Rating:
R
House:
Schnoogle
Ships:
Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
Characters:
Harry Potter
Genres:
Action
Era:
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Spoilers:
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Stats:
Published: 09/18/2001
Updated: 03/30/2002
Words: 425,244
Chapters: 21
Hits: 583,257

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions

Barb

Story Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge? The sequel to
Read Story On:

Chapter 03 - The Last Temptation

Chapter Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could ?change the world as we know it.? At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort?s ultimate revenge?
Posted:
10/06/2001
Hits:
29,414

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions

(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)

Chapter Three

The Last Temptation

Harry stared at the unnaturally tall, thin wizard, at the eerily red eyes and strange, flat nose. Harry's hand gripped his wand too tightly, making his knuckles ache. He thought of all the families who had been hurt by this monster; the Bells, the Clearwaters, the Flints, the Longbottoms--

The Potters. His hand shook; it's just me or him, he thought. Somehow he's--he's stopped time. Harry tried to look around without taking his eyes off Voldemort. Still no movement from anyone. He looked at the dark wizard again, his throat tight. "What have you done?" he demanded, trying to sound hacked-off instead of terrified. "Why aren't they moving?" A smile, or what passed for one. Harry thought he was going to be ill, looking at it. "They are moving, Harry. But we are moving far faster, so to us, they appear to be standing still." Harry frowned, lowering his wand. "What?" "No one can freeze time, Harry. You can, however, use magic to move very, very fast. I have cast the Tempus Fugit spell on just the two of us, so that we could have a conversation here in private, in the infinitesimally small space between two milliseconds..." "The space between two milliseconds? But--" "Harry. You are a very talented young wizard, I will grant you that. But there is much you have not learned in the last five years. There are things you will not learn in the next two years. I spent many years in research before I lost my body, and I have spent a good deal of time doing research since getting it back. Trust me when I say that I know far more about these things than you do." Harry stared hard now at a woman who, in normal time, would be walking along briskly, pulling behind her an oblong black bag with small built-in wheels and an extendible handle, which rendered a station trolley unnecessary. The heel of the foot in front of her appeared to be an inch off the ground; her free arm was caught in midswing. Harry looked at her foot, willing it to come down and strike the ground, however slowly. But she appeared to be a very realistic sculpture, her foot forever about to land on the ground, her eyes caught in mid-blink... "How fast are we moving?" Harry wanted to know. Voldemort looked thoughtful. "Well, if it were possible for this spell to last fifty years--which it is not--and you did actually live at this speed for what feels to you like fifty years, after that time--" He pointed to the woman Harry had been looking at. "--her foot will still not have hit the ground." Harry swallowed. Is that what he was going to do? Keep Harry moving at this speed, then finally end the spell, with the result that people would suddenly see a thirty or forty-year-old Harry Potter where sixteen-year-old Harry had been moments before? If he did it repeatedly, he could put Harry into doddering old age in no time...except that it wouldn't feel like no time to Harry... "You said you wanted to have a conversation," Harry said, pointing his wand at the older man again, trying to sound authoritative. He hoped it wasn't too obvious that he was shaking very badly. "You haven't been sleeping very well, have you Harry? When is the last time you had a good night's sleep?" Harry ignored this; his breathing felt labored and his eyes were slightly unfocused. "What the hell did you want to say to me?" Voldemort looked calmly at him and took out his wand. He pointed it at Harry's wand arm. "Lower your wand, Harry. You know we cannot duel. I found out why; I sent one of my servants to that Ollivander fellow..." "You didn't hurt Mr. Ollivander, did you?" Harry felt anger pulsing through him at the idea of Mr. Ollivander suffering because of him. "Not at all. He saw the--wisdom, shall we say, of freely sharing the information my servant requested. Did you know our wands are brothers?" "Yes," Harry snarled. "I've known that since I was eleven." Voldemort nodded. "Ah. So you went into our little encounter last year knowing something I did not. Interesting. Well, what I wanted to talk to you about is exactly that: Our wands are brothers. I have been looking into some very special things that can be done together by two wizards whose wands are broth--" "Together? Why would I want to do anything with you?" "Ah, I'm glad you asked that question, Harry. As you might imagine, I have an answer for you. There are a number of spells, most of which you will not learn in school, that are designed to be executed by two or more wizards. The more compatible their wands are, the more potent the spell is. If a tandem spell were being cast by, say, two wands with unicorn hair for their cores, it is far more likely to be successful than, say, one wand with unicorn hair and one with dragon heartstring. "If, in addition to having compatible cores, the wands' core sources are identical--the same unicorn, for instance, or the same dragon, or, as is the case with us, the same phoenix--the potency and magnitude of the spell increases a thousand-fold, possibly more." Harry tried to stay focused; he kept his wand raised and aimed at the tall figure, but he was starting to feel doubts wrinkling across his brain. What if he were just hallucinating this? He'd been suffering from insomnia for so long, he could believe he'd started to dream while awake. What else could explain this? This just couldn't be real... But then he shook himself and glared at Voldemort again. "I already asked why you think I'd want to do anything with you? I know you want to absorb my power, since you're still so much weaker than you used to be. Do you think I'm going to fall for this?" Another unnatural, unnerving smile. "There's nothing to fall for, Harry. I've seen that you are capable of making an ally out of an old enemy, if that old enemy is working toward the same goal you are." "We do not have the same goals!" Harry shouted, feeling his heart pounding in his ears. "Oh, but we do, Harry, we most certainly do. I have had quite a while to think during the last year, in addition to researching wand-brothers. There is something I did in the past which I deeply regret, and I know that you do too. Something I wish that I could undo. And with your help, I can. By using our two brother wands in tandem..." "What are you talking about? I don't want anything that you do!" There was an ominous pause before the older wizard said softly, "I disagree." He narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing Harry closely. "Are you telling me you don't want your mother to be alive? Because I very much was under the impression that you did." "My mother--?" Harry trailed off, not comprehending. "Are you telling me that every time you looked in the Mirror of Erised, you saw yourself holding the stone that Flamel created? Because I find that hard to believe. It seemed to Quirrell--and to me, debilitated as I was at the time--that you had seen the Mirror before, that you knew exactly how it worked. Tell me, Harry, the first time you ever looked in the Mirror, what did you see?" Harry swallowed, remembering the first time he'd encountered the Mirror, when he was sneaking around the castle under his Invisibility Cloak in the middle of the night. He'd never before seen his mother and father, and their parents, and their parents...Harry wasn't even sure who some of the people in the Mirror were. Hagrid hadn't yet given him the photo album that was now nestled in the bottom of his trunk, and he had simply stared and stared, not understanding what he was seeing... "I think you know what I saw. I saw my family. You took them away from me. Have you come here to gloat?" "Hardly, Harry. I have thought a great deal about your parents during the past year. I think it would be fair to say that if I had it to do again--I wouldn't. But that doesn't signify; we must both want it to be different--" Harry frowned. "What are you talking about?" Had Voldemort actually said that if he could do it over, he wouldn't kill his mother and father? "You can't raise the dead; no one can." "What makes you say that? It has a name, doesn't it? Necromancy. A dark art, to