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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter Notes: For anyone that may remember this story and was following it, I'm so sorry I haven't updated in so long! Real life has been great but hectic. For new readers, welcome! Hopefully I'll be updating more frequently now until this fic is finished. As usual, I don't own any of JK Rowling's lovely creations.

–This is weird,” Peter said, looking from James to Sirius.

–Shut up,” Remus said warningly.

–No, it is. You went and snogged Lily--”

–Did not, shut up!” Remus said, more indignantly this time.

–Lily went and snogged you,” Peter amended, –and you and Prongs are fine again. But them two--” he indicated James and Sirius –--nothing for a couple of weeks now.”

–What a brilliant deduction,” Sirius said coldly, not even looking up from his eggs

Peter was quiet. Even if he hadn’t articulated it properly, his point was valid, but neither James nor Sirius felt like explaining. In Peter’s world, people were very emotionally open, for better or for worse, and he had only been learning the art of subtlety from his friends. James had to admit that was mostly because of Sirius, who would take the piss out of Peter at the best of times. When Sirius was sullen or irascible, as he was now, he could be downright cruel.

Before James could give any more thought to this, he was distracted. Lily’s birthday was in two days, and things were still strained between them. He had really cocked up, he knew that, and he wanted to fix everything, but he couldn’t see how. If he could get to Hogsmeade somehow, and get her something really nice....

–Prongs!” A sharp jab in his ribs.


–You in there?” Remus asked.

–Yeah, sorry. What?”

–Come back to the tower with me. I forgot my Transfiguration book.”

Remus had never forgot a schoolbook in James’s memory, but he followed him out of the hall anyway. They were on the staircase when Remus said, –So what’s going on?”

–I don’t want to--”

–Not with you and Sirius,” Remus said in a low voice. –You can tell me about that if you’d like, but what I’m more concerned about is that lately you’ve been disappearing frequently.”

James had thought he was avoiding notice, and the look on his face said so.

–Oh, come on. I’m an expert in disappearing, without your cloak or an Apparition license. I have to be. I’d much rather talk about this with everyone, but as you won’t say anything at all in front of Padfoot and it would just be weird if I took both you and Wormy with me to get a book that I have in my bag, here we are.”

James considered. With increasing frequency, he had been transforming without the other Marauders. In his cervine form, things were simpler. He still felt attached to his mother, to Lily, to Sirius, but had no sense of guilt or personal responsibility for how thoroughly everything had gone to pieces.

–What is it? Are you getting off with someone?” Remus scrutinized him. –Nah, you’re still carrying that massive torch for Lily.” As was characteristic of Remus, he left the most painful part delicately unspoken: and she’d never want to get off with you now.

–I’m just...dealing with everything. You don’t need to be worried about me,” James answered.

Remus stayed silent.

–Just to clarify, we’re actually going up seven flights of stairs to get a book you don’t need. This is going to make us late to our lesson, you know,” James said, hoping this would allow them to turn around.

–Since when do you care about being late to lessons?”

–I don’t, but you do.”

–Maybe this is a seven-flight problem.”

James had never considered it, but Remus would make an excellent interrogator and prosecutor for the Ministry.

They made it to the fourth floor before James capitulated. –If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone, not to judge, and not to interfere.”

Remus nodded.

–I’ve been going into the Forest.”

–As...er...Prongs?” They were trying to speak more guardedly now, since breakfast was over and the stairwells were filling with other students.


–But why--oh. You know, you’re not supposed to use it to escape from being human.” His tone was light, belying the seriousness of his words.

–But what if I want to?” James didn’t mean to say it; it had just slipped out.

Remus shot a glance at him, this time downright alarmed. –You don’t.”

–Sorry,” James said. He was such an idiot. –I’m really sorry, really, I am, that was a stupid thing to say.” To you, especially.

–Listen, Prongs, I understand why. Life isn’t some golden, halcyon journey. It’s awful sometimes, but what you’re doing is dangerous.”

James was stuck on –halcyon” for a moment, a word that he had used to know but had forgotten, and then he absorbed the meaning of Remus’s words. –I thought we said no judging, right?”

