A/N: I wrote this a long time ago when I was bored and going hp crazy, so I decided to upload it instead of having this just sit on my computer.
Disclaimer: Everything in the HP universe belongs to the amazing JK Rowling, and everything from here on that is in bold is a direct quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Chapter One: The Dark Lord Ascending
"J-James, I don't think this is such a good idea..."
"Merlin, Peter, you say that about everything we do. You can always turn your tail and go back in the common room like a good little spineless rule-upholder."
Two snickers, a sigh, and a whimper echoed through the distinguished library of Hogwarts, and if one was alert enough to hear those voices and follow them, all they would see was a slight shadow and the occasional foot heading towards the Restricted Section. The four sixth-years were crammed under one invisibility cloak, resulting in a lot of muffled curses and not so much stealth.
"Really, you'd think we'd be used to walking around like this by now."
"Not everyone is amazing like you, mister perfect prefect!"
"Yes, well if someone hadn't shot up a foot over the summer we wouldn't be having this problem!"
"You're just jealous! I don't see any girls fainting over you!"
"Moony, Padfoot, shut up! Do you want us to get caught? And Sirius, don't exaggerate. It makes makes you sound even more stupid than you are."
The dog animagus' retort was cut short when Peter pointed out they had entered the Restricted Section. The four boys went to work, as James cast a silencing spell over the area, Remus threw off the cloak and hurried to the bookshelves, Sirius cast an old spell that he'd found that only shed light in a certain area for certain people, and Peter transformed and scurried off to quickly check the surrounding area.
Once James had finished, Sirius rubbed his hands together and grinned maniacally. "Snivellus'll never know what hit his greasy mug. This one has got to top every prank we've ever pulled!"
Remus looked over his shoulder. "A good sentiment Sirius, but if you don't come over here and help me find something it'll never happen. How are the anti-alert charms going?"
James grinned and pulled one of the books of it's shelf. It didn't scream. "Like a charm!"
The two other boys rolled their eyes and went back to examining the shelves for some good old restricted pranking material. After about ten minutes of looking through the shelves and making a pile of everything that sounded interesting Peter joined them, saying that Filch simply passed right by the library and Pince had already gone to bed.
The four boys continued looking through the books, laughing whenever an outrageous title came up and saving Peter a few times when he nearly triggered extra safety spells on the nastier books.
"'Ten-Thousand Ways to Make Your Enemy Bleed', ugh, no wonder some of these are in the Restricted Section." Remus looked at the book in distaste and replaced it.
"Hey Moony, look!" Sirius held up a large tome with the title 'Origin of Werewolves: A Theory'. He flipped it open to a random page, paled, and shut it quickly, causing Remus to go white as well. The search continued, and once the rapidly growing stack reached Peter's height the boys decided to sit and go through them.
The Marauders decided to make the tedious task a game, and whoever had the least of their chosen books vetoed got to have an alibi when Snape was pranked. Remus was winning by far. Near the middle of the stack James peered at a dusty book with a plain brown cover, called 'An Essay on Muggles'. "Hey, who put this one in the pile? We don't need to know about Muggles."
Sirius grabbed the book out of his hands. "I did! It's so pretty and new looking...it's the only one around here that doesn't seem three-hundred years old!"
The other three stared at him oddly. "Um, Sirius?" Remus said slowly, "The book looks like it's going to fall apart." The large tome was in bad condition, being frayed around the edges, the color almost completely faded, and the author's name was barely legible.
"No, look!" Sirius flipped the book open to reveal clean, white pages with immaculate edges.
Remus' eyes widened and he snatched the book away from Sirius, flipping through the pages as well. As soon as he shut the book, the inside matched the cover, becoming yellow and frayed. He opened and closed the book a few time, watching the pages inside switch between new and old.
"Cool! I wanna try!" Peter reached out his hand to see the book but Remus ignored him, thinking out loud.
"Why would someone want to make this book look old and worn?"
"Maybe it's got the best spells for pranks ever made! I might have stumbled on a gold-mine here!"
James frowned. "Or it could have some really dark magic in it. Why else would Dumbledore conceal a book inside the Restricted Section?"
"You think Dumbledore did this?" Peter asked.
"Then we shouldn't look at it." Never one to go against the Headmaster, Remus started to put the book in the veto pile when Sirius snatched it out of his hands, flipped it open to the first page, and began bellowing out the first few parts of the mysterious book.
The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart, in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they
Sirius was tackled before he could get any further, James covering his friend's mouth and Remus grabbing the book. The two black-haired boys rolled around on the library floor while Remus glared angrily at the innocent-looking book.
"Um, Remus?" Peter nervously scooted around James and Sirius. "It didn't really sound that bad...it actually seems like one of the fantasy novels...you know, like 'The Tales of Beetle the Bard'! Can I see it?"
The werewolf looked indecisive for a few seconds, then grudgingly handed the book to Peter. The smallest marauder scurried back to his seat and flipped the book open to the first page, picking up where Sirius left off.
