A/N - Well, here we are again, ladies (and gentlemen). A James-comes-back-fic - but different, I promise. And so, now you've got past the horrible attempt at a decent summary, I present, without further ado:
The Track of a Storm
by Lady Taliesin
James Potter died on October 31, 1981. But when, nearly six years later, Lord Voldemort invokes an ancient magic to restore himself to a body, James is drawn back into a world where everything he knows is gone, and everyone he cares about believes him dead…
Disclaimer – Y'all know the drill…it's all Jo Rowling's, not mine. Sue and you'll get nothing, nada, zippo, zilch…in other words, don't bother trying.
The Track of a Storm
Chapter 1 – Hush, little baby…
October 31, 1981
James Potter frowned, feeling slightly annoyed. Ten years of practice with Remus and he thought he'd be better than this – the utter pointlessness of the activity notwithstanding, he was now being beaten at a staring contest by his one year old son.
Harry tilted his head slightly, gazing bemusedly at James with wide, innocent, and unblinking emerald green eyes. "Foo?" he queried, yanking on a strand of his father's jet black hair and giggling as James winced.
"Yes, Harry – food. Now can we eat the food, please? Daddy's already failed two out of three of his Harry-duties today, so we –"
"Pahfoo." interrupted Harry solemnly, pushing the jar of muggle baby food away from him. "Pahfoo eas foo."
"No, this is Harry's food, not Uncle Padfoot's." said James, grabbing the glass jar as it teetered on the edge of the table. "And Harry needs to eat his food, or Mommy's going to be annoyed with Daddy…" Harry pouted but opened his mouth dutifully as James steered a spoonful of apricot colored mush into his mouth. "Whoosh! And he scores! Another superb goal scored by yours truly, James Potter… And now it's Black to Potter, and Potter to Pettigrew, and Pettigrew to McGonagall – she really can fly Harry, don't let her fool you otherwise – and McGonagall to Harry, and zoom! It's – well, it's almost in, there we go – and it's in!"
Harry giggled as James spiraled the spoon again, nearly splattering it against the opposite wall as he brought it through a loop-the-loop into Harry's mouth. "And another ten points to Harry Potter, star of the Gryffindor quidditch team…!"
"Corrupting him already, are you?"
James whirled around, a guilty grin on his face as he gazed at Lily, who was leaning against the doorway and giving him a strained but amused smile.
"'Corrupting?'" repeated James, in a voice of mock horror. He turned around and picked up Harry, who looked very glad at the temporary reprieve from dinner. "I most certainly am not 'corrupting him' – you like quidditch, don't you Harry?"
"Ick." confirmed Harry sleepily, nuzzling against his father's shoulder. Lily laughed, walking over to kiss her son on the head. Her long auburn hair was swept back into a messy ponytail and there were dark, tired circles under her eyes – it had been a long, long time since either of them had had a decent, dreamless night's sleep.
"Mommy thinks it's time for bed." she murmured, brushing a strand of jet black hair away from Harry's face. "Take him upstairs, would you James? I have to finish cleaning the kitchen."
James rolled his eyes and began to pull his wand out of his front pocket, stopping at the look on Lily's face. "No magic." she said firmly, pushing him gently towards the door. "Now go put Harry to bed."
"Pahfoo." mumbled Harry, grabbing tightly onto the collar of James' robes and closing his eyes. "Mauders."
"You," whispered James, reaching the living room and walking carefully around scattered toy broomsticks, blocks, and a small stuffed black dog, "Are just about the smartest kid ever."
"Aby?" asked Harry, yawning and opening his eyes enough to gaze at James questioningly.
"Lullaby? Sorry, Harry, but that's Mommy's job."
"Aby!" insisted Harry, louder this time. James rolled his eyes.
"Uncle Padfoot's corrupting you already, hmm?" Don't think about Sirius. Don't think about the fact that he could die pretending to be your secret keeper, about the fact that last week might be the last time you saw him, ever… Because Sirius is going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine, everything, because I will never let Him come near my son, never never never… "Alright. What lullaby do you want to hear?"
