Chapter 1: Getting to Know You
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter...
Just something I've been working on for fun. I'll probably post other smaller fics like these when I have time to put one together. This one will be about two chapters long, three at the most.
It can be read alone and doesn't really impact the main storyline at all.
Chapters in my other fics are being worked on; just need to get my midterms over with before I start on those again. This one has a small enough plot so I can work on it between studying.
Summary: Part of the Wanderer!verse. Prequel to Wanderer. The fifteenth jump lands him in a place so much like the home he has always wanted that he just can't stay away, even though he knows it'll hurt all the more in the end.
Chapter 1 – Getting to Know You
It was the sixth time he had come to the small diner in the past three months but he hadn't been able to resist when he had caught sight of a woman with burnished auburn hair and familiar green eyes.
The latest jump had landed him in a different Britain, where everything was the same, but not. For one, there was no magic. This had come as both a surprise and a disappointment to him after he realized he could not Apparate into Diagon Alley and that there was no Leaky Cauldron.
So, feeling a little lost in a world so like his own and not knowing when he would be taken away again, he had wandered around Muggle London, – or just London now, he supposed– knowing he probably wouldn't land so conveniently next time.
It was during his stroll down an unremarkable-looking street a few hours later that he heard the sound of laughter, and, curious, he continued in the same direction until a school came into sight. Children were running around a jungle gym, bundled up in winter clothes and playing tag, but it was the woman watching them that stopped him in his tracks.
Lily Potter – for she was visibly, though not completely noticeably, pregnant and a part of him desperately hoped that the father would be the same – was a primary school teacher. He had stuck around all day, standing under a tree right outside her classroom so he could watch her teach. He had weaved several disillusionment charms around himself of course; being accused of stalking his own mother, albeit from a different timeline, wasn't particularly high on his list of priorities.
This turned out to be a very good thing because Lily really did happen to be a Potter and James himself came driving up in a police car of all things to pick her up.
He had followed them home as a falcon – and yes, he knew that was creepy but he had never seen his family interact before and he wasn't about to turn down the presented opportunity – and had instantly loved the simple two-story house with the elegant garden, the wide backyard blanketed with snow, and the black Audi in the driveway that James pulled up at. Yet he had only meant to catch a glimpse of their house, perhaps stick around for a few minutes more to see them inside, but that plan had been shot to hell when he had caught sight of Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and the unmistakable rat-like face of Peter Pettigrew waiting on the front lawn.
It had taken everything he had to suppress the instant furious urge to change back and obliterate the traitor-lookalike six ways to Sunday, but he had remembered in time that this was not his time's Pettigrew and trying to kill the man would most likely just get him arrested and thrown in prison.
So he had concentrated on the other two instead, ignoring the sharp painful stab of guilt that still surfaced whenever he thought of Sirius, and focused on the warm ache in his chest as his godfather released a bark of laughter at something James had said, Remus chiming in with an obvious quip that had all of them laughing.
That had been twelve weeks ago, and he still hadn't been able to tear himself away from this family. So, with stalker-like tendencies that he couldn't bring himself to care about, he had managed to find out where his not-quite-family mostly ate at. As much as he wanted to introduce himself or even simply say hello, he drew the line at staking out their house and had decided to 'coincidentally' eat at the diner whenever they did. He had missed a handful of dinners there though, not wanting them to get suspicious, but those evenings had been spent in his hotel room, restless and bored and nursing a scotch with moody thoughts as his mind inevitably drifted back to the last world he had been on, a different dimension where he had become something of a doctor as a war had raged on around him. There had been so many deaths, so many people he couldn't save, and it had almost been a relief when the device took him away.
But here and now, in the dim warm glow of the small diner, he made sure not to look around as the door was pulled open and the diner's owner called out a familiar greeting. As always, they were led to their usual seats, and, from his place at the counter in the far corner of the diner, he would be able to see them if he turned his head on occasion.
The kind voice he had become familiar with made him start and almost slip off the stool he was sitting on, instinctively shying away from the woman currently standing a few feet away from him. At the table behind her, only Pettigrew had taken a seat. His father, godfather, and surrogate godfather were all watching him with varying degrees of interest.
"Sorry," His attention returned to Lily as she smiled apologetically up at him. "It's just that you're a new face around here and you always look a bit lonely eating all by yourself in the corner. Would you like to join us for dinner?"
His mind had completely blanked and he wasn't sure what to say. He stared at her until the silence became awkward before forcing out, "I'm fine here. Don't let me disturb your dinner."
"Nonsense!" This came from Sirius, a cheerful grin on his handsome face as he strode forward. "Come on, don't be shy. You're eating with us tonight."
He instantly tensed when Sirius swung an arm around his shoulders, dragging him off the stool and to their table, but he tried to relax as his godfather introduced themselves.
"The beautiful lady is Lily," Sirius gestured at the redhead with his free hand. "I'm Sirius, that's Remus, Peter, and the ugly bloke with the bad hair is Howard."
James rolled his eyes but levelled a good-natured grin at him. "Ignore him; he introduces me with a different name every time. I'm James, Lil's husband."
It was a long moment later before he managed to form an answer, still a little dazed at the sudden turn of events. "…Harry. I'm Harry."
Harry barely noticed what he ate that night, trying not to stare at the group of people around him instead. He learned that James worked in the police department, as did Sirius and Pettigrew, while Remus was a professor at Regent's College. There was something about Pettigrew that bothered Harry, but he put it out of his mind, not wanting to ruin the evening by comparing this Peter to the one in his time.
Lily, of course, was confirmed as a primary schoolteacher, but was due for maternity leave in a few months.
"Boy or girl?" Harry asked, wondering if the child would have James' hair but Lily's eyes. He hadn't bothered changing his own appearance, but his hair had gotten longer and was now tied back in a ponytail. He had also discarded his glasses long ago, correcting his eyesight with a potion, so the similarities wouldn't make people who knew James do a double-take when they saw Harry.
"We don't know yet," James glanced affectionately at his wife. "And even when the doctors can tell, we figured we'd leave it as a surprise. Haven't even picked out a name yet-"
"Not for lack of trying!" Sirius protested. "I've given you plenty of names-"
"'Princess' is not a name," Remus cut in, rolling his eyes. Harry almost choked on the water he had just taken a sip of. "Neither is 'Callisto' or 'Cassiopeia' or 'Andromeda'-"
"Andromeda's my cousin's name!" Sirius sulked. "It's a very good name."
"Not if you don't want the poor kid laughed at at school," Remus said firmly.
"I don't know what's wrong with 'James Jr.'," James said with a meaningful look at Lily.
"Yeah, he could be James Potter II," Pettigrew agreed.
Lily glared at both of them. "I refuse to believe that I would have so little imagination to name my own child his father's name! The baby will have your name as a middle name if it's a boy and mine if it's a girl." The warning on her face clearly told them not to argue, and both of them wisely fell silent.
Smiling sweetly, Lily turned back to Harry with a curious expression on her face. "So Harry, are you just on vacation or have you moved into Westminster?"
Harry shifted a little as everyone turned expectant gazes on him. "Vacation, I suppose. I've been travelling around for a while, not really working yet. London seemed like a good place to stop."
"Just out of school then?" Remus enquired, smile the same patient gentle one Harry was used to. This Remus was rather different in that he looked a lot less tired and seemed generally more open if still quiet, but that wasn't very surprising since he wasn't a werewolf here.
"Yes," Harry quickly thought back to all the knowledge he had gained in the past two hundred years and chose the latest skill. "Graduated from medical school."
"At such a young age!" Remus looked impressed, and Harry had to hide an ironic smile. "I'm a History professor but I've gone through a few medical texts in my free time."
"Remus, you've gone through texts from every subject in your free time," Sirius corrected fondly before shaking his head at Harry. "Now that we've got another geek around, Remus won't have to lecture us to sleep every day."
"Sirius, be nice," Lily scolded as Remus looked faintly embarrassed.
Harry just grinned a little, used to his godfather's antics by now to take it in stride. "I've never been to Regent's College before," He offered instead, turning a genuinely interested gaze on his former professor. "I don't suppose it would be against the rules if I take a look around one day?"
Remus brightened and they both ignored Sirius when he released a groan of mock-horror. "That's no problem. If you have time, you could even check out one of my classes. God knows half the students don't pay attention with all the sunlight outside."
Britain had had unexpectedly good weather for April, and Harry knew what it was like to be stuck inside when the sky was nothing but a robin's egg blue.
"Sure," He nodded. He didn't care what subject it was; Remus could make a Potions class fun. "Maybe Monday?"
Remus beamed. "We're starting on the French Revolution on Monday. Just come up to the school at around ten and ask for my class."
"I will," Harry promised, idly wondering how the Muggle world taught the French Revolution. He had been there after all, several jumps back. It hadn't exactly been a blast, if he didn't count the cannon fire.
The rest of the evening was spent making casual conversation. Harry mostly just listened, content with hearing about his pseudo-family's lives.
All too soon though, the dinner was over and the group of six gathered outside the diner, shrugging on coats as they stepped into the night.
"Well, here's where we part," Lily smiled warmly up at Harry. "We really have to eat together again. It was fun."
"Agreed," James nodded. "Not many people can put up with Sirius' madness."
"We'll probably come here again on Wednesday," Lily continued, ignoring the interruption. "See you then?"
Harry hesitated. He could walk away now, tell them he wouldn't be able to make it, and after Remus' lecture on Monday, he wouldn't have to get any closer to these people than he already had. A dinner with them had been more than he had ever hoped for, but staring at their open expressions, not a single hint of disagreement on their faces, Harry couldn't bring himself to decline.
"Sure," He found himself saying. "Next Wednesday."
"So what did you think of the lesson?" Remus asked nervously as they strode across the campus for some lunch. He had no idea why Harry's opinion mattered so much, but ever since he – all of them really – had noticed the black-haired then-stranger in the diner, they had all wanted to get acquainted with him.
Well, not Peter so much, he amended. Peter had never been one to talk to new people after all. But the rest of them had noticed Harry the first time he had stepped into the diner. There was simply something distinctly recognizable about him, but Remus had eventually put it down to the fact that Harry had the same messy, albeit longer and slightly neater hair that James had. Nevertheless, once they realized Harry had become something of a regular at the diner but always ate alone, half-hidden in the shadows in the corner, Lily had finally suggested inviting him to their table for dinner. All of them had readily agreed, not really understanding why but knowing it to be a good idea.
Remus had been surprised at the ease with which Harry had accepted Sirius and, at times, James' personality. Their jokes and enthusiasm often alarmed new people but Harry had sat through it all with a smile that bordered on wistful, sometimes joining in the banter but, more often than not, remaining quiet and observing them all with tired eyes. Not tired of them, Remus was sure, because Sirius' dramatics always succeeded in producing a smile and an occasional laugh from Harry, but just tired in general, as if he was just too weary to care much about- well, living.
And that had been the worst thing of all, because Remus had no idea how someone so young could look so old at the same time, and the instinctive spark of protectiveness that had first ignited when he had clapped eyes on Harry had flared in alarm. So, when Harry had expressed an interest in the college he taught in, Remus had immediately offered to let him sit in on his lectures, finding himself inexplicably pleased when genuine interest had brightened Harry's eyes. He was relatively young for a teacher – only twenty-three – and some of his students were older than he was, but he thought he was rather good at his job and he wanted to know what Harry thought of his teaching style.
