August 18th 2003 (two minutes after midnight)

As Harry Potter's eyes opened, he found himself disappointed. The reasons for his unhappiness were numerous, but could be largely summed up by listing only three.

First, he found himself awake. Found that there was, in fact, an afterlife and that he would not be granted a peaceful eternity after a thousand lives' worth of fighting.

Second, he found himself in pain. Not in any great measure, because there were no new wounds, but because of long-lasting after-effects of the many curses he had taken. And short-lasting ones, he suspected, since his final fight had only been… three moons ago. Harry blinked, staring at the bright white ceiling as though it was the one responsible for this affront. He had to suffer the change even here? Why?

The third was… unexpected. Somewhat. Not really. But gave him greater cause for annoyance than the other two; life and pain were things he had spent the better part of two decades learning to endure. He had not, exactly, realised that he had expectations of the afterlife. He had not expected to expect anyone to be by his side whence he woke.

She wasn't here. He had been certain that she would have been here, waiting for him to come to with that grin that had always infuriated him. Maybe even mocking his poor attempts to return the expression, as he embraced her. The infuriation never lasted, just as her cocksure grin had never lingered for more than a few seconds before dissolving into something more genuine.

She wasn't here. Nor were any others. Not his parents, murdered before he could remember, not his surrogate carers, old friends of James and Lily, not even his dead teachers.

But her absence was a greater disappointment than theirs, for Harry knew she would overlook the sins he had committed in the past year, dirty and brutal tactics that he would not have dared when someone had been there to judge him. The others would try to, they would act as though he was still the loving, optimistic boy denied an existence. But they would not see past it, not really. Only she would.

Harry sat up, and grunted as his body complained and his magic rushed to soothe his limbs. Then he scowled. This time, his foul mood was aggravated by two things.

The fact that he was in a bed, and by his limbs.

He detested beds. It was all too easy to get comfortable in them, and to fall into a deep sleep. He had gained silver because of the mistake before, and the lesson was one he had learned well through pain.

As Harry touched the mattress with his left hand, he found the sensation was still… that way. Both less and more than if he had been touching bare flesh against the sheets, because the nerves that told him of the action were not natural. They were magical, and bound to his core rather than his nervous system. It was different from flesh. And it was not a nice surprise to find that he was still made of metal rather than flesh.

Harry glared at the hand, as light bounced off his skin. Then, he snarled a curse and swung his feet from the bed; again, he growled as he saw that his right foot had regrown as the metal. But there was nothing to be done about it, and it was not practical to fume, so Harry laid his feet on the cool floor of this white room.

He had to say, this version of an afterlife was hardly original. A white, pure place of transition; the only things missing were his family and friends.

Harry limped out of the room, the different sensations of each leg throwing off his equilibrium, and looked down the corridor. Left and right, left and right. He decided to go left, believing that it would make little to no difference either choice, and walked through the hallway with quick strides. Click. Clunk. Click. Clunk.

Everything was silent for nearly a hundred steps, other than the tingling steps of his entirely metal right foot and the tapping heel and toes of his left on the marble floor, so the first sound he heard stood out quite dramatically against the backdrop.

Someone was crying in distance. Whimpering pitifully. Harry had seen little to suggest that any of the rooms lining the corridor were anything but for show, and so this development was of interest to him.

He turned down a corridor to the right, and sought the source of the sound.

Click. Clunk. Click. Clunk.

He took a flight of stairs, and followed the quiet whines of someone in pain. As though on the hunt, Harry stalked through the white place and towards the crying voice.

When he found it, Harry noticed writings on the wall. They announced that this… ward was reserved for long-term recovery from magics that affected the mind. Harry frowned, and placed his right hand on the door's knob. He twisted it slowly, and the door swung open.

Harry walked into the room with a more relaxed pace than he had been using to move through the white halls. He did not want to frighten whomever was upset, and wondered if they were distraught from knowing that they had died; it was, presumably, a common reaction.

His right eye was of very little use, as he found that the room was pitch black. Odd, that his was alight and this one was not; maybe the person had been in here for some time, but was reluctant to leave.

Harry hoped he could help with that.

His left eye moved with the motions of his right, because Harry had no reason to move it independently, as he searched for the crying person. Female, by the sounds of the soft cries. Harry stopped short, though, as the laments quietened.

