Ten years later.
“Harry James Potter, stop bouncing so much!” Remus laughed, placing gentle hands on the ten year old’s shoulders.
“But I’m just so excited, Uncle Remus!” Harry replied, still bouncing on the balls of his feet, anxiously trying to peer around the people standing in front of them in line. “How does the airplane stay up in the sky? Does it flap its wings like a bird? How many people can fit inside? What–mmmph!”
A long arm slipped between Remus and the boy, wrapping around his head in a playful headlock that muffled the rest of his excited questions.
“Breathe, Mini Me,” James said fondly, ruffling Harry’s already messy black hair affectionately. “At least give us – or the nice lady – a chance to answer your first ten questions before spouting off twenty more, hmm?” He winked at the stewardess.
The ‘nice lady’, whose name tag read ‘Bridgit’, smiled back at him, her eyes bright with laughter. “You must be Harry.” She said cheerfully, right on cue. “If you gentlemen would follow me, we will get you settled into your seats. And f you would like, young Harry, the Captain has invited you and your dad up to the cockpit before we takeoff, where he will be happy to personally answer your questions.”
“Can I, Dad?” Harry immediately wheedled, turning wide green eyes beseechingly on his father, as Remus snickered. Although the lad was a carbon copy of his father, the eyes and some of the mannerisms were pure Lily. And, just like with his wife, James had no defense against that pleading look from those green eyes.
Accepting his fate, James sighed dramatically. “Are you sure you aren’t Remus’s kid, with that puppy dog face?” He teased.
“Not a chance. Lily is somewhere watching and giggling like crazy.” Remus retorted. “As are your mother and grandmother, both of which I believe, blessed you with the popular, ‘may you have a child just like you’ when you told them Lily was pregnant.” He poked Harry in the side, making him squirm away with a giggle. “Have I taught you nothing? Save that face for your birthday and Christmas!”
James rolled his eyes. “Lead the way, Miss Bridgit, please. I guess we’re off to see the captain.”
“So, how does the airplane stay up in the air?” Remus greeted them, amused, as they returned. He was already settled comfortably into his seat in the middle – they were flying first class – and had taken the liberty of ordering both himself and James a drink, knowing it would be appreciated.
“Magic.” Harry answered with a straight face, before breaking into laughter at his uncle’s obligingly exasperated groan. “I don’t really know–the captain said something about lift and aerodynamics, but I didn’t really understand it, so my theory now is a modified levitation charm, like on flying carpets.”
“So then not by flapping its wings like a bird?” Remus teased, as James settled in beside him near the aisle.
Harry stuck his tongue out at the older man, turning pointedly to look out the window instead.
“Ah, the pre-teen years.” The werewolf murmured, still highly amused. “Like the calm before the storm. Is that the distant rumble of hormones I hear in the distance?”
James snorted, slumping down in his seat as much as the still upright position would let him. “Shut it, Moony. You’re the favorite uncle, remember? So guess who he’s gonna come running to play mediator and sympathizer when dear old dad becomes the bad guy. You, that’s who.”
“Lucky me.” Remus drawled. “Are you sure I can’t stay in the States?”
He bit back his instinctive initial response, that it would be like Hogwarts all over again, with him usually as the logical voice of reason (and tie breaker) between the more hot headed James and Sirius. Even after ten years, the mere mention of Sirius’ inexplicable betrayal still brought a dark shadow to James’s eyes and mood. Sirius had been his family, more like a brother than the cousin he technically was. The Potters had brought Sirius into their home after he was kicked out and disowned from his own family for not adhering to the Black family values, beliefs, and traditions, especially those that aligned with Voldemort.
The only person Sirius had loved instantly more than James had been young Harry himself. He had often teased Lily about having to share the two men in her life. She had responded by giving him a certificate stating that he had shared custody and ownership of the Potter males, as well as a co-ownership contract that required a mandatory boys’ weekend once a month (so she could get things done), and at least one night every other week babysitting his godson (that night become the Potter date night, although most of the time they came home early, or spent the night in watching movies and reminiscing.) She also gave him a bill for 15,000 Gaellons in owed past child support. She was just teasing about the money, but Sirius had secretly started a vault in Harry’s name, and made a deposit faithfully, every month.
