Harry and James come to terms...in a way.
Harry had expected to be immediately stunned or, perhaps, be placed in a Full Body-Bind or be affixed with magical restraints. Seeing as James had his wand back and the cavalry had arrived, it was only logical to assume that he would be swiftly subdued. He was therefore surprised, when James held up his hand in an unmistakable gesture for those outside the bedroom to remain beyond the threshold. As the man’s eyes looked deep into his own, looking at him with warning, yet without hostility, the message was clear. The tables may now be turned, but their previous agreement remained. James would not attack him without provocation, and it was expected that he would abide by the same.
“James, everything all right?” a voice that Harry recognized all too well asked tentatively, causing James to look away from him and look to the open doorway.
James opened his mouth to respond, but hesitated, conflict showing in his eyes. He looked back to Harry, as whatever he had intended to say died on his lips.
“James?” a female voice that Harry had heard earlier and had assumed belonged to Lily Potter asked concernedly.
“Could you give us a minute?” James asked decisively. Though he was still looking at Harry, it was more than apparent that it wasn’t Harry whom he was speaking to.
There was a stretch of silence, before Harry heard a shuffle of movement and the door close behind him. James wasted no time in setting a rudimentary set of wards over the room.
“How is my family significant to you?” James asked, his tone suggesting that refusing to answer the question a third time would not be an option.
“I’m not your son,” Harry said, repeating his previous statement. It wasn’t the answer James wanted, but it was the truth. He did not know what James knew, or rather thought that he knew, but the man had called him Harry. If there was one thing that he did know, it was that he wasn’t anything like the man’s son. He wasn’t ‘Harry’.
“Could you please just answer the question?” James pinned Harry with a contemptuous look, frustration marring his brow.
Harry pressed his lips together pensively, surveying James. In truth, he wasn’t particularly fond of finding out what the man’s reaction would be upon him admitting that he was Harry James Potter, son of James and Lily Potter – only that he was Harry James Potter, son of a James and Lily Potter of an alternate timeline, which would ultimately reveal that he was Harry James Potter, son of a James and Lily Potter from a timeline where he had grown up to be become known across Europe as the Gray Lord, referred to in whispers as the Basilisk, and had renamed himself to reflect the chosen name of his enemy. Porteur Demort had become just as much his name in the last five years as his given name had ever been and had become just as feared, by his opposition, as Voldemort’s name had been feared, by all on both side of the war.
“Listen,” Harry said, the word coming out slow and measured, “who I am and how your family is significant to me doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that this,” he gestured to himself, “is reversed.”
James’s eyes narrowed and his features hardened. When he spoke, his tone took on a sharp edge. “When my son was seven, he woke from a nightmare screaming about a man with a face coming out of the back of his head. When he was nearly eight, he woke screaming and exclaimed that a giant snake had tried to eat him. Not long after, he described several nightmares involving cold, cloaked things and went through a phase where he would have nothing to do with Sirius. That is, until one day in early February, when he ran up and hugged Sirius only to turn around and accused Peter of being a traitor. At the time, we all simply believed it to be the result of another one of his nightmares. A week went by with him throwing fits left and right, insisting that we listen and that Peter was working for the bad man. Maybe if I…” James shook his head, scowling.
“Things only got progressively worse in the following year.” James pressed on. “The nightmares became more frequent – a man being struck down by a green light, a dragon chasing him on a broom, mermaids holding his friends hostage, a boy who he had been competing against in a tournament dying, followed by a ritual of some kind and a man with a snake like face emerging from a boiling cauldron. It was a little after he had turned nine, when he woke exclaiming once more about cold, cloaked things and, of all things, his cousin, Dudley. Then one night, a month or so after Christmas that year, he had a nightmare that Sirius had died. He wouldn’t talk about it, but he was so distraught after that that he wouldn’t eat or sleep or do anything. Despite Sirius being right in front of him and assuring him that he was very much alive, he remained convinced that Sirius was dead.”
Harry swallowed thickly. All of this was hitting just a bit too close to home for him.
“We ended up hospitalizing Harry in the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo’s.” James’s tone softened a bit, upon noting that his words were indeed having an effect on Harry. Though, he did not slow in his speech, clearly aiming to make a point. “They kept Harry there for a year, doing all sorts of test and giving him all sorts of potions. None of it helped. By the time that he was finally released, the healers had gotten him to understand that the nightmares were dreams and that they were separate from his reality, but that was about it. The nightmares continued, turning well and truly violent. When he was eleven, we reluctantly allowed him to attend Hogwarts, hoping that a bit of normalcy and being around kids his own age might help him. However, after a particularly bad nightmare a little over halfway through his first year, he went mute and we were forced to pull him out. He spent the rest of what would have been his first year back in the Janus Thickey Ward.”
