Hello. This is probably one of the longest one-shots I've written, and I'm not sure if I like the last half of it as much as the first. Review please! Thanks.
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter, nor it's characters and plots
Remus sits at the breakfast table, slowly moving his aching hands as he stirs the sirup. It has been a hard full moon, and every move sends a sharp twitch of pain down his spine.
His mother moves around the kitchen, bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. The full moon is hard for her too, and after every one it takes a little longer for her eyes to be bright again.
His father sits on the porch, keeping guard. Remus has never asked from what, because he already knows. The scar on his lower thigh gives a slight twinge and he winces. His father hasn't let any strangers in the house since Remus was three. It's an unspoken pledge to him, the guarding. His father won't let anything else hurt him.
The owl swoops in, dropping the newspaper on the kitchen table with a dull thump. Remus's mother wanders over and picks it up, frowning at the front page. Remus can see the Minister of Magic's face on the back. Another anti-werewolf law has been passed.
His mother sets down the paper with a sigh and sits down, rubbing her hands over her temples. Remus stares blankly at the table, setting his sirupy fork down on the wood.
He notices a corner of white hidden under the gray paper of the news, and picks at it with a jagged fingernail. It slides out face up, and Remus can see the seal.
A badger, a snake, a lion, and an eagle surround a large H. He looks up to see that his mother is still rubbing his temples, and begins to open the letter.
Making sure not to tear the pristine envelope, Remus slides out the parchment with in. His eyes glimmering with excitement, he scans it's extent, drinking in every neatly penned word.
Hogwarts! He's in! He's going to school!
Laughing delightedly, he jumps up. His mother, her eyes wide in surprise, stares at him in confusion.
"Mum!" Remus shouts, handing her the letter. "I'm in!"
A gasp bubbles out of his mother's mouth, and she laughs too, high pitched and loud. She wraps Remus in her arms and keeps laughing. He's going to school!
His father runs in, alarmed by the noise in their normally silent house. He stares at his family for a moment, his brow wrinkling with a look of confusion, similar to Remus's mother.
"What are you doing?" He asks, still watching them, though one corner of his mouth quirks up, glad to see a smile on his face.
"We're going to Diagon Alley today," Remus's mother says, smiling at him. "Remus needs a wand."
And then his father smiles too.
James has watched his cousins grin over shared stories about the wizarding school during the August reunion for as long as he can remember. They tell him about the moving staircases and the talking pictures and the magic classes, but James doesn't care much for those. He likes to stories about the secret passages and Peeves the poltergeist, and most of all, the Quidditch games that sound much more intense than the ones they play in backyards. He wants to meet the Sorting Hat and talk to Hagrid and prank the Slytherins; the magic classes are just an added bonus.
But this year, no one talks. There's no laughing as the adults sip their drinks, smiling sadly at memories. The children sit next to their parents, silently waiting for the reunion to end. Even the air hangs heavy. James can feel the pressure on the back of his neck.
Or is this what grief feels like? He isn't sure.
There's a tapping at the kitchen window, and his father stands up to answer it. There are a few murmurs through the crowd, and they all look at James. They know what's tapping at the window, what the owl carries.
James shifts his feet, not meeting his family's eyes. He knows what the owl carries too.
His father walks back in, smiling a little now. He tosses the envelope to James, and he catches it like he would a quaffle.
James's fingers shake as he opens the letter, which is stupid, because he already knows what it's going to say. He fumbles with the envelope and the parchment floats to the carpeted floor before he can catch it.
There's silence in the room as they stare at the letter, which has fallen so that only the Hogwarts seal and the words We look forward to welcoming you to Hogwarts are visible.
"Congratulations, kid," his sixteen year old cousin Louisa says, with a sarcastic grin. "Now you can help us kill Bellatrix Lestrange. You know, once you get a wand and all."
A few of James's older relatives looked shocked at Louisa's impulsiveness, but most of them smile and laugh a little, some of the pent up tension gone. As his family turns back to their plates, James lets a real grin flit across his face, unhindered by the death of his uncle.
He's really going to Hogwarts!
Lily watches the man as he stalks up the street, his strange black coat floating behind him in the summer breeze. Why is he wearing a coat? She's wearing a tank top and she's quite warm in the mid August heat.
She notices the man's got heeled boots on, and she can hear them click on the cement. Petunia looks up from her spot on the porch stairs, frowning. She closes her book with a slam and stands up, glaring at the strangely dressed man.
"Lily, get inside," Petunia orders, with all of her thirteen year old authority. Lily, not one to question her sister anyway, ducks behind the screen door and watches the man stop at their walk.
