A Father First, Damn It
An hour after Dumbledore told them about the prophecy, James had his entire family- including the dog- bundled up on a Muggle ferry to France. Because there's valiantly dying for the greater good, and then there's good parenting.
When James Potter was young, he would occasionally wonder why people glossed over his mother's contributions to his parenting. They would praise the valiant, honourable, and Gryffindor Charles Potter, while smiling awkwardly at his cunning, ambitious, and Slytherin wife, Dorea Black. They would attribute James' mischief to Charles' sense of adventure, rather than Dorea's propensity for chaos. They would laud James' Quidditch talent, while ignoring the ambition that placed him on the team, scold his bullying of Snivellus, misattributing the hot-tempered vengeance that lied behind it, and glowingly approve of his courting a Muggleborn, despite the fact that Blacks had a long history of damning authority and pursuing the things- and people- that they wanted.
Well-intentioned individuals would even comment favorably on extending a hand of friendship towards one Sirius Black, despite- as James would exasperatedly remind them- the fact that Sirius was family.
As he grew up, James realized that his parent's love was a strange and wonderful thing, bridging the gap between two opposing sentinels of the political spectrum, and heralding from a time when Light and Dark were not such polarizing labels. He quickly realized that the Dark Families despised Charles Potter for his ideals, and the little boy scorned them for their prejudice. It took more time to realize that the Light's condescension, hidden behind false sympathy and patterned with superiority, was just as grating on his Mother. And so, while the latter was preferable for its lack of violent retaliation, James Potter grew to disdain both curtains of the Old Families.
(His parent's love was what inspired him to chase after a beautiful, spirited Muggleborn in the first place. After all, if Dorea and Charles could overcome their families' prejudices, than surely James could convince the lovely Miss Evans to date him over the Giant Squid.)
Nevertheless, despite the majority of society's desire to pretend otherwise, James Potter had more than one main influence in his childhood. The young Potter Lord had adored and respected his Father of course, and the lessons on honor, integrity, and felicity that Charles Potter imparted would always stand him well, but Dorea Potter nee Black was not remiss in her own lessons. She had imparted quite a few pearls of wisdom from her own upbringing among the Blacks, and James Potter- and later, Sirius Black- had been the most attentive of pupils.
In the midst of half-joking reminders to cast a series of harmless spells after cursing someone to avoid Priori Incantatem, and tips on transfiguring corpses, his mother had imparted her most important lesson.
"As you grow older, my sons, you will learn that life occasionally demands a price from you that will exact something precious," she said, kindly ignoring Sirius' customary flush of pleasure at being addressed by the familiar term, "It may be time or love, health or honor, riches or name…"
Her eyes became unfocused, as Dorea recalled memories from her own past. "When these demands come, you must realize that no matter what choice you make, you will lose something of value. And you will have to decide for yourself, what remains not just precious, but invaluable. A man will always have something that he cannot bear to see destroyed, and a wise man will discern what that particular treasure may be for him."
She focused her intense, silvery-grey Black eyes on the two boys. "When that time comes, I hope you both will choose family before all."
'Family is important' was an oft-repeated phrase in James' childhood, mostly used to admonish the Potter heir after he pulled Cousin Narcissa's springy blonde curls or accidentally-on-purpose set Cousin Bella's owl on fire. It was a reminder not to complain when attending one of Cousin Bartemius' boring Ministry functions or Aunt Walburga's equally boring societal events. It was to soothe an emotional maelstrom when Sirius showed up, black-and-blue, with red-rimmed eyes and a silent plea for help, on his doorstep that godforsaken summer night.
It was something that was left simmering in the back of James' mind, as he left the protected walls of Hogwarts and accepted his place in the Order of the Phoenix. It was stark against the backdrop of the Black Family drama: Sirius, James, Andromeda, and Frank against Regulus, Bella, Narcissa, and Bartemius. It became narrowed and opaque after he married the love of his life, the woman whose bloodline made most of his extended family avoid his wedding, and even more so, after Lily gave him the most precious gift he had ever received.
James Potter was a man that loved easily and quickly, but he had never fallen as fast, or as thoroughly, as when he looked down at his little Harry's bright green-green eyes and swore that he would give up everything to keep this tiny child safe and happy.
