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By AnOctoberPepper

Action / Drama

Chapter 1: The Order and a Flash in the Night

"I know about the Order of the Phoenix."

It was a statement. 

A quite clear statement issued from the mouth of Lily Evans on  her 18th birthday. She wasn't taking "no" for an answer, "and I'm joining." She declared.

Dumbledore's piercing blue eyes stared at her, as she knew they would, over half moon spectacles. His long thin fingers steepled in front of his mouth, elbows resting on the table. Lily readjusted her stance to seem taller, more sure of herself.

Outside Dumbledore's office snow was falling in large flakes, but inside the air was warm and filled with the glow and crackle of a fire. It was a distractingly calm noise that wrestled under the tension of the situation. 

The tension sat within the uncertain outcome, for there was no uncertainty in Lily Evan's mind. The last year had been long and tiring for her. Everything had fallen quickly out of control. Her mother had died in April, and she had floated in the turbulent storm of loss for months. The tempest followed her home as she and Petunia tried to visit one another over the summer, but without parents as a buffer there were raging fights and pools of tears. 

School started again and while her sister fell for a beefy man with a mustache as large as his prejudices Lily found herself falling for a boy with wire-rimmed glasses and a surprisingly warm heart. Her sister's hastily written engagement announcement came on the same day Lily had said yes to James' first true invitation to dinner; the first one that wasn't pompous or on display for his friends, or the school. It was a quiet invitation under the old beech tree by the lake as he slipped her a stolen copy of an underground pamphlet against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. They had gone to Madam PuddyFoots a week late, and without school permission. Their second date had been in detention.

Her life and plans had felt strangely out of control, but that changed on a dreary Thursday in mid November, during a long study session with the studious Remus Lupin. The once again sickly looking boy mumbled offhandedly a rumor, just that, a rumor, that there was an organization out there fighting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. "That's all I know" He had said with a shrug. "I don't even know if it's real." But Lily had wheedled one last thing out of him; That they might be called "The Order of the Phoenix." Something clicked in Lily's brain in that moment. Everything slid back in line.

Suddenly Lily felt her life fall back into place, a mission, a plan. She poured over books and newspapers, and she was embarrassed to admit it, but she used some of James's abundant sneaking knowledge to learn everything she needed to know about this Order. And now she was here. On her 18th birthday, ready to kick open the door to a new year. Ready to commit to the Order, so long as Dumbledore allowed it. Nothing in her life since her acceptance letter to Hogwarts had felt as right as this moment.

Across the room from her, behind an ornate desk, Headmaster Dumbledore's stare changed to a questioning gaze.

"We don't allow school-aged students to join the Order, Miss Evans." Dumbledore explained calmly. 

Lily had expected this, but it didn't stop the floating feeling that unsteadied her as the wrinkle was tossed into her plan. She quickly covered her frustration, "I won't be in school long, sir." She breathed, "and it's my 18th birthday, I'm over a year older than legal. I want to join."

Dumbledore's expression didn't change. "Does the young Mr. Potter, who you have so recently begun spending time with, also know about the Order and have similar ambitions?" He asked calmly. Lily fidgeted and wrung her hands together behind her back. James Potter knew nothing about the Order. She hadn't told him because she knew exactly what he would do. She wanted to check it out first, learn more about the Order and then bring everyone else in, once she knew it was safe. The others could join once she knew it really was fighting for the right side, for the right reasons, with the right means. But did Dumbledore expect her to tell them, get them on board right from the start? The boys were hell-bent on fighting You-Know-Who, but they were still troublemakers. Once they graduated they would be assets. She knew that. But not before then.

"No." She answered, testing out the waters to see what the Headmaster expected of her.

He raised a quizzical eyebrow. "No?" 

Should she tell him that she didn't think James would pass his NEWTs if he was distracted by fighting? Should she tell him she wanted James to practice quidditch, to fight Slytherin for the house cup this year more than she wanted him to fight Death Eaters? That it was hard enough to get him to show up for Head Boy duties without official Order spying missions to go on? Surely she shouldn't say she didn't trust the Order yet?

"I thought you would tell him eventually." She tried. Dumbledore only nodded quietly, knowingly, like he always did. As if he were planning something beyond the scope of her understanding.

