While James is willing to help, it becomes apparent that things in Harry's life will never go smoothly.
As it turned out, James hadn’t been kidding about the whole ‘stay put a minute’ bit. It was quite literally only a minute after James had left that the man returned. Craning his neck to see behind him, Harry felt his chest tighten uncomfortably, as a familiar dark haired man and a familiar tawny haired man filed into the room after James. It was odd and frankly disconcerting for him to see both newcomers not only alive, but looking so young and unburdened by the long period of hardship each had suffered in his timeline.
Where his godfather had carried a haunted look in his gray eyes and a somewhat defeated bend in his posture, the Sirius Black now before him stood tall and walked with a confident gait. The man’s face was smooth and full with a light sheen and the beginnings of a tan, not at all drawn and pale. The same went for his lean frame, being thin and built of muscle, instead of skeletal and somewhat frail looking. His hair was cropped short, but not overly so – just long enough for it to frame his face, but not long enough for it to get in the way. The biggest difference, however, was in the man’s eyes. They were more striking and full of life than Harry ever remembered seeing them.
Harry could not help but stare, drinking in this man who looked so similar to his godfather, yet so very different. He had seen pictures of Sirius in his youth, had accidently subject himself a rather unflattering memory of Sirius and his father bulling Snape back when they were sixteen, and had seen the bare shadow of what the man ought to have become in the depleted form that Azkaban and life on the run had rendered his godfather. However, none of what he had seen of the man to date even began to truly compare to the handsome, aristocratic grace that was Sirius Black at 34 years of age, healthy, vibrant, and clearly a man of power.
A throat clearing to his left caused Harry to turn his head the slightest bit towards James, though his eyes did not leave Sirius, who was in turn eyeing him apprehensively.
“Lily is flooing Mayra,” James said. “They should be up in a bit.”
Harry simply nodded, his gaze still not wavering from Sirius. While it was one thing to be confront with his long dead father – a father that he hadn’t ever truly known and only had the barest memory of – it was another to be faced with a living version of the one and only parental figure that he ever remembered having in his life. Very different, he thought firmly. Though he had mourned and accepted his Sirius’s death and had come to realize that not everything that had happened the night that Sirius had died was entirely his fault and that the blame also laid, as Dumbledore had said, on Dumbledore, himself, as well as Sirius, Snape, Bellatrix, and Voldemort, and he had also come to realize that death was not the worst thing that could happen to a person and that death for Sirius had most likely been a welcomed release, he still felt rather guilty about the whole affair and especially guilty about how things had been left between him and his godfather, as he really hadn’t been all that great of godson to the man.
From the time that he had met Sirius, he had continually taken him for granted. Sirius had escaped Azkaban for him, lived off of rats for him, risked recapture and the Dementor’s Kiss for him, and endured living within Grimmauld Place for him. Yet, the best that he had ever done for Sirius in return was to not kill him the night that they official met in the Shrieking Shake at the end of his third year. Over the two years that he had had Sirius in his life, he had rarely asked Sirius about his own life or attempted to get to know his godfather for the man that he actually was. Instead, he complained about every little thing that was wrong in his life and had scowled at Sirius for being imperfect, upon actually discovering a bit about Sirius and his father’s time at Hogwarts. He couldn’t even remember the last time that he had sat down and talked with his godfather about things unrelated to Voldemort or the war prior to the night that the man had died.
The past is the past, Harry chastised himself. It would not do to dwell, especially not considering the situation that he was in. His Sirius was dead. The man now before him was not really his godfather, and he was not really the man’s godson. He had lost his opportunity with his own godfather and, like he had been doing for the last eight years, he just had to live with it.
“Porteur,” James said. He was much closer than before.
Harry looked to him, blinking his eyes a few times to rid them of the stinging and pushing back his emotions. Upon taking in the concern marring James’s brow, Harry drew a steady breath. “I’m fine,” he said, doing his best to sound as if he was, indeed, fine. All things considered, he was far from fine, but all things considered, he had to be fine.
