A/N: Thanks as usual to the reviewers: 'katmom', 'magitech', 'MattKennedy', 'davycrockett100' and 'Kairan1979', 'sandipi' and 'Fallow53'. But special gratitude is reserved for 'NotAMugwump'. The previous iteration of 'Googly, Reverse Sweep...' was entirely poor, and 'NotAMugwump' put that across straightaway. The word used was buzz-kill, which might have been a substitute for...er...bovine dung. Thanks a lot, NotAMugwump. This includes the Epilogue.
31st December, 1979, Hogwarts
It was the end of yet another year for Dumbledore, the man sitting in a tower at Hogwarts. At eighty six, he had truly seen far too many.
It was, quite literally, in terms of the war, the best of times and the worst of times. It was the year of wisdom on the part of those he least expected it from and was the year when his foolishness had been rubbed into his face. It truly had been the year of darkness, followed by the season of Light. Just at the onset of the winter, in a time of despair, there was a spring of hope. Where once it seemed there would be nothing left to fight for, and then there was too much to lose all of a sudden. It was a time for heroes, and it was the time of betrayal. Where once the actions taken, he believed would have sent him to Hell, he now knew the lives saved meant he could argue for a place in Avalon when his time came (not that he had agreed initially or had taken up that course of action himself, or that his first reaction would have taken him to the hallowed heaven).
In short, for Dumbledore, it was like any other year he had had since the turn of the century.
It would be debatable whether Dumbledore thought in such Dickensian ways, but the truth was, that, like most other people, the year's end was a time of rumination and meditation and deep thought, as one sank deeper into the bottle.
At the moment, however, one thought was worrying him the most. It was the thought of betrayal. Peter Pettigrew, the one person who seemed afraid of everything, had done what, as he now realised, pitifully terrible people do. He had turned traitor.
He had seen how his friends had befriended him, kept him close, had helped him through the years and had protected him from others. The Marauders, as the four called themselves, weren't saints, but they took care of their own, as Peter had been taken care of. But he had spat on that...just as Gellert had spat on their friendship and trodden the path of Darkness. He saw so many similarities that it scared the unflappable Albus Dumbledore.
And the fear, an offshoot of his instincts, made him nervous.
Peter had taken vowed to protect the secret with his life, magic and his pledge when he had been assigned the secret-keeper. At the time, he had been pleased with how things were panning out. A traitor too was a human, and somewhere something became too much for even a traitor to betray. At the time he had believed that Peter had chosen his friends over his master. It had warmed his heart.
But now it didn't sit well with him. The whole crux of the matter was the word 'pledge'. He remembered something he knew already, but hadn't struck him then. Each Death Eater pledged his life and magic to the service of the Dark Lord. So Peter had already pledge everything into Voldemort's service. What worth was his Vow to James then? And then there was the fact that it was a Vow, not an Unbreakable Vow, and certainly not a magical Oath.
This meant that Peter could betray James with impunity and face no consequences whatsoever. He was free to do what he pleased in that aspect. This meant that the Potters were really unguarded. He had to change things, and immediately!
Another aspect of the whole matter was the fact that he hated the house and it had long held terrible memories for him. It had been his childhood home. It was where they lived before his father was arrested for avenging Arianna. It was where his sister had to be kept in something close to magical mental trauma ward captivity without help from institutions like St. Mungo's because they had no money to pay them. It was where his mother had died. It was where he had felt locked up and where he, Gellert had come. It was where he had taken steps down the path to becoming a Dark Lord himself. It was where Arianna was killed in a fight that she wasn't even a part of.
As if just thinking of the matter was a trigger, the alarms that were tied to the wards he had helped set up there blared. Dumbledore swore roundly and grabbed his wand. His worst fears weren't even given time to solidify before they came to life. This was horrible! He couldn't lose people now, not when they were so close to ending the war! Curse that blasted rat! He had betrayed them after all!
