A/N: I'm really sorry for the delay in posting this. Life got a bit hectic! Sorry for leaving you hanging, and on a cliffhanger too! Hope you enjoy!
Emma's brother had her Hogwarts letter clasped in his hand and was running all over their semi-detached house with Emma hot on his heels. "So, what happens if you fail these N.E. then? Do they turn you into one for failing to be a freak? Would you have to repeat the year? Will you have to finally go to normal school and try and figure out trigonometry?" he cackled, jumping from sofa to armchair and back again, waving the letter teasingly in the air.
Their dog, Herbert, a springer spaniel, was very excited by all this activity and barked merrily, thinking that the letter in Thomas' hand was a toy that he was going to throw for Herbert to fetch.
Emma was out of breath from chasing him down the stairs. Thomas was two years her junior and was not magical at all unless you counted being magically annoying. He went to the local comprehensive and had just sat his O Levels; his results were due out in a few more weeks. She smirked as she watched him. It was highly amusing that he paid so little attention to everything she told him about magic. Like the fact that she could legally use magic outside of school once she turned eighteen. "Accio results," she commanded and the letter tore itself out of his hand. Then, for good measure, she cast Furnunculus on him and his face erupted in boils. She had been waiting eight years to do that.
Ignoring the curses (verbal not magical) that he was sending her way, Emma pocketed the letter in her jeans pocket. She and her friends had all agreed that they would meet up and open their results together, but Emma could almost feel the life changing piece of paper burning a hole in her pocket. She was impatient at the best of times. The next few hours were going to be a killer.
She heard the creak of floorboards upstairs which indicated that Thomas' screams had now alerted her parents to his suffering. Quickly, she cast the counterspell and Thomas' screams stopped and he removed his hands from where they had been clawing at the bumps on his face. Now it would just be his word against hers.
"Mum and Dad are gonna go mental at you for this." He then darted upstairs, Herbert still following him excitedly.
Before Emma even had time to worry about her parents' reaction, a second owl came bustling in through the open living room window and dropped a letter at her feet. She was glad that the flighty bird had managed to time its arrival so as to miss Herbert being in the room. He was quite partial to chasing small, flighty creatures.
She guessed that the letter was from one her friends either babbling on about how nervous they were now that their exam results were here or apologising profusely for already having opened them. So, when she ripped open the letter what she wasn't expecting was the brief instruction inside.
Meet at Order Headquarters. Now.
Emma furrowed her brow in confusion. They weren't due to have their first Order meeting for a few more days yet. What about their plan of meeting up at Peter's to open their results? Would everyone else be at headquarters? How was she even supposed to get there? Dumbledore had told them the address, but just an address was no good when Apparating. She needed to be able to visualise where she was going.
As if responding to her question the owl gave a sharp hoot and held out its leg. Attached to it was crumpled up sweet wrapper. She took that as her hint to retrieve it. As soon as she removed it from the owl's leg her living room disappeared before her very eyes and the world blurred in front of her and she felt the sensation of moving very fast and spinning around, like she was on a waltzer at the fairground.
The next thing she knew, she was thrown forward into a patch of overgrown, coarse grass. Emma scrambled to her feet. She was perched on a small hill, amongst a thicket of trees, overlooking a shallow valley below in which a large house was nestled.
It was a large farmhouse with what looked to be stables and barns to its right. A quaint, knee high cobbled wall surrounded its perimeter and fields stretched out before it as far as the eye could see.
A flock of crows took off from the trees above her, startled by the noise as someone else landed beside her with a wail and fell flat on their face. There was a barely audible mumble of, "I always hated Portkeys," before Peter raised his head up from the ground. "Emma," he shouted joyously, clearly pleased to not be on his own in whatever bizarre situation they had currently found themselves to be in.
"Is that the headquarters?" he asked, getting to his feet and coming to stand beside her.
"I guess so?" answered Emma uncertainly. It looked far too quaint to be the hub of an underground organisation.