"Well, as far as I know he hasn't composed one about himself yet, so I'm afraid we're stuck there." Everything is going to be fine, Sirius is going to be fine, and Peter is going to be fine, and everything is going to be alright… "Um…Twinkle twinkle little star?"
"Right." They had reached the foot of the stairs now, Harry still nestled against James' shoulder. James stared down at him, his heart constricting painfully in his chest. How could anyone want to hurt this…? "Well, Daddy is a pretty awful singer, Harry, so this probably won't match up to Mommy's standards…"
"Gotcha." Taking a deep breath, James rested his head gently against the top of Harry's, his son's mop of soft, jet black hair tickling him lightly. "Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird…"
His voice was soft, barely more than a whisper, but inside his heart was screaming. Someone wanted to kill this. Someone wanted to murder his son.
And he was afraid.
Not for himself, but for Sirius, who was risking torture, even death, to pretend to be someone he was not. For Peter, who was living in hiding to protect their secret. For Lily, who he'd dragged near death too many times already. And for Harry. For his son. But everything is going to be fine. Because I will never let him hurt you Harry, never, I promise…
"And if that mockingbird won't sing, Papa's gonna –"
Suddenly, without warning, the claxons began to ring.
James' face blanched, his hazel eyes growing wide behind thick, wire-rimmed glasses as he held Harry tightly to his chest. The house was shaking beneath his feet, the claxon-like alarms growing more piercing and strident… Lily rushed out of the kitchen, her hands covered in soapsuds and her face deathly white. "The wards," she breathed, searching frantically through her pockets for her wand. "How…?"
"I don't know," said James, his voice shaking. "Maybe, maybe it's just a false alarm, or something…" Oh God, no…this isn't happening this isn't happening this isn't happening…it's a false alarm, or the muggles next door, or something but it isn't him it isn't it isn't it isn't…
The alarms were shrill and intense now, the sound of them grating like a knife against James' ears. Harry was fully awake, staring up at James with frightened but trusting emerald green eyes…Lily's eyes… He can't be coming for you, Harry, he can't be… Peter, and Sirius…noooooooo this isn't happening, it isn't, it isn't…
And then, with one last, shuddering scream, the wards died. All sound stopped as a cold breeze gusted through a window that shouldn't have been open, and James backed slowly away from the front door, passing a strangely quiet Harry to Lily and still praying desperately that it was all a mistake, that the muggles next door had accidentally set the wards off, that it wasn't Him…
He can't be coming here, he can't be because Peter never would have told him, never… Oh God please let Peter and Sirius be alright, please let them be fine… This isn't happening it isn't it isn't it isn't it isn't it isn't it is –
The door burst open in a wave of emerald green light.
James threw himself sideways, grabbing Lily's shoulders and yanking her behind him as the door exploded, fragments of splintered wood shooting past them as someone outside let out a high-pitched, cruel laugh…
"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off –" His voice was rising but he didn't care – he didn't care what happened to him, as long as Lily and Harry were safe… "Go, Lily…please…"
Lily stumbled backwards, Harry clutched tightly against her chest – her eyes were wide as she stared desperately at James, unwilling to leave him… And then there was another cruel laugh coming from inside the doorway, and James shoved her roughly backwards, towards the stairs. "Go!" he whispered frantically, turning around and thrusting his hand in his pocket, feeling for his wand. He could hear her stumble up the stairs, could hear her harsh, ragged breathing…
And then he saw him.
"Well, well, Mr. Potter – we meet again."
Thin, spider-like fingers were idly twirling a long, dark brown wand, and crimson eyes were staring out at him from a pallid, skull-like face. Lord Voldemort.
"Do you know something, Mr. Potter?" continued Voldemort, stepping deeper into the house, his scarlet eyes drilling it James' face. "Do you know how many people I've killed? Hundreds – and tonight one more. And the people fear me, Mr. Potter. They even fear my name."
He laughed, and James had to fight the urge to step backwards. "I do not fear you, Voldemort." he snarled, summoning as much courage into his voice as he could manage. "And I will never let you touch my family."
