The Bright Side of Life
It was an amazing thing, really. Harry had practically disbelieved even a remote improvement of his physical form not a half-hour previous to its phenomenal carnal resurgence. It wasn't that he had seriously thought about not returning to his physical state, or was it? Don't think about that, he reminded himself. Ever again. It was just…very…worrisome in that regard. Voldemort's possession of Harry's body in the Department of Mysteries not one month ago had caused Harry to want to die, but that was still very different than what had happened with Jamie.
Not once could Harry, the spirit, ever recall having felt so much anguish and despair and pain that he felt like ending it all was the sole alternative out. Looking on what happens to yourself when you lose literally everything has a way of shifting your perceptions. Jamie hadn't even a hope of a hope and he knew it; nobody had known where he was for ten days, and for some reason, he had known that too. The overall defeatist quality of Jamie's actions since day one had been the things that had most disturbed Harry. That was the whole impetus behind his double's starve-out tactic, amongst many other things, so he could at least get out as soon as he possibly could. Admittedly, it was cold comfort to know that Jamie, even in his reduced state, hadn't even considered trying to beg or plead for cessation of anything from Voldemort.
And yet, with the most basic of all things—the proper cocoon of human kindness, water, and raiment—Jamie had been instilled with the most important thing one's body needs—belief that one could make it. Even when Jamie couldn't generate it from within, he'd borrowed the power from others. So carries that magic of spirit; Harry hadn't been wrong when he saw that Jamie's ability to walk out of the chamber was a physical impossibility, because it was. Harry had been blinded by extreme appearances. Hagrid and Remus didn't have such limitations; each of these men knew only too well what it was like to be judged solely on appearance or heritage…or any other factor of blood.
Human frailty and weakness was something Harry had never been able to bide by in himself. Seeing what had happened to his mirror image after Voldemort's latest doings had caused such shock within Harry, that he'd temporarily encased his heart and mind in mental layers of ice. Apparently, denial of physical acquiescence could be a double-edged sword, however. It was Lupin who had forcefully opened Harry's eyes and made him see although what had happened to his physical body was intolerable and unforgivable in its severity; it was still something that could be surmounted. Remus had also pointed out Harry…basically owed it to himself—or "Jamie"—to give this "life thing" another go.
Once again, because of the selflessness of those he knew, Harry had been preserved when otherwise incapable of saving himself—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—thrice in the space of one hour. Another miracle. It had certainly already been a night full of them. It also filled Harry with a strange mixture of consternation and admiration that he'd had to play the rescued instead of the rescuer so many times in succession. The role reversal of "saving people thing" to "people saving thing" was impossible to put into words. It was also quite heartening to know that he still hadn't gone far enough around the bend to forget feeling thankful when he should.
Harry struggled to convey his boundless gratitude during their brief celebration following Jamie's walk of victory, but words failed him once more. At the moment, the biggest reason why was because of the look on Jamie's face. He was smiling—giving Harry a genuine smile, without any hint of residual hatred. Then it slammed into Harry just why his double had been so angry. He had not yet been given a chance to show them how strong he really was. From a perspective nobody should have cause to recognise, Harry witnessed his own physical body display that ingrained need to prove himself; prove that he was still worth keeping around. That, even more than the act which inspired it would have given Harry chills, had he been able to feel them. All he could do at the moment was stare. But as he did, Harry was filled with real hope that he could make it through this—both of him. It was proof the process of healing and self-renewal had already begun.
Harry tried one last time to speak to Lupin about it outside the elevator, but Remus merely deflected it by saying, "You don't give yourself—or him—enough credit, Harry. You need to remember that even glass is made from tempered grit." And then Remus smiled, turned toward Hagrid, and affectionately squeezed a sleeping Jamie on the shoulder. Harry had the distinct feeling Remus would've done the same thing to him, had it been possible. Lupin said, "Even though it won't be a real sleep without you—still dreamless—at least he can get some semblance of rest for now. I daresay the lad could use it," and then he went to cover Jamie with the oft-discarded blanket. Bollocks to that.
"One thing, Remus." Harry still had his pride, after all. "Could we forget the blanket?"
Lupin narrowed his eyes at him paternally. "But you saw, he almost got frozen out—"
"Trust me," insisted Harry, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth, "this isn't a 'him' thing, it's an 'us' thing. He escalated, "Meaning, I think 'the lad' had the right idea. So take my word for it and ditch that infernal blanket!" Then his eyes snapped open beseechingly, "Please."