With spryness belying his age, Dumbledore grabbed his wand and called out to his companion. The phoenix, knowing the distress his human felt, latched on to Dumbledore's arm and flashed away into battle. The house at Godric's Hollow would see no death of any innocents that night! It was time that he, Albus Dumbledore, confront this blot on magical society, Lord Voldemort, and end things for once and for all! This would be a fight to the death!
Snape blasted open the door of the house and strode in, leading the charge, with Peter following in his wake. There was no sign of any person in the rooms downstairs, and it was dark. With a flick of his wand, he lit the lights within the room and looked around. And there was Potter bold as brass standing behind him, quivering with fright.
"Not so bold now, are we, Potter?" Snape sneered. "You took Lily from me. Now when I kill you tonight, I will have her..." he declared triumphantly.
Peter was on the other hand, stuck and frozen, quite literally. He was stuck in a tile of glue. He recognised what this was. It was what the muggles called rat traps. He stood quivering in fear as a snarling James advanced onto him, brandishing his wand.
"I am sorry!" the rat squeaked frantically. "I am sorry, James! He was too powerful! We couldn't have won! Please Prongs, it's me, Wormtail! Please don't kill me!"
James' voice came out as a sneer. "Not so bold now, are you? You so boldly made a Vow to protect the secret. Now when I kill you tonight, I will have your head on a pike..."
Snape raised his wand, wanting to do nothing but to cause pain to Potter. Peter saw the hatred etched on James' face and knew what was coming. The Cruciatus struck true. Snape saw Potter writhing in pain. Peter whimpered as James held him under the Cruciatus Curse.
Dumbledore flashed just outside the gates of that house of horrors. He saw the liquid coal of Voldemort's robes billowing as the fiend walked into the house as if he owned it. Once he would have called out to Voldemort and sought a fair battle. Not today, he wouldn't. He needed everything in the arsenal of a fighter and surprise was a key element.
He made to run in after Voldemort when a gentle hand on his arm stopped him. He couldn't see anyone, but it was a woman's hand, he knew. Knowing this to be a trick, he grabbed the hand and was surprised. The pulse was erratic, if one were to consider and compare it to a normal woman's pulse. It was almost as if it was the pulse of a pregnant...
"Calm down, Professor," spoke the voice of a disillusioned Lily Potter. There was a definite note of mirth and excitement in her voice.
"Lily?" he called weakly.
"Yes. Please, come along."
Dumbledore, now thoroughly discombobulated by everything that was going on, allowed himself to be led onto the small lawn. He cast a sensory charm to get his bearings. It was Lily who was leading him alright. She led him to a set of seats where the members of the Coven, Bartemius Crouch, several Aurors, Abe, Alastor, Dorea, Augusta and Charlus were sitting. Missing from their numbers were the Prewett twins, Frank, Eric, James, Remus and Sirius.
"What is going on?" he asked.
"Lily just smiled at him and pointed, instead of answering, to a set of multiple mirrors. The images he saw surprised him. Well, that was an understatement, and a massive one at that.
With the first bout of the Cruciatus done, Snape wanted to gloat. He wanted to tell Potter what he would do to his body, how he would desecrate it. But that would mean taking time out of the torture he had reserved for the man. It would mean giving him a breather. So he brought out the curses, the esoteric ones he had studied for this very reason. He had hoped to one day use them on Potter.
Peter wailed, cried and whimpered as James cast the entrails-expelling curse, blood boiling curse, and so many others on him. No promises by the Dark Lord were protecting him from this onslaught. He no longer had a voice left to protest and it had only been two minutes, two agony-filled minutes during which his former friend had brutally sent him to his death.
It was at this point that Voldemort entered the room, after checking around and taking his time and rehearsing his evil villain speech. That was important. What was the point otherwise? He walked in on the unlikely image (in his service that is, and without his orders) of Snape torturing Pettigrew. What was interesting was that Pettigrew was standing in what seemed to be a tile of glue. 'In' was probably right, because his feet had sunk right in.