So then why had Sirius betrayed them to Voldemort? Remus still didn’t understand, and suspected that he never would.
His friend had raised his brows and shot him a thoroughly unamused look. The blonde relented, his tone holding a hint of apology for the tease. “Only teasing. You know I’m with you to the end, no matter what.” He stated quietly.
James held his gaze for a moment, and nodded. “I know.”
Shaking off the melancholy thoughts, both men turned to watch Harry, who had missed the byplay in his own enthusiastic running commentary of the slow progression of the airplane, as they finally departed the gate and joined the line for liftoff.
“Why did we decide to take a Muggle airplane instead of an international Portkey?” James muttered, gripping his arm rests as they climbed into the sky.
“Because none of the identifications we had would be applicable for getting through international customs. There’s also the little fact that to the wizarding world, James Potter has been dead for ten years, so seeing your name on a passport might raise some questions we don’t want answered yet.” Remus answered too patiently. “And there’s also the fact that the Supreme Mugwump of meddlers, Albus Dumbledore, believes that your son, the Boy Who Lived, has been staying with his Muggle relatives, tucked away, but still on the same continent this whole time, so we don’t want to rile the old man up any more than we already have either.”
The werewolf smiled sympathetically. “C’mon, Potter. You were the Captain and lead Chaser for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, yet you can’t handle flying in a plane, with nice padded seats and plenty of protective mental between you and the outside world?”
“I know how my broom works, and I’m in control of it and thus my life. This way, I’m entrusting Muggles to keep us safe.”
“They have plenty of magic of their own, in a way.” Remus shrugged. “Relax, James. Look at your son. He loves this! Besides, we’ll be in Britain before you know it.”
“From one land of mist and rain to another. Will you miss Haven?”
The other man glanced away. “It doesn’t rain in Washington nearly as much as people assume. Britain is far worse.” Feeling his friend’s knowing gaze, he relented. “I will miss Haven, yes. I…learned a great deal among the Lunar packs.” He felt Moony’s pleased agreement wash over him, and smiled faintly.
*You did well, wolfling. You are beginning to show the potential that I saw in you from a young age. You will make a great alpha someday. The wolf said quietly, overriding the wizard’s automatic protest. You are an Alpha, a leader. It is instinctual. There will come a point where you will have to decide to challenge for control of the packs. You know it as well as I. The viper is still linked to this middle plane. When he returns, he will recruit again. The packs would follow you, Remus. And you, in turn don’t have to follow Dumbledore or Voldemort. There’s always a third path.*
*I know.* Remus replied quietly. *We will follow that trail when we cross it.* He settled back in his seat, closing his eyes. “Try to get some sleep, Prongs. We’ve hours yet.”
He dozed lightly despite his advice to his friend, trusting Moony to keep track of their companions and surroundings. The rest of the trip passed without major issue, and they made it easily through Muggle security.
Having travelled around the States for the past week or so, they were familiar with Muggle transportation, so it was no problem to pick up the rental car Remus had reserved and get out of the city. A few quick magical modifications to the GPS (courtesy of an American adaptor that allowed magic to alter technological objects), and they were on their way home to Birchwood Manor, one of the Potter Muggle homes near Diagon Alley.
Harry was three quarters asleep still when they arrived, so they skipped dinner and spent the time to reinforcing the wards before putting him to bed and finding a soft place to sleep as well. Although they had not received his Hogwarts letter, his birthday was next week and they were back on British soil, so they had no doubt that things would be sorted out soon enough.
A pre-emptive trip to Diagon Alley had been planned at any rate, with James insisting that he would be the one to take Harry to buy his school supplies.
