Chapter Fourteen – Death Be Naught
Stockholm Syndrome by Muse
He switched the light off with a grin on his face. Having pulled all curtains closed, not a single source of light could find its way into his bedroom. He pulled his wand out, held it out in front of him and whispered, "Lumos."
At once, a glow from the tip of his wand emerged and James could see in front of him.
"Merlin, that's the greatest thing in the world," he laughed at himself. Of everything possibly weighing on his chest, here he was standing in his bedroom getting giddy over a simple light incantation.
The grin slowly faded but never quite diminished as he climbed into bed and put the light out from his wand. He placed the wand under his pillow, an old habit making it easy to reach if he were to need it during the night, but concealed from sight. The realization of his habit comforted him as he fell into sleep.
Swirling colors, hues of reds and green, floated above him in the night sky. The moon shone bright enough to provide light to see, yet still made the dark mysterious and brooding.
A great desire of need overcame him. There was something he needed to do, something he couldn't avoid, but he wasn't sure he was ready. The swirling colors raced faster as he began to panic. A drop of doubt tumbled into his thoughts. Was he strong enough to handle this? Could he face what he was about to walk into? Would he make the right decision this time?
As quickly as the swirling hues had overtaken him they stopped, leaving him to admire an endless sea of possibilities. He had been here before, though he could not recognize it. Sensations of ease and comfort filled his veins as his heart beat rapidly and his pulse quickened.
He looked beyond his surroundings and envisioned a great beauty. It was a world he once knew, a world he held deep within his heart. This world was one in which survivors were of myths and tales, and happiness presided with echoing laughter. In this vision, rain meant rejuvenation; the sun was strong, and days were filled with hard work and play, instead of worry and fright.
This was the world he fought for and believed in. The world he planned to spend the rest of his years enjoying with his family. Lily and Harry. Perhaps he and Lily would have had more children…
The image before him shifted to people he knew, to those he loved. Smiles and laughter showered the children and babies. The sun sparkled in the sky fueled by the contentment below it.
Suddenly, a dark shadow moved swiftly behind him. He turned, but too late. The sun faded and the laughter subsided. Darkness enveloped him as he dizzyingly searched for something familiar.
Only - the shadow was familiar. The shadow had been a part of him for the better half of his life.
The darkness filled with swirls of red and green once more. His mind exploded with sounds. There were voices of loved ones, laughter of the damned, and the one who spoke the loudest – the silent shadow.
His mission was concrete - the shadow would learn to understand the light he blocked.
. . . . . & . . . . .
Rolling over in his sleep, a comfortable smile formed on his face. It was a needed deep sleep: dreams full of pleasantry and hope. Though the dark reins of formidable anguish were long from disappearing, a new light had been resurrected. A light that promised a love worth fighting for and years of loneliness to be soon forgotten.
Surrounded by friends, and now family, he no longer felt isolated and secluded in his quest to end the darkness and fight for what was right. The weight was not yet lifted, but love encircled him.
There was a chance for a bright future and nothing could stop Harry from winning the final battle.
. . . . & . . . .
Concentration was how he lived his life. No second thoughts occurred to him in his clash for supremacy. There was no room for mistakes, no room for indecision. Life had given him choices and he chose. He chose to battle for greatness, to be more than his lineage had accomplished. The power had been at his fingertips, the knowledge at his doorstep. To ignore the possibility of becoming all that he could would have been to spit in his own blood. He walked with dignity, encompassing the fear he drove into the hearts of those who would never amount to all that he was and all that he will become.
No half-blood and his entourage of 'do-gooders' and peace fighters would stand in his way. He would prevail. Fighting a defensive game had proved for the 'light' side that faith and togetherness only went so far.
His red eyes glowed with laughter; he'd always have the upper hand. He would win.
. . . . & . . . .
Harry's scar was something of wonder. Dumbledore believed it to be an infusion on his skin, a scar not only left from an incision, but also one mixed with voltaic magic. It was electrically filled with ancient magic, light and dark.
As a boy, the shape had once mesmerized him. A lightening bolt was hardly a normal shape to be left from whatever had sliced him. He'd thought it a sign once, that it meant he was destined for more than life under the stairs. He hadn't any idea what it truly meant or where it actually came from.
The pain it caused when Voldemort was near or the feeling it induced when he could feel him attempting to tap into him was nothing short of excruciating. Not only did the physical pain bother him, but the uneasy feeling it caused in his gut scared him.
He was used to the dark side of the scar. The connection it gave him with Voldemort was the only source of magic he'd felt from it. Then – then a different ache bred from it. A foreign ache that worried him solely because he didn't understand it. There hadn't been any pain, only confusion and concern.
And then his father had appeared.
