Lily had always wanted to visit Stonehenge. Even before she knew of magic and before she’d researched the stones’ magical properties, she had always found their mystery enchanting. There was something otherworldly about the place. Not even the magical world knew how the stones came to be. The leading theory was that it was a fairy ring of some sort, though no one had ever seen a single fairy there. On a cold, full moon night, with five witches and wizards standing inside the circle, it felt like the kind of magic that a good light witch like her shouldn’t get caught up in. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
“Do you think it will work?” James asked as they watched Albus cover every inch of ground inside the circle with a potion that smoked and bubbled in the large cauldron they had brought here. “It seems almost too good to be true.”
“It does, but I had to leave my doubts behind when I gave up nearly every moment of the past month to spend locked away in a potions lab with Severus. If it doesn’t work, I will— Well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it won’t be pretty.” Thirty days of nearly constant attention to the potion Albus was coating the ground with. Days she could’ve spent with her husband and children, because in the middle of a war, you never truly knew how much time you’d have to spend with your loved ones. If this didn’t work, she would find Severus and get epically drunk with him, that was what she’d do. James and the gang could join them if they were prepared to bitch about the world with them.
They stepped aside so that Albus could get the land they’d been standing on and took their positions, standing in a wide circle. Albus, James, Lily, Sirius, Minerva, Severus, Bill. The second the last drop hit the ground, a blinding white light burst from the ground.
“Now!” Albus yelled, though he hadn’t had to. It was enough of a cue. Lily’s eyes were squeezed shut to avoid the blinding light, but she could tell where everyone else was through their voices, everyone chanting at slightly different speeds. It was chaotic, brutal, and James’ hand was latched tightly around hers. It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes of chanting, but her voice was sore from the guttural words she had to recite and her chest was tight with stress. If she spoke even one letter incorrectly…
There was a crack not unlike apparition, but a thousand times louder. Lily continued chanting until she reached the end of her piece. One by one, they stopped, until it was only Albus’ voice against the backdrop of a noise that Lily couldn’t even begin to describe. It was a warbling, sinister sound that her brain registered as threat threat threat. Albus’ voice stopped. It was the end of his role in the ritual, but a part of her thought the sound had taken him. She couldn’t hear him, couldn’t see him over the blinding white light. Lily’s knees shook with the effort to stay in one place. There was something wet on her cheeks and she realized she’d started crying at some point.
And then without warning, everything stopped. The sound had been silenced. Her eyelids went from white to red to black. Carefully, Lily opened her eyes, releasing James’ grip to wipe her cheeks. Next to her, James was blinking his eyes, his whole body shaking. The others were in a similar state, but they were all fine.
In the very center of the circle stood a tall man in black robes. Lily couldn’t see him very clearly with the spots in her vision and the dim light the moon provided, but there was no doubt he was the one. A person who had the power to defeat Voldemort.
“Well, this is interesting,” the man said, his voice deep and unfamiliar. He had a British accent and a tone that was more interested than frightened. Good—they needed someone crazy enough to agree to help them. “I don’t think I’ve felt something like that since I tried to portkey both drunk and stoned.”
“My name is Albus Dumbledore,” Albus spoke. He took a step closer to the man, reaching his hand out for a handshake. “I understand you must have questions, but will you trust us to take you to a secure location? The magic of the ritual may have been noticed by Voldemort’s forces. We were also unable to cast proper muggle-repelling wards, so it is likely there could be someone coming for us any second.”
Lily’s heart thudded in her chest. If the answer was no, she was going to grab him and apparate him anyway, power to destroy Voldemort or no.
“Voldemort’s forces? Muggles?” The man sounded utterly confused. “Alright, why not? Stranger danger is for losers, anyway. You had better not force-feed me any lemon drops while I’m there.”
With that, he clasped Albus’ hand, and the tell-tale crack of side-along apparition rang. Lily was never going to be able to hear that sound without remembering this night, she thought with a sigh. She shared a look with James and Sirius, the others having left immediately afterward.
“First impressions?” she asked.
“Too casual,” Sirius instantly said. “He’s been pulled here by who knows who and all he does is joke around and agree to be apparated to what might be a cell?”
“No arguments here,” came from James. “It could be that he recognizes us. He certainly knows something of Albus, judging by that lemon drop comment.”
“Or he said it to make us think that,” Lily mused.
“Only one way to find out.” And Sirius was gone.
With a nod toward James, Lily did the same. She appeared in the location they’d specifically chosen for this purpose, a small house owned by a distant relative of Minerva’s. It hadn’t been used in years at this point. Neither Voldemort nor the rest of the Order had ever been here, making it the perfect intermediate spot. If their visitor wasn’t agreeable, they’d come to the conclusion that they did not have the power to subdue someone who could defeat Voldemort himself. At least if he turned on them, he wouldn’t get the rest of the Order. It wasn’t the safest of missions, but Albus needed all the help he could get, and they were some of the Order’s top fighters.
The round kitchen table was already occupied. Their visitor sat with his back to the kitchen wall. Severus was across from him, Minerva next to Severus, and Albus was making tea in the kitchen.
“Where’s Bill?” she heard Sirius ask
Lily ignored Albus’ comment about him needing to do another task for Albus.
It didn’t matter.
What mattered was the way her chest hurt when she looked at their visitor. He had her eyes. She would never have been able to miss that. They seemed to be even greener than hers, almost frighteningly like the Killing Curse, but the basis was Lily’s. The dark hair was like nothing but James’ mop before he became a semi-respectable auror. His features were handsome, angular, and just below the end of his fringe poked a scar that Lily remembered so clearly, even though she’d seen it for a day before she buried her son.
“What is your name?” Lily asked, feeling as though something inside her was breaking.
“Lily,” James murmured from beside her.
“I thought the two of you looked familiar,” their visitor said, his words loud in the quiet of the room. “Harry Potter, at your service.”
She didn’t know what to say, but what came out was, “You’re so handsome.” And he was, he was her adorable baby boy as a handsome young man approximately in his twenties.
“Thanks,” Harry said, smiling at her. He ran his fingers through his hair, drawing her attention again to the very same scar that had looked enormous on the forehead of her poor little boy. On this man, it was rough and red against his skin, but he had grown into someone who carried it well. “I suppose that’s all the introductions we really need? Unless any of you have changed your names. Actually that’s very possible.” His gaze rested on each of them in turn. “Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Sirius Black, Lily Evans, James Potter.”
“I do usually go with my married name,” Lily said, her lip twitching. She took the seat to Harry’s right.
James sat down on her other side. “It took me long enough to convince you to take it. Hello, Harry.” His hand settled on top of Lily’s on the surface of the table.
“You two are cute,” Harry said.
“Sickeningly,” Sirius agreed. “Was I still your godfather in your world?”
“Hell yeah,” Harry replied, his eyes light. “Best dogfather in the world. We actually had brunch earlier today.”
“Best meal of the day,” Sirius replied, nodding sagely.
“And you were my Transfiguration professor back in the day,” Harry said, turning to Minerva. “My fondest memories of Hogwarts are of you calling me Mr. Potter with that tone that you have when I’ve aggravated you half to death.”
“Dear lord,” Minerva said. “I do feel for her. I suppose you were something like James? Nonstop pranking, reckless adventuring—”
“—putting other students in danger,” Severus added with a sneer.
Lily held in her sigh, but she put a very special sort of glare in her eyes. Severus and the Marauders had reached a shaky truce years ago, leaving only the occasional cutting word but no real violence, but there was no reason to be cruel to someone who only looked like James. For Merlin’s sake, the man had met Harry less than half an hour ago.
“I mostly just put myself in danger,” Harry said, easily. “Good to see you, Severus.”
Lily couldn’t find any hint of a lie in those words. Harry was even smiling at Severus. Her heart felt warm. At least the feud hadn’t carried on to the next generation in Harry’s dimension.
“Don’t tell me he was your favorite professor or something,” Sirius groaned. “Don’t break my heart like that.”
“Well, not exactly,” Harry’s lips twitched with amusement as he glanced between the two of them. “But I did get to know him well after Hogwarts. I mean, he’s my co-godfather by marriage these days.”
As Harry’s words dawned on Sirius, it was as though all the light and goodness in the world left his eyes. “No.”
“You’re either an extraordinary liar or you aren’t lying,” Severus said, aghast. “You— what the hell could have happened to cause my other self to abandon all common sense?”
“Why would I lie about something like that?” Harry asked. “I was the officiant at your wedding. That brunch I was talking about earlier? It was with the both of you. We talked about how you two were remodeling—”
“Stop right there,” Severus interrupted, looking faintly ill.
Lily couldn’t help but feel a little amused. But Harry, he wasn’t hiding his amusement at all, even laughing quietly at the two of them. Oh, he must have been a hellion growing up if he was this bad as an adult. James would’ve been so proud. And there her amusement went, leaving behind such an odd mix of happiness and profound sadness.
“Sirius,” James said, solemnly. “You are never, ever living this down.”
“I hate you.”
Harry seemed to have decided to quit torturing Sirius and Severus, because he moved on to the man who had just now joined them, levitating a teacup for each of them and a platter of biscuits for the center of the table. He sat down on Harry’s other side, though not as close as Lily had.
“Albus Dumbledore,” Harry greeted. “I would’ve have to have been knocked on the head to not recognize you.”
“I only wish I could say the same. Your counterpart sixteen years ago, I’m afraid, and I could only guess at your identity when I first saw your face. It’s an honor, my boy.”
“Sorry,” Harry said, awkwardly glancing at James and Lily.
Lily let James do the accepting, watching as Harry tapped on the edge of his teacup. He snorted softly, shaking his head. Then Harry brazenly lifted his teacup, reached over, and switched it out with Albus’.
“I’ve missed you, Albus,” Harry said, with no anger that she could hear in his voice. “Balls of steel right there.”
Language, Lily almost said out of habit. But she refrained. Harry was a grown adult and she was hardly in a position to discipline him, his mother from an alternate dimension or no. It was a task for Harry’s real mother, she thought with a pang. This different Lily who had been able to raise her first son instead of bury him.
“I had to try,” Albus said, jovially. “Tell me, Harry, are you not worried about your safety because you care for us, or because you’re powerful enough to subdue us?”
“Bit of one, bit of the other.” Harry’s tone was easy. Lily realized she hadn’t heard an edge of tenseness in it since he’d arrived. It was strange. “It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with violence. Our war ended five years ago. The worst I’ve gotten hurt since is during an Unspeakable experiment fuckup.” He scowled at that one. “But really, it’s because these days, I’m not used to anyone actually being a real threat to me. It would be senseless.” Another tap of a finger, and then Harry was drinking his tea, easy as you please.
“Is that a threat?” Severus asked. His eyes were intent on Harry’s form.
Lily felt protective, but it was James who spoke. “Lay off of him.”
“Lay off of a powerful wizard who we know next to nothing about? I suppose you’re all sentimental now because he’s your dead son come alive—” Severus cut himself off, eyes flitting to Lily’s angry face. “I apologize, Lily.” At Lily’s continued glare, he spit out, “James. But my point still stands. We have no idea what kind of life this Harry Potter has led.”
“Perhaps we should ask him,” Albus cut in.
“An interrogation by a sweeter name?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.
“A conversation that I’m sure you can get out of easily,” Albus corrected. “And it’s hardly an interrogation when both sides exchange information.” Severus looked like he was about to speak again, but Albus continued on, “We summoned you here using an ancient ritual that responds only to those with great need. Times are dark in our dimension, and growing darker by the day. Our second wizarding war has lasted ten years now with no sign of end. We asked the ritual to bring to us our greatest need: the power to defeat Voldemort. We were graced with you.”
“Little old me,” Harry murmured.
“Is it true? Do you have that power?” Minerva asked, leaning in.
Harry’s fingers tapped on the edge of this teacup, though this time he didn’t seem to be checking it for tampering. “Do I have the power? Sure. The war with Voldemort ended years ago in my world and my side was victorious. Do I have the inclination?” He looked around the table, meeting each of their eyes one by one. “How can you possibly expect me to say yes? Who exactly do you think I am?”
“A brave man, the son of two of the most strong, wonderful people I have ever met. One who has already allowed us to bring him here when there was nothing forcing him to take my hand. This isn’t your obligation, but it is our dear hope that you would agree to help us.”
