ofscarletwoman: (Scarlet woman.)
[personal profile] ofscarletwoman
Author: Tarie
Title: (reflect what you are)
Pairing/Characters: Harry/Ron/Hermione; James
Summary: God, but Harry is too young to fight, to face Voldemort. If he were to die, James doesn't know what he'd do. It's too young; Harry has his whole life in front of him.

He'd been too young, too.

Rating: PG
Word Count: 4,400
Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters and universe are property of JKR, Scholastic & other assorted publishers, and the WB. Title comes from the song "I'll Be Your Mirror" by the Velvet Underground.
Notes: Written for Paracelsus! Thanks to the ever lovely [livejournal.com profile] wolf_cat for the beta and Jen and Callie for listening to my wibbling.



"What're you doing?"

"Mounting the mirror over the mantelpiece."

"Yeah, I know, but....am I mental, or didn't Hermione and I watch you bury that at Godric's Hollow?"

It's the mention of Godric's Hollow that catches his attention, that draws him to it. To the mirror. Funny, James hasn't seen a two-way mirror since the last detention he'd served for hexing Snivellus (and consequently the shelves of books which Snivellus had been standing in front of) on fire in the library during seventh year. Detention had been the day before NEWTs and Sirius'd given him the small, square mirror to sneak into his punishment with Madame Pince. The mirror he finds now looks exactly like the one he'd used to communicate with Sirius during all those detentions, only this one has several thin cracks in the glass, like someone'd broken it and performed a rushed Repair Charm on it. He huffs on it, his breath misting on the glass. Using the end of his sleeve, he wipes it clean and peers into it. He can't see much; there's something big blotting everything out. A hand.

"You're mental and yeah, you did," says the second voice, and the first snorts. James can't help but to grin. Whomever the voices belong to, they sound as though they get on well, just like Sirius and him. Sirius. Surely Sirius must be there, yes? On the other side of the mirror?

"Sirius," James says urgently, his face so close to the mirror that his nose is pressing against the cool, smooth surface.

The hand moves away and James gasps. Looming in front of him is a face almost exactly like his own, but the slightest bit different in some respects.

Definitely not Sirius.

"Hullo?"

The person on the other side of the mirror doesn't appear to have heard him; he presses a few fingers on the top of the mirror, like he's changing its position, and then he steps back.

James can see another bloke there, too. A red-haired bloke with hair not as vibrant as Lily's, a smattering of freckles across his long nose. The bloke who looks like James and this red-haired chap are in a drawing room, one James hadn't thought about in some time.

"Sirius!" James shouts again, but it's useless. They're not listening to him.

A girl with wild, frizzy hair and a determined air about her walks in the drawing room, standing in front of one of the Black family tapestries lining the wall on the far side of the room.

"Oh, Harry," she says, looking straight at James.

"Hullo!" he tries again, but the girl turns to survey the boy she called Harry with concern in her eyes.

"Are you sure that ought to be there?"

The boy called Harry nods and then he's right in front of James again, peering up at him. "It's the most that's Sirius out of anything in this whole place. Think he'd like being up here, lording over this awful place, while his mum's stuffed behind a curtain, where she ought to be."

The red-haired boy laughed and even the frizzy-haired girl smiled. "Stick it to the old hag, Sirius," he crows, and James joins in both boys' snickering when the red-haired one does the old two-fingered salute in the direction of Mrs Black's portrait.

Harry sobers up and presses two fingertips to the mirror. For some reason, James's heart swells and he reaches his own fingers out, touching this Harry's fingers, separated only by glass and time.

"Sirius," Harry whispers, eyes green and wide and old, and James suddenly knows.

"I've missed so much," James says to no one because no one can hear him.

No one can hear him and no one can see his face fall when Harry and his friends leave.

******

There is a loud -CRACK!- and James looks up. It has been a long time since he's done it himself, but he won't ever forget the sound of Apparation.

Harry is standing in the centre of the drawing room, face dirty, bloody, and worn. He takes two steps toward James - No, James tells himself, toward the mantelpiece. - and collapses into a heap on the floor. His cloak is torn and filthy, and it does little to disguise the wracking of Harry's shoulders. James can't hear any sobs, but he knows Harry is crying.

"The baby's crying, Evans," he says automatically, but there isn't any Lily to bean him over the head with her pillow and tell him to "Check on your son yourself, you lazy toerag! I've got up with him twice for feedings and, until you develop breasts of your own and alternate feeding schedules, the babby fits are your duty!" There isn't any Lily to pillow and lecture him or spoon around him and the baby when he takes the baby out of the crib and into the bed with them. He feels utterly lost.