Harry only offered a soft smile, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair behind his left ear. It was such a familiar gesture that Remus almost opened his mouth to ask, but he didn't know what question to pose or even why it was so familiar.
"It was very interesting," Harry was saying. "I wanted to join in that discussion you started with the students, and you have a knack for getting even the shyer ones to participate. You make a great professor, Remus."
Remus flushed a little with pride. "Thanks. I've only been teaching for about a year; definitely the youngest in the school."
"Well, your teaching says otherwise," Harry said firmly. "I passed by a few classrooms on my way to yours. Those professors were already putting people to sleep and class had barely started."
Remus chuckled at the indignant callous words. He could sympathize; he himself had sat through lectures boring enough to contemplate suicide.
As they made their way to a small shop that sold excellent sandwiches, he let his curiosity get the better of him and remarked, "I saw you helping a few of the students get their projects started; did you take history courses when you went to school?"
An odd smile Remus couldn't quite understand made its way onto Harry's face as he replied, "I did, but I mostly slept in that class. Trust me, you would've been sleeping too. No, I learned most of my history while I was travelling. You tend to pick up their culture when you stay in an area for an extended period of time."
"So you've been to France?" Remus tried not to sound too envious. "I've only been there once with James and Sirius during a Christmas break but that was only for a week and we only stayed in Paris. Got to go to Versailles, at least, but Idiots One and Two set off the alarm in the Palace and we spent the next six hours in a holding cell that day."
Harry released a rare laugh, craning his head to focus on Remus even more. "What happened?"
"They rigged one of the chandeliers so that every time someone walked under it, it would trip the device they hid in it to start screaming. Scared the pants off of several tourists," Remus chortled at the memory though he had been furious at the time. He really had been looking forward to sightseeing there. "Unfortunately, they were caught and somehow gave the police the impression that I was involved too. Needless to say, we were banned from going back."
"Well, at least you got see what the inside of a holding cell looks like in France," Harry grinned.
"Yes, it was remarkably like the ones in England," Remus agreed dryly but he couldn't help the matching grin that spread across his own face. "Still, Paris was quite nice so I only put itching powder in their shirts instead of their boxers."
Harry laughed again, and for a second, Remus could swear it was James standing in front of him. But the moment passed, the fleeting thought leaving as fast as it had come, and he joined in the laughter as he described his best friends' reactions when they had pulled on their shirts that morning.
"When you go again, try Marseille or Rouen," Harry suggested as they managed to get their laughter under control. "The countryside is real nice too."
"Where else have you been?" Remus asked eagerly as they finished buying their food and sat down at one of the small tables.
"Hmm," Harry frowned thoughtfully as he bit into his sandwich. "Russia. Strict country, takes forever to get past the border, but there are a lot of historical sites. There's the Kremlin – always a must-see if you survive the border-crossing – and then there's the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg and the Red Square in Moscow," He paused before making a face. "Never liked that place, actually. Too red, especially in broad daylight, but it's a huge tourist attraction."
He paused to take another bite, and Remus hastily did the same when he realized he had forgotten about his lunch as he listened to Harry describe his travels.
"I've been to Australia," Harry continued. "Learned how to surf-"
"You know how to surf?" Remus interrupted. "Well, Sirius is going to be jealous. He's always wanted to learn, but, well, Britain, you know?"
Harry nodded sagely before launching into the sights he had seen in Australia and the difficulty he had had with surfing.
"I never really learned to swim, you see," Harry explained. "I mean I get the gist of it – kick and paddle simultaneously and all that – but the first time I actually swam was when I was fourteen and I had help back then."
"So you skipped learning how to swim and went straight to surfing in the ocean?" Remus looked mildly horrified.
Harry shrugged freely, taking a sip of water. "Hey, I survived, plus I managed to learn how to surf and swim at the same time. Besides, I learn best when I'm under pressure."
"Under pressure of death," Remus said, shaking his head. "You're just like Sirius; reckless to a fault with no sense of self-preservation at all. At least James has Lily to keep him in line now."
"Well, I could do worse," Harry said with a faint smile and distant eyes.
Remus sensed that the conversation had taken a sharp turn into something more serious and he stayed quiet to allow the other man some time with his thoughts. His eyes drifted downward for a moment, and then did a double-take when he thought he caught words on the back of Harry's right hand.
He caught 'tell lies' before the hand disappeared from his line of sight and his gaze darted up almost guiltily as he found Harry staring at him with a neutral expression.
Almost, he almost asked, but caught himself just in time. It wasn't any of his business and whatever was written – carved, his mind supplied unhelpfully – into Harry's hand was obviously not something he wanted to talk about.
So Remus quickly started another line of conversation, detailing the time James had pranked Lily of all people, and then had to walk around school with a cap for two weeks because Lily had shaved his head and drawn an evil happy face on top in retaliation. Remus was gratified to see Harry relax again under the story's influence and resolved to keep it that way. He didn't really know why, but smiling was how Remus liked Harry best.
"Had fun today, Remus?" Sirius grinned from his place in the driver's seat. He hadn't seen Remus this relaxed in some time now.
"Yes," Remus replied swiftly as he slid into the passenger's seat. "Harry's travelled a lot. He's told me quite a bit about the places he's been."
"Good, that's good," Sirius said as they pulled away from the curb. "He went home early?"
Remus nodded. "A few minutes before you came actually."
Sirius just nodded though, obviously distracted. Remus frowned, automatically lowering his voice even inside the car. "Voldemort getting active again?"
Sirius' expression darkened even as he nodded. "Acting up is putting it mildly," Sirius said grimly. "Five bodies have turned up today alone, and that's just in Westminster. Bloody mobster; James put a bullet in his head last time we met but the bastard just won't fucking die! He must have one hell of a doctor on his side."
"He'll go after James," Remus deducted worriedly. "Revenge has always been Voldemort's priority. Right after death and destruction, of course."
"Yeah," Sirius agreed, heaving a sigh. "The chief wants James to go into hiding but he's kicking up a fuss. With Lily and the baby coming though, he might just agree."
"Let's hope so," Remus had to hold back a shudder at the thought of James dead. "Voldemort's as dangerous as they come. I don't want to think about what would happen if he tries to go after Lily and the baby."
"We won't let him," Sirius swore harshly. "Voldemort will get them over my dead body."
Remus grimaced at the thought but said nothing. He knew he would give his own life in a heartbeat for any of his friends. He couldn't reprimand Sirius for doing the same.
Harry frowned as he perched in the acacia outside the Potter home in his falcon form, making sure Sirius and Remus had their backs turned before summoning the Extendable Ear out of Remus' suitcase. He had long since figured out how to make it work like a Muggle listening device, one part of it remaining with him while the other had been neatly deposited Remus' bag.
From what he had been able to gather in the three months he had been here, Harry knew there was also a Voldemort in this world, but he was the head of a Mafia family instead. When he had first discovered this, he had been torn between laughing his head off and- well, laughing his head off. Voldemort decked out in gangster clothes was something even his imagination had been hard-pressed to come up with.
But after the initial shock, and finding out that his father and godfather, as well as Pettigrew, were all quite immersed in the case, Harry had set out at once to learn everything he could about it. In his world, Voldemort had come after Harry because of the prophecy. In this world, James had shot Voldemort, almost killing him, but the mobster had evaded death by a hair and would no doubt come after James, as well as his family, for revenge. If that was the case, Harry wasn't above eavesdropping.
Snatching up the Extendable Ear, Harry surveyed the two houses one last time before taking off, heading back to his hotel room to sort out his next step. If James and Lily really were going to go into hiding, then he needed to know if there was a traitor amongst them this time.
Parallel universes were funny things, Harry mused as he soared over Westminster. One never knew what would be different and what would remain the same.
But he'd be damned if he couldn't prevent another tragedy from happening again.
Chapter one finished. As I said, this was mostly just for my entertainment, but I figured I might as well post it for kicks.
Chapter 2: The Ball Continues to Roll
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter...
Well this seems well-received so here's the next chapter.
Like I said, I'll continue Wanderer and Falling Skies as well as my other longer fics once exam week is over. This fic is just a side project I've managed to fit in in the meantime.
Chapter 2 – The Ball Continues to Roll
"James, I'm pretty sure this isn't legal."
James flashed a carefree grin at his wife as he waited for the printout. "Oh, don't be like that, Lils. You're the one who said you wanted to take him with us on our picnic. I have no idea why we haven't asked him for his number yet."
Lily crossed her arms and glared. "You know this isn't what I meant! Searching hotel records is only allowed when you're trying to arrest someone!"
"No, searching hotel records is only allowed when I'm trying to find someone," James corrected, whisking the paper with Harry's location from the printer. "Which is exactly what I'm trying to do. Harry Granger; staying at the Windermere Hotel in Room 127. Lighten up, Lily. You've been sulking for days because Harry's always busy whenever we ask him to come over for dinner. The only option left is going to pick him up ourselves. And this is the last time we'll be able to enjoy a day out before we have to move."
Lily sighed before scowling at her husband. "I have not been sulking," She snapped, but relented and went to find her coat, manoeuvring around the sitting room with difficulty as she instinctively kept one arm over her stomach.
It had been three months since they had officially met Harry in the diner and the younger man had fit in remarkably well. Lily knew her husband and his best friends were a tight-knit group and they had always had an 'us against them' mentality when dealing with other people, but even Sirius, who was probably the most possessive of the group despite his happy-go-lucky attitude, freely invited Harry to join them.
But recently, Harry had been even busier than James, Sirius, and Peter had been, declining their dinner invites and attempts to meet up over the weekends. Lily would've thought that Harry had gotten tired of them and didn't want to spend time with them anymore if she hadn't noticed a noticeable fatigue hanging around him when Harry did meet with them.
Lily wasn't sure what could be so important on Harry's vacation to warrant all the time he was spending on it, but she was determined to keep him from working too hard. James had jumped at the chance to help Harry and break the law. For a law-enforcer, Lily thought this part of her husband really should be remedied.
But as this was for something important and not prank-related, she supposed she could let it pass, just this once. As James escorted her outside where Sirius was waiting in the Audi, having won the right to drive today in a round of rock-paper-scissors against James, and Remus was seated in the back, nose in a book per usual.
"Found it?" Sirius asked needlessly as he seized the piece of paper James was holding. "Windermere Hotel, blah blah blah; okay, I know where that is; let's go."
"We're not going to pick up Peter first?" James asked as he helped Lily into the back before clambering into the passenger seat.
It was Remus who answered as Sirius pulled out of the driveway. "He just called; says he can't make it. His mother's health took a turn for the worse again."
"Wish we could do something to help," Sirius remarked. "He's running himself ragged taking care of his mother and working the case at the same time."
In the back, Lily said nothing. She had never liked Peter as much as Sirius and Remus; something about the man just rubbed her the wrong way, but he was one of James' best friends so she did her best to hide her discomfort.
"He's not the only one," Remus interjected, frowning a little with worry. "Have you seen Harry lately? He came to one of my lectures again but fell asleep halfway through. Even the students didn't have the heart to wake him up, and they usually ask him for help during class."
"Yeah, why is that?" James studied the address again. "He said he was just travelling and seeing the sights. People on vacation are supposed to relax, not overexert themselves."
"Well, he'll get to relax today," Sirius announced, as they sped down a busy street. "Even if we have to kidnap him."
"What if he's not there?" Lily asked. "I mean it's already ten in the morning. He could have left the hotel already."
"I phoned ahead," James admitted, having the grace to look sheepish when Lily shot him a disapproving look. "Asked the receptionist to call his room on the pretense of calling the wrong room. He's still there."
