Boys of the Old Brigade~ By Crunch

*shifty glance around*

Hello, all.

Well, here it is, the story I'm counting as my first Harry Potter fic, because I shudder to think of my first. Let's see. . . what do I need. . . well, for safety's sake, I'll put in a disclaimer, though I doubt very much that I'm at risk of being mistaken for anyone important :)

Disclaimer: I own nothing. The only thing that belongs to me is my own little made up version of the events of James' past, which don't conflict with anything in the books so far, but very well may later on. So. . . that's pretty much it.

As for reviews. . . well, I'd love them. Who wouldn't? So read the fic as you will; hate it, love it, flame it. . . I'll take it all, just as long as you tell me in a review, ey? Maybe especially if you hate it. . . I wouldn't like to shame myself further ;)

And with no more ado, because the fic's got too much ado already, I present Boys of the Old Brigade.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Where are the lads who stood with me

When history was made?

Oh, gra mo chree I long to see

The Boys of the Old Brigade. . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * *


"Oh father, why are you so sad,

on this bright Easter morn?

When Irishmen are proud and glad

Of the land where they were born."


"A toast!" Sirius cried above the rumbling din of the Towering Toadstool Pub. Upon hearing his best friends' voice, James pawed his way from the masses of young men ruffling his hair and pounding his back, shaking both his hands and forcing drinks upon him at every turn. After a moment or so, when Peter's excited chatter had been quieted by Caradoc, and Frank and Sturgis had abandoned James' hands in favor of their fire whiskeys, James caught sight of his best friend.

To be fair, it wasn't all that difficult to spot Sirius in a crowd; not here in the Pub, and not anywhere else. Any fool could hardly miss the way his best friend's smile stretched like lightning across a face hardly warn by cares or sorrows; the chiseled features and filed jaw, the smooth, golden cheeks and eyes, huge and black and shining. If Sirius' eyes ever told of the pain they'd seen over these past years, they didn't now. He was shining fit to burst. Remus Lupin, James' sandy-haired and blue-eyed friend, and one of his dearest, turned to face James with a grin. "Magnificent when he's smashed, isn't he?"

James swiped at his brow to feign a Sirius-induced hot flash, and the two young men chuckled lightly. By now, Sirius had mounted a barstool, much to the chagrin of the witch behind the counter, who wasn't nearly as impressed with the raucous group of wizards in front of her as she was worried for the state of her pub.

"To James!" Sirius hoisted his glass, and the rest of James' friends followed suit. "Old friend, sweet Prongs, I drink to your charm, I drink to your smashing good looks. . ." Here, Remus let out something very like a wolf's howl. . . "And most of all, I drink to your brilliant mind. . . which gives you an idea how bloody hard up I am for a drink, doesn't it?"

The men roared appreciatively and took to pounding James' back till his hair was thicker in front of his eyes than it had been before (which was really saying something) until Sirius motioned for calm once more.

"Alright, alright. . . and to Lily! James' wonderful bride of two years. May your years be ever full and your bed be never empty."

"Here here!" A voice in the crowd rang.

"To wives and Sweethearts!" Came yet another.

"And may they NEVER MEET!" James joined in for the last round, and it took a considerable amount of shushing and yelling on Sirius' part before the party had settled down once more.

"And most importantly. . ." Despite the good amount of drink already in him, Sirius sobered and looked James quite meaningfully in the eye, till he had to swallow around a harsh lump in the back of his throat. "Most importantly, to James' son, born not ten hours ago, and already his father's boy. Already, I love him like a nephew. . . yes, a nephew. . . because his father is truly my brother." James forced another swallow. "To James and Harry Potter!"

"To James and Harry Potter!" The crowd roared, and James, swept from his barstool, spent a good five minutes battling his way back to the counter. When he arrived, windswept and rumpled, Remus was waiting with a drink, which he took gratefully before turning to survey the scene. They were all here; all of his dearest friends from the Order of the Phoenix, with the exception of the few on some grave mission or other, and the few who'd died in recent months. . . James forced aside that very nasty thought, not quite sure where it had come from, and looked around once more. Frank Longbottom and Peter Pettigrew were now chatting it up by the bar, while Caradoc had moved on to some corner, his pipe in hand, no doubt. Sturgis Podmore, always the lady's wizard, was making eyes at the witch behind the counter from across the bar, which was mostly emptied save for James and his friends. James settled back in his stool as Sirius plopped beside him.