He supposed the ancient magic secluded in the depths of the lightening bolt began to wake. The second half began to emerge - the side he'd never felt before. It was the side that had once saved him from Voldemort and that held his mother's love and protection.
But this was a different feeling that awoke him. It reminded him of the pain from the feeling it caused in his gut, but there was no pain. There was no ache, no feelings of confusion or concern. He just felt something.
Harry threw the covers off and sat up, squinting, thinking maybe the feeling was just from his sleep. He rubbed the scar; hoping pressure would chase away the alien sensation. Realizing it wasn't working, Harry grabbed his glasses and stretched his tired limbs. The feeling had to be from thinking so much. Maybe he just had a headache.
But something didn't feel right. Something wasn't as it was when he went to bed a few hours ago. Harry didn't want to react irrationally; he'd learned his mistake in jumping to conclusions only months ago. Still, something nagged at him.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Concentrating on blocking his thoughts, he realized he'd promised his dad that he'd take up practicing occlumency once again.
Harry wasn't sure how long he sat on his bed, concentrating with all the energy he had, but it had to have been a while. He felt exhausted and promised himself he'd practice more. It was then that Hedwig flew down from her cage and nipped at Harry.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, wondering what had gotten into her. She cocked her head slightly and gave him a reproachful look.
"Dad," Harry whispered out loud. Harry had someone he could contact even if it wasn't that big of a deal. He had someone who would help him figure out if it did mean something, someone he could trust.
Harry quickly jotted down a note that his dad would understand incase Hedwig was intercepted. He rolled the parchment up, attached it to Hedwig and gave her a pat on the head before she flew out the window. He hadn't even needed to tell her where to take it.
"If Hedwig thinks something is going on, maybe it's worse than I think…"
. . . . . & . . . .
"He fights back."
"Master?" The quivering servant stepped to the side of his unhappy master.
"He fights me now. He will not let me in, as though he can keep me away," he hissed, a laugh evident in his words. "Something has changed."
"Changed, Master? Perhaps he has grown stronger in magic?" The servant regretted voicing the possibility the moment it left his mouth.
"Silence! It is not that kind of change." He stood, his long black robes flowing around him, almost paving the way as he paced in front of the fire. "There is something different around him. He holds a secret."
His servant swallowed, wishing he was not the one directly serving the Dark Lord. He could be so much more useful out in the field. He was capable of doing extraordinary things if only he'd be given the chance.
"You would like a chance to prove your worth to me," the Dark Lord's slanted red eyes glowed straight into the beady ones.
"Yes, Master. I would do anything you ask of me."
"Yes…you're a weak fool filled with fear. I believe it is your time to truly show me what you can do."
His servant bowed graciously, "My Lord, thank you."
"You will return to Hogwarts. Immediately. And you will find out what you can about Dumbledore and his plans before you find Harry Potter. And then, you will return to me with information."
"And Wormtail," the Dark Lord hissed. "You will not disappoint me."
. . . . & . . . .
Harry was sitting in the kitchen, feeling much better when he heard the front door open. The strange feelings were gone and he almost felt silly for calling his father so impulsively.
"Harry?" James called his name once he was through the corridor. He walked into the kitchen and saw his son sitting at the table. "Harry! What's wrong?"
Harry, a carbon copy of his father with wild hair and haphazard clothing, rubbed his eyes before looking up at James.
"You said your scar was bothering you?" James worriedly looked at his son.
"Yeah," Harry started out meekly. "It felt strange. I've never felt something like that before. It's gone now, though."
"Describe the feeling, Harry." James scrunched his eyes in a thinking expression.
"Well, it didn't exactly hurt, not like when Voldemort is near or is trying to get into my thoughts, but it gave me the same feeling. In my gut, it felt the same."
James nodded, but remained quiet. He ran a hand through his hair and licked his lips before looking back at his son. "Has it bothered you since the morning I came?"
"No," Harry shook his head.
"Harry, I think we should see Dumbledore immediately. If I'm guessing right, your scar is a connection with Voldemort, but it was also a connection to your mother. When I came back to you, your mother's love and protection ignited a response. And with Voldemort having your blood in him to resurrect himself…"
"He's going to know that I'm back. We can't hide me from him forever and I'm only going to put you in more danger than you're already in," James admitted.
"Dad, he's already been trying to kill me for five years-"
"Harry, his strength is growing. He's gaining new followers. There isn't any time to waste, we have to decide upon a plan and sitting around waiting for him to strike isn't going to win the war. You need to be ready. Now."
"In the middle of the night?"
"What if he was able to get into your thoughts, Harry? What would he know now?"
