Chapter 1: Back Again
Harry flinched, utterly startled by the sudden question. He knew that voice.
Of course he knew it; he'd just spent several-- however many units of time-- listening to it in an empty, sunlit replica of King's Cross. But that had been six years and a bit into the future. Had the other wizard somehow followed Harry back?
Gingerly, feeling as though his insides had turned to ice, Harry turned to peer behind him. And there, perched upon one of the desks pushed against the sides of the disused classroom, he saw Albus Dumbledore, smiling and twinkling away at him as knowingly as ever.
"I-- I didn't--" he stammered, hardly knowing what to say.
"Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you," the headmaster replied.
Invisible? Harry glanced down again, at the silvery folds of the Cloak of Invisibility pooled at his side, and nearly fainted in reaction as he realized what must have happened. This wasn't the first night Harry had spent at the Mirror of Erised, as he'd intended; he must have mixed things up in his head. This was the third
night, December 27th, the night after he'd shown it to Ron-- the night Dumbledore had come to explain to him what it was. This wasn't the professor of Harry's time, teasing him about his journey to the past; this was the professor from
the past, checking up on Harry's reaction to the Mirror.
Harry gave the headmaster a sheepish look as the old wizard moved to sit on the floor with him. He had no idea what he'd said the last time this had happened; he only hoped it hadn't been anything important, because he was no more capable of speaking at the moment than if he'd been struck with the Prince's langlock jinx.
Snape's jinx, rather. The ice began to gather in Harry's stomach again as he remembered how difficult things had been between him and the bitter professor even this early on in his Hogwarts career. By this time, if he remembered right, he'd already caught the man limping from Fluffy's bite, and of course there'd been the incident with the cursed broomstick; the Griffindor/Slytherin match Harry had won by nearly swallowing the Snitch had definitely been before Christmas his first year. That meant even skeptical, logical Hermione was already convinced that Snape was the one after the object Fluffy was guarding. It wasn't going to be easy to establish a working relationship with the potions master out of the wreckage of all that, especially since Harry was just as much James Potter's son now as he'd ever been. He had the feeling it would be necessary, however, if he wanted his second life to go much better than his first.
This wasn't the time to worry about it, though. If Dumbledore caught Harry ignoring him he'd have questions Harry wouldn't be able to avoid answering, and the last thing Harry wanted was to have the truth picked out of his mind and dealt with for the greater good
before he had the chance to figure anything out for himself. He felt guilty about that reaction-- about not trusting the professor to be the confidant his later self had suggested Harry find-- but though he might have forgiven Dumbledore for everything the old wizard had done, he hadn't forgotten. If he let Dumbledore take up the reins of his new life now, he knew he would never get them back.
"--the delights of the Mirror of Erised," the headmaster was saying; Harry had completely missed the rest of his statement.
"They call it that because of the inscription, I expect," he replied inanely, fumbling for something to say as he looked back up at the Mirror.
"Yes," Dumbledore replied. "And have you unravelled its riddle?"
Harry winced at the choice of words. "It shows me my family, sir," he said, evading the question.
"And it showed your friend Ron himself as Head Boy."
The conversation was becoming more familiar with every word; the next question sprang from Harry's tongue almost without his volition. "How did you know--?"
"I don't need a cloak to become invisible," Dumbledore replied, his answer resonating with Harry's memories, both new and old.
Harry fought down the sudden urge to confront the headmaster about the Cloak, to ask him why he'd kept it all these years if he didn't need it. He wasn't going to be an idiot about this. The fact he'd been given this second chance was a miracle; he wasn't going to get a third, and he couldn't afford to poke at people with his extra knowledge just to see how they'd react. It was tempting, though. How had Snape walked around all those years, keeping so many secrets and yet never spilling any of them out of turn?
"Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?"
He'd shaken his head the last time, Harry remembered, and dithered a bit; this time round, he hadn't the patience to draw things out. "It shows us what we want," he said, glancing over his shoulder at the professor. He caught a glimpse of piercing blue eyes, then turned back to the Mirror hurriedly. The little Occlumency he'd managed to pick up would never protect him if Dumbledore decided to look in on his thoughts.
The reflections of his parents were mildly chiding, now, as though they knew what he was up to. Harry smiled wryly at them, wondering at himself for apparently desiring a firm hand as much as the rest of the parenting package. He would have thought he'd had enough of that at the Dursleys'. "Not just any old want, though," he added, qualifying his statement. "It shows our heart's desire."
