An original beginning in a Harry Potter fanfic is almost too much to ask for. There are a couple, it's true, but hardly worth the search for them.
However, cliches can be such pretty baubles it's nice to play with them from time to time. To take them out of their aged bag and see if you can't arrange them in a new pattern, like trying to paint. One doesn't ask for original colors, there are only so many, dispensed in mass-marketed tubes. However, in their arrangement there is art.
There is also a pattern, a tradition to the genre, like a guitar riff in rock. One doesn't have to ask if it is there, only what form it takes, and if this one displayed anything that stood out to recommend it, and a hopeful 'was it brief?' It is the obligatory first chapter of setup, telling you how this world differs, if it does at all, and of course showing you how miserable Harry is (Rowling does it in every book, so it wouldn't be true to the creator if we did not). But, like breaking through a candy shell to get to the gooey goodness inside, after that's out of the way hopefully the actual story should commence.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize from the books is Rowling's, of course. Anything you recognize from fanfiction is cliche, and anything you recognize from fever dreams is your own problem.
"My name's Urd," she told him, pointing toward his nose. "Goddess second class, second category, limited license. Norn of the Past and Goddess of love, and you've got a pure heart, kiddo. That means you're eligible for a wish, and I got sent to give one to you. You can have anything you want, but the rules say you only get one. What will it be?"
"When Ron was six he discovered his pee pee and went showing it to everyone in the neighborhood." Luna answered Hermione's whispered question at full normal voice, as if this hadn't been asked of her in secret. Then she restated, "I like Harry's much better. It reminds me of fog."
"Fog?" Hermione couldn't help but blink at the non sequitur. One got more used to them around Luna, but still!
"Yes, the way it fills up empty spaces and makes shadows of great trees."
Ginny and Hermione both blushed silver, not certain they'd caught Luna's meaning, but able to conjure up sufficient dirty images on their own from the description.
Urd stared at the trio of ghosts in shock for a moment before turning back to business so she could get out of this place.
She didn't like being here.
Around Keiichi and her sister she was able to frolic, full of mischief. There was no mischief here. In fact, this boy had been beaten like a drum by Fate, and as one of the Norns she felt partially responsible. That caused any normal good humor she might have felt to evaporate and made her want to get this over with so she could go home and get roaring drunk.
She'd have been drinking here, but the kid had poisoned his wetbar!
Urd was interrupted once more, this time by Luna leaning in to clasp Harry's face between her ghostly hands, clasp her freezing lips on his nose, and begin sucking greedily. "SCHLERK! SNORK! SCHHLLLECHW!"
The goddess blinked in surprise, then spoke, pointing to the ghost, "An ectoplasmic infusion? How did SHE learn that snot and ectoplasm are practically the same thing?"
"Fog also allows the moon to howl back at the dogs at night," Luna mentioned, as if no one had spoken since she last did, meanwhile floating over to the sink and beginning to lift pans in her ghostly hands, filling one with water and putting it on to boil on the stove.
Harry, for his part, was taking Urd's appearance in stride. Not from any idea who she was, but he'd more or less gotten used to wizards doing things in odd ways, like traveling by fireplaces, and at first he'd taken her as doing some form of that. Her later introduction as a Goddess was no more strange to him than learning magic existed, or so he reasoned.
On the other hand, it was difficult to be haunted by the ghost of Luna Lovegood and not build up considerable resistance to the weird or unusual. Frankly, he took this as even more proof that he was insane.
Then again, sometimes he just felt too tired to get shocked by anything. He was certainly too weak to do much about it if he did. He was a pale and fragile shadow of the boy he once was, his health and body broken by his imprisonment.
"Do you really know what's going on?" Hermione floated by to ask before leaning in to capture Harry's nose between her lips and sucking greedily herself, obviously still listening for an answer.
"Well..." Urd blinked. SNEERRRK! "It's..." SLURRP! Her eye twitched, "kinda..." SNORK! "Will you cut that out!" she shouted.
"Sorry," Hermione released Harry's frozen nose. "But it's the only way we can do things around the house." She pouted, "or much of anything but float around, really."
"That's really the point," Urd corrected. "Ghosts are those who have passed on, there are rules against them having too great an effect on mortal affairs, so most are frozen in ability where they aren't able to do much. That's on purpose. The exception is that each is given a very limited supply of ectoplasm. Those who learn how to use it can manipulate things on the mortal plane. But most ghosts can't generate more than a trickle every few centuries. It's more of a punishment than anything, an encouragement to move on. What I want to know is how you three stumbled on it. The mucus relationship to ectoplasm is a loophole that's kept secret, one not even demons are allowed to let out."
"We picked it up from Luna." Hermione wiped her lips, then delicately licked a trailing bit of something from the end of Harry's nose.