"No?" said Voldemort softly, taking another step forward. "I believe your father once said the same thing… I killed him and your mother, shortly afterwards…" Lidless eyes stared at James, eyes which flickered with savage delight. "It seems that after tonight I will have had the pleasure of killing three generations of Potters…"
"You will not touch Harry!" said James, his voice rising as his hand grasping his wand began to shake. "I will –"
"Protect him?" Mere feet from James now, Voldemort raised his wand, pointing it straight at James chest – but James didn't move, just glared defiantly at those empty, mocking eyes. I will protect him, you bastard, even if it means dying. "I fear it's too late for that… your first protection didn't work, did it? You were betrayed…"
James' breath caught, while his mind screamed. I wasn't betrayed, you goddamned liar, you killed them! Sirius and Peter…you murdered my brothers… "You will not touch Harry." repeated James hoarsely, not bothering to hide the fact that his voice was cracking. "I'll die before I let you touch him."
Voldemort smiled humorlessly. "I think that can be arranged."
James yanked his wand out of a hidden side pocket in an instant, throwing himself sideways as a massive jet of emerald green light burst forth from Voldemort's wand, exploding against the far wall. Rolling to the right, James pulled up in a crouch, ducking behind the couch as another spell whipped over his head. His ears were ringing, Voldemort's words echoing in his head – The people fear me…three generations of Potters…betrayed… "INCENDIO!"
Voldemort waved the spell away, walking slowly to the other side of the couch. "Trying to dodge death, Mr. Potter?" he said amusedly, as James rolled out of the way of another killing curse. "I'm afraid you won't be able to escape this time… Your friends aren't coming to save you, now…"
"I don't need to live to succeed, you bastard." hissed James, flinching as a shard of glass from a shattered picture frame sliced against his arm. "Elecebra!"
Voldemort deflected the spell with an idle flick of his wand. "Crucio!" he said quietly. James threw himself sideways, but it was too late – the curse slammed into his chest, throwing him backwards into the far wall and spearing his mind with a thousand tendrils of icy, searing pain. White hot daggers were piercing his flesh, twisting and burning inside of him, and he wanted nothing more than to scream, than to beg him to stop, for it to end… But I will not let him have that, I won't I won't I won't I won't oh God, let it stop, let it stop!
Voldemort raised his wand slightly, and, as suddenly as it had come, the pain ended. James slumped against the floor, trying to ignore the dull, aching throb in his head enough to stagger to his feet. His right hand, still clutching his wand, was a pale, bloodless white, and there was a coppery, acrid taste in his mouth…blood.
"You know, James, I'm rather disappointed in you." Voldemort was advancing on him slowly, his wand held straight in front of him and his nostrils flaring with ill-concealed excitement. "I had expected some sort of fight from you…some sort of resistance…"
"STUPEFY!" James was on his feet, a huge jet of brilliant red light shooting out the end of his wand as his auror training kicked back in. Do not show pain…show him you are hurt and you are dead… He could almost hear Mad-Eye Moody's gruff voice, drilling the lesson into his head – and then he remembered that Sirius had been there the day they had learned that. Sirius was probably dead now. Padfoot…
With an idle flick of his wand Voldemort blocked the stunning spell – it swerved around him, colliding with the opposite wall with an echoing crash. Several pictures lit on fire and fell to the ground, smoldering.
"Elecebra!" James shouted, ducking behind the couch as the spell rebounded and smashed against the wall he had been in front of moments before. "Expelliarmus!" Please be gone by now, Lily; please have taken Harry and left…
James ducked as a jet of green light flew past his head, smashing into the fireplace and sending a shower of bricks and rubble raining down on him. He covered his head with his arms but could feel something smash against his temple, right above his left eye… But there was no time to think. "Stupefy!"
Voldemort stepped casually, almost carelessly to the side, not bothering to flinch as the spell flew past his head, charring the far wall. "Crucio!"
James spun out of the way as the curse flew past his head – pivoting on his heel, he turned back to face Voldemort, blood still trickling down his face. "Petrificus totalus!" As though that will hold him for a second…
Voldemort flicked his wand and the spell flew past his head – a cruel grin twisting his face, he raised his wand toward what was left of the brick fireplace. "Discutissium."
