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Too Far From Home

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Dawn broke the cold night with a haze of pearl gray. The earth laid still and silent in the early hours and the sun remained hidden behind morning clouds of pewter. With the dawn came a fog of heavy white mist that laced the ground like a serpent, swift and silent. It obscured the pristine neighborhood of Privet Drive until it was only a smear of shapes in the grayness. The tiny black sparrows didn't flit around as usual with their songs of a breaking dawn but remained with puffed feathers on their branches for the summer morning was oddly chilly and the grass was powdered with white frost.

While the rest of the neighborhood slept on unaware, a scrawny fourteen-year-old boy shuddered awake from a gripping nightmare with white-knuckled fists clutching at the bedsheets. He raised his face, red and sweaty, from a crusted brown pillow that smelled severely of metallic. For a moment, he didn't know where he was and what had happened. He hesitantly touched his fingers to the skin under his nose; the tips came away flecked with dried blood.

Harry quietly groaned as the previous events of last night came back to him in, the flood of memories stark and horrific. He dropped his head back onto the stained pillow, breathing heavily, the echo of his heart beat pounding in his ears. His whole body quivered as he stared wide-eyed at the ceiling, the images replaying over and over again in the forefront of his mind. It had been many, many years since his uncle had resorted to such physical violence. Even since Harry first started Hogwarts, his uncle had backed off in fear of Harry’s magic and what others of the magical world would do if he were found out, so Harry hadn't expected the overweight man to come at him with such force.

Calm down, you idiot, you just need to calm down. No use getting worked up. Panic will just make it worse.

Slowly, gingerly, Harry rose to a sitting position and gritted his teeth when his side pulled rather painfully at the movement. Bracing himself with one elbow, Harry carefully pulled at the worn plaid leg of his pajama pants till it displayed his swollen knee. For a moment, Harry just stared at the joint in disbelief, unsure of what to do. The skin was black, blue and purple. Gingerly, he touched it and winced at the flash of pain that it brought.

There was no way he was going anywhere on this thing.

Harry carefully laid himself back down, head on his ruined pillow, unable to straighten his knee. He ignored the rest of his injuries, not really wanting to know why his side burned with pain and felt hot and sticky. In this moment, he felt that the less he knew, the better it would all pan out. It was stupid logic, but it was the only logic he could muster up in this moment.

The world spun slowly around him despite the fact he was holding himself very still. He thought of the time when he had ridden a carousel at a fair as a child. He had sat on a brown horse, clenching the cool metal pole with sweaty six-year-old hands that kept slipping. He thought he was going to fall. Round and round and round it went. The slow rotation held an almost surreal quality to it as he went round…and round…and round…. He remembered that his vomit had been yellow, like the color of the lemon pop he had licked earlier that day, and he remembered the nearby children screaming in disgust as the sick spread like a growing flower on the metal deck and dripped over the side, dotting the sidewalk with putrid yellow pearls.

Harry had never been that fond of the color yellow since.

He closed his eyes slowly, feeling that familiar nausea creep almost stealthily into his stomach where the meager contents began to roil in protest. Even in the gray-darkness, the world seemed to gyrate. The bed beneath him swayed and lurched and he felt as though he had been forced unwillingly onto the deck of a ship caught in a bout of storm. Harry couldn't help but groan, wishing he had a cool glass of water to sip or even one of Pomphrey's nasty potions to calm his stomach.

Harry might have fallen asleep, or maybe he passed out, he wasn't really sure but the next moment he suddenly heard a soft hooting noise. Harry was jolted from his dazed state and it took him a moment to realize that a black owl was hovering outside his barred window, looking very indignant. For a moment Harry wondered if it would be worth the effort and pain of getting up and moving towards the window to reach through the bars. The screeching of the owl quickly made up his mind.

"Shut-it, you bloody bird!" Harry snapped in a hissed whisper, his eyes darting towards the door, expecting to see his purple-faced uncle to come barging in, angry to be woken up by his nephew's freakishness. Gingerly, Harry pulled himself across the bed, his knee protesting quite painfully. The owl watched him impassively as he struggled to push up the window frame. He reached for the letter between the rusted bars. He was curious for he didn't recognize the owl as belonging to anyone he knew. It nipped at his fingers as he grasped the parchment, a lurch of hope jumping within his chest. Maybe it was from Sirius. He dearly wished it was from Sirius. Since Hedwig had gone hunting, Harry had no way of contacting the outside world until she returned. Now he would be able to send out a vague letter of distress, and maybe, just maybe, Sirius would come to rescue him from this hell hole.

Fumbling awkwardly with the envelope marked Harry J. Potter, which he should've noted as strange but didn't, he pulled out the parchment stuffed inside. Something small fell out and landed next to his propped up elbow but he ignored it as he watched with a horrified expression as the black owl gave another hoot and flew away, not even giving him a chance to respond back.

"Damn!" he muttered, fists clenched and face splotched with red. "Damn, damn, damn!"

The owl became a speck in the cloudy sky, than nothing at all, leaving Harry with a sinking stomach and prickling eyes. He didn’t know what to do and he loathed the out-of-control feeling he was caught in. His side was killing him and his insides lurched in protest.

Calm, calm, calm, calm. He silently coached himself, breathing deeply in order to slow his pounding heart. He forced himself to look down at the object which had fallen from the envelope and he lifted it with a furrowed brow, studying the intricate carvings on the rather rustic looking beads. The bracelet looked well-worn and somewhat brittle. The colors varied from black, navy blue, and twilight purple, reminding him rather distantly of the colors of fresh bruise. He handled it carefully; afraid of breaking something that looked so important.

"What are you?" he mused quietly, rolling the beads around with his fingertips. Who would've sent him such a confusing gift? He had no need of bracelets; he couldn't remember ever wearing any kind of jewelry in his life. Even though the bracelet was rather pretty and unique, it looked as though it was meant more for a girl than a boy. And there was no way Harry Potter would be caught wearing girly jewelry.

Maybe it was a prank, something to just poke fun at him. Ron? Fred and George? Definitely not Hermione. Maybe Sirius?

Harry turned his attention to the letter, hoping to solve the mystery. His face drained of color as he read the words, and he felt his blood run cold.

A violent, forceful tug at his navel and Harry Potter disappeared in a whirl of smearing colors and shapes. He didn't have time to comprehend what had happened except the fact that it couldn't be good. He fell and fell and fell, hurtling through space and time at breakneck speed. It could've been years, it could've been seconds but Harry had lost all sense of time, and meaning fell quickly through the seams of his mind leaving him only panic and wild fear.

Back in Harry's little room, where the walls were ugly gray and the bars on the window gave the effect of a prison cell, the letter he had been holding fluttered harmlessly in the breeze that wafted through the window before settling inconspicuously on the bedroom floor.

No one stirred.
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**Canon Remus, Canon World***

Many hours later a group of strangely dressed people landed quietly on the pristine lawn of number 4 Privet Drive. The house was dark and quiet when they opened the door. Remus stepped cautiously over the threshold and ignited the tip of his wand with a deft flick, blinking quickly as he let his eyes adjust to the sudden white light flooding the hall. He took a moment to study his surroundings, noting that everything was immaculate and not even a frame was off-tilt. He walked deeper into the house, passing a cupboard with rusted brown bolts but not really paying any second heed to it.

Too clean. He thought, wrinkling his nose as he turned a slow full circle, letting his wand light give him a three-sixty view of the Dursleys' house hold.

"Anything, Moody?" Nymphadora whispered behind Remus, igniting her wand as well.

"Nothing. Not even the boy." The man answered gruffly, his stumped leg creating a dull echo each time it hit the linoleum. Remus turned and saw the electric blue eye spinning rather sickeningly in its socket. He furrowed his brow in thought.

"He must be here," Remus murmured. "The guard said that Harry didn't leave the house with his relatives." He headed for the staircase, ignoring the cupboard again. The advance guard followed him silently; the only sound heard was the creaking of the steps with each footfall that was made.

With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Remus just knew that the door with the chained and bolted locks was Harry's. A flicker of dread passed through him.

"Those prats!" Nymphadora spat, her hair turning a violent shade of blood red; she must have come to the same conclusion as well.

Alastair pointed his wand at the door, "Alohamora."

The locks jumped instantly apart and the door slowly, almost ominously opened. For a moment no one moved, poised for anything to happen. Finally, after waiting several minutes in tense silence, Remus stepped forward and reached his wand light into the room.

"Harry?" he called clearly, keeping his tone level and calm. "Harry, it's Professor Lupin. We've come to take you away."

No answer. Pushing the door open all the way, Remus entered the room.

"Careful, Lupin, it could be a trap," Alastair said warningly. But Remus wasn't listening. Instead he was staring in horror at the pillow hanging halfway off the bed, splattered grotesquely with dried blood. He saw, with a blanching face, that the bed and the carpet around it were stained also. By the looks of it, the blood had been there for many hours, already brown and cracked. It was like walking in on a scene from a muggle horror film.

Simultaneously, groans and sounds of frustration filled the room as each of the guard noted what Remus was staring fixedly at.

"Oh hell," Nymphadora whispered in revulsion.

Remus could feel his heart pounding furiously in his chest and there was hot sweat beading his face and neck as adrenaline shot through his veins like bubbling acid and he swallowed once, twice, three times. His fingers clenched his wand convulsively, his eyes darting for a target to unleash the fury racking his body.

"No." he ground out forcefully. He hadn't known the boy very well but in the short span of time that Remus had spent with him, Remus had grown attached to Harry, with the eyes as green as jewels and the weight of the world on his too-thin of shoulders. He didn't see the boy as a replica of James as Severus and Sirius had so many times fallen guilty of, but as his own cub that needed security and protection. If Remus disagreed with Dumbledore about anything, it would be sending Harry here to Lily's sister and brother-in-law. He didn't know if the wards had fallen or if Harry's relatives had gotten violent but as Remus stared at the sight before, he couldn't conjure up a good ending. How could he with this bloody mess?

He could only pray desperately, vainly that whoever had the poor child would be shown some sort of mercy. He knew, though, that Voldemort had none.

Remus slowly lifted the crimson and brown stained pillow and clutched with his fist, his eyes burning. He drew in a deep breath, smelling the metallic twang of the room and feeling the pain and fear the boy must have felt.

"Remus?" a hand on his shaking shoulders brought him back from a place where time knew nothing and grief knew everything. He turned and glared at Nymphadora whose face was white and lip was trembling. "We have to get back to headquarters. We have to notify Dumbledore. There might be a chance…maybe Snape has heard something…"

No one said a word but the feeling of failure and shame pierced the air. Remus rage swelled and became animalistic. Wasn't somebody supposed to be watching the house at all times? Wasn't somebody supposed to ensure that Harry stayed safe and secure? But Harry had obviously suffered. To what extinct, Remus didn't know, but no one had been there to help the child. No one. He savagely kicked over the desk chair, finding no satisfaction in the way it clattered to the floor.

