Chapter One

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and the characters therein are the sole property of JK Rowling. This story will make no profit for the author and no copywrite infringement is intended. Both the writing and reading of this story is purely for entertainment purposes.

Author's Note: This story takes place in an Alternate Universe, something which will be immediately apparent to readers. As a result, it will diverge from cannon significantly, so any flames complaining about OC behavior will be ignored, or possibly used to roast marshmallows and makes s'mores... mmmm... s'mores. There will be SLASH in this story, of the H/D variety, and a few other incidents. Not all my characters are gay or bi. An expanded version with some explicit scenes will be posted on my Yahoo group. Oh yeah... and mpreg... but not for quite a while and not common.

As of August 28, 2008, this chapter is beta'd and reposted and the rest shall follow.

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Child of Four

by sarini

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Chapter One

Introduction

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It was a night no one, muggle or magical, would forget. The storm that had been raging outside since before sunset had crescendoed into a fury of wind, rain, hail, thunder and lightning. Long before the storm reached its zenith, every parent on the island of Great Britain had been faced with the difficulty of disappointing their children. There would be no trick-or-treaters that Halloween night. Bowls of candy would remain filled beside tightly locked doors and costumes would go unworn. Shutters were firmly shut against the raging elements.

The Potter family had no use for candy or costumes that night, as they never had any intention of leaving their house and expected no knocks on their door, but they had decided to have as traditional a Halloween as they could. Potter Manor was literally impossible to find, invisible to both muggle and magical eyes.

Only one man was able to find the house or lead others to it, and he was safely locked away in the comfort of a small cottage, most likely having fallen asleep in front of the fire, his chocolate frog card collection strewn on the table in front of him, as his friends had found him on more than one occasion.

"Who's my scary lion?" James Potter nuzzled the painted face of his son.

Harry giggled, his temporarily whiskered nose wrinkling, and tried to roar. For some reason that his parents could not figure out, Harry thought all animals made the same sound, "Rar!"

Lily had insisted on painting Harry's face the muggle way that night, though she had conceded to spelling on some lion whiskers. Harry was a true Gryffindor lion, outfitted in furry gold one-piece pajamas with feet and a hood that had two round ears on it. A short lion tail hung off the back, the end of it already thoroughly chewed.

They had tried to explain Halloween to Harry, but they only managed to convey that there would be candy and Harry could dress up. Even at fourteen months, Harry had an active imagination. He loved to go through their old textbooks on magical creatures and imitate the sounds the pictures made, even if he only did come up with the one sound himself.

James picked Harry up and rolled onto his back on the Oriental rug, resting Harry on his stomach. Harry continued making his roaring sounds, which were awfully cute in the baby's voice, until James started tickling him. They both laughed as Harry wriggled on his father's chest.

"I think it's time for the scary lion to hibernate," Lily smiled down at them from the open doorway.

James stopped tickling and stood up. Harry automatically wrapped his arms around James' neck and gave a little yawn, "I think that Mama is right Harry."

A quick cleaning spell removed the make-up and a Finite took care of the whiskers. Harry scrunched his face up and brought a hand up to feel where the whiskers no longer sprouted from his nose.

"No?" Harry's green eyes, so very much like Lily's, were wide and disappointed. James hated seeing that look in both pairs of eyes.

"Maybe tomorrow Harry-bear," Lily's smile widened into a grin. She and Harry rubbed noses and she kissed his forehead, always in the same place.

She must have felt the shift in the air the same as James did though, because the grin froze and then faded. James came to a horrified understanding in an instant and passed his son to his wife in haste, whipping out his wand.

"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off –"

Lily's skin was paler than James had ever seen. She nodded and took Harry, pressing her lips to James's mouth in a desperate kiss, a possible farewell. There was a crash and the splintering of wood as their front door was breached.

Lily darted out of the room and up the stairs to the apparition point in Harry's nursery while James turned to face the entrance of the parlor from the hall.

"James Potter," a low hissing voice came from the man who entered the room.

At first sight he was no more impressive than any other wizard, but then the hood of his cloak fell back. His eyes were blood red, his nose mere slits like those of a snake, his lips gone. Power radiated off of him, dark and twisted. He had been handsome once, that was easy to see, but he no longer even looked human.

Lightning flashed outside, one bolt after another in rapid succession. James suspected what was causing it, but would not let it distract him. Since Harry was six months old, the Manor had been struck by an unusual number of lightning bolts, always when Harry was upset. James was thankful each day that his great-great-great-great-grandfather, with an odd fear of fire for a wizard, had installed several lightning rods. The man had been a seer though, and James wondered if the fear of fire was just a ruse.

