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Back Again, Harry?

Chapter posted June 8, 2012

Chapter Sixteen:
Fresh Perspectives

The problem with Sirius' cave, Harry realised as he absent-mindedly filled his plate in the Great Hall, was that the only other time he'd had occasion to visit he'd been a fourth year, old enough for permission to go to Hogsmeade. First years weren't allowed-- and the cave was a good half hour's walk past the village, even if he took one of the secret passages out of the castle. It wouldn't be a quick trip, and even under his Cloak, there was little chance he could make it there and back without his absence being noticed. By Hermione and Ron, if no one else. He'd have to take them along; and that meant waiting until the next time they all had several hours free when no one would be expecting them.

If they could manage that, though-- and if he could come up with a really excellent excuse for knowing about the cave in the first instance-- it would have to be after the match against Hufflepuff, when Quidditch practise resumed a normal schedule. But the only afternoon they would have free the week following would be that Friday, twelve days away. If Sirius didn't make himself known before then, that would be the first chance Harry would have to go looking for him.

Should he send a letter before then? Hedwig had always been too recognisable for secret communication, but he'd sent one of the school's barn owls to 'Snuffles' before. But how much did Sirius even remember, or suspect, about what had happened? Remus seemed to have dealt with the influx of future memories as dream-visions well enough, but he'd only been dead a few hours when Harry had activated the Resurrection Stone. Sirius had fallen through the Veil a full two years before Harry's final non-duel with Voldemort. Waking again in Azkaban must have been like going from one nightmare to another. And Harry wasn't convinced that a simple sheet of parchment-- on which he couldn't even write anything of real importance, lest it be intercepted-- would do much to convince his fugitive godfather to be careful.

He tossed and turned for nearly an hour that night, worries popping to the surface of his thoughts like Bubble Charms, before he finally made the effort to clear his mind and catch some rest. But even going through the motions of Occlumency stirred up things he'd rather forget, the sorts of memories he wouldn't want his friends to see the next morning. The last image to pass through his conscious mind was the Mirror of Erised, oddly reflecting the sunlit, ethereal expanse of King's Cross.

He must've been overdue for nightmares of his own, because the things he saw only grew worse from there. Harry woke indecently early the next morning with tears drying on his cheeks and the faces of his dead burnt into the backs of his eyes. He'd watched his friends and family sacrifice themselves for him again, each one more gruesomely than the last; had envisioned how those left behind might have fallen while he'd abandoned them for his suicide march into the Forest. He gasped into his pillow for several long seconds, feeling frozen and brittle and razor-sharp round the edges like a knife chipped from glass, then fumbled for his wand and cast a silent Cheering Charm.

He lay there for a moment longer, reminding himself that Harry Potter, aged eleven, had in fact not lost anyone but his parents, while that artificial feeling of warmth percolated through his veins. Then, when he'd begun to feel somewhat human again, he shoved the bedcurtains aside, faking a yawn to shield his puffy eyes from view, and shuffled determinedly toward the showers.

It was still early enough when he finished towelling off that none of the other boys in his dormitory were awake. He thought about lying down for a few more hours, but his sweaty sheets didn't appeal, and he didn't like his chances of escaping dreams a second time. He dressed, digging his Weasley jumper out of his trunk for comfort's sake, chucked a few books into his bag, and went on down to the common room.

There were only a handful of other people there, mostly upper years talking quietly in corners or revising for their OWLs and NEWTs. Percy was among them, though for once, he didn't seem to be paying much attention to his books. The third Weasley brother sat alone at a study table near the fireplace, systematically shredding the ragged feather end of a quill and staring absently into the flames burning low on the hearth. It was very unlike the sort of behaviour Harry had grown to expect from him. Had the older boy heard about the outcome of Wormtail's trial, then?

"Hullo, Percy? I was wondering...." he said tentatively, approaching Percy's table.

Percy started, then straightened in his chair as he turned toward Harry, visibly drawing the mantle of Prefect about him like a shield. "Morning, Harry," he said, focusing a warily attentive expression on him. "You're up early. Is something wrong?"

Harry blinked back at him, at a loss. He didn't actually know what to else to say, only that he felt he should say something. He reached up to nudge the bridge of his glasses further up his nose-- then had a sudden, serendipitous idea and took them off, holding them out toward Percy. "I was just wondering if you happen to know any transfiguration charms for glasses?"