“Harry’s birthday is in less than a week, so his letter will be coming. I say I act normal and go to Gringotts and Diagon Alley like nothing has happened. If I’m found out, well, Harry hasn’t been seen for ten years. Who did they believe he was living with if not his parents or his godfather?”
“Petunia Dursley.” Remus answered, not reminding his friend that it had been Dumbledore who had attempted to place Harry with his Muggle aunt.
“The Boy Who Lived and Potter heir, raised by Muggles? Perish the thought. A nasty rumor, meant to throw everyone off of the trail.” James scoffed haughtily with a cold smile, his meaningless social smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I do know how to play the games, Moony. I don’t like them, but I can play with the best. Sirius wasn’t the only one destined for Slytherin, you know. My parents may have agreed with Dumbledore more than Voldemort, but most forget that my mother was a Black. Cunning, resourceful, subtle, and scarily intelligent.”
“Mmm. That is true.” Remus mused. “I may have done a lot of the detail work behind our pranks, but you were always the ideas and improv man.” He paused, his gaze pensive. “You think we’re in for another fight?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like there was a true resolution with His death though. And now my son is about to enter Hogwarts with the children of some of His most loyal supporters. I am not so blinded by red and gold that I can’t acknowledge the fact that in normal circumstances, those children are his allies by conquest, blood, and magic, no matter the Hogwarts Houses they are destined for. He may still need them.”
“Because of the prophecy, of course.” James replied, as if it should be obvious. “You know, the reason that Lily and I went into hiding in the first place? It referred to either Harry or Neville Longbottom.” He closed his eyes and recited slowly, “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…” He opened his eyes to his friend staring at him in shock and horror. “For some reason, Voldemort chose Harry instead of Neville as the one chosen to defeat him. Harry succeeded, though I think Lily had more to do with it, and Voldemort vanished, leaving Harry with that lightning bolt scar.”
“And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal.” Remus said softly. “That scar is more than just a mark, James. I can smell the Dark magic in it. It’s a curse scar. We need to do some research and find out exactly what that means.” He noted that his friend had relaxed slightly, presumably assuming that he had also won the argument about James going to Diagon Alley himself with Harry. Anger flared, hot and sudden. “Dammit, Potter, do you want to kill our advantage before we’ve even begun? You can’t be seen out in public – you’re supposed to be dead!”
“Of course not, d’you think I’m an idiot?” James retorted loftily. “That was a rhetorical question, Moony. I’m not going as myself, anyway – I’m going as you.” He held up a potions bottle, filled with familiar murky liquid. “All I need is a couple of your hairs—”
“And you’re going to Polyjuice into a werewolf, a magical being, without knowing the effects?” Remus snapped, throwing his hands up in the air. “Because that’s a bloody brilliant plan, not idiotic at all!”
James lowered his arm, looking sheepish. “I hadn’t consciously thought about that.” He admitted. “And you’re a Lunar wolf, Rem, more like an Animagus than the evil beast that originally bit you-“
*He does have a point.* Moony said quietly. *We are a magical being, yes, but we are different than the traditional werewolf. We are two spirits merged into one body. Polyjuice potion only takes on the physical characteristics of a person, not their voice or mannerisms. It is a surface change. I believe he will be fine.*
Remus narrowed his eyes, gold rimming his pupils. “If you dare get hurt doing something stupid or foolish, after all I went through to get you to this point…” he threatened.
James held up his hands. “I promise, Remus. We are going to the bookshop and to get him fitted for his robes. That’s all. Everything else – including buying a wand – will wait until next week, after his birthday. I have enough Gaellons in my trunk, so we don’t even have to make a stop at Gringott’s. Just books, and robes.”
“And ice cream.” Harry added, having watched the shouting match avidly from an out of the way corner.
Remus glared at the boy, who merely widened his eyes at him. “Please, Uncle Remus?”
The standoff lasted maybe thirty seconds before Remus gave in with a reluctant laugh. “You’re getting good at that, pup.” He said wryly, shaking his head. “Don’t try it on your dad when he is me – I have a reputation to maintain, even if I’ve been gone for ten years.”