Petunia dashes inside as well, giving Lily a gentle push out of the way. "Mum? There's a man waiting at the walk!"
Their mother can hear the anxiousness in her daughter's tone and knows to be cautious. Shooing Lily and Petunia into the living room, she opens the door. The strange man stands on the porch, in all of his cloaked glory.
Now that Lily can see him better, he doesn't look particularly menacing. His eyebrows quirk up in a naturally pleasant expression, and she can see the laugh lines around his eyes.
He smiles at her mother. "Mrs. Evans?"
Her mother frowns, studying him carefully. "That would be me."
"I don't suppose you've heard of Hogwarts?" There's a silence in the house, with Petunia and her mother staring at the man in confusion.
Lily however, connecting the dots, ducks around her mother, and says, "Yes."
The man smiles, and begins to talk. He hands Lily a letter, with a seal on the front. She opens it and grins with excitement at the parchment, so close yet so far from the printer paper she's used to. The words are written carefully in green ink, and she reads them three times, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Sev was right. She's special. She's a witch. And she's going to school with her best friend!
Lily doesn't notice as Petunia glares at her with a hmmph! and stalks up the steps.
Sirius sits at the dinner table, his mouth closed in stony silence as his parents talk about politics. Next to him, Regulus fidgets with his food, drawing a tightened sigh from their mother. Sirius doesn't move. His plate is completely full in front of him, his napkin still neatly folded under his knife and fork. This is his revenge for the throbbing bruise under his eye, punishment for watching the muggles play football in the lawn from the front balcony.
"The blasted Minister's defending the muggles! Who voted him into office again?" Sirius's father says, frowning. He takes a long swig from his glass and turns his attention to Sirius.
His mother shakes her head. "The Ministry's full of fools." She says nothing else. It's Sirius's father that rants. His mother only agrees with him, nodding, and throwing out screaming matches when needed.
His father is still staring at Sirius, but he's been under a glare so many times, it doesn't faze him anymore. He doesn't even squirm.
"Did you hear?" his mother says, turning to his father. "The Mckinnon's daughter is attending Hogwarts this year."
His father snorts in disgust, glancing at Sirius. He doesn't move. Now even Regulus has caught on, his wide eyes shifting from his father to his brother.
"Mudbloods are breeding," Orion says, still studying his son. Sirius's hands clench under the table, but he says nothing. There is nothing he can say that won't end up in another screaming match, and that's not something he wants. So he is silent.
"Speaking of Hogwarts," his mother says in a clipped tone. "We received a letter for you today, Sirius."
He allows himself to look up, but his mouth stays closed.
"You were accepted into Hogwarts."
"Was there any chance I wouldn't be?" Sirius blurts out before he can remember to keep his mouth shut. Gritting his teeth, he rolls his eyes down as far as he can, trying to glare at his own lips. His parents shoot amused glances between them. Regulus takes a sip of apple juice, still watching the interaction.
"Of course not," Walburga replies, handing the letter to Sirius's father. It's already been opened, but he accepts the envelope anyway and slides out the parchment, running his fingers over the Hogwarts seal.
"You'll be in Slytherin, of course," his father says, pride showing through for the first time in Sirius's memory. He just manages to bite back his reply-Are you sure about that, father?
He knows it's pure defiance, but he's tempted to demand Gryffindor just to annoy his parents. They can't punish him while he's in Hogwarts. But he's still not sure if Slytherin would be so bad either. Andromeda was alright, after all.
Either way, he will be on the train on September 1st. And that's what matters, right?
Remus is the first to get his second letter. It arrives in the morning, in the middle of breakfast. There's tension in the whole hall as they see the black stamp, dreading whoever it arrives for. Whole tables sigh in relief as they watch the owl pass over their heads, their loved ones still safe and still breathing.
That's what the stamp is for. It's the mark of your dead family.
The owl bearing the bad news arrives at the Gryffindor table, and heads for the Marauders. While the other students pray that it won't be them, the four boys are not sure what to do. If it isn't their parents it's someone else's, and that's nearly as bad.
The owl lands in front of Remus, sticking it's leg out for him to remove his doom. Slowly, with shaking hands, the pale faced boy opens the letter, and tears begin to stream out of his eyes. Without hesitation, he jumps out of his seat and dashes out of the hall.
Even as he passes the Slytherin table, no one mocks him.
Sirius jumps up after him, James on his tail. They run out of the hall as well, and though a few Slytherins glare at them, most are focused on their breakfasts.
