A/N: The first chapter has been edited very slightly, mostly for the purpose of including the date.
The first three chapters take place within the same day; chapters thereafter will occur months or even years after the chapter before it. It's more a collection of connected drabbles, with the first drabble divided into three so as not to overwhelm.
Starting in May, 1977 and eventually going right up until October, 1981.
Feedback very appreciated!
"Coming, mate?" Sirius had that grin on his face. He was planning something.
"Hm? Oh, yeah," James replied distractedly. He rose from his place on the lawn, glanced once more across the lake at Lily's pony tail, and forced a similarly mischievous grin onto his face as he joined his friend. "So what's the plan?"
Sirius kept grinning. "You know how to make ropes come out of your wand, right?"
James rolled his eyes. "Didn't we do that one last week?"
"I don't want to tie Snivellus to a chandelier this time. Although..." Sirius raised his eyebrows knowingly at James. "We could work him in somewhere too... but the fireworks may not lift him high enough..."
"Fireworks?" James started, an honest grin spreading across his face this time.
"Also it would be a bit of a giveaway that we were involved if we exploded the Grease Monster as well."
"As well as what?"
Sirius looked suddenly astounded that he hadn't filled James in yet. "Sorry, Prongs, I forget sometimes that you're not actually inside my head. The plan is to tie some dungbombs to some Dr. Filibuster's, and watch the chaos unfold from our shelter under an impervius charm as we're about to leave Hogsmeade." The dreamy expression returned to his face as he plotted ways to bring Snape into the prank. "Maybe if we use the smaller fireworks for the dungbombs and just used one big one for Snivellus... he'd work just as well as a dungbomb, his hair's filthy enough..."
James' sigh was audible. "You know I'm joking, Prongs, relax. I've learned my lesson... I won't seriously attempt to do anything to Snape without at least consulting you first." Sirius winked, but James didn't smile. Months though it had been, James no longer trusted Sirius where Snape was concerned. The incident in the Shrieking Shack had been enough of an indication that Sirius' dislike for Snape ran far deeper than did James'... perhaps a bit too deep.
"Guys! Guys, wait up," came Peter's squeaky voice from amongst the crowd behind them. James and Sirius slowed up and waited for the shorter boy to catch up with them. "Hi," he breathed as he met their stride.
"Did you see Poppy take Moony down this morning, Wormy?" Sirius asked. He and the matron were on a first-name basis; Sirius was in there so often recovering from the fallout of his pranks that he was a weekly regular. Calling Madam Pomfrey Poppy was just one of those things that Sirius' charm allowed him to get away with.
"Yep," Peter confirmed. "They walked across the grounds, prodded the willow and then disappeared down the hole."
"As usual," James said, exchanging an amused glance with Sirius. Peter had lately started reporting every detail of what he observed to whichever Marauder was closest to him. Remus had taken to hexing Peter to be quiet whenever he started talking too much. Peter, in turn, had taken to making sure Remus was nowhere in sight when he spoke.
Sirius took a deep breath and stretched contentedly as they walked, ignoring Peter's reflexive pan of the area for the cranky werewolf. "I love Hogsmeade weekends," he stated contentedly.
"We go into Hogsmeade on a monthly basis," James pointed out.
"Yeah, but no one's around to prank when it's just us. Plus we've got to wolf-sit most of the time, and it's always night. My tan never benefits unless it's a Hogsmeade weekend."
James snorted at Sirius' vanity, but his retort caught in his throat as he caught sight of Lily, skirting around him with a group of friends. "Hey Evans," James called immediately.
He could almost hear the sound of Lily's eyes being rolled as she turned reluctantly around, but continued to walk backwards even as she faced him. "What do you want, Potter?"
"A date," James grinned. "Just one. We're on our way down to Hogsmeade anyway, it's not like it's out of your way or anything..."
"It might not be out of my way, but I'd almost certainly have to be out of my mind."
