I debated uploading this here for a while... then decided why not? So I've jumped back into reading in the HP fandom – which I do every so often to see if there is anything worth reading. Sometimes, it can be a scary, scary place. But! In this round of binge reading, have somehow found myself poking a lot of the Marauder-time fiction and the always fun James/Lily fiction.

Point being: I am reminded of how much I do not like what J.K did to them. Personally, I can see some of her characterization, but it always felt like she was trying to make Snape sympathetic. Granted, I have to remind myself that these are books that were not written with adults as their main audience. So you have a lot of logic that doesn't need to be explained because the genre the stories are aimed at doesn't need it.

Anyway, that said, Canon-Snape I cannot see as this good guy. I have a hard time understanding how a group of boys who risked so much to help their werewolf friend could have managed to miss so much about Peter that he turns Dark and they miss it. I don't like how Peter is always automatically described as short and fat and rat-like (because clearly, he has to be that way to be the bad guy) while Remus/James/Sirius are tall, dashing and good looking. Actually, there are a lot of things that bug me (mostly that which isn't explained). But most of it does have to do with my adult filter for a children series.

So here is my brain, trying to fix a few of those.

I don't know how often this will be updated. Mostly as the muse strikes – and that can change from one point to another. But I have the first two installments pretty much done…

That said: THIS IS AU. I will NOT be following Canon. In fact, I'm trying really hard to work things out so that things turn out really different from cannon. Also, their may be some Dumbledore bashing - because, really?


James Potter stared at the ceiling in the Sixth Year Boys Dorm room. He felt oddly weary. It was strange – this summer had possibly been the best of his life. Sirius had finally escaped his crazy family and now lived with them, his brother-by-choice. They had been back at Hogwarts for a handful of days and while their classes were going to be challenging this year – one year to N.E.W.T.s after all – that wasn't really what was bothering him.

He couldn't seem to force the memory of Sirius's face – eyes dark and distant – when he had admitted that he thought his younger brother would be taking the Dark Mark soon. It had been no secret that the Black's supported Voldemort's ideals. Hell, there was little doubt that a number of the Families supported those ideals – the summer had been spent with careful conversations at dinner parties and black tie affairs that even his parent's careful eyes hadn't been able to completely shield him from.

The knowledge that his parents were firmly against the growing support for Voldemort didn't calm his nerves, either. He didn't disagree that it had to be done – that in two years time, he would take his place as he needed to do the same. He agreed with it. It didn't make it any easier to swallow that his parents were targets and he was at Hogwarts, safe and shielded. James rubbed his face. His parents weren't willing to talk about it –

"Hush now James, this isn't the time."

"Some things must wait – enjoy your schooling while you can."

"Merlin, perhaps this will have blown over by then."

… except the darkness behind their eyes told him they had no hope that this would end soon. Their occasional grim silences had told him more than enough about how things were going. Hell, there had been an open relief when Sirius had shown up with his trunk and a resolute expression. But what was he supposed to think? While it was well known that Sirius had been blasted from the family tree there had been no official notice from Gringotts that he had been magically and legally disowned from the family. James didn't know what the meant. Walburgahad certainly made her stance clear, and it was no secret that they favored Regulus, so why hadn't they finalized the disownment?

Clearly he was thinking too hard about a situation that he had no control over, but the whole situation was bothering him. This was going to turn brother against brother – had already turned brother against brother. He remembered that half-stifled look of hope that Sirius wore at the sorting, the disappointment that he hadn't been able to hide when Regulus was put into Slytherin. The damage that could be wrought between brothers was painful.

James had three brothers-by-choice.

They had two years before they had to face the real world together – they were bound with secrets and pranks and a loyalty that James had always known to be unshakable. But then hadn't Sirius felt the same about a brother five years ago and been proven wrong? What did it mean that one brother could stand so opposed to an ideal that the other held so dear when they both were raised under the same roof?

