Disclaimer: A Marauders era fic.

Old School

James woke up with a start, the last thing he remembered was facing Voldemort in a duel. "I'm dead then," he said calmly. He looked around and was surprised to find that the afterlife looked an awful lot like the Head Boy's suite. Unless . . . his heart stopped as he contemplated his situation. 'Magic is a mysterious and wonderful thing,' he reflected to himself as he looked over at his old quarters. 'Able to do anything, maybe even to give a failure like him a second chance to save his family.'

The first thing he did was pull out his mirror to contact Sirius and arrange for a meeting of the Marauders. The second thing he did was leap out of bed, throw on a robe, and rush to the Headgirl's suite for a reunion with his wife.

Just before throwing open the door, James froze, a terrible thought had just occurred to him. What if it wasn't a second chance, what if there was no Lily, what if this was hell? He was willing to admit, if only to himself, that he hadn't been the best person in the world. A better man wouldn't have wasted so much time on silly pranks, would have spent more time studying, would have . . . would have found a way to save his family. Slowly, hesitantly, he raised his hand and tentatively knocked on the door.

"What is it?" Lily's voice called thorough the door.

"Lil . . . Lils, is that you?" James called back, his heart pounding so fast that he feared his ribs would burst.

"Who else would it be?" Lily demanded sarcastically. The door opened and she glared at him with her hands on her hips. "And since when do you knock?"

"Lily," James whispered. His arms wrapped around her and he pulled her close. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I wasn't good enough and I'm sorry."

"It's okay, James," Lily said soothingly, more then a bit confused about what was going on. "It'll all be okay." Her head cocked to the side as the wards informed her that there was someone at the door. "Let go, ya big git, we've got someone at the door."

"They're here then," James' voice cracked. "Come on, I need to tell you something very important." He reached the entrance in three big strides and opened it to admit his friends.

"Sirius will be along shortly," Remus said, taking his spot on the couch.

"Went down to the kitchen to have the elves send up some breakfast," Peter explained, claiming his own spot. Long familiarity with the moods and habits of James Potter allowed Peter to pick up the fact that something was wrong, very wrong. A quick glance at Lily confirmed that she was just as confused as the rest of them. Not relationship trouble then, Peter frowned. "Everything alright, mate?"

"It will be," James replied.

"Okay then," Peter agreed. And that, he thought sourly, answered none of the questions swirling around in my head.

It wasn't long before the last member of their group arrived. "What's up, James?" Sirius asked as he flopped down between Remus and Peter.

"And make it quick," Lily added, "I need to study for my charms exam." She glanced at her boyfriend out of the corner of her eye.

"To start with, I will swear on anything that this isn't a prank. I'll swear on my life and magic if my word isn't enough for you."

"Nobody's asking you to do that," Sirius said quickly. The boy cast a worried glance at Lily.

"What's bothering you, James?" The lone girl of the group asked softly. She took a step towards him and put a comforting hand on his elbow.

"I remember graduating Hogwarts and getting married to the girl of my dreams," James began, "we had a son named Harry. He had his mother's eyes, his father's hair, Sirius' nose, Peter's chin, and Remus' ears."

"Why such mixed up features?" Remus laughed.

"Everything but the hair and chin belonged to Lily," James said with a weak smile, "and Sirius said that it wasn't fair . . . heh . . . insisted that he get something too. My perfect little boy, my wonderful little Harry." He pulled Lily close.

"James?" She turned a pair of wide, worried eyes to her boyfriend.

"We got word that Voldemort was targeting us," he continued, "so my wonderful wife." He squeezed Lily. "Reconstructed an ancient charm that would hide us from everyone that hadn't been told our location by the secret keeper. The last thing I remember is an unfortunately short duel with Voldemort."

"I'm sorry, mate," Sirius sighed, "guess I wasn't strong enough to keep the secret."

"You insisted we choose Peter," James said with a half smile, "said they'd expect you."

"It was me?" Peter squeaked. "You should have never trusted me with the secret."

"Sirius and Lily were the only ones that knew," James said softly, "they must have captured him first and . . ."

"And I couldn't bloody keep my mouth shut," Sirius grunted, "can't blame you for talking when I did."

"What about me?" Remus asked.

"There were rumors that Voldemort had a spell to control Dark Creatures," James explained, "we couldn't chance it. If it were just me and Lils then we'd have been willing to risk it, but we couldn't . . . he was our perfect baby boy." Tears flowed freely down James' face.

"You did the right thing then," Remus assured his friend.

"What are we gonna do, James?" Peter asked intently. He knew his friends and he knew that above all, the Marauders protected their own.

"First, we're gonna make sure we have a safe place to hide," James replied, "somewhere far away from here. I'm not gonna let that bastard get my son."

Everyone else at the table nodded their agreement.

"Second, we're going to cut loose and show the Dark Lord that you don't mess with the Marauders." He looked around the table. "Who's with me?"

"We all are," Peter said confidently. "Right?"

"Right," Lily agreed.

"As if you had to ask," Sirius said seriously.

"I'll be in the library," Remus announced, "pranks aren't going to cut it. We're going to need an assortment of new offensive spells."

"What was its name?" Lily asked softly.

"What's name?" James replied automatically.

"The name of that ancient charm," Lily persisted. "If we're lucky, I've got more time to work on it now then I did in . . . well . . ."

"The fidelius charm," James replied. "You said you found a reference to it in the Restricted section."

"That helps," Lily said brightly. "Maybe I can figure out a way to strengthen it now that I know we have more time."

"What about your charms exam?"

"I doubt Professor Flitwick will mark me down after I tell him that I was spending all my study time reconstructing a lost charm," replied Lily, impishly.

They spent the next few minutes planning their day before each of them departed to accomplish their own assigned tasks.

IIIIIIIIII

James stepped up to the charms professor's office door and knocked on it three times. This was it, his first step in becoming the sort of man he should have been the first time around.

"Yes," the diminutive man answered. "What can I do for you, James?"

"Professor Flitwick, I need to speak with you," James said firmly.

"One of those conversations?"

"Yes," James agreed.

