, I'm so sorry. I don't mean it.
Her eyes were shining with tears.
Harry snapped away, panting slightly as he bolted up in bed. His body was coated in a thin sheen of cold sweat.
"What the hell?" he muttered, running a hand shakily through his raven locks. He reached over for his glasses and jammed them on his face. The early morning light was dimly shining through the curtains of the room.
Harry got out of bed quickly, needing to move. He contented himself with pacing around the room for a few minutes, trying to think through the dream.
He couldn't understand what he was seeing. All too often Harry had dreams of his mother, some of them good and some of them bad. In the worst ones, she ended up getting hurt or dying at Voldemort's hands. Never had he rejected her so utterly in a dream before.
It wasn't exactly like the dreams he had had of Voldemort either. The dream of 's attack, for instance, had made Harry feel and desire exactly what the snake had. He had been the snake. This time though, it was a little different. Even though he could feel what was going on, the anger, the hatred and the fear, it was definitely coming from someone else. Harry had felt like a third party, trapped and watching through the eyes of another. Aware of what was going on, but completely unable to stop it. He had felt his own distress, his own horror at what was going on.
He sat down heavily on the bed and shook himself.
His hand rested for a moment on his scar.
It had been three weeks since coming to this new world and his scar hadn't pained him once. Not even the dull ache he was used to after a bad dream. He hadn't had a dream about the doorway either. He'd even been sleeping through the night.
This was the first time in three weeks that he had had a nightmare.
A record, he thought, somewhat amused. It worried him though, why was Voldemort so quiet?
But still…three weeks and no hope yet of returning to his own world.
It didn't help that James wasn't letting him do anything more than wait for something to happen. Harry hadn't been outside Godric's Hollow since their trip into Diagon Alley.
He cast a glance at his wand as the day came to mind.
There didn't seem to be anything wrong with it.
His wand was working perfectly normal actually; there was no change in its power or its reaction. In fact, Harry wasn't sure the whole episode in Ollivander's shop had done anything to it at all.
The merging had gotten him thinking though.
Maybe all it meant was that two exact things couldn't occupy the same place.
Lupin had had a similar theory and guessed that the reason Harry's presence in another world hadn't disrupted everything was because he wasn't trying to share the space with another Harry.
The rest of his theory on the matter had given Harry a headache trying to understand.
Lupin and Sirius was another odd thing on Harry's mind. Sirius was friendly, even joking with him. There was a lightness there that was missing from his own experiences with Sirius Black in his world.
It felt off somehow. Harry couldn't quite put his finger on why, maybe it was just the differences. Lately, Sirius seemed very curious about things in Harry's world. Just the logistics though, nothing about Harry himself. He had wanted to know whom the Minister was, who ran Hogwarts, who was the head of the Auror department.
Some Harry knew, but some, like the most recent rulings at the Wizengamot or how many Aurors were last reported on Active duty, he had no clue about. When he didn't Sirius would just smile and move on to the next thing.
At first, Harry thought Sirius was trying to ascertain the differences between the two worlds, but since he rarely reacted to the answers Harry did give, he wasn't so sure now. There was very little he had been told about the structure of the Wizarding world here, though to tell the truth, it hadn't exactly been what he was interested in.
"I want to help save Lily."
He remembered the first words out of his mouth the moment James had told him he'd be here awhile. It had made perfect sense to Harry at the time. If he was here, he wanted to help. Though he had kind of hoped he'd be gone before she was rescued, the thought of meeting his mother, any version of her, made him feel giddy. He didn't care if it was just for a minute. He wanted to see her.
"Its too dangerous."
James hadn't even given Harry's pleas a second thought; the hard look on his face surprised the younger wizard.
"But-but I can help! I have information that might be useful!"
He'd caught James there. For just a moment, he'd caught him. There had been an uneasy look of hope, of consideration in his father's eyes.
"Harry…when we get Lily out, you have to be gone. We can't help you if we're running. We can't do both! You're being here is my fault and I'll bear the consequences of that. But you have to be sent back before we can do anything to help Lily."
