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PG-13; Harry Potter. Harry makes a different choice in King's Cross, and is given the double-edged gift of a second chance.

Time Travel AU; spoilers for Deathly Hallows.



Chapter Eleven: Unexpected Revelations

Harry's heart seized in his chest. For a brief, breathless moment, he was utterly at a loss for words. Echoes of his last conversation-- argument, really-- with Remus before Teddy's birth swarmed thickly in his ears; they'd not had a chance to really talk again before Remus had named him Teddy's godfather, nor afterward, and Harry had hoped never to hear that tone in the other man's voice ever again.

Distraught replies built up behind his teeth: he wanted to say what I had to and please, don't try to stop me and you said you wanted to make a world where your son could live a happier life, but you bloody well died, so I'm doing it for you! But he couldn't actually say them; he'd be answering the Remus he'd known, not the Lupin in front of him-- the one who'd lain so pale and still in the Great Hall next to his dead wife, the one who might have survived if only Harry'd found that last Horcrux a bit more quickly.

Sirius' name had been the first to flow from Harry's quill when he'd begun enumerating his losses, but Remus' life, for all the mild face he'd turned to the world, had been as tragic as anything his more well-known friend had suffered. Harry took in the grey threading through Lupin's hair, the patches on his well-worn robes, and the lines already forming on his still-young face, and mentally added the werewolf's name to the List. Harry'd been so intent on using him to get Sirius freed that he'd kind of short-changed the man himself, and Lupin deserved better than that from Harry.

They all deserved better. That was why he'd come back, after all.

"I-- I don't know what you mean," he finally managed to say, still staring round-eyed at the older man.

Lupin stared back at him, still pale with some unnameable depth of emotion, then shook himself, glancing around at the curious students walking around them on the stairs. "I apologise; this is not the place for this discussion," he said, grimacing. "I have a few moments before I'm scheduled to meet with the Headmaster; perhaps we can find a quiet place for a brief chat?"

Alarm thrilled through Harry again. What had Lupin's knickers in such a knot? It didn't seem possible that he could know what Harry had done-- but why had he reacted so strongly? After everything, Harry was wary of willingly going into any situation that he didn't fully understand or control, but there was no help for it in this case.

Of course, he couldn't just give in, either. Harry was supposed to be an eleven-year-old boy who'd just taken his first step on the path several famous Gryffindors had lain down before him, not a might-have-been-Slytherin calculating the potential costs and benefits of going along with Lupin's not-quite-request. "It was just a prank!" he exclaimed. "I mean, I know my dad and his friends used to pull pranks, I didn't think you'd get mad at me for sending you a photograph of one! It was meant to be funny!"

Something shifted in Lupin's expression at Harry's words, flickering in his eyes, gone too quickly for the younger wizard to identify. "One man's humour is another man's humiliation, Harry; remember that, and respect it, and you'll be a far wiser man than we were at your age." He softened the stern words with a faint smile, and gestured to the faint green streaks still marring Harry's hair. "Though I do recall the stories told of Gideon and Fabian Prewitt; they had left Hogwarts by the time your father and I arrived, but their legend lived on. If your friend Ron and his brothers are anything like their uncles, I daresay there's no harm in your indulging in a bit of competitive mischief."

"Then-- I'm not in trouble?" Harry asked plaintively, scuffing a shoe on the stair.

"Now, I didn't say that." The colour had come back into Lupin's face, but his smile faded as he tapped the letter he held against his other hand. "There is the small matter of what you've potentially done to the wards at your aunt's-- but as I said, this is not the place for that discussion." He gestured back down toward the fourth floor landing. "If you don't mind?"

The wards? Harry turned Lupin's words over in his mind as he obediently stepped down, then followed his once-and-future professor down a corridor on the fourth floor. The clue represented by the second photo tucked into the letter had been meant for Dumbledore to pick up on eventually, not Lupin; he'd hoped that Lupin would mention it to the Headmaster sooner or later if the question ever came up, not press the issue now while Harry was still trying to lay a false trail. What was going on?

They turned down an empty corridor, and Harry realised they were headed toward the mirror he'd quietly investigated a few weeks before whilst reminding himself of the locations of all the secret tunnels shown on the Marauder's Map. The Weasley twins had told him that that particular tunnel had collapsed during the winter of his second year, but he'd thought it might come in handy until then. Especially considering the timing of the collapse; it might not be damaged this time at all, provided he captured Riddle's diary before someone began using it to release the basilisk from the Chamber. It would be brilliant to have an alternate route to Hogsmeade that Filch didn't know about.

