Author's Note: This chapter goes out to Paint Me Violent who made an awesome poster for the fic on tumblr and Princess Leasha who needs cheering up. As usual, thank you to everyone who is still reading and reviewing, I hope you all enjoy this chapter!


Chapter Twelve

They were woken in the middle of the night when the sun exploded.

In the confusion that followed Sirius fell over Remus and landed on his still healing leg. Remus cried out in pain and nearly knocked Sirius's head off, and James finally thought to give them some light, nearly poking Peter's eye out as he jerked out his wand and cried, "lumos!"

The light did nothing to alleviate the confusion, but it did allow them to see each other. Remus's face was almost grey.

"Fuck, Remus, I'm so sorry," Sirius swore from the floor, clutching the side of his head where Remus's fist had connected with his skull. Remus didn't say anything, but more because he was fighting not to pass out or throw up than because he was deliberately ignoring Sirius.

"What the hell was that?" Peter asked, because they seemed to have lost track of the important thing here – something had just exploded. Presumably not the sun, because they were all still alive, but something had exploded.

James moved over to the window, taking the light with him.

"Fuck." It wasn't so much the word as the hollow tone to his voice that told them all something was seriously wrong.

"What?" Sirius asked.

Peter joined him at the window. "Bloody hell," he whispered.

"What?" Sirius demanded again from the floor. Remus had closed his eyes in an attempt to block out the pain still surging from where Sirius had landed on his leg. If the warm sticky feeling was anything to go by he'd definitely reopened the wound.

"We need to get out of here," James turned away from the window.

"Do you think it's him?" Peter asked.

"Who else can you think of that goes around blowing up buildings and killing muggles?"

"Wait, what?" Sirius repeated, but he was back on his feet now so he crossed to the window himself.

It was chaos outside. The buildings that had been across the street were gone, replaced by flames and black-streaked rubble. People were running through the streets, running in circles, easy pickings for the robed Death Eaters amongst them. The lack of sound made the whole scene seem slightly unreal – but Sirius knew it was due to the wards they had on the flat. Well, at least they were holding?

"We can't just leave them-"

"Now's not the time to play hero Sirius! We haven't destroyed all of the Horcruxes yet. If we die now, no one can stop him." James had found the backpack and was shoving stuff into it without looking up.

"But-"

"Shut up and help. Wormtail, get the stuff from the kitchen." Peter obeyed, disappearing into the other room without a word.

"We need to get out of here," James repeated when Sirius didn't move from the window.

"They've got no chance, Prongs. They can't fight back."

"We help them by surviving to destroy these bloody Horcruxes. We should have done it this afternoon!"

"Fuck," Sirius took a step from the window but returned to it almost immediately. "What if we-"

"Expelliarmus!" James caught Sirius's wand before Sirius had even realised he was reaching for it.

"What the fuck-"

"I'm not going to let you get us killed," James said quietly. He didn't mention the Fiendfyre, but he didn't need to. Sirius punched the window frame, curses pouring from his lips. James ignored him and finished packing before turning to Remus, who hadn't moved since he'd punched Sirius in the face.

"Fuck."

"Yeah."

"Shit, Moony, you're bleeding everywhere!" Sirius forgot the chaos outside as he rushed to his friend.

"I am."

The building shook as another blast rang out, and suddenly they could hear screams and manic laughter drifting up from the street below, the crackling of fire accompanied by further crashes as more of the surrounding buildings succumbed to the Death Eater's curses.

"Well, there go the protective shields," Remus said.

"We're going to die," Peter had returned from the kitchen, too scared to be ashamed of the tears on his cheeks. Somehow he had managed not to drop everything he'd been gathering up in his haste to join his friends and James took it from him and added it to the bag, patting him firmly on the shoulder once he'd done so.

"No, we're not. We're leaving."

"And leaving them to kill the whole of muggle London?" Sirius protested, stripping the bloodstained sheet off of Remus so he could see the extent of the damage to his leg.

"The Ministry of Magic will be here soon," James said, voice empty.

"Leave him alone, Pads," Remus said quietly. He had closed his eyes again, but not quickly enough to avoid seeing that his leg wound had most definitely been reopened, the off white of bone peeking through the mangled skin. He was breathing through his nose in a desperate attempt to avoid throwing up. "He doesn't want to leave them, but he has to."

