The first time Harry discovered his talent, all he wanted was out of his cupboard. So, of course, his body flattened until it looked like an elephant made a Harry Pancake.
Of course, he freaked out at first. He'd stared at his thinner-than-usual hands and forearms. Then he realized that he could fold himself up and stash himself under the shortest shelf if he wanted. Then, following that train of thought, he realized that he could slide under the cupboard door.
He very nearly whooped with joy, and did just that.
Harry was three.
The next time he utilized his ability, he was alone and curious and standing in front of a mirror.
Can I do it again? he wondered.
He stood in front of the mirror for ages, wondering what to do. He had remembered that he had wanted out of his cupboard, nothing specific. His ability had just shown up and got things done.
What would it be like to be really small? Like, Alice-in-Wonderland-ate-the-shrinking-mushroom, small, he wondered.
Goosebumps broke out all over his body as a tingling swept through him. He hurriedly pulled himself onto the counter, and just as well. His feet barely reached the end of the lip of the counter.
Shaking, Harry pulled himself up into a standing position, looking around the bathroom in awe. Everything was huge! He was shorter than the faucet! Granted, the faucet was about six inches tall, but still.
Harry scooted behind said faucet as one of the male teachers walked in. Harry's heart pounded. Despite the faucet being taller than him, he was wider than it. He was sure to be seen, and that would raise a whole bunch of questions.
His shoulders narrowed, and he had to do a double take when his skin went the same color as the faucet.
The teacher came out of a stall and turned on a faucet—the very one that Harry was hiding behind. Then he turned it off, grabbed a couple paper towels, and left.
Harry exhaled, watching his skin turn back to its normal color, his shoulders broadening again.
If…If I can master this, I could run away from the Dursleys, he thought, staring at his tiny self in the mirror. I could get a job, live on my own. Anything would be better than daily 'Harry Hunting'.
He was six.
Harry stuck out his hand, smiling at the librarian. "Hi, my name is Jim Evans. Do you need any work done around here? I'm looking for a job to cover my expenses for food while I'm in college."
Understanding lit in her eyes. "Can you shelve books? Better yet, can you fix leaks?"
Harry smiled, thankful that he spent so many hours in the library when he was younger. "I can shelve once I figure out where everything is, and I can fix roofs, but not pipes." He gave a lopsided smile. "I've never had a problem with pipes."
She looked like she could hug him. "We've got two leaks, each in the corners of the building. Could you look at those? We can pay you £8 an hour."
"£10 for fixing each part of the roof and £8 for shelving books," Harry bargained.
"Done!" she agreed.
"I need a ladder," he said. "You have one?"
She pointed down an aisle. "Go down that aisle until you reach the wall, then turn left and you'll see a door. That's the supply closet. Our regular ladder won't help you get on the roof," she chuckled, gesturing at the ladder with wheels on the bottom that was attached halfway up the shelves.
"Uh, no," Harry agreed. "Thank you for the job. You've saved me from pulling out a loan."
Jim managed to rent a small flat in Stratford from the money he'd made so far. He actually liked his job—it was a quiet place, most customers were polite, and when he didn't have anything to do (which was rare), the woman who'd hired him—Amy Finnegan—allowed him to sit and read whatever struck his fancy.
And he was no longer constantly hungry. Definitely a plus.
His seven-and-a-half-year-old self was finally filling out. Jim never thought that his aunt making him make breakfast (and every other meal) would ever come in handy, but it did. He was allowed to experiment when he had the money to buy extra food.
He was saving up money for a house on Rowley Crescent, which looked like an overgrown haunted house made out of brick, judging by the picture. The asking price was for £79,950, which he thought was ridiculous, considering it looked like a dil-a-pi-dat-ed piece of clay. He thought it should be something more like £50,000 or £60,000. Besides, it'd been on the market for quite a while now, they were probably anxious to get rid of it.
He sighed. Jim knew that they probably wouldn't let it go for anything less than £40,000, and then he would feel like he was ripping them off, because the location was actually pretty good.
Oh, well. He can save up.
Jim had gotten so used to his older persona Jim Evans that he almost never answered to Harry Potter anymore. Jim had fully intended never to go back to it, either, until he rolled out of his bed in his new house and found a letter addressed to Harry Potter.
"Magic schools," Jim mused aloud, skimming the letter. "Magic boarding school? Oh, heck no!"
The owl that delivered it to him chirped questioningly.
"Hang on," he said, holding up his hands at the owl in a 'wait' position. He ran to the tap and filled up a shallow bowl full of water and sliced and diced an apple. He set it in front of the obviously tired owl and then wrote a short letter:
My name is Harry Potter. I got a letter about the Hogwarts magic boarding school. I'm honored that you mailed me an invite, however, I will respectfully decline.
He stuck the letter in the envelope and sealed it, and then stuck a smiley-face sticker on it just to be sure.
"Hi," he said gently. The tawny owl looked up. "Would you mind taking this to the Headmaster of Hogwarts?"
The owl chirped, took flight, and snatched the letter from Jim's hands.
"Have a good flight!" Jim called, feeling foolish.
The owl gave him a look over her shoulder saying that she thought he was nuts.
Jim shrugged and stuck his head back inside.
The next day, there was a knock on his door at an ungodly hour of the morning.
Jim opened the door, yawning, rubbing one eye with the heel of his palm. "May I help you?" he asked politely, however groggy he was.
"Mr. Potter, I am Professor McGonagall," she said sternly.
He closed his eyes and then blinked them open. "From the—uh—warts on the hog?"
"Hogwarts, yes," she said.
"I apologize," he mumbled. "I'm definitely not awake. Please come in while I make myself some coffee and finally be coherent."
Whatever McGonagall was expecting, that wasn't it, but she stepped inside anyway, looking around the house. At stark contrast to the exterior, the interior was inviting, even if it was messy. Boxes and dropcloths were scattered everywhere. Paint rollers were in the sink. The couch was covered in an old blanket, obviously to keep it from being splattered with paint.
To her astonishment, Jim pointed drowsily at the couch and the blanket vanished. The coffee machine in the kitchen rattled while it brewed.
Jim was clearly still trying to wake up, leaning against the wall with his eyes half-closed as he waited. He wandered into the kitchen after about a minute just as the coffee shut off.
Jim came back in and sat on the coffee table, coffee mug in hand, already half-drained. He looked a lot more awake.
"Much better," he declared. McGonagall sat on the couch across from him warily. "So, why is a Hogwarts professor in my house? I thought I sent a letter. Did the owl not take it?"
"She took it to Albus," McGonagall reassured him. "However, we were not expecting a rejection letter from you, of all people."
Jim raised his eyebrows. "'Me, of all people'? What is that supposed to mean?"
"Harry, you're a wizard."
Jim looked at the Professor as if she were stupid. "Yes, I got that. I've kind of figured that since I was three. I definitely knew that when I got the letter yesterday, Professor McGonagall."
McGonagall frowned. "Okay, Mr. Potter. How about the fact that you're famous in our world?"
That got Jim's attention. "Whatever for?" he asked, bewildered.
McGonagall sat forward. "For just over a decade before your birth, Mr. Potter, the Wizarding World in Britain was under attack by the most feared Dark Lord alive. Your parents, Lily and James Potter, were part of a secret order that pledged to bring Voldemort down. But, when you were fifteen months old, your parents were betrayed by a close friend and were killed by Voldemort himself. And the thing is, he tried to kill you, as well. But when he cast the Killing Curse towards you, it rebounded and hit him. You're called the Boy-Who-Lived—because you're the only person in all of history to ever survive the Killing Curse."
Jim's hand went to his forehead slowly, obviously deep in thought. "So basically, I'm famous for not dying at the hands of a psychopath?"
McGonagall nodded once.
Jim rolled his eyes. "Wizarding World is stupid. No, Professor, I'm not going to your school."
"Mr. Potter, Hogwarts is one of the top schools in England."
Jim looked vaguely irritated. "Yes, Professor, I am aware. I work in a library, therefore, I have to be able to read. And I read that letter forwards, backwards, and inside out. I am aware that Hogwarts is a prestigious magical academy. I am aware that your Headmaster has more titles than he probably knows what to do with. I am aware of Diagon Alley, found in central London and hidden from the non-magical populace. I am aware of quite a few things, Professor. If I need help from the magical portion of the world, I will be sure to contact you."
"Mr. Potter, standard procedure for Muggleborns who refuse to go to a magical school is to bind their magic and obliviate the knowledge that magic exists."
Jim raised an eyebrow. "Oh, so now you're threatening me? Wonderful. Well, I'll tell you something, McGonagall, I am not a Muggleborn, and if you try to obliviate me, you will have to go back to when I was three and flattened myself to fit under a doorway. Bind my magic. I don't care. It would be mildly annoying to have to find another job, but I could do it."
McGonagall started at the venom in his voice. He sounded disturbingly like Snape. She stood, turned on her heel, and vanished with barely a whisper.
The doorbell rang just as Jim was about to walk out of the house to go to work. He opened the door, to come face-to-face with a pale man with greasy black hair. Jim raised an eyebrow. "Normally I would ask if you were a chemist, but you definitely are magical, so I must ask if you brew potions often."
Surprise flittered across the pale man's face. "Yes, I do. I'm a Potions Master."
Jim nodded, satisfied. "I need to get to work, so I must see you later."
"Wait!" the man snapped. "Where's Mr. Potter?"
Jim rolled his eyes to the sky. "I've been called that more in the past three days than I have my entire life," he muttered. "I don't go by Harry Potter anymore, sir. I left that name behind when I ran away from my abusive relatives. I go by Jim Evans now. I signed up for a job under that name, this house is under that name, and I altered my name legally to fit that name. Harry Potter is no more. I tolerated it from McGonagall because she didn't know, up until the point where she threatened me."
He turned and jogged away, leaving the man gaping on his house's doorstep.
When Jim came back home from work, the man had set up shop.
