A/N: Hello everyone, and welcome to Year Two of my James Potter series! If you aren't already aware, this is the sequel to James Potter and the Immortal Icon (Year One), which can be found on my profile. It is not strictly necessary to have read it (although it will be referenced occasionally), but if you've got the time, I encourage you to check it out. Enjoy!
James Potter and the Shrieking Shack
Chapter 1: Owls and Parchment
It was a quiet afternoon in the Potter household, and for once a certain messy-haired, bespectacled twelve-year-old had no plans to disrupt the peace. He lay on his bed, thumbing through The Golden Book of Quidditch Records without reading the words or even noticing the figures darting about on broomsticks in the photographs on the page. If there was one thing James Potter loved more than troublemaking, it was Quidditch, and within a few moments of reading about the best, famous Quidditch players, James had lost himself in his own imagination.
In a little more than a month, you see, he would board the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross Station for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And this year, unlike the last, James would be allowed to bring his own broomstick and try out for the house Quidditch team. The four houses – Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and James' own Gryffindor – competed each year for the coveted Quidditch Cup. Last year, a narrow victory over Gryffindor in the final match of the season had led to Ravenclaw claiming not only the Quidditch Cup, but the House Cup as well.
James didn't much care about the House Cup competition, as most of his fellow students knew all too well. After all, last year the combined efforts of James, his best friend Sirius Black, and their fellow pranksters, the now-graduated Prewett twins, had secured Gryffindor last place.
But when it came to Quidditch, James took considerably more interest in a Gryffindor victory. In the month since returning home from Hogwarts, James had spent nearly all his free time (when not driving his mother mad by hiding dungbombs in the wash and sneaking frogspawn soap into all the toilets) practicing his moves on the local pitch. The wizarding residents of Godric's Hollow had set it up generations ago when muggles had first started moving to town. There were enough concealment and muggle-repellant charms on the pitch that anyone of magical blood could use it freely without risking discovery.
It was a good thing, too. James wanted to make the team more than anything in the world – and with the extra practice he was getting in, he was sure to outfly everyone else at tryouts. His head filled with images of his new teammates grinning as they clapped him on the back, lifted him onto their shoulders after he scored the winning goal, and in the background, his fans waving banners with slogans like "Potter Rules" and "We love James."
These fantasies were only dispelled when he flipped the last page of The Golden Book of Quidditch Records and found himself staring at the metallic back cover. With renewed fervor, James snatched up the latest issue of Which Broomstick, a publication that contained specifications and expert opinions for every broomstick currently in production. There was the Comet 220, which could achieve only moderate speeds but was very reliable, and the Meteora, which was rumored to be the fastest broom ever. (Unfortunately, no one had been able to verify this claim, as the Meteora had a nasty habit of bucking riders who flew in breezy weather or had sweaty palms or tried to turn too sharply to the right.)
For a time, James had considered the brand-new Cleansweep 6. Cleansweeps had a solid history, and Which Broomstick had nothing bad to say about the latest model, but James had always felt that the heavy, unshakeable broomsticks were better suited to Beaters. A Chaser, James thought, needed something maneuverable, something quick. Perhaps speed wasn't as important to a Chaser as to a Seeker, but a Chaser had to be able to dodge bludgers and opponents alike in order to slip past the Keeper.
A Chaser, James decided, needed something like the Nimbus 1000.
James stared at the article on the Nimbus, in awe of the precision with which the wizard in the photo navigated a dense, dark forest. Although the Nimbus was five years old, it was still considered top-of-the-line. Capable of full three-hundred and sixty degree, on-the-spot turns and achieving speeds of up to a hundred miles per hour, the Nimbus had come out of nowhere to capture the attention of Quidditch teams everywhere. The other, older broom companies were still scrambling to catch up.
Now all that remained was for James to convince his parents to buy him a Nimbus of his very own, and the Quidditch tryouts would be in the bag.
Just then, James' enormous, speckled eagle owl, Luftwing, swooped through his open window, followed by an unfamiliar owl that was dwarfed by Luftwing's bulk. Both landed on James' bedposts and held out a leg bearing a scroll of parchment.