Harry shook his head, "That you're back, but-"
"That two people have survived him, Harry. And we survived him on the same night. Both you and I have fought him and walked away. He won't waste any time in trying to take us down or separate us. Likewise, we can't waste any either. Do you understand? A different feeling means he got something different back, and Voldemort won't stand for it."
Harry stood up, nodding, "I understand, Dad. Shall we go now?"
"Yes. It isn't safe to floo; have you apparated with someone before?" James asked him.
"Let's hope my magic is as strong as it was before," James winked at his son.
. . . . . & . . . . .
A strong wind brought ominous dark clouds. The moon fought the temptation to run and hide with the stars, now absent from the sky, but it was a losing battle. The streets were quiet, the houses dark - not a creature was stirring…except for one.
"There's a bad storm moving in, Dad," Harry motioned towards the sky as the two began walking out of town and down the path that would lead them to Hogwarts.
James looked up, seeming to sniff the air. "We should be able to beat it. It won't take us too long to get to Hogwarts. Are you all right after Apparating? No body parts got splinched?"
Harry smiled. "No, I'm fine, Dad."
"And your scar? Is it bothering you any, still?"
Harry sighed. "Not really. It almost feels prickly, but nothing like what it felt earlier. Strange, though, it's unlike him to give up so quickly."
"Ah, that's the point, Harry. He doesn't give up. And that's why we need to get to Albus, the sooner, the better." James looked around their surroundings again as the two continued their journey. "It's a strange night, all right, strange night."
. . . . & . . . .
The rat stopped. That voice was familiar, though it had been years since he'd heard it. The wind suddenly turned bitter, making the August night chilly. The rat's ears perked at the human sounds just outside of the bushes.
No. It can't be!
No longer thinking, his heart began beating so quickly that he had begun shaking as a rat. Abruptly, he ran from under the bushes and transformed back to his human identity. Peter ran only a few paces, his eyes wide from shock and unexpected anticipation.
"James?" His voice was shaky and hesitant. The moment his mouth closed, he regretted even speaking.
Peter watched as the two men he feared, perhaps more than Voldemort, froze. A shiver ran down his spine as Harry turned towards him, a sneer on his face. It just wasn't possible…James was dead.
Nothing could save Peter from the curdling emotions churning inside him as the man turned around. The clouds parted and the light allowed Peter to see the bitter and hateful expression; a look Peter had never witnessed on this face before.
Suddenly, he saw the forthcoming repercussions of his actions fifteen years ago when he gave Voldemort the location of James and his family.
. . . . & . . . .
Thunder rumbled in the distance as they stood facing one another. One man shrunk in the other's tall shadow. The only reminder that time still moved was the approaching storm and the distant sound of the Hogwarts' clock chiming three times.
James's vision was focused as he stared down at the…rat in front of him. Peter's tired and frumpy outlines shone clear against the dark background. The green of the foliage was sharp and bright in contrast to the hazy buildings of the nearby town. The lightening, pure and white, cut the electric air like a knife while the purple hued clouds continued rolling in.
Maniacal laughter filled James's ears. The wind rustled leaves around him in a tornadic manner and he found his mind swirling with them. Blood red eyes glowed with amusement, green eyes showered him with admiration and love, he heard screams – fear engulfed him, outrage pulsated through his veins as his mouth opened to release his fury. Memories of four boys banding together fell over him. Laughter and promises filled his heart. They had gone through so much together, fought the same fight –
A new laugh filled James's senses, a barking laugh. Sirius had been the brother that James never had. Either of them would have gone to the ends of the earth for the other, risked everything, given everything. Maybe they had never truly appreciated the friendships that Remus and Peter had offered them, but by no means had they disregarded them. The four of them should have stuck together until the end – not be the end.
There was nothing else in the world now, save the two of them. Even Harry no longer seemed to be standing nearby; all he saw was the petrified and pudgy face of someone he once called a friend.
"You actually have the courage to face me?" James spat, taking a step forward and causing Peter to step back.
"I…I…how…it's not really you…" Peter stumbled on his own words, his eyes still wide with fascination and fear. His heart had fallen to his gut, his breath shaky and uneven.
James laughed, livid at Peter's anxiousness. "No, maybe it's a dream, Peter. That recurring nightmare you have where I come back for revenge against you. Or maybe I'm Remus in disguise, here to torment you for what you've done. Perhaps I'm Sirius, back from the other side of the Veil, back to seek revenge for James, one of the people I swore to give my life for, my friend, my brother." His eyes narrowed and he smirked. "Or maybe it is me, Peter. Maybe I didn't die and maybe it is time for revenge."
Peter's face grew pale beneath the fading moonlight. The thunder rattled his nerves.
