Not Set In Stone

By Neurotica

Ten

This. isn't. happening...

For the second time in less than a week, two wizards sat at the table in Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place staring at something. Unlike the last time, when there had actually been something to stare at, when the two wizards had so thoroughly gotten their hopes up for something resembling a normal life again, neither man had any inclination towards excitement or happiness. Remus had tried tracing the thief who had walked into Headquarters, nabbed the cage containing Wormtail, and got back out again before either Sirius or Remus could stop him; he continued to hit dead ends. They had a list of suspects, of course; it was the same list of suspects they'd formed the morning they'd found Wormtail in the first place. It was an Order of the Phoenix member. This information, however, did nothing to ease Remus' mind.

With a heavy sigh, the werewolf looked back at his friend. "Tell me again," he whispered.

Sirius looked over at him, trying to glare, but he was completely unable to erase the depressed expression from his eyes. "I already told you five times," he said hoarsely. Remus didn't reply; he just watched his friend until the other wizard rolled his eyes and groaned in frustration. "Fine, but this is the last time." Remus nodded once to show he understood and waited for Sirius to continue.

"I'd come downstairs to get a quick bite to eat," he said in a low tone. "I couldn't sleep and I thought maybe a snack might help. When I was in the pantry, sorting through your chocolate stash—which, for the fifth time, I swear to replenish," Sirius managed a small grin; Remus forced a chuckle, "I heard someone come downstairs as well. Didn't think anything of it, thought it was you, so I kept quiet in the hopes that if you didn't find me raiding your stash, I wouldn't have to listen to you bitching about it for the next week." Sirius' expression hardened. "Wormtail was asleep when I came down, it was the first thing I checked. I heard someone shuffling around, so, thinking it was you, asked if you wanted some of the biscuits Molly had left us. You didn't reply, of course, so I started out of the pantry. I heard Wormtail squeaking and squealing and carrying on. Before I could even comprehend what I was seeing, that bloody bloke was halfway up the stairs, that bloody cage in his bloody hand. He didn't even know I was here, Moony, until I yelled at him to stop. He didn't even turn to look at me, just picked up his pace and sprinted out of the house. And you know the rest..."

Remus nodded, just as he had the last five times Sirius had gone through the story. They'd been so close to the biggest success either of them could have achieved in this war, short of actually defeating Lord Voldemort, of course. But their securities had been breached—the only people who knew of the spells that had been placed over Wormtail's cage to avoid exactly this situation were those who had been present on Halloween night when Sirius and Bill had come up with the charms themselves. Well, it hadn't been for exactly this situation; Remus had made a comment earlier in the day to Bill among other Order members about his concerns regarding Sirius being left to his own devices around the cage after a night of drinking. Bill had assured Remus that if Sirius did drunkenly stumble down with the intentions to harm Wormtail, he wouldn't be able to get through the incantations, which were more like a tongue-twister than anything. And even when Remus had pointed out Sirius didn't have to be drunk to want to harm Wormtail, Bill had secretly altered the charms while Sirius had gone to the loo so that if anybody with the intention of harming Wormtail tried to take him or attack him, they wouldn't make it out of the kitchen.

To which leads us to the only logical conclusion of whoever took Wormtail had no intention of harming him, Remus thought to himself. Surprisingly, that's hardly reassuring...

"You don't think Snape would have..." Sirius began, still staring at the table.

Remus looked at his friend, knowing even Sirius wasn't blaming Severus Snape for this. "No, I don't," he answered. Sirius nodded and continued his brooding. Just as he was preparing to suggest making them some breakfast, both wizards nearly fell out of their chairs when a pearly white phoenix appeared on the table in front of them and spoke in Dumbledore's voice, "Come to Hogwarts immediately," before fading away again.

The wizards blinked uncomprehendingly at the spot where it had disappeared for a few seconds before Sirius cleared his throat, not quite meeting his friend's eyes. "Guess that's for you, then," he said gruffly.

Remus started to nod, to stand, to assure Sirius he would be back soon to fill him in on everything, but suddenly decided leaving his friend behind yet again wasn't an option. "It's for both of us," he said briskly, clapping Sirius on the back. "So get dressed. Dumbledore's waiting."

Sirius turned and looked at him with wide eyes. "What happened to following the Headmaster's instructions no matter what, Prefect Moony?" he asked disbelievingly.

