I Solemnly Swear
January; Maya’s 5th Year and the Marauders’ 6th Year
James was frowning slightly as he read his Defense Against the Dark Arts book. He kept running his hand through his hair – a habit that was almost an instinct after so many years – and the crease between his eyes, right above his glasses, kept getting deeper. So many spells and enchantments on the page before him, all forms of torture, all difficult to block. It was too close to home...to similar to reading the paper that Lily had before her. Lily was reading the Daily Prophet, her potions book underneath it. Lily suddenly made an irritated noise and she stuffed the paper under her chair.
“What is it?” Asked James.
“The Ministry,” Lily huffed. “They’re saying they’re going to stop protecting muggles that wander into danger zones. It’s unfair! They have no idea what’s happening!” Lily’s voice quivered at the end.
James hesitantly put his hand over hers. She didn’t pull away. Gently, he rubbed his finger in soothing circles on the back of her hand.
Almost three months of Lily joining them to eat, to study, and even to joke in the common room. All that time, he’d wanted to touch her – to hug and kiss her. But he was afraid to ask; he valued this too much. But Lily didn’t pull away her hand and James’ heart soared as he told her, “I’m sorry. But your parents are smart; they’ll be okay.”
“I hope so,” Lily murmured. James squeezed her hand and then, regretfully, let go as Remus and Peter joined them at the table.
Peter’s round face was creased with worry of a more academic type and he was badgering Remus with questions about Charms. Remus looked just about done with him. James knew that Remus had advanced Care of Magical Creatures to worry about, but even a hard class couldn’t explain the tightness of his shoulders and that rare, angry glint in his eyes. Taking pity on him, Lily cut in and began to explain the spells to Peter. Remus shot her a grateful look and all but collapsed in the chair next to James.
James looked up from his text and, if possible, his brow furrowed even further. “Moony? What’s wrong?”
Remus looked around cautiously. Everyone around the common room was either doing work or too busy talking with friends to pay any attention to their group but he still lowered his voice as he said, “Avery and his posy cornered another first year today. I caught them and yelled at them until Professor McGonagall came along. They denied it of course and the poor kid was too scared to back me up.”
James’ eyes flashed with anger. “What’d they do?”
Remus sighed, rubbing his eyes with exhaustion. The anger in them faded to a dull and weary look. The light of the fire in the corner reflected off the prefect badge on his chest. “I think they started out by just insulting him but it had slipped into threatening when I’d shown up. He’s a muggle born and a Hufflepuff...you know how they are.”
“And Professor McGonagall just...” James began in an angry growl.
“She wanted to do something,” Remus cut in, “But she couldn’t without proof. Took off thirty points from Slytherin on ‘good faith’ since I’m a prefect but...” Remus shrugged, his shoulders slumping in defeat. “She didn’t see.”
James shook his head. “This isn’t right,” he muttered. “It’s getting worse out there – and now it’s leaking into here.”
“I don’t know what I’d do if we lost Hogwarts,” Remus said, in a voice so low he thought James hadn’t heard. But James reached over and squeezed his shoulder in sympathy, looking at Remus with kind eyes. Remus’ lips twitched into a half-smile before he ducked his head and grabbed his homework and James continued reading. Except for Peter muttering anxiously to himself as he flipped through pages, their table was suspended in a concentrated silence for the next several minutes.
Then Maya and Sirius came in through the Common Room door. Maya greeted Christy with a tight hug on the other side of the room before going to the Marauders’ table with Sirius.
“Hi, Padfoot,” James said, a bit distractedly.
Sirius didn’t reply and Remus looked up with a frown. Sirius and Maya were looking at each other with identical twinkles in their eyes. Remus had enough time to think, “Oh no,” before Maya grabbed Lily’s book and parchment right out of her hands and Sirius snatched James’ and Remus’ books from the table.
“Padfoot!” James howled while Remus tried, and failed, to grab it back.
“Maya!” Lily complained. But Maya and Sirius were already running out of the common room, cloaks flapping behind them. James was on his feet in a second and tearing after them, with Remus and Lily right on his tail.
