Chapter 2 : Chapter Two
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The room was completely silent.
Lily and James spared one glance at each other in slight panic. Having Harry suddenly awake was completely different from hoping he would soon awake. They didn’t know what to say to him; he couldn’t exactly talk very much the last time they’d seen him. Anything they knew about him – his favorite foods, his favorite toy, how they’d spent Christmas – had happened years ago and were undoubtedly unimportant and forgotten by Harry.
What do you say to a son who hasn’t seen you since infancy and has since known you to be dead?
Although neither of them particularly wanted to stop staring at Harry, they looked to each other in hesitance. Lily raised her eyebrows at James, and he took that to mean she wanted him to say something.
You’re the one who can’t ever keep his mouth shut. She didn’t vocalize the words, but James could practically hear them ringing in his ears.
Harry had let go of Lily’s hand slowly and pushed himself upward into a sitting position. His hair was a rat’s nest and his face was pale and tired, but the most noticeable feature seemed to be his confusion.
Harry cleared his throat, which sounded quite dry, and looked between his parents nervously, refusing to actually met their eyes.
James started at the sound of his voice. Suddenly he became sluggish and slow. He stared down at Harry’s glasses in his hand like he wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.
Lily gave James an exasperated look he didn’t see, and reached forward to gently grab the glasses from his hand. Without really thinking about it, she ignored Harry’s outstretched hand and went to put his glasses on his face for him. He flinched slightly as she got closer, but after a moment’s hesitation let his mother push them onto his face.
Harry stared at them both in turn, his body tense and his eyes uncertain.
“Dumbledore promises it’s really you,” said Harry, as though he was still unsure about believing the Headmaster.
Lily nodded. “Yes, I promise, Harry. It’s really us.”
Harry stared at his sheets. Lily looked at James and mouthed, “say something”.
James was having difficulty thinking anything to say. He wasn’t used to having a son – well, he was used to having a baby. But babies didn’t talk back or get upset unless they were hungry or needed changed or something. He wasn’t Lily; he didn’t know how to comfort Harry. Lily had been absolutely maternal since before she’d even had Harry. James figured she’d probably been maternal to everything and everyone since she was a child herself.
James hadn’t even considered being a father until it was suddenly becoming a reality. He had always cared more for fun times and jokes and the war. When he’d held Harry for the first time, of course, all of that had changed and his focus had been on protecting his family.
But James hadn’t protected his family. Lily had died. Harry had been almost killed. He’d grown up an orphan. By definition, James had failed at the protection aspect, and he knew next to nothing about how to fix it. What good could Harry possibly think of him?
“We – we’re so proud of you. Dumbledore told us how strong you’ve been,” James finally managed to say.
Lily bit her lip and hesitantly laid her hand over his.
“You don’t have to be afraid of us, sweetheart. We love you. And we’re so, so sorry we haven’t been here.”
Harry blushed. “I’m not afraid of you. I – I just can’t believe this is real. I used to dream something like this would happen. It’s just – nothing good like this ever happens to me. What if Voldemort planned this?”
The fear hadn’t been because they were there. The fear was that maybe they wouldn’t be there again.
James found his voice. “Dumbledore said no one could have known this would happen. Even if he had planned it - I bloody well won’t have that piece of shit ruining my life again!”
“James,” Lily hissed, “watch it.”
James waved her off. “He’s fourteen. Besides, I reckon if ever there’s a time to call someone a piece of shit, Voldemort should be involved.”
His heart warmed a bit when Harry gave the tiniest of smiles.
The hospital wing was silent once more. Where did they start?
“We, um, we saw your friends. Dumbledore said they came to visit you,” Lily prodded.
Harry’s brows scrunched. “They saw you before I did?”
James smiled. “Nah, we were under the cloak. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Dumbledore’s a good man, giving a student such an item even though he’s the Headmaster.”
Harry smiled outright. “Yeah. It was one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten.”
Lily rose from her position on the floor and sat down next to him on the bed. Harry’s face was slowly losing its uncertainty and now held amazement.
“Will . . . will you tell me about us?” asked Harry.
James cocked his head in confusion. “Us?”
Harry looked to Lily. “Us. Like as a family.”
Lily didn’t have as hard of a time as James thinking of what to say. She forced her arm around Harry and lightly leaned him against her. He didn’t fight it or tense up like before, but he still seemed as though he couldn’t quite believe what was happening.
“Well, your dad and I got married shortly after graduating. We both worked intensively for the Order until I became pregnant, and then I was more of an inactive member. We had a cute little house. I never cared for mansions or award-winning landscape. We had a cat, her name was Bubbles.”
“Wonky name,” James whispered.
Lily glanced at him. “Anyway, we mostly kept to ourselves. Sirius, Remus, and –“ she cut off. There was an awkward silence in which Harry nodded.
Lily brought her hand up to rest on his head. “Yes, Peter. They were nearly always over. We had friends in the Order, of course, but everyone was constantly busy. You were happy. Hardly ever cried after you started sleeping through the nights. Once you started to crawl, we could scarcely leave you alone or you’d wander off.”
“You liked to fly,” James interrupted. “You had a tiny toy broomstick you were crazy over.”
