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Not My Own by Marshal
Chapter 1: The Switch
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Months had passed since Remus took on one of the most difficult tasks of his life. There was a leak in the Order. In hopes of keeping some peace and prevent those involved from pointing fingers, Dumbledore asked him to play the part of a scapegoat. Eyes drifted heavily on him; it wasn’t that far of a stretch for some to believe that he was the bad egg of the bunch. Honestly even in the Order, even among his own friends there was mistrust and prejudice against werewolves against him. It was natural instinct for people to wonder about and question the wolf in the pack. He could don on sheep’s clothing, but they still distrusted him. So for the sake of not only the group but the greater good, he agreed to play the part. It was hoped that though his work the mole would be lulled into a false sense of security as well.
Despite all of his work, the informant had yet to be sussed out. The task was becoming more difficult than the benefits that were reaped from it, particularly when his work with the local werewolf population was reaching a dead end as well. Still he had not complained; he kept his head down and worked hard knowing that on the whole he was on his own. Thus when a tawny barn owl approached him with a letter from Dumbledore he was surprised, particularly when it beckoned him for a personal meeting.
The meeting place was an old run down warehouse. It was where Order meetings had been held once. Of course, they had moved on. They were constantly on the move, never knowing when they were next to be discovered. There was no longer a permanent location for the Order. Meetings locations were not announced until the last minute. It had started going that way before he was ousted. The memories of the place were thick for Remus. While they had been facing dark times even then it was the last time he could remember being some form of happy, secure in who he was and in those that he would call friend.
“Please be seated,” spoke a soft and kind voice causing Remus to jump a little bit in surprise. It was unmistakably the voice of Dumbledore, but Remus held out his wand wary all the same. It wasn’t his former headmaster he mistrusted of course, but rather the fact that anyone could be disguised as him. They were living in dangerous times.
Remus could see the smile that graced Dumbledore’s lips for a moment before it was marred by sadness. “In our last conversation, I told you that it was one of my deepest regrets to have you take on the role of spy, and it was my fondest wish that when this whole battle is over that I see once broken friendships mended once again.”
Dumbledore’s words caused tightness in Remus’ own throat as what was said was painfully true. “I responded how not everything once broken could be mended.” It was the truth, a lot had happened between Remus and his friends, things beyond his work as the Order’s scapegoat. He doubted that he could ever have back the friendships he once had. All the same he lowered his wand swallowed and took a seat in one of the chairs Dumbledore had apparently conjured up for them to sit in.
It did not escape his notice that there was a third chair that had yet to be occupied. “Who?” he began to ask as Dumbledore spoke as well offering him a lemon square. “Thank you.” Remus gratefully took the offered food knowing his meals had been scant as of late.
“Our third guest should arrive shortly,” explained Dumbledore before a distinct pop was heard. “Ah yes, impeccable timing as usual.”
Remus looked to the newly arrived person and sat bold upright. James. He had not been expecting it to be him. Not that he had expected anything in particular from this meeting, but the last person he would have expected to see was James.
His old friend held his wand out looking between the two of them but focused more on Remus. “Your last letter to me, Dumbledore, was you requesting to borrow something of mine.”
“Indeed, your cloak,” answered Dumbledore with a nod of his head. “Something I hope to return in due time.”
James turned to Remus, and the two stared at each other for a moment.
“Last we spoke, we did not part on good terms,” said Remus with a rasp; the lemon square suddenly feeling extraordinarily dry in his mouth.
“I pinned you against a wall and tried to convince you not to throw your life away. I told you that I couldn’t believe that you were at fault for everything going on. I asked you what had changed.”
“I said that I was just showing my true colors. I was a werewolf and could not be trusted. Then I threw you off of me.” Remus closed his eyes a bit at the memory. Sirius had been there as well and had heard him state that if that was how he was going to be that it was a good riddance.
“I’m sorry, Remus, I didn’t know. Dumbledore told me what you were actually doing.”
Remus let out a fatigued sigh. “It’s alright, it was all part of the job. It’s what had to happen. Because of everything else I was the perfect choice.”
James frowned and Remus knew that he was thinking about what had happened between him and Sirius while at school. The moment was interrupted as Dumbledore offered a lemon square and a seat to James as well.
“In the interest of time, I feel it is best we get down to business,” said Dumbledore pressing his fingers together in the form a steeple. His tone was very solemn as he continued to speak. “I know, Remus, that I have already asked a great deal of you, but I have more I must ask of you.”
“I cannot inflict my nature onto another person, Dumbledore. I cannot cause the suffering of another person or worse kill someone. You know that!” Remus’ fists were clenched as James stared at him for a moment.
“I would not dream of asking for such a thing from you,” assured Dumbledore, his voice steady and unchanging.
“Then what?” asked Remus looking at the older man, a fire in his eyes that spoke of a buried and contained anger. It was close to a moon and while Remus himself was calm and sad, he was also wounded by his difficult lot in life. He also had an animal caged up inside of him, one that was wounded and could easily turn on a whim to something vicious.
“I’m sorry. Moony. I asked for this,” said James interrupting drawing Remus’ attention. “Lily and I are in hiding, You-Know-Who is after my son –”
“I may be in something of a self-imposed exile, but I’m still aware of what is going on,” snapped Remus.
James closed his mouth, which had hung open for a minute and looked down.
“It is why we are seeking your aid, Remus,” said Dumbledore.
Remus took in a slow breath closing his eyes, realizing that his wolf-like nature was getting the better of him. “What do you need my help for?” he said in a quiet tone looking back to his former head master.
“I would like to perform the Vicissitudo charm.”
Remus’ eyes grew wide. “The switching charm? I thought it was a purely theoretical concept.”
“It is a seldom used charm, as it is a difficult and delicate to perform.”
“Why?” asked Remus. He wasn’t asking of course about what made the charm so difficult, but for the reason they were wishing to perform it.
“To protect Harry and Lily,” said James a hand racking through his already messy hair. It wasn’t his usual gesture in order to look cool, but rather the act of a desperate and unnerved man.
Remus blinked at his onetime best friend. “You really think –”
“You are one of the best, Moony. Your skills far outstrip mine defensively speaking. I need to give Lily and Harry the best possible protection I can.”
“You can’t seriously mean…” Remus trailed off and pressed his lips together. “But what about the Fidelius Charm?”
“There is that, but if you can offer your family ever possible chance to protect them you do it.”
Remus lowered head taking a moment to think about it all. Was this really being asked of him? There were risks, complications. Had James really thought through it all? Still Dumbledore was here; he was part of this. It seemed that he agreed with this idea. Still it was not something to take lightly, not in the least.
“Surely there are those who are more skilled than I.”
“But they would not be able to portray me as well or I you,” explained James. “If it was just a matter of having someone skilled there that is one thing, but it needs to be covert – an element of surprise. Thus the Vicissitudo.”
Remus nodded his head. He understood, but it was still a lot to take in.
The use of his name rather than his nickname gave Remus pause. He looked at his friend who was the picture of desperation, something Remus had never really seen on him.
“If we do this, you need to realize the full extent of my condition. It will become your burden to bear for however long we remain switched.”
“I know. The moon isn’t far off. I could tell by looking at you. That, and I still haven’t stopped counting the days.”
“Knowing about it and experiencing it are two very different things.”
“I’ve lived with you for seven years. I’ve seen the experience firsthand. I witnessed what the moon did to you every month. I’m aware of the risks, the struggles, the pain.”
Remus pressed his lips together. James, Sirius and Peter were the closest a person could come to knowing the painful details of being a werewolf without actually suffering the affliction. Still their knowledge fell vastly short of what he lived with day in and day out. How could he agree to pass this affliction onto someone else even if it was only temporarily?
“What you know falls short of the actual experience.” Still he knew that James wanted this, wanted to protect his family at any cost. How could he deny him that right? James gave him a defeated look. “But I’ll do it.”
Relief flood James’ face as he rushed to hug his friend “Moony, you are a life saver.”
Remus smiled appreciating the gesture; it had been a long while since he had friendly human contact. He had been so long on his own and without friends.
“Time does run short. I’m sure your absence will be noticed, Remus, if gone for too long.”
Remus gave a nod of his head as he and James parted.
“Does James know the full details of my work and the few contacts I have made?”
“Everything that you have told me,” assured Dumbledore. “Now if you will stand back to back and move three paces apart.”
James and Remus did as instructed before Dumbledore raised his wand and spoke the words, “Visiccimens Fabricorp.”
Silence filled the room and for a moment and it seemed as if nothing happened. Then there was a loud sound like a passing gust of wind filling the space. As Remus stood there he blinked and his vision shifted. As he blinked things moved from one perspective to another that he began to grow unsure of which was right and which was wrong. Just as he began to feel disoriented blinking from one view to the other, there was a sudden rush that caused him to feel like he was spinning before coming to a sudden halt, eyes closed. He felt like he was going to lose his balance though his feet were solidly on the ground. Opening his eyes he saw things differently, there was a slight haze in his peripheral field of vision as he looked around. It felt different being James. There was no longer a weight on his shoulders, every muscle didn’t ache from being the beast; it was surreal, exhilarating. He noticed that his senses were not as strong because the scent of lemons no longer permeated the room. Still the relief was worth the loss; in some ways he preferred the dullness as some scents were not pleasant. He breathed a sigh of relief like he had never felt before and a smile spread across his new face.
The joy however was short lived was short lived as he heard the labored breathing of James behind him. He saw his own body standing quite ridged to the point that it was shaking. Remus felt his heart leap into his throat. He knew what was wrong. He should have thought of it, he should have warned James. He should have refused to make this switch. The wolf found the change a weakness. Remus was adjusted to struggling against its wild instincts, knew he had to have a will of iron to fight it. James, while determined, was not ready to face something like this. Remus knew things could turn at a moment’s notice and he fumbled for where James placed his wand, muttering as he searched. “I should have insisted we wait until after the moon.”
“I’ll be fine, Moony,” said James in Remus hoarse voice. “Though I should probably call you Prongs now.” He managed to smile amazed at how much it hurt to even that. It was astounding what Remus went through on a daily basis and this wasn’t the worst of it. While he had always respected his friend, his respect soared and he would take this burden without complaint in order to protect his wife and child. Remus had lived nearly his whole life with it; he could handle this for a time.
“You are correct that from this point forward you need to fully assume the identity of the other, so as to prevent any issues with mistaken identity. Only the three of us and Lily are aware of this switch and it needs to remain that way for safety reasons, particularly for you, Remus.” Dumbledore looked directly at James as he said that.
“I’m sure I’ll be missed if gone too long.”
“I recommend getting some rest, Remus, and try to avoid people as much as possible until after the moon. You should know where my – I mean, your hiding place is.”
“I do,” said James with a weary nod. “You take care of them okay?”
“I’ll protect them with my life.”
“We should get going, James. We have an Order Meeting to attend after all,” directed Dumbledore vanishing the forgotten chairs he had conjured. “Good luck, Remus.”
Chapter 2: The Ultimatum
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James Apparated knowing the safe location that Remus had discovered for his comings and goings from the slums where he had been living. It was hard to tell if it was the littered terrain and the uneven pavement that caused him to stumble upon arriving, or if it was his fatigue that he was now learning to adjust to. His eyes quickly took in the area, the dim light hardly registering with him due to his enhanced senses. It was no wonder why he couldn’t get much past Remus back when they were in school.
It took him a moment to take in his surroundings. He knew of the location, and he knew about it; he had been here, however briefly, so he could later Apparate. Taking it in with the enhanced senses of a werewolf was a whole new experience. The smell was overwhelming; he could almost taste it in the back of his throat. Was it possible to grow nose blind to this stench? Of course, the smell was the least of his worries as there was a fatigue he hadn’t experienced before, mixed with urges and desires that he had no idea Remus felt.
For the first time, he began to realize that while he and Sirius had made a game of things, it wasn’t as much of one for Remus as they thought. “I’m sorry old friend,” apologized James to the air before him, knowing that when things went back to the way they were he would have to tell this to Remus.
He stumbled along toward the makeshift shelter Remus had been using. It was slow going but he knew the general area from word of mouth and the maps Dumbledore had courtesy of Remus. The shelter was where Remus spent most of his nights when he wasn’t dealing with the full moon. While he was well aware that other wolves moved freely around, Remus sequestered himself away for the safety of others and for himself. It was always one of his deepest fears - turning someone into what he was. Remus suffered the curse for so long that he didn’t want another to suffer it as well, and James was beginning to understand why.
The dark thoughts, that he figured to be the wolf, played in his mind while he tried to push back and not give purchase to them. Was this Remus’ daily struggle, the underlying rage and wildness just sitting there beneath the surface? It was hard to imagine considering the calm demeanor that he always exhibited. Sure there were moments where he was on edge; it was usually when they had pushed him too far. Was it all to keep this at bay?
Eventually, James recognized the small space Remus had carved out for himself and felt like a knife was stuck in the chest. This was what his friend was living with? Remus' clothes had always been on the shabby side, but this was a far cry from shabby. It was a hovel. Remus was living homeless. He was choosing this? Even those times when he had offered to put him up at his place, back before Remus had turned traitor? It wasn’t possible; it had to be some sort of new development. It had to be. If it wasn’t, James was going to have to have a long talk with Remus. Letting out a sigh James settled into the shanty Remus constructed. He cast a few protective spells and tried to bunk for the night, feeling a weariness weighing on him.
It took a while for sleep to come to come to him, and once it did James wished it hadn’t. His mind was plagued with violent and horrific dreams, not just a manifestation of his worries and fears for Lily and Harry, but rather acts he performed himself. In his dreams he saw himself running rampant destroying and maiming, reveling in the death and blood he was creating. Yet while he took joy in the vile acts he was performing, there was a part of him that was utterly appalled by it all, a part of him that could do nothing to stop himself from going forth and killing more.
James desperately wanted out of his dreams, but could not quite wake himself up. He didn’t escape the world of dreams until he was roughly shaken. “Get your lazy ass up.”
Confusion clouded James mind for a minute as he tried to take in his surroundings. Who was this person with his broad shoulders and scraggly face? “Bigsby?” asked James, confused and hoping he was right about this man based on the description he had been given.
“Don’t tell me you conked your head. Cause if you’ve gone stupid, you can forget my helping you.”
“No, no,” quickly answered James, taking a moment to rub his eyes. “Just took me a moment to wake up.”
“I have spent the last hour looking all over for the sad excuse that you are, and here you are dreaming away!”
“Sorry, I guess I drifted off.”
“You guess? You did. Where the hell were you?”
“Out,” answered James. He didn’t have to give a reason for his whereabouts; he knew that as Remus he hadn’t been gone that long, thus there was nothing that needed explaining.
Bigsby took a non-threatening swing at James which he easily dodged.
“Rhea wants to see you.”
James’ eyes widened - this was quite unexpected. When it came to the current werewolf hierarchy, he was aware that Fenrir held majority control - being the most vicious of the lot. Rhea was second, as she was completely and utterly ruthless. Both of them were bad news; James knew, however, that if he - as Remus - were to make it into the werewolf community without killing, it would be through her. If he could get in, then he could start working on getting them to see reason. Not all of them were monsters like Fenrir. Still, he was the one that pretty much barred the way into the werewolf community. While most other wolves did not have to kill, Remus was an exception to the rule considering how he had pulled away from the life of a werewolf rather than embracing it.
Many werewolves mocked him for being something of a lap dog. Bigsby was one of the few werewolves that Remus had made any headway with. It chiefly was because he was still new to the pack, and still easily remembered his life as a normal human unafflicted by his curse. Of course, while one friend was better than none, one werewolf who wavered in his conviction was not much to speak for considering the amount of work Remus had done thus far.
“Do you know what she wants?” asked James, looking at the other man.
Bigsby gave a shrug of his shoulders. “Hell if I know. You don’t want to keep her waiting - if you know what’s good for you.”
James gave a nod of his head, making sure he had his wand on him before he left his small shelter in the direction of Rhea’s. He found his mind spinning at this unexpected development. Bigsby didn’t follow him, and it wasn’t really surprising. Bigsby was on friendly terms, but wasn’t apt to actually help him as he had been marked as an outsider.
James followed the directions he had learned via Remus’ map. He paused outside the construct that was Rhea’s dwelling not sure if he should knock or just enter, or what.
“You don’t have to just stand there like a lost puppy. I won’t bite – much,” said a deeply rich female voice, one that seemed to drip seduction.
James swallowed as he stepped inside. The interior was nicer than the outside, but it wasn’t much by normal wizard standards. If he had Remus’ current location to go by, though, this was on par with Buckingham Palace. In here it was warm. Rhea reclined on a chair next to a small table that held a small lantern. Its dim light illuminated a shabby mattress behind her.
“So I’m told you are under the delusion of being part of the local wolf clans,” said Rhea the moment James was inside, her eyes raking him up and down, as if she were judging him. “Fenrir’s failure. You thought it would be that easy?”
“Nothing comes easy,” answered James softly. He knew he could be Remus, but at the same time this was the first time that he was truly speaking on his behalf. In some ways it was just a little bit unnerving, particularly in regard to something so major.
“You’ve got that right.” There was sound of amusement in Rhea’s voice, as vague smile played on her lips as she slowly moved to stand. She approached James in a precise and predatory manner. He didn’t move, and stood there watching her carefully, not sure what to expect. He had heard that Rhea’s moods can easily fluctuate from demure to hot as hell fire.
She reached James, and trailed a hand from his shoulder down his arm, as she started to slowly circle around him. “So tell me, Remus, why would Fenrir want a reminder of his great failure around - even if you have humbled yourself and wish to be one of us?”
“I do not assume to know the minds of others.”
Rhea hummed an amused laugh as she passed by close behind James before leaning over the back of his shoulder lips near his ear. “Too right you are.” She grasped his other shoulder with one hand, as the other trailed and tickled down his back. James stood a little ridged. He was uncomfortable with what was happening in that moment, considering that he was a married man. Fortunately, Remus wasn’t easily swayed, though he could feel the beast inside him getting riled up a little bit. Animal instincts were what they were and his had now become stronger considering the wolf.
“So are you saying that nothing can be done?”