It was that solemn promise, and his mother's sage words, that reverberate in his mind now, as James listened to Dumbledore's information. Those words echo in his head, as Prongs, Leader of the Marauders, smiles confidently, and thanks the Headmaster for his warning. They bounce around, coloured by the Black's infamously rising temper, as the Potter Lord shows the Leader of the Light to the Floo. They grow in turn with James' ire, as he stands before the flickering green flames, and thinks of prophecies and spies, traitors and madmen, Dark Lords and Harry's bright green-green eyes.
When the flames return to their merry tongues of red and gold, James Potter's will o'wisp thoughts had solidified into a plan.
"We can't stay here," James spoke abruptly, meeting Lily's horrified green-green eyes, as bright and brilliant as that of their only child's.
"Where can we go?" she whispers, hands clenching, "The Dark Lord will stage an onslaught against the Potter Manor for any child destined to defeat him. Maybe if we warded the cottage… the Fidelius charm, Iron Wards, scrying vi-"
"No," he strode forward in two long strides, one hand gently placed against Lily's pale cheek. "We should leave to the Continent. Take a Muggle ferry, and get the hell out of this warzone."
"Abandon the Order," she murmured, not a single hint of censure in her words. Her eyes glinted in that intelligent manner James loved, as she considered, weighed, and discarded plan after plan with the sole goal of protecting their Harry. "Remus? Peter?"
Not Sirius. They didn't have to ask about Sirius.
James pursed his lips. "I don't think either would betray the Order," he answered, "But I'm not willing to risk Harry's life on it."
"The Potter family has an old chateau in Muggle France?" Lily wondered aloud.
A grim smile spread across James' face. "Harry has never visited the beach before."
She returned his smile, sweet and determined. His brave, noble Gryffindor wife, ready and willing to abandon the cause at the drop of a hat and flee to safer shores. Merlin, James knew he had married this wonderful woman for a reason.
"I'll call Sirius, if you can handle packing the upstairs," the Potter Lord offered, leaning in to spontaneously steal a kiss from his wife's lips.
"Trust the man of the house to give his wife the harder job," Lily replied, laughing. "How much of the family's vaults can be accessed abroad?"
"Gringotts Paris has the authority to cover 15% of the main vault transactions," James answered, "We shouldn't lack anything on that front."
"And I have enough Muggle money on hand to purchase ferry tickets," the redhaired woman concluded. "With any luck, we should settling in France tonight."
As his wife hurried upstairs, wand already out and casting shrinking spells at whatever piece of furniture she passed, James turned around and tossed some Floo powder in.
"Padfoot's Loft," James announced, head spinning in the flames until he could dizzily look into a sparsely furnished living room, "Oi! Sirius, get over here!"
It took a few moments of abruptly shut showers and clashing doors, before the harried, wet, and semi-naked Black heir slid into the room.
"Prongs?" his cousin by blood, and brother by everything else, asked. "Prongs, what's wrong? Has there been another attack?"
"It's private," James answered, well-aware that the Floo had long been compromised by Death Eaters, "Can you put on some clothes and come over? Bring something to bar hop in."
Sirius' eyebrow rose, at the reference to Muggle clothing, but he nodded in assent. When he gracefully stepped into the Potter living room less than five minutes later, Sirius saw the puzzling sight of his cousin gathering up shrunken copies of the household furniture.
"Redecorating?" Sirius asked, wryly. He conjured a woolen bag for his friend to use.
"Dumbledore came by with some crackpot prophecy about how some boy born at the end of July was destined to defeat the Dark Lord," James explained, levitating the furniture in, "Apparently, it applies to two boys- Harry and some other poor kid- and Voldemort believes it."
Nobody's fool, Sirius immediately connected the dots. "So we're doing a runner?"
James tossed him a grateful smile. "You, me, Lils, and Harry are taking a vacation to Avignon. I heard the weather's great this time of year."
"I heard that it has France's largest colony of Veela," Sirius grinned rakishly. "Well, I don't have anything too important or valuable in my apartment, so we might as well ransack this place."
"I'll tackle the books in the study, while you handle the kitchen then," James viewed the barren living room with satisfaction, "Lily will have conniptions if you damage the china. She inherited them from her grandmother."
"You know," Sirius mused, "If we're lucky, Harry's first girlfriend might just be a Veela…"
Less than two hours later, the Potter Family cottage in Godric's Hallow lied bare and hollow, without a single soul residing within. Dorea Potter would have approved.
This ended up considerably less light-hearted than I intended it to be, but I think I'm still pleased with the final result. I think it represents a course in Harry Potter canon that is rarely explored: the idea that James and Lily might want to remove their hunted son from an active war zone. Anyway, I hope you like it!