“Thankfully, with time and treatment, he got better. By his twelfth birthday, he was speaking again and seemed happy enough. He was never quite the same though. There was a wariness in his eyes that shouldn’t have been there, and he was jumpy – more so than he had been since the nightmares started. By the time that September rolled around, he said that he wanted to give Hogwarts another go. We kept him home, not wanting to risk a relapse. With the Chamber of Secrets opening that year, we were grateful that we did so.”
“When the time came for him to start his third year, he once again begged us to let him return to Hogwarts. Bethany was starting her first year and over the previous year, despite his nightmares being worse than ever, he had been handling them much better. We agreed to let him go, and he seemed to do well.” James gave a weary sigh and shook his head. “However, a month or so ago, he had a particularly disturbing nightmare. He seemed please about it, but had also been very shaken by it. He asked to come home and to be allowed to take his end of the year exams sometime this summer, after he had time to get over what had happen. Over the last week, he had been doing remarkably well. It was almost as if he were just a regular boy.”
“So, I think you can understand why I’m a little more than interested in who you are and why my family, particularly my son, is significant to you.” James finished with a pointed look.
Harry could only stare at the man, his mind reeling with the implication of what he had just been told. He had no clue as to how it was possible, but from what James had described, it seemed that the Harry of this timeline had been dreaming, or rather had been having nightmares, of his timeline, his life in specific. James had describe events from his first, second, third, forth, and fifth years at Hogwarts and had alluded to the much darker years that had followed, years that no kid should ever be forced to dream about.
Harry ran a stressed hand over his face. He didn’t even want to contemplate which events of his past his counterpart might have witnessed. Well and truly violent. Harry scoffed. That was putting things mildly. The last six years of his life had been a bloody massacre – a dark, hopeless, and desolate period in wizarding history for all of Europe. It was no wonder that the boy was afraid of nearly every little damn thing. While he had lived it and had been forced to face what was happening around him and deal with the things he was experiencing, the kid only knew the horrors of his nightmares and had no doubt been haunted by the images that filled his mind at night.
“Some of the questions that you asked and some of the answers that you gave…” James trailed off meaningfully.
“You believe that I’m the one he dreams of,” Harry said, finally understanding what James thought he knew.
“Are you?” James asked bluntly.
Harry gave a short nod. There was no sense in denying it. Whatever fucked up magic was at work, he was, as per usual, at the center of it. He didn’t know why or how the man’s son had been dreaming of him, but he didn’t doubt it was true or that he was indeed the one that Harry had been dreaming of.
“At first, he spoke of you, as if you and he were one and the same. After we admitted him to St. Mungo’s the first time, he began to differentiate between the two of you and began referring to you as Harry. Though…” James hesitated, looking a bit leery. “Though after a time, he began referring to you as Harry and Porteur interchangeably and, eventually, settled on referring to you as Porteur. Healer Strauss is concerned that he is slowly developing a Dissociative Identity Disorder of some sort, in order to deal with the dreams. He believes that one day Porteur will bleed out from his dreams and enter into his reality.”
“But you don’t believe that.” Harry could see it in the man’s eyes. James didn’t believe for a second that his son was crazy.
“Harry doesn’t attempt to disassociate from his dreams.” James grimaced. “If anything, his dreams are all too real to him and he embraces them as such. He tells Lily and the healers that he knows that his dreams aren’t real and that they are only dreams, so that they will leave him alone, but a number of times, when just him and I have talked about his nightmares, he has looked me in the eye and told me that you are real and that the world you live in is real. He says it with such conviction that I’m hard pressed not to believe him.”
“Well, as far as I know, I am real and where I come from is real,” Harry said, beginning to feel completely overwhelmed by the entire situation. He was far out of his depth on this one – far, far out of his depth. If it had been a simple matter of locating the curse that Draco had hit him with and finding a counter-curse to reverse the effects, he would have been just fine. However, with what James had revealed to him, he was beginning to get the impression that things were far more complicated than a curse and its counter-curse. Not to mention, there was the very big issue that he had no clue where the Harry of the body that he was current residing within was. It was logical to assume that since he had taken up residence within the body that belonged to Harry, Harry had taken up residence within his body – which was a less than comforting thought, as his body had been in mortal peril when he left it.
He’ll hate me, Harry thought despondently, as he looked to James, who was regarding him speculatively in return. If Harry died because I came here and Harry ended up where I should be, he will hate me. Fuck if I haven’t already told enough parents that their child is dead.
Harry lowered his eyes to floor, letting out a shaky breath of air that he hadn’t realize he’d been holding, and leaned forward in his chair, bracing his hands in the hair at the back of his neck and digging his elbows into his knees. He felt queasy at the thought of what might have happened to his counterpart. It was highly likely that Draco’s curse or the fall or the damn unstable building itself might have done his counterpart in within seconds of them switching bodies – if that was what had happened. Bile threatened to rise in his throat at the thought that an innocent boy, who had apparently already suffered enough because of him, had traded place with him in death – that, by some messed up twist of fate, he had yet again survived, when he shouldn’t have, with someone else yet again paying the required price.