“Good,” James said, after taking a moment to look Harry over and assure himself that Harry wasn’t lying and that the youth was, indeed, capable of continuing to hold it together.
As silence descended over the room, Harry forced himself to relax back into his chair and keep his eyes trained on James. James held his gaze, not even so much as moving a muscle. Sirius and Remus, who he could not see, as his back was turned towards the two men and he wasn’t about to turn around and allow himself to return to staring at Sirius, remained still and quiet as well. A minute passed and then another. A palpable tension strained the air, as the silence continued. Harry shut his mind to it and contented himself on appearing unperturbed.
Just when the silence had become nearly unbearable, it was broken by a knock at the door. Harry tensed, as one of the men behind him crossed over to the door and opened it. Upon the newcomers entering the room, James beckoned them forward. Two women cautiously moved around James and came to stand before Harry. One he recognized as Lily Potter, the other he could only assume to be Mayra.
“Porteur, may I introduce my wife, Lily Potter,” James indicated to the petite, red haired woman beside him. With her so close and actually looking at him, he saw that her emerald eyes were truly strikingly similar to his own, as well as that she was just as beautiful, if not more so, as he had envisioned her to be from the many photos that he had seen of her. “And Sirius’s wife, Mayra Black.” This time James indicated to the blonde woman standing next to Lily. She was of average height and delicate build and looked to be in her mid to late twenties. There was a kind smile upon her face, which complemented her keen brown eyes and softened her sharp features. In her left hand, she carried a black medical bag.
“It is good to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Potter, Lady Black,” Harry said in obligatory greeting and bowed his head to each. “I’d get up and greet you properly, if it would not cause me pain and would not possibly be seen as an aggressive act towards you.”
“It’s fine, Ha-Porteur,” Lily said tentatively, looking for all the world as if she wanted to reach out to him, but had the presence of mind not. Instead, she moved closer to James and leaned into him, visibly gaining strength from her husband. “It is good to meet you as well.”
Though she sounded sincere, Harry could tell that her words were false, as the worried look in her eyes showed quite plainly, even without him having to use Legilimency, that she wanted her son and that she did not think that it was at all good to meet him. He could not blame her for the sentiments, as he felt much the same about the situation.
“Mayra, please,” James said, looking to the blonde woman, as he wrapped a comforting arm around Lily and tilted his head towards Harry.
“Of course,” Mayra said and stepped towards Harry, drawing Harry’s attention to her. As she bent down and set her medical bag down on the floor beside her, James led Lily over the sofa by the window and coaxed her to sit down. “How bad is your pain?” Mayra asked, while popping the silver clasp on her medical bag and pushing the leather flaps open.
“Right now, it’s not all that bad,” Harry answered honestly, noting that through subtle maneuvering he had become surrounded and that all of the exits out of the room had been securely blocked. Sirius and Remus were at his back, guarding the door. James and Lily were to his right, guarding the window. Mayra was before, demanding his focus. To his left was the shelf of useless knickknacks and photo frames, providing no retreat. If he had been entertaining thoughts of escape or attempting to resist before, he certainly wouldn’t be now. He was far too outnumbered and, despite being free of magical restraints, his movements were far too restricted.
“You said that it would cause you pain to get up,” Mayra prodded, retrieving her wand from her violet robes, though she hesitated in pointing it directly at him and instead kept it train towards the floor.
“As long as I remain still, I feel alright,” Harry admitted, remembering quite clearly the fire that he had felt searing his bones and burning through his veins after his altercation with James.
“May I cast a few diagnosis spells?” Mayra asked, standing up decisively and holding her wand loosely within her palm.
“I’m in no position to refuse,” Harry said and nodded his head in ascent for her to cast her spells. He had, after all, agreed to allow her to look him over.