–Do you want to know what it’s like not to be human, James?” Remus asked, so softly that James could barely hear him. –You wake up in the middle of the woods, alone. You can taste the blood in your mouth--it’s metallic and it’s on your hands and on your chest and everywhere, and there are scratches all over you. And you panic. You’re wondering if you just killed someone’s child or someone’s father or someone’s sister, because you can’t find a body anywhere. You just can’t remember. Is that your blood or someone else’s? You’re never going to know, and that not knowing could drive you mad.”

James stared at him.

–Sorry. Rough week.” Remus swallowed.

–Yeah?” James paused and then asked seriously, –But that didn’t just happen, did it? I mean, it’s not even time yet, right? You didn’t...eat...anything?”

–This week? No.” And suddenly, inexplicably, Remus started laughing. His eyes met James’s and then they were both laughing, jogging down the last set of stairs and rounding the corner. James somehow knew that his friend’s laughter was the same as his, laughter that hurt so badly yet the only other alternative was crying. He was going to ask Remus what was wrong, but they were running, faster and faster, until they reached the classroom and burst inside, still emitting occasional –Ha!”s like idiots while gasping for breath.

–Mr. Potter, Mr. Lupin, ten points from Gryffindor for tardiness,” McGonagall said tartly. –Take a seat.”

She had been conspicuously more lenient with James in the past month, but evidently this grace period was over. They were starting a new unit on Animating Transfiguration, which meant that most of today’s lesson would be theory. James got out his Guide to Advanced Transfiguration and sat down.


That night, it started again. The silence was buzzing in his ears, and James couldn’t concentrate on anything except what was ahead and how massively unprepared he was. He had been so convinced, just two months ago, that he was ready to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters. He had told Dumbledore that he would die trying to save those he loved, but he couldn’t. He could, in fact, watch people die. He had. That’s different, he tried to tell himself.

Yet would there be times in the war ahead when he was equally helpless, equally unable to stop the relentless progression of events that would turn those he loved into memories? He would be useless, just like the useless Healers who couldn’t cure his mother, joining the legions of useless people out there who did nothing while others suffered and died. What kind of asset would he be to the Order?

He knew that Remus was right, that using his stag form to escape these questions was dangerous, not to mention cowardly. But no one else would understand. They saw him as a Quidditch star, a top student with the slightest bit of effort, a rich son of a pureblood family. No one knew this side of him, except perhaps for Lily and Sirius. At the moment, one would barely speak to him and the other not at all. Perhaps that’s not a coincidence, he thought.

Easing slowly out of bed, he checked to ensure that his roommates were asleep before fishing underneath his mattress for the invisibility cloak. Within a minute, he had the cloak on and had grabbed the Marauder’s Map from Sirius’s bag. He kept a lookout for patrolling professors and prefects while focusing on getting out of the castle quickly. This, at least, was something at which he was adept.

He paused at the edge of the forest, resting his hand on a tree. And suddenly he realized: Remus was right. James had said that he was dealing with everything, but he wasn’t. As far as he could tell, it was more like standing in a riptide. Just staying in the same place was enough for him, and, he thought, it should be enough for everyone else, too. As his fingers clenched and dug into the bark, he thought of Remus’s serious, frightened face, of everything that his friend had been through, and everything that James had been through that Remus hadn’t. And he closed his eyes and concentrated as his transformation began.


–Listen, Remus,” James said, and then paused. The four of them were seated on the floor in the Gryffindor common room. Sirius had been poking Remus and Peter intermittently and making quiet jokes about Libatius Borage, pointedly not including James, who sat across from him.

–What?” Remus said.

–I haven’t started my Potions homework yet...do you think you could help?”

–I thought you were going to do it last night.”

–Well, I didn’t." Out in the forest was the only time that James felt good now, and Remus just didn’t understand. Remus tried to make eye contact with James, an accusatory you did it again didn’t you sort of eye contact which James assiduously avoided.

–You should really have done it last night. It was a bad idea to do something else instead,” Remus said pointedly.

Even Sirius, who had been pretending that any conversation involving James didn’t happen at all, looked confused.

–Give it a rest, Moony. You sound like his mum,” Peter said absentmindedly, turning a page.

James got up and stalked away, leaving all his books. He couldn’t cry in front of all his friends. It had been weeks. He’d look like an idiot. Besides, he was a Potter. He’d just go into the Forest for an hour or so, and finish his work afterward. He could, too—he’d carried the Cloak with him all the time now, even though he knew that there was no version of events in which it would be within school rules to have such a cloak. He left the common room, hearing, –James, I didn’t--” as he closed the portrait behind him.