Harry still didn't understand.
"You can't just leave her in there because of me! At least hear what I have to say!"
James had looked wary, but agreed.
So Harry told him.
"Who were the two men?" James asked after Harry's explanation of the two escape attempts was done.
"Does it matter?" Harry asked, hesitatingly.
"I'm interested," was all James replied.
"Barty Crouch Jr. was smuggled out by his father," Harry said slowly, "The other…he turned out to be innocent."
If James noticed the lack of the second name, he didn't comment immediately.
"Like Lily," he said instead.
Harry's smile was sad.
"Yeah," he murmured absently, "You're right."
"So who was he?" James asked again.
Harry bit down on his lower lip and shook his head.
"I don't remember," he said quickly, "Stubby Boardman or something…I think…"
Okay, so he'd lied. But Harry couldn't help it. He liked the fact that Sirius, Lupin and James were treating him like a normal kid. He liked that they didn't stare at his scar or look at him like the poor orphan. And he especially liked the fake childhood he'd constructed around himself. It was the way he would have liked to grow up if he couldn't have his parents. With Sirius.
And most of all, there was a clear sense of relief in James' eyes when he said it. On more than one occasion, James had commented how glad he was that at least Sirius had been there. He didn't have to worry about sending Harry back, because Harry was happy.
Better he think that than know about the Dursleys, Voldemort, or any of it.
Harry felt odd about it all, because it felt like he was trying to protect James. What was even stranger was that he felt like he needed to protect James.
The man was kind of a mess.
He hadn't realized it at first, but as the days and then weeks went by, little things alerted him to it. The way James was so often forgetful when it came to taking care of himself, the way he would spend hours staring sadly at old photographs and furiously going over old court transcripts. Sometimes he even forgot to eat.
He rarely left the house, which amounted to why Harry had also been so cooped up. Harry very quickly found himself taking over the chores in the house and making sure James ate and slept regularly. At first, Sirius or Lupin would appear to help, but as the days passed and they realized Harry was taking care of it all, they came less.
Once a week James would disappear for about an hour, he never said where he went.
Harry used the time to poke and prod around the house, searching for clues as to what the Marauders were up to when it came to rescuing Lily. James had had a gleam in his eyes after Harry mentioned the two successful escapes. He must be working on something, Harry was sure.
But he never found the notes, though he was sure he had seen James scribbling at them for hours on end.
Instead, he found other things.
He found the room his counterpart had slept in. It was immaculate, as though the boy had just left it the day before. There were pictures hanging over the walls, some of them clearly drawn by the five-year-old. He even found an album.
Harry drew out the child's scrawl, his fingers running over the pages in wonder. Aunt Petunia had preserved nearly every page Dudley had drawn on as a five year old. He half expected he would find whole albums dedicated to Dudley Dursley's pre-school work if he investigated the boxes stored in Uncle Vernon's garage. If Harry had ever drawn anything and given it to his aunt, he was more than sure it had been deposited in the trash without a second thought. He remembered, with a cringe, the one Mother's Day he had tried to do something for Aunt Petunia.
He had been maybe four or five himself and just learning his letters. He had wanted to impress his aunt with how advanced he was. He even remembered staying in class during lunch and begging his pre-school teacher to help him write a simple 'Happy Mother's Day Auntie Petunia' on a carefully drawn card. He remembered picking flowers from the garden before presenting the small token to her.
He remembered the way her lips had pinched shut as she stared at him skeptically. There had been a confused, but oddly soft look in her eyes. It quickly vanished though when Vernon appeared in the room and Harry found himself being sent to the cupboard for tearing up her 'precious' garden. He was sure she had thrown the card away too.
He had never tried anything like that again.
He smiled goofily now as he leafed through the pages of the small album. He had no memory, of course, of ever drawing these, but there was something about them that felt like he could have. He made note of how carefully each page had been preserved, he grinned over the childish handwriting, the hands with too many fingers and the bright magenta little Harry had once coloured 'mummy's' hair. There was even a picture of a shaggy, black creature with a rolling tongue that could only be Padfoot.
