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?”
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