The room contained far more than just he and one other, Harry saw. Nearly a dozen people were unconscious in beds, and the recently woken Wizard found himself shocked at some of their conditions. Not that they looked injured… they looked like they were dying. As though their bodies were just shutting down, not expiring because of some curse or other, simply as though they were unwilling to continue on in their states. As though their souls were already in the process of leaving the bodies in which they were housed.

But how was that possible? How could one die in the afterlife? By definition, a person had to be dead to be in this… place. Harry frowned some more, as he found the source of the whispering sobs.

A woman, sunken and weak, was sat in her bed with arms wrapped around knees. Pulling them close to her chest as though seeking protection from something or someone. Harry's magical eye scanned the room, and found that there was nothing worthy of fear. Nothing except for him, anyway.

He moved slowly towards the woman, his magical eye scanning her every move to ensure that she was not a trap set for him, with his arms held out to the sides. Through the crack in curtains covering a high-up window, a thin beam of light glanced off the silver of his left arm. The woman fell silent, as she stared in Harry's direction. He supposed that the darkness must have been near-impenetrable for her…

Harry had no wand, so the light that came into being shone from his palm. It would cast his face into sharper shadows and shapes than usual, but it was better for her to watch him approach and be afraid of the man she saw than to be afraid of the man she could not see. Maybe she would notice his age, and that would help.

The light also allowed him to see her more clearly; seeing things and people in the dark meant that the finer details were lost in favour of those that were important. Whether they were armed, and where he would need to aim.

She looked unhealthy, worn out, with stark-white hair falling over fearful large eyes. But she didn't look to be afraid of him, as she started muttering a name under her breath. Harry heard it, and it meant nothing to him.

He had never known anyone by the name of Neville, but that name seemed to mean something to the woman. Seemed to mean everything to the woman. She was crying as she said it, as though Neville was somehow involved in a great loss of hers. Either he was responsible, or he was what she had lost. The woman did look old enough to have had a son, and he had known the loss of a child to drive even the kindest of people into a dark place. This woman must not have come back from the journey.

Harry saw a balding, red haired man scream as his daughter died before his eyes. He saw the kind-hearted Wizard charge into the fray, despite knowing, himself, that he was no warrior. He had seen five Death Eaters fall to Arthur Weasley's wand before the green spell had connected with the man's chest. Harry saw Arthur's oldest son cut down the offending Death Eater, and saw a blonde haired, crippled man shove Bill out of the way to spare him losing his life to Lucius Malfoy's curse. Bill was an exceptional dueler and… Harry didn't remember the other Wizard's name. That Wizard had known that losing Bill would have been a greater loss than a weak and crippled old man. Bill had lasted another six months after that- he had taken two dozen Death Eaters down in that time- before he joined the rest of his family in the beyond.

The woman's voice grew louder, and Harry watched her as she lifted her head and locked her eyes onto his. At first, he was under the impression that she thought him to be her son, but that was not the case. No, this woman was asking something of Harry.

He wondered what it was, and made a mental note to keep an eye out for any mention of this Neville. He wondered if she wanted him to hurt Neville.

Harry watched the woman, and waited for anything else to come from her. She gave no indication that she was capable of saying anything else, and Harry sighed as he stepped closer to her. She kept her eyes locked on his as he approached, and took hold of his forearm as Harry got within her reach.

'Neville.' She reiterated.

Harry nodded, 'Neville,' he said, with conviction.

'Neville.' The woman smiled at him, and her hollow cheeks were thrown into greater definition with the expression. Harry laid his right index finger on the woman's scalp, and sent a soothing pulse of magic into her. He caught her shoulders, and laid her gently on the bed. The smile was still on her lips as he left the room in complete silence, and walked the halls.

Harry checked a dozen rooms before he was convinced that this was not what he had initially believed.

For so many people to be in the afterlife, but not… well was inconceivable. If they were being punished, he could wrap his head around it, but they were not. They were unconscious, in many cases comatose, but ill. Ill or injured, but not necessarily in pain.

So either the afterlife was the same as the world had been before civilisation fell, or Harry just didn't understand.

His mind went to many explanations, though. Time travel was unlikely, because this did not seem to be the past; he had seen the ruin of St Mordreds… no, St Mungos, and it had not contained even the remnants of the ward in which he had found the sobbing woman. It had also been missing some of the magics he could currently feel, and Harry hazarded a guess that they were newly invented spells.