Harry looked at all of them, at the fragile hope that seemed to be in every one of their expressions, however deeply hidden or plainly given. It was unsettling. No one had looked at him like that in ages. He assumed this was the look his husband received from his minions when they were hoping not to get crucio’d, but Harry wasn’t really a minions type of guy.
When he’d first landed in the middle of Stonehenge, Harry had been confused and weirded out by all these familiar faces looking not quite right (by being actually alive, in some cases), but he’d gone along with them out of curiosity. And now the cat was being killed because these assholes seemed to really want him to do their dirty work. Harry nearly said no on principle. He was the co-ruler of an entire wizarding nation, not some kind of assassin for hire. On the other hand, well. It wouldn’t be bad to try to prove his power against an alternate version of his husband. They had a long standing argument about who was really the strongest and this would be a fucking fantastic point in his favor. Voldemort would be so pissed.
“I suppose…” Harry dragged the moment out, because what the hell. He avoided looking at James and Lily, whose expressions were making him uncomfortable. “I have been looking for an excuse to go on holiday. Even if it’s a working holiday, I assume I’ll be able to still get some time under the sun in.”
That evidently wasn’t the answer they were expecting, but it seemed they would accept it. He only had time to get a few more tidbits of information out of them before Albus decided to call it a night, claiming he was looking out for Harry and that it must have been a long day. Harry couldn’t argue; it had been. Some very energetic sex in the morning, brunch with his husband and godfathers to go over the details of the newly proposed goblin treaty, sparring with his husband while they yelled at each other about what was necessary to require in the treaty (and it really wasn’t to keep the goblins as slaves forevermore and see if they would evolve to become more like house-elves, seriously, the Griphook clan still looked at Harry with murder in their beady eyes, not docility), settling some minor disputes that the ministry couldn’t solve and his husband had managed to dump on him, traveling against his will to another dimension, meeting his parents for the first time in his memory… Yeah, it had been a long day.
Lily and James invited him to their home in Godric’s Hollow whenever he felt like it next day, not realizing they’d need to give him the address. Harry had only been there once and his memories were blurry. Eventually he would really have to tell these versions of his parents that he didn’t know them very well. It just hadn’t come up earlier. That was a lie, but eh. They both seemed weirdly soft and Harry liked a challenge, not soft targets he could hurt just by bringing up a kid they’d lost.
That couldn’t be everything, of course. Harry figured he’d play along until he figured out where they were hiding their darkness. There had to be some kind of prisoner torture chamber at the Order’s main base or a plot by Dumbledore that left them all potioned and dependent on him. No matter how good they seemed, the bad would out. It was a comforting thought. The idea of two legitimately good people giving birth to him—even if they weren’t exactly his parents—was pretty horrifying.
Once the Order had called it a night, Harry retreated to the safe house's only bedroom and took a seat on the bed with his back against the headboard and his legs crossed. Admittedly he, wasn't very good at meditation; it was hard to fit practicing something that was rarely necessary into his busy life, no matter what his husband said about meditation opening a connection to one's magic. Harry couldn't bear to spend part of his day lazing around with his eyes closed when he could instead open that connection with his husband via blowjobs.
It took some time, but he began to get a feel for the bond between him and Voldemort. Usually the connection would be wide open, a constant ability to speak with each other, feel each other's emotional states, and allow the other to see through his eyes if one of them was doing something particularly interesting. Or interestingly violent. There had been that month where they'd tried to out-violence each other and Harry hadn't been able to get the smell of blood off of him for weeks afterward. Now, the connection was muted, uncomfortably so. When concentrating, Harry could tell that Voldemort was extremely pissed off, but not about what.
Harry sent some calm toward him and got twice as much anger in return.
It could be that his husband disapproved of Harry ambling off into different dimensions.
Better to ask for forgiveness than wait for a chance like this to escape him. Most likely, had he not entered the portal that appeared before him, the ritual would have tried to locate a different Harry Potter. A Harry Potter who wouldn't have appreciated the hilarity of this summoning. It was true that Harry had never studied obscure magics as deeply as his husband, but he'd recognized the feel of the magic around Stonehenge. Their two worlds were connected now until the connection was specifically broken. Harry had a feeling that him traveling through the connection would accomplish that, but he'd see if he could temporarily open the connection to speak with Voldemort and calm him back down to his usual level of irritation. He'd rather not his husband stay angry with him.
As interesting as this world seemed to be, Harry didn't want to get stuck here because Voldemort flipped him the bird and closed the connection on his end, making Harry actually work to get back.
Just in case, Harry sent his love through their bond.
He added his lust, too, because make-up sex was definitely going to be necessary.
Godric’s Hollow was a winding community of wizarding homes. It was the opposite of Privet Drive in terms of suburban architecture. Each house had been constructed by a different team of builders with a different set of orders each time, resulting in a cacophony of designs and colors. But unlike Privet Drive, where Harry could’ve set his clock by nosy neighbors pruning their bushes or sipping lemonade on their porches, all to be primed for gossip to arise, there was nothing of the such here. The whole neighborhood was quiet; a few homes had obviously been vacant for ages, while in others, cautious residents peeked from behind the curtains. It wasn’t in pursuit of gossip.
Times of war, Harry thought, the impulse to hide unknown to him. Life was to be lived and enemies to be skewered, and Harry had never been one for a small existence.
Harry walked down the street, peering at each house for signs of the Potters. He definitely remembered that the house had been more or less close to the graveyard, where he was near now, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember which one. Sirius had taken him here in fifth year to pay their respects to his parents, but that had been a decade ago and Harry hadn’t been paying attention much anyway. With no memories of them to rely on, Lily and James hadn’t felt truly real to him.
A gleefully morbid impulse hit him and Harry followed it, stepping into the graveyard for the second time in his life.
“Point me Harry Potter’s grave,” he said, pulling his wand out of his robes. It pointed north, but Harry just glared at it, patting his pockets but not finding the correct wand. “Really?”
The wand that was certainly not Harry’s proper wand didn’t reply, but it did pinch at his fingers.
“I have a perfectly good holly wand that I finally got you to fix. You’re unnecessary. If I knew killing Dumbledore would mean ending up with you, I’d have gotten Draco to do it. You would’ve liked it. You’re both contrary bastards.”
The wand seemed to take it as a compliment. Harry shoved it in the back pocket of his jeans and headed north, glancing down at the gravestones. Eventually, he came across the Potter family’s plot of land. His grandparents were apparently dead here, too.
Harry Potter’s gravestone was only half the size of the nearby ones, but large enough for his full name to stretch grandly across the top. In smaller letters, July 31, 1980 - November 1, 1981. And in looping cursive, the words almost glimmering under the morning sunlight: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
“Shit luck, kiddo,” Harry murmured, feeling weird about the whole thing. He’d never felt this much staring down at any other headstone, but he figured it made sense when you were looking at your own grave. Death wasn’t going to come for him until both he and Voldemort were good and ready (which meant never, probably, since Voldemort loved living and Harry wasn’t planning on ditching him in such a permanent way), but the grave still made him feel something in his chest.
Hunger, probably. The safe house hadn’t been stocked with any food except for some biscuits and tea.
At the sound of footsteps, Harry looked back to see Lily coming toward him, holding a bouquet of white flowers. She set them down at the base of the gravestone. Her hand free, she pressed it to her lips, then to the stone.
“A little morbid, isn’t it,” she said, quietly. “To stand at your own grave.”
“Very,” Harry agreed. He didn’t know any topics for small talk at a graveyard when you weren’t celebrating, hosting an orgy, or planning to bury a traitor alive. “It’s very well-kept.”
“We try,” Lily said. “I mean— we’re not obsessive about it or anything, but we do live just down the street.” She winced. “Not that it would be bad to be obsessive, you’re a part of our—”
“Lily,” Harry cut her off. “It’s been going on two decades. You can grieve however much you want to. Or not grieve. I’ve never had kids or lost a kid, so I don’t really know how it works, but if your kid was going to grow up anything like me, I’m sure he’d want you to be happy.”
Grief was a useless emotion, Harry didn’t say, because Molly would’ve smacked him for it.
“Thanks, Harry,” Lily said, her voice only a little shaky. “I’ve never stopped loving you, you should know that. But the grief doesn’t burn as deeply as it used to. I can’t believe I’m being given advice about my son’s death from my son’s alternate dimension double. Come on, I’ll make us some tea. Are you hungry?”
“Starving. And stranger things have happened, I’m sure.”
“Like what?” Lily asked as they walked to the Potter home, which Harry had apparently passed by twice earlier. He wondered if Lily had seen him through the windows.
Harry was always happy to talk about himself. “Well, my favorite story is about Slytherin’s basilisk. It was a fantastic adventure during my second year of Hogwarts…”
That lasted them through the making of the tea and James meeting them in the living room. Harry had been forced to do a quick recap for James, but he didn’t mind.
“…and that’s when I made a deal with the basilisk to let it out for feeding in the Forbidden Forest as long as it kept one set of eyelids over its eyes, because half the forest becoming petrified or dead wouldn’t have been good for the ecosystem.”
“Of course, one must think of the ecosystem,” James said, looking a little pale.
“It only needs to feed once a year, so Ron, Hermione and I make a whole field trip out of it for any curious students. The cursed object I just gave back to the dick who’d brought it into the school. He’d seen the error of his ways quickly enough.” Harry’s skills at blackmail hadn’t been very well-developed at age twelve, but he hadn’t done a bad job. It had put him even more on the radar of the Dark Lord, who at that point had been slowly realizing that there were other possibilities he could explore concerning the prophecy. But at twelve, Harry had mostly wanted to get one over his rival’s dad and maybe scare people a bit with a terrifying but more or less harmless snake.
“Wait, that’s it?” James asked. “You didn’t go to the aurors or your headmaster?”
“I told Dumbledore,” Harry said with a shrug. Well, he’d told Dumbledore parts of it. “I don’t know what he ended up doing. He didn’t approve of the ministry interfering with Hogwarts, not to mention the fact that he would’ve been crucified if word had gotten out that there had been a basilisk under Hogwarts this entire time and he hadn’t noticed anything. Word eventually did get out, but that’s a whole different story.”
Belatedly, Harry realized that distracting James and Lily from their son’s death with a story about how Harry had almost died may not have been the brightest of his ideas. They both seemed a little shaken and had barely taken a sip out of their cups, while Harry had swallowed down a breakfast of champions during the retelling of his Hogwarts glory days.
“Can you tell me about yourselves?” Harry asked, remembering some manners.
And weirdly enough, he actually paid attention to their words. He’d expected to be bored in an instant, but Lily and James had managed to not have completely boring lives.
James had been an auror during the first war with Voldemort, which their Harry had ended up stopping, but had died by the hands of the Lestranges before James and Lily could get to him. It seemed to be a painful memory for them. Afterward, James hung up his auror’s cloak and turned to inventing. He’d always had a knack for it—Harry congratulated him on the marauders’ map, which they’d made in this world, too—and he, Remus, and Sirius created a line of self-protection devices. After a year of running the business strictly through owl order, they set up shop in Diagon Alley. James was on the alley planning committee now and had actual opinions about how they had to renovate the wards to fit with the needs of their century, as well as expand the streets. Lily had been studying for the entrance exams to the Wright College of Magical History and Law before the war ended and after, she’d taken the college by storm, came out with a degree, and put, in her words, all her anger at the world into beating the Wizengamot into submission about muggleborn rights. Some of her accomplishments had been swaying enough of the Wizengamot into making muggleborn workplace discrimination actually illegal instead of just discouraged and putting a proper teacher into the Muggle Studies class, one who didn’t make muggles sound like idiots. Things changed when Voldemort was resurrected, but overall, they had built a good life for themselves. They didn’t linger on the details of the war. Harry figured that part would come when the rest of the Order had the opportunity to pick at his brain.
Carefully, as though they didn’t want to step on Harry’s toes, they told him they’d had two kids in the years following their Harry’s death. James had summoned a one of the many picture frames and pointed them out.
“That’s us at Lily’s Order of Merlin, third class ceremony last year. We clean up nice, don’t we?”
Harry hummed in agreement.
“That’s Hestia, she’s a third year now,” a tall, red-haired girl in fashionable glasses in dark blue robes, “and Fleamont, first year,” a shorter boy whose facial composition was different, but whose coloring nearly matched Harry’s. His eyes were Lily’s, though, the green friendly and inviting instead of filled with the light of the Killing Curse.