The little spy was no longer even shouting for help and seemed resigned to death. Snape, though, looked gleeful. Well, Pettigrew was no use anymore. Everyone would soon know who the traitor was, and they would have already lost their prophesised saviours by then. His tolerance ended when Snape started gloating. Voldemort saw red. Snape was a minion, damn it! It was above his pay scale! Only the chief villains were allowed to gloat!
"Thus end the high and mighty Potter, betrayed by his friend, and killed at the hands of the rightful victor, as even you must have known all along Potter..." he gloated. "To the victor go the spoils, Potter. Your filthy child will join you soon!" the man jeered. "And then vengeance, and Lily, will both be mine!" Then before he could be stopped, he had cast the killing curse at Potter, killing Peter Pettigrew instantly...
"Wow," muttered Gideon. "Snivellus..."
"...is really full of himself."
"...that we hadn't predicted!"
"As if he could have ever got one over any of us," scoffed 'Eric'.
"Oh look!" squealed Sirius giddily. "That's Mouldy-shorts!"
"He has come!" announced Remus, equally happily.
"Come on boys," Frank chastised, "let's not waste time. We have got to play with our prey, after all..."
James was not in as mirthful a mood though. "Snivellus has something on his person. He said the Prongslet would be killed without killing Lils. There's a potion or something. We've got to be careful."
"Of course we shall be," the others echoed equally harshly, in unison. "Let's get to it, team. We have to put this beast down."
As the curse flew at the hapless, battered Pettigrew, Voldemort realised what had happened. A Confundus Curse... they had got his servants with Confundus Curses that made at least Severus think that Pettigrew was Potter. And there was a trap to keep Pettigrew in place. So this was, obviously a trap for them all.
It was all that Voldemort had time to process as something large, red and hard flew at him and smacked him in the face, followed by the sounds of all the doors and windows being shut and bolted. Shaking with rage, the Dark Lord caught the thing, which he recognised as a quaffle, that infernal thing they used in that accursed sport, Quidditch, which was what he would thoroughly destroy once he became the supreme ruler.
As soon as he caught the quaffle, it transformed into a letter and a pair of magic-repressing handcuffs, the latter snapping around his wrists. "WHAT CHILDISHNESS IS THIS?" he hissed. He really shouldn't have made hissing second nature. It completely marred the effect when he wanted to roar out in anger and found that he no longer could.
"Oh shut up you twit," called a voice from the door to his right. Seven figures clad in black Quidditch regalia, complete with the protective gear emerged from it, and one of them cast a petrifaction curse at Severus, who was breathing heavily in imagined triumph. "Read the letter."
Almost against his will, his eyes were drawn to the letter.
We knew you were too greedy and would want the 'threat' out of the way as soon as possible. We planted a false prophecy in Snape's head and knew about Pettigrew's true loyalties. The oath really was overkill.
Now you are up against a bunch of Quidditch fans, four of whom could have gone on to play professionally – one as a chaser, and the other three as a beaters.
You are going to die. Really, you are. You can't confide it in some diary, you can't wear a ring or necklace for protection, Rowena's diadem won't give you any wisdom and you can't drink some potion to save you from Helga's cup. Oh, and you can't use the trophy as your shield either.
We would say it was good to know you, but that would be a lie.
"Popcorn, Professor?" offered Alice, holding the paper pyramid-with-the-vertex-cut of popcorn out to the Headmaster.
For once in his life, Dumbledore was not unhappy to be either shocked, surprised, or both. As he watched the three depraved people being outwitted into submission by a series of pranks, and particularly, saw and heard what the Potions Master spoke before killing Peter Pettigrew under the thrall of the Confundus Hex, he no longer had the worry that he was in some way being duped. Knowing the people involved as he did through the numerous detentions they had served with (even) him over the years, he was sure of their identities.
The Marauders, and anyone they found so companionable, would turn even the killing of the most terrible Dark Lord of their times into a joke of some sort. They could never be serious about anything, even with Sirius amongst them. That thought made the Headmaster of Hogwarts groan involuntarily as he cracked the tired pun-joke. Holy Merlin! Now he had been somehow pulled into that sort of mess.
