Three wizards appeared at a seacoast, watching the high sea waves crashing into the rock. They looked at each other only briefly before one of them muttered a spell, and a small wooden boat appeared a few feet beneath them. Carefully, each wizard lowered himself into the boat. With a tap of a wand, it took off across the sea – somehow, the high seas didn't overtake them. By the time they reached the other side, all three were drenched in rain, but it didn't matter to them; they silently climbed up the slippery rock and turned to stare at their destination.
James and Sirius had been here numerous times; Remus, only once. They all despised the place, but they had to do this, if only for their own, selfish reasons.
Gulping, Sirius turned to his friends. "Well, shall we?" he said hoarsely.
James and Remus nodded, and Sirius led the way to the front doors of Azkaban. The wizard guard stationed outside checked their identification, and hesitated briefly when he realized there was a werewolf in the group. "Let us in, Gibbons," James said impatiently, yanking Remus' Ministry identification card from the other wizard. "We've already been cleared by Mad-Eye."
Gibbons nodded, glaring at James, and opened the doors for the three wizards. "He's already in interrogation room three. If you have any problems, Larson will be there."
"We're not expecting any problems," Sirius said flatly.
The three friends entered the prison, simultaneously shivering at the intense cold that only Azkaban held. James shook his head hard, feeling horrible thoughts trying to surface. "Anyone have chocolate?" he asked hoarsely.
Remus handed him and Sirius a Chocolate Frog, then had one himself. "I've got more if you need it."
"Cheers," James muttered, his hands shaking as he unwrapped the chocolate. He only glanced at the card. Merlin again. Maybe Harry needed it…
"This one," Sirius said in almost no time, pointing at a door with a large number three on it. He turned to James. "You sure you want to do this?"
James nodded. "Yes," he said looking directly into his best friend's eyes.
Sirius looked at him for nearly a minute before finally nodding. "All right, Moony?" he asked.
Remus nodded. "I'm fine," he said shortly.
Sirius sighed, then turned, tapped his wand on the doorknob, and opening the door. The room was heated – magically probably – and the warmth was quite welcome to the three wizards. They moved inside quickly, nodded at the wizard who must have been Larson, and closed the door behind the guard as he left. At first, they avoided looking at the other wizard in the room. They all had things that needed to be said, but none of them were quite ready. They stood in a corner of the room, knowing the other wizard was watching them very closely, probably very nervously, and held off the moment of confrontation for as long as possible.
The other wizard in the room with them had hurt them all – James most of all – and they needed answers. Finally James turned away from his only remaining best friends, and faced the man he believed had had a part in Lily's death.
"Hello, Wormtail," he said coolly. James sat in a chair across from his former friend while Sirius and Remus sat on either side of him. It was the first time in years the Marauders had been in a room together.
Wish it was on better terms, James thought sadly.
"Y-you've come to kill me, haven't you?" Wormtail asked quietly, glancing at each of the wizards.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Tempting as that is," he said lightly. "Sadly we have not; we're just here to talk to you."
"About what?" Wormtail asked nervously.
Remus glanced briefly at James before speaking. "We want to know what happened the night Lily died. We want to know why you felt the need to hide for five years. We want to know why you betrayed us and joined Voldemort."
Wormtail jumped at the sound of the name.
"Did you tell Voldemort where we were living?" James asked quietly. "Did you lead him there?"
Wormtail gulped. "H-he forced me…"
"Get off it, Wormtail!" Sirius said angrily. "We know you went to him willingly. He didn't force you to do anything. You knew what you were doing the entire time."
"Why did you join him?" James asked, putting a hand on Sirius' shoulder to calm him. "We were your friends. We would have protected you, just as we did at Hogwarts. We had Dumbledore on our side. Did you really think the Order wouldn't have done everything in its power to hide you if you were truly that afraid?"
"H-he was taking over," Wormtail said after a few minutes, staring at the table. "Marlene McKinnon… She wasn't supposed to die. We were going together, you see… I was supposed to protect her, but I couldn't. The Death Eaters came in. They stunned me and went to her. By the time I'd come around, she was dead and the Dark Mark was over the house."
The other three wizards had raised their eyebrows to their highest points.
"You and Marlene?" Sirius asked. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Wormtail looked up, his face troubled. "Because I didn't want you to laugh at me," he said in strong voice he rarely used. "I didn't want to hear you say 'why's Marlene with him?' And I knew you would."
"Peter," Remus said quietly. "We wouldn't have laughed at you. You never laughed at us about who we dated."