“Now, I didn’t say that,” Rhea purred her words as she drew to James’ side moving her nails across his chest. “I know killing is a little outside your tastes, but I’m sure we could … work something out.”
James turned to look at Rhea, part of him had a feeling that this was going to lead to things that he could not do. Still, he had to ask, “What is that?”
Rhea smiled looking James in the eyes, standing there for a moment, arms around him before she slowly dropped them and pulled away from him. She walked slowly back to the chair she had been sitting in. “As you know, every so often I hold the ear of Fenrir. I’m sure if you did a slightly different service, I can convince him to cut you a break. I’m sure if you bring another over to our side of life it would show a change of heart. Of course, the more tender they are, the more likely I will be able to persuade things in your favor.”
“You want me to become him?” said James feeling a twist of revulsion, one that he knew Remus would feel as well. The idea of doing this to another child!
“Hardly, I’m not asking for frequent trips to the kiddies. Just one will suffice. You could try someone older, but it will make my work that much harder. One nibble, Remus, that is all it will take. You do that, and your days stuck in limbo land will be over. Think about it.”
James stood there knowing that he couldn’t bite a kid; he couldn’t bite anyone. He knew what Remus stood for, what his dear friend believed in. He shared in those beliefs. He couldn’t do that, not to himself, not to his best friend, and not to the poor soul who would suffer if he acted in such a way.
“Either way, you have my offer Remus, and we shall see what happens come the full moon. Just know that if you fail, the amnesty you have been granted may not hold.”
Chapter 3: The Plan
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Remus had not been at the Order meeting long and he was regretting the change for what felt like the hundredth time. He sat there thinking about James who was in his place, knowing life could be rough. He worried how James was handling the wolf. He knew he should have insisted on waiting until after the moon. This was no easy time to take on the wolf particularly when one didn’t quite have practice, but the encroaching moon made matters worse. He didn’t doubt James, but how could he have agreed to allow one of his best friends to take over the mantle of maintaining the beast? The guilt continued to build as he was greeted by fellow members of the Order. He put on a ‘brave face’ as most saw it and smiled. It was no secret to anyone that James had been worried sick over his family, what the prophecy had said and what Voldemort had heard.
Eventually most everyone arrived at the meeting and order was called which didn’t help Remus in anyway. His mind wasn’t in the present, but back to when he was still himself and agreeing to switch with James. Thoughts of his shelter in the slums, his work with Bigsby and getting accepted by the wolves made it impossible to concentrate. He had been very informative to Dumbledore but had it been enough for James to pick up where he left off?
Remus was so deep in thought that he literally jumped in his seat as Sirius clapped him on the shoulder before sliding into a chair next to him. He was late which was rather normal for him to be honest; nonetheless it earned him a death glare from Moody, who was speaking at the moment.
“Still on edge, Prongs?”
Remus adjusted James glasses on his face as they had slid down some in his surprise. He wasn’t used to such a limited range of sight at all. He forced a smile on his face, reminding himself that while he personally still had issues with Sirius, James did not. “Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he admitted.
“No worries mate, I’ve got the perfect thing for you.” Sirius gave his best friend a perfect grin that simply oozed confidence.
“I’ll come over to your place after the meeting and tell you then. I think Moody’s about ready to shove a wand down my throat reminding us all about constant vigilance.”
Remus looked back at Moody who has turned his normal eye back to the diagram he had conjured up. His newly acquired magic eye continued to stare them down, giving Remus an unsettled feeling.
“I’d be more worried about that eye of his,” said Remus going against his natural instincts to shut up. He knew that James would have joked with Sirius at this point even if he were feeling a bit off.
Sirius continued to grin. “You notice how he never says where he got that thing? Spooky.”
“I’d be less concerned about my eye and more concerned about how you hope to survive the next coming months, Black,” snarled Moody interrupting his own lecture to glare at them full on.
“Constant vigilance!” proclaimed Sirius sitting upright holding up his middle and forefinger. “We will be having three groups Apparating simultaneously along the perimeter of the building to hold position while you and those select few Auror-trained will be moving forward to scout out any potential traps and setting up Apparition counter charms. You were about to explain the next step which I assume is us moving in on the building,”
This caused Remus to laugh a little bit as he could tell that Sirius had gotten under Moody’s skin. He sobered up quick enough though as he knew that the jokes were done for now. This wasn’t just another Defense Against the Dark Arts class where James and Sirius could goof off the whole time and not worry. Failure in a class wasn’t a big deal because they could always pull something off to make up for it. This was life and death; this wasn’t something they could simply make up if they made a mistake.
The moment the meeting was done, Sirius was out of his seat faster than James’ old snitch. He placed a hand on Remus’ shoulder pausing long enough to say, “I’ve got to see to something first, but I’ll see you at your place.”
Remus wondered what Sirius was up to and watched him walk away for a moment. He chanced a look at Dumbledore who gave him an almost imperceptible nod. Nothing was amiss for the moment. He could go ahead and Apparate to Godric's Hollow and wait for Sirius to come by with whatever his brilliant plan was.
When he arrived he was glad that he knew the location of where James and Lily lived after the Fildelius charm was placed on the house, otherwise the plan for him to play James living with Lily and Harry would have been impossible. He landed just outside the door he thought for a moment to knock but realized in some ways it was not necessary. He took the handle and crossed the threshold with ease.
"James or Remus?" said Lily the moment the door opened.
Remus paused in the door at the question. So she knew. Clearly she had been informed about James' idea; Dumbledore had said as much. Really, Lily was the last person he wanted to try and fool any way, and there just were certain things that he could not do in James' place. James would kill him for one and he would never forgive himself, either. Not to mention that while Lily was beautiful, he wasn't interested in her romantically.
"Remus," he said softly stepping into the house to see Lily sitting in a rocking chair facing the door. She held Harry in her arms, and he seemed to be asleep.
"Figures," said Lily her tone flat as she stood up with Harry and walked out the room. Remus could tell she wasn't happy with the turn of events though he wasn't sure how to deal with it. Lily usually exploded when angered and this was not an explosion. He wanted to take the lack of an outburst to be a good thing, but he had this gut instinct that a quiet Lily was worse than a raging one. He gave a dry swallow and adjusted his glasses standing there in the entryway not sure of where to go or what to do.
Lily came back without Harry and stood at the entrance that led to the back of the house, arms crossed and a frown painted on her face as she leaned against the wall and stared at Remus. The silence between the two of them grew and Remus felt like he was going to crack under pressure, but he wasn't sure what it was he was supposed to say or do now.
"You weren't supposed to be here," said Lily finally breaking the stony silence.
"You were the sensible one! You were supposed to tell James no! Why in Merlin's name did you agree to do this?"
Lily's tone was very accusatory and it caused Remus to duck his head much like a scolded puppy. "I'm sorry Lily, I didn't know you were opposed to this whole thing."
"Of course I was! Did you think for a second I wanted to be without my husband? That I wanted things to be this way? Suffice it to say my feelings on the matter weren't even brought up, were they?"
Remus felt sheepish. "They weren't."
"I am going to kill that man! The moment I get to see him again, I am going to kill him. When the switch is made back, you better not hold out any hope you're body is in one piece, because I am going to kill him!"
This was the raging Lily that Remus had expected. It put him at ease some, but not by much. He never knew what to expect from an angry Lily and the general rule of thumb when she was in a full-on rage was to run.
Yet the storm didn't last. Remus realized that instead of raging, she was crying. "Lily, I -" Remus drew closer as a friend wishing to comfort another; he gingerly reached out a hand to touch her arm. He had barely grazed it and Lily had flung her arms around him sobbing into his shoulder. He gingerly placed his arms around her.
"I just want my husband back, Remus!"
"If I had known - " he trailed off not sure what he would have done. Doing this was so important to James and yet having him there with her was so important to Lily.
"I'm sorry," he finally spoke a while later when Lily's tears subsided a bit.
"It's not entirely your fault, Remus. I know James has a way of getting what he wants." She stepped back and started to wipe her eyes as a knock was heard on the door. Lily looked at Remus with surprise. "Who?"
Remus cringed, "Uh - Sirius, he wanted to..."
"You are as bad as James!" she hissed her anger back leaving the room to clean up her face Remus assumed considering it would be a bit difficult to explain why she had been crying.
Remus let out a sigh knowing that this was far from over as he went to answer the door. He painted a smile on his face expecting Sirius only for it to falter the moment the door opened. "Peter?"
"Uh – hi, Prongs," said Peter timidly waiting to be invited in by the dumbstruck Remus. It was, of course, with impeccable timing that Sirius Apparated next to Peter and placed an arm around his shoulders.
"Sorry I couldn't warn you, Prongs," said Sirius pushing Peter and his way in the door with no mind for the surprised look on Remus' face. "I know you weren't expecting Peter and I would have told you, but he was part of my brilliant plan and the less anyone else knows the better."
"What?" asked Remus closing the door as he turned to face the two people whom he used to be friends with. There was still, of course, an assumed friendship; when the truth of things came out that would remain to be seen.
"Where's Lily? She'll need to be part of this."
"In the back checking on Harry."
"Right here," corrected Lily coming back into the living room appropriating Sirius with a stern look as she held her arms crossed.
"Perfect, you'll want to hear this too!"
"You'll want to keep your voice down if you know what's good for you."
Sirius waved his hand as he pushed a protesting Peter towards a chair and expectantly waited for Remus and Lily to take seats as well.
Remus inclined his head to Lily in the direction of the couch following along with Sirius’ unspoken demands. Lily didn’t argue and the two of them sat next to each other. Lily took hold of his hand out of habit as she would have with James. Remus glanced at her a moment but kept her hand in his for appearance sake though he knew Lily wasn’t sure as she had tried to withdraw some. To distract from any perceptible odd appearances Remus spoke up, “So what’s this brilliant idea of yours, Padfoot?”
“Pretty much everyone knows I’m your Secret Keeper, right?” asked Sirius rhetorically before he continued on. “What if I wasn’t?”
Chapter 4: The Change
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It had only been a few days since the switch, but as James remained near the werewolves he realized that his days with them were numbered. He had until the full moon and that was it. He had a feeling that they were not going to put up with his presence afterward if he didn't come back with something. Bigsby, whom Remus had built a rapport with, had been avoiding him. He was a marked man, and it was dangerous associating with him.
Of course, to top everything off, James was saddled with a deep ache for his wife and son. It matched the pain he felt in his core from the werewolf, which seemed to be trying to work him over as well. James couldn't remember the last time he had any form of solid rest. At most, he would get a few hours before he would wake up screaming. Nightmares plagued him. He wanted to blame the wolf, but Remus didn't seem to suffer the same night terrors. He knew of Remus' insomnia, it was impossible not to considering they shared a dorm for seven years. This was much worse, though, unless his friend had been much better at hiding things than James had originally given him credit for.
It didn't help that it had been a wet and windy last couple of days, adding to the mix of misery that James was in. The rain had stopped, but the wind was still biting and everything was still damp from before. Pulling the thin and tattered cloak closer around his body, James prayed and hoped for at least a few hours of respite, though he knew a nightmare would be quick to follow. Still, he was tired to his bones and sleep wouldn't come. It didn't seem right that he could be so tired and yet not be able to get a moment of rest. What he wouldn't give for a hot fire and a warm butter beer. Sure he had a wand and could light a fire, but that would put him on an even longer shit list than he was already on. He was a werewolf who spent a time living as something of a normal life - something most could only dream of. It wouldn't do well to go flaunting about the precious few things he had over them, such as a wand. As tempting as it was to create that fire, he was in deep enough and he didn't want to risk it. Maybe the sun would be up soon enough. It always brought at least a little bit of warmth even if it wasn't always the most conducive to sleeping.
Eventually James managed to drift off for a few moments, until the sound of a loud crack shocked him awake. In the distance a bright light flashed. Instantly, he was on alert and had his wand in hand. He didn't know what to expect, but the shouts in the distance made him wary. After Mad Eye Moody’s continual hammering of constant vigilance a part of him knew he needed to investigate. He moved quietly, keeping to the shadows as the waxing moon provided enough light for his enhanced vision to pick out his path.
As he drew closer, another loud of light burst broke through the night and voices cried out. They were - happy? James' brow furrowed as he tried to take in what was going on. It wasn't an attack? The shouts he had started to hear were clearly not ones of fear, but of joy.
"What the hell is going on?" he finally managed to speak looking at the bright faces of people he had never met before. They weren’t werewolves but rather witches and wizards who were down on their luck, bad off just not as poorly as his kind.
"You haven't heard!" cried a reveler letting out a loud bang and bright yellow sparks from his wand. "The Dark Lord, You-Know-Who, is gone! Dead!"
"What?" asked a dumbfounded James, lowering his wand.
"Isn't it great?" responded a woman who was celebrating as well.
It took a minute for all of this to register in his mind. Was it true? Surely they were mistaken! Wouldn't he have been contacted by now? Wouldn't it mean that he could go back home to Lily and Harry? That he would be him again? Was it over? It meant that Remus could leave here and be back on his feet as well. He wasn't going to let his friend suffer any more than he had to. Remus would have a permanent place with him if necessary, despite the fact that he hated to take charity. This was no place for anyone to be.
"That's great!" finally managed James with as broad smile. He wanted to Apparate in that moment, but thought better of it. "Do you have an owl I could borrow? I need to get a letter out."
James ended up using a piece of paper the woman offered him and her quill. After thanking her, he wrote a letter to Dumbledore. He was cryptic considering this was a strange owl that could still be intercepted. While he believed the report that Voldemort was no more, it didn't mean that his followers weren't putting in a last valiant effort. There might still be more for the Order to do, but the worst was over now! It had to be. James smiled again as he walked back to the small shelter he had been staying in. He finally felt relaxed and drifted off to sleep expecting a return owl at any time.
It wasn't until late morning that an owl arrived and James was startled awake by it pecking at his leg. He was amazed that he had managed much more than just a few hours of sleep at a time. Taking the letter from the owl, he read the note written in Dumbledore's tidy scrawl.
There is much that we need to discuss, if you could meet me at the back of the Hogshead at your earliest convenience. I would appreciate if you did not delay however as there are other pressing matters that I must attend to.
James didn’t hesitate to meet with Dumbledore and turned on the spot to Apparate in Hogsmeade near the entrance of the Hogshead. He knew the place well, having snuck with Sirius on more than one occasion to get some illegal fire whiskey while in school. He waved and nodded to a few passing celebrators who were practically dancing in the streets for joy at the end of the rein of Voldemort.
Entering the Hogshead, James was surprised to find the pub packed and a bit noisy. Sure it made sense as everyone was celebrating, but at the same time he had never seen the place so full. Eventually he caught the attention of the barkeep Aberforth who nodded him toward the back. James walked down the dimly lit hallway, and rapped on the door he supposed Dumbledore was behind, before pushing it open.
He found him sitting there with an untouched drink and a rather grave look on his face. This put James on edge and was not what he was expecting. Nothing about this meeting felt right.
“What’s wrong?” James asked a lump forming in his throat. He did not like this, he didn’t like it one bit. Dumbledore was supposed to be smiling, congratulating him. Telling him that Remus was on his way and they could go back to their normal lives. No more fighting, no more hiding. This was not that.
“I’m afraid I have some very grave new to tell you.”
James stumbled into a chair, his legs giving out on him as he dared not to think what he knew this meant. He didn’t want this, he didn’t want to hear it, and yet he had to – had to know. “Lily –” he choked out before his throat closed on him prohibiting him from speaking more.
“Dead, I’m afraid,” said Dumbledore his voice low and soft.
The news was a blow to James despite being anticipated in some form. He was in shock not knowing what to do, or say. He wasn’t even sure he was managing to breath. Lily – dead. After a moment James drew in shuddering breath as the emotions crested over. Tears welled up in his eyes; the agony too much to bear.
He opened his mouth to speak the name of his son when a crashing toast could be heard though the door. “To Harry!”
James just stared at Dumbledore who nodded, a sad smile playing on his face. “Harry is alive.”
This caused the world to spin for James. “Remus he – he managed to save Harry?”
Dumbledore’s head turned from side to side. “No, actually, it appears Lily saved him.”
“The Fidelius Charm broke last night, and Voldemort arrived at your home to do what we always feared he would. He killed both Remus and Lily, before he, himself ‘died’ in an attempt to do the same to Harry. Half the building was destroyed as a result. Harry was found in the rubble quite alright save for a lightning bolt cut on his head that I believe will scar.”
“Where is he? Where is Harry now?”
“He is quite safe and being well looked after. I will be taking him to his aunt and uncle’s home tonight.”
“Lily’s sister? Petunia? And that horrible Muggle husband of hers? No! I’m his father. I can care for him.”
“That is something I’m afraid you cannot do. You are no longer James Potter. You are Remus Lupin.”
“Like hell I’m not! That’s my son and I want to see him. I have the right to look after him!” James stood up in anger, not able to sit still any longer. Rage coursed through him, a twisted mix of his own emotions and that of the wolf.
“Stop and think for a minute, Remus,” said Dumbledore calmly.
“I’m not Remus! I’m James! James Potter!” He was near shouting affronted by the placid calm the other man seemed to exude. He began to pace the room.
“Unfortunately not any longer, as far as the world at large is aware James Potter died defending his wife and son. James Potter is no more.
“But I didn’t die!” James shouted stopping in his pacing to turn and look at Dumbledore.
“You as Remus did not die; you as James did. It is the unfortunate reality of the Vicissitudo charm.”
“Well I don’t want it! I want to take care of my son! Deal with what has happened.” He knew the truth of things but he didn’t want to accept it.
“I am asking you to deal with what has happened in the best interest of Harry. While I am sure you wish to care for him, what, may I ask, will happen when you are transformed by the moon? Who will watch over Harry then? I am sorry to say, but you are not suited for raising a child.
“HOW DARE YOU!” bellowed James letting out a roar as he swung at Dumbledore, feeling a satisfying crunch beneath his fist, as the man was knocked back. He was ready to have another go, aching to fight, but no return attacks came back. All he saw was Dumbledore sitting there blood streaming down his face calm as if they were having a lovely afternoon tea.