There isn't anyone there but James, and James doesn't know how to comfort his boy, not when he's alone like this.

-CRACK!- -CRACK!-

It doesn't matter if James doesn't know how to comfort his boy, because suddenly two people that know his boy much better than he does arrive. The frizzy-haired girl and the red-haired boy look almost as worse for wear as Harry does and James' stomach does a slow flip. What happened?

"Harry..." The girl crouches down to touch Harry's shoulder. He jerks and her hand slips away.

"Don't, Hermione," he chokes, lifting his head to look up at her with wet eyes.

"It isn't your fault, mate," the red-headed one says, his mouth scrunching to one side. "You can't-- You couldn't save everyone."

"It is my fault, Ron!" Harry explodes, bolting to a stand. "All of this is, all of it! IT'S ALL MY FAULT, REMUS IS DEAD, AND I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT OF THEM ANYMORE."

James feels sick to his stomach. Remus, dead? Not Moony....

Yes, Moony. As much as he doesn't want to believe it, he has no choice but to do so. Harry said he's dead and so Remus must be dead.

Ron and Hermione stare at Harry, James stares at Harry, and Harry stares at a spot in the floor, his jaw clenched and his frame tense.

"No," Ron says finally, his voice calm and matter-of-fact, cutting through the tension, "but you have us."

"You do." Hermione nods, taking hold of Ron's hand, eyeing Harry carefully. "As long as you have us, you have them all, in a way." She reaches a hand out, fingers stopping just short of brushing over Harry's knuckles.

Harry's chin lifts. His lower lip is trembling and James's fingers curl tightly around the edges of the square mirror.

"I can't do this," he chokes, grabbing hold of Hermione's hand.

"Yes," Hermione says automatically, stubbornly, pulling Harry's hand over to place it on top of Ron's and her hands. "You can."

"You can," James echoes, and he can't watch anymore.

******

James awakens to find Ron's face looking in his mirror.

"Hullo?" James tries again half-heartedly but, as he'd suspected, Ron didn't hear him. He sighs and rocks on his heels, wondering what's going on now. He's only seen Harry and his friends twice, and the last hadn't been good at all. While he couldn't entirely know what is going on because they don't see James or hear his questions to answer, James is fairly certain what is going on in the wizarding world and with his son. Voldemort and that damned prophecy. God, but Harry is too young to fight, to face Voldemort. If he were to die, James doesn't know what he'd do. It's too young; Harry has his whole life in front of him.

He'd been too young, too.

"What're we doing here?" Ron's brow furrows and James would repeat the question for emphasis if he thought there'd be a chance Harry and Hermione, who are standing near one another next to one of those dead creepy glass cabinets, would hear him, he'd say it.

"Needed a place to think. This seems as good a place as any," Harry shrugs.

"What, you couldn't think at Mrs Figg's cottage?" Ron doesn't say it, but James gets the distinct impression he'd quite liked it at Mrs Figg's cottage.

"This house has an excellent library," Hermione interjects, and James is strongly reminded of Lily for some reason. He smiles, Ron rolls his eyes, and Harry's face lights up.

"It does! I bet there're books here that not even Hogwarts has," he says eagerly, and James almost can't believe the abrupt turn-around in his son's demeanor. He looks excited and nearly optimistic.

"Oh, honestly," Hermione says, shaking her head. "Don't you know anything about your own house? The library here has a great number of rare books, five hundred thirty-seven to be exactly, and many that are so controversial that they are illegal to own, though I suspect they've been in the Black family since they were printed, which certainly would pre-date Ministry rule on such matters."

Ron goggles. "Don't tell me you inventoried the library in between de-Doxifying the curtains."

That earned him a glare. "Fine. I will tell you no such thing, then."

Harry laughed, prompting Hermione to make a disgusted noise and stalk off, presumably for the library.

"She's mad," Ron says in awe, and James can't blame him. From what he can remember, the Black library is enormous. "Hatter-like, even."

"Reckon she'll have a tea party waiting for us in there?" asks Harry. The smirk that curves his mouth is exactly like James's.

"Shuddurp," Ron says sullenly, crossing his arms about his chest.

"There might be treacle," Harry entices.

"All right," Ron relents. The two leave James alone to memories of treacle and talk and scheming till the wee hours of the morning in the Gryffindor common room with his own mates.

******

-CRACK!- -CRACK!- -CRACK!-

"Hermione, help me with him!"