"Remus?"

Remus nodded, still holding the pillow tightly as he returned with deadened legs to the apparation spot and turned, disappearing with a resounding crack, leaving Privet Drive silent and peaceful once more.
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**Canon Sirius, Canon World***

Sirius was on his feet in a flash when he heard the opening and closing of the front door, heart pounding with the excitement at the prospect of seeing his godson. Molly and Albus stood up as well, but the rest at the meeting stayed seated. Snivellus rolled his eyes and sneered but Sirius didn't care this time. It had been too long since he had been face-to-face with his godson. The last time they had spoken in person was at the end of the third task and Sirius still felt guilty for leaving Harry in such a state.

What he didn't expect was the quiet procession to file into the room. He stared with incomprehension at their darkened, guilty faces. Tonks slumped into an empty chair, arms, crossed over her chest; her eyes were staring blankly at the opposite wall. Snape stood quickly, his sneer gone, but his face darker. It seemed as though the greasy git understood something that Sirius had yet to fully grasp. For a moment, Sirius couldn't breathe as he tried to piece together the situation before him. Then:

"Where’s Harry, then?” he demanded, his fear coming out as anger. “Didn’t you go and get him?"

Snape turned to look at him, his face a dark mask and his fists clenched. Behind him, he could hear Molly breathing in hitches.

Remus stepped forward, drew a deep breath, and slowly held something out for Sirius to take, which he did in dread apprehension. It was a pillow—stiff, flat, and splattered in rust colored splotches.

"Remus?" Sirius asked in desperation. "Wha-what's this?"

But he knew what it was. He knew what it meant. He could see the violence, the desperation and the pain and the fear in the small pillow. As he sank back into his chair, he barely heard Moody speak in his gruff tones.

"We didn't find a body."

Snape, too, dropped back into his chair, his body strangely deflated. Behind Sirius, Molly began to wail.

Albus didn't move and the only sound was Molly’s keening. Sirius, himself, remained silent, feeling numb and detached as he watched the only light left in his darkness go out.
________________________________________

***AU world, AU Sirius**

Sirius Black struggled to catch his breath as he ran, with the chilled wind whipping his hair, and the adrenaline pumping wildly through his veins. Purple twilight was quickly giving way to darkness and the sky was cloudy, smothering the stars and the glow of the moon. The fog was thick and heavy. It filled every street, every alley, every nook and cranny until the air was so dense, the animagus could barely see. Sweat poured down his back and face but Sirius couldn't help but grin somewhat manically as he pressed his back to a stone wall, pausing before peering around the corner. His tee-shirt clung to him in a mixture of blood, sweat, and the night's beady moisture. He had abandoned his red Auror robe twenty minutes ago for the favor of greater mobility. Despite the circumstances, they were winning easily, with only a few minor injuries on the Order's side. Sirius swiped at a thin trickle of blood slithering down his cheek, but other than that he remained relatively uninjured.

"How many, Sirius?" he heard Harry whisper, suddenly next to him, causing the man to start.

"Damn, Harry! I almost hexed you!" Sirius seethed, willing his heart to calm at the sight Harry staring in amusement at him.

His godson leaned casually against the wall next to him, sweat beading his tanned face. A slug of blood oozed between his eyes, following the path of his tear ducts and clinging to his jaw line.

"You okay?" Sirius gestured towards the nasty cut. Harry swiped at the blood with a smirk and a shrug.

"Doesn't hurt. Don't even know how I got it." The boy's eyes flashed and he twirled his wand between his fingertips. "Exhilarating, isn't it?" his eyes seemed to deepen in color and he quirked an eyebrow.

Sirius shook his head at Harry, "You always creep me out when you look like that,” he said only half-joking.

Harry's smirk grew more prominent. "I know." The young man pushed himself off the wall and charged around the corner. The dark fog lit up with the brilliant blue of a hex.

Sirius was quick to join him, bellowing out a stunning curse to the first Death Eater that came into sight. The man fell in a crumpled heap and Sirius leapt over the fallen body, not breaking stride. He fought alongside Harry, heart pumping and muscles straining in exertion.

But Harry seemed all at ease. The nineteen-year-old boy was in his element, dodging curses, shooting spells wordlessly, and holding up a vibrantly red shield effortlessly.

Sirius suddenly grinned as he thought back to Harry’s question.

"Twelve! To answer your question from earlier!" Sirius crowed in the high of the fight, wielding his wand at the level of his eyes, sending another stunning curse towards a Death Eater attempting to crucio him. "Make that thirteen!" he corrected with a holler as the man in black robes hit the ground motionless, his wand skittering along the cobblestone.

Sirius snapped it with the heel of his boot.

He could see his godson's smirk from where he was. That boy had been hanging around Snape too often. "Count me at twenty!" he bragged rather loudly.

Sirius nearly broke stride, "That's because I let you have all the easy ones!" Sirius retorted as Harry's wand spewed a jet of vomit-yellow light. The man on the receiving end of that spell howled in agony and feel to the ground, writhing and clawing at his face where nasty boils had erupted.

Harry rolled his eyes, kicking the man in his side and binding him. "Whatever strokes your ego, Sirius."

"You two are ridiculous!" Tonks yelled at them as she spun past, taking down two death eaters in her wake. Her hair was a vibrant multitude of colors, like that of a rainbow. The sight was shocking at first glance and Sirius was sure that his cousin did that just to throw Voldemort's followers off a step.

The young woman appeared unharmed, having caught up with them in an array of dramatic wand sparks. That girl always knew how to make an entrance.

Sirius snickered rather breathlessly as he began to run again, sprinting down the street for Harry and Tonks were already way ahead of him. The night around him lit up like fireworks but Sirius didn't once flinch from the blinding colors and loud booms. It all felt like second nature to him. He continued to battle, concentrating hard to pick out friend from foe in the heavy mist.

Out of nowhere, something slammed into his back and he found himself pitching forward with a yelp, elbows scraping cobblestone rather painfully. A jet of purple light hit an area near his face, blackening the stone, and he twisted quickly onto his back, hexing the Death Eater standing over him into oblivion. The hooded man was blasted backwards and he slammed into the side of a stone building before slumping lifelessly to the cold ground.

Sirius rolled quickly back onto his elbows, panting from the shock of adrenaline that had just hit him and desperate to not be left behind when something in his peripheral vision made him freeze.

A blood stained hand was just barely visible behind a stack of toppled crates and spilled seed. Sirius scrambled to his feet, sprinting the few feet between him and the hand, desperately hoping he would find a body attached to the appendage.

It was a boy facing away from him, his thin body wracked with tremors. The visible shock of jet black hair made Sirius' heart leap in terror for his throat.

"Holy shit, Harry!" he fell to his knees, panic making his hands shake and he roughly turned the boy over, shocked to find someone much younger than his godson looking back at him. "You're…you're not Harry…"

But it was…but it wasn't…

Wide-eyed, Sirius blinked rapidly, unable to process this information. He quickly surveyed his surroundings, noting the trail of blood and figuring the boy had dragged himself a good ways before being unable to continue.

Sirius looked back down at the boy who was only half-conscious with just a slit of emerald showing beneath his partially eyelids. Dried blood stained the boy's chin and neck and clothes. His leg was twisted in a sickening way at the knee and his face supported two black eyes and a swollen nose.

Had the Death Eaters done this? Was it a twisted trick to play with his mind? Idiot! His brain screamed at him. Who cares what the damned kid looks like! He's injured for Christ's sake!

Sirius stood, heart pounding, unsure of what to do. The boy couldn't have been more than twelve or thirteen, but he held a disturbingly uncanny resemblance to Harry Potter. The pit of his stomach roiled in turmoil.

Who was this boy?

For a few moments, Sirius didn’t do anything. Fear and uneasiness pinned him to the ground, preventing him from moving but not allowing him to kneel down in assistance to the wounded kid. He didn't even touch the boy for fear it was a morbid trick. Sirius took a step back, inwardly struggling. It was against his morals to leave an injured kid to the mercies of Death Eaters, but the resemblance to Harry and James was extremely disconcerting.

Suddenly, the boy stirred. He blinked slowly before grimacing.

"Please…" the pitiful whimper made Sirius freeze once more, stunned to see a pair of startling green eyes staring up at him pleadingly, glassy with pain. “Help…"

Sirius couldn't ignore such a wretched plea. He watched the boy convulse once in apparent agony and the two emeralds rolled back again. Sirius made up his mind then and there.

"Okay, kid," he muttered, pocketing his wand and scooping the boy up in his arms. He was answered with a horrible cry of pain as the injured leg was jolted. Sirius' face contorted in a grimace. "Hang on, kid, you're gonna be fine."

Running as fast as he could with the skinny kid in his arms, he slipped down the streets as silent as he could, eyes very wide as he tried to keep bearing of his surroundings. He didn't get far, though, when a blasting hex grazed his side, causing him to stumble then fall, losing his grip on the boy who hit the pavement beside him with a sickening smack!

The following shriek of pain grated Sirius' already raw nerves.

The Auror leapt to his feet, yanking out his wand. A cutting hex caught his shoulder and blood spurted out, and he hissed with pain, eyes watering, while quickly retaliating. With the Death Eater out, Sirius turned his attention back to the kid who was now on his elbows, looking around haphazardly. Fear was quite evident on his bloody face. He looked as though he was trying to escape, but wasn't getting very far with it. He caught sight of Sirius and made a strange noise. It was then that Sirius noticed that the kid was clutching a pair of broken glasses.

"You want me to fix those?" Sirius asked awkwardly. The boy grunted, seemingly not able to form words. With the noise came a cord of blood that fell from the boy's mouth. He coughed thickly and more blood followed. Sirius felt a twinge of panic and disgust. He definitely knew that wasn't good but he didn't want to cause the boy more a panic by saying something stupid.

Sirius quickly fixed the shattered glasses and wiped away the blood and grime. When he pushed them onto the boy's face, he was again hit by the disturbing resemblance of his godson and best friend. Just leave it, Sirius. Think about that later.

"You're okay kid," Sirius said in a pathetic attempt to soothe the kid, dropping down, trying to access the injuries. The boy's head dropped back down to the cobblestone street, eyelids drooping. Sirius, though he had little medical training, knew that it wasn't a good idea for the kid to go unconscious. He tapped the boy's cheek hurriedly to get his attention. "No you don't."

