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Fan Fiction:
Back Again, Harry?

Chapter posted Nov. 9, 2009

Chapter Twelve:
Responsibility to Act

Harry stared at the two names floating next to Quirrell's dot on the Map, a curious mixture of wild anticipation and grim satisfaction curling in his gut. Finally, finally, he'd brought the current Voldemort situation to the attention of other people in a way that wouldn't raise suspicions about the source of his knowledge. It might be the first time that had ever happened, actually, including all the times he'd encountered his nemesis on his first go at Hogwarts. No adult had ever believed his warnings in enough time to keep him from facing off against the Dark Lord on his own.

He looked up at Remus, marvelling at the strange sensation of not being the responsible one for once. Remus swallowed visibly, nudging Riddle's name again with his wand, then met Harry's gaze, alarm leaching the colour from his skin.

If his father's old friend had had any doubts left about whether or not the glimpses he'd seen of the future were true, that had put paid to them. Harry understood a bit more now, after struggling for so long to accept the truth about Dumbledore and his own destined role in the fight against Voldemort, why people might choose not to believe a hard truth even when proof was shoved right beneath their noses. Forget Dumbledore; he'd had a hard enough time even accepting that his own father's behaviour might have been somewhat less than blameless as a teenager. None of this could be easy for Remus, who had as much reason as anyone to desperately wish Voldemort permanently gone. The thing that separated people like Remus from people like Fudge, though, was that they would believe-- and act on that knowledge-- no matter how painful.

"Well, that's torn it," Remus said, grimly. "Gentlemen, if you would agree to a temporary cease fire? I had best bring this to the Headmaster's attention at once."

Fred shook off the last of the conjured ropes Remus had bound him with, then dropped them to the floor. "But who's Tom Riddle, then?" he asked.

George snorted and banished the ropes with an Evanesco. "You're telling me you don't remember?" He shook his head, adopting a disappointed expression as he stared at his brother. "We've only polished his trophy enough times. Special services to the school?"

"You've polished his trophy enough times, you mean," Fred replied, affecting an equally patronising tilt of chin. "I always take the other side of the hall when Filch assigns us cleaning duty."

George ignored that. "Maybe Riddle's a ghost?" he theorised with a shrug. "We've seen names overlap before, when the Headless Hunt makes a run through the Great Hall."

Fred shook his shoulders, as though reliving the memory of a chill. "Never seen two of them stick together for more than a few seconds, though," he disagreed. "Only ghost I've really seen hover about in one spot is that girl in the second floor loo-- what's her name?"

"Myrtle." George made a face, the same one Harry knew he made every time he encountered the basilisk's first victim. He completely sympathised. What had happened to Myrtle was horrible, but-- well, he supposed he wouldn't have been any prize as a ghost either, had he been killed fifth year during that phase when his temper had frequently got the better of his ability to deal with everyone else's bullshit.

Remus sighed and interrupted the twins' two-person monologue. "I would appreciate it if you would keep your speculations to yourselves," he said. "I'm certain the Headmaster will deal with it appropriately; in the meantime, you had best return to your dormitory."

"And let you out of sight with our Map?" Fred turned back to the adult of their little group, pretending-- though it probably didn't take very much pretending-- to be utterly horrified at the thought.

Neither twin seemed much in awe of the shabbily dressed man staring them down; but then again, they hardly had reason to be. Remus wasn't a professor yet, so they'd never seen him in any sort of authority role, nor been given any reason to connect him with the Moony whose reputation as a Marauder they claimed to hold as their ideal. At this point he was still a stranger to them-- and what's more, a stranger who'd dragged their little brother's best friend off behind closed doors.

Remus frowned, but seemed to correctly conclude that he wouldn't be rid of them that easily. He glanced down at Quirrell's movements again, then back up at Fred and George, and drew his lips into a thin, disapproving line. "I suppose I can hardly prevent you from accompanying me, but you must realise the Headmaster will say much the same thing."

