There doesn't have to be a reason

The Fake Birthday Party

There was another attack on Thursday.

Emily Mitchum, a fifth year muggle-born from Hufflepuff, ingested poison at dinner. She didn't die, thanks to the swift intervention of Lily, who happened to be walking by the table and quickly pulled out a bezoar from her potion supplies. The teachers tried to make everyone believe it was an allergic reaction, but Lily was adamant that allergic reactions don't make your mouth foam.

Next Monday, Mary McDonald was found weeping in an empty hallway without having any memory of how she got there or what happened to her.

On Friday, Marcus Boore from Ravenclaw was discovered bleeding in the boy's bathroom on the third floor.

By Saturday, most students of muggle families were extremely on edge, looking around their shoulder and expecting someone to attack them every second. James was getting more and more restless with each passing day and kept finding excuse after excuse to follow Lily wherever she went. Publicly she was very annoyed by it, but she confided in Lisa that him being there made her just a little less nervous.

"We need to do something," Frank Longbottom whispered through gritted teeth on Wednesday night, having joined the sixth year girls in their corner of the Common Room. "This whole thing is getting out of hand."

"What're you worried about, Longbottom? You're a pureblood, aren't you?" Marlene McKinnon quipped, trying to lighten the dark mood.

"That doesn't mean I like standing idly by, while people are bleeding out on bathroom floors!" Frank exploded.

"She was just joking, Frank," Alice tried to calm him.

"This isn't a joking matter," James snarled, coming from the portrait hole with the Marauders. "There's been another one. A first year."

Alice gasped. The very idea that they'd go after an eleven-year-old...

"What happened?" Lily asked.

"His wand backfired. Or so they say," James said with disgust.

"I don't get it! Why don't the blasted teachers do something about this!?" Sirius slammed his fist on the table.

"They don't want to spread panic," Remus said wisely.

"Well, too late for that, isn't it?" Peter chimed in.

"Maybe, but something needs to be done!" Frank insisted.

"We... might have an idea," James drawled, looking at everyone carefully in turn. "We've been thinking it over for the last week or so. I can't tell you any details here. I'll let you know when we're ready. Until then, keep your eyes pealed."

On Friday at breakfast, Lisa received a strange owl. The bird dropped a letter for her on top of her muffins like any other, and knocked over the orange jam.

"Pass it over, will you?" Lisa asked Lily absentmindedly, wiping her fingers from the sticky stuff. Lily reached for the envelope, but it ran away from her. The two girls exchanged glances.

"Accio!" Lily said, pointing her wand at the letter, but it just moved father away. Lisa got up and slowly approached it, springing on it suddenly to catch it off guard. The envelope, however, made no further attempts to escape and she saw on the back of it written in big, red letters 'READ WHEN YOU ARE ALONE'. She tried to open it despite the warning, but she could neither tear it nor reveal its contents in any way.

"Who's it from?" Lily asked curiously.

"I think I have a pretty good idea," the other Gryffindor smirked.

Two hours later, Lisa locked herself in the girl's bathroom and tried the letter again. To her surprise, this time the envelope opened effortlessly and she pulled out the piece of parchment from inside.

You know as well as the rest of us the recent attacks on muggle-borns aren't accidents.

It won't be long before the Death Eaters start attacking blood traitors and people that go against them. No one is safe.

If you're tired of pretending the war's still only fought on the other side of the wall, meet us in the Three Broomsticks at 2 pm on December 4th.

Tell no one.

As soon as she was done reading it, the letter went up in flames and she dropped it to the bathroom floor.

"So... you get anything interesting in the mail lately?" Lisa asked nonchalantly, as she and Dorcas were shivering on their way to Hogsmeade.

The Slytherin smirked. "You too, huh? It looks like we'll be in the Three Broomsticks all day then?"

"Looks like. We have a bit of time to kill, though."

"How about we visit the hair salon, so you'll be pretty for your boyfriend." Dorcas wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. Lisa rolled her eyes.

"Let's just go to Tomes and Scrolls," she offered.

"Oooh, looking for books, are we? Good thinking, a brainy guy like him is sure to be impressed."

"Sod off!" Lisa laughed, shoving her friend playfully.

"Seriously though. How are things going between you two?" Dorcas persisted.

Lisa looked down at the snow-covered path. "This really isn't the time to think about things like that."

"Why not? You're gonna wait until after Voldemort is defeated before you make a move?"

"Cass... five muggle-borns were attacked in the last four weeks. One of them was a tiny first year! How do you expect me to even think about romance in a time like this?"