"Perhaps that is better. They are an enthusiastic bunch." He said giving her a meaningful look. Lily nodded her agreement to the unspoken request. She shouldn't tell the others. "You are 18 today then Miss Evans?" He asked. She nodded. January 30th. As of today she was a year over the legal age and certainly old enough to be making this decision. Honestly she didn't know why she had waited this long. She had learned about the Order at the beginning of the month, but there was something about this date, her birthday that gave her the strength to face Dumbledore; made her ready to fight.

The two individuals waited in silence, each contemplating their choices. Lily felt exposed in the quiet space with only the sound of Fawkes and the tinkling of glass instruments surrounding her. She felt like Dumbledore was reading her past, her present and her future, then weighing it. 

Eventually he nodded slowly and, she was nervous to believe it, was nodding approvingly. "Then might I wish you a happy birthday?" He said wistfully.

Lily returned a small smile, but was annoyed that he hadn't given her a straight answer. Her voice almost betrayed it when she said, "Thank you, sir."

Dumbledore's smile turned serious again. "Can you cast a patronus?" The question caught her off-guard. The patronus spell was one they didn't exactly learn in school. A seventh-year spell if they did. Remus could cast one, she thought, but that was from his own studying. She hadn't ever tried.


"Learn and then come back." Dumbledore stated.

Lily stuttered at the old man. "Patronus?" She asked for clarification, not knowing what the spell had to do with fighting Death Eaters. He nodded.

"Yes, just that one spell. Then come back to my office to show me the results."

She took a risk and asked. "But does that mean I'm in the Order?" Dumbledore pondered her as if looking for the answer in her green eyes, or her brilliant red hair.

"It means I have set you a mission that will benefit the greater good of the Order, and you should carry out that mission." He replied cryptically. Lily processed this. "Mission." That was as close to a yes as she could hope to get, she supposed. "You should get back to studying for your NEWTs Miss Evans I hear great things about you, and I wouldn't want your grades to suffer because you've been chatting to me." He added with a smile before reaching across his desk for a well-worn knitting magazine. 

Lily stared for a moment then regained her composure. She thought about pressing for a more certain answer, but knew she would get none. Instead she turned to leave. As her hand rested on the brass doorknob Dumbledore added one more thing.

"I do think you'll make a swell addition. Do make sure to read up on you concealment charms?" And as Lily slowly pulled the door open to the descending staircase a smile spread across her face.

She was in.

The hallways, though not pitch black, were hard to navigate while running full speed, and Sirius careened into a third suit of armor with a deafening crash before finally deciding to take a stand. He wasn't afraid of the tall fuming figures hurdling after him, it was just that, he was, at the moment, sorely outnumbered. Five to one were far from good odds, and he was carrying a bag loaded with somewhat contraband party goods. Nonetheless he skidded to a stop and turned to the figures that had just begun creeping around the corner.

"Mulciber." Sirius smirked raising his wand before his face and trying very hard to stare down the group's leader. The Slytherin seventh-year had a puff of almost curly brown hair that he had never quite managed to comb over, atop an angular face and powerful body. His cronies fanned out behind him sneering and trying their best to look intimidating. Sirius saw Snape among them, but thankfully no Regulus. "Oh and Snivellus too, exciting. How are you doing? The hair color change potion in your breakfast not too upsetting for you I hope." Snape glared daggers at him. "Honestly I'm surprised it worked through the layers of grease." Snape's nostrils flared but he didn't make a move to fight. Instead Mulciber raised his wand, always one to fight to prove his own ability, or protect his cronies. Sirius stepped into a dueling stance, a piece of armor clattering away at his movement.

"Black." His adversary sneered, pointing his dark wand at Sirius's chest. The Gryffindor didn't move, or flinch, but continued to stare cheekily at the severe face of the other. Sirius knew he was in over his head when he had shot a plumage spell around the corner to a gathered group of Slytherins on his way back from the kitchen, but he didn't think they would chase him this far. He was amused when one of Mulciber's cronies spat out another mouthful of red and gold feathers. Mulciber looked over his shoulder at his coughing companion then back at Sirius, a new determination set on his face.