Harry heard James get up from the bed, but did not look up at the man. Instead, he kept his eyes trained stubbornly on the floor, as James closed the distance between them and came to kneel before him. The man’s hand coming up to rest upon his shoulder startled him, causing him to tense reflexively.
A moment of silence passed between the two with James not removing his hand. Harry forced himself to relax, recognizing the gesture as a supportive one. As the tension left his body, James gave his shoulder a light, reassuring squeeze.
“This is a…difficult…situation,” James said, his voice soft. “I realize that it’s not every day that you wake up and finds yourself in a place…a world that is unrecognizable and not at all your own. I can only imagine how upsetting this must be for you. However, in order to resolve the situation, I…we need remain objective.”
As James spoke, Harry realized just how much of an Auror the man was. The man’s son was missing, yet James was able to keep a level head and recognized the importance of ensuring that those around him kept a level head as well. Not only that, the man was skilled in asserting calm. The hand on his shoulder, the lowering of the man’s voice, as if the man was speaking to only him – both gestures were techniques for breaking through turmoil and establishing a grounding connection that would aid a person in calming down and returning to rational thought. The man’s professionalism was the mark of a skilled Auror, one who had extensive experience with extreme situations.
Only, he doesn’t realize how extreme the situation might be, Harry thought solemnly. Though nothing was certain, he had a gut feeling that there would be no easy way to reverse what had been done. If what has been done can be reversed at all. Harry scowled at the thought. If his body died and the Harry that belonged to the body that he was currently residing within died along with his body, then there would be no way of reversing the effects. It would be permanent. He really didn’t want to even begin to think about it.
Harry scrubbed his hand over his face, while focusing on clearing his mind of what it would mean for him if the switch was permanent. He needed to focus on the here and now, he decided. He needed to apply his mind towards finding a way to reverse what had been done. He had already fought and won his war. He had promises to fulfill and an entire continent to help rebuild back home in his timeline. He had some very important appointments that he needed to keep in the coming week, ones that would determine the fate of several nations. This could not have happen at a more inopportune time, Harry thought irritably, as he considered all that he was needed for back in his own timeline.
Reluctantly, Harry dropped his hands from his face and raised his head, meeting James’s concerned gaze. He straightened, shrugging the man’s hand off his shoulder and drawing himself up to his full height. His days of wallowing in self-pity and fretting over things he could not change had long been over. ‘There is only the future and what one does with it.’ That was the mantra that he had come to live by, the one that got him through one hellacious day to the next.
“Auror Potter, allow me to properly introduce myself,” Harry said, an indifferent mask upon his face. “I am Harry James Potter, son of James and Lily Potter, the Gray Lord of Europe – self-named as Porteur Demort.” Ignoring the way James’s eyes widened, at the confirmation of his identity, only to narrow, upon the revelation of his status as a Gray Lord, he pushed onward. “I am 23 years old, born in 1980, making the year where I am from 2003 – the exact date being 6 September 2003. I am not your son, as my both my parents were murdered, when I was but a year old. I ask that you respect that.”
“Of course…” James trailed off, clearly uncertain of how Harry would wish to be addressed.
“I’ve always preferred just to be called Harry, but no one has actually called me by my birth name in years,” Harry said neutrally, surveying the man. “If you wish, in order to differentiate between myself and your son, you may call me Porteur…or simply Demort, if you desire something less personal.”
“Not Lord Demort?” James asked, his voice carrying a slight edge and his eyes flashing. His disapproval couldn’t be any more clear.
Harry refrained from sneering. “The public proclaimed me to be the Gray Lord, just as they accepted Voldemort as the dark lord that he proclaimed himself to be,” Harry said, keeping his tone even and his face impassive. “However, I’ve never seen any reason to allow the title to become my name. Unlike Voldemort, I did not need a grandiose moniker for my reputation to spread. Long before I was made the Gray Lord of Europe, Porteur Demort was known from the Norwegian Sea down to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic Ocean east to beyond the western border of Mother Russia. The Gray Lord is but a title, Auror Potter, not my name.”
“Very well…Porteur,” James said somewhat stiffly, after taking a moment to consider which name he would use. He didn’t seem any happier about the revelation.
“While I would ideally like to retire to Grimmauld Place and begin researching how to undo what has been done, I imagine that that would be unacceptable.” Harry raised an eyebrow at the man, hoping to get past their differences regarding what magics ought and ought not be used as quickly as possible and move on to finding a way to return him to his own timeline. However, he knew better than to think that James would simply allow him to do as he pleased. He was an unknown entity, after all, and he was sure that the man most likely had his own ideas on how to proceed.