The boy's eyes fluttered quickly before settling emeralds on Sirius' worried face. Sirius pulled off his shirt with a quick tug, wet it with an augumenti spell, and began to wipe away some of the blood, hoping to find the faucet of it all.

"Hey kid, can you tell me your name?" Sirius asked, hoping to keep the boy awake with conversation.

"Dunno…" was the only thing he received. The boy's head lolled to one shoulder, eyes distant.

"You with me?" Sirius asked as he prodded the swollen nose gently, finding that it was only bruised and not broken.

"No’ really," came the breathless reply, quickly followed but a bubble of blood at the corner of his lips.

Sirius forced himself to remain calm and not lose his meal. "That's good, kid. You'll feel less pain in this state."

The boy huffed out a faint, humorless laugh.

"Is there any place you're hurting? Like any pain worse than everything else?"

The boy nodded drunkenly, his eyes rolling back once, twice, before focusing once more. "Leg. Side." Another bubble of blood followed as he spoke.

Sirius eyed the twisted joint, too afraid to touch it lest he caused even more damage. "There's not much I can do for you knee…it's pretty bad off, I think. You said your side?"

No answer. Only heavy, strangled breathing. Sirius looked up and saw that he was beginning to lose the boy again to the realm of pain.

"Hang on, kid," Sirius swallowed hard, feeling almost useless as he tugged up the side of the boy's shirt where it was almost black with blood and he saw the gaping, ugly gash cutting deeply into the boy's side, right at the bottom of his rib cage. In places, Sirius thought he could even see the white of bone. "Oh god…oh shit…" Sirius couldn't hold himself back any longer. He pressed his fingers into the side of the boy's neck and felt a thready, weak pulse. "I gotta get you out of here."

As soon as he had said this, a hideous flash of green lit up the night. He instinctively threw his body over the bleeding boy. The curse flew over his head, ruffling his hair and making his neck prickle in a thrill of fear. It struck a nearby rubbish bin, causing it to explode into bits of plastic. One stray piece struck Sirius above the eye and his neck snapped back. Darkness rushed to greet him.

________________________________________

**Canon Harry, AU world**

It was so hard to breathe. It hurt too much to breathe.

Harry tried to draw in air, to compensate his screaming lungs, only to be met with a rush of blinding pain. Liquid flooded his throat and he gurgled in an attempt to clear his throat and breathe. There was no way he was going to survive this. The pain was too much and he just couldn't breathe. And even he knew that a human needed oxygen to live.
The back of his eyelids briefly glowed green and moment later he heard a grunt of pain followed by the sound of a body hitting the ground. Despite unconsciousness seeping into his brain, Harry forced his eyes open in a rush of horror.

"Siri…Sirius?" he coughed, gagging as a coppery taste filled his mouth.

There was an awful laugh and he could hear approaching footsteps.

Do something! His brain screamed at him. I can't! Harry inwardly screamed back.

The laughter came closer. "My, my, my…what have we here?"

Malfoy! Harry flinched at the familiar voice, struggling to get his limbs to obey so that he could reach for his wand. Sirius needed him!

Other voices joined Lucius Malfoy. The silver-haired man continued in a silky voice: "Black? So nice to meet you again; pity you are unconscious for it though. And Harry Potter, I presume? We’ve been waiting for you; what a state you’re in…"

A bout of adrenaline allowed Harry to life his head, shaking as it was. He glared savagely at the foul man.

"Got a defiant streak in you, don't you, boy?" Lucius drawled. "Practically lying on death's door yet still has the gall to glare at me. You would make a fine addition to the Dark Lord's army."

Harry was momentarily shocked. What was this? Lucius was trying to recruit him? He thought Voldemort wanted him dead! A thick string of blood hung from his mouth but Harry was able to spat back, "Never! I'd never…j-join forces with a t-twisted freak like Voldemort." He could almost hear the cringe at the mention of their master’s name.

"I see."

There was a silence that was only penetrated by the sounds of feet shuffling and muttering.

A wand point was suddenly shoved against his forehead. "You know, I could have mercy and finish you off, seeing as you're already speeding towards death. But for such a rude remark, I'm going to let you suffer till the last breath you draw into your pitiful existence."

Silence again.

"I wouldn't deny myself the pleasure of killing Black, though; something I've been wanting for so long a time."

The toe of his boot nudged Sirius' face, pushing it so that his godfather's unconscious face was turned towards him.

Something inside Harry exploded. How dare they treat Sirius like that! Harry felt an enormous rush of adrenaline and an animalistic instinct to survive suddenly gripped him. Blood boiled in his veins and Harry's world narrowed down to Malfoy and only Malfoy. His fingers caught the edge of his holly wand and he rolled to sit up, wand pulsing. An explosion of white burst forth, blinding him, throwing him back to the cobblestone. The ground beneath him trembled. A rushing, roaring sound filled Harry's ears.
Slowly the sound receded and Harry found himself lying on his back, blood gushing from his nostrils. Waves of black and white washed across his vision as the fingers of unconsciousness pulled him under.

The last thing he saw was a face, looking strangely like his own, hovering over him. "Hell…" someone said in disbelief. “Hang on, kid. After that, I'm not going to let you die on my watch."

But it was too late, Harry thought.

Blackness took him.

Chapter Text

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***James, AU world***

James Potter awoke very suddenly in a pool of his own drool. He sat up stiffly, rubbing at the painful places where his glasses had dug into his face. "What the…" he grunted out, his head pounding. He drew in a ragged breath and brought his arm up to his mouth before undergoing a series of strangled coughing.

It quickly became apparent that he had fallen asleep amidst paper work at the kitchen table and judging by the sky outside the window, twilight had just fallen over the horizon in a hue of deep purple and navy blue. Rosehale Cottage was silent and still except for the lulling sounds of the ocean outside. It took several moments for James to regain his bearings and when he did, he began to stiffly gather up the loose papers and pile them off to the side. It took a couple minutes before he noticed a written note ripped from spare parchment. He picked it up and held it close to his face in the dim light.

James,
You were just too cute to wake up! Willow and I went to Diagon Alley for groceries and should be back in a couple hours. Knowing your daughter, we'll probably end up in the Quidditch store and Merlin knows how long she'll want to stare at the 'latest and greatest' model broom. Don't forget to take your potions! I left them on the counter by the sink. Take the blue one first, wait ten minutes, and then take the other two. They'll help your congestion and fever and should ease your coughing. Sirius fire-called right before I left saying that he and Harry had to go off for a mission and would be late returning home tonight. See you in a bit!

Love,
Lily

P.S. Don't forget to take your potions! I'll know if you poured them down the sink!

James smiled faintly and folded up the note before sticking it in his pocket.

He had taken sick leave for the week, having woken up yesterday morning coughing and sneezing and quite feverish. Of course, being the man that he was, he spent the day trudging room to room, bemoaning the agony he was in to anyone who would listen. It wasn't until his wife had threatened painful death that he collapsed on the couch and allowed her to take care of him.

When he had got up this morning, his face felt as tight as it did the day before and his head throbbed each time he stood. After a blazing row match during which he argued with Lily that he had a right to go to work, Lily threatened to call Alastor herself and demanded him to stay home for the week. In the end, he had backed down and compromised by agreeing to his wife’s orders and decided to use his time off to catch up on paper work.

James Potter was an Emergency First Responder Auror for the Ministry of Magic. His job was to be out on the field with the others and treat and access injuries. After stabilizing a patient, he would use a portkey to transport the victim to St. Mungo's for continued treatment . He loved his job and loved the fact that he wasn't stuck in a hospital ward all day. He enjoyed the adrenaline rushes and the battles. He liked the danger and fighting against the dark side of magic.

Of course, Lily hated the fact that he worked in the field. And she hated him for 'dragging' their oldest child Harry into the midst of it all. No matter what he and Harry had tried to tell her, they couldn't convince her that her child had come willingly. The day of Harry's graduation from Hogwarts, he had announced that he'd been accepted into the auror's apprentice program and that due to his Defense Against the Dark Arts grades, he had been allowed to cut his training time in half rather than attend a full four years.

James still remembered his wife turning in her seat to give him a glare worthy of a basilisk.

James flicked on the kitchen light and had to squint as he waited for his eyes to adjust. Looking at the clock on the wall, he read that it was half past eight. Lily and Willow would be home soon. He should probably start some sort of dinner before they returned. Chicken? Steak? Waffles?

James hated to cook.

Suddenly, he felt an annoying tickle in his nose. He sniffed in attempt to get rid of the sensation. Instead, his upper body vaulted forward in a quick succession of forceful sneezes that made his eyes water and burn.

"Holy Berlin," James cursed when he was done, his voice thick. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and was appalled to see his skin slicked red when he drew back his arm. "Shid! Shid!" James leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to breathe normally. Bright red blood spotted the tiled floor like tiny rose petals. He fumbled around to find some sort of tissue or towel. "Goddabbit!" He felt the dish towel and ripped it from where it was hanging from the oven door, using it to stem the flow his raw nose. “Bloo'y 'ell!"

"What the hell happened to you?" said a sudden voice from the doorway.

James spun around and spotted Harry staring at him with surprise. "Bloo'y nose," James said with a gesture. He did a double take and stared at Harry for moment in horror. "Look ab you!" he exclaimed. His eighteen-year-old son was covered in ashes and dirt. A slug of blood ran down from the middle of his forehead and a large burn glistened on his right forearm.

Harry looked down at himself then back up at James with a confused shrug. "What did you think we were doing when Sirius said we were going on a mission?" he countered with a raised eyebrow. "Searching for sweets and puppies?"

James grunted and turned away from Harry to check if his bloody nose had stopped.

"You're just sour you missed out on all the fun," Harry teased.

"How'd id go?" asked James as he pushed the towel against his nose again. "And leb me have a look ad dat wound on your face…"

Harry's face quickly turned somber as though he suddenly remembered something. "No time. Sirius is on his way with a kid we found during the fight. He's hurt bad."

James was suddenly alert and he straightened. "Whab? Why? Couldn' you have daken him to St. Bungo's?"

Harry shook his head and turned away at the sound of someone apparating outside. "You'll see," answered his son cryptically.

James shook his head in annoyance, thinking that Harry had spent too much time with Sirius lately and tossed the towel aside. He accio-ed his medical supply bag and rummaged through it to make sure everything he needed was there. He found the blue potion for congestion and downed it in one gulp with a grimace. He instantly felt relief.

"James, hurry!" called Sirius' voice from down the long hall.

James took a quick swipe at his nose with his arm before taking up his bag and rushing down the hall, ignoring the dizzy feeling he got from moving too quickly.