James untied the letters, and at once, the owls took off – Luftwing for his perch in the corner of James' room, and the other for the window. Hardly pausing to watch the small owl go, James unrolled the letter it had brought.
It was from Sirius' cousin, Andromeda Tonks (formerly Andromeda Black), whom James had met at Hogwarts the previous year, and who had graduated with the Prewetts and her then-fiancé, Ted Tonks. Ted was a muggle-born, which wouldn't have meant a thing except that the Blacks believed muggle-borns to be beneath purebloods like themselves, and as a result Andromeda had been disowned, her name blasted right off the family tree.
The letter read—
I hope your summer is going well, and that you and Sirius are
putting my Christmas gift to good use.
(For Christmas the previous year, Andromeda had given Sirius a pair of charmed parchment squares she and Ted had made to keep in touch. Sirius and James had inherited the parchment because a "blood-traitor" Potter was a far cry from acceptable company in the eyes of Sirius' blood-purist parents.)
I just wanted to thank you for coming to the wedding last week. It
really meant a lot to Ted and me to have you and your parents
there. I hope you weren't too put out by the muggle traditions,
but Ted's family was nervous enough having all those wizards
over without any magical additions to the ceremony, and anyway
I found the whole thing quite charming. I'm sure my mother
would have been appalled.
Sirius isn't still beating himself up about not being able to make it,
is he? I know what it's like, living with them, and there was never
any chance of Aunt Walburga and Uncle Orion letting him come.
Tell him that for me, will you?
Anyway, have a fun summer, and good luck with your second year
at Hogwarts. Try not to get expelled.
Lots of love,
Laughing, James set Andromeda's letter down on top of The Golden Book of Quidditch Records and turned to the other letter, the one Luftwing had brought. He knew before he opened it that it was from another of his best friends, Peter Pettigrew, a shy boy James and Sirius had once rescued from a pair of Slytherin bullies.
Sirius just sent me an owl saying his parents agreed to let him
spend the last two weeks of summer at my house! We're meeting
him in Diagon Alley on the eighteenth of August. Have you asked
your parents yet? We could all get our books and then come back
to my place, or you could floo over later. It doesn't matter to me.
I can't wait to have you over!
By the way, have you heard from Remus? He hasn't been answering
my owls. I'm sending him another one letting him know about the
eighteenth, but I don't know if he'll get it.
See you soon, I hope!
James frowned momentarily after reading Peter's letter. Remus Lupin, the newest member of their little group, was a quiet, bookish boy who had spent most of the preceding year voicing his disapproval whenever James and Sirius orchestrated a prank. But in the end, he had begun to lighten up, and since the start of the holidays, James had written to Remus almost as often as to Peter. But, like Peter, James had yet to receive a single reply. He was beginning to wonder if Remus had even received any of their owls.
Pushing this thought aside for now, he sprang up from his bed, ran out into the long, bright corridor, and thundered down the red-carpeted stairs, raising such a racket that his mother appeared at the kitchen door.
Mrs. Potter was a plump, stern woman with tidy, graying hair and a flour-covered apron tied over her periwinkle blue robes. Her wand stuck out of one pocket, a wooden spoon out of another. Hands resting on her hips, she frowned at James – but he knew better than anyone that beneath the strict demeanor and frequent admonitions was a certain fondness that meant James could get away with well near anything.
"What's all this then?" Mrs. Potter demanded. "Are you a boy or a bludger?"
James mumbled an apology before rushing on: "I've just got an owl from my friend, see?" He thrust the parchment forward, but snatched it back before Mrs. Potter had a chance to read it. "He's asked me over for the last two weeks of the hols. Can I go?"
Mrs. Potter quirked an eyebrow, giving her son a bemused smile. "And what is this friend's name?"
"Pettigrew?" Mrs. Potter asked. "Not Phillip's son?"
"Umm…" James gave a helpless shrug. "Who's Phillip?"
"Your father knows a Phillip Pettigrew at the Ministry. I'd heard he had a son about your age, but I didn't realize you were friends."
With another shrug, James smiled. "So can I go?"
"I'll have to talk to your father about it." Mrs. Potter's smile broadened when James groaned. "But I don't see any reason why not."