"Honestly, James," Lily shook her head in annoyance as Sirius grinned and Remus tried to look stern. "You can't keep using your badge like that. You'll get kicked off the force."
"Hey, I'm doing it for a good cause!" James protested. "We're all worried about Harry and we're going to go help him. Won't do much good if he's not even there when we get to the hotel, is it?"
Lily rolled her eyes but said nothing more. She wouldn't be surprised if her husband was suspended from the force eventually.
Lying on top of his bed, not bothering to flip back the blankets, Harry tried not to lose his temper as he thought of his most recent search for Voldemort's base of operations. Another fruitless night had passed and ten hours of flying around in his Animagus form had seriously tired him out.
It had been over two hundred years since his jaunt though time and space but he was still having trouble working magic around electronics. Wherever Voldemort was hiding, the Muggle security was interfering with his spells, and even his strongest Point-Me spell only had him flying around Westminster with increasing frustration. Fortunately, with the aid of several months' worth of newspaper clippings and a few maps of the city, he had been able to narrow Voldemort's base down to somewhere south of Bayswater.
He supposed that there was one good thing that had come out of all this. His regular flights had allowed him to shadow James and Sirius whenever they were chasing down Voldemort's Death Eaters. At least, that was what they called themselves. Harry had almost crashed into a telephone pole from laughing too hard as he watched Dolohov and Greyback running through back alleys dressed in dark pants and t-shirts instead of the robes Harry was used to seeing their counterparts wear. He had even caught a glimpse of Yaxley, who had been sporting a Muggle tie.
Of course, he had tried following one of the Death Eaters, but had lost him after the thug had disappeared underground. Last night, he had also made the mistake of flying too closely to Bellatrix, who was Voldemort's right-hand in this world and very much wanted by the London police. The woman was just as trigger-happy as she had been wand-happy in his world, and after catching sight of Harry's swooping shadow, she had shot several bullets in his direction, three narrowly missing him and a fourth grazing his left wing. A healing charm had taken care of the wound, but he hadn't been able to perform said spell until he had returned to the hotel, and at the time, the impact of the bullet had knocked him out of the air and sent him crashing into a nearby bush before tumbling onto hard pavement. He still ached even now, though he supposed he could count himself lucky that Bellatrix hadn't come after him to investigate.
A knock at the door made him stir, trying to blink the fog of exhaustion from his mind as he turned to glance in the direction of the noise. He was sure he had hung the privacy card on the door.
"No cleaning needed this morning, thanks," Harry called out in a raised voice.
There was a moment of silence before the knock came again, more insistent this time and Harry groaned and rolled out of bed. Just his luck that these doors were too thick to talk through.
Stumbling across the room and trying to get his unbound hair into something less than the bird's nest it probably was, he jerked the door open, a polite smile plastered on his face, but he instantly pulled up short, feeling a lot more awake when he found himself staring back at four pairs of concerned eyes.
"Err," Was all Harry managed as his gaze darted around before finally focusing on Sirius, who was closest.
"Bloody hell, Harry, what happened?" For once, there was no trace of humour on Sirius' face. "You look terrible."
Harry blinked and then glanced down at himself. He hadn't changed since his night time jaunt; his clothes couldn't be expected to be in top condition.
"Late night," He offered feebly. He couldn't come up with an actual reason for that. He didn't even smell like alcohol. "Didn't change when I got back."
His mind finally kicked into gear again and his eyes sharpened as he looked over Sirius's shoulder at his mother. "Lily, shouldn't you be resting?"
Lily sighed, sounding exasperated and resigned in turn. "Not you too. I already have these three on my case. Besides, I'm not the one looking about ready to pass out any minute. What have you been doing all night?"
Without waiting for an answer, she bustled forward, ushering Harry back into the room and ignoring his confused splutters as she forcibly sat him down on one of the chairs. As James, Sirius, and Remus filed in as well, she turned and caught sight of the empty bottles scattered on the coffee table.
Lily's lips immediately pursed and her head snapped back to Harry. "Please don't tell me you drank all of that by yourself in the past week."
Harry jumped a little, looking a little defensive as he cast a cursory eye over the alcohol bottles. "I didn't," He muttered. "I drank them over the last two weeks. Just haven't cleaned them out yet."
"Harry, there are eight bottles here," Remus said, already rolling up his sleeves. "This can't be healthy."
Harry opened his mouth to protest when Remus began cleaning up for him but closed his mouth again when the professor shot him a pointed glare and marched away with the bottles gathered in his arms.
"You told us you were here on vacation," Sirius said next. Harry glanced up before his eyes skittered away again. There was accusation there, and even though it was for completely different reasons, Harry had often dreamt of his godfather looking at him like that, hating Harry for getting him killed.
"I am," Harry replied, pretending to be occupied with shrugging out of his sweater. "I just came back late, is all. Lots to see in London."
Nobody in the room believed that that was all there was to Harry's haggard features but no one called him out on it either. Instead, Lily, ignoring Harry's attempts to assure everyone that he was perfectly fine, moved over to the attached kitchenette and started rummaging through the cupboards. She wrinkled her nose in distaste when she found nothing but a few packs of instant noodles, several bottles of water, and an additional three bottles of whiskey.
"I paid for those!" Harry rose to his feet in one fluid motion when Lily seized all the alcohol and shoved them in Remus' direction.
"You will not sit around drinking all day," Lily said firmly. "You'll get alcohol poisoning and kill yourself in the process. James!"
Her husband, who had wandered over to Harry's bed and was straightening out the covers, turned back to her with a questioning look.
"We'll have to have the picnic here," Lily continued. "There's a balcony attached; we can pretend we're outside. Harry's in no condition to go anywhere today."
"Right," James nodded briskly. "I'll go get the food from the car." As he passed a stunned-looking Harry on his way out, he reached out and patted the younger man on the shoulder. "She's pregnant, mate," James advised in a low whisper even as he tried not to frown at how thin Harry looked up close. "Just follow her lead. Besides, you really need the food."
With that said, he hurried away so he wouldn't catch any complaints from Harry. He had never had a picnic in a hotel before but there was always a first for everything.
As Lily fussed around Harry and Remus started pouring the alcohol down the drain, Sirius stayed uncharacteristically silent, observing the man in question instead.
Ever since he had met Harry, Sirius had always gotten the feeling that there was something... off about the man. Oh, not in a bad way. He had always trusted his instinct when it came to other people and Harry had never set off any alarm bells in his head. Quite the opposite, really. He had always felt unnaturally protective of him.
Maybe it was because Harry often reminded Sirius of James when he made a joke or, in rare cases, laughed, a genuine, delighted sound that Sirius was always pleased to hear; or of Lily when he sided with her during one of her lectures, helping her reprimand them with the same sharp wit; or even Remus when he got into profound discussions about history or medicine or physics or whatever else they managed to come up with.
Harry even reminded Sirius of himself in the way he would sometimes sit back, silent and watchful, and just look at each of them with a maelstrom of emotions that would make almost anyone's head spin. Not Sirius though, because he could pick out the protectiveness and surprised pleasure at being surrounded and welcomed by all of them; it was something he had often felt when he was younger, and while the latter had faded after a while, the former of the two still hadn't died to this day. There were other emotions there too, but they were hidden too well for Sirius to depict. Of course, there was also the recklessness Remus complained about, but living dangerously had always been Sirius' thing and so long as Harry was careful, the younger man could be just like Sirius in that aspect.
But perhaps what affected Sirius most were times like now, when Harry would get an odd expression on his face, a little lost and almost afraid, and while his eyes were content and bright with good humour as he succumbed to Lily's mothering with patient indulgence, there was also a brittle quality there that worried Sirius. As if something in them was only seconds away from shattering.
"Remus," Sirius said quietly, his voice lowered as he joined the professor at the sink. "Has Harry ever gone to your lectures drunk?"
Remus shook his head as he dumped the last bottle down the drain. "Never. He's too responsible. He'd never show up around kids inebriated. Nor us, apparently."
Sirius looked back at Harry. The man was currently tracking Lily's movements around the room with wary eyes, as if not quite sure what to expect.
"How did you find out where I'm staying?" Harry suddenly asked.
It was Sirius who answered, pulling out his badge with a sly grin. "Authority will get you everywhere. Looked you up on the net and checked all the hotels in Westminster. The receptionist downstairs probably thinks we're arresting you right now though."
Harry just sighed in a resigned sort of way before pulling up another chair. "Lily, I'm fine. I'm just tired. Please sit down before you trip and hurt yourself or something."
Lily instantly took on a stubborn expression, but relented after a few seconds since even Sirius could see the fatigue on her face from across the room.
"But what on earth were you doing last night?" Lily demanded as she sat down. "You look like you ran for hours before getting back!"
Harry looked a little uncomfortable, running a hand through his hair, and Sirius zoomed in on the action at once; James often did that when he was nervous as well.
"Ran into a Death Eater," Harry finally admitted reluctantly.
The reactions to this were instantaneous.
Remus dropped the bottle he had been holding and it smashed in the sink, already forgotten as the colour drained from his face.
Lily started in her chair, horrified, and she immediately surged to her feet again, looking Harry over for injuries despite his best efforts to get her to sit back down.
Sirius couldn't even think for a moment, his mind frozen with the knowledge of the body count that had come in early this morning. The chief had given him and James the day off – they had been working almost twenty-four seven since Voldemort had resurfaced – but the memory of the twenty bodies that had been brought in overnight, cut up and bloody, had yet to take its leave.
And one of those could've been Harry. Would've been if it hadn't been for his ability to blend in or his speed or just sheer dumb luck, and none of them would've known until his corpse was found and brought to the station.
Sirius felt like throwing up.
"Why didn't you call me?" He snapped instead, his words coming out hoarser and angrier than he had planned. "Or James, or Remus, or Peter, or even Lily? There's a reason we gave you our phone numbers!"
Actually, that had mostly been because they just wanted to keep in contact with Harry after the first few times of meeting at the diner at random hours so they had written up a list of phone numbers for him to keep, but Harry knew they were police; he could've come to them.
Harry just sighed wearily. "I don't have a phone, Sirius. I've never really needed one."
"What?" Sirius stormed over to Harry, glowering down at him with displeasure. "Why didn't you tell us? We could've gotten one for you! You could've been killed last night! Death Eaters are no laughing matter!"
Something in Harry's expression shuttered and Sirius knew he was being shut out. He ignored the hurt that came with this and continued glaring.
"I can take care of myself," Harry replied, tone clipped and cold in a way Sirius had never heard before. "Even if I did have a phone, I wouldn't have called you. I handled it fine. Bel-"
He stopped abruptly but Sirius had heard enough. "You ran into Bellatrix?"
Behind him, he heard Remus make a strangled noise and Lily looked faint.
"Who ran into Bellatrix?"
They all turned to the door where a pensive James was just stepping through, a cooler in one hand and a basket in the other.
"Harry did," Sirius told him bluntly. "Last night."
The cooler and basket both hit the ground with a dull thump as James' gaze darted past Sirius and pinned Harry with a look of disbelief.
"And you didn't think to, I don't know, call us?" James asked. "The police?"
"I was fine!" Harry shot back. "I got away!"
"Obviously, or we'd be examining your dead body at the moment!" James retorted, but his eyes softened when Lily released a gasp of dismay.