Peter hesitated for a second longer before leaping to his feet and following, homework still in hand, shouting, “Wait for me!”
Maya was laughing breathlessly before they’d even gone one corridor. Sirius was right behind her, his normally prefect hair messy and his eyes bright with mirth. The impulse to kiss him was strong and sudden, but Maya forced herself to focus on what they were doing. If James caught them then the whole plan would be ruined. They got to the stairs and she put on a burst of speed, running her hands along one of the paintings and tripping a secret, magical lever. The stairwell groaned as half of it was flattened into a long slide.
“Wahoooo!” Sirius called as he flung himself onto it. Maya shouted with joy as she too threw herself onto the slide, and slid down with her back against the wood.
“This exists?!” Lily demanded in the background. “How did you know this was here?”
James slid down after them seconds before the stairs began popping back into existence. Remus, Lily and a panting Peter took the stairs normally.
Sirius and Maya led the way, ducking into secret passages and leaping down stairs two and three at a time. But they never pulled so far ahead that the others couldn’t find them. They burst outside and ducked around the greenhouse, before James caught up with them. He tackled Sirius to the ground, sending the books flying. Maya skidded to a stop right in front of their set-up and spun around, her smile growing wider as she saw that James was laughing. James held Sirius against the ground with his knees and laughed and laughed as Sirius almost cried with breathless mirth. Lily and Remus caught up and Lily’s lecture was stopped in its tracks as she took in the sight before her; Maya was standing in front of a large picnic blanket heaped with all of their favorite foods and a large jug of butterbeer. Sirius and Maya had even heaped quills and rolls of parchment in the corner – foreseeing that some of their friends would insist on doing work.
Maya smiled at her friend, her heart still pounding from the mad dash down the stairs. “What do you think, Lily? Can we enjoy ourselves for an afternoon?” Remus began to laugh and Peter finally puffed to the scene, doubled over, and began wheezing.
“You two are something else, Midnight,” Remus said, giving her a quick sideways hug before sitting down on the blanket.
“Oh no, Moony,” said Sirius, giving him a roguish grin from the ground. “No shoes on the blanket. Maya promised the house elves we wouldn’t ruin it.”
“Where did you talk to house elves?” Lily asked.
“The kitchen,” said Maya simply.
“What were you doing in...never mind,” said Lily.
“Getting food,” Maya answered innocently. “What else would we be doing?”
James sat down next to Remus and gave his best friend a grin. “What’s the occasion, Monsieur Padfoot?”
“Nothing,” said Sirius, but James knew he was lying by the twinkle in his eyes. “Maya and I just thought we should enjoy ourselves.”
“It involves food,” said Peter, his breath finally back. “So I agree!” He sat down and bit into a dinner roll with flourish.
Lily finally gave in and slipped out of her sensible shoes before joining them on the blanket. “We’re going inside before it gets dark,” she said. The Marauders and Maya all looked at each other.
“Um...no promises, Lily,” said Maya.
Lily rolled her eyes, “Oh, honestly!” But she smiled, and didn’t leave until it was so dark Remus lit some candles.
As Lily hurried into the castle almost three hours later, books and parchment in hand, James turned to Sirius. “So what’s really the occasion?” Maya and Sirius beamed at each other and Maya pulled a rather worn looking piece of parchment from the inside of her robes.
“I solemnly swear...” began Sirius grandly. Peter spun around and Remus dropped his book without even marking the page.
“That I’m up to no good!” The others chorused. Ink began to spread across the page from the tip of Sirius’ wand, forming Lily’s hurrying form on her way to the Common Room, Hagrid busy in his garden looking at night-time plants, and everyone else in the castle going about their business, unaware that four young wizards and a happy witch were watching their progress. Their marvelous map; hand-drawn by Peter and enchanted by Sirius, James, and Remus.
“But it did that already,” said Peter, sounding a little disappointed. “We got it working a few weeks ago. Right after we came back from the Holidays.”
“Yeah,” Maya huffed, “The part you finished without me.”
