A/N: This may be the least original story that I ever write, but it will be fun. I've never stumbled across any other stories where Harry goes back in time before learning anything about the wizarding world, without the desperate attempts to change the future and the bittersweet moments and such, so if there are any out there and this seems similar to them it's entirely coincidence. Also I am actual ADHD garbage because now I have 8 WIPs and if you're waiting on updates for other stories I am so sorry but I swear I will get back to them as soon as I can.
30 July, 1991 - A Petrol Station in the Middle of Nowhere
Dorea Lily Potter sat miserably in the backseat of her Uncle Vernon's car. For the last week, someone had been trying very hard to send her a letter. That someone had known exactly where she slept each night, and had the most creative methods of post delivery Dorea had ever seen. Within the space of a week, she feared it may have driven her uncle completely mad.
The Durlsey family and Dorea had spent most of the day in the car, driving from place to place while Vernon deemed each of them unsuitable. The unsuitable locations were not hotels - the letter-sender had found them last night at the Railview Hotel in Cokeworth - but forests, fields, and highways. About ten minutes ago, Uncle Vernon had seemed to have an epiphany. They'd stopped at this petrol station, and the Dursleys had gone inside for "supplies", leaving Dorea in the car.
Suddenly, Dorea realized she needed to use the loo. Unsure if wherever her uncle would take them next would have plumbing, she decided it was best to go now. If she was quick, her aunt and uncle might not even notice. Surely, Dudley would take ages choosing snacks and begging his parents to increase the limit they set on the number of sweets he could get.
Dorea unclicked her safety belt and opened the car door. Before she could make her way to the loo, however, there was a bright flash of light and Dorea fell unconscious.
Date Unknown - Location Unknown
Dorea woke on a busy street that looked nothing like the back roads her Uncle had been driving all day. The people bustling by on the street paid no mind to the disoriented, frightened ten-year-old.
As soon as she was able, Dorea stood up and smoothed out her clothes. She supposed she might look a bit homeless in her cousin's oversized hand-me-downs, and that may be why no one was reacting to her presence. At a loss for anything else to do, Dorea picked a direction and began walking. If she could find a police station, she could ask for help. Hopefully the Dursleys would at least bother to report her missing.
Looking for a police station, however, Dorea quickly became very lost. The streets became dirtier and Dorea realized she'd wandered into a less-than-ideal neighborhood of London, if that was indeed where she was. "Got any money, kid?" asked a teenager leaning against a building, smoking a cigarette. He looked like a thinner version of where Dorea imagined Dudley in a few years. Dorea shook her head quickly and tried to keep walking, but the teenager grabbed her by the arm.
Unexplained things (her relatives' preferred word being 'freaky') sometimes happened around Dorea. They especially happened when she was particularly angry or frightened as she was now, in a strange place with no idea how she'd gotten there or where her relatives were and being grabbed by an unfriendly looking boy. Thus, Dorea was only mildly surprised when the boy was blasted back from her.
The others in the street, who had never seen such a thing before, were more surprised.
At least four different people had witnessed Dorea throw the teen, who was at least twice her size, away from her body several feet and into the wall without appearing to move. Commotion began, and Dorea only just noticed two people seem to appear out of thin air.
The newcomers - who had to have come from somewhere, and maybe Dorea was affected by her experiences more than she'd previously thought - took sticks from their pockets. Dorea's eyes widened as they set up a shimmering barrier. The barrier encompassed each person who had witnessed or been involved when Dorea had somehow thrown the boy away from herself, and on the other side she could see people walking around it without seeming to think the presence of the barrier odd - apparently without even noticing it.
The man in the pair, who Dorea now thought might actually have appeared from nowhere, began waving his stick at the teenage boy. The scrapes he'd sustained when he hit the wall closed before Dorea's eyes. The woman of the pair began pointing her stick at each of the other people in turn, seemingly causing them to stare off into space. Only once she'd interacted with each other person did the woman turn to Dorea.
Dorea worriedly expected the woman to do the same thing to her that she'd done to each of the other people, but instead the woman crouched next to her - when had Dorea sat down? - and smiled. "Hi, I'm Essie Salman, from the Ministry of Magic. My partner, Blair Leveret, and I are from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. Don't worry - none of the muggles will remember a thing about this."
Dorea's eyes were wide. She had about fifty questions just based off those few words, but all she could force out of her mouth was, "Magic?"
The man - Leveret - frowned at Dorea. The woman - Salman - only continued to smile kindly. "You must be muggleborn," she said before tapping her temple with one finger. "I can see magic, kiddo, and you've got it. Where are your parents?"
Dorea wanted to ask more questions, but thought she should probably answer the one posed to her. "They're dead."
Leveret frowned further. "Who looks after you?"
"My aunt and uncle."
"And where are they?" he asked again.
"I don't know."
The man sighed heavily. "Well, how did you get here?"
"I don't know," Dorea said again. After a moment's hesitation, she added, "I woke up on the street not far from here, and I really don't know how I got there because the last thing I remember I was in my uncle's car in the middle of nowhere. I tried to find a police station to get help, but I didn't get that far."
Leveret continued to frown, but was now joined in the activity by Salman. "I think we ought to take her back to the Ministry, Blair," she said. "It sounds like she might have been kidnapped, and if she's muggleborn then we'll have to work with their people to find her family. It could take awhile."
Leveret nodded then, and Salman stood up before offering a hand to Dorea in assistance. "We'd better walk back," Leveret said. "If she's never apparated before, we don't want to make her sick. It's only a few blocks, besides."
Salman nodded in agreement, then waved the stick she held again. The shimmering barrier faded away, and each of the dazed people inside it moved on with their business without a moment's pause. Salman then offered a hand to Dorea, who took it a bit timidly, and the three of them walked together.
Date Unknown - Ministry of Magic, London
After entering the Ministry of Magic through a toilet of all things, Leveret and Salman brought Dorea to a comfortable waiting room. They explained to her that she'd be safe there until someone from the magical police came to talk to her about finding her relatives, and that there was a pitcher of water and some cups that she was welcome to if she was thirsty. At the mention of water, Dorea realized something. "Is there a loo?" she asked, unable to believe she hadn't thought of it while she stepped into one. "I was about to visit one before I woke up on the street."
Leveret pointed her towards a small door at the back of the room, and the two bid her goodbye.
After using the loo, Dorea made herself comfortable to wait. Any other child her age might have been bored and tempted to make trouble, but Dorea had more than her fair share of time spent idle while in her cupboard. As such, when a woman - not Salman, but a different one wearing a long, loose dress in light blue - entered the room, she looked slightly surprised to see it perfectly neat while Dorea sat calmly on the sofa.
The woman overcame her surprise quickly. "Hello, sweetheart. My name is Brier Colten, and you can call me Brier. I'm the Muggle Liason Officer from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. My job is to work as a bridge between the Magical and Muggle governments in cases like yours. Why don't you come to my office so we can talk and get to finding your family?"
Dorea nodded, and followed Brier from the room. Halfway down the hall, she finally decided to ask one of the questions she had. "What's a muggle?"
"Muggle is the word that we witches and wizards use for people without magic."
Dorea followed Brier the rest of the way in silence, and sat in the seat in front of the desk when Brier gestured for her to do so. It was a bit less comfortable than the waiting room had been, but Dorea assumed people usually spent shorter periods of time here. Brier sat in her own seat, and took out some heavy paper. Dorea's eyes widened when she realized how closely it resembled the paper the letters were written on - letters she'd become very familiar with the outside of, given that she'd received nearly a hundred. Maybe the letter-writer knew where she slept because they were using magic.
Brier dipped a feathered quill into a pot of ink - did magical people not use pens? - and poised it over the paper. "Now, why don't you start by telling me your full name?"
"Dorea Lily Potter."
"That's funny," Brier said as she wrote. "There's a Dorea Potter who does charity work within the Wizarding World. Her son, Fleamont Potter, is a successful Potioneer in the cosmetic industry. Now, what's your birth date?"
"Thirty-first of July, 1980."
Brier's quill-pen froze over the paper. "Come again?"
"The thirty-first of July, 1980," Dorea said again, enunciating as clearly as she could without feeling rude.
"You said 1980? One, nine, eight, zero?"
Brier set down her quill and set aside the paper she'd been using without writing down Dorea's birthdate. Instead, she took out a fresh sheet and wrote a brief note. Then, she took a stick from her pocket like the ones Leveret and Salman had carried, and tapped it to the note. It folded itself into a paper airplane and flew out the door unaided. "It seems your case is going to go a bit beyond my area of expertise, Dorea," Brier said once she'd sent the note. "I've just sent a memo to the Head of the department. He'll be here soon."
"But- how did my birthday change things, ma'am?" Dorea asked.
Brier rubbed her temples with her fingers, eyes closed. "We'd best wait for my boss to arrive. I'll explain everything at once."
Dorea nodded, and sat back in the chair. It only took a few minutes for a man with a black hat and a mustache to open the door to Brier's office. "This had better be important, Colten, I'm a busy man."
"I assure you it is, Mr. Crouch. Please, come in and close the door. It's best this isn't spread around."
Mr. Crouch appeared to be examining Brier's face, as if he could determine the severity of the issue there, before he did as she asked.
"Dorea, this is Mr. Barty Crouch, Sr. He's the Head of the DMLE and my boss. Sir, this is Dorea Lily Potter," Crouch's eyes flashed with surprise. "Brought in by the AMRS after she was found alone in London with no memory of having arrived, it was suspected that she was kidnapped and that she was muggleborn. Having begun my interview, so that I could work with muggle police to find her family, I suspect this is not the case. Her birth date is 31 July, 1980, sir."
Crouch looked sharply at Dorea. "Is that true?"
"Yes, sir. But please, I don't understand why that changed anything."
"Dorea," Brier said, "Today is the thirtieth of July, 1974."
For the second time in what felt like a day, Dorea's world went black.
This time, Dorea woke in a bed in an unfamiliar room instead of on the street. It wasn't quite a cell, but the room was sparsely furnished - a lone chair and the single-person bed Dorea laid in - and rather small, if you didn't sleep in a cupboard for your entire childhood. There were two doors - the first, by the bed, lead to a small restroom when Dorea checked. The second was locked.
Dorea sat in the chair, and did her best to wait. It was rather frightening, though, finding out you'd somehow traveled seventeen years into the past and then being locked into a small room all on your own, and she had a harder time waiting patiently than she had before meeting Brier.
Dorea wasn't sure how long she'd waited when she heard voices outside the locked door. She couldn't make out what they were saying - not that it would have been likely to make sense to Dorea, since witches and wizards seemed to have their own language. The voices grew louder, and the door opened.
Into the room stepped Salman, the woman who had found Dorea on the street, and an unfamiliar man.
"Hi, Dorea, is it?" Salman asked. Dorea nodded. "I'm not sure how well you remember, but I'm Essie Salman. Call me Essie, please. The Ministry has asked me to help out with your case because they hope you'll be a bit more comfortable with me."
Dorea nodded again. The two adults seemed to consider the size of the room before sitting somewhat awkwardly on the bed.
"Now, Dorea, I'm not saying this to scare you," Essie said carefully, "but you should know that unauthorized time travel is both illegal and dangerous." Dorea stiffened. "You aren't in trouble, at least not yet, because it doesn't seem like you've traveled to us on your own, but that is why you unfortunately had to be locked in. The Ministry couldn't risk you running away."
"Okay," Dorea whispered faintly.
"This is Glen Harpis, a Potions Master. He's here because the Ministry would like you to take Veritaserum. Have you heard of it before?"
"No," Dorea responded again, just as quietly.
"Veritaserum is a potion that forces you to answer questions with the truth. It's tasteless and colorless and not dangerous to take at all unless you have an allergy, which is very uncommon. Legally, we have to tell you that you have the right to refuse to take the potion. Unofficially, I want to tell you that if you decide not to take the potion the Ministry will probably take much longer to decide what to do with your case, so if you haven't got anything to hide then you should take the potion."
Dorea nodded, thinking for a moment. "I'll take it," she said.
Essie smiled at her, and Harpis withdrew a small glass vial of clear liquid from his pocket. "Open your mouth," he said briskly. Dorea opened her mouth obediently, and while he dripped a bit of it onto her tongue she noticed Essie set up a quill over a sheet of the thick paper they used here. It stood on its own, and when Essie spoke to it it wrote on its own too.
