James, Sirius, and Harry establish and understanding.
Chapter 12 - Compromise
The hallways of Grimmauld Place were as dark and gloomy as ever. They had, however, been cleaned. Instead of having to fight off cobwebs and the spiders occupying said cobwebs, while attempting not to breathe in too much of the dust that stirred in the air with his every step, Harry's footfalls fell on pristine floorboards and his path ahead was unhindered, not even asingle cobweb in sight. It was as if he had woken up back within 12 Grimmauld Place of the other world, eight years into the past. He remembered the hallways of that world's Grimmauld Place having been just as clean during the Weasleys'occupation of the house, when the house had served as headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. The house hadn't been so clean since and probably never would be again, at least not in the other world - perhaps in this world Sirius would fix the place up.
Upon descending a flight of stairs down to the first floor, Harry had been about to descend the grand staircase and proceed to the home's basement kitchen, as had once been his accustom route upon waking in the mornings, when he noticed that the door to the drawing room was propped open and he heard his father and godfather's laughter ring out from within. Turning up the first floor hallway, he bypassed the Black Library and made for the drawing room at the end of the long, narrow hall.
Harry heard his father choke out the spell between bouts of laughter, just as he rounded the doorframe of the drawing room to see what appeared to have been a dead and bloody body lying on the floor at the center of the room transform into a dancing red cape. Harry couldn't help but chuckled along with his father and godfather, as the cape flew up into the air and executed several clumsy dance moves, before a miscalculated pirouette caused it to catch on the edge of the tea table between the sofas and sent it skidding across the floor towards him in a wadded up ball.
"Harry!" James exclaimed in surprise and alarm, as the man caught sight of him.
Harry was only vaguely aware of his father and godfather's hurried steps faltering in their rush towards him and the boggart that they had been attempting to dispel. His focus was solely on the skeletal figure swathed in a dark cloak and silk robes rising from the folds of what had been the red cape to tower over him. His heart sped and adrenalin flooded him at the sight of the man who had haunted him day and night for almost the entirety of his life. It's a boggart. Only a boggart, he reminded himself firmly, refusing to give power to the being, as the menacing figure of the Dark Lord began to stride towards him with soundless, barefoot steps and a cruel smile twisting thin, white lips and crinkling pale, snake-like features. Gleaming red eyes bore into Harry with hatred and disgust, as the gaunt figure broke out into high, cold laughter that sent a shiver down his spine, drawing on the blood sodden earth, blistering fires, and the dark, twisted and near intoxicating magics deep within his memories that were associated with the image before him and the sound of that cold laughter ringing in his ears. With slow, deliberate movements, movements so reflective of the monster that it was depicting, the boggart withdrew a familiar bone white wand from within its robes.
Harry reacted on instinct, as if a switch had been flipped inside his mind. One second he had been standing his ground; the next he dove to the side, tucking his body into a roll and barely avoiding the sickly orange curse that the boggart had flung at him with a sharp flick of its wrist. There was a loud bang and a reverberating explosion, upon the curse making contact with the doorframe that he had been standing in not a second prior. Fragments of splintered wood blasted him and the drawing room, as he rounded on the boggart with his wand drawn.
Occluding his mind against the magic of the sentient being before him, in order to prevent it from drawing further inspiration from his memories, Harry thrust his ash wand in a sharp downward jab and finished the propulsion of the magic gathering under his command with a curved upward cut and twist. Black flames sprung forth from the very air in the room, licking off of the floorboards - an inferno taking on an almost conscious quality, as it hissed into being and engulfed the boggart, before the boggart could take even one more step towards him or raise the yew wand in its hand for a second time. Wrapping around the boggart in an imitation of the long, constricting body of a snake, the obsidian flames hummed with satisfaction under Harry's ironclad control, consuming the boggart offered to them with greedy haste. Upon blackened flakes of burnt flesh breaking away from the boggart's burning form and wafting to the floor, Harry cut the flow of energy feeding the flames with practiced difficulty, causing the flames to die out. Like a crumbling tower of cards, the charcoal remains of the boggart dissolved into a pile of ash.