All amusement dropped off Lupin's face and he said, with just a hint of frost, "Very well, if that's how you feel about it." Then he flipped the blanket out and as the edge made the final snap, it disappeared from sight. Remus and Hagrid resumed staring toward the inside of the elevator doors.
Whoops. Perhaps Harry had been a bit too enthusiastic about his request. But honestly, he was entitled. Hadn't he been through enough tonight already? Hellfire…and here Lupin was, presuming to act like Harry was overreacting. Well forget him. Annoyingly, he heard Hagrid start to make sniggering noises behind them. Was the half-giant really laughing at Harry's anger? Talk about insult to injury. How dare they—the both of them! If there was one thing anybody should have learned from the last hour, it was that you'd end up in a very bad way if you made Harry Potter mad. He now had the power to back up his healthy temper. At the age of thirteen, blowing up Aunt Marge had just been the tip of what was an apparently colossally huge iceberg.
But then he noticed Lupin's shoulders were starting to shake. Comprehension started penetrating Harry's mind as he scowled and demanded, "Are you two actually teasing me, Remus?"
Lupin merely smiled benignly and said, "How else are we to convince you to lighten up?" Hagrid began chuckling openly now.
"Lighten up!" Harry sputtered, completely lost for words for an entirely different reason this time. Here he was, standing in this impossible magical elevator, after having come across his own funeral, after having found out his death was a lie, narrowly avoiding killing off his murderers, barely escaping being glomped by dementors, trying to psyche himself up for a rejoining to what was a dubiously depleted physical body, and now Lupin was telling him to lighten up.
"Too right," Remus replied, hidden smile making his nostrils flare. Then his eyes twinkled and he deadpanned, "Live a little."
That comment hit Harry like a sock to the chest, so he did the only thing he could. He threw back his head and laughed. Harry laughed till he cried, and then he laughed some more. Just the simple act of doing so brought on such feelings of much-needed relief; he could hardly bring it under control.
"Sorry," he said breathlessly, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes, "just when I think I've seen it all, something reminds me that I'm not quite so far gone as I thought."
heaved a great sigh of relief and said, "You have no idea how
good it is to hear you say that." Harry experienced a feeling of
déjà vu as Lupin smiled again and went on, "I'm glad I could
help remind you. It might also help to know at one point in my life,
I made a career out of diffusing the blazing tempers of those around
me. The Marauders, although friends, were definitely a fiery lot.
They weren't time-bombs or anything, but things could sometimes get
rather touchy. Adding Severus or Lily was quite the explosive
combination, I can tell you. And don't take this the wrong way,
but…you, as you are right now, are very much like James was like at
your age. Eerily like him, even. I can…see where you leave off and
he begins," finished Remus, pointing and looking over at
Turning around and contemplating the still-sleeping form in Hagrid's arms, Harry stated, "No really, it's okay. I know what you mean." He was half-surprised the comparison to his father hadn't caused him to feel any anger at all this time. "Now that I know what happened, it's made me aware of what differences to look for."
Then Harry bit his bottom lip and pondered, "There's all these—" he gestured, as if doing so would help him find words, "—pieces I can feel are missing." He hovered his ghost-white hand over his twin's face, who shivered involuntarily in response.
"And…everything else still tries to compensate for the loss, I'm reckoning. But it's still not the same." He looked up at Lupin and concluded, "Not at all."
"I can only imagine what it's like to be literally missing your other half." Remus shook his head and said deferentially, "If you must know, I can hardly believe how well you're handling this, Harry."
Smiling ruefully, Harry corrected Lupin's mistaken assessment of the situation. "Erm, I haven't exactly been a saint, Remus. When I found out who 'killed' me, I just got pissed off. Really pissed off. So, for various reasons, I let them have it. I'm not eleven years old anymore, you know."
And then he proceeded to tell Lupin, in a bit more detail, not only about the Slytherin incident, but anything else the former professor needed to be filled in on regarding the situation. Lupin and Hagrid interjected with pointed comments or questions during their ascent in the elevator, but it was still quite difficult for Harry to answer everything. He hadn't exactly got his own answers to the problems through normal, orthodox means. As a result, his knowledge was still somewhat patchy in parts. He told this to Lupin, who became intrigued with just how Harry had gone about his thought-gathering processes.
"All right," said Remus, "I understand that you know things now that you didn't know before entering the chamber. But how did you go from 'not able to be seen' as Seamus discussed, to blasting the chamber door open? And why wouldn't your Parseltongue open it in the first place?" Hagrid seemed to want to ask more questions, but for Jamie's sake, he kept movement and speaking to a minimum.