There was a slight rustle of grass underfoot and Sirius and Kirsty appeared, barely even stumbling in their arrival. Bloody Purebloods, thought Emma, always manage to do these things far too gracefully.
Sirius seemed agitated and was already making his way down the hill. "I'm telling you, something's up." Emma got the impression that he was continuing on from where a previous conversation with Kirsty had left off. "James didn't come home last night. He hasn't come back this morning. Something's wrong, something's wrong…"
Kirsty shrugged and offered Emma and Peter a helpless look as she made to follow her boyfriend.
"Well, don't all just stand here like loons. Get inside before we're seen." Emma jumped as a gruff, growling voice spoke from behind her. Emma had to try not to recoil in shock a second time when she took in this stranger's appearance. His face was badly mangled and covered with scars and pockmarks. A startling, electric blue, magical-looking eye whizzed around in his left eye socket and made Emma feel slightly queasy.
"Erm, but we're in the middle of a field," said Peter, somewhat uncertainly, not quite appreciating that this really wasn't the time. "Who's going to see us out here?"
"Constant vigilance," growled the man as he strode down the hill with purpose, his wooden leg making a soft clunk sound on the dry grass as he walked ahead of them, hot on the tail of a worried Sirius.
When Emma entered the farmhouse kitchen she was immediately ordered to clean her shoes by a stern-looking, slim witch in an emerald green dressing gown who muttered, "As if I haven't got enough to do around here already without cleaning up the mess people leave in this house."
When Emma was finally allowed to enter the house she felt the tension leave her shoulders as she spotted Lily sat at the farmhouse table, nursing a cup of tea with a relieved Sirius draped round her in a hug.
Lily was already on her third hot drink of the morning. She let out a small sigh of contentment as the heat of it slipped down her throat. The added kick of Firewhisky was no longer present in her early morning drinks as it had been in the ones thrust upon her last night.
A tall, dark haired woman in her early forties with a deep emerald dressing gown and matching slippers was currently bustling around her in the large kitchen, fixing up breakfast. James was in the shower.
Lily had barely slept and the only sleep she had managed to get had probably only been courtesy of the liberal amounts of Firewhisky that Emmeline Vance had been pouring into her hot chocolates last night.
They were at the Order of the Phoenix headquarters although it didn't much feel like it in the calm light of morning. Last night the house had been a hub of activity. Dumbledore had swept in the moment they arrived and demanded to know everything. Lily had been somewhat embarrassed to admit to her former headmaster that Voldemort had been trying to recruit her. It made her feel unclean somehow; it made her feel guilty even though she hadn't even considered saying yes for a moment.
Various witches and wizards had popped in and out throughout the night, not really talking much to herself and James who had just been left on the side-lines watching the whir of activity. An elderly-looking wizard had come in in the early hours of the morning with a deep gash on his upper arm, splattering droplets of blood on Emmeline's previously pristinely clean living room carpet.
Lily had been surprised, but incredibly pleased, when Hagrid had arrived at the house in the night. He immediately walked over to where she and James were huddled up on the sofa and enveloped them both in a rib-crushing hug. "Yer safe," he had said, sounding emotional. "I couldn't believe it when I 'erd. Glad ta ere ye gave him hell though. Wouldn't ha expected anything else from the likes of you two."
The two ginger haired men from the battle at the mill had come in around midnight, covered in scratches and a few bruises, but identical ecstatic smiles pinned upon their faces. "Close call last night," one of them had said, placing his hand reassuringly on Lily's shoulder. "Glad we got you out of there when we did."
"The buggers tried to get away," his brother had exclaimed, helping himself to a tot of Firewhisky from the bottle Emmeline had left on the table and gulping it down in one. "Had to chase them around the country trying to apprehend them. Think we finally lost sight of them somewhere around Dover."
