He was thinking about his father and about his
father's three oldest friends... Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs...
Had all four of them been on the grounds tonight? Wormtail had reappeared
this evening when everyone had thought he was dead... Was it so impossible
his father had done the same?
Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
"I've got it!" James crowed as he crawled through the
portrait hole into Gryffindor common room. He was holding a dusty and impossibly
thick book aloft, which made him overbalance and topple inside.
"Ever-graceful, Mr. Potter," Sirius grinned. "Training
to be a ballerina, then?" Peter laughed, but Remus was too intent upon
the discovered information to make fun of James.
"What's it say?" he asked, his eyes afire. "What did you
The common room was empty -- it was late evening during
the Christmas holiday of their first year, and most of the rest of the
school was at home. James hefted the book over to the table they were gathered
around, flopped it impressively before them, and opened a page which he
had marked with a scrap of parchment. He pushed his too-large glasses up
his nose and pointed authoritatively to a passage.
"The Animagus transformation," he announced; "the answer
to all your problems, Remus!"
Remus screwed up his face. "What?"
"Werewolves aren't dangerous to other animals, Professor
McKinnon said it so himself!" James said excitedly. "So, if we were to
make ourselves animals, we could keep you company on the full moon
and you wouldn't be able to, well... hurt us!"
Sirius's attention was immediately on James. "Excellent!"
he exclaimed. "I want to be a dragon! How cool would that be?" He eyed
Remus hungrily. "And if you get too rowdy -- snap snap! it's Lupe brulé
for breakfast!" Remus raised his eyebrows and pushed him off his chair.
"Can we choose what we get to be?" Peter asked, also caught
up in the idea.
James frowned. "It doesn't look like it." He leaned over
the text and read. "'The Animagus transformation is only to be attempted
by witches and wizards of the highest skill. It demands excellence in Charms,
Potions, and especially Transfiguration.' Er, well, that seemed rather
obvious, didn't it?" He cleared his throat and continued. "'Abstractly,
the process involves the summoning of your most elemental nature to the
surface, and developing the control to push it to the surface at will.
This self-essence, when called upon, will abandon the body for the barest
of instants, and force the body to assume the appropriate shape before
re-entry.'" James gulped, and looked up.
Peter was blanching. "I... I don't know about this, guys,"
he protested weakly. "Are you sure there isn't some... you know, some other
way we could--"
But Sirius had a mad gleam in his eye. "Do we not get
top marks in all our classes?" he challenged. "Do we not demonstrate precocious
magical ability? Are we not on the track to being great wizards?"
"Er, Sirius, let's not--"
"Quiet Peter!" He turned his gaze to James, whose eyes
were also beginning to acquire that devious glint. "Are we not up to this?"
"Look, Sirius, I don't want you trying anything that dangerous
on my account--"
Sirius shushed him by holding up a hand. He and James
exchanged looks for a moment, and then he leaned back in this chair, beaming
triumphantly. "I thought so." Peter looked doubtful, but he didn't say
anything. Remus was regarding Sirius and James with a strange mixture of
"You... you mean you'd really do that for me?"
Sirius pounded him on the back. "The chance to be furry
and have a tail? Do I need an excuse?" But there was genuine
friendship in the gesture, and James wholeheartedly felt it too. The remainder
of that first year was spent scrounging about in the Restricted area of
the Library for information about Animagi. And it was in their second year
that they arrogantly commenced preparations.
Admiring one's son is hardly a wearisome task, but James
Potter found himself wishing he could be doing something else. Not that
spending time with Lily and Harry was torture, not by a long shot! But
having Sirius around would have alleviated some of the restlessness, would
have made him loosen up. They had a Fidelius Charm protecting them. There
was little to worry about.
The three Potters were lounging in the sitting room for
what seemed the thousandth time that week. Lily was bouncing Harry, letting
him "stand" on her knees and watching him shriek with laughter. A rare
smile crossed her lately-somber face.
"I dread to think what your son will do when he's old
enough to handle a broom," she commented wryly.
James stopped staring out the window and lifted his chin
from his hand. "What makes you say that?" he asked, an injured expression
on his face.
Lily shrugged. "I'm sure you have an idea. He's wreaking
havoc on his nursery and he can't even walk yet. Do you know, just yesterday
I found him nearly making a dent in our walls, throwing things at them."
