Disclaimer: anything recognizable is more than likely not mine. That said... I apologize for unintentionally making a filler chapter, however, it was needed. Why? Well... the title explains that, no?

Chapter 25: Setting Up the Next Stage

"Come on Blizzard, don't leave us hanging!" Enigma begged. Under his mask, Regulus grinned.

"My idea, is cunning in it's simplicity. Remus is a defense master. Hogwarts is looking for a new defense teacher. Remus gets the job, finds the room, gets the diadem, lays down rune tags, and burns it to slag in accordance with Ravenclaw's wishes," he revealed, pleased with himself. The other Heads looked at him in amazement.

"But... how do you know that?" asked Tangle. Blizzard turned his emotionless mask toward the man.

"Dude... I'm Blizzard. I know things. And, I'm a Head. I know who all of you are," he said. Enigma dropped his head onto the table.

"Blizzard... that's not how L.O.S.S. is supposed to work. We're supposed to be anonymous. Meaning no-body knows whose in the organization. That way, if an Agent gets captured, they can't betray anyone in the organization," he said... to the thick wood of the table around which they were seated. Blizzard chuckled quietly.

"Eh, it works for me! Besides, who would find me where I'm at? And who would believe I'm a Head in L.O.S.S? I mean, come on!" he said, leaning back. Enigma could imaging the smirk on his face and the challenging gleam in his eye. Enigma shook his head.

"Alright, fine. Besides, your mental defenses are impeccable. Not on par with a natural or a werewolf's, but still amazing. It's decided. I will make contact with Lupin and ask him to do this task for us. That will leave only the snake and Tom himself, which we already have a plan for. I'll need to consult the DSN to make sure Tom is in the blast zone, but that's not too big a problem. Anything else?" he said. No-one else spoke and so, the meeting was adjourned.

/*/

Remus didn't even look up when Sirius came stumbling out of the floo. "So, you agreed with my asking, huh?" Sirius asked, leaning against the door frame.

"Once Blizzard said it, it made perfect sense. I do have a defense mastery. Why should I wait until Dumbledore is desperate before applying? Besides, I can do a lot of good for those kids. Who knows, maybe I might be the reason some of them survive. And if facing my fear of rejection could help bring about the death of the darkest wizard in centuries, I should face it." Remus stopped and looked into Sirius' eyes, a fire burning in his amber eyes. "I can't really explain it, but... it's like there's something on the inside of me urging me to do this. Like... nothing can stop me." Sirius smirked.

"Like the perfect opportunity for a prank has appeared and if you don't go for it you'll be kicking yourself for ages," he said, a similar fire lighting in his eyes. Remus nodded, more threadbare and patched clothes flying into his ragged old school trunk.

"Exactly, and yet... not quite. There's something roaring in my ears, pounding in my veins. It's more like... like facing down a... a dragon. You're scared, petrified, but you know there's people counting on you so you stand your ground and fight it," he said. Sirius nodded.

"I get it. I totally get it. But you know, you don't have to do this," he said, watching his friend's increasingly frantic movements.

"But now... now I want to. Some part of me is saying, 'run from this and you'll never stop.' And then there's the part of me that says, 'but would that be so bad?' and the part that says, 'I can't back down.' Sirius," now the werewolf stopped and looked at his friend, standing perfectly still with a manic look in his eye, emotions swirling and clashing while the fire burned in the background, "am I a coward or a fool?" Sirius smirked and sauntered over. Remus started a bit at the heavy hand falling onto his shoulder, but didn't move as Sirius leaned in for emphasis.

"You, are neither. You, are a smart, fun, witty, clever, loyal, cunning, and brave person. Now come on, let your Gryffindor side out to play. Oh and, I know you'll be an amazing teacher. Maybe even better than I remember. Just don't let fear get the better of you, and everything will be okay," he said sternly. Remus let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.

"Thanks Padfoot. I needed that. Now, I need to finish packing. I'm fairly sure Dumbledore will be desperate enough for a good defense teacher that he'll hire me without much of a fuss," Remus said with a faint smile. Sirius smiled back.

"Well, I'll leave you to your work, Moony. And good luck with the Twinkle Eyed Light Lord," he said. Remus rolled his eyes at his friend, but nodded with a fond smile.

