The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
The Beginning of the End
By Crimson Zephyr
Chapter 1: Sixth Year
“Oi, James, wake up!”
There was a blur of motion and a swift whack to the head. James Potter woke up with a start, scrambling for his wand and his glasses.
“What’s the matter?” he murmured thickly, stifling a yawn. A boy was sitting at the foot of his bed, grinning broadly. He was effortlessly handsome, with long, shining black hair and chiseled features. His mouth was curved in a smug smirk and his eyes looked gleeful in a very mischievous way.
“About time you got up!” he exclaimed. “Seriously, Prongs, do you want to miss the train like in second year?”
“What time is it, Sirius?” James asked, getting to his feet.
“Nearly seven,” he replied. “Anyway, come on, your mum’s been calling for you. And I’m starving…”
“So go eat,” said James gruffly.
“And you’re still hungry?”
“Well…yes…but that’s beside the point. Anyway, get dressed – we’re all waiting downstairs, the family and me.”
Sirius got up and left the room. The door closed with a snap. James went to a wardrobe in the corner of the room and pulled out some clothes: a gray buttoned-down shirt, some pants, and a dark green jacket. He slipped on his shoes, tucked his wand in his pocket, and grabbed a folded piece of blank parchment before exiting to greet his family.
James and Sirius were beginning their sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school was located in a large castle somewhere in Scotland (James reasoned it had to be, given how hilly the surrounding terrain was) and was like a home away from home. The previous year, James had sat for his Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the comprehensive examination that tested students on their knowledge after five years of study. Now as an advanced, N.E.W.T. student, James was eager to return to Hogwarts, seeing as he had received top marks.
The results had arrived by owl post the previous weekend. Two screech owls bearing the Hogwarts crest flew into the Potter family home in London. Sirius Black, his best friend since his first day at Hogwarts, had lived with him ever since he had been disowned by his own family. The first owl had dropped a scroll of parchment onto James’ lap. It had read:
ORDINARY WIZARD LEVEL
Pass: Outstanding (O); Exceeds Expectations (E); Acceptable (A)
Fail: Poor (P); Dreadful (D); Troll (T)
James Edward Potter has achieved the following marks:
Ancient Runes: O
Care of Magical Creatures: E
Defense against the Dark Arts: O
History of Magic: E
Muggle Studies: E
It had been as he had expected: top marks in what he considered the important classes, above average marks in the rest, with the sole exception of Divination. He wasn’t particularly worried – on the examination, he couldn’t see anything but smoke, and during palm reading, he completely lost his head and informed the examiner that he would die at one-hundred and ten. He was already one hundred and eleven by that time, however.
Transfiguration was a subject he always knew he’d excel at. At the age of eleven, he could transform a dormouse into a teacup and back again, without botching the transformation, on his first try. By age fifteen, he was already bewitching old suits of armor to come to life. In fact, he estimated he was one of the best at the subject, but his reasons for thinking so were his own. And Sirius’s.
Defense was the other subject he did exceedingly well in. Whether it was disarming, stunning, or dueling, he was skilled at it. Many of the sixth year members of Slytherin House learned at their own peril early on not to trifle with him. Not that he needed any convincing to fight the Slytherins, however.
The results were still clipped into a wall in the kitchen by James’s mother. She was particularly pleased with his high marks. She worked in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, along with her husband, as members of the Wizengamot, the high court of the wizarding world. Sirius’s marks were clipped next to James’s; he was like a second son after all. His marks were exactly the same as James’s.
“Good morning, James, your breakfast is on the table, dear,” said Mrs. Potter. “Sirius has already eaten, but dear me, he was still hungry, so he’s eating thirds of the eggs and toast…”
She glanced at Sirius, who was still shoveling food into his mouth. James smiled appreciatively and sat across from Sirius, pulling his plate toward him. “Morning, Padfoot. You’d better slow down or you won’t have room for the feast at Hogwarts.”
“Always plenty of room,” Sirius said thickly through a piece of toast. “Anyway, we’re finally off to Hogwarts! Quidditch is going to be great this year. Ravenclaw lost that cow of a Seeker. They’ll be hammered and we can win the Cup again, though by more than ten points.”
“Are you going to try out for the team?” James asked lightly.
“Definitely!” Sirius exclaimed. “I was thinking of trying out for Beater…or maybe Keeper…I dunno…I’ll need a good racing broom though….”
“You can have my spare if you get on the team,” said James, grinning. “It’d be fantastic to have you on the team. Gryffindor will surely win with both of us on!”
“Exactly!” said Sirius. “Potter and Black, the unstoppable force: scoring goals and smashing Bludgers.”
“Speaking of Potter and Black,” Mrs. Potter cut in. “I’ve heard some interesting news from Professor Dumbledore. You two,” she said, pointing at James and then Sirius, “have been getting in serious trouble, he says. Almost regularly.”
“It’s nothing, mum, just a bit of fun!” James insisted. “We can’t help it if the Slytherins are lousy gits. We give them only a fraction of what they send our way!”
Mrs. Potter smiled. “You’re not going to make Head Boy if you constantly irk your teachers, James.” She said this without any severity. The Potters enjoyed their son’s pranks at school, but they wanted him to excel and be a model student.
“Remus can be Head Boy, he’s already a prefect,” said James defiantly. “Why would I want to lead an organization I’ve spent years undermining?”
“Because then you can undermine it from the inside,” said Sirius. He let out a bark-like laugh. “I heard the headmaster can’t even replace the Heads. So if we’re…a bit rebellious, we can still dock points from the Slytherins at the end of the day.”
“Excellent,” said James as he finished his breakfast. “We’ve been winning the House Cup, but I want to see Slytherin in the negatives. Perhaps as early as the train ride…”
“Boys, you know Dumbledore won’t like that,” said Mrs. Potter reproachfully. “Oh my, look at the time. We should be heading to King’s Cross!”
Without another word, she drew her wand and cried, “Locomotor trunks!”
The trunks zoomed down the stairs and out the door, the two boys following closely behind. An owl cage zoomed down after them. Sirius and James began loading all the things into the Potters’ car, a black Morris Oxford VI. When they opened the trunk, all of their belongings fit quite easily, as the compartment had been magically enlarged.
James stepped inside. The interior was deceptively huge. Instead of two rows of leather seats, the inside was spacious and luxurious. Two squishy leather couches lined the edges of the windowed room, while a bunk occupied the back. At the front, the driver’s and passenger’s seats were hidden behind a partition. Mrs. Potter got into the driver’s seat.
“All right, boys, we’re heading to King’s Cross now,” she called. “Stay in your seat, Sirius, this might be a little bumpy…”
She pressed a button on the dash and the car zoomed forward out of the Potters’ lot, curving and winding through the streets of London.
“That was a little bumpy?” Sirius echoed after pulling himself off the floor at the next stoplight. “Prongs, great new car and everything, but seriously, add some Cushioning Charms. I don’t want to lose any of my three breakfasts.”
“You’re one to talk,” said James, grinning. He kept sliding from one side of his couch to the other. “You told me the Knight Bus was a pleasure cruise! That thing was a nightmare. I vomited almost immediately, if you remember, and unfortunately, I only had a single meal’s worth of food in my stomach.”
“Oh shut up,” said Sirius grumpily. “Anyway, d’you have the map?”
“The map?” James repeated. “Oh right…yeah, here it is…”
James pulled out the folded piece of parchment he had pocketed earlier and unfolded it. It was completely blank, but regardless of that crucial detail, he took out his wand and wordlessly conjured a small table and smoothed the “map” on it. James was sure to magically stick the map to the table and the table to the floor of the car as the vehicle began swerving through Muggle traffic.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” said James clearly, speaking more to the parchment than Sirius.
“I certainly hope not!” Mrs. Potter called from the front.
The parchment was no longer blank. Words in fancy lettering appeared on the front: Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs proudly present the Marauder’s Map.
“I like the writing on the front,” said Sirius approvingly. “Moony’s idea?” he inquired.
“Who else?” James replied. “But I had a little feature put in place, just in case this beauty falls into the wrong hands. Let’s say you were Snivellus, for instance –”
“Let’s not,” Sirius said darkly.
“Okay, let’s say I was Snivellus and I got my greasy little hands on this treasure – no, it won’t burn his hands or curse him – just watch.”
He pointed his wand at the map. “I, Severus Snape, master of Hogwarts, command you to reveal your secrets!”
The map went blank immediately. Instead, four little phrases appeared:
“Mr. Moony sends his compliments to Severus Snape, few as they are.”
“Mr. Wormtail wishes Severus Snape all the best, and suggests Warlock’s All-Purpose Shampoo.”
“Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like Severus Snape managed to enter Hogwarts.
“Mr. Prongs agrees with his colleagues, but urges Severus Snape to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people’s affairs.
“Brilliant,” Sirius whispered. “So the map insults anyone who tries to use it by force?” he asked, examining the map. He made the Marauder’s oath again and the map reappeared.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
“So,” he said; his was tone suddenly businesslike, “we need to finish this map in the next two years. Have you figured out the pattern that the staircases move in yet?”
“It’s tough but I think they move according to floor, similar to a lift that Muggles use. If we can plot one staircase, I think we can bewitch the map into knowing when it rotates. I was more concerned about getting all the corridors mapped. So far we’ve got the first three floors, the Transfiguration corridor, the Defense corridor, and Gryffindor Tower. We’ll need to get access to Ravenclaw Tower and the Hufflepuff Cellar at some point,” he added.
“We’ll find a way in,” said Sirius. “I heard the Ravenclaws don’t use passwords. They have to answer questions correctly or else the door won’t open.”
“Okay, we’ll need Polyjuice Potion for that,” said James, furrowing his brow. “If only Evans was one of us, she could brew it.”
“If Lily Evans was a friend of the Marauders, wouldn’t your frequent attempts to get her to go out with you be more successful?” Sirius asked. His face was in an expression somewhere between exasperation and amusement.
“She’ll come around,” said James bracingly.
“I’m not so sure,” said Sirius. “We were merciless to Snape during exam week. Not that it was undeserved, but it didn’t score any points with Evans, that’s for sure.”
“Well, no, of course not,” said James defensively. The image of Lily Evan’s face, contorted with anger sprang into his mind as quickly as the image of Severus Snape hanging upside-down in the air by his ankles. “Hey, if you were more like Wormtail, impressed with the Snitch and all, none of that would have happened!”
“Oh, rubbish! That one was all you, mate. I was just there for the show.”
“Good news, though,” James was trying to steer the conversation in a more positive direction. “Apparently, Evans had some sort of falling out with Snape after he called her a…well, after he used that word…”
“And you’re going to try and profit from Snape’s loss?” Sirius asked shrewdly.
“No sense wasting an opportunity when it falls so neatly before me, eh Padfoot?”
“I like that attitude, but maybe you should give Evans a break,” Sirius suggested. “At the rate you’re going, Voldemort will be dead before she says yes, or even maybe.”
“Not a chance,” said James. “But since we’re on the subject – care to make it interesting?”
“As if this wasn’t riveting before,” Sirius said sarcastically. “Okay, what’s the bet?”
“I get Lily to go out with me by the end of this year, and you pay me one hundred sickles. I fail, and I pay you that amount. I’m giving you great odds, mate.”
Sirius thought it over. “Okay, deal. How will we classify a ‘date’? Stalking her in the Three Broomsticks doesn’t count.”
“Damn,” James muttered. “Okay, if she says yes and goes through with it. Again, you’ve got great odds, Padfoot. Imagine what could be done with one hundred sickles…”
“Not much, considering the best things in life are purchased with galleons. Or, not at all…”
“Fair point I suppose.”
A voice came from the front as the large vaunted building of King's Cross Station came into view. “Boys! We’ve arrived!” exclaimed Mrs. Potter.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
Chapter 2: The Marauder and the Prefect
In the hustle and bustle of King’s Cross station, no one seemed to see a woman ushering two teenage boys to the barrier between platforms 9 and 10. Any Muggle that found it odd that one of the boys had a cage carrying, of all things, an owl, had little time to stare at the odd travelers, for as soon as they leaned against the wall, concealed by the crowd, they were gone in the blink of an eye.
But the Muggles could not see what was beyond that barrier. Mrs. Potter, James, and Sirius emerged on Platform 9 ¾, lugging their trunks and James’s owl, Eris, onto a crimson steam engine.
“Now, James, Sirius, you behave yourself,” said Mrs. Potter. “I don’t want to hear that you’ve – you’ve sent a Hogwarts toilet seat by owl post –”
“A toilet seat?” James repeated. “Have we done that yet, Sirius?”
“I don’t think so, James,” said Sirius with a grin. “But thanks for the idea, Mum.”
“I was being serious!”
“So was I,” said Sirius. “Don’t worry, we’ll write often.” He jumped onto the train.
“Yeah, every week,” said James. He hugged his mother and gave her a fleeting kiss on the cheek before disappearing into the compartment, a mischievous grin on his face.
The compartments of the Hogwarts Express were filled with students milling about in corridors. Every now and then, a student was magically hoisted by his or her ankles into the air, amidst gales of laughter. James found his compartment. Inside he found Sirius sitting with two other boys.
One was sickly and pale. His face looked prematurely lined and there were even flecks of grey in his chestnut hair. Despite this, when he saw James, his face broke into a wide grin.
The other was a plump little boy, more than a head shorter than the rest. His blonde hair was cut in a pudding bowl style over his head and his beady, watery eyes kept darting across the room, as though they were searching for details overlooked.
They were Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, James’s best friends outside of Sirius. “All right, James? Sirius was just telling us about your summer. Did the two of you really try to impress Muggles with magic tricks and fly a broomstick over Buckingham Palace?”
“Both, my dear Mr. Moony,” James replied. “The Muggles really took to our card tricks too – said they were almost like real magic. So how was your summer?”
“The usual,” Remus replied. “Dad’s been having a job at the Ministry, though. Three more cases of the Imperius Curse have been reported. The one Dad had to sort out was a bride who tried to attack her groom on their wedding day. Totally unexpected, though the groom might’ve been a git and the woman got cold feet....anyway, he’s been flying victims to St. Mungo’s all week.”
“That sounds terrible,” said Peter. “How’re your parents, Prongs?”
“Just fine, I suppose,” said James. “It’s getting tougher in the Wizengamot, though. Dumbledore may have the last word there, but Crouch is stirring up a storm. Introduced a motion last week to legalize the usage of the Unforgivable Curses against suspected Death Eaters. And they can’t really do much, because opposing Crouch means earning an express ticket to Azkaban. Remember what happened to Jeremy Locke’s uncle?”
“The Daily Prophet columnist?” asked Remus. “He wrote the Quidditch column, thought he was a bit mental, seeing as every article ended with predictions of a Chudley Cannon victory. Anyway, what happened to him?”
“Arrested, of course, and without a trial,” said James darkly. “The Aurors thought he was passing information to the Death Eaters. There was no actual evidence, and the actual culprit was caught three months later, but by that time, Locke had forgotten how to feed himself after his time in prison.”
James glanced at Sirius and said, “Padfoot’s living at my place, now.”
“Not surprising, as he’s there so often anyway,” said Lupin nonchalantly.
“Moony, I think James might mean for real this time,” said Peter cautiously. Sirius had a dangerous look on his face at the mention of his estranged family.
“Well, Padfoot, what happened at Grimmauld Place?” Remus asked.
“I had had enough,” Sirius muttered, looking out the window as the Hogwarts Express pulled out of London. “The pure-blood mania, the fawning over Voldemort, everything. I won’t be missed, believe me. The morning after I ran away, my mother blasted me off the family tree and wrote me out of her will. But otherwise, this summer has been fantastic. I’m trying out for the Quidditch team as a Beater.”
“You think Prongs will let you on?” Remus asked. “Prongs, you will let him on, right?”
But James’s attention was focused elsewhere. As Sirius was extolling his own skills as Beater to Remus and Peter, the latter of whom was listening intently, as though his every word was an unquestionable truth, a flash of startling dark red hair had caught James’s eye. He wordlessly rose to his feet and left the compartment.
“– And that prat McIntyre won’t get on the team, I could squash him – oi, Prongs! Where the hell are you off to?”
“The loo,” James muttered.
“Like hell you are,” Sirius shot back. “That’s in the other direction. You’re going to the prefects’ compartment, aren’t you?”
“So what if I am?”
“Well, there’s no way in hell Dumbledore would replace Moony with you,” said Sirius. “And harassing Evans while she’s in her element won’t get into her good books any time soon.”
“Aren’t you betting that this attempt will end in disaster?” James asked.
“Oh right, the bet – James, you march into that compartment and – and you tell her you’re not leaving until she agrees to go out with you!” said Sirius, his face contorted with suppressed glee.
“What are you going to say to her exactly, Prongs?” asked Remus, rising to his feet. He was already in his Hogwarts robes and a prefect’s badge was pinned to his chest.
“Why so curious, Moony?”
“I’m heading down to the prefect’s compartment. I want to know if this will be another battle of wills. They are entertaining, you know, even if your ego is gutted in the process,” he said lightly. He walked out of the door, laughing softly.
James scowled. He reached into his pocket and grabbed a few galleons and sickles. “Here,” he handed the money to Pettigrew, “Buy me something off the trolley. We can savor my victory together, the three of us, when I return.”
Sirius gave him a thumbs-up, with a slightly mocking smile, and James exited the compartment. Finding Lily Evans wasn’t particularly difficult. For the most part, most of the students had retreated to their compartments, with a few prefects patrolling the halls. Most of them eyed James a little warily, but as there were no Dungbombs in his hands, they did not stop him.
He caught up with her several doors away from the prefects’ compartment.
“All right, Evans?”
She turned around to face him so fast that he had to grind to a halt just to avoid walking into her. “What is it now, Potter? I’m very busy, but I won’t hesitate to dock points from Gryffindor this early in the year if you force me to…”
“You’ve never docked points from me before,” said James in a tone of mock injury. “Why start now?”
“Because nothing else seems to work with you, Potter!” she exclaimed. “Now please, leave me alone, I have to report back to the Head Boy. I have no interest in speaking to you, so why don’t you run off and hurl a Dungbomb somewhere else.”