"Alarte Ascendare" Mulciber shot. Sirius didn't bother with a shielding spell. He leaned lightly to the side and let the spell crash into the wall behind him sending sparks into the air. A terrified Duke in a portrait squealed and dove into a neighboring painting.

Next to Mulciber someone shot another spell. "Calvario".

Sirius angrily deflected this new attack, sending the spell into the ground before raising his wand at the fifth year who had sent it, and in the same tone his mother used when scolding him yelled, "Hey! None of that, you know the rules, no hair loss charms!" Sirius slipped the heavy bag off his shoulder, the bottles and bars of chocolate landing with a soft thud on the ground. He stepped forward menacingly. "Anyway, I had assumed we were long past silly games. Is this the best you have to offer?" Sirius gave the fifth year an unimpressed once over, before settling his attention back on Mulciber.

"Oh Sirius, if only we weren't on school grounds right now." Mulciber threatened smoothly.

"Is that what's stopping you?" A new voice asked. Sirius looked over his shoulder and smiled in delight as James rounded the corner stepping elegantly over the broken bits of armor. He tussled his hair nonchalantly and grinned at his best mate. Behind him Remus stalked out of the darkness, stuffing the marauders map into his cloak pocket, while Peter, smirking, followed. Off to the side an old wizard brewing a potion in a painting groaned and left the frame, knowing what was to come.

"How're the decorations coming James?" Sirius asked offhandedly. He propped and elbow onto the fifth year's shoulder with growing confidence. 

"Wonderfully, but you were taking a bit too much time for my liking."

"Yeah, got a bit caught up." Sirius jerked his head at the Slytherins in explanation. He pulled his arm off the fifth year but stayed uncomfortably close to him. He sized him up like an afternoon snack then reached out to pull one of the boy's short curls with as much derision as he could muster. The Fifth year glared at him as Sirius let go and the curl sprang back into place. Sirius was just putting his arm down when the boy lurched back then took a swing at Sirius' face followed by bringing his wand up and screaming "stupefy". The stun missed as Sirius hit the floor and rolled. Without hesitation James petrified the boy before he could straighten up from his fight. Three wands were instantly pointed at Mulciber. The three remaining Slytherins held their wands aloft. Sirius regained his composure and lifted his wand making it four to four. Even odds. 

James and Mulciber were seething, staring at one another; wands pointed at each other's chests. "Potter, this doesn't end well for you." Mulciber threatened.

"If that were the case, you'd have shot already." James countered. Sirius got to his feet and matched James's stance, a trickle of blood coming down the side of his face. Mulciber smirked looking for some way to provoke James into something.

"How's the crier?" he asked slyly, referring to Lily. James hissed in a breath, but Remus caught his wrist before he could strike.

"If we all leave now, we can spare ourselves having to explain anything to professors, or Filch. Call it a draw." Remus suggested, glancing at everyone in the hall in turn. The potion-brewing wizard cheered enthusiastically from next to unicorn in a painting down the hall. A few eyes flickered to the noise, but wands didn't move.

After several tense moments James broke the silence "Get out Mulciber?" He warned in a low voice. Mulciber moved in close to James's face and pointed his wand into James' neck, a threatening move he used often.

"Pity you have a collar on your boyfriend Jamie. Next time he may not be so lucky." James rolled his eyes at the weak threat and a few sparks flickered angrily out of Mulciber's wand flecking James' neck. In a valiant effort to not even wince at the small burns James watched Mulciber slowly lower his wand unbind the boy on the floor and drag him up by the scruff of his neck. Mulciber smirked as he turned. "See you all soon." He sang ominously into the dark hall. The Slytherins followed quietly behind.

As soon as they were around the far corner James' hand shot to his neck and a series of curses ran out of his mouth and into his cloak sleeve. Peter rushed forward lighting the tip of his wand, and with Remus they got James to stand up straight and take his hand away from his neck. Several red burns were bubbling his skin. Peter whistled at the look of them. "Magical injury, dittany might make a difference, aloe extract infused would be better. Pomfrey might have some." Peter rattled off. 

"No. We've gotta get back to the Common Room, Lily'll be back any minute." James replied.

"Yeah, but it won't matter if you can't do anything fun because your neck looks like barbeque." Sirius pointed out walking into the light, his sleeve holding back the blood coming from above his left eye. Peter turned his attention to Sirius, letting James put his hand back on his neck before Remus pulled it off again and performed an icing spell.