Harry watched the woman’s wand intently, as it cut through the air. He followed the movements, matching them with a general diagnosis spell. As the beginnings of spell hit him, he still, before relaxing, as he felt the familiar effects of the spell wash over him. As he knew from casting the same spell himself and others more than a few times during the war, the spell did not provide physical results of any sort, but rather delivered the information of a person’s injuries and ailments by a mental pull towards the afflicted area or areas on the person’s body. From the way that Mayra scowled, upon the spell’s completion, he could only assume that the results were not good.
Again she cast the spell. This time a look of intense concentration was on her face, as the results came to her. Again she scowled. Though, she seemed more worried than anything else.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, unease settling in his stomach. It was never good, when a healer looked worried – truly worried in the way Mayra appeared to be at the moment.
“I…I’m not sure,” Mayra said, while staring at him in a way that suggest that he shouldn’t even be conscious, let alone alive.
“What do you mean ‘not sure’?” James asked, rising to his feet. Though his face remained stoic and he held on to the calm pretense that he had maintained for the last half-hour, his voice quavered with alarm that the man could not hide. Lily reached out and gripped his hand tightly in her own, distress visible on her face and shining in her eyes.
“His magic…” Mayra shook her head, frowning in puzzlement. “It’s all wrong. It’s like it’s burning upon itself. I’ve never…” She trailed off, giving James an apologetic look. “I don’t know how to treat this. James, I know that Lily said that you didn’t want to go to St. Mun–”
“No!” James cut her off, the word coming out decisive and final.
“James,” Lily said imploringly, rising to stand beside him.
“No,” James said again. This time, the word was soft, as he looked down at his wife.
“James, he’s sick,” Lily said, her voice shaking ever so slightly, as she looked up at her husband with pleading eyes. “I know that you want to believe that this isn’t what it is, however I also know that deep down you’ve known that this could and most likely would happen. Healer Strauss said that the best thing –”
“No, Lily,” James said firmly, his eyes hardening in reproach. “How many times have we gone to that blasted hospital seeking answers? How many Mind Healers, as well as General Healers and every other type of healer under the sun have attempted to help…to give an explanation, only to come up with another false diagnosis that replaces the last false diagnosis that the healer before gave us?” Upon Lily opening her mouth to protest, James shook his head. “I’m not saying that Strauss isn’t great with Harry and hasn’t done more than the others to help him through the trauma of his nightmares. However, like all the others, he hasn’t stopped the nightmares. Worse yet, he wants to label our son as being crazy.”
“James, Porteur is here,” Sirius said, his tone gentle. Harry turned towards the timeline’s version of Sirius in time to see the man take a step away from his position by the door. He noted that, while Sirius was mainly focused on James, the man kept a cautious eye on him as well.
“I’m aware,” James said, turning away from Lily, who was looking even more distraught and at a loss than she had moments prior, to Sirius, who he narrowed his eyes at. “But just because he’s here doesn’t make Strauss right. This is something else, something more. I know it.” Abruptly, his gaze flicked to Harry. “He’s as real as Harry has always said that he is. My son is not crazy.”
“James, why don’t we let Mayra finish patching up Harry’s lip, while we go grab a cuppa and talk about this,” Remus suggested kindly, attempting to appear sympathetic without being patronizing, yet failing miserably at it.
It was as he took in Remus, Sirius, Lily, and Mayra all looking at James with pleading eyes, silently begging the man to see reason, that Harry realized how lucky he had been that James was the first person that he had had contact with. The others would have wasted time attempting to convince him that he wasn’t really who he knew himself to be and that he was really a pubescent boy with a mental disorder. Not to mention, they most likely would have attempted to cart him off to St. Mungo’s straight off.
Clearly, I won’t be allowed to visit the Black Library anytime soon, Harry thought irritably.
