The Potters lived a quiet life, deep in the Black Forest of Germany. They had moved there after the tragic incident that had taken Lily Potter's life, and there they had stayed for nearly a decade. The world thought them dead, and they had no desire to change that view.
Most of them time, it was just the three of them: James, Clark, and Harry. Sometimes, their sickly Uncle Remus would spend time with them, when James could convince him to accept 'charity,' though he would never do so when the night skies were filled by the full moon. Occasionally, their Uncle Sirius would visit for weeks on end, when the Auror Office wasn't keeping him too busy. And once in a while, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, would visit.
James had already made arrangements for Harry to go to Hogwarts as opposed to one of the other great wizarding schools, but he was unsure what to do with Clark. The circumstances of Clark's birth left James uncertain whether he would have magic at all. On paper, he was Harry's twin, but the truth was far stranger.
Until one day, shortly before the two boys turned eleven, when something not even James could anticipate happened.
Clark was stuck in the air slightly left of a tree, and Harry was reasonably sure it wasn't his fault this time.
He walked into the kitchen of their tiny cottage deep within the Black Forest of Germany, and found his father surrounded by piles of books, newspapers, filings, and several whirring Dark Detecting Devices.
James peered over his glasses as he worked on a half-legal piece of paperwork for Albus Dumbledore. "Hey, kid. Come to help me with the paperwork?"
"Can you get Clark out of the air?"
"Clark seems stuck. In midair. And I didn't do it."
James sighed. He'd seen stuff like this before when he was younger, and accidental magic was no joke. Either one of the boys could've hurled Clark into the air, and there was no guarantee that he would be able to descend safely. Thankfully, Snivellus's Liberacorpus was fairly universal. "I'll take care of it."
It didn't work.
James frowned. "Are you sure he's stuck there?"
"Why would he still be up there? Everything that goes up, must come down?"
"Where did you hear that?" James said. It wasn't necessarily true. There were charms of perpetual flight, or charms of 'throw-into-the-sun'.
"One of mum's books. One of the muggle ones."
Even so many years after the fact, Lily's death was still a sore point for James. He missed her dearly, and the often strange and mechanistic view she had of the universe, though it warmed his heart to see that some of her spirit lived on in their son.
The two of them headed outside, where James saw Clark hovering high in the sky, a speck haloed by the sun. For a second, his blood ran cold — Clark was hovering, free from spell or intention, much like the Dark Lord that had terrorized Britain for many years. But then he shook it off. There were no commonalities between Clark and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, no strings of fate that entwined them.
"Clark, son?" James shouted, only realizing that a Sonorous might be wise after the fact, "YOU ALRIGHT UP THERE?"
Clark clutched his ears. Then, he fell.
"Whoops," muttered James, canceling the Amplifying Charm. "Arresto Momentum!"
Clark's descent slowed, and it seemed almost as if he righted himself. By the time he was at ground level, he was standing upright, and he landed gracefully on his feet. James's stomach lurched, but he forced himself to think about it logically. Whatever Clark was doing was smooth, graceful, and natural, not at all like how You-Know-Who's flight, forceful and destructive.
"Did you have to be so loud?" Clark said.
"I'm sorry," said James, with a smile to cover his palpitating heart. "Wasn't sure you'd hear me up there."
James quickly glanced over at Harry, who seemed to be fine. The Amplifying Charm was supposed to account for proximity so not to hurt the ears. This was extremely odd, and he wasn't sure what he was going to do.
"I was enjoying myself in the sun," said Clark.
"What, exactly, happened?" said James. Questions were a good way to cover up for panic.
"Well, we were climbing the tree," said Harry, always quick with explanations and excuses, "and I decided that I wanted to get a notebook to describe what the ground looked like below us. And when I came back, he was 50 feet higher and floating in midair."
James nodded slowly. "Clark?"
Clark shrugged. "I was going to fall because I was too high, and then I didn't."
"Yeah, for an hour," said Harry. "Dad, doesn't accidental magic not last for an hour?"
"Usually, no," said James, as he flashed a winning smile, "but then again, Potters are rarely normal! Now, why don't you boys keep playing before dinner?"
The boys shrugged—they were used to their father's occasional odd deflections by now, and had long since realized that James Potter was a broken man—and went back to playing in the woods.
James walked back inside, slowly, as if in a haze. He opened the liquor cabinet, pulled out Dumbledore's most recent present, and had a stiff drink.
"Merlin, Lily, what did you do to them?" he said.