"You cannot have him, Voldemort!" James said firmly, amazed at the calm in his own voice. Since they had heard the prophecy, he and Lily had both prepared for this moment, though neither of them told the other. James was ready to die to protect his family, and he would die proud.

"Then you know why I am here," Voldemort's thin lips twisted into a grotesque mockery of a smile.

James kept listening for the 'crack' that would signal the escape of his wife and son, but it didn't come. He cast curse after curse at the dark lord, all of them easily deflected. James was an Auror, and from a line of powerful wizards and witches. He was probably facing one of only a dozen or fewer people who could block his curses so easily.

"They will not escape, Potter," the hiss taunted him, red eyes burning. "They will not even be able to leave this house." James swallowed, knowing his eyes showed his fear, not for himself, but for Harry and Lily. "I had considered killing you and your Mudblood wife, but I believe this will be much worse... for you."

James felt his eyes widen, wondering what Voldemort could be planning. He erected the strongest shield he could manage, but the curse, with an incantation James had never heard before, ripped through it like a bludger through parchment and struck him at his heart.

The pain was excruciating and James felt his body fall to the floor. His limbs were not stiff, like with a paralyzing hex, but he still could not command them to move. He could not move his eyes or even hum. He just stared out of his body, his heartbeat echoing a rapid pace in his ears.

"To all appearances, and to the knowledge of muggle and magical medicine, you are now dead James Potter," Voldemort's voice reached him, but James could not see the dark lord until his body floated up and followed the gliding figure up the stairs, "but to you it will be a living death, condemned to an eternity of darkness in your body."

There were tears in Lily's eyes as they entered the nursery and James wanted to comfort her, to let her know he was still alive. Nothing he could do would make it happen. She held out her wand steadily though, her body between the dark wizard and their son, who was crying in his crib.

Harry shrieked and lightning hit the Manor once, then twice, absorbed through the lightning rods and directed through copper wires into the earth.

"You will never win Voldemort," Lily's eyes flashed dangerously, a look James had learned to fear, but this was exponentially greater than any reproachful look James had been on the receiving end of.

She slashed her wand and a curse of questionable morality shot out, but the Dark Lord simply held out a hand and it careened into the wall where it left a burn. Her eyes narrowed, and a touch of uncertainty flickered in them. She was like a lioness protecting her cub, but knowing that she wasn't strong enough.

"Stand aside, Mudblood," Voldemort hissed, "unless you wish to die with your husband and son."

"Not Harry! Not Harry! Please – I'll do anything –" A touch of hysteria entered Lily's voice.

"Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!" the hissing voice ordered.

"No! Take me instead!" Lily pleaded.

Voldemort's laugh was easily the most disturbing thing James had ever heard, and that included the time Sirius had forgotten to put up a silencing charm around his bed at school that one night. The laugh was high-pitched and grating, easily heard over the screams of little Harry... screams James could do nothing about.

Then there was a flash of light from outside the window as lightning came dangerously close to striking the side of house, defying nature by missing the half dozen metal rods atop the Manor. The unfamiliar incantation was spoken again and a jet of sickly green light hit Lily's chest. Her body crumpled to the floor face-down and Harry instantly stopped screaming, perhaps in shock.

Voldemort stepped closer to the crib and peered down at the child, "So little one, you have the power to destroy me... not for long."

Harry was no longer making a sound, and his tears had stopped falling. James was amazed to see his son looking up at the Dark Lord without fear. There was only curiosity in the green eyes as Harry pulled himself to stand, supported by the white posts of the crib.

The baby then did the unthinkable. He blew a raspberry at Voldemort. Inside his limp, seemingly lifeless body James was overcome with laughter. His son was definitely a Marauder. Never mind that he was most likely trapped inside what appeared to be his dead body for eternity. Never mind that any second Voldemort would kill the last Potter.

The Dark Lord, with the name that the entire world feared to even speak, had baby spit on his face courtesy of Harold James Potter. Not even Harry's first word 'quidditch', or at least that's what James and Sirius thought he said, had made James more proud. Of course, Lily had been torn between pride and glaring at James at the time. She had always been annoyed that he had 'quidditch on the brain'.

Avada Kedavra!

James's stomach twisted as the words were spoken and the green light, eerily identical to the one that hit both him and Lily, shot out of the wand towards Harry's forehead.

Time slowed, and James swore he saw Harry's eyes narrow in concentration before the window behind the crib shattered, spraying the room in shards of glass. Lightning struck the crib a fraction of a second before the curse struck Harry. Harry was pushed back by the curse but his pudgy little hands held tight to the crib and James saw the second impossible, unthinkable thing from his son that night.