Filius sighed. "Come in then and tell me what this is all about."

"I need to learn how to fight," James said as he took his seat.

"Revenge for what happened to your parents?"

"To protect the family I have left," James replied.

"Lily and the others," Filius said slowly.

"Please, Professor," James said intently. "Please."

"I'd considered apprenticing Lily but I suppose that isn't going to happen if your relationship is that close," Filius mused.

"We haven't set any plans in stone, but with the times . . ." James trailed off.

"Do what you can today, for you may not be alive tomorrow," Filius agreed. "Is Lily also interested in lessons?"

"Yes," James agreed.

Filius thought it over for a few moments. "Have her speak with me later then," he said finally. "I have a few charms that she might like to go over."

"What about the rest of us?" James persisted.

"I'd suggest that you speak with Professor McGonagall about using transfiguration in combat settings," Filius offered.

"So you're not going to teach us?" James's face fell.

"I didn't say that." The small man smiled. "Tell me, James. When building a house, what do you do first, the foundation or the roof?"

"Yes, Professor," James said.

"Come back when you can run five miles in forty five minutes, do one hundred pushups, two hundred sit-ups without stopping, and swim across the lake and back. Then and only then will you be able to benefit from what I have to teach you."

"Thank you, Professor." James gave a deep, formal bow. "I owe you more then you will ever know."

IIIIIIIII

Peter clutched the box to his chest, ignoring the scrambling claws he could hear inside. He knew the others wouldn't understand what he was doing, they'd try to stop him, saying it was too dangerous, but he couldn't afford to be the weak link any longer.

Harry... the marauder's child was depending on him, as were Lily and James, even if they didn't know it.

There were secrets to the animagus transformation that he'd ferreted out that he hadn't shared with the others exactly because they were too dangerous.

Part of the reason animagus could run with a werewolf and not worry about getting infected by lycanthropy or even eaten was due to their shared origins. Blood and magic fueled the change, but the animagus transformation blended with their inner nature, rather than having one imposed on them.

The reason Remus had changed so little was probably because his animal nature was a wolf or something similar.

But there was a way to change your inner nature, not a lot but some and the difference between a wolf and a dog wasn't nearly as large as people thought it was.

And neither was the difference between the common black rats that people raised as pets and the brown rats that could be found in sewers and warfs the world over.

Peter was rather timid, not a big fan of confrontations, fitting quite well with his animagus form, but had he been... braver, tougher, stronger, well his animagus form would have been a different type of rat.

What he was doing now wasn't changing himself to change his animagus form, he was changing his animagus form to change himself and if he failed... well Remus would have a friend who knew intimately what he was going through, albeit with buck teeth and a tail.

IIIIIIIIII

Sirius awoke with a start the next morning as he was unceremoniously dumped out of bed and onto the floor of the dorms.

"Wake up," James said blearily.

"What in the bloody hell are you doing, getting us up this early?" Sirius demanded.

"Breakfast is served in three hours, the library opens in four, and we've got a lot of work to do." James smirked. "Unless you were all talk when you said you'd be willing to do everything it took."

"Didn't realize that everything it took included getting up at bloody four am," Sirius protested as he pulled on his boots. "Was in the bloody library till it closed last night."

"And I was there next to you," James retorted. "Flitwick won't teach us till we can pass his bloody physical test."

"The others up already?" Sirius asked.

"Remus and Peter are," James agreed. "And Lily's the one that woke me up."

"Let's go then." Sirius laughed. "The more we bleed in training, the more the Death Eaters will bleed when it's real."

"And the less we will," James agreed.

IIIIIIIIII

Lily plastered a confident grin on her face as she stepped into the hospital wing. It had been almost a month since that first terrible morning when James had given them their purpose and they all had their roles to play, all of them except her. Sure, she was researching several wards and charms to be used in the defense of their future home, and granted she was learning offensive magic along side the rest of the others but . . . Lily sighed, it didn't feel like she was doing enough.

James was a driven man, a man determined to keep his family alive and that attitude had, for lack of a better term infected them all. Remus was spending every spare minute in the library, Peter was off god knows where, and Sirius was practicing offensive magic until casting it became second nature. That left her to learn the only vital bit of magic that their little group did not already posses. Boys, she sniffed, spending all their time learning how to break things.

"What can I do for you, Ms. Evens?" Poppy's voice dragged Lily back to reality.

"I'm sorry," Lily said with a faint blush on her cheeks. "I was lost in thought."

"A good place to be," Poppy replied with a smile. "You aren't feeling sick, are you?"

"No," Lily assured the woman. "I was wondering if I could learn a bit of healing magic from you."

"You'd like to become a healer?" Poppy asked in surprise.

"Maybe eventually," Lily demurred. "For now, I'd just like to learn enough to . . . with everything that's happening I thought it might be a good idea to know a bit of healing."

"I understand," Poppy said warmly.

"The boys are all focused on learning how to stay alive in a fight," Lily confessed. "I thought it might be a good idea to learn how to keep them alive afterwards."

"Not to mention how useful knowing a bit of healing will be after you become a mother," Poppy added cheerfully., smiling at the girl's blush. "Wait one moment." She dashed into her office and reemerged with a slip of paper clutched in her hands. "This is a permission slip to check a few books on healing out of the restricted wing. Come back after you've read the first three and we can get started on the practical stuff."

"Thank you, Madame Pomfrey."

"And don't hesitate to ask me if you have any questions," Poppy added to the girl's retreating back.

IIIIIIIIII

While Lily spoke with the School Healer, three of the other Marauders were having a meeting of their own.

"I suppose the two of you are wondering why I brought you here," Peter began, he had an expression of resolute stoicism.

Sirius and remus shared a look.

"What's up?" Sirius asked.

"I want you to double check my formula," Peter replied. He thrust a scrap of paper into Remus' hands. "Always good to have a second opinion, even if your second opinion isn't as good at the theory."

"Or the practice," Sirius laughed.

Remus studied the paper for a few minutes. When he realized the formula's purpose, the color drained out of his face.

"It's all my fault," Peter explained firmly. "I couldn't keep my bloody mouth shut."