"The date is 30 July, 1974. Veritaserum has been administered," Essie said once Harpis had moved out of the way. "What is your name?"
"Dorea Lily Potter," Dorea said automatically, without any apparent input from herself.
"When were you born?"
"The 31st of July, 1980."
"Did you travel through time intentionally?"
"How did you travel through time?"
"I don't know."
"What happened before you came to the Ministry?"
"I woke up on the street and tried to find a police station to get help. A boy tried to grab me, and he got thrown away. You came, with a man, and did something to fix things. Then you said I should come here."
"What was the last thing you remember before you woke up?"
"I was in my uncle's car. I got out to use the loo, and saw a light."
"What was the date when you saw the light?"
"30 July, 1991."
"Administer the Veritaserum antidote, please."
Harpis approached Dorea again and gave her another potion. Immediately, a fog that Dorea hadn't even been aware of lifted from her mind. She thought about the questions she'd been asked. None of them were questions she'd have tried to lie in response to, but if her presence in this time was illegal she supposed it made sense to be sure. Essie smiled at Dorea again once she'd packed the paper and quill away. "I'm going to bring this record Mr. Crouch, who is handling your case personally. I expect I'll be back with him soon enough."
"Okay," Dorea said.
Essie and Harpis left the room. Having not heard a click, Dorea tested the door out of curiosity. It was locked, so she supposed that it was magic and magic locks didn't click. As Essie had said, she and Mr. Crouch entered the room just a few minutes later.
"Ms. Potter, I admit I'm at a loss as to what to do with you." Mr. Crouch said to her. "You've traveled here by unknown means, for unknown reasons. We have no home to send you to. It is my belief, as the Head of the DMLE, that it's best to transfer your case to the Department of Mysteries-"
"No!" Essie shouted, almost involuntarily. Crouch turned a sharp look on her, which she recoiled back from slightly before straightening her spine and meeting his eyes. "Dorea is a child, not a test subject. If you send her into the Department of Mysteries, they may never let her out."
Dorea's eyes widened at that, and she pulled back from Crouch on instinct.
"That possibility aside, Salman, I am the Head of the DMLE and you are a member of the Reversal Squad here to make the child comfortable. It is my decision, not yours, where to transfer her case. The Department of Mysteries is the best place to handle the consequences of unknown magic such as this."
With that Crouch stood up to leave, clearly expecting Essie to follow. Behind his back, Essie mouthed what looked like I'll help you to Dorea.
Again, Dorea checked the lock after the door closed. This time, however, it was fear rather than curiosity that drove her. She didn't know Essie - she had no idea if she could be trusted to help or if she had the resources - but both Essie and Mr. Crouch had been in agreement that the Department of Mysteries, whatever it was, was a place she might not come back from.
The door, of course, was still magically locked. Dorea checked the restroom again, but it had no windows or extra doors. She considered stepping into the toilet - that was how she'd gotten into the Ministry, after all - but decided to save it for a last resort.
She paced the room for what seemed like hours. She moved the furniture to look under it, and tested the walls for any sign of another passage out of the room. She looked for vents, which there were none, and was very close to trying the toilet when she heard shouting outside the door.
The door was thick enough that Dorea couldn't hear what was being said clearly, but with her ear pressed against the door she could make out a few words. Child, Department, immoral, and Potter. Desperately, Dorea hoped that this was the help Essie had promised her and not someone involved in transferring her case. She wasn't given long to ponder that, however, before the door was flung open.
Standing there was an angry looking Crouch, a smug looking Essie, and a man and woman Dorea hadn't seen before. They were quite clearly on Essie's side, which explained why Crouch had been unable to stop them despite the fact that he was still protesting. The unfamiliar couple came into the room, where the woman knelt in front of Dorea and the man sat on the bed. Essie followed them, closing the door in Crouch's face and waving around her stick until a blue light - different from the golden one on the street, but probably related - covered it.
The man frowned slightly at Essie. "You might lose your job for that."
Essie waved away his concerns. "Crouch isn't my boss, and if he manages to get me fired at least Dorea will be okay."
The woman, still kneeling, brushed Dorea's hair from her face. "You're a beautiful girl, and those are definitely Potter features. My name is Euphemia Potter, darling, and this is my husband Fleamont. We have a son at home, James, who is a few years older than you, and we'd like you to come home with us."
"Of course," Fleamont said as if there were really no question. "You're a Potter, and if you haven't got anyone else here and now then you belong with us Potters - regardless of your circumstances or your birth date."
"Essie is my friend," Euphemia told Dorea, "and she came to us in quite a tizzy over the way the Ministry has treated you today."
"It wasn't so-"
"I'm glad she did, darling. The Ministry of Magic can sometimes- mishandle things, in the name of the law. You deserve better than that."
Dorea's eyes widened slightly at the genuine care this complete stranger showed her just because they were apparently family - the Dursleys had never given the same consideration to blood. Euphemia stood then and held out a hand to Dorea, which she took.
"Let's go home."
Dorea woke up in a soft, comfortable bed and took a moment to process everything that had happened the day before. It had been past midnight when Euphemia and Fleamont Potter had recused her from the not-quite-a-cell. Already her birthday, Essie had pointed out. Pacing in that room wasn't the best start to a birthday, but Dorea doubted it was the worst she'd had. Nothing bad had actually happened, after all, and she seemed to be getting a home where she'd be happier than she was at the Dursleys.
She was tentatively happy to be here, at the Potters' house. She hadn't spoken much with the Potters last night, given the time and the fact that they traveled through the fireplace instead of by car, but they seemed kind. The house was lovely, from what Dorea saw. It was clear the Potters were wealthy.
Dorea stretched and stood up out of bed. She'd worn Dudley's clothes to bed, and grimaced at the feel of the grime that was starting to collect on them. Unfortunately, it was all she had. She hoped quietly that the Potters wouldn't mind supplying her with a basic wardrobe of her own, though she imagined that their son's clothes couldn't possibly fit her worse than Dudley's did.
Just as Dorea was about to make for the door, a small, wrinkled creature wearing what appeared to be a pillowcase - though a nicely embroidered one - appeared in the room with a popping sound, starting a small scream from Dorea.
"Meeny is sorry, Meeny did not mean to frighten Miss."
"Oh, that's alright- Meeny, did you say?" The creature nodded. "How can I help you, Meeny?"
"No, no, Miss. Meeny is here to help Miss, Miss does not help Meeny."
"Meeny has made a dress for Miss, because Mistress Mia says that Miss has come without anything of her own."
Dorea smiled. "Thank you, Meeny."
"Well, Meeny says Meeny has made a dress. Meeny has really made two dresses, because Meeny does not know what kind of dress Miss will like."
Meeny clicked her fingers, and two dresses appeared floating in midair. Both were long, but made from thin material appropriate to summer. The one on the left was yellow, with ruffles down the front. The one on the right had a white top with a dark blue lace skirt.
Dorea looked at them with wide eyes, having never worn anything like this in her life. Both dresses were nice, but the styles seemed a bit old-fashioned. "Meeny, have you been told that I'm new to- to magic, and all of this?"
"Mistress Mia is telling Meeny that, yes."
"Well, things seem rather different here than what I'm used to. I like both of these dresses very much, but I was wondering if one would blend in with other girls my age better than the other."
"Both dresses is being very in style, Miss, but if Miss wants to blend in Miss might like blue and white. Meeny thinks yellow is a standing out sort of color."
"The blue and white dress, it is. I do like both, though."
"Meeny will leave Miss's yellow dress in Miss's wardrobe and Miss can wear it when Miss is ready to stand out."
Before Dorea even had a chance to thank Meeny, the small creature disappeared with another pop. It was as she did that Dorea realized she didn't even know what sort of creature Meeny was. Feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed, Dorea took the dress into the bathroom across the hall to wash up and dress.
Heading downstairs from her third floor bedroom, Dorea felt like a child playing in fancy dress. The dress Meeny had made fit perfectly, but Dorea had never worn anything but jeans and t-shirts that were three times her size. It was an uncomfortable feeling, at first, but Dorea thought it might be the good sort of discomfort. She held her head higher wearing this dress than she had in hand-me-downs.
She had combed her hair with her fingers - not that it made much of a difference, as her hair was a perpetual mess. When she'd gone back to her bedroom to drop off her old clothes, there had been a pair of flat-soled shoes that perfectly matched the skirt of her dress. Dudley's old, worn out trainers were nowhere in sight, and Dorea suspected the clothes in her hand might meet a similar fate. If she was going to be outfitted in tailored clothes, Dorea didn't mind that so much.
At the bottom of the stairs, Euphemia Potter greeted her with a hug. "How did you sleep, darling?"
"Well, thank you, Mrs. Potter."
"None of that, now. Call me Mum, or if you're not comfortable with that, Mia."
Dorea looked at the woman with wide eyes. "Mum?"
"Only if you're comfortable. Essie told me that your parents had passed, and I don't know how long its been or if you already had a new mother-figure back home."
"I never knew them."
"Well, based on the timeline I think I'm probably your Grandmother, but I'm trying to hold onto my youth a bit longer than that." Euphemia laughed, and Dorea looked awkwardly down. "It was a joke, darling. I know that I'm older than most mothers - our James was born when Monty and I had almost given up hope for a child."
"Oh," Dorea sighed, a bit relieved.
"In all seriousness, though, darling. Monty and I have been to the Ministry this morning to get all of the papers set up appropriately. Officially, you are our daughter. In public, it would be best if you called us Mum and Dad so that people don't ask questions, but in private I want you to call us whatever you are most comfortable with."
Dorea bit her lip while she thought. Euphemia Potter had come to the Ministry past midnight the night before to rescue her, and thought of her need for new clothes before going to bed. She'd essentially adopted her, and she hadn't stopped smiling and laughing since Dorea had met her. And Dorea thought she must have had more hugs since meeting Euphemia than she could remember ever having before. "I think I'll call you Mum all the time."
Euphemia smiled a little tearfully and pulled Dorea in for another hug. "I always wanted a daughter," she whispered into Dorea's hair. When she pulled away, she looked perfectly put-together. "Now, it's almost lunch time and you must be starved. I knew you'd be tired, so I told Meeny not to wake you for breakfast."
"Er- Mum?" Dorea asked, feeling only slightly awkward.
"What- I don't mean to sound rude, but what exactly is Meeny?"
"Don't worry about being rude, darling, ask every question you can. We hope to fool the wizarding world into thinking you've always been our daughter, so you'll need a crash course on all things magic." Euphemia smiled when Dorea nodded, and proceeded to explain house elves to her new daughter.
Outside the dining room, Dorea grabbed Euphemia's sleeve to stop her for a moment. "You said that you've made me legally your daughter. Does that mean I'm here forever?"
"It does, darling," Euphemia said with sympathy in her voice. "Living is the only way to travel forwards in time without disastrous consequences."
Dorea hugged her new Mum, then - the first hug she'd initiated. "I'm glad," she whispered into the woman's chest. When Dorea pulled away, she noticed the discerning look her new Mum was giving her and knew she'd have to explain her childhood to her new family, but that could wait. "When do I meet your son? James, right?"
"Right now," Euphemia told her, the characteristic smile replacing her current expression. "He's in the dining room, waiting for us with his father. Monty and I thought we could take today to get acquainted among the four of us, and then tomorrow we'll invite the extended Potter family to meet you."
Dorea took a deep breath. "Okay."
As Dorea entered the dining room, Fleamont stood up to give her a hug. It was just as warm as Euphemia's, and Dorea felt comfortable with the fact that she'd be staying here. At the table lounged a boy who could only be her new brother. He was tall, and shared a lot of features with her. Most noticeably, his black hair might have been even messier than her own. That was quickly explained when he ran his fingers through it, ruffling it while he laughed at something Euphemia said. He was wearing slacks and a button-down shirt with shortened sleeves. It seemed like casual clothing meant something different here and now than it did where Dorea came from.
"James," Monty said to the boy. "This is Dorea Lily Potter. Your mother and I have arranged the papers so that, officially, she is our own blood daughter and we expect you to treat her that way."
James gave a shit-eating grin. "Hi, Dorea Lily Potter. When are you from?"