"Let's just go, then," Harry urged him. Trying to shake the twins when something interesting was in the offing was a lost cause, and they were burning time that could best be put to other uses. Such as altering the Ministry to the presence of a pathetic wizard hiding in Ron's linens. "The sooner we take care of this, the sooner we can take care of-- other matters," he hinted.

That earned him another sharp look; but having caved for the Weasleys, Remus could hardly order Harry to stay behind. "Very well," he said. He traced Quirrell's position one last time, then blanked the Map and tucked his wand away. "I trust you'll be on your best behaviour," he said, giving them all a stern glance, and ushered them off toward the main staircase.

The twins made elaborate 'after you' gestures in echo of Remus; Harry drew a deep, irritated breath, then choked on the lingering dungbomb fumes and elected to take the path of least resistance. He put his own wand away, then hurried down the corridor, coughing into his sleeve.

The worst of the foot traffic had already cleared; Harry earned a few curious looks-- and wrinkled noses-- from other students as he made his way back to the seventh floor, but he was in no danger of running into anyone else.

He was nearly out of breath by the time he arrived at the stone gargoyle that guarded Dumbledore's office. The difference between seventeen and eleven was as evident in the shortness of his stride-- and his stamina-- as it was in every other part of his life, and just as irritating when he needed to get something done in a hurry. The twins, by contrast, seemed just as eager and energetic as they had outside the mirror; Harry scowled at them, then turned an anticipatory face toward Remus.

Anticipatory, nothing; he might as well call it hopeful. It wasn't an emotion Harry had often been on speaking terms with, but he recognised it well enough. Sirius' freedom was only a breath away-- if he could just get Quirrell out of the way first.

No Quirrell, no hunt for the stone, he mused as Remus spoke the password and the gargoyle swivelled back out of the way. No killing in his first year. No reason for Gryffindor to suddenly receive hundreds of extra points at the last minute, torquing off half the school and making the other students even quicker to judge him when he inevitably fell afoul of public opinion. No reason for Dumbledore to think of Harry as anything more sinister than a gifted young wizard with a prophecy hovering over him, either.

And a summer spent with Sirius, if all went well. Harry clung to that thought as Remus stepped onto the rising staircase, and followed closely behind him.

"Ah, Remus," he heard the headmaster say, as the door to the office swung open. Harry's bright mood dimmed a little at the tone in the older man's voice, and he peered curiously around the raggedly robed obstacle in front of him. Dumbledore had sounded distracted already; not that the elderly wizard didn't usually put on an absentminded air, but he hadn't even looked up from his desk at their entrance. It seemed an ominous beginning to what should be a momentous conversation.

"Headmaster," Remus began, stepping forward with letter and blank Map clutched in hand.

"I apologise," Dumbledore continued, speaking right over Remus as he smoothed a hand across a large rectangle of parchment unfurled across his desk. "But a certain matter has just come to my attention that will prevent me from keeping our appointment today. It's just as well that you are here, however; the issue affects you as well, and I would not want you to hear of it from a less-- sympathetic source."

He looked up then, blue eyes strangely clear of twinkles searching the face of his former student and Order compatriot. Then he blinked as he caught sight of Harry standing next to Remus, and a frown gathered between bushy silver brows. "Mr. Potter, Misters Weasley, as delighted as I am to see you, if you could return to your dormitories? I will have to speak with you at a later time."

Harry hesitated, glancing up at Remus. Disappointment weighed bitterly at the back of his throat; he swallowed it down, trying to objectively assess the change in the situation. If something serious had just happened-- something that affected Remus and, like as not, himself as well-- he should be there to hear it. Especially if it was something new, something that hadn't happened in the original timeline.

"Perhaps you'd better, Harry," Remus cautioned him, quietly, reaching out to lay a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Some things aren't for the ears of eleven-year-olds, however exceptional they might be." Then he raised his eyebrows slightly, and fluttered the parchment in his hand. "I'll find you afterward, if you would be willing to wait?"

