Disclaimer: I don't own any rights to Harry Potter stories or characters. They are all property of J.K. Rowling and her associates. I only play with them for my pleasure, and hopefully yours.
1. Halloween 1981
"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off!"
James didn't really have a plan. He had several ideas, none of which was fully formed. Dumbledore had promised that they were absolutely safe under the Fidelius charm and didn't need anything else. Lily wasn't as confident, though. She added a few wards of her own and persuaded James to add some as well. None was really powerful enough to stop Voldemort, but even if they delayed him just a bit it could make a difference.
Now he hoped they would delay his foe for long enough. While Lily ran upstairs, to grab Harry and disapparate, James disillusioned himself, cursing for having left his invisibility cloak with Dumbledore, and then started creating several doppelgänger dummies to confuse the attacker.
He only managed to create one when the door burst open. In his anxiety, his hand trembled and the wand fell, rolling behind the sofa. James hurriedly bent to grab it and was almost blinded by the green curse killing the dummy. By the time he found his wand, he only saw the tail of Voldemort's robes going into the nursery.
James started running upstairs, his wand clutched tightly. He then saw a green flash emanating from the open doorway, followed by another before he even reached the last stair.
James felt as if his heart stopped beating. He knew he had lost everything that was worth living for. He wanted revenge, at least, but knew he was no match for the Dark Lord who would step out of that doorway any moment. It was a no brainer, really. With nothing to fight for, the only option was to flee, gain some power and then start his revenge.
He heard some apparition "pop"s from the front yard. 'Probably death eaters, ready to loot, like the hyenas they are,' he thought bitterly as he made his decision. With another soft "pop" he disappeared.
Albus Dumbledore and some members of the Order came in a moment later with their wands ready. They spotted the remains of James Potter immediately. It wasn't much, really. Only some burned clothes, a mutilated body and a smashed head, unrecognisable, except for the black hair and the square eyeglasses.
Dumbledore hurried upstairs, followed by Alstor Moody and Minerva McGonagall. Lily's body was sprawled on the floor, her unseeing green eyes still looking defiant and fierce. Another body seemed to lie on the floor on the other side of the crib, but on closer inspection it turned out to be only black robes and clothes, including underwear. It looked like whoever had worn these clothes had vanished, leaving everything behind.
A small whimper sounded. Minerva was the first to approach the crib, where the sound was coming from. A year old boy was looking at her, seeming shocked. His green eyes were studying her severe face, as if looking for something. His lips started forming a smile, yet he suddenly started crying loudly. Minerva could now see that he was wounded. His forehead seemed to have an injury.
She didn't need to think about it at all. She grabbed the boy instinctively and hugged him to her chest while trying to check his wound. It wasn't really deep and didn't seem to be important. 'He may have been hit by some debris from that hole in the wall,' she thought.
Dumbledore was still checking the black robe. He could sense the evil which had filled it until a few minutes earlier but could find no explanation to it being empty. He turned around, noticing the baby for the first time. 'He marked him as his equal, just like the prophecy said,' he thought, his mind starting to calculate all the possibilities and trying to find the best option.
Minerva had taken the baby to the bathroom and cleaned him of the blood, yet she couldn't heal the wound with any healing charm she tried. It wasn't bleeding any more and the baby seemed calm now, only looking at everything with interest, and the wound turned into a lightning shaped scar, but it stayed raw red and wouldn't heal.
"It's a curse scar, Minerva. Leave it be, as anything we do may harm Harry more than the scar itself," Albus told her and she stopped her actions reluctantly.
James apparated across the channel – into an open field in the north of France, between an old castle and a small village. The cold wind was penetrating his soul, so it seemed, but James didn't mind it. He walked to the castle's gate, which opened as he approached and closed behind him once he passed it.
"Sulis!" he called, as he reached the entry hall.
A small house elf appeared and bowed slightly. It looked well fed and its clothes, although reminding of pillow cases, were clean and tidy, sporting a coat of arms near its left shoulder
"I need a sweater and a heavy coat and some local muggle money," James said, sounding very impatient.
The elf popped out and returned within seconds with the requested items. James put the money in his pocket, put the clothes on and stormed out towards one of the village's pubs.
James returned to the castle, highly intoxicated and quite unstable on his feet, when the first rays of the sun could already be seen at the horizon. He crawled into the first bedroom he could find and fell asleep in his clothes.
It was evening when James woke up with a headache. Sulis gave him a vial of hangover potion and led him to the bathroom, where the bath was already filled with hot water.
An hour later, wearing clean clothes, James left the castle for another pub.
It was Saturday night, two weeks after James had arrived at the castle. He had taken his hangover potion and was heading for the bathroom when Sulis stood defiantly in front of the bathroom door.
"Master James should not go to pub," the small elf told the tall man as if he was a father admonishing a child. It was the first time Sulis had spoken since that fateful night.
"What else would you have me do? I've nothing to live for now. Let me drink and forget," James answered bitterly.
"You have a child to care for," insisted Sulis.
"My wife and my child are dead! Can't you understand?" James practically shouted at the small creature.