Either his wife had been doing some extremely experimental dark magic or—and here was a dark possibility, something of Voldemort had been left in Clark, and given him the power to fly or—and it struck him, like the meteor had almost struck their house so long ago, and he cursed himself for forgetting, and his previous self's lack of curiosity.
It was high time they visited Godric's Hollow and recovered the spaceship that had brought Clark to their home.
He put the bottle of liquor back, and walked back outside to call his sons.
"Boys," he said, "come inside. It's time I told you where babies really come from."
Ten years earlier:
James, Lily, and Harry Potter lived in Godric's Hollow, under the protection of the Fidelius Charm, a wonderful bit of magic that hid a secret within a soul.
As long as the Secret Keeper refused to speak, no one else would ever learn where the Potters lived. Voldemort was hunting them, and this was their guarantee of safety
James spent most of his time playing with their son Harry, while Lily often buried herself in her studies, researching charms, transfiguration, and magics thought long forgotten. It wasn't the most even divide, but James knew that Lily's talents were often academic, while his own lied elsewhere. He hadn't anticipated being a house-husband when he was young, but it wasn't as if he could play professional Quidditch with the war on.
There would be a time, they hoped, that their lives would return to normal, and they could live in the outside world once more with their son. Lily often said that her time spent cooped up would prove fruitful, if not exciting, and James was always quick to reassure her that anything that made her gleeful was exciting to him. Then, she would call him an idiot, but with a smile.
If fate had been kind to them, they would have lived out the remainder of the war in hiding, with no disruptions to the order of how things should have been.
Alas, mindless things like gravitation, inertia, and fate did not care about the power of the Fidelius Charm.
It was a day like any other when a great roaring came from the sky.
"What's the sound?" Lily said, frowning as she looked up from her desk, her wand still in her hand, the faintest wisps of magic lingering in the air like spirits of the wind.
James furrowed his brow even as he bounced baby Harry up and down on his knee. "Smells like fire."
The two of them shared a glance, and they rushed to their yard, mercifully protected by the Fidelius, James carrying Harry on his left shoulder. An incandescent meteor was plummeting towards their house.
Reflexively, they whipped out their wands. "Protego Totalum!" James shouted. The air rippled as an invisible wall of force extended before them, but there was no guarantee that it would be strong enough to withstand the meteor.
Lily was craftier, and chose a spell more likely to work. "Arresto Momentum!"
The meteor slowed, but it remained red hot until James cast a Cooling Charm. "See, we make a great team," he said.
Lily rolled her eyes. "That's why I married you."
"And here I thought it was because I pursued you for seven years."
"Harassed, more like," she said, though it was with a smile. In truth, James had only harassed Lily for five or six years, and spent the seventh being himself.
The thing from the sky didn't look like a meteor. It was oblong and made of gleaming blue metal with red accents.
"What an odd thing," said James, brandishing his wand. "Lils, should I?"
Lily said nothing. James looked at her, and realized she'd gone pale. She was chewing her cheek nervously, which was incredibly rare for her.
"Finite Incantatum," Lily muttered, jabbing at the thing from the sky, to no avail. It didn't change, the magic passing over the metal oblong shape with no effect. She pointed her wand at her self. "Finite Incantatum."
"What's wrong?" James said. "Why'd you try finites?"
"Because, James," Lily said tersely, "Learning magic was real was a shock, but it was something I'd known was true in my heart. Now, if this was Harry's accidental magic, I could go on with life without questioning everything I've ever known for, again. But since this isn't some transfiguration, it's a spaceship. A real spaceship."
James thought that was absurd. He had seen spaceships in the various muggle moviefilms that Sirius was so fond of. "Don't spaceships look like teapots?"
"Those are fictional stories, James."
Lily probably had a better idea of whether it was fiction or not, but James wasn't going to be outright skeptical when there was a spaceship in front of them, apparently.
"They seemed pretty real to me. How could they fake those things without magic?"
"Science, machines, probably. Or maybe they just used strings."
"So this thing in front of us… I don't think there were strings."
James felt a surge of panic when he realized that the giggling wasn't coming from his left shoulder.
Harry was sitting in front of the spaceship, his chubby fingers smacking against the smooth surface of the metal.
"WHEN did you put him down?" Lily screamed as she rushed towards him.
"I didn't!" James shouted back as he also rushed forward. "He must've apparated!"
"He's barely 1 years old!"
Yet as they rushed to save their son from the evils of the spacecraft, a door dilated open to reveal another baby, his eyes closed, sucking on his thumb. He had the faintest wisps of dark hair, slightly darker than Harry's, shaped into the beginnings of a cowlick.