"Neat," he remarked, staying a safe distance away from the bubbling potion. "What's this supposed to do?"
"Headache reliever," the man answered curtly.
"Mm," Jim hummed in understanding.
The man glanced at Jim. "You don't have your face stuck over the cauldron," he said, sounding vaguely surprised.
Jim raised an eyebrow. "Really? Of course not. You never breathe in fumes from something in its raw form or if it's potentially toxic. The only fumes I ever breathe are my own cooking, and even that's hazardous sometimes."
The man snorted.
"So, why are you here? Hogwarts professor? Or just a passing, interested Potions Master?" Jim questioned.
"Hogwarts professor," the man scowled. "Severus Snape."
Jim raised an eyebrow, leaning against the wall of his house, watching the Potions Master slice and dice some kind of herb quickly and evenly. He let his body shift back into its original state, an eleven-year-old boy with unruly black hair, high cheekbones, and startling green eyes. "They put you with a bunch of inexperienced kids? I'm not sure who I should feel sorry for."
Snape's head snapped up at Jim's changed voice.
"What?" Jim asked, amused. "You really thought I skipped a couple years and turned twenty-two when the world wasn't looking? And here I thought you were more versed in the properties of magic than I was."
"You sounded like your mother for a second there," Snape said softly.
That threw Jim. "You knew my mother?"
"Very well," Snape nodded. "She lived down the block from me. Her and her sister, whose jealousy obviously changed from her sister to her son."
Jim winced. "Yes, she seemed determined to beat the abnormality out of me."
Snape's face pulled an expression that seemed something like a screwed up grimace. "Lily would've beat Petunia eight thousand ways to Sunday if she were living and learned that her sister had harmed you severely."
"I'm not sure if you're grimacing or laughing," Jim remarked.
The Potions Master shrugged. "Mostly grimacing. Seems to be the expression that I make the most often nowadays."
Jim stayed silent for a while, watching the man with obvious interest.
"Why?" he finally asked.
Snape's hand jerked and he nearly cut off his finger. "What?"
"I asked why. Why is that your most frequent expression in this day and time?"
"Probably because you're working at Hogwarts," Jim remarked. "You seem to like open spaces. Yet, your skin is pale from being inside frequently. Why do you stay? Why don't you just ask for another classroom?"
Snape's hand stilled.
"You should probably wear some color, as well," Jim said dryly. "I like black as much as the next person, but too much is just plain depressing. Tying your hair back would help with not getting hair in the potions and lessen the 'severely cranky' look. You know they have conditioner for chemists that lessens the fumes' effect?"
"I'm an idiot," Snape mumbled.
"No, you just don't look past your nose," Jim corrected. Snape glared at him. "Oh, please, my boss's glare is worse."
The boy turned and let himself into the house.
Snape stared after him, for once utterly confused.
"Dumbledore wants you to come to Hogwarts," Snape said curtly when Jim opened the door.
Jim's eyes crossed in exasperation. "Yes, I got as much from when I got the invitation letter. No. I'm not coming. I don't want to come. I just got this house not three months ago, and I'm almost finished painting, and I'm not going to a boarding school because then this place will be even more of a disaster than it already is! I have bills to pay! I have a job! I'm not going to some stupid school because the idiotic Headmaster who has already asked me at least three times wants me to come to his school!"
He walked forward, and Snape braced for the impact, considering that Jim was right in front of him, but it never came. He turned around, and Jim was jogging, halfway down the street, just as he did the morning that Snape came the first time.
Jim grabbed the doorknob and wrenched it open, irritation all over his face. An old man stared at him over half-moon glasses. Jim's eyes narrowed further, and slammed the door in his face.
He turned around, and the man was precariously balanced on the back of the couch, obviously not expecting where he was. "Get out of my house!" Jim screamed at him. "I'm so sick of you people not knowing the word no!"
"My name is not Harry!" Jim screamed at him. "I've been going by Jim Evans for the past four years, you bloody cretin!"
"Harry—Jim, I'm sorry—"
"Get out!" he screamed, thrusting his hand forward. The old man flew backwards and then up, forcefully propelled out the chimney like a rejected Santa Claus. There was a loud thump as the old man landed heavily on the roof. A loud CRACK and the man left. Jim thrust his hand down, and the magic that he'd stored for something exactly like this exploded out of him and wrapped his entire property in secrecy.
Far away, Snape was resisting the urge to let loose a full-blown laugh as the Headmaster stumbled in, trailing soot behind him.
Later, he received a note:
Ask your precious Headmaster if he wants a job as a chimney sweep. He cleaned mine beautifully.
He couldn't help it, his laughter ringing through the dungeons, startling a bunch of birds, bats, and insects.
"Harry Potter has disappeared," McGonagall told Dumbledore bluntly.
"Hardly unexpected," Snape drawled, a superior smirk on his face. "Jim Evans harbors quite a bit of resentment against you two."
"Why?" McGonagall snapped.
Snape raised his eyebrows. "Would you like his list chronologically or alphabetically?"
McGonagall glared at him.
Snape shrugged. "Chronologically it is, then. He has a house that he's fixing up, if he leaves to come here, it'll be even more overgrown than it already is. He has bills he has to pay. He has a job. And I doubt that he likes people pestering him any more than I do. And then there's the fact that he already has a tight handle on his magic—enough of a handle not to need a wand to neatly dispose of the Headmaster, or to magically vanish or move a dropcloth, or turn the coffeepot, the stove, or the oven on. How do you think he's disappeared?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Magically," he conceded. "Do you know why he wasn't at his relatives?"
"They were abusive, and he ran away when he was seven," Snape replied promptly.
He was getting good with his shape-shifting. When he was younger, he'd have to sit there for nearly a full minute, practically dancing in place as whispers and tingles drifted across his skin and changed his bone structure. So he wasn't exactly expecting sheer and utter pain when he watched a couple birds play and wished he could fly.
His back arched, a wordless cry of surprise and pain escaping his mouth. He could feel his bones realigning, lightening, hollowing, something shifting inside him, new bones and muscles growing with incredible speed, ripping through his shirt.
And then it stopped with an abrupt lurch that sent Jim toppling to his hands and knees, gasping. A great black tent expanded from his back, and he lifted his head curiously, and the 'tent' shivered and lifted into the unmistakable visage of wings.
I…I thought I could just do people, Jim thought weakly, stunned. Alter my shape and size and such.
He waited until nightfall. Between acquiring the wings and nightfall, he worked on manipulating them.
But as soon as his wings touched the cool night's air, they apparently had experience, and launched into the air, dragging Jim with them.
Jim was so glad that there wasn't anyone around for a couple miles—they probably would've heard him shriek and have to come investigate.
He wrestled for control—they're my body parts, damnit!—and dropped a couple feet and shrieked again like a little girl. He swooped for a tree and just barely managed to catch himself on a branch. His wings—god, that sounds so weird—twitched, obviously wanting to get back into the air, but he wrenched them back, resisting the urge to turn around and glare.
Jim took a couple deep breaths, looking at the ground far below warily. He took a deep breath, held out his arms, and let himself fall.
His wings snapped out joyously, and Jim wrenched control back, flapping his wings hard and launching himself into the air, higher and higher and higher. He grinned as he panted from the exertion, circling around his home six hundred feet above. His bare torso had goosebumps covering it. Jim began his descent, circling around his property in a wide spiral, and landing with only a twisted ankle and a couple stumbles.
Jim flopped onto the couch, belly-down, and said into the arm of the couch: "That was…awesome!"
He exhaled, and his wings vanished, and Jim fell asleep.
Severus stared in disbelief as the snowy owl practically banged its head against the window, looking very much like Jim when he was aggravated.
He opened the window and the owl flew in, dragging a large black bag trimmed with emerald green.
"'I have found myself in quite a few queer places since the summer'?" Snape muttered. "'Did you know that hellebore vine likes the top of oak trees? I didn't know that. I got some of the nectar—trust me, that was a trick.' I bet," Snape snorted.
Attached was two bottles of the nectar.
Then there was a bag full of bottles of conditioner—"'That chemists' conditioner that I told you about, that first day when you so graciously didn't question me on the magic boarding school.'"
And then there was a strange cube.
"'Stick this on the center of the ceiling—I'm assuming by the lack of happy Professors at my place that you either have not asked the reject Santa Claus about moving to another classroom or that said reject Santa Claus denied your request.'"
Snape eyed it warily and simply set it next to the bottles.
He pulled out another note: 'Look at the bag.'
Snape looked at the bag. It was a black robe lined with emerald green, like the bag.
The previous note changed to: 'Dragon-hide, practically drowned in anti-potions-accidents charms. For more volatile potions. And not completely black.'
Snape rolled his eyes. "How much did this cost, idiot boy?"
The note in his hands changed to: 'That's for me to know, and you to not find out.'
Snape groaned. The owl made a sound that sounded like owl-ish laughter.
"Some money, sir? Could you spare some money?"
Beggars were never uncommon in London. But most of them were adults. Children quickly got picked up off the streets. This child had to have been barely ten.
Jim knelt by the shivering girl quickly. "What's your name, sweetie?"
She was thin. So thin. Yet, she was relatively clean. She flinched away from him when he made to hug her to provide some warmth. "You ran away, didn't you?" he asked softly, hugging her anyway.
Something exploded as she froze for a second and then scrambled away from him.
"Wait, wait, I won't make you go back," he promised softly, backing away. "I promise. I ran away too, when I was seven. My relatives hated me. They starved me. They beat me. I had nothing to call my own."
"They hated me for my freakishness," she said softly. "I can't stop it…I can't stop it! I can't stop it!"
She was going into hysterics.
"Hey, hey…deep breath…that's it…and another…I won't touch you, okay, that's fine, but at least put on my jacket then."
His jacket dwarfed her skinny frame.
"My name is Jim Evans, I work at a library just down the road," he said softly. "My boss won't mind if you stay until my shift ends. Did you bring anyone else with you?"