Immediately behind the mirror, a dry, slightly crumbly passageway opened into a small chamber wide enough for several people to stand in comfort, before narrowing again and curving steeply downward toward ground level, and it was to this space that Lupin led him. Harry kept his mouth closed, wary of saying anything else potentially revealing, as Lupin carefully lit the torches in a pair of wall sconces and spelled the mirror back into place.

"There," Lupin finally said, and turned back to Harry. His eyes lingered a moment on the lightning bolt scar, not quite meeting Harry's gaze; then he shook his head. "It is good to see you, Harry," he said. "I expect you've heard this before, but you look a great deal like your father, except--"

Harry ducked his head, swallowing down a sudden lump in his throat. "--for my mother's eyes. Yes, I know." He had to fight the urge to squirm; it felt suddenly very awkward to be reintroducing himself to an adult he'd known well in the future. He hadn't had to go through this with any of his actual professors; he'd simply slipped back into a familiar student role with them. This was more like meeting Mad-Eye again after a year of Barty Crouch Jr.'s impersonations; he hardly knew what to say.

A warm hand gently touched the top of his head, just brushing against his hair. Harry tilted his head back again, looking up-- and up-- in surprise; he hadn't been nearly so small when he'd met Remus during his third year. It made him feel even more like a misbehaving child than he usually did around the more benevolent adults in his life.

Lupin smiled again, very briefly, and dropped his hand. "Yes, you do. As I'm sure you have many more of their excellent qualities, tempered by your own strengths and gifts. Unfortunately, you seem to have inherited the worst of their Gryffindor impulsiveness as well." He unfolded the letter then, exposing the photographs Harry had sent-- the one of Ron and Wormtail, and the one of the empty Gryffindor Common Room-- with the Common Room photo on top, carefully marked in Harry's script with the words 'My new home'.

Harry swallowed. "I'm not sure I understand why you're asking me about my aunt," he said carefully. "I never said anything about her in that letter."

Lupin's lips thinned, and a muscle jumped in his jaw as he paused a moment before replying. "You know, I trust, why Dumbledore sent you to live with her?" he asked.

That seemed safe enough to answer. Harry shrugged. "Because she's my family?"

"Because she's your mother's closest living blood relation, and Dumbledore was able to use that connection to protect you from any and all Dark wizards as you grew up," Lupin elaborated.

Any and all--? Harry put the words together with the tension in Lupin's stance, and suddenly felt both relieved and ashamed of himself all at once. He'd never quite acknowledged the vast sense of abandonment he felt towards the wizarding world in general, and especially his parents' friends, for the barrenness of his childhood; even if Dumbledore had forbidden contact in the name of keeping him safe, surely a true friend would not have simply accepted that objection without finding some way of checking up on him? That silent hurt had no doubt contributed to his otherwise unaccountable rage when Lupin had thought to abandon Tonks and their unborn son. But if the blood protection had been set to keep out Dark creatures-- or at least said to do so-- as well as Death Eaters until it had weakened with the passage of time and Voldemort's resurrection, everything was explained.

"I still don't see what that has to do with my letter," he said, trying to remain calm as he returned his focus to the conversation at hand.

Lupin sighed. "Don't lie to me, Harry," he said. "I know you must be aware of the wards, and their limitations. Even if Dumbledore has never fully explained them to you, they will have appeared in your dreams by now; I know you're aware of how important it is that they remain strong. What I can't understand is why you'd risk them so recklessly."

"Dreams?" Harry blurted, wondering what in Merlin's name Lupin was talking about.

"Yes," Lupin replied. "Or so I assumed, at first. I had no reason to believe otherwise. I saw myself as a professor at Hogwarts; spending a full moon in complete control of my own mind; handing the Marauder's map to James' son; embracing Sirius again; marrying his young cousin; and fathering a son of my own." He glanced away, amber eyes burning with pained emotions. "Impossible wishes; and impossible terrors as well. Endangering a group of children as I'd sworn never to do; duelling Death Eaters again; hearing James' son call me a coward; and escorting that same young man to a death no one should ever have to face. The dreams repeated night after night, to the point where I began to wonder if I might have been cursed with a subtle and creative Nightmare hex."

"Until my letter came," Harry said, slowly. His mind raced over the implications: every thing Lupin had listed had been something that actually happened to the man over the next six and half years-- up to and including an event that had actually taken place after his death. An event that had taken place just before Harry's death and subsequent jump to the past-- but after the activation of the Resurrection Stone. Could Lupin's dreams have something to do with Harry's use of the Hallows to send his own spirit back in time, without first dismissing the other spirits he'd called up?