“I don’t have any Dungbombs,” said James defensively. She made to leave, but James held her back.
“What?” Now her tone transitioned from annoyance to anger.
“Calm down, Evans, I just wanted to talk to you – about last spring. If you’re free, meet me in Compartment 34C,” said James, a little hesitantly. “After you sort out your business with the Head Boy, I mean.”
Lily sighed. “There’s nothing to talk about, Potter. Just go back to your friends and leave me alone. I’m not going to go out with you, so there’s no point in asking.”
James stopped grinning and looked a little crestfallen. He quickly regained his swagger, as well as the mature, smooth tone he used only with her. “Nevertheless, I’ll be waiting. Come on, Evans, am I really that bad?”
“Probably, and I’m not particularly keen on giving you the benefit of the doubt,” said Lily. “Stay out of trouble, Potter. I’ll be back soon.”
She left to join the other prefects. James stood rooted to the spot, hardly able to believe his luck. A year ago, he and Lily Evans would have had a shouting match, probably exacerbated by the presence of Severus Snape, her best friend and James’s worst enemy. He barely had a moment to reflect on his luck when Remus Lupin approached him.
“So…what did she say?” he asked immediately.
“Well, let’s put it this way,” said James. “She hasn’t called me an arrogant toe-rag, yet, and that usually happens immediately. In any case, good luck with the prefects.”
“Wait a moment, Prongs. Are you on speaking terms or did she ignore you?”
“We’ll see,” said James. “I doubt she could remain angry for too long. This is me we’re talking about…”
“In which case she could remain angry for the rest of her life,” Remus quipped. He look over his shoulder furtively and then handed a small parcel to James. “Okay, look, this is for you. Don’t open it in front of Padfoot, and definitely don’t open it in front of Lily.”
James eyed the parcel. “A book, Moony, why would I need a book?”
“It’s Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches,” Remus replied. “The first print, actually, just came out last week. Padfoot bought Wormtail a copy and well…nothing in it seemed to work for him. He asked me to give it to you. Anyway, consult it if you have to…I have to get to the prefects. See you later, Prongs.”
James sat in the empty compartment. He had to hand it to Remus, studious though he was, he seemed to get Evans in a way Sirius or even he never could. He’d have to consult the book later, if he was desperate.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
So he waited in the compartment for what seemed like hours, but was, in truth, a little more than thirty minutes. James took out a small Golden Snitch from his pocket and released it into the air. A pair of wings sprouted from the ball and it began whizzing around James’s head. He caught it in one swift motion and then released it again. He caught it again, and then released it, faintly disappointed that Peter wasn’t there. He enjoyed this trick so much…
He released it for the fourth time, but before he could grasp it again, a hand appeared in the doorway and snatched it out of the air.
“Nice catch, Evans,” said James, looking impressed. “You should try out for Seeker…”
Lily ignored this. She sat down opposite him. “So, Potter, I’m here. What did you need to speak to me about?” she asked brusquely.
James made to speak, but then stuttered, “Well, I – I – uh – how was your summer?” he asked sheepishly. To compensate, he ruffled his hair almost instinctively.
“You brought me here, away from the prefects and my friends, to ask how my summer was.” Lily’s tone was incredulous. “Take a guess, Potter. I still haven’t forgiven you for what you did to poor Severus, even if he did insult me in the worst possible way. You’re as bad as he is, in my opinion, and unless you show me that’s not the case, my view of you won’t change.”
“Aha!” James cried, his usually personality again taking hold. “So you admit you’re willing to give me a chance!”
“A very slim chance, with [i]very/I] long odds of success, mind you,” Lily corrected him, and in spite of herself, the corners of her mouth twitched into a smile.
“But, seriously,” said James, trying his best to sober himself, “That’s what I wanted to talk about: those incidents last term with…Snape, and the whole display, and my behavior…”
Lily didn’t interrupt. In fact, she looked as though she was listening intently, though her eyes had narrowed warily. “Why are you apologizing about that now?” she asked.
“Would you have allowed me to then?” James asked. “You were furious.”
“And with good reason,” she pointed out. “Your behavior was inexcusable, Potter, I hope you realize that.”
“I was being an arrogant little prat, I know that,” said James. “But Snape had no right calling you a Mudblood! I’d never have called you that, even if I do make hexing first years a recreational sport.”
“See, that’s the problem,” said Lily, pointing a finger at James. “You act like you’re such a big man, Potter, hexing students, playing with this stupid thing,” – she indicated the Snitch – “and strutting around the castle. It’s disgusting, Potter, and you know it.”
“I said I was sorry –”
“For beating Severus to a pulp,” said Lily. “And I thank you for defending my honor, but I’m perfectly capable of doing so myself. Potter, the minute you walk out of here, you’ll end up cursing first years for fun again. Frankly, taken in that context, your apology means very little. In fact, you’ll probably end up going back to cursing Snape for fun again!”
“I won’t!” James insisted. But he knew this wasn’t particularly true. Snape simply seemed to appear at the worst times, goading him. If he was attacked, he’d be sure to defend himself. “Look…Lily; I’m sorry about what I’ve been doing! I won’t curse Snape or any first years for fun if we –”
“We’re not going out, Potter!” she said testily.
“I wasn’t going to suggest that,” said James defensively. “Though that would be ideal,” he muttered under his breath. “I just wanted us to be civil, even friendly…you know, not on the verge of cursing each other…”
“If you’re not careful, one day I might actually have to curse you,” Lily warned ominously. “And you don’t seem to hesitate when cursing other students. Just the day after Snape, I heard about you hoisting Frederick Young up by his ankles with that Levicorpus spell while he was belching slugs.”
“He called –”
“I don’t care what he called anyone, Potter,” Lily snapped crossly. “And I’m sure it was a laugh for you. Honestly, Potter, it’s so foolish, what you’re doing. I would’ve thought, given your disdain for them, that you’d avoid any association with those Death Eater thugs.”
“Association with them?” James repeated sharply. “How dare you?”
“You curse people, humiliate them, just because they’re there, Potter!” she exclaimed, her voice rising. “First it was Snape, and then it was half the student body. It makes me sick how often it happens when those Slytherin thugs are terrorizing the school. Do you actually think harassing first years would impress me, Potter?”
“Well – usually, people laugh at jokes, you see…”
“It’s not a joke, Potter. You’re no different from Travers and Dolohov if you spend your days cursing students.”
“I’m very different from Travers and Dolohov!” James’s voice had risen. He was tired of the blanket comparisons to the Slytherins, many of whom were aspiring Death Eaters. “I’ve never used Dark Magic. I’ve never called a Muggle-born a you-know-what, either. Snape did, to you, and I don’t see you raising hell with him!
Lily’s eyes narrowed, and James’s fury faltered when he saw, in a fraction of a moment, her brilliant green eyes briefly shine with tears. “You don’t know anything – not one thing – related to my relationship with Severus.”
“So you admit that you had a relationship with the git, then?” asked James. “What was it, Evans?” he sneered. “Was it the greasy hair, his dirty clothes, or his general lack of hygiene that attracted you so –?”
Whatever James had intended to say after was halted immediately. Lily rose to her feet so fast, her wand drawn, that James had barely blinked. She sent a spell that blasted him back to the wall behind him. She flicked the wand and he was forced back down onto the seat, face first. He looked back at her, dazed.
She threw him a contemptuous look before storming out of the compartment. Remus showed up a couple minutes later to find James where he had landed, sitting on the compartment floor, gazing pensively at the door.
“Blimey, Prongs, you look like you just got hexed. Impediment Jinx, I take it?” he asked, smiling, pulling James to his feet. “It really went well, then.”
“Oh, of course,” said James, his voice sardonic and bitter.
“Details, Prongs,” said Remus. “You can’t expect me to counsel you on winning Lily over if you’re this sarcastic.” He still looked deeply amused. “Good thing that bet with Padfoot is for the entire year, though. Anyway, what did you say? She looked like she was on the verge of crying when she passed me.”
“Snape,” James replied gruffly. “It was always Snape.”
“Then don’t mention Snape,” said Remus, his voice slightly irritated. “Look, you can explain it to me on the way back. We’re due to arrive at Hogsmeade Station in about twenty minutes.”
James followed Remus out of the prefects’ carriage. As they walked back, James recounted the entire spat with Lily Evans. Unlike Sirius, Remus was of the more mature type, and thus knew how to deal with girls in such ways that neither James nor Sirius had been able to.
“So, then she compared me with those thugs in Slytherin, and the conversation just turned nasty from there,” James finished explaining as they reached the compartment.
“James, it is obvious Snape calling her ‘Mudblood’ hurt her more than she lets on,” said Remus, reaching for the door. “She apparently had a very different relationship with Snape – no, I don’t think like that – than we did. Maybe if you tried to understand her, rather than going for the kill every time she mentions Snape, you’d have more success.”
“Whatever,” said James in a dismissive tone. He ruffled his hair; his eyes betrayed his concern and anxiousness.
He wrenched open the door to find Peter alone. He was eating another bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. “Urgh – seaweed again!” he grimaced as he bit into a greenish-gray one.
“Oh, Prongs, you’re back!” said Peter, looking up at James and Remus. “Sirius had to go use the bathroom. Upset stomach, I expect – he ate seventeen Chocolate Frogs.”
“So what?” James asked. “You eat that many without batting an eyelash – hey!”
Peter had thrown a Chocolate Frog box at his head. “I was only joking, Pete! Anyway, I need to get changed before we get to Hogwarts…”
James changed out of his clothes and into his Hogwarts uniform. As he was pinning his Gryffindor badge onto his cloak, a golden lion emblazoned upon a scarlet shield, a first year pelted into the compartment.
“Remus – Lupin – you’re – a – prefect, right? I’m – new – Thomas Collins –”
The boy sounded as though he had just run a marathon.
“Slow down, son, take a deep breath,” said James. “This here is Remus Lupin, the best damn prefect Hogwarts has ever seen. He’ll never admit it though.”
“What’s the matter, Thomas?” Remus asked.
The boy inhaled. “About a couple compartments back, some of the older students – they’re wearing these green shields with serpents on them – are harassing the first years. I just barely managed to avoid getting cursed. Someone told me to find a prefect. I could only find you.”
Remus and James drew their wands immediately. “You’d better get back to your friends, lad,” James advised. “We’ll check it out.”
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
The boy named Thomas Collins nodded and scampered out.
Peter got up and followed James and Remus out of the compartment. At the far end of the carriage was a room filled with students. They had formed a circle around a group of students wearing robes with green trim. James spotted Sirius, his wand drawn, dragging an injured girl out of the fray. She looked battered.
“Sirius, what happened?” James asked, helping him bring the girl to the corner as Remus started shuffling the spectators out with shouts of “Get back, immediately! I am a school prefect. We’ll handle this; go back to your seats.”
The crowd started to dissipate.
“The girl’s name is Mary Macdonald,” said Sirius. “I was on my way back from the loo when I saw these Slytherins trying to curse her. She tried to hold them off and give those first years some time to run.”
“Good of her to take them on like that,” said James seriously. “Get her out of here, Sirius.” He turned to the Slytherins. They were hovering a terrified first year in the air, jeering. “Hey! Let him down! You heard what I said, scum! Get away from him!”
The Slytherins turned. There was Dolohov, twisted-faced and brutal; Travers, his eyes alive with malice; and Snape, his face sallow and sullen. Of the three, only Snape seemed totally uninterested in the first year, his eyes darting from James to Remus to Sirius instead.
“Why should we let him go, Potty?” sneered Dolohov. “He’s flying, see? And we’re enjoying ourselves, so sod off while we teach this one to show some respect to his pure-blooded superiors…yes, yes, let’s see…Incendio!”
James’s eyes widened. He pointed his wand at the first year, his robes slowing catching flames. “Aguamenti!” he exclaimed, followed by “Finite!” which reversed the Hovering Charm.
“Not a good move, Potter,” said Travers, pointing his wand at James and Remus. The first year quietly thanked James and rushed out of the compartment. Travers yelled “Stupefy!”, sending a jet of red light at James, who blocked it with a Shield Charm. Dolohov tried to Stun James, but Remus quickly disarmed him. James caught the wand and threw it aside. He fired another Stunner at Travers, who blocked it and levitated a chair at James.
“Confringo!” James yelled and the chair exploded, blowing Travers back into a wall and showering him with the broken remains of the chair. He whirled around and fired another curse at Dolohov, who had darted to another part of the room. Remus caught him first however…
“Incarcerous!” White ropes sprang from his wand and tied themselves around Dolohov’s right foot. He stumbled sideways, tripping over his robes as he lunged for his wand. James roared with laughter as Remus dragged Dolohov to a corner, restrained and disarmed, before stunning Travers.
There was still Snape, however. James fired a Stunner at him, but Snape ducked beneath a table. The spell hit a vase in the corner and shattered it. Remus tried to stun him as well, but he blocked the spell and sent a jet of purple light at him. The spell hit him in the chest and he spun in the air before crashing to the ground.
James ducked down on one knee, avoiding another jet of purple light and he conjured a Shield Charm as Snape cried “Sectumsempra!”
The curse slashed across the shield’s barrier. James felt a hot streak fan across his face, as though someone had waved a blowtorch inches from his nose. The force of the impact knocked James down and Snape pressed on his attack.
“Not so tough now, are we Potter?” Snape sneered. He raised his wand, but James cried “Depulso!” and Snape was thrown back by an unseen force. James used the opportunity to rise to his feet. In the other end of the room, Remus was waking up.
“Ugh, that curse felt like an ironclad punch,” he muttered, raising his wand. In the corner, Peter was standing guard, his wand pointed at Dolohov’s unmoving body. His expression was one of great importance.
Snape saw Peter standing there, and before James or Remus could react, he pointed his wand at himself, muttered an incantation, and leapt through the air. He landed behind Peter. He was quicker than Peter had expected. He tried to whirl around and aim his wand to attack, but Snape moved fast. He turned Peter’s wand arm upward and twisted his wrist. Peter yelled in pain as his wand dropped with a clatter to the floor. Snape hid behind his plump figure, Peter’s girth effectively shielding him from James or Remus. They wouldn’t fire a spell if it meant accidentally cursing Peter.
“Back away, Potter, Lupin!” Snape ordered, his wand pointing at Peter’s temple. Peter tried to shake off Snape’s grip, but he was surprisingly strong. “I’m not messing around. Back off, or I will curse him.”
“Let him go, Severus,” said Remus quietly, though his voice was tinged with a hint of menace. “I’m warning you, Snape, my aim’s good. Even hiding behind Peter won’t save you from a Stunner.”
“Drop your weapons now,” Snape ordered again, this time more forcefully. He stuck his wand further into Peter’s neck. “Sectum – ”
James didn’t have a choice. At that range and location, Sectumsempra was possibly fatal. “All right, Snape, just let him go!” He slowly lowered his wand and nodded for Remus to do so.
Snape smirked. He threw Peter back to them and made to levitate Dolohov and Travers, but before he could, someone shouted “Petrificus Totalus!” behind him. Stiff and rigid as a board, he fell, a look of shock plastered on his pallid face.
Standing in the doorway was Lily Evans. She didn’t even look at James. Her eyes flitted from Travers, to Dolohov, to Peter, and then to Remus.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner, Remus,” she said. “Rookwood and Rosier were hexing people in the other compartments. I had to gather some prefects to put them in line. Is anyone else hurt?”
“No one,” said Remus. “We should keep the Slytherins here under the guard of at least two prefects. We’re about to pull into Hogsmeade. I’ll inform McGonagall of what happened.”
“Very well,” said Lily curtly, her gaze still avoiding James’s eyes. “Potter…you’d – you’d better get out of here, and take Pettigrew with you. The trains about to arrive…”
“Not a word, Potter,” she said sharply. “Now get out of here, I can handle these,” she indicated, giving Dolohov’s body a light kick.
Sirius burst into the room. “Blimey, this place looks like it’s been bombed! What the hell happened while I was gone?”
“We mopped the floor with these Slytherins,” James bragged. “They didn’t stand a chance – we thoroughly beat them.”
“And you didn’t wait until I had returned?” Sirius asked in a tone of mock outrage. “Unbelievable!
“In any case,” we should get going, Prongs,” muttered Sirius. “Evans looks like she’s got a few hexes with our names on them if we’re too fresh with her.”
“I always reserve a Bat-Bogey Hex especially for you, Black,” said Lily over her shoulder.
“Right…” James stowed his wand and helped Peter to his feet. “Shall we go then? I can smell the feast even from here.”
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
Chapter 3: The Opening Feast
The Hogwarts Express stopped at Hogsmeade Station in the darkest hours of the night. The sky was a dull gray, a sea of thick, perpetual cloudiness. One by one, each of the train cars emptied itself of students. The gloominess and anxiousness were palpable in the air – by then, news of the Slytherins’ attacks on the Hogwarts Express had spread through the entire school, and it dampened the usual excitement that came with a new year at Hogwarts School.
A gargantuan man stood at the gateway that led to the castle. At the start of a winding path through a patch of woods was a fleet of carriages. None of them seem to have an animal pulling them. Another dirt path led to the lake, where a small armada of rowboats was moored at the shore, ready to ferry the first years on their traditional journey across the water towards the castle.
“First years!” the gigantic man bellowed. “First years, yeh ter follow me down ter the lake! Oi, you three!” he exclaimed, seeing James, Sirius, and Remus. Peter was out of sight, struggling to weave his wave through a crowd of students. “I hear them Slytherins have been cursin’ the first years.”
“It’s all right, Hagrid,” Remus assured the huge man. “The prefects from Ravenclaw are escorting them back to the castle.”
“Have a good summer, Hagrid?” James asked.
“Yeah, it’s been alrigh’,” he replied. “Keep outta trouble, you three. Yeh’ve all been in dentention enough ter last a lifetime!”
“We’ll catch you a dragon this year, Hagrid!” Sirius called.
Hagrid beamed at them before shepherding the first years to the lake. Peter managed to catch up with them and they decided to find a carriage.