Harry grinned and went to stand next to James. “I solemnly swear that I…will be good for this one and only outing. To the bookshop and to the robes shop, which is next to the brooms shop, and only one scoop of ice cream. Maybe two. To go! We’ll bring you back a cone. Triple chocolate, with sprinkles?”
His uncle mock scowled. “That’s bribery. I want three scoops, and a take home container. And no looking at brooms until next week. They always wait until this month to debut the new models, for the Hogwarts crowd, but business won’t really pick up until next week. So you can just wait, young man.”
The Potters exchanged mischievous look, making him groan. “Why do I even bother?” he sighed, leaning forward so James could pluck a couple of his hairs. “Be careful, and be safe, you two.”
“Draco, please stop dawdling. Let’s finish up at Madame Malkin’s, and then you can go look at brooms.” Narcissa said impatiently.
The eleven year old reluctantly followed her up the street, away from the broom shop, pouting only a bit. His mother sighed; she loved her son, but honestly, he was becoming more like Lucius every day. She would have to limit the time they spent together, and hopefully the effect would lessen by the time he went off to Hogwarts.
They stepped into the surprisingly empty shop as the cheerful tinkling of the bell alerted the shopkeeper of new guests.
“Another one for Hogwarts?” A clerk called as she bustled by. “Come right in; we’ve a bit of a lull before the afternoon rush.”
Pleased, Narcissa gently urged Draco to follow the clerk, and settled into a plush royal blue chair near his fitting area to wait. Madame had measured Narcissa for her first set of school robes, so the old witch certainly knew what was needed without prompting. The chair was in a prime location to people watch, with sight lines to both the door and the fitting areas. The door chimed again on the tail end of that thought, alerting the store to another guest. Narcissa glanced over, idly, only to freeze in shock.
The boy was Harry Potter.
He was small, scrawny even for an eleven year old, but James had been the same way as a child, eventually topping out at just six foot. His messy black hair was short, enough that the lightning bolt scar on his forehead showed clearly. Wide, bright green eyes peered around him as he chattered excitedly at the man smiling indulgently down at him.
“Aw, c’mon Uncle Remus! Just a short visit? I won’t tell Dad!”
The shop was small enough that she could see the lively mischief and humor in his gaze and hear it in his voice. It made her smile, though there was a sheen of tears in her eyes.
“Harry James, no!” His uncle laughed. “We are not going to look at brooms. Your dad would kill me, for one – mostly because he wants to be the one to buy you your first broom- and you can’t have a broom until next year, no matter how much you hint, whine, or beg!” He tapped his nephew on the nose. “I dare you to try that that face on Professor McGonagall. You’ll have about as much success as your dad did.”
Harry stuck his tongue out at his uncle in reply, making him throw his head back and laugh, the sound joyous and echoing through the shop and causing the other patrons to look up with a smile.
Except for Narcissa. The amused smile she had worn during the byplay disappeared, and her eyes narrowed at the pair.
Remus Lupin had been a Gryffindor and close friend of both James and Lily, so there had not been much cause for formal interaction with him, at Hogwarts or after. But she remembered him; a quiet, intelligent boy with an easy smile and tired amber eyes. He had been a prefect, Narcissa remembered, along with Lily – prefect to Lucius’s Head Boy. She remembered working on the patrol schedule for Lucius, who felt that it was beneath him to attend to such menial duties. Lupin had always thanked her when she played errand girl and delivered the schedule to him, and offered that quiet smile, but she couldn’t ever remember hearing him laugh so exuberantly.
A certain best friend of his, however…but no. James was dead, just as Lily was, murdered by the Dark Lord, who was in turn vanquished by the boy currently still in animated conversation with his uncle. Brushing aside her thoughts, she continued to watch the duo, but the nagging sense of familiarity only remained and grew.