"It's okay, you don't have to talk to me," he reassured her. "I don't think you did, based on your reaction. But you need to get inside a warm place and get some fluids in you."
"I-I can't control…"
Jim smiled. "Can't control something like this?" He changed his eye color to a bright blue rather than green. "Or control something like this?" He summoned a piece of garbage that flew into his hand.
The little girl stared at him in disbelief. A single tear rolled down her face. "You can do it too."
"Oh yes, I can do it too," he reassured her. "I can teach you how to control it."
The girl crept forward and hesitantly put her arms around him. Jim returned the hug fervently, picking her up with only a little bit of a struggle.
"Jim? What are you doing with a child?"
"Amy," he said in relief. "Can you let her stay in the backroom until my shift is done? She's absolutely exhausted and needs some sleep without being racked with shivers and fear."
She studied him and the dirty child in his arms. "You'd better have a good explanation."
Jim closed his eyes in thanks that his boss was awesome. He covered the child up after he set her down in his token chair.
"Years ago, I was in that child's position," Jim told his boss as soon as he found her. "You can say that I've been bounced from home to home for the majority of my childhood. When I was about a year and a half, a terrorist ring killed my mother and father. After that, I was sent to live with my mother's sister and her husband and son. I was literally dumped on the porch in the middle of winter and was left there until my relatives found me in the morning. For the next six years, I was hated and abused. Yes, I can see why I would cause quite the resentment, being dumped on my Aunt and being paid nothing in return, but going so far as to beat me because I dripped blood on the floor? Kind of counter-productive."
"So I ran away when I was seven. I was on the streets. And I guess libraries are like safe havens for me, because I did small jobs around the next city's library for years before someone picked me up and took me home. He adopted me. He gave me something to look forward to every morning. The lady who gave me odd jobs in the library cried her eyes out when I came in, grinning from ear to ear, dragging my surrogate father behind me, and explained everything to her."
"This doesn't have happy ending, does it?" she asked softly.
A muscle in Jim's jaw jumped. "Not really. He died when I was barely out of high school. I came here mere days after the funeral."
"You think of this as a tribute to the man who saved you," she summed up. Her light blue eyes studied him. "Alright. But I want her to come here every once in a while. Help you shelve the books."
Tension went out of him, and his shoulders sagged. Jim smiled. "That I can do. Thank you, Amy."
"Sis," he whispered, shaking her awake. "Hey, Merah, it's time to get up. Today we both get to go to the library for work."
She stirred sleepily, making the 'I love you' sign in ASL. Jim poked her nose and kissed her on the forehead. "Love you too, Mer."
She reluctantly threw back the covers. "It's nice and warm," she said, surprised by the warm air.
"Warming charm, Sis."
She looked as though she could smack herself for her stupidity.
When she got dressed, she plodded down the stairs like a sleepy sheepdog. Jim chuckled and pushed a mug of hot chocolate into her hands, ruffling her auburn hair affectionately. Even half-awake, she still had a pretty impressive scowl, and smacked her adopted brother's hand away.
"Why did I ever bring you home?" Jim groaned, covering up his head with the covers as she bounced all over his bed.
"'Cause you love me!"
"That I do," he admitted. "Don't love being driven awake at four o'clock in the morning, though!"
"Oh, c'mon," she groaned, grabbing his wrist and dragging him out of bed. "It's Christmas!"
"Noooooo," Jim wailed dramatically, clinging to the covers as he was dragged out of his room. She started giggling so badly that she had to drop his wrist before she could catch her breath. He supposed that he did make for a fairly ridiculous sight: half naked, being dragged across the floor by a ten-year-old, and his hair even more wild than usual.
He grudgingly got off the floor and summoned some clothes, putting them on and hugged his still-giggling adopted sister. He grinned as a thought came to him. "You wanna go flying?"
Jim didn't even give her a chance to reply as he snapped his wings out and scooped her up, barreling through the house and out into the darkness, Merah squealing in fright. He laughed as she clung to his neck as he climbed higher and higher, and then tilted back and let himself fall, listening to her delighted screams, and then snapped his wings out again and landed hard, setting her down. She staggered a few steps and then sat down with a flump, laughing with delight and adrenaline.
"Merah, your hair is getting long," Jim remarked. "Like, really long."
Her auburn hair was past her hips.
Jim walked over and braided her hair with skilled, dexterous fingers. "You could put a weight at the end of this and it could serve as a weapon," he joked, tying off the braid. Merah glared at him with his own Killing Curse-green eyes. Jim dropped her hair like it burned him and backed away, stunned. The annoyed glare turned into one of concern.
Laughing green eyes, a pale, manicured finger gently poking his nose
"No, not Harry—Please, not Harry!"
"Stand aside, foolish girl!"
A pool of auburn hair beneath him, green eyes staring sightlessly
A slap brought him back to reality. Jim realized that he'd collapsed against the cabinets, tears tracing his cheeks as he wept silently.
Her voice. So scared. So uncertain.
He cleared his throat, looking up and pulling her into a hug.
She looked up at him with her normal brown eyes.
"Please," his voice cracked. "Don't do those eyes again."
So, so confused. But: "Okay."
"You must have a least a modicum of the ability," Jim told her thoughtfully, tilting his head at his sister.
She looked duly unimpressed. "Must I?" she asked dryly.
"You've been hanging out way too much with Sev," he muttered absently. "And yes, you must. I've never given you a haircut, and yet your hair is perfectly even. And remember when you turned your irises green? Several times, I might add."
Merah stayed quiet, remembering the first time she'd accidentally done that. Her brother had been reduced to a mass of tears for several minutes. For someone who relied on him as her rock, it had been extremely scary to see him just…break.
The red head shifted uncomfortably under her brother's piercing stare, wishing she could just dissolve into something and escape the stare.
"Transfiguration," Jim now muttered, staring at her with frank curiosity. "What is it with my family and Transfiguration?"
"What?" she asked nervously.
"Look at your hair," he said dryly. "That could seriously creep someone out if used properly with a Disillusionment charm…"
Her hair, up to her jaw line, had turned into a pile of red and brown leaves.
Merah closed her eyes. "I wanted to dissolve into something. I guess leaves count."
That night, the pile of leaves disappeared and when she woke up, her hair was the same length it was the day before.
"I'm training you."
Merah almost did a whiplash as her brother walked in, his face the picture of determination and worry. "There are stirrings of unrest. I believe my old enemy is finally starting to make a comeback. Or at least, will try quite hard."
The red haired witch reached behind her to start braiding her hair back. "What does the newspaper say now?"
"The Dark Mark was fired over the World Cup, though there were, thankfully, no casualties," Jim said, slapping the Daily Prophet down. "Arthur Weasley is being hailed as a hero for acting and not running like the rest of the incompetent Ministry. Right beside him was his three oldest and Neville Longbottom." His lips twitched into a parody of a smile. "Longbottom is certainly doing a great job in screwing with the Ministry. I will give him that."
The twelve-year-old snickered.
Jim threw open the door roughly, his eyes obviously red and raw. "What do you want, Severus?"
Severus balked at the boy's obvious grief. His shoulders went from ridged as stone to ridged as cardboard. "I apologize for interrupting the anniversary," he said softly. "May I come in?"
Jim studied him with wariness, but stepped aside. "You're here on business, aren't you?"
Hogwart's Bat of the Dungeons sat in a graceful black leather armchair that was clearly meant for him.
"What's happened, Sev?"
"Hogwarts hosted the Triwizard Tournament this year," Severus got right to the point. "Not two hours ago, they drew names from the Goblet of Fire to see who would be the three Champions."
Jim closed his eyes in resignation.
"Yes, you were picked as a fourth Champion. The Goblet magically binds you to competing in the Tournament."
Jim's eyes snapped open. "Tell me—did the Goblet spit out Harry Potter or my name?"
The Potion Master's eyes flared with understanding. "Harry Potter."
Jim settled back with a satisfied smirk. "Well, Sev, now that we've solved that problem, you have time for a brew or must you go back to prison?"
"Where's Merah? No, regretfully, I must go back to my prison."
Jim rubbed his face. "Merah…Merah gave me some time to myself. I've gotten better, the first year after I adopted her I couldn't look at her without remembering Mum on Halloween. I went into shock the first time she changed her eyes to match mine."
Severus visibly winced.
"Also, Jim…your godfather is now part of the Order of the Phoenix."
Jim barely glanced at him. "Good for him. Although, I thought he was already part of Dummy's group?"
The Potions Master shrugged helplessly, just as at a loss as Jim was. He got up gracefully. "I'll show myself out." He gripped Jim's shoulder as a modicum of comfort. "Tell Merah I said hello."
"I will," Jim promised.
Jim opened the door to a pale-faced Amy Finnegan. "I'm so sorry, Jim," she whispered.
Jim shoved her down and out of the way, kicking his boss's captor with both feet in the chest. The breath flew out of the Death Eater and Jim knocked away the wand, looking at the stick with veiled disgust before breaking it over his knee.
The Death Eater began getting up again. Jim kicked the guy in the jaw, knocking him out.
"Are you okay, Amy?" he asked coldly, his eyes focused on the terrorist.
"Jim? Oh my god, you aren't Jim…"
Jim turned to look at her, impatience in his eyes. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"
"Yes, I'm perfectly alright. Who are you?"
Jim snorted. "I'm Jim."
Merah barged in, her hair swinging around her knees, red energy cupped in her palm. "There're more outside," she said without preamble.
"Jim, that's your field of expertise," Merah said, ignoring Amy. "Taking them out en masse."
"No, my field of expertise is scaring the devil out of them," Jim corrected her. "I can't do large spells. However…"
He slammed his fist into the doorframe above his head. It gave, and something clicked, and dozens of geysers erupted from the ground, flooding everything nearly instantly. Jim causally froze the pooled water and watched with unveiled amusement as the rest of the Death Eaters let out yells of surprise and frustration. The one he knocked out was stirring, so Jim knocked him out again.