There is panic in his boy's voice and James snatches up the mirror, heart hammering nearly in his throat. He can't see what's going on; Harry's back is to him and he's crouching over something - someone- with Hermione huddled next to him, her bushy hair bouncing as her shoulders quiver beneath them.

"Do you have it?" she asks, voice high and panicking.

"I don't give a fuck about it right now, Hermione!" Harry roars and she falls backwards, landing on her bum, giving James a clear line of sight as to just what is going on. "Help me!"

Ron is on the floor, his whole frame shaking violently. There's a sheen on his skin, his clothes are sticking to him, and his mouth--

There's foam coming out of his mouth, thick and fast, and it's frightening. James isn't even there with them and he feels like someone's piled a boulder on his chest to press him; he can't imagine what Harry and Hermione must be feeling.

"What should I do?" Hermione moans, and Harry leaps to his feet.

"I dunno. Something," Harry gasps, pivoting this way and that as though he's expecting help to arrive any minute. Then James can see some thought just dawn on Harry, like someone's illuminated a wand in a pitch black room unexpectedly. "Don't go anywhere," he says, and Hermione nods, blinking back tears as she stares down at Ron.

"You'll be all right," she tells him, shakily flicking and swishing her wand at him, performing a few charms to strengthen his energy and ease his pain. He's still frothing, though, and James doesn't know what good can come of this at all. "Stay with me, Ron," she whispers. Her wand makes a small noise as it hits the hardwood floor, but she doesn't seem to notice that she's even dropped it. Her hands cup Ron's face and she's whispering now, her voice too low for James to hear, but he doesn't need to hear what she's saying to know what's going on. She loves him. It's plain to see, and painful to see right now when he's so badly off and she knows it. Hermione knows it; she knows it with every breath and every heartbeat. How can she not? One of her hands brush back a shock of ginger hair that had been plastered to his forehead, her lips press against the bared skin, and James grits his teeth.

Hold on, he thinks. Hold on. Nothing is as bad as seeing someone you care about die. Nothing. He can't begin to imagine how Lily had felt back in Godric's Hollow all those years ago, nor can he begin to imagine how Hermione must be feeling now.

"Move," Harry gasps, and James starts; he'd not even noticed Harry come back in. "Found one."

The 'one' in question is a bezoar stone. James sees just a flash of it before Hermione is laughing-crying, tilting Ron's head back while Harry's shoving it in his mouth.

"C'mon," Harry says, thumping a hand on Ron's chest.

James can see a swallow and then Ron is coughing, Hermione is laughing more than crying, and Harry - relieved and still a bit shaken-looking - is kissing Hermione soundly on the lips.

James blinks, then shakes his head. Had he been wrong?

More coughing sounds come from Ron and the two pull apart, grinning down at him. "What 'bout me?" he asks weakly, a small grin forming on his face.

"What about you?" Harry asks. Hermione says "Boys" and then she and Harry both are pressing kisses against either side of Ron's face. Ron's hands pull at their shoulders and tug them down against him, and James doesn't know what to think or feel because this isn't...this isn't like anything he's seen or thought about before.

The way they're all holding onto and looking at each other is the same way he'd used to hold onto and look at Lily. But he and Lily were two people, like it was supposed to be. Right in front of him were three people, and that's one too many.

Isn't it?

"Why've I always got to be the poisoned one?" Ron mumbles.

Harry lifts his head and grins. "'Cos you love the taste of bezoar stone?"

"Eurch! It's dead disgusting, that. Honestly," Ron grumbles, and James looks away after Hermione gives Ron a light kiss and then Harry.

"You're just lucky he remembered such a thing," she says.

"That book was good for something, eh?" Harry asks.

"I still think using the Prince's book was wrong."

"Still sore Harry got better marks in Potions than you?" Ron sounds amused, but the noise James is fairly sure is coming from Hermione is anything but.

"I've got it," Harry announces, cutting the impending row off at the pass.

"Ravenclaw's brooch is the last Horcrux," Hermione says, and James's head snaps toward the mirror again. Horcrux? He'd only heard that word once or twice in his lifetime, but it was a word that'd stayed with him. Dark magic for an awfully dark wizard. Why hadn't he-- they -- thought of that before?

"You know what that means," Ron says, mirth completely gone.

"Yeah, I do." James gets the feeling that Harry is talking to himself more than anyone. "Time to kill or be killed."

"Not my son," James pleads, feeling as though someone has just doused him in scalding water. Heat and pain and ache beyond anything imaginable. "Not my son!"

There isn't anyone to hear him.

******

"Move the settee, Hermione!"