Dorea looked at her new parents. Monty was groaning over the emphasis James had placed on Dorea's middle name, while Euphemia nodded to her. Dorea decided to take that to mean it was okay to tell James the truth. "I came here from 1991."
"And today's your birthday, right? Eleven?" Dorea nodded, and could see James doing the math. He whooped. "Less than six years!"
"He's going to be impossible now," Fleamont complained good-naturedly. He then read the confusion on Dorea's face. "James has fancied a girl named Lily for around three years now, and she happens to have the same green eyes as you. He's already pursued the poor girl relentlessly, and now he'll never give her a rest."
Dorea giggled a bit. "So, is - was -" she sighed. "Is he my father?"
"We can't imagine it working out any other way," Monty answered. "Before your arrival, he was our only child. He hasn't got any aunts or uncles, because I was an only child as well. If you're to be born in six years he's the only candidate, and you look far too much like all of us for your name to be a coincidence."
Dorea giggled a bit at James who had picked up a house-elf who was only trying to set the table as a ballroom dancing partner, the elf's feet dangling around the height of James' waist.
When the house-elf Eeny, Meeny's brother, had cleared away the dishes, Dorea sighed. "The only down side to being here forever," she said wistfully, "is now I'll probably never know what was in the letters addressed to me that had my relatives fleeing over the countryside."
Monty and Mia made eye contact across the table, and Monty pulled an envelope from his trouser pocket. "Did it look anything like this?"
He handed Dorea the envelope, which was made of the same thick paper and had the same seal and green ink. "Just like this," she said with a smile.
"Open it, darling," Mia said.
Miss Dorea L. Potter
Third Floor Bedroom
The Potter House
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
The second page included a list of supplies that seemed rather fanciful to Dorea - though she did manage to learn that this heavy paper was called parchment from reading it. She looked at her family. "If I'd managed to get my hands on one of these before coming here, I'd never have believed it was true."
"So you didn't know anything about magic growing up? How is that possible?"
"No questions about the future, James," Mia said sternly. "I know you like to bend the rules, but this is an important one."
"I really didn't know anything about magic until I got here, though," Dorea told him. "So you'll probably have to answer a lot of questions for me. Like, what's Hogwarts like? If I'd always been your sister, I'd know about your time there. You do go, right?"
James grinned brightly, and he was off. "Of course I go to Hogwarts! I'll be in fourth year - it's seven years in all - and I'm in Gryffindor, the best house - there's four of those. My best friends are Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. Lily Evans is the love of my life. I made the Quidditch team last year - it's a sport, I'll tell you more about it later - as a chaser. Sirius is planning to try out for beater as soon as an opening comes up. My friends and I love to play pranks, but we'll go easy on you at first. If you'd grown up with me, you'd be pretty good at avoiding them by now."
At that moment, Dorea learned an important lesson. James could talk.
The rest of Dorea's birthday was relatively quiet compared to what she'd been through since landing in 1974. James managed to talk about Hogwarts for a full two hours, and Dorea soaked up every minute of it. Afterwards, Euphemia and Fleamont gave her a tour of the house while going over the basics of her family tree. The Potters wouldn't be expected to have the details of their family tree memorized, like the families that considered themselves noble, but it would be odd if she couldn't name her great-grandparents. Dorea grinned when she spotted her likely namesake - now her grandmother, Dorea Potter nee Black.
By the time dinner came around, Dorea had learned a bit about Diagon Alley, the main shopping district where they would go on Friday to get clothes and school supplies, and wizarding games including Exploding Snap, chess with animated pieces, Gobstones, and yes, Quidditch.
During the meal, she learned that electricity didn't work around magic, that the sticks people carried were their wands, that traveling through the fireplaces was called the Floo Network, and that appearing out of thin air was called apparating unless it was an elf doing it, in which case it was just called popping.
After dinner - and a wonderful cake from Eeny - Dorea insisted they take a break from her pre-Hogwarts education because her head felt like it was going to explode from the deluge of information she'd received. Instead, they played Exploding Snap until Dorea was yawning and longing for bed.
In the third floor bedroom that was now hers, a nightgown was laid over the bed and a fine looking silver hairbrush sat on the dresser. Having learned that the elf would be able to hear her anywhere in the house, Dorea whispered her thanks before readying herself for sleep. Despite feeling like most of what she'd heard today might fall out of her mind, Dorea was happy here.
Dorea's second morning waking up at the Potter house was similar to her first, but she found everything just a bit easier to process. Meeny brought Dorea two more dresses to choose from - again, both were long but made from light materials. The first was lavender with silver-colored buttons, and the second was plum with gray ribbons. Dorea chose the plum, and was able to brush out her hair properly with the silver brush that was on her nightstand the night before.
Her hair much smoother than she'd ever been able to get it - Dorea suspected magic - she slipped into gray shoes that matched the details on her dress and went down to join her new family for breakfast. "Will I ever be able to wear trousers again?" she asked as she stepped into the dining room.
Euphemia laughed, not unkindly, at the question. "Do you not like to wear dresses?"
"I never have before," Dorea told her. "The clothes I came here in were second hand, from my cousin Dudley. His old things was all I ever wore before."
"Well, if you're uncomfortable in the dresses, I'm sure we can make other arrangements. You should keep in mind, though, that your uniform at school will be a skirt under robes, and most witches wear dresses or robes. Meeny tells me you haven't wanted to stand out."
"That is true. I might like to have some trousers to wear at home, though, and I could wear dresses when we go out or when I'm meeting people."
"Speaking of meeting people," Monty said, "we'll be introducing you to the people who will be in on the secret of your origins today. My parents - your grandparents - are coming for lunch. Their names are Charlus and Dorea - my mother is most likely your namesake."
Dorea nodded, remembering the names from the family tree she'd heard about yesterday. She also remembered that both of her new parents were the only children in their families, so she didn't have any aunts or uncles.
"My parents passed when James was just a baby," Mia cut in, "So that's the lot of your extended family. At dinner, James has invited over Sirius and Remus to meet you."
"Not the other one?" Dorea looked at her brother. "You have three friends, I remember that well enough."
James grinned at her. "The other one is Peter, but he's not the best at keeping secrets. Near the end of our first year, we all found out an important secret about one of our friends - I'm not saying which one of us had the secret, so don't try - and we ended up having to bind him with a Secrecy Oath after he nearly blabbed twice in the first day."
"Oh. But won't Peter think it's odd that he doesn't remember me, if he doesn't know the truth?"
"Sirius and Remus will cover for us. If three of the four Marauders act like you've always been around, Peter will go along with it. Besides, Peter has only been over here during holidays once - his family usually travels."
"Okay, then." Dorea picked at her eggs a bit with her fork. After the Ministry's reaction, she understood why her time traveler status was best kept as a secret. That didn't mean that she liked the ruse - especially now that James, Sirius, and Remus would be lying to their friend. James seemed unbothered, though, continuing to joke and laugh, so she brushed it off.
Charlus and Dorea Potter came in through the floo at half past eleven, when all four of the Potter house's residents were waiting to greet them. "Mother, Father, it's wonderful to see you both," Monty said to them. "There's someone we'd like you to meet."
"Were they not told why they were coming?" Dorea whispered to James, who shook his head with a snicker.
Monty gestured, and Dorea stepped forward to his side. "Mother, Father, this is mine and Mia's daughter, Dorea Lily Potter. She turned eleven yesterday and will be starting Hogwarts in the fall."
"It's nice to meet you," the younger Dorea said, ducking her head in embarrassment.
"A daughter?" the older Dorea asked her son. "I'm sure you'd have told us before now that you'd had a second child, Fleamont."
The room was tense. "Her circumstances are a bit unique, Mother. That's why we've invited you today to meet her and hear about everything where we can't be overheard."
Charlus stepped forward then. He took Dorea's chin between his fingers, lifting her face up so that she met his eyes, and examined her face. "She's a Potter," he said. "I look forward to your explanation, Fleamont."
"Let's all have a seat and some tea," Euphemia said. "Eeny will have lunch ready in about forty-five minutes, and hopefully we can all be better acquainted when we sit down to eat."
Once they were settled in the house's sitting room, Meeny had served tea, and Dorea's origins had been explained to her new grandparents, everyone was much friendlier. Dorea's existence had only been hidden for a day and a half, after all, and she wasn't an illegitimate child of Fleamont's as his parents might have worried.
"How are you going to explain things when people wonder why your family outings have never included a daughter?" the elder Dorea asked.
"She's been frequently ill, and could not go out with us. We've only just found an effective treatment."
Dorea nodded. "She is rather small for her age - that will support the story." The younger Dorea blushed and looked away. "And it would be terribly rude for anyone to ask for details about her failing health."
"That is what we're counting on," Monty responded evenly. "The only people who will be aware of the truth will be ourselves, Essie, who brought the girl to our attention when she was at risk of being lost within the Ministry's systems, and two of James' friends who have spent enough time here that they couldn't have missed Dorea's presence."
Before anyone could respond to that, Eeny popped into the room and announced the meal. The six Potters moved into the dining room, where they enjoyed their meal with minimal tension. Dorea learned that her new grandmother was a stern but kind woman and that her new grandfather was the most traditional and reserved person at the table. By the end of the meal, she felt like she had her grandparents' acceptance as a part of the family. She was beginning to feel more natural referring to the others as her parents and brother, helped along by the fact that they never treated her otherwise.
Their grandparents left around two, and Dorea only had a short while to prepare herself before James' friends arrived at three. James was practically bouncing as they waited, which made their mother laugh and their father scold him lightly. Apparently, it had only been four days since the last time he'd seen his friends. Despite already being a bit tired, Dorea was smiling.
The first to come through the floo was a wiry boy even taller than James with golden-brown eyes and sandy blonde, wavy hair. He carried himself a bit awkwardly, in a way that seemed out of place next to James' exuberant confidence. The two greeted each other warmly, though, and James treated the tiredness evident in his friend's demeanor with genuine concern. The boy quirked an eyebrow in Dorea's direction but she decided to wait until she was introduced to say anything to his friends, and James appeared to be waiting for their other guest before making the introduction.
They only had to wait a few minutes. A shorter boy with black hair, gray eyes, and high cheekbones burst out of the fireplace, breathing heavily. "Barely got away," he said in a half-joking, half-apologetic tone. His behavior matched James' more closely - he had the type of personality that could fill a room.
"Alright, fellow Marauders, we have business to cover today," James said, almost like he was commanding a crew of workers or soldiers. "That business is here." He grabbed Dorea's arm and pulled her to his side. "This is my sister Dorea. She's eleven, and if anyone asks I have had a sister for eleven years."
"The official story has been noted," the sandy blonde said seriously before smirking. "Now, what's the real story?"
James smirked back. "Her name is Dorea Lily Potter, she's from the future, and we think she's my daughter."
"No way," said the black haired boy. "Evans is finally going to go for it?"
"Less than six years," James said smugly. It was a significant contrast to his cheers when he'd found out Dorea's birth date.
"No more future talk," Mia said sternly.
"Yes, Mia," the blonde said at the same time that James and the black haired boy said, "Yes, Mum."
Dorea stifled a giggle. "So, is this introduction ever going to go both ways?"
James looked confused for a moment before realization dawned. "Right! This," he pointed to the blonde, "is Remus, and that," pointing to the black haired boy, "is Sirius."
"It's nice to meet you both," Dorea responded a bit awkwardly.
"C'mon, everyone. We've got to learn all about each other if we want people to believe Dorea's lived her all her life." James then grabbed both of his friends by their wrists, and nodded towards Dorea until Sirius grabbed onto her. Once they were all in a sort of chain, he pulled the group into the same sitting room where Dorea had gotten to know her grandparents earlier that day.
An hour later, the get-to-know-you session had become some sort of quiz game with Remus as the judge and Sirius as the announcer. Sirius would ask a question of either James or Dorea, who would have to guess the answer for the other person. Then the other person would tell the correct answer and Remus would decide if the guesser had earned a point. James was winning, despite Dorea's answers being objectively better. Dorea wasn't sure how much they were actually learning about each other, but it was a great time. All four of them were laughing and talking, having a good time, and the camaraderie and good cheer continued through dinner and into the evening.
By the time James' friends had to floo home, Dorea's sides and cheeks ached. She could get used to this place. Even the dresses.