“I’m sorry. What I said may have been out of line.” He calm voice was muffled due to his damaged nose as he reached for a kerchief to wipe away the blood, before waving his wand to heal his broken nose back to its former crooked state. “Still, it was not my first broken nose, and it may not be my last. That aside, I feel I owe you a deeper explanation of what is going on.
Almost as fast as the rage overcame James, it was replaced with a fatigue that forced him to take a seat once more. He was exhausted like a worn rag wrung out and left to dry.
“From what I can tell of the situation when Voldemort attacked, Lily offered her life in sacrifice for Harry’s, offering him a protection that the Dark Lord knew not. It invoked a deep and ancient magic, one of blood protection; one that still exists so long as Harry remains under the protection of blood kin. Something you, given the form you are in, cannot provide. Yes, you are the boy’s father in spirit and mind, but that is not the case when it comes to blood. Even still it is Lily’s blood, not yours that protects Harry – Lily’s blood which she shared with her sister, Petunia.”
James clenched his fist, grief overwhelming him once more. He swallowed hard as tears started to slide down his face. Silence filled the room as Dumbledore allowed him a few moments to grieve. Finally James’ voice broken asked, “Is Harry still in danger?”
Chapter 5: The Mission
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It was a hard pill for James to swallow, but in the end he knew that Dumbledore was right when it came to Harry. The boy needed a chance to grow up in a normal environment, away from the fame and pressures of the wizarding world, and Dumbledore swore that he would be safe. And Dumbledore was right - as a werewolf, raising a child was near impossible. It was one of those uncomfortable facts about his new life, particularly when it was no longer safe for him to remain in England after the moon. Some of the wolves were out for blood: his, to be exact.
By the time Harry reached eleven, James thought that it might be time for him to introduce himself, but again Dumbledore made the painful point that while he may have been Harry’s father, to come forward now claiming paternity would not only sound crazy, it would sound like the words of a desperate man. There would be no way to avoid it becoming public knowledge; too many eyes were on Harry. Questions would arise, not only from the rest of the wizarding world, but also from Harry. Why hadn’t he been in Harry’s life before? While the reasoning had been sound, logic would not sit well with an eleven-year-old boy who was trying to come to terms with who and what he was. To have a man whom most knew as a friend of his father’s claiming to be his father would just be that little too much. It was a hard thought for anyone to swallow, thus James grudgingly stayed in Europe where he was safe, and making headway with the werewolves of France, per Dumbledore's request.
He did, however, insist that his invisibility cloak be given to Harry. While he could not himself be part of Harry's life, he could at least be in it, in some small way. He had, after all, lent it to Dumbledore all those years ago and never got it back. It belonged the hands of a Potter. It had been passed down father to son for many generations always around the time of their eleventh birthday. He, of course, had missed that occasion but Christmas wasn't too late, and Dumbledore obliged seeing as it did rightfully belong to Harry now.
After that, not many other letters were exchanged between Dumbledore and James; he could not be in Harry's life as he was technically needed in France. He was not sure of how much good he was doing among the werewolves there but he did as was asked. Thus, it was a surprise when James was met with an unfamiliar barn owl. The owl itself wasn't as surprising as the contents of the letter itself. Dumbledore was in the country on business and wished to speak of a rather important matter, he needed another favor.
The idea of having another favor asked of him did not exactly sit well with James. He knew what Dumbledore has asked of Remus for the Order: for him to protect Harry, and of James to continue the work of Remus in another country. None of it was easy. It had even cost his friend his life. It wasn’t too hard to assume that similar favors would continue to be asked of him. It was why he was there in France. What more did Dumbledore want? Sure it was for the greater good, but sometimes the cost felt a little steep to him. Still he wasn’t going to refuse meeting with Dumbledore. They man generally knew what was best, and he needed to at least hear him out.
Thus James found himself entering yet another pub to meet with Dumbledore. The memories from so long ago washing over him some as he pushed open the door. The place was quiet instead of boisterous like the Hogs Head had been when he had last been there. He was glad to find that this place was nothing like the other establishment; it helped to break the connection between his last meeting with Dumbledore and this one. He only had a moment to look around when his attention was caught by his assumed name.
“Remus.” Dumbledore stood and offered his hand not looking any different now than he did those thirteen years ago. If there was any change, it was his beard; it had grown longer. “You look well.”
James gave a bit of a dry laugh. He knew all too well how he, as Remus, had aged over the years. Gone were the boyish features he once had. He was now gray around the temples; his face had become lined with worry and the agony he had carried over the years. He even had a few new scars since he took on the role of his lost friend. “I’ve been making do.”
Dumbledore gave a nod before he gestured for James to take the seat across from him. “I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty to order some malted mead. I am told that you can find none better in France than that which is brewed here. I am uncertain as to how well it will hold up to Madame Rosemerta’s however.”
“I doubt I’ll be a good judge of that,” confessed James. “I haven’t had something of Rosemerta’s probably since shortly after I left school.” Though it was possible that how he remembered things tasting like, would not be how it tasted like now. He had learned very early on that as Remus, his tastes had changed. He couldn’t stand meat done well any more.
“Of course, the local mead is not why I asked you here. It is merely a happy incident that I am afforded the opportunity to taste the local flavors.”
James looked to Dumbledore expectantly as their drinks were delivered. He took a sip and while it was good it was certainly different than what he recalled. It was a lot sweeter and he was pretty sure they matured it with grape juice along with the honey and water. It wasn’t as thick as Rosemerta’s either.
“I asked you here Remus because some things have come up that I feel you should be made aware of.” Dumbledore paused to allow the words to settle before he continued. “There has been an unfortunate incident at Azkaban.”
The single swallow of mead sunk in James’ stomach like a pit. There was an uncomfortable knot built there as he waited to hear more. Had Sirius died? Had he been killed? While he now hated the man, to know he was dead - it was hard to say how he felt because he had been his best friend and like a brother to him.
“It seems that Sirius has managed to escape.”
The uneasy knot released inside James morphing into an ice bolt the shot through him. He fought to maintain the rage that was suddenly building inside him. He remained ridged his fist clenching as his nails drug across the table. “He’s after Harry, isn’t he?”
“I’m afraid he is. It is reported that before his escape, he started muttering to himself ‘He’s at Hogwarts’ over and over.”
“He is not going to get Harry. I’ll kill him myself if I have to.”
“At present, Harry is safely at home with his aunt and uncle unaware of this turn of events. Sirius is currently at large and I am going to need your aid in ensuring Harry is safe during the school year.”
“I know of a few places of where he might be. I’ll find him.”
James gave Dumbledore a deadly look. He was just in control of the anger that was coursing through him, but just that. “If you think for one minute I am going to sit idly by while my- ” James paused briefly as he started to feel the glass of mead begin to crack in his hand. “ -while Harry is in danger you have another thing coming! I will protect Harry with my life, as I should have done in the first place and you will not stop me Dumbledore.”
“I anticipated you would feel as such. It is why I came to see you, Remus. I need your aid in doing just that. I need your help in protecting Harry at Hogwarts.”
“Then let me-” James trailed off as Dumbledore raised a hand indicating that he wasn’t through.
“Your skills in protecting Harry would be better put to use at Hogwarts than off chasing shadows. There is an entire man-hunt going on for Sirius. One more person in that search will not make a difference. However, if he is truly after Harry, then it is he who we need to focus on.”
“What do you want me to do then?” asked James, his eyes narrowing.
“I have an opening this year for the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts a subject you are well versed in. Come teach and watch over Harry. You and I both know that when Sirius was in school he knew the castle quite well – better than most. I assume you are equally familiar. You would be able to watch for him better than most. Ensure Harry’s added safety as the protective wards that are in place when he is at home on Private Drive do not stand while he is at Hogwarts.”
James stared at Dumbledore for a minute. This was not what he was expecting. A job? A chance to meet and be with Harry? This was too good to be true! Then the reality of one thing came crashing down on him. “What about my condition? I can hardly be sneaking off to the Shrieking Shack once a month and then spend days at a time healing in the hospital wing.”
“I’m sure you are aware of the Wolfsbane potion?”
“That – is notoriously difficult to brew.”
“Severus, I am sure, would be very much up to the task of brewing that for you every month.”
“Snape? You honestly think he would help me?” James highly doubted it – poison him was more like it.
“Time has a way of being a balm to old grievances. Severus is just as invested as I am in ensuring the safety of Harry. Not to mention his quarrel was more with Sirius and James and less with you, Remus.”
“I doubt time has changed things that much.”
“True, he has expressed his … uncertainty, in my wish to appoint you as the new Professor of Defense, but he has agreed none the less.”
James considered this – he may have misjudged Snape a little bit. He was working to protect Harry. He had done his part once before, it was why he and Lily had been able to go into hiding, at least until Sirius betrayed them. The absurdity was hard to grasp, Snape in the end had done more for him than Sirius. It was sickening, but true, and here Snape was going to be helping him once more.
Dumbledore spoke once more. “I am sure you are aware that if you accept the position, certain events of the past cannot be brought to Harry’s attention.”
That derailed James’ thought process as the sting of his losses continued to swirl around him. He closed his eyes for moment as he tried to push the renewed pain aside. His tone was just above a whisper. “I am aware.” He swallowed hard before he continued to speak.
“I am Remus John Lupin. James and I went to school together, and he was a very dear friend of mine.” He hated words but at the same time it was true, and he was coming to terms with that. He was no longer James, and he no longer held much hope of ever being him in name ever again. He was Remus now.
“I know none of this has been easy on you, Remus, but it is for the greater good.”
Chapter 6: The Trip
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It was general practice for Hogwarts professors to arrive at the school the week before the start of term, but as that was the week of a full moon, it made the situation difficult in and of itself. Of course, there was the added concern that Harry would be traveling by the Hogwarts Express. It was determined that an added bit of security and precaution was wise. Sirius Black had, after all, blown up an entire street corner full of Muggles. What would stop him from taking on a train of Hogwarts students in an attempt to get at Harry? He didn’t have his wand anymore, which did put Sirius at a disadvantage, but James knew that Sirius was very skilled and could probably put even a stolen wand to deadly use. Thus James found himself taking the Hogwarts Express, a train ride he never thought he would be taking again.
Arriving early, James took to the last compartment on the train. His feet carried him to the familiar location: the last compartment. It was where a lot of memories occurred, not just that train, but that specific compartment. There was a stab of pain as several of them came flooding back. He debated for a moment about selecting a different compartment, but this was the most vulnerable part of the train. The front half would have the Prefects and the driver; the latter half had nothing. There was a door to the outside in the last compartment as well. It was where he needed to be.
With a sigh James turned to his trunk, he didn’t want to lift it up. Living among werewolves had put him out of the habit of using magic. Then he recalled his location; he could save himself, he was among fellow wizards again. With a flick of his wand, he sent the trunk into place. He let out another weary sigh as he saw the peeling letters of his name on the case, the name Professor R. J. Lupin. The case had been a gift, one that he and Sirius had given Remus back when they were school. They had always teased Remus about being Professor Moony, a job Remus always wanted. He would have been good at too, if weren’t for his condition. Look at him now; here he was finally achieving that dream for Remus.
“Professor Moony after all,” he said softly as he took to the seat, ever so grateful for it. While some people had issues sleeping on a train, James didn’t think he was going to have an issue; the corner seat was quite comfortable.
By being early, James was able to catch some sleep in the warm train car before the hustle and bustle started to pick up and students started to arrive for the noon departure. James didn’t move or open his eyes. He wasn’t asleep, but he could at least rest, which is what he desperately needed. A number of students passed by peeked in, and whispered about the oddity of a grown man being found on the train. Instead of acknowledging the curious by passers, he would shift positions and find that whatever cluster of students who had stopped by would move on affording him a bit more peace. He wondered if he could end up taking this ride alone. It would mean that he would get a better opportunity to rest. Yet, it seemed that fortune would not smile in that way. The train was underway and it was quite probable his compartment was the last available one. As a result he didn’t feel the need to kick out the approaching small group. He could easily block out the conversation and recapture another blissful moment of sleep.
Yet as he sat there dozing, certain words pricked his ears, particularly the words Sirius Black. He tried to dismiss it. Kids would probably talk about the escape as it had never been done before, yet there was a twist on his insides. Something the boy had said. Not to mention the almost familiar scent the boy gave off. Looking for him? Black was looking for him? No. It couldn’t be! James tried to push the words out of his mind, not listen but then the girl spoke and said the boy’s name.
James stopped breathing for a moment as the three continued to talk. It was! It was Harry! Every instinct in James wanted to reach out and meet his son, talk to him, know everything about him - everything he missed. Yet, he didn’t move. Breath bated, he listened to the three continue to talk. Merlin, if he had only been listening more closely; the voice sounded just like his did. He wanted to chance a look but didn’t dare - not yet anyway. He wasn’t ready to talk to Harry. He didn’t want to deal with potentially awkward questions. It hurt, but he sat there still pretending to be asleep. Unbeknownst to the trio, the Sneakascope pointed out his lie.
Once that was packed away, James listened for a while longer to the three of them talk before his fatigue got the better of him and he did drift off unable to remain awake listening. It was a given issue for him, one that James and Sirius had always tended to take advantage of when Remus was like that. The poor bloke could hardly remain awake sometimes shortly after a full moon. Now he was the same.
James slept through a good portion of the journey. There were moments when he did wake up sometimes only briefly to shift, disturbed but not really, at least until the compartment had some unexpected visitors. It didn’t take long for him to sense trouble; some little tosser had just called his son ‘Potty’. He knew if Harry was even a fraction of what he had been at that age, he could handle the situation. Still, considering that he was a professor now, if things got ‘out of hand’ he would have to deal with it and the last thing he wanted to do was assign a punishment to his son. It was a very distinct possibility trouble would ensue Harry’s friend Ron was rising to the jeer. The last thing needed was for a professor to come to the rescue.
Considering his options, James gave a well-timed snort as he shifted in his seat. This successfully drew the attention of the troublemaker and the showdown ended. Peace was returned to the compartment, even if Ron was still seething.
James was able to capture a bit more needed sleep before he felt the train draw to a stop. It was true he had been sleeping, but it didn’t feel right. It was a bit too abrupt and felt too soon, which the girl, Hermione, pointed out. James felt on edge and alert. He blinked his eyes open just as the lights went out. Silent, he sat up to listen and then kept perfectly still while extending his senses. He debated the value of producing a light. He didn’t want Sirius, if this was him, knowing where he was if he could help it. In the dark he had an edge over Sirius with his sharpened senses. He continued to listen for anything out of place or for a smell that would tip him off.
Nothing of the sort came in to play right away, though it seemed that students in the neighboring compartments could stay in one place for long. He strained his ears to hear outside, past the arguing and stumbling of everyone, and through the pouring rain. There it was; he thought he heard something. Outside the train, something was moving out there. He strained to hear more as another person came into the compartment and the sounds inside escalated. He started to lose his patience, and while the dark was an advantage, he needed to see what in Merlin’s name was going on considering everything that had happened.
He spoke, demanding for quiet as he produced a set of small flames in the palm of his hand. It was a nice wandless trick he had picked up from living among the werewolves. It wasn’t as bright as lumos, but it created enough light to see by and was quick to douse out if needed. Something was indeed out there, he was certain of it now. If he was going to have to face Sirius, it was best to be done away from Harry as things could quickly escalate or easily ricochet.
“Stay where you are.”* He got up to move through compartment. The last thing he needed was anyone following him and getting into trouble. He didn’t get far as the compartment door opened and he felt it. This wasn’t Sirius. The cold that seeped in was more than enough to tip him off, and in some ways it was worse. Memories started to flood his mind and he wished it were his former best friend. He worked to clear his head to fight against the despair the creature created.
It didn’t take much for him to find his wits though, as Harry collapsed. He moved without a second thought to stand over him. The Dementor has stayed too long. Sirius wasn’t there, and he made that clear commanding that the creature depart. He gave less than a three count before he forced the issue conjuring up a Patronus. It was more out of love and force of will than out of a truly happy memory that he conjured it, but it was enough to let the Dementor know that he meant business. He stood on guard till the lights returned and the Dementor passed.
Sadness etched his face as he looked down at Harry. It was so striking the similarities between his past self and his son. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought he was looking back in time at himself as a kid. James was frozen for a moment, but Hermione and Ron were quick to swoop in to attend to their friend. James regretfully pulled back. Harry didn’t know him and he couldn’t be his dad - he wasn’t his dad anymore. He’d been out of Harry’s life for almost thirteen years. The mere thought sickened him.
Still he could take care of his son now. He needed chocolate. Fortunately, James had some to spare. It was a habit he had picked up from Remus. Chocolate had surprising magical properties beyond just the researched ones. There was something about a good piece of chocolate and a cup of a tea after the moon. He was never without the stuff. He worked on getting what he had out as Harry came around and asked about who was screaming. James paused for a moment. Screaming? What memory had those things drudged up?
Pushing his questions aside, James freed the chocolate from the wrapper and started breaking it apart. It was something to focus on. He wasn’t so sure he was ready to address Harry properly, even as Remus, who he was now. He kept his words simple and short, instructing Harry to take the chocolate as it would help. He didn’t quite meet Harry’s eyes as the pain burned in his chest. The memories were too fresh at the moment thanks to the Dementors. Yet Harry asked a question. James steeled his heart and answered evenly focusing on passing out the remainder of the chocolate, keeping none for himself. He’d get some later. First, he needed a moment away, having caught Harry’s eyes. They were Lily’s, unmistakably so. Merlin, how he missed her. Second, he needed to know more of what was going on and that mean speaking with the driver. He was not about to have a repeat of what had just happened.
He reminded everyone to eat once again before he made his excuse to leave, moving quickly past Harry. Once outside, he breathed a sigh of relief. He needed to clear his mind. There was a part of him that questioned having agreed to do this. Despite having a good argument against them, it was quite possible that Dementors were going to be around all year. The Minister of Magic was insistent, but this - this was one step too far. Still, despite his struggles, he wasn’t going to walk away. If it wasn’t Sirius that Harry needed protection from, it was the Dementors; they certainly seemed to have an interest in him. Resolved, James strode to the front of the train, anger started to bubble under the surface at the situation they all were in now.
