Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognize from the Harry Potter universe. That privilege belongs solely to JK Rowling.
On a warm, breezy day in late June, seven friends sat together in the shade of a large beech tree, overlooking the lake at Hogwarts. In less than a week, they would leave the place they'd come to think of as home and enter the world as fully qualified witches and wizards. The friendships formed between these seven students had been nearly seven years in the making—their entire Hogwarts career. The three newest additions to the group only stopped despising the majority of the other four at the end of sixth year.
Sirius Black lay on his back, one arm cradling his head, the other around a pretty brown-haired witch called Julia Sedler. The couple both had their eyes closed, with Julia's head resting comfortably on Sirius' chest, enjoying one another's presence.
Beside them were Remus Lupin and his girlfriend Naomi Watts. Leaning against the tree trunk, the two read that day's edition of the Daily Prophet. To Naomi's left were James Potter and Lily Evans. Lily had her head across James' lap while James watched the giant squid splash a group of third years. Across from James and Lily sat Peter Pettigrew looking around for something exciting to happen.
"Disgusting," Remus spat, tossing the Prophet to the grass.
"What?" muttered five voices.
"Another Muggle family's been murdered," Naomi said quietly. "Death Eaters tortured them—including the children—then burned down their house... with them in it... alive..."
"Bloody hell," Sirius muttered, sitting up as Julia did the same.
"When's this going to end?" Lily asked, picking the newspaper up.
"When there's a miracle," James said. "The Ministry's not doing anything to stop this shit. They've let Voldemort get a good hold on this, and now..." he trailed off, shaking his head.
"There's got to be something or someone fighting this guy..." Julia said. "We've lasted this long, haven't we?"
Right at that moment, a fifth year Gryffindor ran to the group, panting for breath. "Professor... Dumbledore wants to see you all..." he breathed. "Now."
"All of us?" Naomi asked with a raised eyebrow. The boy nodded.
"Thanks, we'll be right there," Lily said, sitting up next to James. Once the boy was out of earshot, she glared at the Marauders. "What did you four do now?"
"Nothing!" they said together. The girls each raised a simultaneous eyebrow.
"Honestly!" Sirius insisted. "We haven't done anything since that toilet incident in the Slytherin dorms last week." James and Remus grinned and sniggered until their girlfriends slapped them.
"Well, let's go see what Dumbledore wants," Julia said.
The seven friends stood and began to cross Hogwarts grounds. There was nothing they could think of that any of them had done—and had not already been punished for—that would warrant a visit to the headmaster.
"Prongs," Sirius muttered, catching up with his best friend, whispering so the others wouldn't hear. "You think he knows about... er... our secret?"
James looked worriedly over his shoulder at Remus and back to Sirius. "No. If he did, why would he want the girls, too?"
Sirius sighed, nodded, and led the way to Dumbledore's office. The stone gargoyle was wide open, revealing the spiral staircase. The students stepped up, single file, and hesitantly made their way upwards.
"You're Head Boy," Sirius said to James, staring at the closed wooden door. "You knock."
"You've been here more than I have, even as Head Boy," James countered.
"Move out of the way." Lily sighed, pushing her way past the two boys. Using the golden lion-shaped knocker, Lily knocked twice on Dumbledore's door.
"Come in," called the headmaster's familiar, welcoming voice. "Ah." Dumbledore smiled as the students entered his office. "Come in, come in, have a seat."
Sirius and James exchanged a slightly startled glance with Remus as they spotted Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody standing beside Dumbledore's desk. The seven students sat in chairs arranged in front of Dumbledore's desk, still not quite sure what to think.
Sirius craned his neck around Julia and Naomi to look at Remus. It seemed Remus was worried as well. Maybe Dumbledore really had found out about the Marauders' illegal achievements and Moody was there to arrest them...?
"I am sure you are all curious as to why you are here," Dumbledore said. His students nodded slowly. "Not to worry, you're not in trouble. Unless there is something Professor McGonagall has yet to inform me of, that is..." His eyes twinkled hypnotically as Sirius, James, and Remus offered shaky grins—Peter was petrified in his chair.