James shook his head, just has Harry thought he would. “I’d rather you allow Mayra to have a look at you, before we decide on a course of action.” His eyes cut to the left corner of Harry’s mouth.
Harry frowned and reached up to touch the spot that James’s gaze had fixed upon. He grimaced, feeling the tender flesh and dried blood where James had elbowed him during their tussle.
“You looked to be in some pretty intense pain earlier, as well,” James said with a grimace of his own.
“Well traversing space and time apparently isn’t as pleasant as it sounds,” Harry said dryly, giving James a contemptuous look.
“Sarcasm does no suit you,” James dead panned, his face stoic. He was obviously attempting to remove his emotions from the situation. “Will you allow Mayra to have a look at you?”
“Who’s Mayra?” Harry asked. He had never known or even heard of a Mayra.
Surprise flitted across James’s face. “Mayra is Sirius’s wife. She works as a healer at St. Mungo’s.”
Despite himself and despite the situation, Harry grinned. He had seen the photo of what he had assumed to be Sirius’s family, but to hear that Sirius of the timeline had indeed gotten married and had settled down to a family life was bittersweet news to hear. At least he found happiness somewhere, he thought fondly.
“I take it Sirius wasn’t married to Mayra where you’re from?” James asked, his eyes revealing his curiosity.
“No.” Harry sighed despondently. “He…he never married.”
“Oh,” James said, a pensive look overtaking his face.
“Will you tell Mayra who I am?” Harry asked, getting them back on topic before James could ask anything more about the Sirius of his timeline.
“I had planned on it.” James nodded.
“I’d rather you didn’t. I’d rather you told no one except, perhaps, your wife.” Harry pinned the man with a grave look. He had no interest in wasting time answering a curious healer’s questions, or any outsider’s questions for that matter. At the moment, as far as he was concerned, he had a single objective. “I don’t know how I came to be here, but I’d prefer if my presence was not share with those who do not necessarily need to know that I’m not Harry. We don’t need a case study being made about me concerning Time-Space Travel and the Greater Mysteries of the Universe. This,” Harry once more gestured to himself, “simply needs to be reversed as quickly and discretely as possible. I’ll allow Mayra to treat my lip and check me over, but that’s it.”
“And what do you expect me to tell her, Sirius, Remus…or Bethany, for that matter?” James raised a cynical eyebrow. “In case you haven’t notice,” he motioned for Harry to look around the room, “Harry isn’t exactly capable of setting wards that can block Sirius out for over ten minutes, let alone capable of setting wards at all. Hell, even I can’t set temporary wards at that level.”
For a tense moment, Harry and James stared at each other – the silence deafening between them. Harry knew from experience that the fewer people who knew about something, the less chance there was of that particular something being spread and becoming common knowledge. While he wished to keep his presence under wraps, he highly doubted that James would allow him to manipulate Mayra, Sirius, Remus, and Bethany’s memories to cause them to forget the morning’s events, which meant that the four were going to have to be told something of the truth. Not to mention, Sirius would most likely need to be fully briefed, before the man would agree to allow him to peruse the Black Library at Grimmauld Place.
“Fine, tell them what you wish,” Harry said reluctantly, knowing his permission mattered very little in the full scope of things. James was the one with the wand, so the man didn’t really need his permission. It was just how things went for captives in such situations. Though James allowed him to feel as if he might have some say, he didn’t actually have any at all – not as long as James was the one with a wand and he remained unarmed. He could only hope that James was smart enough to keep his presence to only Lily, Sirius, Mayra, Remus, and Bethany, whoever Bethany may be.
Merlin save us all, if he tells Albus. Harry mentally groaned at the thought of what the Albus of the timeline might do, upon being informed of his little visit. He loved and sympathized with his old mentor, but at the same time, he hated the man for what the man had put him through and the secrets the man had kept from him all in the name of ‘The Greater Good’. He didn’t doubt for a second that the Albus of this timeline was much the same as the Albus of his timeline. For Albus Dumbledore there would always be ‘The Greater Good’.
“Can I trust you to remain put for a minute?” James asked, looking somewhat uncertain.
“Yes.” Harry nodded dutifully, setting aside his thoughts about Albus for the time being and resigning himself to James’s will.
James surveyed Harry a moment longer, before standing. He looked back down at Harry, as if wondering if he could really trust the youth to stay put. Upon seemingly deciding that he could, he turned towards the close door behind Harry. Without fully turning his back on Harry, he crossed the distance over to the door, opening it and stepping through.
Harry heard several voices bombard the man with questions, before the door shut soundly and he was left alone in the room. He sighed and leaned back in the chair that he was sitting in. He was really getting sick and tired of having strange shit happen to him. Though he had accepted that he was not normal and his life never would be normal, traversing to an alternate timeline was just a bit too much, even for him.