It was a look into a life he could have had. Should have had.
It was nice.
His gaze ran casually over a drawing of two dark haired individuals. The shorter, with round spectacles, green eyes and a lightning bolt on his round forehead could only be little Harry. The other…
At first, Harry thought it was James or maybe Sirius, but the childish scribble next to the drawing caught his attention. Above the drawing of Harry was a messy looking 'ME.' Above the other, so illegible that it took Harry a second to comprehend the name, was 'TONY.'
He wondered who that was. A babysitter? A neighborhood friend? He had been drawn taller than little Harry, but that was no indication of age. He flipped through the album and found many, many more pictures of 'Tony.'
He wondered if he should ask James who the other boy was.
He smiled to himself now, sitting in the slowly brightening room. He kind of wanted to know more about the other Harry Potter. The little boy that had grown up in this house. In a lot of ways, Harry often found himself referring to the kid as 'little Harry.' It almost felt like he had a younger sibling he'd never gotten to meet.
Sighing he finally pushing himself off the bed. He'd get dressed and get breakfast started, then make sure James was awake. Hopefully today would be more interesting than the last few.
"So, are you going to let me help?"
They had just sat down to breakfast, a particularly good-looking meal thanks to Harry's cooking skills. James sighed as Harry brought up the topic, yet again.
"Harry," he started, already knowing where this conversation was going.
"Oh come on!" Harry protested, "I don't want you delaying getting her out just because I'm here!"
"Its not just that!" James found himself snapping, "Harry, you're fifteen years old and I'm not getting you involved in this."
"I've been through more than you know," Harry countered, "I can handle it!"
"Like what?" James asked, genuinely curious.
Harry, as always, snapped his mouth shut.
There was the frustrating thing about the boy. There were just some things he wouldn't talk about. James was already starting to get suspicious about some of the things Harry was telling him, but for the most part, he waved it away. He'd help Harry get home and he'd take care of the boy in the interim period. That's what he'd decided.
Anything else was just too much to handle.
Mostly because, every time he spoke with the kid or looked at him, a part of James started dreading the day he'd have to send Harry away.
And that just wouldn't do.
Sirius on the other side must be going into panic mode by now. And if he knew his friend, he was probably doing something very loud and very reckless. Like bossing around the Auror department or picketing the Ministers office.
Something Sirius like.
"I wanted to ask you something," Harry began again, obviously looking for a change of subject.
"Well, since I'm supposed to be your apprentice anyway," Harry looked a little nervous about asking, "Maybe you could help me with my transfiguration?"
James looked up from the newspaper he had been about to dive into and blinked. An odd request.
"I don't see why not," he said thoughtfully, "How are you at it generally?"
"Exceeded Expectations mostly," Harry shrugged sheepishly, "I uh, I actually really want to be an Auror. Professor McGonagall says I need high grades in the core subjects for that."
"Yes," James nodded, feeling oddly pleased Harry had shared his hopes for the future with him, "The training is quite something go through. Sirius and I passed by the skin of our teeth."
"I thought you were a Transfiguration Master?" Harry said, confused.
"I was an Auror for five years before that," James took a deep breath and explained, "Sirius and I, we entered the Auror training almost straight out of Hogwarts, but then there was the war... We were accepted right in after Voldemort's fall though, Lily was never really happy about that."
"So how-?" Harry gestured.
"I started taking my Masters part time when I was twenty-two," James fingered his wand, "McGonagall helped me out and it only took me about two years. Another year after that and I was certified to teach. But, I was an Auror right up till Lily was convicted and then I just couldn't take it. I couldn't go to work day in and day out with the people who had falsely imprisoned my wife, working for the Ministry that had abandoned everything we once fought for. So I quit the day Lily was sentenced, it took another year though before I could pick myself up again, and when I did, I just started to teach. Next thing you know, I've become a popular Master to apprentice under and I get more application letters than I know what to do with."