"Quibbler, issue 38," spoke the ghost who was now cooking dinner.
"Well," Urd allowed, grudgingly folding her arms across her chest. "I won't report you so long as this secret doesn't spread any further. Now could we get back to Harry's wish?" Her phone rang, interrupting once again. "Hang on a second." The goddess reached into her pocket to pull out a cell, after listening on it for a few seconds she closed the phone and shouted at Luna. "There was nothing about ectoplasm in issue 38 of the Quibbler!"
"No, of course not. I never said there was," Luna blinked at the goddess dreamily. "There is, however, an excellent article on knee-biting vegetables, and this rutabaga reminds me of one." She held up the root in question.
"Then where did you find out about the ectoplasm relationship to mucus?" the irate goddess demanded.
"Oh, that was suggested in the muggle film Ghostbusters, and I thought I'd try it out. It worked."
Ginny blinked. "Luna, are you feeling okay? That was unusually lucid for you."
"Be nice," Hermione scolded.
"Ghosts can also spend large amounts of ectoplasm to acquire permanent abilities." Luna casually informed the room. "But as we were only locked in with Harry there was little point in acquiring a corrupting gaze or hideous laugh to drive him insane."
"So you got telekinesis?" Urd blinked, taken aback.
"Is that one of them?" Luna paused still, then closed her eyes. A moment later one of the cooking utensils flew to her hand and she opened her eyes, smiling. "Yes, it is. Thank you very much."
"Are you going to wish or aren't you?" Urd rounded on the young man, intent on getting this job over with before they tricked any more classified information out of her. She was going to suffer for letting that bit about TK slip, she knew it. But she'd thought they already knew about it, considering what they already did.
"Uh, sure," Harry blinked, surprised at her glare. He turned to his friends, asking them, "What should I wish for?"
"How about you bringing us back to life?" Ginny asked hopefully.
Harry considered. That was a good one. He pondered a bit before adding, "That's a good one, but I was more thinking of saving the world from Voldemort. It's a pity I only get one wish."
"Actually Harry," Hermione interrupted. "You could achieve both of those together. She just introduced herself as a Goddess of the Past, am I right? You could wish for all of us to go back in time so you could relive your life over again knowing what you do now! That way we could stop Voldemort before he became unstoppable, and none of us would have died!" She sparkled excitedly, floating an extra few feet off the floor as she did so.
"That sounds good, I wish for that," Harry agreed.
"Fine," Urd nodded, glad to have that over with, transmitting the wish as spoken up to Heaven, resulting in the usual beam of light and objects floating around the room as she opened the divine passage over the sacred send and receive link. Resettling at last once that was done, she stated:
The boy was astonished to find himself that moment wet and naked in the arms of a giant bigger than Hagrid's brother, being handed over to a sweaty and exhausted giant woman laying on a table.
That scene snapped into context when he heard the next words uttered, "Congratulations, Mrs. Potter. It's a boy."
He began squalling in confusion and joy all at once.
A return to birth form can be odd, to say the least.
For one thing, Harry was a complete, whole adult compacted down into the body of a brand new baby. That required some rather drastic adjustments all on its own. If he'd had any exposure to computer related talk, he might've compared it to having been subjected to file compression software and transformed into a self-extracting archive. Everything was there, all of his knowledge and abilities and what have you, the only problem was most of it was unusable. The body of a newborn babe is equipped really to do only one thing, and that is grow, so that other capabilities could be uncompressed and brought online.
Other newborns had to do a great deal of testing as those abilities got brought out of storage to get them functioning, but that's getting ahead of ourselves.
On the day of his arrival, Harry was busy dealing with the physical trauma associated with his own birth. Thankfully, he'd get over that just fine, as most newborns do. His parents were excited, but also exhausted, and what exhaustion his mother went through that his father escaped, James more than made up for celebrating with his friends.
What no one seemed to notice was the conversation going on between three ghosts, not presently manifested enough for mortals to see them.
"Why aren't we alive?" Ginny demanded, gazing around St. Mungo's.
"I should think you and I haven't been born yet," Luna offered, circumstance having brought her a fraction more in touch with her surroundings, yet that didn't stop her from idly examining the dancing mobile hanging above Harry's crib with unusual intensity.
"But then why is Hermione here? She's almost a year older than Harry!" Ginny protested, irate and not understanding their circumstances at all.
"I'm afraid that's probably my fault." Hermione pouted. "I was offering a suggestion, instead Harry used that as his official wish before I'd had a chance to polish it up a bit. What happened is fairly simple, I think. When we wished, it was for 'us' to go back in time, so 'Harry' could live his life over again. I should have been so much more careful about the wording."
