- The Dark Arts
- Remus Lupin/Sirius Black
- Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs
- Darkfic Action
- The First War Against Voldemort (Cir. 1970-1981)
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 12/06/2008Updated: 12/09/2008Words: 13,767Chapters: 4Hits: 4,737
Warning Note: If you are accustomed to my writing, you should note that this story does not follow my usual rules. Characters die. Rated R for violence and disturbing content, not sex.
My stomach, never at its best after a change, churned as I eyed the lumpy remains, dark with dried blood, that were spread out on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. They were scarcely identifiable as a person, never mind an individual, and there wasn't enough of them, which didn't bear thinking about.
"Sorry," Sirius said anxiously. "I didn't think he'd actually do it -- not the whole tunnel. Never thought he'd have the bollocks for it."
"Never mind the stupidity to follow explicit instructions from Sirius," James put in. "Whatever he might have been, he usually wasn't gullible."
Wasn't was the operative word there. I couldn't help sounding slightly hysterical.
"But what are we going to do? I'll be executed! I'll be expelled! And Sirius will go to prison, and --"
"Only if we get caught." Sirius sounded inappropriately smug. I watched him exchange a knowing glance with James.
"We've been discussing it," James said steadily. "We can not let anyone find out."
"If he disappears, so what?" Peter contributed. "No one likes him -- I don't think even his mum and dad do; he never gets any letters. And he's always going off by himself and doing creepy stuff -- so he went too far, right?"
"How?" I forced myself to look away from the body -- no, meat -- on the floor. "How are we going to do it? I'm due in the Hospital Wing in a few hours."
"Five," Sirius said helpfully. "And we hadn't quite got to how. Transfigure him, James suggested."
"Transfigurations can be broken."
"I was thinking transfigure him into something edible," James elaborated, smiling slightly. "Can't restore what doesn't exist."
"You expect me...." I couldn't say it -- not without what I'd already swallowed coming up.
"Oh, I was thinking Sirius should do the honors, since he got us into this mess." James drew his wand with a flourish. "What's your pleasure, mate? Raspberry chocolate trifle?"
James, I reflected, could be a real bastard. Now Sirius looked as green as I felt.
"I won't eat Snivellus."
James sniggered. Like an echo, Peter did the same. Sirius snarled.
"And partially, that's because Peter would eventually not be able to resist saying that I had, just for a weak dirty joke."
"Too bad." James was standing now. "Your mess -- you clean it up."
Sirius squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. I knew he was going to give in to James -- he always did when James got that look. "Rabbit, then. Just let me be Padfoot, so I don't have to think -- no, wait!" His eyes lit. I could tell that he'd just hit on a way out. "I have a better idea! It doesn't have to be any of us. Turn what's left into birdseed, and we can spread it along the edge of the forest on our way back. If any bits survive, well, he'll just have been traced to the Forbidden Forest, right?"
"Brilliant!" James perked up noticeably at the suggestion. I didn't feel any better.
"Except I ate quite a bit of him already, apparently." I swallowed a threatening rise of bile and tried not to think about that too much. It felt unfair that only I should have to live with that, but I couldn't form any more words.
Sirius, as he sporadically did, understood. "Hell." His jaw pronounced with tension, he scooped a lump of flesh off the floor, swallowed hard, and pointed his wand at it. It turned into a chunk of chocolate cake. His eyes locked on me, he took a bite of it and chewed. I could have kissed him.
After swallowing, he turned to James. "Taste?"
With an expression of revulsion, James gulped down a bite and offered the remainder to Peter.
"Why me?" Peter protested. "It's not my fault at all! I didn't even hear about it until it was too late."
"Because we're all in this together," James said steadily. "Are you one of us or not?"
"It's a pact," Sirius said helpfully. "All for one and one for all, you know."
Eyes scrunched, Peter grabbed the lump of cake and downed it quickly, gagging twice and swallowing hard each time.
"All set," Sirius said grandly, as he rose from the floor. "The rest can go to the birds."
"You're the best." I couldn't keep the words from tumbling out. "All of you." I met Peter's eyes the longest, because he needed it the most, but it was Sirius that I kept close to for the walk back through the tunnel.
On the whole, it was a good thing that we were all used to breaking rules and getting away with it. Even Peter managed to look appropriately surprised when Severus Snape's mysterious disappearance was announced in an emergency meeting of our house. Sirius went one better, gleefully remarking (while standing just a little too close to Professor McGonagall) that he hoped the greasy turd had got himself killed. McGonagall gave him detention, of course, but it was beautifully in character, and not at all the action of someone guilty of manslaughter. Sirius is brilliant.