"Jeeze Padfoot, you're gonna need a suturing spell." Peter whined looking at Sirius's head a little queasily. James squinted at his friend's forehead in the dim light. The injury slowly receded into shadow and James dragged Peter's wand closer once more, as the wand's owner looked resolutely at the far wall.

"Nice one Padfoot." James complimented.

Sirius shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, you know me." James touched the cut tentatively and Sirius winced.

"Damn! The kid punch you with a ring on?" James asked pulling his hand away.

"Probably. Wouldn't put it past a Slytherin to not fight fair." Sirius paused as James gingery touched the cut. "You should have cursed him when he called Lily that name though."

"Should have wiped his smug git face off the map." James agreed.

"Who even punches these day anyway?" Remus cut in before they could get into the nitty-gritty of their anger at the derogatory term. Criers, the Muggle-borns. They'd had so many funerals lately that the Slytherins had started calling them the Criers. A cruel term that was just another reminder of the letters written home every week by students to say, "I'm alive and I'm okay."

James shook his head at Remus's statement about throwing punches. They'd each been punched and thrown their fair share at Hogwarts, another strike was no surprise.

"I'll fix it. Hold still." James told Sirius, taking Peter's wrist and holding it so he had enough light. He pointed his own wand at Sirius's head and slowly sealed the cut. By the time he was done only a thin line and the blood remained. James stared at Sirius's face for a moment. "Lily's going to kill us." He realized.

"She is not. We show up like this all the time." Sirius pointed out as he tried to wipe away a layer of blood with his sleeve.

"Where's the stuff." James asked, and Sirius pointed at his bag at the foot of the crumbling suit of armor.

James checked the bag. Everything they would need and more was in it. "You're getting better at the bigger-on-the-inside spell." James smiled. Sirius bowed deeply at the compliment. Remus mumbled something under his breath as he and Peter magicked the suit back together. As soon as the head was reattached and began cursing them angrily they started back to the Common room.

"Moony, I think my neck is leaking." James whined feeling the thin layer of ice Remus had put on him melting into his shirt.

"Probably." Remus noted and James groaned knowing his friend would do nothing about it. Sirius tentatively poked his own forehead. Lily would probably not kill them, James tried to convince himself again.

"Sneezewort." Remus said as they neared the portrait of the fat lady, since James and Sirius were too busy comparing their incurred injuries to remember the password. Peter stepped through first followed by Remus and James. Sirius brought up the back carrying his bag of goods triumphantly.

"I have brought libations!" he declared to the room at large. Dozens of students from all years were standing in a confused silence. The common room was overly decorated with several zonkos whizzers charmed to spell "Happy Birthday Lily!" in multicolored sparks around the room, festive pointy hats, lilies James had ordered and several patches of balloons. "What? Is no one excited about this?" He asked disappointedly. Several people looked uncomfortable and eventually a small group near the fire place stepped aside to reveal Lily sitting on the edge of the coffee table, one leg crossed over the other and looking at her boys with a raised eyebrow. "Surprise!" Sirius tried.

"Surprise?" Lily smiled back. She looked over at James, and her bemusement turned to confusion. "You neck is melting." She stood up and walked over to him as people continued to mill about uncomfortably, unsure whether their Head Girl was going to send them all to bed early.

"Interesting actually. Remus said he could turn me into a popsicle, and I didn't believe him and now. . . Oh hey look at that!" James said turning Lily suddenly around and pointing to the fireplace where nothing spectacular was happening. Remus quickly unfroze his neck while Lily wasn't looking and Sirius accio-ed a table to the center of the room where they were standing. Peter quickly decorated it with a few spells while Sirius began piling it with his kitchen findings. James spun Lily back around snuggling her tight under his arm and pointed to the now decorated coffee table. "Happy Birthday, darling." Lily stood dazed for a moment and on the verge of laugher. Then James added, "I got you something." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, finely decorated present.

Lily regained her footing, blinked at the new decorations then reached out slowly for the gift. "That's sweet" she cooed then caught something out of the corner of her eye, "And that's contraband." She added staring at the bottle of Watterman's finest Sparkling Blue Cider.