"They put up anti-apparition wards," Jim said, a smile on his face at their stupidity. "It'll take them ages to get them down, especially since I put up my own."
"You aren't just another Jim Evans, are you?" Amy accused. "You're the Jim Evans—aka, formerly Harry Potter. That story was fabricated, wasn't it?"
"No, not for the most part," Jim disagreed. "I did run away when I was seven. I did look to a library as a safe haven. I do have an adult looking out for me. However, I'm not in college, nor do I have plans to. Most of my plans revolve around lying low and staying out of the mess that is the Wizarding World. Speaking of which, how do you know of it?"
"My son goes to Hogwarts," she said, closing her eyes and tilting her head back. "God damnit, I just yelled at the Wizarding World's savior."
"Oh, shut up," Jim snarled. "The Wizarding World doesn't know the difference between a crup and terrier. It was Mum who saved that world."
His boss reeled back from his vehemence.
"I'm the only one who survived that night—did anyone bother to ask me? No."
Merah shot a slightly irritated look at her brother's boss. "Go scare the crap out of some Death Eaters. I'll keep an eye on this one."
"She's heard much worse," Jim said darkly. "For that matter, so have I."
His wings snapped out and with a powerful down stroke, he took off into the air, landing amongst the Death Eaters. Merah watched with some amusement as most of the Death Eaters futilely tried to get away.
"He looks like a Dark Angel," Amy murmured softly.
Merah laughed a little. "Yeah, I guess he does."
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Merah hastened to reassure him.
"You take after me in all the wrong ways," Jim chuckled. "Let me see."
The red-head reluctantly held out the cradled arm.
"Hmm. Fracture. Green, thankfully. Ferula. Unfortunately, my bone-mending skills aren't up to par with healers', so I need to take you to St. Mungo's."
Merah whipped her head around to stare at him in disbelief, her extremely long hair tangling itself in her legs. "What? But Jim—"
"No protesting, or I'll be forced to ground you."
Merah groaned at the reminder. She hadn't been able to pick both feet off the ground for a week. It had been practically torture for someone who liked to take the stairs at five or six at a time and walk on walls whenever possible.
Merah answered the door sleepily. When she saw the stranger, she shrieked. "Jim!"
Her hair dissolved into a whirl of leaves and she promptly disappeared before the leaves settled.
Jim skipped the staircase all together and landed in a basic martial arts defensive stance, his wings spread wide and threatening, clearly going for the intimidation tactic.
"Goodness," the woman remarked mildly, looking torn between studying the leaves and Jim. She adjusted her monocle. "My name is Amelia Bones. I'm the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I mean you no harm."
Jim's wings lowered hesitantly, and then he folded them into his back and let his shifter ability go. He reached out and grabbed and invisible arm, pulling the girl behind him. A short-haired Merah flickered into view behind him. "Why are you here, Amelia Bones? What need is so great that you had a team of cursebreakers take down my wards?"
Amelia raised an eyebrow. "I needed—" she stressed the word "—to figure out how two teenagers got the drop on fifteen of the Dark Lord's best."
"Modified anti-apparition wards and a bunch of water and a freezing charm as extra backup," Jim bit out. "You got what you wanted—now leave."
"I will boot you out my chimney just as I did the Headmaster of Hogwarts if you call me that again," Jim told her, his voice dangerously lowering. "My name is Jim Evans."
"You have no wand."
"Because a wand is a crutch," Merah exploded, her fingers twisting, pushing the woman out of the house and slamming the door. "Damn, why are wizards so pushy?!"
Jim half-thought about reprimanding her for her language, but dismissed it. He'd be a hypocrite if he did.
"Your wards are down."
"Wow, hello Severus, how are you today?" Jim said, vaguely amused. "Yes, I am well aware. I haven't built up enough power to put them all back up yet. Your lovely Ministry decided to barge in here and if they wanted to do that then they needed to bypass all the wards." He paused. "All fifteen of them. And most of them my own make."
The Potions Master looked like he was trying not to laugh. "They must have been there all night."
Jim nodded, a smile on his face. "They were. It was hilarious watching the cursebreakers swear and scratch their heads."
Jim woke to a huge, scaly paw crashing through his roof. He proceeded to swear every curse word he knew in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, leaping out of bed and dragging Merah out of the house.
"Holy shit!" Jim yelled when he saw the Hungarian Horntail that was, quite clearly, outraged. "Jeez, mate, chill out!"
The people surrounding the dragon and attempting to subdue it froze. Jim, belatedly, realized that the latter part of his exclamation came out as a loud hiss. The Horntail dropped to all fours, eyes narrowing and creeping closer like a gigantic cat. Jim's eyes flared and he let out a throaty growl, turning protectively to shield Merah, his pupils turning to reptilian slits.
"Jim, Jim, what are you doing?" Merah whispered.
The Horntail stopped—not because of Merah, but because of Jim who was glaring fiercely at the dragon with his reptilian eyes. Jim lessened his growling. The Horntail backed away. The growling stopped.
"Merah, get out of here," Jim whispered.
"Why aren't you coming with me?"
"Because I'm the only one with the ability, damnit!" he hissed. "Get out of here and go to Amy's!"
Merah hesitated, and then bolted for the street. The Horntail switched its focus from Jim to the more interesting human, lurching after her. Jim let out a roar and snapped his wings out, blurring from his spot to between Merah and the Horntail. The impossibly loud roar seemed endless—on and on and on and on…
The dragon lurched back as if it had been slapped, before letting loose a loud roar of its own and blowing a tower of flames straight up into the sky. The dragon handlers scrambled backwards in shock as Jim's wings morphed into steel-black distinctly dragonesque wings, his eyes turning a defined reptilian slant. Jim twisted his hand and thrust the appendage into the air, a billowing torch throwing flames into the air in a column that rivalled the dragon's.
The Horntail sat back like a scared puppy.
"Oh…oh my god," one the handlers said in awe.
"You really need to work on the psychology of dragons," Jim remarked scathingly. "They don't bother their own unless absolutely necessary, that's obvious to anyone with a brain. You show them that you're one of their own, not just the scaleless, flightless, fleshy things that bring food, damnit!"
A redhead stepped forward, keeping a wary eye on the dragon. "My name is Charlie Weasley, I'm one of the dragon handlers in the Romanian reserve. Would…would you mind coming to the reserve, to study the dragons?"
Jim arched an eyebrow, shifting his appearance back to his normal fourteen-year-old state. "I have a little sister to find, reassure said sister that I really am alive and well, take care of her, and restore my half-demolished house. Those are my top priorities, in that order. In order to study dragons, I would most likely have to move to Romania, and that would mean quitting my job and uprooting my sister, neither of which I'm willing to do. Unless you have some sort of instantaneous transportation that I could use on one of my off days, I'm going to have to decline."
"He could use a permanent two-way portkey," one of the other handlers offered.
Charlie Weasley cocked an eyebrow, looking at Jim for a yay or nay.
"You need to explain to me what a portkey is," Jim told the redhead dryly.
Charlie smiled. "Instantaneous transportation."
Jim rubbed his face, thinking. "I need to talk this over with my sister. Come back in a week—preferably without the dragon. We'll discuss it again then."
"Completely understandable," Charlie agreed, shooting a handler who looked about to argue a glare. "Would you like us to send some people to help you with the house?"
The green-eyed teen shook his head. "No. Merah and I can do it in a couple of days."
Charlie nodded, turning to the rest of the handlers. "Back in the air! We still need to get her back to Romania by daybreak!"
"First off: you are aware that I am fourteen, correct?" Jim prompted a week later. "Yes, a fourteen-year-old with some weird powers even by magical standards, but I'm still fourteen."
Charlie sat back. "You are? I thought it was just genes—Uncle James always looked like a teenager, I just assumed…"
"I was only a year old with I was saddled with the infuriating title of Boy-Who-Lived," Jim said dryly. "I'll be turning fifteen in a month or so."
"Speaking of titles," Charlie winced, "you have heard of Neville Longbottom's claims of You-Know-Who rising?"
Jim's face went stony. "Oh, yes, I've heard of it. I even watched the rising. I don't see how the Wizarding World can be so foolish—Longbottom was chained to a headstone. It's only through the sheer incompetence of Voldemort and his monologuing that Longbottom survived."
Merah curled closer to Jim, remembering that night. Jim had woken her with screaming and sobbing, thrashing in his bed. At first, she'd thought that he was having a seizure and tried to pin him down, but a twelve-year-old girl was not going to win against a significantly taller and stronger fourteen-year-old boy. She'd been stuck, watching helplessly as he was trapped in the throes of his vision, in pain and obviously trying to help someone.
Charlie grimaced. "So you know that the Wizarding World believes he's barmy and that he's really not. I just wanted…"
"I may seem isolated here," Jim agreed. "But I'm really not. I know how to root out the truth. The Wizarding World may be like sheep and believe that the media can do no wrong, but I know better. I'll take what the Daily Prophet says with a grain of salt. I got that heads-up when I read some of the more popular DADA books. I don't know about the rest of the people, but the Harry Potter section is completely fictitious."
Charlie shook his head, trying to get back on track and get rid of the disturbing notion that anything could be published as truth. "Are you coming to the reserve?"
Merah sat forward. "We thought that once every two weeks, using the…portkey, was it?—would be okay."
"And Merah has to come with me," Jim added.
Charlie looked at her doubtfully. "Can you follow instructions?"
"I follow his instructions."
Charlie looked at her, confused.
"When I give instructions, it means that her life is in danger and if she protests we'll both be goners," Jim told him flatly.
"Merah follows my instructions, and this could be educational for both of us," Jim continued. "That, and I'm not leaving her to her own devices for who knows how long. I'd be pranked seven ways to Sunday when I come back."
Charlie muffled a snicker as Merah grinned sheepishly at Jim.