Harry gritted his teeth slightly at the eleven-year-olds comment. He'd never appreciated being treated as though he were too young the first time round, and had even less patience with it now that he really did have experience and perspective that his elders lacked. He also had a sinking fear that if he walked away from Remus before they'd really had a chance to talk about what they had each seen and what they intended to do, his once-and-future professor might just go with his first instincts and start acting without him, like every other adult who'd ever claimed to have Harry's best interests in mind. Not to mention-- who knew what Dumbledore might say to convince Remus not to take action regarding Quirrell. Harry definitely wanted to be there for that conversation.

He swallowed, and reached out to snag the edge of the Map with his fingertips. "How about I find you afterward?" he suggested, the quickest compromise he could come up with. Maybe he couldn't control everything, but he was at least going to have some say in it.

A muscle jumped in Remus' jaw again, and Harry could practically see the concerns shifting behind his eyes. But in the end, he nodded solemnly and relinquished the parchment.

"Oi," Fred-- or George-- objected, eyeing the blanked sheet as it transferred hands.

"What about Quirrell, then?" the other asked

Dumbledore, who had been watching Remus attempt to dismiss them with intent concern, rose from his chair at that, looking sternly over the rims of his half-moon spectacles at them. "If you have concerns about Professor Quirrell, Misters Weasley," he said curtly, "please share them with your Head of House. Professor McGonagall will keep me informed, I assure you. Now if you will please excuse us?"

Harry tucked the map surreptitiously away in his robes, then gave Remus one last speaking look and followed the twins out the door, no longer all that eager to stay. Dumbledore wasn't simply distracted; he'd seemed irritated, even angry. But not with Harry, nor the twins, nor Remus, nor even Quirrell if his hurried dismissal regarding the possessed teacher was any indication. Something else had gone wrong-- something Harry hadn't planned for.

A knot of worry coiled in his gut as they descended the staircase. Harry had been trying not to fall into the trap of imagining that everything that happened was his own fault or responsibility, but he knew that anything that didn't occur the same way it had before his return had to be a direct result of his messing about with the Hallows, and for good or ill, he wanted to know the consequences. Partly in order to predict whether or not the rest of his plans were still viable, but also partly because-- well, his 'saving people thing' was acting up again, he supposed.

If Remus still aired the subject of Quirrell's dual names while he was up there with Dumbledore alone, or showed the photograph of Wormtail that Harry had sent him, Dumbledore was likely to insist that he not do anything about either situation. Legally, without proof he could present to the Wizengamot about Quirrell's passenger or about Wormtail's true nature, any action Dumbledore might pre-emptively take would come under intense scrutiny from the Board of Governors. Unfortunately, most of those wizards were more on Quirrell's and Pettigrew's side, practically speaking, than the headmaster's. The only time the Ministry came down on Dumbledore's side of any given issue-- or Harry's-- was when it materially benefited them to do so. Neither fugitive's exposure would even remotely qualify.

Dumbledore and Remus both had told him at one point or another that a werewolf's support meant next to nothing in wizarding culture, and while that status wasn't widely known at present it was on record with the Ministry. Dreams and a trick parchment would amount to even less as an excuse. No, unless there were other witnesses available to back up what Remus was saying and cry foul if it weren't challenged, Dumbledore was far more likely to simply sit on the information and keep a closer eye on the culprits, waiting as always for the malefactors to act first.

To hell with that. That was why Harry'd come back in the first place. After the way Dumbledore had let his enemies choose the ground to fight on again and again and again, it was no wonder they'd suffered so many losses. He'd sworn not to allow Voldemort any more victims this time, and he'd meant it.

As long as Remus didn't break and tell Dumbledore everything they'd discussed...

As long as Dumbledore didn't simply Legilimise it all out of him...

Harry shook his head abruptly, clearing his mind of his worries. He couldn't do anything about it, now; he could only wait for the dot labelled "Remus Lupin" to leave the headmaster's office, and handle the fallout as it happened. And in the meantime--

"Harry, Harry," one of the twins chided him, startling him with an abrupt clap of hand on his shoulder as they led him down a side corridor. He'd lost track of them, and of his surroundings, while deep in thought; inexcusable of him, really. The room they ushered him into seemed familiar, but he couldn't quite recall when he'd seen it before.