Remus only grinned as he headed up the stairs. "In case you've forgotten, I was the worse prefect in the history of Hogwarts."

The barking laughter that followed Remus out of the kitchen seemed foreign to his ears, but it was nice to hear it.


Sirius stepped out of the fireplace into Albus Dumbledore's study just behind Remus, and just in time to receive one of the Headmaster's infamous I-know-what-you've-done-and-we'll-talk-about-this-later looks that Sirius had been receiving since he was twelve-years-old. The first time had been when Dumbledore had caught him and James sneaking into McGonagall's office in the hopes of catching her during a catnap—literally. If they had caught her, their intention had been to place a cat bell around the tabby cat's neck. And if they hadn't caught her, they were equipped with enough catnip to make dinners in the Great Hall interesting for at least a week. As it was, Dumbledore had caught them standing beneath James' Invisibility Cloak outside McGonagall's office while Sirius stuck his arm out to pick the lock on her office, a trick he'd been taught by his Cousin Andromeda's boyfriend Ted over the summer.

It wasn't often that Remus was also included in on one of those looks, but the Headmaster's blue eyes darted between him from where he stood behind his desk. And if he hadn't been so curious about why Dumbledore had sent the patronus, he would have taken a minute or two to tease his old friend about it.

"Have a seat, gentlemen," Dumbledore said softly, gesturing to a pair of chairs in front of his desk. "We must be quick..."

"Sir, Wormtail..." Remus began. He trailed off when Dumbledore waved away his words.

"I already know," said the Headmaster simply.

Sirius discreetly rolled his eyes as he sat. Of course he does...

Dumbledore turned away from them towards a cabinet, and began to speak. "There has been an incident this morning at the Ministry of Magic," he told them, shuffling things around in the cabinet. "My assistance is required in order to stop Cornelius Fudge from doing something else he will regret."

"What happened?" Remus asked, sitting up straight.

Dumbledore ignored this. "There are many things the two of you should know, things you would have, in time, been told in a less brusque manner. Unfortunately, circumstances have arisen and I am forced to give you the, as the Muggles say, quick and dirty version of events." The Headmaster turned away from the cabinet holding a stone basin with runes around its rim and brought it to the desk. After digging around in a desk drawer for a few moments, he withdrew three phials filled with silvery, moving liquid strands that Sirius quickly identified as memories. One-by-one, Dumbledore emptied each phial into the pensieve; when he finished, he pushed the basin towards Sirius and Remus, both of whom raised their eyebrows at the Headmaster. "As I said," he said slightly apologetically, "this is not how we wanted you to find out the truth, but again, everything has changed." He straightened up and headed for the fireplace. "I do not hope to be long. You may wait for us if you wish, but if you prefer to return to Headquarters, we will find you."

Exchanging a glance, Remus and Sirius turned to watch Dumbledore step into the fireplace, call his destination—Ministry of Magic, Atrium—and throw a handful of Floo powder at his feet. Moments later, the elderly wizard disappeared in a flash of green flames. "Is it just me," Sirius began in a low voice when the flames died down, "or does he get stranger with every bloody year...?"

Remus snorted a laugh, but didn't comment as he turned back to the pensieve.

"What d'you reckon's in there?" Sirius asked, jerking his head at the desk.

Remus shot him a look. "Memories, perhaps?" he said, his tone laced with amusement.

"I know that, git," Sirius replied, trying to swipe at his friend's head; Remus ducked out of the way before his hand made contact. "I meant whose memories?"

The werewolf shook his head. "No idea," he said quietly. "One way to find out, though..."

"Sure it's safe?"

"I'm sure if it's something Dumbledore wants us to see it's safe..."

Sirius shot his friend the most dubious expression he could muster; Remus ignored him as he stood up to examine the swirling not-quite-gas-not-quite-liquid substance inside the pensieve. "Either way, he all but told us to look into the memories..."

Remus was pale. "Yeah, I guess he did..." He swallowed hard. "You first, then..."

Sirius shot his eyebrows up. "Why me?" he asked indignantly. "You're his bloody first lieutenant!" Remus rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to argue. Sirius waved him off. "We all know it, stop denying it. Point is, you first."

The werewolf took a very deep breath and let it out shakily. "Together?" he suggested.

Knowing he wasn't going a better compromise than that, Sirius nodded reluctantly and went to stand beside Remus at the pensieve. "On three, then," he whispered, staring into the silver memories. "One." Each wizard placed a hand on the basin's edge. "Two." They took deep breaths and began to lower their heads. "Three." As their noses touched the liquid, each of them felt as though they'd been grasped by the shoulders and pulled into the past.


