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 Four: Power Surge
He watched Albus Dumbledore gravely for a moment before a crooked smile took the place of the thin line his mouth had become. It was in this instant that Dumbledore knew for sure that these people were who they appeared to be. The lips parted and Albus waited for the first words this man had spoken to a fellow magic user, other than his Marauders, in fifteen years.
"Hello Albus." The voice was ironic and cool, as though he was merely greeting a colleague he saw everyday of his life, not a friend he hadn't seen in a decade and a half. Albus had to keep from grinning; this was the boy who had nearly destroyed his castle everyday for seven years of his life. He much preferred this James to the one who was hell bent on destroying Voldemort, and taking the world with him, if need be.
When pain flickered in the man's eyes, he had to stop to wonder about its cause. There was very little that could hurt James Potter, so whatever it was, it must be practically catastrophic. It was only when he heard the footsteps on his staircase that he realized several, rather important things. These revelations were confirmed when James twitched ever so slightly, and the door handle rattled for a second. The air pulsed lightly, and the door was flung open, sending three teenagers tumbling to the floor.
The air was slightly stale for a second, and the five vanished from sight, as though they had never been though. Albus felt breath on his ear, and very nearly jumped, which could have given everything away. He sighed, they had been here for no more than ten minutes and already he was going to have to lie for them. At least for a few minutes that is. "Shh…" was all the voice from beside him would say, but it was enough, it wasn't hard to interpret what it, well, he, as it was clearly James, wanted.
The three Gryffindors, back on their feet, glanced around the room, clearly confused. Dumbledore waited for their attention to come to him, and folded his hands in front of him on the desk. "Can I help you Mr. Potter?" He asked kindly, all the while watching the boy slowly gain color, glowing translucent silver. His friends, observant as they were, noticed the steady shine coming from him.
When the raven haired sixteen year old was rubbing his eyes, the Marauders and Lily flickered back into the visible spectrum, and slowly, very slowly, the air began to pulse. James as well was glowing, but the silver was brighter, clearer, and blinding. When the surges became so strong that the room shook with each one, Harry was nearly screaming in pain, whereas James was merely gritting his teeth.
It was time for the natural order of things to be restored, with James on top, as always. There was no room for anyone else, even his own son. Soon it would be as though those fifteen years had never happened.
It felt as though his blood was on fire, his heart in flames. It felt as though he was being ripped apart from the inside, which, essentially, he was. Of course, he was also terrified, confused, and quite possibly about to die, but the pain was first and for most in his mind. He had never experienced pain quite like this before; it was on a whole other level. Worse the drowning, being stabbed, or being cursed, by far, something that probably contributed to this was that he didn't understand why it was happening.
To be more precise, he didn't understand why any of this was happening. Why the Marauders, who were by and large dead, and his mother, also dead, were standing in the same room as him, and not as ghosts. Why Dumbledore was so frightened. Why the air was pulsing, and why it felt like he was dying.
The pieces began clicking together even as the room was plunged into darkness, the candles flickering and dying, even the solar system model going black. It continued on throughout the entire castle, until everything was darker than pitch. But it didn't stop there, within thirty seconds; the entire world was submerged in darkness, electricity and fire alike ceasing to exist for the time being. And in this instance, the silver flowed off of Harry like liquid fire, streaming over to James and filling him completely.
Albus Dumbledore had underestimated the amount of power the leader of the Marauders had temporarily bestowed on his son. And most of it was undetectable and untouchable, for everyone but himself. Only a fraction of it had been for Harry to use, to protect him. When at last the transfer was done, the silver burned off of James, filling a five foot radius from his body in every direction, constantly shifting and growing. It was a fearsome sight, even for his Marauders and Lily who had seen him like this all too often.
The glow of the fire lit up the entire room, filling it to the brim, completely eliminating the darkness that had taken precedent only moments before. Harry, once the magic had ceased to support him, crumpled to the floor. James, who had been a formidable presence in the room even when completely drained, overwhelmed the room, causing it to strain against the cracks. In an incredible demonstration of his true power, James blinked and all his magic was pulled within him, and the silver faded until it was but an outline of his body. The walls relaxed and the air freshened. Another blink and the lights flickered back on with a tremendous power surge, the floors rippled and the castle shook. All over the world power was restored, leaving everyone who was conscious to see the blackout very confused, save a very few people.
These people recognized the blackout for what it was, the return of a very powerful wizard, one who they had all thought dead and gone. These few responded in an invigorating manner, that of cheering and celebrating. Thankfully, the one who it would not benefit them if he knew, remained oblivious. There are several explanations for this, the main one being he was far too busy with other, much more diabolic things to notice such a trivial occurrence as a blackout.