"I don't know what the big deal is!" Some of Harry's well-hidden temper rose to the surface at last as his eyes narrowed dangerously. "This is Westminster. It isn't as if people can live here anyway without the danger of getting caught by Voldemort or his henchmen. And that was just a onetime thing; everyone knows Bellatrix stays close to Voldemort most of the time, but she was all the way in Lisson Grove yesterday! It isn't as if I went looking for her in Bayswater!"
A stilted silence followed, Lily and Remus looking taken aback by Harry's vehemence, but Sirius and James had latched onto something else.
"Wait," James suddenly looked very intent. "Did you say 'Bayswater'?"
Harry stared at him for a moment as Sirius looked from one to the other, torn between yelling at Harry some more and wondering why Harry would put Bellatrix in Bayswater.
"...If you take into account the bodies reported in the paper, you'll find that they all lead back to the south of Bayswater Road," Harry mumbled.
"No they don't," James immediately objected. "We've checked. There's no actual pattern to where the bodies are found. The Death Eaters just attack people at random. Granted, we know that they're always found in alleys, but that's it."
Harry stared silently at him for a moment longer before moving across the room to the closet in the corner. Opening it, he withdrew a stack of newspaper clippings, and upon closer study, they noticed the various words and sentences underlined or highlighted amongst the articles.
"Here," Harry unfolded a map of Westminster where many red circles decorated the surface. Wordlessly, they all drew closer to study it as Harry began to explain.
"Take the bodies recently found two days ago," Harry started, pointing at several places circled in red felt. "All found in dead-end alleyways; all killed elsewhere but dumped at the open of said alleyways so they would be more easily found in the morning. Now, I've seen some of these alleys myself, blocked off with all that tape, but you can usually see where the bodies were found since you police always outline it on the ground. And from these pictures," He paused to show them several photos that the reporters had managed to print. There were obviously no bodies shown to the public but the entrance of the alleyways and the chalk outlines of where the bodies had once been were quite clear. "I noticed that the corpses were placed either on the far left or the far right. Not always, but most of the time. If the Death Eaters just wanted to dump them in a noticeable place as they leave, why aren't they in the middle or just a little to the side?"
Sirius was the first to catch on, snatching the clippings up as he rifled through the pictures that he and James had poured through time and time again with little success. "James," He said with growing excitement. "Harry's right; look at how they're positioned. If the Death Eaters had just walked away down the street, the bodies wouldn't be shoved to the side like that. All these alley entrances are pretty narrow, as if they were dumped there because-"
"-Because the Death Eaters had to move past them," James finished, eyes alight with the prospect of a new lead. He turned back to Harry, looking amazed and inexplicably proud at the same time. "How in the world did you catch something like that?"
Harry shrugged, faint embarrassment colouring his features as he pulled out another map. "I'm observant. Anyway, after I realized that, I wanted to know how the Death Eaters could escape through a dead-end, so I went to the library archives and got this."
The sheet he unfolded this time, clear and marked with red pen, depicted-
"The sewer systems," Remus breathed as Sirius and James almost cracked heads when they both leaned forward to trace the pen marks Harry had drawn on the blueprints.
"That's how they've been getting around without being bloody seen," James said aloud. "And no one's thought to check because the drain covers never look disturbed. But I suppose they can fix it so it doesn't look like anyone's gone through recently."
"They all run towards Bayswater," Sirius murmured, running a finger down the map. "But then they stop before they get further. We thought it was just because Voldemort hadn't struck that far yet."
"The sewage lines all connect in one district, like Lisson Grove or Marylebone," Harry explained. "But the ones found in the alleyways that the bodies are dumped in all run southward. So I thought Voldemort could be operating somewhere in southern Westminster while sending his Death Eaters north to kill."
The simple conclusion stunned them and it was Lily who spoke first as this revelation sunk in. "Are you sure you're not an undercover investigator or something?"
The other three looked at him as well, clearly wondering the same.
Harry scoffed, shaking his head. "Of course not. I'm sure you would've come to the same conclusion if you didn't have to chase Death Eaters down as well. Besides, it's just a theory-"
"Theory my arse," Sirius said forcibly, picking up both maps. "I'll bet my entire family fortune that you're right. We need to take this to the chief."
"Yeah," James nodded as Sirius bounded out the door, phone already at his ear. "Err, you guys-"
"We'll keep Harry company," Remus smiled, still looking a little shaky.
"And if you're not back by evening," Harry interjected. "They can stay here."
"Thanks Harry," James clapped him on the shoulder before giving a quick kiss to Lily. "And Harry?"
Harry raised his eyebrows in question.
James' eyes narrowed. "Don't think we won't be getting you a phone. Next time you run into trouble, save us the heart-attacks and just call us."
Harry threw up his hands, only exasperated this time, but he nodded and James, satisfied, hurried out after Sirius.
There was a minute's pause as the remaining three occupants in the room stood around, not knowing what to do. It was Lily who took charge, clapping her hands together and nodding at the cooler and basket. "Well, let's have our picnic then, shall we?"
One week later, the Westminster police force cracked down on a Death Eater meeting taking place in a warehouse just south of Westbourne Gate and thirty gang members were subdued and arrested. Voldemort, of course, escaped, along with several members of his upper echelon, but the captures were a huge blow to Voldemort's ranks and it was the biggest breakthrough the police had had in the past three months. Through interrogation, they managed to find two more of Voldemort's bases and apprehend another two dozen Death Eaters.
"A tip led us to the numerous arrests we managed to make," James said on a press conference the morning after. "He wishes to remain anonymous, but without him, we wouldn't have gotten as far as we have."
Harry scowled at the television as he switched it off. Which part of 'don't mention me at all' didn't James understand? He didn't want to be the anonymous tipper either. The press always managed to dig up something even with the tiniest hint. He had been planning on sending the information he had compiled to the police station anyway but his pseudo-family's impromptu visit had sped things up a bit.
Either way, they still hadn't captured Voldemort, James and Sirius were complaining that their boss was practically threatening them with decapitation because they refused to tell him who the tipper was or where Harry was hiding, and Lily and Remus – but just Remus now after Lily had been moved to a safer location – were still keeping an especially close eye on him after he had told them of his brush with Bellatrix.
His only consolation now was that James and Lily had finally gone into hiding somewhere outside Westminster – to Islington; Harry had followed them – and any contact with other people were strictly monitored, so, much to their disappointment, Harry had declined when they had asked him if he wanted to be signed up for the bi-weekly phone calls they would be able to make.
Annoyingly enough, this didn't make him feel any better. He still saw Sirius and Remus - who both continued trying to strike up rather strange conversations with him about Harry's drinking habits among other things - on a semi-regular basis, but even though James and Lily were around the same age as he looked, they were still his sort-of-parents and he had gotten used to having them around.
But his work was also easier now that he knew where James and Lily were; he had put protective wards around their new house that would warn him if anyone dangerous breached them and he would be able to Apparate straight there. With only Sirius and Remus to actively look after – he didn't care if Peter was perfectly innocent in this world; it would be a cold day in hell before he ever forgave the rat bastard, no matter what universe he was in – he could concentrate on stopping the murders that he could and knocking out various gangsters for the police department.
The new phone Sirius had bought for him suddenly buzzed on his bedside table. He had tried to give it back, but Sirius had told him to either accept it and keep in contact with himself and Remus, or let James and Lily call him through the hotel phone every week. Harry had accepted the phone.
Picking the cell up, he noted it was Sirius calling. "Hello?"
"I'm heading over to your place now. Grab a jacket and meet me out front. Lily just went into labour."
Harry almost dropped the phone but managed an unsteady affirmative. He was halfway out the door before he hung up.
Chapter 2 done! One chapter more to go before this is finished.
Chapter 3: Denouement
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter...
-Okay, first of all, this fic is just a spin-off of Wanderer. Takes place in the Wanderer!verse but if you don't read it, it won't affect the original fic. This can be a standalone; I've only taken Harry's background and used it here.
-This is the last chapter for this fic; I'll get back to writing my other stories in a few days.
Chapter 3 – Denouement
Since Lily had given birth, Harry had not seen the baby again.
He had almost had a heart-attack when he finally caught a glimpse of the child – black hair, green eyes – and was very careful to avoid Sirius' puzzled frown and Remus' thoughtful look and his pseudo-parents' confused expressions as they looked between Harry and the baby. Harry just knew it would be a matter of time before one or all of them figured it out.
He hadn't stuck around; he couldn't. He never should have come in the first place, but his curiosity and hope that another version of him would have a chance at an actual family had won him over in the end. But when he had seen his younger counterpart cradled in Lily's arms, cooed at by James, lathered with attention by Sirius and Remus, Harry had been struck with an overwhelming, ugly surge of jealousy. It washed over him with startling abruptness, unexpected and resentful in equal measure. Had his parents and godfathers loved him as much? Had Harry ever been able to enjoy a moment like this when his family's attention was all his and no one else's?
And for just a second, a heartbeat of time, Harry wanted this baby gone, wanted his life rewritten, wanted to take this child's place, because hadn't he, Harry, earned it? After everything he had gone through, everything he had suffered, didn't he deserve a family to call his own? This baby – this Harry – hadn't done anything, had simply been born; he didn't deserve the love his family obviously gave him so freely.
But the feeling had left just as quickly as it had come, leaving a bitter tang of shame in its wake as Harry had retreated from the hospital room. It was wrong to think like that. He'd be angry at all of them if they didn't love his counterpart so unreservedly. And in the end, no matter how much they were alike, the Lily and James and Sirius and Remus of this world were not his, and Harry had no right to intrude. Hell, he had encroached enough on their lives; becoming their friend was more than he had ever hoped for.
It had been Sirius who had come out after him, looking both worried and something else that Harry couldn't quite place. His godfather had asked him if he was alright and Harry had tried to reassure him with a smile but when the concern remained, Harry figured it probably hadn't worked.
Oddly enough, Sirius hadn't pushed and instead, he had asked Harry for any suggestions of a good name for the baby. Harry, of course, had immediately thought, well, Harry, but that obviously wouldn't go over very well, and he had feebly proposed 'Connor' or 'Daniel' or 'Lucas'. None of them had really sounded right to Harry, and judging by the slight frown marring Sirius' features, they hadn't sounded right to him either.
Harry had excused himself from the hospital shortly thereafter, not wanting to stay where he could see their interactions any longer, but he had, later, asked Sirius to pass on a gift for him.
He had made it himself, a simple cherry wood box made to hold odds and ends when the baby grew up a little. It was the outside design of the box that he was most proud of though. With five panels to work with, Harry had meticulously used a mix of his own skill and transfiguration to depict a scene on each side of the box. The front portrayed several lilies, freshly white with dewdrops clinging to the petals in a night time setting, paired with a doe grazing in the background. The left side illustrated a stag, silvery-white and regal against the evening backdrop. The right held a dog, shaggy and onyx-black, frozen in mid-run but almost as if it really was still running. Harry had chosen a forest as its surroundings, dark green in the night time theme. And on the back, Harry had drawn a wolf, also black and howling at the moon hanging above it while it stood at the top of a cliff. And on the top, he had drawn a falcon, wings spread and soaring triumphantly against the light of an oncoming dawn, the rays of sunlight just peeking over the horizon.
Harry hadn't been able to make himself draw Pettigrew, and a rat wouldn't make much sense to anyone anyway. All his pseudo-family would think when they saw the box would be that it had animals decorating it, with some lilies thrown in to, perhaps, signify Lily.