"That was some toast." He grinned, and his friend nodded, sweeping a waterfall of lush, brown hair from his eyes.

"Only the best for my Godson's dad, ey? And how is the little tyke getting on?"

"Great. Just great. . . smart as a whip already, you know? He's always watching everything, with those EYES. . . his mother's eyes, did you see?"

"I saw." Sirius ruffled James' hair for the umpteenth time that night. "Got his dad's fearlessness, though, doesn't he? Never cried once, you know, after the whole. . . in and out bit was over. Absolutely fearless."

Something seized up in James' heart, and he hardened his smile and forced another bit of cheer to cover. But he hadn't needed to. The two men fell into comfortable silence, as they sometimes did, and James took the moment gladly. It was his first moment of peace in hours, it seemed, what with the delivery, and all the happiness and anxiousness and downright fear that came with it.

The fear. . . he hadn't thought much about why it was there, he only knew that it was. 'It's normal', James kept telling himself. And he supposed it was. . . every father must fear for their newborn child.

But not like he feared.

He looked up briefly as the bar witch set a glass down a glass of something thick and green and faintly smoke-scented in front of him, and after a brief thought, James seized it in his hands. Just as he suspected, it was warm to the touch. He drank it down all the same.


"Oh, son, I see sad mem'ries view

Of far-off distant days,

When, being just a boy like you,

I joined the old brigade.


With a valiant effort, James forced aside the dark thoughts looming and let himself sink into the comfortable happiness his old friend always managed to conjure up, surer than Flitwick's cheering charms. And after all, what did he have to be sad for, at a time like this? He had his brothers all about him, strong in the night. . . his friends were just as strong as they had been when he'd met them.

It wasn't hard to remember, after all the years. James simply caught a glimpse of Sirius' smile, or Remus' blue eyes flashing deeply blue, or heard Peter's friendly, if slightly grating chuckle, and he was floating backwards into the gray mists of times gone by.

Why, he could just picture Sirius, the first time they'd met. First years at Hogwarts, the two had skimmed across the lake, side-by-side in the same boat that night, with the unknown towering in front of them. It was the first time he'd seen that famous grin, beaming out of the darkness from the face of the eleven year old boy beside him. That was when they'd made a pact; they'd decided to be fearless together. And when Lupin had joined them, not too long after, with those periods of quiet seriousness that his friends did their utmost to squash out of him, the trio of Gryffindor had been complete.

And then there was Peter, who had been a plump Hufflepuff boy in James' herbology class, whimpering with excitement and nerves as he tried his best to tackle a Finger-Snap Ivy, which did exactly what it's name foretold each time Peter approached. Sirius had scoffed. . . well, he'd always been a bit above the rest, back then. . . and James very nearly hadn't given the round little boy a chance. Of course, now, he was rather glad that he had.

None of them could have known, James thought, a sudden bitterness tainting his fond memories like acid. None of them could have known what they would see, what they would loose, in the course of growing up. Not even the girl so wise beyond her years that he was still thrown back into childhood each time he breathed her in. . . not even Lily.


In hills and farms the call to arms

Was heard by one and all,

And from the glens came brave young ones

To answer Ireland's call.


Lily. . . wizards, he'd been taken with that girl THE moment he'd seen her.