“It’s not our fault you were off with Christy and Thomas,” said Peter defensively. “Beside, you’re not really a Marauder – you’re just dating one.”
Maya’s mouth dropped open a bit. What?
Remus eyes opened wide in shock and Sirius shoved Peter so hard that he fell over. “Shut up, Peter,” Sirius snapped. “She’s as much a Marauder as us.”
“We asked you if you wanted to have your name on it but you said...” James began.
“I know, I wasn’t going to take credit for what you guys did,” said Maya, still surprised. “I just wanted to be there when you finished it.”
“What’s up with you, Wormtail?” Sirius said. “You were quiet most of the evening and now you’re being a bit of a prat.”
“I...” Peter stopped and then said, “Sorry. A lot on my mind.”
“Okay...” Maya said. She was still surprised and a strange feeling of sadness mixed with anger was churning in the pit of her stomach. Maya found herself thinking back to all the times when Peter would fall silent around her and Lily. She’d wondered for a time if he disliked Lily, actually...or…maybe…maybe he just didn’t like the way Lily’s presence so obviously changed the dynamic between the four boys...
James’ voice pulled Maya back to the present. “Did you do what you said you would? Did you two add the last bit?”
“What last bit?” Remus asked.
Maya rounded on Sirius and punched him playfully in the arm. “You said you wouldn’t tell him!”
“I only said you were adding some stuff,” Sirius half-laughed, protecting his face with his hands in mock fear. “Have mercy on me your Cat-liness!”
Maya frowned but her eyes danced with mirth. “I don’t know. You’ll have to do a lot to make this up to me.”
Sirius suddenly leaned forward and Maya fell backwards. She found herself looking up into Sirius’ dark eyes, his strong features highlighted by the rising half-moon and the flickering candles. “What will it take?” He asked.
Maya’s mouth went dry and her heart pounded. The moonlight sung in her veins. She didn’t know what was coming next and frankly she didn’t care as long as Sirius was with her.
Abrudlty the spell broke as Remus pulled Sirius back with a pained expression. “Save it for another time, please. She’s basically my sister.”
“Yeah, that was getting a bit...heated,” said James conversationally. Peter just looked uncomfortable.
“Uh...the map,” said Maya, her cheeks flushing a bit. Sirius handed it to her and then kissed her sweetly on the cheek.
She smiled, the blush deepening as she pulled out her own wand and said, “The castle is ours.” Golden lines flowed from her wand and crawled across the page, lacing with the black writing and highlighting certain areas of the castle with a hazy gold smoke. Everyone crowded around, even Sirius who had seen it before. The gold smoke wrapped around secret passages and trick staircases, hidden levers and the common room entrances. Maya’s curly handwriting also labeled the different names, identifying ghosts from humans from the resident professor who claimed the proud title of an animagus.
Peter traced his finger along the path being taken by Professor McGonagall – her name now proceeded by the label “animagus” – and breathed, “Wicked.”
“Maya, this is amazing,” said James.
Sirius hugged her, beaming proudly. “She didn’t even let me help except to make sure the names will move with their owner.”
Maya’s wide smile slipped as she noticed the face of her best friend. “Remus?”
Remus met her eyes and silently reached for the map. Maya understood and handed it over. Remus slowly unfolded one of the panels, revealing a small group outside of the third greenhouse. Remus’ breath caught in his throat as he read the golden labels by their names: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs and Midnight. He looked up with a startled expression. Maya was smiling kindly and she explained, “Our secrets are our own, Remus.”
“Oh, good,” said Peter, “so we won’t get in trouble for the animagus thing.” Remus gave him an incredulous look that Peter completely missed and Maya rolled her eyes.
“That might out a damper on our celebration,” said James lightly, taking another swig of butterbeer.
“It would be the ultimate Mischief Managed,” Sirius agreed in the same jovial tone.
Remus’ lips twitched into his half-smile, “Why do I get the feeling that mischief is far from managed tonight?”
“Why Moony,” said Sirius, flashing teeth that were already pointed as black fur began to grow all over his face, “I thought you’d never ask.”