By June, the strange disappearance of an unpopular Slytherin boy had been largely forgotten. At the end of term, a few days before we were to head home, Sirius launched a rambling goodbye to me in a corridor. The words grew more and more awkward, while I wondered what he was trying to get at, until he interrupted himself by catching hold of my arms, stepping forward, and kissing me. Every bit of his power and charm, so oddly absent from his earlier words, poured into me with that kiss, until I felt that I must be more privileged than James. It was also damn good in its own right. A string of seventh-year girls had apparently taught Sirius a great deal about kissing.
After three days of whispers and kisses and increasingly bold touches in back corridors, we parted to go home to our families -- or in my case, what was left of my family. I wasn't surprised to receive an owl from Sirius saying that he'd run away from -- or maybe been thrown out by -- his own, and was staying with the Potters. I said in my reply that I wished I could join them. I didn't ask if Sirius ever kissed James.
In August, we met in Diagon Alley, and everything was almost normal, if you could ignore the darker turn to Sirius's humor. He still growled at Peter when the latter wanted to scout down Knockturn Alley, but he took full advantage of his seventeen years to buy restricted ingredients at the apothecary and booze at the off-license. He smelled of leather and smoke, and I stayed as close to his side as I decently could, drinking it in. After a while, I found myself eyeing Peter, and wondering if he knew how close he stayed to James. Peter smiled uncertainly into my scrutiny. I brushed past him in the Leaky Cauldron.
"The dark, wild boys and their fair shadows," I whispered. Peter nodded nervously.
In the safety of our dormitory, Sirius and James passed around clippings from the Daily Prophet and we mitigated our feelings of doom by spreading them out in expletive-laced conversation.
"Bloody insane," James muttered, at the end of reading about the murder of a mixed-blood family in Chester.
"Bet half of the Slytherin bastards are chomping at the bit to help, too," Sirius said darkly. "Regulus would jump at the chance."
Perhaps things would have settled down if the war had not come so close so soon, but my mother and sister -- all the family I had left -- were found dead two weeks later, the Dark Mark glowing in the still air above our little house. I returned from the headmaster's office too sick with grief to do more than choke out the bare facts. Peter grew wide-eyed and James grim. Sirius, usually so eager to touch in comfort, stepped back, the contempt that often hung about him turning to black rage.
"Shh, Padfoot," James tried.
"I will not!" Sirius approached me then, but the hand he put on my shoulder vibrated with anger. "We'll get them for you Moony." The hand steadied as he knelt in front of me, where I had sat on the edge of my bed. "I swear, I'll find out who did it and get them for you, if it takes years."
I didn't care really -- it wouldn't bring my family back -- but it was the only expression of love that Sirius could make then, and that meant something.
James snorted in contempt. "It was Death Eaters. Does it matter which?"
In a flash, Sirius was on his feet, turning. "I swear Nott has joined up. He doesn't roll his sleeves up for anything -- have you noticed?"
"So Regulus let slip that they have a symbol put on them, somehow. His followers. On the arm. He marks them, like sheep."
James sat upright. "Is he one of them?"
"Not yet." Sirius glowered. He obviously didn't expect that to last.
"Not much we can do," Peter said reasonably. "It's not like Dumbledore would believe us if we gave him a list."
Sirius looked intently towards Peter, but I don't think he was focusing. "We don't need to." His voice had that thrum of power that even through a haze of grief gave me chills. "He can't move against them, of course. We can."
James focused again. "What -- kill Nott?"
"And whoever else we must."
I bit my lip so hard that it hurt. They couldn't mean it. James, however, appeared to be thinking hard.
"We can't get caught."
"Your birdseed scheme, again?"
"That would do. But we can't do them all at once."
"No one can die at school." I was surprised to hear my own voice, and even more surprised that it was steady. "They'd shut it down. In Hogwarts: A History --"
"Agreed," Sirius interrupted. "Next Hogsmeade weekend?"
"The one after." I was speaking again. Wanly, I smiled at Sirius. "Migration season."
Sirius grinned back, like a beacon in a storm. "I'll take your word for it."
"We need a better name," James said quickly. "This is too important for the Marauders."
That night, all the members of the Free-Blood Guards fell asleep in the seventh-year Gryffindor boys' dormitory.
Nott was our first intentional kill. I say "our" in the general sense, because despite myself, I held back. Peter distracted him, and James petrified him, and Sirius, in one of his more ridiculous Muggle affectations, stabbed him repeatedly with a knife, and then cut open his shirt sleeve. He stepped back to show us the mark he had uncovered, for all the world like Padfoot displaying a dead rabbit. The design was faint, but it matched the one we'd all seen -- in photographs, anyway -- in the sky above kills. There was some relief to that -- to knowing that Sirius had been right. Still, as soon as my focus shifted out from those few inches of skin to the punctured, bloody body, I was ignominiously sick. Peter taunted me, but I could tell it was because he nearly had done so himself. I couldn't mind much anyway, because Sirius wrapped a leather-clad arm around me and told Peter to shut it.
