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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter Notes: Hi everyone! I apologize for the hiatus in updating--March was an unbelievably busy month for me. The chapter title comes from the (brilliant) lyrics to Degausser by Brand New, and as usual, everything from the Potter-verse belongs to the incredible J.K. Rowling. Thanks to Soraya for her wonderful editing skills!

Professor Dumbledore steepled his fingers and considered James over the tops of his half-moon glasses. “I trust you know why you are here, Mr. Potter?”

James wondered whether it would be best to play dumb or to own up to what he had done. “Why, Professor?”

“I think our time here would be better suited to discussing not why, but how those circumstances came about. I am referring, of course, to your duel and fisticuffs with Mr. Malfoy.”

“Yeah...the, er, fisticuffs,” James said. “I’m really sorry about that, Professor. I realize that’s not how I’m supposed to act as Head Boy.”

“Most certainly not. However, I do know that Mr. Malfoy seemed to have been trying to convince you of something.”

“Yes,” James said reluctantly, feeling Dumbledore’s eyes boring into him, “he was.”

He paused. Over the years, with all the misadventures he and Sirius had got into, James had become an expert at editing the compromising bits out of the reports he gave to his teachers. This, however, required somewhat more delicacy. “You see, I’m...I’m quite good at Transfiguration, I suppose.” He stopped.

“Lord Voldemort would like you to teach his followers how to become animals at will?”

James’ eyes widened despite his best efforts. “Something like that.”

“Think what advantages that would hold for the Death Eaters. After all, nobody thinks that animals are listening. However, the magic required to become an Animagus is very difficult and very...impressive.” Dumbledore’s eyes again seemed to be looking inside James.

James stayed silent.

“I assume you refused?”

“Yeah, of course. I mean, Voldemort’s a complete nutter.”

“A ‘nutter’? Mr. Potter, we must never forget that he is very dangerous, very intelligent, and very persuasive. It is only when we let our guard down that he can find a way inside us.”

“Maybe that’s why Malfoy and Snape didn’t like it too much when I said that.”

“You told Lucius Malfoy that Lord Voldemort is a nutter?” If the situation hadn’t been so serious, James would’ve sworn that Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.

“I know he’s dangerous and all that. It just...it just seemed right at the time.” He knew it had been a foolish thing to say, but Malfoy just made him so furious. How dare he even think, just because James was a pure-blood, that he would ever want to help the Death Eaters?

“I see.”

There was silence for a moment, punctuated only by the whir of one of the instruments on Dumbledore’s desk.

“Professor, am I still Head Boy?” James asked finally. “I know dueling is against the rules, and I didn’t keep control of myself like I’m supposed to.”

“You know, that’s an interesting question,” Dumbledore said conversationally. “Dueling is against the rules at Hogwarts, as is fist-fighting, and your behavior today is certainly not the way I would expect a model student to act.”

“I’ve never been a model student,” James said, before he could stop himself. “Remus has. I mean, I’m good in school, but I always thought I caused far too much trouble with Sirius and the rest of them to be Head Boy anyway.”

“You see, that’s exactly why I chose you. Remus Lupin has many virtues, but knowing the mind of a troublemaker is not one of them. You have initiative, for better or for worse, and you have courage. Both your and Miss Evans’ fortitude impressed me greatly today, as much as the situation gave me chagrin.”

It wasn’t courage, James thought. When Malfoy had stood there, laughing, making Lily cringe with his gaze, James had felt a frightening surge of deep hatred that he had never experienced before. Was that what Voldemort did to people, spread his darkness inside of them without their even knowing it?

“Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said, interrupting his thoughts, “since you are already receiving job offers, I believe that now is the opportune time to talk to you about your plans after Hogwarts.”

James couldn’t see how this was the opportune time at all. He had fully expected at least to have got detention by now. “Well,” he said, bewildered, “I plan to be an Auror.”