The killing curse bounced.

It struck Harry's forehead but it then doubled back and hit Voldemort. The whole room glowed green and there was an explosion. James felt himself pushed backwards and down the stairs. His head struck something... the floor... the wall... chances were he would never know which. Spots danced in front of his eyes and just before blackness swept over him he heard a sound that was both torture and relief all mixed into one.

Harry was crying again. Harry was alive.

James regained consciousness but was surrounded by darkness, a deeper darkness than anything he had ever experienced. There were voices, but they were muffled. James concentrated as hard as he could through the searing pain radiating in his head.

"James and Lily Potter are together in death as they were in life..."

He was hearing his own funeral. Padfoot would love it if he knew, and would surely wait until it was all over before digging them up and rescuing them. The 'white sheep of the Black family', as the Marauders had dubbed Padfoot, had often suggesting faking all their deaths so they could attend their own funerals.

His favorite idea had been to show up in their secret animagus forms in full sight of all the mourners, and then transform just as the dirt was being thrown on the coffins, scaring the piss out of everyone there, the ultimate prank.

The sound of dirt falling onto his coffin with a thump brought James out of his memories. Pebbles bounced down the sides of the box and James felt panic start to take hold of him. He was being buried alive. He tried to scream, tried to move and beat his fists against the lid of the coffin, but not a single part of his body obeyed him.

Oddly, it was the realization that at least he wouldn't suffocate, seeing as he wasn't breathing anyway, that calmed him down.

He didn't know how much time had passed. After the thud of shovel after shovelful of dirt sealing him six feet beneath the surface of the earth faded and went silent, James was left with only his mind to entertain him. He had heard somewhere that solitary confinement, with nothing to signal the passage of time, was a sure path to insanity. It was said that even without the dementors, the prisoners of Azkaban, not allowed windows or any human contact, would surely lose their minds.

He hoped Peter enjoyed it.

There was no doubt in his mind that Peter had betrayed him. They had never imagined that Voldemort and the Death Eaters would suspect Peter as the Secret Keeper. Both Sirius and Remus would have most likely disappeared before Peter was approached, and Peter would have told them, given them ample warning. That could only mean that Peter had willfully betrayed them.

Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater. It just figured that his animagus form was a rat. James wondered why they hadn't thought of the implications of that before. It had just been useful for the small size, and they never connected that to the obvious indications about Peter's personality.

James still had his sanity, or at least he thought he did, when he felt a finger move. It was just one little twitch, but it felt like the most wonderful thing in the world to James. Little by little his body came back to him, and lastly his lungs gasped a huge breath, only to find there was very little oxygen in his underground prison.

He almost panicked before he remembered he could simply apparate. After all, he knew exactly where he was. Potters had always been buried in Godric's Hollow, and the spot of their burial was marked by some ancient spell the moment they were born. He gave quick thanks that wizards were always buried with their wands and gripped the familiar length of mahogany tightly. James closed his eyes and concentrated.

Cold air rushed against skin, and the moisture it carried brought enormous relief. It was night and the sky was filled with twinkling stars. James felt a guttural cry escape his throat as his shaky legs gave out and he fell to the ground. He glanced around quickly and saw his headstone, with Lily's next to it. Further off, where Potter Manor should have risen above the trees, there was only sky.

"Lily," James said hoarsely, speaking for the first time in who knew how long.

With almost too much haste James began using his wand to uncover his wife's coffin. She might not know exactly where they were buried, and could splinch herself if she tried to apparate. He summoned the coffin out of the ground when he thought he was close enough and banished the locks holding the lid in place.

Lily was inside, her frightened eyes staring up at him, her chest not moving, but her limbs jerking irregularly. James picked her up out of the coffin, forgoing the use of magic in favor of touching her once more, her body pliant in his arms.

He hugged her tightly as her senses came back. Her arms wrapped around him and she drew a shuddering breath before dissolving into sobs. James murmured comforting words in between the soft kisses he pressed to her forehead, her cheeks, every bit of skin on her face. The salt of her tears was the first thing he tasted since the chocolate frogs he ate that Halloween night.

"James," Lily's voice was equally scratchy with disuse but James had never heard anything sweeter. "Oh it was awful, James. I thought you were dead – and then I was – and Harry –"

She began to cry again, and James realized she had not been able to see what he saw, had not heard what he heard.

"Harry lived," James silenced her tears with those two words. Lily's eyes rounded with amazement and she began to smile in sudden understanding and hope. "He did it. He got Voldemort." He kissed her again and held her tight against him. "Let's go find our son."