"It's worse for Moony, you know. He's done this before, but can't remember it."
I don't recall what creative thing Sirius did to the vomit, but the creative things Sirius did to me that night were worth remembering. He kept me close as we walked back, and though he joked and bragged with the others, he let me take my time about talking. When I tugged on his sleeve, he fell back with me.
"You all right, Moony?"
"Yeah." It was mostly true by then, if I didn't think too much. "Could you not use ... um, a knife?"
He ducked his head, unsuccessfully attempting to conceal a smile. "It was quite the mess, wasn't it? I didn't know how much blood people had in them."
"I'm not going to ask why you know that!"
Back at the school, we didn't go to dinner with James and Peter. When Sirius told them that we had some private business to attend to, I thought it was because he had realized that I wouldn't be able to eat. I expected him to walk me back to the dormitory, but we left the staircase at the fourth floor, and he pulled me into the secret tunnel behind the mirror.
"I want to kiss you."
I still remember how hoarse his voice was, and how his body shuddered when he touched me, transmuting my fear and guilt into bare desire. In a moment, I had him backed against the rough wall, and his hands were working their way into my robes and under my shirt, digging into my back.
For the first time, we did far more than kiss. Nothing went in anywhere, but that didn't keep both of us from getting off more than once. We used our transfiguration skills more gently, to create a featherbed from rock and scree, and stayed there late into the night, exploring each other's bodies in the faint wandlight.
Despite that, when we returned to the dormitory, I saw a quick flash of eyes from James, whose even breaths were too pronounced for real sleep. Sirius kissed me goodnight at the edge of my bed -- not quickly and in secret, as he had done in June, nor with desperate passion as he had earlier that evening, but slowly and deliberately, as if in a message to our audience, whether it was just James, or James and Peter.
"It will be all right," he said, and it was true, because he said it.
We had been right about Nott being a Death Eater. You might think that would make us cocky, but we were actually more careful the second time, not less. We had chosen Avery, who boasted vaguely of having "taken care of" a "Muggle-loving whore" as our second target, but we couldn't go after him right away. There was too much of a fuss over Nott's disappearance, even though it had happened while he was off the grounds. We knew we needed to lie low, so we used the time to confirm that Avery had the Mark. Peter did the actual investigation, scouting into the Slytherin dormitories as a rat, and came back with a confirmation. I also researched spells that would kill someone more cleanly and found quite a number of them. I had to choose ones that were not classified as Dark Arts, because Sirius and James were both touchy about that, but the limitation still left me with a repertoire of usable hexes. Even some everyday hexes and charms proved to be effective. There is a cleaning charm to repel blood, for example, that has a nearly immediate fatal effect when cast on someone's head.
We killed Avery in December, on the way back from shopping in Hogsmeade. After spending the day conscious of my shortened Christmas list, I didn't feel any overpowering regret, just an emptiness as I watched my friends test out my research. I still couldn't bring myself to attack, or to touch the unchanged body, but I helped with transfiguring pieces of it into grain and seeds and then with scattering them at the edge of the forest. The snowbirds and sparrows quickly began to gather in the trees, and we all sat on a log downwind -- at least, it was downwind once James had cast a hunting charm that he'd learned from his father. I let Sirius pull me close as we watched the fallow deer emerge from the trees and nibble delicately at the gift. James and Peter were used to us touching, by then.
"Will it hurt them?"
At Peter's nervous question, I shook my head and pressed closer in to Sirius's warmth. The sun was setting. "No. It doesn't have the full nutritional value it should, but it's not a void, like eating illusory food, and it's not like eating meat, either. They may have indigestion, but that should be it."
"Trust you to look it up," Sirius said affectionately. He lit a cigarette, and James adjusted his breeze to blow a little more strongly, carrying that scent, as well as ours, away from the little deer.
"You're going to be a bear when you run out of those, you know," James needled, but Sirius just looked content.
"Not so long till the holidays."
James laughed slightly. "Did I show you what I got Lily?"
There was no mention of presents for family -- sometimes James and Peter were considerate of us that way -- but the ones for our peers were fair game. We all untied packages and compared prizes until we were certain that enough of Avery's remains had been rendered permanently unidentifiable. When we got back to the warm castle, dinner was stew, and I ate it without a twinge of queasiness. I even had afters.
"Raspberry trifle?" James offered, waving a spoon at Sirius. Sirius laughed.