Remus Lupin had been contained energy, quiet intensity on the surface but a volcano underneath. Narcissa wasn’t dumb or blind; Lupin had been one of the cutest boys in Hogwarts in her year, and even the Slytherin girls had held discussions about what was really behind his hard control and easy demeanor. He caught their attention because of all that control, of which most of the girls in the school admitted (by secret, anonymous poll) that they had tried, and failed to break. Granted, over a decade had passed since she had seen him last, but this Lupin was so opposite of her mental image of him that it was almost off-putting; happy, animated, openly affectionate as he ruffled Harry’s hair. The complete 180 in personality and mannerisms was too much of a coincidence to ignore.
Narcissa sat in thought for a moment, then asked a passing clerk for a cup of tea, which was soon delivered. Glancing automatically first at Draco to make sure he was still doing fine, she made her way casually across the room to where Harry and his uncle were at the cash register to check out, ‘accidentally’ bumping into Lupin and spilling her tea all over him.
“Oh! I am so sorry! Are you all right?” She exclaimed, wide eyed.
“Fine, fine.” Lupin grumbled, pulling his shirt away from his skin and grimacing.
“May I buy you and your son a cup of coffee, or maybe an ice cream to make it up to you?” She pressed, hand on his bicep to hold him in place as she carefully laid the tracking spell on the inside of his sleeve. From there all it would take would be an accidental brush against his skin for the charm to link to him, even with Polyjuice. “It is the least I could do – ”
“Yeah! C’mon Da-Uncle Remus!” Harry called cheerfully, Draco now beside him. “And we can go check out the brooms next door!”
“Sorry, Selina. We should probably return home.” Lupin said distractedly, glaring a silent warning at Harry.
It took everything in her to not react to the slip, but years of training held true. Her jaw clenched, she conceded silently with a bow of her head, watching them hustle out of the store and out of sight. Such a little thing, calling her by her middle name instead of her first.
Remus Lupin had never had cause to know or remember her first name, much less her middle one.
Draco followed her to the register, still bubbling with his own excitement. “Mother! I just met Harry Potter! Did you see him? He’s going to Hogwarts this year, just like me! His birthday is next week! That’s why he and his uncle were here. Harry said that he would try to save me a spot on the train, if he could.”
She smiled affectionately at him, her heart suddenly overflowing with fierce love. “Yes, my dragon. I saw him. Are you all done with your fitting? Will you have everything you need for school?” She said, glancing up at the clerk at the counter.
The clerk smiled cheerfully, handing her a slip of paper. “All done, Mrs. Malfoy, and charged to your account. Your order will be delivered in about seven to ten business days.”
Narcissa nodded her thanks over her shoulder as her impatient son pulled her away. “Now can we go look at brooms?” He sounded so much like Harry in that moment that she stopped dead, staring at him. He looked at her inquisitively. “Mother? Are you alright?”
She took a breath, refocusing. First, get her son home and to safety. She couldn’t help the fond smile down at Draco, who was still chattering a mile a minute as they walked back to the Floo station. She waited until he ran out of breath before crouching down to his level.
“Draco, I’m pleased that you enjoyed meeting young Mister Potter. Indeed, I believe you two could be good friends at Hogwarts.” She said gently. “But your father will not share in your delight, so get it out of your system and when we get home put it in the Pensieve so you don’t upset him, hmm?”
“Yes mum.” Draco said resignedly, with only a bit of a pout.
Narcissa was proud of him for that, if a bit sad; he was so young to have learned how to suppress his emotions so much! It couldn’t be helped though, as Draco had inherited his biological father’s love and exuberance for life. James had learned to rein in his emotions as the burdens and duties of being the Potter heir fell more and more heavily on his shoulders. Narcissa had managed to spare Draco some of that, poking at Lucius’s ego, age, and virility, that he would be so eager to educate his son on his inheritance and the position that would be his once Lucius was gone.