"What is it?" Sirius asked. He leaned over Remus' shoulder and squinted at the paper.

"Insurance," Peter said. "In case I ever get captured."

"James would never agree to this," Remus protested.

"That's why I didn't tell him," Peter said with a weak grin. "I'm not going to be the weak link any longer."

"When we mix it, we're gonna need at least two doses," Sirius said after a few moments of contemplation. "Only reason they got to you was because I couldn't keep my mouth shut either, I'm sorry, mate."

"You would have held out as long as you could," Peter tried to console his friend. "Longer then I would have."

"I'm not so sure," Sirius said with a weak smile. "But I promise that I won't talk if it happens again."

"Neither will I," Peter agreed.

"And I make three," Remus sighed. "No one talks, no one betrays his brothers."

IIIIIIIIII

Intensely motivated, it didn't take long for the group to reach Flitwick's minimum standards and shortly thereafter, they learned what a harsh taskmaster the Professor could be.

"Again," Flitwick barked. "You wanted help, help is what you'll get."

They dragged themselves off the floor and prepared to run through the old sadist's drills. They went through this for several more weeks until the old man backed off a bit, grudgingly telling them that they were starting to become adequate. They were ready to go operational.

"It's time to start removing problems," Sirius said eagerly.

"It's time to start gathering information," Peter corrected.

"You want us to spend more time in the bloody library?" Sirius whined.

"I want to see if a rat can sneak into the Slytherin common rooms without being noticed," Peter retorted.

"It's a good idea," Remus interjected.

"Yes," James agreed. "It is. Alright, see what you can do while the rest of us." He sighed.

"Whipped," Sirius chuckled. "Sure you should be wearing a tux at the wedding? Might confuse people about who wears the pants."

"Sure you want Amelia Bones to find out who put that snake in her bed last year?" James retorted. "Cause she's gonna find out if you keep pushing it."

"I'll just be going then," said Peter as he walked out the door. "Back in a few hours."

"Good luck, mate," Remus called after him.

"And be bloody careful," Sirius added.

Peter shifted into rat form and scurried through the nearest crack in the wall. It always shocked him just how small a space he could squeeze his body through.

IIIIIIIIII

Snape was aware of two things when he awoke. The first was that he appeared to be restrained, the second was that someone had taken the time to remove his escape kit.

"He's waking up," a muffled voice announced.

"Take the blindfold off," another ordered.

Harsh light blinded him Snape for a moment after the rag was ripped off his face. Straining his eyes, he soon recognized his captors. "Potter," Snape spat.

"Severus," James said calmly. "I suppose you wonder what's happening?"

"What's happening is that you've finally gone too far," Snape growled. "You'll be expelled for this."

"I don't think that will happen," James disagreed.

"When I tell . . ."

"You won't," James interrupted. "Because if it comes to that, you'll be dead."

The tone of utter sincerity in his foe's voice chilled Snape to the bone. Whoever this was, it was not the James Potter he knew and loathed. Snape closed his mouth and glared at the other boy.

They stared at each other for a few seconds until James decided to break the silence, "I've brought you here to offer you my hand."

"In friendship?" Snape snorted in disbelief.

"In truce," James corrected. "Too much has happened for either of us to ever be friends."

"That's one thing we can agree on, Potter." Snape scowled. "Why should I accept your offer?"

"Because I'll kill you if you don't," James said bluntly. "I want you to swear an unbreakable vow to never act against me and my family and to never become a Death Eater. In return I will leave you alone." It was a bit more complicated then that, but he figured the man had the gist of it.

"Black and the others too?"

"All of us," Sirius agreed. "We're playing a very different game now and we can't be bothered with petty annoyances."

"Something you should know," James spoke. "If it were up to me, you'd be dead and in a shallow grave. Lily asked me to give you a chance and that's what I'm doing."

Snape thought it over for a few moments. There was no doubt in his mind that they would kill him if he didn't do what they said. "Agreed, Potter," he said, his mouth tasted like ashes. "Let's have the oath you want me to give."

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry it had to come to this," James said, getting as close to an apology as he could. Too much had happened on both sides for him to mean more then that, he was letting the man live because Lily wished it, he just hoped he wouldn't come to regret indulging her.

IIIIIIIIII

Excited by what he'd learned, Peter ran into the Gryffindor boy's dorm and shifted back to human form in front of his friends.

"Get anything?" James asked eagerly.

"Didn't hear anything in the boy's dorms so I switched to the girl's side," Peter said with a grin, "one of my better ideas, I must admit."

"Go on."

"I learned two things," Peter said cheerfully, "first thing I learned is that Sirius' cousins are smoking hot."

"We knew that," James said impatiently.

"I don't think you knew how hot they were without their clothes," Peter countered.

"Really?" Remus asked eagerly. "That good huh?"

"I can now die happy," Peter said with a grin.

"Need to remember to research how to look at and record memories," Remus muttered to himself. Quick on that thought was another pointing out that rather then being just a joke, it would also be a useful skill to posses for the fight ahead.

"What's the other thing you learned?" James prompted impatiently.

"Narcissa is going to marry Lucius Malfoy in three days," Peter said with a proud grin.

"So?"

"So it's our chance to get rid of a Death Eater," Peter said in exasperation. It was so frustrating the way James didn't seem to have a devious bone in his body. Well, not compared to Mrs. Pettigrew's favorite son anyway. "Well, so long as Sirius is willing to do his part."

"How?"

"It's simple, all we have to do is . . ."

IIIIIIIIII

Sirius had been the recipient of several glares and a number of odd looks when he'd taken his seat in the pew with the rest of the bride's family. Ignoring them all, he sat patiently and bided his time until the time was right.

"And if anyone should have an objection, let them speak now or forever hold their . . ."

"I have an objection," Sirius said loudly, "scum like him has no business marrying a daughter of the Ancient and Noble House of Black."

"How dare you," Lucius sputtered, "How dare you . . . I demand satisfaction."

"Agreed," Sirius said coldly, "outside, now."

"To death or . . ."

"Just death will do," Sirius interrupted.

"Agreed," Lucius said with a cold smile. He looked forward to putting the other man in his place. "I'm going to make you beg . . ."