"James?" His voice was barely more than a whisper. He was living a nightmare; he felt like death was knocking on his door. Often over the years, at night when he'd be alone with his thoughts, he'd imagine a confrontation with James. Sometimes, in the dark, he'd shudder, feeling as though someone was watching him, waiting for him.
"Don't play innocent, Pettigrew! You acted the part well, but you know as well as I do -- you've been nothing short of diabolical for years."
"Di-dia-diabolical? James! You know me better than that!" Peter took another step back as he looked around for an escape, knowing that even in his rat form, there would be no escaping James Potter – ever. "It's all been a misunderstanding! I was tricked! I was used!"
"Tricked? Used? You're right, Peter, Lily and I used you, but that was after you'd already made your decision. You had already chosen where to stand and it wasn't with the people who cared about you, it wasn't with your family. You chose his side and you chose to walk the path that you have. You chose to give us up."
"I-I, no! I didn't! I didn't choose…anything! I was forced, James! You have to listen to me, you have to understand!"
"I don't have to do anything, Pettigrew!" James roared. "Nothing is stopping me from… from killing you!"
James grabbed his wand and had it pointed at Peter so quickly that neither Peter nor Harry realized it until James took a step closer to Peter. Harry stepped back, unsure of what to do, of what to say - if he should do or say anything at all. It was his fight too, and it was his family that had been taken away from him because of Peter, but this went far deeper than treason.
"You wouldn't…k-k-kill me. They didn't because…because H-h-harry knew you wouldn't want that. Your son knows it, look at how you're scaring him as you threaten me." Peter tried to thwart James's attention, if only for a moment so he could retrieve his own wand.
"You. Leave. My. Son. Out of this," James stepped even closer. "My son, who lost the chance at having a family because of you, isn't scared because I threaten you. You tremble from fear, the one thing you know the best. Isn't that right, Peter? You've been living your life in fear since we graduated Hogwarts. Your nights are filled with bitter loneliness - loneliness caused by your own selfishness."
"I-I, James, please!" Peter begged. He just needed a moment to gather his thoughts, to find his wand, and he'd be ready. He'd be ready to take on…to take on James Potter? Voldemort? Peter had always admired James for many reasons and one was his sharpness and quick thinking in high-pressure situations. He was right, Peter hadn't been living life in fear of his choices, he'd been living in fear of making those choices; he was living in fear of even living.
"They were right, you know," James offered. "I won't kill you, not yet. I'd never be the one to give you the escape you've always been searching for, that's what a friend would do. A friend would end your unhappiness, Peter, a friend would help you find pleasure. An enemy would make you suffer, make you feel the pain."
A crash of thunder erupted as quickly as the lightening flashed. Sneering, James circled Peter, the tip of his wand merely inches away from his face. James suddenly felt whole. The shadow was in his reach and he wouldn't release it until the weight had been lifted. After all these years of not knowing who he was, he stood before his future. Voldemort did not scare him. Harry did not worry him. The future would come and he'd accept it; right now, he had a choice to make. He was about to decide between forgiveness and revenge, life and death, loyalty and betrayal - love and hate.
James stopped pacing. He cocked his head and looked Peter in the eye. He saw fear. But he also saw memories.
"Out of loyalty, I'll give you a chance. Let's start with you telling me, Peter, why you think you chose the path you did."
Peter stared. A sense of relief filled his body. This was the James Potter he knew, he admired, the one that put life and loyalties ahead of all things. He wasn't going to die! James would give him a chance; he'd understand…things would be all right.
"Well…J-James, I…you have to b-believe me when I say I know t-that I was w-wrong," Peter stuttered, as he began his story. "It w-wasn't easy…it wasn't easy for me then. I was never like y-you or Sirius or Remus. You all were b-braver and s-s-smarter than me. The Dark Lord…he forced me, James, he forced me! W-where was I to turn? He was everywhere…he w-would have k-k-killed me."
James chuckled. "Where were you to turn? To your friends? To the Order? Not to him!"
Peter started. "H-he…he had me, James! I had no choice! I-I had nothing to live for…b-but, I couldn't – I didn't, I couldn't die, James! He would have killed me had I refused him! I-I was w-weak…" Peter lowered his head, as though he were showing shame for his lack of courage, his weakness.
"And so selling out to Voldemort" – Peter winced – "and betraying all you knew was better than dying? Giving up everything we stood for and forgetting all that we were was better than fighting for a real life? A future?"