"My little Marauder," James smiled. "Maybe one day you'll
be a Chaser like your dear old dad."
"I rather think he's more cut out for Beater," Lily replied.
"He's a tough little squirt. He can certainly whack his food off the table
"And to think, Sirius wanted you to be named Bambi," he
A sudden coldness ripped its way through the air. The
walls of the house shook for an instant. The Potters clung to the furniture,
frozen. Then there was stillness, and silence. Lily's face drained.
"The Fidelius," she breathed. "The charm is down. The
protections are gone. Peter--" James felt his body grow numb and leaden,
and his stomach shriveled, leaving a throbbing void. They stared at each
And then a loud noise in their front yard shattered the
James leapt up and whipped out his wand. "Lily, take Harry
and go! It's him!" Lily was also on her feet, clutching Harry to her shoulder.
Her green eyes were wide with terror. James grabbed her arm. "Go! Run!
I'll hold him off--"
Inside the house, someone laughed: a shrill, high-pitched
cackle that boded evil.
Lily kissed him, very hurriedly and very forcefully, and
dashed through the door at the back of the room. James wheeled around and
tore through the hall.
Voldemort was waiting for him, right inside the front
door. A thin, malicious smile flickered across his serpentine face when
he saw James. "Potter," he hissed. "How very nice to finally meet you at
"I'm sure the same goes for me," James replied, with more
cheek and courage than he actually felt.
Voldemort smiled again, a chill smile, and he drew his
wand. "Shall we do this the proper way, or shall I just kill you right
here? I have greater targets in mind for tonight than you, James, and you
know you cannot stop me."
James replied with the Reductor Curse. He was barely paying
attention to the fight: he could not banish the frantic thoughts racing
around his head. Lily, please, please, be running, be running with Harry,
get yourself out of here!
The duel seemed to last forever: the whole world was crawling
along in slow motion. And the house came tumbling down... The battle
was leaving the front hall full of rubble, but it didn't matter, nothing
mattered, so long as Lily and Harry were getting away... James threw
a hex at Voldemort, and the brief lull afterward startled him. He squinted
through the dust. Voldemort had a thoughtful, amused expression on his
face. "Jelly legs, James? How... ingenious." He clucked his tongue, and
continued in a soft voice, "I still marvel that you were foolish enough
to think that your progeny would ever escape me..."
James narrowed his eyes and flung his wand upward. "Expelliarmus!"
he cried, more as a diversion than anything. As if that would work against
The wand was barely three feet from Voldemort when it
was sucked back through the air toward him again. The cruel grin had left
the other wizard's face. "I am not in the mood for games, Potter. I think
you are more trouble than you're worth..."
And James watched Voldemort raise his wand almost in slow
motion, knowing what was inescapably coming.
Avada Kedavra. You're going to die, James Potter. Avada
For some reason, instead of his life flashing before his
eyes, Mad-Eye Moody's words about the Killing Curse came back. Can't
block it. Can't dodge it. Just have to hope that you die of a heart attack
before it hits you.
And then, from further back... the words of an eighteenth-century
Transfiguration text... This self-essence, when called upon, will abandon
the body for the barest of instants...
James steeled himself. If I can just time it right,
then maybe, maybe...
Voldemort's wand was at shoulder height. His red snake
eyes were narrowing.
The barest of instants...
"Transfiguro me!" he whispered desperately. He
could already hear the curse swooping toward him, half-completed.
He felt something intangible pulling away from himself.
Go! Go! He pushed,
keeping the stag outside. He could feel the drain--
A burst of green light filled his vision, and James Potter
knew no more.
The stag could feel itself drifting, could feel its body
float without control through walls, through clouds, through trees. Reverberations
of something huge, something powerful kept shocking through him, and he
barely knew how he had the strength to keep himself from dissipating entirely.
The stag had no idea how long he traveled, for he was blind to the changes
of day and night, and numb to the corresponding changes of temperature.
He could feel less than nothing, just senses, just the vague sensation
of being held together by sheer willpower, willpower that belonged not
to him but some other...
He was able to tell when he'd stopped moving, though.
At that point, he seemed to solidify: all the vaporous parts he knew were
pulled somehow into a central location. He still could not see, and he
could not smell nor taste nor touch nor hear, but the difference was he
something. It came in washes, a fluctuating magnetic pull that waxed and
waned in pulses.