"For glasses?" Percy replied, relaxing a little as he wrinkled his brow in thought above his own horn-rimmed frames. "I don't remember that being part of McGonagall's first year curriculum."

"What? Oh, it's not for class," Harry shook his head uncomfortably. "It's only-- they look a lot like my father's. It's all everybody says the first time they meet me: that I look just like him. And I thought, if I changed them a bit... I don't know. I know it sounds silly, especially considering all the Boy Who Lived nonsense, but--"

Percy's expression softened unexpectedly. "It is difficult to step out of the family shadow sometimes in our world, particularly if there's an established reputation involved. You'll want to learn the incantations yourself; but I'll see what I can do, just this once." He took the glasses, with their round lenses and frequently repaired bridge, from Harry's hands, then muttered several charms under his breath as he waved his wand over them. The frame slowly acquired a bottle-green tinge, then thinned to accommodate wider, newly rectangular lenses. A tiny pattern of lions appeared on the arms at the temples as Percy finished, representing Gryffindor House against the Slytherin colouring.

"Lenses are tricky, as you have to be careful to maintain the curvature lest the alterations change your prescription, but this should serve," he said, handing the glasses back with an encouraging nod.

They did look much smarter; Harry slid them back on, and found that if anything his vision seemed clearer with less obstruction from the material around the lenses. "Thanks, Percy. That was brilliant!" he said, grinning widely at him.

Percy ducked his head, turning back to his books; but his cheeks reddened a bit at the praise. "Not at all," he said loftily. "Now, run along; I have quite a lot of revision to do."

Harry took that cue to find a table of his own, and sat down to open his books in a much improved mood. He should have thought to ask someone that question earlier in the term! He'd never be ashamed to be his father's son-- not even after all the Pensieve revelations; not since he'd been bludgered with the fact that every adult in his life had once been a flawed, hormonal teenager not all that different from Harry and his schoolmates-- but he didn't think his dad would've minded Harry shifting a bit more of the spotlight to his mum, either.

He pondered that concept further as he spread out his books and unrolled his Charms essay to review it for spelling errors and length. He'd never really bothered to make sure he always handed in clean copies of his parchment work before; that sort of thoroughness had never been consistently rewarded in the years before Hogwarts, and he'd seen no reason to change his revision habits after his arrival in the magical world. Not with dangerous creatures and mysterious mirrors and Slytherin nemeses and all to better spend his time on, and most of his professors apparently indifferent or hostile to his concerns.

In the past six weeks, though, he'd seen a notable improvement in both his marks and the professors' attitudes. He was beginning to see how his behaviour might've made it harder for them to treat him seriously the first time. It had to do with respect, something he'd had little positive experience with before Hogwarts; it had seemed like a load of arbitrary rules to him, and he was frequently punished either way, so why observe them? As a result, even the professors who'd liked him had tended to discount whatever he said when things went wrong. It had taken most of his Hogwarts career to prove himself to them, and there'd been too many negative consequences to let that happen a second time.

Harry would never be a bookworm on Hermione's level, but the results of his recent efforts had convinced him it was well worth his time to continue. That wasn't to say he'd changed his mind about fully trusting any of them, but if a few minutes of care now could smooth the path later when he really needed the room to manoeuvre, he could put up with a little extra tedium. And if it encouraged people to compare him to his mother, so much the better. Perhaps that was why the tactic had never worked on Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon; if it had, his life might have been so much simpler.

He managed to complete his assignment, covered two more chapters of Magical Drafts and Potions with careful notes, and was well into a borrowed copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4 to cover his slip with the Summoning Charm when one of his dormmates finally came down the spiral staircase after him. Harry greeted Neville cheerily, then put his books away and accompanied the other boy down to breakfast. It had been more than a week since they'd last played chess, and Harry felt conscious of neglecting their friendship.

Neville seemed startled by Harry's remade glasses, but complimented them, and so did several other students in the Great Hall. One third year even pinched his cheek as she walked by the Gryffindor table and said they 'emphasised the colour of his eyes', much to Harry's embarrassment.

