Warning: As I stated at the beginning, this story contains child abuse and violence. It is very prominent throughout the story, particularly here in the beginning, so if you are triggered by either of those, please proceed with caution.
James had enough of being poked and prodded to last a lifetime.
The Healers wanted to make sure that there were no aftereffects of the potion that they took, or the seven years that they spent in a magical coma, so shortly after Dumbledore left, James was ushered back to his bed and asked dozens and dozens of questions. He'd had to do several movements to ensure that there was no paralysis or nerve damage, and then underwent several diagnosis spells. Lights had been shined in his eyes and ears and had his skin prodded and blood drawn.
He was exhausted by the time they finished, and the sun was peering in through the curtains.
"Are you up for visitors?" The main Healer asked. She was a tall woman, with brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. She reminded James of Minnie and had introduced herself as Healer Bell, "Remus Lupin has been waiting for hours to see you."
That knowledge perked him right up, "Yes! Of course. Send him in."
Healer Bell nodded, a small, knowing smile graced upon her lips. She turned and left the room, and it was only moments later before Remus peered into the room nervously.
"Moony! Mate, I thought I scared you off!"
Remus hesitated at the door. He didn't say anything. His eyes flickered back and forth from James to Lily, who looked up from a book that she was reading to send him a smile.
"Prongs," Remus choked out. He stumbled forward, collapsing on the chair beside James' bed, and then lunged over the bed and pulled him into a tight hug, "I'm sorry for… for leaving. I just… I couldn't believe you were awake."
James wrapped his arms around the man, "Hey. Moony, it's okay. You look awful."
Remus sniffed, "Take a look at yourself."
He guffawed, pulling away and grinning at Remus, "I always look fantastic. You, however, look like you've been homeless for the past seven years," he arched an eyebrow at him, "Have you?"
A blush spread across his cheeks. He shook his head, "'Course not. I've got a little flat in Manchester. Lovely little place."
"Manchester, eh?" James asked. He was beaming. It felt like forever since he had last seen Remus, and he knew that it had been much longer for Remus, "Where are you working?"
"In a muggle library," Remus answered, "It's quite nice, actually."
James wrinkled up his nose, "You're a librarian? I always figured you'd become a professor."
"Oh, don't listen to him, Remus," Lily piped up from her bed, "I think a librarian is a splendid job. How have you been?"
"Oh, good. Good."
"Don't lie," James said, crossing his arms over his chest and pointedly looking at the man's shabby robes.
Remus copied his mannerisms, though more in shame. James was the only one who was ever able to make him admit when he was struggling, "Okay. Not well. It's been… It's been rough, ever since the… the attack. I was starting to doubt you two would ever wake up and there was no one else. Everyone's gone."
James frowned deeply, then forced himself to smile cheerily, "Well, don't you worry about that, Moony. We're awake now, and we're going to fix things. Starting with getting Harry and getting Sirius out of Azkaban."
"Yeah. Yeah, that will be nice. I'd love to see- Wait, what?" Remus' head snapped towards him so quickly that James wondered if he needed to call a Healer in to check him for whiplash. Confusion and anger resonated in those amber eyes. He stood up quickly, "What are you talking about?"
"Sirius is innocent," James said. His forced smile fell. Even he was unable to keep it up during such a topic, "He wasn't our Secret Keeper. Pettigrew was," he spat out his former friend's name, "Pettigrew betrayed us. I don't know what happened that day, but Sirius did not betray us. He wasn't a Death Eater. He killed Pettigrew because Pettigrew betrayed us, and if he really was the one to kill those Muggles, then it wasn't on purpose, but I highly doubt that he was."
Remus sat down harshly, skin ashen. His eyebrows furrowed in thought and he put his head in his hands, "But that's… that's impossible. Everyone knew he was the Secret Keeper."
"That was why we switched. It was too obvious. Sirius wanted to protect us, and he couldn't protect us if everyone knew that he was the Secret Keeper," James explained, "Pettigrew wasn't an obvious choice. No one would think that we would choose him, so we did, and he was the traitor."
"But… but he laughed!"
Remus looked up. James could see the doubt and confusion and horror in his eyes as the realization slowly began seeping into him, "When he was caught. After he blew up the street, the Aurors caught him, and he laughed."
James furrowed his eyebrows, but Lily sighed sympathetically, placing down Hogwarts: A History, "Oh, poor thing. He was probably hysterical. Peter outsmarted us."
An understanding seemed to seep into Remus' body. He leaned back in the chair suddenly, a breath leaving his lips, "Oh. Oh."