Meanwhile, Remus walked over to the two tussling boys and pulled them apart, pointing to the still-large stack of books, using his patented Remus-the-prefect glare. James and Sirius hung their heads and sighed, sitting back in their places around the pile. James was about to grab the next book when Peter suddenly gave a loud squeak.
When the three looked at him questioningly, the boy choked out "S-S-SNAPE!" All three were on their feet with their wands out in an instant, looking around for their worst enemy. "No, no! In the book!"
James whipped around "What!? Snivellus is in a book?" He grabbed the book and scanned the first page. "Merlin, he is! Padfoot, look!" Remus cleared his throat, so James started reading aloud in an excited voice.
The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart, in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still, wands directed at each other's chests; then, recognizing each other, they stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and started walking briskly in the same direction.
"News?" asked the taller of the two.
"The best," replied Severus Snape.
"No way! Let me see that." Remus grabbed the book and examined it, re-reading the last line several times. "T-this doesn't make sense! What in heaven's name is up with this book!?"
Sirius jumped up and down. "Read it Moony! I wanna know more! Man, this'll be great blackmail for Snivellus!"
Remus looked warily at the book, but found nothing sinister about it, except for the mystery that permeated the pages.
The lane was bordered on the left by wild, low-growing brambles, on the right by a high, neatly manicured hedge.
The men's long cloaks flapped around their ankles as they marched.
"Thought I might be late," said Yaxley,
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yaxley, it says? The Yaxleys visit my dear old mum, I'm almost positive they're under Voldemort. You know, prominent purebloods and all. What's going on here?"
Remus shook his head. "I wish I knew Padfoot. This is the strangest thing I've come across in awhile." They sat in contemplative silence for a few seconds before Remus began reading again.
"Thought I might be late," said Yaxley, his blunt features sliding in and out of sight as the branches of overhanging trees broke the moonlight. "It was a little trickier than I expected. But I hope he will be satisfied. You sound confident that your reception will be good?"
Snape nodded, but did not elaborate.
"He's a sneaky bastard, he is."
"James, I agree, but shut up."
They turned right, into a wide driveway that led off the lane. The high hedge curved with them, running off into the distance beyond the pair of impressive wrought-iron gates barring the men's way. Neither of them broke step: In silence both raised their left arms in a kind of salute and passed straight through, as though the dark metal were smoke.
"What the hell is going on here? Does the stupid author enjoy confusing us?" The other three marauders rolled their eyes, knowing well that Sirius hated mysteries of any kind. He much preferred to know exactly what was going on and to understand it.
"Let's just keep reading, and maybe we'll get some answers."
The yew hedges muffled the sound of the men's footsteps. There was a rustle somewhere to their right: Yaxley drew his wand again, pointing it over his companion's head, but the source of the noise proved to be nothing more than a pure-white peacock, strutting majestically along the top of the hedge.
"He always fancied himself well, Lucius. Peacocks. . ."
Sirius couldn't stop himself and snorted, which caused the rest of the group to burst out in laughter. "Peacocks! What idiot pureblood would have peacocks guarding their house?"
"It said the bloke's name was Lucius...Lucius and peacocks...it just fits."
"Wait, Lucius? Lucius Malfoy graduated from Hogwarts a long time ago. The Malfoys keep in touch with the old hag, unfortunately."
Remus looked at his normally dim-witted friend in awe. "How do you remember all these people? I can barely get the students in school right now straight."
Sirius grinned evilly. "I've got to know who to plot revenge against when I finally get out of the hellhole. It's a given that whoever mum lets in the house supports Voldemort."
"Okay, okay, quiet! I wanna hear what's going on with Snivellus and peacocks!" Remus sighed and picked up the book again at James' request.
Yaxley thrust his wand back under his cloak with a snort.
"Like Padfoot. Snort, snort, snort."
"Hey, shut up Prongs!"
A handsome manor house grew out of the darkness at the end of the straight drive, lights glinting in the diamond-paned downstairs windows. Somewhere in the dark garden beyond the hedge a fountain was playing. Gravel crackled beneath their feet as Snape and Yaxley sped toward the front door, which swung inward at their approach, though nobody had visibly opened it.
The hallway was large, dimly lit, and sumptuously decorated, with a magnificent carpet covering most of the stone floor. The eyes of the pale-faced portraits on the walls followed Snape and Yaxley as they strode past.
"Wow, sounds exactly like my house. Gloomy, dark, and aloof."
Remus looked up in awe at Sirius for the second time that night. "Where did you learn 'aloof'? That's a great adjective for this situation."
James tackled Sirius from the side. "My ickle Padfoot is growing up! Learning big words and shooting up like an ugly weed!"
"Hey, hey, hey! I'm a beautiful weed that makes all the girls faint!" Sirius and James started throwing mock punches and James nearly toppled the stack of books.
"Um, Remus? Can we keep reading?" Peter asked meekly from his seat.
Remus smiled benevolently. "Sure Peter. Petrificus Totalus! Now where were we?"