But after that, Sirius had been reassigned to the police branch in Islington and Remus, after a close shave with a Death Eater and a bullet, had temporarily moved into hiding with Lily and James. They had tried to coax Harry into hiding as well, but Harry had flatly refused. Being in such close quarters with his not-family would probably drive him insane, and he still had to keep an eye out for Voldemort. Now that he had all the people he wanted to protect in relatively the same place though, Harry could relax just a little.
Pettigrew on the other hand was still in Westminster and it seemed that the man was just as good at hiding in human form as he had been in rat form. Harry still hadn't managed to catch him doing anything suspicious; not visibly anyway. The amounts of time he disappeared from his radar stank of betrayal.
But the timeline in this place seemed to run parallel to his original world. The baby had been born on July thirty-first, so Harry was gambling that Voldemort would attack on October thrity-first of the following year.
Harry would be ready.
*Fifteen Months Later, October 31st*
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
James glanced up from the reports he had been going through and followed Lily's gaze to the box placed carefully on the coffee table. On the couch, Remus also looked up from the baby, who was currently cradled in his arms.
"Wonder if Harry meant for each picture to symbolize something," James said lightly as he made his way over to the box. The realistic portraits had enchanted Lily at first sight and she had spent quite a bit of time studying each panel ever since they had received it.
"The lilies obviously mean Lily," Remus automatically pointed out as he had done several times already. "Even though there's a doe grazing on the field as well."
"It's the animals that have me stumped," Lily admitted, tracing one of the falcon's wings. "I mean, even if he chose random animals, a stag wouldn't really be anyone's first choice, would it?"
"Personally, I think it means James," Remus said thoughtfully.
"Why's that?" James bent down and peered at the majestic-looking animal.
Remus reached over and traced a groove on the bottom left, curled in amongst the grass. "That looks like a 'J', doesn't it?"
James blinked, and then squinted a little. It did look a bit like a letter. "That could be coincidental."
"I think Remus is right!" Lily said excitedly as she gently turned the box around so that the dog now faced them. "Doesn't that look like an 'S'? Right here, in the trees; for Sirius!"
James slowly nodded, reaching out to shift the box again so the back panel stared back at them. "And that's an 'R'," James pointed at the cliff face, the letter entwined with the rock. "For Remus."
"The lilies speak for itself," Remus said, a smile tugging at his lips. "But there's an 'L' carved into one of the stems, so I suppose the doe is also for Lily."
"What about the falcon?" Lily asked, already studying it. "I don't think he means Peter. I mean, no offense James, but a falcon isn't what I think of when I look at him."
James shrugged. "Harry hasn't spent much time around Peter. Poor bloke's always off visiting his mother nowadays. I guess it's a good thing he wasn't transferred to Islington. She probably doesn't have long left."
"It's an 'H'," Remus said suddenly, running a finger along the horizon. "See? It's small, almost invisible since he made it part of the mountain line, as if he didn't really mean to add it, but he carved an 'H' for-"
He stopped abruptly and they all instinctively glanced at the baby still cradled in Remus' left arm.
"Sirius said he hasn't told Harry yet," James said thoughtfully as his son blinked large green eyes at him. "That we named our son after him."
Baby Harry laughed at nothing in particular as Lily gathered him from Remus, smiling when he automatically snuggled into her.
They had named their baby after Harry – something they wouldn't have believed they would do even six months ago – but the name somehow just fit, and the fact that they both had black hair and green eyes wasn't lost on any of them.
Harry James Potter had a nice ring to it that just sounded right to James, and to his surprise, everyone else had agreed. They had tried to get a hold of Harry but Sirius had told them that their friend had become more distant recently, never staying on the phone for long and sometimes not even picking up. It had them all worried and James had often considered slipping out of the house and driving back down to Westminster to check up on Harry, but the thought of his wife and child had always stopped him. They had even tried asking Peter to keep an eye on Harry for them, maybe invite him out for dinner, but Peter had always mumbled something about being busy with work and his mother, and he had always looked tired, so they had stopped pushing and resorted to having Sirius make repeated phone calls every week to stay in touch.
It had been over a year since they had last seen Harry at the hospital but they had never forgotten the strange feeling they had all had when they noticed the similarities between the two.
Oh, they had always known Harry had the same green eyes as Lily and the same black hair as James, but it had never really connected in their minds. While Lily's eyes were open and warm, Harry's were guarded and wary almost all the time, though there had been a similar kindness in both of them. And while James had short messy hair, Harry's was longer, about Sirius' length, and not as messy. However, the subtle differences had been enough to slip under their detection, and it hadn't been until their Harry was born that they had finally noticed.
"I still don't get it," James said out loud, reaching out to stroke Harry's head. "It's not really normal for two people to look so similar, is it?"
Lily shrugged and Remus was careful not to look directly at James. He had his own suspicions, completely wild and should-be-impossible, but he had spent the most time with Harry when he had still been teaching, and some of his mannerisms – his gestures when he talked or the quips he came up with in conversation – strongly reminded Remus of both James and Lily. He kept his thoughts to himself though, content to just spend time with Harry who was interesting to talk to and fun to be around.
He also knew Sirius had his own reservations, but like him, Sirius never spoke them aloud either. In fact, he seemed more worried than anything else, and if it hadn't been for them, Remus had a feeling that Sirius would apply for a transfer back to Westminster. Harry had swore that he was no longer drinking but they had no way to know for sure, and because of his refusal to move to Islington with them, he was also smack in the middle of Voldemort's killing grounds.
"Does it matter?" Lily finally asked, rocking baby Harry gently. "I like Harry; he's a good friend, so it doesn't really matter who he is."
James nodded without hesitation, and Remus had to wonder if the couple had drawn their own conclusions, unspoken but very real.
"Well," James rose to his feet again. "Back to work. Honestly, I'm on paid leave and I'm still doing paperwork."
Remus chuckled as Lily rolled her eyes, but when the clock chimed nine, Remus' smile turned into something more worried. "Wasn't Sirius supposed to call half an hour ago?"
James hesitated before nodding tersely, scooping up his cell and waving it at them. "Didn't want to tell you until I got some good news; Sirius texted and said Peter wanted him back in Westminster. Something about spotting Death Eaters near where Harry's staying but he's not picking up his cell. Haven't heard back from him yet."
Lily immediately straightened with concern. "He'll be alright, won't he?" Her features tightened with fear. "If he could survive a brush with Bellatrix..."
"I'm sure he's fine," Remus soothed, hiding his own anxiety. "Harry's resourceful, and besides, Peter said 'near' his place. It could just be a coincidence."
Lily nodded, still worried but willing to let the issue lie until Sirius called back. Over her head, Remus and James exchanged a heavy look. There was no such thing as coincidence.
Harry had a lead. The wards he had placed around the hotel, simple ones to warn him when someone dangerous had breached them, had activated twenty minutes ago. He had quickly transformed into his Animagus form and almost instantly caught sight of Pettigrew skulking near the rhododendrons planted in a shadowy corner of the hotel grounds. He hadn't been able to hear the conversation Pettigrew had been having with someone over the phone, but the rat had taken off only minutes later, and Harry had no choice but to follow. He hadn't even had time to cast a few disillusionment charms over his belongings before he had left, but he doubted anyone would be breaking into his room anytime soon.
And now, he had finally caught him. Pettigrew, the traitorous bastard, talking to Bellatrix, looking small and cowed as he informed her that he had done his part. His part in what, Harry didn't know, but it definitely wasn't anything good when he saw Bellatrix's face light up with glee. For half a second, he seriously considered changing back and hexing her into oblivion, but the moment passed when the woman ordered Pettigrew to Islington to join their boss.
That had sent a chill through him. So Voldemort was already in Islington, waiting for Pettigrew. Despite his vigilance, the mob boss had slipped through his fingers, but Pettigrew hadn't, which meant Harry could still get rid of them both. The wards he had placed around the safe house hadn't been breached yet either so that, at least, reassured him. The night wasn't over after all; Harry still had time.
So he followed Pettigrew, placing a Temporary Sticking Charm to glue himself to the top of the rat's car and a Disillusionment Charm over himself as they sped to Islington.
Racing up the stairs – the elevator had been too slow – Sirius burst onto the landing and skidded to a stop in front of Harry's room, already pounding frantically on the wood. "Harry? Harry! Open up! Are you in there? Harry!"
With a curse, he fumbled for the hotel card he had all but scared out of the receptionist and opened the door with caution – which, he had to admit, was rather pointless after his panicked shouts – gun already drawn. His eyes surveyed the dark room and something told him he was alone, but he didn't lower his guard as he did a quick sweep of the place.
There was no one there, and Sirius wasn't sure if he should be relieved or even more worried. His gaze slid to the two empty alcohol bottles and promised himself he would give Harry a good whack over the head for lying to them before beginning a hurried search of the place. If Harry had been kidnapped, the Death Eaters would have left something behind. They had never been ones to hide their crimes.
He didn't find anything save a single duffel bag at the back of the closet. Said closet was also practically empty except for a bathrobe that belonged to the hotel and a jacket tossed haphazardly over a hanger. His eyes fell to the duffel bag and he hesitated for a long moment. It wasn't right to go through other people's belongings, but there might be something there that would tell Sirius where Harry was. He ignored the voice in the back of his head that accused him of simply wanting to snoop out of curiosity.
Picking the bag up, Sirius was surprised when a phone – the cell they had given Harry – tumbled out to rest at the bottom of the closet. Dropping the bag with an irritated growl, Sirius quickly grabbed the device and flipped it open.
Twelve missed calls, all from Sirius. Well no wonder he hadn't been able to get through.
With a huff as he pocketed the phone, Sirius tilted his head and frowned a little when he caught movement through the opening of the bag. More curious than ever, he reached out and tugged it open, jaw dropping when he saw what was stuffed between a rolled-up sweater and a few shirts.
With a suddenly unsteady hand, he plucked the – photo? – whatever it was from the folds of the clothes. It was a photo, but it wasn't anything Sirius had ever seen before.
For one thing, the figures in it were moving. For another, he clearly recognized the people in it yet he could not recall when such a photo had ever been taken.
The people in the picture were, well, them. Sirius standing on the far left, one arm slung around James, who was wearing expensive but odd-looking robes and had his arm around Lily's waist, who was resplendent in a wedding dress. On her other side was Remus, looking older and more tired than Sirius had ever seen, especially at that age, but he was also smiling happily at the camera. They were all smiling. And waving.
Quickly flipping the photo around, he tried to look for a battery slot of some sort, an electronic device that would make this all less surreal, but there wasn't. For all intents and purposes, the picture was just that: a picture.
He turned it around again, studying what he and Remus were wearing. Robes. Not as fine as James' but they looked strange and yet not. They seemed to fit with the overall air of the picture as if wherever this was, robes were the norm.
Why would Harry have something like this in his bag? And how were the people in the photo even moving?
Flipping it over once more, he noted the date on the worn piece of paper. September 25th, 1978. That was the exact date the James and Lily he knew had gotten married, except for the year. It had been 1981 when they had wedded, a little over three years ago.
He noted the rip along one side of the picture, and though he had nothing to back-up his speculation, Sirius would bet his arm that it was Peter who had been cut off. He wasn't blind; Harry had never liked Peter, though he had tried ridiculously hard to hide it. He also seemed more relaxed around them when Peter wasn't around, but when he was, Harry rarely ever let their short friend out of his sight, always wary, always watching.