"Exactly," Dumbledore replied, quietly. "Quite perceptive, my boy. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you; Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them."
"But none of it's real," Harry said, nearly choking as several unexpected faces materialized in the crowd behind his parents. It wasn't just his blood family there, anymore-- though he supposed if you went back far enough, they counted on that score, too. Sirius' face looked back at him from over James' shoulder, young and unlined the way Harry had seen it when he'd used the Resurrection Stone. Remus was also there, looking just as young as Sirius-- and with his wife at his side, appearing the same age despite the decade and a half between them. Tonks turned her nose briefly into a pig's snout as Harry watched, then winked and lay her head against Remus' shoulder; a tiny body with a tuft of pink hair was barely visible in the crook of her arm.
"No, it is not. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible," Dumbledore said gravely. "I am pleased that you understand this, Harry, but the Mirror shall still be moved to a new home tomorrow, and I ask you not to go looking for it again. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. Now, why don't you put that admirable cloak back on and get off to bed?"
Harry stood up, tearing his eyes reluctantly away from the Mirror, and picked up the Cloak, feeling the fabric ripple like water through his fingers. Another question hovered on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't ask it this time, not after what he'd learned about Dumbledore's past. It was the professor's own business what he saw in the Mirror's depths, even if it was
just an image of himself holding a pair of warm woollen socks.
Harry offered Dumbledore a shaky smile and a nod, then slipped the Cloak hastily over his head and padded back toward Gryffindor Tower, feeling thoroughly unsettled.
The disorientation did not let up in the corridors, either. There were far fewer hex-marks on the walls than he remembered, and the suits of armour stood watch as silently as they ever had; the smooth stone underfoot was clear of the debris of battle. Harry knew that if he went up to a certain corridor and paced the hall asking for the place where things were hidden, he'd find the cursed diadem of Ravenclaw waiting for him, unmarred by the Fiendfyre that Crabbe had cast.
But he couldn't deal with that just yet. His eleven year old body was announcing its exhaustion, and it would be a bad idea to rush off into action without at least trying to come up with a plan. Better to get some rest, and work on the problem when his mind was fresh.
Provided, of course, he could actually get to his bed at all.
"Bloody hell," Harry muttered, stuffing the Cloak into a pocket as he stared at the Fat Lady's portrait. How was he meant to remember a password six and a half years old? What had they been on that year-- animal parts?
"Caput draconis?" he tried. No-- that had been from the beginning of the year; his memory of it was coloured with Percy's voice, and he couldn't recall any others. "Bat wing? Centaur elbow? Billywig sting?"
"Sorry, dear," the Fat Lady told him, yawning.
It was like guessing sweets outside Dumbledore's office; he felt a bit ridiculous, but he didn't want to wake up the whole tower just to be let in. "Lion paw?" he offered weakly. "Phoenix beak?" Too bad Tonks wasn't around yet; this might feel less like a waste of time if she was playing along. "Pig snout, even?"
The portrait swung open with a click.
"Finally," Harry muttered, stifling a yawn as he shuffled through the Gryffindor common room toward the boy's staircase. It was cold and empty at this hour, but a lump rose in his throat nonetheless, the product of nearly a year's separation from the place that had been more his home than the Dursleys' perfectly normal residence ever had. He hadn't exactly had time to go visiting when he'd come to Hogwarts in search of the last Horcrux, but in a way, he was glad of that; his memories of the Tower hadn't been tarnished by the ghosts of war the way the rest of the castle had.
He did have time for one particular visit now, though, despite the tiredness weighing down his bones. He stopped partway up the stair, outside the door to the third year boys' dorm, and crept quietly into the domain of Gred and Forge.
The twin Weasleys looked unnaturally angelic in sleep. Harry knew better than to trust appearances, of course, and stayed far out of reach of the beds, but he approached close enough to watch the rise and fall of Fred's chest and to make sure both of George's ears were still affixed where they belonged. They looked so young! More than his own changes, more than the sight of a still-living Dumbledore, that was what truly brought it home that he'd actually gone back in time.
When he'd looked his fill, Harry crept back out to the stairwell, then up and into the first years' dorm. Ron was the only other boy still there over Christmas, and his familiar snoring seemed all the louder in the general silence. Harry smiled, pushing Ron's bedcurtains aside just a bit to look down at the first friend he'd ever made, then crept over to his own bed. He tucked the Cloak into his trunk, then stifled another yawn and reached to nudge Scabbers off his pillow so he could curl up on his bed.