Sirius gave a half-grin. "That's not quite true, Moony," he said slyly. "Remember Rebecca Pelonis?"
James snorted and even Peter smiled a little.
Remus' lips were twitching and a blush was creeping up his neck. "Back off, Padfoot."
Sirius chuckled quietly before looking back at Wormtail. "See, it's all in good fun. Hell, we laughed about James getting together with Lily – you laughed too, as I remember."
Wormtail shook his head, looking quite miserable. "You don't understand. I tried to save her, I tried to defend her, but I couldn't."
James nodded. "I know that feeling," he said quietly. "I wanted to defend Lily. I would have given my life for her, but I lost her anyway."
Wormtail remained quite for a few minutes, thinking. "He came to me," he began very quietly. "I think Sirius was on a mission for the Order at the time, and Remus was recovering from a full moon. I'd just left your house, James; Lily made dinner that night, and we sat around, just talking. I'd come home, and he was there. When I walked in the door, I could feel something was wrong. All the lights were out, and it was very cold. Every hair on my neck stood straight up. I tried to send you a message, but he took my wand. He came out of the shadows and I'd never been more afraid in my life. I thought he was going to kill me. He told me to sit, and he conjured some wine…" Wormtail shook his head miserably. "I didn't know what I was doing. He started talking about how the Order was going to lose the war, and soon he would take over. He told me that if I gave him information, I would live and be rewarded. I was still depressed about Marlene; I wasn't in my right mind. I don't remember much, but he began asking me questions. They didn't seem all that important – I'd thought he wanted to know who was in the Order. But he asked about you, James, and Lily and Harry." James' jaw clenched. "He wanted to know what day Harry was born. He wanted to know where you were living. That's all I remember. He could have asked more questions, but with every question, the wine he gave me became stronger and stronger…
"When I woke the next morning, I'd thought it was all a bad nightmare, but then I looked at my arm – it was burning – and I realized he'd put the Dark Mark on it." Wormtail sniffed. "I wanted to go to Dumbledore, but I heard a voice telling me that if I did, all my friends would die. I didn't know what to do, so I just hid it from all of you. I thought that if I gave him the information he wanted, he would leave you alone." He looked at James. "The night he went to your house, he summoned me. He wanted me to go along and watch. I didn't know where we were going until we were in Godric's Hollow. He told me to wait outside. I heard Lily scream, then she was quiet, and I knew he killed her. Next thing I knew, the house was destroyed. I'd heard him scream – whatever happened to him had to be painful." Wormtail sounded as though he was quite pleased that Voldemort had suffered. James was. "I saw Harry, and he saw me. And he grinned and called my name. I couldn't stand it. I knew that if any of you found out I was there, you'd kill me yourselves. So I cut off my finger with my wand," he showed them the hand with only four fingers, "and took off. I'd hoped you'd all think I tried to save Lily…" Wormtail sighed. "She really didn't have a chance, James. I don't even think she could get to her wand. Even if she had…"
James nodded. "I know," he muttered, trying to fight back tears.
Nobody seemed to know what to say.
"I swear, I didn't want to join him," Wormtail said, trying to convince them as well as himself. "But I didn't see any choice…"
"Peter, you had a choice," Remus said. "Dumbledore would have made sure you were safe, even after what happened in Godric's Hollow. You were our friend; we would have done whatever it took to protect you."
"Pete," Sirius said, glancing at James. "I know we gave you a hard time in school, and even after school, but you were still our brother. You had to have known that. We became Animagi together. Remember all those full moon nights we had together?"
Peter nodded, smiling a little. "They're some of my best memories." He sighed, looking around the room miserably. "But in here, I've lost all of that. At first, I remembered everything, but now…" He looked at James again. "I'm sorry for everything I've done to all of you, but mostly to you, James." James looked up, surprised. "I know you love Lily, and I was responsible for her death–"
"Did you raise a wand to her? Did you use the Killing Curse on her?" James asked sharply. "No, you didn't. You're not responsible for her death. And you weren't responsible for Marlene's death." He shook his head. "Look, Wormtail, I told you at the Burrow that I know you're not a killer, and I meant that. You made mistakes; we all have at one point or another. And I'm sorry you felt the need to hide from us."
Sirius hesitated. "Perhaps when you get out of here," he said slowly, as though he was surprised at the words he was speaking, "we could all get together." James and Remus looked shocked. "Maybe over time we can start to trust you again…"
"Are you feeling all right?" Remus asked, staring at Sirius with raised eyebrows.