/*/

Dumbledore wasn't too sure he should accept Remus' offer. Then again... he looked at the applications and grimaced. It was getting harder to find qualified teachers for the Defense post. And Remus, though he was a werewolf and a friend of Black's, was a fully qualified Defense Master. With a heavy sigh, the so-called greatest wizard of the age accepted the inevitable. "Welcome back to Hogwarts, Mr. Lupin," he said, shaking the man's hand. The elderly wizard was a bit surprised by the strength of Remus' grip. "I hope you enjoy your time with us," he said with a wince Remus caught, even if the Headmaster tried to hide it. Remus gave the man a feral grin.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll find it rewarding, Headmaster," he said, a dark chuckle working its way from him. Dumbledore shivered discreetly as the not-as-worn-as-expected wizard left.

"There's something off about that boy. Something dark," he muttered. Remus, who was just outside the door, chuckled to himself before descending the stairs.

"Sure there's something off about me, Dumbledore. I'm not the pliable, scared, little boy I once was. Now, I'm a soldier, and I'm on a mission of death," he said softly before shoving his hands into his pockets and whistling a jaunty little tune as he strolled down the corridors of the school as if he own them. Anyone who had been at school with the Marauders would remember their 'theme song,' which Remus just happened to be whistling.

'We are the Marauders, My friend!

And we'll keep on pranking

Till the end!

We are the Marauders!

We are the Marauders!

No time for sticklers

'Cause we are the Marauders of Hogwarts!

We've taken our bows,

and our curtain calls.

You've brought us fame and fortune,

And everything that goes with it!

We thank you all,

And it's been so fun to mess with you all

oh so fun!

We consider it a challenge before

the whole human race,

and we ain't gonna lose!

And we mean to go on and on and on and on!

We are the Marauders, my friends

And we'll keep on pranking

Till the end!

We are the Marauders

We are the Marauders

No time for sticklers

'Cause we are the Marauders of Hogwarts!

We are the Marauders, my friends!

And we'll keep on pranking,

Till the end!

We are the Marauders

We are the Marauders

No time for sticklers

'Cause we!

Are!

The!

MARAUDERS!'

And yes, it is possible for him to do this. Why? Because he's Mooney, THAT'S why! The werewolf paused for a moment and shook his head. For a moment there, he was thinking like Sirius. He shuddered. It was a terrifying prospect. Though... it had been Sirius that made their theme. Said something about the original being fitting as well but there was the pesky copyright that kept them from using it. Ah well, 'We are the Marauders' still struck fear into the lower years. And some of the upper years as well. Oh look! There's the Defense Office. Remus snickered as he thought about the betting pool. Oh sure it was horrible that they never had a steady teacher, and that sometimes awful, unmentionable things happened to said teacher, but really. Sometimes, it was hard not to think of the post as a running joke and a source of amusement. 'Who do we get this time? Are they any good? What do you think will happen? I'm betting on dismemberment, or maybe a nervous break,' was a basic run down of a Defense Professor Welcoming Feast Conversation. This time, however, the curse was dealing with what could be called a natural magical disaster. A Marauder at the top of his game. Minerva McGonagall shivered at the sound of laughter coming from the Defense Office as she passed by on her way to the kitchens for a tea break.

"Oh dear. He's hired a mad-man this year," she murmured to herself. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Remus heard her.

"Minnie! Darling! You wound me so with your words of steel! Surely you do not think me mad? That would be Padfoot," he said, poking his head out his door with a grin. Minerva sighed.

"Mr. Lupin, any member of the Marauders could be considered a mad man," she said. Remus pouted at her, though he really couldn't blame her on that count.

"Aw~! But surely you can agree, Sirius was maddest of us all," he said. Minerva sighed again, though a fond smile tugged at her lips.

"Yes, I can. And you were one of the saner ones, I'll admit. Would you like to join me for a cuppa down in the kitchens?" Remus gave her a genuine smile.

"Pass up tea with my favorite Professor in the lair of the House Elves? In favor of dry lesson plans? Never!" he said, falling in step with the aging Transfiguration Mistress. Minerva couldn't help but smile at her youngest colleague. Perhaps a Marauder, with his seemingly inexhaustible good cheer and deep deep bag of tricks and jokes was just what the school needed.