"You mean... we might not get to return to life?" Ginny found herself about to cry.
Hermione nodded, on the verge of tears herself.
Luna appeared increasingly fascinated with the baby toy she was observing, using little bursts of TK to spin the mobile around, with no apparent reaction to their predicament at all as the other pair of ghosts burst into tears and wailed, attempting to hug each other with insubstantial hands that passed right through each other's bodies.
Luna put up with this for about a minute, but before the others could really hit their stride (ghosts could lose all track of time, and given a sufficient emotional burden could lose themselves to it for geologic ages), managed to disrupt them both out of their funk by the simple expedient of latching onto baby Harry's nose and beginning to suck him dry. The infant immediately woke up and started to cry, before stopping almost at once.
It was still Harry in there, and he recognized that sensation.
You put up with alot to have good company in a place like Azkaban, and little indignities like that were inconsequential when it was the only way to get cupped handfuls of freezing water brought to your cell to supplement the meager daily ration. Discarded bits of the guards' meals were heaven, reducing one of the many pains of imprisonment, and the reason Harry hadn't been starved to emaciation when the Minister ordered him put on half rations upon his incarceration. Every day he blessed the stoat pies one wife sent with her husband and that guard never ate, being allergic to stoat and yet unable to bring himself to tell his wife he didn't treasure her mother's recipe. Pies that his ghostly friends had retrieved from the dustbin and brought him religiously, each day. Those pies had had good, thick crusts that survived being binned, and made it to his cell almost intact, and sometimes even warm (where ghostly hands hadn't gripped them). Scraps of cloth, bits of rag and thread had also been scavenged, and those (along with a needle carved from bone) had become quilts for bedding, pants and jackets to escape the constant cold.
Little services like those had even caused him to forget all of the anger he'd once felt at Ginny not long after arriving there. So when he forgave her, he'd earnestly meant it each and every time. Of course, with Luna and Hermione there was nothing to forgive, and he'd grown fonder of them than any other being... err, alive, with Ginny a not-so distant third.
Their happiness was all that was left of his.
Paradoxically, having a cold nose was one of the most comforting sensations that he could recall. And so, reminded of his ghostly friends, he began to coo and wave his arms at once.
The sight was both anxious and soothing to the ghosts, but it did catch their attention.
The duty nurse, tired from a long shift, noted a baby had both started and stopped crying quickly and gave only a peek into the room to make sure nothing had fallen on a face to suffocate anyone before going back to her break.
Luna waited until she was gone before telling her friends, "Harry can't communicate with anyone but us. We've got to be firm as the snow for him."
"He can communicate?" Hermione rushed over, but trying to interpret the patterns of waving baby limbs was futile, as they just weren't developed enough for sign language.
"Firm as snow? Shouldn't that be firm as rock? Snow isn't very firm." Ginny objected.
"Neither are ghosts," Luna concluded with implacable finality.
"Luna," Hermione plunged delicately. "How did you mean it when you said Harry can only communicate with us? How can he communicate at all?"
"Suck on some noses, we've got to form a bond with him."
And so, they did.
Harry had an unusual first month of life.
For one thing, his nose was always clean, which was odd because babies often get very runny faces. Most mothers have to constantly wipe if their baby gets a sniffle. Harry often had a chill, so there was no particular problem getting his nose running, but Lily almost never had to wipe it.
It was almost as if someone was vanishing the mucus. But that was absurd, James wouldn't hesitate to claim credit if he'd done so, and when she asked him he never had.
On the other hand, that got ignored in favor of wonder of his other many qualities that proved indisputably that Harry was the most magical of babies. Things flew to him when he wanted them, and more than once he flew about to get them. This was celebrated as one of the most distinct uses of accidental magic ever...
... instead of being attributed to the three ghosts who brought him things or carried him places.
Luna had gotten each other girl to form a telepathic bond to Harry that first day in the hospital, so they could communicate with him by mere thoughts. Then, in a surprise to each of them, had kindly asked them how they'd done it, so she could do it too.
On being pressed, she'd explained that some things aren't impossible until they are tried, and she didn't want to jinx fate by being aware of that and the first one to try to link to Harry.
However she'd done it, in tricking fate or just getting others to figure out what was normally impossible by not letting them know that it was, there were now three telekinetic ghosts with telepathic links to each other and Harry hanging around the Potter House.
Hermione, Ginny and Luna found they were unable to manifest themselves to where most mortals could see them. The prevailing explanation was that either it had been deemed too great an intrusion on mortal affairs for two ghosts of girls who hadn't even been born yet, and one of another still living as a tiny tot, to be floating around... or that flatulence of mule geese made it too risky for their hairstyles to be revealed to the public as yet.