Putting memories in a pensieve was a neat solution to letting Draco experience many situations and learn things that his father definitely would not have approved of, if he were aware. Narcissa had made sure that her pureblood magical son was well versed in the Muggle world, staying aware of the current trends, everything from clothing to technology to politics. He had also attended a Muggle after school program, and played briefly on a pee wee football team.
The pensieve he used was one designed for children, although originally used to remove traumatic memories so that authorities could examine them and the children begin to heal. Ethically, it was a bit of a grey area, she mused. But she was taking every precaution, and had decreased the outings as he grew older and began to understand Lucius’s vitriol against Muggleborns.
This particular memory would help her as well, even if it was from her eleven year old’s point of view. Children were much more aware and observant than anyone gave them credit for, so it was highly likely that he had noticed more about ‘Remus’ than she had.
James barely waited until they were out of sight before he started cursing animatedly. Harry listened, wide-eyed and enthralled. “Er…don’t repeat any of those around your uncle.” His father said sheepishly after a moment.
“Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to – it just slipped!” the eleven year old exclaimed earnestly. “I don’t think Mrs. Malfoy or Draco heard us anyway, or else they would’ve said something, right? If I promise I won’t bug you about going to look at brooms anymore, can we go get lunch before we go home? The Polyjuice won’t wear off for another hour…”
The automatic denial died on James’s lips as Harry stared up at him. Damn those green eyes… “Just a quick bite.” He conceded. “And not at the Leaky Cauldron – too many people may recognize Remus for me to pull off being him. C’mon, there’s a place ‘round the corner…”
They took off down the street, never seeing the wizard who Apparated silently in behind them, or the silent spells that hit them both in the back, knocking them unconscious.
“Dear, dear me.” Albus Dumbledore murmured, shaking his head. “Remus Lupin, you naughty boy. I thought I thought had sufficiently warned you away from young Harry when he was a baby. Certainly the wards didn’t deter you as I thought they would.”
It was a good thing that one of the silver gadgets on his desk monitored a tracking charm that he had placed on Harry before leaving him at the Dursleys. It had taken a few days to acclimate, then stopped responding all together, but he had assumed that there was too much interference, between the distance and the bit of magic surrounded by all of the Muggle technology. He had thought nothing more of it, confident in the fact that Harry was exactly where he had left him – until the gadget had started spinning and sputtering again that morning, eventually giving him the coordinates, right in Diagon Alley.
He pulled absently on his beard, thinking. “No matter. I can’t have you marauding and mucking about, messing up my plans.” He chuckled in delight at his word play, before waving his wand over each of them. “Perhaps in a couple of years, if the timing is right…but I digress. That is for the future. But what to do with you now?” He mused. “I know!” He snapped his fingers. “How convenient that we are already close to London, and a particular Muggle hospice…” He Apparated away, taking Remus’s body with him. A Confundus charm and some sweet talking later, and Dumbledore strolled out the front door of Avalon Hospice and Assisted Care, as the nurses and staff bustled about, settling their new long term coma patient. The old wizard turned a corner and disappeared, back to Diagon Alley to deliver Harry to his destination.
An hour after Dumbledore left, Remus’s body twitched and convulsed. His hair grew darker and shorter, yet somehow messier than before. His limbs elongated, and his facial features rearranged until James was himself once more. Despite all the changes he slept on, suspended once more in the brink between life and death.
Nearly a week later, Dumbledore was in his office, staring broodingly into the fire, when there was a soft knock on the door.
“Enter.” He called. “Ah, Minerva. Please, come in.”
“No need; I’m on my way to visit a Muggleborn and her parents. Just wanted to check with you before I left. Harry Potter’s letter is addressed to go out. Do you want me to deliver it personally as well? Those awful Muggles…”
“No, no. If it comes to that, I will take care of it.” He replied firmly. “Safe travels, Minerva.”
She looked as if she wanted to protest but didn’t, sweeping out of his office in a swirl of green wool. Dumbledore watched her go, his eyes hooded; he knew exactly where that letter was addressed to.
Mr. H. Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging, Surrey