Remus sucked in a deep breath as he landed on his feet beside Sirius. He was staring not at the hardwood floor in Dumbledore's office, but beige carpeting in what looked to be a hallway. Both wizards stood up straight, trying to get their bearings; the place looked vaguely familiar, but Remus couldn't quite recognize it. It wasn't until they heard a high-pitched squealing giggle that something triggered his memory, told him where and when he was without a shadow of a doubt.

"Is..." Sirius whispered, staring at the hallway wall as though hoping he could see through it. "Is that Harry?"

Remus nodded slowly. "I think so," he whispered back. "Come on."

They followed the hallway into a small, warm sitting room and were immediately met with a scene so familiar that it made Remus' heart twinge.

"James..." Sirius said quietly, his tone full of sorrowful longing. "When is this?"

Remus shook his head slowly, watching as James Potter, looking exactly as they'd remembered him looking before his death, used his wand to blow smoke rings for the giggly fifteen-month-old sitting on the floor. Every so often, Harry would pull himself up on still shaky legs to try and chase the rings before they dissipated. And every time, Harry lost his balance reaching for a ring that was just out of his reach and fell on his diapered bottom, making both himself and James laugh.

Recalling that Sirius had asked a question, Remus looked around the room for a clue to answer. His eyes fell on a row of four carved pumpkins, three of which he'd seen as recently as earlier that week—each pumpkin was carved with the silhouette of an animal. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Just as he was about to point this out to Sirius, who was now leaning against wall due to Lily's entrance, he glanced out the window, suddenly knowing exactly what they were witnessing.

"Voldemort."

"What?" Sirius asked faintly.

"Sirius, this is the night Lily and James die," Remus said urgently, snapping Sirius out of his nostalgic recollections in an instant.

His friend was shaking, pale. "Moony, no," he croaked, shaking his head. "I can't watch this..."

"Don't think we have a choice," Remus replied regretfully—this wasn't exactly something he'd been dying to see either—his eyes darting to the front door just seconds before Voldemort blasted it off the hinges. Both wizards watched in increasing horror as James scooped Harry up, dumped him into Lily's arms, and rushed to the hallway to see what had happened.

James shouted something at Lily, telling her to take Harry and run, that he'd hold off Voldemort. Sirius was mumbling incoherently under his breath. Remus had always imagined something a little more... involved when James had been killed. He'd envisioned a duel between James and the Dark Lord, one that had ended in his friend's heroic death. What he hadn't imagined was Voldemort laughing, then waving his wand, causing James to fall. If he hadn't been so caught up in renewed grief, he would have noticed that the light that had hit James Potter hadn't been green, but blue.

With a cold smirk, Voldemort stepped over James' body and headed up the stairs, and Sirius was the first to recover his senses. "Why are we still here?" he asked quietly, his eyes darting everywhere around the downstairs, avoiding James completely. "He's... he's dead, isn't he? The memory should be over. Why are we still here?"

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Remus knew he should have had the answer readily available for both Sirius and himself, but he could only shake his head dumbly. "Dunno..."

There was a scream above them followed closely by a flash of green light.

Lily... Remus thought, staring up the staircase.

He waited for the next curse for what felt like hours, knowing exactly what was going to happen. The next green flash was accompanied almost immediately with an explosion, one that, though he knew neither he nor Sirius could be harmed while inside the memory, had him grabbing his best friend's arm and dragging him to the ground until the shaking subsided. When they stood up again, neither of them could avoid staring up at the missing portion of the house. The space where Remus knew Harry's nursery to have been had been obliterated, leaving them staring out at the night sky.

Minutes dragged by as they waited for the memory to change to the next one. Hagrid arrived on the scene and began digging around the wreckage of the house, sniffling loudly as he worked. Finally, his searched paid off: from beneath half a wall, still safely in his crib was Harry Potter, his only visible injury in the form of a cut on his forehead.

Suddenly, they were standing in the front yard that was littered with plaster and rubble from the house. Behind them, they could hear an approaching Muggle vehicle, specifically a shining black motorbike. Its rider demounted before it had come to a complete stop, pausing only to rather mechanically remove his helmet and set the bike on its kickstand. Remus could barely stand to watch the Sirius Black he'd remembered take in the scene before him, the horror and anger and sorrow and guilt he obviously written plainly on his face.