"Until your letter came," Lupin confirmed, nodding. "I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the photo of Wormtail; it was proof that my dreams were more than they appeared to be. And as you sent no other photos of your friends, it seemed more than coincidental that you should have mailed me proof of Peter's survival just as I became aware it might be needed. I made an appointment to see Dumbledore as soon as I could. If one of my dreams held an element of truth, then perhaps more of them will as well; and I cannot let that knowledge pass without acting on it."

"But when you ran into me first, and I called you by the wrong name--" Harry said.

"--My theory was confirmed," Lupin agreed. "Harry, I can understand why you made an effort to target Wormtail, especially as you could not have known that I was experiencing the same phenomenon, but this!" He tapped the photo of the Common Room again, emphatically. "I've seen what happens when your mother's charm collapses, Harry; I know what level of danger they can deflect. I've dreamt it more than once, and I know you must have seen it as well; why on earth would you want to remove the protection it provides any earlier than absolutely necessary?" As Harry opened his mouth to object, he shook his head and spoke over him. "Even if we are able to free Sirius immediately, the fact remains that he's hardly going to be considered a suitable guardian for you on an immediate basis after all the time he's spent in Azkaban. The Minister would never allow it, not with the more conservative purebloods prompting him, and neither will Dumbledore. The Dursleys are the safest possible--"

This was exactly why Harry hadn't wanted to say anything to even a trusted adult. He was through with people acting for his own good; he would not tolerate it, not even from people he loved. "The Dursleys are only safe while no one knows where they live!" he exclaimed. "They might have the blood protection, but there's nothing else keeping anyone from finding them. We're just lucky none of the Death Eaters know enough about the Muggle world to look in a bloody phone book; anyone who knows my aunt's name-- anyone who was ever at my parents' wedding, or heard my mum talk about her sister-- could look up her address and just wait for me to leave!"

Lupin's frown deepened at that. "That's true; perhaps I should raise that issue with Dumbledore when I speak with him today. As supportive as he is of Muggleborns, he was not raised in Muggle culture himself, and may not have thought of that."

"No," Harry objected, quickly. He had to head off that train of thought immediately. Everyone still looked to Dumbledore to fix things for them, and Boy Who Lived or no, they would never listen to an eleven-year-old over such an important wizard. Bad enough Lupin wanted to tell Dumbledore about his own dreams; if he ratted on Harry, he would be sunk. "You can't tell him about that. Please. Or that I'm having the same dreams you are."

Lupin's eyebrows flew up. "Harry, if what I've dreamed is accurate--"

"You can't tell him!" Harry insisted. "Look, I know he has my best interests in mind. And everyone else's. And I know you owe him, because he made sure you got to come to Hogwarts when your parents thought it would be impossible. But-- please. The prophecy basically says I've got to die before anyone can kill Voldemort. That's the bottom line. If it happens again...." He didn't have to fake the rush of emotion that nearly choked him. "These next few years might be all the time I ever get to spend with my godfather."

"Harry," Lupin said gently. "The source of these dreams is completely unknown; the fact that we're both having them and that we can show at least one of them to be accurate is the only proof we have that they are more than simple nightmares. Hiding your dreams from Dumbledore can only weaken our attempts to avert the worst of what I've seen come to pass."

Except that telling him would just make things worse, Harry knew. Dumbledore would get himself cursed because he couldn't leave the Resurrection Stone alone even when he knew it was booby trapped; he'd let Quirrell keep teaching because at least that way he'd know what Voldemort was up to; he'd make sure Wormtail escaped so Peter would do the ritual for Voldemort to get a body back which he had to have so he could be killed and which had to use Harry's blood so he could survive Voldemort killing him first--

But he could hardly tell Lupin that. Even if he was rather more Remus than Harry'd had any right to expect. He'd have to appeal to the part of the man that had been willing to conceal Sirius' means of access to the castle for an entire year right under Dumbledore's nose, despite everything; no matter that Remus had claimed it as the act of a coward, Harry had seen how fiercely he'd embraced his friend in the very first moment he had accepted Sirius' innocence. He'd been fooling himself if he'd really believed it was only guilt over childhood misdemeanours keeping him silent all that time.

"Please, Remus," Harry said plaintively, tearing up a bit. "I know I'm supposed to save everyone, but I'm not ready. I don't want to spend the next six years picking over every possible thing that might or might not happen to me. The dreams scare me; they're all awful. Every time anything good happens to me, it gets taken away. What if I tell them all to Dumbledore, and he decides that it all has to happen just the way I saw it? I just want a chance to be happy first, that's all. Just for a little while."