And was six years at Hogwarts enough to bring about unbreakable loyalty? For him it was. Sirius, his brother in all ways, Remus the voice of reason and his conscious that drove him even when he chose to ignore it and Peter, the finder of secrets who could be trusted to come through for all of them in the end. They made a team that should have been unbreakable – he shouldn't even be worrying about this. (He could hear Evans' scorn filled voice even now, "Thinking? Potter? Doubtful.")

"James? You missed dinner."

James blinked and tilted his head to find Peter's face staring down at him. "Hey Pete."

Peter frowned at him, his brows tucked together. "You okay, Prongs? You've been… off. Since the train ride. Starting to worry about you."

James considered and then flung a hand out, inviting him to sit at the end of the bed. Peter shrugged and hoped on, pulling out a chocolate frog and offering it when James remained prone and silent. Considering the treat, James pushed himself up and accepted the chocolate with quiet thanks.

"So, you gonna talk about it or would you rather fist it out with Sirius?" Peter asked finally, brows tucked together.

James chewed for a moment before shrugging. "I don't know how to explain it to any of you, Pete."

Peter shifted his weight around so that the post wasn't digging into his back and finally shrugged. "Try."

James considered that as he crunched down on the legs of his chocolate frog. Most of the students, even the staff, considered Peter to be something of a tag-along. Hell, for the first few years, they'd all thought it once or twice. It had taken Remus quietly addressing the problem and Sirius and him making the decision to include him when they become Animagi before they had really discovered their friendship with him. Peter was quiet, shy in his classes and prone to a lack of confidence that was so different from the rest of them – but he was willing to explore Hogwarts on his own, finding hidden passages and passing them along. He had a knack for spell theory that he hardly ever expressed and when he had to do a spell, on those rare occasions that he actually needed his magic to work, he did splendidly.

James wondered if somehow in their drive to help Remus, in Sirius' problems with his family and his own drive to get Lily Evans to notice him they had all somehow neglected to pay attention to Pete. Disturbed at the thought – if he was anything, he was a fantastic friend – he looked over and studied Peter. His face was the same as it had always been – tired eyes, a thin face prone to looking either uncertain or sly and a short, lean frame that was perfect for squeezing in and out of tight places.

James let out a long breath. "Hey, Pete? Do you… I mean, are we… oh, bollocks." Reaching up, James ran both hands through his hair in agitation. Peter looked confused and he sighed.

"You'd tell us if something was bothering you, right?" He cut his hand between them and Peter frowned. "I mean, crap. How does a bloke discuss this sort of thing without sounding like a sodding girl?"

Peter looked like he'd hit him. "You're worried about me?"

James looked a bit stunned then. "Huh? What? Of course I worry about you. We're mates, aren't we?"

Peter fumbled for a moment. "Yes, I mean of course, but its…" he looked bewildered. "It's just, I'm not Sirius. Or Remus. And…"

James stared at him. "Oh Bollocks, we really have botched it then." Cursing, he let his head fall against the wall and closed his eye. "Shit, Pete. That wasn't… that was never my intention. Just, fuck."

"Prongs…" Peter started slowly. James opened an eye and looked at him. Peter looked extremely uncomfortable but then he seemed to brace himself, squaring his shoulders in a display of stubbornness that was usually difficult to pull out of him. "I know we're friends. It's just…" He seemed to run out of words so James filled in.

"Wormtail, look." James closed his eyes and resigned himself to sounding like a sodding female and decided that Pete was going to be going on a firewhisky run tonight. "I guess we all got caught up in our own problems and forgot about yours – you're so damn timid sometimes, and I just… shit. I'm sorry. We're the Marauders. We're practically brothers. We are brothers."

Deciding that was quite enough of that, he opened his eyes and looked at Pete. His mouth was open and his eyes were wide and James frowned at the absolute stunned expression there. He was about to say something really stupid when Pete snapped his mouth shut and swallowed.