"But tasty." Sirius countered beginning to pour the blue shimmering liquid into glasses.

"And expensive." Peter muttered under his breath to Remus. Sirius poured four more glasses and handed them out. Lily took hers as the rest of the common room began to mumble amongst themselves, wondering if the marauders could once again turn the Head Girl to their side.

"To the finest lady in the room, may you have the most spelndiforous 18th birthday known to man and womankind." Sirius toasted with a wink.

"Well, it will be hard to match your slob fest last November, but we'll try." Lily said taking a deep breath, actively trying to turn off her desire to write everyone up. She turned to the room at large, where Gryffindors waited with baited breath, and raised her glass. "If I catch anyone under 17 drinking this stuff, I will send you to McGonagall before you can blame it on Sirius." She brought her glass down and sipped. It sparkled sweetly as it went down. Several people cheered and there was the sudden screech of a needle hitting the old phonograph machine before music kicked up. Lily couldn't help but grin, and Sirius gratefully added more sparkling cider to her glass.

James let her enjoy herself for a moment before nudging her to open her gift. Lily took a sip of her drink, set it down on the table and took a closer look at the box. Jewelry? It was long and skinny, a necklace? "Jut open it Lils, the box isn't all that impressive." James encouraged. The girl rolled her eyes just slightly and peeled back the layer of red paper to reveal the outside of a red velvet box. She shot James and unimpressed look but he just stayed staring at the gift nervously. Paper still half on Lily slowly opened the box revealing, to no ones surprise, a glittering charm attached to a glistening silver chain.

"It's a deer." Lily stated, confused.

"Stag." James corrected and slowly lifted the necklace from it's place. It sparkled neatly in his hand, and despite her confusion Lily found the charm beautiful and a little endearing. She looked uncertain but pulled her hair up to allow him to settle it around her neck. The three other marauders were watching her carefully. No one was drinking or smiling. Lily became suddenly more then unsettled, but tried to smile through it, pleased at James' choice in gifts.

"Why a stag then?" She asked trying to sound nonchalant about the sudden quiet.

James didn't pull himself together well enough to answer. "Well" He rubbed the back of his neck, thinking. He looked to the others.

"Tomorrow?" Remus asked. The marauders seemed to agree enthusiastically with their eyes and Remus and Sirius leapt for the food table. "More food anyone?" They announced, handing around Honeydukes chocolate and Bertie Botts' Beans. Lily watched the boys scramble, surprised at their nerves.

"It's prongs." She stated trying to get in on what was going on. The group stopped moving. "What?" She asked in confusion. "You guys call each other by those silly nicknames all the time. So, it's a deer, like a stag or something." Sirius looked at Remus who glanced back at Peter who shrugged.

"Exactly" James finally exclaimed putting his arm around his girl and leading her over to the couches where a few of the Gryffindor seventh year girls were sitting, chatting up a storm. 

After placing a drink in Remus's hand Sirius wandered to the phonograph and flipped on a few tunes. Remus considered the drink for a moment, then his homework, and finally swallowed it back before he and Peter delved into another round of who-will-lose-their virginity first. Peter had already lost, but Remus hadn't worked up the nerve to tell him yet.

The party was taking off. Dancing had started by the phonograph machine, charmed so the records wouldn't skip on the shaking floor. There was poker being played by the fire, and a few first years had cobbled together a makeshift version of bowling by the entryway while at least one couple had found a back corner in which to snog.

Sirius flung another record onto the phonograph before stumbling over to the coffee table. Because the party was going so swimmingly, he was smugger than usual. He waved off a sixth year girl with a peck on the cheek and casually slipped onto the coffee table in front of Lily who had just started ignoring Lucy and Loretta's conversation about him. He smiled charmingly at them before turning his attention to Lily. He was about to start asking her about her friends when she cut in.

"Who broke your face?" She asked touching her thumb to his forehead.

"Would you believe I walked into a low hanging doorway?"

"No, because James looks like he's been hit with a sparking spell in prime snogging territory."

Sirius smirked but didn't say anything to give himself away.

"You guys have got to be careful! Your hallway fights aren't going to be games in a few months. We're graduating in July." Lily explained for the hundredth time, worry wrapped around her words.