"Have you ever noticed how the smallest dogs tend to bark the loudest?" Sirius asked one of the guests, seemingly ignoring Lucius.

"Outside, now," barked Lucius.

"So eager to meet your maker," Sirius drawled as he followed his victim out and onto the field of honor. His gaze swept over the crowd until he latched onto a familiar face. "Director Crouch, would you care to officiate?"

"If your opponent agrees," Crouch replied.

"I have no objections," Lucius growled, his eyes fixed on Sirius.

"Take your positions," Crouch ordered. The two men faced each other. "Duel is to the death, you will place your wands at low ready and begin when I signal with red sparks. Do you both understand and agree?"

"Yes," Lucius growled.

"Of course," Sirius agreed cheerfully. "Is there anyway we can hurry this along? I've got an appointment with a well rounded Ravenclaw that I don't want to miss."

"Well," Crouch said with a lopsided grin. "I'm normally supposed to spend a few minutes trying to get the two of you to agree to put aside your differences, or at the very least change the conditions of the duel."

"We can skip that part," Lucius said firmly.

"Then assume the position of low ready," Crouch ordered. He stepped off the field and raised his wand. "In three, two, one." Red sparks shot into the sky.

Lucius took a moment to decide what spell he was going to start with, he wanted to savor the moment, to make the blood traitor suffer. The thought that Sirius could be any sort of threat never even crossed his mind. He was Lucius Malfoy, veteran Death Eater, slayer of dozens.

His mind made up, Lucius raised his hand to fire the first curse and frowned when nothing happened. He knew he got the incantation right. Lucius looked down at his wand hand and stared in confusion at the charred stump of ragged flesh that ended where his hand was supposed to begin. Had Black hit him with some sort of illusion?

The world seemed to spin as Lucius's legs disappeared and the arrogant man collapsed to the ground. How is this happening? Lucius wondered. I am Lucius Malfoy, I am a Death Eater, I am the reason people are afraid to leave their homes at night. How is this happening?

Lucius looked up and into the tip of Sirius' wand. "How?" He choked.

"I may have been sorted into Gryffindor, but my soul is Black," Sirius growled down at the broken body of his opponent, "say goodbye, Lucius."

"No, you can't, Black you . . ."

"Reducto," Sirius incanted. He calmly pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to clean the spattered blood off his face as he walked out of the dueling circle.

"What have you done, you stupid child," his mother screamed shrilly.

"Look at his arm," Sirius ordered, "he's a Death Eater, a slave that didn't even have the courage to meet his end like a man. We are Blacks, Blacks bow to no one not even to some so called Dark Lord. I will not allow my blood to be sullied by such as that." With that pronouncement, Sirius disappeared with a pop, leaving a very confused old woman behind.

He reappeared in the Shrieking Shack and was unsurprised to find his best friend waiting.

"Well?" James asked.

"It's done," Sirius confirmed, "one less Death Eater."

"Good work."

"What're friends for?"

IIIIIIIIII

On the orders of the matriarch of the family, the Black sisters approached their cousin after classes to pass along a short message from the rest of the family.

"Sirius," Narcissa said calmly, she held her sister Bellatrix's hand firmly, "a word."

"What do you want?" Sirius asked coldly.

"In private," Narcissa replied. "Please."

"Fine," Sirius growled lead the way. Neither girl noticed the rat that scurried up Sirius' leg and into his pocket. No way was Peter going to let his friend face two Slytherins alone.

He followed his cousins to an unused classroom and waited for them to speak.

"Our parents have carefully considered your words and have come to the conclusion that you are correct," Narcissa said calmly, "they've also reinstated you as Heir to House Black."

"I see." Sirius was proud of the fact that he managed to keep most of the shock he felt out of his voice. "Was there anything else?"

"They also decided . . . they've decided that you have your choice," Narcissa replied.

"Of what?"

"Of which Black sister you'd like to take as your bride," Narcissa explained, "Bella or myself."

"I thought that Bellatrix was engaged to . . ."

"She was," Narcissa interrupted, "mother informed her that she did not have to sully herself with that pig today." She squeezed her sister's hand. "She's still in shock."

"I see," Sirius sighed. "What do you two want?"

"What?" Narcissa gaped.

"I asked you what you wanted," Sirius repeated.

"I . . ." Narcissa looked lost. "I don't know."

"Tell me when you figure it out then," Sirius said reasonably, "was there anything else you wished to discuss?"

"Not at this time," Narcissa replied.

"Thank you, Sirius," Bellatrix spoke up.

"What?"

"Thank you for saving me from having to . . . you'd have saved me like you saved Cissy, right?" Bellatrix looked up at her cousin with wide worried eyes.

"Of course," Sirius assured the nervous girl, "the day that scum was to marry you was also to have been his last on earth." He suddenly found his arms filled with two sobbing girls and he was left wondering how things had reached this point.

It was how Lily found them fifteen minutes later. "Meeting went good then?" She said with a grin.

The two Black sisters reluctantly released their savior and forced themselves to adopt a demeanor more fitting a daughter of the House Black.

"I'm back in the family," Sirius explained. "What's up, Lils?"

"Dumbledore wants to have a word with you," Lily reported. "Now if possible, password to his office is Lollypop."

"What about?"

"He didn't say," Lily replied.

"I'm off then," Sirius announced. "Have a good night, Trixy, Cissy."

"Good night, Sirius," the girls replied.

Ignoring the other girls, Lily turned and followed her friend out of the empty classroom.

IIIIIIIIII

Sirius strode into the Headmaster's office and plopped himself down on a chair.

"You wanted to speak with me?" Sirius asked boldly as he snagged a lemon drop.

"Do you have any idea why I called you here?" Dumbledore asked gravely.

"Not a clue." Sirius said innocently, thinking of any number of reasons that the Headmaster would want to speak with him.

"Your duel with Lucius Malfoy," Dumbledore sighed. "Was it really necessary to kill him?"

"He was a Death Eater," Sirius said simply. More then a bit relieved that monitoring charms he'd placed in the Hufflepuff girl's showers hadn't been discovered.