Sirius shrugged. "Probably not," he said lightly.
Before anyone could say another word, the door to the room opened and Larson entered. "Time's up. Pettigrew has to go back to his cell."
James nodded. "All right. Just another minute?" he asked.
Larson hesitated. "Sure, make it quick, though. The Dementors are moving this way."
"We will…" James stood and crossed the room to where Wormtail sat. He stuck out a hand. Wormtail stared at the hand for long moments. He seemed to think the hand was going to do something horrific to him. Finally, Wormtail shook James' hand. "Thank you for telling us all this," James said quietly, sincerely. "It explains a lot…"
Wormtail only nodded as he let go of James' hand. Sirius and Remus also shook Wormtail's hand before leaving the prison.
"Did we just forgive him?" Sirius asked, stuffing a Chocolate Frog into his mouth.
James shrugged. "I'm not sure," he said, taking the Frog Remus handed him. "You're the one who invited him to see us when he gets out of here."
"Yeah, well," Sirius said gruffly. "After what he told us… Bloody idiot. Why didn't he tell us?"
"He told us why he didn't tell us," Remus replied patiently, lowering himself back into the boat. "He was afraid. From what he said, I think he was in love with Marlene, and after he couldn't save her, his defenses were low, and Voldemort took advantage of that."
Sirius snorted, tapping the edge of the boat with his wand so that it took them far from Azkaban. "Still can't believe that… Wormtail and Marlene."
"Makes sense, actually," James said thoughtfully. "Even though they tried to hide it, I remember little smiles and looks between them that I dismissed at the time. Even Lily said it seemed like they really fancied each other."
"What'd you think of the other stuff he said?" Sirius asked as they reached the other side of the coast.
"You mean about Voldemort?" Remus asked. Sirius nodded. "Makes sense, I suppose. Peter always was quite suggestible under the influence of alcohol."
"He could've been lying, though," Sirius argued.
But James shook his head. "I don't think he was," he said quietly. "Peter may have lied to us about Voldemort, but I always knew, in the very back of my mind, that something wasn't right about him."
"I'd noticed that as well," Remus said. They were all on the shore now, staring back at Azkaban. "But there was just so much going on at the time…"
Sirius sighed. "Well, he's there for the next five years, so we've got time to think about it. What say we head to the Leaky Cauldron and have a few drinks?"
The others agreed and seconds later, they Disapparated.
Five years later…
James stood beside the Hogwarts Express with his son, not certain if he really wanted to let him board the train.
I could just take him home now, James thought. Teach him myself…
But he knew he'd have to let Harry leave. He couldn't deny his son the chance he and his friends had had all those years ago. And even if he decided to take Harry back through the barrier of Platform 9 ¾, Sirius and Remus would never allow it, and they'd be backed by Emmeline and Dorcas. Harry would put up a decent fight as well.
James' chances of keeping his boy close to him were lessening by the minute as Frank and Alice Longbottom came through the barrier with Neville, followed by Molly Weasley with most of her children.
Damn… Guess I have to let him go…
"All right, Harry," he said. "Do you have everything?"
Harry smiled and rolled his eyes. "For the millionth time… Yes, Dad."
"I'm just making sure," James said with a grin. He checked his watch. Ten minute before the train left. "Okay, you should probably get on the train and find a seat with Ron and Neville. You ready to go?"
"I've been ready to go for eleven years," Harry said with his own grin.
James nodded. "Okay, well, give me a hug, then…"
Harry obliged, and James hugged him tightly, knowing he'd see Harry in a few months for Christmas holidays, but that time seemed years away to him at the moment. Now he knew how his parents felt when they insisted on many hugs before he boarded the train. James dropped a kiss on Harry's head and mostly released him, still holding his shoulders, as he kneeled down to Harry's level.
"Your mother would be very proud of you today, Harry," he said quietly. "You know that, right?"
Harry smiled. "Of course I do," he said. "I'll be fine, Dad. You'll write, won't you?"
"Absolutely," James said, standing. "Every day."
"Well, you don't have to write every day," Harry said. "Every other day would be all right."
James laughed. "Every other day it is, then. Now, you've hugged Sirius and Remus and Emmeline and Dorcas, haven't you?"
"Four times," Harry said, glancing over at his godfather and extended family talking with the Longbottoms.
"Harry, come on!" Ron called, wiping his cheek where his mother's lipstick had remained.
"All right, off you go. Be good!"