"and you're getting too serious for your own good on your 18th birthday, no thinking about bad things until tomorrow morning." Sirius chided. "Only fun things." 

He fumbled around behind him for a cracker that had been leftover from New Years and pulled its string. Sparks and a hat with the number '78 atop exploded out of the end. He placed it on his head, and Lily's friends giggled as he winked at them.

"So you'll let me worry tomorrow?"

"Yes, tomorrow, when we're all good and hungover. Moony!" Sirius exclaimed as the scruffy brown haired boy stumbled into the coffee table. He grimaced rubbing his shin as he sat down heavily. "Ima take that." Sirius said taking Remus's drink out of his hand and finishing it off for him.

"I think Jeanie likes Peter more than me, how did that happen?" He hiccupped.

"You keep your face in your stupid NEWT notes, how's anyone s'possed to like you?" Sirius said, giggling at his alliteration "NEWT notes" he laughed.

Remus tried to make a face at Sirius who was looking to the back corner of the room where Peter was smiling as Jeanie Johnson whispered something in his ear.

"Hey Remus?" Lily started leaning forward off the couch toward him. Remus looked up at her with his silver-grey eyes. "I need your help with something."

"Wazthat?" He asked leaning forward conspiratorially.

"I want to make a patronus." Remus gave her a look as if he had never heard such an odd thing.

"Right now?" he wondered.

"No stupid, like tomorrow or something. I need it." Remus finally dropped his confused look and shrugged. "Awesome, wait, how do you not know how to do that?" Remus asked and Sirius slapped the back of his head.

"No wonder you can't get a girl, acting like that."

"I don't want that girl." Remus replied motioning to Lily. "Not that you're not lovely." He slurred placing a hand drunkenly on her knee. "Prong's already got her!" Sirius looked at him as if he were an idiot. "And Wormtail's got Jeanie, sooo. . ." Remus and Sirius stared at each other for several seconds. "Patronus" Remus said to Lily realizing Sirius wasn't going to respond. He shot her a thumbs-up before getting up from the coffee table and fumbling off. He made it around the couch before the portrait-hole swung open and the room got eerily silent at the sight of Professor McGonagall.

Lily shot to her feet and within seconds James was by her side ready to take the blame for the party. The professor was in her nightgown, a blue cloak wrapped around her shoulders. Lily's stomach was sinking and her face began to burn red.

McGonagall's eyes scanned the room, it was as if she were counting, eventually her eyes bounced back to James and to everyone's surprise she asked, "Where's Peter?" James's eyebrows shot up but off to the side a sixth-year's finger pointed straight to the back corner. A few people shuffled to the side and Peter got clumsily to his feet, looking guilty.

"Oh thank heavens. Is anyone else out?" She asked the Head Boy and Girl. Peter looked briefly confused as the others looked at each other, racking their brains. Lily's jaw dropped in confusion.

James glanced hurriedly around the room "Harriet." He noted. "She has a Ravenclaw boyfriend."

"I'll check the dorms." A female voice called from the back. James recognized it as belonging to the fifth year prefect Jane Hart. He looked over to his left. "Martin go look for Lawrence and Jones. Check the rest of the dorms." James jerked his head to a boy near the stairs and before he knew it the boy had scampered up them in search of the few possibly missing Gryffindors.

"What's going on?" Lily finally asked the professor. She crossed her arms nervously over her chest and waited for McGonagall to collect herself.

"A family outside Hogsmeade was attacked. There are few details, but the mark was sent into the air about ten minutes ago." Several heads spun to look for a window. A couple who had been sitting on the couch nearest the Hogsmeade facing window got up and pulled the curtains back. They pressed their faces against the glass then stepped back with a gasp, their faces suddenly pale and sickly. Eyes were immediately upon their Head of House, a group shiver passing around.

"Lawrence, Jones, all the first years except Tony, some of the second years, and Tobias are in the dorms. " Martin announced leaning over the banister to the boys' dorms and reporting back to James. Remus and Sirius stumbled onto a coffee table in the back of the room and began counting heads. In the past year the marauders, in attempt to help Lily and James, had memorized each member of Gryffindor house. In a pinch they could name them all, but most of the time a head count sufficed. Several attacks and even more scares the previous year had put them into action. Lily's worrying had solidified the need.