Harry smiled. “Yes, I still like to fly. Everyone says I got my talent from you.”
James and Harry’s eyes met for the first time since he’d woken up. The green really was just as brilliant as Lily’s.
James raised an eyebrow. “Everyone? Is that a hint that you play Quidditch? Or do you just generally fly around reeking havoc? Either would be completely acceptable.”
Harry grinned and shrugged. “Just the Quidditch bit. Seeker.”
James stared at him with narrowed eyes, appraising him. “Yes, I can see that.”
Harry didn’t give him any more offers of information. James was sure he could pry anything out of him, but he didn’t want to push Harry just yet. His son seemed to still be having trouble processing the entire situation. His eyes would linger on either Lily or James for a few moments before switching to the other parent and repeating the process.
“This is brilliant,” he finally said.
Lily smiled down at him. “You definitely believe us, then?”
Harry ignored her question. “My entire life I saw other families on holiday, or having lunch, or shopping for Christmas. And I always had this feeling inside me, reminding me that I was the only one left of my family. Just to sit here with you – it’s the happiest I’ve ever felt.”
James couldn’t imagine how he would have felt, had Harry died and they’d lived. How would it be to see other families with their children, knowing you’d lost that? And, of course, it was completely different for Harry than them. Although no one would have been able to replace Harry, they could have still had other children. Harry only had one set of biological parents.
Lily stroked her son’s hair and she looked at him gently.
“Dumbledore told us you’ve grown up with my sister. It – she wasn’t too . . . harsh on you, was she? Her and Vernon never particularly liked magic.”
Harry looked to his sheets and refused to meet their eyes. He paused for several seconds, in which Lily and James looked at each other in dread.
“It could have been worse,” was all he offered.
James waited for Lily to say something. She was better at keeping her head. But she looked so unsure of herself that James figured she didn’t want to reveal to Harry the fights she’d had with her sister. They bothered Lily more than she would ever let on.
“Well, then, why don’t you tell us how they could have been better?”
Lily gave James a warning look at his tone.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about them. We have other, better things to talk about.”
James was sorting out the dozens of questions he was prepared to ask, trying to determine their order of importance. There was no way, of course, that they could sit in the hospital wing until they were satisfied they knew each other well enough. They would never be satisfied; they needed to be with him and actually know the answers to the questions without having to ask. Time was the only solution to this problem. So for now, James was ready to focus on the simpler, happier topics that wouldn’t upset anyone.
“Ok, then. What do you want to talk about?” asked James.
Harry was silent for many moments, his eyes darting here and there in concentration. The temporary silence wasn’t awkward or tense, but somehow peaceful. James found himself wishing that they could never leave the hospital wing; that this moment would carry on forever, just the three of them together and safe.
“Really, Albus, I’ve had enough! You might be the Headmaster, but I insist! I need to see my patient!”
All of them looked towards the door, and found that they had all forgotten about Dumbledore. His shadow was visible through the misted glass of the hospital wing’s door. Back turned toward them, he was fending off Madam Pomfrey, who sounded as though she would soon use force to get past him.
Lily slowly slid away from the bed and looked at Harry forlornly.
“I’m sorry, dear, but the Headmaster is insisting we remain a secret. I suspect he’s correct. No one will be able to accept we’re really back.”
James finally found the courage to reach out to Harry; he ruffled his hair affectionately as he stood. With a sigh, he gestured towards the Invisibility Cloak, which was now resting on the nearest empty bed.
“We’ll have to leave. But I promise you, we will be back. Or maybe you’ll be well enough to come stay with us soon.”
Harry’s heartbroken face was almost enough to stop both of his parents from leaving. The boy in front of them, although they hardly knew him as a person, seemed like he was strong. Out of all the stories they’d heard, he had certainly faced things well beyond his years. But his expression as he watched his parents walk away made him appear years younger than his fourteen.
James and Lily covered themselves with the cloak before they could change their minds.
James tapped Lily on the shoulder and nodded back towards Harry.
“Let’s take him with us.”
Lily looked back briefly but shook her head. “No. If Madam Pomfrey says he needs to be here, he needs to stay. We don’t really know everything that happened. Dumbledore said they took his blood.”
They were forced to squish against the wall when Madam Pomfrey finally broke past Dumbledore.
“I’m glad you’re awake, Potter! I apologize for the wait.”
She was trying to force a Calming Potion in him when Dumbledore inclined his head for Lily and James to follow him. The walk back to his office was painstakingly slow and miserable. Neither of them was really looking forward to being cooped up; they had been hiding before their deaths, and now they would have to spend an immeasurable amount of time in hiding once more.
When they passed the Great Hall, voices of hundreds of children floated out. They sounded quite subdued, and it struck the Potters as unusual. Even during the first war, Hogwarts had remained relatively untouched.
“We will need to hold an artificial ceremony for Mr. Diggory, the student who returned just before the two of you,” Dumbledore whispered. “It is unfortunate, but it is safest. Voldemort would only hunt all of you down and kill you if he ever finds out you have returned. He takes pride in killing, and it would rather insult him if he knew he’d inadvertently gave someone life.”
