(Author's Note: Some of you may have seen this under the name of Notcurne Equuis. That is my other name, but I've decided to put all the fanfics that I have together. If you know latin, Nocturne Equuis means Night Horse...aka Night Mare. So don't think I'm plagerizing or anything.)

Band of Brothers
Prelude

Chapter 1
James


The broomstick rotated gently in the shop window. The tip of the handle was capped with silver, then swept down long and black down to the bristles. These were black as well, but with a few silver twigs woven through it. James glanced down once more at the card resting directly below the broom.

The Shooting Star

Functional as well as beautiful, the Shooting Star

adds a whole new dimension to Quidditch. Not only

is it faster then any other broom available, its sleek

design allows better turns and heart-stopping dives.

Also comes equipped with an innovative new

cushioning charm for comfort and nearly unbreakable

braking!

For price, inquire inside.

James smiled dreamily, inching pressing his nose to the glass to see the broom better. Even half of those features would make it better then the old 'Lil Bristle he had at home. That was a kid's toy…didn't even go more then two inches off the ground. This was the real thing. Real Quidditch players used it. Mum probably had one of these right now. He could just picture her zipping along on one of these things, quaffle tucked under her arm, long black hair streaming behind her as she breezed past all the other players to the three hoops at the end of the field. Suddenly the image of the broom became foggy. James took only a moment to wipe it clean with a sleeve before pressing his nose to the glass again. What he wouldn't give to have a broom like that. Sure, first years weren't technically allowed to have brooms…but at least he could practice.

Suddenly a hand clapped on his shoulder and a shriek tore out of him before he could stop himself. He twisted his head up and found an elderly wizard wearing an old beaten up hat smiling down at him.

"Thought I would find you here," the man said, brown eyes twinkling. "If you thought any more about Quidditch you'd turn into a broomstick." James stuck his tongue out at his grandfather's gentle teasing, and then turned back toward the shop window.

"Isn't that neat, though, Granddad? They say it's even faster then a Cleansweep 2! I bet all the kids at school get one of those." He added a heavy dramatic sigh; just by the odd chance his grandfather didn't get the hint. The man chuckled.

"I'm sure not everyone in Hogwarts breathes Quidditch, James. Besides, if memory serves, first years aren't allowed brooms."

"I know, but I could practice on it during holidays. By next year they'll be begging me to be on the house team," James said, clutching at his grandfather's sleeve and giving him the most innocent waifish look he could manage.

"We'll see," Grandfather said, reaching down and ruffling his all ready mussed hair. "Now come on, we'd better get some school shopping done. The floo network will most likely be jammed this evening and you know how your Grandmam feels about us being late."

After casting one long last look at the broom, James reluctantly followed his grandfather through the pressing crowd. He kept a hand on his grandfather's sleeve to keep from getting lost and glanced around at the people. A lot of them were students, some even his own age. It would be fun living with all of them. His home was far in the country so they could have room for grandfather's owl sanctuary. There wasn't anyone his own age that didn't live over six miles away. They didn't even have a house-elf… Just a crotchety old maid and an equally old valet whose knees creaked. Then there were the owls. James grimaced at the thought. He wouldn't mind going to Hogwarts if just to get away from them. Grandfather loved owls, and so, gave them free run of the house. They had old owls, sick owls, owls whose owners were on vacation, nesting owls, abandoned owls. It was all James could do to keep his little pet mouse from being eaten.

With a small smile, he slipped his hand into his pocket and gently petted the warm bundle. Squeakers was curled up, like he was sleeping. Grandfather had said to leave him home. Since none of the owls came down to the basement, he'd said, Squeakers was safe. But James didn't trust owls at all. They were just waiting for him to leave his pet alone so they could nab him. Stupid birds. Suddenly James found himself stumbling into his grandfather's elbow. The man had stopped for some reason and was gazing across the street with something close to joy.