James himself had to keep from laughing in joy, sensing that somehow, it wouldn't be taken quite the way he intended it. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he had just caused his own son to collapse, which is never a good thing to be guilty of.
This was the moment they had been waiting for, for the past fifteen years. The moment when things would be truly the same again. It had come at the expense of her son, but there were no easy choices in war time, and the power was rightful James's. If he hadn't reclaimed it, it would have ripped him apart. And once he was dead, the restraints he had placed around it would vanish, the power subsequently killing Harry as well. All in all, a few moments of pain was a small price to pay for your life.
What she was worried about, however, was how the teenager would react to all this. Teenagers were moody at best, wizards being no exception. She couldn't even imagine having everything you thought you knew turn out to be one giant lie, fabricated by the parents you had never had. These next few weeks were going to be difficult, if not impossible. Not only did they have a war to fight, but the sanity of a teenage boy to consider. Once this got out though, things would start moving rather quickly, whether they liked it or not.
Lily barely even flinched when the tremor of James's power returning rolled through the room, in her time with the Marauders she had learnt to withstand some very strange things, and was rarely shaken when out of the ordinary things happened. She did, however, feel the need to cover her ears when the teenage girl screamed. It wasn't at all surprising that she was shrieking, after all, one of her best friends had just collapsed to the floor in front of her, what was surprising was just how shrill that girl could be.
She watched with little emotion as the girl and the Weasely boy, she knew he just had to be a Weasely, with that red hair there was no way he wasn't, dropped to their knees besides their friend, who was momentarily paralyzed from the shock of having those powers pulled from within him. Slowly, his robes shifted, and a wand, not Harry's, but James's, slipped from the pocket, followed by the Marauders' Map. It was upon seeing the map that this moment felt real, so much was centered around the old piece of parchment. It had been the Marauders' first triumph, a truly formidable one too. Never before had Hogwarts been successfully mapped, and for it to be done by four second years was unbelievable. Especially as only a dozen people even knew it existed, and of the six who knew when it had been made, only five were still alive.
As she remembered this, she felt her heart wrench slightly. Of the six who knew, one was dead. Dead far before her time, dead far before she had ever had a chance to live. It was this that reminded her of why this plan of theirs had come into existence. To save the people, to save the world, which ever, so that no one else would lose a friend, a sibling, a child, or a parent, to Voldemort.
In the past fifteen years, they had been extremely lucky. Voldemort had been hiding, building power, unable to do substantial amounts of harm. But that was about to change. She remembered the years before their 'deaths', how horror filled they had been. People had been dying everyway you turned, to no end. The Aurors were also fading fast, every day another was added to the Wall, where the pictures of Aurors killed in battle hung.
The only comfort she received in remembering the loss of one of their own was in remembering that May's photo hung on the Wall, next to others who had gone before her. In remembering the Wall, and the faces of all the people who were now nothing more than a picture, she also remembered what it was like to know that you were willing to give everything you could possibly give to help others. It was a feeling she hadn't felt in a long time, and was more than ready to feel it again.
She wasn't just a puppet anymore, following the rules, waiting for the right moment. In the moment that James had gotten his magic back, the plan had ended. They were people again, able to make choices and decisions, to fight back. That was what they had been waiting for, for fifteen long years.
Albus watched Lily as she herself watched her son fall to the ground, his friends close behind, only by their own will, not pain. It was remarkable how lifeless she could look. Actually, remarkable isn't the right word, frightening was more to the point. She was watching her son, in obvious pain, collapse, and there wasn't even a hint of emotion to be seen. Not a blink, a flinch, or even the clenching of a fist.
Of course, considering, it was only to be expected. These five had seen more than anyone could know, it was bound to have some interesting repercussions, but that it would change Lily into someone else entirely was unnerving. The Lily he had known all those years ago had been filled with passion and fire, she had worn her emotions on her sleeve, not caring who saw. She had truly had that famous red head fury, which had somehow managed to ignore the entire Weasely family, save the youngest.
Whenever he saw Ginny, who was growing up to be an amazing young woman, he had also really seen Lily. They were so alike in some ways, yet so different in others. Lily had been ambitious to the abandon of all other, and could be entertained for hours with a screaming match between James and herself. Of course, their marriage had ended most of the shrieking, but they still had fought endlessly, just with love, not hatred.
Ginny however, had been shy for a long time, and still wasn't as vibrant as Lily had been. She was also not quite as devious as Lily either, and didn't engage in as many fights with people either. But besides that, the resemblance was uncanny, and he knew it must have hurt Remus and Sirius to no end to see the youngest Weasely. Unfortunately, she, and all the other students at his beloved school, would be hopeless entangled in this war.