Peter lifts a shaky hand and looks at the letter the other three boys have left behind. Remus's parents died nearly twelve hours ago, killed by Bellatrix Black.
Remus hides in the passage behind the one-eyed witch. His hands are no longer shaking with grief but with rage. He wants to get rid of Bellatrix Black. He wants to get rid of the rest of the Blacks too.
James and Sirius run in, gasping for breath. "I'm so sorry, mate," Sirius says, wiping away a tear.
Remus glares at him. He's her cousin. His family killed them. Without warning, he tackles Sirius, taking him by surprise and pinning him to the ground. "Remus!" James calls out. "What are you doing?"
"You! It was your blasted cousin! Your family! You killed them!" Remus shouts, blinding by rage.
"What are you talking about? Bellatrix can go rot for all I care! I hate them, Moony!"
James shoves Remus away from Sirius. "Get out!" he shouts. "I'll calm him down."
Later, Remus slinks into the common room. James, Peter, and Sirius hog the couches. Instead of laughing or planning a prank, they stare off into space, frowns on their faces. Lily and her group of friends sit in front of the fire, talking quietly.
"Sirius," Remus says, studying the boy. Sirius sits up, brow wrinkling in concern. "I'm sorry, mate. And by the way, no hard feelings, but I think I want to kill your cousin."
The girls by the fire stare at him in surprise. Where is level headed Remus?
Sirius cracks a grin. James even gives off a derisive laugh, and stares at him, the fire glinting in his irises. "Get in line. My whole family's got dibs on Bellatrix."
"And apology accepted," Sirius adds, jumping up and shaking Remus's hand. "I'm really sorry, Moony."
"It wasn't your fault," Remus replies quietly. "But I really will try to get Bellatrix."
"Won't we all."
Lily's letter comes next. She's been avoiding James-avoiding as in avoiding him more than usual, ever since the end of fifth year. She, Marlene, Alice, and Mary all sit on the opposite side of the table from the Marauders. It's lunchtime when the owl flies through the door, faster than Remus's, so no one has time dread. It lands in front of Lily as she's turned to talk to Alice, and her face visibly drains of color as she notices the black stamp.
Lily doesn't run from the hall. She doesn't open the letter. She gently slips it into her bag and takes an abnormally large sip of pumpkin juice before finishing her lunch. Her friends tell her how sorry they are for her, how her parents were too young, how awful war is, but she says nothing. She cleans her plate, and calmly stands up and leaves.
Eyes follow her to the door.
As soon as she reaches the entrance hall, she breaks into a run, her suppressed sobs breaking free, racking her body. She ducks into an empty classroom, hides under the desk, and cries. She doesn't even open the letter; she knows what's happened. They only send the black stamped letters for parents and siblings.
James is the first to find her. He shuts the door quietly behind him, but Lily is too out of it to hear. He sees the unopened letter, but doesn't press. He sits next to her, and calmly waits.
She stops crying with a little hiccup and stares at him. "Why are you here?"
"Because," he says. "I know what it feels like."
"Your parents are alive," she says, frowning a little.
James hesitates. His parents are alive, but most of the cousins he had when he was eleven are gone now. He doesn't think that information will help Lily, so he doesn't speak.
The door opens, and Marlene bursts in, followed by Alice, Mary, and the rest of the Marauders. They all sink to their knees by James, watching her.
"Merlin, Lils," Marlene says, throwing her arms around the other girl. "War bloody sucks. I'm so sorry."
Lily wipes a tear from her eye before returning the hug. "I don't want to be happy. I want to wallow in misery for a while. I-is that okay?"
"'Course," Alice says. Tears are running down her cheeks too, but she doesn't bother to wipe them. "We'll deal with you, Lily. Promise." She joins Marlene in the hug.
Lily smiles and closes her eyes, but not before mouthing a silent "Thank you," to James. He smiles back and nods to the Marauders. Quietly, they stand up and leave the room.
They know Lily will be okay. She just has to be sad for a while first.
James doesn't receive his letter until after dinner. He's laughing about a prank with Sirius when Professor Mcgonagall requests to see him. He's shocked when she notices a tear slip out of the corner of her left eye. He tells Sirius to go to the common room without him and follows the Professor down the hall, a growing sense of dread tying a knot in his stomach.
What could make Mcgonagall cry?
They climb the floating staircase up to her office, and James sits down in front of her desk. His eyes stray to the biscuit tin, which he has probably emptied several times during his career as Hogwart's prankster.
Mcgonagall sits in the desk in front of him, and puts her head in her hands. "Have a biscuit, Potter," she says, sighing desolately.