"Well I'll be. Can't believe the old place is still here," the man murmured. James followed his grandfather's line of sight. Not a few feet away hung a sign that proudly read, Eeylops Owl Emporium. James groaned. Oh nooo.

"We all ready have enough owls at home," the boy said, tugging desperately on his sleeve. Grandfather gave him a smile.

"Oh, I'm not going to buy one. Just going to look around. It won't take long, I promise."

James groaned extra loudly as he let himself be dragged into the shop. Why couldn't his grandfather be this obsessed over Quidditch? Suddenly he remembered the beautiful Shooting Star and immediately stopped whining. Owls always put Grandfather in a good mood. James smiled to himself. He could almost feel the broom in his hands now. But even that wonderful thought wasn't enough to keep him from cringing when they entered the shop. Owls were stuffed into every available space. There were owls on perches and owls in cages and even owls that peered out from the dark recesses of large bird houses. Bells rang softly as the door swung shut him and several owls ruffled their feathers. Large yellow eyes watched him hungrily and he suddenly remembered what he carried in his pocket. James cupped a hand protectively over the rodent and glared at the feathered pests, daring them to try it.

"Can I help you?" asked a man, coming behind a pile of owl cages. The man looked like an owl himself, white hair fluffed around his face and his eyes staring unblinkingly huge behind a big pair of thick glasses. James snickered in his hand, trying to disguise it as a cough. The man glanced at him, but said nothing. There was a long time where no one said anything. Grandfather was glancing around, eyes wide as saucers. James blushed slightly. What was so wonderful about a bunch of ruddy owls? After a moment, the shopkeeper cleared his throat.

"Well, I'll have to start feeding them. If you need help just-"

"My word!" Grandfather said, bustling to the far side of the room and bending to peer into a small cage. "Is that a Peruvian Pygmy? However do you get them in?"

"You know about owls, do you?" the shop keeper asked, his winged eyebrows shooting up. James gritted his teeth. Uh-oh. Don't get him started, he begged silently. Pleaaase don't get him started.

"Quite a bit, actually. Have a little owl sanctuary…"

"I have quite a selection of Ural owls, too," the man said, leading Grandfather to a different part of the store.

"Yes, I'd noticed. Remarkable creatures, those."

"I've always thought so."

James rolled his eyes. Great. Now they were going to be in here forever. Next time, he was coming supply shopping with his grandmother. He had an even less chance of getting a Shooting Star from her, but at least it was better then being stuck in this feather bin. A small movement in his pocket told him Squeakers was awake and shifting restlessly. James reached inside and began to pet him again, throwing a glance at his grandfather. It didn't seem as if he and the shopkeeper would let up any time soon. Maybe he could just sneak out real quick and play with Squeakers a bit.

Suddenly the bells on the door jangled wildly, making him jump. He turned, adjusting his glasses as he did so, and saw a lady come sailing in. She was dressed entirely in black, from her small hat perched on thinning hair, to her long black dress, splashed with a few silver stars. A boy, maybe a little younger then he was, came sulkily in, hair and eyes as black as the lady's dress. For a moment, they stood in the doorway, as if expecting applause at their entrance. Receiving nothing but a few quiet hoots, the woman swung her bony face around and jabbed a skeletal finger in James' direction.

"You! Where is the shopkeeper?" she snapped. James took a surprised step back and looked around. Grandfather and the shopkeeper had disappeared somewhere while he wasn't paying attention.

"Uhh..." he managed. The woman sighed in a disgusted manner and stalked further into the store, black skirt swishing. Her son remained behind, arms folded.

"Er, hi. I'm James," James ventured. The boy gave him a narrow eyed glare then turned away. James felt his insides knot in irritation. Snobby little boogey, wasn't he? For a while, neither of them did anything. Then the boy went over to one of the owl cages that hung freely from a pole and begun to shake it back and forth. The cage's occupant hooted in alarm and flapped its wings desperately, trying to keep balance.

