Title: The Last Stand
Summary: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and Lily Potter had a plan. A very critical plan. A plan that took three years of planning to perfect. A plan involving extreme sacrifice. A plan full of dangers. A plan that would change the way the war was fought. Forever…
Four there once were
One by one they fell
Four there are once again
The last chance for salvation
If they fall, so shall we all.
Moony. Wormtail. Padfoot. Prongs.
The last line of defense
"It is the choices we make who shape us for who we really are."
The Last Stand
Chapter One: Let it Begin
James Potter snuck onto the Hogwarts grounds, via invisibility cloak. This was it. He tiptoed across the dark grounds. It was almost midnight, and as black as pitch. It seemed fitting that it was a starless night, the moon also extinguished, in the earliest phases of a new moon. Years ago, about 17 in fact, they had spent nights pouring over moon charts, planning around the full moons, playing them, using them to their advantage. It was silent as well, and that James appreciated with the same intensity he felt for the darkness. Before, and probably now as well, darkness and silence meant fear, pain and suffering were well on their way, but tonight, nothing would go wrong. Nothing would fall apart, leaving them vulnerable. But the silence. It wasn't unnatural. Some how it just fit, it slid into place with everything else. There were no noises inside the castle, but he hadn't expected any.
He looked the same. Different, yes, but the same. His skinned was tanned, but his eyes, hair, and glasses were all the same. He was glad to be free at long last. For too long he had hidden behind the body of another, too long had he had to spell his hair blond and his eyes green, he had even had to shrink a few inches, and change the shape of his face! It was nice to be himself, in his own body again. As he neared the castle he felt the unmistakable twinge of his magic. He had marked two things with it, and they were both here. One, he needed to reclaim as soon as possible. The other had become a target. He knew the others would also recognize the power that was so clearly his. He longed for the feel of its fizzing, yet clear strength to fill his veins again. But even more so, he longed for them.
James couldn't wait to see them again. Would they be different? He knew some of them would have needed a disguise, the same as him, even if it wasn't a total change like his. A total change was hard to shoulder. Especially when you had to through the rest of your life out the window along with it. Including the overwhelming power he had once hated, even feared. Now he just felt empty without it.
Somehow it always came down to that, didn't it? Now he just hated what that represented. That he needed the power to be himself. It was a scary thought. Especially since he hadn't been himself for fifteen years. Ever since he put aside everything, to save everything. Strange how that worked, but somehow it did. He didn't expect anyone outside their circle to understand the sacrifice they had all made. And sacrifice it was. But it was helping to secure a future with those cast aside. A future for their entire world. He had a lot resting on his shoulders.
He approached the castle cautiously. It was all over if someone discovered him. But why would they? He was invisible, and it was midnight! Everyone would be completely tired out from the feast earlier, and asleep.
James sighed. Then scolded himself silently. 'Quiet!' he thought desperately, 'last thing I need right now is to be heard!' But he wouldn't be, and on some subconscious level he knew that, which was what had allowed him to make any noise in the first place. There wasn't a soul who could catch him now, this was his element. Yet, before he knew it, he was at the foot of the steps to the door into the castle he had once called home. His feet rested comfortably on the healthy grass footing the entrance to the greatest school of magic in the world. This was familiar to him, unlike so much that had surrounded him for a decade and a half. He took a deep breath and kept going.
'Left, right, left, right. Yes, that's it.' He thought, understandably nervous. This was the first step to what they all wanted to see. The end of this war. He held out his left hand to open the large wooden doors and stared at the wedding band on his finger. It was gold, and surprisingly shiny. He had polished it regularly over the past fifteen years. He was terrified; no point in denying it, his hand was shaking furiously. And he had been an expert at controlling his emotions and nerves in the past twenty years, for many reasons. With a lot of willpower, he made his hand grasp the door handle, and pulled the door open very slowly. The wooden door swung open easily. He had always wondered why the doors that led directly to the next generation were wood, it seemed so, vulnerable. But now he took it to mean that they did not fear those who entered this place, seeking bloodshed, that they had no reason to, and never would. Something had changed in him in the last fifteen years. His outlook on the world.