Devil's Fire, while capable of widespread devastation in a matter of seconds, was also the only proven form of magic capable of destroying a dementor and was more than capable of destroying various other beings born of latent magic. It was his own personal variant of fiendfyre, one that he had been devastated to see end up in enemy hands and used against the very innocents that he had been trying to protect by its creation.
"Sorry about that," Harry said calmly, looking to his father and godfather, who were both staring at where the boggart had been with horror."I should have employed Occlumency the second that I realize that you were handling a boggart."
Ah, the sweet, naive boy that he had been was showing through in his carelessness. I'll have to watch that, Harry thought firmly. It was something that he'd need to correct for a second time in his life, or so it seemed. With so many lives and an entire continent made up of various nations and cultures at stake, he couldn't afford to slip up and miss something important or get caught out and killed, before he had the chance to destroy the Voldemort of this world, as he had in the other world.
Seeing that his father and godfather were both still frozen in place and stunned to silence, Harry turned his attention to the boggart's remains. Evanesco! He swept his wand over pile of ash, which only resulted in his wand sputtering and shaking, before fizzling out without even producing a faint shadow of the vanishing spell. "Damn." He had burnt through more ill-fitted wands in his life than he cared to count. Hopefully, Ollivander would have a wand capable of matching him, as he didn't feel like waiting for the month it would take for Nataskova to assemble him a custom wand. The old witch was notorious for drawing out the process of obtaining a compatible wand wood. Plus, Ollivander's wands were of the finest quality this side of the English Channel. Nataskova could hardly compete, though she did try.
"W-what did you just do?"
Harry looked to Sirius. The man had finally managed to regain his wits, though he remained distinctly pale.
"I tried to cast a vanishing spells." Harry shrugged. The key word there was in his opinion was 'tried'.
"Don't play cute, Harry," James said, gathering himself as well. His eyes were hard and unyielding, as he stared down his son in demand of an explanation.
"Well, I did try to cast a vanishing spell," Harry said, carelessly tossing his now useless wand atop the boggart's remains. "As for what I did before that," he added, when neither his father nor godfather looked pacified, "...yes, it was Dark Magic. No, I will not tell you what it was specifically. Yes, it is dangerous to use. Yes, it can quickly spurn out of control without proper concentration and control. No, you weren't in any danger just now, not even for a second. Yes, I've used that particular spell countless times before now."
"And that thing was supposed to have been Voldemort?" Sirius asked shakily, when James said nothing and merely continued to stare at Harry with conflict in his hazel eyes. It was as if the man wanted to yell at his brazen son until he was blue in the face, yet knew that to do so would be counterproductive and a complete waste of his breath, as well as a waste of everyone's time.
Harry nodded in answer to Sirius's question, before drawing himself up and meeting his father's narrowed eyed gaze with defiance. While he was willing to compromise with his father on some things for the sake of retaining an amicable and close relationship with the man, this was one thing that he was not going to compromise on. He respected that not everyone viewed magic and how it should and should not be used as he did - it was the only way that he had been able to work with the other witches and wizards of the Resistance over the course of the war in the other world - but he wasn't about to change his views or disregard what he had come to know of the very nature of magic, no matter what his family's beliefs were regarding Dark Magic. As far as he was concerned, magic was magic. He had and would always work off of a spell by spell, situation by situation basis, when it came to determining what magic was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable.
"Dad, I know you don't like Dark Magic," Harry began, making it a point not to sound defensive or superior in his views, "but I am a gray wizard, a dark magic user. I'm not going to -"
James held up his hand for silence.
A tense quiet settled over the room, as Harry respected his father's request. When he had been Porteur, this unsavory part of him had no doubt been easier for his father to ignore and look past, as Porteur existence within this world was supposed to have been temporary. It seemed that he was going to need to be patient with his father now that his beliefs and their differences in regards to magic use had become a permanent part of him and their relationship. With a mental sigh, Harry settled in to wait for his father to decide either to yell at him or to come to terms with what he had done.