He had to get Lily something for her birthday, too. Something great. Something that would make her fall into his arms and then, maybe...no. He remembered her face when she said sardonically, –Did you think I’d be a good shag?” Falling into his arms would do.

As he hurried down the corridor, he heard a voice behind him. –Running off to cry, Potter?”

He turned and saw Severus and behind him Regulus.

–No,” James said. Even to his own ears he sounded like a defensive child.

–Did someone make you feel sad, Potter?” Snape spat a little more every time he said James’s name. Regulus snickered.

–Shouldn’t you be in your dungeon, Sniv-Snape?” However much Lily hated Snape, she still hated the nickname Snivellus.

–What did you call me?”

–I called you Snape. It’s after curfew, I’m telling you, get back to--”

–I don’t think you did, Potter,” Regulus broke in suddenly. –I think you called him something else. I think you’re a bully, Potter. You may be Dumbledore’s favorite, but deep down you’re just a bully. And bullies need to be taught a lesson.”

–That’s a bit rich coming from a Death Eater,” James said, his temper flaring.

–We believe in what we’re doing. And things are going to change around here, believe me,” Regulus spat, drawing his wand. –You and my darling brother hex people for laughs, hang people from trees to make yourselves look cooler. Sev and I are making our world a better place.”

James drew his own wand, trying to ignore the buzzing behind his eyes. –We don’t do that anymore. We’ve grown up. Regulus, still trying to win Mummy and Daddy’s approval by hanging out with all their friends, yeah?”

Regulus’s eyes narrowed and James knew that his comment had struck a nerve, however much Regulus genuinely idolized Voldemort.

James remembered last time with Malfoy and Snape, remembered how he swore to himself he wouldn’t lose his temper again. But they’re Death Eaters. He knew in some deeper, more honest part of his mind that he really just wanted to escape, and if he gave into his anger that would surely be just as sweet as his stag form could ever be. But James didn’t particularly feel like being honest with himself, and he pushed that thought away.

–He doesn’t understand our mission, Regulus,” Snape said. –He’s still besotted with that Mudblood who won’t even talk to him.”

–Even the filthy Mudblood bitch refuses to associate with you?” Regulus said, smiling again. –How far can you sink? You dishonor your family, Potter.”

–Or what’s left of it,” Severus said, smirking and leaning back against the wall.

James suddenly couldn’t see. He raised his wand, not even knowing which spell he wanted to cast but knowing that he wanted to cause pain and he could catch Regulus unawares--Regulus, a sixth year who had just started learning nonverbal spells.

And suddenly, his wand was gone. So was Regulus’s.

–Regulus, I’m going to kill you if you don’t get back to your little hole or wherever you Slytherins live,” Sirius said flatly.

Regulus stared at him.

–And I’m going to use all three of these wands to do it,” Sirius continued, brandishing them.

–I want my wand back,” Regulus said.

Sirius walked away, leaned over the nearest banister, and dropped Regulus’s wand down the stairwell. –Fetch.”

He paused with satisfaction as Regulus sprinted away, muttering under his breath. –Why don’t you go help him, Snivelly?”

Snape flashed Sirius and James a look so full of hatred that it sent chills down James’s spine and walked away down the corridor.

–What just happened?” James asked.

–What do you not understand? I didn’t Stun you.”

–No, I mean, what was that? I’ve never seen you that serious.”

Sirius stared at him. –Did you honestly just say that?”

–Yeah, what--oh, right. Wait, are you talking to me again?”

–Wasn’t a fair fight.”

–But you came after me.”


–So you were planning to--”

–Shut up.”

–Why did you--?”

–Because you were just being stupid, like always. Like now. Did I mention shut up?”

–I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. You’re my best friend and as close to a brother as I’ll ever have, Paddy, and I didn’t treat you like either one.”

–I know. Come back before you try to fight Mrs. Norris or something.”

–Are we okay?”

–Of course we are, Potter. Let’s cuddle. Do you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon?”

–Shut up, are we?”

–Not yet.”


Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading! Sirius' "big spoon or little spoon" comment is not mine and comes from episode 2 of the classic show Scrubs--I just couldn't resist. Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Please leave a review--I'm interested to know what everyone thinks after all this time, and I answer every one!