James winced. Trust Filch not to oil the hinges every once and a while. Once every, say, fifteen years would be nice. He stepped over the threshold and continued on to their predetermined meeting place. It had been chosen even as the very begins of this plan had been born. There was no safer place than Hogwarts, and it would serve well. It always had. Add the fact that the man they would need to speak to most would be there, easily accessible, and it was the perfect location.
After countless near misses, without his full magic, he became perceptibly less graceful, James reached the designated place. It was tucked into a corner of Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry that few entered. Mainly because it was just so far away from everything. This suited their cause all too well. They had chosen it using the Marauders Map just after determining that Hogwarts would be the place. Soon after, Peter had gone in and planted the Marauders Map for Filch to find. They needed it to fall into Harry's hands, and so, what better place than Filch's office? Someone would be sure to swipe it, and from there, it would make its way into Harry's possession, and it would be right on time. But now, it wasn't quite midnight, so he had a moments rest before moving into place, but very soon, it would begin…
Sirius Black pounded across the grounds as a big black dog. The creature bore a striking resemblance to a Grim, and had been mistaken for such on many occasions. This, of course, only aided their cause, not hindered it. He was one of the only ones who could do this, because dogs were very common roaming the castle and its grounds. It wasn't long before he was at the door, huge black paws resting on it.
A blink of an eye and a full grown man stood in the dog's place. In some ways he no longer resembled the man he had once been, but a shell. Not an empty shell, mind, just, only a layer of who he had been. Never mind it being planned, Azkaban wasn't a pleasant experience no matter what caused you to be there. It had made him thin, and scared. Both physically and mentally. But slowly, the mental scars were beginning to fade, most likely from the knowledge that his suffrage would soon be appreciated. It was the physical scars that burdened him still. His hand rested on the handle, unknowingly in the exact place his best friend's had been minutes before. Now for the hard part.
Finding the spot would be no trouble for any of them, as they had spent seven years roaming the castle, and all surrounding land, and at night none the less. The one worry was people. It was essential that they stayed out of sight. Though, he doubted anyone would be even partially conscious after the feast. Even any resident pranksters wouldn't be up now. Besides, it was pure suicide if you didn't have an invisibility cloak. And the only student in the school he could think of who had one was Harry Potter, and he wasn't a trouble maker. That cloak that he had, the one he thought was his father's, James Potter's, was, in fact, not. James had his own invisibility cloak, they had given his spare to his son. James would need his own after all, there was no place left during this war that wasn't safer when you were hidden from the searching eyes of anyone, and everyone.
Sirius opened the door and looked back and forth before slipping inside. It was dark, naturally, but he could see well enough. After all, it did no good for them, as they were practically nocturnal, to not be able to see in the dark, so, naturally, they had all charmed their eyes to see just as well in the dark as the light, if not better. James didn't need his glasses at all, he just wore them for the sake of habit, a strange habit, but it really wasn't James without the round, black rimmed glasses. They had used that spell when they were barely half way into second year. It was Remus's careful research that had discovered it for them.
Come to think of it, there were many things Remus's research had made possible. Not even Dumbledore knew the extent of the things they were capable of, had been capable of even then. They were all animagus of course, except for Remus, for fear of what would happen when mixed with his lycanthropy. They had all learned to Apparate illegally in Third Year. They had a base at the bottom of the lake, and could all breath underwater. And this was just grazing the surface. Dimly, Sirius wondered if the Triwizard contestants had encountered their underwater refuge, but realized they would have spoken up about it if they had, and that they had placed various wards and concealment spells on it, just in case any ever did feel the need to inspect the floor of the lake.