"Oh, but then we'd both be out of our minds, me with my lovesickness, you with your having gone on a date with me, and then we'd be even more perfect for each other than we already are!"
Lily finally stopped walking, hands on her hips. James continued to approach her until he was only inches away; he stood over her, grinning coyly while he watched her green eyes carefully. "I am nothing like you, Potter," she said, voice dripping with venom.
"Fortunately for me, Evans, you are very wrong." Their faces were so close to each other that they were almost brushing noses; James revelled in the electricity that made the end of his nose itch and kept his eyes focused on hers. After trying unsuccessfully to stare him down for a few moments, she opened her mouth to argue with him. James grinned his most charming grin; all at once, her expression became kind and calm, a small smile playing at her lips.
"Do you know what I realized just now when I was about to argue with you, James?" Lily said finally, leaning slightly closer. James was hardly daring to believe what he was witnessing; did his most charming grin actually have an effect on Lily? As he was thinking it, the smile on her face grew wider, and his own responded in kind. "I realized," she started, intentionally letting her breath tickle his face, "that you're not even worth the bother."
James stood in shock as she turned abruptly and hopped back to her friends, the tips of her hair brushing his face as she went. Sirius clapped James on the shoulder in a brotherly manner and followed James' line of sight. "You know what Remus would say if he was here, right?"
"What?" James asked in a hollow voice.
"Wormtail?" Sirius prompted.
"'That's probably an indication that she's not interested, Prongs,'" Peter chirped happily.
"That's right," Sirius confirmed, nodding. "I've admitted it before, Prongs, she's a vixen, and I can see why she allures you so, but let her be. The solemn land of Those Who Have Been Denied Once and For All is calling you. Penny's there already, at least you'll have a friend."
"That wasn't a denial," James scoffed, striding ahead of Sirius and Peter, who rushed to catch up.
"Have you gone completely round the bend?" Sirius asked as though asking a sincere question, though he was grinning at James' never-fail denial mechanism. "She said you weren't worth the bother of arguing with. Before, I even agreed that she probably had the hots for you just judging on how fired up she got when she argued with you, but that was just cold. What could you have possibly--"
"She called me James," he stated simply, shrugging and grinning.
Sirius gaped incredulously, bringing a hand up swiftly to his forehead as though to smack it but redirecting it at the last minute and clonking James upside the head. James barely flinched. "He's a goner," Sirius confided to Peter, who nodded grimly.
"Off in Lala-Lily Land," Wormtail added.
Sirius and Peter made a game of trying to bring James back to reality as they made the final approach down to Hogsmeade. It was only once they were inside the Three Broomsticks that James was jolted out of his reverie by the appearance of dungbombs and fireworks on the table.
"Did you bring the Cloak?" Sirius asked excitedly, trying to figure out the best way to position the dungbomb on the firework for maximum dung explosion.
"'Course," James said, watching Sirius work with amusement. "So what does the execution look like?"
"See the bushes outside the post office?" James nodded. "You tie these together, one of us in the Cloak positions them in said bushes so the wicks are easily accessible from a public area, and then when everyone's gathered 'round to go back up to the school, someone sets them off and voila! It will rain poo."
"Plus there'll be fireworks," Peter added as James laughed at Sirius' glee.
"That'll give us a fair distraction to transform too, we may as well stay in town and give Moony a bit of company early," James realized.
"Good thinking, Prongs, we'll even have been accounted for after that point," Sirius said. "Okay, James, do the thing."
James muttered "Incarcerous", and ropes wound themselves around the firework and the dungbomb, strapping them securely together. Sirius grinned and stowed them back inside his robes for future use as Madam Evelyn brought them a trio of Butterbeers.
