"Come on Harry, don't let it go," James Potter joyfully said one fair evening to his son, who was sitting in his lap. His eyes, deep brown in colour, and his son's, the colour of emeralds just like his mother's eyes, were avidly following a flying, glimmering object. Golden, it resembled a marble but had wings, speed and a tendency to dart away from people's hands. Usually it was called a Snitch, but some people liked to call it ‘that little bugger' and others the ‘best catch of the day'. Either way, James caught the Snitch after a failed attempt by little Harry.
After smiling at the look of mixed admiration for his dad and irritation for not having the Snitch in his hands that crossed his son's face, James prompted Harry to try once again to catch the Snitch. Harry failed, but on the third try a little hand managed to grab the Snitch by a wing and, at last, he caught it. Harry then giggled at the tickling sensation that the Snitch's wings were causing in his hands, and James glowed with pride. Yes, his son was brilliant. Of that there was no doubt.
"So there you are."
A female voice reached James as he and Harry prepared for another round of catching the Snitch. James prepared to release the Snitch, now back in his hands, from a different position. Upon hearing that voice, which was one he loved, James raised his eyes and gave his wife, Lily, a brilliant smile.
"Our Harry just caught his first Snitch!" James exclaimed, at which Lily gave a small sigh but smiled nonetheless. Pride and love shone on her face.
"Yes, I know you don't think Quidditch is overly important, but just imagine what great deeds he'll be able to do if he keeps up like this," James continued while standing up, hoisting Harry in his arms. One of James' hands was still holding the Snitch.
"Of course," Lily agreed as she took Harry up in her arms. "Come on, Harry. Let's go before your father starts preaching about the superiority of Quidditch again." James' face fell, but then Lily laughed and he had to join in. Her laugh was like crystals ringing in unison, and he loved that laughter too much to resist joining in no matter what.
And James loved many other things as well. His son, who was both his hope and joy at all times, his friends who were like brothers to him, and his life that, even if tainted by the war against a terrible Dark Lord, he would not change at all.
It all seemed too good to be real, just like a dream.
After bidding Harry a good night, and receiving an incoherent reply from his son, he ruffled the little boy's black hair, which was a perfect match of his own, and gave Lily a quick peck on the lips. After that, mother and son went up the stairs.
James then stood some moments contemplating the sky through the big window of the living room. Fire-tinted, it was giving way to deep blackness. In a few minutes the sun would go down. James then went through the living room and to a cupboard under the stairs, where, besides many other things, like a well-kept broom (James' own customized Chaser broom), a chess set with sleeping pieces (which James was sure Lily had charmed to be able to defeat Moony) and a box full with old school books (for Harry when he grew up), there was some sort of chest.
James took that chest out of the cupboard and, lifting it onto the dining table, he opened it. Inside were four compartments. One had a strange looking red ball, called a Quaffle, while the other two kept tightly strapped black balls, each nearly the size of a soccer ball. They were the Bludgers, and even now they were trying to escape. Finally James put the Snitch in the fourth, small compartment, which held it fast and secure.
James did not move to return the chest back to the cupboard. Instead, he allowed his thoughts to wander for a few moments. First he thought about the good memories Quidditch had given him and his friends, and then he thought of his friends and what they could possibly be doing right now: Moony surely was reading a heavy book with a nice cup of tea at his side since there was no moon tonight. Padfoot perhaps was playing with that new motorcycle of his; it seemed he cared for it more than himself. And Wormtail… Wormtail was making sure their secret was safe.
It was thanks to Wormtail that he and Lily and Harry were safe from Voldemort, and thus allowed these past days of complete peace and happiness for him and his family. He would always be grateful to Wormtail.
At last, James was done with his thoughts and was about to return the chest to the cupboard when he caught sight of the unusually black night that had suddenly fallen. He knew there was no moon that night, but normally stars were scattered completely across the sky at all times. Yet, today a deep black veil hung in the firmament, and the absence of light in the sky sent a shiver up his spine.
That was never a good sign.
Shrugging his concern away, James was about to resume his stroll to the cupboard when he suddenly felt a very distinct feeling, one that he had only felt three times in his life, and each one had been a dreadful occasion.
James' heart stopped for a moment, but in the next he released his breath as he turned around to the front door. James then saw how the green and silver flames blew the white wooden door apart, the rubble of the door falling all around him as flames consumed it. His eyes, however, locked on the figure standing in the threshold.
Enveloped in dark robes, red slits glaring at James, the Dark Lord Voldemort stood with his wand raised and pointed it at James. A pale hand firmly held the wand, and a vicious smile, the same one of a hunter who has cornered his prey, rested on his thin lips.
"Surprised to see me, Potter?" Cold was his voice, and it left James frozen in momentary shock. Seeing this, the Dark Lord let out a high-pitched laugh and stepped forward. James' mind finally caught on to the situation, though, and James immediately dropped the chest and drew out his wand, all the while running towards the stairs. As he ran he started to yell.
"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off --"
But James was interrupted by green light. However, years of playing Quidditch allowed James to drop to the ground in time before the curse found him, but it was a near miss and the green light went to smash against the wall, where it left a burn mark. James hastily returned to his feet and prepared to face Voldemort.
"There's no use in trying to escape, Potter," the Dark Lord said as he slowly approached James. "Do you think I would allow it? No… not after having heard of your son and his future... You and that Mudblood have escaped from me three times, but now there's no escape."