The fireplace exploded. James threw himself to the side, trying to dodge the jagged, boulder sized pieces of brick and mortar smashing to the ground around him. Sharp flecks of crumpled brick were embedding themselves in his arms, which were bleeding freely… Lily's gone, she has to have left by now… He coughed, trying to gaze through the blinding haze of chalky dust swirling around him, and staggered to his feet, his wand held shakily in front of him. Get out, Lily… be gone, please please please be gone…
Crimson, snake-like eyes were staring at him through the curtain of dust, eyes which no longer looked amused. "I think, Mr. Potter," said Voldemort softly, "That I have let you live long enough."
Hypnotized, James stared as Voldemort slowly raised his wand, pointing it straight at his chest. He couldn't fight anymore; he couldn't force his body to move…
A whip of brilliant white fire burst forth from Voldemort's wand, dripping with searing, pulsing silver beads of flame, and lashed itself around James' arm. He cried out, falling to his knees as wave upon wave of blinding, fiery pain wracked his body; he couldn't breathe as the pain crushed against his lungs, pulsating and intensifying – blackness tinged his vision and he couldn't see; he could feel nothing but pain, pain… And then the pain slowly began to recede, disappearing everywhere but his right arm, where it grew, pulsing and beating frantically until it took every ounce of his strength to keep from screaming…
"An interesting little spell, isn't it?" said Voldemort, walking casually towards James, who was crouched against the floor, his breath coming in sharp, ragged gasps. "One of my own inventions. I find it has highly useful…qualities." Voldemort yanked up sharply on his wand – still entangled within the blazing whip James' right arm snapped back, and James cried out again as a burning pain spread through his shoulder.
Not lowering his wand, Voldemort stepped forward, pressing one long, thin finger against James' neck. James shuddered but said nothing.
"You see, Mr. Potter?" whispered Voldemort, his own snake-like face inches from James', "You fear me."
"I – do – not," gasped James, closing his eyes. Lily…Harry…
Voldemort laughed. "No? Then you will soon enough – or you would, if you lived long enough… You see, as soon as you are dead I will go upstairs, and kill your son…"
"Lily – and Harry – are – gone," spat James, stifling a cry as Voldemort yanked up harder on his wand. "You won't – touch them…,"
"Gone? You really think so?" Voldemort laughed again, and James could feel his breath catch…they had to be gone by now, they had to be… And then he heard, from upstairs, the sound of crying – Harry…
"NO!" The scream was ripped from his mouth before he had time to think – they were still here, they hadn't escaped, he had failed them… The whip of flame disappeared as Voldemort pointed his wand at him, still laughing – he could see Voldemort move his lips as he lowered his wand to point at his chest, but he couldn't hear anything but cruel, merciless laughter ringing in his ears… Then there was a jet of emerald green light, and silence.
Voldemort lowered his wand, his crimson eyes dancing with the light of the small fires still smoldering in the wreckage. James Potter's still, lifeless body was lying before him, blood still trickling from more than a dozen wounds.
He bent down, shifting his wand to his left hand and dipping two long, spider-like fingers into a pool of slowly thickening blood. Lifting it to his mouth, he tasted it – it was still warm, the taste coppery and acrid in his mouth. He smiled.
"I think, Mr. Potter," he said softly, staring with a cruel sort of satisfaction at James' open hazel eyes, which looked haunted, even in death, "That you failed."
He spat on James' face, kicking the body away from him as he stood up and strode towards the stairs. He could hear the mudblood, trying to shush the whelp as she searched desperately for a way out…
Tonight would be the end of it. Tonight he would kill the Potter child, and his immortality would finally be assured… He could still feel power surging through his veins, heightened by Potter's death, and he smiled as he reached the stairs and began to ascend. Tonight it would end.
A/N - Alright, so maybe it's not so different from all those other James-comes-back-fics yet. But, it will be. Soon. VERY soon. How soon, you ask? There's only one way to find out, you know.
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In other words - please review.