They all knew it was only a matter of time before things were like they had been sixteen years ago, especially now that the Marauders were back. Already, two of his students had been killed and, while he wasn't eager to add any more to the list, it was inevitable. At some point, Voldemort was going to come for Hogwarts, once again it was only a question of time.
Until then, they would just have to keep going as they always had, teaching the students, and keeping them safe until they could no longer. They would need everything they learned if they wanted to stay alive in this dangerous place their world had become. He wasn't looking forward to the battles that would come, that was for sure.
Momentarily, he considered sending them all home, but quickly did away with the thought. As aforementioned, the students would need all the knowledge they could get to survive. It was a horrible thing when children had to worry about being to protect themselves if the need should arise. They had been through it once before, and now one had ever thought, even in their darkest nightmares, that that hour should come again.
Unfortunately, you aren't always given a choice.
Sirius bit his lip when Harry hit the ground, unable to hide his distress. He knew it was necessary, had had fifteen years to prepare for it, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He had grown to genuinely like the kid, which wasn't so unusual, he was the spitting image of James, only with Lily's eyes, which he was sure had been drilled into the boy ever since his eleventh birthday.
Fighting the temptation to do just what Ron and Hermione had done, Sirius instead turned to James, who had a some what maniacal grin spreading across his face. Sirius watched the wand and map settle themselves into James's hands, and had to keep from crying tears of joy.
The lying was over, things would get back to normal. Well, as normal as they could be. Of course, they still had to explain things to Dumbledore, which would prove quite difficult in its self, far more difficult then they had imagined it would be. As though Albus had been reading his mind, he stood up, one hand resting on his desk still. Sirius, realizing that the Headmaster wouldn't get on with the formalities until he was certain his student wasn't grievously injured, turned slightly to see Harry with one arm around Ron's shoulders, leaning against the redhead, still gasping for breath.
Allowing himself to breath easy, the corners of his mouth turned up, and he looked back at James, the smile becoming a full fledged grin. He wasn't sure why he was quite so thrilled, it was likely that some of the people sleeping throughout the castle would even make it to the end of the week, let alone the war, once Voldemort knew James was alive and well, and had been for the past fifteen years. It probably had something to do being cooped up, and then on the run from the law for so many years, and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, being free.
Realizing that Harry wouldn't be too thrilled at this turn of events, he once again bit his lip, holding in his laughter. He tried to appear somber, he really did, but it was just so hard. Unbidden, the memory of the day he had fought with Molly Weasely played over in his mind. He remembered her telling him that he saw James, not Harry, whenever he looked at his godson. In a way, it was true. He wanted to see James, so he did, but there was no way he could ever mistake the two. To say otherwise was a dire insult, to both himself and James.
Albus cleared his throat, and they all turned to look at him, even Harry, who, at that moment, probably thought that his headmaster was just as bad as the five of them were. Even now, the elderly wizard commanded respect, standing in a room with some of the most powerful people in the world. There was just something about him, something that drew your eye to him. Sirius had noticed it the first time he had laid eyes on the man, back when he was a rambunctious ten-year-old, hell bent on causing as much trouble as possible. Even then he had respected the man.
All eight of them fell silent, watching, waiting for him to continue, five tense with anxiety, the other three shocked beyond fear, beyond panic.
"I think it is time you explain yourselves."
Remus had to battle his emotions as well. Except they hadn't been telling him to run to Harry, but to laugh at Dumbledore's foolishness. There could be no explaining this plan, it was too intricate, too involved. The furthest that could be laid out was that they had decided they didn't want to die, at least not yet, and had done something about it.
Perhaps how they had hidden away James's power, what they had done to fool the Aurors, and how on Earth Harry had ended up with James's wand could be explained, but everything else would be lost on anyone who hadn't lived it, no matter what they claimed. They certainly couldn't tell what they had planned next, mainly because that part was fairly obvious. They had mapped out every second up to that of approximately five minutes ago, all they knew about the future now, was that they were going to destroy Voldemort, no matter what it took.
Unfortunately, not everyone on the planet was prepared to go to those extremes. That was where things got tricky. But they would work it out, they always did, without fail. They had gotten this far, hadn't they? He watched with amusement as James smirked slightly, one lip twitching once.
"What else needs to be said Albus?" He asked, spreading his arms as though he was displaying himself and his Marauders. "What else?" Remus could feel Harry's eyes on the back of his head, boring a hole. He ignored it, a slow smile working its way through his lips. This was classic James, he really had a way with words. He could make you feel as though you were the one who had lost it, make you ashamed that you had even opened your mouth, yet at the same time, filled with a sense of security, as though everything was going to work itself out. However, that was rarely the case.