/*/

Remus hummed happily, and a little creepily, as he surveyed the Tables. 'Oh~! Just look at those innocent little kids, just waiting to be scared witless by the mean old Marauder! Heehehehe! Oh, this is going to be such fun! Now who did I have first... ? Oh yeah! The fifth years! Oooooh~! That'll be fun. Just imagine their scared little faces when I pull out the time release jinxes! Hee! Oh! I know! I should start with a practical demonstration! Yes! That's what I'll do. OH, this is FUN! Wait... I said that already. Oh well.' Minerva was a little unnerved as she watched her newest colleague. He was a notorious prankster(some of the trends he and his group of friends started still hadn't died out) and was often regarded as the brains of the group, though that might have been because he was the Ravenclaw of the quartet. And those chuckles... Horace told her he was certain the young man had been whistling 'We are the Marauders' in the halls the day before. Quite a few of the teachers wondered if they could handle a Marauder as a part of the staff. Remus himself was blissfully unaware of their misgivings and cheerfully planed his grand entrance. It would be ten minutes after the bell rang and just as the last on time students were experiencing the effects of his timed jixes. The upper years, who were just old enough to remember when the Marauders were at school, couldn't decide if they should be happy, or terrified while the younger years were a bit creeped out by the smile their Defense teacher was giving them. It was like he was planning their deaths or something. They let out a breath as he stopped looking at them and started cutting his food... only to go wide eyed at the amount of red coming out of his stake. Normally, Remus didn't go for the super rare cuts, but he had a rather twisted sense of humor and decided to freak the new kids out. It was super effective.

/*/

The fifth year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were nervous. Too young to know the Marauders at school but old enough to have seen Regulus around and hear some of his stories, all they really knew was Professor Lupin was a prankster and liked really rare meat. Or so they thought. Seven minutes after the bell rang, there started to be a few disturbances. People started experiencing the effects of jinxes, only there was no evidence that any spells had been cast. No lights, no shouts, no sound, nothing. Three more minutes, and everyone having been hit by the disembodied jinxes, was when Professor Lupin entered. With a grin. They all glared. "Good morning class! Now that your all awake, I'll tell you what we'll be covering this term!" he said, aggravatingly cheerful. Of course they could do nothing about their professor's attitude, and the overview couldn't be stopped. They were to learn how to scan for time-release jinxes and hexes, as well as ambient jinxes, hexes, and charms. And then, they were going to learn how to identify them, remove them, and even place them. Although they felt they were getting something useful out of the class, they feared for their sanity. There as a whole lot a prankster could do with such things.

/*/

"You seem chipper Moony. Who did you torture?" Sirius said that night as Remus Lupin fire-called him.

"Well, as you know, I took a teaching job at Hogwarts. DADA. My first class was the fifth year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. We're studying time-release spells. Only the lower levels for now of course, but the looks on their faces... Ah~! Priceless. And later today I had the seventh years!"

"How many fainted?" Sirius asked, a mildly sadistic gleam in his eye. Remus let out a blood chillingly evil laugh.

"A better question is... how many didn't?" he said much to gleefully. Sirius matched his evil laugh.

"So... how many stayed consious?"

"Guess."

"Ten?"

"Too high."

"Seven?"
"Still high!"

"Five?"

"Nope... three!" Sirius gaped at his friend.

"Truly, you are a credit to the Marauder Name, Mr. Moony! Mr. Padfoot is impressed. Maybe on your next break you could come by and give a demonstration?" he said. Remus shook his head.

"Nah. But I'll send you the memory! And the memory of that one time with that one group of idiots and the RUOSs," he said. Sirius sighed, but was appeased by the promise of memories.

"I'll hold you to that, you old wolf. So, I take it your first day went well?"

"You bet! It was so much fun! Though I fear I may have traumatized a few Hufflepuffs," Remus said, finally looking a bit sheepish. Sirius laughed, fully believing it. Especially of the upper years.

"Yeah. Poor badgers. Still, they can be firce. Don't let your guard down, Moony. You never know what might happen," he said. Remus sighed.

"Yeah. I know. Still, I rather enjoyed myself today. Whiether or not I am still enjoying myself a month from now, I cannot say," he said. Sirius chuckled warmly.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll be just fine. You were Harry's favorite defense teacher after all. He adored you. And... I'd never seen you happier," he said, pouring emotion from a far gone future into his words. Remus shook his head.

"That was a time of peace, a time of healing. This is a time of war, a time of pain. And I'm not the same person as Harry's Professor Lupin, Padfoot. How can you be sure?"

"I can't. Once we formed L.O.S.S. I stopped being sure of a heck of a lot of things. But I do know you and I can predict that you'll be just fine." Remus sighed again.