While he didn’t know much about Disassociate Identity Disorder, he had heard enough from his aunt and uncle’s ramblings over the years about anything and everything abnormal and had picked up enough from the way James spoke of the Disorder to know that it involved a person having multiple personalities, or rather identities, that switched up from time to time. According to some article that his aunt had read, one identity of a person suffering from the Disorder might only speak English and be right handed, while another identity of the same person might speak French exclusively, be allergic to cat hair, and write left handed. His aunt had spent an entire afternoon scoffing at the article, claiming it as rubbish. However, from the way that James spoke, he got the impression that the only reason the man believed that he was sane and wasn’t a fractured personality of his son’s conscience was because the man believed his son’s claims that he was real, and that was despite having watched him set wards that the man knew full well that his son was incapable of setting and him using Legilimency on the man, which he assumed from James’s reaction that Harry was also incapable of doing. It was as if his magical capabilities had no bearing on his sanity in James’s eyes, suggesting that the article his aunt had read hadn’t been complete rubbish after all and that whatever capabilities that he possessed that Harry didn’t would do nothing towards convincing the others that he was who he claimed to be.
Harry groaned. Looking to James, who was glaring at Remus with firm resolve on his face, it was apparent to him that James was his only hope of not being locked in St. Mungo’s Janus Thickey Ward. He was in a depleted enough state at the moment that the others could easily force a tranquilizing potion of the very strong calming draught variety down his throat, leaving him even more incapacitated than he already was, or simply stun him and render him fully incapacitated. Once he was shut up in St. Mungo’s, it would be exceedingly difficult to shake off the influence of the mass of potions and spell that would no doubt be forced down his throat and placed upon him, making escaping highly problematic. He didn’t have time to waste with such nonsense.
Well, there is nothing for it, Harry decided somewhat reluctantly, as a plan formed in his mind. Whatever he did, he could not let the others convince James that he was a part of their Harry and that St. Mungo’s was the only place for him now that he had officially succumbed to his ‘illness’.
“D-Dad,” Harry said, purposefully allowing fear to quaver his voice. All five adults looked to him, however, the only person’s gaze that he returned was James’s piercing stare. As his and James’s eyes lock, he reached out to the man’s mind with a gentle, yet detectable touch, giving James every opportunity to resist his intrusion. The man didn’t and instead allowed him to pull forward memories of Harry’s most recent breakdowns.
As Harry watched the struggles of his counterpart, he couldn’t help but feel terrible for the state that the boy’s nightmares had left the boy in. While, yes, he had admittedly felt fear many times in his life, had felt his blood run cold with terror, had felt disturbed and disgusted with his gut clenching and his heart pounding, had felt that to die would be better than to live, he had always had a purpose that went beyond his internal cowardice. There had been no room for fear, when innocent lives were at stake. There had been no time for terror, when the world as he knew it could end in a single moment, resulting in even darker days to come. There had been no sense in being squeamish, when he knew that the death and desolation before him would still be there when he woke the next day and would continue on, until he brought Voldemort to his knees and ended the war once and for all. And every time that he had thought about surrender, he had had all that he had lost to drive him onward and back into to battle.
The boy had had none of that, had had no purpose to propel him past the horror that he witnessed in the night. The boy had only had his nightmares, nightmares that came and went and tormented the boy with every new vision that they brought – terrible nightmares that affected the boy just as the real events had effect him. The fear, blood cold terror, and everything else that he had never allowed himself to dwell on showed plainly in the boy’s eyes, as he witness the memories of the boy breaking in his father’s arms, clinging to his mother for dear life, folding in upon himself in silence and refusing to speak. It was heartbreaking, yet worse, because, in a way, he was the cause of it. He didn’t know how or why this world’s Harry dreamt of him and his world, but it was the horrors of his life that affected the boy so.
Upon pulling out of James’s memories, Harry hesitated.
Hearing the desperation and hopefulness in Lily’s voice, however, caused Harry to resolve himself. The woman would never have ‘Harry’ back, if things continued as they were and she and the others hounded James into compliance. At the moment, he needed her, Sirius, Remus, and Mayra away from him and James outside of their influence. He wasn’t entirely certain what the results of Mayra’s diagnosis spells meant, but he needed time to think and consider the significance of the results, as well as consider how to circumvent ‘Harry’s’ supposed illness.