be sure, but an art nonetheless. I don't personally know of anyone who has done it successfully, but then, for years alchemy was decried--and yet, Nicolas Flamel attained the pinnacle of that field, did he not? It only takes one. But I am not proposing that we dabble in necromancy today, Harry. It is too fraught with uncertainty." The tall wizard waved the thin fingers of his left hand. "Look around you. You can see that I know a great deal about spells that can manipulate time. Do you think this is the only one there is?" "Of course not. I've even traveled back through time myself," he blurted out, before he could stop himself. "And I know that you can't change the past..." He looked very interested in what Harry had said. "You've gone back in time? How far? What spell did you use?" "It wasn't a spell. I went back a few hours using a Time Turner, and Dumbledore said--" Voldemort looked disgusted, as though he would spit. "A Time Turner! A mere toy! And as for that fool Dumbledore--" "Don't you talk about Dumbledore! Don't you even say his name!" Harry cried, shaking, attempting to keep his wand trained on Voldemort despite his nerves being shot. So tired... "You would continue to defend that doddering old fool when he lies to you and makes you think your parents are lost to you forever?" Harry noticed that he was making less of an effort now to be conciliatory; in a way, he was glad. It seemed a very unnatural personality for Voldemort. "It is true that one cannot change the past, especially with a trinket like a Time Turner--but while the past cannot be changed--the future can be. Every moment, the things we do and say--the decisions we make--change the future. At any given point in time there is an infinitude of futures before us, and what you do--or what is done to you--determines in which of those futures you find yourself...A Time Turner returns you to your departure point, and so you cannot do anything that would take you to a different timeline, a different starting point. It is very limited. But to create a new future...there is a spell that I have come across, a spell which requires two wizards..." Harry's heart was in his throat. His head was pounding. Could he be telling the truth? Was there actually a way to change past events--or was it future ones? "There is a special requirement for this spell, Harry. The two wizards must share a very particular bond. One of them must have been wronged by the other. In performing the spell, both wizards must wish with all of their beings for the wrong to be righted..." "You're saying that you want to undo my parents' deaths?" You expect me to believe that?" "Well, to be completely honest, Harry, we cannot undo more than one wrong. Killing your mother and your father was two. You would have to choose one of those to fix..." "What? You tell me that you regret killing my parents, it can be undone--but I have to choose one of them? That's sick--" "Not at all, Harry. I did not create the spell. There are limitations to these things. But if you are having difficulty deciding, I might be able to help you...If you chose to undo your mother's death, you could actually save two lives..." Harry frowned at him, keeping his wand in position. "You're not making sense. But then why should you start now? Nothing you've said makes any sense." Voldemort leaned forward, speaking more softly. "One of my servants has found something quite interesting in the death records at St. Mungo's. When your mother's body was examined after her death..." "After you murdered her, you mean!" Harry snarled. Voldemort bowed his head deferentially, making Harry tense up suspiciously. "True. I murdered your mother. And, it seems--your unborn sister." "Sister?" "That is what the hospital records say. I have seen them myself. The child would have been born in March of 1982..." Sister? his brain was screaming. Voldemort had killed his mother and his unborn sister... He glared at the dark wizard, feeling more suspicious than ever. He watched as he put his left hand in his robe pocket and withdrew it, holding a small brass object about as big as Harry's hand. "Here, Harry. You will need this before we can proceed." He tossed the object to Harry. "Hey!" he cried as he deftly caught it with his left hand. "I never said--" But Voldemort was gone. The spot where he had been a moment before was empty. Harry heard something and was startled; he hadn't realized how quiet it had been when he was under the Tempus Fugit spell. Now he was moving at the same speed again as the rest of the world. People walked to and from the platforms and the car park. A train pulled into Platform Nine; passengers poured out of the open doors while people waiting to board stood by impatiently, the anxiety showing on their faces that they might not make it on before the doors closed again. His mind still reeling from his odd encounter with Voldemort, Harry now had a more mundane panicky moment; he needed to get onto Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters before he missed the Hogwarts Express. And he needed to tell Bill and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley what had just happened. What time was it? Then he looked down and realized that the object that Voldemort had tossed to him was a clock. It was an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock. There were two bells on top linked by another piece of brass like a kind of handle; there was a clapper between the bells, poised to strike them in quick succession when the clock displayed the time for which the alarm was set. According to the clock, it was ten-forty-four. Harry checked his watch; the clock was correct, assuming that his watch was still working properly, after his being in the space between milliseconds with Voldemort... He looked at the little brass clock again. The alarm was set for ten-forty-five. Harry frowned, watching the clock's larger hand move to the nine, feeling a foreboding even as the clapper started striking the bells, producing a shrill ringing. He realized too late that he shouldn't have continued to hold the clock, but before he could drop it, he felt that sickening hook behind his navel, pulling his body into a dark limbo where he tumbled head over heels, his sleepy, addled brain screaming Stupid, stupid, stupid. He should have known not to touch anything Voldemort gave him, especially after the Triwizard Cup... Harry grunted as he landed painfully, the clock still clutched in his left hand, his wand in his right. He stumbled but quickly righted himself, feeling in his sleep-deprived state more sharp and alert, somehow, than he felt when he was well-rested. He stared around him, wondering where he was and at the same time, knowing, knowing exactly where he was... The grass on the moors was so green it almost made his eyes hurt. The sky was a cornflower blue, with scattered white clouds like gamboling sheep. The weather was far nicer in Wales--for he was certain that was where he was--on this first of September than it was in London. It is still the first of September? he thought, uncertainly. Had the clock Portkey taken him through time and space, or just space? A light breeze moved Harry's hair slightly; he looked around apprehensively. Voldemort was nowhere in sight. He looked down into the valley. Was it still there? he wondered. All thoughts of getting to school had fled from his mind. Hell, he thought, I could always wait until dark and fly there under my own power, as a golden griffin... In the meantime, he felt himself being pulled inexorably toward the valley. He was barely able to restrain himself from running. He would have so much more freedom this time; when he and Hermione had gone into Snape's Pensieve, they had been limited to seeing only what Snape had seen on the night his parents had died. He drew nearer and nearer to what he thought was a clump of trees. When he was about thirty feet away, he could see that there were only two trees, in the front garden, exactly as he remembered; over the ruins of the small house, over the fence and garden gate and around the trunks of the trees, an insidious wild vine had grown, covering everything with a strange leafy green shroud. It was as if a topiary had been executed by a blind man, or by a modern artist, perhaps. His eyes watering, Harry walked to the gate. He couldn't open it; the vines were too thickly massed. He leapt lightly over it, landing shin-deep in the vines. He had to carefully lift each foot up out of the sea of green to walk to the house to avoid getting hopelessly tangled or tripping. He stopped when he reached the large, flat stone that formed the step before the front door--or where it had once been. The lintel at the top of the door frame had collapsed; the jambs still stood, one at a slight angle, both festooned with vines. He stepped over the fallen lintel, between the jambs, entering his house for the first