"Hey! Stop that!" James snapped. He wasn't particularly fond of owls, but he couldn't stand to see anything bullied. The boy stopped and turned to look back at him, a smirk playing over his pale face.

"How are you going to stop me, mudblood?" he drawled. The word hit James like a wave of cold water. He stood there for a second, utterly shocked. The faint jingling of bells turned a switch inside him. Liquid fire jolted through every part of James' body.

"What- did- you- just-say?" James bit out, clenching his hands into fists. The boy turned to face him and James suddenly wanted nothing more then to punch him.

"Well, with a face that ugly, you have to be a mudblood. Standards haven't--" but whatever the boy was about to say next was cut off when an arm looped around his neck and pulled him into a headlock. James was taken aback by the suddenness of the attack and stared at the newcomer. He looked very much like the annoying little git he was holding, black hair and all.

"Ow, Sirius, let go!" gasped the restrained boy, trying to pull the older one's arms away, but his assailant just grinned up at James, grey eyes shining.

"Sorry about this little wart. He has no manners."

"I'll tell mummy!"

"No you won't or I'll sell you to the nearest hag," Sirius said, rubbing his knuckles briefly over the younger boy's head before sending him stumbling away. James found his anger easing, the insult quickly becoming nothing more then a memory.

"I'm Sirius, Sirius Black," the boy said, extending a hand. James accepted it, finding Sirius' palm surprisingly cool.

"James Potter."

"Good to meet you. Sorry for the little berk over there." Sirius jerked his head at the younger boy who had gone back to sulking. "Anyone that's not related is dirt to him. And little brothers are generally a pain in the ass."

"I wouldn't know," James said awkwardly. He was a little surprised at Sirius' language. If he even thought of speaking like that, Grandmother would force feed him soap.

"So what are you doing here?" Sirius asked, wandering away to stare at a particularly grumpy looking barn owl. "Parents buying you a pet?"

"No way. I hate owls. But Granddad really likes them so…" James shrugged. Sirius laughed.

"You'd get along with my mum, then. She can't stand them either. But 'Blacks have had owls since the time of your grandfather's grandfather','" Sirius said, screwing up his face and speaking in a high-pitched voice. James smiled uncomfortably, sensing it was a joke but not getting it.

"I'll tell Mummy you're making fun of her!" the little brother piped up. Sirius glared at him

"Ah belt up and bugger off, Regulus, you're annoying." The two brothers had a stare down for a moment, then the younger one's face crumpled.

"Mummyyy!" he cried, dashing through the store. Sirius grinned and lightly grabbed James' arm.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go some place to hide. If mum comes back she'll get mad at you."

"But I haven't done anything."

"Doesn't matter. She's just like Regulus." He rolled his eyes. Suddenly there was the sharp tapping of booted feet against the floor. "Come on!" Sirius said in a whisper. There were a large number of empty owl cages piled up on the other side of the room. Sirius dashed for them and James followed, dunking low to avoid being seen. He didn't think Sirius was right, but he didn't want to risk it. If she really was mad at him for some reason, he might as well kiss the Shooting Star goodbye. This wouldn't be the first time he'd gotten in trouble with mean old ladies, and grandfather would probably take her side.

Mrs. Black came into sight, her bony face swinging this way and that. She really did look mad. James slunk closer to the wall. If she were really looking for him, owl cages wouldn't be enough to hide him. His back hit something wooden and when he turned, found it to be a door. Turning the knob as quietly as he could, he swung the door open and stepped in. The room was long and narrow, ending in a rather large window. Rat cages were stacked high on a rickety wooden table on one side of the room. The other had old shelves with boxes upon boxes of owl treats. The door clicked shut behind him and Sirius leaned against it, sighing heavily.

"Good thing we got out of that. If I had to hear one more lecture about Black family honor…."