Friday morning, two days after Dorea's eleventh birthday, waking up in the third floor bedroom of the Potter house was beginning to feel normal. Meeny brought her a pink dress and a navy one. Dorea chose the navy, the charmed silver hairbrush smoothed her hair, and there were matching shoes ready to go by the time she was. Dorea was downstairs for breakfast in record time. She hugged both of her parents and grinned at her brother, receiving hugs and grins in return and marveling at how natural it all felt after just three days.
"Magic bonds us," Euphemia told her when she mentioned it. "Your family ties might be a bit knotted up from traveling to the past, but they're still there. We're your family, Dorea, and we always will be."
The family went to Diagon Alley after breakfast, taking the floo into a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. It was only Dorea's second floo trip - the first having been to the Potters' house - and she ended up sprawled on the floor, covered in soot. Monty helped her up and spelled her clean again without commenting on it, and the patrons who had noticed her fall went back to their own business.
James was allowed to do the wand-tapping to open the passageway into the Alley and show off for his sister. Her eyes went wide when she saw how utterly magical the shopping district was, and Monty and Mia chuckled behind her. "First stop is Gringott's Bank, darling," Mia said, nudging Dorea forward.
After visiting the Potter vault, which was piled high with more gold than Dorea could imagine, the cart goblin took them to a neighboring vault. "Trust vault of Dorea Lily Potter," the goblin rasped and Dorea turned to her parents with wide eyes.
"I get a vault?" Dorea asked.
"Of course, darling," Euphemia told her.
Monty cut in. "Every Potter gets their own vault when they turn eleven and start school. We'll buy you a chain with anti-theft charms on it for your vault key, and if you want to order anything while you're at school all you have to do is press the key to the order form. There's a ten galleon per month limit until you're an adult, but if you need anything like clothes and school supplies we'll always cover it. This is just for spending money."
All Dorea could do was nod with her eyes wide, and when she was handed the vault key she clutched it like her life depended on it.
After the bank, the Potters went directly to a jeweler to get the chain that Fleamont had mentioned, and then to a luggage shop to get Dorea a trunk. As they walked from place to place, the rest of the Potters continually had to grab Dorea by the arm to keep her from wandering off. Next was the apothecary, where Dorea was reminded that her dad was a potioneer - he carefully examined each ingredient for quality and refused the standard first year equipment, saying that your potions equipment was an investment. From the apothecary the family went to the stationary shop for quills and parchments, and then to a store selling various tools and instruments where they were able to get Dorea a telescope.
After getting a meal at the Leaky Cauldron, the Potters' next stop was Madam Malkin's Robes for Every Occasion. James needed a new uniform set, having outgrown his, and Dorea needed both uniforms and a full wardrobe casual clothing. As they'd discussed the day before, the wardrobe Dorea's parents ordered for her included a few sets of trousers and blouses.
Once Monty had arranged for their clothing purchases to be sent to their house (by owl, and Dorea had thought James was pulling one over on her) the family went to Flourish and Blotts for class books, and then to Ollivander's to get Dorea's wand.
Fitting all four of the Potters into Ollivander's little shop was a bit crowded, but James had wanted to watch as his sister was chosen. Mia and Monty had already explained the process to her, knowing that Ollivander would assume she knew given her association with the pureblood Potter family. Ollivander was perceptive and had an impressive memory, but contrary to many peoples' beliefs he did not have any sort of extrasensory perception. James appeared to be regretting his insistence on coming along - he was rather bored when Dorea was on her fifteenth wand, while Dorea was getting nervous and Ollivander was only getting more excited. Finally, after Dorea had tried thirty-six wands she was chosen by one made of holly and phoenix feather, which Ollivander sold to them without a fuss.
"That's everything on the list, isn't it?" Fleamont asked as they left the wand shop.
"Nearly," Euphemia said with a smile. Dorea looked over her list in confusion, since she had also thought that was everything. "The last item, darling."
"Scales? We've already gotten those, Mum," Dorea said.
"One line below that, I believe."
Dorea furrowed her brow and looked again. Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad. "I'm getting a pet?"
"Let's go to the Magical Menagerie and see if any strike your fancy, shall we darling?" Dorea nodded, and followed her family to the pet shop while Euphemia continued speaking. "You can get whichever of those three pets you'd like. Of course an owl is very useful since they'll take your post, but we have a family owl and Hogwarts has school owls, plus you can always use James' owl if you need to, so don't let yourself feel like you have to choose an owl just because of that. I've never been terribly fond of toads, but if that's what you'd like to get then I just ask you keep it contained."
Mia's warnings about owls and toads seemed to be for nothing, because Dorea gravitated almost immediately toward the cats upon entering the Magical Menagerie. Within fifteen minutes, she'd grown very attached to a four month old tortoiseshell kitten with a mostly black coat. "I've named her Char," she told her family as she held the kitten possessively to her chest. Euphemia smiled warmly at her and paid for the kitten, as well as the supplies she needed.
"Her collar is charmed," Dorea told her family, reading from a small pamphlet as they left the shop. "There's a locator spell tied to it in case she ever goes missing. And the Menagerie guarantees that all of their cats are properly trained by the time they're sold- or your money back. You aren't taking her back if she's badly behaved, are you?"
"No," Monty reassured her, "but it will be your responsibility to teach her better, in that case."
Dorea nodded, then stuck a hand into the basket that Char was settled in to stroke the kitten's fur.
Dorea spent the rest of August as busy as could be. She continued to learn about the magical world and her family, and supplemented her education from her textbooks and the books in the ample family library. In the evenings she played Exploding Snap, wizard's chess, and Gobstones. At her parents' urging, she wrote weekly letters to her grandparents. She played with Char, who was perfectly trained much to her relief, and she listened to Quidditch games on the Wizarding Wireless while James tried to explain them.
She still didn't completely understand the sport, but following the story that she'd been ill no one would wonder why she'd never seen a game.
Amid all of this activity, time passed. Sirius came to visit six more times, while Remus only came once. Dorea didn't meet Peter, their other friend. Dorea found herself a favorite spot in the garden (where the sun could warm her without getting in her eyes on nice days and where she was sheltered from the rain) and a favorite chair in the library (tucked back into a little nook between two shelves, where she could be missed if someone didn't know where to look). Her third floor bedroom began to look lived in, and even included a photograph of the four Potters. (James suggested Dorea take some shrinking solution so that they could falsify some older family photos, causing their parents to scold him. Instead, they included extreme light sensitivity as a part of Dorea's childhood illness.)
Before Dorea could believe it, it was September first and she was running through a wall in a train station and saying goodbye to her parents.
Dorea spent the first half of the train ride with the Marauders, and finally met Peter. Peter had been completely bewildered by her presence and by Sirius and Remus' calm insistence that James did in fact have a sister. When Dorea left, she thought he still suspected them of bribing a random first year with black hair to pretend to be a Potter.
Dorea changed into her school robes in the train's lavatory, and then wandered around looking for any other first year students. She found a few groups, but they had already settled deeply into conversation with the people accompanying them. Eventually, Dorea found an empty compartment and decided to read a book. Had she spent most of her childhood too ill to leave the house, after all, she'd most likely be very well-read. Her family had gone to so much effort to make her an established member of the family, it would be awful if she gave up the ruse by her behavior.
Dorea quickly found herself very content, curled up on the seat of the train with a book out and Char purring on her lap.
From her place in line in the Great Hall, waiting to be sorted, Dorea could see her brother and his friends at the Gryffindor table. There was a space between him and Sirius, which she thought they might be saving for her. Peter still looked like he was arguing against James having a sister. McGonagall was calling names from a list, and after each name she called a student tried on the Hat and got their house. Alder Parkinson became a Slytherin, Rufus Perks became a Ravenclaw, and finally the deputy headmistress called out, "Potter, Dorea."
On her way to the stool, Dorea glanced to the Gryffindors and giggled at the stricken look on Peter's face.
It's been awhile since I sorted a time traveler, a voice said in her head.
You've sorted others? But I thought it was illegal?
I have been sorting young people longer than the current laws have been in place. It seems you know very little about the future of this world, however.
It's probably better that I don't.
That is true, I suppose. Now- where to put you? You've got a sharp mind, have spent so much time studying since traveling here, but you don't seem to learn for its own sake. You could fit in in Hufflepuff, but only until someone found out your secret. Badgers don't take well to that sort of thing. It's true that you're brave enough for Gryffindor, and sorting Potters there is traditional, but you might also be well served by Slytherin.
Dorea thought about her brother telling her that all Potters were Gryffindors, and the obvious disdain he showed for Slytherin house.
It has been many years since I sorted a Potter into Slytherin, but several have married into the family. Your namesake, for one example. Your relatives growing up taught you to be sneaky - Slytherin could refine that, help you to keep your origins a secret. And I see you want to study time travel, to discover what happened to bring you here. Slytherins will be more accepting of it when you bend the rules in your studies.
What would my life be like in Gryffindor?
Easier, probably. Gryffindors are more straightforward, there is less maneuvering in the towers. If someone ever discovered that you were a time traveler, it may lead to strife. Gryffindors favor honesty, while secrets are a given in the dungeons. Your studies of time travel would need to be a secret - most Gryffindors are rule-followers until someone is in danger. The atmosphere would be warmer, but the fallout when there is disagreement is also more explosive.
Dorea could see both benefits and pitfalls to both houses. She hadn't been nervous when she'd sat down, but now she clearly understood the others' pale faces and trembling hands. She also knew she'd been on this stool far longer than anyone before her. The hat covered her eyes, but she could feel the weight of the hall's stares. Do what you think is best.
Hmm... It had better be... "SLYTHERIN!"
Dorea took a deep breath before taking off the hat. No one was clapping. A glance towards Gryffindor showed her brother and his friends staring with open mouths. Tears pricked in Dorea's eyes as she walked towards the Slytherin table, hoping she hadn't just lost her family.
When she was halfway there, a few of the Slytherins started to clap politely. They were joined by a few more from each house, but it was nothing like the thunderous applause each other student had received. One of the first to begin clapping leaned in to whisper something to her friend, and both of them slid apart from each other on the bench. They both gave her small smiles, and the one who had initiated the move nodded towards the spot. Dorea took it gratefully.
"I'm sure it's a shock, but try to look like you're perfectly comfortable here," she said to Dorea. "My name is Emmeline Vance, by the way, and this is Arabel Orcalis. We're both in second year."
"Nice to meet you," Dorea told them sincerely. Unfortunately, the seat they'd given her faced the Gryffindor table, and she could see her brother's face cycling wildly through emotions. Anger, shock, confusion - none of them positive. "I think my brother hates me now."
Vance and Orcalis followed Dorea's gaze and grimaced slightly. "Maybe he's just in shock," Orcalis said. "He'll get over it."
"Are you two close?"
Dorea bit her lip for a moment, wondering how to answer. "I thought we were getting closer, but this might change that."
The sorting had continued while the three girls talked, and suddenly another first year Slytherin took the empty seat across from Dorea, blocking her view of James. "Kingsley Shacklebolt," he introduced himself.
"Dorea Potter," Dorea said in a much weaker voice than the others.
"I didn't know the Potters had two children," Shacklebolt said then, and Dorea thanked the stars that there was a plan in place for this. "My Grandfather is friends with your Grandmother - they were in Slytherin together."
"I've been ill since I was very young," Dorea answered, "a strange set of symptoms that the Healers weren't familiar with. It wasn't contagious, but it did mean I had to spend most of my time resting and couldn't go out. My healer only recently found a treatment that works so that I could come to school."
"Are you starting late?"
"No, I've only just turned eleven," Dorea answered, praying that Shacklebolt would stop asking questions soon.
Vance seemed to notice her discomfort, and changed the subject. "Which classes are you two most looking forward to?"
"Charms," Dorea answered readily. She'd devoured the first year charms text, along with a couple other basic ones in the Potter library. "They're just so versatile, you know?"
The others nodded. "I like Defense," Shacklebolt said, "so I really hope this years' professor is good."
Dorea nodded. James had told her that they'd had a different professor every year in Defense, and the last couple had been questionable at best. Vance smiled proudly. "This year's professor is my uncle, so I'll tell him you said that."
"What's his background?" Shacklebolt asked her.
"He's a private cursebreaker - runs a company with my father, for those who don't want to go through the goblins. My father is handling the company this year while my uncle teaches as a favor to the headmaster."