time in almost fifteen years. To his left he could see the remains of the stone fireplace, heaped with vines. He could even see the wooden frames of what had been the upholstered furniture flanking the fireplace, where he'd seen his mother and Snape sitting, arguing, while he had been an oblivious baby, trying to play with his mother's earrings, having no idea of the life-and-death nature of the conversation. He had to lift his feet very high now; the vines were more than knee-deep. He made his way across what had been the living room to the kitchen; he passed the nursery on the way and tried not to notice that a large wooden beam had fallen across what had been his cot. In the kitchen, the sturdy wooden table in the center of the room was still in place. He thought he saw something blue and he pushed aside some vines on the table top, finding a willow-pattern teapot, perfectly preserved under its covering of green. Harry picked it up, a lump in his throat as he turned it round, picturing his mother pouring tea from it. Was he just making up that memory? Was it genuine or just some combination of being here now and having seen the house in the Pensieve, months before his parents' deaths? There was a Welsh dresser to his left; he goose-stepped his way over to it, pushing the vines out of the way, revealing more willow-pattern china: chipped cups and saucers, plates with slimy trails across the surfaces. And there, nestled among the vines and damaged china, a picture frame of tarnished silver, with cracked glass in it still. Through the cracks he could just about make out the picture. It was his mum, holding him on her lap when he was a baby. He had the same picture in the album that Hagrid had given him. He traced the outline of her face with his finger, traveling over several breaks in the glass as he did so. "Harry." He looked up, his only surprise stemming from the fact that he was not at all surprised that Voldemort was here now. Surely, thought Harry, he would not bring me here for nothing. He had known, deep down, that it was inevitable that the dark wizard should be here as well. And if they could not duel, what then? How would Voldemort go about getting what he wanted, Harry's power, or even Harry as a faithful servant, a Death Eater? He turned to face him again, trying to keep his face expressionless. Voldemort stood outside the house, although of course Harry had no trouble seeing him because of the crumbled walls. "What do you want?" he asked as calmly as he knew how. Nerves of steel, Potter, he told himself. Nerves of steel. "It is my understanding, Harry, that when you thought your friends were at risk, you volunteered to become a Death Eater. Wormtail told me." Harry gazed back at him impassively. "It is also my understanding," he went on, "that you have become an Animagus. A lion, to be precise. You put quite the scare into poor old Wormtail, chasing him through the forest..." Harry still gazed back at him, not changing his expression, or indeed, not wearing any particular expression at all. He tried not to smile at the assumption that Wormtail had made; he had no idea that Harry was really a golden griffin Animagus. Then he found it easy not to smile as he remembered the waking dream he'd had wherein Voldemort and his heir had put the Cruciatus Curse on a caged lion...Did he dare ask about the heir? Not yet, yet decided. Not yet. He'd put the clock Portkey on the dresser, but he still held his wand tightly in his right hand. He swallowed, making certain that his eyes did not stray from the other wizard, ready to dive or dodge out of the way of a curse or hex, or ready to counteract a spell with his own wand, perhaps causing that web of light to appear again, and the sound of phoenix song... Voldemort continued speaking. "...which just makes me think that you are more loyal and also more talented than I had given you credit for. Loyal, of course, to those with whom you feel a kinship, a bond. It only convinces me further of your value to me." He laughed that dreadful, horrible laugh. "How I wish I could have seen Wormtail running away from you..." Harry found himself remembering that frenzied race through the Forbidden Forest, culminating in his being thrown against a tree by the giant Orst. If only he'd caught Wormtail...Sirius might be cleared, and Voldemort wouldn't know he was an Animagus... "However," the tall wizard went on, "I think that Lucius was going about this recruiting business all wrong. Yes, he was accustomed to using this method since before your parents died, and all of his son's life as well. It was what he was used to...and look where that got him. Did his son feel his ultimate loyalty should be to his father? Did he do as he was told? No, he did not; he turned on his father and helped put him in prison. And even though we did gather in some new recruits, especially after quite a few went sour...I can't help think what a waste the others were. If only we'd given them some incentive, I have often thought since. Something desirable with which to tempt them... "I have the privilege of being able to learn from Malfoy's mistakes, Harry. I understand now that you, in particular, must be wooed, not threatened. I need to convince you that I can do far more for you than Albus Dumbledore. Did Dumbledore ever offer to let you stay with your friends' families during the holidays instead of those horrid Muggles who hate you, and whom you hate in return?" "He might have done if he didn't have to worry about you coming after me..." Harry grumbled. He was thoroughly ignored. "And who left you with them to begin with? I'm guessing Dumbledore did that as well." "Which he wouldn't have needed to do if you hadn't orphaned me!" Harry retorted, then clenched his jaw, trying to exert strict self-control again. Voldemort ignored his outburst. "Has he once interceded on your behalf with your most hated professor? I think you know who I mean. Has he slapped down that whelp, Malfoy's son? Oh, now he's quite the golden boy, but before that he was nothing but a thorn in your side, wasn't he?" Harry was running out of counter-arguments; these last things he had said were true enough, even though Snape wasn't all bad, he'd decided in the last year. He had to bite his tongue to avoid asking him what he'd done to the Potions master, where he was holding him, or how he'd killed him... "Dumbledore let you face me on your own when you were not quite twelve. He didn't have any clue that my loyal servant was masquerading as Moody for almost an entire year. Crouch wanted to bring you to me sooner than the end of the Tournament; he'd worked out how to make a Portkey to bring you to my father's grave many months before. But Wormtail was still tracking down the other ingredients for the potion to re-embody me, and performance of the spell we were going to undertake to give me my body back had to be timed just right...The most auspicious time for it was near Midsummer, and when we discovered that the Third Task was to be just three days after Midsummer, it simply seemed too wonderful to use the Cup as the Portkey...You would arrive, flush with your victory, not knowing how Crouch had helped you, not knowing what was in store for you..." "I can't be bought." Harry stated this without inflection. He glared at Voldemort, fighting to maintain his composure; in addition to snapping at him when he'd mentioned his living with the Dursleys, he'd almost crumbled when the other wizard had laughed at the thought of Harry chasing Wormtail through the forest; if it weren't for the fact that he hadn't caught him, Harry would have been tempted to laugh at that mental image as well. Voldemort looked at him now. "I am not expecting anything, Harry. And you do not even have to accept what I am offering. If you do not wish to change anything in the past, to create a new future, you can just watch events unfold as they did the first time, watch your mother--and sister--die saving your life. Afterward, you will simply find yourself back at the train station as though nothing had occurred. You will take the train to school, and you will not hear from me for a while... "For a while?" "Well, I fully intend to try to do something for you. Surely there is something I can do, something that will show you the benefits of being with me, instead of Dumbledore. If we do not find that something today, I am sure we will find it sometime. And even if you accept my gift today, that will not oblige you to reciprocate and give me what I want. I feel that if you, all people, choose to join me, it should be completely voluntary. It would have so much more meaning. Interesting word, voluntary. It means of your own will, of your own volition...your own intentions being paramount, not anyone else's..." "I know what it means," Harry said, trying unsuccessfully to keep a snarl out of his voice; he didn't like it when his uncle spoke to him