Hearing the wood floor creak, Remus looked over his shoulder at Peter, who was shifting uncomfortably under Hermione's glare, which he knew from experience could be vicious. The smallest Marauder had been silent so far, he had the most to be forgiven for, some of it unforgivable. While he hadn't actually killed anyone, he had managed to avoid that at all costs, he was responsible for the Dark Lord's return to power. Of course, if he hadn't done it, someone else would have, this just brought him closer to Voldemort's inner circle, something that was essential to their plan. However, he wasn't sure the others, namely Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and the rest of their friends, would see it quite the same way.
Peter, noticing Remus's sympathetic look, attempted a small smile, failing miserably. Apparently he felt the same about Dumbledore's announcement though, as he raised his eyebrows in the old man's direction, eliciting a nod from Remus.
He finally felt connected with his friends again. Once upon a time, they had been inseparable, seemingly unable to function if apart. At some point, that had changed. They didn't like it, they didn't have to, they didn't even have to accept it. Because, they, and no one else, could change it. It may have taken fifteen years, but things were right again now. They were united against a mutual cause. The cause being an evil overlord was just a bonus.
If anyone outside of the other four could read his thoughts, they would have thought him crazy. Of course, that might just be the case, but he wasn't about to confirm it. This was a challenge, they need one. Nothing was worth doing when you could just breeze right through it. Not even James would be able to wipe out Voldemort in one blow. Sure, he was more powerful, there was no doubt there, but the Dark Lord had thousands of very powerful allies, which once again tipped the scales in his direction, as much as they hated to admit it. It would take so much more than just power to conquer this particular enemy.
He watched Albus Dumbledore's look of confusion change to one of surprise with a smile. Even after all these years, he still loved that he was able to fluster the old man when no one else could, it was a talent he cherished, had always cherished.
"Why so surprised Albus? Did you really think I would change that much in fifteen years? I'm the one who should be surprised, and I am, surprised that you, of all people, didn't see this coming." There was a wry grin on his face, he was clearly more at ease now that he wasn't preoccupied with being reduced to shreds of flesh and bone.
He drew a small, somewhat reluctant smile from the older man with his words. "See this coming?" Dumbledore replied, looking at James over his glasses, his eyes twinkling once again. "I don't think a seer would have been able to see this coming, let alone an old man."
James shrugged, aware of his son's eyes on him. "I suppose that was the point. Anyway, you have no idea how good it is to be back. You're going to have to fill us in on what's happened in the past fifteen years, I'm sure it will be entertaining." Behind him, Harry sputtered with anger, at how glib his father was about showing up fifteen years after his 'death'. Didn't he understand what he'd done? Didn't he care? Apparently not.
"You mean you don't know?" Dumbledore asked innocently, provoking a laugh out of James, and the others, excluding, of course, the three teenagers, two of whom looked about ready to fall over dead from shock, the other just getting angrier but the second.
Turning around to pull Peter forward, James caught sight of Harry, leaning heavily on Ron, and slight look of sympathy clouded his brown eyes. Peter momentarily forgotten, James looked back at Dumbledore. "I do believe I am going to have to borrow my son for an hour or so, he can't go wandering around without a wand at times like these. I'd give him the one I've had for the past fifteen years, but it would be better if he chose his own, or, as Ollie would say, his own chose him."
Dumbledore inclined his head. "But of course, I have a feeling classes are going to be cancelled tomorrow anyways, I think it's time the circle is completed again, don't you? Just make sure you're back before eleven, to give us plenty of time." Harry, Hermione, and Ron, were of course lost as to what Dumbledore was implying, but the other five grinned.
"I'll leave the others with you, just in case, but I think Lily will want to come with me. Can we still trust Ollivander?" This choice of words betrayed what they were all thinking. One wrong move and it could all be over. People would have to be chosen very carefully if any of them wanted to survive to see this war out. The smiles dropped of all their faces when James spoke, remembering what was in store, how hard it would be to readjust with the rest of the world.
Dumbledore sighed. "He is still one of us, a member of the outer circle, but I would be careful where you go just yet. Perhaps disguises would be best for this trip?" He pushed his glasses up his nose with one hand, the other held out in a gesture of concern. James, as much as he hated to admit it, knew the man was right. It would not do to have an entire street think they were hallucinating.
It looked like it was going to be a while before they would be free to be themselves, and even then, caution would be their main priority for a longer than he would like. They had done this so that they would be free to do as they like, to do things there way, they didn't need the fear of publicity to tie them down, not when they had a war to win.
He knew he was being a bit presumptuous, but there was no longer any room for doubt. Doubt could very well be the thing that would bring them down, tear them apart, and put them right back where they started from.