The best way to forget your own suffering was to help another to deal with their own, a lesson all four of them had learned all too clearly at Azkaban. Thus they quickly fell back into those roles now. They did what they'd done in prison and kept Harry cared for and entertained, and they did it by indulging in something Hermione never got tired of - they read.
The Potter House was full of books on a wide variety of subjects. The Potters found almost the day they brought Harry home that they'd never again find each book where they left it. From that day forward there was always SOMETHING laying open or out of place, and the most rigorous cleaning or organizing would do nothing to affect that.
Meanwhile, three ghosts were catching up on their reading and sharing what they'd found with Harry so he didn't lose his sanity waiting for his body to develop. It was, after a fashion, their prison coping scheme all over again.
Discussions where every recalled scrap from different mothers' sewing lessons got debated had filled uncountable hours and provided a lifesaving necessity in Azkaban. So, now they had opportunities to resolve questions no one had recalled the answers to during prison, they had to be looked up and discussed in greater detail. Harry had spun fibers into bits of yarn, then knitted those into sweaters and such using needles he'd carved himself out of shards of bone leftover from meager meals, but had always looked like a half-drowned rat. They had the ability now to look up the right ways to do those things, and how his abortive attempts to weave cloth might've been done better. It had been a way to spend time as much as keep from freezing, and so more successful embroidery was also a hot topic now they had research material available.
Chatter about cooking and favorite foods had also filled many a weary hour, so Lily's cookbooks and notebooks filled with family recipes were among the worse sufferers of the perennial book disarray around the house.
None of the girls had been terribly domestic in life. Honestly, Harry outshone them all with his skills at keeping house. But those discussions on every issue, and every aspect of every issue, concerning keeping him alive and well had filled their... err, lives, for years in those dire circumstances.
And, now that they had an opportunity to study it, every girl wanted to be an expert.
Of course, since Harry was a baby and his haunting spirits were all girls, he got to play Dolls alot too - with him as the doll. At first this was of benefit to everyone, as Lily was not up to much so fresh after giving birth and James, while excellent in many respects, was a dad and thus not as concerned about checking for dirty diapers as often as he should be. The ghosts took care of that, with many teasing comments to Harry all the time, put him in all of the cute outfits they could find, one after another, and generally had a good time, until...
"Brrr! Honey turn the heat up will you? Harry's freezing!" Lily complained, putting yet another sweater on her boy after finding him chilled to the touch. How he got out of so many clothes she'd never know, not to mention INTO others!
"Up more?" James asked, incredulous, wearing a set of shorts and nothing else, a glisten of sweat to his body as he gestured to the hot summer day outside. "Lily, it's hotter indoors than out!"
"You feel him!" The redhead thrust her baby out to meet her husband's touch.
James, utterly incredulous, felt his son's back and admitted, "You're right, he's cold." Shaking his head, he added, "That can't be normal. Should we take him to St. Mungo's?"
"Already packing a bag now, honey. Will you floo ahead?" the tired woman added, with her husband already rushing to comply.
Not wanting to stress the family out with too many worries, or confuse the doctors with a rash of unexplained chills, the ghosts backed off a bit on 'Harry play' after that. Well, maybe not much, but they did try to be more clever about not getting caught doing it.
It was fortunate they did play with him, however, as at first Harry had trouble getting used to just accepting that he was a helpless, squalling infant. Breast feeding was a shock to his adult mind. Almost worse was getting his diaper changed. However, as a little baby he was scarcely more than a digestive tract with eyes, so there was little he could do but get used to it. During those times when his ghosts couldn't just lift him about, debate was still a big thing for Harry, there wasn't alot else he could do as a baby. So talking with his trio of ghostly friends filled most of his hours.
He'd also watched his parents, picking up memories of them for the first time. He'd watched his dad pal around with his friends, joke even when they were in danger to lighten the load of gloom off everyone, pull tricks and play with a golden snitch that he kept in his pocket, and in general be a happy go lucky, heroic, perfect father figure type man.
He'd loved seeing that part of him. It undid so much harm from having seen Snape's pensieve (memories which Harry was now certain the vindictive man had altered, only with more skill and subtlety than Slughorn's attempt at doing the same thing), because his father truly was a wonderful man.
That made it no wonder that Snape hated him, as it made the greasy git even worse by contrast when people who knew both could see the kind and generous Gryffindor and compare him to the disgusting, mean and hateful Snivellus.
As wonderful as Harry thought his father was, his mother was an equal. Lily was an angel. Nothing seemed to phase her, and she could do anything around the house with the greatest of ease. She sang to herself and her baby while she worked, and Harry memorized the tunes, treasuring them up.