Augusta looked at the man sympathetically. "Did you just crack a Sirius-serious pun in your head?"
Dumbledore could only nod slightly morosely, as he accepted the muggle paper-cone full of popcorn of every imaginable, yet nice and edible flavour from the young Lady Longbottom.
"You get accustomed to that after a while. We had to hear that thrice a minute when these kids told us about their plan," Augusta consoled. "It only stopped once Lily threatened to...what was it Dorea?'
"She threatened to take him to a vet and get him neutered."
Dumbledore just cracked a weak smile, as he grabbed a fistful and ate the crunchy snack. He hummed in approval. This was infinitely better than sherbet lemon. He was bored of that tartness.
"So, how long has this been going on?" he asked. "When did you suspect that they would attack?"
"When we made Peter the secret keeper of course," answered Dorea. "Tom was never the most patient of people and his greed was legendary. He could have never waited for the opportunity, and might even have tried to coax away another piece of his soul tonight."
"Oh," was all Dumbledore could say in reply. They really had planned for all eventualities.
Fear was the dominant feeling gripping the Dark Lord. "What have you done?" he hissed.
"We have killed large part of you," a voice he knew belonged to a Death Eater. "Remember the elf, Kreacher? You always did underestimate the elves, didn't you? Well, he brought it all to me, his master." The man removed his helmet for a moment.
"Regulus Black, the traitor," surmised Voldemort as he seethed. "You do know that the dark mark bound you to me, don't you? As soon as I am done with these fools, I will kill you as you watch your treachery become worthless."
"Oh you stupid man!" mocked Regulus as he rolled his sleeve upwards. The Dark Mark had been replaced by the crest of the House of Potter. "I am no Death Eater. Our friends in the Department of Mysteries needed just my memories and ten days to free me from you. Once I was 'killed', or rather, declared dead to the family magic, I ceased to be Regulus Black. All my oaths drew upon that, you know. I have been working within your numbers to cut you lot down for all the time since being marked. That was deemed as sufficient penance by the Lord Potter. After that, I swore the same pledge I swore to you, to my new Uncle. Voila! I am an unmarked Death Eater!"
"Enough explanations, Cousin Eric," James broke in. "Understand, Riddle, that your Horcruxes are now all gone. We would probably offer you a chance for remorse, but that wouldn't be fun. Goodbye!" He fished out a shrunken crate from his pocket, prompting all the others to do the same. When they were restored to their correct dimensions, a moment later, Voldemort had a hard time controlling his cringe.
"Any last words, Mouldy-shorts?" asked Lord Black, with a truly manic grin across his features. "Lucius, Bella, Rudolphus and Rabastan had a lot to say before they died."
"Killing your own family, Black?" the Dark Lord sneered. Even in the throes of certain defeat and destruction he wouldn't let go of his 'style'.
"What would you know? Your mummy took a piece of your daddy, couldn't stomach having your ugly mug for a child and snuffed it in terror," Sirius responded blithely.
"Do you dishonour all whom you kill?"
"...is a special treatment"
"...that is reserved for you."
"You know," remarked Remus, "you could try splitting up two word curses. You know, Fabian could say Avada, Gideon could say Kedavra."
"Doesn't work," replied one of the twins dejectedly.
"We tried," his twin supplied.
"Could we just finish this up already?" Frank asked in slightly exasperated irritation. "I would like Lily to have a crack at Snivellus. The longer we spend here, the longer Snape has to have a coronary."
"Right," the twins and the three true Marauders agreed sheepishly. With the sort of conversation they were having, nobody would have connected this situation to that of taking care of a Dark Lord. With a flick of Frank's wand, the crates were open. With another, the bludgers were released.