The four continued to converse throughout the meal, and Dorea managed to mostly forget the varying looks her brother was sending her across the hall.
James grabbed Dorea by the arm while she and the other first year Slytherins were on their way to their common room. "James," she snapped at him, "I'm not going to know where to go, this isn't a good time."
James waved her off. "We know where the snakes' common room is, we'll get you there. What the hell happened?"
At the word 'we', Dorea looked over James' shoulder and saw the rest of the Maruaders. "I got sorted into Slytherin, obviously. I'd rather not discuss it where anyone can hear."
"Fine. I'll meet you tomorrow, here, after dinner, and we can go somewhere to talk privately. Go down this corridor and take a right, down the stairs. You should still be able to catch up with the rest of the snakes."
Dorea looked at her brother. He didn't look happy, but he looked like he might be willing to listen. At the very least, he didn't look like he was giving her bad advice. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, then."
Dorea took off down the hall at a light jog, James still watching her gravely as she went.
Dorea did manage to catch up with her year group, and Shacklebolt smiled at her when she did. Once in the common room, the seventh year prefects gave them directions to their bedrooms. Dorea was asleep, surrounded by green and silver, before she knew it.
I've had several comments about James' reaction to Dorea's sorting. I don't want to spoil anything, but since people are especially concerned about it I'm just going to say one thing. MILD SPOILER, so if you don't want to know, skip the ending author's note.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dorea woke up before the rest of her classmates - whose names she hadn't even learned the night before - and dressed quickly in her uniform. She was frustrated for a moment that she didn't have the class schedule yet, which meant she'd have to come back down to the dungeons to get her books after breakfast. Maybe they'd be lucky and have Potions first.
Setting aside thought of class for now, Dorea decided to use the spare time she had to write a letter to her parents. If she let James tell them the news of her sorting before she could, he'd probably cast the whole thing as a tragedy.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Hopefully you haven't heard it already from James, but I've been sorted into Slytherin. I was a hatstall. Gryffindor was an option, but the hat said that keeping my secrets would be easier as a Slytherin. I told it to do what it thought was best, and here we are.
I have two roommates, but I was so tired last night that I fell asleep without learning either of their names. At the welcoming feast, I sat with two second year girls who helped me to get past the shock of it all, Emmeline Vance and Arabel Orcalis, and a boy in my year named Kingsley Shacklebolt. They were all nice enough, but Shacklebolt asked a lot of questions about my childhood illness.
James was unhappy about my sorting, I think. He cornered me afterward, but agreed to talk today so that we could be alone. So much of it has to do with my childhood that I couldn't risk anyone overhearing. I hope he understands. I hope the two of you aren't upset about me breaking tradition, too. I love our family, and I don't want to lose any of you because of this.
I haven't even had breakfast yet as I'm writing this, so there's not much else to say. I'm still looking forward to classes, even though I'm taking them in silver and green. Do you have any advice for me, with this new detail on what school will be like?
I love you both,
Dorea L. Potter
Letter written, Dorea tucked the envelope into her robe pocket and left for the Great Hall. The path had been simple enough that she wasn't worried about getting lost. It would be getting anywhere else that would be a challenge for the first few weeks.
At breakfast, Dorea learned that her roommates were Ember Stirling and Augustine Nott. Stirling was a distant sort of polite, while Nott looked at Dorea with outright disdain. Deciding not to waste her time, Dorea moved down the table to where Shacklebolt was sitting. He was much more pleasant to her.
Slughorn, their Head of House and Potions teacher, passed out schedules. Today was Monday, so they had Herbology all morning with the Ravenclaws, Charms and Defense in the afternoon, and Astronomy at midnight. No Potions, so Dorea would have to rush this morning, but it didn't seem like it would be a bad day.
Professor Sprout ended Herbology early. They were scheduled for a double period, but the kindly professor wasn't ready to start them in on the various plants they'd be caring for this year on the first day of term. While her classmates were filing out, Dorea approached Sprout. "Could you give me directions to the owlery?"
"Of course, dear. The castle is a bit complicated, though. Why don't I walk you there?"
"Thank you, ma'am."
The two witches walked in silence for the first bit of the journey. It was Professor Sprout who spoke up first. "Is it about your sorting?"
Dorea startled just a bit, then looked into the Professor's face. It was kind, and open, and honest. "Yes," she said.
"Are you worried about how your parents will take it?"
"A bit. I'm less worried about them than my brother, honestly. He's never had a good thing to say about Slytherin." Not that Dorea had heard, at least, but she doubted his opinion that all Slytherins were 'slimy' and untrustworthy was new. "Our parents can't be worse than that. I just want to make sure I tell them before he does."
Sprout nodded. "I remember being housemates with your mother. She'll take it just fine, and if your father has anything to say she'll sort him out. She's a very kind woman, but she's never let anyone walk all over her and she believes in giving everyone a fair chance."
That sounded like the Euphemia that Dorea had gotten to know, she thought with a smile. "I agree."
"You're very mature for your age," Sprout said next. It wasn't said with judgement. Just with a small amount of questioning.
In truth, Dorea knew she was mature because she'd been neglected living with her aunt and uncle. It had never been dangerously bad, but she'd had to take care of herself for most of her childhood. "I was ill growing up," she said instead, the words tasting bad when said to such a kind and open woman. Dorea was reminded of the hat saying that Hufflepuffs wouldn't take to it well if her secret came out. "I never got to run and play the way other kids do," she said next. That part at least was true.
Sprout looked at Dorea as if she could tell that was a lie. "Mia and I haven't been close in many years," she said, "but I still have the birth announcement from when she had James. She was so happy to have a child - she and Monty had almost given up." Dorea nodded, having heard a bit about this already from her family. "I never received an announcement when she had a daughter."
Dorea's breath caught in her throat, and she looked to the professor with wide eyes.
"I don't know what it is that you're hiding," Sprout said to Dorea, "but I'll respect your right to your secrets. I know I'm not your Head of House, but you can come to me if you need a listening ear. Slughorn is a good enough man, but he isn't always the most approachable for those who aren't his favorites."
Dorea took another long look at her professor. She didn't look angry. She looked like she meant what she said. "Thank you," she finally responded.
They'd arrived at the owlery. Dorea quickly found a bird and attached the letter in her bag to its ankle, telling it to go to either of her parents at the Potter house. Sprout waited patiently and walked Dorea down to the Great Hall for lunch, telling her about the bouncing bulb they'd be studying on Thursday. Dorea was grateful for the conversation that didn't center on her past or her new familial relationships.
After lunch the Slytherin first years had Charms and Defense. Charms was a discussion of theory. Having already read three different books on the topic, Dorea's mind was wandering. Mostly, it was wandering to how quickly her after dinner conversation with James was coming.
Defense held Dorea's attention a bit better. Professor Vance introduced himself first - a former Ravenclaw with masteries in Defense and Warding, and a private cursebreaker like Emmeline Vance had said. Once he'd taken roll, he then challenged the students to come up with various solutions where someone would have to defend themselves, and Professor Vance gave advice for facing each one. Students came up with various creatures and curses and the professor handled them all with ease, often sharing anecdotes of when he'd encountered similar situations in his work. It was a fun way to introduce the class to the first years, and gave those who had heard about the string of unfortunate DADA professors some confidence in Vance's abilities.
At dinner, Dorea was surprised to get a response from her parents, including a letter and a book-shaped package. It had only been a few hours since she'd sent her own letter, but apparently the owls flew fast.
Congratulations from your father and I for getting into the house that will best serve you. Rest assured that your sorting has no bearing on how much we love you - you are ours, and always will be. I was a Hufflepuff in school, daughter of a Hufflepuff and a Ravenclaw, and your grandmother on your father's side was a Slytherin.
We know the Shacklebolt family in passing. They're good people, and their son will make a good friend to you. The other names you mentioned aren't familiar to us, but we trust your judgement.
Our advice is this. Try to get to know your roommates, since you'll live with them for your whole career, but if you cannot get along with them then don't be afraid to befriend the boys or those in other houses. We've included a book on etiquette - we covered very little before you left because us Potters have never been formal, but it may suit you to know it in your new house. Our final piece of advice is to write to Grandma Dorea. She'll know more about how to succeed in Slytherin than either of us will, and she cares for you a great deal.
If your brother gives you trouble, don't be afraid to tell us. We'll sort him out for you if we must.
All our love,
Mum and Dad
Most of the letter was in what Dorea recognized as her mother's handwriting but her father had signed it himself, making it clear that the sentiments were from both of them. Dorea tucked the letter and package away without opening the book. She would take a closer look at it later, in her room. The letter made her feel better about the impending conversation with James, and she smiled to herself before joining the conversation about Charms theory Shacklebolt was having with one of his roommates.
At the end of dinner, James was waiting outside the Great Hall with Sirius and Remus. The presence of the two other boys made her a bit nervous, like they were ganging up on her, but she could hardly object to it given that they knew her secret.
The three older boys led Dorea to an empty classroom in a side corridor that, based on the dust, was unused. Remus took out his wand and cast something over the door. "Just a silencing ward," he said with a smile when he noticed the look on her face. "In case anyone walks by. This hallway doesn't get much use, but sometimes older students come this way, looking for their own privacy..." Remus trailed off and Dorea blushed, but he didn't look hostile so she accepted that they weren't trapping her here.
While Remus didn't look hostile, Sirius did a bit. He stood with his arms crossed, leaning against a wall. His face was trying to be blank, but his eyes were hard and his mouth was tight. All of his muscles seemed tight, like he might launch himself off that wall at any moment, and Dorea found herself taking a step away from him almost unconsciously.
James looked torn, like he was angry but trying to be patient against his nature. "So? Explain," he said to her in a tight voice.
"The hat said it was between Slytherin and Gryffindor. You saw how long I was up there. It said my life would be easier in Gryffindor, but that Slytherin would be better for keeping my secret - that I'd learn how to refine skills I already have. It also said that if the face that I'm a time traveler ever came out in the open, it would make the least fuss in Slytherin. In Gryffindor - or Hufflepuff, which it brought up briefly - people would be angry that I kept the secret. In Slytherin, while most of my housemates aren't from the future, secrets are expected."
Dorea had hardly taken a breath as she explained, looking at her shoes. She glanced up at James, but he didn't look moved.
"I also want to study time travel - not to try to do it, but I want to understand what happened to me, see if there might be a reason. The hat said I'd have a harder time studying things like that in Gryffindor, because it bends the rules a bit."
James snorted, but didn't say anything.
"I wrote home before lunch, I already got a reply at dinner. They said that they're happy for me, that I'm in the best house for me."
"I just can't believe I have a snake for a sister - for a daughter," James finally said, his voice thick with disgust.
"Mum and Dad said-"
"Don't call them that."
Tears pricked at Dorea's eyes. "What?" she asked, disbelief in her voice.
"Don't call them that. They're not your parents, they're mine."
"James..." Remus said, hesitantly. "Don't you think you're going a bit far?"
"What? It's true. They aren't her parents."
"They say they are," Dorea responded angrily. "And they're the only parents I've ever known!"
James took a step back with wide eyes.
"I shouldn't have said that," Dorea muttered. "I'm sorry- I-"
"Am I dead?" James asked quietly.
"I don't know," Dorea answered insistently. "The people who raised me always told me you were, but they also told me there was no such thing as magic and that I was nothing but a freak, so I don't know if what they said was true."
"But I didn't raise you. And neither did your mother."
"No. I don't remember either of you," said Dorea in a small voice.
There was silence for a long time. "I have to think about this," James eventually told her. "I need to process it all. Just- give me space, yeah? I'll come to you."
"Okay," she breathed.
James turned and left without another word, Sirius following behind him. Remus hesitated before undoing the silencing ward. "I'll work on him," he told Dorea.
Dorea looked up at Remus with watery eyes. "Thanks. I've just- I've never had a family before, one that likes me. I don't want to lose him now that I finally have one."
"Do you need help getting back to the dungeons?"
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all. I don't want you to get lost."
"Thanks, Remus," Dorea said with a small smile.
Remus noticed that her eyes were puffy. "We can stop by a washroom on the way, too, if you want to wash your face."
Mild Spoiler Alert: James' prejudice towards Slytherins and his loyalty towards family will be at war. Things will get worse before they get better, but he'll get his head on straight before too long.