“They’re cute kids,” Harry said when it seemed like the two wanted him to say something. “Gryffindors?”
“Both of them, yeah,” James agreed.
“I wanted at least Fleamont to go into Ravenclaw, just because the Hat strongly wanted me to go there and he’s even more of a bookworm than I was, but I think the Hat just gave in and yelled out Gryffindor,” Lily said with a laugh. “What house were you in?”
“Gryffindor, too.” Harry shook his head. “Wow, it really doesn’t have much imagination if it dumped two generations of Potters in one house.” He had put the Hat on as a whim after Bellatrix’s swearing in as headmistress of Hogwarts and it had congratulated him on managing to find greatness even in Gryffindor, though his bravery was toward goals the Hat didn’t approve of.
“Exactly,” Lily agreed.
“House pride anyone?” James asked, tisking at them. “If you’d like to meet them, I’m sure we can swing a way to do it. I have an in with the headmaster.”
Thanks but no thanks, Harry thought. He didn’t know how he would deal with more Potters. Lily and James were already— Harry couldn’t find a way to explain it. They seemed to be being careful not to overwhelm him, but all this interaction with his dead parents was making him feel so damn weird. He needed to go to a range, shoot some curses at targets or something.
“Sorry, the whole situation is still sinking in for me,” Harry told them, trying to be diplomatic. Overall, he wasn’t bad at diplomacy. Harry knew how to conduct himself when feeling out a different country’s leadership for treaties or trade alliances, or solving needs of the other intelligent races in Britain after he and Voldemort shook everything up. It shouldn’t have been hard to do with people he was already familiar with, at least from Sirius’ stories. But it was.
“Don’t worry about it,” James quickly said. “We’re not going to push you or anything. I guess in your world, Lily and I stopped at just one kid?”
Harry made a face. Well, that was a good lead in as any. “You could say that.” He paused for effect. “In my world, I stopped Voldemort just like your son did, but he hadn’t had the Lestranges with him. It had just been Peter, who just fled after the battle. Except the battle hadn’t been with my babysitting grandparents, as in this world. You both died that night.”
“Oh, Harry.” Lily’s hands flew to her mouth and in seconds, she had stepped over the coffee table and pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t realize— We should’ve asked so much sooner.”
Harry hadn’t been cried on by a girl since an eleven-year old Hermione. These days, Hermione was vastly more likely to set someone on fire than cry at them. It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience. But Lily was warm, her hug tight, and Harry patted her back and told her that it was okay, that he’d gotten over the whole thing years ago.
It was the complete and utter truth, but Lily didn’t seem to believe him one whit, and James sat down on his other side and pulled them both in.
Harry was beginning to suspect that these Lily and James weren’t hiding a torture dungeon anywhere.
And that really wasn’t comforting.
A few hours later, Harry allowed the Potters to apparate him to the Order’s meeting place, still feeling shell shocked. Over the past two hours, he’d tried to subtlety tease out evilness from the Potters. James apparently felt guilt for the way he treated Severus at school and sometimes smoked muggle cigarettes. Lily hated Slughorn with a passion despite using his connections, had a vicious temper, and accidentally set fire to her boss’ office once. Both had killed in self-defense during Order missions, but those lives were a weight on their consciences. They’d never killed someone just because, or because they were pissing them off, or because your husband asked you to do it because he was swamped with work and you didn’t bother asking why. They believed in the overall goodness of humanity. It was gross.
“Is this Grimmauld Place?” Harry asked, trying to take his mind off of his parents’ deficiencies of character. They’d apparated right into the foyer of a gloomy-looking house that Harry recognized as the first base of operations of his own Order of the Phoenix. Same ugly wallpaper, same general air of doom and gloom, same house-elf heads that looked just one failed preservation charm away from dripping rotten flesh onto your head. There were some differences in the paintings that had been put up and the personal belongings near the door, but overall, it was like stepping into a memory.
“Don’t tell me you’ve been here,” came a voice from the top of the stairs. Sirius bounded down them two at a time until he came to a stop in front of them. “I hate the thought of anyone being subjected to this place.”
“Yeah, it was our Order’s base of operations.” And since it looked basically the same without Sirius having had a stint in Azkaban, Harry figured, “You don’t live here?”
“Me?” Sirius curled his nose. “No, definitely not. I live just off of Diagon Alley in one of the residential sections. Easier to get to the shop that way. I didn’t even step foot in this house for twenty years. My dear mum got it all to herself until she croaked, then I just let Kreature more or less inherit it.”
“Is your mum’s painting still here?” Harry asked, looking around, but not seeing that particular one.
“Nah, we managed to get it off after a year.”
“That’s a shame, I liked arguing with her,” Harry sighed. She was a crazy old bat, but it had been fun. After the dark side had won the war, Sirius had burned down Grimmauld Place while lying back on a lawn chair across the street and drinking a firewhisky. “The painting’s long gone in my world.”
“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m really not. You want to go meet the others?”
It was a clear sign of Sirius wanting to check in with Lily and James, but Harry let them have their moment. He was curious about who else was here, anyway. He sauntered down to the kitchen level, following the delicious smells of lunch. Specifically, Molly Weasley’s lunch, Harry realized happily when the woman herself greeted him and told him to sit down wherever.
“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said, grinning. “Your cooking my favorite in any dimension.”
“Oh, flattery,” Molly said, waving his words off, but she looked very pleased. “You look too thin, dearie.”
“I think you say that every time you see me in my own world.”
Harry was still pleased with himself for managing to keep the Weasleys alive through the war. He couldn’t say he cared about a lot of people, but the Weasleys had been the first to bring him into their family and love him. Love the pretense Harry put up, yes, but with some planning Harry had been able to spare the Weasleys who hadn’t gone dark from the destruction of the Order. Arthur and Molly had shunned him for a year after that, but they valued family, and five of their children had joined Harry out of their own free will. Eventually, the Weasley parents had more or less warmed up to the idea of living under a dark reign. Perhaps not completely, but enough that Harry stopped worrying about them going out and doing something stupid. There was only so far he could protect people who wouldn’t protect themselves.
“I must be right, then,” Molly said with a shake of her head.
She disappeared back into the kitchen, yelling at someone for not peeling the potatoes properly, and Harry chose a seat next to Severus instead of the number of open seats at the table.
“And how are you on this lovely day?” Harry asked, since Severus definitely wasn’t going to start off the conversation. “Wait, don’t you have classes to teach or something?”
“It’s the weekend, Potter,” Severus said, curtly.
“Right, I forgot about that,” Harry said with a hum. “You must really love teaching, since you’re doing it in this dimension, too.”
“I do not—” Severus cut himself off, his dark eyes meeting Harry’s amused ones. “You’re fully aware of my disdain for children.”
“‘Course I am. You left the job as soon as the dark-light war was over and no one could make you stay.”
“Not even Albus’ guilt trips?”
Harry recalled those fondly, but, “He’d been dead by that point. But Minerva was a survivor, so she delivered her own guilt trips that you happily dodged.”
“How did he die?”
“Painfully,” Harry said, quietly. “It was a nightmare of a night.”
It had been one of the biggest battles of the dark-light war, if not the biggest one. When he and Voldemort had finally broken into Hogwarts, flooding the whole castle with Death Eaters, Dumbledore had just barely been able to escape. The Order was in ruins and the general public’s resistance was weakening, so Dumbledore had gone abroad and found an ally that none of them had been expecting: Grindelwald. The two of them plus the forces they’d been able to scrounge up had descended on the castle, the two powerful wizards going through the Death Eaters as though the dark forces were carrying trick wands. When Harry and Voldemort had stepped out to meet them, Dark Lord against a former Dark Lord, icon of the light against former icon of the light, they had nearly lost the fight. Dumbledore had been so much more powerful than Harry had expected and Grindelwald’s skills had languished in prison, but not by much. Harry was practically one big wound by the time he finally blasted Dumbledore’s head off. That was when Dumbledore’s wand had flown into his hands and Harry’s troubles with the elder wand began. Comparatively, taking the ministry had been a piece of cake.
He sighed, frowning at the table and wishing Molly’s amazing lunch were ready already. “Everything’s so different and weird here. I don’t know you all do it.”
“Somehow, we manage,” Severus replied, dryly, looking shocked at himself for playing along. As if to make up for it, he scowled at Harry. “You truly do know me well. I don’t know how a Potter could’ve managed to warm up to me so much.”
“You warmed up to Sirius,” Harry reminded him, because he loved the look of horror that Severus couldn’t manage to tamp down. “Weird things happen when people get to know each other. I admit, I really didn’t like you much my first year of Hogwarts. You were such a dick.”
Severus raised an eyebrow at him.
“You were! You kept picking on me in class and taking points off for every little thing I did. Later you claimed because it was for your cover story as a spy and you had to seem to hate me and et cetera, et cetera. But I know you really just hated me because I looked like my dad. Which was pretty stupid because it wasn’t as though I remembered him or was even raised by him, but eh.”
“And somehow I got over my animosity?” Severus asked incredulously. “If I hated you that much, why would anything change?”
“You realized I was really nothing like my dad,” Harry said, just a little smugly. Or maybe a lot, he couldn’t tell.
First year, Severus had just mindlessly hated him. Second year and third year, though, Severus had been so suspicious. He’d had good reasons to be suspicious, but honestly, Harry hadn’t even been up to much. He hadn’t even murdered anyone until fourth year. Personally, anyway, since he’d happily stood by while murder was taking place, but that didn’t really count. Severus had been so vexed at the fact that Harry and his friends were hiding something that he’d stooped to eavesdropping on multiple occasions. Upon realizing what Severus was doing, Harry, Hermione, and Ron had immediately gone into a detailed discussion of how they could murder Severus and get away with the crime if they decided they wanted to. In between pissing him off and doing a creepy murder child routine, Harry had found that Severus had actually become his favorite professor.
“Are you sure? Because I recognize that smug look. I tried to curse it off enough times at Hogwarts for it to stick in my memory,” Severus drawled.
“You’ve tried to curse it off of me, too,” Harry told him. “And off of Sirius, who you accused of making me even worse. But I think that was the two of you’s way of flirting, honestly.”
“I’m still hoping you’re lying about that.”
Harry looked at him with false sympathy. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll eventually realize what a catch you are in this world, too.”
“No I won’t!” came from the hallway to Harry’s left, while from next to him came a, “I would rather be with a blubberworm.”
Sirius crossed the threshold of the room and gave Harry a disappointed look. “Lies and slander, godson, lies and slander. I won’t believe a word out of your mouth.”
Harry grinned evilly. “I could show you a pensieve memory.”
“Harry, please stop torturing my best friend,” James said, walking into the room and taking a chair at the table. “I know he’s an easy target, but you could at least try to resist.”
“Hey!” Sirius yelped, slumping into a chair. “I’m a hard target, alright.”
“There are so many things I could say right now,” Harry told the room. But before he could, plates of food zipped through the air from the kitchen and onto the table. Beautiful, beautiful Molly Weasley-style food. “But never mind.” To the kitchen area, he called, “I love you Mrs. Weasley!”
“Of course the Potter spawn would be close to the Weasleys,” Severus sighed at him, though he wasn’t disdainful enough to keep himself from piling a healthy serving of food onto his plate.
“Worse, Harry would have shared a dorm with Ron Weasley all seven years of Hogwarts,” James told him, looking very pleased about the whole thing. “And you must’ve known Ginny and the twins, too, right? I’ve always thought it was a shame that Hestia and Fleamont were too young to really get to know most of the Order’s kids.”
Six years, since Dumbledore had the gall to expel him, but close enough. “Yeah, I know them well. Ron and Hermione—Hermione Granger?—have been my best friends since first year, but the twins and Ginny have always been great. Percy, too.”
“Percy? Weasley?” Sirius asked. “Percy ‘Voldemort isn’t back until he emerges from my butthole’ Weasley?”
“Sirius,” James said, but it was half-hearted. To Harry, he explained, “He’s in a top position in the ministry—can’t remember what it is now, he’s been promoted left and right lately—and he’s been less than helpful in our efforts to get the public aware of the threat. Everyone still seems to think that these attacks have just been Death Eaters, but others actually believe the propaganda that it’s the muggles who’ve started attacking us.”
“Idiots,” Severus scoffed.
“Muggles are attacking you?” Harry choked out.