Nor was this a different timeline. Harry had stumbled across a memorial of Voldemort's first attack on the Wizarding World in the hospital through which he wandered. The difference was, in this world that seemed to have been the end of it. From what Harry understood, rewriting history through such a recently cataclysmic event would doom existence to unravel. Or, at least, for the attempt to backfire entirely. So the only logical possibility in that regard was for someone to have tried to make the situation worse and inadvertently made it better. But Harry had killed all of the Death Eaters, so who would make such an effort.

Harry briefly thought it might have been reincarnation, rather than a true afterlife, and the possibility wasn't altogether impossible but for one simple fact. He was still a teenager, with metal bound to his body in exactly the same fashion as before. He had not been reborn, he had been tossed into this world.

And with that idea, Harry remembered something. A middle aged man with thick glasses, as he insisted that science was the key to defeating Voldemort. Harry had ignored the muggleborn, for the most part, because he felt that the man was being both dumb and insensitive. But, now, Harry remembered one thing the man had said. For some reason, scientists believed that there were other universes that ran parallel to their own. Harry had no idea what had inspired such a belief in them, but was sure they had their reasons; he had no doubt that they were more intelligent than him, after all.

Maybe that was what this was. Harry was on some parallel Earth.

Or maybe it was something other than that. Maybe the afterlife really was this shit.

Whatever the case, it didn't matter at the moment. Harry had no desire to be in this hospital for any longer than he had to be, and after that he would need to find shelter. Or some woods, if changing would be the better option.

As if on cue, his inner wolf woke. It was subdued, still, and Harry understood why; it had been only a day since the Full Moon and his urges would be as low, now, as they ever were. But it was another thing that had, apparently, come with him.

Harry sighed as he entered the stairwell of the Hospital and began to descend. Logically, the exit would be on the ground floor and, so, Harry headed for the door.

Maya Lenorae looked up from her book, as the door to the stairwell opened, and her mouth fell open in shock as a naked young man walked into reception.

The muggle novel, romance that bordered on smut, fell to the floor with a thud and Maya hoped that the teen would ignore the fallen book. She would be embarrassed even if it wasn't a muggle book. Her family would be horrified if it got out that she was enjoying that particular type of literature.

She made nary a sound, as he strode through the area with surface, but felt her face heat up as the muscular youth, four or five years her junior, passed by her without showing any sign that he knew she was there. That he was naked stood out to her even more than the fact that two of his limbs weren't the colour of the rest of his pale skin, but as the teenager crossed the threshold of the hospital it dawned on her who he must be. She had been told to contact Mr Potter immediately if his nephew woke up, and made sure to send word even before rushing off to find the Healer on call.

James beat Remus to St Mungos by thirty seconds, but the fact that he came as soon as he got word didn't do anything to change that the previously comatose boy had a very large head start.

'I don't understand!' the Healer James was interrogating stated with passion, 'It shouldn't be possible for him to be awake! Let alone up and walking out of the hospital!'

'And why is that?' James asked, for clarification.

'He was as close to death as anyone I have ever seen less than two months ago! He was in a coma an hour ago! People don't just wake up from something like that; they gradually stir and then wake and then need months and months of therapy to regain even some of their strength. It simply isn't possible for him to just up and leave!'

'Maybe he didn't leave of his own volition,' James suggested, as Remus strode over to the speaking pair.

'No. No, the girl on reception was quite adamant that he was conscious and by himself.' The Healer shook his head, scowling in thought as he waved a hand in dismissal.

'He might have been imperiused,' Remus suggested.

'Not possible,' the raggard Healer shook his head, 'we added wards against such a thing after last summer. Your department would have known the moment a Dark spell was cast.' James winced and nodded, remembering the Wizard who had come in and begun firing dark spells left and right; fifteen people had been injured, and that only four lives were lost was solely because they had already been in the hospital when they were attacked. 'His mind had to be his own. If they were going to force him to come, they would have had to levitate him out.'

'Then your girl is lying,' James said, after a moment's thought. The boy could not have walked out, and could not have been forced out. That meant that their information was incorrect somewhere, and the girl working on reception was the obvious culprit.

'She is not.' The Healer denied, vehement. 'I assure you she is as trustworthy as they come.'

'Oh, really?' James arched an eyebrow, as he eyed the girl sat at the desk with her hands folded before her. She fidgeted, 'If I remember correctly, she's a cousin to the Malfoys. Is she not?'

'And what does that have to do with anything?' The Healer glared at James, with his arms crossed. The man seemed offended at James' implication.