When James entered the spare bedroom and saw the bloody mess on the bed, he had thought that he was too late. The boy was maybe thirteen or fourteen and he was splattered from head to toe with blood and dirt. Beneath the gore, his face was a grayish white and his lips were tinged blue. But when James moved forward and pressed two fingers to the boy's neck, he was shocked to find a thready pulse.

"What the hell happened?" he demanded, dumping the full contents of his bag next to the seemingly lifeless boy. He picked out three syringes and three small bottles of potion.
Flicking the first syringe to make sure the bubbles dispersed, he then peeled away the boy's blood-soaked shirt, turned him on his side and injected the needle into his hip. After filling the next two syringes, he injected those into the boy's upper thighs. The kid twitched but otherwise gave no response.

"What were those?" Harry asked behind him. He appeared next to James, holding a towel to his forehead. He looked down at the kid with a perplexed face.

"Blood replenishing, pain reliever, and adrenaline," answered James sharply. "Now what happened?"

"I just found him like that," answered Sirius with wide eyes. Blood oozed from his temple and splotched the shoulder of his tee shirt. His face was white and bruised. "I dunno if he's a Death Eater, or some muggle caught in the cross fire or what but…"

"There's no way he's a muggle," interrupted Harry as he tossed his towel on top of the dresser. The blood had dried on his face. "That kid saved Sirius' life!"

James only half-heard that last statement. He had completely removed the kid's shirt and was doing his best to siphon away the majority of blood. In a lot of cases that James had dealt with, the blood always made the wounds look more serious than they actually were. But in this instance, the more blood that he wiped away, the more his stomach sank. He slowly peeled back the make-shift bandage that Sirius had made on the boy's side and a gush of dark crimson came forth.

"Shit!" James grabbed a package of gauze and ripped it open. He pressed it firmly against the gaping wound before gesturing quickly with his free hand at Sirius, "Open me some more gauze—quickly!"

Sirius complied with fumbling hands. James grabbed the gauze with his free hand and piled it on. "Harry, find some more blood replenishing potion! Now!" James didn't look up as he took more gauze offered by Sirius. The blood, hot and sticky, oozed up between his fingers and pooled on the white sheets beneath the boy. "He's losing blood fast—he won't be alive much longer if he continues like this."

With one hand on the bundle of gauze, he grabbed his wand with his free hand and muttered a couple of spells; the bleeding slowed. He whispered the spells again. Once he was sure the wound wouldn't gush again, he pulled back the bandages and examined it closely—it was deep and jagged—white rib bone shown through. "He probably has some internal injuries. The wound goes really deep."

"Bloody Merlin, is that his rib?" Harry asked with a hint of disgust, holding out a large bottle of deep red potion for his father to take.

"Just set it down," directed James as he pointed his wand at the wound again. "Vulnera Sanentur." He watched as the edges of the wound attempted to knit together. Except for the very ends of the gash, it didn't fully close. This left him baffled, having never encountered this before. He stared at the wound, trying to decide what he was doing wrong and what he should do more.

“What is it?” asked Sirius when James had stood still too long.

“It won’t heal,” James muttered more to himself then Sirius. Making a split second to just tightly wrap the wound, James decided to move on and assess the rest of the of the boy’s injuries, and attempt to heal them. “Tergeo.” More of the drying blood cleared away. James let out a deep breath. "Merlin, this kid has been through the hell…" he said, staring at the bruises. “You said you just found him like this?"

"Yeah—I did what I could," answered Sirius. "I made sure his nose wasn’t broken and healed some minor cuts but that's as far as my expertise goes.

“Do you think he'll make it?" asked Sirius after a moment of hesitation

"I don't know yet—his chances aren’t looking good, though," said James bluntly. "And I still don’t understand why you didn't take him to St. Mungo's. They're better equipped there than I am. There's only such much I can do. If this boy dies..." James' voice trailed off, the implications clear in his unspoken words.

"Have you looked at his face, dad?” Harry gestured towards the boy. "I mean, really looked at his face?"

James gave his son a look of barely tolerance before obliging him. He cleared the blood from the boy's face and felt his breath leave him. "What the…?"

He felt as though the world has faded away and all he could do was stare at his son's doppelganger. A younger, skinny version of him, yes, but those were the only differences James could see. He looked at the other two in the room for an explanation as his mind tried to make sense of what he was seeing. "Wha—? How?"

"I don't know, Prongs. I found him in an alley and no one else was around. He doesn't have the Mark and I've never seen him before and I've never heard Snape mention him. Maybe it's just some freaky look alike or maybe a distant relative of yours...?" Sirius said all this with wild gestures.

"Maybe…" said James distantly, before drawing in a deep breath. He turned back to the boy's injuries and continued to work with steady hands even though on the inside he was reeling with surprise.

"I couldn't just leave him there; he's just a kid." Sirius continued, wringing his wrists, looking sufficiently frazzled. "He's just a kid who looks just like my godson…what the fuck is going on?!"

"Calm down, Sirius," Harry spoke in a collected and tolerable voice. "You did the right thing. Besides, that kid saved your life. No Death Eater would’ve done that. You should've seen it, dad. Malfoy was a second away from killing Sirius and then this kid let out this-this pure, unaltered magical energy. Knocked those fuckers right out!"

"Harry James Potter!" Lily gasped from the bedroom door, making all three men jump and turn. "When have I ever allowed that sort of language in this house?!"

Harry had the decency to look sheepish, running a hand through his hair. "Sorry, mum. Didn't mean anything by it."

"James," Lily continued in a horrified voice, ignoring Harry and staring at the mutilated boy lying on the bed. "What's going on? Who's that?"

James regained his concentration and bent back over the look-a-like. "I don't know; Harry and Sirius found him during the battle."

Sirius quickly recounted the story to the her, who interjected with gasps and soft cries. When he was finished, Lily moved quickly to the other side of the bed and took the boy's hand, her heart-shaped face so white, her freckles stood out more than usual.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked James with resolution on her face.

"Yes, thanks—give him a 7mm dose of blood replenishing potion and then a 3mm dose of that green potion. It'll start fighting any infection he might develop."

Lily worked quickly and efficiently. Though she wasn't a healer, Lily had learned enough from James from the scrapes and broken bones that Sirius, Harry, and James had incurred to be a reliable assistant to James when he needed one.

"Mum!" called a voice from down the hall. There was a sound of thumping feet. "Where is everybody?"

"Willow, go upstairs to your room," Lily ordered in a strained voice, looking up briefly from where she was carefully injecting a pink potion to boy's upper arm.

"What?" the voice came closer and then James' fourteen-year-old daughter stood in the doorway, taking in the scene with wide eyes. She was tall like her father and her hair, a deep, volcanic red, reached her mid back in an array of wild curls. She had her father's eyes, large and hazel. She absentmindedly scratched her freckled cheek and stepped further
into the room. "What's going on?"

"Willow!" Lily scolded through gritted teeth. "I told you to go to your room! I don't want you to see this!"

"Mum, I'm not a kid!" Willow protested, moving closer still, her eyes alight with curiosity. "Tell her, Uncle Sirius! I want to help!"

"No," James interjected firmly before Sirius could even open his mouth, turning briefly to look at his daughter. "Why don't you fire-call Remus and ask him if you can spend the night at his place."

"What?!" Willow screeched in an apoplectic tone. "Why? No!"

"Willow!" James shouted in rare form. "Do as you're told!"

His daughter, knowing better to argue any further, spun on her heel and stomped away, all the while muttering under her breath.

James turned back to the boy, ignoring his daughter. He banished the kid's flannel pajama pants and used both his hands to examine the swollen knee. "Bloody hell, looks like he dislocated the joint and shattered the knee cap. Lily, could you measure me out 30mm of skelegrow? Might take a night or two to completely heal.”

"Do you think we should contact Dumbledore?" asked Harry, running a hand through his untidy mop of hair. He was still staring at the boy's face. "Merlin, it's like a blast from the past. Was I that skinny?"

"No, your mother kept you well fed. And we shouldn't tell Dumbledore yet," added James, using his wand to clean off dried mud from the boy's legs. "Dumbledore's busy enough with the Order as it is and we don't know anything for certain about this boy, yet. Let’s just wait until the boy is stable and able to talk to us." Lily handed him a large syringe filled with a yellowish liquid. James took it with a muttered 'thanks' and carefully inserted it into the child's swollen knee and pushed the plunger.

Suddenly the boy expelled a great gasp and jerked violently. "Oy!" James shouted, using his free hand to secure the kid's injured leg. "Grab him—somebody!" Sirius immediately jumped forward and pinned the boy by his torso.

"James, he's awake!" his friend exclaimed, shocked. James inhaled a sharp breath and looked up in disbelief.

Eyes as brilliant as emeralds were rolling in their sockets in blatant terror. They locked with James' eyes briefly. "No!" the boy gasped in a raspy voice, his chest heaving with ragged breaths. "Stop! Ge’off me!" the boy began to fight, clawing at Sirius' arms with his hand. The gash in his side began to bleed profusely again.

"Lily! A sedative!" James said hurriedly as he withdrew the needle and used both arms to hold his legs down.

For such a skinny thing, the boy sure was strong. He flailed and kicked as though under attack, aggravating his injuries in the process.

"James," Lily cried, holding out a different syringe. James leaned on the boy's legs and took the needle.

"Lily, hold his legs as best you can and Harry, grab his arm and hold it as still as possible!"

Harry quickly complied and held the boy's arm with his hands.

"Steady, steady…" James injected the potion quickly into his vein. The potion went into effect nearly instantaneously. The boy went limp.

Sirius and Harry let go and backed away from the bed. James checked his patient's pulse again. The kid looked at him with sluggish, brilliantly green eyes. "Hey, kiddo," said James gently, giving the boy a warm smile in attempt to soothe him. "I just need you to relax; you're in good hands."

The boy moved his lips as though to speak but the only thing that came out with a bubble of blood that burst then slid down the boy's chin and neck. James took a damp, warm cloth and wiped it away. "Don't try to talk; everything is going to be fine. Just close your eyes and sleep. Just let the potion do its job and sleep."

The boy was out before James even finished talking.
________________________________________

***AU Remus, AU world***

Remus Lupin snoozed in his overstuffed armchair, the book he had been reading lay open, its pages rumpled and bent from overuse. The dying embers in the fireplace cast a warm glow on the otherwise dark sitting room and made little shadows dance on the walls. An overlarge dog slept at the foot of the sleeping man, grunting and twitching as it dreamed.

The fireplace suddenly blazed green with a whoosh! of emerald flames.