Dorea had felt hopeful after her first day of classes. While she hadn't made any great strides with her roommates or James, nothing had been catastrophic. It had seemed like a slow start, but a positive one.
The very next day, her bubble of hope was soundly burst.
Stirling and Nott rebuffed every attempt at conversation that Dorea had made. They treated her coldly, and watched disdainfully as she tried to put to use the manners in the book from her parents. In the afternoon the Slytherins had a free period, which would soon be filled by flying classes. Dorea spent it looking for the library, and when she came back to the dormitory she found half of her things in their bathroom, soaking wet. This included most of her textbooks, which Dorea feared were ruined. The things of hers that hadn't made it to the bathroom were strewn about the dormitory.
They had all been informed the day before that the bedrooms in the Slytherin dorms were warded to only allow the occupants inside without permission, and would remain so unless the students abused the privilege. This meant, of course, that Dorea's roommates had at the very least allowed the destruction of her property, if not taken part in it.
James' preferred method of 'processing' seemed to be launching an aggressive prank campaign on the Slytherins. Dorea, by coincidence or design, was caught by every single one. By the time Dorea discovered what her roommates had done to her things she'd been soaked with water balloons, had dung bombs hidden in her bag, consumed a potion which made her break out in pink spots, washed her hands with frogspawn soap, been chased by an Ever-Bashing Boomerang, and been followed around by a cloud of iridescent bubbles. The bubbles had seemed harmless, until Dorea found out that they released a very sticky goo if popped.
Some of the older Slytherins had told her to control her brother. When she told them she couldn't, they had scoffed and rolled their eyes before deciding her efforts to unstick her hand from her robe weren't worth their time.
Without anyone to walk with, Dorea had become lost twice that day. Shacklebolt was still friendly to her when she approached, as were Vance and Orcalis, but they had already formed groups of friends which left Dorea feeling like an outsider when she tried to spend any time with them.
Despite being, hopefully temporarily, estranged from her brother, Dorea also suffered for the enemies he'd made before her arrival. The biggest, of course, was Severus Snape. Snape viewed Dorea as an accomplice in her brother's pranks, and refused to listen when she said that she was a victim of them as much as any other Slytherin was. Her last name and inability to put a leash on James earned her the experience of being cornered by Snape with two of his roommates, Avery and Rosier, and threatened. Slytherins didn't take part in such juvenile pranks, they told her, and if they needed to get revenge it was done subtly.
If they considered her struggles today taking part in the pranks then there wasn't much she could do, Dorea thought waspishly. Besides that, none of the boys cornering her looked much like they cared whether Dorea was involved with James' pranks. Snape especially looked like he'd hex her at any opportunity, and the boy;s dueling ability was the closest thing to a positive that James had managed to say about the boy he called 'Snivellus' in the entire month he'd told her Hogwarts stories.
The prefects weren't interested in the issues Dorea had with her roommates or with Snape and his friends, calling them 'power plays' and saying that they needed to work things out for themselves.
By the time Dorea was finished with dinner, all she could do was find somewhere to be alone and cry. Clearly her room wasn't a safe place, so she found her way back to the deserted classroom where she'd spoken with James and his friends the day before.
Dorea didn't know how to cast a silencing ward, so she just hoped that no one came by. She also didn't know how to cast any cleaning spells for the dust that coated the room, so she slipped off her outer robe and laid it out on the floor to sit on. It was still glued to her left hand, but it worked well enough. Settled in, Dorea began to sob.
She couldn't say how long she'd been there when the door opened. Dorea wiped her eyes quickly on the back of her sweater sleeve - the right one - and tried to quiet herself. She succeeded in reducing the sobs to hiccuping breaths, which was more than she'd honestly hoped for.
The person at the door had hesitated long enough for her to put herself together that much, which Dorea was thankful for. The boy who entered the room wasn't someone she recognized directly, but he resembled Sirius Black enough for her to hazard a guess.
"Yeah?" she asked in a small voice.
He didn't say anything at first. Instead, he took out his wand. Dorea flinched back, the threats from the older Slytherins coming to mind. But Black only quietly cast a cleaning charm at the floor before gingerly sitting down beside her. Dorea almost laughed - he really didn't look like the type to sit on the floor. "Hold out your hand?" Dorea only looked at him questioningly, and Black sighed. "I can get rid of whatever is sticking your hand to your robe - I know you don't know the spells yet."
Resigned, Dorea held out her hand as far as the robe she sat on would allow her. If he didn't do what he claimed he would, it wouldn't make her day much worse at this point.
"Evanesco," he said carefully. The goo disappeared, her robe fluttering to the ground.
"Thanks," Dorea told him.
"Your brother is a bit of an arse," Black told her matter-of-factly.
"Yeah. He- isn't happy with me being in Slytherin. I'm wondering if I shouldn't have taken the easier route the Hat offered me."
"It's still early," Black told her with a slightly sad smile. "They did the same thing to me when I was sorted last year, but they got bored before too long. They still pranked Slytherin house, of course, but they went back to their usual levels of foolishness."
"You're Sirius Black's brother, right?"
"Regulus," he said with a nod.
"Dorea," she responded, somewhat unnecessarily. Plenty of people had been talking about Dorea since her name was called at the sorting - first because no one had expected a second Potter, and then because she was a Potter in Slytherin. "How did you deal with them?"
"It helped that I had the rest of our house to support me," Regulus told her hesitantly. "Blacks are always Slytherins, you know, except for Sirius. Potters are usually Gryffindors, so most of our housemates are waiting for you to prove yourself."
"But not you?"
"I've been there. I wouldn't want anyone to have to stand up to the Marauders alone."
"Did you and Sirius ever reconcile at all?"
"No," he told her simply, "but that doesn't mean you and James won't."
Dorea nodded, and the two sat quietly for some time while she calmed down and collected herself. "We ought to get back to the common room," she said when she had, "I'm sure it's late." Black nodded and stood up, offering her his hand to help her do the same. "Thank you, Black."
"Call me Regulus," he told her. "And for what it's worth, I hope you and your brother can patch things up."
"Me too," Dorea whispered.
Back at Slytherin Dorea let Regulus into her dormitory, and showed him the place where she'd stacked up everything her roommates ruined. He took the water out of her books and other things with a drying spell delicate and thorough enough that she could hardly tell they'd been damaged in the first place. It was obvious to Dorea that he'd practiced magic longer than the year he'd officially been in school. The clothes would need to be sent for washing before she'd be able to wear them, but nothing besides some loose parchment was destined to be thrown out.
Dorea changed into a casual robe, putting the dusty uniform robe she'd sat on in the classroom into her laundry, and moved out into the common room with her books to work. She hadn't let so many things - the Dursleys, her isolation in primary school - get to her that she wasn't about to let anyone else win now. She nodded to Regulus before joining Shacklebolt and his roommates, Rosier and Parkinson. Shacklebolt had been kind to her, and she was going to make the most out of that kindness.
She'd be okay.
"Hey, Kings!" Dorea called down the corridor.
Dorea jogged lightly to catch up with Kingsley and Alder Parkinson. "Did you finish the Magical Theory essay?" she asked as she fell into step with the boys. "We have McGonagall today."
"I did," Kingsley told her. "Did you want to compare at lunch?"
The three kept walking together as they transitioned back to the boys' previous conversation. Things were looking up for Dorea since Regulus had found her in an abandoned classroom on her first day of school. It had been almost two weeks, and she'd grown close enough with Kingsley Shacklebolt to not only use each others' first names (something Dorea had learned was traditionally invitation-only in the book from her parents), but they'd graduated to nicknaming each other. Dorea had also started to become close to a Ravenclaw girl
Alder Parkinson, one of Kingsley's roommates, still held Dorea at arms' length. She assumed it was because their family histories were at odds. Grandma Dorea had sent her a short description of the family of each of her yearmates, as well as the students in older years that Dorea had mentioned in her letter. Grandma Dorea said that most students in Slytherin would value their family and their family traditions very highly, so it was important to know.
Because their power play had failed to make any impact thanks to Regulus' intervention, Dorea's roommates were leaving her alone for the time being. She'd done her best to communicate to them that she wasn't terribly interested in being a leader in their year - she was here to learn, not to play games with house politics.
James was still pranking Dorea regularly. After the first couple of days he'd transitioned to less frequent, more creative pranks. No longer being hit with off-the-shelf prank toys, now Dorea would occasionally find that she could only speak in song or wake up to find all of her clothes were violent shades of pink and orange. Dorea had no idea how James had gotten to her things, but her roommates swore up and down it wasn't them.
Whenever James' pranks were beyond the skill levels of Dorea and her friends - less often than one might expect, with Regulus on her side - Dorea went to the hospital wing to have Madame Pomfrey help. Despite their insistence otherwise in their letter, Dorea hadn't told her parents about James' incessant pranking. She'd been urged to - by Madame Pomfrey, by Kingsley, even by Regulus - but she refused. All she could remember when she considered it was James saying that they were his parents, not hers, and until the siblings worked things out Dorea didn't want to drive any space between the various members of her family by complaining.
Classes themselves were going well. Dorea excelled in Charms and Defense, was a natural flyer, and found working with plants in Herbology deeply relaxing. History of Magic and Astronomy were both rather dull, but not especially difficult. She had to work hard in Potions, Transfiguration, and Magical Theory - the last especially when the Gryffindor Head would be grading her work. Dorea wasn't sure if McGonagall simply had high standards or if she was subconsciously reacting to Dorea as the "Slytherin Potter", but she found that the other professors graded her Magical Theory work with more lenience than the Gryffindor Head.
Late September, Dorea felt like she was at a breaking point. James still wouldn't speak to her - Sirius encouraged every mean-spirited thing he did, while Remus gave her sympathetic looks behind the others' backs. Peter just sort of followed along with whoever was speaking loudest at the time - usually James and Sirius. Kingsley and Regulus were becoming regular friends, Emmeline and and Arabel would always help her with something if she asked, but none of them knew the truth about her and she was tired of pretending all the time. It was exhausting.
She considered writing to her parents - about her past, about her troubles with James - but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She wrote to them, but only about classes and her friends.
She'd taken to spending more time on her own. She told her friends that she just needed some space. That she was used to being on her own most of the time after growing up how she had (true) and that it took a lot of energy for her to be around people constantly (also true). She went for walks on the grounds, spent time in the library, or curled up on her bed with the curtains closed and Char purring on her lap. Euphemia had given her a diary as a going-away gift, which was spelled so that you could only access it with a password. She used her alone time to write in her diary, pouring out all of the thoughts that she wished she could say to someone, but not getting the relief she wanted. It was during one of these times that she remembered Professor Sprout.
Not ten minutes later Dorea burst into the Herbology professor's office, breathing hard. "If I tell you something, does it stay a secret?" she asked desperately.
Sprout looked up from the essays she was marking in surprise, then smiled warmly at Dorea. "Come in and have a seat, close the door, dear." By the time Dorea had done so, the essays were set aside and there was tea on the desk. "Now, I'll keep anything you tell me confidential, as long as you are safe and not breaking any laws. Cream or sugar?"
"Sugar, please. What if someone broke a law, and we don't know who, but the Ministry already knows about it?"
"I daresay the Ministry cares more about lawbreaking than a Hogwarts professor."
Dorea nodded, and took a sip of her tea while turning things over in her mind. She hadn't thought past this point in her desperate flight here, just that she could talk to someone at last. "You guessed that I wasn't ill," she said hesitantly. "But it's so complicated, I don't know where to start."
"Wherever you'd like, dear," Sprout told her kindly. "I'm sure I can piece it together, I've had lots of practice speaking with distressed students."
"I was raised by muggles," she said hesitantly, looking into her teacup. "My muggle aunt and uncle. They- didn't like me much. Now that I know I'm a witch, I think that might be why. They told me my parents died in a car crash, but I don't know if it's true." Her words started to come faster. "They didn't treat me well. I slept in a cupboard under the stairs, and had to do all the chores while my cousin got to sit around and eat sweets and watch telly- do you know what the telly is?" Sprout nodded, but didn't interrupt. "My cousin got to have anything he wanted, but I never had anything of my own except the baby blanket I came with. I used to steal Dudley's broken toys out of the trash if they were small and wouldn't be missed, and I hid them under the cot in my cupboard. Dudley bullied me, and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia didn't do anything to stop it. They just let him and his friends hurt me."