Harry got a rather…agitated look on his face and said, "The reason why my Parseltongue wouldn't open the door was because Voldemort was expecting me—as I am, right now. Remember the 'bait' issue? He knew I'd need to get inside for him," Harry pointed at his double again, determined not to get too angry this time. "What Voldemort hadn't counted on was my actually trying to use the Imperius Curse with his wand. I don't know what went on, but I messed it up somehow." Continuing with a sheepish look, Harry said, "I've seen it done before—so I knew it didn't really work—but it took me a bit to realise I couldn't actually do it. It was confusing because I knew something happened with Ginny; I just didn't know what. I still don't, either."
The corners of Harry's lips upturned as he continued mischievously, "I also can't quite explain how this happened, but…I…managed to do something to Voldemort, too. Drawing that…backlash from him…didn't just hurt me, but it hurt him somehow. So, that's why I haven't been too concerned about him showing up—wherever he is, he's not exactly in good shape."
Hagrid and Lupin gaped openly at Harry as he finished his last statement. Silence filled the elevator again that night, but it was because of complete shocked amazement this time. Remus managed to find his voice, and asked incredulously, "You mean you actually managed to take the Lord Voldemort out of commission?" Harry nodded, just a tad self-consciously. Lupin got an appreciative look on his face as he elabourated, "No wonder you had the audacity to refer to him as 'Mr. Evil.' Braggart cockiness seems to be your beholding right at the moment, Harry."
Hearing Remus point out his current change of attitude in such a succinct way would have caused Harry to blush his traditional embarrassed shade of crimson, but he turned a corresponding shade of gunmetal silver instead. He might not be eleven any more, because it was just another welcome sign that Harry was still Harry; he grinned hugely, darting looks toward the corner of the elevator and back.
"Yeah, but it's only temporary," he warned.
Hagrid agreed with Lupin anyway, but in much more frank terms, "I'd be full o' piss an' wind, m'self." After winning not just one, but two of his equivalents to a prize fight in one night, Harry had nearly fallen victim to what all cronked young men do in such situations—bragging rights. It was still odd to have someone else acknowledge the matter though, which is why Harry reacted to Lupin's and Hagrid's comments as he did. After a shared chuckle, the three of them resumed their interrupted line of conversation.
Remus studied Harry intently, "Based on what you've told me, I've got my own ideas about what you did instead of the Imperius Curse, but I need to speak with Dumbledore first to confirm it. Please continue with the description of your new abilities."
This was quite a sight harder to do, as Harry needed to find a common frame of reference in order to explain how he had done what he did. Harry didn't have a gift for detailed descriptions either, so this was going to take some doing. He decided to stick with what he knew, even if an equivalent didn't exist in the wizard world. One that Harry knew about, anyway.
"How familiar are you with Muggle cinema?" he asked Lupin.
The former professor considered and answered, "Besides something called 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which Sirius seemed to have an infatuation with in the 70s, nothing. He tried to get the rest of the Marauders interested, but it failed miserably." His nose wrinkling, Remus continued, "James, Peter, and I never figured out why Sirius fancied it so much. He would laugh like a madman at the thing, but the other three of us personally found it appalling that Muggles actually thought swallows could carry coconuts across entire continents. And the whole 'coconuts for horses' matter? If they didn't have the budget, why didn't they just share horses for their cast?"
Lupin shook his head out of pure mystification. "James tried to ask Lily about the whole 'Castle Anthrax' scene, with that ludicrous grail beacon, but she would just dissolve into fits of laughter about the thing." Contemplating Harry, Remus confusedly went on, "Much like you are now."
Harry couldn't stand it; this was just too rich. He was doubled over laughing at the uproarious hilarity of it all. For whatever reason, Sirius had picked up on the fact Monty Python had nothing to do with that Muggles really thought. Was it any wonder that his then-teenaged godfather delighted in knowing something his best friends hadn't the slightest clue about? And the fiasco that must've erupted when James attempted to ask Lily about that one scene in particular…Harry laughed even harder.
"That's not real, that's comedy!" he gasped out to Remus, between bouts of laughter. It was one of the few things Harry got to watch on Privet Drive that he actually sort of liked. Once, before Dudley had even reached an appreciable age (though Harry seriously doubted his cousin would ever reach an age of appreciation), Uncle Vernon had shown up one evening with the entire collection of Monty Python's Flying Circus movies. Aunt Petunia was none too pleased, but Vernon had the ready excuse of saying it was "for the tyke."