Remus Lupin awoke with a start, the book he had been holding loosely in his lap slipped and landed with a dull thump on the Saint Bernard's head. Winston lumbered to his feet in protest with a shake of his large head. He let out a rumbling, deep-chested bark. Straightening fast, Remus reached for his wand on the side table but was stopped by a familiar voice.

"It's just me, Uncle Remus," Willow picked herself up from the hearth of the fireplace, her freckled face twisted into a scowl. Winston padded over to the young girl, head butting her in her midriff. She gave the dog a good scratch behind the ears. "My dad sent me over here. He wants to know if I can spend the night."

"Of course, Willow," Remus answered with a bleary smile, stretching his arms above his head before slowly getting to his feet. He gestured Willow over for a hug and she obliged, wrapping her arms around her godfather's middle. "It's been a while, eh?" he said, planting a kiss in her hair. "So, what's going on over there?"

"Something too 'mature' for me to handle," grumbled the teenage girl, breaking free from the hug and picking Remus' book up off the floor. "Dad had some sort of critical patient and I guess mum thought the blood and gore was too much for a 'child' to handle." She tossed the book on the couch and plopped down next to it. "I am not a child!" she declared in outrage. "I don't mind blood and stuff!"

"Well, you know your mother," Remus said in a placating voice, summoning two bottles of butterbeer. He handed one over and settled back into his arm chair. Winston returned to his spot at Remus' feet, his tail thumping the hardwood floor. "She just doesn't want you to grow up too fast and she wants to protect you."

Willow popped the cap of her offered butterbeer and took a drink. "But it's just blood! Mum knows that I want to be an emergency responder like dad! How am I ever going to learn if she won't let me near it?"

Remus chuckled at the look on her goddaughter's face. "You're only fourteen, Willow. You still have plenty of time to learn. It's not that bad being a kid, eh? Enjoy it while you can. You know, my years at Hogwarts were some of the best of my life."

"I know, I know…I've heard the stories…" Willow swept up her long hair and piled it on top her head for several moments before letting it fall down again in disarray. Whenever she did this, it always made Remus think of Lily when she was younger. Smiling to himself at the touch of nostalgia, he took a sip of his beverage. Willow leaned forward and rested her chin on her hand. "Do you think I'm weird for being fascinated with gory stuff?"

Remus smiled at her, "Just a little bit."

Willow laughed at his answer and playfully stuck out her tongue before taking another drink of her butterbeer.

To say that Remus had been shocked when James and Lily had come to him about being Willow's godfather was an understatement. At first he had refused, using his condition to prove that he would be a terrible guardian for any child. But when Lily had placed the tiny baby in Remus' arms and he looked into those round hazel eyes and gently touched the baby-fine curls of fire-red hair, he had forgotten all those silly reasons and the only thing that passed his lips was the word 'yes'.

Remus had never felt more a part of something than he had that day, in that moment when he held that tiny little girl in his arms. And that feeling never faded. He didn't know why James and Lily had entrusted such a precious and priceless thing to him but he was sure glad they did.

"Hey, Uncle Remus, fancy a game of chess?" Willow interrupted his musings, a smile showing dimples in her cheeks.

"Sounds great," answered Remus, drawing in a deep breath to bring himself back to the present. "Why don't you get the board and I'll get us some cocoa and biscuits?"

Willow stood and headed towards the storage room while Remus went for the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later they were sitting in front of the fireplace, munching biscuits and sipping cocoa.

"You know that Ron has never lost a chess game?" said Willow as she moved a pawn across the board.

"Really?" asked Remus, studying his next move. "Actually, I think I've heard that before."

"It could just be that he usually only plays with Harry, and everyone knows that Harry is complete pants at chess. Even I beat him sometimes."

"Well, you know that your father is terrible at chess as well," said Remus, moving one of his knights to knock out Willow's pawn. "It might be genetic."

"Well, I didn't get that gene." Willow squinted her eyes at the board and crinkled her nose. Finally, she moved her castle.

"Maybe it just hasn't kicked in yet, eh?" Remus pointed out with a wry smile.

“That’s impossible,” she said, giving Remus a very teenager-esque look.

"Perhaps," Remus said with a half-smile before looking down and instructing his queen to move three squares and waited, watching the board for Willow's next move.

When she didn't move or speak for several moments, he looked up and saw that she was staring straight ahead, a vacant, faraway look in her hazel eyes and her lips paper white. Her body was making little rocking movements.

"Willow?" he asked gently. When there was no reply, he stood and walked around the chess table and sat down next to his goddaughter. He wrapped his arm about her shoulders and pulled her close. Her body remained rigid against him and she made no indication that she knew he was there.

This was a common thing with Willow. The first time it had happened, James and Lily panicked and took her to St. Mungo's, thinking she was having some sort of fit. Turned out, Willow was having a vision of James falling down the stairs and breaking his arm the next day.

James had claimed that there was no seer blood in his family but when he tripped over the family cat and, indeed, broke his arm then they had no choice but to accept that Willow was a sort of seer. They weren't much like predictions as they were just 'pictures' that she saw in head of happenings going on. It ranged from what her mother was making for dinner that night to Harry being ambushed by Death Eaters.

This one only lasted a couple minutes and when Willow came to, Remus had a pain relief potion ready for her. Blinking fast to gather her bearings, she took the potion from him and gulped it fast before falling back against the cushions of the couch, a look of deep thought on her face.

"Anything interesting?" Remus asked as casually as he could though the sight of Willow having these visions always unsettled him.

"It was weird," Willow said softly, scratching her nose briefly. "There were two Harrys."

Remus raised his eyebrows, "Two Harrys?" he asked in surprise. "A prank? Or polyjuice?"

"No…" she said distantly, staring at Winston who was sleeping in his dog bed by the fire. “One of the Harrys was ours but the other was different…younger and smaller, I guess. It was weird."

Remus leaned back against the couch as well and thought about what she had just said, but was unable to think up an explanation. "Weird," He agreed.

Willow curled up against his side and sighed. "I'm so tired.”

"You want to go to bed, then?"

"No. I'm fine here," She answered and moments later she was fast asleep. Remus laid his head back and closed his eyes, feeling content and peaceful. There was no thought of two Harrys in his mind as he, too, fell asleep.
________________________________________

***Lily, AU world***

The boy laid motionless, his face as pale as the linen sheets. Lily gently his hand and caressed the skin of the back of his hand. The fingers remained limp in her palm and he gave no sign that he was aware of her presence or touch.

"His parents must be worried sick," she murmured to James across the room. She had been in the position of a parent with a missing child once before. It had been horrific. During that period of her life, she had been stuck in a place of utter and inexplicable fear. It was a time of feeling like an utter failure, of feeling like she was being slowly, painfully pulled down into a sandpit of horror until she was in over her head. She never wanted to experience that again.

James lifted his head and studied his wife from his position on the other side of the bed. He looked tired and drained. "I doubt it," he answered after a moment. His fists clenched tightly so that the knuckles were splotched red and white.

Lily waited for him to explain what he meant.

James sighed and ran a hand through his messy black hair. "These injuries, Lily, they weren't made by magic—maybe exaggerated by magic, but not initially caused. I've seen many types of injuries during my rotation in the pediatric ward at St. Mungo’s, I saw many abuse cases…"

A cold, sick feeling settled in the pit of Lily's stomach. "Oh, James…" she swallowed hard, appalled. “You don't think his own parents dumped him in an alley for dead?"

"I won't know for sure until he wakes up—and that's if he willingly speaks." James sighed and dropped his chin to his chest in a fit of congestive coughs.

Lily brought the hand she held to her cheek. The skin was warm with fever and a wave of protectiveness washed over her with overwhelming intensity. "Let's keep him," she blurted without further thought.

James stilled and for several moments they sat in awkward silence with only the sound of the boy's shallow breathing.

"Lily," James began hesitantly. "He's not a stray animal that we can randomly pick up off the streets and make ours. He still has a family out there somewhere."

"But you said—"

James waved an interrupting hand at her. "What I said was entirely theory. I can't know for sure," He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We're not entirely sure if the boy is safe—he looks exactly like a Potter—he looks exactly like our son! There are no other Potters left besides our family. This boy could be Death Eater! I could've just saved a Death Eater!"

Lily closed her eyes, attempting to control her raging emotions. "He's just a child. I have this-this feeling that we should protect him—call it a woman's intuition."

Both adults grew quiet when the unconscious boy let out a shuddering breath before going motionless again.

“I need a shower,” James muttered and standing up from his chair. He still had the boy’s dried blood on his clothes and he looked ready for a good sleep. “Give me thirty and I’ll be back.”

He left Lily there in silence. Lily looked back down at the boy, her heart relentlessly pounding within her. She sat there for a long while, wishing she knew why.
________________________________________

*** Canon Harry, AU world***

Harry was vaguely aware of the voices floating over him and the warm hand that held his. But the pain was sharp and clear and the pounding of his heart echoed with painful intensity in his head the more conscious he became. Each breath he took seared in his chest and he struggled and fought to take another. When he opened his eyes, his world was just a swirl of colors and shapes and his stomach gave a nasty lurch of protest. With a weak groan, he closed his eyes and struggled to force himself to fall back into unconsciousness where the pain would be diluted and the darkness would be soothing and silent.

More voices. A little louder this time.

Harry slowly came back to semi-awareness where the black liquid he had been floating in faded to gray-darkness. He could feel the warmth of a blanket draped over him and hear the soft murmurs of voices. Harry frowned at whoever was trying to bring him back for he didn't want to leave the place where time and pain and fear didn't existence.
But the voices became more insistent, prodding him to leave his mental sanctuary.

"Hey kiddo, I'll let you go back to sleep in just a moment," said a somewhat familiar voice above him.

Harry tried to speak but could only take in a painful breath. Why did it hurt so much to breathe?

"It's okay, you're okay. Could you tell me your name?" asked the voice as a gentle hand touched his cheek. "He's feverish. Could you get me a fever reducer—no, the green one—yeah, right there."

Harry felt his consciousness slipping again and he was ok with that.

"Hang on kid, I'll let you sleep in moment. Can you just give me your name?"

Harry drew in a raspy breath and managed to speak in a voice that was barely a whisper. "Harry."

And then there was no more.

________________________________________

Chapter Text

***Canon Remus, Canon world***

"Dumbledore will be angry if he knew we were here," Remus whispered, fidgeting as he stood on the tidy pathway lined with nodding daffodils leading up to the Dursley household. The sky above was a rich black velvet pinned with a million stars that glittered like diamonds. The night was cool and peaceful. There was no wind blowing and no cars driving by; only silence. Remus glanced around at a pale Sirius and a sallow-faced Severus. They stood an arm distance apart, Severus with his arms crossed and Sirius with his fists clenched. Remus swallowed hard. "Look, maybe we should wait for approv—"

"Remus, shut up!" Sirius snapped suddenly, his face contorted in anger. "Just shut up!"