He bounded quietly up the stairs, looking around as he went. It had been almost exactly fifteen years since he had really been here, and things had changed. Of course it had changed, he himself was living proof that everything, no matter how well preserved, must change to survive. For instance, he didn't remember ever seeing a painting of the four of them hanging in the castle. Sirius realized what he saw and whipped his head back around and stared at the painting for a minute. A last legacy of something broken. Or so they thought. He found himself wondering what they would be like. After all, the castle showed that everything changed in fifteen years.
Sirius had one problem. He didn't have an invisibility cloak, or even know an invisibility spell. They were tricky to work properly and only Lily and James had really mastered them, Lily being the resident expert. They had all promised to go into this invisible, and only appear at midnight. Sirius glanced at his watch, a damn useful thing if he did say so himself, despite the fact that it was a muggle device, and he had had to magic it so that it wouldn't stop dead once within a mile of Hogwarts. Only five minutes left now. It seemed like an eternity after fifteen years apart.
One thing he could do, to make himself seem invisible, was use a camouflage spell. He knew the others would use all sorts of things, things he wasn't capable of, so to speak. James, for instance, would use his beloved cloak. Lily would use some sort of difficult invisibility charm, charms being her specialty. Remus would use his temporary invisibility spell, a shoddy thing that wore off after barely ten minutes, but it did its purpose well enough. Peter though, he wasn't sure what Peter would utilize. Probably something he would have been forced to pick up after 15 years of reluctant service to the Dark Lord.
He cast the spell quickly and stepped around the corner. He blended perfectly, just like always, the spell had yet to fail him. Three minutes to go. Inexplicably, he began to shake. Something truly good was going to happen soon. All of them would be reunited. At last. It had been much to long for his liking, and he would have preferred they had never been split. But, he knew, that if they hadn't put this plan in action, at least one of them would be dead by now, just to prove that even the best will break. It was getting closer and closer by the second, and soon it would begin again.
Lily Potter wasn't sure how she felt about this. She was scared, of course. But also filled with excitement and joy that was immeasurable. She would be seeing her friends again. Maybe even her son. But most of all, she would be seeing James. She had sacrificed it all for this plan, and if it failed now, she would be left with nothing, her life would be as empty as it had been for fifteen long years. But soon she would have everything again. If they didn't fail, if they hadn't failed already. But she couldn't allow herself to think such things. Soon, she would see everything that really mattered anymore. Unknown to her though, she had trekked through a muddy part of the grass…
It was thrilling. Absolutely thrilling. She had waited so long. Too long almost. There had been times when she had wanted to lose her disguise, for they had had to hide, and search him out. Only the memory of what had happened, and was happening, kept her going. That, that and the plan. The plan was to save them all. Everyone. And now they had completed the hardest part of the plan, at least so far. They had been separated for fifteen years, and the next couple minutes would show if it had all been worth it or not. Lily hadn't allowed herself to have doubts, because that would have lead to her not being able to stand the suspense and throwing the plan away. And she couldn't do that. So she had remained oblivious for the past decade and a half, waiting, biding her time, until the moment they had decided, together, as a whole, seventeen years ago.
Lily had used an invisibility spell to sneak onto the Hogwarts grounds. She knew the others would have some elaborate way in, but that was of no concern to her. They were the Marauders, none other, no one knew everything about them, or even a lot, herself being the one exception to the latter. Often she wondered how they did it. She, of course, was the only one of them who would use an invisibility spell though, the others had had varying levels of failure with it. The next best at it being James, but even he, for all his amazing powers, had some difficulties with the spell. Quite often she wondered why, but didn't let it bother her, he didn't have any real need for it, like she did, and therefore he wouldn't be pressed to learn it, like she had.
But now was not this time to be concerned with that. It was time to put the next phase of the plan into action. Sometimes it was hard to remember everything. Fifteen years had passed since she had lifted a wand, and old memories don't die as hard as they say. She could remember them of course, nothing could ever make her forget them. It would tear her apart if she couldn't recognize them. They would have changed of course, she herself was proof of that. Some days she didn't recognize herself when she looked in a mirror, but how could she? She had looked completely different. Besides, she knew them better than she knew herself, despite her limited knowledge about them, and what they could do.