patronizingly, and he didn't like Voldemort doing it either. "Please just give it a try, Harry." Voldemort had said please to him! "As I said, you don't have to decide yet. Let me explain how it will work: We will put the tips of our wands together and say together, Tempus bonae voluntatis. While we do so, I will think of how I would like nothing better than not to have killed your mother, and you will also think of how you would like nothing better than for me not to have killed your mother. We must both want this, or it will not work. This places you under no obligation to me. You have my word. Do you want to at least try?" He looked odd to Harry, almost pleading and hopeful. Harry frowned, then looked down at the photo of his mother, her face looking odd through the cracked glass. He thought of Dumbledore and what he would say about such a spell. Could it be possible? Had Dumbledore told him he couldn't change past events because it really couldn't be done, or was it just that Dumbledore thought it shouldn't be done? Harry walked toward Voldemort, stepping over fallen stones overgrown with ivy where the back wall of the kitchen addition had once stood. He came very close to him, trying not to shake. "Why should I trust you?" he said softly, with narrowed eyes. The dark wizard tilted his head quizzically and raised his brows. "How easy would it have been for me to kill you at the train station? Or to kill your friends? I could have brought you here and put the Cruciatus Curse on you until your brain seeped out of your ears. But I did not. As I said, I have learned from Malfoy's mistakes. Despite the handful of recruits his methods netted us, I feel that it is true that--how does that go? You catch more flies with honey. I think you will find that I have only your best interests at heart here, Harry. Why should you trust me? Because we have been talking all this time, both here and at the station, and you're still alive to talk to me. That is why you should trust me." Harry kept his eyes narrowed and his wand trained on the other wizard. The silence hung between them for what seemed forever. He resisted the urge to yawn. So tired, so tired. "How do we do it?" he said finally, spitting the words out quickly, before he lost his nerve. He wished Voldemort had done anything other than what he did next: he smiled more broadly than he had yet done, making Harry grimace. He struggled to return his face to normal, to not look completely revolted by the sight of that unnatural smile. "As I already said, we say Tempus bonae voluntatis with our wand tips together, and we both think--" "Yeah, yeah. I remember." He stifled another yawn, his eyes watering from the effort. How many years had he wished that his parents hadn't been killed by Voldemort? Ever since he'd first found out they hadn't perished in a car accident, when he was eleven. His mother. In his mind, he focused on the photo he'd just seen on the dresser. Mum, he thought. Mum. Voldemort held his wand out and put the tip to Harry's extended wand. He looked at Harry with what seemed to be concern. "Ready, Harry? Are you thinking of your mother?" He nodded, feeling a shiver run through him as the wand tips touched. He saw the dark wizard open his mouth and he too began to speak, saying the unfamiliar words, thinking of his mother, remembering seeing her dead form being held by Snape, when he'd been in the Pensieve... He took a deep breath. "Tempus bonae voluntatis!" They said the words simultaneously. Harry felt his wand vibrating; he struggled to hold it still, and he could see that the older wizard was having difficulty with this as well. Did Voldemort know exactly what to expect? Harry wondered. Theirs were the only two wands in the world that had cores from Fawkes the phoenix's tail feathers. There were no other wands in existence with the same core. Two other wizards could try this and it might not be as effective, if their wands weren't brothers. Harry kept telling himself, I don't have to change anything, but if this wrong is to be righted... Harry felt himself tumbling through darkness again, but thankfully, there was no sickening hook behind his navel this time. Then he felt solid earth beneath his feet again. It was still very dark, but it was not the darkness of magical oblivion, of traveling by Portkey or going from thought to thought in someone's Pensieve. It was only the mundane dark of an autumn night. He looked up and saw a sky crowded with stars and turned to the dark wizard, the question clear on his face. "If the spell worked as it should," Voldemort said quietly, "we are in the same place we were before, but on Halloween night, 1981. The spell took us to a time when the wrong could be righted. But it cannot take those casting the spell to a particular place. That is why I needed to bring you here by Portkey." Halloween night, 1981. Not just watching someone's memory of it, but actually there. No--then. Harry turned back to the house. He was looking at the intact kitchen door; he moved to the left so he could look through the kitchen window, over the sink. He couldn't get too close because of the geranium-filled window box. He saw, for the second time in his life, the cozy, warmly lit house where he'd lived until his parents' death. The kitchen had a homely, orderly air of comfort. There were washed dishes drying in a rack next to the sink; the wood of the dresser glowed gold in the light of the lamps sitting on it, and the lamplight glinted off the blue-and-white plates propped on the hutch, the teacups hanging on hooks. Neatly stacked cookbooks and framed pictures were on the counter of the dresser, next to the lamps; Harry saw the framed picture he'd been looking at minutes before. A wooden high chair was at the end of the table instead of a regular chair. The teapot he'd found just minutes before under the tangle of vines was sitting on the table, just where it would still be fifteen years later. The lid was off and there was steam rising from it. It appeared that his parents were waiting for the tea to steep. Couldn't they speed it up with magic? he wondered. Maybe they thought it tasted better this way. No one was in the kitchen save a substantial brown owl in a large cage that hung near the stove. The bird was preening, looking very proud of its beautiful plumage. The cage door was open and the window next to the stove was also open, allowing the bird to come and go at will. It would probably leave soon to do its nightly hunting. Harry wished he could remember its name. He moved around to the side of the house where the living room was, and peered into one of the high windows flanking the fireplace. From being in the Pensieve, he remembered that these windows were above bookcases built-in next to the chimney breast; his view was partially obscured by books and knick-knacks on the top shelf. His parents were relaxing after (presumably) putting their baby in his cot for the night. Me, Harry corrected his thoughts; they've already put me to bed for the night... The light from a cozy fire was making their skin glow. Some lamps on tables, possibly magical, possibly just burning lamp-oil, also lent a rosiness to the comfortable room. The door to the nursery was closed. He gazed hungrily at his parents. They were sitting opposite each other. His mother was stretched out on the couch, reading a book, her hand laid protectively on her slightly rounded, pregnant belly, probably unconsciously. She was wearing a nightdress but no dressing gown; her red hair looked very dark in the firelight and lamplight. His father was in an armchair with his slippered feet propped up on an ottoman, the firelight glinting off his glasses. His hair still stuck up at the back of his head, as Harry had first seen it in the Mirror of Erised. He appeared to be doing a crossword puzzle with a quill, a familiar look of concentration on his face. Harry recognized the distinct parchment of the Daily Prophet. They had a wicked crossword, he remembered, which could change while you were doing it if you took too long. His father appeared to be working it rather fast, so perhaps he would avoid that fate. If so, Harry thought grimly, it might be the last good thing that happened to his father... Harry wondered for a moment how he could be looking in the window at his parents if they were protected by the Fidelius Charm, but then he realized that he knew they were there, it was just as if he'd been told by the Secret Keeper; and in a way, he had, years in the future now. He stepped back from the window, turning to the dark wizard. Somehow, he'd stopped treating him with mistrust, worrying about where he was looking and what he was doing every second. Perhaps if he appeared to trust him, he would believe that Harry really did trust him, and think he was winning him over. The problem was, Harry had to keep reminding himself that it was an act, that he didn't