Chapter 1: James Potter
Loud ringing sounded in James Potter's ears. With a quiet groan he sat up holding his sore head. Slowly he opened his eyes, looking around the ruins of his living room. Memories slammed back into place as he looked at the broken front door.
Voldemort had found them. James had told Lily to take Harry and run. He had fought Voldemort. He had anticipated the Killing Curse just moments before it would have hit him. He had dove. Then pain and darkness took him. James turned, seeing his own blood on the corner of the fireplace. He must have hit his head there.
The fog in his head suddenly cleared. Lily and Harry! James jumped up and ran for the stairs. Turning on the landing he saw the ruin of the nursery.
"Merlin, no," his voice shook. "Lily," he called in a panic. "Lily!" he screamed as he entered what was left of the room. James looked franticly around for Harry, but somehow he knew in his gut, Harry was gone. He fell to his knees beside Lily's body, tears flowing down his face.
"Oh, Lils," he cried, rocking her head. "What have we done?" he moaned. "All our planning and preparations, all for naught." He froze as he heard voices outside from the open wall.
"Not a good night. I just came from the Bones estate. Only two survivors."
"Merlin, what else can happen tonight? First, this, then Moody gets called to the Longbottoms'."
"What happened there?"
"Moody and his team caught the Lestranges as they were trying to leave. Frank and Alice are in bad shape. Heard they may never recover."
James lowered Lily's head down to the floor. He leaned over, placing one last kiss on her lips with tears in his eyes. He sat up.
"Mason," James called quietly.
"Master! I…," the loyal house elf froze as James put his finger to his lips. Mason looked around seeing his mistress and the empty, ruined crib. His large eyes started to brim with tears as he whimpered, his trembling hands covering his mouth.
"Take me home, Mason," James cried, quietly. Mason didn't question, he just reached out taking James' arm and disappeared with a soft "pop".
Twelve years later, James was something of a hermit. He had returned to Potter Manor just long enough to pack a few things, then took his personal portkey that was a boomerang to his Australian retreat deep in the Outback. The only company he had were the two house elves that maintained the property, not that he interacted with them much. James spent his day time in the library mostly, reading to occupy his mind. Rarely would he even speak. His nights were filled with nightmares of that long ago Halloween night.
Many nights, James would not sleep at all. He would lay awake thinking of all the things he had lost. His wife, his son, his friends, all were casualties of the war with Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Sometimes he would picture what his family would have been like. On some level he knew he should move on with his life, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. It felt like he would be betraying Lily and Harry if he did move on. James was content to just live out his life in the hiding place he had chosen.
Once or twice a year he would go into Alice Springs to catch a bus north into Darwin to do some shopping in the Wizarding section of the city. James could have apperated there from the retreat, but he found he enjoyed the long trip to adjust to being around people, be they Muggle or Magical, for a day or two.
Depression was always on his mind, but with his beloved wife and son gone, he couldn't bring himself to face the world for any more time then it took to go into Darwin and return to the retreat. He kept his distance from the people he met on the bus ride, and tried to avoid any of them that tried to talk to him, politely saying he was tired and pretending to sleep.
James had made a few acquaintances during his trips into Darwin, all in the magical community, but he would not let any of them get close to him. He couldn't take anymore loss in his life. He didn't want to care; only to have it all ripped away from him again somehow. Only one of those few he made contact with knew who he really was, and that had happened by sheer accident. To most he was Jason Harris, and that's the way he wanted it. No attachments, no pain of loss.
James entered the shop of the only person in the whole community that knew he was James Potter to pick up some badly needed Potion supplies.
"Well, well, what have the dingoes dragged in now?"
"Funny, Clyde," James smiled. "How've you been?"
"Dandy, mate," Clyde replied. "Been a couple years since you been in."
"Yeah, well," sighed James. "Haven't needed any ingredients for a while. Got a couple on my list that I can't grow."
Clyde nodded, then looked around quickly. He walked around his store to make sure they were alone, knowing that James preferred to remain incognito. He flicked his wand at the door and his sign. James looked at him questioningly. "Come with me, mate."
He led James into the back room. On his desk was an old pile of Wizarding newspapers. Clyde shuffled through a few, finally pulling one out of the middle of the stack. "Thought you might want to see this."
James took the paper, looking at the date first. It was from July of last year. James frowned, glancing up at Clyde. As he looked back at the headline, he froze. His blood turned to ice in his veins. The large picture of Sirius screaming on the front sent a chill down his spine. He read the article quickly, stopping when it mentioned "The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter" was at Hogwarts and they thought Black would try to get to the school.