“No, that’s just what the Daily Prophet wants us to think. Two years ago, it was bought out by Lucius Malfoy, who’s been pushing dark propaganda left right and center. He started out subtle, but by now it’s a mess of delusional Death Eater fantasies and a hilariously out of touch advice column that must be written by Narcissa,” James said.
There was a sound of the fireplace coming to life a couple rooms away and loud footsteps. One pair was distinctly Moody’s, and Harry tried to keep in his scowl as his fingers twitched for his wand. Now there was a man he wouldn’t mind killing. James and Lily might get upset, so Harry would have to do it covertly, but oh the possibilities… The newcomers joined them, Moody sitting across from Harry and staring at him with suspicion and Dumbledore taking next to Moody. Arthur made a detour to say hello to his wife and the both of them joined the table. There were two people who Harry didn’t recognize, who introduced themselves as Frank and Alice Longbottom. Harry hated them both on principle, but they seemed friendly enough. Lily was the last to join them, ambling in with Remus, who looked much better than he ever had in Harry’s world.
He looked like Teddy, except Teddy would never stand to have so little color in his hair. Neither would Teddy stand to look so benign, almost human-passing if one didn’t know how to notice the little tells of the wolf beneath the man’s skin. Harry had no idea how this man could’ve possibly produced Harry’s vicious little godson; he had no idea how James and Lily had resulted in him. Maybe there really was something in the water in this world.
Once everyone had been introduced and served, the interrogation began. It was a mostly bloodless one, Harry was amused to find. This Order was still wary of him, even the ones who’d taken to his company, but they weren’t treating him like a possible enemy. Stupid of them, really, since Harry had been the main force behind the destruction of the Order in his own world, but he supposed they couldn’t know that. Harry steered the conversation to the point when he assumed their worlds diverged: that fateful Halloween night. But rather, the chain of events began just slightly earlier.
“It was a low-risk Order mission,” James said, his voice worn, the story one long familiar to everyone in the room except Harry. “Lily and I took them when we absolutely couldn’t stand to be in the safe house any longer. It eats away at you, not being able to go anywhere or do anything or trust anyone. The morning of the 31st, I was on a retrieval mission with Dung. He would’ve gone on his own, except we thought there might be a chance of the package being lost on the way to pad his pockets. We got there fine, but when Dung approached our go-between, the man blasted a cutting curse at him. Two others stepped out of the shadows. Dung isn’t a bad dueler, scrappy and never afraid to go the muggle way, but they were on another level. We barely got out of the fight and went straight to Hogwarts, where Poppy was kind enough to patch us up, but kept us overnight for observation. Lily asked my parents to watch Harry and stayed with me. The rest of the gang came too, reminisced for hours about our good old days.” There was an awful sort of look in his eyes. “It was the last time the Marauders were all together.”
“Peter. He gave you up?” Harry asked, because he doubted it could’ve been anything else. He wondered if the battle hadn’t happened in his world or if his own father had been just a little better, just a little luckier in the duel. Or if he’d decided to suck it up and just go home afterward, thinking his injuries weren’t so bad, and was that much less prepared to face him when Voldemort appeared.
“He kept glancing at the clock all night,” Remus said, sounding much more tired than he looked.
“I joked about him having a hot date,” Sirius muttered.
James continued with, “Then when the clock passed midnight, he stood up, about to leave, but he looked like he couldn’t make it through the door. Looked more terrified than during any exam he’d ever taken. Then he turned around, gave Lily his wand, and told us he’d betrayed us to Voldemort.”
At his choked-up pause, Lily continued the tale. “We stunned him and Remus took him to the ministry. Sirius and I went back to the house while James floo-called everyone he could reach. Charlus and Dorea had been put under prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus by the Lestranges. When we got there, they had already gotten to Harry. They were getting revenge for the fact that somehow Voldemort’s curse had rebounded and killed him instead. Rodolphus died in the battle—I don’t even know if it was Sirius or me who had killed him—but the reinforcements came in and we were able to subdue Bellatrix and Rabastan. They were to serve life sentences until Voldemort broke them out four years ago. Harry… The damage was too much for him. St Mungo’s did all they could, but he still died early the next day.” Lily’s voice was wrecked, but her eyes were dry. It looked like she’d cried it all out earlier that day. Harry was grateful for that small favor. “It was him in your world, too?”
“It was.” His parents had already heard the story, and perhaps had already told Sirius and Remus the details, but Harry still went through the night of October 31st as it had occurred in his own world. Peter had given up the Potters’ location to Voldemort, who broke through any additional enchantments on the property and killed James and Lily. When he tried to kill Harry, he failed, but there were no Lestranges to make the night worse. If Peter had been there, then he’d been too cowardly to do anything to him. In this universe, Peter had been more honorable than Harry would’ve ever thought him capable. He still deserved an AK to the head, but he’d owned up to his betrayal. In Harry’s, he’d been a miserable man with a miserable life until his violent death.
“What happened to him?” Lily asked.
“He died,” Harry told them, a dark satisfaction curling through him. Some deaths were more satisfying than others. The way Sirius’ and Harry’s curses hit the man at the same time had been a sight, as were the man’s screams as he bled out over the next few minutes. “It was the least he deserved.” The Weasleys looked uneasy at his dark look, but it seemed the rest of the table didn’t care when it came to someone like Peter. “How long it take for Voldemort to return here?”
“He didn’t come back until six years ago,” Alice spoke up, her mouth tight.
“You had a decade of peace,” Harry said, the words strange in his moth. He was twenty five years old and he’d still never had more than a decade, and that was when Voldemort’s wraith was buzzing around Albania.
“Didn’t you?” Lily asked.
“I did. He came back when I was eleven. Not permanently—it was his wraith at first—but eventually he got his body back. He came after the philosopher’s stone at first, then when that failed, he kidnapped me and used me in a resurrection ritual. Blood of the enemy, bone of the father, if any of that rings a bell.”
“It does,” Alice said. The sadness in her expression was plain to see, though Harry didn’t feel himself affected by it. He was glad of it; it seemed like the weird affects this universe had on him were limited to his parents. “We didn’t know it was him at the time, but Neville, our son, was kidnapped from our property’s greenhouses. By the time we found him a week later… It was already too late.”
“At the cemetery?” Harry asked.
“In the middle of Diagon Alley,” Arthur spoke, putting a hand on Frank’s shoulder. “It was horrific, but there was no sign that it had been Voldemort at all. We found traces of ritual bloodletting, but that wasn’t a definitive tie. It could have been any dark ritual. And with him dead for ten years, I’m ashamed to say that all of us except Albus thought it was unrelated to him.”
“You don’t know how much I wish I had been wrong,” Albus said, gravely. “I doubted even myself.”
“The first time we heard of him again, he already had his body and was calling back his followers,” Sirius revealed. “It was the worst shock we could have had. I know Albus had talked about the possibility that he wasn’t dead, but it had been two decades. We weren’t prepared at all.”
“Neither were we, not really,” Harry told them. “I don’t think anyone’s ever fully prepared for Voldemort.” Harry had never in a million years would have expected how much he’d come to love a man who’d tried to kill him. There was no one else for whom Harry would forgive that. No one but him.
There was grief in Alice’s eyes as she said, “One of the first things he did was have his Death Eaters kill any child who could have fit the prophecy. It happened all in one night, all carried out by his most trusted Death Eaters.”
“With no warning at all from our resident Death Eater,” Sirius sniped.
“I’ve said it a hundred times, he still barely trusts me,” Severus spat out. “If you’d like to try ingrating yourself to him, go ahead. I’d love to watch you fail.”
“I don’t think I have the strength to kiss the robes of that snake-faced—”
“Wait, what? Snake-faced?” Harry asked, thinking he’d misheard.
“He looks a human-shaped snake,” James explained. “That didn’t happened in your world?”
“Not at all,” Harry replied, blinking. “Does he have a tail or something?”
“No, but his skin is incredibly pale and looks faintly scaled. No nose, red eyes, just a really ugly bastard.”
“Wow,” Harry breathed. What in all hells had happened? But a part of him already knew; if Neville had been used in Voldemort’s resurrection ritual, his light magic would’ve disrupted the stability of the ritual. His own Voldemort’s had been explosive, but with the combination of the fact that they were both dark bastards but still mortal enemies at that point in time, Voldemort had stepped out of the cauldron as a hot DILF instead of a creepy snake thing. Of course, they hadn’t continued to be mortal enemies much longer, after Voldemort sent him back to Hogwarts after saying he was intrigued to see how Harry would use his boon of continued life. Harry had still been yelling obscenities—that hadn’t been a boon, Voldemort had just been too chicken to fight him so soon after being resurrected—when the portkey levitated into his hands.
Can you believe this? Harry sent through his mind, but the thought didn’t reach its destination. He was so used to Voldemort’s mind against his own, the two of them wrapped up in each other, bound through souls and sacrifice and marriage. There had never been a being that captivated Harry so much as Voldemort. Not having him around was really pissing him off.
He scowled through the rest of the Order’s explanation, letting them think it was because of the horrible things their own Voldemort had been up to. They complained a lot, but hell, Harry couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. So he’d killed a bunch of muggles and was one step away from taking over the ministry. The ministry would just be a pain in the ass for any Voldemort and the muggles were hardly all that important. So the Daily Prophet had turned a good chunk of the populace against muggles completely. What did that even matter? Harry hadn’t seen a muggle in years and had killed some himself, and his world hadn’t collapsed under all that anti-muggle prejudice. Things were better than ever. Moody explained angrily about how Voldemort was using unfair war tactics against his aurors and whined about the dark objects Voldemort was importing from somewhere. Frank and Alice were still grieving their son and didn’t seem like they wanted to be in the Order at all anymore. Arthur and Molly kept attempting to be voices of reason, but their reasoning was gratingly light. They reminded Harry so much of his own Order, which wasn’t a memory good for these people’s continued health and sanity.
“In all honesty, I can’t imagine you wanting to help us after hearing all this,” James ended up saying.
Harry tried to go for some platitudes, but it was rather hard. “This dimension is a mess,” he said, and it was the most truthful thing he’d said in ages. “I don’t know how it came to be this way. There must be more differences between our realities than just the ones on Halloween of 1981. Or maybe there was a huge ripple effect, I don’t know, maybe Lily and James stepped on a thousand butterflies.”
Idly, Harry commented on the fact that for him, it had been even longer since that fateful night. It was October of 1997 here, but Harry had left his own dimension in August of 2005. There were eight long years between their dimensions, ones that sent the Order into another spiral of conversation into arcane magics.
“Enough of this,” Moody finally said, looking like he’d lost his last strands of patience. “Tell us how you killed your own Voldemort.”
Unless you’re counting little deaths, I haven’t, Harry thought with amusement. But in theory, if he and Voldemort hadn’t found a much more permanent way of staying alive (even if the whole thing had happened mostly by accident), he could have, “Took out his horcruxes and shot a killing curse at him.” Harry made sure to be looking at Dumbledore as he said it, and watched the shock and resignation flicker through his eyes. “Did you know he made any?”
“I suspected it was a possibility,” Dumbledore admitted.
“Albus you didn’t—”
“—relevant fucking information—”
“—playing games with our lives—”
“—something could’ve been done, maybe Neville wouldn’t have been targeted.”
Harry tried not to roll his eyes. Neville was dead from the moment he had the rotten luck to be born at the end of the prophesied month. Voldemort may have been careful about the other kids born that month, but Neville would’ve been his key concern. Neville, who no doubt Dumbledore had been depending on to step up as a leader of the light in these dark times.
“I had no proof!” Albus’ words rang out over multitude of voices in the room. The Order members quieted until only Albus’ voice remained. “Believe me, I would like to tell you that I had been hiding something, because that would have at least meant that I knew something definitive. But I have never been able to track down his path to immortality from the many avenues that are available, if one doesn’t have any care for innocent life. There were a dozen ones he could have learned of simply at Hogwarts and perhaps a hundred during his travels. All of them feature major drawbacks, as all dark magic does, but there is nothing obvious about which he could have chosen. I covertly made the rounds of his closest confidants from his Hogwarts days. I even attempted to track down Horace, whom Tom kept in touch with during his early travels, but dragon pox found him before I could. Nothing I did bore fruit. I had no proof.”
He looked like a tired old man, allowing the room to see weakness in a way that Harry hadn’t seen since his very early days at Hogwarts. It hadn’t taken long for Dumbledore to get some measure of Harry, though it took much longer for him to realize the truth. It was a good look on him, that weariness. Harry preferred it to the determination and anger in his eyes during their last battle.