"That's all the guys. Tim was up there?" Sirius clarified.

"The second year?" Martin answered and nodded. Seconds later the fifth year prefect slid to the end of the girls' hall "I don't see Harriet or Midge!" She called down. The marauders shared several looks before all turning to look at McGonagall.

"Where would she most likely be?" The professor asked. Sirius ran a hand through his hair, thinking.

"Behind the third floor tapestry." A voice called out. The secret passage usually reserved for quick snogs between classes must have doubled for a rendezvous point.

"And Midge is probably still in the library." Someone else noted.

Sirius was counting on his fingers, while next to him Remus decided "that would be everyone for the girls." He held up a questionable number of fingers, but Lily and James trusted his count.

"I will be back. All of you stay put." McGonagall stated plainly with a special look reserved for the seventh-year boys. Remus gave her two thumbs up. None of them had any intention of sneaking out. As soon as the portrait swung shut behind her everyone turned to James and Lily in the center of the room. Somewhere by Peter's couch there was the clatter of a chess piece falling to the floor as he stepped around the coffee table, but that was the only sound in the room.

"Okay, we stay here tonight." James started, unsure of what other directions to give.

"I. . . I think, we have to call it a night." Lily added and even Sirius didn't pose an argument. Instead he stepped off the coffee table then helped a stumbling Remus down as well.

"You really can't hold your liquor." The darker-haired boy noted under his breath.

"I drank more than you." Remus mumbled back slipping sideways into his fellow marauder. Sirius steered him into the center of the room where Peter was already staring at James and Lily nervously. Around them people began to pick up empty wrappers and bottles and stumble off to bed. Sirius pointed his wand at a fifth year who was trying to walk off with the cider, and he set it back down nervously.

When the room was mostly clear Remus bent forward resting his hand on his knees. "Merlin's beard, that's the…" He held four fingers into the air before his mouth could catch up. "Fourth attack this week." He said, standing up straighter.

"It's Monday Rem." Sirius pointed out quietly. Remus stood up straighter and looked at him through somewhat swimming vision.

"Fine, fourth one since." He paused and made a forward spinning motion with his finger in front of his face, a marauder code for a moon cycle. "Thing." He finished tiredly. Peter patted his friend conciliatorily on the back.

"Who do you think was attacked?" James asked.

"There are a few outspoken families in Hogsmeade, none of them would be out of the question. Pratts, Wartons, Marks." Sirius listed off the few families he knew of. No one else could add to the list.

"I can't believe this happened again!" James interlaced his fingers together on top of his head and looked up at the ceiling, exasperated. "Again? How many more before we all get our act together, and just go beat him down, really? How many?" He spat out bringing his hands down aggressively. Remus leaned into Peter. They were all watching James, knowing how he felt, and unable to dissuade any of his hopelessness.

"We would need an army." Sirius explained.

"Then we should get an army!" James argued.

"Maybe there is one, we just don't know about it." Lily interjected. She had taken a step away from the group and was leaning against the back of a red couch, staring at the ground. She still had her arms crossed over her chest, closed off and tired.

"Why would they be hiding? They should be out on the street recruiting." James growled.

"To protect their identity." Peter tried to reason. "If your family dies for what you believe, you're certainly going to want to hide your involvement." Peter glanced at Lily for a moment expecting her to add something, but she didn't say a word.

"We'll make one then, if there's not one already. We'll make an army and fight, won't we?" James looked at each of the marauders, his voice strong but pleading.

"'course we will." Sirius stated after a moment, as if he hadn't already told James this a million times. "Someone's gotta take down the bastard."

"Yeah, 'course we will." Peter echoed quietly.

"I, for one, would like to-" Remus managed to fish his wand out of his sleeve where he kept it and wobbly pointed it at a place behind James, "personally stun that son-of-a-gun to hades and back."

Lily grinned sadly, her eyes still on the floor. She knew exactly how they would fight.

"It's settled then." James declared. "We'll fight." Though this attack had only been the last of a string of them, James sounded like a weight the size of the Ministry of Magic had been lifted off of his shoulders. The marauders would fight. When it came down to it the Marauders were not going to turn tail and run like the rest of the wizards and witches of Britain, they would fight.

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