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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter Notes: Disclaimer: I am (obviously) not J.K. Rowling and do not own the products of her wonderful imagination.
Thanks to Soraya and Erin for their excellent work editing this chapter.

“James, look at this!”

Wormtail’s nervous voice cut through James’ thoughts. Reluctantly, he put aside the letter he had been holding and looked up to see what Peter was worried about this time. Peter held up the morning edition of The Daily Prophet and stabbed his finger anxiously at an article on the front page.

“Wormtail, you worry too...Merlin’s beard!” James said, impatiently moving Peter’s finger aside and scanning the article. Ten Dead Outside Ministry Entrance, the headline read.

“Ten...that’s a lot,” James said, staring at the Prophet.

“It’s the Dark Lord, isn’t it?” Peter asked fearfully.

“Don’t bloody call him that,” Sirius said, so vehemently that his three friends looked at him in surprise.

“Well, that’s what other people call him. I’ve heard it in the halls. Besides, I think we should show him some respect,” Peter said faintly, gesturing to the article.

“Respect?” Sirius snorted. “He’s a deranged nutter who goes around killing people for sport with his Death Eaters. People say that he only recruits pure-bloods, but he’ll try to get anyone talented who is just as mad as he is.”

“How do you know all of that, mate?” James asked. He had never taken Sirius for a Dark Wizard expert.

“Back when I lived in the hellhole, my dear brother Regulus was obsessed with Voldemort”still is, probably. It was always, ‘The Dark Lord this,’ and ‘The Dark Lord that’. I expect Regulus’ll send Voldemort a valentine this year.”

“Could you at least call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?” Peter implored.

“If Voldemort wants to kill me for throwing his name around, he can come and get me.”

“Yeah, Padfoot’s right. Someone like that doesn’t deserve anyone’s respect,” James said.

Remus had remained curiously silent through this conversation. As James looked at him for support, Remus hastily dug his spoon into his porridge again.

“Come on, Moony, aren’t you with us?” Sirius asked.

“I hate him,” Remus said instantly, lowering his spoon, “but I’d be less cocky, Sirius. Maybe you don’t know what he and his friends do to those who offend them”and their families”but I do.”

This ended the conversation as if a brick had just landed in the middle of the table, though Remus kept his eyes fixed on his porridge.

“Oh, we’ve got letters too, haven’t we?” James asked Sirius, trying to alleviate the tension.

“Yeah, I almost forgot!” Sirius answered.

Both boys tore open the envelopes next to their plates, just as eager to change the topic as they were to open their mail.

James unfolded his letter and immediately recognized his father’s handwriting.

Dear James,

Sorry we have not written to you in these past few weeks, but your mother has been quite ill. She insists that it is merely seasonal and does not want you to worry unduly. I will inform you of any developments in her condition. Hope all is well at school.


James frowned. There was something strange about the letter that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but before he could read it again Sirius let out a whoop.

“What is it?” James asked, trying to peer over the top of the parchment.

“Well, it’s rather unfortunate, really; my Uncle Alphard died. I haven’t seen him since I was a kid, but he left me a small fortune, apparently! I always liked him best out of my otherwise-horrid bunch of relatives.”

Pettigrew’s mouth fell open in an almost comical expression of delight, and Lupin clapped Sirius on the back.

“That’s fantastic!” James exclaimed, almost too heartily, to make sure that he was adequately happy for Sirius despite his own worry.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Prongs, your family has been lovely to me, but I’m dead chuffed. This means I can stop imposing on you and get my own place.” Sirius took a last bite of scrambled eggs and settled back with a blissful expression on his face. “What about you?” he asked, gesturing to the letter still in James’ hand.

“Oh, nothing much,” James said, carefully keeping the smile on his face, “it’s just news from home.”


Since Sirius had been in Professor McGonagall’s office all afternoon because of an exploding Dungbomb that had mysteriously found its way into Professor Binns’ History of Magic classroom, James was on time to Potions. Usually, Sirius found something more interesting for them to do during their free period that resulted in tardiness for both of them. James was almost offended by his exclusion from the exploding Dungbomb plot; Sirius had never left him out of a prank before. Then again, James had to admit that he was always busy these days. Between classes, Quidditch trials, and his duties as Head Boy, he wouldn’t have had time for the elaborate schemes he had used to devise with Sirius.

For once, James had found Slughorn’s self-indulgent lecture interesting. This particular episode of Slug Club history concerned his promising student Damocles Belby, who had graduated a few years before, specialized in aconite, and still sent chocolates to Slughorn every Christmas. However, it was not the chocolate that interested James.