“I think ‘insult’ is putting it mildly,” James murmured.
The halls were completely empty. The only sound echoing off the stone was their soft footsteps.
“Sir, if we have to keep this a secret . . . who is it safe to tell?” Lily asked hesitantly. She felt like a schoolgirl again, so unsure of the world around her and how it worked.
Dumbledore turned a corner and gazed around before proceeding.
“Most of those in the Order should be fairly trustworthy. There are a few, however, that we will not tell. They have no reason to know, considering they never knew you before. We can tell Remus and Sirius, of course. I also believe that the Weasleys will find out shortly. In fact, it would not surprise me if Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley have already sneaked back to visit Harry.”
There was a beat of silence.
“Are there any . . . older members left?” James inquired.
Lily waited with baited breath. Dumbledore waited for a portrait of a mumbling old witch to pass before he answered.
“A few. Diggle, Doge, Moody, Fletcher, Figg . . . while I’m sure they’ll be happy to rejoin the Order, I’m not certain they need to necessarily know that you are alive. The more people that know, the more risk there is of exposure, whether unintended or intended.”
Lily felt a question threatening to fly from her mouth; and yet she was so afraid of the answer that she wanted to stop it. Ignorance was bliss sometimes.
James must have felt her tension, because he looked down at her in concern.
“And the Longbottoms, sir . . . I assume . . .” she trailed off.
Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. “I am sorry, Lily. That is a story for another time. Let us just say that many would consider you and James to have met a better fate.”
Both of them looked momentarily startled.
“Is that supposed to make us feel better?” James blurted involuntarily.
They reached the gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster’s office. Before speaking his password, Dumbledore turned to look at them sadly. Regardless of their invisibility, he seemed to know the general location of their faces.
“I am only trying to save you from more grief. I would advise you both to only focus on Harry from here on out. Forget about the thirteen years you have been gone. You could not have returned at a more crucial moment. Harry is going to need you both if he is to face what is to come.”
James felt his heartbeat accelerating. Dumbledore needed to accept that they weren’t going to let Harry face any of it! A fourteen-year-old should not have to face the darkest wizard in over a century. Dumbledore was mad to believe it was plausible.
The Headmaster - even though neither of the Potters had said a word, even though he could not see their expressions – looked at them sternly.
“That being said, you both need to accept Harry’s fate. The more you try to deny and avoid it, the worse matters will get, I assure you.”
He didn’t wait for a reply. Instead he turned his back sharply on them and said rather cheerfully to the gargoyle, “Hinkypunk”.
James and Lily both bit their tongues as they followed him back up the familiar stairs to his office. They were grown adults; they didn’t want someone telling them how to live their lives. Unfortunately, although both of them silently felt Dumbledore was wrong, they also knew that he was the one wizard who usually knew what he was doing. They would have immediately trusted his advice in any other situation – it was just different when the advice wasn’t what they wanted to hear.
By the time the spiraling staircase had twirled them upward, it was clear something was wrong. Dumbledore climbed to the top of the stairs and held a hand out toward them, indicating they should wait.
He opened the office door purposefully. He marched inside – and whether by intention or not, he let the door hang slightly open. It was all the invitation James needed to eavesdrop.
Lily let out a small gasp when the office was completely visible.
“Severus,” Dumbledore greeted.
Snape’s face was paler than usual and his robes were torn.
James looked at Lily incredulously, but her eyes were still on the scene in front of them. She was just pointing at Snape when James saw the reason for her distress.
With shaking hands, Snape pulled down his sleeve over a very visible, very irritated Dark Mark.
“It is worse than we feared, Albus.”
Dumbledore kept an impassive face as he strode behind his desk.
“Is it? You are alive, are you not? That is more than we hoped for, I believe.”
Snape gave a grumbling sigh that was almost a bitter laugh.
“You do not know how lucky I am. The only reason I am alive is because he believes I am in a proper position to adequately spy on you.”
Dumbledore nodded merrily, his face alight with a grin.
“Yes! Yes, that’s perfect, Severus. It’s exactly what we hoped for. I’m sure a bit of spying on me won’t harm anything in the long run.”
James looked at Lily with wide, disbelieving eyes.
“He’s actually mad,” he whispered. Lily paid him no mind, her face set in a small scowl of uncertainty.
Snape seemed to feel the same way as James; he laughed coldly at the Headmaster.
“Spy on you for him. Spy on him for you. Protect the boy. Teach these dunderheads. What makes you so sure I will remain faithful? For what purpose am I doing this?” Snape snarled.
When Dumbledore’s eyes shot slyly to the opened door in which they were standing, James’s heart dropped considerably.
“I think you’ll find the answer behind you,” Dumbledore said.
James would have rather set himself on fire than take off that Invisibility Cloak. But Lily took in a deep breath and looked up at him with such confusion that he softened. He wasn’t stupid; a spy in the inner circle of Death Eaters was something the Order had always wanted but never had. And now, especially with Harry – well, even James couldn’t deny that Snape would be helpful. If Dumbledore really believed that Snape could be trusted . . .
With shaky hands Lily pulled off the cloak and smiled hesitantly at her former best friend.
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