"What did you do to Peter!?" James asked as he was trying to give Lily time to escape. She could not Apparate with Harry, so she needed to find another way out. He was also worried about his friend, fearing that Voldemort had exposed him to physical and mental tortures in order to get their secret. To his biggest surprise and shock, Voldemort told him otherwise.
"I thanked him, of course," Voldemort began, enjoying the look of hurt and disbelief forming in James' face. "He has been most useful this last year, but with this piece of information he has gained my favour…"
"Impossible…" James whispered as he processed the information in his mind. Wormtail was the traitor Dumbledore told him about. The same one that everyone was sure was responsible of the death of many members of the Order. And now, Wormtail had given his and his family's life to Voldemort. Wormtail had betrayed him.
"Now, die Potter." And Voldemort released a new jet of green light.
"NO!" James yelled, refusing to die so easily, and so raised his wand and cried "Stupefy". Like balls of red and green fire, both curses met in midair, resulting in an explosion that threw James to the ground. Voldemort stood in his place, looking slightly amused.
"Yes… I expected no less from a Gryffindor… stupid bravery, but bravery in the end," Voldemort drawled as James returned to his feet with all the agility of a good Chaser. James was well aware of the difference in power but he had to try. Voldemort surely was going to kill him, but he was determined to show him what a father was ready to do for his family.
For you, Lily, and also for you, Harry. James steeled himself for his sure fate and started to gather power. Then, in an explosion of red light, James attacked.
Voldemort was ready for it, though, and with a cold smile he put up a shield of such strength that James' attack bounced away, not even making it quiver but just a little. The silver shield then vanished at Voldemort's command.
"Do you think that weak thing can be called a stunner? Allow me to show you a real stunner, Potter, so you may understand that it is futile to oppose me," Voldemort said, and then attacked with the same curse James had used. Red light flooded everything.
"Protego!" James barely managed to conjure. Silver was his shield as well, and the jet of light met it in the same way a spear meets armour. An instant that seemed an eternity to James passed as both spells tested their strength, and in the end Voldemort's curse proved to be stronger. James' shield was broken and the curse reached him. His partially stunned body made an arch in the air before falling on a couch, which gave away and James found himself on the floor, fighting the effects of the stunner.
"You have delayed me for too long, Potter…"
Voldemort's voice helped James to regain consciousness. He felt numb and exhausted, and even a small voice in his head suggested that he should just give up, that no matter what he did Voldemort had already won, and all thanks to a traitor. James opened his eyes just to see his living room in ruins and in some places small fires were starting to appear. At his side, he saw Voldemort raising his wand to deliver the final blow, but he also caught sight of the forgotten Quidditch chest at Voldemort's feet, and so James mustered all his strength and hastily aimed a Reducto spell against it. The yellow jet of light flew as a bullet and reached its target with the same speed.
The magical blast reduced the chest to splinters, and from the destroyed depths a golden flash shot up accompanied by two black shadows that immediately started to fly around, smashing everything in their path as they sought a target. They found one in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Voldemort was forced to evade the Bludgers by jumping back, and in that moment of distraction James re-entered the fight. He was well aware that no one besides Headmaster Dumbledore could best Voldemort in a duel, so he had to keep surprising Voldemort in order to have a chance at winning.
As impossible as it sounded, he had to try.
And try he did. His whole being recalled that sense of freedom and raw power that only a wild creature could get as it started to change; powerful antlers grew at the sides of his transformed forehead, and his limbs became long, strong and agile legs. In a matter of seconds the transformation was complete, and a full grown up stag stood in place of James Potter.
Voldemort had just evaded the Bludgers' first attempt at hitting him, and with a swipe of his wand both black balls were engulfed in green flames and nothing but their ashes were left. He had forgotten about James for a mere second, and too late he realized that had been a mistake. A full grown stag rammed him down, its antlers barely missing his flesh, and Voldemort was knocked to the ground.
Prongs was gone and James returned, hope slowly appearing in his heart as he aimed his wand at Voldemort's fallen body. He could do it. He could save his family. Taking a last, deep breath, he gave voice to the curse.
Light the colour of blood left James' wand. It left a graceful trace of sparks as it consumed inch by inch the distance between the wand tip and the Dark Lord. James could already feel the taste and relief of victory. Against all probabilities he had fought and now he was victorious, because he was sure there was no one capable of escaping a curse when it was that close.
He was wrong.
One moment Voldemort was there, and the next moment nothing stood in his place. James' curse hit the wooden floor and scorched it with enraged flames due to having missed. James' eyes widened in surprise and disbelief, the little hope in his heart crumbling down as he started to frantically search for Voldemort. He didn't have to search for long.
Fire consumed James. Wild and furious, it devoured his very being. Hateful blades pierced him in every inch of his body, reaching each of his nerves and making them explode in pain. His whole existence was reduced to the pain he was feeling, and then, nothingness.
"You have done well Potter… I respect your bravery, but without power, you are nothing but a fool…"
James could barely make out the cold voice. His body still twitched from the effects of the Unforgivable, but his eyes quickly focused on the Dark Lord in front of him. He knew he didn't have his wand, and also knew there was no escape.
It all had been a dream after all. To try and seek out a peaceful life with his family, to see his son grow up, and live at his wife's side each day of their lives. All a dream, a blissful dream he wanted to never wake up from, but dreams are nothing but a brief respite from reality, and thus they end.