James nodded, "Yeah. Oh. Why in Merlin's name did they not give him a trial?"
Remus didn't answer. He buried his hands in his hair and sighed.
James shifted on the bed, sliding his legs off the side of it to reach over and place a comforting hand on his mate's shoulder, "Things are going to get better, Moony. Papa James is here."
A snort left Remus' lips. He looked up, mouth quirking upwards, eyes sparkling, "I've missed you, Prongs. And you, too, Lily."
Lily sent him a smile, and James leaned forward to hug him again. When he pulled away, his eyes flickered over the shabby garments that he wore, "When we get out of here, we're going to have to have to get you some new robes."
Remus opened his mouth to argue, but just as he did, there was a knock at the door. By the time James glanced up, it was already opening, and Dumbledore entered the room.
He was still wearing the same blue, sparkly robes, having not changed. He must have stayed up all night, but it didn't seem like it. He looked wide awake.
"Professor!" Lily shot up from her bed, determined, "I want you to take me to Harry. Now."
"Lily, you know I can't do that. The Healers say that you cannot leave for three days. They have to keep an eye on you and make sure there are no side effects from the potion," Dumbledore explained calmly.
Dumbledore held up a hand, cutting her off and causing her to glare lightly at the man. He ignored it, "I have sent his caregivers a message informing them that you two have woken up. They should receive it soon. In the letter, I informed them that someone will be picking young Harry up tomorrow and bringing him here to visit, but the problem of custody remains. He-"
"He is my son," Lily interrupted him stiffly.
The old man nodded, "Yes, he is, but he has not lived with you. The choice should be Harry's. He may want to stay with the only family he's ever known. You can talk to him tomorrow."
Lily looked like she had swallowed something sour, and James felt like that too. The idea that his son, his little boy that, just yesterday (to him) was only fifteen months old, wouldn't want to live with them was hard to handle, but he knew it to be true. He hoped that whoever he lived with had treated him well, and he hoped that he was happy, but he also wanted his son with him, not with someone else.
James turned away from Dumbledore, unable to help but feel angry at the old man for keeping their son from them, even if he did make sense.
(A part of him also wanted to kill Snape for doing this to them.)
"Remus, I'm glad you're here," Dumbledore said with a serene smile, "I was hoping that you would be the one to pick up young Harry tomorrow, as Lily and James cannot leave, and I will be busy at Hogwarts."
Remus perked up, "Of course. I'd be honored. Where is he?"
James jumped in surprise, head snapping towards Remus, "You don't know?"
The werewolf shook his head regretfully, "No, Harry's location has been kept under wraps. I tried to find out and visit him, but I was turned away."
James sent an angry look to Dumbledore, but the old man simply shook his head lightly, "It was for safety reasons. There are only three people who know of young Harry's location. You must understand. Harry Potter is famous in the Wizarding World for defeating Voldemort. There are a lot of people who want revenge. The less people who know about his location, the better. For Harry."
Lily was having none of that. She crossed her arms over her chest, levelling a glare at the man, face red, "Remus is trustworthy! He would never do anything to jeopardize Harry's safety and you know that. Harry deserved to have Remus in his life if he couldn't have us."
Dumbledore held out his hands, "I am sure you will understand soon. It was all for the Greater Good. However, for now, we need to talk about Mr. Black's trial."
James did not want to change the subject. He wanted to know more about his son, but he also knew that Dumbledore was not going to say anymore, and he wanted to know about Sirius.
He didn't say anything, though, simply nodding at the man.
"I appealed to Madame Bones and after hearing the new evidence and reviewing his file, she has agreed to give him a trial. His trial will be on November 10th. Until then, he is going to be taken out of Azkaban and moved to a secure facility where he will discuss his case with a Barrister that I have already hired, as well as recover as much as possible from the effects of the Dementors before testifying. You two will both need to testify at the trial, preferably under Veritaserum as that will make your story much more convincing."
"Of course," James said with a nod. Lily nodded as well, though she still looked bitter over the lack of information about her son, "Anything to help Sirius."
Dumbledore nodded, "I also recommend having a Mind Healer check you for any kind of altered memories, as that will be beneficial in the trial."
James nodded again, "Did you see Sirius?"
He shook his head, "I was unable to get into Azkaban on such short notice, and they have not moved him out yet."
"I want to see him," James said firmly. Beside him, Remus nodded in agreement.
"I'm afraid that won't be possible until the trial," Dumbledore said with a light sigh, standing up, "You cannot have any contact with him until then. Now, I must be off. Remus, if you could stop by my office later today, I will give you the address to pick up Harry, but you must not tell anyone."