He did not know how long he lay, soaking up the influence
of the pulse. He began to detect things in it after a while. Not exactly
a voice, but an affirmation: this is strength.
Strength. That was all he was able to discern for
what seemed an impossibly long time. He could feel whatever was in these
pulses pulling him together. They would penetrate to what seemed like his
center, and stay there for a beat. While within him, the force would draw
stray elements of the stag closer to itself, and bind them together.
It was a slow process, much like the formation of a stalactite.
But the stag was helpless to do anything about it, to either hasten or
halt its work.
The first improvement was the recovery of his sight. It
wasn't sight such as he had understood it before, but he now found an understanding
of where he was.
Two great oak trees rose up on either side of him. They
seemed to grow from a single trunk, and he was settled in the branch. A
dense, primeval forest spread out around him, with an unnatural sunlight
streaming through gaps in the foliage. The trees were all ancient, and
were exuding small pulses of their own. Had he been able to hear, he would
have found the forest absolutely silent. No birds nor animals lived within
miles of the area, and no humans had tread the ground for centuries.
After a time of being able to see, and of studying the
forest while the pulses did their work, he began to notice changes. He
saw that the foliage became barer and less dense. And the underbrush became
less distinct, and muted, and finally the ground seemed to have risen,
and only the trunks of the trees were visible. Four times he saw the ground
like this, and each time the blanket receded, revealing the ground once
When the sun came streaming down on the oaks' roots again,
the stag found himself understanding a new affirmation in the tides of
This is strength.
The stag felt he understood, but he did not know how he
would obey. The trees grew naked again, and their leaves disappeared. The
stag heard the affirmation again. But this time, it was clearer, stronger.
The individual pulses of the trees were silent, and the greater voice came
This is strength.
Find the source. It will heal you.
And then the pull beckoned, the pull which had called
all of his vaporous body together and bound it.
And, like a newborn fawn, on weak, unsteady legs, the
stag stood up.
A pulse washed over him, and as it drew away, it pulled
him with it.
Follow. It will give you strength.
And so the stag did.
* * *
The source of the pulse lay far away from the twin oaks
which had harbored the stag for so long. But he doggedly pursued it, feeling
the weakness and insubstantiality ebb away as the energy washed through
him with every laborious step.
The winter -- for that was what it was, when the ground
became indistinct and uniform -- passed twice. He had not stopped walking
since standing up. When the second winter ended, he could feel now not
a throb, but a steady and overwhelming hum enveloping him as he traveled.
It vibrated through his ghostly body, which now had the faintest hint of
translucency to it, and the stag felt like he might burst.
And finally he reached the source. The late-summer sun
was powerful enough that the stag was perceiving his first hint of color
-- a pale, pale green, barely green enough to distinguish it from white.
He had forgotten what color was, and the sure sign of health made him push
ever harder. The hum of energy was so great he once slowed his walk, but
that only made the pounding heavier, and so he resumed his trek at once.
He reached a line of trees, and the vibrations were all-consuming.
He was nearly blinded by their force. But, however blindly, he pushed himself
through, and suddenly the sensation stopped. The stag paused, and looked
He was in a small clearing, at the far end of which was
a spring. Beside the spring was a large, flat rock, raised slightly above
the ground. A surreal light filled the glen. The stag was aware of the
colors all at once: they assaulted his eye, and never was he more glad
of such an attack.
He stood marveling for some time. His journey was at an
end, he knew it. Then, as the moon rose, the pulses hit him again, though
gently. He did not resist them. They drew him to the rock, and upon it
he lowered himself. Nothing happened until dawn. A rush of energy surged
through him, and a new voice spoke to him.
"Ah! Now what might you be, stag? For it has certainly
been a long time since I have had company here."
And, weakly, faintly, the stag replied. "I am a man. I
need to be strong again. I need to go back." He had not remembered what
he was until asked. But an image of a body falling to a carpeted floor
flashed before him, and he knew that much. "Please," he continued, in a
whisper. "Can you help me?"
The voice was silent for a long time, but the stag was
used to silence, and to long ones at that. The colors had faded again as
night came before he received a reply. "You have come to Cernunnos's Well.