Green as a fresh pickled toad, he thought to himself, and hid a wistful smile behind a goblet of pumpkin juice. He'd been so distracted in recent weeks that he hadn't even missed Ginny; he hoped she was getting on all right. And Luna, too; they'd been childhood playmates, hadn't they? Though Luna, now that he thought about it, must've just lost her mum. He'd forgotten that she'd been the first person he'd been able to talk to about Sirius' death without wanting to lash out or run away. He'd write her now if he could, but he wouldn't actually 'meet' her-- or Ginny-- until late summer at the earliest.

The Weasley twins cut off that line of reminiscence-- and his conversation with Neville-- a few moments later, plopping down on either side of him.

"Morning, Harry," they said in unison, staring at him intently. They didn't bother dishing food on their plates; they were clearly there for conversation.

"Morning," Harry replied around a spoonful of porridge. He waved around them at Neville as the other boy got up; he'd already finished his toast and eggs, and was understandably wary of Ron's prank-loving thirteen year old brothers. Especially when they were echoing one another as closely as they were that morning, wearing bland, mischievous smiles on their faces.

Harry glanced at them both, trying to remember which was which-- then grinned to himself. Was he a wizard, or wasn't he? He drew his wand under cover of the table, then pointed the tip toward the twin on his right. "Nomine Revelio!"

Both boys startled, looking up in dismay as glowing letters appeared above that one's head, pronouncing him Fred Weasley. "Fred," Harry nodded, then turned to the other one. "George."

"Now that's just not sporting," George replied, entirely distracted from whatever question had brought them to Harry as he watched the letters begin to fade.

Fred held up a hand, catching the dimming, misty W as it drifted down toward the table. "I'm starting to reconsider the value of Ron's friendship with you," he said, in mixed admiration and disgust. "I don't suppose you'd let us bribe you not to teach him that spell? The Map wasn't our only secret, you know."

"Sorry, Fred," Harry replied with a grin. "Taught it to him yesterday."

He'd looked up the Naming Charm and taught it to his friends as an excuse to identify Quirrell's passenger-- but it had just occurred to him that providing it to the more mischievous Weasleys, and incidentally any other students who might have just seen him cast it, might result in someone exposing the DADA professor for him, neatly deflecting any questions about the Charm's origins.

"Naturally," they sighed in unison, exchanging a speaking glance.

Then Fred shook his head. "You've been busy, Harry," he declared in chiding tones.

"Very busy. And not just with Quidditch, or this mean-spirited spell of yours," George added.

"Don't think we haven't noticed you've been avoiding us," Fred tsk'ed.

Harry did his best to look nonchalant as he took another bite, and thought rapidly. He only had so much Marauder capital to spend with them, but they'd find out eventually anyway, if-- when-- they met his godfather for themselves. Might as well put the knowledge to good use. "M'not avoiding you. Just don't have anything to tell you yet," he said. "Moony's been busy with the trial. You know Scabbers used to be Peter Pettigrew, right?"

Fred's frown deepened, and George shuddered. "Don't remind me," George said. "Wish that spell we gave Ron on the train had turned the git yellow. Or better yet, blown him up."

"I can't believe we never noticed anything unusual about him," Fred shook his head. "But what's that got to do with Lupin? Is he Pettigrew's solicitor?"

"Ugh," Harry shuddered at the very idea. "No. Who'd want that job? Actually, it's sort of a long story, but-- you realise they were in the same year? Who d'you think Wormtail was, anyway?"

The twins' eyes went wide with astonishment as they put the Marauder's name together with the form Pettigrew took as an Animagus. "Merlin's beard. Then Sirius Black must be...." Fred lowered his voice, glancing around to make sure no one else was in earshot.

Harry nodded knowingly, though he didn't bother to elaborate. They could already guess which he was, if they remembered Dumbledore's warning at supper the week before. "So you might say Remus has had a lot on his mind of late. And Dumbledore says he already knows something's odd about Quirrell. So there's not much else to tell." He shrugged.

They looked at each other, then at him again, politely incredulous. "And you're just going to leave it there? Harry, where's your sense of adventure?"

"Concentrating on Quidditch for the moment," Harry lied blandly. "There'll be time to worry about what Quirrell's up to afterward."

They stared at him, then glanced at each other again, carrying on some twinnish conversation with eyebrows and wrinkled noses. Then Fred snorted, and George laid a finger alongside his freckled nose.