"I'm not leaving you," James snapped, hearing what Remus hadn't said.

"What?" Sirius looked from James to Remus and then back again before it dawned on him. "Oh, fuck off Moony, are you fucking stupid?"

"What are you going to do, carry me out of here? If we leave this building on foot we're dead."

"We're not going to leave it on foot." James turned back to the bag and then almost fell into it as another explosion rocked through the foundation of the building.

"WE'RE ON FIRE!" Peter was screaming, and he was right, a blasting curse had just taken out half the floor above them and green-blue flames were licking down the outside wall. The eerie light they gave to the room made it feel like they were under water.

"Tie the sheet around his leg," James snapped at Sirius, who was still glaring at Remus. "And stop acting like a fucking martyr, Moony. We'll fly out. Two to a broom." He swung onto his own broom as he said it, tossing Sirius's broom and his wand onto the bed beside Remus.

"WHAT?!" Peter had lost the ability to talk at a normal pitch.

"You just hold on and you'll be fine," James said, grabbing Peter's arm and hauling him onto the broom behind him.

"Go, we'll follow," Sirius said as he tied off the sheet.

"He'll fall," James said, nodding at Remus. "Hop on and I'll bind him to you." Sirius swore, but James was right, Remus wasn't in a good state. Whatever small amount of healing his body had managed over the last twelve hours had been more than reversed by Sirius's entire body weight landing on his injured leg and the guilt tasted like acid in Sirius's throat. Sirius grabbed his wand and swung up onto his waiting broom.

"Shit, how are we going to get you up here?" he wondered, realising that Remus probably wasn't going to be able to climb up himself.

"I got it," Peter said, swinging off James's broom and coming to help Remus.

"I can manage," Remus protested, but although he got to his feet on his own he did need Peter's help to get his leg up and over the broom.

"Right, Moony?" Sirius asked once Remus was settled behind him. Remus looped his arms around Sirius's waist and nodded. Satisfied that Remus was on the broom, James conjured ropes to secure them together in case Remus lost his grip on Sirius during the flight.

"Okay," James said, but Sirius interrupted him.

"Wait, we should at least splint his leg." The sheet tied around it might help with the bleeding but it wasn't going to keep it still.

"Right," James stared at Remus for a moment. "Moony?"

"Yeah, yeah," Remus's cheek was pressed against the back of Sirius's shoulder, the effort of holding himself upright taking its toll already. Damn it, the last thing they needed was to have to leave while Remus was still so ruined by his transformation.

"I don't know the charm," James's voice was tense but he avoided snapping at his friend. Just.

"Oh." Remus reached for his own wand and almost tipped himself and Sirius off the broom when his weight shifted to the side.

"Just tell me," James interrupted as Peter caught them and supported Remus's weight until Sirius had managed to regain his balance. This was going to be an interesting ride.

"I can do it," Peter said once Sirius was supporting Remus again. Before James could protest, he cast the charm. "Ferula," he swished his wand and they watched as bandages and a splint attached themselves to Remus's leg, holding it straight and still, as they should. Peter pretended not to notice the surprise on James's face (or the stab of resentment in his own gut).

"Thanks Wormy," Remus dropped his head back onto Sirius's shoulder. "Should do a disillusionment charm too," he muttered as an afterthought.

"Right," Sirius replied before casting it on himself and then the others. James flicked his wand at the window and it exploded outwards in a shower of glass.

The disillusionment charm had been a waste of time. No one was going to notice them. From the flashes of light leaping below them, bright blues and greens and muddy reds, the Ministry had obviously arrived, and everyone was too occupied with their own battles to look up. The surviving muggles appeared to be gone – either dead or whisked away by Ministry officials to have their memories altered – and the absence of their screams left the night feeling too quiet as the Marauders headed towards the stars.

"Where are we going?" Sirius called out into the darkness.

"As far as we can get," James's response came from the sky ahead of him. They wouldn't make it to Hogwarts, but they could make it to the woods.

o o o

The flight was uneventful. Peter clung to James as if James didn't need to breathe and Remus managed to stay mostly conscious once his leg wasn't being knocked around. They lost the disillusionment charm once they were far enough from the fighting, and landed as soon as they found a suitable spot in the woods.