"I-I, James, you must understand," Peter's eyes widened, hoping to let James see inside him and understand. "I tried! I tried to be strong! I tried to see the light! I tried to remember…"
James spat at him. "You did no such thing, Peter! You were a Gryffindor. Do you know how torn up I was to realize that you were the traitor? Do you know what if felt like to find out that a brother had thrown away what we were just for an easy out?" James laughed again, making Peter cringe. "Was it an easy out, Peter? Was it all that you hoped it would be? Does he respect you? Does he believe in you? Does he help you when you have doubts in yourself? Do his other minions comfort you and treat you as an equal? Does it make you feel glory-bound to know your place in history? Are you reveling in the fame? Do you stand proud?"
Peter only stared back at James's dark eyes. Clouds covered the moon once again, the lightening and thunder now on top of them. It would rain any moment. But neither man made to move.
"What was it, Peter? What was it that made you think you had nothing? What made you give up?"
"I didn't give up! I moved on! I moved on to where I had a chance! You! You…you had it all. You had courage and strength and family. You had something to live for, to fight for. You had something to be proud of – I…I had nothing, James, nothing! I was nothing compared to you! I was nothing compared to any of you, I just…I followed and you allowed me…I had to – I had to find my own path." Peter choked on a silent sob he desperately tried to hide.
"Your own path? Then be damned, Pettigrew! I gave you my friendship. I gave you a brother's love and treated you as my own blood. Maybe I wasn't everything you wanted me to be for you, Peter, but damn it all to hell, I was there! I would have never betrayed you! I would have given my life for you, if I needed to! I would have done all I could for you!"
James's wand was flying in front of Peter's face as he yelled. James began pacing around him again. Peter's eyes followed him, never leaving James's face.
"You never answered, Pettigrew. Was it worth it? Spying for him, following him, giving your own flesh for him – was it worth it?" James asked, as Peter stood silent and still.
Forgiveness and revenge, forgiveness and revenge. Death is a choice between forgiveness and revenge. Weaknesses can't be choices. Live for what you love. Forgiveness and revenge, forgiveness and revenge…
"I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!" James screamed. "Don't lie to me now! Not after all we've been through together."
Peter, if possible, paled even more. Harry stepped back as fat drops of rain began to fall in the savage wind.
"Pull your wand out and prove to me that you're a wizard!" James demanded. "You say you didn't have the courage to stand beside me and remain my friend, then pull out your damn wand and duel with me, Pettigrew! Show me what being on his side has done for you!"
"J-James-" Peter stammered as he slowly reached for his wand. He looked from James to Harry and back again, unsure of what James wanted. He was supposed to understand, he was supposed to forgive him – not…duel with him.
"PULL OUT YOUR WAND!"
Harry backed off, now afraid. His father was becoming uncontrollable. What if – he couldn't lose his father, not after just getting him back. Harry grabbed his own wand and had it ready, just in case.
Peter finally pulled his own wand from his pocket. With a trembling hand, he pointed it towards James who only laughed.
"What's wrong, Pete? You can pass on private information for a year, you can keep secrets from your friends, hell, you can even tell a mass murderer where my family and I are, but you don't even have the courage to duel with me?"
Their eyes met. A battle had already begun as beady eyes were challenged by hazel. James took a step back and bowed. As he raised his head, a maniacal smile flashed from his face.
"This is where our future is decided, Peter," James calmly expressed.
With tears of fear mixing with the rain falling down his cheeks, Peter hesitated no more. It had come down to this and he knew what he had to do; the Dark Lord would not be happy to know that James Potter was alive after all.
"Stupefy!" A red beam of light erupted from Harry's wand before Peter could finish the curse directed at James.
"Harry! Stay out of this!" James yelled, not looking at him. He focused back on Peter, lying on the ground. "Rennervate! Stand and fight, you coward!"
"C-crucio!" Peter wailed, stumbling as he rose clumsily to his feet.
James shook his head and laughed. "Everte Statum!" Peter flew back a few yards. "You have to mean it, Pete!"
"You…you won't…I won't let you-" Peter stumbled on his own words trying to think of a spell to cast. "Vomplara!"
Flashes of light were racing back and forth between the two as Harry watched on. He cringed as James was hit with a blinding blue light and lost his balance.
"Dad!" Harry, burning with rage and fear, ran for his father as he pointed his wand at Peter. "Crucio!"
"Harry! Get back!" James spat, throwing up a shield charm, deflecting the curse Peter had thrown before being hit by Harry's.
Peter fell back from the force of Harry's Cruciatus curse, but the spell wasn't very strong and only lasted a moment. As quickly as he could, Peter threw another curse at James.
"Come on, Pettigrew! You work for the strongest wizard of all time! Can't you do better than this?" James yelled as he dodged the spell.
Peter growled, again throwing the Cruciatus. This time, he had a little more force and James cringed from the pain.
"NO!" Harry screamed, pointing his wand at Peter. He threw a stinging hex just as lightening struck a nearby tree.
Breathing heavily, James slowly climbed to his feet, looking at his son.