March, the same Year
The bludger streaked past Maya’s ear as she blocked the goal posts yet again. Gryffindors cheered while Slytherins booed and the announcer, a Ravenclaw in Maya’s year, shouted, “A brilliant save by Ms. Night. The score remains tied at ninety points!”
Maya gritted her teeth; nine times the quaffle had gotten past her and she’d already been hit by a bludger once. No one would blame her later, she was sure, but she blamed herself. The game had lasted for ages now – much longer than any game ever had before. Everyone was exhausted. But both teams were just too good. James glanced at Maya and gave her an encouraging smile before yelling a warning to one of the other players on their team. As Captain, he too felt responsible for the length of the game. Maya focused on the location of the quaffle again – now over by the Slytherin goalposts – but a sudden shout from the crowd drew her eyes back to James as he suddenly shot into the sky, Regulus Black right beside him. There was a mid-air struggle and then Regulus called James some bad words as the snitch obviously disappeared.
The Slytherin captain, along with another chaser, began to charge toward her, right in front of one of his chasers, and Maya focused on them. She had most of her attention on the chaser with the quaffle, but her sharp eyes caught a small movement and some part of Maya’s mind wondered, “Is that his wand?” Then there was a flash of silver and Maya was knocked back into the goal posts. Her head snapped back and hit the polished metal rings with so much force that her hands slipped off her broom.
Maya, who had perfect balance and could walk on the top of walls without feeling afraid, fell off her broom more than forty feet in the air.
Sirius, whose eyes had left the small figure by the goal posts for only a moment as James and Regulus fought over the snitch, let out an anguished shout; “Maya!”
Maya’s eyes instantly snapped open and her small, glove covered hands grasped the edge of the middle ring as a surprised and shocked yell was torn from her throat. The Slytherin continued toward the goal post and threw the quaffle with all his might. To Maya, it was as if the world had slowed. She could hear each pounding beat of her heart and heard Sirius’ voice as if it were being yelled from a million miles away. With a grunt of effort, Maya pulled herself up and swatted the ball away with the back of her hand. Maya wasn’t sure where the quaffle went but it hadn’t gone in and she focused on catching the smooth metal of the goal-post once again. And she did.
“Prongs!” Maya yelled as her small, gloved hands began to slip.
James had already abandoned his position several seconds ago and was streaking to his own goal-posts as fast as he could. Regulus Black watched from high above, horrified at what his team-mates had done. Despite everything he had said Regulus still had a strong sense of honor, and wands were not allowed in a quidditch match!
A bludger came streaking towards Maya and she clenched her teeth in preparation to feel the ball hit her unprotected back. But one of the Gryffindor beaters, Zane, hit it out of the way and then James’ was directly below her.
“Jump, Midnight!” he shouted. Maya let go and landed safely on the back of his broom. She wrapped her arms around his waist – sending Sirius a quick mental apology – and then shouted a warning as the bludger came zooming toward them again. James dodged it, and then let out a surprised yelp as Maya reached around his waist and forced them upward just in time to whack the quaffle away from the goals.
“You need your broom,” James said, spotting it on the ground.
“If I touch the ground, I can’t play,” Maya snapped. “You need me!”
“This is ridiculous – how did you even fall?” James asked, his eyes scanning the sky. Where the hell was Regulus?
“I didn’t fall I…James!” But James had already seen it and had taken off toward the sight of Regulus rushing after a small gold glint on the other side of the field.
But even the best broom cannot go fast enough when they are weighed down and, as the snitch took off for the sky and James struggled to even reach the tip of Regulus’ broom twigs, Maya knew that he would never catch the snitch with her riding the broom, too.
Maya glanced over her shoulder and saw Zane watching them far below. Maya closed her eyes, and let herself fall.
James didn’t even realize what had happened until his hands were tightly wrapped around the snitch. Then the boy – who looked shockingly like his older brother – let out a sort of strangled gasp and James’ reasoning caught up with him. Why is my broom so light? James was almost afraid to look but he was already turning around with his heart in his throat.