"Yes but . . ." Dumbledore was at a loss for words. "Death is permanent."

"Wouldn't have killed him if I thought he'd be able to come back from it," Sirius replied cheerfully. That wasn't strictly true. It would have been more accurate to say that he'd have made sure to dismember the body, entomb each separate piece in stone, and then scatter the pieces to the four corners of the earth.

"The Malfoy line is going to end," Dumbledore said in exasperation. "Another pureblood house, gone."

"Someone will come along to replace them," Sirius said with a shrug. "Hopefully a better family, Malfoys were nothing more then leaches."

"I . . ." Dumbledore stared at the boy in consternation. "That will be all, Mr. Black."

Sirius snagged a few more candies for the rest of the guys on the way out and strolled out of the room.

Peter was waiting for him at the base of the stairs. "What'd Dumbledore want?"

"Something about how we shouldn't kill Death Eaters," Sirius replied, handing his friend a share of the purloined candy. "Nothing worth paying attention to."

"Does tell us that we shouldn't expect any help from the so called leader of the light," Peter said thoughtfully.

"Something to keep in mind," Sirius agreed. "Come on. Let's get back to the tower."

"No 'dates' tonight?" Peter asked with a grin.

"My well rounded Ravenclaw doesn't love me anymore," Sirius said, wiping away an imaginary tear. "I think she was just using me to do a bit of research."

"Then I look forward to reading it when it comes out," Peter laughed.

"No you don't," Sirius interjected. "No imagination on that one."

"Pity."

IIIIIIIIII

Sirius was starting to get used to being rudely awakened in the middle of the night. None the less, it was still a bit disorienting and it took him a minute to gain his bearings.

"What is it?" Sirius murmured. He'd been pulled from the best dream.

"Two Slytherins at the entrance to the common room for you," the boy who'd woken him up replied.

"Thanks," Sirius said with a yawn. He threw on a robe and walked down the stairs to see what the fuss was about.

"Sirius," Bellatrix whimpered as she threw her arms around him.

"What's going on?"

"Her former fiancé sent her a love letter," Narcissa said dryly.

"What did it say?" Sirius asked intently.

"Words to the effect that he didn't intend to give up his claim and that he'd take Bella by force if that should prove necessary," Narcissa replied.

"Do you still have it?"

Bellatrix reached into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of parchment.

"Thank you," Sirius muttered as he took possession.

"What are we gonna do, Sirius?" Bella asked in a frightened voice.

"You two are going to go up stairs and spend the night with Lily," Sirius replied. "I'm going to respond to this note." He watched until the two girls disappeared into the Headgirl's suite before setting off, he had work to do.

IIIIIIIIII

Lily had an unreadable look on her face as her two guests settled down on the spare bed she'd had the elves bring up. She was not on speaking terms with either of the other girls and if it weren't for the fact that Sirius had requested it, she'd have never allowed them access to her suite of rooms.

"Thank you for letting us stay with you," Bellatrix said shyly. Sirius had told her to be polite and thank their host.

"Yes," Narcissa agreed distantly. "It was quite kind of you."

"Anything for Sirius," Lily said, uncomfortably.

"He's great, isn't he?" Bella agreed happily. "Right now he's making sure that my ex fiancé can't get me."

"Stupid oaf should have never threatened a daughter of House Black," Narcissa sniffed.

"Or done anything else that Sirius could take as provocation," Lily added.

"Sirius said that he'd have killed the Lestranges before he allowed either one to marry me," Bella continued. "I hope he doesn't get hurt," she added with a sigh.

"He will be fine," Narcissa assured her sister, a slight twitch around the eyes was the only thing that betrayed her true feelings. "He is, after all, a Black."

"Sirius will only get hurt if he isn't careful," Lily said confidently. "And then I'll patch him up, good as new."

IIIIIIIIII

Sirius took a moment to admire his handiwork. The Lestrange brothers were dead and the Ministry was unlikely to take an interest in the affair thanks to the note the to Death Eaters had been stupid enough to send.

"Thought the Blacks weren't powerful enough to respond did you?" Sirius muttered. "Heh, or maybe you thought I'd ignore a chance to put two more of you bastards in the ground?"

IIIIIIIIII

Lily sighed as Bellatrix held up yet another robe for inspection.

"Do you think Sirius would like me in these?" Bella asked, holding up a pair of midnight black robes.

"I'm sure he would," Narcissa agreed.

"Lily, do you think I should keep my hair long, or would Sirius like it short?" Bella asked.

"Sirius likes long hair," Lily replied with a grin.

"What about my skin?" Bellatrix asked. "Should I tan it?"

"I should keep it the way it is if I were you," Narcissa said calmly. "Now why don't you go wash up while Ms. Evans and I have a little talk."

"All right," Bellatrix agreed.

Narcissa waited till her sister had left the room before turning to speak with the future Mrs. Potter. "May I ask you to keep what you learn about Bellatrix to yourself?"

"Myself and the others," Lily said honestly. "I won't hide things from James and he won't hide things from the other three."

"That is acceptable," Narcissa said reluctantly. "Bellatrix is a very capable witch in public, when she is alone with those she feels close to she's . . ." Narcissa's mind worked to find the right word. "She has a difficult time acting on her own and she feels the need to have someone to tell her what to do."

"I see."

"I don't think you do." Narcissa sighed. "Bellatrix constantly seeks the approval of someone. In the past it was our mother, then our aunt, and now she's fixated on Sirius."

"I thought it was just a crush?"

"It isn't necessarily romantic, though it will become so if Sirius wishes it to. It's simply the way Bellatrix is, do you understand."

"No," Lily said honestly. "But I think I'm starting to."

The two girls conversed along that line for several minutes before a sudden thought occurred to Narcissa.

"May we use your floo connection?" Narcissa asked intently.

"Sure," Lily agreed. "Go ahead."

"Thank you, Miss . . ."

"Lily," she interjected. "We're all friends here."

"Right." Narcissa gave the other girl a genuine smile, the first she'd had that night. "Thank you, Lily." She threw a handful of powder into the fire and whispered her address.