“No, not that one – Williamson is a prat,” said Sirius rudely, shaking his head. “Nor that one, Wormtail, it’s full of Slytherins. Oh – let’s go to that one!” he exclaimed, pointing to a carriage with a very pretty Ravenclaw and an equally stunning Gryffindor.
“Not a chance, Padfoot, old friend,” said James quietly. “I’ve found better.” He pointed to a carriage. It was occupied by a brown haired girl that James knew was Mary Macdonald, the girl who had tried to fight the Slytherin thugs on the train. The other was…
“Evans?” asked Sirius, rolling his eyes. “If you insist…but those girls back there looked worth it to me…”
“There’s only one for me, Padfoot,” James whispered, and despite their spat on the train, he smiled as Evans caught his eye and scowled.
They approached the carriage. James hung back, but Remus walked briskly to Mary and asked, “Do you mind if we sit here? We were delayed on the platform, and most others are full.”
“No, go ahead,” said Mary, scooting over to make room as Remus sat down. She smiled wanly at James and Sirius when they squeezed in next to Lily (James made a point of sitting right next to her). Peter hopped in next to Remus and the carriage began moving.
“I should thank you four for helping me on the train,” said Mary to the Marauders. James beamed, Sirius smirked, Remus smiled slightly, and Peter’s face was flushed red. “Those Slytherins are getting more dangerous, but I couldn’t let them torture those Muggle-borns. Anyway, what happened with them?”
“They’ve been neutralized,” Remus said matter-of-factly. “I expect McGonagall will be livid when she hears about it.”
“Slytherin will be in negative figures for points before the feast even starts,” said Sirius, grinning widely. “The House Cup is as good as ours.”
The carriages continued their journey to the castle. Overall, it was a very awkward affair for James. Only moments before, Lily had really gotten them out of a tight spot on the train, but in spite of that, she still kept to herself. Mary, however, found the four of them highly amusing, laughing when Sirius described their weekly pranks against Severus Snape: turning his hair pink, sending Howlers that screamed “Snivellus!” every morning in the Great Hall, cursing him to sprout antlers, and of course, the occasional duel where Snape would end up with a pumpkin lodged around his head.
Lily’s eyes flashed when Snape was mentioned, but James couldn’t understand it. She defended him from the pranks and the harassment he received, usually at James’s or Sirius’s hands, and he turns around and calls her a “Mudblood.” Then, just when James thought he could sink no lower, he joins Dolohov’s gang in terrorizing new students. What did Lily ever see in him? James found that question puzzling. He glanced at Lily and discovered that her eyes were slightly bloodshot and puffy, as though she had recently been crying. Her face was pale and looked crestfallen, and her sleek, shining red hair was slightly disheveled. It was not the Lily Evans that James had remembered: laughing, kind, and vibrant.
He whispered to her quietly enough so that only the two of them could hear their exchange in the carriage. Sirius was talking animatedly to Mary about Quidditch, and Peter was too busy listening with bated breath to eavesdrop on them.
“Lily, I wanted to apologize,” he said. “About what I said about Snape, on the train, it was – err, it was wrong of me…”
“Save it, Potter,” she sniffed. “I’m not going out with you.”
“As I said on the train, I wasn’t expecting you to,” said James. He refrained from saying “yet.” He didn’t think it was prudent to test Lily’s temper at the moment. “I just wanted us to be civil, that’s all. I’m not that bad, you know,” James added with a roguish grin. “You might even discover you like me, even if it’s just a bit.”
Lily snorted in disbelief. “That will happen when hell freezes over. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, as you did save those students on the train.”
“See?” said James, beaming. “I’m not so bad after all. But you look terrible – I mean, a lot worse for wear than you usually do. Is something the matter?”
“Nothing,” said Lily in a resigned voice. James could tell she was lying, but now wasn’t the time to press the issue.
They had arrived at Hogwarts Castle. The lights in the Great Hall had already been lit. The school was waiting for the first years, still rowing across the lake. The students exited their carriages and proceeded as a stream of grey and black towards the front gates.
Professor Filius Flitwick, the Charms instructor, was standing by the gate. He was holding a Secrecy Sensor in one hand and a wand in the other. A long scroll was hovering beside him, a quill set upon it, ready to write.
“Let’s see: Andrew King, Gryffindor, you can go in; Yolanda Harris, Ravenclaw – welcome back, my dear; Lawrence Miller, Slytherin, welcome back; and of course, Lily Evans, my favorite Gryffindor! How was your summer, my dear?”
“It was fairly enjoyable, Professor, thank you,” Lily replied stiffly. “I hope you’ve been well, Professor Flitwick.
“Yes, very well, thank you! You five may go through,” Flitwick squeaked as he scanned James, Remus, Sirius, Peter, and then Mary with the Secrecy Sensor. “I’ll see you all in Charms, I expect. All taking N.E.W.T. classes, I presume?”
“Yes, Professor, without a doubt,” said James as the group walked toward the castle. They rejoined the crowd as it entered. As a group, the students walked through the Entrance Hall, and turned left towards the Great Hall. As they entered, the four houses separated. The Hufflepuffs took their seats at the long table to the far left; the Gryffindors to the right of them and to their right were the Ravenclaws; the Slytherins took their place at the far right. At the front of the hall was the Head Table, where the Professors sat. At the center was Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster. He had waist-length silver hair beneath a small hat and his beard stretched down for nearly two feet. His blue eyes twinkled as he watched the students take their seats.
To his left was Professor Horace Slughorn, the Potions Master. Short, squat, and rather plump, he was wearing a tweed suit under his wizard’s robe. His thick, bushy white mustache gave him the distinct appearance of a walrus, but otherwise his appearance belied his nature: jovial and good-natured. Ironically, Slughorn was the head of Slytherin House.
Flitwick had returned to the Head Table. He was by far the shortest professor of the lot, standing at a fraction of Slughorn’s height if the two were to stand back to back. He clambered upon his chair, which had several cushions stacked upon it, and sat to Slughorn’s left. He was head of Ravenclaw House.
The chair to Dumbledore’s right would usually be filled by Professor Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration teacher. However, as Deputy Headmistress, she was charged with leading the first years to the Great Hall to be sorted into their houses.
Once everyone had settled in, the doors to the Great Hall again opened. A tall stately witch, in tartan robes and a pointed hat, was leading the first years to a spot set aside at the front of the Great Hall where a tattered wizard’s hat was still upon a stool.
When Professor McGonagall drew closer to the hat, the brim split open and shaped itself like a mouth. The first years looked in awe as it began to speak:
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
It was long ago, when I new
That Hogwarts was first founded
In those days were wizards few
And so this school was started
Four great minds, forever one
Sought to teach us magic folk
But who to teach and who to shun
Of this, each Founder spoke
Said fair Ravenclaw:
“We will choose the cleverest,
Whose intelligence puts others to shame.”
Said cunning Slytherin:
“Their blood must be purest,
For with me, they will find glory and fame.”
Said bold Gryffindor:
“I shall take only the bravest,
For they will have great deeds to their name.”
But loyal Hufflepuff disagreed:
“I shall take all the rest,
And I will treat them all the same.”
So put me right upon your head
I’ve never yet been wrong
I’ll look very deep inside you
And tell you where you belong
The Great Hall burst in applause and then quieted down as McGonagall took out a large scroll and began reading from the list. “Anderson, Russell” was the first name, and a small, thin, pale boy sat on the stool and the Sorting Hat was placed over him.
“GRYFFINDOR!” the hat shouted.
Russell Anderson stood up, shaking, and went to the cheering Gryffindors. The next student was “Bancroft, Allison,” who became a Hufflepuff, followed by “Bennett, Gregory,” another Gryffindor, “Cave, Ian,” a Slytherin, “Dale, Robert,” a Ravenclaw, and “Daniels, Frederick,” a Hufflepuff. The list continued until “Zachary, Paul” became a Gryffindor. McGonagall rolled up the scroll, placed it with the hat, and then magically levitated it to a room outside the Great Hall.
Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet. “To all new students: welcome to Hogwarts! And welcome back to all returning students. I realize that many of you are understandably hungry after your journey here, but there are several pressing matters that I must address before we are too befuddled by the excellent feast that awaits us.
“First and foremost, I must warn each and every one of you that magic is forbidden in the corridors,” he continued. “Moreover, wandering the halls after hours is expressly forbidden in these dangerous times for students, and I feel a few of our current pupils” – his twinkling eyes briefly gazed at where James and Sirius were sitting – “could use a reminder. Additionally, Mr. Filch, our caretaker, has asked that I inform you that all Zonko products are banned from the corridors. A full list of such items can be viewed at your leisure at Mr. Filch’s office. I believe the list has swelled to include nearly seven hundred items,” he added, his moustache quivering as though he were suppressing a chuckle. But he quickly sobered as he continued his speech.
“Now, as many of you are aware, the dark wizard known as Lord Voldemort” – many of the students in the hall gasped at the utterance of the name – “is still operating within this country. While we are here, we can count on the protections of the castle to shield us from the Dark Lord’s followers, but I must still ask for your caution. If you witness anything suspicious, do not hesitate to inform a member of the staff. While we shall do everything in our power to protect you, we cannot force you to heed our warnings. And it would be quite a tragedy if any of you were to meet such a horrible fate.
“But enough of that,” he said airily as the students began to squirm. Sirius looked impatient. James, admittedly, was quite hungry as well. “We have an excellent feast, and as I am, thankfully, at a loss for words, we should all tuck in!”
As he said this, plates of food began materializing on the house tables.
“About time,” Sirius grumbled. He loaded his plate with turkey, potatoes, and whatever else was within arms reach. James, meanwhile, was busy gazing intently at the Slytherin table. One by one, they downed their pumpkin juice, and James’s smile widened as their hair slowly went from black, brown, and blonde to the same shade of plum, and then lightened to a bright pink.
Sirius stopped gnawing at a leg of chicken and became very still, looking at the Slytherins, and then sideways back at James. “How did you do it?” he asked, grinning.
“I’ll explain later,” said James through fits of laughter.
The first Slytherin to notice the change was Michael Avery. He jumped to his feet, yelling, “What the hell happened? Someone’s spiked our pumpkin juice with Color Change Potion!”
The Slytherins were in an uproar, and the several students that had accidentally ingested the potion ran out of the Great Hall, their hands covering their heads. James and Sirius were roaring with laughter, and Lily, in spite of herself, cracked a small smile, but then glanced at James.
“That was your idea,” she said, “Wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Evans,” James replied, feigning ignorance. “I’m the arrogant toe-rag who curses people for fun, remember? This is far too subtle for me,” he added in a tone of self-deprecation. “You know, I’ve noticed the only one of us four you never suspect is Peter. Think he isn’t up to the task?”
“What task?” Peter asked thickly through a mouthful of food. He evidently hadn’t been watching the Slytherins storm out.
“Evidently not, James,” said Sirius, a small smile curling his lips. “Then again, if good old Peter here was such a prodigy when it came to potions, I’d imagine he’d at least try brewing the Love Potion he so obviously needs,” he said, laughing. Peter flushed deep red. “I’m only joking, Pete. I’m sure there’s the one girl out there for you…”
This seems to satisfy Peter, who went back to his potatoes and chicken, the red blotches of embarrassment gone from his face.
“Well, whatever you did, I should probably report you to McGonagall for this,” Lily whispered, despite the fact that she was grinning. “And I notice” – her gazed turned to Remus – “that my counterpart isn’t taking the initiative to do the job for me.”
Remus laughed softly. “If I were to report James on every prank he’s pulled, I’d have to turn myself in roughly a third of the time.”
James patted him on the back. “Well said, Remus; you’re a friend first, prefect second, and I’m thankful you’re on our side. If you had been like Evans here, we’d all be stuck in detention perpetually! But I take it you aren’t going to report us?” he added lightly.
“Not this time, Potter,” said Lily.
“Was it my rakish good looks that sealed the deal?” James asked, slightly pushing his luck. “And I didn’t spike your drink, by the way,” he added out of the corner of his mouth as Lily hesitated before taking a sip. “You’re already much too beautiful as a redhead.”
Lily blushed furiously. “Oh please, Potter, don’t kid yourself. I merely thought the new color suited Avery and Mulciber.”
“Ah, you’ll change your mind soon enough.”
“About the hair? Not likely, Potter.”
“No, Evans, about me.”
“Again, not likely.”
The rest of the feast proceeded without incident. When dinner had ended, the Gryffindors, still chortling about the Color Change Potion, walked as one to the seventh floor, where the entrance to Gryffindor Tower was located.
Lily and Remus went ahead and began shepherding the first years along. As prefects, it was their duty to lead new Gryffindors to the common room.
James, Sirius, and Peter however, did not follow the sea of Gryffindors up the staircase but turned and headed to the cellars to a painting of a basket of fruit. James tickled the pear and the painting swung open.
Inside was a high-ceilinged room, with four tables arranged like those in the Great Hall. On each table were the plates, goblets, pots, pans, and tureens from the feast that had just ended, and dozens of tiny house-elves were collecting them to clean them.
James found one of the house-elves, wearing a crimson towel embossed with a Gryffindor lion. “You did great with the potion, Banker,” he told the house-elf. “The Slytherins are all furious, but it really was a laugh. Now, I think we have an agreement to fulfill…” He reached into his pocket and counted out ten sickles. “Don’t spend it all at once.”
“Oh, Banker won’t, my young master, he has great plans for this money,” he replied.
Sirius made a point of grabbing some éclairs from the other house-elves before they left the kitchens.
“So you paid off that house-elf to spike the Slytherins’ pumpkin juice with that potion?” Peter asked. “That was brilliant! How do we know he won’t double-cross us though. He seems to be a bit…”
“I know he’s a bit obsessed with money, but he won’t betray us as he is my family’s elf, Wormtail.” James assured him. “I had him sneak into the kitchens last year with the potion. Dumbledore or McGonagall won’t find him. I ordered him to return to my house as soon as it was done.”
“Clever, Prongs, but Lily sure saw right through it,” said Sirius.
“Well, that’s Lily, I suppose,” said James. “Good of her not to go running to McGonagall, though, seeing as the prank itself was harmless.”
“I think you’re growing on her, Prongs,” said Sirius as they climbed the stairs. “I guess this means the odds of me winning that bet are getting longer, eh?”
“Yes, that would seem to be the case,” said James, smirking. They had reached the Fat Lady’s corridor.
“Well, I suppose we could always screw up if Snivellus is involved,” Peter said.
“Why d’you think she defended him like that?” James asked, perplexed. “And she gets pretty upset whenever I mention him.”
“Well, he’s a ghastly bloke, for one thing,” said Sirius. “And defending him must be a prefect thing. Probably to be ‘responsible,’ though of course, such a concept is foreign to us Marauders…”
“Not to Moony,” said James. They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. “Phoenix Tears,” he said. The Fat Lady smiled at him and the portrait swung open, revealing the entrance to the Gryffindor common room.
Circular and cozy, a warm fire crackling in the hearth, the common room was currently uninhabited.
“Well, we have a big day tomorrow,” said James. “N.E.W.T classes, tormenting Snivellus, chasing Lily…it’ll be just like old times, eh Padfoot?”
“Too right it will,” said Sirius, loosening his tie. “I guess we should turn in.”
They climbed the stairs at one end of the common room. It led to a hallway with numerous doors. On one of the doors, the names “Black, Lupin, Pettigrew, Potter” were embossed in faded gold. They opened the door to find their trunks already sent up. James changed into his pajamas, and while he was emptying the pockets of his robe, he found the book Remus had left him, Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches.
But Lily Evans isn’t like all witches, James thought. Better to have a challenge, anyway.
And that made the entire effort worth it.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
James woke up early the next day, showered, and dressed quickly. Sirius, Remus, and Peter joined him in the common room and together they set off for the Great Hall.
“After breakfast, McGonagall’s going to go through our schedules with us,” Remus explained. “We’re all set with Defense against the Dark Arts, Potions, Herbology, Charms, and Transfiguration – the Auror track, right?”
“Of course, Moony,” said James. “You know, Wormtail, I’m still surprised you managed an E in Defense – you must be better at dueling then you look, well done,” he added offhandedly. Peter turned pink with embarrassment. He wasn’t used to an outright compliment.
“And of course, the three of us would be fantastic at Transfiguration, given we’ve done what McGonagall did, but at age fifteen,” said Sirius.
“Keep your voice down,” Remus implored. He was looking peaky. His eyes looked exhausted, his skin pale and somewhat drained of color, and every movement seemed laborious to him. “I don’t want anyone else knowing the three of you became Animagi to hang out with a werewolf every month. It’s bad enough that Snape already knows,” he added with a glare to Sirius.
“All right, all right, let’s go down to breakfast,” said James. He slung his book back on his shoulder and led the other three out of Gryffindor Tower and to the Great Hall, where most of the school had congregated for breakfast. James glanced up at the Head Table as he took a seat next to Sirius and a black sixth year boy named Kingsley Shacklebolt, whom he knew from the Quidditch team. Kingsley was a Chaser alongside him.
“Who’s that man sitting next to McGonagall?” he asked Kingsley as he spread jam over his toast.
Kingsley regarded him for a moment. “M.W. Claverdon. The name was on the Defense Professor’s office today. He must have missed the feast, because Dumbledore only made a mention of him this morning.”
“Damn, I hope he’s up to the job,” said James. “He looks like the capable sort – maybe he could be the first to teach a second consecutive year at Hogwarts.”
Claverdon was dressed in black robes that seemed a little frayed at the edges. His thick hair and bristly beard were black, but graying due to age. His mane made him look somewhat regal, almost lion-like. He was talking animatedly with McGonagall, and generally appeared to be cheerful.
“You reckon he’ll be a good Defense teacher, Kingsley?” Remus asked.
“We can’t know until we have a class, can we?” said Kingsley. “Have you seen this morning’s paper?”
“No, what’s happened.”
“Another Death Eater attack,” he replied. “Here’s what it says: ‘Early on the morning of September the second, 1976, in Swindon, the home of Muggle-born Henry Booth, member of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, was firebombed by Death Eaters. Mr. Booth, 43, was not present at the household when the Death Eaters struck, as he had taken his entire family on a vacation to Wales the previous weekend. Members of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad arrived to find the Dark Mark fired over the ruins.’”