They're back and James can't take up the mirror fast enough. His breath fogs up the glass's surface, anxiety and excitement flooding through him. Harry. Where is Harry?

"I'm moving it, Ron," Hermione snaps impatiently, her wand a flurry of movement. The settee levitates, shifts, and plops down in the centre of the room. Ron plumps up the pillows, then runs out. Hermione stands there wringing her hands, and it's easy to see that she's exhausted and worried and elated all at once. "Sit down," she says abruptly, and James nearly cries when Ron re-enters the room, his arm slung around Harry's shoulders, helping him limp to the settee.

Down Harry goes, sinking deeply into the cushions.

Then he promptly vomits on his trainers.

"You did it, Harry," Hermione says, the surprised look on her face betraying her confident tone.

Ron spells the mess away and gives Hermione a sharp look. "Of course he did. Now leave off and give him some ruddy room, woman."

Hermione returns the sharp look and James, unlike Ron, has the sense to flinch. "Oughtn't you do the same, man?" she asks, imitating his tone.

Harry, who'd been wheezing and pressing his hands against his temples, looks up at the both of them. "Get a room," he says weakly, somehow managing a grin, although James doubts he's all entirely there.

"Not without you, mate," Ron says with a smirk.

Hermione flushes and rolls her eyes. "Harry's just defeated Voldemort, thereby fulfilling the prophecy and ensuring that the future of the wizarding world won't be in the wrong hands, and all you can think about is sex, Ron?"

"So was Harry!" he protests, pointing at Harry.

Harry shrugs. "We're eighteen. What do you expect?"

The corners of her mouth twitch and James is sure she wants to laugh. Hell, he wants to laugh, so he does. James throws his head back and laughs long and hard, remembering what he and Sirius and Remus and even Peter had been like at that age - exactly the same. They'd come back from missions during which they'd almost got killed at least three time and still the first thing on their mind would be bedding birds. Like father, like son.

"I'm really proud of you, Harry," Hermione says finally, not dignifying his question with a response.

"Me too," Ron adds.

"Me three," James breathes, watching the way Ron's and Hermione's shoulders brush against Harry's when they sit on either side of him, the way they both reach for him, the way Harry is surrounded by two people who obviously love him very much.

Maybe three isn't too many here after all.

*****

There's an awful lot of commotion in the drawing room, as well as a lot of people. James isn't sure what's going on, but there are witches and wizards young and old, a good number of whom he recognises - Mad Eye Moody, Minerva McGonagall, Hagrid, Arthur Weasley.... All of them are along the back wall, staring expectantly at a thin, red-haired man with horn-rimmed glasses who is dressed as though he's the head of the Ministry of Magic, which he might very well be. Harry and Ron are on either side of him in dress robes, flushed and smiling. Hagrid takes a recorder from one of his pockets and begins to play something soft and sweet (and flat, but that is neither here nor there), and everyone turns to watch Hermione enter the room. Bedecked in floaty blue dress robes and flowers in her hair, she looks stunning and James finds himself 'oohing' with everyone else before it hits him what is going on.

He is witnessing his son's wedding, if one can call it a wedding between three people.

Filled with pride and elation that his son is alive and safe and happy, James doesn't hear most of what's happening, but it doesn't matter. He can see it, can see how normal and loved Harry is, and that is more than enough.

The only way this day would be more perfect would be if Lily was there beside him. But she isn't, so he is alone.

The important thing is that Harry isn't, not anymore.

*****

"Don't!"

Hermione's voice is loud and cracks, and James is surprised to see how utterly broken she looks.

"Hermione, maybe we could go back to the Muggle doctors again," Harry says slowly, either not seeing the 'cut it out' motions Ron is making with his hands or ignoring them.

"I can't do this anymore," she says, so close to the mantelpiece and James now that he can count the tracks of tears on her cheeks. Eleven. "I can't be poked and prodded and tested. I just can't!"

"You don't have to be." Ron's voice is low, soothing, and he places a hand on her back. She shivers.

"What about--"

"Don't say it," Hermione whispers. "Please. We just aren't meant to have a family. I know that now."

"We do have a family," Harry says faintly, and part of James's heart breaks a little at the catch in his voice.

"We do," Ron says firmly, motioning for Harry with his free hand.

Together, they wrap Hermione up between them and hold her, and James is struck for the first time at how slight she truly is. He's never seen her this vulnerable before, but Harry and Ron obviously have because they know just how to touch her, just how to look at her. "You 'n me 'n Harry. There's your family."