Sirius yelled in horror as he watched Maya plummet to the ground. Oh God, please not Maya. Please, I can’t lose her like this! Remus was on his feet beside him, his own voice joined in Sirius’ in a desperate shout that did little good as Lily screamed beside them and Peter stared in horror.
Maya knew people were shouting and she knew she should feel afraid, but for one reckless moment it felt wonderful to be falling. Then she was only very afraid that she had miscalculated.
I don’t want to die.
But Maya had been right and Zane was there to catch her, his face very white and his blue eyes very wide with shock.
“Bloody hell, Night,” he said once Maya’s arms were safely around him. “Bloody hell.”
“Gryffindor wins!” shouted the announcer.
“Worth it,” Maya told her team-mate as their very shocked house began to cheer like crazy.
“Potter is going to kill you,” Zane said as they landed safely on the ground.
“We won,” said Maya. “He won’t care…”
“Maya Night!” James landed beside them, the sad snitch still clutched tightly in his hand and Maya’s words died on her lips. James was that strange red color that someone only gets when they were super angry after being super scared. “What the bloody hell was that?”
“You weren’t going to catch it if I was…”
“I don’t care!” James shouted. The rest of the team had landed around them at this point. “You are more important than a bloody game! None of you –” he glared at everyone else, “– is worth a stupid Quidditch Cup! I rather have you alive than have a couple of house points! Understood?”
“Yes,” everyone chorused, some people sounding very unsure why they were getting yelled at after winning a grueling game.
“James, I…” Maya began.
“It was brave but it was stupid,” James said, his voice much calmer. “Never do it again, okay?”
Maya tilted her head and gave him a small smile.
“What?” James grumbled.
“You’re a good friend, James Potter,” said Maya.
James smiled and ruffled her curly hair. “You’re not too bad either, Midnight.”
James looked at the unsure faces of his team and his face broke into his wide smile; “We won!”
“WE WON!” Everyone said, and then there were high-fives and cheering and the entire House came running onto the field but the only person that Maya cared about was…
“Maya!” Sirius grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her a bit. “You okay?”
“I’m fine, Sirius. I…” Maya was cut short by his desperate lips pressed against hers and the crowd cheered as they kissed.
Sirius broke away and cradled her head with his hands, pressing their foreheads together as he whispered, “Never do that to me again. Please, I beg you.”
“All right,” Maya whispered back. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Didn’t mean to…” Sirius let out a nervous laugh and hugged her close, loving the feeling of her beating heart against his chest. “Of course that scared me! You threw yourself off your bloody broomstick!”
“Maya!” Remus and Lily had finally worked their way through the crowd and Thomas and Christy were right behind them.
“What on earth were you thinking?!” Lily demanded. But Remus got straight to the point, “How the hell did you fall off your broom in the first place?”
Maya’s head snapped up so fast that everyone stared. “He had a wand,” she said, remembering. Maya spun around, searching for and finding the Slytherin Quidditch team sulking on the other side of the field. Her face contracted in anger and she pointed an accusing finger at the Captain, a nasty seventh year with the last name Nott. “You used your wand!” she shouted, eyes flashing. But she didn’t get any further before Sirius tried to tackle him.
Fortunately for Nott, Madame Hooch got in the way and barked, “Mr. Black, let me handle this!”
Sirius eyes burned with anger but Remus grabbed him by the back of his robes and forcibly pulled him back.
Unfortunately for Nott, James resorted to yelling.
“HOW DARE YOU USE YOUR WAND TO KNOCK ONE OF MY PLAYERS OFF THEIR BROOM?! YOU STINKING, LITTLE…”
“Mr. Potter!” Professor McGonagall appeared so fast she might have apparated. “Don’t say anything you might regret!” James looked as if he might yell anyway, but Lily put her hand on his arm and that completely distracted him just long enough for Madame Hooch and Professor McGonagall to both begin yelling at Nott and the other Slytherin chaser that had been involved with Maya’s initial fall.
Everything was so hectic that no one had noticed an owl landing on Regulus’ arm. He wouldn’t have noticed the bird if it hadn’t been his arm. Frowning, Regulus untied the letter on its leg and read it. And re-read it. And re-read it again. A cold feeling grew in the center of his stomach and his hands began to tremble.