The other Weasley-- Fred, Harry decided, as he focussed on him-- spelled the door shut and crossed his arms, frowning at Harry. "I think we're owed a bit of an explanation, donít you, twin of mine?"

"I do indeed," George said, looming as much as his thirteen-year-old stature would let him. Compared to the nineteen-year-old proprietors of Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes that Harry remembered, the pair weren't all that intimidating; but they still outnumbered him two to one, and he'd seen how vicious they could be when they were of a mind to teach someone a lesson. Someone who had, for example, shown them up in front of an adult and appropriated one of their treasured possessions? He'd never really been a target of theirs in the past-- or future-- so he hadn't really thought of them as a danger in the present, but that might have been a serious oversight. Montague had never really been the same after his little Weasley-assisted detour through a Vanishing Cabinet.

Warily, he brushed his fingers over the pocket where the Map rested, reassured by the crinkle of parchment, then slid his hand down to rest on the handle of his wand. "What sort of explanation?" he asked, cautiously.

"What sort of explanation, he asks," Fred mocked him dryly.

"Exactly how long were you planning on playing dumb?" George asked sternly, tapping his wand against the palm of his off hand. "You're good, you know; you really had us fooled last term."

Harry swallowed. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, lifting his chin a little. It wasn't even a lie; he really hadn't had anything to hide before the winter break. Nothing they'd find interesting, at any rate. And knowing them, they were probably just fishing for proof of a guilty conscience. He wasn't about to give them any more material to go on; the Map and Remus were more than enough.

Fred made a tsk'ing sound and casually cast a mild tripping jinx. Harry flinched, caught off guard, and raised a Protego by instinct, but the weakly cast silent spell didn't quite manage to deflect it. He stumbled a step back, then sat down hard in a chair he hadn't known was there.

"You're good-- but we're better," Fred told him, smirking at him. "Did you really think you could fool the a pair of professional pranksters like us indefinitely?"

"It was a good plan, coming into Hogwarts all the innocent, letting everyone else show you how to fit in," George said admiringly.

"Got people in the habit of underestimating you," Fred said, shaking his head.

"Helping you," George added. "You showed a bit of House loyalty, showed off on a broom, pretended you were otherwise ordinary, and inside a week half the school had forgot you were supposed to be this great powerful hero and treated you like any other boy in your year."

"You did slip up a bit with the troll," Fred pointed out, "though I suppose you could hardly have avoided it-- unless you were the one who brought it into the school in the first place?"

Both twins looked briefly intrigued at that, then glanced at each other and shook their heads. "Nah," George concluded, "you'd have arranged for someone else to be on scene. We figure Snape for that."

"Or Quirrell," Fred shrugged. "We hear you've been pointing fingers at him of late, and that double name of his is a bit unusual."

"Or it might even be this new bloke you've brought in." George leaned forward at that, his expression growing sterner as he finally got to the point.

"We had Ron slip us a few of your Potions texts earlier," he said. "All that marking you've been doing, we were curious. Ron said you told him you'd been inspired by your parents' example, or something else all noble and Gryffindor like that. But there's stuff in your notes even we haven't learnt yet, and we've read up through fifth year material in Potions."

"Then you prank Ron and us all in one--" Fred broke in.

"Sneak off with an adult neither of us have ever heard of before--"

"Use an advanced Charm to snag the Map out of our hands--"

"When you shouldn't even know what either one is--" George raised his eyebrows.

"And your friend knows the password phrase?"

Both of them crossed their arms, staring at him. "Clearly, there's more to you than you've been letting on," they said in unison.

Harry winced. They weren't wrong-- and they weren't accepting his cover story, either. He'd have to think of something, quick. But first... "It wasn't Remus," he blurted. "With the troll. That was definitely Quirrell."