His fingers froze in place an inch from the dozing rat's fur.
"Wormtail," Harry hissed. How could he have forgotten? All trace of drowsiness left Harry as he scrabbled frantically for his wand. He pointed the shaking tip at the rat's whiskered nose. Pettigrew had died too quickly the last time, as ugly as his death had been; he'd deserved
to rot in Azkaban for the rest of his days.
Only-- what could he do with the rat now? Even if he cast Incarcerous on him this instant and ran straight to McGonagall, who was going to believe an eleven year old boy who claimed his best friend's pet was the animal form of the real
traitor that had betrayed his parents? Especially when they'd never even told him the official story of the betrayal? Last time he'd had Professor Lupin, Sirius, the map, and his friends all to back him up. This time, if McGonagall even bothered to humour him long enough to try the spell to force an Animagus back into human form, she'd want to know why
he suspected the rat in the first place. What would he tell her? What could
he tell her?
He couldn't. He couldn't do anything.
Harry lowered his wand and staggered back away from the bed, then sat down hard on the cold floor and put his face in his hands. Was this what Dumbledore had meant by "fraught with danger"? How was he supposed to deal with situations like this? He really hadn't thought this going-back-in-time thing through.
Except-- maybe he
couldn't deal with this situation, but--
Harry sat up, then threw his trunk open again and rummaged frantically in it for some scraps of spare parchment, a bottle of ink, and a quill. Wormtail startled at the noise and scuttled off Harry's pillow, but Harry forced himself to pay the rat no mind; in the other time, Scabbers had stayed with Ron another two whole years before faking his death again and framing Hermione's cat. He'd still be there tomorrow. Or however long it took to get things moving.
"Dear Professor Lupin
," Harry scribbled on the parchment, then grimaced and crossed the "Professor" out. He'd couldn't use Remus or Moony either, not yet, so it would have to be "Mr. Lupin." That sounded wrong, somehow, but it would have to do.
"Dear Mr. Lupin
," he wrote on a fresh piece of parchment, then paused and nibbled on the feathery end of the quill. What excuse could he use for writing? Well-- it would sound dumb, but maybe--
"My name is Harry Potter, and I'm a first year student at Hogwarts. I've been told you went to school with my parents, and I was wondering if you would mind talking to me about them sometime. My aunt and uncle don't speak of them, and all the professors have said is that I have my father's hair and my mother's eyes
Was that too pathetic sounding? He nibbled the quill a little more, then decided the more needy he sounded the better. What had
Moony been doing all those years, anyway? Had Dumbledore asked him not to visit Harry for whatever reason, or had Remus been so grief-stricken by everything that happened that he couldn't bear to see his friends' surviving son? Or had he just been too busy to think about contacting him? Harry had never dared ask before, for fear of the answer he might get. It didn't matter so much, now, though; Harry knew
Remus cared, even if Remus himself didn't know how much yet.
He couldn't broach the topic of Wormtail so soon, and bringing up Sirius would probably be a bad idea; he didn't want Remus to throw the letter away. If he could just get the older man to start exchanging letters with him, though, they'd have to get around to the topic sooner or later, and Harry was confident he could work in enough innocuous references to rouse Moony's suspicions. Hopefully before the end of the year. Harry couldn't bear to think of his godfather still penned up while the real villain ran around free.
"It's okay if you don't want to. But I'd appreciate if you could let me know who else I might write. I know I don't remember my parents, but sometimes I feel like they're with me, like they're still watching over me, and I'd like to learn as much about them as I can
That was all true enough, though he'd never say it to anyone else, except maybe Sirius or Ginny. Not even Ron, who would mock him for it, or Hermione, who'd get that pitying expression. Harry shuddered, then took a deep breath and scrawled his signature across the bottom. He squinted over at Scabbers, now dozing on the bed next to Ron, and glared at the rat. He'd take the letter up to Hedwig in the morning, and they'd just see where things went from there.
Harry folded the letter up into an envelope, then set it on the bedside stand with his wand and glasses and slipped into his bed. It was too bad he'd had never been all that brilliant at chess; he had a feeling most of his second trip through Hogwarts was going to be filled with more of what he'd just done, setting things up to try and head off the disasters he knew would be coming.
It was a good thing he had so many friends and adults ready and willing to help him. He just had to remember to take
that help this time round.