"Just remember that you're talking to the son of Prongs," Jim grinned, poking her nose.
"How could I forget?" Merah groaned. "I had antlers for a week."
"Antlers?" Charlie asked, bemused. "Really?"
Jim grinned mischievously. "My father was a stag animagus."
"Prongs," Charlie realized.
"Exactly," Jim said, laughing a bit.
"I believe my brothers have something that belongs to your dad and his friends," Charlie said thoughtfully. "They were discussing something over a piece of parchment in great detail, and I grabbed it once, and I got insulted by Messers Prongs, Padfoot, Moony, and Wormtail."
"That sounds like the Mauraders' Map," Jim said thoughtfully. "Pranksters?"
"They're making money off of it," Charlie groaned.
"Good for them," Jim grinned. Merah laughed.
The wards came crashing down with a massive BANG.
Jim shot an irritated look at the door. "Come in, why dontcha?!"
His sarcasm penetrated the entire house, and probably a good ten-foot radius around his home as well. Merah didn't know whether to laugh or ignore him in favor of watching the opening door warily.
"Albus Dumbledore," Jim said sourly. "And Severus. Oh, why don't we just add our favorite Dark Lord to the mix and make this place well-rounded?"
Merah closed her eyes. Yup, this was going to go south quickly, with the mood that her brother was in.
Dumbledore looked at Jim like he'd lost his mind. Merah couldn't half blame him. "Harry—"
"Jim," three people said instantly.
"Jim, I apologize," Dumbledore corrected himself. "The Wizarding World needs your help."
Jim snorted, almost inhaling his Cheerios. "How can I help? I'm actively trying to avoid you crackpots. Furthermore, why would I even want to help?"
"Jim, my boy, your parents grew up here, in the Wizarding World. Do you not think that they would like you to help save their former home?"
Jim laughed outright. "Either you're trying to manipulate me, or you're a really crappy Headmaster. For one thing, my mother didn't grow up in the Wizarding World. For another, I'd like to believe that my father would whole-heartedly support my aversion to you guys when all you've done is make my life hell. Everything good in my life either came from me, or from her." He pointed at Merah. "Additionally, I highly doubt that the Wizarding World needs my help. There are seventy thousand magicals in the UK alone. Voldemort and his followers make up a scant three hundred. That is roughly two hundred thirty magicals for every follower. My recommendation is clean out the Ministry first. Dose 'em all up with the most potent truth potion that you can brew. Do the Wizagmont first, then follow up with real trials from there on out. Come back and talk to me then. Until then, f— off."
"Jim, you don't understand—"
"I understand perfectly. The Wizarding World is incompetent. Now, would you really like me to get ugly, or will you show yourselves out?"
"You're the only one who can defeat the Dark Lord!"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Still on about that crap of the Boy-Who-Lived? I'm the only survivor of that night. Has anyone asked me if I am the Boy-Who-Lived? No. And no, I'm not going to answer that question. But put it this way: if you follow my instructions, we'll be well on our way to driving Voldemort absolutely bonkers."
Inexplicably, Dumbledore turned on his heel and left. Severus watched Dumbledore walk past him, the older wizard looking vaguely stunned. Jim arched an eyebrow at his long-time friend. "So, do I need to put this place under the Fidelis or what?"
"It might be the only thing to stop Dumbledore from coming back," Severus said, shrugging.
Jim waved him off. "Go set up shop. Might as well stay the night. Dumbledore will be understandably frustrated by the time you return."
Severus gave him just a bare hint of a smile. Merah snickered.
"Who are you?"
"Someone who got tired of the Wizarding World waiting to be saved," Jim replied curtly. "May I borrow a wand?"
"What the—What kind of question is that?!"
"I don't normally need one," Jim told her. "But I really need a focal point right now. I don't have a handy magical item, so I need a wand."
The pink-haired witch looked over at him, her expression giving away her disbelief, but she reached down and tossed him one of her backup wands.
His magic stirred and Jim resisted the urge to double up, pointing the tool straight up into the sky, the tip glowing brighter and brighter until it looked like a miniature star.
He smiled at the dumbfounded look that she had. "Duck."
She threw herself to the ground just as he shot over her head, barrel-rolling between two Death Eaters and firing off a rainbow of spells. Death Eaters scattered, tripped, fell, turned bright pink, and got sliced in half. Pavement blew up, providing him with a dust cover and sowing confusion. He twirled the witch's wand in his hand, and another Anti-Transportation ward flew up. Glass tinkled in the streets.
Jim flew up, his wings fanning the dust away, searching for the pink-haired witch. He found her, knocked out by something—probably a stray spell. He landed next to her and scooped her up, casting a feather-light charm on her.
She stirred, high above the ground. Startled, she started to scream, but Jim clapped a hand over her mouth. "Don't. If they see us, I'll have to get fancy in order to not get hit, and then you'll probably end up throwing up because no one but me expects what I'm going to do next."
She shut her mouth, but her eyes went wide seeing the wings. "Wha—What?" Her hair turned blue.
Jim let out a delighted laugh. "Metamorphangus? Wow. I haven't met anyone even remotely of my caliber."
"What are you?!"
"I'm what you people call a Shifter. Metamorphangus can change colors and heights according to the human scale, right? Shifters can add or take away just about anything—thus, the wings," Jim told her. "Don't worry, I freaked out the first time I did it."
She laughed, looking a bit dazed.
Jim circled over the battle, which had pretty much ground to a halt after Jim's devastating attack. Dust still clouded a good portion of the area.
"Damn," the pink witch whispered. "I'd love to learn how to do that."
"It helps if you do it silently, just focusing on the intent," Jim said, offhand. "It's hard to do anything fast when you're limited to words and wand movements."
She looked at him. "Mind teaching me?"
"Sure. I'll key you into the wards."
One of the Death Eaters recovered his wits enough to raise his wand and scream, "MORSMORDRE!"
Jim arched an eyebrow, then he looked down and saw the witch's pale face. "It's a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth. It looks ridiculous."
"Not that I don't agree with you," she said softly, "but that mark means that there will be at least one funeral sometime in the near future."
Jim's eyes narrowed, raising the witch's wand. A bright white spell fired from the tip and collided with the Dark Mark, transforming into a blood red lily.
"Where's your group?" Jim asked her, the light in his green eyes gone.
"The group of Aurors," she said, pointing.
Jim swooped, holding her by her wrists, and she landed in a run. She gave him a wave as he spiraled off into the night.
"What was that?" he heard someone ask her.
He looked back just as she shrugged with a small smirk on her face. "Dunno, but he saved my life. Oh! I gave him a…when did he give it back…?"
Jim snorted as she patted the holster in her boot bewilderedly, flying back home.
"So, are you on duty, or would you like for me to start teaching you my casting techniques?"
"You know, that almost sounds like a pick-up line," she said dryly. "No, I'm not on duty."
Jim turned a bit red. "That is not what I was going for."
She laughed. "I didn't think so, but its fun teasing you anyway."
"Not a problem."
Jim rolled his eyes. "Shall we go?"
She offered her arm. Jim chuckled and looped his arm around hers, making for the edge of the village.
"Where are we going?"
"Well, I can't Apparate and my house isn't connected to the Floo. I could call the Knight Bus, but that thing is a death trap and I don't do well in small, enclosed spaces. So we're flying."
"You mean you're flying?"
Jim shrugged. "Pretty much, yeah."
"How did you find out about it?"
Jim chuckled. "I saw a couple birds playing tag. I really wished that I could fly, and all of a sudden pain was lancing through my back. My shirt was shredded."
"Growing a second set of shoulders, an entire frame for wings, the muscles, skin, and each individual feather in less than a minute? When I'm in that form, you can probably pick me up with one hand, because my entire body alters itself so that I can fly. In that form, my bones are hollow and my blood carries more oxygen than yours does. Yes, I can safely say that it does hurt."
She winced. "Ouch."
"Very much so," Jim agreed.
Jim turned, dragging the witch with him. "Severus. Another raid?"
"No, actually," the Potions Master said, eyeing her. "Tonks."
Jim arched an eyebrow at the two, who were attempting to stare the other down. "Yes, Severus?" Jim prompted.
"This is not a time for petty revenge," Jim said sourly.
Severus shot him an annoyed look, but didn't persist the topic. "Your godfather wants to speak with you."
Jim's lip curled. "Wring him a new one verbally, tell him it's from me, and then ask if he still wants to see me. If he still does, bring him over. Tell him about my childhood, if you wish. Emphasize the fact that if he hadn't been so stupid, my running away wouldn't have been necessary."
Two sets of eyebrows rose. Tonks looked uncertain of who they were talking about, Severus looked positively gleeful.
"Alright," he said. "What time? You know he's going to be stubborn."
"Not after eleven and not before six. Wake me up between those two times bringing him and I'll rip you a new one as well as him."
"Duly noted." He turned on his heel and walked away.
Jim continued onto the edge of the village. Tonks scrambled to catch up. "Wait, wait. Who are we talking about?"
"An idiot," Jim said. "Your cousin, actually. The last time we spoke, he wanted me to sell my house, quit my job, leave Merah, and move in with him. Things got ugly after that. I blew him out the chimney and booted him off my property."
"Sirius? I didn't think that he'd be that…"
"Insensitive," Jim finished. "On top of that, he wouldn't stop calling me Harry."
She paused. "Harry? As in Harry Potter?"
"That was the name that I left behind," Jim groused. "Harry Potter was the name of a child who was first orphaned and then systematically abused by his mother's relatives for six straight years. My life has been infinitely happier since I chose and legally submitted my name as Jim Evans."
She swallowed. Really, what can one say to that?
"Besides, me being Jim Evans probably saved my life," Jim said, snorting. "You remember the Triwizard Tournament that was hosted at Hogwarts two years ago?"
"Harry Potter came out of the Goblet of Fire," he said. "My name is Jim Evans. Therefore, I was not compelled to compete."