"What is it?" The harsh face of the Black Matriarch appeared in the flames.

"Aunty," Narcissa said respectfully. "There is something Bella and I wish to discuss with you."

"And?"

"Have you considered the fact that my sister's husband still lives?" Narcissa asked carefully.

"A fact I lament every day," the old woman said sourly. "What of it?"

"Think of what happened to Lucius," Narcissa prompted. "What's even now happening to the Lestranges. But Andromeda's husband still lives."

"What are you . . ." The old woman's face wend slack. "I see. There is no need to bother the heir with questions about this, I shall find out myself."

"I was hoping that you would say that, Aunty," Narcissa replied. "Sirius has shown that he enjoys playing things close to his chest and I was worried that he would be annoyed if I questioned him."

"So much trouble would have been spared if he had just explained things to the family ahead of time," the old woman sighed. "Of course he couldn't do that, child was too Slytherin to be sorted into Slytherin and expects the rest of us to be able to keep up with him."

"As you say, aunty."

"Goodnight, Narcissa."

"Goodnight, Aunty."

IIIIIIIIII

Amelia was proud of the fact that she managed to keep her breakfast down, her partner wasn't so lucky. Even after a year on the force, the crime scene was one of the worst she'd ever seen, more terrible then anything the Death Eaters had ever done before. There were two stiffs without their skins and the latest from forensics was that the poor bastards had been alive until the very end.

"Do we have an id on the stiffs?" She asked the man St. Mungos had sent over.

"It's the Lestrange brothers," the Healer replied confidently.

"Lestrange?" Amelia frowned in confusion. "Our latest intel was that they were highly placed Death Eaters, why in the world would they do this to two of their own?"

"If they were Death Eaters then why in the hell didn't you arrest them?" The Healer growled.

"No evidence and no witnesses," Amelia said sourly. "You know it's a war and I know it's a war, but the higher ups need a bit more convincing."

"Bastards," the Healer barked. "And to answer your question, I'm not sure Death Eaters had anything to do with this one."

"How do you know?" Amelia demanded.

"Found this in the left one's mouth." The Healer held up a sheet of paper. "Fascinating reading."

It only took Amelia a couple seconds to finish the Note. "Black," her voice was neutral. Who'd have guessed that the cute little firsty she'd helped get to his first Transfigurations class would turn out like this?

"Got any evidence that he was behind this?" The Healer asked with a grin.

"Not a shred," Amelia replied cheerfully. "Which is why I'm not going to arrest him."

"Not like he'd get convicted anyway," the Healer commented. "Public wouldn't stand for it if the contents of that little note got around."

"I take it that I'm not the first one you showed this to?" Amelia asked dangerously.

"You are," the Healer said quickly. "I'd wager my assistant showed it to a fair number before turning it over to me though. Can't find anyone that's willing to accompany me to your crime scenes that can keep their bloody mouthes shut."

"What do you want to bet that the Black sisters will be two witches at Hogwarts that won't get bothered by lonely young wizards looking for dates?" Amelia laughed.

"No bet," the Healer said with a grin. "Not after what's happened to their previous suitors."

IIIIIIIIII

Andromeda was just about to start making lunch when she was disturbed by a knock on the door. On the other side was a woman she'd never expected to see again, not after the words exchanged at their last meeting anyway.

"Andromeda," the old woman said calmly. "Are you going to invite me in?"

"Aunty?" Andromeda Tonks nee Black said in shock. "What are you doing here?"

"I see marrying down has made you forget your manners," the old woman observed. "Pity."

"What are you doing here?" Andy growled. She groped for her wand.

"I came to speak with you about your future with the family," the old woman replied. "If you are rude enough to keep me at the door then I suppose I have no choice but to have that conversation here."

"I thought you made it clear that I had no future with the family," Andromeda said bitterly.

"That was before your sisters pointed out the fact that Sirius has allowed your husband to live," the old woman explained.

"What?"

"You haven't heard?" The woman smiled widely. "Sirius killed Lucius Malfoy on the day he was supposed to wed Narcissa and it's rumored that both Lestrange brothers have met similar fates at the end of his wand. Sirius killed them all to protect the family's purity, yet your husband survives."

"Sirius doesn't believe that pureblood nonsense," Andromeda said hotly. "He even gave me away at the wedding."

"Yes I know," her aunt agreed. "Which is why I came here. To find out what he sees in your husband."

"Who's at the door, mummy?" A child's voice asked.

"Go back to your room," Andromeda ordered.

"What do we have here?" Her aunt muttered as she stooped down to examine the child.

"My name is Nymphadora," the young girl announced proudly.

"A wonderful name," the old woman replied. "I . . ." she watched in shock as the child's hair shifted through several colors before settling on pink. "I see," the old woman said with a satisfied smile.

"What do you see?" Andromeda demanded.

"I see that you and your husband produced a daughter with a powerful and rare gift," the old woman replied. "We are going to have a family dinner in two weeks time, bring young Nymphadora."

"Is my husband invited as well?" Andromeda asked cautiously.

"Of course," the old woman replied. "It's long past time for him to meet the rest of the family."

"So long as Sirius comes," Andromeda agreed.

"Where else would the heir be?" The old woman smiled. "But at the head of the table as a new Black is presented to the family."

Andromeda felt faint, either she'd taken a bad batch of potions or the day was shaping up to be the weirdest one she'd ever had. Either way, she was sure it was Sirius' fault.

The old woman smiled to herself. A metamorph of all things, it seemed that young Andromeda's impulsiveness had been a boon to the family after all.

IIIIIIIIII

James stared at Sirius until the other boy began to sweat. It was a technique he'd picked up from their head of house.

"Why don't you tell me what you did wrong last night?" James suggested calmly.

"They gave me an excuse and I acted on it," Sirius said defensively.

"I see." James turned to the other Marauders. "Peter, why don't you enlighten our dimwitted friend."

"Use small words," Remus added with a grin.

"There were two of them and you went alone," Peter said slowly.

"Them?" Sirius laughed. "They were nothing special, could have taken them even before Flitwick's training."