This is the most magical spot in Britain. And you are a stag, a symbol
of rebirth and my very own creature. Yes, I will help you."
And a new sensation, a feeling of warmth rising up from
the stone, entered the stag's body.
"You are less than insubstantial, stag, but you need only
rest here, and let the magic compose you. It will take some time, but that
is something we have no dearth of."
The stag lay on the stone for many weeks. When a new color,
red, became visible in the fall, the stag spoke again. "How long have I
been like this?"
"You were ripped from your body eight years whence, I
think. There was much damage done, but not as much as could have occurred.
Tell me, how did you get like this?"
And so the stag thought, and searched through himself
for the answer. He knew it was buried somewhere, that it was still a part
of him, his knowledge of that other life, but it was many more weeks before
he was able to say with conviction what it was.
"I was... outside my body when a Killing Curse hit. I
don't know why. It was a chance, but I took it."
The voice seemed to be considering something. Then, it
chuckled. "Brave, reckless creature. So you must return to your life. You
acted in defense of your family?"
"Then that is the noblest of causes. If I should simply
sit aside, you might have a body in fifty years. But I have been idle long,
and you will benefit greatly from my aid. Sit still. I shall go to work.
And in the meantime, I shall tell you stories."
* * *
Twice the stag had watched the seasons roll their course,
and all the while had heard ten thousand fascinating stories from the voice
of Cernunnos: stories of Taliesin and Pwyll and Olwen and old Welsh gods.
So absorbed in these tales he was that he did not notice he was becoming
more and more visible. The snow gathered in his antlers, and weighed them
down, but he did not realize or detect their weight. He was watching the
snowflakes spiral down from the grey, grim sky as he listened to a tale
from the Mabinogion when there was a twitch just above his left shoulder.
He gasped, unused to the reflex, and then felt it again, all over his back.
It was steady, and it took him several minutes to realize he was shivering.
And inside, his heart rejoiced. Cernunnos paused his story,
and observed the stag for a moment. And then, with decided happiness in
his voice, he commented, "You see that? We are making progress. I think
by summer we shall finish you."
And the stag shivered again, with glee.
* * *
"We are ready," the voice of Cernunnos pronounced. "Stand
The stag obeyed, and rose. He had been a wisp of spirit
when he'd arrived at the Well, but now he was a proper beast, towering
high over the glen. He was aware of his weight, and of his size. Something,
however... something was missing... He did not feel ready. He wondered
what Cernunnos was planning.
"I have enjoyed our time together, stag," the voice said.
"You are a good companion after one has been lonely for so long. It was
good to tell the old stories again. And it was good to finally put the
magic to use again. There is one thing remaining before I can let you go.
Go over to the well."
The stag took his first tentative steps toward the water.
For the first time, it tempted him: he was thirsty. He paused above
the clear pool and stared at the reflection. He was a dark animal, with
ebony black antlers and very dark brown fur. He had unusual black patches
around his eyes.
"Go on, take a drink," Cernunnos urged.
The stag bent down, felt the wetness of the water soaking
his throat, sliding down--
And suddenly, a fiery warmth began coursing through him,
racing through his body with alarming force. His head became light and
dizzy, and he could not properly feel his own weight. He danced for a moment
on his hooves, and then it hit him.
Blood. He was feeling his own blood gushing through
He bellowed in his insurmountable joy, and bounded away
from the spring, for the sheer thrill of such movement. He could hear laughter,
that of the voice beneath the rock, and, deep down, his own. He dashed
into the forest, prancing through the underbrush. He was free.
He was alive.
He returned to the rock, and bowed his head. "How can
I ever thank you?" he breathed rapturously.
Cernunnos chuckled. "By being alive, just as you just
were. You are still weak, for a living thing, but if you eat, you will
be up to prime strength in no time."
"A thousandfold thanks," the stag repeated.
"There is yet one more thing I can give to you," the voice
whispered, a bit conspiratorially.
The stag was confused. "My name?"
"Of course! Surely you cannot think you are just called
'stag' when you are a man."
The stag's pupils dilated, and he stood still for a moment,
staring into space. "A man..." Images of a life lost in a flash of green
light were playing out in front of his eyes: he saw a wolf, a rat, a dog,
and a woman. He saw a little boy with black hair. "A man..." The name was
rippling toward him, he knew it was there somewhere, he had a name, he
was a man...