James helped Remus off the broom, tapping his wand to the ropes they'd used to bind him to Sirius and then taking most of his weight until he could lower him onto a convenient log.

"You look like shit," he told him.

"Thanks," Remus tilted his head up at James and smiled weakly. "I feel like shit."

Peter came over then, arm full of potions. "Here," he knelt beside Remus, carefully placing the various potions he'd carried over onto the log and filling a goblet with more of the steaming potion he'd made Remus drink that morning. "This'll put you to sleep, but it should help with the pain."

"We'll get the tent set up," James said, and headed off to do just that.

Remus took the potion Peter handed him, even though he knew it'd probably be easier for the others if he waited and could help move himself into the tent. He was going to need whatever comfort it offered him while Peter cleaned up his leg.

Sirius came over once he'd returned his broom to the bag. Perhaps he could have helped James with the tent, and that was probably what James had meant when he'd said 'we', but Remus didn't look too good and besides, Peter might need help. He stood beside Remus, hand on his shoulder, while Peter started to clean the wound.

A year ago the sight of such a wound would probably have made Peter sick, but a lot of things had changed in the past year. A quick Tergeo charm cleaned away most of the blood from Remus's leg, the bandages and splint joining the sheet in the dirt as Peter discarded them. Remus caught hold of Sirius's wrist as Peter began to apply the necessary salves to his injury.

"Shh, you're okay," Sirius said, even though Remus hadn't actually made a sound.

"Well, you haven't made it worse, anyway," Peter told them after a few minutes. "I'll check the rest too," he added a moment later, tying off the bandage he was fastening around the wound. Remus's other injuries weren't nearly as bad, but Peter applied some more salves to them anyway after checking that they were healing at the appropriate rate.

"The tent is ready," James had returned. Remus was leaning against Sirius by now, eyes half closed as he struggled to fight off the sleep the potion was drawing him into.

"I'm done," Peter told them, gathering together his potions and salves and taking them back over to where James had left the bag.

"Let's get you to bed," Sirius said, helping Remus to his feet. James joined him and together they helped Remus into the tent and up into one of the bunks. Sirius sat with him while James went back outside to help Peter clean up, but it wasn't long before Remus was fast asleep and Sirius went outside too.

"How is he really?" Sirius sat down beside Peter. James was setting up a fire so they could have a warm meal before heading to bed themselves. The sun would rise soon, but they'd only had a couple of hours sleep and they were all pretty much ready to crash.

"He's lost a bit of blood," Peter said, "but he's okay. He's always like this after full moon." It was true, and it had been a particularly bad full moon for Remus, stuck in the tiny room without his friends and with nowhere for him to run. It seemed so stupid now – it would have been less stressful on everyone if he'd just transformed in the woods to start with.

They cooked their food and ate at the fire, conversation quickly dying off into silence. They'd been on such a high after Gringotts, and now here they were, sitting in the woods again, a disgusting familiarity that none of them wanted to revisit. The crushing guilt of standing by and watching as people died was starting to feel like home.

"We should have done something," Sirius told the flickering flames of their campfire, his empty plate discarded beside him.

"We couldn't." Coming from consummate hero James, the words held more guilt than they suggested. Peter wasn't the only one who had grown since they'd left Hogwarts on a stupid treasure hunt, the word 'War' simply a concept, something that happened to someone else.

They hadn't wanted to miss out on the exciting stuff.

Remus had been right about that, too. People dying… It wasn't as romantic as it sounded in stories. And sometimes being a hero meant walking away so you could fight again the next day.

"The Ministry-"

"The Ministry arrived too late! How many- how many people-"

"What could we have done?"

And Sirius knew James was right, but it just made him argue harder. Peter stared at the fire and didn't say anything, because he'd been too scared to suggest staying, had been too relieved when James had insisted they leave, and yet he agreed with Sirius too.

The weight of those deaths hung as heavy on their shoulders as if they'd thrown the curses themselves.

o o o

Remus healed quickly, but not quickly enough. Even with the potions Peter was feeding him, it was three days before he could get up out of his bunk and limp slowly out of the tent. Everyone was restless, sick of waiting. They always seemed to be waiting. If they never camped again in their entire lives, it would be too soon.