It was strange, Harry thought, but he didn’t really hate Dumbledore. The man had been an extraordinarily powerful enemy, but his death hadn’t really been personal to Harry. Dumbledore had always been too honorable to go after the few people Harry cared about or similar sneakery. Harry had only fought him because Dumbledore wouldn’t give up. If the man had taken an oath to accept Voldemort’s rule or had just left the country forever, Harry wouldn’t have minded. His husband had been of another mind, of course.
“It could also be perfectly true that he didn’t make any horcruxes in your world,” Harry said, figuring he may as well not get the Order’s hopes up. Or his own—it was going to be such a pain in his ass if this Voldemort had gone with an alternate form of immortality. If that was the case, Harry might actually ditch this world. It would take way too long to figure shit out. “Only one way to find out, I guess. Sirius, did Regulus still join the Death Eaters here?”
Looking flummoxed at the question, Sirius said, “Yes, though I heard he chickened out only a few years in. Voldemort killed him himself. Mum was almost as honored as she was furious.”
“Huh,” Harry said. He snapped his fingers. “Kreature, come here.” When nothing happened, Harry leaned back and glared at the space behind his chair. “Kreature the house elf, I’m a busy man but I’m not too busy to Crucio you if you don’t get here immediately.”
A crack and Harry’s favorite house elf appeared before him, looking mutinous. “Orders is not coming from mistress or mistress’ son.”
“Orders haven’t been coming from mistress in years,” Sirius muttered.
“Orders are coming from your master’s—and yes, Sirius is your master, get that through your head—sort of godson. That gives me enough right to order you around. Now, hand over Regulus’ locket,” Harry told the elf. He didn’t bother asking whether Kreature had it. The house elf was always too happy to lie. Best to just assume the elf was guilty and go from there. Harry smiled at the way the house elf shifted at the command. “I’m planning to destroy it, so chop, chop.”
“Is that being true?” the house elf asked suspiciously.
“Yes,” Harry stressed. “Now, Kreature.”
The house elf popped out of his vision. Kreature didn’t return immediately, leaving Harry to deal with some uncomfortable looks from the table.
Lily was the one to ask, “Harry, you wouldn’t really have…?”
“I don’t curse anyone who hasn’t earned it,” Harry told her, rolling his eyes. Honestly, it wasn’t like he was his husband. He didn’t actually get off on throwing Crucios around every which way. (Well, that one time he’d gotten off on a very, very mild one that Voldemort had kept up while jerking him off, but that was a special case.) “Kreature just needs to be handled the right way.”
“He’s not wrong,” Sirius said, scowling. “You must know him pretty well.”
“Well enough, I guess. You—my version of you—gifted him to Draco when you got pissed off enough one day. You were drunk, Draco was being an ass, so you basically decided to make him have to deal with Kreature. It, uh, didn’t work out quite like you’d planned.”
“He loved him, didn’t he,” Sirius sighed.
“Kreature worships the ground Draco walks on, yeah. Draco’s half Black and all snotty pureblood, so he’s now basically a model house elf. He wasn’t all that nice to Ginny at first, but she got him in line.”
“My Ginny?” Molly asked. “Oh, you don’t mean…”
“Their dimension is utterly insane, yeah,” Sirius said, reaching over to pat Molly’s hand.
“They’re a cute couple,” Harry defended. Also, he was really happy to see Ginny focusing on someone that wasn’t Harry. It had been cute second year, but her life expectancy had plummeted when her crush continued a couple years later. Harry hadn’t been alright with his lover killing one of his best friends, so Voldemort had put her on a year-long mission abroad where she’d work closely with some attractive young Death Eaters and let hormones do the work. She and Draco had come back engaged and Harry had been forced to fuck away Voldemort’s smug look.
“Do you think there might be something between them here?” Molly asked thoughtfully.
“Arthur, our baby keeps telling me she’s more interested in quidditch than romance. Something has to be done. It’s not as though the Malfoy boy is bad-looking. And it means that there must be something good in his heart, despite the rumors of him having joined You-Know-Who.”
“But our blood feud!”
“Is really going out of style, my love,” Molly said, sweet but firm.
Arthur just groaned in reply.
“Not unless they’re forced to work together on a work project for a year, I think,” Harry told them. “They hated each other at first. Can’t really remember why. Son of a Death Eater and daughter of blood traitors thing, probably. Arthur and Lucius had to be kept on opposite sides of the wedding at all times.” And it had been enough of a pain to get the Weasley parents to attend. Their precious girl marrying a Death Eater—Ginny had casually waited five years to tell her parents she’d been marked—had been almost too much for their attempts at living under the dark reign. But by the time Charlie had married a Death Eater a couple years later, they’d clucked in disapproval but understood.
They were discussing the pros and cons of trying to find a way to make it work in this universe anyway when Kreature came back with a locket in tow. The sweet scent of dark magic filled the room, much heavier than the dark magic already in the air. It was a dark magic that Harry recognized down to his very soul. He hadn’t seen a horcrux of Voldemort’s in years, but he knew it instantly.
Harry took it from Kreature and shooed the house elf away. Raising it up, he said, “This,” a dramatic pause, “is a horcrux.” He handed it over to Dumbledore, since the feeling of holding a part of his husband without it being the real thing was pissing him off.
Dumbledore took it with a look of shock that he didn’t seem to be trying to hide.
“That was too easy,” Moody said, frowning at the object.
But as Dumbledore’s array of spells proved, it was actually the real deal.
“How do we destroy it?” Frank asked.
“Basilisk venom or fiendfyre,” Harry replied. Back when he hadn’t been so sure that Voldemort was going to keep him around, he’d made sure to keep his options open. “There may be more, but those are the only two I know of.”
“I’ll look for additional methods tonight,” Albus promised him. “Thank you, my boy.”
Aw, that was sweet. “You can thank me by giving me the details of the ritual that brought me here.” Cacophony reigned again, but Harry stayed focused on Dumbledore. “There are a number of things I need to bring in from my own dimension, both for ease of hunting Voldemort and because I am a creature of comfort and I can’t get a whole wardrobe of good battle robes tailored to me in the time I have here.”
Dumbledore’s piercing blue eyes bore deeply into him, but Harry couldn’t feel a single twinge of Legilimency. And he’d know, with how much Voldemort had liked to throw it around before they’d both given in and left their minds open to each other.
Moody looked between the two of them. “You can’t seriously be considering this. Potter, you may be the son of two of our best members, but you don’t get instant trust based on that alone. You’ve been here not even twenty-four hours and we barely know a thing about your world or you. I don’t trust you one whit.”
Harry turned his gaze to Moody. He rather hoped the man would try to look into his mind, because Harry would’ve loved to throw him into a memory of Harry killing his alternate self. The scar across Ron’s face was a constant reminder of how Harry had almost failed to get to his best mate in time.
“I don’t care,” Harry told him, his voice cold as stone. “You’re not an authority figure to me. None of you are. If I want to go back to my world, I will. I wouldn’t even bother lying to you about it.”
“Just like that?” Dumbledore cut in.
Harry gave him a long look. “Albus, I’m not a good person. I’m not doing this out of some kind of altruism. But I’ve been looking for something fun to do lately and I have a soft spot for a couple people here. You can trust me to stay or you can not, but I’m going to visit my dimension anyway, since your reactions are making me believe there is a way.” After a moment of thought, he offered, “You can ask me to leave, I suppose, if you’re that worried about my intentions. I’m not going to force my company on the lot of you.”
“We need your help too much for us me to ask that of you,” Dumbledore admitted. “The portal will shut behind you permanently if you go through it, but you may open it to speak to those in your world.”
“Then you’ll have to trust that I won’t leave before I kill him.”
Dumbledore still didn’t look convinced.
“Look, you can send someone with me who can stand outside the circle looking pretty while I privacy charm my conversation to hell and back. But I won’t be a prisoner here, Albus. You’ll have to trust my word.”
Harry’s word wasn’t the least bit trustworthy, but Dumbledore still nodded. It was a short, sharp thing, but it was agreement. Harry would’ve gone against a denial, but Dumbledore’s agreement made things easier. By the wary look in the man’s eyes, Harry knew Dumbledore had taken the intent behind his words to heart.
“If you weren’t trying to hide something, you wouldn’t hide behind privacy charms,” Moody said, giving him a dark look. “What are you trying to hide?”
“Portal sex with my husband, mostly,” Harry replied. “I hadn’t taken any of you for voyeurs. But if you’re that interested…”
Moody looked like he was going to accept out of sheer spite, but Dumbledore cut him off. “We trust you, my boy. We made that decision before we knew you and we will have to follow through with it, as long as you continue to stay true to your willingness to help us.”
“I’m still here, aren’t I?” Harry asked, shrugging. “Besides, I haven’t even met my sort-of siblings yet. I’d have to stay long enough for that.”
Moody’s silent look of rage at Harry’s non-answer was wonderfully satisfying.
The meeting continued after Moody stormed off, but it became much less tense. One by one, people began to leave, until Harry was left only with the Marauders and his mother, who he assumed were his unofficial minders because of their connection. Sirius brought out the booze and Harry drank with them to ever-more unlikely well-wishes. It was rather odd, sitting across the table from the werewolf he’d killed in his own world, but Harry squashed down those feelings. If he remarked on every odd thing about this world, he’d be talking until his mouth went dry. When the group finally decided it was time to apparate, they disillusioned themselves before apparating. Harry played along, wondering if they thought their Voldemort had somehow tracked their movements at Stonehenge.
But by the time he arrived, there was no one there but them. Harry watched Lily cast spells for a few moments with bemusement.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, trying to remember what the spells Lily was using were for. The words had an echo that he remembered from years ago, but it had to have been in his early Hogwarts years.
“Muggle repelling charms,” Lily explained, continuing her casting. “I guess you haven’t had much need to put them up if you usually work within the wizarding world.”
“Right, those,” Harry said as he remembered the World Cup during his fourth year. That was where he’d felt them. Good thing he remembered, or it would’ve bugged him all day. It was interesting, seeing Lily using those antiquated charms, but Harry didn’t bother paying attention. It wasn’t as though he’d ever need to use those charms back home. There hadn’t been a muggle in Britain in six years. But it did remind him to begin casting a barrier for the space inside the stones. “You won’t be able to see anything or hear anything through this. I recommend that you don’t try breaking it down.”
“What happens if we do?” Sirius asked.
“Nothing good,” Harry said with a grin, remembering some good times. “Also, I’ll know and be pissed that you’re interrupting my time with my husband.”
“Don’t worry, your conjugal visit will be harassment-free,” Lily said, pulling Sirius away from poking at the barrier.
Harry wasn’t quite sure what a conjugal visit was, but it didn’t matter. He stepped into the circle and deigned to use the Elder Wand to open the portal between their worlds. The whole area was saturated with the chaotic magic of the space between dimensions; it wasn’t hard to tap into it and recreate the portal that had brought him here. It was harder to open it exactly where he wanted it to open, since with his marriage bond acting up he wasn’t able to get a proper read on his husband, but eventually he managed to find Voldemort in his office. With a blaze of fire around the edges, the portal became something like a floo call. Harry conjured himself a comfortable armchair to lounge in during the call. Voldemort, sitting behind his desk, put down his paperwork and raised an eyebrow at Harry.
“Hey, handsome,” Harry said, trying to gauge Voldemort’s mood. From Harry’s first impression, it didn’t look good. Voldemort did look as stupidly handsome as ever. His dark hair was perfectly in place without Harry to ruin it and his skin was without any flaws Harry might have left on it with his mouth. But he sat just a little too still, a tension in his shoulders that a few rounds of Crucio-ing some idiots hadn’t loosened, and his red eyes bore into Harry’s with a different kind of intensity than usual. Still, “How have you been on this fine evening?”
“Perfect. I have no reason to care about stupid imbeciles who walk into a fiery open portal with only an I’ll be back, tell my husband not to worry himself said to two people who should have had the brains to stop you from walking into these kinds of situations,” Voldemort said, crossing his arms. He looked hot. Angry, but hot. “Especially not when our fucking marriage bond goes dim and I can’t reach you through it unlike every other moment in the entirety of the last two years. Why would I be anything other than perfect?”