Harry giggled and pointed. The baby opened his eyes, and they were a brilliant blue. He smiled at Harry and giggled too. He crawled out of the spaceship, and soon enough the two were playing patty cake—not an unusual sight among wizarding babies, but still utterly bizarre.
Lily and James watched this strange turn of events, speechless. Lily was the first to recover.
"Well, we're not naming him Fleamont. Or Charlus," she said. James's suggestion died on his tongue.
It was difficult to go from one child to two, especially without a hint of warning or planning.
"Are you sure about this?" James said, a bit of his pureblood upbringing shining through. "I mean— we've already got Harry, and two babies? How can we possibly deal with two babies? And also, You-Know-Who is hunting us down. Feel like I should mention that."
"How hard could it be?" said Lily. "We've already got Harry and all the stuff we prepared for him, and You-Know-Who is hunting us down. That's not going to change. Where could we send him? What else could we do with him? Throw him out of our doorstep and leave him outside of the Fidelius to fend for himself? And the thing is we'll probably be under the Charm for long enough that we can just say he's ours or that we had unexpected twins, and no one will ask any questions."
"What if he's… well, he fell from the sky. What are the odds that he's… you know…"
"I thought you were a better man than that, James," Lily said coldly. "You said you wouldn't send your children away, even if they were squibs. This would be little different."
"It's not that," said James, even though it was. It was a logical argument, but he had so many doubts. "I don't know if I can be a good dad for one kid. How could I possibly be a good dad for two—especially if he's a squib? He'd have to get used to… to the muggle world."
Lily kissed him. "You'll do your best, James Potter, and it'll have to be good enough. As for the muggle world, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Life in the Potter household continued as it had before, but with two babies instead of one. This was more work, but through the magic of having nothing else going on in their lives, the Potters managed to walk the delicate balance between sanity and the lack of it.
After some heated discussion, James and Lily decided to name their newfound son Clark. It was a respectable enough British name, and also not 'all the worst excesses of pureblood culture, distilled into a single name' as Lily described it.
Now that they had two children, James and Lily split the parenting duties more evenly. When Lily took Harry, he always seemed to sit quietly as she pored over her textbooks and grimoires and practiced her charms. He seemed to drink in every incantation, every swish and flick of the wrist, but that was surely impossible for a one year old—though, Lily reminder herself, wizarding children often had certain affinities towards specific aspects of the world around them, and an unusually smart child would be the very normal kind of impossible that was in short supply these days. James, on the other hand, took a shine to Clark despite his initial misgivings. Although there wasn't much room to fly in their yard, and at best he could merely hover a few feet above the ground, when he took Clark flying on the broom, the child seemed to love the feeling of defying gravity and having the sun on his face.
They buried the ship in the yard. They had found some sort of record, a crystal that projected the face of a long-dead man, who spoke in a language they couldn't understand, but who seemed kindly enough to them. Deciphering his language would be a project for after the war, when they could raise Harry and Clark with the love and freedom they deserved.
Lily seemed so busy, her mind abuzz with things James could barely understand. She had taken copious notes about the spaceship, and would often tell James about them at length, describing how the ship seemed to react oddly to magic as if it was drinking in the energy of the spells. But then she would go silent, and a haggard look would enter her eyes, though with a gleam beneath the exhaustion.
James understood where she was coming from. He recognized the look of his wife when he had a plan, but there was a Dark Lord hunting for them, and even the Fidelius could have a weakness. But when he asked her how she felt about that, she seemed completely assured.
"I'm taking care of it," she would say. "The boys will survive. And I know, James, that you'll be a wonderful father."
It was a peaceful time, all things considered. They came to love both their sons as their own flesh and blood. Only later would James wish that he had offered to help a bit more stridently.
And then came Halloween, and with it, Voldemort.
He announced himself by reducing their front door to a cloud of sawdust, and when he did there was a burst of heat and light in their doorframe. Voldemort screamed in pain, and stumbled around with his wand.
"Go get the boys," Lily said to James, and he did, reacting on instinct. He ran to the boys' bedroom. Behind him, he could hear Voldemort yowling, "Step aside, woman! Give me the boy, and I will let you live!"
James grabbed Clark and Harry, bundling them in their blankets and holding them tight in his arms. The door burst open behind them, and he whirled, knowing that he wouldn't be able to grab his wand to defend himself, but it was only Lily.
"Lils, what do we do?"
She didn't smile, only a look of harsh determination on her face. "Don't worry. I have a plan."
She kissed him, a short, sad, kiss, and slipped a wooden rod into his shirt pocket before he could react. Then, she snapped it and stepped away.