James nodded, understanding the other boy's need to get away all to well. How many times had he been lectured by his grandparents? 'Only the very best get to do Quidditch professionally, keep your mind on your studies.' Or. 'How many times have I told you not to fly that thing in the house?' And his personal favorite. 'You should be nicer to the owls, James. You'd really like them if you gave them a chance.'

"We're not out of anything yet," James reluctantly pointed out. "We can't hide in here forever."

"You're right. Ah bugger, I don't want to set Mum off again…" Sirius trailed off into silence, biting his lower lip as his eyes darted around the room. It had been a pretty stupid idea to come in here, too. He was practically admitting his guilt. To make things worse, they were trapped. James absently ran a hand through his hair as he tried to think. Unfortunately, the only thing that existed in his mind was the dream of the Shooting Star slipping further and further away from him.

"Heh," said Sirius. James looked at him and was surprised to find a grin spreading over his features. The boy was glancing at something behind him. James turned, but all he saw were the rat cages.

"What do you think, Potter?" Sirius asked, strutting over and examining the rats before grinning up at him. "You think those owls have been fed yet?"

"No, but what does that have to do…" James trailed off as understanding dawned on him. "Are you mad!" he snapped, clenching his hand into a fist. "We're all ready in enough trouble as it is!"

"Ah, well see, you're the one that's really in trouble," Sirius said, trying to pry the top of the cage loose. "I can just pop out that window and mum will never know I was here."

"Then why were you in such a hurry to get away from her?"

"Didn't know there was a window, now did I?"

"Look, if you set those rats free, I'm never going to hear the end of it," James said heatedly. Black gave him an obnoxious grin.

"Bully for you," he said, finally managing to lift the lid. James clenched his teeth. There was no way he was going to let this… this… git get him into any more trouble then he all ready was. Slapping his hand on top of the cage, he slammed it down. Black yelped and managed to jerk back his fingers just in time. Sirius Black turned to face him, grey eyes narrowed into slits. James met his glare without backing down.

"You nearly smashed my hand, Potter," Black hissed.

"Bully for you."

Black looked angry for a moment, and then smirked.

"I bet you're just too scared to get in trouble. What's the matter? Afraid of a little discipline?"

"I am not scared!" James snapped indignantly.

"Aww! Wittle baby Potter's scawed!" Black said, pulling his face into an exaggerated frown.

"Shut up!"

"Scared! Scared!" Black sang. James shoved him hard. Black shoved him back. Soon they were locked arm in arm, struggling to get the upper hand over the other. James grunted as he was slammed up against the edge of a shelf. Boxes rained down over both their heads. Some busted open and spread owl treats all over the floor.

"Say uncle, Potter!" Black said.

"No!" James roared, pushing the other boy back. Owl treats rolled under his feet and sent him crashing harder into Black then he'd intended and sent them both careening onto the table. There was a terrific crack as the wood splintered and everything came crashing down around them. Suddenly something smacked hard into the back of his head. There was a searing pain as if his head was being split open, then nothing.


Pain. Lots of pain. His head was pounding so hard, it felt like it would burst. Where the heck had it come from? There was the sound of a door being shut a little too loudly and rapid footsteps.

"How is he?" Grandfather? James sincerely hoped not. He didn't sound happy at all.

"He'll be fine, Herman," said Grandmother softly. "Just got a bit of a bump is all."

"He's lucky. If I'd caught hold of him, he'd have more then just that."

Uh oh. Grandfather sounded really angry. What in the world had he- Suddenly James remembered. Oh no. Ohhh noooo. He was in sooo much trouble. Forget about the Shooting Star… He'd be lucky if Grandfather let him go to Hogwarts! It was all Sirius Black's fault, too! Him and his stupid little brother! Maybe…maybe he could explain what really happened! James slowly opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn't. Grandfather usually always had an owl on his person, somewhere. Whether on his shoulder or perched on the brim of his ratty old hat. But the only thing owlish on him now was a little feather next to his collar. James gulped. If even the owls didn't want to be near him….