“Blimey,” said Sirius, his voice betraying his shock. “Swindon, eh? Do you think any Muggles saw the attack?”
“I wouldn’t think so,” said James, scanning the article on the front page of the Daily Prophet. “It says here that the Ministry had to modify the memory of nearly two hundred Muggles – how on earth did they track every one of them down? Anyway, Remus, your dad’s mentioned here.”
“What?” Remus asked sharply. “What happened to him?”
“Nothing, they just say that he was the head Auror in charge of the investigation,” James reassured him. “Here, look: ‘John Lupin, 39, was the only Auror available for comment. He has reported that the explosion was caused by Fiendfyre.’ Damn, Moony, they’re using Fiendfyre, now? That’s new. At least the fellow got out with his family.”
“What else is in the paper?” Peter asked nervously.
“Oh, you wouldn’t like this one, Pete,” said James. He looked somewhat disgusted as he read. “‘Members of the Auror Office have apprehended several wizards suspected of unearthing bodies from local graveyards in the Blackpool area. They were suspected of using the bodies to create Inferi. (For a description of Inferi and methods to effectively combat them, turn to page 7B).’”
James looked thoroughly sickened after reading through all the stories to the collected group. Lily Evans and Mary Macdonald joined the table, along with a girl James knew as Marlene McKinnon. She was a little tanner than Lily, with dark hair than fell in cascading curls to her shoulders.
“I see you’re reading the paper – turn to page 8C; it’s terrible,” said Marlene to James. He did and his eyes widened as he read:
“‘Early this morning, the family of William Barrett, 45, a half-blood wizard and a member of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, was savagely killed in their Wimbledon home,” he read. “The house was blasted to rubble and the Dark Mark was fired above the ruin. Inside, Ministry of Magic personnel founded the bodies of Mr. Barrett, his wife Julia, and their three children. Mr. Barrett and his wife were both murdered by use of the Killing Curse, and upon investigation of his wand, it was determined that he tried, and failed, to prevent the Death Eaters’ entry into his home. His three children, however, were killed brutally, sustaining grievous wounds that St. Mungo’s Healers have confirmed to be werewolf bites. All three children died from their wounds mere minutes after arriving at the hospital in London.’
“Blimey,” said Sirius, in shock. “This war’s really getting serious. Last year was nothing like this… Sure, there were attacks, but now Voldemort has werewolves under his command?” he glanced at Moony, who was stony-faced, as he spoke. “Who is this maniac werewolf, anyway?”
“Says here that it was Fenrir Greyback,” said James. “I’ve heard of him – my dad’s heard some really terrible stories about him from the Auror Office. He leads an army of werewolves throughout Britain,” he explained, his face clearly showing his disgust.”
“So, You-Know-Who recruited him?” Marlene asked.
“He gave Greyback a deal: If Greyback served the Death Eaters, he’d be given victims who he could infect with his condition.”
“He likes attacking children, Greyback,” said Remus, his face slightly paler than usual. “He bites them when they are very young, kills their parents, and raises them away from wizarding society. They’re taught to hate wizards and to live as savages on the fringe, foraging and sometimes killing to eat…”
“That’s terrible,” said Lily. Her eyes did not meet James’s, but she had joined the conversation nonetheless.
He looked like he was struggling to say more, but he remained silent. Eager to change the subject, he said, “McGonagall’s coming with our schedules. What’s everyone signed up for?”
“I’m doing Defense, Transfiguration, Herbology, Ancient Runes, and Potions,” said Mary. “Marlene’s doing Muggle Studies instead of Runes. And Lily’s taking Charms.”
“Did I hear correctly?” asked James, his interest piqued, his hand instinctively running through his hair. “Lily taking the five subjects required for the Auror Office?”
“And so I am, Potter, well-spotted,” said Lily acidly.
“Well, I should congratulate you on your good fortune, then,” said James arrogantly. “We’ll be taking the same classes together.”
“Oh, I’m thrilled,” said Lily sarcastically.
Professor McGonagall had reached their end of the Gryffindor table.
“No, Stebbins, for the last time, an A in Transfiguration will not be sufficient for N.E.W.T-level classes! – Oh, Potter, Black, Lupin, and Evans, you are all cleared for your classes, given the marks you received,” she added with a smile. “And Potter, sixteen applicants have applied for the Beater, Seeker, and Keeper positions. The list has been sent to Gryffindor Tower, and you can set up trials at your leisure. Have a good day, Potter.”
“You too, Professor,” said James. “Well, shall we go? We have Defense against the Dark Arts first, followed by Charms.”
Remus, Peter, and Sirius gathered their things and left the Great Hall. Within a few minutes, the morning bell sounded, indicating the start of classes.
The Defense against the Dark Arts classroom was located in a corridor on the third floor. On the door was written, “M.W. Claverdon, Professor,” in peeling gold lettering. James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Lily, Marlene, and Mary were the first to arrive. The Marauders took their usually seats at the back of the classroom, next to the door. Lily and her friends sat up at the front of the classroom. James knew that Lily still wasn’t particularly keen on becoming friendlier with him, even if there hadn’t been an incident between them for a full two days.
More students started shuffling into the classroom. Some looked excited, others apprehensive. The mixed feelings were natural for a class that had seen five different teachers since Claverdon, most of them mediocre at best. Where the classroom would normally be packed with close to a hundred students, today, there were eight Gryffindors, eight Ravenclaws, six Slytherins, including Severus Snape, and four Hufflepuffs.
It was a minute before the bell signaling the start of class had rung that Professor Claverdon had walked into the room. He was very tall, over six feet, and muscular, even in his advancing age. He took out his wand and closed all the windows as he passed, giving the classroom a gloomy, sinister air.
He turned. “Welcome to Defense against the Dart Arts, N.E.W.T-level,” he said. His voice was deep and reassuring, and he smiled down at the seated students. “My name,” he began, taking out a piece of chalk and writing it on the board, “is Professor Maximilian Claverdon. I believe you have had five previous teachers in this subject, and have covered dark creatures and basic dueling techniques adequately. I will warn you that in this class, the quality of your work is expected to be of the utmost quality, and I will not tolerate silliness under any circumstance. If you are messing around, you will leave and never come back.”
It was quite the introduction, and it had the desired effect. Not one student spoke up, though James turned to his left and smirked at Sirius, who was sitting in the corner. After a few moments of silence, Claverdon surveyed the room. “This class will address the more advanced aspects of magical combat. Defending yourself against the Dark Arts is a never-ending challenge. It is a faceless beast, constantly evolving, improving itself, and rectifying its past failures. You must match those who are of the darkness; you must be as varied, intelligent, and cunning as your enemy or you will fail miserably.
“Let’s see,” Claverdon surveyed the class register. “Miss Evans, why is nonverbal magic advantageous?”
Lily beamed as Claverdon had chosen her without her standing on the balls of her feet, her hand raised high, as Mary was doing.
“It’ll give you an element of surprise that you wouldn’t have had you shouted the incantation,” Lily said.
“Precisely, five points to Gryffindor.”
The Slytherins groaned.
“Now, nonverbal magic is tough. Your wands are naturally inclined to respond immediately to the proper wand movements and incantations. To force a wand to perform a spell on instinct requires a presence of mind few have. But it is essential that you learn it – you are, after all, among the most advanced students in this school and nonverbal magic will be required of you in other classes.
“So,” he said, clapping his hands together. “To business. You are to split up in pairs. One of you will attempt to jinx the other, who will nonverbally repel the jinx with a Shield Charm. And don’t try muttering the jinx – I’ll know, and your defenses will be mediocre. You may begin.”
James immediately partnered with Sirius. They look a spot in the center of the room and began practicing. Nonverbal spells weren’t new to them – as two of the school’s top students, they knew material that exceeded the scope of their classes – but casting spells silently was tough for them initially, especially as they began using increasingly complex and outlandish jinxes for variety. Claverdon seemed to approve of this, even whispering a few suggestions in their ears as their repertoire started to thin.
“Oh, very good, Mr. Potter, Mr. Black,” he said as they began deflecting the same Shrivel-Skin curse back forth, from Shield Charm to Shield Charm. “Take twenty well-earned points to Gryffindor for a job well done.”
Claverdon began circling around the room, awarding points for particularly impressive performances. After twenty minutes, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw had amassed a solid forty points, Hufflepuff thirty-five, and Slytherin thirty.
Peter wasn’t having much luck, however. He was turning red in concentration, trying, but failing to make anything but smoke come out of his wand. “It’s all right, Peter,” said Remus. “Just concentrate – you can do it!”
Remus fired a Tickling Charm at Peter, breaking through his feeble defenses, causing him to break out in fits of uncontrollable laughter.
“Nice one, Moony,” said James, smirking as Claverdon undid the jinx with the flick of his wand. The professor began observing Peter more closely, and his advice and encouragement, combined with Remus’s patience, seemed to act like a stimulant, such that Peter nearly produced a Shield Charm strong enough to repel a Stunning Spell without uttering a word.
At the other end of the room, Lily was paired with a Slytherin named Robert Wilkes. While Claverdon was helping Peter correctly use a Stinging Hex nonverbally, Lily had managed to nonverbally deflect Wilkes’s hexes without uttering a single word, and then blasted through his muttered Shield Charm with a silent Incendio spell.
“Ow, you filthy Mudblood! Look what you did to my robes!” the hem of Wilkes’s uniform had caught fire, though he had quickly extinguished it with a jet of water from his wand. The entire class had heard the slur, however, and the room was silent. James and Sirius rounded on Wilkes.
“Mr. Wilkes, either you apologize, or you’re going straight to Dumbledore,” Claverdon snarled. “You should have protected yourself better.”
“I’m not apologizing to her, Professor,” Wilkes shot back.
“Very well, fifty points from Slytherin – I believe that brings your house back to zero – and detention with me on Saturday. Insult my students in that way again and you will be sorry…”
The bell rang.
“Very well, good work everyone,” he said, returning to his desk. “For homework, read and summarize the section on nonverbal magic. To be handed in on Friday. That will be all.”
The students shuffled out of the class. The Slytherins were muttering mutinously about Claverdon. The rest of the students had a fairly positive opinion of him, especially James and Sirius, though James was a little annoyed as well…
“He should have let me curse that oaf,” he grumbled. “He would’ve been belching slugs for the rest of the day…”
“Yes, and we’d be stuck in detention with him,” said Sirius. “While I don’t mind polishing the stuff in the Trophy Room every once in a while, I’d rather not in the company of scum like him. I like Claverdon’s way better. Fifty points off Slytherin on the first day! Finally a teacher I can agree with!”
Lily had walked past them, her pace quick. She looked angrier than usual. “I think she might’ve taken it harder than we thought,” Remus muttered.
“Can’t imagine why,” said Peter thickly. “I mean, after Snivellus, wouldn’t she have dealt with the worst of that trash?”
“For once, Wormtail, I agree,” said Sirius. James smirked at Peter. “But Evans is Evans – tough to understand, and impossible to win over,” he added with a little smile as James ruffled his hair and hurried off to talk to Lily once again, only to fall back, empty-handed.
“Didn’t work this time, eh Prongs?” asked Remus.
“Didn’t ask her out, Moony,” said James. “She’s all right, though. Just a little miffed about it. Evans is tough, she could curse Wilkes, Snape, Rosier, and the whole lot of those Slytherins into next week if she so desired.”
“After she’s done with you of course.”
“Well, let’s not talk about that Furnunculus jinx right now…that was first year…”
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
The first week of classes went spectacularly well for the Marauders. Defense lessons were largely reinforcing nonverbal spellcasting, which they managed to fly through. Even Peter, notorious for his ineptitude at dueling, was showing progress. The Slytherins alone had a negative opinion of Professor Claverdon, but after the point deduction from Wilkes, they didn’t dare openly insult Lily Evans or any Muggle-born in front of him.
Wednesday’s Potions class went well, but not as phenomenally as Defense. James and Sirius managed to get a Healing Potion that was light blue in color, though after much toil. Peter truly struggled here, and if not for Remus’s skill at potion-making, their cauldrons would have caught fire…like they had when Peter had tried making a Babbling Beverage the previous day. Lily Evans and Severus Snape were given the most praise by Slughorn on their potions – he pointed out everything from the azure color to the stream of pearly smoke that emanated from the concoction – extolling them as the best potioneers he had taught in twenty years.
Saturday brought Quidditch trials. Since James had become Quidditch Captain in the fifth year, the team had remained relatively unchanged. But the majority of it was in the seventh year, who had now graduated from Hogwarts. This left four vacant positions: the two Beaters, the Keeper, and the Seeker.
James arrived in his scarlet and gold Quidditch robes, his Captain’s badge pinned to his chest. Immediately upon arrival, he realized that trials would take longer than he realized. It seemed as though the entire House had come, responding to the flyer he had posted on the common room bulletin on Tuesday.
“All right, thanks for showing up,” he began. “As you know, we’re a bit short-staffed at the moment,” he said and the crowd laughed. “But I’m confident we’ll sort through all this and build a great team that’ll win us the Cup yet again.
“So, I think we should start with the Beaters,” he said, eying the crowd. Sirius wasn’t there. Had he backed out of the trials?
One by one, the Beater hopefuls had risen into the air. Of the fourteen, nine had failed to even hit a Bludger, the bat being too heavy for them to wield properly. The next two suffered the indignity of having their broomsticks smashed at the handle by the Bludgers, which became unusually fierce as more and more student tried to bat them away. Finally, it was when the final three students were making their runs that Sirius came running onto the field, James’s spare Nimbus 1500 clutched under his left arm. He was breathing heavily and whispered, “Snivellus met me as I was coming out of the One-Eyed Witch passage. I left him in a broom cupboard with tentacles all over the side of his face. He’s loads better looking now.”
James laughed, relieved that Sirius had made it in time. Sirius mounted his broom, Beater’s bat in hand, and set off. The Bludgers were released, and James watched, in both excitement and relief, that Sirius hit both Bludgers seventeen times, the most blows in the time limit that James had allotted for each hopeful. And then on the last Bludger, Sirius made a final, ferocious hit and it zoomed back toward James.
Quickly, James whipped out his wand and froze the Bludger in midair. It hung in space for a moment before him and Kingsley Shacklebolt, one of his fellow Chasers, wrestled it and its companion, back into the box where it came. James was satisfied – Sirius had beat out all the competition. He had made it onto the team, along with another sixth year boy named Andrew King, a stocky blonde that James remembered from the Hogwarts express.
The rest of the trials went much faster, and by lunchtime, he had finally reconstructed the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. Kingsley was returning to the team after scoring a record fourteen consecutive goals without obstruction, and he was joined by a new find: a third year boy, the youngest on the team, named Gerald North. Then there was Sirius, enormously proud of himself, waving to the crowd of girls that had come to watch from the stands, one of whom was Lily Evans, while his counterpart hung back. James couldn’t help but grin.
Choosing the Seeker turned out to be the easiest trial to design, though the hardest to complete. James had released five Golden Snitches into the air. The prospective Seeker’s job was to catch as many as they could; the one with the most would get the team. There were exactly five hopefuls: Lily’s friend Marlene McKinnon; Fay Mitchell, captain of the Gobstones Team; Henry Atkinson, a wiry second year; Lauren Larch, a tall fourth year; and Julia Harrison, a thickset seventh year who looked at James threateningly, as though daring him to reject her.
In the end, after three hours of searching in the cloudy sky, only McKinnon and Larch had caught any of the Snitches, with two apiece. They were racing neck and neck for the final one, speeding across the pitch. Marlene reached her hand out, and in a dive, caught the fifth Snitch, while Lauren fell into a small nosedive and skidded across the grass.
Lily was cheering from the stands, and James smiled as he welcomed her onto the team as their Seeker. He walked back to the stands, broomstick in hand, and Sirius joined him.
“Did you see how incredibly fantastic that trial was?” he asked. “King has nothing compared to me.”
“Of course, I did,” said James, grinning. “You were the best. We should sneak into Hogsmeade to celebrate the occasion. Where’s Moony?”
“Wormtail’s with him,” Sirius replied, his grin vanishing. “His furry little problem” – he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone happened to be within earshot – “is getting worse. He’s been in bed most of the day. The full moon’s this Wednesday, the eighth.”
“All right,” said James quietly. “We should get back to Moony, tell him the good news. And Sirius” – he deliberately used his proper name – “don’t tell Snape what we’re up to this time,” he added with a sort of weary exasperation. “It’s bad enough he knows about Moony.”
“He won’t know,” said Sirius. “He’s stuck with McGonagall doing detention that night, so I think our path’s clear.”
James ran his hand through his hair. “Okay, but as always, we’re bringing my dad’s Invisibility Cloak with us.”
Wednesday had come with great anticipation for James and Sirius. Whenever Remus transformed, it meant that the four of them, in animal form, could explore the grounds by the cover of night. But the process was painful and dangerous for Remus. To maintain the appearance of complete secrecy, Remus met Madame Pomfrey, the school nurse, at the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. Together, they would journey to the Whomping Willow, a sentient and particularly violent tree that guarded the entrance to the Shrieking Shack, a mysterious building in Hogsmeade Village which had earned the reputation as being haunted.
So, James, Peter, and Sirius waited patiently in the common room as Remus, in a set of off-white pajamas, was escorted by the matron out of the tower. They followed them silently out of the castle, hidden by the protection of the Cloak, and waited.
They saw Madame Pomfrey approach the Whomping Willow and fire a blast of light at its trunk, thus making its thrashing branches still themselves as if frozen in time. Then, the pair disappeared, and by the time the Willow again began thrashing, they were out of sight.
James looked up. There was a thick patch of cloud covering the sky and the moon was just rising. “We’ve got about ten or fifteen minutes before moonrise,” he said. “All right, I think Madame Pomfrey’s on her way back. Wormtail, you know what to do.”
Peter nodded and emerged from the Cloak. He stood before them for a moment and then rapidly transformed into a fat gray rat with a whip-like tail. He scampered through the grass, James and Sirius in close pursuit, and when they had reached the trunk of the Willow, Wormtail scurried forward, dodging the attacking branches of the tree, and dove into a hidden niche within the gnarled trunk.