One minute passed, then another. No one moved. No one spoke. The drawing room and its occupants were utterly still
As Harry watched his father attempt to come to some sort of resolution, he noted that restraint coiled his father's entire being. He's fighting his very nature, his every instinct to refuse to accept Dark Magic within his home, he observed, knowing that fathers had disowned and kicked out their sons from their homes for much less. He sincerely doubted that his father would ever take things so far - James Potter just wasn't that sort of man - but it was clear that his father was struggling with his shift of morality. After all, the man had spent nearly 14 year raising his teenage self to be Light. Perhaps having his leaning thrown in the man's face first off wasn't the best thing, but his methods would have been called into question soon enough.
Shooting a look to Sirius, Harry saw that his godfather was watching his father with expectation and a faint note of apprehension. There was intensity in his godfather's gray eyes that was practically willing his father to not do or say anything rash. Again he had to wonder at the oddity of his godfather in this world. Though his teenage self had known the man all of his life, Sirius had never mention or showed any sort of dark leanings. In fact, Sirius rarely, if ever mentioned his views on magic. The one time that he did remember Sirius expressing an opinion on magics regulated by the Ministry, his father had glared the man into silence.
A few more minutes had passed. Finally, James seemed to come to a decision and he gestured for Harry to sit down on one of sofas.
"I'm just going to..." Sirius indicated to the door and his impending departure.
"I'm not lecturing him, Sirius," James said, resignation pulling at the corners of his lips and firm in his eyes.
Sirius looked skeptical for a half-second, before giving James a once over and appearing to accept that James was being honest. "Stay?"
"Stay," James confirmed.
Upon Harry settling on the old green sofa that he remembered having lounged on in the other world and Sirius reclining back on the sofa opposite Harry, James kneeled down beside Harry.
Harry hissed and snapped his attention to his father, as the man prodded lightly at a particularly sore spot on his right arm. Looking down to see the incurred injury, he was surprised to find several minor cuts, as well as a few splinters inlaid in the skin of both his arms. Though, his right arm was far worse off than his left. Lifting his left hand - the one that his father wasn't currently pulling splinters out of - he reached up to check his face for abrasions.
"You don't want to do that," James said, catching Harry's wrist and returning the appendage to his son's side.
"Dad, Porteur and Harry...they're both a part of me," Harry said, as he watched his father heal his wounds with practiced movements.
"They are, but you still have a choice in how you think and what you do," James said dismissively. "You're action are you own. You understand?"
Harry nodded. He understood exactly what his father was saying: he had no excuses. Whatever part of him was more the 23 year old man than the teenage boy and whatever part of him was more the teenage boy than the 23 year old man was a part of him that he had chosen to embrace as being a part of himself. His memories were merely that: memories. While his past informed his present, he had the unique background of having experienced two separate and very different lives. If he wanted to, he could chose to align his beliefs with his teenage self, just as he could chose to align his emotional ties with the 23 year old man that he had been. What he did today or tomorrow or a year from could not be blamed on his past-selves. Yes, both the teenage boy and 23 year old man were a part of him, but he was the one calling the shots now, making his actions entirely his own.
James worked quietly and quickly for several minutes, carefully healing Harry's wounds. Harry noted that both his father and godfather had fared better than he had, as they had been further away from the blast. His father only had a few scrapes on his hands. His godfather appeared to have survived the destruction of the drawing room door unscathed.
"What are we going to tell mum?" Harry asked, as his father finished healing an abrasion on his face into nonexistence. Now that things had calmed down, there were things that they did to discuss. His mother was a primary concern. She was no doubt out of her mind with worry by now.
"At the moment, she thinks that Sirius and I have taken you to see a specialist," James said, as he turned Harry's face to the left to check for additional cuts that he may have missed.
"An old family friend who owes the Blacks a favor and is paranoid about his privacy," Sirius supplied, when Harry looked to him questioningly.
"Exactly how long have I been out?" Harry asked, as he combined the revelation of his supposed whereabouts with the change in Grimmauld Place's overall cleanliness. Longer than a day that's for sure. The lie that the two men had told his mother wasn't a temporary stall. It was an open ended stall that supplied them with as much time as would be needed for him to recover from the merging of his existence.
"Almost a week." James shifted back and slipped his wand into the holster strapped to his wrist, looking unconcerned by the extended amount of time that his son had slept.