And James felt a familiar pull on his navel, the jerking of a portkey, as Lord Voldemort stepped into the nursery doorframe.
"Lily, no!" he shouted, but it was too late, he was already being jerked away to some unknown destination.
"Please, not Harry! I'll do anything!" Lily shouted.
"Step aside, and I will spare you!"
And James could only watch in silence and terror, from halfway down the portkey's warp, through a long distorted tunnel that wove through space and time, as Voldemort cast the Killing Curse.
And Lily crumpled.
And then something happened, something that must have been part of Lily's plan.
The cottage at Godric's Hollow glowed with magic like a brilliant star.
And all James could see was white.
"Lily! Lily! Lily!" James shouted, hoarse, tears streaming down his face, a baby in each arm. He didn't know where he was, nor did he care. How could he not have seen it? She had chosen to die, and given him his life—a life he would've gladly given for her. He should've thrown himself in front of You-Know-Who's wand, grappled him, done anything instead of being a sitting duck that got sent away…
Someone was grabbing his shoulder. "James, James, you have to calm down! What happened."
"Sirius," he gasped. "You-You-Know-Who came to our house. He was going to kill us, but Lily snuck a Portkey onto me and sent me… here. Is this your flat? Maybe if we go quickly we can still save her!"
Sirius looked at him sorrowfully. "You know how fast he is with a wand, James. I'm sorry."
James sunk into a shabby chair, still crying. Harry and Clark clung to him, wide eyed and silent. ""
Sirius's face was torn between sorrow, anger, and utmost confusion. "When did you get a second kid?"
"We were in there for nine months, Sirius. Do the math," said James sarcastically.
"That baby's at least a year old. He could be Harry's twin."
James didn't answer. Sirius's shabby flat was an imperfect backdrop for mourning. Every poster on the wall screamed to rebel against society, to strike back at those who hurt you and make them pay.
As he watched his grieving brother, Sirius's eyes hardened. "Wormtail," he said.
"Don't," said James.
"He betrayed you!" said Sirius. "He betrayed us. He needs to die. A life for a life."
"And we'll go through the proper channels," James said. "I already lost the love of my life. Do you think I want to lose two of my brothers to each other?"
"He'll pay," said Sirius, though his brow was furrowed with concern. "He'll have to."
"One day. Soon."
James took in a few heaving breaths, and forced himself to calm down. He had lost a lot, but he was still alive, and his sons were alive.
"James," said Sirius, "do you know what this means?"
"What?" said James.
"No, I'm not. Lily is," James said dumbly.
"I'm sorry. But to the Death Eaters, to You-Know-Who's followers, you're dead. To Wormtail, you're dead."
And then James understood. "This is a chance," he said, even though his insides tore at him. "Lily—" the pain twisted— "she gave us a chance. I wish she'd told me she had a plan, but she gave us a chance."
Sirius nodded grimly. "And we'll take it. Expecto Patronum!"
A silver grim erupted from his wand.
"Go to Albus Dumbledore. Tell him I have a confession to make to him alone, in private, so if he'll just stay in his office for an hour or so that'd be great."
James started. "You're not going in, are you? He thinks you're the Secret Keeper. They'll send you to Azkaban."
"Of course not," said Sirius. "I'll send him a Patronus message. After all, I thought I'd only have one godson! You've got to introduce me to this little man."
Dumbledore's regal presence was a stark contrast to Sirius's shabby flat, but the old man sat down comfortably on a half-torn couch and listened attentively as James choked out his memories of the night.
Dumbledore nodded as James stuttered and stopped his story. "It's alright to grieve, James. You've lost a lot."
"And thank you, Sirius," he said, "for not doing something incredibly rash."
Sirius hung his head. "James stopped me," he admitted.
"Now what," James said, his voice dull. "I've lost almost everything."
"Hey, I'll always be here for you," Sirius said.
It seemed like too much for James. He was barely twenty-one, and he'd lost his wife and his home in a single night. He'd been betrayed by a man he thought a brother, and he was in no state to raise two children alone.
"Is there anyone else who could raise the boys?" James said, looking at Dumbledore. "I… I'm not fit to be a father. I couldn't save my wife."
"Lily made her own choices," Dumbledore said gently. "She would not blame you for her death. It was not your fault."
"I know," said James bitterly. "It wasn't my choice. Still…"
"Would you really give your son to Petunia Evans?"
"Sons?" said Dumbledore. He gazed at the rudimentary crib made from one of Sirius's doggy beds. "Sons. May I?"