Remus nodded, "I won't, sir."
"Well, I wish you two a speedy recovery," he said, nodding towards James and Lily, the latter of which gave no response. James simply nodded back, conflicting emotions raging through him.
He watched closely as Dumbledore walked away, then sighed. He wanted to be angry. He really did, but he couldn't be.
"He has a point," Lily said, shoulders falling, a crushed look etched across her face, "What if they love Harry, and Harry loves them? I don't want to rip him away from his family."
James sighed, eyebrows furrowed at the door. His voice was resigned, "And if they don't, then he's been in a loveless home for the past seven years."
"Innocent. Innocent. Innocent. Innocent. Innocent. Innocent. Innocent."
That was the word that Sirius Black spoke on repeat. He sat on the cold, hard ground of Azkaban, arms wrapped around his skinny knees, eyes squeezed closed and mouth barely moving as he spoke. His hair was overgrown, knotted, and dirty, and his robes were torn and soiled. His face was gaunt, and his skin had a thin layer of dirt on it. He was cold. He was hungry. He always was.
His mind raced with horrible images. He could see their house, burning, broken. He could see James on the ground, his wand just out of reach, his glasses broken, his eyes closed. He'd gripped his body, shaking him, begging him to wake up, but to no avail. He could hear Harry screaming for his mum, but when he found him, Lily's body was sprawled across the floor in front of the boy's crib.
She was dead, too. Both of them were.
They were dead. They were gone. It was all his fault.
"No. no, no, no."
Innocent. Innocent. Innocent. He didn't do it. It was his fault. They were dead because of him. He was innocent.
He resisted the urge to turn into a dog. He had been hearing footsteps.
"Harry. Harry. Harry. So sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Innocent."
Harry's little screaming face burned into his mind, blood running down from a cut in his forehead.
Footsteps grew close to his cell. He buried his head into his knees, ignoring the stench from his robes. He did not want to see anyone. He did not want to hear anyone.
The footsteps stopped. He stiffened as a voice spoke up right in front of his cell.
He did not respond. He did not look up.
"Today's your lucky day, Black. There's been some evidence come up. You're getting a trial."
He lifted his head, looking at the woman in front of him with dead eyes. The middle-aged woman was in green dress robes. Her blonde hair was pulled back into an elegant bun and she carried a black briefcase. Her blue eyes were intelligent and determined.
"My name is Amethyst Ainsworth. I will be representing you in your trial. For now, you are being moved to a secure facility away from Azkaban to prepare for your trial. Are you able to stand?"
He had to be hallucinating.
Ainsworth waited for a moment. When she didn't receive a response, she sighed. Then, suddenly, he realized that his cell door was opening, and she was entering. She knelt in front of her. He stared at her blankly.
He was dreaming, wasn't he?
She slid her arm underneath his and pulled him into a standing position. Then, slowly, she began to guide him out of the prison.
He'd wake up any minute now. He was sure of it.
Innocent. Guilty. His fault. Not his fault.
Harry could hear his aunt and uncle arguing in the kitchen.
He'd been home from school for roughly two hours, but the moment he had stepped inside of the door, his aunt had gripped his arm and put him in his cupboard, locking it from the outside without a word. She didn't even give him his chores for the day, nor had she let him out to start dinner. Normally, Harry wasn't sent to his cupboard until after dinner, when he would have a few hours to finish all his chores before cooking, but something was off today.
His uncle had only just returned home, and his aunt had immediately sent Dudley to his room, which was alarming in the first place, because his aunt never told Dudley to do anything.
He pressed his ear up against the door to his dark cupboard, trying to hear what was going on, unable to control his curiosity.
"What do you mean they're awake?" Uncle Vernon demanded, voice rumbling. Harry jumped as he heard a loud thud, as if Vernon had hit the table, "You said they would never wake up!"
"I don't know!" Aunt Petunia said in a shrill voice, "It's been seven years! But they are, and they're picking him up tomorrow?"
There was a beat. Harry leaned forward, entire body pressed up against the door as he strained his hearing. Then, Uncle Vernon asked, "So the boy is gone tomorrow?"
"No," Aunt Petunia said bitterly, "They're only picking him up for a visit."
"They're awake and they're not even taking the freak?" Uncle Vernon boomed furiously.
Harry jumped. Oh. They were talking about him.
But who were the other people that they were talking about?