“Can you tell me what the bloody hell was that?” snapped James stepping into the engine room without a pause, fury getting the better of him. It was astounding when he could keep his cool and when he couldn’t. The driver gawked at him for a moment. “What were you thinking letting Dementors on the train?”
“It wasn’t like I had a choice, Professor….”
“Professor Lupin. Look, Dementors were the last thing I needed right now, but they kind of made it impossible for me to keep going. I had to stop! Honest!”
James saw the wide eyed look on the driver’s face. He was just as scared as everyone else and he was still just a kid, not long out of Hogwarts, if he had to guess. He realized that he was in the wrong going off on the driver.
He closed his eyes briefly to temper himself. “Do you have an owl I could send ahead of us?”
“Why? We’ll be in the village in another fifteen minutes.”
“I know,” answered James seeing the distant lights in the rainy gloom. “Professor Dumbledore and the Matron, I’m sure, will want to know what happened as the train was delayed and some of the students were adversely affected by the Dementors.”
“They will be fine. The owl?”
“Right over there.” The driver gestured to the front as he turned back to his work tending to the train. James knew a Patronus would be faster but he wasn’t sure he could muster one up at the moment, so he quickly conjured up parchment and a quill to write a brief note before sending the owl off.
James did not linger with the driver after his note was sent. He knew that he needed to get back to Harry and check up on him. He did, however, pause for a moment outside the train car and massaged his forehead. He knew he was going to have to steel himself for some of this. His anger had already gotten the better of him once before. He didn’t feel like he was going to lose his temper with Harry or his friends, but he needed to not go off on a whim and say things that were best unspoken.
He took a deep breath and entered the car again to see everyone seemed to be as he had left them, chocolate uneaten. "I haven't poisoned the chocolate you know...."*
James watched carefully watched Harry as he finally ate the chocolate. He moved to his seat. This was not how things were supposed to go. He and Dumbledore were on the same page when it came to the presence of the Dementors as they were rather atrocious creatures; James was more determined that they needed to be sent away. Surely there could be an argument made based on their recent behavior and how they impacted the students, particularly Harry.
"We'll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes. Are you all right, Harry?"* James had only intended to break the silence a bit, but found himself pushing. He couldn't help it. He was concerned for his son. He knew what Dementors did and Harry's reaction was rather violent. It did not sit well with him. He could only imagine what his son was going through. The Patronus charm was difficult to learn so while he didn’t know if Harry would be able to pick it up, he was going to do his best to ensure that he was bothered by the Dementors as little as possible.
As he inquired, his resolve started to crack; he seriously considered telling Harry everything right then. Harry's response, though, saved him, so to speak. The look he was given was something like a knife to the heart. His son didn't know him from Adam. This was not the time to tell Harry anything. He couldn't be a proper father anyway. He was Remus now, and thus he kept quiet for the remainder of the journey.
It was a blessing that the time passed by swift enough despite the silence that pervaded the compartment. When everyone disembarked from the train, James kept his distance to give Harry space but he sure as hell wasn't going to be far off. They had yet to reach the castle after all.
It was, of course, to his fortune that he picked a nearby carriage to Harry's. The little brat that had tried to cause trouble before on the train was at it again. The kid was going to be 'fun'. Fortunately, he was experienced with prats like him and had dealt with the new situation as well has his fair share in school. Of course, he wasn't going to be able to provide the tosser a practical lesson in manners like he had with Bertram Aubrey all those years ago. Inflating students’ heads was a form of punishment that was highly frowned upon. Still, as a professor he did have a number of tricks up his sleeves that were permissible in teaching prats of this sort a lesson.
James wasn't able to contemplate on this for long as he made his way toward the castle from the carriages before he heard an all too familiar voice. It was older now, yet unmistakable. "Lupin, I see that the penchant for trouble still follows you."
"Hello, Snape," answered James very evenly, knowing full well that the greeting he had received was downright friendly, which was unexpected and it quite honestly put him on edge. "Why such a warm welcome?"
"Our Care of Magical Creatures Professor is currently preoccupied ushering in our first year students. I was, in turn, asked to tend to the beasts residing at the castle."
Those words were a direct slap in the face. James could only imagine how they would impact Remus, and he didn’t need any of this. He had had a long day and he was done putting up with other people’s crap. “Clearly you couldn’t gather the first years. You would have sent them running off in tears and fright.”
The words came out faster than James could stop them, but he quickly bit his tongue before an additional string of insults came rushing out. This is where he was really going to be challenged because old habits died hard and his fuse was a good deal shorter now. He was going to have to work on that.
“Careful Lupin, I am the one making your potion. You wouldn’t want my hand to… slip"
“And you wouldn’t want to almost repeat what happened back during school. James won’t be able to rescue you this time.” An uncomfortable feeling settled in as the threat left his mouth. His condition was not something to throw around lightly. He had saved Snape once from the werewolf and here he was making threats with it. It sickened him, as if some the vileness of the beast had seeped out. This wasn’t him, and this wasn’t Remus.
Snape's pallor went even whiter. "Don't think for a moment that I won't hesitate to put you down should you lose control. I’ve told Dumbledore it was a bad idea to allow one of your kind into the castle. The potential dangers are insurmountable for one, not to mention your previous association with Black."
James had to work to keep his temper in check. Hell would have to freeze over first before he helped Sirius. He lost everything because of him! "You don't need to worry about that."
James' jaw was clenched. He could deck Snape for being the idiot that he was.
"We shall see. I advise you tread carefully. I will be watching."
“I will keep that in mind,” said James. He worked to keep his tone devoid of emotion. He couldn't lose control. Not here, not now, not ever really. He took in a deep breath. He couldn't rise to the moment; it was what Snape wanted. "As much as I would love to stand here reminiscing about old times.”
Snape turned with a flick of his robes. “Follow me.”
*Quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban first edition paper back p 83 and 86
Chapter 7: The Start
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Despite the rest that James had taken on the train ride to Hogwarts, he should have been, by all rights, still tired. Fatigue was a constant companion for him so shortly after a full moon. Yet as he lay in the bed that he was provided, he found his eyes were wide open. Sleep seemed to have fled him faster than a ferret from a Hippogriff. He was accustomed to insomnia of course, but the timing of it was quite unusual. After lying in bed for about an hour, James concluded it was of no use to continue in his pointless plight for sleep and waste the hours that ticked before him. He let out a sigh as he lifted himself out of bed. With a wave of his wand, he rekindled the fire in the hearth. He then turned to locate a kettle for some tea.
Once he placed the water over the heat, James pulled out the timetables for the classes he was going to be teaching. It would do him well to review what his lessons for the week were going to be. It hadn't been easy planning for lessons while he was still living rough as a werewolf. He had kept away from the local wolves, but that didn't mean that he had a lot of great options when it came to living conditions. He could, of course, have afford some housing with the pay he was now receiving, but it was a moot point when he would be staying at the school for majority of the year. Not to mention, he had a moon to face just before he went to Hogwarts. Still, he had been able to manage something when it came to planning lessons; the only question he had was what he was teaching them. It was Professor McGonagall who had been all too kind to provide him with his teaching timetables after the feast.
"Thank you Professor McGonagall."
"You can call me Minerva now, Remus. You are hardly my student any longer. We are colleagues now." The Deputy Head Mistress wore a proud smile.
James gave a half laugh. "I'm sure there are several things about Transfiguration that you could still teach me."
"As I'm sure there are a few things about Defense the Dark Arts you know better than I."
"I doubt that, Profess - Minerva." The word felt so foreign in his mouth considering that the woman before him was not only his professor but also his Head of House for seven years of his life.
"Don't be so sure Remus. You were a very brilliant pupil in most every subject you applied yourself to, particularly so in Defense. I'm just glad you are finally able to live up to your full potential and do what you always aspired to do."
James' brow furrowed for a brief moment before he quickly connected things. Remus had always wanted to teach so it is no surprise that it would have come out in his conversation with Professor McGonagall in their 5th year.
"It is a little surreal to be honest," he said trying to quickly recover his brief confusion.
"Well rest assured that this is quite real. I've already arranged for the things you will need for your first few lessons, as you requested. I am sure you are going to do a fantastic job with the students - far better than our last professor, to say the least.”
The haze of the recent memory broke as the kettle started to whistle demanding attention. James pulled it from the heat and added a bag of tea to the hot water. He was never fond of loose leaf; while it was supposedly gave a more full body of flavor he didn't appreciate the loose bits that tended to get into his drink.
He set the kettle down on the table, casting a quick spell to protect it from the heat, and allowed the tea to steep while he reviewed over the timetables. Fifth years were first on his agenda. They were all preparing for their OWLS and he was going to have to cover a lot with them. They were going to be a challenge in some ways as they needed a comprehensive knowledge base and that included studying his condition. While the exams changed each year, it was still knowledge he knew they needed to cover. It was going to be a little bit tricky covering that particular topic while avoiding revealing his true nature. Then the next day was to be First years. There he would concentrate on the basics as they would barely have mastery of waving their own wands. He skimmed the rest of the schedule and his eyes fell on Thursday, Gryffindor third years. Harry.
He swallowed as he felt a dryness enter his mouth. He turned to pour his tea as he considered the schedule; it was his last of the day. There was an uncomfortable feeling in his chest; it was a mix of excitement and nerves. The feelings mounted as he thought about that coming class. He blew gently on his tea and gingerly took a sip. He couldn’t spend the night contemplating what it would be like facing Harry again. It would be far too easy to drive himself mad with the thoughts and what-ifs. He pushed the schedule aside, opting to watch the dancing flames in his fireplace for a time as he slowly sipped on his tea. He allowed his mind to wander and play through other past memories, some more uncomfortable than others. The memories of his time at Hogwarts ran thick now that he was back within its walls once again.
Eventually, he nodded off there in his chair, only to be plagued by dark dreams of Dementors and the bark like laugh of Sirius as Harry lay prone on the ground. He struggled to get to Harry, to save him, but he was immobile and he couldn't reach Harry. A dark cloaked figure that he knew to be Sirius closed in on his son. A panic rose in James.
"HARRY! HARRY!" he bellowed. He was being held back and then the icy clenching feeling of the Dementors shot through him. They were there, but instead of stopping Sirius they were helping him.
"HARRY!" cried out James as his hand flew out overturning the small table that held the kettle. The metal pot crashed to the ground and the schedule he had set aside drifted through the air dangerously close to the fire. James realized where he was, and that Harry was perfectly safe there in Hogwarts.
James took a shaking breath sitting still for a moment as his might tried to catch up to his already racing heart. A few more deep breaths to calm his nerves and then he grabbed the schedule and picked up the mess he had made. It was the early hours of the morning, he could tell by the smell in the air. He was still tired and could do with a bit more sleep, but it was not worth it considering the limited time he had before he was expected in the Great Hall. His first day teaching and he was going to be exhausted. It was the perfect way to make his initial impression with his new students. Still it was what it was and he would have to make due.
In the end James did just that, though he felt like he only just managed to make it through the day. It was long and tiresome and the Ravenclaw fifth years certainly put him through his paces. He let out a sigh of relief as he took to his seat at the staff table for dinner that night.
"First day usually is the hardest," remarked Professor Flitwick, who was already helping himself to a dinner roll.
"So if I survived the day things should improve?" asked James with a slightly wry smile, eyeing the beef stew that was on the table.
"Should is the correct word there Remus," answered Flitwick glancing over at James, "Though if I am not mistaking you have the first years tomorrow?"
"They are a bit of an unruly bunch. Many of them are under the impression that they know everything there is to know about wand waving, but I have a practice cushion that begs to differ."
"I didn't think first years started working with practice objects until at least a few weeks in."
"Exactly my point!" squeaked the smaller man.
James laughed. "At least it was a cushion rather something worse."
"There is that. Of course, my day wasn't the worst among the staff," continued Flitwick conversationally as he added some stew to his plate once James was done getting some himself.
"We've already had our first injury of the year. It was, of course, the fault of the student, but that isn't how he is painting it."
"Who was it? What happened?" asked James pausing to inquire before taking a bite of his stew that was letting off a swirl of steam off of it.
As it turned out, the event happened in Hagrid's class to the toe-rag who had given Harry a hard time before the start of term. James bit his tongue to keep from commenting on Malfoy. So, the kid was a problem for all. This increased the temptation James faced with teaching the boy a lesson. He mused what sort of trouble he could cause for Malfoy. There was a lot he could do, but he knew that he was going to have to tread carefully. He was a professor after all and he didn’t want to have to force Dumbledore’s hand to work counter to what was best for Harry.
"How is Hagrid taking it?" asked James, choosing to focus on something else. The half-giant was a good man, he knew him from back when he was in school. Hagrid many times looked the other way when they came crashing out of the Forbidden Forest after a full moon. He also helped them get a lay of the land when it came to the Forest. Of course, Hagrid wasn't stupid and knew that a werewolf wandered about the Forest, but he didn't know that it was Remus. Hagrid would always warn them of said werewolf and then remark how it didn't behave like a normal one. It never came onto the school grounds and only took out a few woodland creatures, which wasn’t quite in their normal nature. It was something of a joke to James and the others considering they knew the werewolf and were the ones that kept it in check.
"Not too well, I take it," said Flitwick with a slight frown.
"Based on what you tell me it wasn't his fault though. There are certain risks when it comes to magic. Everyone knows that."
"You are right. Unfortunately Mr. Malfoy seems to be spinning some sort of tall tale. He claims Hagrid had no control over the beast as it went about viciously mauling students. With his father being a school governor, the two have a good deal of sway in some respects.”
This prickled James' ire some. Hagrid was good with creatures. There was no way he would have brought an exceptionally dangerous creature to class. He himself had seen the Caretaker work with various creatures of the Forest back when he was in school. His mind drifted to the idea of making sure the boy learned a lesson. He forced himself however, to pause and take a drink from his goblet before he spoke again. "Funny there were no other students harmed or injured."
Chapter 8: The Boggart
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As Flitwick predicted the first years were a handful, though it was just a matter of showing off in front of them a little bit. A few flashy spells, a minor fright, and a promise of things to come was all it took. He had most of them under control, particularly when the magic he promised to teach them banked on their behavior in his class. It was a good tit for tat and he had the class eating from the palm of his hand. Though, after the first years came the ever-looming time where he was going to have to face off against the third years. It wasn't so much a matter of a behavioral issue, despite the insolent toe-rag being in one classes (if he was ever to return to class); the prat was no skin off of his back. It was Harry; his son was a whole other issue on its own.
James both dreaded and looked forward to Thursday all at once. The thought of the coming lesson impacted his sleep a lot more than he would have cared to admit. Fortunately, he was an old hand at being tired and working beyond his fatigue. Still, it was nice to catch breaks when he could. On one such break he had nodded off in the staff room during an afternoon free period. It was how he came to discover the boggart. His head had just started to droop when a sudden knocking about in the room's sole wardrobe roused him.
James stirred and blinked at the piece of furniture for a moment before it moved and rattled. "What the Dragon Pox?" he muttered to himself as he watched the wardrobe shutter once more. No one had come in, he would have heard the door, let alone smelled them enter. Not to mention anyone who would come into the teacher's lounge would not opt to hide in the wardrobe of all places. Honestly.
Something was off though, he could sense it, and it was more than the matter of the wardrobe that had taken to shuddering. There was something in there, of that he was certain. It wasn't a Vanishing Cabinet - he and Sirius had had some fun with that as well, at least until they broke it. It was still in the castle and this wasn't it, nor was it part of another set.
Slowly James got up from his seat and pulled out his wand. He slowly crept toward the wardrobe as it gave one final shake before the pulled the door open and he was faced with a full moon. Tightness formed in his chest and he paused frozen for a brief moment before logic played in his mind. He realized that this was nothing more than a boggart.
The full moon changed into a Snitch which fluttered back into the wardrobe where James shut the door. James considered things for a few moments as he rubbed his chin, this could be useful. This was the perfect lesson for his third year students. He could push back what he had been planning in favor of this. Now if he could just secure the thing safely till the next day. The ideas of what could be done with his four classes with this one boggart blossomed in his head and he knew he had to ask that the boggart and wardrobe be left alone for the night. It was perfect, and James was actually excited for once to teach a lesson.
Of course, that excitement died some with the arrival of the next morning's Daily Profit. Sirius had been spotted not far from the school. His hands crushed the newspaper as he glanced over the column. He found that he could not remain still at the staff table for breakfast that morning. How could he sit idly by while Sirius was drawing ever closer? He moved to go back to his room and gather a few things to take with him as he went after his former best friend.
"Remus," called the ever calm voice of Dumbledore.
James had made it part way down the hallway before he stopped in his tracks to turn and look at the Headmaster.
"I take it you have read this morning's Profit?"
"That I have," answered James standing ridged his hands shaking with anger.
"I do hope you are not tempted to go off and do something rash."
James opened his mouth to speak but Dumbledore spoke again before him. "After all, it is even more vital for you to be close to Harry, should Sirius make it past the Dementors, as he has done once before."
James pressed his lips together and closed his eyes as he tried to allow Dumbledore's words to wash over him. Knowing where Sirius was last sighted, he was certain that he could find him. He could do it easily, if only given the chance to just look. At the same time, staying where he was presently was best for Harry.
"Now I suggest, Remus, that it might do you well to come back to the Great Hall with me. Have a bit of breakfast and a spot of tea. I'm sure it will do you and your nerves well. I believe you have quite the interesting lesson planned for our third years. I know Mr. Filch would like me to make it known to you that he does not appreciate you keeping dark creatures in locations other than your own classroom. He apparently doesn't find it suiting that we have allowed the boggart to remain in its new residence as long as we have."
James took a deep breath pushing the monster that had begun to rear its ugly head down. He usually had more respite than this before the beast inside started to make such a bid for control, but a lot had been going on since the last moon. In truth he was grateful that he wasn't on the other side of the lunar cycle. If he were, he would have been far more on edge and less apt at controlling the beast. He was going to have to work hard not to control his temper the closer he drew to the moon. Finally, James released his breath in the form of a sigh. He moved as Dumbledore had directed. "I can assure Mr. Filch that the boggart will be attended to before dinner."