"Go ahead," said James dully.
Dumbledore approached the makeshift crib, gave the boys a cursory glance, and then did a double take. "By the Source," he muttered.
"Is something wrong?" said Sirius.
"No, nothing's wrong at all," said Dumbledore. "A powerful magic has settled upon your boys, one I can barely identify. Lily's doing, I presume."
"In truth," he said, sighing, "I am rather regretful I must interrupt your day of mourning with bright news. The world is celebrating."
"Celebrating?" spat James. "What is there to celebrate?!"
Sirius and Dumbledore shared a look, before Sirius's expression softened. "He's dead, James. You-Know-Who is gone."
She'd done it. Lily had done it, somehow. She'd slain You-Know-Who, and all it had cost was her life. The prophecy that had led them into hiding had mentioned their son, but in the end the mother had slain the final blow. It was all very self-fulfilling, and rather funny, but not in an amusing way.
And James laughed. It wasn't a happy laugh. It was the kind of laugh that stems from pain, that slowly gets more unstable with every passing second, until it's barely more than a screech in the back of the throat, air forcing itself through lungs, until it's nothing more than wheezing, and still the laugh won't stop, until it turns to tears. But he stopped himself, tears in his eyes.
"She did it," James said. "Lily won. Albus, we won."
Dumbledore only nodded.
"I'm sorry," said James. "I… I don't know what to think. Now what?"
"Ah. That," said Dumbledore.
"What's the bad news," said James.
Dumbledore paused delicately. "They are heralding Harry, the son that they know of, as the 'Boy-Who-Lived', the only child to survive Voldemort's Killing Curse."
"Albus, we weren't even there."
"I know. But the public is… credulous."
James made a disgusted noise. "It was all Lily. She should be, I don't know, the 'Witch-Who-Won'."
"James, think," said Sirius. "You-Know-Who's got sympathizers in the press and the ministry. Do you really think they'd go along with the story that a muggleborn witch who poached a pureblood prince somehow managed to defeat the most terrible Dark Lord we've had since Cromwell?"
James deflated. "I guess not. Harry wasn't anywhere near a Killing Curse."
"Which leads us to our current predicament," said Albus. "The world thinks you are dead. Peter Pettigrew must be revealed in a way that keeps you dead, and Sirius safe. Your son is spoken of in great and terrible whispers, as a far more powerful dark wizard than Voldemort himself, and already some seek to raise him as the next great terror."
"I have two sons."
"And you must raise two sons, one of whom has not existed before today," said Dumbledore, smiling. "Not an easy task for any man."
"So what should I do?"
"Why, you must be dead, my boy," said Dumbledore. "Go be dead somewhere peaceful or sunny, where the wind is music through the wood and the forests glow in the autumn. Be dead for ten years while Harry is raised by mysteriously defined Muggle relatives who are so Muggle that they have a muggle-ness field that mysteriously stymies any form of inquiry into their existence, as if cast by some meddling old mentor with an inscrutable agenda. And in the meantime, we shall hold the line."
"So you see," James said, "Clark is adopted."
Clark frowned. "So I don't look like some relative on mum's side of the family? The way Harry looks like a younger you?"
"I'm afraid not," said James. "The truth is, son, I'm not even sure you're human. And I'm not sure you're a wizard, either. That's something we'll have to ask Dumbledore."
He flew into the ruins of the cottage, his black robes billowing besides him. His foot landed in a man-shaped pile of ash and scattered it to the winds; he paid it no mind. There was no sign of blasted Potter or his spawn—and he suspected the man had abandoned his wife, like a coward.
In fact, there was only one sign any human had ever lived in that twisted ruin.
"No," he said, collapsing onto his knees before her body.
"No," he said, even more weakly.
He ran his hands through her red hair, caressed her face, shuddered and looked away as he closed her beautiful green eyes. He pressed his hand to her chest and felt no heartbeat. There was no hope at all.
And there, in the ruins of a cottage in Godric's Hollow, Severus Snape softly sobbed.
As rain started to fall, sorrow gave way to grief. As rain ceased, grief gave way to loss. As the moon's beams peered through the clouds, loss gave way to hate and anger and vengeance.
In the ruins of a cottage in Godric's Hollow, Severus Snape screamed at a world that had taken everything for him as his hatred crystallized into resolve.
"I am VENGEANCE! I AM THE NIGHT!"
He let slip the animagus form he'd thought sealed deep within himself, let his newfound drive to make things right carry him away on soft, leathery wings.
And a bat flew towards the moon from the ruins of a cottage in Godric's Hollow.