"You gave me Yilmaz Solution, once the Dreamless Sleep began to wear off, didn't you?" Harry turned accusing eyes on Sirius. The solution put the patient into a medically induced coma and wouldn't allow the patient to wake, until all of his or her aliments had been healed or the antidote had been administered. He had only been subject to the solution once in the other world. The bastard who had drugged him had needed a dose of the Yilmaz and a decent healer himself, once he had finished with him. Admittedly, he may have over reacted. However, being rendered unconscious and unable to wake up and defend his person in the midst of an all out war was no small matter, especially as he had been the prime target of the opposition.
"You're welcome." Sirius grinned unrepentantly.
"Dose me again without my consent and we'll see if you're still smiling," Harry said darkly. He did not enjoy being drugged and particularly disliked being poisoned, though he would take the drugging over the poisoning.
"He had my consent," James cut in, giving Harry a pointed look. "As you're my son and underage, that's all the permission anyone needs, when seeing to your wellness and safety."
Line drawn, Harry acknowledged, looking to his father and meeting the man's steadfast gaze. Concession: you give, I give. I allow this and in return...? Do you look the other way regarding the magics that I use, like you've forced yourself to do just now with my burning the boggart? Is that the compromise? He had seen in his father's eyes that the man knew that nothing that the man did or said would change his mind about the magics that he used. He had seen that the man knew that he would not change his mind on the matter, that this part of Porteur was here to stay. Looking at his father now, the man was just as set about having the ultimate say in assuring his wellbeing and safety as he had been about his use of magic.
"I'm not staying out of the war," Harry told the man firmly.
"I hadn't expected that you would," James said with acceptance.
"I'll fight using whatever means I deem necessary," Harry said, defining his side of the compromise.
James's eyes hardened the slightest bit, though he nodded. "I know you will."
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"I've noticed." James's gaze flicked to the pile of ash that had been the boggart.
Harry eyed the man, looking for any signs of deception that foretold of the man reneging and giving him an earful regarding his methods. Seeing none, he nodded in acceptance. "As long as we understand each other...though exactly how old I am is debatable."
James grinned and shook his head in exasperation, as Sirius snorted with amusement.
"You're thirteen going on fourteen," Sirius informed decisively. "It's already been debated, put to a vote, and ruled upon."
"A mature thirteen going on a mature fourteen," James allowed, upon Harry scowling at the both men.
"You know, if we add up all the years that I've actually lived, I'd be older than the both of you by two years?" Harry raised achallenging eyebrow.
"And if we average out how old you are, you'd be 18, or roughly so," Sirius said knowingly. "So how old are you: 36, 23, 18, or 14?"
"Exactly! It's debatable," Harry said, not entirely certain of the answer himself. All he did know was that he wasn't 14. He had lived through too much in both of his lives to be only 14 years old.
"As debatable as your mental age may be, Harry, your physical age is 13, going on 14," James said and gestured to Harry's scrawny frame, as if to prove his point. "Sirius and I have discussed this at length and every time we end up back at the fact that by law and how old people will perceive you to be, you are an underage wizard turning 14 at the end of the month."
Harry glared at his too small to belong to an adult hands, knowing that his father was right. When people look at him, they'd see a 14 year old boy. As he didn't actually know how old he was, the simplest and most sensible thing to do was to assume his physical age. It would prevent all kinds of confusion and would be easier for him and his family to keep track of.
"You two decide anything else while I was knocked out for the last week?" Harry asked derisively, looking from his father to his godfather and back to his father. "Outside of the obvious, of course." He indicated to the partially clean drawing room.
James exchanged a long look with Sirius, before turning back to Harry with troubled eyes and his lips pursed in a thin line. Harry noted that Sirius had suddenly become very solemn and serious as well.
"Nothing good then," Harry murmured resignedly.
"Porteur said that the information that you possess is sensitive," James began delicately.
Harry's eyes narrowed, but nodded. "He also told you that I'd be keeping that information to myself. You'll be told what is important, when it's necessary and only when it's necessary. I'm not compromising on this, Dad. For my safety, for your safety, for the safety of the entire continent of Europe -"
"Harry," James's tone wasn't reprimanding, but it did have a sharp edge. "We're not asking for you to tell us what you know. Believe it or not, we do understand that there is information that needs to be kept contained to as few individuals as possible. If you're telling the truth about the impact that this information that you have could have should it get back to Voldemort what you know, I don't want to know any of it, unless you absolutely require that I be told part of it."