"I'm sure he will appreciate it, and I know your students will much enjoy the practical lesson. Did I chance to tell you what sort of practical lessons our last teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts thought fitting?" Dumbledore continued to make light conversation that James knew was meant as a distraction, something he greatly appreciated.
By the end of breakfast he had regained his focus and was ready to tend to the day's lessons. Sirius wasn't in the castle yet, and there was no way he was going to allow Harry to come to any harm. He was where he needed to be and that included teaching the third year Slytherins.
James had known that Draco had been out of classes since the Hippogriff incident, and thus he was surprised to see him returned to class. This could not have worked out more perfectly. He had the boggart and he did need a student to kick things off. He suppressed a mild grin as he entered the classroom.
"Go ahead and put your books away. We are having a practical lesson today. You will only need your wands. If you'll follow me."
There seemed to be a bit of complaint at the idea of doing something different for once which surprised James a little bit, but he didn't question it too much as he led the way into the staff room which was mercifully empty at the moment.
"Now I'm sure there are a number of you who are wondering why we came into the staff room and the answer is quite simple." James gestured to the wardrobe which pleasantly gave a bit of a rattle as if on cue. A small smile quirked his lips before he continued. "Does anyone have a guess as to what might be hiding inside?"
He looked over the group of Slytherins who didn't say much more than a small remark that wasn't intended for him to hear which was along the lines of "His sense of fashion?"
James opted not to let on that he could hear that particular remark and moved on with his lesson. "What we have in here is a boggart."
The wardrobe gave another shiver which caused a stirring among a few of the girls in the class.
"Can anyone tell me anything about boggarts?"
A bored sigh came from the back of the classroom before an answer was given. "It's a creature that takes on the shape of your fears."
"Very good, Blaise. Five points to Slytherin. A boggart is a shape shifter. At present it has no form because none of us are facing it. Draco, if you will step forward I'd like your assistance."
"But Professor - my arm."
"You'll do just fine." James gestured for Draco to come to the front which earned him an eye roll. James raised his eyebrows at the prat's attitude. He debated, for just a brief moment, about setting the boggart on Draco without warning. He resisted the temptation though, thinking better of it. Dumbledore didn't need to deal with complaints about two of his newly appointed professors.
"Now, when facing a boggart you have to have the right spell to take it on and that would be Riddikulus. It will force a boggart to assume a less frightening shape and turn into something amusing. Ready?"
James didn't wait to see if Draco was ready nor did he mention that the spell required a force of mind either. There was value in learning from mistakes after all. James opened the wardrobe keeping out of the boggart's sights so it got a full blast of Draco and his fear.
What came out was not what James had expected, not that he knew the Malfoy boy well enough to even begin to guess his fears. Still what flew from the wardrobe was not something anyone could have anticipated. Apparently tea cozies had become a source of Draco's fear; his already pale face grew more ashen as three of them flew in his direction.
Draco stood his ground for only a brief moment before he dropped his wand moving in terror calling out, "Get them away! Get them away!"
As he ran, the rest of the class started to realize just exactly what Draco's fear happened to be, and there were a few sniggers from some of the class. This would not do at all. James stepped in and the boggart took on the form of a moon for the briefest of moments as he called out the spell to change it and send it back into the wardrobe for the time being.
"Not quite the attempt I was looking for, Draco," said James with a grim face as he picked up the abandoned wand and offered it back to the younger boy. "Maybe with a bit more practice and preparation, hmm?"
He looked down at Draco with an expectant look as he tried to keep the mirth from his expression. For Merlin's sake, the boy was afraid to tea cozies! If that wasn't funny he wasn't sure what was, and the rest of the class seemed to agree, as there were few repressed grins and sly looks that went Draco's way.
"Each of us, of course, have our own unique fear; knowing what that fear is can help you in your preparation of facing a boggart. Additionally, when you cast the spell, the incantation alone will not do. You have to have a force of mind to back up your spell work. Now, is there anyone else who would like to try and face the boggart?"
Chapter 9: The Lesson
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After working with the Slytherins with the boggart first, the other classes went rather smoothly. Huffelpuff enjoyed the team work involved causing the boggart to be two things at once while the Ravenclaws took on a very studious approach to the whole thing. Nothing was of course quite as memorable as Draco’s boggart, but really flying tea cozies was hard to beat. James had high hopes for his class with the Gryffindors. It was still unnerving the idea of facing his son, but this was not a one on one scenario. He could very well focus on the other students in the process of teaching. Of course, he also knew that it was best not to have Harry face off against the boggart. He didn’t doubt Harry’s abilities at all as he had picked up that Harry was actually quite skilled particularly when it came to Defense Against the Dark Arts, which of course was not exactly surprising to say the least. It was more an issue of what form Harry’s boggart would actually take on. It was highly possible that what Harry feared most would not bode well with the rest of his class; while what was in his classroom was nothing more than a boggart, Boggart Voldemort was not something he needed to deal with.
After a brief lunch break, James made his way to his classroom to face off with the Gryffindor third years. He was running a bit late, but did not allow that to impact anything. He set his brief case down and addressed the class, informing them of their practical lesson and how they could leave their books behind. It was a statement taken far better than the Ravenclaws, who had seemed down right disappointed not to use their books. Once everyone was ready, he began to lead the way to the staffroom.
Though, the trip to the staffroom was not without issue. They had the misfortune of coming across Peeves who was being his usual self. While Filch wasn’t the most pleasant person in the world, he wasn’t the worst. Really, gum in the locks? Amateur. Of course, even worse than the gum was the stupid ditty that the poltergeist took up. The song didn’t bother James, but at the same time he wasn’t going to let Peeves think that he had a new perfect target. He was far too familiar with how things worked. He couldn’t simply ignore things, so he tried to dissuade the poltergeist from continuing on with his actions. Despite talking to him, James knew how things were going to end before they even really started. Still he gave a warning; it was only fair in some respects and if something should come up again, Peeves would know what would come if he didn’t listen the first time.
While he knew what was to come, James also knew to have some fun in this and leave an impression on his class. So he gave a flick of his wand, spoke the incantation and sent the gum the poltergeist was using up its nose. There was something useful about sending something zooming up a person's nose. It was as close as one could get to a hex without actually casting one. Oh how many times had he and Sirius won arguments on technicalities like it?
In the end the spell was quite a success, earning him a compliment from one student even. He had a feeling that he had just earned a certain degree of awe and respect from the third year Gryffindors. Truth be told, really, the only set of students he had failed to make much of an impression on were the Slytherins, but that wasn’t too much of a surprise really. If their Head of House was anything to judge things on, there was nothing to question.Which, speak of the devil, Snape was actually present in the staff room. The Slytherin Head of House knew full well by now that Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons were taking place in the staffroom today. If Snape wanted to participate and be present for the lesson, then he was more than welcome to it. James turned to close the door opting to ignore the other man before he spoke up.
"Leave it open, Lupin. I'd rather not witness this."*
James obliged, pausing in closing the door. He waited on the other man and was ready to resume with his class when Snape took a moment to pause and point out Neville Longbottom. The man was humiliating the poor kid. So what if the boy got help from Hermione. What did Longbottom ever do to him? Neville, he was told, was a good kid under a lot of pressure to live up to his parents’ skills. He tried hard and was stout of heart. It couldn’t be an old grudge against Frank. The man was a number of years older them either of them. Frank had been a good man. He and his wife had been an amazing asset to the Order. Snape going after their kid did not sit well with James. He wasn't going to let that slide.
"I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation, and I am sure he will perform it admirably."*
James kept his tone pleasant, but he was sure Snape caught the unspoken challenge he had issued. Snape left and James proceeded with his lesson going over Boggart basics as he had done a couple of times before with his previous classes. He then turned to Neville asking him what it was that he feared. Unlike Draco, James wanted to ensure Neville's success. He could tell the boy was nervous about the whole thing, and Snape’s remarks didn’t help that much at all. It was unfortunate because Frank had been a man of great confidence and personality. He had heard that Neville was being raised by his grandmother and she was not an easy woman. Frank had even been willing to admit that, so in some ways with that combined with high expectations put Neville in a difficult situation.
The first response James got was something he heard, but no one else could. If he were a different man, he probably wouldn’t have caught that Neville had said that Professor Snape was what he was afraid of. He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he asked for the answer to be repeated. This was better than Draco with the tea cozies! He knew exactly what to suggest Neville do to make things more entertaining as it were. It was too bad there wasn't camera available to take a picture of it. If the Hogwarts Annual still existed, it would be a perfect picture for it but that went out of style decades ago. Still, despite the lack of photographic proof of what he was suggesting, James knew this would be a memory he would carry with him for a very long time.
"If all goes well, Professor Boggart Snape will be forced into that vulture-topped hat, and that green dress, with that big red handbag."*
James directed the students with how things would go and where to be as he waved his wand to open the wardrobe. Snape crawled leaving Neville in something of a fright, but James knew that he was trying. After a re-attempt, true to prediction, Boggart Snape stood before them dressed just like Neville’s Gran and it was so ridiculously amazing. James worked hard not to snigger too much before he called the next student forward. This lesson was going perfectly, at least till he lost track of who was next up to fact the boggart. It seemed to be almost without warning that Harry was ready to step in. There was no time to stop and direct things, so he did the only thing he could think to do, and that was to take on the boggart himself. It transformed to the moon but just as quickly was back to the Snitch before he called Neville forward to finish things off. It was the last class of the day, and it was rather fitting that things end with Neville just to spite Snape a little bit.
In concluding the lesson, James could tell that Harry was put out by his stepping in and taking his chance with the boggart. It was what it was; he couldn't easily look his son in the eyes, particularly when Harry tried to point out how he had done nothing for the points that were distributed to the class. James tried to dismiss it and hoped it didn't sit with Harry too long. He then dismissed the class and everyone with the exception of Harry and Hermione left rather excited about the whole thing. Over all, it was a lesson well done, and a legitimate reason to give Snape what he well deserved. Of course, that wasn’t how the other man would see it, and by the time dinner came around a confrontation was to be had.
"Lupin," called the cold voice from across the Entrance Hall forcing James to pause. He knew there was no escaping this.
"How can I help you, Snape?" asked James forcing his face into a rather blank and innocent looking expression. He knew what Snape wanted to speak to him about, but the more innocent he played things the better that this conversation would go. It was also the best tactic at keeping the wolf at bay as Snape just had a way of getting under his skin.
"Don't think I didn't hear about your particular lesson with the Gryffindors this afternoon."
"I'm not entirely sure what it is in particular you are referring to."
Snape drew close to James and was almost in his face, his voice a complete snarl. "You know perfectly well what I am talking about."
"Are you meaning the boggart? That is something I don't very well have control over; you of all people should know that, Snape."
"You, as their teacher, influenced the outcome; there is a certain degree of control when casting the spell."
"True, and you in no way had any impact or influence on Neville having you as his greatest fear. Not very becoming of a professor, is it?" said James giving Snape a challenging look, keeping particularly good control of his emotions. Of course, at the moment he had the upper hand in things, and if James were honest with himself, he was feeling rather smug at the moment.
"Do not think this is the end, Lupin." Snape's black eyes locked with him for a moment as pure vehemence radiated from them. James remained impassive as the Potions Master turned away, robes billowing behind him. James stood still as he watched Snape for a moment before a small smile played on his lips. Really it's what the man got for being such a gigantic git toward Neville.
James shook his head; he felt justified in what he did in his class. Snape wouldn't have been happy with any outcome for making the boggart version of him amusing. Still, he reminded himself as he turned back toward the Great Hall for dinner that he couldn't reform the habit of making a fool of Snape. They were working together after all, even if he was an arse. He was making his monthly potion, after all, and while there was still a bit of time before he would need to take it, it was best not to cross the man brewing the potion.
James had learned that lesson well from Remus while they were still in school. It was typical for Remus to brew the potions for many of their pranks. Of the four of them, he probably had the daftest hand at it, not to mention a great deal more patience as well. He and Sirius had taken Remus’ socks and shoes as a joke. It didn’t bode well with their werewolf friend and the next potion he made for them caused them to turn putrid green and have smoke billow out their ears for well over a day.
To which Remus had smugly stated, “Serves you right.”
*Quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban first edition paper back p 132 and 133
Chapter 10: The Potion
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Things remained tense between James and Snape. Over the next couple of weeks, James' lessons became quite popular among the student populous. The only exception was a number of the Slytherins. While he understood why Draco and his group hated him, it eluded him why some others did as well. Overall, it really it was no skin off of his back, though. Some Slytherins, however, seemed to appreciate his work; it just wasn't quite at the same level as students in the other houses. Of course although it wasn’t a popularity contest, James was enjoying the attention all the same. It was how it was before when he was in school; he garnered a lot of attention even then. Of course, too much attention and his condition could be revealed. That particular concern put an uncomfortable pit in his stomach, particularly as he drew ever closer to the full moon, and the start of the Wolfsbane potion.
James’ concerns about his first transformation of the school year played in his mind as he sat in the teacher's lounge grading some student papers on vampires. He hoped to remain awake as he sipped on a hot cup of Earl Gray tea, as the work was rather dry. He moved to mark through an incorrect line in the paper as the door opened to grant entrance to Minerva.
"Hello Remus," she greeted warmly, coming in to set down her own stack of papers.
"Hello Minerva," answered James looking up from the paper he was working on. He had been afforded several occasions to call her by her first name so it had become significantly less awkward to address his former Professor so casually. "Just finish with your last class of the day?"
"Indeed, I have. I see you've been at work for a bit of time. Your short day was today?"
James nodded his head. "I'm guessing you just finished with your first years - turning mice into match boxes?"
His question caused Minerva to pause in sorting her papers into four separate stacks; she looked to him and he tweaked his own nose. "My sense of smell gets better the closer to the full moon."
"That is right," said Minerva with a warm smile as she conjured up a quill and ink. "I forget. Where are we? About a week out now?"
“A week to the day,” said James as gave a nod of his head. He was used to transforming now, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of transforming there at Hogwarts. He understood now the worries and concerns Remus had had all those years ago. Apparently though, his feelings about the situation were reflected on his face.
"I am sure that it will be alright Remus. Severus is quite skilled at potion making and Dumbledore has ensured that every precaution has been taken," she reached out and gave his hand a quick gentle squeeze. While Minerva was tough as nails, she really did have motherly side to her.
"In some ways that is the least of my worries. It is the time leading up to the full moon that has me a bit concerned. Not just that but, it is possible for a student to happen to notice the tale tell signs."
"Remus Lupin. For as long as I have known you, you have had impeccable control of yourself and your condition. As for your condition being discovered, only a scant few ever learned the truth of your condition and that was chiefly because you shared a dorm with most of them. Your students aren’t as close to you as your dorm mates were, nor do you have to spend several days recuperating as you did before. It also helps that the first moon of the school year occurs on a Friday night."
James gave Minerva a questioning look and she continued.
"Your absence next Saturday will hardly be noticed by our students. We seem to hardly register to our students once classes end for the week. Not to mention should something be discovered, there have been some great strides toward acceptance of those with magical ailments such as yours."
"Of course, there are those like Umbridge who fight it every step of the way." A dark tone over took James for a moment as he mentioned the foul woman. She was constantly fighting against werewolf rights and the rights of those who were not of standard wizarding stock.
"Unfortunately there are those who have a very backward view of things," said Minerva with pursed lips. "It honestly surprises me the lunacy that will come from people’s mouths, let alone how many people will actually believe and buy into it."
"Sounds like you had a recent experience with something of the like." James gave the Transfiguration professor a questioning look. He waited for her to explain while he took another sip of his tea.
"It happens every year really, and this particular incident has been going on since the start of term." Minerva gave a small shake of her head before continuing on. "Sybil likes to predict the death of a student at the start of term along with a lot of other rubbish. It is nothing more than a guise to scare her new third years and gather a bit of added respect and attention. Usually it stops by the end of the first lesson, everyone gets a bit of a fright and nothing more comes of it, but this year is different."
"This year it is Harry."
"What?" said James, his tone low and cold. Some bat was predicting the death of his son?
"It seems that with the escape of Sirius Black and Harry's penchant for trouble, she selected him for her grand death prediction and is not letting up on it. I feel like I hear someone talking about how she spotted another Grim in Harry's future every other day. The worst of it is that some of the students believe it and appear to be watching from afar to see when Harry's time will be. Simply because the woman is flashy and has been lucky on a few 'predictions'? It's not hard to predict that Neville would potentially drop and break a tea cup." Minerva rolled her eyes, an expression James never thought to see on the older woman.
"It's not like Harry doesn't have enough on his plate already," said James his thumb bending his quill that was in his hand, putting it almost to the breaking point.
"My point exactly. I spoke with Sybil about toning down the death predictions, but she is impossible. Making claims of 'I cannot help what the inner eye sees' and 'It is not befitting for a true seer to cloak the truth of the future'.” Minerva's voice took on an airy and wispy tone that rather matched that of Sybil Trelawney's only it was done in more of an Irish accent than the Divination teacher's classic British accent. It was amusing to see the Gryffindor’ Head of House take on such a manner. The mocking tone put James a little more at ease and caused him to smile a bit. He never expected his former Head of House to have such a personality. He knew that she was a force to be reckoned with, but he never saw this more relaxed and personable side of her. Still there was a pressing thought in regards to Harry that he had to ask.
"How is Harry taking it all?" He had been keeping from seeking out Harry and interacting with him too much. So despite seeing him regularly in class he did not know much. He chiefly avoided his son because he didn't want to make things awkward or cause a lot of undue questions to arise. It wasn't easy, but in the end he knew it was for the best in some respects. Still he could watch Harry, which is more than he could have ever hoped for before.
"I think he is growing quite tired of it all."
"So he's not buying into the fraud?"
"No, I hardly think so. Harry is far too bright to fall into something of the like, though I can imagine it is still a little unsettling hear death predictions on a regular basis, particularly with everything that is going on right now. Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley are helping to keep him grounded and not buy too much into Sybil's predictions."