really trust him, he was just trying to make him think he did. Somewhere, deep inside, he really wanted to believe that Voldemort wanted the best for him, that what had happened this night could be changed... "I can't save them both?" he whispered desperately, his heart aching. The other wizard shook his head grimly. He looked at his father through the window again. "I don't want to see him die," Harry said, his voice catching. "How long do we have to wait?" The older man looked at the sky. "Not long now." His answer was terse and quiet. Harry shivered; it was a cold night. Smoke billowed from the stone chimney, hinting at the warmth and comfort inside the modest house. Harry's heart was beating faster and faster... "Come here," Voldemort said to him, going to one of the large trees in the front garden. "We cannot be seen. This tree and rose bush will do nicely." This reminded Harry of using the Time Turner; he and Hermione were desperate not to be seen by their earlier selves. But he'd seen himself after all, fending off the dementors with the stag-shaped Patronus, and he'd thought it was his father. Harry ran back to look at his father one last time, trying to memorize every detail, before going to the corner of the garden. Voldemort's thin figure was adequately hidden by the tree trunk, while Harry crouched behind a rose bush, trying not to get stuck by the thorns. He felt more than a bit ridiculous for a moment, hiding in his own front garden with the wizard who had killed his parents, waiting for him to show up and try kill them. If the situation weren't so dire, he'd have laughed. He wasn't sure how long they'd been waiting when they heard a scream; his mother. The then-Voldemort must have Apparated right into the house. He heard his father shout something, including his mother's name and his name. He hung on the sound of his father's voice crying out, "Lily!" and "Harry!" He remembered hearing his father's voice when he had gotten too near the dementors... His mother flung open the front door then, running into the garden barefoot, her son in her arms, crying piteously. She shivered in her nightdress. It was harder to tell now that she was pregnant, through the voluminous fabric. Baby Harry was crying non-stop. Then he heard a scream, a man screaming, and he tried to stop up his ears with his fingers. That was his father. Oh god, that was his father being tortured, and he'd done nothing to stop it... He stared at his mother now. She had stopped, turned in anguish when she heard her husband cry out, clutching her baby to her breast. Could he do it? Could he just watch her die, do nothing, as Voldemort had said? A better question was, perhaps, could he prevent her death? As of this moment, it hadn't happened... A flash of blindingly bright green light in the front window...a sound of speeding death...and Harry knew his father was gone. He felt the tears rolling down his cheeks but did nothing about the wetness. She would be next...unless he did something... She turned at the sound of the death curse. Next came a deafening explosion, and Harry actually saw the roof fly into the air, saw stones and glass fly sideways out of the living room...He was doing his best to make James Potter's death quite a spectacular affair, Harry thought. The front fa├žade of the house was still intact. Then-Voldemort was also not hurt by the assault he'd made on the house. He was through the door in a trice, not the least bit slowed down. Harry could see flames behind him now. A fire! Had he killed his father and then left his body to burn? Perhaps one of the lamps had been knocked over. Harry hadn't been focused on anything but Snape holding his dead mother when he'd been in the Pensieve. There could have been a fire...but then again, if Snape hadn't noticed it, it wouldn't be a memory of his, and it wouldn't make it into the Pensieve. Perhaps Snape had also not remembered his mother being pregnant. The Pensieve's contents were only the past as one imperfect person perceived it. It could be, he supposed that he was the one who hadn't noticed it... "Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!" his mother cried as her husband's murderer approached her menacingly. Harry's hair rose on the back of his neck; he was finally seeing her say what he'd heard her saying in his head when the dementors had come onto the Quidditch pitch, and he'd fallen down, down... "Stand aside, you silly girl...stand aside now..." the eerie voice carried across the garden to Harry's hiding place. She sank to her knees, unable to Apparate to safety without leaving her child behind, knowing her husband was already dead. She shook her head, clutching baby Harry. Harry knew what was coming next; he'd heard it in his head before. Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead-- "Not Harry--" she repeated tearfully. Harry couldn't see straight; Voldemort was going to do it, he was going to kill her. Harry couldn't bear it, he couldn't not do something... He pointed his wand at her, saying, "Imperio!" forcefully but as quietly as he could, and thought at her, Do whatever is necessary to save us! Do something--anything! Don't die, mum! Don't die! He saw then-Voldemort look in his direction, and he ducked behind the rose bush, hoping that he hadn't been seen, hoping it would work. He had never thought to put the Imperius Curse on anyone for any reason; if he was ever found out, he would go to Azkaban; but he couldn't think of any other way to get her to do what he wanted. He still didn't know whether it had worked. He waited for his mother to say the familiar words, ready to resign himself to history repeating itself. "Please, no," she said, just as she had before. He squeezed his eyes shut, tears choking him, waiting to hear the take me, kill me instead... But she didn't say those words. He heard her, heard her say the words that would save her life, and by extension, his sister's life. "All right!" she cried tearfully. "All right...I'll do it..." "Do what?" came the soft voice. Harry dared to raise his head again; he saw that then-Voldemort's attention was no longer being directed toward the rose bush. "I'll--I'll raise him to be your servant." His mother's voice was cold and mechanical-sounding, not at all like the firebrand young woman he'd seen in Snape's Pensieve. She'd done it, she'd said the words he wanted to hear. She didn't have to mean them, as Snape had told her. Just say them. But then the dark wizard reached out and touched the baby on the forehead with his wand and muttered something he could not hear. His mother looked alarmed. "What--?" "Insurance," he answered before she could finish the question. "An invisible mark of ownership. Very well; you have made me a promise. You can believe that I will hold you to it. Do not make me sorry for giving you and the boy this chance." The cold voice hung on the air. "No, no," she repeated, shaking her head, rocking the baby close to her and crying over him. Harry blinked, and the dark wizard was gone; he had Disapparated. His mother knelt on the path to her own front door, her house burning, her husband dead, rocking her baby and crying louder and louder. From behind him, Harry heard pounding footsteps; someone was running toward the house. But just as Harry turned to see who it was, the world started slipping away from him. This was not like the trip through time, or traveling by Portkey or Floo powder, or being in a Pensieve. He felt like his breath was being sucked out of him; his joints hurt, worse than when he did the Animagus transfiguration. His very teeth and hair hurt, and he tumbled, tumbled, tumbled through blackest night for what seemed a very long time...
* * * * *
Harry wasn't sure how long he had been unconscious. His eyes were still closed; the first evidence he had that he was awake was that he heard someone calling his name. "Haaar-reeee!" It was a woman's voice, unfamiliar. She drew out his name, sounding like she had done this many times before. He braced himself, then opened his eyes. He immediately closed them again. All right, he thought. I really need to get some sleep... He opened his eyes again to check to see whether he was still where he had been a moment before. He was. He was in an unfamiliar room, a large bedroom, and he was lying sideways on the large brass bed that was the centerpiece of it. Bright daylight streamed in through the leaded-glass windows and trees whose leaves were just beginning to be touched by color were visible outdoors. He stared round at the walls and furniture. Where was he? His head hurt; he felt like thoughts trying to rise to the surface of his consciousness were being beaten back. It's your bedroom, stupid, was one thought. Don't be ridiculous, was another. Harry stood and went to a desk next to the fireplace; the mantel was a good five feet off the ground, and suddenly he received a very vivid mental picture...