Except for the fact that he was next to completely helpless in his infant body, it was everything that Harry had ever wanted and more. But being not much more than a set of eyes and ears gave him tons of time to observe, think, plan and prepare for a darker future.
Snape taught Occlumency as badly as he did Potions, the educational value nothing more than a thin veneer inadequately concealing that his true purpose was to hurt his pupils. But despite that, it was something Harry felt he had to know.
Harry had studied a book on Occlumency (thinking he'd have to fight Snape) before he got betrayed into Azkaban. Unfortunately, he'd not paid too much attention to that book when he'd had a chance, being so offended by Snape's mind-rape of him breaking every law and rule set forth in that guide, and going exactly opposite to every method of teaching it described, that he'd had trouble paying attention - something he'd bitterly regretted in the opening hours of Azkaban.
Arriving at prison, he'd done his best to recall those training techniques on the off chance that mental shields would help him hold off the dementors. But it had been too late to get an effective start, as he was sure the mental attacks would shred whatever neophyte resistance he could raise, and most probably drive him mad long before he had effective shields, even if he could surpass his own incomplete understanding and half-remembered principles to get it right. Even then, he wasn't sure that occlumency would help, but he'd wanted to try on the off chance it might.
What had ended up keeping him sane was his friends, though he still had too much fun teasing them over his supposed insanity to admit that as yet. That first month he'd even jokingly suggested that this happy dream might all be a cool delusion induced by way too many dementors and not enough food. Only a few days had gone by before he dropped that joke in favor of enjoying everything to do with his parents. Barely a month had passed before the unrelenting reality of his situation made itself inescapably clear to him - He had a chance to do it all over once again; really, truthfully live his life over again from the start, and hopefully get it right this time.
The moment of realization had been wonderful. At first, coming to accept that time had actually been wound back, he didn't know how to react. Slowly he envisioned his weirdness gauge rising at this new turn of events; after all if what he was experiencing was to be believed, he was now a month old, working on his first year of life. He hadn't gone to Hogwarts yet, he hadn't almost been killed ten times, and he hadn't been sent to Azkaban. He was free, Free!
Once more it was his friends that brought him back to Earth, this time literally, as he'd had such an explosive burst of accidental magic upon making that realization that he'd sent himself catapulting a hundred feet in the air from the baby bed where he'd been sunning beside his mother (to drive away his frequent chills).
But the ghosts caught him before he could plummet to his death. Lily and James, who had seen Harry 'fly' before, thought almost nothing of it, except to leash him against future bursts of flying and wonder about how he got cold again.
Even while they were lowering him, Harry had started excitedly chattering to his friends about all of the many possible things he could do now: he could go to Las Vegas, change himself into a mouse, become a politician, make a castle of cheese, put bets on important events... well maybe not being a politician come to think of it, but the rest, they did have merit!
Hermione had very primly informed him then, that if he wanted to make something of himself other than what he'd been the first time, that he should study. Knowledge was the only power he had that made this life any different from his last one, so he should use that to its fullest potential by improving upon his mental advantage as much as possible. Harry'd agreed, and no sooner had he done so than Luna had gone inside, borrowed a quill, and filled out an owl order form to get some Occlumency, Legilimency and other specialty, fringe or esoteric books (including a set of unusual, arcane and mysterious encyclopedias mostly regarded as junk fiction even among wizards) that they would then read to him and assist him in studying.
As a baby, Harry had plenty of time to study purely mental arts and not much else to do. It also helped his ghostly trio to feel useful to aid him in it. Thus, they did so much of it that he began learning more in a month of this study-at-home program than he did in a year of Hogwarts. For one, only sleep could distract him, nor did his friends require any time out for bodily functions. For that matter, neither did Harry, as those got taken care of for him and it actually helped distance his mind from the fact that he had his mother's boobs in his face if he was trying to master some obscure mystical mind art while eating, not that the ghostly trio restricted themselves to merely reading to him or just practicing occlumency. Oh, no!
Being who she was, Hermione soon took it upon herself to reorganize the Potter family library so she could find things better, then filled out her own orders for books. She encouraged Harry's practice at mind arts, pointing out that being an expert could hardy hurt his situation any, and could easily save them grief later on.
They did have secrets to keep, after all. And if Harry went back to Hogwarts, Snape and Dumbledore both would try to get inside of his head again. There wasn't any doubt of that. So now was the time to prepare to block out a pair of experienced Legilimencers, by reports two of the best in the world, if he wanted a chance to succeed when it happened.
Hopefully, eleven years of practice would be enough time to counter their great experience.