Peter couldn't stifle a laugh at the two black-haired marauder's frozen positions. James had a fist right in front of his friend's nose, but his face was looking down in horror at the leg that was about to hit his side. Sirius' face was scrunched up, waiting for the impact of James' fist. Remus ignored them.
The two men halted at a heavy wooden door leading into the next room, hesitated for the space of a heartbeat, then Snape turned the bronze handle.
The drawing room was full of silent people, sitting at a long and ornate table. The room's usual furniture had been pushed carelessly up against the walls. Illumination came from a roaring fire beneath a handsome marble mantelpiece surmounted by a gilded mirror. Snape and Yaxley lingered for a moment on the threshold. As their eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light,
Remus suddenly released the spell, right when Sirius and James were starting to relax and listen. James' fist collided with Sirius' nose while the latter's foot rammed into his friend's side, sending both to the floor with loud curses. Remus burst out laughing and Peter looked concerned for both his friend's well-being. Sirius stumbled back to his seat, clutching his nose, and James held his side and turned to Remus. "That's Moony," he grumbled, "always coming out in top, even if he's not involved in the stupid fight." The werewolf smiled mockingly and resumed reading.
As their eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light, they were drawn upward to the strangest feature of the scene: an apparently unconscious human figure hanging upside down over the table, revolving slowly as if suspended by an invisible rope, and reflected in the mirror and in the bare, polished surface of the table below.
Remus' voice got more and more disgusted as he read the paragraph. James shook his head. "Well that's one mystery solved. This is definitely a Death Eater meeting, and Snape is definitely a Death Eater."
Sirius scowled. "But we've known that all along, haven't we? Snivelly the greasy Death Eater, of course he would join them."
"Wait, guys, this is just a book. It's not like this is real, right?" Peter asked timidly.
Remus shook himself. "You're right Peter. I got so caught up in the story that I began to think this is real! Whoever wrote this is really skilled..." The sandy-haired marauder turned back to the front cover and tried to decipher the worn-out author's name.
"Moony, that's probably just the name of the person who wrote 'An Essay on Muggles', not what we're reading. Someone must've switched the covers or something, cause this story definitely doesn't have anything to do with muggles."
Remus sighed, upset that the author would remain a mystery. He continued reading as the other marauders tried to keep in mind that it was just a story, not reality.
None of the people seated under this singular sight was looking at it except for a pale young man sitting almost directly below it. He seemed unable to prevent himself from glancing upward every minute or so.
"Yaxley, Snape," said a high, clear voice from the head of the table. "You are very nearly late."
The speaker was sitting directly in front of the fireplace, so that it was difficult, at first, for the new arrivals to make out more than his silhouette. As they drew nearer, however, his face shown through the gloom, hairless, snakelike, with slits for nostrils and gleaming red eyes whose pupils were vertical. He was so pale that he seemed to emit a pearly glow.
Peter shivered in disgust. "Who could be as ugly as that? It sounds like...like a monster or something!"
Remus glanced down the page and gasped. "It's Voldemort! Since when is he 'hairless' and 'snakelike'? And what happened to his eyes? This isn't at all what we've been told he looks like."
"It's just a story Moony, remember? The author probably thought Voldemort wasn't scary enough as is...though it kind of creeps me out how thorough their research is...what if we appear in the story? What if the author's been spying on us too?"
Sirius' eyebrows scrunched together at James' theory. "You really think someone's been spying on us, written a book about the future from what they found out, then gone to the Restricted Section and hidden it in a non-descipt book? Sounds a little far-fetched to me."
"This book is quite the mystery. Keep thinking on it." Remus picked up where he left off.
"Severus, here," said Voldemort, indicating the seat on his immediate right. "Yaxley –beside Dolohov."
The two men took their allotted places. Most of the eyes around the table followed Snape, and it was to him that Voldemort spoke first.
Sirius snapped his fingers and jumped up and down, howling in victory. "I've got it! I've got it! This is the best ever! YES!"
"Padfoot...what in Merlin's name are you doing?" James was about to forcefully shut his friend up when Remus spoke up.
"You solved the mystery? What is it? Who wrote it? Tell me!"
"SNAPE! He wrote it! This is the best blackmail EVER!" The remaining three marauders looked disappointed.
"That's it? You think Snivellus wrote this?" James sat back down with a huff.
Sirius flailed his arms excitedly. "No really! It makes sense! Snivellus is obviously the main character...of course he would write himself as Voldemort's right-hand man, it's probably his life's ambition!"
Remus started getting excited as well. "And if he did write it the dorm rooms wouldn't be secure enough, so what better place to hide it than the Restricted Section? Find a boring book, tear the cover off, then charm the inside to match the cover...brilliant! Sirius, I never thought I'd say this, but you're a genius!"
"But why would Snape write a book about himself in the first place?" Peter still wasn't convinced.
"Why doesn't Snivellus wash his hair? Who knows the mind of the greasy git. Sirius, this might be exactly what we've been looking for! Is there anything that points out for sure that he wrote it, Remus?"