"Mummy! I want us to buy this house! Look, I can stand in the fireplace! I want this to be my room!" His mother smiled at him indulgently, tall and beautiful as ever. "Rather a grand room for such a little boy..." "Please Mummy? I promise to keep it neat myself..." "Oh really?" She looked amused. "Well, since you're the eldest, I suppose we can justify you getting this room..." He grinned and ran to his mother, and she swept him up into her arms; he remembered the scent of her hair in his nose, the feeling of her holding him close to her...
He shook his head to clear it. He was imagining both this room and having his mother raise him...I will resume sleeping eight hours a night again if I have to get a sleeping draught from Pomfrey every evening. He closed his eyes again, then opened them. Nothing had changed. He turned to the desk, which was on the messy side. Books and parchments and quills and ink bottles were scattered across it. A Quidditch calendar hung on the wall above the desk. This month's team was the Holyhead Harpies, which was populated entirely by witches. The players were flying about in the picture above the grid of days, dark green robes fluttering behind them, each with a golden talon upon the chest. It was a Welsh team, he knew. He had another memory of being younger again, but not as young as before, begging for tickets to a Harpies game... Harry shook his head again. He felt faint. He braced himself on the desktop and stared at the calendar. September 1996, it read. Sunday the first was circled. Moving back to school was written here in green ink. Yes, Harry thought, it is September first of 1996, but what the hell am I doing here? Where am I? There was a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on the desk, looking like it had been chewed by one of said beasts. He flipped it open and read on the inside, "Property of Harry Potter." He closed the book again. Except for appearing a little more worn than he remembered it, this seemed to be his book. Some things hadn't changed. Then he looked down at his body and got a shock. His eyes seemed to be further from the ground than he remembered. It was subtle, but he could feel it. He turned around; on the opposite wall there was a wardrobe with a mirror on the door, and he went to stand before it, getting the biggest shock of his life. He was clearly taller, and definitely thinner. He was wearing jeans and a dark green T-shirt and what looked like black hiking boots. His Adam's apple looked more prominent than he remembered; his neck was downright bony. Gone were the muscles he'd developed over two summers of gardening and a year of running and other exercise. Gone was his summer tan. He was parchment-colored and frankly, he thought, sickly-looking. His eyes were as green as ever, and his hair looked as his father's had, standing up on his head, especially in back, as though Parvati had never cut his hair and he hadn't been maintaining the haircut using his Animagus training. He'd noticed when he'd first seen James Potter in the Mirror of Erised that the only differences between them were his eye color (which was never going to change), his height (which he seemed to have in abundance now), and his scar. Thinking of his scar, he lifted the hair off his forehead to glance at it and received yet another shock. He had no scar. He brought his face within an inch of the glass and searched the skin surface with his eyes, then his fingers; there was no trace of a scar ever having been on his forehead. "Take a picture!" the mirror snapped at him suddenly. "It'll last longer!" Harry jumped back from the wardrobe and looked down at himself again, then around the room. He walked back to the mantel; there were some framed photos there, wizarding photos. A picture of him with a dark-haired girl of about eleven, both being fitted for robes in Madam Malkin's shop, looking quite impatient (his photo-self kept tapping his foot); he looked like he was roughly thirteen. Her eyes were as green as his. Her features though...something about them was very familiar... Another photo made him stop and stare. It was him and the girl again, with a third person: Draco Malfoy. They looked inseparable, just like him and Ron and Hermione. The girl was between the two of them, her arms around each of them, and their arms around her shoulders. They were all laughing, their hair moving in a breeze, and all of them wore Hogwarts robes. His head started to ache. What have I done? his mind demanded. Have I done what I think I've done? But he couldn't continue thinking about this because suddenly, the girl was there, in the doorway of his bedroom! His bedroom. He hadn't even noticed that the door was open. "Harry!" she hissed at him. Her hair wasn't as dark as his, he could see now, and where the sun hit it there were reddish highlights. She was as pale as he was and had a light sprinkling of tan freckles over her nose. "Better finish packing, if you know what's good for you! Mum's on the warpath!" She disappeared from the doorway again. She'd been wearing black Hogwarts robes, as in the photo on his mantel, but now she looked around fourteen. Just starting to be womanly, but still with a certain childishness about her face. The photo of the three of them couldn't have been taken all that long ago, he decided. "All right, Jamie," he called after her. "Thanks for the heads up." Jamie. The name had just popped into his brain and he'd said it without a thought. Her name was Jamie, and she was his sister. Sister. The sister who would have died with his mother if he hadn't-- "Harry!" His mother stood now in the doorway to his room. He regarded the stern expression on her face, swallowing. "Heads up? Heads up on what?" She looked at him suspiciously. He fought the urge to run to her, throw his arms around her and hold on for dear life. She was alive! She was alive and well and she'd raised him for the past fifteen years, and raised his sister... "Oh, nothing. I'm nearly done. I've got to put some things in my trunk from my desk and that'll be it." "Don't forget anything. We can't be constantly running back here this time; we managed to get tenants who are moving in the day after tomorrow, until mid-December. They won't want a forgetful teenage boy constantly traipsing through, collecting every little Quidditch trinket he forgot to take to school..." He blinked, staring at her, unable to take his eyes off her. "Yes, mum." Then she was gone, her deep purple robes swirling around her. He dashed to the door; he watched her walk away, and as she did so, she called over her shoulder, "And when you're done, go downstairs and help your father put the china into storage if he isn't done yet." "Yes, mum," he said again, as though nothing were wrong, as though he hadn't just landed precipitously in a life completely alien from the life to which he was accustomed. An additional fifteen years of living was now trying to cram itself into his brain, and he was having difficulty accessing all of the information he needed. Some things simply came to him when he needed them, such as his sister's name, but other things eluded him. Father? I have a father? Did my dad survive after all? No, his brain immediately told him. It's not James Potter... Ah, he thought. Yes. She remarried. Of course. Suddenly he glanced at his wrist; he didn't have a watch. He looked around his room, then his eyes went back to the mantel, where there was a carriage clock that showed the phases of the moon. It was almost one o'clock! On September first! He'd missed the Hogwarts Express...and yet, his mother didn't seem at all concerned. His sister (he was still getting used to that word) didn't either. He strode over to the bay window; there was a window seat there, and he pictured himself spending many happy, peaceful hours there immersed in his favorite books... He sat on the tapestry-covered cushion and looked up and down the street he lived on, for it turned out that his room was in the front of the house. Looking to his left he saw a wall marking the end of the street and the beginning of a field that didn't appear to be part of a farm, as it wasn't