Voldemort’s voice didn’t lose an inch of control at any point during his tirade, but Harry wasn’t blind to the way Voldemort got during the few times he was actually afraid. This wasn’t the most fearful Harry had seen him—neither of them were bleeding out and on the brink of death—but it didn’t matter. Any moment when Voldemort had his cool torn away from him was unallowable.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, actually feeling the emotion, though he did try to play up his contrite expression. He didn’t know why he bothered, since his husband knew him better than anyone in the world—both worlds—but he did it anyway. “I should have contacted you as soon as I arrived in—”
“Excuse me?” Voldemort said, rather menacingly.
Harry rolled his eyes. “I should have not been myself and ignored the fascinating portal that beckoned from right in front of me. Better?”
“If I wasn’t concerned about a spell interfering with the portal’s connection, I would Crucio you right now.”
“I’d just dodge,” Harry said with a wave of his hand. “Come on, don’t you want to hear about what’s on the other side?”
With a sigh, Voldemort said, “Tell me.”
“It’s another dimension where the Order—the Order of the fucking Phoenix, can you believe it?—used some old ritual to open the door between dimensions and call for someone with the power to defeat Voldemort, since they apparently couldn’t do it.”
“And they managed to do it without their own dimension collapsing into the void?” Voldemort asked, looking slightly less angry and slightly more intrigued. When he realized it, he shot Harry a glare and looked twice as angry to make up for the lapse.
“Yeah, looks like they managed to do it perfectly. I don’t even want to think of the margin of error they must have faced. I wonder if they just didn’t know how dangerous it was, or if they thought it was worth it… Anyway, I was met by Dumbledore! He’s all alive here and not the inferi you sometimes raise him as for the amusement. So far I’ve met my parents, Remus, a Sirius who isn’t with Severus which is a tragedy, a Severus who’s friends with my mum, some random Order folks… They’re all completely bonkers, but I’m having a great time.” Harry grinned at him. “I’m going to defeat their Dark Lord.”
“Of course you are,” Voldemort drawled. “Out of the goodness of your heart, I’m sure.”
“Exactly. They went through all this effort, I might as well throw them a bone. I could throw them their Voldemort’s bones,” Harry said with amusement. “Er, if you’re good with that? Are you angry?”
“I’m angry you vanished without any warning, but I couldn’t care less what you do with an alternate version of myself. It has no effect on me.”
Harry raised an eyebrow at that and affected an air of innocence. “So, if you don’t care what I do with him, does banging the alternate version of you count as cheating?”
“Yes.” Voldemort didn’t even pause to think it over.
“But remember all that fun we had with your horcruxes back when we still had them!” Harry could’ve sighed with happiness. It had only been a few times, because his wonderful stupid husband was possessive of Harry even with himself, but damn.
“I remember, considering that I was in the same bed at the time,” Voldemort huffed.
“You could join me on my vacation,” Harry offered. He wiggled his eyebrows just to get that cute scowl onto his husband’s face. “The Order said he looks like a snake, which is weird, but that sounds like the good kind of kinky.”
“Completely out of the question,” Voldemort said firmly. “You’re mine, and I won’t share you, especially not with a different version of myself, one that isn’t a part of me.”
“Mm. You’re so hot when you get possessive. Want to come through and fuck me?”
“I’m not giving you positive reinforcement for getting stuck in an alternate dimension.”
Harry sighed elaborately at him, but it had no effect on Voldemort’s lack of arousal. What it did have an effect on was Voldemort slowly, throughout the conversation, beginning to relax from the wound-up state he’d been in before. “I’m not screwing up any of your plans, am I? We don’t have any diplomatic shit planned for another month and the things I was working on can just be delegated off to some other people. I’m sure Hermione can give you a list of names.”
“She already has,” Voldemort replied. “Unlike you, she’s efficient and dutiful.”
“She and Ron came to you as soon as I vanished, didn’t they,” Harry grumbled. “Traitors. I bet you saw the memory?”
Which meant Voldemort had seen just how little care Harry had given the whole thing. Harry ran a hand through his hair, wishing he could go through the portal to kiss Voldemort’s expression off of him. Unfortunately, words would have to suffice. “I’ve been restless lately. I don’t know why. I’ve been having a blast with the London reconstruction project, I love working with Hermione and Ron again, I love building up our society, I even kinda love you, but it’s like something’s gotten under my skin and wouldn’t leave. I needed something new, some kind of adventure.”
“The last time you had that itch, you started the goblin war,” Voldemort replied, the last of his tension leaving him. “I suppose I should be happy you’ve directed your energies at another dimension.”
“I still hold that they started their own goblin rebellion and it would’ve happened with or without my intervention,” Harry said with a pout. “I was just in the wrong place at the right time.”
“I don’t know a soul who would believe you.” More gently than Harry probably deserved, Voldemort said, “You should have told me. I would’ve found something more interesting for you.”
“That’s not your job.” Harry scowled at the slight smirk turning up the corner of Voldemort’s mouth. “Shut up, marrying me gives you no special power over me. And hey, I did find something that got rid of the urge. Without even a bit of bloodshed.”
At that, Voldemort raised an eyebrow.
“I haven’t even committed a single crime. Threats have been at a minimum. I’m a model citizen. I’ve even more or less avoided lying, except for the whole killing you lie. Everything else has mostly just been omission. It’s weird, but just being here has thrown me off my game and entertained me so much that I don’t even really feel the need to kill off Dumbledore just because I think the world is better off without him. And, well, my mum does like him.”
“Be careful,” Voldemort cautioned. “Even if they seem friendly, you know how vicious some of them can be.”
“That’s the thing,” Harry mused. “Moody didn’t even try to cram veritaserum down my throat. Dumbledore only tried once and it wasn’t much of an attempt. They’ve even taken me to Grimmauld Place. I think there might be something wrong with them. They seem to actually trust me, maybe not completely, but enough for me to be able to fuck them over badly if I wanted to.”
“Well, you are the dead son of two of their core members.”
“Yeah, that’s just weird. My parents are good people? Did you know that?”
“If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have needed to kill them.”
“Right, but I still thought they’d be vicious assholes like me, but they’re not.” Harry still didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. In all honesty, he was a bit disappointed by how good his parents were. It wasn’t that he didn’t want them to be good to him—he hadn’t hated the way his parents hugged him, the way they looked at him like he was a miracle—but he couldn’t figure them out. “They’re not bad, though. Just left them after drinking with them and Sirius and a few others.”
“Even between dimensions, some things never change,” Voldemort replied, but he didn’t look too bothered. It probably helped that nothing here was going to be able to kill Harry. “How long are you going to stay?”
“A week or two. I’ll be back before you know it. I’ll contact you again tomorrow, when I figure out what I need from home,” Harry said, thinking of making a list or something. At the beginning would be, “Basilisk venom, though, that’s a big one. I feel like these guys might balk at me bringing out the fiendfyre.”
“You’ll have to milk the one in their own dimension,” Voldemort said with a shake of his head. “I used up the last of our stores during the poisoning competition in June.”
“Right, I forgot. I guess it’s not a hardship. I’ll just have to be very clear to the Order that they’re not allowed to harm my baby after I leave their dimension. Maybe I can rope the centaurs into taking care of her…” Harry trailed off, halting his plotting. “Didn’t you have that interview with Ginny today? She’ll kill me if you canceled. It’s very important to her.”
“I don’t know why you expect me to give a damn about your ex-stalker’s feelings.”
“Hey, you can’t blame me for Ginny. Besides, you like her now,” Harry said. “What did she ask you?”
Shifting a little to get even more comfortable in the armchair, Harry settled in for a bit of catch-up with his husband. Outside, his parents were still waiting for him and were probably bored out of their minds, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care right now.
Once Harry disappeared inside the magical barrier, Lily and held their wands in their hands in case of attack, but there was little for them to do but wait. They sat on one of the rocks just outside of Harry’s barrier, alert but not particularly expectant of danger. Voldemort’s attention was attuned to magical communities, not to a magically important but little used location. James sat by her side, Remus on the other, while Sirius stood with an inscrutable look on his face as he gazed at the shrouded barrier.
Lily wasn’t proud of it, but war often left motherhood lagging in second place, and she wouldn’t be ashamed of protecting her family and the Order. Once enough time had passed that she was sure Harry wouldn’t return soon, she turned to Remus and asked, “What did you pick up on during the meeting?
“Lil?” James asked.
“His expression went strange a couple times during the meeting,” Lily explained. “The patented ‘Remus Lupin knows you’re bullshitting’ look. Was it something Harry said?”
“Nothing gets past you.”
Lily and Remus exchanged a smile. Severus may continue to be her best friend, but Remus was the closest she’d come to poaching one of James’ friends for herself. Making friends as an adult, as Lily had learned, was hard enough without a war dogging their heels.
Remus continued, saying, “It’s more like what Harry didn’t say.” His brow furrowed as he seemed to put his thoughts together. “Or didn’t feel. You know I’m not an expert at this compared to werewolves more attuned with their wolf sides, but I can still pick out some hormones. Strong emotions work better, and Harry... he hates Moody. That was the most obvious thing I picked up on. Not hatred for Voldemort or fear to have to face him again. He’s also a lot angrier than he appears to be, but it’s a generalized anger, not something specific to our conversation.”
“That’s strange,” Lily admitted. “Moody isn’t exactly well-loved, but there aren’t many people who legitimately hate him.”
“None except dark wizards,” Sirius said. Lily hadn’t said the words, but they were on her mind.
James glanced between them. “It doesn’t have to be that. It could be that they had some kind of fight over something completely different. You know how Moody is. The only person he trusts is Dumbledore; all the rest of us have to constantly prove ourselves. He doesn’t believe in privacy, either ours or the Death Eaters’, and I still think he finds a way to eavesdrop on the base out of sheer paranoia.”
Lily nodded. “You’re right, of course. And, well. We can’t not give him the benefit of the doubt.” The memory of Voldemort’s laughter as he killed Marlene right in front of her, high-pitched and horrible. “We need him.” The words felt sour in her throat; Harry had agreed to help them, but they had pulled him from a world where he was happy, married, loved, and she would never forgive herself if she had to bury her son a second time.
James took her hand, squeezing it gently. “And we’re emotionally compromised. Because holy Merlin, I am.”
Lily smiled at him weakly. Alright, that too. Harry was strange, too glib about the harsh reality of their war, but many people used jokes to deflect in serious situations.
“Just be cautious,” Remus reminded them before he stood. “I need to get back to the Aerys pack before Greyback manages to bribe them into joining Voldemort, so you won’t have my nose for long. Sirius, look after them.”
“Don’t forget to visit Tonks before you go,” Lily said. Her friend was still resisting the younger woman’s affections, but Remus’ sigh couldn’t hide the smile tugging at his lips. “She misses you.”
“She has terrible taste in men,” Remus replied before apparating away.
Lily shook her head at the spot where he’d been. “Honestly.”
“She’ll reel him in eventually,” Sirius said, sitting down on James’ other side.
“Shouldn’t you be protecting your cousin’s honor?” James asked, amused.
“I’m tired of getting my ass kicked. She can have him. I sacrifice Remus to her pointy elbows and spell repertoire.” Sirius looked terribly put out, although Lily knew it was mostly a front. He may have been overprotective of his cousin, but between her with some asshole and her with Remus, who was good down to his battered heart, it wasn’t a contest. (Neither was the fact that Lily greatly preferred the Sirius of today to the Sirius of two decades ago. These days, she could see why James chose the hothead as his best friend.)
Speaking of romance, though. “It looks like Harry’s done well for himself in love.” Lily couldn’t help but be surprised, although she shouldn’t be. It would be hypocritical of her, considering that she and James married before they’d even been Hogwarts graduates for two full years. “I wonder if we know him.”
James shrugged. “Maybe. If anything, Dumbledore knows him.”
“Unless he’s foreign. Maybe he’s bagged himself a foreign quidditch player. Maybe it’s Krum!”
Lily didn’t bother trying to follow Sirius’ leaps of logic. Although, from what she’d unwillingly heard about Krum over the years from her hopelessly quidditch-obsessed husband, Harry could’ve done worse for a husband. Krum did seem to have a certain charm from what she’d read in the papers and seen from the stands.
As the men’s impromptu argument over which internationally acclaimed quidditch star would make the best boyfriend for Harry trailed off, Sirius said with a sigh, “I’m pretty compromised, too. Shit, it’s been twenty years, but he was the first little nephew I got attached to. My godson.”