James sank to his knees tears of joy and disbelief sprang to his eyes. His son was alive. All these years of hiding, thinking half of his world was gone. Harry was alive! He smiled through the tears. Thank, Merlin! He quickly read the details again.
"You alright there, mate?" Clyde asked.
"My son," James swallowed hard. "My son is alive!"
"That's why I saved those for you," Clyde smiled.
"Thanks, Clyde," said James as he stood shakily. "I… I need to get back to England! Douty!"
"Sir?" one of James' house elves appeared.
"Take me home, I have to pack. I'm returning to England."
James landed in the entry hall of Potter Manor three hours later. He looked around. Nothing had changed in twelve years. Mason and his staff must have kept the Manor livable knowing he could return anytime. James heard a soft pop behind him.
"Welcome, home, Master James," Mason said as he bowed.
"Good to see again, Mason," James smiled.
"And you, sir," Mason smiled.
"Prepare my room and three others, please. If I need more I'll let you know."
"Very good, sir."
"It may be a few days before I return, but when I do, my son will be with me."
"Very g…Sir?" the little elf's shock was evident in his voice as his droopy ears perked up for the first time in years. As Mason realized the words spoken, his eyes started to brim with tears of joy.
"Harry's alive, Mason!" James smiled. "I'll explain later. Right now, I need to get to Hogwarts. Tell the rest of the staff. I'll be back later."
"Yes, Sir," Mason said as he ran off calling to the rest of the elves. James chuckled at his enthusiasm.
James apperated to the Shrieking Shack just outside of Hogsmeade. He was surprised to hear voices inside. He changed into Prongs, moving stealthily closer to hear what was being said. He heard a girl's voice say werewolf. Quietly moving closer he looked through the cracks between the boards. A red haired boy sat on a bed in the corner with a wounded leg and holding a rat. A very familiar rat. James narrowed his eyes, something was going on and he needed to know what before he made his appearance. He looked over at a bushy haired brunette speaking to someone over her shoulder, whose face was hidden in the shadows. He looked to the other side of the room. There stood two of his best friends, Sirius and Remus. Both looked worn and ragged.
James watched in horror and amazement as Harry stepped forward out of the shadows after Snape had arrived and started causing trouble, as usual. While Snape was distracted, Harry grabbed the girl's wand and disarmed him with a very impressive amount of power. Snape lay still and then Moony bound him. He listened to Padfoot and Moony explain to Harry and his friends about Peter's betrayal. James shook with rage, but knew he had to let this play out. Finally, Remus and Sirius persuaded the red head to give Remus the rat to prove to them it was Peter.
After forcing himself to stay calm, and not burst through the wall to gorge Peter with his antlers, James ran for the opening by the Whomping Willow, mindful of any Dementors in the area. James shuttered at the thought. He wondered what Dumbledore was thinking by allowing the foul creatures anywhere near the school.
James reached the tunnel opening and pressed the knot that froze the deadly tree before heading for the trees. He hid just inside the tree line, changing back to his human form and waited for them to emerge from the tunnel. He watched Harry and Sirius talk quietly away from the others. It was then that the bushy haired witch pointed to the sky. James watched in horror as the full moon started to break through clouds. He knew he had to do something or all would be lost. James broke into a dead run at Remus. With his Auror trained eyes, he saw Peter start to transform into his rat form.
"Padfoot, go after Wormtail!" James shouted as he pushed Sirius away and tackled Remus, pulling him into the woods away from the kids as Remus started his transformation.
"Prongs?" Sirius whispered in shock.
"Sirius, go! Use that sniffer of yours and catch that son of a bitch! I'll take care of Moony!" James shouted back just before changing into Prongs.
"It can't be!" sneered Snape as he stood looking in the direction of the new voice.
"Oh, shut it, Snivellus," Sirius said as he hit Snape in the jaw. Snape dropped in a heap in front of Ron. "That felt good," he smiled. "Harry, get back to the castle. Grab the first teacher you see, and get them down here." With that Sirius transformed into his dog form and ran after the little rat that was his ticket to freedom.
Harry didn't think twice. Sirius was his way out of the Dursleys'. Harry wondered about the man who had pulled Professor Lupin away, and why Sirius had called him Prongs. That was his father's nickname, but his father was dead. He wanted more answers but they would have to wait. He ran through the main doors and up the stairs.
"Harry, what's the big hurry?" Ginny Weasley said, coming out of one of the hidden passageways nearly colliding with him.
"No time to explain. Need to find a teacher!" Harry said as he was about to run off.
"McGonagall's in her office still. Come on, then!" Ginny said tugging Harry back the way she came. Her touch sent a small shock through his arm. She let go with a look of slight confusion as they ran down the passageway. "Quicker way," she answered his questioning look with a little smile and blush. Harry wondered what the shock was, but he had more pressing concerns on his mind to worry about that at the moment.