Sirius didn’t look the least bit appeased as Madame Hooch continued ranting to Nott but Maya was very happy with how the situation had resolved itself. She was looking quite pleased until she caught sight of Regulus pushing his way through the crowd. Sirius followed Maya’s gaze and his scowl deepened. But one look at Regulus’ face melted all his anger.
“Reg? What’s wrong?” Sirius demanded.
Regulus looked up slowly, his eyes burning with some unreadable emotion that terrified Maya because of its intensity.
“Father’s dead,” said Regulus, his eyes locked with Sirius’. Sirius let in a hiss of air. James looked from brother to brother, wary of what would happen next and wishing he had his wand. “Mother says…” Regulus swallowed hard and finished in a voice as cold and brittle as ice, “Mother says that if you show your face at the funeral, she’ll kill you herself.”
Sirius face shut down. It was as if someone had blown out a candle and taken all his emotions away. It was silent for several long moments in the center of the celebrations. Regulus turned on his heel and began to walk away. Something in Sirius’ face shivered and he called, “Reg…”
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” Regulus shouted. Several celebrating Gryffindors jumped and looked around in surprise; but Regulus had already run away, leaving his brother behind once again.
Maya hugged Sirius, and he let his head fall onto her shoulder for a moment. James put a comforting hand on Sirius’ back while Remus and Lily watched. Lily simply felt sad, but she knew from the look in Remus’ eyes that something much more important than she realized had just occurred. Sirius visibly composed himself and he said, fiercely, and awful because of the false joy, “We won the Quidditch Cup. Let’s celebrate!”
Maya thought she might cry as Sirius got some others to hoist her and James high into the air and led a noisy parade to the Common Room to celebrate their victory.
Snape walked into the classroom without knocking. Regulus was leaning against a
back wall, his knees to his chest. Regulus’ broomstick was at his feet and his
green and silver quidditch robes were still on him; tears were stained onto his
Severus stopped before him and said, “There’s a meeting tonight. In Hogsmeade. We leave in twenty minutes. Want to come?”
Regulus looked at him dully.
“Your cousin might be there,” Severus continued. “Don’t you want a new family?”
“What?” Regulus asked finally.
“That’s what this is, Regulus Black,” said Severus. “Don’t you see? When your family is this big, it can never leave you.”
Regulus locked gazes with the older boy for several long seconds, before drying his eyes and getting to his feet. “I better change,” Regulus said.
“You might want to change into something…significant,” said Severus. “Just in case.”
James sat down on the edge of Sirius’ bed that night, invisibility cloak in hand. Truth be told, it was almost the next morning, but the tower had been in full celebration mode until Professor McGonagall had come in around 4 AM and ordered them to bed. The entire time, whenever he thought no one was looking, Sirius’ smile would crumble and he would stare broodingly into space. “Padfoot,” James said in a low voice that wouldn't wake Remus. No need to worry about Peter who always slept through everything.
Sirius shifted and sat up, looking at his best friend with red-rimmed eyes. James extended the cloak, his most prized possession. “You could sneak into the funeral. If you wanted.”
“I don’t,” said Sirius in a low voice. “I don't give a damn that...that he is gone.”
“He was your father, Sirius.”
Real names, some part of Sirius’ tired and turmoil-filled mind registered. Prongs is being deadly serious. The phrase give him a morbid sense of glee. “He used to hit me, James,” Sirius said in a low voice. “You know that.”
James nodded slowly. “I know.”
“Or just stand there while she did and...and when they kicked me out...” Sirius shook his head. “No. I don't care about the funeral. I would only go to comfort Reg but...” Sirius' voice got harsh as he finished, “He doesn't need me anymore.”
“Prongs, mate, just let me sleep,” and Sirius fell back onto his bed. James walked slowly back to his own bed and glanced back across the room. Sirius had buried his head in the covers, but Remus’ open eyes reflected the dim light outside as he silently met James’ eyes across the room.