Sirius Black rushed through the halls of Hogwarts Castle headed toward the headmaster's office. Thankfully, it was past curfew and the halls were empty, because he was late. Those who knew Sirius would tell you that this was nothing new. He always arrived late. Generally, however, this was through his own machinations as he strove to maintain his façade of an irresponsible playboy. In reality, he was a great deal more complex than that.
Sirius' act, which had started when he was still in school as a way to hide his troubled home life, had been maintained afterwards because it was an ideal and quite believable cover. No one who was not a very close friend suspected that Sirius Black, rebellious prankster, was, in fact, a brilliant strategist and lethal fighter. Few people knew that he, along with James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Lily Evans Potter, had graduated at the top of his year. Fewer still knew that Dumbledore himself had recruited him, along with the Potters, Lupin, and their other friend Peter Pettigrew, to join the Order of the Phoenix. Sirius and his friends had quickly become some of the Order's most valuable members.
It was their value to the Light side, Sirius reflected wryly to himself, that had most probably forced James and Lily to go into hiding shortly after the birth of their son, his godson, Harry. There was, of course, a prophecy about defeating Voldemort which might involve baby Harry as well, but Sirius put very little stock into things like that. He liked to think that people were in charge of their own fate. Either way, Voldemort was after the Potters and Sirius was determined to protect them, with his life if necessary.
This thought brought Sirius back to the reason why he was hurrying through Hogwarts now. Dumbledore had sent word that he had just received some new information regarding the suspected traitor in the Order. He finally arrived at the gargoyle which guarded the entrance to the headmaster's office. Pausing to collect himself, he grinned his trademark grin at the statue which, he had decided in second year, looked so much like his mother that he had christened it Walburga.
"Pepper Imps," he murmured, impatiently waiting for the gargoyle to move so he could go up the steps to the office.
"Sirius my boy," Dumbledore greeted, his eyes twinkling. "We were becoming concerned."
"Sorry sir. I was sort of… umm… busy when your message arrived and it took me a few minutes to… uh… extricate myself," Sirius said.
"Blonde, redhead or brunette Pads?" a familiar voice to his right asked. Sirius turned, his face splitting into a genuine smile when he spotted the other two men in the office.
"Prongs! Moony! I didn't realize you two were going to be here. How's my godson doing?" he said.
"He was giving his mummy a hard time as of half an hour ago. He'd somehow gotten into the candy jar and well… sugar and a fifteen month old are not a good combination at bedtime," James said grinning.
"Somehow Prongs?" Remus asked. "Are sure that his doting father didn't slip him a chocolate frog or two?"
"Moony! I'm shocked that you would think that of me," James replied innocently. "Besides they were Bertie Botts." Sirius laughed and turned to his other friend.
"How's the new job Rem?" he asked.
"Gone," Remus replied with a trace of bitterness.
"Gods, sorry mate," Sirius said, putting a comforting hand on the lycan's shoulder.
"S'ok. It happens," Remus shrugged. "It was a bit boring anyway… cataloging books all day."
Sirius looked at him sympathetically. Cataloging books all day was exactly the sort of job Remus would've loved, and they all knew it. The wizarding world was a cruel place for a werewolf. Voldemort offered them a better shot at life, which was exactly why James and Sirius had reluctantly begun to suspect that their friend was the traitor. Ruthlessly, he pushed his suspicions to the back of his mind for now. Hopefully, Dumbledore's new information would allay them once and for all.
"You're a rubbish liar Lupin," Sirius said. "You'll find something better though."
"Rubbish liar? Me? Correct me if I'm wrong Mr. Padfoot, but weren't you the one who told Maddie Brown that you couldn't go out with her because you were going to be busy leading a house elf rebellion?" Remus smirked.
"The sad part is that she bought it," James said, chuckling.
"True," Remus replied, smiling at the memory. "Merlin I've missed you guys."
"Yeah, I've missed you both too," James said, his smile fading. Sirius realized, suddenly, how tired and worried his best friend looked.
"It'll be alright James. We'll keep them safe," he said.
"No one will be safe until we can catch this traitor and get rid of Voldemort," James said grimly.
"Although I fear James that you may be correct about Voldemort, we are, I believe, closing in on our traitor, thanks to the information which I received earlier this evening," Dumbledore said grimly.
"What sort of information?" Remus asked frowning. James and Sirius exchanged a glance, hoping that whatever Dumbledore had to say would put to rest their fears about Remus.
"Have a seat gentlemen," Dumbledore said, waving his wand and creating chairs for them to sit on. He waited for them to settle themselves before his answered Remus' question.