The sandy-haired marauder checked the first page and the inside covers. "No, it's got the old covers, then starts right out with the first chapter, called 'The Dark Lord Ascending'. He must have put a handwriting charm on it, since it looks like a typed manuscript...wow, I would've never guessed Snape was such a good author...if he did write this, I mean."
Sirius looked extremely proud of himself. "He did, I'm sure of it. Keep reading, I want to see how Snivelly's brain works." Remus picked up the book again with a small smirk on his face.
"My Lord, the Order of the Phoenix intends to move Harry Potter from his current place of safety on Saturday next, at night fall."
"Wait, it says Harry Potter? Are you sure it's not James Potter?"
"Yeah, no mention of James here." Sirius ran over to Remus and checked for himself, then slowly walked back to his seat, wondering about the implications of this.
James was thinking as well. "If it is Snape writing this, then its got to be a relative of mine. Or maybe it's a code name for me...not a very good one, but this is Snivellus we're talking about here..."
"Let's try to look at this from Snape's point of view," said Remus, the ever-rational one. "For some reason you decide to write a book about fulfilling your life's ambition. It's set in the future, though we don't know how far, and you hate James Potter. Naturally you would want to torture him in some way, but I don't see Snape cutting out your name, especially if he wants to enjoy this as much as he can."
"But maybe he doesn't want people to know that he hates James if they find it-" Sirius' brain was starting to hurt.
"No, that's not it, since he didn't care about putting himself in the book, along with the Yaxleys, Malfoys and Voldemort. If Snape wanted true secrecy he would've changed everyone's names. Besides, everyone knows Snape hates James." Remus sat the book down to think some more.
"Maybe Harry is James' son." Everyone looked sharply at Peter, making him jump and shrink in his seat. "Well, b-because it's in the future, right? And they're not talking about James, but they are t-talking about a Potter..."
James was practically bouncing in his seat. "Now Peter's a genius too! Keep reading Remus, I want to have a revelation like Padfoot and No-name!"
The interest around the table sharpened palpably: Some stiffened, others fidgeted, all gazing at Snape and Voldemort.
"Saturday . . . at nightfall," repeated Voldemort. His red eyes fastened upon Snape's black ones with such an intensity that some of the watchers looked away, apparently fearful that they themselves would be scorched by the ferocity of the gaze. Snape, however, looked calmly back into Voldemort's face and, after a moment or two, Voldemort's lipless mouth curved into something like a smile.
"Good. Very good. And this information comes—"
"— from the source we discussed," said Snape.
"Snape really has a high ambition, getting Voldemort to like and trust him like that..."
"All the more evidence that he's an idiot, Padfoot."
"Revelation!" Sirius pointed at James who promptly beamed.
"No Sirius, we already knew that. Sorry James."
Yaxley had leaned forward to look down the long table at Voldemort and Snape. All faces turned to him.
"My Lord, I have heard differently."
Yaxley waited, but Voldemort did not speak, so he went on, "Dawlish, the Auror, let slip that Potter will not be moved until the night before the boy turns seventeen."
"Dawlish? Isn't he in Hufflepuff? I know he's on the Quidditch Team, but I don't know what year he's in..."
"I don't know either Prongs, but he's an Auror! Go Dawlish!"
Snape was smiling.
Peter shivered. "I've never seen Snape smile. It's like an oxymoron or something..."
James rolled his eyes. "Emphasis on the moron."
"No Sirius, now let me read."
"My source tells me that there are plans to lay a false trail; this must be it. No doubt a Confundus Charm has been placed upon Dawlish. It would not be the first time; he is known to be susceptible."
"Why would our side go so far to protect James' son?" Remus wondered aloud.
James stood up and bellowed out. "Because he's important and special and amazing!"
Sirius stood up as well. "Revelation!"
"Sirius, shut up!"
"I assure you, my Lord, Dawlish seemed quite certain," said Yaxley.
"If he has been Confunded, naturally he is certain," said Snape. "I assure you, Yaxley, the Auror office will play no further part in the protection of Harry Potter. The Order believes that we have infiltrated the Ministry."
"Whoa, hold on there," James said, "so this 'Order' is so bent on protecting my son that they would Confund an Auror, knowing that Voldemort would be so bent on nabbing him that he'd send out someone to find that information, but it was really a false trail because this 'Order' is working separately from the Ministry because they believe that the Ministry of Magic has been infiltrated? Merlin's pants!"
"Your son must really be something special, Prongs."
"Sirius, James, remember this is just a story. There's no way the Ministry would be infiltrated with the security they have, and I've never heard of this 'Order'."
"Um, Remus, can you keep reading? I want to know more about Harry...I mean what Snape thinks about Harry...er, if James really had a son named Harry..."
"We get it Peter. Read, Moony."
"The Order's got one thing right, then, eh?" said a squat man sitting a short distance from Yaxley; he gave a wheezy giggle that was echoed here and there along the table.
Voldemort did not laugh. His gaze had wandered upward to the body revolving slowly overhead, and he seemed to be lost in thought.
"Ugh, I wonder who Snape wrote that body as."
"Probably one of us, right Moony? Old Snivelly wouldn't be able to resist dangling us from the ceiling after all we've done to him."