"So…you'll teach me?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Yes, of course."
"And you'll let me help?"
"Harry," he said warningly.
"She's not your mother! You don't have to worry about it!" As soon as the words left James' mouth, he wished he could take them all back. The look of shock and hurt on Harry's face was enough to kill him a little inside.
"Harry, I-" James didn't know what to say
The boy huffed, turning away.
"Fine," he looked sullenly down at his cereal.
"I'll just um…I'll finish this later," James chocked out, leaving the table as fast as he could.
Merlin, he always seemed to be running away.
Harry watched the space James had vacated, taking a sullen bite of his cereal. He picked up the discarded newspaper absently and read the main headline. He chocked, spraying food and milk down his front.
"What the hell?!"
A plume of smoke filled the platform as the Hogwarts Express finally arrived. The low, familiar bustle of parents and assorted family members waiting for their children picked up with anticipation. As Neville Longbottom descended from his compartment, trunk and toad in hand, his face broke into a huge, happy grin at the sight of his parents waiting for him. He had spotted them from his window when the train was pulling in.
Alice, her blonde curls swept back into a bouncy ponytail, rushed forward to hug him immediately. Frank reached forward to pick up Neville's trunk, giving his son a warm smile.
"Good year?" he asked, as Alice pulled away.
Ron Weasley and his brother George came out after Neville. He turned to say goodbye to them, clapping Ron on the shoulder.
"See you over the summer?"
The Weasleys greeted the Longbottom parents in turn before disappearing to find their own family. With Trevor safely in his pocket, Neville allowed himself to be led away by his talkative mother.
A few compartments down another student descended the steps from the train. He was almost immediately engulfed in the arms of his mother. She had rushed forward the moment she saw him, leaving his father and another woman standing a few feet behind.
"Draco!" his mother cried, stepping back to look at him, "Oh, how good to see you!"
"Narcissa, really," came his father's serious tone, "A little more dignity."
The smile that had lit the blonde boy's face immediately faded and he detangled himself from his mother's arms to walk forward and greet his father, stopping a small distance from the man.
Draco pulled a straight face, not quite meeting his father's gaze. He eyed the new secretary, hovering not far off to the side. She was pretty, he supposed, with dark brown hair and a pouting mouth. Her short skirt revealed legs that could go on for miles. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes; his father always had been a leg man. From the hostile way she was eyeing his mother, he had no doubt this was his father's latest conquest.
Screwing the help again father, he thought sarcastically.
"Draco," Lucius Malfoy nodded in acknowledgement, but did no more, "I trust you've had a good year. Your mother tells me you are excelling in your Potions and Transfiguration work."
He sounded bored, disinterested.
Draco was hardly surprised.
"Yes father," he responded politely, "It has been a very productive year for me. As you know, I made prefect and Seeker on my house team again."
It didn't hurt to try, he supposed. He'd written about these things to his father, of course, but had received no response beyond a small pouch of Galleons and a card reading 'Congratulations.' His father's old secretary, Draco knew, had sent both.
This one seemed to be far more lax on such things.
He could only imagine what services she really provided.
He glanced at his mother, whose expression was torn between beaming with pride and encouragement at her son and glaring at her husband. His own lips twitched a little in amusement, but he kept his expression blank.
"Yes, yes," Lucius said dismissively, "Very well done."
His secretary gave a discreet cough, drawing his attention. She tapped her watch, a smile stretched across her face and indicated they needed to go. To a private meeting no doubt, Draco mused. His father suddenly laid a hand on his blonde head and smiled. There was a flash out of the corner of Draco's right eye, before he was released. Someone from the Daily Prophet no doubt, photographing the Minister welcoming his son home.
"There are some good internships at the Ministry this summer," Lucius said, "You still haven't made a decision. I'll have Terra owl you the details again. Goodbye Draco, Narcissa."
He nodded to both, turned on his heel and left without another word, his secretary – Terra? What kind of a name was Terra? – Scurrying behind like a lap dog.