When they'd met, she'd worn a skirt. . . no robes, because it was the week before summer break, and weirdly sweltering for Hogwarts round that time. Crimeny, it had been hot; so hot pixies sizzled when they hit the lawn during Care of Magical Creatures, and swooning students were shipped to a youngish Madame Pomphrey in hordes, after collapsing mid-herbology lesson in the greenhouse. Between classes hadn't been awfully fun either; James's hair had clung to his forehead in sweaty streams, and his slacks had pasted themselves to his skin the moment he stepped outside. The more advanced students had taken to gathering round the pond at lunchtime, tapping the algae-green water with their wands and muttering "Fontius!" so that miniature geysers spouted up, scattering beads of water the size of bottle caps far across the grass. The record-holding fountain so far had been twenty feet. . . a seventh year Ravenclaw perpetrator had kept it going for a good long while, too, before Madame Bolderomp had come out of the castle, shrieking about the dangers of disturbing the merfolk.

James had been basking on the lawn that afternoon, when Lily'd shuffled into the courtyard on suntanned brown heels, and he'd watched her, flinching at the swish of her skirt- a red eyelet lace so thin, he could see the curve of her rear silhouetted in the butter colored sunlight, if he squinted hard enough. And he had squinted plenty hard enough.

There he had been, a third year boy with a slim, pale face, flushed with summer's beckoning fingers, fly away black hair, and a wide, pearly smile in place of his usual fashionably cool smirk, beaming at the sight of Lily's backside. He'd nearly choked on his chocolate frogs, as clich├ęd as it was. She had only been a kid, for God sake's. . . just a bloody kid. . . a kid, that was, who had grown up beneath his nose. And oh, she'd been pretty; still was, of course.

If she'd known he was watching, either she hadn't shown it, or she couldn't have cared less, which only made his ribs thrum harder around the beat of his heart.

And in Seventh year, when they'd finally kissed. . . well, it had been him that kissed her, hadn't it? It was a full month before she kissed him back, her eyes flashing bottle green, and her hands patting clumsily at his robes, like she didn't know what to do with them. It had taken a month, but he'd worn her away, like the tide sucking mouthfuls of beach sand through its teeth. It was just that rough.

Maybe, when everything was said and done, James thought as a solemn frown crossed his face. . . maybe, just maybe, she would regret breaking in two and giving up. Maybe she would regret loving him after all. Maybe they'd all regret it, in the end.


T'was long ago we faced the foe,

The old brigade and me,

But by my side they fought and died

That our fine land might be free.


Of course, some of them had come to regret it already, hadn't they? There was old Benjy Fenwick. . . a Divortium curse had gotten him. James hadn't been there, not when Fenwick bought it, but he'd been with Lily when Remus and Peter stumbled in, robes torn and noses bloodied, faces paler than ash, to report the Order of the Phoenix' newest loss to The Cause. And later that week, he'd cradled Remus' head in his arms as the young man awoke from a fresh nightmare, babbling about limbs wrenched apart from each other, body parts flying through space, splattering his robes. . . poor old Fenwick.

He hadn't been there when the Prewett's met there end, either. He'd seen the aftermath, because the Order never left their own behind, never left their bodies to rot on the chilly cobblestones of strange and darkened streets; not if they could help it. And oh, the tale those bodies told. . . Gideon, broad shouldered and handsome, wand still in hand, propped up into a sitting position by the wiry young body of his brother. Even hours after the battle, the two were left sitting the same way they'd died. . . back to back.

He had been there for the McKinnon's. . . at least, for the last McKinnon. He'd come running up the walk of the family home in Derbyshire, sent off by Dumbledore, who seemed to know everything, but once in a great while, didn't know it in time. With Sirius at his heels, he'd burst through the doorway just in time to see the last body fall, amidst the rubble that was the rest of the family. Oh, they'd taken out a Death Eater or two that day, but they'd been a moment too late for the McKinnon's, and POOF, a bloodline was lost in the blink of an eye. POOF. . .

Just like that.

James leaned forward on his barstool and laughed far too heartily at something Sirius had just finished saying, which may or may not have been a joke. Once that was done, once the business at hand was adequately tended to, he sunk backwards into his thoughts, and wondered.

He wondered whether or not the McKinnon's thought there deaths were worth it. He wondered, if Gideon Prewett and Fabian Prewett were in front of him now, side back to back, exactly as they'd died. . . if they were with him now, would they tell him they regretted it? If Benjy Fenwick still had a head to shake, or a hand to raise. . . would he raise his old hand, and shake his old head, and say "James, my boy, I should think I regret dieing very much. Wouldn't you, if you'd died this way?"