They reached their Head of House's office just as she was coming out. They slid to a stop, gripping each other for balance. They stared at each other for a moment that seemed to last forever. The air around them seemed to crackle and spark. The world around them was gone. The only thing they saw was each other. Harry was lost in Ginny's chocolate brown eyes momentarily. It was like he was seeing into her very soul. It was beautiful, and so was she.
"Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley. Something I can do for you? Or is there a reason for your rush?" McGonagall asked curtly, looking at each of them in turn. Harry tore his gaze away with an effort as he saw Ginny blush.
"Professor … Ron hurt…Sirius Black… Professor Lupin changed… Whomping Willow," Harry panted breathlessly.
"Sirius Black!" gasped Ginny, grabbing Harry's arm, the crackle and sparks returning. He could see the fear in her eyes, but now was not the time to explain to her the truth about Sirius. They had to get back to the others, but he would have to revisit these feelings with her, just not at the moment. Harry hoped that Sirius would be able to catch Pettigrew, and some of his nightmarish life would be over for good this time.
"You can explain later, lead on!" McGonagall said, as she raised her wand sending two quick messages as they ran back to the main doors. "Madam Pomphrey and Professor Dumbledore will meet us there shortly."
They raced out of the castle back to the deadly tree. By then, Hermione had moved Ron away from the tree's swaying branches. Professor McGonagall levitated Snape away from the tree and looked at the ropes tying him. She was about to ask, when a large black dog emerged from the trees carrying a large rat in its teeth. The dog walked up to her and dropped the rat at her feet, then stood and changed into a man.
"Hello, Minnie," Sirius smiled.
"You! What is going on here?" she asked raising her wand.
In that moment, Ginny forced Harry behind her, pulling her wand as well. The air around them sparked and crackled for a third time, sending Harry's mind spinning. Harry stared at her. That was the second time Ginny had stepped in front of him to defend him. Her left hand was gripping his arm tightly to keep him firmly behind her. He could feel the electricity from her touch. Something in Harry changed in that moment. He realized just how pretty and protective Ginny really was. He made it a point to get to know her better after this was over.
"I'll explain it all as soon as the rat is secured. If you please, Minnie, anti-animagus spells," grinned Sirius, pointing at the rat. Madam Pomphrey had arrived and was tending to Ron. With a bright flash of fire, Professor Dumbledore arrived.
"Mr. Black," Dumbledore said raising his wand.
"Hello, Albus," Sirius said glancing at him. "The spells, please, Minnie."
McGonagall eyed Black closely. She gave a small nod, than pointed her wand at the rat. Soon Peter Pettigrew was lying at her feet. "Sweet Merlin! Peter Pettigrew! But that means…" she gasped.
Sirius reached down, pulling Pettigrew's left sleeve up, revealing the Dark Mark. There were several gasps as the others realized the truth without hearing the whole story. Dumbledore bound Pettigrew and added an anti-transformation ward to the ropes.
"Now, I believe an explanation is in order," Dumbledore said looking at Sirius, after adding a large Patronus shield around them to keep the Dementors away.
"Some of it will have to wait until morning, Albus," Sirius said looking toward the trees as a werewolf howl resounded around the grounds. "For now, I'm just happy Harry knows the truth."
Harry stepped from behind an astonished Ginny, who had let her grip loosen, and into the waiting arms of his godfather. "Now, I believe some introductions are in order, what'd say, Harry?"
"Oh, right," smiled Harry. "The two redheads are Weasleys. The ugly one you bit is Ron. The pretty one is Ginny. The other girl is Hermione Granger, smartest witch of our age." Ron nodded, while Hermione and Ginny blushed. "This is my godfather, Sirius Black, an innocent man."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Black," Ginny said, extending her hand.
"Sirius, or Padfoot, please, Miss Ginny," he smiled taking her hand. He gave an appraising look at Harry. He had a slight grin as he stared at Ginny. Sirius smiled slyly as he turned to Ginny, leaning in and speaking quietly. "You do know Potter men have a weakness and fascination for redheads?"
"Sirius," Harry balked. "I'm only thirteen." Ginny said nothing but blushed the same color as her hair, as Sirius laughed.
The sun had yet to rise as the moon sank below the horizon. A werewolf lay sleeping on the ground and began to change. When the change was complete, one man lay naked and curled into a ball being watched by a large stag that was lying a short distance away. The man groaned as he awoke. The last thing he remembered was seeing the moon break through the clouds after emerging from the tunnel. He hoped he had not hurt Harry or the others. The last waves of severe pain ebbed away as he tried to sit up. Still with his eyes closed he pushed himself up to his hands and knees with a moan.