Sulis seemed unfazed. "Young master Harry is alive and needs his father. You should stop grieving and start acting like a responsible parent."
"Harry is alive?" James asked with doubt and hope mixed in his voice.
"Yes, master James. Young master Harry is alive. I can feel my bond to him. But he's not well. You should take him and care for him, as you've done since he was born."
"Let's go now!" James exclaimed.
"Master must first bath and eat properly. Then you should find out what happened since the night you came here and only then make a plan. Haven't you learned anything from Mistress Lily?" The elf seemed to get teary as he said the last words.
"Sorry, Sulis. You are absolutely right. I should have acted wiser. Please forgive me for being a stupid master."
A small smile appeared on the elf's face. "You're not stupid, master, but you sometimes tend to act before you think. I believe you'll have to change that soon."
James felt a bit like a small child being reprimanded. He bathed and dressed properly and then went to the family dining room, where a nice dinner was waiting for him. Once at the table, he was suddenly aware of the grumbling in his stomach as the smells whet his appetite. He found the meal quite welcome and enjoyed Sulis's cooking.
"You should now go to your study. I've left there all the newspapers since you arrived," the elf said as he removed the dirty dishes from the table.
"Thank you, Sulis. I appreciate your work and your advice. Will you join me at the study?"
"Master must first read the papers. I'll bring you some tea a bit later."
The newspapers gave him a lot to think of. He read about Harry's mysterious survival and Voldemort's disappearance. He had tears in his eyes when reading about his and Lily's funeral and the nice eulogies said. There were two things that really disturbed him, though.
He found out that Sirius Black was arrested for betraying the Potters and for killing Peter Pettigrew and several muggles. He knew that Sirius was NOT the secret keeper and would have never killed the muggles. Dumbledore should have known that, and yet he didn't act at all. That was worrisome.
Just as important – there was no mention of what had happened to Harry. He had been mentioned as the only survivor of the attack, "The Boy Who Lived", and there was even a single photo of the smiling baby waving at the camera with an ugly scar on his forehead, but then – nothing. Dumbledore had probably hidden the child well. It would make James's task much harder.
He wasn't sure about what to do next. Lily would have known, he thought bitterly. She had been the smartest witch in school, maybe in the whole generation. He felt tears begging to leave his eyes and he fought to contain them. It wouldn't do a Marauder to cry.
A Marauder... That made him think. Peter betrayed them; Sirius was imprisoned; Remus? He wasn't sure he could find him. Remus had spent a lot of time trying to prevent other werewolves from joining Voldemort, yet now this seemed redundant.
Sulis brought him a cup of tea. "Would master need anything else?"
"Yes, Sulis. Do you know how to contact Moony? I mean Mr. Lupin."
The elf smiled. "I know who Moony is. I suggest using an owl, but you should assure him that it's really you, as he probably thinks you're dead."
"Thank you, Sulis. I'll write to him and let you send it as soon as I'm finished."
Remus was staying at home, in his small shack, trying to overcome his grief over the loss of all his friends. Lily and James had been murdered, probably by Voldemort, and Peter had been killed by Sirius, who seemed to had betrayed them all, joining Voldemort. Something didn't seem right in this story, of that he was sure, yet he couldn't see what.
An unrecognised owl flew through the small window near the roof. It looked well groomed and a bit haughty while hooting to attract attention to the letter attached to its leg.
Remus took it and was shocked to recognize the handwriting. He flopped back on his chair and started reading while his hands trembled.
Contrary to what has been published, I'm not dead. Unfortunately, this is not the case with my wife. I've been drinking myself to oblivion for the last two weeks, believing my baby had been killed, but now I found that he's alive and needs me.
You may use the map to find me. I now need some words with you and I hope you will help.
Your Marauder friend,
As much as he liked to believe it, this was too good to be true. He had been present at the funeral. He had even seen the corpses, or the remains, before the funeral. And yet...
He took another glance at the letter, noticing the two accentuated words. His sombre face slowly turned into a hesitant smile. He took his wand, touched it to the letter and said, "I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good."
The letter faded and new lines appeared, forming a different letter for Remus to read.
I have reason to believe that our esteemed leader has some personal agenda of which he tells us nothing. He is the one who insisted we stay at Godric Hollow when we could just move to one of our foreign holdings, all of which are better protected and more comfortable than that small house. Now he seems to meddle with Harry's life, hiding him from the public eye.
As I survived (and I'll tell you everything when we meet), I want to find Harry and raise him myself. As usual, I need your help in planning the greatest prank of them all.
Also, Sirius is innocent of betraying us. Peter was the secret keeper and Dumbledore knows it, as he is the one who cast the spell. More reason to not trust him.
Please come to the Castle in France, where we spent the week before my wedding.
I'm waiting for you,
Remus understood that the underlined words were the activation code for the letter to become a portkey, but he wasn't ready to leave yet. He was going to do a bit of research before joining his friend. He smiled as he tapped the letter and said, "Mischief managed," making it revert to its original form.
The haughty owl was still waiting. Remus scribbled a quick note and gave it to the owl who took off immediately, not sparing Remus another glance.