Remus instantly fell silent and looked away from the animagus, stung. He knew Sirius was suffering and when Sirius suffered, he lashed out. He had been going around Grimmauld in a horrible mood, breaking things, screaming at Kreacher, and picking fights with whomever he could.

"We're wasting time while you two bicker like an old married couple; the muggles could be here any minute and then we will be facing Dumbledore," hissed Snape, glaring at them both with dark eyes.

Sirius swung his body to face the Potion's Master, his face twisted in disgust. Remus quickly stepped between them in an attempt to dial things down. "Why the hell are you here in the first place? It's not like you ever cared for Harry!" Sirius shoved Remus out of the way, who stumbled. "Don’t think I didn’t hear how nasty you’ve been to him since he set foot in Hogwarts!”

Severus made a sneering face but kept his stony silence.

Sirius visibly bristled at the lack of response and moved towards the potion's master.

Remus quickly stepped in between them again and placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. Sirius shrugged him off but turned away from Severus, making his way to the front door with Remus in his wake.

Once entering, Sirius took the stairs two at a time without a word to the other two.

Remus called after him. "We'll just look around down…" a door slammed, "here."

"Pathetic," said Severus in a scathing voice, igniting his wand for some light.

Remus glanced at him but said nothing in reply. He lit his wand as well and stepped deeper into the house, his eyes slowly roving around as the impeccably neat surroundings.

When he entered the kitchen, he wrinkled his nose at the sterile smell that reminded him of a muggle hospital. Besides the smell, though, things looked normal—well, normal for a couple of neat- freak muggles. Feeling suddenly light-headed, he stepped over to the sink and gripped the counter, he swallowed hard, thinking he was about to get sick.

But the nausea passed quickly and Remus breathed in several deep and calming breaths. Things had been a terrible blur these past couple days. Remus had tried his best to be supportive to Sirius and Molly and the devastated kids, but there were times when Remus had to retreat to a secluded area and put his head between his knees to slow his sudden hyperventilating. He had cared for Harry deeply, even though he didn't know the boy as well as he would have liked and the loss was hitting him hard.

After calming his racing heart, Remus moved out of the kitchen and stepped back into the hall. Severus hadn't moved much. He was standing in front of the bolted cupboard, his face sour and strained. "Now why, do you think, someone would lock their cupboard by a bolt from the outside?" he asked coldly as Remus came into view.

Remus stared at him blankly. "What?"

Severus looked up at Remus with an intolerable glare before moving to unlock the cupboard with a flick of his wand. The small door swung open a crack, it’s rusty hinges squeaking. He used his foot to push it the rest of the way open and he didn't even hesitate before he reached inside and switched on the light.

Remus made a face at the moldy, metallic stench that wafted from the open door. He crouched down and froze, his heart skipping a beat. There, on the inside of the door, a child-sized handprint smeared across the white, chipped paint, dried brown and cracked; it was as though someone had tried to hold the cupboard door from being shut. Looking further, Remus saw brown splotches on the faded carpet. A small, ratted half-mattress was stuffed in the corner with a flat, stained pillow propped up against the wall. Surrounding the bed were mops and brooms and other various cleaning supplies. A couple of little action figures littered the dusty shelves and child-like drawings were taped to the inside wall; drawings of a flying motorcycle, green lights, and stick figures of a man and a woman holding hands with a smaller stick figure. A teddy bear with a missing arm and no eyes was slumped on the mattress, its stitched-in smile somewhat eerie-looking on its sightless face. Remus reached for the stuffed animal and was surprised to find it was covered in something dried and crusted.

It's blood, he thought with a thrill of alarm racing through him. It's all blood.

Remus dropped the bear and backed out of the cupboard, his heart pounding. "Severus-Severus, it's all blood. It's-it's covering…" Remus hunched over, using the wall for support, heaving several times before retching on the clean tile.

Severus said nothing for several long minutes as Remus remained doubled over, the sickening splatters of vomit the only sound in the silent house. When Remus was finished, he straightened, feeling the hammer of agony beating upon him like hammer blows, again and again.

"Go clean yourself up, Lupin." Severus said suddenly, his tone unforgiving and his dark eyes unreadable.

Remus nodded slowly and headed back to the kitchen to splash some cold water on his face. As the cool water ran down his neck and under the collar of his shirt, Remus replayed what he had seen in his head over and over, trying to make sense of everything but not getting very far. How could this have happened? How could Harry have gone through his life like this without anybody knowing? Why didn’t Harry ever say anything to anyone?

The panic was beginning to set in again. He twisted the knob and the water stopped running. He slowly slid down the cabinets and onto the floor, eyes unseeing; the guilt was threatening to overwhelm him. He should have done something, anything. He should have fought for Harry. Lily and James had told him stories about her sister and her overweight husband and their pig of a child. He had seen the fading bruises on Harry's arms while he was teaching at Hogwarts. He had always assumed that they were from Quidditch and boyish rough housing.

How could he have been so stupid?

But the boy was a genius at hiding it. He never acted like an abused child. Harry had friends, was brave and never cowered. But the more Remus thought about it, the more he began to see what he had been previously so blind to. The minute flinches, the small flickers of fear in his brilliant green eyes when Remus had moved towards him too fast, the impulses to jump in the face of danger with no thought of himself like he didn't care if anything happened to him.

It was all there. All right in front of him. And Remus never saw it.

"Get off the floor."

Remus gave a start and looked around to see Snape standing just inside the kitchen. His face was impassive and his eyes were darker than ever.

"I said get off the floor," he repeated firmly, a sneer on his face. "You're doing nobody good sitting there sniveling."

Remus knew he should've been insulted but he couldn't find a single cell within him to care. He couldn't care. He had failed everyone that he had ever cared about. James. Lily. Sirius. Now Harry. What was the point? How could he just continue on when so much bad had happened because he failed to look closer?
Snape stalked over to his side and grabbed him by the upper arms before hauling him to his feet.

"Get a hold of yourself, werewolf!" Snape snapped. "Brush yourself off, go get your dog, and prepare to leave."

"Leave?" Remus repeated faintly. "Why?"

"Lupin, look at me!" Snape demanded, giving Remus a severe shake. "Potter may not be dead. We haven't found a body and the Dark Lord has made no mention of him. Until we find a body, we will believe that the brat is still alive. And you sitting here, wallowing in self-pity, is not going to help him."

Remus felt anger flood his being. He ripped away from the greasy man, emotions flushing his face red. "What do you know, Severus?" he began in a rising, quaking voice. "You saw his bedroom. You saw that—that damn cupboard. They kept him in a cupboard! A child! They locked him up like an unwanted animal and I did nothing! I wasted years drowning in misery over James' and Lily's death and Sirius’ imprisonment and I let Harry slip away!"

"Just as you're doing now!" Snape exclaimed in a sudden fit of rage before quickly settling back into his impassive stance. "We need to leave."

Remus ignored him, dragging his hands down his face, giving himself a rather ghoulish look. "I did nothing while the James' son suffered in the dark."

Severus gave him no words of comfort. He only studied at Remus with emotionless eyes, thin lipped and uncaring. The two men stared at each other for several long minutes with nary a word spoken. Finally, Severus broke the silence.

"Are you done?"

Remus spun away from him, clenching his fists to hold back his rage. "Piss off," He snapped.

Snape took a step back. "Lupin," he said in an unwavering voice. "Each moment you spend acting on your emotions is another Potter has spent lost and perhaps in danger."

He's right, said a small voice of reason in the back of Remus' mind. You know he is. Why are you acting so childish when you don't know if Harry is truly dead? There's still hope.

There's always a little bit of hope. You owe it to Harry. You have to fight.

Remus drew in several deep breaths before turning back to the Potion's Master. "Severus, I apologize—"

"For Merlin's sake, grow a backbone, werewolf!"

Remus stared at the taller man, speechless.

"Lupin," Snape continued as though nothing had happened. "Go. Get. Black."

Remus obeyed.

________________________________________

***AU Harry, AU world***

"Looks like a full tropical storm blowing in," James remarked from his spot by the kitchen window.

Harry looked up from the table from where he was swirling his tea within its cup. He made a face, "Bugger, I was hoping to go for a fly," he muttered, taking a sip of his drink. "It'll be days before it's nice enough again."

James said nothing in reply, causing Harry to look up once more and eye his father whose gaze was very distant. The artificial kitchen light floating above him drained his face of all color, so that he looked ghostly beneath his mop of untidy black hair.

"All right, there?" Harry asked, somewhat concerned.

"Just thinking," answered James, his eyes never leaving the stormy outside.

"About the kid?" Harry guessed, playing with his tea again, using his finger to swirl the contents into a mini tornado. "He hasn't woken up yet?"

"I'm keeping him heavily sedated for now; he would be in too much pain to be awake. The stress would cause his body functions to slow the healing process. He’s not responding to magic like he should be." James finally turned from the window and went to the stove to pour himself a cuppa. "Once his internal organs are fully healed, I'll wean him from the sedation."

"And then what?"

"What do you mean?" asked James with a furrow of his brow. He sat down across from Harry and gently blew on his tea.

"I mean, what are you going to go with him once he wakes up?" Harry elaborated. He watched as his father settled into deep thought for a several moments before speaking.

"Dunno…I'm hoping he'll tell us what's happened to him and why he looks like you." James said. "I just hope we didn't make a mistake having him here. He could be some sort of nasty trick from Voldemort or something."

"I don't think he's dangerous," Harry mused. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his hands along his pants, before halting suddenly. "Oi, I forgot," He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a bracelet with black, blue, and purple beads. "The kid was holding onto this when I found him and Sirius," Harry tossed the bracelet onto the table and James reached for it.

"A fancy piece of jewelry? So?" James quirked an eyebrow at his son in question.

"Not just any fancy piece. Look at the beads," Harry gestured, pointing. "Those are ancient runes carved into them."

"Huh, bloody hell," James brought the bracelet close to his eyes, surprise flitting across his tired face. "You're right. I'm absolute rubbish at runes, though. Can you make anything of it?"

"No idea," said Harry with a grimace. He never elected to take the class while at Hogwarts but had regretted it five minutes into Divination. "But I bet it has something to do with this situation. And I bet Hermione would be able to decipher it."

"Didn't you say she's away in Spain for the summer?"

Harry shrugged. "She'll make a side trip for us, I've no doubt."

"Who will come back?"

Both men turned to see Lily shuffle slowly into the kitchen, looking completely exhausted. She dropped into a chair and ran a hand through her frizzing red hair. Her face was pale and her eyes were heavy-lidded with exhaustion.