Whooping, James gave his mother a quick hug before turning and running back up to his bedroom, where he snatched up a quill and scribbled a quick note for Luftwing to deliver to Peter. As he tied it to the owl's leg, however, he decided to write another for Remus: I don't know if you've heard yet, but me and Sirius are going to Peter's house in a couple weeks. I'd better see you there. Write me back, okay? —James
This he tied to Luftwing's other leg. "The first one goes to Peter, and this one is for Remus – but don't come back till he's written me. You make sure he writes, okay?"
Luftwing nipped James' fingertip in acknowledgement and took flight. James watched him go, then turned to the haphazard stack of books that sat at the foot of his bed. Selecting one from the middle – and ignoring the fact that the rest of the stack toppled when he pulled it out – James plopped down at his desk. The book was a heavy, dusty blue tome with A History of Magic printed on the binding in spidery gold letters. James flipped through until he came to a page near the end, where he had tucked the piece of parchment he used to contact Sirius.
Smoothing the parchment out on the desk before him, James lobbed the book over his shoulder and onto his bed before digging out a quill and inkwell from his desk drawer.
You there? he wrote on the parchment. He waited as the ink vanished like water seeping into dirt. Long seconds passed before anything more happened. Then, Sirius' large, sloppy handwriting appeared.
Of course I'm here. Where else would I be, at Hogwarts?
James chuckled as he dipped his quill in the ink. Only three more weeks till Peter's house.
Only? That's ages in this ruddy house! I can hardly leave my room without our house elf tailing me everywhere, muttering to himself about how ungrateful I am and how I'm probably up to no good.
Can't you just order him to stop?
I wish! Mum must've told him to keep an eye on me. I don't think she's buying the 'reformed Gryffindor' bit. It was all I could do to convince Kreacher to keep out of my room, or I'd never have a chance to breathe.
James sighed, twirling his quill. Since he was a kid, he had heard stories of the Blacks, who were nearly as cruel as they were proud. Sirius was different. He was no angel, to be sure, but he was a good friend, and he knew how to have fun. The last year had made James start to wonder whether the old stories about the Blacks were a load of dragon dung, whether the bad Blacks were the exception rather than the rule.
He knew better now. He'd had some experience with Sirius' family before – Mrs. Black had sent a Howler upon learning her son had been Sorted into Gryffindor, instead of Slytherin like the rest of the family, and she'd followed it up with several other, equally nasty letters over the course of the year. Andromeda's younger sister, Narcissa, had hounded James and Sirius at every step for not acting as respectable purebloods ought. James knew for a fact that the Blacks were rotten to the core.
What he hadn't realized was just how miserable it would be to live with them.
He'd used the parchment to contact Sirius every night since the end of term, and every time, he heard another story of the goings-on at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Mr. Black spent little time at home, but when he was around, according to Sirius, he wore the same suspicious frown as Professor McGonagall, the Head of Gryffindor and the strictest witch James had ever met, put on whenever she caught James and Sirius lurking in some empty corridor.
He seems to think I'm up to something, Sirius had written. Which would be okay, except that I actually am trying to behave. When James had suggested that that might be suspicious in a boy who had earned no less than two dozen detentions in the last year, Sirius had admitted that he was considering living up to his father's expectations. Only the fact that he needed his parents' permission to go to Peter's had kept him from doing anything.
Not that it mattered, much. Mrs. Black had cracked down hard on everything Sirius did – as well as anything he might have had a hand in. He had spent three of the past four weeks with nothing but the previous year's Christmas gift, a book entitled Notable Wizarding Families, for entertainment, while most everything else he owned was locked away in the attic. Fortunately, he had hidden his half of Andromeda's gift in the very book his parents left in his possession, and so had been able to talk to James, even if he hadn't been allowed to send or receive much post.
And Sirius' brother Regulus had alternated between avoiding Sirius and hounding him with questions about Hogwarts and its inhabitants. James wasn't sure which Sirius preferred, as both seemed to aggravate him to no end.
James slowly became aware that Sirius had written another message.
You think there's a spell that could put me to sleep for the next three weeks so I don't have to deal with my family?