"Potter!" he burst out, startling even himself. "Potter!"
He began to pace. "James Potter. James Potter. I am James Potter. I
am James Potter!"
"And now fare thee well, James Potter!" Cernunnos cried.
"Go north! All you seek lies waiting there!"
And James Potter left the glen at a run, his blood rushing
through his powerful body.
A sickness of hunger hit him as he reached the edge of
the forest. He felt weak and empty, and his legs began to shake. But he
could not marvel enough at the progress he had made. The journey through
the forest had taken him... years, before. Now, on the unnatural
strength euphoria and adrenaline had lent him, he had reached the outskirts
after two days on the gallop.
James found a small clearing, and collapsed, huffing,
behind a bush. He lay wheezing for several minutes before his heart rate
slowed, and he was able to breathe again. He turned his head, and after
sniffing the bushes, began eating the leaves. It was not until he was eating
that he realized how bloody hungry he was. Well, after all, you've
only had a drink of water in the past... He realized that he did not
know how long he had been away from the world. He wondered about the faces
he'd remembered, faces without names or connections. All he knew was that
he was James Potter, and he needed to go north. He wondered about the little
boy he'd seen, and the other animals. Were they pets? Do people own
as pets? He hardly knew the answer, so dim was his memory of human
After partly satisfying his ravenous appetite, he settled
into the ground and lay his head on the ground. An immense weariness caught
up on the heels of his hunger. He felt his eyelids turn to lead (what
is lead?) and sleep conquered him before he knew it was approaching...
He dreamed that night, and though the dreams were frightening,
he was too exhausted to wake up and end them. Night after night it happened,
but by the time he reached his destination, there were things he remembered.
Things he needed to know.
* * *
After the Wolfsbane Potion, he had enough human in
him to realize he had to run, he had to escape these people before the
wolf took over and wrested away control. He fled into the forest, feeling
ashamed and angry. His strides were long and fluid. After a while of running,
his thoughts abandoned him, and he was absorbed in the simple act of flight.
The Forest brought back many memories. How often had
the three of them romped through these trees? Three--
The wolf choked. His head was still a whirl, after
the inundation of events tonight. Everything he had firmly believed for
the past twelve years had been suddenly and painfully shattered. Sirius,
innocent. Wormtail, alive.
A howl was ripped from his throat. All the sorrow that
little rat had caused --
He howled again, a wild and primal sound. He listened
to it echo above the trees with a certain satisfaction. He repeated the
noise, over and over again. Unlike other full moons, he was somehow feeling...
resolved. But with a bitter change of heart, he decided it had to do with
the Wolfsbane Potion. Other nights he had not been able to think so rationally.
Still. Tonight. All those old goodbyes ripped open
again. Sirius, he'd condemned and blocked off where he couldn't be hurt
by his memory, only to be confronted with that snarling, sunken face in
the Shack. And the evidence that had come squealing out of Ron's pocket...
Another he'd resigned to the realm of the dead.
He shivered. There were too many restless memories
about tonight. He wished he could just find a spot to rest in, to be away
from tonight. Removed. Away...
He began loping toward an old favorite spot of theirs
-- a clearing with an inexplicable cairn of rocks at the edge. It was one
of the deepest places in the Forest they'd ever penetrated. And to think,
miles more sprawled out away from the castle...
His mind was blank as he ran. He had so much restless
energy to expend. The wolf was taking its revenge for being bottled up
all year. He didn't feel violent, but he felt... he felt like running.
And what a night to run.
* * *
James had been rather pleased to find this place. It helped
him think. Just being at Hogwarts was bringing back a deluge of memories.
He remembered most of the biggest events from his life now. There were
very few names at this point -- Harry, Lily, Dumbledore... and Moony. He
was certain he'd know more when he met them.
He could smell something large and carnivorous nearing
him. He didn't feel afraid, emaciated as he was. A stag's antlers can reason
with some of the most uncooperative of beasts. He smiled to himself, remembering
that stable of horses who had been so reluctant to share their hay...
He could hear the beast now, could hear its panting and
its paws pounding against the ground. He struggled to stand up, and faced
the direction of the carnivore, and waited.
* * *
Something was already there, waiting for him in the
clearing. He approached it cautiously. It didn't smell right. It didn't
smell like a real animal. Or rather, it smelled like a half-beast... someone
pretending to be an animal... or someone who was dead once but alive again...