"There are four of us," James said patiently. Lily didn't count, he was determined to keep his love out of the fighting. "Four of us and how many of them?"

"They only have to get lucky once, Sirius," Peter said softly. "Let's say they did get lucky, even if you did take them with you it would mean trading you for them."

"And you're worth a thousand of them," Remus agreed.

Lily walked in on the tale end of the conversation. "Not to mention how bloody selfish it is to keep all the bloody Death Eaters for yourself," she added. "This is just like in fifth year when you ate that entire pie."

"Fine," Sirius agreed with a laugh. "Next time I have an excuse to kill a couple Death Eaters, I'll let you guys join in."

"That's all we ask," James said in relief, happy that they'd seemed to get through to their stubborn friend.

"Your mum is on the floo," Lily announced. "Wants to talk with you."

"Alright," Sirius stepped out of the room, absently noting the familiar weight of a rat scurrying up his leg and settling in his pocket.

A plan began to form in Peter's mind as he listened in on Sirius' conversation, a plan that could lead to happiness for another of his friends if he played his cards right.

IIIIIIIIII

Peter resisted the urge to tug at the collar of his best robes as he waited for a response to his knock.

"Who are you?" The matriarch of the Black family demanded, peering suspiciously through the doorway.

"Peter Pettigrew, ma'am," Peter said politely. "I'm a friend of Sirius' and well . . . I have some things I thought you might want to know."

"Does Sirius know you're here?"

"No ma'am," Peter said quickly. "And he'd be annoyed if he found out."

"Why are you here then?" She barked.

"Cause Sirius is bloody brilliant and sometimes forgets that the rest of us aren't," Peter said with a self depreciating grin.

"I'm listening."

"James Potter is going to Marry Lily Evans, muggle born Headgirl. Andromeda Black married Theodore Tonks, Muggleborn but the top of his class."

"Your point being," the woman's prompted. "I'm aware that Sirius values the purity of power and ability more then he does purity of blood, a way of thinking that I've recently come around to."

"I found some of Sirius' notes and took the liberty of copying them for you," Peter said nervously, handing them over.

She glanced over the document. "A werewolf?" The woman hissed.

"Sirius is wondering if the traits will breed true without passing on the curse," Peter said quickly.

"I see." The woman sighed. "Sometimes I have to wonder why Sirius can't just explain things ahead of time for once."

"Cause then people will stop underestimating him," Peter said with a grin. "Not that many do after what happened to Malfoy and the Lestranges."

"It could also be his sick sense of humor at work," the old woman added thoughtfully. "He inherited it from my grandfather."

AN: A galleon or two of polish provided by dogbertcarroll, title by Clell Harmon. Typos by William, .

Deleted Scene: Lily

Lily waited until she was sure that Sirius was well out of range before she turned towards the other two witches. "Sirius is a stupid immature overgrown child," Lily stated calmly. She resisted the urge to smile at the looks of outrage that appeared on the other two witches. "That being said, he's also my friend. If this is some trick you've cooked up to hurt him, then I will find you and I will make you beg for death before I finally grant it."

Bellatrix smiled widely. "We're going to be such good friends," she said excitedly.

"Sirius saved us from a fate worse then death and he's also the future head of our family," Narcissa explained. "What would you do for the man that kept you from a wedding night with Lucius Malfoy?"

"I'm Lily," the future Mrs. Potter introduced herself. "And if you're going to hang around Sirius, then there are some things I think you should know." She smiled at the looks of attentiveness the two witches sported. She wasn't going to share anything sensitive of course, just enough to help them fit in.

AN: Typo busted by meteoricshipyards.

Omake by dogbertcarroll/Doghead Thirteen

Peter ducked and weaved as curses splattered the ground around them ducking down a side street with three death eater's fast on his heels. He dove forward and scurried beneath and out the other side of a cart that was in the way letting his far guide him.

It took the DEs a couple of seconds to remove the obstacle from their path and Peter waited impatiently for them, while trying to clam his racing heart and hold on to that small bit of courage that had earned him his place in Gryfindor, letting them catch up before he was off again drawing them down an alley.

They sneered at him smugly, realizing he'd lead them into a dead end alley. There was no escape, no witnesses, no hope.

Peter backed himself into a corner shivering and waited for them to get closer closing off any possible way he could run.

He had his back to the wall and there was no way out.

They'd fallen right into his trap.

There was no escape, no witnesses, no hope, for them.

He let the fear run wild and the rat free, barely holding on to any sense of self as he leapt forward half crouched over.

Tonight, three very unfortunate Death Eaters would find out how a cornered rat fights.

***

Sirius took the three blood stained wands that Peter handed him.

"Well that's another three," he said, wondering why one of the wands looked like something had bitten it in half.

Nah. Wasn't worth wondering about. Peter had taken three more down, and that was all that mattered; who cared how, anyway?

Omake by ubereng

"You did what?"

"I told Snivellus how he could get into the shack tonight. That'll teach him to snoop after us and to rape girls while polyjuiced as me... I still can't believe he got away with what he did to Sarah Underhill... Damn headmaster."

"You idiot! If Remus kills him, he'll never forgive us or, worse, he'll be executed."

Remus stepped into the vacant classroom. "No, I don't mind killing him. We all know he's joining Voldemort at the first opportunity and, so far, only you two have got to kill any bad guys. But, James is right. If they even suspect that a werewolf killed anyone, then they'll execute me first and ask questions later. Shame I don't work with Voldemort, those werewolves attack with impunity."

"I got that covered," Sirius replied as he pulled out and unshrank two items. "A gas-powered wood chipper and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, in case Mooney eats some of the foul git... They'll never find the body."

"So we're all agreed. The 'Half Blood Prince' becomes the 'All Dead Ponce', tonight."

Backstory by faerakhasa

Peter walked briskedly through the ruined corridors of Malfoy Manor until he reached a mid-sized lab on a dungeon. He barely gave a glance to the broken treasures scattered on a corner -as this room had once been Lucius Malfoy's most secure vault, and thus the only room in the house to survive unscathed the siege- and stopped on the only niche still occupied and well cared for.