Emmeline had been there when they had arrived and had whirred into action as hostess. She later informed them that this had been her family home when she was growing up and she had gifted it to Dumbledore when she'd learned that The Order had gotten big enough that it required some proper headquarters. She had seemed somewhat agitated in the hours after their arrival though, almost as if she had been itching to go off and fight and was irked at being left with the menial task of hosting and handing out alcohol laced calming beverages.
Lily liked Emmeline. She was rather curt, but she had an easy confidence about her. Her mere presence last night had put Lily at ease, something she had only ever really experienced in the presence of Dumbledore and McGonagall too, to a lesser extent. Lily got the impression that she was in the presence of a more than capable witch.
Emmeline had only just set the pan of sausages sizzling away for breakfast when the large, stable door into the kitchen was thrown wide open. Emmeline shot the briefest of glances towards the house's entrance and barely stilled in the completion of her task. The only sign that she had been ready to react at all was the slight tensing of her wand arm.
"Lily, thank Merlin," Sirius took three long strides into the room and enveloped her in a tight hug. "Are you okay?" he mumbled into her shoulder. Lily nodded and Sirius, feeling the movement of her head as it brushed lightly against him, let out a sigh of relief. "James?" he asked, pulling away to look at her.
"He's in the shower."
She saw his shoulders visibly relax and he gave a series of short nods, seeming to be reassuring himself.
"Lily, what's going on?" asked Kirsty, entering the kitchen behind him and giving an uncertain glance over to Emmeline who was silencing the whistling kettle before inspecting Kirsty's shoes.
A recently showered James then appeared in the kitchen. Sirius bowled straight over to him and enveloped him in a tight hug. James reciprocated and clapped him reassuringly on the back. "Morning, Pads," he said softly.
"Will you all sit down?" commanded Emmeline as Emma and Peter also arrived. "You're cluttering up the place. Ah, morning, Alastor, tea or coffee?"
"Tea, Emmeline, please, thank you. Dumbledore here yet?"
"He said he had admin to do, you know, exam result queries and challenges, questions from the parents whose children have just received their letters. It really was the worst time for all this. You know how he gets about abandoning Hogwarts stuff."
Alastor merely grunted as he sat down. Lily noticed that Sirius, James and Kirsty were all watching him in awe as he did so. She really wished they wouldn't stare, it wasn't polite to do so when meeting someone with a deformity.
"You're Mad Eye Moody," exclaimed James, unable to hide his admiration.
"It'll be plain old Moody to you, lad," he admonished, his normal eye wasn't looking at James but his blue eye had whizzed round to seemingly look through the back of his head.
"Right, sorry, it's just that I've heard a lot about you. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Kirsty nodded emphatically and Lily noticed Sirius give her an encouraging prod. "Yes, pleasure. I'm Kirsty White, I'm actually hoping to become a new Auror in training." Kirsty sat herself down beside him and looked at him expectantly.
This time he did use his normal eye to scrutinise the young witch next to him. "Is that so? What N.E.W.T.s did you get?"
"Erm, I don't know yet, none of us have opened them."
"Do you always wait for others before acting?"
"No…" she replied uncertainly.
"Not a very good quality in an Auror," he sniffed, noisily slurping at the tea Emmeline had put in front of him.
"Hush, Alastor," she admonished as she did so. "You'll frighten the young girl away before she even signs up. You've been saying how you want some new blood in the Auror office."
"We were waiting to open them all together. A comradery thing," piped up Emma, coming to her friend's defence.
"No one will know if we just open them quickly now. I'm pretty sure I can convincingly seal the envelope back up again…" came the voice of Hayley as she, Remus and Sam appeared in front of the wide open kitchen door.
"See, comradery," joked Peter, jerking his head towards Hayley with a smirk.
"Oh, morning, guys," she said sheepishly and with uncertainty, her eyes going wide as she took in the scene before her.
James laughed. "Voldemort rears his ugly head and all this one's worried about is whether she got an 'E' or an 'O' in Charms." He jerked his thumb in Hayley's direction.