"My Lord," Yaxley went on, "Dawlish believes an entire party of Aurors will be used to transfer the boy—"
Voldemort held up a large white hand, and Yaxley subsided at once, watching resentfully as Voldemort turned back to Snape.
"Where are they going to hide the boy next?"
"At the home of one of the Order," said Snape. "The place, according to the source, has been given every protection that the Order and Ministry together could provide. I think that there is little chance of taking him once he is there, my Lord, unless, of course, the Ministry has fallen before next Saturday, which might give us the opportunity to discover and undo enough of the enchantments to break through the rest."
"What in Merlin's name is Snape thinking..." Remus trailed off and stared absently in front of him.
James shuffled in his chair. "Uh, Remus? Book?"
"Oh, right, sorry."
"Well, Yaxley?" Voldemort called down the table, the firelight glinting strangely in his red eyes. "Will the Ministry have fallen by next Saturday?"
Once again, all heads turned. Yaxley squared his shoulders.
"My Lord, I have good news on that score. I have – with difficulty, and after great effort – succeeded in placing an Imperius Curse on Pius Thicknesse."
Many of those sitting around Yaxley looked impressed; his neighbor, Dolohov, a man with a long, twisted face, clapped him on the back.
"It is a start," said Voldemort. "But Thicknesse is only one man. Scrimgeour must be surrounded by our people before I act. One failed attempt on the Minister's life will set me back a long way."
"Alright, who the the world are they talking about?"
James sighed. "Rufus Scrimgeour is the Head of the Auror Department. My family is good friends with him. I don't know who this Thicknesse guy is, though."
"Yes – my Lord, that is true – but you know, as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Thicknesse has regular contact with not only the Minister himself, but also with the Heads of all the other Ministry departments.
"That explains it. Though I wonder how ol' Scrimgeour got to be Minister..."
"It will, I think, be easy now that we have such a high-ranking official under our control, to subjugate the others, and then they can all work together to bring Scrimgeour down."
"As long as our friend Thicknesse is not discovered before he has converted the rest," said Voldemort. "At any rate, it remains unlikely that the Ministry will be mine before next Saturday. If we cannot touch the boy at his destination, then it must be done while he travels."
"So many mysteries! I hate mysteries! I can't even begin to think of all the questions I have! It's just like Snivellus to write something like this...I'm sure he's spying on us and laughing at me right now..." Sirius stood up and whipped his head about, trying to catch a glimpse of the nonexistent spy.
"There's no one there, Padfoot. I checked, and my rat senses haven't failed us yet."
Sirius sat down. "Yeah, you'd be able to smell Snivelly's grease from miles away. Good job, No-name."
"We are at an advantage there, my Lord," said Yaxley, who seemed determined to receive some portion of approval. "We now have several people planted within the Department of Magical Transport. If Potter Apparates or uses the Floo Network, we shall know immediately."
"He will do neither," said Snape. "The Order is eschewing any form of transport that is controlled or regulated by the Ministry; they mistrust everything to do with the place."
"All the better," said Voldemort. "He will have to move in the open. Easier to take, by far."
Again, Voldemort looked up at the slowly revolving body as he went on. "I shall attend to the boy in person. There have been too many mistakes where Harry Potter is concerned. Some of them have been my own. That Potter lives is due more to my errors than to his triumphs."
James' face went white. "What the hell has my son been through? Why is Voldemort so bent on getting him?"
"Story, James. He might not even be your son."
The company around the table watched Voldemort apprehensively, each of them, by his or her expression, afraid that they might be blamed for Harry Potter's continued existence. Voldemort, however, seemed to be speaking more to himself than to any of them, still addressing the unconscious body above him.
"I have been careless, and so have been thwarted by luck and chance, those wreckers of all but the best-laid plans. But I know better now. I understand those things that I did not understand before. I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be."
"What I would give to know what was going through Snape's head when he wrote this..."
"Keep reading, Remus. Don't leave us hanging."
At these words, seemingly in response to them, a sudden wail sounded, a terrible, drawn out cry of misery and pain. Many of those at the table looked downward, startled, for the sound had seemed to issue from below their feet.
"Wormtail," said Voldemort, with no change in his quiet, thoughtful tone, and without removing his eyes from the revolving body above, "have I not spoken to you about keeping our prisoner quiet?"
James stood up abruptly, knocking his chair to the floor. "That's it! Revelation!"
Sirius crouched behind him and waved his wand near the top of his friend's head, quietly saying "Lumos." The result made James look like a cartoon character that just got an idea, sans lightbulb.
James knocked his friend's hand away, then sat back down. He leaned against the table and said imperiously "I call a meeting of the most glorious Marauders, Messrs. Moony, No-name, Padfoot, and Prongs, with the statement that I have finally found the perfect name for Mr. No-name." He grabbed the book out a Remus' hands and pointed to the word in the book. "Wormtail."
Sirius and Remus' eyes lit up and Peter slumped farther down in his seat. "I don't want to be named after a dirty old Death Eater!"