"Wow," she murmured.
"Mm," he hummed, agreeing, sliding off his lightweight jacket, revealing a shirt with holes pre-sliced in the back. "And don't worry, I do this all the time with Merah."
Wings snapped out behind him, and he shot into the air. He dove back towards her, a light blue spell firing from his fingertips, hitting her in the chest, just as he grabbed her by the wrist and slung her on his back, just below where his wings ended. She let out a small shriek, looking to grab something to steady herself but didn't know what she could and couldn't grab.
"Lay down, grab my shoulders," Jim said, voice reassuring. "Hook your feet together under my stomach."
Tonks followed his instructions, immediately feeling a lot more stable. "Little bit like a piggy back ride."
"Sort of," Jim agreed.
"What spell did you fire at me?"
"Featherlight charm," Jim told her. "I could still carry you, but I'd be quite a bit slower. You ready?"
"For?" she asked warily.
"This is gliding," he said dryly. "Not flying. Charlie said you loved flying when you weren't falling off your broom."
"You know Charlie?"
"He works at the Romanian dragon reserve, right?"
"Uh-huh. How do you know him?"
Jim snorted. "The Horntail got loose when they were transporting it back to the reserve after the Triwizard Tournament. Of course, it crashed through my roof. I showed it that I was one of them and I wouldn't take any flak, and it backed off of Merah. The dragon handlers all had their jaws on the ground except for Charlie, who asked me to come and study the dragons every once in a while."
She stared at the back of his head incredulously. He looked back at her and laughed. "You ready?"
"Sure," she said hesitantly.
"You can't fall off," he reassured her. "You have eight or nine sticking charms on you. Here we go!"
Tonks laughed with delight as the two shot forward. Jim barrel-rolled through the sky, going high enough to punch through the lower-hanging clouds. For a second, Jim stopped moving and the two just hung there. Gravity took over, and Tonk's scream was lost in the wind. Jim snapped out his wings again and leveled out.
"I could hit you! Why'd you stop?!"
She could feel Jim's laugh. "One last dive."
He dove. Faster and faster, they hurtled towards the rapidly-incoming ground, and then Jim snapped his wings open, letting out a soft cry of pain as his wings halved his descent and he landed heavily on the ground, automatically sinking to a knee to stop fully.
"I stopped," he said, "because we were at my house."
"Our house," a long-haired redhead corrected, hauling Jim up.
"I bought it, my name is on the contract, and I pay the house note," he countered dryly. "Therefore, it's my house."
Tonks couldn't help letting out a laugh, and trying to get down.
"Stop," Jim said, amused. "You have a sticking charm to each of your limbs and five more on your torso. You aren't getting off me the conventional way."
"That sounds very kinky, Mr. Evans."
"Then, please, by all means, tell me how I could have worded that better," Jim said dryly, steadily taking the sticking charms off of her.
Tonks was silent, thinking. "I'm not climbing off of you without your consent?"
Jim snorted. "That's even kinkier than what I said."
"Please shut up," the redhead pleaded. "Just because I've heard it all before doesn't mean that I like to hear it!"
Tonks shut up after a good chuckle.
"The first trick is acknowledging that your mind is not a silent mouth."
Tonks blinked at the odd statement. "Run that by me again."
"Your mind is not limited by how fast your tongue can move," Jim rephrased. "Once you get that through your head, you're most of the way through the battle."
"You aren't getting it," he said, exasperated. He turned to the redhead, who he'd introduced as his sister, Merah. "She isn't getting it, is she?"
"Nope," she agreed.
"Are you versed in the mind arts?" Jim questioned.
Tonks's head snapped around, shocked.
"Yes or no, Tonks, not that hard," Jim asked, looking faintly amused.
"I want you to perform it on me."
She sputtered like a broken car. "That—that—"
"Is only illegal if you do it without the consent of the person whose mind is being looked into, whether they are in their minority or majority," Jim said dryly. "Would you like it on paper, or will you do it?"
The witch's hair had turned a yellow so light it almost looked white.
"Yes or no, Tonks," Jim said forcefully.
Jim knew when she had decided when her hair turned a flaming red. Her wand snapped up, and she whispered, "Legimens."
She dove into his mind, not expecting the maelstrom of thoughts: in one part he was conducting a farce of a book, The Weird Life of Your Average Atypical Teenager; in another he was pondering the origins of the word kitchen, of all the words; in another he was contemplating the properties of hellebore syrup (stabilizes potions, minor healing qualities if rubbed into an open wound) against the properties of honey (natural disinfectant, tasty, acts as a mediator between seasonings); and the last seemingly taking random memories and piecing them together to create a picture that Tonks wasn't seeing yet. All this in high-speed babble with fragments of pictures thrown in there, and the longer that she stayed in his mind, the more she was able to understand.
"You know, you're adapting really well," Jim commented, seemingly appearing next to her. "The last person who I tried to teach got his brain overloaded and was knocked out for a week."
"How can I understand you, and not the rest of…you?"
If that wasn't a confusing question, she didn't know what was.
"I've slowed down my thinking for this part of me, so that you can understand me better," Jim said, smiling a bit. "All this is actually pretty minor for me. I'm relaxed, I'm in company that I trust, and I haven't been attacked lately. Besides the dragons, anyway. When I'm being attacked, you'll probably find like, thirty of me running around at top speed. Which you wouldn't be able to comprehend at this stage."
Tonks's head hurt.
Things blurred to life in her mind when she came to, someone poking her nose gently.
"So, first day back in your body, how do you feel?" Jim's familiar voice asked.
Arms, check. Fingers, all ten of them, check. Legs, check. Toes…can't really tell. Head, sledgehammer pounding away. Yikes.
"I feel hungover," she groaned into a pillow.
Jim had the decency to at least laugh softly. "That would be your mind adapting back to your usual short, chameleon-ish self. Here. Pain potion. Should suppress the symptoms until your mind actually does settle in."
Without looking, she snatched the bottle and downed the contents with a swift gulp, groaning softly with relief.
"C'mon. Up you get. Take a shower. Change your clothes. Then come down and eat."
Jim hauled her up with surprisingly gentle hands. She could feel the calluses that covered his fingers and palms.
"What're the calluses from?" she asked groggily.
He shrugged. "Gardening, mostly. Writing. I've got calluses from holding books in my arms, actually, on my wrists and the insides of my elbows. I work at the local library," he explained, seeing her confused look on why he would be carrying around so many books, "so I tend to handle books a lot."
"Right," she mumbled, stumbling into the bathroom that he'd shown her to and shutting the door, practically in his face.
Jim snorted, amused. She was eerily like Merah when he dragged her out of bed ridiculously early.
"Have you ever truly felt your magic?"
Tonks hesitated, as that question was generally something like taboo in the Wizarding World. "Yeah. Normally during battle."
"You were in danger and your magic reacted," Jim nodded, understanding. "Beyond that?"
"Accidental magic when I was little."
"Do you remember the difference?"
Tonks choked on her own saliva. "How did you—"
"Accidental magic is your magic acting on its own to protect its host," Jim said dryly. "The magic that you feel during battle is your magic coming closer to the surface, providing you with easier access for your spells and it boosts your reflexes and strength. One is active, one is passive. Opposite ends of the spectrum."
He hauled her up from her sitting position. "For you and I, this is much easier than for the rest of the world. Guess why."
She felt like she was back in Hogwarts again. "…magic is already infused in our bodies?"
"Exactly," Jim said, smiling. "Instead of a single core like most, our magic acts like our nervous system."
He held out a hand, and a hologram of a human body appeared, done in grey, with a brilliant gold and white roughly shaped sphere centered around the heart appeared. Jim held out his other hand, and another grey human body appeared, this time with a much smaller circle of power around the heart and branches going every which way, all of them ending within the human body.
"This is the majority of the population," Jim said, holding out the first hand. "Wands provide a direct link to a core, essentially like a needle poking a tiny hole in a balloon but not having the balloon itself pop, just slowly shrink, letting the 'air' out. This," he said, offering the other hand, "is us. Our magic is connected to us—intimately, if you wish," he added, grinning. "It's connected to our very bones, down to our cell structure. You constantly use a little magic keeping your features the way they are. Me, I only use my ability when I'm going to work, researching the dragons, or terrifying the crap out of Death Eaters. Which, actually, takes a fair part of my life…"
Tonks let out a snort.
"Oh, shut it," Jim complained good-naturedly. "Anyway. Cast something at me."
The Metamorph reached for her wand. Jim cut her off: "Wandlessly."
She froze. "What? But—"
"I've been doing it since I was seven," Jim interrupted smoothly. "Something simple. A levitation charm."
Looking like she was feeling very foolish, she pointed at a boot that was lying at the front door. Didn't even so much as twitch.
Jim walked around her, clamping her arms to her sides. "Close your eyes."
She closed her eyes.
"Do you remember that feeling when you were young, that your magic would burst out of you?"
Jim smiled at the defiant answer. "Imagine it again. Remember it swirling up in you, yearning to break free and wreak havoc on our stable little world."
Tonks's hair was slowly changing from pink to a dark brown as she concentrated, then to a brilliant, pulsing rainbow that stuck up in spikes. She looked like a fiber optic puffball. Jim resisted the urge to laugh. "Now imagine that boot going up into the air. No words. No gestures. Just making an inanimate object do what you want it to do."
He watched the boot twitch as the shoe laces strained to pull up the rest of the boot.
"Imagine the whole boot. Fix it firmly in your mind, sitting there innocently. That little splatter of mud at the tip. Shoelaces undone. Half the holes unlaced. The scuff marks at the heel of the boot. Now push that boot upwards."
The boot lifted. Hardly an inch off the ground, but it lifted.
"Open your eyes."
Tonks blinked open her multi-colored eyes, staring at the boot in disbelief. "I did that?"
"You are doing that," Jim said, emphasizing the present tense. "You're keeping that boot suspended."