"I'm sorry, did you just say Voldemort?" asked Remus, his voice a mixture of concern and disbelief.
"Yep, met him last night. Lovely bloke," said James with a grimace. "Knows how to perform one hell of a Cruciatus Curse." He winced, hugging his ribs.
There were shocked gasps and concerned babble all around.
Emmeline made the newcomers all sit down around the table and plied them with tea and coffee as Lily and James told them everything that had happened the night before. Emmeline had also made Moody take his tea into the conservatory with her so the friends could catch up in private. Moody already knew the whole story anyway, no doubt.
"You could have died," gasped Hayley, her face even paler than it usually was.
"Not going to lie, it was pretty damn terrifying," confessed Lily.
"But you got away though. Not many people meet Voldemort face to face and live to tell the tale," soothed Peter.
"We're not scared of Voldemort, he should be scared of us, right guys?" Lily noticed that James was addressing his fellow Marauders rather than anyone else in the group and was trying for his usual jovial tone. He wasn't fooling Lily though. She could still see the strain in his face and that the feigned humour didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Yeah, I'm sure he's quivering at the thought of facing the Marauders. He must have nightmares about being chased around by pumpkins with fangs and being strangled by his own robes," snorted Emma.
"Wow, and we all thought that being recruited for the Slug Club was an achievement, kind of pales in comparison to being on the Dark Lord's most wanted witches and wizards list, doesn't it?" said Remus.
"You didn't actually, er, consider it, did you?" asked Kirsty, looking at Lily with what seemed to be a mixture of concern and high intrigue.
Lily gave her a disgusted look.
"Just checking," she mumbled, casting her eyes down.
"Is it even worth opening these things now?" asked Sam, casting the envelope with his N.E.W.T results aside. It skidded across the table before being stopped by the milk jug. "It doesn't feel like they're much use now. Not when we're at the point of having to deal with Voldemort randomly in the street."
Hayley let out a small squeak.
"You're still dying to open yours, aren't you?" Remus asked her, a smile tugging at his lips.
"I'm sorry, it's the Ravenclaw in me. I have to know."
"What do N.E.W.T results even matter anymore if Voldemort doesn't want us? What's my life's purpose now? I'm obviously not good enough to join his cult. I am so depressed," said Sirius, flailing his arms around overdramatically before collapsing in a heap on top of the table.
"Must hurt to find out that Prongs is actually better than you after all these years. I mean, if Voldemort says so that's pretty definitive proof," jeered Peter.
"Ouch, Wormtail, that hurts." Sirius lifted his head back up off the table and brought his hands up to his heart. "Anyway, for all you idiots know he might have already recruited me. I could be here now, spying on you all, ready to report back to his evil Voldy lair."
The others all laughed at him, thankful of a bit of humour to lighten the mood.
It was at that moment that Moody and Emmeline came back into the kitchen with Dumbledore in tow and Lily saw Moody give Dumbledore a 'seriously? These guys? We're fighting Death Eaters and other dark forces alongside these guys?' kind of look.
"Good morning, everyone," said Dumbledore, gazing round at them all. "I hope you were all satisfied with your exam results?"
This question was met with blank stares all round. "We haven't opened them yet, Professor," confessed Emma.
"No?" asked Dumbledore surprised.
"Well, you told us to come straight here, we figured it was urgent," supplied Kirsty.
"Ahhh." He sat at the table and stirred a sugar lump into his tea. "I trust James and Lily have filled you in on last night's events?" They all nodded. "Very grave business indeed. I had not expected Voldemort to take such an interest in my new recruits."
"You mean he knows? About all of us? How?" asked Sam.
"Unfortunately, there are spies and secrets everywhere these days. We try to infiltrate their side to gain any information we can, and they, regrettably, do the same. I wanted you to be aware that this is probably not an isolated incident. You need to be prepared. Which is why I asked you here today, earlier than originally planned. Your Order training needs to start as soon as possible. Alistor here has kindly agreed to put you through your paces, to sharpen your duelling techniques."