Most people might wonder why it was so, as the niche kept only two skulls and a misshapen figurine, but those people weren't Peter Pettigrew. He smiled sadly as he touched the small dent in James Potter's skull. Godric's Hollow had burned down the second year of the war, and the tombs of the Potters had been destroyed. It was only Peter's skill as a skulker after all the years and had managed to save the skull with only a minor break.

Remus was unluckier. A werewolf killed during a forced transformation never is a good sight. A twisted, misshapen parody of a skull, canine and human features mixed, showcased this.

And Sirius, of course. Poor Sirius would never have his skull here with his friends. Nothing ever returned form the Veil. A small figurine of a four legged animal -Sirius would call it a dog, but transfiguration had never been his best subject. It was made of a strangely beautiful substance, wood and obsidian twirling in hypnotic patterns. A transfiguration disaster, in truth, as they had been trying to turn wood into glass for that third year class when Sirius decided to get fancy and create a glass grim (even back then he had been obsessed with then- it was no surprise to discover his animagus). Sirius had kept it as a luck charm, and if Peter has once known how it has ended up on his trunk on seventh year he has long since forgotten.

Peter reached in his pocket and a fourth object joined in the niche. Another skull, this time a common rat skull. Today was the end, let the Marauders run together once again. He turned to face the bubbling gold cauldron. Peter was not heroic. He had never had that king of bravery. But he had never wanted to join the dark. A small moment of terror, and his entire life had collapsed. But he had been a Gryffindor, and he still was one of the best potion masters of the world. Snape? Please, as if Snivellus would have been able to create -from scratch- the potion than had resurrected the Dark Lord on the graveyard -of brewed three correct animagus potions in fourth year.

The potion had bubbled for seven moons, the potion slowly changing colors from the original silver to its current jet black. Peter picked the last ingredient, a bag of silvery sand, and breathed deeply. After the first battle of the Ministry, the time turners had been destroyed. It had taken years of patient search to gather enough time sand for his project, but the had managed to do it. He added the sand, and the potion turned a blinding white and started to produce blinking flashes of light. Seven seconds.

He had though long and hard and who to send. He was a coward, he knew that. He did not dare to destroy it all again. Let his last act of sacrifice pay for his crimes. Remus was the most intelligent of then all, but, on his own way was as much a coward as Peter. And Sirius? Sirius had not managed to act responsibly even on the life and death battle than had killed him. As usual, it would have
to be James. He picked his skull and held it over the potion. Four seconds.

James had always been the linchpin. The force than got four completely different personalities and turned it into a perfectly oiled team. Granted, a pranking team, but those had been the happiest days of his life. One second.

Peter dropped the skull, and it fell on the potion in the perfect moment. A last explosion of light. Time unraveled as the world ended.

Unrelated Omake

Omake for Double Your Pleasure (Odd Ideas chapter 100) by The Wandering Soul of 1014

End of Fourth Year, on the Hogwarts Express;

Hermione had only just left the compartment she was sharing with Harry, Ron, and the Weasley Twins when Padma and Parvati cornered her and pushed her into another empty compartment.

"Hermione, could we have a word with you?" Parvati asked.

"Um . . . sure. Is there a problem?"

The twins shuffled around uncomfortably for a moment, wondering how to begin.

"Well you see, Hermione, you know how Harry and I are doing in our relationship, and I was hoping to talk with you about that altercation that you and Harry had right after the second challenge, and . . . "

Hermione blinked for a moment, and then her face took on a mixture of emotions: surprise, embarrassment, shame, and a slight amount of jealousy and longing.

"NO! I mean . . . Harry is my . . . and I would NEVER . . . "she stammered.

The Patils looked at each other for a second or two, processing a silent conversation like only twins could. Then Padma looked over at the bushy haired witch and said "We know you wouldn't do anything like that on your own, and we aren't accusing you of anything. Nor would we ever dream of trying to keep you away from Harry!"

Hermione calmed down after hearing that, "O-OK then. S-sorry . . . "

"However," Parvati hedged, "If you wanted to . . . and were willing to share . . . "

Hermione's eyes widened and she let out a confused "Huh?"

Padma sighed. "Monogamy is more of a muggle thing than it is a wizarding thing. You don't see it much anymore because the last two Dark Lords tended to kill a lot more women and female children than they did males."

"And well . . ." her sister continued, "if you wanted to, and were willing to help with a few things, we would be willing to . . . um, share him."

Hermione mimicked a fish out of water for a few minutes, and then, she ran another gamut of emotion. Finally, she said "I . . . to say that I wasn't hoping to get a chance to be with him would be a lie, but . . . but why are you doing this? I mean, he's the happiest he's ever been in . . . well, forever, and . . . I mean . . ."

Padma sighed, sat down, and then gestured Hermione to sit beside her. "You see, there are a couple of reasons why Parvati is asking you this. For one, we know better than to try and shut you out. Harry needs you like he needs air. He might love Parvati, but he'd turn around and drop everything to help you in an instant with whatever you need. We understand that, and while in other situations we could try to hook you up with someone else . . . "

"There isn't anyone who would match your standards, I mean, look at Ron!" Parvati wrinkled her nose.

Hermione nodded a nasty look on her own face.

"Two," Parvati hedged, "We kind of liked that forceful side of him that came out when he was carrying you out of the library." Hermione looked down and blushed a deep red.

"And third . . . well, we were hoping you'd help us explain something to Harry . . . "

Hermione nodded once, and then took on a rather thoughtful look. Suddenly, her eyes widened, and she looked between both sisters. "Wait a minute. All this time you were using pronouns like 'us', or 'we'. Does that mean . . ."

Padma shifted uneasily. "Ever since we were born, we have shared everything. Clothes, books, friends, you name it, we've shared it. And like I said before, there aren't that many boys that are as good as Harry is to us . . ."

"I mean, we have been swapping places ever since we first came to Hogwarts. For us to share a boyfriend isn't all that big a deal for us." Her sister continued.

"But Harry . . . we aren't quite sure how to explain it to him without making him freak out. You're his best friend, and you like him like we like him, to practically the same degree!"

Both witches pleaded with Hermione "Could you help us?"