“I don’t think it’s wrong to get attached,” Lily said. “As long as we’re not stupid about it.”
“That’s exactly what someone who’s emotionally compromised would say.”
“Sirius, stop trying to sound like an auror,” James muttered. “I’ve had enough of Moody for today.”
“Now you just sound like a dark wizard. Can’t believe you conned me into being your best friend.”
“Pretty sure it was the opposite.”
The moon was lovely in the sky, just a smallest sliver of a curve, like an earring that had lost its other half. Lily rested her head on James’ shoulder and tried to drum up some long-forgotten astronomy knowledge. She’d received an Outstanding on her NEWT, but now she can no longer recall the name and history of every group of stars. A surprising number of facts about the moon did manage to stay, and she wondered which subject had been Harry’s favorite in school. DADA must have been his best, just based on everything he’d lived through, but did he enjoy it? Had he liked Charms and Transfiguration? What about Potions? Her younger two children complained horribly about Potions, but Harry seemed to have a good relationship with his own Severus. She wanted to know; she wanted to have already known, wanted to have been there during Harry’s best and worst moments, to have gotten the knowledge first-hand. And if not her, she so dearly wished that Harry’s own Lily had survived that horrible night.
Lily didn’t regret joining the wizarding world, back at the tender age of eleven her biggest fear had been Petunia’s sharp tongue and Severus’ father hurting him. This place took you in and wowed you with sorcery and pretty lights and when you turned around, you couldn’t remember how to live a normal—muggle—life again. Lily could never give up her place here, nor could she imagine a life without the family she’d made. They were all the family she had now; her parents were a decade dead, and she and Petunia hadn’t been able to have a civil conversation since childhood. But even with all that she’d gained in the wizarding world, the thought of how close Lily had come to death that Halloween night made her shiver.
By the time Harry emerged from Stonehenge, Lily was a few yawns away calling it a night. Harry looked visibly happier than when he’d entered. Husband, Lily thought with a smile. Her sort of son was married and happy, and Lily could only be happy for him. Anyone who made Harry smile so brilliantly had to be amazing.
“Good talk?” Lily asked.
“Very.” Harry sounded perfectly content. The privacy barrier fell as he walked through the stone archway and took a seat next to her. “I love Stonehenge,” he said, looking around happily. “We throw a huge party here every Yule. Fairy lights, tons of food, only one boring speech…”
“Oh?” Lily asked. “You must cast powerful wards for the night to keep muggles away.”
Harry gave her a strange look. “Yeah, uh, muggles.”
While James and Sirius left to check on the portal, Lily indulged her curiosity. “What does your husband think of all this?”
Harry ducked his head, but Lily caught the edge of his pleased smile. “He’s so pissed at me. I’m going to need to grovel when I get back to my proper dimension. Maybe with gifts. Obscure knowledge and rare books, because he’s a pain in the ass, or homemade chocolate. Or— yeah.”
“I’m sorry,” Lily said. “We didn’t mean to make things hard for you.”
Harry shot her a confused look. “You haven’t. Trust me, it would take a lot more than this for us to have a real argument. I think he’s more concerned about not being able to feel me through the marriage bond than anything else. He’s too possessive for his own good, really.”
Lily would be worried if Harry didn’t look delighted with his last words. It was cute. “How long have the two of you been married?”
“Two years now.”
Not a honeymoon phase. Just love. Despite all the suffering in the world, Lily was unbearably happy to find that there was such goodness, too. For all the hardship that Harry had suffered, he’d found a man who loved him and who Harry obviously adored. Lily couldn’t ask for anything else. “Could you tell me about him?”
“I’m so used to everyone already knowing,” Harry huffed with a rueful shake of his head. “I don’t think I’ve ever even had to introduce him.”
“He’s famous?” Another point in James and Sirius’ quidditch player column.
“And brilliant,” Harry added. “I don’t tell him so, because he already has a big enough head, but he is. It’s his own fault that everyone relies on him so much and drowns him in paperwork. He’s some years older than me. Dark hair, red eyes, tall.” With a playful leer, he added, “Good in bed. When we first met, we didn’t get along at all, but he grew on me. And I grew on him.” Harry looked terribly smug. “He fell in love with me. He’s only said it a few times, because he likes to sink into denial unless it’s important for him to acknowledge it, but it’s true.”
“I couldn’t stand James at first, either,” Lily said. “Although he’d yell his love from the rooftops if he could. He once did from the Hogwarts roof. Red eyes?”
“Magical accident. They suit him, though. Say, do you think I can get Sirius and Severus together here before your Voldemort’s time is up?”
Lily choked on her laughter. “Harry, that’s horrible.”
“Love is never horrible.”
“Severus will kill you. Sirius might even help.”
“Killing people together is the first step toward love, trust me. I’ll have them uncovering their true feelings before I leave even if I have to attach a permanent sticking charm to their hands.”
Lily resolved to watch Harry very carefully. Both because of Remus’ observations and because her wonderful idiot of a sort of son was going to get himself killed by her best friend, whether he had the power to defeat Voldemort or not. “What’s his name? James has already decided you’ve married Viktor Krum, I think.”
“Viktor?” Harry asked. “I’m not surprised to find he’s a quidditch player here, too. That jerk flies like he was born on a broom.”
“Not a fan?”
“The Bulgarian team has won the past four Quidditch World Cups. At this rate, I think felix felicis has to be involved. But Viktor himself’s a good bloke. We got to know each other during the Triwizard Tournament my fourth year.”
Lily can’t do more than blink for a moment, then, “You’re doing it on purpose, aren’t you.”
“Maximum entertainment,” Harry replied without any shame at dropping bombshells about his past.
Merlin, he really was James’ son. Lily’s, too. “You haven’t mentioned his name.”
“I haven’t,” Harry agreed. He was silent for a long while, green eyes resting on a faraway point. Lily couldn’t say why a name was this important to Harry, but Harry was in both open and private in turns, reticent about the oddest things. When he finally spoke, his voice was soft. “There are a lot of differences between our realities, but some things have stayed the same. I don’t want to say his name; he has his own life and destiny here, one that wasn’t a part of, and voicing who he is to me in my own dimension would only cause drama. Which is something I usually enjoy, but… I don’t know. I don’t want it right now. Not about this.”
“Is he married here?” Lily asked, because it was the first thing that came to mind.
Harry shook his head, not as a no, but as, “I’m not going to say. Just trust me on this one thing; it’s better for you not to know.”
“Okay,” Lily admitted. She couldn’t say she trusted him, not truly. Trust was hard-won in times of war. But she liked him, and she knew better than to press. Whatever else Harry was, he was a man who’d lived through his own Voldemort’s war and he’d been dragged into hers. “I won’t ask for the details, but if there’s anything you can tell me, I’d love to hear it. The man who earned your heart has to be someone amazing.”
“He is,” Harry replied, nothing but sincerity in his voice.
Once again, Harry woke up to a world where he couldn’t call for Dobby and have breakfast and a hangover potion handed to him without even having to ask. It was a cruel, cruel world, and Harry only had himself to blame. Lily, James, and Sirius had joined him in the safe house after he’d spoken with Voldemort, and the night had been long and wine had flowed almost at the pace that Voldemort could spill blood. Despite being the youngest of the lot, Harry didn’t think he was the best off, not with how much he’d drunk.
He groaned into his pillow, annoyed that Voldemort wasn’t even here to make fun of him.
Dammit, he really needed to off this world’s Dark Lord and get back to his husband.
Hermione may claim that no one died of blue balls, but Harry was a rather exceptional wizard. He didn’t want to be the first. (It could be that he had a blue heart, too, but that wasn’t anyone’s business.)
Yawning, Harry stepped out of his bedroom in a pair of sleeping pants he’d found in the back of the closet. He couldn’t remember if his parents and Sirius had been sober enough to apparate home, but even if they hadn’t, it was hardly anything they hadn’t seen before. The elder wand, a constant stalker of his, rested in his pants pockets without Harry having put it there.
“You know I’m going to get my holly wand from the portal, along with the other supplies,” Harry told it. “You’ve won the battle, but you haven’t won the war.”
The wand grew cold against his thigh.
“Giving me the cold shoulder isn’t going to help your case.”
He took the stairs two a time, arriving at the bottom in time to see Lily close the front door behind her and slip a key onto the hook by the door. Harry had to wonder just how many people had access to this house, but it didn’t particularly concern him.
“I come bearing food,” Lily said, holding up two large cloth bags. “I’m not sure what you like for breakfast, so I got a little of everything. Plus some hangover potions.”
“You’re a goddess,” Harry told her quite seriously. “Let me know if you’d like a shrine.”
Lily pecked his cheek before stepping into the kitchen and levitating her purchases on to the counter. “Are James and Sirius alive yet? I thought I heard you speaking with someone as I came in.”
“Just my wand,” Harry replied.
Lily gave him a look like she was trying to decide if Harry was serious.
“Your lack of trust pains me, really,” Harry said, though he couldn’t keep his happiness out of his voice. Last night had been half family bonding, half light interrogation. Harry couldn’t be anything but approving; finally, some suspicion on behalf of the Order. They couldn’t know that he wouldn’t give away any more information than he already would’ve while sober, and that Harry had faced much more intensive interrogations before. The goblins could teach sadism to even Fenrir Greyback. “Should I wake the others?”
“No, let them sleep. They’ll be as moody as teenagers if they’re dragged out of bed.” Lily put him to work chopping peppers and ham for the quiche before she spoke. “Are you worried about us not trusting you?”
She looked concerned, worried, so different from the Lily of last night. Harry didn’t understand the urge to comfort her, but he bowed to it. “Of course not. If I were in your place and we needed to summon someone to deal with an issue of ours, we would submit them for a thorough investigation first. If we were capable of subduing them, that is.” Investigation was a better word than interrogation, right? “If we weren’t powerful enough to subdue them, we’d find other ways of getting information from them. Surround them with friendly people, that sort of thing.” He probably was explaining it badly, since Lily looked worse, not better. “I’d be more worried if you did immediately trust me, honestly. I’m not some selfless hero, but I won’t renege on my promises. Your Voldemort is a dead man walking.”
“You’re not worried about dying?”
“There’s only one being that can kill me, and it’s not Voldemort.” If Harry truly wished to die, he could ask Death to kill him, but the idea of doing so was very abstract to him. His husband had enough lust for life for a hundred men—maybe he inherited that of those he killed—and Harry wouldn’t pass on without him, so the idea was pointless to consider.
But it didn’t seem to be so pointless to Lily, who seemed to genuinely care about his continued life. “You had better be right.”
“I’m always right,” Harry replied.
“Now that I don’t trust.”
Harry grinned. Alright, it was possible that he’d made one or two mistakes during his life. Three at most. That anyone could get him to agree to. “You don’t have a house elf?” Harry asked as he finished chopping.
Despite all evil dark wizard cliches, he wasn’t all that good with a knife. Cutting spells, yes, but he left creative interrogation methods to his husband, and knife fighting to Ron. The Dursleys had put him to work in the kitchen at a young age—his early childhood memories blurred in a mess of misery, so he couldn’t say how young he’d really been—but at age six Harry had gotten the upper hand over them and that had been that. Aunt Petunia prepared his meals from then on and Harry occupied what had previously been Dudley’s bedroom. To this day, he thought he should’ve been more ambitious and demanded the master bedroom. The Dursleys had been terrified enough of his burgeoning magical power that they would’ve acquiesced. Later, Harry had taken six years of Potions, but he’d been more focused on getting Snape back for his comments than learning proper techniques.
“No,” Lily replied over the sound of the chopping board. “Charlus and Dorea had two when James was a teenager, but they died in the Potter manor explosion before James and I were married. I’ve never seen the point of having help, anyway. With two fully capable adults around the house who can do magic, house elves aren’t as necessary as some witches and wizards believe.”
It sounded like an old argument, one Harry didn’t bother putting his nose in. People got weird about house elves. Even Hermione, a rational and ruthless witch, had a soft spot for them. Harry wouldn’t kick them just as he wouldn’t kick crups, but he didn’t consider them slave labor. That said, he’d supported Hermione’s house elf regulations because he preferred to keep his balls intact. Even Voldemort supported higher standards for them, if only because he wanted to increase the number of house elves in the country and house elves regularly beaten black and blue weren’t going to happily consent to procreate. “I have a few, but that’s because my husband and I would starve without them. We’re both too busy to function properly otherwise.”