James, confused, takes a biscuit. He nibbles on the edge, dreading what she's going to tell him.
He has a feeling he already knows.
She pulls out a letter, and his stomach drops to his feet. He lets out a wheezy "No," as he sees the black stamp.
"I'm sorry, James," she says, without looking up. It strikes him that she knew his parents nearly as well as he did, but all he can think of is that his parents are gone and they're not coming back. He won't see them again. Ever. His father won't laugh and his mother won't sigh and remind him not to hurt anyone with his pranks and nothing will ever be the same.
A tear runs down his cheek, but he squeezes his eyes shut to make them stop. He swipes the letter from Mcgonagall and walks slowly all the way to the astronomy tower, avoiding anything living. When he arrives, he swings both feet up onto the wall and watches the ground below. The waves on the lake sort of comfort him. Sort of.
Sirius is the first to go looking for James. When he sees the letter in James's hands, he wipes away his own tears and gently pulls his best friend away from the edge of the tower.
James is numb. As Sirius pulls him off the wall, he slumps against it, leaning his head back on the bricks. For a moment there's silence, and then Sirius says, "When we get out of school, I'll help you get Bellatrix."
"Yeah." James lets out a strangled laugh. "And Remus can come."
"Somehow I don't think he'll be much help."
Sirius laughs a little, wiping away another tear. "Probably not." They sit in silence for a moment before he continues. "You don't have to come back down, but don't climb back up on the wall, okay?"
James nods, and sighs quietly, looking up at the stars.
Sirius doesn't receive a letter at all. His parents are protected by their loyalty to the wrong side, and as much as he hates it, no black stamp arrives for him. Sometimes, as he watches another student sob over their letter, he wish it was him with the letter instead, because it will hurt less.
It's not until 1979 during an Order meeting that bad news comes for Sirius. Lily and James are talking animatedly to Alice and Frank on the other side of the room, and Remus and Peter are playing cards with the Prewett twins. Marlene is having a loud argument with Moody over her new assignment, which clashes with her mother's release from Mungo's. Dumbledore strides in, his boots making clicking sounds on the wooden floor. The room falls silent immediately; glasses are lowered, cards set down, and heads turned toward the headmaster.
"Sirius," Dumbledore says, nodding to him. He blinks, surprised that he is the first to be greeted.
"Professor," he replies.
Sirius is even more surprised when Dumbledore continues to ignore the rest of the Order and talk to him. "I'm sorry to tell you, but one of your family members has passed away."
"Okay," he says, slowly. So his parents are dead. Doesn't that mean that the Death Eaters have lost a supporter? Why does Dumbledore look downcast?
"Regulus Black died on October the 30th, as far as we can tell. The muggles buried him, seeing as they couldn't find any relatives."
Sirius isn't sure why, but he feels a blow to his stomach. Regulus was a Death Eater, he reminds himself.
Was. Now everything associated with his little brother will be past tense.
"You should know," Dumbledore continues. "That Regulus was no longer in active service for the Death Eaters when he died."
He looks up, confused. Regulus wasn't a Death Eater? Sirius grips the top a chair hard enough that his knuckles begin in ache. "Reg," he whispers, his naturally loud voice carrying the sound throughout the room. The rest of the Order shifts their weight nervously, used to the tears that come from bad news. But Sirius offers none, and yet he doesn't react with his usual flippant attitude when he hears of his family.
Dumbledore leaves the room, and Sirius sinks into a chair and puts his head in his hands. James clap him on the shoulder and takes the seat next to him.
"I'm sorry, mate." He doesn't seem to know how to continue from there. Regulus and Sirius are complicated, and James had only ever seen him react with distaste to his little brother. But Regulus is still family to Sirius, apparently.
"I thought you didn't like your brother," Marlene says quietly, voicing all of the Order's questions. Marlene has never been one to sugarcoat.
"I did when we were kids. And then he was a Death Eater… and merlin, my family's bloody complicated." Sirius talks through his hands, muffling the words.
"He wasn't a Death Eater when he died, at least," he finishes. Out of the corner of his eyes he sees Peter twitch, but dismisses it.
"He's your brother. And if you want him to grieve, we will," Lily states calmly, and Sirius turns to give her a grateful smile. It's broken, but still visible.
"Thanks," he says in relief, looking up at his friends. His family was never so great, but James, Remus and Peter have been there since he was eleven, and everyone else since seventh year. He'll miss Reg, but he still has a family.
But he still feels the weight on the back of his neck, from the knowledge that his little brother is gone.
Two stamped letters for three of them, and delivered news for the last.