"As you know," he began. "I have an informant amongst the Death Eaters. Thus far, he had been unable to gain us any useful information as to the traitor's identity. Last night that changed. Although, he was unable to get close enough to hear anything helpful, he saw something which could lead us straight to our spy. He saw the man transform."
"Transform?" Remus questioned sharply. Dumbledore nodded.
"It would seem that our traitor is an animagus. His form is a small animal of some sort. My informant thought perhaps a rodent, most likely…" Dumbledore said.
"A rat," Sirius finished for him.
"Peter," Remus said, his shock evident on his face
"No!" James said. "It can't be Peter. It can't."
"Mr. Pettigrew is an animagus?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes sir," Sirius answered, exchanging a look with the others before continuing. "James and I are too."
"They did it to help me during the full moon," Remus explained guiltily. "James is a stag. Sirius is a large black dog. Peter is…"
"A rat and a traitor," James interrupted angrily, rising from his chair. "You realize what this means? He knows. If Peter is the spy, then Voldemort knows exactly where to find us. I've got to go home… get Lily and Harry. They're in danger!"
"James we don't know for sure that it's Pete," Sirius said, standing up as well.
"Bloody hell Pads! You think its just a coincidence that within days of switching secret keepers to Peter that the spy, who just happens to have an animagus form that could very well be Peter's, meets with Voldemort," James yelled waving his arms wildly.
"You switched secret keepers to Peter? Why?" Remus questioned.
"It was all part of a plan to throw off Voldemort. Everyone would think that I was the secret keeper. No one would suspect Peter. James, Lily, and Harry would be safe. It was foolproof," Sirius answered.
"Except that the rat betrayed us. I'm going home to get Lily and Harry and bring them here," James said, grabbing a handful of powder and stepping into the floo before anyone could stop him.
"James! Wait!" Dumbledore said, but James was already gone.
"Bloody hell!" Sirius swore, heading for the floo as well.
"Sirius!" Dumbledore commanded. "Wait! Rushing in without a plan would be foolhardy at best, and may very well result in even more death then we're already possibly facing."
"Don't worry, Albus," Sirius growled. "I have a plan. Save James, Lily, and Harry, and then kill a rat."
"Not without me," Remus said. His soft voice was much harsher than normal and his eyes had gone a flat, feral amber.
Sirius gave an involuntary shiver and almost pitied Wormtail when Moony caught him. To a werewolf, betraying the pack was the ultimate offense, as Sirius knew very well from The Incident in sixth year. It had taken months and a fairly savage beating from his normally tranquil friend before he was back in the werewolf's good graces. He knew that in Moony's mind Peter's offense was even worse. Betraying a pack secret was one thing, endangering a pack member, not to mention a pack member's mate and defenseless cub, was unforgivable and would only increase Moony's fury. To put it bluntly, Wormtail was wolf chow.
"Let's go then," Sirius said grimly. He grabbed a handful of floo powder, threw it into the fire, and stepped in calling out his destination. He felt the familiar spin of the floo before he hit what felt like a brick wall. He was quickly spat back out onto the floor of the Headmaster's office.
"Unblock the floo," Sirius growled, as Remus pulled him up off the floor.
"Unfortunately Sirius, the blockage is not on this end," Dumbledore said grimly. Sirius felt himself pale.
"We've got to get to Godric's Hollow now!" he exclaimed. Dumbledore nodded in agreement before turning to the portraits in the room.
"Dilys please alert the staff at St. Mungo's that we may be bringing in injuries," he said to the portrait of a plump witch.
"Right away Headmaster," the witch said, scurrying away.
"Armando, go to the Ministry and find Alastor Moody. Tell him to get as many trustworthy aurors as he can to Godric's Hollow as soon as possible," Dumbledore continued.
"On my way Albus," the portrait said, disappearing from his frame.
"Gentlemen, follow me," Dumbledore said, illuminating his wand and slipping behind a tapestry behind his desk. The two Marauders hastened to follow. A steeply sloped tunnel opened before them. As quickly as possible, they made their way down it. After what felt like an eternity the tunnel leveled out and ended at a stone wall. Dumbledore tapped the wall in an intricate pattern with his wand and it slid aside. The trio exited out from under the base of the statues of the winged boars which guarded Hogwarts' gates.
"How did we miss this one?' Sirius couldn't help but murmur to Remus. Lupin shrugged in reply.
"Wands out gentlemen. We'll apperate to the edge of the village and make our way on foot, just in case there are Death Eaters present. We don't know who or what we may be facing so be prepared for anything," Dumbledore said before stepping out of the school wards and apperating away. Remus drew his wand and rapidly followed.
Sirius paused only long enough to send a silent prayer to keep his friends safe to whatever higher powers that might have been listening before he too disappeared into the Halloween Night.