“I never asked what you do,” Lily seemed to realize.
Harry shrugged. His position was rather hard to describe. “Everything and anything, really. I don’t have an official position, but I manage a lot of post-war reconstruction projects. We have a lot of—” land and very few people “—building and rebuilding to do, now that we’ve won and we’ve reached a few years of proper peace. I have a seat on the zoning committee, I get about a dozen reports a day from people who don’t know what concise means, I make a concerned effort to keep Hermione from steamrolling the British government, I work my ass off to stamp out blood prejudice because everyone who has the gift of magic is equal. I work mainly with my best friends, Ron and Hermione, but Draco and Ginny often get in on the planning. I’m also my husband’s spokesperson when he’s too busy or too annoyed to deal with people. He’s a—” Dark Lord? Dictator? Harry was his equal in power, but he didn’t kid himself: people more terrified of Voldemort than of Harry. It was probably the creepy red eyes, Harry mused. Most people didn’t find them thoroughly sexy. “—diplomat.”
It wasn’t even a lie. Voldemort had to play nice with the other countries. While their wards around Britain were powerful, Harry didn’t like their chances of defending against a full-force attack from another country. If their neighbors across the channel decided they didn’t appreciate having a dark kingdom around, they could do some real damage. A war between countries—a new one still finding its footing and the rest hundreds of years old—wasn’t something they needed.
Not to mention, wizarding Britain’s population had already been small before Voldemort’s takeover. After, it was all they could do to promote their country to foreign magicals interested in immigrating.
Pros: no muggles, no need to worry about the Statute of Secrecy, heavy protections in place for magical creatures, one of the best schools in the world, a brand new state of the art wizarding university, a serious effort of pureblood-halfblood-muggleborn equality because Harry didn’t give a shit about stuffy old pureblood beliefs. Magic was magic.
Cons: living under a dictatorship. Also, a hundred or so muggle corpses around from the few muggles who chose not to flee even after a simulated nuclear accident left the muggle world believing the British Isles to be forever hopelessly polluted and uninhabitable. Some people (Greyback) were assholes who couldn’t clean up their messes.
One of Voldemort’s best generals in three wars or not, Harry was going to kill Greyback one of these days.
Voldemort would forgive him.
“A diplomat?” Lily asked. “Does he have a silver tongue?”
“Like you wouldn’t imagine.”
“He’s a Slytherin, isn’t he,” Lily said, her words not almost but not quite a question.
Harry wondered if it was light interrogation that caused her to ask or genuine curiosity about the man her sort of son married. But like he’d said earlier, there was no reason it couldn’t be both. It was a small enough detail, anyway. “He is. The quintessential Slytherin, really. I’d hate him if I weren’t madly in love with him.”
By the time James and Sirius shuffled downstairs like zombies, Lily hadn’t heard anything more about Voldemort, but Harry had gotten some stories of Lily’s past mistakes from his sort of mother. Her temper was legendary, even if she didn’t apply it to violent actions. She and James had a rocky history back in Hogwarts, and so did she and Severus, who had taken on a nearly James-like determination to win back her friendship after the first war.
“Did you inherit my temper?” Lily asked.
“Merlin, no,” James said as he entered the kitchen. “The world couldn’t bear to deal with two of you.”
“I don’t know, it could be interesting,” Sirius added.
Harry considered it, but Lily seemed a hell of a lot more even tempered than he was, which was probably saying something. Then again, Harry was practically a model citizen in this dimension. Ew, since it wasn’t Voldemort leading the country, it was probably Fudge or Scrimgeour. He was Fudge or Scrimgeour’s model citizen. Gross. Harry didn’t deal well with authority, as evidenced by terrorizing the Dursleys into obedience, getting booted out of Hogwarts, and taking over the country.
Idly, he considered taking over this country, too, but it was only a daydream. He didn’t want to stay here and run it.
And neither did he want to give it to this world’s Voldemort like a present, all wrapped up and bloody. He might’ve placed it at Lily’s feet, but Lily wouldn’t want it anyway. Neither would his sort of dad and sort of godfather, who now fought over how to cut the quiche like barbarians while Harry poured Lily and himself some juice.
James looked up from his position hovering over the quiche and shook his head at them. “You two have the same exact expression.”
“The ‘my husband reverts back to a thirteen year old when he spends an extended period of time with his best friend’ expression?” Lily asked.
“The ‘I love you because of your faults, not despite them’ expression,” James retorted with a faux wounded look. In recompense, he handed her the largest slice of the quiche.
Sirius rolled his eyes at the two of them, then turned to Harry. “So, what’s the plan for today?”
“Mayhem and destruction,” Harry replied between bites. He was even nice enough to leave the murder bit off. Not that it was likely that there would be any murdering today, horcruxes notwithstanding. “It’s high time I go to Hogwarts. I’ll pick up the another horcrux, then pop off to get some basilisk venom. It’s better on everyone if the horcruxes are destroyed quickly, before they get the chance to possess anyone.”
James seemed hesitant at the idea. “We should have the whole Order here before discussing plans.”
Harry shrugged, popping a strawberry into his mouth. “You summoned me here to defeat your Voldemort, not practice teamwork. Yesterday was fun, but I can’t have twenty people tripping over themselves walking behind me as I collect horcruxes from all over the country. And I don’t trust there to be no spies within the Order itself; the more people we include in this, the more likely your Voldemort will learn that people know about his horcruxes and panic about my very existence.”
“And what about Dumbledore?” Lily asked. “He certainly won’t sell you out.”
It was horrible that she was, in a way, correct. Dumbledore wouldn’t sell him out as long as Harry played his role. Back at Hogwarts, Harry had chafed against the reins and been expelled for his troubles, but here he was Dumbledore’s more or less willing chess piece. Entertainment, Harry reminded himself. Entertainment. That was why he was here. He wasn’t Dumbledore’s anything.
“He’ll stick his nose in whether I want it or not,” Harry sighed. “Especially when we knock on the Hogwarts gates.” Maybe the old man would be merciful and send Severus in his place.
“If you don’t—” a small, barely there hesitation “—want to work with Dumbledore, you can always delegate some of the work to us,” Lily offered.
“Dumbledore nearly died of the curse on one of Voldemort’s horcruxes in my world,” Harry said. “You’d need to find some volunteers with a death wish.” I nominate Lupin, he almost said, but that was probably going too far. These people were sensitive.
“On second thought, you’re the expert here,” Sirius quickly said.
“But,” Harry said with a thoughtful noise. Dumbledore would be easier to deal with if he was in the loop. And Harry didn’t want to deal with his parents trying to be secretive while playing spies. He knew full well that they would tell Dumbledore everything he said. There was no point in trying to staunch the flow of information. Secondhand information would just make the headmaster wary, and Harry hadn’t said anything he wanted to hide. “There are some things you can do. I haven’t had a proper war council in years.” There was too much delight in his voice, but Harry allowed himself the fun.
“War council?” Lily said.
“Skirmish council,” Harry offered. “I don’t plan this to last more than a few weeks at most. But until then, you three are officially my council.” At Lily’s raised eyebrow, he begged, “Just let me have this. If you expect me to deal with the full Order on a regular basis, you’re high on dragon dung.”
“Yesterday wasn’t even the full Order.”
“Stop, you’re only making the idea more depressing.” Harry drew his wand from his pocket and pushed his plate out of the way. James, Lily, and Sirius grew attentive, but there wasn’t any fear in them that he could see. Fuck, but Harry kind of wanted to keep it that way. When he pressed the tip of the wand against the table, a thin line of black ash followed his movements. Whatever he liked to say, it was true that the elder wand reacted to his desires better than any less legendary wand ever could (when it didn’t conflict with the wand’s own desires, anyway). Harry was the master of death; this wand was a willful, arrogant extension of himself. Something in the shape of a crown formed on the table. Whatever his other talents, Harry wasn’t an artist. “The easiest horcrux to retrieve is the diadem, which is hidden in the room of requirement within Hogwarts.”
“You don’t mean Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem,” Lily exclaimed. “It’s been missing for centuries. Voldemort was the one to find it?”
“And to stick a piece of his soul into it, like a kid writing his name on everything to show it’s his.” James and Lily shared a knowing look. “Fleamont has mostly grown out of the habit, but nearly everything he owns is engraved with his name. He even asked Ollivander if he could do it with his wand.”
“A precious historical artifact,” Lily sighed. “And we’re destroying it.”
“We can ask your Voldemort to pretty please take his soul out of it,” Harry offered.
Sirius shrugged. “I’ve seen better, and none of us are Ravenclaws, anyway.”
“So if it was the sword of Gryffindor that was a horcrux—”
“We’d still have to destroy it.” With a panicked look that betrays his argument, Sirius turned to Harry to ask, “It isn’t, right? Tell me we’re not destroying an actually wickedly cool legendary artifact.”
“Not that particular one, no,” Harry replied. While the others had been talking, he’d sketched out another few things. “This is Hufflepuff’s cup—” he continued through Lily’s little noise of despair “—and if everything went the same way in this world, it’s hidden in the Lestrange vault. The Gaunt ring is in Little Hangleton, where Voldemort’s parents grew up. Lucius is holding onto the diary. I’ve given Albus Slytherin’s locket. Nagini is usually slithering around the Dark Lord.” He counted them quickly, and yeah, that was six. No baby Potter to be the only known case of a human horcrux. Harry cracked his knuckles as he considered his plan of action. “James, since you care, I’m appointing you in charge of keeping Dumbledore in the loop.”
“You make that sound like such an unpleasant task,” James said with a huff. “How terrible, drinking a few cups of tea, little sandwiches, and lemon drops.”
“Don’t let the lemon drops go to your head,” Harry said. “And I need everything Dumbledore knows about your Voldemort’s location. Everything. Tell him that. Sirius, I need you to locate Bellatrix. There should be something in the Black grimoire. Are you a better dueler than her?”
“Probably not,” Sirius admitted. “But I could take her if it’s not a fair fight.”
“Take a team, then.” Harry wrinkles his nose at the Order’s collective level of fighting ability. “Take Remus. She’s terrified of werewolves, not that she’ll admit it. Lily—”
“I’ll go with you,” Lily immediately volunteered.
“I’m not going to be in any danger at Hogwarts.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” Lily replied with no little amusement. “You already started an argument with Moody yesterday. I don’t trust you at Hogwarts without someone to pull the two of you away from each other.”
“Fair,” Harry allowed. “Wait, Moody’s at Hogwarts?”
“He’s the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor,” Lily said.
Harry pursed his lips. “Ugh.”
“Harry,” Lily chided.
And it should’ve made him tense and uncomfortable, getting motherly chiding from someone who wasn’t actually his mother. Harry had never been fond of people trying to curtail his impulses or his language. But coming from Lily, it wasn’t that bad. Lily in general simply wasn’t that bad. It made him wonder how growing up with her could’ve been. He likely would’ve ended up hating the constraints she and James would’ve inevitably put on him, but maybe with their influence he wouldn’t have been as dark of a wizard. Maybe he wouldn’t have even had his deep well of darkness at all. Harry had never wanted to change; anyone who didn’t like the way he was could fuck off. And with him as the co-ruler of a whole country, no one dared to voice any serious objections to his character. But Lily made him thoughtful.
Harry shook his head, hoping to shake the thoughts away. Thinking was for people like Hermione.
“I won’t even curse him,” he promised. He glanced down at the table, where a collection of such precious objects were represented in stark black ash. With a wave of his wand, the ash rose up, twisting in a hurricane formation until it briefly flitted into the dark mark. And then it was gone, like it hadn’t been there at all. Fuck if he didn’t miss him like a limb.
Sirius was the first to disappear after some questions on where to find the Black grimoire and what kind of tracking charm he was looking for. James was next, electing to give Dumbledore a warning of Harry’s imminent arrival. Harry finished off the bowl of strawberries, idly wondering if Voldemort would like a second thousand year old basilisk as an apology gift.
Across from him, Lily looked thoughtful. She remarked, “You always specify Voldemort as ours. You don’t say your Order, or your Albus, just your Voldemort.”
Well, Harry wasn’t about to say that he needed that distinction in his mind because it was weird enough to plot his husband’s other self’s death, so he just shrugged. “I like reminding people I’m doing them a favor. He’s originally your problem.”
“If it’s a favor, you’ll eventually call it in.”
“A boon, then. I’m practically a genie.”