Upon casting an unsure glance to Lily and then to the others in the room, he returned his gaze to James. He drew his arms around himself, as he had seen his counterpart do in the man’s memories, making the act seem subconscious. As he induced a shiver to run down his spine, he shrunk further in on himself and whispered in a shaky voice, “H-he was here, wasn’t he? Th-That’s why you’re all looking at me like-like…”
Harry shut his eyes, forcing his worst memories across him mind. When he reopened his eyes a moment later and looked back up at James, his vision was bleary with unshed tears and fear mixed deep sorrow and uncertainty showed on his face. He could see it in James’s stiff stance that the man knew what he was doing, but whatever actual emotion the man felt regarding his display remained hidden behind a carefully composed mask of indifference. Silently, he willed the man to play along.
The choice was taken out of both of their hands a split-second later, as Lily practically threw herself upon him and pulled him into a tight embrace, all the while babbling about how everything was going to be okay and that they were going to get him help and that she loved him and always would love him no matter how many times Porteur showed up. As she continued on, her voice cracking into barely restrained sobs, James gave a sigh of defeat and crossed over to Harry as well.
While Harry had returned Lily’s affections and played up his part, the moment James was close to him, Harry reached out to the man, as if seeking reassurance. He bit his lip, while trembling, as if retraining a sob – another thing that he had seen his counterpart do.
“It’s going to be okay,” James said softly, though not entirely heartfelt, and pulled Harry into the hug that the youth was obviously seeking.
“It’s not! It’s not!” Harry refuted, burying himself into the man’s chest and tucking his head into the man’s robes, as he simulated a complete and total meltdown. James’s arms tightened around him, almost painfully so, though the man did not call him on his charade. Instead, through his pretend sobbing, Harry heard James dismiss Sirius, Remus, and Mayra from the room. Lily continued to fret and worry and whisper soothing things to him, while running a hand through his hair.
For the briefest of moments, Harry felt his heart constricted and he felt as if he was headed for a meltdown for real. In that split second, it wasn’t his counterpart’s parents hugging him, comforting him. It was his parents hugging him and calling him son and telling him that they loved him and things were going to be alright. As quick the slip up came, however, he shoved back his conflicting feeling. Getting sentimental would not help him at the current moment. They are not your parents, he reminded himself firmly. They’re strangers, nothing but strangers.
Harry kept up the act for several minutes, all the while making it quite clear that it was James, who he wanted. Eventually, as he gave pretense of calming down a bit, James suggested that Lily go down to the others and recuperate, as it had been a stressful morning for all of them and she looked like she could use the break. She protested, but upon James assuring her that he would remain with Harry and keep him calm, she relented, sounding truly worn.
The second that the door snapped shut behind Lily, James shoved Harry away from him with a livid expression on his face.
“You manipulative little shit,” James said in a low hiss, looking very much like he would like nothing more than to deck Harry a second time.
Harry merely cocked an eyebrow at the man, entirely unrepentant and face clear of tears or distress of any sort. “It’s in the best interest of your son that I remain free and clear of St. Mungo’s, no matter what the cost. I can’t help him, if I’m locked up in the loony bin with so many mind altering potions pumping through my system that I can’t think straight.”
James opened mouth to give a retort, but, apparently too angry, his mouth snapped back shut and his fist clench with his nails digging into his palms. He took several calming breaths.
“I’m no expert on Dissociative Identity Disorder, but I know enough to know that I damn well can’t prove who I say I am,” Harry said, attempting to reason with the man. He needed James on his side. “I could cast a hundred spell that you’re son has yet to learn, speak in French, German, Bulgarian, Italian, Russian, or even Arabic, and swear by my own damn magic that I am who I say I am to no avail. For all intents and purpose, I’d still be who I am, even if I truly were a fragment of your son’s conscience. Please, you’re the only one who believes me, and you are most likely the only one who will believe me. I need to get back to my own timeline, so your son can return and things can be as they should be.”
“Never pull a stunt like that again,” James ground out between clenched teeth, but nodded nonetheless.