When she tilts her face back to see them, she's still crying, but James catches the way her lips curve into a tiny smile.

His son married a good man.

*****

Merlin, but time flies.

When had Harry got grey at the temples?

James hadn't even noticed it happen, but it's there. Shock of silver-grey standing out against jet black impossibly messy hair.

His son is a grown man and a fine family man, thoughtful and supportive and there for both his partners.

James can't be more proud.

*****

"Oy, Ron!"

"Ron, come on!"

Harry and Hermione are standing in front of the Christmas tree the three of them had put up the other day, all beaming and a bit giggly, more childish than they were the very first time James laid eyes on them all that time ago.

"Whaaaaaaaat?" Ron groans, hopping on one foot while he pulls a wellie off the other. "Just got in, for god's sakes. Can't a man sit down, read the paper, and have a cuppa before his lesser halves start whinging?" he asks, flinging an offending wellie at Harry's head. Harry deftly deflects it while Hermione beckons him closer.

"We've only been waiting for you for nearly an hour," she scolds. "If you'd perhaps send Tumnus with a note from time to time, we wouldn't be so impatient when you're late."

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbles, both wellies off now. "What's so important?"

"Oh, nothing," Harry says innocently. "Only this." He and Hermione step away from the tree to reveal a large box complete with a huge red bow on the lid.

"Blimey, what's that?" Ron asks, eyes rounding. "Christmas isn't till next week!"

"We know," Hermione says smugly. "Go on, then."

"Open it," Harry encourages. From inside the box is a muffled yip and Ron falls to his knees, ripping the lid off. A puppy, all squat-legged and wrinkled, propels itself out of the box and Ron laughs, keeling over. The puppy crawls atop him, licking his face exuberantly, and Hermione and Harry beam at one another.

"Thought you said you didn't want a pet, Harry," Ron gasps, laughing as he twisted this way and that to avoid the puppy's kisses.

"I didn't," Harry says. "But you did, so we thought you might like him, after the week you've had."

"Happy Christmas, Ron," Hermione says, stooping down to pet the puppy.

"My husband and wife are bloody brilliant," Ron shouts, then screeches as the puppy mistakes his hand for a chew toy.

James chuckles and sings a holiday song he'd not thought of in a very long time under his breath. "God rest ye merry hippogriffs...."

*****

"Harry!"

James glances up, expecting to see Neville Longbottom, a long-time friend of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, in the drawing room. When Harry puts his issue of Quidditch Weekly down on the settee and approaches the mantelpiece, James figures that Neville's head must be in the fire, then.

"Hullo, Neville," Harry says, and James feels as puzzled as Harry looks. While Neville has been a frequent guest in Harry's home and taken the Floo in many times, he's never had a Firechat. "What can I do for you?"

"St Mungo's-- now--" Neville pants, and Harry goes as white as a sheet.

"Why?" he asks, and James closes his eyes. He doesn't want to see this.

"Accident-- Knight Bus-- dragons-- Ron-- Hermione--"

Neville is still choking out the details when Harry Apparates.

*****

Harry has aged ten years in the last few days, the grey spreading from his temples to most of the rest of his hair now. He is thinner than ever before, eyes red-rimmed and hard. James presses both hands to the mirror, wishing like hell he could touch Harry, hold him, let him know that someone is still there for him.

A few days after the funerals, Harry stopped accepting visitors, even if they were his in-laws. All he does is sit on the settee, draped across its length, Ron's old bulldog sitting dolefully on his lap. Harry stares at the ceiling as he ignores the steady hum from the wireless set. Hermione always liked to have it on low for background noise and James supposes he hasn't turned it off yet because that would mean Hermione is really gone.

All Harry does is sit on the settee, so James takes notice right away when Harry sits up and crosses to the mantelpiece, his own fingers pressing so hard against the mirror that they hurt. Harry's doing something; James can see his arms moving but he can't see down to the mantel. He figures, though, that Harry is turning their wedding portraits and family pictures around so he doesn't have to look at them.

"Harry," James says, aching everywhere. Aching everywhere for Harry and for himself.

Harry looks up. A long time ago, James might have thought that Harry was looking at him, but James knows better. No one can see him. No one can hear him.

"D-dad?" Harry croaks, and James's heart stops mid-beat.

Inhale. Hold.

"Harry?" James asks slowly, barely daring to believe.

"I can see you," Harry rasps, and James exhales so quickly and forcefully that it hurts.

"I'm here, son," he says. "Always have been, always will be."

"Dad," Harry breathes, and neither one of them are alone anymore.
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