There was a brief argument with Hagrid and Sirius, the latter of whom insisting on taking Harry. Sirius finally relented, all but demanding that Hagrid take the motorbike, to get Harry as far from this place as possible... Hagrid took off down the street, taking to the air at the end of the block, while the Sirius from the memory, along with his present self, and Remus looked on. When Hagrid disappeared, memory-Sirius turned back to the house, apparently debating between moving closer to what was left of the house and leaving. Leaving won out. With a hardened look that Remus was certain would be mirrored on the face of the Sirius Black beside him, memory-Sirius Disapparated.

"Did you go..." Remus tried to ask, losing his nerve halfway through.

"Looking for Peter?" Sirius finished for him in a growl. "Yes."

Remus nodded, turning towards the house. "Bloody hell."

"What?" Sirius asked.

"He's gone." Remus pointed towards at the house where he'd last seen James.

"That can't be, he was just there," Sirius whispered. His brow furrowed as he looked at Remus. "Wasn't there a funeral?"

Remus nodded. "Yes. I was there."

"Open casket?"

Remus' brow furrowed as he met his friend's eyes for the first time in long minutes. "Closed," he replied, his blood running cold.

"Moony!"

Sirius gripped his arm almost painfully as the scene went suddenly black. Remus tried to tell Sirius to loosen his grip, but his voice caught when they were overcome by feeling of falling quite far. Just as suddenly as they left Godric's Hollow, they returned, still standing in the front yard.

"Did something go wrong?" Sirius asked quietly, finally releasing Remus' arm. "Haven't we already done this?"

Shaking his head slightly, Remus looked around, noting immediately that some amount of time had passed, several years in fact, judging by the overgrown plants and moss. "Nothing went wrong," he told Sirius. "This is another memory."

"What are we supposed to be seeing, Remus?" Sirius asked, looking as though at any moment he might lose his tentative grip on reality if things didn't soon start making sense again.

"That." Remus spoke so softly it was a wonder he could even hear his voice, let alone Sirius. Both wizards watched as ball of flashing blue appeared in the still open doorway. When the light faded, James reappeared in exactly the same position he'd been in when Voldemort cursed him.

Confusion and curiosity was bubbling in Remus' veins, forcing him to take several steps forward.

"What the hell..."

Remus glanced back at Sirius, only to find his friend staring at a spot just over James' body. He turned back, finding a silvery mist that resembled the memory Dumbledore had poured into the pensieve was steadily falling towards James' chest. It connected and the man's eyes snapped open as he took such a deep, shuddering breath that his back arched several inches off the ground.

Before either Sirius or Remus could do much more than open their mouths to ask the other what was happening, soft footsteps approached from behind. Dumbledore walked between the two Marauders without so much as a glance. Remus was startled to find how unsurprised he was to find the Headmaster here, where James had apparently come back to life. His feet moved forward automatically, following Dumbledore to where James lay blinking dazedly and confusedly at the sky. No words were spoken, Dumbledore didn't seem surprised to find James here, and Sirius looked as though he was about to collapse. Remus suddenly remembered that while he'd discovered the truth about Ken Revold—about James Potter—Sirius was still absolutely clueless.

"It's all right, mate," Remus told him quietly, knowing his friend wasn't hearing a word he was saying. He wasn't even sure which one of them he was trying to convince.

Sirius stared open-mouthed as Dumbledore reached down to the man on the ground, picking him up with an ease not many his age could managed. James was muttering incoherently, occasionally saying something recognizable; unsurprisingly, those words were "Lily" or "Harry."

Dumbledore didn't reply as he pulled James' arm across his shoulder, his other arm grasping the man's waist. And really, Remus wondered, what could he possibly say to a man who'd seemingly woken up after a thirteen year nap? James and Dumbledore Disapparated, and the memory faded.

For a moment, Remus thought they'd been returned to the present time in Dumbledore's office; he then recalled a third phial of memory being poured into the pensieve before Dumbledore had left for the Ministry. They had returned to the Headmaster's study, but not as it currently was. Dumbledore was sat behind his desk, across from James Potter. They seemed to be arguing about something.

"What the hell is the point of being back if I can't see whatever family I've got left?" James demanded loudly. "You tell me my best mates can't know I'm here, that my own son can't know I'm here! But I'm still supposed to fight in yet another war with Lord bloody Voldemort!"