The tree froze. Peter had touched the knot at the base which stopped its attacks. He briefly transformed back into a human. “I’ll try and get Moony to come out here with us. Stay transformed, all right?”
James nodded. Peter transformed back into “Wormtail” and scurried through a passage at the base of the Willow. James took off the Cloak and pocketed. He stood in place and then transformed into a stag. Next to Prongs the stag, Sirius had transformed into a great black dog, Padfoot.
Prongs gave a short whine. Moony’s coming out now.
We should get out of sight, Padfoot barked. Filch sometimes patrols some of the grounds. If he sees us…
Come on, then, behind the Willow, Prongs brayed.
The stag and the dog hid in a secluded patch of woods near the Willow. The patch of clouds had lifted and the grounds of Hogwarts were bathed in the ethereal glow of the full moon.
As the moon shone on the grass, a hulking creature emerged from the base of the Willow, following Wormtail. The creature looked at Prongs and Padfoot, standing in front of the dark forest, and he recognized them. It was Moony, transformed into his werewolf form. He was much larger than Padfoot, who looked bear-like. His fur was brown with flecks of white, his eyes yellow.
Moony seemed calm when he joined Prongs and Padfoot. He was not preoccupied with attacking the human students he knew were sleeping inside. He hardly thought on it. It was as if the presence of three friendly animals tamed him, made him less dangerous, like a normal wolf.
Wormtail jumped to his usual perch on Prongs’s back and together, the four of them set off. Starting at the Whomping Willow, they went south toward the lake. They found a patch of grass near the moonlit shore and sat, gazing across the pristine surface of the water, broken only when the giant squid that inhabited it surfaced, a party of merpeople following close behind.
Let’s explore more of the forest, Padfoot barked. He stood up and looked around. Something, however, made him very still. His body was stiff, his eyes pricked up, his eyes wide. He hurried to Prongs and whined into his ear so that Moony wouldn’t hear. Girl’s coming from the castle. We need to get Moony out of here!
Prongs rose so fast Wormtail nearly fell from his back. He turned and saw a girl standing in the darkness, wearing a robe over her nightdress. Her pale shone under the ethereal light, and she was shivering in the crisp, autumn cool. Her hair, darkened by the night, was brown or red. Prongs did his best to see in the darkness…
She had a head of cascading red hair. She gazed at Prongs, and Prongs gazed back at her. And as though she realized who he was, as though there was a sense of familiarity between them, she drew closer. Waves of terror crashed over Prongs as he at last recognized the girl.
Lily Evans was walking towards them, unaware that sitting beside them was a werewolf, unaware that soon Moony would be finished drinking from the lake and set his sights on her. He had to stop her.
He let out the loudest call he could. It was a braying call, a piercing whine that rent the air. Lily looked terrified and backed away fast, before Moony caught a glimpse of her. But she tripped and the noise alerted the werewolf.
He rose to his feet; his teeth were bared, and he went in for the attack. Prongs and Padfoot blocked his way. Prongs whined, and Padfoot growled ominously. Moony roared, straining against their restraint, but his companions wouldn’t relent. Prongs screeched out another call and Lily stumbled back towards the castle, her wand held aloft and its tip glowing with light.
Moony snarled and tried to run past Padfoot. In a single bound, he leapt over the great black dog and started his run toward the castle, his mind full of heady thoughts of slaughter, of the hunt and the kill.
Prongs stepped in front of him. The stag bellowed and rose on his hind legs. Moony was not intimidated and tried to run past. But Prongs was much larger than Padfoot and one of his small hooves found their mark, hitting Moony in the head. The werewolf fell back, stunned.
Padfoot barked. We need to get him back to the Shack!
Prongs tilted his antlered head. Should we stun him first?
Not if we can get him off the grounds.
So Prongs and Padfoot dragged Moony back to the base of the Whomping Willow. After Wormtail had fulfilled his role in immobilizing the tree, the other two animals dragged the werewolf through the long passage back to the Shrieking Shack. And in the rundown house, they waited through the night until the first rays of sunlight shone through the cracks in the walls.
Prongs stared down at the inert form of the great hulking werewolf and saw it transform. The fur retreated into the pores and exposed the skin beneath it. The snout shortened, the clawed paws morphed into hands and feet, the yellow eyes became brown again. Remus Lupin was lying, unconscious, on the floor, a bruise on his chest and a small cut on his forehead where Prongs had hit him.
The stag transformed back into James Potter. He turned to Sirius, who had reverted from being the great dog, and Peter, standing where the rat once stood. “Do you think he’ll be all right? I didn’t mean to hit him that hard, but he would have killed Evans…”
“Don’t worry about it, mate, he’s fine,” said Sirius, putting some fresh pajamas on Remus and wrapping him in a blanket.
“Should we take him to the Hospital Wing?” Peter suggested.
“And reveal to Madame Pomfrey that we know about his condition?” James countered. “Not bloody likely, Wormtail. Sirius and I know a few healing spells, and we can heal him up enough until he wakes.”
“Oh, all right then.”
James took out his wand and pointed it at Remus’s injuries. “Vulnera Sanatur.” The wounds on Moony’s chest and face started to knit, new skin forming over the cuts and abrasions. Soon, all that was left, after four repetitions of the healing spell, were the faint scars across his face, relics from his transformation.
He sat down on the floor, exhausted. This had not been what they had planned for, and it could have ended horrifically if Sirius hadn’t seen Lily walking from the castle. James couldn’t bear to think about how close they had been. It made the incident seem fresher in his mind. He pointed his wand at Remus’s inert figure. “Rennervate.”
Remus’s eyes shot open and he tried to get up, grimacing, but fell back to the ground. “What happened to all of you? What happened on the grounds?” he asked weakly.
“We had to cut the trip short, Moony,” said Sirius.
‘Why, did something go wrong?” Remus asked, his voice sounded frightened. “Did I bite anyone? Did I bite one of you?”
James looked at Sirius, and then at Peter. The former had the same look of worry that he had, the latter looked utterly terrified. “You didn’t bite anyone, Remus,” he said quietly. “We managed to restrain you before you got too enraged.”
“Restrain me?” Remus asked. “Why? Was someone on the grounds? Come on, James, tell me! This is serious; I could be expelled if one of the professors found out!”
James looked even more worried now. “All right, it was Evans,” he said. “She must have been on prefect patrol duty and spotted us wandering the grounds. Sirius saw her; she was coming from the castle to the lake. You would have charged at her, but I had to knock you out.”
Remus looked mortified. “Did she find out about you three?”
James thought on it. “I don’t think so. It was pretty dark, and she never got a good glimpse of you. She’s safe, Moony. You’re not going to be expelled.”
“What if she reports the incident to McGonagall or Dumbledore?” he asked. “They’ll know that I left the safety of the Shack…”
“Listen to me, Remus,” said James firmly. “You did nothing wrong. We were prats for being so careless. The next time we go out, we’ll check the map. So, get some sleep, and tomorrow, we’ll all go back to the castle together.”
“No, Madame Pomfrey wants to check on me this morning,” said Remus. “You three had better go, or she’ll know you’ve been here.”
James looked at him, ready to stand his ground and say they weren’t going anywhere. But tonight had been a very close call. He motioned to Sirius and Peter and the three of them left the Shrieking Shack, hidden under James’s Cloak.
It was three in the morning when they returned to the Gryffindor common room. Peter, exhausted and terrified from the ordeal, went straight to bed without another word. Sirius followed him up. “Lucky we have a free period today before Potions. I’m going to need some rest after what we just went through,” he whispered to James as he left.
“All right, I’ll be up soon,” said James. He found his favorite armchair in the common room and sat in front of the fire. They had come so close to seeing the worst, yet good fortune had saved them once again. He rubbed his eyes wearily, reveling in the calming heat of the crackling flames. Suddenly, he heard a soft breathing coming from his right.
He turned so sharply that he cracked his neck. Lying sprawled on the couch was Lily Evans, a Charms essay lying on her lap, unfinished with a streak of green ink stretching from the text down to the bottom of the page, as though she had fallen asleep while writing it.
He looked at her shoes, dirty and stained with grass and mud. So she truly had followed them out onto the grounds…
James stood up and quietly approached her. He nudged her awake and she awoke with a groan.
“What – where am I – what’s going on?” She jerked awake and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “What are you doing here, Potter?” she asked with her usual tone of dislike, her green eyes narrowing.
“Nothing, Evans, you look like hell though,” James commented. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been patrolling the halls,” said Lily. “Prefect duty, as I’m sure you’re aware of. Remus said he was feeling ill, so I covered his assigned route as well. I returned here after I had finished – or at least I think that’s how it went – and I must have fallen asleep as I sat down here…
“Anyway, Potter, you get to bed,” said Lily, suddenly stern. “I don’t want Filch docking points from Gryffindor if he catches out after hours…”
“All right,” said James quietly. “Call if you need anything…”
He climbed up the stairs and took a look back at the common room. Lily was gathering up her things and putting out the fire. She then headed to the girls’ dormitories, the charred ash in the fireplace still faintly glowing orange.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
A Sluggish Halloween
September came and went without further incident. Classes continued as usual: Professor Claverdon had started teaching about dementors and the Patronus Charm that repels them; Flitwick had given them extra homework where they were to practice the Supersensory Charm; Slughorn was absolutely gushing over Lily’s perfect Hiccoughing Solution; Professor McGonagall’s work on human Transfiguration was getting even more complex, such that even James and Sirius had been resigned to the library to puzzle over it.
Then there was Quidditch. James had scheduled practice three nights a week, for their first game, versus Ravenclaw House, which took place on the fifth of November. The Gryffindor team seemed revitalized by the influx of new talent. The previous year, Gryffindor had beaten Hufflepuff in the final, but by a meager ten points. James had scored a goal right as Hufflepuff’s Seeker, Barrington, caught the Snitch. Hufflepuff had won the game, but Gryffindor had won the Cup by default. Most of the school felt that Hufflepuff had been cheated out of a true victory, and James was anxious to show them that the Gryffindors were good enough to win the tournament outright.
Marlene McKinnon showed a particularly high degree of improvement, catching the Snitch with ten minutes of release even in the darkest skies. By the seventh practice, James, and even Sirius, who had deadly aim with the Beater’s bat, was raving about her talent as Seeker.
“Seriously, McKinnon, how did you get so good?” Sirius asked as they emerged from the locker rooms that night. “If you can catch that Snitch in five minutes against the Slytherins, we’ll be in great shape for Ravenclaw, and they’re the ones who’re actually good – Slytherin will try to rough you up, but when it comes to scoring points and smashing Bludgers, they leave much to be desired.”
“How would you know?” Marlene asked, amused at how quickly Sirius was convinced of her skill.
“My idiot brother’s the Seeker,” said Sirius darkly. “Regulus, his name is. He’s a prat. Just stick to the Snitch and I’ll hit a Bludger his way.”
“If you’re aiming for the Seeker, Sirius, aim for the broom handle,” James advised as they were heading back to Gryffindor Tower. “The ball itself won’t break it, but Seekers are usually so light that one hit will mess up their flying.”
“Point taken,” said Sirius. “Don’t worry, James, we’ll crush them.”
On the twenty-seventh of October, Professor Slughorn had, after praising them on their attempts at brewing, pulled aside Lily, James, Sirius, and Remus, inviting them to a little party that he had planned for Halloween night.
“I’ll be having a few of my old students over, so it’d be quite excellent if you four could join us,” he had said, following them out of his classroom. “It will be at my office, at eight o’clock.”
Then there was the challenge of choosing a date for the party, as had been customary for all of Slughorn’s gatherings. In the past, Lily had always attended with Severus Snape, something that angered and infuriated James to no end. But this year, Snape was nowhere in sight. In fact, for the first time, he hadn’t even been invited.
“Maybe Slughorn found out he’s basically bosom friends with Death Eaters,” Remus suggested lightly. “Slughorn isn’t particularly fond of Dolohov and his lot.”
“Yeah, well, with Snivellus out of the picture, you know what this means, right?” James asked brightly. “I can ask Lily Evans to this party!”
“And she’ll say no again,” said Sirius, letting out a bark-like laugh.
“Or she’ll say yes and Prongs will die of surprise,” said Remus, smirking. His condition had subsided and he was again healthy.
“Shut it, you,” said James, whacking Remus playfully behind the head. “Or she’ll go to the party with me, realize how incredibly wonderful I really am, fall madly in love with me, and we’ll live happily until the end of our days. The end. Any questions?”
“Yes,” said Sirius, suppressing gales of laughter. “What have you been drinking?”
“All right, fine, go on and ask her,” said Sirius, mastering his laughter, sobering himself. “We’ll be waiting to hear all about your latest rejection.” He grinned and patted James on the back.
Lily was on her way to the library when James found her. Waiting until she had disengaged from the throng of students around her, he approached her, albeit awkwardly. “Hey, Evans, you have a minute?”
Evans stopped. “What is it, Potter?” she asked suspiciously.
James paused. His hand slid through his messy hair, and he said in one breath, “Do you want to go out with me?”
Lily sighed. “Again, you’re asking me? Potter, haven’t I made it perfectly clear for the past year that the answer’s no?”
“But I haven’t done anything – well, unless you count hexing Filch a fair few times, but he deserved it – wrong since the start of term!” he insisted. “I haven’t hexed the Slytherins unless they attacked me, and I haven’t laid a hand on Snape! Come on, Lily…”
“The answer’s still no. As I said many times before, the giant squid would make a better date than you would,” she shot back.
“Yes, well, I’m not sure if he’s into sixth year Gryffindor prefects. Have you asked him?” James retorted, somewhat amused. “And going out with me aside, would you at least be willing to go to Slughorn’s party with me?”
“No, Potter, I won’t. I wasn’t even planning on attending this one, so if you don’t mind, I really do need to get to Charms.”
She hurried off, leaving James in the hallway, alone, with yet another rejection under his belt. He shrugged it off, regaining his usual swagger. If Lily wasn’t attending, why would he? But then he remembered that Sirius and Remus probably didn’t have an ironclad excuse to bow out of Slughorn’s invitation – and they were always good value at his parties. So, he too would attend.
He felt a little twinge in the pit of his stomach as he took his usual seat in Charms. The lesson that day was regarding the Water Jet Charm, Aguamenti, a spell he already knew well. He was thinking about Peter, about how he wouldn’t be coming with them. Slughorn had a particular distaste for him, as he had a dismal reputation as a potioneer, despite barely scraping an O.W.L. in the subject. Not to mention, Peter was a member of neither the wealthy nor the influential, and therefore, Slughorn simply ignored him altogether – at least when his potion wasn’t forming a rapidly congealing curd at the bottom of his cauldron.
He’d find a way to get Peter in. The four of them weren’t going to be separated simply because Peter had unusually poor marks in Potions.
James crumpled the piece of parchment he’d been scribbling on. The initials “L.J.” were written in the center. He threw it at Marlene McKinnon, who was sitting next to Lily two rows ahead of him.
“What?” she mouthed soundlessly, turning around sharply.
“You want to go to Slughorn’s party with me?” James asked in the same quiet whisper. “You know, as friends?”
Marlene smiled. “Just this once, Potter,” she whispered.
Lily turned around and frowned at James, the characteristic frown that clearly said, “Shut up, Potter,” without her actually saying a word.
James grinned. It was her loss, he reasoned. He had asked, and Lily had said no, like usual. Why not at least go to Slughorn’s party with Marlene? If they were bored, at least they could always talk about Quidditch.
After Charms class, James followed Sirius, Remus, and Peter out. As usual, Sirius had spent half the class period asleep, having already learned the charms being taught, and generally relying on Remus’s note taking to tide him over in case some new emerged. Peter was a mess, at one point, to Sirius’s delight, firing a jet of whiskey from his wand rather than water, and in the next instant, destroying the footstool upon which Flitwick was standing.
“Wormtail, even if you totally botched the Aguamenti Charm, that thing you did to Flitwick’s stool was amazing,” said Sirius, still chortling as they entered the Great Hall for lunch. “And thanks for the whiskey, by the way,” he added in a conspiratorial undertone. “I have it stashed away – we’ll save stuff that good for when I turn seventeen in December.”
Peter reddened slightly and laughed. It wasn’t usual for Sirius to compliment him, a Marauder though he was.
“So, Wormtail, did Slughorn invite you to the Halloween party at his office?” James asked lightly. He knew the answer was “no,” but he didn’t want to state it so baldly.
“Well, P-Prongs, Slughorn thought I wasn’t good enough, right?” said Peter, reddening again. “It’s only the star students that attend those…why would he invite me?”
“Because we’ll find a way to bring you with us,” said James, sitting down and grabbing a sandwich from the platter at the center of the Gryffindor table.
“How? No one in the Slug Club will take me unless they’ve been Confounded or given a love potion,” Peter said sadly.
“Love potions are for prats, Wormtail,” James said firmly. He turned to Sirius and Remus. “Anyone you know willing to take Peter to the party? It’s the only way he’ll be let in…”
“Well, I managed to get the Sheridan sisters, and Remus is going with Mary Macdonald,” said Sirius casually.
“You managed to get two girls?” said James. “Typical.”
“Well, yes, I have a talent for it, you see,” said Sirius nonchalantly. “Anyway…I tried getting Peter a date, but none of the girls in Slughorn’s inner circle want him. I didn’t actually scout out the Slytherins – even I’m not cruel enough to subject good old Wormtail to that.”
Even Peter laughed. James was still grappling for a solution. Lily had entered the Great Hall, walking with Marlene and Mary. He instinctively rose to greet them. “Hey, Lily, need to ask you a quick question!”
“No, I won’t be your girlfriend,” she said automatically.
“Eh, well, ideally, I’d be asking you that,” said James uncomfortably. He couldn’t believe what he was about to do. “You see, Remus, I, and Sirius all have dates to Slughorn’s party – well, Sirius has two, but let’s not get into that right now – but Slughorn didn’t invite Peter – you know, our friend, Peter Pettigrew. We tried asking around to see if anyone was willing, but no luck. Would you be willing to go with him?” he asked, the question spilling from his lips as if saying it fast would make the enormity of it any less significant.