"Damn, Moony, you look like crap," a voice the man had not heard in twelve years said. Remus Lupin's eyes flew open, snapping his head to the sound of the voice. "And, no, you didn't hurt anyone last night."
"James?" he said weakly. Lupin saw the smiling face of one of his best friends looking at him as he sat close by. "How…What…But?"
"Never thought I'd see the day, that you'd be speechless, Moony," James smiled as he stood to help Lupin stand.
"But… You died! You and Lily both died! Did something happen to me last night? Am I dead?" Lupin said, gripping James to make sure he was really there.
"No," James chuckled. "I got better."
"That's not funny," Remus frowned. "What was my secret crush in school that I only told you and Lily?"
"Emily McDougall of Hufflepuff. You never got the nerve up to ask her out because of your furry little problem," James replied without hesitation.
"Prongs, I've missed you, my friend," Lupin said with tears in his eyes as they hugged.
"I missed you too, Moony."
"But how?" Lupin shook his head.
"Come on, let's get you up to the castle, and then I'll explain."
"Swing by Hagrid's. I have some clothes there for just such an occasion," Lupin said as they started off towards Hogwarts.
"Ja…Ja… James Potter, as I live and breathe!" exclaimed a very shocked Minerva McGonagall as James and Remus walked up to the main doors of the castle.
"Hello, Minnie," he smiled. She gasped as she rushed forward and embraced one of her favorite former students. James chuckled as he returned her hug.
They made their way to the hospital wing where everyone was waiting for them. When they arrived Madam Pomphrey and Albus Dumbledore were the only ones still awake. The shock on their faces was evident. James just grinned as he helped Lupin into a bed to rest and Madam Pomphrey to check over. He made his way over to Sirius and Harry. James noticed a young redheaded witch sleeping close to his son and had to chuckle. Harry could not escape the "Potter Curse". James leaned down and gently placed a kiss on his forehead. He felt a tap on his shoulder as he stared at the lightning bolt shaped scar on his son's forehead. James stood and turned into an almost bone crushing hug from Sirius.
"Is it really you, James?" he said with tears streaming down his face.
"It's me, Pads," James said. The sounds of stirring caused them to turn. Harry was sitting up, placing his glasses on his nose. The rest of the children were awake and staring at him, mouths open. Harry looked at his friends in confusion.
"What?" he asked, groggily.
The redhead just pointed, as if she couldn't speak. Harry followed her finger and froze. James just smiled as he nodded opening his arms. Harry sprang from the bed, tears streaming down his face. Father and son just stood there, wrapped in each other's arms, crying. Harry finally stepped back, looking up at his father for the first time he could remember.
"Dad? ...How? …" Harry asked in utter confusion.
"Indeed, that seems to be the very question on all our minds, James," said Dumbledore, a slight frown passing over his face. It was gone before anyone could question it.
Minerva McGonagall saw the expression pass over his face as she felt a spell crack around her. As her memory returned to her, she flashed Dumbledore a very stern look. He would have to answer some questions very soon, and she wasn't sure she would like the answers.
James looked at everyone in turn. He gently guided Harry back to the bed to sit. "I got lucky for the most part." James told them of how he awoke sometime after the attack to find Lily's body and Harry gone, the cottage in ruins. He told them that he thought his little family was gone, of holding Lily's body before leaving. "I heard the Aurors talking about Frank and Alice and I couldn't take it. I left. I went to Australia to one of my more remote properties and stayed there. I cut myself off from everything. I just couldn't face the world, not without Harry or Lily.
"I went into Darwin for some supplies yesterday, and the shop owner was the only one who knew me. The real me. He saw the paper about Sirius escaping and Harry being here from back in July. He saved it for me. I came straight back to England to the Manor, and then here."
"Well, James, I think I can say this for all of us," Minerva started. "We're very happy you ended your self-imposed exile."
"Thanks, Minnie," James grinned at her. Snickers could be heard from the children. McGonagall just sighed and closed her eyes. "What happened to Peter?"
"Oh, I caught the little rat!" Sirius said. "Albus called Amelia Bones. She came personally to pick up the little twit."
"Good. Albus, do you mind if I take some time and get to know my son again?"
"Of course, James. It is two days until the end of term, and I believe they have all finished their exams?" The teens all nodded. "Very well. So we shall leave you to it."
After the professors left, Harry beamed at his friends. "Dad, I want you to meet my friends." He pointed to each in turn. "That's Hermione Granger, whose everything I could ever hope for in a sister." James stared at Hermione for a moment before nodding at her. "These are Ron and Ginny Weasley."