'What else? The Malfoys could easily have decided they need to find out about this boy, if not to know about his unique healing method then to know if they can hurt the light using him.' James honestly thought the answer to be obvious, but the Healer puffed up and bristled at James' statement.

'I assure you, Mr Potter, we are not in the habit of hiring kidnappers. She is a good girl, and does not need you judging her based on her family's alleged transgressions.' He glared some more with the statement, 'Now, unless there is anything else?'

James gave no answer, and the man turned on his heel to go and find something else to do. Perhaps to go back to his nap. The Potter Patriarch turned to his friend, and asked the necessary question.

'You smell him, Moony?'

'I… think so.' Remus said, nodding hesitantly. 'I don't think we should wait for Sirius; who knows if he's home or not, and the cub must be in Muggle London somewhere. If one of them gets a glimpse of him…'

'Yeah. That wouldn't be good.' James nodded, and Remus jogged off down the street. Heading East.

James followed his friend, trusting Remus' nose as they weaved left and then right and then right again before crossing the street and heading towards a nearby river. Remus ducked into an ally, and then came back out immediately. The two went through a different ally, and Remus stopped before the wall of a parking structure and pressed his knuckle against a drainpipe that had been recently ripped from the wall. James gathered that the boy must have been planning to scale the building, but that the pipe had not held up to his initial test.

Remus had moved more slowly, then, as though the scent was less clear. James still didn't question his friend, and after only two wrong turns it became clear that he was right to place faith in Remus' nose.

Harry dropped the rock he had been hefting, as a pair of men stopped around the corner from his chosen spot. They whispered at each other, one telling the other to stay back and that he, meaning Harry, would react better to just one of them and that you would just freak him out.

The speaking man was a werewolf, Harry noted.

Then, the other man scoffed, and the werewolf gave an indignant noise before Harry heard him fall onto his backside. The other man stumbled as he rounded the corner, and swore as his head knocked against the low bridge; Harry had almost done the same when he happened across the bridge next to a river of clean-ish water.

The man had a curious smell, as though he had a pet deer. For a wizard, there were any number of explanations. But he remembered, once upon a time, hearing stories about a werewolf whose friends had become animagi for the sake of keeping him company during the full moon.

The werewolf had berated Prongs for being rash, and Prongs, the Animagus, had called the wolf Moony as he tried to insist that whoever he was, he needed to know. That Lils needed to know.

Something about Harry's breathing pattern, most likely that it shifted at that name, had told Moony that he could hear. The werewolf had warned his friend of as much, and there had been the sounds of hands going into pockets.

Harry guessed that they would have wands in hand before the light of a lumos shone in the corner of his eye.

Harry had sat very still and very unarmed, as his dead father, and the man who'd had as great a hand in raising him as any other, walked slowly around the corner. He felt their wands on him as they stared. Harry imagined that his scars were shocking in the bright glow, for people to whom he was a stranger.

Harry waited for one of the men to speak, but neither did. Not for some time, anyway.

James' breathing hitched, Harry expected that he was seeing a resemblance to himself. Or to his father, Harry had once been told that James looked as similar to Fleamont as Harry did to James.

James Potter. Prongs. Harry's father, who died on Halloween night when Harry was a babe. The man who had died in an attempt to buy Harry's mother time to take their child and run. On paper, the idiot who had tried to fight the most dangerous Dark Wizard of their time, unarmed and outmatched. But, according to his friends, the brave man who had been willing to die if it meant he could hold Riddle off for even a second and give his family another moment of life.

If there had been any doubt in Harry's mind that he was no longer in the world he had called his own, it fled with the man's appearance and his seeing that there was no trickery involved in his father's presence. No Glamours, no Polyjuice. Harry supposed it could be an exceptionally talented Metamorphmagus, but then there was the smell. A Metamorphmagus could not be an Animagus, so it was even more unlikely that James Potter had been perfected by a shapeshifter.

Harry pushed thoughts away, as the memories of who had taught him those facts rushed to the front of his mind.

Harry's magical eye, hidden to those watching him, turned to look at the wand in the man's hand. Eleven inches, made of Mahogany with a Unicorn hair as its core. Harry remembered a tale about the animal from the Wandmaker as he slowly died; an exceptional creature, Olivander had whispered, only three hairs, though. A shame… the bond those wands had with their wizards… near unbreakable.

The wand in Prongs' hand did not seem to be giving any trouble to its wielder. It was James.