"Oh it's all Alistor, is it? What are we then? Garden ornaments?" Lily turned to see one of the ginger haired men from last night stood in the doorway.
"I always thought you'd make a rather fetching Muggle gnome, Gid," chided a second man with ginger hair, identical to the first, pushing passed his brother to waltz through the door. "Don't worry, Emmeline, my shoes are clean."
Emmeline had resumed the cooking of breakfast and eggs were now cracking themselves into a large pan. Lily's stomach grumbled. She realised she hadn't eaten anything since yesterday lunch time, having missed out on the planned dinner with her mum and dad.
Her parents, she had been told, were both absolutely fine. They were still at the Potters, enjoying getting acquainted with Lily's future in-laws. Dumbledore had been kind enough to go and check on them last night. Dumbledore had also assured Lily that he had already visited Cokeworth and had cast some extra protective spells around the Evans household. However, he had advised that Cokeworth probably wasn't the best place for her parents to be anymore, not now that Voldemort knew where her family lived.
Thanks to Severus, she had though bitterly. All of her fears about him had finally been confirmed. He really had become a Death Eater like all of his friends. They were on opposing sides. He had led Voldemort to her. To her family. And for what? Some misguided notion that he was trying to help her? To save her? The boy she had known was gone, and she wondered if one day she would be forced to meet the man he had become on the battlefield.
"Emmeline, you could give the House-Elves at Hogwarts a run for their money. This really is a delightful spread of food," commented Dumbledore, tucking into a rasher of bacon.
"You're too kind, Albus. Our new recruits deserve a hearty welcome, especially after the upheaval of last night. It's nice to have moments like this in amongst the chaos."
Moody was poking at his sausage suspiciously before jabbing it aggressively with his fork, giving it a sniff and munching on it contentedly. James, Sirius and Kirsty were still watching him with undisguised intrigue.
"You missed a good fight last night, Vance," cheered the twin who had been referred to by his brother as 'Gid'.
"Yeah, I turned Dolohov's wand arm into an octopus tentacle, he couldn't fire a single spell, not even to reverse it. You would have been proud," added his brother with glee.
"Nah, Vance here would have just scolded you for the tentacles' lack of suckers. Not a pure transfiguration." The twins both snorted into their forkfuls of baked beans.
Emma, Peter and Sam were all looking at the twins with something close to admiration.
Emmeline merely gave the two men a polite smile and rolled her eyes.
"Emmeline was one of my best students," Dumbledore supplied.
"Don't let Minerva hear you say that," said Emmeline, munching on a piece of toast. "House rivalry never dies, after all. She still lords her Animagus success over me. We all know I was the better Chaser though."
"You were at school with McGonagall?" asked James, shocked and impressed.
"Yes, she was three years older than me though. I was in Ravenclaw."
"Ha, I would pay good money to see what a teenage McGonagall was like."
"Talented Quidditch player, top student, Transfiguration prodigy, had a habit of heckling Slytherins especially during Quidditch season…"
"Ha, she sounds like a female version of James," laughed Emma.
Dumbledore clapped his hands together upon finishing the last morsels of his fried egg. "Right, I suggest we get started. We have lots to do. Alistor, Gideon, Fabian, could you go out and get set up in the garden? Emmeline, I have told Edgar to expect you. He wishes to go through the plans we discussed last week; I suggested that you were the best person to consult with. I must get back to Hogwarts. As for you nine," said Dumbledore his eyes settling on them. "I would like you to listen to what Alistor and the Prewetts have to say. They have been doing this a long time, and you could not learn from more exceptional duellists. No doubt some of you already think of yourselves as being competent in this arena. Alas, hexing Slytherins in the corridors of Hogwarts does not quite match up to the dark forces you will be facing. Today, you will work on technique. We will also keep our former appointment for what was supposed to be your first Order meeting. This is when we will be able to discuss more of the Order's general plans and you will meet more of your fellow members. In the meantime, I implore you all to keep a low profile. I will send Order members to your family's homes to cast what protection charms we can." He made to stand up and shrugged on his travelling cloak before turning back to survey them all once again. "And please, before you do anything else, open your N.E.W.T results. It is not healthy to hide from such information for so long." With a twirl of his cloak he was gone.