After dinner, which he ate in five minutes, he went to the library. He scanned the shelves, grabbing any book that he thought might mention aconite, monkshood, or wolfsbane. He flipped to the relevant page of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi and began to read.

Aconitum, also commonly known as aconite, monkshood, or wolfsbane, is characterized by its dark green leaves and brightly colored petals resembling hoods, hence the nickname monkshood. It is highly toxic, especially to the gastrointestinal system, and consumption may prove fatal.

James skipped through a detailed list of related species before settling on another, more promising passage.

Much has been postulated about its possible role in a cure for lycanthropy, with varying degrees of effectiveness hypothesized by notable magical names of our time, including your noble author and acclaimed potioneer, Phyllida Spore.

She would’ve gotten along well with Slughorn, James thought, and snorted before he continued to read.

Despite its poisonous nature, it is believed by some that the proper application of aconite will not kill a werewolf, though it may be unwise to suggest such a theory in the face of anti-werewolf sentiment. Nevertheless, many potioneers throughout Wizarding history have come to a similar conclusion: that, brewed in a specific manner, aconite will combat the dementia that accompanies lycanthropic transformation and, though metamorphosis will occur, the werewolf will retain human emotion. However, such a potion has never been successfully created.

James’ reading was interrupted by the thunk of a book being slammed shut. He picked up his book, using a finger to mark the page, and peeked around a shelf to see Lily running an agitated hand through her dark red hair and tapping the point of her quill on her parchment.

“All right, Evans?” James asked, walking over to her.

“Oh, hi, James. It’s stupid, really; I haven’t been able to even start this Transfiguration homework and it’s almost curfew. I can’t imagine how I’d Transfigure myself.”

“You’d have to use a wand at first,” James said automatically, “but you can do without it after practice. You need to know somewhere deep inside that you can become the animal as you’re Transfiguring yourself.”

Noticing Lily’s look of surprise, he added, “At least, that’s what I would think.”

“You’ve done it before, haven’t you?” Lily said, almost indignantly.

“Once or twice, for a laugh,” James answered.

She studied him, trying to determine whether he was joking. “So it’s really just about confidence?” she asked finally.

“Not exactly. The key is concentration, both when you transfigure yourself and when you return to your human form.”

“Thank you,” Lily said. Her green eyes lingered on him. “I thought you only liked Quidditch Through The Ages,” she said suddenly, gesturing to the book in his hand.

“I’m just doing a bit of light reading,” James said. “Aconite.” He wished he hadn’t told her that, but he always tended to say too much in front of her.

“Really?” Her gaze seemed to be trying to reach inside him. “I thought you weren’t much into Potions.”

“Well, surprises will abound,” James said, rubbing his neck.

Lily seemed to realize his discomfort. “Lovely night, isn’t it?” she said, gesturing out of the window. “That full moon is beautiful.”

James looked over her shoulder and internally cursed. “Look at that moon; I have to go,” he said absentmindedly, throwing his book down on the table and dashing out of the library. It was September the twenty-seventh. How could he have forgotten? If anything went wrong, it was best that he be there, and a nagging voice inside told him he hadn’t been paying as much attention to his friends lately as he should have.

He knew by heart which corridors wouldn’t be patrolled by professors, and ran at top speed into the corridor outside the Great Hall. Sirius, Remus, and Peter would already be gone, of course; the transformation wouldn’t wait. He sprinted across the lawn and into the Forbidden Forest, knowing from experience that the best way not to get caught misbehaving was to do so quickly.

James wondered what Lily would think of him after that unceremonious exit, and simultaneously realized, with a sickened feeling, that tonight was patrol. How can I possibly be in two places at once? James thought. He still had half of a Charms essay to do, but at least he wasn’t missing Quidditch practice.

He stopped and leaned against the trunk of a tree. The roughness of the bark against his cheek brought him back to reality. I’m not turning, he thought. I’m inside the Forest now; I have to, but I’m not. He wasn’t concentrating, after all that he had told Lily. Forget Lily, forget patrol, forget homework, forget Quidditch.

He pictured the stag in his mind instead. Though he had never seen himself transformed, somehow he knew every contour of his animal self as well as he knew his human self. The particular burn and the increased heartbeat within his chest rewarded him. Transformation always began inside him”inside his heart, inside his mind, inside every muscle of his body”before spreading to his frame.