Well, didn't that just sum things up? James reached up and rubbed his hair and sighed. It was seriously time to change the subject before they did something like sniffle. "Anyway, so I've been thinking."

Peter seemed to shake himself but there was a gleam in his eyes that hadn't been there before. "Always doing that, should stop it."

"Don't I know it," James grumbled. "Anyway, you know Sirius moved in with me this summer."

Peter nodded. "Yeah, Remus got in touch over the mirror."

James frowned for a moment. "We've really got to make another set of those. That way you can talk to someone besides Remus – shit, I bet it's a relief that he isn't in Potions this year. Can you imagine?" James shuddered. Remus was positively brilliant at a lot of things, Potions was certainly not it. He'd thought Sluggy was going to cry in relief when Remus had informed him he wouldn't be returning after O.W.L.s.

Peter was smiling now. "It wasn't… okay. You're right. Kinda nice to have someone to talk to this summer though."

Hit with an uncomfortable surge of guilt, James smoothed his hair. "Yeah, well, next year all of you will just have to come stay with us then. Then we can all hang out and not have to worry about mirrors and other codswallop."

Peter looked delighted at the idea but then wilted. "Not sure my mum will allow it."

James waved his hand. "We'll think of something."

Peter tilted his head, face uncommonly serious and then he smiled. "Alright."

"Perfect. Now, what was I saying? Oh yeah, so Sirius was with me for the summer." James frowned, trying to find the words. "It got me to thinking, that's all."

The door to the room burst open with Sirius and Remus staggering in; their laugher overly rambunctious and James wondered how he'd missed them coming up the stairs.

"You!" Sirius said, pointing at James dramatically before flopping next to him on the bed with a wide smile. "Missing dinner, lovesick already, Jamsie?

Remus rolled his eyes and settled down on his own bed and started pulling out papers.

"James," Peter announced, "has an idea."

Sirius' head snapped around like the dog he was, eyes gleaming. "Oh, and what would this idea be? Something brilliant, like a prank? If it has something to do with Lily Evans knickers, I'm not getting involved."

James rolled his eyes and threw his pillow. Sirius looked affronted. "Shut it, Snuffles."

Peter nodded solemnly. "I think this is important."

Remus looked up from his Charms Essay, golden-brown eyes narrowed. "This must be about Evans then."

James wondered if he looked as exasperated as he felt. "Is that what you lot think of me? Can't keep a thought in my head if it isn't about pranking or Evans?"

Remus and Sirius exchanged glances.

"Everything okay, Jamsie?" Sirius asked.

Remus set his quill down. "We're not saying that it's the only thing you capable of thinking about," he looked pointedly at a calendar. "But it is unusual for you to have something seriously bothering you unless it's related to Evans. Or Quidditch. Or Pranks," he added as an afterthought.

"Or the moon." Peter reminded them helpfully.

"Or that," Sirius agreed.

James scowled at them all. "It's probably stupid anyway."

Peter shook his head. "I don't think so."

James frowned and looked over at Pete, who was watching him with solemn eyes. Pete, their finder of secrets. He'd keep his mouth shut over what he and James had discussed if asked, but James sensed something there disturbed him.

He was really going to need firewhisky after this.

"Look, I'm just worried, okay? We all spent the summer catching snippets of what was going on with Voldemort and these Death Eaters of his and…" he glanced over at Sirius whose face had gone tense and blank, blue eyes stormy. "Shit, it's going to get worse before it gets better you know?"

Remus looked a little unnerved. "You don't think it's going to spill into the school do you? I mean, Dumbledore…"

"It's already spilling into the school." Sirius said in a tight voice. James was silent, waiting to see if Sirius would say something else but when he didn't he ran his hands through his hair.

"Look, I don't know what's going on in the school, but things are… changing. I'm just worried, okay?"

Sirius frowned at him. "You worried about Momma and Papa P?"

James blew out a breath. "You were right there with me through the lessons this summer."

"Plain waste of time," Sirius said flatly. "You're the heir, I'm not. Can't see why I have to suffer through all those protocol lessons and politics."