And that meant the man next to him was Remus Lupin. A healthy, happy Remus, far different from the exhausted war-torn werewolf Harry had known, but Remus all the same. A man no doubt different in all ways from his twin from Harry's world.

Harry sighed, as he looked at the water. A part of him wanted to rejoice at seeing his surrogate father alive and well. Better than Harry had ever seen him, in fact. He repressed the memory of Remus in wolf form, being taken to the ground and swarmed by those of his kind who had sided with Voldemort. He tried not to hear the cries of Remus' wolf that had rung over the sounds of Harry's own fight.

Harry didn't rejoice. Instead, Harry stayed crouched on the ground, uncaring of the cold ground on his bare foot and the wall against his back.

When one of the two finally spoke, Harry heard that the familiar voice was without the underlying pain and sadness of losing everyone he had ever cared for. No wonder he had not recognised it, at first.

'Why did you leave the hospital?' Remus Lupin asked. Harry's human eye flicked to the man's face, and found that Remus was crouched not far from him. 'You could have stayed there for as long as you needed, and it would have been far more comfortable than… this.' He looked around at the damp and shadowed space in which they were talking.

Harry wondered about that himself. Maybe he'd left because it was ingrained in him that staying in one place for longer than was absolutely necessary was the move of a suicidal man. Maybe it was because he did not want to be at the mercy of Healers and doctors to prod at his silver-flesh, to ask what exactly it was. Maybe it was because the Ministry would come to ask those same questions, and because Harry had taken the lives of a fair few of their number. Because they had, in return, taken the lives of those he cared about. Or perhaps it was not any of them, and he had just felt like moving, had wanted to understand the world he was in.

Harry didn't express any of these, as he spoke in a strained rasp. 'Do you know what happened to my clothes?' He asked, both eyes on the werewolf.

'Your… you weren't wearing any clothes when I found you.' Remus told him, with a frown.

Harry blinked slowly, processing the words carefully as he did everything that he heard. 'Where did you find me?' He asked, eventually.

'In the woods of the Potter household.' Remus answered, concisely, with the concern still on his brow. 'Do you remember how you got there?'

Harry didn't. Last thing he remembered, before waking in the hospital, was death stalking towards him. A dozen or more curses that should have killed him had been seeping into his body and the magic in his center, and even without them Harry had been mortally wounded. He had not had the magic to repair the wounds, and would have been dead from a rotting core long before the injuries could close anyway.

Harry remembered thinking that he would be allowed to die, then. A stupid assumption, for one who had been refused passage to the other side so many times before. But he had thought it every time he had been "killed". Dying was what people did, Harry knew that better than most, so why should he be the exception?

Harry shook his head, staring into the dark waters slowly moving down stream.

'Do you remember what happened before?' James asked, his voice nearly as soft as Remus'. There was a note of conflict, though, and Harry assumed it stemmed from their shared features. James wanted to know why Harry looked like him, or like his son, perhaps James had a son in this life, too, but couldn't ask a boy who looked to be in this fragile state.

Harry nodded, but didn't speak. He had no desire to speak more than was needed; even after the better part of a year, his throat burned even when Harry was just breathing.

'Could you tell us?' James asked. Harry looked at him, now, and saw the man flinch as he turned his head. Either because of the inhuman visage, or the corrupt blend of his and Lily's looks.

'You would think me crazy.'

'We would give you the benefit of the doubt,' Remus told him reassuringly. Harry noticed that the crouching werewolf didn't flinch when their eyes met.

He considered the man, and spoke. 'After killing Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort, and ending a war that had spanned decades, in a world parallel to this one, in a conflict that resulted in the deaths of he, his followers, and the Dark creatures with him, I died from a mixture of blood loss and the dark curses that had been cast on me. I have no idea how I arrived in this world, and when I left the hospital I did so assuming that I had reached whatever afterlife there might be.'

After a long pause, it was James Potter that spoke again. 'Well, I see why you said we'd think you were crazy.'

Harry nodded, and went back to watching the waters in the dark. Remus glared at James, and Harry's not-father gave a helpless shrug at the expression.

'Clearly you've gone through something severe, who's to say that you didn't go through… that?'

James whispered, 'Moony, what are you-'

'He can hear you, Prongs.' Remus reminded his friend, 'What's your name, son?' Harry looked at him again, at that.

'Harry,' Harry told him. James made a noise, and likely would have spoken had Harry not continued, 'Potter.'