"Be a dear, Harry, and pour me a cup of tea. Black, please." Lily looked at her son with tired, red eyes and Harry quickly obliged.

"Lily, you should go sleep," James said gentle admonishment, placing a hand on her arm in comfort. "You look as though you'll drop dead any moment."

"I'm fine," Lily waved him off dismissively. "Just need a strong cuppa and I'll be able to go back to that poor boy."

"He's under very heavy sedation and I have an alarm on him in case his stats worsen. There's no need to sit bedside 24 hours a day." James said, gently rubbing his wife's arm as he spoke.

"He shouldn't be alone, James. He's just a child." Lily argued in a hoarse voice, a high flush suddenly on her freckled cheeks.

James wisely retreated to avoid an argument, though he continued to steal worried glances at his wife.

Harry set the tea down in front of his mother and sat down again. "You know, I can sit by him a while so you guys can get some rest." He suggested tentatively, knowing better than to take sides when his parents had any sort of disagreement.

Lily smiled faintly at him. "That's all right, I'll be fine."

Harry shrugged and drained his cup. "Well, can't say that I didn't try." He pushed his chair back and stood, stretching his arms above his head until his elbows popped. "I'm off to write a letter to Hermione; see if she can't make a side trip to us."

Lily didn't answer, seemingly trying to drown herself in her cup of tea while James offered a brief nod.

Taking his leave, Harry made his way down the hall and towards the guest bedroom. He stopped at the doorway and stared at the boy still unconscious in the guest bed. His face appeared as white as the sheets he was lying on. Harry narrowed his eyes at the kid as he thought. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't perhaps a bit suspicious of the boy who could’ve been identical twin if it wasn’t for their apparent age difference. It couldn't be polyjuice for it would've worn off by now, and Harry had already checked for any hidden glamours.

He gave the boy one last glance before backing out of the room and towards the winding staircase that led him to his bedroom. His Barred Owl sat on her perch, her large dark eyes looking at him expectantly, as though she knew he was about to send off a letter.

"'ello, Baeye," he said affectionately, giving her a gentle stroke along her speckled head. "Fancy a trip to Spain?"

She hooted in response and he gave her an owl treat before heading for his cluttered desk in search of a parchment and quill.

Several hours later, Harry sprinted up the garden path in the downpour of blinding rain and through the back door. Leaning his broomstick against a corner, he removed his soaking shoes and socks and tossed them on a bench in the entry way.

"It's a full gale out there!" he exclaimed, shaking out his dripping hair, and walking into the kitchen to find James and Remus sitting at the table with steaming cups of tea in their hands. Lily stood at the sink, refilling another kettle to set on the stove.

"Harry, you're soaking wet!" Lily exclaimed with a hand on her hip, setting down the kettle. "You'll catch your death soaked to the bone like that. Are you a wizard or are you not?"

Without waiting for a reply, she pulled out her wand and pointed it at Harry.

Harry felt his clothes instantly dry in a rush of warm air. "Thanks, mum." He took a seat next to Remus and accepted a cup from his mother. "Bloody storm has brilliant timing," he said sarcastically.

Remus gave him a half smile and pushed the bowl of sugar towards him. He waited as Harry scooped a couple of spoonfuls of sugar into his tea before saying: "We were just talking about you."

Harry's eyebrows rose, "Well, that's not a surprise," he said with a grin, though inwardly he felt a bit suspicious at Remus’ statement. "I'm easy to talk about."

"Merlin, don't make me vomit in me tea." Willow made gagging sounds as she appeared at the other side of the kitchen, having come from the sitting room, carrying a mug. Her dark red hair was in two long, messy braids and she had a smile on her round face, but her hazel eyes were tired.

"Willow, manners," Lily corrected with a shake of her head though the corner of her mouth twitched with the hint of a smile.

Willow huffed.

With a chuckle, Remus continued. "Willow had a vision earlier, only a few moments really. She said she saw two Harrys—one younger than the other. It didn't make sense to me at first until I came here and your parents told me about your surprise guest."

The table had gone still and when Harry glanced at his younger sister, he saw that she was staring resolutely at the floor and what he could see of her face was red. He knew that she had always been embarrassed of her visions and whenever they were spoken of among the family and friends, she always became flushed and sulky. Despite the fact that she drove him barmy, Harry always felt for her at moments like this.

"We'll know more once he's awake and lucid enough to talk," James said as Harry continued to watch his sister shuffle her feet with downcast eyes. He wished he could think of something to say to cheer her up but nothing came to mind. He never was good at that sort of thing.

"It's all so strange isn't it?" Lily commented softly. "Are you sure he couldn't be some sort of distant cousin or Potter descendent?"

Harry looked away from Willow to see his father's response. James heaved a deep sigh and slowly shook his head. "No, Lily. The Potters have always been such a tight knit group. Everyone knows everyone else. If I had a cousin or a nephew or whatever that looked just like me or something, I would have known long before now. Besides, no Potter has green eyes like that. Well, except for Harry Potter."

Everyone turned to look at Harry who shrugged and grinned, "I guess I'm just special that way."

Willow let out another gagging noise while Remus and James both laugh.

"You've been spending too much time with Sirius, Harry," Lily said with a humorous shake of her head.

"Relax mum," Harry downed the rest of his tea and leaned back in his chair. "Just trying to lighten the mood. We already got one storm outside."

Just then Sirius came in stretching and yawning. "Damn you buggers are loud. What can a man do to get some shut eye around here?"

"That man can go to his own place," Harry's mother snipped back, but she stood to pour Sirius a cup a tea anyways.

"Try not to show me too much love, Lily-pad," Sirius dragged back the last empty chair and dropped into it. He certainly looked better after a shower and some sleep. His handsome face wasn't as pale as before and the dark circles were gone. A faint line of blood showed through the bandage on his forehead but other than that he seemed as spry as ever. Sirius grabbed a scone off James' plate and dipped it into his tea before scarfing it down. When he finally finished chewing, he spoke: "How's the kid doing?"

"He's more stable than he was last night but I still have him sedated to help him rest and heal," James said.

"Lucky kid," the animagus said. "I thought he wasn't going to last the night."

"Well, neither did I, but he's seems to be one hell of a fighter. I'm concerned about his side, though. It’s as if it’s been exacerbated by magic or something. A wound like that, no matter how deep, shouldn’t be refusing magical healing and without it, the gash will take a very long while to heal on its own. I sent a letter out to Severus though to see if he had potions that I don't have access to."

Sirius' face twisted in disgust and Harry could tell that it took a lot of self-control to hold back the scathing words he wanted to say about his least favorite person. Lily's warning glare probably helped.

"Well, I'm going to go check on him. Willow, you should go gather up all the candles you can find in case the muggle lights go out." He shot a playful look at his wife who flushed and swatted at his arm.

"Some things are hard to let go, ok? And it's easier when our muggle friends come over."

"And it's wonderful when all the lights go out," called out Willow sarcastically as she rummaged through the pantry for candles.

"Willow," James warned but Harry laughed and rose to help her.

"I think there are some candles in the upstairs bathroom; I'll go grab them."

James and Harry ascended the stairs together, James a little more slowly than his son. Before they parted ways at the top of the stairwell, Harry asked: "Do you really think he'll be ok?"

James ran a hand through his messy hair and sighed. "He's doing better physically but I don't know what kind of mental damage was done, and there's the fact that he might be a death eater. It's all so complicated. We'll only know with time."

Harry watched his father retreat to the end of the hall with a frown on his face before heading for the bathroom, lost in thought.

________________________________________

***Canon Harry, AU world; Two days later***

Harry first became aware of the numbness spreading through the tips of his limbs. Then he was aware of the pounding of his head. Then he heard the quiet voices floating above him.

Harry opened his eyes abruptly to be greeted by a blurry, indistinct world. "Where am I?" his voice was barely a hoarse whisper. He tried to sit up but his body refused to obey and remained limp. A flash of panic made his pulse spike.

"Relax, kid," said a soothing voice somewhere to his right. "You were in a lot of pain. I'm weaning you off the strong numbing potion you've been on for the past three days, and it will be a couple days longer before it wears off and you're fully mobile." A cool hand touched his forehead. "My name is James Potter and you are at my house. We thought it was best that we keep you out of St. Mungo's for now."

James Potter…James Potter…what?

Instead of being calmed, Harry instead felt the thrumming of his heart speed up. Why did he say James Potter?

James Potter? His father?

His father was dead.

The name sent a prickling sensation down his spine and his arms blossomed with rows of goose bumps. His insides gave him impression of being on a muggle roller coaster when the sudden dip sends your insides rolling up while the rest of you plummeted down.

Again, Harry halfheartedly tried to move but his body remained unresponsive. He could barely remember the last thing that had happened to him; everything was blurry and dark but he remembered the wand-fighting and death eaters and a lot of pain. Had he been captured? Was this some sort of sick joke?

"This is going to help you relax," said the gentle voice. "It'll burn for just a moment."

Harry felt it but he couldn't even flinch as the pinching of a needle slid in the flesh of his arm. Was he in a muggle hospital? He was unsure if wizard healers used needles. He fought the foggy feeling that fell over him but it was useless.

His world floated...like a wisp of gray cloud snatched up by the wind and flung into a dark night. He tried to lift his head, to speak, to tell everyone to leave him alone, but he continued to sink deeper and deeper until there was only the sound of his breathing. In…out…in…out…

And then darkness.

When Harry next resurfaced, he found that he could move his fingers and after blinking several times, he could see the room was flooded with the pink and orange of an early morning sunrise. He lazily rolled his eyes around, feeling rather content to stay in this fog where there was no pain, only warmth and gentle voices.
"It's just a break in the storm," said a woman’s voice somewhere above him. "Have you seen the town? The muggles are all boarded up in their houses."
Muggles? Harry was sure he knew the word but his brain too muddled to remember what it meant.

"You're almost out of the woods, kiddo," came the familiar man's voice. "Just sleep."

And there it was again: the burning of a needle and the sudden pressure of fluid rushing through his arm. Harry shivered and he stared dazedly at the ceiling, watching a large spindled-legged spider slowly pick its way across the ridges of the uneven wood, in no hurry to get where ever it was going. Distantly, he thought he heard the thrum of sleeted rain beating against the window and the incessant ticking of a clock somewhere nearby. He felt the bed beneath him start to sway as the potion took hold and his body suddenly felt very heavy.

Someone started to sing and Harry closed his eyes and drifted somewhere far beyond reality.

It could have been hours, it could have been days but when Harry was next aware, he felt warm fingers pressing into the inside of his wrist. He jerked in surprise and tried to pull his arm away

"Calm down, calm down," said that same, male voice and a blurred face came into his eyesight. "I'm just checking your pulse."