The day passed quickly; as it was the last Hogsmeade weekend of the year, Zonko's and Honeydukes were both packed with students the entire time. The Marauders, who knew they'd be back around the middle of June anyway, passed the time by enjoying the sunshine as they basked in a nearby field and ate strawberries that Sirius had nicked from the market up the way. Every once in a while, Lily would pass with a small group of friends. James, who was always riveted to the group each time they passed, eventually took his eyes off Lily long enough to recognize one of the girls to be the shy but pretty Penny. Penny had kept making moves on Moony to his complete oblivion until the Marauders had pointed it out to him, at which point he'd flat out told her "no" and gone on his merry way. James smirked as he remembered Sirius' exclamation of "are you MAD?" and the bickering that had gone on between the two of them for weeks afterwards. He saw Penny glancing repeatedly over to the three of them in the field, looking out for Remus as the girls retreated into the Three Broomsticks. James felt desperately sorry for her. Remus was too stubborn; she really didn't have a single cha--
And all at once, James wondered if he and Penny really were in the solemn land of Those Who Have Been Denied Once and For All together.
Screams ripped through the air.
James was the first to his feet; he whipped his wand out of his pocket and looked quickly to Sirius to make sure he hadn't hallucinated. Sirius stood slowly with a look of concern and helped Peter, who had apparently been paralyzed with fear, to his feet. Sirius took out his wand as well, and the pair of them ran through the field and down the road, a hesitant Peter trailing behind them.
The Dark Mark hung in the air over the main road. Robed figures were looting shops and homes; many of the kids who had been waiting to be taken back to the castle lay in the road, limbs splayed every which way, eyes staring emptily into nothing.
"Peter, take the Cloak and help the injured!" James shouted, searching for the Invisibility Cloak in his robes and throwing it to Wormtail. He knew Wormtail was neither especially skilled with a wand nor particularly brave, but he also knew that he had a compassionate heart, and that he'd do what he could to help people. James, in the meantime, panned the area and tried to figure out which area needed the most help while Sirius stunned an incoming Death Eater.
"Prongs," Sirius shouted over the commotion, pointing behind them with his wand. James looked where he was pointing and saw two of the hooded figures inside the Three Broomsticks. He briefly saw Lily's face, her features etched with horror, before bright green light filled the pub.
"Lily!" James shouted, running as fast as his legs would take him. He could hear Sirius running just behind him; he turned sharply and ran into the pub, wand at the ready. "Stupefy!" he yelled immediately upon entry, pointing his wand at the nearest Death Eater who, caught by surprise, didn't have time to react and hit the ground hard. Sirius was engaged in battle with the other one; James stepped over a pair of bodies on the floor, one of whom he recognized to be Madam Evelyn the barmaid, and went to help his friend in the fight. The pair of them promptly made short work of Death Eater with the non-verbal spells Snivellus had been kind enough to introduce them to; James taught Sirius the spell for producing ropes and went to address to the terrified crowd that had compacted in the back of the bar.
"We've got to get everyone out of here, it isn't safe," James shouted as an explosion sounded from the other side of town. "We're going to group you out in the field just up the road until we can find an alternative."
"That's suicide!" proclaimed one of Lily's friends. James caught Lily's eye; she looked pale and scared, but otherwise unharmed.
"It's not," Lily stated loudly. "They came in here looking for Evelyn, remember? They're probably here for specific people, and we just..." Lily swallowed. "We just got in the way. We stand a better chance if we're not in a structure."
"Couldn't have said it better," James said as Sirius joined him. "Now everyone follow Sirius, stick together and don't do anything rash. And mate," James added as he turned to Sirius, "put Evans in charge once you're at the field and keep rounding the younger ones up. Stun a Death Eater if you see one, but focus on getting the students out of the line of fire, all right?" Sirius nodded and looked as though he was about to open his mouth to say something, but before he could, James had stolen a last glance at Lily and dashed out the door.
"Wait!" James heard a few voices shout after him. He didn't wait, however; he heard Sirius address the people nervously as he emerged back in the town.