"Don't worry, we won't tell a soul," he said, then reached across Harry to nudge his brother. "Come along, then, Fred; let's just leave our budding young mastermind to his breakfast."

"We'll be by for the Map later though, yeah?" Fred replied, nodding to Harry. Then they both stood and left the table, muttering to each other in lowered voices.

Harry shook his head in bemusement, watching them go, then drained his goblet and left the Hall himself, heading for the great marble staircase and the Room of Requirement. If he was lucky, he could get some practise in with the Pensieve before Ron and Hermione found him; they'd probably be using Hermione's memories to review the attack on Harry at the Quidditch match, but he wanted to be ready if they decided to check anything else-- such as Quirrell's dramatic arrival at the Halloween feast.

He made it up to the seventh floor without drawing any unwanted attention, and summoned the same version of the Room as the day before. There was one small addition, though: a plinth in the centre of the duplicate common room, surmounted by the shallow stone bowl of a Pensieve.

Harry's stomach turned over as he looked into its empty well. His last experience-- practically all of his experiences-- with one had not been pleasant. But it was too useful a tool not to use. He sighed, then repeated the incantation Hermione had discovered a few times without his wand, practising the pronunciation and reminding himself what he was supposed to do next. Then he pressed the tip of the wand to his temple and closed his eyes, concentrating on the memory he'd chosen for the first test.

It had to be an important memory, one that meant something to him, for him to focus properly; he'd always had better luck with Occlumency that way. It couldn't be too important, though, in case he botched it-- a memory that he wouldn't regret damaging or erasing. And lastly, it couldn't be anything from the future of the other timeline, in case Ron and Hermione arrived before he put it away again. He could re-examine the critical moments of the War another time, once he was sure of the procedure.

That left only a handful of moments, really. And only one that neither Ron nor Hermione had been around for. He focused very tightly on those few moments inside the Leaky Cauldron, the very first time he'd visited Diagon Alley, and spoke the words of the spell. "Capere Memoria."

He felt a slight trickling sensation at his temple, then a kind of hollowness, and that day in the Leaky-- everything between the moment he'd stood out front, frowning at the tiny, grubby pub Hagrid claimed was famous, to watching Hagrid tap the bricks out back with his umbrella, went sort of vague in his thoughts. The memory was still there, sort of, but so misty he couldn't properly grab hold of it, and almost stripped of emotion; no wonder Snape had used the process before every Occlumency lesson.

Harry opened his eyes to see a silvery strand dangling from the end of his wand, and moved it away from his temple to shake it free into the Pensieve. It drifted down into the stone basin, where it swirled silvery-white, neither gas nor liquid, just as it should. He prodded the lonely, drifting strand with the tip of his wand, then took a deep breath and screwed up his courage. Slowly, he leaned forward to press his face against the glow.

He felt the familiar vertigo as the floor of the Room seemed to lurch, tipping him forward until he fell awkwardly to the floor of a dark, shabby room. He was in! He could see a few old women sitting in a corner, drinking sherry and smoking. Dedalus Diggle was talking to Tom, the bartender. And there, just coming in the street entrance, was the great, tall, shaggy form of Hagrid, twice the size of any other wizard in the place. Harry recognised his own small self at Hagrid's side, pale and nervous and looking distinctly underfed in Dudley's worn hand-me-downs, his eyes wide with wonder. Between his unruly fringe and his round, distinctive glasses, the thin slash of the famous scar stood out like a flag.

Harry reached up to brush his fingers over his own forehead as he watched the rest of the scene unfold. It really had started to fade, then, since he'd got rid of the Horcrux; he hadn't been imagining that it was less vivid. He found that thought heartening, and watched the rest of the scene unfold with curious eyes. The edges of the room were a bit misty when he looked closely, and the colours were all slightly duller than reality, but on the whole he thought he'd done rather well for his first attempt.

Memory Hagrid announced himself again, and Memory Tom leaned forward, announcing his charge's identity to the room at large. Harry winced; but he was still grateful, more even than he'd been at the time, that Hagrid had been the one Dumbledore sent for him. The half-giant might've been rubbish at actually educating Harry about the world he was to join... but he also hadn't been in the least inclined to use Harry to score points with the wizards he introduced him to, and he'd been content to let Harry form his own, amazed first impression of the wizarding world. The only bias he'd introduced had been the one Harry would have run into anyway: the sharp dividing line between Slytherin and not-Slytherin.