James sat with his back slumped against the cobblestone wall, watching the flurry of activity happening in the field down below him.
Dumbledore had been right. Gideon and Fabian were good. They twirled around their makeshift battleground like they were balletic dancers. Every movement was fluid and effortless, their spells cast with high precision, and they barely seemed to even break a sweat.
He was dimly aware of the Prewett family, but the two brothers had left Hogwarts a couple of years before James had started. He believed they were related to the Potters somewhere along the line; they were certainly related to the Blacks. He had heard many of the older students regaling each other with tales of the Prewett twins' escapades. They sounded very much like precursors to the Marauders themselves. James would have to remember to get their take on Hogwarts' secret passageways.
James had always believed himself to be a competent wizard, but as he watched the three powerful teachers in front of him, and thought back to the events of last night, he was no longer so sure of himself.
He had been terrified. It hadn't quite been how he had expected his night to go when he turned up at the Evans' for a lamb dinner. He had heard tales of the Dark Mark being seen in the sky and read reports about it in the Prophet, but to see it looming high above you, knowing it was an omen of death had made his blood run cold. Especially when he hadn't known where Lily was.
After dispatching an uncomprehending and terrified Mr and Mrs Evans to his parents, he had run through the streets of Cokeworth, following the directions to the park that Lily's mum had hastily given him. The only consolation as he ran had been the realisation that the Dark Mark had been cast in the other direction, the opposite side of town to where Lily was supposed to be. If that was where she was.
As he had approached the park he had heard two familiar voices. The first was the one that he had been hoping to hear, relief flooding through his body as he did so, and the second was one that he had always been loath to hear.
Snape had led Voldemort to them. To Lily. James could still feel the anger pulsing through his veins at the thought of it. That slimy git had nearly killed them both.
James Potter had never truly been scared. In his young years he had felt invincible, only the occasion lurch from an uncooperative broomstick had had him fearful of plummeting down to his death. The last time he had even felt close to being as scared as he was last night had also ironically been because of Snape. The night that James had saved him from a werewolf Remus. He had feared that Remus was going to kill them all that night.
He counted himself lucky that he had been able to live a sheltered life until now. He had parents who loved him and did anything and everything for him, best friends that would do likewise, a skill with flying and magic that meant he was adept at getting himself out of most tricky situations. He could even throw a mean punch when he wanted to.
But last night he had truly believed he was going to die. That Lily was going to die. He realised now just how vulnerable he actually was. When someone like Voldemort wanted you dead, you died. He could still feel the pins and needles on his skin from the Cruciatus Curse and the ache in his ribs.
He continued his vigil as he watched the group duelling below. Gideon was roaring with laughter as he dangled upside down, Sirius looking gleeful at having bested him with Leviacorpus. "This is genius! Wasn't around when I was at school. I imagine you guys have had some fun with this one," Gideon was bellowing happily.
Remus and Sam were stupefying each other; Kirsty was firing a string of all the spells she could think of towards Hayley, trying to break her shield charm; Peter had been stunned for the fifth time by an exasperated looking Mad Eye and Lily and Emma were squaring off against Fabian, trying to best him two on one.
"Top of the class as usual," said Sirius with his old arrogant smirk as he walked up the shallow incline to join James, mopping a bead of sweat from his brow.
"Alright, Mr 'my parents took me and my younger brother to illegal duelling clubs when we were eight years old'," James retorted with a laugh that he instantly regretted as pain shot up through his sternum.