"I can't lose you again!" Harry cried, still pointing his wand at Peter. "I won't."
"Harry, let me finish this," James raised his wand.
Harry hesitated. He closed his eyes, for less than a second he took a deep breath before turning to his father. James was one step ahead. He grabbed Harry's wand, pointed his own at Peter and narrowed his eyes in one swift motion.
"For the blood. Crucio!"
Peter fell back to the ground, withering in pain as faint pops could be heard over the roaring storm.
Harry recognized some from the Order, the others he presumed to be from the Ministry. Finally, Albus Dumbledore appeared himself.
Ignoring Remus's command, James shook his head and laughed. "Is there a difference? Is there a difference in me casting it on you rather than you casting it on me? Or how about all those times Harry's had it cast on him? Huh, Pettigrew? Does it hurt? Do you suffer? Can you feel a hint of what I've felt for so many years?"
"Prongs!" Remus grabbed at James's wand as the Cruatius curse weakened. Peter howled with pain, shivering from the cold rain. He laughed as he threw both his wand and Harry's to the ground. "Forgiveness or revenge, Remus? Does Peter deserve either of those? He doesn't deserve my spit."
Two Aurors put Peter in a binding spell. The fire in James's eyes still burned intensely. He wiped the back of his hand across his cheek, smearing the blood more than wiping it off. As he began to walk towards Peter, Remus reached out to hold him back, but Dumbledore stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder.
James held out his hand, showing Peter the blood. "Do you see this? Do you understand?"
Unable to speak or move, Peter's eyes darted back and forth between James's eyes and his bloodied hand.
"We weren't braver than you. We weren't smarter than you. We were never any better than you, Wormtail. We just never gave up."
Harry looked between the three remaining Marauders with empathy and sorrow. Where there had once been comradeship and love now stood a poisonous hatred.
"This is the beginning of the end, for the last time. The last time…"
Suddenly, the storm seemed to lighten slightly, the rain slowed, the wind died down and the lightening and thunder became more distant. Harry's ears erupted with noise as wizards began shouting this and that in every direction. Some focused on Peter, some on the very much alive James Potter, and still others seemed to be surveying the area.
Remus picked up the wands James had dropped and handed them back to their owners. His own heart was pounding as he stood between what was left of his past. The moment he looked into James's eyes, he knew what was to come. He knew what he had to do for James and for Harry, right or wrong in the eyes of Dumbledore or the Ministry.
Without any indication that the fight was not over, Remus raised his wand at the same time James did. Rather than point at Peter, as both Harry and Dumbledore expected, they pointed at the two Aurors holding Peter.
"Everte Statum!" They yelled and the Aurors went flying back, momentarily freeing Peter.
As others began to rush in to capture Peter and apprehend Remus and James, James glared at Peter one last time.
"Go. Tell him. Live in fear."
Harry heard the familiar popping noise and Peter was suddenly gone.
He knew, in a few moments, his scar would begin hurting once more.
The storm had diminished to a dreary drizzle; a mist that didn't seem like it would end anytime soon. Inside the headmaster's office sat a rather firm looking Dumbledore. He sat patiently at his desk while Erica and Madam Pomfrey dried off and checked over James and Harry. Remus sat along side James, wrapped in a blanket himself, refusing to meet the Headmaster's gaze.
Tonks and Shacklebolt stood near the door while Elphias watched out the window. No one spoke a word. The room filled with a thick tension, the only sound breathing and rustling of fabric as people shifted uncomfortably.
Tonks opened the door and let Professor McGonagall in, face stern. She stood next to the Headmaster.
"Scrimgeour will be here any moment now," she informed them.
"Who's that?" Harry asked, doing his best at keeping his mind blank while he awaited Voldemort's next attempt at connecting to him.
Erica sighed. "The new Minster of Magic, Harry. I thought you were paying attention at the meeting the other night. Fudge was fired a couple days ago and Rufus Scrimgeour has succeeded him."
"Fat lot of good he'll do," James muttered.
"James, I dare say that before you begin speaking of such things, you explain to us what just happened out there," Dumbledore finally spoke.
"What it looks like, Albus," James squared his eyes. "Harry and I were on our way to speak with you when we ran into Peter."
"Why did you let him escape?" Tonks asked, glaring at Remus specifically.
James glanced at Remus, then Harry before answering. "His place is with them. He's no use to us even if you arrest him. What good will that do? Rotting in Azkaban is too good for a rat like him. He'll get his own, out there amongst his own."
"You do realize, James, that Voldemort is aware by now, that you are in fact, alive?" Dumbledore asked.
James nodded. "Yes." Biting his lower lip, he looked at his son, "We'll be ready, won't we Harry? You'll be ready?"