"Apparently not," Aunt Petunia responded heatedly. When she continued, however, her voice was not as angry, and more concerned, "Vernon, if they find out about… They're dangerous."
There was another slam. Harry squeezed his eyes shut. He hoped Uncle Vernon didn't break anything. There was a vase on the kitchen table with flowers in it. Harry did not want to have to clean that up. Not only did he always cut up his hands when he cleaned up glass, but Aunt Petunia would be livid.
And she wouldn't take her anger out on Uncle Vernon.
"They won't find out about anything," Uncle Vernon said after a moment.
Harry jumped back as he heard loud footsteps coming towards the cupboard. He quickly lay down on the lumpy cot, pulling the old, blue blanket over himself to make it seem as if he was sleeping and not eavesdropping on his aunt and uncle. He turned his back towards the door to make it more believable, legs curling up to his chest to make himself more comfortable in the cramped space.
He could hear the cupboard being unlatched, and then the door swung open. Before Harry could even sit up, Uncle Vernon grabbed a hand full of his messy, black hair and yanked him off his cot.
Harry's hand unconsciously flew to his head, trying to relax his uncle's grip, and he gasped in pain.
"Boy!" Uncle Vernon bellowed, holding him by the hair in front of him, "You'll be visiting your parents tomorrow and you aren't going to tell them anything. Understand?"
Uncle Vernon's hand left his hair roughly and he drove his fist into Harry's stomach, quickly shutting him off as the air was pushed from his lungs.
"Don't ask questions," Uncle Vernon hissed, "We were told that they were dead, but they aren't. Who knows where those freaks have been, but they want to see you now. You better be good, or you'll get a good beating when you get back."
Harry nodded quickly, hands protectively around his stomach. He mentally berated himself for trying to ask a question. He knew better, but he also knew that his parents were dead.
Don't ask questions.
"Harry," Aunt Petunia spoke up, causing Harry to jump in surprise. They didn't usually use his name. Only his teachers used his name, "You know we've always treated you as you deserve. Bad boys like you have to be punished."
He nodded, "Yes, sir."
"I won't tell them how bad you are if you don't tell them," Aunt Petunia said slowly.
Harry paused for a moment, surprised. Aunt Petunia always told people how bad Harry was. If she didn't, though, then they would think he was a good boy.
His parents would think he was a good boy.
His parents, who were somehow alive…
He nodded stiffly, keeping his mouth firmly closed. Don't ask questions. Curiosity was bad. He was bad. He didn't need to understand. He just needed to follow orders.
"Good," Uncle Vernon grunted. He grabbed his arm in a bruising grip and then shoved him back into the cupboard. He hit his head on the top of the door but bit his tongue to prevent himself from letting out a noise, "You'll get out in the morning before they arrive."
The cupboard door slammed, and the lock clicked. Harry rubbed his head and grimaced lightly. He leaned back on hit cot and pulled his legs to his chest.
His stomach rumbled. He hadn't been allowed breakfast before school and Dudley had stolen his lunch, and now he wasn't going to be able to have dinner either. At least he didn't have to cook.
He'd rather cook than be stuck in the cupboard, though.
Maybe, if they thought he was good, his parents would give him some food.
He blinked in the dark, cramped cupboard and bit his lip. Hope sprang up in his chest for the first time and he found himself smiling in the privacy of his cupboard, where Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia couldn't see him. He didn't want to get a beating, because bad boys weren't allowed to smile.
His parents were alive. Somehow, someway, his parents were alive. It didn't make any sense, but they were.
He must have been a very bad baby. Even the Dursley's hadn't sent him away, despite the many times Uncle Vernon had threatened to kick him out. Yet, they had. They had sent him to the Dursley's because he was bad.
Aunt Petunia wasn't going to tell them that he was bad, though. Maybe they thought that enough time had passed that he could be good now. If he could somehow make them think that he was good, maybe they would want him again.
Maybe, just maybe, he could have a family.
AN: Hope you guys enjoyed! This chapter was a bit longer than normal. I almost took out Harry's scene and left it for the next chapter, but I felt that it fit better here. I was feeling bad for not having any Harry scenes yet, anyway.
The Dursley's are worse than they were in canon, and much more manipulative. The whole situation with Harry is going to be very complicated, so don't expect things to be resolved too quickly.
Also, I just want everyone to be aware that I start my next semester of college soon, so while updates have been coming roughly every two days so far, they'll be a bit more spread out once it starts back.
I'd love to hear about what you guys think so far! Reviews make my day! I'm curious as to what you guys think about it.
In the next chapter, Harry meets Remus, James, and Lily.