"We need to get to Hogwarts," James was pacing, his hair standing on end from how many times he'd run his hands through it.

"Remus needs another day, at least," Peter told him. "He's not ready to Apparate yet."

"Well why doesn't he just stay here?" James demanded, turning on Peter and forcing him back a step, regretting what he'd said as soon as he'd said it.

"Are you serious?" Sirius moved forward. Remus looked up at the sky.

"Every day we wait here, we're allowing Voldemort and those fucking Death Eaters to continue unchallenged!" James turned on Sirius now, too worked up to stop even though he wanted to.

"When did it all fall down to us? We're not leaving them unchallenged, the whole bloody Ministry is after them! Why does it matter what we do?"

"It came down to us when we took it on ourselves to start hunting Horcruxes," Remus answered before James could, but he said what James would have said. "We put ourselves in the middle of this."

"But how is going to Hogwarts going to help?" Peter asked nervously, waiting for James to shout at him again.

"We can't keep wandering around the fucking woods!" James dropped down onto the log, head falling into his hands, defeated. It had been a long year, with very little to show for it, really. They were all burnt out by now.

"We're all sick of doing nothing," Remus said quietly, sitting beside James.

"It's only another day," Sirius sat too, taking the last space on the log and leaving Peter to stand.

"Dumbledore might be able to tell us where the Sword is," Peter suggested, offering an answer to his own question and an opportunity to turn the conversation from where they'd ended up.

"Right," Sirius agreed with him. "And we can find out what is going on, why the Death Eaters are attacking Muggle London – if, if it was our fault." They hadn't talked about it since the other night, but they were all wondering. It was highly possible they'd been traced back to their flat after they'd stolen the cup. If they had, that would explain why that particular street was targeted. But saying such a thing out loud made it seem a little too real.

"If we can find the sword," James trailed off, but he had lifted his head out of his hands at least. "If it is a Horcrux, it's the last one. We'll be done."

"We still need to destroy the locket and the cup," Remus reminded them.

"Right," James ran a hand through his hair again, but most of the agitation was gone. "Okay. We destroy the two Horcruxes we have, we get Moony well enough to Apparate, and then we get ourselves to bloody Hogwarts where we can at least tell Dumbledore what we've managed to do and maybe be of some use." He looked around at the other three. "Okay?"

"Okay."

"Well, we may as well get rid of these Horcruxes then."

"Who's going to do the honours?" Sirius asked. Peter immediately stepped back.

"Nope, I've already done one," he said quickly.

"Me too," James added, looking at Sirius. "You or Remus."

"There's two. One each."

"Ah, well," Remus frowned. "Do you think it'll be like Peter's?"

"Oh, hm. Maybe we should wait to do yours."

"Or one of you could-"

"Oh, no, it's okay, none of us would dream of taking that honour from you," James said quickly. No one wanted to repeat that.

"Right."

o o o

Sirius destroyed the locket.

It seemed only fitting, since his brother had died trying to.

The last time he'd held the locket he hadn't been ready to accept what it stood for. It had dangled from his hand in the same way it did now, chain tangled around his fingers, locket swinging slightly in a non-existent breeze. Merlin knew he probably wasn't ready now, either. But the time for waiting, for stalling, was gone. Sirius let the locket fall into the dirt and picked up the basilisk fang from where it had been resting beside him.

Funny how, now, kneeling in the dirt and staring at the small piece of jewellery, Sirius finally understood Regulus.

Regulus had been weak. Sirius had known that. He was like Peter, in that way. Always looking for the big kid on the playground to hide behind. Peter had found him and James. Regulus hadn't been so lucky. First his cousins, then Voldemort himself. It was possible that Sirius could have made a difference, if he'd done things differently, cared more, spent more time with his little brother. But he'd stopped spending time with Regulus when he'd been sorted into Gryffindor, started spending all his time with James, and then Remus and Peter. It had been years since he'd been home for the holidays. Regulus had faded into the small compartment he kept his family locked in in the back of his mind – deservedly so! Sirius had been right when he'd suspected that Regulus was a Death Eater. Not just a Death Eater, but one trusted enough to help dispose of Voldemort's soul. Just because he'd turned on him at the last minute – worst kind of coward! As soon as it affected him he ran!