They stood, leaning on each other for support. Lily turned her head back to look at their graves, "We can't leave it like this. If someone sees before they all know..."

James grimaced and nodded. Grave robbing had dark purposes in the wizarding world. With a few swishes of their wands everything was back the way it had been before James exhumed his wife. They smiled at each other, hopeful smiles that would be brighter and complete when their family was whole again.

When they appeared at the small house that Sirius rented it was completely empty, devoid of any signs of life, boards nailed over broken windows, and the Potters had their first inkling that something more than the attack on their home had gone dreadfully wrong on that Halloween night.

"He did something stupid," Lily said in a hollow voice, shaking slightly.

The possibilities were endless, given it was Sirius they were discussing, and James could not bear to voice a single one of them. In the madness of grief there was no limit to what Sirius might have done. James couldn't bear finding another of his friends missing, possibly dead, and his son still not found, "We need Albus."

Their next apparition was to Hogsmeade, and though they were hungrier than they had ever been they did not even pause in their stride. James tugged at Lily and led her toward the dark candy shop, closed for the night.

"James," Lily said in the tone that always preceded a lecture, "what on Earth are you doing? Hogwarts is the other way. Now is not the time..."

"We can't exactly waltz in the front door," James grinned a bit sheepishly as he brandished his wand and unlocked the door, sneaking inside the candy shop with his wife. He hadn't broken into that store in years.

He didn't need to look at Lily to know the expression on her face. Her eyes were flashing and her lips were tight with anger, "Once we find Harry you have a lot of explaining to do, James Nathaniel Potter."

James just nodded, "Yes, dear," and continued down the stairs to the basement of the store, where the hatch that led to the tunnel was in the same spot it had always been.

They listened closely before exiting the tunnel into the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It took more time than usual to make their way towards the Headmaster's office, as they had to stop and hide several times for late night, or maybe it was early morning, wandering students and patrolling professors. James felt his fingers itch with the desire to hex Snivellus as he passed, but Lily laid a restraining hand on his before he even knew he had moved it.

Standing outside the gargoyle, James spouted off a list of sweets under the both impatient and amused eyes of his wife. He was nearly out of ideas when 'Goofy Gumdrops' made the gargoyle leap aside. They rode the staircase up to the Headmaster's off and heard a voice bid them enter.

"Hey, Albus," James spoke as casually as he could as they walked in.

He had never seen the famously unflappable Albus Dumbledore lose his composure or express anything even remotely resembling shock until that day. The bright blue eyes were blinking and the mouth that usually hid behind the voluminous beard gaped open.

"James? Lily?" Albus stammered, the knuckles of his one hand turning white as they gripped the side of his desk, the other hand clutching his robes over his heart.

Lily stepped forward and took the old man in an embrace, "He didn't kill us, Albus. He cast some spell he invented to make everyone think we were dead. It only wore off about two hours ago."

Albus held her at arms length before hugging her tightly again. He held out an arm and James stepped into the welcome embrace. They all had tears running down their cheeks when they stepped apart, and Albus conjured up a pot of tea and three cups, along with a tray of biscuits.

After devouring the food and drink, though James found he could only eat very little, they were able to listen to the story Albus told them of the previous twelve months, apparently the length of time that had passed since Halloween. The tea cup James was holding shook and clattered against the saucer. Surprise graced the Headmaster's face yet again when James and Lily both glared at him from across his desk.

"How could you, Albus?" Lily's voice was low and laced with anger. The look she favored Albus with was only slightly less vehement than the one she had cast on Voldemort. "I wrote in my will that Harry should never go to Petunia, not even if the entire list of twenty other guardians, you included, had died!"

"This is a list of those who attempted to adopt Harry one year ago," Albus said gravely as he slid a piece of parchment across his desk. James picked it up and scowled. The Malfoys were on the list, along with at least five other Death Eater families, and terrible images of what could have happened to Harry filled his mind.

"Peter was our Secret Keeper, Albus," James growled, registering the widening of the blue eyes and the pain that suddenly appeared in them. "We switched at last minute to fool Voldemort. I don't care what you do, but you had better have the Ministry at least willing to give Sirius a trial when we get there."

"I'll go to Surrey," Lily's eyes showed determination and James almost felt sorry for Petunia and Vernon, but not if they had done anything to hurt Harry.

"I'll get Moony and Padfoot," James said with a loving look for Lily.

He gave Albus a final glare before nearly running down the stairs of the Headmaster's office with his wife close behind. Whatever explanations the old man had, whatever excuses, they would have to wait until James and Lily had their family together again.

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