"No—don't— " he muttered groggily, stubbornly attempting to pull his wrist away from the unfamiliar hand. Even though his head was whirling, Harry found that he could grasp at the threads of reality a lot easier now and movement wasn't as hard.

Harry closed his eyes and shivered and listened to the sound of his heart pulsate through his head, steady and unrelenting. The hand dropped his wrist and he heard the scooting of a chair as the stranger stood.

"Next time you wake up, you'll feel normal again," came the voice, now distant and sounding as if someone was speaking to him from the other side of a double-plated window.

"I'm sorry for this." And then, for the thousandth time, he felt a needle being injected into his skin, followed by the sensation of falling backwards.

Harry groaned, struggling to keep his eyes from shutting permanently. The room had become a swamp of color and lights, dancing and shimmering with no distinct lines or shapes. A light, warm hand brushed his hair back from his forehead. For a moment, he was able to cling to the edge as he listened to the last of the voices speaking softly in his head slowly fade into nothing, leaving his head blank and clear. It was then that he let go.

"Sleep…" said the voice. “Just sleep."

Nothing.

***

A soft, warm hand pressed gently to his forehead; it was soothing, tender, easing away the restless dreams tangled in his darkness. The voice that had spoken to him so often these past days spoke close to his ear, crowding out the cloudiness and bringing him forth into a dimly lit room. At first, everything was just a blur of colors and shapes, surreal and unfamiliar. His head thudded dully, creating pressure along his temple. Harry closed his eyes to sink back into the black lake of oblivion, unwilling to bring the world to sharp focus yet no matter who was waiting on the other side. But the voice was persistent, like the buzz of an alarm clock, pushing back unconsciousness, not allowing him to slip under again.

Harry blinked once, twice, and everything swirled back into a blurred focus. He blinked again, and, even though there was little light, it still stung his groggy eyes and he had to squint.

"Glasses," He croaked faintly, slowly as though drugged. He tried to lift his head but it seemed to weigh a thousand pounds.

"No," the voice contradicted soothingly, "We lost your glasses but we'll find you another pair. Can you tell me how're you are feeling?"

"Like Hell..." Harry mumbled in response, closing his eyes once more.

"Sounds about right," chuckled the man. "Actually thinking about it now, I might have an extra pair of glasses around here somewhere back from my Hogwarts days."

“I’ll go look,” said another voice; this one sounded somewhat familiar.

Harry shook his head, attempting to clear away the buzz of noise seeping in and out of his mind. He lifted his arm to swipe at his damp face and felt a painful, sickening tug from his side. He immediately halted the movement and grimaced.

"Try not to move too much,” said the man as if he noticed Harry’s pain. “You’re not fully healed quite yet.”

Harry was starting to feel more awake now and more alarmed by the second. It bothered him that he couldn’t recognize any of the voices speaking to him. "Where am I?" he asked as coherently as he could. "Where're my glasses? What'd you do with my glasses?"

"Easy there. Calm down. My son is getting you a pair to wear until we get your own."

"Here," said a younger voice. "These might help."

Harry felt the frames placed into his hands and he automatically pushed them onto his face. The world immediately went into sharp focus and for a moment, it hurt Harry's eyes to have everything so sharp and detailed. He closed his eyes momentarily before struggling to sit up. Hands helped him up and propped up pillows behind his back.
Harry looked around and for a moment couldn't understand what he was seeing. There was a tall man directly to the left of the bed he was in and at far end of the room another man stood in the shadows, with his hands in his pockets. And then, just inside the door stood…himself?

Harry sat frozen in shock, unable to move, unable to breathe as he stared.

But it wasn't him. It was an older him. A more mature him. Tall and muscular and tan, his stance was relaxed and confident and his brilliant green eyes watched Harry like a hawk. Harry stared back, not knowing what to say or if he was even still dreaming.

"Easy, there. It's all a bit confusing for us as well…"

Harry whipped his head at the man standing next to his bed and it was like someone had pushed him off the face of a cliff and his heart remained hovering somewhere in midair as he fell. Alarm bells went off in his head. His senses became suddenly hyperaware of everything around him. The smells, sounds, colors, and lights…everything coming into an extreme focus.

He looked just liked the pictures that Harry had in the scrapbook Hagrid had given him, except older, with laugh lines and dark circles under his eyes.

"Is this some sort of sick joke?" Harry demanded, all his weariness suddenly gone. His blood ran cold. He thought he was going to pass out when he realized he was breathing in
short, panicked puffs. "Who are all of you?"

"It’s all right there, calm down. We are not going to hurt you. My names is James Potter this is my son, Har—"

"No!" Harry shouted, enraged by this fallacy. "No, James Potter is dead!" Silence. It was like someone had taken a television remote and pressed the fast-forward button while
leaving him in slow motion. For a moment it was just him, his mind racing through the events that had happened this past week and what had lead up to this point—it was a like a bad movie being played over and over and over behind his closed eyelids. But he couldn't make sense of any of it. He remembered his drunken uncle and the pain and sickness. He also remembered waking up in a dark alley and there were death eaters.

Death eaters…it suddenly clicked in his brain.

So he had apparently been captured and this was all part of Voldemort's elaborate plan to break him before killing him.

When Harry opened his eyes, time sped up again. Without really thinking, he threw aside his covers, ignoring the flash of pain that hit him. He grabbed the wand he had seen resting on the bedside table, thinking it stupid for someone to leave it there and briefly wondering where his own wand was. He felt a sweep of nausea after his feet hit the floor and the room spun around him; for a moment, he feared he would pass out. Harry stumbled; his injured leg buckling and he fell into the window curtains, barely managing to not rip them off the wall.

"Whoa!" shouted 'James' from the other side of the bed, his face a picture of surprise. He obviously hadn't expected this reaction. It was obviously an act, Harry was sure.

Harry managed to balance himself with most of his weight on his good leg and he pointed the stolen wand at the impersonator. "Stay back," he warned, swaying slightly. "If you come any closer I'll hurt you!"

"Hey, now!" said the other man who had been in the shadows and had kept quiet up until this moment. Harry jerked to see yet another doppelganger stepping towards him. This one was portraying his godfather though a younger, more handsome one without the lines and scars of Azkaban.
His body felt as though it had been shocked. Harry looked around wildly for a moment-at 'James' and 'Sirius', at the watercolor painting hanging from the wall, at this other self of his, then at the ceiling which had begun to lurch and sway.

Harry's breathing dragged his shoulders up, then down. His head cleared, and then fogged again. Yellow slid across the back of his eyelids, first in dots, then in waves. The wand in his hand quivered. "Back. Up!" He shouted again, jabbing his wand at 'Sirius' who immediately raised his hands in the air as a sign of surrender.

"Look, boy—" he started snappishly.

"Harry!" Harry interrupted with his voice an octave higher than usual, cracking under the stress. "My name is Harry! Not boy!"

'Sirius' and Harry's doppelganger made brief eye contact but then made no other move.

"I get it," Harry continued. "I know this some sort of perverted game and I'm not playing. Tell Voldemort he's not-not going to get me this time. There are probably loads of people already out there looking for me!"

"Listen…er...”

“Harry!”

“Harry," 'James' continued in a slow and level voice. "We have no idea what you're talking about. No one here has to get hurt. Just put down my wand and let’s talk this out."

"Say all you want!" Harry shouted, sparks spitting from the tip of the wand. "But I know you are not James Potter! He died eleven years ago!"

Confusion flitted across the man's face followed by an expression that Harry was sure meant the man thought Harry was touched in the head.

"What's going on in here?" said an alarmed voice from the doorway. A woman, slender and pretty, appeared. Her red hair was pulled into a loose bun and her cheeks and upper arms were sprinkled with many cinnamon colored freckles. She looked around with eyes as green as Harry's, and surveyed the scene with concern and then with understanding.
"Sweetie, you are ok," She said gently, sweetly, her eyes very sincere. "Sweetie, lower the wand and let us talk this out."

Something inside Harry snapped like a steel wire that had been pulled too tight. Anger like he had never felt before flooded him like tiny needles rushing through his veins. He lurched forward unsteadily, wand erect, straight for the woman who dared take his mum's form.

But someone blocked his way and he found himself at wand point by his own older self; menacing green eyes, like hard jewels, stared him down.

"Stand down, kid." He spoke softly but the warning in his voice was quite clear.

"Harry, lower your wand." 'James's' voice was very tense this time.

"No!" They said in unison. Harry trembled as he stared at himself, then at the woman who was so much like his mum. She stood at the door, her face scared and pale.

"Look, kid," said his older self. "We have no affiliation with Voldemort. That man over there is my father, James Potter, and he is obviously very much alive. The woman behind me?
She's my mum, Lily Potter. And I don't care if you're some scrawny fuckwit but if you don't lower your wand, you’ll regret it."

Harry gritted his teeth and his heart sped off like a runaway train with no hope of stopping. He heard the threat—he understood it but he felt no fear. His whole body felt very hot and he raised himself to full height, "No!" His voice exploded out of him and his open brashness surprised even him. " James and Lily Potter were my parents and Voldemort murdered them when I was just a baby. So this whole bit doesn’t fool me—so you all can just shove the hell off!

The silence in the room was thick and penetrable. The other Harry stared at him, his eyebrows crinkled, his face unnaturally still as he studied his younger self. He didn’t seem to know how to respond with what Harry had said.

All the fuzziness in Harry's brain had disappeared and in its place, the pain was returning with pounding force. At first it had been just sharp, occasional spikes that shot up his leg and had been easily ignored but as the minutes ticked by with the room in tense, frozen silence, the pain was starting to become a constant excruciating and unbearable feeling. Sweat rolled down his back and an airy sort of light headedness took hold.

Harry watched as his other self relaxed slightly, perhaps it was because he saw Harry was beginning to crumble or maybe he realized his ruse was up. Harry struggled to keep his wand firm and straight.

"Harry," it was 'James' again. "Please. Sit down. Let us help you and we'll figure everything out. You're going to hurt yourself."

Harry ignored the man but he couldn't ignore the pain. He struggled to hide it. He couldn't let these people see he was weak but it was too intense, like icy fire crawling shooting up his leg and through his stomach and chest. Harry recoiled from it, shuddering, gasping, his entire body sagging. Hands were there to catch him. Harry squeezed his eyes shut, seeing pinpricks of white light spiraling in his vision and a groan, deep and unearthly, broke from his throat. Even then, Harry tried to weakly fight back but it was only moments before he felt the pricking of a needle and rush of potion up into his arm.

Unconsciousness greeted him like an old friend.