James met his eyes. "They haven't legally disowned you yet, Paddy. What's that mean?"

Sirius just shook his head.

Peter pulled out a second chocolate frog and tossed it to an uncertain looking Remus. "So, can you explain this in terms those of us who are not from an Ancient and Noble House can understand?"

"My parents blasted me off the family tree this summer when I left."

"Walburga blasted you," James corrected.

"Anyway," Sirius continued. "We're just waiting for the missive from Gringotts to make it official."

"Which they've had all summer to do."

"Which," Sirius said reluctantly. "Until they actually do it, I'm still technically the Heir to the House of Black, which should be a right bone in my mother's throat. Surprised it's taken this long, honestly."

"Or Orion isn't going to disown you, legally." James said.

"Unlikely," Sirius said, waving his hand. "And honestly, who cares."

"Still have the ring, don't you?" James asked. Sirius pressed his lips together but didn't argue the point so James let it go. Right now it didn't matter. Not yet.

"So is that what's been bothering you?" Peter asked. "Sirius not being disowned?"

James sighed and prepared himself for more of that girly explaining. "I've been thinking about brothers."

Sirius went stone-still next to him so James closed his eyes and kept going. "I've been thinking about us and this stupid war that's going to get worse before it gets better. I've been trying to consider what all this… subterfuge that's been going actually means. What's going to happen when we graduate?"

"That's in two years." Remus reminded him.

"Yeah," James muttered. "I know but it just… it seems important, okay?"

"Why?" Peter asked. "Why is it important?"

James glanced at Sirius and sighed. "Because Sirius and I are (currently) the heirs to two Ancient and Noble Houses, because Voldemort seems to desire blood purity and because…" he glanced over at Remus and then locked eyes with Peter. "Because we're all brothers-by-choice, right?"

"What are you getting at Prongs?"

James shifted back and shrugged. "Just… what does it mean that the first thing we said about the situation was that Dumbledore would handle it when it's clear that he isn't?'

Remus looked like he had swallowed a live frog instead of the chocolate one. "You don't trust Dumbledore?"

James curled his fingers into fists. "I don't… not trust him. I'm just… I know he gave you a chance to learn, Remus, but wait for a second, okay?"

"Wait," Sirius said in a flat voice. "If we're going to have this out here then we need to put up some charms. Remus?"

Still looking a little green, Remus did as he was asked. Nodding his thanks James took a deep breath and started again.

"Dumbledore is an amazing Wizard. No one can deny that. But other than being our Headmaster, other than bringing Remus here and other than defeating Grindelwald what reasons exactly do we have to trust him implicitly? We don't know him all that well, do we?"

Peter looked hesitant. "But James, its Dumbledore... He knows things. How can we not trust him?"

"When have we ever implicitly trusted an authority figure?" James asked quietly.

Sirius looked thoughtful, as if he was turning the problem over in his mind.

"Look I just… we're going to make a difference when we get out of here. And if we're right, if the Slytherins are starting to use this place as a recruitment ground – which we know they are, then they have to know that about us too. They have to know we are going to fight." James looked at each of his brothers and sighed. "And if we're thinking of this, so are those bloody snakes."

Remus shifted his weight. "That's true but… surely you don't think… that this is all happening while Dumbledore turns a blind eye?"

"I don't know. I just don't know. But what I do know is that it is one thing to make promises now, but we're going to trust each other with our lives. I know I have enough faith to live by, I've made my choices. But… I just can't help but feel it would be stupid to expect the same from all of you." James shook his head. "But what if there is a day when you have to decide – when you have to make a decision that is based on nothing more than blind faith? When you can't flinch… when it means more than us? Is that something a man can make without some kind of assurance?"

Sirius pursed his lips and shrugged. "We'll let's take a vow then."

"What?" Remus said.

Sirius looked unconcerned and held James' eyes with his own. "We swear a wizard's oath of loyalty to each other. We start something here and we hold to it."