"Because it gets so much better after graduation? Look Lisa, I'm not saying you should forget about the muggle-borns, but until the war is over, there will never be a 'right' time to be happy. I think you should take what you can get, while you still have the chance."

"You talk as if I've been diagnosed with cancer."

"You know he has feelings for you. So what's holding you back?"

Lisa didn't answer. What was holding her back? She did think there was something between them, but... a small voice in the back of her head told her she was just full of it. The only time he showed something genuine towards her without immediately switching to cold indifference was when that Quaffle almost killed her. And that he would arguably do for his friends too. Despite Dorcas' constant insistence that he felt something for her, she was always left confused or hesitant at best after every time they shared a moment together.

"Why don't you invite him to the Slug Club Christmas Party?" Dorcas offered gently. "It's in two weeks, right?"

Lisa's face immediately went deep red. "He'll turn me down."

"You don't know that!"

"He always does."

"You've asked him to spend time with you what, twice? You don't know that he'll-"

"But I do!" Lisa snapped. "Because he doesn't even give me an excuse! It's not 'Sorry, I'm busy', or 'I already have plans with so-and-so'. It's always 'I don't think it's a good idea'. He doesn't avoid me anymore, but he tries not to be alone with me more than he has to," she finished miserably.

"Listen to me," Dorcas said, starting to get a bit frustrated. "I've had just about enough of your self-pitying! Get a grip! We've had this exact same conversation like five times already! I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be brave!"

"Bravery has nothing to do with the fact that he keeps turning me down!"

"So convince him not to."

"How am I supposed to do that?!"

"Be confident. Be alluring," the Slytherin said seductively. Lisa's red face almost blended with her Gryffindor scarf.

"I'm not you, Cass," she said quietly. "I don't know how to be... alluring."

"I could teach you."

"Forget it!" Lisa scooped some snow from the ground and threw a snowball at her friend, which Dorcas avoided with ease.

"Come on! Just a few hours of my tutoring and you'll make him melt just with a look!" the Slytherin insisted, circling her.

"No way!"

They continued to argue the point all the way to the bookstore. Inside they ran into a couple of familiar faces, and that stopped the dispute.

"Hey Lisa. Dorcas." Marlene McKinnon greeted from behind a shelf, followed by Lily.

"Hi Marlene. Aren't Alice and Mary with you?" Lisa asked, surprised. She was sure all four of them would be invited to the meeting.

"Alice said she was busy and Mary... she's too afraid," Lily explained sadly. "I'm guessing I'll see both of you in the Three Broomsticks later?" The girls nodded.

"Both of you?" Marlene emphasized skeptically. Lisa felt the immediate flicker of anger, but Dorcas only lifted an eyebrow.

"Why, because everyone in Slytherin is a follower of Voldemort?" she asked coldly. "I've done more work against him than you McKinnon, talking some of them out of joining his ranks. But that doesn't matter to you, does it? Because if the Sorting Hat put me in a certain house, that means I want to murder every muggle-born I see."

"If you're not like that, then why are you in with the snakes?" Marlene hissed.

Lily shot her a reprimanding look. "Not everyone is Slytherin is evil, Mar!"

"Tell that to Mary!" Marlene snapped. "You think a Hufflepuff did that to her!?"

"Maybe," Lisa said darkly. "The one who sold me out was a Ravenclaw."

Marlene looked at her, stunned. "No, you were injured by that Slytherin chaser..."

"Wake up, McKinnon," Dorcas rolled her eyes. "A Ravenclaw Junior Death Eater heard Lisa wasn't a sympathizer and their little gang struck at the earliest convenience! Power-hungry blood-purists aren't restricted to a single house!"

Marlene looked at the other girls, as if they had just slapped her. After a second of wide-eyed staring, she turned on her heel and ran out.

"I should probably go after her," Lily said, heading to the door. "I'm so sorry, Dorcas. It hasn't been easy for her lately... I'll talk to her."

And with a last apologetic look towards the two girls, she went out into the snow.

A few hours later, Lisa and Dorcas entered the Three Broomsticks and immediately spotted the Marauders sitting on a couple of joined tables in a corner of the inn, surrounded by at least twenty or thirty other students. As the girls made their way over to join them, they saw Lily and Marlene were already there. Lily gave them a faint smile, but her friend only nodded in shame. Lisa noticed a self-important smirk form on Dorcas' lips, but chose to ignore it.

"About time! The birthday girl is here!" Sirius yelled over the crowd, pulling an empty chair next to him and gesturing to Lisa to sit. She exchanged confused looks with her friend, but obeyed.

