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 find out?"

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 emotion.

"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 with spirit."

"And to think, Sirius wanted you to be named Bambi," he chuckled.

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 other.

And then a loud noise in their front yard shattered the air.

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 last."

"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 him...

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 Kedavra!

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 him 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 felt 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 again.

When the sun came streaming down on the oaks' roots again, the stag found himself understanding a new affirmation in the tides of pulses.

This is strength.

Follow it.

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 through.

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 up.

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 up."

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 his veins.

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.


"Your name."

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 wolves as pets? He hardly knew the answer, so dim was his memory of human life.

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 familiar.

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.

The door creaked open. The speaker was enormous, as tall or taller than James. How he would fit in through the door was beyond him. He was pushing away one of the horses' heads, which was straining to reach beyond its own stall. James braced himself, waiting for what the man would say when he saw him. What occurred was totally unexpected. Every other time he'd been caught in a stable, the owner had fetched some dogs or a weapon and chased him out. This man, though startled to see him there, did not move nor say anything. The two stared at each other. A thought was crossing James's mind. I've seen him before too, I think I know this man...

"Lookit th'state of yeh," the man finally said wonderingly. "Skin an' bones, you! S'pose we'll have some fattening up t'do..." He bent down, and stretch out his hand. James leaned forward and sniffed it, feeling the hand could engulf his whole head if it so chose. The man smelt of sweat and animals, and of alcohol, and kindness. James looked back up at his face, hidden behind a bristling black beard. The eyes were twinkling. "'Tis s real pleasure makin' yer acquaintance," he murmured, "an' I'll feed yer soon as I get these horses taken care of. They're real brats, jus' b'tween you an' me." He gingerly sidestepped James, who was thankful, because he was too tired and stiff to move. The man filled his bucket with the alcohol, and it was so large that he did not have to come back for more. James waited curiously, listening to the horses drink and talk with each other.

Soon, the man came back, with a great bundle of moss and impossibly fresh meadow grass. "Here y'are, then," he said happily. "Eat oop." James made a grateful snuffling noise, and leaned over to begin eating. The giant man closed the door and left him in peace.

* * *

"Professor Dumbledore, sir, can I 'ave a moment?"

"Why certainly, Hagrid."

"I've, er, got sommat a bit unusual ter tell you."


"Well, t'night when I was feedin' them Beauxbatons horses their whiskey, I... well, I found a stag lyin' in the stable, comfy as you like."

"A stag? How interesting."

"Well sir, it's not... it's not normal stag behavior, like. If you should ask me, it seems like it..."

"Please continue, Hagrid, I'm listening."

"Well Professor sir, seems like it wants something."



"I should like to have a look at this stag, if you don't mind, Hagrid. When would be a good time for me to come down?"

"Oh! Oh, er, anytime, sir, anytime!"

"Very well, will now do?"

"Certainly, sir! Righ' this way!"

* * *

"Here 'e is, Professor."

James awoke to see a new man standing in the door to the stable. He had a beard as white and shining as the moon, and he seemed exude calm and wisdom. He spoke to the man. "Thank you Hagrid. Would you leave us for a few moments? I should like to ask this stag a few questions."

Hagrid. I know that name.

Hagrid answered uncertainly, "'Course, Professor. I'll jus' be in me cabin, a'right?"

"I shall be with you shortly, then. Thank you."

With a grunt, Hagrid left. The silvery man peered into the darkness of the stable, at James. That face is familiar too... I know it so well... who is it?? The man addressed him. "I am most curious to find out about you, sir. I have a feeling you are not what you appear to be. My name is Albus Dumbledore. I am the Headmaster here at Hogwarts. Do you know me?"

Dumbledore! Dumbldore! That was a story he'd remembered without a face. He leapt up, so suddenly that the horse next door whinnied, surprised. He clamored forward, coming into the light. Yes! I know you! I knew you before!

Dumbledore smiled slightly, and his blue eyes twinkled. "Very good, then. Tell me, were you a student here at one time?"

James tossed his head, hoping Dumbledore would recognize it as a yes. Dumbledore leaned forward, looking very hard at James. "I will ask one more thing of you, and then I will let you rest." He studied the stag carefully, and then asked, "Are you Prongs, of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs?"

Something huge came rushing back to him. The Marauders. The Marauders. The werewolf... Searching through a row of books they were forbidden to read... being chased by a cat that couldn't see them...

"I remember!" he tried to say, but only an agitated moan escaped him. He stood still, trying hard to remember, because he knew he knew how to get back. It was imperative he tell this man! He bent his head, thinking. The way back... "Trans... transfiguro..."

A hand touched his shoulder. He jumped back, startled. Dumbledore was looking at him with a mixture of shock, sorrow, and elation. "Do not try it yet," he said softly. "You are yet too weak." He paused. "James, is it really you?"

Yes! Yes! Please, let me out, let me out...!

Dumbledore stepped back, apparently faint with shock. "I... I have some contacts to make. In the meantime, you stay with Hagrid and get healthy again. Once you have sufficient strength, we will try and help you get back." His voice became choked. "James Potter, I am very interested to know why you are alive!"

* * *

To be continued shortly!!
Gros bisous to ChoChang and Orenda over at the MB for beta-reading this! =)
August 29th, 2001