Lily blinked. “I don’t know, Potter…”
“Come on, Evans, he really wanted to go, he’s never been to one of Slughorn’s parties,” said James imploringly.
She looked into his eyes and saw how important it was that Peter not be left behind. “All right, I’ll do it,” said Lily. “Tell Peter that I’ll be happy to go with him, as a friend,” she added the end somewhat instinctively.
“Thanks a lot, Lily!” he exclaimed.
As he hurried back to his end of the table, he heard Marlene chortling. “You could have taken anyone – anyone – and you chose little Peter Pettigrew? Oh, the school’s going to have a field day with this…”
“Shut it,” said Lily quietly. “Pettigrew’s nice sometimes, and it’s not entirely his fault he’s not one of Slughorn’s favorites,” she added. “Odd that Potter let him, though. I’d have expected something a little more juvenile from him.”
James smiled to himself. He ruffled his hair again, making it look even more windswept, and sat back down next to Sirius.
“Well, Wormtail, I’ve got some very good news for you,” he said. “Not only are you going to Slughorn’s party, you’re going with Lily Evans, the most beautiful girl in this school.”
Sirius spit out the pumpkin juice he had drank into the side of Remus’s face.
“Honestly, Padfoot, what – the – hell?” he said irritably, drying the side of robes with his wand.
“Sorry, Moony,” said Sirius quickly. “But, Prongs, you’re barking! You convinced Evans to go with Wormtail? Are you asking to lose our bet? What if she…actually likes him?” he asked, trying, but failing, to suppress his laughter.
“She’s only going with him as a friend,” said James irritably. “No offense, Wormtail, but I don’t think you’re Evans’s type – you spend too much time in detention for silly things like hurling a Dungbomb at McGonagall,” he added with a laugh.
Peter blushed again. “Well, thanks for finding a way for me to come, Prongs.”
“Don’t mention it,” said James. “You didn’t really think that we’d split up the group because Slughorn has no interest in you?” he asked with a smile.
On Halloween night, at a quarter past eight, James went back to his dormitory to dress for the party. He, Remus, and Sirius were wearing dress robes of green and black. Peter was wearing a rather dusty set that was graying and frayed. Moreover, it looked as though they didn’t quite fit.
In the common room, he met Marlene by the portrait hole. She looked quite pretty in a dark violet dress. Lily was standing next to her wearing a dress of the most brilliant green that matched her eyes. James stopped, his gaze fixed on Lily, mesmerized by her. He was brought back to reality by a light tap on the shoulder.
“Shall we go then?” Marlene said quietly into his ear.
“What? Oh – right, yeah – we should get going,” said James, snapping out of his reverie. “Everyone here?” he asked. Remus was standing with Mary, Sirius had found Cassandra Sheridan; he would meet her sister Jane outside, as she was in Ravenclaw. James recognized them as the two girls that Sirius wanted to a share a carriage with on the ride to the castle.
Slughorn’s office was located on the sixth floor. It was unusually large and spacious. On this occasion, the floors were made of the whitest marble, shining in the bright light. The walls were bedecked in Halloween decorations: orange and black hangings, and a gigantic pumpkin off to one side.
Slughorn was entertaining a number of guests when they arrived, a glass of wine in his hand. He looked positively delighted to see them, especially Lily.
“Ah yes, Lily, quite excellent that you’re here! – so many people I want you to meet, so many people indeed,” he said, grabbing guests from the crowd as if they had existed in thin air, like a spider reeling in his web.
The rest of them waited awkwardly. Lily was his favorite student and he was prone to gush over her in near-perpetuity.
“Let’s see, yes, Lily this is Nestor Monaghan, Captain of Puddlemere United – and these are Rhea Simmons, of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Gregory Giles, a high ranking member of the Auror Office, and Donald Sinclair of Goblin Liaison,” said Slughorn, introducing Lily to each person in his group, one at a time. It was obvious he had waited entirely for her to arrive. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Lily Evans, my absolute favorite student, and quite the potioneer, I might add!”
James smiled as Lily turned a bright pink, accepting the guests’ compliments.
“You must be a star student if you managed to captivate old Horace,” said Nestor Monaghan, shaking her hand. “Have you ever been to a professional Quidditch match?”
“Uh, not outside of the school tournament, no,” said Lily. “I’m Muggle-born, you see. My family, they don’t really know what Quidditch is.”
“Muggle-born!” exclaimed Donald Sinclair. “Good for you, young lady. I’m one too, you see. My family was right confused when they heard about Hogwarts. Thought Dumbledore might’ve been a loony! Easy to understand, really – strange old bloke in a wizard’s outfit appearing uninvited to your house, saying your kid can do magic…”
They all laughed appreciatively, and Monaghan continued. “Well, any time you want to see a match, just send an owl my way. A friend of Professor Slughorn is a friend of mine.”
“What?!” James blurted out. “Free tickets to a Puddlemere game? Fantastic! You could get us in, Lily!”
“You’re pushing your luck, Potter…”
“And who’s this, Lily? A friend?”
“No, he’s just here,” said Lily irritably.
“Well, if you’re a Quidditch fan – Mister –?”
“Potter,” said James. “My name’s James Potter, I’m Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team!”
“Well, fantastic, I remember the Gryffindor team when I was at Hogwarts – very fast, but not a lot of power. I was a Keeper for Ravenclaw, myself. In my seventh year, they were steamrollered by Slytherin after their Seeker took four Bludger hits to the face. I heard Gryffindor won by default last year, against Hufflepuff, and by ten points!”
“We’re trying to remedy that and go for a real win this year,” said James. He was in his element, his voice smooth and professional. “Luckily, I’ve had a chance to rebuild much of the team this year around. Most of last year’s team was getting a little burnt out by the time I became Captain. At any rate, I’d like to introduce you to my best mate and the greatest Beater I’ve come across in a long time, Sirius Black.”
“It’s a pleasure,” said Monaghan, shaking Sirius’s hand. “Well, I wish Gryffindor luck, but for now, I have to take my leave. I think I see Jason Farragut from the Daily Prophet, and I need to have a word with him about an atrocious article he wrote about last week’s match against Tutshill.”
“Whoa, we’ve got professional Quidditch players in our fan base now,” said Sirius excitedly as Monaghan disappeared into the crowd. “Well, I suppose there’s always hope in case being Aurors doesn’t pan out…”
“Lily, James, and Sirius are interested in becoming Aurors,” Slughorn explained, a genial smile still on his face. “As is Mr. Remus Lupin, here” – he indicated Remus, standing over in the corner with Mary. He completely ignored Peter, who was standing awkwardly next to Lily in his too-small dress robes.
“That’s very brave of all of you,” said Gregory Giles, the Auror. “Especially in present times, mind you. But we could definitely use some new talent. Tell me, I’m interested to hear your take on the situation with You-Know-Who.”
“I think it’s the Ministry that needs to reform, sir,” said James earnestly. “If we got rid of these ridiculous assumptions that pure-blooded ancestry translated to prodigious talent or great character, we’d be able to get through this crisis. But the fact is that the Ministry pretty much supports the same ideology as the Death Eaters: ancestry over merit, but without the violent radicalism.”
Sirius gaped at James, Remus furrowed his brow, glancing from James to Giles, Lily looked apprehensive, and Peter was already edging away from the conversation.
“You should be careful what you say, Potter,” Giles said coolly. “The Ministry is doing what it has to in order to stop the Death Eaters. I wouldn’t expect a sixteen year-old student to comprehend the inner workings of the Ministry of Magic.”
“Using Unforgivable Curses against suspects and sending them to Azkaban without trial isn’t really helping your case,” Sirius pointed out.
“Agreed,” said Lily. “What we’re doing is as bad as the Death Eaters. We should be above this kind of brutality…”
“Now, let’s everyone calm down, there’s no need for an argument!” Slughorn protested, bouncing from side to side as he stepped between Giles, Simmons, and the rest of the guests.
“Is there a problem, Horace?” said a voice from the crowd. Professor Claverdon and Professor McGonagall were standing where Nestor Monaghan had been. Claverdon was wearing a simple three piece black suit, the only distinctive feature being a dark red necktie. McGonagall was wearing tartan robes, as was her usual preference.
“Oh, Maximilian, Minerva, I didn’t realize you were here,” said Slughorn. “No, Mr. Potter and Mr. Giles here were having a rather lively debate. How does the evening find you?”
“In excellent form, thank you – but good lord, Gregory Giles? I didn’t realize you were still at the Auror Office. Lucky for you, as I had your termination paperwork on my desk before my sabbatical started. Tell me, how is Crouch these days? I hope he likes what he started with the Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Maximilian…” McGonagall tried to prevent him from going on the offensive.
“Yes, Mr. Claverdon, I daresay he has. But I doubt there’s room for someone like you at the Ministry. You’re too soft, Max. Without Crouch’s measures, we’d have lost to the Death Eaters long, long ago. His policies save lives, and if it were up to the loyal ones at the Ministry, he’d been Minister of Magic right now, instead of that oaf Desmond Bones.”
“Bones isn’t an oaf, you daft little man,” Claverdon growled menacingly, his hand gripping the hand of his wand. “And I suppose you think tagging along with Crouch and his thugs will get you the head job with the Aurors? Ha! Don’t make me laugh, Giles. You should consider yourself lucky we’re at Hogwarts, or else you’d wish you’d never been born, Greg.”
“I could say the same for you, old man,” said Giles menacingly, under his breath. He stalked off, giving the group a rather uncomfortable stare before mingling with a Healer from St. Mungo’s.
“Potter, Black, Lupin, Evans, if you don’t mind, I have something I need to discuss with you,” said Claverdon.
“Oh, come now, Maximilian, we were all quite enjoying the party!” said Slughorn jovially.
“It really is quite important, Horace,” Claverdon insisted. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t think of taking them from such a pleasant evening. So, students, if you’d please follow me, we could do with a little privacy from busybodies and” – he glanced at Giles – “unwelcome intrusions.”
They followed him out of Slughorn’s office and through the sixth floor corridor. He led them back down the Grand Staircase, back down to the Defense corridor, where his office was located, in a tiny alcove in the northwest corner.
He unlocked the door with a wave of his hand and let them in before closing the door. “I’m sorry about that, but it was essential that I get you away from Giles,” he said wearily, sitting behind his chair.
“Sir, what about our dates?” James asked.
“They can manage,” he replied gruffly. “Now, I want you to listen closely to me. Ruffling the feathers of anyone at the Ministry is dangerous, especially when it comes to insulting Barty Crouch. Potter, Lupin, both your families work within the Ministry. Believe me; I was doing you a favor.”
“Who is Barty Crouch?” Lily asked. As a Muggle-born witch, many aspects of wizarding politics were unknown to her.
Claverdon rubbed his forehead wearily. “Crouch is the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. In a practical sense, that means he’s the leader of every organization specifically designed to fight people like Lord Voldemort.”
No one flinched as the name was uttered.
“Anyway,” he continued. “His powers give him jurisdiction over the Aurors, the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, Hit-Wizards, and everything else within the Department, and he has a high-level position within the Wizengamot – the wizarding courts,” he added for Lily’s benefit. “Potter, your parents are both judges on the Wizengamot and Lupin, your father is an Auror – a damn good one, I might add. You can’t go saying things like that about the Ministry, least of all when Crouch is on the warpath.”
“But the bloke wanted my opinion,” James insisted.
“He didn’t,” said Claverdon. “Giles likes to gauge the allegiance of people around him by asking innocuous, possibly open-ended questions and analyzing their replies. He did that a lot when he worked under me in the Auror Office. With Crouch’s paranoia, he managed to get a lot of good Aurors fired out of a concern that they were disloyal to his policies.”
“Sir,” Remus said uncertainly. “Is that why you’re teaching here? Because Crouch forced you out at the Ministry?”
“No,” Claverdon replied simply. “I resigned after Crouch gave the order for Aurors to use Unforgivable Curses against suspects. I never trusted his leadership, and that was the last straw.”
He checked a small golden pocket watch. Instead of hands and numbers, its dial had planets and stars, slowly revolving. “It’s getting late. You’d better get back to your dormitories. I’ll see you all tomorrow in class.”
Lupin, Lily, and Sirius all headed to the door, followed by James. However, he lingered for a moment at something that had been tossed onto a bench at the side of the classroom. He never remembered seeing it there, so perhaps Claverdon had left it there by mistake, having forgotten to put it away.
Curiosity overcame everything, and he quietly ruffled through the bag. Old spell books, some Dark Detectors, a spare wand, a traveling cloak; perhaps this was his gear as an Auror. However, as he put down the pocket copy of Advanced Defensive Magic, he came across a small photograph. It was a group of witches and wizards, dressed in black cloaks, their faces haggard but happy nonetheless. They were standing arm in arm in a cobblestone square…
“James, are you coming, or not?” Sirius asked from the door.
“Yeah, I’ll be there soon…”
He followed them back up to the seventh floor. The three of them bid Lily good night and returned to their dormitory. Peter was already waiting for them. He was fast asleep, and must have sidled out of the party when Claverdon had escorted them out.
Changing into his pajamas, James wondered who those people were. Was Claverdon one of them, and if so, where was it taken? More importantly, he resolved to send an owl to his father at the Ministry. He wanted to know what was happening there, and Claverdon had inadvertently reminded them how serious it was, outside of Hogwarts.
Last edited by CrimsonZephyr; September 17th, 2009 at 1:29 am.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
The date of the first Quidditch game had arrived, having been pushed back a day as some unruly Muggle-born students had set off fireworks on the Quidditch pitch in celebration of Bonfire Night. It was Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. When James walked into the Great Hall on Saturday afternoon, his broom tucked under his arm, the entire Gryffindor table cheered. The Slytherins were gazing at him with utmost loathing, the Ravenclaws looked apprehensive, and the Hufflepuffs had expressions somewhere in between disdain and ambivalence.
Sirius, however, was clearly enjoying the publicity of being a member of the Quidditch team. He was posing for photographs in a corner of the Great Hall, a Beater’s bat in his hand. He had a heroic sort of look in the way he was posing, and a gaggle of girls was surrounding him. James was reminded irresistibly of himself when he joined the team in the second year.
He sat next to Remus, still watching Sirius trying to impress the girls, including the Sheridan sisters, who were still quite keen on him.
“How’re you feeling today, Prongs?” asked Remus.
“With Sirius’s confidence, I doubt we’ll do too badly,” said James. “The weather’s perfect – not a cloud in the sky. Marlene” – he turned to the girl sitting on Peter’s left – “make sure you catch the Snitch as fast as you can. We need to knock Ravenclaw out of the tournament. Their point totals will be too low for a default win, and we can concentrate on Slytherin and Hufflepuff.”
“You’re the boss,” said Marlene. Lily was sitting next to her wearing a red and gold Gryffindor scarf and Mary had the right side of her face painted scarlet.
“Where did you run off to during the party?” Mary asked Remus.
“Claverdon made us go back to our dormitories,” said James. “That Auror bloke, Giles, was causing trouble. Anyway, I was looking for a reason to leave anyway. It looked a tad boring. I doubt I’ll be going to another one.”
“Agreed,” said Remus.
“So if you three aren’t going, I suppose that means Slughorn’s going to cut me loose, doesn’t it?” asked Peter uncertainly.
“Unless you suddenly become a prodigy at Potions, I doubt you’ll ever see the inside of Slughorn’s office, except for detention, again, Wormtail,” said Sirius, who had joined them at the table. “Don’t worry about it, though. I’d rather not attend the party and suffer through some bloke describing how he made a potion to cure impotence – not that I’d need it, at any rate.”
James laughed midway through drinking his orange juice, spraying Peter.
“Sorry, Peter!” said James, choking back laughter. “Well, I suppose we should get going. The game’s starting in a half hour.”
He patted Sirius on the shoulder and they rose to their feet. They exited the hall, followed by Kingsley Shacklebolt, Gerald North, Marlene McKinnon, Andrew King, and their Keeper, Frank Longbottom. The Gryffindors gave another great cheer as they marched past, leaving the Great Hall through the main doors and walked outside to the Quidditch Stadium.
He led the team through the halls that formed the outer ring of the stadium. They entered the Gryffindor locker room and changed into their team uniforms: brilliant scarlet and gold cloaks, the Gryffindor lion’s head crest emblazoned on their left lapels.
And so they waited, pacing eagerly around the room, waiting on tenterhooks for the game to begin, until it was eleven o’clock, and the rest of the school had arrived on in the stadium. James could hear the booming voice of the announcer.
“Good morning, Hogwarts! I, Ludo Bagman, am proud to welcome you all to the first game of the Inter-House Quidditch Championship!” he exclaimed jubilantly. “This morning’s game: Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw!”
The Gryffindors exited the locker rooms and waited at a great doorway.
“Nervous, McKinnon?” James asked.
“A little,” she replied. “Never played an actual match before.”
“You’ll do better than me, at any rate,” said James. “Ten minutes in, I started staring at Lily – don’t tell her! – took a Bludger hit to the face. Next thing I knew, I was in the Hospital Wing.”
“That’s comforting,” said Marlene wryly.
The doors opened, and the Gryffindors mounted their brooms. They flew up onto the pitch, as the Ravenclaws, dressed in robes of blue and bronze, formed a half-circle opposite them. Marlene was levitating above the circle, staring at the Ravenclaw Seeker, Lewis.
“Allow me to introduce to the players!” Ludo Bagman’s voice was booming. “On the Gryffindor side, Chaser and team captain James Potter has put together a new lineup: Beaters Andrew King and Sirius Black,” – there was a great cheer from the Gryffindors as Sirius’s name was mentioned – “Keeper Frank Longbottom, and Chasers Kingsley Shacklebolt and Gerald North. Last but not least, Marlene McKinnon has taken the reins as the Seeker!
“On the Ravenclaw side, we have team captain Harold Richards, playing Beater alongside Victor Steele. Yolanda Harris, Wilhelmina West, and Jillian Tate have all returned as Chasers. However, Richards has also acquired some new talent, ladies and gentlemen, in the form of Keeper Donald Attenborough and Seeker Kenneth Lewis!
“With that said, Madam Hooch, our referee, is stepping onto the field to signal the start of the game.”