'And… why were you the one fighting this fight, Harry?' Remus asked, voice still soft. Harry wondered how this Lupin was so good at that, and whether he might have children of his own in this reality.

'Who else?' Harry asked, with a shrug of his shoulders, meaning it to be rhetorical. Apparently it didn't come across that way, since Remus gave an answer.

'Dumbledore? The Aurors?'

'Dumbledore died long before that fight. Most of the Aurors, too,' Harry said. Very few of the Law-Enforcement officers had joined Riddle. But those that did took the others off-guard, and cut them down from inside their ranks. Dumbledore's death was of a more grandiose nature. Memorable, even to one who had not been a witness.

Remus didn't speak again for a few minutes. When he did, it was an unexpected question that he asked.

'Do you know who we are, Harry?' Lupin asked, pointing first to himself and then to James.

'Remus Lupin and James Potter,' Harry nodded.

'Who are we to you?' he then asked.

'You were the closest thing I had to a father through my childhood and up until about a year ago.' Harry told Remus; Lupin seemed too receptive of Harry's retelling of events. No doubt he was lying, but it made Harry more comfortable in this conversation.

'And me?' James asked, then. Harry heard discomfort in the man's voice; James didn't want to know, but he had asked anyway.

'My father.' Harry told him.

The man nodded. Made an unintelligible sound. Spoke. 'Yep. I'm calling Dumbledore.'

Harry didn't try to stop the man, and wondered what it was that had made the man who wasn't his father call Dumbledore, rather than mind wizards. He pinpointed a possibility, and was interested that James knew Tom Riddle was Lord Voldemort. And that it would matter.

When Harry had visited the castle in his world, Dumbledore's office had been razed by destructive magics. He had seen pieces of gold and silver littering the floor, and Harry seemed to remember that there had been a picture frame still hanging, crooked, on the wall.

But those had been overshadowed by the phoenix that had been crying a lamenting song, as though he had known Harry would be coming on that particular day.

Harry stared at the same phoenix, and Fawkes stared back at him with equal interest from his perch. Harry ignored the conversation that was going on behind him as best he could, but it was not easy given that one of the participants was drunk as a skunk and had no control of his volume. And Dumbledore had not bothered to cast a ward to stop him from hearing.

Sirius Black had labelled Harry Jimmy upon stumbling into the room, and had laughed hysterically at his own joke about seeing double. He had stumbled against the wall, narrowly missing a Headmaster's portrait who had berated him for shaming the House of Black with his display. Sirius had blown a raspberry at the man, and then made to take a swig from the non-existent bottle in his left hand, rather than the right. He had giggled, taken a swig of the whiskey in his right, and James had slapped Padfoot over the back of his head.

Harry had voluntarily taken a drink of the Veritaserum, and the questions had begun. Remus had asked them, and had used the opportunity mainly to verify what Harry had told them earlier that day.

What is your name?

'Harry James Potter.'

Who were your parents?

'James and Lily Potter.'

And did they die when you were a baby?

'They died and left me an orphan, yes.'

Who killed them?

'Tom Marvelo Riddle.'

Who was the Dark Lord you faced?

'Tom Marvelo RIddle, under the moniker of Lord Voldemort.'

And the war never ended?

'No.'

Voldemort wasn't ever defeated?

'He was.'

Then how did the war continue?

'He came back shortly after his killing curse backfired on him.'

How? Please answer to the best of your ability.

'From what I understand he told his Lieutenants how to resurrect him should he die in one of the upcoming conflicts. He didn't think it would be at the hands of a baby, though. I believe he feared Dumbledore would defeat him.'

What happened to the rest of the Wizarding World? The Ministry? Gringotts?

'They died or fled.'

Fled abroad?

'Yes.'

Why didn't you follow them?

'We did, for a time.'

For a time? What do you mean?

'The conflict spread. Riddle was the catalyst, but the entire world split into Dark and Light Wizards.'

What happened to the Mundanes?

'They fought back and lost.'

Did they die?

'Many died. Others hid.'

What happened to the rest of the World?

'Most of it was infected by Dark Magic and became devoid of life.'

What happened to the population of Magicals?

'The Light Wizards died or became dark. The Dark Wizards fought each other.'

And Voldemort defeated them?

'Yes. But many of his number died in the effort, and most Dark Creatures left his side when they saw how fickle wizards are.'

And you defeated him?

'I killed him.'

Was everything you told us earlier true, to the best of your knowledge?

'Yes.'