Lily was comforted, if only slightly, by being back in her own body. She had changed her entire body shape, made her eyes blue and her hair black with a long lasting spell fifteen years ago. And today, she had finally been able to cancel it. It had been the first thing she had done, as soon as she had apparated to just outside Hogwarts, in Hogsmeade. Just to reassure herself, she ran one hand through her red curls and smiled. She was herself again.
She opened the door with hesitation, almost afraid to see what might be on the other side. Lily took a deep breath, and stepped inside. There was nothing to startle her, nothing unfamiliar within the comforting presence of the walls. Slowly, she made her way to the meeting place, preparing herself for anything. Not knowing that she left a trail of muddy footsteps…
She knew they all would have changed, but didn't want to accept it. This was hard enough. Someone on the outside could never understand their plan. They had all made huge sacrifices, but only because they knew it would all be worth it in the end. There would be doubt, but they could handle that. The only problem was she hadn't had any contact from the magical world in fifteen years, and had no idea what was going on…
Remus Lupin, who, unlike his friends, was not an animagus, did not have an invisibility cloak, but he did have the passage ways they had discovered/created. Right now he was sneaking through one such tunnel, ready for tomorrow to begin. It was tomorrow in many ways. He could stop pretending his best friends were dead or had gone over to the other side. He could stop lying to himself, and the rest of the world. It had been hard. There had been days when he just wanted to shout out that Voldemort could never have killed Lily and James Potter, that Sirius Black would never betray his friends, no more than Peter would. He wanted to scream for all the world to hear that it wasn't over.
It had been fifteen years. That was too long. No matter what anyone said, that was too long. But he was almost there. He was running through one of the many tunnels they had used almost constantly instead of the corridors. But the happy times in which they had roamed the castle were long over, replaced by loneliness and fear, the same emotions that struck the rest of the wizarding world since the announcement of Voldemort's return. True, he hadn't struck hard yet, but muggles and wizards alike were being picked off in dark alleys. People were afraid to leave the safety of their homes after nightfall, and didn't know who was a Death Eater and who wasn't. Luckily, Azkaban still stood, but for how much longer… No one knew.
Fear was apart of life now, for all of them. Yes, they were momentarily safe, but how long would it last? He couldn't pretend much longer. 'Through the tunnel, up the stairs, and to the right. Up more stairs, and voila!' Remus ran through the castle and into the beginning again. It was like going home. To a home he hadn't had for fifteen years. He had had to lie low, not draw attention to himself. All part of the plan.
He had had to pretend so much it was hard to remember what the truth was. All he knew was that they were all living a lie. And tonight, tonight they would finally be free of that lie, the lie that had had its hold on them for fifteen long years. A lie that had been in total and utter control of them since its birth seventeen years ago. They had done this for the good of the world, after all, who knew when Voldemort would come up with an Apocalypse plan. It wasn't a choice they had had, if they had stayed and waited it out, at least one of them, if not more, would be dead. Just to prove that they weren't invincible. This thought raced through his mind, what he didn't know was that one of his fellows had thought the exact same thing, at almost the same time.
Remus had reached the end of the tunnel without realizing it. He stepped cautiously through the trick wall and looked around. He didn't have far to go from here, now if he could just make it without making too much noise.
So much for that plan. He had run straight into a suit of armor in his haste. It probably hadn't helped that he hadn't been looking where he was going. Remus started jogging, the sooner he got out of sight of the armor, the better, Filch and his damn cat were still hanging around. He would rather not be caught unawares by that cat again. She was unnatural, at times he felt she could see right through him. She hadn't been around in their days, she must have adopted Filch sometime later.