Ginny, being who she was, made her own orders for books, and in between the questionable romance novels were some surprisingly good books on magical history, written more as tales than as texts, of course, but still quite valuable. Actually, for all of the scarcity of hard factual data in them, they were far more approachable than the dry old texts (not to mention the deceased History Professor who'd loved them). And many of those books held the unspoken basics of a magical upbringing, the stories people were just assumed to know as part of a wizarding culture, the kind of thing so simple and integral that no one even thought to mention them to newcomers.
To natives it was like mentioning that water was wet. You didn't have to, and anyone who didn't already know was obviously a simpleton and weird to boot.
Of course, to both Hermione and Harry these were entirely new, and Luna had not bothered with them particularly before, so as Ginny's excitement spread enough to spark curiosity when she shared them they found those books a surprisingly valuable contribution.
James, being who he was, once he noticed that his library had been completely reorganized, along with strange books appearing he'd never known or cared existed (and some of which could only be pranks, like the Thirty Ways to Seduce a Korrigan) assumed that his friends had given him a celebratory prank for Harry's arrival, and promptly got into the spirit by returning the favor to them!
It was a natural assumption. The Potter library at Godric's Hollow had been startlingly big, having been assembled by two avid readers (Lily, as a talented student, and James as her equal if not better in study, just with a different emphasis - the search for pranks!), but for the most part it had been a random assortment just shoved anywhere on the shelves. So a very sober and businesslike organization of that mess, along with unexpected new titles like "Gwragedd Annwn and their Natural Habitat," not to mention that those books had been charged to JAMES, could only spell a prank, and he'd had to respond. It was a moral imperative. Not knowing who among his Marauding friends had been behind it, or if they'd all collaborated, he'd gladly responded in kind to all of them, buying them the most obscure books he could think of on their accounts as a simple acknowledgement of their zinger before starting on his own.
When they responded in kind to his response, using even more obscure titles, he assumed this was a one-upmanship contest for who could discover the most unusual and off-the-wall books to sell to his friends, and gladly got into that spirit. Thus started a prank war that no one truly knew or cared how it started, only that it lightened the load of fear considerably to have humorous books with amazingly esoteric titles arrive, to distract them from the omnipresent fighting.
The months started to pass more swiftly after that.
One MAJOR surprise to Harry was how playful his father was, always taking time out of an already stressed schedule to tickle Harry's feet and ribs, play all of the little baby games like allowing the young one to grab fingers, blow raspberries onto his tummy, toss him high into the air and catch him just as carefully as could be, and encourage him in all ways to use his little body to develop it faster.
Okay, he'd heard stories about how his father loved pranks. One or two people had said he was a great man. But there was no end of difference between hearing that and experiencing it first hand.
Besides, there had been considerable pressure to make him think that his father's pranks were mean-spirited, ugly or just undeserved. Granted, he'd never truly believed his dad was that way, but it had been hard not to doubt, just a bit, when that was all he'd ever heard about him. Of course, Snape had been just about the only one willing to talk about him. Those at Hogwarts who'd admitted to knowing his parents had stayed strangely silent about them, with even Remus, one of their best friends, barely saying three sentences about James and Lily (and practically none of that was on Lily).
All he'd ever truly heard was the reverent summary of "oh, they were great people" and Snape's constant jibes and attacks, none of which carried any real detail.
To find that his father had a fun streak a mile wide, an irrepressible good humor, able to laugh in the face of the greatest darkness, and was obviously as intelligent as he was fun, a true athlete, with a wife just as witty as he was, opened up whole vistas no description could've!
Although, a description still would've helped. One day when they discussed the topic, it was Ginny who'd pointed out that Remus had vanished from Harry's life completely and just as abruptly as he'd come into it, and it soon became the consensus that no silence as complete as Harry'd suffered under concerning something as basic as his well-known and well-loved parents, could've been accidental. And, from that conclusion, it had been the inevitable observation that only Dumbledore had the power to create or impose such a condition on Harry, who'd only even learned that his father had played Quidditch by an old trophy stuck in an odd corner of the castle!
And even that had to have been pointed out to him by a friend who'd seen it. Ron had commented at the time that it was odd, having Hermione know more about Harry's life than he did, and Harry could still recall his bitter response, "Who doesn't?" But he'd never been able to correct that ignorance in any substantial way. He'd never even seen one of those books written about his own story!
Harry had no explanation for how or why that happened, only that it had, and all of the signs pointed toward Dumbledore as the only one in a position and with authority to pull it off, getting everyone's cooperation and keeping Harry from shopping on his own. But nothing explained why he'd want to! Or why he'd wanted Harry's possessions limited to his school supplies and some gifts, and nothing else.
Hermione had even owned some of those books, bought for light reading, but she had never showed him a copy. Asking her now, the ghost revealed it had honestly never occurred to her, which struck everyone as fishy since she'd gone home for Christmas that first year knowing that Harry was desperate to know anything concerning his parents, and she'd had some material on them in her room. She could've picked those up over her break before returning from the holiday on her first year, but as she confessed now, she'd never even thought to share what she knew to ease the mind of her best friend concerning that great big gap of ignorance about his family.