The scene, which he had not allowed himself to take in before, was dreadful. People were being hung upside down in the air, nameless silhouettes against the setting sun; dwellings and shops alike were on fire, plumes of dark smoke filling the otherwise clear sky. Flashes of light came from every which direction; the town was in ruins. A couple of seventh years were running around in the streets, pulling the unconscious and the dead out of the street and trying to rennervate the ones they could. James looked briefly toward the Hog's Head and saw their old pal Aberforth holding his own against a pair of Death Eaters. James broke into a run and headed toward the east side of town which, judging by the more numerous plumes of smoke over there, needed the most assistance.
"Stupefy!" came a familiar voice behind him. James screeched to a stop and turned to see Lily running toward him, leaving the unconscious form of a Death Eater behind her.
"What are you doing?" James shouted at her over the sounds of screams and fire. "Go back! Stay with Sirius!"
Lily shook her head determinately, strands of hair falling out of her pony tail. James had seen that look on her face before; it was the same one she had used when he'd first begun his quest to gain her affection. It was a look that said she wasn't going to budge, regardless of what he said. "I want to help," she shouted back at him.
"Go back," he said again in a nearly pleading tone, looking her right in the eye. But Lily only shook her head again and started in the direction James had been running in.
Redheads, James thought bitterly as he sprinted after her. She was already stunning when he caught up to her (in action and in adjective, he thought fleetingly), the red flashes of light hitting two of three Death Eaters who were standing side by side, each terrorizing their own subject. The third hooded figure was too quick; he let the villager fall the twenty feet to the ground and dodged the spell that Lily had shot at him, procuring a flash of light from the end of his wand.
"Protego!" James shouted, casting a shield around Lily. The spell deflected just inches in front of her and shot into the sky; the Death Eater reflexively watched it soar into the air and James took his chance, yelling "Expelliarmus!" The Death Eater's wand flew out of his hand and right into James'. James pocketed it and physically approached the Death Eater, grabbing him by the front of his robes and speaking in what he hoped was a low and threatening voice. "You don't harm her, understand me? Not ever. If I ever have the unfortunate occurrence of catching you trying to curse her again," James pushed the hood off the figure and was momentarily shocked to see he knew who it was, "Malfoy, you can feel certain that the last curse you'll hear from me will start with 'Avada' and end with 'Kedavra'." James let go of Malfoy and held his wand out in front of him as he backed up. "As it is, however, I'm not inclined to kill you simply because I don't like you, so... stupefy!"
James turned to Lily as Lucius Malfoy fell to the ground. "Are you all right?" he shouted at her, waving his wand and dispelling the shield charm. She stared at him momentarily, mouth agape, but then came to herself and nodded, looking determined as she brushed past him and tied up the Death Eaters silently. James, meanwhile, sprinted off toward the nearest source of terror--
--and screeched to a halt, terrified, at the sight of the ghostly-white face of Voldemort. He was floating lazily in the middle of the road and training a stream of blue light on Professor McGonagall, who hung thirty feet in the air, limp. James felt the blood drain out of his face as he tried frantically to come up with a plan; other teachers lay at the sides of the road, stunned or dead. "Oh Merlin," Lily breathed beside him once having caught up to where he was. James looked momentarily at her before starting forward; her eyes widened, and she grasped his wrist tightly, holding him back. "You can't," she shouted, beckoning at the forms lining the street with her free hand. "Those were fully grown wizards, James. He'll kill you in an instant."
"In case you haven't noticed, that's McGonagall hanging in the air," James shouted back, anger coursing through his veins. "If there's a chance I can stop him from killing someone else today, it's worth the risk." He wrenched his wrist free of Lily's grip and strode forward, face determined, wand raised--
Blinding white light filled the air. James bounced off an invisible barrier and was forced to stop dead, still metres away from Voldemort. The light faded, and James blinked to see Dumbledore standing in the middle of the street, facing Voldemort with his wand raised.