Then he was confronted by another dilemma. How to be invisible, he wasn't any good at the invisibility spells, not like Lily anyway. He could manage for a short while, but after that, it just wasn't worth the effort. He did know a short term invisibility spell, but it wasn't good for over ten minutes. But luckily, he only needed three…
Peter was nervous. Frightened even. If Voldemort discovered what had been going on, he was a very dead rat. And a rat was what he was right then. He had changed into his animagus form as to sneak into the castle. He wasn't very good with invisibility charms. Him and Sirius had had the most trouble with them, for many reasons. He would never have managed to keep one together for longer than two minutes, and that would do him no good. He would need to work on those some time in the future, if not for himself, but for the benefit of others.
But back to the fear. Voldemort couldn't find out until he, Peter, had been reunited with his friends. But soon, very soon, he would get to renounce the Dark Lord forever. He would be able to stand up and say 'look at me, I'm a free man.' He would be able to actively aid his side, with out fear of wrecking the plan. Sometimes he wished the plan had never been put into action. Working for Voldemort was terrifying. You never knew when he would turn around and curse you.
But unlike many witches and wizards, Peter Pettigrew had never been afraid to say Voldemort's name, none of them had. None of them were, he corrected himself. Unwillingly, he himself had begun to believe the lies they all had told. How could he not, he had had them forced on him every day for the last fifteen years. After that amount of time, you began to believe even the most arcane of theories. He had brought himself to believe that the end could be any day now, that Voldemort could launch some sort of attack, so large that he would have to aid the other Death Eaters, and kill innocents. Something he had managed to avoid since the plan had been put into action, for fear of what the consequences could be once he freed himself of such dangers. But despite the fact that he had been working with the most feared creature in all of time, he felt the most sorry for Lily and James. They had had to go into hiding, change the way they looked, and the way they lived everyday.
At least he knew. At least he would know if something unexpected had happened, something they hadn't thought of or come across after over three years of careful consideration. They had no idea what was happening in the wizarding world, and with Voldemort. They had no way of knowing if the plan was succeeding, or even if everyone was still alive.
He knew it must be a horrible feeling. Even though he had had to be worried about being cursed everyday for the past fifteen years, he hadn't had to forget that his friends could be dead or dying, or leave behind a son. He couldn't imagine how traumatizing that would be. They had left their son, making him believe that they were dead, and that he would have to vanquish the Dark Lord. It must have been horrible. They had even been forced to leave him with Lily's sister and her husband, who, they knew, without a doubt, would terrorize the poor child.
Actually, he didn't know what was going to be done about Harry. He really wasn't anyone special. Lily and James had made him what he was. They had temporarily imprinted some of their magic, mostly James's, on him so he would survive the plan.
As soon as the fifteen year enchantment was broken, the magic would be removed from him, and returned to its rightful owners, and James would get his wand back. See, the brother wand to Voldemort's was actually James's, just another something bestowed to Harry to keep him alive, James had marked it, and left it at Ollivander's, where it would lie waiting, collecting dust, until Harry came along. Once they were back, he would just be a bargaining tool for Voldemort.
But Peter knew, even though Lily and James loved their son, they wouldn't sacrifice Voldemort's defeat for his life. They would let him die before giving in. They would do everything in their power to save him, except surrender. They would never surrender, no matter who was at risk. It was the truth. The horrible truth, but the truth none the less.
Peter had someway made his way around the castle and almost to the meeting place. Now he needed to hide. He changed back to his human self and thought. He didn't know any invisibility spells, or camouflaging spells, or an invisibility claock. He was wearing a Death Eater's robe, because that was all that he had. Peter wasn't sure what he was going to do, but he had forgotten about the short lived invisibility enchantment on all the cloaks. He activated it, and waited.
The clock struck midnight.
Twelve. Eleven. Ten.
Eight. Seven. Six.
They were ready.
Four. Three. Two.
This was it.
Five people threw off whatever was concealing them, whether it be spell or cloak, at the exact same time. The final stroke of midnight. And they were all thinking the same thing.
Let it begin…
To Be Continued…
Four friends who had everything
And then they were left with nothing
Four brothers who were inseparable
And then they were miles apart
One bond that was unbreakable
And then they were broken.