Then Quirrell walked up to his memory-self, and Harry's attention sharpened. He looked much younger without the turban, pale and sort of twitchy, but with a full head of hair; Voldemort apparently hadn't possessed him yet. He shook Memory Harry's hand, stammering away with an earnest expression, and present Harry swallowed, bile rising in his throat. The break-in at Gringotts had happened later that day, hadn't it? Which meant-- Quirrell's participation really must have been fully voluntary, all along.

"N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?" Quirrell stuttered, laughing nervously-- and this time, Harry saw the buried spark in the professor's eyes as his gaze flicked up to take in the scar. He shuddered-- then felt a slight tug somewhere in the vicinity of his shoulder, and blinked, rushing upward and away, pulled up through inky blackness until he stood in the Room of Requirement once more.

"Harry!" Hermione said delightedly, pulling her hand back from his arm. "You've done it!"

He nodded. "I tried the spell you found. And it worked!"

"What memory'd you put in?" Ron asked curiously, stepping out from behind her. "And how long've you been up here? You weren't in the dorm, and we didn't see you at breakfast."

"I woke up early and didn't fancy a lie-in," Harry shrugged. "And have a look yourselves; I picked the first time I met Quirrell, in the Leaky Cauldron when Hagrid took me to get my supplies."

"Well done, Harry." Hermione beamed at him-- then blinked and took a closer look, staring at his face. "Are those new glasses?"

Harry shrugged. "Transfigured. I got Percy to help."

"Hmm," she said critically. "I wouldn't have made them quite so green; but they do make quite a difference. I'll have to ask him what charms he used."

"Who cares about Percy's charms?" Ron rolled his eyes impatiently. "I thought we were here to find out if Quirrell's really the one trying to kill you, or if we're barking up the wrong tree-- again."

"Honestly, Ron," Hermione sighed, but she did turn back to the Pensieve. "All right then. Can we view it at the same time, or do we have to go one after the other?"

"You don't need Occlu-thing to just look at it, though, right? I mean, it's not like Hermione's had a chance to tell me what Bill's book says yet," Ron put in, disgruntled.

"Yeah. And-- no, Ron, you don't. Just touch your wands to it, and lean in. You'll see. Watch your footing, though-- it's a bit of a step, the first time." Harry smiled at them.

It was strange to watch from the outside; one moment his friends were leaning in, extremely dubious expressions on their faces, and the next they were staggering back, blinking at each other.

"Blimey," Ron said, slightly pale. "I've never seen anything like that before. I thought it would be something like the Mirror-- but it was like we were really there."

Hermione was pale as well, her expression solemn as she looked Harry over from head to toe. He knew before she even opened her mouth that she was about to make him squirm, by the glint in her eye. "Harry, did people really bow to you in shops in the Muggle world?" she asked, frowning.

Harry felt his face flush hot. Of course Diggle was the one she'd noticed. "What of it? It's not like I ever knew why they were doing it."

"And you never asked?" She seemed incredulous.

"I learned not to," he said forbiddingly, ignoring Ron's wrinkled nose behind her. "That wasn't why I picked that memory, though; what'd you think of Quirrell?"

"He was really laying it on thick, wasn't he?" Ron commented, shaking off his jealousy. "The stutter, I mean. He's not even that bad in class."

"It's a bit thin to base a conclusion on, though," Hermione frowned. "I've barely had any time to review the basics of Occlumency myself-- but the next match is only a week away. Harry, do you mind if I...?"

"Go ahead," he gestured to the basin, then touched his wand to the memory-strand. He hadn't thought to ask if there were any reverse incantation to restore it-- but the silvery stuff clung to the wand tip without any difficulty, and he lifted it cautiously back to his temple. He blinked as the memory seemed to refresh itself in his mind, then stepped back to watch Hermione.

She frowned, concentrating fiercely, then chanted the memory capture spell. The process seemed to go just as it had any time Harry had witnessed it, though the wispy bit of magic produced seemed slightly paler than usual. "Well. Shall we give it a go, then?" she said, nervously.

"All together?" Harry glanced at them.

Ron nodded, and they leaned forward for a look at Harry's very first attempted assassination at Hogwarts.


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