“Why?” Dumbledore asked, his blue eyes focused on James in a penetrating way that made him uneasy.

“I want to fight Voldemort and his followers, to be honest. It’s horrible how many people he’s already killed or”or deluded into thinking that certain kinds of people aren’t as good as everyone else”and I’m going to stop him any way I can.”

“That is certainly very admirable. I must remind you, however, that Aurors work for the Ministry, which Voldemort is tenaciously attempting to infiltrate.”

“What are you saying?” James asked quickly.

“You would be better served fighting Voldemort from a position that is not so directly under his scrutiny. Mind you, everything I am about to tell you is strictly confidential.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you know about the Order of the Phoenix?”

“Nothing, sir.”

Dumbledore nodded. “The Order of the Phoenix is an organization that I have formed in order to oppose Voldemort. You would be a valuable addition to the group, with your considerable talents. I must warn you, however, that you are now making a choice, as everyone must, between what is right and what is easy. Fighting Voldemort will not be easy. Even now, with your laudable ideals, you are still at Hogwarts under the protection of the professors here and the ancient magic of the school itself. There will be times, should you choose to accept, that you will face death, that you will watch those you love die around you.” He paused.

“I’ll join,” James said immediately. “I don’t care”I do, but I know fighting is more important. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where Voldemort has won.”

“Are you certain? Keep in mind that you do not have to give me an answer at once, and you must not let your impulses get the better of you.”

“No, sir, I know. I want to fight, and I want to join the Order.”

“Very well.” Dumbledore beamed, and there was an air of finality in his tone as he said, “Do try to stay out of trouble, Mr. Potter.”

James nodded, got up.

“Oh, and would you send Miss Evans up, please?”

James nodded, and then his stomach dropped unpleasantly. You will watch those you love die around you. The words echoed in his head. “Professor?” he asked, looking back.


“I wouldn’t watch anyone die. The Death Eaters would have to kill”anyone else”over my dead body.”

“Mr. Potter, you cannot always make that choice. However, your bravery is, and has always been, that of a true Gryffindor. It amazes me that you have ever wondered why I chose you as Head Boy.” Dumbledore’s normally probing gaze softened slightly.

“Thank you, sir,” James said, clearing his throat and ducking his head. “I’ll tell Lily to come in.”

Lily was standing outside the stone gargoyle when James stepped off the slowly revolving spiral staircase. Professor McGonagall was near the end of the hall, telling off some third-years who were skiving off class.

“What did Professor Dumbledore say?” Lily asked anxiously.

“I’m still Head Boy,” James said.

“You have all the luck, James,” Lily said, laughing shakily.

James hadn’t realized that she could have been nervous about his getting in trouble; after all, she had been the one docking points from him. For a moment, looking into her face with its wrinkled brow and wide, bright eyes, he was tempted not to relay Dumbledore’s message. If Dumbledore asked her as well, as James was sure he would, Lily would acquiesce. A terrible vision of her lying on the ground, those green eyes staring blankly into space, crossed his mind, and he knew that he would put himself in danger a thousand times over rather than ever see that ghastly image come to fruition. Nevertheless, he had to tell her.

“Lily, Dumbledore wants to see you,” James said, before he could have a chance to talk himself out of it.

“Oh, I knew I should have stopped you from hitting Malfoy!”

“Don’t worry about that. Just...go,” he answered, squeezing her shoulder.

Lily nodded, positioned herself in front of the gargoyle, and, just as Professor McGonagall had instructed them, said, “Butterscotch!”

As the gargoyle leapt aside and Lily stepped onto the staircase, James got the unshakeable feeling that he had just made a terrible mistake.


“So you beat up Malfoy and got off scot-free?” Sirius asked at dinner that evening, leaning on his elbows to goggle at James across the table.

“I did.”

“Wicked!” Sirius’ eyes gleamed. “That’s the Prongs I know and love. I only wish you’d got in a punch at Snivellus.”