But.

He hadn't just run. He'd found his courage and he'd died to defy Voldemort. If it wasn't for him, the locket wouldn't be lying before Sirius in the dirt.

Sirius ran his fingers along the side of the Basilisk fang.

Whatever Regulus may have been in life, in death he was a catalyst. Without him, they wouldn't have the locket here to destroy. It didn't atone for his sins, an act done out of selfishness, but his evil too had been born from a childish naivety and after all, Regulus had still been a child.

Sirius brought the fang down.

He missed the locket on his first try, but he hit it on his second.

o o o

Remus destroyed the cup.

It was the last Horcux they had. After months of carting pieces of Voldemort's soul across Britain, it seemed strange that he was about to destroy the last piece. Though perhaps not quite as strange as the fact they had actually just spent almost a year carrying them around.

He was half expecting the type of fanfare that Peter received when destroying the diary, but logically that wouldn't happen. Peter had spent months pouring himself into the diary, feeding the energy that existed there, strengthening the fragment of Voldemort's soul to the point it could manifest itself as it had. This was the first time Remus had touched the cup, and it just felt cold under his hand. He set it in the dirt and took the Basilisk fang that Sirius was offering to him.

If it wasn't for the shriek that came from it, they might never have known if it was really a Horcrux at all. Remus felt a sick kind of relief that he hadn't had to face what Peter had, that it had been easy, and that it was over. There was no reliving of painful memories, no dark creatures trying to convince him to join their side – Remus had had nightmares about it, too many to count. If he shut his eyes he could picture them, Sirius's mistrust, Peter's fear, but in the end, nothing. It was over.

He sat back on his heels and looked up at Sirius. "That's it?"

"They're all gone, now." Sirius looked over at James and Peter.

They didn't feel any better than they had ten minutes ago.

o o o

They ended up waiting two days, just to make sure Remus was okay. After all, they had no idea what the situation was at Hogwarts. They could only hope it was better than the one they'd just run from.

They Apparated to Hogsmeade again, but if they hadn't known that was where they were heading they wouldn't have recognised it.

"Bloody hell…"

The last time they'd been here some of the shops had been closed, but this time it was like – well, like they were in the middle of a war. It was desolated. Entire shops were gone, leaving gaping holes like missing teeth in the façade of the street. Walls had crumbled across the road; shattered glass glinted amongst the stone. The boys picked their way around the rubble in silence, wondering what had happened to all of the people.

Dervish and Bangs had been looted, windows smashed and half of the contents of the store missing, the rest broken and strewn across the floor. Judging from the smell of rotten fruit, The Magic Neep a few doors down had been similarly treated. Zonko's was still standing, boards nailed across the windows and door, but the bookshop beside it was gone, pages from torn up books littering the street long after the boys had passed it. But if their hearts had been sinking before, it was nothing compared to the feeling they got when they reached Honeydukes.

"Fuck."

It had obviously been hit by some kind of blasting curse – or perhaps a battering ram. The roof had come down, though it was impossible to tell if that was because the front wall had been destroyed or the cause of it.

"How are we going to get in now?" Peter asked, and if there was a slightly desperate tone to his voice you could hardly blame him. They needed to get into the basement after all, and that wasn't going to happen unless they had a week, even with magic.

Remus stepped over what had been the door but was now in the middle of the street, and picked up a bag of Pepper Imps. There were sweets everywhere, Chocolate Frogs still hopping amongst the dust, leaving smears of chocolate as they moved, bodies mutating as they melted in the sun. Every Flavour Beans caught in between the cracks in the sidewalk, shattered Sugar Quills turning the blackened stone pink. "We could try the Shrieking Shack?" He suggested, looking over at the others, packet scrunched in his hand.

"If they haven't destroyed that too," Sirius said darkly.

"We certainly aren't going to get in through here," James turned away and started walking again. The others followed.