"I've asked you all to be here this afternoon to ask something of you." Instantly, Sirius noted, the humor in his eyes was gone. "In a week, you will no longer be Hogwarts students, thus, you will no longer have the protection Hogwarts may provide you. I know you've all kept a very close eye on the progress of this war. A few of you have already lost close family to the war."
James and Remus glanced quickly at one another and down to the carpeted floor simultaneously. "What, then, do I wish to ask of you?
"Four years ago, I began an alliance among some of my very close friends. This alliance has grown over the years, and we now remain the only line Voldemort has yet to cross in his goal of achieving total power. As the years go by, however, Voldemort has been gaining strength—as you all very well know—and we are losing more and more to his cause.
"I have watched the seven of you grow since your first day here. A few of you have seen this office more than any other student in this school." His lips twitched as he watched the Marauders fight not to grin at each other. "I've watched you all become some of the best witches and wizards to ever walk these corridors. Each of you has his or her own strengths—yes, even yourself, Mr. Pettigrew," Dumbledore added at Peter's surprised look.
"I am asking you now to join this alliance. With your help, I believe this war can be ended. I ask nothing more from you than what you can put forth, for your loyalty, and your willingness to help fight Lord Voldemort.
"I also ask that you decide today, within this office. If you decline this offer, which you are certainly free to do, I will have to perform a memory charm on you. I'm certain you will understand," Dumbledore finished, leaning back into his chair, fingers crossed under his long silver beard.
Throughout Dumbledore's entire speech, Sirius, James, and Remus had communicated silently with one another about what they wished to do. They used only their eyes—the three of them could read each other so well, that was all they needed. Sirius turned in his chair and whispered something inaudible to Julia. She nodded solemnly. James and Remus turned to Lily and Naomi respectively, whispering to them. The girls looked at one another and nodded. Lastly was Peter. It took a moment for any of the other Marauders to even catch the small boy's eye. He looked terrified—something the other Marauders were quite used to seeing. After a long staring contest with Sirius, Peter sighed and nodded. Sirius nodded back and turned to James, gesturing for him to speak for the group.
"We're in," James said promptly. "All of us. We'll do whatever it takes to end this war."
"I had a feeling you would say that," Dumbledore said, bowing his head respectively to his students. "I welcome you, then, to the Order of the Phoenix."
"Sirius... you all right?" Kingsley Shacklebolt said tentatively, watching his boss's reaction to Dumbledore's news.
Sirius' face was completely void of all emotion. There was no sign he'd even heard what the Headmaster had said. He remained standing, staring blankly at the fireplace where Dumbledore's head still floated in the orange flames, watching everything that was happening in the kitchen of Order Headquarters.
Sirius' head was filled with a loud buzzing, not allowing him to fully comprehend what he'd just been told. It couldn't be true. Dumbledore's information had to be wrong... But somehow, Sirius just couldn't convince himself of that. Somehow, he knew Dumbledore wasn't wrong.
Blindly, Sirius reached out for a chair and sank heavily into it. A goblet with residue from a potion fell out of his hand to the floor, and rolled under another chair. Remus had assured Sirius that he would be okay on this mission. He'd sworn that he would be careful and vigilant. Dumbledore was supposed to have the best tracking charms possible over Remus and Emmeline.
At this thought, Sirius' head snapped back to the fireplace. "What happened to the charms?" he asked sharply.
Dumbledore remained silent for a moment, as if he was readying himself and Sirius for what he was about to say. "A tracking charm—no matter how powerful—can be broken." Before Sirius could open his mouth to ask what the hell Dumbledore was on about, the headmaster continued, "The tracking charm that I performed on Remus and Emmeline can only be broken if the person it is performed on has stopped breathing."
That would mean... Sirius thought, trying to work it out in his mind. "No," he said defiantly. "You're wrong..."
Dumbledore had to be lying, Sirius decided. There was no possible way that Remus could be... No, Dumbledore had bad information. A wand and a travel bag were his only evidence—anyone could have a wand that looked like Remus' or a travel bag that looked like Emmeline's. What made Dumbledore so sure the items belonged to them? Before Sirius could ask this question aloud, a scream cut through the house, setting off Sirius' mother on the first floor.