Dumbledore's fingers were steepled beneath his chin. "We have discussed this, James," he said quietly and calmly. It was the exact tone Remus knew grated so deeply on Sirius' nerves lately. "It is not safe until we know more about how you are here."

"You've already figure that out!" James retorted, jumping from his chair in frustration. "Remember? Suspended in time, cursed, waiting for Voldemort to return so he could use me as a bloody soldier against the people I love. He's back, Dumbledore, we know that. And obviously his memory is shit since he seems to have forgotten all about me."

"Never heard anyone curse at Dumbledore like that before," Sirius murmured, his tone bordering on awe.

Remus snorted a laugh.

"I understand your frustrations, James."

"No you bloody well don't!" James shouted. "I've been out of everything for thirteen years! Sirius was in Azkaban, Remus was alone without a friend in the world—"

"That's a bit uncalled for," Remus heard himself say, slightly stung at James' words.

Sirius sniggered slightly.

"And Harry." James began to pace, pulling at his hair. "He's been stuck with those Muggles this whole time. He should be with me, I'm his father, Dumbledore!"

Dumbledore nodded slowly. "Yes, James, you are." The Headmaster sat back in his chair, watching as James continued to pace. His blue eyes lit up slightly, twinkling, as a small smile grew on his face. "I may have an idea that can give you what you wish, but it will take discipline..."

James stopped in his tracks, turning towards Dumbledore. "What?" he asked suspiciously.

The scene rippled, blurred, then sharpened again, showing Dumbledore standing directly before the blond-haired man Remus and Sirius had met only a few short months ago. "Tell me again, James," Dumbledore said softly.

The other man's blue eyes rolled in their sockets, huffing impatiently. "I'm Ken Revold," he replied in a voice that decidedly did not belong to James Potter. "I didn't go to Hogwarts, I've been out of the country for ages. Never married, no children..."

They were now standing in the shadows of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, watching as Dumbledore once again argued with James Potter.

"I don't care that you think he's safe there," James' voice hissed. "He shouldn't be there in the first place!"

Remus sucked in a sharp breath, causing Sirius to look at him oddly; which, in and of itself, was odd, considering that they were watching something that shouldn't even be possible. "I know this," he told Sirius, glancing towards the stairs. "I'm up there; I heard Dumbledore arguing with someone on my way to breakfast the day after Harry was attacked by dementors..."

Dumbledore sounded rather tired when he responded, "We have discussed countless times why he is where he is. You've made your opinion known quite well—there are still two or three portraits in my study who refuse to show their faces for fear of something being thrown in their direction—but at present, I cannot allow the situation to change."

James sighed sadly. "I don't know if I can do this anymore, sir," he said so softly that the memory-Remus on the stairs hadn't heard it at all. "I just want my regular life back. Hell, if I have to defend my son from dementors, I at least want him to know it's me doing the defending."

Dumbledore sighed and his next response was much gentler than the previous. "In time, my friend," he assured the other person. "But until then, I hope you will practice the patience I know you possess." James chuckled softly, sadly. "Come, I believe breakfast is awaiting you, and I must return to Hogwarts..."

"I don't get it," Remus said immediately. "That morning, Ken was in the kitchen... sititng right next to you."

"A mirage, if you'll pardon the term," said a soft voice directly behind them. Both wizards started and turned to find Dumbledore standing there, a small, knowing smile on his face. "Those present in the kitchen while James and I were speaking upstairs would be aware of Ken's presence, but would not acknowledge him until James returned. And of course they would not have seen James that morning at all." Dumbledore chuckled a little. "James had refused to have that particular discussion with me in disguise."

"Sir," Sirius said, his tone bordering on desperation now, "what the hell is going on?"

Dumbledore's chuckle was a little more genuine this time. "Come, let us return to the present and all will be explained."

Remus had no recollection of sitting down in the chair in front of Dumbledore's desk, of Sirius sitting beside him, or of taking the tea Dumbledore had, at some point, made for them. Desperately hoping the Headmaster had been courteous enough to add a shot of firewhiskey, Remus took a deep sip.

Damn... he thought when all he tasted was tea and his usual obscene amount of sugar.

"You will both be pleased to know the incident at the Ministry has been resolved," Dumbledore commented lightly, sipping at his own tea.

"And what, exactly, was the incident?" Remus asked hoarsely and rather warily.