Remus looked at Peter, then at James and said, "Mr. Prongs shall explain to Messrs. Moony, No-name, and Padfoot the reasoning behind his proclamation."
James sat up straighter and cleared his throat. "Wormtail is a perfectly respectable name for a rat animagus, and describes Mr. No-name's tail perfectly. Not to mention the added bonus of having our arch-enemy, Snivellus, squirm every time he hears it."
"Because he'll know we've been reading his story, but he won't be able to confront us lest he reveal he's the author! Brilliant Mr. Prongs!"
Sirius ambled over to Peter and tapped him and he head with his wand. "Messrs. Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs hereby proclaim the Marauder previously known as Mr. No-name to be henceforth called Mr. Wormtail."
"Thank you, Mr. Padfoot. Continue reading, Mr. Moony, if you will." The others sat comfortably and Peter resigned himself to the name 'Wormtail', knowing he'd never be able to talk his friends out of it.
"Yes, m-my Lord," gasped a small man halfway down the table, who had been sitting so low in his chair that it had appeared, at first glance, to be unoccupied. Now he scrambled from his seat and scurried from the room, leaving nothing behind him but a curious gleam of silver.
"As I was saying," continued Voldemort, looking again at the tense faces of his followers, "I understand better now. I shall need, for instance, to borrow a wand from one of you before I go to kill Potter."
"I don't know, Sirius. Let me read."
The faces around him displayed nothing but shock; he might have announced that he wanted to borrow one of their arms.
"No volunteers?" said Voldemort. "Let's see . . . Lucius, I see no reason for you to have a wand anymore."
Lucius Malfoy looked up. His skin appeared yellowish and waxy in the firelight, and his eyes were sunken and shadowed. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse.
"Hmm, maybe I won't have to get revenge on the Malfoys after all..."
James sighed. "It's a story Padfoot. There's no way a Malfoy would be caught dead looking like that."
"Your wand, Lucius. I require your wand."
"I . . ."
Malfoy glanced sideways at his wife. She was staring straight ahead, quite as pale as he was, her long blonde hair hanging down her back, but beneath the table her slim fingers closed briefly on his wrist. At her touch, Malfoy put his hand into his robes, withdrew a wand, and passed it along to Voldemort, who held it up in front of his red eyes, examining it closely.
"What is it?"
"Elm, my Lord," whispered Malfoy.
"And the core?"
"Dragon – dragon heartstring."
"Good," said Voldemort. He drew out his own wand and compared lengths. Lucius Malfoy made an involuntary movement; for a fraction of a second, it seemed he expected to receive Voldemort's wand in exchange for his own.
The gesture was not missed by Voldemort, whose eyes widened maliciously.
"Give you my wand, Lucius? My wand?"
Some of the throng sniggered.
"I have given you your liberty, Lucius, is that not enough for you? But I have noticed that you and your family seem less than happy of late . . . What is it about my presence in your home that displeases you, Lucius?"
Sirius looked dreamily into the distance. "What I would give to see Lucius Malfoy in that situation...I'll have to give this one to Snivellus, sometimes he can be quite imaginative."
Remus frowned. "Yes, he's really put some work in making this story seem realistic."
"Nothing – nothing, my Lord!"
"Such lies, Lucius . . ."
The soft voice seemed to hiss on even after the cruel mouth had stopped moving. One or two of the wizards barely repressed a shudder as the hissing grew louder; something heavy could be heard sliding across the floor beneath the table.
The huge snake emerged to climb slowly up Voldemort's chair. It rose, seemingly endlessly, and came to rest across Voldemort's shoulders: it's neck the thickness of a man's thigh; it's eyes, with their vertical slits for pupils, unblinking. Voldemort stroked the creature absently with long thin fingers, still looking at Lucius Malfoy.
"Why do the Malfoys look so unhappy with their lot? Is my return, my rise to power, not the very thing they professed to desire for so many years?"
"Return to power? What happened? Did we win? How?"
"It's Snivelly's story, James. It doesn't matter, since it won't really happen."
Peter spoke up from his seat. "W-what if Snape didn't write it?" The other three marauders looked at him questioningly. "I mean, what if this book tells the f-future or something? Maybe that's why it's in the R-Restricted Section, and so well guarded in here?"
The boys were silent for a few moments, before Remus shook his head. "While it does seem a bit far-fetched the Snape wrote this...it's even more far-fetched that everything in this book will come true. All we can do is keep reading and confront the new information as it comes." Sirius and James nodded, but the seeds of doubt had been planted.
"Of course, my Lord," said Lucius Malfoy. His hand shook as he wiped sweat from his upper lip. "We did desire it – we do."
To Malfoy's left, his wife made an odd, stiff nod, her eyes averted from Voldemort and the snake. To his right, his son, Draco, who had been gazing at the inert body overhead, glanced quickly at Voldemort and away again, terrified to make eye contact.
"D-Draco? What the hell kind of name is that!?" James said.
"Lucius Malfoy reproduced!?" Sirius yelled at the same time.
"Well, now that we know the general timeline, it seems more likely that Harry is James' son...or nephew."