For so simple a logical step to escape Hermione wasn't normal. Nor had she, once, in all of their years of schooling together, thought to quote any of those books to him, which was another very non-Hermione-like action. Showing him that trophy was the last helpful thing she'd ever done to reveal anything about his parents to Harry, and she didn't even know why she hadn't!
Yet she was in tears as she apologized to him about that now.
Luna said that had to be a very specific behavior charm. Hermione returned that those didn't exist, and Ginny pointed out that Dumbledore could have invented them. Luna had then suggested how odd it was that Harry had never purchased one of those books on his own after Dumbledore's death, in Auror school, when he'd lived in America. Or to ask for one as a gift, once he knew about them.
A very stunned Harry confessed, using almost Hermione's exact words, that it had honestly never occurred to him to do so, which again struck everyone as fishy.
In the end, no one knew for certain.
Before he'd returned to this life, Harry'd known very few things about his family at all. One, was that Petunia was his mother's sister, and claimed her parents favored Lily. Two, was trivia about their wands, dropped by Mr. Ollivander. Three, teachers had mentioned precisely three things about his parents' schoolwork: that his father favored transfiguration and his mother was gifted in both charms and potions. Four, was he'd seen the quidditch trophy that had his father's name on it. Five, he'd seen the Marauder's Map and been told by Remus that his father had helped create it, and had an animagus form of a stag. Then, he'd seen a few magical photographs and been told his parents were Head Boy and Head Girl in their day. Also, someone had mentioned once the attack had taken place in Godric's Hollow, so that was presumably where they'd lived.
All of that was trivia.
Nothing about who their relatives were, where they grew up, what foods they liked, favorite colors, quirks, if they had a sports team, what they did for a living, virtually nothing of their life stories or the most basic information you could pick up spending two minutes with someone at a stale and boring social gathering.
The details that made a stranger into a real person were all missing from that picture.
The information from Remus had come after he'd nearly lost his life to the man, and about a hundred dementors, revealed a traitor and saved the life of his oldest remaining true friend. You could think normal gratitude would've covered a little bigger disclosure than a few begrudged words covering the barest and most minimal description of the reasons you'd just risked your life?
Why had everything about Lily and James Potter been so hard to find out?
They were, in fact, near total strangers to him in every way. Harry knew more details about the families of people he'd never met, just had heard of generally among the rumor mill at Hogwarts.
A Chocolate Frog card carried as much information, if not more.
Actually, most chocolate frog cards held significantly more information than that, and Harry suddenly wondered why his parents hadn't had one. Everyone acknowledged they'd been heroes in the war against Riddle, defying him three times according to Dumbledore when he'd told him about the prophecy. People got on those cards for stuff as simple as inventing a better foot-balm. Why hadn't his parents been honored for being tragic heroes in a war that had shaped the modern wizarding world?
Or maybe they had and he'd just never seen them? Was that why, when Ron had gotten him a case of those frogs as a present, as he'd been resting up in the hospital after saving the Philosopher's Stone, they'd all already been opened before he'd even woken up from his wounds?
Ron may have been a prick, but he knew better than to open a present he'd given to someone else in order to look for stuff he wanted for his own collection. Why give the gift at all if you are going to do something like that? Besides, Ron knew Harry would've gladly given him any card he'd wanted, just for the asking, particularly if he'd needed it to complete a collection (a dry and cynical voice from Ginny pointed out that was why Ron had given Harry those chocolate frogs in the first place, as he'd known he'd share both the cards and the candy). So why deny him the pleasure of opening those boxes and eating some frogs himself?
Unless... it hadn't been Ron?
Dumbledore had been the one who'd told him it had been Ron. What if he'd lied? What if someone else had gone through those, specifically to get rid of any mentioning his parents? What other reason was there to do something like that? Except, to eliminate any cards mentioning his family, so he didn't learn anything?
They only had one good jump in them, which they gave upon being opened, so to open them 'for' Harry was to spoil most of the value of the candy. Animated frogs would also wander off, if left alone. Harry could only recall having eaten four of them. There had to be more than four to a case, right?
Come to think of it, those cards hadn't been for sale on any other Hogwarts train trip, or in Hogsmead, that he'd noticed. He couldn't actually recall seeing those candies again, but at the time he'd never thought to wonder about why.
Also Madam Pomphrey didn't look kindly on people robbing her guests while they were recuperating. No idle student, not even many teachers, could've just sat at the foot of his bunk and opened all of a case of chocolate frogs for him.