Sirius eyed him warily as he sat down beside him. He let out a long breath. "You scared me last night, Prongs. I think that's the most scared I've been in my bloody life."
"It's nice to know you care," James quipped.
Sirius turned to look at him and James instantly regretted his attempt at humour when he saw the worry behind his best friend's eyes. "I thought… I honestly thought you were…" Sirius shook his head.
James reacted in an instant and enveloped Sirius in a hug. "But I'm not, I'm fine. We're all fine. It was just a small blip on our road to greatness. Padfoot will never exist without Prongs, I promise."
He let go of his best friend and settled back down onto his perch on the grass. "I'm just disappointed is all. I was hoping that I was about to be made the heir to the Potter fortune." A ghost of a smile now played on Sirius' lips and the worry behind his eyes seemed to lift somewhat.
James punched Sirius playfully on the arm.
"James Potter, I never figured you for one to sit on the side-lines when there's all this duelling going on."
"Frank!" James turned and jumped up at the sound of this new voice. He shook hands with the tall, somewhat gangly, young man before him with rosy cheeks and a mop of mousy brown hair. Sirius too was glad to see their old Gryffindor friend.
"I see that you're still friends with that rabble then," Frank laughed as he looked over to where Kirsty had just blasted Emma with a jet of high powered water.
"Not just their friends now, Frank," admonished Peter, walking up the slope to join them, looking somewhat dazed from all the stunning spells he had taken. "They're their girlfriends too."
"Haha! You don't say. I thought you boys could never be tamed."
"We're not tamed," blasted Sirius.
"Just somewhat more docile," said Remus with a smirk, walking up behind Peter. "Great to see you, Frank. How's Alice?"
"Oh, she's very good thanks. She's in the office today. On the job Auror training."
"So you've been recruited for this too then?" asked James.
"Of course, straight out of school like you guys, Dumbledore's not daft enough to pass up the chance of recruiting a Head Boy. Although I hear that the Head Boy legacy got somewhat tarnished after I left. Was Dumbledore right in the head when he gave that badge to you, Potter?"
"Haha, very funny."
"I heard about your run-in with Voldemort. Pretty terrifying, isn't he? Me and Alice finally came face to face with him last year, tried to pull the same thing with us."
"Aww, you've made him feel less special now. He thought he was Voldemort's special case," teased Sirius.
"Unfortunately not," said Frank with a sigh. "It's becoming part and parcel of being an Order member these days, fighting off offers from Him and his followers. Although of course after you say no once, you aren't offered a second chance. Then they just straight up try and kill you."
"You would make a terrible recruiter, you know that. You're not exactly selling this to us," observed Remus dryly.
"Ahh, try not to worry too much," said Frank, looking somewhat abashed at the idea of scaring them all unnecessarily. "We've got a good bunch here. Although, the quality of recruits has gone down somewhat lately I must say," he laughed as he let his gaze wander over the four boys in front of him. "We'll keep you as safe as we can. Won't send you out until you're trained up and ready."
"Except for when Voldemort just pops up unexpectedly," scoffed Peter.
"Yeah, except for that," said Frank, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily.
"Longbottom," growled Moody, nodding his head in greeting.
James marvelled at how they had not heard him approaching with the soft clunk his wooden leg made on the grass.
Sirius was wrinkling his nose beside James like he always did when his heightened sense of smell picked something up long before the rest of them.
It didn't take James long to literally catch whiff of it too. Something was burning.
"Haha, you gotta hand it to her, Mad Eye, it was a pretty creative use of Incendio," laughed Gideon.
"She nearly burned me alive," growled Moody, smoke emanating from his wooden leg that was looking considerably charred.
"It's not her fault you carry around your own kindling," Fabian hooted with laughter.
"I think you have a great Auror in the making on your hands there," agreed Gideon with glee.
Moody threw a disgruntled look over his shoulder. The guys all followed his gaze to see Kirsty putting out a small group of fires with her wand.