Harry had to have faith in his father. He understood now, how his mother could easily love James with the same vivaciousness with which she had once loathed him. There was something in his eyes that didn't change no matter his mood or situation. It seemed to scream, "Challenge me! I dare you!" It was filled with confidence and assuredness. James was the type to seek out challenges and hardships and fight to overcome them; it was just what he did. Harry had the saving people thing and the finding trouble thing – he inherited them from his father.
Harry nodded. "Of course we will."
Dumbledore uncharacteristically heaved a sigh. "Harry, there is still much you need to learn."
"Then teach him, Albus. Lily and I entrusted you to make the right choices, hell, all of us do that on a daily basis. You took it upon yourself to take the Wizarding world's future in your hands when you decided to make the decisions for Harry. Why is it that he's sixteen and doesn't know half of what he needs to know to defeat Voldemort yet?"
"Mr. Potter, you can not expect to just jump in and know all the right answers after being gone for fifteen years," Professor McGonagall spoke.
"But it's right for me to assume that Dumbledore does know all the right answers?"
"James, I had to be sure that Harry was ready," Dumbledore explained.
"I'm ready!" Harry jumped from his chair. "You waited until I was fifteen and after my godfather was dead to tell me about the prophecy! You can't wait any longer to tell me what 'information' I need to know-"
"Excuse me, gentlemen, but aren't we straying from the topic?" Elphias interrupted. "I don't mean any disrespect to what you're arguing about, but Scrimgeour will be here any minute and he's going to want explanations."
"How did everyone know where to apparate to?" Harry suddenly asked.
"The ministry received notification of underage magical use from you, Harry. When it was realized that it was you, I, of course, was notified immediately. You will find that Minister Scrimgeour will have taken quite an interest and liking to you, if I may warn you."
"If you were notified, I can understand the Order members, but why all the other Aurors from the Ministry?" James asked.
Remus looked at James. "Igor Karkaroff's body was found up north this evening, the Dark Mark overhead. Ollivander has been missing since after sunset. After everything else that has been happening, James, the Ministry is taking no chances. They way they see it, Harry is the Wizarding World's only chance at getting through the second war."
"Well, he is our only chance," James couldn't help but chuckle. "I always did dislike politics. So Scrimgeour wants Harry for the 'good fight', does he?"
Dumbledore nodded. "I'm afraid, that just like Fudge, he is not too fond of me."
"James, you do realize that the Ministry is going to want to take you back for questioning?" Tonks attempted at steering them back to the correct topic once again. "You're a hero as much as your son is; it'll be in all the papers tomorrow that you're alive. The Ministry is going to want explanations."
"They're going to want to know what spells you and Lily were studying and used," Remus added. "They're going to want to use you as a political platform as much as they want to use Harry. Not to mention the repercussions of Voldemort now knowing that you're alive…"
James rolled his eyes, "My big fat ego got in the way again?"
"James Potter!" Erica yelled, standing over James. "This is no time for making jokes! You just got your memory and your life back and you could have been killed! In front of Harry, no less! And for what? Revenge? Revenge you ended up not wanting to take anyway? Harry could have been hurt or killed!"
"Hey, hold on there!" James rose to his feet to stand taller than Erica. "I didn't die and I don't plan on dying anytime soon. I defied death once; I won't die until I'm ready. As for the Ministry, I can handle my own with them. I did it all my life!"
"James, these are different times," Erica argued. "And your son is no longer a baby!"
"Exactly, he can speak freely for himself, something that doesn't seem like too many people have let him do," James retorted, aggravated. "Look, here it is: I'm back. I'm alive and I now have my memory. As they say in the Muggle world, the shit has hit the fan. We're in the middle of another war – a war that never ended to begin with. From the moment that I was able to, I've been actively fighting against Voldemort and I don't intend to stop until either I am dead or he is. Voldemort has it out for my son and I'll be damned if Harry won't succeed in stopping him. What happened tonight was personal. It was between Peter and myself, but it involved Harry and it involved Remus and neither one of them will be considered guilty of anything. It had to come out eventually that I am alive; I was never going to hide under a rock anyway. Harry and I have discussed this, all of this. I am his father and whether any of you like it or not, if anyone aside from him is going to be making his decisions, it will be me."
Before anyone could respond, Tonks opened the door to let in Mad-Eye Moody. Harry's heart fell to his stomach from the look on Mad-Eye's face.
"Alastor-" Dumbledore started.
"Scrimgeour has arrived, along with Fudge at his side. They're on their way up. Before they get here I think you all should know that Amelia Bones has been found dead - looked like she gave quite a fight."