He stood, releasing Tonks's arms. "Homework: keep trying to lift various items until it becomes instantaneous. Not having to sit there for three minutes."
"What about the spells?"
"I'm teaching her wandless magic and she's worried about the rapid-firing of spells," Jim commented to the ceiling.
Tonks had the grace to blush. Merah snickered in the doorway.
Jim shooed her away with a grin on his face. "Go bother someone else for the moment, will you?"
Merah pouted playfully. "But Jiiiiim…"
"I'll take you flying later," he promised.
Merah scurried from the room, snickering.
"Sorry," Tonks muttered.
"I'm teaching you this for a reason," Jim said, immensely amused at Tonks's expense. "I don't teach people things for no apparent reason. Both the mind piece that I taught you and this are going to help when it comes to rapid casting. You'll see. It's more of a force of mind than a force of magic, rapid casting."
Tonks nodded slowly, obviously completely bewildered.
The doorbell rang. Jim groaned into his pillow. Anyone familiar with him would've knocked on the door. Anyone friendly with him would've just walked in.
"I had such a great day with Tonks and Merah, too," Harry mumbled into his pillow.
He rolled off his bed and stumbled down the stairs to answer the door. "Sirius," he sighed, opening the door. "What do you want?"
His godfather lurched forward and tried to wrap him in a hug. Tried being the optimum word. Jim had instinctively flinched backwards, his hands raised to ward off the perceived attack. A shield had flickered to life between the two, and Sirius had literally bounced off.
"There are only two people allowed to initiate contact with me," Jim said stonily, his face a mask of indifference. "You are not one of those two."
Merah covered her mouth, trying not to scream in frustration. His damned godfather had made Jim retreat into himself! She and Sev had worked so hard trying to get him to open up and be free to show emotions, and this bumbling idiot had undone all their work in less than ten seconds! She could kill him!
Sirius stumbled back in shock at Jim's placid face, despite the harsh words. "Harry…"
"You were an idiot," Jim said simply. "Plain and simple. Get over it. You will never be close to me if you continue to see my father or that gurgling, happy baby that liked to break Mum's necklaces, trying to grab the pendant hanging at the end."
His godfather's face was ashen. "You—You remember that?"
"Of course," Jim said in a dead, flat voice. "I remember the lullaby she sang to me every night up until the night she died. I remember her sweet, beautiful voice, cut off as my father screamed for her to run, grab Harry and run, he's here. I remember looking down from my crib and into my mother's cold, dead eyes."
Merah shivered, tears filling her eyes. Jim could not have said that any creepier. Talking in that flat voice made everything that he said almost emphasized.
"I am not someone that appreciates being coddled, or touched, or otherwise affectionate with complete strangers. And despite the fact that I remember chasing both you and Mum's cat around the house like a mad thing on a toy broom, that's what you are: a stranger. Nothing more, nothing less."
Sirius stumbled out of the house, nearly falling down the stairs, in a futile effort to forget the fact that Jim remembered his mother's dead eyes.
Someone walked in. Jim poked his head out of the bathroom to see who it was. "Hi, Tonks. What's up?"
She looked unusually somber. Her hair was in soft curls of the deepest midnight blue. "Can I have a hug?"
Tonks had learned quickly—very quickly—that if she wanted to initiate contact, she had to ask first. Unless it was in a life-or-death situation, in which Jim probably wouldn't even notice until she had done whatever.
Jim nodded, not really understanding. Tonks wrapped him in a crushing hug. "You were a baby," she whispered into his chest. "You weren't supposed to remember that awful night."
Jim swallowed as he suddenly remembered that Tonks was part of the Order, and Sirius had probably gone straight back to the Order and collapsed. The Order would've questioned him, and Sirius didn't know Jim well enough to know that Jim was a very private person, and had most likely spilled his guts.
"Yeah, well," Jim said awkwardly. "Not much I can do about it. Not much you can do about it, either, short of obliviating me, and I'd rather you not."
"What I can't get over is that you remember that, from all those years ago," Tonks murmured.
"I dreamt about it a lot when I was little," Jim told her. "Hagrid taking me to the Dursleys, too, I remember. Those memories of happiness, it was like a lifeline for me during those years at the Dursleys. I clung to them. I wrote them down. I drew pictures. My kindergarten teacher asked me to draw a picture of the bogeyman. I drew him tall, pale, with abnormally long fingers. Bald, with one eye a crimson red—and the other a Killing Curse green. Something that I've always associated with each other: crimson red and a sickly lime green. I kept it, you know. Something bugged me after I drew it. Then I found pictures of Voldemort in his prime, and I knew that I had to have seen him before."
Tonks swallowed. "I think I need to throw up."
Jim snatched a potion off the counter, seemingly at random, and poured it down Tonks's throat. She coughed a couple times, but her stomach was settled and no longer churning in fear and revulsion and sorrow.
"No throwing up in this household," Jim said sternly. "It's only happened once, and that was because Merah ate too many Doritos."
Tonks laughed weakly.
"How—Gargh!" Tonks yelled wordlessly in frustration, the boot thudding to the ground and rolling a couple times.
Jim clamped his hands over her gesturing-wildly arms. "Relax. Take a deep breath."
She inhaled, held it for a moment and exhaled.
"Good," Jim said softly. "Again."
She inhaled and blew it out once more.
"Good. I want you to go out and get the most ridiculously expensive coffee out there that isn't alcoholic."
She hesitated. "Can I get butterbeer instead?"
"You can have that too, if you want, but I want you drinking something sugary with a ton of caffeine," Jim said blithely. "And not doing anything intrinsically magical for a bit will help you focus."
She sighed. "Fine."
"This is interesting," Jim said casually, Shifting a bit so that he was shorter, closer to Tonks's height, so that his back wasn't as exposed.
"You have a dangerous definition of interesting," she retorted.
"You should try your rapid casting," Jim said casually. "All it is is switching intents rapidly, charging your magic with your intent, and letting it flow through your wand."
"Oh, is that all?" Tonks asked sarcastically.
"Yes, yes it is," Jim said, smiling despite the situation. "May I borrow a wand?"
"You may, Mr. Evans," she replied pompously, slapping a backup wand into his hand.
"Thanks ever so much, Ms. Tonks."
Jim turned a corner and rammed into someone. He bounced and Shifted a bit, catlike, twisting himself to catch himself on one knee and not his bum.
"Oh! I'm so sorry," the other teen said, wincing. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Jim reassured him, rising from his stance. "Neville Longbottom," he said in surprise, recognizing the teen.
Neville clammed up. "I—uh…"
"You're fine," Jim told him, waving him off. "I believe you. We wizards can't all be idiots, right?"
The teen shot him a relieved grin. "Neville Longbottom," he said, introducing himself. Then he winced. "You already knew that. Sorry."
"Don't worry, you probably would already know me, too, if there were recent pictures of me," Jim smirked. "Jim Evans."
Neville hesitated. "Familiar, but…"
"I used to be called Harry Potter," Jim added, rolling his eyes at the inevitable reaction.
Surprisingly, Neville balked and then just shrugged helplessly. Jim raised his eyebrows at the lack of reaction.
"I've met, dueled, and survived You-Know-Who," Neville said glumly. "Famous people are really just…tame after that."
Jim chuckled, clapping Neville on the back. "Neville, my respect for you just went up about a dozen notches. Just so you know."
"…so Ron's freaking out about six feet behind me, and I'm left alone to deal with a spider that's about as big as my Gran's unused ballroom."
Jim groaned, swirling the last remnants of his butterbeer and then downing it. "What happened then?"
"I managed to stall it by saying that we were friends of Hagrid. Aragog paused and gave me a funny look—well, as much of a funny look that a spider can give—and I was trying to figure out what could possibly scare a spider so bad that it's equal to us and You-Know-Who. I even asked, but did you know that the spiders' own You-Know-Who is nameless as well? So I'm standing in an Acromantula's lair with a practically petrified redhead with absolutely no information and absolutely no way out."
"Well, there had to be some way out if you're alive to tell the story," Jim pointed out dryly.
"You remember the Ford that Ron and I crashed into the Whomping Willow?" Neville prompted. When Jim nodded, Neville continued: "It apparently wandered off into the Forbidden Forest and heard Ron screaming his fool head off…"
Jim laughed and groaned and winced throughout Neville's story of his second year of Hogwarts in the Three Broomsticks. Off in a little table, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, and Augusta Longbottom watched the two interact with avid interest.
"Why aren't you at Hogwarts?" Neville questioned after he finished the story of his second year, taking a long draught of his butterbeer.
Jim swirled his second butterbeer in his hand, looking thoughtful. "Well, to understand why I needed to pay bills in the first place, you need to understand where I came from.
"After that night, I was sent to my mother's sister and her family. The whole of the Wizarding World knows that I'm with the Muggles, but they don't know that I'm not safe and sound with adult supervision—not now, at least. When I first arrived to the Dursleys, I locked myself in the cupboard under the stairs and didn't come out for two days."
Neville gave Jim a queer look.
"I liked small spaces when I was upset, when I was younger," Jim explained. "Dad had to drag me out of a cabinet full of bowls and things like that in the kitchen when the cat scratched me once."
"Who told you that story?" Neville laughed.
Jim shrugged sheepishly. "I have a habit of remembering things I shouldn't be able to."
Neville choked on his swig of butterbeer. Jim thumped him on the back as he coughed. "You remember that?" he wheezed.
"Funny, a cousin of mine said the same thing a couple weeks ago," Jim said dryly. "Anyway. Most would assume that once I came out, they would give me my own room. Am I right?"
Neville gave Jim a wary look, but nodded. "Yeah."
"Well, they didn't," Jim said blithely. "I slept in that cupboard for six years, up until the day I ran away."
Neville nodded slowly. "How did you run away? Obviously there's something I'm missing."
"You've heard of a Metamorph, right?" Jim checked.
Neville's eyebrows climbed to his hairline. "You're a Metamorph?"