"Molly finally got her girl," James chuckled.
"You know my parents?" Ginny asked.
"I know of them," James said. "I think I've met your father once or twice briefly."
"They're really great people, dad," smiled Harry, glancing at Ginny. "I think you'll like them. I'm sure we can spend some time with them this summer."
"You bet, pup!" Sirius said. "After we take care of a little legal matter."
"By the way, Harry, I see the 'Potter Curse' is still in effect," grinned James.
"'Potter Curse'?" asked Harry.
"Potters and redheads," snickered Sirius. Ginny blushed a deep crimson again. Harry's mouth just looked like a fish out of water.
Three hours later Harry and James were walking the grounds by the Black Lake. They walked in silence, arm around the other as they slowly neared a small hidden alcove of trees and brush on the shore. Harry was enjoying just being with his father. James stopped and pulled Harry into a hug.
"I've missed you, son," James choked out.
"I missed you, too, dad," Harry said through the lump in his throat. "Even though I barely know anything about you and mum."
"Well, we'll just have to change that, won't we?" James smiled down at Harry.
They sat down looking out over the water as the giant squid played just under the surface in the warm sun. Harry turned to stare at his father. He was hoping this was real and not some dream. But he needed to know the events of that long ago night that he had thought he had lost his parents. He wanted to know the whole story. Most of all, Harry wanted to know about his mother.
"Dad, what happened that night?" Harry asked quietly.
"Voldemort came for us," James said staring at his hands. "Your mum and I were researching a spell that would help us survive if we were attacked. I didn't have time to cast the spell. Apparently, your mum managed to cast it on you at least. She was the one doing the research, really. But we had to go into hiding before we could actually test it.
"When He came, we were in the sitting room having some fun. The ward alarms went off, and I picked you up and handed you to your mum," James said quietly as tears started down his cheeks. "I told her to run. She argued. She was so stubborn," he chuckled. James took a deep shuttering breath. "She took you up to your room as I tried to hold Voldemort off long enough for her to cast the spell. He cast the killing curse at me, but I knew it was coming. It wasn't the first time I'd dueled him."
James was quiet for a minute, trying to control his emotions. This was the first time he had really talked about that night in the twelve years since it had happened. "I dodged at the last second, but I hit my head on the fireplace," he continued, pointing to a small scar on his left temple. "When I woke up, I ran upstairs to check on you and your mum. Your room was a disaster. One wall was gone, along with half the roof. The other half was lying on your cot. You were gone, but so was He. There was blood on your mattress. I thought He had…" James choked again as the raw emotions started to take hold. Harry placed a hand on his back, rubbing it, trying to wipe his own tears away. "I thought He had obliterated you. Then I saw your mum," he stopped, covering his face as he sobbed for a minute. Harry pulled James into a hug, as they tried to comfort each other. "I held her one last time before I left. I went home to Potter Manor…"
"Potter Manor?" asked Harry, a bit confused. "I thought we only had the one house in Godric's Hollow."
"No," laughed James. "The cottage was more of a small town house. The Manor is outside of town. Plus, we own properties all over the world. We Potters really don't have to work if we don't want to. Our family is one of the oldest and wealthiest families in England, if not the world. I'll take you to the family vault after you're home from term."
"You mean my vault isn't the only one?" Harry sounded more confused.
"No, that's just your school trust vault. You might find something in the family vault to give to a certain redhead for her birthday or Christmas," James smiled slyly.
"Dad," Harry whined as he blushed.
"Listen to me, Harry," James said, turning to meet Harry's eyes with a very serious look and tone. "There's going to come a day when we will talk about the whys of what happened that night, but not right now. You're not ready to hear it yet. Until then, and even after, you cannot forget to live and enjoy life. Love is a part of that. I can tell she cares about you, and the way you were staring at her all morning tells me you care about her."
"She's my best mate's sister…"
"And?" shrugged James. "Did you, or did you not save her life last year?"
"Well, yeah, but…"
"Harry, something like that will always make a strong bond of some kind. What type, time will tell. But don't ignore any feelings you might have."
"But she's a year younger," Harry said. He knew he was making excuses. His feelings for Ginny had changed.
"Harry, age is not really the issue, is it?" James said, looking at his son. Harry frowned and shook his head. "Then what?"
"I don't really know how I feel yet," Harry said honestly. "Something changed last night, what that is, not sure yet."
"Despite the Potter Curse, think about how you really feel about her, get to know her, and go from there."
Harry nodded; he had some thinking to do. Most of it revolving around a pretty redhead who was slowly taking over all his thoughts.