"Don't be too harsh, Herman dear," Grandmother said kindly, patting James' hand. Then she gathered up her wash bowl and left the room. James severely wished she hadn't left.

"I have never been so embarrassed in all my life," Grandfather said, quietly, his eyes boring a hole into James' own. "How could you do this, James? I thought you had better sense. I'll never be able to show my face in Eeylops again, not after all the havoc you caused." James wriggled uncomfortably, feeling more then a little ashamed.

"But…but…if it wasn't for Black I-"

"And that's another thing…fighting with the young Black. Honestly, James, you have more common sense then that!"

"But he started it!"

"That's not the point. I know we've taught you how much influence older families have. The Black's are about as old as you can get."

"They can't do anything to us!" James said stubbornly, a spark of anger flaring in him once more. "We're an old family, too!"

"The Potter name is old, yes, but hardly as revered as Black. He could cause a lot of trouble for you in school." The sad look on his grandfather's face mad James even guiltier. He was about to apologize, but then caught up with all his grandfather had said.

"School? You mean I'm still going to Hogwarts?" James said, wide eyed. Grandfather chuckled.

"Of course you're still going. You're going to miss our owls horribly, I daresay." Grandfather winked. "But I'm sure you'll get over it." James laughed weakly.

"Now," Grandfather said, tucking the blankets more securely around him. "I'm sure you know you'll be grounded until school time comes. That means no going outside and absolutely no flying."

"Aww, Granddad, not even to get practice?" James said, giving him a puppy face.

"You'll have plenty of time to practice at school. Now get some rest. First thing in the morning, you get to clean the tower."

"Oh no, not the tower!" James moaned. The tower was where all the owls slept during the day. The floor of it was covered in feathers…and…other things.

"Oh yes, the tower. It needs a good scrubbing." Grandfather gently kissed James' forehead, then stood with a slight creaking of knees and groaning of back. James closed his eyes. Oh well. With a sigh, he reached down to his pocket to give Squeakers some affection, only to find it empty. His heart fluttered. Where was he?

"Granddad? Where's Squeakers?" he asked. Grandfather paused, hand still on the door.

"In his cage I expect, where you left him this morning. I hope you're not thinking about sleeping with him again. He might get away and you know how Hesta hates rodents."

Oh no! Grandfather hadn't realized James snuck Squeakers into Diagon Alley! No, wait! Maybe grandmother had found Squeakers in his pocket and put the mouse away. As soon as his grandfather closed the door, James bolted out of bed. A wave of unexpected dizziness made him grip the bed post to stay standing. When the feeling had passed, he groped through the darkness to find the mouse cage. Just by lifting it, he could tell it was empty. Sinking to his knees, he clutched the small cage to him like it was a teddy bear. Squeakers could be anywhere. He'd be all cold and alone. Maybe even…even eaten. Tears burned the back of his eyes and he gulped them back. Another thought made him clench the cage so hard that the corners bit into his fingers. This was all Sirius Black's fault! Squeakers was his best friend and he'd never forgive that grey-eyed git for taking it away from him.

With a quiet snuffle, James shuffled back to bed, taking the lonely mouse cage with him. He tucked himself back in the covers. The air still hung with the vague smell of Squeakers. Now he would have no one to go to Hogwarts with. Hogwarts... James' eyes narrowed. Black would be there too. In the same year probably. James would make sure Black would regret what he'd done. Even if he had to hex the boy's nose off and get detention for a whole year... He wouldn't let the other oy get away with this...


TBC...

Well, there you go, folks. Don't know how often this is going to be updated except it will. Many, many thanks goes out to YiraHeerai- THANK YOU, GIRL! and Kiija Hatsumi- You too, Kiij-miester. .

As for future plans for this fic, well, I'll say nothing. I always have future plans. Let's just say that you'll be in for a ride.