Sirius had yelled another query, trying to break the sudden unpleasant mood, that Harry had to answer as James punched his friend.

'None. By the time I was old enough for that sort of thing, there weren't any girls around.'

Dumbledore had peered over his bridged fingers, and asked a final question in a contemplative voice.

'Have you survived an encounter with the Killing Curse?'

'... yes.'

That held some significance to those in the room, beyond the fact that it should be impossible. Harry wondered what exactly that was, and why they seemed to be staring at his forehead.

After that, they had given Harry the antidote and began their discussion.

'We all know that Veritaserum can be fooled. Impressive as it might be for a boy his age to be that skilled at Occlumency, it isn't impossible.' James told them. He was the most motivated to disprove what had been claimed, for the simple reason that Harry was apparently his son. Harry had no way to change that mindset, so he didn't try. Now that Dumbledore was involved, they would be convinced eventually. 'He doesn't have a curse-scar, for Merlin's sake!'

'And we've seen all of him, so we'd know if he did!' Sirius added.

'And what? That makes him some Dark Wizard?' Remus asked.

'No! Not a Dark Wizard, someone who's ill and needs help!'

'Uuuugh, I think I might be ill…'

'Someone who's ill but still skilled enough in Occlumency to trick Veritaserum?'

James knew that wasn't possible, apparently, and gave another possibility. 'Maybe he believes what he's saying, but that doesn't mean it's true.'

'EXACTLY! It's like picking up a bird- of you're gonna be convincing you need to believe it yourse-'

'And how do you explain the injuries? How do you explain the fact that he looks like you with Lily's eyes?'

'Like a guy version of Ama- Am- your daughter! Except, y'know, not girly. And like a robot.'

'Shut up, Padfoot!' James snapped. Sirius made the noise of a distressed puppy, which was ignored by everyone involved. 'Obviously he's been through something horrible. That's what made him dream this stuff up.'

'You ignored my second point of inquiry. He looks like the child of James and Lily Potter. How do you explain that?'

'He's… related to me?'

'And Lily? He has her eyes, and we've been over the fact that it's a magical trait.'

'Someone… could have given him her eyes?' Harry imagined that, even to James' ears, that sounded weak.

They were silent for a time, and then nonsense interrupted the serious conversation.

'Not possible! I saw her earlier, and Lillllly still has her eyes!' Sirius exclaimed, followed by, 'OW!' and then the sounds of a man roughly six-foot tall and one-hundred ninety pounds hopping around the room. Harry guessed that James was the one to have stomped on his foot.

'James, my boy, nobody will blame you if you choose not to take him into your home. Harry said, himself, that he is dangerous, and you have young children to think about.' Dumbledore said, in a voice that was very calm for the situation at hand.

'Of course we're taking him in!' Harry was surprised at that, and imagined that Remus was staring at the man as though he had sprouted another head. Even Fawkes gave a confused tilt of his head as he continued to stare at Harry.

'Then why are you so adamant about him being ill?!' Remus demanded. They no longer made any attempt at staying quiet, and the volume was distracting enough that Harry barely noticed Fawkes fly over to stand on the desk only a foot-or-so from Harry. The phoenix looked even more majestic up close.

'Because!' James yelled back, with something in his voice.

'Because of what?!' Remus asked, his own voice almost angry.

'Because if he's my son, I fucking failed him and I don't know how to deal with that!'

Fawkes began cooing as Harry determinedly kept his eyes on the bird, and not on the scene behind him. Maybe they would believe he hadn't heard their exchange if he didn't look. Other than the musical sound, a pin dropping would have sounded like a cannon compared to the silence of the room's occupants.

Then the silence was broken by the sounds of heaving and the angry voice of James Potter.

'Oi! Fucking hell, Padfoot! These were nice shoes!'

Eventually the group moved back over to Harry, with James, barefoot, muttering about Sirius owing him new Dragonhide shoes. Dumbledore made a request, then, of the youngest seated person. He didn't seem to pay the phoenix sitting between them any notice.

'Harry,' the aged wizard began, 'I would ask that you allow me to see some of your memories. Nothing intrusive, of course, just the key events in your world's war.'

'Why?'

'Primarily to see if I can learn something of Tom by doing so. But also, I admit, to verify the truth of your words for myself. I have a certain talent for identifying false or planted memories, and would be remiss if I did not ask for the chance.'

Harry considered it, rolling the options over in his mind, and nodded.