Madam Hooch was a hawk-like woman, her yellowish eyes narrowed in slits as she scanned the sky and the circle of suspended players. She set down a large box, stooped down, and unclasped the lid. Two heavy, iron balls erupted from the insides of the box and started flying erratically around the players. Then, after the Bludgers, Madam Hooch released the Golden Snitch, which fluttered briefly around James’s ear before it disappeared from view.
Madam Hooch picked up the Quaffle and threw it up into the air. James saw the toss in slow-motion, willing his broomstick to zoom forward. He could see Kingsley on his left, and Gerald North on his right, and right as the Quaffle came within view, he zoomed forward.
“And the game begins!”
James quickly grabbed the Quaffle and flew out of the ensuing fray. Kingsley had crashed into Yolanda Harris; Sirius had smashed a Bludger at Wilhelmina West, sending her careening away.
With the Quaffle tucked in the crook of his arm, he zoomed toward the far end of the pitch. Attenborough, expecting an attack on the central hoop, was hovering somewhere around the middle of the scoring area. James zoomed toward the center hoop, staying on that course as long as possible. With a quick twist of his feet, his broomstick suddenly dropped speed, and he swerved towards the left hoop.
Attenborough saw what he was trying to do and desperately tried to fly to the proper hoop. Too late – James had hurled the Quaffle into the hoop, and Attenborough had bumped the handle of his broomstick against the outer ring of the hoop. The broom flipped him over and he fell towards the soft sand below. James looked back and saw him remounting his broom.
“GRYFFINDOR SCORES!” Bagman bellowed. “James Potter, in a clever Austrian Braking Maneuver, gets the Quaffle in right under Attenborough’s nose. This brings the game to ten-zero!”
Sirius gave a whoop of joy as he passed James, chasing a Bludger that seemed to have an attraction to Marlene.
“And the Quaffle is taken by Harris – passed to West – oh, nasty Bludger hit from King – Shacklebolt gets the Quaffle – passes it to North – back to Shacklebolt – then Potter – oh, too bad, Potter just missed the Quaffle! – Tate takes possession of it – passes it to West – intercepted by Potter! Can he score another goal?”
You bet I can, Bagman…
James sped down the pitch. He saw the center hoop undefended. He raised his arm, ball in hand, and hurled the Quaffle forward.
Suddenly, Attenborough zoomed over from the right, spun out of a dive, and kicked the Quaffle away.
“Great Scott!” exclaimed Bagman. “Attenborough’s saved the Quaffle! Now, Shacklebolt in possession – back to Potter! – taken by Harris! – passed to West! – intercepted by North! – And he’s dropped the Quaffle after a terrific hit by Richards – Tate’s in possession, and by George, it looks like she’s pulled out of the fray!”
Jillian Tate was flying up the pitch towards the Gryffindor end, after a Bludger from Sirius nearly knocked her off her broom. James, though normally the offensive Chaser, was the closest to Frank Longbottom and the Gryffindor goalposts.
He rushed across the pitch, Kingsley at his left, North at his right. They each zoomed forward and tried to stop Tate’s advance, but she was able to shrug them off. She tossed the Quaffle into the air and punched it. It zoomed toward the goal, but Longbottom flew over and batted it away with his arm.
Relieved, James took possession of the Quaffle and signaled to Kingsley and North. “Fly with me, catch the Quaffle on the rebound!” he ordered.
“And now it’s Potter with the Quaffle!” announced Bagman. “Potter passes it to Shacklebolt! – Back to Potter! – Now to North! – Back to Shacklebolt! – Tate of Ravenclaw tries to intercept – oh, what a hit from Black! – And now all three Gryffindor Chasers are pelting up the pitch, James Potter in possession!”
Ludo Bagman’s excited commentary could hardly compare to the roars and cheers of the Gryffindor crowd. They were shouting, bellowing, stamping their feet, and raising their fists in triumph, even though Marlene had not yet found the Snitch.
James was the first to reach the scoring zone. When he raised his arm, Quaffle in hand, Kingsley and North broke off, swerving away and out of the scoring zone. With a terrific toss, the Quaffle sailed into the left goalpost.
“Gryffindor scores again! Oh my – Shacklebolt has the Quaffle, he’s going for the right hoop! And he scores! But wait ladies and gentleman: Gerald North has entered the scoring zone, and has taken possession of the Quaffle and – I don’t believe it, he’s scored! Gryffindor is up forty-zero!”
The Gryffindor team was positively uncontrollable. They had managed to score thirty points in a period of ten seconds, without fouling once. James paused to catch his breath. Wilhelmina West had grabbed the Quaffle and had managed to score a goal, putting the score at forty-ten. But his eyes were focused on Marlene. She and Kenneth Lewis were tearing across the pitch, neck and neck. They had seen the Snitch.
He saw Sirius rush forward – his Beater’s bat was raised – and he smashed a Bludger so hard it whizzed past James’s ear and hit Lewis’s broomstick at the front. The Ravenclaw Seeker flipped over – crashing – his broom twisting around his flailing body as he fell with a thud onto the green grass.
“McKinnon has got the Snitch!” screamed Bagman. “Gryffindor’s rookie Seeker has proved her mettle, earning her team an extra hundred and fifty points. With that, the game ends, and Gryffindor wins, one hundred-ninety to ten!”
James was overjoyed. A sea of red and gold had run onto the pitch. Even Professor McGonagall, strict and unwavering, was waving a Gryffindor flag as the students lifted the team up into the air and carried them back to the castle.
The next few hours went by in a haze. James was crowded by most of the house, most of them screaming praises or simply their own amazement. To them, the Quidditch Cup was as good as theirs this year. Sirius was entertaining a group of girls (and Wormtail) with lively descriptions of every time he hit a Bludger, and a group of fourth year girls were examining the Snitch that Marlene had caught. But James had eyes for only the red-haired girl sitting on the couch by the fire, poring over her Transfiguration notes.
James cleared his throat. “You’ve got the wand movements wrong on this page,” he pointed out, somewhat timidly, quite unlike his usual self. “You’d be transfiguring your foot into a wing.”
Lily looked up the page at the complex diagram. “Oh damn, I did that again, didn’t I? Must have been late when I copied these down…”
She took out her wand and started correcting the diagram. “You mind if I sit?” James asked.
“Go ahead, I suppose, but the answer’s still no,” said Lily.
“The answer to what?” James asked.
“I’m not going to go out with you,” said Lily.
“Did I say I wanted you to?”
“No, but it’s always implied,” Lily insisted.
“Well, I never said the offer wasn’t on the table,” said James earnestly, grinning. “I’m always available if you change your mind.”
“Which won’t happen soon, Potter,” Lily retorted.
“Sure, it won’t,” said James dismissively. He glanced at her notes. “Were you even at the game?” he asked; his voice was a little crestfallen.
“Of – of course, I was, Potter,” said Lily, stifling a yawn. “I left all this here for when I got back. You played brilliantly, congratulations.”
“You did see that three-goal maneuver we pulled, right? Impressive, wasn’t it?” James asked, his ego lifting slightly.
“Yes, and it was brilliant,” said Lily. “I’m sure you’ll win – you’ll win the Cup this – this year,” she said, yawning.
“Are you all right, Lily?”
“Yes,” she said quickly. “I’m just very tired. I left this Transfiguration work for today, but the game was today…and Prefect duties have been worse lately. I found Mulciber and Travers sneaking around…You and your friends haven’t been sneaking around, either, have you?” she asked quickly, her eyes narrowing.
“Not recently, no,” said James nonchalantly. “Listen, why don’t you leave this for later? There’s a Hogsmeade visit next week – why don’t you come with us?”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s some ulterior motive at work here?”
“Pure instinct, Lily,” he replied. “And I’m afraid you’re a bit off today,” said James smoothly. “If you don’t want to go out with me, that’s fine. But can we at least be friends? Remus gets along with everyone and Marlene, Sirius, and I all play Quidditch together. It’s kind of unnecessary that we should be so hostile around them…so what do you say?”
“We’ll see, Potter…”
“Great,” said James, grinning. “And call me James. You sound like McGonagall when you call me ‘Potter.’ I feel like I’m in detention again…”
“Well you can’t fault her for that,” said Lily, laughing in spite of herself.
“No, I suppose not, and mind you, she does schedule detention around Quidditch practice,” said James. “You need help with these things?”
“No, I’m fine, but thanks anyway,” she replied. “Well, good night Potter – James. I’d better get some sleep. I heard Claverdon is going to go through Patronuses on Monday.”
And so she left James sitting by the fire, thoroughly relieved that the exchange hadn’t been as tumultuous as usual. And she had actually agreed to go to Hogsmeade with him! The term had barely started and he was on more amicable terms with Lily than he had ever been. Perhaps he would win Sirius’s bet after all.
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
News from the Front
The next Monday, James walked into Defense against the Dark Arts to see that the euphoria of the previous Saturday’s victory against Ravenclaw was still present. After shaking off a few first years on his way into the classroom, he walked in and saw that the desks were not arranged in their normal, perfect rows, but were pushed haphazardly against the walls.
“Good morning, class,” said Professor Claverdon, greeting them from his office door at the top of a small set of steps. “As you can see, we’re having a more practical lesson today. Your essays on Dementors” – he waved his wand and their essays seemed to float out of their bags and into his office, where they formed a neat stack – “will be graded and handed back on Wednesday. Now then, I hope you applied yourself in that assignment, because today’s class concerns the Patronus. Can anyone tell me what a Dementor is?”
Lily’s hand went up immediately. James smirked and raised his own hand halfheartedly.
“All right, Miss Evans.”
“Dementors are Dark creatures that feed off of the emotions of their victims, forcing them to relieve their worst memories, and thus trapping them within their own depression,” said Lily.
“Yes, correct in all the essentials,” said Claverdon. “Five points to Gryffindor. Now, we will never see a Dementor within this castle. Professor Dumbledore would never allow one to enter, and I completely agree with the headmaster’s decision.
“Dementors largely lack any kind of sentience at all. They feed upon one’s happiness and sanity like a parasite. The Ministry of Magic claims to have exclusive control over the dementors, but be warned: they take orders only from our government because it satisfies their hunger. There have been cases of entire populations of Dementors going rogue. The Death Eaters are actively trying to recruit them, and I have to admit, the Dementors will be more easily swayed by promises of such wanton carnage.”
“So, you all must be wondering why I’m teaching you all of this if you’ll never face a Dementor at Hogwarts.”
The class remained silent.
“The truth is you’ve got to know how to defend yourself when the time comes, even if you’ve never encountered such creatures. In any case, can anyone tell me what a Patronus is, then?”
James again raised his hand.
“Something that – uh, something that wards off Dementors,” said James. “It’s like a positive energy force that keeps the Dementor away from you…”
“Yes, absolutely right,” said Claverdon earnestly. “But what creates this positive energy? Yes, all right, Mr. Lupin.”
“You have to think of a very positive, very happy memory,” said Remus clearly. “Preferably what you believe to be the happiest in your life. Since the Dementor forces you to relive your most torturous recollections, the presence of a spell generated from your happiest will act as a counterbalance, driving it away and negating its effects.”
“Couldn’t have said it better,” said Claverdon cheerfully. “Five points to Potter and Lupin. Anyway, on to the actual incantation; there are no wand movements associated with this spell. Simply point, focus on your memory, and say, very clearly, Expecto Patronum.”
“What does a Patronus look like, sir?” said Frank Longbottom.
“It’s unique to each person,” said Professor Claverdon. He demonstrated, and a silver blast shot out of his wand. It fell to the ground and became a great, ghostly dog before disappearing. “Now, off to work.”
Each student found some space in the room to practice. Soon, there were shouts of “Expecto Patronum!” everywhere, and jets of silver light were being expelled from the tips of wands. Somehow, a large number of Slytherin students seemed to be unable to produce anything close to a Patronus, their wands expelling only a brief wisp of silver fog.
“You’re not trying hard enough, Dolohov, Wilkes, concentrate!” barked Professor Claverdon. They looked surly as he corrected them. The Slytherins still hadn’t gotten over their initial loss of fifty points he had docked.
In the end, Remus was the first to produce a Patronus. A massive silver shield of light erupted from his wand and curved back, protecting him. Then it shot forward, and James could have sworn he saw a brief glimpse of a wolf-like figure, shrouded by the wave of light, leap forward before disappearing into nothingness.
James and Sirius were the next to produce a Patronus. A silver stag, upright and regal, burst from the tip of James’s wand and cantered around him a few times. It stared at him inquisitively, and he smiled. Only the Marauders knew about Prongs.
Sirius’s Patronus, a silver, ghostly apparition of Padfoot, followed at the stag’s side, Wormtail’s rat Patronus following behind it, before all three disappeared.
Lily’s Patronus – a pelican – flew into the air and disappeared before Claverdon called them all back to the center of the classroom.
“Well done, class,” he began. “Ten points to Gryffindor and Slytherin for every student who managed to produce a Patronus.”
They left the class in good spirits and headed to Potions, where they made Floating Solutions, a concoction that made the drinker resist gravity until the effects wore off. Lily earned Gryffindor thirty points for what Slughorn called a perfect solution, while James and Sirius earned detention, despite making solutions at least as good as Remus’s.
“Potter, how many times do I have to tell you not to boil Mr. Snape’s potion? This potion flashes quickly and he could have been burned!” exclaimed Slughorn in rare, strict tone.
“Sorry, Professor, won’t happen again,” said James, suppressing his laughter while Sirius was doubled over, laughing hysterically and pointing at a livid Snape, who had the slimy potion spilled all over his greasy hair and threadbare robes.
In the end, Slughorn made them report to the dungeons on Friday evening, where they would be cleaning potions equipment. “At least we’re not scrubbing the bedpans in the Hospital Wing again,” Sirius muttered as they packed their bags and headed for the Great Hall.
When they reached there, Lily confronted James. “I hope you’re proud of what you did back there in Potions, James,” she said testily. “That prank could have seriously hurt Snape?”
“But it didn’t, did it?” said James defiantly, yawning hugely as a large eagle owl swooped in front of him. “Besides, Madam Pomfrey can heal burns in an instant – I’d be exceedingly disfigured if that weren’t the case.” The large eagle owl pecked him. “Ouch! Oh, Eris is back – and she’s got a reply from Mum and Dad!” he exclaimed, holding up a rolled up piece of parchment tied with a scarlet ribbon. He opened the letter and the four Marauders huddled and read it:
Dear James and Sirius,
Thank you for writing! It’s good to read you’re doing well in your studies, and we’re quite happy to hear about Sirius’s success on the Gryffindor Quidditch team – the two of you must be quite a pair on the pitch. Your mother and I are doing quite all right in the Wizengamot. Dumbledore’s influence has lessened the impact of Crouch’s newest directives, and for now, our jobs within the Ministry are safe. But nevertheless, I must stress that you be careful.
Your uncle Charlus, only last week, was nearly cornered by Death Eaters. Don’t worry – he managed to escape after stunning four of them and Apparating away with Aunt Dorea. He’s staying in London with us – he’ll be happy to see you over the Christmas holiday.
I understand that Maximilian Claverdon has become the Defense against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, and personally, I applaud the decision. He was once Head of the Auror Office, and he’s a good man. Claverdon was right about Gregory Giles – he is a part of a cadre of Aurors responsible for investigating members of the Ministry itself, and it would behoove you not to get on his bad side, as your chances for entry into the Auror Office will be shattered.
As for news from the war…There have been eight more attacks on Muggle families, and three Aurors have been killed. Death Eaters have been spotted in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We think they may be approaching Hogwarts, so be on your guard.
As always, be safe, and know that your mother and I both are very proud of you.
James stared at the letter. He was relieved that his parents hadn’t been shunted sideways at the Ministry because of what he had said at Slughorn’s party, but from the looks of it, playing office politics with Barty Crouch was a minor concern compared with what was going on all over Britain.
His uncle Charlus was much younger than his father, born immediately before his father completed his studies at Hogwarts in 1926. Neither of the two brothers had children for much of their adult lives, and James was born when Richard Potter was sixty-one, to a mother who had just turned fifty-three. Charlus, having married Dorea Black, was still childless. James saw him infrequently, though he remembered him being a lot of fun, a real practical joker.
The story of the Muggle massacres sickened him. What was worse was that they remained oblivious as to what actually was attacking them. They could not detect magic. He neatly folded the letter and stood up. Lily was in the corner, having a heated conversation with someone James couldn’t quite see.
“Severus, I told you there’s no going back,” Lily snarled. “Will you just leave me alone? I told you last year, you’ve gone your way, I’ve gone mine.”
“Lily, you haven’t been listening to me!” Snape cried. “If you’d just give me one more chance, I’ll –”
“You’ll what, Severus? I’ve given you plenty of chances – many more than you deserved – since first year!” Lily exclaimed. “First it was hanging first years in the dungeons while they were belching slugs, then it was that terrible Dark curse that Mulciber and you used on those poor Muggle-borns during our third year, and just last week I saw a second year Hufflepuff who was sent to the hospital wing with her face slashed up! That’s your specialty, Severus, isn’t it – Sectumsempra?”
Snape didn’t respond.
“See, again, you don’t deny it!” Lily screamed, growing angrier. “Do you really expect me to forgive you if you’re behaving like scum like those Death Eater wannabes?”
“What about Potter and his mates, then? I didn’t see you say anything when my cauldron nearly exploded in Potions,” Snape said bitterly.
“What about Potter?” Lily asked angrily. “Why does it always come back to him? Why are you always so focused on following him around?”
“I’m just trying to prove to you –”
“Prove what, Snape?” snarled Lily. James noted the use of his surname. “He’s immature and arrogant, but he’s a good person – and he doesn’t use Dark Magic, so that, I’m afraid, puts him quite a few paces above you in that regard. So, shut up about James Potter – what happened between us was entirely your fault. Stop blaming it on James Potter – stop blaming everything on him and start taking some responsibility, damn it!” she yelled, her voice full of exasperation.
Something in the pit of James’s stomach fluttered. He felt lightheaded, elated. It was the first time he had ever heard Lily Evans defend him in front of Snape.