"Goodbye father," Draco muttered, his expression twisting into a look of pure displeasure. He caught his mother watching him worriedly and shot her a smile.
"He's still a prat," he told her firmly, walking forward to wrap an arm around his mother's waist and give her a half hug, "Missed you, Mum."
"Oh Draco," Narcissa sighed, laughing a little as she hugged him back, "You didn't tell him you'd found a job, did you?"
"Like he gives me the chance!" Draco snorted and shrugged, "Besides, I doubt he cares."
She pursed her lips.
"You know that's not true," she scolded, and then softened, "But you're right. He is still a prat."
Draco's grin widened and he chuckled, glad to be home. He brushed away the meeting with his father, as he usually did and tried to concentrate on other things. He doubted he and Minister Malfoy had anything in common anymore, maybe they never did. It was all just a façade for the camera.
It was the first time Harry had even thought about looking at a Daily Prophet in weeks. Ron and Hermione had practically been filtering articles for him all year, as though trying to save him from the worst of the Ministry's slander. What he had read had only made him angry and frustrated and so he had avoided doing more than skimming the headlines. Arriving in another world, keeping up with the daily news had been the last thing on his mind, but now that he was aware of so many fundamental differences he was finally interested.
The first headline he read, however, was not encouraging.
Minister Malfoy Confronts Allegations of Discriminatory Practices with in the Ministry.
Harry blinked several times; his eyes glued to the blonde, pointy-faced man on the cover.
Oh you have got to be kidding me, he thought as he flipped through the paper frantically, what kind of messed up world is this?
Sirius Black had a box.
The box itself was nothing particularly special. It was rectangular and wooden, pretty much standard as far as boxes went. But what was inside the box lay the accumulation of nine years of research.
Most of it relating to Harry Potter.
At first, he had kept up the investigation out of anger, grief and the fierce need to both prove his friend's innocence and avenge his little godson.
Now it was so much more.
Even without his personal connection to the case, Sirius found Harry's death intriguing. It was easy to think, when all the evidence was laid out, that Lily had committed the crime. She had the opportunity and the means that was for certain. Her lack of memory was suspect at best and her own wand provided what the muggles would call 'the smoking gun.' The only thing they had never been able to prove was motive. Though the prosecutor had tried. He remembered vaguely a muggle psychologist being brought in to explain a mental illness call Munchhausen syndrome.
Sirius still wasn't sure he understood that one.
Despite the lack of motive, Lily had still been convicted. The case itself was entirely circumstantial, which contributed to the somewhat lighter sentence. She had been tried in the press more than anything else. In the end, he supposed, they had just wanted someone to blame.
Thirty-five years or life, it didn't matter. No one lasted more than a couple of decades in Azkaban, if they were lucky.
Back to the box though. His investigation had started with Harry Potter's death, but had turned into so much more. His godson's murder wasn't the only unexplained occurrence in the past nine years, several people had either gone missing or died. On the whole, this wasn't exactly strange and hadn't been picked up by the Auror department, but something niggled at Sirius. It was too much like those early years right before Voldemort came into power. Muggle-borns, sympathizers and even old Order members, Sirius found it hard to believe that all the victims had something like that in common and weren't being targeted.
And it all led back to Harry's murder, of that he was sure.
Then there were the simple logistics of that case. The wards around the house had been designed to monitor exactly who was coming and going. If you weren't keyed into the wards, an alarm went off and a record of the magical signature was preserved. It was a remnant from the days when Voldemort was at large and had been kept up simply because of the fame surrounding Harry.
There had been no foreign entries that night.
Bottom line, the wards were simply too complicated for anyone to tamper with them without leaving some sort of trace.
Which led Sirius to one other conclusion.
Whatever had killed Harry had already been in the house.
He thought about their little dimensional visitor and smiled. While Remus and James rushed to find a way to send Harry home, Sirius was more than happy for the kid to stick around a little longer. His info on the other world was interesting, comparatively speaking. And frankly, Sirius had realized a long time ago that he needed Harry Potter to find the answers he sought.