plowed. Looking to his right, he saw... The High Street in Hogsmeade. He lived in Hogsmeade! Of course...he remembered house hunting again, and he and Jamie running up and down the large stairs in the front hall when they were very young...And that explained why they weren't taking the train to school. They lived in Hogsmeade. He looked out the window again, seeing all the familiar landmarks: The Three Broomsticks, the village hall, Honeyduke's...and then he realized that if his house was at the end of the High Street... He remembered, as if in a dream, Ginny telling him about Percy at his birthday party: He bought a house in Hogsmeade, that big old pile at the end of the High Street that's been for sale for ages. That "big old pile" was evidently his home! He grinned, looking around his room again, really appreciating it this time. In this life, he had never lived for ten years in a cupboard under the stairs, he had never been starved (that probably account for his being taller) and he had always known he was a wizard! He put his hand to his forehead again. He didn't have a scar. Voldemort had not tried to kill him, and Voldemort had not killed his mother. He'd actually been telling the truth; he wanted to right that wrong. But why? What would he gain by it? But suddenly, Harry knew what Voldemort had to gain: he would not be stripped of his powers, he would not spend over thirteen years trying to get his body back...Harry shuddered, wondering what had resulted from that. He knew that there had been great rejoicing in the wizarding world when Voldemort fell...If he had never fallen, what was the wizarding world like? Harry closed his eyes, trying to dredge up some more memories of this life. I'm not famous, he realized. I'm just a sixth-year Hogwarts student, like any other student. I've never lived with the Dursleys, or even-- he suddenly realized --met them. He opened his eyes. That meant Dudley was probably still alive! Granted, he was also probably an overweight, unbearable git, but he hadn't died because of Harry! He closed his eyes and thought some more. He found himself getting more and more optimistic about this new life, despite the fact it didn't include the fall of Voldemort. The Chamber of Secrets was not opened during my second year, and Ginny was never manipulated by Lucius Malfoy and the memory of Tom Riddle... There was no Triwizard Tournament; last year Cedric Diggory was Head Boy and now he works with his dad at the Ministry of Magic... My mum was able to tell Dumbledore about Peter Pettigrew being the Secret Keeper who betrayed them, and Pettigrew was tracked down, given the dementor's kiss and sent to prison... Sirius Black never went to Azkaban... Harry opened his eyes, grinning. He'd not only saved his mother's life, and his sister's; he'd saved Dudley's, and Cedric's, and he'd spared Sirius twelve years of imprisonment for something he didn't do! He remembered that Pettigrew was caught at the house of some large wizarding family...he couldn't remember the name now...and he'd never killed that street full of Muggles that Sirius had been blamed for. So all of those people were alive, too! Ha! to you, Voldemort! he thought. You thought you were tricking me, you knew I couldn't just watch my mother die...but the joke's on you! Whatever doubts he might have had about saving his mother's life, they evaporated as he looked out again at the bustling High Street, smiling, an unfamiliar happiness welling up in his chest as he remembered tidbits about what it was like to grow up in Hogsmeade... "Harry!" He turned to his bedroom door again, startled. Two pale, dark-haired, dark-eyed boys were standing there. They were around twelve-years-old and identical down to the small brown mole each had in the middle of his left cheek. He was uncertain which boy had spoken. "What?" he said, as naturally as if he knew the boys. The one on the left spoke now. "Mum said to check that you weren't daydreaming. What's your price?" "What?" he said again. Brothers? Did he have brothers? And twins, no less. "Your price," the other boy said. "For not telling her that you were in fact daydreaming." He strode quickly to his desk, where his wand was sitting. He picked it up quickly and pointed it at them. "Your reward for not telling will be not getting hexed to smell like rotten cabbages so no one will come near you for the next month," he snarled. At the same time, he thought, Is that any way to treat my little brothers? I have little brothers! But his brain from his old life was doing battle with the brain from this one. Stuart and Simon are always trying to get me into trouble... Stuart and Simon. Usually Stu and Si. Second years. Born two years after Jamie, who's a fourth year. Facts came floating to the surface from a deep well of information that was steadily becoming easier and easier to access. "Mum!" one of the boys yelled now. Which one was it? he wondered, then remembered that he'd never been able to tell them apart. Only his mother could. They ran down the corridor in the direction his mother had gone. Rats! He glanced at the messy desk, and the open trunk at the foot of his bed. He started waving his wand, moving articles from the desk into the trunk so quickly that he was sure he'd probably put more than a few things in that he didn't need, since the surface of the desk was now completely empty. He also put in everything from the mantel except the carriage clock, including some birthday cards he evidently was still displaying. He checked his wardrobe and the drawers of a dresser next to his bed, and nothing was left that could be worn in the autumn or winter, just summer clothes. He closed and locked his trunk and went to his door, running straight into his formidable mother. She stood with crossed arms and a frown, causing vertical lines to appear between her eyebrows. Her bright green eyes glittered. He stepped back, swallowing. "All done packing, mum. I was just about to help dad with the china like you said." She looked at him doubtfully; he squirmed, hating the idea of lying to his mother as much as he hated the thought of her not trusting him. Finally, her face relaxed and she let him pass. "All right. But I don't want to hear about you threatening to hex your brothers again, do you hear me? And don't forget; once school starts, if you get caught at that, you'll lose house points." "Yes, ma'am," he said docilely, his lips drawn into a line as he attempted to seem as noncombative as possible. She retreated back down the corridor toward what he assumed was his parents' bedroom. After she'd passed, Stu and Si leaned out of their bedroom doors, on opposite sides of the corridor in the same direction his mother had gone, and both stuck their tongues out at Harry and crossed their eyes, looking very silly. Harry stuck out his tongue and crossed his eyes back, although he knew that if his mother caught him, he'd be the one to get an earful, since he was sixteen, and the eldest... I'm not an only child. I'm the eldest. He turned to go down the broad stairs when the sound of someone humming off-key caught his attention. He continued down the corridor past the stairs, coming to his sister's bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, and he saw through the crack that she was packing her trunk still. She was holding a framed picture identical to the one that had been on Harry's mantel, the two of them with Draco Malfoy. Three troublemakers, he remembered his mother calling them affectionately. Jamie paused for a moment and put her finger on the image of Draco, a dreamy expression on her face. She shook herself and wrapped the framed picture in a wizarding robe, to protect it, stuffing it in the trunk. Does my sister have a crush on my best friend? He laughed to himself. Best friend. Hadn't he just said to--someone--that Malfoy was now going to be his best friend? He had no idea how prophetic he was being... Suddenly a very vivid memory rose up in his mind, and he saw himself and Draco Malfoy and his sister when they were eleven and she was nine, eating ice cream cones at an outdoor table at Florean Fortescue's place in Diagon Alley...