The room fell silent with horrified and defeated looks adorning everyone's faces. Tonks let out a sob, quickly rubbing at her eyes.
"One more thing," Mad-Eye continued. "It's been confirmed, the dementors have left Azkaban."
"Professor Dumbledore," a booming voice came from the stairs. "I demand an explanation for this situation right now."
Dumbledore slowly rose from his seat and nodded to the man. "Minister Scrimgeour, Mr. Fudge, please do come in."
"Well…I'll be…" Scrimgeour walked up to James Potter. "It's true then, no Polyjuice potion…"
James winked. "Rufus Scrimgeour, if I didn't know any better, I'd warn you that the way you're suspicious of everything, you're going to end up just like Mad-Eye over there someday. Less battle wounds, I suppose, though."
Scrimgeour lips fell to a straight line. "It is, indeed, James Potter."
James gave a cheeky grin. "The one and only, sir. It's my understanding that congratulations are in order. You made Head of the Auror office and are now our esteemed Minister of Magic?"
"It's a shame you went missing all these years we thought you dead," Scrimgeour replied. "None the less, I'll accept your congratulations so we can move on to the issue at hand."
"I do believe that issue is me, your Highness," James bowed his head as Remus and Erica both swat at him.
"I do believe you are right," Scrimgeour sighed. "Without further delay, you'll come to the Ministry for a complete interview and investigation, is that understood? And Harry Potter?" Scrimgeour turned around to face Harry.
James pushed his way over to his son, "You'll not be taking me or my son anywhere tonight. You have no need for Harry and I can answer all of your questions here."
"On the contrary, Mr. Potter, it's been recorded that not only has Mr. Harry Potter preformed underage magic, he also preformed one of the Unforgivables."
"In self defense," James explained, not thrown off by Scrimgeour's stern and trained face. "If you'll let me explain-"
"Professor Dumbledore, I'm sure that by now you have word of the rest of this evening's events. I do not have time to sit here and play games. Both Potters will accompany me back to the Ministry. I'm sure that James will find he can rest easy if he follows simple procedure and Harry will find his charges dropped." Scrimgeour did not wait for a reply. He turned around and faced his two Aurors already in the room. "Shacklebolt, I'll not ask why you are here when you have an assignment. You and Tonks will see that the Potters arrive safely and promptly."
With that, Scrimgeour and Fudge swept out of Dumbledore's office and down the winding staircase.
James, his face reddening from anger, glared at Dumbledore. "Well?"
Dumbledore nodded his head. "You will do as you were told, James. If you follow procedure, you should be home by breakfast. And in home, I do mean back at Grimmauld Place. We will notify the Weasleys so they will not worry about Harry and be expecting both of you for breakfast."
"You did say, James, that you could handle the Ministry," Erica reminded him. "Harry, I'll be by tomorrow so we can chat."
James sighed. "Very well. Stopping by the Ministry was on my list of things to do anyway, may as well get it over with. Come on, Harry."
As Harry began to follow James and the Aurors out of Dumbledore's office, Remus stood and looked at James. James stopped and gave his old friend a small smile.
"I know, Moony. Thanks, mate," James answered Remus's unsaid comment.
Tonks and Shacklebolt led James and Harry down the staircase.
As they walked, Harry looked at his father. "Dad?"
James seemed to be in a different world of thought, but snapped out of it hearing Harry's voice. "Yeah?"
"Do you know Scrimgeour?"
James shrugged. "He was an Auror back in my day. As much grief as I give him, he did make a damn fine Auror. It's a shame that politics get in the way, Harry. Whatever he says to you, just remember to stick to what you believe."
Harry nodded, unafraid at what was coming. "Hey, Dad?"
"I think…I think that Mum would be proud of you."
. . . . . . . . . & . . . . . . . .
Whew. I realize that the last update for this was in September of 2005 and I can't apologize enough for the excessive delay. Life happens, as I'm sure you all know, and I appreciate your patience and understanding. I'd also like to thank all of you who have hounded me with reviews, emails and instant messages to update- you kept me motivated to get back to writing this.
Personally, this was a hard chapter to write. I don't feel I'm good at action and that held me back and gave me writer's block for a long time. I do hope, however, that you enjoyed the chapter.
8.18.08 - I've just finished going through these 14 chapters and doing a little editing. It was a good refresher for me and a good reminder that I'm on the right track with my future plans for this story. It is not abandoned. It's not ending any time soon, either. The next chapter is currently in the hands of my beta and the following chapter is being worked on. I have plans and I'm hoping that I'm finding my groove again to be able to update more regularly. My apologies for this long wait and my thanks to anyone who has come this far in reading and/or stayed with me. Don't give up on me!
You guys are the best, thank you for reading! Huggles n cookies to everyone!