'Okay.' He told him, while the two sober others frowned and the last human present swayed unsteadily with a look of utmost concentration on his face. 'So long as I can choose which memories to give you.' There were some memories that Harry would not share with anyone.

Dumbledore nodded. 'Of course. If I may?' He held the wand aloft, Harry's eyes following it, and asked permission. Harry nodded slowly, and waited for instruction. 'Just call the memory to mind, and I will do the rest.'

Four times Harry brought a memory to mind, and four times strands of silver liquid were pulled from his temple. They were largely harmless, but Harry counted on them keeping the wizard busy and interested for so long as he wanted to examine them- they would even be helpful to him in showing what had happened. Just without showing Harry's worst moments. And, while Harry had never done it himself, he had seen others extract and give memories; even if every possible thing went wrong, all that would happen was the memory would turn fuzzier than it had been before and he would get a headache. A headache would be nothing compared to concussions and split skulls, and Harry could stand to forget some of the things that he had just given to Dumbledore for perusal.

'Please keep them to yourself, though,' he requested, with a glance that made it clear the others in the room shouldn't see them, 'and I hope I don't need to tell you some of what happens in them is unpleasant. In that one in particular there are a few people you might know who… perish.'

In the memory Harry was pointing to, Voldemort fought and killed two people who had previously been Hogwarts professors. He had just finished killing a hook-nosed man named Snape, or Snivellus if Harry remembered Sirius' nickname properly from the times he'd been regaled with stories of it during his early years, and the small man and older woman had been fighting with all their worth. They cared for the plump witch who was under the torture-spell behind Riddle, and had been desperately trying to stop the cackling woman. Bellatrix had always enjoyed that Unforgivable. Remus and Sirius had both been furious when the older witch fell.

Harry frowned, with a realisation just out of reach. What he was missing?

'I understand,' Dumbledore nodded solemnly, 'and I will not share these with another soul.'

Harry assumed that Dumbledore already knew he was some variation of a Werewolf. The most recent of the memories included his transformation, and Harry hoped showing it to the man would not come back to bite him.

Harry was inclined to trust Albus Dumbledore, with four or five names between his first and last that Harry couldn't remember, because he had been raised with tales of the man's integrity and self-sacrifice. Dumbledore had believed in the prophecy about Harry and Voldemort, and was willing to die to give Harry a chance to live on. But, eventually, that was not why the man had given his life. Dumbledore had matched a large group of Death Eaters, the exact number varying depending on who was retelling the tale, and defeated them in defense of Hogwarts. He had ordered the other teachers to escort the children away, and had stayed behind. There had been no possibility of Dumbledore escaping the fight, outmatched by the horde of creatures and Wizards that was approaching, and the man had known it. But the children had escaped.

And if Harry was wrong to trust him, it was better to learn so now than later down the road.

'I believe, James, that you said you would provide young Harry with a place to stay?'

'Or we can get you a room at the Leaky Cauldron or something,' James said, when Harry didn't give much response.

'No. He should stay with you.' Remus answered, firmly. 'I'd offer a place, but our house is full enough already and we have a baby on the way.' Harry looked at the man upon hearing that explanation, and found that he was happy for Remus. There was a very real glimmer of joy in the man's eye.

'I would prefer to stay with you,' Harry gave his own opinion. And he would like to look through their woods, to see if his eye could pick anything up, 'but it might be best if I am kept away from your home. Glamours don't hide… me.' Harry tried to think of a better word for his appearance, and failed.

'So?'

'You have children, from what I understand? I have a habit of scaring people the first time we meet.'

'Don't worry about it. They've all got the courage of Gryffindors.' James said, suddenly beaming. 'And I think Amaryllis will be happy to meet you. You'll… nevermind.'

'I'll what?' Harry asked, genuinely curious.

'Make her feel inconspicuous.' James answered, with a grimace, as Harry frowned and pondered what he meant by that. When Remus saw the look of confusion on his face, the man gave an explanation.

'She has a curse-scar that get's her a lot of attention.'

'Attention comparative to what I will draw? What happened to her?' Harry asked, bluntly, with the frown still present.

'The eldest Miss Potter was struck by a Killing Curse, also,' Dumbledore told him when Remus failed to answer, and James still looked uncomfortable.

'Killing Curse? So she's…' He gestured towards himself, not liking the title even when it had been applied to him. It had been the first, but not the last.

'The girl-who-lived.' Dumbledore finished for Harry, without a smile.