Chapter 1 : The Switch
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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.”
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