And James wondered whether one day. . . one day very soon, sooner than he ever could have imagined, he would join them. Even as his heart sank to the pits of his stomach, he knew. It was no question at all. It was only a matter of time.

And the dreams he had. . . it was those dreams that didn't let him forget it for a minute. Dreams that came like clockwork in the dead of the night. . .

. . . He and Lily stood side by side in the church where they'd been married, only now, instead of kneeling by an alter, they bowed before little Harry's cradle, while Peter tugged at his robes, shifting in and out of rat form, pleading "Do you see me now, James? Do you? Do you see me now?" . . .

. . . And Lupin, he stood against the pitch black sky, peering in through the windows, though never so much as rapping to be let in. Then there was Lily, who made a grab for their son every few seconds, only to be blocked by James himself, who muttered, without knowing why in the dreams, or in his waking hours, "That's Dumbledore's job now, darling. Hadn't we best leave it to him?". . .

. . . And Sirius. . . worst of all was Sirius, who hung above Harry's cradle. . . or WAS it an alter. . . nailed to the clapboard walls of the church, smiling a loving smile as he aged and shrunk and grew young again before James' eyes, while a bright green beam of light he supposed was the sun sank lower, and lower, and with a white-hot burst set upon them all. . .


And now, my boy, I've told you why

On Easter morn I sigh

For I recall my comrades all

From dark old days gone by.


Something occurred to James just then, in the dim bustle of the pub, with Sirius roaring drunkenly in the background, and Lupin laughing patiently a long, and Peter nodding eagerly; with Frank Longbottom and Caradoc Dearborn flinging Wizarding darts at a dartboard that jeered and insulted them lewdly each time a pin stuck in its nose, and Bones and Podmore cheering them on from the sidelines. . . in the midst of it all, something occurred to James that had never occurred to him before.

It occurred to him that he should quit.

Even as he thought it, and even as his cheeks flushed with disgust that he, who had never known fear, but had known lots and lots of failure, should think of quitting at a time like this, James chuckled. Oh ho, he knew what this was! This was what they called your lowest hour, he realized, swigging back on a fresh fire whisky. Here he was, in the middle of his lowest hour, right when he should have been bursting with joy. Why, he had it all, didn't he? A gorgeous wife with the determination of a Sufpire Dragon and the body to match, a wife he loved with his whole self and more, who was currently laid up in Saint Mungo's with a bouncing baby boy (and that was literal, too. The Birthing Ward's Head Healer had rated him a nine out of ten on the bouncing baby scale). James had everything in the world.

And that was just the trouble, wasn't it? Just when he had so much, when he should have been vacationing in Cairo or Paris or Dublin with his lovely new family, he was in the middle of a war. Not just a war, but a war which it had never before occurred to him didn't have to be his.

James gulped down the rest of his glass in one go.

But that wasn't all, was it? It wasn't just the fact that HE was fighting. After all, James had never been afraid of a fight, never shied from an adventure. Never in his whole life. And even though James knew, somewhere deep down inside of him, that he probably wouldn't make it through this battle, not this time. . . gut liquefying as that knowledge was, it wasn't the saddest part of it all. Of course he didn't want to die. But even though he knew there was no way around it in the end, it wasn't the worse part.

The worse part was that Lily was probably going to die.

What kept James awake at night was that he loved Lily so very much. As much as he didn't want to be killed. . . and he didn't, believe it when he said he didn't. . . as much as he wanted to live, he wanted it for his wife so much more. He wanted Lily to age, and to breathe free for the rest of her life. He wanted her to have more children, and grow old while her children had children, while their Harry had children. He wanted Lily to remember him for always, for the rest of her long life, and he wanted her to die in her bed, on her hundredth birthday, smiling in her sleep. Oh, how badly he wanted that for her. And of course, he wouldn't mind at all being next to her.