"Bye, bye Voldy!" Remus cried in a little boy voice as he swung the bat in his hand with a true aim. "Sad Birthday! Have a happy Death-day!" The morbid wishes were echoed by the others. Ten bludgers, all made of solid iron, and weighing a hundred and fifty pounds each, and seven bat-happy wizards were just as effective against Dark Lords as a duel. Of course, since Lily was to have a crack at Snape, he was kept unharmed...relatively.
The people watching the Dark Lord being bludgeoned to death were now feeling exasperated. At least a little sense of decorum could have been observed. Now they were just hitting the bludgers around with wild abandon like overgrown children.
"I think I am going to retire before the children come to Hogwarts," Dumbledore announced wearily. "I still had some colour to my hair, you know, when this lot came to Hogwarts."
"A white-haired Minerva will look so odd," Lily retorted. She eyed the headmaster curiously. "You are taking this too calmly..."
"I had come here to finish Tom off before he could touch any of you," Dumbledore replied. "I have had enough trouble to last a lifetime. This had to end today, for once and for all." Then he allowed his disappointment to show. "They are having a bit too much fun."
"They are," agreed Dorea. She cast the sonorous charm on her throat. "That's quite enough boys!"
On the screens they could see the petulance that this pronouncement garnered in response.
The magical world woke up to the Daily Prophet awash with the photographs of the 'Quidditch Team' standing triumphantly over the broken body of Lord Voldemort, prompting celebrations across the length and breadth of the country. Dedalus Diggle was almost arrested for flouting the Statute of Secrecy.
There were the doubters, till the Ministry and the DMLE released transcripts and memories of the scenes from the monitoring charms that had been set-up that night. Of course, they were abridged to edit out the mention of the Horcruxes, and also of the freedom of Regulus Black from servitude. Nobody needed real Death Eaters getting patrons. The orders for Aurors to persecute and prosecute them were passed rather quickly.
In the process, the Beaters of Voldemort were all awarded Orders of Merlin, First Class, and so were the others who had helped orchestrate the whole matter. For Remus, that was a welcome change in his status.
Severus Snape was kissed by a dementor, but was pushed into the containment field by Lily Potter. The heinous man became the lightning rod for public anger against the Death Eaters. It had been a bit of a problem containing public sentiment from turning it into a mob mentality. The punishment that was carried out just after Snape uttered his famous last words, "Lily...look at me..." mollified the people somewhat. The redhead had of course done no such thing and had retorted with an impassioned, "Fuck off!" before pushing the man through.
The really scary reaction, though, was a Molly Weasley-howler to her brothers which arrived right in the middle of a press conference on the first day of the New Year. WWN had sent a reporter there. Naturally, the whole country knew what Molly Weasley, a hormonal, pregnant Molly Weasley at that, thought of her brothers' shenanigans.
"YOU STUPID IDIOTS!" her voice sounded out, shorting several wireless sets. "WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEHAVING LIKE JUVENILE PRANKSTERS?
"MUM AND DAD WERE SCARED OUT OF THEIR WITS! WERE YOU TRYING TO GET KILLED? I DON'T SUPPOSE YOU STOPPED TO THINK WHAT ARTHUR AND I WOULD HAVE GONE THROUGH, OR MUM AND DAD IF YOU HAD GONE AND GOTTEN YOURSELF HURT! WE GOT A LETTER FROM DUMBLEDORE! OUR PARENTS DIDN'T RAISE YOU TO BEHAVE LIKE HELLIONS! WAIT TILL YOU COME OVER FOR DINNER! YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD FOR ANY OF US TO PUT OVER OUR KNEE!"
The action of two grown wizards, conquerors of Voldemort, gulping in fear, was captured in a photograph that displayed who exactly the greater threat and the scarier person was. Of course, the howler's effect was marred by an alternating babyish giggle in the background. Clearly, a set of nearly two year-old-twins had found their heroes and had attempted to say so.
It was indeed, the perfect New Year's gift for the magical world.