“Don’t we all,” James answered. He didn’t like the way Snape looked at Lily. “Did you do the Potions homework yet?”

“You’re joking, right? It’s not due until tomorrow morning!” Sirius said confidently. “Could you stop being Bighead Boy for just a minute?”

“I just don’t understand Potions anymore. I don’t know how Lily does it,” James said, raking a hand through his hair.

“She’s a bloody genius, that’s how. Smartest girl I’ve ever met.”

“She’s out of my league, isn’t she?” James asked.

“What? Godric damn it, James, man up. She finally fancies you after years; don’t start moaning now about how you’re not good enough.”

“You’ve been thinking that too?” James asked. If Sirius could see that Lily liked him, surely it wasn’t wishful thinking. But she was going out with Carl, that idiot. He would never understand her.

“It’s obvious,” Sirius said. “Oh, bloody hell, McGonagall’s heading for us.”

“What did you do this time, and why wasn’t I invited along?”

“Nothing, I swear. Sure, there was that episode with the Dungbombs I bought at Zonko’s yesterday, but I blamed it all on Alice Wilkes.”

“Alice?” James snorted. “You’d have to be a real duffer to buy that.”

“It’s always the quiet ones who are up to something.” Sirius shrugged and tipped his head back, smirking.

As McGonagall drew closer, she wasn’t wearing any of her usual expressions”disappointment, annoyance, exasperation, or even outrage. “Potter,” she said quietly when she reached them, “if you could come with me to my office for just a moment.”

James followed her, meeting the quizzical look from Sirius with equal bewilderment.

Once they were seated in Professor McGonagall’s office, she offered him a Ginger Newt. This had become a sort of ritual between them over the years, and by now James felt the sinking feeling that preceded a detention whenever he tasted the sharp bite of ginger on his tongue.

Professor McGonagall looked at him down her long nose and shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “Mr. Potter, I don’t know how else to put this, but your mother is extremely ill. Your father recently sent me a request, which I have approved, that you be sent home a month early for the Christmas holidays so that you can be with her.”

James sank back in his chair, stunned. He felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach. Going home a month early? That sounded as if his mother were.... No, James thought, people get sick all the time. “Do you know what it is, Professor?” he asked dully.

Professor McGonagall glanced up at him. After all, he usually addressed her as, ‘Mc”Professor.’ “No, Potter,” she said, “I don’t. Apparently she has been to St. Mungo’s several times this autumn.” Her normally reedy voice suddenly seemed rather thick. “At any rate, you will be given all the work possible ahead of time, although Professor Slughorn has informed me that in order to adequately prepare for your N.E.W.T.s you must finish all of your Potions work before you leave.”

She cleared her throat. “That is all.”

James got up to go, feeling as if he were watching himself do so. “Thank you, Professor,” he said, and even his voice sounded alien to him.

“Potter? If you need anyone to talk to, you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Professor,” he repeated. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about this”not Sirius, not Remus, not Peter”let alone her.

James couldn’t remember how he got to the Gryffindor common room upon his arrival. He slammed the portrait behind him, causing a shriek of outrage from the Fat Lady, and hurried past the groups of students studying so that no one would try to talk to him.

As if all the haste had sapped his last bit of strength, he climbed the stairs slowly and staggered into the boys’ dormitory. With a sigh, he flopped down on his bed and stared at his pillow. He couldn’t summon himself to care about anything at the moment.

Why hadn’t his father even written to him if his mother’s condition had suddenly worsened? It didn’t really matter, though. All he could do was wait”wait to go home, wait for the Healers to figure out what was wrong with his mother. It seemed like months ago that Dumbledore had asked him to join the Order. Well, James was ready now, ready to fight or kill or die or whatever it might take to fill the emptiness inside him.
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading! Hopefully, the events of Chapter 6 are a lot clearer now. Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Please review--I love all comments, whether they be praise or criticism or a little bit of both.