"I don't have have any brothers!"
"Cousin, nephew, son, whatever! Keep reading, Remus!"
"My Lord," said a dark woman halfway down the table, her voice constricted with emotion, "it is an honor to have you here in our family's house. There can be no higher pleasure."
She sat beside her sister, as unlike her in looks, with her dark hair and heavily lidded eyes, as she was in bearing and demeanor; where Narcissa sat rigid and impassive, Bellatrix leaned toward Voldemort, for mere words could not demonstrate her longing for closeness.
"Ugh, ugh, ugh! I hate my cousins! Disgusting! Ugh!" Sirius rammed his head repeatedly on the table.
Remus looked at the book again. "Hm, I think the book is implying that Narcissa is Lucius Malfoy's wife, since it's referencing the her earlier behavior..."
"I know, I know! I see them flirt every-freaking-time they come to our house! It's disgusting! Ugh, ugh, ugh!"
The werewolf's eyebrows furrowed. "But how would Snape know that..." He sighed and continued reading.
"No higher pleasure," repeated Voldemort his head tilted a little to one side as he considered Bellatrix. "That means a great deal, Bellatrix, from you."
Her face flooded with color; her eyes welled with tears of delight.
"My Lord knows I speak nothing but the truth!"
"Ugh, ugh, ugh! So disgusting!"
"No higher pleasure . . . even compared with the happy event that, I hear, has taken place in your family this week?"
She stared at him, her lips parted, evidently confused.
"I don't know what you mean, my Lord."
"I'm talking about your niece, Bellatrix. And yours, Lucius and Narcissa.
Remus trailed off, going white. James waved a hand in front of his face. "Um, hello? Earth to Moon-y?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "You and your puns, Prongs." He stood up, walked over to his frozen friend, and whacked the back to his head. James took advantage of Remus' more relaxed position to pry the book out of his fingers. He cleared his throat and picked up where his shocked friend left off.
"She has just married the werewolf, Remus Lupin. You must be so proud."
Everyone stared at Remus, who had just recovered. "Well, we know that the book's not from the future, heh heh...I would never, ever get married. I can't endanger-"
He was cut off when Sirius stared running around the inside of James' silencing charm, yelling out "Moony's getting laid! Moony's getting laid!" James tackled him from behind and the two rolled on the floor throwing punches again. Remus chose to ignore them this time, turning back to the book with a worried look. He shook his head and began to read again, albeit reluctantly.
There was an eruption of jeering laughter from around the table. Many leaned forward to exchange a gleeful look; a few thumped the table with their fists. The great snake, disliking the disturbance, opened it's mouth wide and hissed angrily, but the Death Eaters did not hear it, so jubilant were they at Bellatrix and the Malfoys' humiliation. Bellatrix's face, so recently flushed with happiness, had turned an ugly, blotchy red.
Sirius was ecstatic at hearing his most hated cousin's situation and promptly ran over to tackle Remus in a hug. The werewolf fought to be released from Sirius' grip, yelling "Just a story! It's just a story! Snape wrote it! Snivellus! Snivellus!"
Sirius rolled off him in shock. "Moony said Snivellus. Moony never says Snivellus."
Said marauder got up from the floor and brushed himself off. "Well it worked, didn't it? Now quiet, I want to hear more about this wedding...that'll never, ever happen I mean..." He shook himself and grabbed the book, reading before he could think any further on the subject.
"She is no niece of ours, my Lord," she cried over the outpouring of mirth. "We – Narcissa and I – have not seen our sister since she married the Mudblood. This brat has nothing to do with either of us, nor any beast she marries."
"You're not a beast, Moony. You just have a furry problem!"
"Yes, well, apparently Bellatrix and most of the Death Eaters think so."
"It's just a story, remember? This is all Snivellus' doing."
Sirius stood up from his seat, interrupting James and Remus' conversation. "Hold on! Are they talking about Andromeda? My cousin married a muggleborn and had a kid? And Moony married her?"
"No I didn't. It's a story." Remus looked like he was trying to convince himself of the fact.
"WE'RE RELATED!!" Sirius tackled Remus for the second time in the past five minutes and the two rolled around on the floor.
James pouted in his seat. "I don't care if Snape wrote it. I want to be in the story. I want to be related to Sirius and Moony. And Peter."
Peter shivered. "I'm probably in it already. I'm probably the one h-hanging above the t-table."
James looked at Sirius and Remus and saw that the latter hadn't managed to escape yet, so he picked up the book and started reading aloud.
"What say you, Draco?" asked Voldemort, and though his voice was quiet, it carried clearly through the catcalls and jeers. "Will you babysit the cubs?"
"They won't be cubs! They'll be normal, unaffected human beings!"
"You tell 'em, Moony!"
The hilarity mounted; Draco Malfoy looked in terror at his father, who was staring down into his own lap, then caught his mother's eye. She shook her head almost imperceptibly, then resumed her own deadpan star at the opposite wall.
"Enough," said Voldemort, stroking the angry snake. "Enough."
And the laughter died at once.