"It's not my birthday," she hissed to Sirius when she was close enough.

"It is now," he whispered back and waved to Rose, the bartender. Her high heels tapped rhythmically on the wooden floor, as she came over with a huge birthday cake.

Lisa stared at it like a deer in headlights, as Sirius and James started singing 'Happy Birthday', gesturing for the others to join in. After the farce was over and everyone had a piece of cake in front of them, Frank leaned over to James and said in a low voice, "You don't think this is a bit conspicuous?"

"Not at all," James replied calmly. "The bigger spectacle we make of ourselves, the lower the chance of someone suspecting us."

"After all, what self-respecting Death Eater would try to spy on an innocent birthday party," Sirius added with a smirk.

"You guys are geniuses!" called Benjy Fenwick, a fifth year Ravenclaw. "And I don't know what detection spells you used on those letters, but they were bloody brilliant!"

"Glad you think so," James flashed him with a grin. "Now, if everyone has enough cake and Butterbeer within reach, I suggest we begin." There were nods all around the table.

"Right then." He reached into his bag and distributed a rolled up piece of parchment to everyone. "This here is your schedule. The teams will be in a minimum of two people, but since we can't keep track of everyone, you'll have to fill it in yourselves. We'll patrol every part of the school, ready to act if anything looks amiss. Duck into every bathroom you come across; open every broom cupboard that doesn't seem... otherwise occupied. The Marauders will keep track of the secret passages in and out of Hogwarts."

"What are you on about, Potter? These scrolls are blank," asked Dirk Cresswell, another fifth year from Hufflepuff.

James' grin widened and he took Dirk's parchment in his hand.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to the fight," he said, tapping it with his wand. Immediately lines started forming on the page, until a pretty sizable timetable appeared on it, plain as day. He tapped his wand again on the square under 'Third Floor Corridor' and it turned green. "There you go, Cresswell. You now have patrol duties on Wednesday afternoon."

"How will we know if the time slot we want is free?" asked Emma Vance.

"Once you fill out your own, it will show on all of them," Remus explained. "When you don't need to look at it, just say 'My fight is over' and it'll turn back into a blank piece of parchment. That way even if a Death Eater goes through your stuff, they'll never know what it is. Be careful not to turn it in as homework, though."

"But if you do, come to us and we'll make you a new one," Sirius winked.

"W-What if... they learn?" a shaky boy that Lisa couldn't name asked, trying to mask the fear in his voice.

"They will, sooner or later," James said. "But so what? What's important is that they don't get their hands on the schedule. No one is allowed to patrol the same haunts more than once a month. We have to switch it up, make it appear random."

"You can back out at any time, if you feel it's getting too dangerous," Remus interjected. "Because it is dangerous. Resisting the Death Eater movement will make you a target, assuming you weren't one already."

"But if you try to snitch," Sirius growled threateningly, "not even the whole Slytherin pack can protect you."

"So what do we call ourselves?" Lila Fenton, a seventh year Ravenclaw, asked excitedly.

"We are... THE CHAMPIONS!" James announced proudly.

Lisa gave Remus a sour look. "I thought we decided there wouldn't be cheesy nicknames involved."

He shrugged, but she could tell he was trying to hide a smile. "Do you want to try to reason with them?"

"We are NOT calling ourselves 'The Champions'! It sounds ridiculous!" she objected.

"Come on, Fawley! We've got to have a cool name!" Sirius whined, draping his arm around her shoulders.

"Absolutely not!" she grumbled, removing it.

"We can't refer to this group as the Anti-Death Eaters forever," Peter said. "And we do need something."

"Fine! Just don't make it as embarrassing!" Lisa surrendered begrudgingly.

"We're fighting the Death Eaters, right? So how about something opposite. Like... the Life... givers?" Alice said uncertainly. The whole table laughed and suggestions rained from every direction.

"The Peace Keepers!" Felicity Rickett squealed.

"The Blood Traitors!" smirked Sirius.

"The White Knights!" Peter suggested.

Lisa facepalmed.

"None of you have any concept of subtlety!" she groaned.

"The Defenders," Dorcas called beside her. Every head turned towards her. "We're doing what they teach us in class. Defending people against the Dark Arts. It's not exactly subtle, but... I think it's fitting."

"We don't want to be subtle!" James grinned. "They should know we're here and we're going to stand against them! To the Defenders!" He raised his Butterbeer.

"To the Defenders!" everyone echoed.

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