"A man walked into Cornelius Fudge's office this morning claiming to be none other than James Potter. In his hand was a cage that held a rat; the man claimed the name of this rat to be Peter Pettigrew."

"Course it was," Sirius said faintly. "Moony, pinch me."

"Why?"

"Because if one of you doesn't tell me this whole thing is nothing but a dream soon, I think I may actually implode," Sirius replied matter-of-factly.

Remus nodded his understanding and leant over to pinch Sirius' shoulder. Sirius yelped, rubbed at the spot for a moment, and started to retaliate. His fingers froze just an inch from the spot on Remus' arm he'd been prepared to pinch.

"Bloody hell," he said in almost a whimper. "It's not a dream."

"Well," said a new voice, again, somewhere behind the two Marauders, "if it is a dream, it's the most vivid, strangest one I've bloody well ever had."

Remus and Sirius turned around in unison, finding James Potter in the flesh, a familiar grin on his face that his friends often saw when they'd pulled a particularly successful prank.


Hours later, three Marauders sat in the kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, having talked themselves hoarse since leaving Hogwarts. He'd been waiting for this moment since June, trying to imagine the looks on his friends' faces when they finally knew what had happened to him; nothing he'd imagined was quite as amusing as watching Sirius in Dumbledore's office grip the arm of his chair in the hopes of not falling over, then realizing he'd spilt his hot tea all over his lap.

"You're Revold?" Sirius had asked once he'd cleaned up. "This whole time..."

James' grin had widened. "The whole time, Padfoot."

Sirius had then closed his eyes in what James had believed to be embarrassment as he'd recalled every conversation he'd had with Ken Revold since their falling out when Harry and his friends returned to Hogwarts. When his eyes opened again, he turned to Remus. "And you. You don't seem surprised by this," he told the werewolf accusingly. "Why aren't you surprised by this?"

Remus had sighed heavily, his eyes darting between James and Sirius. "Perhaps because I knew," he replied very reluctantly.

"You knew!" Sirius said loudly.

"Yes, Sirius, I knew," Remus said wearily. "I suspected for some time, but I found out the truth on Halloween night..."

Sirius' brow furrowed, turning back to James. "So wait, you took Wormtail?"

James nodded.

"Why?"

James raised an eyebrow. "Why do you think?" he replied. "Someone had to figure out a way to get your name cleared, didn't they? I'd hoped someone in the Order would figure out a way so I didn't actually have to go against Dumbledore's orders for me to remain hidden," his eyes shot an apologetic glance at Dumbledore, then one of amused annoyance at Remus, "but you didn't, so I decided to take things into my own hands." His brow furrowed. "Er, again, that is..."

Sirius' voice broke James out of his thoughts. "Bloody hell," he said, snickering a bit. The other two wizards looked at him questioningly. "Who the hell is going to tell Harry? What are we going to tell Harry?"

"Dumbledore's got a plan," James told him, refilling their shot glasses with firewhiskey. "He's got to do it before the Prophet gets word—they've got some good headlines coming up, I reckon." He held up one finger, "Man mysteriously returns from dead," a second finger, "Sirius Black innocent of all charges," a third, "Minister Fudge resigns post after mental breakdown; sighting ghosts..." All three men laughed. James sobered quickly. "So I'll head back to Hogwarts tomorrow morning, break the news to Harry."

He suddenly felt nervous. His son didn't know him, not really. He knew Ken Revold, who, he supposed, was him, but it was different, wasn't it? What if Harry decided he didn't actually need his father? What if he decided Sirius and Remus were better role models for him? And really, who could blame him? Harry had known his father's friends far longer than he'd known his father.

"Oi!" James started when a rolled up piece of foil from one of the chocolate bars Remus had brought for them to eat hit him in the temple. He looked up and found his friends watching him as though they knew exactly what he was thinking. "He's gonna love you, Prongs," Sirius said sincerely, if a little drunkenly. "Who wouldn't?"

Remus chuckled. "I can think of a few people," he said, looking far more gleeful than he ought to. "Wait till Snape finds out..."

Sirius threw his head back and laughed so loudly he set off his mother's portrait above them. Remus carelessly waved his wand at the basement door, simultaneously closing it and casting an Imperturbable Charm over the room, thus silencing the portrait.