Remus finally managed to escape from Sirius and ran back to James, panting "I'll read, I'll read."
James handed the book over with a smile. "Good. I hate reading aloud."
"Yes, well I don't think I'd be able to hear your high soprano impression of Voldemort's voice one more time. No one should have to go through that."
"I concur," said Sirius who had just returned to his seat.
"Me too," said Peter.
James pouted. "You guys are mean."
"Many of our oldest family trees become a little diseased over time," he said as Bellatrix gazed at him, breathless and imploring. "You must prune yours, must you not, to keep it healthy? Cut away those parts that threaten the health of the rest."
"Yes, my Lord," whispered Bellatrix, and her eyes swam with tears of gratitude. "At the first chance!"
"Ugh, ugh, ugh! Why me?" Sirius had resumed beating his on the table when he heard of of his cousin's actions.
"You shall have it," said Voldemort. "And in your family, so in the world . . . we shall cut away the canker that infects us until only those of the true blood remain. . . ."
Voldemort raised Lucius Malfoy's wand, pointed it directly at the revolving figure suspended over the table, and gave it a tiny flick. The figure came to life with a groan and began to struggle against invisible bonds.
"Do you recognize our guest, Severus?" asked Voldemort.
Peter shivered. "Of course he does. It's me. Of course I would get captured so easily." He sniffed.
Snape raised his eyes to the upside-down face. All of the Death Eaters were looking up at the captive now, as though they had been given permission to show curiosity. As she revolved to face the firelight, the woman said in a cracked and terrified voice, "Severus! Help me!"
"Unless you've been turned into a woman it's not you, Wormtail. Or any of us, for that matter."
"Yes!" Peter pumped a small fist in the air.
"Ah, yes," said Snape as the prisoner turned slowly away again.
"And you, Draco?" asked Voldemort, stroking the snake's snout with his wand-free hand. Draco shook his head jerkily. Now that the woman had woken, he seemed unable to look at her anymore.
"But you would not have taken her classes," said Voldemort. "For those of you who do not know, we are joined here tonight by Charity Burbage who, until recently, taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
The four looked confused. "Have any of you heard of her?" Remus asked.
James shook his head. "No, I haven't heard of any Professor Burbage."
There were small noises of comprehension around the table. A broad, hunched woman with pointed teeth cackled.
"Yes . . . Professor Burbage taught the children of witches and wizards all about Muggles . . . how they are not so different from us . . ."
"Oh, she's a Muggle Studies teacher. I don't quite remember who's teaching that subject, but I know it's not some Burbage person."
Sirius laughed. "Snivellus should've done his research, shouldn't he Prongs?" Remus just looked even more worried.
One of the Death Eaters spat on the floor. Charity Burbage revolved to face Snape again.
"Severus . . . please . . . please . . ."
"Silence," said Voldemort, with another twitch of Malfoy's wand, and Charity fell silent as if gagged. "Not content with corrupting and polluting the minds of Wizarding children, last week Professor Burbage wrote an impassioned defense of Mudbloods in the Daily Prophet. Wizards, she says, must accept these thieves of their knowledge and magic. The dwindling of the purebloods is, says Professor Burbage, a most desirable circumstance . . . She would have us all mate with Muggles . . . or, no doubt, werewolves . . ."
The space inside the silencing charm echoed with Remus' voice, as the marauders all silently hoped Burbage would be spared.
Nobody laughed this time: There was no mistaking the anger and contempt in Voldemort's voice. For the third time, Charity Burbage revolved to face Snape. Tears were pouring from her eyes into her hair. Snape looked back at her, quite impassive, as she turned slowly away from him again.
Sirius shook his head. "I knew Snivellus was sick and twisted, but I never suspected he'd come up with this.
James nodded. "Yeah. I'm really glad this is just a story." Peter paled, wondering if his previous guess was correct, and Remus started reading, wondering the same thing.
The flash of green light illuminated every corner of the room. Charity fell, with a resounding crash, onto the table below, which trembled and creaked. Several of the Death Eaters leapt back in their chairs. Draco fell out of his onto the floor.
"Dinner, Nagini," said Voldemort softly, and the great snake swayed and slithered from his shoulders onto the polished wood.
Peter looked green and the rest of the boys paled. "That's just sick," said James.
Remus sighed and closed the book. "That's the end of the chapter. Let's put the other books back before we continue reading, since I certainly don't feel like completing our initial objective."
Sirius got up from his seat and stretched. "It's not like we didn't get anything, right? Old Snivelly'll be so scared when he finds out we're reading his story!"
James and Sirius chatted the entire time about how Snape would react when he heard them calling Peter 'Wormtail', Remus seemed to be getting more and more worried as he was lost in his thoughts, and Peter was completely absorbed in his task. After five minutes the shelves were filled again from the combined effort of the marauders.
The boys walked back to their seats (or ran in James and Sirius' case) and Remus picked up the book. He frowned, saying "The next chapter is called 'In Memoriam'."
A/N: Well, there it is. I don't know if I'll continue it or not, but please tell me how you liked it in a review!