"Oy! Don't tell him that!" Sirius yelled. "You know he won't be good! He's your son after all!"
Several families laughed.
James grinned and shook his head. "Well, if you must misbehave, don't tell me about it. I'm sure I'll get an owl from McGonagall…"
Harry grinned. "Bye, Dad! Bye, Sirius and Remus!" he added to the two wizards. Emmeline and Dorcas were busy with their own children.
Sirius and Remus caught up with James and waved at Harry, Ron, and Neville as they found a compartment and stuck their heads out the window to wave at their families. A few compartments down, Fred and George were waving at Ginny, who was crying.
"We'll send you Hogwarts toilet seat, Ginny!"
"George Weasley!" Molly yelled over the laughs of Sirius, Remus, James, Frank, and many others on the platform.
The train was leaving and James was trying his best to resist the urge to pull his son out of the window from which he was waving and laughing. As the train turned a corner and disappeared, a hand touched James' shoulder.
"Come on, mate," Sirius said quietly and understandingly. "You'll see him soon. We've got to get going…"
James nodded, suddenly remembering what they were about to do. His stomach seemed to twist into knots while his friends said goodbye to the Longbottoms and Weasleys.
"James?" said another quiet voice. He turned to find Dorcas standing beside him. Her children were with their father. James watched for a minute as Sirius tossed his eight-month-old daughter in the air. "I just wanted to let you know that I think you're doing the right thing."
James raised an eyebrow. "Really? I was under the impression that you didn't approve of this."
She hesitated. "Lily was my best friend – the best friend I ever had – and I know that if she was here, she'd be all right with it."
Swallowing a large lump that only ever appeared when someone said his wife's name, James tried to smile. "I think she would be, too," he said very quietly. "Thanks."
Dorcas winked. "I must say, though, that I'm a bit wary of the Marauders being reunited. It could only mean trouble…"
"What, we're not trouble with just the three of us?" James asked, grinning.
"Don't think I said that…" Dorcas replied with her own grin. "Now, you should go… Sirius and Remus are looking a bit impatient."
James turned to look at his friends. They were indeed staring at James with an impatient look that they only wore when they were waiting for a prank to happen. He chuckled. "All right, then. See you back at my place in a few hours?"
She nodded. "Definitely." She and James walked to where Emmeline, Sirius, and Remus stood. "I'll take her…" she said, taking her young daughter from her husband. "Where's Brandon?"
"Hiding behind a pillar," Sirius replied dryly. "I think he's hoping the Hogwarts Express will come back and take him to Hogwarts…"
James laughed. "I'd do it."
"Brandon Taylor Black!" Dorcas called sharply. "Get over here before we leave you behind!"
After a minute or so, a three-year-old boy who looked exactly like Sirius in miniature form appeared from behind a pillar just feet from him. The look on his face said he was quite resentful that his mother had discovered him.
James shook his head, smiling. "All right, we've got to go," he said looking at his watch. "We'll be back at my place as soon as possible."
Dorcas and Emmeline nodded.
Remus kissed the sandy hair of his own young son, then his wife, and turned to his friends. "Ready?" he asked.
"No," Sirius said dryly. "See you there." He disappeared with a pop.
"Wasn't this his idea?" Remus asked rhetorically, looking at the spot Sirius had disappeared before he, too, Disapparated.
James shook his head, rolled his eyes, and looked at the witches, who seemed quite amused. "Ladies," he said with a bow before he Apparated to the familiar seacoast.
"Took you long enough," Sirius said with a small grin.
He and Remus were already in the small wooden boat. James lowered himself off the rock and into the boat, and the moment he was mostly settled, Sirius tapped his wand on the boat, and the three wizards sped through the water to the small island that was currently not visible.
James thought back over the last five years and over what he and his friends had done. It was decided unanimously between them that, though Wormtail had been a bit stupid, he wasn't responsible for anything they had believed he was after Lily's death. As a result of this decision, with the approval of Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge, they'd visited Azkaban every few weeks to meet with Wormtail as an attempt to keep him sane during his remaining time in the prison. Over the years, Sirius, Remus, and James had found they weren't at all bitter towards their old friend. Even Sirius, who'd been the most stubborn about forgiving Wormtail, had begun to look forward to their visits with Wormtail.