Sirius had thought nothing of it at first. Sure, he had been somewhat annoyed that Harry had seemingly refused to give Peter a chance before disliking him, but he couldn't really expect him to simply get along with everyone, and once it was clear that Harry hid his feelings on the matter well enough that Peter didn't notice, Sirius had let the issue go.
But slowly, eventually, Harry's caution around Peter had stirred Sirius' own unease. Why was Harry so careful around Peter when he had been relatively open to the rest of them from the very beginning? Peter was the most harmless of them all; certainly, Sirius and James could cause more damage in a fight than Peter ever could, and while Remus didn't look or act like it, the usually mild-mannered professor had a black belt in martial arts. Even Lily had a killer kick and a brain to match, something both Sirius and James could attest to after an embarrassing incident in high school.
So, unconsciously at first, Sirius had begun watching Peter as well. Not closely nor had he tried looking for something in particular, but even just by keeping an eye on his friend now and then, he noticed inconsistencies in Peter's words and actions. For one, Sirius had heard Peter tell them that he was going to visit his mother, and yet, three times, he had spotted Peter hurrying along the street, nowhere near the hospital his mother was staying in only a few hours after Peter had separated from their group. Sirius had never called him out on it, worried that he would come across as accusing him of something treacherous and untrue – perhaps Peter simply wanted to go on a walk after seeing his mother – not to mention he knew how much James trusted each of them; would take it as a personal offence if Sirius ever brought up something like this without substantial proof, and even then, James would probably give Peter the benefit of the doubt.
And Remus; well, Remus usually followed James' lead. Admittedly, Sirius was usually prone to jumping to conclusions, but seeing as it would be Peter he would be accusing of... something, he couldn't really see that conversation going successfully.
Glancing back down at the picture, Sirius heaved a sigh and shook his head. Either Harry had a rather disturbing and eerie hobby that Sirius wasn't aware of, or the impossible suspicions he had of the man weren't so impossible after all.
The buzz of his own phone snapped him out of his thoughts and he quickly picked up after seeing his new chief on the caller ID. "Black. Sir?"
"Black, where the hell are you?"
Sirius frowned, half-turning to face the door. "In Westminster. I was called down here to check out a lead."
"What the bloody hell are you talking about? What lead? You're supposed to be stationed by the blasted safe house!"
Sirius felt something cold settle in his chest, freezing the breath in his lungs for a moment. His mind flashed from memory to memory, of Harry and his guarded nature, of Peter and his contradictions, of all the things he had seen but had ignored because Peter was a friend and there was just no way...
"You- You didn't get a call from Westmin HQ?" He tried to keep his voice steady even as he fumbled for the closet doors, closing them and striding for the door as he absently slipped the photo into his pocket.
"Of course not! I would've called you if I had wanted you down there! Now get back to Islington before I fire you!"
"Sir," Sirius said before his chief could hang up, his voice urgent and tight with barely-controlled fear. "Sir, I think one of ours has turned. I think Voldemort's going to strike tonight. I'll be back up there as soon as possible but please send a squad to the safe house as quickly as possible."
There was a pause. The chief was a man who took everything into account and knew the men he worked with to at least a degree where their character was relatively clear to him. Sirius Black was reckless and hot-tempered, but he was also dedicated to keeping people safe, and that went doubly so for James Potter, Lily Potter, and Remus Lupin. It had come as a shock to him when he had found out Black had left his position and knew only something equally important would have pulled him away. If Black said there was a traitor in this mess, he didn't doubt him.
So, the chief asked one question, already furious as he reached for another phone. "Who turned?"
Sirius, missing the ignition slot twice before finally starting his car, could only think of one thing. Yes, Peter could have been mistaken. He could have panicked and called Sirius down to check on Harry for him. Hell, the fact that he wasn't even at the hotel to meet Sirius could be because the Death Eaters had abducted him along with Harry. Even the absent signs of forced entry and struggle – because Harry would struggle, there was no doubt about that – could be explained away.
But the only thought running through Sirius' mind even as rage burned through his veins was a dark and unpleasant one, already snarling at the betrayal.
If anything happens to any of them, I will tear him to pieces myself.
"Peter Pettigrew," Sirius bit out as he floored the pedal and switched on the siren. "Peter Pettigrew turned."
The phone ringing came as a relief to all of them as Lily looked up from Harry, who had long since fallen asleep. Snatching it up and putting it on speaker, James barely managed a greeting before Sirius' voice filled the room.
"James, do you have your gun?"
The curt tone edged with anger made all of them stiffen. "Uh, no," James glanced around the table. "Must've left it upstairs."
"Get it, and prepare for an attack."
"Sirius, what's going on?" James asked, getting to his feet as Lily shifted restlessly on the couch and Remus moved over to the window. "What happened to Harry?"
"There's no time to explain in detail," Sirius said urgently. They could hear the siren wailing in the background. "Harry wasn't in his room when I got there. Neither was Peter. I think I was set up. Voldemort probably knows where you are already."
"Wait, wait, slow down, Sirius. I don't understand what you're getting at."
A stilted silence followed before Sirius spoke again. "Peter betrayed us, James. I can't tell you how I know for sure but-"
"What?" This came from all three people in the room but it was James' voice that rose above the others. "That's impossible. Peter's our friend. He would never-"
"The bloody rat betrayed us, James!" Sirius finally snapped, the fury unleashing into his words. "He called me all the way down to Westminster so I wouldn't be there to protect you. There are no Death Eaters at the Windermere and Harry wasn't even there! Peter most definitely wasn't there to meet me! He just wanted me out of the way!"
"That's not proof, Sirius!" James shouted. "That's just a guess! Peter could've been abducted as well! Did you think of that before you started pointing fingers? You should be starting a search for both of them, not accusing Peter of-"
"I know what I'm talking about, James!" Sirius bellowed back. "Look, I'm not arguing with you about this. I'm coming back right now and the Chief's sending back-up over there as we speak. Just get ready for an attack."
"Sirius, this is insane!" James hissed, colour rising in his face. "You're accusing Peter! Have you lost your mind? I'm not going to-"
"James," Remus spoke up suddenly, his whole body tense. "There are people outside. Dressed in black. They're surrounding the front."
James froze, head snapping around. In two strides, he had made his way over to Remus, peering outside as well. Sure enough, a line of black-clad individuals had spread out across the lawn, and even from this distance, James could see the glint of gun-metal black in their hands.
"James?" Sirius' voice floated down the line again, even more worried now. "What's happening?"
"Voldemort's here," James replied shortly, yanking Remus away from the window. He rushed over to the mantel of the fireplace, grimacing as he pulled out a handgun from behind a picture frame. It was the only piece in the room but it was better than nothing. "When did you say that back-up was coming?"
"Soon. Ten minutes, give or take. I'll be back in twenty."
"Well, the door should hold them up for a while," James said grimly. "It's only keyed in to-"
"-To me, you, Lily, Remus, the Chief, and Peter," Sirius spat out. "Reset the blasted thing, James, before that rat lets in Voldemort himself."
"Sirius, Voldemort's found us, but-"
"DAMMIT, JAMES! HAVE I EVER LED YOU WRONG?" Sirius roared over the phone. "I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE HERE SO WILL YOU JUST FUCKING LISTEN TO ME AND RESET THE BLOODY LOCK! IF I TURN OUT TO BE BLOODY WRONG ABOUT PETER, I'LL BEG ON MY KNEES FOR HIS FORGIVENESS MYSELF! NOW DO AS I BLOODY SAY BEFORE YOU GET YOURSELF FUCKING KILLED!"
James stilled for a long second before nodding curtly at Remus. The professor hurried out of the room to change the code and James opened his mouth to confirm it, only to be cut off by a heart-stopping click and then Remus' shout.
"James, gun! They're getting in! They're getting in!"
Dropping the cell, James lunged for the door, mind racing as Lily disappeared from the room as well, sprinting upstairs for Harry.
It happened absurdly fast. One moment, James was half out of his mind with shock – Peter had betrayed them – the next, he had fired off all six shots, flooring six Death Eaters before Peter of all people cracked him over the head with the butt of his gun, making him stagger. A second later, three Death Eaters had converged on him, forcing him to his knees as Voldemort stepped out in front of him, black suit unwrinkled as cold dark eyes drilling into his own as his head was wrenched backwards.
Distantly, he could hear Sirius yelling, voice a little tinny over through the phone.
Damn it, James thought, struggling weakly as he tried to blink away the fog in his mind and the pounding in his head. Sirius was right.
Sirius slapped the steering wheel as the line abruptly dropped, leaving him with nothing but silence.
"Please please please don't be dead," He muttered fervently, pushing the car as fast as it would go. "Please, not James, not Lily, not Remus, not Harry. Please please please."
Harry gritted his teeth as he perched in a nearby tree with a clear view of the sitting room. He had to time all this perfectly. The twenty-odd Death Eaters still outside would have to be Stupefied quietly without anyone in the house noticing or Voldemort might start shooting.
He almost broke the branch he was clutching in one white-knuckled grip when he saw one of the Death Eaters wrench the baby from Lily and then backhand her when she lunged forward, shrieking something inaudible.
He turned away, dropping silently to the ground before stunning three Death Eaters in rapid succession, throwing a Silencing Charm out as well so no one would hear their bodies thud to the ground.
Skirting around the yard, he took out the rest of the mobsters systematically, pausing only when he stunned Dolohov. This man's counterpart had killed his world's Remus. It was disturbingly hard not to retaliate with a little more than a Stunner.
A car pulled up silently across the street just as he stunned the last Death Eater. Blinking, he watched as Sirius scrambled out of the car, taking the safety off his gun as he ran for the house. There was a harsh look in his eyes, one Harry recognized from the Sirius of his world when he had confronted Wormtail, anger and hurt and hatred all mixed into a knot of ugly emotions.
It was also something that Harry knew would drive Sirius into doing something reckless, and with a muttered curse, he hurried after his godfather, noting the way he barely acknowledged the downed Death Eaters, not even questioning why they were knocked out.
Harry could keep his fury at bay but in the face of Voldemort and especially Pettigrew, he would probably snap. Sirius, who even in Harry's teenage years had always been more emotional, was going to lose it.
"So this is your new son?" Voldemort said silkily as he gazed down at Harry currently cradled in Peter's arms. One of his hands caressed the baby's head with deceptive tenderness. "A beautiful child. I must offer my congratulations."
"Get your filthy hand off my son!" Lily snarled through a split lip, green eyes wild with rage as she twisted helplessly in her captors' grip.
Beside her, James was still trying to struggle against the hands that held him. While his head was still throbbing and he could feel the blood running down the side of his face, he could at least think clearly again and his attention was split between Voldemort and the spineless rat cowering behind him. He swore right then and there that Peter would pay for this.
On Lily's other side, Remus was still, but James knew he was simply waiting for a chance, a split second of wavered focus, to break free and attack. James wished he had the man's patience but all he could think about now was putting a bullet in Voldemort's head. Several bullets since one didn't work last time.
"Now, now," Voldemort turned to Lily, a cruel smile spreading over his face. "There's no need to be rude. I simply came to pay my respects to a soon-to-be-dead man," His eyes flickered to James before coming to a rest on Peter. "And Peter here was kind enough to invite me inside."
James turned all his hate on his former friend but it was Lily who spoke, voice low and vicious as she spoke. "I swear you will pay for this. Even if I have to return from the grave, I will make you rue the day you ever even thought about harming my family."
There was no fear in her words, only defiance, and James couldn't help the pride that flooded his being. That was his Lily.