Jamie was frowning at her ice cream as she licked methodically around the sides. Harry and Draco were chatting excitedly about getting their supplies to start their first year of Hogwarts. "Have you gotten your wand yet?" Draco asked him. "Not yet. Mum's at the apothecary, getting my potions stuff. After we're done here, I think she said it's robes next..." "Good! When my dad comes back we're getting robes, too. Let's make sure we get identical ones." "Right!" Harry agreed, taking a bite of his chocolate macadamia ice cream that made his teeth hurt. "I just wish we could take our brooms..." "Too right! "It's not fair, not letting first years have brooms...I mean, we've been flying for
ages. We know what we're doing." Draco started nibbling at his cone. "I just hope you do something about your snoring..." Draco hit Harry on the arm playfully. "My snoring--" "Yeah. If we're going to be living in the same dorm for seven years..." "You scared the house elves with your snoring the last time you slept at my house," Draco laughed, and Harry laughed along. They quieted for a minute to continue eating their ice cream cones. Then Harry spoke into the silence. "I'm glad your dad decided to send you to the village school a few years ago," he said softly, unable to imagine life without his best friend. "Me too. Thank goodness for the 'labor shortage.' I was going along for months without any tutors before Dad finally gave in on the school thing." Jamie finished her cone and began cleaning her fingers daintily, and Harry noticed that there were tears in her eyes. He looked at her with concern. "You okay, James?" She threw her napkin onto the table with disgust. "Oh, it's all right for you. You both get to go off to live up at the castle, and you get to have wands and learn spells--while I'll be stuck back in the village reciting Latin conjugations and declensions!" "But Jamie," Draco said, putting his hand on hers, "you'll be a first year soon. In no time! You'll see...And you've still got the twins..." She made a face. "The twins--ha!" Harry saw her angrily swipe some tears from the corners of their eyes. He felt a funny twisting in his stomach. Poor Jamie... "Anyway," she said with a catch in her voice, "what makes you think you're both going to be in the same house?" Harry and Draco stopped and stared at each other. "W--why?" Draco said to her. "You don't think we'll be put in the same house?" She shrugged. "Well our mum and dad were both in Gryffindor, and I don't know about your mum Draco, but I know your dad was in Slytherin." Harry and Draco looked at each other again. "It doesn't always go that way, James," Harry said to her. "Plenty of families have people from different houses. Parents, kids, brothers and sisters. Just 'cause someone in your family was in a particular house doesn't mean you're going to be." Harry tried to sound surer about this than he felt. What if they weren't in the same house? "What if we're not in the same house?" Draco said quietly now, voicing Harry's fears. Harry looked down, frowning, then up again. "Why should it matter? We'll still be friends. Why wouldn't we be?" The question hung in the air between them. After an uncomfortable silence, Draco started to open his mouth, but Jamie cut him off. "I'll tell you why you might not be. You spend all your time with your housemates for seven years. You sit in all your classes with your housemates in the same year--and you live with the housemates in your year. And then there's the common room for each house. And the house table in the Great Hall. And then there's the Quidditch teams...I mean, if you're in different houses, your teams will be playing against each other. You won't be supporting the same team..." "Hold it, hold it," Harry said, trying to be the voice of reason. "Just because mum and dad were in Gryffindor doesn't mean I'm going to be, and just because Draco's dad was in Slytherin doesn't mean he's going to be. I mean--we could both be in Ravenclaw." Jamie burst out laughing, quickly covering her mouth, her eyes merry. Draco looked rather put out. "What's so funny?" he demanded. She removed her hand from her mouth. "With your marks? Not just you, Draco. I mean Harry, too." "All right," Harry said, "Hufflepuff then." She laughed again. "You two are not exactly what you'd call hard workers. Face it, either you'll both be in Gryffindor, you'll both be in Slytherin, or it'll be one of you in each." Harry looked at Draco, then at his sister. "Way to cheer us up, James. Thanks a lot." She started to tear up again. "Well, why not spread the misery around? I'm going to bloody well miss the pair of you..." "Jamie Rose Potter! Language!" Harry found it hard not to laugh while saying this. "Oh, shut up, Harry. You've heard me say 'bloody' before. If mum knew some of the language you use..." Harry laughed outright now. "She'd probably hex me so I could only talk when I want food or something. You'd better exercise better self-control by the time you get to Hogwarts, though. If a prefect hears you talking like that you could lose points for your house." "Oh, such rubbish! Prefects probably use the worst language, especially when they're reaming out grotty little first years..." Harry reached out and poked her in the side, making her erupt into hysterical giggles. "Harry!" You know what mum said about tickling me--" but he poked her again and she was laughing so hard she couldn't go on talking. "You won't have me to tickle you for much longer. Enjoy it while you can," he said, continuing the tickling for another half-minute, but then stopping when he saw she was no longer laughing but looking at him very seriously. "I know," she said, swallowing. She extended her arms and put a hand on each of their arms, on the small cafe table. "I'll miss you both." The boys covered her hands with their own. "We'll send you owls all the time," Draco promised, and Harry agreed with him, nodding solemnly. "All the time." Harry turned away from his sister's door and went back to the stairs. He looked around at the front hall, with its grand tapestries and floor-to-ceiling paneling and coffered ceiling. He was still coming to terms with the fact that the last fifteen years of his life had never happened. Or rather, they had happened completely differently. He worried about one thing: could he continue to remember his old life, could he hold the memories of two different fifteen-year-periods in his head at the same time? He was starting to get the impression that every time he pulled up a memory of this life, this time, he was losing something from that other life. He thought of his other life, and all of the things that were left undone. Where was Snape? Perhaps he shouldn't worry. He was probably fine in this life. And if he wasn't all right in that other time, perhaps that was yet another person whose life was saved by his having saved his mother. He had already remembered that Pettigrew had been punished for betraying his parents, and that Sirius had never been imprisoned. But then he started doubting again. What if he was dreaming? What if his not sleeping had led to this, his brain forcing him to dream whenever and wherever it could manage it, and this was the dream it came up with? He pinched his own left arm painfully, viciously squeezing the skin between the fingers of his right hand, then rubbed the reddened skin, wincing and cursing under his breath. If it was a dream it was an extremely realistic one. He reached the foot of the stairs and walked forward, not having to think consciously about where to find the dining room. He turned left and entered the huge room, with its enormous banqueting table with sixteen chairs around it and its crystal chandelier with dozens of candles. He noticed that there was a greeting card someone had left on the mantel. He crossed the room to look at it. There was a beautiful, lacy heart on the front. It looked like a Valentine. Had it been sitting here since February? Harry opened it. There wasn't a printed message inside, only a hand-written one. Happy Anniversary. For Lily, my love. S. S. His stepfather. He remembered that Sirius hadn't gone to prison in this life, and his heart leapt into his throat. He also remembered Sirius telling him that he had made a pass at his mother once, when they were in school, and saying to Snape, "We were all in love with her." He thought about his brothers' coloring, the dark hair and eyes, overlaid on his mother's features. He couldn't stop a huge smile from splitting his face as he went to the door to the left of the mantel, which he knew somehow would lead him to the butler's pantry, where the china was. His mother had married Sirius! He couldn't believe how he just kept discovering better and better things about this life! Who knew that the world would be so much better merely by his mother living? Who knew what a difference one person made? And how different everything might be? Then he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his stepfather. It was not Sirius Black.
* * * * *

Go to the Psychic Serpent Homepage for links to the PDF files, the audio book of PS, and PS-related fics by other authors, as well as links to my essays and other fics. Thanks for reading and reviewing!