Abandoning the bravado he usually employed in front of her, he started to sweat a little, watching the argument from afar, unnoticed by either Lily or Snape. Lily turned to walk away, and Snape grabbed her by the arm and pulled her closer, perhaps more roughly than he intended.
James didn’t know when he took out his wand or when he pointed it at Snape, but within seconds, he had fired a jinx at Snape, throwing him backwards, away from Lily. “You get off her!” James growled, advancing on Snape. He grabbed him by his shirt collar and pulled him close, his wand digging into Snape’s greasy temple. He could smell the stink on the Slytherin’s robes, could see the oil exuding from every strand of hair on his scalp. Snape’s eyes darted from the wand to James’s steely gaze.
“So what’ll it be, Potter?” he whispered. “You’ve got maybe one good jinx before McGonagall sees you. Who knows – maybe after she’s done scolding you, I might even have a nice little curse of my own for you, Potter.”
“James, let him go,” Lily whispered in his ear. Sirius had yelled “Oi!” and rose to his feet with his wand held high, pointing it at Snape.
James stared deep into Snape’s eyes. Both of them seemed to radiate with hatred. But when it seemed as though James was going to utter a curse, but he simply fixed his face with a look of utter contempt. “Get out of my sight, Snape,” he said roughly, letting go of the Slytherin’s collar.
“What, no string of hexes, no attempts at humiliation?” Snape egged him on. “You’re going soft, Potter.”
“Perhaps,” said James, turning around to grab his book bag. “But I’ve moved on to bigger and better things” – he looked at Mulciber, Avery, and Dolohov sitting at the Slytherin table – “from what it looks like, you’ve gone in the opposite direction, Snivellus.”
He left Snape in the Great Hall looking both angry and perplexed. Lily had exited only seconds after he had released Snape. He found her sitting in a lonely corridor on the third floor, her face in her hands. He cautiously approached, setting his bag down and sitting next to Lily.
“He was your friend,” James said abruptly.
“For the longest time,” said Lily. “He introduced me to the wizarding world.”
“What changed things?”
“Do you really need to ask?” said Lily. “He called me Mudblood – he calls all Muggle-borns that. I was tired of making excuses for him. I’m sorry you had to see that argument with him.”
“No, don’t apologize to me about him,” said James firmly. “It’s his fault he threw away your friendship.” He hesitated slightly, remembering the first time he tried to apologize. “And I really am sorry for what I did last spring. Do you believe me?”
Lily wiped her eyes with the corner of her cloak. “Yes, James, I do. I’m sorry if I lashed out at you then. I expect it was rather humiliating for you,” she added, smiling sheepishly.
“I deserved it, though,” said James quietly. “Thanks for setting me straight.”
“Any time, Potter,” she quipped. “We should probably get going. Flitwick won’t like it if we’re late for Charms.”
“I doubt he’d notice, to be honest, but you’re right, we should go,” said James. They stood and started walking to the Charms classroom.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Lily said as they walked. “You received a letter – what was it about?”
“I wanted to ask my father about what’s going on at the Ministry – to make sure I didn’t get them on Barty Crouch’s bad side,” James replied. “Luckily, Dumbledore holds enough sway at the Wizengamot to keep Crouch’s efforts focused on Voldemort.”
“How’s the war going?” Lily asked
“Not well,” said James. “Eight more Muggle families have been attacked and three Aurors were killed recently. Death Eaters were sighted in Edinburgh recently, so there’s a good chance they’re after Hogwarts. They won’t get here, though. Dumbledore’s protections are too powerful.”
Lily stiffened as she heard the news. James could tell why. Her entire family was Muggle, and as a Muggle-born witch, she was a target of the Death Eaters. “Are you all right?” he asked.
“I’m perfectly fine, Potter,” she sniffed in her loftiest tone. “Now do hurry up, we’ll be late for Flitwick.”
Re: The Marauders: The Beginning of the End
November came and went quite slowly. The Marauders, ever the pranksters, were in good form, as James had snapped out of what Sirius had called his “responsible phase” and joined his three friends in bewitching all mirrors in the lavatories in the Slytherin dungeons to show the user a dazzlingly beautiful reflection, but then transfigure their noses into pigs’ snouts.
“Wormtail, for once you look better than an entire House,” Sirius jested, ruffling the shorter boy’s hair, chortling as they watched Madam Pomfrey tend to Mulciber and Avery.
“Oh come on, Padfoot, I look nothing like Mulciber!” Peter protested as they walked out of the Hospital Wing.
“Yeah, never mind, bad comparison, you’re right,” said Sirius.
The Quidditch Cup had proceeded normally. On the final Saturday of November, Slytherin soundly defeated Hufflepuff, putting them neck and neck with Gryffindor for the Cup. As the pressure was mounting for James to deliver the cup for Gryffindor, he started having the team practice four, and even five nights a week.
“Damn it, James, we don’t have another match until February!” Marlene protested after a practice session in early December. The first flakes of light snow were falling on the grounds as autumn transitioned to winter. Marlene was nursing a small bruise from where Sirius – accidentally – had whacked a Bludger, nearly throwing her off her broom.
“All right, all right, next week, we’ll practice on Friday and that’ll be it until term resumes,” James relented. He hung back with Sirius, who was looking at Marlene with an odd expression of amusement and curiosity.
“What’s on your mind?” James asked.
“Oh, nothing at all,” said Sirius. “So, listen, Hogsmeade’s tomorrow. Lily still coming along with us, or has she gotten tired of you yet?”
“I think I’m growing on her, Padfoot,” said James with a roguish smile. “In any case, we should head back. I want to get some more fireworks from Zonko’s tomorrow. And we need to finish the map – we’re almost done.”
So it was with great anticipation that on the following Saturday, James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Lily, and Marlene walked to Hogsmeade with the rest of the students.
James, Sirius, and Peter immediately ran into Zonko’s, where they bought their share of various joke items. Lily, meanwhile, went with Remus and Marlene to the Three Broomsticks. Sirius and James had a soft spot for the curvy, vivacious barmaid, Madam Rosmerta.
“Well, if it isn’t Remus Lupin,” said Rosmerta welcomingly. “I’m assuming you’ll have the butterbeer as usual?”
“Yes, and two more for Lily and Marlene,” said Remus brightly. He slid six Sickles over the surface of the bar toward Rosmerta and she shuffled off to a shelf, extracting a shining bottle of golden liquid.
“Where are the other three?” Rosmerta asked as she poured out three deep mugs full of butterbeer and handed one to Remus, Lily, and then Marlene.
“Thanks, Rosmerta – James and Sirius are at Zonko’s with Peter,” Remus replied. “They should be around at any moment, actually,” he replied, turning his head to the door. James and Sirius had walked through the doors and many of the students turned to crowd around him as he entered.
“Go on, let the man through!” Sirius said, ushering a group of Gryffindor girls away. “Honestly, third years,” he muttered, struggling his way through a crowd of girls, all of them mesmerized by his patrician good looks.
“Some of them weren’t bad looking,” James said reasonably. “You really should consider getting a girlfriend, Pad. That way, the crowds of girls will stop following your every move – but I suppose you like that, eh Sirius?”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t miss it,” said Sirius. “There’s an appeal to having every female in the school within arms reach.”
“Yeah, until you end up with Agatha Brownstone or Frances Midgen,” James quipped. “Then you’ll wish you didn’t ditch the Sheridan sisters after a couple weeks.”
“But they ended up fighting over me!” Sirius protested. “Look, they were stunning, but they were catty to the extreme. I bit off more than I could chew with them.”
“Too right you did,” said James. “Serves you right – two girlfriends…”
“Says the man who’s chased the same girl for six years with no success,” Sirius retorted.
“Oh I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure, Padfoot,” said Lily from the bar. “Come join us.”
“Gladly,” said James. “Another round of butterbeers on my tab, Rosmerta,” he said smoothly, sliding over one smooth, golden Galleon.
“Hey, Rosmerta, I’ve got a joke for you,” said Sirius.
“Lovely,” said Rosmerta, half amused, and half exasperated.
“So there’s this Death Eater and his partner suddenly collapses,” Sirius began. “I dunno why, but just go with it. Anyway, they’re near a fireplace and the Death Eater sends a message to You-Know-Who.”
“I can see where this is going,” James muttered.
“What did You-Know-Who say?” Madam Rosmerta asked. A twisted smile was on her face.
“He asked ‘Are you sure he’s dead?’” Sirius continued. “The Death Eater replied, ‘I’ll check.’ So You-Know-Who is waiting, and he hears ‘Avada Kedavra!’ from the other end. There’s a thud, and the Death Eater returns. ‘Yeah, I’m positive he’s dead.’”
Rosmerta blinked for a moment and then burst out laughing. “Merlin, Sirius, that one’s dark, but oh so fitting…”
“Well, you know me, black humor is my specialty – and that pun was absolutely intended.”
Rosmerta sauntered off, still laughing, to tend to the other patrons.
“Charming, Sirius, you should take your show on the road,” quipped Lily. “So where’s Peter?”
“He managed to cajole a few first years into helping him bring the Zonko’s stuff back to the castle,” said James, sipping his butterbeer. “I offered to help him, but he really liked the idea of having some young ones to boss around, so I decided to let him have his moment.”
Lily looked at him disapprovingly.
“I think Miss Prefect doesn’t like it that we’re using first years as errand boys,” Sirius muttered.
“You’ll find that Mister Prefect disapproves too,” Remus quipped.
“I think you’ll change your tone once you’ve seen all the stuff we got,” said James with a wink.
“Oh, I’m sure I will,” said Remus nonchalantly. “And I’ll end up having to put myself in detention, as usual,” he added facetiously.
“And you’re welcome there,” said James. “Sirius, Peter, and I could always benefit from your moral guidance when we’re stuck doing lines.”
Lily and Marlene laughed in the corner, sipping their drinks. “So, did you hear about old Alastor Moody?” Marlene asked. “I heard he had a run in with Death Eaters somewhere in York last Tuesday.”
“Yeah, and left five of them dead,” said Sirius gruffly.
“Isn’t Moody that paranoid nutter from the Auror Office?” Marlene asked. “A bit paranoid, a bit twitchy, cursing first, asking questions later,” she listed off.
“I’m pretty sure that’s what keeps him alive,” said James. “My mum and dad know Moody well – mind you, they’ve had more misconduct complaints about him than any other Auror – and he’s a good bloke to have in a tight spot. Amazing they haven’t made him the Auror Head yet.”
“Who’s the current head?” Lily asked.
“Henry Steel,” said Sirius. “Tiberius Vance is his deputy. You know Emmeline Vance, from Ravenclaw? He’s her dad.”
“Wasn’t Professor Claverdon the head last year?”
“Yeah, but Crouch never liked him,” said James. “He might not want to talk about it, but I think that’s the reason he’s here – he was forced out by Crouch’s faction. I heard Crouch’s son’s in Hogwarts – a Ravenclaw, really brainy…”
“What’s wrong with being brainy?” Lily asked, slightly affronted.
“Did I say there was?” asked James. “Anyway, speaking of Ministry officials, if you want to meet them, the Minister’s old boy’s crowd just walked through the door.”
“What’re you talking about?”
“Seriously, look,” said James pointing at the door. A group of heavily cloaked witches and wizards surrounded a shorter man. He took off his trilby and greeted Madam Rosmerta.
“Rosmerta, dear, do you have a private room available?” he asked. “We were passing through on our way to Hogwarts – meeting with Dumbledore, you know – and we’d very much appreciate a quick drink before we’re back to business.”
“Of – of course, Minister!” Rosmerta said, leading the Ministry officials to a room in the corner of the tavern.
James quickly pulled out some sort of silvery material from his pocket and in a flash, he, Lily, Sirius, and Remus were gone.
“Oh, great, alone again,” said Marlene mistily. “And no thank you!” she screeched as a snaggle-toothed old warlock sat next to her, extremely close, with a leery gaze etched on his face. She sat at an empty table near the Minister’s room.
Meanwhile, James, Lily, Remus, and Sirius crept quietly underneath James’s Invisibility Cloak into the room, where Minister of Magic Desmond Bones was holding court. The cloak was a little small for all four of them so they hid behind a stack of barrels, using the cloak as a shroud.
“Minister, the recent attack at York shows things are getting out of hand and our watches around Azkaban have reported seeing Death Eaters near the island. It is possible that the Death Eaters are going to mount an attack on the prison,” said the man sitting immediately opposite Bones.
“That’s Julian Bard, captain of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad,” James whispered very quietly into Lily’s ear.
“Why are they discussing this business here?” Lily asked.
But Lily’s question was soon answered.
“Put an Imperturbable Charm on the door,” Bones ordered, and the woman to his right walked over and muttered an incantation. A wave of energy seemed to surround the door, distorting the air around it.
“Have there been any more reports of the Imperius Curse?” the witch asked Bard.
“We’re not sure,” said Bones. “We know for certain that Dietrich and McBride were under the Imperius Curse – they’re in St. Mungo’s currently, and the Healers will personally inform me when they’ve recovered.”
“Who’s the woman?” Lily asked.
James considered her. She had bright blue eyes, a set, square-jawed face, and auburn hair tied back in a small bun. “That’s Millicent Bagnold, the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.”
“Why are they meeting without Crouch?” Lily asked.
“Are you sure Mr. Crouch or anyone close to him isn’t currently under Death Eater control?” Bones asked. “His behavior has become rather erratic lately, to say the least.”
“No, I don’t believe so,” said Bard. “He seems very alert, and we’ve been checking and crosschecking all of his visitors. His wife is ill, but under heavy Ministry guard and his son, I believe, is safely within Hogwarts Castle, under the protection of Albus Dumbledore.”
“Good,” said Bones, exhaling in relief. “I couldn’t discuss any of this at the office. It’s too risky. Now, as for the protection of Hogwarts Castle, we’ve learned, thanks to Aurors Livingstone and Jugson, that Death Eaters are making encampments outside of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen with the intention of possibly striking the school.”
“How many Aurors do we have here in Hogsmeade, sir?” Bard asked. “I can supplement the contingent.”
“We have forty Aurors, but I think it’s best to keep just the Aurors here. I want groups of many from your department to guard the path that the Hogwarts Express will take. The Christmas Holidays are approaching and if the Dark Lord intends to attack the students, he will do so then.”
The door swung open and two men entered the room: Maximilian Claverdon followed by Albus Dumbledore, who again shut the door with a flick of his wand.
“Well, here I was having a firewhisky with Madam Rosmerta only to hear that the Minister of Magic was in town,” said Claverdon, scanning the table. “So, gentlemen, I assume the owl you sent me wasn’t just for a laugh. What do you require of me?”
“Maximilian, we need you back at the Auror Office,” said Bard. “We’ve lost a total of fifty Aurors since the war began.”
“Then maybe you should speak to old Barty,” said Claverdon irritably. “I’m not going to lead an Auror Office which uses torture on its suspects. I think you know my feelings on the matter.”
“Max, we need to use the Unforgivable Curses against them,” Bard insisted. “These men are savages – they don’t fear Azkaban.”
“Since when did that require us to be savages as well?” Claverdon insisted.
“Oh, stop being so self-righteous, Claverdon!” Bagnold exclaimed. “You would have done exactly the same thing if you were in Crouch’s position. His policies are saving lives, Max.”
“And how many innocent people do you think our Aurors have tortured into listlessness and despair? How many unwitting victims have come between our Aurors and the Death Eaters?” Claverdon pressed on. “Now I hear there are some within the Ministry who want to place the Muggle government under the Imperius Curse in order to utilize them as an army…”
“Maximilian, perhaps now is not the time,” Dumbledore suggested. “Even the strongest charms can be broken.”
“No, Albus, I have them all in one place, so this is as good a time as any to discuss it,” said Claverdon. “If you want my help, we’re going to have to play by my rules. Either we remove the Unforgivable Curses and ban them once again, or you’ll have to manage with Henry Steel and Tiberius Vance.”
“You know I can’t do that, my good man,” said Bones. “Dumbledore, you’re the Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot, can you reacquaint Mr. Claverdon with the precise legal status of the Unforgivable Curses?”
Dumbledore sighed. “The Unforgivable Curses – Avada Kedavra, Crucio, and Imperio – were first made illegal by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in 1717. The provision stated that their legality may be restored if” – Dumbledore looked truly disappointed as he continued “the Minister sees fit, with or without the blessing of the Wizengamot, as the original law was made via executive decree.”
He turned to Claverdon. “I’m sorry, Maximilian, but the legality of Crouch’s actions is intact. While there is little I can do, I must urge you to limit the usage of the Curses, Minister,” Dumbledore cautioned. “It does not do, from a moral standpoint, to use the weapons of the enemy – the most terrible of them, at that – against them. I must agree with Professor Claverdon; what is legal is not always what is right.”
Claverdon sighed and ran his hands through his mane of black hair. Even beneath the beard and the hardened gaze, there were still the vestiges of handsome features which had once adorned his face. His high cheekbones, occasionally haughty features, and grey eyes made him look remarkably like Sirius.
He walked out without saying another word. An owl fluttered through a window high above the floor and dropped a letter into Bones’s lap. “Death Eaters…Swansea…You-Know-Who sighted…Ministry officials killed…oh dear, we need to get back to London. Albus, we will need to meet again soon.”
Dumbledore bowed his head. “As always, I wish you only the very best of luck, Minister. Have you managed to learn where the Death Eaters have set up their main headquarters?”
“No, but I’ll be sure to send Livingstone with the necessary information,” said Bones. “I would very much appreciate any counsel you could give.”
“And I will always be willing to help, my dear man. Travel safely,” he said, and the Ministry wizards stood up and Apparated.
Dumbledore stood still for a moment and gazed directly at where James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus were nestled behind a barrel of Rosmerta’s finest oak-matured mead. James’s hazel eyes stared into the electric blue of Dumbledore’s and for one instant, he could have sworn the headmaster knew who was behind the barrels, and what they had heard.
But instead, with a whirl of his cloak, Dumbledore left the room, and when James was sure the coast was clear, he threw off the cloak.
Last edited by CrimsonZephyr; September 29th, 2009 at 2:27 am.
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