It was just his luck that one had fallen right into his hands.
James avoided Harry for most of the morning.
Harry wondered around the house, yet again going over thing in his mind. Malfoy as Minister? Ron was never going to believe him. He wondered how much else was different. Maybe he should start paying more attention.
Then there was that morning.
James had been right after all, the Lily in this world wasn't technically his mother, but that didn't mean he didn't feel obligated to help her in someway. James was in his study, no doubt looking at those court transcripts again. Harry was about to go and confront him, awkwardness be damned, when he realized there was someone else in the room with him.
That was another thing. Harry just couldn't understand why the Marauders trusted Snape or why he was helping them at all. Maybe it was because Voldemort had been gone from this world for so long, there was no one for him to betray them too.
He paused a little out of sight to listen to the conversation.
"-so…where are you going?" that was James' voice.
"An old place," Snape's sneering voice said briskly, "It was built to store large concentrations of magic a millennia ago, but has long been unused. The area was open for tourists a century ago, but certain…infestations closed the site down. Still, perhaps there are some clues."
"To what you've been researching, getting Harry home?"
Harry leaned in closer to hear, interested.
"You're not Apparating?" was the mildly surprised question.
"Unfortunately the site is surrounded by anti-Apparation wards, the only way in is a Portkey, which should be taking me in precisely two minutes," was the stark reply.
"Yes, alone Potter," Snape said sharply, "I'm quite capable."
"I didn't mean it like that," James' voice sounded weary, as though the rhetoric of this conversation was familiar to him, "Just…do you need any help?"
"I am capable," Snape sounded annoyed.
"Right…sorry, of course," James backed up immediately and sighed heavily, "I was just asking."
"Well, don't," was the scathing reply.
"Alright, alright! Geez! Were you always this cranky?"
"Were you always this insufferable?"
"I didn't think you had a sense of humour!" James said with a chuckle, "It's kinda dry, but its there."
"Shut up, Potter," Snape responded, clearly irritated.
Harry frowned as he listened. Somehow, this was not how he had expected James to act around Snape, he even sounded worried about the man going somewhere off by himself. Why? And why was Snape helping them in the first place? Was this the life debt thing he owed his father? He hadn't been able to pay it off to Harry, so he was doing it now by helping them?
That had to be it, right?
There was absolutely no other way…no other reason that Snape would help.
And why did James care about the man?
He remembered that one memory he had seen of his father. The bullying toerag. Snape hated him. He loathed him. And the James Potter in the memory clearly had no love for the Potions master either.
"I'm trying here, Severus," James cut in, sounding tired.
"Then stop," the Potions master snapped harshly, "When this is all over, you and I will have nothing more to do with each other."
"You don't really believe that, do you?" James' reply was so soft Harry almost missed it.
"I'm leaving Potter," Snape continued briskly, "I only came to drop off the spell for Lupin, the Portkey will activate in a few seconds. Now, if you will excuse me…"
Snape had already rounded the corner by the time Harry realized what was happening. All he saw was a mass of dark robes and the surprised black eyes of Severus Snape. The man knocked into him and Harry's hand went out immediately to grab onto something. Unfortunately that something happened to be Snape's robes.
"No! Let go!" the Potion's master cried.
But it was too late.
Harry thought he heard someone call out his name before he was forcefully transported somewhere for the second time in a matter of weeks.
His luck just wasn't working for him lately.
A/N: So, it's been awhile. The delay has mostly been a mixture of real world variables, writers block and writing myself into a huge plot hole. I've scrapped most of the chapters I've been playing with and decided to take a somewhat new direction with this story. Tonight, I was finally hit by the writing bug and pumped out this chapter in four hours (new record for me). Its rough and I'll have to fix it up later, but its where I'm restarting from and I just couldn't leave you wonderful readers hanging a second longer. The next chapter will probably be a bit slow out, simply because I'm going to re-plan many of the next chapters with a very new direction in mind. Things will be moving a lot fast from now on.
For the next chapter, one word: Trolls.