Peter looked thoughtful. "A Marauders' Vow."

"Are you lot insane!" Remus snapped. "This isn't a joke! Do you know what kind of consequences that would have? Any bloody idea?"

"Of course we do, Moony. Probably a better idea than you," James said. He studied the expression behind Sirius' eyes and decided. "But I think Sirius is right."

Remus waved his hands. "I'm a werewolf! Once we get out of here, that's going to become a major issue, especially if it gets out! I'm registered! Do you realize what kind of risks a vow like that would force you to make on my behalf? What that could do to your Houses?"

James scowled. "I don't care! None of us care or have you forgotten exactly what we did to prove that we didn't care."

Remus went white and then red. "I remember, but I didn't ask!"

Peter shook his head. "Doesn't matter. We know you didn't ask, and aren't asking now but…" his eyes cut to James and James had the odd feeling that Peter had just made a decision. "We're brothers, right? In every way that counts? That's family, Remus. Family."

Peter squared his shoulders and he looked almost at peace with himself. "I for one am all for a vow that will keep us from betraying each other. Not because we think we will, but because it means we'll be protecting each other that much more. That's important, right?"

Sirius kicked back, a thoughtful look on his face. "Well said, Pete. Well said."

Remus looked like he'd been kicked in the head. "But…"

"No 'buts' Mooney," Sirius said finally. "We either do this together or what is the point of this? What's the point of whatever bit of influence James and I have not being used to help you? Shit, this whole problem we have now started because of prejudices. Might as well take them all on if we're going to take on one."

Remus let out a low growl. "This sort of thing isn't reversible!"

James shrugged. "Neither is illegally becoming Animagi."

"You can register." Remus reminded him. "If we… if we take a wizards oath – shit, it can go so wrong. The wording would have to be very precise and that's it. We can't back out."

Sirius nodded, eyes gleaming. "Yeah. We're either all in or we're all out. Lifetime membership only."

Remus took a long, slow breath. He looked at each of them and hunched his shoulders. "You think that this is important. That this is necessary. For us, that this is necessary."

James looked at Sirius, Sirius who had chosen a different path than his blood brother, who still looked haunted. Sirius who talked about Regulus nonstop in those first few weeks, who smuggled out chocolate frogs and wrote home letters about how amazing Hogwarts was and how he couldn't wait for Regulus to join him.

Sirius, who refused to acknowledge Regulus in the hallways who wore his bitterness like a shield those last days of term – who only really truly relaxed when he was at Potter Manor or here, at Hogwarts in the company of his brothers-by-choice. Sirius, who led the charge to help Remus and who guarded their backs with his loyalty and his determination; who knew betrayal.

"Yeah, I do."

"You really don't trust Dumbledore." Remus whispered.

"Not as much as I trust you."

Peter broke the silence. "So how are we going to do this?"

Sirius looked thoughtful. "We figure out the wording first – Moony is right, you don't screw around with oaths. We need to make it perfect."

James nodded. "It needs to be about us – not our Houses. There are… other ways to include you two in our House protections, but we can't do that until we're older. If we keep the oath personal and not… inclusive, then we can do it now."

Remus and Peter exchanged confused glances. Sirius sighed. "James, my family is going to disown me."

James nodded. "Another reason to make this personal but until they do, we can plan, can't we?"

Remus rubbed his forehead. "We're all insane. Completely nutters."

Peter grinned. "Yeah, but it's a good kind of crazy."

Sirius stretched. "Now that we've gotten all that girly bonding shit out of the way, you know is necessary now, right?"

James grinned, relief bubbling in his chest. They had agreed with him. Shoving a hand into his hair he let his grin widen before adjusting his glasses on his nose. "Why, Padfoot, what a brilliant suggestion. I think we've let the masses settle in, don't you?"

Peter smiled and held up a blank piece of parchment. Solemnly, he touched it with his wand. "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good."

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