"Thanks Sirius."

"No problem friend. Now get some sleep, you'll need it." Saying goodbye, the Marauders banked their fires and went to bed. They had big days ahead of them after all.

/*/

James snickered as he read Remus' letter. He knew the Plan(how could he not?), and he knew the stories(Sirius told them enough. Remus seemed to be his favorite person to talk about), but reading it from the Moony's pen? So much better. And besides, what Marauder wouldn't snicker at the image of all but three students fainting from illusions of inferni? Of course... inferni probably would have made him at least shriek in terror and then start casting fireballs at them, but still. He shook his head and tapped the paper, whispering 'I solemnly swear I'm up to no good' as he did so. Lines of L.O.S.S. Code swirled into being, the words of Moony's letter supplying the ink for the code. He read the report, and Sirius' message, quickly, then burned the paper with a quick burst of magic. It was a handy little trick the Brothers Black had come up with, treating the paper with a very special potion that reacted to very specific amounts of magical energy in a very specific form. Blizzard had the SD division working on a way to make it work for non-treated paper as well. James wondered if they'd ever share any of their less militaristic advances with the general public. He hoped they'd be able to, one day. Though, considering how Regulus felt about his work and how Sirius was about hording... he shut down that line of thought and banished the ashes to the trash can with a thought before turning to his work. "Man, I like what I do, but the paperwork to make it all above-board and legal and what-not is a pain in the tucus. In more ways than one," he muttered, dipping his quill into the ink well at his elbow. "At least I can use a pen on my own time," he groused, dipping the quill again. Honestly, why hadn't the muggleborn incited a revolt to have notebooks, pulp paper, ink pens, and pencils sold in stores and accepted in government? Oh right, Pureblood idiots who think they're all that. Ha! Fools. Once this war was over, a competent Minister would be put in place who would work with the Queen and actually make it so wizards and witches could be contributing members of society. And not just their own. In some ways, the muggleborn were right, the wizarding world was backwards. Yet in others, they were wrong. The wizarding world, though different and almost medieval, had developed past the nineteenth century. It was just so subtle it tricked you into not seeing it, then it bit you by having you offend those in power. Again, James shut down that line of thought and focused on his work, dull as it was. Still, he couldn't shake the image of Lily as Minister of Magic. She would be able to do what he had envisioned, and easily. As long as she had support of some of the old families.

/*/

While her fiance was agonizing over paperwork and mental fantasies about her being Minister for Magic, Lily was working hard at an 'appliance' store. She had never known there were so many charms that were needed for such simple things. "I need five more of those snake taps Evans! Do them up right now, ya hear? Madam LaMon wants only the very best!" the store owner, Mr. Shpeel, called back. Lily nodded, then called back,

"Understood sir! When you need them by?"

"Noon!"

"Right. I'll finish this shower head then get right on it sir!"

"Alright Miss. Evans!" Mr. Shpeel called before returning to the front and his customers. Lily sighed, fiddling with the charms on the golden shower head on the bench before her. This was not what she had in mind for her future. Still, it paid alright, for a young muggleborn witch who was pretty much fresh out of Hogwarts. And Mr. Shpeel was loud, a bit brash, but not unfair. So, she didn't complain as she gathered what 'left-over' money she had for the future. Even though she knew James came from a rich family, she wanted to be able to contribute to their finances. It was how she was raised. Still, she thought as she worked on the snake taps, this was hardly what she wanted to do with her life. She couldn't wait for the next stage to begin. And she knew it was coming, and coming soon. As soon as she and James got married, her life would change. Forever.

/?/

Up Next: Stealth and BOOM!

Yes, I did use 'We are the Chapions' as the Marauder Theme. Fitting though, don't you think?

Ah~! Crazy professor Moony! I had fun with that. Any ideas for 'practical demonstrations' are appreciated!

A Recipe for Moony's Chocolate Delight!

Two big spoons of powered coffee creamer, a big spoon of powered malted milk, a dash of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, approximately two cubes of sugar(we used a small spoon. Sizes vary), two medium spoons of powered Godiva hot chocolate mix, three fourths a cup(coffee mug) of hot water, mix gently then add a very generous dollop of sweetened condensed milk, and fill the rest of the cup full of warm milk. Stir well and enjoy the perfect cup of chocolatey goodness!

[My mom made this and it made me grin wider than ever and extremely giggly. Trust me. Best. Coco. EVER!]