"Good," said James with a nod of his head feeling just a little bit better. He hadn't really spoken with the new Divination professor, but she sounded like a basket case. Well she was not exactly new, seeing as she had been on staff for the past fourteen years, but she was new to him. He couldn't quite remember who had taught Divination when he was in school as he and Sirius had opted for Muggle Studies back then. Sirius took it to piss his parents off and James joined him for the hell of it. Remus, of course, went more academic route and took to Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. Fortunately, James didn't think he was going to be tested on such subjects otherwise his guise as Remus would fall apart there.
"I would hate to see Harry buy into such things," he added.
"As would I."
A quiet fell over the room as the two turned to their work grading papers. While the weekend was upon them both, a teacher’s work never really seemed to end. Weekends were not as full of free time as they were for students. James was able to nearly complete his work when the door opened yet again to admit Snape who was holding a smoking goblet.
"I have been looking all over for you, Lupin," said the Potions Master with a dark tone.
James looked at Snape curiously wondering about the goblet. He also wondered what new grievance he had committed. He had honestly been on his best behavior, solidly avoiding Snape as best as he could. Of course, it was a given fact that his popularity among the students as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor did not set well with Snape. Everyone knew that James held the position the other man coveted.
"Your potion," he said blandly setting the frothing goblet in front of James with a resounding thunk.
James blinked at it for a moment as his mind shifted from grading papers to what Snape was talking about.
"You need to drink it straight off. My work has nearly gone to waste with the time it took in finding you."
James, finished piecing things together, gave a curt nod and took a large swallow of the potion and nearly gagged. He managed not to spew, but the taste was atrocious. Did Snape purposefully make it this terrible? He coughed a little after swallowing it down as Minerva looked at him with concern.
"It could do with some sugar," said James with a rasp and a weak smile.
"If you want turn into a raging monster, then be my guest."
Chapter 11: The Transformation
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From the night of the first potion, James dreaded the sight of Snape because it always meant that he was bringing him more. It also didn't help that Snape felt that in delivering the potion, he had carte blanche to enter his quarters at will. It got quite annoying to be honest.
Each time he drank the potion, the taste got progressively worse. James was most certain that Snape was doing something on purpose. It didn't exactly help his temper in the least. Still he bit his tongue and drank the potion, working hard not to grimace as he drank it down. He was not going to let Snape win this one. While he dreaded the delivery of the Wolfsbane, he lied through his teeth to Snape about it.
"Severus," he said with a smile, taking on a familiar tone with the man. He knew that it kind of grated the Potions master, and it was why he decided to take the given name up rather than calling him by his surname. "You know I've begun to look forward to our little meetings. After a time, one kind of gets rather used to the potion."
James took the goblet and gulped it down rather quickly. The quicker it was, the less time there was to grimace; that was his running theory, at least for as long as Snape decided to remain in the vicinity while he consumed the potion. It was consumed in quick succession, and James forced another smile onto his face.
"Very well. I shall leave you to your work. I would prefer not be around when the monster is unleashed."
James had picked his quill back up and started looking over the next student paper he needed to grade. He knew exactly what Snape was trying to get at and do. "No, wouldn't want to risk getting bit." The words again were out before he could stop them. While he hated the insinuation, still he refused to backtrack on them. He was going to be in control this night. Still, there was that off chance that things would not go right. It was why he had plans to put a few extra protective spells around the room to be sure that if things should go awry it would be safe.
"I have no qualms with having to put you down, Lupin," said Snape before he turned his back and stalked out of the room.
Once Snape was gone James dropped the quill that was in his hand and he rubbed his forehead. He was trying to be on his best behavior, and yet the threats he hated himself for making still left his mouth. This was not a curse tossed around lightly and yet he had. Snape just rubbed him the wrong way and he knew how to return the feelings.
As he sat there regretting his actions once again, he packed up the papers he was working on. He used his wand to send the papers back to his quarters where they would be safe, should something go amiss. He had a bit of time till he would be forced transform by the rising of the moon, but he knew that his focus was shot for the night. He turned his attention instead to preparing his office for the night. The protective spells were second nature to him and rolled through his mind without the need for too much focus and attention. With a sigh James packed his wand safely inside his desk drawer.
He surveyed the room to be sure that there was nothing of immense value that he needed to ensure the safety of before his transformation. While it was true that the potion should allow him to keep his mind, he did not wish to take any undue risks. As he looked around, he felt a pang of apprehension. What if things did not go correctly? What if there was a mistake with the potion, or he took too long to drink the first administration of it? His nerves were on edge as he waited, sensing the time as it drew ever closer to the rising of the moon. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach when he only had minutes to spare; he took the final steps to prepare for the moon which was to safely pack away his clothing. As he waited for the final minutes to pass, he focused on breathing, though it didn't help much in collecting his nerves as his stomach writhed. The pace of his breathing increased with each passing moment till finally at the panicle of the rising of the moon, everything seemed to almost freeze, as his body went ridge; his veins turned to fire. The hairs on his body stood on end before he finally doubled over in agony. While he had taken the potion, it made no promises about assuaging pain; it only spoke of him keeping his mind, which the truth of that was yet to be seen. James could feel as his bones morphed, they stretched in ways that bone was not meant to stretch and ground down in others to fit his new form.
Eventually, his voice broke from the torment. This was the very reason he had cast the Muffliato charm on his office. His yells of agony turned into a long single howl that filled the room. Panting, James stood on all fours taking in the sights and sounds as a wolf. He stood there perfectly still and waiting, waiting for the monster to be unleashed, the innate desire to rip, kill, and destroy. Yet nothing. It was too good to be true! He waited for a protracted amount of time to see whether things would change and still nothing.
He slowly looked around smelling the air. The subtle scents that had surrounded him before were no longer understated and the lighting in the room was more clear and precise. This was an entirely new experience for James as he tentatively paced around his office. In preparation for the worst, he hadn’t left himself much to occupy his time with. He concluded it was best to curl up and sleep through the night as much as he could. While he kept his mind, the actual transformation process occurred as it always had. He was certain that in the coming day he was still going to be in a world of pain and exhausted, though maybe just maybe less so if he slept through the night.
With a canine huff he walked over to his desk, figuring it might be better than the stone cold floor and jumped up atop of it. He could sleep there this night, but seeing as the potion allowed him to keep his mind intact, it wouldn’t be too bad if he kept a rug near the hearth for the coming moons of the year. Turning three times, as it didn't feel right to do any less, he curled up and closed his eyes.
Of course as the moon set, James awoke once more. He knew it was coming, and it was not going to be pleasant; becoming a wolf hurt just as much as returning to being a man. Honestly, in some ways returning to man form hurt more. He jumped down from his desk and waited, dreading the coming pain, but at the same time eager to be himself once more.
The pain over took him one last time. A howl escaped his lips, morphing into shouts of pain. While the change happened, he collapsed to the ground, tears streaming down his face, ones that he could not control. The agony seemed to be never ending; he had never been in his right mind for this part of the transformation. Relief did eventually come when he fell unconscious. After a certain threshold of pain, the human body as a defense simply shuts the mind down till it can adjust to the new levels.
Several hours later, James did finally come around. A groan escaped his lips as he lay there on the stone floor; he was stiff, cold and ached from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. The last thing he wanted to do was move, but at the same time it was what he needed to do. Still he lay there for he didn't know how long, the pain radiating from every pour of his body. Sleep was what he wanted most of all, but his pain was too much for that any more. That was the funny thing about pain; at one threshold the body shuts down, yet at another the body did not allow the mind to turn off.
James let out another groan as he forced himself to move. He cringed at every movement, head spinning; if things just got a little worse, he would black out, like a light. His actions were about as slow as they were painful as he eventually found his way into a seated position. Once there, he didn't move with his arms propped on knees and his head in his hands. He paused to breath for a moment or two despite the fact that the stone floor was cold as ice against his bare skin. He needed to keep the rug for next time, maybe even his wand. That is what he needed right now, his clothes and his wand.
Taking in a hissing breath, he braced for the onslaught of pain that was to come, and he moved again. James finally staggered to his feet. He fell against his desk with a groan as he relied on it for support and he moved around to the drawer that held his wand. Slowly he pulled the drawer open, and with some effort to concentrate, he summoned his robes out of the other drawer to him, taking comfort in the warmth they provided. Once clothed James found himself collapsing into his desk chair. There was another painful groan that escaped his lips as he sat there for a time.
He needed to get back to his quarters; he had medicine there that would help with the pain. He also had a warm soft place to sleep. It was more than he had dreamed of having for the past several years. Honestly he could tell despite the intense pain that he was already doing better than if he had gone through the moon without the potion. He had not a scratch on him. While he struggled, it had not been the same as it was after a regular moon, and so he made himself move again. All he needed to do was make it to his quarters. Fortunately there was an internal Floo network that he could take advantage of; otherwise he never would have made it back to his quarters.
Stumbling out of the hearth, James bumped into the table there and let out another groan as he leaned on it for a moment, before he conjured the potions he needed so he could find the rest his body much needed. Once the potions were downed, James just made it to his bed where he collapsed and was unconscious within minutes, the potions already taking the edge off the pain and inducing sleep at the same time. There in bed was where he remained, not moving a muscle till there was a gentle rapping on his door. Slowly he stirred in response to the knocking, pushing to get up. He was feeling much better than he was before and was surprised a bit. He opened the door to see that it was Minerva standing there was a tray of food.
“I figured you could do with a spot of something to eat.”
Chapter 12: The Unexpected
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James was surprised at how quickly he found himself back on his feet after the moon. He had grown quite accustomed to being out for several days at a time while with the Wolfsbane it took no more than a day to be on his feet once more. Still, while he was feeling decently well compared to most other times, he opted to play up his being sick a little bit; when it came time for him to actually miss a day of classes because of his condition, there would hopefully be few questions as it would be a given understanding that his health had not been the best.
Despite it all, James was still dreading the coming days before the moon, not so much because of his condition but rather the fact those days included Halloween. For a large number of people it was a time of fun and celebration; it was less so for him. Halloween marked the anniversary of when he lost Lily, when he lost the life he once had. With all of that going on, the last thing he needed was to put up with was Snape barging in on him. How to address that particular annoyance was something that he had actually thought on for a time well before his focus started to turn to more depressing memories.
Determined to teach the Potions Master a lesson, James went all out in ensuring that he had a return of some of his privacy. It wasn’t hard to know the approximate time Snape would be dropping by. With this knowledge James found it convenient to be just coming out of the shower when the other man arrived.
Snape came in a sneer on his face as usual, at least until he realized what he had walked in on. Dripping wet and stark naked James looked at the other man with surprise.
“Severus! I completely forgot you were supposed to be dropping by with my potion.”
James stood stalk still as water continued to run down his scared skin and drip to the floor pooling a bit at his feet. He barely kept the smile from crossing his lips as Snape appeared to be quite uncomfortable standing there, averting his eyes.
“I suppose it is a week our after all. Funny how time flies. I appreciate you bringing me my potion.” James then gave a physical shake like a dog causing the water that still clung to his body to spray everywhere. It was enough to cause the other man to recoil a bit.
“Thanks,” he finally added with a smile as he walked over toward Snape and took the goblet from him. He knocked the potion back, exaggerating his posture giving Snape an extra eyeful. James was quick to drain the goblet not only because of the horrid taste but also because of the cold air against his still wet skin. His body gave an involuntary shudder that he covered up with another dog-like shake, ridding his hair and skin of additional water. He then turned to Snape and handed him the goblet.
“Same time tomorrow, yes?” he asked a bit brightly.
“Yes,” said Snape very simply. He took the goblet and left without another word.
James waited several minutes listening to the Potions Master’s retreating footsteps before he burst out laughing at what he had just done. Then he got his wand to properly dry himself and his now wet floor, before he got dressed.
It was good to laugh despite what the next day would bring. If this didn’t teach the other man a lesson in barging in on people, James wasn’t sure what would, save for a jinx direct to the face. He would wait and see what happened tomorrow.
At the very least, James was grateful that Halloween was falling on a Saturday. No mattered what happened with Snape he would at least have some peace and solitude. Of course, he was expecting the delivery of a Grindylow for his up coming lessons. It would help him keep occupied despite the memories that wanted to come flooding back to him.
James went all in working to set everything up for the creature he would be keeping. It helped to keep his mind off of things some. It wasn’t easy accommodating a dark creature. Most people did not make a habit of keeping a dark creature as a pet. The general consensus was to banish away said creatures. Of course, as a werewolf he was included in that sentiment.
He brushed that thought aside as he decided that most of what he needed to do was completed, and it was a good opportunity to take a break and having a bit of tea. As he moved to do just that he suddenly caught whiff of a scent that he knew all too well. He couldn't help himself but to speak his son's name before he moved toward the door of his office. He was surprised to catch Harry out and about the castle, particularly alone. What was he doing here? Particularly without his friends.
James expressed his thoughts on the matter only to receive an explanation that made all too much sense. This weekend was a Hogsmeade weekend and clearly Harry hadn’t discovered the secret passage to the village or wasn’t as much like he had been as a student. He could only imagine how hard it was on the poor boy not to be able to go. Still, there was a small part of him that was glad that Harry couldn't go. It was best that he not leave the castle for his own safety. However, sad look on his son’s face said a lot and it pained James. He wanted his son to have everything, but at the same time he wanted to keep him safe. Maybe a compromise with a distraction would work. He could do with more than just tea to occupy his mind now that the Grindylow was set up.
James invited Harry into his office to have some tea. He made a light joke about tea leaves which didn't go over as well as he would have liked. Maybe Sybil’s predictions were getting to Harry more than he let on. At the very least he could sense that there was something sitting heavy on his son. He could practically smell the uncertainty and concern coming off of Harry, and he didn't like it. He couldn't help but inquire.
However, the response that Harry gave him surprised him. The boggart? He was not expecting that in the least and was a bit slow to answer Harry as he tried to figure out what it was that was actually bothering his son. It was the fact that he didn't let him face the boggart? He had hoped by now that Harry would have figured it out.
"I assumed that if the boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Vodemort." James paused for only a moment reading the expression on Harry's face. "Clearly I was wrong."*
What Harry actually feared astounded James a little bit. Dementors. It was brilliant and heartening. Harry was afraid of fear itself and it spoke volumes of him. It also put James a little at ease to know that Harry was doing alright. His son was fine and dealing with things extraordinarily well. It made him proud as he finally pin-pointed the true reason of Harry's worry. He had been concerned that he was considered incompetent. It was too good to be true. He really was just like him. He would have hated if someone thought him to be inept, particularly at the age Harry was now.
Harry started to talk more on the Dementors but suddenly there was a knock at the door, which was quite surprising to say the least. James beckoned for whomever it was to enter, and lo and behold it was Snape having knocked before barging in. He couldn't help the smile that played on his face.
"Ah, Severus. Thanks very much. Could you leave it here on my desk for me?"* His gratitude wasn't so much spoken for the potion, but for the fact that the man actually knocked. While he knew Snape liked to stay and watch him suffer the potion he would rather not play their games with Harry in the room. It was clear that Snape's hatred for him as James had passed down to his son Harry. His son did have a very strong likening to himself as a child.
James tried to change the topic of conversation some to explain why Harry was there, but Snape insisted on mentioning a number of things regarding the potion and James tried to play it casual. Was the man really trying to start something now? None of this information was new to him, but he played it nice thanking the other man once again which seemed to help end the conversation and send the other man off.
Of course, it was no surprise to James that Harry’s feelings toward Snape were mutual. He didn’t blame his son, but at the same time it was one thing for Harry to hate Snape as a professor than it was for him to have hated Snape as a peer. He also knew it was far too easy to let out his past resentments toward the now Potions Master out to his son. In some ways it was the last thing he needed to do and it could very easily lead to other things that must not ever be said, such as who he really was. James found it wise to cut the conversation short and state that he had more work to do. It was a convenient lie, but one he could tell that would send Harry on his way. Damn, why did the boy have to take after him so much? He would say that taking more after Lily would have been better for Harry, but she had quite the temper herself. Merlin, he missed her.
James moved about his office cleaning up the tea and verifying that things were secure with the Grindylow. He didn’t want it to have any unexpected visitors. It was far too easy for an ill-prepared student to stumble upon it, even if it was a Hogsmeade weekend.
With the proper wards in place, he returned to the privacy of his quarters. Once there he did what he knew wasn’t in his best interest. He dug out one of the few possessions he inherited from Remus. It was an old and worn scrapbook. They were memories that were gathered by his now passed away friend, but they had deep meaning for him as well as he recalled some of the better times between himself and his friends. Some of the pictures even included James as he was with Lily. As he passed over the old pictures he allowed the emotions of the day encompass him as well.
What was he doing here? Why was he still alive? Why was he Remus? It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair. No one should suffer this sort of pain. In some ways Remus was the lucky one; he died and didn’t have to carry this loss like he did. Shaking his head, James closed the photo book. He let out a shuddering sigh as he put it away. He could feel the tears streaking his own face. This was no way to appear at the Hogwarts feast, an emotional mess. He cursed himself silently for caving in to look over the past and got himself together to attend the feast, as he knew was expected of him.
If there was one thing that could be said of James it was that he was able to act one way while feeling the other. So while he still felt a bit tumultuous inside he was able to present a pleasant façade on the outside and quite honestly found the feast to be a welcome distraction for his less than pleasant thoughts. When the feast drew to a close James knew that he was going to be faced with his thoughts along once more, but Minerva came over to speak with him.
“How are you doing Remus?” There was a sadness and concern etched on her face. While James’ affection for his former Head of House had been increasing, in this moment he absolutely adored the woman and was touched by her thoughtfulness and consideration. Not only was Minerva concerned about him and what the day meant for him, but she was still morning the loss of her former students.
“I am managing, as I always do,” James produced a small reassuring smile for his former professor who seemed like she was going to say more before a sly voice broke in cutting her off.
“Minerva. As much as I hate to intrude I do need to speak with you about a particular student of yours.”
“Who might that be this time Severus?”
“Gudgeon – he’s taking far too much after his father.”
“I am aware of the situation Severus and I am handling it presently. Is there anything else?”
“Is this an impromptu staff meeting that I wasn’t made aware of?” asked Dumbledore with a small almost mischievous smile on his lips looking between the three that were standing there. Yet no sooner had the words escaped his lips that the smile vanished from the Headmaster’s face replaced with a look of concern and he turned on his heel.