Today, Wormtail was being released from Azkaban. For the time being, he would stay with James, since the large home in Ottery St. Catchpole would be rather empty with Harry gone at Hogwarts. The Marauders knew it would be a while before Wormtail was ready to do much of anything, whether it be getting a job or just going out in public, but they promised themselves they would be there for him when and if Wormtail needed them. There would be several meetings between Wormtail and Dumbledore over the next few weeks – Dumbledore only agreed to the Marauders visiting Azkaban under the condition that once Wormtail was released, he was able to speak with the younger wizard. James believed the headmaster wanted to check on Wormtail's true intentions towards his friends and Voldemort.
"Well, here we go," Sirius said, hoisting himself out of the boat and up on the island. He stuck out a hand to help James and Remus up as well. "Ready for this?"
Remus shrugged. "We've been preparing for this for five years," he said flatly.
"Let's get this over with," James said to his friends. "The Dementors aren't going to let him go easily…"
"'Course they're not," Sirius replied. "We've made sure Wormtail kept his happy memories; he's a feast for the Dementors…"
Remus shivered. "Wonderful visual, Padfoot," he said.
Sirius only shrugged as he followed James to the entrance of the prison. "It's true, though," he said quietly. "Wormtail is probably the only prisoner in this place who knows who he is."
Remus didn't reply.
The wizard guard was watching them closely as they approached. "Wands," he grunted, holding out his hand to James.
Inwardly rolling his eyes at Minister Fudge's new law about handing over a wand for identification, James pulled out his trusty wand and passed it over to the other wizard. The wizard tapped his own wand against James', and a hologram appeared from the tip of it.
"James Potter?" the wizard guard asked, looking from the picture on the hologram to James.
James nodded. "That's me," he said. The other wizard made a swishing motion with James' wand and the hologram disappeared. The guard handed the wand back to James. He repeated the wand test with Sirius and Remus. It took a bit longer with Remus', since the little hologram revealed that he was a werewolf. The guard had to double check Remus' credentials – it was something that happened nearly every time the Marauders visited Azkaban. Finally, Remus was approved for entrance into the prison, and the three friends, glaring at the guard, entered, knowing exactly where they were going.
Wormtail was waiting for them just outside the prison office, where he'd been released by Kingsley Shacklebolt, who visited Azkaban specifically for this task. Wormtail tried to smile at them. "The Dementors seemed to know I was leaving today," he said a bit hoarsely as his friends approached. "They spent the night outside my cell."
"Did you transform?" Sirius asked very quietly to keep from being overheard by anyone who may have been heard.
Wormtail nodded. "It helped a lot," he said. "It was a brilliant idea, Sirius."
Sirius winked. "Can we go now?" he asked to the area in general.
"He's cleared to leave," Kingsley said, coming out of the office. "Dumbledore's expecting him at Hogwarts tomorrow afternoon – at his leisure, Dumbledore said."
James snorted. "Which means get there as soon as possible, or pay the consequences."
Kingsley shrugged. "Probably," he said. "Just make sure he gets there," he added to James.
"He'll be there," Remus promised quietly.
"All right," Kingsley said, nodding. "I suggest you get out of here; the Dementors are on the other side of the prison right now, but if they sense we're all here, they'll be here in seconds."
James thanked Kingsley and led the way out of the prison. They stopped halfway to the boat and turned, finding Peter had stopped. The look on his face was unexplainable. James thought it was a combination of relief, joy, and remorse. Sirius, Remus, and James waited patiently for their friend. After a few minutes, James walked back to Peter, put an arm around his shoulder, and gently steered him towards the boat.
"Thanks," Peter said quietly, staring at his feet.
His friends looked at him. "You're welcome," Sirius said just as quietly before he tapped the boat to make it move.
As they sped back towards the mainland, James stared thoughtfully at the water they rushed through. He hadn't forgotten about Lily – not by a long shot – and he still loved her very much. But he finally realized that longing for her constantly wasn't going to bring her back. He'd concentrated harder on his work on the Ministry and even harder on his son. He and Harry had grown very close in the last five years. Their family didn't just include the two of them, though; Sirius' and Remus' families just made life so much better. Life was better than James could have ever imagined after Lily had died – back then, he hadn't thought life would go on at all.
James had his friends, his son, his sisters-in-law, and of course, his niece, nephew, and godson. Now they had Peter back, and life could only get better from there.
AN: Yes, that is really the end... Unfortunately, there won't be a sequel to this. I can't seem to get inspired to write one. If something comes to me, and it's decent enough, maybe I'll change my mind. It's been over two years since I started this, and I really appreciate all the patience you lot have had with me during the writing of this story. One last time, please review!