The three wizards passed the next several hours in chitchat, discussing what Sirius wanted to do once his name was cleared by the Ministry—Amelia Bones had ensured James that, among other things, she would take care of the deed herself that evening—and whatever else popped into their minds. Sometime after midnight, Sirius had slumped in his chair, having passed out some time ago from alcohol intake. James and Remus weren't fairing much better, but managed to keep their eyes open.

James looked up from where he was staring at the table to find Remus staring at him. "What?" he asked blankly.

"There's still one thing I don't understand," Remus said, slurring his words rather thoroughly.

"Only one?" James retorted with a raised eyebrow.

Remus chuckled. "Only one," he said. "For the moment."

"Fair enough. What is it, then?"

"Your pseudonym was Ken Revold," Remus told him. James fought the urge to call him Captain Obvious, but only just. "Then you signed the note Elvendork. If you didn't want us to know it was you, why sign it at all?"

"Because I was hoping someone would figure out it was me," James replied. Remus grinned. "And it worked, I suppose... I assume you're asking why those names specifically?" Remus nodded. James grinned this time, picking his wand up from the table. He had to concentrate hard in order to achieve his goal: in mid-air, in albeit slightly shaky, uneven handwriting, letters began to appear:

K E N R E V O L D

With a glance to make certain Remus was paying attention, he waved his wand again, making the letters rearrange themselves:

ELVENDORK

Remus laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. "You bloody git!" he managed to choke out.

James grinned proudly.

Sirius was startled awake by the laughter. "Wha's 'appening?" he blurted.

"Nothing, mate," James said, chuckling as he waved his wand again to make the words disappear. He winked at Remus before standing from the table. "Come on, gents, I need some sleep. Tomorrow, I meet my son..."


Three men crossed the barrier between platform 9 ¾ and the Muggle world to await the arrival of the Hogwarts Express for summer holidays. Over six months had passed since James Potter was legally declared not dead, Sirius Black was declared innocent of every charge the Ministry had ever accused of him, and Peter Pettigrew was sent to Azkaban in his stead. Over six months since James had set his own eyes on his son since the night Voldemort had blasted down the door of his family's Godric's Hollow home.

Harry reaction had rather startled James. He'd been skeptical at first, and understandably so, given everything he'd seen and done in his young life, and it had taken him nearly three days for him to really accept the fact that his father was indeed alive, that he had a family again. James had worried that Harry might prefer his godfather and Remus as his guardians, but it seemed his worry had been baseless. During Christmas holidays during which Harry had returned to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, Harry had never once made James feel as though he hadn't had a place in his life. James wondered if this had anything to do with the person who had taken over his Defense Against the Dark Arts post until the end of the school year. Remus reported that Harry had come to his office on numerous occasions to ask questions he was still too shy to ask his father about, or just to generally chat about what had happened.

James looked to his right where Remus stood, now talking to and apparently holding hands with Nymphadora Tonks. Of everybody, Remus had reacted the best to all this mess. That had been quite the shock to James, especially considering that towards the end of the first war James hadn't been particularly keen with socializing with the werewolf. But Remus, in typical Remus-fashion, had flat out refused to even hear out James on the occasions he'd attempted to apologize for his behavior then. Just as Sirius had nearly cursed James when James had tried apologizing for his having spent twelve years in Azkaban Prison.

The Hogwarts Express pulled around the corner and James smiled widely. There were still things he wished he could change. For one, Lily should have been standing beside him, waving eagerly at the train as they awaited the arrival of their son together. And though the feeling of great loss that overcame him every time he thought about his wife hadn't subsided in the least, James realized how lucky he was to be here at all. And he wasn't about to waste another minute of his life dwelling on what he'd lost.

A wide grin spread across his face as he spotted Harry's head eagerly poking out of one of the train's compartment doors, searching the platform for his father and his godfather. The smile on the boy's face when he found them made James forget about everything—the war, Voldemort. None of it matter so long as he got to see that smile. And there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to continue seeing it until the day he died.

-The End-


AN: Well? Loved it, hated it? Just barely tolerated it? I have to say these last few chapters have been quite fun to write, and though the story didn't end quite the way I'd originally intended, I'm happy with it. How about one last bit of author love? Hit that review button, people!

p.s. Major kudos go to Astra for being the first to correctly figure out that Ken Revold is an anagram for Elvendork. Oh, and just as a favor to me, can anyone tell me where in one of my other stories I've used Elvendork? Because (and I may be going prematurely senile, here) I don't have any recollection of ever using it in something I've posted...