Dorea took a gasping breath, and met Professor Sprout's eyes for the first time since she'd started speaking. There, she saw only kindness, and she was glad. She'd told her parents a bit about her life before she'd left for school, but avoided it whenever possible. Dorea knew that the Dursleys hadn't treated her right, but she'd survived it and now she was away from them forever. She didn't want pity for something that was over. With another deep breath, she continued. "I didn't know magic existed - I couldn't explain how my teacher's hair turned blue while she was shouting at me, or how I ended up on the roof when Dudley was chasing me, but I was punished for it. Punishments meant even more chores, or time in the cupboard. My aunt and uncle never hit me, or starved me - even though I wasn't allowed seconds or puddings at meals - but they never loved me, either."
"That's no way for a child to grow up," Sprout told Dorea, her voice matter-of-fact.
"It wasn't," Dorea told her, just as plainly. "So- that's why I'm mature for my age, not because I was ill. And, like you hinted, I'm not Euphemia and Fleamont's daughter. Not by birth, anyway, but they're the only parents I've ever known and they've treated me like their daughter ever since they picked me up from the Ministry this summer."
"That sounds like the Mia I remember. Did they give you the name Dorea Potter, then?"
Dorea bit her lip. "No. This is the name my parents gave me when I was a baby." Sprout looked at her in confusion, and Dorea continued haltingly. "I'm- James is my father. Or- he will be, when I'm born. In six years."
Realization dawned on the professor's face. "Oh. Oh, and he still isn't speaking to you, you poor dear."
"I got a family for my eleventh birthday," Dorea said, beginning to sniffle, "and I finally got to meet my dad, even if it was in an odd way, and now he hates me."
"Have you spoken to Mia and Monty, dear? I'm sure they would step in."
"They would," Dorea said with a small nod, "but I haven't told them how awful James has been. When we last spoke- he acted as if I'd stolen them from him. I just think, if I ever want to fix things with James, and I do, he's my dad, then telling Mum and Dad on him won't help."
Professor Sprout set down her teacup and moved to the other side of her desk, pulling Dorea into a hug as she began to cry in earnest. "You've kept this bottled up for too long, dear."
"None of my f-friends know. Only our family, and Sirius and Remus. I haven't had anyone I could t-talk to about it in so long."
"Now you have me, dear. You can always come and talk to me, and I'll listen and keep your secrets."
"Thank you, P-professor."
The two sat in silence, Professor Sprout rubbing soothing circles on Dorea's back until she was able to stop crying. When she did, the professor fixed them each a fresh cup of tea so that the young Slytherin could take time to collect herself. "You remind me of Mum," Dorea told the professor.
"I'll consider that a high compliment. Mia was always one of the best of our house, in my opinion."
Lighter conversations continued while the two drank their tea. Dorea eventually left to find her friends, feeling much lighter than she had since the start of school with a confidant she could trust.
Magical Theory is probably a class taught to at least first years, based on the supply list and several wikis, but to my knowledge it's never mentioned as a class in canon. So I've decided that it's a twice weekly class that is taught by all four heads of house on a rotating schedule.
After Dorea's visit to Professor Sprout, time seemed to blur without much change in Dorea's routine or experiences. Friends were still friends, and certain relationships were just as strained.
Dorea continued to visit Professor Sprout about once every two weeks just to talk. Sometimes they talked about Dorea's life before being sent to this time, or the struggles Dorea was going through here and now. Sometimes they only talked about Herbology, or typical school issues. Even when they weren't discussing Dorea's complicated life as a time traveler, however, Dorea found it comforting to spend that time in Professor Sprout's office. Here, with the door closed, she could just be who she was, without any secrets or pretenses. For as long as Dorea and James weren't speaking, Professor Sprout's office were the only place like that that Dorea had.
It was Professor Sprout who brought up Dorea's mother.
Dorea was waiting nervously down the same corridor where she'd spoken to James and his friends, then later hidden to cry, back in September. It was after dinner in late November now, and it had been three days since Sprout had mentioned Lily Evans. She was beginning to worry that she was waiting for no one when a head of sandy hair peeked in the door.
"Remus! You got my note?"
"Would I be here if I hadn't?" the older boy asked as he stepped into the room. "If this is about James, Dorea, I swear I'm trying to get him to be reasonable."
"That's good to know, and thank you, but that's not actually who I wanted to talk about."
Remus raised an eyebrow at her. "Oh?"
"Yeah," Dorea took a deep breath. "You're friends with Lily Evans, right? I see you with her sometimes in the library."
"And I've seen you by yourself in the library," Remus commented dryly. "Are you doing alright?"
Dorea waved a hand dismissively. "Sometimes I need time on my own. I've got friends, don't worry about that."
"But you didn't answer my question. Are you friends with Lily Evans?"
"Oh- yeah, sort of casually. I'm not as close to her as she is to her roommates, but we share a few classes and she finds me more tolerable than your brother and Sirius."
"Perfect. Can you introduce me?"
"Can you introduce me to her?" Dorea noticed Remus' hesitance, and pushed on. "Remus, she's almost certainly my mother and I've got no memories of her. I've been so caught up in the troubles I've had with James that I hadn't even thought about it, but I have a chance to know her and I can't stand to lose it. I could try to approach her on my own, but I'm a Slytherin first year and she's a Gryffindor fourth year, and things would go much better if I were introduced."
Remus sighed. "Alright, I can introduce you. But we'll have to work out a reason for it, since I can't exactly tell her that her future daughter with James wants to speak to her."
"Well, you're supposed to have known me for the last few years at home, so you have that to work with. She and I are both at odds with James - I've seen her hex him in the Great Hall enough times - but I don't really want to lead with that. Oh- she's great at Charms, right? Flitwick talks about her sometimes in our classes. I love Charms, so that's something we have in common."
"Alright," Remus said, chuckling, as he held up a hand to stop her rambling. "I can work with that. She and I usually study on Saturday afternoons. I'll check with Lily tomorrow to make sure it's alright that I bring someone, and you can meet us there."
Dorea nodded happily. Saturday was only two days away, and then she'd be meeting her mother. "What time?"
"Excellent, thank you, Remus."
"It's nothing. Do you need an escort to the dungeons?"
Dorea looked at him dryly. "I'm hardly getting lost anymore, Remus. Unless James planned a prank that I should know about?" Remus shook his head. "Then I'll be fine. See you Saturday!"
"I'll owl you a note if it won't work!" Remus called after Dorea as she rushed from the room.
Saturday arrived, and Dorea hadn't heard anything from Remus cancelling their meeting that afternoon. Dorea could barely contain her excitement as she ate a late lunch with Kingsley. They'd spent the morning studying Magical Theory in the common room, and he'd asked her several times why she was so happy. She'd brushed him off, since she couldn't explain it, but it didn't dampen her feelings at all.
At half past one, Dorea excused herself so that she could go to the dungeons to get her books. She was joining a study session, so she'd better come prepared to study.
Dorea arrived at the library at the same time that Remus and Lily did, her bag stuffed with books. Luckily, her parents had bought her one that was charmed to always be feather-light, because Dorea often carried most of her books at once. "Remus, hi!" she said happily.
Remus smiled warmly at her. "Have you and Lily met?" he asked, knowing perfectly well that they had not. It was even believable, and Dorea was reminded that Remus was one of the Marauders' pranksters despite his milder appearance.
"We haven't," Lily answered, and Dorea couldn't help but smile. She was meeting her mum. "Remus tells me you like Charms?"
Dorea's grin grew wider, and she launched into a discussion of the theory behind Cheering Charms, which were a third year topic. If Dorea had learned about a third year charm specifically so she'd have something to talk to Lily about that wasn't too far below her level, then that was no one's business but her own. It lent credibility to the story that she'd been ill as a child, and gave Dorea something to talk about to her mother to ensure their meeting wasn't awkward.
Remus, Lily, and Dorea spent the bulk of the afternoon in the library together. After their discussion on Charms theory, they'd taken some time to work on their essays for their own classes before devolving back into quiet conversation. The three discussed classes, while Lily showed genuine interest in Dorea's experiences, and about their childhoods. Dorea hardly noticed herself telling the lie she lived, as accustomed to it as she was by now. Eventually, of course, the conversation turned to family.
"So, what's it like having Potter as a brother?" Lily asked, grimacing only slightly as she mentioned James.
"It was great until we got here..." Dorea responded, trailing off.
Lily winced visibly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought him up, I've seen a bit of how he's treated you. It isn't fair of him."
"Yeah, well, he's just shocked," Dorea said awkwardly. "I'm the first Potter to be sorted into Slytherin - or outside of Gryffindor - in almost two hundred years."
"That's a long time, yeah, but it's no excuse," Lily insisted.
Remus looked like he wanted to add something, but was holding himself back. Dorea considered pushing, but ultimately he was James' friend. He was helping her out enough by keeping James reigned in to a degree and by introducing her to Lily.
"My relationship with my sister has been strained since starting school, too," Lily said after a moment of silence, "but the situation is a bit different."
Dorea cocked her head to the side, silently allowing Lily to continue. She was unsure if hearing about the woman who'd raised her (for a given value of the word) was a good thing or not, but she had no reason not to that wouldn't make Lily think she was anti-muggle.
"At first, I think she was jealous. Petunia is two years older, so when I got my first letter we knew that she wasn't also a witch. She wanted to come with me, but when she couldn't she got angry. Later, she got bitter, and now we barely speak. We used to be so close."
"I hope that doesn't happen to me and James," Dorea mumbled. "I want to fix things between us, but he asked for space so I'm giving it to him."
"I'm sure he'll come around," Lily said bracingly. "And if he doesn't on his own, your parents might be able to sort him out. Are you going home for Christmas?"
"Yeah," Dorea said with a small smile. "I can't wait to see Mum and Dad again, but I'm not sure how the holiday will be. I haven't exactly told them what James has been like. Usually James spends the holidays with Sirius, either here or at home, but I know this year Mum and Dad asked for James to come alone. Something about it being the first year I'm here, too."
"James has never been good at hiding his actual emotions," Remus said helpfully. "If this isn't worked out by the time the train leaves, Euphemia will notice."
Dorea nodded, comforted, and the three collectively decided to return to their assignments.
Time passed comfortably, and before anyone realized it was past time for dinner. "If you both swear not to tell James, I'll show you the way to the kitchens so we can get something to eat," Remus told them. Both girls agreed easily, so Remus led them to the basement. "The Hufflepuff common room is nearby, but the kitchens are here," he told them, gesturing to a painting of a bowl of fruit. "Just tickle the pear, and it'll turn into a handle."
"Are you serious?" Lily asked dubiously. Dorea had to agree with her. Seeing that neither of the girls were going to take him at his word - probably smart - Remus did it himself while they both watched.
It did, in fact, turn into a handle. After giggling.
Once the portrait swung open, Lily, Dorea, and Remus were swarmed by house elves looking to help them, and in minutes they were leaving with a small feast.
"What were those creatures?" Lily asked, and Dorea smiled to herself as she remembered asking the same question that summer.
"House elves," Remus told her. "They serve wizarding families, as well as places like the school and the Ministry. They cook, clean, and do other small tasks."
"Why were they all wearing sheets?"
"If you give a house elf clothes," Remus said carefully, "it sets them free."
Lily stopped in her tracks. "Are they slaves? Please tell me that the Wizarding world does not allow slavery."
"Not exactly," Dorea said. "Hear me out, please," she added at Lily's hard look. Once she was sure that she had Lily's attention, Dorea continued. "House elves work for a family and they aren't paid, so by that logic you could call them slaves, but the arrangement really is good for the elves too. They really, honestly like to do the work that they do. Meenie, one of the two elves we have at home, was so ecstatic to find out that I'd be going out this summer and to make me dresses for the occasion. She even made me two dresses each day, when she'd only been told to make one, with matching shoes so I could have choices. She loved it. And a house elf that's been freed will become depressed or pine. It's not uncommon for a freed elf to die."
"That's horrible, is that really true?" Lily looked from Remus to Dorea.
"That's the gist of it," said Remus. "There are exceptions to everything, of course. Pretending that families that mistreat their elves don't exist would be a disservice to the elves out there that are suffering, but that's uncommon. And I've never heard of an elf that was happy to be free, even in a family like that."