But Voldemort only tsked, moving forward to finger a strand of Lily's hair. James struggled even harder cussing up a storm even as the mob boss ignored him.
"Leave her alone!" He snarled, trying to tear himself from the two men keeping him captive.
"You have such a pretty wife, James," Voldemort said as if James hadn't spoken. "Really such a shame that she'll be dying tonight. Of course, I could always have some fun with her before I kill her."
An almost-growl rumbled in Remus' chest as James lashed out with one leg, desperate and terrified at even the thought of what Voldemort was threatening to do. A punch in the stomach was given for his efforts and he choked on a breath as he struggled for air.
Voldemort shook his head, still detachedly amused. "Behave, James. You'll get a few extra minutes with your family if you stay quiet." His head tilted in an almost curious manner. "You didn't really think I wouldn't get you in the end for your insolence? I am Voldemort; no one challenges me without consequence. And for your actions, I will make you watch as I carve up your wife, your son, and your friend before I finally kill you." He paused, circling over to James before speaking again. "And I'll get your dear friend Sirius too. He's just lucky enough that I needed him away from this place for the night. He was the only one of your little group who grew suspicious of Peter here. Lucky for me, he kept his suspicions to himself. Oh, and Harry, was it? That man you befriended and named your son after? Don't worry; I'll be having a bit of a chat with him as well. And really, you only have yourself to blame, James. I warned you, did I not? I told you you would be no match for me."
"I beg to differ," A voice said from the door, cold and deadly.
And then a single shot rang through the room.
James didn't waste a second, taking the momentary surprise of his captors to twist himself away and lash out with his hands, crushing both their windpipes before lunging for Voldemort who had ducked just in time to escape Sirius' bullet, obviously not expecting anyone to breach the line of Death Eaters outside. Remus also leapt into action, taking down the men holding him captive with lethal efficiency before tackling the ones holding Lily.
Shouts and gunfire rang around him and James prayed no one he cared about was hurt as he wrestled with Voldemort on the ground, shattering the coffee table as the mob boss sneered in rage.
A silver glint caught James' eye and he automatically reached for the gun, his fingers closing around it as Voldemort managed to throw him off. He had no time to even grimace as his back hit the wall. His only thought was to kill the man who had threatened his family, kill him once and for all.
James had always been a good shot and he barely had to take a second to aim before firing straight into the mob boss' chest. Once, twice, six times before the telltale click told him that the magazine was empty.
But it was enough because the twisted grimace of hate on Voldemort's face did not fade even as the man fell, bloodied and bullet-ridden as his body hit the ground.
For a moment, James could only stare, blood pounding in his ears as he watched his long-time enemy twitched once and was still.
"Put the gun down!" A shrill voice cried, and James almost saw red when he looked up and saw Peter – fucking Peter – holding a gun to his son's head, who was still miraculously silent, taking everything in with frightened green eyes.
A keening sound came from his left and James flinched. He never wanted to hear his wife sound like that again.
"Put your guns down!" Peter shouted again, backing up another step. It was only now that James noticed both Remus and Sirius pointing a gun at Peter, faces tight with the wrath and pain of betrayal.
"Let go of my son, Peter," James spat out as he clambered to his feet, ignoring the glass that crunched under his feet and the dull ache it left there.
Peter shook his head, watery blue eyes squinting with fear. "Put your guns down now!" He screeched and the gun pressed harder against Harry's head, enough to make the child squirm. "I won't say it again!"
It was enough; James left his gun on the ground a few feet away, and though Remus and Sirius were both visibly reluctant, they slowly placed their guns on the bloodied floor as well, kicking them away when Peter jerked his head.
"How could you?" Remus' voice was slightly shaky but there was an undercurrent of steel in it that heightened the fear in Peter's eyes. "How could you do this to us, Peter? Your best friends?"
Peter swallowed convulsively. "I had no choice," He rasped out, taking another step back and moving closer to the shattered window. He was scared but still aware enough to edge away from the three men, taking the route closest to Lily. She was still the weakest of the four. "Voldemort came to me-"
"-And you should've told him to stick his shite where the sun doesn't shine!" Sirius hissed, tracking Peter's movements with malevolent eyes. "Instead, you betrayed us!"
Peter released a strangled sob, still clutching Harry in his left arm. "He would've killed me, Sirius!" He whimpered. "He would've tortured and murdered me-"
"THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!" Sirius roared, enraged. "DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!"
But Peter was shaking his head again, still backing away. The window was low enough to the ground that jumping out wouldn't cause any damage. "I'm not g-going to jail," He croaked, shuffling backwards. "And I'm not going to die. Once I g-get out of here, I'll leave Harry somewhere and y-you can pick him up. I won't hurt him if you just let me go. I'll d-disappear and you'll never see me again."
"No!" Lily took a step forward, only to freeze when Peter's finger tightened on the trigger.
"Please!" She begged instead. "Take me. Give my son to James and you can take me as your hostage instead. He's just a baby; he doesn't deserve this. Please."
"No way!" James snapped, about to offer himself even though he knew Peter would never agree. In close quarters, there was no way he wouldn't be able to overpower Peter, gun or no gun.
Peter shook his head a third time, but Lily's words seem to have at least made him hesitate because his eyes darted down to the child.
And that was when it happened.
A dark figure swung through the window, catching Peter around the neck with a lightning-fast hand, another hand coming up to yank baby Harry away from Peter's suddenly flailing arms. With a cry, he and the intruder crashed to the ground.
James, Sirius, and Remus wasted no time to get a clear view of the newcomer's face as they all lunged for their weapons, and Lily was on her feet again, torn between moving forward and staying still.
There was a distinct moment of silence before Sirius broke it, gasping, "Harry?"
And indeed, it was Harry, black hair tied back per usual as he crouched on top of Peter, one knee pressed roughly against his chest, a foot holding Peter's gun hand down, and his left arm cradling baby Harry in a firm but gentle grip.
Unfortunately, said gun was pointed directly at Lily, and as Peter struggled and emitted strangled yells, he managed to get his wrist free and his finger tightened on the trigger.
A crack and an agonized scream wrenched the air as Harry crushed the wrist under his foot, snarling in an almost deranged voice, "Don't you dare hurt my mum!"
The statement wasn't particularly loud, but in the adrenaline-charged room, everyone there heard it loud and clear.
Oddly enough, nobody keeled over in shock or even questioned it, attention still focused on the standoff in the middle of the room. It was Lily who spoke at last, breaking down into tears as she realized the danger was over.
"Harry!" Lily all but sobbed in relief, rushing forward to gather her son into her arms. No one was really sure if she meant older Harry or younger but they all figured it was probably a bit of both.
Harry let the redhead take the child but his eyes never wavered from Peter still whimpering under him, struggling weakly in Harry's merciless hold.
"Harry?" James said softly, circling around so he could catch a glimpse of his face. Remus and Sirius did the same, their guns all trained on the traitor pinned to the ground. "Harry, it's alright, you can get off him now."
There was no reply and James almost started as he finally saw the look in Harry's eyes. There was an almost crazed hatred there, all directed at Peter and strong enough that James wondered why his former friend hadn't burned up right then and there yet.
"Harry, you can't kill him," Beside James, Sirius' voice was rough as he spoke as if each word was one he regretted. James had no doubts that Sirius very much wanted Peter dead. Only the consequences that would come with Peter's death at a civilian's hands were preventing Sirius from giving Harry the go-ahead. "We're putting him behind bars, for life if I have anything to do with it. And then the inmates can have him. No one likes a dirty cop, much less a failed one."
Harry didn't so much as shift, right hand still closed around Peter's throat and looking so detached that it put a spark of fear in James' chest. Not of Harry, but rather for him, because from James' point of view, there was familiarity in that action, as if Harry had killed before. James didn't want to know what had pushed Harry far enough to actually commit murder.
"Harry," It was Remus who spoke this time, quiet and careful as if trying to calm a wild animal. "There's no point killing him now. He's done; we'll make sure of that. No matter what it takes, James and Sirius will put him away for life."
Harry didn't look up, the eerie glint in familiar green eyes never wavering from Peter's blue, but the fingers around the traitor's throat twitched.
"I didn't get him last time," Harry finally rasped out, and James had a feeling that the younger man wasn't really registering what he was saying. "I didn't get him. He's still free; he escaped. But I've got this one, right here."
The distant wail of sirens finally reached their ears and James spared a second to mentally snort in disgust.
"Could just kill him," Sirius muttered darkly even as Remus shot him a sharp look. "I'll swear in front of any judge that he was killed in self-defense."
That seemed to be all Harry needed and his hand instantly tightened again, making Peter wheeze as his remaining hand clawed desperately at his throat.
"Harry, no," James said firmly, taking a step forward. "It'll change you. Change you more," He amended, because another glimpse of those ruthless eyes told him very clearly that Harry had killed before. "You don't want any more blood on your hands."
"He almost killed you family," Harry snapped. "This filthy piece of vermin would've seen all of you die without turning a hair. Give me one good reason why I should let him go."
James honestly couldn't come up with anything more than 'it's against the law' because in the end, given half the chance when Peter still had his son, he would've put a bullet in the traitor's head himself.
"Because that's not you," Lily's voice was still tight with tears but her words were clear as she moved forward and crouched down beside Harry, placing a free hand on the arm that was holding Wormtail down. "Because killing in cold blood isn't who you are."
"You don't know that," Harry's voice was flat, bitter. "I've killed, more than once."
"Because it was a necessity," Lily countered determinedly, sure and confident as if nothing would ever refute it. "You wouldn't kill unless you had to. I know you," She paused, and then finished, much quieter, "I know my son."
Harry jerked, flinching away from her, but some of the madness left his features and the hand seemed to loosen on its own, leaving a gasping Peter in its wake.
Slowly, as if waking from a dream, Harry – their Harry, their son – rose to his feet, backing away from Peter with erratic movements and almost tripping over a lifeless arm before Lily reached over and steadied him.
Harry instantly moved away from her, shying from the contact as he avoided their gazes.
In the background, the sirens got louder, shattering the night air with its caterwauling as they got closer.
"Harry?" James lowered his gun, trusting Sirius and Remus to keep Peter on the ground as he moved over to the man so like himself and so like Lily. "Harry-"
"I'm not," Harry interrupted, his eyes haunted and shadowed as they focused on Lily. "I'm not your son."
Lily shifted baby Harry a little, taking a step towards the older Harry. "Harry," She hesitated, looking slightly uncertain. "Sweetheart-"
"No, I'm not," Harry repeated, backing away to the window in an echo of Peter's earlier retreat. "I'm sorry I called you 'mum'. I didn't mean it. I'm not your kid."
Here, a bitter smile curled at his lips as his gaze dropped to the child in Lily's arms. "He's your kid," Harry said as if he thought it needed to be explained. "He's your son. Take care of him. Don't-"
He flinched a little when the first police car blasted up the street in a screech of tires, drawing closer with every passing second. As if spurred on by this, he suddenly whirled around, leaping up onto the windowsill with all the grace of a large feline.
"Wait!" Sirius barked, sounding worried and panicked at the same time and pretty much conveying what everyone else was feeling as Harry made to leave. "Wait, Harry, don't go. Come on, we can- we can talk about this. I'll even let you get a few hits in before we throw Peter in jail."
The feeble attempt at a joke – because even Lily knew Sirius secretly meant every word – was not lost on Harry and the man managed a weak smile before surveying them all.
"Don't ever let him want for love," He said at last with a sense of farewell even as he nodded at the baby. "He deserves a good life, a good family."