Eleven years and nine months later:
Professor Lily Potter was on the King's Cross station. For that time, till 11 am, she wasn't a Professor. She was there as the mother of one Harry Potter. At her side, with her and as part of the farewell party were Eleanor Potter, eight, James Potter, and Charlus and Dorea Potter. She was savouring the feeling of family. She had relished the feeling of home over the past months, away from the school where she had taken up the vacant position of the Alternate Magical Usages and Practices, a new course which dealt with using magic in new and inventive ways. This was in conjunction with her position as a scout for the Department of Mysteries where she had performed groundbreaking research and earned Masteries in Charms and Potions en route.
Her husband too had joined the department as a sign of truce between the two Moody brothers, wherein they could both claim him as a part of a special department specialising in 'field studies' which was to say he helped counter Dark Lords before they became a problem. The Beaters were part of this team, simply to ensure that what worked was not disturbed. Of course, this meant that there were several instances when the end results were slightly disturbing. It had initially become a headache till the department realised that the team did jobs in a way that ensured that there was no need for obliviations to be performed on muggles.
The boy in question was a mixture of his parents. He was a prankster of the highest order, but had learnt moderation at his mother's knee. With Neville Longbottom, Draco Black-Lupin (the son of Narcissa and the adopted son of Remus Lupin; they were veering towards marriage, after Narcissa had to fend off her niece's excessive attention directed towards Remus. It had all been a complete surprise) and Ronald Weasley, under the tutelage of the Weasley twins, Hogwarts was already gearing up for the return of the Marauders.
"You will write won't you?" Eleanor asked.
"I will try, Ellie. Otherwise I will try sending howlers. Mum can't send me any," he pointed out.
"And here I was thinking that I might miss you. Thank you for disabusing me of the notion."
"I am very glad to be of service. And disabusing? Writing to that pen-pal of yours, have you?" Charlus, Dorea and Augusta had lobbied extensively for muggleborn children to be told about their skills and powers as soon as the first bout of magic was registered. To bridge the gap between the magically raised children and the muggleborn, the pen-pal system had been constituted. Eleanor was friends with a girl four years her senior, and having a better grasp of the English language than the average tween.
"May I remind you that she is your pen-pal as well? And if you pull a prank on Hermione I will set Auntie Althea on you."
Althea Brigham-Potter, the wife of Eric was the resident disciplinarian. She was the one who kept the kids in line, much in keeping with her maternal nature, which was only a part of her day. Her other occupation was running the company Eric (Regulus) had started. The Death Eater was what most would call a weirdo. He ran a type of business born from his care of Kreacher – a house-elf employment exchange – as a cover for his work with the Beaters.
Their marriage was not even a probability when it all started. Eric, then Regulus Black, a Death Eater, had a lot of ground to cover in the eyes of others who were in the know. Althea, his staunchest critic became the person he would try to get on the good side of. Seven years of becoming something that she wouldn't object to turned into seven years of becoming someone worthy of her love. They were expecting the third Potter child after Eleanor.
"Hey! There's no need for threats, you know!"
"We will see..." she said in a very fair imitation of their mother's narrowed eyes as they moved off towards where Neville and Garfield, the second Longbottom son, were waiting with their mother, Senior Auror Alice Longbottom, and godmother Lily Potter for the final two members of their little group. It was a good thing that the ladies had caught up with the boys before they boarded the train.
"Harry, Neville, have you been given any type of contraband, comprising of a piece of parchment and a cloak of invisibility by James?"
Without a delay, the mothers received an answer – a vehement 'no'. Having lived for so long with the boys and their fathers, the women knew better than to take the answer at face value.
"Have you found such contraband lying around innocuously?"
"If I check either your person or your trunks, will I find those items?"
"If I were to now be at the owlery, would I find Hedwig arriving in a few hours time with those items?"
"Would I find Hedwig already at Hogwarts with those items?"
"Hey look! That's Justin, Sally and Hermione, the three who we have been writing to!" pointed out the interrogator's son as the two rushed off towards three other children their age.
"JAMES CHARLUS POTTER!"