Lily nodded contemplatively. "Are there laws about treatment of house elves?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Remus said with a grimace, as Dorea shook her head.
"Maybe one day I'll change that, then."
Dorea went to sleep that night with a smile on her face, knowing so much about her mother that she hadn't before.
Christmas break. It was with a disconcerting mix of relief and apprehension that Dorea packed her trunk for the break, and met the train. She shared a compartment with Kingsley on the way back to London, who did his best to distract her and reassure her that the holidays would be a good thing. Dorea wanted to believe him, but getting her heart to agree with her head wasn't so simple as wanting it.
Euphemia pulled Dorea into a warm hug the moment they reached each other, and some of the tension drained from her muscles. Dorea had almost forgotten how nice her mothers' hugs were while she was away. A minute later, James arrived with his trunk, looking sullen. Dorea bit her lip, but forced herself not to react otherwise to her brother's presence or his mood. Euphemia hugged her son as she had Dorea, and the family made their way to the floos to go home. Dorea was proud that she managed to stay on her feet this time, only stumbling when the fireplace spit her out at the Potter house.
Monty was waiting by the floo when his wife and kids came through, and pulled both James and Dorea into simultaneous one-armed hugs. "How was Hogwarts?" he asked them.
"Good," both said a bit awkwardly. Monty looked at them shrewdly when neither elaborated - or even sounded entirely sincere - but the look didn't produce any results. He traded another look with Mia over the kids' heads, and she looked helplessly back at him.
"Eeny will have dinner ready in an hour," she said to them. "Why don't the two of you get settled into your rooms until then."
Grateful for the reprieve, Dorea smiled at both of her parents before quickly taking the stairs to her third floor bedroom. Her trunk was already there, courtesy of Meeny, and she collapsed onto the comfortable bed as if her strings had been cut.
Staring at the ceiling of her bedroom, Dorea acknowledged how good it felt to be home. While she greatly enjoyed her friendship with Kingsley, and she and her roommates had an unspoken truce, the constant need to put on a show was exhausting. Not only did she need to keep her origins a secret, but she was always on display. The manners she had learned from books (with a few hints from Emmeline mixed in) were constantly expected, and they weren't natural to her at all. Collapsing onto her bed like she had wasn't something she could do in front of her roommates, as chilly and pureblooded as those girls were, and despite having insisted on getting trousers when she was fitted for her wardrobe she hadn't worn them once. Dorea knew the peace with her roommates was fragile and temporary, and standing out would only see it broken sooner.
Despite her comfort and relief in the safety and privacy of her bedroom, Dorea also felt an uneasy guilt. She'd been happy to see her mum and dad again, and they'd been happy to see her, and now she was hiding away from them from the moment she'd come home. James' room was directly below hers, and she could faintly hear him moving around it. Despite her dread over dealing with James in any way, she hoped that Remus had been right about their mum noticing and solving it, and that it happened soon. This would be Dorea's first Christmas with a proper family, and she really hoped to be able to enjoy it.
Dorea would get her wish, it seemed. Meeny popped into her room to announce dinner - startling her, since none of the elves at Hogwarts popped around while students were present, and Dorea had gotten unused to it again - and she changed into trousers and a blouse before going downstairs.
The once-familiar style of dress felt uncomfortable after so many months in skirts and dresses.
James, Fleamont, and Euphemia were all seated around the table when Dorea entered the dining room, James talking animatedly to their parents about a prank he'd pulled. Dorea remembered it vividly, having been targeted by it, but she assumed he'd been vague about that. As soon as Dorea walked into the room, James lost his exuberance and looked down at the table in a sulk. Dorea took her seat at the table awkwardly - a sharp contrast to the comfort she'd felt being hugged by her parents or sprawled out on her bed.
The silence lasted only moments before Euphemia broke it, just as Remus had predicted she would weeks ago. "What's gotten into you two since you left? In September, you two behaved like siblings and now you're strangers. Worse than strangers - James, I've never seen you so unwilling to talk to someone." James didn't answer her, and neither did Dorea, but Euphemia didn't seem to need them to in order to determine the source of the distance. "James, Dorea is your sister now."
"She's a Slytherin," he spat, the venom in his voice shocking everyone at the table. To Dorea's private horror, she began to tear up. She hadn't cried over James since September, the last time being when she'd finally unloaded everything to Professor Sprout, and she really thought she was past that point.
Fleamont set down his fork. "My mother is also a Slytherin, James. Your grandmother. Dorea is family, and that means more to us than a house ever could."
James only fumed silently, and Dorea quickly wiped her eyes while neither of their parents were looking at her. The tears immediately replaced themselves, but at least she could keep them from running down her face.
Euphemia looked at her, and her face softened from anger into sympathy. "Dorea, darling, are you alright?"
Dorea nodded quickly, not trusting her voice not to betray her if she spoke. Mia stood up from her seat then, and approached her daughter, pulling her into a tight hug, and Dorea couldn't hold back the tears anymore. She sobbed into her mother's chest the same way she'd sobbed into Sprout's back in September. Fleamont fixed James with a disappointed look while Mia comforted her.
"I should have asked the hat for Gryffindor," Dorea moaned through her tears. "I should have asked for Gryffindor. The fallout if people find out would have been worth it, not being able to find out what's happened to me would have been worth it, I just want my family back." Her words broke into a wail as she finished speaking and dissolved into wordless sobs once again.
"James, what have you done?" Fleamont asked his son, disbelief and disappointment thick in his voice.
"It was just a few pranks," James mumbled angrily.
"A few!" Dorea shouted, her own anger overcoming her tears. "There's been no break from them! Most everyone in my house hates me because I can't stop you, and Snape keeps trying to hex me in the common room! And you haven't even said a word to me since the second of September!"
"Yes!" James bit back at her fiercely, "When you told me that your mother and I are going to die young!"
"It was an accident!" Dorea screeched. "You told me that Mum and Dad aren't my parents!"
"James," Mia scolded her son, "I cannot believe you. We told you when we took Dorea in that we expected you to treat her like family, and this is how you proceed?"
"How was I supposed to react? You're not angry that she told me about my future?" he asked bitterly, even as Dorea started to cry again.
"We expected some details about the future to slip out, even as we told you not to talk about it." Euphemia told him firmly. "Dorea is only eleven, she can't be expected to keep such a big secret perfectly. We also expected you to handle it gracefully when it happened. You are older than her, and haven't experienced the hardships she has. It's your job to be more responsible than this."
"This prejudice against Slytherin house has gone too far, James. I know that there's rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin, but your mother and I have tolerated too much," Fleamont said with remorse. "We've never taught you to be this hateful. Where did it come from?"
"I can tell you where," Euphemia said as she rubbed Dorea's back soothingly. "It's from Sirius. I love the boy like a second son, but he has some deep wounds that need healing."
"It isn't Sirius' fault!" James protested hotly.
"No," Mia agreed, "It isn't. It isn't his fault that he's been hurt, and it isn't his fault that you've let his wounds infect your behavior. But now you need to take responsibility for the way you've behaved, and fix this."
"I'm sorry," James mumbled, finally looking a regretful. It was likely hard not to, seeing Dorea cry so fiercely over the way he'd treated her. James had a mean streak, but he wasn't heartless.
Euphemia looked at her son for a moment before nodding, and returned her attention to Dorea. "Darling, darling, why didn't you tell us things were bad? Why didn't you tell us any of this?" James glanced at Dorea in surprise, just realizing that their parents were hearing about his behavior at school for the first time. "Darling, we told you when we wrote you about your sorting that we would help you if your brother gave you trouble, why didn't you let us help?"
"Because I knew you would," Dorea mumbled, suppressing her lingering sobs.
"I don't understand," Monty told her.
"What James said, about you not being my parents, it hurt but it was true. You're James' parents, not mine, no matter how much I want you to be. And- and I knew if I told you, you would do something, but I didn't want him to feel like I was using his parents against him. Like I was taking you away from him. Then he might never forgive me."
"My darling girl," Mia told her softly, "We're both of your parents, the precise details aside. You are our daughter."
Dorea looked up at her mother, puffy red eyes shining with tears. "But-"
"No," Mia interrupted her, "Every family with more than one child has to resolve disputes between their children sometimes. I fully expect there to be a day in the future when we have to address your behavior towards James, though I hope the situation won't be quite so large. Just because we have to correct one of your behavior, however, doesn't mean we love either of you more or less. You could never take us away from James, just like he can't take us away from you. We are your family." Seeing only truth in Euphemia's eyes, Dorea hugged the woman as hard as she could. "I love you, darling. I love you."
"I love you too," Dorea whispered. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"It takes practice, navigating a new situation," Mia told her truthfully. "You'll know in the future that it's okay to come to us. Now, why don't you go wash your face, then come back and we can eat our dinner."
Dorea nodded, and went to do just that.
The food had been kept warm through their conversation by a helpful charm from Eeny, and Dorea ate gratefully. The atmosphere at the table was calmer, less uncomfortable, than it had been before but still different than over the summer.
"You," James started awkwardly, "You didn't seem surprised when I said that I'm going to die young," James said to their parents.
Monty sighed. "We already knew, son. We've known since Essie approached your mother in July that Dorea was an orphan, and since she didn't know either of us we assume that we'll be gone as well."
"How do you handle knowing that?" he asked desperately.
"It isn't easy," Mia told him. "We both cried quite a bit that night, realizing that all three of us would die within the next decade or so. But everyone dies, James, and I've always believed the most important thing about life is its quality and not its length."
"I suppose," James muttered thoughtfully.
"Dorea's arrival here is a gift," she continued. "We never got to see her grow up in her own time, and she didn't get to know us for her first eleven years, but now we all have a chance to know each other and to be a family. We can't waste the chance we've been given, even knowing that it's temporary. Everything in life is temporary."
"Everything is temporary," James said to himself with a nod. Then he sighed. "I really am sorry, Dorea. I've been awful, and you didn't deserve it. I'll make sure the pranks stop." He paused. "The extra ones, anyway. We're still the Marauders."
"Thank you," Dorea said with a small smile. She didn't say she forgave him, she wasn't quite there yet. She and James had been friendly for about a month, and at odds for over three. Besides that, growing up with the Dursleys had taught Dorea to be careful of people who had hurt her. But they still had years together, and she knew she would forgive James and build a relationship with him soon enough.
"And thanks," he added, "for thinking of my feelings even when I was being a giant prat. You're not bad, even if you are a snake."
"James," Monty said in a warning tone.
"I know, I know," James said back. "There are good Slytherins. They're both named Dorea Potter." Monty sighed.
"I happen to think my friends are pretty good people, too," Dorea told him. "Kingsley is great, and so is Emmeline." She hesitated. "I get on well with Regulus, too."
James' expression clouded at the mention of the younger Black brother, as Dorea had expected it would. She knew from Regulus that the Black brothers were at odds, and James was a loyal friend to Sirius. But he didn't say anything about her association with him, so she counted it as a win. Conversation moved on, both siblings now more willing to talk about the things they'd done and learned that term, and gradually the atmosphere at the table became properly comfortable again.
As Eeny cleared the dishes away from dinner, Fleamont looked seriously at James. "Son, I'm glad you've apologized to your sister, but you know we can't let your behavior go unpunished."
"Yeah," James sighed, wilting a bit. It seemed to Dorea like he'd hoped they would.
"Next term, your pocket money will be cut in half. If there's any more of this behavior, you'll be starting your summer grounded."
"Yes, Dad." James said, only sulking a bit.
"I love you, son," Fleamont said, and James smiled as he returned the expression.
The James versus Dorea agony is over, thank goddess. I was tempted to stretch it out through her first year, and spend the second on rebuilding, but I just couldn't take it anymore. Even as Dorea was building positive relationships, the sadness of her broken relationship with James was under everything and I hated it.
Euphemia's statement about life being about quality and not length will probably echo quite a few other time travel stories. The first that comes to mind for me is the well-known story The Debt of Time by ShayaLonnie. I don't feel bad saying it, though, even though others have said it first. Any time you're dealing with time travel and the inability to change the future, you need to deal with the fact that your characters know some level of detail of the deaths of their loved ones. I firmly believe quality over quantity of years is the healthiest and best way to cope with that knowledge.