It was eerie, how quiet the place was. No one had tried to clean up, everyone was gone. It was impossible to tell how long ago the attack had happened, though the fact the Chocolate Frogs were still melting suggested it hadn't been too long – unless, of course, the ones they'd seen had only recently escaped from inside the shop, where the layers of rubble overhead would have kept them cool. Remus dropped the Pepper Imps when he realised he was still holding them, kicking them into the shadows at the edge of the street.

The Shack was still standing. Perhaps the Death Eaters had been scared of unleashing whatever it was they thought haunted it. Or perhaps they just hadn't bothered coming out this far, when there was so much more fun to be had destroying the shops and homes and people in the village itself.

That was one thing they could be glad for, Remus supposed. That they hadn't seen any corpses.

"What do you think?" James asked, looking to Remus. The doors and windows were still boarded of course, they never had been designed to be opened. But it would be easier to break through the wooden walls here than to dig through stone to get to the basement of Honeydukes.

"I don't know. The Reductor curse might work? But I'm not sure if it'd isolate to the door or not." Remus leant against the fence, taking the weight off his bad leg. It might be better than it had been, but all this walking wasn't doing him any good.

"It should," Sirius frowned at the shack before them. "Or we can try to blast our way in?"

"And set the whole place on fire?" James raised his eyebrows. "I think the Reductor curse is our best option."

Sirius looked at Remus, expecting him to do the curse, but Remus shook his head and gestured for Sirius to do it himself.

"All right, let's see," Sirius muttered, walking over to the door and leaving the others at the fence. "Reducto!" he cried, drawing his wand back slightly and then aiming the spell at the door. It looked like lightning, an electric blue shock that crumbled the door into ashes when it hit.

"Woo!" James whooped and pumped his fist in the air. Sirius couldn't hold back his grin. "We're in!"

"Home sweet home, huh, Moony?" Sirius said as they picked their way over the threshold and into the Shack itself.

"Sod off," Remus flicked his hand in Sirius's general direction with a glare. Sirius yelped, clutching at his ear.

"Ow!" He was laughing, but he didn't press further, still rubbing at his ear as they weaved their way through the bedroom, passed the shabby four-poster bed, and down to the tunnel.

The journey through the tunnel was sombre. They still didn't know what to expect on the other side and Remus's limp was getting steadily worse the further they walked, until finally Sirius suggested they take a quick break.

"I'm fine," Remus protested, even though he was already leaning against the wall of the tunnel.

"Wormtail needs a breather," Sirius replied breezily. Peter opened his mouth to object and then shut it with a click, glaring at Sirius in the soft light that was being cast from James's wand.

"We're almost there," James said, offering around a flask of pumpkin juice he'd retrieved from the bag, and chucking Remus some chocolate that was left over from his birthday stash.

The chocolate put a little bit of the colour back into Remus's face, though the rest probably helped too. When they started walking again he was still limping, but not as badly as he had been.

They reached the end of the tunnel sooner than they'd expected, and James, Remus and Sirius waited below while Peter slipped up and stilled the tree. Finally, they were out of the tunnel, walking across the grounds of Hogwarts. Funny, how it felt so much like coming home.

"Freeze!"

They did – not so much because of the command but because they hadn't been expecting a voice. Fucking stupid of them not to be wearing the cloak, really. James spotted the speaker first, obviously a seventh year. Her wand was pointed straight at his chest.

"Woah," he raised both hands in the universal sign of surrender and the others mimicked the action. Sure, there were four of them and one of her, but none of them wanted to hurt her – and they'd have to get to their wands first.

"Keep your hands where I can see them." Okay, two of them. Or thr- five. Well, they appeared to be surrounded. And someone had been watching too many muggle films.

"We're not here to attack," James began, but Sirius spoke over him.

"Hey, we're the good guys!"

"Give us your wands," the first girl spoke again. She could have just charmed them off them, and none of them were quite sure how to take the fact that she'd asked. Politeness, or incompetence? "One at a time!" She added as they all reached for their wands at once.

"I'll go first," Remus said. It made sense; if any of them were going to be of any use without a wand, it was Remus. He threw his wand to her and she caught it. She caught Sirius's too, but missed James's and Peter's flew way wide. Once she'd picked them up she nodded at the other kids and they all moved closer.