"Oh, Harry," Lupin said sadly, reaching out to lay a calming hand on his shoulder. "You're only eleven; you can't take the entire weight of the world on your shoulders. That's what adults are for."

Harry rubbed at his eyes, shaking the hand off in embarrassment. "So-- will you just tell him how I sent the Wormtail picture, but not the other one? Or that it was on purpose? I promise I'll tell it all later, just not today."

Lupin's eyes narrowed a little at that, and he stared at him intently for several seconds before saying anything else. "I may regret this," he said, with a slight bemused smile, "but I will keep your secret, just this once. Provided--" He raised a finger as Harry's expression lightened in relief-- "that you tell me the entire truth afterward. Remember, I knew both your father and Sirius as children; I can tell you're holding something back."

Harry bit his lip, considering; could he afford to agree? Could he afford not to? He'd have to consider carefully how much to say later; Occlumency might help. "Deal," he finally said.

"Very well." Lupin nodded, then turned and raised his wand to clear their exit-- but the mirror leapt aside before he could so much as swish or flick, and something small and pungent rolled in through the widening gap.

Several somethings. Harry swore as he recognised them as dung bombs, and quickly pinched his nose shut as a foul quantity of gas began to erupt from them. "Remus!" he choked.

"Evanesco!" Lupin cried, then gestured sharply at the mirror with his wand as it tried to wedge itself shut again. It flew open smartly to reveal the backs of a pair of twin redheaded Weasleys sprinting away from the portal, the Marauder's Map clearly visible in their hands.

"Accio!" Harry called after them, seizing the opportunity as they fled; the map fluttered out of their grasp just as a series of ropes sprang from Lupin's wand. One of them managed to dodge in time-- George, Harry thought-- but he stopped short as his brother tripped and fell, pausing to try and untie the ropes with his own wand.

"I thought the rule at Hogwarts was, no mischief in the corridors?" Lupin asked mildly, tucking Harry's letter into his worn robes as he stepped out of the hidden passageway and approached the fallen boys.

"Sorry about that," Fred said cheekily, abandoning his struggle against the ropes as Lupin approached.

"Harry deserved it, you see," George grinned.

"He pranked us and actually thought he could get away with it, the git!"

"So when we saw him out of bounds--" George added.

"Well, it was the perfect opportunity."

"We're sorry we caught you up in it--"

"--We thought you were just another student," Fred concluded. He glanced between Harry and Lupin then, checking the state of Harry's clothes with a concerned wrinkle of brow, and Harry flushed, suddenly realising what else they may have been thinking.

"You aren't a visiting professor, or anything?" George asked, suddenly looking a bit worried.

Lupin chuckled softly. "Not at present," he said. "But I am rather curious as to where you procured that extraordinary map." He held out a hand, casting a sharp glance at Harry, and Harry winced, realizing that while his knowledge of the map could be easily explained by the dreams, he was going to have to answer for that Accio later. He passed the map over hastily, wondering how long it would take before he got his hands on it again this time.

"We don't know what you're talking about," Fred said, looking perfectly unconcerned he began to shrug off the loosening ropes.

"Map, what map?" George shrugged.

"That's just a bit of scrap parchment," they concluded, together.

"You'll have to try better than that." Lupin tsk'ed at them, then tapped the blanked map with his wand and spoke the magic words. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."

Ink spread out across the parchment from the point of Lupin's wand, forming lines and dots and carefully scrolled labels in abundance. Dumbledore's dot paced slowly in his office, right in the centre of the design, and approaching it slowly--

"Bloody hell," George breathed, aghast. "How'd you know the password?"

"Is that even important right now?" Harry interrupted, stabbing a finger across the map at a particular, heavily blurred dot. "Look! What d'you make of this?"

"That's just Quirrell," Fred said, leaning over the map to look as he climbed back to his feet. "We've snuck up on him loads of times. I dunno why it shows him like that, he's the only one it does that to--"

"I think I know why," Lupin said, quietly, and nudged at the dot with his wand, muttering under his breath. A moment later, the blurred name shimmered and pulled apart, forming two distinct lines of legible text.

"Quirinus Quirrell," one label read, floating above the doubled dot.

"Tom Riddle," read the other, floating below it.

---

Index | To Chapter Twelve >>
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Back Again, Harry? - A Harry Potter Time Travel Tale

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