It was the one vice that his uncle had chiefly flouted in front of his wife; Uncle Vernon would watch the videos whenever she went out on her "evenings with ladies," which were basically just gossip sessions between any of the other women who, like Petunia, had nothing better to do than spy on the neighbours. His uncle and Dudley being none the wiser, Harry would occasionally sneak out of wherever he was supposed to be and watch his relatives laugh it up together. Harry suspected Dudley was hardly smart enough to get any but the most basic of the jokes, but it was the last thing Harry held out for his uncle not being a complete git. Otherwise, the finer points of Monty Python would've been totally lost to Vernon; especially since inane behaviour was something that just happened to come naturally to the Dursleys.
"Oh well, that's a relief," Remus answered, and clearly meant it. "The whole witch scene really shocked me. I mean, who honestly believes that really small rocks can float? All witches having warts…I'm not one to question a person's intelligence based on lineage, but I remember telling James he must've been very lucky to find a clever Muggle-born witch like Lily, and he heartily agreed. Although, wizards did have something like hand grenades back in the 13th century.…"
"STOP!" Harry shouted. "Please Remus, you're killing me here."
Then they all realised what he just said, and the three of them chuckled again. Jamie was still out like a candle flame. It struck Harry as odd that he was laughing so much, considering the present situation, but he supposed that since this was an unavoidably highly emotional set of circumstances, he'd much rather be laughing than screaming. The former felt better as well as being healthier.
"At any rate," continued Harry, wiping his eyes, "I was talking about the basic process of cinema; the way it's filmed—generally spliced together in two to three hour blocks, which makes one movie. What I'm trying to compare it to is this: picture someone filming your life constantly. That's what your memory is always doing, I guess. But…when I try to gather someone's thoughts, it's not nearly as linear. Imagine someone taking that same lifelong film and chopping it all up into random pieces and tossing them into a bin somewhere, and marking it as 'filed'. The thoughts I'm keen for do come faster if I have a focus, but it only works if I've got the proper questions to ask. And even when I find what I'm seeking, there is so much detail involved, it's much like trying to piece a single linking memory together in a series of jigsaw puzzles—one frame at a time."
Boring holes into his eyes Remus said absorbedly, "So it's quite difficult, is what you're saying."
"Extremely," agreed Harry, "I'm really, really new to it—it took me awhile. I didn't even know that's what I was doing at first."
"Is it the same way with feelings or emotions?" queried Lupin. Hagrid just seemed to be lost on the discussion and stood behind them quietly.
"Not hardly. People seem to…broadcast feelings in a way; they're much easier to pick up. I also make it a point not to—'go into' someone's head if I can help it—it seems utterly rude to do so," Harry said with complete distaste. He shrugged and explained, "Almost all of what I pick up is peripheral; Ginny was different, but I still didn't go anywhere in her head I didn't need to. What's the point in that?"
Nodding this time, Lupin answered, "You are indeed confirming my initial suspicions on what you have become in your present state. I could tell there was a certain—politeness to the way you shared my past memories with me. You weren't invasive in the slightest degree, just insatiably curious…so I'm guessing I must have…let you into my thoughts?"
Harry lifted his brows, not really knowing how to answer. "I suppose that's what you did, I really don't know. Either way, erm, thanks for…letting me read your wavelengths," said Harry, feeling distinctly stupid as he did so. He wondered if he would ever get used to the new things he could do.
They had at last reached the hallway on fifth floor, as the elevator dinged and they exited it. It was only then Harry realised it must have been enchanted size-wise, as Hagrid had fit in it without any problems whatsoever. They weren't so lucky with the hallway, unfortunately. Harry held his wand out for the lighting, and since Hagrid couldn't use a wand, Harry's wand was their sole source of light.
The half-giant had to slide sideways through the corridor, as Lupin took over the responsibility of carrying Jamie. After having witnessed piled up people negotiating cramped passageways before—Harry remembered the Whomping Willow passage all too easily—he determined not to look at how badly his body was getting abused at this point. It was better he not know how many times his head or feet had nearly slammed into the wall.
Finally reaching the end door, they all spilled into the only slightly brighter lit room. Harry was filled with indescribable happiness at the sight of what greeted him. It turned out that all of his wonderful friends had only made it as far as the tearoom before deciding they didn't want to leave yet.