"We're going to bind you,' one of the boys said. He looked about sixteen, pimples on his cheeks, greasy hair. "Don't move."

"Wait a second," Sirius started, but Remus touched his arm and he closed his mouth, lips pressed together in a tight line.

"We'll take you to Dumbledore, and he'll decide what we do with you," the girl said, and Remus nodded. That sounded reasonable, and it was where they wanted to go, anyway.

They all stood still as the students worked their magic, sealing their arms tight by their sides but leaving their legs free to walk. Finally, they were done, and they moved in around them, marching them into the castle.

"I feel like a bloody idiot," Sirius whispered. Remus shot him a look. "This is stupid, what are we going to do without our wands?" Remus just raised an eyebrow at that, and Sirius bit back a laugh. It was true, there was nothing keeping them there right now. It would be nothing at all for James, Sirius and Peter to transform, Sirius would be able to take down the girl with their wands before they'd even know what had happened, and James could easily knock out four boys just by spinning around with his antlers. They were walking with these kids because they were taking them to where they wanted to go.

It was sad though. If they had been Death Eaters, these kids would be dead by now.

When they finally arrived in Dumbledore's office, the girl – who appeared to be in charge – left them outside his door and went in to speak to him. She came back out with a flush to her cheeks, and gestured for them to enter.

Dumbledore greeted them from behind his desk, lifting the charm the students had placed on them with a quick wave of his wand. "Thank you, Ellis," he nodded at the students who had brought the Marauders in. "I believe you'd better go relieve whoever you've organised to replace you on the doors now." From the looks that passed between the students and how quickly they made their exit it appeared they had forgotten to organise such a thing.

"Why do you have students guarding the doors?" Sirius asked incredulously. Remus would have elbowed him except he was thinking the same thing. It did rather seem like a job for someone slightly more experienced.

"Hogwarts has its defences, my dear boy. Don't assume that just because you cannot see them, they are not there. The students need something to do, to feel useful. They've organised their own little army, you know." He smiled at them, peering over his half-moon glasses. "Now," he said, folding his hands on the desk before him. "What news have you to report?"

"We- well," James began, surprised at the question but ultimately ignoring it. "We need to find Gryffindor's sword."

"Indeed? And why, may I ask?"

"We think it is Voldemort's last Horcrux."

"Last?"

"Yes. We've destroyed five now. Ravenclaw's Diadem, Hufflepuff's cup, Slytherin's locket, Riddle's ring, and Riddle's diary. There should be one left."

"And you believe it is the sword?"

"Well, yes." James glanced over at Remus, then Sirius, then Peter, as if to check they agreed with his statement. They all nodded.

"It stands to reason, sir," Remus said. "If the other three House's objects were used…"

"Yes, I can see the logic in that," Dumbledore mused. "However, I can assure you that the sword is not a Horcrux." He stood, and slowly walked around his desk, coming to a halt before them. "Have you given thought to the notion that perhaps he only made five?"

"But, seven," Peter began, only to be interrupted by Sirius.

"In the memory, - er" he broke off, because Dumbledore didn't know about that, but the Professor was nodding so he awkwardly continued. "Riddle specifically spoke about seven pieces – seven pieces of soul would mean six Horcruxes."

"Yes," Dumbledore nodded. "But making Horcruxes takes time. Perhaps he hasn't yet made his sixth?"

"I'd rather not base the fate of the world on a perhaps, with all due respect," James responded for them all. "Perhaps he only made five, or perhaps there is an object somewhere that he used to make his sixth that we just don't know about. Something like the ring, or the diary. Only important to him."

"There is always that option," Dumbledore agreed. "However, you cannot find such an item if you don't know if or where it exists. And-" he was interrupted by the door suddenly flinging open.

"Lily!" James cried, and she turned her head to him.

"James!" She flew across the room and embraced him, pulling away almost immediately, hands holding his face still as she inspected him. "You're alive!"

"So are you!"

"Yes! Yes – oh," she released him and stepped back, shooting a quick smile at the others before turning to Dumbledore. "Edgar is back."

"Already?"

"He says there's going to be an attack tonight."

"Where?" Dumbledore crossed to his desk again to grab one of his many maps, but Lily stopped him.

"Here."