And then, before anyone could protest, Harry slipped out the window, disappearing into the night without a trace just as the police pulled up, guns drawn and shouting.
"Fucking morons," Sirius muttered as he threw his gun across the room in frustration, no longer needing it. "Come after everything's gone down. Bleeding idiots."
"Sirius?" James watched his best friend stalk towards the door as one police officer, oblivious to the fact that James was trying to ignore him, explained that they had been held up by Death Eaters and hadn't been able to arrive earlier but they were here to help now.
"He's not leaving like that," Sirius said, voice low enough so that the distracted officers around them wouldn't overhear. His grey eyes burned with grim determination. "I don't care if he's from the future or an alternate dimension or another reality or whatever; he's Harry Potter which means he's my godson. I am not letting him leave like that."
And without further ado, Sirius swept out of the room, leaving the cleanup to the back-up squad.
Across the room, Remus glanced at James and Lily before heading for the door as well. "I'm going too. Sirius will need help."
James pinched the bridge of his nose before moving over to Lily.
"You should go too," She murmured, tucking a few stray bangs behind her left ear.
James shook his head, engulfing his wife and child in a tight hug. "Not now. Later, definitely. But not now."
They searched for a month, driving from Islington to Westminster, from Ealing to Greenwich, before expanding the search to all of London. Both James and Sirius had been granted a paid vacation, and Remus had opted to put work on hold in favour of the manhunt.
To no avail. Harry could not be found and each day ended with increasing disappointment as they returned home empty-handed.
"I can't believe this," James scrubbed a hand through his hair in frustration as he turned the moving photo Sirius had shown them all a month ago. "Maybe he's, I don't know, hiding himself with magic? I mean that's the only explanation, right?"
"There's no such thing as magic," Remus reminded half-heartedly, sounding more gloomy than convinced.
James scoffed. "So I suppose everyone has an older version of their son running around the world then?"
"Time travel," Remus corrected. "That's science."
"Oh shut up, both of you," Sirius said irritably from his sprawled position on the couch. "Either way, we can't find him. Hell, he might not even be in London anymore. He could be halfway around the world by now for all we know. Just because we've got contacts in all the airports doesn't mean they can't be paid off or something."
James' face fell and Remus' shoulders slumped. It was Lily who shook her head.
"That picture is obviously important to him," She maintained. "He'll come back for it."
"Yeah? When?" Sirius grouched. "Ten years from now? Why'd he have to run anyway? What did he think we were going to do? Toss him to some scientists for observation or something?"
"Let's go to the diner again tonight," Lily continued, ignoring Sirius' grumbling. "I have a feeling we might see him there. It's where we first met him after all."
"You always say that Lily," James said as gently as he could. "I don't think he's going to return to the diner."
But Lily was adamant and the men all agreed to go again in the end. They would soon realize that her persistence would pay off.
"You have something of mine."
The familiar voice made them all jump and the entire table turned to stare at the figure in the shadowy corner of the diner who hadn't been there a moment ago.
"How did you-" James started, cut off by Harry's dismissive wave as the man slid off the stool and strode over to their table.
"Magic," He said, a hint of irony underlying the word. "And don't worry about them," He added to Remus who had been looking around at the diner's other occupants now all slumped on a flat surface. "They're just sleeping."
"Now," Harry continued, turning to scan the table. "My photograph. Which one of you took it and which one of you has it now?"
"Sirius did," James announced, not liking the guarded expression on his son's face. He pulled out the photo from his jacket pocket. "And I do."
"Brilliant," Harry extended a hand. "If you would be kind enough to give it back, I'll be on my way."
"I don't think so," James said determinedly, holding the picture out of reach. "We want to talk."
"There's nothing to talk about," Harry said flatly. "I am not your son. I'm not even from this world."
"Then you're Harry from a different world," Sirius chimed in stubbornly. "You're still Harry. James and Lily's son. Me and Remus' godson."
Harry's jaw tightened for a moment before he glanced down. They followed his line of sight and caught a dim glow from under his shirt sleeve.
"What's that?" Remus enquired, leaning forward.
"Transportation device," Harry replied curtly. "It means I have to go."
"Go?" Lily frowned anxiously. "Go where? Look, I know you don't really accept us as your family. I suppose you're from- from a different world, a different dimension where you have your own family, but you are Harry and we don't mind, at all, where you're from. You can stay with us. We won't tell anyone."
Harry just sighed, looking even more tired as the device on his wrist glowed brighter. "It's not that simple. I have to go. I have no choice. I jump from world to world and I can never stop. Because of something that happened a while ago, I can't die either. I'm over two hundred years old, Lily."
The group sat there, momentarily stunned, but Sirius managed to gather enough wits to force out, "Isn't there a way for you to stay? Can't you take it off?"
"You think I haven't tried?" Harry shook his head, his expression weary. "There's no way I can stop. And I've got about fifteen minutes before I jump again, so please, give me back the photo."
James hesitated. This could, after all, be a trick. Harry could just as easily take the photo and teleport to China or Australia and they would simply stop looking, but...
But the desperation on Harry's face was very real and James slowly found himself extending the picture, reluctantly letting go as Harry accepted it.
"You could've stayed with us for the last month," He said instead, voice subdued. "You didn't have to run."
Harry smiled, and this one was a genuine one if a little sad. "I didn't want to get closer than I already have. It would've been even harder to leave in the end."
The device brightened again and Harry seemed to flash out of existence for a moment. Sirius, being the closest, instinctively closed a hand around Harry's wrist.
"Can't keep me here like that," Harry said lightly, patting Sirius' hand.
"Were they good to you?" Lily suddenly asked, gesturing at the photo with the hand that wasn't cradling her son. "Your parents?"
Harry was silent for a few seconds. "...I hear they were," He said at last. "But I don't really remember. They died when I was a baby."
"That's how you knew," Remus said with dawning realization. "That's how you knew about Peter, about Voldemort's attack on Halloween."
Harry inclined his head before flashing again.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Sirius demanded, not letting go of Harry's wrist. "About Peter?"
"Would you have believed me?" Harry asked dryly, his question directed more at James than anyone else. James flushed a little.
"Still," Sirius said mulishly. "You should have said. At least to me. I would've listened."
Harry arched a skeptical eyebrow at him but let the matter go as he absently glanced down at the photograph.
"What about us?" Remus asked tentatively, gesturing at himself and Sirius. "I suppose Voldemort succeeded in your world but we managed to kill him before he got to you?"
Harry slowly shook his head. "Not quite," He said, finally sitting down when it was clear they weren't just going to wave goodbye and let him go his way. "There's- well you've probably realized that there's... magic where I come from."
"Hah!" James crowed, glancing triumphantly over at Remus who was rolling his eyes. "I knew it!"
Harry stared at them with a look of bemusement on his face, but continued his explanation when all four turned to look at him again.
"To make a long story short, Voldemort tried to kill me but the curse rebounded and killed him instead," He paused before amending, "For a while, anyway. But that's not important. Pettigrew ran for it that night and managed to frame Sirius for my parents' murders."
They all looked horrified and all the blood had drained from Sirius' face.
"...We should've killed him when we had the chance," Sirius spat out at last. "I was James' best friend there too, right? And Remus would never believe-"
Harry stared at them, features carefully blank as he chose his next words. "All the evidence was against you. Pettigrew did a good job. Remus couldn't have done anything."
The vague wording made Remus and Lily frown but neither pressed for detail as Sirius slumped, looking dejected. "So I went to prison for it?"
Harry nodded, glancing down when the device flashed another warning. "Twelve years."
Sirius blanched as James paled. "Twelve years?"
"Who took care of you then?" Lily asked, her arms tightening around baby Harry. "Remus?"
Harry shook his head. "Remus was otherwise occupied. I grew up with Petunia."
"Petunia?" Lily repeated in disbelief. "My sister? She hates me! We had a falling out years ago! She didn't even come to my wedding!"
Harry shrugged. "No difference there. We never liked each other. I mostly just stayed out of her way."
Lily looked slightly faint and James looked murderous. "That's insane," He muttered. "No offense, Harry, but your world doesn't sound all that nice."
"It wasn't," Harry said tersely, grimacing when he flickered again. "It's almost time." There was an awkward pause when he opened his mouth to say something only to close it again a moment later, apparently not knowing what to say.
Lily stood up abruptly, passing baby Harry to James before whirling around and wrapping a shocked Harry in a tight hug.
"No matter where you go," Lily started fiercely. "No matter what time or world or universe, remember that we'll always be thinking of you. Take care of yourself. And I promise we'll raise our Harry to the best of our ability."
When she pulled back, her eyes were slightly teary but she found that she didn't care because Harry was blinking rather rapidly back at her.
"Thanks," He mumbled.
"I think we should be thanking you," Sirius announced, pulling Harry into a tight hug of his own. "I don't know what I'd do if Voldemort had succeeded that night. Gone after Peter and get myself framed and thrown into jail like your Sirius I suppose. So thank you."
"We'll miss you," Remus offered a warm smile as Sirius shoved Harry gently in his direction. Wrapping him in a gentle hug, he added, "And my students are going to miss having you in class."
Harry managed a choked laugh before finally turning to James.
James had stood, passing his son back to his wife again as he looked at the man before him. This was what his son would look like when he grew up. Not as jaded, not as tired, but he hoped his Harry's character would turn out just like this Harry's because James could honestly say he would be proud to have him as his son.
Perhaps some of that pride had entered his expression because Harry flushed a little and glanced away for a moment. James knew he wouldn't have to say it out loud.
"You'll find it," He said instead, meeting Harry's gaze evenly. "You're looking for a way to stop jumping, aren't you? And the immortal bit? You'll find it one day. I know it."
Harry stared back at him, an emotion too fast for James to catch flashing through his eyes. "I reckon I will," Harry replied at last. "Thanks, James."
"Sounds odd to hear my own son call me by name," James grinned before pulling him into as tight a hug as Sirius had. "Take care of yourself. We'll miss you."
Harry nodded before pulling away, carefully stepping from their table as the device glowed brighter. Sirius jerked a little in his seat as if he was holding back the urge to leap up and somehow physically keep Harry there.
"They'll wake up once I'm gone," Harry said, tilting his head at the other people in the diner as he tucked his photo away.
There was a general round of nods before Lily spoke up one last time. "One more thing, Harry. The box you gave us. We found the first letter of each of our names on each panel, but what do the animals mean?"
Harry blinked, evidently surprised, but a small grin made its way onto his face. "In my world, people could change into certain animals, Animagi, based on their characteristics. My dad was a stag, Sirius was a dog, Remus... well he could change into a wolf of sorts, and I thought the doe fitted my mum, even though she wasn't an Animagus. A stag for justice and friendship, a dog for loyalty and faithfulness, a wolf for courage and guardianship, and a doe for love and harmony."
He paused, studying the pleased expressions all around. He could feel the familiar tugging in his chest again and knew his time was up.
"And the falcon?" James asked almost urgently as Harry flashed again.
Harry weighed his options before deciding one last act of magic wouldn't hurt. "A falcon for freedom."
And within the span of a heartbeat, Harry had changed into his Animagus form, a beat of his wings pushing him into the air as the device finally took him away.
It would be the last time he would ever see his family again, alive and well, but he supposed the looks of childish delight mixed with genuine affection on their faces would be a good final memory to carry with him for the rest of his life.
Finished! That's it. Just a fun side-project completed in three chapters that I've managed to whip up between exams.