He couldn't place it. It didn't smell right at all. It smelled like memories
he really didn't want to dredge up right now.
Rather cautiously, he crossed the tree line and edged
forward into the clearing. The darkness was such that he couldn't see what
was standing before him, but the smell suddenly became overwhelming and
The animal sniffed, and raised its head. A great rack
of antlers was outlined against the sky. "I know you..." it said, soft
and a little uncertain.
He felt his tail curl between his legs and his hackles
rise. This was supernatural, this was a hallucination, this wasn't right...
The animal took a shaky step forward. "You... are you..."
"Get away from me!" he yelped, and scrambled backward.
"Moony! Are you Moony?"
The werewolf stood frozen in the darkness, every muscle
stiff and afraid. "You aren't real," he whispered. "You can't be real..."
The stag took another step toward him. "I think I know
you! Please, are you Moony? How do I know you?"
"Go away!" the werewolf shouted. "I've already said
goodbye to you!" He turned tail and ran. He was most relieved that the
phantom was not pursuing him.
* * *
James stood at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, blinking
bleary eyes. The question was not whether or not to do it, it was how.
The winter had become too much for him. He had, earlier in the fall, arrived
at his favorite eating territory and found it churning with dragons. Even
though rationally he knew they were gone, the rank stench lingered,
and his instincts would not allow him to go back. That glade had been full
of the best food in the forest, and without it, he searched fruitlessly
for a new source. When the winter came, he had little to fall back on.
Tree bark, the last resort of a starving deer, became out of the question
after that final bowtrunkle had tried to gouge out his eyes.
The grounds seemed quite empty. Perhaps the students were
on break? James did not think so. A smell of a crowd was perceptible from
the other side of the hut, beyond the lake. He huddled against the wind
and peered at the hut and stables before him.
Stronger and overpowering most everything else was the
scent of alcohol. It stung his nose and made him dizzy, but he could feel
its warmth, and it was so tempting... Beneath the alcohol, he detected
other animals: horses perhaps, though they had an odor foreign to him;
as well as a dog, and something much more frightening, something menacing
and poisonous he could not identify.
His stomach twisted in on itself, begging for nourishment.
He took a step forward. Perhaps it will be a good thing, he thought,
closing his eyes. Perhaps someone will come who can help me. Someone
who can make me a man again. He paused for another moment, and then
lurched toward the stable.
A cluster of the largest horses he had ever seen stopped
talking and glared at him. They regarded each other. One of the horses
sniffed. "Que veux-tu?" it asked.
"I'm... I'm sorry?" he rasped.
The other horses nodded to each other smugly. "C'est
un bête," one said snobbily. "C'est rien." They turned
their backs to him and continued what sounded like gossip. James staggered
forward once more. The dog began to bark, but he ignored it. The unidentifiable
scent grew stronger, and James discovered its source, much to his displeasure,
came from next to the stable. The creatures -- for there was no other word
for them, except perhaps monsters -- began clicking angrily as he
passed them. He froze, petrified, then broke out of it when one raised
a menacing appendage and thrust it toward him.
With a burst of effort, he jogged to the entryway and
nosed the door open. The twenty stalls were all empty, but he could tell
that the horses occupied them during the evening. He sought one out that
did not carry their smell, and was relieved to find it was warm and lined
with hay. In the corner was a large metal vat, containing the alcohol he
could smell. It was not so bad now, now that he was used it a little. And
he could not begrudge it the warmth it provided. He settled down in a pile
of hay, and after eating a few mouthfuls from a nearby bale, he drifted
off into a fitful doze.
* * *
"Ahh, here, me beauties, sorry 'm late."
James awoke at the sound of the rumbling voice. The horses
had all returned, and they stood stamping impatiently in their stalls.
Someone was bustling toward his stall, a metal containing clanging as it
knocked against the doors. "Here now, you stop that, Goncourt, stop bein'
a spoilt babbie. Hey! you'll 'ave t'wait 'till it's filled, I'm not havin'
any of that, Hélène!" The names did not roll well off his
tongue: it sounded as though the speaker was making a great effort to get
them right. The man was coming toward the last stall to the left, where
James lay hidden! The stag froze, and huddled down.