"Then what are you on about?" Harry's gaze cast shrewdly from his father to his godfather.
"How best to protect you," Sirius said and leaned forward in his seat to rest his elbow on his knees. His eyes were grave and filled with concern.
Upon looking to back to James, Harry noted that his father was tense and that the man's eyes were filled with anxiety as well.
"What you know puts a target on your back," James said seriously. "Even if you reveal nothing sensitive to anyone else, should certain individuals find out that you have knowledge of an alternate universe, one where the war has already been fought and won, it won't matter that you've no intentions of sharing your knowledge."
"And we're not just talking about Voldemort and his followers. There are also the Ministry, mad experimentalists, and even Dumbledore to worry about." Sirius ticked off each threat on the fingers of his left hand. "Although, the mad experimentalists won't care much for you knowledge regarding the war and will just want to examine the first person to not only successfully merge souls, but traverse dimensions."
"You do realize that they'd have to get their hands on me first," Harry said, finding it difficult to be concerned about crackpot experimentalists that were better suited for lab work than dueling. As for the Ministry, it was run by idiots. Sure, a few Aurors like his father and the Longbottoms were fairly sharp, but the overall legislature was so full of loopholes that just about anyone could get away with murder with the right defense and enough galleons. Dumbledore and Voldemort were legitimate concerns, he did have to admit. However, he was more than capable of hold his own, whether it be against Dumbledore's suspicions or Voldemort's Dark Regime.
"It's already been proven that you can be drugged," Sirius pointed out, arching a meaningful eyebrow at his godson.
"What we're getting at," James cut in, as Harry's eyes narrowed dangerously at Sirius with the reminder, "is that we don't think that revealing the truth of who you actually are is a good idea."
"Not to anyone?" Harry asked, shock resonating through him with the implication of his father's words. Surely his mother, at least, had the right to know. He couldn't just lie to her and pretend that nothing had changed. While he could pull off the act of being his teenage self for a brief amount of time, he wouldn't be able to keep it up indefinitely. She was bound to notice that his 23 year old self was a part of him. Not to mention, it felt wrong just thinking about lying to her about something like this. He could see keeping the truth of who he was from Bethany and people outside of the family - in fact, it was what he preferred -but not keeping it from his mother.
"Harry, what your mother and sister don't know can't harm you or them," James said gravely.
"She's my mother," Harry said in objection.
"Yes," James agreed, though his expression remained unrelenting, "Lily is your mother. She is also my wife and practically Sirius's sister. We don't like the idea of keeping this from her any more than you do. However, things are what they are. For the same reasons that you don't want to tell us what you know, who you are has to stay between us."
"This isn't -" Harry cut himself off to prevent himself for saying anything about Voldemort's horcruxes, the Kill Wards already laid in Britain, and various other bits of information that could easily get thousands, if not millions of people killed, muggle and magical alike. "This is something personal...about me. It isn't the same."
"Ignorance is bliss," Sirius said softly. "Knowing that her son's nightmares were never just nightmares and that he'd been a horcrux for an alternate version of her son, who grew up in entirely different world without her..."Sirius trailed off, frowning. "She's better off not knowing the truth."
"So the lie that you told her about taking me to a specialist wasn't just a stall for time," Harry surmised, understanding what his godfather hadn't said outright. The truth would hurt his mother. Not only would it put her in danger and increase the danger to himself, it would cause her unnecessary grief. Looking from his godfather to his father, he could see that both men knew just how harmful the truth could be. They were handling the situation admirably, yet the knowledge of the magics that had been involved in his 23 year old self coming to be a part of his teenage self and the loss of his teenage self to who he had become as result of the merge of his two selves weighed heavily on them.
"She's expecting her son home cured." James nodded in confirmation. "We've told her that the specialist knows of a way to heal the 'fracture'in your personality. She's prepared for you to be different."
"Simple with a hint of truth," Harry acknowledged with agrim smile tugging at his lips. At least she wouldn't be expecting him to be the version of her son that she had known for the last 14 years.
"All the best lies are." James smiled a grim smile of his own.