"But the spellwork?" Fred pressed. "The Map?"

Harry drew a deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. What could it really harm to let the blame for that fall on Remus, anyway? He'd have to explain it to him later, but-- the man had been the one to teach Harry the Patronus Charm well in advance of the usual curriculum, he could handle taking the blame for doing something similar this time round. The story would collapse if Fred and George talked to Hermione about the details-- but maybe they'd figure he'd lied to Hermione and Ron as further cover?

That was an upside to Remus' remembering things that Harry hadn't considered before. Backup.

"All right, all right," he said. "I'll tell you. Provided you let me keep the Map."

"Let you keep the Map?" George said, aghast.

"What do you take us for?" Fred looked angry. "That's ours, that is; we nicked it from Filch's office fair and square."

"You've had it for two years," Harry said, sitting up straighter in the chair as he felt his way back to a grip on the situation. "And it was never originally yours. I knew what it was the minute I saw you with it when you brought the camera to me-- you had it out then, remember?"

Fred glanced at George, questioningly; George nodded, grimacing.

"And I knew that because I knew who'd made it," Harry continued, triumphantly. "One of them, anyway. If the Muggles had had their way I'd never have found anything out about my parents or Hogwarts or any of it, but Moony's been writing me for a while now."

"Moony?" That caught their attention.

"Of Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs," Harry confirmed. He solemnly swore the parchment's passphrase, and traced Moony's name with the tip of his wand as ink traced its way across its surface again. "More commonly known as R. J. Lupin. Remus. My friend from before." He gestured with his chin back in the general direction of the headmaster's office. "He and my dad used it back in their school days. If it could be said to belong to anyone here...."

The twins stared at each other again, arguing with excited eyebrows and minute shrugs. Then they nodded, and faced him again.

"All right," George said, decisively. "You can keep it-- if you let us borrow it from time to time."

"And if you introduce us to him," Fred added, eagerly.

"Fine," Harry said, relieved they'd accepted that so easily. "And yeah-- like I said, I've been writing Remus for a while. I'm the one who wanted to blend in rather than stand out, that wasn't his idea, but he's been making sure I know what I'm about, if you know what I mean."

"Got it," George smirked, tapping his nose. "We reckoned it was something like that. Don't worry; we'll keep your secret. As long as you're not keeping it from us."

"Though-- bloody hell!" Fred grinned. "Moony! You couldn't have asked for a better mentor. No wonder you got away with it for so long. Pranking all of Hogwarts!"

"Something like that," Harry shrugged. Then he glanced down at the Map again, and saw Remus' dot moving away from Dumbledore's office. That really had been a short conversation, he thought, growing worried again. "Uh, guys, can we continue this later? I've got to catch him up before he leaves the castle. And-- no," he held up a pre-emptive hand, "this isn't a good time to meet him. We've some important things to discuss, alone, but next time he's here I'll introduce you, I swear."

The twins consulted each other one last time, then nodded and gestured toward the door. "Go on then. We'll track you down later-- let us know about the Quirrell thing, yeah?"

"Right. Sure," Harry said, standing and ducking out of the room before they could change their minds.

Bloody hell. First Hermione, now Fred and George; he was damned lucky that every wizard he'd accidentally revealed himself to had come up with their own explanations for the discrepancies.

He'd have to think on that later, he promised himself as he hurried to intercept Remus' slow approach to the Gryffindor common room. Quirrell's dot had disappeared while he wasn't looking, but Pettigrew's had appeared, clearly visible in the Tower. The day could be salvaged, yet.

Or-- not? Harry's steps slowed as he finally reached Remus and caught a glimpse of the ghastly expression on the man's face. "What's wrong?" he exclaimed.

Remus stopped walking and turned to face him, setting his jaw grimly. "I should have thought," he said quietly, half to himself. "I should have known. If it was happening to me--"

"Remus," Harry said urgently. "What's going on? What's happened?"

Remus swallowed. "It's Sirius," he said.


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