His actions caused a brief moment between the other three as they exchanged looks before they opted to follow Dumbledore. James led the way because he could sense that something was not right; it emanated off of Dumbledore and that did not put him at ease in the least.
As the four of them moved through the castle they came across a young Gryffindor fifth year Prefect girl.
"Professors!" she said exasperated and without additional words. Minerva placed a hand gently on her shoulder acknowledging that they were on their way and aware something was going on. It was easy to tell by the large group of students all standing outside the entrance to the Gryffindor common room something was wrong.
Dumbledore cause the sea of students to part as James, Minerva and Severus followed behind him. As they slowed following at a few paces behind the Headmaster they paused seeing the portrait. As they stood there, James could smell something more than the unease that was coming off of the students. It was subtle, as if he should know the scent and yet he couldn't put his finger on it.
While he tried to figure it out Dumbledore addressed Peeves who seemed to know something that was going on. He wasn't paying too much attention as his mind chewed not only on the smell, but what would have caused it and what it meant when Peeves' last words struck him like a slap in the face.
"Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black."*
*Quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban first edition paper back p 155, 156 and 161
Chapter 13: The Search
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The castle was empty and devoid of Sirius. It was a fact that did not sit well with James; it sat about as poorly with him as the idea that his former friend had made into the castle and all the way up to the Gryffindor tower. While the staff conducted a full search floor by floor of the castle, James took a more 'logical' approach: he went straight for the passages and places the man would possibly use and hole up in. If there was anyone who knew the castle as well as James, it was Sirius. While they were in school they found all the short cuts and all the best places to hide from the caretaker or a wandering prefect, particularly when they weren't using the invisibility cloak. In the end, though, there wasn't a trace of Sirius to be found, not even a good scent to trail. There were too many other smells mixed in the air, from the scent of students to that of their pets. At one point he thought he caught something that might have been Sirius, but it was impossible to pick up.
When his search of the castle and the most logical places that Sirius would hole up turned out to be fruitless, James went to the next logical place: the Whomping Willow, which had been undisturbed. The musty smell of passage told James everything; Sirius came in via the Forbidden Forest. He could have been hiding most anywhere in there. While the Forest was dangerous for most any student and even provided a good number of challenges for a fully trained wizard, Sirius was one of few people who would find the anonymity of the Forest to be safe and the dangers not to be too much of a challenge. They had all spent enough time in that Forest on a full moon that the paths were almost as familiar of that of the castle. Of course the Forest changed more than the stair cases did as it was comprised of living creatures, but the signs of the centaurs was easy enough to pick up on and the safe places were easy to spot.
James took a moment to stare at the Forest and scanned it for any sign of Sirius as a human or a dog, which had an advantage in the Forest against the creatures of the terrain. He saw nothing. Where was his most likely access point? Finding a good place James followed his instincts. He had to find Sirius. He had to put an end to things. It was almost too much to consider that Sirius was back to finish the job on the anniversary of when he ruined his life. James wanted revenge and spent the entire night in the Forest searching, trying to find the other man with no luck.
It was only in the wee hours of the morning that James thought of the one thing he didn't consider, that his mad rage had blinded him to: the Marauder's Map. They had allowed it be confiscated in their seventh year in hopes that another young prodigy like them would nick it and learn from them. Anyone smart enough to steal it would have the brains to unlock the map. Still that was beside the point; it could still be in Filch's office. So looking worse for wear James entered into the castle and made his way for the caretaker's office. It was to his fortune that neither Filch nor his cat was there as he broke into the file marked 'highly dangerous'. Unfortunately the map wasn't there and James knew what he needed now was to get what little rest he could afford himself.
Sleeping only a few hours, James cleaned himself up as he mentally reviewed everything from the night before. Was there some place that he missed? Had he covered every option? What if Sirius made an attempt again? Last night had proved one thing: the castle wasn’t impenetrable. If it had been any other night and Harry hadn’t been in his dorm, Sirius would have had him. The mere thought made bile rise in his chest. He couldn't just sit still; his wolf nature and troubling thoughts both demanded that he move and so he took to pacing his quarters as the evening hours started settled in. His mind endlessly turned over the situation as if it were a puzzle box. He started to get the feeling that there was a possibility that he needed to mention the secret passages. Not to mention the fact that Sirius could take the form of a dog, and knew of the Shrieking Shack as well as the weakness of the Whomping Willow. At the same time, by doing such it would betray the memory of Remus. These were secrets that Remus had kept and how could he so easily betray the man who had lain down his life for him and his son? The feelings left a shard of ice running through him. He was stuck in between a rock and a hard place.
His train of thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door, eliciting a sound of disgust before he spoke up with a rather terse tone. "Come in."
When Snape billowed into the room, James closed his eyes for a moment and regretted his manner. It wasn't a matter that he took issue with being less than cordial with the Potions Master; it was more that he was tipping his hand and revealing he was already bothered and on edge. It was showing weakness to the other man, a thing that James was sure he would take advantage of.
Snape paused briefly and gave James a bit of a look before setting the Wolfsbane potion down as if he was eager to get it out of his hands. "I am surprised you are still here, Lupin."
James bit his tongue desiring to keep his already thinning temper in check. "Why is that?"
"I would think that to be obvious. It is no secret that you were not present during the search for Black, let alone within the walls of the castle. Out helping a certain fugitive friend of yours?"
Despite using every ounce of his will power to keep the wolf at bay, Snape had just crossed the line and James found himself was acting before he could fully stop himself. He lunged forward ready to make physical contact with the other man. He just kept himself from raising his fist but found himself invading personal space as he let out a snarl, keeping his fist clenched so tight his knuckles were turning white. "How dare you! Black took everything I had! I am the last person to help him."
Unwavering, Snape met James' murderous glare with a deadly one of his own. "Watch yourself, Lupin. You may have the Headmaster fooled, but I am not. Don't forget that I still make your potions, which you should drink. I also hold the ear of a few school governors. I wouldn’t want to accidentally let something slip."
James took in a deep breath willing himself to back down and away from the Potions Master. He picked up the concoction and downed it in almost one go before handing back the goblet. Though the words placed a bile taste worse than the potion itself in his mouth, he said them anyway. "Thank you, Severus. I will see you tomorrow night."
Snape snatched the goblet from James with a sneer before he turned to go without a word, leaving James standing there stalk-still as the door slammed shut. When he was sure the other man was gone James turned and punched the top of his table, finally exerting the energy he had been working so hard to contain.
What did the git know anyways? His hand throbbed with pain as he tried to shake it out, returning to his pacing. His heart was still racing and was practically in his throat as his mind turned inward. What was he doing here? He hadn't exactly done much to protect Harry; that much was obvious. He was worthless. He wasn't a father and he was hardly anything to his son than just another teacher among many. Then there was the danger of being there at the castle. The risks being a werewolf in the school were only compounded by the fact that he was a bleeding teacher for Merlin's sake! One word about that and he was out. Maybe he needed to resign? Surely he could do more to protect Harry from outside the castle than inside it. He knew Sirius had to be nearby, it was just a matter of ferreting him out. Really it was going to be game over anyway after this coming moon.
James shook his head at himself and acted on impulse alone. He left his quarters and took the fastest route he knew to Dumbledore's office. The staircase didn't hesitate to open itself to him as he spoke the password. If he hadn't been so upset, he might have paused to appreciate the oddity of being freely admitted to the Headmaster's office like this, but the thought didn't even cross his mind.
When he opened the door which he failed to knock on James was greeted by the ever-calm voice of the Headmaster. "I must admit, Remus, I am a bit surprised to not have seen you sooner."
Dumbledore looked up from his knitting, over his half-moon spectacles, pleasant and expectant expression on his face. "Would you care for a raspberry cream?"
The response he received actually left James a bit dumbfounded. He stood there in the entrance hand on the door and started at the overly calm man.
"You were expecting me?"
The older man gave a silent incline of his head setting down the knitting that was in his hands. The project in far too early stages for James to make out what it was. He stepped further into the office and took one of the creams absentmindedly. He didn't even know that the man knew how to knit.
"I imagine that the events of last night have not settled well with you."
If there was ever an understatement of the year, that certainly had to be it. "You could say that," answered James swallowing the candy rather quickly and taking a seat.
Dumbledore gave a nod of his head.
"Sirius made it into the castle!"
"Indeed, a very unfortunate occurrence. It is something that is being looked into. In the interim, we have a new portrait who will be just as vigilant as the last. There is very little chance that Sirius will make his way into the common room while Harry is in there."
"That doesn't cover when he's not in the tower."
"The entire staff is aware of the situation and is doing their part to ensure Harry's as well as the rest of the student's safety. I have also added a few additional wards to the school's existing protections."
"That's not good enough Dumbledore!" snapped James suddenly standing up. He gestured toward the window, "I should be out there! Looking for him. He's in the area. I, of all people, may be able to figure out where he is holed up and stop things before he seizes another opportunity to do something more than simply damage a portrait and give the entire student body a good scare. Does Harry even know what kind of danger he's in?"
"You serving here on staff is in Harry's best interest, Remus. You are best equipped to protect him here in the castle should the worst happen again. As to Harry being aware of what is going on, I am certain he'll get a feeling something is going on as we all act in his best interest to protect him. I plan to speak with Minerva for her to make him aware of the situation. I know he has a way of taking after his father and wandering the halls. It might do well for Harry to know more of who you are as well."
James turned from looking at the window to look Dumbledore in the eyes. His mind began racing. Surely he wasn't saying what he thought! His heart was in his throat. Tell Harry who he was? That certainly gave him pause, and his building anger about the whole situation ebbed once more.
"You - you think that wise?"
Dumbledore gave an inclination of his head. "It might do Harry well to know that a family friend is watching over him, particularly one who is looking out for him. Remind him of how it might be wise to not go looking for trouble. Words of wisdom from a trusted friend are better received than those coming from another authority figure for a young mind. From my understanding, Harry has come to trust you."
James' heart plummeted. Of course, that is what Dumbledore meant. It was the only thing he could have meant. He was Remus and could be no one else. Why had he even thought of anything other than being what he was, Remus John Lupin?
"Of course. I hadn’t realized I had built such a rapport with Harry. Still, there may not be much opportunity left. The moon is fast approaching. I'll be missing classes. It doesn't take much to figure out what I am. Sirius and - James figured it out by second year. You aren't training up fools here; they are a sharp group of students."
"You have done a wonderful job building things up in regards to your health, Remus. Your skills at deception have increased since you were a student here, your symptoms are less apparent, your recovery time is protracted and it will be arranged with the rest of the staff to cover your lessons during their free periods. There is little to worry about."
Chapter 14: The After Effects
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The thought of the coming moon was akin to the thought of a death march for James as he made preparations as best as he could. He had a cold sinking feeling the entire day leading up to the moon as he tried to play up the concept of being sick. This was no easy task considering that the day of a full moon he was probably at peak physical condition despite being on edge. It was one of the reasons why he and Sirius were able to figure out Remus' secret and see through his feeble excuses. Would it be the same here? He knew he had a number of bright students, and he wouldn't put it past them to put two and two together.
Still the moon came and went as usual, and he spent that Friday's classes sleeping off the effects of his curse. It was a bit rougher than he would have liked and he couldn't help but wonder if Snape tweaked the Wolfsbane a bit. He was going to have to remember to watch it with Potions Master. He really didn't want a repeat of this, and took the following Saturday to mend and sleep a bit more rather than going to see Harry's match. His health simply did not permit it. While missing the match shouldn't have been a problem it quickly became one as Dementors happened to attend the match. Luckily Dumbledore was in attendance, saving Harry's life.
The Headmaster was livid. Harry was safe, nearly unharmed save for the usual brand of Quidditch injuries. Yet the unwanted guardians of Hogwarts were not welcome on the school grounds itself and this particular situation added to Dumbledore's argument to keep them where they were. Of course, while the situation did not sit well with James it seemed that his being beckoned to the Headmaster's office was not simply to discuss the Dementor situation, but another issue that had begun to arise.
"Remus, I have heard word that the werewolves had grown a bit restless as of late," spoke Dumbledore, his face still pinched with the emotions of the day.
James didn't speak because he wasn't sure where the other man was going with the information. He couldn't integrate back in with the wolves and still be a professor there in the school. Being among the wolves was the last place James wanted to be, not to mention last he heard he was not welcome among the wolves of England unless he bit another, preferably a child.
"It may be nothing of course, but there could more to it."
When James didn't speak yet again, Dumbledore continued. "I would like you to look into it."
"Headmaster, if I go to join the werewolves and then I will not be here for Harry. Not to mention the ultimatum they last gave me."
"I do not mean for you to re-join with the werewolves at this time. However, I would request that you take the time to sniff around over the holidays and see what you can learn of things without getting to close or involved."
A cold feeling sunk in the pint of James' gut. It was bad enough having to spend the Christmas holiday transformed, it was even worse having to spend it out in the cold. Would he be expected to give up his regular potion for this task?
As though Dumbledore read his mind spoke once more. "I believe it would be best if you are in your right mind for the task. As such I will speak with Severus to see what needs to be done to accomplish this.
James nodded his head. While the situation was not ideal, if the wolves were getting restless then they needed to know why. The thought rested heavily with James until Monday when classes resumed. The reports from his students about their substitutes came back positive save for his Gryffindor third years who took it upon themselves to speak against Snape, without his prompting even. It amused him in many ways, though James did not appreciate the fact that Snape was trying lead the students into discovering what he was.
There was a slight instinct to want to deck the man; it paled in comparison to how the rest of him felt, which was exhausted still. He knew that in some ways he had egged the Potions Master on having quite near decked him - still he had no right. Seeing as physical violence was not an answer for many reasons, starting with exhaustion and ending with his needing to keep his post here at Hogwarts, despite how he entertained the idea of chasing after Sirius. What Dumbledore said about being here for Harry was very true. Hence the reason why when class ended he asked Harry to hold a moment.
Of course the first thing he thought to ask about was Harry's broom. He had heard about it but didn't know what sort of damage was done to it. Also he had a feeling it was a good start to making casual conversation with his son, something he had only achieved the once and it had in a way felt awkward, all things considered. Still talking about Harry's broom didn't amount for much considering that the Whomping Willow took it out. James let out a sigh; the broom was utterly destroyed. There was a part of James that wished he could take care of it for his son, but his funds were extremely tight and he could scarcely afford for himself. At least Harry was set having inherited the family funds, something that as Remus he himself did not have access to.
Then Harry opened up and asked about the Dementors. It caused James to suddenly look up at Harry from the books he was gathering into a briefcase. He didn't think his son would open up to him like that, but apparently Dumbledore was right that Harry had taking a shine to him. He continued the conversation by asking if they were the reason that Harry had fell. This led to Harry asking a question that James didn't expect and it caused his heart to break a bit for his son.
"Why? Why do they affect me like that? Am I just – ?"*
James was quick to break Harry off. He knew exactly where his son was going with that question and he wasn't going to stand for it. His son was not weak. What happened with the Dementors had nothing to do with some perceived weakness. He knew that from personal experience in some respects; Dementors affected him worse now than they did in the past, because of the horrors in his past. Harry has the same, and James did his best to explain that to his son. He needed to know just what sort of foul creature he was up against. Fainting was nothing, considering everything that Harry had been through. There was little to be ashamed of on Harry's part and James wished in some way that he could take this burden away from his son, but sadly there was little he could do. Harry was the target of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and that included Sirius Black. The least he could do would be everything in his power to protect his son.
"When they get near me – I can hear Voldemort murdering my mum."*
That particular revelation hit James particularly hard. He moved without thinking and reached out to Harry to place his hand on his shoulder. He heard the death of Lily? That hit James hard and he felt his heart try to break out of his chest. He stopped himself from trying to embrace Harry and schooled his face not to show his real emotions. As silence enveloped the two of them for a few moments, James tried to focus on his briefcase. He didn't know what to say or offer to Harry. An urge to tell Harry that he wasn't alone in his pain briefly surged through James, but Harry turned the topic back to Qudditch and Dementors. It was the lifeline that James needed to get out of his thoughts and feelings of heartbreak; he figuratively snapped them shut as he did the same with his brief case.
He opted to do the teacher-like thing in the moment and explain why the Dementors came to the match, and that led to an explanation of Azkaban and how inmates tend to go crazy.
"But Sirius Black escaped from them. He got away..."*
The words hit James like a ton of bricks as his briefcase slipped off is desk, stooping quickly to catch it before it landed on the floor. Why hadn't he thought of this before? Sirius had to have figured a way to defeat the Dementors without a Patronus. It was something that shouldn't have been possible. How had he managed it? Dementors were supposed to drain a wizard not only of their sanity, but their powers as well. That realization terrified James on some level. He didn't let that show however as he spoke with Harry, expressing only of his thoughts. He was going to have to continue to mull over them on his later. Now wasn't the time, as Harry was pointing out how there was indeed a defense against Dementors as he himself proved on the train. This line of conversation of course led to Harry asking about getting lessons on how to do the same.
That was no easy task. The Patronus Charm was a high-level spell, OWL level, and there was no expectation to produce a proper Patronus even then. It was a spell that many witches and wizards could not accomplish. It wasn't just a matter of wand work, but also force of mind and will. Honestly James had a feeling that there was even a spiritual element to it, yet as he hesitated he could see the determined look on Harry's face. There was no denying the boy.
James relented and agreed, but asked to wait till after the holidays, considering there were many end of the year task he needed to see to, chiefly preparing to spy on the other werewolves. He also needed to figure out how to best teach and train Harry on this. He wasn't about to lead Harry to believe that producing a Patronus in a safe environment was anywhere near the same facing off against the real thing, not that he even began to entertain the idea of using a real Dementor. He would have to thinking on that. Still, Harry went on his way seemingly encouraged by the thought of getting lessons to ward against Dementors and James couldn't help the small smile that played on his lips as he left his classroom shortly after his son. Maybe there was something he could do for his son aside from being here to protect him.
The smile did not last long on James' lips as he accidentally bumped into another body, not having paid full attention to his surroundings. A rare occurrence considering his abilities due to being a werewolf, but it did happen on occasion.