And the fear he felt for his son, he knew, was not a father's normal fear. It wasn't normal at all, this feeling he'd had since Harry'd been born, and since before. . . since the moment he'd known he was to be a father. Still, it was a fear so strong, it took his breath away- that the future he'd created with Lily, and that the son he'd created, would cease to be as quickly as old Benjy Fenwick. Oh, how badly he wanted his future just then.

'It could still happen' that traitorous, wheedling, hopeful little voice in the back of James' brain piped up above the barroom chatter. 'You could still have that, you know. You could still live.'

James didn't even need to ask how. He knew the answer. And he knew if ever there was a time to make it happen, to make sure that he would live, and that Lily would live, now was the time. Now, when they had everything to loose. Now was the time to quit.

'But,' a second voice piped up, this one just slightly louder than the last. 'But what would you tell Harry?'

'What would I tell. . . Harry?' James wondered, too drunk to find it the least bit wrong that he was questioning his inner voice.

'Yes.' It replied. 'After all, that wouldn't make a very good story, would it?'

"Another toast!" James glanced up from his drink as Sirius wobbled to his feet, his words a bit slurred and colored with the strong sent of whisky, but his eyes burning grave and fiery as coal boxes. "To the boys. . ."

"And the girls. . . I mean, the wom'n." Peter piped up, giggling a bit at his own drunkenness, before settling to business when Remus cowed him with a glare.

". . . Yes, and th' women." Sirius cleared his throat and hoisted his smoldering glass. "May the road rise up t' meet you; may the wind be always at your back; may th' sun sh-shine warm up. . . up. . ."

"Upon your face." Remus took up the speech where his friend had forgotten the rest. "May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again. . ."

". . . May He hold you in the hollow of his hand." James finished quietly, and the tipped their drinks in silence. Remus sipped at his, staring solemnly into space, while James drained his in one hard swallow, setting his fist down on the counter so forcefully the glass shattered in his fist, shards tinkling from between his fingers as still he clutched at the remains. Anxious to help, Peter made a clumsy grab for his wand, but Remus stayed the drunken little man's hand, worried at what his spell would do.

"Prongs is already a two-fisted drinker, Wormtail. I should think he doesn't need a third hand in the mix, does he?" Peter flushed and Sirius collapsed in laughter, chortling into the folds of his robe sleeves and breaking the spell of the past moments.

James only smiled.

It was a different sort of smile than that of the boy Lily had fallen in love with. . . the boy who had fallen in love with a girl whose rear shown through the curves of her skirt on a Hogwart's summer day. That much was certain. It was a dimmer smile, one weighed down at the corners by the years that had passed, and a great uncertainty over years to come, years that he might not see at all. But, when all was said and done, it was the smile of James Potter. And James Potter the man was the very same person as James Potter the boy, he supposed.

Well, that boy had never shied away from adventure in his life, had he? He had never run for his life. Bloody hell, he loved danger. He ate it for breakfast. After all, that first kiss. . . not the first time he and Lily had come together, but the first time she had taken it upon herself to kiss him back. . . it had been on James' bed in the hospital ward, with his ribs still molding back together after a nasty quiddich spill, and Lily's hands patting for a place that wouldn't hurt him when she leaned forward. Now THAT had been dangerous.

'There's a good boy' said the second voice, and this time it was stronger still, and it was familiar, because it was Sirius' voice, and Remus's, and Peter's, the Prewett's and the McKinnon's, and old Benjy Fenwick, and Lily's, and even though he'd never heard it, he could very well imagine it was the voice of his son.

Harry. His son, a black haired, green eyed, smiling slip of a baby not 24 hours old, who lay in Saint Mungo's by the side of his loving wife.

He would fight for Harry. If he had to, he would die for Harry. For both of them.

And it wasn't a bad way to go at that, was it? After all, he'd be in good company. . . and it would be an adventure to tell his son about. . . how did they say it?

Beyond the Veil.

Yes. Yes, James didn't mind the sound of that at all.


I think of men who fought in glens

With rifles and grenade

May Heaven keep the men who sleep

From the ranks of the old brigade.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well? DO I sense a review a' coming? You've stuck with the fic this long, you might as well!