"Not…quite," Jim said slowly. "A Metamorph can only do human characteristics, and, with a lot of practice, a little bit of some animal characteristics. Metamorphs are limited to the human scope. Shifters aren't limited by that."
"I'm confused," Neville muttered.
Jim arched a dark eyebrow, his green eyes suddenly quite reptilian, smirking. "Are you really?" he murmured.
Neville's eyes snapped up at the foreboding question, yelping as he met Jim's slitted eyes, nearly knocking over his chair. Jim blinked, and his eyes returned to normal.
"Can't do much else in a public place like this," Jim said softly, mirth dancing around his lips. "You know Tonks, right?"
"Yeah, she's—" Neville cut himself off.
"Part of the Order of the Phoenix," Jim finished casually. "And she's pretty awesome, too."
Neville swallowed, wincing. "I'm not supposed to tell anyone about that."
Jim waved him off. "I'm friendly with two of the Order and know another six. You're fine. Well, Merah's bound to be hungry by now, and I'm getting tired of being eavesdropped on, so I need to go home. Want to come watch?"
Neville raised his eyebrows in a silent question.
"C'mon," Jim invited, sliding off the stool and slapping a couple galleons down on the bar.
"Where are we going?"
"Edge of the village," Jim replied. "I don't mind if a couple people see me, but I really don't need to make a spectacle of myself."
Neville arched an eyebrow, but said nothing as he and Jim slipped through the crowds effortlessly.
Jim rolled his shoulders continuously as they reached the edge of the small town. Neville watched curiously as Jim broke out in goosebumps as something grew on his back rapidly under the heavy jacket that he wore.
Jim stopped in a small clearing about three meters wide and shrugged off his jacket.
With a small smirk, he snapped open his wings, crouched, and launched into the sky.
Neville was left standing there, gaping in disbelief.
"He's something else, innit he?" Tonks laughed, clapping Neville's shoulder. She laughed even harder when Neville jumped half a meter.
Neville flew wobbily up next to Jim. "What are you doing here?" he asked, disbelief written all over his face.
Jim swung his legs like a little kid, perched on top of one of the tallest Quidditch hoops like it was a normal thing for someone to do. "Hogwarts is going to be attacked soon. Within the month. An army led by Voldemort himself."
Neville sighed. "Can we continue this conversation…elsewhere? Like…on the ground?"
Jim snorted. "Alright. But I'm training you in the art of flying as soon as this thing is over with."
Neville raised an eyebrow.
"I'm saying that you suck at flying," Jim said bluntly.
"I got that," Neville said dryly. "I'm klutzy enough on the ground, I don't need accidents in the air as well, though."
Jim laughed and tilted backwards, off the hoop, free-falling to the ground hundreds of feet below. He grinned, and snapped out his wings, perfecting his broomless Wronski Feint, soaring up to circle around Neville in dizzying circles.
"Show off," Neville laughed.
"Always," Jim said, grinning roguishly.
"How did you get up there?" Aurora Sinstra asked, startled. Then she took a closer look. "Who are you?"
Jim snickered a bit. "Well, I flew, to answer your first question. I certainly didn't come up here through a secret passage. And my name is Jim Evans."
Her head cocked. "Evans?"
"As in Lily Evans," he said, smiling and nodding.
She hesitated. "Why didn't you come to Hogwarts, like your parents?"
"When my Hogwarts letter came, I had a steady income, I was paying bills, and I had been living on my own for four years," Jim said, shrugging. "I can't pay my bills from here."
Jim stood, skating down the slick tiles that made up the roof of the Astronomy Tower and landed in a shallow crouch in front of the Astronomy professor.
"You do that a lot, don't you?" she guessed.
Jim snorted. "Actually, no. But if you know that if you overshoot it you won't go splat on the ground hundreds of feet below, that makes you quite a bit more confident. And confidence is key when sliding down a slick slope."
"And how will you not go splat?" Sinstra asked, dubious.
Jim just smirked. "That's for me to know, and for you to try to find out. Keep an eye on the skies."
And he slid through the bars of the railing around the Tower and gracefully dove off the side.
She just stood there, completely shocked.
Neville approached his Astronomy teacher. "I'm sorry for Jim. He likes being that infuriatingly mysterious person who just appeared to suicide."
She raked a hand through her hair. "He's still alive?"
Neville rolled his eyes. "Oh yes. And annoying the crap out of me every chance he gets."
"He's the best flyer in the world," Neville said simply.
She stared at him. "There is no one in the world that can bring a broom out of a pocket and unshrink it and mount the broom in the time allotted."
"That's the point," Neville said, smiling a bit. "He doesn't need a broom."
Hogwarts was a fortress in the old days. Complete with a wartime gong that would reverberate through solid stone, altering every person that they were at war.
The gong hadn't been used in centuries, though. But every Headmaster knew the historical significance of the sound of the gong.
Jim picked up the dusty and yet, not decayed, mallet, and slammed it against the gong with all his strength. He backed up, resisting the urge to cover his ears or sneeze, and slammed the mallet into the gong again. Then he waited for it to die off, and hit it once more.
Hogwarts is under siege.
Jim set the mallet down, and shot into the sky, looking at the army that had come out to destroy Hogwarts as the Bastion of the Light.
Merah and Tonks stood back-to-back with Jim, magic swirling around the trio, all three holding wands high, pure energy gathering at the tips.
Death Eaters scattered, many remembering, oh so long ago, the disaster of Hogsmeade.
Jim smirked. "You two alright on your own?"
"We've got them handled," Merah said with a smirk that matched her adopted brother's.
Tonks hesitated, then grabbed Jim by the collar and crashed her lips onto his for two seconds before pulling back. "I just had to do that. Just so that if one of us dies, I wouldn't regret not doing that."
Jim shook his head, pressing his free hand's fingers to his lips, a bit dazed. "We had better both live, Cham," he said sternly. "Because that was really nice."
"We'd want to experiment, wouldn't we?" Tonks said, grinning.
Merah grimaced at the innuendo. "Ew. I really don't need to know my brother's future sex life."
Jim laughed, a sound filled with pure, unadulterated joy, spiraling into the sky.
Jim landed softly behind Voldemort, hexing him in the back. Voldemort grew a rainbow-colored afro.
"I'm all of a sudden very grateful that I didn't go to Hogwarts," Jim said casually. "From what I've heard and seen, you're practically obsessed with me. You know that counts as stalking?"
Voldemort broke the Cruciatus on the other teen, whipping around to face Jim's rather intimidating stance, dragonwings spread wide, looking more bat-like than Severus. Jim's unruly hair was lengthened and tied back, his green eyes sparking with protectiveness and power.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort breathed.
Jim raised an eyebrow, making a show of looking around. "Really? I don't see him. No one has seen him." His face darkened. "Not since someone made a very stupid mistake placing him with his mother's sister. His Aunt and Uncle were abusive. Harry Potter was first orphaned and then systematically abused for six years. Harry Potter is no more, for all intents and purposes."
Voldemort raised his hairless eyebrows. "Really? Interesting."
"I'll have you know that I fight for neither the Dark nor the Light," Jim said stonily. "I have not been subjected to the biasness of Hogwarts. Except for two spells, there is no Dark or Light magic."
Death Eaters turned around, incredulous at the teen's radical words.
"And I have no qualms about casting either of them," Jim said, an entirely Slytherin smirk on his face.
"What are the two spells?" Voldemort asked, curious despite himself.
Jim's smirk broadened. "The Patronus Charm and the Killing Curse."
And he let his magic loose, casting spells out of Tonks's wand and his free hand. A sickly array of spells flew around the two, and space quickly became available. Around them, the battle slowed as people watched for the outcome of the war.
"Oh, Merlin," Neville breathed, watching Jim bat aside a disarming spell aside with his bare hand and then have a Cruciatus bounce off a wing like it was a bouncy ball rather than an unblockable torture curse.
Jim tossed something lazily onto the ground, watching it explode and cover the battle area in darkness.
"Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder," Jim said. Voldemort whirled around, disoriented. Each word seemed to come from a different spot. "A wonderful invention of the Weasley Twins, isn't it?"
The darkness faltered and then began to fade, and Voldemort felt the kiss of cold steel on the back of his neck. "Bye, Tom. Everyone who you tortured or killed is waiting with bait on their breath to get a piece of you."
That was the last thing he heard.
"Amy, can I have the day off?" Jim asked weakly, talking on the phone.
"Why?" she asked warily. "You've never asked for a day off before, unless you or Merah were sick."
"I just killed the guy who has been terrorizing the Wizarding World for almost three decades," Jim snapped. "Voldemort. 'Member that guy? His followers kidnapped you a couple years ago to get through my wards. I've severely injured Death Eaters and left them maimed, but I've never killed anyone."
Pause. "I'll be over after three with some tea. Stay home."
She hung up. Jim dropped the phone and buried his face in his hands.
He let out a muffled sob. "I did it, Mum, Dad."
Amy opened the door to seeing a man in black and emerald dragonhide robes hugging Jim like there was no tomorrow, the teen sobbing into his chest, Merah on the other side of Jim and hugging Jim as well. Amy set down her steel teapot and hugged Jim too.
Seamus would never believe me if I told him that I act as a surrogate aunt and employer of the Boy-Who-Lived, she thought dryly. Especially not with hanging out with Severus, an Auror, Neville Longbottom, and the Boy-Who-Lived's adopted sister.
They made for an odd family, but that's what they were. Family.
Ruby: Eh. Sucky ending. Oh, well...what can a person do?
I'm one of those people who can totally see Snape having to act the way he does because of his role of a spy, but I can also see the flip side of the coin and think that the side that he shows us in the books is real and there is no going back to his days of being tormented by James Potter and co. rather than being tortured by Tommy-boy.
Basically, I can love or hate Snape, depending on what fanfic I'm reading at the time.
Hope you enjoyed that! (Despite the sucky ending...bleh...)