James rolled his eyes. Wouldn't they find that a little odd?
They probably wouldn't even notice.
Sure they would.
You're right. They'd love it.
As James debated how best to respond to this, a faint crack echoed through his open window. My dad's home, he wrote, and at the same time, the front door opened. Mr. Potter's greeting split the silence. Usual time tonight?
I'll be here. Like always.
Right. Well, in the meantime, you can at least come up with some good pranks for this year. We haven't got the Prewetts to plan with this year, remember.
The only response he got was a simple, Bye, and James sat staring at the parchment for several minutes after the word had faded, wondering if he ought to do something to cheer Sirius up – or whether indeed he could do anything while Sirius remained with his family.
Before he could decide, he heard a knock on his door and turned to see his father standing there, smiling. The man's black hair was now mostly gray, and he looked very official in his crisp Ministry robes, but his easy stance and jovial face made him seem somehow younger than his years.
"I hear you've been invited to a friend's house for a few weeks."
"Yep," James said. "I can't wait— You'll let me go, won't you?" he added in mock concern.
Mr. Potter's face crumpled into a critical expression, but James could see the twinkle in his warm hazel eyes. "I don't know… His parents will be there?"
"Oh, absolutely." James nodded solemnly. "They'll be on us like a goblin on gold."
"And how many people has he invited?"
"One or two other friends from school."
"Anyone I know?"
Rolling his eyes, James shook his head. "They're twelve, Dad. I'm sure you've never met."
Although he nearly laughed, Mr. Potter managed to continue his interrogation. "Names?"
"Peter, Remus, and—"
"Full names, James," Mr. Potter said in mock irritation. "Do you know how many Peters there are in the world?"
James flinched before responding – he'd told his parents about Sirius and Peter and Remus, of course, but he'd always neglected to supply Sirius' surname. He wasn't sure what they would think of their son befriending a Black. It couldn't be as bad as the Blacks' reaction, he supposed, but Mr. and Mrs. Potter had warned James about people like the Blacks more times than he could remember. But if Sirius could handle his parents' disapproval, so could James.
"Peter Pettigrew's the one who invited me," James said, pausing as his father nodded in recognition. "And there's Remus Lupin – though, we haven't heard back from him yet, so I guess he might not be there…" His gaze drifted toward the window, wondering (not for the first time) whether something had happened to Remus, but he shook himself after only a second and turned resolutely back toward his father. "And Sirius Black."
"Black?" Mr. Potter's stern façade slipped, and he stared at James in genuine surprise. "Sirius… Black?"
"He's not like them!" James said, lurching to his feet, ready for a fight. "He's not stuck-up or anything, and he couldn't care less about blood purity! Really, he's—"
Mr. Potter held up a hand. "It's okay, James. I – really? A Black?" He laughed. "I suppose it has happened before."
"You mean Aunt Dorea and Uncle Charlus?" James asked. While he had never met Dorea and Charlus Potter (who wasn't James' uncle, but actually a third or fourth cousin), he had heard about them in passing. They didn't often come up in conversation, but neither were they spoken of with contempt. It was almost as though they lived in their own separate world, and the rest of the family brought them up only when even the weather was too boring to talk about. James suddenly wondered what the Blacks thought of the union.
"I do." Mr. Potter gave James an appraising look before he reached out to ruffle his hair. "I suppose that explains why you asked your mother to send him a Christmas gift."
Raking his fingers through his hair, although he knew it would do little good, James eyed his father. "You're not mad?"
"Of course not. You're free to choose your own friends."
"So… I can go to Peter's?"
The façade was back. "None of your female classmates are coming?"
"Ugh, Dad!" James grimaced. "What would we want girls there for?"
Laughing, Mr. Potter pulled James into a hug. "Alright then. You can go."
A/N: Just a reminder/heads-up: I have several companion stories to go along with this series - Padfoot's Story, Moony's Story, Wormtail's Story, and Lily's Story. They are updated sporadically, and you don't have to read them to enjoy this fic. But for those of you who are interested, I'll let you know in my author's notes when a new chapter of any companion goes up. Thanks for reading!