"Professor Lupin," said a light and airy tone. "I don't think we have had the pleasure to properly meet."
James blinked, not readily familiar with the person who spoke to him. "Your presence was missing from the pre-term staff meeting – due to illness was it? I hear that is still a problem is it not?"
"Yes. I'm sorry we have not had the pleasure of meeting Professor Trelawny," offered James politely being quick to deduce who it was he was speaking to. "I do regret I was not able to make the staff meeting. I've had had a rather weak constitution since I was fairly young."
"Yes, I saw that when crystal gazing not long ago. I don't foresee your illness ending well for you, I'm afraid. Then again I wasn't able to get a very clear reading. If you would like we can move this conversation to the divination tower where I can get a better reading for you."
"That is very kind of you, Professor, but I think I will pass on having you crystal gaze for me," politely declined James. He wasn't exactly fond of the art of divination. The practice was quite questionable to begin with, and of course there was the prophecy that caused him to lose his family. Then the icing on the caldron cake was the matter that this was the woman who was tormenting Harry with ludicrous predictions of his death.
"Please, you can all me Sybill. You sure you won't join me ah –" she broke off realizing that she did not have his name which James supplied. "Remus. I'm sure it would be most enlightening."
"Thank you, Sybill, but I actually must get going," explained James as he suddenly saw Severus cross over into another corridor. He quickly moved past to quickly try and catch up with the Potions master.
He moved around the corner quick enough and was able to catch up to the other man. "Severus, I need to have a word with you."
"How am I not surprised?" came the bored drawl.
"What was the idea behind teaching my third year Gryffindor's about werewolves?" James made no plays at being something other than cross.
"You failed to leave any lesson notes, Lupin. I was forced to improvise. Their education is distinctly lacking in that area. Not avoiding things for your personal convenience are we?"
"You didn't even look for my notes, Severus. They were on the left hand side of my desk and I'm told my students tried to tell you where we had left off in their lessons. I have canceled the assignment you posed to my class and advise you keep to potion making."
*Quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban first edition paper back p187 & p188
Chapter 15: The Holiday
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The week Christmas came to pass James was roughing it once more. It wasn’t the ideal way to spend the holidays and yet here he was. At least it wasn’t the worst Christmas he had spent. He had a few more comforts now than when he had been stuck on his own and had no job or real source of income. This time he had food, a warm coat, and most important of all, he had his potion. Snape had managed a way for the potion to stay fresh while he was not in the castle. Of course, he had been warned that while it should theoretically still work there would be a slight drop in the potency of the potion. Unfortunately, it seemed that it was a risk James was going to have to take.
As Dumbledore had asked, James found himself looking into the activities of the wolves keeping to the outskirts of their territory and poking around a bit. He had made zero contact and tried his best to keep his tracks covered. There was not much to be found, looking from the outside in, but the risk was too great to get any closer. After spending hours out in the cold digging for information, James found himself once more empty handed. There was nothing to be found and he got the distinct feeling that given much longer he would be discovered, and there was no telling what would happen then.
With fingers numb, James made way for his cleverly disguised tent. It looked like little more than a moss covered rock with a burrow for a small animal. It was sized just enough for him to fit through and charmed to ward off any wayward animals, not that his own scent as a predator was that welcoming or inviting to creatures of prey. However, on the inside of the tent was a small space with a stove for cooking and heating on one side and a bed on the other. It wasn’t much as there was no room for any additional occupants, a table, or any extra frivolities save the contents of a nap sack but it was enough to suit him. The best part to James was that the place was warm. He looked forward to thawing out, attempting to get some rest before the moon rose, and returning to Dumbledore with his meager, albeit lacking report the next day.
However, James’ train of thought was broken as he approached the location of his tent. It was not hard to tell something was awry. The contents of his knapsack were scattered outside the tent and there was a particular scent that permeated the air. He knew that smell anywhere, it had been ages, but he knew in a heartbeat who it was. Bigsby.
James rushed forward and rescued the potion vial with Wolfsbane that was discarded, yet still intact, and pocketed it. He wasn’t able to worry about the rest of his ‘things’ at the moment considering he was not alone.
“Remus! It has been far too long!” called the other werewolf a dark grin on his face. James knew that Remus had called this man a friend of sorts as Bigsby had been his ‘in’ and did help out some. At the time it seemed that Bigsby was all about keeping his head down and trying to get by. He was a newer werewolf then, still trying to learn the ropes and cope with his condition. Now however, it seemed that the other man had come into his own and practically embraced his new life. There was a distinct wildness about him that wasn’t there before.
“Bigsby,” answered James in a somewhat distant tone working to keep his reservation about the werewolf before him hidden. “It has indeed been a long time.”
“That’s it? No warm words for an old friend? Is that what happened when you left Remus? You went back to being some sort of pet for the normal people? You reek of them.” A sneer played across the man’s face, disgusted by James’ smell.
“Not initially no,” answered James, there was no denying the scent of non-wolves on him and he wasn’t going to pretend to deny it.
“What are you doing here Remus?”
“Just checking in on things. Never know when certain arrangements will go south.”
Bigsby let out a cold harsh laugh. “Sure.”
“So what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, old friend?” tried James changing the topic. There was no good reason for Bigsby being there.
“One can’t drop in on a friend for a friendly hello?” The question while innocent enough dripped with malice.
“Of course, but I have the feeling that this is more than just a social call.”
Another bitter bark of mirth. “Can’t pull the wool over your eyes, Lupin.”
James stood motionless. He did not want to engage Bigsby in a fight, which the man seemed more than ready for, but he was ready to pull his wand if needed.
“Rhia sent me, she caught your scent and wishes to know why you are here.”
“You can tell her what I told you.” James moved to pick up a pot he had been using to cook his food.
“I don’t think you seem to understand.”
James looked at Bigsby as he leered. His movement and posturing were that of a challenging competitor. There was an internal growling inside James that he worked to ignore. His ‘territory’ had been encroached upon but he wasn’t going to rise to the challenge, so he kept from speaking and gave Bigsby a curious look.
“Rhea wants to see you in person, and it is best not to turn her down.”
James gave a nod of his head and set the pot he had picked up back down. “I suppose I should get going then. I don’t want to keep her waiting.” James paused after taking a few steps, turning back to look at the other man. “Just so you know Bigsby, if there is something of mine you want or need, all you had to do was ask and I would have been happy to have given it to you.”
Bigsby gave a disgusted snort of derision in response and James left it at that. He knew the path to Rhea because he had been watching things from afar and could follow her scent; it was distinct and easy to pick up.
While her present residence was no longer the one where he had initially met Rhea, she still had a bit of a shanty with a proper roof and door. The wolf pack had to move for obvious reasons, but wherever it went Rhea always had one of the better accommodations. While the location was different, the inside of her hut was the same: a chair, a table, and a shabby mattress. James didn’t question how things were transported, there were ways and as a type of leader of the pack, magic was probably more forgivable for her to use than it was for him when he had been living among the wolves. Still, the focus wasn’t on the furnishings and state of the place, but rather on Rhea who seemed to have been pacing, stopping the moment he let himself in.
“Remus! Fancy seeing you here.” There was a silken tone in her voice that one could read as pleasure, but James knew just by her stance, the look in her eyes and a smell radiating off of her, that she was more like a snake ready to strike but first trying to lure its prey in.
“Hello, Rhea.” James kept his tone even and himself guarded for the woman who stood across from him could lash out at any moment for any reason.
“You know it is been far too long since we’ve seen your face around these parts. How have you been keeping yourself? Running back to your human masters, the very ones who spurned you once before?”
“For the past several years I lived abroad roaming between the domestic packs of France.”
“How did that turn out?” There was an edge to Rhea’s voice that told James she knew exactly how that turned out. Packs were not welcoming to outsiders and while they knew nothing of him, of how he became a werewolf or his living conditions before arriving, he was a foreigner and in a lot of ways that was enough to mark him as unwanted. There was a reason why he was wasn’t with his own kind in his own homeland, that was enough.
“It was middling. I scraped by a living.”
“And now you have returned,” said Rhea gesturing with her hands, a smile on her face that was utterly false. She lowered her hands and the act of being pleased started to slip. “However, you didn’t return to us, Remus, which leads me to question where you have been and what you have been up to.”
“That should be fairly obvious.” James knew that he smelt of humans and the comfort he had been living in.
Rhea clasped her hands together, fingers interlacing save for her index fingers which she left extended. She pressed them to her lips in thought.
“That indeed it is,” she said. There was another pause. “What I fail to understand is why you have gone back to those that once spurned you. Have you gone soft? Why haven’t you brought the new convert into our fold? If I recall correctly I had told you that without it, your welcome would not remain intact. I also fail to understand why you are camping on my doorstep, skulking about like you are up to something.”
James opened his mouth to speak, however, Rhea lifted a hand to pause his words. “I would choose what you say next very carefully, Remus.”
There was a deadly threat in that sentence and James regretted coming and agreeing to Dumbledore request. Dumbledore - that just might be the key to getting out of this alive as what he had told Bigsby was not going to hold in this instance.
“I came at the behest of Albus Dumbledore.”
“Dumbles?” asked Rhea in shock and mirth, before her words turned sharp. “What does that old coot want?”
“He is still seeking the same alliance and friendship that he was asking for all those years ago.”
“The war is over and the Dark Lord is gone. What use does the man have with werewolves? I would think we are beneath him, no longer being a piece contested for by both sides.”
“You know Professor Dumbledore. He doesn’t always give his reasoning.”
“Yes, but his lap dog does as he commands, always eager to please…” Rhea trailed off and stepped closer to James her hand trailing on his chest. “Hoping for a pat on the head or scratch behind the ear, Remus?”
James didn’t respond knowing the question was rhetorical.
Rhea then slapped James in the face causing his head to turn. While the blow hurt a good deal, James didn’t react beyond turning his head back to face the woman that stood before him. There was a wolf instinct to pounce on her as well but he was in control of it, thanks in part to the potions he took. Rhea pointed her finger in his face and fixed him with a glare.
“Don’t think for one minute that they will keep you. Once they are done with you, they will cast you aside and it won’t be the first time. Just know that if it happens again, you have no welcome here. So I suggest you find a new place to spend the night. However, if you are looking for a way to return…” Rhea’s tone turned back to sensual once more her pointed finger turning to stroke the side of his face. She then moved closer still body nearly pressing against him causing a different wolf sensibility to rear its head. A few beats passed as the she wolf lingered and moved around James so that she stood behind him hands still lingering. I caused James to nearly drop his guard before her nails turned vicious digging into his shoulders, no doubt leaving their mark. “You know the terms.”
Chapter 16: The Return
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After speaking to Rhea, James was quick to return to his tent to pack up and move out, only to find that all that he had with him had been torched. The remains of the tent stood in smoldering ruins; there was nothing left to salvage. It made James appreciative of the fact that he had rescued his potion and kept his wand on him at all times.
If Rhea’s words had not been enough to convince him to move on, this would have been. With nothing left to gather, James turned on the spot and Apparated himself at the Shrieking Shack. He didn’t expect to find himself there ever again, but he opted for the Shack over returning to Hogwarts simply due to the question regarding the potency of his potion. He did not want to put anyone at risk and the Shack was one of the most secure locations not in werewolf territory. It was also one of few places available on short notice just in case things with the potion went south.
Dutifully taking his potion, James prepared for the worst, setting added charms to rebuff any wayward soul who might dare to enter the shack. Dumbledore had done a good job of scaring people off of the place back when Remus was in school, but James was not going to leave things to chance considering how it had been several long years since he and Remus were in school. Then he packed his wand and waited for his transformation to take place.
Fortunately, the potion did its job and he kept his mind, but the wolf like instincts did play a little more strongly. He wanted to go poking around smelling and howl at the moon, but he was able to resist those urges. He wondered if there had been any studies done on the effects of older potion that was magically preserved for a time to keep fresh. It was something he might consider writing to Belby about, in case the man was continuing his research. However, that was another task for another night considering that he was distinctly lacking opposable thumbs at this point.
When morning came, the sun crested through the dingy shack windows and James let out a groan. Okay, so the potion worked to keep him in his right mind even if he had a few additional urges, but the pain was increased. He would have to remember that. It was best not to work with preserved potions, but at the same time, some people had little choice.
It took a bit of time for James to gather the strength and energy to get up and make his way through the tunnel back to Hogwarts grounds. He was fortunate that it was still holiday break and there were no students around to spot him slowly making his way to the castle and entering the hospital wing which was deserted. It seemed that Madam Pomfrey had taken leave for the holiday as well, considering how there were so few students left at Hogwarts this winter break. He knew where her potion stores were and knew what he needed to medicate himself before heading to his quarters to get some much-needed rest before going to see Dumbledore.
While he had slept solidly, James still felt like a cleaning rag that had been wrung out a little too much. Still, he somehow found the strength to push himself up the long flight of stairs to see the headmaster. He was not looking forward to this meeting at all considering he had not gone unnoticed. There was no new information and the threats of the past stood even stronger now than they did before. James raised his hand to knock on the door when his ears picked up the voice of the Headmaster beckoning him to come in.
“You were expecting me?” James knew that Dumbledore wasn’t all-knowing, as that was a feat no man could obtain, but every once in a while he was left with the feeling that the older wizard just might be omniscient.
“With the present state of things, I’ve made a habit of watching the less known entrances into the Hogwarts grounds.”
Did that mean Dumbledore was actually aware of all the entrances into the school? Did he need to mention them? James ran through his memories of the paths. There were three out of the school: the Whomping Willow which Dumbledore was watching, the one that was caved in and the witches hump that came out at Honeydukes. It was easy enough slipping in and out of that one with the invisibility cloak and to blend in as students, but Sirius’ face was known by all and dogs could not go into the sweet shop. It was fine, he didn’t need to mention that and then deal with all the questions of how he knew, etcetera.
Deciding the other paths weren’t worth mentioning James gave a nod of understanding and Dumbledore continued speaking. “I take this to mean your visit with the other werewolves did not go so well and you had to see out alternative means for the moon?”
“You could say that.” A grimace played across James’ face as the other man looked at him expectantly to continue on. Letting out a sigh James recounted everything that had happened while he was gone.
“So the friend Re-I had garnered from before is no longer,” James pressed his lips together. It was the first time in a long while he had slipped and almost referred to an event as something Remus did rather than himself. It was fortunate that it was to Dumbledore rather than someone else but it was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened all the same. “I’m sorry I guess I’m more fatigued than I first thought.”
James did not miss the look that he was given for the near miss. It had been years, nearly a decade and he hadn’t missed yet. Answering to the name Remus was second nature, but at the same time deep down he wasn’t Remus, still, he continued to play the part, and the headmaster continued on as if the slip didn’t happen.
“It is unfortunate that a friend has been lost. I know Bigsby was a strong potential ally. I also regret that the werewolves are still on guard. I had hoped that without an apparent threat of war an olive branch would be more readily accepted as it would not appear that they are a pawn in some greater scheme.”
James frowned at this remark. “The werewolves are more than just a pawn in some game of war.” Surely Dumbledore wasn't viewing them as that, was he?
“They are more. However, should things turn for the worse like I fear they will, I will not deny that they would make a powerful ally. The treatment of the werewolves in the magical community has been abysmal, though. You, Remus, are proof that the actions of most werewolves are a result of nurture rather than nature. Society has cast the werewolves as evil monsters. What choice do most have but to fulfill that prophesy?”
It was true in some respects. James knew from his own experiences in Remus’ shoes that it was so easy to fall into the role that the world tried to cast for him. He couldn’t hold judgment against most of those in the werewolf community; it was why he even didn’t hold a grudge against Bigsby. Of course, there were a few exceptions who made werewolves as a whole look bad, such as Fenrir, but just like there were truly evil humans like Voldemort there was similar among werewolves. “You are right.”
Dumbledore gave a soft smile before his face turned more serious once more causing James’ brow to furrow.
“Before I send you on your way to get what I am certain is some much-needed rest, I wanted to mention a rather interesting development that has occurred here at the castle while you were away.”
“Everything is alright with Harry, isn’t it?”
“Yes, yes Harry is quite alright though he may presently be a little put out. This past Christmas he received a very interesting gift. A new broomstick to replace the one he lost.”
“Really? Who gifted it to him?”
“That is the question we are all asking. Not only is it a new broomstick, but the latest and best model there is, so I’m told.”
James’ eyebrows shot upward. “A Firebolt?”
While he did not pay as close attention to brooms and broom types as he once did, it was hard to not notice the likes of the Firebolt. It was in a league of its own and the old Quidditch-playing fan who once dreamed of going professional came to surface.
“As I am sure you are well aware, it is a rather expensive broom and quite the temptation for an avid player such as Harry.”
Pulling his senses together, James realized what Dumbledore was getting at. “You think it was a ploy by Black?” He knew that Sirius had the funds to get such a broom. Honestly, he commended Harry for not clearing out his own inheritance and getting it himself.
“It is something we are considering and looking into at present. Thus far nothing has turned up to be out of place with the gift, but I figured it was worth mentioning in case it is some sort of ploy against Harry.”
James gave a nod. “I imagine he isn’t too happy to have his broom taken from him as -” He gave a pause as he was about to use a personal pronoun but caught himself. Twice in one day was not good. “ - his father was quite crazed about the game and Harry takes after him in that regard.”
Dumbledore gave a light chuckle not taking note of the near slip. “I am afraid not, but should things turn out to be on the up and up, I expect Harry will have his new broom back before the next game.”
“I hope for all our sakes, particularly Harry’s, the broom has not been tampered with. Playing the game is important to him, such to the point that he has asked for lessons to ward against Dementors.”
“Has he now? I’m sure you told him that it is difficult magic to learn?”
“I wasn’t going to lead him to believe any differently but if he can learn some of it, then it might help him in the long run. The Dementors seem to have a particular interest in him. He told me that he hears…” James hesitated. The thought still got to him even now. “The death of Lily.”
A small frown played across Dumbledore’s face. “I imagine that is difficult for him.”
“It is why I want to help - he shouldn’t have to relive that if he doesn’t have to.”