"Harry..." Sirius muttered. Without another word, the Auror flew up the kitchen stairs, ignoring his mother's insults, to the second landing. Molly Weasley was standing before Harry's door, trying—but not succeeding—to get in.
"Sirius, I can't get to him!" Molly said, panicked.
Sirius didn't reply. He pushed Molly away from the door a little more roughly than he'd intended, tapped the doorknob sharply with his wand, and burst into Harry's bedroom. The fifteen-year-old was thrashing wildly on his bed, screaming in horrendous pain. Without hesitation, Sirius ran to his godson's side, pinning down his arms to avoid injury to either wizard. "Harry!" he shouted over the boy's screams. "Harry! Wake up!"
Sirius looked back to the doorway where Molly was pushing her children, who had undoubtedly been awoken by the noise, out of the room. Dumbledore appeared behind Molly. "Albus, do something!" Sirius pleaded, struggling to hold Harry to the bed.
Calmly, Dumbledore entered the room and crossed over to the bed. He pointed his wand at Harry and murmured a few inaudible words. A white ball of light left Dumbledore's wand tip and hit Harry directly in the chest, with an immediate result: Harry relaxed against his pillows, breathing heavily, sweating profusely, but still asleep.
Sirius watched Harry for a moment before turning to Dumbledore. "What was that?" he breathed, wide-eyed.
"I believe it was a reaction to a poison," Dumbledore said quietly, not taking his eyes off Harry. "Has Harry had anything to eat or drink in the last few hours?"
Sirius got his own breathing under control before answering. "Yeah... Just before I came back into the kitchen... I walked him up here... He said Molly left him a potion..."
Dumbledore and Sirius turned at the sound of a small whimper to find Molly, Arthur, Kingsley, and a newly awoken Tonks standing just inside the door. Molly was chalk-white. "I didn't leave Harry any potion, Sirius..." she said, shaking her head.
Sirius blinked. "Pomfrey, then. When she was here... she must have left him a potion," he said hastily, trying not to panic.
"Pomfrey never left the kitchen, mate," Kingsley said carefully.
"Then—who—in—the—bloody hell—left—the potion?" Sirius asked through gritted teeth. "Who poisoned my godson?" he yelled, his voice breaking slightly.
"Sirius, we will find out what happened to Harry. I promise," Dumbledore said. "But right now—"
"You promise, eh? Just like you promised that Remus would be safe?" Sirius said loudly. "I want to know who was in here before Harry came to bed. And I want to know what was in that goblet."
"Where is the goblet now, Sirius?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
"Rolled under the table," Sirius muttered, swallowing a large lump that had formed in his throat as he looked back at Harry.
Arthur left the room immediately to retrieve the goblet while the others looked from Harry to Sirius, wondering how much worse their night could possibly get.
When Arthur returned ten minutes later, he tried to pass the goblet to Dumbledore, but Sirius snatched it from his hand. Without a word to anybody, Sirius left the room, passed a horrified group of Weasley children, and went down the stairs. He didn't trust himself to Apparate without splinching himself, so he went to the kitchen and Flooed to the Ministry of Magic.
Eric the security wizard sat behind his desk reading a copy of Witch Weekly Swimsuit Edition as Sirius practically ran down the halls to the lifts. He punched the button to take him to the DMLE floor and cursed the lifts for being so bloody slow. Finally, the grilles slid open and he sprinted full force down the corridors, nearly passing the door he needed. Sliding to a halt, Sirius pulled open the door that lead to the Ministry's holding cells.
Sitting at a small desk, nearly asleep, was one of the newer Aurors. At that moment, Sirius couldn't be bothered to remember the boy's name.
"Hey, boss," the boy said, jerking his head up at the sound of the closing door. "What're you doin' here so early..."
Sirius ignored him, moved swiftly past the desk, and began to search the cells for the person he needed to speak with.
At the very end of the corridor, Sirius found him glaring out of the bars. "Stand up," Sirius said to the prisoner. "We're going to have a little chat." With a tap of his wand, Sirius opened the cell's door and led a very angry Severus Snape to the interrogation rooms.