James was concentrating so thoroughly that he didn’t notice the rustle of the brush until he heard the growl. He was hunched, and his bones had the peculiarly pleasant feeling that preceded rearrangement. With a stomach-turning certainty he realized that the growl had come from Remus. Though several things happened in quick succession, James saw each clearly, as if the scene were a film in slow motion.

Remus jumped at him, still scenting the human upon James, but Sirius leapt at the same time, pulling Remus”no, not Remus, the werewolf”back by the scruff of the neck to stop him. Only the werewolf’s claws reached their intended target, while his jaws snapped futilely at the air. James barely felt the pain of the wounds those claws had inflicted. He had to keep concentrating. He couldn’t become human again now, and he couldn’t stay mid-transformation for long. Ignoring the rivulets of blood running down his stomach, turned cold by the autumn air, and the pain, he focused on the ache of his body reshaping itself, rapidly now.

James had collapsed; he stood up on all four legs, feeling the uncomfortable itch of the matted fur on his side. Remus seemed confused by the sudden absence of his prey, though the tang of blood was still in the air, and Sirius stood between them. They had a different sort of communication as animals, and James could tell simply by the way Sirius stood and the look in his gray eyes, so similar to those of the human Sirius, that he should go back to the castle, that he was no help to anyone wounded. Peter watched from a branch, his eyes unblinking and agreeing with Sirius. Before James could protest that he was fine, the black dog nudged the werewolf with his shoulder and tore off into the forest. Remus gave chase, and James understood that that was his signal to run.

James waited until he could see the castle through the trees before deciding that it was safe to transform. The return to his human form was much easier now that he had cleared his mind. He pushed aside the brush beside the roots of the only elder tree on the outskirts of the forest and lowered himself into the hole that appeared, as a sudden wave of dizziness almost overwhelmed him.

He came out behind the tree-filled landscape painting on the fourth floor, carefully swung the frame shut behind him, and brushed the dirt from his clothes. His right hand felt strangely sticky, and James squinted at it in the gloom. “Shit,” he muttered, realizing that his hand and his shirt were stained a dark crimson. He ran up the three flights of stairs, faced the Fat Lady, and gasped, “Gladius!”

“Correct,” the Fat Lady said, looking at him reprovingly as if she knew exactly how many rules he had broken that night.

James threw his cloak on a table in the silent common room and wriggled out of his blood-soaked shirt.

“Why is it that every time I see you lately you’re undressed?” Lily asked coolly, getting up from an armchair behind him.

“Lily! What are you doing here? It’s past curfew,” James informed her hypocritically.

“I was”I was worried”about you.”

“Well, Evans, I’m touched. Now, I really must be going to bed, so””

“James, I saw you go into the Forbidden Forest!” Lily burst out.

James was so surprised that he spun around to face her, and knew from Lily’s horrified expression that he shouldn’t have.

“What happened to you?” she whispered, the accusatory tone leaving her voice.

“Nothing. It’s just a flesh wound,” James said, hastily putting on his shirt. Since the shirt itself was saturated with blood, this did not appease Lily.

“If you don’t want to tell me, at least go to the hospital wing!”

“No! I can’t!” James said, seized by an irrational conviction that Madam Pomfrey would at once realize he had been attacked by a werewolf, and that Remus would be expelled on the spot.

Lily narrowed her eyes. “Fine, then I’ll get some dittany from Professor Slughorn. He won’t ask any questions; don’t worry!” she said impatiently as James opened his mouth to protest.

As Lily left and James sank onto the floor, he was struck by the idiocy of his never having learned any healing spells for more severe wounds. However, Lily soon returned, faster than James would have thought possible without Apparition. She carefully removed the stopper from the bottle of dittany, lifted up his bloody shirt between her thumb and forefinger, and dropped a few cool globules of the essence onto his wound. Immediately, James felt the itch of new skin beginning to form. “Thanks,” he said, knowing that word couldn’t possibly suffice for what she had done, and sitting up gingerly.

“You’re welcome,” Lily answered.

“One question, Lily: why all the heroics on my behalf?”

Lily was silent for a moment, and James could have sworn that he saw her blush by the light of the fire. “That’s what friends are for,” she said. She paused and then added fervently, “James, honestly, you could have died. I don’t know what you were doing out there, but nothing is worth that.”

“Some things are.” It wasn’t Remus’ fault that he was a werewolf. If the situation were reversed, James knew that all the other Marauders would risk their lives for him.
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading! Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Comments make my day, so please review with praise, criticism, or, if you so choose, existentialist musings.