Once again, it could've been Dumbledore, but why would he do such a thing? What purpose did it serve to keep him ignorant about his parents who'd died protecting him?
No silence could be that complete by accident. Harry knew next to nothing about his family when he'd been surrounded every day by people who'd both known and loved them, been his parents' friends and teachers. And virtually all he'd known he'd picked up in his first year, which wasn't natural, and most of that had even been dropped on him by Hagrid, and Harry knew how that giant was about keeping secrets.
The only thing Harry'd ever heard with any regularity was how he'd looked like his father, but had his mother's green eyes, when he could learn as much himself by looking at virtually any picture.
Also, the only pictures Harry'd had of his parents had him in the photo - a one year frame of time that didn't tell him much about their life at all, especially since most of the poses made it seem like the entire series had been taken on the same weekend. A simple leftover shopping list would've more than doubled what he knew about his parents.
People had been more willing to talk to him about Voldemort, speaking in fearful and whispered tones about 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named', than tell him simple facts like what his parents did for a living! Or what the names of his own grandparents were.
Harry knew more about VOLDEMORT'S family than he did of his own! Lots more! He could actually put a name to some of the Dark Lord's grandparents, and one uncle! He'd heard their voices and seen a single 'at home' scene out of their lives!
All of which was pretty slender, but greater by far than what he knew about his own.
And most of what he 'knew' before was about as unconfirmable as you get, making rumors look substantial by comparison and the typical Quibbler article look as solid as stone tablets carried by Moses down from a mountain. Fred and George crafted more 'evidence' just to get an alibi to cover their tracks for a prank!
Somehow, a void had been crafted where only Snape spoke about his parents at all, and everything he'd said had been meant to make them out as horrid creatures almost as disgusting as the slimy man maligning their names and memories.
And again, everything pointed to Dumbledore, but without any reasons why.
It was maddening!
All of this speculation had distracted him from real issue, however, and that was how positively wonderful were his mom and dad! Harry was disgusted with himself, here he was in circumstances more pleasant and happier than he ever could've imagined, and he kept letting himself be sidetracked thinking about things that had hurt him before. Until one of his girls shyly mention that the worst wounds he'd picked up in his first life weren't physical, and even after you stop getting injured it takes some time to heal.
He'd just have to deal with his mental scars for a while yet.
Fortunately, James and Lily Potter were helping out enormously on that, just by being who they were and enjoying their baby. Once she was able to get out of bed and around, Lily shone. Even before then she'd often keep Harry right beside her most of the day, singing to him, smiling at him and just radiating a love unlike anything he'd ever felt before. The amount of concern Lily showed as she tenderly cared for his needs earnestly touched her young boy, once he'd gotten past the initial embarrassment.
On the other hand there was his dad, who'd never intentionally neglect his son, but had a far different emphasis by preference than making sure he was fed and changed. The Master Marauder wanted to play with his boy, showing forth a depth of fun that didn't seem to have any limit as he'd invented game after game, all of them strangely aimed to what Harry could do at the time.
There was just one thing, baby Harry had been observed flying and moving other things about. James was HAPPY to play that, using his wand to play 'Carousel' where a good few dozen objects (mostly Harry's toys) would fly through the air above Harry's head in a Merry-Go-Round pattern.
This was strangely delightful.
James, however, did everything his brilliantly devious mind could devise to get his son to play along, and move objects too. There was astonishingly no cajoling beyond the encouraging words you'd give to any infant you adored, but James had watched Harry and knew those sort of objects he was wont to summon to him, and had those dart and swoop in and out of Harry's reach. He'd also 'lose' them from a pattern, or make a delightful display of amazing flying intricacies with just one thing wrong with it, so that if that one thing were to get removed everything would be perfect.
Even with an adult mind in there, Harry soon WANTED to move things about so he could play in this game too!
The ghosts tried to stay out of this, being reluctant to be too obvious, but once when Harry had been particularly entranced by a story they'd been reading to him from magical history, that book got snatched to be a part of this game, and Harry WANTED to know how it ended! There had been so much he could relate to in that fictionalized little bit of magical history and he longed so badly to know how it ended (and if some scrap of that could be applied to his own little Dark Lord problem), not to mention that James had it dancing so close he could practically touch it...
... that Luna had wandered over and given the book to him, snatching it out of the flying display and handing it to the crying boy.
James burst out of the room, shouting, "Lily! He DID IT! I caught him this time! Harry was napping on a book, and it must've been comfortable because when I took it he almost popped out of his diaper trying to grab it back, but when I started it dancing in the air around him he BROUGHT IT TO HIM!"
The dad was bursting with pride in his son.
Harry idly began sucking on the corners of pages, wondering what this brought.
End Part Two